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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 5, Number 7 July 2005 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewers Recommend Arlene's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Betty's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Carey's Bookshelf Christina's Bookshelf Connie's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Dian's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Gypsi's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Jeremy's Bookshelf Julian's Bookshelf
Liana's Bookshelf Lori's Bookshelf Magdalena's Bookshelf
Martha's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Nancy's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Robyn's Bookshelf
Roger's Bookshelf Sherry's Bookshelf Silver Fox's Bookshelf
Smith's Bookshelf Sullivan's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf

Reviewers Recommend

Beyond the Dark Mountains
M. L. Rigdon
Hats Off Books
610 East Delano Street, Suite 104, Tucson, AZ 85705
ISBN 1587363720 $19.95

Jean Carroll

Beyond the Dark Mountains is the second book in a trilogy set in another time and another place, but where the citizens deal with the problems common to all mankind - faith, love, fear, courage.

Old City is introduced in the first book, Prophecy Denied. The drechleth, a demon creature, attacks Old City causing its people to flee. Some flee to the south to build a new city, Chi, by the sea. They take with them their faith in the secrets of defeating the drechleth should it ever find a way over the dark mountains. Others flee to the north. They put their faith in building an awesome technology to defeat the drechleth should it every return.

Lord Ladnor and his wife, High Priestess Mirra, together defeated the drechleth in Prophesy Denied. In this book their son, Lorin-Sha, fears he will never be able to live up to the standard set by his parents, so he doesn't try and generally takes the easy way out.

Lorin-Sha is sent to join the Calvary in order to learn discipline. Along with discipline, Lorin-Sha learns his strengths. He returns home to Sha no longer fearing himself inadequate.

The Oracle, ruler of the people of the north, uses his technology to take control of surrounding countries. In a plan to destroy Mirra, High Priestess, he lures Lorin-Sha into an ambush and Lorin-Sha loses his legs. His mother "sees" what is happening and, in a rare loss of temper, destroys an army to save her son. She has powers to heal but cannot create new legs for Lorin-Sha.

Mirra fears technology but technology holds the promise of restoring Lorin-Sha's legs. Out of necessity for survival and in order to defeat evil, faith and technology must come together.

M. L. Rigdon's writing is clear and crisp in describing a world different from our own, but her characters deal with the problems faced by people universally.

The action Rigdon describes will make your fingers itch to turn the pages and read on, and you will be sure to watch for the final book of the trilogy.

When the Dead Speak: The Second Brett Higgins Mystery
Therese Szymanski
Bella Books
P.O. Box 10543, Tallahassee, Florida 32303
ISBN: 193151352X $11.95 207 pages

Cheri Rosenberg

For a person who doesn't believe in ghosts, I found Therese Szymanski's When the Dead Speak truly believable and chillingly real. The second Brett Higgins Mystery seamlessly picks up where When the Dancing Stops leaves off, like the next chapter of the continuing saga. Brett's old life is dead and buried, but can she accept the past, move on, and enjoy her new "quiet" life with her lover, Allie Sullivan?

After bumming around California for a year, Brett and Allie move to the sleepy town of Alma, Michigan. Brett misses the fast-paced city life but agrees to settle down. They buy a house next door to a feisty old broad, Madeline, who Brett thinks is " a few eggs short of an omelet" [p. 31]. "[Madeline's] ability to see through easy charades " [p. 31] among other things, makes Brett uneasy, as do the very strange happenings in the house that has Brett's hair standing on end. Even after she learns her new home had been the scene of a murder, Brett still doesn't believe in ghosts. In 1967, Liza Swanson was brutally murdered in the house for being gay. Eventually, Brett acknowledges that she feels a presence of some sort - perhaps the house is haunted. Brett undeniably feels connected to Liza after she discovers the tormented soul's journal, which reveals her harrowing life.

Szymanski skillfully weaves the past and present in this engaging mystery. As Brett is learning about Liza's life, she is remembering Pamela, aka Storm, her dead lover whom she cherished and protected until the day she was murdered. The similarities between Liza and Storm are staggering. When Liza's ghost haunts Brett and Allie's house, Brett cannot rest until she finds out who killed Liza Swanson so her ghost may rest in peace.

After giving up her life of crime, Brett goes under cover with the assumed name, Samantha Peterson; she is presumed dead by those who wish her no lesser fate. She has trouble leaving her past behind which in turn affects how she deals with uncovering the details of Liza's life. Mourning the loss of her ex-lover, and her old boss Rick DeSilva, who was also murdered in cold blood, Brett's feelings are intensified as the details of Liza's death come to light. Brett wonders whether avenging Liza's murder will help her put those other deaths behind her.

As in her first novel, When the Dancing Stops, Therese Szymanski's clever plot design keeps readers guessing. The delightful romance between Brett and Allie gets richer even as you wonder if Brett could ever be faithful to one woman. Madeline, a new character, is a wonderful addition, adding spice to the story.

Writing a series is not as easy as one might think, but Therese Szymanski pulls it off exceptionally well - it is evident that the author is growing as a writer. Her details are accurate, her characters evolve, and she makes the reader want more. When the Dead Speak is a hit. Don't miss it.

Originally published by The Naiad Press - ISBN 1562801988

Final Wishes
Dana Matthews
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705 301-695-1707
ISBN 1413762093 $19.95 199 pgs.

Christy Tillery French

In this sequel to SURVIVING PIECES, state investigator Tiffany Potter and actress Jasmine O'Reilly, having acknowledged they are reincarnated twin souls, are becoming comfortable with their relationship and growing closer to one another. Each holds the other in awe, somewhat astonished by the telepathic communications they share and synchronous emotions. Tiffany has recovered from her injuries and is ready to return to work but devastated to learn that her former partner may be responsible for having her shot at the command of Thomas Farlan, son of drug lord Michael Farlan. Michael Farlan has fallen ill with cancer and Thomas has stepped into his shoes. When Thomas learns that Tiffany did not die from her injuries, he seeks to have her terminated by one of her own team members. Tiffany and Jasmine lead the reader on an exciting adventure as they face danger together, guided by the ghost of Theresa Silverfish, Thomas Farlan's ex-girlfriend.

Author Dana Matthews once more provides a spellbinding thriller, with plenty of twists and turns intertwined with a fascinating peek into the mystical world of ghosts and reincarnated souls. The story moves at a fast pace, laden with breathtaking suspense and galvanizing action. With an interesting plot and masterful characterization, FINAL WISHES is one book that will linger in the mind a long while after the read is finished.

Heir to the Glimmering World
Cynthia Ozick
Houghton Mifflin Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
ISBN 0618470492, $24.00, 310 pp.

Coletta Ollerer

Following a bleak motherless childhood under the emotionally barren care of an irresponsible and selfish father, Rose Meadows finds herself alone in the world when her father takes a new job. Her distant cousin, Bertram, agrees to take her in. Her stay with him is short lived and she finds a new home after answering a newspaper ad placed by Herr Mitwisser and is accepted to board at his home and work there as his secretary. This household is more bizarre than her own had been. Herr Mitwisser is a scholar recently escaped from Nazi Germany with his wife and children. He came to America hoping to gain fame by his study of the Karaites, an obscure Jewish sect. Unfortunately, no one seems to care. A small college in Albany, New York offered Herr Mitwisser a modest position. The family moved there: wife, Elsa, distracted and unstable, Anneliese, teen age older daughter and lady in charge, cold and authoritative. Three sons, Heinrich, Gerhardt, and Wilhelm, high spirited, bent on their own agenda and Waltraut, the younger girl, age three, sad, confused and ignored by her mother.

Later, Herr Mitwisser quits the college and moves the family to New York City where Rose will continue to be his assistant as he pursues his scholarly work. There is very little money but Anneliese hints that a person named James will come to the rescue

James arrives one day bearing gifts and hope and everyone is happy except Elsa who mistrusts James' influence over her husband. James begins to escort the lonely Anneliese out of an afternoon. Soon it becomes a habit and one day they do not return. Herr Mitwisser is torn by his anger for James and his need for his support. Anneliese continues to send money to her father in their absence until one day the money stops. Rose finds herself futilly trying to fill the Anneliese role. "We were sinking still more deeply into wilderness -- the boys at war, underwear unwashed, pots boiling over, Mitwisser pacing behind a shut door, his wife finicky in her bed, Waltraut unbathed and growing dispirited. At times she fell into inconsolable howls. If I made order in one part, decay was already seeping into another part". (p190)

Bertram arrives at the house in New York one day out of money, a job and hope begging Rose for help. Rose asks Herr Mitwisser if he might stay the night. Bertram immediately makes himself useful and wins permission to stay on. Some time later Anneliese returns home sick and penniless. Bertram extends his usefulness to include her further ensconcing himself into the household. Rose finds herself becoming distanced from the family by virtue of Herr Mitwisser's distraction and hopelessness. She remembers how it had been. "Years later, that is how I imagine it: a motionless scene, I with my fingers stilled on the light-stippled glass of the typewriter keys, . . . he standing giantly over me, submerged in his dream of forgotten heresies. I see it that way, in stasis, as a kind of trance, in order to isolate those phantasmagorical hours from the turbulence and frights of that unhappy house." (p218)

Cynthia Ozick takes us on a murky voyage into these dysfunctional lives where we marvel at how these people find each other and why they cling to or repel one another. A worthwhile read for the student of human behavior.

Monkey 99
Michael Doyle Amspaugh
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker CO 80134
ISBN: 1932672915 $15.95

Dennison Rey

In 1968, 20th Century Fox released a film entitled "Planet of the Apes" in which a race of sentient simians evolved in a revolutionary manner to land atop the food chain. Then in 1981, David Cronenberg directed a movie called "Scanners" about a band of psychics capable of causing a great deal of mischief with their minds. If you were to throw these two movies into a Cuisinart and hit puree you might end up with a direct-to-video thriller about Scanner-Monkeys. But if you tossed in the screenplays and hit blend, you might end up with something close to Monkey 99, a tidy little mind-meld from Michael Doyle Amspaugh.

Screenplays in, screenplay out. Even though it looks like a novel, Amspaugh's style is more akin to Steven Spielberg than Stephen King. That is to say, Monkey 99 holds more than a passing resemblance to a movie treatment, what with the multiple pages of uninterrupted character soliloquies. That's not a terrible thing; Amspaugh recognizes his strength and features it in spades. Pervasive dialogue holds a majority stake in this 210-page ride, sacrificing illuminating exposition for witty banter. The result is a new winner in the "show don't tell" contest of storytelling, albeit to the detriment of understanding.

What exposition there is serves purely technical requirements, largely limited to stage cues and line-of-sight logistics. Amspaugh describes in adoring clarity a character's strong physical appeal and yet we rarely earn trips inside her mind. We very much understand that she's a sight for sore thighs, but we're left pondering what exactly makes her tick. This lack of character introspection is even more troubling given the 3rd-person omniscient narrative and is an oversight Amspaugh would do well to address with his subsequent book. Scanner-Monkeys are exciting and everything (as is this novel), but sometimes I wanted to know cogito ergo sum, to coin Descartes.

These characters may not think, but they certainly R - reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic occupies the bulk of activity in Monkey 99, where the majority of story focuses on training the psychics (known as "monkeys" by their teachers) for a showdown to save the world. Unfortunately, this is a denouement that doesn't quite materialize into the climactic battle one might have hoped for given all the prep-time. Instead, it's awash in droll repartee punctuated by brief exchanges of psychic powers. Several character arcs are tied off nicely while others trail conspicuously behind like shoelaces on loafers. Amspaugh coyly dangles plot devices hither and fro (like the promising "Logan's Run"-esque ploy when one character disappears from training for a day alas, only to arrive bright and early the next), but these ideas are not developed nor do they pay off. It saddened me tremendously to come upon the end without Michelle treating Nick to her la petite morte skills, or grande morte, as the case may be. For a story that shows so much and tells so little, showing the more exciting stuff would have been appreciated, and made for a more satisfying experience over all.

That said, Monkey 99 is an entertaining read, due largely to its dialogue. It is clear Amspaugh is a funny fellow, and for that I won't fling feces. But I won't partake in naked monkey love, either.

Hour Game
David Baldacci
Warner Books
1271 Avenue of the Americas. NY, NY 10020
ISBN: 0446531081; $17.79 403 pages

Marty Duncan, Reviewer

Hour Game: Play to win. The serial murderer in Baldacci's Hour Game sets the wrist watch on his first victim at 1:00, on his second victim the watch is set at two. Sean King and Michele Maxwell, retired Secret Service agents, are enlisted to help local constabulary and the FBI when they bumble through the brambles of a series of murders that reach eight. In the murder's eyes, his actions are part of a game. He leaves clues. The detectives are stumped.

In Hour Game the reader sees several murders through the killer's eyes. The reader sees the killer moments after the brutal murder of a mother (while her three boys sleep) when the killer is caught by the sleepy-eyed young boy. The nameless killer considers killing the boy but tells him to go back to bed. The scene is agonizing; a scene to terrify the reader.

The images will stay with you. Sean and Michele and the dysfunctional Battle family are deftly woven through a plot that includes Sean scrambling through brambles to save Michele. Reading Baldacci is a fantastical adventure in voyeurism.

The Optimist
Joshua Mehigan
Ohio University Press
Athens, OH
ISBN: 082141612X; $12.95 61 pp.

Dustin Michael

Looking on the bright side, The Optimist, Joshua Mehigan's debut collection of poems, is a ray of hope for those who believe "hard-worker" and "poet" needn't be oxymoronic.

In what some might call a welcome and refreshing return for rhyme and meter, Mehigan lays down lovely, orderly, measured lines in the face of the trend of post-genre and free-verse chaos, and he does so with such precision and skill that he doesn't merely make it look easy - he makes everyone else look lazy. Each moment he makes us aware that he took the time to find just the right way to say what he's saying, that no other way would work. So meticulous is Mehigan's care that he's taken steps to ensure his poems don't become too refined or polished. He doesn't compromise their urgency and rawness for gloss and luster. It's simple to figure out how meter, rhyme, and the conventional devices of poetry became stigmatized - they take time to master, and even then few can use them effectively. Besides, the poetry unit is a key component of every beginning creative writing class from middle school to college. Teachers can only read the words eyes, sunrise, love and above so many times before they make that slow climb to the top of the bell tower with the hunting rifle and bag of chips. For those writing instructors still fighting the good fight, The Optimist should read like a how-to manual as it captures all the splendor of Victorian-era wordplay in updated, pressing, uniquely visionary modes.

In the poem "Two New Fish," Mehigan describes a boy walking home recklessly tossing the plastic bag home of a pair of live fish, doing all he can to break and not to break the bubble, teetering on the balance of the helpless fish's lives', and in doing so draws a comparison, like an old Far Side cartoon, of God as a careless little kid. He writes: " And when | within these limits neither fish had died, | the boy put down the bag and went inside."

While full of hard end stops and heavily reliant on the kind of "expected" techniques writing group kids would circle again and again and sneer at together during cigarette breaks, the only real distraction in the poems is the standing invitation for the reader to pause mid-stanza to try and identify the form. After a while, though, the experience becomes like a drive in the country with the windows down, where one forgets to think about the tiny workings of the car, or the type of the car, or even the notion of being in the car at all. Curiously, there is little surface evidence of optimism in The Optimist's 50 poems. (The title piece, for example, addresses the issue of a woman dying from cancer, likening it to a star burning out, disappearing from the sky) Instead, there are clear signs of hard-work, practice, dedication, and more than a trace of talent The book's title should refer more to the author than the poems collected within it. Having won the 2004 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize and been a finalist for both the 2005 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and the 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry, Joshua Mehigan has a lot to be optimistic about, as far as his career as a poet is concerned. Deservedly so - this is one of those rare, wondrous books that inevitably wears on the reader simply for the fact that it elicits empathy with the author's great labor to the extent that we begin to feel sorry for poor Joshua Mehigan. There are plenty of contemporary poets who are fun to watch at play. We read their lines and imagine what fun they must've had writing them. We get visions of latte-stained paper napkins full of haphazardly penned witty things being passed among attractive and smug women and men in dark sweaters, and we wish we were there, that the napkin would be handed to us. But we can't imagine wanting to be around Joshua Mehigan while he was writing the poems that went into The Optimist. In our minds, we see endless piles of drafts, some wadded, some singed, stacks of books, an open dictionary on the top, and from behind the dense pile, one finger flipping the pages, endlessly. But wait what's that we see scattered about the room? Of course - dozens of chipped cups of cold coffee, half full.

Drama City
George Pelecanos
Little, Brown
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0316608211 $24.95, 291 pages

Greta Anderson

In two-way prison rehabilitation projects across the country, incarcerated men and women train abandoned dogs and learn to be better humans. George Pelecanos, author of twelve crime novels and producer of the HBO crime show, Wire, heard about these programs and invented the protagonist of his new novel, Drama City. Lorenzo Brown went through the dog-training program, and now works as a dog catcher - or "Humane Law Officer" - in Washington D.C..

Lorenzo is trying hard to live up to the "humane" part. His interactions on the job show compassion and fine-tuned awareness, as he puts to good use the street smarts gained from drug dealing and time in "the cut". Just as conscientious off the job, Lorenzo walks his dog Jasmine twice a day through his old neighborhood, always cleaning up after her. Always, too, he faces a gauntlet of ridicule and his own qualms about being "a square in a uniform, working for rent money and nothing more, holding a bag of shit in one hand and the leash of a dog, not even a fighting dog in the other."

His parole officer, Rachel Lopez, attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings to make sense of her own secret vice. She is more observer than participant, but the others' stories seem to echo hers and those of her clients, speaking for all who are trying to escape the undertow of their pasts. In her experience on the job, only a few actually make it. She has hopes Lorenzo might.

Equally burdened by their pasts - but less prone to reflection - are the members of the drug gangs whose turf war thickens the novel's plot. Stories of their abuse as children are echoed by the stories of the rottweilers and pit bulls Lorenzo encounters in his rounds, animals that have been made violent and whose violence is being used.

In Pelecanos' skillful interplay of themes, the dogs and the men become apt metaphors for each other.

Drama City has the gritty, realistic flavor of an updated Clockers. Pelecanos, a lifelong resident of D.C. with a long blue-collar background, researched with the Washington Humane Society and area ex-offenders, parole officers, and police to pull together the factual details of his story.

One of the facts is that some dogs must be put down.

Lorenzo explains this to his white coworker, who was bitten by a dog and now feels guilty for the consequences: "Things happened to that dog on this cruel earth to make it the way it was. Wasn't its fault, but still. It's not like God is gonna step in now, point his finger down from heaven, and touch that animal, make it so it can live around people and other animals the right way."

Chillingly, this speech signals to the reader that Lorenzo is ready to "put down" a person who is wreaking havoc in his world, that he may surrender his future to the "fate" of so many victims of a broken past and violent environment.

Pelecanos' previous work has been praised for its pitch-perfect, streetwise dialogue. In this book, too, characters' internal voices and spoken words come off sounding true. But it is the author's voice we come to trust most. For, audible throughout this very engaging book is his call for a more humane society.

The Road to Inheritance
Daniel Cure
Trafford Publishing
6E - 2333 Government Street, Victoria, BC, Canada V8T 4P4
ISBN: 1412045223 12.95 Brit. pounds

Ian Collins

The Road to Inheritance is by far the best book I've read this year. For several years, now, I've had to contend myself with old school action thriller's in a nostalgic search for entertainment, and have felt depressed at the post-modern offerings from the likes of the turgid Nick Hornby, who seem to have infiltrated the market with boring noodlings about nothing in particular. Give me action, give me adventure, give me Will Monohue, who on completing this novel, I yearn to read more of.

The style is fast paced, and a real page-turner. We learn that Will is to be bequeathed the proceeds from a valuable necklace that his uncle comes across (being some kind of long lost family relic). However, it is soon stolen, and with no clue as to the thieves, we assume that his sudden luck has expired all too soon. Randomly, though he bumps into one of the alleged thieves in Birmingham, and persuades his friend to follow him in pursuit. What follows is a harrowing, yet gripping roller coaster as they play cat and mouse with their captors up in a deserted region of Scotland, still clinging onto the hope of actually recovering Will's precious jewel. The tension in the penultimate chapter as Will gives his enemy chase across a dark field is amongst the most intense I've ever read!

This is not an epic tale, nor is it particularly scholarly. However, it is immensely enjoyable, and leaves the reader with a sense (aka Harry Potter) that this is only the first instalment of our hero. A friend of mine read an interview with Cure, who claims that there'll be at least 4 or 5 in the series, and that he promises to go down a "darker route" with the next one, so we'll have to wait and see. I would recommend this for anyone from the age of 14 upwards who enjoys an action thriller.

The Power of the Pitch
Gary Hankins
Dearborn Trade Publishing
30 South Wacker Drive, Suite 2500, Chicago, IL 60606-7481
ISBN: 0793194393 $22.95 288 pps.

Jamie Engle

One of the best business books I've read this year, The Power of the Pitch covers everything needed to make a winning presentation, from making the initial sales call to writing the presentation, determining graphics, what to wear, hand gestures and eye contact, handouts and more. No detail is left uncovered in this easy to read, complete handbook.

Hankins worked in sales, media, and public speaking for more than 30 years. In 1988, he founded Pygmalion, Inc. to help organizations and individuals perfect their communications with clients and prospects. His expertise is readily apparent throughout The Power of the Pitch.

Hankins defines a pitch as "any time you speak with the intent to persuade. Pitches could be delivered in person, over the telephone, to one person, or to thousands." Pitches include anything from sales presentations to speeches, interviews to team discussions, and more.

Hankins begins with the fundamentals of presentations, including The Secrets of Winning People Over, how to present yourself (The Power of Packaging), how to move (The Laws of Nonverbal Attraction) and how to speak (Put Power in Your Voice). He then outlines the three parts of the pitch (The Grabber, The Persuasion Model and The Power Close). Next are chapters detailing techniques, tools and tips for building a successful presentation. Topics covered include outlining and planning your presentation, using stories, how to build rapport, successful graphics, cold calling, technology and more. The range is broad, but the topics are covered in-depth in a clear, concise manner.

Resources and several outlines, forms and handouts are included in the book. They're invaluable tools for building your presentation and tracking feedback. The forms are also available for download at the website (, where you'll also find additional resources and articles.

This book is not only for sales people, but also for anyone who has to make a presentation of some kind. Whether you're making the keynote speech at the next banquet, asking for donations at the fundraising dinner, or trying to sell your product or idea to a client, boss or co-worker, you'll find ways to fine-tune your pitch and persuade them to your side.

The Bully: A Discussion and Activity Story
Rita Y. Toews, author
Jon Ljungberg, illustrator
Birds Hill Publishing
9 Esker Place, East St. Paul, Manitoba, R2E 0K2
(204) 661-2734
ISBN: 0973622407 $9.95 Canadian, $7.50 U.S.

S. Joan Popek, Reviewer

"Encountering a bully is one of the toughest situations a child can face," Toews writes. This book is for children, parents, teachers, caregivers anyone who deals with children. Our first job is to protect our children, and this entertaining, informative storybook helps us do that.

This storybook helps children and adults identify and stop bullying while engaging the child in interactive activities which makes it fun to learn. The book's versatility allows it to be used in classroom settings, as a group activity, or in a one-on-one setting at home.

At thirty-five pages, this 8 1/2" x 11" book features full color glossy covers, lay-flat binding and large black and white illustrations suitable for coloring. Targeting elementary school aged children, the experience begins with a short preface directed at adults about the best way to use this book. Next comes an entertaining, illustrated short story about a little boy who is being bullied at school. He is afraid and ashamed to tell anyone. I was impressed at how well this segment expresses how a child feels when he or she is being bullied. The conclusion is sensible and honest, giving the little boy a safe way to avoid being bullied again. The solution this author uses can work.

The story is followed by a quiz for children about how to identify a bully and practical solutions about how to deal with a bully situation. Then comes a word puzzle and a connect the dots exercise followed by a quiz for parents and teachers. All of the pages double as coloring pages. There are pages to record yours and the child's thoughts on bullying, and at the back of the book, an entire page is devoted to guiding parents and educators to other resources on the subject.

Many of us are alarmed by the rise in school violence, gangs roaming the streets of communities and related problems. How does this kind of behavior get started?

One way is through bullying. Bullies "prove" themselves by bullying other children, then later, other adults. Children who are singled out to be bullied may become withdrawn and resentful, sometimes turning to the very thing they hate--they use violence as a way to strike back.

Almost one-fourth of all school age children are bullied by other children at some point. That is a frightening percentage. Many educators and psychologists believe that either being bullied or being a bully can lead to severe emotional problems and even jail time. Many children who have been the victim of such abuse often develop low self esteem and become troubled, even suicidal, teenagers.

What can we do about bullying?

The first step is to recognize it.

THE BULLY has only been in print for a short while, and already educators and therapists are using the book to teach youth about the harm bullying can cause.

As a parent, grandparent and former educator, I can honestly say that this is an exceptionally comprehensive guide. It should be required reading in every elementary school classroom.

It's more than a storybook--it's a learning experience--both for children and adults. I highly recommend this book to anyone or any organization or agency that deals with children in any capacity. As An added bonus, the publisher offers special discounts on bulk orders, so ordering THE BULLY for a classroom, an organization or a group, will be affordable.

I feel strongly about this book's message, and I believe that it should be on every school library shelf and in the homes of everyone who has school aged children.

Islam: Faith and History
Mahmoud M. Ayoub
Oneworld Press
c/o National Book Network
4270 Boston Way, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706 1-800-462-6420
ISBN: 185168350X $19.95 247 pages

Michael Riggs

Islam: A Concise and Intelligent History

Despite Islam's recurrent appearances in the U.S. media, I believe it is safe to say that most people of other faiths know little about it. We hear frequently of insurgency, of terrorists, and of Shiite beliefs, but sound bytes and pundits usually contribute very little to real understanding of this complex world religion. Islam: Faith and History displays the author's profound scholarship in comparative religion, a deep scholarly knowledge of the history of Islam, and a clarity of exposition rare in any book, especially one that tries to cover such a broad range of material.

Eleven chapters on such subjects as the origins of Islam, the role of prophets, faith and worship, the age of the Caliphs, women and men, and Islam and Modernity, provide readers at both expert and beginning level with a concise introduction to the principal tenets and history of the faith. Ayoub's explains what the worldwide Islamic community is, the difficulties of incorporating modern science and technology into the broader Islamic community of believers, and probably most instructive to me, the general differences between Islamic and Christian forms of worship, including very different ideas of scriptural interpretation and the idea of law. In Ayoub's view, the idea of a purely secular state is one that does not fit easily into Islam, and he carefully adduces the reasons for this. I certainly came away from this book with a much better understanding just how secular are my own beliefs.

Having read several works that, in one way or another, take up the "clash of civilizations" idea, I found Ayoub's book to be informative without being tendentious, respectful without being obsequious and educational without being at all pedantic. The book is, in short, an example of a truly persuasive discourse, and the goal of that persuasion is not empathy or antipathy, but informed respect for another, and often alien, worldview. Those who wish to learn more about Islam could hardly do better than to read this short work.

Searching for the Waters of Antiquity
Shirley Ryan
Soul Moments Publishing
P.O. Box 4763, Petaluma, CA 94952
ISBN: 0975419609 $24.95 113 p.

Shirley Roe, Reviewer

One of the first truly unique books of the year!

The book promises a story for children eight to eighty and the author has fulfilled that promise. At first glance the story is naive and childlike, however upon further inspection the reader realizes that the message is as deep and mysterious as life itself. Subtitled: A Follow-along Meditation Process, it is indeed just that-encompassed in a delightful tale.

Our hero, Tag is a tiny turtle on a mission-the search for the waters of antiquity, which can also be interpreted as a search for the spiritual center, the place of ONE. Readers travel through the garden of life with little Tag as if being guided on their own meditation into the spiritual core of SELF. This three-part story explores every conceivable human emotion-love, fear, understanding, tolerance, wisdom and fear. His personal guide, Ms. Crane is another fascinating creature who assists him on his journey. Tag asks her the questions in all of our minds and hearts drawing the reader further and further into the story.

Simplistic but serene illustrations throughout provide the reader with a fascinating story of their own and the book provides a peaceful sanctuary that can be visited time and again. Simply flip through the pages, one illustration after another and feel the calming influence descend over you.

Author Shirley Ryan is the president of Working Together, a business specializing in Executive and Personal coaching. She is also a behavioral specialist and therapist in northern California.

Searching for the Waters of Antiquity is a charming yet fascinating book for the entire family. The book is presented in gift giving, coffee table format and it is definitely a book that you would want to share with friends and family. Highly recommended by Allbooks Reviews.

Marek Halter
Three Rivers Press (Crown Publishers)
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 1400052785 $12.95, 325 pages

Shayla Hawkins

With a seamlessness and clarity like pure water, Marek Halter steps into the skin and paints a dazzling narrative of one of the Bible's most famous and obscure characters in Sarah, his novel about the woman who became Abraham's wife and the matriarch of Judeo-Christianity. In Halter's lyrical, masterful prose Sarah is transformed from a five-letter name in an ancient text into a three-dimensional flesh and blood woman whose passion and determination to live her life on her terms are as revolutionary today as they surely must have been during Sarah's lifetime several thousand years ago.

The novel opens approximately 4,000 years ago in a palace in the Sumerian city-state of Ur (which, it bears mentioning, is present-day Iraq). There, the adolescent Sarah (who, until God establishes a covenant with her and Abraham, is called Sarai) awakens one morning to find that she has menstruated for the first time. Far from being happy about this, Sarah is afraid because she knows that since her period has now started, she will soon be forced to marry whatever man her father chooses for her. In the pre-dawn stillness of her bedroom, Sarah wonders:

Why did the blood running between her thighs make her more adult? Why, at the same time as she gained the freedom to speak, was she going to lose the freedom to act? ... Now, in exchange for a few silver shekels or a few measures of barley, her father could give her to a man. A stranger she might have to hate for the rest of her days. Why did things have to happen that way? Why not another way?

Soon after her initiation into the Chamber of Blood (the haven for every palace female who is menstruating or in childbirth), Sarah starts to plot her escape from her forced wedding. After a humiliating episode at her engagement dinner, Sarah flees her father's palace and goes into Ur's lower city. From there, she wanders through the darkening night along the edge of the Euphrates River. Disoriented by loneliness and self-pity, Sarah trips over something and falls into the water. Seconds later, when Sarah struggles back to the surface, she sees that the creature she stumbled over and thought was a demon is no monster at all. He is, instead, a young hunter from the Amorite tribe called Abram (which is the pre-covenant spelling of Abraham's name). Sarah is instantly attracted to the handsome nomad and feels an inexplicable longing to tell him everything about her life. And so, while eating the food and basking in the warmth of the fire that Abraham has prepared for her, Sarah confesses that she is the daughter of a lord of Ur and has just fled from her engagement dinner. Abraham listens intently, and as he and Sarah reveal more about themselves, Sarah grows more comfortable until her fear of the night and strange surroundings vanishes and is replaced with an incomprehensible joy. Sarah notes that:

All at once, she was aware of happiness suffusing her body, from the ends of her hair to the tips of her toes, and calming her mind.... this boy she had not even known when the sun was up, Abram, who was so close to her she could have brushed his shoulder, was going to protect her from everything. She knew it.

The following morning, however, Sarah's happiness is destroyed when she awakens to find herself surrounded by her father's guards and sees that Abraham is gone.

Broken and humiliated, Sarah returns to her father's palace. Her father is so angered and disgusted that he forbids anyone on his property to speak Sarah's name. Sarah's handmaid Sililli, however, defies the edict and provides the only love and comfort Sarah receives. And it is Sililli who covers for Sarah when, a few weeks later, Sarah runs from the palace again. Unable to forget Abraham and terrified of never seeing him again and being forced into yet another engagement, Sarah decides to repel any suitor her father might choose by making herself unable to bear children. When she reaches the lower city, Sarah heads for the marketplace. There she finds a kassaptu (a witch) who gives Sarah five packets of herbs to make Sarah's menstrual blood stop for several months. Sarah returns to the palace before anyone but Sililli notices her absence. But Sarah's impulsiveness and disregard for the kassaptu's directions prove disastrous. Sarah consumes the entire potion at once and falls into an almost fatal coma. And instead of stopping her period for a while, Sarah becomes permanently barren. After learning about Sarah's condition and consulting a soothsayer, her father sends her and Sililli to the Temple of Ishtar, where every barren female of Ur is sent. There, Sarah becomes the temple's chief priestess. Years later, after a serendipitous reunion, Abraham rescues Sarah from the temple. He and Sarah confess their love for each other and get married a few days later.

The second half of the novel explores Sarah's glad and willing transition from a child of royalty and revered priestess to a tent-dwelling, sheep-shearing wife whose residence changes with the seasons. Word of Sarah's barrenness spreads quickly through the camp, and she initially endures ridicule and isolation from the Amorite women. But as Abraham (who knows about Sarah's infertility even before he proposes to her) remains happy and faithful to his wife, the women grow to accept, and eventually honor and love, Sarah.

Perhaps inevitably, however, problems arise in Abraham's and Sarah's marriage. When a famine forces Abraham's tribe from Canaan to Egypt, Abraham is so afraid of the mighty Egyptian army that he completely loses faith in God. Abraham presents Sarah as his sister (which is partly true: Genesis 20:12 describes Sarah as Abraham's half-sister). And, as if she's nothing more than a prostitute, Abraham offers Sarah to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, as a sort of peace offering. Sarah and the Pharaoh then engage in a night of sex so torrid, she leaves bite marks in his shoulder. But after God visits Pharaoh in a terrifying dream, the king quickly releases Sarah and banishes her and Abraham from Egypt. Not long after, Sarah, embittered and desperate from her infertility, tells Abraham to lay with her handmaid Hagar (whom Pharaoh assigned to Sarah as a parting gift) so he can have a son. Hagar soon becomes pregnant, and an inevitable tension and hatred develops between her and Sarah. Once, in Hagar's seventh month of pregnancy, Hagar ridicules and speaks disrespectfully to Sarah. Sarah then slaps Hagar so hard that Hagar screams and runs for help. "Don't be stupid," Sarah yells at the women restraining her, "I'm not going to kill her!" Hagar gives birth to Ishmael, Abraham's firstborn son, and the jealousy between her and Sarah grows so unbearable that Sarah ultimately evicts her and Ishmael from Abraham's camp.

After all the drama among Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Abraham, Sarah's pregnancy and the birth of Isaac near the very end of the novel seem more like an afterthought than a poignant, pivotal event in the history of world religion. But the transfiguration of Sarah's bitterness and despair into an unbreakable peace and faith in Abraham's God are an inspiring end to her evolution as a human being. Similarly, by the novel's last page, the reader has a heightened appreciation for Marek Halter's phenomenal literary gifts and his ability to craft a brilliant lyrical story of how God can take a broken, bitter woman and transform her into a vessel of eternal hope, strength, and righteousness.

Bury My Heart at Redtree
Patrick Chalfant
Hawk Publishing
7107 S. Yale #345 Tulsa, OK 74136
ISBN: 1930709536 $23.95 297 p.

Tamika Johnson, Reviewer

Patrick Chalfant weaves a tale that is a mixture of psychological suspense, Native American mysticism and revenge in his sophomore novel Bury My Heart at Redtree. Redtree follows Taylor, a promising young psychology student as he builds his masters thesis around the revenge he has planned for those who are responsible for his parent's death.

Taylor is aided in his vigilante justice by his friends Elijah and Keith and hunted by the local authorities, detectives Stan Jennings and Carol Parker of the State Bureau of Investigations. With a cast of a characters that also includes a naive, yet insightful girlfriend, a mystical and manipulative Native American chief and a business man with shady dealings that could put Kenneth Lay to shame, Bury my Heart at Redtree is entertaining, suspenseful and exciting, albeit a little predictable and underdeveloped.

Chalfant's use of Freudian psychology as a plot device is original and ingenious as Taylor uses his criminal spree as a means to prove his thesis regarding Freud's idea of the id, ego and superego. Also, the opening sequence of Redtree, a daring and bloody convenience store hit, is one of the best opening sequences of a novel I have ever read. And I must say Gayland, the resident wealthy business man and all out bad guy is a well written and deliciously evil, villain. You love to hate him and hope and pray that he gets what he deserves.

Redtree manages to be fresh and engaging in a genre that can easily be stale and unoriginal and that is all do to Chalfant's masterful storytelling and innovative use of the old themes of revenge and redemption.

However, Redtree does have some problems, the biggest of which is Chalfant's lack of character development. With so many characters you don't expect to be up close and personal with everyone but the main characters, particularly Taylor and Jennings should feel like close friends, or at the very least people you'd care about if something happened to them and that closeness just isn't there.

Chalfant doesn't offer much in the way of motivation or understanding for their behavior or their thoughts, so as a reader you don't have much stake in what happens to them good or bad. He does a great job at portraying Gayland as a corrupt and soulless man but lacks the same depth with the rest of the characters and that lack of depth ultimately hurts the story he's trying to tell.

Also the novel gets a little too preachy, as the subplot about a high profile drug case becomes the springboard for a rant on the criminal justice system and how with enough money and the right attorneys one can get away with anything. It is fine to feel passionate about a topic but not too many people like to be preached to and after awhile the rants about the justice system just felt like a combination of whining and preaching.

Despite these criticisms Bury My Heart at Redtree is worth your time and money. It's a good and fast read and while the surprise ending isn't really a surprise you'll still find it satisfying and fulfilling.

Zorro: A Novel
Isabel Allende
ISBN: 0060778970 $25.95 400 pages

Terry Mathews

Recommendation: *****

Allende Unmasks The Mysteries of The Elusive Zorro

The only regret I had during the reading of Isabel Allende's latest offering, ZORRO: A NOVEL, was the knowledge it ended at page 400.

The kind people at HarperCollins sent an Advance Reader's Edition for my review, How lucky for me, as Allende is an expert at her craft.

Allende tells us the story of Zorro's early life in California, his travels to the old country, his first love and how he came to love the life of mask, cape and sword. One of the sub-plots revolves around Zorro's mother and grandmother and has enough substance for its own novel.

Allende, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, casts a spell on her readers with wonderful, long, glorious paragraphs. They drift by as if magically suspended above the page. This book also has a rich historical base from which Allende builds her characters and effects their lives.

The only complaint I have with Margaret Sayers Penden's translation from Allende's native Spanish is her generous use of the word "that." If "that" can be removed from a sentence and the sentence's intent remain the same, it should go. Every unnecessary "that" is like a boulder in the middle of a beautiful garden path.

It's rewarding to see such quality work on THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERS LIST. Kudos to Allende for her gifts. Kudos to her readers for their recognition of such splendid story-telling.


Villa Incognito
Tom Robbins, Bantam
Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY, 10019
0553803328, $24.00, 256 pages

Tyler Tradere

"No news is good news in Cognito
addresses are damn hard find
the queen of spades runs the mailroom
and all the postmen are legally blind."

Although Tom Robbins is adverse to plot summaries, I will do my best to summarize what is probably one of the strangest and most brilliant novels I've ever read. The novel starts out with the legend of the Tanuki, who are a strange and mythical dog-like badger from Asia known for always getting into mischief and loving the alcoholic drink sake. In this graphic legend one tanuki mates with a young country girl and has baby. The Tanuki is so irresponsible and reckless that the mother then decides to leave and care for the baby girl on her own, in the wilderness.

We then fast forward to present day where in a village somewhere in Laos, three American POW's have somehow managed to build a comfortable life outside of the America they have all begun to loathe. A life that is free of the nine-to-five rat race, the rules and regulations, and the competitiveness that is Corporate America. It is a simple life where they teach knowledge, drink an awful lot, and have many affairs with underage village girls. The three POW's have a villa and the only way to get in or out is to walk a tight rope across a monstrous ravine. Few frequent the villa but one of the girls appears to be the ancestor of the woman from the before mentioned legend. She has affairs with two of the three POW's and again is impregnated with a baby girl. She then leaves much like her Great Grandmother in the legend and gives the baby up for adoption.

After writing this summary I really see why Robbins hates plot summaries. They don't do his books justice. If you have't read a Tom Robbins novel, pick one up. You will be dazzled by this Wizard of Words. He is one of the funniest and wisest writers out there. After reading a paragraph, I instantly knew he was one of my favorite writers.

Bitter Harvest
Ann Rule
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0671868691 $7.99 480 pages

Ann Zobrosky

Ann Rule, without question, is the premier true crime writer of the day. Several strengths lift her books beyond the standard true-crime tome; her sympathetic yet real portrayal of the victims, her in-depth exploration of the perpetrators, and her gripping narratives of the crimes, which read like fiction.

Many true crime books either idealize the victim, like the eulogy in many a funeral, so that the victim comes across as saintly and sympathetic but barely human. Oddly enough, for the reader this creates a strange distance from the victim; it's hard to relate to an angel. Other books, focusing on the sensational aspects of the crime, emphasize the victim's faults and present the victim in a rather sleazy light. This is a turn-off to me; nobody deserves to be a crime victim, no matter how many mistakes the person has made. Rule, in contrast, draws the victims deftly and surely, never glossing over their faults yet presenting them as people who were loved, valuable, and deserved more than they got. An excellent example of this is her heartbreaking portrayal of the murdered prostitutes and their families in Green River Running Red.

She is also very adept at portraying the perpetrator. Many true crime books are very fact oriented, so the perpetrator and the crime come across almost like a photograph with people lined up and posing. Rule, by contrast, is an artist, capturing the light and shadow, the past and present and giving an in-depth, real picture of the perpetrator.

Bitter Harvest is the story of Debora Green, a doctor who was convicted of deliberately setting fire to her home and killing two of her children. It is a strange story; unlike many violent criminals who have limited intelligence and stark backgrounds, Deborah Green was raised in a working middle-class, loving family and had a strikingly superior intelligence. She had such a promising start; she excelled in high school without much effort and was popular and very witty, exceptional in the math and science areas and valedictorian of her class. She then moved on to college.

She planned on majoring in engineering; her words about engineering, quoted in the book, showed a keen aptitude and intelligence for this. But then her guidance counselor told her there was a glut of engineers, and she should major in something else. Now why in hell did the guidance counselor do that? Surely a brilliant, motivated student who majors in something she loves will not end up in a food line, no matter how big the "glut" is in a field. But the counselor did, and Debora Green "chose" pre-med instead. So basically you have an individual who is lukewarm about a profession, choosing one of the most challenging professions for a student to pursue. At this point, one gets a feeling of disjointedness, a character who is not connected to herself enough to insist on pursuing her dreams. This feeling of disjointedness follows Debora Green throughout the book.

Then she marries Mike Farrar. Ann Rule is incredibly sympathetic to him, constantly focusing on how "handsome" he is, how brilliant, how talented, how ambitious, gregarious, neat, punctilious, etc, etc, etc. However, throughout the book, despite her unstinting praise, he actually comes across as a jerk. He admits he was attracted to Debora Green because she was an intern, doing well and making good money, while he was a younger student. He has no interest in compromising with her in the marriage; he is very insistent that his way is the only way to be, and the book is rank with his petty criticisms of her. I quickly grew tired of his pick, pick, picking at her and found myself leaping to her defense, even knowing (from the back of the book) that she was convicted of a horrendous crime. Interestingly, despite her brilliance and talent, Debora never defends herself against Mike, never says, I like the way I am, I am as good as you, deal with it. Instead, she seems to accept his criticisms, and allows herself to go into a downhill plunge.

The marriage, and Debora, went down fast. She abused prescription drugs, failed at her examinations to become board certified, did not work hard, had a difficult time relating to other doctors and patients, failed at every type of practice she tried, and in the end became a raging alcoholic. All through this Mike continues to pick, pick, pick. Eventually she gains weight and becomes quite large, and Ann Rule and Mike take aim and fire with all barrels at this flaw. They do admit, however, that she was a good and loving mother. Hmmmm .

Then Mike meets Celeste, and guess what? Mike and Ann Rule try with all their might to justify his adultery based on Debora's flaws, but it just doesn't work. Mike and Debora enter into acrimonious divorce proceedings, and the fatal fire follows.

Rule attempts to present the evidence of Debora's guilt as conclusive, but a close reading of the facts reveals it is all circumstantial. It appears the authorities were on Mike's side from the beginning, and the investigation, and the ignoring of some of the stranger aspects of Mike's conduct afterwards, appeared inadquate. Personally, I suspected that Mike may have been guilty of the fire, and in fact may have "set Debora up" because he was tired of her.

Two things were particularly intriguing about this book. First, what was with Debora? Abuse was hinted at, but no evidence could be found. I suspected something more basic; she never was really attached to herself, never saw herself as a person of value, never saw her wants as important. There is a grim lesson here; without an innate sense of one's own worth, the strongest gifts of intelligence and talent are nothing.

Second, the author attempted to present this book in a way that was totally sympathetic to one character, Mike, but instead, totally unintentionally, she revealed severe and sinister flaws in Mike's character, and a possible major miscarriage of justice.

Finally, even with these aspects, the book itself is a can't-put-down read. It's fascinating because of, not in spite of, these strange layers, and I would highly recommend it.

Arlene's Bookshelf

Rosemary and Juliet
Judy MacLean
Alice Street Editions
Harrington Park Press
11 Cambridge Court East, Old Saybrook, CT 06475
ISBN: 1560234830; $17.95; 265 pages

Judy MacLean's freshman novel, Rosemary and Juliet, spins a tale of young love and sexual awakening for two compelling and personable teenage girls from very disparate families. One's mother and the other's father could not be more diametrically opposed parents. Romey Arden, a high school junior, is an out and proud lesbian who makes no apologies for who she is. Her supportive mother, Janis, is staunchly pro-choice who operates a woman's health clinic in the neighboring town. Janis is very much her own woman who is on the frontlines protesting for social justice. Julie Wright is the charming and obedient fourteen year-old daughter of the local fundamentalist minister of the Divido Bible Church. She is a stellar singer in the church choir and is sincerely immersed in both her religious belief and her family's commitment to the community. However, once she and Romey meet at a carnival, their mutual attraction is undeniable. Romey understands it for what it is, lesbian attraction, but naive Julie can only define it with her word for her overpowering feelings and fantasies, the Yearning. Eventually their relationship is discovered by Julie's father who is consumed by the potential for sin and damnation for his child. Reverend Wright engages the services of a Dr. Oberholzer. "What I offer is a Christian treatment method" (p. 148). This regimen involves electronic aversive stimulus, more commonly known as electric shock treatment. The Reverend eagerly accepts this diagnostic tool, and he and his wife hope for the best as their modest savings plummet to pay for this procedure. Add to the mix, more than a few homophobic townspeople, several intolerant and violent teenagers, an unexpected death, and well-meaning parents who believe they are doing the right thing, and you have a novel which explores the plight of gay teenagers who are trying to find their place in the world.

MacLean has a straightforward style of writing; the pacing makes it a very readable book. Borrowing from Shakespeare the play-on-words of the title and the overall thematic supposition of inter-familial rancor and animus, she manages to create a contemporary and cautionary narrative, one which parents of gay and straight teenagers would find enlightening. Creating subtle yet captivating characterizations, the author manages to engage the reader on several levels. There are a few flat stereotypical characters, Elliot the flamboyant gay friend and Nick the closeted cousin, but even they seem to strike an occasional chord of credibility. Romey, perhaps, best exemplifies what it means to be a gay and self-respecting student amidst the bigoted loathing found in a typical high school. She has acknowledged her identity and has been blessed with an accepting and loving parent. Romey is a character the reader immediately finds appealing and grows to admire throughout the course of the book. Julie depicts the genuine confusion and dismay of a sincerely religious young girl trying to come to terms with what she has been taught and what she feels cannot be evil. "Nothing can ever happen to me that will make me sorry I loved you" (p. 246). This reader would have preferred that the Julie character had been a year or two older, but the intrinsic uncertainty of self and loving she displays is possible. The dialogue flows easily, the action scenes are energized, and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep the reader intrigued. The themes of homophobia, hate-mongering, and senseless violence are conveyed in a deft and thought-provoking manner. MacLean possesses a keen eye and ear for that age group and her teenagers represent plausible people. It is especially compelling to explore the quandary in which Julie finds herself. Julie's love for her parents and her belief system juxtaposed with her developing and then escalating questioning of faith is masterfully told.

MacLean's choice of setting enhances the reality of the story. The girls' small town of Divido serves as a microcosm of the current state of affairs in this country. Even the town name, Divido, implies a form of division. The on-going struggles between the entrenched conservative religious element and the much-maligned gay community are reflected in the fractious relationships found in today's families, school environments, and community groups.

Rosemary and Juliet is a novel which has been categorized as a young adult book, but this should not deter any reader over the age of eighteen. This novel is one that movingly and passionately demands consideration, discussion, and scrutiny. There are admonitions here to be heeded by everyone, especially by those individuals whose lives are affected by the very subject matter of the story. MacLean's direct and unvarnished telling of this poignant tale is well worth reading.

Course of Action
Gun Brooke
Bold Strokes Books
1020 Livezey Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119
ISBN: 1933110228; $15.95; 320 pages

Take one desperately determined middle-aged diva from Tinseltown and add one mysterious, megabucks publisher and philanthropist from Miami. Stir in personality clashes, ethical conflicts, and a slowly simmering discovery of desire and romantic awakening. What results is Gun Brooke's refreshing novel, Course of Action. Carolyn Black wants the role of a lifetime, transforming the popular lesbian criminal investigator Diana Maddox from the pages of the popular novel series to the big screen. Annelie Peterson owns the film rights and wants to interview and audition several actresses for the role. However, at the same time, Annelie possesses a secret or two when it comes to Carolyn Black, secrets better left undisclosed for the moment. These two likable career women have indeed found a worthy and challenging adversary in each other. Carolyn and Annelie are vibrant and charismatic women, but they are far from the carefully crafted public persona each willingly reveals to the world. Corporate machinations, Hollywood hype, family crises, and intriguing secondary characters all intersect to create varied conflicts, some of which appear to have no easy resolutions. Yet, beneath all the clever maneuverings and seemingly shady shenanigans, a relationship is being forged, but whether or not it is genuine, Carolyn and Annelie must discover for themselves.

Brooke has created an appealing set of circumstances. Finding the right actress to play the role of Diana Maddox so as not to disappoint the many fans of the fictional detective is the main premise of the book. The disparate characters each have a stake in seeing this project come to fruition. It is the discord that arises from this quest that provides the reader with a fast-paced reading experience. The plot flows naturally and uncluttered from one scene to the next. The various sub-plots are written in a contained yet expansive manner. The author has an easy comfortable writing style, and chapters are often marked by several scene breaks within the chapter. This device succeeds in rapidly driving the plotline; the reader's interest is piqued with every new scene.

A well-written novel has a strong and memorable opening, and Course of Action delivers. "That role is mine! I am Diana Maddox" (page 11)! With the exclamation of those eight simple words, the reader meets the whirlwind, Carolyn Black. Part of the pleasure in this book is determining if she indeed is the larger-than-life diva she purports to be. From the very outset the reader wonders if the reticent Annelie is also what she seems to be. Therein lays the basic contention for the reader to resolve along with these two women. The foreshadowing presented here is fairly elementary, but at the same time, it is intriguing for the reader to see if her expectations occur.

The setting created by Brooke is a glimpse into that fantasy world of celebrity and high rollers, escapist to be sure, but witnessing the relationship develop between Carolyn and Annelie is well worth the trip. As the reader progresses, the trappings become secondary to the characters' desire to reach goals both professional and personal.

Some may find the title a bit misleading, although there is a reference to it, "I guess we'll have to agree on a course of action before ." (p. 291). However, it certainly doesn't detract from the overall effect. This reader would have preferred a few loose ends be more tightly wrapped up, but, then again, that is the usual basis for a sequel, and Brooke has created a workable segue should she decide to continue. Course of Action is a commendable effort in the romance genre. The novel is populated with a host of captivating and amiable characters. The glimpses into the lifestyles of the rich and beautiful people are rather like guilty pleasures. The overall result makes for a most satisfying and entertaining reading experience.

Distant Shores, Silent Thunder
Bold Strokes Books
1020 Livezey Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119
ISBN: 1933110082; $15.95; 299 pages

Radclyffe has created the third novel in her Provincetown Tales series with the publication of Distant Shores, Silent Thunder. Sheriff Reese Conlon and her partner, Dr. Tory King are adjusting to domesticity and the challenges of raising their daughter Reggie. In fact, they have never been happier. The raucous summer season is winding down in Provincetown, and all are looking forward to the slower pace that the decreased demands the off-season afford police and medical personnel. However, Dr. KT O'Bannon, Tory's ex-lover and prominent trauma surgeon has reached a crisis in her life more devastating than her break-up with Tory. Now she must call upon Tory for the favor of a lifetime. Another returning character is young deputy Bri Parker who is dealing with her lover Caroline's absence while trying to contain her fellow officer Allie Tremont's interest in their being more than just colleagues. All comes to a head with the discovery of an overdosed teenaged boy in a parked car on the side of the road, and more startling, a dead teenaged girl in the brush area near the vehicle. Soon the various characters will intersect and create a multitude of situations which, for better or worse, will affect the lives of all concerned.

A hallmark of Radclyffe's writing is her uncanny and consistent ability to create captivating and authentic characters who, at the same time, are steadily evolving and displaying different aspects of their personalities and lives - just like real people who experience life changes. No super heroes here, just ordinary folk going about the daily business of living and coping with the curves thrown. In this novel, the reader is given more insight into the brash surgeon and unfaithful lover, KT O'Bannon. An unexpected career change has caused her to re-evaluate both her professional future and her character flaws. The introduction of the highly likable Pia Torres as KT's physical therapist serves as the catalyst for KT's introspection. Pia is a woman with whom the reader can instantly connect. An attractive, sensitive, and successful young woman, Pia knows exactly what she wants for her life and is not willing to compromise her ideals or goals no matter how sorely tempted she may be at times. Another character worthy of interest is the injured boy's attorney, Trey Pelosi. Here we have a highly competent and successful professional woman. Her dry wit and legal maneuverings make for an ideal sparring partner for Sheriff Reese Conlon. They have assessed each other through skillful observation and terse comments, and each sees in the other a talented adversary. There is certainly a degree of cockiness to Trey, but the reader cannot help but grin when Trey audaciously manages to outmaneuver Reese at each turn. "Why do I think you're over-qualified for your job and probably wasted out here in the middle of nowhere (p. 288)"? Although Trey's presence in the novel is in a supporting role, similar to any great character actor in a film, when Trey is onstage, she grabs the reader and the spotlight in a most delightful and exhilarating style; this leaves the reader unequivocally wanting so much more.

When writing more than two novels revolving around the same main characters, how does an author keep it fresh, vibrant, and absorbing? As Radclyffe's novel once again proves, this is accomplished by creating and introducing compelling new characters, developing intriguing pacing and original plotting, and taking pre-existing secondary characters and creating new conflicts for them. The care exhibited in crafting this latest installment is evidenced in the subtleties of the prose, the nuances of body language, and the genuine understanding of the more things change, the more they remain the same. It offers another enjoyable snapshot of life and love in that seaside community. Distant Shores, Silent Thunder is a thoroughly rewarding and winning reading experience.

Turning the Tables
Jessica Thomas
Bella Books
P.O. Box 10543, Tallahassee, FL 32302
ISBN: 1594930090; $12.95; 229 pages

Jessica Thomas' second novel, Turning the Tables, offers another enjoyable glimpse into the life and times of thirty-something Alex Peres, the appealing private investigator/nature photographer who resides Provincetown, Massachusetts. The immediate future certainly appears to be fortuitous for Alex when she receives a triple play of good news. Bank vice-president Choate Ellis approves the loan she requested, he wants to purchase several of her photos to be prominently displayed in the bank, and he offers her a job doing background checks on four prospective candidates for the new certified financial planner position at the bank. To celebrate, Alex and Fargo, her canine best friend, make their way toward their favorite watering hole, the Wharf Rat Bar. There she meets her brother, Sonny, a lieutenant on the police force. After sharing his vacation plans with Alex, Alex uses her restraint and invokes their mutual commandment, "Thou shalt not comment upon any of my romantic partners" (p. 15). Later Alex returns home with nothing more on her mind than enjoying the up-coming Halloween festivities, having a little fun, and perhaps, finding some romance. However, the ghosts and ghouls have other plans. A ritualistic murder occurs, and Alex's friends, Peter and the Wolf, are high on the suspect list. With Sonny out of town, the case falls to Sergeant Mitchell, a young police officer who seems determined to pin the deed on Alex's friends. Alex hesitantly becomes involved only to be more baffled when a second murder occurs. Just when she thinks her life is back on the right track, life intrudes with all its many complications.

Thomas' sequel to Caught in the Net is a satisfying and captivating reading experience. Although classified as a mystery, it is much more than a typical detective procedural. This is a character-driven story and this is an important distinction. Thomas has created a cast of unforgettable characters who rise above the stereotypical; these are people who cover the social spectrum of her community. The very amusing and queenly duo of Peter and the Wolf, Harmon the town reprobate, the controversial Rev. Bartles, the arrogantly righteous former chief of police Jared Mather, and her compassionate Aunt Mae are just a few of the memorable and original characters the reader encounters. The author has constructed an atmosphere and tone that readily engages the reader while at the same time maintaining a comfortably languid rhythm. This affords the reader the opportunity to settle in and savor the unusual happenings and the intelligent wry wit which Alex so deftly displays. During the course of her background check for a candidate one morning, she meets Mimi Trinler, the very attractive Dean of Women at the university. "She gave me that smile again, and I felt that in five minutes she knew me better than my closest friend. I almost asked her to have lunch, but nine-fifteen seemed a little early" (p.99). Alex is an emotionally vulnerable woman with a self-admitted dread of relationship permanence. She probably drinks a little too much, considers the lot of mankind much too often, and spoils Fargo unashamedly, but Alex is someone the reader genuinely would welcome and appreciate in her own life.

Turning the Tables is stylishly written. The author's word choice is both refreshing and vivid. Her use of imagery is exceptional. While taking Fargo for a romp in the woods, Alex notices that "Some of the copper leaves had fallen, but most were still attached, rustling in the light air like the skirts of an Edwardian lady pacing her garden path" (p. 149). While having breakfast with her two suspect friends, she is asked about the murder weapon, a pine table leg, and the sudden appearance of so many of them in town. "Well we have enough pine legs to put Robert Louis Stevenson and Herman Melville out of business" (p. 167).

Thomas has two distinct and intriguing storylines and manages to neatly bring them together with the addition of another captivating character. The conflicts increase incrementally throughout the narrative, and the resolutions are crafted logically and credibly. It is interesting to note that the reader doesn't actually read about the violent deaths occurring, but the aftermath of tension and suspense are clearly present because Thomas is so fastidious in her evolving framework of mood and atmosphere.

Turning the Tables is an impressive and inviting reading experience. Its story of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events hooks the reader from the very beginning. Thomas introduces the reader to characters one can readily identify with and care about. Anyone who has been to Provincetown will absolutely feel at home in Thomas' setting. Alex Peres is definitely not a superhero or a hard-boiled private eye. She is simply a woman who is trying to make a living while often wrestling with her confusing romantic insecurities, sometimes demanding friends, and the occasional corpse or two. Turning the Tables is most definitely a satisfying and entertaining novel. This reader is looking forward to Jessica Thomas' third adventure in P-town with Alex Peres and the always faithful Fargo.

Hostage to Murder
Val McDermid
Bywater Books
PO Box 3671, Ann Arbor, MI 48106
ISBN: 1932859020; $12.95; 240 pages

Originally published in 2003 in the UK, Hostage to Murder by Val McDermid is the latest installment in her lesbian mystery series featuring journalist Lindsay Gordon. After having spent the last seven successful and happy years living and working in California, thirty-nine year-old Lindsay has returned to her native Scotland and now feels, " that this long narrow land was no longer full of possibilities for her" (p. 3). Having returned to advance the medical career of her physician lover, Sophie Hartley, serves only to remind Gordon that she has nothing going for her in her own professional world. Making matters even worse is Sophie's ceaseless obsession about having a child - with or without Lindsay who is indeed having second, third, and fourth thoughts about parenthood. While out jogging one morning, Lindsay careens into Rory McLaren, a late twenty-something independent investigative journalist. After a brief discussion in her flat while tending to Lindsay's sprained ankle, Rory offers her an opportunity to get back into the world of reporting. Upon returning home and once again feeling the pressures of Sophie's maternal desire, Lindsay decides to give it a go. Continuing trouble on the domestic front, tantalizing temptation from her young boss, and refusing to allow Sophie to support her, all contribute to Lindsay's decision. Kidnapping, IRA terrorists, Russian intrigue, and ticking biological clocks serve to further complicate the situation, enhance the action, and require many of the characters to re-evaluate their lives.

Compared to the other books in McDermid's series, Hostage to Murder delves into the basic insecurities of the heroine, her flaws, and the unsettling truths of three people who want very different things from life and each other. The methods of characterization are technically very well drawn here. As seen through their actions and speech, there are really no villains here, except for those who drive the mystery. This book is much more of a study of what makes people tick, and most importantly, how very compelling and far-reaching individual choices cast forth sometimes irretrievable consequences. Lindsay Gordon is pushing forty, perhaps at the crossroads of the proverbial mid-life crisis, and she has been shown " a bewildering new side to her own sexuality, both scary and magical. But wrong was one thing it hadn't felt" (p. 127).

The degree of writing excellence displayed in the author's use of tone and mood was most appreciated by this reader. Too often a writer gives one or both short shrift. From the somber freezing drizzle of Scotland to the almost feudal-like state of present-day St. Petersburg, the reader is enveloped by the sights and sounds of each place, immersed in the atmosphere of the various locales, and thoroughly rooted within the action. This is a darker, edgier novel than other series books; the desperation and confusion of several of the characters is almost palpable. In some ways McDermid uses these backdrops to counterbalance the characters' emotional state, especially that of Lindsay.

Rory McLaren is an attractive, charming, and provocative young woman. She may appear to be star struck when in the presence of the Lindsay Gordon, reporter extraordinaire, but Rory is a solid freelance investigative journalist who performs her job a bit on the unorthodox side, but she is equal to any and all comers. On a personal level, Rory exudes swagger and aplomb. However, the reader soon perceives the woman beneath the veneer. A glib self-described love 'em and leave 'em type while talking to her friend Sandra, the private Rory has serious relationship issues which continue to plague her as she nears thirty. However, as she begins to work with Lindsay, Rory suspects and dares to conjecture that her natural misgivings may be about to change. In fact, it is Rory who delivers one of the more memorable lines in lesbian literature. When Sophie tells her that Lindsay is lucky to have her for a friend and that it is more than Lindsay deserves, Rory flashes a smile and responds with, "We're both more than she deserves. And also rather less" (p. 238). Rory has succinctly stated the thematic chord which plays throughout the narrative.

Hostage to Murder is an excellent book on so very many levels, and it is due to this multiplicity of meanings that captivates a wide range of readers. McDermid has written a mystery which is carefully layered and delineated. This reader has read the entire Gordon series. However, this final visit with Lindsay as she grapples with life's conundrums is, by far, the most rewarding. McDermid has moved on to writing more mainstream, that is, straight novels and series. This reviewer would appreciate seeing her return to her roots, her initial core audience, by penning another book in the series.

Arlene Germain

Bethany's Bookshelf

Runaway Molly Midnight
Nadja Maril & Herman Maril
Stemmer House Publishers
4 White Brook Rd., Gilsum, NH 03448
0916144623 $12.95 1-800-345-6665

Usually noted for their series of outstanding pattern and motif art books, Stemmer House is also the publisher of Nadja Maril's charmingly little story of Runaway Molly Midnight: The Artist's Cat. Nicely enhanced with paintings and drawings by her father Herman Maril (some of whose paintings of Molly the cat hang in museums), this is the charming story (as told by the cat herself!) of being a house cat who wants to go out into the world to see what her artist master Herman has painted for herself. Somewhere out there must be a house like that in all those watercolor and oil painting!. So one fine summer day, and without any concern for the worry she would cause her family, off goes Molly Midnight into that world where she unexpectedly encounters some rather saucy butterflies, slithery snakes, superstitious people, an airplane ride, hunger, homesickness, and in the process, discovers the secret of a painter's art. Actually based on the story of a real household cat, Nadja Maril has deftly woven into an engaging story some very genuine insights into viewing, learning and cherishing the painter's art.

Caring For People With Challenging Behaviors
Stephen Weber Long
Health Professions Press
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
1878812912 $32.95 1-888-337-8808

Caring For People With Challenging Behaviors: Essential Skills And Successful Strategies In Long-Term Care by psychotherapist and consultant Stephen Weber Long (Adjunct Professor, Adelphi University, Garden City, New York) addresses the problems and issues involved with long-term care residents who display moderate to severe behavior problems arising from conditions of mental illness, dementia, problematic personalities, dysfunctional behavior patterns, and situational distress. Especially recommended reading for residential care facilities staff members, Caring For People With Challenging Behaviors shows how to set and execute achievable goals in treatment planning; avoid common intervention mistakes; overcome obstacles to effective interventions; encourage residents' autonomy; promote teamwork and improve interpersonal relationships; as well as practice diverse stress management techniques. Intended and primarily recommended for professionals and para-professionals working with residents, Caring For People With Challenging Behaviors is also very useful and informative reading for concerned family members.

When You Fast
Catherine Mandell
St. Vladimir's Seminary Press
575 Scarsdale, Road, Crestwood, NY 10707-1699
0881412627 $TBA

A unique and enthusiastically recommended collection of specialized recipes, When You Fast: Recipes For Lenten Seasons by Catherine Mandell draws upon the culinary traditions of traditional Orthodox Christianity by featuring two hundred recipes that will provide observants of the Lenten season with a diversity of healthy, nourishing, delicious meals. Enhanced throughout with sayings from the Mothers and Fathers of the early Orthodox Christian Church about how the body and soul are affected and influenced by eating habits, When You Fast additionally features sage advice on stocking a Lenten pantry and offers guidelines for fasting in accordance with the Orthodox Christian tradition. From Onion Flatbread; Vegetarian Borscht; Transfiguration Monastery Lenten Hash; and Baked Penne with Vegetables; to Greek Tomato Rice Pilaf; Crabmeat Stuffed Mushroom Caps; String Bean and Pepper Stew; and Lenten Oatmeal Cookies, When You Fast offers recipes for breads, spreads, sandwiches, soups, salads, main dishes, fish, shellfish, and desserts, including dairy-free recipes, dishes with and without oil, and dozens of variations for core recipes.

Susan Bethany

Betty's Bookshelf

Making Crime Pay: The Writer's Guide to Criminal Law, Evidence, and Procedure
Andrea Campbell.
Allworth Press
c/o Allworth Communications
10 East 23rd St., New York, NY, 10010
1581152167 $19.95 296 p.

If your experience with the law is something like mine - two stints of jury duty, a couple of speeding tickets, and several seasons of watching Law & Order - and you'd like to write something that requires a wider knowledge of how crime and punishment work, Making Crime Pay would be a good place to start. I promise you, when you're finished reading it, you're bound to know more about the law than you did when you started.

There's a lot to read, too. The book is divided into three big chunks (Criminal Law Explained; Criminal Procedure and Evidence; and A Walk Through the Criminal Justice System) and then into chapters such as The Evolution of Law; Crimes Defined; Behind Enemy Lines; Search, Seizure, and Arrest; Arrest, Charges, and Booking; and Juvenile Justice. Unfortunately, I didn't find it nearly as fascinating and juicy as I thought it might be.

Instead, it was dense and a bit dry and chewy, like a biscotti, and I kept wanting to dip it into something to soften up the pedantic bits. However, Campbell has a degree in criminal justice, so she probably can't help sounding a bit pedantic, even when she's trying to dumb it down for those of us who don't know the world of crime and punishment as well as she does.

Regardless, there's a lot of cool stuff mixed in with the kinda boring bits, and it's well worth the time you'll spend getting through it. I know I'm glad I read it, anyway. Now I'm all set, in case I ever want to write mysteries instead of just reading them. Plus, if a police officer ever wants to come in and search my house, I know just what to do!

Cross My Heart
Sandra Byrd
BethanyHouse Publishers
11400 Hampshire Ave. South, Bloomington, MN, 55438
0764224808 $4.99 109 p.

After several rough years of family drama, Lucy Larson is finally looking forward to her family's summer vacation on Catalina Island. She' ll get to spend it with her cousin Katie, doing normal kid-type things, instead of tagging along on her scientist father's expeditions! Then, Katie's mom hurts herself and Katie has to cancel her visit. Lucy is convinced her summer is ruined now, until she makes friends with an island girl named Serena and finds a letter from 1932 that mentions a hidden diary kept by Serena's great-grandmother. Can Lucy and Serena solve the mystery and find the diary?

This is the first book in a series that follows Lucy and Serena through one summer on Catalina Island as they find and read the first Serena's diary and then attempt to reproduce the long-ago experiences of that Serena and her best friend, Mary.

Along the way, readers also get to follow Lucy's family and Lucy herself as they grow in their knowledge of and love for God, as well as their love for each other. Readers will take away a biblical message from each book, as well as a verse to think about, printed on the last page of each book. Other titles in the series are Make a Wish (#2), Just Between Friends (#3), Take a Bow (#4), Pass It On (#5), Change of Heart (#6), Take a Chance (#7), and One Plus One (#8).

A Land of Sheltered Promise
Jane Kirkpatrick
WaterBrook Press
2375 Telstar Dr., Suite 160, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920
1578567335 $13.99 388 p.

Jane Kirkpatrick, Oregon rancher wife and best-selling author, has chosen the Big Muddy Ranch - arguably the most infamous location in Oregon - as the setting for her latest novel, A Land of Sheltered Promise. Dividing the past century into three portions, she shows how the lives of three women were affected by and became an example of "crowding" (a western term for pushing all the limits to get what you want). She also includes Author Discussion and Questions for Reflection and a Recommended Reading list at the end of the book.

In Faith (1901), Eva Thompson Bruner is young and desperately in love with her sheepherder husband, Dee, until she discovers that his loyalty to his boss has apparently led him into shooting a man. Although Dee claims self-defense and is sure he will get off, he ends up sentenced to life in prison, leaving Eva - pregnant, scared, and angry - to face life all alone.

She's convinced that Dee is guilty. On top of that, she discovers that Dee's father is not dead, as she's been told, but estranged due to Dee's own actions. Despite her fury and disappointment in her husband, she refuses to turn her back on him; promising "for better and worse" aren't just words to her. Instead, she makes a home for herself and their daughter and writes to him about it, giving him something to hope for while he waits for an appeal. In the end, she forces Dee and his estranged family to come to terms with each other and finds peace, not only for herself and her child, but for Dee as well.

Hope (1984) is the enthralling story of a grandmother's desperate struggle to free her daughter and granddaughter from a dangerous religious cult. Antelope, once a sleepy little Oregon town, is now the home and spiritual center of mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajnesh and his followers. It's a hotbed of bio-terrorism, attempted murder, and religious fanaticism, and not a good place for anyone to be.

But Cora Swensen's daughter Rachel is living at Rancho Rajneeshpuram as one of the Bhagwan's faithful devotees, with her daughter Charity, and she doesn't want to leave. Rachel's devotion to the Bhagwan has blinded her to what is going on around her and it's also estranged her from her parents. Therefore, Cora has to go in, pretending to be willing to learn more about the Bhagwan's teachings, so that she can plan their escape.

She has little hope that Rachel will eve allow herself to be swayed from her beliefs, let alone rescued, but she has to try. She can't just snatch Charity and run; the peace force (an ironically-named cadre of armed thugs who patrol the grounds) will surely stop her unless Rachel helps her. No matter what Rachel decides, she's taking Charity out. Rachel has been neglecting Charity, leaving her to the casual care of others while devoting herself to the Bhagwan's ideas, and the child is running wild, exposed to all sorts of unhealthy circumstances. When Cora finally admits her escape plan, Rachel is afraid to go, but agrees to help her mom smuggle Charity out.

The book ends with Charity (1997), a story of hope and redemption as seen by Jill, a young sociology student, when her husband gets involved with turning the Big Muddy Ranch into a Young Life Christian camp for teenagers. Her somewhat sketchy faith in God stretches and grows as she watches people coming to the Big Muddy Ranch to spend their time, effort and money to build what they believe God has called them to do. And as they overcome the wariness of the townspeople and deal with all the needs of a project this size, she begins to believe in and experience miracles all around her.

Throughout the book, Kirkpatrick weaves the stories of these three women together, using their stories' loose ends to make one beautiful tapestry of things lost and waited for and found again - letters, a table, a cross, a vision of the future, a woman's faith, a family's relationships. As Frederick Faber says, in a quote in the book's very beginning, "We must wait for God, long and meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and lightning, in the cold and the dark. Wait, and He will come. He never comes to those who do not wait."

Betty Winslow

Bob's Bookshelf

Little Green
Chun Yu
A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster
0689869436 $15.95 112 pages

Written in free verse from a child's point of view, this memoir offers an unusual view of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Chun Yu, now a California resident, was a witness to the turmoil, struggle, and upheaval that her native land underwent during the late 1960s and 1970s.

With her father sent away to the country for "reeducation", the author remained behind with her mother who taught school. Red Guards roamed the streets, banners with slogans flapped in the wind, and Chairman Mao's Little Red Book became the bible everyone studied as they attempted to create a new society.

Chun Yu's decision to use verse forced her to sharpen her images and condense each memory into a series of concise narratives that have a strong emotional and sensory appeal. Although intended for a youthful audience, adults will perhaps be more attuned to this story and be better able to place it in the context of the time in which these events occurred.

Part of a planned trilogy, the author's next volume will cover her days as a student at Peking University during the Tiananmen Square Student Movement in 1989.

The Valley of Secrets
Charmian Hussey
Illustrated by Christopher Crump
Simon & Schuster
0689878621 $16.95 383 pages

Stephen Lansbury's life changes radically when a letter arrives one day informing him a distant uncle has died and left Stephen a great countryside estate.

Lansbury Hall, Stephen's inheritance, is a mysterious place and it's up to Stephen to unlock the secrets of the old building's past and present. Convinced he is not alone in the house, the young man delves into his relative's diary to discover more about his ancestor and the family's history.

A trip his uncle made to the Amazon jungle 75 years earlier holds the key to the odd events that unfold at Lansbury Hall.

This is a marvelous story and one that will entrance young readers ten years of age and up. The only downside to an otherwise excellent novel is the type size the publisher elected to use. Granted the story runs over 300 pages but type this small may well put off some youngsters which is unfortunate for they'll be missing a very good read.

Spy Goddess: Live and Let Shop
Michael P. Spraolin
0060594071 $15.99 211 pages

Rachel Buchanan, is the witty and wise-cracking heroine of this new series. Arrested for joyriding in a stolen car, the Beverly Hills teen is given the choice of spending time in Juvenile Hall or agreeing to a stint at a private school in Pennsylvania. Rachel opts for Blackthorn Academy, a school built into the side of a mountain in a secluded wilderness area.

By the end of her first month at Blackthorn Beth funds herself embroiled in a weird conspiracy involving the FBI, a stolen artifact, and an ancient god named Mithras.

A combination of pop culture, martial arts, and Middle Eastern mythology will make this short novel attractive to young people in their early teens.

Monday on the Mississippi
Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by Frane Lessac
Henry Holt
080507208X $16.95 31 pages

Featuring the folk art of Australian Frane Lessac, this picture book takes the child from Lake Itasca in Minnesota down New Orleans and the delta where the river empties out into the Gulf of Mexico. Stops along the way include St. Paul, Dubuque, Cairo, St. Louis, Hannibal, and Vicksburg.

Picture books are not usually noted for their narrative. Given this book's subject matter, though, one would have hoped for a slightly more inspired text. The one dimensional art is quite eye catching and small map inserts locate each "stop" as the reader moves down river.

Very young children probably won't mind the lack of content in this volume but for youngsters five and older I think I'd look for something else if I were trying to introduce them to this magnificent waterway.

Cryptid Hunters
Roland Smith
0786851619 $15.99 348 pages

Thirteen-year-old twins Grace and Marty O'Hara are spending some time getting to know their long lost Uncle Wolfe, a veterinarian whose hobby is searching for cryptids (creatures whose existence has never been proven).

When Uncle Wolfe suddenly rushes off to Africa to find a dinosaur egg he plans on leaving the twins at home. Fortunately, it doesn't quite work out as Uncle Wolfe had planned and Grace and Marty are in for the adventure of their lives as they head into the jungles of the Congo. A few family secrets will also come to light as this adventure unfolds and the twins discover some surprises about their own identities.

An exotic backdrop, a family mystery, prehistoric animals, and plenty of action it doesn't get any better than this for readers eight years of age and up.

A Brief Lunacy
Cynthia Thayer
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
1565124448 $22.95 241 pages

"Everyone in my Nova Scotia hometown kept secrets," says Cynthia Thayer so it comes as no surprise to discover that this is a novel about family secrets. The twist that Thayer gives the theme is that the skeletons that Jessie and Carl, the central characters in the story, have been keeping from one another come to light when a stranger they open their Maine home to returns their generosity by taking them hostage.

As they try to outwit their captor, the couple discovers he knows an awful lot about them. Trying to outwit the man becomes a deadly game that reveals not only hidden strengths but long concealed weaknesses in Carl and his wife.

Not your usual "thriller", "A Brief Lunacy" is a taut suspense yarn that delves into the psychological make-up of not only the deranged young man but also the couple who extends a helping hand to him.

The Hitting Clinic
John Stewart
Burford Books
1580801315 $12.95 136 pages

Here's the perfect book to consult if you'd like to help someone improve his or her hitting. This handbook for baseball players and coaches offers a series of drills to make a so-so hitter much more effective at the plate. Stewart, a scout for the Atlanta Braves, offers tips on everything from bat selection, the best grip and proper stance, and how to make contact with the ball to reading pitches, bunting and the different types of swings.

You'll learn how to detect a slider (look for a red dot on the bottom portion of the ball as it's heading towards the plate), where to aim your back elbow while batting (at the catcher), and why you should make contact with the ball six to ten inches in front of the plate.

This is Stewart's third guide suggesting ways of improving the basic skills necessary for playing topflight baseball.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Estimating & Bidding For Builders & Remodelers
Richard J. Langedyk
Craftsman Book Company
6058 Corte del Cedro, Carlsbad, CA 92009
1572181559 $69.50 1-800-829-8123

Now in a fully updated and significantly expanded fourth edition, Richard Langedyk's Estimating & Bidding For Builders & Remodelers includes the National Home Estimator CD-Rom (which includes a 45-minute interactive multimedia tutorial). An essential instructional reference for professionals needing to accurate scope out and reliably estimate the cost of building new structures and/or remodeling existing structures, Richard Langedyk (Senior Instructor for Construction Estimating Institute of America, Sarasota, Florida) draws upon more than twenty-two years of professional experience to show how to avoid common estimating mistakes, determine both labor and material costs, and put in a bid that is expert in both quality and appearance. Estimating & Bidding For Builders & Remodelers is a practical, accessible, superbly organized, comprehensive, and "user friendly" workbook which should be on the personal reference shelf of every professional building contractor.

Better Answers
Ardith Davis Cole
Stenhouse Publishers
477 Congress Street, Suite 4B, Portland, ME 04101-3451
1571103414 $16.00 1-800-988-9812

A strongly recommended addition to professional and academic library reference collections, Educational Resources & Instruction reference collections, Better Answers: Written Performance That Looks Good And Sounds Smart by academician, classroom instructor, and literacy specialist Ardith Davis Cole offers school teachers and homeschooling parents with an easy-to-implement, step-by-step protocol for helping students focus upon acquiring the basic literacy skills to meet state standards in the English language arts of writing. Each of the five progressive steps (Restate the Questions; Construct a Gist Answer; Use Details to Support Your Answer; Stay on the Topic; Use Proper Conventions) to teaching writing are laid out in individual chapters. Enhanced with six informative and utilitarian appendices that include samples of student responses, lessons plans, spreadsheets, resources, and more, Better Answers will clearly demonstrate how to train students K-12 to yield improved and improving written responses across the entire school curriculum -- and have continuing application in life beyond the academic classroom.

Sounds Of The Silk Road
Mitchell Clark
MFA Publications
c/o Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
0878466886 $24.95 1-800-338-2665

Informed and informative, Sounds Of The Silk Road: Musical Instruments Of Asia by Mitchell Clark (Research Fellow, Department of Musical Instruments, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) focuses upon the diverse musical instruments used in Asia from cultures ranging from the Turkish empire to the Tibetan mountain ranges. Clark draws upon the extensive collections of Asian musical instruments held by Boston's Museum of Fine Arts to illustrate and showcase the beauty, diversity, and application of some fifty instruments that range from sil-stringed zithers and shell trumpets, to double-headed drums made from human sculls and the Javanese gamelan. Superbly enhanced with more than one hundred full color photographs of these often rare and sometimes obscure instruments, Sounds Of The Silk Road introduces the use, history, sounds, playing techniques, decorations, and symbolism of these instruments that were so integral a part of Asian cultures from the warding off of evil spirits to the celebrations of life's milestones including marriages, births, and funerary rites. Accessible organized with each individual chapter dedicated to a particular instrument, Sounds Of The Silk Road is enthusiastically recommended reading for non-specialist general readers with an interest in Asian cultural history, and an exceptional contribution to academic library Multi-Cultural Music History reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Willis M. Buhle

Carey's Bookshelf

The Messiah Complex
Toby LeBlanc
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN 1420801732 $14.50 272 p.

Creative writing at its best is the only way I can describe this latest novel. I was truly blessed to have the opportunity to read The Messiah Complex by literary newcomer Toby LeBlanc. An enlightening novel that is told through the eyes of Chris, a young adult who has special abilities and the difficult task of trying to change the world one person at a time with the help of his posse. Chris talks of his struggles of being a young messiah, how he is often misunderstood by the world around him and how he longs to fit in with the rest of his peers and to just be "normal".

The biblical story of Christ with a modern plot, this novel is sure to make a big impact on the Christian literary scene. The Messiah Complex is a must read for any adolescent or young adult who is struggling with their religious convictions or the everyday hassles of being a misunderstood person.

Toby LeBlanc is a graduate student at Louisiana State University in the Counselor Education program. He is studying to become a Licensed Professional Counselor. In his spare time he studies various religious texts from around the world.

The Egyptian Origin of Christianity
Lisa Ann Bargeman
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN 1403356262 $14.50 102 p.

The Egyptian Origin of Christianity is a well documented booklet that gives the reader something to think about when considering the origins of our modern day religious beliefs. A comprehensive collection of historical references, Lisa Bargeman attempts to begin the process of filling in the gaps between the past and the present. "The importance of the Egyptian sway can no longer be denied," she states. Her comparisons are striking similar and can not be ignored, forcing the reader to take an honest look at religion as we know it today. Some of her references included information taken from Stolen Legacy by G. G. M. James, The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead by R. O. Faulkner and The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English by G. Vermes.

An easy reader, The Egyptian Origin of Christianity lends itself as a good source of information for high school readers as well as mature adults.

Third Man Out
Dianne Andrews
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN 1420832883 $13.95 185 p.

What do you get when you mix romance, suspense, fashion and baseball? You get Third Man Out by Dianne Andrews. A cool summer read, Andrews does a nice job of pulling together a one of a kind story line that is sure to have you hanging on to the edge of your seat.

From Houston to New York and Europe in between, this is the adventure of Destiny Morgan, an IBM executive who spent her childhood growing up in the governments witness protection program and Nolan Chapman, a professional baseball player determined to avenge the death of his wife, Chandon, an innocent victim of a drug war. Brought together by faith and united by the government, Destiny and Nolan work together to bring down one of the worlds largest drug lords.

Dianne Andrews is a former IBM executive and the founder and president of Promoting Success, a consulting firm and the publisher of Gumbo for the Heart, a motivational calendar. She currently resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

It's a Shame to be a Negro
Hans Lindor
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, Maryland 21705
ISBN 1413741835, $19.95 150 p.

Straight out of the gates Hans Lindor grabbed my attention with the title he selected for his controversial novel It's a Shame to be a Negro (Publish America). A haunting tale about the life of Carter, a promising African-American musician who has been taught to believe in the American dream of equality only to discover that it is a dream deferred, touched home in many areas for me while reading this twisted tale of one man's fate.

Carter's dream is to one day become a member of the New York Orchestra and his only obstacle is the color of his skin. Passed over and ostracized because he was born a Negro, Carter struggles with his identity and often blames himself for the injustices that he suffers along the way, "It's a shame to be a Negro when I allow myself to be treated like a Negro."

Two thumbs up for Hans Lindor. A promising writer who has taken a heated topic and turned it into an epic dialogue, Lindor is definitely one to watch in 2005.

Sex, Murder and a Double Latte
Kyra Davis
Red Dress Ink.
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
ISBN 0373895194 $17.95 298 p.

Imagine a hilarious mystery novel with a heroine that is simple outrageous! Well, if you are not creative enough to do so, simple pick up the new release by Kyra Davis, Sex, Murder and a Double Latte (Red Dress Ink). From start to finish this novel is packed with wild adventures and bone crushing humor that leaps out at you with the turn of every page.

Sophie Katz is a mystery writer who is addicted to Starbucks coffee, namely their Grande Caramel Brownie Frappuccino. A go-getter, who doesn't scare easily, she is convinced that one of her readers has begun to enact the murders that took place in her novel Sex, Murder and Drugs. The only problem is that no one believes her! Sophie takes matters into her own hands, and with the help of her interesting assortment of friends, she sets out on a crazy adventure to capture her stalker.
Not a big fan of mystery novels, I really enjoyed reading this novel. Davis kept me laughing for days with her humor and I was very impressed with her creative abilities. This author is definitely one to watch or should I say read.

First-time novelist Kyra Davis lives with her young son in the San Francisco area. A full-time parent and writer, Davis indulges in lattes, frappuccinos and anything else that will feed her caffeine addiction. For more information on the author please visit her site at

Would Somebody Please Send Me To My Room!
Bob Schwartz
Illustrated by B.K. Taylor
Glenbridge Publishing Ltd.
19923 E. Long Ave. Centennial, Colorado 80016
ISBN 0944435572 $22.95 320 p.

My husband and I often joke that the handbooks we read on parenting left out all of the fun details! You know the information that would have made us run for the hills instead of taking on the adventures of parenthood. Well, Bob Schwartz has stepped up to the plate and taken on the responsibility of "telling it like it is," so to speak. His hilarious look at family life is not for anyone contemplating kids. No, this is for the grown folks. Yes, I am talking about those of us who have paid our dues with long summer months, carpools, stopped up toilets and who have "successfully navigated the challenging landscape of children's birthday parties!"

Seriously, as a parent, I found Schwartz's book refreshing. It was nice to learn that I am not the only person still trying to figure out this parenting stuff. And because Bob is such a great guy, he is donating the proceeds from Would Somebody Please Send Me to My Room to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Carey Yazeed, Reviewer

Christina's Bookshelf

The Revelation of a Star's Endless Shine: A Young Woman's Autobiography of a 20-year Tale of Trials & Tribulations
Shirley Cheng
Lulu Press Inc.
3131 RDU Center Dr. Suite 210 Morrisville, NC 27560
ISBN# 1411618602 $36.99 698 pages

Why is it possible in America, the land of the free, that a parent cannot disagree with a doctor's recommendation for treatment? If they do, their child could be taken from them. Social Services can be called in. How could it also be possible for a hospital to take parents to court for intercepting unwanted treatment? Well, in this great nation supposedly run by the people for the people, parental rights aren't what they used to be. We all know people who neglect or abuse their children and intervention is necessary for them. This is not the same. Shirley Cheng's autobiography is about this injustice, about how she, a blind and physically disabled young woman with severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and her mother were treated.

This extraordinary young lady begins her eye-opening autobiography with her birth, taking readers through her life to the age of twenty. Her current age is twenty-two. She reveals the truth of her experiences and the pain involved. Shirley is happy and relieved. No one can tear her away from the only person who truly cared for her any more, and suffered insurmountable injustice in order to keep and protect her - her mother. Finally too, doctors cannot give her treatment she does not want. Shirley tells her tale of heroism and courage, as well as her mother's. Living with a disease is bad enough. Shirley suffered much pain along with disabilities, difficulties and hardships. She shouldn't have had to justify and battle with doctors, hospitals, social-workers, teachers, aides, guidance counselors, and principals. This is what they dealt with year after year. The professionals that should have been helpful, compassionate, supportive, and understanding, were the very ones who hurt, separated, and lied about them.

Shirley's unique way of writing further provides readers with a window to her intelligence, insight, and nature. Her matter-of-fact, original style and ability to prove a point is powerful. She wrote this book using a screen reader, JAWS, on the computer. Shirley has authored another book, Daring Quests of Mystics that was published in November 2003, and an anthology of short-stories and poems, Dance with Your Heart: Tales and Poems That the Heart Tells, self-published when she was twenty-one. Because she was in and out of hospitals for years, Shirley didn't go to school until the age of eleven. Amazingly, she advanced enough, even though she didn't know any English, into sixth grade. Shirley has received numerous awards, received a 100 score on New York State essay tests, published in The Poughkeepsie Journal in October 1997 and in Celebrate! New York's Young Poets Speak Out in 1999, and averaged a GPA in high school of 3.9 (97). She wishes to go to Harvard University and earn doctorates in microbiology, zoology, astronomy, physiology, and pathology. She will receive eye surgery hoping to restore her vision as she is blind.

This book is for those who are suffering, or who have someone close to them who is, from a severe medical problem. It's for those who've battled not only to find a cure for a disease or at least a better situation, and have had to deal with insurance companies, doctors and hospitals, teachers, schools, and social services as well. It will open eyes of readers without these types of problems and of those with compassion and a sense of what is right.

Shirley Cheng offers a look into her world providing disturbing truths about America's medical and school systems. She reveals how some doctors lie on their patient's documents and when cannot offer a solution or diagnosis for a disease often label the victim as mentally ill or depressed. She tells of instances when in a hospital, a staff member turned on her room light in the middle of the night waking her to clean the room, and of when they wouldn't help her sit to relieve her bladder. This book tells of numerous astonishing situations that Shirley and her mother endured. They shouldn't have had to deal with this in America. Unfortunately this great nation has its problems. The state of our medical, insurance, and parental rights needs a severe overhaul. Shirley's Mom, Juliet Cheng, says it best through first-hand experience: "No doctor in China would ever take away a mother's custody when she simply disagreed with medically recommended treatment." Also, "In China, no such things could ever happen. No one would even think of doing it." And about schools: "America's schools feel odd when seeing parents in school." She could not comprehend it. "In China, parents could freely go to the school while classes were in session." Juliet felt that America simply had too many rules and regulations with no exceptions for unique circumstances.

I agreed to review this book because I'm the parent of a child with a severe medical chronic disease. What we found when seeking treatment for her was surprisingly astounding. America's medical system was anything but helpful, understanding and fair. On the contrary, they created more obstacles and worries. The school system at first acted the same way. Luckily, that changed, but ONLY, I believe, because I was employed at the school at the time. The hassle and proof I had to go through left me frazzled, unable to sleep, and close to a nervous break down. As I read Shirley Cheng's book, I nodded in agreement often knowing what they went through wasn't being exaggerated. Many doctors have a big ego and don't have any respect for parents. My husband and I know our daughter's circumstances, what is normal, what medications work and the ones that don't, better than any doctor, nurse, social worker, judge, teacher or principal. When relaying this or making suggestions though, we were met with "She must be depressed" from the doctors. This was their response as to why, and then prescribed anti-depressant drugs. My opinion was that if you took away her daily, month after month pain she wouldn't be depressed.

Readers of Shirley Cheng's autobiography cannot help but wonder if she'd have been better off without America's medical system. Things might have also have been different had her father shown more concern, involvement, and love. Despite surmountable odds, Shirley obtained an education, academic achievement, and was published.

I recommend this book to everyone. America will be better when it gives power back to parents. Granted, there are times when abusive parents need interception, yet the average parent wants what is paramount for their child and loves them.

A disturbing, and enlightening read. Authentic, honest, and profound. Will change reader's outlook.

Dance with Your Heart: Tales and Poems That the Heart Tells
Shirley Cheng
Lulu Press Inc.
3131 RDU Center Dr. Suite 210 Morrisville, NC 27560
ISBN# 1411618580 $17.99 223 pages

Looking for a gentle read with purity of heart and soul? 'Dance with Your Heart' will humble and remind readers of their blessings. There are twenty-three short stories and thirty-four poems offering lessons, mindful thoughts, and whimsical tales and myths of magical once-upon-a-times. Many adults will recognize the lessons, but will appreciate the reminders. Provides great life-lesson profiles children can relate to. Perfect for those seeking quick, clear, and uncomplicated tales.

The author, young Shirley Cheng's personal story is amazing enough. She's a survivor of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed at eleven months old. She dealt with constant pain growing up, went in and out of hospitals, and lost her eyes sight when she was in tenth grade. She will soon be receiving eye-surgery, and hopes it will be successful, for she'd like to earn science doctorates at Harvard University. Through her extraordinary passion and strength she's conquered overwhelming obstacles. Among other things, she's authored three books by the age of twenty-one.

One of my favorite stories from this book is entitled, 'Smell the Roses.' It's about a doctor who learns a valuable lesson through an unexpected and surprising source. The ending brings the whole tale into perspective with a crystal clear lesson.

One of my favorite poems is entitled, 'Dance with Your Heart.' Ironically it's also the book's title. The poem's message brings to light that although life contains worries and pain, it is good to concentrate on and remember its delights too. The poem reminds readers to pay attention to their heart's desires, and to dance; to fly.

Cheng's graceful storytelling and poetry not only is a pleasure, but awe-inspiring, as her wisdom and understanding at such a young age is profound. Her resounding words are of encouragement and of good. She believes happiness begins in the heart and that readers should allow themselves the freedom to dance with their heart. A luminous read.

Christina Francine Whitcher, Reviewer

Connie's Bookshelf

A Months of Sundays: Searching for the Spirit and My Sister
Julie Mars
GreyCore Press
ISBN: 0974207454 $10.95 208 pages

Reviewer Connie Gotsch Author of two award winning novels A MOUTH FULL OF SHELL and SNAP ME A FUTURE, and program director and book show host KSJE-FM, Farmington, NM

In the preface of her newest book, A MONTH OF SUNDAYS: SEARCHING FOR THE SPIRIT AND MY SISTER, Albuquerque, New Mexico author, Julie Mars says: 'For seven months, I took care of my sister, Shirley, who was dying of pancreatic cancer....I witness her intense spiritual turbulence and her return to Catholicism....I consider it an honor and a privilege to be with her every day as she considers the state of her soul....As my sister's faith forms its final shape and hardens, mine disappears....When I return home to Albuquerque, I feel a driving go to church.'

So Mars does, for 31 Sundays, the equivalent of a month, visiting Christian, Sort-of-Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Unitarian, and nonsectarian places of worship.

Each visit triggers thoughts, feelings and remembrances of Shirley, their siblings and parents; and Shirley's children. Using simple, direct language, Mars interweaves her family's relationships, Shirley's advance toward death, and her own spiritual search for something she can call God, into a microcosm of human experience.

A visit to the Church of the Latter Day Saints evokes this thought: 'My father taught me, expected me, to be tough, to follow my own strong will, and not apologize for it. I did. But secretly, I locked myself in the closet and cried so hard I could not breathe. Waves of sadness washed over me, washing me away, and I was enormously bereft, lonely, scared of everything. That was when Shirley would whisper through the door that she wanted to come in. I would crawl into her lap and drink in her silence.'

Describing this intimate moment, Mars states a universal truth. Independence can terrify. Everyone needs a safe person and a safe place. Everyone faces the moment when they must lose that security.

The combination of universal and personal experience in this and many other paragraphs in the book makes A MONTH OF SUNDAYS: SEARCHING FOR THE SPIRIT AND MY SISTER a compelling, tender, and moving read.

So do Mars' frank descriptions of caring for a dying person, right to the moment Shirley becomes so weak, she needs diapers, just before her 'Final Dive,' as Mars calls it, into delirium and coma. Mars' spiritual search and its climax, add a final touch on the last page of the story.

A MONTH OF SUNDAYS is a thoughtful and moving book for anyone, but especially for those facing illness, death, loss, spiritual crisis, and grief. The story is not for the airport or the beach, but for a time to sit down, and think, about life. Personally, I started to this book so I could interview the author for my radio show, "Write On Four Corners," on public radio station KSJE Farmington, New Mexico. I ended up loving the very gentle chance it gave me to contmplate life and death.

The Bitch Posse
Martha O'Connor
St. Martin's Press
New York
ISBN 0312333927 $22.96 339 pages

The girls have no one but each other. Amy comes from a home where drunken parents can't give the damn they feel for her, or her mentally retarded sister. Rennie's father has married a girl half his age. They have a baby, leaving little room for Rennie in their lives. Cherry's mom snorts cocaine, and smokes dope with Cherry. Once high, they fight--savagely.

Calling themselves The Bitch Posse, the three teens flounder at high school, supporting each other through episodes of bad grades and well-meaning teachers who try break up the group, believing them bad for each other.

The Bitch Posse also rallies together when the harsher stuff hits: screaming fights at Amy's, Cherry's mom unconscious in the john from an overdose, and Rennie's dad just not there when she needs him.

But all that is nothing when real trouble hits-- the kind that alters the lives of The Bitch Posse forever. Will they work through the mess, and become healthy young adults? Or will they remain damaged?

Author Martha O'Connor, lets us decide for ourselves by the end of the book. Shifting from Amy, Cherry, and Rennie's teen years to their young adulthood and back, she puts their lives together like a puzzle. A picture of incredible anguish emerges, punctuated by aching tenderness and beauty when they gather to help each other.

Through this emotional mix, O'Connor creates real people. We sympathize with The Bitch Posse's experiences, recognizing in them our own teenage angst. We also cringe at their escapades, realizing but for strong parents, teachers, or other mentors, we might have made the same bad choices these girls did.

O'Connor guides our reactions by interweaving each character's point of view through story. She employs direct, and elegant language, changing the rhythm, sentence structure, and sound of her words to mach her characters' personalities, moods, and actions.

Solid scenes support the vivid voices of Amy, Rennie, and Cherry. Each setting has a purpose. From Rennie's torrid affairs of pure sex without love as a young woman, to Cherry's self-destructive behavior throughout her life, little in THE BITCH POSSE is gratuitous.

By the end of the the book, we love and hate; hope and despair for these girls-turned-woman. We realize that sometimes even negative influences are okay, when that's all we have. We feel a lot of there but for the Grace, go I.'

THE BITCH POSSE is grim and in-your-face. It's definitely not for kids--at least without strict parental guidance and discussion during reading. In places, O'Connor might have tightened the plot.

Still, THE BITCH POSSE makes us think about lives we might have had, and the lives our friends and neighbors might face. A book should do that once in a while. If you're up for it, THE BITCH POSSE is a moving read.

Connie Gotsch

Debra's Bookshelf

Flying by the Seat of My Pants
Marsha Marks
WaterBrook Press
2375 Telstar Drive, Suite 160; Colorado Springs, CO 80920
ISBN: 1578566991 $9.99 145 pages

In the 38 brief chapters of Flying by the Seat of My Pants Marsha Marks collects a series of vignettes connected to life as a flight attendant, the author's day job for more than twenty years. Beginning with the unusual circumstances in which she entered the profession, Marks writes about difficult passengers and ditsy fellow workers, her brushes with law enforcement and the secret service, cellulite and on-board fires--in short, the perks and problems of flying for a living. Most of the stories Marks tells are at least cute, but some are moving ("Meeting Erma Bombeck;" "Little Hannah Gray") or downright hilarious--in particular her tale of reciprocal vomiting in "The Most Embarrassing Thing"--and one is both vomit-inducing and funny at the same time ("The Mistaken Beverage"). In the end, like Erma Bombeck herself, Marks's idol and predecessor in the genre of humorous, homely essays, the author comes across as a very pleasant lady. Her book is a quick, diverting read--perfect, in fact, for taking along on your next flight.

Love Creeps
Amanda Filipacchi
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 031234032X $23.95 289 pages

Lynn Gallagher, a successful young gallery owner, knows what it's like to be desired. She is in fact being stalked, followed around the streets of Manhattan and peered at regularly through the windows of her workplace by a short, dumpy, balding fellow named--she later discovers--Alan. Alan doesn't inspire fear in his victim: his behavior and appearance are too ridiculous to be frightening. But Alan does inspire Lynn with envy. Having mysteriously lost her ability to feel desire for anything--food, sex, art, and so on--Lynn wants to feel for something what her stalker feels in excess for her. She decides to take up stalking herself as a therapeutic exercise, and soon selects, more or less at random, her own stalkee: Roland is a tall, reasonably attractive thirty-something who, she has reason to believe, lives conveniently close by for her purposes: "She had no intention of stalking someone who lived far away. Long-distance stalking had to be annoying."

The stalking order thus established (Alan follows Lynn who, though her heart isn't quite in it, follows Roland), the three eccentric principals of Amanda Filipacchi's Love Creeps pursue each other, literally, through the absurdities to follow, exploring many of the possible permutations of their love triangle while falling in and out of desire for one another. What makes the book's plot not only possible but often hilarious is that the stalkers make no attempt to conceal their stalking from their victims or one another: "It's always about you, isn't it?" one stalker complains to his victim. "I just don't understand why you can't pick more fun things to do, out of consideration for us poor stalkers who follow you. I mean, you knew we'd follow you. You know we can't help it. If you were truly considerate, you would consult us as to which activities we could all enjoy."

The phenomenon of stalking may not seem like particularly fertile ground for humor, but Filipacchi proves that weird obsession can be drop-dead funny. Her writing is breezy, her characters deliciously flawed. Readers may not long remember the specifics of this romantic comedy's twists and turns, but they're unlikely to forget the amusing image of a trio of love-sick stalkers pursuing one another openly through the streets, swimming pools, and beading classes of New York.

Have a Hot Time, Hades!
Kate McMullan
ISBN: 0786816643 $4.99 144 pages

Not too long ago Hades--that's His Royal Lowness, Lord of the Dead, King Hades to you--picked up a book on Greek mythology and discovered that his younger brother Zeus had tampered with the Greek myths in order to make himself look good (braggart and liar that Zeus tends to be). In order to set the record straight Hades set to work at once writing his own account of what really happened way back when. Have a Hot Time, Hades! is the first book to result from his labors, the initial installment in his Myth-o-Mania series, which is published pseudonymously, curiously enough, under the name of Kate McMullan.

Hades, as it turns out, can write pretty well. Have a Hot Time, Hades! is a charming, irreverent recasting of Greek myth as told from Hades' perspective, from his childhood spent dodging the refuse in his father's stomach (Cronus swallowed all but one of his children in their infancy) to his decision to adopt the Underworld as his realm. In the book we learn of the difficulties the Olympians (i.e., Hades and his siblings) had wresting power from the previous generation of gods. There are battles--well, very violent kickstones matches--with the Titans, some trouble with the monster Typhon, a talking-to from their grandmother Gaia. Nor are the Olympians themselves without their own petty squabbles, mostly arising from Zeus' habit of stealing credit from his siblings and begetting offspring with mortals.

Kate McMullan obviously takes liberties with her presentation of the Greek myths in Have a Hot Time, Hades!, but she does a tremendous service in introducing young readers in a highly entertaining way to the major figures in Greek mythology, their familial relationships, and their various areas of interest. (A handy family tree and glossary are included in the book.) The series is off to a great start. Next up is Phone Home, Persephone!, in which Hades will regale us with the true story of his marriage to Persephone.

The Wives of Bath
Wendy Holden
ISBN: 0452285895 $14.00 292 pages

Wendy Holden's The Wives of Bath follows the parallel lives of two expecting couples from the pre-natal class the four adults attend together through the marital rifts that grow up during their babies' first years. The females of the foursome, Alice and Amanda, were acquainted with one another pre-pregnancy: their mutual animosity sets the tone in turn for their husband's dislike of one another.

Former career-woman Alice, impregnated and quickly wed to her one-afternoon-stand Jake, is a likeable, accomplished woman, but she suppresses her own interests and personality to live up to her handsome new husband's demanding expectations: Jake is an extreme environmentalist who goes to absurd lengths to minimize his family's impact on the environment, using colanders salvaged from the dump as lampshades, for example, and (unrealistically, I should think) refashioning the metal from spiral notebooks into coat hangers. His plans for Alice's upcoming childbirth--to be endured without benefit of anesthesia, of course--approach the barbaric. Amanda, on the other hand, roughly Jake's opposite on the eco-conscious spectrum, is a self-absorbed careerist for whom family is hardly a priority: she plans to use her baby as a fashion accessory, and to use her husband Hugo as the baby's primary caregiver. Amanda has carefully plotted out her own childbirth, from scheduled elective cesarean to live-in maternity nurse. But all laid plans being, as we know, subject to fickle fortune, neither Jake's nor Amanda's visions of their birth experiences quite work out. Nor do their respective marriages thrive in the sleep-deprived months to follow, when disagreements over the division of labor in their households inevitably arise.

The Wives of Bath is a diverting romantic comedy that hits a few new-parenthood nails squarely on the head. The book can boast of some nice writing, and it is for the most part carefully plotted. The problem is that the characters of Jake and Amanda are far too over-the-top to be credible, the near-abusive Jake nothing more than the caricature of an extreme environmentalist, while Amanda is, as the author puts it, the personification of a "baby-hating career bitch." ("What do I care about some effing celebrity kids?" she spits at Alice. "Or any kids, come to that? Kids, schmids. Anyone who has them deserves all they've got coming to them.") No one short of Cruella de Ville is this unabashedly nasty. One can also fault the book for the deus ex machina that arrives at the book's end to resolve the problems between Jake and Alice.

The Wives of Bath is far from perfect, but if you're looking for a light, quick read, you might grab this one.

The Last Duel
Eric Jager
Broadway Books
ISBN: 0767914163 $24.95 242 pages

In The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France author Eric Jager provides a fascinating account of a feud that erupted in the late 1370s between two friends and culminated some years later, in December of 1386, in the disputants' trial by combat, the last judicial combat ever to be sanctioned by the Parlement of Paris. The bad blood between Jean de Carrouges and Jacque Le Gris began with jealousy, as Carrouges--painted here as a greedy and contentious man--watched his friend Le Gris, the godfather of Carrouges's first-born son, become the favorite of the Count whom both men served as chamberlains. Le Gris was Carrouges's social inferior, descended from a less distinguished family, and it rankled that he rather than Carrouges was the more successful at court. Further insults followed. The Count gave Le Gris a valuable parcel of land as a gift (land Carrouges felt should have been his), but bestowed a position Carrouges expected to receive, a captaincy held by Carrouges's recently deceased father, on another man. Carrouges's attempts to recover through legal means what he thought rightfully his failed, rendering him increasingly hostile to Le Gris, whom he suspected of plotting against him.

The final straw, the crime that led the principals in this story to seek one another's death before thousands of spectators and King Charles VI himself, was Le Gris's alleged rape of Carrouges's wife. Marguerite de Carrouges maintained that Le Gris and another man had attacked her while her husband was away in Paris, during the brief window of opportunity that presented itself when her mother-in-law and the rest of the household had ridden off to a nearby town. Marguerite reported the incident to her husband upon his return, despite the vast difficulties she faced in doing so (given societal attitudes toward raped women), and she demanded that he seek vengeance. The events of that morning--whatever happened to Marguerite in fact--led inexorably to a walled-in jousting field, some 240 feet long by 60 feet wide, on which the two combatants stabbed and hacked and beat one another viciously until one of them lay dead.

Jager does a simply excellent job in this book. He builds the story of Carrouges and Le Gris slowly and carefully, describing the causes for complaint between the two men and the progress of their feud as well as its historical and social context. We learn in the process about the history of judicial combat and the surprising particulars of the battle itself. The event was not, as one might suppose, an occasion for revelry, with rowdy, drunken onlookers yelling insults or encouragement at the fighters. It was instead a solemn event, and impossibly harsh strictures were laid on the spectators to guarantee their good behavior: anyone who rose from his seat during the fight was to be penalized by the loss of a hand; coughing was punishable by death. Most of us would probably quail at the prospect of merely attending such an event, let alone participating in it.

But Jager's account is not only informative, it is downright riveting. Because the author has so carefully described the antecedents to the fight and the harsh consequences for the combatants--and for Marguerite herself--riding on the battle's outcome, readers will have their emotions and intellect invested in the story by the time they arrive at Jager's blow-by-blow account of the fight: I defy anyone to put the book down during its penultimate chapter.

Whether Le Gris was guilty or innocent is a question that has been debated for centuries, and convincing arguments can be made in support of either position. Jager makes his own opinion about the matter clear, but to his credit he does not obscure the ambiguity inherent in the case, leaving plenty of room for readers to debate for themselves this most fascinating piece of legal history. That is perhaps the book's greatest strength.

Shane Kennedy
ISBN: 1418453277 $19.95 376 pages

Seth Delaney's first encounter with his niece, the daughter of his dead twin brother Sean, is no happy family reunion: Tanina has come to Seth's office with the express purpose of wresting from him control of the family company, Highbinders Inc., formerly an arms manufacturer with suspicious dealings, now transformed, in the decade's since Seth's father died, into a more legitimate business. Tanina looks like her mother, whom Seth abhorred, except that she has inherited her grandfather's--and her uncle's--blue-black eyes, and apparently their steely resolve and ruthlessness as well. Her appearance prompts from Seth a book-length reverie. His negotiations with Tanina are put on hold as Seth remembers how he has come to be where he is--fifty years old and the only surviving heir (prior to his niece's appearance) to the Delaney-Bathwater fortunes, a man with the eyes of a devil and blood on his hands who stands ready, and is perhaps even relieved, to hand over the keys to his father's company to an untried 21-year-old girl.

The story that Seth now recalls begins with the rise of S. Joseph Delaney, Seth's father, an illiterate 17-year-old widower, already the father of twins, who became the wealthy but not quite respectable and still illiterate head of an international company. Delaney accomplished this remarkable feat through sheer intellect, good fortune, alliances with loyal men, and the willingness to achieve his ends through violence when necessary. Joe Delaney's twin boys were joined by three more sons from a second marriage, and the loyalties of this second generation of Delaneys were divided along blood lines, Seth and Sean never quite willing to share power with their half-brothers. Their tendency toward internecine feuding would have guaranteed the Delaneys' unhappiness anyway, but the family's future was further complicated when Sean, unwisely and ineffectively, attempted to avenge the wrongful death of his young wife. The repercussions of his impulsive actions would be felt for decades.

One can fault author Shane Kennedy's book on a few points. There are a number of small errors in the text that would almost certainly have been caught had the book been published by a traditional publisher. More importantly, the book's conclusion--one part of it, at least--is contrived, and there are a couple scenes in the book that defy credibility (those involving the wielding of axes in company boardrooms). For someone who is, like myself, fiscally illiterate, moreover, the financial details in the book will be incomprehensible, though they are sparse enough not to slow the narrative down.

That said, Highbinders in an impressive piece of fiction. The story jumps around chronologically and is told from multiple perspectives. This might have led to a confusing narrative, but it does not. In fact the book is a collage of well-written scenes that catch and engross the reader. Kennedy manages to invest even his small characters with enough back story to make readers care what happens to them, however short a space is allotted to them in the book. Eventually the story of the Delaney family emerges, through the manifold lenses of its characters, and incredibly, though most of the principals are reprenensible beings, one comes to root for them, or at least feel to pathos over what they've done to themselves. Highbinders is well worth the read. I hope the author finds a broader audience for his work.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Dian's Bookshelf

Circles of Seven, Book 3 of The Dragons in Our Midst Chronicles
Bryan Davis
AMG Publishers
PO Box 22125 Chattanooga, TN 37422 Phone:
Phone: 1-800-266-4977 Fax: 423-894-9511
ISBN: 0899571722 $12.99 400 p.

Dragons, computers and alternate worlds, oh my!

Though touted as a young-adult fantasy book, Circles of Seven is also intriguing, sophisticated fare for adults. Circles is third in a series (Book 4 due later this year) designed to inspire readers to seek out lives of virtue, faith and courage while discovering and using their natural talents and strengths, regardless of circumstances.

Combining the modern world of technology with the fantastical world of dragons and a dollop of medieval influence, Circles weaves a tapestry of spellbinding storytelling. This unique, ongoing tale of two part-dragon teenagers, their families, sidekicks and mentors soon carves a niche on the bookshelf. With Book 3, the stakes are raised, as the tasks the young heroes must complete require each to use accumulated wisdom, truths, faith and bravery to then succeed to the next level, much like a video game.

Bonnie Silver and Billy Bannister, a girl who has known of her dragoness for some time, and a boy who is still struggling with the newfound identity, have abilities unique to them - but which complement each other. Bonnie can fly and Billy breathes fire. The duo must pass successfully through each evil circle to gain entrance into the last circle that is the prison for captives of the diabolic mistress of this alternate world.

Billy is the center of attention in Book 3, and it's not his breathing abilities he must draw upon. His mission requires the use of the understanding, skills and wisdom he has accumulated from the two preceding books to complete his assignment. He and Bonnie must enter into an alternative reality, a dimension of evil consisting of seven worlds of increasing darkness, and rescue those under the wicked control of a powerful, deceitful sorceress.

The growing relationship between Billy and Bonnie adds a layer of chivalry and perhaps the first budding of love that young adults all over the world experience, and when Bonnie is critically injured, Billy must decide: save her, or save the prisoners.

Meanwhile, the technological-savvy sidekicks, a talking computer and two teenage girls, add more fantasy and peaks the imagination to explore "what if" enough of the right kind of technology could break through a veil and have an effect on an alternative reality.

Though Circles is good read on its own I recommend reading the first two books in this series in order to keep up with who is who and understand what being part-dragon means.

Davis is to be admired for illustrating through engaging characters, fascinating storylines and world-building how it is possible to still be whole once a person emerges from the darkness evil begets.

Engaging in suspense filled with colorful, imaginative worlds with likeable heroes in seemingly unsolvable predicaments, Davis has mastered the epic journey and provides readers a fantasy that celebrates God's power. The characters are each on their own path to building faith in the Creator, and the plot line serves as a good device to illustrate how hard it can be to put one's trust in God once a situation seems hopeless; but better yet, how trusting God can strengthen one's own character.

Davis has made himself available to his audience through an interactive website,, which also has portals to more information on his other books.

Other books in this series include:

Book 1: Raising Dragons
Book 2: The Candlestone
Book 4: Tears of a Dragon (Due out in fall of 2005)

Interview with Bryan Davis Re: Circles of Seven, Book 3 of the Dragons in Our Midst series

FW: Your bio tells us you quit the computer field and moved to Apopka, Florida, to write fulltime - where did the courage come from to make this career decision and move?

For me it seemed that I couldn't live without writing. I had such a burning passion to communicate thoughts and ideas that would help people, I had to write them down and share them. Although I wrote during the night hours, I couldn't dedicate the time that good writing deserved. When my company was bought out by another firm, my opportunity came. I sold my shares and lived off the proceeds while I immersed myself in getting my writing career going. If I hadn't taken that step of faith, both in God and in myself, I don't think I would ever have had anything published. For some authors, the situation is different. For me, it seemed that it was all or nothing.

FW: Which features did you choose from a "dragon" to base the anomaly of being part-dragon?

I chose fire breathing, flying with wings, danger sensing, eloquence in story telling, superior intelligence, and miraculous healing. In the series, there are three young people who are the offspring of dragons, and each has at least two of these characteristics. I might add more offspring or more characteristics, but these are all I have used so far.

FW: Are your characters based on anyone you know, perhaps some of your seven children? And in what way?

There are certain personality traits of my children in some of the books' characters, but there are no characters for which you can say, "Oh, she's just like your daughter," or "he's like your son." For example, the Bonnie character has a blend of qualities from my daughters, but she isn't really just like any of them. She has the tender spirit of a couple of my younger daughters and the toughness of my eldest daughter.

FW: Does your family act as a sounding board for your stories?

All the time. I couldn't do this without them. My eighteen-year-old daughter and my fifteen-year-old son in particular are very open about saying, "Dad, no teenager would ever say that. It's just stupid." Regarding the story itself, I count on them to tell me whether or not a story "works," whether or not a scene grabs the emotions, or whether or not it has the right balance of action and description. I'm glad they feel so free to criticize. It really helps a lot.

One of the most difficult scenes I have ever written came in Circles of Seven in which Billy is faced with the temptation of lust. I wanted to make his feelings clear to readers who have felt this temptation themselves. At the same time, I wanted to guard the minds of younger readers who don't yet face it. I ran this scene by my family several times until we were all satisfied. Their help was essential.

FW: Have you run into a particular story point that your sounding-board hated; and if so, did you keep it or trash it, and why?

If my family hates a story point, I either trash it or modify it until they are satisfied. If they're upset, then I'm sure others will also be upset. For example, I had a couple of scenes that they thought were too violent. I modified them, keeping the intense action while making it less graphic. Dead bodies are more "off screen" now, though there are some bloody results of fighting.

My wife is very alert to moral implications. In one scene, I had Billy entering Bonnie's bedroom alone. It was completely innocent, but my wife rightfully objected. I altered it, and Billy was accompanied by his mother. That worked out just fine.

FW: Why did you choose fantasy as your genre?

I believe fantasy opens young minds to the world of the unseen. The danger is that unseen things can be bad. Good fantasy lifts up honorable ideals, like heroism, courage, faith, love, and loyalty. It shines a positive light on good values, making young readers want to emulate the characters who exhibit those traits. It gives kids heroes, when they might not have any heroes in their lives at home or at school. Good fantasy gives kids hope that maybe, just maybe, they can be a hero too.

Some of Jesus' stories must have seemed like fantasy to His hearers. Had they ever seen a camel pass through the eye of a needle? How about a rich man and a poor man conversing in the afterlife? Fantasy images last, and a good teacher knows that lasting stories means lasting lessons. The hearers also remember the virtues of the heroes and the moral of the story.

FW: What kind of research goes into a novel series like this?

I did lots of King Arthur research, including traveling to England to visit the Arthurian sites. I hiked for over sixty miles through the mountains of West Virginia and Montana to find exactly the right spots for some of the scenes. I interviewed experts in many fields, such as airplane flight, horticulture, and English history. I wanted the stories to feel authentic, which some fantasy writers really don't have to do if they place their stories in magical, unknown worlds. That's the difficulty with the contemporary/fantasy blend I do. I have to be real and unreal at the same time!

FW: What are some of the ideas God has given you for these novels?

The entire series concept came about when I had a dream about a boy who could breathe fire. I told my oldest son about it, who was fourteen at the time, and he insisted that I make it into a story. We brainstormed the idea. How could a boy breathe fire? He said, "Maybe his parents are dragons!" Well, I didn't think want to conjure images of dragons giving birth to humans, so I countered with, "Maybe his parents used to be dragons." It didn't take long for us to create a complete story premise, and he actually wrote a chapter or two before he gave up on it. I took it over and rewrote what he started, but the basic story concept never changed. It really was inspired by a dream, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if God really gave it to me.

Another idea was to put the theme of contentment into the third book. I met a wise, old man who said that God told him to tell me to use that theme. He said that the problems young people have almost always stem from lack of contentment. The rest of that story would take too long to tell hear, but I became convinced that the man was right. I took his advice to heart, and that theme worked beautifully in the book.

FW: Have any of your ideas been discarded because they risk going against God's teachings; and if so, which ones?

I am constantly aware of theological issues, so I think about this a lot. Many of the more radical story ideas do raise doctrinal questions. For example, if a dragon gets transformed into a human, does it automatically receive the curse of Adam? Does the new human have sinful tendencies at all? Does he need a savior?

For another example, in the third book, my main character enters the underworld (Hades) searching for prisoners who have been trapped there by an evil force. What should he find there? What influence did the coming of Christ have on that place?

Some of my characters are the offspring of two kinds of humans-- humans who were once dragons and regular humans. Is such a combination a sinful union, i.e. man and beast? I struggled with that one for a long time.

Since mine is a contemporary/fantasy blend, I have to deal with issues that many fantasies do not. Since it's a real world with a real Christ, I have to be careful to sharply define where the fantasy part ends and where the reality of faith begins. This has been quite a task, but I don't think I've completely discarded any ideas. I've just molded them to make sure they were biblical.

FW: What can you share with readers about Book 4 of the series?

In Book 3, an ancient demonic force is released from the abyss and unleashed on the world. They want to control mankind, and their main targets for destruction are our books' heroes. This will be the exciting, climactic conclusion to the series, and I hope it will tie up all the loose ends. We'll see how it goes. It's scheduled to come out in October of 2005.

FW: Do you find it easier or harder to continue a story and keep the characters true in a series rather than a stand-alone book?

I have never written a stand-alone novel, so I don't know which is easier. I think the first book in a series is the hardest one to write, because I have to develop the characters without sacrificing action, and I have to look well into the future to foreshadow their changes as they encounter opportunities to grow. The following books get progressively easier with regard to character development, but I constantly have to infuse new challenges and excitement. I think each type of book presents unique challenges.

FW: How long, from the thought process to the final draft of the manuscript, does it take for you to complete a book; and does it get easier as you go along?

The first book was a long work-in-progress. It took seven years to get to the final draft stage. The second book took less than a year, so, yes, it did get easier, mainly because the storyline was established, and the main characters were thoroughly developed. I also began to write full time during the writing of the second book, so that helped reduce the number of months drastically.

FW: Are you working on other writing projects other than the Dragons in Our Midst series?

I have another YA series that I'm working on, but I'm keeping it under wraps for now. I'll tell you that I'm planning for it to be a trilogy, and it will be more covert in its Christianity than is the dragons series. It will still have strong spiritual themes, but I want it to make more of a splash in the secular markets, especially in the public school system. If I can plant lots of seeds there, maybe the kids will want to pick up my more overtly Christian books.

FW: Did you have formal writing training and other than that you would use in the computer field?

I didn't have formal training until I began pursuing writing as a career. I took several writing courses at seminars and conferences, and they helped a great deal, as did reading good books on writing. I believe I had a natural talent for writing, but, as with any talent, it had to be developed through learning the techniques. I sorely needed that training, and I'm grateful for my many teachers.

FW: Now that you've settled into a writer's lifestyle, please share your typical writing day.

I have no typical writing day at all. I have writing seasons. For the last two months I've done very little besides promoting. I have been visiting schools, speaking at churches, doing bookstore signings, etc. When school gets out, I'll hunker down and write for two or three months, and my writing days can be from about four hours to about sixteen hours long.

I can say that I try to get some exercise in before I write. That really helps me get my energy up, and my mind seems to work better. I make sure I take several breaks to walk out of my office and talk to my wife and children, and collect hugs and kisses. Those give me energy too. My children know not to interrupt me frequently, but if my little ones need some Daddy time, they are free to come in. I hope never to be too busy to give a smile and a hug.

FW: What authors do you like to read, and what influence do they have on your own writing?

I really enjoy C. S. Lewis, two books in particular; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Perelandra. I loved the spiritual parallels in Dawn Treader, and the debate between Westin and the woman when he tried to get her to sin in Perelandra fascinated me. I have somewhat similar dialogues in The Candlestone and Circles of Seven, so that definitely influenced me.

The works of Francis Schaeffer had an impact on me. The God Who is There and He is There, and He is not Silent are two that come to mind. I enjoy careful, analytical thought, and Schaeffer was a master in that field. I try to carry that kind of thinking into my stories, and those who read my fantasy series will find that they are far more than children's fairy tales.

FW: Please, feel free to add any comments or observations or a statement on what you hope readers will take with them after reading Book 3.

When you read Circles of Seven, I hope you will see two major themes - godliness and contentment. As Billy faces a new temptation in each circle, he has choices to make, difficult choices. As he chooses to "follow the light" the best way that he knows how, I hope to portray the way of godliness. At his most difficult temptation, because he doesn't fully understand what he's seeing, he doesn't make the best choice, but he also doesn't give in to sin. He acts in faith based on his limited knowledge, and God honors that act of faith. I believe that is what God asks of us, simply to act on faith, to take that step and trust in Him, even if we don't always know exactly what to do.

Bonnie, who is a much more mature believer, faces a different obstacle. Because of her dragon wings, she has always felt like a mutant. Through an overwhelmingly powerful example of contentment in a prisoner she finds in the circles, she makes an incredible sacrifice and learns to be content with how God created her.

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:6, "Godliness is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment." Billy gives the reader a lesson in godliness, and he is accompanied into the dark realms by Bonnie, who provides a lesson in contentment. I hope that many readers find this "great gain" by taking the story to heart.

Dian Moore, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Baby Step thru Searching & Surfing the Net for Seniors
Char Wood the Computer Granny
2028 Pine Tree Drive, Edgewater Fl 32141
ISBN 0971961379 $19.95 (386) 424-6768

In this third installment of the "Computer Granny" series, the author now shows seniors how to maneuver their way through the Internet. She again writes simply and explains what a website is, how to go to one, the term 'search engine', the meaning of the word spam, creating your own website. Those are some of the things she deals with here. Unlike many computer geeks I've known who don't translate their information to me, Char Wood talks to readers in language they can understand.

The Poetess Within
Stacia Saina Star
Jeffery Lamb
Outskirts Press
ISBN 1932672877 $17.95

Star has a gift of picking things we take for granted and writing very interesting poetry that anyone can read and enjoy. I was also amazed at the many forms she uses including haiku, and free verse: Haiku being one of the hardest types of writing to really pull it off. She does it very well here and she has a unique gift with words in her other poems.

Kicks Is Kicks
Delle Brehan
Holloway House Publishing Company
8060 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90046
ISBN 087067319X $3.95

Delle Brehan had it all. Great looks, a sexy body as she realized how to have total control over men. She rose through the sex industry to become a mistress of pain over men. She began working in massage parlors and learned the fine arts of pain and pleasure over her customers. Her accounting of her life is both interesting because of her straightforwardness and a fascinating expose of a world not too many of us really know very much about. Still in print almost thirty years after its initial release, I found this book very interesting because it is not dated at all. It just shows that some things just never change.

I Am Not Ashamed
Barbara Payton
Holloway House Publishing Company
8060 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90046
ISBN 0870671081 $7.99

Payton tells in her own words her life story that is simply amazing. She was an actress in Hollywood who worked with many of the biggest names in the industry, had the looks, charm and sex appeal to be another blonde bombshell. From making $10,000 dollars she nose-dived into selling her body for $5.00 a night. Payton pulls no punches as she also reveals how she took on the studio heads and lost on certain social issues. I was astounded that this woman who had it all could end up the way she did. At least she tells her story, not the tabloids. .

White Man's Justice, Black Man's Grief
Donald Goines
Holloway House Publishing Company
8060 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90046
ISBN 087067885X $6.99

Though this book was written in the 1970s the issues it deals with are still prevalent today on how the criminal justice system treats black defendants. Goines tells the story of Chester Hines who is taken in after being pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, and the abusive treatment he receives from the officers who take him immediately to jail. It is there that Hines encounters the real world of prison life. My only complaint is that there should have been a glossary for those of us who do not know the jail terms Goines uses. The writing is strong otherwise, with well-defined characters that are as fresh and alive as they were when the author wrote this so many years ago.

Prisoner of Romance
Selwyn J. Mills Ph.D
Jameson Publishing Company
1240 Shady Rest Lane Suite 102, Naples, Florida
ISBN 1412050235 $19.95

Hopefully many will read this book before they get involved with someone they think is their "soul mate." There are many lessons one can learn from Paul Mitchell who thought he had met the woman of his dreams over the Internet. They met and hit it off pretty well. She appeared to love him and seemed committed to the relationship but Mitchell had many red flags that he chose to ignore. Paul was so into this woman that he married her and moved them both to Naples, Florida. Then many things began to change. Paul had many more warnings that he overlooked. He was arrested and taken to jail and his life became an utter hell. He began to dig deeper into this woman he had married and found there were a number of men she had been married to who went through the same progression. Mills has told the story of one man's wrong choice and its effect on a person's life.

Confessions of a Lingerie Addict
Jennifer Ashley
Love Spell
Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
ISBN 0505526360 $6.99

I had a lot of fun reading this book that is not your typical romance novel. Brenda Scott a dj on one of the local radio stations, has made some major changes in her life. She is no longer tied down to a lousy boyfriend, she has begun to buy much sexier more revealing lingerie and she wakes up on New Years day not having a clue of who the man is beside her. All of this took place in the first chapter. To further complicate matters, her brother's best friend has taken a fancy to their mother and both Brenda and her brother are not happy with the relationship. To add to the mix her ex- boyfriend is not in hot pursuit of her but not for the obvious reason one would think. Ashley unfolds her tale with solid writing, great characters and a nice look behind the scenes of the radio industry.

Kerouac in Florida Where the Road Ends
Bob Kealing
Foreword by David Amram
Arbiter Press
P.O.Box 608911, Orlando, Florida 32860
ISBN 0962138533 $14.95

Journalist Kealing traces author Jack Kerouac's many trips into the "Sunshine State." But this book is more than just the many times the famous author came into the Central Florida area. Kealing gives readers a feel of what the man was all about, where his writings came from, how he wrote, when and where, what kind of person Kerouac was and a lot more. After reading this book readers will have a deeper appreciation of this very fine literary giant. Kealing gives readers a very good picture of Jack Kerouac.

The Good, the Bad, and Me in My Anecdotage
Eli Wallach
15 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010
ISBN 0151011893 $25.00

Since I have been a big fan of the movie "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" this was a pleasurable read for a number of reasons. Wallach, who had a definite presence in this third installment spaghetti westerns from Sergo Leone known as the dollar pictures starring Clint Eastwood, tells many of the behind the scene things not really known before. I also liked Wallach talking about the filming of "The Magnificent Seven," "The Misfits" and other movies he was in. The book is easy reading and Wallach does not pan anyone like so many bio books do. He is very positive and has a certain charm. If there is a complaint it is that he doesn't talk much about many other movies like "Article 9" and "Tough Guys." Maybe like David Niven, Wallach will write another volume to include other films he's been a part of.

Innocent Targets When Terrorism Comes to School
Michael Dorn and Chris Dorn
Forward by Lt. Col Dave Grossman
Safe Havens International Inc
ISBN 097412401X $19.95

At first I thought this was the Michael Dorn who played Mr. Worf on "Star Trek The Next Generation." I wondered why he would write a book of this nature. I have to say looking at the credits the author and his son are in no way related to the famous actor. They are experts on terrorism and tell why terrorists love to target children and innocent people we saw on 9 11. The Dorns also tell good and bad responses to terrorism and what we all can do to combat this menace.

Radio Activity
Bill Fitzhugh
Harper Torch
10 East 53rd Street, New York NY 10022
ISBN 0380806371 $7.50

A DJ is missing from his job at radio station WAOR-FM Mississippi. Rick Shannon returns home to take over the position. Shannon becomes an amateur sleuth on the trail of the missing jock. I enjoyed the look inside the world of a radio station on how they choose what gets played and the inner workings of modern day FM radio. Hopefully, there will be another installment with Rick Shannon.

How to Make Love like a Porn Star
Jenna Jameson with Neal Stauss
Regan Books
A Division of Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
ISBN 0060539097 $27.95

I have to admit that when I first saw this book I thought it was another one on how to have sex but I have to admit that I was so wrong. In fact, it has nothing to do with making love as the title says. Instead it is the frank, honest, and surprising life story of one of the most famous women in porn. Before I read this book I thought that Jameson was a female to idolize because I'd seen so many of her layouts in Penthouse, Hustler, and many other men's magazines. Her appearance was very deceiving. I now have a totally different opinion of her after reading her life story. She goes into such detail about how she was twice hooked on drugs, once so bad that she weighed under 90 pounds, how she nearly died several times, had sex with so many men and women, and that she is so insecure with the several men she dated in her personal life. You also get different perceptions of many famous people she has come in contact with as well. Jameson's expose is a surprising sometimes graphic piece that for those who are against the porn business plays well into their argument that drugs and sex off camera are out of control in facets of this industry. I was most surprised by how honest Jameson is in her telling her use of drugs, sex with women, men, and her insecurities. This is the book that was almost taken out of the Library system in Houston by radical groups that objected to the pictures.

Gary Roen

Gorden's Bookshelf

Trojan Odyssey
Clive Cussler
Berkley Books
Berkley Publishing Group, division of Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0425199320 $7.99 463 pages

Cussler writes formula Dirk Pitt novels. They all follow the same basic design. A historical event is recounted. A super villain tries to control the world. Through natural and manmade adversity, Dirk Pitt and his friend, Al Giordino, overcome the super villain, while discovering that the past historical event is the key to the current conflict. After a dozen Dirk Pitt books are read, the plot is predictable but Cussler places enough interesting details and action events that the reader doesn't care.

The Trojan War and the trials of Odysseus are recounted in the preface to the current story. The novel then jumps to August 15, 2006 and the birth of a super hurricane. A huge floating hotel owned by a man named Specter is in the path of the hurricane. Pitt's children, Dirk and Summer, are studying pollution at the coral reefs of the Navidad Banks near the floating hotel. While Summer is taking water samples, she comes upon an ancient artifact. Dirk Pitt comes to the rescue of the guests on the floundering hotel and his children. After the rescues, Pitt turns his attention to super villain Specter and his Odyssey Corporation and their part in the near disaster. The action is non-stop as Dirk tries to discover Specter's secrets and Specter tries to kill Dirk.

'Trojan Odyssey' is an example of the best of the action/adventure spy novel. It is predictable and a little long-in-tooth for the Cussler fan but it is not disappointing. The novel ends with a changing of characters that previews Cussler's vision of bring new life to his storyline. 'Trojan Odyssey' is worth reading for anyone exploring the action/adventure genre. Its many small weaknesses are easily balance by its strong story.

Stel Pavlou
St. Martin's Paperbacks
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 0312996438 $6.99 576 pages

Pavlou enters the hard science adult action adventure genre with a winner. 'Decipher' has problems but the problems are minor. The story starts with too many different threads, the logic is a little flawed and the ending is a little bit too contrived. Balanced against those problems, the hard science, intricate history and strong action storyline are more than enough to make the story one to be read. By the next novel or two Pavlou should iron out his techniques and his writing will have a smoother feel.

'Decipher' starts with a history lesson on the Antarctic International Treaty that leaves too many questions about the continent's natural resources open. China physically takes over a section of the Antarctic and the US responds with a military buildup. An oil company tries sneaking an exploration rig into the potential war zone. They drive a test well into the Antarctic sea but the well blows killing and maiming workers. Instead of oil, the drill has penetrated a wall made of carbon 60, a compound not found naturally on earth. The sun starts to destabilize disrupting communications and causing storms, earthquakes and the eruption of volcanoes. An energy source large enough to be seen from space starts to function in the region taken over by China.

Is this the end of the world predicted by mythology and religion? A group of experts are drawn together trying to answer the question before it is too late.

SF readers and action/adventure junkies are going to love 'Decipher.' The heart of the action story is the hard science, mythology and linguistics that are pulled together into a complete tale. Just don't look too closely at the facts and logic. 'Decipher' is an easy recommendation.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Gypsi's Bookshelf

Dean Koontz
Bantam Dell
Random House, Inc
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0553804154, $27.00, 416 pages

As he approached his Ford Explorer, he noticed a rectangle of white paper under the driver's-side windshield wiper. Behind the steering wheel, with his door still open, he unfolded the paper, expecting to find a handbill of some kind, advertising a car wash or a maid service. He discovered a neatly typed message: If you don't take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blonde schoolteacher somewhere in Napa County. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have six hours to decide. The choice is yours. Billy didn't at that instant feel the world tilt under him, but it did. The plunge had not yet begun, but it would. Soon.
--Velocity by Dean Koontz

When Billy Wiles finds that note on his windshield, he thinks it some sort of sick prank. Until a lovely blonde teacher is found murdered the next day and Billy is given yet another choice. Suddenly, Billy's quit and predictable life has become part of a sick game and he just wants out--but finds he's too deeply involved to be able to do so. As the "freak" tangles Billy tighter and tighter, Billy is desperately trying to find and stop the sick killer before it's too late and he loses the one he truly loves.

Velocity is one of those intense roller coasters that, once it starts, just doesn't slow down until it comes to a screeching halt with the reader hanging on for dear life, glad it's over and yet wanting to ride it again. I read it in two sittings; simply couldn't put it down.

Was some of it too far fetched? Sure, but who cares; it was a fun read! Dean Koontz somehow tricks the reader into believing the most bizarre things that don't cause the raised eyebrows until a few days after reading. That's just one of his trademarks. He manages to make the books fun enough (in a scary and exciting way) that a stretch in reality doesn't matter.

My only two problems about Velocity were the amazing ease of finding body disposal sites and my uncertain reaction to the identity of the "freak". I'd like to chat with other readers and see if they felt the same way I did on the second point.

Other than these minor points, Velocity was a thoroughly enjoyable book, both easy to read and highly engrossing. I see it as one of Koontz best and definitely recommend it.

Ill Met By Moonlight
Sarah A. Hoyt
The Berkley Publishing Group
a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0441009832; $5.99 304 pages

"The garments showed the boy for a mortal. A mortal aspiring to middle class and falling short.

Yet he looked at the enchanted palace and saw it, where mortal eyes should perceive nothing but darkness and rustling trees.

Quicksilver sighed. This must be another Sunday child, blessed with enchanted site. He wished the creatures wouldn't whelp on Sundays. It only caused trouble for elf and human alike." Ill Met By Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt

Quicksilver, youngest child of Titania and Oberon, was to be the heir to their kingdom. On their disappearance, however, his older brother, Sylvanus, stole the throne and Quicksilver became immersed in bitterness and hatred. He would do anything to regain his rightful place, regardless of the hurt he might cause to others.

Sylvanus, fancier of mortal women, has just lost his wife to childbirth. He takes a solid, and to him immeasurably attractive, country woman, nursing her own child, to be nursemaid to his motherless child - with the intent of making her much more than just a nursemaid.

Will Shakespeare comes come from work one evening to find his wife and infant daughter missing, replaced by sticks of wood. Sick with worry, he sets out on the long walk to Nan's family, in hopes she has been called there to attend a pregnant relative. While passing through Arden Forrest he sees the most bizarre vision: his wife, Nan, dressed in courtly clothing dancing with royalty in a castle set in air that Will cannot penetrate. Quicksilver involves Will in his plot for the throne, throwing the four of them - five if you count Quicksilver's spurned lover - into a plot worthy of the bard himself.

Sarah Hoyt's interpretation of Will Shakespeare's past is novel and enjoyable, with both humor and seriousness. As Shakespeare often did, Hoyt gives the comedy some tragic turns - some, however, that I felt weren't well enough resolved. I would be interested to hear what other readers have to say as well. She gives another nod to Shakespeare by throwing in quotes, tongue in cheek, in a mostly amusing way. Some seemed to forced, but they often brought a grin.

I enjoyed seeing the young, tentative Will who was very much in love with his older wife Nan. He proves himself to be very much the nineteen-year-old boy, who loves both with his heart and with his - well, his other parts. He was no match for the wiles of Quicksilver or for the beautiful mysterious woman. It is said that mortals who have been loved by an elf go crazy - Hoyt points out Kit Marlow and then shows Will following that same path, a nice wink toward his greatness and it's source.

I also enjoyed seeing Anne Hathaway Shakespeare in another role than that of shrew, as so many portray her. In Ill Met By Moonlight, Nan has a strong (though not shrewish) character, both standing up to Sylvanus and looking out for Will's best interest; it is she that I was the most fond of by the end of the book.

Overall, this was a fresh take on an old subject and I found it, if not engrossing, generally delightful. Of all the Shakespeare-as-hero-fiction I've read thus far, this is by far my favorite.

Novel contains adult situations.

Gypsi Phillips Bates

Harwood's Bookshelf

God & Philosophy
Antony Flew
Prometheus Books
ISBN 1591023300, $18.00 210 pp.

God & Philosophy is a 2005 reprint of a book Antony Flew first published in 1966, unchanged except for the inclusion of a Preface added in 1984 and an Introduction written for the 2005 edition. It is that Introduction that has led to widespread circulation of the rumor that Flew has switched from being an unequivocal nontheist to a believer in either theism or deism. Neither I nor Paul Kurtz, who wrote a Publisher's Foreword, see the Introduction as justifying any such interpretation. Since Flew's alleged "conversion" has become the focus of world attention, the logical approach is to quote what the Introduction actually says, and allow the reader to form his own conclusion on whether Flew has indeed submitted to a brain amputation.

"That the big bang theory no longer concludes that time began is now mainstream science. The fact that multiverse theory is now a leading view among cosmologists today is also established." (p. 10) In other words, Flew asserts that the Big Bang occurred at a definable point in time. It did not bring time into existence. To my mind, it is the hypothesis that time did not exist before the Big Bang that is metaphysical nonsense, not the converse.

The passage that most supports the allegation that Flew now rejects a totally nontheistic view of reality is as follows: "But while this religious hypothesis cannot in principle be either verified or falsified by any experience and consequently cannot meet Popperian standards of scientific respectability, it is, like the fine tuning argument, something that those who already judge that they have good reason to have reached theistic conclusions may very reasonably see as further and very strong confirmation of these conclusions." (p. 16) My translation: The "radically new and extremely comprehensive case for the existence of the Christian God made by Richard Swinburne in his Is There a God?" (p. 15) is not so self-evidently absurd that it should be dismissed out of hand. That is surely something less than a ringing endorsement.

But the paragraph that leaves little doubt that Flew is as rational and nontheistic today as he was forty years ago is this: "For the contention that our universe was created and sustained by an omnipotent and omniscient spirit who is good, in any everyday commendatory understanding of the word 'good,' is surely flatly incompatible with the occurrence of innumerable undeniable and undenied evils within that universe (to say nothing of the unending tortures supposedly in store for the damned in 'the next world'). Attempts by Christian thinkers to resolve this contradiction have been described as attempts to solve the problem of evil." (p. 14)

And as Flew makes clear in his comments on attempts by Aquinas and others to explain how evil could exist in a world ruled by an omnipotent nice guy, the inescapable reality is that the problem of evil cannot be solved by any explanation compatible with the god hypothesis. Evil exists because there is not a benevolent puppetmaster in the sky pulling strings. (pp. 14-15) Since my opinion of anyone who can think otherwise is not necessarily Flew's, I will not spell it out. But Flew has no more lost the ability or abandoned the determination to "follow the argument wherever it leads" (p. 6) than did Darwin or Einstein, each of whom has been similarly accused of turning theistic by the intentionally ignorant.

Flew has become neither a deist nor a theist, although he recognizes that deism is more defensible than theism. Deism can be neither verified nor falsified. There is no evidence whatsoever that the universe was intelligently designed by a self-aware sentient being. But given the intrinsic improbability of such a hypothesis, it must be judged "false until proven true." Theism, in contrast, can be and has been disproven, since it stands or falls on the veracity of the claim that a specific god has revealed its existence. In the case of the gods of all three Moses-centered religions (which Flew does not make the ridiculous blunder of calling "monotheistic," which they observably are not), all such claims have been traced to a bible that states unambiguously in fourteen places that the earth is flat. While the existence of unrevealed gods cannot be disproven, it should be self-evident that the gods of flat-earth fairy tales are products of the human imagination.

But while Flew reaches the right conclusions, his arguments are essentially the same faculty-of-mythology doubletalk as those of his opponents. Other than pointing out that the word "God" is used to describe so many incompatible concepts that it is as intrinsically meaningless as self-styled People's Democratic Republics have made the word "democracy," his book has nothing useful to offer. No believer ever has or ever will be cured of his delusion by philosophical nitpicking. Why Prometheus bothered reprinting this "look how clever I am" trivia, I cannot imagine.

The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary
Robert Alter
Norton & Co
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
ISBN 0393019551, $39.95 1064 pp.

Reprinted from American Rationalist, May/June 2005.

All religion-authorized bibles are riddled with falsifications. They have to be, since allowing brainwashed believers to read a correctly translated bible would wipe out religion in a single generation. The Five Books of Moses may be the first translation that its perpetrator acknowledges to be a falsification, and attempts to justify his propagandizing in an Introduction that he hopes the masses will not read.

For example, he acknowledges that, "Scholarship for more than two centuries has agreed that the Five Books are drawn together from different literary sources . The standard account offered by modern scholars of the Torah identifies four principal literary strands." (pp. x-xi) So why would a translator who knows that mislabel his translation as, The Five Books of Moses? Clearly, while the Introduction is written for scholars, the title is aimed at the ignoranti.

Similarly, instead of transcribing YHWH as Yahweh, Alter perpetuates the centuries-old fraud of rendering it as "the LORD." Again he justifies his intentional falsification by arguing that Yahweh may not closely approximate the pronunciation of the original Hebrew word. But YHWH was as much a proper name as Zeus, Brahma or Odin. Transcribing it as Yahweh would preserve that proper-name status. Falsifying it to "the LORD" panders to the Big Lie that bible authors believed the same things taught by modern-day religion. Alter's explanation for his mistranslation of the dual-sex, generic plural, elohim, "male and female gods," as the masculine, singular, proper name, "God," holds as much water as a sieve. And his transcription of other deity-names, untranslated, as Elyon and Shaddai, successfully conceals the reality that Elyon was the god Ilion, after whom the Trojan War city was named, and Shaddai meant "demon," at a time when a demon was simply an immortal, not necessarily evil.

Alter makes no attempt to identify the original author of each passage. Except in the Introduction and fopotnotes, the designations J, E, P and D are never mentioned. While Alter acknowledges that Genesis begins with two incompatible accounts of a creation, the reader would have to refer to the Introduction to learn that two different authors wrote the chapters.

On the good side, Alter does correct some theologically insignificant falsifications found in most other bibles. He recognizes that adam is a generic term for a human being, and translates it as "the human," not as "the man." He likewise adequately translates the passage, "Let there be a vault in the midst of the waters, and let it divide water from water. And called the vault Heavens." By correctly identifying heavens as a plural, he eliminates the pretence that Heaven is the name of a place. But a better translation would have been "skies," a word that more accurately reflects the true meaning of ha-shemim as a series of concentric domes above a flat earth. And he does not emulate other bibles in falsifying nefesh, "breath," into "soul," a concept Pentateuch authors did not have. Nor does he falsify the Torah's many references to a slavegirl into "handmaid" or "maidservant," as previous translations consistently do.

Alter criticizes recent translations that surrender literality for the sake of interpretation, the rationale being that, "a translation that tries to do justice to the richness of the Hebrew must aim for some approximation of the nuances of diction in the original." (p. xlvi) As he explains, "Finally, since this translation is, within the limits of readable English style, quite literal - not out of fundamentalist principle but in an effort to reproduce some of the distinctive literary features of the original - when the interests of English intelligibility compelled me to diverge from a literal translation, I have alerted readers to the divergence and given the literal sense of the Hebrew words in a note." (p. xlvii)

For all of Alter's efforts to portray himself as more scholar and less propagandist, one point that comes through loud and clear is that he regards the fantasy novel he is translating as essentially nonfiction. His terror of the capricious judge/executioner in the sky that responds to the slightest affront to its extravagant ego by unleashing homicidal tantrums can be inferred from his capitalizing all pronouns that refer to the deity. Even liberal theologians have abandoned that archaic practice. Alter's god clearly has a thinner skin than the god of comparatively moderate believers. But for Alter to recognize that a higher lifeform could not be as arbitrary and vindictive as the god depicted in his bible, he would have to recognize that bible as a product of the human imagination. I see no evidence that he will ever be able to do that.

The Five Books of Moses has a lot of good qualities. But other than insignificant improvements in some insignificant passages, and footnotes that can be recommended without reservation, the translation itself achieves nothing new or worthwhile. At a time when scholars should be drawing attention to the differences between (for example) the J and E versions of the sale of Joseph into Egypt, the J and P versions of Noah's flood, and other incompatible doublets, Alter pushes the orthodox viewpoint that, "the edited version of Genesis has powerful coherence as a literary work." (p. li) I can only refer him to The Compact Fully Translated Bible (, which places versions of the same anecdote by different authors in parallel columns, thereby demonstrating how the Redactor who combined the versions created a hodgepodge that the original authors would have repudiated. Most notably, in E's original narrative, Isaac was sacrificed. The Redactor inserted the eleventh-hour reprieve to harmonize J's tales of the adult Isaac with the E document in which there was no adult Isaac.

It is no coincidence that the rave reviews printed on the dust jacket are all by True Believers who see Alter's endorsement of the "nonfiction" interpretation of a bible containing 19,000 demonstrably false statements as his primary achievement. Such persons probably also praise the pseudoscientific nonsense of Intelligent Design.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Architecture and Suburbia - From English Villa to American Dream House, 1690-2000
John Archer
U. of Minnesota Press
111 Third Ave. South - Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2520;
ISBN 0816643032 $39.95 470+xx pp.

Archer puts suburbia into historical context, going back to before it was even known as this. Its beginnings were in the "nascent bourgeoisie...philosophical, economic, and political circumstances" of late seventeenth century England. Especially, the "new architectural type [of] the compact bourgeois villa" came to be seen as an ideal residence by the nascent bourgeois public. This architecture type allowed for a "new settlement pattern" different from the traditional ones of dense urban development and sprawling manors--namely, suburbia with its homes surrounded by lawns clustered in country-like areas. Along with laying out the cultural and philosophical origins of suburbia, including the developing concept of the self, Archer presents both sides of the assessment of suburbia. In modern-day America, where the majority of the population now live in suburbia, there has for many decades been an ongoing debate over whether suburbia is the acme of the American dream of prosperity and upward mobility or an illusion entailing the stifling of individuality and cultivation of materialism. Archer's book is substantive enough to be a text in college courses on suburban studies, while also being accessible and engaging enough as a timely work of cultural studies for the general reader. The author is a professor of cultural studies and comparative literature at the U. of Minnesota. With material ranging from Enlightenment English philosophy to portrayals of suburbia in recent movies, from architectural plans of the "compact bourgeois villa" to inventions such as lawnmowers and economic changes such as new banking practices associated with suburbia, the work demonstrates how fertile this subject is while bringing it into focus and drawing the avenues for further exploration of it.

Menke - The Complete Yiddish Poems of Menke Katz
translated by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav
Preface by Harry Smith
Introduction by Dovid Katz
The Smith
69 Joralemon St., Brooklyn, NY 12201
ISBN 1882986210 $35.00 779+cxxxv pp.

Two of the people who knew Menke Katz (1906-1991) best write introductory essays to the hundreds of pages of collected poems--the poet's son and his long-time publishers. Dovid Katz's biographical and literary introduction is over 100 pages. In Harry Smith's seven-page Preface, he notes that Menke Katz's poems "spanned the alleys of Michaleshik [in Katz's homeland of Lithuania] and the streets of New York--folklore and factories, the Hill of Svir and skyscraper, the Kabbalah's mysticism and the Talmud's reaching, against the horrors and wonders of the 20th century." Katz was a lifelong refugee, not only from the mid 20th-century troubles of Europe in which Jews bore the brunt, but also from many of the trends and conventions of modernism. Although Katz's poems are unmistakably modernist, they maintain a pronounced singular touch. Because he was a freethinker who would, for example, begin experimenting in his late poems, Katz cannot be pigeonholed with any school, style, or group; although he was a friend or associate of many writers and artists who were. The restlessness, ambivalences, yearnings, and disappointments of this status of being an outsider of history and nationalities surface in the poems--e. g., "In my alleys--the gray houses/clamor for light/Like blind crows with shorn wings..." [from Night in Downtown}; "Lest you cry recall/That a stray spark of light goes out somewhere/Lully-lully-lullaby, my orphan,/Lully-lullaby." [from "A Kind of a Lullaby] The course of Katz's long poetic career embraces the horrors, sadnesses, and hopes of the 20th century, the pains and perspectives of the Jewish emigre crystallizing those of multitudes of moderns in the conflicts and the rush of the 20th century, and the particular wisdom, wit, and expression of Yiddish culture. Comprehension and appreciation of 20th-century Jewish and Yiddish literature, and of poetry in particular, without familiarity with Menke Katz's poetry is incomplete.

The National Directory for Catechesis
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth St. NE, Washington, DC 20017-1194
ISBN 1574554333 $19.95 314+xiv pp.

A term, concept, calling, and duty from the early days of Christianity, "catechesis" (related to catechism) is the part of Catholicism concerned with "education in the faith of children, young people, and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life." The Second Vatican Council called for a renewal of catechesis in 1971. The "Directory" provides guidance for this catechesis that is a central part of the Church's activity and aims at all times in all situations with all persons. Mostly for Catholic bishops and priests, the "Directory" nonetheless does have particular sections for lay persons; and its general material on Catholic ideals and theological principles, organizations and procedures, and texts and other resources apply to anyone interested in catechesis, the lifeblood of Catholicism.

Civil War Time - Temporarlity and Identity in America, 1861-1865
Cheryl A. Wells
U. of Georgia Press
330 Research Dr., Athens, GA 30602-4901
ISBN 0820326577 $39.95 195+xii pp.

There have been numerous books on how American society was changed by the Civil War. But Wells' is the only one to hone in on how Americans' sense of time was changed, and the effects this had on many areas of society and how modernity developed in America. Basically, the sense of time changed from one that was attuned to nature and religion to one that was related to time as experienced on the battlefield or in relation to battles. "The war years introduced a new complicated time to the American people, as events on the battlefield impinged on, overrode, and rearranged antebellum schedules...A convoluted mixture of God's time, natural times, personal times, and clock times, battle time was a ruling time that created a temporal web within which soldiers fought." Not only soldiers in battle developed a different sense of time, but so did nurses in hospitals, for instance, as they waited for casualities to start coming in and when they did, engaged in intense efforts to treat their wounds in a time determined by events on the battlefield. The workplace freed blacks tried to enter in the post-War decades and the habits, skills, discipline, etc., required in it were formed largely by the new sense of time engendered in the masses of men who served as soldiers in the conflict. All of the soldiers' activities, from camp life to furloughs, was pervaded by recently-fought or coming battles. The pre-War sense of time that was esentially personal gave way to a sense of time that was both remote and more controlling, and in some ways more fateful. A fascinating study which brings to light much about American history, society, and culture since the Civil War by an assistant professor of history at the U. of Wyoming.

Eugene O'Neill's Last Plays - Separating Art from Autobiography
Doris Alexander
U. of Georgia Press
330 Research Dr., Athens, GA 30602-4901
ISBN 0820327093 $39.95 249+ix pp.

In comparing the "facts of the plays with the documentary evidence of the historical record, [this work] offers what is really a first study in biography based on knowledge of what in a work are the fact's of [O'Neill's] life and what are not." As psychologically incisive and true-to-life as O'Neill's last plays were, with their richly-drawn, identifiable, flawed, characters, they were particularly susceptible to biographical interpretations and such points of view by critics and even scholars. Among the mixed biographical and literary topics concerning this major American playwright Alexander brings clarity to from poring over material lately uncovered and rereadings of some known material are O'Neill's suicide attempt, his illness of tuberculosis, and his relationship with his parents. Alexander, professor emerita of English at CUNY, gives only passing conjecture on why such "myths" arose in the first place or persisted on the basis of nonexistent, scant, or clearly contradictory evidence. The reasons for such errors or misguided interpretations of O'Neill's late plays--no doubt growing out of an awe and mystique surrounding O'Neill as a deeply impressive, preternaturally gifted playwright--is an absorbing topic on its own--but beyond the interest or scope of Alexander here. The author focuses on how such errors came to be, and on clearing them up. In this, she brings much clarity, and sometimes definitiveness, to mistakenly held views and some outright fictions of both O'Neill's life and his late plays, all without lowering this playwright's stature.

Innocent Targets - When Terrorism Comes to School
Michael Dorn and Chris Dorn
Safe Havens International
ISBN 097412401X $19.95 153 pp.

Michael Dorn is an internationally-recognized expert of school safety and anti-terrorist measures who has worked with government agencies, foreign law-enforcement departments, among other organizations. He is also associated with the leading defense and intelligence agency Jane's. After analyzing a few notorious incidents from around the world where terrorists took school children hostage for the reasons for the success or failure of government authorities in dealing with them, Dorn--with his co-author his son, also a recognized authority by government agencies and the media--discusses general principles which can prevent a terrorist incident, be prepared for one if it does occur, and if so minimize the number of school children and teachers taken hostage and the potential loss of life. The timely, authoritative manual addresses the natural concern over the safety of children with a realistic perspective on the probability of a terrorist attack on any particular school. The recommendations put forward follow the guideline of being pertinent and responsible without being excessively costly to school systems and governments at different levels.

Oasis of Wisdom - The Worlds of the Desert Fathers and Mothers
David G. R. Keller
Liturgical Press
PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321-7500;
ISBN 0814630340 $16.95 181+xxii pp.

Keller draws different types of early Christian monasticism while also laying out the broader grounds of what was common among them. All were pathways to God. In the early days of Christianity, the ascetic habits and spiritual practices and thoughts of a small number of men and women going out to desert areas in Egypt and neighboring areas helped not only to preserve the germ of Christianity against the barbarian invasions of Europe, but also to found a model for spiritual life and cast of mind of devout Christian believers for all ages. Keller is a clergyman who leads retreats and at one time headed a religious center. This learned overview of early Christian monasticism and asceticism is mainly a series of biographical portraits of several notable holy men and women with attention to principles in their lives (e. g., silence, praxis) which can be cultivated in anyone's life for greater spirituality and to spiritual thoughts of theirs which can be readily apprehended and reflected on by anyone. The author succeeds in his twin aims of highlighting the lives and spirituality of the extraordinary holy men and women and answering the question he poses, "What is the significance of their experience and wisdom for our lives today?"

Racial Myths and Masculinity in African American Literature
Jeffrey B. Leak
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN 37996-4108
ISBN 157233357X $30.00 160+xv pp.

By making comparisons between four pairs of literary works by black authors, Leak (associate professor of English at U. of North Carolina-Charlotte) illustrates the multifaceted image and analysis of black men in the literature. Mainly, he shows that the image is not as rigid or stereotypical-like as has been assumed. The author shows that there is a complexity and elasticity to the portrayals which disclose an often-overlooked or dismissed humanity and offer avenues from the situation of inferiority and vulnerability from the historical circumstances of slavery, oppression, and prejudice suffered by black men; who like their white counterparts, were nonetheless expected to be the primary supporters of families and when circumstances warranted, face obstacles heroically until they were overcome. But it wasn't that simple for black men, who were never given much power, respect, or acceptance to be able to take on such roles. Leak's is a revealing and thought-provoking study bringing the contemporary interest in men's studies to black men in particular as they have been portrayed in the eight literary works having a significant role in the creation of their image. Among the four pairs of works are "Oxherding Tale" by Charles Johnson and "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas"; and "The Chaneysville Incident" by David Bradley and Toni Morrison's "Song of Solomon."

James Agee Rediscovered - The Journals of "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" and Other New Manuscripts
edited by Michael A. Lafaro and Hugh Davis
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN 37996-4108
ISBN 1572333553 $42.00 437+xlv pp.

Drafts and fragments of James Agee's eclectic writings from the 1930s to near the end of his life in the 1950s--from the Depression to post-War United States--offer incomparable access to his eye which was the source for this writings, his note-taking habits, and the self-editing he engaged in. Such self-editing by Agee, or any other writer, not only evidences the concern with grammar and clarity of expression, but also with the author's moral sense, impulses, instinct for communication, and philosophy. The writings, many with print markings resembling or symbolizing changes made by Agee, are journal entries and drafts of poems, novels, essays, and writings such as scripts or treatments Agee did for Hollywood. Sixteen previously unpublished photographs by Walker Evans, including some of Agee, are also found in the volume; thus once again linking this famous photographer and author who together did the unforgettable portrayal of the Depression, "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men."

White Justice in Arizona - Apache Murder Trials in the Nineteenth Century
Clare V. McKanna, Jr.
Texas Tech U. Press
Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79410
ISBN 0896725545 $27.95 223+xii pp.

Murder cases against Apache Indians in the territory of Arizona in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century are recounted much as cases against blacks in the South have been done in other books and media. McKanna goes beyond the by-now familiar charge that the Apaches, as a minority ethnic group in lands taken over by white settlers, got no justice to speak of. His main concern is how the system worked against the defendants, even when circumstances and in some cases physical evidence raised questions about the murder charges. The author also views the acts of the Native Americans against the backdrop of ill-defined laws and jurisdiction in the recently-formed territory and age-old Apache culture, which was undergoing a combination of forced and voluntary transition. McKanna's accounts are like popular case-book studies of the cases against the Indians with a sociological factor brought in. He teaches American Indian history at San Diego State U. and has written previous books on the inter-related subjects of crime and race.

The Making of a Legionnaire - My Life in the French Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment
Bill Parris
Weidenfeld & Nicholson/Orion Publishing Group, London
dist. in U.S. by Casemate Publishers and Book Distributors
Havertown, PA
ISBN 0297846167 $32.95 256 pp.

The Englishman Parris recounts his basic training in becoming a French Foreign Legionnaire with a "you-are-there" detail and liveliness; in places down to the cot he slept on and the food he ate, but also the weapons he learned to use and the tactical lessons he and the other recruits were taught. Like most other Legionnaires, Parris joined from a deep sense of disappointment after certain difficult experiences in his life; although he left the Legion after a few years and is now living in England married with children. The challenging training takes place in environments as varied as French Guyana, North Africa desert, and hills of Corsica, with Parris and his fellow recruits having to master different skills and succeed at different objectives in each. Parris gives an indelible inside look at the rigorous training Legionnaires undergo.

The Little Field Marshall - A Life of Sir John French
Richard Holmes
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London
dist. in U.S. by Casement Publishers and Book Distributors
Havertown, PA 19083
ISBN 0297846140 $34.95 427+xii pp.

Field Marshall John French got a poor reputation in his own day when British troops he commanded were slaughtered in the first two hours of the World WAr I battle of Loos. His controversial term as Viceroy in Ireland during the time of the "Troubles" there did nothing to improve his reputation. Scandals in his personal life involving a series of mistresses, including the wife of a fellow officer, only further tarnished his name. Holmes does not find any grounds for elevating French's reputation. What he does is add a new dimension to this historical character by relating French's torments over the large number of deaths resulting from his leadership in the First World War along with the general carnage of the War. These concerns that dogged French are found mostly in his private papers, creating discordance between his public image as an unfeeling military leader and his private reflections. Holmes concludes that "in many respects, [French] never transcended the nineteenth century." By temperament, training, class, and expectations of himself and his peers, French was unable to effectively come to grips with either military or political problems of the early 20th century.

Zhukov - The Conqueror of Berlin
John Colvin
Weidenfeld and Nicholson/Orion Publishing Group
ISBN 0297846086 $20.95 207 pp.

The biography gives a full picture of the military career of Zhukov, Russian's greatest general who led the Soviet forces defeating the German Army at Stalingrad. But Zhukov's claim to historical importance goes beyond this. He played a key role in defeating the Japanese in their invasion of Manchuria, which freed Russian forces for the later encounter with the Germans along the whole border of eastern Russia. Zhukov prevented the Germans from taking Leningrad and Moscow before turning them back with victory at Stalingrad. After this, it was Zhukov who was given orders by Stalin to take Berlin. Colvin's biography concentrates on the Soviet general's strategic planning and the the outcomes of this, including the abortive Operation Mars which is a puzzling and destructive anomaly in Zhukov's otherwise highly capable, occasionally brilliant, and undeniably critical role in Russia's defeat of the Germans in World War II. Zhukov's independence from Stalin while also being his favorite is a vein of the biography. That Zhukov managed to survive Stalin's murderous purges of top Red Army officers testifies to Stalin's recognition of Zhukov's irreplaceable military abilities. This work follows an earlier one by Colvin titled "Nomonhan" on the Russo-Japanese War preceding WWII in which Zhukov's decisive part is covered extensively.

Jean Helion
Didier Ottinger
Paul Holberton Publishing
ISBN 1903470277 $50.00 216 pp.

The titles of the four introductory essays display the many aspects of this modern French artist--Helion: The Art of Declaration; Helion: The World As Prose; Helion and British Art, 1933-1937; and Jean Helion's American Connections. The careers of most artists whose art displayed such different aspects and such breadth, as well as changes in genres and subjects, would be described as "checkered" or "interesting." But Helion is not simply categorized as this. Despite such heterogeneity over the decades of his work from the 1920s to the 1980s, Helion manifestly surpasses such labelings. For the abstract works with a constructivist accent thru the still lifes and figures of his latter decades, Helion's work evidences a consistent boldness; not only in coloration, but also composition and assorted inner forms. About 125 pages of color pictures of paintings divided into mostly subject and a couple of stylistic categories illustrate this notable modern painter's range of subjects and movement regarding styles. The chronology of more than 20 pages of smaller type with many photographic insets is virtually a compendious biography of Helion. The five-page bibliography of the same smaller type contains hundreds of entries. In short, this work is the present major publication on Jean Helion; and with its high quality of production and design and its encompassing content, will probably stand for a long time as the major introduction and reference on Helion.

Visual Culture - The Study of the Visual After the Cultural Turn
Margaret Dikovitskaya
MIT Press
5 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142-1494
ISBN 026204224X $40.00 316 pp.

Everyone recognizes that this is a time of visual culture, extraordinarily and in many ways excessively so. The phrase is routinely, and casually, used by many in the media, arts, and even academia. However, there is little comprehension, understanding, or agreement on what this visual culture really is either in terms of a concept or an experience. Dikovitsky steps back from this common use of the term visual culture to try to define and comprehend it by exploring "the history, theoretical frameworks, methodology, and pedagogy of visual culture in the United States." She does this mostly by interviews with college professors in fields ranging from art, film studies, and cultural studies to literature which in one way or another take into account the pronounced and often dominating or suppressive nature of the visual in modern culture. The word "study" in the subtitle connotes not so much Dikovitskaya's study of visual culture--although this is inevitably inherent--as it does the author's chosen task to report how visual culture is being studied mostly in the universities; and along with this answer the question of how it is to be studied so it is understood properly. Without a proper understanding of visual culture, contemporary society cannot be understood properly; contemporary society is a mystery. While not defining visual culture definitively, if this can ever be done, Dikovitskaya's exploration, framing of issues, and probing interviews bring the sprawling, elusive, omnipresent presence and idea of visual culture into clearer focus. Dikovitskaya is a research fellow at the Library of Congress.

Portents of the Real - A Primer for Post-9/11 America
Susan Willis
180 Varick St., New York, NY 10014-4606
ISBN 1844670236 $23.00 146 pp.

Willis has an exceptionally sharp eye for how the fears of Americans churned up by 9/11 are glossed over or disguised and thus mollified by elaborate symbolisms, specious hopes and optimism, and other exercises in delusion and denial. She not only has a sharp eye, but also ranges widely over popular culture for examples of this. Any reader will run across new instances of errant patriotism, infantile trust, political ignorance, and rational concerns mutated into mythic horrors. And for the generally familiar instances such as the Washington D. C. sniper murders and the anthrax scares, the author brings out new facets of these. Willis discloses what the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse reveals about aspects of American society; and sees the values (e. g., the exclusionary social ideal of the white Protestant male) and activities of the Ku Klux Klan mirrored in the posturing, mores, and policies of the Bush White House. Surely controversial, but Willis's critique raises issues the country will have to deal with positively if it is to have a role of world leadership and stop the disintegration of the domestic social fabric.

Grandmother Says
J. D. Whitney
Arctos Press
PO Box 401, Sausalito, CA 94966
ISBN 0972538437 $12.00 90 pp.

Each of the 84 poems begins with the word "Grandmother" in bold type on the top line as if the title; this is followed by verbs such as lets, trots, gives, sits, hears, teaches, sings, knows which set the tone for the respective poem. Then in a tone sometimes cranky, sometimes mischievous, sometimes empathetic, sometimes humbled--but never arrogant, supercilious, or preachy--the character Grandmother spins out an observation or remarks containing her wisdom gained from decades of involvement in relationships of all kinds and nearby nature. With Grandmother's unpredictable, idiosyncratic, yet unfailingly discerning appearances in the varied situations, she is like the trickster figure of Native American folk lore. She is pictured on the cover dressed something like a old Eskimo woman with hands on hips yelling out something. Whitney, with previously published books of poetry, lives in Wisconsin and teaches writing in Wisconsin colleges.

That Might Be Useful - Exploring America's Secondhand Culture
Naton Leslie
Lyons Press
246 Goose Ln., Guilford, CT 06437
ISBN 1592287050 $22.95 311 pp.

Leslie takes the reader on an enjoyable and instructive journey through the world of flea markets, tag sales, auctions, antique shops, and other outlets where used and antique items of all ages and price levels exchange hands. Not having much money as well as prompted by the desire to shirk the "rampant materialism" he found in large chain stores, malls, and mainstream retailing, Leslie made the decision to buy only secondhand goods when he needed something despite the extra time this often required, with no guarantee that he would ever find what he was looking for. But before long, these drawbacks were put out of mind as the author became ever more involved in, and fascinated and delighted by what he found in this supposedly marginal, but thriving and populous area of American society. "In the secondhand culture, I have discovered the joys of a genuine American market, unfettered buying and selling, which most first-level retailing has lost." Leslie has become friends with many dealers he has met. The author's ventures into all aspects of this secondhand culture from major international auction houses, regional and local auctions and flea markets, neighborhood tag sales, and also the world's largest and longest flea markets also serve as a guide for anyone wishing to become more involved in this market as either a buyer or seller. Leslie teaches at Siena College in upper New York, which also happens to be a prime area for the secondhand market he was drawn to and colorfully and fully recounts.

Bridgeport, Postcard History Series
Andrew Pehanick
Arcadia Publishing
224 State St., Portsmouth, NH 03801
ISBN 0738537667 $19.99 128 pp.

Bridgeport native Pehanick shows close to 200 postcards of the Connecticut city (from his collection of about 3,000) from the years 1900 to 1940. During these years, Bridgeport was a bustling city with businesses of all kinds and a vacation destination for the well-to-do from New York City and nearby areas. The postcards show the factories, restaurants, mansions, shopping districts, amusements, and parks and seasides which made Bridgeport an outstanding regional city during the early decades of the 1900s. Bridgeport's P. T. Barnum and the famous Pleasure Beach amusement park are also included in the period postcards. Pehanick's postcard collection shows buildings and scenes that are now gone; and it can be used as a guide for the enjoyable pastime of comparing locations then and now.

Henry Berry

Jeremy's Bookshelf

The God's Honest Truth
Darin Hufford
Master Press Publications
13613 N. Cave Creek Rd., Phoenix, Arizona, 85022
ISBN 0967325021, $19.99 368 pages

Do you ever feel that what you read in some Christian books is not really God's truth at all, but is merely the opinion of the writer, dressed up in the clothing of truth? Such books are merely imposters and are like the fig tree Jesus cursed. They look promising on the outside, but when you get up close, you find that they, like the fig tree, are barren, written for the glory of the writer and his or her ideas, not for the truth of God and his glory.

Unfortunately, many sermons and teachings fall into the same category. One such teaching is that we have to work very hard to please God, because he is just about fed up with us because of all our shortcomings. This is a teaching that is just plain wrong, according to Darin Hufford, and in his book, "The God's Honest Truth," he sets out to correct it.

"The God's Honest Truth" is a great book. Its premise is that knowing God is based on love, because God is love and he loved us first (and continues to love us). Too many conceptions of God, Hufford points out, are based on faulty images of our human fathers that we transfer to our divine father. Thus, we see God as demanding, abusive, absent, or passive-aggressive, because that is how we (sadly) see our human fathers.

But God is not like that; rather, God is love, and to frame his teaching, Hufford uses the pure and true description of love from 1 Corinthians 13 to guide his discussion about God and our relationship with him.

As an example of what this book is really about, Hufford cites the problem of "loving" God more than we love our spouse or our children. God does not compete for our attention, and if we set up our relationship with him in such a way that we must choose between time with God or time with our family, we act as though God is insecure. Instead, Hufford writes, "The only way to love God more than your spouse is to love God through your spouse. Your husband or wife would be the direct recipient of that love" (p. 169).

Hufford's book is filled with similar true-to-life examples and the corrective truth the Bible offers. The most important thing we can realize and understand is that God loves us purely. By studying what love truly is (in 1 Cor. 13, for example), we can sincerely and simply love God more and more.

Retire Dollar Smart
Jim Miller
Westwind Communications
1310 Maple St., Plymouth, Michigan, 48170
ISBN 141203005, $25.99, 199 pages

Jim Miller is a registered investment advisor. This means that he is not beholden to a particular brokerage or financial institution. As such, he does not charge monthly fees for "money-managing"; instead, through a consultation fee he is free to give whatever advice will best benefit his clients; he doesn't have to serve them whatever "flavor of the month" the brokerage or financial institution happens to like at that point in time. His investment advice in his book, "Retire Dollar Smart," is clear and filled with common sense.

Miller argues that the biggest liability we face as investors is taxes. Further, many recommended investment plans and accounts ultimately require us to pay a lot of tax. Miller makes it a point to cut through much of the investing nonsense that clutters our minds today. For him, there are five main tenets of a solid investing plan - 1) Use the smartest tax strategies; 2) Get independent, accurate, complete information; 3) Invest passively; 4) Ask for a discount (they're there!); 5) Take your blinders off. These points form the outline for the rest of the book.

Miller's basic argument is to find ways to reduce your taxes, use common sense, and be involved enough in your investments to make some decisions yourself (this will also allow you to reduce certain management fees).

Miller's book is a very easy read, although the information is deep; this is a testament to his ability to explain complex ideas in simple terms. He truly does show us a new way to invest, unlike other books of the same genre that tell us via dry descriptive commentary. Miller shows us how to keep investing costs under control, make guaranteed income using proven strategies, manage risk, and prepare for retirement, which are valuable to both retirees and sometime-to-be-retirees. The book is perfect for those nearing retirement or for those simply contemplating their retirement. Miller's advice is simple: take an active interest now, and when you need it, your money will be there.

The investing practices are presented clearly with examples to help us better understand. Miller's expertise in personal finance management is on display through highly applicable tips and strategies. He also shows us how misconceptions of most financial plans could actually destroy our investments.

If you're considering retirement (we all are), this book is all you need to begin. It's practical and immediately useful. Start smart by reading this book, and then apply it immediately.

Living By the Truth
Lillian C. Larry
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, Maryland, 21705-0151, 301-695-1707
ISBN 1413768059, $24.95 303 pages

Let's be honest: Too many Christian books are nothing but fluff or teach a viewpoint that is borderline contradictory of what the Bible actually teaches. Christian publishing appears, to this reviewer at least, to be focused too much on marketing and profits, and not nearly enough on solid teaching for building up the church.

Into this mess, however, comes a breath of fresh air - "Living By the Truth" by Lillian C. Larry. Larry cuts through the clutter of so many Christian books and gives us straight talk, teaching right out of the Bible into our lives.

Over forty-two chapters, Larry touches on the necessity of studying the Bible to what to do when God is silent, from the truth about homosexuality to the importance of Bible school, and many serious topics in between. She even includes the text of scripture for such foundational books as 1 Thessalonians, 1 John, and Revelation.

Larry hits hard, and this book may not be for those accustomed to reading Christianity-lite. But never is she harsh or rude; she simply speaks what the Bible speaks, sharing her struggles and showing us how to overcome challenges and obstacles in our lives, all the while remaining faithful to God.

For example, in "Church Membership," Larry points out the somewhat ridiculous notion of requiring "membership" in a church context. She asks, rightly so, "Why can't I sit amongst the congregation as a sister of the body of Christ? Why do I have to be a member in order to fellowship?" In contrast to this view, she discusses Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 3:17 - " where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (NRSV). Thus, she argues, if we have Jesus with us, it doesn't matter whether we "place membership" or not; what matters is our truly fellowshipping together in the Spirit of Jesus.

Another chapter, "Bible School, Is It Really Necessary," is important also. Larry ponders the attitude that finds Bible study "boring," and laments the sad state of some seminaries, where one can take a class on the Bible and leave wondering if the teacher is even a believer him- or herself. Ideally, we should sit around the Word of God and let God address us. Too many Christians rely on teaching they pay money for (i.e., in a college degree) or on the teaching from their human pastors (i.e., Bishop X or Minister Y) when they should rely more on God himself.

In short, this book was very insightful and helpful, and very true to the Word of God. Read it and learn, and let the words lead you deeper into your relationship with God.

Lillian C. Larry may be contacted at for information on purchasing her book.

Jeremy M. Hoover, Reviewer

Julian's Bookshelf

Damsel Arise
Marie Broadwater
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN 1414156656 $11.50

Like a wise old woman imparting into an impressionable child, "Unveiled" Damsel Arise moves to give spiritual and intellectual motivation through its wisdom. "Unveiled" is a book of poetry searching the joys and pain of womanhood. The title of the book looks at unveiling the mask covering the hurt, and continuing to move on. Marie A. Broadwater gives both power and inspiration through her poetry. The book is well written, moving from spiritual elements of poetry to more situational perspectives on the daily challenges of womanhood. The author uses a style that is simple, yet classy and compassionate. In the mold of Maya Angelou, many of the titles are direct statements speaking to empowering women despite their individual obstacles. The strongest point in "Unveiled" Damsel Arise is the gentle strength with which she delivers both encouragement and pride. Broadwater handles these issues expertly, educated by her personal experiences.

For women, this is a book where specific poems will impact each person differently. For men, "Unveiled" gives a voyeuristic look at the heart of a woman. There is much to enjoy within "Unveiled", from the uplifting poem "Now you can fly", discussing the relationship between a mother and her child, to prayerful works like "This Day Oh Lord".

A common problem exists in books of this nature. There simply aren't enough pages. "Unveiled" Damsel Arise is a brisk forty-four pages. It is not a book that causes the reader to question or interpret. It mainly focuses on the spirit of the reader. Since most poetry is read or recited continuously, inspired readers will discount the lack of material available.

Putting the book in its proper context, "Unveiled" Damsel Arise is a book of poetry that gains its charisma from its positive nature. It is void of abstract connotations, but in its simplicity, it offers a clear understanding of spiritual relevance to the joys and pain of womanhood.

With Every Drop of Blood from the Wound
Manuel Corleto
translated by Michael B.Miller
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512 (402) 323-7800
ISBN 0595304249 $11.95 222 pp.

With Every Drop of Blood from the Wound is the story of two protagonists, Gabriel and Willy, facing the hard reality of their adolescent failures in their adult lives. The title of the novel comes from the lyrics of a song at the end of the book that Corleto wrote to underscore the pain of lost dreams. Manuel Corleto attempts to make a point in the story: that in the end the only enduring and worthwhile value is love, the human need for each other, the need of family, of belonging, and of warmth.

Manuel Corleto bypasses any and every innuendo, choosing to meet violence and sexual exploration directly. There is elegance within the honest brutality of the book. There seems to be two stories fused together and held by the faint thread representing the characters evolution and their memories. The author looks upon his creation with both knowledge and confusion, as he questions virtue and later gives interpretation to those questions through his characters.

Set in the late 1940's and 1950's, Manuel Corleto creates a vivid urban environment in the railroads of Guatemala, and shows a particular awareness of the locale. Manuel Corleto is extremely articulate in communicating his points, and flows very well when the characters are involved in reflection. There is a difficulty in determining the importance of some of the minor characters and events. Characters are introduced and dismissed without adding much to the story. Also, the vulgarity the author possibly included to provide a verbal exclamation detracts from the pureness of the author's purpose.

The plot is a disturbingly intense puzzle, connected or disjointed dependent on the page. An indirect plan is used, which allows the reader to determine who to love or hate through the character's actions. The author was extremely detailed in his descriptions of the characters and their environments. Lesser characters were given emotional qualities rivaling the major characters. There was a sense of love and belonging evident in Gabriel and Willy, yet at times these qualities were overshadowed by their carnal flaws displayed by their contempt for the laws and rules of society.

Dramatic incidents flourish through the novel, forcing the reader to backtrack through previously read pages. Michael B. Miller does an exceptional job translating Corleto's story, clearly capturing the author's vision. The indexes and definitions were a benefit to the book's clarity. A reader could easily lose track of the characters, but once the family lineage has been recognized through the index, the pace of the story can be settled.

Overall, With Every Drop of Blood from the Wound is a well written novel by a talented writer that readers may have difficulty relating to. Manuel Corleto provides significant details to bring to reality a foreign environment and a difficult subject. The book focuses on the most violent parts of society, but the best writing comes in the form of the subtle moments of tranquility within the story.

Julian Vaughan Hampton

Liana's Bookshelf

Grab the Queen Power: Live Your Best Life!
Allyn Mitchell Evans
Star Publish
465 South Meadows Parkway 20-113, Reno, NV 89521-5946
ISBN: 1932993207 $16.95

Allyn's wish to help women worldwide get to grips with their own life resulted in this exciting self-help book, and an innovative site that brings women together by offering online communication and support. Readers can visit the Queens' site at and participate in the Queen forum.

GRAB THE QUEEN POWER is a guide book that instructs women how to break free from the patriarchal model in our society and start a new life focusing on their own needs and their own 'self'.

The book comprises parables and true stories of other women who have faced their problems and got over them. The author describes her feelings towards change, her fears and finally her delight to have reached her goals. Several other women 'speak' and display their views on home, family life, work and local customs that are related to women. The meeting point of all these views is the same: Patriarchy. How can women change this long-inherited custom? Is it possible for them to break free and live their life the way they want?

Allyn gives the answer in this innovative book that will change women's life for ever. Things can change even in this man-dominated world. But women need to realize first what they want, the author suggests. 'The journey towards your goal is that matters', advises Allyn. She adds that women should not be afraid to change their life.

'Queens are different and unique. Queens deserve to be happy and make others happy too'. These are only two of the numerous messages Allyn gives away. In the 16 chapters of the book all the essence of womanhood gets revealed and the mysteries unraveled. Following the steps displayed in chapter 14, Steps to Queendom, you will become a powerful Queen too!

GRAB THE QUEEN POWER is an excellent self-help book that inspires and encourages women to change their life and achieve their goals. Though it mainly refers to American women, it is suitable for a wider readership, worldwide. The women of every country who feel suppressed should read this book and fight to regain their life. The book could be characterized as 'feministic', but as that term refers rather to extreme attitudes, it should then be considered to be an inspirational guide book that can assist women in their daily struggle as 'females' in a male-made planet. The whole concept of the book does not focus on the urge of 'female' domination (as opposed to male domination) but on the need of women for equality in social life and personal happiness.

It caters to all women of all ages and it is worth a try.

Memoirs of an American Housewife in Japan
Pauline Hager
519 West Lancaster Avenue, Haverford, PA 19041-1413
ISBN: 0741407477, $14.95 237 pp.

Very Highly Recommended

Pauline Hager, holder of a degree in Education and mother of two sons, lived in Japan for two and a half years when her husband Randy was offered a position there. Her life in Japan was a challenge as she had to confront traditions and customs very different from the ones she was used to.

MEMOIRS OF AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE IN JAPAN is actually a travel account of the author who explored a new place and is able now to let us know of all the pros and cons of that country. Japan, in the eyes of Pauline Hager, is a place the Westerns may find intriguing, yet difficult to get accustomed to at first.

The book is divided into three parts, each one dealing with a different period of Pauline's visit to Japan. Part 1 is about the first visit of the Hagers there in 1994, Part 2 focuses on the years 1994 to 1996, while Part 3 tells about their revisit in 1997. All parts are highly exciting to read if the readers are not familiar with the Japanese way of life and customs. Pauline's detailed description of their whereabouts, the food at the local market, the neighborhood, the shops and a lot of other daily life details will leave the reader satisfied. The reader will get the feeling that he/she is actually there experiencing Japan first hand. At the back of the book there is a black and white photo collection depicting Pauline and her new friends.

MEMOIRS OF AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE IN JAPAN is the travel book that will entertain the readers as well as educate them. The experiences of the author in Japan and the way they are displayed project this book as a very different 'memoirs' book from all the other in the market, that would fit the genre of a 'travel guide to Japan' rather than just a mere memoirs book. Of course, the reader can only 'see' Japan through the eyes of the author, but doesn't the same thing happen more or less in a travel guide?

This book caters to all travel book lovers, and to a female readership most of all as it focuses on things women notice everywhere, such as food and housekeeping, social relations and shopping. It is entertaining to read and quite absorbing. Readers will get to know about Japan and the local lifestyle. Many will probably be motivated to visit Japan, and those who can not, will taste Pauline's experiences through the book.

It is a good read and I recommend it to all!

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Lori's Bookshelf

No Ocean Deep
Cate Swannell
Regal Crest Enterprises
PMB 210, 8691 9th Avenue, Port Arthur, TX 77642-8025
ISBN: 1932300368 $18.95 308 pgs

Jo Madison and Cadie Jones are back in this sequel to 2003's HEART'S PASSAGE. Set in the Whitsunday Islands of Australia, the story picks up only weeks after the exciting denouement of the last book. Jo has inherited the charter business of pleasure cruisers for which she used to be a skipper, and the American Cadie is still on the scene, having not returned to the U.S. when her former lover did.

Cadie and Jo have been busily forging a new relationship, the likes of which neither has had in the past. But such a relationship will entail encountering old skeletons, reconciling with long-lost family, and dealing with the threat posed by Cadie's ex, the mercurial Senator Naomi Silverberg, whose influential reach and penchant for revenge could prove deadly.

The novel starts out in a leisurely manner and gradually builds to complications. As long as the two lovers are out on the water, things are fine, but inevitably they must go ashore and travel around the countryside. Cadie is also faced with the fact that she is on a travel visa that isn't going to last forever. How will they preserve their relationship if they end up a continent apart?

The narrative in NO OCEAN DEEP is smoother than the debut novel was as Swannell expertly weaves this story and ties up loose ends for Cadie and Jo. The characters continue to enchant, particularly Jo with her Aussie phrases and quirky sense of humor. You could read this book independent of HEART'S PASSAGE, but I recommend reading them in order, preferably on a beach or boat somewhere on a nice, leisurely vacation.

Assorted Flavours: A Collection of Lesbian Short Stories
Lois Cloarec Hart
PD Publishing, Inc.
ISBN: 0975436627 $19.99 300 pgs

Author Lois Hart, who has two novels under her belt (COMING HOME and BROKEN FAITH), has tried her hand at a collection of short stories and obtained terrific results. Love and relationships, conflict and oddities abound in this well-written collection of thoughtful and interesting pieces.

With a keen eye toward human nature, Hart's new story collection paints a rich and colorful picture of life on the margins. Two of my favorites are about an angry lesbian daughter in conflict with her mother in "Grandmother's Cup" and a frightening and realization-filled flight from Halifax to Toronto in "Nine Minutes." The book ends with a lovely novella, "The Lion and the Lamb."

Because Hart is an old-fashioned storyteller of the very highest order, each offering is solid and engrossing, relying more upon character development, careful plotting, and seamless writing than on stylistic flash. She writes lovely sentences and scenes, at times elegant, at times whimsical or witty, all of which affect the reader in surprising and delightful ways and often with unexpected consequences. The power of most of these ten stories is cumulative. By the time you arrive at the middle of the volume, you will already be regretting that there is an end in sight.

Each of these stories is dazzling and inventive, with the underlying promise of something utterly unexpected waiting just up ahead. Don't miss this short story collection. It's one of the best of 2005.

The War Between The Hearts
Nann Dunne
Intaglio Publications
ISBN 1933113278 $17.95 294 pgs

It seems odd that well over one hundred years had to pass before verified information surfaced about women soldiers serving in the Civil War. Folklore and tall tales have often featured women soldiers disguised as men and working as spies, smugglers, and scouts, but interesting and documented books about the women in the military haven't come out until the last few years. Recent non-fiction books have found that at minimum, 700 women served - disguised as men - in the ranks of the Union and Confederate armies. Some say that number should be closer to a thousand. Scores of women died at Gettysburg, undiscovered until burial. Many nameless women probably served that the history books will never detail.

So it seems timely that author Nann Dunne has created the fictional Sarah-Bren Coulter, a handsome southern woman who cannot resist the pull of the Civil War. Her twin brother stays behind to run the family foundry, and Sarah - disguised as Bren Cordell - becomes a courier-scout for the Confederate Army while spying for the Union. She finds the battles of war unlike anything she ever expected. She sees more blood and death than any person ever should. And then she herself is wounded. Instead of dying, fortune smiles upon her, sending her into the hands of Faith Pruitt, a woman with a young son who lives close to some of the fighting. But safety with Faith is not to last long. Sarah is trapped on the border of Union and Confederate forces - and which should she hold herself out as?

From that point on, the plot turns more desperate as the danger Sarah has tried to escape catches up with her. Her strength, her mental and physical stability, and her ethics will be sorely tested as she deals with the damage that befalls her. Revenge, retribution, murder - and lost love - will weigh heavily on her mind. Will Sarah Coulter be strong enough to deal with her future?

The author has done an excellent job researching the setting and time, while never inundating the reader with a history lesson. The drama of the story comes alive because of this. Once the novel is set up, the action is fast-paced with scenes ranging from hate-infused to anguished to terror-stricken, all of which are nicely balanced with scenes of strong friendship, camaraderie, and love. The characters in the book are full-bodied and complex and include sister-in-law Lindsay, whose ongoing support, even in face of her husband's condemnation of Sarah, is balm to Sarah's soul. Her friend Phillip is steadfast in his caring for Sarah in spite of multiple marriage rejections. There is humor and mutual respect between Sarah and her friend Leah, a "woman of ill repute" whose role in the story is central. Of course Faith, and her son Benjamin, are also critical to this "war between the hearts."

Nann Dunne has created an unforgettable heroine, a woman before her time, standing at the crux of a new age. This fast-paced and gripping story will keep you up late at night. Highly recommended. Don't miss it!

Hunter's Pursuit
Kim Baldwin
Bold Strokes Books
ISBN: 1933110090 $15.95 316 pages

Hidden away in an icy fortress, in a snow-encrusted bunker dug deep into a hillside in the Michigan woods, Kat "Hunter" Demitrious waits. Now in her mid-30s, she has been taking time to reflect upon all the havoc she has wreaked in her career as a hired assassin and bounty hunter. She has committed a lot of reprehensible acts - done things that few people would ever forgive, least of all herself. Even after having walked away five years earlier from her violent life, she is still in danger because someone - most likely her former employer - has put out a million-dollar contract on her life. So Hunter is not safe at all, and her life is suddenly in grave danger when she is out in the woods deer hunting one day, and her newfound compassion causes her to stop on a lonely road and help a car crash victim who turns out to have been traveling in a stolen car.

The woman Hunter takes in "looked to be about twenty-five, ten years younger than Hunter, and she was probably quite attractive, but it was hard to tell for sure at the moment. Bandages hid much of her face and the areas that were exposed were puffy and bruised. Her nose had been broken, blackening both eyes, and there was a small lump behind one ear. Her shoulder-length blond hair was matted with dried blood, and a three-inch gash on her forehead had been closed with several neat stitches of dental floss. Her left arm was set with a makeshift splint, her left knee was wrapped in an Ace bandage and her rib cage had been tightly taped" (p. 11).

"Jake" finds herself in that beat-up situation when she wakes up in a dark place, attended by a strange woman, and unable to remember her name or how she came there. She cannot recall anything about her past, but she feels certain she knows Hunter, who is in turn quite sure she has never met Jake. The injured woman's certainty that she recognizes Hunter seems to furnish proof that Jake is the bounty hunter gunning for her, and this makes things difficult because in the scant amount of time the two women spend together, an attraction catches hold and sparks begin to fly.

But HUNTER'S PURSUIT is not primarily a romance, though it contains a romantic sub-plot. After the initial set-up, the bulk of the book is action-adventure as Hunter tries to escape detection by other bounty hunters, all of whom want the million dollar prize. Unlike her past solitude past, however, Hunter now has the injured Jake to defend, and as every hour goes by, Hunter grows more determined to protect her.

The story is full of twists and turns, suspense, and a deepening mystery that is not resolved until the final couple chapters. Who is after Hunter? Who is Jake? Can they trust one another? The writing is crisp, especially as the tension mounts in the second half of the book. HUNTER'S PURSUIT is a terrific action/thriller from a promising new writer, and I highly recommend the story.

Lori L. Lake

Magdalena's Bookshelf

Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes
Margaret Atwood
Illustrated by Dusan Petricic
Bloomsbury Children's Books
ISBN 0747572925 $17.95

I admit to being an Atwood fan. Her fiction is marvellously inventive, genre busting, and full of wonderful characters and plot. So when I saw that she'd published a picture book for young children, how could I resist. Unfortunately, this really isn't a book for children.

The problem with the gorgeously illustrated, and well written book is that Atwood is simply too clever. Parents trying to read this out loud to young booklovers will find themselves tongue-tied and twisted, unable to complete sentences. The overall effect is hilarious, but not, perhaps, for reasons Atwood intended. Once the hilarity of mum or dad's inability to speak wears off, young children will have already lost the thread, and won't understand very much of this book at all as the language is far too sophisticated for the average picture book reader. My 2 and 5 year olds were both long gone by the time I recovered my ability to speak. Petricic's drawings are lots of fun though, and it is possible to "re-write" the book, and create your own story around the pictures, working through it in a way that will appeal to young children. Of course this seems like an excessive way to get this book to work for young readers, and won't help them with word recognition.

Older readers may enjoy the very inventive ways in which Atwood works her way through what must be every "r" word she could find, using a scrabble dictionary and perhaps the full OED. However, it is hard to image 9-12 year olds--the publisher indicated targeted age group for this book--happily reading a picture book, and I suspect all but the most logophilic of young readers, will be put off by the archaic words which Atwood had to use to fulfil her preset "r" quota. While sentences like "They were rotund but robust, and when no regaling themselves with rum, they relaxed in their recliners, replaying reams of retro rock 'n' roll records relentless." might just resonate (sorry) with young um, readers (it's catching), others just won't register. Try running: "They reviewed the rotunda, which had a wide range of purloined reading materials; and the gallery, filled with fraudulent rococo artworks forged by professionals; and the cellar, with racks and racks of rare beverages ruthlessly plundered by Rillah's rascally relatives." on any ten year old and I suspect you'll get glazed or rolled eyes rather than interest. At best, it might spark some kind of letter usage game where children have to use as many words as they can within a single sentence. However, I doubt that Rude Ramsay will sustain the attention of either a very young reader or an older one.

Which is a shame, since the actual story is cute enough if you can get past the linguistic gimmick (and god knows Atwood doesn't need one to sell books or capture readers' imaginations) - featuring a couple of family misfits, Ramsay and Rillah, who find one another and form an almost romantic bond of camaraderie. Without the need to use only "rs", this could be a lovely children's story, complete with quirky, evocative watercolour and pen drawings and wonderful characterisation. Instead, it may just bring a smile to the lips of adults, and a big laugh to the whole family. I fear however, that after one reading, this is a book that will remain firmly on the bookshelf.

The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing
Hazel Smith
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 1741140153 A$39.95

There are almost limitless books on how to write. Some are classic, overall guides, and some work on specific niche areas, but almost all of them are built around the notion that you begin with a solid basis of straightforward rules about character, plot, structure and form, and that this is the area where teaching or books can assist, and then, once you are very experienced, you move away from the teaching process and play with the form. This is where Hazel Smith's book The Writing Experiment is different. It begins from the premise that creative writing can be taught, primarily through structured exercise, and that there are many modes of self-expression that even the most traditional artist can employ through the deliberate use of experimentation. Although the book can be used at any level, it is pitched fairly high, aimed primarily at university students of creative writing who want to explore alternative means of self-expression. Smith draws on her extensive experience as teacher of creative writing at the University of New South Wales in Australia, her research work in this area, and perhaps most importantly, her personal experience as writer, performance poet, and collaborator. As one would expect, the book is impeccably researched, and makes for fascinating reading in itself, and servers as a primer towards post-modernism, looking at a wide number of creative and challenging texts, from Barthes to Kristeva, and exploring the whole notion of self-expression in the context of this work. However, it is also a very readable, and easy to follow handbook, and can be used this way, chapter by chapter, to break writer's block, as creative strategies, and as a series of cumulative exercises towards creating new and more innovative pieces of writing.

The book is broken up into two parts, one providing introductory strategies (of the sort Smith might use with her undergraduates) and one with more advanced strategies (of the sort used with postgraduate students). Writers of all levels of confidence though can work within both sections, and try out whatever methods spark an interest, and use whatever exercises appeal. For the introductory strategies, methods like building texts through word association, phrase manipulation, a word pool, and referents are explored. There are also chapters on playing with genre, using structural principles to guide the text, recycling other pieces of published work (not necessarily your own), playing with the narrative, and working with different types of dialogue.

The advanced strategies include subverting plot, character, history and physics as we understand it, writing poetry and lyrics that delve into subversion, dissonance, taboos, the extension of metaphor, and as visual experiment. Multimedia, the synoptic novel, sonics, performance modes, and the use of place and space are all examined as routes to creating work. While advanced postmodern forms have all been explored as part of literary theory, this is the first time I have come across it in a writing manual, and Smith handles the difficult balance between analysis, clarity, and practicality very well.

Throughout each chapter are a wide number of illustrative examples, some taken from Smith's own teaching practice, some from Smith's own work, and some from the work of well known writers as diverse as Calvano, Woolf, Atwood, Julian Barnes, Ishiguro, and DeLillo, just to name a few. It is quite interesting and even demystifying to look at the bones of these often very challenging authors, and then to try out some of their experimental techniques. At the beginning of each chapter are a series of exercises, which, when complete, may form the basis for a whole text, the part of a text, or just a stimulus to further work. All of the exercises and examples are clearly laid out, and because of their post-structural nature and open-endedness, fun and thought-provoking. Engaging with the process of meaning making in such a structured and careful way, can produce a significant change and improvement in the creative process, opening new doors:

Grammar can be constraining because it is hierarchical. The sentences we use are hypotactic, that is, they contain a main clause usually with other subordinate clauses. This has the effect of making one idea in the sentence seem more important than others, or at least of making one central idea the focus of the sentence. Grammar also fixes meaning, and makes it as unambiguous as possible. For many social uses grammar is essential because we need to communicate with other human beings with as little ambiguity as possible, and prioritise some aspects of our communications over others. But in poetry we sometimes want to exploit the polysemic aspect of language: its capacity to generate many different meanings. We want to juxtapose ideas, and celebrate their co-existence, without locking them into a structure where one is subordinate to another. (175)

Although the book is well structured, and presented in a course-like format, Smith is never didactic. Throughout the book, both in the beginning and the advanced section, the emphasis is always on playing, and experimentation, in order to communicate meaning better. The examples are sometimes striking, and sometimes just cute or interesting, but it is all thoughtfully presented in a context which is both helpful and a stimulus for writers to push their work towards new boundaries. This book is highly recommended for writers of all levels of ability - those interested in producing avante garde works and those who only want to delve deeper into the art of communication using traditional models. It is, and perhaps unintentionally so, one of the clearest, easy to follow books on postmodernism in literature on the market. This is a unique and very valuable offering to the literary world, full of unusual experiments with words that writers will make use of repeatedly.

Magdalena Ball, Reviewer

Martha's Bookshelf

Protected Hearts
Bonnie K. Winn
Steeple Hill Books
233 Broadway, New York, NY 10279
ISBN: 0373873093 $4.99 251 pages

Randy Carter, enraged that Emily Perry, the district prosecutor, has sent his younger brother to prison for ten years for armed robbery, sets fire to her home. Emily escapes the blaze, but her husband and 2-year-old daughter perish. The government is unable to prove Carter is the arsonist and sends Emily to the small town of Rosewood, Texas, under the witness protection program. Emily, too terrified and sorrowful to practice law, starts a costume shop. Her life begins to intertwine with her new next-door neighbor, Seth McAllister. Seth, much like Emily, has moved and given up his career in architecture due to his recent divorce and the death of his young son. Seth takes on the renovation of Emily's shop. But the two are hurting and wary, unwilling to share the pain of their past. And Emily is never sure if Randy Carter will somehow trace her to Rosewood.

Through Emily and Seth's involvement with a church youth program, they meet Toby, a hardened young boy abandoned by his mother and with no legitimate father. Just as Emily and Seth's relationship is deepening and a tentative family bond seems to be forming with Toby, Emily feels compelled to leave town in order to protect Seth and Toby from the same fate her husband and daughter suffered.

The author delves into how difficult it is for a person to move on with their life and faith after suffering a tragedy. She also emphasizes the relief and support a Christian community of friends brings to troubled lives. And the suspence builds in Protected Hearts as it becomes apparent Emily's problems with Randy Carter are far from over. I partifcularly enjoyed the book as the threads of the plot came together and the action picked up towards the end.

Protected Hearts shows how reaching out to others and letting love override fear and sorrow can start to heal old wounds. And since emotional pain and loss, which abound in the unraveling thread of human life, is an issue common to all, this book should have a far-reaching appeal.

Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs
Cheryl Peck
Time Warner Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0446692298 $12.95 236 pages

The fact that Cheryl Peck lives in Michigan and Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs is her first book had an instant appeal for me, a Michigander and an author with a new novel freshly in print. Both the title and the cover, a cat wearing glasses and a curly purple wig who is sticking its tongue out, suggest comedy and a lightness perfect for a summer read. So I took it with me on the boat and, while my husband fished, chuckled through the 54 slice-of-life tales and poetry which comprise the book. And I am happy to report many more laughs than my husband caught fish!

Ms. Peck has the uncanny instincts of a true storyteller, embellishing and transforming life's commonplace events into rollicking, humorous tales. Her stories are culled from a childhood shared with four siblings on a farm near Coldwater, Michigan, her adult experiences as a "woman of size" and a lesbian and, figuring prominently in the mix, the owner-manipulating escapades of Babycakes, her cat. As the author casually warns her family and friends, she writes fiction. But this is fiction grounded in fact and a warm knowledge of the humor to be found in everyday life.

A sampling of these short but savvy pieces include: the questionable death of Joey, a/k/a "the Bratty Blue Baron," her great-grandmother's pet parakeet; a confrontation involving both Babycakes and a low-flying housebound bat; the squashed and stuck-to-body lawn chair referred to in the title; a stint as a Go-Get girl at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival; the dubious honor of being the "inspirational goddess" of her gym and others. On a more serious note is poetry inspired by Ms. Peck's mother's death from cancer at the age of 49 and two poignant short stories dealing with her father's strokes in his mid 70's.

The author is lovable and down to earth as she wryly pokes fun at herself and those around her. It's easy to revisit your own childhood as Cheryl Peck relives her, full of quirks and fears. Her brash, direct, no-holds-barred, childlike and, above all, humorous outlook is both captivating and refreshing, much like the candid confidences of an old friend. Yet the author's use of language is smooth-flowing and erudite. It is obvious she has been writing for years. The reader is transported to the particular episode at hand and held there until the last period appears on the page.

Since the book is a series of choice, meaty stories, it is easy to pick up and put down, but you will finish it! I was disappointed to reach the end, and hopefully Ms. Peck will help me out by producing another book soon. Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs is delightful for anyone afflicted with the foibles of being a human being. As the author says in her introduction, "So welcome to my book. Sit down, make yourself comfortable. Have a good time." And you will.

Martha Robach

Mayra's Bookshelf

Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change
Dennis C. Flynn
Cameo Publications
ISBN: 0974414956 $17.95 134 pages

Dennis C. Flynn, founder of his own strategic firm, The Sonar Group, shares his knowledge on branding in this straight-forward, pragmatic, informative book which will prove an invaluable asset to company and business owners, businessmen, marketing experts, or anyone interested in how to fight the competition and "stay afloat" in this age of economic uncertainty. With twenty-five years of experience in brand management, communications, teaching, brand identity, and management consulting activities, Mr. Flynn must know what he's talking about. This book is also the result of his last several years working with investors, high-tech start-ups, emerging firms, helping them develop business models and strategies to enable them to compete for the future.

"The intent of the book is to present strategic tools, The Sonar Model, and Voice of the Customer, research methodologies as tools to help companies succeed in designing profitable futures by maintaining the relevance of their brands," states Flynn.

A key question facing marketers is, "What is the true value of my brand, and how can I manage my brand in order to get the greatest return on that value, to benefit my company and my stakeholders?"

In order to answer this question, the first thing to consider is the importance of a business model and its key components. Next Flynn explains The Sonar Model, the concept of "sonaring," knowing the difference between strategic planning vs. strategic thinking, brand equity, identity, and image, multi branding and how to use other companies' brands to improve marketability of your own, the important roles of CEOs, customer experience and expectation, the emotional variable, and the new fashions with customer-made trends. Other topics discussed include the notion of employers as customers, and the importance of vision and vision statements. At the end, Flynn offers us the "Ten Commandments of Continuous Relevance." The author not only advices on what to do, but also on what not to do, and how to avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.

Have you ever wondered what is the rank of mega popular brands like Coca-Cola, Sony, McDonalds, Microsoft, and Disney? The book includes interesting lists and statistics of the top ten brands in rank order of value and financial worth.

The book has thirteen chapters and each one has an "overview" at the beginning to give a clear idea of what is to be discussed. All throughout Flynn provides helpful questionnaires, outlines, graphs, charts and diagrams to clearly illustrate points made and also to support his arguments and explanations. In addition, he includes right-on-target quotes from legitimate sources to serve as complimentary evidence to his insights, analysis, and perspective.

A smart, pragmatic book filled with strategic expertise, Brand Clout is a must-read for CEOs, marketing executives, and other business leaders who want to protect the value of their brands and maintain their relevance, profitability and success.

Once Burned
Jackie Griffey
Zumaya Publications 512-707-2694
ISBN: 1554101301 $22.00 (Amazon), $13.99 (publisher) 205 pages

Insurance Claims Adjuster Chris Lovell leads a calm, routine life. At twenty-seven, and having had negative experiences with the men in her past - including her own father who eloped with his secretary when Chris was still a child - she is distrustful of men and happy to focus her life on her work, which she shares with two very warm and caring colleagues. Yet there seems to be a void inside her and at times she feels lonely.

Her routine life is about to change when she "meets" a handsome, dark-haired man in the supermarket, a mysterious man who later on keeps running into her in spite of her efforts to avoid him. Who is he? Why does he keep appearing when she least expects it? She soon begins referring to him as Mystery Man.

A twist of fate brings them together in a way she never thought possible: one day she investigates a fire-related claim and discovers that her Mystery Man is none other than her client, Richard Browne Duffle, or Duff, owner of Duffle's Tires. Over the next few days they meet for lunch and get to know each other, and Chris is impressed with his warmth and good nature. Soon she falls deeply in love, and willing to take a chance with a new relationship, she decides to open her heart to him.

At the same time Chris' ex-boyfriend Johnny has come back and is set on winning her back. He does more than that - he begins to stalk her. But her real nightmare begins when an investigation report declares that the fire which damaged Buffle's Tires was intentional. Could it be possible that the man she loves, the man she has learned to trust so deeply, is a criminal?

Once Burned is a novel that readers of sweet, contemporary romances will enjoy. The heroine is vulnerable and likable, and the hero sensitive and willing to give himself to the woman he loves. He is not the brooding, macho-type character typical of many romances. The ex-boyfriend adds a touch of suspense to the plot, as well as the rescue scene towards the end, where Chris, doing her job after a dangerous storm, becomes trapped under a parking lot and must be rescued. Another interesting aspect of the book are all the bits and details pertaining to the insurance claims adjusting business, which add legitimacy to the story.

Wave Watcher
Craig Alan Johnson
Bellwood Press
1233 Central Ave., Evanston, IL 60204
(888) 795-4274
ISBN: 0877437076 $12.95 139 pages

Wave Watcher is a beautifully written first novel about a thoughtful, sensitive young teenager who one night decides to write the "story of his life," as well as the tragic event which has been haunting him and keeping him awake at night for the past year. Under one hundred and fifty pages, this is one of those little gems which, under the author's gifted pen, manages to accomplish so much in so little space.

It is through this young narrator, Ray, that we listen to the story. "I have difficulty sleeping at night. Everybody thinks it's because I have bad dreams, but it's not. Little do they know, I don't even get far enough towards sleep to dream," Ray writes in his journal in the simple yet lucid, sparkling language which characterizes the book. "I wish I did, but I can't. My mind is too full of thoughts, thoughts that are just bits and pieces of so many things that I have seen or read or done. I relive them all over again, with more life, when the lights go out. Actually I relieve them larger than life when it's dark. I think the darkness makes them faster and deeper, colder and definitely clearer than they were with the lights on."

In this honest, fresh prose, Ray tells about his family, his childhood, and how he came to live in a house by the beach in Brazil. He tells about his special relationship with his little brother Louie, who was born with an enlarged heart and only one lung. His past and that of his parents are no ordinary ones, and his tale includes places as far as India, where his father lived for many years. But most importantly, his father is a writer; this has a great impact on Ray, who is also talented with words. The special relationships between Ray and Louie, and Ray and his father are the core of this book.

An intelligent young "man," Ray spends long hours watching the waves and finding a pattern
- a strong metaphor in this book. "Nothing can stop a wave from breaking," he writes. "It's like a wick in a candle. The wave will break, just as the wick will burn." He later adds, "Respect the consistency, respect the pattern, respect the truth."

The reader will come across many lovely images and philosophical, sometimes poetic passages about waves, such as "Like your heartbeat, so are the waves. At times they are faster and harder and much more exciting, like when the sun hides behind dark and heavy clouds or when the hills let the winds blow through to lift the waves higher. And when the nights are bright, when the sky is crowded with stars and the trees are still, the waves are slow and drowsy, as quiet as an arm of driftwood lying in a shallow pool upon a tranquil beach, as soft as the sight of a gliding gull in the light of the rising sun." The serene, contemplative, almost healing tone exemplified in this passage permeates most of the book.

It is not until the end that Ray finally recounts the devastating event that changed his life one year ago, and which impelled him to write this journal overnight. The ending is sure to have an emotional impact on most readers.

Author Craig Alan Johnson has done such an excellent job in bringing the character of Ray to life that the reader will at times forget that the author of the book is other than this young teenager. The narrator's voice shines with innocence, insight, a delicate touch of humor, and an awe and respect for the mystery of life. It is an eclectic read, rich with metaphors, and quotes and allusions from such works as To Kill A Mockingbird, Hamlet, Of Mice and Men, Huckleberry Finn, and A River Runs Through It.

The only negative aspect of this book is it's cover. I urge the reader not to be put off by its cover. It simply doesn't do justice to this beautiful book. There is a reason for this cover, one the reader will understand as soon as he begins reading, but a better cover would have attracted those browsers at a store who have no idea of the reason for it.

A touching, healing book about the special love between father and son and between brothers, Wave Watcher comes highly recommended from this reviewer.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

The Gallagher Guide to the Baby Years: The Real Moms' Survey of Top Rated Products and Advice
Stephanie Gallagher, editor
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0743484762 $14.95

Informative Read .. Recommended . 4 stars

The narrative is not a storybook. The Gallagher Guide to the Baby Years The real moms' survey of top rated products and advice is a 222 page compilation of new parenting information gathered by the editor. Chapter one covers Pregnancy including ways to cope with morning sickness, maternity wardrobe and picking the baby name. Chapter two offers information pertaining to the nursery while Chapter three guides the new parent toward wise purchasing of baby gear. Chapter four helps prepare new parents for the birth of the baby; what to take to the hospital, getting rid of the extra pounds and the homecoming. Chapter five covers creative Birth announcements, stress free baptism and a plan for getting thank-you notes taken care of. Chapter six provides the new mother with some hints on taking care of herself; how to deal with all the unwanted advice that comes to all new moms, coping with sleep deprivation and taking time for herself. Chapter seven offers some ideas on taking of baby; some easy methods for getting baby to nap, how to deal with the early wake ups and how to face colic, burping, constipation and bath time with ease. Chapter eight covers an assortment of food and nutrition related themes. Chapter nine presents some thoughts regarding child care; how to locate great child care, how to choose a nanny and the transition back into the work force. Chapter ten is filled with saving money tips. Chapter eleven offers getting organized information; how to save time in the morning, getting stains out of kids' clothes and how to get dinner on the table fast. Chapter twelve: entertainment discusses toys, books, music and TV. Chapter thirteen offers help for parents facing sickness and health issues; teething, how to take baby's temp, how to get a good night's sleep with a sick baby in the house. Chapter fourteen deals with making and preserving memories. Chapter fifteen provides information for dealing with toddlers; how to get rid of the pacifier or stopping thumb sucking, moving from crib to bed, potty training. Chapter sixteen: ready for another one offers information on best times to conceive, pregnancy with toddlers or older children to care for and how to tell children they will have a new baby in the house.

Editor Gallagher has produced a book using contributions from real moms and meant to be used by real moms. From start to finish the new mom is offered suggestions on everything from which type of formula is best and why individual women prefer one over the other to what features to look for in a stroller. Moms who have faced late night diaper changes suggest one piece pajamas with zippers rather than cute footed garments that are hard to put on and take off. Women who have faced sleep deprivation during the first weeks following the birth of their baby offer good sound advice to new moms concerning the importance for baby AND mom to get enough sleep. Each hint is presented in clear, concise language and in type large enough to read easily. Chapters are filled with short easily read hints new moms can read while nursing or bottle feeding their new baby, while waiting for the train to pass by or the light to change. Format is sensible; few new mothers have time to plow through pages and pages of tiny print.

The Gallagher Guide to the Baby Years The real moms' survey of top rated products and advice is the product of some 200 moms, including 30 doctor mothers, world wide who contributed to the book. For interested women www.GALLAGHERGUIDE.COM is where you can add your own hints and thoughts on child rearing for the next book.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

A Call to Faith and Freedom
Shirley A Roe
Grizzly Bookz Publishing
420 Wal-Mart Way STE 136 Dahlonega, Georgia, 30533
ISBN: 0974963445 $12.95

Captivating Read .. Recommended 4 stars

The account begins in the mouth of a cave with nineteen-year-old Moreall sitting upon a midnight stallion. Impersonating the Queen's cousin Anne, she had come to the King's court after Beltane a fortnight ago. With Anne is the Queen's brother Phillip who in reality is Moreall's lover Armand. The real Anne and Phillip have not been seen by the Queen in sometime, and have been captured and brought to the island. Moreall and Armand must rid themselves of their escort assigned to accompany Moreall to Northumbria and set out for the Highlands where her father Angus is waiting. Moreall hopes he is waiting, Angus was seriously injured in battle and Moreall does not know if he has survived or not. With Christians threatening to destroy their Celtic past and many Druid priests killed and captured as well as King Edmund threatening to take their homeland life has become more and more precarious for those living in the Celtic lands. Dunmore Castle, Vildar the Arch Druid, the island of Iona is taken over by the Christian Columba, and the old ways are slipping and being replaced. Anne and Phillip escape, Angus' son is held in a dungeon and the Christians rampage across the land in an effort to control the land and replace the present religion with their own. Life, death, renegade machination, medieval strongholds, Cimmerian forests replete with fairies, battles between knights on horse back and sunlit meadows overflowing with honey scented wildflowers and clear running burns fill the pages and further the account. Passion and celebrations complete with tables filled with wild game and mutton together with brimming tankards of ale, song and lyrics, excitement and drama carry the reader further into the work. Great legends would grow and be told for generations of the morn that the Arch Druid and the High Priestess rose magically, mystically out of the sun over Glenden.

A Call to Faith and Freedom is an exhilarating tingle packed read enacting a scrupulously crafted representation of seventh-century feudal Scotland. The period was a time when invading Christians employing barbarous and uncivilized torment at times including rape and death as they sought to coerce the conversion of the native Celts who were determined to be pagans by the Christians. This Scottish descendant found author Roe's characters to be so genuine the reader expected to see them appear nearby. Throughout the breathless action Roe's characters confront life changing situations, ups and downs, ardor and ruination which history shows were part and parcel of that time and era. The work is both edifying and enjoyable as writer Roe dispenses her knowledge of the Celtic faith in this drama centering around two Celtic clans. Writer Roe has obviously done her homework; Celtic fundamental principles, moral practice, protocol, and religious customs are depicted in vivid detail. Settings are detailed together with being so descriptive the reader feels he/she may reach out and touch heather or fern nearby, smell the heady honey scent of mead, or watch as the stark beauty of the Scottish Highlands appear.

Writer Roe has taken a wee portion of the history of the Scottish people and has woven a compelling tale that engages the reader straight into the storyline and does not let go until the last paragraph is reached. Every imaginable human sentiment is put forth in an always shifting energy filled milieu in this must read historical fiction.

Excellent addition to the home and public pleasure reading library, home schoolers will find the work fills two slots; reading for pleasure and learning a bit of history at the same time.

Sure to please all who enjoy a bit of historical fact interwoven in their fiction reading.

I received a trade paper for review.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Melissa Lion
Wendy Lamb Books/Random House
Random House
1745 Broadway Avenue of Americas NYC, NY
ISBN: 0385746431 $15.95

Entertaining Read .. Recommended . 4.5 stars

The narrative opens in a small Alaska with someone sneaking into the window. The house is empty. Marty lays her sleeping bag on the floor and lays down to sleep. The new school year will begin and Marty, Martha, will be facing it without her boy friend Steven. Marty, her sisters Gwen and Dottie live with their working Mom and sometime when home from the Coast Guard dad. Marty has had the summer to come to grips with Steven's death. School begins, a new owner for the movie theater where Marty works comes to town, life goes on. Then, Fish and Game begin to make noises about re opening the investigation into Steven's death. He was well versed in living in the wild and they are wondering how he and several more recent campers have come to be the victim of an accidental shooting. Winter melts into spring. Marty sends applications to colleges and faces the questions put to her by Fish and Game. Life goes on.

Writer Lion has wrought an appealing mystery certain to please the young adult market. Overflowing with exhilarating settings, a genuine conundrum and believably human characters Upstream is an engaging read. Writer Lion's adroitness for the human situation and her cloudless portrayal haul the reader right into the chronicle. Lion possesses a perception for the human inner self which she puts to skillful use to furnish a narrative filled with tingle, sentiment and coming of age. The reader is drawn into the tale from the opening lines as we accompany Marty into the now deserted home of her dead boy friend and that interest is held tight right down to the last page where we find Marty now grown up, finished with college and following her life dream.

Upstream is writer Lion's second work and is a commendable effort. That writer Lion has done her homework into people, activities, and tenor of youth is manifest as the anecdote unfolds. Lion uses occasional flash back type scene setting to explain what has led to Steven's demise. Brimming with a profusely fabricated chronicle, snappy, fulfilling conversations, in addition to a judiciously interwoven theme regarding a young woman coming to grips with life and herself Upstream is an agreeably composed work. Characters presented by writer Lion are creditable, discussion is acceptable as it serves to move the narrative along from beginning to end.

An indisputable winner for the target audience of young adult to adult aficionados of 'slice of life' accounts. The well written account has ample action to satisfy readers. Upstream is an superb choice for the middle to high school level home sch0ol or public school libraries, home library shelf as well as gift book selection for readers ages 13 and up who possess good reading skills and have an enjoyment for a gripping tale well told. Oblique references to teenaged sexual activity will served to preclude some readers from enjoying the book.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend. I received a hard back edition for review.

Our Fathers Who Art in Heaven, and What They Continue to Teach Us
Gerry Murak
PO Box 502, Getzville, NY 14068
ISBN: 0975905716 $17.95

Inspiring Read .. Recommended .. 4 stars

Our Fathers who art in Heaven and what they continue to teach us is a work of 192 pages 'devoted to fathers who have passed on lessons in life and leadership that many further generations can learn from for years to come.' The publication comprises some forty four memorial sketches offered by children who want to commemorate their own father in a very distinctive fashion. Attitude, Integrity, Memories, Determination, Compassion, Wisdom, Inspiration, Character, Nature and Courage are illustrated by vignettes titled 'Ya gotta Wanna,' 'Looking Over My Shoulder,' ''Reel Event,' and 'Coming Up Roses.' I especially enjoyed the section dealing with Compassion wherein Thomas Edward introduces us to Sergeant Muzzy, USMC. Muzzy was orphaned and raised by older siblings during the depression when he would come home after high school football practice and find a cold boiled potato for supper maybe. Muzzy was an enterprising Mess Corporal when he realized that he could barter souvenirs to the Navy for food stuffs to serve his men during WWII. He watched the surrender signing on the USS Missouri, mustered out after six years and began fitting into the civilian world. When his son announced he would follow family tradition during the Vietnam conflict and join the Corps Thomas Edward was a bit surprised at his father's reaction. 'Like hell you will. I fought six years in WWII so you would not have to go.' On the anniversary of his death Thomas Edward had a Mass said for his father, and as it turned out a Marine chaplain friend of their pastor filled in for the vacationing priest. This touching four page read is Thomas Edward's way to do something he always wanted to do: 'I always wanted to say, but never had the courage or grit, "Dad, I love you, Sarge." It is a loving tribute.

Gerry Murak, founder of Murak and Associates, LLC, management consultant, executive coach and author, has collected forty-four anecdotes garnered from people dwelling in several countries and enumerating lessons they learned from their fathers. Whether in the home or not; each of us learn life skills from the man we know as 'daddy.' The instruction we receive may be something our father consciously set out to teach us, it may be something we picked up from day to day observation of our parent, it may be from particular memories we cherish of the days when we were together. Each two to five page narrative presents one person's touching reminiscence of an individual father and explicates the good example he taught and continues to teach despite his current physical absence.

Trim and thoughtfully wrought, Our Fathers who art in Heaven and what they continue to teach us commemorates lives of fathers far and near. In addition; profits from direct sales of the work will help fund Our Fathers Who Art In Heaven Foundation. The Foundation is a source of motivation for those who have lost their fathers, or are facing formidable tasks in being a father.

With additional chronicles titled 'Patience By Example,' 'Old Spice,' Consider and Respect Others First,' 'My Greatest Teacher, 'Family Trees,' and 'My own Unexpected Party' there is something for everyone to enjoy.

The book ends with brief descriptions of the contributing authors, an explanation of what the series is all about and even a 'Submit Your Stories' for future collections.

Individual vignettes are well written, gratifying reading and brief enough to read through promptly as you wait for the train to pass, the dentist to summon, or your child to make his appearance following a late band practice. Nice addition for the home pleasure reading library, the therapist's reading shelf and the home school curriculum.

Enjoyed the read, and feel inspired to submit an episode regarding my own dad for future works. Happy to recommend.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Nancy's Bookshelf

Elements of the Fantastic
Edited by A.P. Fuchs
ISBN 1897217021 $10.99 148 p.
Coscom Entertainment
12 Charles Hawkins Bay Winnipeg, Manitoba R2G 3K4 Canada

Elements of the Fantastic contains six inventive stories certain to entertain and draw you in. If you enjoy whimsical characters, settings where you are swept away from one place to another, and plots where anything can happen, than you'll add this to your must-have list of books. Be prepared to travel to alternate worlds and not wish for a return ticket.

"Facets" by Matthew L. Moffett, starts off this exciting mind trip with an action-filled pace at a comic book convention. Tired of the stagnant routine of his comics, a writer pitches new characters and the universes he envisions to an esteemed colleague. From one idea to the next, the reader travels a time warp and becomes one with the stories.

Keith Gouveia delivers an enchanted ride with a twist in "Cab1140." A young girl finds there is more to a taxi driver than meets the eye. Sally believes the driver is some sort of monster, until he visits her one night and she discovers his amazing secret. This is a story to keep you spellbound, and pondering its validity hours after you've finished reading.

"High, Time, Paper" by W. Bill Czolgosz, is insightfully imaginative and makes you think before you speak. Two friends discover strange happenings after uttering a string of words together. Word association, timepaper, and correspondence with emperors and kings are only some of the creative elements visited in this gripping story. A little wild, but a whole lot of fun as it should be.

Somewhere between sentimental and riveting, you will find an inspiring story within "The Jacket" by M.F. King. An unexplainable condition keeps a boy's sister from coming out of a comatose-like state. Desperate for a remedy, he examines the last article of clothing she wore - a jacket - with a most unexpected ability hidden inside the fabric.

Blood sacrifices, strange gates through time, and legends of the Mayan Indians are only a few of the treasures to discover in "El Gato Grande" from Thomas Canfield. Smooth flowing dialogue and a lush backdrop, drives this suspenseful story forward quickly.

"A Sheath for Durandal" boasts an impressive storyline by talented author Frank Fradella. To honor the wish of her deceased father, a woman must make a harrowing journey to return a distinguished sword to its rightful place. Filled with exceptional visuals and details, this is a true favorite.

Edited by A.P. Fuchs, each story in Elements of the Fantastic is its own divine journey, where the only passport needed is your imagination.

Children of the Dragon
Keith Gouveia
Coscom Entertainment
12 Charles Hawkins Bay Winnipeg, Manitoba R2G 3K4 Canada
ISBN# 189721703X $9.99 180 p.

Looking to escape to a world where ogres, dwarves, unicorns, and fairies exist? You needn't look any further than Children of the Dragon. Author Keith Gouveia invites young readers everywhere to rediscover their own magical powers, while tackling darkness for the good of all kinds.

Even in a parallel world, bullies exist in many forms, and Balthazar is one such bully. In an act of vengeful greed, he makes a deal with a dark and dangerous force of evil, to deplete the magical powers of all the mystical creatures, and deliver to him their souls. Eager to challenge and replace the current king of Great Germaine, Balthazar accepts, and spreads a blanket of fear in his wake.

Enter two young children, Alyssa and Ricky, who make a wish on a stone guardian, a gift from a shopkeeper of The Mystic store. In a flash of blinding light they find themselves whisked away to Great Germaine, and learn of the terrible darkness that has befallen the mystical creatures. With the help of two dragons, they make their way, battling the things only nightmares are made of, unwilling to let their fears lead them astray. A promise is a promise, and they work together in the hopes of restoring the lush and peaceful land Great Germaine once was. Danger lurks at every turn, and they must fight to keep their wits about them.

Enchanting and delightful, Children of the Dragon will interest both children and adults alike. Along the enticing pages are lessons about courage, honor, will, trust, and being true to one's word. Young readers will identify with the realistic characters of Alyssa and Ricky, and be fueled with a sense of empowerment. Each creature sparks a creative visual page after page.

Keith Gouveia has created a fantasy world for the young, and the young at heart to explore. Chances are you will want to frequent the land of Great Germaine, cheering on the characters and creatures, as they work together to restore a sense of peace.

Desperate Straits: A Ginger Akana Adventure
Esther Schrader
ISBN 0976665220 $16.95 226 p.
Fine Tooth Press
PO Box 11512, Waterbury, CT, 06703

Looking for something with danger, intrigue, romance, and a splash of Hawaiian flavor? Desperate Straits: A Ginger Akana Adventure will satisfy your tropical palate. Esther Schrader takes us on a taut criminal escapade through the lush backdrop of Maui.

Ginger Akana works as an insurance claims investigator in Portland, Oregon. Through a strange case involving a woman's mysterious death, and the husband's need to pay off an extreme amount of debt, she is requested to travel to Hawaii for further investigation. Along the way she makes some eccentric new friends, meets members of her family, and takes up with a special love interest.

While looking into the possible fraud and plotted murder case, Ginger is subjected to threats made by phone, in her car, and where she's staying. Just when she thinks she can trust someone, a piece of the case unravels and she's not sure what to believe. Each character fuels life into this story through dialogue and personality, making it easy for the reader to get personally involved. Woven in is a well-researched setting, and some Hawaiian lingo, adding a sense of realism to the overall story. I could almost feel the rays of sunshine and imagine the beautiful beaches.

As new developments unfold through each fast paced chapter, elements of deception, murder, blackmail, thefts, and hired hit men come into play, leaving you on the edge of your seat, and burning through the pages. This one's not for the faint of heart.

Desperate Straits is a winning combination for readers of all genres. My only complaint is that the characters ate too well. I found myself hungry and dying for a nice bottle of wine. Esther Schrader is a talented author with an excellent writing resume including such gems as Murder Most Foul and The Shadow People.

Tempting Disaster
Edited by John Edward Lawson
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place Landover Hills, MD 20784
ISBN# 1933293004 $15.95 269 p.

Tempting Disaster is a multi-faceted collection of love, lust, and loathing. If you can't take the heat of this puppy, than you may as well curl up with a blanket and suck your thumb, cause baby, this is going to leave a mark.

There's no feasible way to go into all of the offerings without it becoming a five-page review but some highly sick and depraved stories stand out from the rest. When you gather together talented authors Darren Speegle, Ronald Damien Malfi, Perry McGee, Alyssa Sturgill, Kevin L. Donihe, and Jeffrey Thomas, you know you're in for something tempting and downright disastrous but in a good way. Twenty-four feasts of flesh are sure to awaken some part of your anatomy.

Darren Speegle's disturbing "Junkyard Fetish" is a slick and sexy game with recycled toys, sure to get your blood pumping. Okay "Painstation" is a freakish nightmare concocted by the tripped up mind of Ronald Damien Malfi, where for a mere two hundred dollars, a man goes through hell and back, all for the love of a woman. "An X-less Story" had me in stitches, thanks to Perry McGee's superbly twisted mind. Kevin L. Donihe's fast paced short "Revenge of the Living Masturbation Rag" left a bittersweet taste in my mouth, which I'm not sure is a good thing or not yet. As a fan of the wicked-minded Alyssa Sturgill, I found myself completely engulfed in "Eat me, Drink Me" and grinning like a Cheshire cat. "Black Wings" is a highly creative venue from Jeffrey Thomas, a master storyteller with talent oozing out of his eyeballs.

There are plenty of goodies to get you off and repulsed at the same time, so make sure to savor each and every one. Tempting Disaster leaves an impression without making you feel cheap and used. Well, used at least. I highly recommend it.

Nancy Jackson, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days
Alastair Reynolds
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN 0441012388, $22.95, 232 pages

The first of these two novellas, set in the author's *Revelation Space* universe, is about an alien tower, obviously part of a long-dead civilization, on a desolate planet. Decomposed bodies and body parts around the base show that extreme care is a very good idea. A man named Childe assembles a group of people to explore the tower from the inside, including Richard Swift, an old friend, and Doctor Trintingnant. The doctor is famous, or infamous, for removing organs or limbs from people, and replacing them with their artificial equivalent, not always with the patient's consent. Therefore, he experimented on his only willing patient, himself.

The tower consists of a series of rooms. Entrance to the next room is gained by solving a very high-level mathematical puzzle. After a while, the tower begins to impose a time limit on the decision-making process. After retreating from one disastrous room, where one member is killed, and several limbs are chopped off (happily replaced by the doctor), the rest of the group says no more. Childe and Swift determine that artificial limbs and organs are less prone to attack by the tower than organic, so they have Dr. T turn them into something like an artificial greyhound dog, and return to the tower. In examining the bodies around the base of the tower, the doctor determines that, genetically, they all come from the same person. The question is also raised as to how Childe knew just what sort of people would be needed to explore the tower, if, as he claims, this is his first visit.

The second story takes place on Turquoise, a planet whose ocean is inhabited by Pattern Jugglers, a one-celled aquatic organism capable of recording the memories of any being who joins their collective consciousness. Naqi Okpik is among those studying the Jugglers, until Mina, her sister, becomes part of the Juggler consciousness.

One day, an interstellar trading vessel stops by for a visit, a once-in-a-lifetime event for the isolated people of Turquoise. One of the ship's crew, a man named Weir, is acting very strangely. During a tour of the Juggler research station, the rest of the crew attacks, and takes over the station. It seems that many years before, a despot named Ormozd visited the planet, and was absorbed by the Pattern Jugglers. The intention of the attackers is to "download" Ormozd's memories from the Jugglers, and place them into several different people. This is what Weir has come to stop. He takes a boat into a node of Jugglers, with Naqi in hot pursuit. He carries with him a "bomb" to destroy the Juggler's memory storage capability, and also to destroy the memories of everyone ever absorbed by the Jugglers, including Mina, Naqi's sister.

This is another first-rate piece of writing from Reynolds. It would be a good idea to read any of his *Revelation Space* books first. These novellas are interesting, very well done and highly recommended.

Joe Haldeman
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN 0441009778, $22.95, 232 pages

Written as a memoir, much of this book takes place in 19th Century America. Rosa Coleman was a part of high society in Philadelphia. After witnessing her husband sodomizing Daniel, their young son, she picked him up and fled across uncharted America by train and steamboat. Pinkerton detectives working for her husband were never far behind.

Months later, they found themselves in San Francisco, heading to Alaska to look for gold. Alaska was also as far way from Philadelphia as Rosa and Daniel could go. They were in the company of Doc and Charles, an older man and his son, also looking to strike it rich. Rosa and Doc hit it off, by 19th Century standards, pretty quickly. The only strange thing about Rosa and Daniel's journey was that every so often a raven would come down out of the sky, land in front of them, and squawk the words "No gold" before leaving.

Rosa decided to stay in the town of Sitka, rather than join the men in the Alaskan wilderness. She got a job as a schoolteacher, and met Gordon, part Russian priest and part shaman. They are both there to teach, and hopefully convert, the local Tlingit (native) children. The raven is considered a trickster in many cultures, including Tlingit.

After several months, Rosa received a letter from Charles saying that Doc and Charles were shot and killed in a streetcorner dispute. In a fit of despair, Rosa took out a pistol that she kept for protection, and was prepared to use it on herself. At that moment, a talking raven, part Gordon and part trickster, flew into her cabin and took her on a journey. She visited a planet of man-sized, mobile, intelligent plants. She visited a planet whose sun was stationary in the sky. She visited a devastated Times Square, far in her future. She was turned into a golden eagle, and into a carnivorous dinosaur. Rosa was taught all about alternate universes, and was returned to one where Doc and Daniel were still alive, because they hadn't yet made the trip into the Alaskan wilderness.

This is an excellent novel, but a pretty "quiet" novel. The science fiction doesn't start until about the last quarter of the story. By the end, it gets nice and weird, and will give the reader plenty to consider. Two thumbs up.

Paul Lappen

Robyn's Bookshelf

Alpha Bravo Charlie: The Military Alphabet
Chris L. Demarest
Margaret K. McElderry Books
ISBN: 0689869282, $16.95

Alpha. Bravo. Charlie. Code word Alpha stands for A. Bravo stands for B. Charlie stands for C in the International Communications Alphabet (ICA). Used by the United States military to avert misunderstandings in communications, this military alphabet picture represents the entire alphabet used by the military. Each page displays an alphabet letter, code word, specially designed naval flag and a military scene drawn in vivid colors. Under A for Alpha, a detailed picture of a fighter plane is described by the simple caption, "An A-4 Skyhawk catches an arresting cable as it lands atop an aircraft carrier." Under C for Charlie, an open cargo plane receives supplies. "A C-130 aircraft is loaded with cargo." Under P for Papa, a panoramic sky is filled with paratroopers. "Paratroopers drop behind enemy lines." Descriptions, kept to a minimum, let the artwork paint a thousand words. As would be expected, the theme specializes in military matters only. The attractive illustrations and historical references make Alpha Bravo Charlie a unique alphabet book that easily spans beyond the age range.

Exploring Mars
Peggy J. Parks
Lucent Books
ISBN: 1590186362, $28.70 Grades 4-7

Mars, the hottest planetary topic in the classroom today, is a favorite for studying. And with news of the planet changing daily, current research books are in demand. Exploring Mars is a timely reference book spanning historical beliefs, the scientists responsible for bringing the red planet to our attention, and our future in regards to space travel and exploration. The book begins with a "must read" foreword. It is the foreword that sets the scene for the impact of technology and our lives. It helps us understand how Mars is not just a neighbor in the solar system but a possibility for expansion beyond our own boundaries. The book is straight forward with a serious no-nonsense approach to the topic, but it's presented with an interesting voice, making it easy for inquisitive minds to turn page after page. Faded black and white photographs, along with graphics printed in gray hues, offer the reader visual aids to sophisticated concepts. Complimenting a vast array of information are an index, notes, a glossary, and reading list complete with a few websites.

Robyn Gioia, Reviewer

Roger's Bookshelf

They Just Don't Get It!
Leslie Yerkes, Randy Martin
ISBN 1576753286 $19.95 142 pages

Disarmingly simple, surprisingly effective

Here's another one of those books with few words, large type, lots of illustrations, and a whole lot of white space. For those who read "serious" books with full page after full page of text, this may look like a throw-away. They said the same thing about "Who Moved My Cheese" and .best seller!

My forecast is that many people will buy this book like an expensive greeting card to send a message to people who don't get it. Even at a price of twenty bucks (remember inexpensive books?), this book will be purchased in bulk and distributed to all those employees who need to make some ever so subtle shifts in their behavior if they want to survive in the corporate jungle.

The story, as easy to read as a fairy tale, begins with the main character being irritated because other people don't get it. Ever feel that way? Ever NOT feel that way? As the reader is lured through page after page, the tables turn and Main Character has been had by the moral. Sometimes other people don't get it because YOU don't get it! Zap! Right between the eyes when you weren't even looking. The book was well-constructed to set you up and then whack the message right at you.

After you get it, the authors share some normal text explanations of what it all means. They take the fable into management-speak or consultant-speak - your choice - to give the reader the explanation of what they just got. Again, however, the pages are barely filled with ink, so the book is anything but intimidating.

Sound bites. Object lessons. Small, non-threatening. Cute title. Recipe for success.

As a Certified Management Consultant striving to help clients get it, I gained some valuable lessons from this book. I'll think more about the messages of this book next time I interact with people who need to get it. I'd bet you will, too.

They're Not Aloof Just Generation X
Michael R. Muetzel
Steel Bay Publishing
Suite 510, 6007 Financial Plaza, Shreveport, LA 71129
ISBN 0974070025 $19.95 183 pages

Questionable content, arrogant, in your face

Ever talk with someone who was confident about what he was saying and doing, but sort of pushy in his manner of communication? Can you imagine that attitude and mannerism coming across in a book? Whether that style is comfortable for you or not, as a reviewer I feel I should prepare readers for what they'll encounter.

Muetzel focuses on members of Generation X (born 1965-1985) in their role as managers. He brings out various aspects of their values and style in an in-your-face presentation that feels like you're being lectured. I found it difficult to move through the text because of this writing style; and it's difficult to reach through my personal reaction to grasp the content of the book for you.

In Section 1, the author explores his perception of who Generation X managers are, referring to them as "young managers." Note that the first wave of this generation is now 40 years old, so this characteristic is not wholly descriptive. He talks about trust and loyalty and how his target group view these qualities different than "we older managers" do. In Section 2, Muetzel presents four management styles: old school, old school wanna-be, analytical, and new wave. These categories are not consistent with other discussions in the field. He denigrates the first three styles, "preaching" that we should all act in the manner of his fourth style. His way is right, period.

Given the writing style, content, and lack of balanced advice on the topic, I am personally unable to recommend this book with enthusiasm. In the interest of disclosure, I am a workforce futurist with a specialty in understanding generations and how they relate to each other in the workplace.

Score! A Better Way to do Business
Thomas T. Stallkamp
Wharton School Publishing
c/o Pearson Technology Group
801 East 96th Street, #300, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759 1-800-428-5331
ISBN 0131435264 $26.95 225 pages

Refreshing Concept, Credible, Well-Presented

When we see books written by top executives who have paid their dues with vast experience, we pay attention. OK, some of them are put together by ghost writers, but the message is still credible and worth listening to. Stallkamp is a former president of Chrysler Corporation and former Vice Chairman of DaimlerChrysler. Let's pay attention.

The premise presented by Stallkamp is simple: you attract more bees with honey than vinegar. It's a message we learned from our mothers as we were growing up. Now it's presented to us in a business context, with examples that bring the proverb to life. Stallkamp tells the story of how he developed a process at Chrysler that generated a strong sense of collaboration with suppliers, a partnership to continuously improve wherever possible.

While this collaborative approach sounds like a no-brainer, many companies don't operate this way. Stallkamp tells the story of his counterpart at General Motors when he was head of procurement, who applied a very strong conflict model to manage supplier relationships. The adversarial commerce model didn't work, and Stallkamp's posture in this book is that it won't work - ever.

Readers will learn about Stallkamp's model at Chrysler: SCORE. This name is an acronym for Supplier Cost and Reduction Effort. The experience demonstrated that cooperation produces substantially more long-term savings, as well as short-term gains. The collaborative relationship can be sustained; the adversarial cannot.

You'll gain helpful insights into the collaborative process, read about examples in a number of industries, and be inspired to build positive relationships in your work. The relationship message is recurrent in business today, so this book reinforces prevalent thinking in the leadership field.

Valuable read for senior leaders and company owners, as well as procurement specialists. The book includes messages that senior leaders need to convey throughout their organizations.

Roger E. Herman, Reviewer

Sherry's Bookshelf

Would Somebody Please Send Me to My Room
Bob Schwartz
Illustrated by B.K. Taylor
Glenbridge Publishing Ltd.
19923 E. Long Avenue, Centennial, Colorado 80016
ISBN: 0944435572 $22.95 316 pages

Would Somebody Please Send Me to My Room is a fun filled chatterbox of zany humor about family dynamics. As I was reading Schwartz's comical account of bringing home their first baby from the hospital, I was nodding in agreement as I was laughing out loud. Being a new grandmother and helping to bring in my first grandchild along with being with the new parents for several weeks, this book sparked tons of memories and a good look into the future.

The author, in a witty smart style, explains his theory about determining a child's temperament, the quick fix for doll babies, the dilemmas of dressing children and creating new family traditions.

The author found writing his adventures to be a lesson in retaining his own sanity and better than therapy. Readers, too, will enjoy that effect. Would Somebody Please Send Me to My Room is a gratifying side-splitter. Every parent and soon to be parent should read this book.

Author's proceeds benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Titles of The Wrong Kind
Robert Blevins
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, Maryland 21705-0151
ISBN 141372406X $16.95 112 pages

Schooyard bullies, poor parenting, depression and cutting words act as vise gripping shackles on a young boy desperately seeking acceptance. The reader travels on a journey told through the eyes of a "Special Ed" child. Robert Blevins relates Titles of The Wrong Kind with firsthand knowledge about the downside of an educational system that has the ability to reduce a special needs child to a blank. Journalistic in style, it slams a fist in the emotional belly.

The young boy seems hopelessly confused at the family level, the educational level and at the religious level. A rather disturbing naughty written act catapulted the second grader into another school system. A Catholic system with Catholic training. Being brought up in a Lutheran home with Lutheran teachings, he was soon forced to live a double "religious" life.

He found his Catholic school to be a place where "everyone was treated the same, even the slow learners". Yet, the confusion between religions led to mental distress expressing itself in physical fashion. Once again, he would be forced to change schools demanding him to leave the one thing that had made him feel comfortable - the Catholic religion.

In high school he was finally given the opportunity to tell his story to a panel with the power to determine his future in Special Ed. He told a sad tale about a boy whom was not "challenged, understood, or comprehended". He was a "victim of extortion, beaten and then blatantly humiliated by a member of the school staff". His eloquent from the heart speech made headway and he earned his freedom from the title of being a "Special Ed" child.

The young boy grew into a courageous young man whose spirit survived the poisonous darts of non-supportive people and a flawed system. In his college years he would expose the confidence and the competence he had acquired and he started his own corporation. His life intersected with an elderly wise woman who infused him with knowledge and belief.

This is a story about the desire, the search and the determination to live a life without negative descriptive labels. This young man could have ended up with the self-worth of a perpetual scolded puppy but instead, he triumphed, proving that heartache will diminish but the strength of the spirit thrives.

God's Honest Truth
Darin Hufford
Master Press Publications
13613 N. Cave Creek Rd., Phoenix, Arizona 85022
ISBN: 0967325021 $19.99 368 pages

God's Honest Truth will redefine your view of God. As the author states, your heart will be "shaken and stirred" by this truth.

Hufford asks the reader to start their soul hike by following four rules. The first is to be open minded, the second is to remove previous boundaries, third is to take the journey with your heart and not your head and four is to be honest with yourself and commit to reading the full book. Which once you start - you will finish the book.

This is not a run of the mill religion book. As an example, Hufford asks an audience "how many of them had been basically miserable for the largest part of their Christian lives?" He identifies "expert pray-ers" and punctures your previous thinking about love and selfishness. He explains that selfishness is the cause of all the dreadful happenings on earth.

Sections like "What inspired the Coming of Jesus" and "A deeper look at Rudeness" are fascinating and will turn your heart fires up.

God's Honest Truth is written in a flowing straightforward style that will nag at you to finish every last sentence. At the end the reader will understand "consulting the flame" which is done by understanding what the "flame" is and how it can change the way you live your life.

Power is Not a 4-Letter Word: How women can claim personal power to get more of what they want in their lives.

The Power Edge Media
Isabel L. Kersen, Ph.D.
Harmon Cove Towers
Suite 330, Secaucus, New Jersey 07094 201-864-8515
ISBN: 0970009968 $16.95 144 pages

Power is Not a 4-Letter Word proves that confident poised words open the iron gates to dreams and desires.

This well organized book is divided into 9 easy to understand parts giving directions and examples for how to attain a treasured blossoming life. Kersen geared her book for women due to three reasons. Her first goal was to provide information where it would benefit the most to insure quality living for others. Second, she was constantly hearing from women who were not achieving their goals and determined to help women come to terms with their internal power. Lastly, through her own experiences with the hard knocks of life, she wanted to ease the path for other women. The author easily accomplished her goals.

I found Kersen's explanation of the Power Paradigm, AMOS (Alternative Means Of Success), and the reasoning behind the perception of others to be excellent. The provided personal Power Portrait is an insightful tool for a true self appraisal. Part 9, Tools for Change, is short workbook to help the reader digest all the information given in the first 8 parts.

To obtain splendid optimism about your life, you need to understand the truth about yourself. Power is Not a 4-Letter Word spotlights how to root your power for a blissful life.

Heal & Forgive: Forgiveness in the Face of Abuse
Nancy Richards
Blue Dolphin Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 8, Nevada City, CA 95959
ISBN: 1577331583 $13.00 144 pages

"I left Mom's house stripped, whipped, naked, and destroyed." Heal & Forgive is the author's potent account of the raw abusive underbelly of human nature and the triumph over it.

Thinking about child abuse puts most people in an uncomfortable zone yet many people are abusive without realizing it. Telltale signs of abuse are being uncovered daily. Healing from abuse is walking a complicated grief path of multiples losses. Working through the trauma takes on a power. The power of healing is the ability to reshape your life.

The author courageously rips through the barriers of denial, leaving the crude truth exposed. Richards's gutsy mission of cleaning out the wounds of abuse and setting new boundaries is humbling. As the author searches through the rearview mirror of her life, she learns that healing first is the foundation for true forgiveness.

The perfect punctuation mark to her lessons is the purging of the patterns of abuse. By shedding her layers of pain, anger and confusion, she transforms her life and the life of those she touches.

This is an excellent book for abuse survivors and for those dealing with or helping abuse survivors.

Sherry Russell

Silver Fox's Bookshelf

Quiet As It's Kept
Janet West-Sellars
iUniverse, Inc
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Ste 100, Lincoln NE, 68512
ISBN: 0595339220 $12.95 168 pages

In the tradition of the African American Slave Quilts a tapestry is woven

Secrets... every family has them. For the Scotts, it is the death of a father that loosens the first thread in a web of lies that begins to unravel. Through the voices of Terry, Zena and Shirley, Janet West Sellars takes you on a tour through the streets of Newport News, Virginia and which traverses the span of a lifetime as the truth begins to surface. You have the pleasure of getting to know each member intimately until they start reminding you of people you've known. With immense pleasure, I tried in vain to put the stitches back together. Ms. West-Sellars is a master in slowly and methodically feeding the reader tiny clues without the reader's knowledge. In its conclusion all of these pieces will fall into place to reveal a mystery that longs to be t! old. Quiet As It's Kept will probably best be read when you know you won't have to put it down. I look forward to reading the next book by Janet West Sellars and suspect that I will remain a fan of her work because quiet as its kept she has the story telling skills of the old griots and is not to be ignored.

All Things Sacred
Beverly R. Jones
Triskelion Publishing
15508 W. Bell Rd # 101, PMB # 502 Surprise, Arizona 85374
ISBN: 1932866906 $6.50 221 pages

In her debut novel, author, Beverly R. Jones takes the reader on the road to self discovery.

Starting in the aftermath of an incident so horrific that Kendall loses her memory. It is not due to the shot to her head not the severe physical injuries she sustains that causes the retrograde amnesia. Fleeing from events in Hardison, Nevada she does what we all hop we would do by risking her life to save that of a stranger in Athens, South Carolina. Jackson Coley, a farmer with his own demons, is a man borne of a need to remove himself from any possibility of loss, to prevent the destruction of feelings he once held dear and to keep safe all things sacred to him. What starts out as gratitude becomes his own internal battle as he resists the allure of the initially comatose heroine.

Upon recovering from her physical injuries Kendall's task is recovering the memory of who she really is, and what brought her to South Carolina. In a race against time the reader wonders if she will recall her past before it and a man bent on her tortured death.

Cynthia is a woman most people have met at one time or another. She has the outward beauty of a model and an unscrupulous soul. All Things Sacred held me in rapt attention. I stopped only once to stop crying so I could resume. Like many great written works Ms. Jones offers you suspense from page one, riveting action, multidimensional characters and vivid imagery gracefully intertwined into a storyline you'll want to read again..

Though presently only available as an adobe e-book I am certain that onc eit is in print All Things Sacred will become just the first of (hopefully) many great reads from Beverly R. Jones.

Getting out Alive
Regina Paul
Lulu Publishing
3131 RDU Center, Suite 210, Morrisville, NC 27560
ISBN: 1411629752 $17.20 383 pages

Just when you think you know...

GETTING OUT ALIVE is a phenomenal adventure with layer after layer of surprise! Angel Whitedove has a secret. Arrested for the murder of her parents, she has learned how to make herself blend into her environment. Wearing disguises has become a way of life.

Known nationally, how could a Native American woman with her father's cobalt eyes make herself unrecognizable without them? Between tabloid reporters stalking and the Greys with their black almond eyes constantly on her trail she has had to do her work incognito while living like a nomad in seclusion.

One would think that her life is quite eventful enough. Enter, Darek, Starship Commander from the planet Laren. His sole mission was to bring her father, a fugitive on Laren, home to stand trial. Darek has been a strong defender of his planet! 's laws. The fact that Laaen is doomed to certain death, as would Angel be because of her lineage doesn't phase the commander. But courage is something he can relate to. Upon discovering her life long suffering and bonding with both Angel and her sole companion Wolf he makes a decision that could cost him everything he has worked so hard for. But learning that the ancient beings that once abducted his people have not gone into extinction changes his views. Deciding to return to Laren without revealing the existence of Angel is completely reversed when his ex-lover Zetara snatches Angel. I can't remember hating a character this vile in many years. I so enjoyed following this pair as they risk both of their lives to protect both of their planets in a race against time and a dangerous dance out of the clutches of the purple haired witch!

Just when you think you have figured it all out, you find yourself starting all over again.

At this point my only regret is that there is no sequel. I look forward to many years enjoying the books by Regina Paul!

Silver Fox's Den Featured Interviews: Gregory W. Bryant
author - poet - publisher, founder of Feel the Flow Publishing

SF - Why and When did you start writing creatively?

GWB I started writing my poetry to express some feelings I had that was hard for me to speak out loud. When I started writing poetry? I actually started writing poetry while in the U.S. Air Force. I would write letters to my then fiancee and put a poem on each one. The fellas in my unit caught on to my poetry and ask me to create a few for their ladies. Boy, if I had only charged!!!

SF - Where do you get the inspiration for your poems?

GWB All poems are inspired by what I have experienced, seen or world events

SF - Are there parts of you contained in your works?

GWB I would say in the majority of my poems there is a touch of me and my experiences.

SF - Do you identify with any one particular poem? If so how?

GWB My poems are composed of my feelings.

SF - What genre(s) / art form(s) are you most comfortable with?

GWB I am a poet through and through, So poetry is my art form.

SF - Where do you hope to see your creative career go?

GWB I would love to have everyone experience my work and change their mind about poetry.

SF - Have your life experiences influenced your work? If so, how?

GWB My poems from the time I started writing are life experiences. We all have felt many emotions and the majority of my work is all about the emotions I have felt.

SF - What, if anything, would you like to share about you, the person?

GWB That unlike what people think I am actually shy and sometimes it is hard for me to express myself through speech so I write.

SF - How has your transition to publication gone?

GWB I have had ups and downs but I would say its been good. Remember I am in the hardest genre to get published. That is why I self publish my work.

SF - What would you like to do differently the next time?

GWB I really don't know what I could do different. I have done quite a bit to get my work out there.

SF - To whom do you seek advice and / or support from?

GWB I read many different poetry magazines and go to my family and friends to get feedback about some of my poems.

SF - When can your fans expect! to enjoy your work

GWB Right now my next book will probably be out in Sept 2005 or at the beginning of 2006. I am still working some things out with the book. I can tell it is probably my most compelling work to date.

SF - How can your fans reach you?

GWB My fans can reach through my email or by going to my website

SF - Do you have any presently scheduled events for the next few months?

GWB I have a tentative date in Savannah, GA on August.19, 2005

SF - What books / poetry / artwork have you read/seen lately that you would like to recommend?

GWB I have been reading mostly novels and individual poems on web sites.The books I would recommend are "Insight" by Valerie CJ McGee and Splinters of My Soul by Kimberly Morton-Cuthrell When you see books by these authors I would say pick it up.

SF - What is your idea of fun?

GWB To tell you the truth I am a home body. I love to grill have a few friends over and talk.

SF - What experiences do you hope to one day have?

GWB I would love to have the experience of meeting some of the great poets out today and share our works with each other.

SF - What places do you still wish to travel to?

GWB I have never been to the islands (bermuda, aruba, etc)

SF - Do you have an agent and if not are you looking for one?

GWB I do not have an agent and I am not looking for one.

SF - Are there any other professionals you are seeking to enhance your career?

GWB At this time I am doing it all myself.

SF - How many not yet to be released works do you have keeping warm on the back burner?

GWB Right now I have only 1 but have ideas for publishing other books.

SF - Who did your cover for you?

GWB My last books publish through my company. Cover art was done by a good local artist named Rick Garrison. He is a good local artist here in Greensboro, NC

SF - Off all of your released works which is your favorite?

GWB I would say of the 2 books I have written "Visions" is my favorite. The poems in this book is a compilation of emotion feelings and thoughts. My favorite poem in this book is called "My Dreams"

SF - When and where - what type of environment are you most creative in?

GWB It's funny I do a lot of my work on my job at the Post Office. ! I watch the people, the sounds and the time to reflect while working.

SF - What other talents should everyone know you have?

GWB I would say my compassion to help others. I don't know if this fits as a talent but it was the only thing I could come up with (smile)

SF - Where would you like to see your life five years
from now?

GWB I would like to become a name associated with poetry. When you think of poetry or poets you will go ...oh, one of the best is Gregory W.Bryant. Also you will say he has helped many poets get out their and get recognized.

SF - Anyone out there you like to acknowledge?

GWB I have a few who are important to me and have supported me. here they are: My editors....Stefanie Cunningham & Tamarra Bryant artist..... Rick Garrison. Valerie C J McGee who keeps pushing my work. Ursu! la T Gibson of who has critiqued and given reviews of my work.

All the people who have bought and enjoyed my books. I thank everyone for their support.

SF - I thank Gregory W Bryant for taking time out of his very busy schedule to share with his fans new and old a glimpse into the man behind the very thought provoking and emotive poems. Please vist Gregory Bryant at his web site. Don't forget to sign his guest book. I personally recommend his books. They are a great addition to a collection, a marvelous choice to start a collection and as always, a perfect gift that will stir the recipient and help them feel the flow.


Poems of the Heart
Gregory W Bryant
Feel The Flow Publishing
ISBN: 0971723109 $9.95 23 pp.

Gregory W Bryant
Feel The Flow Publishing
ISBN: 0971723117 $12.50

From the Hearts of Women
Courtney Holt, Brenda Thompson, Christina Ryals, Donalja James
Publisher: Feel the Flow Publishing
ISBN: 0971723125 $15.00 86 pp.

Silver Fox, Reviewer

Smith's Bookshelf

A Mouse Among Us
Allen Parker
Publish America
P.O. Box 151 Frederick, MD 21705
(301) 695-1707
1413740529 $12.95

Allen Parker has written a second book about nudists, and I'm not a nudist, so at first I was not at all interested in reading this book. Let me say immediately then, that if you are not a nudist, and you don't think you want to read a book about a nudist, you need also to give A Mouse Among Us a second chance.

The imagery in this book is amazing, and the nudist aspect is not overbearing. In fact, one of the greatest uses of imagery I have found had nothing to do with that aspect at all. In the book, while describing an awkward moment among teenagers, he writes, "The sight caused a whelping helping of stupid to collect in my head, causing me to ask her if she had spilled her sundae." A whelping helping of stupid? That was just one example. Allen also describes the act of chasing away the little birds that fly around a person's head when he or she hits his/her head violently. These and many more images populate the book and help make it a great read.

I was amazed at the writing. Don't run into the book scared of its subject. Sit back and enjoy the ride, especially the ride down the stairs and into a pile of charred eggs and pancakes.

Emotions (Love Made Courageous)
Melina Gomez Alvarez
Infinity Publishing
519 West Lancaster Avenue, Haverford, PA 19041-1413
074141404X $12.95

If poetry is a window into the poet's soul, then Milena Gomez Alvarez displays the most beautiful, courageous, fragility that I have ever seen. More than that even, her writing is a window into my own soul. Her words, in the way she uses them, are not only what she feels, but what I feel.

All of the poems in this book are worth the read, but some of them will really stir your heart as a reader. "Caged bird, I beg your leave," a line from the poem I'll Set You Free, continues to haunt me and comfort me at the same time. I'm fascinated with the writing of this poet, and her other readers will be too.

Fritz Von Erich: Master of the Iron Claw
Ron G. Mullinax
Hats Off Books
610 E. Delano Street Suite 104, Tucson, AZ 85705
ISBN: 1587364085 paperback $18.95
ISBN: 1587364077 hardcover $43.95

When I first picked up Ron Mullinax's book, I was clueless about the history of wrestling. My earliest memories of professional wrestling were Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. So it was with a great deal of interest that I picked up his book. That interest will be yours too. For casual fans of wrestling to the die-hards, this is a piece of history that you'll want to read.

It is important to note that it is the personal struggles that this family went through that are the true history of Fritz Von Erich. With amazing detail, Mr. Mullinax relives the trials that made Fritz such an important part of entertainment history. The respect that Mullinax shows Fritz Von Erich is impeccable. In fact, the bulk of the writing is done in first person, directly from Von Erich.

I was blown away by the writing. This is a great book, by a great author, about a great man I never knew until I read Fritz Von Erich: Master of the Iron Claw. You'll agree.

S. Daniel Smith

Sullivan's Bookshelf

A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age
Daniel H. Pink
Riverhead Books
ISBN# 1573223085 $24.95 260 pages/indexed

Certainly the Agricultural Age and the Industrial Age have been long gone from the U.S. But didn't the Information Age just get here? Now that era, according to the author, is over, too. It certainly didn't last long. That's because today jobs can be done as well overseas, and cheaper, also.

The changeover in America is quite evident everywhere you look. Globalization, outsourcing of jobs, corporations relocating overseas, plants closing, unions losing strength, and more. Yes, the U.S. has got troubles in many areas not the least of which in the employment area.

Most Americans during the all too brief Information Age had been taught and trained to do their thinking with the left side of the brain. It encompassed linear, logical, and methodical thinking. And such people as computer programmers, lawyers, medical doctors, bankers, accountants prospered. But that was yesterday.

Now, and in the future, during the Conceptual Age, which the author calls the new age, success goes to those who use, or learn to use, and employ the right side of their brains. That's the creative, intuitive, artistic area. Americans will have to become more creative in order to find personally meaningful and decently compensated work from now on. Artists, designers, conceptualizers, and sythesizers all have a future in this country.

Right-brain thinking has six important components. This half dozen are: design, the concept that a product or service needs to be planned on paper before coming to fruition; story, the item being created has to relate, and be relayed by, a story, anecdote, or meaningful message; symphony, the product or idea has to flow, to fit in, to conform; empathy, to sell any product or service, you must be able to put yourself in another person's shoes to feel his or her emotions and thoughts; play, a big part of the future is coordinating playtime with worktime, for out of such arise usable ideas; and meaning, any effort has to mean something personally to those creating and to those purchasing said product or idea. With all these factors mastered you can confidently face the newly changed worklife in America and thrive not just survive in it. And the best news of all, everyone is capable of becoming a right-brain thinking person. Therefore, the future looks bright.

The author writes, "The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind--computer progammers who could crank out code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind--creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people--artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers--will now reap society's richest rewards and share its greatest joys."

Daniel H. Pink and family reside in Washington DC. He has written an earlier best seller entitled Free Agent Nation. Pink also writes for magaines, among them: Wired, Slate, Salon, and Fast Comany. He also lectures widely.


Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter
Steven Johnson
Riverhead Books
ISBN# 1573223077 $23.95 238 pages

A loud hue and cry is heard around this country today about how children are less intelligent, unprepared for learning, and totally unable to think. It's being blamed on the culture with its new-fangled, supposed time- and brain-wasters: televison, the Internet, video games, and movies. The complaint is that these things are nothing but mindless, numbing entertainment for participants.

But this isn't the case. In fact, the truth is just the reverse. adults, for example, ought to try playing video games with youngsters. The fact is, this is downright difficult to learn and to play. And the challenge encountered in learning, indeed in mastering, the games are mind challenging to say the least.

The same could be said of the Internet. When an adult wants to know more about computers, where does he or she go? To their children, or others like them, of course, That's because they are exceedingly capable of giving easy-to-understand advice and instruction in computer use.

The popular shows on today's TV are far more complicated to watch than they ever were. Plots are intricate, and many assumptons are made in TV programs that require thinking, contrary to the shows of the 50s and 60s. Yes, kids get attached, parents might use the term addicted, to certain programs, but they are, contrary to popular adult opinion, mind enlarging.

Modern movies are in a similar situation. The plots and subplots are numerous and references require a viewer to think and to make connections with the past and with other films and parts of the culture. Definitely, movies are a thinking person's genre of entertainment.

"This book," writes the author, "is an old-fashioned work of persuasion that ultimately aims to convince you of one thing: that popular culture has, on average, grown more complex and intellectually challenging over the past thirty years. Where most commentators assume a race to the bottom and a dumbing down--'an increasingly infantilized society,' in George Will's words--I see a progressive story: mass culture growing more sophisticated, demanding more cognitive engagement with each passing year. Think of it as a kind of positive brainwashing: the popular media steadily, but almost imperceptibly, making our minds sharper, as we soak in entertainment usually dismissed as so much lowbrow fluff. I call this upward trend the Sleeper Curve, after the classic sequence from Woody Allen's mock sci-fi film, where a team of scientists from 2173 are astounded that twentieth-century society failed to grasp the nutritional merits of cream pies and hot fudge."

Steven Johnson has written numerous books, among then, his bestseller: Mind Wide Open. He also writes for many magazines, including Discovery, Slate, and the New York Times Magazine. New York City is home.


Jim Sullivan

Taylor's Bookshelf

Living Words
G. Corwin Stoppel
Cowley Publications
4 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
1561012718 $13.95 1-800-225-1534

A Professor of Religious Studies and an All Saints' Episcopal Church Rector, G. Corwin Stoppel ably and engagingly presents Living Words: The Ten Commandments in the Twenty-First Century, a straightforward discussion of the relevance of the Biblical Ten Commandments to modern life. Living Words explains, in plain and simple terms, why the commandments are beneficial to improving the quality of one's life, to the extent that they reveal a glimpse of life lived according to God's best hopes for the world, and presents them as a framework for personal and corporate relationships alike. Highly recommended reading for both its practical and spiritual dimensions.

Alter Christus
John J. Gilchrist
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Nortre Dame, IN 46556-0428
1594710317 $14.95 1-800-282-1865

During the course of his 47 years of ministry, Msgr. John J. Gilchrist has served as a parish priest, high school teacher, chaplain, and is a columnist for "The Catholic Advocate", the Catholic newspaper for the Archdiocese of Newark. Msgr. Gilchrist draws upon his experiences, studies, and reflections in Alter Christus: St. Paul Speaks To Priests, to provide his fellow clergy with inspired and inspiring insights into being a priest and pastor within the Catholic community. He reveals that being a priest is a calling, not a profession, and the core of priesthood is sacrifice and service. A number of priestly obligations are surveyed and commented upon, including fidelity, the homily, the laity, and love as a priest's primary motivation. Msgr. Gilchrist also comments upon the obligations and opportunities provided the priest to guide the Catholic community of faith in service to the Lord, especially in times of turmoil, strife, and calamity. Enhanced with a bibliography, Alter Christus should be considered as a "must read" for anyone who aspires to the priesthood, all those currently in service to their parish or diocese, and the lay reader with a concern for, and in support of, their clergy.

Reagan's God and Country
Tom Freiling
Regal Books
2300 Knoll Drive, Ventura, CA 93003-7383
0830734791 $10.99

Reagan's God and Country fills in a gap left by many of President Ronald Reagan's biographers, which often overlook, minimize, or even look down upon his strong religious convictions. Author and political campaign consultant Tom Freiling presents portions of every meaningful public address Reagan gave about God, religion, and morality. Each excerpt is a few lines to several paragraphs long, and each refers to a different facet of spirituality and personal convictions concerning tough choices. A profound and meaningful testimony of faith direct from the lips of the Great Communicator president. "If you came upon an immobile body and you yourself could not determine whether it was dead or alive, I think that you would decide to consider it alive until somebody could prove it was dead. You wouldn't get a shovel and start covering it up. And I think we should do the same thing with regard to abortion." - remark to reporter, White House press conference, January 19, 1982.

Jesus: An Intimate Portrait of the Man, His Land, and His People
Leith Anderson
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
0764224794 $19.99 1-800-328-6109

Written by nationally recognized author, speaker, and educator Leith Anderson, Jesus: An Intimate Portrait of the Man, His Land, and His People is the culmination of years of research and offers a straightforward biographical telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Drawing the four Biblical biographies of Jesus into a single story, Jesus: An Intimate Portrait of the Man, His Land, and His People blends a retelling steeped with historical nuances explained with a conversational, storytelling style that makes the account of Jesus' life flow until one hardly realizes the turning of the final pages. Written expressly to bring forth the story of Jesus in an era when so few have paid close attention to it, Jesus: An Intimate Portrait of the Man, His Land, and His People is written for readers of all faiths, and resonates deeply from beginning to end no matter how familiar one is with the New Testament and Jesus' story.

Help! Someone I Love Is Dying
Clydene Locklear
Ragged Edge Press
c/o White Mane Publishing Company
PO Box 708, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0708
1572493666 $7.95 1-888-948-6263

Sensitively written by Clydene Lockler, a devout Christian who survived the loss of her husband to a twenty-month bout with terminal cancer, Help! Someone I Love Is Dying is a powerful and profound guide to surviving the emotions that arise within from saying goodbye to a loved one. Help! Someone I Love Is Dying offers practical advice, quotes from scripture, vignettes, and straightforward responses to hard questions, including the most difficult one of all: Why? Divided into two sections, one addressing coping before death, and one addressing coping after, Help! Someone I Love Is Dying embraces the power of faith and the love of God. A final chapter, titled For Christians Only, expressly discusses eternal life through accepting Jesus Christ as one's savior. A comforting testimony, most attuned to Christians due to the numerous quotes from Scripture, yet offering wisdom and guidance to readers of all faiths.

Dancing Girls, Loose Ladies, and Women of the Cloth
F. Scott Spencer
The Continuum Publishing Group
15 East 26th Street, #17, New York, NY 10010-1505
0826416128 $22.00 1-800-561-7704

Expertly written by F. Scott Spencer (Professor of New Testament at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond), Virginia, Dancing Girls, Loose Ladies, and Women of the Cloth is a collection of seven studies with regard to women referred to in the New Testament, from Jesus' foremothers to slave girls, prophetic daughters, leaders, "loose women", "distressed daughters of Israel" and more. Dancing Girls, Loose Ladies, and Women of the Cloth invites lay readers and Biblical scholars alike to re-examine the women of the era not only through the context of faith and study, but also through the lens of modern feminism. The resulting interpretations raise new questions and provoke thought considering the physical and spiritual role of women in Christ's life. Written in straightforward terms and heavily annotated, Dancing Girls, Loose Ladies, and Women of the Cloth is an ideal book for Biblical study groups or simple individual contemplation.

Everything About The Bible That You Never Had Time To Look Up
W. Milton Timmons, Ph.D.
Xlibris Corporation
436 Walnut Street, 11th floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106
1401069002 $36.99

Informatively and accessibly written by W. Milton Timmons (an academic professor with a Ph.D. in Mass Communications and many years of classroom based curriculum experience), Everything About The Bible That You Never Had Time To Look Up: A Condensed Guide to Biblical Literature is a straightforward summary of not only the Bible itself, but many extra-Biblical books. With a text presented for the non-specialist general reader in plain English, these summaries make the messages of Biblical text readily understandable to readers of all backgrounds. The interpretation is as direct as possible, with no attempt or suggestion to color the summaries according to the author's personal religious beliefs. An absolute "must-read" for novice Biblical scholars and anyone who needs to get a better understanding of the Bible and associated apocrypha quickly.

John Taylor

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

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