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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 1 January 2012 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Applegate's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Donna's Bookshelf Esther's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Katherine's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Riva's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

42 Rules for Outsourcing Your Call Center
Geoffrey A. Best
Super Star Press
20660 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 210
Cupertino, CA 95014
9781607730682, $19.95,

Bonnie Jo Davis

Companies of all types use call centers to keep in touch with their customers using telephones, instant messaging, Short Message System (SMS), social media sites and email. In an effort to reduce costs and increase profits many companies outsource their call centers often with no planning or preparation. Author Robert A. Best has worked with call centers around the world for over twenty years. He has seen, first hand, how successful call centers work and has developed insight into the intricacies of outsourcing call centers successfully. He shares that information in "42 Rules for Outsourcing Your Call Center: Best Practices for Outsourcing Call Center Planning, Operations and Management".

If your company finds itself in need of outsourcing a call center then this book is for you. The author combines the information for providing excellent customer service while maximizing company profits with outsourcing. Starting with the chapter "Why Outsource?" the author takes the reader step-by-step through the decision making process all through the setup and management of an outsourced call center. Topics covered include creating a disaster plan, understand technology objectives, get executive commitment, manage the potential impact of risks and much more.

The key to everything in this book is keeping the customer and their needs in mind because if you don't have happy customers then no amount of money saved by outsourcing your call center matters. Mr. Best takes you through each step of the outsourcing project from initial assessment to successful completion all with the end customer in mind. If your company is thinking of outsourcing their call center then buy a copy of this book for everyone before you do anything else. You will surely save yourself much time and trouble while preserving your happy customer base!

Some Like It Hot: A-List Novel # 6
Zoey Dean
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hatchette Book company
3 Center Plaza, Boston MA, 02108
0316010936, $9.99,

C. Scarlett

Rating: Must read!

In this sixth installment of the A-list the story of the young and rich, Zoey Dean's focus is mainly on prom. Overall this book is a great read; it has a great plot and wonderful storyline. Each character has his/her own little story happening inside this one. It does start out a little bit slow in the beginning but then it picks up.

In the beginning none of the wonderful A-list really even consider going to prom. They are all so above it. Sam however starts to consider it when Anna states that she wants to go. Then when Sam finds out about a documentary contest, which would be perfect to showcase her talents. She sets her sights on making prom happen and getting her A-list friends to go.

Anna seems to have it made in this one or so it seems. Ben is home for the summer and they finally settled on an honest relationship. Even better than that Ben is taking her to prom but could this very attractive and very curvy family friend that is living in Ben's house cause new problems? Who knew perfect Anna had so many insecurities.

There is a new side of Cammie shown in this book as the mystery of her mother's death unravels slowly. The question is will she take it out on Adam because he's the one who found the truth?

Dee gets a night pass from Ojai Psychiatric Institute for the prom she's still an inpatient there being treated for bi-polar. We see a brand new Dee in this book. Could it really be that Dee is actually normal now?

Dee goes to prom with Ben's friend from Princeton, Jack and they find they have some scary reality in common. There only issue is how they are going to ditch her chaperone from the institute, Marshall.

After the Bel-Air Grand Hotel burns down thanks to one of our not so good girls. She didn't do it on purpose and she actually feels guilty for once, which is quit shocking. There is mad panic about getting another venue for prom. Sam steps in and takes over getting her father's movie set for Ben-Hur. She pretty much saves the day for the prom weenies as she calls them. Only problem is now Eduardo can't take her to the prom. So she goes with Parker as a friend...or at least that's what they said.

This book had all the drama and glamour and designer dresses that all the other had. However there wasn't as much cattiness in this one which isn't necessarily a bad thing but some readers may miss this. Like I said before it started a bit slow but then it picked right up and I was sucked right into the story. The biggest thing that kept me intrigued was the mystery of Cammie's mother's death. Another great scene that will capture everyone is prom prep, when all the girls work together to help one less fortunate girl.

This book is definitely geared toward the high school and early college ages. They will be most definitely intrigued by how these girls live, everyone who loves the Gossip Girl series and The It Girl series will love this book and I must recommend the rest of the book in the A-List series, they are delicious!

A definite must read in the series!

Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War
Joan Tewkesbury
Hand to Hand Publishing
9780972071888, $17.95,

Gabriel Constans

Ebba and the green dresses of Olivia Gomez in a time of Conflict and War intimately reveals the awakening world of Ebba through her mother's dying, a newfound family, her first "love" and a Latin American community infected with government sanctioned disappearances, torture and death. The characters are living the lives they are presented and making the best of their circumstances, cultural expectations and the political environment. Though the tale could be extracted from many small villages in Latin America, each man, woman and child is wonderfully unique with their own nuance and personality.

Having no chapters, but titles instead for each short section, may throw some readers off in the beginning (perhaps a carry over from the author's decades of screenwriting), but after an event or two, it has a natural rhythm and adds to the drama; making the storytelling easily digestible and succinct. Each section contains an entire short or short short story in itself and could well stand alone, though they are all beautifully interwoven into the larger fabric of the village of Elena and the various players and intertwining relationships (family, friendship, sex and/or love).

The language and dialogue are superb. One of many examples is the description of Ebba singing, as she sits in a tree. "Her voice was high and thin like a wire so she used it to hang the laundry of her soul to let it flap in the breeze." The way Ms. Tewkesbury talks about the intimate moments between Ebba's newly adopted parents, Bernardo and Hortense, are also quite lovely, getting wrapped up and folding into one another. In some ways, the following description of the village priest, Father Lyle, not responding to suffering or pain and saying nothing, sums up many of the fictional (and often in real life) characters, such as Ebba's mother, the General, the Commander and Sergeant Chavez. "No comfort or caring or mention of fear. Instead, he spread out catechism and doctrine like a doily on the arm of a chair to cover the wear and tear of everyone's loss."

The relationship between Ebba and a rich woman's son, Mr. Lobos, has some similarities to Lolita. Not that this kind of relationship doesn't happen or take place (fictionally or otherwise), but it is described with such intimacy, that it can be disturbing. Ebba has few choices in her life, an absent father and is appropriately naive and curious for her age. Though Mr. Lobos is gentle, loving and protective of Ebba, he has all of the control, resources and knowledge. The imbalance in power is palpable. Many readers will simply see it as the sexual abuse of a young girl. It is a major part of the story however and is portrayed with great insight and nuance.
The portrayal of disappearance, torture, corruption and murder by those in power, is seamless. The author places faces, feelings and a community living with constant threat, before our eyes with great awareness. The cruelty which has taken place is seldom discussed and excellently utilized throughout the story by everyone turning away, not wanting to hear and living in denial. A lot of people, who might ordinarily never confront these issues, will now be able to do so in the guise of an excellent work of fiction. And for all its seriousness, the story also contains humor, hope and redemption.

Ebba and the green dresses of Olivia Gomez in a time of Conflict and War is a novel that doesn't take long to read, but will stay with you for years to come. Like seeing a great play or film; images, words and actions take shape before your eyes and imbed themselves in your consciousness and memory. Let us hope that this is not Joan Tewkesbury's first and last novel and that more quality stories are waiting in the wings.

Chanukah Lights
Michael J. Rosen, author
Robert Sabuda, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763655334, $34.99,

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Finally, a children's Chanukah book that feels worthy of this majestic, yet simple Jewish holiday. Sabuda and Rosen take readers on an eight-night tour of places where Jews have marked Chanukah over the centuries. The art is stunning. The intricacy and delicacy of Sabuda's eight paper pop-ups make this an unsuitable choice for very young children. Older children and adults, however, will appreciate this book's beauty and the skill that went into creating it. Among the scenes are the Jewish Temple, the desert, an ocean ship, a tenement and an olive grove. Rosen's accompanying text is gently and quietly poetic. It never oversteps how the holiday should sound. On the second night, for instance, Rosen writes that three candles waver "like the heat of the desert, like the hope of a homeland for a wandering people." A new Chanukah classic.

Never Forgotten
Glenda Armand
Artwork by Colin Bootman
Lee & Low Books
95 Madison Ave # 1205, NY, NY 10016-7808
9781600602450, $17.95,

Meagan Myhren-Bennett, Reviewer

How do you measure a mother's love? LOVE TWELVE MILES LONG is a story from the childhood of Frederick Douglas. The twelve miles refers to the distance Frederick's mother had to travel to see her young son. This is an intriguing look into the childhood of a man, who would later champion the oppressed in a land that valued freedom for a select few though claiming it was the right of all men.

Glenda Armand's work focuses on one night in young Frederick's life when Mama came to visit him. Frederick asks her why he can't live with her and Grandmama Betsey like he used to. Mama tells him she wishes he could, but it is not possible. When young Frederick asks if he could come visit her, she tells him the twelve mile journey would be too much for him. Frederick then asks how she can accomplish the journey if it is too much for him.

What follows is a moving journey that covers twelve miles of strength and faith. Mama tells Frederick that each mile is special and unique and this is how she is able to travel the distance to her son. The first mile is one of forgetting the aches, pains and labor of the day. The second is remembering her son. The third mile is for listening to the world around her and the fourth for observing the stars above. The fifth mile is for wondering about God and the sixth for praying to Him about the better days to come, days of freedom. The seventh mile is for singing and reviving herself for the rest of the journey and the eighth for thinking happy thoughts. The ninth mile is for giving thanks and the tenth was for hope - hope for freedom and chance to again be a family. Mama then tells Frederick that the eleventh mile was for dreaming the dream of freedom. As Mama puts Frederick to bed, he asks what the twelfth mile was. Mama tells Frederick that the twelfth mile was for love. As Frederick slept Mama slipped out to walk twelve miles back home.

When Frederick woke the next morning, he knew that Mama's love for him was twelve miles long. This love gave Frederick Douglas the courage and confidence to escape to freedom and to live the remarkable life that he lived. The illustrations are moving, showing the love of both mother and son for the other and the value they placed on their short times together. Love Twelve Miles Long is thoughtfully written. This title would be an important addition to any library collection and ideal for Black History Month.

I received an Advanced Reviewer Copy in digital format of this title for review purposes.

The Door to Far-Myst
Mike DiCerto
Zumaya Publications
1105 Nueces St., Suite 3, Austin, Texas 78701
9781936144686, $12.99,

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Graysland is a dull, colorless place where the adults force the kids to rake leaves to burn for fuel which makes steam for heat and power for lights. It doesn't get any duller than that for Rupert Dullz. Especially when Pie O'Sky shows up with his colorful "bagoon". Pie, a talented and colorful chap himself, tells Rupert and his friends about the land of Far-Myst, where imagination drips "off the trees like sweet sap". He shows them a magical wooden door and says the first one to use his imagination to unlock it will go with him on a fabulous journey to Far-Myst. But the adults don't want the kids to have anything to do with Mr. O'Sky, or imagination. Rupert's dad forbids him to try and unlock the magical door. But Rupert believes he can find the cure for his grandma's "coffus" in Far-Myst. So before Rupert can use his imagination to unlock the door, he has to use his imagination to sneak out of the house.

Eventually Rupert succeeds and sails away in the bagoon with high hopes. But when they arrive at Everstood Castle and meet Queen Chroma, all is not what it seems. Rupert learns the future of Far-Myst is threatened by the evil Murkus, who is stealing the children and spreading darkness. When Murkus's nightwingers attack, Dream Weaver escapes with Rupert and they embark on a perilous journey through a mysterious land of imagination.

There is clearly more to this story than meets the eye. "The Door to Far-Myst", Book 1 in the Adventures of Rupert Starbright, is the start of a promising new fantasy series from a very talented author. DiCerto has created a brilliant fantasy world full of unique landscapes inhabited by quirky characters and creatures. Young readers will easily identify with Rupert's struggle to understand the power of his own imagination and still find plenty of adventure and unanswered questions to keep them eager for more.

Applegate's Bookshelf

The Spy
Clive Cussler
Penguin Group (USA)
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014,
9781101188057, $9.99, $9.99 (Nook)

Clive Cussler's thrill-a-minute mystery novel, The Spy, is a coast-to-coast romp . . .

Cussler's hero, Isaac Bell, has more lives than 10 cats. He is a private detective in New York City and Washington, D.C., in the early years of the 20th century, working as head operative of the Van Dorn Detective Agency, a group of detectives noted for their creativity, physical and mental toughness, and feared for their ability to keep on keeping on, whatever the cost, until they have their man. Or woman.

Isaac Bell is the prototype of the detective who survives every hair-raising, blood-curdling threat to life and/or limb, and is known throughout the area - be it New York's Hell's Kitchen or embassy row - as a man to be feared, not challenged.

In The Spy, Cussler has created a malefactor extraordinaire, a spy who shows no fear of Bell, but instead challenges him at every turn. The plot revolves around the actions of a disparate loosely organized group of people, some Americans by birth, some from other nations, some from organized crime in different cities, all of whom are attempting to upset the fragile alliances among the United States, England, Germany, France, Japan, and other nations. These evil-doers go about their nefarious tasks in various guises, and Cussler makes sure the reader is always a bit on edge, unsure whether they are friend or foe, and for whom they are working. Some are traitors, some claim fealty to their homeland, others are in it for the money. Several could be simply mischief-makers. The Spy - the boss, the planner, the man in charge - could be any of these individuals, and Bell knows instinctively that The Spy won't give up until either he or Bell is dead.Here is a sampling of what's in store for readers of The Spy. In the course of this tale:

Bell faces death on foot, in an automobile, on trains, on ships, at a launching of an American battleship in a navy yard

He meets danger and threat to his survival in the city, in a sheep meadow, in a house, in a bar - and an assortment of other venues

He is shot at, frequently. He suffers non-fatal stabbings, poisoning and attempted strangling, repeatedly

He is tossed off a train, falls from high places, nearly drowns, is threatened with blindness

His friends and enemies die around him, and he himself leaves an impressive body count behind as he chases his unseen target coast to coast

This novel is great entertainment. The characters are varied, have widely different interests in the game they are all playing, some playing with more success than others. Some of the characters are well-drawn. Isaac Bell is clearly a man of great inventiveness in his derring-do, and is skilled in every kind of weapon, creative enough to make weapons out of things at hand. The Spy - once we know who he or she is - is a bit, just a bit, of a surprise. There is a touch of sweetness, of tenderness in Cussler's rendering of Bell's relationship with his lover.

I recommend this for the reader of thrillers, especially those who enjoy following a plot that leans toward the unbelievable at time. Cussler keeps you guessing, although I felt that he stretched the plot a little overlong. But that's just nit-picking. It's a fun read.

Road Rage
Ruth Rendell
Dell Publishing
c/o Random House Publishing Group
9780307806130 $7.50, $6.99 (Nook),

Book Review: Road Rage, by Ruth Rendell, a Reginald Wexford Mystery Ruth Rendell's mysteries have a strong psychological foundation, and Road Rage, like most of her books, at least the many that I've read, has an edginess, an uneasiness, that violence is just around the next corner. Here, she serves up a tale of an extraordinary scheme, inspired by good intentions, that goes tragically wrong.

Her title doesn't reflect the road rage most of us think of upon seeing or hearing the term. It is not the typical give-'em-the-finger-salute, get-out-of-my-way kind of road rage that we see almost daily on our highways and byways. But it is indeed typical of the needs of modern society to get from here to there as fast as possible.

A new highway bypass, more cars, trucks, noise, pollution, fewer trees, less green space.

This road rage is focused on a new highway bypass that will be built through a lovely part of the English countryside, a green space treasured by most of its residents. To make way for more cars and trucks and the attendant noise and pollution, trees will be cut down, habitats of animals and birds and flowers destroyed, wetlands drained, and all manner of environmental
depredations will take place.

Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford of Kingsmarkham, walks through Framhurst Great Forest in a gloomy mood brought on by, among other things, the knowledge that in not too many months, much of what he has so enjoyed would be gone, unless, as he puts it in his musing, " . . . the impossible happened and they made a tunnel for (the bypass) or put it on stilts." Tree-sitters and tent dwellers crowd the woods.

Wexford is saddened by what is to happen, but he must put that aside because of the many other irons in his fire. Much as he regrets the loss of the trees, the green space, fresh-smelling air, he leaves environmental activism to his wife, Dora. She has joined a committee which is resisting the new bypass in traditional ways. But soon a motley collection of anti-development
groups appears in the area - living in improvised "houses" built in the tree-tops and in tents on the ground. Some of these "tree-people" declare they intend to stop the bypass by whatever means necessary. Including violence.

A kidnapping, a warning, danger for Wexford's own family The story goes into high gear when Dora, Wexford's wife, and four other local people, a teenage boy, a married couple, and a young single woman, are kidnapped by a group that demand the bypass be stopped - or else. With Wexford's own wife in danger of her life, he expects to be left out of the search for the kidnappers. He is wrong in that expectation; the Chief Constable tells him, regretfully, that they are short-handed, and Wexford must lead the team. Wexford must put aside his personal life, regardless of its difficulties, for the good of the community and the investigative team he leads.

Wexford must solve the mystery, find the hostages before it's too late Finding the hostages, solving the mystery, preventing the murder of the hostages by the deadline is the central plot; a tender and touching sub-plot is Wexford's gradual realization how very much Dora means to him, and the stress lays heavily on his relationship with their two daughters. Rendell, as always, creates human characters, who have sorrows and joys and disappointments as do we all.

Road Rage has enough twists and turns and tangles of clues and red-herrings and intriguing characters to satisfy the most demanding mystery reader. I defy the reader to get to the answers before Wexford and his team does. And the answers will be surprising. At least they were to me, although I picked up on the hints so cleverly and subtly dropped into the story by Rendell.
A logic-defying, mysterious puzzle with many odd pieces.

To find the hostages in the short time allowed by their captors, to keep them alive, Wexford and his cohorts have before them some logic-defying puzzles:

Is the murder of a young woman some weeks earlier connected with the bypass resistance? Was a cab driver the murderer? One detective insists he is, Wexford thinks not. A good, well-developed twist in the tale.

Why was a particular cab company selected to pick up the people who didn't turn up where they were expected, but instead were taken hostage. Is the driver suspected in the earlier murder involved in the hostage taking?

Why was Dora released from captivity early on? Was it only because she was Wexford's wife? Or was it because she'd been given a message to deliver?

Dora describes in detail the room in which she and the others were held. Why couldn't Wexford and the team locate the place? Were they looking too far away? Or too close?

The body of a young woman who was also a hostage is found in strange circumstances. Was she murdered or did she die accidentally?

There are many more parts to this puzzle, but I will leave them for you to find and solve along with Wexford and his team. On the way, Rendell has the tree people, the resisters, the representatives and mouthpieces of the various groups, explain why they consider their actions right. She helps the reader understand their positions, without supporting their violent actions in any manner.

Road Rage is not just a fine mystery tale with psychological groundings, but Rendell provides thought-provoking explanations of the many sides of one of today's thorniest issues. I heartily recommend it.

The Fifth Witness
Michael Connelly
Little Brown And Company
c/o Hatchette Book Group
9780316069380, $10.98 (pb), $15.69 (hc), $9.99 (nook)

Book Review: The Fifth Witness, a Mickey Haller Mystery, by Michael Connelly What is at the heart of a defense attorney's responsibility to a client? In The Fifth Witness, a rousing good mystery tale by one of mystery writing's best practitioners, Michael Connelly, here is how his central character, defense attorney Mickey Haller, answers that question. ". . . (M)y job here is to drop a doubt into each piece of their puzzle." Creating the kind of doubt that a jury will accept as "reasonable" is assuredly the job of a typical defense attorney. But Mickey Haller is not a typical defense attorney; no wood-paneled, leather-furnished high-rise office for Mickey. In The Fifth Witness," we meet Mickey in his place of business - a Lincoln Town Car. And not just any Lincoln Town Car, but a bullet-proof one, with armor-plated doors and three-layered-laminated-glass windows.

An unexpected return to the criminal side of law practice. Of late, Mickey has been sticking to the civil side of the legal business, primarily foreclosure defense, a growth industry these days. His civil law practice is making money and he is satisfied with his decision to leave criminal law. Then a wrench is unexpectedly tossed into the works. One of his foreclosure clients is accused of murder. And Mickey heads back into the hurly-burly, knock-heads-when-necessary criminal justice system. He probably would not have done so had he not felt a responsibility to his client and of course he's had experience in that area. The criminal justice system hasn't changed since he began his civil work, nor have the various miscreants and hangers-on who work around its edges.

Mickey has barely gotten a good start on the case when he gets his first taste - this time around - of the knock-heads-when-necessary criminal law; he is beaten just short of a pulp in a parking garage near his "office," his Lincoln Town Car. And that's just the beginning.

As in any mystery, the story is made up of a host of conundrums:

Is his client being forthright and truthful with him as he builds her defense?

How reliable is his driver, who started as a client and is working for Mickey to pay off his debt?

Why is a primary witness playing hard to get?

In the circumstances, can Mickey provide his client with a proper defense?

His case is assigned to a judge known to hold grudges against attorneys who cross him. Will this work against Mickey?

How much effect will the movie contract his client signed have on her defense?

Can Mickey Haller sort out the truth from the lies to solve this mystery? The case is rife with characters who may or may not be telling the truth. Or who may not be who they say they are. Or may not be where they say they are. There are spouses and ex-spouses of various stripes. And a prosecuting attorney who is amenable to a deal. No, wait. Maybe not.

Mickey Haller is an attractive character, a basically nice guy, and one can hardly avoid sympathizing with him as he works this case while still healing from the beating he took. (Anyone who's ever worn a cast will cringe and chuckle over the means Mickey uses to scratch that awful itch.) Still, his various casts and bandages and bumps and bruises can go only so far in gaining the right kind of sympathy from the people who could make things easier for him and his client. But as in a well-plotted mystery, nothing is ever easy for the hero.

All in all, this is a good tale well told, a thriller with a satisfying end. As a reader can assume, Mickey works his way through the mysteries of the case, the maze of clues, non-clues, red-herrings, mistakes and bad and good luck. We're never sure what's around the next corner. And after everything is put to rights, as much as can be for Mickey in this particular case, Connelly has a neat surprise at the end.

A good, entertaining, involving, complex mystery that leaves you wondering what's next. I recommend it.

Marcia K. Applegate, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

S.M.A.R.T. Steps to a Healthier Life
Mazen Alghamdi
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432771973 $29.95

Weight training professional Mazen Alghamdi presents S.M.A.R.T. Steps to a Healthier Life, a self-help guide to improving one's health through better nutrition and regular exercise. Packed with practical tips, from eating smaller meals throughout the day to reduce the urge to binge to minimizing consumption of sugars and refined grains to extensive, step-by-step instructions for incorporating a balanced exercise regimen into one's routine, S.M.A.R.T. Steps to a Healthier Life lives up to its title. Of particular value are the sample day-by-day schedule planners suggesting exercises sets for beginner, intermediate, and advanced fitness levels. S.M.A.R.T. Steps to a Healthier Life is an excellent resource for anyone seeking useful, structured assistance while taking responsibility for improving their own fitness.

Heidi's Hope
Stephen Goss
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463720520, $12.95,

Stephen Goss is a truly gifted author with a genuine knack for storytelling -- and the distinctive writing style he's chosen for "Heidi's Hope" (short direct chapters) is a perfectly suited format to the development of his characters and storylines in this original, creative, compelling, fully engaging, 330-page novel. It's always a good sign when readers "lose" themselves within the story. And that's just what happened! The memorable characters in "Heidi's Hope" spring fully, believably, and engagingly into life. Reader's beware! This is a novel with a "two hanky" ending! Heidi's Hope is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library contemporary fiction collections.

Ronnie Lee
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432771836, $37.95,

Our wholeness and peace of mind come after need not panic about simply surviving. "Philosophy: Structuralism for Unity, Visions of Truth for Justice and Success" is a collection of philosophy from Ronnie Lee, who discusses the flood of information mankind has, as he calls for our search for unity in today's world where quarrel seems to lurk around every corner. Using a medium of free verse poetry to grant his thoughts and opinions on our conflicts, "Philosophy: Structuralism for Unity, Visions of Truth for Justice and Success" is an excellent pick for anyone seeking politically and philosophically driven verse.

Blood Awakening
Tessa Dawn
Ghost Pines Publishing
9781937223007, $14.84,

Through the centuries, one will remember the hardship more than the joy. "Blood Awakening" discusses the place of Marquis Silvasi, an ancient vampire who has seen much, done much, and all things he would rather forget. As a mortal enters his life, his awakened to the world he has mostly ignored. A riveting read for fans of vampire tales of struggle with the monster inside, "Blood Awakening" is worth considering for fantasy collections.

Eden Falls
Joe Shrader
Privately Published
9781456581619, $8.63,

What makes you human is what makes you a flawed killer. "Eden Falls" is the story of a league of assassins trained from birth to be ruthless and flawless assassins. With their instincts and memories pushed away, Cain regains those very things and finds that what he has been set to do is objectionable. He seeks to free the others put through his treatment, and "Eden Falls" proves to be a riveting and psychological read that will be hard to put down, highly recommended.

Welcome...Do Come In
Bridget E. Hill
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450237420, $14.95,

Our search for acceptance is never ending. "Welcome...Do Come In" is a collection of poetry from Bridget E. Hill who presents an intriguing look into our emotions and our pursuit of dreams. "Welcome...Do Come In" is a somber collection of poetry that seeks the truth of ourselves and what we see in other people. "60": Isn't it funny/how you can love someone so much minute/and despise them the next.

Forgive to Win
Walter E. Jacobson
Privately Published
9781452834115, $11.22,

Life's too short to be dominated by grudges. "Forgive to Win" is an inspirational book from Walter E. Jacobson, as he discusses learning to control one's life by eliminating destructive feelings and behavior, like guilt and judgment. Advocating a forgiveness diet, "Forgive to Win" has plenty to consider and is very much worth considering for those seeking inspiration.

Fifth Gospel
William Roskey
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462028573, $16.95,

To control time is something few people ever will believe is possible. "Fifth Gospel" is a novel delving into the invention of time travel, and its early application of delving into first century Palestine to find the Holy Grail, seeking the time of Christ. An action and adventure thriller set in Biblical times, "Fifth Gospel" will prove very much intriguing and highly recommended reading.

Returning to Wholeness...
Michael Hoare, D.D.
Privately Published
c/o Megan Giannini (publicity)
9781453677605, $9.99,

When your entire being comes together to accomplish something, it is truly a wonderful thing. "Returning to Wholeness...: Discovering Ah-Man" is a motivational guide from Michael Hoare, as he discusses how to find wholeness in one's being and embrace it fully. "Returning to Wholeness..." is an empowered and thoughtful read that shouldn't be passed over.

The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg
Doug Bremner
Privately Published
9781463648817, $11.99,

Accutane did what it was advertised to do...but it wasn't worth it. "The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg" is a memoir of Dr. Doug Bremner, who campaigned against Accutane and the billion dollar corporation behind it. In the process, he faced having his name smeared and his career almost ruined in the campaign returned against him. Telling his story against corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, "The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg" is worthwhile reading about the extent companies will go for profit.

The Years of Magic
J. Lyndon Hickman
Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781257519088, $16.95,

As the power fades, the creatures of the darkness emerge once more. "The Years of Magic" is set in a world where the creatures of myth and legend will potentially emerge once more, as the electricity that the world used so much of begins to fade. Creating a unique world, "The Years of Magic" weaves a story that will keep fantasy readers turning the page, very much recommended.

Patricia Ann Kuess
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462011544, $18.95,

With nothing behind you, it can sometimes be liberating to find a worthy way to die. "Sweetgrass" follows soldier Johnathan Traver, who only seeks a proper death after a miserable early life. Serving the Union valiantly, he helps them make ground, although his methods earn him ire. But on top of this, he finds a reason to live when it all may be too late, a reason that will make him an outsider to his army and his country. "Sweetgrass" is a choice bit historical and gay fiction, much recommended.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Listen With Your Eyes
Bobbi Vaughn
Publicity Department
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781463430658 $16.00

Listen With Your Eyes: The Poet Tree of Strainj is an anthology of original, free-verse (but often rhyming) poetry dealing with serious modern social issues - topics range from substance abuse to child abandoment, self-esteem, materialism, racism, and even the trauma of rape. A variety of different fonts and some black-and-white illustrations add character to each expressive work of poetry, many of which are flavored with a gritty, cynical outlook. "Your Best Friend": Every day I greet you with the / warmest smile // Not in your wildest dreams would it / seem I've been hating you for a while // So close for so long we've shared / laughs, we've shared / laughs, we've shared cries // Showing I sympathize was just a / disguise to hide what I despise // I know your every weakness; you told / me your darkest secrets // I can't wait till your backs turned so I / can go to others and speak it..."

Garden of Eve
Mary A. Agria
Privately Published
9781458367990, $18.00,

In tragedy, there is no hope, so it's truly shocking when we finally find some. "Garden of Eve" is a novel from Mary A. Agria who presents the second book in her Life in the Garden series following her loss of her beloved. A junk car though, may be the first step to bring her out of her shell and grant her a life worth living. "Garden of Eve" is a fine tale of loss and the strength to move on, recommended.

New Earth
R. D. Pittman
Two Pitts Publishing, LLC
9781466274252, $13.95,

America's greatest enemy has always been from within. "New Earth: The Search for Justice" discusses a clash over the future of America, as the military is split against itself and threatening to control America, setting up the country to be controlled from the shadows, and it's up to General Alex Hanken to rally America and its powers to rout the threat before it's too late. "New Earth: The Search for Justice" is an excellent delve into political intrigue, very much recommended.

Code of Darkness
Chris Lindberg
Privately Published
9781257802630, $16.99,

Some view justice is unobtainable by legal means...and become targets of justice themselves. "Code of Darkness" is a mystery novel following veteran officer Larry Parker, as he responds to the emergence of vigilante activity all over the city of Chicago. As people turn up dead, the vigilante action goes too far, he finds that the dilemma goes deeper than one man acting with justifiable rage. "Code of Darkness" is an excellent pick for mystery fans, highly recommended.

Blue Duwamish
F. A. Loomis
Storm Peak Press
5203 West Silverlake Lane
Boise, ID 83703
9781257846467, $21.95,

High society means high deception. "Blue Duwamish" is a murder mystery set in New York City's banking society of the 1980s after a night of living the life, an elite banker is dead, and it's up to Private Investigator Paul Baxton to get down to the truth, as he travels the country to find the deep secrets that the people with money and power in the country hold. With plenty of twists and turns, "Blue Duwamish" is a choice read with plenty to consider, very much recommended reading.

Ten Questions
John David
Privately Published
9781461089346, $19.99,

Auto insurance can burn a hole in one's pocket very quickly. "Ten Questions: The Insider's Guide to Saving Money on Auto Insurance: Hidden Discounts Revealed" discusses how to crack down on one's auto insurance bill, something that many people cannot do without. From finding discounts, improving one's rating, and much more to get the best premiums one can. "Ten Questions" is an excellent and much recommended pick for anyone struggling with their auto insurance.

True Grime
Natasha Deen
Blueberry Hill
Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780986741913, $12.99,

Unbeknownst to much of the world, our guardians act quickly and under our noses. "True Grime" follows teenage fairy and Grime cop Pepper Powder, who works to keep humanity protected from Violent Illness of Unusual Resistance and Strength, what we call Viruses. Delving into a terrorist plot to drop a necrophage bomb on the people, she has to deal with the threat and still deal with the pressures of teenagerdom. "True Grime" is an original spin of fantasy, not to be overlooked for young adult fantasy sites.

Summer Shack
Kelli Sue Landon
Privately Published
9781463778323, $14.95,

Curiosity is deadly. "Summer Shack: A Killer Vacation" is a mystery thriller from Kelli Sue Landon as Deborah Walker, fascinated by the recent apprehension of a serial killer, launches an investigation of her own to learn what she can about the killer and his crimes. But as she investigates, she learns a killer might not be stopped killing just because he's arrested. "Summer Shack" is a riveting thriller with plenty of creepy twists and turns.

The Meerkat Wars
H. S. Toshack
Privately Published
c/o Cadence Marketing Group (publicity)
9780956323620, $12.95,

War isn't only a human creation. "The Meerkat Wars" is a novel taking conflict to the animal kingdom as a small cat becomes involved in a struggle between two tribes of meerkats, both unwilling to budge from their beliefs. A fun read of conflict set in the vast wilds of Africa, "The Meerkat Wars" isn't a read to be ignored, recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Married to a Trial Liar
Sophia Moreau & Barbara Sheldon
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432772352, $11.95,

Love can turn to loathing so quickly. "Married to a Trial Liar" follows the struggle of Mia Pecarde, a business woman whose marriage has turned to imprisonment. With a sociopathic lawyer of a husband whose knowledge keeps her trapped in the marriage, she struggles to find a way out, as it seems all too hopeless. "Married to a Trial Liar" is a riveting read with plenty to consider, very much recommended for community library general fiction collections.

Reflections of a Civil War Locomotive Engineer
Diana Bailey Harris
Privately Published
9781461129547, $17.95,

A new technology, a huge demand can lead to some interesting times. "Reflections of a Civil War Locomotive Engineer" is a sort of biography as Diana Bailey Harris tries to piece together the story of a railroad engineer from the nineteenth century who struggled through the Civil War and rode the waves of the decades after as war began to strike once more. His story presents a personal view of life in the nineteenth century, and Harris captures it well. "Reflections of a Civil War Locomotive Engineer" is an assortment of history, very much recommended reading.

An Endless Perspective of Life
Eric Visconti
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781617397004, $16.99,

To see the world in all its glory is impossible, so we embrace what we can. "An Endless Perspective of Life" is a spiritual and motivational collection of poetry from Eric Visconti who presents verse that looks onto the world with hope. "An Endless Perspective of Life" is charming read with plenty to consider for poetry fans. "Ancient Wall": Behold a strength in edifice,/Behold the great stone wall,/Believe his moss marked age,/Believe he shall not soon fall./Become his willing pupil,/Become the one who hears all./Beneath its darkened surface,/Beneath hear the voices that call./Feel the lives who built him,/Feel the souls that passed by./Find the history he has witnessed,/Find the answers why./Far their memories have passed,/Far we reach for them now./Fast we hold to their lessons,/Fast we pass the lessons down.

A Passel of Hate
Joe Eply
Privately Published
9781461075936, $17.95,

For some states, the civil war was more than a conflict between states, it was a conflict between families. "A Passel of Hate" is a novel that looks at the civil war as a wedge between family, set in the Carolinas. Telling the story of a family who fought against each other and how the end of the war didn't mean an end to the conflict on the family front, "A Passel of Hate" is a choice read with plenty to consider, highly recommended for historical fiction collections.

Applying Mathematics to Construction
Kenneth Williams
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432766436, $42.95,

Mathematics makes up everything. "Applying Mathematics to Construction: Carpentry Mathematics & Estimating" is a guide to mathematics and related subjects when dealing with construction and carpentry, how to do more exact measurements, understand the materials one needs, and succeed on a higher level for one's job. "Applying Mathematics to Construction" is a choice pick for community library mathematics and crafts collections.

Dennis Maley
Privately Published
9781463772413, $11.95,

Freedom is worth any cost. "Runaway!" tells the story of a young teenager who was denied the freedom he was promised. In response, he seeks to grab it anyway by fleeing from his master, and seeing much of pre-Civil War America and the wedge dividing the country between slavery. Taking assistance where he cans, he sees freedom on the horizon, but must place trust in uncertainty. "Runaway!" is a fascinating read of the push for freedom of slavery that many individuals embarked upon.

Life on Grayson Island
E. R. Champion
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432765798, $14.95,

The mystical land of Oz can take many forms. "Life on Grayson Island" is a spin of fiction from Ellen Champion as she presents a tale of Special Policeman Brent Williams as her serves Grayson Island, a present-day incarnation of Oz. With plenty of humor and absurdity that leaves readers with laughing as they ponder, "Life on Grayson Island" is a choice read, very much recommended reading.

The Crimson Battle Axe
Curtis Oddo
Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781257381630, $17.99,

A good old fashioned tale of high adventure is sometimes all we seek. "The Crimson Battle Axe" seeks to call forth that tale, following Gnarl, a driven warrior and defender of his people. Finding friendship with few, he relies on his skill with the axe to face down the forces of the Dark Lord, to see it through and make the world safe once more. For those seeking grisly and classic heroic fantasy, "The Crimson Battle Axe" is an excellent and much recommended pick.

Three Gifts
Mary Flinn
Aviva Publishing
9781935586487, $19.95,

We can swear to avoid our own falls again, but gravity is so very easy to fall into. "Three Gifts" is a story of the challenges of living in a family, shouldering one another's burdens and heaving ourselves through the worst of it. Telling a story of a family facing their own struggles and trying to find a bit of love through the easiness of hate, "Three Gifts" is a moving and realistic read of family and how it's all too hard to live sometimes.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Long Way Home
Harold G. Ross
Harold G. Ross Publishing
2339 Chris Drive, Manhattan, KS 66502
9780984651030 $TBA

The ninth historical western novel by multitalented construction industry professional Harold G. Ross, Long Way Home is the first-person saga of a card shark with solid survival skills, seeking to earn a (mostly) honest living as he travels the land. Friends and foes cross his path along his journey, culminating in a deadly Apache attack, a harrowing imprisonment in an underground grotto, and finally, a revelation of the will of God to point him toward his destiny. Dramatic realism distinguishes Long Way Home, highly recommended as a choice pick for connoisseurs of Western fiction.

Dear Mr. Musemeche
Peter E. Mayeux
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781617775652, $12.99,

As life goes on, friendships may fade. "Dear Mr. Musemeche: The Early Years" is a memoir from Peter E. Mayeux as he chronicles his childhood in the form of letters to an old friend, the titular Mr. Musemeche. Discussing life with a youthful perspective, and a bit of everything else, "Dear Mr. Musemeche" is a charming read of fading friendship and how we lose what we once had.

Don't Tell Douglas
John C. Meyer III
Privately Published
9780615530642, $24.95,

The idealism of the 1950s hide the reality of what we didn't know. "Don't Tell Douglas" is set in small town Minnesota in the 1950s. A story of family and our relations to one another with its own twists and turns, "Don't Tell Douglas" is a unique tale with its own unusual charm, worth considering for those seek a story of a more innocent time.

Watch Where You Step
Jenepher Field
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432769291, $19.95,

As you leave something, you will find something else quickly. "Watch Where You Step: Going to the Dogs" is a memoir from Jenepher Field as she states her retirement turned out to be anything but. Drawn to new business, new experiences, she found her calling in caring for lost dogs and cats, something she didn't expect herself to be doing. Poignant with a slice of life, "Watch Where You Step" is a fine pick for memoir collections, recommended.

The Greater Reality and the Evolution of Emotion
Don Brown
Privately Published
9781466347786, $15.00,

The big picture of life is often right in front of us, but sometimes hard to see. "The Greater Reality and the Evolution of Emotion" is a metaphysical spirituality book from Don Brown, as he discusses what he has learned and what drives us. Understanding our fears, understanding our emotions, we gain wisdom to face the world head on. With poignancy and knowledge, "The Greater Reality and the Evolution of Emotion" is a fine pick for spirituality and metaphysical collections.

The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov
Paul Russell
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781573447195, $16.95,

Horrible memories are sometimes pushed far to the side, for the best. "The Unreal Life of Sergey Nobokov" seeks to tell a story surrounding famed author Vladimir Nabokov's forgotten gay brother, Sergey. Chronicling the story of Sergey through Czarist Russia and their departure from their home land towards England. A remarkable story that explores the relationship of the brothers that shows much research all the way towards Sergey's tragic fate, "The Unreal Life of Sergey Nobokov" is well worth considering for literary fiction collections.

The Yachtjacking
Lee Pratt
Privately Published
9780983990321, $12.99,

Terror will make very much clear what really matters to your life. "The Yachtjacking" is a thriller following a couple married for money as their marriage breaks down on a private yacht. With a captain consumed by grief, they find their already miserable situation grown worse by the entry of a worthless criminal. But even then, all could change as a storm rolls in..."The Yachtjacking" is a fine read with plenty to consider, very much recommended reading.

God Gives You the Lesson...
C. E. Mac Evoy
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9780578092317, $15.95,

The lessons of life are the curriculum that God the teacher has presented us with. "God Gives You the Lesson... Until You Learn It: A Radical Text on Living the Way of Christ, One Wayward Christian's Journey" is a discussion of faith and spiritual learnings from C. E. Mac Evoy, who states how to learn the lessons of life and how to understand them, to help God help them find success. "God Gives You the Lesson...Until You Learn it" is worth considering for Christian readers, much recommended.

Alabaster Houses
Lara McLaughlin
Privately Published
9781456354626, $14.99,

Tragedy can destroy us as individuals, yet bring us together as people. "Alabaster Houses" is a dramatic novel from Lara McLaughlin, as she tells the story of two women in Baltimore trying to piece together what went wrong in their lives. Jane Pepper is a middle aged mother who lost her daughter too soon, and is plagued with the secrets of the tragedy. Riva Hakim gained international renown, and only had to pay for it with her childhood. As the two meet, they will understand something about the world that they could never understand before. "Alabaster Houses" is poignant and moving, much recommended.

I Promise to Stay Married (This Time)
Lea Hope Becker
Privately Published
9781463545765, $13.99,

Marriage is a unique adventure like any other, that occasionally lasts a life time. "I Promise to Stay Married to Stay Married (This Time)" is a blend of humor and memoir from Lea Hope Becker who discusses her marriage and what it means to those who are trying to live a life where when the joys come it's easy, but all else seems like a chore. "I Promise to Stay Married (This Time)" is a humorous and much recommended pick for any humor or relationships collection.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780439023511, $8.99 Hardcover, $5.98

The third book in The Hunger Games finds Katniss, along with her family and Gale, living with the rebels in District 13. Katniss has no idea what has become of Peeta and fears he is dead. She unwillingly and reluctantly has become the symbol of the rebellion and the rebel leaders urge her to exploit this via video feeds to the 12 Districts. Katniss at first feigns infirmity but eventually caves in after negotiating an agreement with the rebel leaders that they will not harm Peeta or the other Hunger Games survivors if they assume leadership. Much as she was manipulated by the government, Katniss now finds herself in the same circumstance with the rebel leaders. When Peeta is rescued, Katniss is greatly relieved, but Peeta has been tortured and brainwashed to the point that he is no longer the same person. Katniss vows to kill President Snow for what he has done to Peeta and joins the rebels in trying to overthrow the government. When her chance comes to kill the president, Katniss does something unexpected that could lead to her death.

Collins ruthlessly depicts the war between the Capitol and rebels in a grisly, violent fashion, leaving nothing to the imagination. Once again, she proves adept at peeling away layers of personas of pertinent characters. Katniss is portrayed as a young woman who wants to live a simple life and does not care for her perception as a heroic young woman ready to lead the cause for freedom yet finds herself thrust again and again into this role. The ending will surprise some readers, although this reviewer sees no other way it could have concluded.

Carolyn Haines
St. Martin's Minotaur
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312351607, $TBA, Kindle $2.99,

Post World War II, Jade Dupree owns her own beauty shop and is also the undertaker's assistant in the small Southern town of Drexel, Mississippi. Jade is half-black, her white mother Lucille Longier having handed her over to her black handyman and his wife to raise. Jade's white half-sister Marlena is married to Lucas Bramlett, the wealthiest man in Drexel. Although Jade's skills as a hairdresser are sought after by the rich, white women of Drexel, she understands she will never be considered anything but black and these women are not above pointing this out. When Marlena is brutally raped and her daughter disappears, Jade begins to spend time with her sister, hoping to find out who raped her and where her daughter is. Sheriff's deputy Frank Kimble is investigating the case and he and Jade share an attraction for one another which Frank is more than willing to pursue but Jade reluctant.

Haines excels at portraying the temperamental atmosphere of a small Southern town's racial infrastructure. There is a melancholy cast to the story, told from Jade's point of view, that brings to heart the biases blacks faced during that era, as well as the prejudices some held against whites and their own race. The mystery isn't a complex one and more tertiary to the story than the complexities of and interactions between characters.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

The Secret Crown
Chris Kuzneski
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157455, $25.95,

Historical fiction blended with thrilling characters will keep your attention from cover to cover. "The Secret Crown" by Chris Kuzneski is such an outstanding continuation of adventures by Jones and Payne who are master sleuths with panache for extreme violence.

Starting in 2002 with the first of a series of novels about the exploits of Payne and Jones, Chris Kuzneski's other books include "The Lost Throne," "Sign of the Cross," "Sword of God," and "The Plantation." He is an international bestselling author.

This pair is at home in Pittsburgh with seemingly, nothing pressing to do, when they are summoned by an old friend in Germany who reveals little to them when he wants them to join him. Knowing about him from their past encounters, they knew he would provide them excitement and profit! Jonathon Payne and David Jones are ex-Special Forces operatives with many talents, which they utilize as they discover a long-hidden stash of treasures buried in a remote location in the Bavarian Alps, Germany.

One of the outstanding features of this book is the authenticity of accurate historical references and the blending of the black swan, an emblem of the Swan King: King Ludwig II of Bavaria placed the emblem onto objects central to the theme of this thriller. History buffs will thoroughly enjoy the mastery employed by Kuzneski as he weaves a web of intrigue, which travels from place to place in Germany capturing the imaginations of Payne and Jones as they seek to discover more hidden treasure, the titular Secret Crown. In their quest, they confront a treacherous killer who will stop at nothing in his attempt to wrest it from them.

Of course, there is a damsel! What kind of thriller would there by without a damsel in distress who becomes a part of the scheme of things? Even with an action-packed mystery, there is a certain blend of light-hardheartedness making the pair of explorers real. In addition, there is a daring rescue scene where their talents stretch to the limit when they attempt to save their benefactor.

Seldom do readers have the opportunity to experience excellent visual writing like this. Chris Kuzneski delivers the optical experience on the written page like very few authors. You can envision the castles, Alps, and helicopters meld together bringing a collage of centuries past into the present! This delightful experience can easily script into a kaleidoscopic movie enjoyed by fans of Payne and Jones. There will be some vivid scenes of mayhem, but this is to be expected from an action-packed thriller that deserves 5 stars. "The Secret Crown" is highly recommended along with the previous books in this series.

Heat Rises
Richard Castle
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023-6298
9781401324438, $25.99,

Reviewing books that are written by known authors, or authors who are newly entering the literary market, has been the theme of this column for some time. Many excellent books receive accolades attributed to authors for their creativity, imagination, character development, and just plain old good writing. However, "Heat Rises" by Richard Castle does not fit the mold of authorship. It is a fiction! The characters are fiction, the author is fiction, the plot is fiction, and the only thing real about this book is that it is hardcover, costs $25.99, and you can buy it!

The characters are book adaptations of the television show. There is a ploy on Richard Castle who named Jameson Rook in this book, and the female detective is Nikki Heat. If you follow the television series then you will know there are references to the book's characters as Richard Castle in the show is a writer and his books describe the exploits of Nikki Heat and the relationship with Rook.

Similarity between the book and the television show becomes murky since the lives of Heat and Rook are romantically entwined lovers. Adult scenes described in tasteful detail are still too steamy which would be out place in primetime!

Basically, "Heat Rises", is an exciting thriller. Flowing descriptions and characters who act and react to encounters with the bad guys keeps the reader moving through the pages. However, it was a slow start. At about 75 to 80 pages into the book the action finally picked up and moved along thereafter at breakneck speed. In fact, the beginning was quite boring until the author, whoever that may have been, got into the book. Once over that hurdle of dullness, the storyline was an adventure.

One of the outstanding features of the book was the use of bold print! When the author felt it was important to a particular paragraph, the lead-in sentence was in bold type. Usually bold is for headings or a whole section. This was a nice touch. Another feature was the use of environmentally friendly text stock that the publisher said was certified as coming from the forests that are managed to ensure the protection of the people and wildlife dependent upon them.

If you are an avid reader of this column, you will know that there are very few books panned by Clark's Eye on Books. With this economy, we always face choices when making purchases. Taking the time to sit down and read a good book is one of those considerations plus the actual cost. This is a mediocre book, which would fall in the 2 star category. It is suggested you pass on this book and watch the television show instead!

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

Ryan's Journal
Ryan M. Anderson
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
1466408073, $17.99,

I was visiting my son, Rich, at his home, when he handed me a book he received in the mail. It was a journal, Ryan's Journal, written by his good friend Ryan Anderson. Ryan died in August of 2009. He was a Captain in the United States Army.

It was a bittersweet read for me. I knew Ryan for years as he and Rich were good friends as kids. Every high school band concert Rich performed in, Ryan performed in. Different instruments, same band. Ryan shared Thanksgiving with my family and visited before and after his journey to 34+ countries.

Rich shared Ryan's journey early on by joining him in South America for about three months, from February - May 02. (May 7th to be exact, he surprised me by returning on my birthday!) Ryan writes in detail about their adventures. So this part of Ryan's Journal was the best for me!

While reading, at times I laughed, other times I cried. Ryan wanted to accomplish so much in life, and to have it taken from him so early is just so wrong. But the book is about what Ryan did accomplish. He wanted to travel and so he did. I'm glad he took the time to write down what he learned; from meeting different people, experiencing different cultures, and understanding different religions. (Ryan went to Az. State College and studied Religion/History.)

Ryan fell in and out of love, tasted new foods, and got caught up in government politics. He was an avid reader during his journey, reading up to four books a day!

I recommend "Ryan's Journal: A Young Man's Search For His Place In The World" for anyone who would like to travel to foreign countries and get a first-hand insight into daily life. So much is shared by Ryan that you will feel like you knew him in his short life. He was 34 years old when he made his last journey.

Heart of Ice
Lis Wiehl and April Henry
Thomas Nelson
Amazon Digital Services
B004PGNBYW, $9.36

Heart of Ice is a book in a series from The Triple Threat Club involving three women; an FBI agent, an FBI prosecutor, and a TV reporter. They are best friends and at times work together and solve the worst of crimes.

In Heart of Ice, a series of gruesome murders becomes very personal. The reader follows this suspense mystery while sharing how good friends stick together during adversity.

The strength of the authors is character development. It would be advantageous if readers followed the series from the beginning. As I started with Heart of Ice, it left me at a disadvantage. It would help the story flow easier in the beginning if I was familiar with the three main women characters and the fact this was part of a series.

I recommend Heart of Ice for readers who enjoy an easy read suspense mystery novel. It is a quick read that held my attention until the murders were solved. It concludes with an unknown conviction for the next book in the series.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

Cold Vengeance
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York NY, 10017
9780446554985 $26.99

I noticed this book shortly after finishing reading Gideon's Sword. I have enjoyed reading their novels, since their first novel of Relic featuring Pendergast. I have been a fan ever since that novel. They also write good solo novels with interesting stories dominantly in the adventure genre' including science fiction, thriller, or horror.

Special Agent Pendergast is seeking his wife Helen's betrayers, which takes him first through the wild moors in Scotland. He is following a stag with his wife's brother, Judson Esterhazy, up on the Beinn Dearg near Cairn Barrow, Scotland . The two are down in the Foul mire between the dangerous bog quicksand and an unknown enemy that soon becomes apparent. Pendergast disappears after being shot, and he ends up trapped in the quicksand. The brother reports his brother-in-law as being shot to the local community. The chief inspector police constable Balfour drags Judson along with the gamekeeper, tracker, handler, and two bloodhounds go in the bogs to track down the scent of Pendergast. The dogs discover his scent, proceed to advance into the bog to verify Judson's account. The police proceed to drag a number of pools looking for Pendergast's body. Esterhazy is ordered to remain in the area until Balfour can figure out what happened. Shortly after Esterhazy notices that Lieutenant Vincent D' Agosta is roaming around the area in Scotland. He figures Agosta is not there for any other reason than to search for Pendergast. Pendergast learned by confession from Estyhazy before his vanishing in the bogs that his wife was alive. This brings about more deception that goes further back in the family history, and Pendergast learns the lies carry horrible ratifications. The real danger will be learned, if anything is true about his wife. The hidden enemies are lurking in the shadows, and they threaten later when that information becomes known.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have written many stand alone bestselling novels together, and eighteen solo offerings between the two authors. They have an upcoming novel, that will follow this current reviewed book with the main character Pendergast. They decided to write a new series with a new character named Gideon. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child will now go back and forth collaborating on both series, which gives their fans a wealth of good stories continuing in the two series. This book will follow the story-line after Fever Dream, so Cold Vengeance is best read next in this book sequence. I understand their next novel will be Gideon's Corpse to be released on January 10, 2012.

American Assassin
Vince Flynn
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416595182, $27.99,

I read so many different type of books, and I was encouraged by my pro-active manager friend to read Vince Flynn. I also worked for him in two jobs, and we discussed different authors reflecting our opposite tastes in book reading. Sometimes he liked my selections, but we were both on different crossroads to spread our own separate horizons. I found out through many readings that authors who love their work, and enjoy telling a good story will capture more diverse readers. I guess I am the lucky one as I have learned what type of books the vast audience likes the best. He is more subjective with his narrower selection, but with good tastes in books too. I am glad I listened to him, and Vince Flynn does give us an equal comparison of Jason Bourne. I am thankful for both, as they both have been great reads in the CIA thrillers.

Once upon a time, Mitch Rapp was enjoying being a gifted athlete, and his life without a care in his young world. This first changed, when he was young teenager of thirteen where his father died of a massive heart attack. The second tragedy of his life at sixteen during a Christmas break period. His love of his life, Mary died when the plane she was on was blown up over the skies. The plane exploded killing 259 passengers and crew with 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland. Both of these events changed his outlook and perspective on what priorities would be in his possible life's vocation.

Mitch Rapp was searching for comfort after the Lockerbie tragedy, but more to his mind-set he was from that moment on seeking retribution for Mary. He is older now, when Irene Kennedy finds a well-trained and resourceful fighting man of Jason Bourne stock who one of the best candidates for the CIA to bring America back to battle against the terrorists. She places him a site to get the physical training and expertise, that he will need to help to become an American Assassin. His training after six months of intensity have prepared him for the mission to bring the war at the enemy's doorstep. He does with by assassinating a Turkish arms dealer who sold the explosives uses in the Pam Am attack of Lockerbie. He moves on with his team to Hamburg and then to the place where all the roads lead to Beirut. Rapp doesn't know that the enemy is aware of his existence and now the hunter is to become the hunted. Rapp will need all his skill set and cunning, if he is to survive in this war zone with all the terrorist groups.

Vince Flynn is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven previous CIA thrillers, this being his most recent book along with Pursuit of Honor and Extreme Measures. I eagerly await his new one which is slated for early February entitled Kill Shot.

Daniel Allen

Donna's Bookshelf

A Warrior's Soul
SR Staley
1760 E River Rd Ste 145 Tucson, AZ 85718
9781604945966, 19.95,

When middle school thugs hunt for Luke, he hides, unable to trust in his martial arts training, certain he is the biggest coward that ever lived. This tense scene of avoidance begins A Warrior's Soul, by SR Staley. But both Luke and the reader understand no one can avoid facing down persistent enemies forever.

Staley trains in To-Shin Do himself, a Western version of ninjutsu, and draws on his knowledge to craft realistic street battles. He also teaches at Florida State University and has written the young adult novel The Pirate of Panther Bay. A Warrior's Soul is suitable for middle school readers and will have special appeal for those who have dealt with bullies.

Dirk and two of his gang trap Luke and beat him up. School officials suggest Luke provoked Dirk, and his mother can't understand why Luke didn't just walk away - as if that thought hadn't occurred to him. Luke's friends Chuck and Lucy team up with him to plot a defense.

Chuck's plan revolves around waving around a gun as an equalizer even though he has no training in using one. Initially Luke backs him in this idea, but has bad dreams and second thoughts about the wisdom of this approach.

Luke's instincts take him back to his martial arts instructor, Peter, who welcomes him after his long absence from the dojo. Peter talks Luke and Lucy through some moves that will even out the odds if they are outnumbered by Dirk's gang.

The novel doesn't encourage confrontation. Instead, it draws on the true spirit of martial arts training, teaching young people to walk away from a fight or to evade those attempting to bully them if at all possible.

After enduring numerous threats and taunting episodes, Chuck arranges to meet Dirk outside school in a showdown. Luke, Lucy and Stan are there to support him though they disapprove of escalating the situation with a gun. Sure enough, the gun only forces the thugs to bring out knives, and the gun goes off, fortunately not killing anyone.

This time, Luke draws on all his martial arts training to win the day. He gains confidence in his skills though he knows the battle isn't over yet. It never is with bullies.

Staley's novel is a fast-paced, enjoyable read that delivers not only action, but also offers insight into how martial arts training can influence young people's everyday decisions. A sequel centering on female bullies, Renegade, is due out in 2012.

Trillium Acres
Norman Julian
Trillium Publishing
1222 N. 185th Street, Suite 201 in Shoreline, WA 98133
ASIN: B004QVXGN2, $19.00,

Essays share lessons learned from homesteading in West Virginia mountains

Norman Julian's folksy essay collection, Trillium Acres, evokes the same strong sense of place Thoreau conveyed in Walden.

Julian's place is high in the Appalachians on Snake Hill, situated north of Morgantown, West Virginia. For thirty-seven years, the author homesteaded and partially subsisted on a few acres of wooded land he called Trillium Acres. The sounds of wind whistling, deer blowing, bears woo-wooing, and even the high-pitched squeals of one animal slaughtering another that pierced the night fostered what Julian calls "a stillness within."

As age and the passing of time began to change both Julian and the land around him, he moved back to town. A newspaperman, he seized the opportunity to write about this transition and reflect on what the land had taught him. One thing he notes is that even when someone is trying to preserve the natural balance, human presence changes it. His clearing of some trees and building of a home caused the trilliums to thin out and eventually disappear. The land, he says, "seemed to resent" his presence."

The essays are short and arranged into sections: Beginnings, Place, People, Lifestyles, Plants, Animals, and Endings. By the time readers finish the collection, they should have a vivid picture of all the inhabitants of Snake Hill and also the soil from which Julian sprung. His mother, father, and grandfather are fodder for essays, as well as many old-timers and neighbors that shared their skills and wisdom with him. Readers will also enjoy the wry humor, such as the many opinions over what differentiates a mountain from a hill.

Like the Foxfire books, Trillium Acres brims with practical knowledge on planting potatoes, gathering ramps, and increasing a stock of elderberries. The book has essays on buzzards, goats, chickens, and bears.

Perhaps the strongest piece of creative nonfiction is "Bambi: Someone has to do it." It won a cash prize from the West Virginia Writers, Inc. The essay shifts between real-time observations that take place during deer season with servings of facts and recollections of past encounters with deer. It examines the moral dilemma of an animal lover and respecter of life faced with an over-populated species.

Julian's philosophy stems from sturdy respect for the world we live in. He has adopted our grandparents' attitude of "making do" and our parents' refusal to throw out family furniture in favor of new store-bought pieces. He grew much of his own food. Built his own house. Crafted built-in beds.

When Julian began clearing his land, he claims he felt like a conqueror and the animals were his subjects. His attitude changed over time. The most important lesson he took from his mountain life was this: "All the good things of the Earth are shared, or should be, not only with our species but with every living thing."

As strip mining, mountaintop removal, and climate change threaten to destroy not only the beauty of our planet, but the very ability of it to sustain our lives, Julian's essays take on greater importance. By digging deep into the specifics of one place, Julian unearths timeless truths. He enables us to see Wordsworth's "world in a grain of sand."

He explains it this way: "what happens on Trillium Acres happens everywhere." With the paving of Snake Hill Road, suburban lifestyle encroached even on this remote mountain, bringing with it the sounds of chainsaws and lawn mowers, the fences that inhibit animal migration, and the destruction of natural habitat.

Regrets as Julian leaves his home on Snake Hill? He has none about the hard work he put into his homestead. He offers an aphorism that could have been penned by Emerson himself: "Well-directed labor constitutes joy."

In the essays, Julian shares the joy he gained from intimate knowledge of the land, the people, the plants, and the animals on and near Trillium Acres. He also makes clear that we are a planet "at a crossroads." We must make better choices to maintain the natural balance. The stakes? The survival of our own and other species.

Norman Julian is a columnist at large for The Dominion Post in Morgantown, West Virginia. He has been named best columnist by the West Virginia Press Association and by the Keystone Press Association. Trillium Acres is his fifth book, a sequel to Snake Hill. The winner of the West Virginia Sportswriters' award for lifetime achievement, he is also the author of Legends, a history of West Virginia University basketball. A sequel to his novel Cheat will be published soon. For more information, see his website,

Donna Meredith

Esther's Bookshelf

The Art of Fielding
Chad Harbach
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316126694, $25.99,

There are a few interesting aspects about this book that must be considered for review. In an article from last week's issue, Sports Illustrated named this book the number in sports entertainment and media for the 2011 year. Is it really that good? I think that part of its high ranking comes from the fact that this is Harbach's first novel but the book is good enough that it seems he's been writing for ages. In other words, Sports Illustrated did not simply take the story into account but also the story about the story.

For the format of the novel itself, Harbach subtly blends a high vocabulary into his book, coming across as impressive but not confusing, and as the book is divided into 82 short chapters it makes the reading easier and keeps the story moving.

From a sport's point of view, Harbarch bravely chooses to focus on the individual psychological aspects of baseball, something that took a long time for the major leagues to accept the reality of. That Harbach chose to create a star player with Steve Blass disease shows that he is not trying to write a typically heroic, albeit classic, baseball novel, but something that dives into the deeper parts of our nation's pastime.

A nice choice for a sports-oriented reader and for fans of some of the hidden nuances of baseball.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
Michael Lewis
W.W. Norton & Company
500 5th Avenue # 6 New York, NY 10110
9780393057652, $24.95,

The title Moneyball does not give the impression of a book that baseball fans would want to read. It makes it seem the book really pertains to the Harvard graduates that keep appearing in it's pages. It's not about a big market team, a classic moment in sports history or an inner city athlete making it big. And yet, this book is good, very good.

Lewis somehow blends the story of a GM, of a team, of individuals, of saber metrics and of a revolution into one very interesting and enjoyable read. Some chapters are more about the history of stats, some are more about an individual and throughout are sprinkled little revelations about the workings of what Lewis refers to as the "Major League Baseball Club." This way or that, it keeps the book dynamic and the pages turning.


Gary's Bookshelf

Sandra Brown
Grand Central
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781455501472, $26.99,

Honor Gillete's life is turned upside down when her daughter informs her there is a sick man lying on the front lawn of their home. From then on nothing is the same, as "Lethal" races along with many different plot twists to its smashing conclusion. Brown known for her page turning thrillers is once again the master of the suspense novel. She fills the book with interesting characters many turns in story and solid writing. "Lethal" is a page turning suspenseful read that is sure to please Brown fans.

The Perfect Christmas
Debbie Macomber
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778312734, $7.99

Though "The Perfect Christmas" is a re-issued title it is as fresh as ever and is sure to please Macomber's many fans. Cassie Beaumont has tried just about everything to find her perfect soul mate. She even has resorted to a very expensive dating service that so far she has shown very little results. It is Christmas and she is still looking until she gets a surprise present. Macomber tells her story with delightful characters, fast paced and writing that moves the story along. "The Perfect Christmas" is a perfect tale for the holiday season.

Written in Blood
Shelia Lowe
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451224873, $6.99,

"Written in Blood" is the second of a series of novels of forensic handwriting expert Claudia Rose. Claudia is hired by Paige Sorenson to prove that she did not forge her deceased husband's signature on his will that awards her his entire estate including Sorensen Academy. Her stepchildren who hate her will do anything to prove Paige wrong. Claudia once again involves herself in another case that could get her killed. "Written in Blood" is a tightly written mystery that is a fast paced read with interesting situations and characters.

Breaking Your Own News Using the Media to Spread Your Message and Grow Your Business
Sandra Gehring
Publicity Press
1285 Stratford Avenue, Suite G262
Dixon California 95620 1 866 221 8408
9781932311587, $14.95,

Media insider Sandra Gehring shows businesses the proper ways to gain attention to sell what they have in "Breaking Your Own News Using the Media to Spread Your Message and Grow Your Business!" She tells the right and wrong ways to approach media people. She states clearly and concisely how to generate different types of publicity for whatever anyone is selling. "Breaking Your Own News Using the Media to Spread Your Message and Grow Your Business has a wealth of information to anyone who wants to learn the proper ways to get ahead with the media and this book should be used for college courses that deal with advertising.

In My Time
Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney
Threshold Editions
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439176191, $35.00,

Former Vice President gives his take on his life in politics starting with the Richard Nixon presidency to his role in the George W. Bush administration. He tells about the many positions he has held and those he worked with for each one. "In My Time" tries to be candid but what emerges is that Cheney takes very little blame for any problems and seems to blame others around him unlike "Decision Points" by George W. Bush where he took full responsibility for the mistakes in his life and as president. Cheney also talks how Condoleezza Rice broke down and cried which she has disputed in recent interviews and there is a frightening scene in which he wanted to end a crisis by military intervention where he was the only one who felt this way. "In My Time" is an interesting look at recent history through the eyes of a person who was a part of many of the events that have shaped the world through the years.

Kill Alex Cross
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316198738, $28.99,

Alex Cross is back in action in "Kill Alex Cross," another page turning suspenseful tale. This time it is his biggest case ever. The president's son and daughter have been abducted. Cross at the request of the first lady is brought in to help solve the case. There are many twists and turns as the tale unfolds with the trademark Patterson fast pacing to the final pages. "Kill Alex Cross" is another complicated mystery that is sure to please fans of both Alex Cross and James Patterson.

Eyes Wide Open
Andrew Gross
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
978006165596, $25.99,

"Eyes Wide Open" is a very different novel that is more character driven than a straight action thriller readers of this author have gotten used to. Jay Erlich learns that his nephew has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff. He goes to the aid of his older brother Charles. As Jay delves into the mysterious death he finds that his brothers past plays a very important part in what happened to his nephew. The novel is very fast paced with many interesting characters that are well fleshed out with a very shocking conclusion that makes "Eyes Wide Open" a thrilling read.

Stony Man Armed Resistance
Gold Eagle
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780373804313, $7.99,

The series is hotter than ever with "Armed Resistance." Phoenix Force and Able Team are back in action this time up against a group of terrorists who want to once again hit targets of the United States. The "Stony Man" novels have always delivered great action adventure and "Armed Resistance" is another shining example of why the novels continue to be so popular.

The Spooky Chronicles the Crooked Man
Kevin A. Ranson
3131 RDU Center Drive, Suite 210
Morrisville, NC 27560
9781257976843, $10.00,

"The Spooky Chronicles the Crooked Man" is film critic Kevin A. Ranson short novel of horror that is just plain weird. Two of the strange characters are a dead little boy who crosses over to the other side and a crooked old man with a crooked stick and a crooked finger. Ranson deftly takes the reader through his dark world with a final conclusion that is very interesting. "The Spooky Chronicles the Crooked Man" is the first of many eerie tales from a very talented writer.

Romance With A Touch of Love
Kevin Hollingsworth
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
978143277138, $9.95,

"Romance With A Touch of Love" has twelve pieces that delve into many different aspects of love. The writings are more prose than poetry but there is a flow that is a very fast pace that has lots of deeper meanings for readers to consider. "Romance With A Touch of Love" is a perfect gift for any occasion.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Infernal Angels
Loren Estleman
c/o Tor-Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765319555 $24.99,

In the twenty-first novel in the wonderful Amos Walker series, Loren Estleman once again captures the spirit of Detroit, as much a character in the novel as it is the mise en scene. As the author describes it, it is a city which "continued its slug's crawl toward bleak oblivion." Although the tale begins innocuously enough, when Walker is hired to recover 25 stolen cable-TV converter boxes, it is soon apparent that there is more going on than meets the eye, when two people with whom Walker has spoken turn up dead, within hours of those meetings.

Walker is undaunted, and pursues the case with even greater zeal. He is no longer invincible, he admits: "In the pursuit of my profession I'd been shot, beaten, coldcocked, drugged, and threatened with death . . . It would be a good joke on a lot of bad people if it was a heart episode that took me." The title derives from the line, soon after the second body is discovered, that of a man Walker had known for years: "Once you'd made the decision to live on the dark side of the moon, all your friends were infernal angels at best."

His descriptions of several characters are exquisite portraits. Of a detective: "He'd lost flesh from age and the weight of the world, pasting skin to bone like shrink-wrap. His boys were grown and married, one of them was still speaking to him, and his wife, who earned more money than he did working shorter hours, was often away on business. Home for him was just a place to change horses between shifts;" of a colleague: "His face was the same vintage as mine, but he ironed his more often and packed it in ice overnight;" a building caretaker "an ambulatory dandelion gone to seed." The prose is equal parts elegance and street.

There are perfect fleeting references on such eclectic topics as jazz musicians, politics and politicians past and present, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro, as well as little-known facts on historical figures as diverse as Black Bart and Marcus Garvey, and nostalgia for Tigers Stadium.

A fast-paced and consistently witty entry in this terrific series, it is highly recommended.

Very Bad Men
Harry Dolan
Amy Einhorn Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399157493, $25.95,

This new novel from the author of the acclaimed "Bad Things Happen," his writing debut, has no 'sophomore book' problems. "Very Bad Men" immediately engages the reader, and one is quickly drawn into this compelling tale of murder, specifically, the murder of two men who were part of a bank robbery seventeen years ago, and the attempted murder of a third. All three men had been convicted, and served jail time of varying lengths. But what could be the motive? These three men had not seen nor contacted one another in all the intervening years. And the killer - for his identity is quickly revealed - is not a cool, professional hit man; that is immediately made clear.

David Loogan, the editor-in-chief of a mystery magazine, receives, in a plain, unmarked envelope, what at first glance appears to be a manuscript, only several pages long, bearing no signature, the first line of which reads "I killed Henry Kormoran . . . " Loogan, who lives with his 'significant other,' Elizabeth Waishkey, an Ann Arbor, Michigan, detective, and her precocious 16-year-old daughter, ultimately begins a kind of parallel and unofficial investigation.

Each character in the novel is wonderfully well-drawn. These include the killer, who suffers from synesthesia, a rare affliction which results in a confusion of the senses, with words taking on dimensions far beyond their 'normal' printed appearance, according to his emotional reaction to them; Lucy Navarro, a young and rather endearing reporter, who comes up with a bizarre theory of the motive for the crimes; assorted politicians and their 'handlers,' among others. The writer invokes some wildly disparate images: Occam and his razor, Aristotle, jazz musician Charlie Parker; mystery authors Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly; and a theme: "We all want to be known. To be seen for who we really are." There are carefully placed, and easily missed clues, and startling and unexpected twists in this rather complex and engrossing novel, which is recommended.

A Vine in the Blood
Leighton Gage
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616950040 $24.00,

This is the fifth novel in the series, referred to as the Inspector Mario Silva Investigations, and it is every bit as delightful as the others. "Delightful" might be a strange adjective for a book concerning kidnapping and murder, but it is entirely fitting.

Football [or, as the Americans call it, 'soccer'] is the most popular sport in Brazil, and the FIFA World Cup the premier event in that sport, and Tico Santos, known as The Artist, is considered the greatest player in the history of the sport. As the book opens, three weeks before the first game is to take place in Brazil [the only country to have won the Cup five times and hosting the series for the first time in more than sixty years], Juraci Santos, his mother, is kidnapped. Other victims are Juraci's servants, two young women brutally murdered.

The effect in the country is devastating - does Brazil have a chance of beating Argentina without their star player? The headlines speak of nothing else, and the pressure on the police, and on Director Mario Silva, is enormous. The possibilities are endless: the Argentineans themselves; The Artist's gold-digging girlfriend; his principal rival, who wants to play in Tico's place; and a man whose career was destroyed when Tico broke his leg in a match. Or is it just about the $5,000,000 ransom demand?

The usual complement of background factors of this series is present: The corruption inherent throughout the justice system and the police [to which Silva, called the "sharpest criminal investigator in this country," is known as an incorruptible exception], and Silva's colleagues, including charming Haraldo "Babyface" Goncalves [so called because although he is 34 he looks 22]. There is also Fiorello Rosa, PhD and master kidnapper currently serving a 14-year prison sentence, an unlikely expert consulted by Silva to assist in the investigation, with everyone mindful of the fact that the kidnapped woman is likely to be killed before her abductors can be found. The terrific writing makes this a fast read, and one that is highly recommended.

Call Me Princess
Sara Blaedel
Pegasus Crime
c/o Pegasus Books
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605982519 $25.00,

Though Sara Blaedel is the author of several books, and her novels are apparently consistently on the bestseller lists in her native Denmark and elsewhere, this book represents her American debut. And an auspicious one it is.

Assistant Detective Louise Rick, of the Copenhagen Police Department, is assigned the case of a 32-year-old woman who was raped and brutally attacked. When the body of another young woman is found, having been similarly brutalized but hadn't escaped with her life, the police believe they have a serial criminal on the loose. Other women with similar stories of brutal rapes over the past couple of years are soon linked to the same man. The only common thread is that the women all apparently met their attackers online.

Louise has been with the homicide division for the past four years. Her best friend, Camilla Lind, is a reporter who has the Copenhagen crime beat at a local newspaper, and that turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, because the help of the newspaper in getting the description of the man the police are hunting out to the public can be a good thing, but too close an involvement with the latest victim by a reporter not so much, and Louise finds it hard to keep a professional distance.

Louise ultimately needs to familiarize herself with the world of online dating. Her six-year-long relationship with the man she's been living with has become rocky, and she is ambivalent about the research she needs to do. The suspense mounts as she tries to identify the rapist. The author explores the devastating effects on his victims, and I found it hard to keep reading at times, but harder to put the book down. The author's next book, "Only One Life," is due out in July of 2012 from Pegasus, and I for one can't wait.


No Mark Upon Her
Deborah Crombie
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061990618 $25.99,

In the opening pages of Deborah Crombie's 14th novel, DCI Rebecca ["Becca"] Meredith, an Olympic contender and a senior officer in West London's Major Crimes unit, is found dead in the waters of the Thames near her home in the town of Henley, 35 miles from London. The events that follow take place, amazingly, over a period of about a week. I say 'amazingly' because so much happens, in a terrifically plotted novel. The case falls to Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, of Scotland Yard's Murder Investigation Team, with some aspects of it falling to his bride, Gemma James, DI with the Notting Hill Police.

The book is filled with wonderfully drawn characters, including not only both the protagonists but also Kincaid's partner, Sgt. Doug Cullen, about to become a first-time homeowner and nervous at the prospect; Gemma's colleague, Melody Talbot; Becca's ex-husband, Freddy; Kiernan Connolly and Tavie Larssen, members of the SAR [Search and Rescue], or K-9, team as well as its four-legged members, Finn, a Labrador retriever and Tosh, a German shepherd, every bit a part of the plot as are their human partners.

The common thread among several of the characters is a love of - in fact, a passion for - rowing or, to be more specific, sculling, a very specific skill employing the use of sleek racing shells, apparently a world of its own. Just how much so is made very clear through the author's use of quotes, preceding the start of most chapters, from various publications on the subject, as well as Ms. Crombie's own prose in the early pages, describing the victim shortly before she is killed: "she sat backwards on a sliver of carbon fiber narrower than her body, inches above the water, and that only her skill and determination kept her fragile craft from the river's dark grasp."

The James/Kincaid family dynamic of 'his' [Kit], 'hers' [Toby - - their respective 14-year-old sons], and 'theirs' [Charlotte, the mixed-race 3-year-old foster child they are planning to formally adopt], is a constantly active one that makes the protags' personal lives every bit as engaging as their professional ones.

The author comments "Things were always so much more complicated than they appeared on the surface," and employs mini-cliffhangers throughout, maximizing the suspense, as well as some shocking revelations, producing several OMG moments. But I'll leave those discoveries to the readers of this highly-recommended novel.

The Most Dangerous Thing
Laura Lippman
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061706516 $25.99,

The new standalone novel from Laura Lippman was, to this reader, unlike anything this wonderful author had written to this point. [Among her more recent ones, "I'd Know You Anywhere" and "What the Dead Know" still stand out in my memory and resonate with me.] The present work is not really a mystery [although there is a death early on in the book] nor procedural, but instead a series of in-depth character studies which will be difficult to match.

The author takes her time recreating and juxtaposing scenes from the past with those of the present, from the time when "everything was perfect until the moment it wasn't," in the lives of five youngsters in their early teens, three brothers and two young girls. Ultimately each of these, along with their parents and siblings and extended families, will have their own chapters, describing events which took place in 1980, in their native Baltimore, with p.o.v. changes from one character to another and from those early years to the present time, when most of them have grown children of their own, all of it shaped by one pivotal 'incident' [insert your own euphemism] which changes all of their lives forever. The reality of the events of that night is different for each of them, children and parents alike. And ultimately it is about secrets kept, or not.

One of the three brothers, Gordon ("Go-Go") Halloran, nine years old in 1980 and always the most reckless of the three, although presently two years sober, leaves the bar at which he has just fallen off the wagon and does not make it home alive, crashing into a wall at about 100 mph. There is a question about whether it was a tragic accident, or something somehow worse.

I found this book [in which, btw, Tess Monaghan makes a cameo appearance] a departure for this author, and very thought-provoking. I suspect it too will stay in my memory for a long while. Parenthetically, I loved Ms. Lippman's description of one perpetually angry character who, when counting to ten, started at nine. But there are many memorable moments, and personalities, here.


The Killer is Dying
James Sallis
Walker & Company
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780802779458 $23.00,

The first thing one perceives on reading the first pages of James Sallis' new novel is the literal accuracy of the title: The man who calls himself Christian is a contract killer, a Vietnam vet now terminally ill, on his last job. A few pages later, something goes awry as the man he has been watching, who he has been hired to kill, is suddenly shot - - by someone else. And Christian is not sure how he feels about that.

The second character to whom the reader is introduced is Jimmie, a precocious youngster who has unexpectedly had to develop some strong survival skills when he is abandoned by his parents. Suddenly, and bizarrely, Jimmie begins having vivid dreams. The startling thing about this, other than the oddity of his dreaming at all when he was previously unaware of having ever done so in the past, is that the dreams are apparently Christian's. And that's just the beginning. A dying killer, a philosophizing teenager, a cop whose wife is gravely ill; disparate lives which only tangentially intersect, with the p.o.v. switching among them, which was briefly disorienting to this reader, but all to fascinating effect.

There are small master strokes with pitch-perfect thumbnail sketches, several scenes analogizing the actions of birds to those of humans. This is a book peopled by characters who are dead or dying and those they leave behind. But it is not maudlin, rather, thought-provoking. It is also full of existential musings: "The world speaks to us in so many languages . . . and we understand so few . . . He was thinking how kids back in school, kids these days too he was sure, always talked about being bored, and how he could never understand that. The way wind moved in the trees, the sheen of sunlight on glass or steel, a fly's wings - - everything was of interest. You just had to pay attention, you just had to look."

James Sallis, the author of over two dozen volumes, fiction and non-fiction alike, has again produced a novel which captured me completely. When I read and reviewed one of his earlier books, "Salt River," I wrote "Mr. Sallis' spare prose is wonderful, and the novel a deeply affecting one." Those words are just as true for this book, and it is, obviously, highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Professional
Robert B. Parker
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425236307, $9.99,

The Professional is an unusual detective novel. Most detective genre readers are familiar with its detective, Spencer. You expect an articulate detective who is always near a tipping point of violence. The plot is one that is common with detective stories -- unfaithful wives are being blackmailed by their lover and want it stopped. The half year long case begins with first finding the gigolo and looking to find a weakness to use to stop the blackmail. The sedate plot is kept interesting with the verbal and sexual byplay between Spencer and his long time girlfriend, Susan. You are halfway through the story before an unexpected murder occurs and the pace of the story picks up.

The plot is okay and the payoff at the end is solid but the only thing keeping the tale from being overlooked is the smooth readable prose of Parker. This is the type of detective tale to be read from an easy chair with either a cup of hot coffee or a glass of liquor sitting on the end table next to you. If you are ready for a very entertaining and comfortable late night read, The Professional is a find. If you are more interested in action, you should look elsewhere.

Buried Prey
John Sandford
G.P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157387, $27.95,

Buried Prey is a great edition to the Prey series of detective novels. Those who have read Sandford's previous stories will enjoy the book even more. The first half of the book is a flashback to Lucas Davenport's pre-Prey history. The multiple characters that readers have grown to like are introduced with the intricate back story.

Two bodies of young girls are found at a construction site. They were the missing girls in Lucas Davenport's very first case as a detective. Lucas has always had a problem with how the case ended and with the newly discovered bodies he has a chance to fix the problem. As a fresh young detective, Lucas was never given a chance to follow up on the nagging questions that bothered him about the case. Seeing the girls bodies, puts him back on the scent of a killer.

Buried Prey is a stronger detective story than Sandford's other stories. The shift back in time to the original case adds a nice layer of mystery to the story. But for the action junky, it still has the final touches of violence that you expect in Sandford's work. Buried Prey is a book the detective mystery reader should look for. You will not be disappointed when you finish reading it.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Arguably: Essays
Christopher Hitchens
McClelland and Stewart Ltd
75 Sherbourne Street, Toronto, Canada, M5A 2P9
9780771041419, CAN$36.99,

The cover blurbs of this book make clear that there are sycophants who believe Christopher Hitchens can do no wrong. That is not an evaluation I share. He is the incomparable iconoclast who first exposed the lying, swindling, self-serving hypocrite, Mother Teresa, as an amalgam of Imelda Marcos, Leona Helmsley, and Bernie Maddoff. And he has written an unanswerable (although unteachables have tried) expose of the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. But he has also written denunciations of Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger that I cannot endorse.

Arguably is a collection of essays, mostly written since 9/11/2001. Not all are relevant to the causes and consequences of the events of that day. The book reviews that constitute more than half of the book's content, for example, would not have differed by one word if 9/11 had never happened. But the overall theme of the interspersed essays is that we live in a screwed-up world, and that indefensible belief systems that the mass media refuse to question are the cause of the overwhelming majority of man-made problems.

I did not read all of the book reviews, limiting myself to those that should be compulsory reading for persons who justify an inequitable present by inventing a fraudulent past. Hitchens' response to theofascists who try to justify the establishment of a twenty-first century theocracy by the Big Lie that the Founding Fathers set out to achieve exactly that is (p. 3), "Indeed, the established Protestant church in Britain was one of the models which we can be quite sure the signatories of 1776 were determined to avoid emulating." His personal reaction to the Christian Taliban's determination to turn Thomas Jefferson's wall of separation between church and state into a picket fence is (p. 7), "Mr. Jefferson: Build Up That Wall."

Hitchens' analysis of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita differed so significantly from what I remembered reading fifty years ago, that my initial assumption was that I must have read a bowdlerized translation. But then I remembered that Nabokov wrote the book in English. Since I read Lolita at a time when I still thought the Christian bible was nonfiction, the Ockham's razor explanation is that I was even less able to see what was in front of my nose than I hitherto imagined. I can only thank the luck of the draw that led to my taking the history course that taught me not to believe everything I read.

Hitchens' review of biographies of JFK goes into gruesome detail about Kennedy's state of health, including a longstanding untreated venereal disease, and concludes (p. 60) that, "had he lived, Kennedy would necessarily have been even more distressingly ill than he was already." Nonetheless, I continue to believe that Kennedy would have been the first president to serve four full terms. And Hitchens does not even raise the question of whether Kennedy was really the Catholic he claimed to be, or a closeted nontheist.

I am delighted that Hitchens is as revolted as I am by the expression, "you know", which I interpret as an unintentional confession meaning, "I am an idiot." He reports (p. 736) that, "Caroline Kennedy managed to say 'you know' more than 200 times in an interview with the New York Daily News, and on 130 occasions while talking to the New York Times." He quotes a single sentence in which she said "you know" four times. He merely hints that such linguistic inadequacy may have contributed to the failure of her "uninspired attempt to become a hereditary senator."

The essay, "Old Enough to Die," points out that the USA is one of only six countries that continue to execute children (the other five being sharia-enforcing theocracies), in violation of Article 6(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that, "sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age." But while Hitchens argues against the execution of juveniles, he does not suggest that, since capital punishment has been abolished by every civilized nation on earth, it assuredly constitutes the "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited by the Bill of Rights. But while agreeing with the chapter's main contention, I have problems with certain of its parts. For example, Hitchens refers to "His Holiness the Pope." Is he being satirical? Surely he does not see as "holy" the most prolific serial killer in human history, a theofascist with sixty million homicides from AIDS and starvation, attributable to his self-serving prohibition of condoms, on his resume?

Hitchens reports as fact that one executed teenager suffered from multiple personality disorder, and was not allowed "proper psychiatric evaluation"; another was "engaged at the time in a supposedly satanic effort"; and that there is "a legal and moral presumption against executing even adults who are insane." I can only assume that Hitchens has not read Thomas Szasz. Newsflash: There is no such thing as multiple personality disorder, only compulsive playacting. There is no such thing as insanity, only undisciplined thinking. Psychiatrists are humbugs, licensed medical practitioners who do not practise medicine, although most would make good bartenders. There is no such thing as satanism, as an intensive FBI investigation long ago established. Hitchens is generally clear thinking. But he has not completely escaped what might be metaphorically termed cultural hypnosis.

The essay on Foxhole Atheists reveals the degree to which military chaplains are using their positions as commissioned officers to intimidate troops under their authority into accepting the preacher's religion. Hitchens declares (p. 130) that James Madison, who wrote that the appointment of military chaplains was unconstitutional, "could never have foreseen a time when state-subsidized chaplains would be working to subvert the Constitution, and violating their sacred oath to uphold it" - with the active support of commanding generals.

Hitchens' essay on the various sets of biblical "commandments", despite its being written by an author who is not a biblical scholar and has no idea what the composers of the commandments were really prohibiting, will be informative to the majority of nontheists who do not know that there is more than one list.

Hitchens says of England's comic opera clown prince that, "This is what you get when you found a political system on the family values of Henry VIII." For anyone who is unaware how much of a fatuous ignoramus Charles of Wales really is, this essay should be mandatory reading. Hitchens concludes (p. 431) that, "An awful embarrassment awaits the British if they do not declare for a republic based on verifiable laws and principles, both political and scientific." The question of whether an outsider is entitled to criticize another nation's internal affairs is irrelevant, since Hitchens was born in the UK.

Hitchens thinks that the Jewish stranglehold on America's foreign policy is less than totalitarian (pp. 569-572). Disputing an article in London Review of Books that criticized Israel's influence, he agrees that, "a group of high energy Jews has been playing a role in our foreign policy debate for some time." But he thinks that America's involvement in wars that Israel opposed is proof that Jewish influence has been overstated. But despite his recognition of "the alliance between Likud and the Christian right", he strikes me as underestimating the degree to which that alliance is able to pull the puppet strings, if not of presidents, then certainly of a god-addicted Congress and equally god-addicted news media.

Pat Buchanan wrote a book that condemned Winston Churchill as a warmonger and World War II as an unnecessary and unjust intervention in Europe's internal affairs. My only problem with Hitchens' annihilation of a madman's masturbation fantasies is that even acknowledging Buchanan's existence grants him an undeserved validation.

Until this moment, I would not have believed that anyone could say anything nice about the certifiable moron, George W. Bush, with which I could agree. I stand corrected: "Mr. Bush rather understated matters when he said that Kim Jong-il's government runs concentration camps. It would be truer to say that the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, as it calls itself, is a concentration camp.... North Korea is a slave state.... Bravo to President Bush ... for his bluntness" (pp. 553, 555).

Hitchens' essay on the King James Bible makes some interesting collateral observations. His reference to a totalitarian theocrat's "Big Brother, the Pope", suggests an awareness that 1984 was not about a future England under totalitarian communism, as organized religion has always encouraged readers to believe, but the England at the time of writing under totalitarian Anglican Christianity. And he informs incurable Mormons (there's another kind?) that (p. 694), Joseph Smith "plagiarized 27,000 words more or less straight from the original [KJV]." He does not mention that Mormons view his giving them that information as a violation of their right to be ignorant.

Arguably is Hitchens' fifth compilation of collected papers from various sources. Other authors who have published such collections include Isaac Asimov, Martin Gardner, Stephen Jay Gould, and William Harwood. As with all of those authors, individuals will find some of Hitchens' essays more readable than others. The book that will keep Hitchens' name in the history books for many generations, and ultimately win him the secular equivalent of sainthood, alongside Richard Dawkins and Edward Gibbon, is God Is Not Great. Arguably is less significant.

The Omega Point
Whitley Strieber
c/o Tor-Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765352590, $24.99,

"I am treated as a laughing stock." "Experts refuse to review my books." Those statements are made by one of Strieber's fictitious characters, a writer. They are nonetheless autobiographical, and express Strieber's frustration that, while the ignorant masses have made him a bestseller, persons whose education, discernment and rationality exceed that of a Scientologist view him as a gullible, superstitious, unlearned jackass.

Strieber is not the only person to feel piqued and victimized because the academic community regards him as a pathetic clown whose gullible ignorance does not even rise to the level of pseudoscience. Others who have found themselves in a similar position include John Mack, Joseph Rhine, believers in facilitated communication or recovered memories, and the scientists who thought they had discovered cold fusion-none of whom have simultaneously been viewed as conscious humbugs; and self-styled mediums and psychics whom only "those who will not see" have ever mistaken for anything else. But perhaps the closest comparison to Strieber's inability to grasp that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open his mouth and remove all doubt, is Shirley MacLaine.

When I read Strieber's first bestseller, Communion, I accepted the Ockham's razor explanation that he was a conscienceless prostitute, willing to enrich himself by peddling whatever imaginative lies the ignoranti would lap up, with depraved indifference to the degree to which he was contributing to the dumbing of America. After reading The Omega Point, particularly the "author's note" at the end, in which he implies that the book is ninety percent nonfiction, I now find myself wondering if he is indeed the raving lunatic that is the only alternative to his being a liar. In Communion, he gave himself a loophole in case he was eventually exposed, by including a low-key admission that it might have been "all a horrible dream." He now insists that Communion was not a dream, and that he really was abducted and raped by alien lifeforms that have no more existence than Linus's Great Pumpkin. So is he genuinely incapable of telling fact from fantasy? Does he really imagine that hallucinations, daydreams, and idle speculations about an alter-earth in which the sky is purple, were put into his head by an external source? The Cuckoo's Nest's Nurse Ratched has a name for persons with such beliefs. She calls them inmates. Let me make clear, however, that while I can accept that Strieber believes Communion to be an accurate account of events that really happened to someone he read about at the supermarket checkout, I do not for one second imagine that he is so insane as to believe those events really happened to himself.

Am I demonstrating chutzpah when I berate Strieber for identifying angels and devils as opposing populations within a single alien species, and Jesus and other biblical characters as the products of many reincarnations? I did the same thing in my fantasy novel, Project Multiscam. My explanation is that I was perpetrating a hoax, testing how far into Cloud Cuckoo Land a fairy tale had to sink before the devoutly gullible recognized that they were being had. What is Strieber's excuse? According to Wikipedia, Strieber considers himself a Catholic, and as such a believer in fairy tales that, while no more absurd than those of Strieber's published speculations, are incompatibly different. But I also considered myself a Catholic before I encountered the falsifying evidence that Strieber is able to rationalize away. The difference is that I was never able to believe "A" on Sundays and "not-A" the rest of the week, and that is what ultimately cured me of the god delusion. Strieber apparently can and still does compartmentalize incompatible beliefs.

In his earlier novel, The Grays, Strieber authenticated the crash of an alien starship at Roswell, the capture of a living alien, and the cover-up through eleven presidencies, by the same government agencies that were unable to cover up one insignificant break-in at the Watergate Hotel, of the reality that UFOs are indeed alien starships. Strieber writes, "The agreement was that they [the aliens] would limit their abductions in number and region. In return the United States had agreed to protect their secrecy." As part of a science fiction plot, such a scenario is indeed legitimate. But the whole tone of Strieber's novel, reinforced by his later book's "author's note," is that it represents his convictions about what really happened. To describe conspiracy freaks who peddle such nonsense as gullible would be too flattering. Strieber was successful in selling the movie rights to The Grays, and a blurb on the cover of the paperback read, "Soon to be a major motion picture." But the movie was never made, presumably because, when the producers read Strieber's website, they realized that they had spent $3 million on the ravings of a nutcase whose earlier movie had tanked, and were unwilling to throw good money after bad.

Strieber is culpably unteachable. In an even earlier book, Majestic, he had a lawyer tell the narrator of a novelization of the Roswell conspiracy delusion that, in order to avoid being vaporized by the government agencies that were covering up the capture of real aliens, he should pass off his memoir as fiction. Such a strategy would effectively protect him, because any action taken against him would be tantamount to an admission that his novel was not fiction. I used a similar story line in my fantasy novel, The Autobiography of God, when I made myself a character in the last chapter by having an extraterrestrial instruct me to pass off the tale he told me as science fiction. I neither intended nor imagined that a single reader would mistake such a story line as a claim that the book's narrators existed outside of my imagination, and none did. In contrast, Strieber intentionally encouraged his readers to believe that Majestic was a nonfiction account of events he witnessed or deduced had really happened. His Afterword stated, "This novel is based on a factual reality that has been hidden and denied." If he believes that about a book with scenes reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn that I think will interest him.

As in all of his books, Strieber attributed his reputation as a rationally challenged confabulator to a government conspiracy to discredit him. And when he portrayed a character who believes in little green men as reluctant to consult a psychiatrist, for the reason that, "He had all the symptoms of what was then called dementia praecox and would be so diagnosed," I found myself wondering if Strieber was once similarly diagnosed. I am aware that the difference between psychiatrists and tealeaf readers is that tealeaf readers are less self-deluded. But psychoquacks do have the same ability as bartenders to recognize when the elevator does not run all the way to the top.

Also in Majestic, Strieber showed US army psychiatrists hypnotizing soldiers for the purpose of recovering suppressed memories. In science fiction, such fantasy concepts as hypnotism and recovered memories are legitimate, provided the author includes a rationale (such as a new drug) to explain how such things can exist in his SF world even though they do not exist in the real world. Strieber does not do that. It seems a reasonable assumption that he is unaware that hypnotism and recovered memories are as imaginary as extraterrestrials that resemble humans in Star Trek makeup.

In an attempt to appear learned, Strieber cites two physicists he considers ultimate authorities. One is Stephen Hawking, whom he merely misinterprets. The other is Frank Tipler, who utilized the term "omega point" to describe an end of the universe when all dead souls would be resurrected. I kid you not. Strieber tries to justify his undisciplined speculations by comparing himself to a mental masturbator whose fantasies Martin Gardner described as the "completely ridiculous anthropic principle (CRAP)." And as if validating Tipler does not make Strieber look sufficiently ridiculous, he did the same thing in The Grays with the archetype "believer in everything," Charles Fort, and the lying loser, Travis Walton. And in Majestic, he accused scientists who do not believe everything they read in National Inquirer of being "intellectually arrogant," and offered his rationalization of why "scientists such as Carl Sagan continue to delude themselves about the reality" of alien spaceships. He also heaped scorn on the most accurate analyst of UFO claims, Phillip J. Klass, and praise on the ridiculous humbug, William Moore. Given what that says about his judgment, it should surprise no one that his grasp of Correct English also leaves much to be desired.

Isaac Asimov and Gene Roddenberry have written stories in which violations of the laws of astrophysics are an integral part of the plot. They have explained away such violations of reality as FTL by inventing the science fiction concepts of hyperspace, subspace and warp space to justify them. What they did not do is try to buy respectability for fantasy concepts by manipulating customers into believing that the myths of conspiracy freaks, such as close encounters with aliens and government cover-ups, have a real-world basis.

Strieber's Communion and Bud Hopkins' Intruders, both of which claimed that the author had been abducted by aliens, were on the bestseller charts at the same time in the 1980s. Since then, perhaps aware that he got away with a confidence swindle that would have made Joseph Smith proud, and recognizing that, if he was exposed as a science fiction imaginator, he might have to refund his ill-gotten gains, Hopkins has wisely been keeping a low profile. Strieber in contrast keeps turning out book after book in which he reiterates his earlier lies and amplifies nonsense that only the mentally dysfunctional could possibly swallow. Would a conscious liar do that? Or only a madman? Let us say the jury is still out.

Obviously I am a science fiction fan. What else could explain my willingness to read a whole slew of Strieber's books, despite gagging every few pages when he reveals his devout ignorance, or at his repeated "when you have no defence, attack" put-downs of persons who share Isaac Asimov's position that conclusions should be based on evidence, and "the wilder and more ridiculous [a hypothesis is] the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be." Strieber's scenarios are bullshit-but beautifully cooked.

So how should Strieber be judged? Can one legitimately pity a brainwashed conspiracy freak who has parlayed his gullible ignorance into a seven-figure bank account? By that standard we would also have to pity the unrepentant Nazi pope. Should we admire the way Strieber has outdone P. T. Barnum in fleecing the "one born every minute"? In that case we would also have to admire L. Ron Hubbard. Should we incarcerate him for the monstrous crime against humanity of dumbing the masses, when there is reasonable doubt that he has any awareness that he is an unmitigated liar? By that criterion we would have to incarcerate William Dembski, Michael Behe, Alister McGrath, Billy Graham, and the publishers of bibles. Or should we simply point out that all of Strieber's books, including those touted as nonfiction, are science fiction, and append the warning to anyone willing to take his undisciplined pseudoscience seriously: "caveat emptor"?

Strieber may be the ultimate conspiracy freak. He cannot grasp that the reason the educated see his conspiracy theories as emanating from Cloud Cuckoo Land is that they are not conspiracy freaks. I look forward to reading his next novel in which he reveals that JFK was a hologram created by little green men from a galaxy far, far away, and the US government framed Lee Harvey Oswald for the murder of a man who never existed.

The world needs Whitley Strieber like it needed Erich von Däniken, Charles Ponzi, Mary Baker Eddy, Jeane Dixon, Anton Mesmer, three-faced "Eve", and Sigmund Freud. The man is a pathetic, ridiculous, gullible, scientifically illiterate, logically-challenged ignoramus who would have had P. T. Barnum beating a path to his door.

The Good Book: A Humanist Bible
A. C. Grayling
Walker & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010
9780802717375, $35.00,

What do you get when you riffle together an assortment of fairy tales, propaganda, pseudo-history, and science fiction, written by a motley crew of self-serving parasites whose bottom line was not merely economic benefit but the acquisition of absolute power? Answer: The Judaeo-Christian bible.

What do you get when you riffle together an assortment of wise sayings of some of the most discerning thinkers in human history? Answer: A. C. Grayling's The Good Book.

Grayling edits the wisdom of the ages into a resemblance of the most obscene paean to evil ever written, the aforementioned bible. Why? Would he have even considered taking the utterances of William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln on race relations, and editing them into a mirror image of Mein Kampf? Even after reconstituting a turd and gilding it with fine gold, it would still be a piece of crap. There is more than one clever answer to, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" but all of them would take the form of a single sentence. A 600-page answer would lose its audience by the third or fourth sentence - and so does Grayling, despite the superiority of his message.

I once gave an eighth grade pupil a mark of A++ for an essay that perfectly captured the tone and intonations of Homer's Iliad. Unfortunately, having been rewarded for what he failed to perceive as a one-shot, he then repeated the same gimmick in his next paper, forcing me to puncture his balloon. Grayling's pretend-bible imitates its prototype so successfully that anyone opening it to a random page without reading the content could think it was a real bible. It thus sends the message, "Look how clever I am," that works for a handful of paragraphs - but over 600 pages? Clearly Grayling has too much time on his hands.

I searched every book and chapter in The Good Book for a passage that could be directly contrasted with something in the bible. The closest I found was (p. 593), "It is false that there is only one right way to live and only one right way to be, and that to find it we must obey those who claim to have the secret of a 'one right way' and a 'one true good'." Genesis 15:5-6 says the opposite: "Taking Abraham outside, Yahweh instructed, 'Look at the sky and see if you can count the stars. You're going to have that many descendants.' He believed Yahweh, who deemed his credulity a virtue." Genesis deems it a virtue to swallow whatever an alleged authority says, even when that authority expresses the belief that a biblical hero was going to have thirty sextillion (the number of stars in the observable universe) descendants. It is the pushers of religion rather than the bible itself that demands unquestioning belief in whatever the pushers claim that the bible says. But the comparison is nonetheless valid.

Grayling acknowledges (p. 599) that, "The Good Book is made from over a thousand texts by several hundred authors and from collections and anonymous traditions." He then lists the names of more than one hundred of the quoted authors. Only someone who has not attempted to read it would suggest that every quotation should have been accompanied by a complete reference, thereby producing a 1200 rather than a 600 page book. Skimming 600 pages was hard enough. Skimming 1200 pages I would not even have attempted.

Spiritual Snake Oil: Fads & Fallacies in Pop Culture
Chris Edwards
See Sharp Press
P. O. Box 1731, Tucson AR 85702
9781884365799, $11.95,

Chris Edwards examines the contentless doubletalk of such nonsense-peddlers as Deepak Chopra, Dinesh D'Souza, Michael Crichton, Robert Persig, Rhonda Byrne, James Redfield, and other proponents of the self-evidently absurd contention that a desirable reality can be created just by thinking about it, in effect thinking it into existence. While Edwards makes valid points, the most compelling rebuttal of his targets' doublethink is made in Marie Elena Castle's Introduction (p. 3): "There are no volunteers among New Age believers willing to step off a cliff to prove that the law of gravity has no objective reality. Too bad. It would help stop this nonsense if there were."

Perhaps the final chapter, "A Compendium of Fallacies," contains the most useful information for skeptics looking for rebuttals of the kind of arguments used by ignoramuses they actually encounter in their everyday lives. Edwards delineates the flaws in such approaches as ad hominem, appeal to mystery, outside-of-science fallacy, politically correct fallacy, false dichotomy, "can't prove a negative" fallacy, outrageous claims, the charity fallacy, the descriptor/predictor fallacy, bad analogies and metaphors, jumping to the wrong conclusion, false attribution, survivor fallacy, inverse error, quantum physics mystification, straw man attack, everybody believes it, appeal to emotion, appeal to authority, circular reasoning, definitional deception, and innuendo. Are you uncertain what some of those terms mean? Read the book.

Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All
David Fitzgerald
Privately Published
2527 44th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94116
9780557709915, $24.95,

There has been no shortage of authors who, despite their never having written a properly supervised graduate thesis, have put together definitive, irrefutable proof that no first century preacher ever performed the absurdities attributed to Jesus in the Christian gospels-and then jumped to the nonsequitur that the historical nobody onto whose biography the Christian fairy tales were posthumously grafted never existed. That is understandable. Without an expert to tell them that such methodology is unacceptable, they take no account of the evidence falsifying their conclusions in the belief that ignoring it will make it go away. Since David Fitzgerald utilizes that same nonsequitur, it surprised me to learn that he has a degree in history. Clearly he did not pursue that discipline to the Master's level.

Would anybody who legitimately graduated from kindergarten argue that, since the story of George Washington and the cherry tree is not an event from history, therefore George Washington never existed? Perhaps that is a questionable analogy, since the evidence for Washington's reality is overwhelming. A better example would be to cite the absurdity of the Excalibur myths as proof that Arthur of Britain never existed. Perhaps he did not. But any historian arguing for such a conclusion who failed to cite the evidence for a historical Arthur and explain it away, would not be taken seriously. The same would apply to anyone who claimed to have proven (as opposed to merely drawing such an inference) the nonexistence of William Tell.

The strongest case for a purely mythical Jesus has been made by Earl Doherty who, in his 2009 update, did take into consideration the evidence for Jesus' historicity. (Would a purely mythical hero start a war of independence-and lose? Would six centuries of Christian apologists agree that Jesus was a bald hunchbacked dwarf, if he was a purely mythical creation whom they could have recreated in any image they chose?). Fitzgerald lists Doherty's earlier books in his bibliography, but apparently has not read the update, since he clearly learned nothing from it. He also has not read the Jesus chapters of God, Jesus and the Bible, or my essay, "Was Jesus a Real Person," in For This We Thank Our Fuhrer.

Fitzgerald lists ten alleged Christian myths and proceeds to refute them. Unfortunately he starts from the mindset that falsifying the allegation that Jesus rose from the dead thereby falsifies the allegation that he was crucified. As for the possibility that, even if Jesus was never crucified, the crucifixion story was posthumously grafted onto the biography of an insignificant preacher for propaganda purposes, that does not even cross his mind.

Fitzgerald's first alleged Christian myth, "The idea that Jesus was a myth is ridiculous," is the kind of straw man more commonly created by Christian apologists. Incurable believers may consider the theory that Jesus never existed ridiculous. Scholars, including those who reached the conclusion that there was a historical Jesus, make no such claim. While opinions on the question are divided, all scholars agree that the evidence for and against Jesus' historicity is too ambiguous for either side to state with certainty that the other side is unquestionably wrong.

Fitzgerald's second allegedly Christian myth, "Jesus was wildly famous-but there was no reason for contemporary historians to notice him," apart from exaggerating Jesus' fame, is the position of critical scholars rather than of Christians. Jesus was one of a dozen recently crucified messiahs from whom Paul of Tarsus arbitrarily chose one to be the posthumous figurehead of his new, gentile mythology. Other than starting a ten-minute war of independence not significantly different from any of the other monthly uprisings by hardcore fanatics, Jesus did nothing that any contemporary historian would have considered memorable. If Paul had chosen a different figurehead, Jesus would be as unknown today as he was during his lifetime, when even residents of his hometown of Capernaum did not take him seriously, and his own family's reaction to his messianic claims was (Mark 3:21), "He's gone mad."

Fitzgerald denies that Josephus mentioned Jesus. Certainly the most cited passage, in which Josephus expressed the belief that Jesus was superhuman, was a forgery. But the description in his Halosis of Jesus as a cross between Quasimodo and Rumpelstiltskin, quoted by Robert Eisler in The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, seems to have escaped Fitzgerald's notice.

In case anyone but a hardcore believer still thinks that the Christian gospels were written by eyewitnesses, or that they corroborate one another, Fitzgerald blows that delusion out of the water. But he forgets that he is claiming to prove that Jesus never existed, not that the events in the gospels never happened. The same is true of chapters five to ten. The points Fitzgerald makes are valid and unanswerable. But far from proving that Jesus never existed, he offers no evidence that has any relevance to such a conclusion.

Fitzgerald credits Paul with believing that Jesus engaged in the ritual that he calls the "Lord's Supper." It was the Greek author of the anonymous gospel known as Mark, to whom such a ritual was part of his culture, who first attributed pagan sacred cannibalism to the Jew Jesus. For Paul to do so would have been comparable with his making Jesus' last meal barbecued pork spareribs. The cannibalism passage was interpolated into Corinthians, 11:22-29, long after Paul's death. While not a particularly egregious mistake, it is one that no trained biblical scholar would have made. Fitzgerald's book is as accurate as can be expected from a well-meaning amateur, but the only thing it proves is that he should not have trespassed into a field in which he has no expertise.

Sex, Mom, and God
Frank Schaeffer
Da Capo Press
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9780306819285, $26.00,

All godworshippers are insane, meaning so addicted to undisciplined and irrational thinking that they are able to delude themselves that right and wrong are whatever a capricious, dice-tossing Sky Fuhrer says they are. But not all are incurable, or there would be no such thing as an ex-godworshipper. An author like Frank Schaeffer, who is able to read a bible and recognize it as a paean to evil comparable with the writings of the Marquis de Sade, is well on the way to being cured - but not before adherence to the god delusion ceases to contribute to his bread and butter. That is not an accusation of hypocrisy, merely recognition that cognitive dissonance cannot be resolved as long as continued belief in what is clearly untrue remains economically advantageous. As an example of such a situation, I found myself unable to accept the reality that hypnotism does not exist until I ceased to be involved in promoting a hypnotic stage show.

In "Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics - and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway", Schaeffer continues to make money writing books for persons who demand to be told that, for all of the atrocities committed in the name of religion, "God" exists and is a nice guy, even though (pp. 62-63), "Mom was a much nicer person than her God.... The 'whole bible is true,' Mom claimed, though everything in her life that was kind and decent and compassionate contradicted that platitude.... To her, the fault had always been with our human 'interpretation' of the Word, not with the Word itself, even if the Word painted God as barbaric and stupid." It is not yet economically feasible for Schaeffer to stop believing in a god whose official biography portrays him as "barbaric and stupid." But he cannot maintain his doublethink forever. He is half-cured already, and complete recovery can only be a matter of time.

I was not raised in a fanatically godphuqt family. So it would seem logical for me to see a memoir by someone who was as a useful contribution to my education. Not so. I am aware that such families exist, and that is all I need to know. I do not need to be told what it felt like to swim in a turd-infested septic tank to be aware that persons who would do so voluntarily are not sparking on all neurons.

Schaeffer's parents raised him to share their rabid anti-abortion paranoia. No prosecutor has ever tried to show a causative relationship between the Schaeffers' picketing of abortion clinics, and murders committed by theo-terrorists influenced by such behavior. But the author acknowledges the connection. He is not crippled with guilt, but neither does he argue that the consequences of promoting hatred against abortionists could not have been foreseen. His current position (p. 212) is, "Today, I am pro-choice. Today, I am decidedly not proabortion." Apparently he still does not grasp that a first-trimester abortion of a pre-human tadpole with zero brainwave activity indicative of human thought is a purely medical procedure, with no moral implications whatsoever. Comparing it to the killing of a self-aware sentient being is insane.

Several pages are devoted to Schaeffer's relationship, at the age of thirteen, with The Girl Who Let Me. Apparently he defines "Let Me" as allowing him to push up her bra and look at her nipples, while pushing his hand away every time he reached for her primary pleasure center. His first complete intimate encounter occurred at the age of seventeen, and resulted in pregnancy and marriage. He reports (p. 146) that, "Mom presented premarital sex as something boys did to girls not with girls." He also reports that his mother told him she allowed her husband to mount her every day, whether she felt like it or not, because gratifying a husband's demands was what a Good Wife is supposed to do.

As a regular broadcaster on the Religious Right's propaganda network, Schaeffer encountered Billy Graham's even more demented son, Franklin. Franklin Graham told him (p. 70), "I think when you preach that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, I think we're going to see, one day, people will say this is hate speech!" Since Graham's position amounts to a declaration that adherents of the wrong religion are destined to be barbecued in hell, a position Schaeffer no longer shares, I get the impression that Schaeffer is trying to distance himself from Graham's bigotry without overtly denouncing him. Political correctness? Or simply a function of his refusal to recognize that all religion is anti-human bigotry?

Schaeffer reveals that the two previous volumes of his autobiography triggered a large amount of hate mail from persons who denounced him for portraying his mother in an unflattering light. They also elicited praise from persons who share his rationalization that bible-based religion is basically a force for good even if the bible itself is (p. 240), "a book that - if taken at face value - demands a descent into madness." And he justifies his ongoing doublethink by asserting (p. 263) that, "To find any spiritual truth within any religion's holy books, we must mentally edit them by the light God has placed in each of us," even though it would not cross his mind to offer a similar defence of Mein Kampf. Perhaps he learned to "love Jesus," as stated in his subtitle, by mentally editing Luke 16:1-9, in which Jesus is shown preaching a sermon whose moral can be paraphrased, "Rob those who can no longer be of use to you, and use the stolen money to bribe those who are in a position to reward you for your deceit."

Like others who cannot grasp that calling atheism a religion is like calling baldness a hair style, Schaeffer parrots the god-addicts' party line by referring to "doctrinaire secularism" (there is no such thing), and accusing nontheists of trying to "force others to be like them," as if demanding equal rights for nontheists was the same as demanding special rights for believers.

As far as I am aware, no nontheist has had anything nice to say about Schaeffer's rationalizations, and I have no intention of being the first. I can only offer him the standard words of hope for curable believers: May the insane god predecease you.

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

Have Your Cake and Vegan Too
Kris Holechek
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440 Berkeley, CA 94703
9781569759202 $17.95

You may have noticed one of the hot trends in cookbooks over the past 18 months or so: Vegan. In the past vegan and vegetarian fare seemed bland and uninteresting. Fortunately, today some of best developments in technique and taste are happening in the arena of vegan recipes.

This book by Holecheck is no exception. Interesting recipes combine with well-presented photos. As a result motivation increases to try the options presented. In addition the book covers a wide range of cake styles. You get options for fancy layer cakes and even simple "slumps" or those more like a cobbler.

One of the most interesting recipes is for a chocolate cake with cherry filling completed in a slow-cooker. I like how the author shares personal notes along with the recipes. In this case the "Black Forest Crock Cake" the author says:

"This is another recipe to rescue you when your schedule is packed. Or you've just become addicted to a TV sage and steaming episodes of said show has consumed your life. Not that that happens to me. I'm just saying. One-bowl cake recipes never hurt a LOST marathon."

Some of the recipes are adaptations of familiar favorites adjusted for the vegan palate and lifestyle. Others are just a pleasant surprise. An unexpected bonus is the inclusion of a number of recipes that are both vegan and gluten-free. Many baking books today include a couple token GF recipes. Thankfully, there is nearly one in each section and in some more than a single recipe.

My family liked the results from the Gluten-Free Basic Vanilla Cake recipe. Nice tooth, great flavor - and no one felt like they were "missing out" in order to meet the dietary restrictions involved in eating gluten-free.

Overall, this is a nice addition to your collection if you want to create tasty, effective vegan baked goods that are all about being satisfied rather than giving something up. As a result, I'm pleased to consider this book a four-star offering.

EatLocal DownEast: The Eat Local Cookbook
Lisa Turner
Down East
PO Box 679 Camden, Maine, 04843
9780892729234 $19.95

The trend to shop and cook from local sources continues to gain momentum. As people consider the cost of gas in money and pollution, local producers gain prominence. For someone who doesn't have much experience with the style of shopping and eating, "The Eat Local Cookbook: Seasonal Recipes from a Maine Farm" is lovely orientation.

Even those who don't live in Maine may find this overview of what's in season and when you want to fix certain dishes interesting. In some cases, those suggestions fall into the category of very familiar. I'm uncertain if some authors or editors feel that run-of-the-mill recipes need to be included for a cookbook to have any sort of status. However, you will find standards such as Caprese Salad on page 52. The recipe offered doesn't have any twists or unique suggestions related to the dish. Personally, I don't need to see this type of recipe in any more books. You of course, can decide for yourself.

Redemption does happen at other points however. A number of recipes caught my eye with combinations I simply hadn't considered before seeing this cookbook. One of those recipes created a quick, tasty meal. I served the Chard with Feta and Olives from page 34 over tortellini or quinoa (for my gluten-free eater) as a main dish one evening. The vegetable part definitely met with family approval.

A variety of recipes bring this collection back from edge of total boredom with unique combinations. For that reason, I do consider this book worth a look. Roasted Squash with Kale Salad and Maple Dressing was another one that got us interested enough to cook up the recipe. The Maple Dressing in particular was a hit.

Overall this book turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag: some intriguing recipes with good results. Other recipes were just too common and repetitive. As a result, I consider it a three-star book. However, if you see the book, I recommend picking it up to find out of enough of the ideas catch your eye to add it to your kitchen collection.

Notes from a Main Kitchen: Seasonally Inspired Recipes
Kathy Gunst
Down East
PO Box 679 Camden, Maine, 04843
9780892729173 $27.95

You'll find another "conversational cookbook" when you pick up Notes from a Maine Kitchen. Overall I enjoy the format and combination of personal insights or vignettes mixed in with the recipes. If you also enjoy actually reading cookbooks, this new publication will appeal to your taste.

The book styling is reminiscent of an older cook book with illustrations and line-drawings. Fortunately they support the goal of the book rather than detracting from the experience. Thanks to diving up recipes and stories into a monthly format, you spend a year with Ms. Gunst and her locavore kitchen.

She paints a clear picture of shopping, cooking, eating, and even foraging in Maine. My favorite recipe came from the section about February. Growing up in Minnesota I definitely understand the desperation for any truly fresh vegetables during the winter months. The author says my favorite recipe from the book is "a salad that so transcends the genre that your taste buds will forget it's still mid-winter."

Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Basil Vinaigrette and Crumbled Feta was a fabulous find. In fact, I made this dish two days in a row it was so tasty. Don't let the long, complicated name of this recipe - or any of the others in the book - keep you from trying out the results. Thanks to the more traditional styling of the book, you don't get cute, silly names for the dishes. Pragmatic, functional names tell you exactly what you're going to eat.

As with many cookbooks from Down East, the size, cover and quality of the book are very satisfying. Cooking is such a kinesthetic experience it's nice to work with a collection that satisfies on its own merit as well. As a result of the unique and delicious combinations and quality presentation, I consider this a four-star cookbook. Enjoy!'s Dining Out at Home Cookbook
Stephanie Manley
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703
9781569757826 $14.95

This cookbook, in many ways, is about guilty pleasures. Recipes for those things you order at well-known restaurants that you might feel you should make at home but when you do they don't quite turn out the same way. has broken the flavor code on many of those recipes for your home-cooking pleasure.

For the cook who is looking for the exact combination of ingredients to reproduce that special restaurant dish, this could be a serious find of a book. Others may not find the book as interesting as a more creative cookbook.

You'll find a broad spectrum of recipes in the book ranging from drinks to various courses and dessert. A favorite recipe we found was for the Jack Daniel's Grill Glaze recipe. Some will know this is one of the best reasons to visit a T.G.I. Friday's restaurant. Now, we don't have to go out to have this much-loved flavor experience.

Some readers who really want just one or two restaurant-version recipes may find the book less appealing. Those who really enjoy having their own gourmet experience at home are also likely to prefer other resources for recipes.

When it comes to having a resource for eating-out favorites at home, however, we found the flavor results at least good enough to avoid spending the extra time and money. In most cases, the recipes went far beyond good-enough.

Goat School: A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking
Janice Spaulding
Down East
PO Box 679 Camden, Maine, 04843
97800892729562 $19.95

Get on the Goat Wagon!

Have you noticed? Goats are definitely trendy. From repeat appearances in ad campaigns to haute couture cheese, Western culture is experiencing a goat renaissance. "Goat School" is your introductory text to the world of goats as a business operation. With all of your options, the size of that business venture is completely up to you.

Ms. Spaulding presents information that is primarily an effective overview of what your life could be as a goat farmer. She covers all the necessary bases from goals to cooking for the caprine novice. For those wondering if a goat-based business is right for them, you won't go wrong beginning your explanations with this book.

Be aware, however, that the content is heavily biased towards a milk-goat business. Not that meat-goats or fiber-goats are left out of the equation. Rather, most of the information is aimed at the production of milk and a milk-producing herd. Raising and handling goats for milk, meat, or fiber are different operations. Therefore, some of the information you find here will actually conflict with other resources. This just reflects the specific needs of each type of herd.

A favorite aspect of the book is her realistic approach to goats that don't work out on the farm. Whether breeds for meat or not, those goats feed the family. Her way of describing this process is sending the goats to "freezer camp." While perhaps overly euphemistic, it is a clever phrase. With the wide-ranging topics from selection to breeding and birthing, this aspect of raising goats was bound to come up.

Most of the recipes are about adapting things you know to accommodate chevon (goat meat) and cheese. The recipes are successful. One of the most stand-out recipes we tried was "Chevre-Stuffed Deviled Eggs." This simple, elegant concept put delicious deviled eggs over the top. They are likely to become standard fare for parties and potlucks.

You can use this book as your goat primer and find out if you want to pursue more information. For those who really want to dig into meat or fiber goat production, other books are definitely recommended. It's rare for a single educational book to meet all the needs on a topic. With it's easy to read and understand language, enjoyable pictures and useful content I rate the book 3.5 stars.

The Meat Goat Handbook: Raising Goats for Food, Profit and Fun
Yvonne Zweede-Tucker
Voyageur Press
400 First Avenue North, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9780760340424 $19.99

Details for those Curious about Meat-Goat Farming

The demand for goat meat in the United States and Canada currently is greater than the supply. As a result, many people are getting curious about this up-and-coming farm trend. "The Meat Goat Handbook" is a great resource for this group.

Recommended by various experts, the Handbook does an excellent job of introducing the reader to what's possible with a goat herd. The author walks one through defining success for your operation and various ways to achieve those results. One of the most interesting aspects is how beneficial goats can be for land.

Goats prefer weeds and many non-native species as fodder. Due to this fact a sharp farmer with a goat herd can optimize land, opportunities and even income. The basics on how to begin these programs are included in the book.

Another benefit to goat meat (chevon) is on the consumer side: it is a lean meat that is also very low in cholesterol. Many individuals are looking for healthier options and chevon is a definite option in this arena. Compared to milk or fiber herds, many aspects of raising meat goats are less labor-intensive. While any agri-business has its trade offs, many will find the reduced need for extensive hands-on involvement attractive when it comes to raising goats for protein.

The book includes descriptions of different breeds, the benefits and challenges of each. One of the intriguing aspects of the book is how each breed is presented. Included are descriptions of most- and least-desirable traits. For example, the Pygmy goat details include:

"What people like best about the breed: their small size and pleasant personalities.

What people wish they could change about the breed: their creativity in escaping confinement."

With the informative, high-level review of each potential breed and cross for a herd, a prospective farmer will be able to make some early decisions regarding which types of goats are most interesting for lifestyle, commitment, and land. As with any business, reducing cycle-time helps increase your profit.

The author also teaches the reader how to think about profitability in relation to raising goats for meat. While some of this involves obvious, basic calculations, long-term concerns are also raised. For those who have little or no experience estimating profit in this arena it can be helpful. Forms and documentation options are included.

Thanks to the detail and breadth of information presented, this book is an excellent source for an individual who wants to get a successful start raising meat goats. Illustration density of helpful, and sometimes entertaining, photographs along with other qualities make this book a five-star read for those new to the potential in farming goats for meat.

The Art of Breakfast: How to Bring B&B Entertaining Home
Dana Moos
Down East
PO Box 679 Camden, Maine, 04843
9780892729401 $28.95

Making Breakfast Beautiful, Again

Thanks to career, school, extra-curriculum activities, and more many families find breakfast to be chore. From instant oatmeal to toaster-waffles this essential meal is often reduced to whatever is fast and easy. "The Art of Breakfast" gives you many great reasons to slow down and enjoy. Whether it's just you and your partner or you include your children, options abound with author Dana Moos to re-discover joyful, beautiful breakfasts.

The lovely experience starts with holding the well-weighted and designed book in your hands. The cover and style of the book let you know the recipes inside are well-beyond some pre-packaged pancake mix leaving everyone full but not satisfied. With recipes ranging from gorgeous, creative egg dishes such "Poached Eggs Served in Roasted Tomato" to a sophisticated take on "Sour Cream Coffee Cake" variety reigns.

Great recipes often come from experience and education: in this case both show through. The author has personal experience providing eye-catching breakfasts to guests as a former innkeeper. In addition, she also teaches others how to do the same. Through this book you get many of the benefits of her experience.

Although many of the recipes delighted our plates and palates, the clear favorite was "Chocolate Ricotta Pancakes." Please get the book and try this recipe and don't skip any of the options - alone the pancakes are very well done. The syrup recipe included for these pancakes takes them to extraordinary new flavor levels. You might consider making extra of the syrup recipe, however. It is hard to resist.

Thanks to stunning styling in the photographs, an easy-to-read layout and recipes that I know will serve for years to come I'm very pleased to consider this a highly recommended book. With literally shelves of cookbooks in my home, it's rare I find one I'd consider top-rated and the extra space for inclusion in our personal library. Fortunately, "The Art of Breakfast" lives up to its name in every way.

Farts Around the World: A Spotter's Guide
August O'Phwinn
Lisa Hanawalt, Illustrations
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781452102818 $15.95

For Goofballs Five to Ninety-Five

This book appears to be written for children. In my house however, you'd be hard to see this: all during the winter holidays it was the adults who couldn't keep their hands of this fun, silly little book. As my family enjoyed a history of flatulence book a couple of years ago, I should not have been surprised.

Most children at least go through a stage where bodily noises are fascinating. As a normal part of human culture, the book highlights how universal is the habit of passing gas. Along with inspiring snickers in anyone who even remembers being a child!

You'll travel around the world to discover ten different types of human gas. With a special unit attached to the book to electronically reproduce the specific farts, parents may want to wait until after a meal to reveal the new book in the house. Regardless even though in their nineties are likely to find the experience entertaining.

Each global stop includes a formal, Latin name for the classification of flatulence sounds based on the location. The illustrations are detailed, clever, and give plenty of opportunity to find more in the story that demonstrated by the short text accompanying each gaseous example. The only caution to consider is reminding children that lighting human gastric emissions is not safe: you can get badly burned with this trick!

"Farts Around the World: A Spotter's Guide" may brighten up a dreary winter day, release the giggles during a tense time in the family, or simply keep all the adults trying to catch each other not paying attention to the book. For the clever text, engaging illustrations, and giggle-inducing sound effects, I'm happy to recommend this four-star book.

Heidi Sue Roth

Henry's Bookshelf

Railway Posters
Thierry Favre
Antique Collectors' Club
c/o ACC Distribution
6 West 18th Street, 4th Floor, NY, NY 10011
9781851496723, $49.50,

The nearly 200 outstanding railway posters are divided loosely into time frames coinciding with developments in railway development. The general pattern of development was from railways meant primarily for movement of raw materials to factories and goods to markets with the incidental carrying of passengers to railway specifically as means for transportation of passengers speedily and comfortably. The earlier posters from the late 1800s and early 1900s reflect the late Victorian style, notably art nouveau, by being crowded yet attractive with the flourishes of the women's ornate clothing and nature scenes or circled vignettes and sometimes images from nature such as grape vines incongruently, though pleasingly added for additional decorative touch. The Victorian and Edwardian posters give way to the posters of the later 1920s into the following two decades depicting trains, especially engines, as icons of modernism like skyscrapers and racing cars. These posters are highly desirable with collectors for their striking, often expressionistic graphics connoting a muscular industrialism and modernism's transporting, transformational powers. In many of these, there is no human being in the picture; most of the posters of this era are dominated by the simple, dramatic depiction of a locomotive.

In post-War years of the 1940s and '50s with passenger trains now competing with commercial air travel, the posters once again, as in the late Victorian era, become crowded, though not overwhelming, with multiple colors, layers, and mixed images; though noticeably persons are present only occasionally.

Such posters as shown throughout the pages, besides being artistically appealing and notable in the history of advertising, are now scarce collectors' items often valued at thousands of dollars and in some cases more than $10,000. Posters of such artistic quality and production standards just aren't done anymore. Visual art and advertising of this kind has now moved mostly to the Internet and television. This oversize volume mostly of full-page pictures of posters thus imparting some sense of their impressiveness is an ideal reliable tutorial on the railway posters. Captions for the numerous illustrations note not only respective dates and railway companies, but also artists. With this content, the book also offers jumping off points for research on prices, artists, etc., for ones wanting to pursue these factors of this perennially popular field of highly-desirable vintage posters.

Decades of Fashion - 1900 to the Present
Harriet Worsley
H. F. Ullmann
c/o 60 Cycle Media Relations LLC
38 High Avenue, 4th floor office
Nyack, New York 10960
9783833161131, $14.99,

The collection of Getty Images on fashion from the huge collection of visual material at the Getty Museum with a small number from other sources is a largely visual history of fashion through the 20th century. Beginning with The Belle Epoque and ending with the last two chapters Dress to Impress and Back to Basics with chapters on Boom and Bust, The Glamour Years, and Minis and Mods plus others in between to chronologically cover periods of fashion, there are one or two photographs per page. Most are black-and-white from journalism, fashion photography, celebrity photos, movie stills, and fashion shows. The relatively small number of color photographs appear in the years of the 1970s and following.

Seemingly pro forma and secondary to the full-page photographs in what is largely a visual history, the captions are nonetheless not to be ignored. Succinct, they are particularly informative on characteristic clothing features of the respective era, details worth noting, and often the contemporary social ambiance, imagery, and desires affecting styles and also social settings in which the clothing would be worn. One also finds the names of fashion designers in the captions. In short chapter Introductions, Worsley cites the new fashion features and related designers and also changed social circumstances marking a new, identifiable period for fashion.

"Fashion" is taken broadly, not limited to high fashion or fashion for the wealthy. Middle class and working class fashions are included in each period along with that of royalty and aristocrats, actresses, and famous models. Period sports wear, bathing suits, everyday wear, business wear, work cloths, and even military uniforms are all included in this well-done, engaging photographic history.

Ocean Liner Posters
Gabriele Cadringer, Text by Anne Massey.
Antique Collectors Club
c/o ACC Distribution
6 West 18th Street, 4th Floor, NY, NY 10011
9781851496730, $49.50,

Like its companion volume on railway posters from the same publisher, this Ocean Liner Posters features outstanding posters in this area of transportation from their beginnings in the latter 1800s until the post-World War II decades when they died out. As with the fading out of the railway posters, ocean liner posters faded out from the growth of commercial air travel and the movement of advertising to TV and print media. But the demise of the ocean liner posters is a boon for collectors. Such posters now automatically have an antiquarian value kept up by scarcity, artistic quality and uniqueness, and continual interest; and the posters are one vein of the history of artistic styles and consumer interests as reflected in commercial and advertising art.

The ocean liner posters differ from the railway posters in that oceans and wharves do not offer the variations in background scenery as do the landscapes and destinations for the railway posters. Thus distinctive and striking ocean liner posters required more imagination on the part of an artist. Especially, the perspective on a particular ship makes the difference in the overall conception and effect of a poster. Front view, full and partial side views, stern view in some cases, above, below, or alongside, and angled views particularly forty-five degrees but others too are all bases for surrounding, complementary composition. There are a few posters where steam funnels along with flags and lettering achieve the desired effect. Unpredictable color, shadings, typestyles, and imagery ranging from dreamy to exotic to realistic make each poster distinctive. One of the most striking posters is Cassandre's !935 "Normandie". Simple yet imposing yet elegant, it has become an icon of 20th-century graphic art. As notes on the "Poster Designers" say, "Cassandre...was without doubt the greatest poster designer of the twentieth century."

Artistic ideas first found in ocean liner posters are reflected in much of today's music concert posters, magazine advertising, cartoon and comic art, book covers, and design of consumer products. The variety of the pictured posters through the decades of their evolution with succinct introductions to the major periods offers an exceptional introduction along with an incomparable visual treat.

German Helmets: The Normandy Campaign
Dan Tylisz
Histoire and Collections
c/o Casemate Publishers
908 Darby Road, Havertown, PA19083
9782352502142, $24.95,

The basic German helmet starting production in 1935 was "symbol of the growing German army" meant to "[radiate] the image of a new force within the old Europe". This basic helmet is familiar from World War II film footage and war movies. It is rounded on top with a short brim in front and extended an inch or so in the back for protection of the neck. A brimless parachutist helmet also lacking the extension in the back was a simplified version of this army helmet. Military unit insignias of metal would later usually be added to the sides of the basic helmet. But these insignias were commonly removed or covered over in camouflaging a helmet with a combination of paint or pigments made from local natural materials. It is varieties of camouflage of the basic military helmet which are cataloged.

Nearly all the 150-plus helmets from private collections were photographed in natural light to evidence the earth tones, subtleties and patterns, and overall camouflage effect of the many helmets. The helmets are divided into four broad categories of military forces--Heer (army), Luftwaffe (air force), Waffen-SS (special forces), and Kriegsmarine (naval forces). Tylisz's expert annotated captions point out what to look for in the camouflage pattern, what materials were used for it, how these were applied, the terrain imitated, and often where a particular helmet was found. "A spray gun applied wide red ochre/green patches on a tan base" for one helmet found in Brittany in France. Another helmet on the facing page shows adhesive tape colored red and green "carefully applied along the front edge of the helmet" for an extra touch of camouflage. Darker reds, ochres, and greens cover helmets for thicker forests areas giving them an appearance of autumn leaves. There are also sand-toned helmets going with beachside positions, and a few examples of white helmets for wintertime in this book for the advanced military collector and others interested in activities of ordinary German soldiers in WWII.

Henry Berry

Katherine's Bookshelf

Lady Justice and the Avenging Angels
Robert Thornhill
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781613468432, $14.99,

Ok, I really liked this 4th book of the Lady Justice series, Lady Justice and the Avenging Angels.

When a group of religious zealots, led by an out-of-control self proclaimed "Avenging Angel", Walt and his partner Ox are deposited in the middle of things by way of their job. The Avenging Angels have decided that Kansas City is a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah and they are chosen to rid the city of sin.

We follow Walt and the 'troops' as they get into and out of trouble trying to keep the Avenging Angels from blowing up several city venues considered sinful by these fanatics. Do they foil the plans of the 'bad guys' and track down the ringleader? If so, what innovative and funny ways do they use to resolve the problem? As usual comical happenstance will come in to play.

""We were speechless. Finally, Willie spoke. "Does dis look to you wot it looks like to me?"
"If you're thinking it's a map to something, I think you might be right."
"So what does we do now?"
I grinned at my old friend. "We follow it.""

As they are solving the major crime, Willie receives a legacy from an aunt who dies. But an old piece of parchment paper that falls out of Willie's old family Bible is what starts them on a quest for more answers to his family history. What he discovers and what he does with this legacy is the theme of this sub-story.

Follow this unlikely group of seniors as they unravel the mystery woven by this hilariously funny, master crime writer.

I did have one technical problem with the book. When Walt goes to the library to get information about the bad guys the librarian immediately hands over personal information. That would not happen in real life, as librarians are very protective of their library patrons. I am sure creative license came into play, but it might have been more interesting to make Walt have to go through the proper procedure and obtain a warrant for information dealing with patron confidentiality.

As in his other Lady Justice novels, Robert Thornhill writes from what he knows. He lives with his wife, Peg, in Independence, Missouri.

Lady Justice and the Sting
Robert Thornhill
100 Enterprise Way Ste A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466287365, $12.99,

Again, Robert Thornhill has penned another funny novel in Lady Justice and the Sting. He has combined the powerful pharmaceutical business and corrupt politics to stage another riotous mystery that will tickle your funny bone and satisfy your mystery itch.

Walt and Ox are called on to help solve the mystery of the deaths of a doctor and his assistant with no apparent motive. This leads to the aforementioned corruption and questions of government involvement in the process of certifying pharmaceutical drugs.

Although the novel is fiction, Mr. Thornhill has based his storyline on Kevin Trudeau's book, Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You To Know About and Dr. David G. Williams newsletter, Alternatives For the Health-Conscious Individual. The premise is that everyone has the choice to live a healthy lifestyle.

""I thought this was about over, but if this guy's still in the city whacking people, then Dr. Pearson's still in danger --- and so are you and Maggie."" (Quote from Walt's Captain)

Walt is targeted by an assassin because he thwarted attempts on the life of another doctor who holds information that could cause the loss of billions of dollars for a pharmaceutical company. He plots a sting to put a stop to the corruption in the vein of "The Sting" starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman and save himself and Maggie from being killed. Tag along with Walt and his friends as he solves yet another crime with coincidental humor and senior perception.

Robert Thornhill has written six Lady Justice novels, seven volumes in the Rainbow Road series (chapter books for children), a cookbook and a mini-biography. He holds a master's degree in psychology and spent thirty years as a real estate broker. He and his wife, Peg, live in Independence, Missouri.

Katherine Boyer

Kaye's Bookshelf

The Idiot: I Was a Lunatic from a Geordie Grangetown
David Poulter
9781849912105, $18.00,

Quoting from the back cover:

"This world that you inhabit is really only your own mind. That is where you truly reside. And everyday you make decisions that affect your life. I give you an account of mine."

"This strange and thought-provoking story is about a man who experiences a traumatic event in his childhood and then later develops a peculiar condition in his thirties. His experiences and 'delusions' lead him to think that he may have discovered a great secret that concerns all of humanity. Is he sane? And is the world crazy? Here is a conundrum that you can decide for yourself."

The Idiot is a very unusual story/memoir. It is well written and well edited and most unique.

You never really know where the author will take you next. There are elements of truth woven deeply through the fabric of Poulter's trials and tribulations, and you sense real honesty here.

Allow me to share a section of his writing with you from page 115.

"There are many forms of the truth, we each have our own version and sometimes with hindsight and experience that may change as well. I understand now that perhaps I was just as delusional and paranoid before the onset of the schizophrenia. There tends to be a before and after syndrome with a disorder like this, yet I am essentially the same person. And like anyone who is honest with themselves I can look back and see the past for what it truly was. Maybe this condition has even given me an advantage. The garden was indeed an expression of myself, but no more than that, a book, or a painting, an experiment, an idea. A love no doubt, but also an excuse, a distraction, occasionally a lie and sometimes a failure.

"The land was certainly bewitching. I'm still haunted by its beauty, but even so this obsession translated into disregard for other matters. The upbringing of the children and their welfare were equal to my care for chickens and ducks, my wife was no more than an old horse put out to grass. I have nothing to say on these issues, I have no long descriptions of events or character assessments, conversations or otherwise. This document is about me and my life, now I acted and how I choose not to get involved anymore. Attaching oneself to people out of habit and insecurity is a stupidity. Whether karma exists or not I look back on the past and know for certain my arrogance, mistakes and fantasied led to others' downfalls and unhappiness. I know now I am not normal, I am certain I have brain damage and the usual emotional responses are lacking. I am a vacuum and was before, perhaps the emotional center of my brain simply does not function properly. I don't know and I will never find out the truth and I don't care. I watch out for myself and my strange new companion. I tend to live in the moment, my mind picking up visual info, sensations and the voices. I keep in touch with my father now, he is over eighty and keen to talk on the phone. I have no hatred or malice for him. What I was told I choose to overlook, maybe it was an accident, perhaps it was congenital. With madness it is hard to trust any feelings."

It is the honesty and quality of writing that make The Idiot a unique book worth reading. Highly recommended.

M. L. Spencer
Stoneguard Publications
9780615567983, $12.99,

Quoting of the back cover:

"The Well of Tears is open and the terror of the night has been unleashed. Now, the last Sentinel left alive with the power to defend his world against the minions of the Netherworld is a man destined to be corrupted into the image of what he hates. In the name of duty, Darien Lauchlin will see oaths forsaken, crowns toppled, friends sacrificed and the land he loves descrated. For there is a very thin line between duty...and brutal inhumanity.

""A beautifully written tale that challenges our convictions of right and wrong.""

Darkmage is quite the quintessential fantasy tale, and I agree, beautifully written. If you're a fantasy fan, I can wholeheartedly recommend this epic tale. I am not particularly fond of fantasy myself but the quality of writing is worth the read. Darkmage is well written and well edited.

M. L Spencer is a consummate writer with a special gift for descriptive writing which flows smoothly and carries you right along.

Jason Jahns
North Star Books
1218 N Jacob Allcott Way, Nampa, ID 83687
9780984749102, $12.99,

Quoting from the back cover:

"A global revolution cuts across cultural, economic, and geographic divides; it is an epic conflict between the forces of rampant greed and demands for fairness and dignity.

"Our two heroes are extraordinary yet solitary - reluctant warriors who never meet. Miranda Carter is a cloistered graduate student dispatched to meet her estranged Mormon grandmother and examine a bizarre medical prognosis. Zhuli Cai is an unassuming young Chinese army officer willing to give everything to save the members of his unit. He hold a heavy secret.

"Miranda and Zhuli are thrown headlong into technological and supernatural intrigue and deceit. They reckon with true impossibilities and face their own worst fears in a world of double-crosses, prophets, spies, presidential candidates, and Chinese revolutionaries.

"On its way to a truly surprise ending, Kodachrome will beguile you with thriller-like tempo, the foresight of science fiction, deep social truths normally found only in histories, and a plot that you have never seen before - anywhere."

Kodachrome is, indeed, a most unusual novel; however, it did not capture my interest, and I found it hard going...hard to follow along. The two separate stories within the novel should not have been a problem, but I didn't connect with either. I don't think I can put into words where the problem lies because I'm not quite sure. When you open a new book, you hope to connect in some way and allow the author to take you on a trip, to entertain or to educate. That just did not happen for me, but it may happen for you - we all have different tastes. On the positive side, Kodachrome is well written and well edited.

If the promo on the back cover stirs your curiosity, and you want to decide for yourself, give it a read, the price is reasonable.

The Furnace - A Locked Room SF Mystery
Timothy S. Johnston
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466276659, $14.99,

Quoting from the back cover:

"As a Homicide Investigator working the solar system's most remote outposts, Lieutenant Kyle Tanner has been involved in more criminal investigations and captures than any other in Security Division. He hunts his prey stealthily, tracking them through the trail of victims cast behind, and makes difficult captures when no one else can. He has seen the twisted remains, things that used to be human but are now barely meat. And he's executed those who have done such horrible deeds.

"His most recent case takes him to SOLEX One, a power-generating station that orbits precariously near the Sun. Among the fifteen inhabitants is a killer, a disturbed crewman who for some reason has mutilated his victim. But when Tanner arrives and begins the investigation, he's shocked to learn that this is no ordinary murder. There appears to be no motive for the crime, and no reason for the mutilation after death. But what Tanner doesn't realize is that something terrifying is amplifying among the station's personnel...and if he doesn't solve the mystery, the result could be the extinction of the human race.

"The Furnace is a locked-room murder mystery, part techno-thriller, part horror, part detective story. Ardath Mayhar, author of over sixty novels, says, 'This is a book of great tension, powerful characterization, and gripping action...Completely original and compelling. A must read.'"

I say, "Job well done."

The Furnace is beautifully written and well edited.. definitely a page turner. Timothy Johnston is a gifted writer and has created a suspense-filled, SF mystery thriller with a little romance at the edge. The cover art by Nelson Housden is appropriate and integral to the story. The opening will grab you and hold you to the finish. Yes, I can recommend The Furnace.

Kaye Trout

Logan's Bookshelf

2012 Dynamethism
Richard Martin CFO
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9780578090184 $9.95

2012 Dynamethism: Our Cellular Vascular Universe Revealed is a brief but eye-opening exploration of a revolutionary metaphysical analogy between the universe and a living organism. Could both life and death play a key role in the driving mechanisms of the universe as a whole? 2012 Dynamethism spells out its "theory of everything" in brief, reader-friendly passages discussing human life force, Dynamic Energy Particles which in a sense form the building blocks of all reality, even the influence of extraterrestrial life and human worship of God. "Every 7 trillion years or so, our cell-estial universe will divide in two. When it has enough matter, energy, and Dynamic Energy Particles stored up... it will divide into; life starts again in the new cell-estial universe. Each one starts with a new Inner Galactic Storm and Big Bang." An extraordinary hypothesis, presenting mind-expanding possibilities in an extremely succinct and concrete manner.

Spirit Stones
Dianne Ebertt Beeaff
Five Star Publications, Inc.
PO Box 6698
Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589851986, $19.95,

Some marvels have baffled even modern thinkers with their engineering. "Spirit Stones: Unraveling the Megalithic Mysteries of Western Europe's Prehistoric Monuments" seeks to explain the ancient objects that have only recently been cracked on what their true purpose was. Connecting their purpose to ancient faith and spirituality, Dianne Ebertt Beeaff holds that understanding these stones is key to understanding our ancestors and their purposes. "Spirit Stones" is a choice read for anyone with a strong interest in these pieces of history.

David Korinetz
Privately Published
9780978382421, $16.95,

An act of cruelty must be rectified somehow, often by those far and away from it. "Halfling" is a tale of fantasy from David Korinetz, telling a story of betrayal and abduction, as a wizard and his apprentice find themselves in a plot that is too deep for them all. With a monumental task ahead of them, they may be quick to understand all the plots and betrayal all around them. "Halfling" is an choice pick for choices of fantasy, the first entry into the Chronicles of the Daemon Knights series.

God's Establishment
Duane L. Day
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781613460986, $12.99,

Reactionary and fundamentalist Christianity has been claiming many church goers from traditional churches in recent years. "God's Establishment: What's Establishment" is a discussion from Duane L. Day, a pastor of a mainline traditional protestant church, who sees the evangelical surge hurting faith. He asks other protestant ministers and pastors to try to help get their flock back, and presents much information on how they can achieve that. "God's Establishment" is a fine pick for Christian studies collections.

Code Blood
Kurt Kamm
Privately Published
9780979855139, $14.95,

Understanding madness sometimes must be done to find the truth. "Code Blood" is an excellent thriller mystery, following Colt Lewis, a young fire paramedic who discovers his first patient is missing her foot. Diving into the dark work of Goths, vampire fetishism, and much more, Colt finds that much more than one murder was the result of this killer. "Code Blood" is inspired heavily by noir, a top pick for fans of that flavor of fiction.

Sandra's Story
Garret Mathews
Pluggers Publishing
9781105113888, $14.95,

Struggling to get by, you try to claw for the few joys you can. "Sandra's Story: It's Not Gonna be a Very Good Day" is the tale of Sandra, an eleven year gold on the brink of disaster with her family. Author Garret Mathews seeks to share her tale of struggling to get by, of living where poverty is the norm and living in what many would consider subhuman conditions. Hoping that the story will make their struggle known, "Sandra's Story" is tragic in its reality.

The Silk Box
Shirley Mihoko Hairston
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432762841, $14.95,

Even as society scorns them and love seems impossible, something beautiful can flourish. "The Silk Box" is a historical romance set after Japan's surrender, ending World War II. A black American and a Japanese woman find romance during the occupation, but events put oceans between them. Through vast endeavor, they will find love can survive time and a long journey, even if the world frowns upon them. "The Silk Box" is charming and heart-warming reading, highly recommended.

Colette Brown
Donna Books
c/o O-Books
9781846949654, $14.95,

Tarot has a certain charm that brings people to it. "Tarot: From Novice to Pro in One Book" is Colette Brown's guide to the ways of the tarot. Explaining the concepts and ideas behind the practice, understanding the information before you, advocating how to understand the process and the spirituality behind it. For followers of metaphysical philosophy, "Tarot" is a key guide to understanding the processes of the cards.

Dismantling Vindictiveness
Lillian R. Melendez
Privately Published
9781612960647, $16.95,

The roughest betrayal is the one that comes from deep within. "Dismantling Vindictiveness" is a novel following Christopher Parker as he deals with the collapse of his company, and the collapse of his health, leading him to what may be a death of uncertainty. As he struggles to find closure and the one who sabotaged his company, he finds help from the most unlikely of sources. "Dismantling Vindictiveness" is a fast paced read with plenty of twists and turns, recommended.

Heavenly Father My Father
Reed Martin
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
1412041589, $18.95,

Faith comes around eventually. "Heavenly Father My Father" is a Christian memoir from Reed Martin as he reflects on his own search for faith and the reality of his world. As he looks through walks of Spirituality, he comes to his own conclusion that blends traditional Christianity and new age philosophy. For those asking many questions of their own world, "Heavenly Father my Father" is a fine pick for those seeking religious memoir.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

R. Douglas Jacobs
RDJ Publishing
c/o CreateSpace
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463525163 $19.95

Gethsemane: An Epic Poem About Us weaves its story through rhyming stanzas no greater than twelve syllables at length. The tale follows a Biblical protagonist who is not always heroic - his journey includes acts of trickery and seduction, and complex moral tangles. Yet his quest is ultimately one for fulfillment and redemption. A lyrical, thought-provoking saga akin to classic epic poems of ancient literature, Gethsemane reflects upon the place of humans before God as well as the problems of mortal suffering, and is an immersive experience like no other. "Therefore, the biblical accounts, which were inscribed, / Were too transcendent of a text to be bribed / By the shifting layers of soil, that in time, / Turned every worldly artifact into grime; / So while the past of Man was laid to rot / What was unbeknownst to him was what he forgot..."

The Romance of Kilimanjaro
Isolde Ulrich
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781613464960, $19.99,

Perfection lies in the eye of the beholder. "The Romance of Kilimanjaro" tells the story of author Isolde Ulrich's mid-life crisis as she shares her story of her struggles with her family, and her yearning for something more. As pressures from her parents left her struggling to try to save her marriage, she embarked on a trip up the famous Mt. Kilimanjaro, and found romance that made leaving her family together even more difficult. A curious memoir of the pressures of love and need for change, "The Romance of Kilimanjaro" is a fine pick, very much recommended for community personal memoir collections.

Torpedo Junction
Sourdough Jackson
Privately Published
9781936966004, $16.95,

One detail in history can change a lot. "Torpedo Junction: Rommel the Ocean Fox in the Pacific" is an alternative history that tells a story of if famed German General Erwin Rommel had been born on the other side of the Atlantic, and was charged with protecting the pacific against the rising threats of the Japanese. With his daunting first assignment as a rear admiral, "Torpedo Junction" is a riveting read of naval tactics and valor, recommended.

Getting Oriented
Wally Wood
Privately Published
9781463525286, $12.95,

Why do we seek vacation in far off lands? "Getting Oriented" is a novel set in Japan about a tour guide and group of tourists who come to see the Land of the rising sun. Focused on Phil Fletcher, the tour guide, it explores the tourists and what their trip to Japan is doing to them, the occurrence of new opportunities, and what they are running from. "Getting Oriented" is an excellent choice for general fiction collections.

A Welcome Walk Into the Dark
Ben E. Campbell
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432778910, $13.95,

A quiet life in the mountains must soon face the demands of the modern world. "A Welcome Walk Into the Dark" is a novel exploring Appalachian life, as Ben E. Campbell explores the life and challenge that comes with mountain life and how the times changing have threatened the traditional life, resistance and embrace of change. "A Welcome Walk Into the Dark" is a strong look into the people of the mountains and their plight.

The Bright Lady and the Astral Wind
James Dunning
Privately Published
9781463565046, $14.95,

We get an odd feeling that is often unexplainable, and when an explanation presents itself, it may not be fully believable. "The Bright Lady and the Astral Wind" is a metaphysical fable from James Dunning who discusses many new age and metaphysical topics through the story and presents a very spiritual journey and tale. "The Bright Lady and the Astral Wind" is an intriguing and much recommended read, not to be overlooked for fiction and new age collections.

Double Dead
Chuck Wendig
Abaddon Books
9781907992414, $9.99,

A zombie apocalypse is truly horrifying for a vampire. "Double Dead" is a unique take on the zombie and Vampire story, as Coburn, a vampire in a multi-year slumber awakens to find humanity on the brink of extinction, which means his food chain is all screwed up. Hunting down the last remaining survivors, he realizes he needs mankind, and mankind just may need him. "Double Dead" is a fun and riveting read of horror fiction that will be hard to put down.

Karen A. Wyle
Privately Published
9781463578916, $12.99,

The bond of twins is quite strong. "Twin-Bred" is a science fiction novel set in the far off world of Tofarn, where human colonists have moved in alongside the native Tofa. With generations of conflict, Scientist Mara Cadell hopes to bring peace between the two races with a pair of twins, one of each species, to help gain an understanding. But conflict rules over all, and an attempt at peace might quickly spin out to war. "Twin-Bred" is an original spin on science fiction and diplomacy between species, recommended.

Beyond Life
Daniel Norvell & Sandra Wells
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456793975, $14.95,

Close encounters with the unknown leave us in both fear and wonder. "Beyond Life: The Ghost Chronicles" is a collection of short stories from Daniel Norvell & Sandra Wells as they take off supposedly true stories and offer a unique perspective on our encounters with the unknown. For those who like a chilling story of the existence beyond our mortal lives, "Beyond Life" is a fine and recommended pick, not to be overlooked.

Container Zero Nine Eleven
Jim McDonald
Privately Published
9780983786818, $25.00,

Although the skies are well protected, what of the seas? "Container Zero Nine Eleven" is a story of a terrorist plot against Disneyland, using the ocean as the method of attack. One man, plagued with his own problems in life, finds that is up to him to find the source of it all, if he can only overcome his own midlife crisis. "Container Zero Nine Eleven" is a choice pick for those who like modern plots of danger.

Narrows Gate
Jim Fusilli
Amazon Encore
PO Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
9781612181370, $14.95,

The path through life can be rough even when you have people helping you along. "Narrows Gate" ells the story of a group of friends struggling to get by in a post World War II waterfront community. As demons begin to consume them and life leads them separate ways, Jim Fusilli creates a story of diverging paths and the corruption that so easily takes us and our friends. Taking influence from the Godfather and On the Waterfront, "Narrows Gate" is an excellent and much recommended read, not to be overlooked.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

Darla Jade and the Balance of the Universe
D. L. Reynolds
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403,
9781462887620, $15.99 (pb)
9781462887637, $22.99 (hb)
9781462887644, $0.99 (eBook)

Darla Jade and the Balance of the Universe is an exciting YA series for fans of fantasy, adventure and Christian literature.

The story begins in a cemetery when 13-year old Darla Jade's soul is 'raised from her grave' by Striker, the creature that calls the souls at the resurrection before they're to go to either Heaven or Hell. Darla is sent to Heaven while another boy, Johnny, is sent to into the vortex of Hell. Once in Heaven, Darla must attend school for training as a Guardian Angel--or Guardian, for short. There, she makes friends but also has a tough time controlling her temper and rudeness. She keeps getting demerits for bad behavior. However, Darla is brave and good at heart and this is what matters, especially because, as the story develops, it becomes clear that she is 'The One,' the Guardian who will save the world from Evil. In the Heaven academy, Darla learns a lot from famous teachers such as Leonardo DaVinci, Tesla and Benjamin Franklin.

Meantime, down in Hell, Johnny and other demons are planning to tip the Balance of the Universe in the forms of a evil storm on earth. For this to succeed, Darla must be destroyed, for she is the only one who can stop it and bring the Balance back.

I have a lot of good things to say about this YA fantasy: the pace is quick, with lots of dialogue and action scenes; the worlds of Heaven and Hell are rich, intriguing and imaginative. Author Derral Reynolds certainly has a flair for world building. What I especially like about it is that the world building doesn't come in information dumps that slow down the pace, but instead it's incorporated into the scenes with the action and dialogue. One aspect that got my attention, though--and this is only an observation--is that the first several chapters of the story read more like middle grade (for ages 8-12), and it is only after some time that the plot acquires more 'heavy' elements which are more suitable for the YA audience (13 and up). Overall, I'd say this is a novel for the tween and YA audiences and not for middle graders.

Darla Jade and the Balance of the Universe was a surprisingly interesting and pleasant read and I look forward to the 2nd book in the series.

Five Dances with Death
Austin Briggs
Helvetic House
c/o Amazon Digital Services
B005EJGYJ8, $13.95,

If you're a fan of historical novels, are interested in the Aztecs and would like to try something different, you'll enjoy Five Dances with Death: Dance One, by Austin Briggs.

Written in first person from the point of view of Angry Wasp, the story begins in 1516, during the era of the Spanish Conquest in Mexico. Angry Wasp, military leader of Tlaxcala, wants to keep his nation safe and search for his lost daughter, Dew, whom he'd lost to one of the leaders of an enemy tribe, a man named Talon. Though Wasp has now captured Talon, the man won't reveal the whereabouts of Dew. The war with this enemy tribe, the Moonwalk People, is now a personal matter, though Wasp doesn't want to make this evident to his people.

One of Wasp's wives, a sorcerer well-educated in the magic arts, teaches him to have out of body experiences. That is, to travel in soul and spirit while his body stays in the safety of his village. It is in this 'tricky' state that is hard to fully control that Wasp makes a twin of himself and meets with Stern Lord, the most powerful man in the world and ruler of the Moonwalk People. Stern Lord is aware that Talon is being kept prisoner by Wasp and isn't happy about it. Thus begins Wasp's dance with death as he tries to stay alive and discover what happened to his daughter.

Magic, history, sorcery, mysticism, spirituality, fantasy and magical realism combine to create an original, intriguing story that will capture your imagination. Briggs writes with attention to detail, making his world come alive. I enjoyed the dialogue and descriptions and especially seeing the world from Wasp's perspective. My only problem with the story is that in the beginning the issue of finding the daughter seems important but later on it sorts of falls second place. This didn't stop me from reading but it did get my attention.

Since the book is self published, I was also surprised by the quality of the writing: excellent and free of typos or grammatical mistakes. I really appreciate when a self-published book is that well copy edited. In addition, the story seems very well researched and I found interesting all the cultural information, especially the segments on sorcery and sacrifice rituals. Briggs has been researching the Aztec Empire for over ten years and his knowledge comes through in the writing, without hitting the reader over the head or slowing down the pace with information dumps. In sum, this is a novel worth reading and I recommend it if you're particularly interested in Aztec history and culture.

The Lucky Baseball
Suzanne Lieurance
Enslow Publishers, Inc.
Box 398, 40 Industrial Road, Dept. F61
Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922-0398
9780766036550, $14.95,

"The Lucky Baseball: My Story in a Japanese-American Internment Camp" is a highly entertaining and educational novel about a young Japanese-American boy whose dream is to become a famous baseball player. Set during the time of the war between the US and Japan, the book teaches about that dark era of our time while providing young readers with a fast-paced, interesting plot and a strong and sympathetic protagonist.

This middle-grade historical novel begins on the eve of the war. Our young hero, 12-year old Harry Yakamoto, lives in Seven Cedars, California with his father and grandparents in an apartment above their restaurant. In spite of the regular prejudice he encounters as a Japanese-American, he lives a reasonably happy life doing what he enjoys most: playing baseball and spending time with his family and friends. His biggest dream is to become a professional baseball player one day, but he has a series of obstacles. For one, his father expects him to run the family restaurant one day, and is not pleased when he sees Harry practicing ball too much. To add to that, he's not able to join the teams in town because a lot of the kids - especially a bully named Tony Rossi - are prejudiced against his background. In spite of all this, Harry tries to make the best of life.

Then his life turns upside down when the US declares war on Japan, and he and his family are forced to relocate to a camp 200 miles away in the middle of the desert. There, his living quarters are reduced to a cold and dusty, small room he has to share with his family. Dirty latrines, poor food, rude guards, and another bully are some of his other new problems. But the fire of baseball eternally blazes in his heart, and he soon forms a team and becomes the captain. Will Harry live his dream? Will he go back to Seven Cedars and live like a normal American without the evils of prejudice?

I'm not a fan of baseball, but I have to say I loved reading this book. The story and especially the protagonist drew me in from the beginning. Harry is a special character with a distinct voice and personality. He has his flaws, but is brave and pure at heart. He's the kind of young hero readers like to root for. The plot moves fairly quickly without a lot of exposition or description. I felt transported back in time and learned a lot about the camps. The Lucky Baseball offers a glimpse into the evils of war and the injustice of prejudice. What I especially like is that the author doesn't lecture or preach; the message comes through from the action.

The Lucky Baseball is 160 pages and is geared at grades five to seven. If you have a middle grader who loves baseball, this is a story he or she will surely enjoy. It is also excellent reading material for classrooms, as it offers many subjects for discussion. Highly recommended.

A World of His Own: In the Land of the Creoles
Arlette Gaffrey
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
097888910X $13.95,

A World of His Own is an enjoyable historical novel set in New Orleans in the early 1800s. The novel spans a few years and centers around the life of Andre Raphael de Javon, an ambitious and handsome Frenchman who comes to America in order to become one of the richest plantation owners in Louisiana.

The story begins when he's just arrived by ship to New Orleans in the company of his friend Charles, who's spent the last six years studying in Europe. Charles comes from a prestigious family in the city and he soon invites Andre to stay with them until he can find a place of his own.

From the beginning Andre shows great ambition. He wants to invest his money wisely and prosper, though he doesn't know how at first. When he decides to become a plantation owner, his friend Charles introduces him to someone who can advise him -- a generous, successful man by the name of Jean-Claude. At about this time, Andre meets Gabrielle, a gorgeous yet possessive and selfish young woman who's set on marrying him at all costs. Like any normal man, Andre is deeply attracted to Gabrielle, even though he knows she's not the right woman for him. In spite of this, he ends up marrying her, no doubt tempted by her handsome dowry which will help him achieve his dreams.

As Andre's plantation grows and he gets wealthier, his marriage becomes increasingly turbulent and Gabrielle more and more unstable. Andre's pain is deepened by the fact that he's secretly fallen in love with Jean-Claude's daughter, a young beauty who's been infatuated with Andre since the tender age of 11. Thus, we follow Andre's ups and downs and his hellish marriage as he becomes the wealthy owner of a plantation.

I have a lot of good things to say about A World of His Own. The early nineteenth century come to life under the author's pen. There are many interesting, informative passages about the Creole culture, slave ownership, the running of a plantation, the food, clothes, etc. Though it took me a while to connect with Andre, once I did I really was hooked and wanted to know how the story ended, and whether or not he would at last find happiness. So the plot' though pretty much a love story, kept me turning pages until I finished the book. At times, though, the pace dragged a bit due to redundant phrases, unnecessary description, and too much 'telling' instead of 'showing.' I also think the character of Gabrielle could have used more depth, as she comes across as the stereotype of an 'evil beauty' throughout much of the book.

But, as I said, the author made me care for Andre and his situation enough for me to want to keep reading and finish the book. It was an entertaining, interesting read.

Mayra Calvani

Paul's Bookshelf

Murder at The Ocean Forest
Robert "Digger" Cartwright
Xlibris Corporation
1663 Liberty Drive, #200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1425707696, $22.99,

This is a murder mystery set in World War II-era South Carolina. It is about a husband and wife who would have been better off never getting married to each other.

Terence and Faye Underwood are traveling by train to the Ocean Forest, a very high-class resort right on the shore. Faye thinks that Terence is a serial adulterer, constantly looking for women with which to have illicit affairs, despite his constant protestations to the contrary. They are both members of high society, so divorce, let alone raising their voices in argument where others might hear them, is simply not an option; the scandal would be overwhelming.

A few days later, Terence goes off by himself quail hunting, while Faye goes horseback riding along the beach. Several hours later, the horse returns without her. A diligent search along the beach is made, led by Feltus le Bon, the hotel detective. Faye's red scarf, along with some blood, is found near a patch of quicksand. The next day, Terence is coerced into showing Feltus exactly where he was hunting. It turns out to be just a few yards from the quicksand. It would have been very easy for Terence to shoot Faye with the shotgun he was carrying, and dump her in the quicksand, freeing him to have as many illicit affairs as he can handle. Things get complicated the next morning when, serving an arrest warrant on Terence, Feltus finds him in bed, murdered.

Investigating further, Feltus focuses his attention on Preacher Cooper, a priest involved in illicit activities, Elizabeth Bascomb, an elderly, blind psychic, and Lord and Lady Ashburn, visiting from England, all of whom have very good reasons for wanting Terence Underwood dead. Feltus tries several ways to ratchet up the pressure, hoping that the guilty party will crack. While all this is going on, the area is battered by a major hurricane.

This is a really good mystery, but I thought that it moved too slowly. The first death does not occur until almost halfway into the book. I understand what the author was trying to do, and totally agree that not all murder mysteries have to move at breakneck speed. The author certainly knows what he is doing; I guess I would have liked it more if the first half of the story moved a little faster than it did.

The Versailles Conspiracy
Robert "Digger" Cartwright
Xlibris Corporation
1663 Liberty Drive, #200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781453532829, $22.99,

This novel is set in present-day Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is about a murder mystery that turns into a whole lot more.

Max Spalding is the local Building Inspector. He is also a member of the local commission dealing with a proposed addition to the local convention center. It is a very touchy subject among the local elite; any hint of scandal could destroy the whole project. One day, Max dies in a horrific car accident. As they investigate, Detectives Wickland and Graisco of the local police begin to realize that Max's death was not an accident.

His car had been tampered with just before his death. His last appointment was with Vladimir Stratavynski, owner of a local clothing and souvenir store. It had been raided by the police a number of times in the past for selling counterfeit goods, but the police could never put Stratavynski away for good. A former Russian oligarch who became "unpopular" when communism ended, he is part of a secret group looking to re-establish communist control in Russia.

Max was having an affair with Janet, his secretary. He had a huge conflict of interest concerning the convention center project. He had just returned from a week-long convention in Palm Springs, Florida. Why, during that week, did he suddenly fly to a very expensive resort in Quebec, and back again? In his safe deposit box, why did the police find over one hundred thousand dollars in cash, and a set of plans to the local water treatment plant? The police are also exposed to a Russian arms dealer, betrayal, the FARC rebels from Colombia, very large amounts of cocaine, and a local, extremely private, country club called the Versailles Country Club. It's the sort of place where, if you aren't a member, you shouldn't even bother walking through the front door.

Here is an excellent piece of writing. The plot might get a bit convoluted at times, but it has everything a good thriller story needs. This is very much worth the reader's time.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

The Life Coaching Connection
Steve Chandler
Robert D. Reed Publishers
1380 Face Rock Drive, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759547, $14.95,

Empowerment Guidelines for a New Breed of Coach

"The Life Coaching Connection: How Coaching Changes Lives" is a definitive work for professional life-coaches who genuinely want to impact their clients lives. Recognized as "the coaches coach" Steve Chandler is a pace setter in the personal growth movement. His writing is innovative, provocative, and inspirational.

Chandler's concepts are well grounded in practical wisdom learned and experienced by Steve himself. I imagined myself on a treasure hunt as I read, not unlike a prospector seeking a rich goldmine filled with nuggets. I discovered that transformation from the inside is more valuable than the download of expert advice transmitted through lectures and reading, it is about provocation. I was challenged to connect with "who I am" as a key to attaining greatness, tapping into my personal potential within to change my sense of self-fulfillment. I learned the benefit of challenge as a means of increased productivity and creativity. Using a natural progression Steve introduces a number of operating principles for focus, empowerment, and making a difference through creation.

"The Life Coaching Connection: How Coaching Changes Lives" is written not only for the practicing "life-coach" and their clients, but is highly beneficial for anyone who is interested in how and why coaching works. Life principles within the book are applicable to every situation, circumstance, and individual.

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

Urban Assault: The Word on the Street
J. D. Morgan
Eleventh Hour Evangelistic Association
106 San Pablo Towne Center, Suite 117
San Pablo, CA 94806
9780615582860l, $TBA

Reaching the City for Jesus - Urban Outreach Initiatives

J. D. Morgan is no stranger to the challenge of ministry in urban American centers. Morgan recognizes the marked difference between the urban and suburban cultures. The demographics stand in dramatic contrast.

The urban community is assaulted daily by the evils and injustices of racism, poverty, corrupt leaders, dysfunctional families, and underfunded schools. Moved by compassion for the physical needs and a concern for the spiritual lives of individuals trapped in lifestyle of drugs, prostitution, violent crime, and AIDS related disease James calls on the Christians across urban to step up to the plate and join in the battle of evangelizing urban America through a program of evangelization.

The "Reaching the City for Jesus" manual is designed as a tool to equip and motivate individual Christians within the church to move from the "comfort of the sanctuary" to "the encounter zones of the streets and lanes of the city."

The challenge for this outreach training comes from the passage in the Gospel of Luke that challenges the disciples to "...Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind." (KJV Bible).

The study is true to the scriptures providing students to gain knowledge and communication skills to impart and empower these same truths to individuals within the urban community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Urban Assault: The Word on the Street" is a balance of foundational truths, basic principles, and practical in application. A powerful tool of evangelism and discipleship.

Mysterious Seed
Bob Mumford
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 172587-0310
9780768438970, $16.99

Profound Reality Checks for Growing Spiritually

"Mysterious Seed" is a compilation of over 250 short transcendent teachings ideal for daily devotional reading. Each reading contains applications which will impact the spiritual, physical, and emotional life of the reader.

I appreciate the format of the book which encourages reflection and introspection aimed at helping the reader take the proactive steps necessary for dynamic Christian living drawing on the power and resources of God's DNA within us. Bible teacher and best-selling author Bob Mumford uses the analogy of the seed to demonstrate the concept maturing in the Father's love.

Mumford draws on well selected Biblical passages, uses diagrams and charts, as well as his own observations, experiences, and conclusions to help the reader focus on Christ's teaching, his promises, scriptural concepts, and principles for building a relationship of intimacy with God.
At the end of each chapter are straight forward "Thoughts and Questions" used in the anticipation of provoking deep and inspiring introspection on the part of the reader and to encourage a more meaningful relationship with God the Father.

Mumford has a unique gift for getting right to the essence of a concept or life principle. Through simple stories and word pictures he sows seeds with the purpose of reaping a harvest as the seed is received, cultivated and nurtured. He writes to help the reader, expand the capacity to be loved and to expand their capacity to love God as he desires to be loved.

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

The Dark Secret of G.A.O. T. U. - Shattering the Deception of Free Masonry
Dr. Ana Mendez-Ferrell
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780798438093, $15.99

A Look at the History and Teaching of Freemasonry

Dr. Ana Mendez-Ferrell has thoroughly researched the history and teaching of the tenets of Free Masonry for her book "The Dark Secret of G.A. O. T. U." It is her purpose to disclosure the science, philosophy, legends, and myths of this secret society. She looks at Freemasonry's general principles, symbolism, and rites as fundamentally pagan in origin.

I found the information and illustrations in reference to the symbols, oaths, and initiations especially enlightening. I was not aware of the far reaching impact Free Masonry has on national leaders throughout the world and the potential power this pact wields.

The final chapter is dedicated to anyone caught up in Freemasonry and its influence seeking freedom and deliverance from the power it holds over the individual.

Invaluable information is included in the book's Appendix, including: The History of Freemasonry which lists the thirty three degrees of the Order. The Bibliography and End-Notes included provide additional resources for further reading and study.

Dr. Mendez-Ferrell is articulate, concerned, and convincing. "The Dark Secret of G.A. O. T. U." is a wakeup call to the dangers and deception behind Free Masonry

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

Richard R. Blake

Riva's Bookshelf

Beneath the Starry Sky
Jessica Subject
B006ML8KR6 $3.99 (Kindle), 9781613331767

Beneath the Starry Sky is hot. If it doesn't make you break into a sweat I don't know what will, but more than that, it's sweet, romantic and very touching. I loved it.

Tamara Johnson has had it with men. When her fiance Chad called off their engagement over her alopecia areata after promising to stand by her it was more than she could take. Now all she wants is a one-night stand to help restore her confidence. Her friend, Leah, recommends the high-end dating service of Madame Evangeline. Eve found Leah's perfect match when Leah thought it was impossible, but Tamara doesn't believe anyone could love a bald woman.

Josh Summers has had it with the bright lights and the paparazzi who follow him day and night. He just wants some quiet time at the exclusive Castillo Resorts, but when checks into his room he finds a gorgeous, sexy lady waiting for him. Hoping she's not another crazed fan Josh is about to return to the front desk when he gets a text message from the mysterious Madame Eve. The woman waiting in the room is his date for the evening. Curious, and knowing Madame Eve's reputation, Josh returns to room wondering if this really could be the woman he's been looking for all his life.

I thought Beneath the Starry Sky was a wonderful story of love, hope and the ability to possibly start over again. I highly recommend Beneath the Starry Sky.

The Night of Many Lights
C.R. Lindemer
Shapato Publishing
9780983352655, $12.95,

The Night of Many Lights by C.R. Lindemer is a wonderful tale of a weather vane come to life for a single night and the adventures he and four of his friends have. I really enjoyed the story and thought it was incredibly inventive. I have never read a modern "fairy tale" quite like it before.

Written for children, The Night of Many Lights is easy to read and the illustrations are interesting and provide clues about what is going on in the story. Still, children will have to actually read the story to get it right. It would not be an easy tale for them to simply memorize and recite back.

I think the subject matter would be very interesting to children, especially those who grow up knowing what a weather vane is. The vocabulary is appropriate for the audience and it would be most appropriate for children from about 8-years of age. Paragraphs are short and will make them want to read more to discover what adventure the friends will have next. They will need help with some of the words, but should find the story fun and entertaining. I also think is a very good book for parents to read to children, especially at night or as a bedtime story.

Soul Search
Amber Scott
B005M2QPWS $2.99 (kindle)

Amber Scott is breath of refreshing air in the world of paranormal romances. Her newest book Soul Search delivers a wonderfully inventive storyline and a most unusual romance.

From the first pages Soul Search held my rapt attention. I was fascinated by characters and a story that kept me guessing until the very last pages.

Grant Connel has a secret he's having trouble keeping. He's a werewolf, but unlike the old wives' tales would have us believe werewolves don't just change at the full moon. Something much darker and more sinister drives the wolf within Grant Connel and he's not sure who is in control anymore, him, or the wolf.

Leigh Hamilton is a psychic but even her gift didn't prepare her for all Grant is. In fact, it's not until she catches him in the act that even knows what Grant is. Fate has brought them together, but will it also tear them apart before they even have a chance to discover the true depth of their attraction for one another?

Grant's sister Beatrice has hired Leigh to help her locate her son, Tristan, who has been missing for years. Grant doesn't believe in psychics and swears he won't put up with another one, but what Leigh offers Grant and his sister by way of evidence when they first meet has him wondering if Leigh just might be the real thing. Still, concrete proof is what he wants and Leigh says she can't give him that until they've returned to the scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime, where Grant was nearly beaten to death and where his young nephew was stolen him. The scene where the wolf made its first appearance, a place Grant would really prefer not to return to, but the guilt he's been carrying for years won't let him escape and so Grant, Beatrice and Leigh set off for the States and a high stakes game that will leave you longing for more.

And longing for more is how it left me. While the story in Soul Search is complete in and of itself, I couldn't help but want more adventures with Leigh and Grant, both as psychic and werewolf, and as man and woman.

Jaclyn's Ghost
Dorlana Vann
B004LGTRPS, $.99 (kindle), 2940012071361 (nook)

Jaclyn's dead, murdered in the prime of her life, at the height of her career, but Jaclyn doesn't want to go to hell, which isn't what you think it is, so Jaclyn has a set amount of time to figure out what she missed in her life that kept her from going straight to heaven.

Along comes Logan a fellow ghost who is dashing and helpful. He lives in Jaclyn's apartment building and is willing to help Jaclyn figure out what went wrong. The best place to start? Find her killer.

Only nothing is as simple as it seems to be. Finding Jaclyn's killer is a complex process that requires creativity on the part of Logan and Jaclyn and the help of a photographer who can hear Jaclyn, Logan and other ghosts.

I really enjoyed the way Ms. Vann approached her story. It was creative and new. Jaclyn's Ghost held my attention from the start and had me rooting for Jaclyn and Logan as they tried to discover what had happened to Jaclyn. Ms. Vann throws several interesting complications into the story line that keep the tension going. The story was well-developed and resonated with me.

I would recommend Jaclyn's Ghost to anyone looking for an interesting paranormal/mystery read.

Highland Sanctuary
Jennifer Hudson Taylor
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426714214, $14.99, B00607YH74 $9.19 (kindle)

I really enjoyed Highland Sanctuary by Jennifer Hudson Taylor. I was immersed in the story from the very beginning. Hudson Taylors's main characters Gavin and Serena stay in your mind long after the story is over.

Set in Scotland during the reign of James the Third, Hudson Taylors's story was, for the most part, believable. Her attention to detail helped make the story come to vivid life and found myself eager to know what was going to happen in this tale. I read it through in two evenings.

It's so easy to empathize with Serena. She's in a very difficult situation and can really see no way out. Her mother, who has protected her for years, knows that both she and Serena's old nursemaid are growing old. She wants Serena to find happiness but how can Serena do this and protect her secret?

Gavin is a stranger to the Village of Outcasts, sent to work on rebuilding Braigh Castle and to protect the villagers and the laird from harm. But only the laird knows Gavin and his men are there for protection, so when strange things start happening in the village it looks as if Gavin and his men are to blame. Could there be a traitor among them?

I felt that Highland Sanctuary was well-written with believable characters and an interesting and somewhat complex storyline that was brought to a satisfying conclusion that left no loose ends. My only complaint is that there are several grammar and spelling mistakes. It's not an overwhelming amount by any stretch of the imagination. I would estimate there were about fifteen mistakes in all, but it was enough to distract me slightly from was otherwise a terrific story.

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

Lifting the Wheel of Karma
Paul H. Magid
Point Dume Press
9780984016068 $15.00, $9.99 ebook,

I found this book to be compassionate and insightful. At times I had to stop and read a paragraph over again, so I could make sure I understood the meaning. As a Christian I found a deeper understanding of ways to accept, forgive and even love each other more.

The characters are well developed and interesting. Joseph is the main character. Every since he was a five year old child he started having violent nightmares and would scream about the demons who would attack him. As he got older the nightmares changed to where he was fighting with warriors.

Joseph's only coping mechanism was martial arts. He was so good no one in his age devision would fight him, as they knew they would lose. They promoted Joseph to fighting with adults when he was fifteen. He had never lost a fight until one night. It is from here you will find the heart of this story.

Joseph feels he can only find the answers he needs by going to the remote Himalayas of India. There he finds an old wise man who helps him to find the answers to all of his questions and to find his Dharma. I did not want the book to end.

This is an excellent read for anyone or any religion. You don't have to agree with all that is wrote but the message of love is something we should all pay more attention too. I cried at the ending. It was hard for me to believe this was a first time author.

How To Fight, Lie And, Cry Your Way Too Popularity (And A Prom Date)
Nikki Roddy
Zest Books
35 Stillman Street Suite 121, San Francisco, CA
9780982732229, $12.99,

I have enjoyed all the short stories that Zest has put out when I get the chance to. "How To Fight, Lie And, Cry Your Way Too Popularity (And A Prom Date): Lousy Life Lessons From 50 Teen Movies" is about teen movies from 1955-2010. It starts in my parent's generation for two movies, and then mine, my kids and my grand kids. Each movie they show a picture, and then they have a short synopses of the book. Then you will read some crazy, really bad life lessons.

This was so much fun to read. It brought back some fun memories of movies in my time period, and what was going on in my life. This is a fast, fun, and easy read. If you want to walk down memory lane this is the book for you.

Spin the Plate
Donna Anastasi
Black Rose Writing
PO BOX 1540 Castroville, TX 78009
1935605399, $0.95 (ebook),

I have had to changed this review and I wanted you to know that Amazon took my post and now it is gone. I will check back in a few minutes. I don't know why.

I enjoyed this book. The author did a good job of not just holding our attention, but also kept us on our toes as the story evolved. Jo was raped when she was five years old and it continued until her teens by her own father. The effect on her is profound to say the least. Even as a adult she still has nightmares.

She works as a tattoo artist, but no one knows about her history. Jo does not trust anyone, and lives in a world filled with her animals. She has no desire to make friends or let anyone in her life. Especially men.

That is until one day she meets a man named Francis. No matter how many times she says no to his invitations he keeps asking. She finally says yes and that is when her world will gradually begin to change. They are as different as night and day.

This is a fast and easy read. The story is one that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.

Rated PG

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Lady's Minstrel
N.J. Walters
Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502
9781419935435, $2.47 (kindle),

Alicia had married Reys and their marriage bliss was short lived for he left to go on a Crusade. For six years she waited for him to come home. With every day that passes and she doesn't hear from him, she fears he is dead.

To complicate matters, a mysterious man appears at her home. He shrouds his face in a cloak; his presence at the castle does not go unnoticed, but strangely the workers do not question his existence.

When Alicia confronts the stranger she learns that it is her husband Reys. He explains that he was captured and tortured in a foreign prison. The abuse he received while he was captured is evident in the scars he has and the emotional drama she sees in his eyes.

Will Alicia be able to look past Reys scars and rebuild their marriage? Or has so much time passed that she feels it is useless to try to build something that barely existed?

LADY'S MINSTREL is one of those books that you can't help but fall in love with. N.J. Walters does an exceptional job in creating two emotionally challenged characters. How she weaves each other back into one another's lives is the tragedy triumph this reader craves. I highly recommend this book to any beauty and the beast fans!

True Surrender
Tracey Cramer-Kelly
9781466242418 $15.99

While in Afghanistan Major Aaron Bricewick was captured by terrorists. His abductors try to pressure him to reveal top secret information. He refuses to corporate with them and they savagely tortured him by breaking both his legs. He fears that he will not be able to survive another beating. With is life hanging on by a thread he is miraculously rescued.

The nightmare doesn't end when he is found; instead he is rushed to Holbrook Medical Center, a military hospital that specializes in extensive trauma; the damage to one of his legs is so severe the doctors have no other choice but to amputate one of his legs. Aaron has to come to terms with his amputation. To complicate matters is his prosthetist Holly Rossiter. Holly and him had shared a passionate love affair, but the time came when he had to decide to choose her or his career. With no looking back, he moved forward by selecting his career.

When Holly discovers that Aaron has been admitted to her hospital she assigns herself to his case. It is difficult for Holly to see such a strong man as Aaron face such a life altering surgery. She thinks as Aaron's prosthetist she will be able to provide him the comfort and expert care that his condition warrants.

As Holly sees Aaron come to terms with his amputation will she be strong enough to provide him the strength he needs to get through his dark days? Aaron is determined that his disability will not deter him from having the career he worked so hard at maintaining. Will he once again walk away from the love that Holly is offering?

TRUE SURRENDER is one EXCEPTIONAL book!!! Mere words cannot express how impressed I am with this novel. Tracey Cramer-Kelly has out done herself on this military romance. This book is so well developed it would make an excellent candidate for the Lifetime movie channel. This author has fully convinced me that she is a voice that will quickly earn her high marks in the book world.

Suzie Housley, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

Never Knowing
Chevy Stevens
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312595685, $24.99,

Many authors create a protagonist who is brought back in a series to good advantage. Others latch on to a theme or locale for use in subsequent novels. And that is, apparently, what this author has succeeded in doing in this second effort. In her debut novel, "Still Missing," she wrote about a woman repeatedly raped, currently undergoing therapy, on Vancouver Island [where the author was born and lives], with chapter headings labeled according to the session number.

In the present novel, the main character, Sara Gallagher, is the child born of rape 35 years ago, who lives and works on Vancouver Island, and the chapters are labeled according to the session number in which she tells her story to the psychiatrist. The plot involves the rapist-father, who is responsible for numerous other rapes as well as murders over the three-and-a-half intervening decades, contacting Sara by telephone and telling her only that she can prevent him from committing future transgressions.

It is an interesting idea and the story is valid, with the pressure on Sara building to a crucial climax. Somehow, however, the writing seems stilted and cliched. The over-use of the fact that Sara was put for adoption and treated badly by her putative father, the ups and downs of her relationship with her soon-to-be husband, the stereotypes of "good sister"/"bad sister" seemed hackneyed. And Sara herself is a pretty wooden character, sort of an empty vessel into which the author can pour forth verbiage. Too bad, because otherwise it could have been a much better read.

Iris Johansen
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312651213, $27.99,

This is the second volume in a trilogy [the first was "Eve," and the next "Bonnie"], wrapping up the mystery of the disappearance of Eve Duncan's seven-year-old daughter who was presumably murdered. This novel gives a lot of background on how she and Quinn came to meet, fall in love and come together.

Of course, it has to begin with Quinn near death in the hospital from a knife wound, but making a superhuman effort to get out and rejoin the hunt for Bonnie's killer, aided by CIA agent and friend Catherine Ling. [None of this is a spoiler, please be assured - it's all revealed on the book cover.]

I had the feeling that a lot of this book was mere padding, an effort to fill out the three-volume "conclusion," and bringing to an end one aspect of it: the quest for the truth about Bonnie's disappearance. The writing and tension keep the reader turning the pages, but wasn't completely fulfilling for this reader, having not read any of the previous novels. Of course, I can't really comment fully on this observation, nor judge its accuracy. The book is recommended, but I would suggest that at least the first book of the trilogy be read first.

Elmore Leonard
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062119469, $26.99,

Resurrecting Raylan Givens, the U.S. Marshall from Kentucky given to wearing a Stetson cowboy hat and shooting instead of apprehending, Elmore Leonard once again uses his unusual talent for writing droll dialogue and creating amusing and unusual characters to entertain the reader. This time, he begins in Harlan County, where marijuana is king instead of coal (100 pounds of weed can fetch $300,000) which apparently doesn't satisfy two nincompoop sons of the dope-grower who turn their attention to reaping and selling body parts.

Then the author goes on to tell us about another cast of characters, with the slyness only he can muster. It's a world only people created by Leonard inhabit, and they talk as only he can make them speak. Read it and laugh. Highly recommended.

Before the Poison
Peter Robinson
Hodder & Stoughton
338 Euston Rd., London NW1 38H
9781444704839,18.99 BPS,

[It should be noted that this book will be available in the US in February, 2012, only available presently in/through the UK/Canada]

Diverting his attention from the popular and successful Inspector Banks series, the author has written a murder mystery of a different genre. Instead of a police procedural, he has undertaken to use a variety of literary devices to unravel the truth behind a death that took place sixty years ago.

It begins when Chris Lowndes, reeling from the death of his wife, decides to buy a home on the Yorkshire Dales. He purchases Kilnsgate House, a large, bleak, isolated structure in which he hopes to recover from his depression, and, perhaps write a sonata instead of the incidental music for motion pictures which he did for many years on the West Coast of the US. No sooner does he take possession than he becomes haunted by its past: Grace Fox, the former owner, was accused and convicted of poisoning her husband, a respected local physician. And she was hanged for it.

Chris becomes so obsessed that he endeavors to "discover" the truth, initially convinced that she was innocent of the charge. The author leads the reader (and Chris) from supposition to fact, alternating excerpts of Grace's wartime diary (she was a nurse, first in Singapore, then escaping the Japanese, suffering a series of devastating experiences, finally serving in France before returning to her husband at Kilnsgate House) and various interviews with aged characters, including her younger lover now living in Paris and a man who as a seven-year-old lived with the Foxes for a time as an evacuee at the beginning of World War II.

The shifts in the plot, as Chris conducts his "investigation," are truly ingenious, keeping the reader off balance to a fare-thee-well. The characters are well-drawn, and the author undertook deep research to create Grace's diary. While the novel may seem at times somewhat dry and slow to read, it constantly draws the reader forward and is well worth reading, and it is highly recommended.

The Border Lords
T. Jefferson Parker
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9789451235565, $15.00,

This latest Charlie Hood novel is as confusing as it is well-written and well-researched; the plot (or plots) are at once baffling and intriguing. The story draws the reader along by its sheer force right up to the end. Many of the characters that appeared in the preceding novel in the series, "Iron River," are present here, with Charlie, still on loan to the ATF from the Sheriff's Department, working along the Mexican border, this time chasing narcotics kingpins but still following the trail of guns crossing both ways over the border.

It is almost impossible to briefly summarize the book. There is Sean Ozburn, an ATF operative working undercover who goes crazily renegade after 15 months. A friend, Charlie has to look into Oz' behavior to find out why he no longer resembles the man he used to be. Is it the stress of working undercover that led Oz to slaughter three low-level narcotics runners in a safe house he established for a Mexican drug baron?

The subplots, involving characters from "Iron River" like Bradley Jones and Mike Finnegan, are interspersed along the way, somehow interrelated with the main theme just to bewilder the reader, each with its own ax to grind. One walks away from this novel with one of at least two reactions: It is either a brilliant tour-de-force or an utterly psychedelic product of an agile mind. Either way, it makes for an interesting read, and it is recommended.

Fever Dream
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590589571, $24.95,

In the beginning, we had Alex Delaware, psychologist and sometime police consultant. Now we also have Daniel Rinaldi, psychotherapist and part-time police consultant. There, of course, the similarities end. Whereas the Kellerman protagonist is more cerebral, the Palumbo creation is more physical, in keeping with his background as a Golden Glover from the mean streets of Pittsburgh.

This novel, the second in which Rinaldi is involved in a murder mystery which endangers his life (multiple times), begins when he is called by a Pittsburgh detective following a bank robbery, to treat the sole surviving hostage (all the others were shot). From that point, a series of events takes place, fast and furious. In the midst of everything, there is a gubernatorial campaign in which the D.A. is running as a tough law-and-order candidate, complicating the police efforts and raising other concerns.

The complex plot proceeds apace, with scant clues but much physical action, especially a few murders and lots of firepower. The only criticism I have about an otherwise entertaining novel is Rinaldi's omnipotence, allowing him to merely espouse solutions to the various mysteries without any preceding facts in the narrative (maybe that's the way motion picture scripts are written - - the author formerly was a Hollywood screenwriter). Nevertheless, the book is very enjoyable, and is recommended.

The Confession
Charles Todd
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NYC 10022
9780062015662, $24.99,

This latest in the long-running Inspector Ian Rutledge series finds him in his office shortly after the end of World War I listening to a man calling himself Wyatt Russell confess to murdering his cousin years before.. The man tells Rutledge he has stomach cancer and just a very short time to live but wanted to "clear his conscience." Little did he know that he would be shot in the head and left in the Thames in just a matter of days. Now the Inspector has more than one murder to solve, and embarks on a quest that takes him to a little fishing village north of London in Essex where he encounters many more mysteries.

Rutledge learns that the man was not who he claimed to be, and that was but the first thing he had to unravel. Then to discover the meaning of the only clue he had: a gold woman's locket with the picture of a young girl, found around the man's neck. Without the sanction of an official inquiry, the Inspector proceeds to develop the facts, despite the uncooperative and even hostile reception he receives in the village where additional murders and deaths occur.

A novel written by the mother-and-son team writing under the nom de plume Charles Todd, Confession is up to the high level of its predecessors: the plot is tightly woven, the characters well-drawn and the reader is drawn forward anxiously waiting to find out what comes next. Highly recommended.

The Hypnotist
Lars Kepler
Translated by Ann Long
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250007585, $16.00,

This Scandinavian mystery/thriller shows a glimmer of what readers have come to expect from the masters of the genre, but falls short. It is overly long, and in dire need of editing. But it does introduce an interesting protagonist in Inspector Detective Joona Linna, apparently a relentless investigator who doesn't rest until he solves a case, always arguing he is right even when others, especially his superiors, do not think so. And when he proves them wrong, always asks, "Was I right," insisting on an answer in the affirmative.

This is a complicated story in which a couple of subplots recount the results of an experimental program conducted by a doctor, Erik Maria Bark, who specializes in group therapy using hypnotism. When, ten years earlier, one of his patients accused him of an impropriety, he was suspended. He questions the results of his efforts and swears never to hypnotize a patient again, but is persuaded by the detective to try his talents on a young boy, now hospitalized and in a coma, who apparently murdered everyone in his family but his sister, who was not present at the scene. She cannot be found, and Bark must try to discover her whereabouts. The doctor relents, but the ramification give way to the rest of the novel's twists and turns when the boy manages to leave the hospital after awakening from the coma, and is soon suspected of kidnapping Bark's 14-year-old son.

Inspector Linna insists on leading the case to find the boy before he is able to kill his sister or, he suspects, harm Bark's son, as he also assumes the lead in the kidnapping case. And the chase is on, with Bark, his wife and his father-in-law, a retired detective, playing important roles. I wish some greater effort had been made to streamline the book. Then it would have received a higher rating from this reviewer and been unreservedly recommended.

The Impossible Dead
Ian Rankin
Reagan Arthur Books
Little, Brown & Co.
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316039772 $25.99,

Ian Rankin usually lays a foundation of current and past events in his novels. And, in this second Malcolm Fox mystery, he creates a tale reaching back a quarter of a century, when agitation and violence marked efforts for a separate Scotland. Fox, who made his debut in "The Complaints," grows exponentially as a protagonist, along with his sidekicks on his Internal Affairs team, Tony Kaye and Joe Naysmith. They are worthy successors to the now retired Rebus, although more subtle in the presentation.

This murder-mystery has its beginnings in an investigation of fellow cops who may have covered up for a corrupt co-worker, Detective Paul Carter, who had been found guilty of misconduct. The original accuser was Carter's uncle, an ex-op himself. When the uncle is found dead, perhaps murdered with a pistol that theoretically did not exist for it should have been destroyed by the police in 1985, and Carter himself dead by drowning shortly afterward, Fox is drawn into his own inquiry outside the aegis of a Complaints review, resurrecting the turmoil of the past and terrorist threats of the present.

Rankin also demonstrates his trademark attention to character development, concentrating much of the story on the deterioration of Fox' father's physical well-being and his relationship with his sister, each with sensitivity and care. At the same time, the author shows his talent for integrating the setting, plot and theme, tightly intertwining the various elements. Highly recommended.

Back of Beyond
C.J. Box
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312365745, $25.99,

Against the vastness and isolation of Yellowstone Park, C.J. Box has once again created a suspense-murder-thriller novel using the natural environment as a backdrop. Cody Hoyt, a rogue cop who first appeared in "Blue Heaven," returns once again, as he is called in to investigate the death of a man shot in the head and burned in his half-destroyed mountain cabin, later identified as Cody's AA sponsor, making the case very personal to the detective.

In the course of his investigation, Cody discovers that the murderer has joined a group on a multi-day wilderness horseback trip in a remote part of the park. Adding incentive, Cody learns that his son is part of the group on the trip, so has to not only find the murderer but save his son.

The author then takes the reader on a wild ride, never once giving much away in clues as bodies and riderless horses start turning up along the trail as Cody, who now is suspended and AWOL from the Sheriff's Department, tries to close in on the remaining group. The descriptions are sweeping, the character development deeply absorbing.


The Killing Song
P.J. Parrish
Gallery Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451651355, $15.00,

A diversion from the long-standing Louis Kincaid series for which this sister-writing-team is well known, this standalone features a hard-drinking investigative reporter headquartered in Miami, Matt Owen, who is confronted with his younger sister's sudden disappearance and subsequent murder. When he suddenly discovers her Ipod with a Stones song on it, he realizes he may have found something of a clue, and flies to Paris.

In the City of Light, aided by an old newspaper friend and a female French Inspector, he begins to track the murderer, first in Paris and then London and Scotland and back to Paris again, developing, step by step, a picture of the culprit and his past crimes, leading to an interesting chase.

It is quite a story, with well-developed characters, especially that of the villain, and an intensive investigation to find him. Whether or not the reader can accept Matt as an alcoholic ne'er-do-well or a talented, tenacious reporter attempting to redeem himself, is a question that can only be answered by the reader. But, then, we'll always have Paris.


Buried By the Roan
Mark Stevens
People's Press
P.O. Box 5, Aspen, CO 81612
9780981781099, $14.95,

The second Allison Coil Mystery begins with a hunting party Allison and her guides are heading in Colorado. Among the participants is the owner of a ranch who supposedly is in the forefront in the community of "striking it rich" by collecting gas royalties as the controversy swirls about ruining the environment by fracturing underground sources of hydrocarbons. Unfortunately he dies up on the mountain, apparently in an accident. But was it?

From that point, the convoluted plot progresses and the reader has to work doubly hard to reach the end. The writing is uneven, with spurts of excellent descriptive material, especially with regard to elk-hunting and the environment in which the activity takes place. But it is confusion that greets the reader on the topic, pro or con, concerning environmentalism.

The mystery surrounding this novel is why the first 100 pages were not cut before publication. It is only when the reader plows through one-third of the book that a plot of a sort begins to emerge. And then, it is just frequently confusing. Apparently, the theme is supposed to be pro-environmental in nature, a controversy similar to the protests against the proposed pipeline from Canada south. Or the natural gas fracturing taking place throughout the country. But it is hard to tell. That said, fans of western mysteries should be pleased.

Theodore Feit

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

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