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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 1 January 2008 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Afrika's Bookshelf Ann's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Ceecee's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clay's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Joseph's Bookshelf Judine's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf
Liana's Bookshelf Lockstein's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mark's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Sullivan's Bookshelf Terrilyn's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Dancing with Divinity: Positive Affirmations for Any Situation
Deanna Reiter
Ms. Reiter and the Dayawati Center for Compassion & Spiritual Connection
Minneapolis, MN
9780980037500 $18.95

Alexandra E. Franzen

It's common to become stuck in negative patterns. Perhaps we eat too much, or frequently grow impatient with our loved ones, or struggle with finances. The conventional wisdom goes, "just count to ten!" or "take a deep breath." But often we need a more specific course of action to break out of a physical or emotional rut. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that health and happiness are not a privilege, but our birthright! Deanna Reiter's Dancing with Divinity reminds the reader that "there is never a need to be alone, unhappy, or lacking anything because there is abundance in the Universe."

Deanna Reiter's book of positive affirmations offers hundreds of short, but powerful phrases tailored to specific ailments or psychological roadblocks. For example, if you're feeling "immature," you might want to repeat the affirmation: "I am balanced between being playful and serious." Or if you're feeling "bored," you might repeat the affirmation: "I create my own reality. I control my own thoughts and perception. I have the power to change my reality at any given moment. I choose to live a life of excitement and awe."

Ms. Reiter is a Certified Personal Trainer, a Yoga Instructor, and Rebirthing Breathworker. Her international travels and deep-seated spirituality pervade every page of her book, which also includes a CD with additional affirmations, spoken word poetry, and original music by renowned pianist Rahjta Ren. What makes Dancing with Divinity unique is that it is geared towards the "everyday" reader -- not the "new-age" fanatic. Reiter's prose is clear, direct, and very inspiring. In fact, it's difficult to picture anyone who wouldn't benefit in some way from this lovely book of wise affirmations.

Gary Starta
Charles River Press
541 Long Lane, Casper, Wyoming 82609
1979130485 $16.95

Christina Francine

Searching for a novel to read that addresses the evil of humankind today and its problems? Certainly the domination of Americans is a topic of concern; has before. The horrifying fact is that technology will make domination easier. One only needs to stumble upon that last link; a way to control every man, woman, and child.

Agent Caitlin Diggs had every reason not to go back to her job. After losing, Geoffrey, the man she loved to an undercover assignment gone bad, she did not feel stable. Work would help however, even though her parents insisted she finally retire from police work. When FBI Assistant Director, Andrew Dudek phoned her, Caitlin purchased an airline ticket right away. She could get lost in her work and possibly catch a lead on Geoffrey's killers. What she did not know was that she was about to embark on one of the most challenging and dangerous cases of her career. Caitlin knew her assignment involved capturing the nation's latest serial killer, but not one that would decide the fate of the nation.

When the young blond drifter placed the arrowhead pendant against his chest, the crystal liked itself to him; sealing his fate and possibly the nation's as well. Not only did a change come over the teenager named Shenk, but also over the crystal too. Shenk's less than positive qualities, along with societies, affected the crystal tainting and turning it evil.

Starta did his homework. With each chapter his research showed depth. Add to this a powerful imagination and the result is a heart-pounding mystery. BloodWeb is the first of a series, Starta claims, that will feature the FBI Special Agent Diggs.

This book is enticing and a gripping tale that reflects a possible reality with a paranormal aspect intertwined. Starta's story lures readers into an Internet that transcends fiction and enters a resemblance to actuality. Timely.

T is for Trespass
Grafton, Sue
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780399154485 $26.95

Doreen Luff

In Sue Grafton's latest alphabetical thriller, Kinsey Millhone finds herself embroiled in a mystery ripped right from the newspaper headlines. Her friend, Gus Vronsky, who lives by himself, falls and is in need of a nurse to help him around the house. Gus' niece, Melanie asks Kinsey to just do a quick background check to make sure that the nurse that she wants to hire is reputable.

Kinsey does the background check and clears the nurse for the task at hand. At first, everything seems fine, but as things progress, Kinsey finds that she put her friend, Gus, in mortal danger. Not only that, she finds herself in mortal danger as she investigates Nurse Rojas further.

In this fast paced novel, Kinsey has to prove that Nurse Rojas is not who she claims, has to save her friend from death at the hands of his nurse, and has to prove that she is not making any of this up.

Sue Grafton has done it again with this quick paced, truly frightening novel. Anyone who is a fan of mysteries, will appreciate this gripping work of fiction.

And It Goes Like This
G. Andi Rhos
Belletristic Press, LLC
31-64 21st Street, Suite 190, Long Island, NY 11106
9780979659454 $15.95

Emanuel Carpenter

What's it like being a rich drug dealer's woman? Sure you get the designer clothes, new cars, and even the expensive home. But at what price? In "And It Goes Like This," a naive sixteen year-old fast food worker named Charlotte-Louise meets her knight in shining armor in the drug dealing Joaquin and becomes a quick study in dealing with rewards and consequences of being a dealer's girl.

When Charlotte-Louise, the daughter of an alcoholic mother, is befriended by street savvy Candace, it changes her life. Not only does Candace help her deal with an unspeakable situation but she also invites her to a party thrown by her cousin Maribel, a drug dealer's woman. There twenty-year old Joaquin claims Charlotte-Louise as his girl, and the two hit it off. Not only is Joaquin honest about how he earns his money but he is surprisingly honest about his feelings for Charlotte-Louise. But is a ruthless drug dealer really capable of love or is she just another naive girl about to be played?

At the party, Maribel schools Charlotte-Louise on what to do if and when her man cheats and readers learn why women are drawn to them:

"…So whatcha gon'd do? Blow up the spot and lose your man and let the next bitch get your man and all your shit? Fuck that!

"You suck that shit up and say, 'Daddy, I need a new car. My car three years old. What people gon' say-you got your woman drivin round in a old ass car---how you gon' look?' Watch you get a brand new car right off the showroom floor. Then you gotta have new clothes to go with your new car. And you gotta have new jewelry to go with your new clothes. Then how you gon' look with a new car, new clothes, new jewelry and old ass furniture? Huh?"

Much like its predecessor "The Coldest Winter Ever," "And It Goes Like This," captures the dilemma many young teenage girls face in poverty: continue only dreaming of the finer things in life or take the risk of hooking up with a drug dealer to at least enjoy them, if only for a moment. G. Andi Rhos is a brilliant storyteller who accomplishes what many authors attempt and fail. She is wise enough to write street dialogue in the way it is spoken and manages to keep readers on the edge of their seats with an exciting story.

This book is not for everyone though with its explicit sex (especially between adults and minors), its mature language, and its glorification of the drug dealing world. It may take some readers out of their comfort zones. And though it is uneven at times and it is so concerned with the minutiae of every setting and every outfit the characters are wearing you want to skip past the narration and straight to the dialogue, you will still care enough about these characters to keep turning the pages until the very last one. Those who live in the drug dealing world will love its glorified look at street life's sex, money and violence, especially its happy but unrealistic ending. If you're looking for an entertaining and thrilling read, "And It Goes Like This," will definitely do the trick. Recommended.

The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness
Sylvia Barack Fishman, PhD
Jewish Lights Publishing
Woodstock, VT
9781580230308 $24.99

Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Ritual is religion put into action. For instance, Christians enjoy many forms of mass, have rituals and rites associated with Christmas, and the sacraments. Muslims fast during Ramadan and make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Jews have an assortment of rituals as well. These include kissing the mezuzah on entering and exiting a Jewish home, wearing a yarmulke (skull cap), tallis (prayer shawl), and tefillin (phylacteries). There are the rituals associated with the Seder and fasting on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) Dr. Sylvia B. Fishman in her newest book, The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness, describes the dynamics of Jewish rituals.

To begin with, Fishman recounts the rituals celebrated by ancient Israelites whose outward manifestation of Judaism was Temple based and land linked. Moving forward in time, she describes the observances formed during the Diaspora (beginning in 586 B.C.E. with the destruction of the First Temple) in Babylonia, then Jewish rituals that arose in connection with European enlightenment (beginning in the late 17th century), and concludes with American Judaism and how its various branches practice their rituals. Her main point is that in each of these periods, Judaism has rituals that differ from the preceding ones. The second part discusses ritual difference between (and among) Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Judaism. There is also a concluding chapter on the future of Jewish ritual.

Many of the ancient Jewish rituals centered on the sacrificial system at and pilgrimages to the Tabernacle/Temple. When the Temple no longer existed after its destruction along with the capture of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar, the rabbis exiled to Babylonia substituted the synagogue for the Temple and prayer for sacrifices. Although the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah led a small cadre of Jews back to Jerusalem 70 years later and began construction of a second Temple with sacrifices, they added a new ritual by establishing a tri-annual reading of the Five Books of Moses (Torah). Today, it is not uncommon to find the Torah read annually.

For Judaism, there are no biblical injunctions to light the Hanukkah candles, or recite the blessings associated with everyday life. God never commanded Jews to hold a Seder (Passover meal) with the order and symbols associated with the feast. These came much later in Jewish history. The sages of the Talmudic period (200 C.E. - 500 C.E.) decreed that Jews must perform these and other rites. With the destruction of the Second Temple and the dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the Roman world came a dichotomy of ritual between the Jews who migrated through Europe, living in fear under Christendom, and those who settled in the erudite Iberian Peninsula, under Muslim rule.

Ritual change came for Spanish Jewry because no one saw the Inquisition coming. Faced with the choice of conversion or death, many fled only to merge customs of their new country with the Jewish religion. With European Enlightenment came a dichotomy between those living in rural areas under the rule of a rebbe and those who fled to the cities. Ritual reflected the struggle between rationalism and superstition. Eventually, many of the descendants of these people would flock to America.

While the core of many Talmudic-era rituals remains, today's observance of these rituals might not be recognizable to its authors. For example, since the middle of the twentieth century an overwhelming number of American Jews changed the holiday of Hanukkah from its simple celebration of lighting the Hanukkah menorah, playing dreidel, and the giving a few coins to children into a holiday of communal feasts, decorated homes, holiday cards (and now e-cards), and exchanging of gifts.

In the second part of her book, Fishman focuses on modern American and its invention of denominational Judaism. While there are clear ritual distinctions between the various denominations, the differences may be stronger within denominations than between them. Historically, Reform Judaism, which arrived in America first, recognized that Jews living in a democracy, in a society that allowed for social intercourse among all religions, and provided a path for upward mobility, had to change. America was not Europe. Taking its model from Protestantism, Reform Jewish rabbis introduced English into the service, eliminated biblical injunctions and rituals that fostered great distinctions between Jews and their neighbors, created seminaries to train rabbis and sustain Reform Judaism. Orthodox Judaism, which arose from Eastern European immigrants in the late nineteenth century, gave a strict interpretation of God's laws. Eastern European rabbis wanted America Jewry to mimic the Old World. Conservative Judaism intended itself to be a middle ground between the two. In reality, this did not occur because Conservative Jewry's elite practiced rituals closer to orthodoxy while its rank-and-file members practiced Judaism closer to Reform Judaism's practices.

Reconstructionist Judaism emerged in America without claims to a past in Europe. Accepted rituals and worship service arose from its laity, not leadership. Reconstructionist Judaism substituted naturalism for supernaturalism, thereby rejecting the idea of a transcendent and personal God. Many of its religious innovation are now common among all branches of Judaism, including the Bat Mitzvah and confirmation ceremony. Finally, Fishman briefly discusses today's minor denominations, such as Humanistic Judaism and the Havurah movement. The former rejects the need for a supreme being within Judaism and the latter replaces the formal structure of the synagogue with small groups committed to worship innovations.

Fishman concludes with the idea that each denomination of Judaism faces its own challenge and suggests methods for mitigating them. She does not predict the direction of Jewish ritual in America. But, the future is obvious: Jewish ritual will change. Change will occur because of such things as social transformations, mass movements of Jews to and from America, and unexpected catastrophic events. Whether or not the new rituals are incorporated into the denominational form of Judaism will depend for some, such as the orthodox, on the degree to which their leaders accept the change. For others it will depend on how much its rank-and-file believe that the innovations add meaning to their lives.

Rarity From the Hollow: A Lacy Dawn Adventure
Robert Eggleton
Fat Cat Press
0977644820 $6.95

Adicus Ryan Garton

Imagine "Wizard of Oz" and "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" smashed together and taking place in a hollow in the hills of West Virginia. Now you have an idea of what to expect when you sit down to read Rarity From the Hollow: A Lacy Dawn Adventure by Robert Eggleton.

This novel is an unabashed, unashamed exploration of the life of young Lacy Dawn, as she learns that she is the savior of the universe. The naked, genderless android, Dot-com, who lives in a ship in a cave, told her so. Add her abusive father, her weak-willed mother, a sexually-abused ghost for a best friend that was murdered by her own father, trees that talk to her, a dog that can communicate telepathically with cockroaches and so much more.

There is so much to this story, and its writing is so unblinkingly honest; Eggleton spares us nothing in his descriptions of her father beating her and her mother, the emotions that the mother and daughter go through, the dark creeping insanity that eats away at her Iraq-veteran father, and the life in general of people too poor, too uneducated to escape.

In part, it is a grueling exposition of what children endure when being physically and emotionally abused. Eggleton almost seems to suggest that the only way for a child to escape is to learn that she is the savior of the universe. Lacy Dawn is strong, tough, smart—all those attributes that any child should have—and she reminds us that children are survivors, adaptive and optimistic. Instead of giving us a story of escapism, Eggleton shows us a girl whose life follows her through the story.

But don't think you're going to be reading something harsh and brutal and tragic. This book is laugh-out-loud funny at times, satiric of almost everything it touches upon (some common themes are shopping, masturbation, welfare, growing and selling drugs, and the lives of cockroaches). The characters from the hollow and from the planet Shptiludrp (the Mall of the Universe) are funny almost to the point of tears.

I hate happy endings to stories that deal with any kind of oppression or abuse because they tend to suggest, "In this case, it worked out okay," and the reader walks away with the impression that the world is a better place (think of all those inner-city sports movies about black kids who win the big championship despite being addicted to crack). I thought for a long time that this book was an escapist fantasy, and when the fantasy broke, it was going to be tragic. No one wants to see a little girl go through heaven only to learn that hell awaits her at the end. And then when I realized that Eggleton was not writing an escapist fantasy, I worried that this happy ending effect was going to take place, making me not like the book, despite all its positive attributes. But when I realized that Lacy Dawn had to fix her life first before the story could progress, and that this was IMPOSSIBLE except by extraterrestrial means, and that Lacy Dawn carried her past with her as part of her instead of in spite of, it made the prospect of a happy ending much better.

Go here, buy the book and read it. It's absolutely fantastic, and the proceeds go to the Lacy Dawn Adventures project. It's like buying ice cream for charity—everybody wins.

The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence, and Imagination
Robert Moss
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781577315964 $21.95

Karen Nell McKean

The Three 'Only' Things is the latest work in the prolific career of author Robert Moss. The author's many incarnations as a successful writer include: foreign news correspondent; best selling novelist; and writer of passionate, semi-autobiographical books on dreamwork. Now he brings his unique genius to us in explaining how dreams, coincidence and imagination are the overlooked wellsprings of personal power that have changed history and have the power to transform our lives......right now! This book brings clarity and practicality to subjects that have often proved illusive and fuzzy to other writers. Through the ample use of personal stories and carefully researched historical references, the art and practice of living by The Three 'Only' Things is made completely accessible in the context of contemporary life. The explanation of the nine powers of dreaming; the nine rules of coincidence and the seven open secrets of imagination; provides us with a clear road map for not only solving practical problems but for returning magic and mindfulness to our everyday lives. This book opens our eyes to the miracle of life in which we already 'live, move and have our being. The Three 'Only' Things is for everyone who wants access to greater creativity and clarity in life.

Fifty-Seven Heaven
Lonnie Cruse
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594146008 $25.95

Mary Welk

Kitty and Jack Bloodworth are attending an antique car show in Paducah, Kentucky, when the body of Kitty's cousin is found stuffed in the trunk of Jack's prized '57 Chevy. It's no surprise that someone would want to murder Will Ann Lloyd. The woman was as irritating as a horde of wasps at a summer picnic, and her tongue could be just as sharp as their sting.

Kitty Bloodworth experienced her cousin's venom the night before the car show when Will Ann accosted Kitty in a restaurant and accused her youngest daughter of being a sneak and a tramp. Those were certainly fighting words, and according to the Paducah police, might have given Kitty a motive for murder. Kitty's more worried about her daughter Sunny than about herself, though. She always viewed Sunny's relationship with Will Ann's son Craig as one of pure friendship. Now she wonders if something more isn't going on between the two.

Released by the police and back home in little Metropolis, Illinois, Kitty begins her own investigation of the murder when she learns that Will Ann hired a private detective to follow Sunny. Her plans go on hold, though, when Kitty is hospitalized after a freak highway accident. Her short-term memory temporarily destroyed by a concussion, she doesn't even recall Will Ann's death until told of it by her husband. She must now begin from scratch to carve out a history of past events and her part in them. It's a frustrating and often futile chore complicated by a sudden change in Jack's health. But Kitty is nothing if not persistent. Her knowledge of small town and family dynamics proves to be the key to solving a crime that's stumped the best and brightest of the Paducah Police Department.

Lonnie Cruse is the author of the Metropolis Mystery series and a member of the Antique Automobile Club of America. This is the first book in her new Kitty Bloodworth '57 Mystery series and combines her knowledge of rural living with her passion for antique cars. Kitty and Jack are two of the most delightful people to hit the pages of traditional mysteries in many a year. While their ages are never given, the reader knows that they've been married long enough to achieve that stage of comfortable love usually reserved for couples over the age of fifty. Their concern for each other comes shining through when the uncertainty of medical problems touches their lives both in the plot and in a subplot involving Jack. But there's nothing gushy or gooey about this love relationship. Cruse is equally adept at showing the man-is-from-Mars-woman-from-Venus side of her characters, allowing Kitty to express her exasperation with Jack in situations that mirror normal day-to-day living. Her exasperation is always tinged by fondness, though, and this also shows in her relationship with her daughters. While this is certainly a character-driven mystery, the plot is realistic and well developed, the clues are honest, and the resolution is satisfying. I look forward with pleasure to the future adventures of Kitty Bloodworth and her Chevy loving husband, Jack.

Choice of Evil: A Burke Novel
Vintage Books
Random House
1745 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10019
9780375706622 $13.95

Max Carrillo

"Choice of Evil" might well be Andrew Vaachs' last book. In the sense that maybe it should be. I've been a fan of Vaachs' books, and his ultra-hardboiled anti-hero, Burke from the beginning, and have watched with interest his career as a crusader against child abuse. But both his novels and his crusade have reached a level at which they are starting to seem overdone, and a little disturbing.

Aside from that, the book is not just up to previous quality, and is visibly leaning on previous laurels and exposition. The hard has just been boiled a little too long. Every time we hear about Burke's childhood in youth prisons, and his "family" or "children of the street", it becomes a little less affecting. Worse, yet, "Choice of Evil" is flaccid, and doesn't make a lot of sense. Okay, we can let Vaachs cruise on his past, filling pages with reminders of past novels instead of creating new stories. But what fan of Burke can fathom the tough guy's inexplicable tolerance for the non-lesbian asexualpot, taking her along with him against his own better advice (because she "loves" the man he's tracking, who he has never met?) It's not only not Burke, it's not even plausible. The cyber empire and electronic Batcave of the baddie is ridiculous. The plot is full of posturing and gaping holes. The homosexual cadre that hire Burke are about as plausible as Maxwell Smart's organizations. We find ourselves wondering what is going on, lamenting the whole idea.

Even the anti-"freak" screed is getting a little worn. We are aware by now that the world of Burke (and Vaachs) is populated by "freaks": organized, powerful childsex predators with impunity from justice and therefore worthy of murder by Burke and his pals. Don't get me wrong: I don't really object to Burke's brutality. For myself, of course...I like reading about heavy violence and apparently lots of other people, including other fans of Burke, do too. But getting back to those younger readers, are we comfortable with the idea of glorifying brutality and lynching if the name of a just cause? Does that even come through? Dirty Harry had a just cause, didn't he? John Wayne killed Indians for a damn good reason, did he not? Death squads seldom work for the Devil or sheer money. The problem is that people don't always make the connection. The "Miami Vice" television series was a huge hit with coke-snorters and dealers. Of course, the cops were AGAINST drugs, but they personified the cars, clothes, attitudes, and firepower that cokesters most admire. In many ways the show was a commercial for cocaine, not an anti-drug message. And you know it. So what is Vaachs REALLY saying. And to whom?

Vaachs is not at all naive about hidden messages. It's hard to believe he was unaware that his book depicting Batman as a lethal crusader against pedophiles was aimed at a major homopedophile icon. In case you yourself were unaware of it, Batman and Robin have long been heroes of men who want sex with young boys. The rich older guy with the young protege; all quite nice, after all. And as Robin grows older, the two will remain friends, even though there will be other proteges in the future. It's a common fantasy: lots of pedophiles are not the drooling monsters Vaachs portrays, but tend to wrap their sexual fantasies wrapped (as so many of us do) in romance. Vaachs' appropriating Batman was seen as a deliberate insult and attack by the "Man/Boy Love community", which is unlikely to cost Vaachs, or most of us, a great deal of sleep. But what about the covert messages of Burke and his band of bloodthirsty "brothers" and "sisters"? It's hard to say if Vaachs cares much about that; and he won't respond on the matter. He lets you know that it wouldn't break his heart if his readers starting killing off "freaks", but he doesn't come out and say so. He is, after all, an attorney and officer of the court.

Librarians should wonder about the effects of all this on young readers...or any readers. It's hard to root against a crusader, especially one with a banner as bright and unequivocal as Anti Child Abuse. There is little remorse as the inhuman fiends get their torture and grisly death at Burke's hands. After all, they aren't, as is stressed over and over again, human. The rub, of course, is that they ARE, in fact, human. Just as Nazis were, in fact, human. Just as Jews and homosexuals are human. Just as are we all, some with more humanity than others perhaps, some less.

Perhaps I am the only one who gets edgy listening to Burke/Vaachs drool over the lynchings. I equate the two in this matter after having spoken with Vaachs and found him every bit as heroic, and every bit as unbending and vituperative as Burke. He doesn't believe in therapy, he doesn't believe in rehabilitation, he doesn't believe in change of heart, he doesn't even believe in the Law...he believes these freaks should be eliminated from the living race, and quickly.

Whether the child-abusing freaks are really the powerful, evil-dripping, organized monsters Burke deals with or (as has been my experience) frequently hapless mopes who lose control of their stunted sexual and emotional drives, it's a little scary, to me at least, to hear people dehumanized, and sentenced to summary death.

Of course, Burke is just a fictional character, a dark paladin who thrills us by striking out to do the right thing that we would do if we could, unhampered by The Law, or by tender feelings. He is, essentially, the Rambo for kiddy-freaks, correcting the history of the child protection system as brutally and straightforwardly as Rambo deals with the infuriatingly untouchable gooks, Commies, and raghead terrorists. The thing is, most people who read this review don't necessarily approve of Rambo.

And I don't approve of Burke/Vaachs inciting murder. The old chestnut question, of course, lies in where the lines get drawn. Of course we know that WE are on a different side from BABYRAPERS. We don't have to worry about "them" coming for us after the others have been taken, do we? Well, which side of that line are abortionists on? They destroy the lives, if you listen to that particular pack of crusaders, of a lot more kids than the pedophiles do, and a lot more absolutely. And there are those who cut through the cynical web of law and kill them. Some approve of that: I'm guessing that you probably don't. If you served in Viet-Nam, you might have been called a "baby killer" to your face. How would you feel about criminals slipping through the night to murder ex-GI's? If you have ever agreed to do business with a prostitute under the age of eighteen, you are, in the eyes of the law, a pedophile; a sex-offender who must register with the police for life. Probably most child abuse is, as Burke himself states, visited upon children by other children. Should we kill them, too, for raping smaller kids in their group home? The line is more elastic than you might think.

And when it comes to killing people as punishment-and a lot of people think that it's never okay under any circumstances-you have to draw pretty rigid lines. You don't want emotional appeals overturning the supposedly impartial gaze of law. Vaachs, though a lawyer himself, doesn't mind doing that at all. One interchange from my last conversation with him stands out to me. He was asked about a case in Wenatchee, Washington, where it later turned out that the adults driven from jobs into prison for satanic abuse of children had been victims of false testimony modeled by interviewers and "therapists", as we are becoming aware is not uncommon. He said he didn't know about the case, and somebody supplied a tag, the headline "Wenatchee Witchhunt Overturned." Smiling the savage lawyer's smile he always turns upon anyone not agreeing with his ideas that anybody accused of child abuse is guilty, incurable, and deserving of quick culling, he said, "If there are witches, let's hunt them." Of course, the very term "witchhunt", like "snipe hunt" intrinsically carries the idea that the snipes and witches do not really exist, but beyond that, the attitude (admirably naked, I have to admit) is a bit scary. There was a time when witches were thought of as inhuman, powerful, numerous, and deserving only of non-judicial death from believing crusaders. Who in their right mind would have stood up for the rights of people whom commune with Satan?

Another thing that kind of creeps me out is that I never wrote anything like this about Vaachs' earlier books. And for an obvious reason: I liked them. They were well-written, fresh, taut, and tough an I gobbled them up. So apparently, for me at least, the negative messages I'm expressing concern about don't bother me if the writing is good enough to blast it by my blood-crazed eyes.

But now we get a Burke book that is decidedly NOT well-written. And I am starting to think that's not such a bad thing. It might be well if it's the last one.

Why Should the Boss Listen to You? The 7 Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor
James E. Lukaszewski
Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint
San Francisco, California
9780787996185 $24.95

Otto Lerbinger, Ph.D.

An exciting and practical book about how to become a "strategic trusted advisor" to CEOs and other leaders. It is based primarily on Lukaszewski's more than 30 years of counseling experience, most of it as a crisis counselor, but also in leadership building, reputation recovery, and strategy. His readers benefit from his "war stories," which serve to summarize the key lessons learned from working with CEOs, boards, and senior executives. He reminds the reader: "Keep in mind that my career has been devoted to dealing mostly with the extraordinarily bad news of organizations, leaders, and institutions."

Why Should the Boss Listen to You? is highly readable, following the author's dictum: "Be brief and to the point." Along with cogent ideas, the book provides some practical advice. His "Three-Minute Drill," for example, is universally applicable in presenting recommendations to the boss. His six steps -- (a) situation, (2) analysis and assumptions, (3) the goal, (4) options, (5) recommendations, and (6) justification -- are not dissimilar to case study reports at the Harvard Business School. Lukaszewski, however, sets word limits on each step in recognition of the value of a CEO's time -- don't waste it. Of the 450-word total, the options step is allocated 150 words, more than twice that allocated to the other steps. More generally, he recommends that "every document, every script, every written piece of information should be screened for its time requirement." His practical advice is: do a word count for every message and divide by 150, because that's the average rate at which people talk.

This book serves as a roadmap for anyone who aspires to become a "strategic personal counselor" for a boss or client; also for staff heads who want to become "the Number One Number Two." Serving as a self-improvement guide, Part One of Lukaszewski's book clearly describes the realities of advising top executives: the pressures they face, what they expect from advisors, and how to achieve maximum impact. Part Two addresses the book's subtitle: The 7 Disciplines of the Trust Strategic Advisor." He offers copious advice on what each discipline means and how to build it.

Lukaszewski's focus is on the 5% of problems affecting most organizations that "present the greatest threat to organizational stability, reputation, and market share," rather than on the 95% which come directly from day-to-day operations. Public relations and public affairs professionals can especially identify with this 5%, because their responsibility is to attend to the "socio-political environment." To this end, they have developed special skills, such as issues management. Lukaszewski advises aspiring counselors to study issues and trends as a way to improve on their forecasting ability and contribute to the CEO's ongoing concern about "tomorrow's goals." You need to know what's going on in the world to be a window to tomorrow.

To be a window to the future, the discipline of understanding the power of patterns is essential: "the ability to use your understanding of known patterns of events and circumstances to recognize or forecast the results of various actions and decisions." Here Lukaszewski rivals academicians, because they would argue that one of the purposes of education is to teach this pattern recognition skill. Educators do it by discussing theories and concepts and rigorously applying them in case study analysis. Cases in academic texts are what Lukaszewski calls "war stories" -- the big difference being that professionals have lived through experiences.

Compared with "process thinkers" and "linear thinkers," strategic counselors are "intuitive thinkers." They have "the ability to 'see' solutions and next steps even in the absence of evidence and data." Lukaszewski sees the further advantage that "the intuitive mind has a significant amount of random experience from life 'floating around' that 'gets triggered' by having to find immediate or deadline-driven solution and answers." Often, the goal of the intuitive thinker is to find the great idea or the most interesting or creative solution -- the silver bullet -- that is especially relevant to highly emotional or "perceptual" issues.

To illustrate, his first discipline is to "be trustworthy," which he deems a critical dimension without which a relationship cannot grow and survive because it requires open and trusted communications. As sociologists and public relations professionals remind us, trust is the cement that binds people and groups together and makes the existence of organizations and society possible. His exploration of the subject includes sensible, simple, constructive, and practical lists of what needs to be done; e.g., six necessary elements in establishing trust and ten of the most frequent and easily avoidable ways in which trust is "busted."

The focus of a strategic personal advisor must be "the boss." Lukaszewski pays homage to the boss, saying, "I have to confess my unending admiration for those at the top of the pyramid." Fortunately, he draws a line -- unless "what the boss is doing is immoral, illegal, completely stupid, or financially irresponsible." An advisor must think strategically: "You have achieved a strategic mind-set when you are able to verbally inject mental energy into an organization's operational and strategic processes to help leaders and their organizations achieve management objectives." Although staff people -- one of the audiences of his book -- sprinkle their advice with the terms "strategy" and "strategic, " they too often fail to relate their specialized activities to the organization's goals.

The essence of strategy and of having a "management perspective," which is another discipline, is to relate everything done in an organization to its goals. Becoming a verbal visionary, a further discipline, helps inject mental energy. Lukaszewski defines a visionary as " an optimistic individual who can get others to focus on the future or on some meaningful, useful, positive goals, which those others willingly contribute to achieving." Verbal skills help to do this.

Seven skills (Lukaszewki enjoys making lists and numbering items) are required to become a verbal visionary: (1) Be a storyteller, (2) Be memorable, (3) Be inspirational, (4) Be thoughtful, (5) Be ethical, (6) Be a coach and mentor, and (7) Be virtuous. He considers storytelling "among the most powerful verbal techniques in any culture" and credits Jack Welch's verbal vision for enabling him to transform GE from a bureaucracy into an efficient and profitable corporation.

A trusted strategic advisor who has learned the seven disciplines can counsel the boss constructively and show how to use advice. Optimistically, the advisor "will experience significant individual rewards, such as access, influence, and impact." The way to manage your own destiny, says Lukaszewski, is by helping leaders realize theirs.

Wanton Woman: Sue Logue, Strom Thurmond, an the Bloody Logue-Timmerman Feud
Anna Flowers
9780595474462 $15.95

Steve Glassman

The most violent and colorful chapter in American history was not forged in the Old West. For real nastiness, you have to look to the so-called New South, the period from the close of the occupation by Federal troops after the Civil War until the establishment of Civil Rights in the 1970s. To the rest of the country, the post Reconstruction South is conveniently typed as backward and ignorant - and rural and somehow out of step with the goings-on in the larger society. The glories of the Old West, on the other hand, are regarded popularly as the simple working through of Manifest Destiny. Those western achievements still linger grandly in the popular mind (if a bit embarrassingly in age more enlightened to the rights of the native inhabitants). But compare the literature of the Old West and the New South. In the former, you have Ned Buntline and hordes of dime novelists. The latter, on the other hand, produced William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor among dozens of other recognized literary whizzes all of whom, in one way or another, dealt with the social engine that produced a society so notably violent, unequal, and - magnificent.

Anna Flowers true-crime book, Wanton Woman: Sue Logue, Strom Thurmond, an the Bloody Logue-Timmerman Fued, is reminiscent in many ways of Faulkner's ground-breaking novel, Sanctuary, one of the very first hard-boiled crime novels. In Faulkner's novel, set in Depression-era Mississippi (and Tennessee), Temple Drake, coed and vamp, creates all manner of havoc owing to her sophomoric hedonism. She stiffs college boys, goes off with an older man (when she knows better), and ends up raped by an impotent psychopath. The worst of her crimes is allowing an innocent man be condemned for a deed she knows darn well he did not commit. This last skullduggery was dreamed up and carried through by her father, a judge while a broken Temple looks on without raising a hue or cry.

Wanton Woman is the tale of another judge, a man that only the most uninformed citizen of this republic is not acquainted with, Strom Thurmond. Most of us know him as the longest-serving U.S. Senator, but Thurmond's influence - in all manner of public offices--is felt like a lodestone throughout this book. The protagonist Sue Logue nee Stridham was a woman, who arrived on this mortal coil in 1896. Unhappily for her, she was born in the wrong time and place. The South Carolina of her youth was practically a feudal society. Her hand was given in matrimony by her father to a neighbor. The reason Sue appeared attractive to her suitor's family is that her prospective father-in-law wanted to reunite the property that belonged to his family estate. The marriage with Wallace did not take because Sue voracious sexual appetite literally scared hell out of Wallace, who shortly went into a sort of hermitage at the family's remote sawmill. Brother George, however, knew a good thing when he saw it. He and Sue developed a long-standing affair. Momma Anna, Wallace and George's mother liked Sue just fine, and not a word was said about this rather peculiar family arrangement.

Years go by. The family indulges grudges with neighbors and relatives as befitting a family of good standing in the rural South (or medieval times), and Sue becomes enamored of a young school teacher with the peculiar first name of Strom. Clearly, he's a young man going places. Sue, though not graduated from high school, sets her heart on becoming a school teacher. Shortly after Strom's election to the office of local superintendent of schools - and a steamy and on-again off-again fling with Sue - she is appointed teacher of the local school. A dozen more years pass. Strom is now a judge and the family enemies are in control of the school board. Sue is dismissed as a teacher. Worse, her husband of record is slain by one of the folks the clan is on the outs with.

By now it is the 1940s, and the modern world is beginning to impinge even on the Deep South. Brother George and wife-of-record Sue decide a straight-out assassination, the way matters of this sort had been handled for decades, might be messy and attract unhappy legal attention. So they enlist a nephew who was a policeman to find a hit man. The fee: five hundred dollars. Sue writes a check for her half of the hit man's charge. After a couple of months the policeman nephew sings like a canary. The local sheriff, a first cousin to George, goes unarmed to the family seat to collect George and Sue. After giving his regards to Momma Anna, the sheriff politely asks George and Sue to come along to the courthouse. George shoots him in the face, but the deputy - who was thoughtfully armed - returns fire. George is only grazed but the deputy and a family retainer are killed in the fracas.

George and Sue and the hit man are put on trial. The two lovebirds are only accused in the first trial of being accessories to murder, but they are convicted. Along with the hit man, they are sentenced to fry in the electric chair in January of 1943. In the scene that even Faulkner could not have conjured in a realistic way in a novel, Strom Thurmond, by now a state senator turned captain in the Army reserves, is charged with delivering Sue from the women's penitentiary to the place of execution. He and Sue have one last sexual romp in the back seat while his longtime driver dutifully chauffeurs Sue to the so-called Death House. Although it is claimed Strom was pulling wires behind the scenes on her behalf, Sue was dispatched on schedule, the first woman put to death in South Carolina's electric chair.

Anna Flowers has produced a historical true crime book that is Southern Gothic in tenor and content. It is the sort of thing that Poe as well as a long line of Southern writers would look on with favor. Good going.

Nod's Way
Robert Stikmanz
Dalton Publishing
P.O. Box 242, Austin, Texas 78767
9780974070391 $24.95

Dr. Tami Brady

Nod's Way is a divination system with a few interesting twists. Most creatively, this book has been given to its author by Jackanapes Plenty. Jack, as those who have read Prelude to a Change of Mind already know, is part Dvarsh. In fact, Nod's Way is the adapted translation of the Sosnod, the ancient Dvarsh oracle wisdom book.

The divination process is reminiscent of I Ching. The forecaster rolls three dice. Two of these dice are eight sides with the moon in its various phases and a couple of star formations. The third dice is a regular six sided type with additional symbols. Read together (three rolls for three layers of interpretation), the forecaster receives comments relevant to their query. In total, there are 36 auspices which match the Nod Calendar of the Dvarsh.

Nod's Way is an intuitive divination system that I personally find very useful. The imaginative background information adds a little fun and fantasy into the mix. What a great idea!

One Foot Outside The Door
Vina St. Fran
Zam Publishing
P.O. Box 2716, Farmington Hills, Michigan 48333-2716
9780615137971 $15.00

Tiffany Ellen

If you haven't heard of author, Vina St. Fran, you will soon. The newcomer penned the steamy novel, "One Foot Outside The Door". The story is set in trendy the trendy town of Southfield that is right outside of Detroit. What a good read! It was riveting and you never had any idea where you would land by the time you finished the book. Cyndarella Worthy, the lead in the story is the kind of woman who goes for hers in life with friends showing her love as she stumbles before she gets it right. The love scenes were written raw and real, leaving you wanting to take a cold shower if you don't happen to have a partner around. I think what really impressed me most is I haven't read a book like this before with Chaldean or Arab-American characters interacting with African American characters. I believe what gives "One Foot Outside The Door" its strength is that it is so racially diverse. It was an interesting twist that I really liked and I look forward to seeing what happens in Part 2 since this is a trilogy. There are many areas that makes this is book a knockout. St. Fran addresses not only dating mishaps, but also racism from both within and outside of the black community.

"One Foot Outside The Door" is moving as it is entertaining from beginning to end. Cyndarella Worthy, the heroine of the story is a powerful woman who is determined to be happy in all areas of her life. Of course, things don't always go as she plans. Point in case, Bashar Bazzi, a Chaldean American, was Cyndarella's high school and college sweetheart. He disappeared on a business trip fifteen years earlier, leaving Cyndarella out in the cold after a four-year courtship. Was it because she was African American that her lover had rejected her in such a tasteless fashion?

There is a rawness rendered in St. Fran's enticing and groundbreaking story as she celebrates her friendship with three lifelong girlfriends, 2 African-American, and One White. It is truly remarkable to be drawn into a story of friendship everyone can relate to.

The authenticity of the setting is what makes "One Foot Outside The Door" a beguiling novel. Metropolitan Detroit, which has been noted one of the most segregated cities in America, is home to the largest population of Arab-Americans outside of the Mid-East. What happens when love crosses that color line? Written in a racy, titillating language St. Fran's readers will be rewarded with an absorbing plot line that moves swiftly with an ending that will leave you hungering for more.

Afrika's Bookshelf

The Magic Violin
Mayra Calvani
Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc
9781933090498 $10.95

Eight-year old Melina wants to become a good violinist. When she loses confidence, her Rumanian teacher Andrea decides it's time for a magic dose of self esteem. A mysterious old woman in rags gives Melina some curious advice; a violinist Russian hamster, who happens to live under the old woman's hat, offers her a virtuoso performance; a shooting star fills her with hope on Christmas Eve. Is Melina actually playing better, or has her violin become magic?

Who is the old woman in the town square, and why does she wear the same emerald ring as her teacher Andrea?

The Magic Violin is a wonderful Christmas story that is encouraging for all children. Sometimes, children do want to feel like that they want to explore and try something different and when they do not accomplish what they want they want to quit and proceed with learning something totally different. However, the key is believing in yourself and having faith in what you are trying to accomplish. I think that Mayri did an excellent job depicting these standard everyday beliefs that not only children experience, but everyone experience. Sometimes, we believe that it is something magical that came over us, but when in the very essence it is believing in what we are doing that is the magical essence.

Congratulations on a job well done! Stay blessed.

Five Stars Rating

From Where I Stand, It Is What It Is
Tonya D.Floyd and
9781413779363 $16.95

From Where I Stand, It Is What It Is poetically sums up the author's views on many of life's perplexing, yet relative issues. Tonya Floyd will take you on an interesting journey, contemplating everything from unexpected realities of relationships, to her love of food. The enclosed expressions served as the author's outlet for a multitude of emotions when she was not able, or was too uncomfortable, to express such things verbally. This very personal journey through Tonya's mind and heart envelops the reader in Tonya's emotions and allows the reader to envision some of her experiences through vivid description and creative details. This book, mirroring its author, is a unique and magnetic combination of intelligence, beauty, strength, vulnerability, creativity, and honesty. It began as a personal journal which the author kept over a period of seven years, as nothing more than a hobby. It sat in a drawer for years before its creator was encouraged by a friend to reopen it and share it with the world. Fortunately, it has now come to light for others to see, relate to, and perhaps even learn from.

From Where I Stand, It Is What It Is is a poetry book written by Tonya D. Floyd and published by Publish America. From Where I Stand, It Is What It Is was very easy to read from beginning to end and her book, From Where I Stand, It Is What It Is, is filled with everyday subjects and lifestyles. I think that Tonya did an excellent job displaying her personal journey. Her poetry book, From Where I Stand, It Is What It Is, is divided into different sections and each section opens up with a story which makes even more interesting to read.

I Ain't Ascared of Nutin'… The Evolution of Me
Kyndall Brown
Buddafly Books
9780615149882 $9.50

I Ain't Ascared of Nutin'… The Evolution of Me is all about Kyndall Brown.

I Ain't Ascared of Nutin'… The Evolution of Me was written by Kyndall Brown and published by Buddafly Books. Kyndall's first debut book of poetry is very well written from beginning to end and Kyndall speaks straight from the heart. Kyndall's writing style for a young lady is remarkable and very inspirational for others both young and old.

I Ain't Ascared of Nutin'… The Evolution of Me consists of 64 pages and focuses on various subjects such as politics, friendships, relationships, life and beauty. I think that Kyndall did an excellent job composing a wonderful book of poetry. Some of my favorite poems that are published in I Ain't Ascared of Nutin'… The Evolution of Me include I Ain't Ascared of Nutin'… The Evolution of Me, War, Butterflies, Can You Live in My Dreams, I will Succeed, Friendship and Nothing Can Hold Me Back.

With each of these poems, Kyndall's sense of vision, imagery and composition is very uplifting.

I only wish that her first debut book of poetry, I Ain't Ascared of Nutin'… The Evolution of Me, was longer. Other than that, excellent job! Congratulations on your journey! Stay blessed and look forward to reading your next book!

Afrika Midnight Asha Abney

Ann's Bookshelf

Letters of Ted Hughes
Christopher Reid, editor
Faber & Faber
9780571221387 30.00 Brit. pounds

Writing a review after a number of major British newspapers and journals have already published theirs is an interesting exercise.

Interesting, not because everything seems already to have been said and all the best quotes to have already been used, but because of what other reviewers select from the many letters and from the great range of topics about which Ted wrote. He wrote to a huge range of people - family, friends, poets, editors, scholars, teachers, schoolchildren, theatre directors, politicians, royalty. As he got older and more famous, the pressures of answering correspondents grew: "I've spent most of this week simply writing letters.", he told his aunt, "Even writing very briefly, they take me ages". Still, he managed to write about many things, some serious, some trivial, some at great length, others with exemplary brevity. So, what reviewers choose to write about from this treasury reveals their own preoccupations.

Those reviewers who are intent on feeding the public's seemingly insatiable curiosity about Ted's relationship with Sylvia Plath begin with that and make the most of the three letters to Sylvia which are included in the book and the many references to her in other letters (a long list of which appears in the very useful Index of subjects). They look up Assia Wevill in the index, too (a shorter list). Then, it seems, they browse a bit further, add something from Ted's letters to his children, Frieda and Nicholas, and note some of Ted's comments about a few famous literary figures.

Ted's detailed and extensive comments about many of his poems, his descriptions of his poetic methods, of mythology, and especially his discussions of Shakespeare and The Goddess of Complete Being, leave them baffled and terse: "a little goes a very long way", one reviewer complained. Yet, these are the very letters which give the most insight into the thoughts and purposes behind Ted's work, and they reflect the passions which drove him to be a poet in the first place. Yes, they are long and complex, and often they represent only one fragment of a long exchange of letters in which discussion and explanation flowed back and forth between Ted and his correspondent, but they are a fine example of Ted's generous spirit and an important guide to his work and to aspects of his life which influenced that work.

There are many other far less serious letters to balance these lengthy flights. One which everyone can enjoy is Ted's letter to Frieda describing his visit to Buckingham Palace in 1974 to collect his Gold Medal for Poetry from the Queen. The preliminary visit to the clothing store, Moss Bros., for a hired suit, was disconcerting: "[My waistcoat] was short. Between the bottom of the waistcoat & the top of the pants, I had three inches of white shirt puffing out. I could see I was going to spend my time in front of the Queen, surrounded as I imagined by lords and ladies, pulling my pants down to cover my socks, then pulling them up to cover that waist gap from below, & pulling my waistcoat down to hide it from above, and I thought I'll look like a right hick". When he mentioned that he would be meeting the Queen in an hour's time, however, a more dignified-looking outfit was immediately found for him. The rest of the letter is similarly graphic and funny - a wonderful picture of the whole visit painted for his school-age daughter.

Christopher Reid, the editor of this book, has done an excellent job in selecting letters from the hundreds which were made available to him. It can't have been easy to decide what to include and what to leave out, but he had complete editorial freedom in this matter. Nevertheless, he is well aware that some aspects of Ted's interests have not been well represented. One reviewer, Ed Douglas, chose to fill in some of the gaps that Reid was obliged to leave in the interest of keeping the book a manageable size. Douglas, as a fisherman friend of Ted's, is well situated to write about Ted's little-known work as an environmental activist. 'Portrait of a poet as eco-warrior' (The Observer, Sunday November 4, 2007.,,2204850,00.html) is a fascinating and informed supplement to Ted's letters.

Poet, Craig Raine's review in The Times Literary Supplement (Nov. 21, 2007 ), on the other hand, is a curiosity which would surely provide food for thought for any psychologist. Raine seems to be obsessed with combing the letters for hints about Ted's sex life. He begins with a completely irrelevant reference to a sexually explicit self-portrait by Egon Schiele, then extrapolates from there, quoting selectively, to demonstrate that Ted left "a paper trail for posterity" which shows him to have "remained 'untamed, undomesticated, unruly and animal' ". Ted's astrological interests are dismissed with a sneer, and a few Birthday Letters poems are dismantled (questionably) for good measure. "It is easy to be censorious", says Raine, but he goes ahead with his speculative accusations anyway. Strange, when Ted's letters to him, when Raine was poetry editor at Faber & Faber, are friendly and generously appreciative of his work.

John Carey's review (The Sunday Times, Oct. 21, 2007. ) is perhaps the best, broadest and most objective of those recently published. Yet, for many years Ted and Carey were not on speaking terms with each other. The bad feeling began after an angry public exchange of letters over Carey's review of Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, and was exacerbated when Carey's signature appeared (amongst others) on a public letter concerning Sylvia Plath's grave. Ted's own description of the many problems Sylvia's more radical fans had caused over her grave appears in two letters in this book. As does Ted's last letter to Carey, seeking to heal the "misunderstanding" between them and written just a couple of weeks before he died.

Christopher Reid states quite plainly in his introduction that this book is not "a biography in disguise". Nevertheless, the chronological ordering of the letters and the incidental and, sometimes, specific biological content provide a far more vivid, truthful and very personal picture of Ted's life than any biography could achieve. There is amazing variety in this book which contains not just letters but also photographs, and, for example, an astrological chart for Philip Larkin; another made for Sylvia Plath in 1956, with a note about the suicidal placing of Saturn (which, according to astrologer Neil Spencer shows that Ted was very good astrologer); a diagrammatic method of comparing "sensibility and temperament" in the work of various poets; and a sketch which Ted made of his Order of Merit medal for his Aunt Hilda, which is part of the last letter in the book. Reid's note that Ted died nine days after writing this letter provides an appropriate but chilling ending.

For me, nothing can compare with the sense of Ted's presence which I feel when looking at his handwritten letters. His strong energetic handwriting, his characteristic dashes, the occasional indecipherable word which has to be puzzled over, the odd spelling mistake and the inserted afterthoughts, all convey his character. A printed transcript on the white pages of a book loses that sense of energy and immediacy. Nevertheless, the letters collected in this book display a whole range of emotions, enthusiasms, interests, concerns and obsessions: there is warmth, humour, occasional bleakness, passion, love, dedication, pedagogical instruction, self-questioning, self-discipline and everything else which characterized the man himself. The letters span Ted's life from his teenage years to his death, and they tell us a great deal about him. Above all, as John Carey rightly says, "No other English poet's letters, not even Keats's, unparalleled as they are, take us so intimately into the wellsprings of his own art".

A series of extracts from letters included in Letters of Ted Hughes was published in British newspaper, The Telegraph, November 27 -29, 2007.

A Venetian Bestiary
Jan Morris
Faber & Faber
9780571233052 A$29.95

This small, slim book about animals is not as insubstantial as it looks. Jan Morris's writing is as rich and colourful as ever, and her knowledge of the history and the little-known sights of Venice provides her with a rich source of material.

"In fluctuating temper and varying fortune, in and out of love with the place, I have written rather too much about Venice in the sixty-odd years since the city first bewitched me", she writes in her 'Introduction', signing it with her Welsh name, Trefan Morys. This book, she goes on to say, is "by way of an epilogue", but whether she can ever really get Venice out of her system seems doubtful.

Morris's imaginative, vivid and humorous style is evident from the first paragraph of the book. And her familiarity with Venice and her delight in its history, its people, its art, and its curiosities, is evident in the things she draws attention to in this book: the "unmistakable knees" of the owl on the statue of Minerva in the Riva degli Schiavoli; the "black humour" of the artist portraying Noah's raven in the mosaics of the Basilica; the exclusion of male cats in the street-name of the one thoroughfare named for the cats of Venice; and the symbolic presence of the four Golden Stallions of St. Mark in a painting of the crucifixion by Lotto. All this and much more is packed into this little book about the beasts - real and mythical, mild and monstrous - of Venice.

This is not a book which will allow you to follow some kind of 'Jan Morris Animal Trail' through Venice (thank goodness!). A few of the many paintings which Morris mention are not (I think) even in Venice, although the artists are Venetian. This is a book, however, which may open your eyes to some of the delights which the average tourist to Venice generally misses. The curious and fascinating carvings on the capitals of the Doge's Palace, for example; and the many different animals which can be found around the streets and in Venetian painting and architecture. My own favorite discoveries amongst Venetian animals have been the mouse (not the lion, which Morris mentions) in the Carpaccio sequence of St. Jerome in the Scuola degli Schiavoni, and the cat which peeps out from beneath the skirts of Athena on the gates of the campanile of San Marco. This book, makes me keen to go and discover more.

Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy (5-7 age group)
Michael Rosen
Quentin Blake
Bloomsbury, c/o Allen and Unwin,
PO Box 8500, Alexander St. NSW 2065. Australia
9780747587385 A$19.95

Fun, nonsense, the spooky and the scary, rhymes and zany, wonderful illustrations. What more could a 5-7-year-old want? Well, a CD to listen to in the car, perhaps. All this is here one aptly named package.

Michael Rosen knows just what appeals to a young child's imagination. And Quentin Blake's illustrations are as quirky, simple and delightful as ever.

My six-year-old grandson dissolved in giggles on hearing the antics of an absent-minded small boy in the bathroom - "I suck the sponge. I suck the sponge" - appealed to him no end. So, too, did the poem about Grumble Belly, who begins by looking like a normal Grandfather in Quentin Blake's drawings but is taunted so that he gradually turns into a monster which chases and catches his small tormentor. The final illustration shows the small bog hugged in the arms of a huge, hairy beast, which is reading him a story.

Rosen's poems describe things and situations which are familiar to most families (a bossy big brother, scary dreams, mishaps, naughtiness, Mum's nicknames for dawdling offspring) and he uses language which is instantly recognizable to children who invent their own silly sentences, word-play and funny rhymes. This, combined with Quentin Blake' deceptively child-like drawings, is ideal. The humour of the poems is illustrated in the pictures, and sometimes the pictures add some enlightenment of their own. A companion piece for one simple poem about a dog and an attractive but unopenable dustbin is left until the end of the book. The dog, so it says, does not know the boy, but the accompanying illustration shows that there has clearly been some collaboration between them.

All through the book there are things with which children will identify, some serious, some funny. They may learn a few things, too: "Don't squash peas on your knees", for example, and "don't put mustard in the custard". There is plenty for parents to smile about, too, although they may wonder if they should edit out some very tempting ideas - such as the one about making glorious bubbly messes in the bathroom.

Oliver Sacks
Pan Macmillan
9780330444361 A$32.95

Do you suffer from earworms or brainworms? Most of us do. They are those fragments of music which repeat themselves endlessly in our heads, sometimes (as Oliver Sacks notes) "maddeningly, for days on end". In advertising, television and film, music is often designed to do just that. What is needed, these industries believe, is a catchy tune which no-one will forget. And how often do you find that some advertising jingle seems to be stuck in your brain?

"All of us, to some degree, have music in our heads", writes Sacks: but thankfully not all of us are possessed by music as are some of the people in Musicophilia. Some suffer musical hallucinations, hearing loud music just as if a radio had been left on. Some experience music as part of a pre-epileptic aura. One man, a surgeon, after being struck by lightning, dying and being resuscitated, became so obsessed with piano music that his whole life was devoted to satisfying that obsession. He taught himself to play the piano, took music lessons, and learned notation so that he could write down the tunes he heard in his head. Even a second, serious head injury did not change his obsession and, although he still practiced as a surgeon, musicophilia dominated his life.

Music, it seems is more deeply embedded in us than language. It stirs the emotions, alters our movements, soothes compulsive ticks and remains as a musical memory even in the most deeply amnesic people or in those isolated by disease and dementia. Sacks, in his work as a neurosurgeon, has seen the value of music in people suffering from Tourette's syndrome. He has seen its co-ordinating power in patients with mental and physical disabilities. And he has experimented with the use of music therapy in patients with Alzheimers and other sorts of dementia. He describes the astonishment of seeing deeply demented, mentally isolated, uncommunicative people respond and become alert when music is being played: people who never speak sing along with tunes they recognize, faces become unfrozen, immobile patients start to move. And he observes and describes the effects of music on many other very different conditions.

A glance at the chapter headings in this book suggests the wide range of areas and conditions in which Sacks has studied the effects of music: musical savants, Cochlear Amusia, Musician's Dystonia, Parkinson's Disease, aphasia, dysharmonia, Tourette's Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, hypermusicality, depression, musical dreams, emotional response - all these and more are discussed in the context of music and brain function, but in language and in a style which most readers will understand and enjoy.

Many of the case-histories in this book are fascinating and Sacks's seemingly boundless curiosity, excitement and sympathy are readily apparent in his writing. He is (understandably, since he is a neurosurgeon) what philosophers call a 'Mechanist'. For him, every aspect of our experience has some physical basis, is related to some particular brain function or neurological activity, and our response to music, miraculous as it seems in some instances, is no exception. He explores the many wonders he describes in this book with scientific rigour, and for the non-scientific reader this can be dry and difficult at times, although Sacks keeps his science as simple and non-technical as possible.

If you are not a Mechanist, you might argue that not everything about music has yet been scientifically explained. Sacks would agree but he is sure that eventually it will be. So, if you wish to take spiritual comfort from the very similar things which people describe after near-death and out-of-body experiences (both of which are discussed in this book) you may need to do what the lightning-struck, musicophilic surgeon eventually did when he refused to have his condition analyzed further, and chose, instead, to simply accept the mysteries of his experience and the grace and blessings of the music which changed his life.

And if you are not a Mechanist, there is much to ponder in this book. What, for example, is one to make of the most deeply amnesic patient, who cannot remember anything at all from one minute to the next, and yet is able to sight-read a musical score, play and improvise on the piano, and even conduct a choir through an entire musical score with intelligence, skill and feeling? His behaviour is anything but automatic and he seems totally present and engaged, yet he remembers nothing at all once the music stops? What, too, of the fact that although he has no memory of any previous moment, he knows at times that something in him is 'broken'?

Music, for the ancient philosophers, was what connected us with the Divine Source. Its harmonies created and shaped our world. And in spite of everything science has discovered about the brain, in spite of increasingly sophisticated tools which can map the minute areas of the brain which respond to music, its mystery remains. Whatever way we choose to explain its powers, however, the therapeutic value of music is immense, as Sacks convincingly demonstrates in this book. And his own "old-fashioned" method of close observation of his patients and imaginative empathy with their experiences, allied to clinical, scientific analysis, is not only necessary for our understanding and use of the therapeutic power of music, it is what makes Musicophilia such a warm, human, humane and valuable book

Jonathan Raban
Picador, Pan Macmillan
9780330418393 A$22.95

Surveillance is a disturbing but immensely readable novel which reflects the uncertainties of our world. Set in Seattle, where Raban now lives, it portrays ordinary people in a seemingly ordinary world where security, mock-terror exercises, surveillance, deception, suspicion and questions of identity increasingly intrude into their lives.

This is the Settle of tomorrow, but only just. Everything Raban describes is already there in some degree (as it is in every other big city) and the gradual and insidious loss of personal freedom is something we already live with. In Surveillance, Raban shows how easily government controls can escalate and how easily people adapt to them and treat them as normal and harmless.

Lucy Bengstrom is a freelance journalist, a parent by accident and single by choice, and an intelligent, likeable character. Her daughter, eleven-year-old Alida, speaks and acts like any normal American pre-teen (Raban has a superb ear for dialogue), testing the waters of adulthood life, puzzled by its emotional intricacies. And Tad Zachary is an actor, a neighbour and a good family friend. He has adopted the role of stepfather to Alida, but he is dealing with the recent death of his partner, Michael, and his own questionable health. Into their lives come Mr Lee, the new owner of their apartment block, who has identity problems and grand plans, and August (Augie) Vanags, author of a best-selling book about his survival as a boy in Europe during the horrors of the Second World War.

Lucy is commissioned by a big magazine to find and interview Vanags. She finds him surprisingly easily and discovers that he is not the recluse he is made out to be. But her growing familiarity with him and his wife, together with the way in which he and Alida get along, threatens her journalistic objectivity. When doubts are raised about the veracity of Augie's identity and the truth of the claims he makes in the book, Lucy is in a dilemma.

Alida is clever at maths but a dunce, so she thinks, at human relationships, so she is trying to analyse these using algebraic formulae. It is complicated and it doesn't always work, but it helps. One of her classmates is arrested (it would spoil the book to explained why, but the crime is thoroughly modern and completely understandable) and Alida is full of admiration for him. She is full of admiration, too, for Augie Vanags, who teaches her to kayak and treats her like an adult.

Mr Lee's plans for his own future include the need for a wife. He carefully lists Lucy's assets (including: being a US citizen, secretarial skills, a ready made family and potential gratitude to him for being chosen) and decides she will do. Lucy's reaction when he offers her this great opportunity precipitates a crisis, but meanwhile Tad has discovered a valuable secret about the unsavoury Mr Lee.

Everything in this novel moves at high speed against a background of incidental events and conversations associated with security. Lucy watches as a casual acquaintance is arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities; Tad surfs the Net looking for leaked secrets, corruption and incompetence to fuel his hatred of the President and administration; Augie argues for the recognition of the real threat of terrorism and the need for less complacency in this fight, which he calls World War Four. Nothing is ever certain and Raban handles it all with skill and humour. So well, in fact, that we easily identify with these people and accept as perfectly normal the world in which they live.

Just so, can the increasing restrictions imposed on our own freedoms in the name of security creep up on us until those freedoms are irretrievably lost. But Raban is never polemic (although Augie can be, at times) and we are drawn in by his story until we want to know what happens to these people and how the specific problems they face are resolved. The disappointment is that we never do, because the ending is as uncertain as everything else in the book. Maybe that is realistic, but it seems as if Raban has taken an easy way out. Maybe this book is just the first in a series and Raban will enlighten us in the next volume. Maybe: but judging by the way the world is in this book, I wouldn't count on it.

Ann Skea

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Prairie Girl's Guide To Life
Jennifer Worick
The Taunton Press
63 South Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470
9781561589869, $14.95 1-800-477-8727

Knowledgeably compiled and ably written by Jennifer Worick, "The Prairie Girl's Guide To Life: How To Sew A Sampler Quilt & 49 Other Pioneer Projects For The Modern Girl" is a nostalgic, practical, and fun guide to activities that were the commonplace responsibility and legacy of 19th century women who helped settle the American prairie. This handy little illustrated volume of instructions, stories, advice, and commentary will enable today's young women to replicate the skills and projects of their great-grandmothers. After an informed and informative introduction, the five chapters are deftly organized by their location in the home: The Kitchen; The Bathroom; The Parlor; and The Barn And Beyond. From creating the perfect stew with corn bread and making rock candy; to creating calling cards and the art of courtship, to darning a sock and knitting a shawl; to milking a cow and planning a vegetable garden, all of these 'yesteryear' projects are particularly appropriate for instilling an appreciation for our female forebears. Of special note is what "The Prairie Girl's Guide To Life" offers in terms of pioneer gatherings ranging from tea parties, soapmaking parties, and quilting bees, to the ice cream social and square dances. "The Prairie Girl's Guide To Life" is very highly recommended for personal, school, and community library Women's Studies, American History, and 19th Century Popular Culture reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Picture Yourself
Sandy Doell
Publicity Department
Thomson Course Technology
25 Thomson Place, 4th floor, Boston, MA 02210
9781598634396, $19.99

Getting married can be one of the most joyful and/or stressful events in a woman's life. "Picture Yourself: Planning Your Perfect Wedding" by freelance book editor, writer, and wedding expert Sandy Doell offers a do-it-yourself compendium of instructions for planning, organizing, and personalizing every aspect of getting married. Profusely illustrated throughout, "Picture Yourself" covers wedding trends and fashions, choosing just the right ring for the occasion; informing family, friends, and the community; budgets, timetables and record keeping; choosing the right site, the ideal theme, and the particular tone desired; addressing such details as the color scheme, invitations, and attendants; acquiring the wedding dress; dealing with florists, cakes, photographers, and transportation; gifts (giving and getting); such legal issues as the marriage license, changing names, insurance, checking accounts, credit cards, and taxes; and planning the honeymoon. The core of the book focuses on the wedding day itself including getting ready, the ceremony, and the reception. Enhanced with sample forms and checklists, "Picture Yourself" is the complete and highly recommended, single-volume instruction guide for anyone seeking to craft and experience their own version of the ideal wedding.

The Dream Catcher Tour
Paula Buermele
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd., 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432703530, $11.95 1-888-672-6657

The Dream Catcher Tour is a novel following a group of forty-seven women on an economical, no-frills tour bus excursion around the Great Lakes. As they take in the sights and sounds, they also trade favorite memories with one another. A leisurely delight brimming with female camaraderie, The Dream Catcher Tour glides gently along as it presents moments of interrelated insight, and makes for gentle, fun-loving leisure reading, bit by bit or cover to cover. Highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Boone: A Biography
Robert Morgan
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
127 Kingston Drive #105, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
9781565124554 $29.95 (919) 967-0108

Robert Morgan spent five years researching and reading everything he could find about one of the most misunderstood heroes of the American frontier, Daniel Boone.

In "Boone: A Biography", Morgan looks behind the legends and misinformation to show us the true, flesh-and-blood man. Daniel Boone was more than an 18th century explorer and settler. He fought in the French and Indian War and the Revolution. This Quaker and Freemason served in the Virginia Legislature and had far more respect for the Native American way of life than most people realize.

Some of the myths Morgan debunks include the popular picture of Boone donning a coonskin cap as he explored the wilderness. According to his son Nathan, Boone thought coonskin hats were uncouth and uncomfortable. Raised as a Quaker, Boone preferred a Quaker-style felt hat made from beaver fur to protect him from the elements.

Contrary to what one sometimes hears, Boone was neither the discoverer of the Cumberland Gap nor was he the first white settler in Kentucky. Although he is often portrayed as a fierce Indian fighter, the truth is that Daniel usually avoided conflict by offering Indians gifts. In fact, he was distrusted by some whites and called a white Indian because of his friendship with the Native Americans.

Fleshing out his narrative with a backdrop of life in colonial times, Morgan examines the domestic, political, cultural, and natural world of early America. He also does an excellent job of setting the record straight about one of the time's legendary heroes. The author of a number of historical novels, Morgan writes with an understanding of scene that puts his reader squarely down into the forest alongside Daniel Boone.

Diamonds, Gold and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa
Martin Meredith
Public Affairs
250 West 57th Street, Suite 1321, New York, New York 10107
9781586484736 $30.00

At the time they took possession of southern Africa in 1806, the British considered the Cape Colony little more than a stopping point on the way to the riches of the east. Aside from keeping it out of French hands, the sparsely populated land settled by Dutch, Germans and Huguenots had little appeal or value.

Conflicts between the colonizing British and Boers led to separate states (Cape Colony and the Transvaal) which were established to create a fragile peace. Unfortunately, in 1871 with the discovery of diamonds, southern Africa was thrown into turmoil as a struggle for the control of the unheard of riches broke out.

"Diamonds, Gold and War" by Martin Meredith describes the origins of modern-day South Africa and the bloody events that unfolded as control of diamonds and gold mines turned the region into a killing field.

From the exploits of Cecil Rhodes and Paul Kruger to the struggles of native leaders such as Lobengula, whose tribe was swept up in the conflict, the tale graphically illustrates how the exploitation of African resources is a long, shameful and continuing tradition of the West.
Well known African scholar and author Martin Meredith relies on new research and his own deep understanding of the region to explain how British policy led to the rise of the virulent Afrikaner nationalism that eventually took hold in the new South African state, creating the policy of apartheid and the racist social order that ruled the country throughout most of the 20th century.

Historical Atlas of California
Derek Hayes
University of California Press
2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA. 94704-1012
9780520252585 $39.95 (510) 642-4562

Derek Hayes' Historical Atlas of California covers 500 years of history. Using hundreds of old maps and other illustrations, this lavishly illustrated volume is the first to tell the story of California's past from a very unique visual perspective.

Accompanied by a concise, engaging narrative and extended captions, the maps offer a compelling and informative look at the transformation of the state from before European contact through the Gold Rush and up to the present.

A book one will pour over for hours and repeatedly return to, the Historical Atlas of California is sure to delight anyone who enjoys studying vintage maps or California history.

The Nature of Dogs
Mary Ludington
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020
9781416542872 $35.00

The Nature of Dogs pairs the photography of Mary Ludington with essays by an eclectic array of writers from Kevin Kling and Mary Gaitskill to James Hillman.

Grouped together by broad canine categories, the photographs spotlight a striking diversity of individual dogs. To complement the portraits, evocative commentaries shed light on the origins, history and hallmarks of the each featured breed.

A work of art and revelation wrapped up in an elegant, oversized volume, The Nature of Dogs will be a hit with anyone who loves these wonderful animals.

My Next Phase
Eric Sundstrom, PhD, Randy Burnham,PhD, and Michael Burnham
Springboard/Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., New York, New York 10017
9780446581172 $24.99 (212) 364-1100

If you are contemplating retirement, is a book you might want to consult. Sub-titled "The Personality-Based Guide to Your Best Retirement", this book offers the reader a step-by-step program to help the future retiree determine his or her retirement style. Taking into account the individual's social and planning styles as well as the person's stress tolerance, the Up-4-Retirement quiz the book contains will indicate how ready for retirement or the next phase in his or her life the reader is.

Although financial security is certainly important when considering when or if one can retire, the authors stress that a successful retirement is based more on emotional factors rather than the size of one's nest egg.

This is not a guide on how to acquire or manage financial assets but, rather, a guide to making the transition from a nine to five job to a lifestyle that allows much more freedom. In fact, some would say perhaps that new freedom and spare time soon lead to boredom, weariness and anxiety.

The quizzes included here are developed around seven personality traits and will assist the reader in identifying, exploring and selecting options that will hopefully help the individual create a plan for the next phase of his or her life.

Patrick McManus
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
9780743280495 $24.00

Stylistically, Patrick McManus, whose homey stories celebrate and lampoon life among the hunting and fishing set of the Pacific Northwest, has been said to be an amalgam of Garrison Keillor, Art Buchwald and Mark Twain. After reading "Kerplunk!" you can decide how accurate this description actually is. Personally, I think it isn't too wide off the mark!

The 36 hilarious pieces in this collection, which have all previously appeared in "Outdoor Life", recount the haphazard exploits and endearing foibles of the kind of folks, some good natured, some irascible, who appreciate an unproductive afternoon spent fly-fishing, even if the stubborn fish aren't running.

You'll meet a range of characters from an Alaskan guide who spends more time checking his BlackBerry than educating his clients on woodsy outings and an unforgettable backwoodsman named Rancid Crabtree who is responsible for much of McManus' early outdoors education.

In these recollections about the perils he has faced in the wilderness McManus isn't above a bit of exaggeration but, then, what ardent fisherman isn't guilty of a little embellishment? No matter, though. These delightful narratives are highly entertaining and will put a smile on the face of anyone who has spent $100 and hours creating a fly he could have purchased for $5!

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Lies, Lies and More Lies
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595435494, $14.95

Lies, Lies and More Lies: The Campaign To Defame Hindu/Indian Nationalism is a sharp retort to unsavory portrayals of Hindu Nationalism (Hindutva), including accusations that equate the philosophy with pogroms and ethnic cleansing. Though author Vivek admits that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should not be excused of the killings that have happened under its watch, notably in the Gujarat riots, he decries the tendency (especially among intellectuals) to unilaterally condemn the entire BJP and all of Hindu Nationalism, or even equate both with fascism. Worse, too much misinformation has spread concerning Hindu Nationalism and the BJP. Lies, Lies and More Lies spells out the reasoning behind Hindu Nationalism precepts: injustice exists under the current legal system that largely leaves temples of Christianity and Islam to themselves but taxes and restricts Hindu temples; religious conversion needs to be banned because there is no way to distinguish between voluntary and forced conversion; and more. Too little attention is being paid to the threat of Islamofascism, argues author Vivek; demographic birth and immigration trends that are gradually increasing the percentage of Muslims in India and a Muslim community that is too slow to condemn the pogroms it perpetrates fuel an immediate national crisis. Above all, India's salvation lies in preserving its new legacy of democracy and equality. "Without proper guidance, there is a real danger of Hindutva degenerating into a rampage of revenge. Hindutva is not to be equated with communal riots that kill innocent humans. Hindutva cannot be an ideology that relegates another individual to second-class status. It should be a force that makes all Indians conform to the pluralistic, secular tradition of our land that respects one and all." A passionate and thoughtful call for perspective on hot-button Indian social issues.

Intimate Wisdom
Karinna Kittles-Karsten
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
Sacred Love
9780595419579, $20.95

In "Intimate Wisdom: The Sacred Art Of Love", Karinna Kittles-Karsten draws upon her experience and expertise as an internationally recognized relationship expert and founder of Sacred Love, Inc. to share a unique combinations of Eastern and Western approaches to creating, fostering, and enhancing a romantic relationship characterized by joy, respect and passion. This approach begins with developing the capacity and appreciation for finding love within ourselves, boosting our own positive energy, and thereby claiming the courage to extend ourselves to loving someone else. This is followed by learning how to overcome the diverse challenges of love to create an emotionally prosperous partnership. Ultimately resulting in the values of intimate love-making arts which foster ever deeper intimacies and intensified physical pleasures. Simply stated, "Intimate Wisdom" is an invaluable, practical, and 'user friendly' guide to creating a personal relationship with a significant other that will be emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually fulfilling.

America's Destiny
William Grade
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432701338, $8.95 1-888-672-6657

Written by former military analyst William Grade, America's Destiny: Cryptic Passages Foretold USA, UK (British Commonwealth), Russia, Islam and EU scrutinizes modern history and the present, and predicts the future, grounded in the visions of the Prime Minister of ancient Persia and Babylon, the biblical seer Daniel. Chapters discuss how the abolition of slavery and child labor, as well as the advent of women's rights and the reforms of the British Empire, were predicted in symbolic form as a 'lion' that would arise with a man's heart. Yet far more interesting are the predictions for the future, grounded not only in Biblical prophesy but also in a grounded understanding of the present. From the forthcoming crisis in gender and sexuality (HIV/AIDS is rampantly destroying Africa's human population due to unrestricted heterosexual activity, yet modern culture in industrialized nations has failed to heed the terrible warning and adhere to the Christian model of saving sex until after marriage), to the coming Russia/Israel/Iran confrontation, to the forthcoming 'Apocalypse' that won't quite be the end of the world, America's Destiny is surprisingly grounded in serious-minded issues and reveals the logic behind tenets of Christian faith designed to stave off societal harm, as well as the amazing insights of biblical predictions.

The Fundraising Houseparty
Morrie Warshawski
Privately Published
1480 Cedar Avenue, Napa, CA 94559
9780971278912, $19.95

Now in an expanded edition with new examples, The Fundraising Houseparty: How to Party With a Purpose and Raise Money for Your Cause lives up to its title as a concise, no-nonsense guide to organizing a successful fundraising houseparty. Chapters cover how to compose a tasteful invitation, the all-important task of selecting an "Ask" (the person who will ask party guests for money), how to tastefully make follow-up calls, the role of refreshments, setting a target fundraising goal for the party, and much more. Black-and-white photographs and a wealth of sample documents, especially sample invitations, round out this easy-to-follow guide useful for corporations, charities, and even private individuals (such as struggling artists). "Follow-up calls to confirm that people are in fact coming are absolutely vital. You don't want to hound, but you also want people to realize that this is not a casual party... Two weeks before your house party, start calling everyone on your list... If someone says they cannot attend, then ask them to make a contribution." Highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Assault on the Senses
Michael P. Ferrari
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595431731, $14.95 contributor Michael P. Ferrari presents Assault on the Senses, a grimly humorous novel about the downward self-destructive spiral of college student Kalvin Gray. The repercussions of a bad breakup plus the lack of direction in his life are further compounded when he discovers a "wanted" poster warning students of an attempted rapist, featuring a police sketch that looks suspiciously like him. Despite his innocence of the heinous crime, he fears that his reputation and sex life will be ruined - until he crosses paths with the seductive school newspaper editor Katie, who becomes his ally in the search for the truth. His life just might have the potential to turn around - if he can stay sober long enough for that to happen. A tongue-in-cheek look at the dark side to the campus experience.

The Flesh of Kings
M.B. Lemanski
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595432752, $15.95

Written by defense markets analyst M. B. Lemanski, The Flesh of Kings: The Final Battle Begins After Armageddon is an exciting novel about the battle for humankind's future in the wake of Armageddon. A teacher and mystic going by the name Janus Philio has claimed the title of King of kings in Jerusalem and performed miracles to help heal the world. Is he the second coming of Jesus Christ, or the latest in a series of Antichrists, or something else entirely? Preacher's son and former NFL superstar Julian "the Mighty" Quinn earns political power in what is left of America; his distrust of Philio entangled him in the machinations of a secret society set on assassinating the King of kings. A tense, action-packed adventure ensues, in this disturbing yet utterly absorbing post-apocalyptic tale.

The Coldest Call
Gerry Cullen
Privately Published
11301 Jollyville Road, Suite H4, Austin, TX 78759
9781599161730, $19.95

Professional salesman Gerry Cullen offers his years of experience to up-and-coming sellers in The Coldest Call: Why Some Good Products Don't Sell, a no-nonsense guide to the barriers that most strongly deter customers from buying, and salesmen from selling, no matter how high the quality of the product. A handful of black-and-white illustrations, including humorous cartoons, illustrate this tongue-in-cheek yet dead-on practical discussion of the realities of the sales business. Chapters discuss how the rise of the Internet is making the oft-reviled practice of cold calling obsolete, how a poor CEO or an overinflated price can kill sales, why it is vital to make price information readily available to the potential consumer, the value of pictures in helping sales, and much more. Perhaps most valuable is the final page of "deal-breakers" marking a prospective company as a bad place to work, unless there are profound mitigating influences: A CEO or VP of Sales who yells at employees, no published commission schedule or agreement, more than fifteen percent yearly sales department turnover, a company with multiple versions/stories of what it does, or other dangerous red flags. An absolute "must-read" for current and would-be salesmen, also packed with insights for business owners or managers concerning what they can do to help the sales department get its job done.

The Philosophy Of Life
Ronnie Lee
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd., 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781598008647, $23.95 1-888-672-6657

A Chinese poet and philosopher dedicated to perceiving, understanding, and articulating the justice, meaning, and wisdom that are that the core of each of his experiences in the world, Ronnie Lee wrote "The Philosophy Of Life: God, Wisdom And The World Psyche" for the purpose of demonstrating and illustrating the existence of God and the power of the collective mind in the establishing of justice, equality, and personal salvation. Through the use of his poetry, Ronnie Lee is able to articulate his insights and perceptions, readily and effectively communicating them to the reader. Philosophy expressed in poetry, this unique and seminal 680-page volume is especially recommended to non-specialist general readers with an interest in philosophy, in poetry, and in metaphysics. 'Conspiracy To One': the logic to the speed,/Distance and time equations,/To the conspiracy to one,/Can be seen as,//Speed of conspiracy to one - how fast others condemn and accuse you of being wrong/Distance of conspiracy to one - how far they will go and the power of the conspiracy/time of a conspiracy to one - how long it will last//The greater the number,/The greater the conspiracy to one.//It is then the worst,/Up to it's infinitesimal limits,/of injustice,/But it will also be the greatest.//There is hope, Even at the worst stages of life.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Horses for Courses
Dick Pollard
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, New York, NY 10016
9780533156375, $22.95 1-212-736-1767

Self-made millionaire and experienced thoroughbred racehorse owner Dick Pollard presents Horses for Courses: Adventures in Thoroughbred Racehorse Ownership, a behind-the-scenes look at the world of racetracks, trainers, breeders, jockeys, and the racehorses themselves. From practical tips on working with, choosing, and laying down the law to a trainer, to properly managing a racehorse farm, to thrilling tales of the author's greatest hits and misses in the racehorse industry, Horses for Courses seamlessly blends elements of memoir and how-to guide into a fascinating whole. A most enjoyable read for anyone curious about the colorful, if sometimes contentious, world of horse racing.

More Than Eyes Can See
Rhidian Brook
Marion Boyars
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc.
255 West 108 Street, Suite 9D1, New York, NY 10025
9780714531427, $17.95

Award-winning writer Rhidian Brook presents More Than Eyes Can See: A Nine-Month Journey Through the Aids Pandemic, the true-life memoir of the nine-month journey he and his family made to some of the world's worst epicenters of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He bore witnesses to individuals and communities ravaged from the disease: truck-stop sex-workers in Kenya, victims of rape in Rwanda, families headed by children in Soweto due to a dearth of healthy adults, children of prostitutes in India, and farmers who sold blood for money - and were infected by unclean needles - in China. Though More Than Eyes Can See clearly speaks of the pain, suffering, and depredations inflicted by plague, also present is the bright light of hope, in the kindness that people show to one another on both small and large scales. A handful of color photographs illustrate this moving testimony of a relief organization's efforts to improve quality of life, as well as neighbors helping neighbors in the wake of devastation.

Healthcare For All Americans
Nelson A. Paguyo, M.D.
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, New York, NY 10016
9780533156207, $22.95 1-212-736-1767

Nelson A. Paguyo, M.D., a doctor of twenty years' experience prior to his retirement in 2005, Healthcare For All Americans: Healthcare Crisis USA - A Comprehensive Solution, a sobering observation of the grim state of the American healthcare system today. 46 million Americans have no health insurance, and those who do all too often find themselves bankrupted by medical bills or by insurance companies too recalcitrant to pay. A World Health Organization study ranked French healthcare is number one, and American healthcare as a shocking number thirty-seven! Paguyo offers a solution for America's woes in a system of universal healthcare. A close study of the pros and cons of systems in Canada, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan reveals positive options that America can put together to form a greatly improved system for ensuring that sick people get treated properly. Tactics for implementing this new system are also discussed, in this thoughtful, well-reasoned proposal for a solid solution to America's healthcare problems.

A Truck Fell on Me
Charlie Renne
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781424149018, $19.95

A Truck Fell on Me is the true-life memoir of author Charlie Renne, who suffered a near-fatal automobile accident. His entire ordeal, from the moments leading up to the accident, to an out-of-body- experience while being rescued, to his long and at times harrowing recovery, is presented in an lighthearted tone, though serious and sad moments are given their fair due. Not only did Renne have to cope with physical injuries of the accident, but also mental issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, vivid flashbacks, and even thoughts of suicide. The accident itself was so severe that it took Renne over a year to shake the feeling that it had literally killed him. At times self-depreciating, yet ultimately bubbling with positive never-give-up energy, A Truck Fell on Me is particularly recommended as an amusing pick-me-up for anyone recovering from trauma.

Michael J. Carson

Ceecee's Bookshelf

Renee Gutteridge
Waterbrook Press
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400071586 $12.99

Sergeant Ron Yeager was as good as any undercover police officer. Maybe even the best. Well, in his day. So no one was as surprised as he is when he is asked to head and train a new team of Las Vegas' finest uncover police officers in cracking the case of the latest rash of minivan thefts.

Retirement couldn't come to soon when he sets his sights on his new team members: the saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost little spitfire, Mackenzie "Mack" Hazard who refuses to curb her faith for anybody; then there's the overly confident Jesse Lunden who would rather be working in something flashier like narcotics; there's the life-size teddy bear, Elliot "Dozer" Stillman who catches catnaps every chance he gets, and Lamar Takahashi, the Wiz, who well, um, has to make sure a bathroom is never too far away.

In Rene Gutteridge's second installment in her Occupational Hazards series, she brings together otherwise ordinary characters but when put together they make an amusing, endearing ensemble. This moderately paced, character-driven story will grow on readers who will find themselves caring about the characters so much they might find themselves turning pages late into the night. Read this story when you can sleep in the next day!

This reader can not wait until what promises to be Gutteridge's trademark hilarious mixture of faith and comedy when her third installment in the Occupational Hazards series comes out.

You can visit Renee's website at

Crimson Eve
Brandilyn Collins
Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310252252 $13.99

Realtor Carla Radling unwittingly shows a house to man hired to kill her. Carla has no known enemies and has pretty much stayed to herself in the quiet town of Kanner Lake so who would be out to do her harm?

Now on the run, she must find out who is out to get her from revealing long time secrets she thought she buried deep in her past.

Crimson Eve is an exhilarating cat-and-mouse chase full of mystery, political greed, and surprising revelations. This story reads like a movie with Brandilyn Collins as the director planting the reader in the action alongside her characters, then yells: RUN!

You will run, you will hide, you will hold your breath as evil stalks by your bedside, but most of all, you will enjoy every nail-biting minute spent reading Crimson Eve. I know I did!

The next installment in the Kanner Lake series continues with Amber Morn due out the spring of 2008. You can visit Brandilyn Collins at

CeeCee McNeil

Christy's Bookshelf

The Blacksmith's Daughter
Suzanne Adair
Whittler's Bench Press
Wilmington, NC 28406
9780978526535 $19.95

The second book in Suzanne Adair's Revolutionary War series features Betsy Sheridan, daughter to Sophie Barton, the main character in her first book, PAPER WOMAN. Seventeen-year-old Betsy is pregnant and married to Clark Sheridan, a successful cobbler and avowed Loyalist. Although Betsy is a neutral, her parents have been branded spies by the British and are in hiding. When Betsy finds a coded message in one of Clark's boots and witnesses a mysterious meeting between her husband and a Spaniard, she begins to suspect he, too, may be a spy for the rebels. But Betsy is loyal to Clark and holds her tongue. Shortly thereafter, their house is burned to the ground and her husband disappears. Betsy, aware that the British now suspect her of treason, intends to find Clark with the help of his apprentice Tom Alexander before joining her parents. Not far behind is Lieutenant Dunstan Fairfax, who wants nothing more than to find Sophie Barton, and he'll do anything, including murder, to get to her.

THE BLACKSMITH'S DAUGHTER is a rollicking adventure from beginning to end. Adair holds the reader enthralled with constant action, spine-tingling suspense, and superb characterization, all wrapped within historical fact. She conveys the tense conflict between the Loyalists and Rebels, and the danger of being either one, in an exceptional and thought-provoking manner. This is one book the reader will not want to put down.

Lean Mean Thirteen
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's Press
New York City, NY
9780312349493 $27.95

Stephanie's ex, attorney Dickie Orr, goes missing shortly after Stephanie threatens his life. The only clue to what happened: bloody drag marks leading out of his house. The investigating detective wants to question Stephanie and she has no alibi so is in no hurry to talk. To make matters worse, Stephanie's arch nemesis, Joyce Barnhardt (the woman responsible for Stephanie's and Dickie's divorce), is hot on Stephanie's trail. Joyce is back in a relationship with Dickie and wants the 40 million dollars he embezzled from his firm. Stephanie decides to conduct her own investigation into Dickie's disappearance which leads to charred bodies and exploding buildings. Ranger steps in to protect Stephanie, which is hard going as she continues her investigation while trying to do her official job as a bounty hunter and track down a taxidermist who makes exploding road-kill and a grave digger who's turned tax expert.

The usual gang's around for the latest outing in the Plum series, including Lula and Grandma Mazur. The triangular relationship continues between Stephanie, Joe Morelli, and Ranger, with still no resolution on Stephanie's part. Evanovich once more produces a laugh-out-loud whodunit wrapped around that delicious tease between Stephanie and the two men in her life.

Cold Mountain
Charles Frazier
Atlantic Monthly Press
0871136791 $19.95

Even rustic Cold Mountain, NC feels the cold embrace of the Civil War and most of its young men answer the call to fight. Some of the more hardened stay behind and form the Home Guard, which amounts to nothing more than a group of violent men intent on delivering their own brand of justice to those they call outliers, deserters of the war.

This is the story of two people in Cold Mountain who meet, are separated by the war, and meet again, both drastically changed by the hardships they've endured. Inman, a Confederate soldier, walks away from the hospital where he's being treated for a near-fatal wound and begins his long journey to reach Ada, the one woman he hopes can save him from his despair over humanity. Ada Monroe is a socialite whose preacher father took her to the isolated backcountry of Cold Mountain, NC. When Ada's father dies shortly after the war begins, she finds herself alone and destitute. To her rescue comes Ruby, a homeless young woman who lives her life relying on natural signs. Ruby teaches Ada many life lessons, foremost of which, how to survive on her own.

While working his way back to Ada, Inman encounters every sort of danger imaginable, from men intent on killing him to wild animals. Ada encounters her own hardships, from starvation to hard living. The two work toward one another, physically and mentally, and when they meet have reached the point where their lives can merge into something truly beautiful.

Cold Mountain is a fascinating read; filled with historical and geographical information wrapped around a beautiful love story. Frazier's style is eloquent, lyrical, and mesmerizing. He uses unique phraseology relative to the time of the story and delivers characters the reader does not soon forget.

Lucky You
Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf
0679454446 $24.00

Grange, Florida is a small, out-of-the-way community known for its religious miracles, from the weeping Madonna to the stigmata man with holes in his palms that do not heal. Not to mention the road stain in the form of Jesus and the woman who visits every day in her wedding dress. And now, one of their own, JoLayne Lucks, has won one-half of the state's f $28 million lottery. JoLayne works part-time as a veterinarian's assistant and plans to use her lottery winnings to buy and maintain wooded acreage in danger of being developed into a shopping mall.

The other half of the lottery winnings belong to Bode Grazzer, a short man convinced NATO forces are lining up in the Bahamas ready to invade America, and his sidekick Chub, a paint-sniffing mercenary wannabe. Chub and Bode, needing money to begin their own supremacist organization so they can defend the white man when America is invaded, decide to steal the other lottery ticket. They break into JoLayne's home, beat her up and take off with the ticket. On the way to the lottery office, they recruit a convenience store clerk known for his lack of cognitive abilities and take hostage a Hooters waitress Chub has fallen in love with.

To JoLayne's aid comes Tom Krome, an embittered former investigative reporter now working for a small newspaper covering social events. Tom's editor sends him to Grange to write a story about the lottery winner, but before he even pulls out his notepad, Tom finds himself in cahoots with JoLayne and hot on the trail of Bode and Chub. All six end up on a small island in Florida Bay, where a confrontation develops over the two lottery tickets and where two will remain behind forever.

Carl Hiaasen is a master at developing wacky characters and zany plots and dialogue that will leave the reader in stitches throughout the entire book. This is a book all readers will enjoy as they follow the madcap antics of these screwball characters.

Christy Tillery French

Clay's Bookshelf

A Promise to Remember
Kathryn Cushman
Bethany House
11400 Hampshire Ave S. Bloomington, MN 55438
9780764203800 $13.99

Sixteen year olds Jeff Johnston and Chad Phelps - two lives that ended one dark night.

Chad making wrong choices driving without a license and had been drinking after a fight with his dad, crashed into Jeff killing both; Jeff instantly and Chad later at the hospital. Melanie, Jeff's mom and his sister Sarah struggle to go on. Sarah has her faith, a faith that her and Jeff had tried to get their mother to see. Andie, Chad's mother and Blair his father struggle also and have their faith as well but are drifting apart as they blame themselves for what happened.

Than Melanie decides for "Jeff's legacy" she must sue the Phelps for Jeff's death and becomes more obsessed with spending time with Jeff at his gravesite. She develops a rocky friendship with Sarah's youth leader Jake as she struggles with her job with Alford's the grocery chain and the Christians coming into her life, since she sued the Phelps a boycott against the store which moves Melanie to another store and a long commute and a few resentful employees and other series of unfortunate events that she begins to wonder who she can trust but never doubts she is doing the right thing for Jeff.

Andie has strict orders from her lawyer and husband to stay out of the situation but questions if that is the right choice as her friends set out to ruin Melanie's life.

This novel is tremendous! In this author Kathryn Cushman's first novel you not only see the working of God but also the struggles of a poor single mom and the struggles of a rich couple as both deal with the lost of a son. You will also see the story of two mothers who may come from different worlds but really are alike in many ways, who struggle with their loss as the town is torn in two as sides are chosen leaving the question which side would you take? See God move in the lives of both families as they deal with grief, hope, forgiveness and life. Don't miss the ending as it is a total surprise and utterly amazing!

A perfect read for older teens and adults and great for book discussion groups. A definite must read that will leave you pondering long after you've finished the book!

Forget About It
Caprice Crane
5 Spot
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue New York, NY 10017
9780446697552 $13.99

At twenty-five Jordan Landau hates her life. She doesn't like her job, her family and especially Dirk her boyfriend. Everyone walks all over her and she doesn't know how to change it. The only bright spots are her best friends Cat who is married and Todd whom Jordan married at age seven they've been the three musketeers forever.

Than one day riding her bike home from work she gets ran into and wakes up in the hospital. The answer came to her she would fake amnesia! Do a do-over! Jordan confides in Todd and he was the only one who knew the truth and he thinks she is nuts. It was working she became stronger, more assertive not allowing people to walk all over her. Jordan falls in love with Travis the man who hit her. She feels horrible that he feels so guilty but knows she can't tell him the truth without going back to the old Jordy. She has managed to dump Dirk, got a promotion at work, even her family treats her better. Than her mother insists on suing Travis than the nightmare starts to unfold how was she going to undo this without hurting Travis than at the hearing it is announced that Travis is married! Jordan doesn't know what to do running off through the streets of New York once she stops she finds herself watching a group of boys playing ball. Suddenly she's hit again - des au vu here she goes again waking up in the hospital but this time Jordan really has amnesia she doesn't know anyone or remember anything!

An absolute must read very original and down right funny! Author Caprice Crane has an amazing sense a humor must be in the genes being the daughter of Tina Louise (remember Gilligan's Island?) and Les Crane whom Caprice admits his humor may even be darker than her own. This reviewer absolutely loves this book (I could have done without the language- didn't feel the story needed it). But looking past that one negative this one will definitely leave you laughing from amnesia to amnesia so what ever you do don't forget about it!

Creston Mapes
Multnomah Books
c/o Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781590526248 $12.99

Chester Holte has been gunned down and in a pool of blood is where Las Vegas Review Journal reporter Hudson Ambrose finds him. From all outward appearances Chester seems to have been a homeless man but not waiting for the police Ambrose decides to search the dead man for an ID but what he finds astonishes him finding a bankbook with a balance of almost a million dollars and a key that looks like a bank key. In a split second Hudson decides to take the items and with bizarre and strange twists of events sets him on a course that will change his life forever. He discovers that Chester seemed to be an angel to the homeless community who are rocked by his death especially Holly Queens formally of the streets herself. In unforeseen circumstances Ambrose saves Holly from her abusive boyfriend which sets both on a course of danger and the beginning of a relationship. Chester's body seems to have disappeared and Ambrose's questions to the police make them suspicious of him. But the deeper Hudson Ambrose goes the more everything leads to a dirty cop who is no stranger to the homeless by the name of Needlemire. And just who is the strange man that continues to call Ambrose that seems to know the truth about Chester's death?

Whoa! God is all over this awesome suspense novel! Author Creston Maples is to be commended for the outstanding job he has done on "Nobody"! This page turner reads like no other suspense novel that compares to the likes of.

Chester's life is based on the poem "I Stand by the Door" by Samuel Shoemaker which is awesome in itself but the reader will come away a changed person as you can't help but see yourself in the mirror of Ambrose Hudson with the desire to be more like Holly Queens or Chester Holte. Excellent for study groups with questions included in the back of the book or to ponder upon yourself. A definite read for suspense lovers whether Christian or not as the book would definitely make an excellent witnessing tool for the unsaved. What ever you do don't miss "Nobody" as it is a definite must read!

Ever Present Danger: Phantom Hollow Book One
Kathy Herman
Multnomah Books
c/o Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781590529218 $12.99

Popular, honor student Ivy Griffith went down the wrong path starting with dating Pete Barton basketball player and hanging out with his buddies Reg and Denny. As the fab four getting stoned was the normal way of life. Than one afternoon Ivy sat dumbstruck and stoned in Pete's car as Pete strangled Joe Hadley classmate and teammate and Pete, Reg and Denny buried his body. The fab four made a pack to never tell what happened. Spinning out of control Ivy ran from home to college never looking back.

Ten years later thanks to seventy year old Lu Ramirez, Ivy has cleaned up her life, has been off drugs for three years and has a seven year old son Montana. Gramma Lu as Montana calls her lived next door and cared for Montana when Ivy was stoned and pulled Ivy back from the pit of self-destruction. But now Lu is dying and Ivy doesn't know what else to do but go home to her parents even if it means facing the past.

Ivy's parents welcome her home and take care of the arrangements for Lu after she dies and starts to help take care of Ivy and Montana. Pete keeps hanging around pressuring her to make sure she keeps the pact. Also in her life is Bill Ziwicki one time classmate and drug dealer for the fab four. At the high school reunion feeling pressured by Pete, Ivy agrees to sit with the fab four. Reg and Denny get very drunk and Ivy suggests Pete should take them to their room. While gone Ivy dances with Bill with a start of a romance. Later Ivy worries about Pete being gone for so long so Ivy and Bill go to the guys' room to find all three have been murdered!

Bill and Ivy find themselves in the mist of a murder investigation and the police and FBI believe both murders are related and that Bill and Ivy are involved. And that is only the beginning…….

This awesome page turner was too good to put down! Not only is it a compelling story but you'll learn about God's unfailing forgiveness and grace. Between the pages is an awesome lesson of temptation and how sin leads to more sin. Author Kathy Herman has done an outstanding job of telling this story of suspense and intrigue. A perfect read for high schoolers and adults alike. Also included is a reader's guide perfect for a reader's group or even a Bible study as the teaching is that amazing. But what I really liked was the "Afterword", a letter written by the author to the reader that will have you stopping and analyzing your own life long after you've finished this book. So sit back and enjoy this awesome spellbinding tale and be prepared the ending is amazing!

Cheri Clay

Daniel's Bookshelf

The Oxford Dictionary of Civil War Quotations
John D. Wright, editor
Published by Oxford University Press Inc.
198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016
9780195162967 $39.95

The book on civil war quotations was selected in my search for a definitive text on my more than casual interest in the Civil War. I was hoping to have a good reference book to skim through when reading articles or other books on words that various witnesses of the conflict had said. I found this book to be the best so far on the subject.

The editor used numerous letters, diaries, military reports, newspaper accounts, and people's memoirs of their experiences. The quotations are arranged first by the name of the witness, and then chronologically. The edited usually identifies the speaker and notes the context of the quotation. The exact date for the quotation is not always known, it is arranged by the date of the source publication. The easy identification of published sources for each quotation greatly increased the continued researched value for the student or researcher. The index does enable access to quotations about general topics and important figures. It is unfortunate that not every quotation is indexed. Lincoln made several references to slavery and slaves in his quotes and the quotes were not indexed under either topic. The index of all the quotations under topics introduced would have greatly enhanced access to those contemporary reflections made under a most difficult time of our nation.

John Wright was a former reporter of Time Magazine and published several books including the Language of the Civil War and 140 reference books. In this book on quotations, he gathered many primary sources for this work collection of over 2,600 quotations. His selection of almost 500 witnesses ranges from the commanding generals, and leading politicians to privates, slaves and female observers. John Wright has accomplished a must reference book on the people who lived 'in the moment' the history of the Civil War. His work helps bring back some of their thoughts and words which continues to hold that interest and study.

Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor
Russell S. Bonds
Westholme Publishing, LLC
Eight Harvey Avenue, Yardley, Pennsylvania 19017-3064
9781594160332 $29.95 1-800-621-2736

I remembered this story as a Disney movie when Fess Parker played the part of James J. Andrews. I believe my first interest in American history might have been spawned by this (as I learned later inaccurate history to heighten the thrills of the story) movie. Readers who have an interest in American History would find the book written by an author who enjoys giving these fascinating details and definitive history. I, first did catch some articles in magazines that told a summarized portion of this story. They left way too much out, and I was glad this book was written.

It is about Andrews and his raiders who steal a train and it becomes "the boldest adventure of the Civil War." The Southern train conductor William A. Fuller makes all types of efforts to chase these raiders. Eventually the author details all the accounts of this story to explain all the events that transpired after the chase to include six of the men to receive the first highest decorations given for their gallantry. (Medal of Honor)

Russell S. Bonds exhausts this meticulous research to unfold through eyewitness accounts, as well as correspondence, diaries, military records, newspaper reports, deposition testimony, and other primary sources. Without disclosing all the adventure and tidbits of the story, the book also snapped up the 2007 Richard Barksdale Harwell Book Award for the best Civil War book of the year. It has given out awards since 1988 by the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta dedicated to the history of the Civil War.

I enjoyed this story and I wanted to present it, so others can learn more about the boldness, adventure, determination, hardship, and heroism on all sides. It was a credit to the author Russell S. Bonds to tell it so well. The readers can use the account to benchmark the kind of effort a definitive work does so well.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

The Seesaw Girl and Me
Dick York
New Path Press
9780974544649 $25.95

Dick York had a great career. He was on the radio as a teenager, then on Broadway, and he appeared in a number of films and television shows before he landed the role we all know him best for. York starred as Darrin Stevens--the "first Darrin"--in 156 episodes of the sitcom Bewitched, which first aired in 1964. But York's stint on the series ended abruptly one day in 1969 when he had a seizure on the set. He had in fact been suffering from chronic back pain during the show's entire run, the result of an injury he sustained while filming the 1959 western They Came to Cordura. The spry Darrin Stevens, who looked the picture of health, often had to be helped on and off the set.

The seizure effectively marked the end of York's show business career. While still in the hospital he resigned from the series. He subsequently became addicted to painkillers, ballooned to more than 300 pounds, and lost all but two of his teeth. Money was scarce enough that paying the rent was a hardship. But by the mid-1980s things were looking up. He'd overcome his addiction, lost 150 pounds, bought some false teeth, and gotten a few acting roles. Then, in the spring of 1986, he was diagnosed with emphysema. He died in 1992 at the age of 63.

In August of 1985, with rent coming due and having no way to pay it, York settled on the implausible scheme of raising the money by writing his autobiography. In nine days. Actually, he didn't "write" anything. On August 20th--between 3:30 and 6:00 in the morning, he tells us--York began dictating his memoir into a tape recorder. Finishing the book of course took him longer than nine days: his final chapter was dictated on September 6th.

The product of York's feverish burst of creativity is an unusual book. York tell the story of his life in a series of vignettes-- growing up in the Chicago slums, falling in love with his wife, overcoming his addiction. There are stories about his parents and grandmother, his children, about his Huckleberry Finnish cousin, who did something I wouldn't have thought possible while walking with York one summer. He writes about Gene Kelly and Gary Cooper and Van Johnson:

"But at this point Van's an actor and has been an actor for a long time and dances very little, except in his heart, where he lives.

"We're in the lobby of this hotel and it is my birthday, only I'm in Holland and they're at home. The people who Van loves and who love him, they're at home and he's in Holland. We're sitting in the lobby and I'm reading him the letter I've received from Kim, age four-and-a- half years old. It says, 'Dear Daddy. From out of my pocket I send you all the love I have. And you know what important things I keep in my pocket. Love, Kimmy. Kisses kisses kisses.' Joey adds, 'She wrote this all by herself. I love you, darling.'

"Van Johnson is crying in a hotel lobby with his friend Dick York. They are both about nine years old."

There is very little about acting or show business. There is a great deal about his wife, Joey, the star around whom his life orbited.

York was an excellent storyteller. These vignettes are moving, sometimes surprising, and very well-written. Wrapped around them are some strange bits--conversations between York and his wife written in dialogue form, York chatting with his alternate self, imaginary audience members commenting on his work. It doesn't all make sense, but most of it does.

In addition to its individual parts being well-composed, York has managed to bind the narrative into a cohesive whole with threads that drift in and out of his reminiscences. Considering York's method of composition, this is remarkable: the book in no way reads like something that was dashed off. It is thoughtfully constructed, honest, rich. (It is unclear how much editing the book underwent after the first draft was dictated, but the implication is that there wasn't much done to the text.)

Dick York did not have an easy life. He lived in poverty for a good part of it, both as a child and in his post-Bewitched years. He lived with chronic back pain for decades. He died too young. Knowing this, one understands, upon entering the book, that York's story will be a tragedy. Except....

Except that York had parents who walked from the South Side of Chicago to the North Side in the winter of 1936 to bring him oranges in the hospital. He had a house brimming with children and a wife whom he never stopped adoring. He had friends who came through when it mattered. And he believed--despite all evidence to the contrary-- that the world is the sort of place where miracles happen when you need them.

So I think that maybe Dick York was among the happiest of men.

Zig Zag
Jose Carlos Somoza
Rayo (HarperCollins)
9780061193712 $24.95

Elisa Robledo is a physics professor at Alighieri University in Madrid. She's brilliant, beautiful, thirty-something, and enigmatic. She keeps to herself. And she harbors a horrible secret. In 2005, ten years before the story's narrative present, Elisa and a handful of similarly gifted intellectuals were selected to take part in a top- secret project. Hidden away on a remote island in the Indian Ocean, Elisa and her cohorts attempted to prove that images of the past, preserved in particles of light, can be unlocked and viewed in the present. Of course, the idea of seeing the past is immediately appealing: images from antiquity, from pre-history, from the Crucifixion; historical mysteries laid bare. But further reflection yields at least as many nefarious uses to which such historical sight might be put. There can be no secrets in a world in which all past action is viewable. Suffice it to say that in playing with time the scientists unleash unanticipated horrors that, ten years later, still haunt them--those of them that remain alive, that is.

Elisa is joined on the island by Ric Valente, an equally brilliant fellow student with whom Elisa has an unpleasant history: Ric is a misogynist and, perhaps, a sociopath. They are both friendly with a certain Victor Lopera, a colleague of Elisa's in 2015 who, however, did not take part in the temporal experimentation of 2005. David Blanes is the professor who devised the theory the scientists are out to prove. Other secondary characters in the book are less important and less memorable.

Zig Zag is billed in its blurbs as a must-read thriller, but though the book's premise is interesting, it fails to thrill. One problem is that, at just over 500 pages in hardcover, it's too damn long. And there is much that could have been edited out, parts of the story that never amount to anything. Much is made in the book, for example, of David Blanes' apparent hostility to Elisa--his favoritism of Ric, his refusal to acknowledge Elisa in the classroom--but this hostility evaporates once Elisa graduates from Blanes' classroom to the island, and it turns out not to be important to the story. Similarly, there is a great deal early on in the book about Elisa's relationship with Ric--a bet they made, on which a good deal was riding, over the solution to a problem posed by Blanes--but it turns out not to matter. And we hear about Elisa's relationship with her mother, who doesn't really "get" physics or understand her daughter, but the mother soon disappears from the story and could as easily never have been mentioned. Beyond this, I never cared about the characters who were being killed off in the story, and never felt any particular concern for those left alive. The threat to the group is two-pronged. On the one hand, something is killing them off one by one. On the other, there is the enigmatic government group that has been involved from the beginning but is, in ways that never became clear to me, now up to no good. Since the bad guys' motivation is hazy, they failed to interest or frighten me as much as they might have.

Zig Zag could have used a lot of editing. Knock out a hundred pages or so and the story would have been much improved.

Jerry Labriola
The Strange Death of Napoleon Bonaparte
Strong Books
P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001
9781928782704 $24.95

In his didactic novel The Strange Death of Napoleon Bonaparte, Jerry Labriola tells the unlikely story of a (soon to be ex-) Yale history professor, Paul D'Arneau, who is approached by an enigmatic private organization interested in hiring him to investigate the death of Napoleon: did the Emperor die of natural causes, or was he murdered? The group's offer is more than generous, a six-figure sum in payment for Paul's investigations, with all expenses paid, and the potential for a million-dollar bonus should he uncover something definitive. Paul accepts the job and spends all of two weeks on the investigation, a whirlwind of travel to Paris, Elba, and St. Helena. He meets with the various members of the group that has engaged him and, per their instructions and with their help (so that one wonders why they needed to hire him at all), he talks to a bunch of "histarians"--a loose confederation of amateur historians who are privy to historical information they refuse for some reason to divulge by phone. There is some element that doesn't want Paul to dig into Napoleon's death, so that his trip is not without its dangers. Still, Paul uncovers the truth in the end. It is hard to believe that anyone would conduct a scholarly investigation in the manner here described, but one can't argue with results.

Labriola's book is punctuated by explanatory historical texts--excerpts from Paul's notes, for example--which the author himself predicts readers may want to skip. The book's dialogue is unrealistically formal, and the narrative surrounding it is labored:

"Paul inquired about Jean's work and her general well being and apologized for not having done so during earlier calls.

"'My job's never boring so I'll always like it. And except for missing you, I feel fine. Still a little worried, but fine. Take care, Paul; you sound exhausted. Spread things out. Get some rest.'"

As a piece of fiction, The Strange Death of Napoleon Bonaparte does not succeed. It is more of a fictionalized history lesson, and approached as such it might be of interest to readers curious about matters Napoleonic.

Darkness Falls
Kyle Mills
Vanguard Press (Perseus Books Group)
9781593154592 $24.95

In Kyle Mills's 2007 thriller Darkness Falls, a cadre of ecological terrorists devise an ingenious scheme to save the planet by destroying human civilization as we know it. They're targeting the world's petroleum supplies with genetically engineered bacteria that feed on oil. The book's principal good guy is Erin Neal, a biologist who literally wrote the book on bacteria, whose sympathies with the ecological movement suggest to many in the government that he may be the proverbial hen-house-guarding fox. But the truth of Neal's complicity in the terrorist attacks is by no means straightforward. Erin's girlfriend, another biologist, is also out to stop the bacteria's spread. They are alternately hindered and abetted by Mark Beamon, who's running Homeland Security's investigation into the eco- terrorism.

I have no idea whether the doomsday scenario Mills envisions is even remotely possible, but it came across as plausible enough for fiction. The storyline is interesting and the book is a good, quick read. It is not a great read, however, and I believe that's because Mills's characters are not compelling. One wants the good guys to win, of course, lest civilization be slapped back to the Dark Ages. But I didn't much care whether the protagonists lived or died. And the intensity of Erin's attachment to his girlfriend is hard to fathom because she is not a likable enough person to inspire that level of devotion. One final complaint is that the book's epilogue doesn't quite make sense: Mark Beamon keeps something secret from Erin Neal for no good reason, other than to provide the book with a sentimental send-off.

Jack Priest
Bootleg Press
9780974524641 $14.99

The protagonist of Jack Priest's thriller Gecko is fifty-five-year- old Jim Monday--a real estate developer and former congressman and a decorated Vietnam veteran who finds that, even after decades without practice, killing comes easy. Which is good, because Monday has a number of problems to deal with in Priest's story, not least of which is that he's being stalked by a giant, noisome, man-eating gecko. A bunch of humans are trying to kill him too, and he's hearing voices in his head, and, to top it off, his wife wants a divorce. But all of his difficulties turn out to be related to one another, so, in theory, the whole mess could be solved very tidily.... Not that it turns out that way.

While Monday is trying to solve his melange of problems and to save the life of the disembodied voice sounding in his head, he's helped by a number of other characters: the disembodied voice itself, his wife's twin sister, a pair of policeman who stake their careers on Monday's innocence, and the daughter of one of the policemen. The policeman and his daughter, Hugh and Glenna Washington, in fact figure very prominently in the book, such that the story is arguably half creature feature and half rogue-cop procedural.

Priest's book is not keep-the-lights-on scary, but he does manage to make small moments suspenseful because, as he proves more than once, he's not averse to killing off major characters. So it's never safe to assume that any given character won't die--horribly, with great loss of blood--in any particular scene. The book certainly held my interest. Sure, one has to suspend one's disbelief about the whole giant gecko thing. I had no problem doing that, but I did find it hard to believe that Jim could rack up so many intense relationships with gorgeous women during the brief period covered by the book. I also think that the book's storyline could be tightened up. I wouldn't say that the fate of the Washingtons is a loose end, for example--we know more or less what happens to them--but they exit the story surprisingly early given how important they are to it, never to be heard from again. It is surprising in particular given that the daughter is one of those gorgeous women with whom our hero so quickly forms an intense bond. A number of small scenes could probably be excised from the book as well to make it a tighter read.

Despite these complaints, I enjoyed the book. It's a fast read, with a quite unusual premise.

Debra Hamel

Gary's Bookshelf

Still More Bushisms
Jacob Weisberg, editor
Forward by Al Franken
A Fireside Book
1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020
0743251008 $9.95

I know this is an older book, but it is so appropriate for this election year that kicks off into high gear this month with the first of many primary elections and caucuses on the long road to the White House. Luckily for the American people this man is not running for the office and can't ever hold it again. The best thing he could do is go home to Crawford Texas and stay there. After reading this gathering of statements, you have a very different take on President George W. Bush. His flubs are real, dumb, and show why our standing in the world community is at an all time low. I don't know who or what he is talking about, and I don't think he does either. I will say this as well: Presidents sometimes make misstatements in what they say but it is incredible that George W Bush continually makes these ludicrous goofs. All I can say is that if you are voting this year, take note of this book and pick someone who makes sense in his or her speeches. Presidents are always worried about their legacy. This book is a shining example of part of what George W. Bush leaves the American public.

The Adventures of Tommy the Tomato
Jay Holt
Illustrated by Omar Aria Setiawan
JR Holt Publishing Inc
9780615156118 $9.95

Tommy the Tomato is not as healthy as he could be. He has all kinds of things wrong with him from rashes to being overly tired. His fellow classmates give him information on different fruits and vegetables to eat that will make him fight off diseases and keep his system on a more even keel. Each character is a letter of the alphabet and a fruit or vegetable. Some are well known and others are new to readers but all the information is of sound nutritional value to kids and adults as well. Holt, who is a graduate of the University of Florida nutrition college, writes about what he knows and passes on his knowledge in an easy and fun way for all of us to take heed and eat better and be healthier. The artwork by Omar Aria Setiawan adds so much to the light mood of the book.

Wormwood and Whines Poetry for Grouchy People
Graal "Fritz" Braun
Replica Books
P.O. Box 6885, Bridgewater, NJ 08807-0885
1931055238 $9.95

I do not read very much poetry these days because I have no clue what the author is talking about. And possibly because of courses in school and college where students like me had to please teachers by finding what he or she wanted instead of being able to have our own interpretation. Braun takes on many aspects of life with sharp words that are easy for even me to understand. This is a perfect little book that has a lot to say about many everyday things we take for granted.

Marked by Fate
Laura Bradford
Hilliard Harris
P.O.Box 275, Boonsboro, Maryland 21713-0275
9781591332077 $16.95

Ocean Point, New Jersey is again the scene of murder where local reporter Elise Jenkins and police detective Mitch Burns work to solve the case. This time the victim is Hannah Daltry, a college writing professor. Elise is deeply touched by this one because she was one of Daltry's students. As Burns and Jenkins dig they find it all goes back to something that happened to Daltry thirty-five years ago. This third installment also shows the growth of the personal relationship between Mitch Burns and Elise Jenkins. Readers will enjoy this tightly written mystery that unfolds at a rapid pace. Fans of the genre should add this author to their reading list.

Deadly Beloved
Max Allan Collins
Hard Case
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843957785 $6.99

From the graphic novel series by Max Allan Collins and artist Terry Beatty comes this mystery staring Ms. Michael Tree, private detective. Collins writes in the Mickey Spillane style with a female character who is tough as nails. Beatty again teamed up with Collins to do the cover art for this work. Collins speeds the tale along with sharp crisp dialogue and a fast narrative flow. I hope this is the first of many stories about this great character. Collins is one of the best in the field.

Star Crash
Elysa Hendricks
Love Spell
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780505527431 $6.99

Shortly into this fine novel, I could see a definite comparison to "Planet of the Apes" in which a space ship crashes, the pilot is taken prisoner and later the earth beings are slaves in the fields and looked down upon by their captors. But this tale has a lot more going on. It also deals with one race taking over another for the purpose of pro creation to meld them into a new species. One thing I noticed though that was interesting was when she is describing the act of sex that runs throughout the work she sometimes is very careful to not be so graphic and later is more focused and uses more explicit terms to describe the lovemaking. Its as if two people wrote these different scenes. "Star Crash" is marketed as a romance title but is really a first class science fiction novel.

Thought Bites Wisdoms and Other Funky Stuff
Bobbi French Gemma
illustrated by Lisa J Michaels
9780615168708 $12.95

The author presents in a workbook form a way for individuals to find out who they are and make themselves better than they already are. Through a series of physical exercises, questions with lines provided to answer them, and solid information she provides easy to follow methods to achieve personal goals. The book is simple and interesting.

Peach Fuzz
Lindsay Cibos & Jared Hodges
1595325999 $9.99

The prize-winning comic strip is now a graphic novel. This is the story of nine-year-old Amanda who wants to have a pet so bad she'll take anything. She settles on a ferret named Peach and that's when the chaos begins. This work is fun and has a lot to say about kids and their pets.

Stony Man Capital Offensive
Gold Eagle
World Wide Library
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780373619764 $6.50

You can't go wrong with this series, and this book shows why. The covert units Able Team and Phoenix Force are back in action to stop terrorism. This time they must end a twisted Argentinean general from carrying out his insane plan to scorch the planet.

Bla Bla
Carl-Johan Gadd & Fredrik Colting
918544913X $6.95

There are six hundred statements on everything you can think of. Many of the peoples quotes are well known and what they say is very interesting. This is the perfect gift for any occasion. This is also a great resource for any one who loves trivia.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Sisters on the Case
Edited by Sara Paretsky
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451222398 $7.99 800-847-5515

This new anthology celebrates twenty years of Sisters in Crime, fittingly edited by the woman who founded that organization at Bouchercon in 1986. As most are aware, this is an international body originally created by and for female mystery and crime writers but which now counts many male authors among its members. The book includes, fittingly, twenty short stories, by a varied group of female writers, and is published by a new mystery imprint, always a good and welcome event.

Admittedly short stories are not my favorite things, but this collection is fast reading and very enjoyable. The entries move from present-day to P. M. Carlson's 1880's Chicago; jumping a quite a bit to the Chicago of 1968 at the time of the Democratic convention riots in Libby Fischer Hellmann's "The Whole World is Watching," one of the longer tales and one I especially liked. Among my other favorites were stories by Barbara D'Amato; Susan Dunlap [short but shocking]; Rochelle Krich [ditto]; Linda Grant, in a tale of, surprisingly, a female contract killer who has taken over the family business; Carolyn Hart in a story of comeuppance; the late Charlotte MacLeod's charming "Lady Patterly's Lover;" Margaret Maron's delightful "You May Already Be a Winner;" Annette Meyers' mini-police procedural, one of the sadder entries; and all capped off by what is assuredly the first appearance of V. I. Warshawski, again taking the reader to Chicago, this time in 1920, when V.I. was a young girl.

An altogether estimable collection.

Paying the Piper
Simon Wood
Leisure Fiction, c/o Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843959802 $7.99 212-725-8811/800-481-9191,

The tension starts on page 1 of Simon Wood's wonderful new novel. Scott Fleetwood, a crime reporter with the San Francisco Independent, has been told by his frantic wife that one of his twin sons has been kidnapped. When the next call he gets is from the kidnapper, Scott's horror only increases: The Piper, as he calls himself, has a history with Scott. As we soon learn in the first of several flashback scenes, eight years back it appeared that a serial kidnapper had called Scott at his desk and began a series of communications with him. Spurred on by the thought of saving the latest victim as well as by the attendant fame surely ahead of him, Scott ultimately is horrified when he learns he has been 'played' by a phony, the whole thing a hoax, and the kidnapped boy is killed when the real kidnapper fails to receive his demanded ransom. Scott receives the blame for the boy's death from the public, his wife, the FBI and, not least of all, himself. This time, the kidnapping of Scott's son appears to be personal: The Piper also holds Scott to blame, for his lost ransom and forced 'retirement.' And Scott doesn't yet know the full extent of what will be expected from him in order to gain his son's freedom.

As difficult as it would seem for the author to keep up the suspense generated from the first pages, he has accomplished this in skillful fashion, maintaining and amping up the tension as the tale unfolds. The complex characters and intricate plotting make this much more than just a page-turner - it'll keep you right on the edge of your seat till the final page.

Try Dying
James Scott Bell
Center Street, c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9781599956848 $21.99 800-759-0190,

A bizarre series of events have culminated in the death of a 27-year-old elementary school teacher on an LA freeway: A man has shot his wife, then shot himself on a freeway overpass, falling over onto a car driven by Jacqueline Dwyer, who was killed. Her fiance, Ty Buchanan, a 34-year-old trial attorney, is devastated and completely bereft. And then, at her funeral, shockingly, a stranger approaches Ty and tells him that his fiancee was murdered.

Professionally, Ty has been handling a huge case for his firm: He is defending Dr. Lea Edwards in a $10,000,000 lawsuit that has been brought against her for libel, invasion of privacy, and harassment arising out of an incident of repressed memory, that of the plaintiff in the case. In the opening pages of the book, looking back at the time after the funeral of his fiancee and the confrontation which took place there, the author, through Ty, queries: "How does a hot young lawyer on the rise, a guy with a future draped with Brioni, go from the twentieth floor to the county jail? How does a guy become something he's never been, more animal than man, able to and wanting to hurt people? Kill people? How does he go from light to darkness as fast as you can flip a switch in a mortuary basement?" But all that is precisely what transpires from that point forward, as his life spins completely out of control.

When things seem like they can't get worse for Ty, they do. There is another dead body, this one unquestionably a murder, and Ty is a suspect. At the same time, he seems to be attracting muscular types intent on inflicting major harm to him. The author at times uses somewhat overblown dialogue, e.g., "What blazed out clear were her acetylene-blue eyes," and "Her red lips parted like flower petals opening to the sun," and credulity is stretched a bit at the denouement, but the tale is a good one, and the novel was fast and interesting. I especially enjoyed the character of the nun who is a whiz on the basketball court, who becomes Ty's ally. In all, this was a pleasurable read.

Queens Noir
Edited by Robert Knightly
Akashic Books
P.O. Box 1456, NY, NY 10009
9781933354408 $15.95 718-643-9193

The newest in the Akashic Noir series, following prior compilations of short stories dedicated to tales in, among other places, other New York boroughs: Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx, this follows the pattern of the previous books in that it is comprised of all-new stories, predominantly by little-known authors. [Other books include other major American cities as well as ones outside of the U.S., e.g., Dublin, London and Havana.] I must admit the only authors in the present book with whose prior work I was familiar were Stephen Solomita and K.J.A. Wisnia.

The stories range in length from very short, e.g., four and six pages, to twenty-eight pages. They are somewhat uneven, but the whole is enjoyable. Other authors whose tales are included are Denis Hamill, Megan Abbott, and the editor, Robert Knightly. The book is divided into three sections, and covers time frames as recent as 2006, covering a blackout which engulfed the area that summer, in a story by Liz Martinez; a somber post-9/11 tale by Patricia King; one by Megan Abbott in a story about the 1970's; and one by Joe Guglielmelli sure to please any Mets fan [of which I am admittedly and unashamedly one] which includes references to one great season and one notoriously disastrous trade that will make fans grin and grimace by turn before it veers into considerably darker territory. [Mr. Guglielmelli was a co-owner of the very recently closed--and sorely missed--Black Orchid Mystery bookstore in Manhattan.] An interesting assortment of stories, and the book makes for a good read.

Within a Forest Dark
Michael Virtanen
Lost Pond Press
40 Margaret St., Saranac Lake, NY 12983
9780978925420 $11.95 518-891-3918

Jack Kirkland is an insurance claims adjuster. He travels to the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York to investigate a fairly routine death benefit on a $300,000.00 life insurance policy. The beneficiary, the dead man's live-in girlfriend, is an attractive woman and Jack, still getting over his divorce, finds her irresistible. Knowing he shouldn't, he becomes intimate with her. But despite himself, he finds himself wondering if the man's death was as unavoidable as it seems - he was hospitalized with symptoms typical of the mercury poisoning he had been known to suffer a year or so previously, but died a day later of pneumonia, at first undiagnosed when he entered the hospital. Jack is so smitten with the woman that he goes from being an investigator to a lover and then back again. Despite feeling she may have been responsible for her prior lover's death, he is so drawn to her that he keeps going back for more. The investigation jeopardizes his job, and even his life.

This book is a slight one, but the novel is not. The descriptions of the Adirondack area, also known as the North Country, are well-drawn. The descriptions of the characters, however, were, to this reader, downright confusing. Margaret, the woman in question, is seen to be nearly demonic at times, and I could not fathom why Jack keeps going back to her, or alternatively allowing her to come back into his life. Other characters are seen to be equally both black and white. Jack finds himself thinking, time and again, that he sees possibilities in a given situation where, "if you miss the opening then, you miss it altogether," "one of those temporary openings," and again, "one of those fateful openings. Miss this, and miss it altogether." To my mind, he avails himself of such fateful "openings" to his extreme detriment. The writing is at times lovely, but at others disjointed and anything but smooth. This is a first effort at a novel for this author, and I'd be interested to see what his future books will bring.

Accessory to Murder
Elaine Viets
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451222589 $6.99 800-847-5515

I must admit to having only a vague knowledge of what a "mystery shopper" does. That is no longer the case, and I am the happier for my new-found knowledge. Elaine Viets' new book is the third entry in this series, following her earlier and popular Dead End Job mystery series. Ms. Viets comes by her knowledge of this occupation honestly: Her mother held that job in the '60's, and she describes it as being part actress, part undercover cop.

As the job title implies, Josie Marcus, 31, single and the mother of a nine-year-old girl, is paid to visit the stores run by those who hire her employer to shop and report on conditions and rate the employees as well as the product in those stores. She is often accompanied by her best friend, Alyce, calling her "her best disguise. Nobody sees two housewives." An occupational hazard is chugging Maalox straight from the bottle when she has to visit and report on the greasy-spoon fast food chains in the area. Having just visited a St. Louis mall store featuring magnificent and highly-priced Italian silk scarves designed by Halley Hardwicke, one of Alyce's neighbors, who had soared to prominence after being "merely" a suburban housewife, her design so unique that the gorgeous shade she uses is described as "Halley blue" by one and all, Halley is murdered, apparently in an attempted carjacking.

The police suspect Alyce's husband, Jake, and Josie, with Alyce's help, tries to find clues to the real killer, convinced that Jake is innocent - of murder, at any rate - they do suspect that he might have had an intimate relationship with unhappily-married Halley. Their suspicions focus on the dead woman's husband, two men who had close relationships with her in the past, and assorted "friends" and neighbors. The word "friends" is in quote marks for a reason - the book turns heavily on the true meaning of that word. Alyce becomes a pariah among those she thought she counted in that category. Josie, however, is the real thing. She is also great fun. "Accessory to Murder" is a delightful read, and I will look forward to the next entry in the series.

Dead of the Day
Karen E. Olson
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451222473 $6.99 800-847-5515

The title of Karen E. Olson's newest book, the third in the Annie Seymour Mystery series, refers to the newspaper term for the obits on area residents who have died that day. As the book opens, Annie Seymour, crime reporter for the New Haven Herald, there are two such events: First the body of a man is found floating in the waters of the harbor, parts of his body covered in bee stings [a wildly unimaginable thing in mid-April], while later that day the city's newly-installed police chief is gunned down in front of the Yale Repertory Theatre in a drive-by shooting as he is about to enter the theatre with his wife and his best friend, the assistant chief.

Annie seems particularly well-suited to cover the story, as she had just wrapped up a series of interviews in preparation for a profile of the police chief, an Hispanic with little experience and no known enemies. The police, and Annie, have their work cut out for them.

Annie and her off-again-on-again romance with a private detective, and another with a police detective with whom she broke up when she met the P.I., keep her off balance. Also figuring into the story are her mother, an attorney whose boyfriend happens also to be Annie's publisher; the police chief's wife, a Chinese woman who is a scientist at Yale; a ubiquitous cleaning woman; undocumented workers; Homeland Security; and those darn bees, whose presence recurs at the oddest times, as does that of several characters in the book. Annie thinks "My head was swirling with too much information, too many questions, and not enough answers," and I knew just what she meant. I had difficulty at times keeping the many characters and plot lines straight. But it is an interesting tale with many different things going on at once, in which the reporter's trade is apparently realistically drawn.

Chicago Blues
Libby Fischer Hellmann, Edited
Bleak House Books
923 Williamson St., Madison, WI 53703
9781932557503 $27.95 800-258-5830

Although I am generally not a fan of short story collections, this is the second one I've read in the last week, and it is a winner. Comprised of 21 tales, all but four of which are published here for the first time, all of them, as one would expect, have the city of Chicago as a palpable character. Most of them also deal, directly or indirectly, with the Blues - to quote from the Introduction: "An old blues man once told me, 'You've got to know the blues to play the blues.' But do you have to know the blues to write the blues?" I guess that question is still unanswered, but write the blues they certainly have done. As Libby Fischer Hellmann [who has edited this compilation and contributed a wonderful piece to it as well] says in her Preface, "…the Blues are the Noir of music. You know you're on a journey to a bitter end, but you don't want to stop." And that perfectly describes this reader's reaction.

Among the contributors are Jack Fredrickson., whose "Good Evenin', Blues" tells of the owner of a blues joint under the elevated tracks "a mile west of what's fashionable in Chicago;" D. C. Brod, whose "My Heroes Have Always Been Shortstops" shows to what lengths a die-hard sports fan will go; Barbara D'Amato, covering a lesser-known part of Chicago in "The Lower Wacker Hilton;" Mary V. Welk, in "Code Blue," with one of the darker entries; and, talk about "dark," Marcus Sakey, whose "No One" is nothing short of chilling.

I particularly enjoyed the segment headed Series Characters, with five tales, each one excellent, featuring protagonists created by Sara Paretsky, Kris Nelscott, J. A. Konrath, Sean Chercover and Max Allan Collins, and was glad Mr. Konrath's was only 12 pages long, as I held my breath for much of it.

Who is Conrad Hirst?
Kevin Wignall
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416540724 $14.00 800-223-2336

The reader first meets Conrad Hirst at a point when he has been a hired killer for ten years [he is now 32 years old], having killed, by his best estimation, dozens of men and three women. Something about his last "assignment" has filled him with revulsion for what he has become, and he vows to end that persona immediately. He converses in his head with his lost love, Anneke, who died in the war in Yugoslavia from which he ran after her death, straight into his "profession." But now, "the Klemperer job changed everything—he understood that now. Perhaps for the first time ever, as much as Conrad tried to suppress it, he feared what he didn't know about the world, and most of all, he feared what he didn't know about himself."

Accomplishing this will be no easy task, and he determines that in order to erase who he is, there must be four final killings: Frank, his handler; Fabio, his document forger; Freddie, his arms dealer; and Julius Eberhardt, his employer, the German crime boss who had hired him all those years ago. He feels he needs to leave "with the right blood on his hands." The first of these is done easily, and he shoots Frank. But before he dies, Frank utters these words: "I lied…" About what? "Everything." He gets an inkling of the meaning of these cryptic words when he soon approaches Eberhardt to kill him, and is aghast to see that Eberhardt is not the man who hired him as his personal assassin a decade earlier. It is obvious that the first thing he must do is find out the identity of the man for whom he has been killing people. But then others start dying. And his new priority, beyond reinventing himself and leaving the killing behind, is to discover who is now doing the killing, before he himself becomes a victim.

The author, born in Belgium and now living in England, with this, his fourth mystery novel, has created a fascinating protagonist with whom the reader cannot help but feel sympathy. Well, almost. The book is well-written, filled with surprises and suspense, and is recommended

Precious Blood
Jonathan Hayes
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060736668 $24.95 800-242-7737

This first novel is far more accomplished than anyone had a right to expect. It is well-plotted, sharply written and exciting. Authored by a New York City forensic pathologist about a New York City forensic pathologist, it smacks of realism and self-knowledge. It is a striking debut.

The protagonist, Edward Jenner, is caught up in a web of grisly murders; the police are baffled, the clues non-existent. He's called in as a consultant on one, which starts him on a loose trail, as he uncovers a little forensic evidence, some history which should have been gathered by law enforcement officials. He then uncovers another murder in Pennsylvania, and it becomes a race to the finish to put an end to the serial killer who ritualistically "prepares" and exhibits his victims.

This debut portends much more to come, perhaps a series built around Jenner. The descriptions of New York City, the emotions displayed by Jenner who was a medical examiner post-9/11 (as was the author) are real, the characters complex and unusual. Run, don't walk, to get a copy and read.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

On The Fifth Day
A.J. Hartley
Berkley Publishing Group, division of Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425216286 $7.99

'On the Fifth Day' is smoother reading than many modern action/suspense stories. Most modern narrations prefer a complex many layered storyline, which can be confusing. The sharp focus of the story lets the reader indulge in the complex historical details and exotic locations interwoven into the tale. 'On the Fifth Day' is a little wordy, placing it slightly closer to the cozy genre than the pure action story.

Thomas Knight is a broken man. His world has been slowly crashing for years. When he finds out his brother, a priest researching ancient Christian artifacts, has died, he has nothing stopping him from finding out what has happened. Soon he is attacked and threatened. He realizes that something both bad and very important has happened to his brother. He has to find out what happened and when people start dying, his resolve only gets stronger.

'On the Fifth Day' is a fun story that is well worth taking the time to read. Unlike many historical suspense stories, the tale is well within the realm of possibility. Its plot depends more on the twisted logic of humanity and less on manipulating the historical past.

Black Order
James Rollins
An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060765378 $7.99

'Black Order' is a typical modern adventure story -- it is action, super evil plotting to take over the world, technical details, historical details, worldwide action, blood and violence, more action and a happy ending. The action is so non-stop you put the book away for a break. Rollins is a master of non-stop action. To fully enjoy the technical and historical information blended into the story, you have to wait until you stop reading.

In 1945, a Nazi scientific installation is being overrun by the Russians. A SS commando group escapes with the remaining scientific research, a scientist and a baby. The scientist dies hiding the baby from the SS.

Today a monastery in the Himalayas is stricken with madness and everyone is killed but two hunted survivors. In Copenhagen, Commander Grayson Pierce is investigating why an auction of collectable books is being bid upon by underworld characters with near unlimited money. In South Africa, a game warden and biologist are attacked by an animal with near supernatural powers. Can Grayson and Sigma Force survive long enough to stop the hidden evil set loose half a century ago by the Nazis?

If you like action/adventure, 'Black Order' will give you more than enough. The science of the evil is a little too speculative for those who enjoy a little knowledge in their reading but there is some truth in it. The books strength is also its weakness, it doesn't slow down its pace. For those who can handle the non-stop pace, you will not be disappointed with 'Black Order.'

S.A. Gorden

Harwood's Bookshelf

The Neanderthal Parallax (3 volumes)
Robert J. Sawyer
Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
Hominids 0312876920 $25.95
Humans 0312876912 $24.95
Hybrids 0312876904 $24.95

There has long been a positive correlation between appreciation of science fiction and rationalism. For fifty years science fiction was the only genre in which any rational philosophy could be sneaked past the Christian censors. By the time science fiction became mainstream and Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein finally reached the bestseller lists, the opportunity for censorship was irretrievably lost, and exposes of the fraudulence of religion by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Victor Stenger and others could not be suppressed, although the Catholic Church in particular is still able to intimidate film producers who make movies of books that criticize religion into minimizing or even eliminating that criticism.

As an obvious example, Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, was a devastating expose of the Catholic Church as an organized crime syndicate willing to stop at nothing to entrench its oligarchs' absolute power. But when it was filmed under the title, The Golden Compass, actress Nicole Kidman told film journalists, "I would not be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic." Nonetheless the RC church is campaigning to prevent Catholics from seeing the movie, in case doing so encourages them to read the books and they learn even a tiny part of their church's unsavory history.

Science fiction starts from a "what if?" proposition, such as, "what if it were possible to travel faster than light?" and then proceeds to tell an otherwise impossible story with as few additional violations of scientific reality as possible. Without an initial "what if?" violation of reality, there could be no Star Trek, no Stranger in a Strange Land, no Dune, and no Foundation. And that would be a tragedy comparable with no Shakespeare, no Homer, and no Milton.

Sawyer's "what if?" postulations are, first, one supported by a (hopefully diminishing) number of physicists, that we live in one of an infinite number of alternate universes, each occupying the same time and space as our own but in different dimensions; and second, that movement from one universe to another is not impossible (even supporters of the multiverse hypothesis acknowledge that as fantasy, even though it is no more fantastic than movement from reality's planet earth to religion's version of Cloud Cuckoo Land).

Just as Robert Heinlein demonstrated the evil of earth religion by viewing it from the perspective of a Martian, Sawyer makes the same point by creating an alternate-universe Neanderthal whose culture has no words for such fantasy concepts as God, religion, afterlife, or sin. And when the Neanderthal's wrist computer is given a definition of heaven that amounts to, "the place where dead people live," it responds by labeling the concept "oxymoronic."

While science fiction authors utilize pseudoscientific concepts (such as FTL) in their writings, they tend to be more aware than the man in the street that pseudoscience is precisely that, and Sawyer is no exception. In writing about public reaction to reports of a Neanderthal from an alternate universe, he shows a German skeptical society issuing a press release that such an explanation of the visitor's origin, "should only be adopted after every other simpler alternative has been eliminated." That is precisely my attitude, as a card-carrying skeptic, to any and all reports of apparent violations of the laws of reality. TV scripts by believers in alien abductions, recovered memories, psychics, Bigfoot, and similar scientific illiteracy, tend to portray skeptics as closed-minded dolts. Sawyer, like Asimov before him, clearly lives in the real world, and recognizes "skeptic" as a synonym for persons who are sane, intelligent and educated. And one of his scenes involving a Neanderthal personality sculptor reveals a healthy skepticism of the delusion that psychiatrists differ qualitatively from witch doctors or tealeaf readers.

Sawyer's books portray the Neanderthal society as very different from that of Homo sapiens, but avoid making moral comparisons. The Neanderthals have no such concepts as homosexuality or bisexuality, for the logical reason that every Neanderthal adult has a man-mate and a woman-mate. In creating such a culture, was Sawyer extrapolating from his knowledge of ancient history? Is he aware that, prior to the seventh century BCE when Zoroaster invented the first homosexual taboo, all but a tiny percentage of humans took lovers of both sexes without anyone labeling them "different" or something worse? That remains unanswered.

The Neanderthals also have no concept of privacy. Every instant of a Neanderthal's life is holographically archived in a form that can be accessed by any person with a legitimate reason for doing so. Sawyer does not imply that, since such a system makes crime virtually impossible, or at least impossible to conceal, it might work on our own world. But he does show that humankind's privacy fetish is another consequence of religious brainwashing. Even nontheists are culturally conditioned to regard some elements of everyday behavior as embarrassing or shameful, so that they go to extraordinary lengths to avoid being seen engaging in such activities. Sawyer does not portray Neanderthals filling in time in the checkout aisle of a crowded supermarket (or any other public place) by masturbating. But one gets the impression they would not avoid doing so out of any sense that they would thereby embarrass themselves or others.

The Neanderthals' method of birth control is to keep males and females in separate close-knit communities, cohabiting with their same-sex mates, for twenty-five days each month, with all women consequently developing coinciding menstrual cycles. The sexes comingle only during a monthly four-day festival so timed that all women would be infertile. The heterosexual couplings are switched to the days of maximum fertility once every tenth year. Thus every member of a particular generation is born within a few days of one another, and generations are separated by precisely ten years. Consequently the Neanderthal planet's population is a tiny fraction of that of Homo sapiens' earth, 185 million compared to 6 billion, and it is consequently able to feed itself without destroying the natural environment.

Despite Sawyer's attempt to present alternative cultures objectively, with no endorsement of any Neanderthal practice as "better," there is at least one scene when the Neanderthal hero appears to be speaking for the author. On being shown the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and seeing mourners talking to persons named on the memorial, the Neanderthal tells the Christian heroine, "They are dead. They are eliminated. They no longer exist." He then goes on to argue that belief in life-after-death is the ultimate cause of human wars: "As long as your people keep thinking that this life is a prologue, that more is to come after it, that those wronged here will be rewarded in some there yet to come, you will continue to undervalue life, and you will continue to send young people off to die." Sawyer refrains from having his heroine convinced by such arguments, and probably makes his point better than if he had allowed her to be persuaded by them. By forcing educated readers to wonder, "What the hell is wrong with the woman? Is she incurable?" he draws attention to the reality that most godworshippers are incurable.

Sawyer's awareness of the absurdity of religion comes through from the beginning of Hominids. But the possibility is always at the back of the reader's mind that he might be what is best termed agnostic. Not until the third novel, Hybrids, does he fully emerge from the closet by having a research scientist investigating possible neurological causes of religiosity present a conclusion that settles the question definitively. After the Christian woman is induced to have a religious hallucination by electrical simulation of relevant brain areas, while the Neanderthal experiences no similar result, the researcher explains that, while Neanderthal behavior patterns are conditioned by consistent rewards, human behavior is conditioned by intermittent rewards, rationalized as "God's mysterious ways" In other words, precisely because prayer is usually not followed by fulfilment, the statistically predictable times that it is followed by fulfilment lead to a post hoc propter hoc conviction that prayer does work. That is why, as the researcher explains, "we don't just make up stories about gods; we actually believe them."

That point is emphasized by the exchange, "'Ponter, you can't cure religion. It's not a disease.' … Mary saw his eyebrows roll up onto his ridge as if to say, Isn't it?" Also, it cannot have been simply for the sake of continuity that Sawyer put the definition of Jews as, "the ones who weren't gullible enough to believe in that Jesus story," into the mouth of a sentient computer. And when, in the awareness that only gene manipulation would permit her to interbreed with her 48-chromosomed Neanderthal lover, the Homo sapiens woman has to choose whether her daughter should be programmed with or without the "God gene" that would permit her beliefs to be based on comfort rather than logic, her ultimate decision, based on a science fiction but plausible experience, is totally believable.

The comparative morality of Canadian versus American law on such issues as capital punishment and gun control is raised. But since the more evolved status of Canadian mores is defended by a Canadian character, Americans will not be offended by what they will see as a, "he said, she said," situation. And when the Neanderthal, after offering humans what in Star Trek would have been termed a force field that would stop anything moving as fast as a bullet, suggests that, "the real solution is not to protect against guns, but to get rid of them," the earth woman answers, "I would love to see you debate [NRA president Expletive Deleted]."

One reviewer quoted on the dust jacket declared that Sawyer, "takes on … even the Big Bang." That is misleading. Sawyer's Neanderthals believe that the universe has always existed, and therefore an originator, either a Creator or a Big Bang, is superfluous. And while the belief of fringe religions that the universe is only 6,000 years old is recognized by the Neanderthals as evidence that at least some humans are intellectually inept, the author offers no personal endorsement of such a view. Sawyer demolishes religion by leaving it to the reader to conclude, "That's insane."

According to Maclean's magazine, "Sawyer is among the most successful Canadian authors." That is like saying that, among painting chimpanzees, one in particular is most like Picasso. The Montreal Gazette's comment, that Sawyer could be, "Canada's answer to Michael Crichton," is rather more credible. This trilogy will appeal to appreciators of hard science fiction, as well as rationalists who have long awaited popular fiction in which belief in the fairy tales of religion is not equated with virtue.

Calculating God
Robert J. Sawyer
Tom Doherty Associates
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312867131 $23.95

Calculating God, published in 2000, seems to be Robert Sawyer's last desperate attempt to cling to the delusion that the universe was intelligently designed by an entity that, for want of a better term, might as well be called "God." The first volume, published in 2001, of his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, leaves little doubt that he no longer lives in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Somewhere between those publication dates he either had an "aha!" revelation and suddenly recognized that metaphysics is a denigration of rational human thought, or he eventually accepted the inevitable conclusion that the reason he could find no legitimate evidence for a god's existence is that gods in fact do not exist, and further searching was not going to change that reality.

But even Calculating God, written when he was still basically a believer, presents a Designer quite unlike the deities of organized religion. It has no interest whatsoever in individuals, and could not answer prayers even if it cared to do so, since it has no common language in which spoken words could reach its awareness. In fact it turns out to be a galaxy-sized sentient black hole that evolved in the last Big-Bang, Big-Crunch eon, and was able to survive the following Big Bang. Nonetheless, Sawyer portrays it as sufficiently partial to sapient life to interpose itself between a supernova and three intelligent species that would otherwise have been destroyed by the supernova's radiation.

If I had not previously read the Neanderthal Parallax, and consequently was confident that the author's pro-hogwash perspective would eventually be corrected, I would have been unable to get past the first five pages. As it happens I am glad I finished it, for what it reveals about an author struggling to come to terms with a belief he recognizes as indefensible but nonetheless comforting. That is why security beliefs exist. But while I can unequivocally recommend the Neanderthal trilogy as worthy of Asimov or Heinlein, this book's status as suspension-of-disbelief fiction falls abysmally short of its target.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Poussin - Paintings, A Catalogue Raisonne
Christopher Wright.
International Publishers
Marketing, Herndon, VA
9781904449584, $60.00, 800-758-1501

More than 200 Poussin paintings are catalogued by color illustrations of varying sizes up to half a page in the general chronology in which they were done, with allowances for uncertainties as to the exact dating of some and recognition that the 17th-century Italian artist worked sporadically on some paintings. Wright's annotations with each painting are of special interest to the art scholar and also informative to the general reader. With some variations depending on relevance and available data, annotations with titled sections include: a painting's history, other catalogues raisonne in which it has been recorded, museum catalogs where it has been recorded, exhibitions of it, and less technically, its theme and a pithy comment mentioning as applicable problems in determining its date of completion, comparison with other Poussin works, and points about details or reference for Poussin characteristics or development. Weaving among the numerous paintings is Wright's light-handed, but knowledgeable commentary on historical, cultural, and artistic material concerning Poussin.

Additionally, as lengthy back matter after the catalogue and commentary are sections on works attributed to Poussin not found in the catalog because they have been called into doubt by "one or more of the leading authorities"; lost and newly attributed paintings (surviving only as engravings for example); chronology of Poussin's life (1594-1665); excerpts from a few of the many letters written by the artist; comments from critics; "Chronology and History of Paintings and Collections"; a listing of Poussin's patrons regarding particular paintings; and bibliographical material and two indexes.

This second edition--earlier one published in 1985--incorporates the "large number of small changes [that] have been made to Poussin's oeuvre"; including a few newly-attributed paintings. For its art-book quality, reader-friendly organization, and comprehensiveness, this "Poussin" stands out as reference for this major artist; and it can also serve as an introduction to his work.

Jacob Weidenmann, Pioneer Landscape Architect
Rudy J. Favretti.
Cedar Hill Cemetery Foundation
c/o Wesleyan U. Press
Middletown, CT
9780819568472 $49.96

Emigrating to the United States from Switzerland in 1956, Weidenmann did his early work in landscape gardening (as it was called at the time, later to be called landscape architecture) in a Staten Island estate project. He had gotten his academic training in Europe; while travels to California and Central and South America in his younger years gave him an appreciation for the natural environment. His education and curiosities gave him the unique combination of knowledge and abilities in art, architecture, engineering, and horticulture. These are evident in illustrations of his general plan for a project as well as details of locations and features and in designs for mausoleums and other structures. Weidenmann quickly moved on to the major projects of Bushnell Park and Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford. There is some question as to whether Weidenmann was chosen only after Frederick Olmstead, the landscape architect credited with the design and creation of New York's Central Park, declined the job. But this only shows the high regard for Weidenmann to be placed in the company of Olmstead. Though never achieving the fame of the native-born Olmstead (born in Hartford), Weidenmann manifestly had an equal vision, talent, and standards. The two major, lastingly influential landscape architects of the decades of the mid-1800s in fact had a 19-year-long collaboration.

Weidenmann's reputation and ambitions carried him as far as the Midwest. Works of his can be seen in Iowa and Illinois. Weidenmann put more into articulating and instituting professional standards than Olmstead, and is regarded as the inspiration for university programs in the field.

Favretti's book places Weidenmann on his own ground, independent of Olmstead and association with any single outstanding project. Biographical in nature, it charts the course of the landscape architect's life concentrating on his works and drawing connections between them with a minimum of details from his personal life and analytical critique. The challenges Weidemann faced with clients or the nature of a project are recurring subjects which illuminate the architect's imagination and abilities. The plentiful, varied, and pleasingly-toned visual matter especially evokes an appreciation for this giant in the field of American public landscape. Favretti was a professor of landscape architecture at the U. of Connecticut for over 30 years; and he has been involved in several landscape preservation projects, including Jefferson's Monticello and Washington's Mount Vernon.

Collecting the Confederacy - Artifacts and Antiques from the War Between the States
Shannon Pritchard.
Savas Beatie
c/o Casemate
Drexel Hill, PA
9781932714104 $59.95

Bright color photos of swords, belt buckles, canteens, handguns, horse equipment and crisp detailed photos of parts of these enable collectors and dealers to spot and assess all kinds of Confederate military memorabilia. Among other items covered are knives, cartridge boxes, naval swords, long arms, and uniforms. Confederate military memorabilia is among the most-prized in the field of militaria; and the market for it is perennially strong.

Pritchard does not give price estimates as these can change as interest in certain types of items within the field changes and with changes in external economic conditions. What he does is provide fundamental information for the serious collector by pointing out specifics of articles shown in respective photographs. "Though well constructed, the cap's body is made of coarse woven brown cloth. The black band encircling the cap is indicative of early War production." He leads into this detail which can make considerable difference in price and desirability among collectors with, "Contrast the following enlisted man's cap with the officer's cap shown above." Such an extra step often taken gives definition and principles of evaluation to the field of assorted items which can vary considerably in interest and value. While engaging the reader by noting what is special about particular items, this style automatically imparts knowledge about the field.

Pritchard grew up in Virginia near Civil War battlefields. Today he is the proprietor of the largest antiques dealer in the world devoted exclusively to Confederate war memorabilia. He deals with 1400 items divided into 20 chapters. Even many with much knowledge already on collectible and valuable Confederate war objects will like to have this coffee-table-quality work for its exceptional photographs--the next best thing to owning many of the items themselves.

How to Draw Noir Comics - The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling
Shawn Martinbrough
New York, NY
9780823024063 $19.95

Martinbrough shows how to get various kinds of dramatic effects in the noir style using the simple tools of ink and pencils, pens, and brushes. Additional work of this foremost artist/illustrator can be seen at the website But his work is already familiar to many in DC Comics and Marvel Comics and also the films Batman, X-Men, and others. Starting with how to visual a script (or any text) to create noir illustrations for it, Martinbrough moves on to the fundamental of page layout and then the techniques of graphically portraying action and developing a series of illustrations generating drama. Panel design, backgrounds, and rhythm are among the specific topics covered with corresponding illustrations. While cautioning the illustrator should never forget text that is going to be inserted into many noir illustrations, in a series of three simple illustrations Martinbrough demonstrates choices that can be made in panel design or organization affecting the effects or prominence of elements of the noir illustration. In discussing "Designing the Covers," he notes, "Remember, the more detailed your cover, the harder it becomes to convey a clear message of what the story is about."

The reader benefits not only from Martinbrough's exceptional talent putting him at the top of his profession, but also from his experience in the field of comics and films working on projects involving various persons (e. g., writer, director) and thus various considerations. The expert instruction is capped off by a 16-page graphic novel titled "The Truce" combining all the considerations and techniques Martinbrough has covered in the earlier sections.

Norah Lindsay - The Life and Art of a Garden Designer
Allyson Hayward
Frances Lincoln Limited
London, England
9780711225244 $65.00

Though the English woman Nora Lindsay's outstanding abilities as a gardener were widely known and respected among her circle of upper-class friends including Winston Churchill, the Prince of Wales, and Edith Wharton, she never considered making a career out of this--until at 51 and divorced, she found herself with "no husband, no money, no home," as she wrote a friend. It wasn't long before Lindsay began getting commissions for garden design and landscaping from her wealthy friends for their estates and for prominent public grounds. In the remaining 20 years of her life, she accomplished more visible and lasting landscaping than most professional landscaper designers with careers lasting a lifetime.

Black-and-white period photographs from the decades of the mid 1900s when Lindsay was active give a sense of the older, traditional English upper-class society and its tastes and attachment to its property she naturally appealed to. While later color photographs, often of the same scene and juxtaposed to it, bring out the color of the landscaping.

Her landscape design and reputation carried her to major works for upper-class and royalty in Italy, France, and elsewhere in Continental Europe. This study of Lindsay's garden design by a garden design historian is a portrait of an upper-class English life style that was largely lost in the latter decades of the 1900s, after the two World Wars and with the coming of the internationalist economic and cultural developments. Among illustrated material are mementos signed by Hilaire Belloc, another friend of Lindsay's. And besides the many period and later garden photographs are many of Lindsay's friends and acquaintances, e.g., the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Other photos such as letters of Lindsay to her sister open onto an intimate portrait of Lindsay. This finely-produced work with its balance of content by an author who is a graduate of the Harvard Landscape Institute and who traveled to many of Lindsay's surviving projects throughout Europe in her 10 years of work on the book focuses on the work, life, and social context of Norah Lindsay's work and projects so as to place her with the top level of garden designers for reasons of historical significance, stature of her projects, and garden-design aesthetics.

Narcissism - A Critical Reader
edited by Anastasios Gaitanidis with Polana Curk
Stylus Publishing
Herndon, VA
9781855754539 $38.95

The paradigmatic postmodern form of self, narcissism--along with other classical psychological concepts--is nevertheless rarely studied anymore. Though narcissism underlies practically all of postmodern behavior and desire and explains popular culture, it has become a neglected subject. Part of the reason for this is its very prevalence--it's taken for granted even though poorly grasped as an explanation. Part of the reason too is the lack of interest in psychoanalysis along with the ebbing of analysis as a means to understand something. In such a circumstance this collection of articles by psychologists, mental-health experts, and the like is especially welcome for reviving the subject of narcissism. Freud cannot be sidestepped in any modern-day exploration of narcissism. Yet "most of the authors are critical, in one way or another, of [Freud's] depiction of our love live." These authors distance themselves to varying degrees from Freud's "neat differentiation between narcissistic and analytical object love." But there is no getting entirely away from Freud's insights that narcissism has to do with love, with an unstable chemistry of love of an object and self-love; and that narcissism is rooted in states, experiences, and processes of childhood.

About half the 10 articles deal with aspects or themes of narcissism--e. g., autonomy of the ego, its origins, and the "'mothering' support within the intersubjective dialect". The others apply implications of Freudian principles of narcissism or critiques of these to political or sociological subjects as a kind of cultural study or analysis. In these, narcissism is applied to Franz Fanon's analyses of racism, the "psychedelic sixties", and old age, among other subjects. The specificity of some of the chapters with the breadth of them all together adds much new to the topic of narcissism while inherently demonstrating its continuing relevance as a key to understanding contemporary, postmodern, culture.

As Seen in Vogue - A Century of American Fashion in Advertising
Daniel Delis Hill
Texas Tech University Press
Lubbock, TX
9780896726161 $36.95 800-832-4042

In the origins of the great American middleclass consumer market in the 1890s, "a symbiotic, tripartite relationship between clothing mass production, fashion journalism, and mass-media advertising became firmly established." The internationally-known women's fashion magazine Vogue put this new symbiosis to work to become the leading magazine in its field for more than a century. In the line of Godey's Ladies Book and Harper's Bazaar of the mid 1800s, Vogue published its first issue on December 17, 1892. By focusing entirely on fashion, it differentiated itself from the popular Ladies Homes Journal, which covered fashion only as one of many topics. Since its start over a century ago, Vogue has held its leading position by mirroring changing tastes in fashion by informative articles as well as its polished, sophisticated ads. The ads particularly, the subject of this book, have become a subject of interest in themselves.

Simply glancing at the ads running chronologically roughly by decades displays a social history of women's changing tastes in fashion. The buttoned-up look of the late Victorian era embellished by ruffles and flounces became the sparer, yet still essentially button-up look of the early 1900s seen in pictures by Christie and other illustrators. With the 1920s and '30s, bright colors and patterns mimicking art deco came into fashion. And in this era too, sport clothing became a significant vein of women's clothing. In the more liberated times of the 1960s and later, women's clothing became more revealing while becoming more casual; and it became more varied in incorporating the ideas of foreign designers and the elements of a multicultural, internationally-oriented society.

Attention to the settings of the ads and the poses of the models puts the fashions into the context of a period's surrounding social attitudes, image of women, and women's own assumptions and aims. One sees the empty backdrops of the late Victorian and early 1900s become detailed domestic, workplace, and outdoor scenes. The text points out and comments on the numerous illustrations; with captions with many individual illustrations like brief annotations providing additional points and information. Author Hill has worked in the fashion industry as a creative director of fashion photography, among other positions.

Times of the Signs - Communication and Information: A Visual Analysis of New Urban Spaces
Eric Sadin
c/o Springer Science
9783764383671 $49.95 800-SPRINGER

Page after page, page upon page, snippets of urban signage and people among them, sometimes interacting with them, in bright, glossy, electric, neon light-like glow go by. It's stimulating and confusing--it's supposed to be. The design of the book--the postmodern art form par excellence of collage--is a refrain of contemporary urban life which has become more or less the same around the world.

The snippets on any page of facing collages could be could be--and are--from major cities around the world--Tokyo, Mumbai, Mexico City, New York, Paris. Except for the language or the ethnicity of the persons, it's hard to tell the apart--which is the point. The multitudes, multifarious signs of the times all blend into one colorful, throbbing, but homogenous style. The postmodern time of fragmentation, popular culture, global commerce, and technological gadgetry is apparent in all signs.

For Sadin, the signs are not just literal as in advertising or store names along a block; but are individuals too as they interact with their cell phones, sport T-shirts with logos, or navigate their way through the cornucopia of commercial signs. Many of the images are numbered, with Sadin's comment on what it says about contemporary life in the vicinity; though not as an adjacent caption as this would go against the design to reflect randomness and spontaneity. A side of a building in Tokyo exemplifies an "information facade [which is] a large readable space" becoming more familiar in cities elsewhere. One "luminous information device" in Osaka is the size of a five-story building. An observation Sadin makes regarding one image is how a group of persons is dwarfed by the outsized advertising displays they are standing next to. Global telecommunications, the ambiguity of social involvement or individual isolation posed by groups of persons all using their cell phones, and changes in behavior and psychology wrought by the pervasive signs and the technology bringing them are other themes. In a couple of short all-text sections, Sadin synthesizes and expands on the short comments he makes scattered among the images. Sadin puts on exhibitions, lectures, teaches, and writes on how media and technology are rapidly and ineluctably changing the urban environment.

America's Child - A Woman's Journey Through the Radical Sixties
Susan Sherman
Curbstone Press
Willimantic, CT
97819318961 $15.00

Sherman was not a child of the Sixties, but a voyager through them. A daughter of first-generation, working-class immigrants in Philadelphia, she did not have the sense of entitlements, keen political sense (which has since dulled considerably from what it was among the Sixties generation), and spirit of wild and sometimes reckless rebelliousness and abandon which characterized the mostly college-student members of the Sixties. She does not see the Sixties as a defining moment, but rather as part of "a historical continuum of struggle and cultural regeneration" of which the civil-rights advances of the previous decade of the Fifties, the labor movement of the mid 1900s, and the first meeting of the NAACP in 1909 were a part. "The Sixties was not an isolated era." Yet Sherman's interests, talents, and ambitions drew her to individuals, locations, and situations which typified the counterculture for which the 1960s are remembered.

At Berkeley, she met and was heavily influenced by Diane Wakowski and La Monte Young, a musician the noted poet and writer was living with. Wakowski gave inspiration and focus to Sherman's artistic bent. And it was as a student at Berkeley that the author first experimented with drugs, realized her lesbianism, and out of literary curiosity and proximity as much as sympathies began to pay attention to progressive politics; which political stripe at the time led to demonstrations and confrontations, and in some cases radicalism. After Berkeley, Sherman wrote plays which were performed and also poems and essays. Lesbianism became natural to her. She lived in New York and traveled to Mexico City and Cuba. She writes about her friendships, experiences, and observations in loosely-connected segments and chapters. She's not analytic, though sometimes explanatory. Nor is she deeply introspective, though she regularly looks inward to examine momentary feelings or responses. The thread running through the material covering 1958 to 1971 is Sherman's interests and career as a writer. These are the main sources of her friendships, etc. Her revisit of the Sixties in the relaxed style of mostly fond, uncritical, though not blinkered recall will revive similar times for ones of the Sixties generation; and for those who are not, give a picture of what the lives of many were like apart from the oft-replayed media imagery.

Doorway to Eternity - Celebrating the Land of Krishna, A Photographic Pilgrimage
Text by Arjen Van Der Kooij, Photography by Ramon Dekkers
Mandala Publishing
17 Paul Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903
1932771182 $45.00 1-800-688-2218

The focus of the photographs is how Hinduism is embodied in Indian everyday life as well as expressed in religious gestures and ceremonies. This demonstrates the theme of Hinduism as an entire, holistic way of living, not a religion apart from or superimposed on everyday life. This gives traditional Indian society a particular quality which has both attracted and mystified Westerners. The psychologist Carl Jung put his finger on the reason for this: "It is quite possible India is the real world, and that the white man lives in a madhouse of abstractions. Life in India has not yet withdrawn in the capsule of the head. It is still the whole body that lives. No wonder the European feels dreamlike; the complete life of India is something of which he merely dreams...."

Photographs of everyday traditional acts such as leading a cow or carrying jugs of water alternate with ones of individual or communal Hindu acts of devotion and a few of Hindu religious objects. The text (making up no more than about twenty percent of this mostly photographic book) introduces elementary principles of Hinduism and main religious figures and symbols while also making reference to studies of the religion and its concepts by Western authors and scholars. This text adds depth and understanding to the photographs.

The photographer Dekkers practices hatha yoga and has done work as a volunteer with the poor in Delhi. With an interest in cultural anthropology and as a practitioner of bhakti yoga, the writer Van Der Kooij divides his time between India and Amsterdam. The combination of photographs and text engender a sense of the unique qualities of traditional Indian Hindu society.

Scratching the Surface - New London Facades by London Architects
Andrew Watts, editor
c/o Springer
9783211715383 $39.95

Not only the small size, but the content of this volume make it like a manual for architects, designers, urban planners, environmental engineers, and students. The majority of the visual matter is skilled, informative, and sometimes dramatic, in the style of that of many architecture art books; although small in size, this visual matter is patently not for showcasing notable architectural works. Rather, it mostly serves the educational purpose of the book. Some photographs, too, show architects and designers at work; and also working models of projects. Floor plans, computer-model diagrams of design or structural features, and such go beyond the content of the typical architecture book focusing on completed projects.

The text corresponds to the relatively technical nature of the visual matter. "The building seeks to exploit the material characteristics of the double-skin environmental facade...." And with another building, in reconceptualizing "how space should be prioritised [sic, British spelling]...the entrance doubles as a very large balcony." "Voids cut down behind the skin then break down the interior volume while allowing the exterior massing to remain intact." There are photographs to go with each part of the text. In many cases there are a few showing a subject from different angles and details of parts of it; and there are photographs showing an idea or a work-in-progress if this is the case.

All in all, this small, manual-size volume offers state-of-the art architectural content on all kinds of urban buildings from prominent architects and visionary designers and urban planners. Despite its diminutive size, it stands out.

Seduction and the Secret Power of Women - The Lure of Sirens and Mermaids
Meri Lao
Park Street Press
c/o Inner Traditions
Rochester, VT
9781594772016 $19.95 800-246-8648

Translated from the Italian by John Oliphant of Rossie in collaboration with the author. "Seduction and the Secret Power of Woman: The Lure of Sirens and Mermaids", the breadth of Lao's artistic and literary study of female sirens associated with the ocean realm reaches from ancient mythology to modern novelists, Roman frescoes to contemporary advertising, medieval Christianity to Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Across centuries and cultures, such mythic creatures have a similarity in appearance and description. The mythic creature is always associated with water and has combined human and aquatic features. But apart from similar visual portrayal or literary description, the mermaid, etc., is an innate precept or quality in human nature recognized no matter how it is expressed.

A Dorothy Dinnerstein in her 1963 book "The Mermaid and the Minotaur" claimed that women water sirens symbolized the "communal insight that our species' nature is internally inconsistent, that our continuities with, and our differences from, the earth's other animals are mysterious and profound..." The anomalous features of the mermaid--most conspicuously fins and breasts--symbolize inconsistent, changeable human nature; while the seductive allure tokens the mystery of Humankind's relationship to the world of nature.

The Mexican author Jose Durand sees the mythical figure as symbolizing the elusive nature of the essence of life and life's spirituality. The siren is not associated with the fluid, deep water world; nor does she live in it. The siren is water, specifically the salt, the salt of the sea, without which "it would be tasteless...Salt and the siren are life and death, and hence, dream".

Lao's broad study with choice quotes from writers of all eras and a generous amount of diverse, engaging illustrations lays out fertile thoughts of the ago-old figure of the sea siren. Besides being the author of numerous books and a professor of theater arts, Lao has composed the music for Fellini's film "City of Women". Her aesthetic sensibilities and flair bring a particular richness to her treatment of mermaids and sirens.

The Exploit - A Theory of Networks
Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker
University of Minnesota Press
Minneapolis, MN
9780816650446 $18.95

Authors Galloway and Thacker--with New York University and the Georgia Institute of Technology respectively--pose a dichotomy between networks and sovereignty. Sovereignty is the longtime, historical form of government and society; often described as "hierarchic." Networks, on the other hand as any contemporary person knows, are newer, postmodern, forms of social organization--or topology--and activity. The difference between sovereignty and network is the difference between architecture and biology.

The co-authors take a "more speculative, experimental approach [resulting in] a series of marginal claims" rather than a theory to try to grasp the essential nature and actual effects of networks; all the while recognizing that "the nonhuman quality of networks is precisely what makes them so difficult to grasp". With sovereignty, leaders--i.e., persons--and laws or conventions were recognizable formative elements. With networks on the other hand, there are no permanent nor widely-accepted leaders and no code of law or centuries of convention forming or even governing them. Yet, there are businesses and services such as protocols and institutions such as Microsoft and Google which strongly influence and in some ways determine the presence and activity of networks. The belief that networks, particularly the Internet, are naturally, intentionally, or inevitably egalitarian is misleading.

The author's "speculative" approach carries them to summaries and critiques of philosophers from widely differing ages and with widely differing ideas and even worldviews; among these, Plato and Hobbes, Foucault and Guattari, Baudrillard and Virilio, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. In accordance with their understanding that they are making only "marginal claims," they do not presume nor work to synthesize such diversified, in some cases exclusionary thoughts. The authors' wide historical and literary learning, however, with their patent familiarity with all aspects of contemporary computer and networking technology allow for continuous illumination. The play of the diversity of the content is stimulating rather than conclusive or even much suggestive.

"Nodes" and "Edges" are the two chief parts of the book within which the play occurs. Nodes (to simplify) are the businesses, or the sources, of networks; the protocols, programs, Microsofts, Myspaces, etc. These will come and go as the field of networks evolves, just like businesses have always done. While the nodes are essential, the authors see the edges are more meaningful for those involved with networks. The edges represent networks' potentials in that they indicate the human desire and choices which give shape to the networks. "What matters more and more is the very distribution and dispersal of action throughout the network, a dispersal that would ask us to define networks less in terms of the nodes and more in terms of the edges..." Yet, ever provisional in their approach, Galloway and Thacker imagine networks could be best comprehended "in terms other than the entire, overly spatialized dichotomy of nodes and edges altogether." But with this as the next-to-last sentence, they do not begin to move onto this ground.

Wisdom Books: The Saint John's Bible
Donald Jackson
Liturgical Press
Collegeville, MN
9780814690550 $64.95

Scribe to the Crown Office of British royalty, Jackson has undertaken a long-term project of illuminating and transcribing the Saint John's Bible held at the Benedictine Saint John's Abbey in Minnesota as medieval monastics illuminated Bibles centuries ago. The monks of the Abbey wanted a project that would bespeak their own regimen focusing in scripture, books, and religious art while at the same time be contemporary, interreligious, multicultural, and prophetic. This Wisdom Books counting Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach is part of this singular project of 1,150 pages over seven volumes. The other volumes are Pantateuch, Historical Books, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation.

Besides being large in size, Jackson's volumes stay true to the making of the original illuminated manuscripts in both materials used and craftsmanship. Natural materials such as egg shells and calf skins were used for hand-ground inks. The manuscripts were entirely handmade by teams of craftspersons with various skills such as calligraphy, making parchment, and binding pages. This Wisdom Books goes so far in imitating medieval manuscripts as to also have some illustrations of small animals in the margins; in this case, a butterfly and bumblebee. One of the common examples of this touch in medieval manuscripts is an illustration of a cat; imagined to be whimsically put in by a monk in a moment of boredom with his task. Collaborators on this work include artists, designers, and specialists in Hebrew and Greek script (all listed on the copyright page).

Despite its inspiration in the medieval manuscripts which are treasures of Western civilization and reference to them as artistic models, the Wisdom Books is modern to be sure. The style of the illustrations manifests this, as does the script and footnote-like entries on many pages. And of course, this and other Saint John's Bible volumes have been multiplied beyond their original hand-crafted copy by modern-day publishing production technology.

In the volume, the original hand-drawn script, whatever size it was, is about twelve point type, much smaller than the size in medieval texts. The script displays the constrained ornate touches of medieval script, though it has the polish of many computer-generated scripts for easy legibility and comprehension. The smaller size of the script means much more text per page than in a medieval manuscript even with the folio-size pages. The illustrations--i. e., the illuminations--too manifest modern influences; most notably influences of collage, expressionism, and graphics. A couple are almost psychedelic in meaning to portray the dazzle and glory of spirituality. A couple have perspective missing from medieval illustrations (perspective having come into art not until about the time of the Renaissance). The planned volume on the making of the Bible will give more background on the making of the text and artistic choices and intentions of the art work.

Impressions of the East
Deborah Rudolph.
C. V. Starr East Asian Library
University of California, Berkeley
c/o Heyday Books, Berkeley, CA
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709
9781597140607 $39.95

Woodblocks-manuscripts-calligraphy-paintings on silk-rubbings from bronzes and tomb carvings-books-silk screens-maps: the U. of California East Asian Library has them all. The eclectic, museum-like library holdings are studied by scholars. Such historical and cultural characteristics of the varied items are recorded in annotations for the photographs of them written by the collection's curator--Deborah Rudolph; who has advanced degrees in both classical Chinese studies and library science. Collecting East Asian antiquities ran in her family. With many of the items, she also notes production techniques, materials, design features, and other technical aspects dealt with by the artists and craftsmen.

The book is visually rewarding as well. Each piece is photographed so that its overall appearance can be apprehended and its details appreciated. For its knowledgeable text and its handsome, skillfully formatted visual matter, "Impressions of the East" succeeds in "allowing the general reader to appreciate [the] worth" of the Library's collection--the main purpose of the book as denoted by Rudolph in the "Preface." While the Library's holdings cannot have the breadth or depth of museum collections, it's clear they are second to none in quality and in value for scholars. The collection is also an ideal representative collection for the public.

Collecting Stories - 400 Paintings, 400 Stories, A Collection of American Paintings
Thomas Davies
New York
9780975978313 $80.00

The avid collector of American art for 40 years Davies relates stories on 236 artists whose works he has collected. Going with each artist are fine color reproductions of paintings of his or hers Davies has acquired. Including illustrations in introductory material and some details of paintings, there are in all 420 color illustrations.

Davies' stories are multifaceted vignettes from a couple of hundred to a few hundred words. The collecting experiences he relates as parts of the vignettes include variously his original exposure to an artist, what attracted the author to him or her, typical subject matter, and characteristics of style. Vignettes additionally mention Davies' contact with the particular artist or relationship with dealers or representatives. The author came upon paintings in antique shops as well as art galleries. In some cases he had to wait for years before he was able to acquire an artist's painting at an auction. Occasionally, the author will write briefly on techniques of a particular work. His comments on what he saw about an artist's work which prompted him to collect the artist offer plain, reliable advise to would-be or beginning collectors.

Personal, wide-ranging, and brief in its commentaries, Davies' art book is nonetheless a commendable educational resources for newer art collectors. There's top names as Davies was able to acquire these--Albert Bierstadt, Edward Moran, N. C. Wyeth, Childe Hassam, and Fredric Remington, for a few. But the particular value for new collectors and even some veteran ones is the inclusion of many secondary artists and also regional artists (e. g., Western, New England) and others such as Maxfield Parrish whose subjects and mediums (e. g., prints, illustrations) limited their appeal and market value. All, however, are of merit and collectible. Though one art collector's acquisitions and tales and advice of collecting, the book is not idiosyncratic or narrow. Davies interests and appreciations are wide; his eye, keen; his judgment, reliable. The "Collecting Stories" offers exposure to numerous worthy artists while at the same time relates the basics and some of the more sophisticated knowledge about collecting art. Davies imparts not only the rewards and enjoyments of this pursuit, but also the kinds of experiences, activities, contacts it involves.

Henry Berry

Joseph's Bookshelf

The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America
Peter Dale Scott
University of California Press
2120 Berkeley Wa, Berkeley, CA 94704-1012
9780520237735 $27.50

I have always been fascinated with trying to see the more subliminal/hidden aspects of our world, so long as if they are either based in hard-nosed verified fact; or understood as speculative vision (which may possess a metaphoric validity of its own). With The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America University of California Berkeley professor emeritus Peter Dale Scott delivers the preceding. Tightly non-speculative, meticulous and insightful, Dr. Scott shines the know-glow on a rather extensive and sordid history of U.S. governmental shadow activities; predominantly partial or total cover-ups. Fortunately, in this his magnum opus, he also holds out the promise of an American redemption, so long as the festering boil of turpitude is lanced and drained in the light.

Writing with a touch of the charm of the poet that he is, Dr. Scott has been walking us through this political-historical shadow land for some time now. The Road to 9/11, which as the title indicates, provides historic origins of the terrorist strikes of September 11th 2001, builds on and extends his prior research into secret intelligence activities as presented in his two past UC Press books; Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America (1993) and Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1996) (among others) by speaking both about current concerns with the Bush-Cheney administration in relations to the events on 9/11/01 and by going further backwards - scrutinizing secret American governmental activities just after the end of World War II. It vividly concentrates on Richard Nixon's failed regime and Tricky Dick's early forays into threatening constitutional democracy as revealed during the Watergate hearings. He then depicts and examines the activities of Nixon's successor Gerald Ford, concentrating on his (what would later become neo-con) team of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Scott pays close attention to the Rumsfeld-Cheney collaboration under Ronald Reagan's regime on what is known as the Continuity of Government (COG) strategy: a parallel planning structure in lieu of nuclear war which includes plans for warrantless surveillance, suspension of habeas corpus, and the arrangements for mass detention; proposals which can also be described as plans for a potential military-civilian coup. By now the narrative of shadow government - what Scott calls "deep politics" (p. 121) - has taken hold and the book begins to read like an airport page-turner; scorching the eyes with tale after tale of intrigue and deception. But the characters are real (Kissinger, Casey, Brzezinski, Carter, Reagan, the Rockefellers, bin Laden, Clinton, et al) and the events - which rotate around big oil, terrorism, drug trade, arms deals, covert financing and secret security configurations are heavily documented in the copious footnotes (which I equally read with jaw-dropping fascination). Highlighted are the adventures of multiple intelligence agencies and their involvement with terrorist organizations that they once backed and helped create, including al Qaeda. At this point Scott's deep political analysis has a kind of Rimbaudian poetics to it, astutely avoiding moral condemnation. He is just letting the deviant facts speak for themselves.

Already there is material here for numerous Hollywood blockbuster films, but 3/4th through this dark narrative thoroughly takes off. Enter the reckless American empire of George W. Bush and his neo-con administration. With the intelligence of a scholar and the sensitivity of a poet, Scott's description puts forward here evidence that the 9/11 attacks were the zenith of long-standing, but secret, trends that menace the existence of American democracy as an open society. Additionally, he questions why the U.S. trillion dollar defense system failed to protect on 9/11. He also shows through extensive research that there has been a substantial cover-up of the events on 9/11. Here Scott specifically zooms in on suspicious statements and actions made by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld; before, during and after September 11th. He focuses our attention specifically on the Continuity of Government plan that was called into action that day, outlining Cheney's secret communications with Rumsfeld and President Bush before or about 10 AM.

He further critically examines Philip Zelikow's 9/11 Commission Report, showing specific examples of the report's systematic and concerted cover-up; partly by its omissions, but also by it's cherry picking of evidence to create impressions that are authoritatively disputed (such as the contested time of Cheney's arrival in the crises bunker). Scott points out a consistent pattern to the cherry picking: which is to minimize Dick Cheney's responsibility for what happened that day. He carefully dissects Cheney's orders with respect to a plane approaching Washington, as testified to by then Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. (pp. 199 - 200) As a result, Scott asks whether Cheney on 9/11 was occupied in exploiting the attacks as a means to implement an agenda of constitutional revision which he already had in place.

Peter Dale Scott's major contribution in this book is not merely to our larger, if darker, understanding of world and U.S. history. It is his knowledge of the contemporary importance of the Rumsfeld-Cheney Continuity of Government plans and their relevance to today's world. Scott maintains that this understanding may be the answer to various questions concerning Dick Cheney's hazy actions that morning. The hair-raising questions explored here, I hope I need not say, are imperative, as many see an obvious drift of the American nation towards constitutional crisis (see Naomi Wolf's recent book The End of America, for example).

By examining only the verifiable aspects of the suspicions surrounding the catastrophe of 9/11, Peter Dale Scott shows how America's military expansion into the world under the banner of 9/11 has been the result of crucial but surreptitious arrangements made by small cliques reactive to the agendas of privileged affluence; agendas resulting in the disbursement of the communal democratic state. Irrefutably, this is an imposing and scrupulous examination of how secrecy and terror is used as political weapon when shifting public authority to an unaccountable prosperity class. As such, I could not put it down and highly recommend it.

Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses
Jussi Parikka
Peter Lang Publishing
29 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10006
9780820488370 $35.95

{loop:file = get-random-executable-file;
if first-line-of-file = 1234567 then goto loop;
prepend virus to file;}
-Fred Cohen, Computer Viruses: Theory and Experiments

We cannot be done with viruses as long as the ontology of network culture is viral-like.
-Jussi Parikka, The Universal Viral Machine

One could be forgiven for assuming that a book with the title "Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses" would be of sole interest to those sniggering hornrimmed programmers who harbor an erudite loathing of Bill Gates and an affection for the Viennese witch-doctor. Actually, it is a rather game and enthralling look, via a media-ecological approach, into the acutely frightening, yet hysterically glittering, networked world in which we now reside. A world where the distinct individual is pitted against - and thoroughly processed by - post-human semi-autonomous software programs which often ferment anomalous feelings of being eaten alive by some great indifferent artificiality that apparently functions semi-independently as a natural being.

Though no J. G. Ballard or William S. Burroughs, Jussi Parikka nevertheless sucks us into a fantastic black tour-de-force narrative of virulence and the cultural history of computer viruses (*), followed by innumerable inquisitive innuendoes concerning the ramifications for a creative and aesthetic, if post-human, future. Digital Contagions is impregnated with fear and suspicion, but we almost immediately sense that it also contains an undeniable affirmative nobility of purpose; which is to save the media cultural condition - and the brimful push of technological modernization in general - from catastrophically killing itself off.

This admirable embryonic redemption is achieved by a vaccination-like turning of tables, as Parikka convincingly demonstrates that computer viruses (semi-autonomous machinic/vampiric pieces of code) are not antithetical to contemporary digital culture, but rather essential traits of the techno-cultural logic itself. According to Parikka, digital viruses in effect define the media ecology logic that characterizes our networked computerized culture in recent decades.

We may wish to recall here that for Deleuze and Guattari, media ecologies are machinic operations (the term machinic here refers to the production of consistencies between heterogeneous elements) based in particular technological and humane strings that have attained virtual consistency. Our current inter-network ecology is a comparable combination of top-down host arrangements wedded to bottom-up self-organization where invariable linear configurations and states of entanglement co-evolve in active process. Placing the significant role of the virus in this mix in no uncertain terms, Parikka writes that, "the virus truly seems to be a central cultural trope of the digital world". (p. 136) Indeed digital viruses are recognized by Parikka as the crowning culmination of current postmodern cultural trends - as viruses, by definition, are merger machines based on parasitism and acculturation. So it is not only their symbolic/metaphoric power that places them firmly in a wider perspective of cultural infection; it is their formal structure, in that they procure their actuality from the encircling environment to which they are receptively coupled.

Moreover, with the love of an aficionado, Parikka lucidly demonstrates that computer viruses are indeed a variable index of the rudimentary underpinning on which contemporary techno culture rests. He astutely anoints the indexical function of the virus by establishing not only its symbolic melancholy power in relation to the human body and sex, but by folding the viral life/nonlife model (**) into key cultural areas underlying the digital ecology; such as bottom-up self-organization, hidden distributed activity and ethereal meshwork. In that sense Parikka describes network ecology as both actual and virtual, what I have elsewhere identified as the viractual. (Briefly, the viractual is the stratum of activity where distinct actualizations/individuations are materialized out of the flow of virtuality.) But some viruses do not simply yield copies of themselves, they also engage in a process of self-reproducing autopoiesis: they are copying themselves over and over again but they can also mutate and change, and by doing so, Parikka maintains, reveal distinguishing aspects of network culture at large.

I would add that they mimic the manneristic aspects of late post-modernism in general, particularly if one sees modernism as the great petri dish aggregate in which we still are afloat. So computer viruses are recognized here as an indexical symptom also of a bigger cultural tendency that characterizes our post-modern media culture as being inserted within a modern (purist) digital ecology. This aspect provides the book with a discerning, yet heterogeneous, comprehension of the connectionist technologies of contemporaneous techno culture.

But beyond the techno-cultural relevance, the significance of the viral issues in Parikka's book to ALL cultural production is evident to anyone who has already recognized that digitalization has become the universal technical platform for networked capitalism. As Parikka himself points out, digitalization has secured its place as the master formal archive for sounds, images and texts. (p. 5) Digitalization is the double, the gangrel, that accompanies each of us in what we do - and which accounts for our cultural feelings of vacillating between anxiety and enthusiasm over being invaded by something invisible - and the sneaky suspicion that we have been taken control of from within.

To begin this caliginous expedition, Digital Contagions plunges us into a haunting, shifting and dislocating array of source material that thrills. Parikka launches his degenerate seduction by drawing from, and intertwining in a non-linear fashion, the theories of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (for whom my unending love is verging on obsession), Friedrich Kittler, Eugene Thacker, Tiziana Terranova, N. Katherine Hayles, Lynn Margulis, Manuel DeLanda, Brian Massumi, Bruno Latour, Charlie Gere, Sherry Turkle, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, Deborah Lupton, and Paul Virilio. These thinkers are then linked with ripe examples from prankster net art, stealth biopolitics, immunological incubations, the disassembly significance of noise, ribald sexual allegories, antibody a-life projects, various infected prosthesis, polymorphic encryptions, ticklish security issues, numerous medical plagues, the coupling of nature and biology via code, incisive sabotage attempts, anti-debugging trickery, genome sequencing, parasitic spyware, killer T cell epidemics, rebellious database deletions, trojan horse latency, viral marketing, inflammatory political resistance, biological weaponry, pornographic clones, depraved destructive turpitudes, rotten jokes, human-machine symbiosis as interface, and a history of cracker catastrophes. All are conjoined with excellent taste. The shock effect is one of discovering a poignant nervous virality that has been secretly penetrating us everywhere.

Digital Contagions's genealogical account is proportionately impressive, as it devotes satisfactory space to the discussion of historical precedent; including Turing machines, Fred Cohen's pioneering work with computer viruses, John von Neumann's cellular automata theory (i.e. any system that processes information as part of a self-regulating mechanism), avant-garde cybernetics, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the Creeper virus in the Arpanet network, the coupling machines of John Conway, the nastily waggish Morris worm, Richard Dawkins's meme (contagious idea) theory; and even the under known artistic hacks of Tommaso Tozzi. Furthermore, the viral spectral as fantasized in science fiction is adequately fleshed out, paying deserved attention to the obscure but much loved (by me, anyway) 1975 book The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner and the celebrated cyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash; among other speculative books and hallucinatory films.

But the pinnacle of interest, for me, of this engaging and educative read is its conclusion where Parikka sketches out an alternative radical media-ecological perspective hinged on the viral characteristics of self-reproduction and a coupling of the outside with the inside typical of artificial life (a-life). He correctly maintains that viral autopoiesis undertakings, like Thomas S. Ray's Tierra virtual ecology art project, provides quintessential clues to interpreting the software logic that has produced, and will continue to produce, the ontological basis for much of the economic, political and cultural transactions of our current globalizing world.

Here he has rendered problematic the safe vision of virus as malicious software (virus as infection machine) and replaced it with a far more curious, aesthetic and even benevolent one; as whimsical artificial life (a-life). Using viral a-life's tenants of semi-automation, self-reproduction, and host quest; Parikka proposes a living machinic autopoiesis that might provide a moebius strip like ontological process for culture.

Though suppositional, he bases his procedure in formal viral attributes - not unlike those of primitive artificial life with its capability to self-reproduce and spread semi-autonomously (as viruses do) while keeping in mind that Maturana/Varela's autopoiesis contends that living systems are an integral component of their surroundings and work towards supporting that ecology. Parikka here picks up that thread by pointing out that recent polymorphic viruses are now able to evolve in response to anti-virus behaviors. Various viruses, known as retroviruses, (***) explicitly target anti-virus programs. Viruses with adaptive behavior, self-reproductive and evolutionary programs can be seen, at least in part, as something alive, even if not artificial life in the strongest sense of the word. Here we might recall John Von Neumann's conviction that the ideal design of a computer should be based on the design of certain human organs - or other live organisms. The artistic compositional benefit of his autopoiesic virality theory, for me, is in allowing thought and vision to rupture habit and bypass object-subject dichotomies.

I wish to point out here that although biological viruses were originally discovered and characterized on the basis of the diseases they caused, most viruses that infect bacteria, plants and animals (including humans) do not cause disease. In fact, viruses may be helpful to life in that they rapidly transfer genetic information from one bacterium to another, and viruses of plants and animals may convey genetic information among similar species, helping their hosts survive in hostile environments.

Already various theories of complexity have established an influence within philosophy and cultural theory by emphasizing open systems and adaptability, but Parikka here supplies a further step in thinking about ongoing feedback loops between an organism and its environment; what I am tempted to call viralosophy. Viralosophy would be the study of viral philosophical and theoretical points of reference concerning malignant transformations useful in understanding the viral paradigm essential to digital culture and media theory that focuses on environmental complexity and inter-connectionism in relationship to the particular artist. Within viralosophy, viral comprehension might become the eventual - yet chimerical - reference point for culture at large in terms of a modification of parameters, as it promotes parasite-host dynamic interfacings of the technologically inert with the biologically animate, probabilistically.

So the decisive, if dormant, payload that is triggered by reading this book, for me, is an enhanced understands of pagan and animist sentiment which recognizes non-malicious looping-mutating energy feedback and self-recreational dynamism that informs new aesthetic becomings which may alter artistic output. Possibly heuristic becomings (****) that transgress the established boundaries of nature/technology/culture and extend the time-bomb cognitive nihilism of Henry Flynt. This affirmative viral payload forces open-ended multiplicities onto art that favor new-sprung conceptualizations and rebooted realizations. Here the artist comes back to life as spurred a-life, and not as a sole articulation of the pirated environment of currency. So the so-called art virus is not to be judged in terms of its occasional monetary payload, but by the metabolistic characteristics that make art reasonable to discuss as a form of extravagant artificial life: triggered emergence, resilience and back door evolution.

(*) A computer virus is a self-replicating computer program that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other executable code or documents. A computer virus behaves in a way similar to a biological virus, which spreads by inserting itself into living cells. Extending the analogy, the insertion of a virus into the program is termed as an "infection", and the infected file, or executable code that is not part of a file, is called a "host".

(**) Scientists have argued about whether viruses are living organisms or just a package of colossal molecules. A virus has to hijack another organism's biological machinery to replicate, which it does by inserting its DNA into a host.

(***) Retroviruses are sometimes known as anti-anti-viruses. The basic principle is that the virus must somehow hinder the operation of an anti-virus program in such a way that the virus itself benefits from it. Anti-anti-viruses should not be confused with anti-virus-viruses, which are viruses that will disable or disinfect other viruses.

(****) A heuristic virus cleaner works by loading an infected file up to memory and emulating the program code. It uses a combination of disassembly, emulation and sometimes execution to trace the flow of the virus and to emulate what the virus is normally doing. The risk in heuristic cleaning is that if the cleaner tries to emulate everything, the virus might get control inside the emulated environment and escape, after which it can propagate further or trigger a destructive retaliation reflex.

Joseph Nechvatal

Judine's Bookshelf

Blonde Faith
Walter Mosley
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA, Inc.
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316734592 $25.99

Do all good characters continue forever? For a super hero type, this means the character never stops fighting crime - setting each novel in a different location, with different villains, and a different love affair. The readers eagerly anticipate the next adventure. But all good things must come to pass. We know this from Star Wars, Star Trek and most recently the Harry Potter series.

Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins comes to the rescue yet another time as the super hero in "Blonde Faith." This novel serves as a double mystery. Easy begins with the investigation of Mouse for Etta, which indirectly leads him on a search for Easter Dawns's adoptive father, Christmas Black. Pericles probably provides the missing link for Mouse, however along the way, "E" also has to locate, Captain Clarence Miles, Pretty Smart and Faith. All of this for the first whodunit - Ezekiel's relationship with Bonnie holds the reader as second thriller. His final decision on love and forgiveness pivots on reincarnation.

Walter Mosley serendipitously delves into America's seemingly past "color" tensions. Writing as a political satirist, he develops many character interactions with vindication, noting many in the majority don't treat minorities with superiority and exclusion. More importantly, Walter excellently exposes a man's inner turmoil with genuine sincerity while debunking American's perceived male stoicism.

The Ex Files
Victoria Christopher Murray
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416535515 $14.00

What would you think if a story line began when one woman's husband commits suicide, and during this same time another woman's bisexual husband just got a new boyfriend? With my curious mind racing to jump ahead of the story, I would assume both men were part of a lovers' triangle gone bad. This curiosity would keep me reading to validate my thoughts of being on the same page as the author. However, the best stories are made when the turn of events unfold completely different form your assumptions.

And that's exactly what happened to me when I read "The Ex Files." Sheridan's concerns about her ex-husband's male relationships might break her bond with Quentin, her new love interest. Vanessa seems suspiciously balanced after her husband's commits suicide. (Here's where my thoughts cascaded into a lover's tryst.) But we also read about Asia's ten year affiliation with a married man as it quickly dissolves. And, Kendall's husband abandons their marriage to be with her sister. One woman connected to all four main characters is Pastor Ford. Knowing the different paths of each woman, the pastor realizes the woman can find their similarities and support in a prayer group called the Ex Files.

As a Christian author, Victoria Christopher Murray steps out on faith by telling the story without a typical fairy tale ending. She pulled me into her writer's web, wrapped me with her silken threads of creativity, and held me captive while I found out how wrong I was in my premature conclusions. All the while, she teaches to uplift and not condemn others, because our actions can have a lasting affect on those we least suspect. The eventual women's bond helped me to appreciate my sisterhood connections, and to reaffirm my faith in all things happening together for God's purpose.

Judine Slaughter

Kaye's Bookshelf

To Live Without Warning
Timothy LaBadie
Xlibris Corporation
9781425753702 $30.99

Quoting from the back cover:

"To Live Without Warning is a story set in a future San Francisco, where public transportation is the only way to travel, and people with colds are required by machines called breathe-eraters to wear masks. Within this speculative fiction novel, there are aliens who disguise themselves as homeless people, and there are twins from an alien abduction, one human, one not, plus a virtual couple who live in a bungalow on a beach in a virtual Costa Rica who mix up their computer code to have a virtual child, and then there is a cat woman who can do all sorts of erotica with her tail, and a drummer who leads more than a band called Death, Ax and Grind.

"Joshua Cromwell has a dream, one he has had for some time, where he's a planet. After a mysterious woman tells him of the aliens that are about to attack the Earth, she takes him to her home in the tenderloin where he meets a robot the color and texture of an orange. His life seems to be very, very important to these aliens called the Hymenopts, but he would really rather not participate in whatever is about to happen, if only he had that choice.

"This is a love story, a growing up story, and a coming home story. It's about friendship and family and about the planet Earth. This is the story of how we begin to remember."

If you enjoy sci-fi fantasy fiction, you'll probably enjoy To Live Without Warning. Most of my readers know that I'm not a great fantasy fan; however, as I grew up in San Francisco and play the drums myself, this novel had a unique appeal, plus I enjoy novels with an element of the metaphysical.

Timothy LaBadie is a good writer with an colorful imagination and spicy style. The novel is well-written and well-edited. LaBadie is the author of essays and fiction which stand out for their offbeat settings and timeless humor. Give him a try.

No Experts Needed - The Meaning of Life According to You!
By Louise Lewis
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595429714, $18.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Just minutes after being 'set free,' Lewis, a single woman with a mortgage to pay, sits in the San Jose, California, airport panicking over her future. While toying with the option of giving into depression, she receives a powerful message from God that instantly releases the weight of her worries. 'This is just a new chapter in your life. You hold the pen, I'll guide your hand, and together we'll write one hell of a chapter.' Through Spirit's continued involvement, Lewis is inspired to ask normal, everyday people to answer Spirit's question: what is the meaning of life?

"No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You! weaves through a vast collection of spontaneous, thought-provoking answers and inspirational stories that demonstrate how the simple act of listening to Spirit can add meaning to every moment of your life."

This book is a personal memoir with a central theme - what is the meaning of life? Louise Lewis asks this question of family, friends and a plethora of people she meets along her path as she is guided by what she calls Spirit. The memoir contains 42 short, inspiring stories with many answers to her question. Lewis is an educated writer with an enjoyable writing style. Of course, the most interesting aspect of this book are the spontaneous answers. Allow me to share several responses with you.

"Brian - To pass on your genes. To pass on your knowledge, joy, and love to others to enhance their lives. And if nothing else, to laugh. You must always laugh."

"Agnes - To live the best I know how. Be kind and of service to others. To keep my eyes of Jesus and let him lead me on this journey of life."

"Oscar - Life is a treasure that God has given me. I am so thankful for those that love me and so thankful for those that I love. God bless you for allowing me to be a part of your book."

If you enjoy spiritual, inspiring memoirs, you just might consider this book.

In A Nutshell - The Collection
Lesly Auerbach
Outskirts Press, Inc.
Parker, Co
9781432706869 $8.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"A glimpse into the head of an average, everyday kind of woman - me! Much of what you'll read between these covers comes from my personal experiences; then there are the pieces where I put myself into those proverbial 'someone else's shoes.' I'll leave it up to you to decide which is which.

"Part emotional outburst, part fantasy, some social commentary, and everything in between, this collection is my life in a nutshell and helped form who I am today - well, sort of ...."

Lesly Auerback is a unique, interesting writer. In 2006 I reviewed her debut novel, Fragments, which was an exceptional first effort. In A Nutshell is a free-style, poetry collection, and the primary element which appealed to me in Fragments is also present here - her honesty. She is an intelligent writer, and her honesty and writing style could make her a great writer. Allow me to share just a small excerpt with you from page 30:

"Lost to myself in proving I do exist
A blank soul begging to be written on
Painted on with something other
than charcoal water and mud
Putting on any discarded mask
Creating a new one to suit new friends
Leaving a shattered face quivering underneath
Unable to hold any real expression
That first abandonment reaching
across the years
Disconnecting tentative connections
Wiping out trust and security
with its lie taken for truth"

If you're a poetry buff, give her a try and see if you don't agree.

Kaye Trout

Liana's Bookshelf

It's a Brand New Day
Donald Leslie Slater and Kenny D. Shaw
Outskirts Press
Denver, Colorado
9781432713980 $22.95

Donald Leslie Slater and Kenny D. Shaw have a strong faith in Jesus. Together they created this book to inspire young people love God and life in this wonderful world.

It's a Brand New day is an original book that combines life lessons, song and music in a way that will appeal to people of all ages. Designed to urge young children have faith and to honor their family, it is an original tool that can be used by everybody regardless their age.

The book starts with the signature song and the readers can read the lyrics step by step while looking at the beautiful pictures depicting nature as they are described in the lyrics, which are also in Spanish. The accompanying CD contains the songs and reinforces the book.

The book also contains life lessons for children, such as the value of mother and father, grandparents, veterans, pets and the world around us. It can serve as a notebook for kids to comment on these issues or as a guide book to this wonderful world. It is written in a simple and clear style and caters to people from all walks of life evoking feelings of love and respect for nature and family. It is a positive means of encouraging young people love life, and more specifically, family life. The strongest element in this book is the art, such as the pictures and the music. The photographers have done a great job! The book focuses on Christian religion and uses this as a base to teach the life lessons about the world. It is a useful tool for church communities, schools, and parents or grandparents who may need a special gift for their grandchildren. It is entertaining and educational at the same time.

The book and the CD can be bought from

Spirits in the Garden: The Amazing Realm of Secret Life Around Us with Remedies and Gifts of Healing Wisdom
Joan Solomon
Grynwild Publishing
3208 West Lake Street #117, Minneapolis, MN 55416
9780978616601 $48.75

Joan Solomon, an artist, writer and photographer, lives and works at her lakeside studio and is greatly concerned about the environment, and animal welfare. Visit her at and you will have the chance to view her beautiful collection of paintings that celebrate life by evoking feelings of happiness and tranquility.

This beautiful book is a piece of art. It contains photos, paintings, recipes for remedies and poems, all in a wonderful combination that helps the reader relax and get a positive point of view in life. When you look at it you can also think "Wow! Life is wonderful!" and this is the main point the author/artist wishes to transfer to you, the reader. Life is full of surprises and the more we care about our environment, the happier we will be.

Spirits in The Garden is a unique book in its kind that educates, entertains and feeds the spirit and our visual senses. There is a pandemonium of colors throughout this excellent book that serves as a guide to natural herbs and beauty of nature as a whole. The author includes herbal preparations to relieve several symptoms and tells us about the history and values of each herb. She urges readers to look at a garden in a different way: not just see the plants, but also 'feel' them, to allow themselves to "see life from a fresh perspective."

At the back of the book there is a list of sources for products, and information about books that inspire and inform. Also there is a small collection of her paintings. It is worth visiting the author's site and viewing her whole art collection. Joan is an excellent artist and writer, and this book is a great gift for anyone loving art, as well for those interested in herbal remedies.

Get the book from

Forget the Cures Find the Cause
Book Two: The Circle
Rayna M.Gangi
Outskirts Press, Inc.
Denver, Colorado
9781432715397, US $19.95, CAN $21.95,

Very Highly Recommended

Rayna Gangi is a Holistic Health consultant and International broadcaster. Book Two closes the circle (Book one was about the Seven keys to balanced life) and is about healing body, mind and spirit. Visit her at

This book is a guide to healing using alternative medicine. The author focuses on America's problems mainly, but some issues are international. Organic food is the healthier alternative to GM food nowadays, and Rayna teaches the readers how to create their own organic food at home. Water in America is not pure, as well as most of the food, so Rayna makes the readers aware of those problems and gives tips on how to get pure water and food. Illness is the greatest issue arising in this book and the author tries to show how to avoid it. She believes the earth has to be treated with respect to make people be healthier and live longer.

Pets and their well being is another important issue Rayna addresses in this book. This book includes information we can't usually get easily, such as the substances included in toothpaste and we should certainly avoid, or the chemicals in food and cosmetics that can trigger illness. She also writes about the health system in America and highlights the pros and cons, and advises what to be aware of when we consult a doctor.

Rayna focuses on holistic medicine and is in favor of herbs, organic products and pure water. She urges readers to start an alternative way of life to boost their immune system and avoid illness. In chapter 3 she mentions the vitamins certain foods include, such as particular fruit and vegetables, and this is a very interesting part of the book!

This book is easy to read. Its style is simple enough for all the people to understand and caters to everyone interested in leading a healthy lifestyle. It is a guide book that educates and helps people to regain their health and it is certainly worth reading it! Get the book from

The Pocket Parent Coach: Your Two-Week Guide to a Dramatically Improved Life with Your Intense Child
Tina Feigal
Beaver's Pond Press
7104 Ohms Lane, Edina, MN 55439
9781592981854 $19.95

Tina Feigal, M.S.,Ed., founder of the center for the Challenging Child, LLC, she assists parents from around the world. Visit her at to learn more.

The Pocket Parent Coach is a valuable guide book for the parents whose children are intense. The author guides the parent step by step and teaches him/her how to make their child behave right and how to accept the consequences of misbehavior. The Author is an expert in challenging children, thus she knows what elements a child needs in the first place. A child wants 'predictability' Tina says, and 'security' so a parent must show consistency.

Tina believes that 'clarity creates security' so she teaches parents how to achieve that. The book includes a lot of examples so that it is easy to read and understand. Tips for the language to use with kids who oppose you at every turn are also included. Bedtime issues are addressed as well as teen issues.

What can parents do when a child lies? Tina has got the answer to that too, on page 70. Readers can also learn a lot form a mom's experience on page 74, and use the note pages throughout the book to jot down their own comments on their progress with their kids. Resources for parents are on page 85, as well as Daily reminder slips to use on each day. There is a CD accompanying this great guide book that is an extra sample of a mom's problem with her kid.

Tina writes clearly and concisely, and her book caters to all parents and those who wish to get educated on that subject. I watched a TV documentary (Nanny one, one) the other day on challenging children and after reading Tina's book, I can now understand some of the tactics that nanny used to correct the child's behavior. Tina has done a great job and this book is a valuable tool for every parent. So, if you want to understand your child, or any other child in the world, do not miss reading it!

The Prometheus Project: Trapped
Douglas E. Richards
PO Box 572, Eagleville, PA 19408
0974876542 $9.95

Douglas Richards, an MA holder in molecular biology and business, has got two children and lives in California. Contact the author at

This book is an excellent quality thriller. It is the story of two young kids who seek adventure and mystery, so eventually they find themselves involved in an extraordinary situation. Their parents are at risk so the kids try to help them by entering a forbidden area and they discover an alien site. What will happen to them? Are they going to survive? Are their parents going to help them?

It is a story with a tight plot, a lot of action and a lot of science. The author involves nano-technology, the internet and a lot of maths throughout his story so the readers will be educated as well as highly entertained. It is a valuable book, quite original and easy to read. The gripping storyline will make young readers read this story in one sitting and want a sequel. The author has written another book, The Prometheus Project-Captured, as a sequel to the first one.

I strongly recommend this book to all young ones up to 13, and to older kids as well. It is a story full of clues that feed the mind and educate. It is full of action, fast paced and exciting to the very end, and it is like watching a movie. I will certainly recommend this book to my younger students who learn English-it can be used as a reader in ELT too.

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Lockstein's Bookshelf

Little Face
Sophie Hannah
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
1569474680 $25.00

Little Face by Sophie Hannah has an intriguing premise. Alice Fancourt calls the police in a panic; she insists that her newborn daughter Florence has been kidnapped and a different child put in her place. Her husband David insists that the baby is Florence, but her mother-in-law Vivienne, the family doyenne, isn't so sure. Det. Simon Waterhouse sees no evidence of kidnapping, but he feels drawn to Alice and wants to believe her strange story. Hannah's pacing and dialogue is excellent, and as we start to see the horrors taking place in the Fancourt family home, the tension level ratchets up considerably. David's first wife was murdered, and Alice can't help but wonder if she's next. Vivienne holds her son in her iron grip, and Alice is expected to fall just as neatly in line. The first two thirds of this book was fantastic, but then Hannah pulls the rug out from under the reader. An author walks a delicate line when using a narrator to deceive the reader. Some have pulled it off with aplomb: Agatha Christie and Louis Bayard come to mind. Unfortunately, Hannah isn't talented enough to succeed in her ploy, and after reading, I felt manipulated and used, much like poor Det. Waterhouse. Skip this book; don't waste your time.

T is for Trespass
Sue Grafton
Putnam Adult
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
0399154485 $26.95

T is For Trespass by Sue Grafton is the newest book in the Kinsey Millhone series. Kinsey is investigating a suspicious car accident and delivering eviction notices when she's asked to look into the background of Solana Rojas who has applied to be a caregiver for Kinsey's elderly neighbor Gus. Kinsey doesn't notice anything unusual and gives Solana the A-OK, unknowingly committing Gus to a living hell, because Solana is not who she claims to be. Grafton tries a new trick from her authorial bag by switching narration between her usual 1st person Kinsey and 3rd person Solana. Kinsey doesn't investigate mysteries that are going to change the world, but she does help make the world around her a better place. I love Kinsey: her love of olive loaf lunchmeat, peanut butter & pickle sandwiches, her need for small spaces and solitude, her attachment to Henry, William and Rosie. Kinsey, now in her twentieth appearance has become an old friend, and Grafton continues to write thrilling, taut suspenseful stories filled with rich characters and moral dilemmas. Solana's systematic abuse of Gus is horrific to behold, and I couldn't put the book down as I waited for Kinsey to come to his rescue. Solana recognizes a kindred spirit in Kinsey, but where she is dark, Kinsey is light, and each are frighteningly good at what they do. Kinsey is so honest about her hang-ups and flaws that it's hard to believe that she isn't real. Another pitch perfect entry in this series guaranteed to satisfy mystery lovers everywhere.

Miscarriage of Justice
Kip Gayden
Center Street
322 South Enterprise Blvd., Lebanon, IN 46052
159995687X $22.99

Miscarriage of Justice by Kip Gayden is the story of Anna And Walter Dotson in 1913 Tennessee. Walter is a successful physician, Bible study leader, alderman for the city of Gallatin, Mason, and leader of the city orchestra. Anna is the lovely mother of their two children who keeps her days busy with the social functions required of the wife of a pillar of the community. She also spends time flirting with the cause of woman's suffrage and the new barber in town: Charlie Cobb. Gayden weaves together historical fact with logical conjecture to create a fantastic story of how a crime in a small town in Tennessee helped shape the future of the nation. Anna's flirtation with Charlie leaps into full blown adultery, with both spouses left in the dark. Gayden describes the attraction of forbidden liasons with flair and emotion. He makes Anna's descent into lust as believable as her guilt over the double life she finds herself living. Gayden uses reporter Paul Christian as the reader's objective eye in the story, and as we hear the story filtered through him, it becomes not only believable but enthralling. The crime is shocking; the verdict even more so. Gayden introduced suffrage as a major story element in the opening chapters, but that line drops off until suddenly popping up in the jury room when the ties between the crime and suffrage become clear, and with a masterful stroke Gayden makes his case that this long forgotten crime of passion helped give women the right to vote in America. By fictionalizing the portions of the book, Gayden brings Anna and the rest of the cast to life, and you can't help but ache for her. My one and only complaint is a small one: I would have liked pictures of the principals to be included in the book. I hope that Gayden takes my advice for his next book, which I look forward to reading!

Kids Are Americans Too
Bill O'Reilly
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060846763 $24.95

Kids Are American's Too by Bill O'Reilly is supposed to be aimed at educating teens about what rights they have as American citizens, as well as how they got them and what they can do to be more politically active. The idea is an excellent, but O'Reilly's execution leaves much to be desired. His tone is just a trifle condescending, and while he gives several anecdotes about kids and their rights, ultimately he can't really answer any questions because of the variability of school systems and the courts. He sums up the Founding Fathers just a little too easily. In his attempt to speak to the younger generation, he comes off as dumbing himself down and trying too hard to fit in. His "rap" music is just pathetic and not even humorous, and the quizzes at the end of each chapter remove any and all "cool" cache. There are some interesting facts about how rights work and how the best way to assert them is not necessarily through the courts but through calm and rational compromise and discussion: definitely thoughts with merit. I just don't think that this book will appeal to the target audience. Unless you're a diehard O'Reilly fan, skip this one.

The Zookeeper's Wife
Diane Ackerman
W.W. Norton
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110
0393061728 $23.95

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman is the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, who ran the Warsaw Zoo in Poland before the invasion by Nazi Germany. The couple, along with their son, Rysz, treated many of the animals as family members. When the Germans swept into Poland and bombed much of the zoo, the couple did what they could to rescue the rest, which meant allowing many of them to be sent to German zoos for safekeeping. Jan soon joined the resistance, and the compound quickly became a safehouse for fugitives and fighters, both animal and human. Antonina had a powerful bond with animals, an innate, almost preternatural way of communicating with them that she was able to use to keep her and her charges safe throughout the war. The book is filled with poignant, tragic scenes. Antonina tucks Rysz into bed while outside German officers go on "safari" killing all of the animals in their cages. When he asks her what the gunshots outside are, she freezes, unable to answer his impossible question. They take a pig into the home and Rysz makes a pet of it until German soldiers mistake it for one of the farm pigs and drag it away for slaughter. Jan and Antonina show amazing episodes of bravery and courage. Jan walks several Jews out of the Warsaw Ghetto right under the noses of guards and helps them on their way out of the country. He also deliberately infects several pigs with worms, then butchers them, and puts the meat into sandwiches for the soldiers. My breath caught in my throat several times at the risks they took because it was the right thing to do. Seeing the war through Antonina's eyes makes it very real, but sometimes Ackerman skims over things that are vital to the story. Jan is imprisoned and Antonina and Rysz flee Warsaw. When they finally return home, the reunion is completely skipped, leaving the reader frustrated. Much of the stories come from Antonina's memoirs, and I wonder if Ackerman would have been better off using more of them throughout the story and letting Antonina tell the story in her own words. A subplot about the Nazi desire to recreate several extinct species including the Auroch and Tapan starts out strong, drops out completely in the center of the book, and then unexpectedly ends the story. It felt a bit out of place without more support. I am inspired by the bravery and humanity of the Zabinski family, and other readers of this book will be too.

Power to the People
Laura Ingraham
Regnery Publishing
One Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001
159698516X $27.95

Power to the People by Laura Ingraham is one of the more reasoned and insightful political books I've read this year. Ingraham, a talk radio host, is sick of the government seizing control of education and religion from the people, and she wants things to change. Rather than gripe about the situation, she gives anecdotal evidence and then solid suggestions that anyone can do to change the status quo. Although she does swerve into vitriol on occasion, she is thoughtful without attacking her opponents, unlike Ann Coulter and so many others. Conservatives need many more voices like Ingraham out there. She brings about healthy debate with good ideas for even a small town mom like myself to do. Too many books like these end up as vicious, personal attacks that undermine the very points they are trying to make. Ingraham is assertive without being aggressive, and she makes excellent points. I don't think she's going to change anyone's point of view, but she may help encourage others to make some actual changes. The last chapter on religion was a bit too much preaching to the choir, and I found myself skimming over it, but the rest was a good read.

Christmas Around the World
Chuck Fischer
Little, Brown & Co
322 South Enterprise Blvd., Lebanon, IN 46052
0316117951 $30.00

Christmas Around the World by Chuck Fischer is a sensual delight. Fischer includes world traditions for celebrating Christmas in a glorious pop-up book filled with color and surprises. I was thrilled when I got this book and paged through it repeatedly before reading it. With all of its multi-layered pop-ups and pull-outs, it's impossible not to touch. Placing it on the coffee or end table is an invitation to explore. While relating educational material about Italy's Christmas Witch and Russia's version of Santa Claus, he somehow manages to capture the wonder and magic of Christmas in a way that's perfect for young and old alike. I had no idea of the differences in the versions of Santa from around the world, and it was intriguing to learn how he evolved from St. Nicholas to the Dutch Sinterklaas with hints of the Norse Odin. Christmas traditions from cards to crackers are all included. From the creche at St. Peter's to the streets of Paris, the pop-ups are fantastic and lovely. In the back is a drawer holding a Santa and sleigh that can be used as a small candy dish or even a gift box. Not a detail has been missed in this celebration of the holiday Every generation in my family is in love with this book, and it's certain to become a family keepsake.

How to Forgive When You Don't Feel Like It
June Hunt
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402
0736921486 $12.99

How to Forgive When You Don't Feel Like It by June Hunt is a terrific book about the power of forgiveness, not just on the recipient, but on the giver as well. Hunt uses the analogy of a bag of rocks for the weight of unforgiveness that we carry around with us. These rocks of anger and bitterness weigh us down until it is difficult to move. She uses rocks in various metaphors throughout the rest of the book with varying effectiveness. The pressure used to make diamonds is appropriate to describe how God uses trials to make us shine. But Hunt is at her best when explaining why forgiveness is so vital. I was struggling with some issues in this area myself, and I read the book looking for answers. Hunt's most important point: forgiveness isn't a feeling. It's not something we can just do on our own. It's difficult and occasionally painful, and we need God's strength to do it, but in doing it, we will be blessed. Not only by God's forgiveness of us in return, but also in releasing his blessings to us. I took the steps that Hunt recommended and asked God to help me forgive certain people. It immediately gave me peace in my own mind when I didn't have to think about the hurt. But surprisingly (without me saying anything to the ones who hurt me), they made several gestures of goodwill. Hunt helped me to see that by holding my anger close, I was holding God's blessings away. Even if there aren't results like I experienced, forgiveness is essential for our spiritual growth. Hunt includes several anecdotes about anger and forgiveness, even exposing her own hurts for the reader. The book is written in a non-preachy style that's easy to empathize with. If you're hurting, this book can help be a balm to your soul.

You Had Me At Good-Bye
Tracey Bateman
322 South Enterprise Blvd., Lebanon, IN 46052
0446698946 $13.99

You Had Me At Good-Bye by Tracey Bateman is the second book in the Drama Queen series after Catch a Rising Star. Book editor Dancy Ames is fired after an altercation with a writer and, with help from her friends, must rediscover her footing. Dancy lets everyone walk all over her, from her rich, uptight parents, to her boss and Lane Publishing. But the worst part is that the man who stole her job just could be her dream guy, but he's sending mixed signals, and poor Dancy is in a tailspin. Bateman's writing is the equivalent of literary comfort food. Had a rough week? It's one of her books you want to curl up with to forget about the world for awhile. As Dancy's walk with God strengthens, so does her self-confidence, giving her the ability to finish her novel, stand up to her mother, dump an unwanted boyfriend, and be her new brother's hero. I love Bateman's trademark writing style. It's almost snarky, but with enough sweet to keep it light. Dancy is a hilarious narrator, and her antics make for great reading!

Christy Lockstein

Margaret's Bookshelf

Orphan Train Trilogy
Robert Noonan
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512

Expertly written by Wisconsin author Robert Noonan (who moved from Chicago, Illinois to Hatfield, Wisconsin to write his books), the 'Orphan Train Trilogy' is a set of three novels that, taken together or read separately, draw upon the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century phenomena of orphaned boys and girls from the eastern seaboard who were placed upon trains traveling west for exploitive foster home placements, menial factory jobs, and agricultural laborers. "Wildflowers" (9780595426836, $15.95) is the story of 11-year old Hillary Cook and her widowed mother. The girl must work twelve hours a day, six days a week at the Alton Textile Mill operating dangerous machinery along with the other young girls, as well as suffer dark abuses at the hands mill owner Frank Dragus. "Bridie's Daughter" (9780595436293, $15.95) follows the lives of four teen-aged children, including Catherine who ends up with Bridie McDonald in Newberry, Illinois. While some welcome the children, others hold them in dark suspicion thinking that all orphans brought in from New York City are cast off bastards and should be treated with contempt. "Secrets" (9780595436286, $16.95) is the story of Hillary and her new parents who, after fleeing from their home following a bloody crime, find a new life in Galena, Illinois. The three titles comprising this superbly written trilogy showcase an obscure historical event in American history that ran began in 1854 and continued until 1929. The intent was to improve the lives of children in otherwise desperate circumstances in the cities of the east. The results were often more harrowing that anything the children had experienced prior to boarding those orphan trains headed west. Informed and informative, Robert Noonan is a master storyteller whose novels are as entertaining as they are thoughtful and thought-provoking.

The Dumari Chronicles: Year One
Anne Patrice Brown
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595457250, $20.95

The first title of a planned five volume series, "The Dumari Chronicles: Year One" is the story of Moira Fitzgerald, a fifteen-year-old rebellious, obnoxious, and rather rude young lady who happens (quite against her will) to be a witch. Because of what she is able to do, she and her two cousins, Braidy and Brody Attison, find themselves kidnapped because of something (or someone) called Dumari. Freeing themselves from their abductors, the kids find themselves in New York City and far from their homes and families in Boston. Exploring New York and making it back to Boston is a grand (and occasionally dangerous) adventure, but with the aid of magic and a few unexpected friends, Moira learns some critically important life lessons about who and what she is -- and can become. Exceptionally well written, "The Dumari Chronicles" stands out in the field of action/adventure fantasy because the characters, the language, and the settings are thoroughly American. "The Dumari Chronicles: Year One", introducing typical American teenagers who just happen to be witches and wizards, is highly entertaining and a popular addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections.

A Craving for Blood
Mark H. Walker
Privately Published
9781601450081, $15.95

A Craving for Blood is a science fiction novel set in the year 2341. Earth has become a multi-planet confederation policed by the implacable Terran Defense Force. The TDF's weapons include tanks, power-armored troops, and soldiers bred specifically to pilot its biped weapon platforms. These Purebreds are faster, smarter, and larger than natural humans, making them the ultimate warriors - or are they? Genetic engineering has also crafted the ultimate Assassins, superhumanly fast, strong, psychically enhanced - and bred to be vampiric, ensuring their passion for their work through a relentless craving for blood. The inhabitants of a small planet named Sediana resist the Terran Defense Force; their leader is an Apache warrior, former U.S. army general, who wrestles against the lust for blood genetically programmed into her Assassin body. A grim yet utterly addicting saga to the very last page, especially recommended for fans of vampire stories.

In Search of Mr. Wonderful
Monica Bouvier
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, 515, Parker, CO 80134
1837 Alder Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508
9781432704070, $24.95 1-888-672-6657

African-American author Monica Bouvier has drawn from the well of her own life experiences to present In Search of Mr. Wonderful: The Journey From Myth to Madness, a romance novel following Syvanna Lee, a women in search of everlasting love. Her blindness to her own inner wisdom leads to trouble; each new paramour she courts reveals a little more about herself, yet she finds it difficult to confront the truth that she must love herself in order to love others. A dark secret from her childhood ultimately threatens to destroy her, in this tempestuous and ultimately heart-touching journey of self-discovery.

Margaret Lane

Mark's Bookshelf

Book of Blah: Random Thoughts for Boring Days
Pamela Aye Simon, M.S., R.D. ,L.D.
Warren Publishing Inc.
19722 One Norman Boulevard Suite 220-244 Cornelius, NC 28031
9781886057265, $19.95

The Book of Blah is a refreshing change from the thousands of authors each year who position their newest tome in an overtly intellectual manner. Ms. Simon's book doesn't take itself or life too seriously, and with bypassing the clamor for literature, creates an island in everyday life for the reader filled with hah's, laughs, and smiles. Every reader needs more of these precious respites from stresses bombarding us at every turn of our daily routine.

Chapters cover: Family, Home, Maturing, Sanity, Electronics, Business, Sports, Diet, Clothing, Shopping, Behind the Wheel, Mother Earth, Pondering's, and Final Thoughts.

The author is a Masters Level Registered Dietitian and Lifestyle Coach. Assimilating what she has seen and heard from stressed-out clients, complied many diverse joyful exercises of humor into a book which is a refresher course in laughter. Plus, this new book offers a needed pick-me-up from life, and a luxurious one at that. I wasn't too sure about the book, but after reading it, it did provide an awakening of sorts, I realized I needed more books like this one. It isn't mind food, it's soul food, and it tastes damn good.

Emilia and the Second World War
Emilia Niesluchowski
RoseDog Books
701 Smithfield St., 3rd Flr., Pittsburgh, PA 15222
9780805986655 $9.00

Much has been written about first-hand experiences during the Second World War. But, a new short story by a then child, Emilia Niesluchowski, illuminates the hardship and vagabond lifestyle any refugee encounter. The author began her life in Poland, however when the war broke out at when she was nine, was first relocated by Russian soldiers to Siberia. From the frozen tundra of Siberia she was moved to another cold town in Russia, then to Uzbekistan, from there to Krasnovock on the Caspian Sea, on to Iran, at the wars end to England, finally immigrating to the United States.

Besides the constant adaptation to new surroundings and minimal living conditions, the war through a child's perspective is heart wrenching. Add the multitudes of unknowns, life and death encounters, and the loss near the war's end of her father, Ms. Niesluchowski recounts in a simple, unembellished style, the cold reality of war. Only a child and young adult in years, the author in life experiences lives as an adult. Recommended reading for those whom want to read a new perspective on a chilling period in world history.

Mark Nash

Molly's Bookshelf

Atlas' Revenge Another Mad Myth Mystery
Robyn and Tony Di Tocco
Brainstorm Publications, Inc.
9780972342926 $11.95

Intriguing Read.......... Happy to Recommend ............. 5 Stars

Following the success of their highly regarded 'The Hero Perseus', the first in the Mad Myth Mystery series writers Robyn and Tony DiTocco have tackled another Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction work based on Ancient gods and their doings.

We first met PJ as a sixteen year old when he was summoned by Zeus to help in the defeat of the Medusa. This time twenty year old PJ Allen is a college student and part time graphic artist for a movie studio. Beginning another adventure as a descendant of the Greek gods Perseus and Hercules the tale begins with a bang. We find him with snowboard locked to his boot, surging toward a sharp 90 degree twist that becomes a straight vertical drop. This particular stretch is the only thing that is preventing PJ from conquering the mountain known as Atlas' Revenge.' In an effort to forestall yet another inevitable crash PJ grasps for anything and finds only a broken branch, slow mo tumbling and an ominous rumbling coming straight for him. With a gasp PJ awoke. For three nights now he has had the same disturbing dream. Maybe his recent assignment is getting to him; PJ has been reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged for class. PJ has lived in Southern California for three years now, and there is nothing resembling the curve or drop like the one in his dream. He has spent hours in the Malibu waves and has snow boarded the frozen surf of Olympia mountain many afternoons.

Following an auto crash on the Santa Monica Freeway PJ and old friend Andi Martin are again thrown together. Andi is now president of her clothing design company. PJ is attending college when he is not surfing waves or snow.

Without warning PJ is confronted with an all too familiar visit from Hermes the Messenger God. The 6.2 earthquake shaking Andi and PJ down the hillside following their auto crash has had many repercussions; villages in the Philippines are under water, in France skiers by the hundreds are isolated by snow and ice, tsunami, avalanche, earthquake are all the result of Atlas' tricking Hercules into taking the burden of holding up the heavens.

Zeus has sent for PJ's immediate return, Hercules can continue to hold the heavens for about three weeks and then the sky will fall. Hercules has been tricked by Atlas into holding up the heavens however he is becoming weaker and is losing control. PJ must complete the Twelve Labors initially assigned to Atlas, then he must locate Atlas, who has vanished and get him back on duty all before Hercules folds and the world collapses.

Travel into the vortex to meet with Zeus, homing arrows, an awakened lion, twelve labors to complete before Hercules is spent. PJ is not an always willing warrior as with Zeus's counsel he duels nefarious mythic gods and creatures. Many of the old familiar Greek mythical characters and exploits are adroitly integrated into the action.

When he is not performing heroic feats, decked out in magical armaments supplied by Athena, PJ is a pretty common fellow who attends class regularly and actually studies and still has time for surfing, snow-boarding and dating. This action packed, at times zany tale holds reader interest with its fabled characters, enlightened references, and dazzling quests often enjoyed by today's young people as they delve into role-playing video games.

Writers Di Tocco have crafted a fast paced spell binder sure to intrigue the strong middle grade reader, high schooler who is 'into' fanciful works and adults who just plain like a good tale wound around Olympus. PJ Allen is a strong character built around a real kid. Parents will enjoy reading of him and his adventures. Appearing first in 'The Hero Perseus,' PJ has matured and continues to succeed in spite of himself.

Atlas' Revenge Another Mad Myth Mystery is a polished work, filled with absorbing characters, stimulating settings, a compelling storyline and nicely detailed settings. Transitions between the mythical and present are handled well, PJ's confusion and distress are felt by the reader. The writers Di Tocco displays an perspicacious adroitness for taking mundane situations as well as the not so mundane and weaving them into a real attention grabber. From the opening lines the reader is drawn into the tale, moved at breakneck speed into, through and beyond amazing situations, states of affairs and affairs.

The Di Toccos have done their homework, the ancient gods are well presented. High school students who are bored to death with 'ancient reading' will find themselves pulled into the tale, interest held fast and learning something of a fascinating period of time and myth.

I was sent a hard bound, library copy for review. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend, hope to see more of PJ soon.

About Face: Odyssey of an American Warrior
Col. David H. Hackworth, Julie Sherman, Ward Just
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 11020
9780671695347 $24.95

Excellent Read......... Highly Recommended …. 5 stars

About Face chronicles the experiences of the youngest colonel serving during the Vietnam circumstances. The book itself begins in February 1951 with Hackworth facing the enemy in Korea and is divided into twenty-three chapters. About Face follows David Hackworth the length of his military journey from the days when as a young soldier nick-named 'Combat' he charged into the face of the enemy along a path to near ruin at the hands of disgruntled superiors. The work includes maps, author's notes, a foreword by Ward Just, an Epilogue and an Appendix including a Glossary, Index and final notes.

About Face is a well written page turner presented in language clearly understood by the typical reader. The book is certain to interest those who have any link at all to the Vietnam situation faced by so many men and women from our country. The book helps to demarcate what happened, when and to whom.

I first read About Face written by Col. David Hackworth during the late 1980s. I found it particularly helpful in helping me...a woman with little knowledge of anything military, understand better my children's dad, a land based Viet Nam combat vet and the problems he had to deal with before his death.

As the wife of yet a second Viet Nam combat vet, special forces, I suggest this book for anyone who wants a better understanding of the debt of gratitude and respect we citizens owe those who served during the action in Vietnam and those who willing to serve in The United States Military today.

Already Asleep
A. D. Tarbox & Julie Olson
Moo Press
c/o Keene Publishing PO Box 54, Warwick NY 10990
9780976680567 $12.95

Interesting read … Highly Recommended … 5 stars

Son John is asleep in his bed, one shoe on and one shoe off, and so is daughter Bess, the little princess. Silly dog Zack is asleep on his back on the floor and out in her pen, belly in the mud, so is my pig Lynn. My pony Paul is asleep out in his stall and in his recliner in the house, so is my husband Lee. Not only that, out in the yard around the house, the raccoon, the squirrel and the cat, everyone, is asleep. Goodnight!

Author Tarbox and Illustrator Olson have crafted a delightful 'read to me Mama' book for the youngest set. Illustrations are child oriented, writing narrative is presented in the sing song rhyme so enjoyed by little ones. Especially because we live in rural Oklahoma where the John Deere logo is common, the John Deere cap worn by dad in the book was noticed, and recognized with interest filled eyes. 'My dad has a John Deere cap just like the dad's!' The theme presented in the book is one with which little folk can readily understand and identify as they snuggle on dad's lap for 'reading time' before going off to bed in the evening.

I took Already Asleep to school to read to my resident critics… my fourth grade class. They take their job as 'critical listeners' very seriously, listened carefully and offered comments. 'Little kids will really like the rhymes,' 'the little kids will like the illustrations,' 'I'm going to choose this one to read to the four year olds when we go to their class.' My 'grown up' nine year olds listened raptly and enjoyed the illustrations as I read the story. They all expressed interest in the tale and pleasure in listening to the narrative. They did, somewhat reluctantly, admit the work is not really meant for 'grown up' nine year olds, 'it is a little younger for us, but my little brother would really like it.'

Already Asleep is well written, illustrations follow the narrative well and the book product itself is a sturdy, nicely bound edition designed to hold up to repetitive readings while held in little hands as well as repeated use in the classroom. The work has a place on the classroom reading shelf, the home and school library and the pleasure reading shelf.

A 'read to' book for the youngest set 3 - 6 year olds, Already Asleep is a 'read with some help' for the reading 6 - 7 s, and a 'I'll read to you' for the 9 - 11 year olds.

Already Asleep is an edition I will keep for my own classroom, where it will be chosen, during this the beginning weeks of school, for pleasure reading during our free reading time. As the year progresses and our interests become even more 'grown up' the work will be read with a view for taking to the four year old kindergarten when we begin our 'reading across the grades' program.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Bags Out At Seven: A Tale of Too Many Cities
Robert Globerman
Inkwell Productions
9780974970103 $17.50

Entertaining read………. Highly Recommended

Bags Out at Seven is a fast paced series of 16 chapters describing some of the adventures and misadventures experienced by Robert Globerman during his days as a 'travel leader.'

Globerman, twice named Teacher of the Year in Ossining, New York was a recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship. Following his winning of the Fulbright Fellowship in addition to a Smith Mundt Grant to instruct and educate teachers in Israel; Globerman discovered he got so much pleasure from travel that he founded 'Globetrottours, Inc.' It was a move which was to provide much grist for his future writing.

The book is a whimsical autobiographical work in which writer Globerman provides the reader a peek at some of incidents which might be expected by the naive while on tour. Chapter headings include: Debt On The Nile, Cape May or May Not and My Underwear Is All Over The World each of which provides chuckle filled reading. Terrible toilets, bus breakdowns, flight problems, in fact, everything that might go wrong and probably will while traveling are to be found between the covers of Globerman's paperback.

The reader will read about some charming travelers in addition to many Globerman might have wished had missed the flight. Chapters: A Few Bumps, Strained Bedfellows, and What Will I Miss will keep the reader giggling even as they ponder whether they really want to schedule a trip for themselves anytime soon!

Bags Out At Seven: A Tale of Too Many Cities is a real page turner from the opening chapter entitled: From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Trips, right down to the last page of chaper 16: And Now? The work is a fun read for a lazy afternoon spent reading in the hammock or sitting in the porch swing enjoying a good book during a gentle rain.

The Bar Watcher
Dorien Grey
GLB Publishers
1028 Howard St #503 SF CA 94103
9781879194793 $14.95

"To those who not only hear the different drummer within themselves, but dare to march to his beat.." When egotistical former porn star, Barry Comstock, is found laying lifeless with his chest pierced by his own letter opener in the office of his members only bathhouse; PI Dick Hardesty is the local police department's leading suspect. Heck, he is their single suspect. His fingerprints are on the murder weapon and the police are sure they need not look any further.

PI Hardesty's town has changed a bit since abhorrent, homophobic Chief Rourke retired, however it has not changed enough. The fact that PI Hardesty was seen by various witnesses in another part of town at the time the murder took place seems to be making little impression on the local constabulary. It does not take PI Hardesty long to recognize that he is going to have to track down the real killer darn fast.

Luckily Comstock's partners are not nearly so conceited as was Comstock. Attorney Glen O'Banyon, one of Comstock's partners, offers Hardesty a contract paying Hardesty customary fee in exchange for his work on the matter. With PI Dick Hardesty on the job it does take long for the matter to be resolved.

Dorien Grey has done it again! The Bar Watcher is the third in this stirring series of thrillers featuring the affable Dick Hardesty. Grey's characters continue as entertaining and credible as those found in his two previous works. Many of the old company as well as many of the old familiar haunts reappear here in this narrative.

Hardesty and his chums are a likeable group, it is like meeting with old friends to once more read another of the works in the series. The Bar Watcher is a fast paced, action propelled account filled with treachery, characters you love to hate, and others you really have to like in spite of themselves.

Writer Grey has brought us one of his excellent 'grab the reader from the opening line and hold them tight right down to the last paragraph' works. Discussion between the characters is fluid, plausible and filled with hullabaloo. The promise of the narrative is fulfilled by Writer Grey's attention to detail.

The reader comes away with a sense of having been in Hardesty's neighborhood, and working right alongside Hardesty as he disentangles this inexplicable case.

Watch those red herrings. Writer Grey has moved beyond crafty and is getting down right sneaky in his presentation of those little roadblocks! Happy to know Dorien is already working on the next in the series. Keep 'em coming Dorien!

Excellent read, highly recommended.

Carl Melcher Goes To Vietnam
Paul Clayton
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312329037 $5.99

Compelling Read ……….. Recommended

Carl Melcher Goes To Vietnam takes us along on a expedition with illusory draftee Carl Melcher. In 1968 when much of this country was in tumult and was roiling with both racial stress and a loud anti war movement; Carl discovers members of his new military unit are not dissimilar to those he left at home.

This 'coming of age' sequence of events crafted by author Clayton presents a pretty likeable, even if naive youngster who, along with most of contemporaries is little prepared to face the harsh reality of war. Carl faces the sporadic tediousness and the tension, the changeable nature of the situation, the enemy often largely concealed and the worry for forming friendships only to have them end during a blast of gunfire during battle quite as I have heard my Green Beret veteran husband and other vets discuss.

Analogous to David Hackworth's revelations in his book, About Face, writer Clayton points out, the 'coping with the situation' difficulties the men faced while stationed there in the South East Asia jungle were not necessarily left behind when those soldiers returned to 'The World.

Clayton presents a bit of reflection into why so many more Vietnam vets seem to have returned to the US ill prepared to reenter life they had left behind when they were sent to the battle zone. This is a book I will suggest to my sons who never had a chance to really know their father. This work may help them better understand the man who screamed in his bed all night, each night, before he died at age 37 while they were still children.

On the pages of Carl Mercer Goes To Vietnam we are told that Writer Clayton draws on his own experience in Vietnam in an effort to present the reader with understanding of what it was to be 'in country' during a most difficult of times. Men on DEROS, yearly rotation, had little time to become accustomed with the horror of war or the reality that much of time is spent; not in ducking bullets, but in sheer boredom of 'garrison duty' out in whatever camp where they lived in the jungle.

The work begins slowly, is told in the first person and picks up speed as the reader continues reading. Carl Melcher is the Everyman soldier. He is in Vietnam, not by choice, but since he is there, is determined to see it through. New buddies, bombing runs and mortar fire all are part of the storyline.

As with every Nam veteran I have known Carl Melcher; has a fatalistic attitude regarding life and those who are capable to command men into war. Politicians posturing before the cameras while taking part in 'peace talks,' are accorded little regard by men who hope only to survive their tour of duty fighting a faceless enemy and know they will return to a fickle and unsympathetic populace. Carl Melcher does survive and returns home where he cannot forget the friends who did not.

Carl Mercer Goes To Vietnam is a coming of age story told by Clayton who was himself only twenty years old when he was drafted and sent to Nam. The narrative is presented in a way that will aid the reader into a broader understanding of why Vietnam was so different from other wars.

Veterans, general readers and even young people who have heard a little about the conflict but are not well versed in the political mess that permeated the whole situation will all come away with a little more perspective into that difficult period in our nation's history.

Carl Mercer Goes To Vietnam is filled with the same excellent writing as is found in writer Clayton's Calling Crow series.

Happy to recommend. The book is a good addition to the personal reading list, classroom use in high school and community college English Lit classrooms and for history buffs, especially those who want to know more of the years of the Vietnam conflict.

Molly Martin

Paul's Bookshelf

Businessman's Prison
J.B. Gates
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, #300, Austin, TX 78758
0975592203 $14.99

Magnetize Corporation, based in Atlanta, was once a Wall Street darling. Owned and run by the MacBerger family, under Chairman Richie, the newest MacBerger to run the company, a big series of job cuts has led to financial problems and Wall Street concern. Richie hires a well-known turn-around specialist named L. Randall Morgan to be the new CEO and turn the company around. By the way, Richie is an arrogant you-know-what who only cares about the money and prestige of being Chairman, and Randall (based on a real person) has his own personal bodyguards and brings new meaning to the word "paranoid."

Unsuspecting and loyal employee Michael Wayne mistakenly gets an email from Randall, mentioning something called Operation Sherman (as in Civil War General Sherman, famous for sacking Atlanta). This leads to a wave of covert operations, double-crossing and looking over one's shoulder among all senior management, especially among Doug, passed over for the Chairman's job, and Sully, an ex-Marine with plenty of shadowy "connections." Randall calls together all Division Managers for a very mandatory weekend meeting. At the meeting, he doesn't urge or suggest, but requires an immediate huge jump in profits, and a similar drop in expenses. One of the managers is publicly humiliated by Randall, and is found dead the next day, under mysterious circumstances. Richie takes a lot of Randall's bullying and browbeating, but one thing he won't tolerate from anyone is bad-mouthing of Belinda Sue, his mother and Magnetize's biggest shareholder. She reeks of Old Money, and is the sort of person who would be at home on a Southern plantation 150 years ago. Two different corporate planes, containing Richie and Randall and Doug and Sully, take off for Bermuda, but only one arrives.

The authors have years of experience in corporate America, and it shows. This is a really interesting book about arrogance at the top, and the middle ranks who believe in the company, or just want to make it to retirement. Was Enron ever like this? Well worth reading.

Liberty in Troubled Times
James Walsh
Silver Lake Publishing
111 East Wishkah Street, Aberdeen, WA 98520
1563437783 $17.95

The terrorist attacks of 2001 have been much less dangerous to the average American than the massive government grab for power that happened in the succeeding months. The author asserts that liberal/conservative or Democrat/Republican no longer apply. The new designation should be statist/libertarian.

Libertarians believe that liberty is about fundamental rights, while statists feel that liberty is about quality of life. Libertarians feel that self-ownership is vital to human dignity; government should adopt a laissez-faire attitude as much as possible. Statists believe in a powerful central government that delivers quality of life to the people. This book explores a number of present-day political issues from a libertarian perspective.

The right to privacy is an important check on the power of the state. It should be the right of every citizen to have, or not to have, a faith. But that does not mean that all mentions of religion should be removed from public life. Libertarians need to do abetter job of convincing the public that an open-border policy and a vibrant immigrant population is a sign that the economy is growing and that arising tide lifts everyone. Among the state's few, legitimate purposes is to ensure safety for its citizens. Risk-free existence is not possible, but steps can be taken to stop groups that will destroy the citizens of a free state if they get the chance. A proof that the Patriot Act is a bad law is that the best argument by its defenders is that it is not used as often as people think. The state should get out of the marriage business; offer civil unions to any qualifying couple and leave the granting of marriage to churches. Prohibitions of drugs like marijuana area bad idea for several reasons: prohibiting the behavior of reasonable adults erodes self-ownership, passing laws that won't be enforced leads to a disregard for all laws, and laws that "send a message" misuse the state's powers and are redundant.

Perhaps it is time for a different way of looking at politics in America; the present system doesn't work very well. The author says that it is not easy to be a libertarian, but for those who are interested, this book is an excellent place to start. It is recommended for everyone, including that who simply want to know what libertarianism is all about.

Who's Watching You? The Chilling Truth About the State, Surveillance, and Personal Freedom
Mick Farren & John Gibb
The Disinformation Company Ltd.
163 Third Avenue, #108, New York, NY 10003
9781932857573 $13.95

This book looks at the current state of privacy in America, which has been steadily eroded by the threat of terrorism and the climate of fear encouraged by the state. It is not a pretty picture.

The carrying of a national ID card, implanted with an RFID chip that could record a person's movements, and which may have to be produced on request of any representative of the state, is not some vague possibility; in May 2008, it will become a reality. The average shopper is more than willing to give up their personal information to retailer's databases, some of which are more comprehensive than those held by governments, all in exchange for a discount of a few percent. Have you ever heard of ECHELON? It has certainly heard of you. It is a worldwide electronic monitoring system that aims to check all phone calls, faxes, telexes and emails between Europe, America and the Middle East, supposedly for possible terrorist activity.

If there is such a thing as The Database that contains all information on the average American, it is probably the one held by Atlanta-based ChoicePoint Corporation. They get their information from many different sources, and sell it to many different types of clients. If the information on a person's report is faulty, and there is a good chance that something on the report is wrong, oh well. ChoicePoint does not consider itself subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which gives Americans a chance to fix faulty information. America is not the only country that has sophisticated spy satellites in orbit, able to take very detailed pictures of practically anything. A new industry has emerged around home-based surveillance, like nanny-cam's that work over the Internet, and systems to monitor and record everything your kids do online.

What can be done? The most that can be done by the average person is to keep any more privacy from disappearing; that which is already gone is gone, it is not coming back. The book contains a list, with web addresses, of American and British groups working on the privacy front.

This book is better than excellent. It is more than a little spooky, it is easy to read, and is highly recommended, even for those who know their way around the worlds of privacy and surveillance.

The Old Power Returns
Morven Westfield
Harvest Shadows Publications
P.O. Box 378, Southborough, MA 01772-0378
9780974174075, $15.95

Set in eastern Massachusetts, this takes place in the 1980s computer industry. Alicia is a young woman who recently fought a vampire named Wesley at a high-tech company. She had help from a modern-day witch named Matricaria (by day, she is a fellow computer named Meg). Wesley died in a major explosion at the company. Or did he?

In this book, Alicia and Meg are at a new employer. Meg has become part of a coven, and both she and Alicia still feel that same ancient, evil hunger, like something, or someone, is coming for them. Perhaps Wesley is still alive, or it could be Frederick, a recently living person, now a vampire, now living in the same town. He patrols Route 9, the main thoroughfare through town, needing a constant supply of, preferably female, blood. His victims don't turn into vampires, but they have no memory of their encounter with him.

Because of their past dealings with Wesley, the coven doesn't hesitate to take steps to prepare for whatever is coming. They prepare a number of spells and protections. Alicia is at the center of all this, and has become a sort of junior member of the coven, so she is taught some Wiccan methods of protection.

This is a rather "quiet" novel, but a really good novel. The author certainly knows her way around Wicca; this is almost more of a Wiccan novel than a vampire novel. For the squeamish, this is not a very bloody novel. It is very much worth reading.

Paul Lappen

Richard's Bookshelf

My Nickel's Worth
Phillip A. Nickel, Ph.D.
Trafford Publishing
6E -2333 Government Street, Victoria, BC 8T 4P4 Canada
1412096995 $26.00

A Potpourri of Observations, Opinions, and Experiences

Reminiscent of Tom Brokaw's observations on small town life, Phillip A. Nickel mixes quirky humor with straight forward annotations. He uses a mix of warm friendly humor with and edge of irreverent mockery. Phil writes with a unique sense of word play that had me rolling with laughter. I enjoyed this description "the highest point in the state of Kansas being equal to a mosquito bite on the rear of an elephant," and visualizing Phil taking a frozen stiff diaper from the clothes line in mid winter Kansas, then folding it in readiness for a quick change on baby Mark.

Whether describing details of parasitology, shaking hands with sports and movie celebrities, family outings at the beach, or relating class room shenanigans, Phil entertained, informed, and kept me engrossed ready to enjoy his next unpredictable adventure. After completing 12 years of college and post graduate work, Phil received his PH, D. degree in Entomology.

By halfway through the book I had pretty well identified with Phil and thoroughly enjoyed his use and choice of words. I was left with a sense of his vulnerability when he shared insight into his personal feelings: "June of 1969 had brought me in the state of happiness to the Golden State, the land of opportunity. Over the next 20 years, however, pleasures and disappointments, clarity and confusion, accomplishments and failures, contentment and discontentment were to swing back and forth like the mechanical device in Edgar Allen Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum."

The impact of internal politics at the college, a difficult divorce, and the thought of career changes brought on a short period of depression. Before hitting rock bottom romance and the discovery of a soul mate, gave the needed impetus to pursue the promise and to discover new meaning to life. After several false starts, Phil was soon established in a new career that utilized his education and training, and provided new challenges. He began employment as an entomologist with Ventura County in the Environmental Health Department.

Retirement to a four acre picturesque home in the state of Oregon, Phil adjusts to life in the country wit the accompanying, deer, jackrabbits, moles, and squirrels. Opportunities for world travel round out the final chapters of Phil's hilarious account of getting full value of life from a Nickel.

Not only is this is a great book for your next air flight, vacation reading, or a few fun filled hours in your recliner but it can serve as a model for biographical writing. Phil provides ideal anecdotes for inclusion in laughing therapy sessions. Phil is assertive, witty, entertaining, and an idealist. In "My Nickel's Worth an Autobiography" Phillip A. Nickel provides full value for your reading investment.

Handling Employment for Bosses and Supervisors
Geoffrey H. Hopper
Robert D.Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781931741897 $21.95

Pitfalls and Problems of Employment Practices with Practical Pointers for Avoiding Disaster

Geoffrey H. Hopper, successful attorney, gained valuable lessons from his a background in business in the field of steel fabrication and through litigation in the area of employment and business law. "Handling Employment for Bosses and Supervisors" offers guidelines to improve employee moral, guidelines for reducing absenteeism, and negotiating litigation fees, while increasing productivity.

The book is designed to follow a natural progression beginning with a summary of "23 Factors Causing Employment Problems" and a brief look into the history of employment law. Geoffrey then explains what the reader should expect from reading the book. The chapters that follow are packed with practical proposals on subjects including: Employee training, evaluations, employee applications, screening, and interviews. The final chapters Hopper offers important guidelines for handling sexual harassment matters, violence in the workplace, employment practices, and suggestions for selecting expert legal counsel.

Geoffrey has a flare for humor. I particularly enjoyed the pithy quotes and sage advice, he included, from such diverse persons as Malcolm Forbes, Dolly Parton, Winston Churchill, and Abigail Van Buren. Hopper writes with clarity, as he articulates the pitfalls of employer practices and provides guidelines for handling human resources.

Supervisors, Employers and Individual employees will benefit from the important principles provided in "Handling Employment for Bosses and Supervisors." This is a "must read book" for every CEO, Human Resource Director, and Department Head.

Sand Dollar
Jane Louise Newhagen
Outskirts Press
Denver, Colorado
9781432701666 $14.95

Mary Thorne Randall's Search for Self Fulfillment: Key West in the Mid-19th Century

Jane Louise Newhagen has created a poignant, story. "Sand Dollar" is a remarkable fictional account of the life of Mary Thorne Randall. The novel portrays the struggles facing a woman in the middle years of the 19th Century. Randall is torn between a mother's devotion and the ebb and flow of marital love. Hers is stubborn struggle for independence and self fulfillment, Mary experiences happiness, tragedy, and final resolution.

The book is well researched and historically accurate. The story takes the reader from Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas to Key West, Florida. Newhagen presents social issues of the day. She deals with the plight of women, political pressures, and the conflict between the practice of medicine and alternative medicine. These are all skillfully woven into the narrative. Danger, adventure, and demanding conditions create an ongoing sense of suspense. Mary meets the challenges and unreasonable demands of life with her seafaring husband, Richard.

Newhagen has beautifully blends her creative imagination with her research in this absorbing literary novel. Her writing enables the reader to experience the senses of sight and smell, as you feel the oppressive and unbearable heat of Key West in the summer time. As I felt the humidity mixed with the pungent odors of fish and sweat prevalent in the summer air I sensed the oppressiveness Newhagen's characters must have experienced.

Jane Louise Newhagen writes with feeling, her plot is believable, her characters are genuine and multidimensional. The story is engrossing, entertaining, and informative "Sand Dollar" is certain to become a favorite historical fiction epic of life as it was lived throughout the early history of the Southern Keyes.

Developing a Mature Love
Burnell T. Williams, Sr.
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
1599790041 $10.99

Developing Holy Love Healthy and a Relationship

Apostle Burnell T. Williams Sr. in "Developing a Mature Love" provides the reader with a road map to fulfilling love in every realm of physical and spiritual. In Part I, Williams speaks about the progression of mature love. He uses the parallel of this love to that of a tree. He begins with the seed which he likens to Lordship love or "Agape" love, as it relates to God and Jesus Christ.

The root develops and is thought of as friendship love "Philia/Philos" love, a spiritual family love, or the body of Christ. The tree itself is kinship love, "Storge," the physical family, husband and wife. The fruit produces son-ship love, Eros, or fruit of the womb, children and offspring. The fruit also is equated with spiritual maturity, the Divine, or the fruit of the Spirit.

Part Two develops the yardstick for developing spiritual maturity. In this section Williams begins with Ruler-ship or Lordship. This includes love, joy, and peace. Stage two is citizenship or friendship love and includes longsuffering faithfulness, and self control. The ambassadorship or kinship phase adds kindness, goodness and gentleness.

Burnell Williams writes with directness and develops his material in an orderly progression. His writings are built on solid Biblical principles and his teaching is based on sound doctrine. Developing a Mature Love is written for Pastors, Bible teachers, family counselors. Laymen wanting a better understanding of attaining and maintaining healthy and holy love relationships will also benefit from this treatise.

Hijack at Malacca
Sydney D. Gould
Sydney Gould Publisher, Scottsdale, AZ
9780979800405 $17.95

Treachery, Avarice, and Homicide

In this action thriller "Hijack at Malacca" Sydney Gould takes the present day world oil crisis to develop a plot filled with political intrigue that leads to International outcomes. Yvonne Bakuna, a French secret service operative with Nigerian roots and Amari Okira, leader of the People's Movement of Nigeria are the central characters in this roller coaster ride of peril and suspense.

Raped as a child, Yvonne is determined to avenge herself upon the men who raped her. These men wore the Nigerian army insignia. The experience left her with an additional passionate desire to help resolve political plotting in Nigeria, where the secret pumping of oil and then charging inflated prices had taken its toll on the nation's economy.

Amari, head of the People's movement, has formulated a plan whereby crude oil will be traded for weapons to be used as bargaining chips with the government of Nigeria to ease the burden of the common man.

Yvonne was recruited by Amari to help him implement the operation. Jason Wells an American businessman, community leader and humanitarian with substantial resources, known for his philanthropist interests, was also enlisted to help in carrying out the plot. Jason was to arrange for a Canadian owned ship to carry out the planned transfer of Nigerian oil which was then to be taken by tanker to Singapore.

The plan backfired on Amari and Yvonne as they discovered Jason had betrayed them. Jason had his own plan to have the ship hijacked at Malacca. Jason would then be the majority benefactor of the operation.

Gould writes an exiting imaginative plot, has solid character development and uses fast paced dialog to carry the powerful plot forward. This is a non stop action adventure story with plot twists, clandestine meetings. It is a treacherous story of greed, murder, and allegiance to a cause, and includes courtroom drama.

Gould has done detailed research in his development of background material on the shipbuilding industry, on the politics and economy of Nigeria, on International law, the extradition process, police investigative procedures, and the parameters within the justice system. This thoroughness adds to the credibility of the story line, which includes romance, betrayal, greed and murder.

"Hijack at Malacca" is entertaining, enjoyable, suspenseful, and informative. I predict the book will soon become a topic for conversation among readers of this genre and that Stanley Gould will quickly become a household word in the homes of these readers of political action and legal thrillers.

Small Town Affairs
Joyce Brennan
Book Surge Publishing
9781419628337 $ 17.95

Romance, Censure, and Retribution

Olivia McDougle hastily left a promising career with an adverting agency in New York City to return to her home town, Rexford, Ohio. Olivia had been engaged to be married. When she discovered her fiance in a compromised liaison she was traumatized and ended the relationship.

She returned to the home of her Aunt Etta. Aunt Etta had raised Olivia ever since her parents were killed in tragic deaths. Shortly after returning to Rexford, Olivia became the editor of the local newspaper. Very soon after taking the assignment, she was confronted with a disastrous conflict with a local, influential, and powerful Judge Gillette, his arrogant daughter, and his acquiescent wife.

Joyce Brennan has a natural gift for blending a romantic novel, with ingredients of greed, misdirected political power and suspense into and intriguing page turner. The plot includes blackmail, vengeance, attempted murder, and the principle of integrity in news reporting, Joyce incorporates plot twists, sub plots, and dialog to keep the story moving to a suspenseful climax.

Joyce Brennan has created a cast of characters that grips the reader, and insures an audience that will be looking for a series to follow. The development of Olivia McDougle, Dr. Mitch James, a trio of Olivia's friends, and the townspeople of Rexford all played an important part in the development of the story line. The easy flow of the narrative and the natural appeal of the locale add to the feeling of reality that I personally experienced throughout my reading.

"Small Town Affairs" is entertaining, suspenseful reading. The story introduces believable characters, a creative plot, and a natural dialog. The story lends itself to a follow up sequel. I am eager to hear more of the amazing events in the lives of Olivia McDougle and Mitch James, and am looking forward to Joyce Brennan's future books.

Richard Blake

Sullivan's Bookshelf

How to Talk about Books You Haven't Read
Pierre Bayard, Jeffrey Mehlman, translator
9781596914698 $19.95

This book is a big put-on by a well-known French writer who wrote, among other reads, WHO KILLED ROGER ACKROYD?

Of course, one could not and should not talk about books one hasn't read yet. You'd soon be in a literary mind field. But the author glibly tells how to talk about a volume as if one had read it. He suggests mainly doing so with generalities of literary criticism, talking about the author, and generally changing the subject of the book and/or the author. In short, his advice means it's no longer necessary to read a book!

He discusses volumes that one has never read, books only scanned, tomes actually read but long forgotten, and a whole host of other non-reading or non-remembering situations one might find oneself in at, say, a cocktail party or at a literary soiree.

This slim book is, in fact, a literary satire. At times it's tedious to read because above all else, a true satirist never blinks his eye or goes out of style or character. As such, however, it is still an excellent read. Though it may not make a reader roar out loud with laughter, every page will certainly bring a smile to a peruser's face.

Pierre Bayard is a French writer and Professor of French at the University of Paris VIII. He is also a psychoanalyst.

Recommended for the true lover of literature, especially of satire.

Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War
Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman,
Palgrave Macmillan
9781403981929 $24.95

Many jobs in the Iraq and Afghanistan War zone, which uniformed military personnel handled in previous conflicts, have now been contracted out to private companies. This was done with the express purpose of relieving the military of having uniformed supply, orlogistics, and service specialists. In this war, those troops could be reassigned to combat units thereby giving the Army more military 'trigger pullers.'

Alas, the problems that contracting has caused have actually taken many more trigger pullers away from their combat jobs and reassigned them to protect and to, in fact, fulfill these contractor's missions.

Private contractors had been hired for the same purposes by the Pentagon in the Bosnia conflict, which worked out well there for the military. But that was because no shooting was going on there. That, however, isn't the case in Iraq.

The problem came about when contracting firms, such as KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root) and Haliburton, or either firm's employees, found that doing their contracted jobs were too dangerous. This often meant work stoppages or threats thereof. Then and therefore, the Army or the Marines had to assist in protecting those contract workers, or actually drive the supply trucks and/or do the contractor's required work. Before these problems could be resolved, military combat units went without food, water, or ammo at crucial and dangerous times.

Another reason the Pentagon did private contracting was, ostensibly, to save the U.S. money. But in actuality, it proved far more costly than ever anticipated. Contractor billing abuses and cost overruns became rampant. Many in the military and some contractors themselves have blown the whistle on all that fraud only to find themselves accused of wrongdoing.

Moreover, many of the private contractors are former military combat personnel doing private military jobs, like guarding various Iraqis and select civilian personnel and politicians. The problem with this comes about because contractors are not subject to the military rules, regulations, or the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). So the Army and Marines have virtually no say or control over these contractors including those armed-to-the-teeth private guards. This has infuriated military commanders who are responsible for certain battlefields and geographical areas of the country they're fighting in.

The authors have reached the obvious conclusion that it is best to have the military handle its own supply and services work. Private personnel have no place being involved in military jobs, especially in a shooting War.

"If the war service industry is here to stay," write Rasor and Bauman, "how will we feed the contractor beast after Iraq and Afghanistan, in the absence of any hot war or occupation? Will the industry and those who benefit from it try to influence our politics and foreign policy, perhaps pushing the country into some new war of occupation , keeping the money flowing? [... ] These and other questions need to be answered so that the disheartening and disastrous stories you have read in this book are not repeated. Our troops were betrayed by the policy of privatization in Iraq. They deserve better from their government."

Dina Rasor is the author of THE PENTAGON UNDERGROUND. Currently, she's the chief investigator for Follow The Money (seeing where the funds approved for Iraq and Afghanistan are going). She lives in California.

Robert Bauman was a Department of Defense criminal investigator for over two decades. Nowadays, he's a Certified Fraud Examiner residing in California.


Five Wishes: How Answering One Simple Question Can Make Your Dreams Come True
Gay Hendricks
New World Library
9781577315988 $18.00

This short volume's author asks a very simple question: if you were on your deathbed and someone asked you, "Was your life a complete success?" You might reply: "Yes, my life has been a complete success," but you're far more likely to reply: "No, my life has not been a complete success."

If you said the last mentioned, you'd have a reason why. What would it be? Hendricks personally responded "My life was not a total success because I never enjoyed a long and happy marriage with a woman I adored and who adored me. I wish I'd enjoyed a lifelong blossoming of passion and creativity with a woman."

Then a stranger, he'd just met, who'd asked the first question, suggested that Hendricks should turn his response around and say, "My life is a total success because I'm enjoying a long and happy marriage with a woman I adore and who adores me. I'm enjoying a lifelong blossoming of passion and creativity with her."

Through the power of positive and grateful thinking, you will turn your life around. It worked for the author and for numerous others. So, it'll work for you, too! Of course, each individual will have different reasons for thinking that life was not completely successful. So each will state his or her situation and then turn those words into a positive statement (regardless of the current situation). Then their lack of success in life will be fulfilled. Yes, there'll be hurdles, but they can be overcome.

This read's author thinks that you should do this with five wishes and see what happens.

The story is told in a narrative form so it's not boring or overly academic. Suffice to say, this book is more than a cut above other books like it.

Gay Hendricks, the author, a male, has written over a dozen other inspirational books. He also gives seminars in person and teaches this book's type of wish fulfillment and success on the Internet.


James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights,
Richard Labunski
Oxford University Press
139780195181050 $28.00

Modest, soft spoken, and a poor public speaker, Madison was not amongst the first ranked in presidential capability, either. But he was one of the most important founding Americans. That's because of his guidance behind the scenes at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, his work in Virginia politics, and his efforts to bring about the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

"Madison understood," writes the author, "that when the Bill of Rights was introduced in the First Congress, it was intended to limit the powers of the new government and not secure the rights of citizens against the new government and not secure the rights of citizens against their states. The states, it was assumed, already provided sufficient protection for individual liberty in their constitutions, and if citizen's rights were abused, the public officials at fault would be held accountable and removed from office at the next election."

Madison would become a congressman, beating out James Monroe for the position, Secretary of State and, finally, a two-term U.S. President. The War of 1812 , with the British burning of the White House, would mar Madison's years there. His wife, Dolly, was, however, the hero of that event for saving items from the home, especially the famed portrait of George Washington. Madison would live on to age 85. He was succeeded in the presidency by his friendly old competitor James Monroe.

University of Kentucky Professor Richard Labunski teaches in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications. He holds a Ph.D. in political science and a law degree. This is his fifth book.


Jim Sullivan

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

Tell It Like It Is
Peg Kehret
Meriwether Publishing, Ltd.
PO Box 7710, Colorado Springs, CO 80933-7710
9781566081440 $15.95

Peg Kehret's book of monologues for teens is a well-rounded, useful book for both classroom use and competition.

The scenes range from funny (Too Much Homework pg. 3, Why It Took Me Four Hours to Make my Bed pg. 112) to sweet (Fatty Patty pg. 27, Grampa's Eyes pg. 36, Heavenly Dimes pg. 45) to sad (Ryan's Gun pg 53). Kehret has several monologues concerning animals (Doggie Delights pg. 8, Toto Tells the Truth About Oz pg. 15, The Day I Was a Dog pg. 25, Roadside Rescue pg. 36, A Home for Katie pg. 84) and rites of passages (The Tooth Fairy pg. 6, Goodbye, Old Jeans pg. 19, Changing Classes pg. 49). Also included in the offerings are historical monologues about segregation (Remembering Little Rock pg. 34), the depression (Dust Bowl Memories pg. 73) and Manifest Destiny (Wagon Train West pg. 94).

She crafts both contemporary and historical characters with a large range of emotion and enough flow and peak to each monologue that beginners to advanced students in speech and drama will be able to utilize all 50 monologues. Many of the monologues are genderless which makes them even more useful. Each monologue presents a unique character voice that will challenge teens without making it impossible for them to sound natural while speaking. This is an excellent book and would make a smart purchase in preparation for the upcoming forensics season

111 One-Minute Monologues: Just Comedy!
Kristen Dabrowski
Smith and Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755
9781575255804 $11.95

Unlike Dabrowski's August 2007 offering, My First Monologue, geared toward elementary school children, this volume, meant for teenagers, falls short of its mark. While the pieces are generally humorous, some are pathetic or make little sense (SAT pg. 6, It's a Mystery pg. 40, De-Constructive pg. 110, Illogical pg. 113) and many are so short there isn't a rise and crest to the piece rendering it useful for character work. The monologues are too short for competition and they are not challenging enough even for a classroom setting with beginners.

Though the volume isn't spectacular, Dabrowski does use subject matter that is important and interesting to teens including their appearance (Exhibit B-R-A pg. 8, Target pg. 10 and its companion piece on pg. 67 called Nice) and their worries (regarding smelling in Unprepared pg. 7 and about dating in Miss Taken pg. 9 and First Date pg. 82). The book is organized logically with the first half monologues for females and the second half monologues for males. Dabrowski should receive kudos for including a piece about a gay teen (Daytime Diva pg. 91) and she does include three laugh-out-loud scenes, which appeal to our sense of schadenfreude: Outcast pg. 20, Reflection pg. 21, and The Gym pg. 62. She captures the teen voice, but because she doesn't vary it, all of the pieces, both male and female, end up sounding the same. Other teen books currently on the market, such as Peg Kehret's Tell It Like It Is, have more positive aspects than Dabrowski's.

The Future Happens Twice: The Perennial Project
Matt Browne
Athena Press
Queen's House
2 Holly Road, Twickenham TW1 4EG, United Kingdom
9781844018307 $23.95

Never judge a book by its cover! The first installment of Matt Browne's sci-fi trilogy about colonization of an extra solar planet 43,000 years in the distant future is a surprisingly good read for a first time author, and potential readers should not be put off by the romance-inspired cover art.

The Perennial Project (the first in The Future Happens Twice trilogy), is a character-driven 700+ page novel that follows the exploits of scientists and their subjects in a super-secret government project that will send cryopreserved embryos into space to colonize an earth-like planet in order to perpetuate the human race after earth suffers a devastating catastrophe eliminating all biological life on the planet.

Browne does not fall into the traps many first time authors do. There is no info dump to give the reader back-story. Instead, the scenes show, rather than tell, the plot. Browne's scientific background and extensive research on the subjects in the book does not prohibit the layperson from understanding the complex subject matter. Browne explains complicated ideas without talking down to or pandering to the reader. This isn't a beach novel, but the reader does not need a master's in science to follow the ideas.

Browne does an excellent job of creating interesting, round characters. One of the absent-minded professors, Bruce, is described as wearing two different colored shoelaces. Equally telling is the description of the somewhat nefarious Rick Kanchana, "Kanchana pounded a fist on his heavy desk, barely missing a plate. He pushed away the plate on which lay an unfinished sandwich. There was bit off cheese protruding between two slices of dark bread. The indentations in the cheese looked almost like the cast of a cogwheel—the work of Kanchana's uneven teeth" (pg 449). Kanchana's teeth, of course, are a reflection of his twisted morals and ugly personality.

Readers may be worried that it will be difficult to follow the different storylines of the twins since three of the four sets have the same names. However, Browne integrates the various storylines and moves easily between them. It is neither difficult to follow nor is it confusing.

Though the theories presented about how our universe will end are pessimistic, the scenario presented is plausible, yet Browne balances the pessimism with the hope our scientific developments can save the human race.

While much of the 720 pages is new information, the basic plot of the story is repeated a few too many times. Mid-novel, when three sets of the twins are brought together, a recap of the previous 400 pages is given. Another 150 pages later, there is a similar recap for the fourth generation twins. It was prudent for Shakespeare to recap the plot for his audience because the crowd was rowdy and often didn't pay attention, but there is no need for Browne to do the same in the first novel.

The third and fourth generation twins are both born and live on a spaceship (unbeknownst to the third generation, it was a hoax), but Browne seems to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince his reader that personality is both genetic and environmentally determined, while real-life identical twins, even raised in the same environment and conditions can have very different personalities and reactions to stimuli. Each third and fourth generation twin also refers to their mate as "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" which makes it seem like Browne is reminding the reader the set of quadruplets are not related to each other so no incest is taking place.

Ironically, though the book is framed around Debrya Handsen, a linguist, most of the characters speak in the same voice. Diction isn't varied, and all of the characters, while all being brilliant, speak with similar patterns. This is a common problem with first time authors, and will hopefully be rectified in his future novels.

There is very little of the book devoted to the colonists when they arrive on the planet, and it would be exciting to learn more about the interesting feather trees, the ranaphibo (the six-legged, blue, misshapen hamster-like creature), the light-shy flying insects, and other phenomenon of planet Acantarius. Browne whets the reader's appetite with a wonderful scene of the Festivals of the Moons in the epilogue of the book, showing the human need for pomp and ceremony and creates an expectation of what will happen in the second volume (Human Destiny). This leaves the reader wanting more and eagerly anticipating the second volume.

Overall, the novel was a wonderful read for anyone high school age and above who is interested in planet exploration and plausible future scientific advances. Any reader of this novel will look forward to Browne's next installment.

Terrilyn Fleming

Theodore's Bookshelf

20th Century Ghosts
Joe Hill
Wm. Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061147975 $24.95 212-207-7000/800-242-7737,

Two years before the appearance of Joe Hill's first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, this collection of short stories appeared in a limited run in the UK. It is now available in the United States with an additional bonus story not available in the original volume. While the novel gathered wide praise and exhibited the author's talent for horror, the short stories are wide ranging—from fantasy to supernatural.

Each story is quite different from the others. The title story, "20th Century Ghosts," describes a girl who haunts a movie theater. "Better than Home" tells the relationship of an emotionally troubled boy and his father, the hot-headed manager of the Detroit Tigers. In another, "In the Rundown," a troubled young man encounters a woman in shock, the result of an attack during which one of her children was murdered.

The bonus short story, "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead," describes two ex-lovers who meet by chance as extras on a horror movie set. All the stories show the author's ability to characterize human emotions. They demonstrate not only his ability to portray the dark side, but also his imagination and creative ability.

Blonde Faith
Walter Mosley
Little, Brown & Co.
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316734592 $25.99 800-759-0190

Easy Rawlins treks through this 10th novel in the series brooding after the love of his life (I wonder how he knows, since there never is a woman he doesn't want to bed) who he kicked out of his home months previously. He goes from danger to danger and woman to woman wondering what he should do about Bonnie, whom he can't live without (or, apparently, with). So he plots along soul-searching, seeking a resolution to his dilemma.

But just to keep busy, Easy has to face a bunch of other problems, including a presumed police plot to kill his dangerous friend, Raymond (Mouse) Alexander, who is missing. Mouse is accused of murdering Pericles Tarr, who also is missing. Easy is asked to find both of them and sets out on the task. Along the way a sinister plot involving military or ex-military personnel emerges with bodies all over the place.

The novel is filled with all kinds of musings and observations on the fate of the Black Man despite the efforts of the Constitution and various laws meant to treat citizens with respect and equality. The discourses take the form of lectures and probably are disconcerting to the average reader. Mosley makes it look easy with sparkling dialogue and a fast-moving plot. But it ain't that easy, just an interesting mystery.

Sweetheart Deal
Claire Matturro
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060773250 $23.95 800-242-7737

Not only is Lilly Belle Clearly a neurotic vegetarian lawyer, but apparently she doesn't mind bending the rules to solve a mystery—like breaking and entering. But under the circumstances, perhaps such transgressions might be understandable. She makes her fourth appearance in this series under unusual circumstances. It seems her pill-popping mother is caught red-handed with a pistol by the police chief of the small Georgia town in which Lilly Belle was reared. At her mother's feet is a man who has been shot dead.

Called by her frantic brother Lilly Belle drives up from Sarasota where she is a law partner to Bugfest, GA [no, that's not a typo], to which she vowed never to return when she fled. There she finds her mother under police guard in the hospital, unconscious, sedated, and apparently someone is trying to murder her.

While the plot is well-thought out, its presentation is overly cutesy for my taste. That doesn't mean someone else might not be amused by the writing and dialogue.

The Critic
Peter May
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584583 $24.95 800-421-3976

The critic of the title was a renowned wine critic whose opinions in his newsletter could make or break a vintner. He disappeared four years previously and his body has just turned up dressed in the garb of the Brotherhood of the Order of the Divine Bottle, his body obviously having been immersed in wine. The case was one of five unsolved mysteries in a book, the first of which was solved by Enzo Macleod, a Scotsman now a professor of forensics in France.

Enzo now travels to Gaillac, a wine-producing section of France, to look into the critic's murder, and discovers a series of other seemingly unrelated disappearances. There are plenty of suspects and too few clues. Complicating the task are several problems, including the critic's secret code for evaluating the wines he tasted, as well as inter-personal relationships.

The novel is so well written, the background of the production of wine and descriptions of the elements so well done, that the reader is carried along in a heady manner. The solution to the various puzzles is so unexpected, that the reader is rewarded beyond expectations. "The Critic" is highly recommended.

Stone Cold
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780446577397 $26.99 800-759-0190

Two themes run through this latest tale of the Camel Club. Annabelle Conroy is being hunted by the ruthless casino owner she conned out of $40 million in The Collectors and Oliver Stone and the rest of the "Club" set out to protect her. Meanwhile, Oliver (John Carr in a former life) is haunted by his past as someone is murdering members of his CIA killing team and history comes home to roost, endangering him as well.

The story, while wildly entertaining and well-told, is to a large extent far-fetched. Of course, the author is entitled to use literary license to rewrite history and exaggerate conspiracies in high places, which is at the heart of the novel, at least as far as the Oliver Stone part is concerned. It's too bad that these reservations can't be revealed, since they would give away the plot.

Will there be a follow-up to "Stone Cold?" I certainly hope so. Highly recommended.

Red Mandarin Dress
Qiu Xiaolong
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312371074 $24.95 646-307-5151

The charming and inscrutable Inspector Chen series continues with, perhaps, Shanghai's first serial murder case. Torn between being a good cop and indulging his literary bent, Chen takes a brief vacation to research and write a paper on classical Chinese romantic literature. Meanwhile a murderer who dresses his female victims in a red Mandarin dress has emerged, and Chen also is asked to look into a politically charged real estate corruption case.

Somehow all these unrelated elements seem to tie together as Chen on the sidelines comes to grips with the various clues. As in previous entries in the series, the author uses the vast changes in China—culturally, economically, socially and otherwise--to provide an authenticity o the mystery. The failings of human nature, as well as the Cultural Revolution, play a pivotal part in the story.

While the plot doesn't move forward at a fast pace, it does develop step-by-step, leading Chen (and the reader) toward a logical conclusion. As usual, Chen is an iconoclast, using all his wiles including Freud (unheard of in China) to analyze the case, as well as fending off potential hazards of a political nature, avoiding offending the Party. Chen is no Charlie Chan, thank the Lord, but his knowledge of Confucian philosophy, Buddhism, contemporary China, Maoism and other aspects of Modern China is both informative and droll. A joy to read, and I can't wait for the next installment.

Broken Heartland
J.M. Hayes
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 East First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584521 $24.95 800-421-3976

The novels in this series all take place in the span of a single day. In this instance it is Election Day 2006, and Sheriff English, better known as "Englishman," is running for reelection in a hard-fought battle with a war hero backed by the religious right. But what a day it turns out to be. Before dawn, the only available deputy rams a school bus carrying the county teen choir (if, in fact, there is one).

The Englishman's brother, Mad Dog, rushes back from a quest in the Black Hills because of a premonition that the sheriff is in danger. The same fear brings Englishman's two daughters hurrying back from their colleges to keep their father safe. Then a Columbine-like massacre takes place in the high school. A private security force takes control of a nearby farm and holds Mad Dog and others prisoner there. One hectic day in the life of Benteen County, Kansas.

To review more about the plot would spoil the reading. Needless to say it's exciting and well worth reading, and is recommended.

Mark Coggins
Bleak House Books
923 Williamson St., Madison, WI 53703, 800-258-5830
9781932557534 $24.95,

August Riordan has now appeared in four novels in this series, and if Runoff is any indication, it is a wonder how he's made it this far. In the space of 260 pages, he is knifed, shot, hit with a meat cleaver down to the bone, jumps off roofs, among other hazards, and just goes on as if nothing had happened. But, I guess, all that goes with the territory of a PI. August also plays bass in a jazz quartet (also not so unusual; after all, Sherlock Holmes played the violin).

With nothing to do, August stakes out bank ATMs which are being hijacked, in an attempt to capture the thief and collect a posted reward. Then he is retained by the Dragon Lady, a rich Chinese woman with a finger in a lot of pots, including an art gallery and a newspaper, among other things. She has a beautiful daughter who provides an interesting diversion. August is asked to investigate the possibility that a Mayoral election was "fixed," causing the Chinese candidate to come in third. The two leading candidates, supported by opposing forces, then are in a runoff to take place in just a few days.

The assignment leads August and his sidekick in myriad directions and dangers. Various possibilities surround a new touch voting-screen system used for the first time in the City by the Bay. The novel is written in the customary attributes of the genre—the hard-boiled PI, the wisecracks, some sex and a twisting plot. Descriptions of San Francisco are excellent, and the writing is in keeping with the subject, including technical descriptions of the voting system. [The book has had a simultaneous release in trade paperback.]

Three Sisters
James D. Doss
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010, 646-307-5151
9780312364595 $24.95

There is a mesa near the Ute Reservation in Colorado with three rock formations resembling faces called Three Sisters. Then there are the three Spencer sisters in Granite Creek, all beautiful and rich. One of them, the eldest, Cassandra, is a TV psychic, whose live on-air visions predict almost simultaneously sordid events like arson and murder. The novel gets off to a slow start, with the author expounding on any number of topics, and little happens until the entry of Charlie Moon's aunt Daisy, a Ute Shaman whose investigative talents and inquisitiveness get an assist from the spirit world, enters the scene.

Moon, a rancher and part-time tribal investigator, makes his 12th appearance in this series. With the help of his best friend, Scott Parris, and his aunt, the road to solving the various mysteries is enabled. The first of these begins with the chilling death of the youngest sister. Then there is the question of how the psychic sister achieves her visions. And there are others.

To my way of thinking, the author's writing style is overblown and too cute. On the other hand, there are many amusing pieces of dialogue or asides throughout the book. Despite my reservation, I did enjoy reading the novel, and would recommend others do so also.

Person of Interest
Theresa Schwegel
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010, 646-307-5151
9780312364267 $24.95

The dual plot line in this novel, combining the trials and zeal of an undercover cop and the effects of the job on his wife and daughter, make for a poignant and gripping tale. The story centers on the human aspects in a highly charged and moving story in which Craig McHugh, a Chicago detective, goes beyond the last mile in attempt to gather information on an Asian gang distributing bad narcotics.

His wife, Leslie, is at the center of the plot, as she struggles to come to grips with the effects of the conflicts inherent in his duties, which he has always tried to keep separate from his family life. But when she discovers he is withdrawing money from their savings account and sleeping in a seedy hotel, and suspects he is having an affair, she reaches the breaking point. Unknown to her, the money which is being provided to him by the CPD to continue his cover as a poker player in the rear of a Chinese take-out has run dry, but he won't give up the task. The hotel of course is part of his cover.

Person of Interest is a superb follow-up to the author's Edgar-winning first novel. It portends even better things to come, and is highly recommended.

Expletive Deleted
Jen Jordan, editor
Bleak House Books
923 Williamson St., Madison, WI 53703
9781932257558 $24.95 800-258-5830

This collection of short stories is built around a theme: use of "dirty" language. It includes an introduction by Mark Billingham, a spirited, if self-serving, defense of the use of the "F" word by authors.

The parade starts off with Laura Lippman's "A Good **** Spoiled," a title that could have stood on its own without resorting to the theme's requirements either in the title or in the text. Surprisingly two of the entries—by Otis Twelve and Libby Fischer Hellman—conclude in exactly the same way. Other authors include: Ken Bruen, Charlie Huston, Nathan Singer, Anthony Neil Smith, Jason Starr, Sarah Weinman, John Richards, and Reed Farrel Coleman.

The trouble with such a theme is the forced nature of the stories. Some are good, others not up to par. One might say the concept was interesting, but something was lost in the execution.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Soarer's Choice
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765355591, $7.99, 576 pages

This final novel of the Corean Chronicles is full of action and change. Major Mykel seeks to do his duty as a Cadmian officer and protect his men, while Alector Submarshall Dainyl advances up the ladder towards a future he could never have expected.

Mykel's sent off to distant Iron Stem as Dainyl becomes Marshal of the Myrmidons. The time is approaching for the transference of the Master Scepter and political unrest is widespread. The power struggle between the high Alectors erupts and the ancient Talent creatures of the planet, the Soarers become involved. Dainyl and his wife, even Major Mykel can't avoid the tide of unrest. The Soarers warn both Dainyl and Mykel that the time's coming when they must link with the planet or die. Neither man under stands what that means until it's almost too late.

I loved Soarer's Choice, but wished there had been more contact between the two protagonists. The story's twists and turns and a solid plot never let me down for a minute. It's one of those books that you can't stop reading and when you've finished you want more. I can never get enough of Modesitt's books. The other books in this series include: Legacies, Darknesses, Scepters, Alector's Choice and Cadmian's Choice.

Laurel Dewey
ATN Publishing
561 Shunpike Road, Sheffield, MA 01257
9781884820854 $19.95,

Jane Perry's a hard-nosed Denver Homicide detective. The recent brutal murder of a family and her failure to protect them still haunts her. Just as she's coming unhinged, a child enters her life. Little Emily Lawrence witnessed the murder of her father and mother, but can't remember anything about it. Jane's boss wants her to find out what the child saw. Jane's now in charge of Emily and she's not happy about it. It's a tricky business filled with danger, but Jane and Emily have a psychic connection that will link them forever.

Perry's taking care of Emily didn't seem like a great idea to me. Here's a woman who smokes like a chimney and is an alcoholic to boot. Then there's the constant swearing and bad attitude. I know this is the person I'd want taking care of my child.

Understanding what circumstances helped to shape Jane into such a person kept me from disliking her. She's the product of a monstrous, self-centered and abusive father who never performed a kind act in his life. The woman had to be tough just to survive. She's a character that you like most in the moments when she's most vulnerable and you see her true character shine through.

Protector is Laurel Dewey's debut novel, and a fine one it is.

The Innocent Mage
Karen Miller
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316067805 $6.99

Young Asher is the son of a fisherman and the youngest of seven sons. Unappreciated he leaves home determined to become wealthy so he can return and care for his aging father.

Others have been waiting for his arrival and his future will not be what he expects. In exchange for aiding a prince, he's given a job in the prince's stable. He's unaware that he's given the job so members of a magical group called the circle can keep an eye on him. Asher's importance to the future survival of magic and life itself soon becomes clear to the reader.

All that separates the kingdom from destruction by pure evil is the King's weather working. When the king's betrayed by his best friend, protective devices put in place long ago start to crumble. Pride and arrogance have led them all to ruin and evil has waited long for this day.

Young Asher's speech was so rustic it was annoying. Other than that I found the book to be an enjoyable journey into another world, which became more real to me with each page I turned. I look forward to reading the sequel, The Awakened Mage, Book Two in the series.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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