Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Reviewer's Bookwatch

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 2 February 2012 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Applegate's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Bonnie's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf
Crocco's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Esther's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Lois' Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Maria Ryan's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Riva's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Pelican Point
Douglas Quinn
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
1440150885, eBook: $9.99, Print $16.95,

Aaron Lazar, Reviewer

Pelican Point is my first Douglas Quinn mystery. I had a feeling I'd like the story in advance, because I got to know the author as a fellow writer and thoroughly enjoyed his blogs and our relationship. (Note: I don't write reviews as favors, I only report what I honestly thought after reading the book.)

The plot and tension were enjoyable in their own right, but what really hooked me was the sense of place. Webb Sawyer lives in a stilt house on the water, and his life is fully enveloped in fishing. Fresh fish for breakfast, fish for lunch, fish with every meal. My father was a fisherman, so I enjoyed the details around this passion of Webb's and particularly loved the descriptions of the waterways and boats, and the critters living in and around the area.

Also, I became enamored with the rather "crusty" main character. Webb is not a perfect man. His history of fatherhood isn't something he is proud of, but he knows it and is trying to make up for all the years of being separated from his son, Preston. The frail relationship between the boy and his father seemed real and genuinely depicted. Webb also isn't the most sensitive man, isn't looking for a long term relationship with a woman (so it seems), and is quite self centered. Yet, I found myself growing fond of his quirky ways.

One aspect of the main character that came through loud and clear, and which I loved, was the fact that he's a "man's man." I loved his action-taking and the strength and purpose he showed when his son was in serious danger. Webb's character arc completes when he redeems himself in the end.

The villains were real and frightening, the action tight and unwavering, and all in all I would recommend this mystery as a nice winter read, especially for those of us in the north wishing for warm weather!

God, Jesus, and the Bible
William Harwood
World Audience Publishers
303 Park Avenue South, #1440, New York, NY 10010
9781935444848, $27.30,

G. Richard Bozarth

A book by William Harwood is always welcomed by me. Even if I finish it without being persuaded to agree with one or more of the book's major theses, there is always a wealth of interesting content that fully rewards reading it. This is what happened when I read "God, Jesus, And The Bible: The Origin And Evolution Of Religion". The wealth of interesting content ascends beyond interesting by being valuable to any person interested in the book's major theses.

Here are some examples:

P. 142: "Joseph had a coat with long sleeves. The inaccuracy of the 'many colors' translation has been known for decades, and no longer appears in RC bibles or in Protestant bibles not based on the Authorized Version. Nonetheless, there are still more people who believe that the Yahwist credited Joseph with a multicolored coat than are familiar with the fable as actually written."

P. 143: "David and Yahuwnathan [usually translated as 'Jonathan'] were lovers. Yahweh did not disapprove, because his retroactive disapproval would not be invented by the Priestly author for a further three hundred years. David was an equal opportunity lover, as were every man and woman on earth prior to about 650 BCE. A sizeable minority never engaged in any homosexual recreation; but they were observing a preference, not a taboo." Harwood provides numerous book/chapter/verse references that support David and Yahuwnathan being lovers.

P. 241-247: Harwood convincingly charts the evolution of Christianity from the Judaist eschatological cult that emerged out of the Pharisees to the pagan-friendly, quasi-Judaist eschatological cult founded by Paul. The paganization Paul started continued to evolve until eventually Christianity ceased being a Judaist cult and turned into an entirely different religion that only had roots in Judaism.

P. 293: "He [Jesus] was not nominated for godship until 130 CE, and was not officially voted god of the Christians until the convening of the Council of Nicea in 325 CE. He was de-deified and re-deified twice in the decades that followed, and pumkinified permanently in 380 CE. But from his death in 30 CE until the publication a century later of the unknown Greek author's Gospel of John, he had to be content with the role of a resurrected but mortal King of the Jews."

P. 355: "The Roman world was full of savior gods, of whom the most popular was Mithra. Mithra, however, restricted salvation to military-class males. The god Jesus offered admittance into Heaven to women and slaves. That single concession should have eliminated Mithraism as a serious competitor within a generation. In fact Mithra remained Jesus' main rival for three centuries, and the Christians found it necessary to borrow much from the other god." Following this are many examples of what Christians borrowed.

As the title suggests, GJB is much more about the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity than it is about the origin and evolution of religion. Harwood fully acknowledges that this was the book's purpose near the end of it in a paragraph that should have been in the preface or the introduction (p. 406): "Most of God, Jesus, and the Bible is based on my own analysis of the Judaeo-Christian Bible. Not surprisingly, few of the conclusions reached are new or unusual. Nonetheless, it seemed necessary that God, Jesus, and the Bible be written, partly to throw open to scholarly discussion such findings as are new; but mainly to bring together sufficient evidence of the fictional status of the bible to satisfy any objective reader that gods who have revealed their existence (I make no comment on any other kind of god) are indeed products of the human imagination. It was my purpose to make it unnecessary to read more than one book simply to obtain sufficient facts to prove the point, and this I have done." He has accomplished that mission.

GJB does have content about the origin and evolution of religion. His hypothesis is not convincing despite a lot of valuable content contained in the development of his hypothesis. His hypothesis is that (p. 30) "primeval religion was very much a woman's invention" because "from the analogy of modern mythologies we can safely conclude that all mythologies, including the first, were invented by their immediate beneficiaries; and the beneficiaries of the first religion were women." The origin of religion had to have been when human brains evolved enough intellectual creativity to analyze their objective and subjective experiences with a desire to understand them by explaining them. In other words, religion began when humans could accomplish the feats of complex imagination necessary to become persuaded the explanation was this: supernatural realms, entities, and forces objectively existed and interactions between them and humans were possible. Because their thinking was not disciplined by what is called today the scientific method (they were tens of thousands of years away from being culturally advanced enough to discover the methodology called science), they all too easily made the mistake of believing what they imagined was true was in fact objectively true. That women did not begin religion and control the first stages of its evolution is supported by the mythologies of the primitive tribes that survived to be scientifically studied. It seems to me Harwood's mistake was to limit his analysis to evidence provided by the Mediterranean cultural region.

His origin-of-religion hypothesis is entwined with a hypothesis of the evolution of human sexuality I've encountered in other books (p. 22):

At a very early stage in humankind's evolution the mutation occurred that led to the human male's acceptance of the role of protector and provider of individual females and their young. Women were born who, unlike their mothers, were capable of orgasm and desirous of copulation at all times rather than only during or near ovulation. ...... With the birth of the mutants, men were no longer obliged to seek new partners every couple of days. A woman who was able and willing to mate as often as a particular man wanted found herself possessed of an incentive that could attach a man to herself permanently. In exchange for the certainty of sexual gratification on demand, a man was willing to devote a portion of his time to finding food for more children than the woman could have supported alone. ...... A similar mutation occurred among gibbons. It is no coincidence that humans and gibbons, the only primates not subject to an estrus cycle, are also the only primates that practise monogamy.

The odds for this hypothesis being true are very low because it is the product of nuclear-family thinking. The nuclear-family is a late cultural development and for the longest time it rarely was truly nuclear; the large majority of families that would have appeared at first glance to be nuclear were in fact parts of the web of an extended family. The kind of isolated nuclear family that is so familiar in Western culture today is a very late development.

Hunter-gatherer tribes were communal, therefore a woman was never in danger of having to support and raise her kids alone, and she did not need to rely on a specific man to protect her and her children. Add to that the facts that women's gathering typically brought in more food than men's hunting, and that hunting was not an exclusively male chore in some primitive cultures (see Nisa by Marjorie Shostak, Vintage Books/Random House, Inc., 1981, and The Forest People by Colin M. Turnbull, Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1961). That means there could not have been any selection pressure that would have given an advantage to a mutation that would have caused human sexuality to evolve in the direction of heterosexual monogamy. Humans who are sufficiently motivated can successfully practice monogamy, but to assert that human sexuality is monogamous, or inclined to monogamy, is to ignore current events, history, sexology, and anthropology. The liberation of hominid female sexuality from the estrus cycle was most likely a result of the body-and-brain changes that were necessary for hominids to become fully bipedal.

It is a coincidence about gibbon and human sexuality. The two do not compare. For example, human sexuality is not restricted to the human species. Gibbons aren't like that - an assertion I make because in something like 45 years of reading a lot about human sexuality I haven't yet read about a researcher reporting gibbons enjoying sexual activities with other species. If a person tries to diminish the significance of this fact of human sexuality by arguing that only a small percentage of humans actually engage in interosexual behavior, the effectiveness of that rebuttal is undermined by the much larger percentage that enjoy pornographic fantasies about it. However, once again, even though his hypothesis is wrong, Harwood provides a lot of valuable content that will be appreciated by any person interested in studying human sexuality.

Another flaw in GJB is Harwood's belief in a large amount of historicity contained in the Bible's myths. He is not very convincing because he justified his belief with the assumption that smoke proves there is a fire somewhere. If he had been analyzing smoke, that would be acceptable. However, he was analyzing the products of human imagination and smoke without fire is very easy to imagine and write about. Any person who doesn't believe that needs to go to the science fiction/fantasy section of his or her favorite bookstore or electronic book provider and buy a dozen or so randomly selected novels. After reading them, imaginary fireless smoke will not be hard to comprehend. In the chapters dealing with the Judaist Testament he mentions The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman to criticize it for rejecting his lots-of-historicity hypothesis. Well, I've read the book. Its authors made their case much more strongly and convincingly than Harwood made his. Harwood relied too much on "reasonable" interpretation and not enough on empirical evidence. This style of analysis carries over into the chapters dealing with the Christian Testament. He attempted to squeeze historicity out of the gospels without a reason more valid than his belief that it is unlikely the gospel writers would have invented the Jesus story. Yet, when some Christians began Mary's evolution into a mother-of -god goddess, there was no hesitation about creating or inability to create an entirely imaginary biography for her and her parents. What Bible scholar would risk his reputation by arguing that this particular cloud of smoke had to have a fire somewhere? Nevertheless, the rest of his analysis of the Bible that is not based on unreasonable assumptions of historicity is very, very good. Particularly valuable are his chapters on how the large story that begins with the creation of the universe and ends with the death of King Solomon was created by at least two redactors stitching together the works of at least four writers who had different theological ideas.

In one place GJB was so totally wrong that I was surprised. On p. 61 Harwood wrote, "Eventually all societies recognized that, with women dying in childbirth as a matter of course, live births were too rare to be wasted and infant sacrifice had to be abolished." There are two things wrong about this. One: if it is true, then secular infanticide would have been abolished as well, but legal and moral infanticide for no other purpose than to get rid of an unwanted child existed universally well past when humans began creating civilizations - and it is still practiced today all over Earth, including in nations that have made the practice illegal. Two: religiously sacrificing children continued all over Earth into Western culture's modern age and is still practiced in some cultures today (see Human Sacrifice In History And Today by Nigel Davies, William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1981).

God, Jesus, And The Bible has its flaws, but they do not outweigh all the content that makes a valuable contribution to a study of religion in general and Judaism and Christianity in particular. And all this information is delivered by an Atheist who has a satisfyingly militant Ecrasez l'infame! attitude about religion. Although Harwood failed to convince me about some of his hypotheses, he completely accomplished his primary missions of providing "sufficient evidence of the fictional status of the bible" and proving that gods "are indeed products of the human imagination." Because he did that, I highly recommend "God, Jesus, And The Bible: The Origin And Evolution Of Religion".

American Beauty
Zoey Dean
Little, Brown and Company.
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
0316010944, $9.99,

Chasity Brewer

Rating: Must read!

American Beauty is a delicious treat for anyone who loves drama, romance, and betrayal of the young and rich if you love the Gossip Girl and The It Girl series you will love the A-list novels. There is just as much drama as there are top name designers. However the A-list is set in good old Los Angeles, California, which works well for the series.

In American Beauty we are once again following Anna in her quest to be more outgoing since her initial move from New York to LA in the first novel The A-list in this seventh fascicle we follow Anna and her new friends Sam, Dee, and Cammie (who is actually her enemy but they are in the same circle) as they prepare to graduate from high school and move on to the next stage of their lives.

We have Anna who seems to be the main character of the book that is privileged and has come from old money originally from Manhattan she is modest and well-mannered. She was raised much differently from the girls in California which is what gives this series such a nice contrast because it really is about her coming to California to change herself.

Then we have Sam who is the first to befriend Anna. She is the total opposite of Anna she comes from new money her father is a very famous movie star and she is spoiled, popular, and dramatic but she is also very loyal and has a big heart. Although she only lets her friends see it because in Hollywood, it is very important to show people you have the power.

Then there's Cammie who has been Sam's best friend since they were little. She is the ultimate bad girl her father is a talent agent and he is known for being one of the toughest men in the business. She is the one with the most power in high school. She is most definitely selfish and spoiled and she's compared to a Python a lot.

Last but not least we have Dee. She is friends with everybody. She can be a little out there in her ways of thinking and strange at times but she's loyal and a very sweet, sweet girl.

Those are the main characters that the book focuses on as well as their significant others just like the rest of the series. Some new relationships are formed and others are left hanging by a thread. This book was a great volume in the set and was one of the best in the series yet. It tied up a lot of loose ends that had been forming in some of the previous books. However the one thing I do not like about all of the books in this series is that every time you finish a book and start a new one, you lose a few weeks. There are always a few weeks skipped in between there which disappoints me because with the way that the last one ended I wanted to read about a certain confrontation. That's all I'll say. So I don't give anything away in case you haven't read the one before this.

I have always loved the portrayal of the characters in the series and this book is no different. The characters were three-dimensional their character delineation was direct and with new characters there were developments that occurred slowly. I really do love how the characters are portrayed with so much detail and so much background there is always a little mystery left of the characters so there's always more to come but you know enough to get attached to them and that is really brilliant. It really pulls you in and you begin to relate to the character. At least that's what I did.

I found American Beauty to be one of the more realistic books and relatable in the series. I could easily see myself doing the same thing in most of the scenes as the girls did or reacting the same way, such as Sam going after Eduardo and Anna not willing to just forgive and forget with Ben towards the end.

The setting of Los Angeles works fantastically with American Beauty as well as with the rest of the series. It shows the glamour and difference in Anna's life back then and Anna's life now. The setting helps to show the contrast between Manhattan and LA they really are total opposites and the A-list novels show in detail how that is. That is what Anna is trying to do with herself show a whole new Anna to the world and to herself. It also shows a little inside peek into the lives of the rich and famous teenagers that we wonder so much about.

I did notice a few typos throughout the book such as calling Cammie, Anna, which to me was very humorous considering their enemies and Cammie would be very angry by being mistaken for Anna.

These girls are an unlikely group that became friends, sans Anna and Cammie, they had gone through so many things together throughout this series and they have grown a lot and it shows in this book. I love that Anna is constantly at war with herself. It's like breaking old habits I can really relate to that. It's really refreshing when she can break out of her old, "This is How We Do Things Big Book (East Coast WASP Edition)" shell and let loose. I find myself rooting for her throughout all of it.

I did find myself getting tired of the Ben and Anna drama in this one. I feel like it's becoming a toxic love story like it hasn't worked already because it's not going to work. I think Anna needs to be paired with somebody else and we need to move on from that and I hope that's where the direction of the next book is going because I'm really feel like there is no way the Ben and Anna story can be continued and it can still be enjoyable.

Overall American Beauty is a must read for teenagers and young adults that love to see how the other half lives. They will gravitate toward the series because it has all the drama, romance, betrayal, and family problems that they all go through themselves only these people are privileged rich kids and they will get to see how they handle it differently and/or similarly to them and makes for a delectable series that teens will not be able to resist.

Joy for Beginners
Erica Bauermeister
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157127, $24.95,

Dawn Olsen

Erica Bauermeister, author of The School of Essential Ingredients, said in an interview with Lucy Hannau that she "wanted to write books about the small, 'unimportant' things in life." Indeed, much like her previous best-selling novel, Joy for Beginners shimmers with lush descriptions as it celebrates the unexpected. It is a tale of the adventures, forgiveness, love and recognition that a close-knit group of friends shares, starting with a celebratory dinner party.

Kate, one of the seven women on which Joy for Beginners focuses, hosts a dinner in honor of her recovery from cancer. With wineglass in hand and illness in the rear-view mirror, she promises her friends that she will take a risk that has always terrified her - she will go white-water rafting down the Grand Canyon. Kate's vow, however, is only valid if each of her friends promises to do something equally intimidating. "But here's the deal," Kate says in the prologue, "I didn't get to choose mine, so I get to choose yours."

Thus begins Joy for Beginners, a novel that, like The School of Essential Ingredients, presents each character in a series of poignant vignettes. There is Daria, the potter who has constructed walls around herself; Hadley, a woman haunted by the early death of her husband; Marion, the intelligent empty-nester; Ava, the business partner afraid of loss; Caroline, a woman drowning in post-divorce memories; and Sara, the young wife whose life orbits around her family. And then there's Kate, the cautious, unselfish woman who assigns her friends a variety of tasks - from the gentle creation of a loaf of bread, to the sting of a tattoo needle.

In addition to a keen ability to characterize, Bauermeister bombards readers with adjectives as vivid and lively as the turbulent river Kate later confronts. From the prologue to the last paragraph, Bauermeister enraptures the reader, gives him or her reason to be inspired, to be hopeful. With each vignette, I found myself delving into the secrets of yet another character, another woman who radiates courage and familiarity.

As far as I'm concerned, I find that the reader may connect with one woman more than another. Personally, I found myself most interested in the stories of those who read or wrote themselves - Caroline and Marion. In fact, one of my favourite passages is from Caroline's story, a richly detailed paragraph that describes Marion.

Marion was originally from the Midwest, a geographical inheritance that didn't so much cling as grow up through her. Her face had the openness of cornfields and river bottoms, a calm belief in herself nourished by thick, green summer air, the feel of slow water moving beneath the hull of a canoe.

Though I did ache for an epilogue, I can say that I enjoyed Joy for Beginners much more than I originally anticipated. I found myself dog-earing pages, writing down quotes and reflecting upon passages that relate to my own reality. That's Bauermeister's gift - her words, her message, her observations about the minutia sneak into your heart when you least expect it. She brings to life a variety of ages, a variety of characters, a world where both the rapids of the Grand Canyon and the canals of Venice encourage you to think about life's "little things."

A Kind of Archeology
Elizabeth Stillinger
University of Massachusetts Press
PO Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004
9781558497443, $65.00,

Henry Berry

For author Elizabeth Stillinger, the subtitle "A Kind of Archeology: Collecting American Folk Art, 1876-1976" is not only a subject, but also an activity of a lifetime. Author of five previous books on antiques and wife of William Guthman (deceased) who was a regular on Antiques Road Show in the areas of early Americana, particularly militaria, Stillinger writes from a knowledge base and broad historical perspective of an expert along with the enthusiasm, market awareness, and approach of the committed collector. Her aim is to share as well as instruct.

Given its eclecticism depending much on personal tastes (e. g., what is folk art is often in the eye of the beholder) and unpredictability with respect to what antique objects will be included in the field depending in many cases on archeological finds, attic discoveries, recent scholarship, or new thinking in the field, folk art cannot be precisely defined. Definition and even concept are at different times strongly influenced though not fixed by individual interests, market trends, and social change.

Folk art has come to be seen in a new light in recent decades because of how it relates to trends of modernism, especially the fading of the line between "high" and "low" art and the elevation of popular culture. "Collecting folk art has to do...with the great shift in our perception of what art is." Avant-garde artists looked to the forms, materials, and decorations of folk art as representing the modernist ideals of "freedom from the shackles of formal art [and] self-expression above conformity". Stillinger explores this vein thoroughly in terms of the relevant modern interest in ethnology, social history, aesthetics, decoration, identity, and art theory.

The author notes that her voluminous, authoritative examination of folk art mostly of the Northeast can readily be applied to folk art of any region or group. The motives, perspectives, appreciation, and activities of collectors, dealers, and auction houses in the Northeast where Stillinger lives and has been active for decades which inform her study along with her own incomparable experience and knowledge are found among individuals in other parts of the country.

The abundant and diverse color photographs of quilts, sign boards, sculpture, amateur paintings, family portraits, patriotic woodworking, furniture, weather vanes, etc., coming page after page in a seemingly endless stream delight the reader as the text informs. The history, cultural ground, appeal, and market standing of folk art found in the book make it a benchmark in the field. There are many books on different aspects of folk art such as regional and ethnic; but none brings the field together to put it on the map and also to serve as a groundwork for study of the field and work in it as this book does.

Is Life One Big Goodbye
Rose Lamatt
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466252929, $14.50,

Kaye Trout

Quoting from the back cover:


I blend into the walls, like other women: faceless, no expression - a dead look. I've lost my identity, my individuality. I no longer know myself. The other women are young, Black, Hispanic, few White, like me. Most have been abused by fathers, mothers, husbands or children. Children who don't want to care for mothers sign them in after they have been released from psychiatric facilities. Twenty-year olds are put here by mothers or fathers after they come from drug or alcohol centers. Children don't want to care for mothers and mothers don't want to care for children - their own flesh and blood. If there's a 'me' underneath this faceless disguise that has attached itself to my body, I want it to leave, now!

"After having been married with children, a nice home, belonging to golf country clubs, and divorce, at age 68, after surgery and medical bills, I had no choice but to move into a Homeless Shelter.

"About author

Rose Lamatt was born on Long Island, NY, the daughter of an emigrant Italian father and a mother from South Philly. She married, raised a family and lived on Long Island until moving to Florida in l985.

"Her passion for writing started at fourteen when she wrote, The Day the Russians Bombed Us, inspired by the fear of the Cold War Era. Over the years she has learned that life can change in the blink of (an) eye; and because of several blinks, she did not fulfill her passion until her first novel was published in 2005.

"She writes of her past with great respect and has learned that by giving herself, she learned the best of herself."

Is Life One Big Goodbye is a memoir by Rose Lamatt, a 68-year old, convalescing white woman, living in a Florida homeless shelter for eight months while waiting to hear from low-income housing. We know the economy is bad but how did this woman arrive at such a place?

And, at the same time, "Is Life One Big Goodbye: One homeless Woman's Survival Story" is poignantly more than just a memoir. It addresses, with an elegant simplicity, core problems within America's contemporary society. Lamatt writes from her subjective perspective of life in a homeless shelter - lack of privacy, changing roommates, rules, locked doors, fights, noise, chores, poor food, and goodbyes. She shares her unspoken thoughts with us, often negative...struggling to be positive.

Lamatt arrived at SHAW, Shelter for Homeless and Abused Women, possibly as the result of choices she'd made in life, which we're all apt to make, but regardless, she was able to endure this experience and realize the spiritual benefits - new friends, extended family, an opportunity to give of herself, and a realization that we are all one.

This is the second book I've reviewed for Rose Lamatt. Her first book, Fears Flutterby, was about her earlier life, agoraphobia, marriage, children, friend Carol, and fourteen years care taking Carol, who eventually died of Alzheimer's. That book, as well as this one, have touched me deeply in the sense that, "But for the grace of God...."

Since her first publication, Lamatt's style of writing has delightfully improved. I particularly like the short chapters - each one different, each containing an element of harsh reality tempered with patience and faith. Her use of similes, metaphors and humor enrich the quality of the fabric she weaves.

What did Rose have when family and friends turned away? She had herself and her faith in the Creative Energy of the Universe.

I cannot think of anyone who would not be touched by this memoir. It is timely, honest and highly recommended.

Below Stairs
Margaret Powell
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010
9781250005441, $22.99,

Melissa Prange

With the present success of the British television series Downton Abbey, St. Martin's Press has re-released the classic memoir, Below Stairs. In "Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey", Margaret Powell recounts her career in domestic service and vividly recreates the world in which she lived.

As a child, Margaret Powell hoped to become a teacher, but her family was poor and there was no public assistance to pay for her education. Instead, she entered the workforce at the age of thirteen. For two years, she worked a series of odd jobs in her hometown of Hove, culminating in her dismissal from a laundry service for turning fifteen (the laundry wished to avoid giving her a half a crown raise). Her mother then decided it was time for her to enter domestic service. Margaret began her career with a position as a lowly kitchen maid but within three years, rose to the rank of cook through hard work and a bit of lying.

The joy I felt in reading "Below Stairs" had little to do with my fondness for Downton Abbey and much more to do with Margaret's unique voice and the world she describes so clearly. Through her no-nonsense narration, we are transported back to the time between wars. Margaret introduces the reader to a post-World War I England in which everything has changed and yet many of its people are still reticent about moving forward. Many of Margaret's employers were once something but are now forced to live on dwindling fortunes with only the good, old days to keep them company. Courtship no longer resembles that of Victorian England, and Margaret struggles to keep up as she searches for a husband. Women, in general, struggle to gain autonomy while society struggles with accepting them as independent, single women. Daily life now includes bicycling, car rides, cinema, and theater going. It's a fascinating time, and Margaret allows the reader to experience it all through the eyes of a firsthand observer.

Throughout "Below Stairs", Margaret guides us through her world with a straightforward and feisty voice. The reader becomes well acquainted with her and, by the last page, are reluctant to say good-bye to her and her world.

Temptation by Water
Diane Lockward
Wind Publications
600 Overbrook Drive
Nicholasville, Kentucky 40356
9781936138128, $15.00,

Michael Meyerhofer

"Save your water and green vegetation," Lockward writes in The Temptation of Mirage: "What I want is the desert." But how can we argue with her when she presents the reader with the "eternity of sand" like "an open-air coffin," not to mention the cereus with "its creamy petals like white silk," the fruit "red as a splash of blood"? And that's the beauty of Temptation by Water. Beyond the subtly brilliant way in which these poems are ordered, the poems themselves shine with a crisp lyricism eclipsed only by their humanity and honest lack of pretension.

Right away with the first line of the first poem, Weather Report, Lockward lets us know that she knows exactly where we're coming from - but it's OK, because she's been there, too: "It's one of those nights when sleep / is elusive and the TV runs non-stop..." Now that she has our attention, you might expect her to follow this up with a dry, academic treatise on the meaning of life, or else a postmodern non sequitur that leaves us scratching our heads. Instead, Lockward defies our poetic expectations by being solidly, dependably real: she talks of a weatherman who, through a slip of the tongue, says that, "devastation results from desire." Perhaps no truer statement has ever been uttered.

But Lockward goes further, giving us a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of a man "who does push-ups / not to lift himself off the ground / but to hold down the earth..." following this up with the startling but poignant image of a woman "who stood in a burning building / and dropped her child out the window / believing someone would catch him..."

The ample humanity of Lockward's poems is obvious; what's perhaps more striking, though, is her sense of humor, as seen in Side Effects ("He came with a warning label. / He caused headache, dry mouth, / diarrhea, constipation, depression.... He was all trans fats and palm oil...") or these opening lines of Leaving in Pieces:

One morning I awoke
and found myself married
to a bald man.

The narrator goes on to detail what used to be the "lustrous" hair of her husband, conveying the humor and underlying rush of mortal recognition when "something / turned to nothing" and "there on the pillow" she was confronted by his "fully exposed skull." In short, it's a poem about aging and mortality - old subjects, sure, but what's fascinating and absolutely redeeming is Lockward's subtle clarity, the infectious joy she displays when writing about even the most mundane or potentially troublesome topics, her way of describing the world with her own distinctive brand of pedestrian, Zen-like beauty.

Though I rarely review poems in the exact order they appear in the book, the next poem bares mention, especially for the subtle, lyrical turns in the first stanza. After the tongue-in-cheek ruminations of the last poem, often seasoned with bald-faced romance ("We frolicked and then we slept..."), a casual reader might easily expect the next poem to follow the same aesthetic, perhaps expounding on the narration of the previous poem. But What He Doesn't Know begins with these odd, delightfully unexpected and imaginative lines:

This is the season of the centipede.
Concealed by night, he crawls
across the ceiling,
here to terrify but not to harm.

That last line is great, I think, because it foreshadows the genius turns to follow:

How easily he travels at breakneck speed,
up the drains and down the walls.
Each of his one hundred legs securely clings,
each foot so soft and light he sounds no alarm.

This is Lockward at her best: so good that she lulls readers into the best kind of auto-pilot, so that if you don't stop halfway through and switch your conscious brain back on, you'll miss the lyrical acrobatics that are taking place right in front of you. Here, in just a few lines, Lockward has managed to expand the readers' expectations for the entire book while, on the level of this single poem, evoking raw imagination followed by tension (perhaps a bit unsettling), then following that with non-assuming reassurance reminiscent of James Wright, Mary Oliver, William Carlos Williams, or Li Po.

This somewhat pastoral quality also takes on a slightly darker tone in pieces like A Murmuration of Starlings, a work of breathtakingly lyrical agility that describes dead birds falling from the air "like water balloons tossed blindly / from dormitory windows," in such a way that we cannot help but agree with Lockward when she asks, "Do we not already think of the fallen, / earth's fields littered with corpses?"

Clearly, this is a book of great range. "The ocean outside my window washes me clean," says the first line Capturing the Image, evoking a powerful, in-the-moment view of the air "scented with seaweed and salt." But Lockward's next poem, The Jesus Potato, manages to poke fun at a story from while maintaining a certain underlying feeling of nondenominational spirituality - quite a feat in any time or political climate.

These are generous poems, sure, but what's also of interest to me is their underlying sense of courage. It's the courage to see the beauty in the "abandoned power plant in Tampa" and how it "fell in on itself... like disaster in slow motion," but it's also a brand of courage exemplified by the previously mentioned poem, What He Doesn't Know, which ends on lines that personify, I think, what we all aspire towards, yet Lockward's poetic aesthetic embodies with seemingly effortless humility and grace:

He has no poetry, no art, no songs,
but knows no fear when darkness enters a room.

Hugs from Pearl
Paul Schmid
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061804342, $14.99,

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Pearl is a very friendly porcupine who loves to give hugs. But no one likes to get hugs from Pearl because they hurt. This makes Pearl sad. So she tries different ways to make her quills a little softer. Nothing works until she stops by to visit a rose bush one day and discovers the answer to her prickly hugs. Schmid's simple and sweet pastel illustrations reveal Pearl's softer side. Young children will enjoy watching Pearl solve her problem. Perhaps they will even be inspired to think of ways to soften their own prickly sides.

Janet Lee Carey
Dial Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780803735040, $17.99,

Terrilyn Fleming

Dragonswood is the best YA book I've read this year! Though the novel is a continuation of the prophecy told in Dragon's Keep (Carey, 2007), it can easily be enjoyed as a stand-alone story.

Tess is abused by her stepfather and yearns to find refuge in the forbidden Dragonswood. After escaping her witch trial, she meets a kind woodsman, Garth, who takes care of Tess and her friends. Tess makes self-discoveries and unravels mysteries about Garth as well, and the foretold prophecy about the three races (human, dragon, fairy) coming together is fulfilled by story's end.

Carey elegantly weaves a magical medieval story with feminist ideas to build her world. Though the environment in which the story takes place is simple, the characters are delightfully multi-layered - even the blacksmith who is an evil, potentially two-dimensional character, has redeeming qualities revealed at the end. The themes examined within the novel are modern and would be of interest not only for the YA audience to whom Dragonswood is targeted, but for adults who enjoy an excellent fantasy read as well.

Applegate's Bookshelf

For the Birds
Aaron Paul Lazar
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664,
B005W629E2, $3.25 Kindle eBook
9781606191668 $16.95 Paperback

Lazar shows his love of nature - and of course, mystery and the paranormal . . . Aaron Paul Lazar continues to share with readers his love for the blue sky, green trees and flowers, the mountains, the rushing streams, the tall trees and the other wonders of nature in his beloved northern Adirondacks. Lazar includes the natural beauty of the area in such a way that, rather than simply serving as a setting for the action in this mystery tale, it becomes a part of the story.

Three adults, one bird, and some odd characters, create a mystery . . . We first meet Marcella, her husband Quinn, her mother Thelma, and the parakeet Ruby, their avian family member, on their way to a bird show at a luxury hotel called For The Birds, where they expect Ruby to take top show honors for "best new color." This weekend stay at the hotel is a rare and unexpected gift from Thelma, and Marcella and Quinn, who couldn't have afforded it themselves, have been looking forward to this trip with enthusiasm.

But things aren't going well at the moment. It is a sweltering summer day, they are bouncing along a rutted road, over potholes and rocks, in their 15-year-old Dodge Ram van with its air conditioning on the fritz, and they are in unfamiliar territory with an unreliable map. The van eventually gives up the ghost, and as they cluster in the shade of a nearby tree, wondering where help will come from, a white truck appears in the distance. Ah, help at last. But the white truck doesn't stop. It blows by them, leaving them coated in dust as it disappears into the distance. Thelma insists that the white truck means danger, but because her husband Raoul, Marcella's stepfather, has recently died, Thelma has been showing signs of paranoia in recent days. Marcella, knowing her mother's tendencies to melodrama, just ignores her fears.

When they finally arrive at For The Birds, it has been worth every dust cloud and bump and wrong turn in the road along the way. Lazar's descriptions of the house, the bird-shaped swimming pool, the enormous glass-enclosed aviary, the fake two-story waterfall and rocks, the manmade rain forest and other delights made me want to pick up the phone and make reservations. The Inn is, according to Marcella. ". . . like a Disney scene, (with a) playful sense of elegance about the design."

Water and electricity lead to some strange happenings . . . Soon our sweaty, weary travelers are settled in, and they head for the swimming pool for some relaxation, at last. Alas, Thelma, carrying Ruby in her cage, trips over a table and, pulling a string of mini-lights and Ruby along with her, tumbles into the pool. The result, not surprisingly in view of the incompatibility of electricity and water, is a sizzling, dazzling electrical eruption, and a near drowning of both Thelma and Ruby.

This incident sets the stage for much of the goings-on as the plot develops. Ruby and Thelma have shared this unexpected dunking in electrically charged water, and it soon appears that something strange has happened to each. I'll leave it for the reader to find out what that something is and what the consequences are.

Lazar sets up a warm, believable and lovingly sensual relationship between Marcella and Quinn, which adds a tender touch to the story. At the same time, he creates some exceptional characters whose eccentricities fit the story line well.

Plot twists and turns will keep a mystery fan reading through to the end . . . Unusual things happen: Mr. Tiramisu, who claims he is a "bird psychic," turns up at the show. Why is he so interested in Ruby? And Thelma?

Mysterious things happen: Who broke into Marcella and Quinn's room?

Frightening things happen: The white truck that earlier ignored them on the side of the road may be following them. Did the same white truck try to run them down in the street?

Terrifying things happen: Thelma disappears from the hospital. Is this a kidnapping?

Peculiar things happen: Who is Ramona? Where does a years-ago bank robbery fit in this mystery?

Finding the answers to these questions and many others makes for a good read on a cold winter afternoon. Or on a beach. Actually, it's a fun read anywhere. All told, For the Birds is an entertaining, human story with some mysterious and paranormal touches. Readers can count on Lazar for something a little different, each time.

I recommend For the Birds.

Death Benefit
Robin Cook
G.P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014,
9781101553671, Kindle/Nook eBook: $12.99, Hardcover: $TBA

Robin Cook practically invented the medical thriller, and in his latest he gives readers a tale that is, as television thriller-and-law-and-order shows like to claim, ripped from today's headlines. Death Benefit takes us on a complicated tour through some of the most modern ways of depriving people of their money, and in some cases their lives, by the latest breeds of gangsters and sociopaths.

This is an of-the-moment tale. It involves foster care (which is in ill repute today). It involves chicanery and greed of the worst kind by Wall Street types (unnecessary to say what kind of repute attaches to that today). It involves beyond-cutting-edge scientific advances (which are scary in their implications as discussed by Cook). And it involves an excellent description of Asperger's Syndrome (at least as I understand the condition).

Cook's cast of characters could have created an entire series-worth of evildoers, victims and law-enforcement types had he written a TV drama instead of a novel. Here is a look at the kinds of individuals we will follow in the course of a sit-down with Death Benefit.

Pia is a brilliant and beautiful but deeply troubled young woman, a 4th-year medical student at Columbia University Medical Center, who has had an abysmal, tragic childhood, and has been so abused that she will never trust anyone. She carries through with these I-can-take-care-of-me and I-don't-need-you attitudes even when it puts her in danger.

George is a nice young man, also a 4th-year medical student at Columbia, who has fallen for this beautiful girl and stays with her through thick and thin, and becomes her co-conspirator, in hopes that she will fall in love with him, despite her constant rebuffs of his efforts.

Dr. Rothman is a Lasker and Nobel prize-winning researcher at Columbia who asks Pia to assist in his laboratory while getting her Phd. She is thrilled to be asked to work with this man, despite his remote and asocial personality, because she can participate in ground-breaking stem cell research, in the rarified area of organogenesis.

A gang of Albanian would-be mafiosi who are willing to do anything for money are deeply involved in a series of increasingly ugly incidents.

Rich and ingenious men want to turn their millions into billions by selling a particular kind of life insurance policy to people diagnosed with terminal illness. Their get-richer-quicker scheme is seriously threatened by the research taking place at Columbia in Rothman's lab.

When Dr. Rothman and his chief assistant are murdered, an entire galaxy of university-connected people throw up a host of roadblocks, political and academic, to keep Pia from her determined pursuit of the murderer of her mentor.

Now I must say this: When I pick up a Robin Cook thriller, I expect a gripping page-turner with lots of suspense, murder and mayhem served up in a short time. He puts the date, time and place at the head of each chapter, a technique that usually gives a sense of impending doom that increases and sharpens as the clock ticks away. It didn't work for me this time. I found myself thinking, C'mon, Robin, get this story moving! The plot is an up-to-date one that could have been a thrill-a-minute mystery, but Robin seems not to have told that to the characters. They dither around in self-analysis and psychological musings. They talk, threaten, and plot, for page after page. Even after a number of murders, I didn't feel real suspense until about two-thirds of the way through.

But I did enjoy reading about and gaining some new insight into the various issues Cook highlighted in this novel. From that point of view, I can comfortably say that reading the book was time well spent. It's an interesting and actually informative novel, if you aren't expecting the typical thriller. This is slower-paced and cerebral. On that basis, I can recommend spending some time with Robin Cook's Death Benefit. You'll learn some things I'm willing to bet you don't know.

Marcia K. Applegate, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age
Dr. Linda Sapadin, Ph.D.
PsychWisdom Publishing
9780983676607, $14.99,

We can get much more done in the digital age, but it's also so much easier to be distracted. "How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age: 6 Unique Change Programs for 6 Personality Styles" is a guide to getting back on track when we so often want to say, "Yes, But". Dr. Linda Sapadin, a clinical psychologist, has identified six personality styles that are prone to procrastination, and provides a change program tailor-made for each personality style. "How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age" is a wise and much recommended pick for those who drag their heels when it's time to tackle professional or personal goals.

Glorious Reality of War
Michael Mendoza
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781463468163, $16.99,

It's not an action movie, it's a grueling endurance test on the mind and the body. "Glorious Reality of War" is a novel taken from letters of a Civil War Veteran, as Michael Mendoza crafts a gritty tale of the plight of those trudging through the fields of the country, and being locked in combat against your countrymen. "Glorious Reality of War" is a fine read of historical fiction, much recommended.

Mary and the Goddess of Ephesus
Melanie Bacon
Privately Published
9781450558372, $13.95,

A woman between faiths and tradition is consumed by conflict. "Mary and the Goddess of Ephesus" is a historical novel that discusses the role of Mary, mother of Jesus, focusing on her life past the birth of her son. Advancing in age, she finds herself split between the traditional Greek faiths and customs, her Jewish heritage, and the preaching divinity that has arose around her very son. "Mary and the Goddess of Ephesus" is a unique and recommended delve into faith in Christs time, highly recommended.

The Hell and Back Kids
L. L. Helland
Privately Published
9781453852187, $14.99,

Ordeals invite us to become better people. "The Hell and Back Kids" is a youthful read as L. L. Helland tells a story of a driven grandmother who charges her grand kids with adventure. With humor and unique stories and the lessons learned, "The Hell and Back Kids" is a choice pick for those looking for a story kids taking the next step of literacy can enjoy.

A Blueprint for Achieving Peace on Earth
Russell E. Hill
Privately Published
9781463647315, $17.00,

Peace is always a noble goal, but it often seems so out of reach. "A Blueprint for Achieving Peace on Earth" discusses the power of peace in our lives and how we as people can reach for it in a more effective way in our lives. Russell Hill advocates peace not only with other humans, but peace with nature to attain a long lasting harmony and unless this peace is attained on all levels, any other peace will merely be temporary. "A Blueprint for Achieving Peace on Earth" is a strongly recommended pick that shouldn't be overlooked.

The Apostle Paul & Post-Traumatic Stress
Robert & Annelie Collie
Fairway Press
9780788022395, $24.95,

Overcoming tragedy and crisis is quite the challenge. "The Apostle Paul & Post Traumatic Stress: From Woundedness to Wholeness" discusses the works of Paul, the Bible, and what it means to those facing serious tragedy in their lives. Drawing from both religious and modern thoughts on these spiritual injuries, "The Apostle Paul & Post Traumatic Stress" is an excellent combination of faith and inspiration, much recommended.

Hands-On Grammar
Katherine S. McKnight
Privately Published
9781463689247, $12.00,

Grammar is something that seems to be lost on many young people. "Hands-On Grammar: Multimodal Grammar and Language Mini Lessons" discusses a new method of teaching grammar to students, stating that traditional drills and methods of memorization often fail. Katherine McKnight encourages teachers to try a more effective approach that explains the purpose and encourages more effective writing. "Hands-On Grammar" is a strongly recommended pick for any educator who wants to try something new to teach their students.

Simply China
Nancy Brown
Nancy Brown Photography
9780615428246, $50.00,

Even through war and revolution, China has maintained a culture that no place else in the world can match. "Simply China" is a collection of full color photography from Nancy Brown, capturing the essence of modern China, its people, and its colorful history. With some thought on her journeys through the country and what she has learned and gathered, "Simply China" is an astoundingly beautiful coffee-table sized photography book, an excellent and very much recommended pick.

You're In the Front Row
Glenn Capeloto
Privately Published
9781889150581, $20.95,

There's more than playing the game for those who love sports. "You're in the Front Row: How to Kick Off Your Career in Sports, Even If You're Not a Star Athlete"" is a guide to the many non-athletic careers in the worl dof sports, from broadcasting to management to medicine, and much more. With experts from many sports coming together to add in extra advice for careers in these fields, "You're in the Front Row" is a strong pick for those who love sports who think being an all-star player isn't in the cards.

Susan Bethany

Bonnie's Bookshelf

Talk Ain't Cheap... It's Priceless! Connecting in a Disconnected World
Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE
The Walk the Talk Company
1100 Parker Square, Suite 250
Flower Mound, TX 75028
9781885228826, $10.95, 972-899-8300

It should surprise no one when I say that communication skills, or the lack thereof, are at the root of all relationship problems. "Talk Ain't Cheap... It's Priceless! Connecting in a Disconnected World" by Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE targets this issue as it relates to the business world.

The Table Of Contents includes:

Priceless Talk: Where do you start?
Priceless Talk: Whom do you talk to?
Priceless Talk: What do you say?
Priceless Talk: How will they feel?
Priceless Talk: Why does it matter?
Closing Thoughts

Although this book was written for leaders in business organizations it is very applicable to anyone in the business from the frontline to the CEO. The bottom line in all relationships is connection and the author uses assessments, advice, stories, quotes and anecdotes to keep her readers interested and engaged.

The information in the book will help you become a better conversationalist and listener, offers unique ways to make meetings more productive, tells you who you should be talking with and tells you how to talk so that people will listen.

I really like the fact that the author discourages readers from sending important messages in e-mail. With the avalanche of spam and scams combined with the dozens of real e-mail we get everyday most people have e-mail burnout. Real conversations need to be made in person or at the very least over the telephone.

Organizations that connect with their employee and customers stay in business and make more money. They have less turnover, employees are more engaged and productive and stock holders are happy. If your company wants to enjoy these benefits then you need to get this book into the hands of everyone that works for you!

The author of this book, Eileen McDargh, has been a consultant, speaker and trainer since 1980. Executive Magazine has ranked her has one of the top 100 thought leaders in business leadership. She writes on a variety of topics and her books are available at bookstores everywhere.

Work for a Living and Still Be Free To Live!
Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE
Loch Lomond Press
33465 Dosinia, Dana Point, CA 92629
9780962319068, $15.00, 949-496-8640

This book by author Eileen McDargh is the first work/life balance book to challenge the accepted belief that you can find balance in your life. Instead, she asks the reader to shift their perspective and find a way to fit their work into their life rather than the other way around. She asks a simple but profound question in the beginning of the book that will make you think twice about how you live your life:

"How do we swim with the sharks, grow a business, earn a living and still claim lives of wholesomeness and quality?"

The table of contents include:

Back to the Drawing Board
This Thing Called "Work"
When You're Stuck In The Mud
How To Recognize A Pit When You're In One
Okay, It's A Pit - Now What?
This Thing Called "Live"
Eeney, Meeney, Miney, Mo
The Timely Tragedy
Uppers, Downers and In-Betweeners
In Celebration Of The Journey
Recommended Reading

I loved the fact that this book is interactive. You'll find quizzes, self assessments, scales and case studies. The whole premise of the book is about taking a critical look at your job to find out if you can turn it into something meaningful or if you need to make the tough decisions to find the career of your dreams.

If you are on a roller coaster, like I am, with 12 hour+ workdays seven days a week, piled up laundry, dogs that bring you their leash to beg for walks and family members that don't remember your name then this book is definitely for you. It would also make a terrific gift for the overwhelmed and underpaid.

42 Rules for Sourcing and Manufacturing in China
Rosemary Coates
Super Star Press/Happy About
20660 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 210, Cupertino, CA 95014
9781607730507, $19.95

Rating: Excellent

Subtitled 'A practical handbook for doing business in China, special economic zones, factory tours and manufacturing quality', "42 Rules for Sourcing and Manufacturing in China" is not about the benefits of outsourcing your manufacturing to China and it won't try to convince you this is the right or wrong thing to do. This book assumes that you have already made the decision to explore outsourcing and therefore offers you advice about everything you need to know in order to make this successful.

The author, Rosemary Coates, is one of the most sought after China supply chain experts. Ms. Coates interviewed more than twenty experts in the field and added their knowledge to hers in this book. Some of the topics included in this book are the history of China as a nation and how it affects the way business is done today, why you must build "Guanxi" (relationships with people who can help you), what contract manufacturing and global sourcing companies can do for you, why and how you must audit and monitor the factories you use and the important details of Chinese etiquette you must observe.

Thanks to the pet food crisis a few years ago there are very few people that are unaware that manufacturing regulations in China are very different from those in other countries. Complicating things even further are new laws and regulations put into place in Beijing that are not uniformly applied throughout the country. This can make doing business in China a bit scary and intimidating but according to this book those fears can be put to rest. If you do your research and follow the advice in this book you can have a successful business relationship with the Chinese.

The author reminds the reader that they must place a great deal of emphasis on culture, tradition, history and etiquette when doing business in China. Every relationship and transaction you have is colored by all of these factors and even though it seems complicated "42 Rules for Sourcing and Manufacturing in China" make it seem easy. If you need to do business in China then this is the book to read and take with you.

Gifts from the Mountain: Simple Truths for Life's Complexities
Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
235 Montgomery Street, Suite 650
San Francisco, CA 94104-2916
9781576754696, $19.95,

Gifts From The Mountain, by author Eileen McDargh, won the Benjamin Franklin Gold Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association in 2008. This inspirational book offers wisdom learned from many difficult and sometimes dangerous backpacking trips that the author has taken with her adventurous husband over a span of two decades. Though the trips sound awful to those of us who consider a hotel room to be camping the author has learned much that is of value that she shares with her readers in this book.

Each short chapter beings with a beautiful illustration by Roderick McIver and a quote from the author. It is clear that the author has learned to slow down and notice the small but important things that often escape our notice such as flowers found in an unexpected place, tiny stones that can trip you up, wild and tasty onions that can be added to soup and beautiful constellations that you cannot see when you live in the city. McDargh takes these and other unexpected pieces of wisdom and relates them to the challenges that we encounter in modern life. Her wisdom is inspirational and her prose lyrical. I stayed up late reading this book until the wee hours and I can't help but think it would make a terrific gift for friends, family or co-workers!

Bonnie Jo Davis

Buhle's Bookshelf

Kept by Jesus
Janelle C. Simmons
Privately Published
9780984828005, $19.95

Against all the cruelty of the world, sometimes your only protection against all of it is your faith. "Kept by Jesus" is a Christian memoir from Janelle C. Simmons as she tells her story seeing much of the world and speaks on the crisis that many of us face and leaves us struggling to understand it all. Highly spiritual and very motivated, "Kept by Jesus" is a strong pick for any seeking a story of a Christian in the world, unknowing of what lies ahead of her.

Slotback Rhapsody
Christopher Harris
Privately Published
9781466485563, $12.00 pbk / $5.99 Kindle

When you're running on heart, you must realize that it's not inexhaustible. "Slotback Rhapsody" follows Nick Morrison, an aspiring football player whose body does not agree with his dreams. Finding his drive in Buddhism, he never surrenders his dream, even if it means being destroyed by those twice his size. With one last shot at becoming a professional athlete, he brings his faith, his love, and everything else for one last shot. "Slotback Rhapsody" is a charming and riveting read for sports fiction collections.

I'll Sleep When You're Dead
Alysse Aallyn
Midnight Reader
9780982143933, $12.95,

What's spirituality and what's just trying to get into her pants? "I'll Sleep When You're Dead" is a metaphysical romantic thriller from Alysse Aallynwho crafts a unique tale of aspiring college student Jasmyn Suzino who explores the nuances of soul travel with a professor who she is suspecting of having motives beyond education. With plenty of twists and turns with unique characters all around, "I'll Sleep When You're Dead" is not to be missed, highly recommended.

Hope in the Shadows
Cathy E. White-Koon
Privately Published
9781466383029, $19.99,

Cancer can claim more than the life of the afflicted. "Hope in the Shadows" is a novel of facing down the struggles of cancer, as Cathy E. White-Koon uses her own plight of reclaiming what was taken from her. A story of love and its power against overwhelming shame, "Hope in the Shadows" is a thoughtful novel with plenty of ideals to ponder for those who are fighting their own tragedies.

What the Walrus Knows
Sarah Seidelmann
Roar Grrr Prrr
9780615556970, $19.95,

Humanity is just another couple billion in the world's billions of living beings. "Sarah Seidelmann's What the Walrus Knows: An Eccentric's Field Guide to Working with Beastie Energies" is a spiritual guide as she advises readers to take messages from the beasts around them, encouraging them to take the signs they leave to push oneself forward. A strong spiritual message, "What the Walrus Knows" is a top pick for new age thought and metaphysical spirituality collections.

Let's Have Lunch Together
Marshall Howard
Privately Published
09773395405, $24.95,

Good relationships can lead to great business. "Let's Have Lunch Together: How to Reach Out and Build More Powerful Relationships" is author Marshall Howard's guild to promoting business ideas in the format of a novel, displaying the importance of building bonds across businesses. Networking is the theme of this novel, as Oscar struggles to do so, and faces the consequences unless he learns how to quick. "Let's Have Lunch Together" is a thoughtful and recommended exploration of the importance of networking.

The Prospect of My Arrival
Dwight Okita
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781460959893, $8.99,

From pre-birth to a twenty year old body, life can be quite a shock. "The Prospect of My Arrival" tells the story of Prospect, a human embryo transplanted to synthetic adult body, as he debates whether life is worth the pain of birth. Offering an unusual depiction of life and what our world says to those who may be an outsider, "The Prospect of My Arrival" is a unique novel with its own message, a read that is very much worth considering.

A Dream Away
Frank Drury
Privately Published
9781461120940, $14.00,

At fifteen, it is no age to have a past plaguing the self. "A Dream Away" is a novel following teenage Allison as she finds an adopted life with a positive outlook. But her birth mother, plagued by mental illness all through her life, begins to stalk her and her new family. Learning the value of family and what it all means, "A Dream Away" is a fine pick for community library general fiction collections.

Best Gay Erotica 2012
Richard Labonte, editor
Selected and introduced by Larry Duplechan
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781573447539 $15.95

Best Gay Erotica 2012 is an anthology of sensuously erotic tales by a diverse assortment of authors, all with one theme in common: strenuous, passionate, man-on-man physical love. The strong-language sexual adventures come fast and charged with graphic detail, in this collection especially intended to promote pleasure in the privacy of one's home (perhaps with the aid of a safe and skin-friendly lubricant). Best Gay Erotica 2012 lives up to its title as a compendium of only the finest in lurid, vivid, and sexually explicit tales of gay lust.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Cry of Havoc
John Hennessy
Privately Published
9780615527284, $16.95,

As the world goes into turmoil, those who survive simply must pick up everything and try again. "The Cry of Havoc" follows Tom Navo, living in a world devastated by plagues and climate shifts. For survival against a warmongering band, they must find relics of the old world, but everywhere he turns, there are those out to end his ways and quests so very quickly. "The Cry of Havoc" is a riveting read that has plenty to consider, much recommended.

Winds of Change
Carole Eglash-Kosoff
Valley Village Publishing
9780983960102, $18.95,

Forbidding something is no obstacle to love's desire. "Winds of Change" is a novel of the early twentieth century. A follow up to Carole Eglash-Kosoff's previous novel When Stars Align, the ideas of racial segregation and the struggles through the decades of life continue, with the backdrop of the Spanish-American war and World War I raging in the distance. Following the bonds of an interracial couple, "Winds of Change" is a choice addition to any general fiction collection, highly recommended.

Attila & The Battle Cruiser
Peter Chestnut
Privately Published
9781463405755, $22.95,

Although air warfare takes much of the imagination in World War II, the seas were still an important field of conflict. "Attila & The Battle Cruiser" is a novel surrounding a great sea battles between Germany and Britain during this most fire of conflicts. Could the presence of a Siamese cat named Attila be giving Germany an edge in these skirmishes? "Attila & The Battle Cruiser" is a fine military fiction read.

Shelia Bolt Rudesill
Privately Published
9780615580463, $12.95,

Finding love as a mother is no easy task, and occasionally one they want nothing to do with. "Baggage" is a romance of middle age, as Holly Gaynor, after tragedy takes her husband, swears off romance, only for it to come for her. But when she starts to find happiness, life conspires to take it all away from her once more. "Baggage" is a fine pick and much recommended read.

Vadin J. Birstein
Biteback Publishing
9781849541084, $29.95,

Intelligence is perhaps the most important aspect of warfare. "Smersh: Stalin's Secret Weapon - Soviet Military Counterintelligence in WWII" discusses this Soviet organization which gained infamy in World War II as one of the most useful and feared Soviet agencies throughout the war in working against spies from Germany and helped the Soviet Union install its influence in the tumultuous years following it. Vadin J. Birstein provides light on this organization that for even decades following the war was highly confidential, making "Smersh" riveting reading for those with a strong interest in true life espionage and those who fight them.

The Hole
Ray Owen
Better Karma Publishing
9780982842690, $10.99,

There is always one last chance to make something out of life. "The Hole" is a novel following Engineer Steve Clark as he tries to reassemble his life as a serious brain injury. In the The Hole, a small factory, he finds that he has the talents to make a difference in the lives of those around him and seeks to do just that. "The Hole" is an inspiring novel, with much to ponder, recommended.

Zombie Maelstrom
Bryan Cassiday
Privately Published
9781467931366, $21.95,

As civilization lingers on its dying legs, there are those who dare to live on. "Zombie Maelstrom" follows CIA agent Chad Halverson as he faces an undead apocalypse as the world seems to crumble all around him, as he looks to find his brother and protect the few people who may be able to help him in his challenge. For fans of zombies and horror, "Zombie Maelstrom" is very much worth considering.

Born Again Afresh
Memory Bengesa
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781467033626, $12.99,

Being peeled from the faith is easy, but getting back on it is easier side than done. "Born Again Afresh: How Struggling Christians can Get Back on Track" is an inspirational read from Memory Bengesa as she advises lost Christians how to be born again, and keep the strength in the face of past demons. "Born Again Afresh" is a strong pick for those who have chosen to embrace Christ once more.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

A Dubious Dream
Gerald J. Kubicki
Privately Published
9781466368484 $TBA pbk. / $0.99 Kindle ebook

A Dubious Dream is the third mystery novel featuring the robust Colton Banyon and his unusual sidekicks. This time, the intrigue that Colton must unravel spans space, time, and human history; Colton's ghostly mentor tells him of a terrible Black Diamond that arrived on Earth thousands of years ago, and that can manipulate energy to empower people with godlike abilities - or utterly destroy them. Professor Adam Wesley uncovers the at times horrifically violent history of the Black Diamond and sets out to uncover its location. But will uncovering the Black Diamond's hidden location ultimately doom the finder, or possibly even humanity as a whole? A Dubious Dream is an enthralling blend of fierce action and metaphysical mystery, highly recommended. Also choice picks are the previous Colton Banyon mysteries, "A Dubious Mission" and "A Dubious Secret".

They Call Me Mzee
Lee B. Mulder
Privately Published
c/o Lynch Public Relations
9781463741044, $11.99,

The good side of Africa doesn't get enough press. "They Call Me Mzee: One Man's Safari Into Brightest Africa" tells the story of Lee B. Mulder and his journeys into Uganda, and sharing his stories of ministry and people all throughout the region, and how the fight is being taken to many issues that modern Africans face and how they are handling it. "They Call Me Mzee" is an uplifting read of the steps being made to bring stability to an unstable region.

Real Conversations with Imaginary Friends
E. E. King
27th Dimension Publishing
9781618480255, $9.99,

We often try to wonder how it would have all changed if it had been different. "Real Conversations with Imaginary Friends" is a collection of thoughtful short fiction from E. E. King as she offers humor and thought about life's dreams and what we hold so dear to us all. With plenty to ponder about and no fear of getting off topic and daring to discuss what's not to be discussed, "Real Conversations with Imaginary Friends" is an excellent short fiction collection, very much recommended.

Steven M. Greenberg
Privately Published
9781466407237, $17.99,

The thoughts of another can often be horrifying. "Flocking" is a novel from Steven M. Greenberg, exploring the idea of what would happen if one could divine the thoughts of another and the weight that comes with all of that. Using the concept creatively, "Flocking" is a choice read that shouldn't be overlooked by general fiction collections.

Long Live the Olive Branch!
John Manga
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432781439, $8.95,

There is nothing that'll annoy others more than arrogance, and this goes double in the world of international politics. "Long Live the Olive Branch!" is author John Manga's call for humility and peace when it comes to international diplomacy, and cooperation throughout our world. Stating a leader doesn't look down on their followers, "Long Live the Olive Branch" is a fine read that is very much recommended.

Bit Players, Has-Been Actors, and Other Posers
S. M. Stevens
Privately Published
9781466434127, $6.99,

The pursuit of fame starts young. "Bit Players, Has-Been Actors, and Other Posers" is a drama novel based in the high school drama we all have faced at some level or another. Sadie Perkins quests to rise up and gain a bit more of that high school fame, and the struggles to even get the show off the ground during a tumultuous time. "Bit Players, Has-Been Actors, and Other Posers" is a riveting and much recommended pick for any young adult fiction collection.

Muck Blossoms
Juna Jinsei
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432771522, $21.95,

In the farms of the nineteenth century, you have much time to think. "Muck Blossoms" is a metaphysical and spiritual historical novel following Kathleen, a woman of 1870s Wyoming who tries to put together a worthy life. Facing the evil that lurks behind her, all she wants is a worthy home that escapes her own broken upbringing. "Muck Blossoms" is an excellent read for historical fiction fans seeking a spiritual tilt to their novels.

The Cornerstone of Deception
Cheryl Simani
Privately Published
9781461052814, $18.00,

History is the search for truth, but it's all too easy to lose sight of that. "The Cornerstone of Deception" is a novel of 19th century archeology, of two men, with one trying to advance his goals away from truth, and the other trying to restore such a thing. Creating a historical novel of intrigue, romance, and much more, "The Cornerstone of Deception" is a fine read with plenty to consider, recommended reading.

George Molho
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440195136, $22.95,

The worst evil children will face is often visited upon them in the disguise of love. "Scarred" is a memoir from George Molho, as he recounts the year of abuse he faced at the hands of his biological father while being kidnapped for one year. Trauma that took years to recover form, he recounts his psychological tale and what it brought. "Scarred" is a fine read with a solid and important message, much recommended.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Tales Of An Animal Communicator Master Teachers
Nancy A. Kaiser
Aronya Publishing
494 Timber Lakes Drive, Todd, NC 28684
9781613645864, $13.22 paperback, $7.99 ebook

Nancy Kaiser, known for her poignant memoir Letting Go: an Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Journey of Healing & Transformation, has penned another powerful read with Master Teachers, her first book in her Tales of an Animal Communicator series relaying her work as an animal communicator and the lessons learned from the animals with which she communed and treated. Kaiser's background as a pharmacist and assistant to her veterinarian husband along with her deep love of horses and dogs certainly helped pave her way to becoming an animal communicator. She takes her reader along on her journey of transformation as she realizes the special gift she has and begins to apply it to healing and communicating with animals. We learn the lessons taught with each animal she introduces us to, their perception of afterlife, which is so uplifting, and the spirituality of each of these beautiful animals. Her skillful writing draws her reader into tales of great joy and deep sorrow, of fiercely holding on and learning to let go, and learning to live in the moment. One cannot read this book without coming away knowing animals have souls and are, indeed, our true teachers on this earth if only we will open up our hearts and minds and listen to what they have to tell us.

The Moonlit Mind: A Tale of Suspense
Kean Koontz
Bantam Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York NY 10019
ASIN: B0061C1NCK, Kindle Single $2.99

Pre-teen Crispin lives on the streets with his dog Harley, who has an uncanny ability to guide Crispin out of danger. At 9 years of age, Crispin witnessed the disappearance of his sister and the horrific murder of his brother and now he's running for his life from his mother and stepfather and a multitude of people who share their beliefs. But Crispin knows he cannot be free until he puts an end to the evilness that resides in his parents' house.

No author can meet Koontz's skill at portraying evilness and the characters that do its deeds. As always, there is a heroic dog involved, which this reviewer appreciates, but this time the protagonist is a child instead of the usual adult(s) on the run from whatever deviltry is after them. With great skill, Koontz weaves a suspenseful story made more horrific because it could actually be reality. A tale one thinks can have no happy ending yet Koontz manages to end on an upbeat note. This novella reminds this reviewer of Koontz's earlier books, which were thrilling to read.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

The Queen of Washington
Francis Hamit
Brass Canon Books
9781595951717, $32.00,

Historical fiction allows authors to embellish upon real life events, especially when the characters are long deceased, as in this novel about civil war spy Rose Greenhow. Francis Hamit has written a spy novel, which captivates your attention right from the start and keeps the reader enthralled as the lives of heroes, heroines, and villains are weaved into a tale of fictionalized truth!

Rose Greenhow is a character described in today's vernacular as more than a loose woman! She used her feminine wiles to gain both fame and fortune. Playing footloose and fancy free was her stock in trade.

The start of this book centers around her husband who had achieved some notoriety as a man upon whom the government could rely to represent the interests of Washington in the development of relations with Mexico and then in the land claims in and around San Francisco. Rose enhanced his status in Washington as she meandered through society by bedding with many influential people. Robert Greenhow lived separate from his wife in San Francisco while she stayed in Washington. He had paramours with the full approval of Rose and his mentor Judah P. Benjamin, Junior Senator from Louisiana.

About one-third of the way through this novel, we have insight into the disappearance of Robert. He officially was killed by ruffians, but in reality has moved to China with two of his mistresses to live out the remainder of his days after the release of the story about his death.

This book is a continuation of the first book written by Hamit "The Shenandoah Spy" as the author in researching found new characters and stories, which enhance this spy thriller. Rose Greenhow was either a great spy who had developed a network of society matrons to further the cause of the Confederate Army or a one-battle hero who gave confidence to the troops in one particular southern battle and then fell into faded glory.

Allan Pinkerton and his operatives put Rose under surveillance and then ultimately confined her to her home where she was to spend a considerable period as the civil war raged on. Rose had many friends in Washington on both sides, as she had been a society socialite who knew those people with plenty of influence. Pinkerton and his cohorts used many devious methods in an attempt to force Rose to tell who were the people involved in her network of spies. They even confined her with her child and refused proper medical treatment for them both!

Ultimately, she and her child moved to a prison for further confinement. Yet, through this period, which involved many months, she still had not been charged with a crime.

This is an outstanding book because of the factual basis and the relationship of the main character with Presidents, Senators, and Generals. There are scenes, which are adult in nature, but they are tasteful giving the impact of reality.

This is a four star book and highly recommended.

Using Microsoft Onenote 2010
Michael C Oldenburg
Que Publishing
c/o Pearson Technology Group
801 East 96th Street, #300, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759
9780789742926, $24.99,

Many "How-To" books are on the market giving instructions that help you fix your car to changing a light bulb. After many years of having purchased computer books, which were so technical that you had to find an engineer to explain each page, it was very refreshing to find one that is down to earth. "Using Microsoft Onenote 2010" by Michael C. Oldenburg is a very unusual tutorial.

What makes these lessons stand out from so many others is it combines online video with the illustrated instruction book. As a part of the reasonable purchase price there are over 3 hours of video with the author guiding in a systematic presentation. The online material is not always the same as that contained in the book so that readers need to have both before them as they learn the techniques.

Notebook by Microsoft has been around since 2003 with a subsequent edition in 2007. Not being familiar with the earlier editions is not a drawback to working with 2010 since it incorporates the materials from the earlier editions and enhances them.

This program is one that you can use in your daily routines on the computer. Exactly what can you do with it? As a homemaker, you can prepare shopping lists; download them to your cell phone, IPad, or other device. Cooking new recipes can be made fun as you search from your computer, copy pages to Onenote, and then when you are ready to make the item, you can look into your notebook, go back to the original page where you found the recipe and get any additional information easily.

Computer users list their favorite sites in various browsers, but over time, the favorites change or the places need updating. If you look at your list of favorites after a few years use, a lot need eliminating. Onenote allows you to have a place where you can keep current since when you click on a site and go there, if it is not what you need to have now, you can research and update, erase easily, and move on.

Onenote has recording capability for both video and audio so you can leave yourself or others information without typing! Yes, you can share with those who have a need to know about topics you are working on. Students and teachers can benefit by using this format for on-going lessons, quizzes, or research.

Another outstanding feature is that current users of the program can get 25 gigabits of free on-line storage from Microsoft. This is a bonus because you can store photographs, documents, or other notes in separate files that can be accessed from anywhere. Security for important information is also a part of the program. Sharing with family members those memorable moments is also very easy and they can add photos as well.

Computer users can be classified as novices (just opened the box for the first time), beginners (have some basic knowledge, can play games, email, and read daily news) or knowledgeable (able to run several programs, do on-line banking, or other tasks including their income taxes), or professionals who easily master everything thrown at them. This book is for beginners! It is easily followed and combined with the on-line videos can make the reader become very knowledgeable, just like your six year old! This is a five star book that is highly recommended.

Astride a Pink Horse
Robert Greer
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781583943694, $23.95,

Many novels will gain the attention of the reader with intriguing scenarios and then the page turning begins. Robert Greer is a beloved author because that is exactly what he does in each of his books. Best known for his C. J. Floyd mystery novels he develops a trio of new characters in "Astride A Pink Horse" which his audience is sure to accept as his new series.

A naked body discovered hanging upside down inside a nuclear missile silo's personnel access tube in Wyoming sets off the action and a remarkable chain of events. Bernadette Cameron, Elgin "Cozy" Coseia, and Frederick "Freddy" Dames are from different lifestyles, but their lives entwine due to the seriousness of this escapade. Joining forces, they break the rules, demonstrate superb analytical skills, and generally buck the establishment in their quest to find the truth of who killed a retired Air Force master sergeant and nuclear missile maintenance technician.

National security is often on the minds of our fellow citizens, especially after 9/11. When a breach of an abandoned missile site occurs, the Air Force has the responsibility to discover who did it and why? Arms reduction closed many silos throughout the country, but there remain many active ones and the intrusion into even an abandoned one is a cause for alarm because of the sensitive nature of what is there.

Robert Greer demonstrates an excellent knowledge of the workings of the Air Force, national defense, and the relationship between local law enforcement and the military. Each branch has a definition of responsibilities and clearly stepping toes over that line of demarcation is a no - no! Yet, Bernadette, Cozy, and Freddy cavalierly go over that mark! They meet secretly when told not to by higher authorities. They travel to places that are out of bounds, interview witnesses, and involve themselves in dangerous confrontations with the barest hint of authority.

Both Cozy and Freddy are newspaper reporters who are out to scoop the rest of the media on this exciting story. Their newspaper is web only and Freddy is a wealthy entrepreneur who loves to call the action his way. Cozy is a former teammate of Freddy and had an exemplary baseball career until he was injured. Freddy embarrasses the Air Force as he sensationalizes the death by relating it to a hate-crime, as the sergeant was African-American. This gets Bernadette in trouble with her superiors as they believe she may have given confidential information to Cozy and Freddy.

What makes this novel stand out from the rest of the pack is the manner in which Robert Greer encapsulates his dissatisfaction in the treatment of Japanese-Americans in World War II and the interment they suffered at Wyoming's Heart Mountain. He touches upon the anti-nuclear protest movement, race relations, land use issues for ranchers, and how reporting has changed in the digital age.

This book is a must-read for action fans and one that is eye-opening carrying a 5 star rating.

Gideon's Corpse
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446564373, $26.99,

Team efforts in writing have become the vogue in today's publishing competitions and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have emerged as leaders once again with their second book entitled "Gideon's Corpse" which is a sequel to their "Gideon's Sword."

Adventures of Gideon Crew in this newest book start in New York City and then move west to New Mexico where he discovers a terrorist plot, which on the surface appears to be a planned nuclear device that will create havoc in the United States. Los Alamos is the locale because this is where it all began many years ago.

Preston and Child are authors who deserve wide acclaim for their joint efforts in various thrillers "Cemetery Dance," "Dance of Death," "Cold Vengeance," and several others. They are not strangers to the New York Times best sellers list having appeared there several times for their efforts. In a recent radio interview, they disclosed their collaboration takes place from a considerable distance, as they live several thousand miles apart. They meet in person infrequently and mostly for the publicity outings promoting their books. It is not a hindrance to their creative skills since they work well together in this electronic age.

When an author (s) creates a character with the wonderful personae of Gideon it is greatly appreciated the character can live on to display his abilities in another volume. Crew is fall guy in this book and the devious efforts by the plotters of evil are extreme. As the story unfolds, a femme fatale joins Gideon in the spotlight as they run from the good people of the FBI in an attempt to save the nation and prove his innocence. Their escapades are with a flair of candor and humor, which often makes the reader think they are standing next to Gideon as an observer or maybe even a participant.

One of the things that make this book stand out from the rest is the way in which Preston and Child weave this tale with twists and turns so the original premise of a nuclear threat changes to an even more nefarious plot, which is far more dangerous than what the terrorists are really planning.

Definitely a page turn turner, which keeps your interest from start to finish. This is highly recommended for the mystery fan who loves to read about intrigue, terrorists, misdirection, and loves a happy conclusion. This is a five star book.

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

The Seventh Island
Gregory Stenson
Differentfur Publishing
B0064QE88Y, $2.99 Kindle

The Seventh Island by Gregory Stenson

If you liked the movie, Fatal Attraction, you will thoroughly enjoy reading The Seventh Island. The main characters, "Unknown Caller," and Brad Stone, will remind you of Glenn Close and Michael Douglas.

The story is full of suspense keeping the reader on pins and needles sharing the tension of the situations. The characters range from white and blue-collar men, thugs from the city, the occult, and of course, beautiful women.

The Seventh Island is in the Caribbean. This setting provides the reader with a beautiful visual for a part of the story where we find ourselves shouting out loud from our own personal book nook.

The ending may or may not seem predictable; nevertheless, I feel it is suited for the author's purpose, a sequel.

I'm hoping Gregory Stenson is indeed working on a sequel to The Seventh Island. Readers who enjoy this novel will be on pins and needles waiting to read it!

The Chemist
Janson Mancheski
Abbott Press
c/o F+W Media
4700 East Galbraith Road
Cincinnati, OH 45236
9781458200198, $20.95,

I was scrolling through my Twitter account when I saw a tweet from Janson Mancheski talking about his book, The Chemist. The tweet included a link to a short video clip. It immediately sparked my interest. I sent Janson Mancheski a direct message and he agreed to send me his book to read and review.

The Chemist is a thriller about an elusive serial killer. The actual killer is The Chemist. He is given an apropos nickname by reporters, the Nowhere Man, referring to the fact he has eluded law enforcement for years. Cale Van Waring is the lead homicide detective assigned to solving the missing and murdered women's cases. He works with two partners in crime, Slink and Staszak, who are his close buddies.

Mancheski develops these relationships in wonderful detail. I found myself anticipating their responses as if I knew them well. Cale has a complicated relationship with his live-in girlfriend, Maggie, which we come to empathize with on many levels.

The subject matter is made sustainable by the beautifully written words of Mancheski. He has mastered language in a way that must be appreciated. His use of vocabulary and metaphors alone is amazing in a story of this nature. Even the format of four to six pages per chapter makes the reading flow at a pleasurable pace.

I'm pleased Mancheski is writing another Cale Van Waring adventure. If I can enjoy a serial killer thriller like The Chemist, I'm anxious to see what new cases Cale and his buddies are assigned. And what about Maggie?

Devil's Creek
Paul Maitrejean
Amazon Digital
B006ASJE94, $2.99,

If you like The Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits, you will definitely enjoy this short story. Things are not always what they seem.

A young woman, Erika, has car trouble and ends up in Devil's Creek. Townspeople are concerned on this particular night because it marks the 70 year old legend about the Angel of Death paying the town a visit. Erika is confused trying to figure out if the legend is true.

Paul Maitrejean writes with the perfect amount of suspense for a short story. His readers are engaged and surprised at the twists and turns Erika experiences in Devil's Creek.

You won't be disappointed with the Twilight Zone, Outer Limits ending!

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

The Affair
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385344326, $28.00,

I would be amiss, if I didn't say from reading Lee Child's first book Killing Floor I was added to his fan base. My wife and I have read all his books to-date, and we don't plan on missing any of the Reacher novels. I consider his stories to be engaging and a true thriller with plenty of room to move this mobile character around the country. A cerebral thinking main character that sizes up a situation ahead of time before going into action.

Reacher gets orders to report to his commander to learn of a woman's death near Carter Crossing, Mississippi outside an army soldier base. His mission is to make sure he gets a feel for where the investigation is leading, while another investigator is pursuing the base questioning. He shortly learns the situation involves a soldier and has layers of cover up. In a short time more murders take place, and he is asked to help the local sheriff. Reacher and sheriff Elizabeth Deveraux join forces to find the truth. What seem evidently clear over a short time is he working alone to uncover the secrets of the town. In this usual earlier Reacher style he confronts some locals, and he proves his fighting skills enabling him to be able to hang around to investigate the increasing number of murder crimes. Other outsiders seem to be the contributing to the problems killing an innocent boy who has dreams to eventually joining the Army. It was much to Reacher's dismay, that those dreams of the boy were tossed away. Reacher pays a visit back to Washington to disclose some information by going to Senate Liaison John James Frazer's office. He figured he would find out more information by reporting in person. This timely visit followed after his recent set up call to tell him of certain events that had transpired. None of the situations were clear to Reacher, but he wanted to be sure from what he had learned so far. The visit was the tip of the iceberg, which was to remove layers of the cover up, and find out why powerful friends in Washington were wanting to keep the conspiracy reasons hidden.

Lee Child has now written thirteen Reacher novels including The Affair, and I have enjoyed all of his books at different levels considering them good escape readings. I enjoy this intelligent main tough character that makes no wrong steps. I think the author's on-going movement of a traveling Reacher keep the stories fresh and interesting. We get additional glimpses into Reacher's background along with more insight into his character and personality.

The Fifth Witness
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
c/o The Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316069359, $27.99,

I was fortunate to pick up this copy at a library fun-raiser for their monthly selling of paperbacks and hardbacks. The selling also included music DVDs, other miscellaneous materials, and I got the real bargain. I find Connelly's novels entertaining and very good crime fiction reading. This time it's about the main character Mickey Haller "The Lincoln Lawyer". I find Connelly one of the better authors of this genre', so I was happy with this potential fine read as my next choice.

Mickey Haller's regular criminal law business has been slowing down, and he attends a few bar seminars on foreclosure law to pick up his knowledge slack. His practice of foreclosure law is now booming, and he would maybe be able to send his daughter to college. He takes case after case in the foreclosing problems until one client's tenant and owner problem elevates into a new level. As Mickey prepares the case, he does relish a highly visible media case, which he is enjoying all the attention and publicity that will have pay for the costs that the client won't be able to pay him for his services. This also gives a lot of attention to Haller and his criminal law team. Unfortunately for Haller he draws attention from some unknown enemy, before the trial begins which means he has some healing to do first. He gets mugged in a parking garage, and he suffers pain from a major beating. He believes the bank foreclosers are directly related with his attack, and they will go to any means to stifle Haller's efforts for the client's defense. The prosecutor Andrea Freeman and Mickey Haller go toe to toe in this legal slugmatch. It has more twists and turns in this case, where he has to use the 'fifth witness' to fight this legal battleground. The final twist and surprise leaves Haller considering all that he knew, and it uncovers all the elements that were hidden, which creates unexpected outcomes. All he is wanting to happen are the results, that made the effort ring true when he finally gets the truth and justice.

Michael Connelly is the author of twenty-four novels including one Nonfiction book entitled Crime Beat. He is writing the popular Harry Bosch series and Mickey Haller series rotating back and forth between both of them. He also did the Jack McEvoy series, which I haven't seen until the Scarecrow in 2009. The other novel featuring that main character was earlier in The Poet in 1996. He has written stand alone novels to fill out his list of published novels. I eagerly await his new novel The Black Box this year, and like all of his novels he is one of the top crime fiction writers today.

Daniel Allen

Esther's Bookshelf

West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life
Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hatchette Book Company
3 Center Plaza, Boston MA 02108
9780316053495, $27.99,

Soon after I saw the advertisement for this book, I asked an author and family friend what he thought about it. He shrugged his shoulders and very simply said that he didn't want to know. Jerry West was such an iconic figure to him (even though he's from Boston) that he wasn't interested in a "tell all" autobiography.

Although this is a fair route to consider, there are other things to take into account when deciding on this book. I think that a book like this demands a high level of literary skills to make it compelling and dynamic, something which this book is not. Also, it would have been better written as a biography. Ironically, the more interesting parts of the book are when Jerry West is not talking about himself but his honest opinion of other players, coaches, and associates. Transitions are almost non-existent, making the outline of the book a little difficult to follow. Additionally, there are a lot of added thoughts, qualifiers and "last lines" that come across as unnecessary and superfluous.

This book seems like an exciting prospect at first but slowly fizzles into what Earvin Johnson is quoted as referring to "good therapy." To be fair, Jerry West clearly states in his introduction that this book is meant to be a memoir - Jerry West is a man with memories worth sharing - and that must be remembered to appreciate this book. Besides, some people like good therapy.

The Whore of Akron
Scott Raab
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062066367, $25.99,

The first time I saw that "The Whore of Akron: One Man's Search for the Soul of LeBron James" by Scott Raab was coming out, I filed it away for future browsing without really intending to read it. A little while later I received a package from HarperCollins with this book inside. And so I read it.

The idea of the book struck me as funny but a little off at the same time. Raab substantiated my instincts by declaring "Obviously I myself don't know or care how or where to draw a line between fan and fanatic."

The book is easy to read and its structure keeps the story moving. Raab is despicably frank and flagrantly honest as he fluctuates between his personal story and the story of LeBron and Cleveland. The language is crude, dirty, uncensored and at times way too revealing. No one could be blamed for dismissing this book as the misguided rantings of an unfulfilled fan. Because of, or rather in spite of, the above mentioned qualities the book was highly entertaining and a shout out to all suffering, champion-less, victims-of-free-agency fans. In the end (and against my will) I actually liked it.

Bottom of the 33rd
Dan Barry
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
978006201448, $26.99,

"This is a book of informed imagination," an accurate, honest and succinct way to describe this "non-baseball baseball book."

Dan Barry is a unique author and his choice of topic, the longest professional baseball game, a minor league game, is bold and intriguing. The style is whimsical and nostalgic with strong metaphorical and poetic language, which shield the nonfictional, informative aspect of this book. "Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game" could easily be recommended for its individual style of writing than for the information it has enveloped within.

That the game lasted as long as it did is astounding, that it was not called sooner stupefying. In truth, this book is more a portrait of baseball's cruel, endless, and unforgiving minor league system that swallows up hometown heroes set against the backdrop of a game whose sole distinction is its longevity. Without the exploration of the characters and components leading up to this game, this book could have been rightfully reduced to a lyrical short story or mind-boggling baseball anecdote.

An interesting read from a literary perspective and a wistful depiction of a curious part of Baseball history.


Gary's Bookshelf

M.J Hill
Molly Hill
9780615541266, $15.95,

"Jade" is the first of a series of vampire novels by a new talented author. Jade's eighteenth birthday is approaching and she is looking forward to celebrating it with her best friend. Strange things begin to happen as she starts to learn that she is not like other girls her age. M. J. Hill adds a new dimension to the vampire story with the character Jade who learns the real facts of her life. The story moves along at a brisk pace to its revealing ending that is left open for a sequel. "Jade" is sure to please the millions of vampire novel fans.

Sandra Brown
Grand Central Publishing
c/o The Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446601856, $7.99,

Sandra Brown's "Charade" once again shows why she is one of the best writers in the genre of romantic suspense. TV personality Cat Delaney begins a new life after her new heart surgery. She changes her starring role on a major soap opera to a host on a local Texas TV station. She meets Alex Pierce, a former cop turned mystery writer. She learns that other heart recipients are mysteriously dying and later finds she is being stalked. Now she does not know who she can trust. Brown fills "Charade" with interesting characters, plenty of suspenseful twists and turns to the final conclusion that will have readers riveted to the very end.

The Garner Files
James Garner and Jon Winokur
Simon and Schuster
1230Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020,
9781451642605, $25.99,

Actor James Garner tells all in "The Garner Files." Garner talks about his life in and out of the acting world. He deals with his battles with Warner Brothers and Universal studios for the shows of "Maverick" and "The Rockford Files." He shares his political views through the years and much much more in a very candid biography. There is also a list of movies, television shows and other work he has done throughout his career "The Garner Files is for any fan of the actor who would like to know more about his life and work.

The Burning Edge
Rick Mofina
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9,
9780778313014, $7.99

Reporter Jack Gannon is back in action in "The Burning Edge." Lisa Palmer's life changes when she becomes involved in a robbery where she is a witness to the murder of an off duty FBI officer. On a tip from someone who was involved, Jack Gannon digs deep into the story to reveal the chilling truth. Mofina has once again told a nail biting story with great characters and lots of page turning action. "The Burning Edge" is a great suspense novel that races along to its final pages, sure to please readers of this genre.

His Holiday Family
Margaret Daley
Love Inspired Books
c/o Harlequin
233 Broadway, New York, NY 10279 USA
978037381906, $6.50

"His Holiday Family" is an inspirational story that is the first in a series of novels about the town of Hope Mississippi. Hurricane Naomi is steering to the small town of Hope Mississippi. Nurse Kathleen Hart and firefighter Gideon O'Brien are brought together to help others prepare for the storm coming their way. Margaret Daley has written a fast paced novel with interesting characters set against the backdrop of a crisis for their town. Though "His Holiday Family" is geared as a seasonal novel it is one that readers can enjoy any time of the year and enjoy.

Thorns on Roses
Randy Rawls
L& L Dream-Spell
9781603183758, 14.99,

"Thorns on Roses" is a first class thriller that explodes from the first few pages to the very end. Tom Jeffries, a private investigator in Broward County, Florida is on a personal campaign to eliminate a bunch of thugs of the Thorns on Roses gang. They gang raped and killed his best friends daughter. Jeffries goes after the members of the gang one by one seeking his own kind of justice. Jeffries has an interesting way of killing some of the gang members when he turns them over to Albert. The characters are well defined and the story races along to its final outcome. Randy Rawls is a great addition to the mystery field with "Thorns on Roses"

A Patient's Guide to Liposuction
Jeffery B Schafer, Md, Frsm
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432777166, $43.95,

"A Patient's Guide To Liposuction" takes the reader on a step by step process of liposuction that is a valuable resource for anyone who is considering this medical operation. He reveals how it began, medical breakthroughs in the process, risk factors to having the procedure and many other things that is very easy to understand. Schafer answers patients many concerns about having this procedure. The only negative comment I have is the price of "A Patient's Guide to Liposuction," is way over priced at $43.95.

Mack Bolan Shadow Strike
Don Pendleton
Gold Eagle
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780373615506, $7.99

Mack Bolan is back in action on another blazing mission against terrorist. This time he has to stop a plan to cripple oil rigs and he has very little time to prevent an unprecedented disaster. As always action is very fast paced and this is another fine addition to the series that continues to thrill readers of great men's action fiction.

Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy
Ozzy Osbourne with Chris Ayres
Grand Central Publishing
c/o The Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455503339, $26.99,

I would never have thought that Ozzy Osbourne would ever be someone to go to for advice on anything. The fascinating thing about "Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy" is that his instructions to readers are easy to understand and follow. Osbourne has a great gift of gab with his answers to so many different subjects "Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy" has a lot to say about lots of topics and does it very well in a way that will have readers laughing out loud.

2012 Dynamethism Our Cellular, Vascular Universe Revealed
Richard Martin CFO
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9780578090184, $9.95,

Books like "2012 Dynamethism Our Cellular, Vascular Universe Revealed" should make a point and make it simple to recognize. The author has a theory about the universe and life that is really out there and just too complicated to comprehend. Maybe someone else who reads "2012 Dynamethism Our Cellular, Vascular Universe Revealed" will understand it, but I am not one of them.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Calling
Alison Bruce
Soho Constable
c/o Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569479643 $25.00,

As this third novel in the DC Gary Goodhew series opens, the reader is briefly introduced, one by one, to members of the somewhat dysfunctional Burrows family, which is planning a surprise celebration of the 80th birthday of the family matriarch. Two of the family members fail to show up, however: Andy, as usual feeling himself the least favored child, ponders whether or not to join in the festivities. When his niece, Kaye, doesn't show up, however, it is for much more sinister reasons: She seems to have disappeared.

The case is assigned to DC Goodhew, of the Cambridge CID. With no clues as to Kaye's whereabouts, the only positive note comes from two anonymous calls from a woman who directs the police to a man who she says they should investigate. The suspense amps up as it appears there may be more than one victim.

A cut above many police procedurals, the book contains clever plotting and an interesting protagonist, a young and intuitive young man caught up in spite of himself in some office politics, and a suggestion of [possibly] romantic and [definitely] professional compatibility with D.C. Sue Gully, and I will look forward to the next entry in this series.


Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices
Terrie Farley Moran, Editor
L&L Dreamspell
376 S. Quarry Rd., London, TX 76854
9781603184236, $17.95,

Although short stories are not usually my preferred reading choice, this anthology proved to be perfect for this time of year, when so many of us are overloaded with the demands and hecticness of the holiday season, and ready for short bursts of good writing. A group of twenty-two authors, some whose work is published here for the first time and others who are award-nominated or award-winning writers, combined for this mixture of genres and the second such anthology written by members of the Sisters in Crime NY/Tri-State Chapter, the unifying theme being the various neighborhoods in and around New York City. Those encompass such diverse areas as Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn and its neighbor, Brighton Beach; Greenwich Village; downtown Manhattan; and College Point, Queens, among several other sections and towns in what is known as the "greater metropolitan area."

There is one lone entry with a male protagonist, and one authored by a man [k.j.a. (Kenneth) Wishnia]. The tales run from eight to twenty pages in length, and vary widely, though each is worthwhile reading, dealing with characters ranging from a vampire; a widow whose long-buried secret is about to be exposed; a young woman with a scary stepson, in what is perhaps a cliche in reverse; and although most of the protagonists are fairly young, there are an 84-year-old and two centenarians included. I especially enjoyed Catherine Maiorisi's first published story, "Justice for All," of a young African-American detective, Cappy Jones, who draws the short straw in partnering up with a misogynistic male cop in an investigation into the death of a young Asian woman on a path adjacent to the Hudson River; Triss Stein's "The Greenmarket Violinist," included in which is a tribute to a place dear to this reader's heart: "a spot sacred to all true Brooklynites . . . the original home of the team that became the Brooklyn Dodgers and was managed by the original Mr. Ebbets himself;" as well as Liz Zelvin's miniature addition to her wonderful "Death Will . . . " series, this one entitled "Death Will Tank Your Fish," not, from the title, obviously dealing with recovering alcoholics, but which turns out to be just that.

All in all, these short stories provide very enjoyable reading, and the anthology is recommended.

Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices
Terrie Farley Moran, Editor
L&L Dreamspell
9781603184236 $17.95

Although short stories are not usually my preferred reading choice, this anthology proved to be perfect for this time of year, when so many of us are overloaded with the demands and hecticness of the holiday season, and ready for short bursts of good writing. A group of twenty-two authors, some whose work is published here for the first time and others who are award-nominated or award-winning writers, combined for this mixture of genres and the second such anthology written by members of the Sisters in Crime NY/Tri-State Chapter, the unifying theme being the various neighborhoods in and around New York City. Those encompass such diverse areas as Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn and its neighbor, Brighton Beach; Greenwich Village; downtown Manhattan; and College Point, Queens, among several other sections and towns in what is known as the "greater metropolitan area."

There is one lone entry authored by a man [k.j.a. (Kenneth) Wishnia]. I had initially thought - mistakenly - that there was only one with a male protagonist, but then realized that over a third of the stories have male narrators/protagonists. Lest any reader be concerned that the points-of-view might feel monolithic, they not only range in age and class, but also in gender, even including one inanimate-object as narrator for people who want variety from the usual human POV The tales run from eight to twenty pages in length, and vary widely, though each is worthwhile reading, dealing with characters ranging from a vampire; a widow whose long-buried secret is about to be exposed; a young woman with a scary stepson, in what is perhaps a cliche in reverse; and although most of the protagonists are fairly young, there are an 84-year-old and two centenarians included. I especially enjoyed Catherine Maiorisi's first published story, "Justice for All," of a young African-American detective, Cappy Jones, who draws the short straw in partnering up with a misogynistic male cop in an investigation into the death of a young Asian woman on a path adjacent to the Hudson River; Triss Stein's "The Greenmarket Violinist," included in which is a tribute to a place dear to this reader's heart: "a spot sacred to all true Brooklynites . . . the original home of the team that became the Brooklyn Dodgers and was managed by the original Mr. Ebbets himself;" as well as Liz Zelvin's miniature addition to her wonderful "Death Will . . . " series, this one entitled "Death Will Tank Your Fish," not, from the title, obviously dealing with recovering alcoholics, but which turns out to be just that.

All in all, these short stories provide very enjoyable reading, and the anthology is recommended.

Fifth Victim
Zoe Sharp
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605982762 $25.95,

Charlie Fox [nee Charlotte Foxcroft] is a "take no prisoners" kinda gal. Now nearing thirty, she takes on a new assignment for her company, Armstrong-Meyer, a "close-protection" [read "bodyguard"] organization: to protect a young woman from kidnapping. The preemptive action by the girl's mother is due to the fact that three of her friends have been kidnapped, a fourth is abducted in the early pages of the book, and the fear is that she will become the titular fifth victim. The families of all those involved are for the most part obscenely wealthy, with the requisite enormous homes [or, more accurately, estates] outside Southampton, up towards the eastern end of Long Island, multiple sports cars, private jets, yachts, etc.; the payment of ransom has not always ensured the safe return of the victim.

Charlie needs the distraction of this assignment, inasmuch her lover and 'soulmate,' Sean Meyer, lies in a coma, his prognosis uncertain, following the events that ended the last book in the series, "Fourth Day," a near-fatal shooting three months prior.

The author's background - thoroughly familiar with rifles and for that matter every type of gun imaginable, equally at home flying a helicopter and light aircraft as on the back of a horse and piloting a yacht - uniquely qualifies her to create a protagonist capable of getting into, and out of, one very challenging situation after another, and providing the reader with an exciting, eminently readable thriller along the way. The tension of the situation confronting Charlie in this entry, with Sean's life, or death, an uncertain constant, only adds to the suspense inherent in this well-written novel.


The Retribution
Val McDermid
Atlantic Monthly Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802120175, $25.00,

In her twenty-fifth novel, Val McDermid brings back Jacko Vance, introduced to readers in "The Wire in the Blood," and to television viewers in its wonderful series adaptation. As the book opens, this truly malevolent serial killer, whose resume includes "killer of seventeen teenage girls, murderer of a serving police officer, and a man once voted the sexiest man on British TV" as well as an Olympic athlete and an outwardly charming and charismatic man, has served over 12 years in prison, owing mostly to the efforts of DCI Carol Jordan and psychological profiler Tony Hill. Vance has spent most of that time meticulously planning his escape, as well as his future after its successful completion: the revenge suggested by the books title, directed toward those who had caused his imprisonment, first among them Jordan and Hill, as well as his ex-wife whose betrayal he sees as making her equally culpable. Of course, his plan for vengeance merely begins there.

Carol Jordan, as yet unaware of what is about to happen, is dealing with a shake-up at the Bradfield Metropolitan Police, where the powers that be are disbanding her Major Incident Team. In an attempt to go out in a 'blaze of glory,' they are faced with finding a killer who has been killing street prostitutes in gruesome ways, and branding them with a distinctive tattoo on the wrist of each. Suddenly, Jordan's priorities change with Vance's escape, and its implications. Tony's priorities as well must be divided between these investigations.

The relationship between Jordan and Hill has always been difficult to define, becoming more so all the time. They are not quite lovers, although they share space, and different flats, in Tony's house. But their emotional entanglement has always been obvious to all, even if they themselves do not admit to one. That relationship, both professionally and personally, is about to be threatened now as never before.

The author goes into more of Tony's background, and the emotional and psychological paths that have shaped him, and caused him to work at "passing for human," than I remembered having been done in the past. He tells a colleague "I won't deny that the people who do this kind of thing fascinate me. The more disturbed they are, the more I want to figure out what makes them tick." It is his empathy and his oft-times brilliant insights that have made him so successful. But this is a challenge unlike any he has ever faced.

The pace steadily accelerates along with a sense of dread as Vance begins to carry out his
plans, and the resultant page-turner is as good as anything this acclaimed author has written.

Highly recommended.

Northwest Angle
William Kent Krueger
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439153956 $25.99,

This is the eleventh book in the multi-award-winning Cork O'Connor series, and it is another winner. It starts out, as do the others, in the North Woods of Minnesota, described by the author as "a land so beautiful it's as near to heaven as you're likely to find anywhere on this earth." And the reader is more than convinced of that as [s]he continues to read, for the author's wonderful prose brings it vividly to life in all its majesty.

Family is all-important to Cork, and as the novel opens he and his family - his two daughters, Ann, twenty-one, and Jenny, a writer twenty-four years old; his son, nearly fifteen; and his sister-in-law and her husband - are about to embark in a houseboat on one of the larges lakes in North America, straddling the US/Canadian border, on what he envisions as a family gathering, the first in the nearly two years since his beloved wife had died. Their destination was a remote area known as the Northwest Angle. Within less than an hour, however, a devastating storm arises, threatening to kill anything and anyone in its path, with waves over eight feet high and winds over 100 mph, wreaking havoc and destruction unlike anything they'd even seen.

As suddenly as it began, the storm soon passes, but in its aftermath and where the vagaries of the area have deposited them, on one of a myriad of small islands, they discover an old trapper's cabin, inside which they find the body of a young girl, brutally killed, and, nearby, an infant who appears to be no more than a few weeks old. Jenny is immediately taken with the child, who though hungry and dehydrated is none the worse for his abandonment. The reaction of the others is somewhat more ambivalent as to his future, and the possibilities raised by his presence among them and its potential threat, for it appears that whoever was responsible for the girl's death is still stalking the area. Cork, with his background as a Chicago cop and a Sheriff for more than a decade before he became a p.i., is faced with getting them safely off the island, and finding out who is responsible for the girl's death, as well as seeing that the baby's future is dealt with.

The ensuing events are never less than harrowing. The mystery is one not easily solved, but the O'Connor family, with the help of their old friend Henry Meloux, is not easily deterred. Cork's - and the author's - love of the wilderness, and his philosophy towards life and family, is made manifest, e.g., "he was reminded that life was no more predictable than the flight of a dragonfly" and "love is the only river I know whose current flows both ways." The book is deeply satisfying, and deeply moving. Highly recommended.

The Dark Rose
Erin Kelly
Pamela Dorman Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670023288, $26.95,

Louisa Trevelyan is working as a garden designer re-creating a historically accurate Tudor garden in Warwickshire, at the fictional Kelstice Lodge. After working for years recreating gardens that had fallen into neglect on private estates, this community program has really given her a chance to indulge her creative passion for garden design. It is there that she meets Paul Seaforth, 19 years old, who bears "an uncanny likeness" to her lover of years ago, Adam Glasslake. Though that relationship only lasted a few months, Louisa had been obsessed with Adam from the day she met him, an obsession undiminished with the years, which now translates into an affair with the much-younger Paul.

Kelstice is a project of Veriditas, a charity working with "at risk youth." Paul's presence is the "community service" to which he has been sentenced in lieu of jail time for his part in a crime committed by a mentor of sorts, against whom he has agreed to testify in court. For her part, Louisa also has a past which threatens her present. By unspoken agreement, they never discuss their pasts with one another.

Billed as a 'psychological mystery,' I found the novel to be more suspense than mystery, as the details of Paul's and Louisa's pasts are revealed to the reader only in small doses. The shifting p.o.v. and time frames were somewhat disorienting, but necessary, describing the earlier years of both protagonists bit by bit, building the anticipation, until quite near the end of the novel, when all the details are finally revealed, leading to a stunning climax.


Old Haunts
E.J. Copperman
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425246184, $7.99,

Alison Kerby returns in the third in what is billed as the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman. Alison, a single mother of a precocious ten-year-old daughter, after her divorce from the man she not-so-lovingly refers to as "The Swine" returned to the town where she grew up, Harbor Haven on the Jersey Shore, purchased a house over a century old, hoping to live out her dream of running a guest house. Those plans changed somewhat after Alison discovered that the previous owner of the house, "Maxie," is still there - sort of. Actually, it's Maxie's ghost who is still there, as well as that of a young detective named Paul, who had been hired by Maxie shortly before death threats had been carried out against her, with both of them becoming murder victims. Alison, her mother and daughter seem to be the only ones who can see them. But on the positive side, word has gotten around, and the 'haunted guesthouse' is now being booked by a tour agent for senior citizens interested in what is billed as a "unique experience," promising two-a-day "ghostly happenings." Maxie, who died - and still remains - at 28, and Paul - English-born and Canadian-raised, and wanting to keep his hand in the p.i. business, so to speak - have no problem with that, especially as they are apparently incapable of leaving the house.

It is a typically hot - make that 'very hot' - July "down the shore" in Harbor Haven. Alison has her usual contingent of guests, most of them the normal group of seniors, when Alison discovers "The Swine" on her doorstep. Uninvited, and certainly unexpected, he states that he and the woman for whom he left Alison have broken up, and indicates that he wants them 'to be a family again.' To further complicate matters for Alison, the body of a man is discovered in a neighboring town, and police identify it as that of a man to whom Maxie was briefly [4 days, to be exact] married. Alison undertakes to try to find out who killed him, and why.

As if this isn't enough for her to deal with, Paul asks Alison to try to track down the woman to whom he was about to propose before his untimely death; the engagement ring was in his pocket at the time. With her [as they are described] 'non-alive assistants' and her best friend, the very-pregnant Jeannie, Alison undertakes to do what has to be done to resolve all these issues, in well-plotted and very funny fashion. [As just a small example, I cite the author's description of a man who runs a collection agency, "wearing a sport coat so loud he had to shout to be heard over it."] But the humor and charm of the writing is difficult to capture - you simply have to get this book and experience it for yourself - it is highly recommended.

Poison Flower
Thomas Perry
The Mysterious Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
841 Broadway, 4th floor
New York, NY 10003
9780802126054, $24.00,

Thomas Perry has brought back his wonderful protagonist, Jane Whitefield, in his 19th novel, and the seventh featuring the part-Seneca woman whose credo has always been that "to save innocent people from the enemies who wanted them dead, there would be times when she must fight." When her plans to free James Shelby from jail go immediately awry, she is forced, as perhaps never before, to make her own life and safety as much a priority as that of her client.

Shelby, described as "a man in his late twenties with light hair and a reasonably handsome face," is still recovering from a stabbing two months prior while wrongfully imprisoned. His sister had come to Jane at her home in Deganawida, New York, to enlist her help after he had been convicted of killing his wife, of which crime he is innocent, and given a life sentence.

For the uninitiated, "over the years she had taken dozens and dozens of them away. Shelby was only the most recent. They had almost all come to her in the last days of wasted, ruined lives, sometimes just hours before their troubles would have changed from dangerous to fatal. She would obliterate the person's old identity and turn him into a runner, a fugitive she would guide to a place far away, where nobody knew him, and certainly nobody would ever think of killing him. She would give him a new identity and teach him to be that new person for the rest of his life."

The author once again has crafted a terrifically entertaining, meticulously plotted and suspenseful novel, one I couldn't put down until the final page. It is, obviously, highly recommended.

The Dog Who Knew Too Much
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439157091, $25.00,

Ah, what a pleasure to re-enter the world of Chet, the canine narrator and K-9 school dropout, and his human companion, Bernie. In the midst of a plethora of dark books and novels featuring over-the-top sadism and end-of-the-world thrillers [not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you], this charming series was just what I needed!

Not that there isn't mystery aplenty here - including a missing person, murder etc. - after all, Bernie is a detective, and although very humorous, it isn't your usual 'cute-sy' animal-detective tale either - - well, now that I think of it - - the latter does have his own blog []. The author [Quinn is the nom de plume of prolific author Peter Abrahams] has given us another terrific entry - - the fourth - - in this series, which is just as delightful as the prior books.

As the book opens, Bernie has been invited to be the keynote speaker at a p.i. convention, during which the organizer of the event offers Bernie $10,000 to buy Chet, which he refuses. Soon thereafter he is hired as a bodyguard. Neither of those things turns out to be as innocuous as one might think: The p.i. is not one to take no for an answer, and the bodyguard duty somehow morphs into a search for a boy who has gone missing while on a wilderness camp hike. Who better than a talented tracker like Chet to try to find him? But things, as always, get a bit more complicated; actually, a lot more complicated, and there is ultimately much more at stake. A quick and wonderfully entertaining book, and one that is highly recommended.

Champagne for Buzzards
Phyllis Smallman
McArthur & Company
67 Mowat Street, Suite 241
Toronto, ON, Canada, M6K 3E3
9781552789124, $19.95,

In the fourth of Phyllis Smallman's Sherri Travis mysteries, the protagonist, who co-owns a restaurant/bar with her lover, Clay Adams, is planning his surprise birthday party at his ranch, 300 acres of jungle in Riverwood, Florida, near that state's west coast. The title derives from the fact that champagne is high on her shopping list, the 'buzzards' part from those unexpected carrion birds who have discovered and feasted upon a body under the tarp covering the back of her pickup truck [The truck had been her husband's, murdered two years prior and the subject of an earlier book.]

Also living at the ranch are Sherri's father, Tulsa ("Tully"] Jenkins, and "uncle" Ziggy [not related by blood but might as well be], both in their sixties but still as feisty as Sherri, which is saying something. She describes herself and Clay as "cultured and refined met smart-mouthed trailer trash," she being the latter [called by Clay his "little beach-bar Mona Lisa]." Their differences include the fact that she is 31, and he about to turn 45. With her best friend, dental hygienist Marley, the two women start out bringing the upcoming party to fruition, but end up trying to solve the murder of the man who had gotten the attention of the aforementioned buzzards, to their peril. [The women, that is, not the buzzards.]

What ensues is a terrific and fast-paced mystery, complete with psychotic neighbors with a secret that they would do anything to protect, and a missing employee from whom Clay had earlier bought the ranch. I had been unfamiliar with the work of this author [who apparently divides her time between Salt Spring Island, British Columbia and Manasota Beach, Florida], but will certainly keep an eye out for future offerings. This was a thoroughly enjoyable novel, and it is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Spy: An Isaac Bell Adventure
Clive Cussler with Justin Scott
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425241752, $9.99,

Cussler is known for his fast paced action mystery stories. He always adds a nice touch of history to the tale giving it more depth than the average adventure tale. The Isaac Bell series is set in the early 1900s. The action is solid and the feel of the history has a small sense of reality. But for most contemporary readers there is a drawback to the historic reality -- it is hard for the modern reader to separate the fiction from the history. The historical early 1900s is lost to the modern reader. This is not necessarily a bad thing but you have to remember that Cussler and Scott are not worried if their major historical event is fiction or fact, just that it feels real to the reader. Don't use the major historical events in the story in place of a solid textbook.

In 1908, the Van Dorn private detective, Isaac Bell is hired by a grief stricken daughter to prove her father didn't commit suicide. At first, Bell only finds a few unanswered questions but the more he looks the stranger the case looks. Soon he finds that the suicide was only the first in a series of mysterious deaths that are taking out the US naval innovators who are transforming the rickety 1908 US naval fleet into a dreadnaught force. A spy has organized an alliance between various national and terrorists groups into a lethal guns-for-hire ring. Bell and the other Van Dorn detectives have become locked in a dangerous feud with this multi-national group.

The Spy is a fun alternate history action adventure with enough detective mystery to attract the sleuth in us. It is a fun escapist read that is worth the look on the used bookshelves or the at the discount stores. It is an easy light reading recommendation.

Conan The Barbarian
Robert E. Howard
Del Rey Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345531230, $7.99,

The one great thing for book readers that the film industry does is the remake. Every year Hollywood remakes numerous films based on classic stories. Most of the film industry is not original so the remake is one of their standards. The book publishing industry follows these films with a re-issuing of the original stories. They use the film's massive publicity budget as an inexpensive marketing tool for their books. This is frequently the only way a contemporary reader can find these classic stories in paper print.

Robert E. Howard is arguably the key source for today's sword and sorcerer computer games and genre. Howard's writing style still reads with a strong harsh edge that most modern rewrites never come close to. This pivotal author deserves, along with a number of others, a modern print resurgence. The loss of access for these unmatched tales in the modern publishing market cheapens the contemporary market as a whole.

Conan is the quintessential barbarian hero. This collection of six short stories is a great introduction to the character. The collection matches the Conan the Barbarian (1982) film much better than the most recent release. Key sections from these short stories were integrated into the 1982 film. The surprising thing that most contemporary readers will get from these short stories is how much more satisfying the tales are than the Hollywood films. You can nearly feel the sweat and the blood flow in the battle scenes. Howard has somehow caught on paper the uncivilized fragment of man living in every person slashing and clawing his way out of the civilized prison we have bounded our lives in.

The first short story, The Phoenix on the Sword, is a basic introduction to Conan. The later stories take Conan and flesh out his character into a more powerful individual but Phoenix does develop the fantasy world that Conan lives in and mixes in enough warped history to permit the reader to wish the story was actually real.

The People of the Black Circle brings the character of Conan to full barbaric life. It also brings into even greater focus the byplay Howard uses between magical villains, stifling civilization and the free barbarian.

Tower of the Elephant is one of the key stories about Conan as a thief.

Queen of the Black Coast brings Conan into the world of pirates. One of Conan's great loves is introduced as a savage buccaneer Queen ravaging the coast of a continent.

Red Nails is a tale about another of Conan's loves. As with his other lover, she is a lethal force in her own right. For Conan, only a woman with the same potential for savagery as himself can be a true mate.

Rogues of the House is a short story that fills in the book.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist - and Other Magical Tales
Penn Jillette
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451610369, $24.99,

The back cover for "God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist - and Other Magical Tales" contains blurbs of praise by MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, and Faux News's former mudslinger Glenn Beck. That is like being simultaneously lauded by Batman and the Joker. The book's only downside is Penn Jillette's confession that he views Glenn Beck as a friend. While some would say that is qualitatively different from having Joseph McCarthy as a friend, or the Emperor Nero, not everyone would agree.

"I could scream at the altar of a church, with a crucifix stuck deep up my asshole, that I fuck Jesus Christ ... and I will never hit the level of blasphemy that's required for someone to pray to god for their family's pet to return home." Was that (p. xviii) so hard to say? Then how come it took a professional entertainer to say it, and not a supposedly "fair and balanced" news commentator? Why do the persons who shape public opinion, and in the process reinforce public ignorance, consider it politically correct to censor Kathy Griffin's Emmy-acceptance speech when she said, "no one had less to do with this award than Jesus.... Suck it, Jesus," but not politically correct to point out the obscenity of a survivor thanking his god for saving him from a disaster that killed dozens or even hundreds of others?

As an explanation of his subtitle, Jillette asks his readers (p. vii), "If god told you to kill your child - would you do it? If your answer is no, in my booklet you're an atheist." By that definition, I would guess that ninety percent of Americans are atheists. By a more pragmatic definition (anyone who does not have a confident belief that there is a god), atheists number only 36 percent.(1)

Jillette's attitude to religion is, "I don't know." He berates theists who assert that they do know in the words (p. xviii), "Once you say you have the answer to everything, but you can't prove it to anyone else, I don't think you can accuse anyone else of being arrogant. I think you are the king of kings of the arrogant assholes. And 'I don't know' doesn't mean 'There might be a god.' That's a different kind of 'I don't know.' ... Once you've answered 'I don't know' to the existence of a god, the answer to whether you believe in god pretty well has to be no." And in case his position is still not sufficiently clear, he clarifies (p. xix), "There is no fucking god!"

It was Glenn Beck's idea that Jillette offer his take on the biblical "ten commandments." Not being a biblical historian, Jillette has no awareness that the only lawcode identified in the Torah as the Decalogue (Exodus 34:28), and the laws commonly cited as the Big Ten by the unlearned masses (Exodus 20:2-17), are completely dissimilar. He also has no knowledge of what the Exodus commandments meant to the theologians who composed them, as is evidenced by his quoting from the King James Version on the incorrect assumption that it accurately conveys the meaning of the Hebrew.

Jillette begins each of his chapters with one of the KJV's (although some later quotes are not KJV) ten commandments. He uses Protestant numbering, so that verses that the Catholic Big Ten treats as part of the first are categorized as the second, and verses that Catholics consider the ninth are treated as part of the tenth. I get the impression that he interprets the first, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," composed centuries before Jewish monolatry evolved into monotheism, as an instruction to Christians that, "There is no god but God." In fact the Jewish lawgiver of c 800 BCE was guilty of bigotry, but not reckless endangerment. He did not order Jews visiting Babylon or Egypt to risk being zapped by a thunderbolt for denying foreign gods due obeisance in their own lands. He merely prohibited Jews from offering sacrifices or genuflections to any god but Yahweh "before my face," in other words within the vicinity of Jerusalem where Yahweh would be subjected to the indignity of having to watch.(2) (For all I could tell, Jillette might know that.) The only reference in the first chapter to a god or its alleged commandments is on the title page. The rest is a memoir that includes encounters with real and phony magicians, the latter being humbugs who pretend that their magic tricks are not tricks but some unique "gift" from a metaphysical gift-giver or superior genes. He also describes a meeting with a "King of the Ex-Jews" who credited Jillette's public appearances with curing him of a fanatically kosher version of the god delusion.

Jillette's ninth commandment reads, "Thou shalt not lie." That is clearly a paraphrasing, not identical with any bible translation with which I am familiar. The KJV says, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." The Protestant Bible Correctly Translated renders it, "You're not to give perjured testimony against your compatriot," meaning "against your fellow Jew." Jillette is obviously unaware of the commandment's racist implication, since his "one atheist's ninth suggestion" echoes the prohibition of lying, but makes an exception for persons doing magic tricks, since lying is part of their job. He asks (p. 189), "Does that make it okay for politicians too?"

Each of the eight remaining chapters has a KJV or other Protestant commandment on its title page, before resuming the author's memoir of his show business experiences. Chapter Seven headlines, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," followed by the comment, "Keep your promises. If you can't be sexually exclusive to your spouse, don't make that deal." He clearly sees the rule as a prohibition of safe, responsible, nonprocreative, nonconsequential, consensual sexual pleasure-sharing. To the author of the commandment, "adultery" was not a recreation taboo, although it evolved into one in an age that lacked reliable birth control. What the Jewish lawgiver was prohibiting was the robbing of a fellow Jew (the Big Ten placed no restriction on how a Jew could treat a non-Jew) of his right to pass on his inheritance to his biological heirs by fraudulently impregnating his privately-owned breeding woman. Behavior that did not carry at least the risk of pregnancy was not adultery.(3)

Despite having spent forty years in the entertainment industry, I never read books about showbiz personalities or watch Entertainment Tonight, even after the departure of the scientifically illiterate ignoramus, Mary Hart, whose belief in every paranormal hoaxer who ever crossed her threshold would have had P.T. Barnum beating a path to her door. I requisitioned God, No! from my local library because of the relevance of its title to my field of expertise. So I was pleasantly surprised at how readable it is. What particularly delighted me were his remarks about show business phonies I also view as a waste of perfectly good oxygen. His description of the Masked Magician as an "asshole"; Kreskin as "a fucking weasel"; David Blaine as a "stupid cunt" (a word commonly applied to (only) males in the UK as the British equivalent of "arsehole," with no implication of minority sexual preferences); Richard Nixon as "a lying sack of shit"; and a swindling Bernie-Maddoff clone as "Motherfucking Teresa," echoed what I might have written if he had not beaten me to it.

Not until his Afterword does Jillette actually discuss belief in his book's title character. He writes (pp. 228-229) that, "Being religious means it's okay with believing things without evidence.... Once you've condoned faith in general, you've condoned any crazy shit done because of faith. The only people who can really speak out against religious terrorists are atheists. We're the only ones who can say, 'We don't respect crazy shit that you believe.' ... There are things that Charlie Manson takes on faith.... The respect for faith, the celebration of faith, is dangerous.... That means I have to get pissed off when Luke Skywalker trusts 'the force.' ... We must stop glorifying faith. Fuck Faith."

Doubled, redoubled and in spades.

1 Ronald Aronson, Living Without God, Counterpoint reprint, 2009, p. 12.

2 William Harwood, "Let the Theofascists Post the Ten Commandments - But Make Them Post the Real Ten commandments," Pope Ratzinazi and the Faux News Gestapo, World Audience, 2010, pp. 197-198.

3 ibid.

Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science
Michael Ruse
Cambridge University Press
32 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10013-2473
9780521755948, $32.00,

It should surprise no one that Cambridge University Press chose to publish this umptillionth attempt by an Orwellian doublethinker to argue that "A" and "not-A" can simultaneously be true. Cambridge, like Oxford, as well as America's oldest universities, is a conscious pusher of the god delusion, and as such maintains a school of theology whose sole function is to indoctrinate students into believing that Christian fairy tales are less fictitious than Alice in Wonderland or The Little Mermaid. Refusing to publish defences of theology would be tantamount to admitting that accrediting a school of fairy tales invalidates the whole university. It should also surprise no one that an author of theological doublethink (tautology) is a philosopher specializing in the philosophy of science (oxymoron). Mark Twain defined a philosopher as a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there. That description certainly fits Michael Ruse. H. L. Mencken defined a theologian as a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there - and finding it. Whether Ruse thinks he found it is uncertain, but he seems certain that it is there to be found.

It is a reasonable hypothesis that Ruse named his book "Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science" because the more accurate title, Bullshit for Dummies, would not have found a market. The moral cowards for whom Ruse writes are aware that science has falsified religion beyond sane dispute (either the universe is billions of years old, as science claims, or six thousand years old as the Christian bible claims). But they still need an afterlife belief to overcome their terror of death and get them though the day without losing control of their bodily functions. It is also a reasonable hypothesis that Ruse is motivated by the need to assuage his own terror of Christianity's underworld Auschwitz.

Ruse's first six chapters are devoted to the history of ideas from ancient times to Darwin and beyond. That was a logical strategy for an author who wants to establish his credentials in reality before he ventures into metaphysics, a field in which he is no more incompetent than any other writer, given that metaphysics is by definition an analysis of the properties and motivations of an entity that does not exist.

Ruse is committed to the nonsequitur that, if he can define Christianity in a way that is not incompatible with the discoveries of science, then it might still be true. So he argues (p. 182) that the essentials of Christianity are, (1) God exists, and created the universe; (2) humans are going to be posthumously judged on the basis of how they fulfilled their moral obligations on earth; (3) Jesus suffered for the benefit of humans; and (4) humans who survive the last judgment are promised everlasting life in heaven, "whatever that means." The problem is that Ruse's concept of Christianity, despite its rejection of an inerrant bible, is a straw man, since it does not include the sine qua non belief that a god has revealed its existence.

In order to believe that Lemuel Gulliver exists, it would be necessary to believe that the only reference to his existence, Gulliver's Travels, is nonfiction. Since Gulliver's Travels authenticates the existence of talking horses, manikins fifteen centimeters tall, and giants ten meters tall, accepting Gulliver's existence on the basis of an objectively falsifiable source would be incompatible with the scientific methodology Ruse claims to use.

All claims of a god revealing its existence have been traced to the same bible that states in fifteen places that the earth is flat. It follows that believing that God exists on the basis of such a source is as illogical as believing that Gulliver exists - or Wonderland's Alice, Neverland's Peter Pan, or any other protagonist of a work of fiction. If Ruse were to take a course in Logic 101, he would see that as self-evident, and I am confident that eventually he will see it. Cognitive dissonance can shut out reality for only a finite length of time. Even Pascal's Wager loses its appeal once it is recognized that heaven and hell, like God, are products of the human imagination.

"I do not say that you must be a Christian, but I do say that in the light of modern science you can be a Christian. We have seen no sound arguments to the contrary" (p. 233). That is simply not true. Ruse has brainwashed himself that the un-falsifiability of Deism must be equally applicable to Christianity. In fact every element of Christianity has been falsified beyond a reasonable doubt. And he parrots the party line of unteachables when he refers to "frenetic partisans, from science and from religion." Newsflash: Theists who have built a firewall around their brains to keep out the infinite amount of evidence falsifying religion are partisans. Scientists who recognize that the evidence allows for only one conclusion are no more partisans than are those who recognize that flat-earth theory has been disproven, young-earth theory has been disproven, and intelligent design has been disproven - all of which Ruse acknowledges.

Ruse's judgment is seriously flawed. That explains why he endorses the legitimacy of sociobiology (pp. 106-107), a ridiculous pseudoscience that could be a useful contribution to human knowledge only if history, biology, anthropology, genetics, paleontology and several other sciences are superstitious hogwash.

Nonetheless, when Ruse is not trying to justify a religion most accurately described as Deism (a god wound up the universe thirteen billion years ago, and since then has been on a long coffee break), he gives a reasonably accurate description of the thinking of several centuries of proponents and opponents of the god hypothesis. That he does not proselytize for a pro-god position may be part of his attempt at objectivity. Or it could be that he does not realize that his position needs defending. There are none so blind....

Science explains what happened. Religion explains why it happened. Humans and apes evolved from common ancestors because a Cecil B. DeMille in the sky decreed, "Let there be evolution." That is essentially the position of liberal Christians and Jews (is there such a thing as a liberal Moslem?), and it is discernibly the position of Michael Ruse. It is a hypothesis that is indeed impossible to disprove. But in the absence of any supporting evidence whatsoever, it is not a position that any thinking person can maintain indefinitely. Belief in religion is restricted to the educationally challenged, the intellectually challenged, the rationally challenged, and the intestinally challenged. Unless Ruse belongs to that fourth category, he is a future ex-godworshipper.

With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful
Glenn Greenwald
Henry Holt and Company LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780805092059, $26.00,

It is reassuring to receive confirmation that I am not the only person outraged by Barack Obama's determination to protect the most criminal administration in American history from being brought to justice for their crimes against international law, the Geneva Convention, the Constitution of the United States, and the American people. As Glenn Greenwald explains (p. 17), "not only are the radical acts of the Bush administration illegal, but so, too, is the ongoing refusal to investigate and prosecute those crimes." He asks (p. 51), "Why has Obama been so intent on shielding his politically powerful predecessors from accountability?" His answer (pp. 51-52) is that, "by letting criminal bygones be bygones within the executive branch, presidents uphold a gentleman's agreement to shield each other from accountability for any crimes they might want to commit in office.... by protecting the lawbreaking license for other powerful individuals, they strengthen a custom of which they might avail themselves if they break the law and get caught." Is Obama committing or planning to commit crimes for which he is counting on his successor to protect him? If he is not, then why is he placing himself on the side of King Cambyses' advisors who informed him that, "the king can do anything he wishes"?

There is a long history of Republican presidents adopting the position that they are above the law, as far back as Richard Nixon's invention of what has become the Republican Party's Prime Directive: "When the president does it, it is not illegal." What else could explain the crimes of the Reagan administration (p. 25), and the Bush senior administration (p. 34), as well as the crimes of Bush junior (p. 16) that, for the first time, could conceivably have led to the perpetrators being strapped to gurneys with needles in their arms?

There is also a precedent of a Democratic president sitting on his hands and allowing the crimes of Republican predecessors to go unpunished. Bill Clinton, (p. 35), "repeatedly argued that there was serious wrongdoing requiring urgent investigation and possibly prosecution.... But as soon as Clinton was safely elected president, he quickly took steps to suppress any real inquiries [into Bush senior's crimes]." Obama is currently doing the same thing, with the tacit encouragement of the same media and political moguls who defended the pardons of Nixon (p. 20) and criminals in other administrations (p. 25). As Greenwald explains (p. 15), "It has become a virtual consensus among the elites that their members are so indispensible to the running of American society that vesting them with immunity from prosecution - even for the most egregious crimes - is not only in their interest but in our interest, too." In other words an influential segment of the American population, not limited to Republicans, believe that individuals who are "too big to jail" (p. 101) should be allowed to do anything they wish. I get the impression that Greenwald does not see an America in which the rich and powerful are above the law as his ideal. Neither did (pp. 3-9) John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, or George Washington.

Politicians are not the only persons deemed legally untouchable. A hedge fund manager in Colorado drove his car into a cyclist, causing spinal cord and brain injuries, left the scene without stopping, and did not file a police report. The district attorney charged him with only a misdemeanor that carried no jail time, justifying his refusal to file felony hit-and-run charges with the explanation (p. 102), "Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in [the perpetrator's] profession."

Plutocrats whose income would be significantly diminished if they were jailed are immune from the law? Where is Elliot Ness when America really needs him?

The financial crisis of 2008 was triggered by the earlier deregulation of how financial institutions are allowed to operate. Those deregulations followed significant donations from Wall Street plutocrats to malleable politicians who then voted the way the plutocrats wanted. As Greenwald observes (p. 120), "Needless to say, large amounts of money are not lavished on political candidates out of pure-hearted generosity, but rather with an expectation that the donations will secure favorable treatment, and with an implied threat that failing to offer such preferential treatment will result in the future loss of financial support."

And what was Obama's solution to the crisis? Did he prosecute Wall Street executives who bankrupted their companies while simultaneously lining their own pockets with millions of ill-gotten dollars? He did not. Rather, he gave offices in his administration to the persons most responsible for the crisis. Greenwald quotes (p. 117) a Rolling Stone writer, "The only thing to remember is that all the ones who got us into this mess ... are now being put in charge of the cleanup by a president who spent most of 18 months on the campaign trail pledging to end the influence of money in politics." And quoting Alan Greenspan's acknowledgment (p. 133) that, "a lot of that stuff was just plain fraud," Greenwald concludes, "When even a longtime Wall Street servant such as Alan Greenspan admits that a substantial cause of the financial crisis was 'just plain fraud,' the almost complete absence of criminal consequences is clearly an extraordinary injustice." Is Obama's participation in what can only be called a cover-up what he is afraid he might have to answer for if he does not cement the rule that presidents protect their predecessors? Does his failure to denounce Republicans in Congress for accepting bribes, in the form of campaign donations, for protecting millionaires from paying their fair share of taxes, amount to a confession that his own glass house is not shatterproof?

To describe Barack Obama as a disappointment to the majority who applauded his election would be analogous to describing the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 as a disappointment to the 230,000 victims who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Obama expressly implied that he would put an end to using taxpayer money to bankroll religious proselytizing that violated the First Amendment. He then awarded even more public money to "faith based initiatives" than his predecessor. After he "repeatedly accused the Bush administration of breaking the law in numerous areas," (p. 155) he campaigned for the presidency on a policy that there would be "no more ignoring of the law when it is inconvenient." In violation of that promise (p. 181), he "repeatedly stepped forward to impede investigative proceedings no matter where they emerged: in Congress, in American courts, or in other countries." Prior to his election, he expressed support for equal rights for same sex couples. But in 2011 he supported the right of states to ban same-sex marriage. Candidate Obama expressed support for a woman's right to choose abortion. President Obama has not lifted a finger to challenge the constitutionality of state laws restricting abortion. Candidate Obama voiced a desire to give illegal immigrants a short cut to legal residence. But as president he has deported more illegals than any president in history.

If Barack Obama refuses to protect equal rights for gays, what reason do America's 15 million voting-age gays have to prefer him over his Republican opponent? If he refuses to implement a route to legal residence for law-abiding Hispanics, what reason do America's 25 million voting-age Hispanics have to prefer him over his Republican opponent? If he refuses to protect equal rights for nontheists, what reason do America's 50 million voting-age nontheists have to prefer him over his Republican opponent? If he refuses to uphold a woman's sovereignty over her own body, what reason do America's 75 million voting-age women have to prefer him over his Republican opponent? Compared to Obama's flip-flopping for political expedience, Mitt Romney's flip-flopping for the same purpose looks less egregious. But it is Obama's culpable failures spelled out in this book that (if I was an American) would cause me to vote him out of office - if the alternative to his reelection was not a gazillion times worse.

In summary (p. 221), "In the long run immunity from legal accountability ensures that criminality and corruption will continue. Vesting the powerful with license to break the law guarantees high-level lawbreaking; indeed, it encourages such behavior. One need only look at what's happened in the United States over the last decade to see the proof."

William Harwood

Karyn's Bookshelf

Megan Miranda, author
Walker Books for Young Readers
c/o Bloomsbury Children's Books
175 Fifth Avenue, 8th fl., NY, NY 10010-7728
9780802723093, $17.99,

Debut novelist Megan Miranda impresses off the block, grabbing you on line one and never releasing. Readers will instantly like Delaney, the 17-year-old heroine. She's a little too smart and a little too chubby to make the A-crowd; she hovers on the fringe of popularity. Then she falls through the ice and almost dies. Among the many things Miranda does right in this book is capturing the tendency for teens to dramatize such situations. That peers who hardly spoke to Delaney before the accident now want to be friends is a believable, true-life reaction. Teens want to be close to the action, to be part of what everyone is talking about. Miranda also nails the teen group mentality that leads some peers to later harshly reject Delaney. And Miranda does a great job of narrating the pitfalls of friendship between teens of the opposite sex as Delaney and her friend, Decker, struggle with staying friends while romantically linking up with others. But "Fracture" is much more than boilerplate teen drama. It's also a fast-paced, breathless thriller. When Delaney wakes up from a coma (she was under the ice for eleven minutes and clinically dead) she's gained a strange power. She can sense when someone nearby is about to die. This feeds a series of wrenching scenes as Delaney senses that a host of people, from an elderly neighbor to complete strangers to a close friend, might soon expire. Along the way Delaney becomes involved with a volatile young man who has a similar power, adding to the intrigue. But all the plot and characterization merits aside, what ultimately makes "Fracture" good is the writing. Miranda has a smart, uncluttered style that teens will embrace. Eagerly anticipating her next title; a talented new writer to watch.

I Want My Hat Back
Jon Klassen, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA, 02144

Klassen deftly straddles the line between young listeners and new readers with this sparsely-worded, gently illustrated tale that will leave everyone giggling. A bear has lost his red, pointy hat. He goes looking for it. He asks a series of creatures, including a turtle, a snake and a rabbit, if they have seen it. One by one they say no. But there's a clue! Will children spy it? A surprise ending adds to the fun. Simple and silly; kids will love it.

Karyn L. Saemann

Katherine's Bookshelf

Charlotte Cauldron and the Prince of Nevermore
John M. Lance
Sam's Dot Publishing
P.O. Box 782, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 52406-0782
9780981969619, $9.95,

Charlotte Cauldron and the Prince of Nevermore by John M. Lance is just what kids have ordered. It has fantasy, adventure, mystery and good writing. It is a youngster's page turner.

"...Just out of curiosity she lifted the cover.

A blinding blue light rose from the pages and she dropped her scarf as she tried to shield her eyes.


Charlotte was sucked into the light and the book cover slammed shut.

Her scarf fluttered to the floor beside the desk. She was gone."

When Charlotte Cauldron, number one fan of the series of books about Prince Peter and his adventures in Nevermore, is contacted (through 'book magic') by some of the characters in the book about a problem they are having, she is magically transported into the story to help them. She has to figure out how the author, Horatio Alkazar, would handle the situation and help the book characters resolve the circumstances.

Charlotte and some of her favorite characters, Prince Peter, Juno Vanderspell and Frizzleroot, a will-o-wisp, set out to hunt for the Tower, which is not at all easy since it keeps getting moved. They have to deal with goblins, sail on a ghost ship with ghostly pirates and outmaneuver a dragon to carry out their mission. Go with them to find out if they find the Tower and resolve the problem.

I would recommend this book to children who like fantasy and adventure.

John Lance lives in Massachusetts with his wife, two daughters and two slightly-crazed Labrador Retrievers. He enjoys spending time with his family and reading, writing and working in his garden. He has published in magazines, anthologies and a collection of short stories.

Georges Creek to Georgia
Barbara Dumas Ballew
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781607993810, $21.99,

Barbara Dumas Ballew is an accomplished genealogist who has written many articles on the subject. After doing more than 20 years of research, she decided to write about her family history in novel form. The result was this fascinating, well researched book called George's Creek to Georgia.

George's Creek to Georgia is a chronicle of the author's family ancestors. She has, understandably, taken creative license in the conversations and some of the narrative, but it only lends to more interesting reading. The basic facts are real.
In my opinion, this is the way family histories should all be written as it is so much more interesting reading.

Elijah Barnett travels from South Carolina to Georgia to visit his brother and decides it is just the place for him to move to in order to 'make his fortune'. Thus begins the saga of the author's family from her great-great grandfather through four generations of her family as they move from South Carolina to Georgia, and even later some to East Texas. She describes their exciting adventures and their heartbreaks as they carve out a living in the harsh wilderness.

"Elijah was born and had grown up in these parts. His family had come out of Virginia and settled here in the up-country of South Carolina years ago. It was Indian land, and there were very few white people living in this area. One had to have an adventurous nature to want to make a home in a place like this."

Mrs. Ballew has written a book with great attention to detail. Her research, not only of the family members, but also of their living conditions and daily life is well documented.

This book will be a great read for everyone, teens through adults. It is also a good model for those genealogists wanting to write a history of their family.

Barbara's hobby is genealogy and after twenty-five years of research, she has written numerous articles for genealogy papers. Her first published book was this historic, romantic novel about her ancestors beginning in 1790. She and her husband are retired and live in the beautiful Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. They have one son who is in Afghanistan.

Ridin' Around
Elaine Fields Smith
Blazing Star Books
17141 FM 847, Dublin, TX 76446
9780982769010, $12.00,

Ridin' Around: Taillights in Chrome, 8-Tracks on Wheels by Elaine Fields Smith is a trip down memory lane for several generations. I used to drag the strip around my hometown. In my day there were no 8-tracks, but we did have the radio and our favorite DJ's and stations. My son later rode around in another small Texas town with his cassettes and favorite DJ's and radio stations.

Ms. Smith has created a nostalgic trip down memory lane reminiscent of her own personal memories. The story centers around a group of university students in a small Texas town called Dairyville. They have the normal lives of young people who are searching for themselves and enjoying the college life. The main characters are primarily college students and local kids. Some of the participants are even high school age.

There are several funny and serious stories about revenge and retribution. One of the funniest ones has to do with how the 'good girls' got revenge on a high school girl who egged the car of one of the 'good girls'. They got specially made 'burrito bombs full of onions and sauce from the local taco house and bombed the offending girl's car. Then, for further protection, the next day they armed themselves with water balloons filled with colored water to fend off any more attacks. As the saying goes, 'Ya' had to be there'. Reading the book will make it come to life for you. You may also like some of the other escapades that are described with such a funny vent even better.

""I don't think anyone saw us!" Candace stated happily.

"I certainly hope not!" Linda Lou said nervously. "Seems like every time ya'll go out - or is it we? Anyway, we get into somethin', or do you always do stuff like this?"

Ms. Smith does have an underlying plot that involves a romance, used to tie the story together, but the main thrust of the novel is the 'adventures' of riding around town and the interactions of the players that will take you 'ridin' around' memory lane with style.

Elaine Fields Smith describes herself: "A Texas native born to Missouri and West Virginia hillbillies, my roots run deep. Friends are very important to me and play a pivotal role in my writing....

Living in Central Texas among a husband of 28 years, four dogs, two cats and 82 acres, life is good!"

Lady Justice and Dr. Death
Robert Thornhill
100 Enterprise Way Ste A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466283312, $12.99,

Lady Justice and Dr. Death is the 6th in the Lady Justice series written by Robert Thornhill. It is a novel of tragic activities that mimic the actions of Dr. Kevorkian and comedic actions that mimic Walt's unique behavior. Walt goes undercover again - this time as a terminally ill patient. His cover is blown, but we don't find out for sure why until the end. That is the first teaser to get you interested in what happens and read it for yourself.

At one point Walt is thrown off a building and falls onto a taco cart that saves his life. This leads to a near death and an out-of-body experience that will make you laugh out loud or cry crocodile tears (or both), so don't read that part in public. Another teaser.

There is a short foray into the FDA story from the last book. Didn't read it? Well, you will have to go back and read it to catch up. It actually ties up some loose ends. Teaser number 3.

"The captain smiled. "I think we can spare you and Ox for awhile for a good cause.

"Dr. Death seems to be off the radar for the moment and unless he resurfaces, we'd be happy to loan you to the FBI."

This is another book by Robert Thornhill that you can't miss. Notwithstanding all the fiction, Mr. Thornhill asks questions that we have all asked ourselves at one time or another. He does not actually answer the questions, but he does hint at how Walt would answer them. His premise leaves it open to you and your ideas and beliefs.

Robert Thornhill writes a lot about what he knows. Many of the characters in his books are based on people in his real life. He has a healthy sense of humor about all segments of life. He lives in Independence, Missouri with his wife, Peg.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

Richard N. MacLeod
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453752760 $19.95

Revelation is the first volume in a nonfiction trilogy of extraordinary metaphysical discoveries by author Richard N. MacLeod. Having discovered the secrets of ancient stone structures, he has witnessed the origins of humanity and been imparted the secrets of Heaven itself. His message is that humanity has never truly left the Garden of Eden; we are merely unable to see it with our current frame of reference. Revelation has a strong spiritual component, as it guides the reader to turn his or her mind and heart to love - this is the path to transforming oneself and learning how to perceive Heaven. A handful of black-and-white images and occasional passages of poetry enhance this uplifting and mind-opening guide. Also highly recommended is "Revelation Two: The First People" (9781466432628, $19.95), which continues the author's soul-searching from the Heavenly Hosts about why the forthcoming New Age of Enlightenment has been delayed for so long, and what can be done to help remedy the situation. A forthcoming third volume, "Revelation Three: Heaven Within", cannot arrive too soon!

The Snowmelt River
Frank P. Ryan
Swift Publishers
9781874082484, $7.99,

The legends of the British isles continue to ring out to this day. "The Snowmelt River" is an adventure of four teenagers who come together in the Irish town of Clonmel to cover a terrible secret between them, as they investigate of a mystery murder and danger throughout. A riveting read that is a fine pick for teenage fiction readers, "The Snowmelt River" is worth considering.

Oscar's Gift
Lisa Rivero
Privately Published
9781466214497, $6.95,

Life influences many writers, and Oscar Micheaux is no different. "Oscar's Gift: Planting Words with Oscar Micheaux" is a historical novel as Lisa Rivero seeks to tell the story of Micheaux, one of the first African American film makers. Rivero chronicles the events that may have pushed him forward to his art and his film. "Oscar's Gift" is a fine and much recommended pick for community library youth fiction collections.

Before I Disappear
Barb Herding
Bookstand Publishing
9781589099210, $18.95,

Our demons can easily control us, to the point we can't break free alone. "Before I Disappear" is the story of friendship as two teenage girls struggle with their lives. Anorexia is slowly claiming the life of Lauren, and Jenny's dark past leaves her without much hope for the future. "Before I Disappear" is a moving and poignant read of what can consume our lives and how friendship can give us light when there seems to be none.

The Teahouse by the Tracks
Eric Schoeniger
Privately Published
9780615529608, $14.99,

There is strength in togetherness. "The Teahouse by the Tracks" follows retired Janet Charbray who opens a tea shop out of little better to do. Attracting a unique assortment of patrons, she finds friendship, and her patrons do so as well, all struggling with what they left behind. As tragedy threatens to break what they have found, "The Teahouse by the Tracks" is a dramatic and moving read about how someone to talk to can mean everything in the world.

Davy Jones
Carl A Chase
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432777951, $9.95,

When the world is dead set against you, it takes quite the drive to overcome those odds. "Davy Jones: Heavyweight Champion of the World" tells the story of the titular man, who came from the ghetto and a world where someone his age is lucky to get past his teenage years without dying a gang related death. From nowhere in Chicago, he enters the boxing ring, and with faith and love for family, he may find his worth as he climbs the ranks. "Davy Jones" is a strongly recommended read for those seeking an inspirational story of against all odds.

A Light in the Heart
Kathleen O'Brien
Privately Published
9780982820537, $15.00,

When all seems loss, one must find something new to dedicate their life to. "A Light in the Heart" follows a model whose career ending car accident shatters more than her professional life. Seeking a career as an artist, she reaches out to other victims of deforming injuries as she tries to come to terms what shattered her life as well. "A Light in the Heart" is a moving read of picking up the pieces of a broken life.

Crossing Borders
Richard Hicks
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781453513538, $29.99,

Returning a favor can often seem like quite the task, but it must be done. "Crossing Borders" is a mystery thriller as ex-chief of Police Eddie DeSilva finds he must pay back the man who saved his life, a man accused of murder, by proving his innocence. With plenty of twists and turns on the road to justice, including detours of romance, "Crossing Borders" is a unique and much recommended pick for fans of mysteries.

Carl Logan

Lois' Bookshelf

Stumbling on Happiness
Daniel Gilbert
Vintage Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10019
9781400077427, $14.95,

Had Freud not already famously used the title, this book could aptly be called The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. The term defines the book perfectly. In example after example, we are shown how readily our brain and senses sabotage our perceptions. Our eyes have a blind spot which our brain fills in to give us a complete picture - but it can be wrong. This can cause havoc in crucial situations, as when a crime is committed and bystanders are asked to identify the "perp." It has repeatedly happened that witnesses were absolutely certain - and yet the DNA evidence later proved them wrong. Our brains fill in our world on a common sense basis, and this is fine for everyday living but inadequate for crucial events. Also, tests have proved that those of us who pride ourselves on our multi-tasking abilities are kidding ourselves. Tests prove we can only focus on one thing at a time. This is why phoning and texting in a car cause accidents. We are over-confident of our ability to double-concentrate.

Self-questioning is a difficult trick for most of us to wrap our minds around. Often we are very sure about things that never happened, especially if we saw the event with our own eyes. For myself, the biggest problem is with things that go missing. I know I placed it right here on the bureau. I remember doing it. Moreover, I remember seeing it in that spot a few days later. But when, after a frantic search, the object turns up, it's in a different place altogether - and no one else had touched it. I feel that the universe has sabotaged me, but in fact I did it to myself.

The book is full of examples of the way our brains and senses work together to alter our perceptions of reality. The author repeatedly pulls the rug from under our comfortable assumptions. As an added bonus, he writes in an engaging, lightly humorous style:

Once upon a time there was a bearded God who made a small, flat earth, and pasted it in the middle of the sky so that human beings would be at the center of everything.

Then physics came along and complicated the picture with big bangs, quarks, branes, and superstrings...and now, several hundred years later, most people have no idea where they are.

The author goes on to say that to find ourselves, we rely on experience. We always have, reinforced by Descarte who told us our experience was the only thing about which we could be completely sure. Not so fast, Descarte! This book is filled with illustrations of unsettling forms like the Nekker cube which changes its orientation as we stare at it, and which prove that our senses are not all that reliable after all.

The book is easy to read and free of scientific terminology, which is provided in the ample notes. It is truly psychology for the layman, and is guaranteed to upset many of the reader's comfortable assumptions. A fun read and very informative.

Trashy Chic
Cathy Lubenski
Vantage Point Books
419 Park Avenue South, New York, N.Y, 10016
9781936167174, $13.95,

Though it's a murder mystery, Trashy Chic is as fun and funny as the title suggests. Yet it encompasses an arena in the not-funny category: breathless suspense. Most writers have to settle for one or the other, laughter or suspense, but this author successfully navigates the segue. In the opening, the victim is described with humor even while in the process of becoming a corpse: "Robert Bellingham stared at the ceiling. He'd never looked at it before, but as ceilings went, this one was pretty nice...He didn't like the color, though...He was flat on his back on the marble floor of his Bel Air mansion. He'd never been in this position before, which is why, he supposed, he'd never noticed the ceiling. Robert Bellingham was dying. He didn't realize it yet because, though he was cunning, he wasn't very smart."

The narrative continues as a romp. Girl-reporter Bertie Mallowan (really Bertha but don't tell anyone about that hated name!) had been interviewing Bellingham recently, so she feels this is her story, providing an opening so that for once she can escape from the women's-page stuff. Her editor doesn't agree but she persists, hoping to win him over. She has a few scares when a suspect's lawyer stalks her and becomes threatening, and she is warned off by a sympathetic cop, but this is her chance for a career change and she can't let it go. She interviews a lot of weird and fascinating characters, and on the whole, the danger seems to be more in her head than in reality. Then suddenly everything changes. A bloody corpse slams against her car; the police are convinced she put it there; and all at once she is a suspect. The police interrogation is not funny. Suspicion leads to the loss of her job. Her world crashes around her. Humor had become breathless suspense. How will she extricate herself from this mess? At the moment she is not even trying, as she remains determined to get the story even if she has to sell it on her own as a freelancer.

Few authors could manage the shift in tone as skillfully as Lubenski, who moves the story forward seamlessly. Perhaps her abilities derive from her 25 years as a newspaper woman. This is her first mystery novel but she handles it with great elan. There is nothing of the novice about it. Trashy Chic moves swiftly to a surprising but believable conclusion. Highly recommended.

Lois Wells Santalo

Margaret's Bookshelf

Adjusting Destiny
Doctor Alexander Bertson
Keylight Co. Publishing
9780984326600 $15.95

Adjusting Destiny is an exciting novel about a romantic journey turned deadly. Dr. Christian Saroya and Ms. Destiny Brisco are reunited partly by chance, partly because of terrible nightmares of a 60's college riot that prompt Destiny to investigate her former college. Piqued by the charismatic, pacifistic campus leader known only as "Kid X", they search for answers, but Christian is plagued by memories of the severe jealousy that undermined his past attempt to find love with Destiny. Their investigation leads them into thorny politics, and embroils them in the machinations of a violent and ruthless group of radicals. Turbulent, at times contentious, at times riotous, and always enthralling, Adjusting Destiny is a wild ride from cover to cover.

Tears of the Phoenix
Lonnie Beerman
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432769895, $27.95,

Outcasts can find alliance in each other. "Tears of the Phoenix" is a novel of this young struggle, as Lonnie Beerman tells of three youths who after a violent incident, come together, and face a town full of hate and bigotry. Through the worst of challenges, they find friendship and family against all odds and makes for a much recommended read. "Tears of the Phoenix" is a fine read and much recommended for general fiction collections.

Dogs Have Angels Too
Sarah Cavallro
Privately Published
9781935340867, $16.95,

Sometimes to help yourself, you need to help others. "Dogs Have Angels Too" is a novel following Miss Pink, a woman who is struggling to keep together her own life. Along with a band of friends, they seek to help the local animal shelter and the animals within, and it may take a clever plan to help relieve the shelter's pains. Humorous and charming, "Dogs Have Angels Too" is an excellent pick for any animal lover looking for a riveting read.

Lovera Wolf Miller & David C. Miller
9781846943218, $24.95,

Motherhood is part of being a woman, but it is far from all of it. "Womenopause" is an inspirational guide from Overa Wolf Miller & David C. Miller as the couple encourages readers to move past their menopause and the mid life crisis that often comes with it. From the perspective of a gynecologist, she presents plenty of practical wisdom to help women rise to their life's challenge and live a life worth living. "Womenopause" is an excellent addition to self-help and health collections, recommended.

For the People by the People
Ismail Rifaat
Privately Published
9781466446656, $9.00,

Things continue to get worse, and it's been proven the status quo isn't working. "For the People by the People" discusses the situation modern America faces, stating that the recent outrage surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement and other similar responses reflect the rage that is had. Discussing many important issues of social life, economics, and politics, "For the People by the People" is an excellent pick for any social issues collections that is reflecting modern current events.

Shadows and Fire
Jennifer Fales
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432778460, $6.95,

When mankind creates its own doom, it must also bring about its own salvation. "Shadows and Fire" is a science fiction novel of a future where the creation of hybrid supernatural beings may cost any peace man has created. As a brother and sister, products of this science gone awry, must join up to stop this miscarriage of justice. "Shadows and Fire" is worth considering for science fiction fans looking for a unique scenario.

Terry J. Newman
Indepenpress Publishing
9781907499913, $13.41,

As centuries past, many problems we face continue to be. "Drayling" is an exploration of science fiction, set in twenty fifth century Britain. As the nation advances forward, many questions continue to be debated. At the death of a premier, the philosophical, political debate sets the stage for much intrigue and challenge. "Drayling" is an excellent and choice pick for community and library science fiction collections.

The Secret of Cancer & AIDS
Jason McKenna
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432739775, $14.95,

New ideas can lead to revolutions of treatment. "The Secret of Cancer & AIDS" discusses the immune system's faults that allow cancer and HIV to flourish. Jason McKenna writes of potential new ways to treat these diseases and allow immune systems to fight against these often fatal diseases. Strictly experimental and alternative, "The Secret of Cancer & AIDS" may be worth considering for those who have exhausted other options.

Social Security: The Inside Story, 2012 Edition
Andy Landis
9781467970419, $21.95,

Social security is very useful for seniors to get by, but few understand the details behind it all. "Social Security: The Inside Story, 2012 Edition" is a guide to understanding the recent developments and changes that have occurred over recent years. The legal bureaucracy often makes it difficult for social security to be claimed, and changes such as the 2010 Health Care Reform act changes some ways in which health care is handled. "Social Security" is an intellectual and much recommended pick for those who want to acquire social security for their needs.

Margaret Lane

Maria Ryan's Bookshelf

Before I Go To Sleep
S. J. Watson
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062060556, $14.99,

I am starting on a high note because I love this book. I loved the story of Christine, a 47 year old woman who suffered a traumatic accident and lives with memory loss so profound that each day she must relearn who she is as well as all the details of her life. Her husband Ben seems to be of no help in assisting her in piecing together her memories and though Christine has strong gut reactions to what is happening to her, for example she seems to feel when people are lying to her, in her fragile state she is constantly second guessing these feelings. This aspect alone was fascinating because without that framework, all her gut reactions seem to be working against her. Turns out that in spite of everything, Christine isn't as lost as it would seem. The story takes on a sinister twist building to a strong finish as we learn what really happened to her on that fateful day, 20 years earlier. Perhaps some may guess parts of the story before they are revealed but seen through Christine's eyes there are so many twists and turns that this book never loses its ability to surprise the reader. One more tidbit, Watson worked as in the National Health Service. In 2009 he was accepted into the first Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, a thorough course covering every aspect of the writing process.

One Day
David Nicholls
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
9780340896969, $14.95,

Well I had to review this one next because as you may or may not know, it's been made into a movie starring Anne Hathaway (love her) and Jim Sturgess. You can check out the trailer here but if you are planning to see the movie, please don't skip the book.

July 15 is the start of each new chapter. This is the story of a college-age couple getting together for the first time during the late eighties. The story offers a snapshot view of the couple on this particular day over the span of almost 25 years. The day itself, July 15, takes on a specific significance which is revealed almost at the end of the book. The story had a strong vibe similar to Anita Shreve's The Last Time They Met. As the two main character's lives take on meaning, we come to see what they truly mean to each other. The story unravels itself somewhat slowly, maybe even sluggishly at times. The pacing is OK, though there is a lot more going back and forth in time at the end of the book which I wasn't entirely crazy about because it seemed to confuse the flow and continuity of the story. The author's style is somewhat unique. I just wasn't 100% on board with his chosen method of telling this story. Perhaps the movie will be better?

Maria Ryan

Mayra's Bookshelf

The Underlying Hand
Roger P. Koch
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781465300218, $49.99,

Combining elements of drama, historical fiction and science fiction, "The Underlying Hand: Book One of the Divine Chronicles" is an original, fascinating novel that explores controversial subjects such as the origins of mankind, the Sons of God, Eden, and The Flood.

The story begins in the Nibiru Space Station 64,000 years before The Flood. Having escaped from near annihilation, the Marduks are now in search of a solar system and habitable planet that can sustain their existence. They must find a new home as soon as possible because they're being bombarded by cosmic radiation and many of their people are suffering from tumors and cancer. Fortunately, scientists are working on this to find a solution and do so early in the story, with the added advantage of near immortality. Years pass and they finally reach planet earth, a place similar to their own in atmosphere and cellular life. They first land in a valley filled with lush grasslands and berries, a valley they name Eden. When they realize the creatures in this planet are technologically inferior, the Marduks take the arrogant assumption that they're superior in all aspects and they'll be looked upon as gods. Most of them don't consider the possibility that perhaps these primitive-looking, earthly creatures are more advanced in other ways than their own.

The Marduks are a technologically super-advanced society with a dictatorial monarchy. Their original lifespan of 12,000 years has been expanded to near infinite provided they take their radiation bath cure. The king, Jova, has absolute, god-like power. His power is followed by a Council. The novel, however, is mainly told from the perspective of Nin, Jova's daughter, who acts as a kind of observer to everything that is going on. Through her dialogue with other characters and especially her conversations with her two brothers as well as with Uriel, the royal sage and mentor, the author raises many important issues such as: What is the spiritual cost of a super-advanced society? Is immortality worth pursuing? Is it the law of the universe for the stronger to dominate the weaker? Is there such a thing as a soul or consciousness?

As the Marduks begin colonizing earth, they experience a shift caused by the "eternal polarizer" - that is, God and religion. Jova's two sons take opposing, conflicting views as they rule over the earthly creatures, causing prosperity and harm to both their own race and mankind. Eventually, they must decide whether or not to sacrifice their identity and genetically mingle with mankind in order to survive and reach their ambitious aspirations.

Written with special attention to detail, The Underlying Hand is an engrossing, fascinating read that will make you think about our origins and wonder about the hierarchies of intelligent societies. Though it has strong science fiction elements, it reads more like serious drama than a regular commercial page-turner. The author uses a lot of dialogue to relay information and advance the plot. The setting is skillfully crafted, making the space station and the world of the Marduks alive with vivid images and detail. There's also a lot of interesting description relating to biology and genetics. This isn't a novel easily forgotten and I'm certainly looking forward to the next installment in the chronicles. Recommended.

Technicolor Dreamin' the 1960's rainbow and beyond
Karen Moller
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781412080187, $24.00, Kindle: $7.99,

If you're interested in the private lives of people who make the fashion world, how they started and how they got to the top, you might want to pick up a copy of Karen Moller's memoir, Technicolor Dreamin': The 1960's Rainbow and Beyond.

In her fresh and engaging voice, award-winning fashion designer and consultant Moller takes us on a trip through time, from the moment she was a rebel, restless, idealistic teen in rural Canada and decided to leave home and hitchhike to pursue her dreams, to witnessing and experiencing the counter-culture revolution of the 60s and 70s, to San Francisco, New York, London and Paris and working with such celebrities as Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, and The Beatles, to the creation of her successful fashion consulting firm, Trend Union, in 1985.

The memoir starts in present time with Moller having a conversation with her young niece Adele, who wants to postpone her university education in order to travel and see the world. Moller advises her to read a copy of Kerouac's On the Road, a book that she read back in the 50s and that had an immense influence on her outlook on life. The book offered young Moller courage in her pursue of creative freedom and encouraged her to hitchhiked her way to San Francisco.

"Kerouac had seemed like some kind of God, a sort of prophet sent to liberate us from the conformist middle class lives we were being programmed to live," writes Moller.

Moller talks about her childhood, dealing with a mother who had no time for a girl and a father who was irrational, self centered and insensitive. Moller's dreams and creativity made her different in the eyes of her family. "I became a family joke," she writes.

It wasn't easy. She had to work herself through school and at times had little food to eat. But she persevered, and her talent and persistence eventually took her from San Francisco to New York to London, during which time she met and worked with many famous people. At the time, London was in the midst of a cultural revolution. The anti-war movement was at full swing and the city was alive with avant-garde art galleries and art centers. It was here that Moller started designing and printing her colorful textiles. She later moved to Paris, where she opened Trend Union.

Full of interesting anecdotes, the memoir is well written and offers an exciting and colorful glimpse into the world of fashion during the hippie revolution. Moller has a light and lively writing style that makes the reading experience engaging. The book is inspirational and proves that dreams can come true if we focus on what we love, work hard, don't give up, and reach for the stars.

Mayra Calvani

Paul's Bookshelf

Graphics Essentials for Small Offices
David Loeff
1557 S. Owens Street, Unit 54, Lakewood, CO 80232
9781461052135, $8.95,

Graphics is an essential part of any small business, but it can be very difficult and confusing. This book aims to make it a little easier.

It is tempting to designate one of your employees as the "graphics person," instead of using an outside vendor; it's cheaper, right? Can other employees pick up the slack while the person is learning PhotoShop or InDesign? Will overtime be needed to keep up with the workload? If you do use an outside printer, make sure that they are aware of your budget. It helps no one if they deliver "champagne" graphics when all you have is a "beer" budget.

Come up with some sort of corporate identity manual, which includes your logo (with possible variations) and the colors and print font to be used in your documents. It's acceptable to re-visit the manual from time to time to do any necessary revising, but few things say "unprofessional" like constantly changing fonts and colors from one document to the next. You also need to decide what sort of text alignment will be used; left aligned, or justified. Don't use right aligned text unless absolutely necessary.

When you are designing your page, resist the temptation to get "creative" and fancy. Readability is most important. Use color sparingly. Put the headline right under the picture, and above the body text. Use a serif font instead of a sans-serif font (the book explores the differences between them) for body text. A reader's eyes travel from top to bottom and left to right. Don't try to make the eyes go in some other direction. Learn how to use, or not use, white space. The book also looks at working with images, and photo editing. If you are getting, for instance, an 8-page brochure ready to be professionally printed, the book shows just what the printer has to do to make it come out the right way.

The entire graphics process can be very frustrating for any small business. This book does an excellent job at explaining what should be going on, and will answer your questions before they are asked. It is short, and is well worth the time and money.

The House of Dark Shadows
Digger Cartwright
Xlibris Corp.
1663 Liberty Drive, #200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781465399946, $34.99,

This is a novel about an Internet romance that starts off very innocently. It quickly enters the realm of weird and bizarre.

Alex Rommel is a young, hotshot attorney in present-day Charleston, South Carolina, with a large hole in his heart. Not only did Shannon, his long-time love, break up with him, but she also moved to Brazil, with the intention of never being found by Alex. One day, he runs into an old college buddy with his new girlfriend, who he met on the Internet. They seem totally compatible and happy, so Alex, the last of the Internet dating skeptics, joins a dating site.

He gets an e-mail from Hope, a twenty-something French photojournalist who is living in Atlanta, and studying for her doctorate in international relations. She is a bit of a traditionalist, insisting that Alex come to Atlanta for their first date. The fact that she is gorgeous makes the travel very much worth it. She also lets Alex know that she is a virgin, and will stay that way until her wedding night. Hope does and says several things that, individually mean nothing, but when put together, mean that something is not right.

After their second date, Alex gets a phone call from Charity, Hope's mother. First, she demands Alex be tested for HIV, in Atlanta, by a doctor of her choosing. Then, she wants to know when Alex is going to marry Hope. Right after that, she implies that Alex doesn't know how to satisfy a woman. In the meantime, Alex owns a piece of ocean front property in Hawaii, that a shadowy corporation named Xanadu Holdings wants very, very much. Alex learns that Xanadu is having him followed, because they know about him seeing Hope in Atlanta. Things are getting more and more bizarre, so Alex's friends encourage him to get out now, before it is too late. Does he listen to them, or does Alex see things through to the bitter end?

This is a really good cautionary tale about Internet dating. That person with whom you have a blind date could be just a jerk. He or she could also have ulterior motives of a very different sort. This one will keep the reader very interested

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Princess Warriors: Engaging Spiritual Warfare
Robin Kirby-Gatto
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768437393, $16.99

A Strong Prophetic Voice - A Message of Restoration, Freedom, and Holiness

"Princess Warriors: Engaging Spiritual Warfare" is the second in the "Glory to Glory Sisterhood" series. The book describes how women are chosen for battle as princess warriors, a sisterhood of dreaded champions. It is designed as a resource tool or handbook for equipping women for ministry to edify the body of Christ.

Each chapter details important basic principles for waging spiritual warfare. Apply these principles will result in a life of purification and holiness. The reader should be ready for radical life change as they are equipped with the weapons of spiritual warfare.

Assignments are provided for the pursuit of freedom from bondage and strongholds of Satan. Probing questions lead the reader to carefully consider personal areas keeping them from "taking hold of their God given destiny." I found the suggested prayers, spiritual exercises, and action steps for implementing a deeper walk operating in the realm of the spirit practical, relevant, and applicable.

The book is ideal for personal or group study. It is arranged in three sections. Part One introduces and establishes the role of understanding the fear of the Lord in preparation for engaging in spiritual warfare. Part Two deals with the elements of spiritual warfare and Part Three covers the three symbols of Princess Warriors.

"Princess Warriors: Engaging Spiritual Warfare" provides powerful instruction, is Biblically based, and presented in a carefully crafted format. Robin Kirby-Gatto writes with passion, transparency, and clarity. Her writing is articulate, authoritative, and anointed.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments
Marty Machowk
Illustrated by A. E. Macha
New Growth Press
2007 Yanceyville Street, Suite 3600
Greensboro, NC 27405
9781936768127, $29.99,

Bedtime Stories that Can Change a Child's Life

"The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments" is designed for use with preschoolers as a story book and as a devotional guide for young grade school students The book can be used for home family applications or in the classroom as a curriculum resource . As you read and share these stories with your children you will be pleased to note the way they serve as a refresher to your own spiritual and devotional life.

The colorful dramatic illustrations drawn by A. E. Macha bring the stories to life. The accompanying questions in the "Let's Talk about It" section are carefully designed for engaging interaction with your child.

The author carefully includes God's plan of salvation in Christ throughout the narrative. Machowski's narrative is child friendly, readable, understandable, ideal for age graded Bible exploration, and life changing application, designed to reach a new generation with the truths of the Gospel. The 156 chapters chronicle the key events of the Old and New Testaments. The scriptures quoted are based on the text of the Standard English Bible.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own. I add my recommendation to the list of recognized church leaders who have already highly endorsed "The Gospel Story Bible."

The Sacred Art of Clowning...and Life!
Cleone Lyvonne-Reed
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759578, $14.95,

The Therapeutic Power of Putting on the Red Nose

Reading "The Sacred Art of Clowning...and Life!" is a refreshing uplifting experience. I am enthused by the new way of thinking Cleone Lyvonne Reed introduces in her book. Cleone skillfully weaves selected memoirs of her own "transformational journey from abuse to bliss" as she describes the mission and therapeutic benefits of clowning and the sacredness of clowning as an art form.

As in any art form each individual reader will take away their own personal impressions of the impact and intent of the author's message. I came away with an awesome sense of the importance of finding beauty in life and in the individual person. I identified with the sense of SACRED whether in "Clowning or in Life," and enjoyed Cleone's use of alliteration in creating an acrostic in developing much of her material.

The clown pictures created by Illustrator Richard Vergara add uniquely powerful visual reinforcement to the applications of each of the "Twelve Universal Powers" introduced in Part Three. Clowning encourages living outside the box, empowerment, authenticity, creativity, and gives birth to passion. I also appreciated the, insightful and motivational, quotations included throughout the narrative. The colorful cover and dozens of photographs of clown creations and events immediately captured my attention. I perused the book in it's entirely before settling in to a most pleasurable read.

Reed's writing is transparent, engaging and highly motivating. As an avid reader I explore a broad spectrum of topics. I may read to acquire information, to be entertained, as a brief escape, or for motivation and inspiration. While reading "The Sacred Art of Clowning...and Life!" I became totally immersed in Cleone's Caring Clown Character Creations.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Stranger in Your House
Gregory L. Jantz, PhD with Ann McMurray
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434766229, $14.99,

Answers to the Hard Questions Behind Teenage Depression

Best-selling author Dr. Gregory L. Jantz collaborates with Ann McMurray in "The Stranger in Your House. The book is designed to help parents of teen recognize, understand, and overcome teenage depression by looking at those frequently asked perplexing questions faced while raising adolescents during this emotionally stormy time.

Jantz offers positive advice for developing action steps by suggesting resources, addressing reflective questions, and providing insightful guidance from a Christian viewpoint. He helps the reader recognize the difference between a typical teenage phase and the symptoms of clinical depression. He discusses the hormonal effect on a teen's behavior. He addresses the signs indicating thoughts of suicide.

As a recognized best-selling author, and leader in health care Dr. Gregg Jantz has the creditability and background experience to validate his qualifications for authoring this work. His writing is articulate, authoritative, professional, well researched and documented.

I highly recommend "The Stranger in Your House" to every parent of pre-teens and teenagers. The book should be included on reading lists for students in college and seminary counseling classes, and as a resource for professional and lay counselor. It can also be an excellent curriculum choice for church parenting classes.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Jumping Over the Moon
E Dee Monnen
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759592, $14.95,

In "Jumping Over the Moon" author E Dee Monnen focuses on setting a goal so high you might need to "jump over the moon" to reach it. The protagonist Phineas Gannon is a man of fine character with a generous spirit. Over the years he has neglected attention to physical exercise and a moderate diet. A visit to his doctor confirms his suspicions that he is at risk of an impending major heart attack.

Threatened by this knowledge and the certainty of a shortened lifespan, Phin takes a serious look at what he wants from life. He begins training his nephew to take over the family business in preparation for early retirement to enable him to spend more time with his wife Maggie, who he adores.

Phin also wants one last win over his lifelong friend Morton Cunningham. For many years they have had a rivalry centered on promoting an annual completive sports event. Mort is currently two wins ahead.

The story takes place in the outskirts of Los Angeles in the midst of the Roaring Twenties. It is a wonderful "what if" fictional story based on the history of the Lakota Indians and professional baseball. In their latest and final challenge the stakes are high as Phin and Mort battle it out for the last slot in the Los Angeles Winter Ball League. Mort has recruited a team from major league professionals. while Phin is counting on an unproven team of nine Lakota Indians.

Both men have taken over family businesses and use their unique talents to make them successful. Phin exercises his talent of problem solving as he faces hurdle after hurdle in recruiting an unproven team of nine Lakota Indians. In the process Phin establishes a kindred spirit of bonding with an Indian old-timer, Amos Wise Heart. Through this new friend Phin begins to see life in a new way.

Author E Dee Monnen is recognized for her collection of baseball trivia through her writing and public appearances on radio and TV. "Jumping Over the Moon" is highly entertaining, and motivating, a unique blending of information, philosophy, and faith.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Official Book of Mob Humor
Malcolm Kushner
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759516, $9.95,

Decidedly Entertaining

Award winning author Malcolm Kushner, often recognized as "America's Favorite Humor Consultant," adds a new title to his repertoire of published collections of quips, quotes, jokes, and anecdotes. "The Official Book of Mob Humor" is packed with wit, wisdom, and headlines featuring quirks, oddities, and idiosyncrasies, of the mob. Kushner's humor is guaranteed to tickle the funny bone every law abiding citizen, officer of the law, as well as the families and associates of Mafia members from every ethnic group.

I especially enjoyed the creative message and imagination in the cartoon illustrations drawn by Kenny Durkins. Another of the featured that kept me laughing was the chapter "Headline Hits" made up of humor found in actual newspaper headlines. "The Interrogation Room" contains Mob Q & A, featuring hilarious one line riddle like questions with funny quip answers from "downright corny" to "brilliantly clever."

For movie fans Kushner includes a comprehensive list of "mob related comedies" with wild hilarious plots involving mobsters, racketeers, and criminals from every imaginable diversity. He also includes memorable quotes from these movies.

In a day when the experts are touting "laughing" as a way for finding health and happiness, and doctors are prescribing "laughter" as a stress reliever, Malcolm Kushner's humor is destined to establish this book as "The Official Book of Mob Humor." Decidedly entertaining. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Hope Underground
Carlos Parra Diaz, Mario Veloso, Jeanette Windle
Image Dei Books
c/o Anchor Distributors
1030 Hunt Valley Circle, New Kensington, PA 15068
9780986979958, $14.99,

A Story of Modern Day Heroism

The afternoon of August 10, 2010 a "massive chunk of granite mountainside" smashed through the walls and ceiling of the San Jose Mine in the Atacama Desert near Copiapo, Chile trapping 33 Chilean miners 700 meters below the surface of the earth.

"Hope Underground: The 34 Chilean Miners - A Story of Faith and Miracles" is the personal account of Pastor Carlos Parra Diaz relative to his work as chaplain at Camp Hope throughout the rescue operation. He tells of his daily interaction with the miners and their families, emphasizing how God manifested His presence and answers to prayer throughout the entire ordeal.

The authors have captured an amazing sense of the feelings experienced by the participants in this real life drama.

The anguish of the Camp Hope residents

The frustration and distress of the management and government officials, their "horror and dismay" through the setbacks and failed rescue attempts

The disastrous silence felt throughout the camp

The fear by the families of the miners that there might be an abandonment of the rescue project, their shared pain, and mutual support

The defiant determination of will power of the people and the miracle power of prayer

The valiant leadership of Maria Segovia the established "Camp Mayor"

The renewed hope, rejoicing, and celebration on the day contact was made with the miners with the news that all 33 were alive and well

I became personally engaged as I read of the day by day details of the entire operation. A unique story within the story told of a group of Christian Gypsies and of their prayer, music, and food ministry among the families of the miners.

This is an amazing tribute to the perseverance of a people united together in support throughout an extraordinary crisis and the "Hand of God" at work in their behalf. The story is well written, compelling, heartwarming, and memorable. A collection of color photos provide an important reinforcement to understanding of environment of the site and the events reported within the written narrative.

"Hope Underground" will challenge the reader to a deeper realization of the power of prayer, the importance of the bonding together with a body of believers in times of crisis, desperation, and personal encouragement.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

TEN: How Would You Rate Your Life?
Terry A. Smith
Higher Life Development Services, Inc.
400 Fontana Circle, Building 1, Suite 105
Oviedo, FL 32765
9781935245506, $24.95,

The Key to Living a Fulfilled Life

Praiseworthy endorsements by a cross section of noted Ministers, humanitarians, leaders in business, education, community services, and faith based ministries assure the reader of the potential of the principles introduced by Terry A. Smith in his book "TEN: How Would You Rate Your Life?" Terry takes a fresh look at answering the question, "What Does it Take to Live a Fulfilled Life?"

The book is made up of seven parts guiding the reader through a progression of steps that will awaken hope for the future and help the reader discover life's individual role in fulfilling God's planned destiny. Smith introduces keys to discovery, creative imagination and the spiritual implications of leadership that will move your dreams from possibilities to actualities.

I found several significant concepts for additional refection and personal implementation especially intriguing:

The concept of giving birth to ideas that can exponentially impact thousands of others
Partnering with God in my own destiny fulfillment
Being a co-worker with God in accomplishing His plans
Recognizing and operating within my life's boundaries
The evolutionary and determinative elements in the development of my personal worldview
The circles of change concept of fulfilling my destiny
The transcendent steps: Choose-Respond-Change
The power within me for change and the positive influence I can have on the lives of others

Terry Smith's writing is fresh and articulate. He uses a balance of choice scriptures with personal, contemporary, and classic real life illustrations to reinforce his message. He is well read. His writing is thoroughly documented. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Uplighters: Inspirational Stories from the Heart
Debbie Hoffman Nutile
7290 B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781466232327, $9.99,

Heartfelt Life Changing Stories From Around the World

In her book, "Uplifters - Inspirational Stories from the Heart" Debbie Hoffman Nutile has compiled twenty three unedited real-life stories. These contributions reveal the true feelings expressed by individuals who responded to an invitation to share a specific experience that led to personal life change. It is the hope of teach writer that the reader will be inspired and encouraged through their stories.

People from around the world sent their stories.

Stories of dysfunction addiction and tragedy
Stories of financial Crisis
Stories of neglect: emotional, physical, and spiritual

These stories tell of answers found through:

Receiving an understanding of the Laws of the Universe
The reading books of helpful authors offering a path to change
Lessons learned through Martial Arts
Exploring and identifying with their love and respect for nature
Discovering a sense of personal freedom through forgiveness
Practicing various forms of Meditation
The recognition of the ministry of guardian angels
Inter-dimensional thoughts

Each story relates a unique path of discovery in time of crisis. The inner feelings of the writer come through, unpolished and unsophisticated. The writers are genuine and sincere in relating their experiences.

These stories are not meant for scientific or theological analysis but are an invitation to receive inspiration and encouragement for anyone looking for an "Uplifting" message from a fellow traveler, who has experienced a new start.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake

Riva's Bookshelf

Imago Chronicles Book Six: The Spell Binder
L.T. Suzuki
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781426906428, $19.99,

Imago Chronicles Six: The Spell Binder was magnificent. The sense of dread was established in the first pages and only continued to build throughout. I was immersed in the story and turned each page with ever growing anxiety. The Spell Binder not only kept my interest it kept my heart furiously pumping as the characters found themselves facing test after test that seriously challenged their ability to persevere.

I absolutely loved Imago Chronicles Book Six: The Spell Binder. Suzuki's attention to detail within the development of the fantasy world of Imago has led to a rich canvas upon which her characters are set. This leads to a complex interplay between the characters and the environment of this sometimes hostile world that only adds to the tension of the storyline.

This is my favorite book thus far in the Imago Chronicles. I really enjoyed the interaction between the characters that was a larger focus of this book. I felt like I was given a greater insight into the characters than I previously had and I enjoyed the fact that all of the characters played a very active role in the development of the story.

I liked the choice of a villain in this story. The choice of the villain led directly or indirectly to every conflict in the story, even the interpersonal ones.

I admire Suzuki's ability to keep the tales in the Imago Chronicles, and particularly The Spell Binder, fresh, interesting and new. This can be a real challenge for books in a series, they can become predictable, but Suzuki has consistently avoided this trap and presents entrancing story after story. As I draw closer to the end of the Imago Chronicles I can't help hoping that when Suzuki is done with her current YA project she will return to the world of Imago and weave still more captivating tales in this wonderful land of magic. While I know all good things must eventually come to an end, this is one thing whose end will be greeted with sorrow as I leave behind a world I have come to know intimately and love.

Vaccine Nation
David Lender
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Imprints
B005Z23TYW, $2.99, 9781612182773, $14.95

Vaccine Nation by David Lender is quite possibly the best book I've read this year. It is definitely among the titles that comprise my list of all-time great books I have read.

In Vaccine Nation Dani North is documentary filmmaker and an advocate for parents who want the choice of whether their children should be vaccinated and who want more information made available about the safety of those vaccines. Dani has just landed on top of the story of the year, only she doesn't know it, what she does know is moments after handing off a mysterious flash drive to her the scientist who placed it in her hands is killed right in front of her. Before she even has time to consider what might be on the flash drive an attempt is made on her life and she's on the run from a killer who will stop at nothing to retrieve the data Dani now possesses.

Lender is a master storyteller weaving together fact and fiction to create a totally plausible story. My heart was racing within reading the first pages of this wonderful work of fiction and it didn't slow down until the very end. I was enthralled by the story and found myself wondering time and again where fact ended and fiction started, because, scarily, the scenario Lender paints in Vaccine Nation absolutely could happen.

Lender is an exceptional talent whose stories rank him alongside the very best names in thrillers - names like Thomas Harris, Robert Ludlum, Dennis Lehane, John le Carre and Lee Child. He writes broadly across the thriller category and he never fails to deliver a spine-tingling story that is so scary because it is so believable, so well-researched and extremely well-written.

If you only have time to read one story this year I would make certain it is Vaccine Nation. It is a magnificent piece of literary fiction that will leave you fearing the big name pharmaceutical companies and the power they wield over each and every one of our lives. I offer it my highest recommendation and I have nothing but praise for Vaccine Nation and David Lender.

Dark Waters
Shannon Mayer
Amazon Digital Services
B006R03B6C Kindle $0.99

I absolutely loved Dark Waters by Shannon Mayer. It's the first volume in the Celtic Legacy and I'm already looking forward to the second book.

Dark Waters is the story of Quinn and Ashling, two sisters who are caught up in a prophecy that could be the undoing of both of them. Ashling has been captured by an ancient evil race, the Formorii. Quinn discovers she's a member of a rival race, the Tuatha de Daanan. Prophecy foretells of Quinn, the last of her line and how she will bring an end to war and do away with evil. The last thing Quinn's grandfather, the man who quickened her Tuatha blood charged her with was protecting her sister, but with Ashling missing how can Quinn keep her safe?

Dark Waters is also a love story but so much more at the same time because what if the man prophecy says Quinn is supposed to marry isn't the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with? It's not that she doesn't find him attractive, she does, devastatingly so and she's imagined being with him, but first of all she has to decide if she even believes in prophecy and then she has to decide if wants to be restricted by what the prophecy says she's supposed to want. It opens the door to a love triangle that promises to keep building not only through this novel but through the entire series and I already know who I'm rooting for.

Quinn's bodyguards Bres and Luke are as different as night and day, yet one thing both of them agree on is that Quinn shouldn't try to rescue Ashling, but once Cora appears on the scene all bets are off and anything goes. Will either of her dashing bodyguards come to Quinn's rescue? Can Quinn save Ashling? You'll have to read this page-turner to find out. I highly recommend it.

A Love Soul Deep
Amber Scott
Tholden Press
B006DLTA24 Kindle $0.99

I liked A Love Soul Deep by Amber Scott, but I didn't care much for the novella format. The heroine, Sara, lost everything eight years ago when her boyfriend Crew was killed in drunk-driving accident. Now, in a strange twist of fate a visit to an antique store has rekindled a love she thought was dead. Now only one question weighs heavily on her mind, how to make this love last a lifetime.

A Love Soul Deep was sweet, funny, sexy and just a little bit sad. I found myself wanting so many things for Sara, the heroine of Amber's tale. Amber's writing drew me in from the beginning and I found myself caught up in the story and hoping for a romance to remember. As usual Amber delivered. The romance was one-of-a-kind, the sex steamy and the guy hot. In the end I just wanted more of the story than could be fit into a novella.

I both loved and hated the way Amber finished the book. It wasn't that it wasn't a great finish, it was, rather, the fact it was over. The story had been told and it was time to move on and get back to reality. To me one of the best parts of an Amber Scott romance is getting lost in its pages but whereas I wanted a weekend away with a hot, sexy romance what I got was a really good overnighter. Great in its own way, but different and just not what I was looking for.

I'd still recommend the book, just be prepared for the fact it's a novella and it moves quickly.

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

The Tree of Bells
Jean Thesman
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
215 Park Ave South, New York, NY 10003
0395905109, $6.95,

I have always enjoyed books set in a different time period. I love reading about how things were before I was born. The language that was used is fascinating to me.

This book is interesting and is set in the year 1922. We read about a young girl named Clare, who lives in a boarding house, with her mother and grandmother who own it. Clare is trying to figure out what she wants in life. In her heart she knows she secretly loves one of the tenants of the boarding house. She has no desire to go to college, even though she knows it is what her mother and grandmother expect. This book is not just a love story, we also learn about how child labor laws were ignored in some states.

For me personally that is a major reason that kept me reading. The characters were trying to keep their boarding house going and also help children. The story exposes the truths about how some children during that time period were treated. Children who are beaten by a parent or a boss, because they are not working as hard as they think they should. Children forced to work with little food to eat and barely clothe.

While I did enjoy this book the ending was terrible. I mean you are reading along and then just blank.

Tomorrow's Dream
Janette Oke and T. Davis Bunn
Bethany House Publishers
11300 Hampshire Ave South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55438
0764220551, Kindle Edition $8.99,

What do you get when Janette Oke and T. Davis Bunn write a book? You get a book that you will enjoy and be glad to add to your own personal library.

Kyle and her husband Kenneth are expecting their first baby with much anticipation. They can hardly wait to hold their child. Yet when he is born he is a sick baby and has a hole in his heart. The doctors tell them there is little hope that he will survive.

When their baby Charles dies both Kyle and Kenneth are devastated. Kyle though is locked into a world of her own. She has no desire to talk to anyone. Even her husband Kenneth can't get through to her. She blames God for the death of her child.

Will Kyle ever get over her loss? You really need to read this book and find the answer that may help anyone who has lost a child.

Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms
Mark Whiteway
P.O. Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
9781602645462, $14.95,

I have often wondered where ideas for books come from when an author begins to pen their book. Does it start from just one word? Or is it an idea that has been floating around in their mind for a long time, or just a few days.

As each chapter ends I can't help but think, is this author a scientist? On the back of the book you will read the author built his story around the concept of negative matter-an extension of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Of course we all know what that is?

Honestly, this is a good book! The story plays out so that even people like me can understand what is going on. The characters are fascinating and your imagination gets booted into high gear.

I think both adults and teenagers will enjoy this book.

The Circles of Sorcerers
Brian Kittrell
Late Nite Books
PO BOX 321, Brandon, MS 39042
9780982949542, $16.95,

From the very start of this book we are transported to a land far, far away called the Bloodmyr Isles. A place filled with Knights, Sorcerers, magic, intrigue and war. This book is so different than you usually find in this genre of epic fantasy.

It starts with a sixteen year old young man named Laedron Telpists, who is enjoying his last summer at home before he has to decide what school he will go to, to begin sorcery training. He is already a gifted mage and while he is leaning towards one school, his mom wants him to go to another.

Then one night by a knock on the door, his life is changed forever. I love the characters in this book and the storyline is exciting and interesting. I am glad this is the first of a series as it has me hooked already. It is the kind of book that you don't want to read the last page as you know the book will be over.

Sandra Heptinstall

Theodore's Bookshelf

Iron House
John Hart
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312380348, $25.99,

Iron House was originally built in the Western North Carolina mountains as a psychiatric facility for Civil War veterans, later to be converted into an orphan asylum, one that was poorly supervised and maintained. Into the home came Michael and Julian as babies. Through the next decade Michael, the stronger brother, sought to protect his younger sibling who was continually victimized by five bullies. Then Julian reached the breaking point, stabbing the leader of his tormenters. Knowing his brother couldn't hack it, Michael removed the knife from the dead boy's neck and ran away, "accepting" blame for the murder.

Ironically on that same day, a young woman, wife of a very rich and powerful U.S. Senator, arrived at Iron House specifically to adopt Michael and Julian. And so it came to be that the weaker brother grew up in luxury, developing into a gifted author of children's books, while the stronger one arrived in New York, drifting to Harlem as the leader of a gang of boys, soon to be "adopted" by a notorious mob leader and developed into an enforcer and killer. Then Michael falls in love and wants out of the mob life so he can lead a "normal" life.

That is the background from which the book develops. The remainder is the chase of Michael and his woman by the mobsters who fear he would betray them, and his attempts to protect his brother and his lover from them. At the same time, other complications develop to keep the reader's interest at a peak. While on the whole this is a gripping tale, one could view it as a potboiler, full of cliche-ish overtones. Nevertheless, it is a very well-plotted, interesting read and is recommended.

[It should perhaps be noted that St. Martin's Griffin will publish a trade paperback edition of this title in April, 2012, $14.99, 432 pp., ISBN 9781250007018]

The Woodcutter
Reginald Hill
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062060747, $25.99,

The son of a woodcutter on an estate where a young girl has attracted his attention, Wilfred ("Wolf") Hadda sets his sights on marrying her. She challenges him to refine himself and become rich. He goes away for seven years and performs many mysterious functions, eventually returning with the necessary social graces and a small fortune. So they get married, and Wolf leads a charmed life in the City, amassing more money and a title. Then the fairy tale ends.

A police raid one early morning results in the discovery that Wolf's computer contains porn. He's arrested and charged, and it goes downhill from there. Of course, the current financial crisis forces the collapse of his empire, and the loss of his fortune. Financial fraud is added to the original charges. He spends the next seven years in prison, gaining parole only when he acknowledges his crime to a psychiatrist, convincing her of his repentance.

Then comes the twist.

The intricate plot is a study of double-crosses and the uncovering of the plot which sent him to jail, evolving into a quiet study of revenge and retribution. The characters are well-drawn, and the writing tight. A well-told tale, and one that is highly recommended.

Dead Man's Grip
Peter James
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312642839, $25.99,

This is the seventh in the Roy Grace series, detailed police procedurals that take place in the Brighton area of Great Britain. The tightly written plots carry the reader from page to page wondering what comes next. And the nearly overwhelming [in a good way, to be sure!] detail keeps the reader from guessing the next step.

This novel begins with the gruesome death of a young man, who defies his mother, the daughter of a mafia don in New York City, to study at a Brighton university and live with his English girlfriend. One day, on the way to school, riding his bike on the wrong side of the road, he is narrowly missed by a car driven by Carly Chase [who swerves onto the sidewalk to avoid him], but is hit by a tailgating white van [which leaves the scene], then rolls under a truck's wheels and is killed.

The plot stems from this incident, with the mother hiring a hit man to torture and murder the three drivers. When two of them are found dead, it behooves Carly to attempt to protect herself and her young son. And thereby hangs a tale, a rather detailed description of the killer's movements, and the efforts of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and the entire Sussex police force to capture him.

By all means get a copy and read it! Highly recommended.

The House at Sea's End
Elly Griffiths
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston MA 02116
9780547506142, $25.00,

As the book opens Kate, the baby born to Ruth Galloway, the forensic expert, as a result of a one-night stand with Detective Inspector Harry Nelson in the prior entry in the series, is now four months old and the mother is still juggling her maternal and professional duties, sometimes to much criticism from friends. But the baby seems to survive.

In any event, her motherly demands don't seem to prevent Ruth from getting involved with more forensic investigations and police investigations. Especially when six skeletons are discovered on a beach and her examination indicates that they are probably from Germany, perhaps dating back to an invasion during the early days of World War II on a lonely Norfolk beach. Indications are that each was shot in the back of the head. The question arises: Did the various persons in the Home Guard play any role in their deaths?

As in the previous two novels featuring Ruth and D.I. Nelson, they combine to discover the facts surrounding the mystery of past and present. The prose is lean and the plot moves apace with agility. The characters remain immensely human and intriguing, and the novel lives up to the standards of the predecessor novels.


Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues
Michael Brandman
c/o St. Martin's Press
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399157844, $25.95,

It is quite a challenge to be asked to pick up where a master like Robert B. Parker left off. But that is exactly the dare the author faced when the publisher asked him to continue writing the popular Jesse Stone series. Mr. Brandman was no stranger to Parker: they were friends for many years and collaborated on several Spenser and Stone movies on television. Still it was a formidable task.

So let us begin by noting that we will not compare this work with any of Parker's oeuvre, simply because it would not be fair to either. Instead, let us judge the work on its own merits. To begin with, it is constructed like a Jesse Stone novel, with many of the elements that have made them so popular, with good plotting and short dialogue and witty Stone comments.

It involves three separate story lines, both of which affect Jesse as a Chief of Police and as an individual. They take place just as the summer tourist season is about to begin in Paradise, MA. One involves carjackings, another something out of Jesse's past, and the last a serious situation involving a young girl holding a school principal at gunpoint. Each requires Jesse to solve it in his own inimitable fashion.

With that, the conclusion is that an assessment lets us accept the book, as it is presented, favorably. It is possibly unfortunate that the publisher chose the title to ride the coattails of the late, esteemed Grand Master, somewhat like the producers of the current "Gershwin's Porgy and Bess" renamed an opera that has stood the test of time for eight or more decades. A book should stand on its own, and this one does.

Enough with comparisons already: Just read it and you'll recommend it, as I do.

The Sparrow's Blade
Kenneth R. Lewis
Krill Press
P.O. Box 396, Rogue River, OR 97537
9780982144381, $16.95,

As in this author's debut novel, "Little Blue Whales," which was warmly received, this one also takes place in Cutter City, OR, and features Kevin Kearnes and Thud Compton. It is now a few years after the harrowing experience described in the earlier book in which they were almost killed, and their roles have changed: Kearnes, the former Chief of Police, is now with the Dept. of Homeland Security in Portland, and Compton has replaced him as Police Chief.

The book opens with Kevin traveling to Cutter City with his fiancee Britt McGraw and his sons by a former marriage, to be married as well as to visit with the Comptons. Little did any of them know that a sword on display at the local library, a relic of World War II when a Japanese pilot dropped two bombs in the vicinity and then crashed, would result in the turmoil that it did when it is stolen.

The excellent portrayal of the characters, coupled with the tension of the plot, maintain reader interest on the same high level of the predecessor book. The level of writing remains at the high level of "Little Blue Whales" which presumably will continue in the forthcoming "The Helical Vane." Needless to say, Sparrow (the name for the sword, btw) is recommended.

Buried Secrets
Joseph Finder
St. Martin's Paperbacks
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250000361, $9.99,

It is a hard task to review such a well-written novel, peopled by interesting characters and with a well-drawn plot, yet have reservations because it seems to reverberate with cliches. There is Nick Heller, the second appearance by this former superspy turned Boston PI, who seems to be too good to be real. He knows everyone and seems to be smarter than them all; and some of the other characters seem like cardboard figures, especially some of the FBI personnel.

Yet the book is exciting, even riveting, despite the fact that as a major premise - - the loss of over a billion dollars by Marshall Marcus, an investment manager "who never had a losing quarter, unlike Warren Buffet" - - seems somewhat preposterous. As does the source of the funds he managed to "lose." The plot revolves around the kidnapping of Marcus' daughter in an effort to force him to reveal a secret document which would provide a Russian oligarch business leverage. Marcus enlists Heller's aid in rescuing the girl, and the chase is on.

Finder's eye for detail is impressive, and he moves the story forward daring the reader to put the book down. The action is at a pace almost too much to absorb, packed with all sorts of twists and turns. Despite the above reservations, this is a book to be read, and it is recommended.

The Headhunters
Jo Nesbo
Vintage Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307948687, $14.95,

Turning his attention away from his highly regarded Harry Hole series, the author has written a compelling standalone. While the background of Roger Brown, as a top headhunter of corporate officials in Oslo, provides some interesting and useful information on how to judge and place candidates, it is the main crime plot and character descriptions that are undeniably gripping.

Roger seems to have it all, except sufficient income to pay for the art gallery he has helped his wife, Diana, establish and operate. Thus, to supplement his need for cash to deal with the operating deficit, he steals art from candidates he interviews for jobs. Until, that is, he encounters Clas Greve, whom he meets one evening at his wife's gallery. And the plot thickens.

Jo Nesbo, in this novel, has proved he is an author capable of writing almost anything. It is superbly formulated, with humor and irony. The plot has more twists and turns in its concluding pages than a mountain road. It needs no further recommendation other than to go get a copy and revel in a job well done.

The Cut
George Pelecanos
A Reagan Arthur Book
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316078429, $25.99,

In the first novel of a new series, we are introduced to Spero Lucas, a just-returned Iraq war veteran, working as an investigator for a Washington, D.C. defense attorney with a sideline of recovering "lost" property fort a 40 per cent cut of its value. In the caper he undertakes in this initial foray, he seems to bite off more than he can chew.

The attorney is defending a top marijuana peddler, and the client asks for Spero to visit him in jail. He tells Spero that his deliveries are being stolen and he is out of money, and would appreciate recovery of either the merchandise or the cash. The assignment takes Spero off into all kinds of action, some of which is kind of far-fetched.

Mr. Pelecanos is well-known for his characterizations and his use of the nation's Capital as background, and this book is no exception. Somehow, however, using Spero as an example of a footloose vet just returned from the desert just didn't quite ring true. Some of his friends who served with him there do exhibit the plight of wounded, disabled marines, or just plain still unemployed, somewhat more realistically. That said, the novel is written with the author's accustomed flair, and the plot moves at a rapid pace. Certainly, the action is vivid, and the reader keeps turning pages.


The Infernals
John Connolly
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451643084, $22.00,

This novel, the sequel to "The Gates," picks up 18 months after the events described in that book, after young Samuel Johnson [just turned 13], assisted by his faithful dog, Boswell, repelled an invasion of earth by the forces of evil. The two books are quite a departure for the author, whose Charlie Parker mysteries are highly regarded and widely read. These are categorized as YA books, laced with pseudo-scientific and amusing footnotes. [It should perhaps be noted that the tenth Charlie Parker novel, "The Burning Soul," has also recently been released.]

This time around Samuel, accompanied by four dwarfs and the truck in which they were riding, an ice cream truck and its vendor-driver, and two policemen and their patrol car, are instead transported by the ogre Ba'al in the form of Mrs. Abernathy to the netherworld to present the boy to her master, the Great Malevolence, as a gift in an effort to regain his favor. And so we follow their adventures as they experience the strange land and seek a way to get back home.

Written at times with tongue firmly in cheek, the little nuggets of information on a wide variety of subjects are both informative and often just plain funny. A very enjoyable read that is highly recommended.

Feast Day of Fools
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451643114, $26.99,

Against the bleak terrain of southern Texas, a morality play featuring Sheriff Hackberry Holland is played out. It begins with a man who escapes his captors, who had planned to turn him over to Al Qaeda, for a price, for his knowledge of drone technology. Not only is he sought by his former captors, but the FBI, among others, as well. Hack, and his deputy, Pam Tibbs, become involved in the interplay.

This is a complicated novel, one in which the author delves into a wide variety of moral and ethical values, adding Hack's past experiences as a POW during the Korean Conflict, to raise additional questions of right and wrong. And bringing in The Preacher as a counterpoint further adds to the complexity of not only the plot, but also Hack's integrity.

James Lee Burke's prose is as stark as his descriptions of the Texas and Mexican landscapes, and the characters he introduces are deftly portrayed, both good and evil. He has presented an intricate plot in this, his 30th novel, and the fifth featuring the Texas sheriff.


Hanging Hill
Mo Hayder
Atlantic Monthly Press
c/o Grove-Atlanic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802120069, $25.00,

The author is known for writing thrillers, sometimes with horrific plots and graphic details. This novel pales by comparison, with merely an offstage rape scene to occasion a police procedural of somewhat questionable means, and a side story about two sisters who have had virtually no contact for 20 years but are in a sense joined at the hip by the rape victim, and then that thread develops into an evolving family relationship.

The story is more about the various characters - the two sisters, their lovers, their own background and history - and how each is affected, rather than the crime and ensuing investigation which seems to be an afterthought to contribute to the main plotline.

Written with verve, the novel seems to drag along except for some more "exciting" portions. Much of the descriptions of one sister's divorce and subsequent life seem labored, and the ending was to this reader quite unsatisfactory. In fact the title of the book might be a fit description for its conclusion: It seems to just hang without any wrapping up. That notwithstanding, the novel still bears reading, and is recommended.

The Burning Soul
John Connolly
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439165270, $26.00,

John Connolly's Charlie Parker Thrillers usually combine an element of the supernatural with basic detective work. In this, the tenth in the series, the eerie aspects are slight, while the hard work of solving a case winds its way through the pages with realism and power. It is a twisted story that begins when an attorney asks Charlie to assist a client, and unfolds with a ferocity of dynamic proportions.

It appears that the client, Randall Haight, as a 14-year-old, and with a friend, murdered a young girl in an incident with sex-related overtones. Following long jail terms, both men were released with new identities to give them a chance at rehabilitation. Randall is now an accountant leading a quiet life in a small town on the Maine coast. And then a 14-year-old girl goes missing and Randall starts receiving reminders in the mail of his past transgression from someone who apparently has discovered his true identity. He asks the attorney and Charlie to protect his anonymity by finding the source. And this leads Charlie into a labyrinth of complications.

It is a gripping story, one in which the author throws red herrings into the reader's path before unveiling a completely unexpected conclusion. Tightly written and plotted, the novel is a most welcome addition to an outstanding series and is highly recommended.

Deon Meyer
Atlantic Monthly Press
c/o Grove-Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802119933, $24.00,

Bringing back two characters from previous novels, the South African author has written a complicated story with three separate plots which are related both in circumstances and the people involved. One theme involves what appears to be a Muslim plot, which a government intelligence service suspects at first to be a tradeoff between the smuggling of diamonds in exchange for weapons. A second, an offshoot of the smuggling operation by a man seeking to recover a large sum of money he claims was stolen from him by gangsters (who incidentally are involved in the smuggling operation).

Then there is free-lance bodyguard Lemmer, who makes his second appearance in a Deon Meyer novel [the first being "The Blood Safari"], who becomes involved indirectly in the smuggling operation when he accompanies a truck bearing two black rhinos into South Africa from a neighboring country which the gangsters believe is the method for bringing in the diamonds. And finally Mat Joubert, the enigmatic South African detective, now retired, on his first day working for a private detective agency, who manages to bring all the threads together.

This stand-alone thriller aims high, and largely achieves its ambitions. Adding to the spice is not only the author's ability to portray the social, economic and political background of South Africa in depth, but a chilling look at how it is also a place where terrorists can run rampant. And, icing on the cake, a first-rate mystery to keep the reader enthralled. Highly recommended.

What it Was
George Pelecanos
Reagan Arthur Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316209540, $9.99,

The year was 1972. Derek Strange was out of the Metropolitan Police Dept. for four years and struggling to build up his PI agency. Nixon was in the White House, but not for long. Watergate was just up ahead. The riots that tore the nation's Capitol apart were some years ago, but unrest and attitude still ran strong.

Against this background George Pelecanos has written about Strange's early career as a 26-year-old and his relationship with Detective Frank Vaughn. It all starts when Strange is retained by a good-looking babe to find a missing ring of little "value" but "great" sentimentality. This takes him on a journey, which enables the author to describe the crime conditions - - including a one-man murder wave - - and population and living conditions of D.C., along with almost a catalogue of the music of the era.

Written with the usual vernacular and tight prose as displayed in the previous novels in the series, the graphic details of the characters are mesmerizing. Highly recommended.

[It should perhaps be noted that the novel is available in three different forms: the paperback, as well as a limited hardcover edition and an eBook version: a $0.99 edition for the first month after its January 23 publication date.]

Theodore Feit

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design