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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 6, Number 7 July 2006 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Atwood's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Betsy's Bookshelf Betty's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Burton's Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harold's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf
Lori's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf Lowe's Bookshelf
Magdalena's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Sullivan's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Tailwind: Days of Cottonmouths and Cotton Candy
Lad Moore
BeWrite Books
363 Badminton Road, Nibley, Bristol, BS37 5JF
ISBN: 1904492029, $16.75,

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

Tailwind shines with vignettes that drip like pearls of dew, one at a time, to be savored as cool water on a parched tongue. Each story, replete with humor and pathos, transports the reader to the world of rural East Texas in the mid-twentieth century. Mr. Moore's boyhood was filled with toy soldiers, hot tar on bare feet, fireflies, and shenanigans born of times less electronic, less structured, and certainly less affluent than today.

Imagine sitting around a campfire with a storyteller whose history blazes with events so exotic, so traumatic, and yet so rich that they captivate you with greater intensity than the biggest Hollywood blockbuster. Now, envision the author speaking in a comfortable voice, resonant with humility and humor. This is Lad Moore. This is a writer for all mankind, a universal genius.

Mr. Moore writes with a folksy elegance that is unparalleled in this age. Reminiscent of the great American masters, Tailwind should and will be included as a fundamental part of America's heritage. The ultimate revelation comes when readers discover that Mr. Moore's tales are true – stemming from a tumultuous and difficult childhood in which he was abandoned by his mother at six months, barely raised by a glamorous, oft-absent father, and shipped off to military school at the age of eight. Betrayed by his father's second wife, who stole the family fortune, Mr. Moore suffered poverty with his beloved grandmother, but thankfully was taught of deeper riches via her warm affection and exemplary morality.

Tailwind becomes an extension of one's being. This reader allowed himself a story every few days – stretching the experience as long as possible, relishing each chapter with nostalgic reverence. Take for example, the following vignettes:

In "Bologna Sandwich Ceasefires," young Lad entertains himself with sweetgum armies, creating legions of soldiers from twigs, spent bullet casings, and acorn hulls. Using rubber band missiles, he demolishes entire battalions in an afternoon.

"Cannon fire – sweetgum burs collected in a Mrs. Tucker's lard can – rained down on the standing forces from the hill above them. Shots fell equally, alternating between the armies, with full sound effects coughed out from deep in my throat. After the barrage, casualty count determined the winner and loser. Soldiers that lost their upright stance from the bombardment must be broken in half – not to be recycled. A mass grave awaited them in the storm sewer."

In "Nitelites," young Lad imagines he is a railway signalman, waving firefly "lanterns" in the air as trains rush past in the dark night. He confesses of "smudge pot rolling," as well.
"…rolling smudge pots was worth it. I could suffer a little tennis-shoe cleanup to see the trail of flaming oil spilling out as the pot rolled down the street. On a good hill, and a skillful roll, I could leave a fireline from Hendry's store all the way to the underpass. Sometimes a few magnolia leaves would catch fire and add to the excitement."

In "Solomon of Hardesty Farm," Mr. Moore describes the enduring friendship of young Lad and an elderly black farmhand in times when racial bigotry was common.

"Old Solomon towered over me like a big tree with his little spectacles hanging from his nose like a pine cone, ready to break free and fall….Like a detour barricade, Solomon stood between the grape rows with his hoe, its handle worn slick and stained by the sweat from his hands. He moved in reverse like the fiddler crab zigging in the aisles of dirt."

In "New Cars of Short Duration," Mr. Moore describes the pain of having a callous older brother who wrecked their deceased father's 1956 Buick almost as soon as he claimed it. Describing the incident, Mr. Moore writes, "It had that strange smell of broken windshield glass – an almost sweet odor – like nutmeg and hot plastic." When young Lad harbored hopes of owning a car for himself, they were dashed. "My dreams collapsed like a severed elevator."

Tailwind sings with poetic images of life in small-town America. When one turns the last page, a sense of sorrow descends, akin to bidding farewell to a dear friend. Consolation comes only in the knowledge that Mr. Moore's second book, Odie Dodie, The Life and Crimes of a Travelin' Preacher Man, is now available for purchase.

Deirdre Bair
Little, Brown & Co.
Boston, New York, London
ISBN: 0316076651, $35.00, 881 pp.

Alma Bond

JUNG: A BIOGRAPHY, by the eminent biographer Deirdre Bair, is a meticulously researched, arresting, and well-written book about the great analyst and theorist who is second only to Freud in the annals of psychoanalysis. The biography was authorized by the Jung family, who as his heirs and the recipients of his royalties, have refused access to his archives to those writers they consider unsympathetic to him. Does this make Bair less able to be objective in her assessment of Jung? Perhaps. But then, who among us can be completely impartial?

Carl Gustav Jung was born in 1875 in the vicarage of Kesswil, Switzerland, as the fourth-born but first-surviving child of a poor country parson and his unhappy, troubled wife who believed that she had two personalities. The Jungs were only accidentally Swiss, as Jung's illustrious grandfather, Dr. Med. Carl Gustav I Jung, had been exiled from Germany for political reasons. Rumors abounded (and were boasted of by the subject) that the first Carl Jung was the illegitimate grandson of the great writer, Goethe. That his grandfather was of German heritage and bragged of such distinguished ancestry had a profound influence on young Carl's life. Apparently, the boy was raised to follow in his grandfather's footsteps, both as his namesake and as a physician. It is interesting that as a boy Jung was never referred to at "Pastor's Carl," but always "Dr. Med. Jung's grandson."

Carl was an oddball from the very beginning. A hefty boy much taller than his classmates, he was always bedraggled looking and usually wet and odorous when the weather was bad, as he trudged along on his daily hour and a half walk to school. One morning when he was 13 and walking to school, he had an experience that he said was "the end of his childhood." Feeling as if he were coming out of a fog, he heard himself saying, "I am myself!" Like his mother, he had a vision that he had two personalities within himself, an awkward, clumsy boy at the end of the 19th century and that of an old man living in the 18th century who wore high-buckled shoes, a powdered wig, and drove in a fine carriage. Around the same time he had a recurring daydream in which God was sitting on his throne in Heaven and shit an enormous turd on the cathedral below. Jung reflected upon this fantasy for the rest of his life. I wonder why such lengthy deliberation was necessary. It seems clear from the image what Jung thought of the church.

The first time the 24-year-old Doctor Jung saw Emma Rauschenbach, he entered the house of a friend and beheld a 14-year-old, brown-haired girl halfway up the broad staircase. He was smitten instantly, and knew she would become his wife. Captivated by her intelligence and, undoubtedly, her family fortune, Jung wooed and won the young woman. Despite the reluctance of her father that she wed a penniless doctor, they married. After their first child, Agathe Regina, was born, Emma settled into a routine in which her intellectual ambitions were stymied: "he soared, while she.. took care of the mundane details so that he could" (p. 83). The marriage lasted for the rest of her life, incorporating certain idiosyncrasies unthinkable to most of their world.

Nevertheless, there were three separate occasions when Emma tried to divorce Jung. In each case, he became ill or had a serious accident that necessitated her nursing him back to health
The most serious attempt occurred around Jung's romance with Tony Wolff, a brilliant young woman of 22 who was his patient. Jung was taken with her intellectual stimulation and camaraderie that he evidently was not able to find in his wife. Jung and Toni fell in love and began an affair so serious that for decades Jung referred to her as "his other wife." For reasons of her own, Emma put up with the situation and lived in a triangular relationship for the rest of her life with Jung and Wolff. The arrangement was deeply distressing to Emma, Toni, and the Jung children, if not to the master himself.

Originally beloved by Freud and designated as his Christian "crown prince," his "scientific son and heir," and the man who would rescue psychoanalysis from being dubbed the "Jewish science," the two analysts ended their relationship in a disagreement over Freud's assumption that the root cause of neurosis is sexual repression. My impression is that the rupture upset Freud much more than it did Jung.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book deals with the question of Jung's antisemitism and his sympathy for the Nazi party, the opinion of Freud and many others which followed Jung the rest of his life and still does not go away. Ms. Bair carefully considers the evidence, and comes to the conclusion that Jung cooperated with the Nazis only to ensure the continued existence of psychoanalysis after the demise of the party. Some of us are not so sure. While it is true that he cooperated during World War 11 with Allen Dulles to shed light on the character of Hitler, and was recruited by the OSS to serve the cause of the Allies, I believe that Jung in his heart of hearts was ambivalent about Jews. According to Bair, "He remained affiliated with German psychoanalysis from the Nazi solidification of power in the 1930s through the first years of the war, insisting that his primary reason was to aid disenfranchised Jewish practitioners, but debate still rages almost half a century after his death" (p. 431). Even more condemning are derogatory and inappropriate statements he made about Jewish character and culture, such as that "Freud and Adler had created specifically Jewish doctrines...thoroughly unsatisfying to the German mentality" (p. 435). Jung did not help his case when he spoke of the "antichristianism of the jews"....who are not "so damned innocent after all, (p. 444)" and further suggested that the role of intellectual Jews in pre-war Germany would be interesting to investigate. His major detractors insist that Jung was sympathetic to the Nazis because of his ethnic identity as a German, but the issue has not been settled one way or the other. Perhaps it never will be.

Ms. Bair believes that Jung is now passé, and "remembered chiefly for his psychological autobiography, MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS, and for terms he used such as 'New Age,' 'the age of Aquarius,' 'archtypes,' 'anima' and 'animus.' As a Freudian psychoanalyst, perhaps it is unfair of me to say that history is a better judge of Jung's contributions than his contemporaries. I personally have always considered much of his writing gobbledegook which I rarely was able to use in my practice, and I concur with Ms. Bair that his theories on alchemy, UFOs, and extrasensory perception sometimes verge on the psychotic.

JUNG: A BIOGRAPHY, by Deirdre Bair, is a tour de force, and the definitive biography about the famous analyst. It is doubtful whether another biography will equal its thorough and systematic research, or be better written. If there is a criticism of Ms. Bair's research, however, it concerns "the deficiency of her excellency." Granted, the book delves deeply into the heart and soul of Jung, his close associates and family, so that we feel we know them as living people. But are 881 pages really required to accomplish that feat? Wouldn't careful research and fine writing provide similar insight? Certainly the lengthy section which deals with Jung's difficulties in getting his books ready for publication could be cut drastically without lessening the value of the biography. In any event, this reader (who, incidentally, finds it difficult while reading to handle so hefty a book), is frequently told more than she really needs to know.

Nevertheless, because of its immaculate scholarship, excellent writing, and absorbing story, JUNG: A BIOGRAPHY is highly recommended to people who love biographies, to students of psychology and psychoanalysis, and all those who enjoy a good read.

The Saint Botolph's Review No.2
David Andrews Ross and Daniel Weissbort, editors
Viper Press
3 Powys Gardens, London, NW11 8HH, UK
ISBN: 0955292506, $18.00 US / 10 Brit. pounds, 34 pp.

(Send Cheques Only with postal address to Viper Press.)

Ann Skea, Reviewer

'Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes': these linked names, like 'Cathy and Heathcliff' now resonate with a whole romantic, tragic story, but this story began just fifty years ago when a new literary magazine, the Saint Botolph's Review, was launched.

In 1956, like all those involved with the Review, Sylvia and Ted were young, unknown Cambridge undergraduates. Sylvia, at 24, was an American Fulbright Scholar who had been up at Cambridge for just a few months. Ted, at 26, was (as he wrote in Birthday Letters) "sitting youth away" in a temporary office job in London and "received / Into Alma Mater" at weekends to be with his friends.

Ted and his friends shared a love of poetry and song. They met regularly at a local Cambridge pub to talk, drink and sing old folk-songs. They also sometimes met in the garden of the Saint Botolph's rectory, where one of them, Lucas Myers, had lodgings in a converted chicken shed. Their decision to create and publish a new magazine was a youthful, but serious, challenge to the accepted literary fashions of the time, and on February 25th, 1956, at a memorable party, Saint Botolph's Review was launched and Ted and Sylvia met for the first time.

Both Sylvia and Ted wrote (not entirely accurately) about this party and so it has become the stuff of legend. But the Review languished, those who wrote it, produced it and launched it went on with their lives, and only a few copies survived for scholars and collectors eventually to haggle over.

Now, fifty years later, the Saint Botolph's Review No.2 has appeared. It was always intended that the Review would be "published occasionally", but this second occasion has been so long in coming that David Andrews Ross, who remains the editor, writes that "many of the people who attended the enormous party to launch the first issue ... must now be dead". He mentions Joe Lyde, whose band (with Joe on trumpet) provided the music; Ted whose poetry was included in the first Review; and Sylvia, who danced with Lucas Myers (another early contributor, but still very much alive) and who, in a romantic encounter with Ted that night, lost her hairband and bit Ted so hard on the cheek that he wore the "ring-moat of tooth-marks" for the next month.

Daniel Weissbort, who was dragged, groggy with a bad cold, to play the piano in Joe's band at that memorable party, has worked with David Ross to edit and produce this second issue. Lucas Myers, Daniel Huws, Than Minton, George Weissbort, all of whom contributed to the first issue, have provided new material. And others, who at various times over the years have shared their interests are included.

Inevitably Sylvia and Ted are remembered: especially in an essay by Lucas Myers, who was a lifelong friend of Ted's - "one / Among those three of four who stay unchanged / Like a separate self" (as Ted wrote in 'Visit' in Birthday Letters). Myers records his own memories of the couple and he writes of Sylvia's "varied voices" in her letters and journals and of the distorted view these sometimes gave people of Ted's character.

Ted's own previously unpublished introduction to poems by Susan Alliston attests his essential generosity of spirit. Sue was a neighbour of his at 18 Rugby Street in London and she is memorialized in the Birthday Letters poem of that title. She is the woman in the poem who, three years after Sylvia's death, was pacing the floor, "dying of leukemia" (actually, of Hodgkin's disease). Daniel Weissbort and Olwyn Hughes found Sue's poems in her flat after her death and when Daniel suggested publishing them Ted wrote this introduction. Shortly after this, Daniel and David Ross set up the Viper Press "planning to publish a few books" but the project never went ahead. Only now, "a few decades later", have they revived the Viper Press because, as David Ross says, they want to celebrate "pieces of good writing, poetry and prose, which we think worth reading".

In 1956, the contents list of the first issue of Saint Botolph's Review read as follows:

Poems by:

David Ross
E. Lucas Myers
Daniel Huws
Daniel Weissbort
Ted Hughes

An Impression in Hospital, Than Minton

Aunt Palestine's Girl, E. Lucas Myers

Letter from a Painter, George Weissbort

Now, in 2006, the contents of Saint Botolph's Review No.2 are:


Lucas Myers: The Voices of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes: Susan Alliston: An Introduction
Susan Alliston: Poems
David Ross: The People Plague
Daniel Huws: Poems
Nathaniel Minton: Possibilities for the resolution of Tribal Warfare
Les Murray: Poem
Daniel Weissbort: From Life and Songs
Kathy Duggan: Poem
George Weissbort: The Neglected Art of Looking at Art
Tom Hoogewerf: Poems
Lenrie Peters: A United Africa?
Ann Skea: Poems
Posy Simmonds: Drawing
Biographical Notes

Only 200 copies of Saint Botolph's Review No.2 have been printed. A third edition may be available in 2056 - or perhaps a little earlier.

Jack – A Life of C. S. Lewis
George Sayer
Crossway Books
Wheaton, Illinois
ISBN: 1581347391, $13.99, 457 pp.

Brenda Daniels

I chose this book to review because I enjoy biographies. As a Christian, and English language graduate, I began reading the works of author and religious writer, C. S. Lewis, and thought that a record of the author's life would be interesting and illuminating.

Many books have been written about C. S. Lewis and his prolific work. Whilst this book claims only to be a life of Lewis, and not the sole work on him, it is a fairly comprehensive and chronological record. Sayer, a personal friend of Lewis, writes objectively, painting a balanced portrait of Jack (as he was known to his friends). He is open about Jack's early practice of masturbating. He also defends Jack's father, Albert Lewis, against Jack's "(despising) his father for what he regarded as Albert's lack of culture" p74, evenly describing Albert as a "remarkably well-read" man who tried hard to be a companion as well as a father to his sons. Of Jack's Oxford days, Sayer records that many students had the impression that Jack hated teaching. In his defense, though, Sayer describes Jack's demeanour towards his students as unfailingly courteous, genial and cheerful. Of Jack's wife, Joy, Sayer openly admits that most of his friends "did not like her" p357. He describes Jack's strange relationship with Mrs Moore and the initial 'legal-only' marriage to Joy, followed later by Christian vows.

In a balanced portrait of the author Sayer also describes Jack's lifelong commitment to friendship (p390), his sensitivity as a young boy, his brilliance as an academic, his journey towards faith and his love for Joy, the woman he married late in his life before her death only three years later. On page 369 Sayer says that: "Although (Joy and Jack) were often both in great physical pain, it was the happiest period of their lives." Jack also had a deep appreciation for nature, right up to the time of his death. Sayer describes a visit he and Jack made to Woburn estate: "We sat on a fallen tree trunk, and Jack gazed radiantly at the elegant little animals and adored the God who had created them" (p402).

True to the chronological form, Sayer describes Jack's works as he wrote them. Jack's work was prolific and included in excess of 50 books as well as letters and radio broadcasts.

Sayer not only mentions Jack's works but he comments on and critiques them as well. Works such as The Allegory of Love, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, Surprised by Joy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and popular works like The Chronicles of Narnia are all mentioned. This makes the book substantial reading and will appeal to Lewis devotees as well as those with an interest in literature. However, the author's language is accessible and he balances commentary with personal details of Jack's life. This ensures a more general audience appeal.

Sayer's book balances interesting academic critique with personal details. In keeping with the academic nature of Jack's and Sayer's work and lives, this book maintains as objective a standpoint as possible. However, it is on the whole a biography of a personal life and all that encompasses, including Jack's early life, the loss of his mother, the war years, his relationship with his alcoholic brother, illness, grief and death. In the afterword, Sayer defends Jack's Christianity and his morality. The book ends with Jack's death from renal failure. Warren, his brother, could not bear to attend the funeral or face life without his beloved SPB (Smallpigiebotham – Warren's lifelong nickname for Jack). Such personal references I found exceedingly touching and was left with a feeling of great sadness for a brilliant and private man who found intimacy only late in life and lost it so soon after finding it. His work was his passion and his extensive personal library his treasure. I view Jack in much the same way.

Jack includes an extensive bibliography of books by and about C. S. Lewis, notes and an index.

Beyond the Breakwater (third printing)
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
available from Bella Books, StarCrossed Productions or
ISBN: 1933110066, $15.95, 320 pp.

Cheri Rosenberg

Beyond the Breakwater by Radclyffe is a memorable lesbian romance. It is evident that in each of her novels, Radclyffe displays excellent character development, strong plot lines, and satisfying conflict resolutions. Picking up where Safe Harbor, the beginning of the Provincetown Tales left off, the sequel is equally enthralling. Sheriff Reese Conlon and Dr. Tory King are more in love than ever and they are planning to take their relationship to the next level. About to become parents, it is refreshing to watch how Reese worries and protects Tory during her pregnancy. The love and intimacy they share is the highlight of the book. Reese is one of those characters you can't help but love completely and wish for ultimate happiness. She's one of a kind and a genuinely good person through and through. Tory is equally wonderful and you just know they will make wonderful parents.

As much as it is great to revisit Reese and Tory, Beyond the Breakwater is Bri Parker's story too. Bri and her girlfriend Carre, both twenty, deal with being young lesbians growing up in a less than tolerant world along with outside distractions and temptations. They are trying to find their way into adulthood, responsibility, and their respective careers. Bri makes choices out of love without consulting Carre and unexpectedly leaves her in Manhattan to go home to Provincetown. Can a long distance relationship survive? Are Bri and Carre committed enough to one another to weather any storm? Radclyffe gets into the minds of her characters and accurately portrays her character's hopes, dreams, growth, angst, and joys. The strengths and weaknesses of all her characters make them as real as they can be.

I highly recommend Beyond the Breakwater because Radclyffe gives readers exactly what they expect in a romance novel. To her credit, the author never bogs the story down with superfluous details. Even when the scene changes from Reese and Tory to Bri and Carre, it enriches the story since it's easy to care about more than one couple. I enjoy the way Radclyffe employs different techniques to convey the plot. Whether using the action as it unfolds or relaying past events through the eyes of her characters, Radclyffe knows how to make it interesting and how to hold the reader's attention. Don't miss Beyond the Breakwater. It has sizzling sex, terrific character growth, and a story you won't soon forget. The Lambda Literary Award winning sequel, Distant Shores, Silent Thunder, is also a finalist for a Golden Crown Literary Society award, and deservedly so. Radclyffe is one author you can count on to deliver a book you will enjoy because it is life affirming, romantic, and packs an emotional punch that will leave you invested in the characters, and wishing they were part of your life.

To the White Sea
James Dickey
Dell Publishing
New York City, NY
ISBN: 0385313098, $11.95, 275 pp.

Christopher Baldwin

"A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of laughter more terrible than any sadness---a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility."
----Jack London

To the White Sea is a brutal, lyrical odyssey of an American's trek across World War Two Japan from Honshu to the snowy wastes of Hokkaido, the northernmost island. Compared to Jack London, master of the primeval tale, James Dickey, the author of Deliverance, is even more primitive, if that is possible. For while London described the ferocity he found in the struggle of man and beast to survive in the northern wild, Dickey's narrator is striving to become an animal in the wasteland.

Everything in this story told by Muldrow, a mythological Anthropos or Primordial Man as Dickey constructs him, is of his senses: the blue-gray hue of a winter sky; the stench of sewage; the rumble of bombed buildings collapsing in sections; the wail of panicked Tokyo crowds lumbering through charred streets like a cattle-herd.

But in order for the narrator to reach the ice of the North, the fire in Tokyo must first light the way. On the night of March 9, 1945, Muldrow, tail gunner on a B-29 Superfortress, takes off from Tinian Island along with three-hundred and fifty bombers. The day before, a Colonel has detailed what is in store for the people of Japan:

"We are going to bring it to him. Fire. Up yonder. Up yonder to the north. North and fire. We're going to put him in it. We're going to put fire all around him. We're going to put it over him and underneath him. We're going to bring it down on him and on to him. We're going to put it in his eyes and up his asshole, in his wife's twat and in his baby's diaper. We're going to put it in his pockets, where he can't get rid of it. White phosphorous, that'll hold on. We're going to put it in his dreams. Tokyo is going to remember us."

This raid is the climax of a three-month firebombing campaign designed by Air Force General Curtis LeMay to end the war by burning the Japanese nation to a cinder. Loaded to the gills with incendiaries, the Superforts conduct the most devastating raid of all, worse even than what will come to Hiroshima in August, obliterating 16 square residential miles in Tokyo and killing 85,000 civilians. Built essentially of teakwood and bamboo, floods of fire roll, roil, and gush through the buildings, streets, and infrastructure of Japan in an all-consuming torrent. At ground zero the temperature rockets to 1800 degrees. Canals boil over, metals melt, and human beings burst spontaneously into flames.

Muldrow parachutes onto the edge of this inferno when his ship is blasted by flak, and lands near the Tokyo docks where he holes up in the cockpit of a crane and then in a sewer pipe. He plans to weave his way out of the city in the pandemonium and make for the countryside where avoiding people is easier, and then move north like a migrating caribou.

Equipped only with his G.I. emergency kit containing a tiny map, knife, fish hooks, twine, flints, a compass and flashlight, he is nonetheless uniquely suited to survive. Raised by his father on Alaska's Brooks Range, he has learned to stalk game, traverse glaciers, navigate through ice lakes in kayak and snowshoes, stay warm, make shelter, and keep camouflaged like the snowshoe hare. Of his prowess he says, "I could outthink any animal or bird that lived in the cold, by thinking more like he did than he could do."

The Wild is not his problem; the problem is getting there safely, through a rabid populace that will tear an American soldier to pieces. To illustrate the danger, Muldrow, skulking in the hills, witnesses a downed flier decapitated by a mob and the severed head kicked about like a soccer ball.

Guided by Polaris, he eventually manages to hop a train and lie hidden in the wood of a log-carrying freight car. Far from feeling fear or dread over his predicament, Muldrow is a happy man, reveling in his element. With the night train chugging forward under a full moon, he spins a fantasy of Alaska, imagining himself as a lynx standing atop a hill with others of his kind, then plunging into a herd of caribou and cutting out a calf while the frightened herd thunders off. Howling in his fantasy, he lets loose for real on the train--- there is no one to hear him--- throwing back his head and howling lustily at the star-studded sky, baying the moon. "What had me," he says, "was more than I was. I couldn't help myself and didn't want to."

With this scene we begin to glimpse the depth and power of the novel. For Muldrow is clearly in the grip of an archetype, an enduring primordial image of himself as a man-beast, simultaneously hunter and hunted, predator and prey. The motif of the man-beast, whether called a Werewolf, a Minotaur, a Yeti, or some other name, is common to all cultures in all times. And true time, as an American Buddhist monk whom he meets explains, is the time of the psyche which is eternal; the human psyche intrinsically possesses and passes on a race-memory that draws it back even to its own origins, to the world of pure instinct. "You are two people," the monk says. "One lives in the mechanical time of the clock. The other one watches what the first one does. He watches from the dream, when the spirit comes loose from the clock. The second self can go backward in time." The theme of de-evolution, of an atavistic descent into the unconscious, will reach full flower in the story's climax.

Despite capture and a savage beating by Japanese soldiers, Muldrow engineers a daring escape and at last arrives at the strait, where he steals a boat and rows across what he conceives of as a white sea, the heart of ice, to Hokkaido and the North of his dreams. In a snow swept forest he tracks a herd of goat-like creatures and, after a vicious goring, Muldrow kills a bull. He then settles down in the snow and feasts with gusto on raw animal-flesh, hoping to ingest its mana, its spirit, man predatory and primitive as any brute that ever lived: "I started to eat, first off the hip and then up around the spine, bringing the blood in too, as much as I could get. Don't let anybody ever tell you blood is not good to drink… They say about the wolverine that it will never be driven off a kill, that it'll die before it will leave what it's eating. I could believe it; I out-ate any wolverine."

In the Wild he meets and shares food with an ancient hunter. Fascinated by his knowledge, Muldrow remains with him and learns the ways of his hawks, inheriting them after the old man dies. When, in a symbolic conclusion Muldrow at long last achieves his heart's desire---the death of his human body--- his soul begins to molt and he metamorphoses into a great-winged bird of prey. Though at first glance this may seem silly, the climax was actually being prepared on the book's second page and the entire narrative bent was toward this end. Obviously for

Dickey there is more honor among the animals of the world than among men. Much better, then, to be one of them. After all, it was not the caribou nor the hawks nor the bears that burned down Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Man-made and technological, a forbidden fruit plucked from the tree of consciousness, fire here represents the worst attributes: cruelty, corruption, lust for domination, naked aggression, murderousness. Though beasts may be, in Jack London's phrase, "red in tooth and claw," they live and die by natural selection and are without evil purpose, without malice, without sin. Those distinctions are reserved for man. Dickey contrasts animals hunting food in the pristine north of immutable cold to the human butchers down below, hauling the hellfire of war along behind them with both hands.

To the White Sea is a very fine novel, beautifully crafted, with the incidents arranged in perfect order and building admirable tension before exploding in a worthy finale. It is full of haunting, numinous imagery and possesses a splendid simplicity and economy of language in harmony with its elemental theme. This is unsurprising, coming as it does from the pen of a major American poet. If the plot strains credulity---how predictable that Muldrow proves to be an Alaskan survivalist---(it would have been far more interesting had Dickey made him an accountant), that is a small price to pay for the creation of a modern myth.

The Tree Sitter
Suzanne Matson
W. W. Norton & Co
500 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10110
ISBN: 0393060462, $23.95, 246 pp.

Coletta Ollerer

Julie Prince, a girl from a well-to-do & highly achieving family, meets Neil & finds herself enchanted. Observing him at a party she noticed "the tilt of his head when he listened, the way he'd cock an eyebrow skeptically, the silent nodding he'd do through someone's point when you could tell he'd already anticipated what they were going to say. I could see he was smart." (p.18) Neil is a dedicated environmentalist. His graduate studies look as if they will lead to a life in higher echelons of the halls of environmental academia. She has finished her third year at Wellesley & agrees to go when he suggests they spend the summer in the endangered forests of Oregon with a group of activists. "I began to want the forest the way I wanted Neil -- its dampness, sharp smell, furred outline, protective arms, and softly breathing dark. I agreed to go." (p.28)

They trek into the deep forest to meet the others. The trail was confusing but they went forward & came across a deer that stopped & stared at them, then moved on. "We kept our part of the silence around us, and when we went forward into the space the deer had emptied, I imagined I was stepping into her neutral calm, her peace. And so began my bargain with the woods." (p.58)

They agreed to tree-sit, that is, to occupy a platform in suspension ten stories from the forest floor close to the trunk of the tree itself. This was in rebellion against those who would cut the very old growth tree down. "I felt perfectly safe, as long as I lay stretched out between Neil and the tree trunk, and I was lulled by a swaying sensation, perhaps imagined." (p.87) She was scared at first but she found that she loved it. Sometime during their stay in the tree the tree cutters began to shout & swear at them. They were warned that it was unsafe to remain in the tree longer as the loggers would cut trees around them & they might get hurt. Julie became angry then at the intruders. "I did know rage suddenly played a role in what I believed. I had met the enemy." (p.130)

The thought of returning to city life seems repugnant to Julie "the pavements, the sidewalks and traffic." (p.137) She loved the "ever-present undervoices of the woods, its hoots and whistles, rustling and high-pitched cries... How to describe how the air and light seemed to permeate my cells, the oxygen sparkling there, my neurons relaxing away from unnatural electric light at unnatural hours." (p.138)

The euphoria fades as she sees Neil becoming interested in the more extreme reactions to loggers & a society that seems uninterested in his agenda for reform. She finds it necessary to take a closer look at what she has become involved in.

I enjoyed this foray into the lives of environmental activists & began to understand their dedication. Their camp in the woods has its charms & it's easy to see how one would become enchanted with the natural surroundings & the camaraderie of those who occupy that life style. Suzanne Matson's writing gifts take us right into the events. She's an exceptional novelist & the story moves along swiftly & with great energy. A pleasurable read.

52 McGs
edited by Chris Calhoun
Citadel Press / Kensington Books
ISBN: 0806524685, $12.95, 192 pp.

Dan Schneider, Reviewer

Certainly more wasteful books (in terms of unrecycled paper and deforestation, as well as intellectual inertia) have been published than 52 McGs, edited by Chris Calhoun, which is a collection of fifty-two of the supposedly most interesting, and well-written, of seven hundred or so obituaries published by a New York Times writer named Robert McGill Thomas, Jr. But even the vapid prose of such hacks as Elizabeth Wurtzel, Dave Eggers, Maya Angelou, Joyce Carol Oates, T.C. Boyle, and David Foster Wallace, can at least be defended by stating that there may have actually been an attempt at something creative going on, despite their repeated failures. This book, a 192 page paperback, put out in 2001, a year after Thomas himself died of cancer, by the Citadel Press, however, could not be more pointless, despite its grandiose subtitle: The Best Obituaries From Legendary New York Times Writer Robert McG. Thomas, Jr.

The book tries to hagiographize Thomas, an anomic writer of little renown, beforehand, into death's equivalent of Ring Lardner, the famed sportswriter, or H.L. Mencken, the famous curmudgeonly social critic. To read the gushing foreword by novelist Thomas Mallon, one would believe that the only reason the New York Times stayed afloat in the 1990s was due to the scintillating prose of McG., whose reign as the obit writer of record lasted a mere decade, and the death-thirsty public's appetite for his ever so slight spinning of the traditional form. And I do say slight, since that's all that occurs within these pages. Yes, McG. did add in quirky details about his subjects, that others would not have done, but while that works for about twelve to fifteen of the most notable decedents - such as pool hustler Minnesota Fats; Edward Lowe, the inventor of Kitty Litter; celebrity aviator Douglas 'Wrong Way' Corrigan; and Three Stooges comic foil Emil Sitka, the majority of the profiles in this book are of incredibly average people, whose claims to fame were dubious, and the telling of those claims, by McG. a bit bloated and forced. And, while the introduction of the claims may be a notable innovation, the prose with which they are conveyed is rather ho-hum. If you've ever read the vapid dronings of a food critic at an arts alternative newsweekly, you will get the level of 'innovation' and depth' this book, and the writer, can justly claim for the obituary form.

In short, while there is little doubt his columns were a bit humorous, there is also little doubt that a book like this is an exemplary example of everything that's wrong in publishing today. The only way such a work could ever see print is through a network of cronyism. I wonder who at Citadel Press was Calhoun's contact, or ex-frat buddy? Or did the New York Times, itself, de facto subsidize this book? Because, there is simply no way that a book like this could ever sell outside of Manhattan- and I know it didn't, for I found my copy of it languishing at a markdown bargain book table at a Barnes & Noble, here in Texas, for a mere buck. Does the publishing industry have such contempt for the reading public that it feels it can forcefeed such pointless material and the masses will lap it up? I guess so. Does it really believe that listings of marginally interesting celebrity wannabes has more interest than real stories of real human characters?

Perhaps so, but it does the intelligent reader little good, as this book is three quarters skimmable, and certainly not, as some of the book's blurbs claim, a work by a 'masterful writer who transformed the obituary into an art form.' Nor does McG. delve into any 'deeper truths.' In fact, the book is a veritable ode to the short attention spans, dumbing down of complex issues into sound bites, and general lack of depth that modern American readers have been wired into with the cyber-revolution. The obits go on for only a couple of pages, yet they give no real depth nor context to the dead, and only highlight their most freakish, inane, or pitiable deficiencies. That these obits were somehow nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 says all one needs to know about the contemptible intellectual rape of our culture. That said, these obituaries are not poorly written, in any way, shape, nor form, but given the strictures of the obituary, this book is like a love song to the 'art' of business letter writing, and hailing a writer who developed a closing to rival Sincerely, or Regards, as a master to rival Herman Melville.

Here is a sample of the 'great stylings' from McG., in his obit titled Minnesota Fats, A Real Hustler With A Pool Cue, Is Dead:

Although his frequent claim that he had never lost a game 'when the cheese was on the table,' was more fabrication than exaggeration, according to his first wife, Mr. Wanderone [Fats' real name] was in fact a master hustler who tended to be just as good as he needed to be when he needed to be.

Well, sorry, but if this is the sort of prose that makes one a 'legend' to the New York Times, these days, I can state with certainty that the truly great journalist/writers of the past- Lardner, Mencken, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Oscar Wilde- have little to fear in regards to usurpation of their laurels with this work.

Thus, it is not without some irony that I can state that the actually best written and most moving McG. in the book is the only one not written by McG., himself, but about his own death, and written by a Michael T. Kaufman. In it, we get a real sense of a man, not a hit and miss semi-satire, which was the deceased's forte. Clearly, this book was a labor of love, by Calhoun, who is identified merely as a fan of McG.'s (ok, a fan of obits, sheesh!) but it is simply not a joy to read, even for its handful of genuinely funny moments. In a sense, this book could be considered a McG. on the relevance of the modern publishing industry, which is so creatively and ethically bankrupt that it must spoon pabulum like this to readers too lethargic and narcotized to care that they are being insulted.

The industry is survived by millions of disappointed readers still hoping for wit, enlightenment, and publishers who will choose to engage them as beings with a brain.

Making Him Want It
Renee Luke
850 Third Avenue, New York, New York 10022
ISBN 0758214464, $13.95, 261 pp.

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

In "Making Him Want It," erotica writer Kit finds that she's fresh out of material to submit to her literary agent. Instead of relying on the visual props she keeps at home to break her out of her slump (professionally and sexually), she decides to get some firsthand experience to break free. She later meets a tall, dark and handsome (not to mention well-endowed) stranger at a night spot and after sizing him up decides a one-night stand with him should awaken her inner-freak and get her a bit of satisfaction for herself. Little does she know, the stranger is her literary agent Jamal, whom she has never set eyes on before. That is, until now.

"Making Him Want It" is a titillating twist on the boy meets girl routine with enough sensuality in it to make you wish you had a lover on the spot to experience it (or experiment) with. Renee Luke is a mighty fine writer who paints a masterful picture with exquisite detail. Something tells me that Luke is a pen name for a literary great who may be using the erotica market to pay the bills. Though this novel is a bit predictable, it still causes me to yearn for more of her work, especially with a little more substance. This book is muy caliente and perfect for the Zane crowd. Recommended.

Murder on a Philosophical Note: Blood on the Lake Path
Shelley Glodowski
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741431939 $14.95

Shelly Fredman

Fans of Shelley Glodowski's Murder on the Wrong Note won't be disappointed by her latest endeavor. Murder on a Philosophical Note reunites the likeable cast of characters in a new murder mystery. Professor Robert McIntyre is brutally murdered as he goes out jogging one morning before work. He leaves behind a loving wife and two young daughters. Who could have performed such a dastardly deed--and why? Former cop Samantha Peters and her boyfriend, FBI agent Ian Temple have just set up shop as private detectives near the university where McIntyre's body has been discovered. Sam's cousin Anni works at the university and knows the widow. She convinces her cousin to find the murderer and bring him to justice.

Glodowski is a colorful writer and she paints a vivid picture of the town of Madison Wisconsin, where the murder takes place. Her detailed descriptions of setting and historical sites lend a very realistic feel to the novel. There are plenty of twists and turns in this book to keep the reader guessing about who killed the professor. Sam and Ian have a large extended family who help them and lend emotional support. The characters created by Ms. Glodowski will stay with you and leave you wanting more.

The Original I Ching: The Pure and Complete Texts in Concordance
Translated by Rudolf Ritsema & Shantena Augusto Sabbadini
Watkins Publishing
Sixth Floor, Castle House, 75-76 Wells Street, London W1T 3QH
ISBN: 1842931490, $36.33 US / $49.95 AU, 851 pp.

Rose Glavas, Reviewer

The notion of this being the 'original' I Ching, carefully translated by obvious experts in this field appeals to me immensely, since I like the concept of being able to go directly to the source of information rather than through many different layers of interpretation by a variety of people and in the end being distorted (a bit like 'Chinese Whispers'!).

'The Original I Ching Oracle' was inspired by Carl Gustav Jung's insights into the psyche and has been researched for more than 60 years through the Eranos Foundation of Switzerland. This stunning new work presents the oracular core of the 'I Ching' as a psychological tool. The Eranos Foundation began in 1933 in Switzerland and is an East/West research centre.

Rudolf Ritsema had a long history with the Eranos Foundation as the director for 30 years until his retirement. This book is the fruit of his life long involvement with the original texts. Shantena Augusto Sabbadini has a background as a theoretical physicist and joined the Eranos circle in 1991. He has been actively involved ever since then.

The book itself is as comprehensive as I thought it would be and actually covered a lot more about the I Ching than I thought it would. For example, I found out how to use coins to use this oracle which is handy in that most cultures have access to coins. The book also covers the use of the traditional yarrow-stalk method of using the I Ching oracle.

Part One includes an introduction to the oracle, consultation procedure and language used in the oracle, as well as myth and history and correlative thinking. An extensive note listing and index to Part One is included. It is important to read about the proper consultation procedure if you want to get full benefit from using this ancient oracle.

Part Two gives a listing of each of the 64 hexagrams followed by extensive exploration of each of them. I like the way the original text is in red with additional interpretative material printed in black, leaving you to explore the symbolic meaning for yourself, if you choose to.

Part Three, Concordance, lists all the occurrences of each term appearing in the texts of the Yi Jing (I Ching). What a mammoth task! I certainly don't envy the authors this mammoth task, particularly since they have done a spectacular job in putting it all together in a coherent way. When you stop to think about the complexity of the information found in these texts, you will know what I mean.

In summary, I would highly recommend 'The Original I Ching Oracle' for the reader who has an interest in the occult, synchronicity, eastern mysticism or the person looking for THE book on the I Ching. It is comprehensive, educational and practical, allowing the everyday person the opportunity to consult an oracle that was originally brought to the West through Jesuit missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the overall scheme of things, a few hundred years isn't a long time to wait for a book of this quality!

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way To Understand Why People Around The World Live And Buy As They Do
Clotaire Rapaille
BroadWay Books
Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, MD 6-3, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0767920562, $24.95, 208 pp.

Peter Hupalo

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way To Understand Why People Around The World Live And Buy As They Do by Clotaire Rapaille examines how different cultures view products, events, and concepts. Rapaille argues each product makes a unique imprint on members of any given culture. This imprint can be described in only a few words. For example, Rapaille says the American code for cars is "Identity," while the German code for cars is "Engineering."

For the last thirty years, Rapaille, a cultural anthropologist, has helped international companies learn and understand these cultural codes by examining how consumers really feel about products. Rapaille worked with Chrysler to discover the code for Jeep. The American code for Jeep is "Horse," a go-anywhere vehicle. Based on this, Rapaille suggested replacing square headlights with round ones, because horses have round eyes. Luxury interiors weren't part of the code. The Jeep was then successfully marketed as a "horse" in America. In France and Germany, Jeeps were seen differently. People there associate them with the WWII liberation of Europe. Chrysler marketed Jeeps in Europe as symbols of freedom.

According to Rapaille, most cultural imprints occur by a very early age. In America, many people love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, because they ate as children. People associated the sandwiches with care and attention from mom. In other cultures the sandwiches might not have been imprinted at all.

Cars also have a strong, positive imprint in America. Rapaille writes: "[Children] imprint the thrills associated with cars in their youth. Americans love cars and they love going out in them. Throughout the discovery sessions, participants told stories of their excited parents bringing home a new car, about the enjoyment and bonding that comes from families going out for drives together on the weekend, about the breathtaking first ride in a sports car. American children learn at an early age that cars are an essential and vaunted part of family life, that they bring joy and even family unity. When it is time for them to buy a car, this emotional connection guides them subconsciously. They want a car that feels special to them. …"

Based upon his understanding of the American code for cars, Rapaille helped Chrysler develop the concept for the PT Cruiser. Rapaille writes: "It became obvious to me that because the emotion associated with driving and owning a car is so strong, the PT Cruiser needed to be a car people could feel strongly about. It needed to have a distinctive identity to justify such strong emotions. To create a strong identity and a new car at the same time, we decided to tap into something that already existed in the culture, a familiar unconscious structure. The one we chose was the gangster car, the kind of vehicle Al Capone famously drove. This became the PT Cruiser's signature. It lent the car an extremely strong identity—there is nothing like it on the road today—and the customer responded. Again, if the Cruiser had been just another sedan, the public probably wouldn't have even noticed it, but its distinctiveness tapped into something very emotional."

In addition to products, concepts like beauty, youth, health, home, dinner, money, shopping, luxury, work, and perfection are also imprinted with certain subconscious associations. Rapaille examines how each of these is imprinted in American culture. The George H.W. Bush campaign even hired Rapaille to discover the cultural code for the American Presidency.

While many of Rapaille's insights seem spot on, a few seem to be a bit of a stretch. Rapaille suggests being overweight isn't a problem, but a solution. He says the American code for fat is "checking out." This means people get fat, so they can withdraw from society. That seems a bit like asking for the cultural code for gravity. It doesn't necessarily have a cultural explanation. It really seems more an issue of food tasting good and calories in and calories out at the waist. For marketers who want to better understand some of the cultural reasons why Americans behave as we do, I recommend The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way To Understand Why People Around The World Live And Buy As They Do by Clotaire Rapaille.

How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories on eBay
Charlene Davis
Entrepreneur Press
Irvine, CA
ISBN: 1599180057, $12.95, 189 pp.

Leslie Halpern, Reviewer

This Entrepreneur Pocket Guide offers sound business advice for anyone interested in establishing an online business selling clothing, shoes, and accessories, eBay's second-largest category. Davis provides suggestions ranging from general (why a 99-cent starting bid works best for popular items) to the specific (which children's clothing brands sell best online).

In an easy-to-read style, "How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories on eBay" offers ideas based on the author's own selling experiences combined with insight from eBay PowerSellers, i.e., online sellers with quantity, quality, and longevity. The book is punctuated by helpful sidebars with additional information, such as how to accurately measure garments for the perfect fit and how to take effective photographs to display items on eBay.

The book also teaches readers where to find clothing bargains, how to price and market items for maximum online sales, how to safely wrap and ship products, how to run your business safely and ethically, and how to provide great customer service. The final chapter, "Snags, Snarls, and Snickers," is a potpourri of seller anecdotes intended to inform and entertain the reader.

Although focused on clothing, shoes, and accessories, much of the material in this book can be used for buying and selling a variety of products, both online and at your local department stores, outlet malls, consignment stores, and thrift shops. A resource guide, glossary, and index provide extra information for getting newbies started on their eBay business.

The Healthy Pet Manual: A Guide to the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer
Deborah Straw
Healing Arts Press
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
ISBN: 1594770573, $14.95, 273 pp.

Linda Davis Kyle, Reviewer

George Eliot's words, "Animals are such agreeable friends -- they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms," sums up the universally shared feelings of pet care givers who treasure their animals. If you are one of the thousands of people who appreciate the joyful companionship of pet cats, dogs, ferrets, guinea pigs, and rabbits as family members, then Deborah Straw's truly excellent book, The Healthy Pet Manual, is a must read for you. A glance at Straw's table of contents previews the comprehensive coverage that follows in her rich storehouse of beautifully written and well-documented information. She discusses environmental concerns such as indoor pollutants and how to avoid them by looking for "toxin-free" products, "green-label" carpets, "clean air choice" paints, and by not using any woods or other items that contain urea formaldehyde.

Doubtless, you know already that household cleaning products -- detergents, bleaches, window and toilet bowl cleaners, as well as other specialty cleaners -- can be deadly to animals, but she reminds you and shares a list of especially dangerous chemicals found in commercial cleaning products that Amy Carlton enumerated in her article, "Spring Cleaning: Using Pet-Safe Products to Clean Your Home," and recommends purchasing safer products from companies such as Earth Rite, Harmony, and Seventh Generation, or preparing your own safer cleaning products with baking soda or lemon juice (p. 63).

And, in case you do not know already, Straw warns pet care givers, who share their homes and their lives with their pets and perhaps even a tidbit or two from their own plates occasionally, about the dangers of chocolate, which contains theobromine and caffeine, ingredients that are toxic to animals. She also reminds readers that xylitol, a sugar substitute believed not only to be safe but also quite beneficial for humans in numerous ways, is known to be toxic to our four-footed friends. So, remember if you sprinkle xylitol over your own breakfast quinoa, oatmeal, or rice, and your pet goes for these tasty grains, too, keep your pet's serving absolutely free of xylitol. And if you enjoy eating grapes or raisins, be careful not to drop any that your animal companion might pick up and eat, because these seemingly innocent fruits, so filled with goodness for humans, that even may intrigue your pet because of their smell, small size, and shapes that just may invite a swiping paw for a little game of kitchen or living room hockey, have, in some cases, been toxic to pets. Straw also emphasizes the extreme importance of always supplying ample, filtered drinking water served in non-toxic stoneware, glassware, or stainless steel. And she points out the necessity of frequently washing and rinsing the water bowl either in the high heat of your dishwasher or by hand to keep the water bowl clean for the fresh, healthful water for your pet.

Outdoor dangers abound, too. Among the culprits, Straw enumerates not only ethylene glycol in antifreeze but also herbicides, pesticides, automobile emissions, smoke, and even some flea killing products that, when used improperly, even may be carcinogenic. Safer flea-ridding alternatives are available. In addition, she enlightens readers that, just as too much sun can endanger humans, too much sun can hurt animals.

Straw not only discusses the supreme importance of high quality nutrition, but also she exposes the abominable, deplorable, and unethical practices of some pet food companies and documents the hideously damaging ingredients that some companies knowingly and blatantly include in their pet foods, then spend thousands of dollars on fancy marketing tricks to seduce would-be buyers. They sell their unfit food for high profits, and, at the same time, begin and foster the destruction of the health and the very lives of the pets you treasure. Straw also cautions you about the overuse of vaccinations and the repercussions from such a practice.

After documenting many probable, provable, and preventable causes of dastardly disease in precious pets, Straw discusses conventional treatments, gives insights into pet insurance and PPOs, and introduces alternative therapies including Bach flower remedies such as wild rose, water violet, olive, and clematis, to name a few, and herbs such as artemisinin, Essiac, garlic, Hoxsey treatment, milk thistle, and golden seal. She shares information about the successful use of vitamins such as A, C, E, D, K, and, of course, the energy converters -- B vitamins. Other supplements favored for prevention and treatment include beta carotene, calcium, and selenium, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), arginine, pycnogenol, and even melatonin (p. 171). Straw not only introduces these various health promoting practices and remedies, but also she offers careful warnings and cautions regarding their safest use singly or in combination with other measures showing her excellent efforts to give a panoramic view of the best available preventive methods and alternative health care treatments. Straw also invites those who treasure pets and appreciate how very much they enrich our homes, our health, and our lives, to find homeopathic and naturopathic care and modalities such as acupuncture, the Tellington Touch (TTouch), Reiki, and massage.

Straw goes beyond the physical aspects of health and discusses the importance of giving thoughtful consideration to the emotional health of pets and to guarding them against unnecessary stresses that can lead to anxiety, depression, or other maladies. In addition, she helps pet care givers emotionally to prepare for and to move through the sad time of losing a pet, having experienced such tender losses herself. You will be amazed at some of the probable causes of disease that she exposes, but, thanks to her excellent research and crisp, clean writing, you will be armed with methods of prevention, safer approaches if problems arise, and help that can give hope to restore health. Straw generously includes a recommended reading list of more than 60 sources and makes every effort to help you help your pets have the best health possible and to live happily with you for many, many years. If you care for your pet as much as I believe you do, then you will share this review with as many pet care givers as you can so that they can find this source of enlightenment where pet care is concerned, purchase it without delay, read it, and share it with others who cherish their pets, too. I cannot praise Deborah Straw and her excellent book, The Healthy Pet Manual, enough. It's a keeper.

Love's Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition
Translated from the Persian by David and Sabrineh Fideler
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novarro, CA 94949
ISBN: 1577315359, $18.00, 224 pp.

Pamela K. Taylor, Reviewer

For years, Rumi has been the best-selling poet in the United States. Love's Alchemy opens the door onto Rumi's colleagues in the Persian mystical tradition. Translated from the classical Persian by husband and wife team of David and Sabrineh Fideler, Love's Alchemy includes selections from all the major Persian Sufi poets, some of whom are famous in the West, such as Hafiz, but many of whom are not.

This is not the kind of poetry book one reads quickly, absorbing feelings and images. Rather, the poems in Love's Alchemy are like a fine merlot, meant to be imbibed slowly – you begin by sniffing their aroma; then hold them up to the light and savor their color; inhale their bouquet; hold the words in your mouth, let the taste of them sink into your pores; feel them warming your throat, let their wisdom spread through your veins and into the depths of your heart. This is how they were meant to be read – and re-read – with thought and reflection that allow the poems to challenge the reader's perception of the worldly and the divine, with a sudden gestalt of insight, with depth of feeling, and with appreciation for the many layers of meaning contained in each phrase.

While the poems are completely accessible on their own, the Fidelers have included a very useful short guide to understanding Sufi poetry in their introduction, as well as a glossary of important terms, a discussion of issues in translation, a guide to the various forms of Persian poetry, and notes on individual poems in the appendices. Of most interest to the general reader is the introductory material about the themes and the meanings of particular images that were common in the Persian mystical tradition. Also interesting is the discussion of the structure of the poems in the book, all of which take the " "ruba'i" form. Ruba'i are four line poems which condense a depth of meaning into a few words; good ones weave many layers of meaning into each line.

The poems presented in Love's Alchemy clearly are among the best. The translation, though, gives pause. Compare, for instance, the literal translation and the Fidelers' rendition as cited in Appendix 1, their discussion of issues in translating from classic Persian to modern English.

Literal translation:

Today, like every day, we are ruined – ruined.
Don't open the door of thinking; pick up a lute.
There are a hundred kinds of prayer, bowing and prostration.
For the one whose prayer niche is the beauty of the Friend


Today, like every day, we are ruined and lonely.
Don't retreat, fleeing your emptiness through the doorway of thinking.
Try making some music instead.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel in prayer
Hundreds of ways to open toward the heart of the Friend's beauty.

It seems to me that the Fidelers have lost something of the rhythm, the immediacy, the simple beauty, and depth of possible interpretations in their more abstract rendering. With the literal translation the reader has an immediate, intuitive grasp of the poem's meaning akin to the flash of insight one gets while reading a haiku. That first understanding is mellowed and deepened upon re-reading and reflection. But with the Fidelers' translation, the first intuitive understanding is lost, while the reader is led to the philosophical, religious conclusions that, we assume, spoke most loudly to the Fiderlers themselves. The poem remains insightful and thought-provoking, but certain aspects clearly have suffered.

As I read the poetry in Love's Alchemy, I couldn't help but wonder how many other poems might have been stronger, more direct in their impact, more reflective of the author's skill at layering meaning, if the Fidelers had chosen to be more literal in their translation rather than emphasizing the philosophical and religious insights that were, admittedly, the raison d'etre for the poems. I couldn't help but think that the Fidelers are better translators, and better Sufis, than they are poets.

Nonetheless, I found the poetry to be well worth reading. Indeed, Love's Alchemy is the sort of book that readers are likely to come back to over and over, reading only a poem or two at a sitting, taking the time to digest each one slowly and thoroughly. For those who are looking for an introduction to the world of Sufi poetry, it is an excellent doorway. For those who want to explore their own spirituality, it is a sure source of food for thought. For those who simply want to enjoy some classical Persian poetry, there may be better translations available, although they are not likely to contain a wider or more representative selection of poems.

The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation Identity, Emotions and Foreign Policy
Jacques E.C. Hymans
Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 0521850762 hc, $75.00 / $150.00 AU, 273 pp.
ISBN: 0521616255 pbk, $29.99

Mary Raum

The total volume of investigative theories related to human factors of proliferation is noticeably dwarfed by operation structure theory and technology and supply side reasoning. In The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation Identity Emotions and Foreign Policy Professor Jacques Hymans offers an important cognitive model that is a useful study to add to the short library list of psychology based literature in the field of nuclear proliferation. Hymans, an Assistant Professor of Government at Smith College in Massachusetts challenges a common interpretation that strategic calculations by nuclear players are the only or primary reasoning behind a choice to proliferate. He has recently presented his ideas before a group of French military officials.

Using a national identity conceptions model as a base, links are drawn regarding the personality characteristics and emotional perceptions of leaders who impacted proliferation decisions for the nations of Australia, Argentina, the French Fourth Republic and India. Two dimensions, solidarity and status are shown as interrelated in creating four significant types of national identity: sportsmanlike nationalist, oppositional nationalist, sportsmanlike subaltern and oppositional subaltern. The argument is made that a leader's national identity conception is instrumental in a leader's preference for or against nuclear war related themes. Hymans' argues that what a nation stands for and how high it stands in the nuclear race is not only a social factor but is grounded intersubjectively within the individual leader.

A one time reference to the Rorschach test and interpolations of common myths about international non proliferation keep the reader's attention and make the work enjoyable. There is information on macro political systems as well as individual and organizational decision making theory. Nuclear proliferation is a vast subject and this book fills in some of the more individualized gaps in current literature. The work is unique in its broad scope and application of a variety of structural and behavioral concepts. Readers of political science, management, military science and public affairs would find the content of the book worth examining.

Identity categorizations are woven throughout several chapters on nuclear choice, struggles in the French Fourth Republic, Australia's search for security, Argentina's nuclear ambition and India's nuclear U-turn in the nuclear arms arena. Two of these nations have ended weapons research, one is a known nuclear power atomic state and the fourth is a thermonuclear weapons state. The big four constituents of nuclear proliferation, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China are not reviewed. These four nations would be of interest in a follow-up study using Hymans' theses and models.

Support for the ideas presented was derived from interviews with international nuclear scientists and technocrats and review of government documents and academic journals. Categorizations for leader cognitive styles, national identity conceptions are supported through the authors review of vocabulary from speeches and analyses of leader perspectives of Charles deGaulle, Pierre Mendes France, Robert Menzies, Johns Gorton, Gough Whitlam, Ambassador Julio Carasales, Antonia Careea and several significant players in the nuclear history of Argentina and India.

This part history, part academic study ends with some thoughts about traditional depictions as to why there is nuclear proliferation. Having weapons because it is a deterrent, a point of international status and a way to achieve personal power are shown to be simplified versions of what may be a more complex psychological base of inclusion into the arms community.

The Good Good Pig
Sy Montgomery
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10017 1-800-733-3000
ISBN: 0345481372, $21.95, 240 pp.

Jennifer Redmond

A Good Good Read

Like E.B. White before her, Sy Montgomery takes us out to study the barnyard in order to learn about the human heart. The tale is a simple one, told beautifully simply: a couple adopts a tiny runt piglet who grows up (and in every other direction) to be a local attraction and a good, good, friend. And while I'll admit that Montgomery's porcine pet Christopher Hogwood is a prince among pigs, her story really warms up (in both senses of the word) as we begin to know the whole family, animal and human.

The sweet Border collie is so typical of the breed—driven, loyal, and somewhat possessed. The image of her chasing Frisbees in the dark of night is one that will stay with me, though neither I not the author actually saw it. The chickens who rule their little roost, but not much else, are a welcome bit of gently comic relief, like some sort of feathered Greek chorus. The human chorus is also colorful, whimsical and much more weird than the occupants of the barn; neighbors and townspeople, and a motley crew of roommates, mostly female, mostly eccentric, all add spice to this home brew of more-urban-than-country rural life.

Last, but far from least, is Montgomery's husband Howard Mansfield, also an author, who seems to meet each minor emergency and major crisis with the same calm demeanor, without seeming any less kind and caring for his competence. Shunned and maligned by the author's mother (in spite of her ignorant prejudice we grow to care about this strong-willed Southern lady, and mourn her inevitable passing) he refuses to get miffed at his mother-in-law or at the seemingly endless parade of animals, large and small, adopted, injured, and recuperating, that fill his home—or if he does, we never hear about it.

When the author takes off on various work-related writing jaunts to places like Brazil, she gives us a tiny taste of those exotic locales, but the story is mostly, at home in her home. She gives us dawns and dusks, falls and springs, frosts and thaws. Against this backdrop are not just domesticated animals, but wild birds and hunting weasels—all roaming the same turf, all oddly, somehow, basically getting along.

And of course, there's Chris himself—larger than life, and great of heart, with an appetite for hedonism unmatched in modern literature. How grand to hear of someone who manages to get rubbed the right way almost as much as he gets to fill his belly with the "leftovers" (from gourmet to godawful) of a whole town. Animal tales can never end completely happily, but this one deposits us gently, like Hogwood himself, rolling in good clean mud, at the end of a good run. The book, like this special pig's life, is destined to be remembered as both well-loved and loving.

Her Perfect Life
Vicki Hinze
Harlequin Enterprises Limited
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
ISBN: 0373836929, $5.99 US / $6.99 CAN, 288 pp.

Bonnie Toews, Reviewer

Rating: Five Stars

A Significant Tribute to Women Prisoners of War in Modern Times

Only Vicki Hinze could write such an insightful, passionate, human drama and still call it romantic suspense. Yet, if Danielle Steel had written this moving story, there would be an immediate clamor to adapt it for television, especially since it is about a woman air force pilot shot down over Iraq in the Gulf War. This novel should be on screen. It delves into the depths of a woman, who, by virtue of being a combat pilot, makes her a different breed from other heroines.

Few authors explore what drives a woman to fly in male-dominated skies. Is it competition? Is it arrogance? To fly today's fighter jets she has to be precise, smart and have calculating nerve under stress, the same as any top gun. Robert Gandt, a former top gun himself, writes military thrillers and depicts two kinds of women combat pilots in his stories: those who use their gender to make a political statement—they have ambition but they are actually unsuitable to fly—and those who are born with flying in their blood. He recognizes there is no sexual difference between real "flyers." There is only their desire to soar and to feel the spiritual freedom birds experience. A born flyer is a very independent being. To be in a military environment would seem to be an oxymoron for such independent souls, but for all of their apparent daring and brash nerve, genuine pilots are very grounded people. They have an innate discipline and spiritual awareness of "being at one" with their aircraft, its flight/ground crew and, at times, with the supreme maker of the Universe.

Understanding this is what makes Vicki Hinze's heroine, Captain Katie Cole Slater, a fascinating study. Her will to survive through torture and rape—endless days, months, years of captivity—stems as much from the natural courage of being a woman, who is a wife and mother, as it does from her innate drive to become a pilot. Her mantra—"That which is endured is conquered"—builds momentum through the novel as she gains remarkable wisdom and strength during her journey into hell as a prisoner of war and through smashed dreams when she returns. She rises above the expected bitterness that many in her shoes would feel, and she does it in a most credible way—through the interior dialogue the character shares with the author's readers.

This story starts with Katie's rescue from imprisonment in Iraq six years after her plane was shot down, but flashbacks as her full memory returns of her terrible ordeal depict what she suffered and how she suffered. What sustains her is her dream of returning home to her husband and two children, but once she is returned to them, she has to face how their lives have changed. Believing she was dead, her husband remarried, and the children adore their stepmother. Katie's former co-pilot also survived the crash but can no longer fly. His friendship becomes her lifeline, for the hope that kept her alive is dead. Now she has to rebuild her life completely without her husband and reclaim her children without alienating them.

I dare say the reason Katie triumphs over such devastating blows may be because she is a woman and not a man. She benefits from a woman's nurturing nature. Nevertheless, Katie's psychological resolution is in sharp contrast to the experience of nurses returning from Viet Nam as depicted in the TV series, "China Beach," where the lead character became an alcoholic when she couldn't reconcile her life at war with her life in peacetime. Katie triumphs. She finds love; she reclaims her two children without disrupting or separating them from everyone they love; and she channels the sense of achievement she gained from flying into a different passion designing gardens. She has a whole life; she loses it, and she regains it fully, but at a price. Traumatic flashbacks still possess her ten years later, but she makes peace with them—she lets them go. And they gradually fade into the past where they belong.

Captain Katie Cole Slater's personal belief system sets up a remarkable role model for any victimized women regardless of the reason or circumstance. This is why this story must be made into a movie. It not only deals with the individual battle endured by those up close and personal with "the actual enemy" but also with what so many North American families are coping with today in the West's global war against terrorism: the waiting and the loss of those they love; for even when they are lucky enough to embrace their loved ones again, they are forever changed—often physically, but definitely emotionally, psychologically and philosophically. Both women and men need to see that bad things that happen to people, whether in war or in their daily lives, can result in good endings. Thank you, Vicki, for telling Katie's story. I loved it.

Intersect: A Love Story
Harold Torger Vedeler
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
ISBN: 0595304354, $12.95, 155 pp.

Peter Weiss

Ghost in the Machine

Shannon extends her arms, reaches for Alicia. Alicia hesitates, trembles. Her mouth is just open and her eyes draw a picture of despair. And then Shannon embraces her, draws her close and holds her. Alicia is weeping now, her face visible and then buried in Shannon's bodice, weeping because she knows suddenly that it is all right, that it is just a game and that there is more in the world. Something that does not die.

[from "Intersect: A Love Story"]

Intersect is the creation of Torger Vedeler in his debut novel "Intersect: A Love Story" and is a thoroughly fascinating invention. Part game, part sport, part quasi-religious experience, it is an event fed directly into the global collective conscious via virtual reality chairs occupied by the enthralled billions of the world, young and old alike, who hang onto it as if for dear life.

And indeed Intersect is life, pure and direct and immediate, as captured and conveyed in the psychic performances of prepubescent girls, thrusts and parries, pirouettes and constructs fed through a network of computers as a series of shapes and numbers, synapse firings, able to express nothing less than the primary human experiences such as Beauty and Joy in a pure form of geometric and emotional code. It is as pernicious as heroin to the populace, yielding immediacy to a world starved of authentic, transcendent reality. Mr. Vedeler has written a very right-brain book to tell a very left-brain story.

The tale centers on an elite group of reigning Intersect champions and their relationship to one another, to their fans, and to the game that has made them the envy of the world. We follow the young girls as they struggle to deliver what the world craves of them. And what it craves most is to live vicariously through their concrete expression of abstract Love.

The game itself has aspects of fencing and gymnastics, chess, modern dance, tennis, and is something on the order of the World Cup, the Super Bowl, and the Academy Awards combined in terms of popularity. The greatest practitioner of the art of Intersect is our heroine, thirteen-year-old Shannon O'hea. We observe as Shannon pursues the World Championship, her fourth, in a series of matches played from a Chicago museum, and so does our hero, fifteen-year-old Georgie Collins, who has more than a puppy-love-crush on beautiful Shannon.

Georgie, a mere face in the crowd, senses deeper truths about Shannon, senses that Intersect is something other than the symbiotic enterprise it seems, and eventually vows to intervene into a world in which he has no part. Intersect is a girl's game, and Mr. Vedeler's feminism informs him that the purest expression of human love emanates from the pre-sexual female and that her combination of emotional honesty and psychic dexterity allows the best to achieve and impart something on the order of universal truths culminating in the liquid sunshine of pure love.

Heady stuff. Yet the crux of the novel is very much a coming-of-age story as we watch these adolescents come to grips with their situations. Shannon, like all Intersect girls, is insulated from the world, living within an entourage populated by women, and is ultimately alone in a cocoon of celebrity and privilege. Georgie is alone too in his awareness that Intersect is essentially a parasitic evil consuming its champions and that Shannon needs help.

The wheels are in motion as Shannon strives for friendship in a world that denies friendships and strives for perfection in a world that demands perfection. Georgie pursues his love beneath the cold, hard social and family structures that would deny him access to his love. As the tournament progresses, Shannon moves toward her dual goals as Georgie is torn between wanting Shannon both in the perfect hard-wired version and as the flesh-and-blood girl that she is.

Gradually Shannon learns what Georgie already senses as she witnesses what Intersect can do to its greatest players, the price extracted by the process of attaining emotional omniscience and omnipotence. She is compelled to look within herself for the ultimate measure of her mastery of Intersect. Yet she doesn't realize that Georgie holds the final key to the symbiosis she seeks.

Mr. Vedeler's canvas allows him to explore both the psychological motivations of his characters and the larger social implications of mass celebrity and mass gratification as well as the more ethereal meanings of friendship and love and the aesthetics of a game whose goal is to produce seismic emotive reactions. The scope is at once broad and narrow as we watch the world react to The Game and its participants and his characters contend with the clamoring world, with Intersect, and with one another.

To his credit, Mr. Vedeler doesn't write the characters up beyond their years, as he clearly could have, but allows them their own adolescent voices and naivete and in so doing distills their motivations to the most basic human components. It is a journey of self-discovery and maturation for them as they move toward a final and unexpected resolution. In the right hands, "Intersect: A Love Story" could make a fascinating movie with its futuristic approach to universal yet very current problems.

The psychic ghosts in Mr. Vedeler's machine may well be the young women dueling out their amorous pyrotechnics in the matrices of cyberspace all in pursuit of the perfect point, the perfect joining, but so too is the author as he shows us that real life is, and can only ever be, messy and imperfect.

Blood Lands
Signet Books
Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
ISBN: 0451218760, $5.99, 292 pp.

Les Williams

The year is 1865. Around the town of Umberton, the Kansas Border Militia are part of the reason the area is called Bloody Kansas. At the farm of Harvey Shawler, Captain Ruddell Plantz and his so called militia soldiers take what they want from the dirt farmer. All the family are killed except young Jed who witnessed the whole bloody affair. Plantz can not allow the boy to escape to tell the regular army what took place on the farmstead.

In Umberton, Colonel Bertrim Wilder, his former sergeant Shepherd Watson and the colonel's daughter Julie bring in a string of horses to sell. The colonel does this in defiance of the captain's request that all pay a tribute. The three riders are spotted by two of Plantz's gunmen who are stationed in Umberton to keep an eye on the town. The two men ride out to the captain to report their finding. Plantz sends one of his men out to follow Jed's tracks. The boy is found by Wilder and his riders. The colonel refuses to turn Jed over to the militia man and instead, takes him to the Wilder Ranch. Leaving Julie to watch over the boy, the colonel and Shep ride out.

Along the trail, Wilder and Watson are surrounded by the captain and his men who gun the two down. The hard cases continue on to the Wilder Ranch to search for the missing boy. Julie makes the mistake of going out to meet the militia men. The gunmen, now wearing masks, beat and rape the colonel's daughter. Warning her to leave the area, she is left lying naked in the dust as they ride off. Bounty hunter Baines Meredith comes up to the ranch and sees Julie on the ground. He takes her in to Umberton to be cared for. When the gunman's business in town is finished, he rides off after other men with bounty's on their head.

Julie, once she is recovered from her ordeal, goes out in search of Meredith. At the small spread of the bounty hunter, Julie learns from Baines there are many ways to deal with the men who killed her father and violated her. She also discovers a little about herself as well. In BLOOD LANDS, Ralph Cotton has given us a fresh approach to the west and the violence that often times prevailed. BLOOD LANDS grabs you from the beginning and does not turn you loose until the climatic ending.

Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife
Sam Savage
Coffee House Press
ISBN: 1566891817, $14.95, 162 pp.

Zinta Aistars, Reviewer

Who would have thought a rodent might be so entertaining? Yet we've grown up on such tales of humanized mice and rats. Why not a highly literate one? Even while the ever clever and articulate Firmin declares: "The only literature I cannot abide is rat literature, including mouse literature. I despise good-natured old Ratty in 'The Wind in the Willows.' I piss down the throats of Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little. Affable, shuffling, cute, they stick in my craw like fish bones."

Peppery vermin, isn't he? Such is Firmin's charm. Born the runt in a litter of 13 rats to poor, ignorant, inebriated mother rat Flo, he resorts to eating the tasty paper of book pages that Flo has used to make their nest, tucked away in the back shelves of a Boston bookstore. His siblings, who nurse first, have only disdain for him, and Firmin soon finds his own way in the world, maneuvering by story. From eating books, he evolves to insatiable consumer of books, reading through all the classics, all the sciences, current and historical events, children's stories, romances, plays. He reads it all.

To be a literate rat makes Firmin painfully aware of his odd place in the world. He calls it his "vast canyon of loneliness." He suffers at his inability to fit into the world about which he reads, at his inability to express himself in spoken language. Author Sam Savage writes some of his most poignant lines in describing for us that vast canyon of loneliness in Firmin due to his inability to communicate:

"Despite my intelligence, my tact, the delicacy and refinement of my feelings, my growing erudition, I remained a creature of great disabilities. Reading is one thing, speaking is another... Loquacious to the point of chatter, I was condemned to silence. The fact is, I had no voice. All the beautiful sentences flying around in my head like butterflies were in fact flying in a cage they could never get out of. All the lovely words that I mulled and mouthed in the strangled silence of my thought were as useless as the thousands, perhaps millions, of words that I had torn from books and swallowed, the incohesive fragments of entire novels, plays, epic poems, intimate diaries, and scandalous confessions--all down the tube, mute, useless, and wasted... I laugh, in order not to weep--which, of course, I also cannot do. Or laugh either, for that matter, except in my head, where it is more painful than tears."

Savage has created in such memorable passages for us a rodent that is so human that we relate as one life form to another, for all creatures, surely, have suffered such isolation at some point in our lives, unable to express what weighs most on our hearts.

The story of Firmin takes us by the paw through the bookstore and out into the streets of Boston, into the lives of various misfit humans, including the lonely science fiction writer Jerry Magoon who keeps the rat as adored pet without ever discovering Firmin's secret. If perhaps there is any part of this truly unique and engaging tale lacking, otherwise exquisitely written, then it is the episodes of Firmin's "lowlife" penchant to hang out at the old theatre, Rialto, into the wee hours of the night, sitting amongst drooling old lechers, even while openly acknowledging his own "perversions," and watching what he refers to as his "Lovelies." It is perhaps a bit too much for my sensibilities and suspended disbelief to imagine a rat so craving the human female species the way that he does... oh, shudder... but then, I suppose, that is what makes Firmin a rat, after all, and the men in the dark theatre gaping alongside him, eyes aglow, rather rat-like, too.

Regardless, this is a tale not to be missed. It is a gem: unique, literary, smart, and surprisingly moving.

Atwood's Bookshelf

Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers: Southern Culture and the Roots of Country Music
Bill C. Malone
The University of Georgia Press
Athens, Georgia 30602
ISBN: 0820325511, $15.95, 155 pp.

When it comes to tracing the roots of American music, there's just no place like the South: jazz, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, gospel - most music that comes with a "made in America" stamp originated south of the Mason-Dixon line. While the world obviously owes a huge musical debt to African-Americans for their contributions in the aforementioned genres, what we now call "Country" music primarily evolved from the souls and throats of white rural southerners. It is these singers - and their songs - that are the focus of Bill C. Malone's "Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers."

Malone's first concern is to precisely define white rural southern music, especially that which was sung in the 19th century South (just before this music was discovered by the rest of the world). Was it - as early 20th century British musicologist Cecil Sharpe wanted to believe - merely a twangy re-definition of ancient British ballads? Sharpe collected hundreds of Appalachian songs that were clearly traceable to the British Isles, but as Malone points out in "Singing Cowboys," Sharpe was in the South specifically looking for this connection. He found it in spades but because the other songs he surely heard echoing through the mountains didn't concern his thesis, he simply ignored them.

There was a lot to ignore. Country music has many primary sources, and although Malone claims that a detailed history of the genre is nigh impossible, he does a masterful job of describing most of its influences in fascinating detail. British ballads, black spirituals, minstrel show songs (most of their composers ironically Northern), German bands and hymns all had a major role in shaping the white folk music of 19th century America. Rural southerners were very catholic in their love for music: a good tune was a good tune, whether it originated in ancient Britain or at the desk of a contemporary New York composer.

By far the most fascinating aspect of Malone's book is hinted at in its title and answers this question: why did Country singers such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Alan Jackson -- who all hailed from the southeast - dress as though they had been raised on a Texas ranch? Simple: a national hunger for symbols. Before the cowboy singer took over as Country music's mascot in the 1930's, it was the mountain man of the 1920's, romanticized by novels and the "Great War" hero, Alvin "Tennessee Mountain Boy" York, that exemplified an earlier, rural, unfettered Anglo-Saxon America for a urban North, heavy with European immigrants. It was primarily the Carter family and Bradley Kincaid whose performances first personified the free-spirited, pure mountain personality and their success paved the way for many other southern musicians of the era to cash in on the hunger for the quintessential American symbol.

However, when reports of aberrant mountain behavior and oppression from coal companies began to trickle out of the Appalachians along with the proliferation of vaudeville acts that degenerated the mountain man's vigorous image into a caricature worthy of ridicule (think "The Beverly Hillbillies"), the cowboy - whose manly persona and limitless freedom was being popularized in countless films and dime novels -- took over as the pre-eminent and permanent symbol of Country music. The actual canon of authentic cowboy songs is much smaller than the amount of folk songs from the eastern south, but an image is an image and the singing cowboy is here to stay.

"Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers" is a very enlightening read regarding the roots of Country music and provides the definitive explanation and history of the connection between Country music [southern folk music] and cowboy hats.

The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Piano Chords
Karen Berger
Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, NY, NY
ISBN: 1592574599, $12.95, 185 pp.

Sometimes accomplished pianists don't have loads of extra patience for teaching, well, idiots. Not so Karen Berger, a pianist on the faculty of the Berkshire Music School. Berger's very enjoyable book, "Pocket Idiot's Guide to Piano Chords," thoroughly presents the material necessary for a complete novice begin to playing from a "fake" book (a book that contains a melody line for the right hand and chord symbols for the left) with a large dose of patience and humor.

The book begins with chapters containing simple musical concepts such as note reading and rhythm before moving quickly (but not too quickly) into chord building, proceeding from simple triads to augmented, suspended, diminished chords as well as a whole chapter on sevenths. Since chordal knowledge is absolutely fundamental to fake book playing, Berger includes an illustration and explanation of "the circle of fifths," an indispensable visual tool for navigating the relationships between the chords usually found together in one song.

The easy-to-understand text is dotted with very helpful explanatory boxes (in the tradition of "Idiot's Guide" books) with such titles as "Practice Makes Perfect," "Universal Language," "Music to Your Ears." Each chapter ends with "The Least You Need To Know" - the summation points of that chapter's information. Appendices include a glossary, as well as scales and chord listings.

A book that takes the reader from a simple five tone C-D-E-F-G scale to a 12-bar blues pattern in a mere 185 easy-to-understand pages is quite an accomplishment. "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Piano Chords" really packs an educational punch and will be helpful, not only to those trying to learn chordal techniques themselves, but will also be of great assistance to those who teach these concepts to others.

The Year the Music Changed: The Letters of Achsa McEachern-Isaacs and Elvis Presley
Diane Thomas
The Toby Press
POB 8531 New Milford, CT 06776
ISBN: 1592641229, $22.95, 246 pp.

Diane Thomas' "The Year the Music Changed" is an emotionally moving novel that explores the issues of individuality, personal gift, loneliness and race all within the context of that favorite haunt of literary writers: the American South. But the South of this novel isn't the decayed Confederacy of Harper Lee and William Faulkner. Though Thomas has the southern atmosphere down pat when she includes it, the setting of the story is more one of time than of place. "The year" is 1955, and rock music - along with a young singer named Elvis Presley -- is roaring out from the land of cotton.

The novel, composed of a series of letters between the fictitious Achsa McEachern (a gifted, slightly disfigured and lonely 14 year-old) and Elvis Presley, begins when Achsa hears Presley's recording of "That's All Right" (Presley's first-ever record) on a "hillbilly" station and writes him a fan letter telling him: "I don't know why you think you're a hillbilly singer. You're not. You're singing that new music they call 'rock and roll.'"

At first it seemed to me quite a stretch, even for a fiction, that Elvis Presley would take the time for a platonic correspondence with a 14-year-old girl, but Thomas makes this quite plausible. The correspondence begins before Elvis actually becomes "The King." He meets Colonel Parker in the midst of the novel and from that point on he isn't as faithful a correspondent as he was previously because, as he explains to Achsa, "my life's like one big giant all night car sale nowadays."

Thomas obviously knows something about Elvis. The emotional truths his character expresses here - his talk about "the Lord," his mama, his insecurities and his insatiable drive to succeed in the music business - all ring very true. Achsa's character is also quite plausible as equal parts gifted writer and insecure adolescent who very willingly pours out her heart to the kind-hearted Presley and also gives him - at his request - short grammar lessons.

Achsa's parents, who appear regularly in the correspondence, don't fare quite as well under Thomas' pen: they are more worn-out types than fleshed-out characters. Of course, their personalities are filtered through Achsa's writing, but she's apparently gifted enough with the written word to portray them as flesh and blood characters if that's what they were. They're not. Achsa's mother is the classic silent suffering beauty who's heart holds a tragic secret and who's wordless endurance of her husband's bizarre obsession with her stunning looks gives her character the feel of frozen cardboard, not flesh and blood. She loves Achsa in a distant way but her frosty exterior tells no tales because Achsa and the reader have to keep going to uncover the story's ultimate secret. The unveiling of that secret provides an emotionally satisfying ending but it would have been more so if I had initially cared more about Mrs. McAchearn's character.

Achsa explains to Elvis that her father "loves God so much it makes him mean." Mr. McAchearn is a white, creepy, raging, obsessive male and if you're going to portray this type of guy south of the Maxon-Dixon line, apparently you must add Bible-thumping to the mix. Do you think he might object to Achsa's correspondence with Elvis? Mr. McAchearn is a caricature, not a character and although I was a little surprised when he suddenly shoots off a couple of "Dear John" letters to God and conveniently leaves them lying around (I'm not sure if he knew God's address anyway since he only attended church in order to stare at his wife in the choir loft), this divine correspondence does nothing towards redeeming him from his hopeless two-dimensionality.

Although her parents loom large in Achsa's life, they are, thankfully, secondary characters in the story and so their joint cliched existence doesn't make much of a dent in the emotive power of the novel. Thomas portrays the development of her main players - and the deepening communion between them - so well that "The Year the Music Changed" is, in the end, a profoundly moving testament to art, personal gift and the deep bonds of friendship.

Kathryn Atwood

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Complete Guide To Country Cooking
Mary Beth Jung, editor
Taste of Home Books/Reiman Publications
5400 South 60th Street, Greendale, WI 53129
Reader's Digest Press
260 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0898212316 $29.95

The Complete Guide To Country Cooking begins with a chapter devoted to "Kitchen Basics" and then goes on to present recipes for appetizers, beverages, breads, salads and dressings, soups, sandwiches, beef, poultry, pork, seafood, lamb, game, eggs, cheese, grains, beans, pasta, vegetables, condiments, desserts, cakes, pies, cookies, and candies. Enhanced with a chapter on "Menu Planning", a references list, a recipe index and a reference index, The Complete Guide To Country Cooking has something to please every palate and satisfy every appetite with dishes ranging from Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes; Turkey with Corn Bread Stuffing; Rabbit Dijon; and Texas-Style Spanish Rice; to Grilled Ham and Egg Salad Sandwiches; Golden Baked Whitefish; Beef Stew with Cheddar Dumplings; and Grandma's Chocolate Meringue Pie. Profusely illustrated, step-by-step instructions make The Complete Guide To Country Cooking an ideal cookbook for novice kitchen cooks, while enabling even the most experienced family chefs to draw fresh culinary embellishments to their meal-time menus. No personal or community library cookbook collection can be considered complete without the inclusion of The Complete Guide To Country Cooking!

Nancy Crow
Nancy Crow
Breckling Press
283 Michigan Street, Elmhurst, IL 60126
1933308036 $65.00

Nancy Crow is one of America's foremost contemporary artists and a woman's whose work hangs on display in the Smithsonian Institute. Nancy Crow is a compendium showcasing her best work over the last fifteen years and will prove to be the perfect introduction to what her talent and imagination have been able to accomplish in her chosen medium -- quilting. A consummate needlecraft artist, Nancy's work is hallmarked with colors laid out in bold graphic patterns and rhythms. Nancy Crow covers six major series of her quilt work illustrated through hundreds of photographs of full quilts and quilt details documenting the complexity and seminal excellence of her workmanship. Not to be missed are the work-in-progress photographs taken in Nancy's own studies -- three 10-year-old renovated barns on her Ohio family farm. An informed and informative text offers insights into her work as Nancy explains her artistic motivations, intentions, and life experiences which triggered particular quilts. Nancy Crow is an enthusiastically recommended addition to any personal, academic, or community library contemporary Needlecraft or Art History reference collection.

Design Ideas For Home Storage
Elaine Martin Petrowski, writer & editor
Creative Homeowner
24 Park Way, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
158011301X $19.95 1-800-631-7795

Every room in every home could benefit from the ideas and advice that comprise Elaine Petrowski's Design Ideas For Home Storage. Enhanced with 350 color photographs, this thoroughly "user friendly" instructional reference includes professional tips for organizing, storing, and otherwise making the most of the available space in any given room; ideas on effectively and efficiently organizing closets and other closed storage spaces; tips for clearing clutter room by room; advice on archival storage (safekeeping important documents and photographs); handling and preserving heirloom be they fabric, china, flatware or glass; and where to find seasonal and "bonus" storage space. Each individual chapter has a special focus, be it day to day storage, display, built-ins, movable pieces, closets, special storage, or long-term storage. Whether you need to organize a kitchen, a closet, a kid's room, a bathroom, an attic, a basement, an office, or any other room in the house, give a careful reading to what Elaine Petrowski has to recommend in the pages of Design Ideas For Home Storage!

Susan Bethany

Betsy's Bookshelf

A Living Legacy
Lisa B. Robinson
Amadeus Press
777 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee, WI 53213
1574671464 $75.00 1-800-637-2852

Graced with an informative "Foreword" by noted violinist and Julliard faculty member Itzhak Perlman, A Living Legacy: Historic Stringed Instruments At The Julliard School by Lisa B. Robinson (who holds a doctoral degree in music theory from the Yale University and who is a senior writer for special projects and proposals at The Julliard School, where she has worked for the last six years) offers a unique and original survey of the historic stringed instrument collection at Julliard. Created through the generosity of musicians who have donated their instruments, the various instruments are occasional put to active use by being loans to the young artists of Julliard for major performances and competitions. Although the collection principally consists of violins, there are also a wealth of violas, cellos, and double basses, which altogether number more than 200, as well as numerous bows. The collection includes instruments created by Antonio Stradivari, Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, Amati, Bergonzi, Cagliano, Guadagnini, and others. Showcasing color photographs and detailed descriptions of 25 representative instruments and three bows of special historical interest, A Living Legacy fully lives up to its title and is a joy to simply page through and admire what is truly a seminal cultural legacy in the field of stringed musical instruments. Any librarian seeking a Memorial Fund gift selection for their library's Music History collection would be well advised to carefully consider acquiring Lisa Robinson's A Living Legacy!

Lasting Light
Stephen Trimble
Northland Publishing
PO Box 1389, Flagstaff, AZ 86002-1389
0873588940 $40.00 1-800-346-3257

Lasting Light: 125 Years Of Grand Canyon Photography by award-winning author and photographer Stephen Trimble is a visual celebration and documentation of the beauty and grandeur of one of the most photographed subjects on earth -- the Grand Canyon. Comprised of the best of 125 years of great photographs beginning with the pioneering glass plate negatives of the 19th century to the digital images of the 21st century, Lasting Light produces spectacular visuals enhanced with an accompanying text of fascinating details regarding the advances of photography, stories of various individual photographers, and the relationship between the photographers and the unique American icon that is the Grand Canyon. As a coffetable art book, Lasting Light is a simply wonderful contribution to any personal, academic, or community library photography reference collection and would make a superb choice as a Memorial Fund acquisition for any library system.

Why You're Still Single
Evan Marc Katz & Linda Holmes
Plume/Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
Goldberg McDuffie Communications (publicity)
444 Madison Avenue, Suite 3300, New York, NY 10022
0452287383 $13.00

Co-authored by Evan Marc Katz (founder of, an online dating consulting services) and Linda Holmes (who writes as "Miss Alli" for Television Without Pity and is a frequent contributor to, Why You're Still Single: Things Your Friends Would Tell You If You Promised Not To Get Mad offers readers informed and informative guidance through the confusing and often self-defeating task of dating, including the psychology of both men and women in the midst of a relationship. Offering readers a complete and thorough understanding of the "politics" involved with dating and the process of finding a mate, Why You're Still Single is very strongly recommended reading for anyone seeking to understand the underlying reasons for their lack of a solid relationship, particularly a relationship between adults in or around their thirties.

Betsy Hogan

Betty's Bookshelf

Consigned to Death
Jane K. Cleland
Minotaur Books / St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 0312347251, $23.95, 276 pp.

If you like Antiques Roadshow, Jane Cleland's debut novel, Consigned to Death, is right up your alley. The setting - Rocky Point - is an imaginary small city on the coast of New Hampshire. The heroine, Josie Prescott, has exiled herself to New Hampshire for a brand new start after innocently getting caught in the undertow of a price-fixing scandal in the Big Apple. (Josie reminds me of Elaine Flinn's junkshop heroine, Molly Doyle, who debuted hiding out in a small town in California after being caught up in an antiques scandal caused by her ex-husband. Cleland says she's never read any of Flinn's stuff, though. I guess great minds just think somewhat alike.)

Prescott's Antiques and Auctions is a consignment shop, though, where owner Josie runs an antique auction business. As past of that, she has to make decisions about the value of things that pass through her shop. Since she only gets a commission on things when they sell, deciding on a price has to be done just right – high enough to make her commission worthwhile, low enough for the item to sell quickly, and satisfactory to the item's owner. It isn't easy, and it can generate a lot of bad feelings.

In Consigned to Death, an elderly collector turns up dead after asking Josie to appraise his stuff, which makes Josie look bad. Then, as the estate is inventories, several valuable paintings (with extremely shaky provenances) turn up missing, and Josie appears to be right in the middle of it.

In addition, a number of people have a problem with Josie's involvement, from the victim's bitchy and avaricious granddaughter to the attractive (and eligible) police chief. One of them has more than a problem – he (or she) wants those paintings and will do whatever is necessary (even murder) to obtain them. Can Josie stay alive long enough to help Chief Alvarez find them and return them to their proper owners, or will Nathaniel Grant's killer get away with murder as well as the paintings?

Cleland, who once owned and ran her own antiques and rare book business in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (and now lives in New York City), knows how to make the book's antiques and auctions background sound very plausible, as well as suitably dangerous. After all, everyone knows that the Good Book says "…the love of money is the root of all evil". So, it's pretty obvious that setting prices on things that are brought to her could make Josie an obstacle to folks who want more money for their items - or who want all of it. Some of them may try to change her mind, by force if need be. Others may try to remove her from the picture altogether. Heirs might attempt to cheat relatives. Crooks might try to obtain things that aren't theirs. Greed. Avarice. The lust for possession. A need for power. Ego trips.

Ah, yes, Cleland's chosen a fertile breeding ground for evil, and I foresee a long life for this series. A nice side benefit is that, in addition to a natural flow of people who may be up to no good, Cleland can also easily change the small town setting from time to time to prevent reader boredom: scouting trips to other locations, appraisals for out-of-town folks, conventions, conferences, maybe even a lecture tour or an overseas research trip. There are a lot of possibilities ahead for this series, and I'm looking forward to her Spring 2007 book, Deadly Appraisal, to see what new twist she highlights.

Meanwhile, if you can't get enough of antiques, you should go check out Cleland's website, where you can submit your own item for "instant" appraisal by experienced professionals at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, read or submit stories about favorite antiques, enter contests, take trivia quizzes, pore over recipes, and spend a few enjoyable hours avoiding whatever it is you're trying to avoid.

Dead As a Scone
Ron and Janet Benrey
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 719, 1810 Barbour Drive, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
ISBN: 159310197X, $12.95, 346 pp.

Nigel Owens is having quite a comedown – from a swank London job as an insurance manager, to the acting director of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Tea Museum. On top of that, he has to work with an attractive but annoying American curator named Felicity Adams – Flick to her friends – who is a tea fanatic. Personally, Nigel doesn't understand how tea ever became the national drink of England. He much prefers a steaming cup of coffee.

However, a job is a job, and if he can stick out the year as acting director, possibly one of the important people on the board can help pave his way to a job back in London. Then the museum's benefactress, Dame Elspeth, dies suddenly during a board meeting, leaving the legal standing of the museum's contents in disarray. And if that's not bad enough, Flick (who has a doctorate in food chemistry) is convinced that Dame Elspeth has been poisoned because she knew something unsavory about someone on the board and had planned to bring it out in the open.

All the old girl left behind, beside several pets that have to be jointly cared for by Nigel and Flick, is some obscure scriptural clues that no one seems to be able to make heads or tales of. As the reluctant couple race to figure out what Elspeth was trying to tell them, they run head-on into more trouble. Will they figure out what happened to Elspeth? Or will the killer strike again first? And what on earth are they going to do about the museum's collection?

We'll Always Have Murder: A Humphrey Bogart Mystery
Bill Crider
I Books, inc.
24 West 25th St., New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 0743475054, $19.95, 234 pp.

Private investigator Terry Scott makes a living the same way most PIs in California do in the 1940s: looking for a missing daughter, getting the goods on a cheating spouse, helping to catch a thieving employee. One gig that's a bit more interesting is helping Jack Warner keep the Warner Brother Studio's stars out of trouble. When he's introduced to Humphrey Bogart and told to help him figure out who's trying to blackmail him and his ex-wife Mayo Methot, he gets to see the glamorous movie star's life up close and personal.

However, trailing after Bogie, who's channeling his Sam Spade character, isn't much fun, and it becomes less entertaining when someone decides Scott and Bogie are both expendable. Now, the only way Scott can save his own neck is to figure out who's got the goods on Bogie and Mayo and why that someone wants them dead.

For someone who not only wasn't part of the 40s movie scene, but who lives in Alvin, Texas, Crider seems to have the lifestyle and patter of the rich and famous from that era down pat. We'll Always Have Murder is being billed as the first book in a series, and it will be interesting to see how Crider chooses to get Scott and Bogie tangled up in murder and mayhem next time. It shouldn't be too hard; after all, they do live in Hollywood…

One thing that caught my eye after reading and thoroughly enjoying this book was the surprising fact that the publishing house responsible for this book being on the market is a vanity press. Wow. Most vanity press books read more like a rough draft, due to the houses' usual lack of editing, spell-checking, and so forth. But this one reads like it came from a traditional house (and in fact, the title page says the book was distributed by Simon & Schuster.) Nice job, y'all!

Betty Winslow

Bob's Bookshelf

Two Little Girls in Blue
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743264908, $25.95, 322 pp.

Explaining that she has always been fascinated by the bond that exists between twins, Mary Higgins Clark's latest best seller, "Two Little Girls in Blue" creates a scenario where telepathy becomes the deciding factor in the search for a missing child. When twins Kelly and Kathy Frawley are abducted from their Connecticut home, their parents are willing to do anything to get them back including meeting the kidnapper's demand for an outrageous ransom. When only one of the twins, Kelly, is returned, a massive hunt begins for her missing sister.

Connected to her twin by an inexplicable telepathy that allows her to feel what Kathy is feeling and even manifest injuries her sister has suffered, Kelly holds the key to saving her sibling. When Kelly falls seriously ill it becomes all too obvious the authorities have only hours to find Kathy before both girls will be lost. Not since her debut with "Where Are the Children?" has Mary Higgins Clark created such a terrifying and gripping suspense story that focuses on a family's worst nightmare.

Shadow Man
Cody McFadyen
ISBN: 0553804650, $24.00, 368 pp.

Combining psychological intensity and bone chilling shocks, Cody McFadyen's debut thriller, "Shadow Man" pits one of the FBI's hottest agents, Smoky Barrett, against a psychotic killer who claims to be a direct descendent of Jack the Ripper. Having already had one of her best friends victimized by the madman, Smoky doesn't need any more incentive to bring the killer to justice. What she doesn't realize is that her adversary welcomes her involvement. In fact, he sees her as his "Abberline" and wants nothing more than a face-to-face confrontation. From the gripping beginning to its jarring conclusion, "Shadow Man" keeps the reader teetering on the edge of his seat until this cat and mouse game concludes.

Ghost Force
Patrick Robinson
ISBN: 0060746912, $25.95, 418 pp.

In this fast paced international adventure, Patrick Robinson takes us to the remote Falkland Islands where Argentina and England are again squaring off. This time oil is at the center of the violent conflict. As the two countries prepare for war, the South Americans have an ace up their sleeves - the Russians have offered their giant Akula-class submarine, Viper 157, to support them.

Looking for a little assistance themselves, the Brits turn to their U.S. allies who offer a special unit of the Navy SEALS. Led by the indomitable Rick Hunter, the clandestine strike force parachutes into the freezing South Atlantic with a simple goal - wreck Argentina's capacity to make war without letting anyone know who is responsible for the mayhem. Sound like an impossible order? Perhaps for some folks, but not the members of the elite Ghost Force.

Murder at the Racetreack
Edited by Otto Penzler
Mysterious Press
ISBN: 0892960183, $24.95, 361 pp.

Fans of the "sport of kings" who also enjoy a good mystery or thriller won't want to miss this entertaining collection of short fiction. Fourteen authors, including Lawrence Block, Julie Smith, and Jan Burke, have contributed short stories to this collection that illustrates that not even the racecourse is immune from intrigue, skullduggery, and murder.

The reader will be amazed (and perhaps a bit amused) to discover how a day's outing at the track can turn perfectly respectable and upstanding people into rather "not-so-nice" individuals. From some little old English ladies' unforgettable track excursion and an ex-cop's desperate gamble to discovering what obsession holds more hazards than betting on the ponies, you'll be riveted to your saddle the second you're out of the starting gate!

Bob Walch

Burroughs' Bookshelf

How To Design And Build Your Garden Railroad
Jack Verducci
Kalmbach Books
21027 Crossroads Circle, Waukesha, WI 53186
0890246440 $21.95 1-800-533-6644

Enhanced with more than 185 photos and diagrams, How To Design And Build Your Garden Railroad is the perfect "how to" introduction to creating a model railroading set-up in any kind of backyard garden or landscape. Detailed, methodical, comprehensive directions are provided for every aspect of a project beginning with the proper selection of where to build an outdoor model railroad system, what's needed and how to get started, preparing the groundwork (including plants and foliage), laying the tack, dealing with problems, adding drama to the set up, positioning structures (building trestles for outdoor use), water feature designs with respect to ponds, waterfalls and streams, and generally maintaining the railway. Of added value is a suppliers list that will prove especially useful for the novice model railroading hobbyist. If you are planning an outdoor railway system for your garden or landscape, then give a very careful reading to Jack Verducci's How To Design And Build Your Garden Railroad!

St. Paul's Architecture: A History
Jeffrey A. Hess & Paul Clifford Larson
University of Minnesota Press
111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2520
0816635900 $34.95

Published in cooperation with The City Of St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission, St. Paul's Architecture: A History is the collaborative work of cultural historian Jeffrey A. Hess and public historian/historic building consultant Paul Clifford Larson. Beginning with buildings from the founding in the 1840s of St. Paul, Minnesota, through the city's great construction boom of the mid-1880s, to the Period Revival architects of the 1920s and 30s, and the rise of modernism after World War II, the city's distinct history and character as reflected through the architecture of its buildings provides the reader with an historical survey of a rich architectural heritage that concludes with a final chapter on the architecture of present-day St. Paul. Presenting more than 225 notable surviving buildings and the history of several diverse city neighborhoods, St. Paul's Architecture is profusely illustrated with period photography and illustrations, making it a seminal reference for architectural students; admirers of St. Paul's special beauty, charm and history; and a seminal addition to any professional or academic library's Architectural Studies reference collection.

John Burroughs

Burton's Bookshelf

A Voice in the Night
GeorgeAnne Smith
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705 (301) 695-1707
ISBN: 1413794890, $14.95, 75 pp.

It's always refreshing to find new voices in poetry. In GeorgeAnne Smith's "A Voice in the Night", the poems shared are ones of everyday thoughts, joys and trials of love and simple pleasures. With a gentle, easy to read style these poems will touch your heart and make you think. One of my favorites is "Nature's Gifts".

'A whisper upon unseen wind,/as a breeze gently blows/The quiet stillness of grass/in awakened earth, it grows/A gull on the wing, soaring/over the waves of blue/Palm trees stand tall, swaying,/dancing to the lovers woo/Sand dunes, white, deserts own,/in paradise complete/Rolling hills of greenery, grand,/mocking the droughts deceit/Sunset draws to steal the show/in hues giving way to night/Evening sky, a ceiling spattered/with stars, twinkling delight/Seek nature with eyes, now new,/breathe and feel it living/Hold it, caring deeply within,/tend this wonder, ever giving'

A colorful look at something most of us probably take for granted. Filled with 75 pages of poetic inspirations, you'll be sure to find something you can relate to.

Six Erotic Journeys
Blush Records
850 Warren Ave., Venice, CA 90291
707-1, $13.99,

Think silky smooth skin, a room dimly lit with glowing candles and two erotically charged parties and you'll have fallen into Six Erotic Journeys. That's what this CD is: smooth and glowing and just right in setting the mood for an erotic encounter. The latest in the Mystic Ocean series weaves music and seduction so perfectly you'll forget the world around you while you enter into one filled with warm, relaxing sounds that consume your senses and leave you feeling breathless.

Of the six songs, it's hard, for me, to pinpoint a favorite on this album. All of them are wonderful in their own way. I love the guitar, as it seems to draw the listener in with its smooth, rich sounds. The percussion pulses within you, bringing with it an energy that you'll wish you could capture and carry with you everywhere you go. These two things alone worked for me. The wordless vocals of Valohna Wynn also seem to add a sweet element to the overall erotic journey.

From the first sounds of Caress to the final Release, you'll enjoy the ride. The songs will give you a sense of peace and relaxation as well as the intended erotic feel. A nice piece to have in your treasure chest of play things.

Objects of Desire/The Best of Blush Records Vol. #1
Blush Records
850 Warren Ave., Venice, CA 90291
706-1, $13.99,

Are you prepared to unleash your erotic potential? I hope so. If you aren't, you will be when you listen to Objects of Desire. This compilation will transform your everyday humdrum existence into one of erotic bliss. You'll be swept away in a deliciously naughty rhythm with the help of the music intended to spark romance. Whether you want to seduce that new someone in your life or rekindle a long-time relationship, you'll find ways to do so that you probably haven't even thought of before listening to this CD. The desire to create those magical moments won't take much work on your part. This music does that for you while you just enjoy the places it takes you.

Expect to be delighted, expect your body to move in ways that no doubt will prime it for optimal results. Expect to be horny! I couldn't listen without experiencing a rush of those feelings.

We all have fantasies. One of mine happens to involve a feather mask. While a blindfold isn't exactly the same, I found that the particular track, Blindfold, gave my visions a whole new and much more exciting spin. That's the idea, right? To take things up a notch. I enjoyed this entire album as I was able to imagine so many different possibilities. And they truly are endless when you give yourself over to the music. With a sensuality quiz included in the special packaging, you can't go wrong. Blush Records continues to please.

Lynn Burton

Carson's Bookshelf

The Nano-Reef Handbook
Christopher Brightwell
TFH Publications
One TFH Plaza, Neptune City, NJ 07753
0793805724 $26.95 1-800-631-2188

A "nano-reef" is an aquarium that is less than 15 gallons in total volume and houses reef organisms -- and especially suited for a home, office, or classroom. An aquarium hobbyist for more than 25 years, Christopher Brightwell draws upon his experience and expertise in The Nano-Reef Handbook to provide aspiring aquarium developers with a comprehensive, "user friendly" instructional guide to creating and maintaining their nano-reef aquarium including such factors as filtration, lighting, temperature control, water chemistry, and identifying more than thirty of the most highly recommended fishes and invertebrates for placement into their nano-reef aquarium. Whether a novice or seasoned aquarium enthusiast, The Nano-Reef Handbook will prove to be of exceptional interest, especially with respect to increasing the probability of success through suggested routine maintenance and sensible stock levels, creating a balanced system throughout the entire nano-reef habitat. Anyone considering establishing their own aquarium nano-reef should give Christopher Brightwell's strongly recommended The Nano-Reef Handbook a very careful reading.

Marine Life Of The Pacific Northwest
Andy Lamb & Bernard P. Hanby
Harbour Publishing
PO B219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
Graphic Arts Center Publishing, dist.
3019 NW Yeon Avenue, Portland, OR 97210
1550173618 $69.95

Enhanced with 1,700 superb color photographs, Marine Life Of The Pacific Northwest: A Photographic Encyclopedia Of Invertebrates, Seaweeds And Selected Fishes by Andy Lamb (Marine naturalist and educator) features the photography from Bernard P. Hanby (recipient of the Vancouver Natural History Society's 2003 Davidson Award for Conservation) and is an impressively thorough collection of the majestic ocean life associated with the Pacific Northwest. Featuring a "user friendly" and alphabetically organized listing of diverse fish, seaweed and invertebrate aquatic life, Marine Life Of The Pacific Northwest offers a comprehensive compendium of more than 1,400 saltwater plants and animals, and includes a quick reference usability with guide, maps, glossary, index, and color-coded pages for easy information access and identification, as well as entries that include the common name, scientific name, size, range, depth, description, picture, description and comments, and more. A core reference work for professional and academic library reference collections, Marine Life Of The Pacific Northwest is very strongly recommended for all marine-savvy explorers of the Pacific Northwest area.

The Amphibians And Reptiles Of The Honduran Mosquitia
James R. McCranie, Josiah H. Townsend, Larry David Wilson
Krieger Publishing Company
PO Box 9542, Melbourne, FL 32902-9542
1575242702 $63.50 1-800-724-0025

The collaborative work of herpetofauna experts James R. McCranie, Josiah H. Townsend, and Larry David Wilson, The Amphibians And Reptiles Of The Honduran Mosquitia is the latest in a series of regional amphibians and reptiles reference books from the Krieger Publishing Company. Beginning with a chapter on "Materials and Methods", The Amphibians And Reptiles Of The Honduran Mosquitia goes on to describe the Honduran Mosquitia region in terms of physiography, climate, vegetation zones and environments, peoples, and the history of herpetofaunal survey work. The Amphibians And Reptiles Of The Honduran Mosquitia next presents amphibian and reptile classifications, their ecological and biogeographical distribution and relationships, and conservation status. Descriptively identifying protected areas of the Mosquitia, The Amphibians And Reptiles Of The Honduran Mosquitia finally addresses future projections and concerns and "Species of Probable Occurrence in the Honduran Mosquitia". Enhanced with color photography throughout, The Amphibians And Reptiles Of The Honduran Mosquitia offers students and readers a glossary, a gazetteer, a listing of cited literature, and an index to scientific names. Also highly recommended for professional and academic library collections are four other titles in this seminal and outstanding series: Guide To The Amphibians And Reptiles Of Japan (1575240858, $69.50); The Amphibians And Reptiles Of El Salvador (1575242524, $49.50); A Field Guide To The Amphibians And Reptiles Of Bali (1575241900, $39.50); and The Exotic Amphibians And Reptiles Of Florida (1575240424, $38.50).

Michael J. Carson

Debra's Bookshelf

Dirk Jamison
Chicago Review Press
ISBN: 1556525990, $22.95, 212 pp.

The title of Dirk Jamison's slender memoir Perishable is a reference to the most striking oddity of the author's childhood, that his father--a man for whom the notion of responsibility was anathema--undertook to feed his family of five for a number of years by "trashing," taking recently discarded food from dumpsters home to the family dinner table. This was a lifestyle choice rather than necessity. Able-bodied but unwilling to waste his time on a paying job, the author's father saw eating trash as a means of gaining free time: "More trash means less work. Less work means more time." But his enthusiasm for jars of expired pickled eggs and the like was not shared by the rest of the family. The elder Jamison's bizarre take on life was coupled with a selfish abdication of parental responsibility. But his father's instability, if perhaps the worst of what the author endured growing up, was not the whole of it. Jamison's mother was the better parent of the two, but she brought her own problems to the familial mix. Now "slinking off to cry with slabs of chocolate," now refusing a knee operation because she was sure it implied temporary amputation of the affected limb, Jamison's mother, the author explains, was not so much crazy as stupid: "'Ma'am, are you insane?' is the question that nobody ever asks. But I can see that question in their eyes, and it's a misdiagnosis I'm always grateful for. Much preferable to the actual problem, which appears to be staggering stupidity." There were also the regular abuses of Jamison's Mengele-esque older sister and, in the author's adolescence, the in-retrospect-inappropriate attention of "Scoutmaster Gary," the Mormon overseer of a series of Church-sponsored activities in which Jamison took part. In short, the author's home life was unstable, and his father's mode of parenting arguably a form of abuse. Jamison and his siblings lacked dependable adult figures who were capable of making rational decisions on behalf of the family.

Jamison tells the story of his unusual childhood in spare, unflinching prose. Neither sentimental nor self-pitying, the author approaches his subject with something like journalistic dispassion. He is startlingly frank. This is most admirable not when he is detailing his family's failures but rather when he confesses to poor behavior of his own during the period. In the end Jamison's remarkable account of his peculiar upbringing is probably more universal in its scope than he intended. My guess is that a lot of readers will find much that's familiar in the book, their own imperfect familial relationships here writ more extreme. Thus Perishable isn't merely a good read. It may help you laugh at your own crazy relatives.

The Devil's Halo
Chris Fox
Hutchinson (Random House)
ISBN: 0091794994, 10.99 Brit. pounds, 471 pp.

Terry Weston, a professor of international business ethics, moonlights as an economic spy with an off-the-books relationship with the CIA. He is hired early in Chris Fox's thriller to recover a bootlegged copy of an unreleased action movie from the Russian pirates who managed to break the digital file's military-strength encryption. His mission, dangerous enough in the first place, soon morphs into a much bigger assignment with far-reaching political implications. Weston's wife and six-year-old daughter are dragged to Europe to insure his cooperation with the U.S. government. Maria Weston is a rocket scientist who works with the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Her expertise turns out to be vital to her husband's success: together the Westons investigate and attempt to sabotage Project Europa, a Franco-Russian initiative whose goal is nothing less than ending the military supremacy of the United States, and in particular undermining her interests in space.

The Devil's Halo, set in the near future, tells a complex story, impressive in its detail, from multiple points of view. Though the story belongs primarily to Terry Weston there are numerous short passages in which well-drawn walk-on characters are introduced to round out those parts of the narrative that are outside of Weston's experience. Terry and his wife share a sometimes charming camaraderie, approaching the innumerable life-threatening situations into which they are thrown with a Nick-and-Nora insouciance. Arguably more interesting than either of the Westons, however, is Fox's principal bad guy, Constantin Rodin, a "gray-haired brick" of a man who, despite his penchant for beating and killing people, manages to remain a sympathetic character.

For the most part I enjoyed The Devil's Halo, but I have some complaints. I found it difficult to suspend belief when the Westons used a rocket ship as a get-away vehicle. More importantly, the book is uneven. A page-turner in parts, the pace of the story slows to a crawl during a number of information-heavy chapters. One wishes the exposition could have been broken up into more easily digested bits. Finally, my biggest problem with the book was with the Weston's daughter Ariana, whose presence in the story, sometimes no more than an after thought, is unnecessary. Ariana's character does not ring true. She is presented as a mini spy in training, capable of enduring all manner of hardships--unfamiliar playgroups and unplanned trips abroad and treks through the sewers of Moscow and getting shot at-- without the whining and hunger and bathroom requirements you'd expect from a six-year-old. The child's excision from the book would, I think, improve it.

Despite its problems The Devil's Halo is a good read, sometimes very good. Fox paints a picture of European antipathy toward the U.S., culminating in a muted apocalypse, which is particularly interesting in the current geopolitical climate.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Match Made in Heaven
Bob Mitchell
Kensington Books
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 0758212690, $20.00

The title of this book threw me off at first. I thought it was a romance novel. Once I saw the cover I knew that it had something to do with golf. The story is a man named Elliot Goodman who has a massive heart attack. As he is dying God appears to him and offers him a deal he is in no way able to refuse. If he wins a game of 18 holes of golf, he can have his life back; if he loses then he goes on to the next level. I like that for each hole Elliot plays he has to compete against a person who is already dead. Some of the competitors are John Lennon, Joan of Arc, W.C. Fields, Beethoven, Gandhi are just a few. There are more but I do not want to ruin it for the readers. The novel is a fun read that is one of the most creative stories I've read in a long time.

Xanthan Gumm
Robin Reed
Barstow Productions
ISBN: 159113899X, $14.95

An alien leaves his planet and comes to earth on a quest to meet Steven Spielberg. He lands in Chicago and has many comic things happen to him along the way. I was reminded of the Jerry Lewis movie "Visit to a Small Planet." The writing is witty and filled with funny situations that will have readers laughing out loud.

Dark Harbor
Stuart Woods
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 039915342X, $24.95

I've always liked Stuart Woods novels and this one is a shining example of why. This novel like most of his is a very fast paced read. Woods has loaded the story with enough twists and turns and filled it with characters we know and like. It appears that Dick Stone Stone Barrington's cousin has committed suicide. Barrington with the aid of his former partner Dino and Holly Barker conducts an investigation that takes them into the covert world of the CIA. .

The President's Nemesis
Michael Beres
Medallion Press Inc
ISBN: 1932815732, $24.95

A recent article in Publishers Weekly talked about how the current White House does not like that the publisher of this book has used the presidential seal on the cover because there are several bullet holes. I applaud Medallion Press for standing firm on its use of the artwork for this timely work of fiction. The novel is all about conspiracies, presidential assignations, and covert operations. Beres has written a very tense nail-biting thriller that is filled with several well fleshed out characters in tense situations. Beres sums up the discontent voters have for all politicians in this country very well in a few short sentences. THE PRESIDENT'S NEMESIS is a great political thriller.

No Place Like Home
Mary Higgins Clark
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
ISBN: 0743497287, $9.99, 1-800-456-6798

A murder takes place in ten-year-old Liza's home in New Jersey. Years later under a new name Liza's husband buys her a home as a gift without telling her. The house is the same one. As I was reading this novel I had to wonder about the coincidence of this occurring. The novel though is super charged suspense that will have readers turning the pages. This is the best Clark book I've read in some time.

The 5th Horseman
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
Time Warner Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0316159778, $27.95

Patients are dying for no reason in a hospital. Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer finds that it is personal because Yuki Castellano the newest member of the women's murder club tells her that her mother is one of the victims. The writing is the fast pace that readers expect from Patterson while the investigation encounters many suspects. My only complaint is that I thought the ending was just a little too weak. I think also this is a much stronger book than "The Fourth of July" the last book in the series written by these two authors.

Snakes and Earrings
Hitomi Kanehara
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0452287316, $10.00

This was a very strange novel about the underground world of piercing and tattooing in modern Japan. It is a very fast read that has a lot to say about some very bizarre people. It is also a murder mystery that is unsolved.

The Jack Ryan Agenda
William Terdoslavich
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
ISBN: 0765312484, $7.99

Want to know about the books of Tom Clancy? This is the one to have to know everything you want to know and more about the world of Jack Ryan and his son. I learned a lot even though I've read the novels. The author compares the real world with that of the fictitious Jack Ryan.

The Two Moons
James P. Hogan
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
ISBN: 1416509363, $7.99

Two of James Hogan's most popular novels are back in print in one single edition. They are "Inherit the Stars" and "The Gentle Giants of Ganymede. Hogan also has written a new introduction that tells some interesting tid-bits about how he came to write these two novels that began the Ganymede series. When you think of James Hogan these are two of his best books. I've always felt that these two novels show why he is the new Arthur C. Clarke.

Love Hurts and Other Short Stories
Barry Hoffman
Gauntlet Press
5307 Arroyo St., Colorado Springs CO 80922
ISBN: 1887368892, $9.95

There are seven short stories here for the first time together. I liked how Hoffman's horror in all of the pieces is believable because, there is nothing super natural. In one mankind has found a way to keep wars going forever. Another is a woman who has everything but wants more. In another the author covers the subject of drug abuse. And another is about mothers who are so irresponsible with their children that the court has to intervene. I like how Hoffman covers the social issues of our society and make us see that our society is going in the wrong direction.

Sarah Gallick
Ami Books
5401 NW Broken Sound Blvd, Boca Raton, Fl 33487
ISBN: 1932270078, $5.99

The author reveals things that many of us never knew about JLO, the talented star of stage and screen. The book goes up to the beginning of her relationship with Ben Affleck. The writer also tells J.Lo's feelings on actor Matt Damon, and other prominent female actors as well as behind the scenes of many of the films Jennifer Lopez has starred in. Readers will now have a better understanding of J.Lo.

Gary Roen

Gorden's Bookshelf

Sliding Scales: A Pip and Flinx Adventure
Alan Dean Foster
Del Rey Books
A division of Random House, Inc.
New York, NY
ISBN: 0345461584, $6.99, 257 pp.

Foster has written a SF cult series with his Pip and Flinx. His last few books in the saga are closer to chapters in the larger adventure than the standalone tales of the first few stories in the series. 'Sliding Scales' is a must read in the series but first time readers are better served starting with the stories from the beginning of the tale. In 'Sliding Scales,' you can find one of Foster's greatest strengths as a writer, the ability to create a fantasy world that seems real.

Flinx is on the run again after the last assassination attempt that wounded Charity and forced him to leave her in the care of his long time friends and associates, Bran Tse-Mallory and Truzenzuzex. He needs a hideout while he considers his next move. His ship's AI suggests a vacation and searches for a world outside of the Commonwealth to escape his trackers. The AI suggests Jast, a minor world with unusual life in the beginning stages of absorption into the Aann Empire. The Aann are after Flinx as well but such an isolated world might provide the anonymity that Flinx needs. Flinx lands on Jast just as a revolt against the Aann is beginning.

'Sliding Scales' is a story that Foster does best. He creates a SF world with a reality and depth that makes the reader wish it was real. 'Sliding Scales' doesn't advance the continuing saga by much but adds in a new world and an understanding of the Aann culture that has been missing from the previous stories. The story is highly recommended for those following Flinx's adventures and is still a fun story for those who like the exploration of the possibilities of new worlds.

Big Bang, The Origin of the Universe
Simon Singh
Fourth Estate
Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 0007162219, $15.95, 497 pp.

'Big Bang' is a comprehensive study of cosmology starting with the early works of the Greeks. It is easy reading for everyone but it is a bit wordy. The book starts with the early history of cosmology using interesting information about the personal and scientific details of the lives of the scientists involved. It is great reading for a layperson but those with some science in their background will wish for a few more technical details.

If you are interested in learning about the Big Bang theory, this book will give you a strong understanding of how the theory developed and its strengths. To scientific readers the book gives the personal, editorial and emotional but not the scientific details. This gives the best readership of the book to the average person. 'Big Bang' is recommended for light reading in science.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harold's Bookshelf

A Graceful Farewell
Maggie Watson
Cypress House
155 Cypress Street Fort Bragg, CA 95437
ISBN: 187938468X, $19.95, 115 pp.

Sooner or later we all must face the fact that we will pass away from this earth. While that may mean that your problems are over the complications for those left behind are just beginning. For many people that means trying to second guess what you wanted done with those things that were not included in your will. What did you want done with your clothes? What about books or other personal items? Did you have an insurance policy? If so then where is it? That is the purpose of this book; to assist you in making a graceful farewell. Basically it is a workbook that asks all the right questions so you can organize your assets and clearly express your desires so they can be followed after your death. Very thorough in every respect, it even includes information on your family to help with the death certificate and newspaper notice, where documents are located, credit card information, insurance information, type of service, etc. A Graceful Farewell is an excellent workbook that can be recommended to anyone without reservation.

A Life in Balance
Dr. Kathleen Hall
1601 Broadway New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0814473342, $21.95, 229 pp.

As one would surmise from the title, this is a book about establishing and keeping balance in your life. One of the better self-help books that I have read, it includes sections on Happiness and Health, Seasons of Your Life, Focusing Inward for Happiness, Stress and Stress Busting, Poisons that Kill the Roots of Your Happiness (fear, anger, hate, pessimism, apathy, greed, etc.), Establishing Serenity, Exercise and it's Gift to Your Body and Spirit, Love and Intimacy, and Nourishment. It is all about living life intentionally with purpose and balance. A Life in Balance is a recommended read.

The Definitive Guide to Apache mod_rewrite
Rich Bowen
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219 Berkeley, CA 94710
ISBN: 1590595610, $39.99, 132 pp.

Apache is the most commonly employed web server software on the Internet. While it is powerful and flexible out of the box your needs may require more advanced security, virtual web servers, flexibility or other items that can easily be changed. The ability to use mod_rewrite allows you to rewrite your URL in many ways so that it works the way you want it to. Among its other capabilities it allows you to set up Mass Virtual Hosting and rearrange your site with ease. And for those of us who love the Linux world the use of regular expressions allows a lot of flexibility. Some of the more powerful features include the ability to use conditional rewrites (the content is different based on usernames), force users to enter the site only through the main page, limit user access to particular directories, prevent spider access, and prevent image theft. The Definitive Guide to Apache mod_rewrite is a highly recommended introduction to this very popular but vastly under-documented program.

The Career Programmer, second edition
Christopher Duncan
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219 Berkeley, CA 94710
ISBN: 1590596242, $29.99, 259 pp.

Not a typical book from Apress but definitely appropriate for their audience, The Career Programmer teaches the highly skilled programmer the non-technical skills involved in getting a job or starting a career as a contract programmer. Contained within the pages of the book is a distillation of the stuff you did not learn in college but need to know to work in the real world. Some of the problems the author examines include working in an imperfect world with unrealistic deadlines and expectations, dealing with changing expectations, estimating techniques, keeping the project under control, getting a job versus flying solo, and how to do either. In the real world good coding skills are simply not enough to survive. You have to learn to deal with corporate politics. The Career Programmer, Second Edition is highly recommended to those who are or want to become programmers for a living.

Beginning Ubuntu Linux: From Novice to Professional
Keir Thomas
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219 Berkeley, CA 94710
ISBN: 1590596277, $39.99, 492 pp.

Ubuntu Linux is a Debian based distribution that aims to be particularly user friendly and does an excellent job at it. A desktop focused product, it comes with all the most commonly used software including a full Office Suite (including a database and slideshow product), web browser, instant messaging, audio player, movie player, CD/DVD burner, photo editor, and of course various games, screen savers, and utilities.

The book has a good section on getting things up and running correctly that covers all the most common problems that you might encounter during an install. Generally my experience has been that there are few, if any problems installing Ubuntu. For those who are not satisfied with just booting up and running an Internet browser or writing a letter but want to get into the nuts and bolts of the system the author has included information on the BASH Shell. Using it you can get directly into the file system or interact with other aspects of the system in detail.

While this is an introduction to Ubuntu and the various programs that come with it, whole books are available from this publisher and many others on most of the programs included with Ubuntu. So, while this book gives you what you need to get up and running and do all the most common tasks, if you really want to take advantage of the power of some of the programs you can pick up one of several good books on the subject as well as utilize the online support community. Beginning Ubuntu Linux: From Novice to Professional is highly recommended to anyone interested in this desktop alternative.

Bug-Free Computing
Ken Dwight
The TeleProcessors, Inc.
14300 Cornerstone Village Drive, Suite 321 Houston, TX 77014-1276
ISBN: 0975408542, $19.95, 162 pp.

If your computer is on and you are connected to the Internet then sooner or later it will become infected. These days you don't have to open attachments, download a file, or even surf the web to become infected; just being connected can make you a target. In his book Bug-Free Computing, Ken Dwight educates the reader about the history of the many threats to safe computing and what you can do to make your computer experience as safe as possible. Some of the information will be surprising to most people including the fact that most infections occur on a system that has anti-virus software installed. To keep bug-free he discusses anti-virus software, using a firewall, spam filtering, and a host of other techniques to increase your safety. And, of course he includes a section on what to do if you are already infected. Written in a very easy to understand style, Bug-Free Computing is highly recommended to the everyday user who wants to understand the computing environment and how to work on their computer without stressing about infections.

CIO Wisdom II
Phillip Laplante & Thomas Costello
Prentice Hall/PTR
One Lake Street Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
ISBN: 0131855891, $44.99, 400 pp.

This book basically contains discussions with various CIOs about their changing roles within organizations. The authors examine not only how their roles have changed, but also how they have remained the same, and how the importance of marketing or persuading management, subordinates, and board members has changed their roles. Of course they also examine hardware and software issues that CIOs face and issues like securing the IT facility, running applications over the Internet, information management, models for evaluating Return On Investment, making sure that technology is user-driven without becoming controlled by those users, outsourcing and architecture, and IT governance and procurement. CIO Wisdom II is recommended for CIOs and those who wish to understand the internal and external pressures on them in the current business environment.

Designing Interfaces
Jenifer Tidwell
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North Sebastapol, CA 95472
ISBN: 0596008031, $49.95, 310 pp.

It is hard to write a review on a book that has a title that explains the subject well and the book does an excellent job with the subject without straying off course. That is the problem with this one. The book is entirely on the subject of software interfaces for the user. As such it addresses some of the most frustrating problems a user faces – poor design, unclear layout, lack of intuitiveness, and sometimes just a bother to use. The author examines various interfaces and by clearly examining the purpose of the software shows when and how to display information in an understandable and user-friendly format. Areas discussed include when to use lists, tables, graphs, drilldowns, alternative views, using wizards, entry points, navigation models, sequences, breadcrumbs, page layout, using panels, undo, informational graphics, user forms and controls, and aesthetics. As a user frustrated with many software packages and poorly designed interfaces, Designing Interfaces should be read by everyone working with trying to create a user-friendly product.

The Event Marketing Handbook
Allison Saget
Dearborn Trade Publishing
30 South Wacker Drive, Suite 2500 Chicago, IL 60606
ISBN: 1419515063, $22.95, 292 pp.

If you are in charge of an event from the small half-day seminar to the week-long trade show you know you have to do your marketing right or it just won't be a success. This book focuses on the marketing aspect of such events and is packed with lots of creative ideas. The author even includes several excellent templates you can use to help organize your event and keep you focused on the goal. The last chapters bring all the information from the first part of the book together into a cohesive unit. Some of the areas covered include dealing with vendors, budgets, schedules, and even the details of various seating arrangements. If you are putting on an event, even if you have done it successfully before, you will find a lot of useful information in the pages of The Event Marketing Handbook and it is highly recommended to everyone both new and experienced.

Feng Shui: A Practical Guide for Architects and Designers
Vincent M. Smith and Barbara Lyons Stewart
AEC Education
30 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 2500 Chicago, IL 60606-7481
ISBN: 1419535706, $39.95, 256 pp.

Without trying to make the reader an expert at Feng Shui this book clearly explains important principles of good design from placement of doors to colors and placement of art. A fascinating read at a basic level, it does not delving into the complexities of Feng Shui but make the basic ideas easy to understand and apply. The book includes an interesting section on how furniture placement creates effective doorways and passageways in the room and makes the house more inviting or hinders access. The authors examine various applications including residential and office environments. Feng Shui: A Practical Guide for Architects and Designers is easily one of the most approachable and immediately usable books on Feng Shui that I have read and one of the few that I can actually call an enjoyable read.

Harold McFarland

Harwood's Bookshelf

Jesus Is Not a Republican: The Religious Right's War on America
Clint Willis and Nate Hardcastle, eds.
Thunder's Mouth Press
245 West 17th Street, 11th Floor, New York 10011-5300
ISBN: 1560257636, $15.95, 368 pp.

The title says it all. Jesus was a hunchbacked dwarf psychopath. Republicans are much taller.

According to the publisher's blurb, "The historical Jesus, by most accounts, was in favor of social justice, peace and compassion." And according to most Muslims, Mohamed was not a terrorist. Unfortunately for the credibility of persons who see Mohamed or Jesus as a nicer man than bin Laden or Torquemada, their sacred writings tell a very different story. Jesus' official biography portrays him as a hate-ridden fanatic who required proselytes to hate their family members who remained outside of his sect (Luke 14:26), and condemned everyone who refused to accept his unsubstantiated claim of messiahship (Mat 12:30) to eternal torture in a Hell than can only be described as a sadist's dream (Mark 9:47-49).

The editors in several places quote the words of Jesus as taken from the translation of Stephen Mitchell, who in the very book they are quoting acknowledges that he only translated those passages that suited his purpose. For example, he shows Jesus saying, "Why do you see the splinter that is in your brother's eye, but don't notice the log that is in your own eye?" He pointedly omits the passage in Luke (16:1-9) where Jesus preaches a sermon that can be summarized, "Cheat those who are no longer useful to you, and use the stolen money to bribe those who are in a position to do you good." Nor do any of Jesus' apologists mention his racist admonition to his apprentices (Mat 10:5), "Don't go anywhere among the infidels, and don't enter any Samaritan town." They likewise omit all references to Jesus' equations of gentiles with dogs (Mark 7:27) and swine (Mat 7:6).

The Introduction to Jesus Is Not a Republican explains (p. ix) that, "Together, certain Christian fundamentalists, Republican politicians and corporate leaders have worked hard to impose their versions of Jesus on the rest of us; they exploit the name of Jesus, making it a marketing tool for power and profit." That is certainly true. It is also true that, "American moguls, snake-oil salesmen and politicians looking to score riches or power will stop at little if they feel it is in their interests to exploit God to achieve those ends" (p. 28). Unfortunately the editors are equally selective in utilizing only those gospel passages that help them impose their own version of Jesus as the nice guy he assuredly was not.

They do, however, acknowledge (p. x) that, "The Gospels offer us more than one version of Christ—including the angry and self-righteous versions." It apparently does not occur to them that a book containing self-contradictory portraits of the same hero can only be fiction.

The chapter, "Jesus is not an end-timer" is plain wrong. Jesus promised his hearers that the end of the world was going to occur within the lifetime of persons listening to him preach: "There are some standing here who are not going to experience death until they have seen Allah's theocracy established by force" (Mark 9:1, The Judaeo-Christian Bible Fully Translated). In other words, Jesus' overthrow of existing regimes and the transportation of the Saved into the sky without passing Go and without collecting $200 was going to occur no later than the reign of the emperor Hadrian. He seems to have been delayed.

The chapter, "Jesus is not Bush's brain," is likewise questionable. Since Jesus, being long dead, currently does not exist, and talking chimpanzee Bush is assuredly lacking a human brain, can one legitimately argue that one nonexistent thing "is not" another nonexistent thing? One could with as much logic argue that the Great Pumpkin is not Santa Claus. The chapter, "Jesus is not a bigot," cannot be harmonized with Mat 10:5 (see above). And the chapter, "Jesus is not a sadist," is fully refuted by the hunchbacked dwarf's transformation of Gehenna from the Essene death chamber in which non-Essenes were exterminated, into the Christian Hell in which the Religious Right's detractors, including moderate Christians, are tortured by flamethrowers for all eternity (Mark 9:47-49). As for "Jesus is not a theocrat": Oh come now!

On the other hand, I fully endorse the observation (p. 294) that, "Paul was a reactionary, power-crazed conservative who believed that God was giving him the exclusive power to set moral absolutes for everyone else, and George Bush is a reactionary … uh … Well, maybe there is some common ground after all."

Jesus Is Not a Republican is far from useless. Since its intended market is the majority of believers who support the separation of Church and State, its strategy of inventing a contrast between its idealized Jesus and the Republicanazis is logical if not exactly honest. And it enables the editors to point out that the Republican theocracy currently enslaving America distorts information about condoms that could save millions of lives and prevent unwanted pregnancies; prevents young, poor girls from having safe abortions, while not lifting a finger to protect their children once they are born; spends huge sums to keep a braindead zombie on artificial life support; and does almost nothing to save the thousands of children who die of starvation as a direct consequence of the Republicanazi support for the insane taboos of the theofascist Führer in Rome (p. xiv).

The editors dedicate their book to "the Religious Left." But nowhere other than the dedication do they even refer to the Religious Left. "Right Wing" means fascist, and the Republicanazis are indeed theofascists. "Left Wing" means communist, and the only true Religious Left are such Anabaptist clones as the Amish and Mennonites who practise the communism of the original Jesus sects (Acts 4:34-35). Willis and Hardcastle use the misnomer, "Religious Left," to refer to middle-of-the-road moderates who reject left wing communal living as totally as they reject right wing theocracy. That is perhaps a semantic quibble, but it is a useful illustration of how thoroughly this book misinterprets and falsifies to make its points.

Denigrating the Religious Right by claiming that it distorts and falsifies the teachings of that nice mister Jesus is like denigrating the Gestapo by claiming that it distorted and falsified the teachings of that nice mister Hitler. The Religious Right are self-serving theofascists trying to overthrow democracy and replace it with a totalitarian Republicanazi tyranny run by themselves. Jesus was a self-serving theofascist who died trying to overthrow a worldwide totalitarian tyranny run by Caesar and his Romans, and replace it with a worldwide totalitarian tyranny run by himself and his Jews. In the sense that the editors define the word, Jesus WAS a Republican.

Godless: The Church of Liberalism
"Ann Coulter"
Crown Forum
ISBN: 1400054206, $27.95, 320 pp.

When Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal, a large number of readers took it at face value. Good satire can have that effect. No doubt many readers of this parody of ultra right wing extremism will similarly take it seriously, failing to recognize "Ann Coulter" as a caricature created by liberal humanists for the purpose of discrediting the entire Bush/Robertson/Phelps religion for which she purports to speak, much the way the anti-Semitic perpetrators of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion tried to discredit the Jews they pretended were its authors. But whereas Swift's satire was taken seriously by persons who disagreed with its surface thesis, Godless will be swallowed as the genuine philosophy of a real person by those far-right extremists who fully agree with it.

The author of such neanderthal thinking a real person? Someone who calls humankind's most humane, righteous, sane, intelligent, morally evolved philosophy a "religion" (the ultimate insult) a real person? Oh come now. Godless: The Church of Liberalism is brilliant satire. Swift and Twain at their satirical best wrote nothing better. I urge its author to abandon his anonymity and accept the credit he fully deserves.

William Harwood

Kaye's Bookshelf

Psycho Psychic
Betsy Gallup
PublishAmerica, LLLP
ISBN: 1413787614, $19.95, 194 pp.

This story is about a young psychic woman, Princess Eva, who predicts the death of Lily Banks, Kate Libson's friend. There are two deaths connected by Princess Eva's predictions and notes left at the crime scenes. Homicide Detective Matt Prescott, who grew up and has a rueful history with Kate, works the case and his chances of getting closer to Kate. Montana Blake, Eva's protective manager, romances Lily for financial reasons. There are several little romances twisting and turning and then another death. We know early on "who done it" but that is secondary to the reasons why. Do we think the killer is justified and therefore, should be allowed to continue?

I enjoyed this book very much! Betsy does an excellent job on many levels–plot, characters, settings and style. Her characters are interesting and certainly come alive. I thought she did an exceptional job of moving back and forth between Kate's first person point of view (POV) and a third person point of view, which can be a bit tricky. The romances added some fun and lightness. Will the strong-willed Kate Libson give in to her sensual attraction for Matt? The ending . . . I would say is unique, possibly controversial, and I was left wondering about the story that Eva told Montana which had such a terminal effect upon him.

If you like fun–not too gross and suspenseful–mystery thrillers, then you'll probably like this book, and I promise . . . Betsy's style and quality of writing will not disappoint you. It was, indeed, an enjoyable surprise. Thanks! Betsy Gallup is a freelance writer who resides with her family in Kansas.

Memoirs of My Life and Yours - Using the Issues of Life to Shape our Destiny
Karlene Hunt
BookSurge, LLC
ISBN: 1419626159, $10.99, 78 pp.

Karlene Hunt was born in St Ann, Jamaica. Her family moved to the United States in 1983. In this book Karlene shares some of her life, personal problems and observations with us, but more importantly, she shares her inspiration which is grounded in her belief in God and the teachings of the Bible. Allow me to quote some from the back cover:

"How do you navigate a relationship through the rough patches? How can you raise your children to respect themselves and trust God? And how can you live the way God intended to you live? Hunt's advice is practical, inspirational and right on target. Tune out inappropriate media. Nurture the body and soul with the right food and the right thinking. Parent so you produce children who will honor God, and always rely on the Bible as your ultimate teacher."

From this short paragraph, you can decide for yourself whether or not this book is for you.

As constructive criticism, I would suggest that Karlene have her book proofread and edited by a professional editor. In addition, as writing is a craft and writers work to hone their skills, I recommend she add the following three books to her writing tool box: The Chicago Manual of Style - 15th edition, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White and The Wordwatcher's Guide to Good Writing & Grammar by Morton S. Freeman. Readers will forgive an error or two but soon lose patience with a writer who hasn't taken the time to study and learn the basics.

The Takers: Book One of the Oz Chronicles
R.W. Ridley
BookSurge, LLC
ISBN: 1419609580, $14.99, 226 pp.

I would classify this story as "low fantasy" as it is set in the world as we know it but a nonrational event has occurred which is not explainable, rationally or irrationally, by natural law. And with regard to themes and types within fantasy, the sword-and-sorcery would be the closest. This is the world of adventure in which heroes (Oz) and heroines (Lou) wage epic combat with evil forces. Oz did indeed have a sword, J.J., which had belonged to James J. Petty, a Union Officer in the Civil War.

Our young hero, 13-year-old Osmond "Oz" Giffith, wakes from an illness to discover he is alone except for his dog, Kimball. In his search for others he soon finds himself responsible for a baby, Nate–a Storyteller, and meets up with Wes, an old mechanic, and Lou, a young girl. Next he befriends Ajax, an American-Sign-Language-talking gorilla and Wes finds two horses, Phil and Ryder. He knows that there are monsters of some kind–the Takers (sometimes called Greasywhoppers because you cannot say the name), and he feels that this nightmare has something to do with stories written by Stevie Dayton, a Down Syndrome boy whom he and friends had teased and who had taken his own life. Oz seems to know that the answers are in Stevie's last comic book.

If you like monsters, you won't be disappointed because there certainly are more than one, and I quote from page 175 to give you some idea of the writer's style:

"The man we thought was Shaw was pinned beneath Ajax's massive 400-pound frame, and began to morph before our eyes. His round shape shifted into a long slender build. Thin, hairy tentacles sprouted from his face and head. His eyes bulged and turned milky white. He opened his mouth and two vertical pinchers shot out and snapped at Ajax. The military uniform was replaced by a black tattered uniform that left some of the creature's purple skin exposed. It began to squawk like a bird. The sound suddenly started to come at us from all sides. Looking around the arena, we saw half of Pepper's men undergo the same change as Shaw. They pounced on their former comrades. The thrashing tentacles held tight to the victims' faces while the pinchers cut through to their brains."

R. W. Ridley is a gifted storyteller with a rich imagination who has created a complex quest on multi levels which keeps the pages turning. He has that Stephen King quality of being able to write from an adolescent's perspective and reality. Teens are not always kind and Oz was no exception.

Besides appealing to adolescents, The Takers will appeal to anyone of any age who enjoys a good fantasy, and remember, within fantasy sometimes a difficult truth can be told. I'll be looking forward to Book Two. R. W. Ridley tells us that he lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with his beautiful wife, a hyperactive dog, three arrogant cats, and one ugly mortgage.

The Short-Legged Fisher Boy of the Land of Left
Ned Webb & Kalinde C. Webb
BookSurge, LLC
ISBN: 1419606085, $14.99, 330 pp.

From the colorful front cover–showing an angry king, his princess daughter and the fisher boy–one might think to classify this story as a fantasy in an imaginary world. However, classic fantasy deals with the impossible. Fantasy is the world of magic, the supernatural, of inexplicable occurrences that don't have a foundation in the reality of the world as we know it. It is the realm of faeries, dragons, unicorns and sorcerers. Low fantasy is set in the world as we know it. . . governed by nature's laws; whereas high fantasy is set in imaginary worlds governed by laws set by supernatural beings.

So, I have classified this story as "low fantasy folklore" because it is a story about an imaginary place and its people. In this isolated mountain valley the Chelks and Zaprians believe they are the only people on earth, that the earth extends to the edge of the ocean and to the tops of the distant mountains. They believe in spirits and witches such as the Ogres of the Cold and the Avenging Witch.

Quoting from the back cover:

"On one side of the Forbidden River lies the land of Chelekai, where Togai is the son of the head fisher. On the other side is the Kingdom of Zaphyr and the City of Light, the site of the yearly Festival. Zaphyr's ruler, King Praidar, is the father of the princess Prandina. In Chelekai and Zaphyr, lives are governed by rules and customs based on ancient legends and superstitions; some separate, some intertwining. And in a place where there is little, the Zaprians have the most--and they make the rules.

Born with a deformed left leg, Togai has been the object of ridicule all his life. When he decides not to attend the Festival one year, his natural curiosity and increasing courage lead him to a startling discovery. The Short-Legged Fisher Boy of the Land of Left is the story of a boy who uses reason, logic and bravery to challenge the only world he has ever known. In this unique coming of age story, the Webbs have created a tale that will captivate young and old readers alike and take them on a journey they won't soon forget."

In many ways this story is a social anthropological tale about cultural beliefs, community structure and values, work ethics, prejudices, discrimination, the interdependence of trading nations and is very similar to Jean Auel's first book, The Clan of the Cave Bear. It is not a fairy tale with the prince and princess riding off on a white horse to live happily ever after.

As a book for children and young adults, it can't help but be an inspiration: to think, to question and to find the courage to follow their beliefs. The story is well-developed and -written with excellent dialogue and realistic descriptions. The flow and rhythm are smooth and easy. You certainly will soon empathize with Togai and his many personal challenges. My hope while reading was that Princess Prandina would begin to consider the possibility that the Chelks and Zaprians were related in some way.

Ned Webb and his daughter Kalinde C. Webb are both multi-talented peopled, and I refer you to the book's Amazon site ( and the back cover of the book for personal details.

Would I recommend this book?. . . you bet and not just to children and young adults. Did you like The Clan of the Cave Bear? . . . then you'll probably enjoy this book and for the same reasons. Congratulations, Ned and Kalinde!

Emotional Bondage: The Quest for Peace
Deb Raffo
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker - 515, Parker, CO
ISBN: 1598003275, $14.95, 204 pp.

This is a story about Donna, a woman who was molested at age five and grew up in an alcoholic family. The young girl had absolutely no sense of self-esteem and was easily drawn to drugs and became drug addicted. Most of the story is about her teenage and early adult years.

The book is divided into Donna Past: The Girl and Donna Present. When the author is writing about Donna's past, she refers to her as 'the girl' and when writing about Donna's present, she refers to her as Donna. There is a considerable gap between her early adult years and Donna at age 45 who has a son Doug of college age.

Toward the end of the story, Donna Present, has a spiritual experience which changes her life and she tells her therapist, "Well, it's gone. The dread, the uneasiness, gone, all gone, Mike. It started a few months ago with these words, and like these feelings, they were surreal, bright, and they would creep in my mind and kind of talk to me. This is why I though I was going crazy, Mike."

Donna believes that the pain was necessary to arrive at a higher level of consciousness. "I would not have this higher level of being. Therefore, to all those skeptics I can now say that I am blessed yes I am blessed. Yes thanks to God I am blessed."

The author writes insightfully about the confused feelings of a young girl with no self-esteem who is looking to be accepted and loved. And who isn't? I felt the leap from Donna's late teens to age 45 was abrupt. As a constructive criticism, I would suggest that the author use italics for internal thoughts instead of quote marks or no marks at all. This is Deb Raffo's first novel, and I wish her much success with her writing.

Terrorist in Our Midst (A Memoir)
The Stone The Builder's Rejected
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO
ISBN: 1598005324, $11.95, 156 pp.

This book is one woman's effort to express her concerns about the health and welfare of America and its political and terrorist problems. Her belief that there are terrorists affecting her personal life stem from a disagreement she had with a young black male who said he would help scan a book she had written into her computer and then didn't follow through. This is where the problem began.

As far as writing quality and style, there are no chapters . . . just a continual stream of thoughts, and it would be my recommendation that this book be professionally edited with regards to grammar, spelling and punctuation. In my experience of reviewing POD published books, I find the majority to be well written and edited. This book, however, is an exception.

Quoting from the back cover: "They're heeeere! Yes, the terrorists are here. Let in by this right-wing administration. For love of an oil deal, Bush, Cheney, Haliburton and the right-wing let in the anti-Saddam terrorists forces." From that statement you can decide for yourself if you want to read this book; however, I cannot honestly recommend the book and my opinion is based primarily on the quality of writing.

Feral Country
David Morris
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker - 515, Parker CO
ISBN: 1598004247, $10.95, 72 pp.

This is a book of poetry containing some of the author's thoughts and feelings about the High Western Desert country of Northwest Colorado and Southern Wyoming. David Morris is a man concerned about the negative impact rampant development is having on the native plants, animals and archeological sites in this unique territory. Reviewing poetry is not my forte, but I try to review all print-on-demand (POD) books sent my way. So, I will tell you what I know, observed and experienced while reading this book.

David's style is more free verselike than rhyming words. The book is well laid out, the cover is particularly attractive and besides the poems, David has included some photographs. His poetry is understandable and not filled with verbal imagery beyond the average person's ability to grasp. Allow me to quote one of his poems, but I will use a slash mark to indicate the end of a line and two slashes for a double space instead of presenting it as shown in the book. The title of the poem is "Beyond Quiet".

"I tell myself/ Stand still awhile// Listen hard and could be hear// the soft anguished sigh/ of snow melting// the scratch and pop of gnarled roots/ stretching awake/ in cool wet ground// the sound of water fed grasses fattening// the quiet hiss of high gray tinged clouds/ sliding in from the west// all that and more to listen for/ yet I must ruin/ an almost perfect silence/ with the sodden sucking sounds/ of my own footsteps// too ADD/ to stay stopped/ long enough to really listen/ to any one/ place or thing."

If you like poetry about landscapes, wildlife, Native Americans and early pioneers and are interested in preserving this High Western Desert country, you might add your support to David efforts by reading his book and contacting him directly as he invites you to visit him in Craig, Colorado for an afternoon of hiking. David Morris is a school teacher who has written these poems with humor, honesty and sensory detail for you to see and feel this unique desert country he has come to love. Glad you made the effort. Thank you, David!

Kory's Lot: The Other Battle of Antietam
Tom David
ISBN: 159113935X, $14.95, 248 pp.

A compelling blend of fact and fantasy!

From the front cover and title one might think this is a story about the Civil War, and to some degree it is. However, in reality it is classic dark fantasy–the world of magic, the supernatural, of inexplicable occurrences that don't have a foundation in the world as we know it. This dark fantasy is the realm of witches, ghosts, ghouls, apparitions, monsters, extrasensory perception as in precognition, telepathy and telekinesis. And yet still, this tale is the poignant story of one man's love for his young son lost to cancer.

I wouldn't want to spoil the read for you, so I won't tell you too much more. I will say that Tom David does an excellent job at building the suspense as to what the story is all about: Why does Dixon and his wife, Rebecca, fear he may not return? What exactly is Dixon's gift, which was ignited and enhanced by the witches? Can he accomplish what he has set out to do?

Tom is a true artist at verbal description and undercurrents of strong sexuality. His characters definitely comes to life. Their relationships are interesting and complex and leave lingering questions in your mind as to traditional morality. What is a real and abiding love between a man and a woman? Dixon loves his wife and yet he also has an erotic form of love for Leona, the witch who seduced him to preserve his seed within herself, plus . . . he sees all beautiful women as potential sexual partners.

All three elements–the Civil War, classic dark fantasy and a man's love for his child–are developed thoroughly and woven together with threads of a sensual, erotic sexuality which I have not previously encountered from a male author. It is my guess that Dixon's sexual perspective may be drawn from the author's personal experiences with a touch of Anne Rice, and if he likes Anne's writing, he'll love Laurell K. Hamilton's. Dixon's feelings and experiences about his son Kory's illness and death can't help but bring up tears and touch your heart.

Prior to writing his debut novel, Tom David was a stock broker and financial advisor for sixteen years. He did, indeed, sadly lose young Kory to cancer and this book is dedicated to his son. He currently lives near Sharpsburg, Maryland, with his wife, daughters and yellow lab Koby. The sequels in this trilogy are: Journey to Antietam and Flight from Antietam. Kory's Lot is a fantasy story with a serious purpose and a powerful message . . . love your children. Congratulations, Tom!

Young Female, Traveling Alone
Anne-Marie M. Pop
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Ste 100, Lincoln, NE
ISBN: 0595360246, $12.95, 156 pp,

The author has classified her book as "General Fiction"; however, as it is based upon her seven-month backpacking experiences while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and India, I would modify that classification to: fiction/biographical travel adventure. Not everything in the book happened to the author but does happen in Asia. Allow me to quote from the back cover:

"Young Female, Traveling Alone tells the story of a successful western female in her late twenties, who is on the verge of serious depression and leaves her comfort zone behind, embarking on a backpacking journey throughout Southeast Asia and India. On her journey, Anna discovers herself in different towns, beaches and mountains. She experiments with spirituality, drugs and rave parties. Following the loss of a close friend and the failure of a romantic relationship, in the underground rave scene of Goa, Anna roams around aloof, from one Indian town to another. Ultimately, she discovers that conversations with the locals bring insight to the search for her own identity in the world. In the end, she learns that life is a long hard lesson, but a great gift worth living, despite the bumps along the way."

This is an inspirational story because it takes a lot of courage to leave ones comfort zone and to travel as Anna did. The author tells me that her target audience is young travelers, particularly women, interested in visiting Asia.

The book is written in a journal-like fashion and although the chapters or entries are very short, they are fascinating, intense and yet, simply written. Anne-Marie Pop is a good writer and there's more depth to this story than just an adventure travel log. I will quote some passage from several chapters for your consideration:

"Anxiety - I couldn't fall asleep. The mattress was too thin, and I could hear the cockroaches running around on the wooden floors. Four other women were lying down sleeping in the small room. The air was tuffy and humid. I was fidgeting and felt emotionally drained.

I had a thousand question in my mind–but no answers. How can there be so much poverty in this world? Nobody cares about the poor, only about the rich. Why are people in the West so unhappy? They live such a luxurious life. Why was I unhappy? I had everything I wanted, but no happiness. What would it take for me to be happy?"

"Under the Desert Sky - We had been riding the camels in the desert for three days. I could no longer sense the camel smell. I probably smelled like one. The guide, Raman, led us through the desert. He was riding the camel on one side, the way a dainty lady would. At times, He'd look behind. We followed him closely. He'd sing songs in Hindi or try to humor us. . . ."

We'd ride the camels in the hot sun a few hours during the day, and at night we slept under the sky. When it was time to eat, the guide set up a fire and cooked us chapatti and food. He'd first tie the camels' front left foot with the back left foot and se them free to eat the dry desert grass. Then he'd make us chai and cook the food. Jose and I lay down on a blanket under a tree, waiting for the food."

"Goa - We arrived in Panjim. The driver opened the bus door, and I stepped down through the small crowd of rickshaw drivers gathered in front of the bus. It felt like a jungle–the predators eyeing me, like prey, waiting for the right moment to jump."

"Goa Trance - The crowd was beautiful. Their faces shone in the night, and their tanned bodies, covered in colorful hippie clothes, moved along with the music. They were free, free of expectations and judgmental thoughts. It was a diverse crowd coming together under the moonlight, letting go of all limitations and exploring the connection with the music.

The speakers cried out repetitive high-pitched sounds into the air, grouped together through a tribal rhythm. I felt goose bumps all over my skin. I do not know how to express what I experienced. I felt uplifted and transposed through the crowd. The rhythms made me want to scream and lash out."

"Epilogue - One thing I've learned in Asia is to let go of judgmental thoughts and surround myself with new ideas. I'll leave it up to destiny to bring me to the right path, the path of happiness for which we all strive. After all, maybe we aren't supposed to be happy. Maybe we will never be. Humans have complex feeling that are hard to satisfy, and I've learned to accept this. I now try to live a peaceful life and look for happiness in small things, like grocery shopping and short walks. I no longer take drugs or drink alcohol, and I believe in peace of mind. I often think about my spiritual journey through Asia, and I feel blessed to have experienced it."

I highly recommend this informative, inspirational and honest adventure story.

The Tattered Tapestry: A Family's Search for Peace with Bipolar Disorder
Tom Smith with Kevin & Karla Smith
2021 Pine Lake Road, Ste 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
ISBN: 0595361374, $18.95, 224 pp.

This book is a memoir written by: Tom Smith--the father of Karla Smith who took her own life on January 13, 2003 after six years of dealing with bipolar disorder, Kevin Smith–her twin brother who kept a chronological log of her manic behavior and activities, and Karla Smith herself as she tries to tell us about her illness. As you can imagine, the six years of illness and the loss of Karla have been very difficult, trying, heartbreaking years for this family, and The Karla Smith Foundation has been created to provide hope to families and friends of anyone with a mental illness or who has lost a loved one to suicide.

About the book itself, it is one of the better-written books I have read on the subject of bipolar disorder. Many such books are written by the care givers and deal with their problems, frustrations and pain. What I found of particular interest was Karla's writing and I quote from Chapter 4 - Karla Speaks For Herself:

"In all the memoirs of mental illness that I've read, each author at some point laments that it is impossible to really describe acute depression (or mania, or schizophrenia); the experience itself defies words. This is discouraging. But I want this problem to be a theme of my book, directly addressed and worked through: the very impossibility of writing what I am trying to write. Similar to the experience of an acute episode itself, the causes of the illness are equally elusive. I have to remember the truth that William Styron, in his book Darkness Visible, so plainly declares: "I shall never learn what 'caused' my depression, as no one will ever learn about their own. To be able to do so will likely forever prove to be an impossibility, so complex are the intermingled factors of abnormal chemistry, behavior and genetics." There is no accounting for why mental illness strikes some and not others. As Styron says, "Bloody and bowed by the outrages of life, most human beings still stagger on down the road, unscathed by real depression. To discover why some people plunge into the downward spiral of depression, one must search beyond the manifest crisis–and then still fail to come up with anything beyond wise conjecture."

I am so captivated by Styron's book because it combines the details of his own story with more generl discussions of important questions surrounding mental illness. If this book were widely read in the '90's, as I have heard it was, then he has contributed crucial understandings to those who have never suffered from severe depression; for example, he argues that the stigma and shame commonly attached to suicide, the frequent assumption that the person must have been weak, is just ridiculous and must be replaced by a more sympathetic awareness that a person commits suicide because the psychic torment is simply too much to endure.

Like Styron, I want to include some critical comments about the larger world, using examples from my own life as starting points. For example, I want to question the capacity of any institution to administer carefully and correctly to the patient suffering from mental illness, and instead of proposing mere reform, I'd like to envision a completely radical method of treatment (still working out the details of this in my head). I also want to situate my story within a larger sociological framework: growing up in an American, upper-middle class, religious family, with pressure to succeed, and I want to express the "depression-inducing" elements of those circumstances (while still refusing to name a singular cause of my illness). But my story also visits the impoverished underside of society and I especially want to point out the vast difference between hospitals for the rich and for the poor. Along similar lines, I want to look at gender: I want to show how it does, at least partially, make sense that my brother did not suffer depression but I did; how it works in adolescence that so much of a girl's self esteem is derived from her looks and attention from boys, and how hard it is to out-grow this; and drawing largely on Showalter's amazing book The Female Malady, how frailty, dependence, and even madness have been linked with the Western conception of woman since Aristole."

Karla Smith was a beautiful, intelligent, gifted, well-read young woman, and the above quote is just a small sample of her writing, insight, and plans to write about her illness. In another piece which she titled 'To Whom It May Concern' and in which she tries to encourage others with similar problems to find gratitude and to "rise from the ashes" I quote:

"So perhaps you spend most of your time alone, thinking endlessly, and trapping yourself in those thoughts. Most likely there are people who are concerned for you, and stand by helplessly as you grow more and more isolated. You are tired of their trite pick-me-ups, and hollow suggestions, and sugary anecdotes. They ask what they can do to help, and they offer words that do not penetrate your thick cloud. Tell one of these friends that you do not really want to talk, but that it would help you to be with him or her, perhaps to read in the same room, or do some cooking, or watch a movie. Maybe you need to get out of your usual environment, so ask if you could come over and spend some time doing your own thing as their home. The end of the day will be different than the end of most days. You can say to yourself that you did something today; you shared something sacred with a friend."

Besides the personal insights shared by Karla, her father Tom and her brother Kevin, this book will also inform you about suicide which is the leading cause of violent deaths worldwide, outnumbering homicide and war-related deaths. If you want further information about bipolar disorder and mental illness, I suggest that you visit The Karla Smith Foundation website.

The First Lady of Music
C. Yvonne Hooper
Southern Belle Publishing
ISBN: 1591339627, $13.95, 180 pp.

To begin, allow me to quote from the back cover:

"The First Lady of Music is the riveting story of the formation of the Rousseau family dynasty, which was spearheaded by the dashing young Frenchman, Alexandre Rousseau and his beautiful young Italian wife, Angelica Romano Rousseau. Together, they created a family of beautiful, ambitious, and remarkable children, which included the stunning and exotic superstar vocalist, Massina Rousseau, a gorgeous and immensely talented singer who endures numerous tragedies and life-altering losses to become one of the most successful performers in history."

My feeling while reading this book was: these fictional people are too beautiful, too wealthy, too talented and too successful for me. The story is written from a first person point of view, Massina's, in a chronological memoir fashion. If it were a true biography, it might be of more interest, but I do not understand why the author chose to write in this manner about a fictional person. I would describe her style of writing as straight forward and the book is well edited. It would make a good read if you like biographies about fictional characters. The front cover designed by Julia L. Dungan is an eye-catcher and one of the best features of this book. C. Yvonne Hooper is an aspiring novelist from Tappahannock, Virginia. You can find her books at

Aurora Borealis
Kristin Shoemaker
Lulu Press
ISBN: 141169242X, $14.95, 228 pp.

This story is described by the author as a "study in what it takes to send the most unlikely person over the edge" and in the press release as "dark comedy." The plot is not complicated. Alice Pendleton, who has just received her first book contract, allows her scheming older sister Aurora, who has fallen on hard times, to move in and take over her home and life. While Aurora works to sabotage Alice's career, the days turn into years, five to be exact. Alice, with the support of her new husband Ron, the Fed Ex man, decides to kill Aurora.

I quote from the opening to give you an idea of the author's writing style:

"For five years now I have lived. . . lived with that scourge. Today it ended, quickly, with only a few wet gurgles and a couple of stains on the rug. I thought I'd feel guilty. Ha! And did I feel guilty when I quit drinking? No. Did I feel guilty when I quit smoking? Hell, no! So why should I feel guilty about starting to really live again?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. It started five years ago now, the day after my first book was accepted at an up-and-coming press somewhere in Kansas, someplace I've never been to and never hope to visit. Someplace called "Aurora".

Aurora, coincidently, is my older sister's name. In the same coincidental vein, my dear Aurora came to visit me. Aurora never left. Aurora had decided to start a new life here in Fleming, New Hampshire. Perhaps "decide" isn't the right world. She thrust herself upon me when I signed the book contract, perhaps sensing the stench of money.

Her eighty-million-year-old husband had just died and left all of his money to the children. According to her, that was something "just not supposed to be done." A week after the funeral she was on my door step, the door step of her favorite sister Alice. I should have stopped it right there and claimed the last five years of my life for myself. But I'm getting ahead of myself again. It's just frazzled nerves.

"How am I ever going to get the stains out of the rug? Damned white carpet."

Kristin Shoemaker can write and the book is well edited. However, for a story to be consider a good story, it must be honest or at least seem reasonable. . . even a fiction story. Can the reader relate to such behavior?

Alice knew her sister's predisposition and foibles before allowing her to move in and right off, she lets her take over. Would you do that? Would I do that? It's very clear in the beginning that Alice had some serious problems with boundaries, standing up for herself and an inability to say, "No!" Then the author is telling us that the only solution to the sister Aurora problem is to kill her?. . . with no feelings of guilt? Here we have two people, Alice and Ron, who think killing is no big deal . . . just when and how is the only problem. Like . . . maybe after lunch?

The message in this "dark comedy" (?) is that it's okay to kill someone when you're angry and frustrated because you didn't have the wherewithall to stand up for yourself and say, "no." Ha! I say that doesn't track, but of course, then there wouldn't be a story. Anton LaVey might say, "Don't complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself." Gary Slutkin would say, "Violence is an infectious disease."

If this was a "study in what it takes to send the most unlikely person over the edge", then I would say, "study a little harder." Most homes have a phonebook with yellow pages full of unlimited resources for help. Call a friend, go to an AA or Al-Anon meeting and get it off your chest. I used realistic examples because the author created realistic contemporary people, and therefore, there were other options besides murder. Does the author understand the significance of her message? You might think that I have no sense of humor, and in this case, that would be true.

According to U.S. News & World Report in an article written by Nancy Shute, the United States leads the developed world in deaths by firearm, and violence is the No. 1 killer of teenagers and young adults in major cities. In many places shooting a neighbor or child has become the social norm. The disease-causing agent is not a microbe but a thought. Gary Slutkin founded the Chicago Center for Violence Prevention and sees violence as unhealthy behavior that can be changed. Its CeaseFire antiviolence campaign is designed to interrupt harmful behavior and change social norms--immunize against the thought and cure the disease.

Therefore, based on the author's message and in support of Mr. Slutkin's antiviolence campaign and my own personal beliefs, I do not recommend this book. Kristin Shoemaker works as a reference/systems librarian in Massachusetts. She has been previously published in Soundings East, The Axe Factory, Poetpourri and Poems That Thump in the Dark. Aurora Borealis is her debut novel.

Clouds Are Always White on Top - Flying the Box the B-17 Flying Fortress Came In
Nolan Lewis
One-off Publishing
11 Farmers Heath, Wirral, CH66 2GX, Great Britain
ISBN: 0952260336, $28.95, 276 pp.

To let you know what this book is about, I will quote from the back cover:

"This gripping story begins in 1943 when the Nazi war machine had subdued most of Western Europe. A very young Ted Norman pilots an American B-24 bomber of the 448th Bomb Group as part of the Allied effort to win the war in Europe. Casualties are high with 1 in 20 aircraft missing-in-action every mission. As the bombing raids push ever further into enemy territory, Ted is forced to reach the very limit of his own endurance in order to become the Captain his men are depending on.

This is a work of fiction, but the 448th Bomb Group, Very Heavy, was real. The 448th was based for eighteen months in Seething, England, during which time they lost 137 planes to all causes, with a maximum of 48 B-24s assigned at any one time."

Nolan Lewis has created from his own experiences of World War II this fictional novel about a B-24 bomber pilot, Lieutenant Theodore Norman. Ted certainly comes to life for us right from page one as he sits next to Captain Hansen waiting to take off for his first bombing run over Germany. By page 22 Ted has a problem:

"Suddenly all hell breaks loose. The bombardier, who was down under and forward of Ted's feet is gone, along with the whole front of the plane. The temperature is somewhere around thirty degrees below zero and he has about a two-hundred-mile-an-hour wind blowing up between his feet. The ship begins to fall off on the left wing so he looks over at the Captain. For the first time he realizes that the left windscreen is also gone, along with most of the Captain's head.

Next, he gets a panicky feeling. He's going blind! Everything is going dark. He wipes his hand across his face and realizes that it's blood running down into his eyes from a scalp wound, but he doesn't have enough hands to keep it and the ship both under control.

By this time the huge bomber is practically upside down. They are picking up speed real fast. He chops the throttles, hauls back on the wheel, and wracks it to the right, but realizes he's fighting the weight of the Captain's body that is slumped over the left wheel. He calls the navigator and says, 'Jesus Christ, Glen, get up here and give me a hand.'

The spin has progressed to the point where Shannon has to fight his way forward. It seems like hours, but is probably less than half a minute before he reaches the cabin. Shannon takes one look and says, 'Holy shit!' He stands frozen for a couple of seconds before he can digest the mess he has found and begin to move."

Besides describing the dangers of flying B-24s over Germany, the author writes about Ted's luck with the English ladies, his regular nightmares, his feelings about the men lost to war, and his feelings about flying–the only thing he was really good at. After 42 flights over Germany and shortly after returning to the US, Ted requests a discharge. He thinks he'll get a job as a pilot and applies at United Airlines.

The interviewer says, "'Plenty of hours. B-24, B-29. Mostly four-engine. That's good.' As he continues to read he suddenly says, 'Jesus. Is this right?' When Ted leans forward to check what he's referring to, the finger is on his date of birth. At Ted's nod he says, 'But that makes you only twenty years old?'" April 1, 1951 Ted is recalled to active duty and assigned to 403rd Troop Carrier Wing to fight in Korea. His response is: 'Korea . . . What the hell's a Korea?'

And in conclusion: "Suddenly he's gripped by a heady exhilaration. He's going back where he belongs. Back to his world. Where he knows what he's doing. Back to where he's the best. Where he doesn't have to make excuses. Maybe this time he will qualify for the order of the wooden cross and be done with it."

If you like well-written, realistic war stories, you won't be disappointed by this author. There's a lot to be learned in subtle ways through another person's experiences. The book includes a photo of Nolan Lewis at age16 in his Air Force cadet uniform. Nolan currently lives in Ione, WA. Forty-two flights over Germany and home by age 20. Unbelievable!

Highly Irregular Stories
Richard Grayson
Dumbo Books of Brooklyn
72 Conselyea Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
ISBN: 1411657969, $12.95, 177 pp.

Highly Irregular Stories is, indeed, a most appropriate title for this compilation of prior writings: Disjointed Fictions, Eating at Arby's, The Greatest Short Story That Absolutely Ever Was and Narcissism and Me. Richard Grayson opens with: "The anarchist's bomb that killed Czar Alexander II in St. Petersburg in 1881 led to the Russian pogroms and the anti-Semite May Laws of 1882. To these events we Americans owe countless things: the comedy of Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce; the popularity of psychoanalysis . . ."

It's interesting that Woody Allen and psychoanalysis are first among his list and that's just what I was feeling as I read this book. Grayson has taken that Woody Allen-type New York humor about a self-deprecating, neurotic, talented man one step further into the twilight zone. As I'm not a New Yorker and never could fully appreciate Woody Allen's humor, I'll let the book stand on its own. My experience of reading Eating at Arby's about Manny and Zelda in downtown Miami brought back memories of learning to read with Dick and Jane. It almost has the same rhythm and meaningful depth. We were just missing "See Spot run."

But to be fair, I would like to quote from Myself Redux which I particularly enjoyed: one, for the historical perspective and two, for the Kurt Vonnegut-flavor of humor:

"On Wednesday, the thirteenth day of October in the year many people call 49 B.C., Caius Julius Caesar, a Roman general, crossed the ancient watery boundary between Cisaplin Gaul and Italy known as the River Rubicon, thus making immortal the phrase "to cross the Rubicon," meaning "to take a decisive and irrevocable step."

Precisely two millennia later, on Wednesday, the thirteenth of October in the Crhistian year 1951, my Jewish parents took a decisive and irrevocable step in a room of the Quality Courts Motel outside Corning, New York. Within a week, the embryo that was to become the person writing these words was as large as one of Caius Julius Caesar's fingernails. A tube formed within the embryo. This enlarged at a certain point, and then it began to pulsate. Eventually this pulsating tube developed into a four-chambered organ which circulated the fluid known as blood throughout my body.

On Sunday, October 17, 1971, 185 years and one day after the establishment of the United States Bureau of the Mint, I decided that my four-chambered pulsating organ had been broken because I had found the 18-year-old female whom I described as my "girlfriend" in bed with my 16-year-old brother, their four-chambered organs pulsating rapidly.

One week later, on the twenty-sixth anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations, I attempted to stop the pulsating of my four-chambered organ by making a three centimeter incision with a razor blade across my left wrist. The following Monday, October 25, 1971, known that year as "Veterans Day" due to federal legislation enacted to give citizens a three-day holiday weekend, I found myself in the offices of the clinical psychologist Marilyn Wertheim, crying into a tissue."

The story goes on to tell us: his girlfriend becomes pregnant, his brother is killed when hit by a bus, he marries his girlfriend, she has the baby, he doesn't know whether he's a father or an uncle, the baby dies, and they annul the marriage. There's more but that will give you an idea of the beginning. So, if you're a Woody Allen fan and using the same stuff as Richard, you just might enjoy this book and a trip into the twilight zone. Richard Grayson is a prolific writer and to appreciate who he is, what he has accomplished and what he has written, I refer you to his website:

Eleven Years Afloat
Peter Haase
PO Box 985, Collierville, TN 38027
ISBN: 1598721895, $21.95, 308 pp.

A story about sailing, a survivor - a hard-nosed practical man, not heroic perhaps but still, in his way . . . courageous. This book is about a man living his dream. What makes his story and this book so special and an inspiration to other dreamers is that Peter was fifty-seven when he made the decision to cross his Rubicon--to take a decisive and irrevocable step. Quoting from page 195:

"My life, from school to retirement, has not been one straight line. There were bends and curves and detours. The end of World War II left me at the age of seventeen without a clear view or idea of my future. After trying my hand at repairing dentures in a dentist's laboratory and closer to my ancestral roots, I learned the fur trade in Frankfurt, and then I functioned as fur salesman in my father's failing business. When the opportunity to emigrate presented itself in form of a letter from a distant relative, I did not hesitate and shipped out to Ecuador, South America. For two years my work had to do with importation of industrial good and heavy machinery, before going into business on my own. Three years of traveling through the country followed, selling or trying to sell, anything and everything, including kitchen sinks.

"In 1960, married and with a daughter, I took up residence in New York. After a year and a half with an automotive parts import firm, I joined a Far East company. For twenty-four years I worked in the Foods Division of the New York office of one of the largest trading concerns in the world.

"At the age of fifty-seven and divorced I accepted an early retirement offer. In a short speech at my farewell reception, I pointed out, "I am not retiring, I only change my life style." I embarked on a life on the ocean, a life of as much freedom as it was possible to find. The sea has represented that freedom for me since childhood."

Peter wrote about his first sea adventures in Call of the Sea which chronicles his experiences as crew on several boats. He purchased his own twenty-eight-foot 1980 Bristol sailboat on August 19, 1986 and named her TRITON 3. This book is full of everyday challenges, but I would like to quote some passages from the chapter titled One Thousand Solitary Miles:

"I must admit, I did have butterflies in my belly. Doubts kept creeping up in my mind, questions whether I had overlooked some important factor in my calculations, about the courses and the distances. Again I asked myself: will I have the stamina, will I be able to endure the physical and mental stress, the solitude? Am I equipped for bad weather? How about places to replenish water, food and fuel, or get parts if something breaks down? And the biggest concern of all: would the Diesel make it all the way to Florida? . . . "

"The two most exciting moments in long distance sailing were for me the departure and the arrival. On the one hand there is the anticipation of adventure when the last anchor breaks loose from the bottom and the boat is free, and on the other, the great feeling of accomplishment when the anchor goes down at destination. . . ."

"My body felt numb, a humming ran through my limbs, like a mild electrical current. There was a trembling in the nerves of my arms and legs. My hand was shaking when I lifted a bottle of fruit juice to my lips. As I stood at the stove, preparing a bowl of larmen, Japanes noodle soup, my knee did not stop twitching. I sat down to fill in a page in my logbook, but I could not control the pen. After a while, sitting in the cockpit with the logbook in hand, I figured out how long it had been since I last slept. That was at Six Shilling Cay. I woke up at eight that morning, 4 June; now it was the 6th, seven o'clock in the evening. That's fifty-nine hours. Fifty-nine hours without sleep!"

Peter's not quite a Tristan Jones but close, and actually, he's of more interest to us in some ways because he was just an average guy with a dream who started to follow that dream late in life. He sailed for eleven years on his TRITON 3. Not all his dreams came true--such as not retiring in the Virgin Islands. He decided, "Make your Paradise where you are, wherever that may be." He returned to Stuart, Florida and sold the TRITON 3. In closing I would like to quote from page 289:

"In the morning I drove to spot near the St. Lucie Inlet. I knew he was going to sail the boat to Fort Lauderdale. TRITON 3, no longer mine, sailed past me into the ocean. She was a beautiful sight. The mainsail was up, the Genoa unfurled, but the engine was driving the boat on this totally calm morning. Sean and a friend of his were on board. I did not let them see me. When the top of the white sail disappeared behind the jetty I turned around and went back to my car. I was surprised that not a single tear came to my eyes."

Tears may not have come to Peter's eyes, but they did come to mine. I have quoted passages from the book to give you an idea of Peter's writing style and skills. You won't be disappointed if you like true-life sea adventures, and you can purchase Peter's book by contacting him at Peter Haase lives in Stuart, Florida, and besides this book and Call of the Sea, he has written a novel, When Love is Not Enough, which was published in April 2006. Thanks, Peter, for sharing your adventures with us!

Kaye Trout

Lori's Bookshelf

The Chosen
Verda Foster
Intaglio Books
ISBN: 1933113251, $15.25, 204 pp.

In the land of Ryshta, a pre-industrial medieval world, the rich and powerful reign superior while the rest of the people are slaves. For as long as anyone can remember, women have been treated like chattel and the slaves have been maltreated or even murdered at their master's whim. The slaves toil with the hope and long-held belief that one day, somehow, The Chosen will arise and lead them out of their pain and misery.

A battle-hardened, charismatic warrior named Brice does indeed rise up and organize to overthrow the sadistic ruler and his society. In the process, Lady Roslin, daughter of the sovereign, comes into contact with Brice, and the secrets and lies begin. To save her neck, Roslin pretends to be one of the peasants while Brice keeps silent about her identity - for it becomes clear to the reader that Brice, though tall, dark, and handsome, is actually a very powerful woman. Her parents brought her up as a male so that she would not be forced to perform as a prostitute/bed slave like the rest of the slave women.

Brice and Roslin's worlds are turned upside down by the revolution in Ryshta. Rich, pampered Roslin has never given the culture and society much thought. She soon begins questioning all she knew once she is living in the war camp with Brice and the slaves who are passionately fighting for freedom and willing to die to overcome the cruel limitations imposed by the ruling elite.

It's clear that the old, corrupt society must fall, but what will take its place? Can Roslin survive - especially if she is found out as a related to the vicious ruler? What will Brice's role be in a new society? Can two people from different ends of the spectrum find common ground, much less a common life together? And above all, is Brice actually The Chosen?

For those who prefer fantasy with elves, wizards, talking dragons, and magic, this book isn't for you. But if you like adventure, well-plotted conflict, and a solid romance between two attractive characters set in an enchantingly medieval time, this book's for you.

Though this novel is not overly long, there is a lot of action packed into it. The battles are intense, the conflicts well-written, and the relationship between Brice and Roslin intriguing. I read the first edition of this book several years ago, and the author has smoothed out the previous rough spots. This newly edited version is a joy to read. You can't help but root for Brice and Roslin as they struggle to make a place for themselves by transforming a brutal world into a better place and at the same time, gradually unveil their inner souls to one another.

Counterfeit World
Judith K. Parker
Intaglio Books
ISBN: 1933113324, $17.95, 200 pp.

Shon Emerick, a woman with a few secrets and an enduring heartache, is the lead negotiator for Raimsee Enterprises, one of the pre-eminent multi-world corporations in this futuristic world. Many citizens of the U.S. now live in space, and huge competition exists between private companies for open space and stake in planets. Corporations basically run the government, and there's big money to be made supplying those living off-world, but it's hard to police the galaxy. So Shon is called in to investigate a space station where several suspicious deaths – perhaps murders – have occurred.

Shon doesn't want to go, but she ends up being tricked into it by her mother, who wields more than motherly power and just happens to be the principal owner of Raimsee Enterprises. Little does the reticent and wise-cracking Shon know that on the Traqstar space station she'll find mystery, intrigue, danger, and maybe a new love interest. But first she has to live through it.

This first-person novel moves swiftly, and Shon's narrative voice is sardonic and at times witty. "Privatizing the U.S. government ruined good old sayings like 'Nothing is sure but death and taxes.' 'Nothing is sure but death and fees for service' doesn't have quite the same ring" (p. 13).

The writing is crisp, and for those who aren't fond of "sci-fi," you'll be happy to hear that this story is a good old-fashioned yarn replete with action, strong emotions, and plenty of good interaction between Shon and the characters on the space station. Perhaps there could be a bit more description throughout, but rest assured that you won't be overwhelmed with technical sci-fi details. This is a realistic novel – no magic – well, except for the spell the author puts on the reader using humor, reasonable pacing, and a steady accretion of clues until we come to the exciting denouement.

The book's conflicts and the plotline are wrapped up at the end, but I've never seen a character or such a unique world set-up that cried out more for sequels. Shon Emerick is a character who deserves a whole string of stories, and I hope Judith K. Parker is up to the challenge.

Lori L. Lake

Lorraine's Bookshelf

A Force of Desire: A Life of William Bronk
Lyman Gilmore
Talisman House
PO Box 3157, Jersey City, NJ 07303-3157
Small Press Distribution
1341 Seventh Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-1403
1584980478 $28.95 348 pages 1-510-524-1668

"The Force of Desire: A Life of William Bronk" is an intentional, calmly paced retracing of the stunning development of the creative mind of a great philosophical poet, William Bronk (1918-1999). Professor Gilmore quotes from many of the poet's letters and poems, and also includes historic photos of Bronk, as well as his family and friends. The inescapable greatness and painful clarity of Bronk's work and thoughts are uncovered and displayed for the reader's appreciation. Bronk was openly homosexual in his lifestyle and beloved of many, though his experiences of love are described as sorrowful. The following is an enlightening description of Bronk's poetics by Professor Gilmore: "At the very heart of Bronk's poetics is the requirement of 'a consonant harmony' with the listener, that given this mutual harmony, his poems are thus intimate gestures like kisses and caresses. If the listener does not reciprocate in sharing in the harmony, the poems are dead gestures, as passionate as kissing a frying pan, telephone bill, or the third stair from the bottom (page 240)." This and many other studied deductions are deftly presented within the context of Bronk's writings throughout the book. The detail serves to heighten the impact of the fragments and complete poetic works frequently quoted. A poem that demonstrates Bronk'sironic attitude towards religious belief is quoted on page 294:

The Word

The Lord speaks to some and I don't ask
for certification nor do I envy them.
I question their hearing and go on, unspoken-to,
doing whatever the ignorant find to do.

Though Bronk's poetry may be considered to be an acquired taste, being obscure, brilliant, compact, even brutal in its impact, here is a portrait that enhances the fire, tenderness, and delicate intimacy of his work. "The Force of Desire: A Life of William Bronk" is a major unveiling of the life and work of an astounding poet.

Nancy Lorraine

Lowe's Bookshelf

Back Talk
Saxon Bennett
Bella Books
P.O. Box 10543, Tallahassee, FL 32302 1-800-729-4992
ISBN: 1594930287, $13.95, 191 pp.

"WKRP" comes out with some queerly quirky fun!

Intelligent, witty, and classy -- not to mention beautiful -- Anne Counterman, a successful talk show host in Seattle, is facing her 40th birthday with trepidation. Over a year ago, her husband Gerald left her for a man, an event that still hurts and haunts her. Further and more currently troublesome, Anne has become bored with her radio work. In an effort to improve her show and rekindle her own interest in work, Anne finds a new web wizard to revamp her website. Enter Hilton Withers.

Hilton Withers is also at a turning point. Reared by her grandmother after the death of her mother when she was six, Hilton is "Senator Percy Withers' estranged lesbian … daughter." (15) For the last few years Hilton has been trying to decide what she'll do with her life. Her grandmother's death has made her heiress to a pickle company fortune and she has fulfilled the estate requirement that she graduate college. Currently Hilton lives in a small garden cottage behind the Victorian house she shared with her grandmother. She moved there because of the perpetual parties hosted by her two roommates and her girlfriend, Nat.

Natalie was Hilton's first love, but it is a rocky, complicated, and increasingly disconnected relationship. In truth it's time they broke up but confronting issues is not Hilton's best skill. However, at the radio station Hilton finds that she enjoys her work, begins to think of herself as more accomplished and "adult" and finds that she cares about her coworkers, one in particular.

Add to this possible romance a group of quirky characters like: Veronica, the control freak show's producer who, it turns out, could give Martha Stewart a run for her homemaker money and is a "fourth-generation lesbian" (143); Lillian, the show's septuagenarian, hard-of-hearing, call-screener; Hilton's lesbian roommates, Jessie the "irresponsible" one who is looking for her future; and Liz the grad student who is dating a woman who carries around a teddy bear named Amelia Bearhart; and Shannon, Hilton's Great Pyrenees dog, who accompanies her everywhere and is remarkably clear at expressing her opinions. (She's been known to pee on people who are upsetting Hilton.)

Back Talk is an example of what Saxon Bennett does best; She gives readers a fast-paced, funny novel that is delightful to read. She creates the lesbian-centered sit-com that you WISH were on TV, a queer WKRP if you will. Her characterization, especially early in the story, is a little weak and can make differentiating some women confusing. However, the dialogue is quick and witty. The situations range from the outrageous and bawdy -- as when Shannon acquires a large purple silicon pleasure item as a chew toy -- to the touching -- as Amelia Bearhart gets lost (of course), found, and a woman grows as a result. Add a charming romance with some satisfyingly heated exchanges and you too will want to tune in to Back Talk.

18th & Castro
Karin Kallmaker
Bella Books
P.O. Box 10543, Tallahassee, FL 32302 1-800-729-4992
ISBN: 159493066X, $13.95, 208 pp.

Karin Kallmaker's 18th & Castro is a trick-or-treat bag filled with yummy goodies for her readers. This charmingly romantic collection of erotic short stories is set on a Halloween night in the Castro District. It opens with Suze and Amy, two baby dykes in their early 20s, who have found a building rooftop from which to watch the night's festivities. The girls serve as the framework of the book, with their story broken into three parts throughout the night. They have a perfect view of a mythical three-story apartment building across the street. All of its residents are women-loving-women and a whole lot of fun is goin' on! As the two women watch the revelers, 13 stories unfold with most relating to one of the building's residents or an apartment at 18th & Castro, hence the numbers.

New love, or at least a fine start on healthy lust, unfolds in "Borrowed Plumage 1C" when a femme, Carmen, borrows her best friend's old leathers for a costume and meets a woman who finds those leathers very inspiring. In "Please 2A" "Chosen 1B," and "From Behind you Looked Like 1D" Kallmaker allows the fates (and a few resident matchmakers) to nudge long term friendships toward a path to something more intimate.

Several of the stories include long term couples who are nurturing a romantic sex life in the midst of day-to-day logistics and life pressures. These stories range from the tentatively sweet and hot to the amusing and power charged. In the "Brand New Woman 2C," a couple are alone for the first time since their eldest child was born. Brenda spends time exploring the woman that her partner and co-parent of two children, Nancy, has become in the years they've shared.

In "Human Female Pon Farr 3B," Jax is suffering a very bad day of hormones. Her partner, Tate, sets out help scratch that itch, but events take a farcical turn when a handcuff key goes missing. That comic tone carries across the hall to handcuff key provider and artist, Jonny, and her Aria, a highly demanded and overworked surgeon. Aria is in need of some in "Down Time 3A" but the two initially find it difficult to focus with the interruptions.

In "Avast! 3C" readers are treated to a bit of Halloween role playing as Renee and Jane indulge a fantasy on the high seas. The teasing negotiation and the grounding late night snack that open and close this story puts a loving face on a highly charged scene.

Kallmaker provides a touching glimpse at how one couple strives to maintain a mutually satisfying sexual expression of their relationship despite chronic health issues. In "Nine-Inch Nails 3D," the years of communication, caring affection and heated desire between Pete and Keri allow them to cultivate new expressions for their love that are arousing and validating. In "For the Last Time 2B" Terra and Jeneen invite the latter woman's ex-lover, Claire, over for a little sex demonstration. This bittersweet three-way provides a complex lesson for all involved.

The stories in 18th & Castro interweave as various characters interact with others, several women are going to the party hosted by Neenah and Ace in1A. Some conversations are repeated from different points of view. Others merely pass one another in the hall. All of which gives the reader the impression of a complex set of happenings occurring in a relatively short period of time. All the stories are erotic and include an intensity likely to keep the reader's interest; however, the details of encounters are as varied as the women who populate the stories. Some are earthy and urgent. Others are sweet and hazy. Many are also touching and romantic.

As already suggested, Kallmaker's signature humor is sprinkled throughout the stories, but it is especially present in the setting. Halloween in the heart of San Francisco has to be one of the country's biggest, gayest party events outside of Pride, and adds outrageous color and humor. Glimpses of the costumed crowd include not only Xenas and Gabs, Vampire Slayers, Pirates, Flappers with Gangsters, and Batmans and Robins but "Diana Ross and the Supremes, the secretary of state, flaky first daughters, Ethel Merman and Sweet Potato Queens --it was all [there] in the Castro"(116). There are impromptu chorus lines of Dorothys kicking up their ruby slippers, a quartet of Veronica Lakes, and Satanic Leprechauns. (This last group is a corps of dark cloaked mysterious figures wearing prominent, green dildos and marching in cadence.)

Likewise, the characters represent a range of ages, ethnicity and self-awareness from the spectator baby dykes on the roof to the elegant older lesbians of "Please." The preternatural even makes a couple of appearances. Perhaps the collection's most touching story is "Tick Tock 2D" wherein a woman finds solace and protection in her memories of love and perhaps an eerie little something more …

Readers can depend on Kallmaker for intelligent, witty stories that are well-written and charming, and peopled with interesting characters. She gives us books that are just down-right fun to read. A "Bella After Dark" title 18th & Castro is highly-charged, accessorized erotic fun, in the same vein as her All the Wrong Places. A few quirky surprises are there as well as one or two stories that prompted this reviewer to pause and think about the nature of power and love. In 18th & Castro, readers will find the mass-market candy of their treat bags has been replaced by fine handmade truffles. Pick up a copy of this bag of goodies because there is something "good to eat" here.

MJ Lowe

Magdalena's Bookshelf

Schizophrenia Poetry
M. Stefan Strozier
No ISBN, $10.00, 60 pp.

Schizophrenia Poetry pulls no punches. Like its straightforward title, the poems cover the Rimbaud inspired terrain of insanity. It tackles the limits and struggles of maintaining daily existence in our world of cloaks and roles. The poems tend to be first person, describing hallucinations, fear, paranoia, the daily drift towards death, and the relationship between these mainly psychological experiences and the way we move forward in a 'normal' life. At its strongest, it is brave and bare, a kind of Season in Hell as the poet struggles with ambivalence towards the double edge sword of madness, as in "Flying":

I could not believe it
Something must be wrong
In fact, everything
Was horribly wrong;
Except, there was no denying
I was in the air
And flying (34)

Strozier uses metaphor well, likening madness to a strange gift, to a secret power, or to a cruel
but powerful muse:

Confusion left my mind
How can I live without her?
She was cruel and unkind
But she made my pen purr ("Freeverse," 12)

There are poems which view insanity an open door, inviting the reader in, such as "Waking Dreams," which moves from struggle against the "world of dreams" to an acceptance of an alternative reality. Using line width and an increase to doublespacing to slow the poem down in the second half, Strozier changes the voice and structure to lead the reader along:

Follow me
This is the place
Beyond the abysses
I see clearly through fogs
Where backwater channels
Struggling against time
And cosmic forces
Desire not sleep (10)

The poems are always conscious of rhythm, creating meaning through sound, sibilance, and visual representation of emotional stress:

Whipping through the hollows
Screaming for recognition
In my heart
In my weary heart in my weary heart
And your tired eyes and your tired eyes
I can see in the storm ("Scream," 11)

Some of the poetry is subtly humorous, such as the cleverly written "The Graveyard," a poem written in 69 rhyming, heroic couplets. At first glance this looks like an anachronistic, and chaotic wandering in the clichéd landscape of Ancient Greek mythology, but a careful reading reveals a modern journey. Like Joyce's Ulysses, the piece is tracks wanderings very much set in today's world, including the corridors of a hospital, complete with Bob Marley, Quenton Tarantino, and the ageless quest for meaning, amidst Persephone, a labyrinth and Minotaur (metaphors perhaps for insanity as pursuer and seductress):

Here's a lunatic; yet, perhaps only truth survives; for, where are your words?
This is one more question: evil truth; are humans a thing of God's words…?
Down icy waters I drown, driven mad by sounds
And, freezing cold, now my heart, ever-slower pounds (32)

At times the mythology, humour and even rhythm threaten the impact and honesty of the poem, as in "Hey! Mr. Blind, One Eyed Giant, Nobody Tricked Me Too!" where the metaphors are just too heavily mixed, falling over one another before the image has time to become clear in the reader's mind. The rhythmic words too might work in an outloud reading, but taken on the page are overly heavy and place a distance between the reader, and the poet:

I; a soul breathing life like a holy wholly woken wooly mastidon
Immaculately emancipated (bit emaciated) en-masse from immense, amassed
massy mass
"Let the game begin-egad!"
I whispered out to Nobody, in particular.(18)

Nevertheless, these are unique and original poems. They require a thoughtful reading, but will repay the reader with an original and inventive insight, not only into the struggle of mental illness, but also to the often hidden pleasure and joy, of both schizophrenia itself, and the creative process. Ultimately, although there is much pain and trauma in these poems, the poet smiles "at the secret" he holds. It's one he bravely shares with the reader.

Luke Davies
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 1741148685, $22.95 AU

Davies' first novel Candy became a cult classic when it was released in 1997, and it's not hard to see why. At face value, it has a grungy, sexy appeal, featuring the gripping, through the keyhole details of a serious heroin addiction, and two attractive main characters who have lots of sex, and experience a welter of often orgasmic pleasure and intense pain. It's an easily read, fast paced bildungsroman which offers a satisfyingly vicarious experience. But Candy is more than a sad love story or a novel about drug addiction. The sweet attraction of the title may be simultaneously heroin, sugary substances, and the novel's beautiful subject, but the story is about more than simply the desirable substances that drives the narrative forward. This is a novel about the universals of human need. Davies is first and foremost a poet, and the linguistic tautness of the book reflects this. Although the narration is cool, set in the detached context of a distanced memoir, there are italicised passages prefixed with the title "truth" that take the reader below the skin and bones of the linear narration and move us into a place which is timeless:

Adrift. At times it seems that I am floating in the beauty of docility. Pulling the needle from my arm, I succumb again and again to the luscious undertow of the infinite spaces between atoms. My arm, an estuary of light in which all rivers gather. (171)

Although the entire book is written in the first person, the narrative voice changes fairly dramatically as the novel progresses, which has the effect of creating an internal motion that is more profound than the passing of days. The book is divided into three sections, which follows the protagonist's internal journey. Beginning with "invincibility" the story begins with exuberance, and a sense of immediately as the narration happens in the present tense. This sets up an instant immediacy as the reader becomes an uneasy confidante and accomplice in the new affair as the beautiful Candy is drawn into the world of heroin:

She's just finding out what I found out a few years back, the thing that heroin does to you the first few times. She is over the moon. She's in the Miranda zone—O wonder! O brave new world! Things are good beyond belief. I envy her that innocence. Nowadays, when it really works – which is beginning to be not always – what I get from hammer is a kind of deep comfort. An absence of this and an absence of that. Absence of everything that prickles and rankles.

What Candy's getting is the angelic buoyancy, the profusion of colours. Good luck to her; it won't last long. (4) The narrator is matter of fact and comfortable in this section about what is happening. He is happy and in love and he wants to make Candy happy. There's no malice, even though his justifications might suggest a niggling sense of guilt which he finds relatively easy to push away in the simple mechanics of his growing collaboration: "We're just having a bit of fun right now, and soon, I suppose, it'll be time to stop." (8)

The descent in this chapter is slow and steady, moving one step at a time as Candy and the narrator try to maintain their addiction. There is the single trick which turns into a brothel job; a single scam which turns into regular theft. A few gruesomely funny situations such as the incident with the crabs:

Within twenty minutes we had created a scene of bucolic bliss. All around the edges of the lake of blood were gathered like cows a hundred docile and happy crabs. Traumatized by the ordeal of the scissors, they drank in bliss from the healing depths. (128)

But mostly throughout this section, Candy and the narrator move towards a pattern of regularly, which, as the narrator kids himself, there's some kind of routine, a reasonable amount of money, and as many good times as bad. It's easy for the couple to imagine themselves as a normal, happy couple with a minor addiction. It's easy for the narrator to see Candy as a free agent having a bit of relaxed fun before the responsibility of marriage and children set in. . There's no attempt at eliciting pity, or even self-analysis, because none seems needed. As readers, we are conned along with the narrator. Candy's luminosity and beauty blinds us.

The blinkers come off quickly however, as we reach the second part of the book. The author begins the section with his first truth segment. These poetic passages are very close, charting the narrator's own pain and sense of responsibility for what he is creating. They contrast sharply with the deadpan narration of other chapters with their immediacy and intensity: "I would vomit up my life if I could." (154) Candy's stillbirth and her violent outburst with the ashtray start to show more than simply a growing discontent. The narrative simplicity in these chapters makes the intensity of the experiences more powerful:

I reached my hands to the back of my head and cut my fingers on the chunk of glass that was lodged there. I pulled out the glass and felt a stab of pure pain. There was an explosion of blood from my head. I could feel its hot flow through my h air and down my neck. All this, in its own strange way, was less cloudy than the preceding seven hours of arguing. I was in that sweet realm where drama has a resolution in violence.(167)

The novel is richly detailed, and both the nameless narrator, and Candy come across as rich, full bodied characters. Although we get very little of the narrator's backstory, we nonetheless feel we know him as he undergoes change, becoming very slowly aware of his part in destroying Candy, and himself:

And if, and only if, you're very, very lucky, then one night in the silence, in the deep heart of the dark, you'll hear the distant trickling of the blood in your veins. A weary world of rivers, hauling their pain through the dark heat. The heart like a tom-tom, beating the message that time is running out. You'll lie there strangely alert. You'll actually feel the inside of your body, which is your soul, or where your soul is, and a great sadness will engulf you. And from the sadness an itch might begin, the itch of desire for change. (238)

Candy's backstory is revealed only in the tiniest hints throughout the first two sections, but it is revealed in the last chapter. Because it comes so late in the story, the reader, along with the narrator, begins to sense that Candy has her own story, which then spreads beyond the pages of the novel. Despite the exuberance of the early part of the book, the implications of Candy's fall begin to become clear, both to the narrator and the reader. As Candy writes angry words across the wall in lipstick, the readers sympathizes with her, and begins to take on the narrator's guilt at finding the early sections—the violations and prostitution—a light thing. The reader grows along with the narrator as the truth becomes clearer. Candy is an easy book to read, but not an easy one to deal with. It leaves the reader feeling shattered, as if he or she had been through a similar experience. The verisimilitude in characterization, setting, and in the great detail of the activities of the narrator and Candy are all part of why this book weaves its spell on the reader. With the nostalgic resonance of a story simultaneously halcyon and horrific, the reader feels the power of the great love felt by the narrator for people, sensations and places lost forever. Despite the ugliness of its subject matter, and often graphic nature of its detail, this is a beautiful story of love, loss, and self-awareness.

Magdalena Ball, Reviewer

Margaret's Bookshelf

Before & After Garden Makeovers
Vicki Webster
Sunset Publishing Corporation
80 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025
0376031883 $16.95 1-800-526-511

Profusely illustrated with accompanying and succinct descriptive captions, Before & After Garden Makeovers showcases 40 diverse gardens as examples to other homeowners what can happen when transforming bare patches of lawn and tired plantings into beautifully crafted "garden rooms" for the pleasure of family outdoor entertainment and relaxation. Offering a gardening cornucopia of landscaping ideas to transform any yard or small garden corner from the ordinary to the extraordinary, Before & After Garden Makeovers is as inspiring as it is informative, and a thorough delight to simply browse through for applicable ideas adapted to the reader's own landscaping or gardening situation and resources. No personal or community library gardening or landscaping reference collection can be considered complete or up-to-date without the inclusion of Sunset's Before & After Garden Makeovers!

Ortho Home Gardener's Problem Solver
Denny Schrock
Meredith Books
1716 Locust Street, Des Moines, IA 50309-3023
0897215044 $29.95 1-800-225-2883

Now in a newly updated and significantly expanded edition, Ortho Home Gardener's Problem Solver: Symptoms And Solutions For More Than 1,500 Garden Pests And Plant Ailments is a comprehensive, up-to-date "gardener friendly" reference that is the result of the work and contribution of more than one hundred top horticultural experts and scientists from the United States and Canada. Profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography, the Ortho Home Gardener's Problem Solver covers every plant from flowers, lawns, and trees, to houseplants, shrubs, fruits and vegetables. Every pest affecting a garden from insects to deer, rabbits, and gophers are similarly covered. Additionally, the Ortho Home Gardener's Problem Solver addresses the broad subject of weeds, invasive plants, and even problems associated with soil conditions, climate, and cultural problems. Whether your gardening and/or landscaping efforts are confined to a plot in the back yard, a window box, an indoor pot, or an extended estate, the Ortho Home Gardener's Problem Solver will prove an indispensable "how to" and "what to do" step-by-step instructional reference to dealing with any pest, diseases, or plant problems.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

Passed Down Through 4 Generations
Victoria Taylor Murray
Publish America
P.O. Box 151 Frederick, MD 21705
ISBN: 1413784569, $19.95

Tasty Read … Recommended … 5 stars

BEVERAGE recipes offered on the pages of Passed Down Through 4 Generations include Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic. This reviewer found CHEF TELL'S CREAMY HOLIDAY EGG NOG to be especially tasty. CHEF TELL'S PECAN CHEESE BALLS proved a hit at a recent holiday gathering. I am anxious to try PAPPY'S STICK-TO-YOUR-RIBS CREAM OF POTATO & ONION SOUP or CHEF TELL'S GRATED PARMESAN CHEESE & ONION SOUP; both sound delicious.


Included in the Passed Down Through 4 Generations offerings are engaging comments and background information regarding the author's family of chefs. The reader will learn how the Taylor family men came to be known for their cooking after Grandfather grew up remembering and sharing tales of some of his favorite childhood foods. Included are recipes for many tasty dishes southern folks will also remember: fried green tomatoes dipped in cornmeal, fried potatoes and onions with sausage, scrambled eggs, piping hot buttermilk biscuits with a side order of red-eye gravy, venison chops and sweet creamed peas, egg custard pie, bread pudding with nuts and apples, and Grandfather's mother's old-fashioned peach cobbler. These are the recipes for dishes I remember with happiness from my own childhood. Cooks will find recipes for beverages, appetizers, soup, bread, entree, side dishes/veggies, salads, dessert, low cal, sandwich, sauce, herbs and spices, cooking with wine, substitutions, standard measurements.

The writer states, 'The Taylor family's recipes used in this cookbook are (for the most part), made with standard/familiar ingredients which make it quick and easy to create an array of savory dishes fit for a king.'

The format of this eminently stimulating and easily used work makes for pleasant reading, remembering, and hours of agreeable cooking. The recipes I have tried have been easy to mix up, family pleasing and just plain good to eat. Many stir joyful memories of my own childhood and leave me anxious to cook more whenever I want to something delicious to server, or need to refresh my own psyche with a step back to the table of my mother.

Of particular use to new cooks will be the table author Taylor Murray has included for standard measurements and emergency substitutions. Writer Taylor Murray says "From our kitchen to yours we hope you'll enjoy some of our family's favorite recipes." Passed Down Through 4 Generations is a must have for those who collect cook books, enjoy cooking and new cooks. Enjoyed the recipes, both reading and cooking. Happy to recommend.

The Patriarch of Pestilence: Book 3 of the Wells End Chronicles
Robert Beers
PO Box 372 Atherton QLD 4883
ISBN: 1920972722, eBook $3.95 (download), $9.95 (CD)

(CD) FORMAT: pdf, html, palm, rtf, Microsoft Reader and unencrypted mobipocket (prc)

Entertaining Read …….. Recommended … 5 stars

The narrative opens with a letter to the Wizard Milward from his old associate Alten Baldrisson Grisham's Librarian. Milward was notified that war is underway, Adam continues to fulfill dwarfish prophecy, earth quake and a state of siege by the Ortian army are proving bothersome to those living in Grisham. The reader is carried forward with old acquaintances and new. The Emperor, Duke Bilardi, Bardoc and Captain Bilardi all play important roles. Adam and Ethan decide to leave Grisham and before long meet another group in the tunnels beneath the city. Neely, Flynn, Circumstance a half elf and adopted son of Ethan and Adam's twin Charity make up the second group. Charity is amazed to learn Adam will soon become a father. Both groups agree Duke Bilardi is a strong contender for the title of Most Evil Personage in Grisham. The Empire has been ripped into individual fiefdoms, Inquisitors practicing dark arts of torture abound and McCabe is on the loose. McCabe, former petty thief now a conduit for a shadow creature… a Seeker is a force to reckon with. Gilgafed the Sorcerer begs Milward for help in dealing with McCabe. Gilgafed is loath to admit that McCabe is on the loose due to his foolishness. Adam finds that while his magical abilities are improving they do need a bit of fine tuning now and again. The story roars on with travel by vortex, on foot and aboard Drinaugh the dragon. Adam appears to defeat McCabe, however the stench of rot proves that is not the case. Adam must use all his power to assure the safety of the known world.

On the pages of The Patriarch of Pestilence: Book 3 of the Wells End Chronicles writer Beers weaves an interwoven account against a imaginative framework of multiple narratives and innovative, exceptional characters including humans, dragons, machines, elves and wizards. All come hurdling from Beers fertile imagination to offer the reader a most exciting read.

Writer Beers presents readers a lavishly drawn anecdote pumped up with all the deceitfulness, hubbub and machination fantasy lovers enjoy the most. The Patriarch of Pestilence: Book 3 of the Wells End Chronicles is a finely-written yarn filled with supposable, meticulously wrought characters striding purposefully through the chronicle. The reader is carried along on a stimulating trek as author Beers deftly presents propensity, enigmatic scenarios and puissant wonderment, consternation and tumult necessary to hold the reader fully engrossed. Credible, often abrasive dialogue pulls the reader into the narrative from the opening paragraph and holds reader attention right to the last lines where we find Adam enjoying new found respect.

The Patriarch of Pestilence: Book 3 of the Wells End Chronicles is filled with the spirit, dialogue and character of fantasy settings known and loved by young and old alike. Ingenious author Robert Lee Beers has constructed a fascinating domain infused with both base and charitable, blameless and depraved, loveable and detestable characters the reader is sure to find engaging. Teeming with strife fittingly resolved in this masterfully engineered suspense filled narrative; The Wells End Chronicles Book 2: Whispers of War paints a razor sharp, focused account of destiny, cupidity and perseverance. Effect dialog, well-drawn scenarios and characters to love and hate the book is an enjoyable read.

Meant for pleasure reading, The Patriarch of Pestilence: Book 3 of the Wells End Chronicles target audience of young adults will find the book has all the ingredients they wish for in a good fantasy work. Fine book to enjoy by the fire place on a long winter evening or in the porch swing during a hot summer afternoon. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Through Katrina's Eyes Poems from an Animal Rescuer's Soul
Ed Kostro
P.O. Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402
ISBN: 1591138671, $7.00 (ebook), $12.00 (print)

Captivating Read …….. Highly Recommended … 5 stars

Writer/animal activist says 'This Book of Remembrance Is dedicated to every Katrina victim, both human and nonhuman, both living and deceased, who endured a hellish nightmare that most of us can only imagine; and to the many compassionate souls who rushed to assist them, in whatever way they could.'

Through Katrina's Eyes poems from an animal Rescuer's Soul is compilation of poetic works beginning with Immanuel Kant's haunting words 'Our eyes, are the windows to our soul.' Poet Kostro's first offering is Through Katrina's Eyes in which he brings the reader face to face with the horror, terror, death of hope and sheer and total disheartenment for so many of those four legged beings ravaged by Katrina. Critters were left behind at times by those who thought they would soon return, others were left behind and by so called human rescuers who insisted animals could not accompany those who had carried them with them from homes to supposed safety.

The Old Man and His Dog, and The Woman and Her Daughter are filled with the poignant hope we humans retain, and to which our critters respond to so well. Other offerings include Katrina's Highway. Pet Rescue Camp, Message in a Bottle, and Mangy Dog. A sweet loving dog is showcased in the words of One Eyed Jack, and a grimly determined cat is brought to mind as we read The Old Traveler. The joy of reunion is offered in A Vet and His Pet, while the heartache of being wrenched from his loving master's arms by a heartless 'rescuer' before he too is returned to his beloved owners is showcased in Heavenly Touch, happiness renewed by adoption is found in the words of Get Shorty. Poet Kostro's own adoption record is brought to bear in Autumn in St. Louis, Eddie, Tater, and A Flower Blooms in Winter. The plight of the lucky – saved, 'left behinds' is showcased in Help and Paradise Lost in which writer Kostro brings the reader face to face with the urgency of so many now rescued but living in pens and needing homes critters. Kostro's poetry closes with the poignant wish 'we rescuers pray that our government has now grown a lot wiser. We pray owners will never again be forced to leave them behind.'

Writer Kostro's poetry and love of animals is well known to this reviewer. Kostro includes not only his own poetic works, but also some background and 'color' information regarding his volunteer capacity in the rescue effort made after pet owners were forced to evacuate and leave behind the companions with whom they shared their lives. Kostro also includes quotes from a number of well known figures from history and modern day regarding critters and the role they share in our lives.

Through Katrina's Eyes poems from an animal Rescuer's Soul is a compelling read, brings the reader into both the despair and optimism of the rescuers and the confused, anxious ones who were left behind. The Poems are not always easy to read as we find the discouragement and hopelessness depicted in stark realism. The joy of reunion or adoption restore the reader's ability to deal better with the despair grimly portrayed.

Excellent poetry, excellent message. A book for everyone. Those who love critters will need no encouragement to buy, read, and read again. Those for whom critters are only something over which we humans have 'dominion' may find themselves beginning to understand better the early writers who actually said critters are here toward which we smug 'intelligent' beings shall exhibit compassionate care.

Excellent addition to the personal reading shelf, the school library, therapist shelf and reader learning. A Portion of the proceeds will go to animal rescue efforts. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Mentoring Mom
Jackie Kendall
New Hope Publishers
PO Box 12065 Birmingham AL 35202
ISBN: 1596690054, $12.99

Inspirational Read …….. Recommended …. 4 stars

This work of 271 pages includes twelve chapters, and an Appendix with booklist. Chapter offerings include suggestions for parents on the nuts and bolts of how to mentor children with examples and specific how-to covered in the chapter titled 'The Mark of the Mentoring Mom.' Life principles including love for God and familial caring are included in the chapter 'Stamp the Image of Love for God.' 'Stamp the Image of a Praying Woman' offers hints for making time for prayer in all situations. With simple questions and suggestions 'Stamp the Image of Loving God's Word' leads the reader into how to instill and develop the love for reading God's word. 'Stamp the Image of Emotional Health,' 'Stamp the Image of Loving People to Christ,' 'Stamp the Image of Your Heart's Passion,' continue the instruction with examples taken from the writers own child rearing, suggestions and questions to aid readers toward making a better impact upon their own child rearing practices. 'Stamp the Image of a Noble Life Purpose' leads the reader into an understanding that being a wife and mother is a noble life purpose. The reader is led to understanding that something as simple as slipping a note into a lunch bag or jumping rope can and do make a huge impact on the lives we hope to influence. 'Stamp the Image of Teachability' is a chapter I found especially interesting. I am both parent and a classroom teacher. 'Stamp the Image of Your Perseverance', 'Stamp the Image of Reckless Abandon to God', 'Stamp the Image of an Adapting Spouse' round out the work with more suggestions, examples and questions for life living.

I found The Mentoring Mom to be a highly readable, informative book. I liked the life examples offered by the author in which she lists specific trials, situations and highlights from her own life experience. As both parent and classroom teacher I am inclined to rely more heavily on those who have been 'in the trenches' so to speak to those who offer suggestions about what might work at first glance, but have nothing to substantiate the notion. Some of the teaching we try with our own kids will work for them, and for others. And some of the teaching we attempt, especially the ideas that seem so good when on paper, or on the surface of our mind fizzle and backfire. I find a writer who can mention successes and note the near misses and total ones too, to be more credible than ones who blithely put forward much rosy and no thorn. Mentoring kids is darn hard work.

This is a work to keep close at hand during those child rearing years. The Mentoring Mom is a book to be turned to often as parents face the day to day struggle, confusion and struggle that is so much a part of raising a family. The writer leads the reader into understanding that raising kids is a big job, is not an insurmountable job and is a job to be savored.

The reader is offered suggestions for letting others and God do some leading in our own lives, an important quote I especially liked was added "Parents of good kids take too much credit and parents of struggling kids take too much blame" is offered. While I didn't have the quote when my own children were teens, the notion was well entrenched and carried me through those years with a minimum of upset.

The Mentoring Mom will be a welcome addition to parental personal reading list, the therapist shelf, school and public library and for all who hope to make a positive difference in the lives of another. The Mentoring Mom is a book to be read in entirety and then kept close at hand for study during times of particular need or situation. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World
Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian
Metropolitan Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 080507967X, $15.00, 228 pp.

In this new set of interviews, America's foremost intellectual activist looks at new questions of US domestic and foreign policy.

In September 2002, the American government announced a new national security strategy. Instead of pre-emptive war, which might be covered by the UN Charter, the new strategy will be one of preventive war, which is not permitted at all under international law. In other words, America will rule the world by force, and if any challenge to that domination comes about, whether imagined, invented or perceived in the distance, America has the right to destroy that challenge before it becomes a threat.

The Bush Administration talks about going after countries that harbor terrorists. Orlando Bosch, described by the Justice Department as a threat to American security, is quietly living in Miami, recipient of a Presidential Pardon. In 1976, Bosch was involved in the shooting down of a Cuban airliner, killing 73 people, among other crimes. Emanuel Constant is responsible for the deaths of at least 4000 Haitians. He is living in Queens, New York, because America refuses to even respond to extradition requests, let alone actually say No. Such doctrines are unilateral; they grant America the right to harbor terrorists and use violence, but not anyone else.

The people around George Bush are very open about their desire to destroy the progressive achievements of the last 100 years. They have generally gotten rid of the progressive income tax. They are next going after Social Security and health care. They do not want a small government. They are interested in a huge, massively intrusive government, but one that works for them.

This is another excellent and eye-opening book from Chomsky and Barsamian. For another very interesting look at the way America and the world Really Works, this is highly recommended.

50 Simple Things You Can Do to Fight the Right
Earth Works Press
P.O. Box 1089, Ashland OR 97520
ISBN: 0977689700, $9.95, 192 pp.

As the title states, this book describes a number of things that anyone can do to counteract the Right's strong influence in present-day America.

Some of the actions included require little or no effort. Join a progressive group, be it local or international. Take back control of the American political vocabulary. Donate a subscription to a progressive magazine to your local library. Become familiar with the parts of the Bible that support progressive positions. Visit alternative news web sites. Also, visit right-wing sites to begin to understand the Right.

Some actions require a little more effort. Adopt a blog. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (even if your letter is not printed, it might encourage the editor to print a similar letter). Did you know that the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Christian socialist named Francis Bellamy? Talk to your neighbors, and to your congressperson's local office. Attend local meetings, like school board, city council or planning and zoning commission; the Right will be there. Support public education, along with local arts and artists. Stand up for science in the classroom. Volunteer for a political campaign.

For the committed individual, become an expert on a particular subject. Look for right-wing spin in your local media. Start your own media. On Election Day, become a poll watcher. Spread the word the "person of faith" does not automatically equal "conservative." Last, but not least, why don't you run for office?

The only part of this book that may cause disagreement is the assertion of the publishers that the Democratic Party needs to be reformed back into the progressive party it once was. Like it or not, America is a 2-party system, and reforming the Democratic Party is easier than starting over with a third party. On the other hand, many people in America believe that the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans, and, therefore, not worth saving.

Aside from that, this is a gem of a book. It contains plenty of inspiration for people of any age or income level. Even if the reader can do only 1 or 2 of the things mentioned in this book, it will help to change the tide in America. This book is very much worth reading.

Paul Lappen

Richard's Bookshelf

Northern Lights & Shadows
Lee Basnar, Inc.
P.O. Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402
ISBN: 1591137780, $17.95, 325 pp.

Meeting the Challenges of the Last Frontier Head On

Lee Basnar's journey took him from Vermont by way of German, France, Viet Nam, and Georgia before his dream materialized. Basner became senior advisor to the 207th Infantry Group of the Alaska National Guard, near Anchorage, for the remainder of his Army career. Near the end of his army enlistment Lee began to plan his retirement. The Basnars located and purchased a site that would accommodate a cabin home. They were ready to take on the challenge of the Alaskan frontier. For the next sixteen years they lived in the Alaska bush. His experience as apprentice carpenter in his father's business provided Lee with some of the skills needed during the construction of their two story cabin home in the heart of Alaska.

Lee is a gifted natural story teller. He made me feel like a friend visiting on his cabin deck while he related his adventures. He describes animal life, nature trails, mountains, and rivers in panoramic vistas opening new horizons for the reader. "Snow sprinkled the mountains like powdered sugar on cupcakes, and each new snowfall frosted the slopes a little lower." Each chapter includes a photo which depicts something of its contents.

Life threatening experiences and narrow escapes add tension and momentum to Basner's narrative. A smoke filled cockpit in his small Taylor Craft airplane created an emergency landing. After completing repairs he had to battle river rapids for a dangerous take off at 2:30 AM. After a safe landing at home. He secured the plane during a blinding snowstorm. He had had no sleep for 24 hours, Lee, the master of understatement put it this way, "For some reason I felt a little tired."

Trapping, hunting, fishing, and photographing wildlife was an exciting part of Lee's routine. Moose, wolves, bears, and other wildlife fill the chapters of his rapid paced tale of adventure. The unpredictability of grizzly bears, a midwinter chimney fire, and other narrow escapes will keep you turning the pages of this fascinating account of the Basner's life in the bush.

As a result of and assignment In 1968 in Viet Nam, where he served as advisor to the South Vietnamese infantry division and later as an infantry company commander, Lee shares side of his life story. After surviving his tour of duty in Viet Nam, he was plagued by survivor guilt. He hoped to exchange combat nightmares from Vietnam for a new sense of freedom peace and contentment by living in the bush. Lee wrote: "Vietnam intruded less frequently as the years accumulated…the demands of bush living shoved Viet Nam aside, leaving room for healing. The nightmares, less frequent now, retreated to a hidden place, emerging rarely. Drifting and pondering gave me time to realize that I had truly survived and shouldn't feel guilty because of it".

Everyone who ever had a dream of adventure on the last frontier will want to read this book. Veterans, who experienced the ravages of war, will find healing in Basnar's story. Public and school libraries should have a copy readily available for their readers. This book is for the sportsman, the hunter, and the environmentalist. Basnar's writing instills hope, courage. His story is written with subtle humor. The book is informational and entertaining. Basner's writing style keeps you reading to the very end and then you find yourself wanting more.

Silver Dreams
Sondra Rice Newman
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P O Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
ISBN: 1931741565, $ 24.95, 320 pp.

Born to Race

Reminiscent of the writing of Dick Francis, Newman skillfully weaves a story around the thoroughbred racing stables and race tracts. Well informed and knowledgeable she details background information to inform the uninitiated and to build suspense for those readers involved with both raising and racing horses.

Newman's characters come to life as personalities clash. Conflict, crisis, and resolution move the plot ahead at a fast pace. The story revolves around Leigh Meredith, young, attractive, and successful. Leigh, after a failed relationship and broken engagement, leaves her executive position with a New York Advertising Agency, to reevaluate her life goals and values.

In an unexpected twist of fate, Leigh becomes the owner of an abandoned one-eyed thoroughbred, Silver Dreams. Determined to discover Silver Dream's racing potential, Leigh, contracts with Whit Riley to train her horse. Silver Dreams becomes the means of sparking a relationship between the two strong willed and stubborn Leigh and Whit.

This is an appealing, heartwarming, story with a strong surprise ending. This is a book of self discovery, entertaining, and informational. It is a book for every horse lover. Amateur, and professional alike will want to read this novel. I am looking forward to reading more of Sondra Rice Newman.

Richard R. Blake

Sullivan's Bookshelf

Walking Zero: Discovering Cosmic Space and Time Along the Prime Meridian
Chet Raymo
Walker & Company
ISBN: 0802714943, $22.95, 194 pp.

Raymo takes a stroll along the GREENWICH MERIDIAN line, officially established in 1884, that runs through southeastern England. Amazingly, along or very close to that line the writer discovers the homes of many famous scientists throughout the years: Isaac Newton, the scientist/mathematician, Charles Darwin of Evolution fame, Thomas Huxley the scientist who boldly defended Darwin and his ideas, William Smith who drew the stratified map of England, the hoaxers with Piltdown Man, John Harrison who built the chronometers that allowed seamen to learn of their longitude, and other famous abodes of unique individuals and scientists.

Throughout each discussion, Raymo frequently digresses. While doing so, he relates about significant scientists who resided outside of England over the centuries, like Galileo in Italy, Copernicus of Poland, Aristarchus of ancient Greece.

Some of the tales Raymo tells have recently been done in best selling books or on highly watched videos, such as Longitude by Dava Sobel and The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geography by Simon Winchester. Still, the stories Raymo shares stand up to this retelling. His explanation of how the Greenwich meridian came to standardize the beginning of longitude lines that demarcate where time and location in the world begins to be measured for the rest of the globe are entertaining. The yarn about how England competed with France for the honor of having the meridian in its country is a saga worth reading all by itself.

The author writes, "Walking Zero is about the epic struggle to understand cosmic space and time. It is a story of constantly expanding horizons, of intellectual courage and physical adventure, of men and women who dared to believe that the universe was not centered on themselves. It is a story of the breaking of the cosmic egg, of a planet becoming conscious of itself, and of the discovery of an abyss of space and time that might in fact be infinite."

Chet Raymo is professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at Stonyhill College in Massachusetts. His previous books include Climbing Brandon, The Path, and Skeptics and True Believers. Recommended.

Sneaking into the Flying Circus How the Media Turn Our Presidential Campaigns into Freak Shows
Alexandra Pelosi
Free Press
ISBN: 0743263049, $25.00, 200 pp.

The author follows seven Democratic U.S. presidential candidates, Clark, Dean, Edwards, Gephardt, Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman, as they campaign for the New Hampshire and Iowa primaries for the 2004 election. She begins in late 2002. Three other Democratic hopefuls: Sharpton, Kucinich, and Braun are not actively participating in these two state primaries.

A documentary filmmaker by trade, Pelosi watches and reports on the different styles, tactics, and strategies of these presidential want-to-bes. She travels with them, attends their public meetings, comes along for home visits, and listens to campaign speeches in various venues around the primary states.

She tries, also, to speak to and/or to interview the candidates. This is easier said than done, even though she's often ridging on the same plane or bus. The situation is not caused by her ineptitude but mostly because of the evasiveness of candidates who, for the most part, don't trust her, or other reporters, to ask unembarrassing or unrevealing questions. This is hardly surprising for candidates because of all the 'Gotcha' journalism going on under such circumstances. Even the politicians, or their staff members, so-called 'off the record' interviews with various members of the press corps tend to end up being reported on the evening TV news or in the morning newspapers. It isn't surprising that politicians are skiddish in the media's presence.

On the other hand, reporters get so desperate for news and stories about the politicians to report on that the journalists tend to get sneaky. They deliberately try to get candidate to say a few unscripted words in an unguarded moment. A reporter's relationship to a candidate should be close. After all, they need each other to function. But neither trusts the other. And after reading chapter after chapter about that, readers may end up hating both sides in this issue.

Pelosi is a down-to-earth, in fact an earthy, interesting, and entertaining writer. She tells it like it really is, too. And after finishing the last page of her volume, this reviewer had a new respect, but less affection, for political candidates and for news reporters. Senator Bob Graham and Joe Lieberman come off best in this report. But, of course, they were early dropouts in the race. Pelosi speaks well of Dick Gephardt, except that she frequently points out his constituents as being mostly from the older, decrepit geriatric set. Many have to use walkers, breathing tubes, and assisted living aides, according to the author.

Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and the front-runner in the early campaigning, comes in for rough treatment as politically inept, at least verbally. Perhaps it is deserved. His current term as Democratic National Chairman tends to confirm what the author saw in him back then. And General Clark comes across as not only a Johnnie-come-lately to the race, but also as a political rookie in his methods of politicking. Edwards is boring to cover because he never gets off message.

Kerry doesn't come across much better. His eliteness, slow responses to criticism, and shallowness also makes one wonder how he ever won the Democratic candidacy in the 2004 election. Mostly, writes Pelosi, he was the only candidate left standing tall when Dean's steamroller ran out of fuel. Pelosi's book also touches on the Bush inauguration, which she attended, and other Republican moments from her own experience.

"On my second time around [talking about the 2004 campaign having also covered the 2000 fracas], I went out on the road to document the absurd hazing rituals that our presidential candidates have to go through. Whether they are going door-to-door like traveling salesmen to sell themselves on the house party circuit, begging for money from donors, working the union halls for endorsements, or participating in deep-fried food eating contests at the state fairs, every four years, a handful of men (and a few women who never had a chance) jump through these hoops to try to win their party's nomination. As Adlai Stephenson said, 'Any boob can run for president.' But the winners have to do things that losers won't do. Most decent human beings don't want to be subjected to the indignities of a presidential campaign (they are repelled by how idiotic the process is and all the hangers-on, parasites, and shysters that you have to put up with in public life)."

Alexandra Pelosi is the daughter of U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi. The author covered this campaign for HBO TV. Besides writing this book about the presidential race, she also toted a camcorder and made a movie about the campaign entitled Diary of a Political Tourist. Recommended.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
William Morrow
ISBN: 006073132X, $25.95, 242 pp.

Levitt is the rogue economist mentioned in the title. He's young, and in this volume he takes stock of life's issues, such as abortion, names, real estate agents, Ku Klux Klan, school teachers, sumo wrestlers, drug dealers, parenting, etc. In all these fields of endeavor his conclusions are unexpected-freaky, in fact-hence the title. Yet this is serious stuff.

For example, and this may be the most memorable part of the book, he sees legally allowed abortion in America as being the main cause for the dramatic drop over the last decade and more in the U.S. crime rate statistics. That's because, according to Levitt, had those fetuses developed into birthed children, they would have been born to mothers (typically teenage, single, poor, and un- or lesser educated) who statistically have high percentages of troubled children.

Sumo wrestlers, he proves using testing algorithms, lose some wrestling matches on purpose to help their fellow wrestlers remain in a winning category. Drug dealers, by and large, don't even make minimum wage through their crime unless they're at the very top of the dealership. The lowly paid 'soldiers' deal in the risky business of selling narcotics for a chance to become a better paid higher up.

Schoolteachers cheat on their students' test scores to make the kids, the teachers themselves, and the schools look capable and competent. Real estate agents don't hold out for higher house prices for sellers because the incentive, commission that is, wouldn't be very much effected by getting a slightly higher price.

Parents don't always make the best choices for children's names. (This part of the book, otherwise well written and interesting, was somewhat belabored and overdone.) After all, it's the kids who have to live their lives and suffer with the monikers. As to youngsters' safety, Levitt shows that swimming pools kill far more children than do guns in the home. And on and on from one subject to another in this rather disturbing work. But Levitt's arguments are hard to refute. Read this interesting book and prepare to be surprised. Very little of it has to do with economics (the dismal science) as it is known in some academic and political circles.

One of this volume's authors, Dubner, writes, "[...] Despite Levitt's [the co-author] elite credentials (Harvard undergrad, a PhD from MIT, a stack of awards), he approached economics in a notably unorthodox way. He seemed to look at things not so much as an academic but as a very smart and curious explorer- a documentary filmmaker, perhaps, or a forensic investigator or a bookie whose markets ranged from sports to crime to pop culture. He professed little interest in the sort of monetary issues that come to mind when most people think about economics; he practically blustered with self-effacement. "I just don't know very much about the field of economics,' he told Dubner at one point, swiping the hair from his eyes. 'I'm not good at math, I don't know a lot of economics, and I also don't know how to do theory. [...]'

"What interested Levitt were the stuff and riddles of everyday life. His investigations were a feast for anyone wanting to know how the world really works [...]"

Levitt teaches economics at the University of Chicago. He was chosen the best American economist under 40 recently. Dubner, co-author of this volume, has a writing background, both in newspaper and magazine journalism. He has also penned best selling books: Turbulent Souls and Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper. New York City is his home. Recommended.

Jim Sullivan

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

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