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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 10, Number 1 January 2010 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Amy's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Charles' Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Fern's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Hugh's Bookshelf Janie's Bookshelf
Jessica's Bookshelf Jim's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf
Regis' Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf
Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf
Whispering Winds Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

The Bedside Book of Beasts: A Wildlife Miscellany
Graeme Gibson
9780747596103 AU$49.99

Ann Skea, Reviewer

This is a gorgeous and a curious book. A magnificent sad-looking leopard stalks across its dust-jacket and many other beasts and prey lurk in the forest of its pages. It is richly and colourfully illustrated with drawings, photographs, paintings and objects from many artists, countries and cultures. There are beasts from prehistoric wall paintings and ancient manuscripts, there are tigers, panthers, foxes, wolves, deer, bison and bunyips, and there is an Inuit drawing of a shaman and a Phoenician carving, there is also a photograph of a 'reclining demimonde' who is clearly a beast of a very different sort. Some of the most beautiful paintings of beasts are by J.J.Audubon, who is better known for his birds. Altogether, this is a gorgeous bedtime book for dipping into and finding creatures which might readily stalk through your dreams.

Which brings me to the 'curious' part. This is a curious book in the Alice-in-Wonderland sense. It's text is full of strange and unusual poems, parables, folk-tales, brief quotations, fabulous and imaginative stories, plus extracts from the diaries of hunters and explorers, and writing by scientists and ecologists. It is an eclectic mixture of curiosities in which Graeme Gibson' s introduction to each section of the book are, perhaps, the most curious.

Gibson writes of his own experiences with wild animals - a childhood encounter with sharks, the thrill of listening to wolves, the strange experience of being unknowingly stalked by a bear. But he also writes about animal behaviour, about the encounter between the hunter and the hunted, and about our own history as both predator and prey. His accounts do not always make comfortable reading, especially as they describe the increasing alienation of human beings from the natural world. In fact, reading this book, as I did, from cover to cover, rather than dipping into it at random, can be an increasingly depressing experience. Not only have we humans managed to by-pass natural selection and so undermine the natural process which improves the survival chances of any species, we are also increasingly cut off from any direct contact with the beasts on which we feed, and from the natural world in general. As a bedtime story, this is more likely to give you nightmares than pleasant dreams.

However, and this is a big HOWEVER, dipping into this book is a delight. And if Gibson's underlying theme does penetrate our consciousness (and subconsciousness) and reinforce our love and understanding of beasts through the many curiosities he has collected in it, then it should be on everybody's bedside table.

A selection of sample pages is available at

Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie
Philip Appleman
The Quantuck Lane Press/W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781593720360 $24.95

G. Richard Bozarth

Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie is an anthology of poetry by a poet well-known among Atheists, Freethinkers, and Secular Humanists. Over the years several of Philip Appleman's poems have appeared in the Freethought publications I read. I haven't always liked those poems, so I began this book expecting to dislike one or more of its poems. Surprise! I liked them all, though not equally.

An expectation of humorous poems is established by the title. It reinforces the expectation by beginning with quotes from Herodotus ("If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad") and T. S. Eliot ("One wants to keep one's hand in, you know, in every type of poem, serious and frivolous and proper and improper"). The foreword by X. J. Kennedy has this for the first sentence: "E. B. White once maintained that a writer of comic verse works just as hard as a serious poet." This is misleading. A lot of these poems are humorous, but a number of them are not. In the section called "Bible 101" there is only one humorous poem ("Arise, Take Up Thy Bed, And Walk - Mark, 2:9").

Kennedy's foreword is a waste of ink (and, by the way, Arnold Roth's illustrations don't live up to the hype on the dust cover). The best foreword for this book comes from "Maxims For Diverse Occasions": "Bedeviled by malaise and moral cancers, / Everyone is hot for easy answers: / What this country needs, before cremation, / Is two cents' worth of Instant Meditation. / So, little rhymes, go spread your moral jargon: / Wisdom's rare, but preaching is a bargain."

There are several "proverbs" in this book that are as enjoyable and as true as the one that closes the verse that should have been the foreword. Here are two from "Maxims For Diverse Occasions": "Education is whatever you cannot forget" and "Masses are the opiate of the masses". From "Parable Of The Talents" there is "Poets, / remember, where your treasure is, / there will your songs be also".

Appleman displays splendid and delightful wit. When he uses it to have some fun with sexuality, it is particularly enjoyable. Here is an exquisite example from "Arts & Sciences": "Alexander composed like the Pope, / Swift was of course never tardy, / And my Longfellow's Wildest hope / Is to find you right next to my Hardy." There is another one just as good in "Philosophy", referring to Thomas Hobbes: "Better at thinking than loving, / He deserved his wife's retort: / On their wedding night, she told him, "Tom, / That was nasty, brutish - and short!"

One amusing sexuality poem could have been better. "S*X After S*xty", which comes closest to being a dud, ends with "the best is yet to come". It is not a bad poem, but it is essentially a load of politically correct empowerment speech (the source of terms like "handicapable" to replace "handicapped") that perpetuates a secular comforting myth. Too many people 60 years old and older know the best has come and gone for them and they will be offended by how this poem ends (I'm one of them). Appleman was born in 1926, so it is possible that he is writing from his personal experience. I hope so, but that doesn't make the ending honest. To make this poem honest it should have ended with "the best is yet to come - if you're lucky!"

"Horoscope" is a delightful mocking of astrology and a reminder that romantic relationships are tough even for rationalists. The poem is a tale about a guy who doesn't believe in astrology trying to make a relationship work with a girl who does. It crashes when they conflict over her smoking, which causes her to redo his horoscope. Now she discovers he is actually a Pisces instead of the Aquarius she thought he was and tells him all the character flaws he has because he is a Pisces. His next girlfriend is a rational geologist, but is he happier? He ends describing her as "a solid / earthy girl, in hard times a real rock - / but I must admit, she has her own ways / of discovering my faults."

"Intelligent? Design?" warns "Beware the swindlers who voodoo ya / With Intelligent Design!" After humorously pointing out some unintelligent design features of the human body (for example, running the male urethra through the prostrate gland that is destined to enlarge during a man's latter years), the poem concludes "The Great Designer knows what's due ya, / Nothing else can stick it to ya / Like Intelligent Design!"

Those who read Freethought articles and books know theodicy is one of the realms of theology most frequently explored by Freethought writers, who use the existence of natural and human-caused evil to pound on those religionists who believe in omni-excellent supreme supernatural entities. It is no surprise, then, that Kharma has a theodicy poem, "God's Grandeur". It's not one of the humorous ones. It presents God speaking to explain why he will "never apologize, never explain" the evil he created and permits to be done in his name. However, he does explain it. Evil exists "because I just happen to like it this way." It is, of course, the only logical explanation if such an entity does exist. No wonder religionists prefer to believe in a "mysterious plan" that, once revealed, will demonstrate the goodness of terrible things like the Inquisition, hurricanes, honor killing, and earthquakes.

A similar poem that is just as good is "On The Seventh Day". It is about Yahweh or the Trinity or Allah after finishing the creation of the universe. He is "resting there, in that post-partum depression" and asking himself "what was it for……what, after all, was the point?" The answer comes to him: "Why, of course: it was the boredom, / the unbearable monotony / of endless time and empty space, and / angels." The universe and all that is in it is the supreme supernatural entity's reality TV, and humans are the most entertaining performers - although, considering the ways the SSE delights in interfering with humans, perhaps humans are more like lab rats than performers. It's a hypothesis that has as much validity as any of the theological hypotheses concerning a SSE's behavior I've read.

Another dark and serious poem is "Parable Of The Perfidious Proverbs". It contains comments on selected proverbs from one of the best-known Bible books. The two examples I liked the most are: "He that spareth his rod hateth is son. / That line gives you a perfect way of testing / Your inner feelings about child molesting" and "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool. / Trusting your heart may not be awfully bright, / But trusting Proverbs is an idiot's delight."

My favorite poem is the first one in the book, the first prayer in "Five Easy Prayers For Pagans": "O Karma, Dharma, pudding & pie, / gimme a break before I die: / grant me wisdom, will, & wit, / purity, probity, pluck, & grit. / Trustworthy, helpful, friendly, kind, / gimmie great abs and a steel-trap mind. / And forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice - / these little blessings would suffice / to beget an earthly paradise: / make the bad people good / and the good people nice, / and before our world goes over the brink, / teach the believers how to think."

I highly recommend Karma, therefore I disapprove of the publisher's decision to charge an exorbitant amount ($24.95) for a very slim book that, if measured by word count, has no more content than a short story - and that is with the worthless foreword included! I'm certain a lot of people who would enjoy these poems thoroughly will decide to leave them on the bookstore's shelf rather than pay so much for so few words. I say this to them: if you can afford the price, pay it, because you will not be ripped off by the poems in Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie.

Romance Language
Alan Elsner
Portals Press
4411 Fontainebleau Dr.,New Orleans, LA, USA, 70125
9780916620905 $15.00

Cobie S. Whitten, PhD

A Novel for Your Intellect and Heart

I was intrigued by the title and cover of this book. I also was aware of the author's previous work and found him to be an excellent writer. From the first page, I did not want to stop reading. The story moved quickly and I felt connected to the characters. In addition to a great read, I was educated about the late 80s in Eastern Europe. Elsner's last paragraph in the Author's Note about true love caught me off guard. I am somewhat cynical about authentic representations of love and sex in novels. Elsner skillfully delivers without a trace of sap or triteness. He captures its deep, intense and all encompassing nature. Alan Elsner's words captured me and I am not easily captured. I completely understood how the characters could fall in love admired their courage in acting on their impulses. Liz's daughter (Petra) demonstrates her own courage as she comes of age. From my own perspective as a mother of an 18 year old freshman, I can attest to the authenticity of the relationship between Petra and Liz. I am still marveling at Elsner's ability to speak so skillfully for two female protagonists. In short, I thank Alan Elsner for telling this story. The book stimulated my mind and touched my heart. He is an outstanding writer with an exceptional journalistic career. In Romance Language, he combines his talents as a journalist, student of history, storyteller and believer in love.

The Haunting of Sam Cabot
Mark Edward Hall, author
Lisa Jackson, editor
Ash Arceneaux, illustrator
Damnation Books, LLC
9781615720309 $8.29 / Electronic Version $4.50

Cyrus Wraith Walker

What scares us is how close to the surface horror stories like The Haunting of Sam Cabot brings us, concerning things we choose not to allow in our cognitive awareness.

The realization of how we deal with, deny, ignore, and suppress fear, loss, death, or change, and how those things just might be the consequences of our own decisions or simply our feelings of guilt derived for taking responsibility for those things.

The fabric has always been about suppression, and Mark Edward Hall serves a good dish. You cannot serve in the armed forces and a war as Mark did without being spoon-fed tons of things that you are expected to suppress, ordered to suppress, and things that you cannot bear—even of your own fruition--to let to the surface because to do so would challenge ones sanity. We are a repressive/suppressive society. We are trained to do so from birth.

Is Cabot a ghost story, or a story of madness? Does the presence of ghosts or supernatural phenomena in one's life materialize because we cannot find a scientific explanation or a psychological explanation to use as evidence to continue wearing the false mask of reality we wear when suppressing truth? The answer is yes, just in case you didn't know, however, for those that are permanently gone there is no recognition only "REALITY" you know, but the reality we build is usually a tool to keep what we have repressed suppressed.

The Haunting of Sam Cabot makes us horribly aware that that is exactly what it is! Ghosts or spiritual phenomena then are as real as the psychological or scientific evidence we concoct along with our spiritual or other belief systems. Monsters do exist. Why, because, we must have evidence! We must suppress the truth! The truth will kill us, so we will become preachers, scientists, and psychologists, and we will attend Mass and counseling sessions, and get that diagnosis from the experts because we must not get to close to . . . the TRUTH!

General Story and Plot: 5 Stars

In an interview with yours truly Mark spoke of how stories such as I am Legend, as well as the works of Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and shows like The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits, spoke to him, telling him more about the human condition than what society as a whole feeds us. The author does a fantastic job at bringing that to the surface.

Written in first person from the perspective of the protagonist, you get the sense that as Sam Cabot makes his slip into madness but oddly notices his madness. After wondering if the piece would be better written in a third-person omnipotent view the reader tricks his/herself into making judgments as to what information is sound and grounded in reality and what is not. This is how the author grabs us and makes us see our own denial of things that we repress. Even in the climax where things get very strange we make excuses about the narrative, about the author, about anything besides what we really fear. Therefore I give the 5 Stars for Story and plot.

Narration/Scene/Overall Length: 4 Stars

The major area I thought could be improved upon was the handling of various narratives, which I thought could be transpired into more dramatic scene work. This book has the potential to be even more gripping and of a greater, more satisfying length if the reader was made to experience certain sections as opposed to just being told through Sam's conscious stream. I would like to have seen some more of the nightmare sequences dramatized to subtle transition just like the first key nightmare sequence was. It may just be my own desire to have more Sam Cabot so I regretfully give this area only 3 1/2 for desired improved upon length.

Placement within the Genre: 5 Stars

The book fits nicely into the psychological/supernatural form of the horror genre. It fulfills expectation when we realize that reality is not necessarily the truth but a fabrication to be used to keep what we have repressed in suppression. Because of this the story fulfills the purpose of the genre. The Haunting of Sam Cabot would make an excellent screenplay. 5 Stars for placement.

This book is intended for an audience of young adult and up. It is by far repugnant in any way but rightfully has a rating of three by the publisher Damnation Books for Sex and Violence.

Style: 5 Stars

Mark's colloquial informal style makes the story and the reader comfortable enough with the characters to identify intimately with them. He then uses this advantage as a tool to stir up doubts in the readers mind about a character causing a sense of distance or something not right. Like a movie director manipulating diegesis leading the viewer to infer things before hand, so does this technique appear in Marks style.

Quality: 4.7 Stars Accumulative

a. Coherence: 5 Stars

b. Clarity: 5 Stars

c. Originality: 4 1/2

Even though the story draws heavily on other stories such as The Shining and The Amityville Horror, it does so to develop our expectations in order to present a surprising twist. For this reason I still give 4 1/2 Stars for originality.

d. Forcefulness: 5 Stars

e. Conciseness: 5 Stars

f. Fullness of Development: 4 Stars

As stated earlier I felt that there could be more development in the way of expanding too much narrative into more exciting scenes.

g. Fluidity: 5 Stars

h. Does it suit the intended audience: 5 Stars

i. Quality of the printed version: 3 1/2 Stars

As the face of publishing has changed, it has been increasingly more difficult for publishers to make a profit. Certain things occasionally are done to try to keep the price of a title competitive. For that reason I give only 3 1/2 Stars to the quality of the printed version. Even though the cover is very nice, the print itself suffers because the Kerning and Leading, spaces between letters and lines is a bit scrunched. While this definitely reduces the retail price of the book it makes it a bit cumbersome to read.

Personal Affect: 5 Stars

I have forever battled the ignorance we cling to in the name of ignoring or not facing what's true. Stories such as The Haunting of Sam Cabot help that plight. Through its insanity it confirms for me sanity, and that other realize that we all tend to believe without question that our personal perspective is correct until we face ourselves with objectiveness only to find out we were dead wrong.

Catalogue of Publications and Excerpts
William Harwood
World Audience
1935444832 $29.00

Leland W. Ruble

If you're reading this review, you may already be familiar with the author William Harwood, and have some familiarity with the author's vibrant writing on religion, politics, history, society, and numerous other related subjects the author has published over the years. If you've never been exposed to the author's writing, and this is your first experience, you're about to be introduced to possibly one of the most knowledgeable, exacting, provocative, and exciting nontheist writers in this era.

In this recent book, the author introduces the reader to a vast assortment of excerpts from among the over 40 books he has published, including essays on religion and related subjects, book reviews, and Letters to the Media.

In an excerpt from The Autobiography of God there is this thought provoking paragraph: "I am also changeable geographically. In Rome I so love killing babies slowly by starvation and disease, that I refuse to permit abortion or contraception. In Salt Lake City I permit population control, but reserve a special place in Hell for the monstrous sinners who drink tea or coffee. In Israel I permit the eating of salami sandwiches and cheese sandwiches, but inflict the fate of the infidels on any kike who eats a salami-and-cheese sandwich. You think laws like that - heads it's a sin and tails it's a virtue - make Me a fruitcake? Don't blame Me. They make the rules. They created Me in their own racist, sexist, might-makes right-image. I didn't create them." (p. 31)

In an excerpt from the book American Hitler: George W. ShicklBush and the Republicanazi Gestapo there is this poignant paragraph: "If God was omnipotent and omnibenevolent, and actually existed, humans would not need to urinate, defecate or menstruate; AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis and the common cold would not exist; Osama bin Laden and Jerry Falwell would never have been born; Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter would be confined to insane asylums for the term of their natural lives; Tom Cruise would not be a shill for the confidence swindle that's fleecing him, because L. Ron Hubbard would have spent his life wearing paper hats and asking, 'Do you want fries with that?' no one would be ever be hungry; and there would be only one religion and no nontheists, because a non-imaginary god would have unambiguously demonstrated his existence by appearing on the Tonight Show and the Late Show, turning the studio audiences (temporarily) into chimpanzees, and raising Katie Couric's ratings from the dead." (p. 56)

In the excerpt "Muhammad and the Koran" (reprinted from God, Jesus and the Bible), there is this revealing commentary which in my opinion reveals to a great extent why the Islamic faith is often depicted as a religion that appeals to fundamentalist, fanatic zealots as a platform from which they can, with deluded belief in immunity from Allah, commit murder and violence with the unrestrained sadistic indulgence of someone whose mind has morphed into that of a decaying vegetable. The author writes: "That Muhammad was essentially a terrorist and serial killer is revealed by his own words, quoted by Swarup,1 'I have been helped by terror.' Specifically, 'the beheading of eight hundred members of the tribe of Quraiza in cold blood in the market of Medina must have sent a chill of terror down the spine of everyone, foe or friend.' The Quraiza's crime? Apart from being Jews who fell into the hands of a Jew-hating prototype Hitler, they failed to join Muhammad's jihad to enslave Mecca." (p. 95)

In reference to how the concept of gods, sin etc., were first introduced into human society, here is this insightful paragraph from "Priestly Power and the Role of Sin" (reprinted from A Humanist in the Bible Belt), "There is no way of gauging the elapsed time from the creation of the first gods to the creation of the first religion; for mere belief in gods did not constitute a religion. Not until the first sun-worshipper turned his face toward the sky and asked it to ripen his crop in exchange for a gift, or until the first ambitious junior executive asked a river-god to drown her rival, also in exchange for a designated gift, did nature deification evolve into religion." (p.124)

Here's a brilliant characterization of Jesus which explains the most likely possibility of how he became the divinity worshiped by Christians, in "Jesus' Deification: When and Why?" reprinted from the book A Humanist in the Bible Belt, "From the beginning of his career as an itinerant preacher, Jesus had been viewed by his followers as the successor and equal of King David: the Messiah or rightful king of the Jews. To the Jewish masses who had hoped that his claim was valid and the freedom from Roman overlordship was days away, Jesus' death was the ultimate proof that he was just one more crank in a long line of messianic pretenders. But to the hardcore followers who swallowed the resurrection delusion, his royal status was now proven beyond doubt." (p. 158)

From "The Impossibility of Gods" reprinted from the essay For This we Thank Our Fuhrer, and which every god believer should take the opportunity to read, the author writes: "There are things humans do not know and cannot know. Are there life forms on the fifth planet of Betelgeuse whose understanding of the laws of physics is so far beyond our own that they would appear to us not to be bound by those laws, and therefore to conform to every reasonable human definition of a god? We can rate such a possibility as vanishingly small, but we cannot really know the answer." (p. 192)

"No god has ever revealed its existence, and all claims to the contrary have been traced to the same bible that a committee of investigators, including historians, linguists, scientists, and theologians, appointed by the British government,2 found to contain 19,000 provably false statements, including 1,000 pairs of statements so mutually exclusive that they could not both be true. For example, the aforementioned bible contradicts itself on whether the gods of such opposition religions as the Persian and Egyptian do or do not exist, whether the paramount god is an individual or a committee, and whether there is or is not life after death. It also in more then fifty passages authenticates a flat earth, a solid hemispherical sky, and stars small enough to become unglued from the sky and fall to earth as meteors. Since gods are intrinsically implausible, being violations of all known natural laws, we can conclude, from the fraudulence of all supporting testimony and the absence of a single counterexample, that they cannot and therefore do not exist." (p. 192)

There are numerous letters to the media that expose the author as most likely one of the foremost freethought writers in this current era. His unlimited knowledge of almost any subject he chooses to discuss, criticize, or expose, is a pleasure to read. He makes one think or even re-think issues that are of utmost concern to those mentally free of the tomfoolery of religious babbleism. For those still infatuated with deluded belief in a sadistic sky dictator, and still clinging to outworn fabulous beliefs that are no longer relevant to human civilization, reading this, or any one of the author's books, essays, and letters, is like awakening from a horrible nightmare and viewing reality from an entirely different perspective not dominated by an infectious belief structured on the foundation of a just as false reality of gods or the religions that have thrived from such deceptive convictions.

Don't take my word for it. Buy this book and see for yourself the most valuable contribution this author has made toward the advancement of freethought, nontheism, and the expose of religions fashioned from the exhausted remnants of implausible god beliefs.

1 Swarup, p. 39,

2 When the government that appointed the committee learned what its findings would be, it disbanded the committee and refused to allow its report to be published.

Crazy Bett
Michael J. O'Neal
1663 Liberty Drive, Ste. 200, Bloomington, Indiana, 47403
9781604814620 $19.95

Monique C. Lillard

Moscow author Michael J. O'Neal has written a charming and intelligent novel about espionage during the Civil War. O'Neal was inspired by his own relative, Rose O'Neal Greenhow, who was a Northerner who spied for the Confederacy. In his novel he has focused on her counterpart, Crazy Bett, a Confederate society dame who was a Union spy. She feigned insanity to escape detection, thus the nickname, and the title of the book.

This meticulously researched story takes the reader back in time, in more ways than one. The style is slightly slower and more formal than what we might be used to. In particular, the beginning chapter, like that of a 19th Century novel, takes us gently into the narrative. The plot thickens and twists, rife with dramatic scenes like men hiding in oat bins on the sides of wagons while Confederates horses nibble at the grain, a wild ride by a green-eyed heroine through dangerous territory, a prison break, and so forth. A peek at the "Afterword" reveals that the most riveting escapades are true!

O'Neal's prose is delightful. He has dared to attempt dialect - seldom done these days - and satisfyingly catches the cadence of African-Americans, Scotts, and others. Considerable humor pervades the story. O'Neal is a writer's writer; his verbs are lively, his vocabulary whimsical, and his turns of phrase just plain fun.

The Civil War remains a divisive and political topic in America today. (Some people may already be offended that I did not refer to it as the War Between the States.) O'Neal offers perspectives that may alternatively please and alienate today's readers. O'Neal's dislike of Washington, D.C. comes out as he devotes a paragraph to detailing its stench, literal and moral. Most of the Confederates are portrayed as racist, anti-Semitic, mean, unhygienic and ungrammatical. Yet modern readers who sympathize with either side will be drawn in by the vivid historical detail. Romantics will enjoy the quiet love story. Realists will appreciate the thoughtfully drawn characters, particularly Bett herself. In a moving passage, she reflects on how her spying will lead to the deaths of "whose boys, whom I've watch grow into fine young men?" Bett is motivated to turn on her fellow Southerners by her longstanding, religiously-based opposition to slavery.

Most eye-opening to me is O'Neal's revelation of the diversity of opinion on both sides about the desirability of the war, the likeability of the presidents, and the morality of slavery. O'Neal has read many contemporary letters and newspapers, filled them in with engaging and believable fiction, and thereby reminded us that our 21st Century society is not alone in its dissatisfaction, discontent, and factionalism.

Dumbocracy: Adventures With the Loony Left, the Rabid Right and Other American Idiots Marty Beckerman
The Disinformation Company Ltd.
163 Third Avenue, #108, New York, NY 10003
9781934708064 $16.95

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

The author spent four years visiting with political extremists on both sides of the spectrum. These are people who believe in nothing less than total victory for their side. Most Americans are moderates on the issues, but, for instance, pro-life and anti-war activists still see things as very black and white.

Beckerman discovered a lot of interesting things in his travels. Betty Friedan, founder of the National Organization for Women, compared American housewives to "the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps." Those on the Right blame homosexuality for the destruction of American society, but just over half of Americans think of homosexuality as an acceptable life-style. Texas A&M University requires that all faculty members "celebrate and promote" homosexuality.

"It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact."--Ann Coulter. The American Institute for Philanthropy has ranked MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) as one of the most corrupt and least effective charities in the country. In 2006, the California Supreme Court allowed authorities to break into citizens' homes anytime--without a warrant--to check their blood alcohol levels. A legislator in Missouri compared biology teachers to terrorists, for teaching evolution. Environmental activists have demanded control over citizens' home thermostats, threatened to spy on those who do not recycle and suggested that governments should intelligently reduce human populations to one-sixth their present number.

In 2006, the Bush Administration joined with Iran to ban a gay-rights group from addressing the United Nations. In 2004, Canada officially banned criticism of homosexuality, which is now punishable by up to five years in prison. Also in 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that forcing drug suspects to consume laxatives, in order to find drugs in their digestive tracts, is not an "unreasonable search." In the 1990's, a Republican member of Congress proposed mandating the death penalty for all drug dealers. When his son was convicted of growing thirty marijuana plants, he received community service, not a lethal injection. Neither side has a monopoly on hatred of free speech.

This is the sort of book that will be thrown across the room by True Believers on both sides (sometimes those are the best kind of books). For everyone else, it is an excellent, and eye opening, look at the state of politics in America. It is very much worth reading.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Jack Weatherford
Three Rivers Press
New York
9780609809648 $15.00

Raja N. Krishnan

Who do you think is the most renowned barbarian in World History? There are probably a lot of names you are thinking of, and I am sure that Genghis Khan is at the top of that list or towards to the top. I have always been curious about the person Genghis Khan as a conqueror and an emperor that established trade networks within his empire. Some questions might be: why is Genghis Khan perceived as a barbarian or what made him do these barbaric acts. These are some interesting questions and when I saw this book while browsing the bookstore, I had to buy it; I was looking forward to the possibility that the author may answer some of these questions.

So I started my journey with Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World written by Jack Weatherford. Dr. Jack Weatherford is a professor of Anthropology at Macalester College, and he also received an honorary Doctorate degree of Humanities from Chinggis Khaan College in Mongolia. He spent time in Mongolia experiencing the life of a steppe nomad while researching Genghis Khan, and after I completed reading this book it was evident that the life and times of Genghis Khan was thoroughly researched and analyzed.

The story covered the entire life of Genghis Khan in three parts: the first part describes the time from his birth to his rise as emperor, the second part describes the Mongol World conquests, and the third part focuses on how the Mongolian Dynasty impacted modern society. The transition between these sections was fluid and logical. The book was an easy read and I also learned a lot of interesting historical nuggets, which I always enjoy. The following from the book captures the essence of Genghis Khan concisely:

"Genghis Khan's ability to manipulate people and technology represented the experienced knowledge of more than four decades of nearly constant warfare. At no single, crucial moment in his life did he suddenly acquire his genius at warfare, his ability to inspire the loyalty of his followers, or his unprecedented skill for organizing on a global scale……..In each struggle, he combined the new ideas into a constantly changing set of military tactics, strategies, and weapons. He never fought the same war twice."

The author does answer all the questions I had about Genghis Khan before reading this book and more than that. Along the way he also cites primary source references to support his story. I gained a good appreciation of the life and times of Genghis Khan. He was a survivor of the Mongolian steppe traditions and this means to overcome many dangerous obstacles, such as defending his life from other potential Mongol warlord leaders. He was not only a survivor; he was successful and made the Mongols a force of their time. Although he is much known for the barbaric streak, which is the reason for his rise to be a Mongol leader, he did implement many innovative ideas to enrich and grow his empire. For example he established a trading post network throughout the empire, every region of the empire would have to share resources with each other, and the "capital" region would get a form of tax if you want to call it that from all the other regions. This increased the standard of living throughout the empire.

Furthermore, I found that the author's inclusion of maps throughout the book (before the start of certain chapters), and not just in the beginning of the book made it easier to follow the changing landscape of the Mongolian Empire (without having to flip back to the front of the book) and also the major cities within the empire.

I wanted to conclude with the following passage from the book, which I thought concisely honed in on the impact of great figures and events is on history:

"The great actors of history cannot be neatly tucked between the covers of a book and filed away like so many passed botanical specimens. Their actions cannot be explained according to a specific timetable like the coming and going of so many trains. Although scholars may designate the beginning and ending of an era with exact precision, great historical events, particularly those that erupt suddenly and violently, build up slowly, and, once having begun, never end. Their efforts linger long after the action faded from view."

Overall the book was an easy read and provided good information. I would recommend this book to any lover of history and particularly someone that is interested in the history of Genghis Khan.

Taking the Occasion
Daniel Brown
Ivan R. Dee
1332 North Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60642
978I566638012 $22.50

Rick Marlatt, Reviewer

A Brush With Paradise: A Review of Daniel Brown's Taking the Occasion

Daniel Brown states in his exemplary poem of self-examination, "Why Do I Exist," "Answer it? Nobody can / (go by the hordes that haven't yet). / But as for having the question down, / You know you're really asking it / when it isn't merely answerless / but answerless in the strongest sense: / Answerless in being less / a question than an utterance." (46) This brief but essential piece serves as an excellent starting point for an analysis of this talented artist. Brown's Taking the Occasion won the 2008 New Criterion Poetry Prize on the strength of thoughtful, structural investigations of the human existence such as this. Brown's book is an excellent display of the marriage between new formalism and contemporary American poetry in that while the poet's language is deceptively simple, it's organized into a diction that renders a relentless contemplation of a wide range of issues and philosophies. All the while, Brown pays meticulous attention to rhythm, meter, and musicality.

In the book's opening piece, "Missing It," Brown approaches an age old philosophical conundrum with fresh humility and style. After setting up the dilemma of a tree falling in a forest unbeknownst to first-hand, human observation, Brown examines what it is that actually haunts us about the unanswerable quandary: "Still there in that the happening, the clear / crashing there, still encompasses / everyone condemned to missing it / by being out of the immediate / vicinity. Out of it the way / you're out of all vicinities but one / all the time-excepting when you've gone / out of all vicinities to stay." (3) As the speaker adds his personal perspective to this exploration of universal truths, the reader loses himself, not in the maze of the argument's mystery, but in the beauty, flow, and symmetry of Brown's lines.

The segmenting, sweeping "Love Story" is a memoir-driven tribute to a music theory professor, and anchors the collection with definitive phrasing such as "the best thing I could manage was the truth" (53) and "in his tweedier incarnation." (54) A recounting of the speaker's relationship with the professor provides emotional connections between past and present that resonate far beyond the page. And Brown provides emotional, touching reflections throughout the piece which are accentuated by the strategic placement of impact words and phrases within the lines. Similarly, Brown demonstrates his depth as a poet with earnest investigations of mortality and aging in "Facing It," "Among the Better Blessings," and "I'm Better Now." Throughout the book, Brown employs a consistent form and structure that allows his ideas to flow and synthesize to the poem's reverberating conclusions. All the while, the poet maintains a desire to smile, an essential quality for survival and "to my being fine." (31)

Brown's speech flows from urban wavelengths, but his genuine tone and concentration of images transcend cultural or societal boundaries. What results is a collection of poems that is entirely accessible, yet equally sophisticated. One of the more unique aspects of Brown's work is that while the impetus of his poetry is personal, he is able, with superb craft and skill, to widen the scope of his examinations to the point that the reader undergoes similar journeys of cognition, memory, and contemplation during the movements of the poems. This fascinating process makes for an intimate relationship between poet and reader that is entirely contemporary and unfailingly memorable. As Brown writes in "A Salmon Speaks of the Sea," "You approach it / with an image of it / but nothing prepares you for it." (44)

Romance Language
A Novel by Alan Elsner
Portals Press
9780916620905 $15.00

Robin Friedman

Love in 1989

The year 1989 witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and, more broadly, the fall of communism in Europe. The implications of these events remain momentous. Although not a Soviet satellite at the time, Romania in 1989 was under the brutal dictatorship of Nicolae Ceasescu and his wife, Elena. The Ceasecus impoverished the country, crushed all dissent, and established a ubiquitous secret police in which neighbors routinely spied against one another. In a revolution more bloody than its companions, the Ceasecus regime fell in 1989.

Alan Elsner's new novel, "Romance Language" is set against the backdrop of 1989 Romania. Elsner has been an international journalist for 30 years and has written an earlier novel, "The Nazi Hunter", together with works of nonfiction. He was posted in Europe and in Romania in 1989 and reported on the events he describes in his novel. Elsner returned to Romania in 2007 as a Knight International Journalism Fellow and witnessed the changes wrought by the overthrow of the dictatorship.

Elsner's book is much more than a historical, political novel. In a brief note following the text, Elsner states that "I wanted to write a book that took seriously the idea of true love." He has done so here. The book tells the story of the love between a dissident Romanian poet, Stephan Petrescu (a fictitious character) and an American journalist, Elizabeth O'Neil. Elizabeth receives an assignment to cover Romania in 1989 as her marriage to a novelist named Tom is deteriorating. During her stay in Romania, she and Stephan have an affair, and Elizabeth bears Stephan's child, Petra.

With the violence in Romania, Elizabeth returns to America. She reconciles with Tom who generously agrees to raise Petra as his own child. In 2007, when Petra is 17 and a precocious freshman at Brown University, a dying Tom tells her that Stephan is her biological father. Elizabeth surreptitiously leaves Brown to travel to Romania to meet her father. During her stay, she meets a group of Romanian young people, including the sexually active Angela and Mihai, a violinist and composer of 22 or 23 who has studied in the United States. Elizabeth and Mihai fall in love and must decide who they will handle their feelings for each other.

The novel is organized in a series of short sections that alternate between 1989 and 2007. Elizabeth tells the story of her relationship with Stephan in a series of letters to her daughter, most of which are written when Elizabeth believes Petra is dutifully studying at Brown. Thus, Elsner offers a picture of Romania in 1987, on the eve of and during the Revolution, at the time of the passionate affair between Elizabeth and Stephan. He then shows the greatly changed Romania of 2007 with its difficult freedom, economic development, and sexual openness among its young people. The reader is invited to reflect upon a good many different kinds of love relationships, including the relationship between Elizabeth and Stephan, Elizabeth and her husband Tom, Petra and Mihai, and Angela and her lover of the moment. Elsner also has a good deal to say about the parent-child bond as between Elizabeth and Petra, and between Tom, Stephan, and Petra as well.

The love between Elizabeth and Stephan is the major theme of this novel. It is recounted in the language of poetry, ranging from Shakespeare to Stephan's own writing, and of music, including young Mihai's violin playing and efforts at composition, and Elizabeth's and Stephan's dance to the unlikely accompaniment of Chopin's Fourth Ballade. Elsner emphasizes the power of art and love to redeem the human condition, especially when it is under the throes of enforced poverty and oppression.

The novel moves effectively between the United States and Romania, between the years 1989 and 2007, and between Elizabeth, Petra, and Stephan. The book reminded me of the important events that took place in 1989 but, more importantly, it helped me think afresh about the nature of human sexuality and of romantic love. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read this book.

Night Magic
Karen Robards
Grand Central Publishing
9780446353915 $7.99

Annie Slessman

A reissue, Night Magic, by Karen Robards is the story of a young writer, Clara Winston who spends her time writing romance novels and taking care of her three cats. She is a Southern bred woman who has lead, up until now, a sensible and sane life.

Mistakenly taken as the girlfriend of Jack McClain, a CIA agent, Russian KGB agents take her from her home, her cat Puff in hand, to try to gain information from her. They have also taken McClain and when they escape their kidnappers, they set about on a journey to discover the identity of a Russian killer, Bigfoot.

Clara is faced with things she never dreamed of in her sane life as she runs with Jack in an effort to evade being killed. Along the way she and Jack develop a relationship unlike anything Clara has ever known.

The story takes a reader through their paces as Clara and Jack seek the man they are hunting. Robards in the writing of this tale has developed a cast of characters that vividly provoke a reader's interest.

If you didn't catch this story the first time around, do so this time. At $7.99 it provides inexpensive and quality entertainment.

Amy's Bookshelf

Bound by Blood
C.H. Scarlett
Dark Roast Press
Pending $8.99

In a time when the Ancient ways of the God and Goddess have long vanished, it is imperative that each female Vii, nearing the time of her Awakening, come before the Old Crone. The Crone has vowed to carry out a ritual, which will shed light on the meaning of their birthright, revealing the sacrifices made for them and all others. She will guide each child on a mystical journey, taking them back in time to a period known as "The Age of Dusk", within a dimension called "TERAH", a universe all its own, filled with an infinite amount of realms. For the child, there will be many revelations concerning their heritage, why their people relocated to Earth, and what happened to their own planet. They will also endure every emotion and every sensation felt by their ancestors, unable to change anything. For once it begins there is no stopping.

The Age of Dusk was a time of many prophecies and curses, an age where mortals and immortals lived together and the Good of Many Lights were constantly battling the Darkness of Evil. Evil lurks among the twelve bloodlines that existed, slowly corrupting the families within, turning them against the old ways. King Dias sets on the throne of Terah, representing the Strygi families, the Good of Many Lights. Samanthra Lampir, High Priestess of the bloodlines, is one of Dias' many daughters and the only one he is concerned with, for, if she Awakens, she will bring forth a horrible prophecy, cursing them all to their doom. Because of this, Dias is insistent that Samanthra frequently consume a potion made to prevent her Awakening, but will it be enough to contain the Awakening residing inside of her or will a higher power dare to interfere with Dias' intentions?

Samanthra is well- known for her mischievous and curious nature, always stumbling into trouble wherever she goes. It was only natural that Dias assumed she's the one who brought forth an ominous and unfamiliar storm, which happens to mysteriously appear and heading straight toward the castle with an increasingly amount of deadly force. Furthermore, its timing could not be worse, since the festivities for Beal-Tene were already underway. Naturally, Samanthra could not resist the urge to uncover who or what was behind the source of the storm, oblivious to the fact she was about to encounter far more than she ever imagined.

C.H Scarlett has portrayed an impeccably flawless and exceptionally intricate work of fiction. The plot, characterizations and world building is brilliantly prepared and thought-out. While reading this story, BOUND by BLOOD, I experienced the intense, overpowering, passion hidden within its pages and even sensing the author's zealous desire for her talent of writing. The penetrating attractions between the characters were overwhelmingly heartfelt. I will be looking forward to reading further books by C.H. Scarlett and will positively be recommending this story to any reader who is interested in Paranormal, Fantasy and Erotic Fiction genres.

Threesomes - An Erotic Anthology
Lori Perkins, editor
A Ravenous Romance Wicked Pleasure Original Publication
978160777299X $TBA

Rating: 4.5 Stars

This is a collection of twelve scrumptiously arousing stories which will have the reader breathing uncontrollably and certain areas of their body pulsating from within. Lori Perkins has perfectly chosen 12 inventive authors to contribute their mind-blowing versions of triple seductions that will satisfy anyone's cravings, no matter what sexual preference they prefer. Each author expresses their tale with such passion, an abundance of sex and vivid characterization, that will have the reader bound to the pages, waiting for, and eagerly anticipating their own release.

Inside this book, Threesomes - An Erotic Romance, the reader will enter into a series of imaginative realms containing many sexually erotic and unrestrained desires. I most definitely urge anyone who wishes for instant pleasure to add this Anthology to their TBR pile as a must read!!

You can find the following Authors included within this Anthology: Hobart Glasse, Cynthia Gentry, Mercy Loomis, Laura Neilsen, Reno Lark, Em Brown, Brit M., Kilt Kilpatrick, Tony Wards, Troy Seate, Amie Nogrady/Elizabeth Miette and Trinity Blacio.

Searching for the Perfect Mate: Pre-Story for Running in Fear- Threesomes- Erotic Anthology
Trinity Blacio
A Ravenous Romance Wicked Pleasures Original Publication
160777299X $TBA

Remi LeBlathe is intent on discovering his true mate, but up to now he's had no such luck. Meanwhile, he suppresses the beast within by satisfying his carnal desires with a variety of women. With Remi's status as alpha werewolf, plus the spreading news of his most talked about asset, currently referred to as 'mammoth', he has no trouble acquiring females who are eagerly waiting to relieve his sexual hunger.

While in route to meet the newest member of his pack, a redhead by the name of Kellie, Remi wonders if she could be the one, finally ending his pursuit and easing his animalistic desires. When a commotion involving five strange men, armed with weapons, appear in the club, Remi knew they had to be connected with the drug dealer he killed for trespassing on his territory. Now, he finds himself torn between his duty to protect his pack and his natural instinct to hunt down his destined mate. Will Remi be able to come across his perfect mate, a woman willing to tame his beast and fulfill his emotional demands?

Trinity Blacio has managed to create an extremely hot and sultry tale. This intense pre story to 'Running in Fear' is a sexual teaser that will leave the reader throbbing and desiring for more. The Author has achieved her goal of a well balanced plot, realistic characters and excellent visualization. I recommend this tale to any reader who is interested in Paranormal Romance and Erotica genres.

Moon Shifter
Karen Michelle Nutt
Wild Rose Press
ID# 3699 $2.00

Rating: 4.5

Sydney Carlisle once lived a normal and happy life, until the day she was brutally attacked by a werewolf intent on killing her. But what devastated her most was the one man, whom she loved and trusted eternally, was the one who had turned her into the monster she is now. He ended her existence as a human, and then fled, leaving her alone and frightened, having to endure the unbearable pain of the transformation into a werewolf, otherwise known as a Moon Shifter. Sydney could never forgive her lover, Grayson Quinn, for what he had done to her. She has been on the run for the past year, trying to escape Grayson's wrath of rectifying the mistake he created…her.

Grayson Quinn was born of the Mac Tire, a wolf Moon Shifter, he knew his pack was forbidden to take humans as their mates, but as soon as he saw Sydney Carlisle, his animalistic desire overruled his common sense. After trying desperately to save her life due to a fatal attack by one of his spiteful pack members, he chose to turn her instead of losing the one woman who was Alpha enough to be his mate, even though she despised him for doing so. But time is running out for Sydney, and she isn't aware of the seriousness of her situation as a newly turned and ripening female Moon Shifter. Grayson has to get to her soon and explain the ways of the Mac Tire before Sydney is forced into mating with the first male Moon Shifter she encounters.

Will Sydney be able to overcome the hatred she feels toward Grayson and the sexual need growing within her long enough to become aware of her hearts desire? Or will Sydney's arousing scent as a newly turned Moon Shifter in season, lead her into the embrace of another?

Moon Shifter is a delightful read which contains a unique twist to the legend of werewolves. The reader is able to sense the bond and sexual tension between Sydney and Grayson and experience the emotional triumph at the end of the tale. For such a short story, Karen Michelle Nutt has envisioned another enthralling and fascinating tale. I will enjoy recommending this short tale to any reader who has an attraction towards erotic paranormal and a spicy Shape Shifter Romance genres.

Amy J Ramsey, Reviewer

Ann's Bookshelf

Bethany's Bookshelf

Early Protestant Spirituality
Scott H. Hendrix, editor
Paulist Press
997 Macarthur Blvd., Mahwah, NJ 07430
9780809142118, $29.95,

Free of the Catholic church's constraints, early Protestantism was characterized by expression. "Early Protestant Spirituality" discusses the early days of the Protestant movement as people began to found their own ways to develop their relationship with God. Drawing from early texts, "Early Protestant Spirituality" provides an intriguing look at one of the most important spiritual movements in the past thousand years. A fascinating examination of faith, "Early Protestant Spirituality" is a worthwhile read for any intrigued by religion or history.

Fit to be Tied
Robin Lee Hatcher
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310258063, $14.99,

Opposites can attract, and Cleo may have just found that opposite. "Fit to be Tied" tells of the romance of Cleo Arlington, a tomboy in the early twentieth century. Believing no one will go for her ranch hand ways, when posh Sherwood Statham appears in her life, the very definition of high class Britain, she finds that she may have been looking in the wrong places all this time. "Fit to be Tied" is a fun novel that will delight many a romance reader.

How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist
Nicole Bouchard Boles
Workman Publishing
225 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014
9780761155041, $10.95,

Charity is not strictly something for the rich. "How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist: 330 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Home, Community, and World - At No Cost" is a guide to contributing to a better world even when you seem to have nothing to offer it. With plenty of simple tips for making a difference in the world, from spreading a positive message to applying one's skills in a progressive way, "How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist" is a choice pick that will empower many a reader.

Allies Forever
Karen A. Patterson
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432730307, $19.95,

War changes people, and leaves you a different person than you were. "Allies Forever: The Life and Times of An American Prisoner of War" tells the story of Karen Patterson reflecting on her own family's ordeal through World War II. Married before the war began, Red and Gladys were in love. But after being a prisoner of war for grueling months, Red changed, and his relationship with Gladys seemed strained. A touching and tragic story of war's effects on family, "Allies Forever" is a fine and worthwhile read for those seeking military memoirs.

Scimitar Moon
Chris A. Jackson
Dragon Moon Press
PO Box 1714, Calgary, AL T2P 2L7, Canada
9781896944548, $19.95,

The fury of the carpenter is not one to be taken lightly. "Scimitar Moon" is the story of Cynthia Flaxal, and her tragedy of losing her parents to a vicious pirate by the name of Captain Bloodsail. Bloodsail leads a nation of pirates, the Shattered Isles, and seems untouchable, especially from Cynthia, who can't fight and doesn't know a lick of magic. But she does have other skills, and through her hands, she will see Bloodsail pay. "Scimitar's Moon" is a fine fantasy of the sea, well worth the read.

Mommy D.I.V.A. Don't Get Played
Shay Williams
Black Dolphin
PO Box 768931, Roswell, GA 30076
9780982308417, $17.99,

With motherhood, women often don't have time to deal with the bull of dating. "Mommy D.I.V.A. Don't Get Played: A Single Mom's Dating Guide to Catching the Man of Her Dreams in 30 Days" is the reflections of Shay Williams as she recalls her journey dating hundreds of men in the search of Mister Right. Honest and humorous, Williams gives single mothers the tools they need to get a man back in their lives and to avoid being hurt once more. "Mommy D.I.V.A. Don't Get Played" is a top pick for single mothers seeking passion.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Enter Evil
Linda Ladd
119 West 40th Street, New York, New York 10018
9780786018888 $6.99

Even with the best doctors money could buy, Mikey was gradually sucked into the deep abyss populated by the demons that plagued him inside his head. Now detective Claire Morgan is involved because a body has been found inside the troubled man's house. When Dr. Nicholas Black, Claire's lover, recognizes Mikey as a former troubled patient, the investigation should be stamped "closed".

But then the detective discovers another corpse inside the house. This one is curled up inside an oven and the charred remains suggest something far more sinister than what the scene first indicated.

With her only solid lead being a beaded bracelet around each victim's wrist, Claire doesn't have much to go on. Reputedly worn to ward off the "evil eye", what did these two dead individuals have to fear?

Before she is finished, the homicide detective assigned to the Canton County Sheriff's Department in mid-Missouri will discover there is plenty to be worried about when dealing with a brilliant, sadistic killer who is more than a match for the police.

If you enjoy reading thrillers that feature attractive heroines matched against deadly adversaries, this story will keep you riveted to your chair late into the evening. Start it on a weekend and you won't have to set it aside to go to work. I guarantee by Monday morning you'll be finished with the 396 page novel!

The Solomon Effect
C.S. Graham
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York, 10022-5299
9780061689352 $7.99

For over half a century a World War II vintage German submarine has rested silently on the ocean floor off the Russian coast. The vessel, lost in the final days of the war, carries a cargo too terrifying to contemplate. Unfortunately, it has now been found and the U-boat's horrible treasure has been liberated by those who would plunge the world into chaos.

On the other side of the globe, a "remote viewer" working for a clandestine unit of the U.S. government can "see" what is happening. Will she be able to stop a bloodbath and perhaps the Apocalypse? As she and her cynical partner attempt to connect the dots between an impending catastrophe and a nightmare cultivated decades earlier by Nazi scientists, a small coterie of individuals in high places try to stymie them.

Why anyone would want to obstruct these two people and allow an atrocity to occur is a good question. The answer lies within the pages of this face paced, thrill a minute novel that will have you holding your breath from start to finish.

The Laugher of Dead Kings
Elizabeth Peters
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061246258 $9.99

One of Egypt's most priceless treasures has gone missing. Both Interpol and the Egyptian authorities look at Sir John Smythe as the chief suspect in the theft. The elusive Sir John is actually John Tregarth, the long time significant other of sleuth Vicky Bliss, but he swears he has nothing to do with the caper.

Convinced he's telling the truth, Vicky takes a leave of absence from her job at the Munich museum to follow her "squeeze" to the Middle East to clear his name by finding the real thief.

It is going to be a harrowing adventure with more pitfalls and danger than the couple ever imagined. When murder is added to the puzzling mystery it becomes very apparent that either the comely sleuth, her boyfriend or perhaps both of them, may not need their return tickets to get home again.

Best known for her Amelia Peabody series of mysteries, Elizabeth Peters' "Vicky Bliss" novels, although fewer in number, are just as captivating. It's been awhile since the last Bliss story, so this is a welcomed addition to the growing list of titles. Hopefully, the wait won't be quite as long for the next installment!

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Restful Insomnia
Sondra Kornblatt
Red Wheel, Weiser, & Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781573244671, $14.95,

Sleep, as good as it is, is not so easily acquired. "Restful Insomnia: How to Get the Benefits of Sleep Even When You Can't" is a collection of tips for fighting the insomnia that affects many Americans. Rest and sleep are not synonyms, writes Sondra Kornblatt, as she states various techniques to make sure one has the energy for the events ahead when sleep is simply not on the menu. Warning against drugs, "Restful Insomnia" is a choice acquisition for when someone has to settle for the next best thing.

Deadly Cargo
Erik Carlsen
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161744, $12.95,

The black market can commonly lead to dealing in death. "Deadly Cargo" tells the story of Chris Barrow, a player on the Malaysian black market. His morally dubious business empire turns a lot more sinister when weapons of mass destruction, and Erik Carlsen crafts an intriguing read of black market politics. "Deadly Cargo" is worth reading, highly recommended.

Paint the Next Sunrise
Mark Strand
Beaver's Pond Press
7104 Ohms Lane, Suite 101, Edina, MN 55439
9781592982967, $12.95,

There's been a decline in traditional great outdoors activities. "Paint the Next Sunrise: A Future for Hunting and Fishing" is an encouragement for Mark Strand for readers to once again embrace the pastimes of hunting and fishing for sport, both of which have received criticism in recent years. Stating his argument of the benefits of the sports, "Pain the Next Sunrise" is a worthy read for those who miss the days of fishing and hunting with one's father.

Gaslight Grotesque
J.R. Campbell & Charles Prepolec, editor
Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing
PO Box 1715, Calgary, AL T2P 2L7, Canada
9781894063319, $19.95,

Arthur Conan Doyle would never have thought his iconic character may battle the undead. "Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes" blend horror and mystery as the legendary sleuth finds himself faced off against the supernatural through the pens of countless established and budding authors. The rational Holmes against an irrational world makes "Gaslight Grotesque" a very riveting collection.

Salvatore Grasso
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440168987, $18.95,

Once you have a piece of the pie, you don't want to lose it, ever. "Larceny" is a criminal thriller telling the story of Richard Gillespie, self-made millionaire and head of a law firm that will take those millions with it. To keep his millions he enters a web of treachery and technology against university head Louis Jacobson, university executive Bridgette Lonerghan, and the inventions of Joseph Ralinski where murder may just become an option in pursuit of the almighty dollar. "Larceny" is a fine thriller where you don't know where the next turn will come from.

The Guilt Gene
Diana M. Raab
Plain View Press
PO Box 42255, Austin, TX 78704
Newman Communications, Inc. (publicity)
38 Everett Street, Suite 75, Allston, MA 02134
9781935514398, $14.95,

Guilt is a very strange emotion, that almost all of humanity seems to feel. "The Guilt Gene" is a collection of poems from Diana M. Raab throughout her lifetime, from being a flower child to the modern era, and the contemporary concerns of her day. "The Guilt Gene" is a fine and intriguing read, well worth acquiring for lovers of poetry. "My Ancestors Hated Camel Herders". At the bedside of a newborn/I wonder why peace/is not cherished.

The Drummer
Abe Rosa
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432745097, $10.95,

Some skills seem useful for saving the world. Drumming isn't one of them. "The Drummer: Angela's Revenge" tells the story of Angela, lauded as the greatest drummer in the world. But when her mother is kidnapped by an oppressive government, she soon finds drumming may not be the most useless thing in this environment after all. With much faith interwoven, "The Drummer" is a quick read Christian readers will relish.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Home Test
Gregory Dunne
Adastra Press
16 Reservation Road, Easthampton, MA 01027
9780982249529, $18.00

Home is where much of life's time is spent, but what is it, truly? "Home Test" is Gregory Dunne exploring the concept of 'home' through his verse, giving the reader something to ponder about his own place in life. "Home Test" is a worthy time investment, recommended. "Ikebana": A fistful of lotus buds/soaking in a vase--ready/to open any moment now.

The Week That Changed the World
Timoty Dean Roth
Seabury Books
c/o Church Publishing
445 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9781596271067, $16.00,

The story that Christianity finds its strongest base in all occurred under the period of a week. "The Week That Changed the World: The Complete Easter Story" is a retelling of the final days of Jesus of Nazareth, telling his tale day by day and quoting the Bible as they go for reference. An intriguing and enlightening picture of God on Earth, "The Week That Changed the World" is a fine consideration for those looking for an Easter read.

The Last Lama Warrior
Yogi Tchouzar Pa
Destiny Books
1 Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781594772856, $19.95,

Why is the term 'monk' used to describe martial arts in popular culture so often? "The Last Lama Warrior: The Secret Martial Art of Tibet" describes the art of Senguei Ngaro, translated to 'The Lion's Roar'. This art was a closely guarded secret for many centuries, only to be revealed by one of the remaining practitioners who fled during China's invasion of Tibet. Yogi Tchouzar Pa explains this martial art with explanations and photos, and makes for an intriguing treat for both spirituality readers and martial arts enthusiasts. "The Last Lama Warrior" is a worthwhile consideration.

Treasure of the Mind
J. Michaels
Resource Publications
c/o Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Eugene, OR 97401
9781606089637, $14.00,

The loss of one's child is something few things are more devastating than. "Treasure of the Mind: A Tale of Redemption" is a story of friendship as Michael tries to overcome the murder of his son, finding himself considering ways to join him in the afterlife. But when a wise man enters his life, he finds there is always something to live for even when it appears there is not. "Treasure of the Mind" is a poignant read that should not be ignored.

How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food
Alian Braux
Privately Published
9781448676972, $19.95,

Dieting doesn't mean you have to let taste die. "How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food: A Practical Guide" is a dietary guide from Alain Braux, chef. Offering countless dishes one can make from the French discipline of cooking, his tips will prove delectable for anyone trying to fight their own cholesterol problems yet do not want to give up the foods they love. Braux offers many tasty replacements, making "How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food" a top pick and very recommended read.

Coping Successfully with Changing Tides and Winds
Jack Kushner
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781440161100, $13.95,

Doing one thing your entire life simply doesn't appeal to some people. "Coping Successfully with Changing Tides and Winds: A Neurosurgeon's Compass" the memoir of Jack Kushner, as he reflects on his life. He has survived some of the most tumultuous times in modern American history, as he served as a war surgeon in Vietnam among other career choices. Offering simple advice for those thinking of changing careers, "Coping Successfully with Changing Tides and Winds" is a fine addition to memoir collections.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Margaret D. McGee
Sky Lights Paths
PO Box 237, Sunset Farm Offices, Rt. 4, Woodstock, VT 05091
9781594732690, $16.99,

The power of the haiku is not in its format, but forcing people to put their thoughts in ways that are simple and brief. "Haiku - The Sacred Art: A Spiritual Practice in Three Lines" discusses the spirituality that comes with the Haiku, the Japanese based tradition that many have adapted as a way of spiritual expression. Encouraging readers to use haikus themselves to express themselves further, "Haiku" is a top pick for any poetry collection focusing on the creating one's own and the reasons why.

Flying Free
Amber Polo
Treble Heart Books
1284 Overlook Dr., Sierra Vista, AZ 85635-5512
9781936127054, $11.95,

Planes, beef, and love, one may think those things have nothing in common. "Flying Free" is a charming novel of Lia and Seth, two people from very different walks of life meeting at the crossroads of life in the state of Arizona. With characters readers will relate to, "Flying Free" is of profound and high recommendation for general fiction readers searching for a quirky romance.

Ultimate Catholic Trivia
Scott Paul Frush
Marshall Rand Publishing
PO Box 1849, Royal Oak, MI 48068-1849
0974437441, $9.95,

Over two thousands years of history, there is bound to be many interesting facts to know. "Ultimate Catholic Trivia: 1001 Fun and Fascinating Facts" is a trivia book from Scott Paul Frush for those who want to add a bit of fun to their Sunday School proceedings, or encourage faith through play at home for any age. In a simple question list, answers in back format, "Ultimate Catholic Trivia" can give readers endless fun.

Making the Invisible Visible
Richard Farson, editor
Western Behavioral Sciences Institute
25 Technology Parkway South, Suite 101, Norcross, GA 30092
9780984084609, $29.00,

To lead people is to understand them. "Making the Invisible Visible: Essays by the Fellows of the International Leadership Forum" discusses leadership through a series of essays from countless authors who apply their own thoughts and ideas to the matter. Richard Farson compiles a fine read that will inspire many new ideas for leaders in many walks of life, and as such "Making the Invisible Visible" a solid choice for any reader who wants to gain a greater understanding of what it takes to be a leader.

Cognitive and Behavioral Theories in Clinical Practice
Nikolaos Kazantzis & Collaborators, editors
The Guilford Press
72 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012
9781606233429, $45.00,

"Cognitive and Behavioral Theories in Clinical Practice" is a scholarly psychological text diving into human behavioral. Designed as a psychological therapy manual, Nikolaos Kazantzis and his associates provide many different essays with many informed and informative ideas. From psychological disorders to how to treat them, to simply understanding why people act the way they act, this text will prove useful to professionals while offering a certain bit of intrigue for non-specialist general readers. "Cognitive and Behavioral Theories in Clinical Practice" is a core addition to any community or college library psychology collection.

Beyond Alzheimer's
Scott D. Mendelson
M. Evans
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781590771570, $24.95,

Is dementia the result of aging, or something more? "Beyond Alzheimer's: How to Avoid the Modern Epidemic of Dementia" is a discussion of the causes of dementia and what leads to it as many Americans enter into their twilight years. Poor conditioning throughout life, Scott D. Mendelson argues, is a root cause to dementia later in life. Discusses the brain and how it matures through life and can be left to wither without the right care, he provides an intriguing read for those who want to keep their body and mind healthy no matter what their age. "Beyond Alzheimer's" is a choice pick for health collections focusing on senior issues.

There is Life After Death
Roy Abraham Varghese
New Page Books
c/o Career Press
3 Tice Road, PO Box 687, Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417
9781601630957, $15.99,

What lies in the afterlife? "There is Life After Death: Compelling Reports from Those Who Have Glimpsed the After-Life" is a collection of tales from those who have gone to the brink of the afterlife and what it has shown them. Making an argument for the existence of an afterlife, Roy Abraham Varghese gives readers quite the read and will give those who wonder what lies beyond a vivid glimpse of such. "There is Life After Death" is a solid addition to any metaphysical studies collection, highly recommended.

Michael J. Carson

Charles' Bookshelf

Dracula: The Un-Dead
Stoke Dacre and Holt Ian
New York
9780525951292 $26.95

Dracula is dead, long live Dracula! In Bram Stoker's original 1897 novel, Count Dracula does indeed die: "I saw the Count lying within the box upon the earth, some of which the rude falling from the cart had scattered over him. He was deathly pale, just like a waxen image, and the red eyes glared with the horrible vindictive look … on the instant, came the sweep and flash of Jonathan's great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through the throat; whilst at the same moment Mr. Morris's bowie knife plunged into the heart. It was like a miracle; but before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breath, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight!" In 2009, Stoker's great-grandnephew, Dacre Stoker, and his collaborator, Ian Holt, a screenwriter and Dracula historian of sorts have resurrected Count Dracula as the character has previously been in so many movies by publishing a sequel to the original that has been authorized by Bram Stoker's estate. There are many direct links between Dracula: The Un-Dead (2009) and the original 1897 classic starting with the newly published novel's title which echoes some of Bram Stoker's original titles for his novel which included The Dead Un-Dead and The Un-Dead which latter title remained listed on the author's manuscripts almost until publication.

This novel traces the lives and experiences of a number of characters of Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, after the end of the original. Dr. John Steward has become a morphine addict; Arthur Holmwood (also known as Lord Godalming) attempts to overcome his grief at his wife Lucy's death in a loveless marriage; Abraham Van Helsing, now aged 75, remains obsessed with destroying the vampire once and for all; Jonathan and Mina Harker experience a severe test of their marriage due to their past encounters with Count Dracula. The leitmotif of Dracula: The Un-Dead focuses on the Harkers' desire to protect their son, Quincey Harker whose appearance in the original 1897 novel occurs in a "Note" by Jonathan Harker on page 354 and serves as a representative of the succeeding generation, from any harm from Dracula, or more sinisterly from Elizabeth Bathory, a female vampire who seeks revenge on Count Dracula for his having chosen Mina as consort. Harkening back to the original novel, Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt make reference to Lucy's death, the insanity of Renfeld, the "baptism of blood," chasing Dracula back to his home in Transylvania, and the climatic battle between Dracula and Bathory.

The central plot of the novel centers on the experiences of Quincey Harker after he decides to leave law school at the Sorbonne in Paris to pursue his dream of becoming a famous actor. Quincey is particularly struck by the performance of a famous Romanian actor named Basarab which incidentally was the actual name of the royal family to which Vlad III Tepes (1431-1476), the real life model of the fictional Count Dracula, belonged. After having met Basarab, Quincey Harker begins experiencing a series of increasingly strange, horrifying events as he learns more and more about the deep secrets of his parents' past. In sixty-three mostly brief chapters that resemble scenes for a movie script do the authors depict a world in which the presence of evil becomes increasingly apparent and real. While the literary genre of Bram Stoker's original 1897 classic was an epistolary novel (e.g. it was comprised of letters, journal entries, notes, etc.), this sequel is more strictly a Gothic horror novel in which the atmosphere and tone of the plot become progressively darker and more violent. Descriptions of the violent deaths of the novel's characters are graphic. The time period is 1912 which allows for the appearance of Henry Irving, Bram Stoker's real life employer, the Lyceum Theatre where Stoker was employed, and Stoker himself who died on 20 April 1912, several days after the sinking of the Titanic. The timing furthermore allows for the possibility of Dracula being brought to America which could furnish, if this sequel is commercially successful, yet another sequel to the original 1897 Dracula. The plot however is not helped by the repeated number of fortuitous deus ex machina interventions that propel its action forward. Although this sequel is not nor does it pretend to be great literature, it would be appreciated by aficionados of the horror novel in general and vampire enthusiasts in particular.

Generation A: A Novel
Coupland, Douglas
Scribner New York
9781439157015 $24.00

Eighteen years after he published his first novel, titled Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, that gave its name to the immediate post-baby boomer generation of those born between 1961 and 1981, Douglas Coupland has published a very funny satirically ironic sequel titled Generation A. The title comes from a commencement address given by novelist Kurt Vonnegut at Syracuse University in 1994 in which Vonnegut dubs the new graduates "Generation A, as much at the beginning of a series of astonishing triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago." Of Coupland's previous eleven published novels, the central plot concerns of Generation A that focus on the meaning of human existence, religion, human sexuality and the interplay of technology and humanity have been treated in Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991), Microserfs (1995), and JPod (2006).

In contrast to Generation X which has three main characters, Dag, Andy, and Claire, there are five characters (Zack who is a farmer from Iowa, Harj from Sri Lanka, Samantha from New Zealand, Diana from Canada, and Julien from Paris who spends most of his time playing World of Warcraft) in Generation A. In Generation X the three main characters abandon civilization in exchange for an uninterrupted peaceful existence in Palm Springs where they contemplate the end of the world in a nuclear holocaust while fantasizing about dwelling unharmed on an imaginary asteroid called Texlahoma where it is always 1974; other novels in the apocalyptic genre include Stephen King's The Stand (1978 and 1990) in which an influenza virus wipes out almost 99.5% of the human population as well as Gore Vidal's Messiah (1954) which deconstructs Christianity replacing it with a cult based on television personality (anticipating the influence of contemporary televangelists) whose main tenet hold dying to be the supreme act of creating meaning out of existence and Kalki (1978) in which Vishnu, the final appearance of the Indian god whose appearance will result in the extermination of the human race and its replacement by a new golden age.

Generation A takes place in an unspecified near future when bees have become extinct. Each of the five main characters who have been stung by an unexplained return of bees are rounded up by scientists and undergo extensive medical examinations. Eventually taken captive by an unnamed secretive organization whose leader is named Serge, each character including Serge, is subjected to a marathon round of storytelling in an attempt to discern meaning in their storytelling. Storytelling seeks to delineate a pattern in the lives of each character, whether the story be true or as in most cases invented. Serge's company however which is involved in the production of a fictive drug called Solon which is highly addictive attempts to keep its addicts in a perpetual present thus interfering with the development of a personal story or discerning meaning in life's seemingly arbitrary and capricious actions. Thus, Coupland's novel deals with serious existential questions of the meaning of life, truth, power, technology, pharmaceuticals, the role of science, and fame. That the characters' stories are virtually indistinguishable serves as Coupland's commentary on the homogenization of mass culture. That Harj, a Sri Lankan, speaks first and last in the literary device of inclusio underlines perhaps the more holistic Eastern vision of maintaining our humanity. Coupland is an astute observer of and satirical critic of human nature and popular culture which helps lighten the tone of his serious criticisms which aim to prod us to remain human. Highly recommended for Coupland enthusiasts and for readers of literary fiction.

The Library at Night
Alberto Manguel
Yale University Press
New Haven, CT
9780300139143 $27.50

"The library in which I have at long last collected my books began life as a barn sometime in the fifteenth century, perched on a small hill south of the Loire." So begins Alberto Manguel's (author of The City of Words and The Illiad and the Odyssey: A Biography among other books) Medicis Prize-winning series of essays on the meaning of the library throughout history. In fifteen reflective essays does the author examine various aspects of libraries and their development throughout history. Among the themes under which the significance of libraries is considered include both expected and traditional meanings such as the library as order (chapter 2), the library as space (chapter 3), even the library as workshop (chapter 9) and unusual musings such as the library as power (chapter 4), the library as shadow (chapter 5), the library as shape (chapter 6), the library as mind (chapter 10), and the opening essay, the library as myth (chapter 1). A breathtakingly wide variety of characters whose influence on even the most tangential aspects of libraries are discussed: Ashurbanipal (c. 668-627, BC), the last great king of the Assyrian Empire, a remainder of whose personal library of several thousand cuneiform tablets is extant in Nineveh in Iraq, the Library at Alexandria in Egypt which was the most famous in the ancient world, Francois Rabelais (1494-1553) author of Gargantua et Pantagreul, the Library of Aby Warburg, Michelangelo's entrance staircase to the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy, and even Adolf Hitler. Each essay is a discursive reflection on some aspect of the meaning and significance of libraries. The reflection usually begins with Manguel's subjective reaction to his memories associated with a particular book in his personal library or to some physical or visible attribute of his library which leads him through the association of ideas to uncover some disparate and unusual meanings of the library as an institution to the human condition. Photographs that illuminate points under discussion are dispersed throughout each essay. The title describes Manguel's preferred time of day to utilize his own library, during which times the lack of interruptions enables the writer to consider more deeply what the library means to him as well as to humanity as a whole. Another useful title for this book could have been The Library: A Memoir (in imitation of Manguel's earlier work The Illiad and The Odyssey: A Biography) which underscores the central cultural, educational, recreational, and informational roles that libraries play in our everyday lives. Despite its publication in 2006, the book provides such an important examination of the multifaceted roles that library's have played and continue to play in human civilization that a published review is warranted. Very highly recommended for those interested in libraries and as an apologetic for the general public.

Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History's Glare
Gore Vidal
New York
9780810950498 $40.00

"I am not my own subject," Gore Vidal used to say once upon a time referring to the objectivity with which he wished his work to be judged. However in the mid-1990s, at least two biographers began to research Vidal's life story. In response, Vidal himself became interested in discovering why he had lived the life he lived. Since then, Vidal has published two volumes of memoirs, Palimpsest (1995) which covers the first 39 years of the author's life (1925-1964) and Point to Point Navigation (2006) which brings the reader up to 2006. Now Vidal has published a supplementary visual memoir of his entire life. In the introduction, Vidal explains the reason for publishing this book at this time. His now-deceased longtime partner, Howard Russell Austen (ne Auster), had taken a lifetime's worth of photographs which he had assembled intending to publish a book about his life and times with Vidal. In fulfillment of his partner's wishes, Vidal selected a number of Auster's photographs and complemented them with a large number of visual materials from Vidal's own archives now housed at Harvard University.

In ten numbered but untitled chapters has Vidal more or less chronologically arranged the material beginning with his obvious affection for this maternal grandfather, Oklahoma's first Senator Thomas Pryor Gore, and his father, Eugene Luther Vidal, to his ultimate resting place at Rock Creek Cemetery where his partner, Paul Auster, is already buried. This coffee-table-sized book contains a treasure trove of Vidaliana from his very public life. The book is well suited to supplement pictorally both of Vidal's previous volumes of memoirs and of Fred Kaplan's biography Gore Vidal (1999).

Vidal was born into a politically involved and connected family. As noted above, his maternal grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, was the first senator from Oklahoma after it had achieved statehood. His father was a famous athlete at West Point, Director of Air Commerce (1933-1937) under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945), founder of several airlines including what became TWA, and the subject of a cover story in Time magazine just as Vidal himself would be in 1976 when his historical novel 1876 was published. His mother's second husband was Hugh D. Auchincloss who inherited a substantial amount of Standard Oil money and who married Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's mother after his divorce from Vidal's mother, Nina. In his life's journey, Vidal has met most of the movers and shakers of the 20th Century in politics, literature, and the social elite.

For more than sixty years (since the publication of his first novel Williwaw in 1946) Vidal has entertained us with his fiction as well as having commented widely on public policy and political matters in his essays and on television. Among the types of material included are photographs, Western Union telegrams, manuscripts, copies of all his fiction book covers including the three Edgar Box mysteries, the romance by Katherine Everard, and the paperback written under the pseudonym of Cameron Kaye which are difficult to find. Some of the photographs may be found either in Vidal's own two volumes of memoirs or in Kaplan's biography. In this book unlike Vidal's own memoirs, the reader gets the feeling of being allowed inside Vidal's private preserve by looking at what could pass for a Vidal family album. At the same time, Vidal's commentary which shows no sign of softening its polemic nature omits as much as it describes particularly his relationship with Jimmy Tribble and some dancers during the 1950s about which he is more open in his first volume of memoirs.

More and more, however, the reader gets the impression with each succeeding publication that we are arriving at Vidal's fin de la vie. His last novel, The Golden Age, was published in 2000; his last volume of essays, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 was published in 2001 although he has published since then three pamphlets (Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace or How We Came To Be So Hated [2002], Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta [2002], and Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia [2004]), one nonfiction work (Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson [2003]), a collection of short stories (Clouds and Eclipses : The Collected Short Stories [2006]), and his second volume of memoirs. Because he continues to give interviews and submit opinion pieces, Vidal remains America's gadfly which this book amply provides pictures of the original contexts and background to his evolving views. High recommended for fans of Vidal and for those interested in the contributions of an American original to the politics and culture of the United States in the second half of the 20th Century.

Pius Charles Murray

Christy's Bookshelf

Dead on Arrival
Jackie Griffey
Five Star Publishing
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594148460 $25.95

Maggie Murphy finds herself adrift after her husband dies in a motorcycle accident. Their finances weren't in the best of shape and Maggie needs to find a job. Maggie's offered temporary employment at her cousin Hank's newspaper, replacing an advice columnist who hasn't shown up for work in a couple of days, and she takes it, hoping to find a real job in the interim. When Maggie discovers the columnist's dead body behind the office dumpster, she meets Patrolman Joe Driver, who agrees to provide Maggie the police report of her husband's death. Hank offers Maggie the columnist job full-time and things are looking up for her financially and personally as her relationship with Joe begins to blossom. After Maggie learns her husband may have been drugged before his accident, she begins receiving mysterious phone calls and her former house is bombed. As their relationship moves forward, Maggie and Joe sort out clues as to the deaths of her husband and the newspaper columnist, unaware her husband's spirit is hanging around, looking out for Maggie, who is in more danger than she and Joe realize.

Griffey provides her readers with a fun romp in book one of her Joe and Maggie Mystery series. This cozy mystery is filled with humor and suspense enmeshed within a plot peppered with suspicious characters and plenty of twists and turns. Characters are warm and engaging and the plot interesting and fresh and viable.

Ghost Orchid
D.K. Christi
L&L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendswood, TX 77549-1984
9781603181365 $14.95

Mel, consumed by her love for a man who shares her passion but cannot commit to her, finds consolation in her daily walks at an Audubon Society sanctuary near the Florida Everglades. Her daughter Neev, raised by foster parents, does not understand nor can she forgive her mother for abandoning her and deliberately keeps her at arm's length. A former model and graduate of Oxford University, Neev interns under Roger Andrew, an acclaimed photographer with National Geographic. As the two travel to exotic locales, they enter into a romantic relationship which deepens into an affectionate friendship. Roger's passion is shooting scarce and endangered flora, and when he learns that a Ghost Orchid, a rare form of the orchid family, is blooming at an Audubon Society sanctuary in Florida, he cannot miss this opportunity. Knowing Neev dislikes the area where her mother lived, he nevertheless asks her to accompany him there. Neev agrees, setting in motion mystical occurrences surrounding the Ghost Orchid connecting Neev's past to her present and future.

Ghost Orchid is a lovely story brilliantly depicted through the author's poetic prose and vibrant descriptives. Characters are well-developed and intriguing, as are the locales portrayed. Readers will fall under the spell of Christi as she weaves a magical tale of love, betrayal and forgiveness.

Mr. Paradise
Elmore Leonard
William Morrow/Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060083956 $TBA

Roommates Kelly and Chloe look enough alike to be twins. Kelly's an underwear model and Chloe is being kept by 84-year-old Tony Paradiso, a retired lawyer, whom everyone refers to as Mr. Paradise. Mr. Paradise gets his kicks out of watching old football games of his alma mater, The University of Michigan, with Chloe and her friends dressed as cheerleaders. Chloe talks Kelly into participating in this venture one evening, and before the night is through, one of the women is dead, along with Mr. Paradiso. Enter Frank Delsa, lieutenant of the Homicide Section of the Detroit Police Department, who deduces the woman calling herself Chloe is actually Kelly. Delsa quickly labels this a contract hit and his number one suspect is Montez Taylor, Mr. Paradiso's right-hand man. But why is Kelly lying and who is she trying to protect?

Elmore Leonard excels at characters cool and quirky, witty dialogue, and a fun plot. This is no who-dun-it but more a follow along as Delsa tracks the killers while falling in love with Kelly who's manipulating Montez and trying not to get killed.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

Warren Fahy
Delacorte Press
9780553807530 $25.00

Warren Fahy's debut novel, "Fragment", grasps your imagination from the start and then leads you into the expansive oceanography realm of the sea. Swept away by wave upon wave of adventure, the reader is confronted with gruesome creatures that have been left over from a pre-historic time. Henders Island had been previously isolated from the world and is now thrust into the limelight. Many nuances characterize this island as a step out of the past and are extremely frightening.

An explorative film crew aboard a 182-foot vessel discovers this unknown land mass and recognizes its potential as an episode for a television series which it had been in doubt about its continuation. Many strange creatures attack without provocation causing death to the explorers as they traipse upon their land. If words are not enough to describe these creatures, illustrations are liberally interspersed throughout the book to give the reader a more dramatic feeling of the danger they pose.

Fahy has combined many scientifically researched facts and brings realism to this tale of science fiction. It not only is a part of his imagination, but when interviewed, he said; "In a sense, all of my life I have always pondered what forces brought about the emergence of our planet's incredibly diverse life forms…Once I began to work on the novel proper, it took about three years of intense research to flesh out the ecosystem of Henders Island."

As the original explorers encounter extreme danger and many perish, video feeds are done live. The world sees what is happening and skepticism abounds. Various "experts" emerge with doubt and thus begins a more in-depth tale utilizing the United States government, the film crew, and others.

All of those who are directly involved have high expectations their solutions will solve the mysteries of the island. Some of the encounters are so fierce that many of the scientists find their solutions are thwarted by the Henders Island's monsters. Specially designed vehicles for moon exploration are destroyed by these strange beings and the main characters are reluctantly forced to return to their ships off-shore to regroup for another exploration.

"Fragment" is a page-turner which will keep the reader engrossed and wanting more. Finishing with a flourish, you will not be disappointed. Highly recommended and a great read for Sci-Fi enthusiasts.

Sometimes We're Always Real Same-same
Mattox Roesch
Unbridled Books
9781932961874 $15.95

Mattox Roesch's first novel "Sometimes Were Always Real Same-Same" places the reader into summer in Alaska. Everything is not green and rosy for Cesar, but it is timely for this Los Angeles youngster to be up-rooted from his neighborhood, as he has turned a gang-banger. When Cesar's brother becomes an inmate in the penal system, his mother takes him from a poor environment in order keep him out of trouble into another poor environment of poverty in the small community of Unalakleet. His mother grew up in this isolated society of Eskimos where many are related. Once a day a plane arrives with the necessities of life and the community is dependant upon it for all their needs.

Roesch's writing gets better as the novel develops its own voice. The first couple of chapters may not be the best way to encourage the reader to continue, but when the story unfolds, it becomes a very interesting tale about life in one of the states that few will visit because of its distance from the continental United States.

Sarah Palin did one great service for her native state and that was to arouse interest in Alaskan life. However, many things in the Alaskan communities have remained the "same-same".

Unalakleet is a village where the main industry is fishing. A job for Cesar is found by his cousin who is a troubled college drop-out with mental problems that lead him to a suicide attempt. The job is that of counting and identifying salmon and other species of fish. As a city boy, Cesar has many episodes of conflict with his employer as he cannot identify many of the fish. When his cousin Go-Go stands up for him, takes the blame, they both lose their jobs.

Interpersonal relationships experienced by Cesar are not unfamiliar, but the experiences point out that life in Alaska is far more difficult than in the lower 48. Go-Go's treatment in a mental hospital is highlighted by the cost of travel and the hundreds of miles it takes to visit him. A pizza-parlor is opened because of the urging by Go-Go. He convinced the proprietors they could be successful and they could be supported by sales in Unalakleet. It soon develops that the business cannot be conducted strictly in their town. They are then forced to air-deliver pizza to other communities which makes their business thrive.

The author moved from Minneapolis to Unalakleet and through his research brings realism to the Alaskan culture. This book is recommended for those who want to explore other elements of our society and learn how positive changes can promote good citizenship.

Song of the Heart
Janet Litherland
Publish America
9781607030292 $24.95

Janet Litherland is the author of "Vanished" (a World War II mystery), "Chain of Deception" (An Irish intrigue), and "Discovery in Time" (a Victorian mystery), and several non-fiction books. Her books are morally pure and her style of writing captivates audiences showing this type of writing can be accepted and enjoyed without defilement. She is well received by her readers who always look forward to her next novel.

Janet's current novel, "Song of the Heart", is a deeply moving love story about two young ambitious people who fall in love in Wales over two decades ago.

After 21 years pass-by, well-known classical guitarist, Susan Evans, travels from her home in Tallahassee, Florida to Trefiw, Wales in search of her romantic first love, Rhys Llewellyn, the handsome tour guide she met while visiting on a high school educational trip. Anwen, Susan's loving and beautiful 18 year-old daughter, gladly accompanies her mother on their quest to find Rhys. Susan wears a locket around her neck and close to her heart with a picture of her and Rhys as a constant reminder of the love they had shared so long ago. Even though they wrote letters to each other, she was heartbroken when he suddenly stopped writing her after a year had gone by. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the outcome, she was determined to locate him, and find out the reason why he had stopped communicating.

Back home, a horrible man named Forrest Fletcher, who tried to ruin Susan's life 19 years ago, is released from prison. He is out to get even with her for putting him behind bars. He had raped her! Susan had no fear when Fletcher stalked her or sent anonymous emails. Nothing could stop her from finding the only man she had ever loved, Rhys Llewellyn!

Interestingly, back in Wales, Rhys, now the owner of a successful tour guide business is trying to re-establish contact with Susan, making this tale even more fascinating. His personal life had taken a few mysterious twists and soon his hidden secrets would be revealed.

Litherland knows how to animate her characters with realism and vividly takes you on a romantic, exciting, excursion through Wales and London. You cannot put the book down. You are desperate to find out how this love story will end.

The story concludes in fairy-tale fashion, full of unexpected surprises. A very delightful and enjoyable read which is highly recommended for romance fans.

Princess Emily and the Secret Library
Mary Balfanz
Willow Brook Publishing
9780981763606 $16.99

Mystical, fancy, and mysterious for this age group is discovering fantasy worlds which will open their eyes to the love of reading and that is what Mary Balfanz has created in "Princess Emily and the Secret Library". Well articulated so that the parents will read this many times to their children and not get tired of it themselves. Wonderful illustrations by Stan Gorman will make the dourest face brighten into a smile. Surely, this book is destined to become a classic among children's literature. Very highly recommended as a must have for your favorite child's library.

Cowboy True's Christmas Adventure
Chris Enss, Illustrated by Melissa & Jeff Galpin
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781441536457 $15.99

Chris Enss is well known as a writer of western women's tales, and now brings this quaint story of a young cowboy in "Cowboy True's Christmas Adventure". A children's tale which tells a message that is always the same this time of year, to give unto others. Christmas is about caring and sharing. Enss shows that this is a lesson that can be taught at an early age with inspiration. This learning book is highly recommended for those young buck-a-roos who will discover the meaning of the golden rule and how to deal with those in need.

Famous Figures of Ancient Times
Cathy Diez-Luckie
Figures in Motion
9780981856605 $19.95

"Famous Figures of Ancient Times" is an award-winning book that helps children learn about famous people 2000 to 3000 years ago. What makes this book unique is that it has twenty moveable cut-out paper dolls. Each of the figures is presented in two formats, one is fully colored and the other is suitable to be colored using ordinary crayons. Instructions are given for assembly and parents can assist a younger child in an interactive way to properly arrange famous people like Hannibal and Julius Caesar. Textual material describes in enough detail each of the characters so there is a broad understanding of who they are.

Planned are subsequent books depicting characters from different eras, using this same format of moveable figures. Cathy Diez-Luckie has provided some terrific art work and should provide hours of entertainment for children. The added bonus is that there is a strong educational foundation which will expose the child to many historical figures. This book is recommended for the child who likes to play-act using their own stories, or for coloring unusual characters.

Josh The Baby Otter
Blake Collingsworth, Illustrated by Ashley Spitsnogle
Boomers Printing Co
9780615285825 $8.95

Blake Collingsworth wrote this book "Josh The Baby Otter" to promote water safety for young children. The Center for Disease Control states we are losing three children each day to drowning accidents. Collingsworth has his own cause; he lost his young son Joshua and started a foundation to promote water safety for 1 to 4 year-old children.

Included in this book is a CD which reads the book aloud, plays a special song regarding water safety, has a spot promotion for a radio station, and contains a pledge for kids to take regarding going to the pool and not being alone. Also, the message is clear, learn to float. Reading the book to children, playing the CD, and discussing the issue of not being alone is great, but the main message is awareness. The children in the 1 - 4 age group can wander off to the family pool or a neighbor's pool, but the more alert the parents become about dangers lurking near pools when summer-time comes around, the less likely there will be a drowning. This book and its message are very highly recommended.

Houdini's Gift
Jeanne Gehret, M. A., Illustrated by: Michael LaDuca
Verbal Images Press
9780982198223 $17.95

Eagle Eyes
Jeanne Gehret, M. A., Illustrated by: Michael LaDuca
Verbal Images Press
9780982198216 $17.95

The Don't-give-up Kid
Jeanne Gehret, M. A., Illustrated by: Michael LaDuca
Verbal Images Press
9780982198209 $17.95

Jeanne Gehret, M. A., presents a series of books which will definitely help with children who have problems coping with their disabilities. "Learning disabilities (LD) encompass problems with taking in, processing, or expressing information. Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is characterized by impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity." According to Gehret, these issues need to be addressed in a style which is good not only for the child, but for the parents.

These books present the various issues which are faced by the characters in story form, but also have discussion questions at the end of the book which can explore the understanding level of the children and the parent of the problems which they encounter.

Encouragement and dealing with the problems are the main motivational factors in each book. Parents who suspect they have children with these issues will find that in 2012 there will be additional help provided by the Response to Intervention (RTI) program of the federal government. These books may be a little ahead of that program, but it is never too soon to address the issues with understanding and compassion.

Each book addresses a different issue and it might be wise to peruse them before making a purchase. They are helpful and highly recommended.

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

Green, The Beginning and the End
Ted Dekker
Thomas Nelson
Nashville, Tennessee
9781595542885 $25.95

Green connects the Circle Series; Black, Red, and White. This is Book Zero, the Beginning and the End, which can be the starting point for readers who have not yet read the trilogies, and it may also serve as an ending to those readers who have read Black, Red, and White. Green is a science fiction/fantasy story with spiritual parallels to the Bible. Thomas Hunter bears the burden of fighting good and evil, using the Books of History. In these Books, events following the year 2010 have yet to begin. Strangely enough, they began in the year 4036 AD, the future, not the past.

Green is filled with suspense, violence, and hate, however, love and romance is not forgotten in the story. I liked how Ted Dekker described the characters and battles Thomas Hunter fought in both worlds in great detail, which invoked nightmares if reading the book before bedtime. On the other hand, when reading the references to the Book of Histories, it made me stop reading, close the book, and think about my knowledge of the Bible. It was thought provoking to me because I currently have mixed feelings about my faith.

I would recommend reading this novel; however, I would advise reading the trilogies first. Without prior knowledge, I could see a reader becoming confused. The ending itself has me thinking Ted Dekker is leaving room for an 'opening' to The Circle in the future, another good reason to read the trilogies first. You decide if you agree after reading, Green, by Ted Dekker.

I am a member of Thomas Nelson's Book Review blogger program.

5 Cities that Ruled the World
Douglas Wilson
Thomas Nelson
Nashville, Tennessee
9781595551368 $14.99

5 Cities that Ruled the World is an overview description of how the cities of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York ruled the world. Douglas Wilson is a theologian and teaches college level ethics and logic. He is also editor of a cultural journal best known for its humor and satire, which Wilson fails to successfully interject throughout the book.

Wilson wants his readers to be reminded of liberty and the blessings liberty brings. He does this by devoting a short chapter for each city; Jerusalem represents the soul set free, stating it is a great and standing metaphor for spiritual liberty. Athens established the ideal of free inquiry, where we are grateful not for every idea to come out of Athens, but for the freedom to reject ideas. Rome passed on liberty under law, and gave us understanding of civic liberties and equitable laws. London set free our literary imagination, where extraordinary literature was made available for ordinary people. New York has shown us the freedom to trade, this city being the world's financial center.

I think Wilson should have justified his choice of the 5 cities. The subtitle reads 'Global History'; however, there are no eastern hemisphere cities. I see this book as a springboard for more in depth research, not only for cities that ruled the world, but for the biblical references. I would recommend 5 Cities that Ruled the World as a quick read listed as a young adult book.

The White Horse King
Benjamin Merkle
Thomas Nelson
Nashville, Tennessee
9781595552525 $14.99

The White Horse King is a biography of King Alfred the Great. The inscription on the statue of King Alfred says it all; Alfred found learning dead and he restored it, education neglected and he revived it, the laws powerless and he gave them force, the church debased and he raised it, the land ravaged by a fearful enemy from which he delivered it.

Being Alfred's birth order was the 5th son, not much was expected of him. Certainly it was unforeseen he would be king. Merkle describes King Alfred's victorious combat with the fierce and ruthless Vikings, who plundered and pillaged the English coastlands and countryside throughout the book. There is one chapter called, Alfred the Wise, which gives the reader a wonderful view of Alfred the person. This is where we learn about Alfred's lifelong love of learning that he incorporates in his religion and the law.

I found the book, The White Horse King, to be a quick, informative read into the history of AD 878 where England was being occupied by the notorious Vikings. I would have liked more information about Alfred the scholar, poet, law-giver, and architect vs. the seasoned warrior. However, this book entices me to read further and I would recommend The White Horse King as an enjoyable biography of a great king.

The Third Chapter
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
Sarah Crichton Books
18 West 18th Street, New York 10011
9780374275495 $25.00

After seeing Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot on Bill Moyer's Journal on PBS, I was anxious to read what words of wisdom Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot had to offer in her book, The Third Chapter; Passion, Risk, and Adventures in the 25 years After 50. I was disappointed to receive no additional pearls in her book.

To be fair to Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, she did say who the forty people were that she interviewed for her book. She did disclose the fact that her subjects were not ordinary people of middle class, but rather from the highly educated and privileged upper class with extraordinary wealth. However, I did think I would learn a thing or two by reading the book, but this was not the case.

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is an educational sociologist who spent two years interviewing both men and women living in the third chapter of their lives; their fifties, sixties, and seventies. She wants us to realize this significant time in life where we may want to seek new meaning and greater challenges. The forty people Sara interviewed were lucky enough to be able to take risks and actually seek their new meanings and fulfill their challenges in their third chapter in life. They had the means to change their lives dramatically. Each has a different story and circumstances that precipitated the change they made.

The Introduction to the book shared the most insight and learning tools than did the stories from the forty people. After finishing the book, I had wished there were more revelations from Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot than from the people she interviewed. The stories were a quick read, knowing how most ordinary people could not even begin to relate to achieving these third chapter life changes of the elite.

This is a self-help book the reader will have to modify, as most people living in their third chapter of life do want to seek changes and challenges. However, besides the Introduction, there isn't much for the average person to learn. This is one time where the TV interview was more informative than the book.

Mary Crocco

Daniel's Bookshelf

Bone By Bone
Carol O'Connell
The Berkley Publishing Group
c/o The Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425231050 $9.99 1-800-845-5515

I enjoy genre novels from general, biographies, detective, mystery, thrillers to that of science fiction in my life-time reading. I especially like the classic mystery tale, where it keeps the reader guessing making it much more fun. Carol O'Connell is that type of writer, so this book got selected based on my favorite choice. I found the book entertaining and in the winter I tend to be more reasonable in how long a book takes to get going, so in the winter months I don't mind if it's slower. I can curl up with the story with the winter wind howling and the snow flying. The cold weather makes this book even easier to digest and this author does deliver a good story.

The story begins twenty years ago in a northern California town of Coventry, where two teenage brothers go into the woods and only one comes out. Twenty years later, oldest brother Oren is summoned by the housekeeper, so he left the Army and took a time-out on his own life and past career. Oren was a former Army CID investigator He decided to follow the housekeeper's hinted letters regarding his father possible funeral was pending, He has returned home to his dad and housekeeper, that helped both of them in their growing up. In the early morning hours on his first morning back, he hears some thumping noise on his porch. He goes outside to investigate and discovers a human jawbone, bare of flesh but laced with teeth. The bones turns out to be the remains of his brother Josh, and his father lets him know other bones have materialized at their home's doorstep. It seems that Josh returning is coming back in a grisly manner. Oren faces that reality which has been haunting him for all the years over the disappearance of younger Josh. Now Oren must put closure to solve this macabre murder mystery, where Josh is finally coming home bone by bone.

Carol O' Connell is the author of the Mallory novels and she has eleven novels to date with hopefully another one in the works soon. I recommend her books for the readers who like mysteries of psychological suspense raising the goose bumps, and keeping the plot interesting with good writing prose.

Heat Lightning
John Sandford
The Berkley Publishing Group
c/o The Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425230619 $9.99 1-800-845-5515

It is no secret by now that I like to read John Sandford novels because I like consistent authors no matter what genre they write their stories. I have mentioned that both Sandford and Ridley Pearson have been keeping the benchmark higher because of the type of level they set for their work in the detective genre. Characterization are keys to their books along with setting and plotting effortlessly near the top of their game. This novel proves its worth in selection, and I enjoyed reading a good yarn of engaging prose. I appreciate the effort, along with the viewpoint of a writer who knows how to philosophize on the page turning story.

Virgil Flowers, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator is placed into a series of identical murders that totally surprise even him. He receives a call from Lucas Davenport on a hot sticky night in Minnesota. A body is found reiterating the similar circumstances of two weeks prior. The body has been found near a veterans memorial In Stillwater with two shots in the head and a lemon in his mouth. Virgil discovers that someone is ritualistically torturing and murdering Vietnam Vets. The numbers seem to be increasing adding to an amounting list. He keeps working the murders that contain many more names that connect, which he regrets the possible outcome even more. If that becomes a reality, it eventually goes down many more paths. He believe that will happen as his work winds down. It is more than likely every one is laced with a booby-trap. This ride of the story is going to be a wild one. The story starts quietly then the last three hundred pages start to speed up like a runaway train to the last page. Sandford showcases a hero with deft detective skills, smart, tough,witty, and ready at the drop of a skirt. Virgil is that kind of an engaging hero type which this helps us emerge into the story A novel plot line and fully realized secondary characters. He tops it off with a good feel the way people talk in true life.

John Sandford has written nineteen books known as the Prey Series, including two that stand alone, and four that bear the title of Kidd Novels. He has done three now featuring Virgil Flowers as the detective seeking Lucas Davenport in the background offering assistance and opinions as Virgil goes to work on the crime committed. His latest is Rough Country in hardback, which I plan to read in due time. I expect him to keep up the consistency of the other new Flowers novels in the usual Sandford tradition His writing makes good reading on the genre, that is one of my favorite type. This detective mystery thriller has kept this reviewer on the edge of my seat.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

Tarzan of the Apes
Edgar Rice Burroughs
9780451531025 $4.95

It's hard to imagine a time when no one had ever heard of Tarzan, when the ape man hadn't swung his way across B movie screens and Disney features. When I saw Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1912 novel Tarzan of the Apes listed among the public domain texts easily downloaded to the Kindle for free, I was curious to see what the original Tarzan looked like, before his cartoonification. It was worth the download.

The outline of the story told in Tarzan of the Apes--the first of what would be 24 Tarzan novels written by Burroughs--will be familiar. It begins with the story of Tarzan's parents, who were generously put ashore by a mutinous crew rather than killed, abandoned on an island that was inhabited only by wild beasts and cannibals. John Clayton is an Englishman's Englisman, brawny and brave and possessed of an innate nobility. His pregnant wife Alice strives to be a suitable companion to such a man. They survive in the jungle for a time, until their son is a year old, and then they both die from separate causes. Tarzan is adopted into a family of apes, where he eventually thrives because he is able to compensate for his physical shortcomings (compared to apes; compared to your average man he is a god) by employing his intellect. Tarzan teaches himself to read from the books he finds among his dead parents' possessions, and so he is able to communicate when the island is finally visited by Europeans, Jane Porter and her bumbling father, who've been marooned themselves. A romance ensues, which leads Tarzan to civilize himself and follow Jane to America.

One can complain that Tarzan is sexist and racist. Jane's black servant Esmeralda is a beloved but comically uneducated appendage to the family, wont to faint at the slightest disturbance, while the cannibals Tarzan runs across are scarcely portrayed as human. Tarzan's mother is all fluttering female, striving to deserve her man. These biases are hardly surprising, however, given the book's age. Like Esmeralda, but without the racist subtext, Jane's father is portrayed comically, as a blithering idiot, in passages which seem ill-fitted to the rest of the rather serious narrative. Burroughs also offers the occasional over-long, poorly written sentence:

"From this primitive function has arisen unquestionably, all the forms and ceremonials of modern church and state, for through all the countless ages, back beyond the uttermost ramparts of a dawning humanity our fierce, hairy forebears danced out the rites of the Dum-Dum to the sound of their earthen drums, beneath the bright light of a tropical moon in the depth of a mighty jungle which stands unchanged today as it stood on that long forgotten night in the dim, unthinkable vistas of the long dead past when our first shaggy ancestor swung from a swaying bough and dropped lightly upon the soft turf of the first meeting place."

Tarzan impresses as a character both because of his physical prowess and his mental acuity. He is portrayed as a noble savage, a blend of human and ape that is superior to both species, both of which come in for criticism. (Though Tarzan is not perfect: we're told, for example, that as a man he will sometimes kill merely for sport.) The book closes with a final act of nobility on Tarzan's part--very nicely done--that underscores his inherent quality.

Many elements of Burroughs' story are of course fantastic, but the author makes much seem credible because of the details he provides--he describes how John Clayton was able to build a sturdy dwelling, for example, from limited supplies; or how Tarzan could teach himself to read; or how he could track someone's progress through the jungle by minute signs which to his practiced eye were like flashing neon. The details bring Tarzan's jungle to life.

Despite the familiarity of Tarzan's story and any shortcomings in the book, Tarzan of the Apes is actually quite a gripping read. I was able to put the book down, to be sure, but there were many times when I was lost in the story while reading, eager to see how things would playout. I can understand how Tarzan came to be such a beloved icon given this introduction.

Tears of the Giraffe
Alexander McCall Smith
9781400031351 $13.95

Tears of the Giraffe is the second book in Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. In this outing Mma Ramotswe is principally concerned with two cases. An American woman seeks her help in finding out what happened to her son, who disappeared ten years earlier while working on a farm in Botswana. Mma Ramotswe's assistant Mma Makutsi, newly promoted to the position of assistant detective, acts as the lead investigator in the second case that crosses their desks: a man hires them to find out where his wife has found the money to send their son to an expensive private school. At the same time big changes are sweeping Mma Ramotswe's private life. She's agreed to marry Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors--a decision neither of them regrets the morning after the decision is made--so there is an engagement ring to think of. Her fiance, meanwhile, kind man that he is, finds himself agreeing to do something he fears may threaten the impending nuptials.

As usual, McCall Smith's writing in this book is simple and perfect and very readable, the story sweet and moving. His characters are real people, if I suppose idealized, seen as if through a gauze that softens the rough edges. This is not to say that everyone in the series is good, by any means. McCall Smith alludes to the evils of men, both large and small, and Mma Ramotswe sometimes comes up against true wickedness. Certainly she regularly confronts very real heartbreak. But somehow her approach to life and to other people keeps despair in check. Tears of the Giraffe, at any rate, is a beautiful little book. A delicious read.

The Hunter
Richard Stark
University Of Chicago Press
9780226770994 $14.00

The Hunter, first published in 1962, is the first book in Richard Stark's series featuring professional thief and sometime killer Parker. When we first meet him, Parker is just arriving in New York fresh from a jail break, broke and looking for revenge against a former accomplice. Mal Resnick double-crossed Parker after a heist, stole his share of a $90,000 payoff, and left him for dead in a burning building. We follow Parker as he hunts the guy down and looks to replenish his stores of cash.

Richard Stark--a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake--published more than twenty Stark novels before he died in 2008. I've read two of the later books in the series--Ask the Parrot and Nobody Runs Forever--and was curious to learn how Parker's adventures began. Judging from this book only, it seems that the Parker who emerged in the 1960's was a coarser figure than in later books, less cerebral, an all-around nastier fellow, more likely to kill than in later books. And the writing in this first outing seems to have a darker edge to it. Here Stark is introducing Parker:

"The office women looked at him and shivered. They knew he was a bastard, they knew his big hands were born to slap with, they knew his face would never break into a smile when he looked at a woman. They knew what he was, thanked God for their husbands, and still they shivered. Because they knew how he would fall on a woman in the night. Like a tree."

Hmm. It will be interesting to see how the character of Parker develops across the series. So far I prefer the Parker I met in the later books, but it's hardly a surprise that the books and Parker himself should have changed a bit in character after nearly fifty years.

Bad Move
Linwood Barclay
9780553587043 $7.99

Zack Walker is a security conscious husband and father of two who moves his family to the suburbs, a cookie cutter house in a new subdivision, to escape the crime and drugs that were becoming more prevalent in their old neighborhood. There are some trade-offs to the move: Zack's wife now has a longer commute, and his daughter has some trouble adjusting, but the increased safety and peace of mind seem worth the price. Problem is, as Zack comes to find out when he runs across his first dead body, the suburbs aren't always the milky white, crime-free zones they're made out to be.

The initial chapters of Linwood Barclay's Bad Move are more about character than action. Barclay takes the time to flesh out Zack's personality so that his quirks are thoroughly believable by the time they land him in trouble. Once Zack makes that initial mistake--so well prepared for in the early part of the book--he compounds it by not immediately coming clean. And once the decision to keep quiet is made, the hole Zack's digging for himself just gets deeper by the hour. It's a thorough pleasure watching his situation worsen with every plot twist.

Bad Move is a great read. The plot is very tight. It's a lighter book, but reminiscent in some respects of Scott Smith's A Simple Plan. I read Barclay's No Time For Goodbye about a year and a half ago and loved it. I think it's time to troll Amazon and find out what else the author has on offer.

"A" is for Alibi
Sue Grafton
St. Martin's
9780312353810 $13.95

Sue Grafton's 1982 novel "A" is for Alibi introduces her series featuring private investigator Kinsey Millhouse. In her debut, Kinsey is hired by Nikki Fife, who was recently released from jail after serving eight years for poisoning her husband with oleander. Lawrence Fife was by most accounts a bastard: a merciless lawyer, an unfaithful husband. But Nikki didn't kill him, or so she says. And looking into the case, Kinsey discovers that Lawrence wasn't the only person to die of oleander poisoning eight years earlier.

"A" is for Alibi was, fittingly enough, my first foray into Grafton's series, and I can certainly see myself reading further in the alphabet. Kinsey is an appealing character, in part because we don't know that much about her yet: Grafton doesn't hit us over the head with too much back story. None of Grafton's secondary characters stands out yet as terribly interesting, though Kinsey's cruciverbalist landlord Henry Pitts, an octogenarian, shows promise. My only complaint about the writing--that Grafton's descriptive passages sometimes are over-long--is a small one.

Fear the Worst
Linwood Barclay
9780553807165 $24.00

This is the third book I've read by Linwood Barclay, and I'm beginning to think that I should forego all responsibilities for a time and allow myself to tear through his entire oeuvre in a breathless few weeks of pure pleasure reading. Fear the Worst is a fantastic read: pure suspense, great plotting, a perfect page-turner. (Or in my case, a perfect next page clicker, since I read this one on the Kindle, much of the time while exercising on a treadmill: I surely walked farther than I would have without this stimulation.) As for the plot: Tim Blake is a car salesman and the divorced father of a 17-year-old, Sydney, who's staying with him for the summer. She goes off to work one day at the desk of a small hotel in Milford, Connecticut, and doesn't come home. When he goes to the hotel to find out where she is he's told that she never worked there. Thus it begins: Tim throws himself into the task of trying to find Sydney and discovers that the explanation for her disappearance is far more complicated than he could have imagined. Meanwhile, the police aren't much help, since they seem to be looking at him as a suspect. Eventually, going rogue seems to be Tim's only option, so that by book's end he's running not only from the bad guys but from the police. False leads and false friends complicate his investigation, but eventually all is revealed in a tense ending which, however, does feel a little too rushed. Other than that slight misgiving, I've got nothing to complain about.

Mercury Falls
Robert Kroese
St. Culain Press
9780578032146 $12.00

God--or at least the mind-numbingly complex bureaucracy that administers His domains--has a plan for us, and it turns out that it involves the destruction of life as we know it, and sooner rather than later. The Apolcalypse is very nigh indeed, its imminence evidenced by the fact that the Antichrist walks the earth. Thirty-seven-year-old Karl Grissom, a part-time pizza delivery guy who lives with his mother, was selected for the role in a contest run to promote a series of young adult fantasies. Human reporter Christine Temetri gets thrust into the thick of things apocalyptic when she's handed one of the Four Attache Cases of the Apocalypse (that "horsemen" thing wasn't quite accurate) while covering a flare-up in the Middle East. This leads her to hook up with her latest apocalyptic cult leader--interviewing them is her specialty--who happens to be Mercury, the fallen angel of the book's title. Maybe "fallen" isn't quite right: Mercury isn't playing for the other team, but he's had it with the pencil-pushers and he's playing by his own rules. Together, he and Christine set their sights on averting the Apocalypse, or at least minimizing the casualties. Robert Kroese's debut novel is clever. The plot is clever, the writing is clever. The principals engage in witty banter, ostensibly insouciant in the face of nearly certain doom.

"'No worries,' Mercury said. 'I think I've figured out a way for everyone to live happily ever after.'


'Well, almost everybody. And not so much happy as only mildly disgruntled.'

'And the 'ever after' part?'

'Actually,' said Mercury thoughtfully, 'it's more like 'for the very short time future.' So, to modify my original statement slightly, I've probably found a way to keep almost everyone from becoming more than mildly disgruntled for the very near future.'" Reading the book, one appreciates the author's ingenuity as well as the fact that he writes well. But it's not an easy book to become invested in. One doesn't really care about the characters, and the machinations of the many parties involved in planning or planning to thwart the Apocalypse are eventually too complex to bother following. By the end the cleverness just seems too much. I think the book would have been better if it were perhaps a third shorter, so that Armageddon wrapped up before the reader has time to lose interest. This, of course, is my own take. My eventual lack of patience with the book may just be due to my preferences: readers who are were able to enjoy more than one Jasper Fforde novel (I couldn't) are likely to enjoy Kroese as well.

Mr. Monk Goes to Germany
Lee Goldberg
9780451225634 $7.99

In this sixth installment in Lee Goldberg's series of TV tie-ins, Adrian Monk and his assistant Natalie Teeger travel to Lohr, Germany (home of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) in pursuit of Monk's vacationing psychiatrist, Dr. Kroger. Naturally, while they're stalking Kroger, Monk and Natalie encounter a corpse or two, as well as the German equivalents of Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher. Monk also has a run-in with someone potentially more significant, the man who, Monk suspects, was responsible for his wife Trudy's death--the one murder he's never been able to solve.

Mr. Monk Goes to Germany is an unusually appealing addition to Goldberg's delightful series. In part this is because it advances the story of Monk's hunt for Trudy's killer. Mostly, though, it's because it's riddled with politically incorrect humor about people with physical abnormalities--the web-footed and six-fingered and fur-covered among us. For Monk, the trouble starts at home, when a one-legged man moves in upstairs. The poor man's suffering--he was compelled in the wild to saw off his own leg and eat it--is as nothing compared to Monk's horror at the man's asymmetry and the disquieting propinquity of a cannibal.

"'He's up there,' he said. 'I can hear him hopping around on one foot.'

'Good,' I said. 'You should feel securing knowing exactly where he is.'

'It's the incessant beat of imminent death,' Monk said. 'Hop. Hop. Hop.'

'I'm sure it's not that bad,' I said.

'Hop. Hop. Hop.'

'Try earplugs,' I said. 'Or cotton balls.'

'Hop. Hop. Hop.'

'Put a pillow over your head,' I said.

'Hop. Hop. Hop.'

'I get the point, Mr. Monk. I'm sure he'll sit down soon for dinner.'

'That's what I'm afraid of,' Monk said."

Great stuff. I'm very much looking forward to the next Mr. Monk novel.

Bad Guys
Linwood Barclay
9780553587050 $7.99

Linwood Barclay's Bad Guys takes up where his 2004 novel Bad Move left off. After a disasterous foray into suburban living, Zack Walker has moved his family back to the city. He's now a feature writer for the local paper, and he's working on a story about ex-cop turned private eye Lawrence Jones. Together they've been staking out high-end mens' clothing shops, which have been the target of a spate of recent robberies. The gig with Lawrence, his family's need for a second car, and his daughter's insistence that she is being stalked by a trench coat-wearing admirer combine into a storm of troubles. Barclay's Bad Guys is another great read from an author who's quickly becoming a favorite. The plot is tight, and there's a perfect mix of action and Zack's thoughts, which explain why he makes the choices he makes. Readers should probably read Bad Move before starting this book, as it provides background about the anxieties which inform much of Zack's behavior, but it not essential to do so.

Lone Wolf
Linwood Barclay
9780553804553 $7.99

Linwood Barclay's third book featuring feature writer Zack Walker is unlike the first two in some ways. In Bad Move and Bad Guys the trouble that Zack unwittingly finds himself in is closer to home: his wife and children are threatened directly, and to an extent matters are exacerbated by Zack's tendency to worry over much about safety issues. In Lone Wolf Zack hightails it up to his father's fishing lodge upon hearing that a man has been mauled by a bear on his father's property. Once arrived, Zack finds himself compelled to stay for a few days and take care of his father's business. But that's all the time Zack needs to land in the customary hot water--though this time around Zack's tendency to worry excessively doesn't really come into play: the small town is riven by a controversy involving the participation of a gay and lesbian coalition in an upcoming parade; the Barney Fife-ish local sheriff is not up to the task of investigating a murder; and a family of Timothy McVeigh-worshipping wackos is renting a house from Zack's father. There are personal issues to deal with as well: this book may not be centered on Zack's wife and kids, but it is concerned with family. Happily, private eye Lawrence Jones, whom we first met in Bad Guys, sweeps into town in his shiny blue Jaguar to help Zack sort things out.

While different from Barclay's previous Zack Walker books, Lone Wolf is as compulsively readable as they are. It was interesting to see Zack's family history rounded out some: we learn here, for example, that Zack's tendency to act like a jerk when concerned about his family's welfare is an inherited trait. (Though it is hard to believe that his father's misbehavior mirrored his son's, or vice versa, quite so precisely.) Still, I'll be happy to see Zack back on his home turf again.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Fern's Bookshelf

Search Judaism: Judaism's Answers to a Changing World
Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer
Targum Press, Inc.
22700 West Eleven Mile Road, Southfield, Michigan 48034
9781568715049 $19.99

The words that we utter each and every morning in our daily prayers were written by the wisest of all men, King Solomon. "The beginning of wisdom is the acknowledgement of G-d." It is a sublimely simple statement and one that has sustained the Jewish people throughout the millennium. There is little doubt, however, that in our hedonistic culture; saturated with skepticism and replete with atheists of all stripes, there any many who find themselves in a quandary about the veracity of G-d's existence and wrestle with questions of morality and ethics as they attempt to navigate the vicissitudes of life.

"Search Judaism" by Rabbi Yitchok Fingerer is a scrupulously researched repository of exceptionally enlightening information culled from both religious and secular sources on the eternal questions of moral relativism, free choice, pleasure and happiness, good and evil, the meaning of modesty, reincarnation, why bad things happen to good people, divine revelation and the essence of our souls and more importantly, how they play a major role in our lives. This cogently written book is not specifically geared for intellectuals of the secular humanist genre but for all thinking individuals; irrespective of background and level of observance. Its pages are punctuated by poignant stories and pithy anecdotes, as Rabbi Fingerer posits himself as a raconteur and courageously offers a refreshingly honest treasure trove of answers to such questions as "Does G-d exist?", "Is our free choice pre-determined?" "Did a Divine revelation really take place?", Whose morality do we follow?", among others of this archetype.

As a student of Rav Avraham Pam, zt"l, Rosh Yeshiva of Brooklyn's Torah VaDaas, Rabbi Fingerer's stellar intellect virtually leaps forth from the pages of this book as he weaves together an indisputable and inexorable thesis for the existence of G-d. His concrete evidence is predicated upon numerous corroborative scientific, psychological and academic studies; all examined under the light of a Torah perspective. Utilizing a plethora of Torah and Talmudic sources along with the timeless wisdom of our Rabbinic sages as a solid foundation, he explores the findings of such psychologists such as Yale professor Stanley Milgram, repentant atheists as British professor Antony Flew and controversial figures as Harvard professor of ethics, Bertrand Russell. Analyzing their reports and results, Rabbi Fingerer proves that true morality cannot be self-defined, that despite critical scientific modalities for research, the omnipotence of G-d is readily apparent and that the Torah is not just a isolated study in ethics in which one can divorce himself, but a genuine, hands on "roadmap to life" that, if studied properly, becomes infused in the fiber of our very beings.

This compelling and powerful page turner will most assuredly keep the reader absorbed as we remain transfixed on a trajectory of personal and collective self-discovery. "Judaism is about searching and investigating in order to passionately live and learn the truth" says the author. We are taught that when we learn Torah we must ask pointed questions. We know that the language of the Torah is Hebrew and we also know that it is a definitive language and every word, every letter, every punctuation mark is laden with hidden meaning. Just as we peal away the layers of an onion, we must assiduously search for answers to the questions of life. "Search Judaism" will facilitate our innate quest for truth and this book, undoubtedly, will play a pivotal role in bringing our lost brethren back to Hashem.

Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America
P. David Gaubatz and Paul Sperry
World Net Daily Books
Distributed by Midpoint Trade Books
27 West 30th Street, Ste 1102, New York, NY 10011
9781935071105 $25.95

The Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian based Islamic terrorist organization appears to be alive and well and cloaking itself in legitimacy in our nation's capitol under the guise of a front group say intrepid undercover agents P. David Gaubatz and Paul Sperry in their new book, "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America" (World Net Daily Books 2009). Investigative journalism reaches new levels in doughtiness and concludes with a shocking crescendo in this tome, as Gaubatz, his son Chris and Paul Sperry infiltrate the shady Washington, DC based organization known as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); the nation's largest and purportedly mainstream Muslim-American "civil rights" advocacy agency. The frightening facts published in this book are supported by more than 12,000 pages of confidential CAIR documents and hundreds of hours of video captured in this unprecedented undercover operation.

Through painstaking and nuanced research of internal memos and documents the authors establish the fact that CAIR is the ideological cousin of the notorious Muslim Brotherhood and their leadership is inextricably tied to the promulgation of an explosively violent "jihadist" agenda. Utilizing double speak and a wide variety of cleverly devised subterfuges, CAIR manages to ostensibly present itself as a law abiding, pro-American organization, however the authors expose their unbridled mendacity in its most egregious form.

Mr. Gaubatz served for twelve years as a former agent with the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations and is a career military counterterrorism specialist as well as a US State Department trained Arabic linguist. Joining him on this six month long covert foray into the nefarious machinations of CAIR and it's overt ties to Muslim terrorists of all stripes are his son Chris who worked undercover as a convert to Islam and Paul Sperry, a veteran investigative journalist and author of "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington".

This book could effortlessly take it's rightful place among classic hair raising espionage thrillers if it's tragic geo-political realities weren't so terrifying. The authors scrupulously document CAIR's foreign fundraising sources including exceedingly large donations from the Wahabi dominated Saudi Arabian government that gave birth to the 9/11 hijackers. Not to be outdone, CAIR also assumes the role of benefactor, as the recipients of their financial largesse include such heinous terror organizations as Hamas.

Moreover, the authors offer shocking revelations about CAIR's infiltration of key US law enforcement agencies including local police departments, the FBI, the CIA and the State Department as well as their heavy handed influence operations against members of homeland security committees on Capitol Hill and their insertion of Islamic spies in congressional offices. According to the authors, FBI wiretaps reveal that, "During a secret Muslim Brotherhood meeting he organized last decade, CAIR founder and former chair Omar Ahmad expressed the need to strengthen "the influence with Congress." He argued for using Muslims as an "entry point" to "pressure Congress and the decision makers in America" to change US foreign policy in the Middle East and other policies."

CAIR's far reaching tentacles have even permeated corporate America, say the authors, as they and their sister organization, the Islamic Society of North America blackmail Wall Street firms who do not comply with Islamic financing principles. The authors also spotlight CAIR's use of intimidation tactics in silencing their political opponents as evidenced in their efforts to unleash a vitriolic campaign to blacklist such media personalities as Bill O'Reilly, Dr. Laura Schlesinger, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage while pressuring the National Review to acquiesce to their demands.

While elected officials from both sides of the aisle, including former president George W. Bush, have legitimized the dubious organization with governmental recognition and ceremonial gravitas, CAIR's underlying credo remains seditious and rabidly anti-American until this very day. The authors remind us that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, President Bush appeared alongside officials from CAIR and other outwardly benign Muslim groups that weren't properly vetted at the Islamic Center of Washington in a display of "unity". The unsuspecting former president announced, "It is my honor to be meeting with leaders who feel just the same way as I do. They're outraged, they're sad. They love America just as much as I do." These words would come back to haunt the president as facts concerning CAIR's zealous legal representation of Muslim Americans charged with terrorist activities came to the fore and as history would record, certain members of CAIR's own leadership would turn out to be unindicted co-conspirators in helping to finance terrorist organizations.

As the burgeoning and pernicious scourge of global radical Islam continues to proliferate in an unfettered manner, it is clear that within our borders the threat to our cherished democratic values and principles are all too real. The release of this book of paramount importance by authors Gaubatz and Sperry hasn't come a moment too soon. To say that the information published in these pages is a real eye opener is an understatement of monumental proportions. It is a must read for anyone, the world over, who still clings to the hope of freedom, peace and liberty that Western civilization represents.

Delivery from Darkness: A Jewish Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Postpartum Depression
Rabbi Baruch Finkelstein, Michal Finkelstein, RN CNM and Doreen Winter, MSW
Feldheim Publishers
208 Airport Executive Park, Nanuet, N.Y. 10954
9781598262582 $19.99 (845) 356-2282

As far as Jewish lifecycle events go, there is no doubt that childbirth is the ultimate simcha that a woman and her family can ever experience. A new Jewish life has entered this world through the kindness of Hashem, and with great excitement and awe we revel in this incredible miracle. For some women, however, the days, weeks and months following childbirth can be a personally painful and daunting time, as they fall victim to unyielding hormonal upheavals that result in "the baby blues", postpartum depression and in some rare cases postpartum psychosis.

In this recently published book entitled, "Delivery Form Darkness" (Feldheim Publishers 2009), the Jerusalem based authors, Rabbi Baruch Finkelstein and his wife Michal along with certified nurse-midwife and therapist, Doreen Winter, present a most sensitive yet pragmatic guide on the modalities of prevention and treatment of PPD. Integrating both halachic and medical concepts, the authors make it abundantly clear that PPD and its related disorders are in no way reflective of a mother's general mental state, nor does it serve as an ominous indication of her abilities to nurture her child, but rather they offer evidence that PPD needs to be cogently understood and addressed with concrete intervention. The taboo surrounding this most enigmatic of ailments often causes families a great deal of shame and guilt. In the forward to this book, renowned psychiatrist and author, Rabbi Avraham Twerski says, "Because the symptoms of postpartum depression are behavorial, many people think of them as being due to a mental abnormality. Given the stigma that this carries, the symptoms are often overlooked or explained away."

The authors explain that while there are psychosocial components that make some women genetically pre-disposed to PPD, the major culprits are hormonal in nature that occur during pregnancy, along with both a thyroid and adrenal link as well. Family and communal support along with compassionate and educated health care professionals can make all the difference in the world in helping a woman and her family recognize that PPD is not an insurmountable obstacle on the highway to recovery. Addressing the issues of turmoil and pain that husbands often experience as a result of their spouses' PPD, this book allows them to tell their stories in their own words, giving a personal face to the potential tragedy that can result if PPD is left untreated.

With 80% of all new mothers experiencing the "baby blues" and 15 to 20 percent being beset with PPD and in one in a thousand women being diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, the authors sound a clarion call to the Orthodox Jewish world to reach out with urgency and alacrity to those suffering. Mothers often experience daily bouts of anger, irritability, melancholia, moodiness and feel terribly frightened, agitated and distraught. An intense fear of death, or going crazy and loss of control combined with suicidal ideations are also prevalent in some cases as the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are all encompassing.

In salient detail, the authors describe the origins of hormonal shifts in pregnancy and the post partum period while also emphasizing environmental causes such as societally induced stress related factors. In some cases, medical treatments such as the use of anti-depressants have proven effective along with therapy, but the authors don't stop there. They courageously suggest holistic approaches as well including Traditional Chinese Medicine, the use of herbs, vitamins and minerals as well as establishing a regime of the highest standards in nutrition and exercise.

Throughout this often arduous journey to recovery from PPD, we are consistently reminded by the authors that a woman's connection to Hashem must be encouraged and bolstered as the most conducive trajectory to complete healing lies within a healthy spiritual mindset. Mothers are advised to, "Talk to Hashem out loud. Find time every day to talk to Hashem as if you were talking to a friend. Hashem listens. Tell Hashem everything. Tell Him how you feel about yourself, your family, your relationship with Him. Tell Hashem about your day, your plans, your moods. Tell Hashem your deepest fears and desires. This will be an enlightening and rejuvenating experience." The cathartic benefits of the recitation of Tehillim will resonate in the hearts of women as we learn that they very same feelings of joy, sorrow, frustration, humiliation, anger, sadness and regret were also part and parcel of the life of the sweet singer of Israel, King David, who penned the words that we find here. Consulting rabbinic and halachic authorities on such issues as choosing the right therapist are earnestly discussed as well as sensitive issues such as the use of birth control.

The reader will be left with a sanguine conclusion as the authors offer the sagacious wisdom of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov who viewed depression as "very damaging" but also ackowledged depression as a "growth stage". He said, "Know that all of the descents, breakdowns and confusion are required in order to enter the gates of holiness, and all the great tzaddikim went through them... All falls are necessary for the ascent."

Fern Sidman, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Black Friday
Alex Kava
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778326519 $24.95

Maggie O'Dell is back in a new suspense thriller. Like the last one "Exposed," the story is very believable because it just could happen. This time on Black Friday at the Mall of America in Minnesota, violence erupts at the complex with a shooter who is killing shoppers. This is a retailer's worst nightmare. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are on the case and they must solve it very quickly. This is one hell of a nail biting tense read that is one of her best works

Alex Cross's Trial
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316070621 $ 27.95

There are several things that are different about this one. It is the first Alex Cross that Patterson has written with someone else, and it is not really an Alex Cross story. It also takes place at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is a tale that Cross is supposed to have written about something in his family that has been passed down through the years. Like all of the other books by Patterson, it has his trademark of a fast read and strong characters. It is also a social commentary on racism. The novel is interesting and moves along to its smashing conclusion.

The Professional
Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155949 $26.95

Parker and Spenser are back in action and this time the story is lots of fun. Spenser is hired by an attorney to investigate a man who is having affairs with four women who are the litigator's clients. What Spenser uncovers is a hornets nest of affairs all over the place. Along with Spenser are Susan and Hawk. As always the dialogue is snappy and the writing moves the story along briskly. Parker once again shows why his novels are so popular with this addition to the series.

Catscratch Fever and Other Stories
Katherine Baccaro
9781440160059 $11.95 www.iuniverse.coim 1 800 288 4677

I read the first chapter four times and I have no idea what this book is about. It began in a coffee shop and moved out to the alley behind the business to the trash cans where a banana or something moves around. Books like this are the reason POD has such a bad name. The author should have been more focused on what she is trying to say. This is an author I will remember not to bother reading.

Just Take My Heart
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416570868 $25.99

The last novel "Where Are You Now" I thought was one of her worst, because it rambled along with a plot that was pretty far fetched even though it was based on a real incident. I am pleased to say this one is more like a typical Clark novel. There are many twists and turns and several interesting characters. The killer stalking several of them is fascinating and he plays a major part at the end of the story. Where I thought it was a little weak was the whole scenario about the female lawyer and her transplant heart operation. That aspect was like an unwanted set of commercials in a TV show that you are enjoying. Overall, I liked this one because Clark races the rest of the tale along to its shattering finale

Hothouse Orchid
Stuart Woods
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156014 $25.95

Woods delves further into the world of Orchid Beach, Florida. This time Holly Barker is on vacation from the CIA. She is a victim of a rapist who is later killing women. Holly. a former police chief uses, all of her talents to work with several agencies to solve the case. I wish though once and for all, Woods would resolve the character Teddy Fay who seems to be showing up in many of Woods' most recent novels. Fay is getting to be rather boring because he just happens to be in the same place as Stone Barrington or Holly Barker or Will Lee. The novel is interesting but I think it's time to permanently do something with Teddy.

Max A Maximum Ride Novel
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316018784 $19.99

This is another in the Maximum Ride series. This is the first one I've had the pleasure to read and review. I found it interesting and fun but would have liked to get to know the characters a little better. Overall, this is a very good series of science fiction that is geared to young adults but is an entertaining read for anyone who likes any of the other Patterson novels.

Vengeance Road
Rick Mofina
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778326380 $7.99 www.RickMofina

Jack Gannon is a tough as nails reporter who is always determined to get to the bottom of a story. This time he has a personal connection. So with this one he is even more dogged to help solve the case. Through it all Jack is resolved to put the clues together and nothing thrown at him will steer him away from this story. Mofina deftly tells the story and moves the plot along until its surprising ending. Mofina is a great writer of the suspense novel.

Passionate Promises
Patricia Marlett
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, Oklahoma 73064
9781606968666 $24.99 888 361-9473

The author tells her story with realistic characters in a plot with lots of twists and turns. Sabrina a photographer, races home to Florida to console her sister on the news she has received that their closest relative has just died. Their Aunt Millie in her will gave her home and belongings to the two sisters. Sabrina travels to Ashville, North Carolina to begin taking care of the home. A lot of strange things begin to happen as Sabrina starts to reside there. The writer moves the tale along with short chapters and interesting settings that add to the tense pace of the novel.

The Darkness
Jason Pinter
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778326717 $7.99

This is a continuation of "The Fury" that ties up a lot of details. Henry Parker is back and this time he gets to work with his mentor, Jack O'Donnell. Together they slog their way through the underworld of New York to get closer to the drug kingpin "The Fury." Once again the author tells a tense story that races along with edgy nail biting plot.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Dexter by Design
Jeff Lindsay
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10018
9780385518369 $25.00 800-726-0600,

Dexter Morgan is, as many already know, a serial killer who lives to kill other serial killers. And he so enjoys his work. He returns in his fourth appearance in this new novel by Jeff Lindsay.

This author's use of alliteration and plays on words has already been well-documented, as have Dexter's homicidal proclivities. To call the series an example of dark humor at its best is to state the obvious, as fans of the books and the even more popular tv series can attest. To the uninitiated, Dexter is a man who needs to rehearse "normal" behavior, coming to none of it naturally. His "day job" is as a blood spatter analyst with the Miami, Florida PD. He has his own code, carefully taught to him and rigidly adhered to, as to who needs to be killed by him to restore balance to the world by what he calls "my small and harmless hobby of tracking down the bad guys who slip through the cracks in the justice system and turning them into a few nice and tidy garbage bags full of spare parts."

As the book opens, Dexter has just returned from a Paris honeymoon with his bride, Rita [part of his plan to present a normal face to the world]. His first case after he gets home to "the malice and mayhem of Miami" involves a series of killings where the bodies have been posed in what Dexter dubs "die-oramas," where the victims' body parts and innards have been replaced with gruesome ostensibly artistic designs in carefully composed settings.

As he gets closer to finding the killer, the current case becomes much more personal than usual for Dexter, as those nearest and dearest to him [to the extent that such is possible for Dexter] are threatened, and his usual 'mission' becomes defensive as much as anything else.

Dexter being who and what he is, I find the enormous fun [and slight thrill of horror] derived from the series somewhat of a guilty pleasure, but pleasure it undoubtedly is, and the book, as its predecessors, is recommended.

An Old Chaos
Sheila Simonson
Perseverance Press/John Daniel & Co.
P.O. Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781880284995 $14.95 800-662-8351

The protagonists of Sheila Simonson's Latouche County series, following the excellent "Buffalo Bill's Defunct," taking place about three months after the conclusion of that book, are back: the county's chief investigator, Rob Neill, and his girlfriend, head librarian Meg McLean. As the book opens, Rob's mentor, Sheriff Mack McCormick is contemplating retirement. He and his wife, Beth, have moved out of their long-time home in Klalo, in western Washington State, and into a new McMansion several miles out of town, in Prune Hill, a gorgeous development of six new homes, only partially inhabited as yet, within sight of Mount St. Helens.

When Rob's cousin, Charlie, a geologist, turns up in town, two things happen in quick succession: Rob finds out that the Prune Hill development is on a site Charlie had classified as Class II, meaning a Landslide Hazard Area, and apparently reclassified as a Class III, meaning approved for residential development, but before Rob can act on the information and investigate further, there is a major landslide, and that entire portion of the mountain falls, destroying anything and anyone in its path.

There are intimations of graft, corruption, and bribery, and there's no telling where the investigation may lead. The county commissioners, the developer and his investors, and even the county clerk may have been involved; there is even the possibility that Mack himself, a father figure to Rob, may have had something to do with it; how else to explain the fantastic deal he got from the developer on the purchase price of the house?

Although there are a few deaths [whether or not they are murders must be determined], this is primarily a character-driven book. From Rob and Meg, Beth and Mack, Maddie Thomas, principal chief of the Klalos, and her husband, Jack, to the various other inhabitants of the small town, civilian and politicos alike, they are deftly brought to life by Ms. Simonson, who lives in Vancouver, WA. Her love for and appreciation of the beauty of the Pacific NW is made clear to the reader, and some arguments for and against its development are cogently set forth. The book was a fast and a good read.

Heaven's Keep
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416556763 $25.00 212-698-7000/800-223-2336,

"Heaven's Keep" opens one morning as Jo Corcoran, near Casper, Wyoming, prepares to and does board a charter plane which will take her and her fellow passengers to Seattle, Washington. Other than Jo, the others are all Native Americans. They are all "part of a committee tasked with drafting recommendations for oversight of Indian gaming casinos, recommendations they've scheduled to present at the annual conference of the National Congress of American Indians." Except for Jo, all those aboard have a tribal affiliation: Eastern Shoshone, Northern Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ojibwe. They are told that stormy weather is due and snow is moving into the Rockies.

In the North Country of Aurora, Minnesota, Corcoran ("Cork") O'Connor, no longer County Sheriff, is now considering seeking employment as Deputy Sheriff, but his replacement, Sheriff Marsha Dross, is unsure how he would like taking orders from an officer he himself had trained. [The other woman unsure of the wisdom of the move is Cork's beloved wife, Jo, and they had a bit of an argument on the subject just as she was above to leave on her mission.] Cork has been building a good reputation as a PI, but there is pending litigation that he fears will drain him and he wants the security of a regular job again. The litigation involved deals with, as do so many things in the "rez" areas, development of the land: how much and what kind, and to what end, and to say there is controversy is to understate the matter, especially where the gaming casinos come into the picture.

All those thoughts fly right out of Cork's mind when he finds that the chartered plane with Jo aboard has disappeared from radar over the Wyoming mountains, and no contact has been made with the pilot. Cork and, of course, his thirteen-year-old son, Stevie [now, insistently, "Stephen"], are devastated, and they soon join the search-and-rescue efforts determined to find the plane and, especially, Jo. Cork, part Ojibwe, should have no problem working with members of the tribal police as well as the County Sheriff's Department, with the help of an unlikely and unexpected colleague. They go into the mountains, in an area called Heaven's Keep: "The mountains became deep blue in the twilight, and the canyons between were like dark, poisoned veins. Though the sun had dropped below the rest of the range, it hadn't yet set on Heaven's Keep, which towered above everything else." In trying to determine how it got its name, Cork said: "I always figured it's because it's so high that it feels connected to heaven. That's my explanation anyway. Now the Arapaho take a whole different approach. They call it "honoocooniinit. Basically means they consider it the devil." When Cork actually sees it, "Its walls burned with the angry red of sunset, and it looked more like the gate to hell than anything to do with heaven."

The writing is absolutely elegant, and frequently poignant, with understated emotion; the novel is no less heart-tugging for that. Well-plotted, and filled with secondary characters about whom small vignettes are woven, such as pilot Jon Rude [pronounced "Roo-day"] and his wife and young daughter, and well as those known to Mr. Krueger's readers from past books, such as Henry Meloux, now in his nineties and the oldest man Cork knew, to whom Cork often turns for his insight and wisdom.

Meloux was an Ojibwe Mide, a member of the Grand Medicine Society, frequently just called "the old Mide" by Cork. But more than anything he is a dear and a trusted friend. Cork tells him than an old Indian man, an Arapaho spirit walker, has had a vision that can be interpreted as showing the crash site: "I seen an eagle come out of a cloud. Not like any eagle I ever seen before. Wings spread, all stiff, like it was frozen. It circled and glided into something looked like a bed only with sides to it. It landed and a white blanket floated down and covered it. That's pretty much it. Except that as it faded away, I heard a scream . . . it sounded to me like a woman." As well, there are visions that have visited Stephen for years that seemed to be about his mother being behind a white door, but how to explain what they mean is another matter. Meloux tells him: "A vision is never seen with eyes, Stephen. Your heart is the only witness, and only your heart understands."

Throughout, the magnificent countryside comes alive in the author's words. As the book approaches its denouement I let out a breath I hadn't realized I was holding, as Cork, and the reader, must put all emotions on hold for a moment, or three, till all becomes clear.

When asked, as I have been numerous times, what in my opinion makes a good book great, I always say something to the effect that of course it always fine writing but, more than that, a fine storyteller, and the two don't often meet in the same person. But in this book, all the ingredients are there.

Not to be repetitious, but I have to conclude this review with the words I used after reading Mr. Krueger's last book, "Thunder Bay": The beauty, elegance, and lyricism of the writing makes this a novel not to be missed, and it is, obviously, highly recommended.

Identity Crisis
Debbi Mack
9780557083251 $15.99

Attorney Stephanie Ann ("Sam") McRae, the protagonist in Debbi Mack's absorbing mystery, finds her personal and professional lives come together when a former client is sought by the police in the murder of her ex-boyfriend. The "ex" part happened when Sam had to obtain a protective order after an incident of domestic abuse. When the man's body is found, Sam's client, Melanie Hayes, is on the top of the suspect list, especially since she seems to have disappeared, no one having seen her since the day of the murder. The ensuing investigation turns up the fact that the dead man has been committing identity theft in a major way. And it's just possible that Sam is one of his victims.

Sam takes up her own investigation, putting her and her client in some danger when it turns out that mob figures were involved with the dead man, and are perhaps even more anxious than the police and Sam to find Melanie. Sam gets some assistance from two men involved in the case, one a private detective and one a detective with the Prince George, Maryland county police, both with vague hints of a possible romantic entanglement. There is a problem on that front as well, since Sam's current love life is becoming more and more problematical. Thirty-six and single, she's not sure in what direction she wants to go, but is pretty sure she wants that part of her life to change.

I must admit that a couple of components of the plot didn't quite pass the credibility test, but that really didn't diminish the enjoyment of the book. Sam is an original and interesting protag, and the story equally intriguing. It is a fast, suspenseful and pleasurable read.

Never Tell a Lie
Hallie Ephron
Harper, 10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061567162 $7.99 800-242-7737,

Ivy Rose, thirty-three years old and 'massively pregnant,' and her husband, David, are holding a yard sale, hoping to rid themselves of all the 'stuff' that had belonged to the former owner of their house in the town where they grew up. Ivy has had three miscarriages, and now, with only several weeks to go in her pregnancy, she is still somewhat fearful and superstitious. In the midst of the frenzy of the yard sale, a young woman approaches Ivy and tells her that they went to high school together, and doesn't Ivy remember her? The woman, Mindy, has changed so much that Ivy nearly doesn't, but then recalls the girl everyone variously called "the leech," someone who "offered herself up like a human sacrifice. She was weird. . . odd and intense. Needy." And in this respect she apparently hasn't changed much. To make matters even more strange, Mindy tells Ivy that she herself is due to give birth on November 25th, just three weeks hence, and the same date on which Ivy's baby is due to be born.

This uncomfortable re-introduction to a girl she had only slightly known so many years ago takes a horrifying turn, however, when Mindy later seems to have disappeared, and no one appears to have seen her after she went into the house with David, who did recognize Mindy from their high school days and offered to give Mindy a 'tour' of the old place, where Mindy says she played often as a little girl, and where her mother used to work as a cleaning woman. What is more, when the police arrive a few days later, after Mindy has been reported missing, and question everyone they can track down who was at the yard sale, there is no one who can say they saw Mindy again after she entered the house with David, who becomes the chief suspect, although some suspicion falls on Ivy as well.

So begins a tale fraught with psychological suspense, as Ivy begins to distrust David after he is caught in one lie after another. As one character says, "Secrets can be toxic. The truth is rarely as dreadful or as terrifying as what one imagines." And Ivy begins to wonder the extent of the secrets her husband, who she has loved 'unconditionally' since they were seventeen years old, is still keeping. There are several truly terrifying scenes as well as several reminiscent of the old "Gaslight" movie [originally "Angel Street"], itself a masterpiece of psychological suspense. The author brings this tension-filled book to a conclusion that is at once believable and not too neatly tied up, just enough so to be realistic. An exciting, and recommended, read.

Evil at Heart
Chelsea Cain
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010,646-307-5560,
9780312368487 $24.95

This novel is the third in the saga of Gretchen Lowell, serial killer of over 200 people by her own count and the nemesis/lover/tormentor of Archie Sheridan, the detective whose life she has dominated for over a decade, and who describes her as the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. All this time later, he is still in her thrall. To the uninitiated, Gretchen's m.o., over more than a ten-year period, is to kidnap her victims and then torture them, sometimes pre-mortem, less frequently post-. She'd, typically, remove the person's spleen with surgical precision, among other body parts removed or 'decorated,' including carving tiny hearts into them, usually just around their physical heart. Her last victim, before she turned herself in, was Archie himself, grievously damaging his body, his marriage, his psyche, and his life, including his ability to perform his job, and leaving him at the brink of death. After Gretchen's escape and disappearance, he voluntarily entered "inpatient treatment," a euphemism for the psych ward where he has been for the last two months. Originally deemed 'high risk,' he is now classified as only 'mildly disturbed.'

When new bodies, and body parts, start showing up, with some of Gretchen's trademark mutilations, Archie considers leaving the institution, with the urging of the doctors and his best friend, Detective Henry Sobol, who took over the Beauty Killer task force after Archie was hospitalized. The reporter who was involved with Archie, and Gretchen as well, in the previous novels, Susan Ward, is determined to earn the title "journalist," and takes up the search for Gretchen at Archie's side.

More than anything, this book is a treatise on the celebrity culture of our day, when anyone from star athletes whose infidelities become front-page news to a fascination with violence and its perpetrators captures the imagination and the fevered brains and obsessions of a huge percentage of the population, with sometimes inconceivable results. As well, the author makes the point that "anyone can be a murderer, given the right set of circumstances."

Every bit as fascinating, in a decidedly macabre kind of way, as its predecessors, "Evil at Heart" is equally highly recommended.

The Brutal Telling
Louise Penny
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312377038 $24.99

The elegant and absolutely enchanting prose of Louise Penny brings the reader back to the tiny Quebec village of Three Pines, known as a place where they "didn't even have crime. Except murder. The only criminal thing that ever happened in this village was the worst possible crime." One resident says: "Can't imagine what Gamache thinks of us. Every time he shows up there's a body," another: "Every Quebec village has a vocation. Some make cheese, some wine, some pots. We produce bodies." This is the fifth book in the series, and each time Inspector Gamache had come to Three Pines, that had been the case.

Olivier Brule, 38 years old, and his partner, Gabriel ["Gabri"] Dubeau, are telephoned in the early morning hours with the news that the body of a man has been found on the floor of the bistro they own across from the village green, apparently bludgeoned to death. The next phone call made is to Inspector Armand Gamache, the most celebrated cop in Quebec and head of the Surete du Quebec's homicide division. The three main suspects, of course, are the two men in whose premises the body was found, and the woman who discovered the body. All and sundry claim not to know the identity of the dead man. But surely the killer knew him, and if he was not actually killed in the bistro, as seems likely, who could have gained entry there in the middle of the night, and why pick that particular place?

To the reader, there is only one primary suspect in this brutal murder, for we are told on page one that Olivier knows and has visited the man known as The Hermit with some regularity. The nature of their relationship, however, is murky at best. It soon becomes evident, however, that that is hardly the only secret being kept in Three Pines.

The village residents are drawn with this author's usual fine hand, their distinct and quirky personalities vividly presented [including the one with the pet duck named Rosa who wears tiny rain jackets and handmade sweaters which, oddly enough, doesn't even seem strange to the reader after a while]. And what is being hidden behind their friendly and innocent exteriors is not easily discovered. As the investigation progresses, one of Gamache's team notes that "Darwin was way wrong. The fittest didn't survive. They were killed by the idiocy of their neighbors, who continued to bumble along oblivious." Both charming and complex, with an intricate puzzle to be solved, the novel is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Bible of Clay
Julia Navarro
Bantam Books
A division of Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440243038 $7.50

The Bible of Clay is one of the current popular blends of a touch of alternate history and action/adventure story. It is a little unusual for most contemporary readers with its composite story and no real lead characters that are good. Most of the characters are varying degrees of evil. With no one to root for, the story has to depend solely on the complex storyline that blends ancient history and Nazis with the antiquities trade in Iraq. The storyline makes up for most of the lack in the lead characters that the reader can connect with but the tale still falls a little flat.

Clara Tannenberg announces a possible site at an archeological conference in Rome that might contain a copy of Genesis narrated by Abraham. She calls it the copy the Bible of Clay. An archeological dig is organized to try to find this bible in the few months before the Iraqi War. Her announcement sets in motion lethal forces originating during World War II. Forces, both of plunder and revenge, focus on her and the archeological treasure she is searching for.

The quest for the Bible of Clay degenerates into a contest between greed and revenge with each side blindly working for and against their separate goals. This tension brings about the best in this story as each character gropes for their individual goals.

The Bible of Clay is an interesting book that lacks the humanity that your typical story has. The nearly seven hundred pages and the lack of empathy of and for the characters drag the otherwise detailed action/adventure fantasy plot to a secondary status. I give it a passing grade but if Navarro had tweaked just a few more of her leading characters with empathy and humanity it would have been highly recommended. Her attention is focused too closely on the dark in her characters' nature making the story unbalanced.

The Psychiatrist Who Cured the Scientologist
Aaron David Gottfried
Pandora Press
33 Kent Avenue, Kitchener, Ontario N2G 3R2
9780981057200 $24.95

The Psychiatrist Who Cured the Scientologist is a story of a naive teenager immersed in a relatively naive religion that doesn't understand severe mental problems. The tragedy of the story is that the teen, his parents and his religion doesn't recognize or understand the very obvious mental collapse while it happened and take the relatively straightforward methods to control the degeneration. It is very easy to encounter in the world numbers of people who suffer from varying degrees of manic-depression and psychosis. The indoctrination of his and his parents' religion prevented an open look at what was happening to him and colored how they saw and attempted to handle his problems. The story tries to take the reader through a first person look at a severe mental collapse and the massive mistakes taken by his religion. The information and story is profound but the telling misses the mark of a story. It is more of a clinical paper describing a mental collapse written for therapy or education than an in-depth story.

I have encountered a number of brilliant and everyday people who have had varying degrees of the mental problems described in the story. I have even been in on talking a few down from psychotic episodes. Some of the problems are revealed in this story but it lacks the empathy and humanity it takes to truly pull the average reader into the nightmare that a psychotic break can produce. The biggest missing piece in the story is the richness that the human spirit produces when it pushes beyond the afflictions that the mind in its sickness can produce.

The Psychiatrist Who Cured the Scientologist is recommended for those directly involved with individuals suffering from manic-depression or those struggling with a religious contradiction and the real world. It will give helpful insights into the disability and/or those struggling where religious faith ends and the real world begins. But the story doesn't have the strength to hold its own outside of this circle. I would hope that someday Gottfried or someone else takes this sparse tale and expands it into a real three dimensional story that can draw the general reader in.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

36 Arguments For the Existence of God: a work of fiction
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
Pantheon Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780307378187 $27.95

Rebecca Goldstein's 36 Arguments for the Existence of God alternates between chapters written in the present tense and chapters or portions of chapters in the historical past tense. The only conceivable reason why an author would perpetrate such an irritating violation of the conventions of fiction writing is to send the message, "Look how clever I am."

Goldstein commences a 350-word sentence in chapter one, "Here it is then: the sense that existence is just such a tremendous thing, one comes into it, astonishingly, here one is, formed by biology and history, genes and culture, in the midst of the contingency of the world, here one is, one doesn't know how, one doesn't know why, and suddenly one doesn't know where one is either or who or what one is either, and all that one knows is that one is a part of it, a considered and conscious part of it …" and so on and on and on and on. The only conceivable reason why Gold would write such repetitive, contentless, unreadable drivel is to send the message, "Look how clever I am." [Stipulation: The back cover states that, "This uncorrected bound proof should not be quoted from without comparison with the finished book." Is the quoted passage likely to be significantly different in the finished version? I seriously doubt it.]

A plot would have been nice. But perhaps writing a 344-page alleged novel without a plot was also a way of saying, "Look how clever I am"?

Other than the non-fiction appendix, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God has nothing to do with the book's title. The fiction pages are as pretentious as a similar-sized dissertation on the role of metaphysics in Wind in the Willows, as skillfully written as, "It was a dark and stormy night," as fatuous as C. S. Lewis, and as entertaining as watching paint dry. If I had not obligated myself to read the whole thing by asking for a review copy, I would have given up after 25 pages. The only upside is that, while there are undoubtedly even more self-indulgent babblings out there, I will almost certainly never have to read any of them.

Warning to nontheists: With a friend like Goldstein, who needs enemies?

The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason
Victor J. Stenger
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781591027515 $19.00

Let me start my analysis of The New Atheism by focusing on the one percent of Dr Stenger's book in which he gets his facts wrong. Not surprisingly, this happens only when he steps outside of his field of expertise and ventures into the realm of documentary analysis, the documents he interprets uncritically being the Judaeo-Christian bible, and rigged public opinion polls that ask questions calculated to elicit a predetermined answer.

Stenger is not gullible in connection with polls. He does include (p. 22) a chart of "Major religions of the world" as if it were objectively accurate rather than religious propaganda, listing Christianity as having 2.1 billion adherents, Islam 1.5 billion, and various forms of nontheism totaling 1.1 billion. But he acknowledges the religious sources of those figures and goes on to question their legitimacy. Of the 1.1 billion figure for nontheists, he points out (p. 23) that, "This may be a vast underestimate that has not counted China accurately. I have seen estimates that there are as many as a billion nonbelieving Chinese alone." But he ignores the question of how religions can have such figures if nontheists are as numerous as is actually the case. The most accurate estimate, based on sources cited in Ronald Aronson's Living Without God,(1) is that there are 1.1 billion Christians, 1.0 billion Muslims, and 2.2 billion nontheists, more than Christians, Muslims and Jews combined, for a total of 36 percent, rather than the 16 percent shown on Stenger's chart.(2) He also blindly parrots the propaganda that there are 13 million Mormons worldwide (p. 117). The true figure is less than 4 million, probably much less.(3) But he does recognize (p. 122) that, "Polygamy as practiced by Mormons today is nothing less then female slavery." And he recognizes (p. 230) that, "Nonbelievers now form majorities in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan."

Stenger is well aware that biblical books, including Revelation, are imaginative fantasy. And he knows that John of Patmos was neither the alleged apostle of that name nor any of the Johns credited with writing the books bearing those names. He is, however, unaware that John of Patmos, a Nazirite, wrote only the first three and last three chapters of Revelation, c 90 CE, and credits him with authorship of the Essene chapters written a generation earlier. He also appears to be unaware that the apocalyptic passages of chapter 16 were a failed prophecy that the last battle of the war currently in progress (July-August 70 CE) would result in a Jewish victory at Armageddon, north of Jerusalem, when it fact it resulted in a Jewish defeat at Masada, south of Jerusalem. There were other errors, but Stenger can hardly be blamed for following his source, Bart Ehrman, whose analysis of Revelation differs in many ways from my own.(4) And in dating "Genesis" to the time of the Babylonian Captivity, he presumably meant, "parts of Genesis," since he is not unfamiliar with the Documentary Theory that attributes Genesis to three primary authors and two redactors ranging from c 920 to 434 BCE.(5)

Stenger's choice of the blatantly fraudulent King James Version rather than The Judaeo-Christian Bible Fully Translated for biblical quotations can be justified when he is citing passages that unambiguously portray "the LORD God" as a proto-Osama bin Laden (pp. 108-111), and wishes to make the point that the apologists' own preferred bible backs him up. But in choosing the KJV, he furthers the pretence that biblical authors believed the same things modern Christians believe. Consider the following passages:

"thy friend who is as thine own soul" (Deut. 13:6, KJV, quoted on p. 108).

"the male lover who means as much to you as your own breath" (JCBFT).

"let us go and serve other gods…. he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy god" (13:6, 13:10, KJV).

"Let us go and pay homage to other gods…. he attempted to separate you from Yahweh your gods" (JCBFT).

The KJV correctly translates allahiym as "gods" when it refers to foreign gods, but falsifies the same dual-sex, generic plural into the singular, masculine, proper name, "God," when it refers to the Jewish gods, in order to promote the Big Lie that bible authors were monotheists. And the rendering of a word meaning a male lover as the innocuous "friend," conceals that the equation of homosexuality with sin is a post-Leviticus prejudice not known to any bible author before 621 BCE. Surely the deliberate falsification of embarrassing passages in all religion-authorized bibles is a point Stenger might have made?

Where on earth Stenger got the idea that Leviticus was written c 1400 BCE (p. 151), I cannot begin to guess. It was not from Ehrman, who knows as well as I do that Leviticus was written as part of the Priestly Torah of 621-612 BCE, and greatly expanded by the Redactor of 434 BCE. Since he recognizes the existence of a historical Moses as dubious (p. 127), he clearly does not believe that Moses wrote the Torah. But only a belief in Moses' authorship could explain such an otherwise incomprehensible dating.(6) He also (p. 239) regards Jesus as, "largely if not wholly a mythological figure." I endorse "largely."

Stenger expresses disagreement with Judge Jones's 2005 ruling that intelligent design is not science, and argues that "wrong science is still science" (p. 102). He is wrong. To qualify as science, a discipline must start from the evidence and reach only conclusions that are compatible with the evidence. Starting from predetermined conclusions and distorting the evidence to whatever degree is necessary in order to make it fit, as theology does, is not science. Cold fusion was wrong science. Intelligent design is pseudoscience.

Stenger refutes the allegation that New Atheists practice scientism (p. 238), but nowhere points out that "scientism" is nothing more than an anti-science practitioner's name for real science, just as "allopath" is nothing more than a pretend-doctor's name for a real doctor.

So having disposed of any suspicion that I believe "new" atheism's Big Five—Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, and Stenger—can do no wrong, I can proceed to the most notable of Stenger's correct conclusions with which his book abounds. Other than noting that, "He's right," I will let Stenger speak for himself.

(p. 14):- "The gods most people worship purportedly play an active role in the universe and in human lives. This activity should result in observable phenomena, and it is observable phenomena that form the very basis of scientific investigation."

(p. 37):- "New atheists agree that the existence or nonexistence of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God is not only provable both logically and empirically, but that his existence has been disproved beyond all reasonable doubt."

(p. 70):- "Science is fully capable of detecting the existence of a God who acts in the lives of humans in an important way such as listening to and answering prayers."

(p. 79):- "You can prove by logical deduction that an omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent God does not exist given the gratuitous suffering in the world…. Suffering exists, therefore an omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent God does not exist."

(p. 81):- "When I say that science has proved that God does not exist I mean that a god with specific properties (whom I identify as God with a capital G) can be disproved scientifically beyond a reasonable doubt."

(p. 165):- "No reliably documented miracles have ever been reported in history or science."

(p. 166):- "If we ever saw a miracle, then that would be evidence for spirit. So far we have not."

(p. 61):- "Christianity says God hasn't remained hidden. He reveals himself in creation, our hearts, and in history. So why are there any non-Christians?"

(p. 45):- "In any human activity other than religion, someone ignoring evidence would be regarded as a fool."

(p. 15):- The theist argument that science and reason are also based on faith is specious. Faith is belief in the absence of supporting evidence. Science is belief in the presence of supportive evidence."

(p. 239):- "When the evidence disagrees with a scientific proposition, the proposition is discarded. When the evidence disagrees with a religious proposition, the evidence is discarded."

(p. 69):- "Only 7 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences believe in a personal God, with the remainder either nonbelievers or agnostics."

(p. 16):- "One final myth is that religion is growing in the world and secularism is dying. As we will see, the facts tell a different story."

(p. 244):- "Religion is an intellectual and moral sickness that cannot endure forever if we believe at all in human progress."

(p. 17):- "The new atheists are not trying to take away the comfort of faith. We are trying to show that life is much more comfortable without it."

(p. 22):- "We not only regard [religious] beliefs as wrong; we see them as immoral and dangerous to the future of society."

(p. 241):- "A person is capable of slitting a baby's throat if he is convinced he is following God's orders."

(p. 233):- "Any number of societies now exist where the majority has freely abandoned religion and God. Far from being dens of iniquity, these societies are the happiest, safest, and most successful in the world."

(p. 26):- "None of the anti-atheist books have sold anywhere near as well as the atheist books they challenge."

(p. 32):- "… Dawkins's The God Delusion. As of November 2007 it had sold 1.5 million copies."(7)

(p. 29):- "Few Christians think that a non-Christian who lives a good life cannot go to heaven. However, ask their preachers or theologians and they will tell you otherwise."

(p. 31):- "No dispute among experts in the field can be found on the correctness of the Darwin-Wallace scheme of evolution by natural selection."

(p. 33):- "In the past century in America we have seen women, then African Americans and other minorities, and then homosexuals stand up for themselves as humans with the same rights as others. Gradually these groups have become increasingly respected and accepted as equal members of society. It is time for atheists to gain the same status."

(pp. 46-47):- "We have just lived through a disastrous eight-year period where decision after decision in the most important office in the world, the Oval Office of the White House, was made on the basis of an irrational mode of thought founded on faith and suspicion of any reasoned argument that contradicted that faith…. We are now probably only about a generation away from the catastrophic problems … predicted to generate worldwide conflict on a scale that could exceed that of the great twentieth-century wars, with nuclear weapons in the hands of unstable nations and terrorist groups."

(p. 53):- "The last two presidential elections mark the transformation of the GOP into the first religious party in U.S. history."

(p. 128):- "Only the most muddle-headed academics such as Noam Chomsky blamed the violence [of 9/11] on American oppression of Muslim nations."

(p. 20):- "Catholics pray to a whole constellation of saints who in another time would [correctly] be called gods."

(p. 129):- "Christians do not read the Bible, either. If they did, they wouldn't be Christians."

(p. 243):- Christianity and Islam are the two most popular religions today for one reason more than any other: the promise of eternal life."

(p. 123):- "Dan Lafferty was raised as a conventional Mormon. He led a rather typical life, training as a chiropractor (pseudoscience is quite common among Mormons) in California)."

(p. 198):- "Parapsychologists insist that psychic phenomena need not be supernatural. We can argue about that when and if they ever find any."

(p. 183):- "In any other field of science, failure to find a phenomenon after such a long and diligent search would justify rejecting the existence of the phenomenon."(8)

1 Pew Forum on religion; Newsweek/Beliefnet Survey; Baylor Religion Survey; Financial Times/Harris Interactive Surveys.

2 Stenger, validly in my view, severely criticizes many of Aronson's assertions (pp. 236-237), and that may explain why he attaches greater credibility to statistics from biased sources rather than to Aronson's accurate interpretation of the sources.


4 William Harwood, God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion, pp. 210, 303, 315-317, 344-345, 408.

5 William Harwood, The pre-Pentateuch Torahs before they were interwoven.

6 It is of course possible that the absurd date was a typo.

7 Stenger acknowledges (p. 53) that The Late Great Planet Earth sold over 30 million copies, and the Left Behind series sold 65 million copies. But while those books were pro-religion, they were not responses to the New Atheists.

8 I show all quotations as starting with a capital letter, even when I omitted the beginning of a sentence and the first quoted word was therefore not capitalized.

The Evolution of God
Robert Wright
Little, Brown
237 Park Avenue, NY 10017
9780316734912 $25.99

"I think gods arose as illusions, and that the subsequent history of the idea of god is, in some sense, the evolution of an illusion. On the other hand … the story of this evolution itself points to the existence of something you can meaningfully call divinity…. the illusion has gotten less and less illusory" (p. 4). And if Robert Wright believes that, I can't wait to read his explanation of how Mother Goose arose as an illusion and evolved into something less and less illusory that can meaningfully be called divinity.

In contrast, he recognizes that, "Contrary to the belief that Moses brought monotheism to the Middle East, ancient Israel was in fact polytheistic until after the Babylonian exile…. These misquotes [attributed to Jesus] were inserted into scripture decades after the crucifixion. Muhammad was … a cool political pragmatist, at one point flirting with polytheism in an attempt to build his coalition."

Those conclusions, quoted from the front flap of Wright's book, directly contradict statements made in the Tanakh, Bible and Koran. Yet despite recognizing that "scripture" is fiction and gods are a creation of the human imagination, he is able to rationalize (p. 5), "That's no indictment of religion." What he is telling theists and nontheists is that they are both right. Does that make him a self-serving liar whose only purpose in propounding conclusions that a kindergarten graduate could recognize as self-contradictory is selling books? Or does he really believe that "A" and "not A" can simultaneously be true? If that is the case, his own kindergarten graduation should be revoked.

Such doublethink would, however, explain his endorsement of the ridiculous pseudoscience of "evolutionary psychology" (see index), which could be a legitimate contribution to knowledge only if the true sciences with which it is incompatible, including biology, anthropology, zoology, paleontology, genetics and history, are all incompetent hogwash.

Only when he is trying to justify the continued existence of religion and other indefensible beliefs does Wright resort to doublethink. He has no trouble recognizing (p. 15) that, "However diverse the forces that shape religion, its early impetus indeed seems to have come largely from people who, like us, were trying to make sense of the world. But they didn't have the heritage of modern science to give them a head start, so they reached prescientific conclusions."

Compare that with a paragraph in God, Jesus and the Bible (pp. 24-25), unchanged from the 1992 version, "Then as now, human was sufficiently logical to recognize that all possible answers could be classified under two broad headings: accident and design..... All things happened as they did because some form of ruling intelligence had so decreed. The planets wandered, the sun gave forth light and heat, the moon died and was reborn at monthly intervals, and the earth produced the food that sustained life, because they were living, thinking creatures with powers far beyond the capacity of mere humans." Since Wright is aware that primitive humans created gods as an attempt to explain observable reality, why does he continue to see "God" as a more legitimate guide to morality than the Marquis de Sade's Juliette, when both see sadism and homicide as justifiable when they do it? And if he can describe God's official biography as "the Holy Bible" (p. 20), I find myself wondering if he would similarly canonize such other paeans to evil as Mein Kampf, Juliette, and Left Behind.

In his opening chapter (p. 22), Wright refers to an explorer's communication with "some Inuit (known as Eskimo in his day)." Yet later he refers to the Inuit as "Eskimos," apparently unaware that the word was abandoned because it meant "savages who eat raw fish."

Describing an early twentieth century Inuit culture that recognized the existence of nature gods but did not "worship" them in any way that constituted a religion, Wright reports (p. 23) that a sea goddess's decrees "aren't 'moral' in the modern sense of the word, because they're not about behaviors that actually harm other people…. Rather, the rules focus on breaches of ritual." And that differs from the Jewish ban on cheeseburgers, the Catholic ban on condoms, the Muslim ban on literary criticism, and the Evangelical ban on abortions in precisely what way?

In explaining why hunter-gatherer villagers were more likely to adhere to an objective concept of morality than citizens of a modern society who have a reasonable expectation of being able to commit an injustice and not get caught, Wright explains (p. 25), "If you want them to help you when you need help, you'd better help them when they need help…. Social order can be preserved without deploying the power of religion." At least in the battle with Manchurian Candidates who think that only their god can inspire goodness, Wright is on the right side.

Wright's chapters on the evolution of Judaic religion, from polytheism to monolatry to the pseudo-monotheism in which all gods except the CEO are given such alternate designations as angels, devils and saints, differ from the relevant chapters in God, Jesus and the Bible only in their focus. Many of his conclusions parallel my briefer summaries. But while he provides much information about the beliefs and practices of a large number of primitive cultures, and relates them to modern religions, he virtually ignores the evolution of the Judeo-Christian bible. Nowhere do the names Yahwist or Elohist appear in Wright's index, although he briefly mentions (p. 112) the "documentary hypothesis" (actually "documentary theory," as it has long ceased to be a mere hypothesis), and "the J source" and "the E source."

Wright's translations of Hebrew god-names usually have some scholarly support. As many scholars think that El Shaddai means "god of the mountain" as recognize that it means "Allah the demon," a demon being an immortal, not necessarily evil. And he gets right that until the publication of the anonymous fourth gospel between 130 and 138 CE (Wright dates it earlier), nobody—Jesus, his apprentices, Paul, or his first three biographers—had ever heard the theory that Jesus was a god.

He is, however, unaware that Elohim is a dual-sex, generic plural meaning "the male and female gods," and therefore translating it as "God" is plain wrong. In naming Ham as Noah's son, he shows no awareness that in the earliest Torah Noah's youngest son was Khenaan. It was the Priestly author of c 615 BCE who replaced Khenaan with Ham, for reasons spelled out in God, Jesus and the Bible (pp. 128, 130, 137). His description of Jesus as "of Nazareth" could only have been made by an author who is ignorant of the philological impossibility of Jesus' Greek title, "The Nazirite," having any connection with "Nazareth," a village that did not exist until long after Jesus' death.

As for Wright's question, "Were [Jesus'] miraculous deeds wholesale inventions of his followers, designed to outweigh the famous occasions on which he was challenged to produce 'signs' and failed?" I can only describe Wright's failure to recognize that every miracle attributed to Jesus was a retelling of a miracle previously attributed to Eliyah and Elisha as sloppy research to say the least. (A claim that Jesus had parted the Jordan River would have been disputed by surviving witnesses to his preaching, so he was instead credited with crossing a lake dry-shod by the less-falsifiable means of walking on the water.) Such miracle tales were concocted by the gospel authors long after Jesus' death.

Then there is Wright's allegation (p. 258) that, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," (using the nominative pronoun "he" in the accusative case), is the "Common rendering of John 8:7." That is abject nonsense. I checked every Protestant and Catholic bible in my possession, and not one made such an incompetent bastardization of the English language. The perpetrator of such a substandard translation could only have been Wright himself. Presumably he went to school in North America, where Correct English has been a foreign language since World War Two.

Wright's most embarrassing blunder was his reliance on one of the many religion-authorized English bible translations that consciously, knowingly and deliberately falsify significant Hebrew words to promote the Big Lie that biblical authors believed the same things taught by modern religions. If instead he had utilized The Fully Translated Bible, he could have avoided drawing attention to his linguistic inadequacy.

My view of Wright's chapters on Muhammad is that, when he agrees with Ibn Warraq (whom Wright nowhere mentions) he is probably right, and when he disagrees with Warraq he is probably wrong. But he sums up Muhammad's pragmatic search for followers most accurately when he writes (p. 351), "What Muslims call the satanic verses aren't in the Koran. At least they aren't any more. According to Muslim tradition, they were uttered by the Prophet and thus entered scripture, but were expunged when he realized they had been inspired by Satan." As Wright explains, Muhammad accepted three Arabian goddesses as Allah's daughters when such a tactic was a recruiting aid, but reverted to his previous misogyny once he no longer needed to make compromises. And he makes clear (p. 330, "When ye encounter the infidels, strike off their heads till ye have made a great slaughter among them"), that Muhammad was not a nice man.

Other than his self-brainwashing that religion is somehow metaphorically true, Wright's conclusions are usually not indefensible even when he is wrong. He would have every right to be outraged if I compared The Evolution of God to the masturbation fantasies of John Allegro, Roman Piso, or Alister McGrath, or the conceited speculations of (other) amateurs who think that a career in journalism is an adequate substitute for graduate studies in history. (Even Christopher Hitchens treads on shaky ground when he ventures into the field of biblical criticism.) But anyone who expects the name of Robert Wright to be cited alongside such preeminent biblical scholars as Bert Ehrman, Richard Friedman, Martin Larson and Robert Price is advised not to hold his breath. While The Evolution of God is accurate and useful for its intended audience, it is not a significant contribution to knowledge.

I found the names of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens in Wright's index, but not in his bibliography. Is he trying to show that he is aware of their conclusions on the evolution of God, but considers them unworthy of a response? That was a rhetorical question. Trying to understand the logic of a doublethinker is like trying to drown a swan by deepening the lake. As for Victor Stenger, whom Wright does not mention at all, is it because he recognizes God: The Failed Hypothesis as so unanswerable that the safest course is to ignore it in the hope that it will go away? Does he ignore God, Jesus and the Bible for the same reason?

In his Afterword (p. 444), Wright recognizes that, "the gods who have populated human history … exist in people's heads and, presumably, nowhere else. But occasionally I've suggested that there might be a kind of god that is real…. The existence of a moral order, I've said, makes it reasonable to suspect that humankind in some sense has a 'higher purpose.' And maybe the source of this higher purpose … is something that qualifies for the label 'god' in at least some sense of that word." Bovine excrement, doubled, redoubled and in spades. A similar attempt at politically correct doublethink by Stephen Jay Gould destroyed the reputation he had taken a lifetime to build up. Fortunately for Robert Wright, that cannot happen to him. Before something can be destroyed, it first has to exist.

I met a sane godworshipper once. His brother was a giant midget, and his sister was a healthy leper.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

The Sunbonnet - An American Icon In Texas
Rebecca Jumper Matheson
Texas Tech U. Press
Lubbock, TX
9780896726659 $29.95

The sunbonnet did not originate in Texas. There's a 1796 drawing by an artist picturing a woman in a Virginia scene wearing a sunbonnet. And one of the color photographs shows an 18th-century North Carolina sunbonnet. But the sunbonnet became identified especially with Texas with its settlement by Americans in the 1830s before it became a state. Even in its eastern originations, the sunbonnet was always associated with and popular in rural and agricultural culture. Down into the mid 20th century, Texas was largely rural and agricultural. With Texas's large size, varied terrains, and widespread population including slaves and Hispanics, the sunbonnet flourished there--becoming an identifying regional garb for women and object for practical innovative touches and fashion ideas. One innovative touch with frontier women doing a share of the farm labor was the varying length of the hood to allow for vision, mobility, and shading from the sun depending on particular tasks. Matheson relates all sorts of such captivating details in this popular history of the sunbonnet.

"[A] garment that has been worn throughout the period of American nationhood...this humble piece of millinery is more than just a pioneer accessory; it has played an important role in the realm of rural American dress for generations." "[E]mblematic of the United States as an agrarian society...," the sunbonnet went out of style and was replaced by other kinds of headwear as the country became more and more urbanized. The tradition is today reflected mostly in dolls of pioneer women, on quilts, and other objects meant to represent a mostly bygone rural and agricultural America. Though sunbonnets continue to be worn by certain groups such as the Amish.

Matheson's annotations for the nearly 30 sunbonnets in the section of color photographs attests to the variations of types and of details. Lavender silk calash, calico drawn bonnet, Capote-style bonnet with thick batting, strawpoke bonnet with bavolet and chin ties, rounded silhouette poke-style sunbonnet with daisy print, and so on for other individual and regional and in some cases social class features.

Matheson drew together sunbonnets from private and public collections such as the Costume Institution of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (where she was a research assistant at one time), the Texas Fashion Collection, and photography collections (including one photograph by Dorothea Lange) for this study. With it, the sunbonnet is no longer an incidental, often unnoticed piece of wear in American history. With this work based on astute research, a trained eye, and oral history accompanied by much visual material, Matheson has turned the sunbonnet into a subject of its own with its own interesting, colorful history.

The American Military Frontiers - The United States Army in the West, 1783-1900
Robert Wooster
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826338433 $39.95

The westward presence of the U. S. Army beginning after the Revolutionary War marked the frontier of the growing continental United States. This presence was usually indicated by forts. In many cases, forts would follow defeat of local Native Americans or in the Southwest, notably Texas, defeat of Spanish or Mexican resistance. As well as bases for maintaining the U.S. presence and possible military actions against following uprisings of Native Americans, the forts became centers for commerce and origins of civilian communities.

Following the progression of the frontier across the continent, Wooster elaborates on the Army presence much beyond the usual understanding as a military protector engaged in the pacification of Indians to the Army as integrally involved in settlement, growth, and knitting together widespread communities. The Texas A&M history professor and author of 10 books modifies the picture of the frontier Army--ordinarily regarded as cavalry--from that of riding to the rescue with trumpets blaring and flags flying to one of an organization involved in all dimensions of the development of an area.

Hiring civilians for work for maintaining or extending its presence and purposes was but one way the Army interacted with civilians. Native American and Anglo scouts used in the Indian Wars were a well-known, colorful example. But mundane work such as gathering wood or transporting provisions was also required. Army detachments also worked closely with companies laying railroad tracks and building roads necessary for national growth by bringing in greater numbers and diverse types of civilians and supporting related commercial enterprises. At times, the duties of the military and work of civilians became intermingled so as to be indistinguishable.

Wooster gives a scholarly, accessible study of this overlooked side of the U. S. Army in the nation's growth to the Pacific shores. One finds occasional nods to recent perspectives on the nature of the unstoppable growth of the United States during the 1800s. In the Preface, he remarks that "[m]odern scholars rightly shy away from using pejorative phrases like 'the advance of civilization' to describe the expansion of the United States...." Elsewhere, in introducing Manifest Destiny, the author recognizes that the practice of relocating Native American tribes so they could advance in the "peaceful arts of seem[s] repugnant." Avoiding supporting one side or another in such questions, Wooster as a professional historian gives a solid historical account drawing broad patterns while involving significant individuals, local events, and portrayals of varied locations.

Books Do Furnish a Room
Leslie Geddes-Brown
Merrell, London and New York
9781858944913 $39.95

An author of books on gardens and former editor, Geddes-Brown has always had books as a part of her professional and personal life. Traveling widely throughout Europe, she finds how others who have had such professional and personal involvements with and attachments to books make them visible and accessible in varied traditional and imaginative ways so they are both a personal statement and ready resource.

Interior designers, architects, antiques dealers, collectors, and others present diverse, sometimes idiosyncratic, but always functional and artful resolutions for holding their large collections. Bookshelves of different scales, shapes, and materials making the foundation of most of these are integrated into the use and decor of particular rooms. In some cases, entire walls are filled with books in bookcases, making an impressive array, but also serving as a design solution for a part of the room (in place of wallpaper for instance or of framed art). In other cases, a bookcase goes around a piece of furniture such as a chair or desk. A bookcase can also serve as a showcase for objets d'art and other virtu. Especially large book collections can be accommodated by bookcases along stairways or in hallways.

One whimsical collection in a bookcase higher than two floors in a loft-like room has its owner (a designer) using a bosun's chair and pulley fastened to the main upper beam as a way to get to all of the books. Another unusual bookcase is tilted so it has a diamond shape instead of the usual rectangle making it and its books look like a work of modern art. Varying the lengths and heights of the sections of a bookcase is an easy way to make different geometrical patterns while still keeping a bookcase functional. Or books can even be stacked in spots on the floor or on a table as a statue or vase might otherwise fill such a spot.

From ultramodern design of aluminum and plastic to antique bookcases and ones antiqued to hold old handsome leatherbound volumes, Geddes-Brown takes one through a variety of ideas for book people looking to do something special for their books, interior designers, and the like. Ones with any type of book collection will find appropriate ideas for keeping and displaying books.

James Tissot - the Life of Christ, The Complete Set of 350 Watercolors
edited by Judith F. Dolkart, Texts by Judith F. Dolkart, David Morgan, and Amy Sitar
Brooklyn, NY
9781858944968 $59.95 Museum

James Tissot (1833-1902) was a nineteenth-century French painter who for the first part of his career had a reputation as a "French society painter [whose subjects were] the costumes and manners, occupations and pleasures of the French capital's elegantes." This all changed in the early 1890s when Tissot renewed his ties to the Catholicism of his youth after experiencing a vision during a Mass when the priest raised the host. For the rest of his life, he devoted himself to the series of religious paintings numbering in the hundreds given here. Tissot's lasting reputation rests on this series The Life of Christ on all periods of Jesus Christ's life from the Annunciation to the Resurrection.

Books reproducing this series were published in France and the United States. In 1900 after a tour in the U.S., the complete series came into the possession of the Brooklyn Museum.

Tissot's paintings were popular not only for their religious subject coinciding with a rise in religious feelings and interests in late Victorian-era America and pre-World War I Europe, but also for their straightforward style. The paintings are in an illustration style; similar to ones seen in periodicals and illustrated books of the period. They reflect no inklings of impressionism or any of the other budding modern art styles of Tissot's day. One sees in them some harbingers of the art of N. C. Wyeth and other illustrators of the following decades. In Tissot's paintings though one occasionally sees symbols such as pale, ghostly hands reaching across a pool of water or dark wings for Satan; and occasionally an aura around Jesus's head. But the effects of the paintings are mostly in the coloration creating mood, poses (often dramatic) of the central figures, and the setting of the scene as if in a play.

An appreciative and enthusiastic public was attracted to Tissot's paintings by their details of "landscape, architecture, vegetation, costumes, and customs of the Holy Land." This gave the paintings an exotic appearance arousing curiosity and myriad points of interest with their evocation of spirituality.

Tissot's aim was to "revivify the imagination of modern Europeans and Americans by depicting the life of Jesus in scenes that departed from visual conventions, but not entirely." The sheer number of paintings picturing incidents from the life of Christ and also related Holy Land scenes and figures was a visual biography which was as educating as it was visually engaging. With the hundreds of paintings grouped into major parts of the life of Christ (e. g., The Ministry, The Passion) mostly two to a page, today's readers can have the same experience. Essays preceding the sections of paintings go into the social context making Tissot's project such a sensation in its day and also how it was eventually acquired despite some opposition on financial and religious grounds by the Brooklyn museum.

Della Vita, The Art and Writings of Jefferson D. Rubin.
Fresco Fine Art Publications
Albuquerque, NM
U. of New Mexico Press
9780934491140 $60.00

Rubin's art appears ancient at first glance. With its earthen materials of terra cotta, marble, and stone and material such as hydrocal resin made to look earthen, this is understandable. Rubin does not discourage such an impression either. "Classical ideation has no sense of time as well as a great sense of time. In my mind I have a little adage in which I say 'think antique'...The reason for my classical work stems back to my love of archaeology and anthropology. Rather than digging up the work I make it myself." In keeping with his love of archaeology, most of Rubin's art works are fragmentary in form, as if relics of classical or Renaissance civilization.

Rubin however is an artist of recent date. He died in 1995 in a mountaineering accident. On closer and longer viewing, his art works--even the fragments, but the occasional full figures too--give off a more highly developed sensitivity than classical or Renaissance sculpture or other art. Greek classical sculpture sought the ideal; and the Western classical art of Rome aimed to glorify the state. Thought professedly classical in tone and style, Rubin's art involves neither of these intentions. Even Renaissance art seems formalized by comparison. For though Renaissance art (e. g., Michaelangelo's sculture David or paintings of religious or secular figures) was a patent movement to representing humanistic qualities, the religious, political, and social (e. g., class) realities of the time were reflected in this. There is none of this in Rubin's sculpture.

Though evoking classical art by imitating its framents, Rubin's sculpture is distinguished from it by a harmony and romantic sensitivity which gives his art a characteristic fullness. For Rubin, fragment is form, not accidental, incomplete, and often truncated clue of an art of the past. This fullness is most evident in Rubin's larger sculptures of entire individuals, especially ones of women in coquettish poses. In Rubin's Rodin-like sculptures too with individuals seemingly emerging from a rock form or three-dimensional on the sides of a Greek-like vessel--which can be looked at as larger fragments--there is none of the hard-edgedness or stylization of the sources. With unique and consummate skill allied with extraordinary sensitivity, Rubin makes it seem that the most difficult, flinty art materials he works with were just waiting for someone like him to come along to yield their most fully-developed human forms they embryonically bore within them.

Historical Archaeology of the Irish Diaspora, A Transnational Approach
Stephen A. Brighton
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN
9781572336674 $49.95

An assistant anthropology professor at the U. of Maryland, Brighton employs basic and informative archaeological research and commentary and deductions to the American vein of the Irish Diaspora of the early 1800s; like others in other areas have traced prehistoric migrations. During the 1850s, the Diaspora's height, the Irish population of New York City reached twenty-five percent. Bright adds much unfamiliar, rich detail to this well-known part of the Irish immigration story. And he also adds new dimensions to the story by accounts of New Jersey locations.

The Diaspora was precipitated by famine in Ireland between the years 1845 and 1852, a period known as the Great Hunger when the potato crops which were the staple of Irish food failed repeatedly. Irish had a choice between starvation and emigration. The relatively young, growing, and European-based nation of the United States was an inviting destination. The nation accommodated the waves of Irish without really welcoming them. The Irish faced stiff and cruel prejudice by the American public and government, who were almost entirely of English heritage; as the Irish in Ireland were subjected to abuse and hardship by the English ruling class who were mostly offspring of English invaders. This is the sociological and historical backdrop of Brighton's archaeological study. It is generally discussed in so far as it helps to understand differentiating aspects of the Irish diaspora.

The Irish diaspora is distinguished as "proletarian"; defined as "composed of individuals without ready capital who remain at and are forced to remain at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum." These depending on relatively simple skills and clustering together longer do not assimilate so easily; compared to individuals of a "mobilized diaspora" who have advantageous social and economic capital because of their skills, backgrounds, and reasons for emigration. The wealth of archaeological material Brighton assesses is of interest not only for its use in shedding light on Irish emigre living conditions in America, but also for how it "unmask[s] the ideologies of a modern capitalist society and how radicalized groups negotiate their status and to track the slow processes [of their] acceptance in the United States."

To get such information out of the archaeological remains, Brighton has to develop novel approaches to the subject of the Irish Diaspora as well as the phenomenon of Diaspora in general. With Irish historians debating whether "the Irish dispersal [of the 1850s] should be considered a Diaspora," the author has to provisionally create the ground and framework for the study of an Irish diaspora; then refine this for his illuminations of the Irish immigrant experience in America especially in the New York City area. While scholars may debate some of the author's source material, reasoning, and perspectives, ultimately Brighton extends interpretation of archaeological material beyond its usual focus on local living conditions, influences of other cultures, customs, etc., to involve broader economic, sociological, and historical conditions by a "transnational" comparison of such material.

Henry Berry

Hugh's Bookshelf

On the Strand
Kevin L. Gray
World Audience
303 Park Avenue South, Suit 1440, New York, NY 10010-3657
978193544405 $20

What we have here is an autobiography about growing up in Virginia, getting married, moving to Kansas that reads like a classic American novel. Gray really gets inside feelings and brings the reader adroitly into the heart of his own life. As classic as Catcher in the Rye and the basis of what could be great film.

In the Footsteps of Dracula
Steven P. Unger
World Audience
303 Park Avenue South, Suit 1440, New York, NY 10010
9781935444206 $20.00

Bram Stoker's novel Count Dracula was based on the life and killer-deeds of Prince Vlad the Impaler, and what Unger has done here is to go back to the real-places in Romania, Transylvania, Estonia where Prince Vlad lived and write detailed descriptions of the places themselves. Also goes into the real-life horror-crimes of Prince Vlad, and then goes into a kind of tourist guide for anyone who wants to follow his tracks and experience first hand what he himself experienced. You get, fiction, the truth behind the fiction and a tourist guide to the places themselves. Amazing detail/thoroughness and an unexpected sense of creepiness that invades you as you read it.

Hugh Fox

Janie's Bookshelf

The Garden
James Dorr
Damnation Books
P.O. Box 3931, Santa Rosa, CA 95402-9998
9781615720149 $6.99

James Dorr's novella, The Garden, was one of the first offerings at Damnation Press, and the publisher Kim Richards was wise to grab this talent. Dorr, a master at short fiction, has two collections of his work out, Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance (2001) and Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret (2007), both released by Dark Regions Press. But that is just the icing on the cake for this prolific writer. He has had nearly 350 short stories published in prestigious magazines such as Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Fantastic Stories, New Mystery, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Dark Wisdom, Future Orbits, Tomorrow, and The Children of Cthulhu, as well as magazines in the UK and France. And, he's had both fiction and poetry listed in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror many times since 1991.

His The Garden begins as an innocent tale of a biochemistry grad student, Steven Kerridge, off on a hike to find a place to write his thesis without distraction. When he stumbles upon Alma Sharp, the daughter of a legendary invertebrate zoologist, on whose work Steven is basing his own thesis, he decides to stay and help Alma tend her lush garden. Steven finds that the local townsfolk are wary of Alma and her plenty, amid their own dying fields. As Steven and Alma work closely together to solve the problems of the blighted countryside, they invariably fall in love and discover more than they ever wanted to know about each other.

The Garden is science fiction and horror at its classic best. This novella explores the morality of biochemistry and experimentation with DNA while it is set in a deceptively idyllic, rustic New England landscape, reminiscent of Hawthorne and Poe. The result is a creepy moral tale that will leave readers sleeping with a light on long after the last page is turned.

I'm hoping that Damnation Press will pick up more of James Dorr's work. Readers will be so glad they did.

Invaluable Lessons from a Frog: Seven Life-Enhancing Metaphors
Olivier Clerc
Translated by Louis Marcelin-Rice
Dreamriver Press
19 Grace Court, Apt 2D, Brooklyn NY 11201
9780979790836 $14.95 215-253-4621

Olivier Clerc's little book, Invaluable Lessons from a Frog: Seven Life-Enhancing Metaphors, offers readers insight into life's wisdom through seven parables. The simple tales are ripe with meaning, especially the initial adage about the lowly frog who jumps into a pot of water, only to be cooked slowly without his awareness than anything is wrong. Clerc goes on to present nuggets about the butterfly needed to break out of its cocoon by itself, the proverb about wax on hot water, the story of the long delay in darkness that Chinese bamboo must endue before it shoots its way forcefully through the ground to grow to an amazing height in a very short time. And, there are more. Each story is ripe with understandings and deeper meanings about how we grow to our full potential as fully aware and competent individuals.

I enjoyed the images Clerc provided and some of his own interpretations of these allegories. I think these concepts are much needed in our world today because they ask us to question what we have learned in the past and to look at ourselves in very different ways. I, however, had some difficulties with Clerc's intuitive leaps into his own political and esoteric philosophies and agendas, especially those dealing with alternative medicine. While I appreciate alternative methods and respect those who use them, their discussion here didn't serve the lessons that Clerc was trying to enlighten us about - and in many cases got the way of the power of these simple parables.

Still, the concepts of these metaphors can serve readers well as meditation tools or even lens to use when looking out at the world around us. Invaluable Lessons from a Frog: Seven Life-Enhancing Metaphors could be the next FISH! business tool or life coaching technique.

Janie Franz

Jessica's Bookshelf

The Timewaster Diaries
Robin Cooper
c/o Little Brown Book Group, 100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DY
9780751540215 7.99 Brit. pounds

This book starts where the Timewaster Letters finished. Robin Cooper's year has got off to a bad start: he has just lost his job and wife Rita has fallen down the stairs at "twenty-two minutes past midnight on New Year's Day."

Determined not to let these misfortunes affect him Robin sets out to become a world-renowned inventor.

His invention of the "crossoku" is sent off to all major newspapers but his replies usually include the words "confusing".

To add to his woes driving lessons with Miss Marsh haven't improved and leave him baffled. Aren't driving lessons meant to be about actually driving? Will Miss Marsh ever be able to turn the key and put her foot down?

Readers will love the episodes with Smithie the wood pigeon. Some of the muddles Robin finds himself in with his feathered friend are quite funny and will undoubtedly leave you in stitches if you like the work of Robin Cooper. Besides, who else would think of keeping a bird in the loft?!

As ever this book also features some of those amusing letters which only Robin could write and his determination to actually create an invention which could make him a millionaire.

These weird but often wonderful inventions include: Aqua Choc and Cooper's Pen Thief Directional Detection Transmitting Device.

The Timewaster Diaries is packed with funny characters who are larger than life and not easy to forget. But for the right reasons? Who knows.

I must say I was a little disappointed with this book which I expected to be something it isn't since it has praise from celebrities such as Simon Pegg, David Mitchell and the wonderful Stephen Fry who quotes it as "magnificent."

Still it may appeal to those fans who have read the "Timewaster Letters" .

What the Dog Saw
Malcolm Gladwell
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316075848 $27.99/$34.99

I wasn't too sure what to think when I began this book but after reading the preface I was hooked. I was very interested to come across the section on Cesar Millan the Dog Whisperer. He can calm angry and troubled dogs with a touch of his hand but what goes on in his head and more importantly what goes on in the dog's head?

This is a collection of articles written for the New Yorker when the author, Malcolm Gladwell, was a staff writer. The first section is about obsessives and the second part about the way we think and feel about things eg. disasters and financial scandals. The third section is on predictions we make about people. It became clear to me as I read on that the author is more interested in ordinary people who know and do amazing things and he tries to get inside their head. He does so very well indeed in a way which entertains you.

Gladwell also talks about Ron Popeil the self-made kitchen magnate. His rotisserie oven became a best-seller but best of all he pitched it himself on television. On QVC many years later Ron passed the $700 .000 mark by personally selling his own oven. Read this section to believe it.

A mustard called Grey Poupon was popular in America and was commercially billed as one of life's finest pleasures. There are dozens of types of mustard nowadays in our supermarkets but Joe Wigon from Boston decided to enter the ketchup business with Grey Poupon ketchup and sold it at three times the price of Heinz to try and give the world the best ketchup. The whole section on ketchup and its make up is so interesting especially if you love the stuff.

The next section is called Blowing Up and if investment banking, hedge funds and trading on the money market are your thing then this chapter should explain a lot. It is packed full of financial facts and stories of fortunes made and lost.

We follow on with True Colours. Do you think your hair colour matches your personality? Read about Shirley Polykoff who coloured her hair in the days when only chorus girls and hookers did. She wanted to be blonde and worked for Clairol. This part of the book is a joy for women of all ages to read. Does she or doesn't she? That was what the advertisement asked and this book also examines the years of the fifties and sixties and how women entered the work place, got the pill and changed their hair. They changed their lives but did it really affect the divorce figures of that day?

The ending to this chapter made me smile.

An excellent book.

Don't Swallow Your Gum
Dr Aaron Carrol and Dr Rachel Vreeman
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL
9780141043364 7.99 Brit. pounds

Don't swallow your gum! How many times did you hear your parents say that to you when you were a child? Or perhaps you're one of those parents who recites this old belief to your children. If you are, this book is for you.

Written by doctors, Dr Carroll and Dr Rachel, with years of experience and plenty to say, they leave no age-old belief ignored. Together they explore the beliefs we've always taken for granted and shed light on whether we really do eat eight spiders a year or if our eyes really will pop out of their sockets if we sneeze with them wide open. Prepare to be surprised!

All topics of conversation are listed in the contents page under parts one to six.

Part one explores myths about your body, part two looks at myths about illnesses and injuries, part three delves into those myths about sex and pregnancy, part four studies our myths about babies and children and so on and so forth. Each part is so interesting and so thoroughly researched it will have you kicking yourself that you ever believed these silly myths in the first place.

This book tackles the saying that your hair and fingernails continue to grow after you die. Will it really continue to grow after we die? The Doctors and authors reveal their medical opinions which may surprise some of you.

If you have a sleepwalker in the family then you should certainly read the Doctors answers as to whether it is indeed safe to wake a sleepwalker. Now I know I'm glad I read this!

Should you stay awake if you've had concussion? Does acupuncture really not work?

And, the big one, do men really think about sex every seven seconds? I read and read long into the night and learnt that it's never really safe to eat food that's been dropped on the floor even if it was only for a couple of seconds and that eating at night doesn't really make you fat. You too will also learn that many old wives tales contained within are false and that if you do swallow that piece of gum…well you'll just poo it out!

A really fantastic book which will amuse, fascinate, entertain and leave you wanting more. I "devoured" this gem within days….and guess what? I was really ok!

Legend of a Suicide
David Vann
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL
9780141043784 7.99 Brit. pounds

What an evocative opening to this compelling novel. You are transported to Adak Island on the edge of the Bering Sea when a baby survives a high temperature to thrive in this frozen place.

The child's father fished for halibut in his boat the Show Goose. However Dad had other fish to fry as the famous saying goes, and being bored in his dentistry he began to add other women to his collection.

Mother and son moved away and became besotted with watching fish in tanks while father unsettled and heading for disaster sailed the seas catching more fish.

Fish seems to obsess this author but his colourful descriptions are brilliant and so fascinating to the reader. You should really read about wife Rhoda's drooping eye and how the boy thinks shes actually winking at him. It will amuse you.

His mother then went through a series of men, they each came and left after a while. Meanwhile the boy became obsessed with guns and shooting.

Before his father died they went on many adventures together and saw bears, caught fish and smoked deer.

However his father would cry at night as he so desperately wanted things to work out with the boy's mother and himself. That pain in his head hurt so much however he would try and put on a brave act for his son. He daren't let him know he would cry under the cover of darkness.

A terrible thing was to happen but you will have to pick up this novel, turn those pages and read on to discover what it was that went wrong.

Horrific, unexpected and disturbing the author certainly has a way with words.

This story continues with survival becoming the most important element. More horror is to follow and yet this book is so addictive. You want to know the outcome even though you dread it in one way.

The author writes a good yarn even if it is disturbing. But maybe that's part of its charm?

Although this book is fictional it is based on a lot of true events. It is a poignant moving account of love, disillusionment and loss. Unusual in many ways it will either wow you or you will struggle with its strength. It is a story which definitely stays with you long after that last page is turned. It blew me away in the end …will it you?

Jessica Roberts

Jim's Bookshelf

Lost Girls
Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie
Top Shelf Productions
PO Box 15125, Portland, OR 97293-5125
9781603090445, $45.00,

Alice of 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass'; Wendy of 'Peter Pan'; and Dorothy of 'The Wizard of Oz' have enchanted young readers for generations in these now classic stories of childhood fantasy. In "Lost Girls", author Alan Moore and artist Melinda Gebbie have taken those three iconic characters and created wholly new interpretations of them, their circumstances, and their histories. Clearly a work of imaginative and visualized erotica, "Lost Girls" is for an adult readership only. In this newly created fantasy universe, the three girls are now grown women and find themselves together in French hotel just prior to the outbreak of World War I. They gradually reveal their pasts to one another, discovering common interests and uncommon experiences. "Lost Girls" is a newly created classic in its own right and highly recommended for mature readers who will appreciate the reworking of other classics into a wholly new and engaging graphic novel format work of impressive and memorable literature.

Ramblings Of An Outdated Old Coot
Jeremy Gorman
Privately Published
9780615283494, $16.00,

It's a rare treat when screening a day's incoming book mail seeking reviews that one of them will so rivet my attention that the work process comes to a sudden stop while I read page after page after page until a couple of hours have passed and I've finished the book I was supposed to merely glance through to determine its eligibility for a review assignment. But that's just what happened with Jeremy Gorman's "Ramblings of an Outdated Old Coot: Bettering Tomorrow With Past Insights", a self-published 176-page compendium of keen observation, thoughtful insights, and a true storyteller's talent for expression.

Here's just a sample quoted from his chapter on 'Terrorism':

'This is not a military conflict. A roadside bomb is not a military weapon! It has not target. It kills anyone who comes along, friend or foe alike. This is a conflict of ideas, and there are not new ideas. They have been active for hundreds of years. Semi-successful trends to coalesce the many tribes into larger cultures under a particularly strong leader have had few successes and even fewer that lasted for very many generations. Even Mohammed, in creating Islam, had a short influence. With the death of his grandson in 687 the Mohammedan culture became divided against itself as Sunnis and Shiites found more fault with each other than they did with the rest of the world. The fought not only the infidel, but also with each other. It continues to this day.'

Every topic ranging from Universal Health Care, to Shaving, to Recession, to Gay Marriage, to Unintended Consequences that Jeremy Gorman turns his attention and commentary to is replete with just such thoughtful and thought-provoking insights. "Ramblings of an Outdated Old Coot" is enthusiastically recommended reading and will prove a popular addition to any personal reading list or community library collection!

Jim Cox

Karyn's Bookshelf

Twenty Poems to Nourish Your Soul
Judith Valente and Charles Reynard, authors
Loyola Press
344 N. Ashland Avenue, Chicago IL 60657
0829418695, $13.95

Poetry is ill suited to our frenetic, over-tasked lives, Judith Valente and Charles Reynard sagaciously note. It "forces you to slow down, to listen intently, to live in the moment, or else the poem will pass you right by," Valente writes. As they ponder 18 poems written by others, and one each self-authored, it's clear the husband and wife duo has found the balance and inner harmony needed to grasp this art form and to live well in general. That hasn't come without struggle. In just over 200 pages, in essays interspersed with the work of selected poets including Stanley Kunitz, Mary Oliver and Judith Moffett, they comment candidly on Reynard's failed first marriage. He concedes it fell apart due to his working too much and neglecting his family. They talk of Valente's career shift, to freelance writing, from a once all consuming "seven-dayer" reporting career with heavyweight newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. The latter earned her a Pulitzer Prize nomination but left her hospitalized with exhaustion and malnutrition. The poems and personal meditations speak of simplicity, of noticing grandeur in small things. Without being preachy they infuse religion and God, discussing ideas like finding the sacred rooted in the everyday. They bring in a variety of other voices, including Annie Laurie Gaylor from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who says she may appreciate life more than others because she doesn't believe in an afterlife. You have one chance to make it good, Gaylor says. They talk of appreciating a morning walk, the process of making a proper British cup of tea. They talk of life- changing things that get us to wake up and live at a heightened level - death, divorce, job loss, cataclysmic events like Sept. 11. "Twenty Poems" will be best understood by those who, like Valente and Reynard, have found peace in the complex layers of their lives, who trowel beyond pain and disappointment to find joy. It should be required reading for those who aren't yet there, but who are ready to be challenged. Drawing on a small collection of one form of writing, "Twenty Poems" simply points out the obvious - that life is too short and needs constant nourishment. It's honestly insightful, well-written soul food.

Leon and the Place Between
Angela McAllister, author
Grahame Baker-Smith, illustrator
Templar Books/Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763645465, $16.99

Brilliant hues and a wonderfully original story concept propel "Leon and the Place Between" to a rare, magical height. Artist Grahame Baker-Smith's mixed-media is simply stunning, playing with a vast array of type fonts and type positions and infusing so many tiny illustrative details into multi-layered, jewel tone and metallic collages that even careful study may not reveal everything. The story is pure childhood imagination - pondering where a magician sends people, animals and objects at the point in a show where they briefly disappear. The destination is the "place between." Leon, a young boy who volunteers at a magic show to be the audience member who disappears, expects to sit for awhile in a hidden pocket of a false-backed box. Instead he's whisked away on a magic carpet by the son of the attending magician to a place of "astonishment" and "the unexpected" where you wait to be "called back" to the regular world. There are cards and doves and people that pop in and out as they leave and return to shows around the world. There are things that have been forgotten, left forever in magical limbo, like a white rabbit that Leon befriends that "was never called back," the son explains. A near-perfect combination of awe-inspired art and intensely child-centered storytelling that will instantly become a treasured, forever favorite.

Karyn Saemann

Logan's Bookshelf

Novica Tadic
Host Publications
277 Broadway, Suite 210, New York, NY 10007
9780924047695, $15.00,

It's a truly unique thing to be an artist in a society where art is shunned. "Assembly" is a collection of poetry from Novica Tadic, presented in both his native language and English. Focusing on being a poet when his communist society shunned him, he presents a surreal narrative through his works that shows why he's won many awards in his home country. "Assembly" is a fine addition to any world poetry collection. "People Who Shriek": I am always drawn to/people who shriek.//They are birds/unable to take flight,/burdened till death/by human bones.

Dave Barber
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161690, $10.95,

So many questions, no way to get answers. "If..." is a book of philosophy from David Barber, as he focuses on this one word question, and how many people just wish things could be done differently in life. Much perspective is put on this question as Barber gives readers a lot to think about and offers wisdom to help readers answer that question. "If..." is well worth considering for those who often wonder how things would be different.

Frappe with Philippians
Sandra Glahn
AMG Publishers
c/o MacGregor Literary Agency
2373 NW 185th Ave., Suite 165, Hillsboro, OR 97124
9780899573960, $12.99

You can get a little spirituality alongside your cup of coffee. "Frappe with Philippians" is an edition of the coffee cup Bible studies series from Sandra Glahn and AMG Publishers. Breaking down the book of Philippians into easy to digest, bite sized chunks for readers, Glahn gives readers to much indulge with. For the woman who is trying to work her faith into her life when there seems to be no time, "Frappe with Philippians" is a choice pick.

Dream for World Unity
Haile Gebre Egziabher
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S Parker Road -- 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432735548, $34.95,

To dream of something greater for all. "Dream for World Unity" is the idealistic views of Hale Gebre Egziabher as he brings forth his views of how belief in Christ and a more unified world governing body can bring more joy to the world to combat the materialism and selfishness of the world as a whole. Spiritually driven, "Dream for World Unity" is an optimistic read that will have many readers asking for and aspiring for more. Also from Haile Gebre Egziabher is "Witnessing" (9781432724252, $29.95), further discussing the power of God in times of chaos.

Life and Life Only
Dave Moyer
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440154621, $14.95,

The American dream can turn into the American nightmare without much time. "Life and Life Only" is the tale of Dan Mason, a man who has everything he could ever want but soon finds himself losing everything he ever wanted. A story of growing up even in adult life, Dave Moyer gives a tale of coming to realize what's truly important in life is living life and realizing the simple truths. "Life and Life Only" is a fine pick.

Ribbon Falls
Brad Anderson
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432735067, $14.95,

Finders keepers, and to find some may kill. "Ribbon Falls" tells the story of a treasure that three friends discover. For decades, they must wait until the death of a certain individual and when that time finally comes, the trio seem set for the rest of their lives. But in the pursuit of money, never doubt who will get involved and just what they'll do in order to get at it. "Ribbon Falls" is a fine thriller and adventure of the pursuit of wealth, highly recommended.

Men with Red Ties
Nastya Polikarpova
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -- 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432735906, $16.95,

Not everyone finds the American dream. "Men with Red Ties" tells the story of three young immigrants trying to make their own way in the world, but finding that life for the young and pretty is not as easy as they thought it would be. A series of stories following these young women who are more vulnerable than most, "Men with Red Ties" is a fascinating and very recommended read with a message that should not be ignored.

Why I Buy Real Estate Instead of Golfing
Len DeWeerdt
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -- 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432744373, $14.95,

One is taking a chance at getting something where you want it to go, the other is golf. "Why I Buy Real Estate Instead of Golfing" is a memoir of adventures in real estate from Len DeWeerdt as he reflects on his own successes and follies in real estate, and gives readers much advice on how to succeed where he failed. Hoping to prevent aspiring investors from making the same mistakes he did and learning the hard way, "Why I Buy Real Estate Instead of Golfing" is a choice pick and well worth considering.

The Grateful Immigrant
Pitso Mafata
Vantage Press
419 Park. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161652, $10.95,

Leaving a place where you're hated and despised isn't as easy as one would think. "The Grateful Immigrant" is a memoir from Pitso Mafata, a man who lived under South Africa during the most vicious oppression from apartheid. Leaving for Broadway, he gives an actor's perspective of South Africa and coming to America. Intriguing and uplifting, "The Grateful Immigrant' is a read well worth considering.

The Greatest Show on Turf
Robert Mullen
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -- 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432744878, $15.95,

There are a few years that sports teams truly shine above all others. "The Greatest Show on Turf: The Story of the 99-01 St. Louis Rams" tells the story of the golden years of this franchise of how players made their mark on NFL history and inspired fans across America. Written by a true fan, "The Greatest Show on Turf" is a trip down memory lane for any Rams fan.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Family Sabbatical Handbook
Elisa Bernick
The Intrepid Traveler
PO Box 531, Branford, CT 06405
9781887140690, $15.95,

Without the daily grind, there is a lot more togetherness to be had as a family. "The Family Sabbatical Handbook: The Budget Guide to Living Abroad with Your Family" discusses why and how a family sabbatical can do wonders for every member involved. Outlining the challenges a family will face, how to face them, and dealing with your children, while coming back to the regular world eventually, "The Family Sabbatical Handbook" contains both interesting and useful ideas, making for a very intriguing read.

St. Augustine and St. Johns County
William R. Adams
Pineapple Press, Inc.
PO Box 3889, Sarasota, FL 34230
9781561644322, $14.95,

Many places in America have a lot of history to offer readers. "St. Augustine and St. John's County: A Historical Guide" is a tour guide for the traveler who will be visiting the historic city and wants to fully relish in its history. Showing over fifty sites with full color photographs, there is no shortage of history for an enthusiast to enjoy within the city and country. For anyone planning a trip to St. Augustine, "St. Augustine and St. John's County" is a very recommended acquisition.

Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms
Grace E. Smith & Stephanie Throne
International Society for Technology in Education
1710 Rhode Island Ave., NW Suite 900, Washington, DC 20036
9781564842602, $37.95,

Technology has a bigger impact on children's lives than ever before. "Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms" is a guide to teachers who want to embrace the information age and weave technology into their curriculum as a partner in teaching. Discussing how to do integrate this well into the school and treat technology as a partner in education rather than just a tool, it emphasizes internet use. Subject by subject, "Differentiating Instructions with Technology in Middle School Classrooms" is a must for any community or college library collection focusing on education.

Blood Betrayal
Mike Thompson
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432748029, $14.95,

Murder just adds more problems to one's already problem riddled life. "Blood Betrayal" tells the story of Dimitri Magnussen, a disturbed man wanted for murder. A sheriff out to find the killer of his friends believes Dimitri is the one responsible, and along the way the truth only becomes more and more muddled. A riveting story of human nature, and the cloud of innocence and guilt, "Blood Betrayal" is a very recommended read that shouldn't be ignored.

America's Failure in Iraq
Michael M. O'Brien
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781438987965, $42.49,

For the past twenty years, America has had a strange relationship with the nation of Iraq. "America's Failure in Iraq" discusses America and Iraq, starting with George H.W. Bush and the Gulf War back in 1991. Michael M. O'Brien discusses the current events in Iraq and draws many parallels to the Vietnamese war, stating how these men are making the same mistakes as their fathers, from policy makers whose fathers fought and governed Vietnam, to George W. Bush sharing mistakes with his own father. "America's Failure in Iraq" is a worthwhile critique of the current political crisis.

Old McDonald Had a Funny Farm
Mary McDowell
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161249, $13.95,

Childhood is this strange bizarre thing we all must survive. "Old McDonald Had a Funny Farm" is a novel of Mary McDowell reflecting on her own childhood experiences growing up in Orange County, California. Charming and entertaining, McDowell will take baby boomers and their children back as they recall this bygone age of curiosity when the whole world was new, and when one asked more questions than there were answers. "Old McDonald Had a Funny Farm" is a choice pick that should not be ignored.

Teenage Hysteria
Mantle Rae
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432746322, $14.95,

There was once nothing stopping one from dropping off the face of the earth if they desired. "Teenage Hysteria: Generation Anonymous" is a unique memoir from Mantle Rae, reflecting on the time around roughly the seventies, as Mantle Rae reflects on a world where drugs were the norm besides the exception and no one was connected yet. A tale of a forgotten time, "Teenage Hysteria" is an interesting read that is worth considering.

A Voyage Through Time
Margo Young
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781438958743, $17.98,

Not every tale set in the era of the Holocaust is about suffering under Nazi oppression. "A Voyage Through Time" is a more charming story of an immigrant finding a new life, as Margo Young reflects on leaving Germany before the worst of the Third Reich's atrocities occurred. She tells a story of finding a new life, offering a picture of immigrant life as World War II began to rumble around the world. "A Voyage Through Time" is a unique read and very highly recommended reading.

Margaret Lane

Peggy's Bookshelf

Tales from the Crypt #8: Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid
Stefan Petrucha, Maia Kinney-Petrucha, John L. Lansdale, Jim Salicrup
Illustrated by Rick Parker, Miran Kim, James Romberger, Marguerite Van Cook
40 Exchange Place, Ste. 1308, New York, NY 10005
9781597071635 $7.95

This graphic novel is a collection of four stories, "Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid" Parts 1 and 2, "Dielite" and "Carrier". Each story is introduced with sick commentary from Crypt cartoon characters.

"Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid" is a zany parody of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid". Follow the adventures of Glugg as he is accidentally killed by his brother Crowley then returns as a zombie to haunt those who tormented him in life. The story layout is unique and the artwork is comical.

"Dielite" is a hilarious send up of "Twilight". Dedward is a pathetic vampire with a hopeless crush Lou Anne Lugosi who wishes he would just drop dead. The artwork here is detailed and extraordinary.

"Carrier" is the wacky story about Dan Warren, a truck driving, reluctant werewolf and his murderous friends. The style is classic comic book and the artwork is action-packed.

Fans of "Mad Magazine" will love this book. Once they read it, middle school age boys will be hooked on the Tales from the Crypt series. Caution: You could die laughing.

Weezer Changes the World
David McPhail
Beach Lane Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416990000 $15.99

Weezer is a cute little dog who does normal cute little dog things until one day he gets struck by lightning and everything changes. Suddenly Weezer can do extraordinary things. Then Weezer gets sick and it is up to everyone in the world to show him what they can do to change. The watercolor illustrations are comical and engaging.

"Weezer Changes the World" is not so much about how one person can change the world but how everyone together can make a difference if they really want to. This simple story grabs the great big scary world by the horns and tames it for young readers. It is meant to be read again and again as young children will gain more insight with each repetition.

Bunion Burt
Marsha Hayles
Illustrated by Jack E. Davis
Margaret K. McElderry Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416941323 $16.99

Bunion Burt has sore feet. Everyone from Cousin Kurt to Sister Vert and even sweet sow Pert offer wacky ways to soothe his pain. But it's up to Pappy Spurt to save the day.

The characters' exaggerated heads and feet in the brilliant watercolor illustrations accentuate the whimsical nature of this story. My favorite illustrations are those in which the artist adds another layer which is usually humorous. Jack Davis rewards watchful eyes with the antics of a comical cat who alone keeps readers turning the pages.

"Bunion Burt" is a limerick story full of charm and silliness. Marsha Hayles masterfully captures the enchantment that happens when story meets verse. Children are never too young to appreciate the magic of language and they will fall in love with these wonderful words.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
014311316X $15.00

Rating ****

For two thousand years, Judas Iscariot has been reviled as the betrayer of Christ, the man who purposefully pointed out Jesus, possibly with a kiss, to an armed group of men who had come to take him away. But an archeological find made public by National Geographic provides a different slant on both Jesus and the man who supposedly betrayed him.

Sometime in the 1970s, a gospel according to Judas, translated from its second century Greek into Coptic, was discovered in Middle Egypt near Al Minya. Although damaged considerably, scholars did a remarkable job translating what they could into English by April 2006.

With Reading Judas one must conclude that the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and now Judas, portray the betrayal of Jesus as divinely willed by God. Jesus states his foreknowledge of Judas' act clearly: "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me" (Matthew 26:20-23). If so, then what Judas did to fulfill the will of God and Old Testament prophecies cannot damn the man forever into the annals of history as a mad traitor seeking pieces of silver.

One of the clearest messages in Judas' Gospel is his disagreement with the apostles and the original church fathers concerning why God became incarnate. Judas believed Christ proclaimed a message of love and life and joy. He believed in forgiveness and the resurrection of the soul after death.

But he adamantly opposed any idea that a good god would ever accept or require blood sacrifice of animals or human beings as martyrs for their faith. Suffering is not an essential ingredient for salvation; God did not need the offerings. In Reading Judas, the tortured, bloodied account of the Son of God being shamefully murdered for his sheep as the "pascal lamb" (I Corinthians 5:7) and then being crucified as a redemptive act "for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:8) horrified Judas Iscariot.

Furthermore, according to other gospels, Jesus had commanded his followers to "eat my flesh ... drink my blood" (John 6:53-55). This was unthinkable to Judas as something possibly touching on cannibalism. Subsequently, the hideous annals of Christians actively seeking martyrdom so they could die like Jesus and gain instant access through the pearly gates was unconscionable.

One can see why Judas Iscariot stood staunchly at odds with the earliest Christian church. But what was Judas' message for mankind - for worshipping God? Reading Judas claims the Savior took him aside for intimate, personal instruction before his crucifixion. Jesus told Judas that our world is "a kind of primeval darkness and disorder" similar to that mentioned in the Bible's opening verses.

In order to rise above darkness, people must follow the teachings of Jesus because "the image of God they carry deep within makes them superior to the rulers of chaos" (Judas 13:16-17). By following Christ's exemplary life and his teachings each person "turns upward to the holy race" (Judas 9:26-30). When death comes naturally, the body will die, but the soul will join God in eternity.

Reading Judas is a highly controversial work, not because of its authors, but because of Judas' words. It begins by explaining how Judas was deigned to betray Jesus as part of a divine plan. Yet Judas' gospel reveals over and over his disbelief that a Divine God would request blood sacrifice of any human being, particularly an incarnate son. Since Judas' gospel "ends as he hands Jesus over to the enemies who will kill him," one wonders about this vicious circle of reasoning.

I would highly recommend Reading Judas to any reader, Bible believer or not, looking for a mind-provoking book, one that will cause some consternation of thought about historical Christianity and its earliest apostles, disciples and gospel writers. It is well written and easy to follow.

For those readers tolerant of religious history beyond the more accepted, traditional gospels, Reading Judas raises issues about the nature of God, Jesus' incarnation, his death, and the terrible sacrificial deaths of martyrs at the hands of Christian persecutors. No doubt The Gospel of Judas exists, but its words might trouble a reader trying to reconcile how any god could set up a man as sensitive as Judas for a demonic greedy traitor.

The Lake That Stole Children
Douglas Glenn Clark
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
1438243588 $6.25

Rating ****

A young girl and boy are on their first fishing expedition with their strict father who prizes obedience to his words more than anything else. The father is preparing his rod and reel while his two children prepare their short poles. They stand not far from the edge of a huge rock above a fast flowing stream.

The obedient daughter patiently waits further coaching from her father. Not the son! He anxiously casts before getting his father's final instructions and approval. Off balance, he begins to lose footing from his slippery perch. The fisherman leaps to his feet and grabs the boy by the collar before he falls to be swept away by the stream's swift current.

In The Lake That Stole Children, angry at his son's disobedience, the fisherman bellows at the boy so loudly that even birds in the forest flee from their tree nests: "See what can happen when you ignore your father!" The daughter and son are told they must continue to practice casting their lures close to shore.

The son resents this boring directive. He wants to cast out into the stream's center so he can catch big fish like his master-fly-fisherman father is doing. Silent and discouraged, both daughter and son continue practicing.

Later that night when both children are in bed, their mother tells her husband he is too stern with their son after seeing how discouraged he was. She feels the boy needs more love than harsh words of discipline.

The young boy cannot sleep. Night cries of the river seem to beckon him. He steals away to the fishing rock carrying his father's prized rod, reel, and fishing pail. Mounting the rock, he casts far into the rushing stream's center.

In a flash, something huge tugs hard on his lure. He attempts to wind in his line. He tugs hard toward shore but his young body is neither heavy enough nor strong enough. He refuses to let go of the fishing rod fearing his father's rage if he discovers it missing.

Into The Lake That Stole Children splashes the young lad desperately gripping the rod. As he is drawn through the stream and out into a great lake, he sees a brilliant light coming fast at him. He hears the soulful cries of many children deep in the lake.

Who are these children? Where are they? Are they mere ghosts or specters of this terrified boys unbridled imagination? Will the disobedient boy drown? And what will become of the fisherman and his wife?

As a former teacher, I would highly recommend this descriptive short tale especially to educators who are trying to stimulate imaginative writing in their students. Read sentences from the story like, "From the depths of the dark lake, a round beam of light steamed upward, like the warm glow of a fat lantern." Then ask students to write their own simple story or paragraph describing what the light could be. This could provide as much enjoyment as letting the kids take turns, reading their own masterpieces or one another's sentences aloud.

Any reader who likes fables will appreciate this magical story. In my mind, The Lake That Stole Children is a story for both adults and children. Is it too frightening for kids? I think not. It should not scare kids any more than Pinocchio and his father being swallowed by a great whale.

Regis Schilken, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Penetrating the Stronghold of Islam: An Insider's Perspective from a Bible Translation Team
Mariel Ward
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Saint Mary, Florida 32746
9781599794860 $12.99

Insights into the Stronghold of Islam from a Bible Translator's Perspective.

In 1959 the Bob and Mariel Ward answered the Lord's "call" to missionary service. They joined Wycliffe Bible Translators. After completing the intensive training requirements of Wycliffe's Summer Institute of Linguistics the Wards boarded an American Mail Line Freighter, destination Philippine Islands.

"Penetrating the Stronghold of Islam" is the amazing story is their story. Mariel Ward relates gripping stories of their forty-five year ministry among the Muslim people on the Island of Mindanao, one of the Philippine Islands. They faced the unique challenge of translating the bible into the native language of any people group is difficult under the best of conditions. The Wards met with a major barrier; their people group the Maranao, were Muslims.

An additional challenge was the fact that the Wards lives and the lives of their language assistants were threatened. They were and a risk and faced danger. Their story is filled with non stop exciting activity and reads like a fast moving exciting adventure novel, which includes kidnapping, murder, and intrigue. You may even consider their testimony as an extension of the New Testament book of the Acts. God's protection, provision, and guidance are shown as miraculous in timing and results.

Mariel, gifted as a communicator and a natural story teller, writes with integrity and objectivity, which helped me as a reader understand the significance of the events, the people, and the places included in her story.

The Deliverer
Linda Rios Brook
Realms A Strang Company
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599794761 $13.99

Another Winner - Book Two in the Reluctant Demon Diaries

"The Deliverer" follows "Lucifer's Flood" in the "Reluctant Demon Diaries" series. Linda Rios Brook's approach in the series reminds me of the C. S. Lewis classic "Screw-tape Letters." Linda has created a fresh look into the Biblical account of Israel's history from the time of Moses through to the days of Joshua's leadership, relating these familiar Biblical stories from the Bible to spiritual warfare as being experienced today.

The story is told by a narrator who was as an eyewitness reporter to the events related throughout this fictional account of Biblical history. The story revolves around Ancient-Language expert Samantha Yale who been entrusted with a set of ancient scrolls. Samantha translates the scrolls, which contain a behind the scenes account of the life of Moses. The author of the scrolls is a fallen angel who expresses grief over the day he first listened to Lucifer.

Brook has created unique, extraordinary word pictures and mental images which become embedded on the reader's mind, providing a whole panorama of new insights into the spirit world, demonic stratagem, and the consequences of pursuing evil. Brook communicates her understanding and personal experience of the depths of God's love, forgiveness, and compassion.

"The Deliverer" is written especially for young adult readers who are attracted to the recent popular trend of books which deal with the themes of heaven and hell and spiritual warfare. Readers of Brook's earlier book "Lucifer's Flood" will also enjoy this creative, highly imaginative, entertaining, and inspiring novel. An extraordinary read.

Embrace the Struggle: Living on Life's Terms
Zig Zigler and Julie Zigler Norman
Howard Books a Division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439142196 $23.99

The Challenge to Get Up After Being Knocked Down

Zig Ziglar collaborates with his daughter Julie Ziglar Norman, to tell the story of how one misplaced step changed his life forever, in the book "Embrace the Struggle". A misstep, on March 7, 2007, resulted in a fall down the stairs which caused a vertigo problem and a brain injury leaving him with the biggest challenge of his life.

Zig shares illustrations from his own experience with dozens of stories of other individuals who have faced up to physical struggles, financial problems, addictions, dysfunctional marriages, or family issues. People who have accepted their limitations, concentrated on their strengths, made the most of their ability, and faced life on life's terms, moving on to help and encourage others. Nearly everyone can identify with one or more of these amazing individuals.

Ziglar continues to reveal his transparency and his ability to laugh at himself. He maintains the excitement of his personal faith and Christian convictions and boldly speaks of their importance in his daily journey.

Julie Zigler Norman has written this book with her father. Together they have also established a dynamic on-stage presentation that continues to inspire audiences, throughout the country, with Zig's longstanding inspirational and motivational principles. These principles continue to be demonstrated through his life today as throughout his amazing career.

"Embrace the Struggle" is a book for anyone needing motivation to learn to live with an enthusiastic outlook, realistic expectations, optimism, and honesty. Zig Ziglar's writing is inspirational, highly motivating, and entertaining.

Richard R. Blake

Suzie's Bookshelf

No Matter What
Erin Nicholas
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520, Macon, GA 31201
9781605046877 $5.50

Adam Steel always prided himself as someone who never took no for an answer. His money has always enabled him to buy him whatever he wanted out of life. The day he discovered his daughter Emily had bone cancer he found his money was useless for he was unable to "buy" a cure. He was faced with the difficult decision to agree to have a portion of her leg amputated to keep the cancer from spreading.

Adam's heart breaks each time he sees the after effects of his daughter's surgery. He promises her he would hire the best physical therapists to help her learn to walk using a prosthesis. After three failed attempts he blames himself for his daughter still being trapped in a wheelchair.

Adam puts his last hope in Emily's recovery in Dr. Jaden Monroe's hands. She is known as one of the best pediatric therapists in the country. He offers her a million dollars if she is successful in rehabilitating Emily.

Jaden trusted in the wrong man to help her gain the funds she needed to build a new rehabilitation wing for the hospital. When he withdrew the money needed to finish the wing she overreacted and was fired from her job. When Adam approaches her with his offer to work with his daughter she sees it as the solution she needs to be able to complete the rehabilitation wing and restore her name.

Upon meeting Emily, Jaden knows she will have to tear down the invisible walls she has built around herself. Emily is convinced her life will never be the same again and it is up to Jaden to persuade her otherwise. Jaden did not anticipate the strong attraction she feels for Adam. She is worried that history is about to repeat itself if she trusts in another man who is funding a project she believes in. If she gives Adam her heart will he end up breaking it?

No Matter What is an exceptional romance! Through this one book I learned the name Erin Nicholas is one that I want to keep my eyes out for future works. This book offers all the elements that would automatically earn it a place on my keeper's shelf. It is one that I would highly recommend to anyone who seeks a heartwarming story that will long be remembered once it is finished.

Indian Blood Moon
Jaxx Steele
Phaze Books
An imprint of Mundania Press, LLC
Mundania Press, LLC
6470A Glenway Avenue, #109, Cincinnati, OH 45211-5222
9781606595091 $2.00 1-888-232-0808 1-888-460-4752

Dante Tyler is a reporter for the Rapid News; he is surprised when his supervisor drops by his office unannounced. He fears his unexpected visit was to tell him that he was being laid off. He is stunned to learn that Mr. Evans recognizes his column "What's Happening Around Town" has been gaining a huge fan base. He offers him the opportunity to expand his column to include the Chicago area. To help jump start the new expansion he assigns him to attend a Halloween party.

Arriving at the party Dante meets a man named Magnus. He couldn't help but notice his well honed physical condition. Then another man dressed as a pirate named Jack offers to buy him a drink. He accepts, but soon after he feels a dizziness overcome him. Jack suggests they get some air outside.

Outside Dante is too late to recognize something is not right. Jack and a group of other men over power him. He catches through his haze of confusion they are going to make him some sort of human sacrifice. Fearing for his life he feels powerless to stop them.

Will Dante be able to escape those that hold him captive? Or will he be sacrificed under the Indian Blood Moon?

Jaxx Steele writes with a precise cutting edge, each word will cut deep into your soul. Indian Blood Moon provides a wealth of emotions that are usually not encountered in one story. You will find yourself holding your breath questioning whether Dante is strong enough to escape his situation.

Rice Cooker Meals: Fast Home Cooking for Busy People
Neal Bertrand
Cypress Cove Publishing
P.O. Box 91626, Lafayette, Louisiana 70509-1626
9780970586827 $12.95 (337) 224-6576

An ingenious new way of cooking has been discovered by Neal Bertrand. Through the use of a rice cooker he reveals how to create mouth watering meals in minutes. This book is ideal for those who are limited on kitchen space or who are challenged by cooking. Each recipe is easy to put together and requires no advance culinary skills.

I was amazed at the overall content of this book. Each recipe was so simple to prepare and produced delicious results. I must admit that all these years I thought a rice cooker was just to be used to cook rice. Now through this one book I have found a quick and easy way to create meals fit for a King. The recipes that I couldn't resist to try included:

"Crawfish Boil" Potatoes
Cabbage "Casserole" I
Candied Yams with Marshmallows

There are many unique features about this book. It allows you to experience a true taste of Louisiana cuisine through dishes such as: Crawfish Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffee, and Cajun Pepper Steak. In addition it provides a helpful resource entitled the well-stocked rice cooker meals pantry that lists the ingredients you will need to have available to make the recipes in the book.

Rice Cooker Meals: Fast Home Cooking for Busy People is a must have for anyone who is looking for a fresh new approach to cooking. It offers a wealth of scrumptious recipes that will quickly become some of your all time favorites. This book would make an excellent gift for that special someone who you know deserves a home cooked meal.

The Mudhogs
Dalton James
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432745608 $13.95 1-888-OP-BOOKS

Piggy, Piggles, and Piglet are three mudhogs. They spend their time at the local club known as the Barnyard Break.

For months they have been without mud. Being pigs they know they must have some.

The three go in search of mud. They travel the world in search of their treasure. Will their journey lead them to what they desire or will their trip be one of despair?

With each book I read of Dalton James I grow more in love with his writing. This is the third book that I have read/reviewed of this talented young author. Not only does this eight-year old write the story, he also does all the illustrations. This combination adds that special touch similar titles lack. The Mudhogs is a perfect example of a story that teaches a valuable lesson, I recommend it to all parents to introduce their children to the wonderments of a child's mind.

The Awakened One Poetics
Joseph S. Spence, Sr.
Rochak Publishing
4/2 B L.I.G., Govindpur Colony, Allahabad - 211004 (U.P.) India
9788190381246 $14.99 (91) (532) 2540119

Through the haiku poems of Joseph S. Spence, Sr. you will embark on a journey of self discovery. His thought provoking words will open up your heart to receive the oneness blessing.

The Awakened One Poetics is a true work of art. It offers powerful words that paint a picture of understanding.

This is a one of a kind book. What makes it so unique is that it can be read in eight different languages. Seeing the words translate into another person's culture is a moving experience. It exhibits the true sense of unity.

Each haiku made a strong impact to my senses. The ones that opened my heart included:

Poetic virtue
compassion, patience, kindness
mind's elevation {p. 74}

Windows of the world
open with enlightenment
poetic essence {p. 75}

Through these simplistic words it was like a ray of light opened my eyes to the beauty of the world.

The Awakened One Poetics is a book to be experienced and shared. It will allow the reader an opportunity to discover peace and tranquility. This book radiates with positive energy; it will quickly become one of your most treasured books.

Legend of Honey Hollow (Book One of the Honey Hollow Series)
Jeanne McNaney
Ovation Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
9780979027598 $16.95 (512) 478-2028

Honey Hollow is a place where bears find peace, when their own worlds are invaded by men who are intent to destroy their land.

One day the peace is disturbed when the trees begin to disappear. The men come to tear down the happy land but the inhabitants refuse to be sad.

Even though things are changing before their very eyes, their friendships are strong to survive.

When a group of children find themselves in trouble, the bear group unites to save their lives. Together human and animal bring the forest back to life.

Jeanne McNaney's Legend of Honey Hollow (Book One of the Honey Hollow Series) is an outstanding children's book. It offers a unique way to introduce children to the instinct animals around the world. The illustrations are brilliant; they offer an overall enhancement that lends magic to the story.

Miracle in Sumatra: The Story of Gutsy Gus
Jeanne McNaney
Ovation Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
9780981453460 $13.95 (512) 478-2028

Hunter was known as a great trapper. He made his fortune capturing apes in Africa. He decides that he needs a change of pace so he sets his sights on Asia and orangutans. He knows by being the lone trapper in that continent he would reap all the rewards. Hunter did not anticipate the orangutans had their own Guardian known as Gabriella.

In the jungle their live an orangutan family. Mother, Xera, father Cornelius, and son Gus. They were a close family that shared many activities. One day while searching for food Gus is lured away by a human girl called Maya.

Maya and Gus quickly become good friends. What they didn't anticipate was how each other were going to have an impact to each other's life. When Gus's parents are captured by Hunter he will need the help of Maya to help rescue them. Through Gabriella's magic, Maya is transformed into an orangutan.

Together will Gus and Maya be able to locate and save Gus's parents or will they be putting their own lives in jeopardy?

Miracle in Sumatra: The Story of Gutsy Gus is a pure delight! From the moment you pick the book up you see the beautiful cover call out to you. The illustrations bring the story to life. This is a book that your children is assured to treasure.

DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style
David Guas and Raquel Pelzel
The Taunton Press, Inc.
63 South Main St., PO Box 5506, Newtown, CT 06470-5506
9781600851186 $25.00 203-426-8171

A Southern masterpiece exists in David Guas and Raquel Pelzel's DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style. Through the pages of this informative cookbook you will be swept away to discover the true essence of delicious New Orleans cuisine.

The fifty recipes that make up DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style are derived from historic recipes of times past. Each one serves as a tribute to the true New Orleans culture.

Some of my favorite recipes that bring New Orleans to my own kitchen included:

Buttermilk Beignets
King Cake
Red Velvet Cake

Just the mention of the above listed recipes puts a smile on my face as I remember the last time I visited New Orleans. Each recipe brings back fond memories of a city that I can't wait to revisit.

What is so unique about this book is the author intertwines the recipes with famous New Orleans landmarks. With the Buttermilk Beignet recipes a history lesson of the French Market and Cafe Du Monde is presented. This historic detail gives a greater appreciation of the recipe and its origin.

DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style is a cookbook that you absolutely will fall in love with. Each recipe captures the magical beauty and radiance of New Orleans. This book will become a priceless addition to your cookbook collection. You will find yourself consulting it when you want to make an extra special dessert.

Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Cookbook Volume 2
Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour Publishing Inc.
1810 Barbour Drive, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
1602603456 $14.97 1-800-852-8010

A true sense of Amish pride radiates from the pages of Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Cookbook Volume 2. In this one book you can almost feel the love transmit from the author to the reader as she reveals the simplistic beauty that captures the purity of the land and way of life through the many pictures included with each recipe.

Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Cookbook Volume 2 consists of two hundred Amish County recipes. Each one is a tantalizing tribute to the Amish community. Some of my favorite recipes included:

Iced Cinnamon Biscuits
Maple Twist Rolls
Beef Volcanoes
Million Dollar Fudge

In addition Ms. Brunstetter includes information about the Amish communities that are in the United States. I was amazed to learn that the Amish community has grown to a population of over two hundred nationwide. Some of the places in which the Amish reside include Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Lawrence County, Tennessee, and Christian County, Kentucky.

As an added bonus to the many recipes this book contains there is a unique section that offers home product recipes that include: earache remedy, cough syrup, and air freshener. This section was a welcome addition since it shows how to make useful products with natural ingredients.

Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Cookbook Volume 2 is an outstanding collection of the best recipes you will ever experience. You will find that this book becomes a permanent fixture in your recipe collection. It will be one book that you will proudly pass on to future generations.

An A-Z Guide to Healing Foods: A Shopper's Reference
Elise Marie Collins
Conari Press
Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781573244190 $12.95 978.465.0504

The greatest wealth is health.


Winter time is notorious cold and flu season. It is essential that preventative methods are in place to help combat unseen germs. Through Elise Marie Collins's An A-Z Guide to Healing Foods: A Shopper's Reference you are able to learn what fruits, herbs, and vegetables help prevent certain illnesses and diseases.

This book is an invaluable resource. It lists each item along with a detailed explanation of its health benefit. As an added bonus there is a section entitled "What to Eat: Ailment Treatment and Health Maintenance". This section lists common ailments and diseases. It educates the reader to learn how best to treat each ailment.

An A-Z Guide to Healing Foods: A Shopper's Reference is a valuable resource to overall better heath. It provides in-depth knowledge that allows the reader to immediately put to use what they learn. A huge benefit this offers is all the items mentioned in this book can be found in your local supermarket or health store. I highly recommend this book for the health conscious individual.

Penny Saving Household Helper: 500 Little Ways to Save Big
Rebecca Diliberto
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, California 94107
9780811870214 $12.95 415-537-4200

In today's shattered economy it is essential that individuals look for ways to cut costs. By learning ways to save you can reduce unnecessary expenses without major impact to your lifestyle.

Rebecca Diliberto's Penny Saving Household Helper: 500 Little Ways to Save Big is a must have book. It contains five hundred ways that will help avoid unnecessary expenses. This book will literally save hundreds of dollars in the first month of use.

There is something for everyone through the pages of this informative book. It suggests money saving tips that you probably never considered. Some of my favorites included:

157 - Rubbing alcohol will remove spots from stainless steel. Just apply some to a cotton ball and wipe the tainted spots away.

244 - Set your ceiling fan in the correct direction. In summer run it clockwise to draw hot air up. In winter, run it counterclockwise to push hot air down.

475 - Take advantage of local resources. Check the web sites of the Chamber of Commerce, any local tourist agencies, and local newspapers at your destination to score insider deals.

The investment in the purchase of this book will be returned by the money you will be able to save. It is one of the greatest sources of cost cutting books I have ever discovered. I feel that it was published in the perfect state of economy where everyone is concerned about cutting back costs without sacrificing their livelihood. I predict that it will become an automatic best seller.

All Cakes Considered
Melissa Gray
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, California 94107
9780811867818 $24.95 415-537-4200

Melissa Gray has proven she is the Queen of cake making. In her book All Cakes Considered she has collected fifty recipes that have been taste tested by her coworkers and are easy to understand; each one produce award winning results.

Being baking challenged; I was delighted to have discovered this book. It is filled with recipes that are absolutely delicious. Some of my favorites included:

Triple Chocolate Orange Passion Cake
Black Walnut Cake
Spanish Meringue Cake
Tunnel of Fudge Cake

With the in-depth introduction on caking baking and what was needed to master each recipe it allowed me to learn the basics I needed to produce the textbook perfect results.

All Cakes Considered would make a wonderful addition to any baker's cookbook collection. It would be the ideal gift for a newlywed or someone who is a novice to baking. This book is assured to become one of your most treasured cookbooks.

Ultimate Book of Card Games: The Comprehensive Guide to More than 350 Games
Scott McNeely
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, California 94107
9780811866422 $19.95 415-537-4200

For hundreds of years card games have been an entertaining means of social gathering. From poker to black jack games of chance have brought people endless amounts of joy and entertainment.

In Scot McNeely's Ultimate Book of Card Games: The Comprehensive Guide to More than 350 Games it allows the reader to experience an unlimited amount of old and new card games. Old time favorites such as Old Maid, Hearts, and Texas Hold'em can all be found in this one book. Games which you might not know include: Tien Len, Black Hole, and Cuarenta. Each one of the directions for each game is in-depth and easy to understand. In no time at all you will master each one that you find interesting.

For hours of countless fun and discovery Scott McNeely's Ultimate Book of Card Games: The Comprehensive Guide to More than 350 Games. It offers a easy way to discover an endless supply of fun and pleasure.

Quantum Supplements: A Total Health and Wellness Makeover with Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs
Deanna M. Minich PhD CN
Conari Press
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781573244206 $14.95

Western medicine and Eastern philosophy are explored in Deanna M. Minich's Quantum Supplements: A Total Health and Wellness Makeover with Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs. This book provides an in-depth introduction to the Chakras and how used with vitamins, minerals, and herbs a person is able to heal themselves.

What makes this book one of a kind is that it can be read straight through or if an individual is experiencing a particular illness they can consult the Appendix in the back of the book and pinpoint the chakra that is affected and the vitamin, mineral, or herb, needed for treatment.

Quantum Supplements: A Total Health and Wellness Makeover with Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs is a great breakthrough in the health care industry. It provides a holistic approach to treating many ailments that plague mankind. Health care providers should make note of this valuable book and how it can be used on their patients could help relieve their suffering.

Suzie Housley, Reviewer

Teri's Bookshelf

Red, Green, or Murder
Steven Havill
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590586655 $24.95

When a person retires from a long-time law enforcement career, being a livestock inspector could be boring. That's what Bill Gastner, formerly a county sheriff in a remote and quiet area of New Mexico, was thinking about when a ranching accident launches him into a long series of unrelated investigations that all require Bill's expertise, experience, and contacts in understanding each event. Fortunately, his successor, Estelle Reyes-Guzman respects and welcomes his assistance in her overwhelming position as current sheriff.

First, while moving cattle, a young rancher's horse is spooked. As the rider attempts to calm the creature, he is thrown off and unfortunately, the horse accidentally steps on his knee. Added to this is a missing ranch hand that leaves behind his dog and the questionable death of a close-friend and retired gun dealer. Are all of these related? How do you investigate each one without feeling guilty for not having answers to questions that keep Bill wondering? What ranch hand would leave behind a working dog that is as important as another human?

What makes RED, GREEN, OR MURDER such a delightful reading experience, is the strong, believable, and likable character of Bill Gastner. You feel as if this is one person who could be real and who each of us would want as a friend, especially if it involved a crime or the law. Also, the story is well planned and keeps you wondering and being interested until the last page. This is one novel that I was trying to constantly think about how this author could logically connect the events and resolve the problems.

RED, GREEN, OR MURDER is part of series called THE POSADAS COUNTY MYSTERIES featuring Bill Gastner and Estelle Reyes-Guzman. This particular novel actually fits in the middle of a long stream of investigations featuring these two. This series is actually a combination of a present-day western coupled with a mystery or two. Being that I have not read this series, I was enthralled with the characterization and impressed with how this particular book works as either a stand alone or as part of the series. To reacquaint characters or to introduce ones to a reader, who has not read the other books, proves that Steven Havill is a masterful writer who I plan to know better soon. Personally, I plan to read the other books in his series.
Steven Havill resides in New Mexico. He has worked as a teacher and recently studied gunsmithing.

I look forward to reading any book written by Steven Havill. This is truly a masterful storyteller who can weave a complex story into a logical and well-written tale.

Pole Shift
Albert Samuel Tukker
Lulu Press
97805557024742 $24.95

Everyone seems to have an opinion about what might happen in December of 2012 when the planets will supposedly align and the Mayan calendar ends. Will this be the end of our world?

Albert Samuel Tukker has his own vision of what might happen. His story is POLE SHIFT. Could this alignment cause our magnetic poles to shift to being straight up? How would this change our planet?

POLE SHIFT begins with Forrest Woods being at his wife's side as she is slowly and painfully dying of cancer. When she actually dies, he is, naturally and guilt-ridden, not there. However, Forrest still feels her closeness, especially whenever the blue firefly appears. Is this his wife looking after him?

Grieving is different for everyone. For Forrest, it means that he is grateful for Lisa's life insurance and this allows him to move out into the Arizona desert and live his life without the hassle of populated areas while pursuing a career in photography. He becomes a loner and survivalist with building his own shelter, raising his own food, and having little human contact.

Forrest is grateful for living away from the cities when an immense earthquake occurs that literally changes the planet. Did the change of the poles cause this earthquake? Since Forrest was in his cellar at the time, he managed to live until the shaking stopped. What he was not prepared for was the change in the land such as mountains being flattened and much of our country not being covered in salt water. Even the crops he had planted had the roots pulverized. Also puzzling is the placement of the Sun in the sky and the path it follows throughout the days. What would change the sun's position?

Animal behavior also changed during this disaster. Forrest witnessed a flock of pigeons killing and eating a rabbit and a herd of rats outran and killed a coyote. What could have changed these eating habits and behaviors? If animals react this way, how will this change humans? How do you survive now?

POLE SHIFT is Forrest's journey back into having relationships with people along with the healing of his grief. What are the rules to live by now? What else has changed? How does he survive? Is this the end of the world as we know it?

POLE SHIFT makes you wonder what will be the result of the alignment or will anything actually happen in 2012. More importantly is the examination of our humanity and how each of us reacts in the face of danger and life. This is the story of personal healing and survival.

The voice and sincerity of Forrest Woods is the strength of POLE SHIFT. My criticism of this novel was being forced to end my reading relationship with Forrest and his blue firefly by finishing the last page.

I could easily see POLE SHIFT as the first book in a series featuring Forrest. I look forward to reading more from Albert Samuel Tukker.

POLE SHIFT was considered to be the best science fiction for the year 2007 from for Literary Excellence.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Spire
Richard North Patterson
Henry Holt and Company
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010, 646-307-5237,
9780805087734 $26.00

After writing several well-received novels on such subjects as politics and courtroom proceedings, Mr. Patterson has now redirected his attention to creating a suspense thriller. The mystery begins in Mark Darrow's senior year in college, when an African-American co-ed is found murdered on campus. Mark, a protege of a philosophy professor, is on scholarship at Caldwell, and gains fame as the quarterback who threw a last-second winning touchdown pass on the afternoon of the day the body was discovered. His best friend, Steve, is accused and ultimately convicted of the murder.

Mark goes on to Yale Law and then to a successful and rewarding legal career. Fifteen years later, his mentor asks Mark to become president of the college to save it after almost one million dollars was apparently embezzled from the endowment. Upon accepting the post and taking up residence in the small Ohio town, Mark revisits the fateful night of the murder, raising doubts about his friend's guilt, as well as other issues, including the identity of the embezzler.

Slowly, Mark follow the paths necessary to resolve the various issues, including who really was the murderer of the young woman, who stole the college's funds and why, and, most important, learning more about himself as a person. The plot is no less intense as a legal analysis than were Mr. Patterson's previous and excellent courtroom dramas. It is written with the same degree of intensity and insight, and is equally gripping. Recommended.

Evil for Evil
James R. Benn
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569475935 $25.00 212-260-1900

The Billy Boyle World War II Mystery Series has the protagonist, a former Boston detective now serving as a lieutenant on the Eisenhower staff, undertaking special assignments for Uncle Ike (Billy's mother and Mamie are sisters) requiring discretion. In this episode, he is sent to Northern Ireland where there is a large American base, part of the contingent preparing for the D-Day invasion.

Fifty Browning automatic rifles and a hundred thousand rounds of ammunition have been stolen, and the fears are that in the hands of the IRA, the Irish Republic to the south might be forced to come into the war on the Axis side if the weapons are used in an effort to "liberate" Ulster from the hated English. Billy, a Boston Irishman brought up to be a sympathizer against the English "oppressors," arrives in an attempt to find the BARs, but quickly learns of other schemes and of the differences between Catholics and Protestants, the politics of the region, and the history of the Irish troubles.

The plot is complicated by many factors, as Billy stumbles along to solve two mysteries. While much of the novel is action-packed, and the mixture of wartime intrigue and Irish history may include a lot of fiction, the story is a fascinating look at a little known aspect of the Second Conflict involving the Nazi effort to use the Irish question to undermine England's war effort. Had it succeeded, the war's outcome might have been very different.


The Silent Spirit
Margaret Coel
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425229767 $24.95 800-847-5515

The Wind River mystery series continues with Father John O'Malley returning to the Wyoming St. Francis mission after a six-month sabbatical in Rome, and Vicki Holden struggling to balance her professional career with her partner, Adam Lone Eagle, with her continued feelings of obligations to protect her Arapaho people. The Holden-Lone Eagle partnership has been building a substantial legal practice in representing the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes, leaving Vicki no time to undertake her more usual types of representations defending unfortunate Indians accused of various types of crimes. Another problem is the affinity between Vicki and Father John, which they studiously avoid addressing.

The plot involves a young man who is obsessed with the past. His grandfather was one of many Arapahos and Shoshones who acted in a silent film on location in the 1920's and then went on to Hollywood to help promote the movie. Unfortunately, the grandfather never returned, and it is believed he was murdered. The grandson, determined to discover the truth, travels to Los Angeles, where he makes a discovery. Upon his return to the reservation, he is murdered.

It remains to Father John and Vicki to discover the truth of the past and present, as they have in putting other mysteries to rest in the previous 12 novels in the series. The author continues with an outstanding ability to create characters and situations that blend with western culture and downtrodden Native Americans, and combining the well-written episodes with an interesting mystery story. Recommended.

Pete Dexter
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446540728 $26.99 800-759-0190,

To put last things first, Pete Dexter provides this eccentric novel with what appears to be his first written set of acknowledgements after seven previous books without the accustomed thank-you's. It's too bad it follows the last page of Spooner, because had this section been in the more-usual front, it would have set the reader's mind for what would have been in store if the pages were turned to the main body. Written with the eccentricity of the novel itself, Mr. Dexter provides an insight not only into his mind-set but, apparently, also into his life.

The novel obviously is very much autobiographical, containing many of the author's past experiences, some of which are referred to in the aforementioned acknowledgements. The story, while simplicity itself, is very much a complicated tale. It recounts the lives of Spooner and his family, and his step-father, especially the relationship between the two men. In a herky-jerky style, the various events and experiences in the lives of Spooner, his mother and step-father and his siblings are recounted.

The style often is amusing; more often the developments are not. But the writing always draws the reader forward, wondering what comes next. Mr. Dexter plainly asks how one goes through life facing justice and injustice, bearing up despite it all. While many of the examples are unusual, others are very real, and the book is recommended.

Skeleton Hill
Peter Lovesey
Soho Press, 853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569475980 $24.00 212-260-1900

Two murders confront Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond in this, the tenth in the mystery series featuring the irascible Bath policeman. Each of the murders apparently took place during re-creations of the battle between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers three-and-one-half centuries ago. The first, which occurred more than a decade before the latest one, was of a female about 20 years old, whose headless skeleton is uncovered by a history lecturer, who is himself later killed.

The two murders seem unrelated, except Diamond's intuition tells him the spectacles on Lansdown Hill in Bath makes them related. Hindered by a lack of clues, the lack of cooperation by his superior, and other obstacles, Diamond has to claw forward, grasping at straws to reach a plausible conclusion.

Written with an eye to Diamond's sense of humor and logical thinking, the novel is plotted carefully to bring the reader forward as Diamond uncovers additional facts and clues. The author includes a significant amount of history and a wonderful appreciation of the Bath countryside.


A Duty to the Dead
Charles Todd
c/o Harper
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061791765 $24.99 212-207-7000/800-242-7737,

The setting for this novel, England during mid-World War I, could have been any place or time before or after. The plot, which introduces Elizabeth Crawford, centers on the Graham family and its past. Bess served as a nurse on a hospital ship which was sunk in the Mediterranean by a U-boat as a result of which she broke her arm.

One of Bess' patients, Arthur Graham, who died from an infection aboard the boat before it was sunk, begged Bess to deliver a message, without explanation, to his brother, a promise she kept by journeying to the Graham estate in Kent upon her return to England to convalesce. The message implored the brother to make things right and said that he lied to protect their mother.

The ramifications of the visit lead Bess to revisit the murder of a young servant 14 years before, and the commitment of an elder half-brother to an asylum for the crime. Filled with all kinds of psychological insights, the novel relies less on history than on good sleuthing and analysis, and is recommended.

The Hidden Man
David Ellis
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399155796 $25.95 800-447-5515,

As twists go to wrap up a mystery, this novel contains a mild tornado. That is all to the good after it begins rather sluggishly to build up to the climax. The plot is fairly complicated and begins with recounting Jason Kolarich's mildly troubled boyhood, and his development as an athlete and eventually a talented attorney, while interspersing a major tragedy (the loss of his much-loved wife and child in an auto accident).

His best boyhood friend and next-door neighbor, Sammy, has been arrested for the murder of a pedophile believed to have kidnapped and probably murdered his little sister many years before. After a year in jail and a month away from trial, an unidentified benefactor offers to retain high-powered counsel for him. Sammy insists on Jason, who is reluctantly retained but warned not to postpone the trial, to concentrate on only two elements (the "benefactor" will handle the rest) and, of course, to win an acquittal. The reasons are not revealed until the blockbuster coda.

Being irreverent, Jason goes his own way, leading to all kinds of ramifications and consequences for him and his brother. Despite the pressures, Jason pursues in his efforts to discover the truth, solve the crime that took place three decades before, and put the current case to rest. The author's legal background allows him to give sufficient insight into the legal process to keep the reader interested, while writing a slam-bang thriller.

Death of a Witch
M.C. Beaton
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group, 237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780446615495 $6.99

Hamish Macbeth, the simple but efficient constable of Lochdubh, returns from a Spanish vacation to his beloved village to find a surprise. There is a newcomer there, a pretty woman, being visited by a stream of men at all hours. What's going on in the quiet highlands town? Before that can be determined, she is murdered and her house set on fire.

Subsequently, three more murders lead Hamish to believe they were all related. Originally he believed the men were visiting the woman for sex. In a strange way they were, but not in the way he had thought. Meanwhile, Hamish's sex life becomes more complicated with his two time-honored girlfriends as well as a new forensics specialist who has her eyes on him.

The series, in which this is the 24th entry, still amuses and enchants. Written with the full flavor of the Scottish language and the vistas of the highlands, the novels continue to grow and entice readers. Hamish may seem to be a silly character, but he gets the job done, and is ultimately a serious and successful investigator. Recommended.

9 Dragons
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316166317 $27.99 800-759-0190

Harry Bosch is so identified with Los Angeles that when he does venture outside the City of Angels it is quite an event. And in this novel, he travels thousands of miles away from the City of Angels, to Hong Kong for a short but turbulent 39 hours in an effort to find and rescue his 13-year-old daughter who was presumably kidnapped in an effort to have him release a triad member he has arrested (or, at least, that's what he thinks a telephone threat means).

The plot begins with the murder of a liquor store owner in southern Los Angeles. In his investigation, Bosch determines that a triad had been collecting weekly protection money and the owner was shot when he refused to pay. From that point, the case becomes more complicated, but stalls. And then Bosch takes off in a frenzy to Hong Kong in an effort to find and save his daughter. The effort results in all kinds of consequences.

The novel is, perhaps, one of the best in this long-running series, and exhibits Bosch's inner self more deeply and humanly as it juxtaposes him in relation to his daughter. Can the rough and tumble Harry Bosch succeed as the father of a young girl? It appears we will in the future find out. Meanwhile, this reader, at least, is indebted to the author for among other things teaching him the Chinese translation of "9 dragons:" Kowloon, the famous Hong Kong district.

Highly recommended.

Death Will Help You Leave Him
Elizabeth Zelvin
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312582661 $25.00

Addiction is the theme of this series. To begin with, the three protagonists are recovering from alcoholism or drug abuse. But more important, they are addicted to detecting. The author, a therapist specializing in addiction and co-dependency, uses her professional background abundantly in this series, emphasizing AA principles and the trials of a recovering person.

The plot of this, the second installment featuring recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler and his friends: Jimmy, a computer genius, and Barbara, an addictions counselor and world-class codependent, begins with a telephone call from Barbara's sponsor Luz, who becomes suspect #1 when her abusive boyfriend, Frankie, just out of rehab and known to be a drug dealer, is found stabbed to death in his Spanish Harlem apartment. Frankie had a pregnant wife with two kids back in Brooklyn, giving the author the chance to use her knowledge of that borough and other parts of New York City as background.

The detailed insights into the life of a recovering addict are penetrating, and the look into the interchanges between members of a Brooklyn Italian family are full of understanding. The author writes with compassion and wisdom about the pressures on persons in recovery mode, and the book is recommended.

The Gates
John Connolly
Atria Books
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439172636 $24.00 800-223-2336

John Connolly undertook quite a change three years ago when he wrote The Book of Lost Things, a fairy tale for children of all ages based on tales and legends heard at an early age. Now he has continued with another imaginative effort. According to the author, the earlier book was intended as a children's book for adults, and the current effort an adult book for children.

Gates is a blend of fantasy and science, with substantial but amusing footnotes adding to the seriousness and levity of the novel. As a result, the story combines quantum physics with an allegorical tale of how the devil plans to take over the universe, including this small planet. At the heart of the plot is a young boy, Samuel Johnson, and his dog, Boswell, who must stand up to Satan and save the world.

Both novels are a far cry from the Charlie Parker series, but are diverting and unusual. Written at times with tongue-in-cheek, the little nuggets of information on a wide variety of subjects are both informative and often just plain funny. They range from black holes to the painting of the Sistine Chapel, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, to Dante's Divine Comedy. A very enjoyable read that is highly recommended.

A Hard Death
Jonathan Hayes
Arrow Books
c/o Random Houses
20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London SW1V 2SA, England
9780099517559 6.99 Brit. pounds

[It should perhaps be noted that this book is presently available only in/through the UK or Canada.]

Dr. Edward Jenner, an unlucky protagonist, is the hero and goat not only in this follow-up novel, but in the author's excellent "Precious Blood," in which he killed the evil-doer but in the process lost his license as a medical examiner in New York City. At loose ends, he accepts a temporary pathologist position in a small Florida community at the behest of his friend and mentor, who is planning a three-month around-the-world cruise.

No sooner does Jenner arrive in the Sunshine State than he finds the aforementioned friend and his wife being pulled from their car submerged in a swamp. Then Jenner finds four men hanging from trees in the middle of the Everglades. Thus begins a long, tortuous tale to unravel the reasons behind these (and other) deaths.

While the plot is sound, fully absorbing this reader's interest, the novel could have benefited from some editing to tighten it up. There are long descriptions which, while graphic, provide little in the way of moving the story forward, slowing the reader's progress towards what is an ultimately intriguing conclusion.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

The Atlantis Code
Charles Brokaw
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780765315311 $25.99

This is an archaeological thriller that reminded me of some of Dan Brown's books. Handsome and sexy Professor Thomas Lourds goes to Egypt to help with a TV documentary. One of the crew members gives him a ceramic bell to identify. Dr. Lourds is one of the world's leading linguistic scholars and even he finds himself stumped by the unknown languages he finds on the artifact. Next the bell's taken by some Italian mafia types working for a cardinal in the Catholic Church-a man with an agenda who will stop at nothing to achieve it.

Meanwhile the same bunch kills one of the professor's friends, a Russian archaeologist, who found another ancient object, one that may have a connection to the one Lourds had. He and some of the British television team visit Russia where they run into the deceased's sister, a Russian cop, who's hot to find her sister's killers.

Together they team up to find out who has the stolen artifacts. Their investigation will involve the lost continent of Atlantis and people and places high in the Catholic Church. Even though some of the characters seemed a bit naive and juvenile at times, all in all I found it to be an intriguing adventure and an enjoyable read. I never tire of stories like this.

Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products, & Services
Adria Vasil
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10110
9780393334289 $17.95

This latest contribution to the Green Movement is full of info that I found very helpful. There is information here, that I think will be of aid to anyone wishing to live a cleaner, healthier life and still help save the planet. Even though I've read several books on going green, I think I liked this one the best.

I'm sure most people are not aware of what chemicals are in household products we use every day. Safe products are available and the book tells you how to find them. And if you don't have the money to buy these items, there are recipes to make simple but effective products.

The book gives info about and makes suggestions on furniture, cleaning, cameras, pesticides, insulation, heating, flooring and the list goes on.

Do you know where your supplements come from? Here's an interesting quote from the book, "80 % of the world's VITAMIN C comes from LABS IN CHINA?" What are you feeding your pets? How about yourself? Is the dinner you're eating safe?

I feel like I'm running in circles here trying to describe everything that's in the book. I can't do it, there's just too much information to do it justice. This information has the ability to have a profound effect on your life and the lives of your loved ones. If you have any interest in improving your environment and that of the planet, this book can get you started on the right path. It's well organized and a great read.

Victoria Kennedy

Whispering Winds Bookshelf

Skeeter: A Cat Tale
Anne Watson
Shepard Publications
P.O. Box 280, Friday Harbor, WA, 98250
9780938497516 $10.00

I am not a cat person unless you count Garfield. He may just be a cartoon figure but to me "Garfield" is the coolest cat ever; or so I thought until I read a little book called "Skeeter A Cat Tale". Skeeter has an attitude with a capital A. The poor misguided owner Lynne thinks she has the upper hand, but when you read this book you will discover that Skeeter is the one running the show.

I loved it when the Lynne tries to put a harness and leash on Skeeter. Since Lynne only had knowledge about dogs, I can understand why she might think what works for one, works for the other.

The book is mostly about Skeeter, but also includes some of the adventures of Lynne. For example, one day Lynne is walking the shores of San Pedro, CA when she found an elongated flexible cone or seedpod. Since her sister was taking a basketry course, Lynne decided her sister might like to use some of the seapods. So Lynne looking up, saw that more of these littered the slope dropping from a tree at the edge of a cliff. Now climbing the cliff was easy, even gathering cones as she went; but when Lynne reached the top and turned around, she realized something. She was trapped. There was a chain link fence running along the top as far as she could see. So, she abandoned her pride and skated down on her rear, blistering it in the fast descent, and rubbing a noticeably-positioned hole in her clothing. It was one of those moments that ever one has encountered in their lives. It was a "Dear God, it's Lynne here and please don't let anyone see me making a fool of myself". Thank goodness no one saw her as she stalked away with what little dignity she had left and the shreds of her jeans.

This is a fast read and reached me on a day when I really needed a good laugh. If you have had a bad day you need to buy this book and keep it on hand. Believe me, laughter is the best medicine.

A Kinder Bright
Jerry Fagnani
Tribute Books
P.O. Box 95, Archbald, PA 18403
9780976507253 $12.95

It is but a small book only 47 pages long. What effect could 47 pages have on someone? What could be taught or learned you may ask?

I have discovered the love of poetry in just 47 pages. In the first section of "A Kinder Bright," I felt sorrow and regret; that time is passing as we grow older and we have not finished all the things we wanted to do in our lifetime.

The second part of this book, I felt the gentle joy of freedom from the eyes of a child. I followed the author and walked along the trails and lake with him. I have discovered the beauty of Lackawanna, Pennsylvania.

In the final phase called "The Elaine Collection," I discovered the power of words. I have cried for Jerry as he mourns the loss of his precious Elaine. I believe in another time they will meet and become one again and that Elaine will be waiting with open arms.

Just 47 pages of a little book that has filled my heart and mind. I do not have to think and wonder what the author was trying to say. To all who may read this you will be transported to a new level in your life. To me on a scale of 1 to 5 this little book would be 5 plus.

I have never cared for poetry until I read "A Kinder Bright." As the author has said: "We often choose to remember our brightest memories. But certain brightness can be harsh. For me I prefer a kinder bright."

There are not enough words to describe what I have felt reading this book. So, I will just say thank you Jerry Fagnani.

Whispering Winds Book Reviews

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

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