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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 1 January 2007 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrew's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Dustin's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Kathryn's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Liana's Bookshelf
Lori's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mark's Bookshelf
Mayra's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Sullivan's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Ted Hughes: A Literary Life
Neil Roberts
1403936056, 45.00 Brit. pounds

Ann Skea

"As a young man, Ted Hughes must have seemed blessed. He was extravagantly gifted, as his juvenile poetry shows, and was warmly encouraged by his family and teachers. From a socially and economically modest background in Yorkshire, he won a place at Cambridge, despite performing poorly in his entrance exam: his teacher persuaded the college to accept him because of his talent as a writer".

Such was the beginning of a writing life which eventually led to Ted Hughes being offered the most prestigious position for any poet in Britain, that of Poet Laureate. This was a position he occupied for fourteen years until his death in 1998. What made him such an honoured poet? And how did he overcome the huge personal traumas of the death of Sylvia Plath, and of Assia Wevill and her daughter Shura, and the resulting notoriety and animosity which dogged him for the rest of his life?

Neil Roberts's book, Ted Hughes: A Literary Life, does, to a large extent, answer these questions. But this book is not a biography, although Roberts has consulted biographies as well as many of Hughes's very personal letters to family and close friends. He includes a chapter on Hughes's poetic collaboration with Sylvia Plath and the influence of her work on his; and he bravely wades into the "Plath Wars", looks at many of the accusations made against Hughes, and presents an admirably informed and balanced view of their validity. Undoubtedly, there will be Plath followers who do not agree with him, but many of them are not inclined to agree with any favourable or balanced view of Ted Hughes.

Nor is Roberts's book a hagiography. Roberts offers a critical appraisal of most of Ted Hughes's work based on his own close reading over it over many years and on meticulous research amongst the many texts and manuscripts currently available.

Mostly, this book is an attempt to show how Ted Hughes's work was shaped by his experiences, especially those of his earliest years, and how a core of deeply held beliefs was consistently expressed by and in his poetry. It presents a well supported argument for Roberts's belief that "Nothing Hughes wrote which was not to some degree a report of his inner life had any value for him". All of which is consistent with the requirements of this series of books commissioned by Palgrave Macmillan to cover the lives and careers of "admired and influential English-language authors", and trace "the professional, publishing and social contexts" which shaped their writing.

An overview of the book can be found by reading the chapter headings on the publishers' web-pages at There is a sample chapter also linked to this page which gives a good idea of Roberts's interesting, clear and lively approach to his subject.

Not everyone will agree with Roberts's interpretation of Hughes's views or with his analysis of the poems. And Roberts himself quotes Hughes's own words in a letter to Keith Sagar: "Finally, poems belong to readers, just as houses belong to those who live in them & not to the builders", by which Hughes implied that just as we furnish our houses according to our own taste, so our interpretation of a poem is a reflection of our individual response to it. Nevertheless, Roberts is an acute and sensitive observer of the language and rhythm of Hughes's poetry, and his discussion of many of the poems and most of the poetic sequences is perceptive and interesting.

In essence, this book is valuable background reading for any discussion of Ted Hughes's life and work and it invites a response from readers. Some (like Keith Sagar and myself) who are especially interested in Hughes's work, will respond by carrying on discussions with Roberts over certain points and taking issue with him over others. I, for example regret that Roberts has not considered my own detailed analysis of Birthday Letters and Howls & Whispers. It would, perhaps, have resolved some of the issues he raises about these sequences of poems. It is a pity that many academics (unlike their students) still regard Internet publication with suspicion and feel that they can justifiably ignore it. This is not necessarily true of Neil Roberts, who now says that he should have included my work on these sequences his discussion, and who does refer to other items on my web-pages in his book. Nor is it true amongst scientists, who have long accepted on-line publication in moderated journals as a very important way of presenting new discoveries and theories for debate and confirmation.

This aside, I mostly agree with Roberts's interpretation of Hughes's life and work, especially with his description of Hughes as a shamanic poet who, like Shakespeare, Blake, Yeats and Eliot, consistently drew for inspiration on his inner world. He mentions Hughes's use of memory and visualization, his concern about ecological issues, and he traces the shamanic pattern of some of Hughes's work. It is a pity then, that like others who have discussed Hughes's interest in shamanism, he does not follow this through and see that Hughes's purpose was not just self-healing but, through the shaping, structure and especially the publication of his work, an intentional channelling of healing imaginative energies into a society which sorely needs them. Hughes's very serious interest in the ancient occult, spiritual practices which were actively used by Renaissance poets was also part of this shamanic purpose and it, too, shaped his life and work.

Fable Farm # 1 Echoes of the Strange
Heather Beck
Sparklesoup LLC
P.O. Box 142003 Irving, TX. 75014 USA
1597489379 $7.95

Carol Butler

The first book in the Sparklesoup original series, Fable Farm aims to impress with four scary stories by Heather Beck. The first story in Fable Farm # 1 Echoes of the Strange is entitled "Revenge of the Mutant Fish". This fast-paced tale involves a boy, his uncle, two scientists, and one genetically-altered beast. In a beautiful location that is vividly described, the beast gets revenge on its creators. The contrast between the stunning scenes and the beast's anger can be understood by children and contemplated by adults. Filled with unexpected twists and brilliantly described feelings, "Revenge of the Mutant Fish" has commonly been called a favorite among readers.

With a tough act to follow the next story, "Troll Terror" does not fail to deliver. "Troll Terror" uses humor, captivating writing and plot, and vivid scenery to hook the reader. In this story a boy, his friend, and his sister are magically transported to a world where trolls rule. The threesome must work together to find a way out of the land. This is made all the more interesting by the tricky trolls they meet. The ending of "Troll Terror" is extremely creative, totally unexpected, and terrifyingly funny.

The third story, "Trapped in Sand" celebrates Egypt's rich past. Through a tour guide, Shelby, the readers learn a lot about Egypt's pyramids and their geographical make-up. When inside a pyramid there is an accident. Shelby and a tourist fall into a pit which reveals a secret civilization. The description of the people and the way they survive is impeccably written. What happens in the end is a total shock!

The last story, "Plant Sensations" proves that a creative writer can turn any subject into a captivating story. This story blends the ordinary life of small-town teenagers and a plant enthusiast from an exotic location. Dealing with bullies and past mistakes are made all the more difficult when plants come alive and attempt to destroy the town. This story feels so realistic even though it is a fantasy. The beauty of human nature shines through. The ending is quite a shocker.

The premier book in the Fable Farm series is excellent. The stories are flawlessly written and brilliantly told. The writing is smooth and realistic. A unique blend of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, Fable Farm # 1 Echoes of the Strange will hook you and leave you begging for more. Heather Beck is truly a talented writer who will have a bright future in the publishing business. I highly recommend the Fable Farm series and would encourage fans of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps to pick up a copy.

Brotherhood Of The Bomb
Gregg Herken
Henry Holt and Co.
New York, NY
0805065881 $19.95

Dan Schneider, Reviewer

In the world of historians, Daniel J. Boorstin stands head and shoulders above all lesser writers in that nonfiction genre, much as Loren Eiseley and, to a lesser extent, Stephen Jay Gould, reign supreme as literary craftsmen in the sciences. This thought was inescapable to me as I read yet another in a prolix series of books about the historic import of scientists. Since the two disciplines- science and history- often intertwine when reading books about the Manhattan Project comparisons of the writers of such books with the aforementioned trinity is inevitable, as well as very productive in the art of criticism. Thus, when I read the 2002 book, Brotherhood Of The Bomb, by Gregg Herken- an atomic bomb junky whose prior works (such as The Winning Weapons: The Atomic Bomb In The Cold War) were soaked in the topic, I had to groan, for Herken has absolutely no grasp of what makes for compelling nor imaginative writing.

When one reads the classics of Boorstin- such as The Discoverers, The Creators, or The Americans, one is engrossed by his novelistic techniques which can make the most well known tales of historical figures and cast them in a patina of freshness. When one reads the essays of Eiseley, gathered in classics like The Night Country or The Immense Journey, one is blown away by the elegant poesy and profundity of his sentences. When one reads the essays of Gould- from books like The Mismeasure Of Man or Bully For Brontosaurus, one is dazzled by his ability to thread together the most seemingly disparate things into a coherent idea. But, in Brotherhood Of The Bomb one is merely bored to nihility by Herken's turgidity and utter lack of insight into his subject matter, as well as the pointless epigraphs for the book's five parts.

The book follows the three nuclear scientists' lives named in the subtitle- Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller, including their careers and rivalries, mostly between the 1930s and 1960s. There is not only nothing new in this book, but even the rehashes have been explicated better. Who does not know of Oppenheimer's Left Wing delusions, harassment by the FBI, and associations with Communist sympathizers, despite never being a party member? And when Teller- the H Bomb fanatic, betrayed their friendship by testifying against Oppenheimer- thus getting Oppenheimer's security clearance stripped during the McCarthy era, well- again, there is nothing not known before revealed. The best books in this field are probably Richard Rhodes' The Making Of The Atomic Bomb and Dark Star; far better works than this forgettable book. That Teller was vilified while Oppenheimer's stature rose with his opposition to the Cold War arms race is also a well-trod path. Thus, the obvious area to explore in this dynamic was the middleman, Lawrence- a Nobel Prize winner, and his relationship with the two other poles. Instead, despite a brief bio, Lawrence's life remains largely unexamined- save for his seeming closer to Teller than Oppenheimer, as the book descends into an almost People magazine level recitation of known facts, with little illumination, petty gossip, and less gusto. The latter fact- gusto, is at least present in most People magazine profiles. Herken's book, by comparison, is arid, even mummified.

This is never more so than in the parts of the book that have to do with science. Herken has no ability to translate ideas and scientific curiosity into words that convey such to uninterested readers. In short, his work is the classic book that preaches to the choir. No wonder that critics with an interest in history and science have praised and awarded the book, because they know all the facts and are merely giggly over another work on a topic they see as neglected. As for the writing, though, much was needed to be done to improve its literary qualities. In a sense, it feels like a well written high school essay or a mediocre review in a law journal that was bloated to book length just to increase salability. The technical descriptions of the bomb and cyclotrons are-if not unnecessary, certainly far too distracting, as are the large cast of mostly irrelevant second and third tier characters whose digressions grind the book's narrative velocity to nil. Herken, who by day job is a curator at the Smithsonian Institute's National Air And Space Museum, shows why career catalogers do not make good writers. Like many bad prose fictionists, he errs in overdescribing things- thinking that the look on a face or the minutia of a theory adds to the drama of the tale. At 334 pages, with 94 pages of largely showoffy and useless notes, the book could have been cut in half with better editing, and still been an engaging read. The first hundred pages, which focuses a bit more on the three men, is the best part of the book- even if oft-told and mediocre. The rest of the book is a sheer waste of pulp.

Herken too often veers from the making of the bomb- the only reason anyone would care of these three intellectual bores, to try to exculpate Oppenheimer, so that the first atomic test is written of only in a few pages. This is like writing of Newton's theory of gravity and focusing on the worm in the legendary apple that was to fall onto the scientist's head. Yet, this is the state most writing- fictive or not, has devolved to in this day and age. The book won many literary awards upon its release, and Herken himself was awarded a hefty MacArthur Genius Grant to write the book. Yet nothing speaks more highly of the absolute lack of depth and insight the book displays than how Herken ends it, by reciting the well known dueling apothegms of Oppenheimer and Teller, where the former declares that 'Physicists have known sin,' only to have his rival retort, 'I would say that physicists have known power.'

Such summative words show that Herken, far from being an objective researcher, was more a kid in a- groan, please- candy shop, who tossed off this banal book to fulfill a childish obsession. There are no larger ideas nor any penetrating revelations that only this book dared to print. Perhaps such needless space consumption is ok as fodder for the Lowest Common Denominator blogs that choke the internet, but valuable publishing resources should not be wasted on such pap. If you agree, then click over to Herken's book's website Brotherhood Of The Bomb, or shoot him and email at, and let him know that the waste of pulp is also a sin that his hero, Oppenheimer, would disavow, and to stay cyber. Do not do it for me, do it for Boorstin, Eiseley, and Gould. Better yet, do it for yourself….or the trees.

Jesse Kellerman
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399154034 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Third-year medical student Jonah Stem, finally escaped from the hospital after some 18 hours on the floor, forgoes going home to sleep in order to buy himself a new pair of shoes. Three A.M. finds him squishing wetly through Times Square on his quest, his sodden Rockport Walkers irretrievably soiled by spillage from a patient's burst peritoneum. And so it is that he finds himself in the right place to hear a young woman screaming. He bursts on the scene to save her from a knife-wielding attacker, surprising himself, surprising her even more.

Jonah is a good guy suffering under considerable stress at the outset of Jesse Kellerman's Trouble. The demands of med school--sleep deprivation, malevolent residents poised to humiliate him--are coupled with the obligation he feels toward his former fiancée, now chronically ill. Saving the life of a pretty woman in the middle of the night, it turns out, makes things much, much worse for him.

The storyline of Kellerman's book is a good one: what happens when a good Samaritan finds that the damsel in distress for whom he acted as hero isn't quite what she seemed? And Kellerman does a decent job of making us worry about Jonah as the danger into which he's stumbled slowly manifests itself. His story leads inexorably toward a denouement which, if predictable (Kellerman would in fact have been remiss if he hadn't brought his characters together as he did for a final showdown), is yet satisfyingly tense. Also, his principal characters are interesting: Jonah himself is likeable and more than two-dimensional; Eve Gones--the would-be victim--and Jonah's roommate are both defined by their unusual dialogue; and George, the father of Jonah's former fiancée, is an interesting, multi-dimensional character, despite that he only plays a small role in the story.

There are a couple of problems with the book, however: a Yale connection doesn't fulfill its promise, and the occasional scene doesn't quite make sense. (Why did Jonah punch his roommate in the stomach?) But the big problem is one of credibility. Two pivotal scenes--in chapters 14 and 25--are so ridiculous that one simply cannot suspend disbelief. Which is disappointing, because Kellerman's Trouble has a lot going for it.

Black Moses, second edition
E. David Cronon
The University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53711
029901214X $19.95

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

Marcus Garvey may be one of the most misunderstood historical black leaders in U.S. and worldwide history. Primarily known as the man who suggested all blacks return to Africa in the early 20th century, the controversial leader drew both praise and condemnation. In E. David Cronon's new book "Black Moses," we learn more about the Jamaican born leader, his impact on other leaders, and why many considered him a laughing stock.

In "Black Moses," Cronon delves into the birth and upbringing of Garvey. The book follows his attempts to meet and work with the revered Booker T. Washington, his many publishing ventures, and how he set the stage for future black organizations such as the NAACP with his own trailblazing organization, The United Negro Improvement Association. The reader learns of Garvey's business ventures, both successful and unsuccessful, the details of his deportation from the United States, and the circumstances surrounding his death. Through historical documents, it also paints a more accurate picture of the leader's legacy and clears up some misconceptions about him. For example, the author writes:

Ostensibly the Black Star Line was established as a strictly commercial venture, and Garvey did not intend, as his critics sometimes claimed, that the line would merely be the vehicle for the transportation of all Negroes back to their African homeland.

"Black Moses" is a motivating and well-investigated book on the legacy of Marcus Garvey. It would make an excellent reference guide, high school textbook, or college textbook for those wanting to explore one of the most important black leaders prior to the Civil Rights era. Cronon should be commended for putting together such a well-researched, unbiased book on one of the most misunderstood leaders in black history. Highly recommended.

The Moment of Astrology
Geoffrey Cornelius
Penguin Books Australia Ltd.
Ringwood, Victoria, Australia
0140193693 $28.00

Rose Glavas

I had to read this book though my involvement in an astrology book discussion group and am glad to have had the opportunity to do so.

'The Moment of Astrology' takes a thorough look at astrology through examining the arguments against, and attacks on astrology by various people and groups over hundreds of years. These relate particularly to the arguments of St Augustine from more than fifteen hundred years ago, Pico della Mirandola from more than five hundred years ago, and more recently of 186 scientists in 1975.

Geoffrey Cornelius is a consultant astrologer with a background in philosophy and divination and has been active in UK astrological education since the 1970s. The author is a past President of the both Astrological Lodge of the Theosophical Society and the Astrological Lodge of London, as well as a former editor of the quarterly journal 'Astrology'. He co-founded the Company of Astrologers in 1983.

I haven't read a lot of these types of books so was a bit worried that the language would be too technical or hard to understand – I was pleasantly surprised to find the language used was very easy to understand and flowed well. The style of writing was very smooth. Obviously you do have to have a good understanding of astrological theory and principles to understand the arguments in 'The Moment of Astrology'.

Some of the techniques explored include horary, katarche and an exploration of the use of symbol in the astrological chart. Cornelius also spends a couple of chapters exploring science and symbol – I found these fascinating and would recommend that anybody involved in astrology should read at least these two chapters. A thorough examination of the relationship between astrology and science is given, with exploration of various scientific experiments that have been held over the years (including the New York Suicide Study, the Vernon Clark Experiments, and also a look at Jung in relation to astrology. The Appendix is excellent and well worth reading to get full benefit of some of the arguments presented in this title.

This book gave me much more than I expected so I recommend 'The Moment of Astrology' to the reader who has a thorough understanding of astrological principles, who perhaps feels that there is something lacking in their technique, or for those that are looking for a different way to understand this complex subject.

Touch Of Fate
Christine Amsden
Twilight Times Books
P O Box 3340, Kingsport TN, 37664
1931201757 $5.50

Lynn Burton

Touch of Fate is a paranormal with elements of suspense and romance. Marianne Waters can predict the future. Unfortunately, it's cost her a marriage and almost her daughter, who inherited the "curse". When Marianne decides to move her and her daughter to a new city for a fresh start and change of scenery, she meets a group of women who share the same ability. She finally feels like she belongs, but only until one of the women is found murdered.

Marianne wants to find out who killed their friend, to find out the truth about how the predictions work, and unexpectedly gets involved with Derek Richards, the detective on the case. Derek is unsure of her abilities, unsure whether he believes in them or not, but unlike some, he at least tries to understand.

This story is a little hit and miss, but the desire to know what happens in the end makes it worth getting through. There are a lot of characters to keep up with which makes it confusing at times, but Marianne and Derek are well-fleshed out characters.

Driving Minnie's Piano: Memoirs of a Surfing Life in Nova Scotia
Lesley Choyce
Pottersfield Press
83 Leslie Road, East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia B2Z 1P8
1895900859 $19.95

Mary Ann Archibald

Just outside the door to Lesley Choyce's office at Dalhousie University, I can see through a tall, thin sliver of window that he is at his computer. He is smiling, courteous, offers me a chair and returns to his seat behind his desk. He is wearing belted khaki pants and a denim shirt with a navy t-shirt. His hair is a curly array that frames his face. Beneath the casual attire, there is something that seems wired – a creative circuit, grounded in Halifax, amidst the city's wildlife, empty spaces, and ocean waves. Perhaps he has managed to tap the hydro power in the waters he surfs and tumbles in.

He plucks book after book off a tidy wall of shelves. About 60 books are authored by him. Some books are skinny, some thick, all of them a testament to process – that thing that drives a creative person to create whatever it is that's in their heart and mind to do.

A student needs to see him now, an urgent issue, possibly over a grade. He strikes me as the sort of teacher people consider a favourite, the kind that takes time to listen and soothingly explain things. Apologetic, confessional even. Choyce's latest book, Driving Minnie's Piano: Memoirs of a Surfing Life in Nova Scotia is based on true stories that read like bits of song where the line between past and present blurs.

The book begins in Choyce's childhood and we quickly meet his grandmother Minnie, who wears a floppy straw hat and escapes the mid-day heat on her farm by doing chores (snapping beans and shelling peas) early in the morning. She plays a baby grand piano (piana) and eventually advises Choyce that Nova Scotia sounds wonderful … all that coastline.

"The Minnie book" reminds me of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. In part because the book is a reverie of the natural world through Choyce's eyes and the book defies easy categorization. Like Pilgrim, it can be read as a collection of short stories or narrated whole.

"I think the world needs more books like that," Choyce says. "Writers need to take a certain license to explore things in your life."

Choyce also cleverly side-steps another categorization in that the book is autobiographical, without being an autobiography. Gnarly. Dude. One might expect this book to be about Nova Scotia, and many parts of it are set here but the reality is that the stories are bigger than Nova Scotia.

From Driving Minnie's Piano:

Even after living here for more than twenty years I'm not one hundred percent sure that Nova Scotia truly exists. It looms large in my imagination and it may be more myth than fact.

The primary thread that knits Driving Minnie's Piano together is the concept that the past tags along with us into the present and future, connecting us to a larger time and place. Those threads surface unexpectedly in Choyce's book, like a displaced seal pup in the middle of a road late at night and weaves the reader comfortably back and forth through time and space, inviting us to journey with the author, from New Jersey to Paris, Tokyo and ultimately home. Weather connects continents through waves. Earthquakes move and split continents. The book is big and little at the same time.

Emotionally, we see how events with Choyce's family, friends and others shape his view of the world. In the physical sense, the book telescopes the reader over the soft mossy floor of the woods, geographical formations that cover several continents to the piercing sting of crushed ice in a January wave.

From Driving Minnie's Piano:

I'm travelling east now with serious intent, gaining speed, almost parallel to the wave whose back I am riding. Behind me the wave has begun to pitch forward. The crack of breaking ice mixes with the slurp of sea dragging up the softer stuff, a sound that might seem ominous if I didn't have speed as an ally.

But I'm free and feeling fine and temporarily indomitable as I slip through the vertical icefield, a wall of water filled with heirlooms, knick-knacks and memorabilia of the season gone by. Behind me the wave has grown hollow and the sun has allowed it to show its true colours of blue mixed with green commingled with those blazing diamonds. I'm a little too dazzled by it all and lose my focus, allowing my board to slow just a hair. I tip up on one foot and tilt back towards the maw of the wave but recover my balance quickly and shift my weight forward to increase speed.

All my early morning confidence is suddenly shaken as I realize the wave is spitting ice cubes from the lip now. All a body can do is tuck in low, keep one's head down and watch the wall get steeper and steeper up ahead. I decide to trust instinct over reason and stay tucked, assess the locomotive cave of sea and ice that is consuming me and hope for the best.

The best would be a quick trip back to sunlight but instead the sea decides to have its way with me. My feet are still dutifully planted on my board as the lip of the wave, dense with the memory of a brutal winter, takes a broadside punch at my wetsuit-hooded head. I feel myself cartwheeling forward into the drink and suddenly am reminded what freezing seawater does to the fully exposed human face. First, I feel the small razors of wafer ice slicing at me as I connect with the surface. Then I slip under and hear the magnificent stereo whump of a wave in triumph over a mortal surfer. I'm held under for mere seconds that expand exponentially in a world where time is truly mutable. Then I surface, gasping for good air and feeling the very identifiable pain of a short but volcanic headache brought on by a Canadian wipeout.

When the wave is through with me, I scramble back onto my board, paddle for the safety of deeper water and take deep clean gulps of air until I can focus again. Another formation of geese takes possession of the sky above and the young seal pops up again nearby to blink at me in innocent wonder.

The form his book wears is a baby grand piano, a u-haul, a surf board, drumlins, places and people. Interesting and funny people. More forms that wear these matters are skunks and lichen and the soft moss that covers stones, important stones. That is Choyce's story – or stories.

From Driving Minnie's Piano:

As I make my pitch of selected stone into the sea, I know that there is part of me sailing through the sky with this object, a stone somewhat less in size than a hardball but larger than a chicken egg. I follow the trajectory with my eye, and as I watch, it instinctively welds together all the things I've done right in my life, and diminishes somehow all the things I've done wrong. I hear the satisfying ker-plunk into the sea and then imagine it settling into the clear, pure north Atlantic water, drifting towards the bottom and settling in among other stones with headgear of exotic golden, brown and green seaweed. I've returned the stone to the sea from where it once emerged and I head on home, my lungs feasting on pure seaside air, feeling all the better for it, fool that I am.

You don't need to be a surfer to find that Driving Minnie's Piano is a satisfying read with deep insight into the human condition and those things that drives each of us: " ..whatever it happens to be, you must love the act of doing it. And you have to love the wave, love the words or love the beans. If there ain't love in it, it's not gonna snap."

Read it in a night, a weekend, a month, over the summer at your cottage or over a year but read it for the adventure and insight it provides. There is more coming up in the near future for Choyce fans, a couple of young adult novels will be published next spring and a new cd is in the works. You can listen to his band's latest song, Courage at Midnight on

I ask him what one book he would like to see made into a movie and like a magician on queue, he conjures a large manila envelope from somewhere behind his desk. In it are plans from IMX Communications, some of their film titles include Cadillac Girls, Margaret's Museum, and New Waterford Girl. One of their next films will be The Republic of Nothing, a novel Choyce penned in the 90s and high schools have picked up as part of their curriculum.

"We're in the process of doing the paper work for it," Choyce says. "There are good players and a good start."

Like a wave, Choyce says the The Republic of Nothing has taken on a life of its own. Choyce is hopeful the story will be filmed in Nova Scotia. A new edition of the The Republic of Nothing is expected in January with an afterward by Rush drummer, Neil Peart who made a connection with Choyce when Peart wrote Choyce to say he loved the book. The new edition will have a book club section for thought and discussion.

By the time our meeting is over and I've gathered my things, Choyce is in the common area just outside his office, he's talking and holding a piece of paper up to a couple of students that have gathered and the surf poet is all business again.

Dark Side of the Moon
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312934343 $7.99

Mindy Paige

To all of the Kenyon Minions out there, it was a good read. To anyone not familiar with Sherrilyn Kenyon or paranormal fiction/romance you should give her a try. I am a big fan of the Dark-Hunter series, but I have been sightly disappointed in her last two books. This one makes three.

The story line was followed the same pattern as some of her other books, but had enough twists and turns to add some spice. I am however hoping she comes up with a few new insults to add to her dialog repertoire. The continuing sub-plots from the series are taking some unexpected paths that could really be interesting.

The series as a whole is excellent, but this book was not up to Sheri standards. The book was good, but not extraordinary like the first five. Compared to the rest thriving paranormal market, I will have to say that it still ranks in the top twenty-five percent. I will more than likely read it again, and I am still looking forward to the next book in the series.

The Breastfeeding Cafe: Mothers Share the Joys, Challenges, & Secrets of Nursing
Barbara L. Behrmann
The University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3209
047206875X $19.95 734-764-4388

Shari Maser

The Breastfeeding Cafe is perfect -- just like breastmilk! It contains all the essentials, including an intangible nurturing essence. This hearty smorgasbord of women's stories will nourish breastfeeding mothers just like breastmilk nourishes their babies. It will also fulfill lactation and childbirth professionals, as well as feminists.

Some people would call The Breastfeeding Cafe a scholarly work; others would call it a collection of intimate personal stories. Both descriptions would be accurate. Behrmann combines extensive research in the fields of medicine, sociology, history, and anthropology with anecdotal evidence cultivated from interviews with an amazingly diverse group of women. The result is a fascinating survey of breastfeeding in America today, and an in-depth examination of the ways in which breastfeeding is valued - and devalued - in our culture.

Mothers from all walks of life very openly share their experiences as breastfeeding women. Behrmann interviews mothers who planned their pregnancies and mothers who did not, mothers who gave birth in a hospital and mothers who gave birth at home, mothers of twins, mothers who are lesbians, mothers who are teenagers, mothers who have had breast implants, mothers who are employed in the corporate world, mothers who serve in the army, mothers who are college students, mothers who work minimum wage jobs, mothers who are immigrants, mothers who are highly educated, mothers who are former gang members, mothers of premature infants, mothers of babies who did not survive, mothers who have given their babies up for adoption.... Breastfeeding mothers are sure to see their own experiences reflected somewhere in these pages. Other women will get an accurate picture of the range of challenges and rewards involved in breastfeeding.

The focus is on exploring the physical, emotional, and cultural challenges and hardships that women have encountered as breastfeeding mothers; however, the overall message of The Breastfeeding Cafe is uplifting and encouraging. Behrmann's insights inspire hope for the future of women and babies, and for a cultural that is more supportive of breastfeeding and mothering. If The Breastfeeding Cafe were a restaurant, its master chef Barbara Behrmann would receive rave reviews for her varied menu, her socially conscious approach, her tantalizingly original recipes, and her fulfilling portions.

The Bard of Bethlehem
David James Trapp
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1424133130 $19.95

Tami Brady

It is 5 BC. Terentius is a Celt living in Tarsus in Cilicia. A bard at heart, yet lacking the poetic talent to be so named, Terentius made his living as a musician. His life was rather uncomplicated, quiet, and lonely. He made beautiful music on his harp. Sometimes people listened and even gave him a few coins for his efforts.

Destiny it would seem had other plans for Terentius. A Jew by the name of Matthias came to the musician one day asking for lute lessons. Terentius agreed to do so as he secretly hoped that the man would teach him the psalms, beautiful and powerful works. Another important chance meeting was also in store for Terentius. A Celtic woman by the name of Bridicia. Bridicia was a fish peddler in Tarsus. Soon, she was also mate to Terentius.

Unfortunately, this joy was not meant to last. Terentius soon found himself on the wrong side of a powerful Druid Corvus. Corvus had cursed Bridicia to be barren when she refused his affections. This situation only got worse when Corvus murdered Matthias, thinking that his victim is Terentius.

The Bard of Bethlehem is a fresh look at the political and cultural environment in the days just before the birth of Christ. The interactions are quite true to life without any sort of sugar coating or modifications to appease modern political correctness. Well written.

Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams
Alexander McCall Smith
Canongate Books
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-4793
1841958239 $18.00 1-800-788-3122

Terry Mathews

Recommendation: There are not enough stars in the galaxies for this one. One of the universe's great gifts.

Sometimes, if we're very, very lucky, the universe presents us with gifts. Sometimes, those gifts appear in the form of a great piece of art, a film that touches the soul or a haunting melody still heard long after the turntable stops spinning.

Sometimes, the gift presents itself in the form of the written word. In this age of pulp fiction, it's rare to find a book with magic and stardust on every page. "One Hundred Years of Solitude," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, comes to mind. John Irving's "The World According to Garp" belongs on the list. So does "The Milagro Beanfield War," by John Nichols, and the little-known "Bridge of Birds," by the reclusive Barry Hughart.

"Dream Angus," by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, can take its place among these great works of otherworldly fiction. "Dream Angus" is a slim, small, 171-page retelling of the life of the Celtic god of dreams. How Smith has woven ancient stories among modern plotlines is nothing short of stunning. Angus is the love child of Dagda, an all-powerful god, and a beautiful water sprite named Boann.

"Water sprites are gentle; their sons are handsome and have a sense of fun; they sparkle and dart about, just like water," Smith writes.

Angus is an enchanted child. Birds hover around his head. Wild hunting dogs turn into fawning pups in his presence. When he's around, people have vivid dreams and in some cases, their dreams come true.

"In many ways, this was Dagda's greatest achievement, that he gave us this fine boy, who brought dreams to people, and who was loved by birds and people equally and who still is. For Dream Angus comes at night and gives you dreams. You do not see him do this, but you may spot him skipping across the heather, his bag of dreams by his side, and the sight of him, just the sight of him, may be enough to make you fall in love."

At first glance, this book seems deceptively simple. An Introduction and 10 short chapters make the reader think, "This will be quick and pleasant and I can get on about my business."

It takes only four pages or so to realize this trip will not be simple and it will not be short. It will take several readings to peel back all the story's layers. It will take weeks to completely appreciate the beauty of Smith's prose.

Alexander McCall Smith has offered the reading world a peek into a world of myths, magic and mystery. Let's hope his gift is opened, read and treasured by a legion of booklovers for many years to come.

Surgery and Its Alternatives
Sandra A. McLanahan, M.D. & David J. McLanahan, M.D.
Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
1575667398 $22.00

Victoria Kennedy

This is a book that should be on everyone's bookshelf. It's filled with information on what we can do to keep ourselves healthy. We are instructed about the necessity of a low fat, high fiber diet and advised as to what supplements will aid us. It talks about relaxation, exercise and other important strategies to help us avoid surgery, or cope with it.

Alternative treatments and surgical procedures for over 200 operations are discussed along with their advantages and disadvantages. The authors also provide summaries at the end of those chapters, which I found to be very helpful. All the phases of surgery, both before and after are explained along with what we need to do should we elect to have it.

I bought this book because I wanted to read about these surgeries, what they entailed and what my options might be, if any. It's better to have the information handy, because when a situation arises, you might feel pushed towards an operation and not know where to turn. I myself have been in situations where I was left scratching my head and trying to figure out what I should do. This is not a good feeling when it comes to something that could affect your whole life. Surgery and Its Alternatives helps take the confusion out of making a informed decision. It arms you with the knowledge that you wish your doctor would take the time to share. You might even learn that there is a viable alternative to the surgery and whatever the outcome, it is an invaluable aid in the healing process itself. I highly recommend it.

"This book uniquely and completely presents the panorama of possibilities for treatment of your disease. Significantly, you need not be limited by even one choice: if your first preference doesn't work, you can go on to one of the other approaches given here. Nothing is more important, however, than your simply becoming familiar with the full range of your healing choices and subsequently participating in the surgical process as an important member of your own surgical team." Taken from the forward by Dr. Bernie Siegel.

Andrew's Bookshelf

The Publicity & Public Relations Guidebook
Merilyn Towns Davis
Burning Bush Publications
0974203009 $ 29.95

"The Publicity & Public Relations Guidebook" is well-organized, well-laid out guide that places common-sense business procedures in a Christian setting and practiced in a Christian manner. But don't be put off by Ms. Davis's coloring her business with spiritual verses – this book is as 'hard-nosed' as any book advertised in Forbes or Business Week; the scriptural references act to serve as an effective motivational force for the reader.

There is no turning of the other cheek in this book; Ms. Davis advocates and describes how to ascertain and chase market to "network"… defining your USP's – unique selling points…how to run a PR campaign, and many other important facets of owning and operating one's own business. Equally important in making a business successful (meaning 'profitable') in these competitive times, Ms Davis emphasizes the need for hard work, sweat equity, utilizing one's resources, and using the talents she quotes Matthew 25:14-30 as God having given each individual with which to succeed. This is a 'must read' for anyone who is in pursuit of an effective business and personal strategy.

Jeff Edwards
2021 Pine Lake Rd., Lincoln, NE, 68512
0595675239 $29.95 800 288 4677

Author Jeff Edwards is a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer and Anti-Submarine Warfare Specialist, and he has used his years of Navy expertise to write an electrifying novel. In a style that reminds the reader of a Tom Clancy novel, Edwards combines an exciting story with technically precise, yet interesting descriptions of shipboard life and warfare on a Navy frigate.

With a story-line that could have been taken from today's New York Times, "Torpedo" combines politics, vengeance, antisubmarine warfare, and suspense in a novel of naval and air combat that encompasses problems in the Persian Gulf, problems in the Taiwan Straits, the same ineffective United Nations along with a NATO ally that has changed sides. Edwards alternates high-speed action with technically precise, clear-cut descriptions. He has created a believable plot and memorable characters and through his adroit use of current events, there is an atmosphere of realism that permeates "Torpedo." This is an extremely readable book for either the civilian or military reader – overall, it is an excellent book and highly recommended.

Blood Stripes: The Grunts' View of the War in Iraq
David J. Danelo
Stackpole Books
5067 Ritter Rd., Mechanicsburg, Pa.
0811701646 $ 29.95

There are an increasing number of books coming onto the market now about the war in Iraq that have been written by various Marine or army veterans who fought there. "Blood Stripes" is one of the better efforts available today.

Written by David J. Danelo, a former Marine officer, and combat veteran of Iraq, "Blood Stripes" chronicles the efforts of four Marine infantry units fighting in the western desert towns in the Sunni Triangle. He follows these four squads of grunts as they leave from the United States and spend their seven month tour fighting the Fedayeen. Danelo writes with the clear and concise style of the combat veteran he is, as he brings the reader to the edge of their seat with his description of these young Marines walking a daily IED patrol, or getting themselves physically and emotionally ready to clear houses in Husabayah and Haditha.

"Blood Stripes" refer to the red stripe running from the waist to the cuffs on the dress slacks of a Marine non-commissioned officer, and these are the Marine leaders who are the subject of Danelo's book. A non-commissioned officer is typically 22- 25 years old, and whose ranks are corporal and sergeant. These NCO's are the lead characters; they are the "small unit leaders" who take their Marines into battle. Danelo tells their story powerfully; with the quiet authority of a Marine officer who has ordered such NCO's into battle, and has seen the bloody consequences of these ugly street fights.

Danelo does not dwell on the rightness or wrongness of the war. Instead he introduces the reader to the individual Marines, to their families, and to how they cope – both back home in America, as well as in Fallujah, Ramadi, and the other nasty little towns where the war is being fought – with the daily stress of heat, IED patrols, and combat. As we get to know the Marines and their girl friends and wives, Danelo gives us a glimpse of what these young men experience in combat in the narrow streets and back alleys of western Iraq.

"Blood Stripes" is Danelo's first literary effort, and it is well done indeed. This is not a feel-good book; not all the Marines return alive. But for a reader who wants to know what the Marines are experiencing every day – be sure to read this book.

A Spiritual Warrior's Journey
W.H. McDonald
First Books
Bloomington, In.
1414014503 $19.95 1-888-280-7715

Ostensibly a memoir written around the author's tour in Vietnam during 1966-1967, this book is far deeper and more thought-provoking than the usual Vietnam-era 'We wuz in Vietnam and you done us wrong" books that fill the marketplace today. As crew chief / door gunner on a UH-1D Huey helicopter, author William McDonald saw and experienced sufficient combat for him to win a Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, as well as 14 Air Medals; his combat exploits alone would make for an enthralling story.

But while fighting in Vietnam was a major part of McDonald's life, it by no means consumed him, as his book illustrates. "A Spiritual Warrior's Journey" is a collection of absorbing and charming vignettes and slices of McDonald, from early childhood through his marriage, to his active 'retirement' and subsequent return to Vietnam.

McDonald's story has an appeal to those who believe in a higher power, and to be more definitive, a compassionate higher power that assists and looks out for those human beings receptive to God's love and directions. His book is replete with stories of his life in which a higher power interceded to keep him alive, keep him fed, and keep him on what he believes is the right path in his life. And fortunately so, because his recounting of how poorly his mother treated him in his early years, and continued to treat him badly as he matured, is truly saddening. It would have been easy for the author to sink into the morass of drugs and alcohol as did many veterans of his era, yet it is clearly his belief in this higher power that kept his attitude and life far happier and more satisfied than most.

"A Spiritual Warrior's Journey" is a unique book, and one well worth reading. Written in a casual, conversational, and very personal style, it is surprisingly understated yet very positive : Yes, the author has had a difficult childhood, yes, combat in Vietnam was cruel, bloody, and merciless, but for those who can keep their eye on the bigger cosmic picture, you are not only not alone, but there is a higher power who always has your back.

Andrew Lubin, Review

Bethany's Bookshelf

Gravity's Dream
Kate Light
West Chester University Poetry Center
West Chester University, West Chester, PA 19383
0978599705 $14.95

Gravity's Dream: New Poems and Sonnets is the third poetry collection of teacher and professional violinist Kate Light. Written with a gamboling, lyrical intensity that freely transitions from moment to moment, the poems - some free-verse, some crafted as sonnets, some approaching stream-of-consciousness narration - aptly express the chaotic confusion of surface thoughts in everyday life. "To You": I'm writing to you now. There was no "you" / except a kind of guess; that maybe someone / here or there would catch a drift / of wit or recognition, or, forgive my un- / worthiness, Inspiration. Taken for stiff / by some, undisciplined by others (all true, / all true?), I bow my head before / those judgment gods; & if now some small following lifts / that head back up (as I have said) by the tip / of the chin, looks into the eyes, looks in, / says, I accept these things as gifts, / then, okay, you're who I'm writing for, / far off, or near; who I'm here biting my lip / to be clear to. Yes, you. Yes, you.

Carmina Detroit
Dawn McDuffie
Adastra Press
16 Reservation Road, Easthampton, MA 01027
0977666735, $15.00

Carmina Detroit showcases nineteen elegant poems by Dawn McDuffie, which are nicely organized into four sections taking the medieval music of Carmina Burana as a model with the seemingly incongruous themes of Chance, spring, Love, and modern day Detroit. This very special limited (230 copies) letterpress edition is printed from handset Deepdene and Goudy Iopen types onto 80 lb. Mohawk Superfine archival text, is sewn by hand, and bound with Waussau Royal Fiber Rose endwrappers and features a cover of Classic Coumns in Safari. A teacher of creative writing at Detroit's Scarab club and Opera House, Dawn McDuffie is an accomplished poet, one whose word smithing skills fully justify recommending her work to the attention of serious scholarship and dedicated poetry enthusiasts alike. 'The Merry Face of Spring': Spring can't stop giggling./Flora, Goddess of flowers,/sets up court on the freeway medians,/and daffodils dedicate every song to her.

Hopeless Insomniac
Laura Riehman
Privately Published
PO Box 6693, Bridgewater, NJ 08807
0975422014, $10.95

Laura Riehman drew upon her own life experiences for the poems she wrote and collected together in a 64-page compendium she chose to title "Hopeless Insomniac". These are raw and intricate expressions of love, loss, betrayal and death shaped into verse. Riehman's writes in such a way that is both profoundly personal and experientially universal. 'The Road': The roads we have taken/the choices we have made/have brought us to where/we are today.//We're sure of the now/we fear the unknown/we often wonder–/what do we really know?/We don't have enough/we're always wanting more/were we ever really/very happy before?//It's all so unclear/What is right?/What is wrong?/Sometimes it seems/we're just wandering along.

They Stand Up In Broken Shells
Nita Penfold
Privately Published
5 Walnut Street, Melrose, MA 02176
1411666070, $15.00

The winner of the 2006 Writer's Digest International Self-Published Poetry Book Award, Nita Penfold has proven herself to be a gifted wordsmith with an ability to convey imaged emotions that resonate with the reader and linger in the mind long after her book of poems is set back upon the shelf. Highly recommended to the attention of poetry enthusiasts, "They Stand Up In Broken Shells" is a slender 88-page volume that clearly documents her skills and abilities as a poet. Of special note is the autobiographical information on the last two pages. Readers will look eagerly toward her next volume of memorable verse. 'Small Town Woman': drives with the breaks on/slow, pulling against/the automatic transmission/she worries that she might hit/a tree, might scratch the fender/might crash into a thousand pieces/flying through the air//the pain becomes unbearable/she waits at the railroad crossing/too long/she perfects her timing

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Wake-Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow
Kristen Breitweiser
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446579327 $24.99 1-800-759-0190

This book chronicles the author's transformation from a "suburban diva whose priorities included changing her decorative pillows with the seasons" to a nationally known activist who was named Glamour magazine's Woman of the Year. After her husband's tragic death in the World Trade Center terrorist attack Breitweiser embarked on a quest to uncover the truth about what happened that unforgettable morning, why it happened, and how to stop it from ever happening again.

From the founding of the Jersey Girls ( a group of other 9/11 widows) to appearances before Congressional committees investigating the attack, Breitweiser became a thorn in the side of the politicians who wanted to gloss over the event and keep the details hidden from the public. As she evolved from a well-behaved 9/11 widow into a confrontational, political pit bull, the author challenged the Bush administration to provide the answers to questions they would have preferred to avoid. Using tough, non-nonsense prose, Breitweiser analyzes the events of 9/11 in a way that no politician or historian could, thus offering an intelligent and emotionally charged challenge to the "official" story.

Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports
Brooke de Lench
0060881631 $14.95

An essential resource manual written by a mother primarily for mothers, this is a must read for any woman whose child or children are or will be involved in any type of organized sports program. The author addresses a variety of topics ranging from ensuring playing time, communicating with the coach and dealing with overly competitive parents, and how to add balance to youth sports, to more serious issues like protecting kids from injuries, steroid use and childhood obesity.

De Lench offers practical advice mothers can use to avoid getting sucked into the crazy vortex of competitive youth sports. She suggests ways to make the youth sports experience safer, saner, and less stressful. Packed with real life anecdotes and information from experts, this book provides constructive, practical, and forward-thinking advice to help mothers understand the critical role they can play in putting the words "fun", "game", and "play" back into the culture of youth sports.

Fleeing Fundamentalism: A Minister's Wife Examines Faith
Carlene Cross
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
PO Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225
1565124987. $23 1-800-722-7202

Carlene Cross' description of her failed marriage to a minister and the subsequent reassessment of her faith is the focus of this no-holds barred memoir. The story of a Montana girl who attended Big Sky Bible College and fell in love with and married the eventual minister at the Calvary Baptist Church in Seattle won't thrill members of the Religious Right. After having three children, the couple's unhappy marriage disintegrated. The author sought a divorce, went back to school, and moved her life in a new direction. As she flays the fallacies of fundamentalism, Cross delivers a gripping story of an unhappy woman who experienced faith lost and faith regained. Without self-pity, she offers a very candid appraisal of what went wrong in her life and why.

Indian Yell: The Heart of an American Insurgency
Michael Blake
Northland Publishing
PO Box 1389, Flagstaff, AZ 86002
0873589076 $21.95 1-800-346-3257

In this engrossing historical study, Michael Blake skillfully weaves the factors involving twelve significant conflicts into a gripping narrative that illuminates the undercurrents of conflict between nations during America's westward expansion. Shattering many of the stereotypes of the Indian Wars, Blake eloquently reveals the true characters of the people involved, as well as the passions and agendas on both sides that accelerated seemingly benign issues into horrendous conflicts.

Covering the period from 1854 to 1890, this well-illustrated account of the horrors and shame of war within our borders marks the passing of one way of life and the beginning of another. The bitter memories of this conflict still haunt the American West. Grounded in meticulous research and written with an uncanny understanding of American Indian culture, Blake's soulful profiles of the participants, both Indian and cavalry, reflect the passion of a storyteller who cares deeply about his subject matter.

Explaining why he wrote this book, the author said, "Despite the excruciating dilemma of studying the past, I believe history has the capacity to provide more insight about our behavior, both as individuals and a race, than all the therapies humankind has devised." Blake also wrote the bestseller "Dances With Wolves" which has sold more than five million copies and been translated into 25 languages.

Outlaw Tales of Oregon
Jim Yuskavitch
Twodot/Globe Press
0762741287 $10.95

In this paperback Jim Yuskavitch provides ample proof that the stories of regional miscreants can be just as fascinating as those of nationally recognized villains. This collection of "True Stories of Oregon's Most Infamous Robbers, Rustlers, and Bandits" looks at such desperados as train robber Dave Tucker, gunfighter Hank Vaughn, the infamous DeAutremont brothers and the bank robbing McCarty gang. You'll also find an account of the high plains range war fought in 1905 between Oregon cattle and sheep ranchers as well as the horrific slaughter of Chinese miners in Hell's Canyon in the late 1800s.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Ultimate Italian Trivia
Scott Paul Frush
Marshall Rand Publishing
PO Box 1849, Royal Oak, MI 48068
0974437484 $14.75

Written by trivia enthusiast and history buff Scott Paul Frush, and featuring a foreword by Chairman Emeritus of the National Italian American Foundation Frank D. Stella, Ultimate Italian Trivia: A Treasure Trove of Fun and Fascinating Facts is a collection of over 1,600 amazing trivia tidbits as educational as they are fascinating. From "What is gnocchi di patate?" (potato dumplings) to "What is Michelangelo's last name?" (Buonarroti) to "For what reason does Italy have scarce mineral deposits and fossil fuels?" (geographically, Italy is too young a continent to have them), the questions range from near-common knowledge to brain-busting obscure. A smattering of black-and-white photographs and additional resources such as a bibliography, the Italian national anthem in English and Italian, a list of Italian publications including where to find them online, thumbnail region profiles and more round out this "must-have" for trivia buffs fascinated by all things Italian.

Free Speech 101
Joseph Vogel
WindRiver Publishing, Inc.
72 N. WindRiver Road, Silverton, ID 83867-0446
1886249318 $12.95

Free Speech 101: The Utah Valley Uproar Over Michael Moore, is the story of the conflict generated during Michael Moore's 2004 Slacker Uprising Tour when author Joseph Vogel, then head of student government at Utah Valley State College, dared to extend an invitation for Michael Moore to come and speak. In the center of fiercely a conservative, passionately Mormon state, Moore's liberal and anti-President Bush views were harshly despised by a vociferous portion of the community. The result was offers of bribery, death threats, and legislative pressures aimed at preventing the UVSC from using student fees to fund an allegedly "viewpoint neutral" program to hear Michael Moore's words. Of course, no similar opposition was raised against conservative Sean Hannity's pro-Bush visit and speech. Vogel himself and many others passionately believed in the importance of free speech, and that true patriotism and being an American meant listening to all points of view before making a decision. The hard-fought battle just to allow Michael Moore to speak, and its outcome, is accounted in vivid detail from an insider's point of view - an author who knows well the history of religious persecution against Mormons for practicing their beliefs, and therefore questions why so much intolerance against free speech exists in the state of Utah to this day. Highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

A Fearless Guide to Starting a Profitable 5K Business
Marilyn Sweet
Cherry Creek Press
3850 Paseo Del Prado, #28, boulder, CO 80301
0978572009 $16.95

Author Marilyn Sweet, who has personally started eight businesses on less than $5,000 over the past twenty-five years and achieved sufficient success to retire from her day job as a psychologist, presents A Fearless Guide to Starting a Profitable 5K Business: Create Immediate Income by Investing $5,000 or Less. Written in a no-nonsense, down-to-earth style, A Fearless Guide to Starting a Profitable 5K Business covers how to minimize overhead as much as possible, low-cost marketing strategies that work, creating a "quality corporate image" on a shoestring, how to decide when to grow a business or keep it small, solid policies that avoid common traps and pitfalls, how to handle the emotional side of getting a business off the ground, and much more. Enthusiastically recommended for any budding entrepreneur, not just those on a tight budget; A Fearless Guide to Starting a Profitable 5K Business is filled cover to cover with efficiency strategies that will prove invaluable to all small business owners regardless of the amount of their starting capital.

Management by Trust
Kenn Ricci
Citation Books
38355 Chimney Ridge Trail, Willoughby, OH 44094
0977730409 $20.00

Written by CEO, management strategist, and four-time recipient of the NEO Success Award for business growth Kenn Ricci, Management by Trust is a no-nonsense guide to the value of treating one's employees in an open and trusting manner. Management by Trust reveals that such practice is fast becoming a requirement to success in the evolving working world; chapters covers means to foster and tap into the power of a trust, from setting the right tone with a mission statement to solid compensation strategies and letting everyone in the organization know what everyone else earns, to honest and straightforward employee reviews, and much more. An excellent productivity-building management guide and supplement for the twenty-first century.

Advertising: Industry in Peril
John Michelet
Olympian Publishing
13500 SW Pacific Highway, PMB 522, Tigard, OR 97223
0977898202 $14.95

Award-winning advertising industry insider of 35 years John Michelet presents Advertising: Industry in Peril, a no-nonsense guide to the difference between effective and utterly worthless advertising. Advertising: Industry in Peril discusses why sales are not a measure of advertising success, the massive cost of ineffective advertising, and common problems and blunders plaguing the advertising industry from mentioning the competition too often (thereby giving the competition free advertising!) to producing "onezies" rather than coordinated ad campaign. The highlight of Advertising: Industry in Peril are the fifteen expert points to creating better advertising, such as "Make a Big Promise and reasons to believe it", "Demonstrate", and "Put messaging before entertaining". In an industry with little certification, where "on-the-job training" (i.e. "learn the hard way") is the norm, and there are few official distinctions between trained professionals and amateurs sporting business cards, Advertising: Industry in Peril is an absolute "must-have" for anyone seeking to create successful ads, whether independently, for their own small business, or as a branch of a larger business, and especially vital for anyone responsible for reviewing or approving ads for a corporation.

From the Ground Up
Francine Watkins
Selling Edge Publishing
PO Box 785, Oceanville, NJ 08231
0977999505 $14.95

Written by expert salesperson Francine Watkins, whose credentials include service as a department head to a Fortune 500 company, From the Ground Up: The Lift You Need to Succeed in Direct Sales is a no-nonsense guide to a career in direct sales that can promote financial, professional, and personal freedom. Written for salespeople and sales mentors of all skill and experience levels, From the Ground Up covers basic selling and closing techniques, how to curry prospects' affinity and trust, secrets to making an entertaining and persuasive presentation, and much more. Selling directly to the customer is a special and subtle art; whether one is just starting out or a seasoned veteran looking for additional tips, From the Ground Up is an invaluable resource of time and experience-tested advice. Self-guided exercises and sample solutions to real-world problems round out this superior "how-to" book in its field.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

The Fit Traveler Senior Edition
Kari Eide & Lissa Mueller
Publishers Design Group
PO Box 37, Roseville, CA 95678
KSB Promotions (publicity)
55 Honey Creek, NE, Ada, MI 49301
1929170254 $17.95

Physical fitness expert Kari Eide and A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer Lissa Mueller present The Fit Traveler Senior Edition, a guide to staying healthy and sticking to quality exercise regimen while traveling, whether for a local visit or around the globe. Written especially with the needs of older travelers in mind, who could be more at risk for bone fractures among other differences, The Fit Traveler Senior Edition provides detailed instructions with black-and-white photographs for exercises that can be performed anywhere, anytime, from wall push-ups to a wealth of exercises for the legs, arms, shoulders and much more involving a simple stretch band - included with the book! The spiral binding allows The Fit Traveler Senior Edition to lay flat for easy reference to exercises while performing the regiment. A first-rate health and fitness care aide, and as invaluable to stay-at-home seniors who cannot afford expensive exercise equipment or gym memberships as it is to travelers.

Explore Costa Rica
Harry S. Pariser
Manatee Press
PO Box 225001, San Francisco, CA 94122-5001
1893643557, $22.95 1-800-729-6423

In "Explore Costa Rica", Harry Pariser draws upon his considerable experience and expertise as a travel guide writer to compile one of the best and most 'user friendly' guides to what Costa Rica has to offer the business traveler and vacationer. Now in a newly expanded and updated fifth edition, "Explore Costa Rica" is a 668 information packed compendium that is enhanced with the inclusion of 38 maps, 30 color photos, and 80 black-and-white images. All types and price ranges of accommodations also include some of the best nature lodges to be found anywhere in Central America. Recreational resources and recommendations ranges from whitewater rafting, surfing, horseback riding, snorkeling, and scuba diving, to birdwatching, hiking, whale watching, canopy climbing, and ballooning. Complete and 'visitor friendly' background information is provided for Costa Rican animals, rainforests, history, and culture. In addition to travel basics for neighboring nations, "Explore Costa Rica" also features volunteer opportunities, language schools, environmental organizations, and covers transportation by car, bus, plane, and ferry. Enhanced with the addition of thousands of thematically appropriate websites, phone and fax numbers, and access to internet updates, "Explore Costa Rica" is an invaluable and superbly organized resource for planning any sort of trip to or within one of the true gems of Central America.

Michael J. Carson

Cheri's Bookshelf

Arbor Vitae
Susan X Meagher
Brisk Press
470 W 24th St. #15-I, New York, NY 10011
0977088502 $16.00

Gay or straight—it's easy to fall in love with Clancy O'Connor and Abby Graham in Susan X Meagher's sizzling romance—replete with family drama, compelling character journeys, incredible sex, and unforgettable characters. "Arbor Vitae" is a thought-provoking page-turner, from the author of the popular series, "I Found My Heart in San Francisco."

We meet Abby five years after Will's death—as she is starting to come out of mourning. At forty-five, Abby—who was sure that her late husband was probably her last love, finds herself attracted to the landscape architect she hires. Clancy is an honest and open hard worker. She has a heart of gold and exudes enviable self-confidence. Abby may be a straight wealthy widow and devoted mother, but she can't resist the charming and mature twenty-nine-year-old. What starts out as friendship morphs into so much more as the women connect in the most primal way despite a vast array of differences. The ensuing courtship enriches Abby's reason for living, beyond that of the love of her family, friends, and her charity work.

Meagher captures Abby's concerns about her immature seventeen-year-old daughter Hayley, doting twenty-five-year-old son Trevor, and the rest of her family and friends, so well, that I get goose bumps just reading it. The angst Abby goes through while dealing with the issues that come up when a sea change like that occurs is distressing, but watching her transformation from a mother who consistently puts other's needs before her own to a mother who is also a woman in love, is what makes "Arbor Vitae" satisfying and real.

Abby has more to lose by embarking on a lesbian love affair than her young girlfriend. Clancy is out and quite comfortable in her own skin—she makes no apologies for being gay—which in itself is refreshing. Life is difficult enough without throwing a wrench in the mix, but with love, hope, patience, perseverance, and humor, Clancy and Abby strive to have the life they deserve—together.

For readers who enjoy the psychology and fluidity of sexuality; exploring lesbian love from different perspectives; and witnessing two women from different worlds, at different stages in their lives, as they come together, I highly recommend that you read "Arbor Vitae" by Susan X Meagher. Not only is it more book for your buck, but the story is just great and 461 pages goes by in a blink!

Combust the Sun A Richfield & Rivers Mystery
Andrews & Austin
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
193311052X $15.95

In a succinct film style narrative, with scenes that move, a character-driven plot, and crisp dialogue worthy of a screenplay, Andrews & Austin have successfully crafted an engaging Hollywood mystery. The added bonus is an unpredictable romance between two intelligent and witty women who have a fantastic sense of humor evident on every page, even as danger lurks at every turn. Richfield and Rivers are destined for each other, as if by cosmic command. Combust the Sun doesn't follow the structure of traditional lesbian fiction, yet Andrews & Austin are able to sustain the sensuality/sexuality amidst utter chaos.

Someone is killing Marathon Studio's bigwigs and Teague Richfield, an ex-cop turned screenwriter, ends up in the middle of the mess. After having lunch with the smashingly handsome Barrett Silvers, head of development at Marathon Studios, who had launched Teague's writing career, Barrett ends up in Intensive Care, and Teague finds herself in peril while being pursued by thugs.

In the meantime, Teague's mom introduces her skeptical daughter to a psychic astrologer, Callie Rivers. Teague is immediately hooked on Callie: "The door swung open to reveal a drop-dead gorgeous blond…I followed her trail of orgasmic perfume pretending to check out the floor-to-ceiling glass that provided a nice view of the river, but mostly I was checking out her fabulously small, tight ass…" (p. 46-7). Teague wonders: "What in the world do we have in common other than my intense desire for her: Maybe that's why God gives us desire, th keep us sexually hooked on one another until we have time to figure out we have other things in common" (p. 69). The mutual attraction occurs early in the novel, without the usual build-up, barriers, and finally earth-shattering consummation of the relationship as in most typical romance novels, but this rollercoaster romance works because real life isn't always neat and predictable.

Teague voices insecurity familiar in the industry: "As a screenwriter, I vacillated between the certainty that I would never be able to write the stories I was given and the fear that I would never be given any stories to write" (p. 19). Getting her break after bedding studio executive Barrett Silvers doesn't exactly bolster her self-esteem, but she's in, so to speak. The fact that her best friend is a basset (basket) hound named Elmo and she is haunted by the prospect of never finding her soul mate, Teague laments what she's missing by living alone, "That moment in the night when fears and frailties take over was the reason God created coupling. It was why the passengers on Noah's Ark didn't proceed up the plank single file. God didn't create couples merely for procreation, because mankind can too easily circumvent the Divine plan with petri dishes and test tubes. God created couples for that moment between 'news and snooze,' that moment when there is comfort in an icy bottom up against a warm belly and the sounds of rhythmic breathing in the night" (p. 32). Teague may be a sarcastic, self-described "psycho" in love with a psychic, but rationalization will not curb her appetite. Human imperfection is especially cute on Teague as her admirable strength, sense of justice, and fierce protectiveness of Callie are endearing traits. And the 41-year-old offers beauty tips too: "I brushed my punked auburn hair straight up. When gravity takes the body south, brush everything north" (p. 32).

The humor is without question the fun part, the mystery is the hook, and the love interest is what I enjoy most. Teague and Callie fighting in public is a classic. At the height of their loud argument, "A tall, thin waiter swished over to us and brandished his pad and pencil. 'Do you two need more time...or would that just make things worse?'" (p. 138).

Andrews & Austin convince me that it's possible for Teague to fall so completely, madly, and deeply in love with a psychic at first sight, and that if Callie Rivers has special powers, then it must be true, or else life is full of some very incredible coincidences.

I could write a book about all that I found clever, witty, and just plain funny amidst the action, adventure, and mystery, but luckily, they already wrote it! Every page has something that tickles my funny bone. I love the truisms they included as it increased my hope for romance, survival, and justice for the main characters. Even a person who doesn't put faith in psychics will wonder about that after reading Combust the Sun.

Combust the Sun will leave you waiting impatiently for the sequels Stellium In Scorpio (2007) and a third book in the Richfield & Rivers Mystery series entitled Venus Besieged, which will be out in 2008. A mystical romance Mistress of the Runes (2007) is also on the schedule. If you long for a fun diversion in your life, you enjoy action sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat, a who-done-it that will keep you guessing, and a stay-tuned for the next episode type of book, then Combust the Sun is for you.

Cheri Rosenberg

Christy's Bookshelf

Inspirational Readings and Poetic Rhymes
Evelyn Horan
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1424117925 $24.95

Evelyn Horan has proven herself an author of many talents, one who writes fiction for children and young adults, as well as nonfiction and poetry. This book is exactly what the title says: inspirational. Ms. Horan has compiled an anthology of short stories, essays, and poetry dealing with humanity, nature, and religion. Of particular interest to this reader was the interesting and delightful poem about a pioneer's journey along the Oregon Trail. Also, a short story about a German immigrant's voyage to America and her experiences once she arrived. A vast array of human emotions are explored with eloquence and great insight. Poems are in abundance and are exceptional, some of which were written by this author as a teenager. Absolutely a must-have, must-read.

Millennium Babe: The Prophecy
Betty Dravis
Xlibris Corporation
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
0738845108 $21.99 US

David Wetterman is building his own celebrity status as a jokester weatherman, but loses control during one newscast and mysteriously predicts a babe will be born on the first of the third millennium, blessed by and under the protection of God. At first, David tries to think of ways to spin his "spell" but then begins to believe his own prophecy. And he's not alone - word quickly spreads and David becomes a recognized celebrity known as the Prophet. With world leaders clamoring for the millennium babe to be born in their country, he goes on to predict a computer program designed by Andy and Ellie Dunbar could possibly foretell the birthplace of the baby. As the news spreads, the world is split between chaos and euphoria, fear and acceptance. But when the bad guys step into the picture, hoping to snag the millennium babe, the Prophet, with his former director, present girlfriend, Bitsy Blodgett, finds himself in a whole world of trouble.

Betty Dravis introduces a wonderful cast of characters with Millennium Babe, ranging from the weatherman turned Prophet to the President of the United States, each with their own agenda as regards the millennium babe. This fast-paced, thrilling read will keep the reader entertained and turning pages, absorbed in a compelling plot.

Never Fear
Scott Frost
G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

0399153403 $24.95 US 1-800-847-5515

LA Detective Alex Delillo has sent her daughter off to college and is expecting her biggest worries will center around an empty nest. But before she can feel the first pang, she receives an incomplete fax which turns out to be from a half-brother she never knew about, whose dead body is discovered near where three young women were murdered 17 years earlier. Unknown to Alex, her estranged father was and remains the primary suspect in those prior murders. Although her brother's death is ruled a suicide, Alex suspects otherwise. With the help of her subordinate Detective Dylan Harrison, Alex begins to reconstruct her brother's hours preceding his death, and every avenue she explores leads her back to her father and the three women who were murdered 17 years ago.

Never Fear is a fast-paced mystery with plenty of twists and turns and red herrings at every corner. Single mother Alex Delillo is a fresh character, a gutsy woman with issues struggling to protect her college-aged daughter while chasing bad guys.

Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345476980 $7.99 1-800-726-0600

Boston Medical Examiner Maura Isles is shocked to find a live body in her morgue. The woman is rushed to the hospital, where she is treated and placed in a room. Homicide detective Jane Rizzoli goes into labor while apprehending a criminal and rushes to the same hospital. Before Jane can deliver, she's being held hostage by the woman presumed dead and another man. Maura and Jane's husband, FBI agent Gabriel Dean, frantically try to identify the woman, but federal agents seem to be everywhere, blocking their efforts. Jane is eventually rescued, but the mysterious woman and her accomplice are executed. However, before the woman dies, she whispers a secret to Jane, which will lead Jane to her own gravesite.

Gerritsen's written a fast-paced thriller dealing with immoral government officials and imported sex slaves. Favorite characters return, i.e., Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli. Gerritsen's portrayal of Jane's ambivalence over her status as a new mom is realistically portrayed, as is Mila, the woman at the center of the mystery. An excellent read.

Christy Tillery French

Dustin's Bookshelf

100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories
Michael A. Arnzen
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD, 20784
0974503126, $12.95

100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories is a collection of minimalist horror; stories as short as a few sentences, but hold a depth of entertainment value as a novel. Michael A. Arnzen is a Bram Stoker Award winning writer, poet, and professor with a Ph. D in English. In this collection of (that's right, 100) short stories, Arnzen has proven himself a leading figure in "flash fiction." Creating and destroying worlds and characters at a whim, Arnzen leaves them bloody and broke, proving repeatedly that he is a true master wordsmith of the macabre. Down the following story for a shot for a tasty example:

"Brain Candy"

He was a goner. So I shot him in the face and his head burst like a flesh pinata, spraying the zombie kiddies with its brain candy. This slowed them all down as they raked inside the emptied husk of fruit on its shoulders. Then they tore at one another for the morsels on one another's shirtsleeves and collars. The whole sick scene almost looked like a birthday party from my distance. I took my time picking them off, one by one, from the rooftop.

Arnzen accomplishes in just a few sentences what it takes other writers hundreds of pages to pull off. If you're new to the name, to the genre, or to the movement, 100 Jolts is a great place to start.

The Fall of Never
Ronald Damien Malfi
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
0974503177, $17.95

Lonely Kelly Rich returns to her hometown in Upstate, New York to visit her younger sister who was subject to a violent attack. Reunited with her estranged family, she fights to contain her emotions involving the past; all the while investigating the attack upon her sister and the mysterious events unfolding around her. The Fall of Never is a twisting tale of nightmarish reality written with the silver-tongued style of a true authority on subtle horror. Ronald Damien Malfi has an elegant voice and a feral imagination, a lustrous quality lost in the majority of today's fiction. The Fall of Never is a must read for fans of intelligent, enthralling fiction.

Sick: An Anthology of Illness
John Edward Lawson – Editor
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
0974503118, $15.95, 2003, 296 pages

With a stunning lineup of topnotch horror writers and filled with engrossing stories of filth and disease, Sick: An Anthology of Illness is among the best horror anthologies of the 21st century. Edited by the multitalented John Edward Lawson and published through the remarkable independent publisher, Raw Dog Screaming Press, Sick is an infectious page-turner that keeps the reader lusting for more. Stories such as Ronald Damien Malfi's "Discussions Concerning the Ingestion of Living Insects," Michael A. Arnzen's "On the Filthy Floor," and Mark McLaughlin's "A Night to Remember With Mocha Sumatra" could sell this book by themselves, but let's not play favorites here: the writers inside this anthology have an array of talent that keeps Sick fresh, while other anthologies fail with monotonous voices of quiet boredom. Each individual story brings a new world after the collapse of the previous, populated by characters as real as us, and at the same time, as surreal as our dream-selves. We unknowingly fall deep within the realm of the unreal, and see it as we see your mirror image: familiar yet different with every reflection. An example for those who doubt, the opening paragraph of Efrem Emerson's "Paraquat Syndrome":

I've been turning orange lately. A really sick kind of orange, know what I mean? So I decided to see a doctor. Having a rather low and undocumented income, I went to this neighborhood clinic I saw advertised on the lower Wendell Jeffrey Boulevard…down in the hood. It was a narrow storefront space sandwiched between Birdman's Appliance Repair and the Jumpin' for Jesus Thrift Shop. The waiting room was filled with the usual assortment of low-budget trailer trash, non-English speaking minorities, and other Third world riff raff. Sick: An Anthology of Illness is a truly striking work of horror fiction from a variety of talented authors, each conveying their own voice and style that molds this anthology into one of the best in print.

The Nature of Monsters
Ronald Damien Malfi
5 Story Walkup
3659 Mecklinburg Place, Decatur, GA 30032
0978676106 $20.00

Ronald Damien Malfi's The Nature of Monsters is a vivid piece that proves the author can move freely and successfully between genres, with a voice that is clever and appealing.

Robert Crofton is a twenty-something Kentucky native who moves to Baltimore, bent on writing a novel. Our protagonist's simple ways clash and conform with the socialite scene introduced by old friend Rory Van Holt (a well-off Golden Gloves winning prizefighter) and his circle of friends which includes Rory's beautifully melodramatic, opium smoking fiancé, Donna. Though dramatic, The Nature of Monsters has its share of theatrical comedy produced by Nigel Sweeny, the artist and alcoholic cousin of Robert who must constantly be placed under a watchful eye due to an arrogant personality that regularly lectures those within earshot. As Robert Crofton falls deeper into the elite party lifestyle, slipping further away from his simple existence, a story of love and resentment unfolds along with the uncertainty of yesterday and tomorrow.

The Nature of Monsters is a continuously enjoyable read. Through strong characterization we feel the apprehension, the want, the need and the desperation in an environment written by a man who produces truly original, creative and entertaining literature. Ronald Damien Malfi has proven once again that he is a genuine storyteller.

Dustin La Valley

Gary's Bookshelf

Gordorn Solie Something Left Behind
Gordon Solie, Robert and Pamela Allyn
Florida Media Inc.
801 Douglas Ave, Suite 100, Altamonte Springs, Florida
0976306212 $19.95

When you think of professional wrestling announcers one name comes to mind: Gordon Solie. I remember growing up, friends of mine and I every Saturday watched his broadcasts. He made it so much fun to tune in especially when he interviewed so many of the wrestlers who were so much taller than he. Fans of the sport may be a bit disappointed because this is not a behind the scenes expose tell all book. It is an autobiography that reveals a very talented writer, which many readers may find very surprising. Robert and Pamela Allyn have collected many pieces through his long career. There are poems filled with symbolism, short stories, and thoughts and essays on many subjects. The book is also filled with many interesting pictures of the man and the many famous people he met.

Kill on Command
Glen Barger
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, Oklahoma 73064
1598861026 $14.95 www.tatepublishing.ocm 888 361-9473

The author has a disclaimer that tells why this book is classified as fiction. I see why he makes the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. Though it is treated as a work of fiction, I know very well that much of it is true. What he shows is how citizens are influenced to go to work for our government as a covert operative to conduct assainations of anyone our secret organizations decided should be taken out. Barger includes the President Kennedy murder and shows there is no way one man alone could have done it. This is the reason President Gerald Ford proposed legislation to end this kind of behavior.
I found this book to be very disturbing.

John Updike
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0307264653 $24.95

I've read many of Updike's wonderful books and I just loved this one for several reasons. He masterfully creates conflicts between his characters that move the story along while showing the evolution of a terrorist. I especially loved the way he focuses in on present day social issues the same way he did in his "Rabbit Angstrom" novels. Updike is a sheer pleasure to read with prose that flows and well defined characters. He is one of our finest writers.

David Morrell
CDS Books
425 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
1593153570 $7.99

Something strange is going on in a run down hotel in New Jersey. A reporter and several other individuals investigate. What they find makes for the chilling suspenseful tale that ranks on the level of Stephen King. Morrell churns the story until its final shocking conclusion.

Blue Screen
By Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399153219 $24.95

The newest Sunny Randall tale includes characters from the author's Jesse Stone series. Parker is a master of the mystery novel and here he shows why with the combination of his two series

The Jury Master
Robert Dugoni
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0446617075 $7.99

I had a lot of confusion with numerous characters because of the similarity of their names and there are so many to keep track of. At any rate the story is very good about a close confidant of the president who supposedly commits suicide in a park. The author reveals a covert plot that is all too plausible. I would love to see the author's next book with a few less characters. Even so, I did enjoy this thriller.

Star Trek Voyages of Imagination
Jeff Ayers
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
1416503498 $21.00

Ayers tells everything you ever wanted to know about all of the books of Trek that have been published for almost 40 years. I like this companion that reveals things about how the books were published, authors of each story, short story collections, and comments by some of the authors themselves. Any fan of Trek will love this great book.

The Christmas Thief
Mary Higgins Clark & Carol Higgins Clark
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
07432972250 $7.99

I love how the two masters of suspense have taken characters from their novels and combined them into this fun novel geared to Christmas time. I found the writing to be fast paced and a great story that can and should be read anytime of the year, not just for the holidays.

The Stonehenge Gate
Jack Williamson
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765347954 $6.99

Williamson, one of the living legends of the genre of sf, shows why he is still one of the best in the field with this most recent novel. He tells his story from beginning to end with an easy to follow style that flows briskly along until the final page.

Writes of Life
Robert Yehling
Koboca Publishing
Tampa Fl
0974499773 $10.95

Writers are always asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" This author shows much comes from every day occurrences in an author's own life. Yehling teaches people how to train themselves to keep notes of things they can use in nonfiction and fiction. This is a great resource for anyone trying to break into the field.

500 Flowers
Roger Camp
Dewi Lewis Media
0954684346 $25.00

The pictures of flowers of the world are just awesome. The backdrop of black only heightens the bold colors of all the lavish pictures of different types. In the back there is an index of the pictures on white backgrounds that lists each of the types. It is easy to see why many of us have a love affair with the plants we grow.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

When Darkness Falls
James Grippando
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022, 212-207-7000/800-242-7737
0060831138 $24.95

As this novel opens, the homeless man known as Falcon, for the third time in eighteen months, has climbed atop a bridge in Miami and declares his intention to jump. Each time he is successfully talked down. Sgt. Vincent Paulo, who despite his recent blindness continues to work as a crisis negotiator with the City of Miami P.D., although now primarily teaching at the Police Academy, has again succeeded in preventing Falcon's suicide. Falcon is jailed on a number of charges resulting from this latest incident, and Jack Swyteck, an attorney and the son of Florida's former governor, has agreed to defend him pro bono. But then, this man whose place of abode had been an abandoned car, comes up with not only Jack's fee, but the $10,000 cash bail as well. After he is freed from jail, a body turns up, found in the trunk of that very vehicle. Falcon is the prime suspect, and he runs.

Jack and Theo Knight – the latter a black high school dropout 'with the brawn of a linebacker and the height of an NBA star" – whom Jack had successful represented long enough to overturn a death row murder conviction, make an unlikely duo as protagonists, along with Vince Paulo. The book goes on into hidden agendas and deadly secrets in standard thriller fare. But a much more important story is being told here: that of the "Desaparecidos," the 'disappeared ones' of Argentina of the late 1970's and '80's, with tens of thousands of people having been abducted – tortured and/or killed – by the military junta which had taken control of the government, with ramifications extending to present-day Miami, Florida. These elements are drawn together by the author, but I have to say that the tale didn't really work for me on either level.

The major portion of the book deals with a hostage situation with the suspense rising till nearly the conclusion of the book, with all the aforementioned major characters involved. The references of those frightening times in Argentina with ramifications to the present day are all interesting and horrifying, but the book was a disappointment for me – I had read this author in the past and enjoyed his writing, but not this time. However, YMMV.

The Blood Spilt
Asa Larsson
Delacorte Press
1745 Broadway, 24th fl., NY, NY 10019
0385339828 $22.00 800-726-0600

The first two brief chapters of The Blood Spilt describers a murder, one as it is being committed, from the p.o.v. of the murderer [the only such chapter so written], the second as her body is later discovered, hanging by a chain from a church organ loft in the Swedish mountain town of Kiruna, the victim having been done awful, pointless violence as well. Thus is the reader introduced to the world of Asa Larsson and her protagonist, Rebecka Martinsson, an attorney who has been on extended sick leave after an incident during which she killed three people in that same town, Kiruna, where she was born and raised. The murder of the woman, Mildred Nillson, a priest, is reminiscent of that of a male priest murdered in the area in the past. It was in the a ftermath of that earlier killing that Rebecka's traumatic event took place, his murderer one of those she shot. Her firm's attempts to establish a professional relationship with the Church following the woman priest's death reluctantly brings Rebecka back to Kiruna for the first time since those killings nearly two years prior. The question arises whether Mildred's murder was committed by someone 'who'd been keeping a scrapbook after the first murder and decided to make a sequel of their own,' or was entirely unrelated to the earlier event. Mildred was known as Kiruna's foremast local feminist, with a passionate, indomitable personality, and had made many enemies. Rebecka inevitably ends up involved in the investigation.

This new book by Asa Larsson, in a translation by Marlaine Delaroy, contains wonderful descriptions of the Swedish countryside, particularly its forests, as well as those of inner landscapes and reminiscences of times past, of loved ones lost, whether parent or spouse, and a she-wolf known as "Yellow Legs," whose story is like a running theme throughout the book. The scenes become palpable: "At first the thoughts in your head are like a tangled skein of wool. The branches scrape against your face or catch in your hair. One by one the threads are drawn from the skein. Get caught in the trees. Fly away with the wind. In the end your head is empty. And you are transported. Through the forest. Over steaming bogs, heavy with scent, where your feet sink between the still frozen tussocks and your body feels sticky. Up a hill. Fresh breeze. The dwarf birch creeping, glowing on the ground. You lie down. And then the snow begins to fall." And, later on, "The snow has completely gone. The ground is steaming, quivering with longing for life. Everywhere things are crawling, chirruping, crackling and playing. Leaves burst open on the aching trees. Summer is coming from below like a green, unstoppable wave." The Blood Spilt is not a book of pulse-pounding suspense [until the final pages, at any rate], but exerts a more subtle pull as it moves toward the horrifying resolution. It is a well-wrought, disturbing and beautifully written novel.

James Patterson
Little, Brown
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020, 212-364-1100/800-759-0190
0316159794 $27.99

The main characters in this book are Alex Cross, Michael Sullivan and John Sampson. Alex, the protagonist in this very popular series by James Patterson, after three years of private practice as a psychologist, became a full-time Washington, DC homicide detective before joining the FBI, working primarily as a profiler. Michael Sullivan is a serial killer/rapist/mob hitman, nicknamed The Butcher. John Sampson is Alex' former partner from his cop days, and still his close friend. The book opens with the murder in 1993 of Alex' wife, Maria, as she greeted him when he came to pick her up after work – she died in his arms, and he has never stopped grieving for her. Since her death, he has continued to work for the FBI, raising his three children with the help of 'Nana Mama,' Alex' grandmother.

Fast forward to 2005. In order to devote more time to his family, Alex quits the FBI, returning to private practice, but remains available as a consultant. Things change when the police are told by a mob guy trying to broker a plea bargain that he can give them information on Alex' wife's murderer, but the man is killed while in jail before he can divulge that long-sought information. Alex feels he may finally be able to catch the man who has managed to elude capture for over a decade, and he and Sampson go on the hunt.

Cliches abound – the psychopath who was abused as a child, who feels nothing but a rush as he adds victims to an ever-growing list. The acts themselves will bring a grimace, at least, to the reader's face. Michael Sullivan is a man who enjoys his work.

Cross has already topped the bestseller list, and it is a fast and pretty enjoyable read. Nonetheless it felt somewhat bloated to this reader and I thought the book, and the sadistic acts committed in it, could have been edited a bit more.

Sinners and Saints
Eileen Dreyer
St. Martin's Paperbacks
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010-7848
0312998740 $6.99 212-674-5151

In what can only be described as prescience, Eileen Dreyer's Sinners and Saints takes place in a New Orleans that is bracing for a hurricane, what would be the earliest ever to hit that City. The book was published days before New Orleans was struck by Hurricane Katrina, a devastating event from which it is still trying to recover, and it was obviously written much earlier than that. Reading it now is an eerie experience.

Chastity Byrnes is a 26-year-old former trauma nurse in St. Louis, now "one of two new forensic nurse liaisons at St. Michael's, her job being not only to save patients, but preserve any viable forensic evidence that might prove a possible criminal or civil case. She made sure abuse victims didn't fall through the cracks, rape victims got better treatment from the hospital than they did from their attackers, and unknown patients were identified. She helped police and hospital personnel work more efficiently together." And she needs to call upon all of those skills when she receives a call one day from a brother-in-law she didn't even know she had, the husband of a sister she had had no contact with for ten years, ever since the day that sister and their mother left their home without a word. She is told her sister has gone missing, and five days later finds herself in New Orleans, having agreed to try to help in the search for her sister, Faith. [The third sister was called "Hope."] Chastity is the survivor of an unspeakably horrendous abusive childhood [her accusations against her father having resulted in his incarceration], the effects of which have barely diminished over the years. She finds she has to "protect herself from old sins and older secrets." Each time she thinks she knows all of the secrets, she finds more are yet to be unearthed.

The writing is wonderfully evocative, most strikingly in its descriptions of New Orleans. On Jackson Square: "Chastity stopped at the edge of the square, enchanted. She wasn't really a mystical person. She'd given up her faith with her virginity, long before she could comprehend either. If she could, though, she thought, she might look for it again here in the dark, where the trees dripped shadows and the church bells tolled into the night. Where usually raucous voices quieted to a murmur, and the only real lights were the candles that flickered on the psychics' tables. If the re was magic, she thought, it was here." The ominous presence of the impending storm is a living, breathing thing - one cannot help but feel the winds and the lashing waters that surround Chastity throughout the novel, embodying her worst nightmare from the scarred days of her nightmare-filled world from her earliest memories. The suspense builds as Chastity continues her search. People to whom she speaks are killed, and her own life is in danger. Chastity and her friends, Kareena, a New Orleans nurse who helps her, and Kareena's cousin, James, a survivor himself although of entirely different circumstances, a cabdriver who Chastity hires as a chauffeur, among other things, are terrific creations. Recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Misquoting Jesus
Bart D. Ehrman
10 East 53rd Street New York, NY 10022
0060738170 $24.95

Ehrman chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. His book reads like an informal discussion between the professor and an entering freshman class over coffee in the commons room of the student union. This is an introductory book that authoritatively lays out the questions and gives reasonable answers but not with the technical details that would make the narrative too dry for the layperson to read or understand.

'Misquoting Jesus' is a must read for anyone who thinks they know and understand the New Testament. The logical detailing and analysis of the problems working with ancient manuscripts and non-mechanical copying are recorded in a clear and easy to understand manner. If you believe in a literal reading of the scriptures or if you don't, the book relates clear questions the individual must answer.

'Misquoting' is an enjoyable read for anyone who likes history or has religious questions. It doesn't detract from the religious value of the New Testament. It just points out the humanity of the authors and those copying the texts for the future. Many literalists will dislike the discussion. Those objecting to Christianity will find questions but no support for their opinions. 'Misquoting's' greatest strength is that it asks the right questions.

Lost Christianities, The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
Bart D. Ehrman
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0195141830 $30.00

A common parlor game is to have someone whisper a sentence to a person and have them pass it on to another until a final person in the chain says the sentence out loud to everyone. The game shows how a simple sentence can be changed to a completely different one by just repeating it a few times. Studies, in recent years, have shown the accuracy of eyewitness accounts to vary dramatically from person to person. One person sees a man with a green hat and another sees him with a brown one. This is human nature. It is how we see and communicate. What happens when over a dozen people witness the life of a person? You get stories that are both different and the same. You get stories that change when they are repeated over and over with the good parts becoming larger and more complex. You get blended tales when a third person hears what two others have said. You get the burst of variety that marked the beginning of the Christian faith.

In 'Lost Christianities,' Ehrman looks at the variety of faiths that developed out of the dozens of eyewitness accounts of Jesus and how later groups changed them with their own biases. He examines how stories developed and changed as the different Christianities fought for prominence. He talks about men struggling to develop a coherent faith.

The old saying 'all is fair in love and war' is nothing when you add religion to the equation. Everything goes when faith is in question. Slander, forgeries and selective re-writing of history are just the beginning of the fight if a person's faith is probed.

Today many people have been in churches that have self-destructed from infighting between members and possibly the clergy. When we consider history we never consider the events that happen today can show us what occurred in the past. What happens if in the past there is not just a single collection of books considered sacred and there are dramatically opposing ideas about Christ and what he taught? The infighting would be terrible. But the examination of those various beliefs and arguments would also tell us more about the original events.

In 'Lost Christianities,' you find out that the founders of the Christian faith were no different from people today. You also can see how the various forms of early Christianities forced, blended and re-wrote itself into the current mix of Christian faiths. 'Lost Christianities' isn't for the true believer but for those wanting to explore a deeper understanding of how religions change and adjust themselves. A religion is like any other growing thing. It adapts and changes so it can grow. For those willing to explore, they can find a rich tapestry of historical change by reading this book. It is highly recommend for those looking for more and willing to question.

Lost Scriptures, Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament
Bart D. Ehrman
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0195182502 $30.00

Curiosity is what killed the cat and is what made me read 'Lost Scriptures.' 'The Da Vinci Code' and numerous other contemporary stories refer to books that never made it into the bible. 'Lost Scriptures' is a pretty good collection of whole books and fragments that date back to the time the biblical texts were written. You can read first hand the stories referenced by so many other works.

This collection is filled with stories that make you wonder. 'The Coptic Gospel of Thomas' is a collection of sayings by Jesus. Many are just parables that have no context so all you can do is wonder on what the stories mean. 'The Gospel of Phillip' has the fragment that talks about Jesus' love of Mary. 'The Shepard of Hermas' with its revelations…

This is a reference book for those who are curious. Ehrman does preface each manuscript with a short explanation of the story and how it fits in with others and the bible. The translations are readable but the technical nature of the material makes this book best for serious students.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Variable Star
Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson
Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
076531312X $24.95

"I do not want you to try and do the literary equivalent of a Rich Little impression of Robert Heinlein. I want you to take his outline and write the best damn Spider Robinson novel you're capable of" (p. 316). That instruction to Spider Robinson from Robert Heinlein's literary executor helps explain why, the whole time I was reading Variable Star, I felt that I was not reading a Robert Heinlein novel. Heinlein fans, expecting a Heinlein clone, will be puzzled, but not disappointed. Robinson fans will be delighted. Fortunately, the two categories are not mutually exclusive. If the strongest criticism I can come up with is that Spider Robinson is not Robert Heinlein, that must qualify as a "thumbs up"—at the very least.

When Robinson catalogued the personal retainers of the world's richest quadrillionaire, I was surprised to find (p. 45) that it included "several personal psychiatrists," given that Robinson could have been echoing my own conclusions when, in "Too Soon We Grow Old," he forecast a day, "When the so-called 'science' of psychology collapsed under the weight of its own flawed postulates." But the quadrillionaire turned out to be thoroughly despicable, and that may be why he, rather than the author, validated psychoquackery. Or it could simply be that Robinson faithfully recorded a passage from Heinlein's outline.

There are scattered allusions to Heinlein characters and concepts. The book's first reference to "the Prophet" had me wondering if it was supposed to mean Mohammed. But later passages made clear that the prophet in question was Nehemiah Scudder, Heinlein's "First Prophet," a character Heinlein found so repulsive that his plan to write a whole novel about the Prophet's reign had to be abandoned out of insurmountable nausea. Robinson stops short of equating Scudder with George W. Bush. But he makes clear that it was the egocentric stupidity, theocentric insanity, and theofascist absolutism of the Bush Gestapo that opened the door for and in effect created a Nehemiah Scudder. Also, Robinson's ending echoes Heinlein's somewhat right wing attitude that the only good antagonist is a dead one.

Robinson strays from science fiction into fantasy when he has characters lightyears apart communicate telepathically. It was precisely because telepathy neither diminishes in proportion to the square of the distance, nor is subject to the light-speed limitation of all other means of communication, that Einstein rejected it as pseudoscience. And the story's introduction in the final chapter of a faster-than-light starship likewise violates the known laws of physics. But without such concepts, neither a suitable ending for Variable Star nor any Star Trek episode could have been written. In science fiction, the only form of prostitution is buying an audience (and simultaneously dumbing America) by pretending that the story's fantasy concepts exist in the real world, as the current TV series, Medium, and Ghost Whisperer do in every episode. Robinson did not cross that line.

Variable star is excellent science fiction. Forget the Heinlein connection, and read it as good Spider Robinson.

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
Sam Harris
W. W. Norton
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
0393035158 $24.95

It is now 14 years since the publication of Mythology's Last Gods. Yet religion continues to exist, even though MLG falsified religion as definitively as the first photographs of the Martian surface falsified the "canals" myth. An obvious explanation is that, for a book to have any influence, it first has to reach the masses. MLG sold 2,000 copies, insignificant among the millions of god addicts who have no awareness that all claims of a god revealing its existence have been traced to Tanakhs, Bibles and Korans that assure their readers that the earth is flat.

It is two years since the publication of The End of Faith, and its failure to wipe religion from the face of the earth is even more incomprehensible, since copies in print have reached 400,000, placing it among Amazon's top 75 bestsellers. It takes a different approach from MLG, and perhaps that is why it has reached a larger percentage of America's 100 million nontheists (of whom only half have come out of the closet and admitted to pollsters that they are not god addicts, causing Harris {p. 17} to cite nonbelievers as 17 percent of the population rather than the more accurate 33 percent). MLG showed that the Bible is fiction, containing more than 1,000 pairs of statements that are mutually exclusive and therefore cannot both be true, and that religion should be rejected because everything about it is a Big Lie. The End of Faith shows that religion is antihuman and, if not restricted to funny farms where it belongs, will exterminate the human race. With 400,000 people made aware of that reality, how have religion's intestinally challenged and economically self-serving pushers (there's a third kind?) managed to keep such information from being assimilated by America's 200 million Christians (one billion worldwide)?

The answer is manifested in an incurable god addict's review for Midwest Book Review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, number 7 on Amazon's bestseller list compared to The End of Faith's number 74. The addict, in a desperate attempt to justify the afterlife belief that nullifies his terror of death and gets him through the day without having to be institutionalized and diapered, denigrated Dawkins as an adherent of "the religion of science" (oxymoron). Truly, there are none so blind as those who will not see. And because they will not see, they are pursuing policies that contribute to humankind extinction, in the conviction that a deus ex machina will intervene to save us in the last act. As Harris writes (p. 26), the result of incompatible beliefs about what happens after death is "an unending cycle of murder and cease-fire…. Add weapons of mass destruction to this diabolical clockwork, and you have found a recipe for the fall of civilization."

Sam Harris is not a biblical scholar and, other than devoting a few paragraphs to the virgin birth myth (pp. 94-97), he accordingly makes no attempt to demonstrate that the Bible contains 19,000 factual errors. But he is aware (p. 45) that, "The Bible, it seems certain, was the work of sand-strewn men and women who thought the earth was flat [and said so, unambiguously, in 14 places] and to whom a wheelbarrow would have been a breathtaking example of emerging technology." And he recognizes (p. 16) that, "The idea that any one of our religions represents the infallible word of the One True God requires an encyclopedic ignorance of history, mythology, and art even to be entertained … for there is no more evidence to justify a belief in the literal existence of Yahweh and Satan than there was to keep Zeus perched upon his mountain throne or Poseidon churning the seas."

Unfortunately, Harris demonstrates his own scientific illiteracy when he writes (p. 41) that, "There also seems to be a body of data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena, much of which has been ignored by mainstream science." NEWSFLASH: Every source cited in Harris's endnote supporting that observation has been thoroughly examined, evaluated and annihilated by adherents of "mainstream science," particularly the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. There is no more evidence to justify a belief in psychic phenomena than to justify a belief in religion. I suggest that he take out a subscription to Skeptical Inquirer—pronto. And his belief that, "the church managed to transform Jesus' principal message of loving one's neighbor and turning the other cheek into a doctrine of murder and rapine" (p. 85), shows an appalling ignorance of what a fatuous, xenophobic, hate-ridden, egocentric psychopath the hunchbacked dwarf from Capernaum really was. Fortunately, those examples of Harris's inability to distinguish between valid and invalid sources do not nullify his observations about the anthropocidal effects of religion.

Harris begins his book with an anecdote about a young man who boards a crowded bus with a bomb underneath his overcoat. He waits until the bus is full before triggering the bomb, so that the number of innocent bystanders murdered will be maximized. His parents express pride that their son has gone straight to heaven without passing GO and without collecting $200, while simultaneously sending his victims to hell for eternity for belonging to a non-identical belief system. The neighbors celebrate the death of an alleged martyr, and give his family gifts of food and money. Harris asks (p. 12), "Why is it so easy, then, so trivially easy … to guess the young man's religion?" He acknowledges in an endnote that such behavior is also typical of Hindu terrorists in Sri Lanka, but he sees the answer that immediately springs to mind as so obvious that there is no need to spell it out.

Harris refutes the philosophical doubletalk that "ethical truths are culturally contingent in a way that scientific truths are not" (p. 170). He devotes little space to the Inquisition, since even most Catholics now see it as a low point in church history, even though no pope has seen fit to confess that what is recognized as evil now was equally evil then. But he annihilates the Big Lie that the Holocaust was perpetrated by nontheists (pp. 100-106). In fact, Nazism was an extreme form of Catholicism. That good Catholic, Adolf Hitler, claimed that, in exterminating Europe's Jews, he was "doing the Lord's work." His Final Solution was the culmination of centuries of Christian anti-Semitism.

Harris is devastating in his condemnation of both Islam as a religion in which mere belief in its doctrines constitutes endorsement of terrorism, and Noam Chomsky's virtual declaration that the atrocity of 9/11/2001 was America's own fault. America has certainly committed atrocities (My Lai comes to mind). But to compare America's bombing of an al Qaeda chemical weapons site in Sudan with al Quaeda's massacre of 3,000 American civilians, as Chomsky does (pp. 139-144), is nothing short of insane. And while Harris is circumspect in his criticism of Mohandas Gandhi, going barely beyond calling him a religious dogmatist (p. 202), he assuredly does not treat him as the sacred cow that Western civilization has made him.

Harris notes (pp. 22-23) that, "some of our most cherished beliefs about the world … are leading us, inexorably, to kill one another…. It seems that if our species ever eradicates itself through war, it will not be because it was written in the stars but because it was written in our books…. We have the misfortune of having many such books on hand, each making an exclusive claim to its infallibility…. Intolerance is thus intrinsic to every creed." And even most moderates would agree that, "Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them…. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring others to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others…. If they cannot be captured … otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan" (pp. 52-53). Afghanistan, not Iraq, where acts of war against the United States did not originate, as all but Bush's yes-men acknowledged.

Harris does not fall into the politically correct trap of praising religious moderates. He writes (p. 20) that, "While moderation in religion may seem a reasonable position to stake out … it offers no bulwark against religious extremism and religious violence." And (pp. 14-15) he recognizes that moderates "imagine that the path to peace will be paved once each of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others…. The very ideal of religious tolerance … is one of the principal forces driving us to the abyss." He backs up that conclusion with the observation (p. 44) that a surgeon who attempts to suture a patient with a prayer, or a pilot who tries to land a passenger jet by chanting Hallelujahs, "will be swiftly delivered from the provinces of private faith to those of a criminal court."

Harris recognizes (p. 22) that, "Moderates do not want to kill anyone in the name of God." But he also recognizes that moderates' endorsement of extremists' "freedom of religion" is what enables the extremists to perpetrate their atrocities. The belief that, "certain fantastic propositions can be believed without evidence," (p. 29) is "something that most Americans share with Osama bin Laden." Given the refusal of moderate believers to comment on George Bush's delusion that his/their god instructed him to wage war, why do they have no trouble vilifying Osama bin Laden for having the same delusion?

Despite the fact that (p. 19), "even the least educated person among us simply knows more about certain matters than anyone did two thousand years ago—and much of this knowledge is incompatible with scripture," moderates stubbornly refuse to denounce religious fundamentalism. It was that refusal that enabled extremists to fly jet planes into the World Trade Center in the conviction that murdering adherents of an opposing belief system is a noble and godly act. And yet apologists for the religion that inspired such hatred of the human race pretend that individual fanatics, not religion itself, is the real cause of such evil. Not so, says Harris (p. 33): "Anyone who says that the doctrines of Islam have 'nothing to so with terrorism'—and our airways have been filled with apologists for Islam making this claim—is just playing a game with words." Whether Harris is aware that religion has been the cause of ninety percent of all manmade evil for more than 3,000 years, he does not say.

Harris sees the deafening silence of moderates as stemming from a misplaced admiration for tolerance. It is better attributed to the moderates' awareness that their own glass house is not shatterproof. The End of Faith does not specifically cite Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior or Iran's current president, even though those individuals' adoption of planet-destroying policies can be directly attributed to their unshakable belief that their respective imaginary playmate's second coming is due the day after tomorrow. But he is able to extrapolate that, "Words like 'God' and 'Allah' must go the way of 'Apollo' and 'Baal,' or they will unmake our world" (p. 14). Amen, doubled, redoubled and in spades.

Harris stops short of agreeing (with me and others), that if humankind does not exterminate the mind cancer of religion within the next century, religion will exterminate humankind within the following two centuries. But he does agree (p. 224), that, with an increasing number of theofascist madmen who hate everyone outside of their cult acquiring weapons of mass destruction, "there is no reason whatsoever to think that we can survive our religious differences indefinitely." It therefore comes as no surprise that, despite his sales, Harris is officially an unperson to the right wing Bushite theocrats who see him as an obstacle to their pursuit of absolute power.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Outsider John Rockwell on the Arts, 1967-2006
John Rockwell
Amadeus Press/Limelight Editions
Pompton Plains, NJ
0879103337 $34.95

Rockwell's collected reviews are a tour of music over the past 30 years. With eclectic interests and wide knowledge of and enthusiasms for music of all kinds and levels, this New York Times' critic has written about Elvis Presley, Kurt Weill, Martha Graham, Marianne Faithful, Shania Twain, Bela Bartok, and Bruce Springsteen, among numerous others. While always accessible and informative for music lovers, Rockwell's reviews, critiques, and commentaries regularly put the music and performances in context, surmise their place in their genre, ground them in contemporary culture, and view them in relation to broader artistic movements and ideas. Thus, one finds in the "Index of Names" running 16 pages citations to Marshall McLuhan, Nietzsche, Vladimir Nabokov, Karl Marx, Jackson Pollock, and Mae West. Such unlikely references evince the liveliness and revealing perspectives of the reviews, as well as their lasting value as something more than spontaneous, off-the-cuff remarks which have a part in the history and assessment of the music of recent times and the playing of music from past times in these years.

Anna Gerber and Anja Lutz.
Die Gestalten Verlag
Berlin, Germany
distributed in U.S. by Prestel
Lakewood, NJ.
3899551524 $42.00

Though arranged alphabetically like an encyclopedia or dictionary, this "Lexicon" is really a work to be read, not only used as a reference. For the influences on the graphic design which has come to be a major influence in postmodern culture as evidenced in advertising, web pages, and fashion, for example, are, as one comes to realize from the innumerable entries, more wide-ranging than one would conceive. The countless examples of graphic design--ones taken for granted, some surprising, and others provocative--definitely expand a reader's awareness of the design on one's environment while also educating one about its sources and features. References to magazines, individual art works (e. g., Ed Ruscha's print "1984"), fiction writers (e.g., Philip K. Dick), films, and artists from all fields from all ages, etc., convey the cultural riotousness of postmodernism and also expound graphic design which is its characteristic type of expression. Even a reference to the tennis star John McEnroe is worked in for the effects of his flamboyant, sometimes confrontational behavior on one graphic artist. The format of most of the entries is a definition or identification followed by quotes from one or more of over 150 graphic artists currently working in countries around the world. These artists are listed in the Appendix with brief biographies. Along the top of many pages, as a border, are photographs and illustrations of the times' ubiquitous graphic arts.

The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, Dailies and Sundays, 1931-1933, Volume One Introduction by Max Allan Collins
Idea Design Works
San Diego, CA
1600100368 $29.99

Collins' Introduction cites some key points of interest in the long-running Dick Tracy comic strips. In choosing a fedora and trench coat for his character over the deerstalker hat and cape associated with the widely-known Sherlock Holmes character, Chester Gould created the typical wear of detectives in American fiction and film for the longest time. Collins also points out that in its early days, the comic strip was basically a police procedural with Dick Tracy making use of ballistics tests, the lie detector, and even the relatively new teletype machine. A 1980 interview with the comic-strip artist Chester Gould follows the Introduction. After this are the five four-paneled comic strips Gould used to market his idea in the early 1930s. The name of the strip was changed from "Plain Clothes Tracy" by a newspaperman who first decided to take it on; and Gould changed Tracy's original straw hat to the fedora before the first strip ran. The hundreds of four-paneled black-and-white strips appearing in numerous dailies are followed by the 34 eleven-paneled color strips which appeared in newspaper Sunday comics sections starting in May 1932. The work offers a bonanza for the Dick Tracy fan, and also much of interest for the art and popular culture historian on the classic comic strips whose continuing influence on popular culture, the media, and entertainment is evidenced in the popularity and growth of the relatively new genre of illustrated books.

The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians--and How We Can Survive Them
Jean Lipman-Blumen
Oxford U. Press
New York, NY
0195312007 $16.95

The central question for Lipman-Blumen, professor of Public Policy and of Organizational Behavior at California Claremont Graduate U., and one of the founders of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Leadership, is "What are the forces that propel followers, again and again, to accept, often favor, and sometime create toxic leaders?" The question has many sides involving sociological, psychological, historical, political and also in varying measures pathological and irrational matters. The author delves into these varied areas with familiarity, depth, analytic abilities, and nimbleness. There is no simple answer to the question. Followers' self-esteem, the delusions of crowds, deceptiveness of a leader, historical circumstances, and the nature of and need for society play into the acceptance, toleration, and support of toxic leaders. There is also often an ambiguity to a leader making it difficult to see if he or she is toxic; and some leaders may become toxic over a period of time. Not all toxic leaders are as evident in their time or even historical hindsight as Hitler or Stalin and the other ogres of history. Lipman-Blumen's purview of toxic leaders extends to Jeffrey Skilling of Enron notoriety and other top corporate executives of recent years whose harmful wrongdoings have been uncovered. While she regularly refers to certifiably toxic or questionable leaders in varied fields as examples, Lipman-Blumen engages only minimally in psychoanalysis of them. Her concentration is on the broader circumstances and patterns of how toxic leaders come to power in the first place and how they are able to stay in power even when their harmful behavior and policies become known. The author also pays much attention to the role of much of respective populations and key supporters in this. But the author also provides answers on how to counter toxic leaders in this timely, needed work.

Identity Papers - Literacy and Power in Higher Education
Bronwny T. Williams, editor
Utah State U. Press
Logan, UT
0874216494 $22.95 800-621-2736

With a passport in the background of the cover, the title is a play on how a passport is a means of identity allowing one to pass across borders, while denoting particularly papers students write in English courses. The college English teachers who are the authors of the 13 collected essays have seen from innumerable such papers and diverse classroom experiences how many students' uncertainties over and struggles with their identities complicate and can even devalue their college education. This is an issue which college administrators and image-makers are generally unaware of. And professors in other courses are not as aware of this state of numbers of students concerning their identity as are English teachers assigning and assaying papers depending largely on creative thinking and introspection. Overall the collected essays get at a quote from Ernest Bloch at the start of one that an individual's philosophy does not depend so much on "the kind of person one is...[but rather] more essentially on the time in which one lives and, above all, the way in which one belongs to the time." The authors are concerned that all students, especially women and minorities, have a way or find or develop one before too long to optimally--to productively and rewardingly--belong to their time at college as an irreplaceable, singularly valuable educational, personal, and maturating experience. The authors realize that they as well as other professors and college personnel, not the students alone, have a significant role in this. Besides bringing to light widespread feelings of "alienation, isolation, and frustration" among students and the reasons for these, the essays address and to some degree define ways English professors can have a cooperative role with students in substantially reducing such debilitating moods.

Good Company
Sarah Crawford Isto
U. of Alaska Press
Fairbanks, AK
1889963884 $24.95 888-252-6657

The author's father Jim put his expertise in the "technology of gold dredges" to work in forty years employment with the Fairbanks Exploration Company (subsidiary of a larger, global mining company) mining for gold in the northern Alaska wilderness. The city of Fairbanks was the company's headquarters. Although in summer months, the Crawford family would live in rough quarters in the mining fields. The mother, Alta, was capable and spirited in the routines and occasional challenges of the spare or spartan, but not primitive or rough, family life. The successful mining company provided well enough for employees and their families. Roads and railroads connected Fairbanks to the rest of Alaska and beyond. Sarah Isto--now a retired physician--recounts the family life from her perspective as a child with vignettes and also material on the technology and business of mining. A caption of one photo notes the rafts seen in a pond made from the dredging of a giant dredger separating gold out from sludge "support power cables." The author's growth from young child to teen graduating from high school as class valedictorian is paralleled by her father's promotions in the company. The roughly 40 years covered are from the Depression to the Vietnam War with occasional references to these. The memoir is enjoyable for its engaging tone and also its picture of a bygone commercial enterprise in remote areas and the way of life surrounding this.

POE Illustrated Tales of the Imagination
Robert Klanten and Hendrik Hellige, editors
Die Gestalten Verlag
3899551591 $42.00

Thirteen artists from countries ranging from France to Japan illustrate as many Poe short stories. Among the stories The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of Red Death, and other Poe classics of the macabre and supernatural are styles in the vein of computer art, graphics, wood blocks, fantasy, and comics and illustrated book art seen throughout popular culture as well as creative and commercial art. Intended as a showcase for the 13 artists as well as a contemporarily illustrated edition of Poe stories, at the back of the book are email and website contacts for each artist.

Two Carpenters: Architecture and Building in Early New England 1799-1859
J. Ritchie Garrison
U. of Tennessee Press
1572334851 $48.95

Calvin Stearns, the father, George, one of his four sons, the father's brother, and Calvin's three other sons covered a lot of ground in early 1800's New England. They were master carpenters whose homes they built for their families and clients in Vermont and Massachusetts--mainly in Northfield and Boston--were looked to as models of the best of New England craftsmanship and design ideas. "Calvin Stearns designed and built dwellings that were visually and spatially complex...[that] articulated hierarchy." His brother and his sons never strayed far from these architectural principles, but often imaginatively applied them according to different social circumstances they were in, the wishes of their clients, and changes in architecture in the course of the careers. Garrison focuses on Calvin and George Stearns because it was they who left many documents which could be studied for the two carpenters' working habits, financial and social relationships with clients, and the materials, supplies, and equipment they used. Garrison does a meticulous study which credits mainly the two Stearns he focuses on with changing the architecture and building of rural New England homes and thus the main of New England rural society. "The book considers pattern, work, identity, power, and ambiguity because those metathemes help organize interpretation." For instance, "the Stearnses primarily acquired power through their ability to design and make things"--which ability others sought out and they demonstrated in building their own houses in different communities they moved into. To call these two Stearnses "carpenters"--instead of the architects they clearly were to a considerable degree if not strictly by occupation--may seem coy or seem an understatement. But the author means to show not only the consummate carpentry and design sense of Calvin Stearns and his son George, but also how their being woven into different communities had an effect on architecture throughout the region. Garrison is director of the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture and history professor at the U. of Delaware.

Masonic Temples
William D. Moore
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN
1572334967 $34.95

Masonic temples with external and internal features to evoke King Solomon's temple in ancient Jerusalem built throughout New York state from 1870 to 1930 were intended to "anchor [Freemasons] within a cognitive framework as they faced the existential crisis of being American men" in this period of profound, challenging, and often perplexing cultural change. New York state serves as an instructive example of the architecture of Masonic temples throughout the United States and the types of rituals and other activities they were built for because of this state's diversity embracing urban, suburban, and rural areas. The author is also familiar with New York Freemasonry from his one-time position as director of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library in New York City, though he is not himself a Mason. This Masonic Library also contains an incomparable amount of Masonic literature for study. The main chambers of a Masonic lodge are built and furnished to define--and thus to anchor--different facets of masculinity as these are recognized by the different stages of Freemasonry's initiations and rituals. The four principle chambers known as the Masonic lodge room, armory and drill room of the Knights Templar, the Scottish Rite Cathedral, and the Shriners' mosque correspond respectively to the masculine facets of the heroic artisan, the holy warrior, the wise man, and the jester. Moore moves back and forth from physical aspects of these rooms, the relationship of these aspects to the different facets of masculinity, and how Masonic rituals, lore, values, and practices work to define these aspects and keep them in proper balance in the formation of the ideal Freemason.

The Backcountry Towns of Colonial Virginia
Christopher E. Hendricks
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN

A professor of history at Armstrong Atlantic State U., Hendricks writes on how towns in backcountry Virginia came about from the designs and ambitions of entrepreneurial individuals. They did not just spring up randomly in some pleasing meadow or on some riverbank happened upon by a frontiersman, for example, or a group which had struck out into the wilderness. "The people who put these plans [for towns] into action were motivated by a variety of economic, social, or philanthropic factors and sometimes purely by circumstance and opportunity." These entrepreneurial-like individuals were not a part of any organized movement. But their activities in toto played a large part in opening up the western parts of Virginia and setting a pattern for westward expansion. Among the towns Hendricks studies in larger topological areas such as the Piedmont and the Great Valley (Shenandoah) are Winchester, Marysville, Leesburg, Woodstock, Charlottesville, and Brent Town. Early maps of many of the towns especially demonstrate the ideas and purposes of their founders. Along with the maps, the authors specifics on the conception, establishment, and early period of the many towns makes each oe stand out distinctively. The enterprises and goals of the town were as varied as the individuals who conceived them.

I, City
Pavel Brycz & translated Joshua Cohen and Marketa Hofmeisterova.
Twisted Spoon Press
8086264270 $14.50

The translators, one who lives in Brooklyn and the other in Prague, rightly note that Brycz's fiction is "many things a collection of stories. Of prose-poems. A novel in stories. A series of sketches in the best easterly European tradition of Danilo Kis, or Isaac Babel." Also an impressionistic history, and a postmodern memoir, they might have added. The narrator is the city of Most, an actual city growing up around a chemical plant built by the Nazis and later used by Stalin which which has lasted into contemporary times to "listen to the quite big second coming of Janis Joplinka" and appreciate John Lennon and Wayne Gretzsky. Brycz, born in 1968, lives in Most. "I, City" is his third book. His sinuous, almost bewitching prose captures the blend of anonymity, heterogeneity, vitality, and witness of Most and by extension nearly all cities, as in "I love coffee. It's the vice of the cities. They make it from the night...I only inhaled the coffee from the plastic cup of a man who was sad, because he was drinking filtered coffee, and so he didn't know a thing about his future...."

The Angel of Rain
Gaston Baquero
Translated by Greg Simon and Steven F. White
Eastern Washington U. Press
Spokane, WA
1597660167 $15.95

Baquero's memory of his native Cuba which he left in 1959 after Castro came to power surfaces in his poems with a continual poignancy which is like melancholy and also with recurring mention of death which is like a mood. This makes for pure sensation, sensuality, in the poems--no tales, spare situation when there is any at all, no characterization, few lessons, not the formality of anger or regret, or political stance, or idea of return. The poet's loss is absolute and inconsolable, except for the movement of language in the poems. Baquero (d. 1997) wrote essays and journalism too. This is one of his eight volumes of poems. The translators, co-translators of Lorca's "Poet in New York," have an exceptional affinity with the Spanish language and Baquero's moody poems.

Rhetorical Vectors of Memory in National and International Holocaust Trials
Marouf A. Hasian. Jr.
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
0870137840 $59.95

Hasian develops his innovative, soundly-based conception that most trials--i. e., prosecutions--relating to the genocide of Jews by Nazi Germany--Judeocide--were not strictly exercises in making criminal accusations, presenting evidence, and seeking a verdict. As Hasian convincingly demonstrates and expounds, these trials had a major role in making widely known the systematic atrocities against Jews throughout Europe in World War II and from this, the formation of the subject of the Holocaust. The Nuremberg trials conducted by the victorious United States and its allies closely following WWII only randomly and sketchily broached the genocide against the Jews. It wasn't until decades after the War that particular individuals such as Adolf Eichmann and John Demjanjuk were tried for their connection to what came to be known as the Holocaust. As an Israeli journalist wrote, "[prior] to the Eichmann trial, what we call the Holocaust did not exist as a collective story." Hasian suggests that maybe the conception of the Holocaust did exist with some persons, but the Eichmann trial "helped turn [this Holocaust] into a more didactic tale." The basic elements of this "tale" came to permeate not only the Israeli legal system, but also that of the United States, as seen in the Demjanjuk trial, and of other democratic countries. Hasian--associate professor of Communication at the U. of Utah and on the editorial board of the journal "Rhetoric and Public Affairs"--does not suggest that such trials were in any way baseless, wrong-headed, or were show trials. His material and analyses are much more subtle and revealing about the motives for and effects of trials. He shows that trials, like the media of novels, films, or journalism, help to bring elaboration to certain historical and communal episodes and in so doing shape a society's memories of them.

Finding Sanctuary
Abbot Christopher Jamison
Liturgical Press
Collegeville, MN
0814631681 $19.95 800-858-5450

Jamison is Abbot of the Benedictine monastery outside London that was the location for the surprisingly popular BBC TV series titled "The Monastery." He imparts commentary on the seven virtues the monastery's spiritual regimen centers on. "Before we can take the step into the sanctuary [of the peacefulness coming with higher spirituality], we have to find the doorway and that doorway is virtue," writes Jamison. The prized virtues are silence, contemplation, obedience, humility, community, spirituality, and hope. The daily regimen of the regular monks involves practicing them and seeking them to attain increasing levels of spirituality. The TV series followed five lay persons temporarily taking part in this regimen to gain better understanding of the spiritual life and how to grow in spirituality themselves.

Repentance in Christian Theology
Mark J. Boda and Gordon T. Smith, editors
Michael Glazier/Liturgical Press
Collegeville, MN
0814651755 $39.95

With wayward politicians and movie stars continually giving lip service to repentance when their embarrassments and sometimes crimes are discovered, the theologians and professors of religion of the 18 collected articles bring readers back to the fundamentals of genuine repentance. Repentance has always had a central place especially in Christianity. "Repentance is not an onerous burden...where we enter into darkness dealing with various unpleasantries...[r]ather the joy for which we so deeply long is experienced in and through the practice of confession." Repentance is examined as a subject in books of the Old and New Testaments, part of religious history, and different theological traditions, among these Catholicism, Protestantism and its Pentecostal movement, and African-American Christian spirituality, in fulfillment of the book's aim of providing a "resource for the interpretation, theology, and practice of penitence within the Christian tradition."

Henry Berry

Kathryn's Bookshelf

Speaking of Radio: Chuck Schaden's Conversations with the Stars of the Golden Age of Radio
Chuck Schaden
Nostalgia Digest Press
P.O. Box 421, Morton Grove, IL 60053
0974318000 $27.00

"You wouldn't go to a theater on Sunday unless the manager promised to stop the picture and let you hear the Jack Benny program."
-Phil Harris to Chuck Schaden

"You're bringing back memories I thought I had forgotten. Thank you."
-Don Wilson to Chuck Schaden

"Man, you got a book there, I tell ya!"
-Phil Harris to Chuck Schaden

The 19th century had its sheet music and the 1950's had television. Sandwiched between these two indispensable home entertainments was a phenomenon known as radio. First viewed as a mere toy for amateur mechanical enthusiasts, by the 1930's radio had become a multimillion dollar industry, broadcasting everything from comedy, music and drama to the Allied landing at Normandy.

Chuck Schaden, who grew up during radio's golden era and who is the first and only individual to be inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame for listening to radio, turned his passionate avocation into a career when, in the 1970's, he began to collect and re-broadcast classic radio shows. His current Chicago-based weekly program (which is also available on the internet), "Those Were the Days," not only airs thousands of previously broadcast radio programs but also includes, on occasion, taped interviews of the stars and writers of classic radio. "Speaking of Radio," is a transcribed collection of these interviews.

What emerges from the pages of Schaden's book is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the radio industry at its zenith. Because radio's golden era directly coincided with Hollywood's (which is why many of the films from the 30's and 40's had abbreviated radio versions which were broadcast on a radio show called "Lux Radio Theater"), many of Schaden's subjects were involved, to some extent, with film as well as radio. Sometimes painting a picture of the manipulative studio system - which would not allow its stars to simultaneously perform behind the microphone without a demanding price - "Speaking of Radio" also occasionally portrays the cross-pollination of the two mediums. For instance, Agnes Moorehead's interview includes information regarding Orson Welles' Mercury Theater of the Air, which Welles and Moorehead co-founded.

Many of the interviewed actors also eventually became involved with television, either because their shows were easily transferred to the small screen (such as "Jack Benny," "Dragnet," and "Ozzie & Harriet") or because radio was simply their springboard for whatever was next on the horizon. Most notable among these latter was Tony Randall, who Schaden interviewed just as "The Odd Couple" television show was making its debut. Although Schaden - and most of his subjects -- have a tremendous nostalgia for old time radio, Randall, one of Schaden's younger interviewees, takes a more cynical view of the general quality of the medium: "Of all radio, millions of radio shows, except for Fred Allen and Jack Benny a few like that, there was one show that was genuinely good - good writing and good acting - and only one, and that was "Vic and Sade."

Although one can hardy dispute Randall's program preferences, his general cynicism for radio is rather arguable. In some instances, radio had a distinct dramatic edge over any screen, whether large or small. A pointed example of this is mentioned in Agnes Moorhead's interview, who, before she became Darrin Stephens's worst nightmare on the "Bewitched" television show, had an electrifying role in the radio version of "Sorry, Wrong Number," (broadcast repeatedly on a program called, "Suspense"). While mentioning the Barbara Stanwyck film of the same name, Moorehead attests that the radio version was better able to "keep [the audience's attention] on the woman. . . . The whole thing is all the woman and you should never break it for all those other things [which were found in the film version]."

Containing fascinating quotes from forty six interviewees (including everyone from Don Ameche to Rudy Valley), Schaden's book also abounds with his own phenomenally detailed knowledge of radio. Occasionally remembering more than his interviewees, Schaden is able to gently - almost reverentially -- prod precious nuggets of information from the stars and writers of radio's golden epoch in such a way as to make "Speaking of Radio" a truly captivating read.

The Sacred Harp: A Tradition and its Music
Buell E. Cobb, Jr.
University of Georgia Press
Athens, GA 30602
0820323713 $22.95

In the early days of the 18th century, the quality of music in the churches of colonial New England was less than ideal. Congregational singing was accomplished through a method called "lining out," a process in which a song leader would sing a psalm, one line at a time, and the congregation would follow suit. Although the 9th edition of the Puritan Bay Psalm Book - published in 1698 - did include printed music (and was the first edition to do so), because many of the colonists weren't musically literate, there was a growing feeling among New England's musically inclined that something had to be done to improve the quality of congregational singing.

Enter "singing schools," "shape-note" singing and the subject of Buell E. Cobb Jr.'s book, "The Sacred Harp." "The Sacred Harp," the title of the last shape-note tune book to be published, was descended from a long line of shape-note books, the first of which were used in New England churches to remedy their aforementioned musical malaise. Published in 1844, "The Sacred Harp" culled many tunes from previously published shape-note books and also included some previously unknown tunes.

The concept of "shape notes" -- the method of assigning to each note of the scale a particular shape instead of giving it a specific position on the musical staff -- is well explained in Cobb's book. (Although many psalms and hymns are included in the book's appendix, there aren't any recorded in the shape-note manner.)

If "shape-note" singing (a term now interchangeable with "Sacred Harp" singing) were not vibrantly alive and well in certain areas of the American south, Buell E. Cobb's book might be simply the study of a quaint but forgotten slice of Americana. Although he often laments the difficulty of writing about something so potent and so utterly singular that must be experienced to be fully understood, Cobb brings the entire story of "sacred harp" singing - past and present - clearly into focus. The history of Sacred Harp singing, a uniquely American story, is a tale which Buell Cobb's book tells definitively well.

Darcy's Story: 'Pride and Prejudice' Told from a Whole New Perspective
Janet Aylmer
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061148709 $13.95

Jane Austen's novel, "Pride and Prejudice," tells the tale of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a pair who spend most of the novel too ensconced in their personal foibles (his pride, her prejudice) to realize that they are meant for each other. When the light finally dawns, true love and the end of the story are not far behind. While Elizabeth's painful journey towards self-revelation makes her one of the most compelling characters in English literature, Darcy's transformation is less detailed, although no less genuine. Plot points prove that he has divested himself of his pride, but the reader is not invited along on his metamorphosis.

Janet Aylmer has sought to remedy this deficiency in her book, "Darcy's Story." Utilizing a good deal of Austen's original text, Aylmer deviates from it only to elucidate Darcy's thought processes and his actions, especially when he is not in the presence of his future lady love.

It has been said (and rightly so) that Jane Austen's heroes are a dull bunch, especially when compared to their dashing but morally flawed rivals. Darcy (one of the heroes), is no different and when Aylmer gets her readers inside Darcy's somewhat drab head we suddenly realize exactly why Austen put her readers inside Elizabeth's iridescent one instead. In other words, a "Pride and Prejudice," which places the sparkling Elizabeth Bennet in the background, is just occasionally a bit of a bore.

But as a companion piece to the original novel, "Darcy's Story" contains some fascinating insights. How exactly did Darcy arrange a legal marriage between Lydia Bennet and the blackguard Wickham? Austen tells you at her book's end but Aylmer reveals the events as they unfold. What precise words passed between Elizabeth's father and Darcy when Darcy asked for Elizabeth's hand in marriage? Aylmer depicts what Austen implied. The book truly shines when Aylmer creates her own scenarios. For instance, when Austen's Darcy recommends that his friend Bingley propose marriage to Jane Bennet, Darcy leaves for London quite suddenly, without giving a reason. Aylmer provides him with a very interesting one: he didn't think he would be able to bear Bingley's happiness when his own was still in doubt.

Beneath his dull exterior, Darcy has some sterling qualities and Aylmer has rendered a faithful and detailed portrait of the character who eventually won Elizabeth Bennet's heart. For those who love the original tale, "Darcy's Story" is great fun.

Kathryn Atwood

Kaye's Bookshelf

Riding with Miss Lindsey
Jim Alexander
American Book Publishing
1589823591, $16.95

About this book? . . . quoting from the back cover:

"Lindsey Alexander came into this world with Down syndrome and serious heart defects. Against the odds, she fought back to live sixteen joyous years with her family. This tender memoir written by her own father, celebrates the love and the laughter Lindsey brought to all who knew her, a compelling story about a remarkable young girl and a father's love that you won't want to miss. You'll be glad you came along for the ride."

And that pretty much sums it up. However, you'll need to read this memoir to learn about Lindsey–her life, loves, and what made her so special. Jim Alexander does an excellent job in creating this well-written memorial to his daughter.

This story would appeal to just about anyone, but I think it will be an inspiration to other families challenged by raising a special-need child. All profits from this book are donated to charities for special needs and pediatric heart patients.

Abandoned in the Maze
Michael Berg
American Book Publishing Company
PO Box 65624, Salt Lake City, UT 84165
1589823001, $22.00

This fictional story is about a seventeen-year old girl, Irene, and her sister who were put into the custody of the state when their mother was arrested for working with a pro-choice abortion group. From the beginning to the end, there is nothing positive to be said about the system. The Trench Center was a corrupt state-run facility where the children were medicated because the system pays more for medicated than non-medicated kids. Irene never had a chance.

Although Abandoned in the Maze is presented as a fictional story, Michael Berg has drawn upon his extensive experience of fifteen years providing prevention, intervention and treatment services to adolescents with drug, gang and severe behavioral problems. He is currently employed as a Prevention Specialist assigned to an area of schools to oversee everything that encompasses school safety. Prior to working with the school board he was employed as a supervisor of a group home in charge of the well-being of ten adolescent children, and the novel is based upon his experience of working in group homes. Many of the incidences in this story have occurred throughout South Florida in other group homes and foster homes.

Michael is a good writer. The book is well-written and edited, and the story gives the reader some poignant insight into the problems within our systems. The author has presented this information in a realistic, touching manner, and I appreciate that he has taken the time and effort to bring the truth to the surface. You won't be disappointed, and I highly recommend his book.

Park Ridge - A Senior Center Murder
Cheryl Hagedorn
1601450230 $14.95

Park Ridge is traditional mystery genre with a touch of romance, and I quote from the back cover:

"On a day in late February, in a small, northwestern suburb of Chicago, four card players began the complex process of bidding for the privilege of calling trump. The winner, Jack Buchtel, named trump. The trump he named was murder."

This was a good read, primarily because Cheryl Hagedorn is a good writer. I must say, however, that I had a bit of a problem with the motivation for the murders. It seems these days that just about anything which annoys a person is an adequate reason to end another person's life . . . and I don't think this applies solely to senior citizens. That would be the only criticism I might make of this novel.

We know who the murderers are and so, the challenge is how the detective solves the crime and gets his girl. If you're a mystery buff, you'll mostly likely enjoy this well-written tale.

Dead Still
David Wolman
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Ste 100, Lincoln, NE
0595396682 $14.95

This novel took me longer to read than normal because of the quality of writing. Wolman had me hooked until the very end. About the story, allow me to quote from the back cover:

"Dead Still plunges into the arcane world of identity theft, insurance fraud, sex, and murder. A vicious killer, an unlikely hero, and a country physician are linked by coincidental events that include a near-death dogsled escape from the frozen terrain of northern Maine and a lethal chase through the treacherous caverns of Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands."

David Wolman is a consummate writer, and you won't be disappointed. His medical knowledge, survival skills and expertise at dog sledding come through clearly to make Dead Still a fascinating, suspenseful mystery, and I quote from pages 136-137 when Susan is left in an unfamiliar wilderness to die:

"She hoped she would live long enough to sort it all out.

"As she reached the shelter of tall cedars, she tried to calm herself. She reminded herself o the most important theme of survival courses she had taken and taught–avoid panic. Logic and reason were to be relied on. Her knowledge of survival skills would pull her through.

"But, in the long run, her will to survive was the key to survival.

"First, she needed shelter and time to think. She needed to concentrate on the task at hand. That would keep her from panicking. Focus. Focus. She guessed it was about four o'clock as the light was already fading, augmented by the storm with its russet clouds racing above. She quickly found a spot with well-packed drift snow. Using a pine bough and her gloved lands, she dug a chest-high hole into the drift. She proceeded to dig a horizontal rectangle at shoulder height, creating blocks as she removed the snow. Then digging upward into the rectangular area, she fashioned a sleep platform out of packed snow above ground level. She extended the entrance. Then she covered the triangular opening with show blocks she had removed. Using her hands, she made a ventilation hole in the top of the cave. She had practiced this rudimentary shelter building many times, and many times on the Iditarod trail she had slept in such a snow cave to escape storms. So far, it was just Survival 101."

Will Susan survive? Will someone come to her rescue? Guess you'll just have to read this novel to learn the answers to these questions and why she was left to die.

David Wolman is the author of Little Boy Lost and Whispers on the Nile. Wolman's poetry was the inspiration for the musical work, The Long Bright. He reviews theater and classical music. He is an educated, talented writer, and I highly recommend this novel.

Circling San Francisco Bay A Pilgrimage to Wild and Sacred Places
Ginny Anderson
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
0595391915, $18.95

Circling San Francisco Bay is a spiritual travel guide. It focuses on sacred sites in nature around San Francisco Bay, but the basic concepts can be used anywhere, really. If one is interested in connecting with nature to find what insights into life nature may share with us, this book will provide some guidance.

Ginny Anderson is a Stanford graduate, a psychotherapist, spiritual guide and teaches shamanism and feminist spirituality. She helps people to connect with nature. The book is professionally written, edited and well organized, and I can certainly recommend it to readers interested in developing a more intimate relationship with the natural world.

Snot Bubbles! A Football Primer for Moms, Wives & Significant Others
Helma Clark
Jersten Press
PO Box 688, McDonough, GA

0970279302, $8.50

This book is a basic primer for people who want to know a little something about football. It is very basic, but it will help you to understand the language, player positions and signals in the game. Actually the "snot bubbles" is a real term. I can recommend this book as a rudimentary primer; however, the drawings of the figures demonstrating the signals are poorly done.

The First Atheist
Eric Polfliet
Llumina Press
7915 W. McNab Rd, Tamarac, FL 33321
1595266232, $10.95

The First Atheist is not a lengthy book, only 140 pages including the prologue. Yet, this little book is one of the most interesting and well-written books I've read in sometime. I would say this is a 'must read' for anyone interested in religious studies, particularly Hinduism. Quoting from the back cover:

"Charvaka, sweet talker, ladies' man, godless libertine, was the First Atheist. Many have been disgusted at the mention of his name because he liked to eat, drink, and fornicate. He was also known for questioning the authority of the Brahmin priests. Little is known of him and mystery shrouds his existence. No writings of his exist.

"Charvaka was the First Atheist - a man who preached the doctrine of eat, drink, and be merry in response to suppression and controls imposed by those in charge. He recognizes Religion, but sees that it is no more than an instrument in the hands of the powers that be, used to forward their own agenda.

"The protagonist, Jan, discovers Charvaka and India through a chain of events set off by a love affair with the sensual Parvati during his student days. When Parvati is murdered in a religious rite honoring Shiva, Jan is confronted with age-old tensions between human sexuality and religion, skeptical thought, and a religious fervor that stops at nothing.

"Jan's experience offers a personal insight into life in India. No references are given: it appears as if the tale is no more than a great feat of his imagination. Fact or fiction? Story or documentary? Truth has many faces, reality many layers."

How true . . . how true! I did do some research about Charvaka after reading the book. How much of the book is factual and how much isn't is hard to say–sort of like The DaVinci Code and just as disturbing. It is my opinion that Eric Polfliet has done an excellent job at making his point, supporting it and at the same time providing us with an interesting, informative story. Allow me to share a few excerpts with you . . .

from page 65:

"Her first words were a shouted question. 'Do you know what you heard tonight?'

"We were back in her flat after walking from the auditorium where Professor Kumar had given his lecture. 'You heard the origin of all evil, an avatar of Hitler, a personification of Manu, the KKK's cry for supremacy, all wrapped up in an intellectual jacket that hides the festering body from which it emanates. Their program is as old as the human race; it is the great white Aryan conspiracy–more dangerous than ever, more hidden than ever, and more credible than ever. I am the Jew in the story, the victim of color, the victim of bias solidified in the oldest and most revered writings on earth.' . . .

and from page 70:

"She continued her story. 'The Aryans who knew a thing or two about killing, were shocked by the rituals, a theatre of sexual intercourse on a planetary scale. They did not understand why Mother Earth was depicted as ugly. Their goddesses were beautiful–much nicer to pray to and better to look at.

'Mother Earth was the ugliest woman they had ever seen. Kali–oh, she was inky-black, black as plowed earth, black as moonlit blood, black as the skin on the little flat-nosed people praying to her. She had a blood-thirty face and a necklace made of snakes and human skulls. Out of her open mouth, a tongue dripped with blood. Everywhere the Aryans looked, in temples and homes, they found phalli erected to serve her. The farmers could not understand the Aryans' consternation. What was more natural than a phallus, a lingam, a plow to impregnate Mother Earth?"

and lastly from page 119:

"'Charvaka's followers, the Buddhists, and Jains, initially united and defended their ideas together. The Brahmans saw the danger to their supremacy, but also the weakness in the alliance between the Buddhists, Jains, and Charvaka. They started exploiting the weaknesses. The pious life the Jains and Buddhists prescribed was not easily merged with the pursuit of the senses that Charvaka preached. Charvaka's outright rejection of karma and rebirth, and his aggressive stand against the existence of God put him on a collision course with the Jains and Buddhists, who integrated godly concepts more and more. They wanted to avoid being condemned to a footnote on the pages of history by the Brahmans and compromised with the Vedic writings."

I hope these excerpts will spark your interest so that you'll consider reading this book, for I highly recommend it.

Eric Polfliet was born in Belgium and studied at the University of Leuven. He currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand.

Pet People: Surviving the Alcoholic Home with the Family Pet
Lesley Anne Schaffer
Aventine Press
1023 4th Ave #102, San Diego, CA
1593304250 $10.95

About this book? . . . well, Lesley Anne tells it best: "Pet People - Surviving the Alcoholic Home with the Family Pet is a memoir of the 18 pets that have come into and out of my life over fifty years. It describes their loving presence throughout my upbringing in an alcoholic home and subsequent moves to Texas and New Mexico. I've written and illustrated this book for all the pet people out there who like their pets more than people but are too embarrassed to admit it."

This is a wonderful story, particularly if you've come from a dysfunctional family, which most of us have . . . to some degree. Lesley writes with an easy, honest style, and I do appreciate a book that is designed to be easily read–large dark print, open spacing and a unique font style (Comic Sans MS), which adds to the flavor of her story. I would like to share several excerpts that were meaningful to me . . . from page 30:

"What I did learn through all this is that the human heart is capable of actually expanding when multiple pets occupy a place in it. When one pet passes on he leaves that part of your heart marked with his name forever. So the more pets you have in your life the larger your heart becomes. I'm not totally sure that the theory has ever been scientifically tested, but I know from life experience this it is so."

. . . and from page 36 . . . "This would be an excellent place for me to interject some important pet principles that I have learned over the years:

#1 Not every loose animal is lost

#2 You cannot rescue every lost animal

#3 Just because you rescue an animal does not mean you have to keep it."

This memoir will appeal to many of us dysfunctional pet lovers. Lesley Anne currently lives with her husband of 27 years (kudos to you), 3 dogs and 4 cats in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Congratulations!

American Spirit
John Janda
Academy Press
2122 Plumwood Ln, Santa Ana, CA 92705
1601450311 $13.95

About this novel? . . . I quote from the back cover:

"An Everyman story, a mystery (you be the judge of what really happened) and a love story, American Spirit extols the moral victory of one man, Mort Lewis, brought to trial in 1878 on the American frontier for a capital crime he didn't know whether he committed or not."

How this story is told is one of its appealing features. John Janda starts and ends with transcriptions from the personal reminiscences of Vernon P. Eggers, Marshal of the Cochilla Township, Arizona Territory in 1878 and here's an example . . .

"Enough beatin' around the bushes, though. Now I will tell you what happened with Mort Lewis, much as I know leastwise, 'an maybe you'll be the one to untangle that. Oblige me no end if you did.

"It all began in mid-February of seventy-eight, like I said, one of the coldest months I do remember from Cochilla days. Clouds boilin' in off the plains had laid down three big snows already that winter, but each new day rung in colder and grayer than what went before. Until one day . . ."

And in conclusion . . .

"An' who knows? Might meet up again after with Mort Lewis an' finally get some answers as to what really happened there in Cochilla back in seventy-eight. Ha! That's a joke, son. Right there, that was a joke."

We know that Mort was arrested for the murder of Jeff Landry and while awaiting trial, he thinks back upon his life–the heart of this story. More important than the answer as to his guilt or innocence, which I could not surmise, was his personal revelation that we all choose when to die and that this was his time . . . quoting from page 124.

"He felt his mother's warm presence with him now in the cell, knew her death truly was her own choice, freely made, but not from loving him any the less and not from running away. A greater purpose must have lay ahead of her, a reason ahead of her, pulling. The same must also have been true for his son. And if his son truly was blameless, then so was his mother.

"He knew a smile crossed her face now and lightened her heart, for him having faith and having forgiven her.

"His mother's death, his son's, the young trooper's death outside of Vicksburg; everyone free, everyone knowing ahead, choosing when to die. Even children knowing, understanding, children like himself."

Whether he was innocent or guilty of the crime, he followed his belief that it was his time to die.

American Spirit is well-written and edited, has an attractive cover designed by Lucas Novak, and I think you'll enjoy John Janda's writing expertise and style. John has a B.A in Government, M.A. in History and has taught and taken graduate studies at the University of California, Irvine. He has twenty-five years apprenticeship in Southern California creative writing workshops and another novel in the works, The Clamor of Fife and Drum. Good luck, John.

Cold Oblivion
T. P. Petter
Authors OnLine Ltd
19 The Cinques, Bedfordshire SG193NU, England
0755202449 $14.95

The back cover succinctly tells the essence of this story:

"In 1944 David Walker, an Army intelligence officer, escaped from a German prison camp in Crete. While his return to England was being arranged by the Underground he hid in the loft of a Greek family where he met the beautiful Miranda. They fell in love and planned to marry when the war ended. Miranda promises to wait for him for one year. After a dramatic journey through the mountains David returns home a hero, only to discover that he has a four year old son. Against his better judgement he succumbs to pressure by both sets of parents and marries his former girlfriend Victoria. Desperately unhappy at abandoning Miranda, David tries to make it work. He throws himself into his job and develops a loving relationship with the child but a family tragedy, an interfering father-in-law and David's increasing dependence on alcohol along with Victoria's desire to lead her own life, eventually destroys the marriage. Homeless and jobless, he decides to return to Crete to recapture what he once had but sixteen years have passed and nothing is as it was."

Cold Oblivion is well-written and edited, and if you like this type of story, you'll most likely enjoy the novel. It has a good flow and reads like it was written by a pro. I personally was a little disappointed by the ending but that's my take and . . . I wouldn't want to spoil it for you.

Kaye Trout

Liana's Bookshelf

Riding Fence
A. H. Holt
Thomas Bouregy &Co
Avalon Books
0803498012 $21.95

RIDING FENCE is set in Kansas in the late 19th century and is an old-fashioned western that combines romance with a lot of action, mystery and adventure. The story is about Dan Smithson, a cattleman living in a ranch with his brother Henry, and his unexpected discovery of two kids in the woods. Still under age, he falls in love with Anne Marie, a 17-year-old heiress whose life is in danger. Will he manage to protect her and kill the villains that are looking for her? Is Anne Marie going to fall in love with him and marry him despite his humble background?

RIDING FENCE is a fast-paced western that involves a lot of shooting, suspense and interesting characters. Written in the third person, it offers the readers an exciting plot assisted by sub-plots that enhance and strengthen the story.

The story, apart from the fact that it is well constructed, offers the readers an unusual ending: action and suspense till the very last lines. There is no conventional epilogue in this book, and this resembles a movie scene rather than a part of a book. The characters in the story are believable and depict the real human virtues and vices: the good guys fighting the bad ones, as we usually see in a western movie. The heroes fight against odds and consequently beat the villains, thus satisfying the readers' sense of justice in this world. The writing style, which is simple enough for everybody to read, is enhanced by spontaneous local dialogue and evokes vivid images throughout the plot.

A.H.Holt, a historian , is an expert in narrating a cowboy's story back in the 19th century, using all the devices her own experience and her studies can offer. She is also a poet and novelist and a Ph.D holder in history at Florida State University, and a great-grandmother. You can visit her online at:

RIDING FENCE is a good read for all the family, both teenagers and adults who love romance, action, mystery and suspense. You can get this book from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Silver Squirrel in Uneasy Pieces
Daniel Ritchie
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1425964826 $14.99

SILVER SQUIRREL IN UNEASY PIECES is a fantasy adventure set in a forest. It is the sequel to Silver Squirrel, which is the author's first book, and is about a colony of squirrels that face danger and other survival problems through hope and determination.

Silver Squirrel, the hero of the story, is a brave male squirrel who is facing a lot of new problems in a new establishment this year, and has to take many difficult decisions to save his species from disaster. The story starts with Silver and his mate, Sandy, working hard in their new establishment away from home. Silver dreams of a better home for his family, a place where the Hawk won't threaten them and all the animals will live in peace. Will he ever succeed in his search? Will he manage to lead his big family to a safe place and live there happily?

The book is divided in 14 chapters starting with a prologue that links this story to the previous one, so that the readers won't miss the whole concept, but it is recommended that they read the first part as well in order to have a better understanding of Silver's character and his behavior. Silver is a compassionate character who believes in true love and friendship.

SILVER SQUIRREL IN UNEASY PIECES is a fantasy adventure that has got all the elements of a great movie: action, suspense, morale and colorful scenes. This story is as interesting as the one in Daniel's first book, and is nevertheless a captivating novel that will transfer the readers to a fantasy world through the poetic use of adjectives and the detailed description of the forest and the animals. Silver's adventures captivate the readers' interest and his intimate relationship to Sandy shows his sensitivity and understanding to female issues, thus revealing the author's own feelings about the world around him. It is an inspirational story that invokes positive feelings not only about the wild life and their environment, but also about the world around us.

Suitable for all the family, this novel is a great treat for everyone interested in adventure, fantasy and ecological issues. The readers can visit the author's sites at , and to learn more about Silver Squirrel. Daniel Ritchie, who worked as an FX animator on Star Trek Voyager and other films and has studied drawn animation, commercial art and screenwriting, is currently working in software development.

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Lori's Bookshelf

The Phoenix
Ruth Sims
The Writer's Collective
780 Reservoir Ave, Suite 243, Cranston RI, 02910
1932133402 $16.95

Jack Rourke and his twin brother Michael are raised by an unloving prostitute mother and an abusive sailor father in the squalor of the late nineteenth century London slums. When Jack's brother dies at age thirteen, Jack violently escapes his old man's clutches and runs away. Nick Stuart grows up on a farm with a religious fundamentalist father and helpless mother. Raised to follow in his father's footsteps and become the country doctor/vet, Nick rebels, flees his repressive father, and enrolls at university in London to receive an education.

Both young men try hard to escape the limitations of their youth. With the help of a theater owner, Lizbet Porter, and an adoptive father, Xavier St. Denys, Jack tries to shed the horror and grief of his frightful past. He reinvents himself as Kit St. Denys and becomes an actor and owner of a repertory company. Meanwhile, Nick starts his own medical practice and is committed to helping the downtrodden and poor receive medical care.

These two men might never have met one another, except that Nick and some friends attend a performance of "Hamlet," and Nick is spellbound by the starring actor, Kit St. Denys. He goes back to see the play repeatedly. Eventually, by chance, the two men meet, and it's love and lust and compelling attraction all at first sight.

But the story is hardly begun before complications develop in the most delicious ways. Kit has hidden so much of his past, even from himself, and Nick has trouble reconciling religion, family expectations, and the overwhelming compulsion he feels for Kit. There are plot twists and unexpected turns, and just when you think you understand what will happen next, Sims upends expectations with a deft and gleeful hand.

At one point, Kit gives Nick a book of sonnets in which he inscribes the following:

Without the sanction of Society,
Without the sanction of the Church,
Without the sanction of God,
I love you.

Though the men seem destined for one another, it seems that the world, London society, the theater, whole continents, and even Kit and Nick themselves conspire to keep the two apart. How can these two talented but haunted men possibly create a life together?

THE PHOENIX is a magnificent tour de force, a novel of searing power and grace and constant surprises as it winds its way through London and New York, the slums, high society, fancy theaters, castles, madness, and the agony of one wounded heart seeking comfort and love in the arms of another man despite being without the sanction of society, church, God, or his own good sense.

Ruth Sims has created an intensely fascinating world, Dickensian in breadth and compelling in its depth and the methods she uses to bring it to life. It's become commonplace for reviewers to toss off comment like "unputdownable," but in the case of THE PHOENEX, this is absolutely true. I haven't ready anything since Sarah Waters' work for evoking such an amazing and lush Victorian feel. Though the book is classified "historical," it's wildly evocative and dramatic without being melodramatic. The characters and themes will have you thinking about this book long after you've finished it. From the beginning to the end, the reader has no sure idea where the story will go, and while we fervently hope that Nick and Kit are, indeed, destined for love and happiness, the road they travel to invent and reinvent themselves is rocky, unpredictable, and utterly engrossing.

THE PHOENIX is fantastic writing and storytelling of the highest order. This is one book not to be missed. I give it my highest recommendation.

Don't Murder Your Mystery
Chris Roerden
Bella Rosa Books
PO Box 4251 CRS, Rock Hill, SC 29732
1933523131 $17.95

From the beginning of this immensely insightful writing manual, Chris Roerden focuses on what it takes to write novels that will survive both an agent's and a publisher's screening process. I spent a couple of years in the early 1990s reading the slush pile at two nearby publishing houses, and I can affirm Roerden's statement that the vast majority of manuscripts submitted to agents and presses are rejected because the writers fail to submit a solid, well-written, and entertaining product.

In the dog-eat-dog world of publishing, Roerden tells us publishers pick very few new writers – and only those who look like winners – and they "ignore the rest whose work reveals evidence of average writing, aka 'amateur.'" She goes on to tell us: "The publishing industry cannot afford to gamble on writers who are still developing their potential, who show little evidence of having studied the craft of the profession they aspire to, or who fail to reflect the preferences that publishers and agents state in their submission guidelines" (p. 12).

The book setup is clever. In ten parts, she delineates 24 specific fiction-writing areas to focus upon in revisions. To start out, in Part I: DEAD ON ARRIVAL, she lays out all the reasons why writers simply must write, revise, edit, and format their novels or else they won't be published. In that section, Roerden tells us about THE JUDGES: Screener-outers - and what they look for; THE PLAINTIFFS: Writers - and what you hope for; THE DEFENDANTS: Agents and publishers - and why they do what they do; and CORRECTIONS FACILITIES: Self-editors - and how to do what you need to.

Each of the subsequent nine parts features one of the 24 fiction-writing techniques, which Roerden, tongue in cheek, labels CLUES. For instance, in Part III: FIRST OFFENDERS, she's got:

CLUE #1: HOBBLED HOOKS - Replace with high-tensile lines that stretch your holding power;
CLUE #2: PERILOUS PROLOGUES - Beware: May lead to low-tension, post-prologue, backstory ache;
CLUE #3: BLOODY BACKSTORY - To remove the evidence, slice, dice, and splice.

The advice to "slice, dice, and splice" is quite simply wonderful, and with her terrific explanations, it's easy to remember what she means and apply it to work on a manuscript. In concise language steeped in good humor and fabulous examples, Roerden reveals each of the 24 CLUES (including FATAL FLASHBACKS, TOXIC TRANSCRIPTS, DECEPTIVE DREAMS, DASTARDLY DESCRIPTION, DYING DIALOGUE, KILLED BY CLICHÉ, GESTURED TO DEATH, and many more). She systematically provides tips and techniques for avoiding these pitfalls. The 24 "Clues," when properly understood and applied, will make any author's well-told tale a winner.

She rounds out this well-written guide with an index and four "Exhibits," including: instructions for standard manuscript formatting; a bibliography of the multitude of books she cited throughout the text; a list of popular Internet crime writing sites; and recommended nonfiction in the areas of general writing, mystery, editing, character building, marketing, etc.

All too often How-To guides warn you about basic no-no's, but I've never before seen a guide that does such a great job detailing HOW TO AVOID those no-no's. Using clear-headed explanations, Roerden creates outstanding examples of poor form and uses shining examples of good form from 150 published novels, all of which provides through and easy-to-understand instruction.

Despite the title of this book, this How-To manual is not only for mystery writers. I would recommend it for anyone who is attempting to create a finished draft for publication. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Lori L. Lake

Margaret's Bookshelf

A Mindful Life
Vivekanand Palavali, M.D.
Blue Sun Press
12270 Woodline Drive, Fenton, MI 48430
0977731103 $12.95

Written by Vivekanand Palavali, MD, A Mindful Life: A Brain Surgeon's Personal Experiences and Philosophical Reflections on Living Life Fully is a profound memoir written by a medical expert who deals with the realities of life and death every day. True stories of the author's tending to victims of brain tumors, accidents, gunshots, and strokes mesh seamlessly with his insights into the fragility of life, the nature of happiness, and the importance of appreciating each moment. Highly recommended.

A Chameleon's Tale
Mo Tejani
Paiboon Publishing
1442A Walnut Street PMB 256, Berkeley, CA 94709
1887521658 $13.95

A Chameleon's Tale: True Stories of a Global Refugee is the true-life memoir of author Mo Tejani, an Indian Shia Muslim by ancestry who was forced out of Idi Amin's Uganda in 1972. Since his sudden exile from his homeland, he has learned to adapt by acquiring new languages, working with non-profit agencies, and interacting with fellow cultural nomads. His stories of "identity shopping" in the "multicultural supermarket" are earnest, and speak of how he was brought to the brink of annihilation - but also aided with a helping hand just when he needed it most. At its heart a profound story about the journey to realizing true identity, A Chameleon's Tale is highly recommended.

Speak, Hands
Lillian Moats
Three Arts Press
1100 Maple Avenue, Downers Grove, IL 60515-4818
0966957628 $20.00 1-800-777-2997

Lillian Moats is a writer, artist and filmmaker whose animated art films have won more than 40 distinguished awards in festivals around the world. "Speak, Hands: A Meditation On Memory And The Unconscious" is a kind of literary memoir in which she questions the very nature of memory while conveying her extraordinary personal and creative struggle to express her artistic conceptions. Moats employs a complex narrative structure using four inner voices which challenge the distinctions between mind and body, subject and object, consciousness and the unconscious. A simply fascinating read from beginning to end, "Speak, Hands" is intensely personal, intellectually stimulating, emotionally rewarding, and a uniquely crafted masterpiece of creative non-fiction. Also very highly recommended are her two earlier books: "Legacy of Shadows" (Three Arts press, 1999) and "The Gate of Dreams" (Cranbrook Press, 1993), both of which are available from Three Arts Press.

Riding Grace
Alissa Lukara
Silver Light Publications
2305-C Ashland Street, #426, Ashland, OR 97520
0974489034 $21.95

Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul is the true-life story of author Alissa Lukara's struggle to cope with the scars of severe childhood sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, as well as the unyielding toll of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Her dark journey through abuse and illness, and her long quest for a cure, led her to explore beyond the boundaries of conventional drugs, to the openness of compassion, miracles, and grace. Called by her soul to write Riding Grace, Lukara speaks of harm that far transcends what individuals do to one another - harm that spreads to humanity as a whole and the planet upon which it lives. Riding Grace is a call to join hands and promote healing through positive vision and spirituality. Twenty-four hours after Lukara committed to the soul call to write Riding Grace, she spontaneously healed from CFS, which has no known medical cure, and has remained healed to the present day, eight years later. An inspirational and transcendental story about the immeasurable powers of redemption and compassion.

Margaret Lane

Mark's Bookshelf

Every Landlord's Guide to Finding Great Tenants
Janet Portman
950 Parker Street, Berkley, CA 94710
1413304133 $19.99

Multi-unit investors are the bread and butter clients of experienced and successful real estate agents. 1031 exchanges are one of the many options for landlords-to-be. After the closing or escrow though is when the real work begins and offering ways to smooth the operational transition for new or repeat owners of rental properties, can be a great source of future referrals for real estate agents. A new book released in 2006 should be a required closing gift from the selling agent to the buyer of any multi-unit building or complex, with two or a thousand units.

Every Landlord's Guide to Finding Great Tenants designed in an reader friendly format, full of icons, shaded call-out boxes, sample forms, and checklists. Easy-to-read tables outline state-specific laws on returning security deposits and showing notices, to name a few. From apartment marketing programs, how to show a rental, fielding and screening calls, and checking references, no step in the process is left out and all procedures are drilled down to the bottom line.

Ms. Portman brings an experts perspective on the law, but don't think that this is a dry read. Engaging text sprinkled with bullet points, graphics, and clever caution points, make this the best desk reference for any landlord. Perfect for the experienced but exasperated landlord to the freshly minted, this is a must-have rental resource.

Every Landlord's Guide to Finding Great Tenants comes with a handy CD-ROM, for on-the-go landlords. The CD has files of all forms featured and discussed in the book, as well as sample landlord-tenant conversations. Nothing has been left out of this complete guide and the format makes it simple to focus on a particular theme, and revisit others on a when-the-time-comes basis.

Chapter titles include; Choosing Good Tenants Makes Good Business Sense, Complying with Discrimination Laws, How to Deal with Current Tenants-Before You Look for New Ones, How to Advertise Effectively, How You Should Show Your Rental, Preparing Your Rental Application and Screening Materials, Fielding Initial Questions and Phone Screening, Prepare Your Rental for an Open House or Showing, Face to Face: Showing the Rental and Negotiating with Prospective Tenants, evaluating Rental Applications, Checking Applicant's Credit Reports, Checking Landlord, Employer, and Personal References, Checking Applicants' Criminal Backgrounds, How to Choose and Work With a Tenant Screening Agency, Choosing Your New Tenant, and How to Reject-What to Say, What to Write.

This book is a solid ten and highly recommended to building owners, 1031 Exchange Qualifying Intermediaries, real estate editors and educators, leasing and rental managers, real estate agents and brokers.

Savvy Home Buying Tactics; Financing Exposed from the Inside
Thomas L. Dussault
5191 Natorp Boulevard, Mason, Ohio 45040
0324378637 $16.95

First time or move-up home buyers and investors will find Thomas Dussault's new book a timely, worth while resource when considering the right mortgage option. The author brings a hefty twenty-five years of financial and investment management experience to the reader, but his writing style reflects a long history of boiling down mortgages to the average home buyer. Important information is bolded and chapters include several short essays on related topics, boxed tips, tables, related resources and a summary. The summaries might portray a textbook, but when you're new to very specific and new information, making sure you have the right take-away will save you time and money when managing your mortgage experience.

Mr. Dussault's chapter on refinancing highlights savvy points to take into consideration regarding this recent hot topic. He does a thorough job illustrating with easy-to-read text and shaded boxes highlighting different interest rate scenarios that you could be presented with by a zealous mortgage loan professional. The tables force the reader to determine if a refinance is in their best financial interest, and in most cases if you've held your mortgage for at least five years, the long-term cost of refinancing typically doesn't warrant the lower interest rate offered unless you're dropping your interest rate substantially. New home buyers, investors, and those seriously considering refinancing, should study this nuts and bolts book on important residential mortgage and financing options.

How to Buy Real Estate Without a Down Payment in Any Market: Insider Secrets from the Experts Who Do It Everyday
Susan Smith Alvis
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1210 SW 23rd Place, Ocala, FL 34474
0910627673 $21.95

Creative financing is the new buzzword in real estate circles as the market swings from a sellers to a buyers in many areas of the country. Ms. Alvis' new book which covers just about everything you need to know about buying a home with no money down is a sure bet if you are serious about this not-so-new way to finance residential real estate. A refreshing change is the lack of hype and self-promotion that has surrounded the Info-mercials we've all seen on television. Written from first-hand experience, the author is a Realtor(R) in Tennessee as is Eugenia Foxworth who penned the practical foreword.

Chapter titles include: Buying Real Estate Without a Down Payment, Calculate What You Can Afford, Organize Your Finances, Choose a Property You Like, Locating Properties For Sale, Choosing a Property You Not Only Like but Can Afford, Take a Second Look at Your Finances, Creative Financing Through Mortgages, Creative Financing Through Leases, Creative Home Ownership with No Money down, Achieving Personal Wealth with Creative Financing, The Conventional Way of Doing Things, FHA and VA Loans, Foreclosures, Time-Saving Information About Taxes and Insurance, Negotiating with Sellers: Motivating the Sale, Why Real Estate Agents Save You Time and Money, Take the Deal to the Closing Table, and What's After the Sales? Additional features are a preface, dedications, bibliography, foreword, conclusion, glossary, index and an author biography. Plus, an extensive appendix that offers cliff-notes on every aspect of buying a home with no money down.

Even though the author is a real estate professional, she writes in non-industry style, omitting jargon, great for those inexperienced in real estate. Filled with personal stories of successful real estate investors from across the country who have used the different types of no-money down financing explained in detail. If you're serious about buying your first or tenth home with this tried-and-true way into home ownership or building personal wealth, pick up a copy of this recipe. As a real estate broker myself, I found the book informative and lays out the pluses and pitfalls in an easy to pick up and put down format.

The Second Homeowner's Handbook
Jeff Haden
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1210 SW 23rd Place, Ocala, FL 34474
0910627746 $21.95

Baby-Boomers are buying second homes in record numbers, mainly in warm resort markets as an escape from northern winters. But many others have discovered the enjoyment of a second home, be it a cabin on a lake or in the mountains. A growing trend for second homes are in-town condos in large cities for suburbanites to take in urban events like opera, theater, symphonies and major league ball games. Mr. Haden has penned a comprehensive book on what to do and what to look out for in taking the step into second home ownership.

The expense of a second home can be a burden for some second home owners, but Mr. Haden lays out how to turn the cash-drain into cash flow with strong chapters on how to manage your second home as a rental property. As a second home owner, I found his book a great primer for looking at the whole second home picture, and not with rose-colored glasses. Turning second home dreams into reality should begin with this important new real estate book.

Chapter titles include: Build Your Foundation, Understanding the Process, Develop a Great Relationship with an Agent, Choosing the Right Location, Analyzing Properties, Mortgage Basics, Shopping for a Loan, Creative Financing, Buying a Second Home for a Residence, Buying a Rehab or "Fixer-Upper", Buying Rental Properties, Finding Great Deals from Owners, Holding Property, Property Management, Basic Improvements for Quick Profits, Increasing Rental Property Profits, and Maximize Your Resale Price. Additional features are a dedication, foreword, introduction, glossary, index and an author biography.

The author writes in a easy-to-understand style, limiting editorializing and peppering the text with bullet-points and a comprehensive glossary to point second home buyers in the right direction. Recommended for anyone considering purchasing a second home for personal enjoyment or as an investment property. A good reference book for real estate agents working with second home buyers.

The First-Time Homeowner's Handbook
Joe Adamaitis
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1210 SW 23rd Place, Ocala, FL 34474
0910627703 $21.95

Few first-time buyer books cover building your first home, but The First-Time Homeowners Handbook does a good to-the-point job of covering a topic that can overwhelm even move-up new construction buyers. While the book doesn't get bogged down in information, it's style is for the layperson and new to the myriad of issues when buying any home, either first or third time. It lays out the most important processes and steps, what to look for or how to handle them. While not a textbook, real estate professionals might consider this a good overview to simplify the home buying process when working with those new to real estate transactions.

Chapter titles include: Why buy a house?, Getting started, You have found your dream home, Building your own dream home, Understanding the home buying process, The credit report, Where to find the best financing, The Closing-a Practical View and The Next Steps Following the Purchase of Your Home. Also includes a forward, three appendix's; real estate glossary, mortgage glossary and contracts and forms. A bibliography and references are a handy inclusion. Plus a CD-Rom includes all the forms in the book, so would be buyers can draft purchase agreements.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on Building Your Own Home. From the Pros and cons to types of contractors you would engage, drafting a contractor agreement, and how to acquire building permits, this chapter should give a buyer considering new construction enough details on the pluses and misuses to make a informed decision. A very useful worksheet also assists in calculating the construction of a new home. This chapter is not all peaches and cream though, it informs the buyer of one of the largest surprises in building new construction, cost over runs, and planning from the get-go for them.

Recommended for those new to the home buying process as well as real estate agents, brokers and trainers for a boiled-down resource book for holding seminars for new clients.

Private Mortgage Investing
Teri B. Clark & Matthew Stewart Tabacchi
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1210 SW 23rd Place, Ocala, FL 34474
0910627662 $29.95

If you're looking for an innovative way to make more than the current interest rates on savings, you should consider funding home mortgages. In a new book by Teri Clark, co-authored by Matthew Tabacchi, they explore and lay out how to successfully make considerably more than your bank pays to hold your money. Filled with "Classified Case Studies", charts, graphs, and forms, this new book could fulfill income needs for those turned off by investing in residential real estate, because of market woes in the sector.

Chapter titles include: Private Mortgages Beat Traditional Investments Hands Down, Private Mortgages-Why You Want To Be Involved, Why Borrowers Seek Private Mortgages, Five Investment Parameters, The World of Mortgages, Interest Rates, and Fees, Ways to Invest, Getting the Most from Your IRA, Selling Mortgages and Notes, Finding Potential Borrowers, Verifying Property Information, Insurance to Keep Your Investment Safe, More Safety Measures for the Private Lender,Real Estate Attorneys are Worth the Price, and Bookkeeping and Taxes.. Additional features are testimonials,an introduction, eight Appendix's which cover: Forms, Loan Packages A-Z, a glossary, Calculations, Self-Directed IRA Trustees, State Usury Laws, Mortgage Procedures by State, and Resources. Plus an comprehensive index and author biography.

Several years ago I sold the mortgage I held privately on a residential property. I had financed the buyer who was coming out of a difficult period. I utilized a land contract format, held the note for ten years and then sold it to an investor in Salt Lake City. The buyer made regular payments, paid a premium interest rate because of his credit history and once I decided to sell the note, finding an investor and completing the sale went smoothly. The note was sold at a discount, which is common and a source of profit for those investing in Private Mortgages. With a transitioning real estate market, I predict a rise in the use of Private Funding to facilitate the successful closing of residential properties.

Private Mortgage Investing is an easy-to-understand book. Highly recommended for those pursuing this interesting line of investment strategy and for real estate agents who are on the search for alternative financing in creative markets.

Bubbles, Booms, and Busts: Make Money in Any Real Estate Market
Blanche Evans
Two Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121
0071475486 $16.95

Blanche Evans, Editor of Realty Times examines up-close and personal the U.S. Housing Market. Like any market, housing has been on the upthrust for several years. Double-digit appreciation, over-full-price and multiple offers were the chatter at cocktail parties and water coolers around the country. But, like any market, there are cycles to contend with. Ms. Evans explains in concise, layperson language the in's and out's of investing in residential real estate, for first-time home buyers or seasoned investors, in any market.

David Lereah, Chief Economist at The National Association of Realtors(R) provides sound economic data, charts and insight to Ms. Evans long awaited new book. One that lays to rest the hype surrounding the ongoing (two years at last count) bubble headlines along with rampant braking from The Federal Reserve and Wall Street. The author makes a good prediction that the go-go years for real estate are taking a breather, one that will force the arm-chair home-flippers to consider housing more of long-term investment than a get-rich-quick scheme.

Chapter titles include: The Current Housing BUBBLE-Cause and Effect, Who's Buying and Who's Selling?, Why and Where Do People Buy Homes, BUSTS-Where, Why, and When, The BUST to Come, After the BOOM, BUBBLE, and BUST, Make the Current Market Conditions Work for You. Also included are a Foreword, Acknowledgements, Introduction, A Final Word from the author, two Appendix's, one a real estate glossary and the other: Locating and Understanding Economic Data and a Index.

Ms. Evans has penned a thoughtful, non-industry defensive vision of market dynamics that will determine where the housing moves next. One based on basic, supply and demand, demographics, and the one word that many markets need to hear again for first-time buyers to return; affordability. A must read for consumers, journalists, and real estate professionals.

I've Heard it All and So Should You, Confessions of a Real Estate Columnist
Edith Lank
Dearborn Real Estate Education
30 South Wacker Drive, Suite 2500, Chicago, IL 60606
1419593269 $22.39

Edith Lank's new book "I've Heard it All and So Should You" is based on years of seasoned advice to real estate agents and consumers across the United States based on her nationally syndicated column. Her column zooms in on the pleasures, pitfalls or perils involved in the purchase or sales of residential housing. Lank's personal style contributes to the no-holds-barred questions from those involved in or contemplating a real estate transaction. Sifting and focusing her readers in a process that features a myriad of details, emotions and legal issues, but with a perspective that calms and orients. This timless new book is a handy reference guide for real estate agents of any length resume and home buyers or sellers.

Chapter titles include: what They Don't Know About Real Estate Agents, What They Don't Know About the Law, What They Don't Know About Buying, What They Don't Know About Mortgages, What They Don't Know About Investments, What They Don't Know About Selling, What They Don't Know About Taxes, and What They Don't Know About Family. Lank saves her best for last in two Appendix's: "My Greatest Hit" and "Just Too Good to Through Out". Frank Cook, author and publisher of The Real Estate Intelligence Report contributes a practical tribute to an icon of real estate journalism.

Many new agents embarking on a career in real estate, think it's all about houses and architecture. However, Ms. Lank drills deep beyond the curb appeal of a home purchase or sale and explores the vehicle of residential real estate; people and their personalities.

Commissions at Risk: A Real Estate Professional's Guide to Beating Online Competition
Danielle Babb, PhD, MBA
Dearborn Real Estate Education
30 South Wacker Drive, Suite 2500, Chicago, IL 60606
1419593234 $22.95

Bravo for Danielle Babb's new book, "Commissions at Risk"! Real estate agents have feared the technology revolution for years, but until now they have not been armed with a plan to pro-actively become part of the future of real estate. In her new book Ms. Babb lays out in a methodical manner the who, why, what, where and when of the fundamental technology shift that is taking place today in residential real estate brokerage. She shares with the reader how to embrace the change and use it to increase the their market share and closed transactions. Explaining in detail how to get ahead of the competitions learning curve, any agent serious about staying in the business should read this definitive book.

Chapter titles include: Technology and Real Estate, Background of the Process, The Internet---Turning Services into Commodities, Knowing Your Competition, The Future of Real Estate and Technology, So What Can YOU Do About It?, and Investors Creating Markets Ripe for the Picking. Plus a Introduction, References and an Index.

My favorite part of the book talks in-depth about Web Based Versus Web Enabled. Many agents need to start thinking about the shift towards integration. Integration offers a web-based transaction, where all related information is stored and accessed by the principals, lenders, escrow and title companies. The final step includes the electronic signature of the client. This might sound new-age to some in the traditional brokerage industry, but be forewarned , your market share is being taken one percent at a time by new enabled brokerages. A must-read for existing and new agents, brokers and those looking to enter the future of real estate.

Mark Nash

Mayra's Bookshelf

The Littlest Christmas Kitten
Leona Navy Jackson
Illustrated by Kelly Dupre
Snaptail Press
P.O.Box 305 Maryville, MO 64468
0930643185 $16.00 660-582-4279

"On the holiest of night long, long ago, the animals in the stable were restless…" Thus begins this engaging Christmas picture book that will capture the imagination of young children. The Littlest Christmas Kitten tells the story of a mother cat who is frantically searching for her little kitten in a very special stable… the stable where Baby Jesus is born. But where could the kitten be possibly hiding?

The illustrations, with their earthly colors, are interesting and original and capture the setting and the 'essence' of the story well. The language evokes a warm feeling of serenity and peaceful beauty very appropriate for 'the holiest of nights.' At the end there's an illustrated glossary of Christmas symbols related to the kitten's tale. This is a book that both teaches and delights, and that will make a lovely gift for a young child.

Old Age is a Terminal Illness: How I Learned to Age Gracefully and Conquer My Fear of Dying
Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.
Universal Publishers
23331 Water Circle, Boca Raton, FL 33486-8540, USA
1581129041 $19.95

"Life is a play with a badly written third act." So said Molieri.

Why do most people pretend death doesn't exist? Is it a built-in defence mechanism in our subconscious? Would we be able to enjoy life without this quality which makes us blind to the reality of death? And what about older people—people in their seventies and eighties who know every day they get to wake up is a gift? How to accept the mystery of death?

In this book, Dr. Alma Bond, a psychoanalyst for thirty-seven years, explores these questions and more, interlacing the meaning of dreams with her life experiences, as well as with references and allusions from the classics on the subject of this controversial and most-often-avoided subject—death.

Part journal, part memoir, and at times with a great sense of humor, the book touches different aspects of what it means to lose your loved ones from the view point of the narrator. Bond examines the stand of science and parapsychology, as well as some of the theories by Freud and Jung. But mostly, it is a sensitive and honest story of a woman determined to overcome her fear of death by creating a 'Death Journal,' thus coming to terms with the death of the people she loved the most. The idea seems to be that, by facing the enemy head on, we can conquer it. For such a short work, Bond includes an impressive bibliography at the end. An insightful, helpful, courageous—and healing—book, Old Age is a Terminal Illness is a highly recommended work to those readers who struggle with the concept of mortality.

From Book to Bestseller
Penny Sansevieri
Morgan James Publishing
1225 Franklin Ave. Ste 325, Garden City, NY 11530-1693
1600370853 $18.95 800-485-4943

From Book to Bestseller, written by book publicist and media relations specialist Penny Sansevieri, is an amalgam of useful information and a must-buy for authors who are serious about marketing and promoting their books practically and efficiently. In her friendly, engaging, yet no-nonsense writing style, Sansevieri shares the secrets of successful book marketing based on her own personal experience as the author of an Amazon bestseller, as well as her experience working with other authors and the media, including her work as instructor for the popular "Get Published Today!" workshops.

Everything from how to handle book signings and pitch to the media, preparing media kits, creating a marketing campaign, getting into catalogs and book clubs, developing spin-off products, branding yourself as an expert can be found between these pages, and more. Sansevieri includes lots of links and resources, making it easy for the author to begin marketing a book right away. The book is well structured, clear, and easy to navigate. Besides its practicality, it is written in a very 'personal' style, giving the reader the feeling that she is chatting with a publicist. So have your highlighter and Post-its ready, as this is a book to be dissected and kept on the desk at all times. Highly recommended.

Mayra Calvani

Richard's Bookshelf

The Heart of a Cult
Lena Phoenix
Garuda Inc
PO Box 7018, Boulder, CO 80306
0978548302 $14.95

A Quest for Truth

Michelle recently experienced a personal capacity for spirituality, and suddenly found herself on a pathway to the Divine. She consciously began to practice a moving from human consciousness to a wider cosmic consciousness. Michelle had recently experienced the trauma of a broken relationship, and the loss of a longstanding web designer position in Denver, Colorado within a few months of each other. Devastated, unemployed, and lonely, Michele attended a lecture, on spiritual enlightenment by a charismatic leader, simply called "Ma."

Drawn into Ma's teachings, insights, and energy Michelle signed up to participate in a series of seminars promising personal growth, self awareness, and new levels of spiritual perception. Lena Phoenix writes with insight into the personality of vulnerable individuals with a propensity for being deceived by cult leaders and their close knit community relationships.

The story is written from a first person perspective and takes on a feeling of real life, and genuineness. Phoenix creatively develops subtleties in her characters and draws the reader into their lives, identifying and empathizing with them. Phoenix uses dialog to provide the basic fundaments of Ma's teaching. Michelle is responsive to the Ma's philosophy and mediation and quickly becomes a part of her inner circle. She is assigned to build and a web site for the group.

Within six moths of donating her services to the group, neglecting her job search, and running up thousands of dollars in debt, Michelle has a wake up call to reality. Michelle does some soul searching, asks questions, has several confrontations and uncovers deception that again changes the course of her life, she puts together evidence that destroy her dream of finding divinity and life purpose.

This is a book for those who have been traumatized personally by cultic teaching, influence, and practices. It is also helpful for someone on a quest for spiritual enlightenment and manifestation. Lena Phoenix is articulate and delivers a fast paced novel while providing the reader insights into the dangers of cultic leaders.

Queen of Southgate
Dale Sperling
American Book Publisher
P.O. Box 65624.Salt Lake City, Utah 84165
1589822927 $22.50

Gripping, Persuasive, Unforgettable

This is a story of prostitutes, pimps, dealers, and hustlers, homeless people, living a day at a time, on the street, and in sleazy motels. The book deals with tough questions: How do these people survive, how do they avoid arrest, and, how do we prevent the next child from becoming one of them.

A newspaper account of a local fire, in which three year old Tyler suffocated, started Dale Sperling on a quest. He became consumed with the question of what really happened. Through news reports and internet records that covered the story he learned three adults sleeping in the house, at the time of the fire. He soon found himself drawn into to a tangled web of deceit, human drama and crime on the streets of the Southgate District.

Sperling set out to find an individual who had experienced drug and alcohol abuse, prostituted their body, and risen above this life to choose a life of personal fulfillment. He wanted to write their story. Tammy James (TJ) was chosen to become the success story of his book. The book, and Tammy James, took over and became a passion in Dales life as he interviewed dozens of street people, dealers, and prostitutes. He became involved in an unusual, intricate relationship with Tammy as her friend, defender, and sponsor.

As he recounts Tammy's spiraling descent into the use of crack cocaine, Sperling describes the risks of street life. He has an amazing insight into Tammy's personality. He writes, I was beginning to understand her motivation better now. TJ wanted the same things we all want: acceptance, friendship, and respect. She also wanted her independence and the chance to express herself. At Southgate, she had all, that she felt, she needed to be happy.

The more I learned, the more I came to realize that I could not help Tammy. To seek recovery was a decision she had to make on her own. I became an observer and expanded my research to include the total environment. The surroundings, gratification and values of a person influence the risk of addiction. As Dale continued to write he concluded that being a street prostitute was not all about money, nor was it all about drugs. There was something far more sinister at work in these womens lives.

Poland A Unique Country & Its People
Alicja Deck-Partyka
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1425918387, $ 23.95

An Amazing Story of Poland: The Country and the People

In her comprehensive work "Poland" Alicja Deck-Partyka introduces the reader to the heart of Poland's culture, people, and history. The book covers the history, from the end of the Neolithic Age to the Independent and Democratic Poland instituted in 1990.

The author has detailed the country's tumultuous past. Poland is a country between the East and the West of Europe. All the hostilities in Europe have had an impact on Poland, killing people and destroying the country. The author describes all the significant events in Polish history, the wars, the battles, and their subsequent recovery.

The book "Poland" is an enormous work, and an excellent guide to gain a better understanding of this heroic country. The book is well written. The author has done thorough and her extensive research is well documented. The book is divided into five sections: History, geography, government, economy, and culture. Written with both breadth and depth the reader gets a wide ranged panoramic view of Poland's rich history and people.

Poland has an abundance of natural resources, numerous National Parks, and a diversity of wildlife. Deck-Partyka covered the frequent changes in government and the impact these modifications have had on Poland's economy. I was enthralled with the section on Polish culture with detailed descriptions of their traditions and customs. A chapter dedicated to "Polish Proverbs" captured some unique wisdom. The fine arts, museums, sports, folklore, religion, holidays, social and business etiquette, women's issues, and architecture are among other interesting topics covered by the author.

Coyote Jack
Jack Lyndon Thomas
Lyndon Jacks Publications
506 West Street # 278, Houston, Texas 77008
0965984311, $ 28.95, 313 pages

An Important, Relevant Memoir of a Viet Nam Veteran

"Coyote Jack" written by Jack Lyndon Thomas shows an amazing insight into a man's soul. Thomas grew up in an era of dramatic change in values, respect for authority, and a redefining of patriotism. Thomas has shown a sensitivity, and understanding of human needs, emotional, mental, and physical. This book speaks for thousands of men who served their country valiantly in a cause of questionable ideals. The author has made himself vulnerable, as he related the complex issues of his own personal discovery by using parallels from his experiences in Viet Nam with his own personal reconciliation in a search for satisfaction and creative expression.

Thomas both explores and embraces the culture of Viet Nam. He tells of trying to understand the politics, and religion of the country, and of his appreciation for the natural features of the landscape and topography of the countryside. His descriptive words take on a poetic beauty as he tells of the peasantry that inhabited the rural areas.

Thomas described the ineffectual leadership, goals, and objectives of the country's leaders. He told of his own internal conflict. The turmoil he felt in the midst of the external conflict being experienced all around. He could often trace these frustrations back to the lack of solid support and execution of the politicians and the man on the street in the United States.

I enjoyed the profound poems and statements that introduced each chapter. Part II of the book had Maps and beautiful colored photographs. These awakened all my senses to the culture, the country, and the people who impacted the life of young Jack Lyndon Thomas through his Viet Nam experience.

Thomas is a gifted, creative, and articulate writer. This is a remarkable recounting of a period of United States History that needs to be revisited and understood. "Coyote Jack" is a book for veterans, for serviceman and women currently in the armed forces of our country, and for anyone in a position of leadership, who influences decisions that affect our country's current military strategy.

Richard R. Blake

Sullivan's Bookshelf

How to Cure a Fanatic
Amos Oz
Princeton University Press
41 William Street, Princeton, NJ 08540
0691126690 $12.95 1-800-777-4726

This slim book contains a Forward by Nadine Gordimer, two essays by Amos Oz, and an interview conducted with him by Princeton University Press. The title comes from the second essay. Amos Oz, a physician, is famous and beloved as an Israeli novelist. His better known works include DON'T CALL IT NIGHT, PANTHER IN THE BASEMENT, and THE SAME SEA. He is also quite active in the Israeli Peace Now organization.

The heart of this volume consists of a pair of powerful writings: "Between Right and Wrong" and "How to Cure a Fanatic." Both have to do with seeking peace in the Middle East, specifically between Israel and Palestine. He readily admits that Israel, at times, has been right and wrong and so has Palestine. Often, as he points out, each side is right, or each side is wrong, but only rarely is one side right and the other wrong. In short, his essays wax philosophical.

He concludes his first essay thus: "You no longer have to choose between being pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. You have to be pro-peace." In 'How to Cure a Fanatic,' Oz believes that "the essence of fanaticism lies in the desire to force other people to change." To prevent such a position takes a sense of humor and "the ability to see ourselves as others see us (shades of poet Bobby Burns)." Also, "the ability to live with open-ended situations, even to enjoy living with them," can help. Highly recommended!

Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life
Lee M. Silver
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060582677, $26.95 1-800-242-7737

The author, a molecular biologist, lays out the many reasons and rationales for all the advanced biological activities taking place today. He also limns the main arguments that religious people have against this science. The book's emphasis is on the more modern developments in science: stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, embryonic tinkering, and implanting human cells into animals and animal parts, like pig's hearts, into humans.

Primarily, religious people are opposed to such things because it's tampering with God's creation. Scientists, who for the most part don't share these objections, are for such changes. Silver, however, is a fair-minded scientist. He believes that any decisions to do any of these new medical procedures should be decided upon democratically by both sides of the issue rather than being forced by science or by religion. Genetically modified (GM) food is another topic taken up in this volume. Europeans and Africans object to eating GM foods. They prefer to ingest only that which is organically grown. The author points out that though GM food has had new genes inserted to make it grow bigger, in more quantity, and be free of disease from pest or blight, organically grown food has been just as much at risk from fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides. Moreover, as the world's population increases, only GM foods can be produced in large enough quantities to feed the world.

"Many people believe," writes Silver, "that we, as a species, do not have the RIGHT to assume conscious control over the creation of life or the development of certain living things. The American evangelical movement--the linchpin of George W. Bush's reelection in 2004--vigorously opposes the transformation of microscopic embryos, smaller than a speck of dust, into embryonic stem (ES) cells for biomedical research. Its neoconservative allies are also deeply disturbed by psychoactive pharmaceuticals developed to overcome mental illness, because these chemicals can have the added effect of making individuals feel or function 'better than normal.' Meanwhile, many western Europeans and American devotees to organic food express a visceral distaste for genetically modified organisms (GMOs)--or 'Frankenfood,' as the Brits refer to it. Anti-GMO activists typically reject all scientific tinkering with animal genes as well, even when the goal is to alleviate animal and human suffering or avoid environmental degradation, and even though most GMO opponents have no problem eating the cooked flesh of animals raised for slaughter."

Lee M. Silver is Molecular Biology and Public Affairs professor at Princeton University. Among the books he's previously written is REMAKING EDEN. He and his family split their time between New York and New Jersey. This book is an interesting, informative, and easy read despite its length. It's, therefore, highly recommended.

The God Effect: Quantum Entanglement, Science's Strangest Phenomenon
Brian Clegg
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312343418 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Clegg delves into the world of physics outside of the mostly understood 'cause and effect' arena. He specifically enters the dynamic, spooky even, realm of quantum mechanics. Within that subject, the author concentrates on the God-like occurrence known today as the Einstein, Podolsky, Rose (EPR) paradox. These three men didn't want to admit to this uniqueness, among the many found, in quantum mechanics and wrote a paper on it.

"The phenomenon at the heart of this book," writes the author, "is a linkage between the incomprehensibly small particles that make up the world around us. At this quantum level, it is possible to link particles together so completely that the linked objects (photons, electrons, and atoms, for instance) become, to all intents and purposes, part of the same thing. Even if these entangled particles are then separated to opposite sides of the universe, they retain this strange connection. Make a change to one particle, and that change is instantly reflected in the other(s)--however, far apart they may be. The God Effect has an unsettling omnipresence." Discussed is the dilemma science faces with the extreme limitation on the fastest any communication can travel in the universe being the speed of light. But with the EPR paradox found in quantum mechanics, there seems to be a way of getting around that absolute. Consequently, sending a message from one place to another, like say one galaxy to another, can be immediate! Could it work? Perhaps!

A potential advantageous use of the EPR paradox would be in making a faster computer. Suffice to say, the difficulties are enormous for creating a quantum machine, though some day one could be invented. But because of the technical difficulties, it might be decades away yet. Time travel is also explored in conjunction with Einstein's theory of special relativity. Even traveling backwards in time, at least for a message, seems to be possible. Eerie! The topic of teleportation of many different things, such as a bacterium, are written of, too. It's theoretically possible. The teleportation of humans, however, so often read about in science fiction stories is another matter entirely. As far as Clegg is concerned the matter is taboo.

Though this volume contains utterly interesting reading matter, the subject can be complicated and confusing. Some general knowledge, then, of physics and in particular quantum mechanics, would be helpful for readers. On the other hand, a layreader's persistence will get him or her to the end of the volume. Such a person's gain in knowledge will make the effort worthwhile. Brian Clegg is a writer who is Cambridge-schooled in physics. His earlier books include THE FIRST SCIENTIST: A LIFE OF ROGER BACON and A BRIEF HISTORY OF INFINITY. The author and his family live in England. Recommended.

Dark Cosmos: In Search of Our Universe's Missing Mass and Energy
Dan Hooper
Smithsonian Books
PO Box 37012, Victor Building, Suite 4300, MRC 950, Washington, DC 20013-7012
006113032X $24.95

Herein is everything you hoped to learn about what astrophysicists know and don't know about the universe. Discussed at length are matter, anti-matter, dark matter, dark energy, and black holes. Then there's the study of quantum mechanics, sub-atomic particles, string theory, and neutrinos, sneutrinose (no kidding), and neutralinos. It's all so interesting but very confusing, even to physicist.

The explanation of the 'Big Bang' Theory concerning the beginning of the universe seemed reasonable, and nearly understandable, to this reviewer, a layman. It's everything that's happened to the world after the big explosion that's sort of complicated. In particular, the search for the' Grand Unified Theory,' what links all this stuff, seen and unseen but implied, like dark energy, together that is eluding these intrepid scientists(not to mention this reviewer). And it's upsetting them (and you know who else). That's the case currently, for example, with 'String Theory,' which appears to be fantastical and also completely untestable.

Of the ten or so books this reviewer has read on the same subjects, this volume is the most lucid so far (though that isn't much of a compliment). "It is a common misconception," writes Hooper,"that scientists want everything to be neat and tidy--they don't want anyone questioning their ideas, or suggesting that current explanations are incomplete. That perception is, of course, completely off the mark. After all, if we scientists knew everything, there would be nothing left to discover! It is not completely facetious, however, to suggest that what every scientist dreams of doing each day is to prove his or her colleagues wrong." The author is a scientist with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. From there, DanHooper looks into such esoteric topics as cosmic rays, supersymmentry, and string theory. This is his first book. Recommended with the caveats mentioned above.

Jim Sullivan

Theodore's Bookshelf

Richard North Patterson
Henry Holt and Company
115 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011
0805079475 $26.00 212-886-9200

A graduate of Harvard Law, David Wolfe since graduation has led a charmed life. Successful prosecutor, outstanding criminal defense attorney, engaged to a socially and politically active woman who is the daughter of a holocaust survivor, to be married in seven months, now groomed to seek and probably win a Congressional seat. A careful, well-planned life. Then his world is turned upside down.

During his final weeks at Harvard, David, a Jew, had an intense but brief love affair with another student, Hana, a Palestinian. Throwing caution to the winds, something he had never done before or since, he proposed marriage. She turned him down, citing cultural differences, and left him to marry the man chosen by her parents. Now, 13 years later, she is in San Francisco and calls him; they meet for a few minutes.

The next day, the Prime Minister of Israel is assassinated by a suicide bomber. Hana, arrested as the bomber's "handler," asks David to represent her. A Jew acting as attorney for a Palestinian "terrorist": It is the makings—or unmaking—of a career. In David's case it is the opposite of all his plans, the end of his engagement and his political career. But it gives the author license to deeply explore the divisions between Israelis and Palestinians as David seeks proof that Hana is innocent.

In a three-week visit to Israel, David visits various representatives and factions, learning about terrorist activities and Palestinian grievances, giving the author the wherewithal to write in depth of various facets of the differences and attitudes of both, powerfully and at length. Along the way two possible participants in the assassination conspiracy are met and in turn killed after David meets them, ending promising lines of inquiry. The evidence against Hana is problematical, but no alternatives other than that she was framed are available. Her trial as depicted is well drawn and the denouement, while somewhat predictable in its conclusion, cannot be anticipated as it turns out. This very interesting and well-presented novel is a study in international relations and history—of the past grievances and lack of progress in finding a solution, if indeed there is one. It is disheartening in all aspects, but informative and rewarding.

The Crimson Portrait
Jody Shields
Little, Brown and Company
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0316785288 $23.99 212-364-1000/800-850-0190

Detail piled on detail characterizes this unusual story set in England during World War I. When Catherine's husband Charles leaves to join his regiment in France he stipulates that their mansion and estate be used as a military hospital. The transformation in the home and Catherine's life is momentous, soon made even more so with the news that Charles has been killed at the front.

A hospital for surgery on soldiers with grotesquely wounded or destroyed faces is established. At the time, little is known about the procedures for reconstructing destroyed faces. The surgeons improvise and pioneer many new methods. Meanwhile an artist is transferred from the front to assist the surgeons in their efforts. One of the artist's tasks is to make a mask for one patient to hide his face, since further surgery is not considered possible. He bears some resemblance to Charles, and Catherine in an effort to bring her husband back substitutes his photograph for that of the patient.

The novel explores the medical staff's difficulties, along with the psychological traumas of the wounded, as well as Catherine's attempt to create a loving relationship. It is a deep study of human nature and individual identity. It is well-written and the characters are excellently drawn, as nature takes its course.

St. Alban's Fire
Archer Mayor
Warner Books
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0446618101 $6.99 212-364-1000/800-759-0190

Having read the sequel, The Second Mouse, it seemed advisable to read the predecessor novel for sheer enjoyment. Joe Gunther is an excellent protagonist, and the Vermont setting and descriptions in both novels are excellent. Only this time, Joe is taken far afield from the snow and hills of New England to urban Newark.

A series of mysterious barn burnings, in one of which a young man is burned to death, followed by sales of the farms on which they were located sets the stage for this mystery. Two other farm sales made after accidents may or may not be related. The only clue seems to be a common modus operandi in two of the fires. The investigation proceeds to find the arsonist, who may be based in Newark. But who hired him and for what purpose?

The tale is painstakingly told and well-written. Gunther and his love face danger from the killer. The conclusion, while logical, is totally unexpected. Reading the first novel lived up to the expectations raised by the second.

Scott Turow
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 1001
0312426453 $13.00 646-307-5560

Originally published serially in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, some additional material has been added to this slender volume to flesh it out. Like Turow himself, the novel has a legal background.

George Mason is an appellate judge sitting on a three-member panel in Kindle County (revisited, perhaps for nostalgic reason because there does not seem to be any other reason) hearing an appeal by four defendants convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl many years before. There are apparently three possible decisions: affirmation, backed by one judge, reversal based on inadmissible evidence favored by a second, or reversal because of the statute of limitations, to which Mason leans.

Mason is the swing vote; he can decide to affirm or go with one of the other two choices. While he wrestles with his decision, he confronts his past. While a young man he participated in a similar incident and he has to face his guilty conscience. Meanwhile, he has been getting threatening e-mails and text messages and his wife is being treated with nuclear medicine for a thyroid condition. Life is complicated, as are the decision-making process and his need to file papers for reelection.

It all comes together in the end, with Mason writing the decision. One would have expected a soaring writing worthy of a Brandeis or Holmes. Instead, we read a fairly pedestrian and somewhat disjointed draft. At least the discovery of the person issuing the various threats is an unexpected surprise. Despite these objections, the novel reads well and the tale is well-told.

Bad Blood
Linda Fairstein
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0743287487 $26.00 212-698-7000/800-223-2336

Alex Cooper and her sidekicks, detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, have been with us now for several excellent novels. In Bad Blood, they are fine-tuned to the nth degree. Combining a fast-paced mystery with little-known facts about underground New York City, the author has created perhaps her best work to date.

The story starts off with Alex trying a murder case that is beginning to look hopeless, with the defendant likely to get off. However, as in previous novels, the investigation is ongoing even as the trial progresses. The defendant, accused of murdering, or arranging the strangulation of, his wife, a few days into the trial overpowers the officer guarding him and grabs her pistol, shooting her in the head, harming two other court officers and escaping custody. [Not a spoiler – this happens very early on in the novel.]

Meanwhile, Chapman and Wallace uncover facts relating to a prior strangulation many years before following a blast in Water Tunnel #3, in which three workers were killed, one of whom was the defendant's brother. The body of the earlier victim is exhumed, allowing the author to discuss the latest forensic breakthroughs involving DNA evidence. Needless to say complications abound, especially with a blood feud between two families of tunnel workers.

An exciting finish to this narrative takes place in a little-known subway station—the original—but abandoned—City Hall stop of the city's first rapid transit system, still probably the most elegant ever constructed in the Big Apple to which nobody has access anymore. This time there's less courtroom drama, but more legwork to tell the story. But the reader races along never tiring right down to the final page. Highly recommended.

The Commission
Michael Norman
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Ste. 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590583582 $24.95 800-421-3976

The murder of the Chairman of the Utah Board of Pardons sets off a wild and wooly story in which kinky sex throws Sam Kincaid, who heads the Special Investigations Branch of the Utah Department of Corrections, off on a series of tangents, before he and his counterpart, a female Lieutenant from the police department on the right track. But not before two suspects, one of whom actually did the initial killing, also are murdered.

The mystery unfolds slowly, as each investigative step uncovers new facts, with twists and turns to keep the reader in suspense until the mystery's conclusion. This well-written and –constructed tale is very much worth reading.

Find Me A Mallory Novel
Carol O'Connell
G.P. Putnam & Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0399153950 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

As this novel opens, a body is discovered in Mallory's apartment. Is it murder or suicide? Mallory has disappeared, and her detective partner, Riker, has fears that Mallory has or is beginning to crack up. Meanwhile, she is traveling to Chicago in a souped up 'Bug" to begin retracing her father's travels along the mother road, Route 66.

When she arrives at the beginning of the famed Route she immediately becomes embroiled in a murder and begins assisting a Chicago detective, delaying her trip. It seems wherever she goes, friends and admirers of her foster father abound. This is the beginning of a plot that intertwines her travels in quest of her father and a serial killer. Riker and a psychologist begin trailing Mallory in hope of "saving" her if, indeed, she is in trouble.

The story progresses along the Route as Mallory traces landmarks listed in letters from her father and graves of more than 100 six- or seven-year-old girls, victims of the serial killer whose bodies are being dug up by an FBI task force. Along the route are a gathering of parents led by a defrocked priest-psychologist seeking their lost children. While the caravan progresses, the killer takes to murdering adults as well.

The duality of the plot—Mallory seeking her own self as well as the serial killer—makes for an interesting interplay. It is a haunting combination. The complexity of the tale is overwhelming, and the revelations—one by one—are mesmerizing. And it doesn't end until Route 66 does. Recommended.

Theodore Feit

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

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