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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 7 July 2007 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Afrika's Bookshelf Atwood's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Geoffrey's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf
Kristina's Bookshelf Lockstein's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mark's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Sharame's Bookshelf Terrilyn's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Vital Friends
Tom Rath
Gallup Press, New York
1595620079 $22.95

Annie Slessman

While Tom Rath worked on a study of the homeless, he found that homelessness occurred most often in people whose relationships with friends and family had collapsed. Seeing a real need for a blueprint for identifying and building upon existing relationships and developing new ones, he wrote this book.

I must admit that I put off reading this book since I felt I had little to learn. I am fortunate to have a wealth of friends. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had a lot to learn about the maintenance of those friends and definitely had a lot to learn about making new friends. I loved a quote by President Franklin D. Roosevelt used in this book. It was written the day before his death. "Today, we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships." As Rath suggests and apparently President Roosevelt knew, the art of creating great friendships is somewhat of a science.

Rath states that studies revealed we spend one-third of our time with friends as teens. As adults that number is reduced to ten percent. I find it a wonder that we, as adults, establish new friendships given the low percentage of time spent of the process.

It is suggested in this work that your most important friend is your spouse or life partner. I know this to be a fact in my own case. My husband is the first to overlook my shortcomings and the first to celebrate my accomplishments.

A great deal of this work is dedicated to friendships established at work. There are suggestions by Rath that Corporate America does not encourage this type of friendship. In fact, many have regulations forbidding such friendships. Yet, Rath provides statistics to prove that people are happier and more productive workers if they have made friends among their co-workers.

A listing of eight vital roles is provided to identify the various types of friendships. They are listed and defined as – Builder, Collaborator, Champion, Connector, Companion, Energizer, Mind Opener and Navigator. I found that personally, my friendships fit into almost all of them.

There is a website where you can take the Vital Friends Assessment Test. But don't bother going there until you buy this book. Your very own special I.D. number is provided with the purchase of each book and you cannot access the website without that number.

I would suggest you purchase this book. You will find reasons to pat yourself on the back for the right things you are doing to maintain your own friendships. We all could use a pat on the back. An investment of $22.95 is cheaper than a tank of gasoline and will this book will take you farther down the road.

Tom Rath is the author of How Full Is Your Bucket and has spent twelve years with the Gallup Organization. He has a psychology degree from the University of Michigan and is current working on his masters at John Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Washington D.C.

Tosca's Paris Adventure
Abby Wasserman
Conflux Press
P.O. Box 12445, Marina del Rey, CA 90295
0978541502 $15.95

Barbara Jean Hicks

If you like quirky, you'll love TOSCA'S PARIS ADVENTURE. Where else could you find a family composed of a pear, a leek, and a cat?! In fact, this delightful tale of a small cat lost in a big city is inhabited solely by walking, talking fruits and vegetables and their pet dogs and cats. The concept sounds wacky but works wonderfully, due in large part to author-illustrator Abby Wasserman's matter-of-fact narration and the charming ink and watercolor paintings that accompany the simple text.

The unlikely trio, Poire, Poireau and Tosca, arrive in the City of Lights on holiday expecting adventure—and getting a bit more than they bargained for. They start out doing the sorts of things any tourist family might do: enjoying croissants and café au lait at a sidewalk café, looking for antiques at the flea market, buying a bouquet from the local flower seller. Then Tosca meets Basho, a friendly French tabby who invites her to watch a puppet show in the park.

Before her parents realize she is gone, Tosca has wandered off to explore the wonders of Basho's Paris—only to be trapped on the roof of Notre Dame for the night. While Tosca sleeps peacefully under the stars, Poire cries herself to sleep and Poireau sits up most of the night waiting for news of their missing cat. Finally, with the help of a gallant string-bean police sergeant and a prescient sweet potato fortune teller, the pair are reunited with Tosca, who has continued her adventures completely oblivious to the panic she has caused.

Tosca's actions are so like a curious child's in a new and exciting place, and the garden-grown couple's emotions so like the parents of a missing child, that one is quite willing not only to suspend one's disbelief in the premise, but to revel in the suspension. I am reminded of an incident from my own childhood, in a time and place much more innocent than these, when without telling anyone I walked home from school to a friend's house instead of my own. Like Tosca, the thought never entered my mind that my parents would be frantic and have the local chief of police out looking for me!

TOSCA'S PARIS ADVENTURE, in addition to being an enchanting tale to share with preschoolers and primary children, is a good jumping-off place for a discussion about safety issues when families travel together. The story also introduces general multicultural issues and some basic French vocabulary. Included in the end notes is a complete side-by-side translation of the English text into French, a glossary of French terms, and a review of the famous Paris sites Tosca visits. But the quirky characters and beautiful, Matisse-like illustrations are the draw that will bring readers, young and old, back to this charming and whimsical book over and over again.

The Stones Cry Out
Sibella Giorello
Fleming H. Revell
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800731601 $14.99

CeeCee McNeil

How can no one see two men fall to their deaths in front of a building where hundreds are holding a protest rally? This and other questions need to be quickly answered before FBI agent Raleigh Harmon is forced to close the case, unsolved. But with problems stacking against her, is her love for her hometown and her added expertise in geology enough to solve the case?

Debut author Sibella Giorello plots a clever, atmospheric murder mystery that is sure to stump even the more seasoned mystery buffs. Giorello's knowledge of criminal investigation and geology forensics had me on several occasions reading the author's bio to see if she was a former investigator. Giorello's scenic portrayal of Richmond, Virginia made me appreciate a city steeped in American history.

By the time I found out who-done-it and why-they-did-it, Raleigh Harmon's flawed but endearing character whittled a space in my heart making me hopeful for a sequel. Secondary characters were developed just enough to help carry the plot to a satisfying ending. This book's a keeper!

Better Than Chocolate
Bruce Golden
Zumaya Otherworlds
3209 S. IH 35 #1086, Austin, TX 78741-6905
9781934135464 $14.99

Darlene Santori

Though it takes off with a bang, Better Than Chocolate, at first, may seem a bit hackneyed. But keep reading and you'll see it's the understated satirical tone of the book which makes it anything but a cliche. There's more going on here than just a search for a cop-killer, and the discovery of a conspiracy that threatens all humanity. There's a subtle undertone of gonzo social commentary.

The book's vibrant characters are both larger-than-life and true to it. Golden seems to populate his tale with stereotypes, but then breathes new life into them by turning those stereotypes on their ear. Some of the characters may seem whimsical at times, but their actions are always plausible. It's a delicate balance of parody and punchy realism, but one which Golden pulls off.

There's the celebrity talk show host known as "America's Favorite Virgin," a lusty, hard-nosed San Francisco police inspector, and his new crime-fighting partner, a Marilyn Monroe celebudroid. Yes, the film icon comes to life in Better Than Chocolate as one of several celebrity androids created for commercial purposes, to look and act like their originals. Comic juxtaposition often ensues when Marilyn's original programming seeps into her police work. And, as with most artificial intelligences, Marilyn begins to evolve beyond what her creators intended. Though along the way, she proves an annoyance to Inspector Noah Dane, their relationship evolves as well.

This book is a lively, fun read—it keeps you turning pages and wanting more. Its tone reminds me of David Brin's Kiln People, but, unlike that novel, Better Than Chocolate is more people-driven than plot-driven. However, the plot is there, and it's a dastardly one that strikes at the heart of mankind. And, if you don't already know what's better than chocolate, you'll find out as Golden's quirky cast of characters leads you through this science fiction who-dunnit (or, more accurately, who's gonna do it) towards a comically sexy climax.

Mary Oliver
Beacon Press
25 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02108-2892
9780807068960, $22.00,

Elaine Winer

Thirst ,Pulitzer prize-winning poet Mary Oliver's new collection of poetry, celebrates nature, as is usual with this lauded poet. In "Making the House Ready for the Lord," she says to the uproar of mice, the fox, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, (but really to the Lord who she speaks to all morning and afternoon): "Come in, Come in." A deer nuzzles her hand in the forest; a snake looks her in the eye and, in leaving, slithers over her bare foot. Flowers, trees, ponds, birds, she is part of all nature, and she worships God through celebrating his creatures.

She says in "Messenger":

"My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work…..

which is mostly standing still and learning to be

Oliver's work, her loving meditations on God's world, has made her one of the best selling poets in America. But since she lost her life's companion of over 40 years in 2005, the poet seems to be seeking to fill the emptiness left by death by investigating a new path. Instead of worshipping God through celebrating his world, in a sense worshipping him at second hand, one senses; in these forty-three poems, a burning thirst for the presence of God himself.

These two states of worship, the meditative and the transcendent, are defined with grandeur and subtlety in the poem "Six Recognitions of the Lord":

…Then I enter the place
of non-thinking, not-remembering, not-
wanting. When the blue jay cries out his
riddle, in his carping voice, I return.
But I go back, the threshold is always
near. Over and back, over and back. Then
I rise. Maybe I rub my face as though I
have been asleep. But I have not been
asleep. I have been, as I say, inside
the cloud…..

…We have
lived so long in the heaven of touch,
and we maintain our mutability, our
physicality, even as we begin to
apprehend the other world. Slowly we
make our appreciative response.
Slowly appreciation swells to
astonishment. And we enter the dialogue
of our lives that is beyond all under-
standing or conclusion. It is mystery.
It is love of God. It is obedience.

She has gone from the beauty of the world (the body, the heaven of touch) to an apprehension of another mystical world "inside the cloud." It is "the dialogue of our lives" she says, and she mentions this dialogue, or conversation, again in the book's epilogue. In the title poem "Thirst," she says:.

…Oh lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the
hour and the bell; grant me, in your
mercy, a little more time. Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a
long conversation in my heart. Who
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away, expect-
ing to be told to pack nothing, except the
prayers, which, with this thirst, I am
slowly learning.

There is much, much more in Thirst than this search for a higher spiritual world. Like Bach (and with Oliver's poetic excellence one can make such comparisons) there's a lot of joy mixed in with the worship, Oliver sings children, nature, animals, (how else talk about Christ, but to consult the little donkey that carried him to the cross?) Beauty of the natural world and its inhabitants fill almost every page.

She attempts to ameliorate her sadness, using her dog Percy like a small, hairy bandage. Percy belonged to both Oliver and her life companion, to whom this collection is dedicated (a photograph taken by Ms. Cook is on the cover.)The two had named the dog together, and Percy is ill now. We should have named him William, Oliver says, since Wordsworth almost never died. She adds, we must laugh a little at this rich and unequal world.

There are only a few poems that touch on her loss. In "Heavy" she says:

That time
I thought I could not
Go any closer to grief
Without dying

I went closer and I did not die.

In: "The Uses of Sorrow":

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Or " Letter to ---":

You have broken my heart.
Just as well. Now
I am learning to rise
above all that, learning

The thin life...

But Mary Oliver, that ecstatic poet, could never live the "thin life."

Perhaps the conflict, or dialogue, inherent in this book is best defined in the epigraph she includes on page ix. It comes from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, "Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?" Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, "If you will, you can become all flame."

In Thirst, Mary Oliver seems to be considering the flame recommended by Abba Joseph as a way of solving the emptiness death has created in her life. I hope it will not take the place of the small warm coals of sunflowers and hummingbirds she had elected as her life's work. Having just lost my husband of 54 years, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on grief, and I opt for the hummingbirds.

Traces of God: Seeing God in Torah, History, and Everyday Life
Neil Gillman
Jewish Lights
Sunset Farm Offices, Route 4, Box 237 Woodstock, VT 05091
1580232493 $21.99

Dr. Fred Reiss

The late Rabbi Ted Cook in his book Thought Starters tells the story of an American Indian being given a guided tour of New York City. While walking along Fifth Ave., he stopped and asked his guide if he heard the sounds of a singing bird. The guide listened and said no. The Indian pointed to the thirty-second story of a building across the street. The guide squinted and sure enough he saw the bird.

"That's amazing," said the astonished guide.

The Indian then took a quarter out of his pocket and threw it to the ground. The people along the street stopped and immediately begin looking around on the pavement.

The Indian smiled at his guide as he said, "You hear what you want to hear."

Rabbi Neil Gillman would have us see and sense the signs of God everywhere. His book, Traces of God: Seeing God in Torah, History, and Everyday Life, is an anthology of sixty short homilies and exegeses. About one-third of the book comes from material that previously appeared in his tri-weekly column in The Jewish Week, where he writes as the voice of Conservative Judaism; the remainder is new material. The book is divided into four parts. Each discourse begins with an observation about life or some tension he perceives in the biblical portion of the week.

Gillman acknowledges, in the first section of the book, "Seeing God," that faith and doubt exist in a dynamic relationship. He observes that in the age of science and reason, God is absent too frequently from our lives because we are conditioned to see what we expect to see, and writes that, "The way to God is not through rational argumentation but rather through experience." In fact, he argues that we ought not to ask "where is God?" but rather "when is God." God is experienced at deeply moving moments, not just in hallowed places.

In part two, "Images of God," Gillman asks questions about the historical interaction between God and the Jewish people. God tests us, do we ever test God? How does the Covenant bind God to the Jewish people? What does it mean that God is both a punishing God and a forgiving God, and is preemptive repentance really necessary? Why does it seem that Jews always have to jog God's memory? When Gillman explores the question, can God ever be angry, he is haunted by God's order to the Israelites in Numbers 31, to wreak vengeance on the Midianites and in Deuteronomy 25, to blot out the memory of the Amalekites. Yet, the Jews were slaves in Egypt over 400 years, but there are no long-term biblical pronouncements against the Egyptians. Through exegesis, he concludes that God's anger is anthropopathic imagery. It is the Jewish people who are actually angry for the way they were treated by these two nations. For Gillman, anger is good because he abhors its opposite, indifference. Anger, not apathy, moves us to action.

Part three, called "Revelation and Law," is the most erudite of the four sections. In it, he relates the interrelationship between the Covenant, law, legend, and theology. Creation, according to the author, is tantamount to bringing order out of chaos. Revelation is an individual experience: how one relates to Judaism depends on his or her understanding of what happened on and around Mt. Sinai. Gillman concludes that Judaism, through its laws, provides a fundamentally ordered world by giving boundaries to daily life. Theology, then, and not catechism, is the center of the Jewish religion. In one discourse, he notes that the Commissioner of Baseball has near absolute authority to decide what is in "the best interests of baseball," and compares this to rabbinic authority. There is one baseball commissioner, but now there are several branches of Judaism and many voices of authority. He cautions that history shows that denouncing any one branch as being excluded by God, and thereby lacking authority, places the entire religion in jeopardy.

In the final part, "Suffering, Death, and Redemption" we read that Job is punished so that God can win a bet with the devil and the Jews suffer slavery in Egypt for over 400 years, but there is no biblical evidence that the Jewish people deserved this fate. Yet, elsewhere the Torah (Five Books of Moses) says that following the right path leads to life and blessings. Torn between biblical law and life experiences, Gillman concludes that the Bible is not a single book, but a library of books, and "one does not expect all books in a library to agree with one another." He clearly recognizes that the idea that the good suffer and the bad might not is a deep mystery for which there is no easy resolution. In the section on death, Gillman tells the story of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who died in 1972. In his last days, Heschel give an interview that was later shown on the Jewish Theological Seminary's Eternal Light program. When asked what will happen to him after he dies, he brushes aside the question, saying that he has too much to do during his lifetime, "he is prepared to let God worry about what will happen." When asked what message he has for the young listeners he answers, "Remember there is meaning beyond the mystery, and that it is our responsibility to shape our lives as if they were works of art."

Traces of God is written like a helix, a spiral staircase. As we move higher and higher we are still able look down and see the same things, but we see them from a different vantage point. For example, Gillman discusses the story of the binding of Isaac in two separate sections. In "Seeing God" he asks and answers how Abraham knew that it was God who commanded him to make Isaac a sacrifice and not just a delusion or even Satan. In "Images of God" Gillman notes that Abraham did not utter a word of protest at God's command to kill Isaac because Abraham needed to test God as well. "If God was to be reassured about what kind of man Abraham was, Abraham also needed to reassure himself as to what kind of god this God was."

Traces of God is a book to be read and digested slowly. Each homily raises fundamental questions about Jewish theology and personal beliefs. But more than that, peoples of many faiths can benefit from its theological questions and discourses because the material in the book is based on the Old Testament, ancient scrolls shared as holy books by other religions. In fact, in our age of speed and instant gratification, any time spent reflecting on who we are and what is our relationship with God and with the world is time well spent.

Mothering Mother
Carol D. O'Dell
Kunati, Inc. (USA)
6901 Bryan Dairy Road, Suite 150, Largo, FL 33777 USA
9781601640031 $19.95

Gail Rae Hudson

During a freshman college course in literature, one of my erudite professors suggested that novels dealt in truth more thoroughly than essays (Loren Eisely notwithstanding) because "truth is in the detail"and fiction contains profound, rather than reported, detail. I recall this as I set out to review "Mothering Mother", a recent addition to the Caregiver Memoir genre. It is Carol O'Dell's observation of narrative technique that is responsible for the sense of truth that soaks this book. Make no mistake, care giving memoirs have become a genre unto themselves. Online Journaling has, no doubt, hugely affected this development, although one of the initial in the recent wave of caregiver confessional published journals, "Elegy for Iris" by John Bayley, began as one of the offline variety. "Mothering Mother" by Carol O'Dell, is one of the newest and brightest (literally; the cover is a masterful eye catcher)offerings.

O'Dell's book is of the "old journal" school. My understanding is that these vignettes were fashioned from handwritten entries in a journal she kept while her family embraced her mother during her mother's final years. I'm not familiar with whether the contents of an elder caregiver blog have yet been published. I mention that O'Dell's book originates from a journal because its organization is part of the reason the book is successful. It's easy to pick up and put down; perfect for caregivers. I've often suspected that books written "for caregivers"don't actually reach caregivers, who have little time for reading unless it's of the technical variety. This book may actually make it to caregivers because of the ease of its organization.

I wish I could say, for the purposes of this review, that I'm familiar with this fast growing genre and can compare offerings. I'm not. I'm a full time, in home companion/caregiver to my Ancient One mother. I write about our journey at "The Mom & Me Journals dot Net". I don't read much about caregiving because it's what I do and what I write about. I probably won't read about elder caregiving until I'm no longer doing it. Even then, though, I'll probably favor reading about something else. I would not have read this book, probably wouldn't even have known about it, except for a series of coincidental mentionings and sendings. I can't say that if I hadn't read it I would have been ignorantly bereft of enlightenment. I'm glad I read it, though. Ms. O'Dell is a keen and unembarrassed observer of her situation with her mother. There's just enough history to impart understanding but not so much as to give a reader cause to wonder if the author is nursing a grudge through her writing. In addition, O'Dell's writing is tight and flows well. O'Dell's mother's character and, eventually, her own and those of her husband and daughters, shine through. I did not identify O'Dell's mother with my own. It was easy to differentiate circumstances and challenges, as well. I was grateful for this. The book allows a caregiver to absorb experience without comparing experiences.

Some cover blurbs are hailing the intimacy and honesty of this book. I'm a regular reader of a few more than a few online caregiver journals and I'm used to brutal caregiver honesty, expressed well and with inspiration, so I can't say any new frankness borders are crossed in this book. It is nice, though, to read a caregiving book that is not overtly or covertly instructional or obviously "meant" to be inspirational. I've often thought that, if I ever consider compiling a publishable memoir out of my online writings about my journey with my Ancient One mother, I would wait until some time after she was dead to compile it and consider publication. Carol O'Dell did exactly this in "Mothering Mother". She did not, however, disguise the immediacy and urgency in some of her earlier vignettes in order to serve later direction, which is refreshing. It's easy to follow O'Dell's journey to eventual peace with all facets of her final journey with her mother. It is reassuring for a caregiver who knows she will be taking this journey to read about it ahead of time. As well, O'Dell is peculiarly unsentimental about her experience, including in retrospect. She does not overtly discuss specific strengths that were developed as a result of her journey with her mother, but in the latter two parts of the book O'Dell's changes are clear and clarifying.

Would I recommend this book? I have, to specific audiences. Although I pressure myself to avoid caregiver literature, I'm glad I was introduced to this book. I think it would be particularly helpful to caregivers who are braving contentious parent-child relationships in order to honor to their elders. I believe this book would also be eye-opening for those who have a caregiver within their extended family network such as O'Dell, who is, I imagine, the epitome of sandwiching the generations, a process to which she refers as a "vise grip".

At the very least, browse it at a library or bookstore. The vignettes are neat and short. I timed myself: 1 to 1.5 minutes apiece. Better yet, click into "The Mom & Me Journals dot Net" at and search the title of Carol's book. You'll be led to a couple of posts that quote directly from her text and discuss my caregiver/reader reactions. Plenty of opportunity to do some free reading while deciding whether to purchase or check out the book.

Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir
Carol D. O'Dell
Kunati Inc.
2600 Skymark Avenue, Building 12, Suite 103, Mississauga, Canada L4W 5B2
9781601640031 $19.95

Janet Paszkowski

Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir is an engaging and emotionally accessible work of creative non-fiction—a series of narrative vignettes depicting the emotionally trying time Mrs. O'Dell spent caring for her mother in her final days of Parkinson disease and the onset of Alzheimer's.

Remarkably, Mrs. O'Dell wrote her heartfelt words in near real-time, while the daunting task of caring for her mother simultaneously churned her emotions and interrupted the myriad of responsibilities she was already juggling as a wife and mother to her own family.

Throughout the book, as Mrs. O'Dell openly details her private challenge of learning how to mother her mother, the reader is made to feel they are right beside her, experiencing what she is experiencing, as illustrated in the following excerpt portraying the moment when her mother's Alzheimer's progresses to the point where she fails to recognize her only daughter . . .

"Where's Carol?" Mother asks, sitting at the dining room table after dinner.

"I'm right here, Mother." I call from the kitchen as I feed the dogs.

"No, not you–the other Carol."

"Well, I'm the only one there is." This is new, I'm used to her not knowing other people, but until now, I was in the safe zone.

The audience for Mothering Mother reaches beyond the obvious population of the growing number of readers comprising the 'sandwich generation', boomers taking care of both their own children and their elderly parents. This moving chronicle of one woman's experience of mothering her mother taps into the very core of our greatest fears of illness, infirmary, abandonment, and death. It conveys a universal truth about the way people think, act, feel, and it does it with honesty, humor and love, exposing the author's emotional strengths and weaknesses in near real-time. This book is more than a memoir; it is an accomplished debut work of creative nonfiction.

Inherit the Land: Jim Crow Meets Miss Maggie's Will
Gene Stowe, author
Carl A. Sergio, illustrator
University Press of Mississippi
3825 Ridgewood Road, Jackson, MS 39211
9781578068647 $35.00 1-800-737-7788

Mary Dixon

In a reportorial account of a tug-of-war for an acreage and the possessions of two white women between a hundred of their cousins and their designated inheritors (a black man and his daughter), Gene Stowe, an experienced journalist, has used events surrounding an historical trial, set in the Jim Crow South, to create an historiography which both criticizes racist attitudes and celebrates the courage of persons who refused to be tainted by them. In the aftermath of Reconstruction, civil right's gains for black Americans were severely inhibited. White politicians passed laws, later termed Jim Crow laws (named after a racist depiction, in minstrel shows, of an uneducated black man), that limited black persons access to white facilities and hindered their ability to advance or to participate in white society in any way. Stowe's book, Inherit the Land, is an account based on his critical analysis, evaluation, and selection of trial transcripts, personal testimonies, newspaper accounts and other sources. He depicts a conflict that involves civil rights, in this case, the right of two white women to bequeath their property to black persons and the right of the black inheritors to receive the property.

According to noted historians Will and Ariel Durant, historiography is an industry, an art, and a philosophyian industry by ferreting out the facts, an art by establishing a meaningful order in the chaos of the materials, a philosophy by seeking perspective and enlightenment." (The Lessons of History, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968, p.12.) Stowe's account is an historiography that has revealed a mass of information about participants in the trial, about the trial itself, and about data surrounding the persons and locale. He has then artfully rendered the information into a story that facilitates an informed evaluation that calls into question perceptions about the ?Jim Crow? South, and the people who lived in it. His literary portrayal of the events of this trial moves forward with breadth, taking into consideration the existing attitudes and stereotypes that circulated among a white hierarchy that included racism exhibited by either a paternalistic condescension or an outright hostility toward black people. In Stowe's account, the prejudice that the two white sisters had to be crazy to consider black people as their heirs is played against the conviction that ?the natural relationship in this case crossed the color line (259). In this remarkable story, kinship is possible between people of different races, even in the Jim Crow South.

Stowe's historiography painstakingly reveals the motives and background of the litigants on both sides, and in his descriptions, and in the accompanying photographs, and drawings by Carl A. Sergio, the participants and the place are manifested. He draws the reader into the scene, into the courtroom, and into the family relationship between the two white women and their black heirs. If his story lacks emotive content in other respects, such as in its limitation, as a non-fiction historical account that prohibits access to the thoughts of the characters, it is still able to draw an empathetic response from the reader toward the situation and loneliness of the white women by its intelligent rendering of facts and events. Stowe, in his conviction that all events and facts must be interpreted, has used this story to convince his readers that there were people who could rise above the stereotypical conventions that have dominated previous conceptions about the Jim Crow South. He wants the reader to aspire to the courage of a personal commitment to do the right thing, like the white women in the book who ignored color lines because of their sheer goodness.

Stowe challenges both the ethos that people are subject to the times in which they live, and a simplistic view of historical events that paints all participants with one brush. His story clearly separates those who were blatant racists and those who were ordinary people, like the members of the jury, who saw beyond the color issue and decided the case impartially. He challenges the conventional view that all white Southerners of this period were aligned with either an anti-black sentiment or a patronizing superiority toward blacks. In this particular story, Stowe frames the complexities of racial relationships as he describes the events, people, and the local political climate. He spikes the narrative with a philosophic understanding of the intricate nuances of any relationship and the varying interpretations of any event. To explain the events in the lives of the two white women and the trial that challenges their will, Stowe has collaged details about the prevailing attitudes of white separatists, background information about treatment of black persons, including lynchings and documented injustices, alongside the courageous acts of some white Southerners whose indifference to color startled many of their contemporaries.

Authentic source materials abound in Stowe's work and his narrative lends itself to a scholarly interpretation of the real struggles that affected both black and white persons in the era after the civil war. His documentary evidence will provoke new discussions about the social structure of the Jim Crow South, and the anomalies that challenge a perception that all white Southerners were part of a collective identity that manifested itself in some form of racism. Stowe has created both a reliable portrayal of an historical event, because it is intricately balanced with detail and incident, and a meaningful philosophic interpretation, because it is weighted with an appreciative perspective of the impact of ordinary persons who were able to circumvent the cultural biases that governed their time.

The Pesthouse
Jim Crace
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
1745 Broadway, 22nd floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385520751 $24.95

Michael Frechette

Go East, Young Man…Then West

As of late, several authors have been in a post-apocalyptic mood, and Jim Crace is among them, whose recently published new novel, The Pesthouse, certainly follows suit. Unfortunately for Crace, his novel is one the most recent in this current trend, and it seems overshadowed by works such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Will Self's The Book of Dave (critics and reviewers have already noted the similarities, especially to The Road). Nevertheless, The Pesthouse has its own unique place among the rest, recounting the journey east of Franklin and Margaret as they try to escape an anarchic America of the future that has been completely deindustrialized by geological shifts. The elements that define contemporary American society – rule of law, agricultural abundance, thriving urban centers, and advanced technological sophistication – have been eradicated, and the book's futuristic Americans are living in a primitive world where they fear starvation and unexpected death. As a result, those who are able have started the journey east to the shore, where it is rumored that immense ships will deliver hopeful Americans to the promised land of Europe or elsewhere to start anew. In this brilliant inversion of manifest destiny, Crace offers readers the ideological antithesis of westward expansion; he vividly imagines America's last days, where people empty the country rather than fill it, where those in search of opportunity, unlike their ancestors, have to travel east instead of west.

The story begins with the death of an entire riverside community, Ferrytown, whose opportunistic inhabitants have been making money delivering travelers from one side of their river to the other. The mass deaths occur almost instantaneously during a single night due to toxic fumes that are released as the land shifts, a geological reality of this future world that hints at what kind of natural disaster might have eliminated contemporary society. In the next chapter, Crace backtracks to several days before this tragic incident, where one of the novel's main characters, Franklin, has started his journey to the east coast with his brother Jackson. With Franklin staying behind to nurse an injury, Jackson goes on ahead to Ferrytown only to meet his ultimate demise. In the meantime, Margaret, a Ferrytown inhabitant, ironically escapes the communal death when she contracts the fatal "flux" and must shave her head and live in an isolated hut called the pesthouse uphill from the town. Eventually, Franklin makes his way towards Ferrytown, discovers the pesthouse and its very ill inhabitant, and uncharacteristically decides to risk his safety and stay with her until she is well.

From this point, the novel assumes the form of a fast-paced, well-plotted adventure story. During their journey east, Margaret and Franklin, two virtual strangers, become united against the hardships of the country's landscape and approach something resembling love, even though they are separated for a time. In the midst of their travels, Franklin is kidnapped and enslaved by a gang of violent men, while Margaret inadvertently becomes the surrogate mother for another family's baby. Once near the east coast, she falls in with a group of extremists known as the Finger Baptists who believe that metal is evil. Their leaders, the Helpless Gentleman, in a comical inversion of the Protestant work ethic, refuse to work since it ultimately leads to metallic industrialization, which they believe led to the downfall of America's prior civilization. Eventually, Franklin and Margaret are reunited near the coast only to discover in Joad-esque fashion that the promises that lured them east have major qualifications. Since only men are typically allowed to make the journey across the sea, the beaches are filled with abandoned children and mothers, mothers who prostitute themselves to foreign sailors to earn enough money to survive. Not wanting to split apart, Franklin and Margaret resign themselves to a life in America and like their ancestors, journey back west across the landscape to carve out a life for themselves, a sentimental touch to an otherwise bleak vision of the country's future.

Crace's prose is very eloquent and verges on the poetic at times, and his use of Old Testament imagery, which is often associated with American journey stories, is appropriate. In fact, one instance of this particular imagery is actually somewhat humorous and very telling in its convolution of American and ancient Jewish history. Margaret is holding a penny, now just a relic of America's glorious past, rubbing the tails side and feeling "the tiny seated floating man within, the floating man who, storytellers said, was Abraham and would come back to help America one day with his enormous promises" (23). In America's future, President Lincoln has become just as mythic as Abraham of the Old Testament, almost detached and "floating" away from American history itself. Nevertheless, Margaret's vague knowledge proves that historical continuity still exists, however tenuous, and that these future Americans are still the inheritors of a great tradition. Even at the end of the novel, the protagonists choose not to leave but instead strike out west back across the landscape: "Going westward, they would go free" (255). Such a conclusion might be confusing to readers who are left wondering if the novel is a harbinger of prophetic doom or if this patriotic ending should have the final say in determining the book's ultimate aim. After an entire novel of eastward travel, Crace ends his text with a reaffirmation of westward expansion, a tradition that most of novel seems to undermine. In this reviewer's opinion, though, the ending is the trump card, and the novel's message is clear: whatever troubling fate lies ahead for America, its vast landscape will always lend itself to a spirit of freedom through westward journeying, a spirit that no apocalypse or degree of anarchy can eradicate.

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief
Lewis Wolpert
W. W. Norton & Company
9780393064490 $25.95

David Roemer

Lewis Wolpert reveals two personas in this book. One persona is reasonable and makes thoughtful statements about evolution and beliefs. The other persona is obnoxious and irrational—the proverbial village atheist. This is an example of the bad persona:

I am committed to science and believe it is the best way to understand the world. I am an atheist reductionist materialist. I know of no good evidence for the existence of God. (p. x)

Wolpert knows the evidence of God's existence and discusses the evidence throughout the book. In an ongoing act of self-deception, Wolpert fails to recognize the evidence and admit that it is there. More than truth, reason, and integrity, Wolpert loves the methodology of science to the point of succumbing to the gratifications of scientism, whatever they are.

In the New York Times on February 19, 2006, Leon Weiseltier called scientism "one of the dominant superstitions of our day." Wolpert spends a whole chapter on the beliefs of scientists and touches on every possible false belief (e.g., confabulations), but does not even mention this aberration. However, it may be this article Wolpert is thinking of when he says:

It is now asserted by some that science itself is the modern superstition. (p. 159)

Is Wolpert is confabulating the word science whenever he sees the word scientism? Science is only one mode of inquiry. Scientism is an excessive and irrational reliance on this branch of knowledge. Another method of inquiry is philosophy, which is what Wolpert is doing when he explains the difference between scientific beliefs and non-scientific beliefs and extols science as "the best way to understand the world."

The good persona uses the following quote as the epigraph for Chapter 2 and expands on the insight:

This act of mind has never yet been explain'd by any philosopher. (David Hume 1739)

The word belief, while freely and widely used to account, for example, for causes in the previous chapter, is nevertheless not easy to define. Neither philosophers nor scientists have been successful. David Hume, my hero philosopher, said of belief that he regarded it as a great mystery. (p. 23)

Conscious knowledge of simple facts is also a mystery. Consider, for example, knowing that this page is white. It means more than that light is entering the eye and a signal is going to the brain. It means an awareness of the whiteness of the page. What is it? What are ideas and abstractions? What is the relationship between ourselves and our bodies? What is self-consciousness? The mind is indeed a mystery, and man is an indefinability that becomes conscious of its own existence. Plain common sense tells us human beings are embodied spirits and evidence of God's existence.

Continuing with quotes that show Wolpert at his best:

There is a strong motive for explaining any phenomena that affect us in causal terms, an ingrained need to organize the world cognitively—both the external world and the internal world. (p. 3)

Thomas Aquinas couldn't have said it better. Human beings have a drive to know and understand everything. It is this drive that causes us to think that the universe is intelligible and that everything has a reason, explanation, or cause. The assumption of the intelligibility of the universe has served us well in science, and we are inclined to hope that we can understand our own existence. Science by itself cannot make our own existence intelligible because human beings transcend matter.

The method of inquiry that makes our existence intelligible is metaphysics: the study of being as being. We can partially understand the mystery, indefinability, and spirituality of our intellect and will with the metaphysical insight that we are finite beings and that we were created by an infinite being.

Creation is a form of causality, and the reasonable Wolpert rejects Hume's empirical understanding of causality:

David Premack, a psychologist, has pointed out that there are two classes of causal beliefs. One, as Hume suggested, is based on one event being linked to another, and can be called weak or "arbitrary", for there need not be any obvious connection between them, like switching on a light. Animals can learn connections by the pairing of events through this process of associative learning. The other, which is uniquely human, is strong or "natural" causality, and is programmed into our brains so that we have evolved the ability to have a concept of forces acting on objects. (p. 27)

In fact, Wolpert goes beyond this limited understanding of causality as force by endorsing the ideas of Jean Piaget:

Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist whose studies on the development of thinking in children have been very influential, held that the development of infants' understanding of their environment was the result of their active manipulation and exploration of objects, and that they constructed reality through converging lines of sensory and motor information. One source of their understanding of causes came from the infants' own actions: the actual experience of producing a movement plays a key role. (p. 35)

Wolpert is saying that our understanding of causality is rooted in our experience as infants of free will. Since many a "reductionist materialist" say free will is an illusion, the good Wolpert is taking a different point of view than the bad Wolpert.

Another example of his rejection of the limiting assumptions of hardcore materialism is the following quote:

More generally, as David Hume made clear, there is no experience of "self" as something distinct from our body. (p. 33)

If the self was distinct from the body, then there would not be one being—man—but two beings: the body and the self. The unity of man is the insight that caused medieval philosophers to abandoned Greek dualism—the idea that body and soul are two separate substances.

The following quote shows that Wolpert understands the importance of conceptual thinking in the evolution of human beings:

It was Kenneth Oakley in 1949 who wrote "Modern civilization owes its form to machine-tools, driven by mechanical energy; yet these perform in complicated ways and use only the same basic opertor as the simple equipment is the tool-bag of Stone Age man: percussion, cutting, scraping, piercing, shearing, and moulding." He also made clear that the men who made tools such as the Acheulian hand axes must have been capable of forming in their minds images of what they were trying to achieve. "Human culture in all its diversity is the outcome of this capacity for conceptual thinking…" This original idea of Oakley is at the core of this book. (p. 71)

Self-consciousness is the ability human beings have to turn in on themselves and catch themselves in the act of their own existence. The following quote brings the concept of self-consciousness into the study of evolution:

It has been suggested that the opposability of the thumb, and the associated wondrous dexterity, completely transformed our ancestors' relationship with external objects. This relationship could have promoted human consciousness, as the manipulation of objects became a self-conscious activity; once the individual becomes an agent operating on external objects in numerous different ways, causal beliefs are involved. (p. 77)

Now for the bad Wolpert:

Religion is almost always regarded by its believers as a way of obtaining help from supernatural powers, possibly from a god. Miracles can win further adherents, and the Bible has many examples, not least the dividing of the Red Sea to allow Moses and the Jews to cross. However, as David Hume argued, no miracle should be believed in unless the evidence was such that it would be miraculous not to believe in it. (p. 123)

Mr. Wolpert is paraphrasing a direct quote from David Hume that he already shared with his readers on p. 85, so impressed is he with the quote's relevance and insight. Hume's argument against religion is puerile because it discusses miracles in general, rather than the particular miracles that are part of our salvation history.

Examples of historically established miracles are the exorcisms and healings of Jesus, the founder of Christianity. His miracles are reported in all four Gospels and the Q document. The Jewish historian Josephus referred to Jesus as "a doer of wonderful works" and even anti-Christian sources refer to Jesus as a magician. It is irrational to admit Jesus was a Jewish prophet and deny that he performed miracles because at the time Jesus lived miracles were generally believed to happen. The historical Jesus includes what Jesus did and how Jesus was perceived by his contemporaries.

Since Wolpert is not interested in the historical Jesus, his quoting Hume on miracles is gratuitous and ambiguous. Presumably, Wolpert was trying to say that God and Moses did not really part the Red Sea and that God and Jesus did not really cure anybody. This is consistent with his view that God doesn't really exist. Since the bad Wolpert is a "reductionist materialist," he does not think human beings really exist either. All that really exists for the confused Wolpert is whatever particle physicists say exists.

Wolpert apparently identifies with Thomas Hobbes (b. 1588), forgetting the different circumstances. Hobbes lashed out at his contemporary critics as follows:

For if a man pretend to me that God hath spoken to him supernaturally and immediately I make doubt of it, I cannot easily perceive what argument he can produce to oblige me to believe it. It is true that, if he be my Sovereign he may oblige me to obedience, so as not by act or word to declare I believe him not; but not to think otherwise than my reason persuades me…For to say that God hath spoken to him…in a dream, is no more than to say he dreamed God spoke to him… (p. 131)

What would God have to do to make Wolpert believe? Wolpert tells us:

Of course, it is possible for God to easily reveal to scientists his current existence: God only has to perform, publicly, one or two miracles, for good evidence to be provided. This evidence could, for example, be quite simple, like turning a lake into good red wine, or providing an instant cure for cancer. Such miracles would almost certainly lead to religious beliefs among the skeptics. (p. 216)

Oliver Sacks, famous for Awakenings, told the following story about a 50-year-old patient that thought he was twenty because of a spinal cord damaged by alcohol abuse. With shame and regret, Sacks said that he handed the man a mirror and asked him if this was a 20-year-old man. His patient was horrified and cried out that he must be crazy. Fortunately, the patient soon forgot what had horrified him and he calmed down.

If a powerful angel changed a lake to red wine, it might neglect to keep the public from going crazy. God would not neglect anything. When God performs miracles and reveals things to us, people believe exactly what God wants them to believe. Faith is a gift from God. While Christians summon their fellow humans to believe, there is no obligation to believe as Hobbes thought. Nobody is criticizing Wolpert for not believing, and there is no need for him to defend himself.

Miraculous historical events, such as the Easter experience, are just part of the story Christians tell in their summons to nonbelievers. That Jesus was a Jewish prophet is a large part of the story as is the idea that Jesus saved mankind for meaning. There is another reason to believe: When nonbelievers explain why they don't believe they always give bad reasons.

A Place Called the Bla-Bla Cafe
Sandy Ross
SLR Productions
18375 Ventura Bl., #217 Tarzana, CA 91356
0977722708 $15.00

Rose Glavas

Have you ever wondered where entertainers like Robin Williams, Billy Crystal or Sting started their career? If you have, then 'A Place Called the Bla-Bla Cafe' is for you!

The author, Sandy Ross worked in the Bla-Bla Cafe where she co-booked the shows with owner Albie Hora. At the same time she worked as the Entertainment Director for the Los Angeles Performing and Folklife Festival under Artistic Director Warren Chistensen. Ross takes a nostalgic walk down memory lane of this period of time through writing 'A Place Called the Bla-Bla Cafe'.

The writing style used is friendly and easy to read – and also make you feel as you are really there at the Bla-Bla Cafe. I think we all have at least one memory of a special place that this book will remind us of.

Ross has divided the book into three sections: one covering history, the other memories (of various entertainers), and the final section giving a variety of tables with performers and staff listed there.

The history section includes a description of how the Cafe started, the heyday period, and it's last days. Some of the entertainers covered in the memories section include Maxine Sellers, Al Jarreau, Gene Nelson and Debby VanPouke. The final section includes: Table I covers the Cafe Performers from 1971 through to 1980; Table II covers Hard-Rock (Heavy Metal and Punk) band list; Table III Blabettes (1971 through to 1978); and finally Table IV covers the Bla-Bla Cafe staff from 1971 up until 1982. There is also a memorial at page 239 recognizing various important people in this lovingly written walk down memory lane.

'A Place Called the Bla-Bla Cafe' is a title that would suit a person that was interested in the entertainment culture and that wanted an insiders personal experience of the industry. This is a warmly written and welcoming look into the development of not only this cafe, but of a special place to be discovered and also to discover. It would be a welcome addition to your library if you have an interest in music or the entertainment industry (particularly if you are 40 or over).

The Thief Queen's Daughter
Elizabeth Haydon
Starscape (Tor Forge)
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765308689 $17.95

Stacie Penney

Summary: A young Nain explorer, Ven Polypheme, begins his second quest at the king's request -- What is the history of an artifact inherited from the previous king? Ven's search starts in the Gated City, on Market Day. Will the mystery be solved before the day ends and Ven is trapped inside?

The Take-Away: As stated, this is a second in the series, but Haydon doesn't spend unnecessary time with the previous story. I didn't feel like I was missing out by not starting at the beginning. Ven's circle of friends must have been established in the first book, however, and it's a vast circle. The variety leads me to believe that this will be a longer series with good adventures.

The target audience is young adult, however, it has the feel to the book as the first Harry Potter titles did. Fun, adventurous, but easily developed into something more. This is a series I would keep my eye on, depending on how the stakes are raised in the next book.

One of my favorite characters was McLean, a StorySinger who knows the histories, songs and stories of various people of the land. His role is minor, but he is interesting. McLean is completely trustworthy; StorySinger take an oath to never lie. I'm hoping that this is a set-up for a future book.

Beauty of Souls
J. Byron Lasko
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595398768 $13.95

Steve Golightly

J. Byron Lasko's Beauty of Souls is a novel of the best sort. It is a book that entertains, mostly through snappy dialogue and characters who spring to life on the page. But more than that, it is a book that makes you think. Unless you are the most hardened nihilist, the most narrow of realists, this book will make you consider metaphysical and spiritual possibilities you never imagined before.

The story is narrated by Jim Armond, the glib owner of a small ad agency in New York. Jim's defense against the world, and as a cushion for his past, is humor. He just can't resist cracking a joke, no matter how dire the circumstances. And when you find out just how dysfunctional, how absolutely horrid his family was, you'll wonder that he's not Robin Williams on a speed binge. Discounting violence, Jim's family makes the Mansons look like "The Brady Bunch."The book opens, and indeed mostly takes place in, a bar owned by Jim's best friend, Louie. Louie has tenuous connections to the mob, and he peppers his conversation with references to "The Godfather," a movie he seems to know by heart. He is tough and gritty, but in an old-pal-from-the-neighborhood kind of way. He's honest and true to his friends, as is Jim, and it is Louie's difficulty paying off a debt to a mobster named Nicky Tuna that provides the catalyst for the story.

Jim's life, too, teeters on the verge of failure. Both his marriage and his business are on the rocks, and while these seem like cliches, Lasko is able to make them appear both fresh and genuine. In fact, through deft characterization, he manages to take another story involving a neighborhood in New York and turn it into something original. And, he manages to combine two elements that make this a uniquely unconventional story. One night, after a few too many Dewar's on the rocks, Jim meets a stranger named Jack. It's not giving away too much to say that Jack is a manifestation of Jim's higher self, a part of his consciousness connected to the greater consciousness of the universe, and thus to God. Stories of this sort generally take place in Nepal or a far province of China, but Lasko plops it down in a New York neighborhood of working stiffs and people just trying to get by. And he makes it work.

This, however, is only the beginning, for Jim meets another manifestation of a different part of his consciousness, and this one is female. And, in one mind-blowing scene, Jim actually jams with Jesus Christ himself, who likes to play jazz piano and wants people to call him "Josh."
This may all sound a bit out there, but believe me, when you read it you'll think it really happened.

And maybe it did. On his website, Lasko says, "... the psychic, spiritual and personal experiences I write about in Beauty of Souls are all real." He's known people "... who are highly evolved both spiritually and intellectually and who live and work right in our midst." I don't know about others, but I find it comforting to know that some people might represent a link to a different plane of existence. This reality of mortgages and pain and bars and coworkers can't be all that there is.

Anyway, Jim is forced into action -- or is he? He stands by his friend, Louie, and in doing so meets Angelina Parish, who just might literally be his soul mate. Complications arise and a deadline looms, with dire consequences if Nick Tuna doesn't get his money.

Thankfully, there are no outlandish car chases, no unrealistic shootouts where a waitress suddenly knows how to use a semi-automatic weapon. There is, however, a final showdown. I won't give anything away, though I wished it had ended a bit more ambiguously. After all, in real life, there aren't absolute winners and losers.

Google And The Myth of Universal Knowledge
Jean-Noel Jeanneney
translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226395777 $18.00 1-800-621-2736

Jim Sullivan

This is a brief essay between hard covers written by the President of France's national library, the Bibliotheque nationale. When in 2004 he learned of Google's project to bring 15 million of the world's over 100 million books published throughout the centuries, to the public over the Internet by digitizing the volumes and making them available through its search engine, Jeanneney was surprised and generally pleased.

Those books to be used for the project would come from the University of Michigan and Stanford University along with many from the Weidner Library at Harvard and the New York Public Library. Moreover, the Bodleian Library (with works published before 1900) at Oxford, England would be cooperating, too.

Jeanneney, however, soon realized some concerns. Would the books digitized be only or primarily of authors who wrote in English? What about those of the French, the other 25 European Union (EU) nation's works in their languages, and others in the non-English- speaking but Western world? Were they to be overlooked or at least only minimally included, resulting in their ending up very low on the search totem pole of reference on whatever subject was being searched for on the Internet?

The first fear was an obvious one based on the library sources being used, Michigan, Stanford, et al. The second point was all too quickly experienced when a search was done on the Google project, partially completed by then, under European writers' names.

"At the Bibliotheque nationale," writes Jeanneney, "we had fun seeing what could be found by typing in the names Victor Hugo [French writer], Dante [Italian], Cervantes [Spanish], and Goethe [German]. We found that only English-language publications were offered. (To be fair, for Hugo--oddly--a publication in German was listed). Granted, in the French version of the pilot site, things have somewhat improved, our escapades having perhaps triggered an effort to digitize a number of well-known Francophone works. But the problem was shunted elsewhere, and Internet users were not given the means to understand the general workings of the system. In February 2006, for example, a search for Cervantes on the Spanish site of Google Book Search ( curiously brought up five works in French, followed by three books in English, before, in ninth place and final position, there appeared a collection of excerpts from Don Quixote in the author's own language."

So, Jeanneney wrote his essay, first appearing in a French periodical, about his concerns that the EU language books would be overlooked or downgraded, even if unintentional. His essay caused an uproar in the EU nations. Consequently, it led to an EU-wide project of its own to digitize books from their countries and in their nation's languages for the Internet. The various governments came up with the seed money for the digitization project. Of course, private funding had to be found, too. And so the EU project began and is ongoing.

Since then, the Google project, covering most books in English is continuing, too, but has been modified in scope and direction though the basic thrust has remained the same.

Jean-Noel Jeanneney, the author, a professor before becoming President of the Bibliotheque nationale in 2002, has penned several books of history. He has also served as chief executive with Radio-France and Radio-France Internationale among many public positions he has held, including a cabinet post, from 1991 to 1993, in Francois Mitterrand's government. Recommended.

Sprouts The Miracle Food
Steve Meyerowitz
Spoutman Publications
PO Box 1100, Great Barringon, MA 01230
9781878736048 $12.95

Tammy Biondi

Steve Meyerowitz, AKA Sproutman, has helped the environment, saved money, cured allergies, asthma and other health conditions and fed hundreds with his self-proclaimed "miracle food": sprouts. So, it's no wonder he has come to be known as a sprouting superhero. In his book, Sprouts the Miracle Food, Meyerowitz passes along some of the sprouting knowledge which he has accumulated through several decades of producing sprouts of every imaginable variety, right in the kitchen of his Brooklyn apartment.

Meyerowitz is, as one might guess from the shiny green Sproutman costume he is wearing in his author photo, a zealous advocate for the growing of sprouts by everyone, everywhere. His book certainly will further his cause: nearly every aspect of sprouting, form selecting seeds, to growing, storing and determining medicinal properties and nutritional value of various spout types is detailed in this book.

Although portions of this book focus on subjects such as pesticides, water quality and composting (Meyerowitz is also the author of The Organic Food Guide and Water the Ultimate Cure), which are only marginally related to small-scale sprout production, most of the book is dedicated to outlining Meyerowitz's simple, inexpensive, efficient method for growing an abundance of sprouts in small spaces, such as home kitchens. This method is based on using various natural fiber baskets and bags as containers for growing sprouts. According to Meyerowitz, growing simple sprouts such as lettuce requires only seed, counter space, 1-2 minutes of watering per day, normal indoor daylight, 5-10 day's time, a bamboo basket and a plastic bag-like greenhouse. In his words, that's "all it takes to have something most people will covet--an alternative source of fresh food."

What is notably lacking in this book is a good list of sprout recipes, or at least more detailed suggestions for foods and meals that are extraordinarily enhanced by the addition of sprouts, for those of us who haven't fully hopped onto the raw and whole foods bandwagon. Although there are probably many excellent sprout recipes in Spoutman's Kitchen Garden Cookbook, another book by Meyerowitz, the closest thing to cooking/recipe tips that I could find in this book is a mention of "snacks from sprouted peanuts, hummus dip from spouted green peas, Chinese sautes from mung, adzuki and lentils, even sprouted wheat pizza!" and a few allusions to foods such as "Sunflower Sun-Cheese. Of course, Meyerowitz's affection for sprouts seems to be such that he would have trouble imagining any meal that wouldn't be enhanced by a sizeable dollop of sprouts.

Emphasizing the nutritional and medicinal benefits of sprout consumption seems to be at the center of Meyerowitz's persuasive argument for sprouting. He backs up some his health claims with scientific data from sources such as the USDA and the National Cancer Institute. Other claims lack citations and are most likely drawn from the vast pool of anecdotal information regarding natural foods and medicinal herbs. However, what is likely to appeal to most readers of this book isn't the hardcore health information and raw data that is presented. It's Meyerowitz's clear presentation of technical information: his instructions are clear, specific and concise. In fact, much of this book reads like an instruction manual for sprouting. It is easy to wish that Sproutman's kitschy enthusiasm were displayed more prominently throughout the book. The "Questions and Answer with Sproutman" and the "Sprout Oath" which includes a pledge to "stick to my roots, serve and be served [and] be sproutful and multiply" showcase some of the Sproutman persona, more of which would almost certainly enhance this book.

All in all, Sprouts the Miracle Food is a well-researched, informative book that is sure to be a useful guide for health or environmentally-conscious folks who are looking for ways to produce their own healthful foods. After reading this book, readers will almost certainly want to try growing and eating sprouts, although most people still won't want to dress like a sprout. That's something that's probably best left to Spoutman anyhow.

Afrika's Bookshelf

Hope & Desire
Theresa E.Grant
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781413758603 $16.95

Jennifer Greene, a young impressionable girl, dreams of going to New York to become a fashion designer. Her father dies suddenly, her mother marries his best friend, and Jennifer is forced to put her education aside to care for her younger siblings, juggle a nine-to-three job and is expected to perform household duties. She gets a second job and earns more money in hopes of pursuing her dreams, but her sister, a feisty school dropout, steals the money and runs off to New York. Jennifer gets another chance and goes to New York, only to be lured into becoming a housekeeper for Joe Morgan, a horse rancher, who tricks her into marriage. She finds herself saddled to a stubborn, old man twice her age, who refuses to let her go. She escapes, falls in love, and finds herself a suspect for murder.

Ms. Theresa E. Grant has been a writer for ten years. She has studied her craft with The Long Ridge Writers Group, Universal Class, Writers of Maryland, Writers Digest, and American Writers & Artist Institute. Ms. Grant's major influences have been her teachers, other published writer, and her husband, Dr. Warren H. Grant. She is the author of several books and member of the Black Writers' Guild.

Hope & Desire is an excellent story written, by Ms. Theresa E. Grant, about young woman Jennifer who puts your life on hold for the sake of her family. It is full of everyday episodes that families go through career changes, struggles, sorrow, pain and faith. The title of the book speaks for itself and carried out throughout its entirety. I was particularly drawn to the book because of its title and cover which was designed by Published America.

Rating Five Stars

Ready for Love
Timothy Gladden
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781424164127 $14.95

Ready for Love takes you on a thought-provoking journey through love and relationships. It highlights the good and bad, the highs and lows of love in all its many forms. After reading a verse you may be tempted to reminisce and see yourself inside the words. You can sense and feel the passion in each verse…The pain behind every simile and joy within every metaphor. It will take you away from reality into a poetic world of love and emotion that you will not want to leave. It reminds us that love isn't perfect, but assures us that it is wonderful.

It is available at


Ready For Love is an interesting title for a book. It is a typical question that anyone would ask themselves before entering a relationship. I think that Timothy did an excellent job portraying and demonstrating this in his book, Ready for Love, both the good and the bad. The poems that are highlighted within the context of Timothy's book, Ready for Love, are thought-provoking and insightful. The poems that struck me the most in Ready for Love were I only wonder,

At first sight, and When I see the sun. I also was fascinated how Timothy began each poem with an inspirational message.

Ready for Love was published by Publish America in January 2007 and consists of 72 pages. The cover design was created by Publish America and is done very creatively almost in an abstracted manner. I think for this being Timothy's first collection of poetry to the world, it is an excellent product. Congratulations Timothy on your first book of poetry, Ready for Love. Look forward to reading your next one.

Five Stars Rating

A Life Beyond Limits: Overcoming Private Pain
Nataki Suggs
Xpress Yourself Publishing
9780979250095 $10.95

A Life Beyond Limits: Overcoming Private Pain is available at
- Karibu Books

A Life Beyond Limits: Overcoming Private Pain depicts Nataki Suggs' struggle of confronting the truth about her past, illustrating how she was able to find stability and hope after she truly found God. Her relationship with God created a stable foundation for her to continue climbing the ladder of success, confirming there is nothing she can do without Christ. Even when she could not see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, she found that at the end, there was God's promise of freedom. Line by line, allow your heart to experience the hope that can be captured when there seems to be none. . . A Life Beyond Limits: Overcoming Private Pain

A Life Beyond Limits: Overcoming Private Pain was published by Xpress Yourself Publishing in June 2007 and consists of 80 pages. The cover and Interior Designed by The Writer's Assistant.

A Life Beyond Limits: Overcoming Private Pain was dedicated to every teenager "who feels that they are forgotten, misunderstood or mistake," says Nataki. A Life Beyond Limits: Overcoming Private Pain is filled with stories and poems based on Nataki's personal experiences and journeys. I believe that Nataki did an excellent job in presenting her message. Both her stories and poems were very thought provoking, emotional and heart warming.

I like the way that her book, A Life Beyond Limits: Overcoming Private Pain was broken up into a story and poem to make it even more interesting for the reader. It was a very easy read. I think that anyone who has experienced what Nataki has experienced will relate very much to what has been underlined within the contents of her book, A Life Beyond Limits: Overcoming Private Pain. Congratulations Nataki on overcoming your pain, at the end of every journey or struggle, we all get back up again! Nataki, indeed represents the very same depiction and theory.

Five Stars Rating

Afrika Midnight Asha Abney

Atwood's Bookshelf

Major Voices: 19th Century American Women's Poetry
Shira Wolosky
The Toby Press
P.O. Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06676-8531
1592640400 $14.95

"Major Voices: 19th Century American Women's Poetry" showcases the work of 10 female American poets - most of them quite notable in their own time but rarely considered or anthologized since. Observing 19th century America through the lense of its female poets is an intriguing experience: many of the poems included here delineate the social issues of the time in a powerfully immediate - and of course, poetic - way.

For instance, Francis Watkins Harper's account of a slave auction in "The Slave Mother" contains more stark emotive power than many other contemporary narratives:

His lightest word has been a tone
Of music round her heart
Their lives a streamlet blent in one-
Oh, Father! Must they part?

They tear him from her circling arms
Her last and fond embrace . . .

Lydia Huntley Sigourney - the first professional female poet in America - takes respectful notice of the diminishing Native American in her poems "Indian Names," "Our Aborigines," "Indian Girl's Burial, "and "Funeral of Mazeen." "Funeral of Mazeen," portrays the end of a royal lineage (that of the Mohegan Nation) and invites the reader to observe the profound sadness of a great nation in decline:

With the dust of kings in this noteless shade,
The last of a royal line is laid.
In whose stormy veins that current roll'd
Which curb'd the chief and the warrior bold;
Yet pride still burns in their humid clay,
Though the pomp of the sceptre hath pass'd away.

Most 19th century American female writers could not comfortably balance marriage and the writing life so some chose to simply avoid matrimony. Phoebe Cary, whose poems delineate matrimonial difficulties in a humorous and pointed way, was one of these single writers. In her poem, "Kate Ketchem" (get it?), she notes the foolishness of marrying for monetary reasons:

He married her for her father's cash
She married him to cut a dash
But as for paying his debts, do you know
The father couldn't see it so.

She wedded him to be rich and gay
But husband and children didn't pay
He wasn't the prize she hoped to draw
And wouldn't live with his mother-in-law.

Cary, like many others presented in this collection, adds a powerful voice to the growing rumblings of the women's movement. In her bitingly satirical dialogue poem "Was He Henpecked?" a husband responds to his wife's desire for equality thus:

'Now why,' he said, 'can't such as you
Accept what we assign them?
You have your rights, 'tis very true
But then, we should define them!'

'I'd keep you in the chicken yard,
Safe, honored and respected;
From all that makes us rough and hard,
Your sex should be protected.'

"Major Voices" also gives a fresh perspective on the most currently celebrated 19th century American female poet: Emily Dickinson. Her poems are presented here in their raw, unpublished form; there are no titles and her original plethora of dashes are included, granting her poems a striking immediacy.

Providing an extensive and literary-slanted introduction to each writer and including a substantial selection of each one's work, "Major Voices" presents a fascinating glimpse of 19th Century America through the eyes of its female poets.

Improve Your Piano Playing
Dr. John Meffen
Allworth Press
10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010
9781581154764 $12.95

"Improve Your Piano Playing" brings its reader quite close to personally accessing an exceptional piano teacher: Dr. John Meffen has poured extensive years of teaching, research and performance into his 160-page book in such a personal way as to make the concepts practically jump off the page.

Geared largely towards students in the beginning intermediate stages through advanced, "Improve Your Piano Playing" is equal parts erudition and humor. For example, when explaining the relative ease of finding a time and place to drum one's fingers (an amazingly simple and effective exercise he recommends in order to increase finger strength) he admits the following: "I have done more useful finger practice during boring meetings, less than enlivening lessons and tedious sermons than I care to admit."

One concept included in the book that might be considered somewhat controversial by some readers is Dr. Meffen's opinion regarding speed. Although many teachers would agree with the following statement: "speed is probably the most frequent reason for making mistakes [especially in the early stages of practice]," Dr. Meffen does not approve of excessive speed in general, even in the professional realm.

But as the rest of his book clearly illustrates, there is a great deal of assiduous thought behind every supposition and method Dr. Meffen presents and so each one is more than deserving of careful consideration.

The general tone of the book and the plethora of review questions at the end of each chapter reveal a teacher whose passion is to see his students play their very best. "Improve Your Piano Playing" is not an exhaustive treatise but rather a distillation from years of successful teaching, research and performance. It will not only benefit those who apply themselves to the concepts laid out by Dr. Meffen but will also be very helpful for those who teach them to others.

The Stop and Go Fast Food Nutritional Guide
Steven G. Aldana, Ph.D.
Maple Mountain Press
935 East 900 North, Mapleton, UT 84664
9780975882849 $6.95

In creating "The Stop and Go Fast Food Nutritional Guide," Steven Aldana has sought to fill an important informational gap in the fat-laden "western" diet (so called because of its prevalence among western industrialized nations). Although packaged foods are required to exhibit nutritional information, restaurants are not.

Enter Aldana's book. "Stop and Go" lists the nutritional content (i.e., calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium and fiber) of almost 3,500 different entrees from a total of 69 fast food restaurants. The title phrase "stop and go" refers to the clever and quickly comprehended layout of the book: healthy entrees are coded in green, borderline foods with yellow and those the highest in calories, saturated fats and trans fats are coded with (guess what?) red.

Trans fat (that is, hydrogenated vegetable oil), looms large in "Stop and Go." Aldana relates that the consumption of trans fat is responsible for at least 30,000 to 100,000 heart disease-related deaths each year. Since there is no safe level for trans fat consumption and since most fast-food restaurants utilize trans fats in some (if not all) of their cooking, "Stop and Go" is an informational windfall for those who eat fast food but are also concerned about their health.

Although the consistent redness of almost every McDonald's entree (including many salads) didn't surprise this reviewer, the many "red" Taco Bell entrees did. Trans fats are so dangerous that if an entree contained even 2 grams of trans fat, it received a red code. And so, the very delicious Nachos Bell Grande side dish, which contains a whopping 10 grams of trans fat is unfortunately but definitely red while the equally delicious spicy chicken soft taco received a green light for bearing only one gram of trans fat.

Although healthy fast-food eating may sounds like an impossible oxymoron, "The Stop and Go Fast Food Nutritional Guide" can make this a reality and should be placed in the glove compartment of every fast food restaurant patron.

Kathryn J. Atwood

Bethany's Bookshelf

Unleashing Her G-Spot Orgasm
Donald L. Hicks
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440
Berkeley CA 94703-3440
9781569755631, $12.95 1-800-377-2542

Written by award-winning author Donald L. Hicks, with the aid of correspondence from expert human sexuality researchers, Unleashing Her G-Spot Orgasm: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Ultimate Sexual Ecstasy lives fully up to its title. Chapters address the basics of human sexuality for pleasure, step-by-step techniques to use, types of G-Spot friendly coitus, how to deal with common problems that interfere with sexual pleasure (such as discomfort, "orgasm anxiety", or the urge to urinate), case studies, and more. A superb sex manual ideal for elevating one's sex life to new heights of passion.

Discrimination at High Levels
Gladys Cross
AE-TU Publishing
c/o Gladys Cross
PO Box 960246, Miami, FL 33296
9780976114628, $22.95

Discrimination at High Levels: The Masculine U.S. Presidency is a resounding inquiry into why all of America's presidents have been white men throughout history. Written in an informal conversational style, Discrimination at High Levels does not mince words in vociferous outcry against discrimination from history to the modern day. "...of all elected American Presidents 73% had military experience in their resume. Also, many of these references were obtained when they comply with the draft [some were volunteers] but all of them, with no exception, rose quite fast toward the ranks of Lieutenant, Captain, Mayor, and twelve of them reached the General rank. To become President, the candidate needs to have a warrior reference and if this reference is a heroic one, there is a high probability this person will easily end up at the White House.. Ladies are in disadvantage due to this fact." A timely and thought-provoking examination of elements of gender discrimination embedded in the American society and in the electoral process.

Inside Alzheimer's
Nancy Pearce
Forrason Press
PO Box 1032, Taylors, SC 29687
9780978829902, $19.95

Written by medical social worker Nancy Pearce, Inside Alzheimer's: How to Hear and Honor Connections With A Person Who Has Dementia is an uplifting guide for anyone whose friends or loved ones suffer from various stages of dementia. Relationship and connection are still possible, and highly beneficial, with patients who are afflicted with dementia; Inside Alzheimer's covers the six basic principles of forming a dynamic: freeing oneself from judgment, love, openness to receive love, silence, and thankfulness. "I would much rather err on the side of assuming that the person with dementia can participate in his decisions about end-of-life care, rather than assuming he can't. It happens more than one would expect that during an open discussion, the person with dementia pops into a particular moment of clarity and clearly provides input." Highly recommended as guideline, aid, comfort, and inspiration.

Fight Your Health Insurer and Win
Laurie Todd
Healthwise Publications
PO Box 2045, Woodinville, WA 98072
9780979143502, $14.95

According to Reader's Digest in April of 2006, seven in ten adults who were driven into debt by medical expenses had insurance at the time. Author Laurie Todd had health insurance when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, but in order to obtain the expensive treatment necessary to save her life, she had to battle her insurance company tooth and nail. Fight Your Health Insurer and Win: Secrets of the Insurance Warrior is a distillation of what she learned - a lifesaving, no-nonsense guide written especially for sufferers of cancer and other deadly medical afflictions. Chapters cover how to qualify one's own doctors (and make sure one's provider is not only generally competent, but an expert in one's specific affliction), manage one's own care, find the best care possible for one's disease, and force one's health insurer to bear the full cost (a common practice among insurers is to pay an "out-of-network benefit" that covers only 60%-80% of the cost - which is just not enough when some surgeries can cost, $200,000 or more). Also discussed are how to research the life's work of one's physician on Google and ask him questions about his practice (it's important to listen to the tone of the answers as well as the answers themselves); why terms like "experimental/investigational procedures" and "medically necessary" are little more than manipulative word-dancing meant to frighten away people from demanding insurance payment; how to respectfully and persuasively present one's case to insurance industry bureaucrats and medical professionals who have a vested financial interest in your imminent death (if you die quickly, they don't have to pay for your treatment); and much more. Sample letters, step-by-step procedures, guidelines for telephone conversations, and above all the admonition to never give up infuse Fight Your Health Insurer and Win with literally life-giving energy and wisdom. Highly recommended, and an absolute "must-have" for anyone who has paid their health insurance dues.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

The Little Book of Big Excuses: More Strategies and Techniques for Faking It
Addie Johnson
65 Parker Street, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781573243131 $9.95 (800) 423-7087

This amusing book contains all sorts of excuses for being late, forgetting important names or a birthday plus dozens of other equally embarrassing situations. Looking for a way of explaining why you can't spend time with someone you really abhor? Call attention to how busy you are with altruistic tasks that are all very worthwhile and, of course, very time consuming! Hence, you are really sorry but, given your schedule, it is obvious that you just don't have time to have to socialize. Right? Right!

With over 100 excuses for every conceivable situation this could prove to be an invaluable little book for anyone who needs a little creative assistance explaining why he missed an appointment, forgot an anniversary, or just messed up a project at work.

Beaches and Parks From Monterey to Ventura
California Coastal Commission
University of California Press
2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-1012
9780520249493 $24.95 (510) 642-9737

Compiled by the California Coastal Commission staff, "Beaches and Parks From Monterey to Ventura" is an up-to-date, comprehensive guidebook that covers more than 310 beaches, parks, campgrounds, nature preserves, natural history museums, and outdoor recreation sites on or near the coast.

With 40 color topographic maps showing shoreline access and trails, four regional maps, and two foldout maps of California and the Pacific coastline, you won't have any problem finding the perfect place to surf, fish, or just kick back and enjoy a day in the sun.

52 Weekend Makeovers
Taunton Home Editorial Staff
Taunton Press
P.O. Box 5506, Newtown, CT. 06470-5506
1561588636 $24.95 (800) 888-8286

Thinking about replacing the hinges and pulls on the kitchen cabinets or adding a tile backsplash to the counter? Or perhaps it's time create a lighted pathway in the yard or put in that garage workshop you've been talking about for years. "52 Weekend Makeovers" will guide you step-by-step through a number of easy projects that can transform your home inside and out.

Whether it's painting, updating plumbing fixtures, doing a closet makeover or adding outdoor lighting, there are numerous suggestions here that will not only add to your home's value and improve its appearance but also make it more livable. With 830 full color photos and numerous drawings, each project is visually documented from start to finish. Instructions include what tools will be necessary, a list of materials you'll need to buy, and detailed instructions on how to do the job. "What Can Go Wrong" sidebars also alert the do-it-yourselfer to possible pitfalls along the way.

Why pay to have someone else spruce up your house when you can handle the job yourself? These are not complicated or time consuming projects, yet they will have an impact on your living conditions. You'll also have the satisfaction of being able to say, "I did it myself!"

Tales From a Tin Can:
The USS Dale - From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay
Michael Keith Olson
Zenith Press
380 Jackson Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-3885
9780760327708 $24.95 (800) 826-6600

"Tales From a Tin Can" by Santa Cruz, California, writer Michael Keith Olson is the story of the USS Dale, an American destroyer that has the remarkable distinction of making it from Pearl Harbor to the end of World War II without sustaining a single combat fatality. Told through the narratives of 44 of the ship's crew, this fascinating book captures not only the furious clashes with the Japanese but also the humdrum days in between and the heart stopping encounters with typhoons that could be as lethal as any engagement with the enemy.

Anyone interested in stories from World War II will find this well illustrated account of the naval campaign in the Pacific fascinating. The author's father was one of the men who served aboard the destroyer.

Ghosts and Mystery Along Old Monterey's Path of History
Randall Reinstedt
Ghost Town Publications
P.O. Drawer 5998, Carmel, CA 93921
9780933818132 $10.95 (831) 373-2885

The author combines historical information about the various structures that make up Monterey's (California) famous Path of History with stories about the unnatural occurrences that are said to happen in some of these buildings. A generous number of black and white photos accompany the 47 stops along this well traveled route that meanders from Presidio Hill through Old Monterey to Casa Munras and the Royal Presidio Chapel.

So you won't get lost or miss any of the attractions, a map of the circuitous route is also included. Reinstedt sets off the accounts of supernatural shenanigans in boxes with a ghostly gray background so the reader won't miss them.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Edinburgh Goldsmiths I
Rodney Dietert & Janice Dietert
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780615144566, $29.96

The collaborative work of Rodney and Janice Dietert, "The Edinburgh Goldsmiths I: Training, Marks, Output And Demographics" is a definitive survey of almost five hundred years of the goldsmithing in Edinburgh, Scotland from the 1500s down to the present day and includes both apprentices as well as the freemen goldsmiths themselves. Among the roster of these 1,200 accomplished goldsmiths and their trainees are some of the most distinguished names known to recorded goldsmithing history. "The Edinburgh Goldsmiths I" includes 112 pages of diagrams spanning 15 generations of Scottish history illustrated with 130 photographs of goldsmith marks -- many of which are published here for the first time making "The Edinburgh Goldsmiths I" invaluable for genealogist as well as historians. Enhanced with a glossary of ancient professions as practiced in Europe, "The Edinburgh Goldsmiths I" is a unique and impressive contribution to scholarship that should be a core part of academic library Metalsmithing , Scottish History, and Genealogical Studies reference collections.

Mount Hood The Deep Blue Zone: Story of the 2006 Climbing Tragedy
Hubert A. Allen, Jr.
Hubert Allen and Associates
720-25 Tramway Lane, NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87122
9780979274046, $23.95

Written by experienced winter mountain climber Hubert A. Allen Jr., Mount Hood The Deep Blue Zone: Story of the 2006 Climbing Tragedy is a reconstruction of what possibly happened to three climbers who became lost on Oregon's Mount Hood in 2006. A handful of black-and-white photographs illustrate this day-by-day reconstruction, pieced together from both primary and secondary sources. Appendices consisting of data for weather conditions on Mount Hood as well as a climbing glossary round out this thoughtful, detailed dissection of a recent tragedy. "Citizens, most of them non-climbers, debated the very premise of winter climbing. Non-climbers argued about how selfish it was for the three men to go off and climb what looked like an absurd project. But these men had no death wish. Indeed, there are indications that this group was working their way up to an attempt on Mount Everest." Recommended reading for any practicing or would-be mountain climber.

Yeshua and the Intimate God
Herb Dimock
Eddy Publishing
Box 1084, Carnation WA 98014
9780972283526, $15.00

Written by biblical scholar Herb Dimock, Yeshua and the Intimate God: A Radical Return to the Jesus of 30 A.D. is a cosmological novel based on the life of Yeshua, also known as Jesus, as he strives to spread God's word. Yeshua and the Intimate God presents conversations between Yeshua and God as the ultimate junior/senior partnership; Yeshua's loving relationship with the woman Sarah - a closeness of soul that transcends the physical; and a dark metaphor for the modern Iraq war in Rome's use of intimidation and violence to consolidate its political power. A moving novel encapsulating abiding faith in the power of God and Jesus Christ to aid mankind's torturous existence and offer a pathway to heavenly rapture.

The Man Code
Skip Wilhoit
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781424161751, $19.95

Written by army veteran, teacher, and coach Skip Wilhoit, The Man Code: An In-Depth Look at the Rules of Engagement for Today's American Man is an at times tongue-in-cheek guide to asserting one's manliness in American culture without being (excessively) obnoxious. Although a few of the rules are tongue-in-cheek or even "The Man Show"-esque ("If you have to occupy a less attractive girl so your buddy can get somewhere with her really hot friend, then as long as he saw her first and you have no current prospects, there is a duty to perform"), most are practical cultural advisories for greasing social acceptance among fellow men ("Have a backbone and don't carry your woman's purse, go to the store for feminine products, or let her dress you in matching outfits. Acts such as this will give your buddies all the ammo they need to call you whipped") or strong tenets of morality and compassion for fellow human beings ("Being truthful and honest must always be at least considered regardless of what a man stands to gain or lose"). Ultimately a call for men to take responsibility for their own lives and reclaim their cultural roles as fathers, providers, protectors, and positive role models, The Man Code deserves to be commended for writing down formerly unwritten rules and emphasizing the importance of behaving in a (by male standards) respectable manner.

Between the Lines
Yasmin Mossadeghi, M.S. & Patricia Laguna, Ph.D.
Wish Publishing
PO Box 10337, Terre Haute, IN 47801
9781930546820, $16.95

Written by college softball coach Yasmin Mossadeghi and sport psychology expert and softball coach Patricia Laguna, Ph.D., Between the Lines: The Mental Skills of Hitting for Softball is a no-nonsense guide to the nuances of softball batting. Chapters cover how to face a dominant or nondominant pitcher, practical skills for mental drill rehearsal, how to adjust to the role of designated hitter, and much more. Black-and-white photographs illustrate this point-by-point, in-depth guide. An excellent supplemental resource for softball players, recommended for high school libraries and the personal bookshelves of any dedicated softball athlete.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Off-Shoring the Middle Class
Steve Mushero Publishing
PO Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
9781589399136, $14.95 1-877-376-4955

Written by global technologist Steve Mushero, Off-Shoring the Middle Class: Managing White-Collar Job Migration to Asia deserves to be a bookshelf companion to Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat", as it elaborates upon the critical issues that Friedman merely outlines: how can Americans and America as a whole succeed in the modern era rife with globalization, offshoring, and the increasing migration of jobs overseas? Like Friedman, Mushero emphasizes that globalization is here to stay; Mushero adopts a strictly practical approach to coping with its effects, emphasizing the importance entrepreneurship, innovation, free-trade, global management, and the cultivation of flexibility. Chapters discuss everything from protectionism to intellectual property protection to bridging global cultural and language divides, the individual's role and much more. "If it's not already clear, individuals must realize that no one deserves a job, let alone a high salary. The notion that Americans deserve the best jobs and income reflects a myopic view of the world that is dangerous, both to them and the world at large when such views stray into the realm of political action. Such attitudes also hide the underlying malaise, thereby preventing any substantial discussion or progress towards a solution." Highly recommended.

Do You Have the Mind Power to Live Efficiency?
Dr. L.T. Coleman Jr. and Dr. J.M. Williams
Morgan James Publishing
1225 Franklin Avenue, Suite 325, Garden City, NY 11530-1693
9781600372162, $13.95 1-800-485-4943

Written by pharmacists Dr. L.T. Coleman Jr. and Dr. J.M. Williams, Do You Have the Mind Power to Live Efficiency? Get a Dose from the Dual Doctors is a self-help guide to breaking down mental blocks, dedicating oneself to one's dreams, and learning how to efficiently and effectively dedicate one's life to making those dreams reality. Chapters discuss the value of learning lessons from adversity and even failure; how to build upon education and knowledge as a foundation for success; the importance of being wary of and informed about drugs - not only illegal drugs but also over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, and alcohol; special concerns in preparing for college life; and much more. "The self-fulfilling prophecy states that if you believe something whether true or false, then your mind will believe it and it can become a part of your life. Just begin to pay attention and become conscious of your own thoughts. It can work for you also, if you tell yourself something good it can become a part of your life. That is why it is very important to never finish a negative statement. Negative statements destroy our hope and sap our energy." An excellent motivational guide to harnessing the power of one's own resolve.

Planting Design Illustrated
Gang Chen
143270379X, $35.95

An architecture with more than twenty years of professional experience, Gang Chen turns his attention to landscaping with the publication of "Planting Design Illustrated", a comprehensive instructional guide specifically written for non-specialist general readers, as well as students of gardening and landscaping, and professional architectures who must consult with soils and civil engineers, as well as other professionals, in coordinating their buildings in the context of landscape designs. Occasionally illustrated with charts, designs, and photos, "Planting Design Illustrated" covers basic planting design principles and concepts (including the Formal Garden), then goes on to cover approaching a planting design problem, the relationship of plants and human beings when designing a landscaping project, plants and spaces, the developmental history and trends of formal gardens, naturalist planting design using Chinese gardens as a model, as well as the English style natural garden. "Planting Design Illustrated" also covers plant materials, cultural influences, aesthetic considerations, functional aspects and ecological factors of the garden. Enhanced with an annotated bibliography and informative appendices, "Planting Design Illustrated" offers an especially 'reader friendly' and practical guide that makes it a very strongly recommended addition to personal, professional, academic, and community library Gardening & Landscaping reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Some Day Never Comes
Kerry LePage
Klaatu Enterprises, LLC
PO Box 843, Apex, NC 27502
1705 White Dogwood Rd., Apex, NC 27502
9781424328550, $19.95

Part memoir, part self-help guide, Some Day Never Comes is an eclectic anthology of insights by business professional and proud father Kerry LePage. From the sober realization that while unjust war is reprehensible, unjust peace is just as bad (whether the "peace" involves backing down from a school bully or doing nothing in response to genocide), to the fine art of balancing white lies that respect another human being's feelings with the fundamental importance of being truthful and honest, to reacting to losing one's job. "The first step in rejoining the ranks of the employed is to realize your number one priority. It's sad how frequently unemployed people ask, 'Now that I am unemployed I have spare time. Wouldn't it be a great time to paint the fence, repair the faucets, or clean out the garage?' The correct response to those questions is, 'No, now would be a great time to find a job.'" At times blunt, but overall laced with matter-of-fact charm, Some Day Never Comes is highly readable treasure trove of insights, to be savored a vignette at a time or all at once.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Jose Maria Sison: At Home in the World - Portrait of a Revolutionary
Conversations with Ninotchka Rosca
Open Hand Publishing, LLC
PO Box 20207, Greensboro, NC 27420
9780940880726, $16.00

Internationally acclaimed Filipino journalist and novelist Ninotchka Rosca presents Jose Maria Sison: Portrait of a Revolutionary, a political biography of Filipino revolutionary Jose Maria Sison as told in Sison's own words, through question-and-answer format. Sison bore witness to, and suffered from, the extreme corruption of the Marcos regime; ineptitudes of the Aquino regime; and even the failings of the left-wing revolutionary movements that he supported in a desperate effort to bring about positive change for the exploited and impoverished Filipino population. Jose Maria Sison: At Home in the World explores Sison's study of Marxism and other political precepts; the many ideological and personal smear attacks leveled against Sison as well as threats, and explains why labeling Sison a "terrorist" for his political views is slander. Furthermore, Sison offers his perspective on the Philippines' tumultuous history from the Marcos regime to the present day. Of special interest are Sison's predictions for the future, as well as his warnings for the United States' failings and complicity in exploiting Filipinos. "The crisis of overproduction in all types of goods - agricultural, mineral, basic industrial and high-tech products - and the ensuing bankruptcies and financial meltdowns cause terrible hardship and suffering for the working people in the US and other imperialist countries and so many in Asia, Africa and Latin America and will probably increase and intensify before a global war can break out among the imperialists or before the proletariat can seize power from the monopoly bourgeoisie in any imperialist country. Nowhere other than in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are there armed revolutionary movements led by the proletariat and actively fighting imperialism and seeking to seize political power in the process. No matter how few these armed revolutionary movements still are, they have the potential of increasing rapidly amidst the grave crisis of the world capitalist system." A one-of-a-kind personal portrayal of an emphatic and forceful personality dedicated to improving the overall human welfare of his home nation at any price.

Dying to Live
Kim Paffenroth
Permuted Press
177 Hillcrest Ln., Mena, AR 71953
097897073X, $12.95

Written by Kim Paffenroth, Bram Stoker award-nominated author of "Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romer's Visions of Hell on Earth", Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among the Undead is a post-apocalyptic novel about the few human refugees struggling to survive in a zombie-infested world. Living in a museum-turned-compound, they are led by Jack, a practical and efficient military man, and Milton, an odd prophet with an inexplicable power over the dead. Yet their island community suffers a deadly clash with another group of survivors, underscoring that the living dead are far from their only threats to survival. At times shockingly and gruesomely violent, Dying to Live springs off the page as starkly vivid as any zombie movie ever made, with a decisive twist to its ending. Highly recommended especially for zombie and horror film buffs.

Confession of a Fighter
Peter Wood
Ringside Books
38 Timber Ridge, Mount Kisco, NY 10549
9780978968311, $19.95

Confessions of a Fighter: Battling Through the Golden Gloves is the autobiography of boxer Peter Wood, from his turbulent home life amid a stepfather who verbally abuses him and half-siblings who compound his misery, to his decision to literally start training to fight back in a crumbling local gym, to his astonishing ascent to the finals of the New York Golden Gloves Championships in 1971. A visceral, tell-it-like-it-is view of the rigors of training, the heart-stopping fear of losing a fight, and the moment of truth and clarity experienced before tens of thousands of riled-up spectators, Confessions of a Fighter is an absorbing read from cover to cover. Especially recommended for boxing fans, and also for anyone contemplating the long, hard, and painful road to fighting championships for themselves.

Parris Island Daze
Bob Shirley
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741435040, $19.95

Written by Marine Corps Association member and Parris Island graduate Bob Shirley, Parris Island Daze: My Drill Instructor Was Tougher Than Yours is a tell-it-like-it-is account of what Parris Island (or any other American military boot camp) is really like. Recounting the experience of grueling yet invigorating training, and illustrated with twenty-eight black-and-white boot camp photographs, Parris Island Daze reminisces the forging experience without pulling any punches as to its severity. Parris Island Daze is especially recommended for anyone preparing to join the military, the better to inform them of the hurdle they are about to encounter, as well as the character and manhood-building rewards they can achieve!

Missing Links To The Culper Spy Ring?
Bernadine Fawcett
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741421593, $22.95

The American Revolution was more than opposing forces meeting openly on various fields of battle. There was also a covert conflict of spies and what we would call today 'cover operations'. In "Missing Links To The Culper Spy Ring?", counselor, columnist, author, radio and television personality Beradine Fawcett shares her years of personal research and her genealogical resources (which ties her to the family of Aaron Burr). Vice President Aaron Burr corresponded with the Reverend Andrew Eliot's wife. Bernadine Fawcett inherited these letters through her husband's stepfather, and through these letters uncovered intimate and hitherto unpublished accounts of what is known to historians as the 'Patriot Spy Ring'. It turns out that Reverend Eliot was an obscure spy for the colonial rebellion and provided information about the British and passed information to and between key American leaders including George Washington, Ben Franklin, General John Hancock, and Colonel Jackson. If it hadn't been for the efforts of Reverend Eliot and his co-spy father in Boston, the British might well have succeeded in crushing the American Revolution. The pivotal role played by Reverend Eliot and a patriot spy named Thaddeus Burr will prove to be fascinating reading for students of American history in general, and the Culper Spy Ring in particular. Comprised of photocopies of the original letters along with a printed text of their contents, as well as historical photographs and period newspaper articles, "Missing Links To The Culper Spy Ring?" is a seminal contribution to American Revolutionary History Studies and an important, strongly recommended addition to academic library American History reference collections.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

The Landlord's Black-eyed Daughter
Mary Ellen Dennis
Five Star/Thomson Gale
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594145759 $26.95 1-800-223-1244

Elizabeth Wyndham is somewhat of an anomaly during the 18th century; an English woman who writes best-selling Gothic novels, is not subservient to men and feels free to speak her mind. Haunted by memories from a former life, when Elizabeth meets Rand Remington, she feels strongly that the two have lived and loved together in the past, at which time, she betrayed her lover. Rand, a former soldier, thumbs his nose at the hypocrisy of the class system by becoming a highwayman, whereupon he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. But when Elizabeth comes into his life, he feels connected to her and is determined to find out what happened to the man and woman haunting each of them. When Rand steals from Walter Stafford, a man in love with Elizabeth, Stafford is hot on his trail, but when Elizabeth flees with Rand, Stafford is mad with desire to conquer Elizabeth and send Rand to the gallows.

Elizabeth's and Rand's thrilling journey takes them throughout England, but before they can resolve their past, both are captured and put in Newgate Prison. During an escape attempt, Rand is caught but Elizabeth manages to get away. When Rand is sentenced to die by hanging, she is distraught. Believing she has once more betrayed her lover, Elizabeth is determined to make amends for her past life, even if it means her own death.

The Landlord's Black-Eyed Daughter engages the reader in an exhilarating romp throughout 18th century England, with adventure at every turn and spine-tingling suspense. Combined with heated romance, accurate historical facts and nonstop action, this book will suit any adult reader. Characters and dialogue are compelling, historical facts not only interesting but fascinating, and the plot one that simply will not allow the book to be set aside until finished. An exceptional, superbly written book. Highly recommended.

Carved in Bone
by Jefferson Bass
William Morrow/Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780060759810 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

Dr. William Brockton is forensic anthropologist with the University of Tennessee and overseer of the Body Farm, made famous in Patricia Cornwell's bestselling novel of the same name. This installment of the Body Farm series finds Dr. Brockton called to Cooke County, Tennessee by Sheriff Tom Kitchings, where a woman's corpse lies mummified in a cave. When evidence of murder is revealed, Brockton, with the aid of Arthur Bohanan, criminalist with the Knoxville Police Department, embarks on his own investigation as to who killed the young woman and the unborn child she carried. Brockton soon finds himself stonewalled by the Sheriff and his deputies while someone is stealing evidence from his offices at U.T. The investigation leads Brockton and Bohanan into danger more than once, and forces Brockton to face the grief he has carried over the death of his wife two years earlier.

The name Jefferson Bass is a combination of two authors: Dr. Bill Bass, renowned forensic anthropologist with the University of Tennessee, and writer Jon Jefferson. Although Brockton is a fictional character based on Dr. Bass, Arthur Bohanan is a well-known criminalist, formerly with the Knoxville Police Department, and patented inventor of the process used to retrieve fingerprints from bodies and large objects.

Carved in Bone is a twisting mystery delivered in an informative style, with plenty of forensics relayed for those so interested. Brockton makes for an engaging character, with Southern roots and mannerisms, and his sidekick Bohanan is charming and witty. This mystery series' magical blend of storytelling with edification is sure to develop numerous fans and is one series this reviewer hopes will continue for years on end.

Memory in Death
J.D. Robb
G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399153284 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

It's Christmastime and New York has gone mad, with tourists stumbling over each other, keeping petty thieves busy, and a Santa Claus who plunges to his death from 37 stories up. Eve Dallas can handle all this with ease, but when Trudy Lombard, her former foster mother, strolls into her office, Eve is drawn back to a time when she was very young and helpless, in the hands of this monster who liked to torture her. Although Trudy claims she is simply visiting New York to see how Eve is doing, when Eve will not deal with her, Trudy pays a visit to Eve's husband, Roarke, and demands money in exchange for keeping Eve's childhood a secret. Roarke offers Trudy good advice: get out of New York and leave them alone. But two days later, Trudy's body is found in her hotel room, bludgeoned to death.

Cop to the core, Eve takes on the case, although it brings back traumatic childhood memories she is forced to face as she diligently investigates who could have killed her former foster mother. As Eve delves further into her investigation, she discovers that she is not the only foster child Trudy tried to extort, one of which Eve is certain must be the killer.

Robb's In Death series continues to provide a good read, each book peeling away layers of the personas behind Eve Dallas the cop and her husband, wealthy entrepreneur Roarke. Known for delivering an entertaining mystery wrapped within a heated romance, Robb does not disappoint.

Cover of Night
Linda Howard
Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036

0345486501 $25.95 1-800-726-0600

Widow Cate Nightingale runs a bed and breakfast in Trail Stop Idaho, an isolated community boxed in by mountains and a dangerous river. Cate's guests are sparse, consisting of rock climbers, hunters and fishermen, and Cate struggles to make ends meet. If it weren't for shy handyman Cal Harris, the B&B would fall apart and Cate would be bankrupt. But Cate is determined to raise her two, four-year-old twin boys in a safe environment and this charming town seems the perfect place.

Cate's nightmare begins when one of her guests climbs out of a window and disappears, leaving behind his personal effects. A few days later, two men show up and demand she turn over the man's belongings. Held at gunpoint, Cate fears for her life until Cal intrudes and forces the men to leave. Cate hopes that's the end of it, but soon she and the entire town find themselves held hostage by these two men, with the aid of four others. And there's no way to escape; the road leading into town has been blocked and the bridge over the river has been blown up. Cate and Cal team up to try to save their community. Their forced camaraderie leads them into not only danger but reveals the two share a hidden passion for one another.

Linda Howard is tops at romantic suspense. Although holding an entire town hostage seems implausible, she manages to make it real and provides a good read along the way. The chemistry between Cate and Cal is fun as it unfolds over the course of the book. With plenty of suspense, great characters, and a fast pace, Cover of Night will provide plenty of entertainment.

Christy Tillery French

Debra's Bookshelf

Ken Grimwood
068816112X $13.00

What would you do if you had your life to live over again? Would you marry the same person? Take the same jobs? Would you try to change the course of history? For Jeff Winston, the protagonist of Ken Grimwood's 1986 novel Replay, these questions are more than theoretical. After dying in 1988, at the age of 43, Jeff wakes up 25 years earlier in his dorm room at Emory. Without understanding why the clock has rewound for him, he lives the same quarter century again, making different mistakes against a familiar historical and cultural backdrop--Kennedy's assassination and Vietnam, the Beatles and Watergate, Patty Hearst and disco and Iran-Contra.

What would you do if you had your life to live over again...again? Come October 18th, 1988, his second time through, Jeff finds himself powerless to prevent his death, despite his foreknowledge of the event. When he wakes up again in 1963, with everything he accomplished in the last 25 years erased, this "second chance" at life seems more curse than gift.

We've all wondered, I'm sure, what we might do differently given a second shot at life. But Grimwood's exploration of the common fantasy goes far beyond superficial what-ifs. He has so thoroughly imagined his character's bizarre predicament that the story, fantastic in its premise, is wholly credible, and the choices Jeff makes across successive lifetimes, sometimes radically different, are rendered fully understandable. Grimwood also wrings surprising pathos from the story:

"He couldn't bring himself to see Judy again. This sweet-faced adolescent girl was not the woman he had loved, but merely a blank slate with the potential to become that woman. It would be pointless, even masochistic, to repeat by rote that process of mutual becoming, when he knew too well the emotional and spiritual death to which it all would lead." The characters' musings on the metaphysics of Jeff's situation can slow Grimwood's narrative, but otherwise this is a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy.

The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse
Jonathan Selwood
9780061173875 $13.95

Isabel Raven paints kitsch, technically impressive recreations of famous paintings updated for the celebrity age: an American Gothic featuring Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Kurt Cobain in The Death of Marat. Since teaming up some months earlier with bull-dogish art dealer John Dahlman, her career has taken off. Dahlman is obnoxious and vulgar, wholly driven by profit, but he's proved himself an indefatigable advocate since stepping in to seize control of her career. Unfortunately Dahlman's brand of management involves posting naked pictures of Isabel on the web and pushing her to advertise "vaginal rejuvenation" surgery. Isabel, meanwhile, ponders too long a question whose answer should be obvious: would participating in the ad campaign be "selling out"? Her vacillation on the issue is part of Isabel's larger problem, that she too readily surrenders control of her circumstances to others: she is bullied by Dahlman and manipulated by her boyfriend Javier and pushed around by a thirteen-year-old delinquent, Cordelia, a fan of Isabel's paintings. What spirit Isabel shows in response to their importunities has little practical effect.

Because of her spinelessness Isabel is not a particularly likable character: she is a blank canvas herself, registering the will of others. More importantly, she and the other characters in the book are two-dimensional: Isabel is passive, Dahlman offensive, Javier shallow. The self-proclaimedly "dissolute" Cordelia, meanwhile, is so unrealistically precocious that suspending disbelief is impossible:

"'What can I say? I'm dissolute.' She winks. 'Runs in the family. My grandpa once did ninety days for desecrating a taxidermy shop in Pasadena.'

Before I can ask, she cuts me off.

'You really don't want to know. Trust me... Smoke?' Cordelia stuffs the gold lighter in the cellophane and tosses me the pack. 'So is it true that you get hornier when you get old?'"

In Selwood's defense one could argue that the superficiality of his characters is purposeful: he is, after all, playing with the idea of finding authenticity in a skin-deep world, specifically in appearance-obsessed L.A. But that doesn't make me appreciate their cartoonishness very much more.

Selwood's writing can be clever, and he writes about big events as well as big ideas--earthquakes and conflagrations and the end of the world. Still, there isn't much of a story here. The book, like the character types it derides, is a little empty.

100 Ways to Improve the World
Giles Ward
Impress Books
Innovation Center, Rennes Drives, University of Exeter Campus, Exeter EX4 4RN
9780954758660 7.99 Brit. pounds

The first chapter of Giles Ward's 100 Ways to Improve the World is only four pages long, but it was long enough to convince me that I was in for a very different sort of book, from an author with a delightfully dark sense of humor. Ward's protagonist is Peter Staines, a self-absorbed, emotionally stunted, disillusioned carpet salesman who married into money and who is himself writing during the course of the story, jotting in his notebook the brief suggestions for improving the world that punctuate Ward's novel and give it its title. The first suggestion we read is number 67, a proposal that death be eliminated, which is followed by Peter's musing, from his own perspective as a businessman, on God's failings as a CEO:

"I can't help thinking some basic management structure or consultation forum might have been wise before He/She/It started designing the world. Surely a spot of market research wouldn't have done any harm: 'Out of 100 people asked, 92 said they believed death to be either a bad or very bad idea.' Not even Nestle launches a new yoghurt-coated cereal bar without checking with a reasonable cross-section of the market first. The absurd irony didn't escape me as I sat looking down at body of my dead wife, her blood still warm on my hands."

I bet that got your attention. Ward goes on to juxtapose Peter's appreciation of his wife's beauty, even in death, with his concern about the state of the ash-effect laminate she's "carelessly bleeding all over." The author uses this comic juxtaposition of the mundane and the morbid to good effect later in the book as well, when detailing Peter's preparations for murder in the three weeks that led up to the story's denouement.

Peter, surprisingly given his murderous impulses and egocentrism, is a sympathetic character. We watch him maturing while his life unravels, wishing he wouldn't go through with killing his wife after all, despite what we know from the opening chapter. It's not that Peter's wife doesn't deserve what she gets, but we don't want him to throw away whatever chance at happiness he has left. That Ward makes Peter likable despite his extensive character flaws is impressive.

100 Ways to Improve the World is an unusual and clever and well-written book. (Its plot hangs on a couple of big coincidences, which didn't bother me, but may trouble some readers.) The book is a good example of why the existence of the literary blogosphere is a Good Thing. Written by a first-time author and released by a small independent publisher, the novel probably never received much attention from the traditional media, and nine months after its release the book is past its prime as far as most print publications are concerned. Hopefully this review will go some way toward getting the book a bit of the attention it deserves.

The Reincarnationist
M.J. Rose
Mira Books
9780778324201 $24.95

A terrorist bombing in Rome leaves one man dead and photojournalist Josh Ryder haunted. He begins to experience vivid waking dreams in which he lives snatches of experience from other men's lives--or perhaps from his own previous lives. Most compelling to him are the experiences of Julius, a pagan priest whose doomed love affair with a Vestal Virgin plays out against a backdrop of religious conflict. Josh also spends time in the shoes of a certain Percy Talmage, who lived in New York in the late 19th century, in a building now occupied by Josh's employer, an organization that researches reincarnation. While investigating a mystery connected with recent discoveries at an archaeological dig in Rome, Josh comes to understand that his life is inextricably bound with those of Julius and Percy, and that the past casts a long shadow over the present.

M.J. Rose, the author of eight previous novels, weaves a complicated story in The Reincarnationist, unraveling a mystery across millennia and multiple lives. The narrative might have been more tightly constructed: there are questions left unanswered and characters who seem important but melt away; the subplot of Rebecca Palmer, whose hallucinatory experiences of past lives intersect with Josh's and prove so important to the plot, is forgotten about for a long stretch of the story. But the book is quite suspenseful in parts, and it has the great advantage of ending well, which is to say that the denouement is fitting but neither predictable nor easy.

Debra Hamel

Gary's Bookshelf

The 6th Target
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316014793 $27.95

This is the fastest best read of the three books by this team of authors. The book begins with a shooting and rapidly moves along to its final conclusion. It has several conflicts that make for interesting storytelling. Patterson has a style that is quick and easy to read and this one again shows why he is one of the top names in the mystery field.

Dirty Martini
J. A. Konrath
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
9781401302795 $23.95

This fourth Jack Daniels mystery is the best so far. This time officer Jacqueline Daniels faces her worst criminal. He is a madman who is enjoys poisoning his victims with a small device that is hard to trace. Officer Daniels has very little time to find the perpetrator before he carries out his evil plan. Daniels has a new partner who is very much like a character from a Stephanie Plumb novel. The story races along with Daniels hot on the trail of the madman. This is one of the most frightening tales ever because the author shows how easy it can be to poison someone.

Battlestar Galactica Unity
Steven Harper
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765316080 $14.95

Here is another novel of the hit sci-fi series that continues to break new ground. The author takes the reader into a new realm of the Battlestar universe and does it very well. He fleshes out the characters and gives more depth. The book is easy to read and adds new insights of the war against the Cylons. This is a great addition to the show.

Driving Change
Mike Brewster and Fredrick Dalzell
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
9781401302887 $24.95

I liked very much the idea of telling all about the company of UPS but found that this book was not easy to follow. The authors begin by following a driver around then going back to the beginning of the company. Later they tell about Fed Ex and then they go back and tell how UPS took on their competitor. The authors do this kind of thing throughout the book making it very hard to follow because at times I was not sure if the authors prose was in the present day or in the past.

The New Destroyer Guardian Angel
Warren Murphy and James Mullaney
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765357595 $6.99

When Gold Eagle dropped the Destroyer series I thought it was the end. I am happy to say this title is the first of I hope many that will keep the Remo Williams stories around for a long time. I have to say also that the books were getting to be too stupid. Now the authors have brought back the fun and satirical wit that made the books so much fun to read. James Mullaney is the first author since Richard Sapir to share the by-line. Previously many of the books were anonymously written.

For the Hell of it
Philip Lee McCall II
Mythis Studios Inc
NO ISBN $19.95

This is actually the second book in the series of horror poetry. It doesn't matter what order the books are read unlike many other series of books. The poems are easy to read and the author's words evoke a dark perception of the world. Once again the artwork of Scott Messer holds the readers interest with his use of colors that are so bold.

Thirty Years of the Rockford Files
By Ed Robertson
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595342442 $31.95 1-800-288-4677 www.iuniverse.coim

I loved the first edition of this book and like it even more because it includes all of the movies and has a lot more than it previous installment. It tells more about the lawsuits, behind the scenes, and how the show was brought back for the CBS movies. Now that the seasons of Rockford are coming to DVD, this is the perfect match to enjoy them. Robertson has made this a whole new book. There are parts that are the same but there is so much new stuff included that it's pretty much a new book. No fan of the show should miss this one.

Alpha Rising
G.L Douglas
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595342442 $17.95 1 800 288 4677 www.iuniverse.coim

Four astronauts are missing in space. NASA sends Commander Bachman Turner to find out what happened to them. What he encounters is the strangest thing he has ever dealt with. He stumbles into a complicated world not sure how to find the four other people he is seeking. The author makes readers believe her bizarre universe is real with interesting characters involv3ed in many conflicts. The pace of the novel is very fast with many twists and turns along the way to make a very fascinating tale of science fiction.

Songs of Innocence
Richard Aleas
Hard Case
299 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843957730 $6.99

John Blake is back in this second novel that is better than the first, because it has a very surprising ending that is very shocking about the character of John Blake. In "Little Girl Lost" the author exposed the world of gentlemen's clubs. This time he reveals massage parlors and what really happens in them. The author moves his story along with great dialogue and believable characters caught up in the sex trade profession.

Breakfast in the Ruins
Barry N. Malzberg
Baen Books
P. O. Box 1403, Riverdale, New York 10471
1416521174 $14.00

Malzberg takes the reader through the world of science fiction of four decades. He tells about changes in the genre, authors in the field, things to come and many more keen insights into different aspects of science fiction. I especially liked his tributes to Daniel Keyes, Damon Knight, Robert Silverberg, Isaac Asimov and Fredric Brown.

God's Still Small Voice
April D. Goodner
Trafford Publishing
2333 Government Street, Suite 6E, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8T 4P4
1412086012 $15.50 1-888-232-4444

This is a fine little book that has a lot to say about children, parenting, and life in general. The author has a witty style that is easy to read and shows that religion has a place in our lives.

Gary Roen

Geoffrey' s Bookshelf

The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780375757853 $7.95

"A Bestseller That Stands The Test Of Time"

Would it interest readers to know that at the time that William Wilkie Collins was writing THE MOONSTONE in 1858, he was cheating on Mrs. Caroline Graves, his lover? That same year he left her, and had the first of his three children with Martha Rudd, a woman he never married. Two years later, he carried on a relationship with both women! No wonder he drew the unlikable Miss Clack, the Christian evangelist, so severely. Miss Clack wouldn't have at all approved.

And why did Collins write the character of the opium-addicted physician's assistant, Ezra Jennings, so sympathetically? Perhaps because Collins was experimenting with opium at the time of its writing, but hadn't yet become the delusional addict he would become later in life. Sinning always seems fun...for a season.

You and I both know that TS Eliot, who loved THE MOONSTONE, wouldn't approve of my type of critique. He decried critics who look outside of the text. But so what?

Tabloid-style criticism will in no way detract from the excellence of this book, even if Collins was the typical intellectual who didn't think he had to play by the rules. Collins knows how to tell a story, and to keep the reader interested. And he mastered the first person narration by strictly telling us, in several distinct voices, only what each character sees and knows, which makes for some great red herrings.

Did I also mention that Collins was a best selling author and that THE MOONSTONE was the last of his successes? Who says bestsellers can't stand the test of time?

The Closers
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
Time Warner Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780446699556 $13.99

"Something of a Retread"

Funny how Michael Connelly has his character Harry Bosch fear he is nothing more than a retread. Yet I can't help but think that Connelly fears the same criticism from his readers. Bosch successfully redeems himself by book's end, but I'm not sure that Connelly does.

The Closers is something of a retread. It covers old familiar ground. Bosch is paired up with Kiz Rider - again. He has a less than forthright relationship with her - again. He works on a case with high jingo - again. The case keeps reminding him of his daughter - again. Half the book's a red herring - again. I've read it all before.

And yet, having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, just as I enjoy putting my feet into a pair of comfortable old shoes, which I'd rather do any day than to have to break in a stiff new pair of blister makers.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J.K. Rowling
557 Broadway, New York, New York 10012
9780439358071 $9.99

"The Best of the First Six"

Intricately plotted, crammed with imaginative detail, peopled with oddball characters all wrapped around a compelling life-and-death story. No wonder people snake around the block to buy her next creation. Entertaining from the first to the last page. Rowling has mastered the "hook," and ends each chapter with a new and powerful reason to press forward to the next.

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX answers many questions posed by the previous books. And we learn at the same speed as Harry learns, which makes us one with the protagonist.

The Last Unicorn
Peter S. Beagle
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451450524 $14.95

"Transcends the Fantasy Genre"

Peter S. Beagle finds a way to write a fairy tale in an age that finds fairy tales irrelevant. The last unicorn, in her sad quest to discover what has happened to all other unicorns, is a metaphor in a material age that hates metaphor almost as much as it hates hope, truth and miracles. And this hatred manifests itself in Beagle's story as the red bull that seeks to drive every unicorn into the sea.

In the same against-the-grain spirit, Beagle writes a lilting, lyrical prose filled with fresh striking images, almost the exact opposite of the pedestrian, matter-of-fact Hemingway style rife in modern American literature. I'd recommend this book to everyone, especially to those who say they don't like fantasy because The Last Unicorn transcends the fantasy genre.

Great Sonnets (Dover Thrift Editions)
Dover Publications, Inc.
31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY 11501
9780486280523 $2.50

"Great Bathtub Reading"

Bertie Wooster can sing the latest Broadway melody while he scrub brushes his back, but I prefer reading poetry aloud in my acoustically-correct, ceramic-tiled bath. And I've discovered the perfect book for it: Dover's Thrift Edition of Great Sonnets.

It is from this small volume that I've learned that the world is charged with the grandeur of God ("God's Grandeur," Hopkins), that lust in action is a waste of shame ("Th' Expense of Spirit in a Waste of Shame," Shakespeare), and that listening to my lover's breathing while pillowed upon her breast beats looking at that lone, cold, bright and steadfast star any old day ("Bright Star," Keats).

And that's not all. This thin volume of sonnets is chock-full of other such keen observations.

For example, how does Wordsworth ("Surprised by Joy") manage to convey so economically that fleeting feeling of joy accidentally experienced by a man mourning the death of a loved one, that is immediately followed by his feeling of guilt for having felt it, which makes us feel how quickly times passes?

How does Archibald MacLeish reduce a cataclysmic event as large as the end of the world into so few choice words that when the circus big top blows off you feel as if the top of your head has blown off with it? ("The End of the World")

How can someone say so much in so few lines and so few words? Sixteen lines to be exact, with five strong beats or stresses per line-no more and no less-and a very exacting rhyme scheme. I don't know. I'm usually given to such wordiness that it would take me a warehouse the size of a state university filled with three-ring binders to tell you, and I still couldn't begin to touch the truth of it. However, that poets can do it never ceases to astonish me.

What's more, should my dog-eared Dover thrift edition ever fall by accident into the tub, I can cheaply replace it.

Fifth Business
Robertson Davies
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014
9780141186153 $14.00

"Wise and Mature"

I've read Fifth Business five or six times over a 22-year period, and the older I become, the more it speaks to me. I think it's because Davies writes with a mature wisdom that is so rare these days that it's astonishing to find.

The narrator, Dunstan Ramsay, tells a spellbinding story as he assesses the impact of a snowball fight that irrevocably changes intertwining lives. Every time I've picked up this book, I've read it straight through; my copy is dog-eared.

Apparently, Davies started writing novels in the second half of his life, after (and these are Davies's own words paraphrased) he'd grown up, after he'd realized that someday he was going to die, and after he'd found out that without God life lacks an important and much-needed component.

Geoffrey Smagacz

Gloria's Bookshelf

Trial & Error
Paul Levine
Bantam Dell
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 212-782-9008 800-726-0600
9780440242765 $6.99

Trial and Error marks the return of Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, domestic partners as well as law partners at this point in their lives. Steve's much-loved 12-year-old nephew Bobby is communing with his friends, two dolphins who reside at a local water park one balmy night in South Florida when ecoterrorists apparently decide to free the creatures. Steve is called to the scene and arrives in time to nab one of the men, while a second is shot by the park's owner. In the aftermath, Victoria gets pressed into service to prosecute the case against the man Steve brought down, while unknown to her Steve at the same time is hired to represent the defendant, charged with felony murder since his illegal act resulted in a man's death. The details of that death don't quite add up in Steve's eyes – the man had a shotgun trained on him and the police were on their way when he allegedly went for his gun. The owner of the marine park then shot him, twice, at point blank range. The ensuing trial wreaks havoc on Steve and Victoria's lives.

As always with this series, the courtroom scenes are a delight to read, and to visualize. The trial features a judge who has court papers delivered to him not by a clerk but by a model railroad car. And the classic Steve-the-Shark Solomon antics are, of course, ever present. Bobby, a boy who 'seesawed between semi-autistic behavior and savant-like abilities of memory and language feats,' plays a pivotal role. The author's reliable humor is also present, making this fast-paced and well-plotted book another excellent entry in this series.

Mood Swing, The Bipolar Murders
Julie Lomoe Publishing Inc.
P.O. Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
9781589398856 $14.95

Erika Norgren, the protagonist of this first novel by Julie Lomoe, herself a mental health professional, is a former social worker now Director of the Well Spring Club, a social club which is a safe haven for the mentally ill on Manhattan's lower east side. She has a special empathy for the club's 'members' since she has been diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder. When she discovers the dead body of one of the club's members, a young man similarly afflicted, on the ground in the courtyard below her fourth floor window, she feels compelled to determine whether or not he committed suicide, a common-enough risk for those for whom mood swings are the predominant symptoms. And if murder and not suicide, could the assailant have been a fellow club member? The question becomes more urgent when another club member dies, of a drug overdose.

Julie Lomoe conjures up this world in a way that allows the reader to share her concern for the effect these events will have on those who, like Erika, can find their fragile mental state threatened. Their world and its denizens are evoked in a very poignant manner, and the quality of the writing only adds to the enjoyment of this well-plotted novel. It opens a window into the lives of those with mental illness in such a way that the reader sees, at least to some extent, their demons and understand the difficulty of their lives, at the same time presenting a very satisfying mystery.

The Sudoku Murder, a Katie McDonald Mystery
Shelley Freydont
Carroll and Graf
245 W 17th S., NY, NY 10011, 212-981-9919/800-788-3123
9780786719778 $24.95

Katie McDonald, Ph.D., self-described geek and member of a highly classified government think tank, returns to her hometown of Granville, NH at the request of her childhood mentor, whose puzzle museum, it would seem, is about to be auctioned to make way for an outlet mall. Nearly 20 years earlier, when as a gawky 10-year-old child genius who had just lost her mother, Katie was taken under the wing of Prof. P. T. Avondale, she discovered that her love of puzzles was outdone only by his own. His chief concern now, at the prospect of being forced out of his lifelong home, when the bank's foreclosure is imminent, is "What's going to happen to the puzzles?" Katie is determined not to let anyone take from her dearest friend the thing he loved most in the world. Days later, the professor is found murdered at his desk, and Katie is appointed the acting curator of the museum. In addition to the murder mystery is the problem of Harry Perkins, a 14-year-old runaway who was the most recent to be taken under the professor's wing, now missing, and both he and Kate seem at first to the prime suspects. Katie's most challenging puzzle becomes the hunt for the murderer, the starting point for which she feels sure is a clue left in the unfinished Sudoku he had in front of him when he died.

This is an enjoyable read, although I found the middle section of the book slow going. The pace picks up as the end gets closer, and the world of puzzles—jigsaws, Rubik's Cubes, etc., and of course Sudoku, was one with which I was almost totally unfamiliar, except for the occasion crossword or, years ago, jigsaw variety, and I found this an interest glimpse at the puzzle-obsessed.

Shelley Freydont is the author of, among other things, several novels in the Lindy Haggerty Mystery series, and this newest work is the first in a new series to feature Katie McDonald. Katie, master puzzle-solver, and Harry, "brilliant at ciphers and codes and cryptograms," make a good team.

Not Dead Enough
Peter James
20 New Wharf Rd., London N1 9RR
9781405092036 $29.95

Reading the first few pages of Not Dead Enough, Peter James' terrific new novel, is like seeing again friends one has only met a couple of times before, briefly but memorably: Roy Grace, 39-year-old Detective Superintendent with the Sussex CID, his best mate Glen Branson, still having marital problems; Cleo, with whom a romance had just started to blossom in the last book; and the other inhabitants of Grace's world in and around Brighton and Hove, England.

The first two books in this series, Dead Simple and Looking Good Dead, were among the best this reviewer read in 2006, and this newest offering is a worthy third entry.

Katie Bishop, beautiful young socialite, is found dead in her home, brutally murdered. When the police find her husband, Brian, to notify him of his wife's murder, he is 60 miles away attending a golf tournament. His alibi seems to be valid, and his shock and grief at the news seem genuine. The police are stumped – he could not have been in both places at once, could he? Is he lying? Is he being framed? DS Grace finds that the answers to these questions are elusive, yet all the evidence points to Brian as the murderer. In the midst of this, Grace suddenly finds his world tilted on its axis, as it appears that his beloved wife, Sandy, missing for over nine years with no clue as to how or why she disappeared, may still be alive and well.

The identity of the killer is a true puzzle, for the police and the reader, with tantalizing clues thrown at both. An at-first-improbable-seeming element arises, but the quality of the author's writing makes the willing suspension of disbelief on this point easier. While perhaps not as riveting as the first two books in the series, it is constantly engrossing, and the author soon ramps up the tale and the suspense to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

[I knew I would love this book as soon as I saw that the author had dedicated it to his three dogs.]

The Good Guy
Dean Koontz
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
978055380481293 $27.00 800-716-0600

While sitting in the comfort zone of his friend's bar in his usual inconspicuous spot after work one day [he is a bricklayer], Tim Carrier finds himself mistaken for someone else by the nervous man who sits next to him: mistaken for a man who has agreed to kill someone for hire, a woman whose photo and address the man leaves with him along with an envelope containing what he says is a "$10,000 down payment." Before Tim has a chance to disabuse him of his incorrect conclusion as to his identity, the man says "Ten Thousand now. The rest when she's gone" and leaves the bar. The strangeness of this encounter is outdone only by the appearance a few minutes later of the man who would appear to be the actual hired killer for whom Tim was mistaken, the latter thinking that Tim is t he one who is bringing him the money. Realizing that he must do something quickly, Tim tells him he's had a change of heart and will pay him $10,000 not to kill the woman. This only gets weirder when, after following the hired killer out of the tavern, he discovers that the guy is a cop.

Tim, never an introspective man, indeed a man who 'had retreated to a life of repetitive work, innocent pleasures, and as little reflection as he could manage," realizes that he must put himself in the middle of these people's lives if he is to prevent the death of a presumably innocent woman. The extent to which he will endanger himself and the inner resources he is able to call upon surprise even him. And he finds himself playing an unexpected role, as suggested by the book's title.

The prolific author of numerous bestsellers, Dean Koontz has produced another rattling good yarn, full of suspense, humor, and memorable characterizations, and makes this unlikely scenario seem perfectly plausible. I should add that the writing took a bit of getting used to, e.g., "Direct, intense, her green gaze seemed to fillet his serried thoughts and to fold them aside like layers of dissected tissue, yet somehow it was an inviting rather than a cold stare" and "As iridescent as a snake's skin, thin ravels of silvery clouds peeled off the face of a molting moon." But the author won me over. The creation of the hired killer, a thoroughly unpleasant man albeit strangely fastidious, one who locks the doors of his car because "th is was not an honest age," is a bit over the top as drawn by Mr. Koontz, as is his protagonist as well for that matter. But that's part of the fun, and the author's many fans will be pleased, among which company, I think, I now count myself. Recommended.

Chris Grabenstein
Carroll & Graf
245 W. 17th St., NY, NY 10011
9780786718184 $24.95 800-788-3123

The good news is that rookie cop Danny Boyle and his mentor, role model and partner on the Sea Haven [N.J.] Police Dept., John Ceepak, the 6 foot 2 inch "Eagle-Scout-slash-Jarhead" Iraq War vet, are back in their third adventure in this charming series by Chris Grabenstein [the titles of all of which refer to boardwalk games or rides]. There is no bad news.

Ceepak, if you haven't read the earlier entries in the series [and you should!], lives by a very strict, very rigid moral code: He will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.

An innocent enough discovery, a 1983 high school ring found in the sand of the Jersey shore beach, leads the duo in a wildly unexpected direction. Their attempt to return the ring to its owner soon becomes an investigation into the disappearance of two young women well over 20 years ago. When body parts start surfacing, there are indications that a serial killer long quiet has stirred back to life in Sea Haven.

In their personal lives, Danny is at loose ends – his girlfriend, Katie, has left for grad school in California. Ceepak, on the other hand, has become romantically involved with Rita, who was introduced in the prior book.

The book presents a satisfying mystery leavened with the delightful characterizations of these protagonists. As usual, Danny makes the perfect foil for Ceepak, or maybe it's the other way around, with Ceepak being Danny's straight man. Either way, they are a perfect team, and the earnestness of the one played against the wisecracking irreverence of the other make for a delightful summer read, for obvious reasons perfect in all ways for the beach.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

One Shot
Lee Child
Bantam Dell
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440241022 $7.99

Jack Reacher is a quirky drifter. He doesn't wash his clothes but buys them when the ones he is wearing get too dirty. He is also an ex-military investigator with the lethality of Rambo.

A sniper fires six shots in a crowded park and kills five people. And ex-military man is arrested within hours. He tells the police they have got the wrong guy and nothing else. He later tells his lawyer to find Reacher. Reacher wants to make sure the man goes to jail for crimes he committed in army but things change when he arrives in the heartland city. The evidence doesn't add up. The killing has just started and Jack is now the target.

'One Shot' is an action/mystery. Jack Reacher is the tough, near anti-hero, of contemporary detective stories. The quirky drifter part of Reacher brings the near mythical tough guy persona into a character the reader wants to find in the real world. The desire to find Reacher in the real world lets the reader overlook the near impossible action/mystery portion of the story and root for the quirky super hero against seemingly impossible odds. 'One Shot' is pure guilty pleasure.

Judge & Jury
James Patterson & Andrew Gross
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316013935 $27.99

'Judge & Jury' is a straightforward action story. Patterson produces short plot driven stories. To make the thickness that publishers want today, he uses many short chapters. It is a little sad that only a few popular authors have enough clout to write the short plot driven story and still get it published.

Mafia don Dominic Cavello is a murderous monster. Nick Pellisante leads the FBI team who arrests him. Andie DeGrasse is a single mom and aspiring actress who is called to serve on Cavello's jury. Cavello doesn't want to go prison for the rest of his life and is willing to do anything including mass murder to escape. Nick and Andie are pulled together by the murderous don and decide that revenge is their only recourse.

The evil in 'Judge & Jury' is intense and the action is fast. There is a humorous narration to the tale that keeps if from being too dark. Although 'Judge & Jury' doesn't stand out from the other action stories, it is a perfect story to read when you have a few hours to spare. My advice is to find it in paperback and pack it for the next trip you take.

S.A. Gorden

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Elements Of Organic Gardening
HRH The Prince of Wales
Kales Press
7031 Columbine Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92011
9780967007694, $39.95

Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout with the full color photography of Andrew Lawson, and with the help of gardening expert Stephanie Donaldson in preparing the manuscript for publication, Charles, the Prince of Wales draws upon his more than twenty-six years of organic gardening practices used on the royal gardens at Highgrove (the royal family estate in Gloucestershire), as well as his other gardens at Birkhall (in the Scottish Highlands) and Clarence House (in central London), to instructively showcase organic techniques for maintaining healthy soil, planting a wide variety of shrubs, bushes, trees, and flowers, and generally sustaining a healthy and diverse ecosystem. "The Elements Of Organic Gardening" provides aspiring novice gardens and seasoned horticulturists a like with sound principles and practices that can be applied to just about any gardening situation, circumstance, size, or soil condition. Very strongly recommended for personal and community library Gardening & Horticulture reference collections, "The Elements Of Organic Gardening" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152
David Petersen
Archaia Studios Press
c/o ASP Comics LLC
96 Linwood Plaza, PMB 360, Fort Lee, NJ 07024-3701
9781932386578, $24.95

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 is a one-of-a-kind graphic novel about a civilization of intelligent mice with medieval-era technology, who struggle to survive the relentless onslaught of predators. They hide their cities, practice trades such as baking and pottery, and when a mouse must confront the dangers of the open road, the Mouse Guard is there to aid them. More than soldiers who fend off intruders, the Mouse Guard patrol borders, finds safe paths through treacherous terrain, monitor weather patterns, and more to help common mice live fully, rather than simply subsist. In Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, three of the guard's finest discover a traitorous plot against the guard itself, culminating in an enemy army. The color artwork brings the mice to vivid life while avoiding the temptation to give them excessive human features - aside from walking on their hind legs, wearing cloaks and wielding weapons, these are emphatically mice, not Mickey Mouse. The suspenseful, action- and intrigue-packed plot is utterly absorbing, and the satisfying conclusion leaves the reader eager for the upcoming sequel, "Mouse Guard: Winter 1152". Highly recommended.

The Polity of Beasts
Renald Iacovelli
Stone Tower Press
61-61 Woodhaven Blvd., Rego Park, NY 11374
9780615135793, $14.99

Written by Renald Iacovelli, whose other credits include writing for the politically progressive journal "Russian Roulette", The Polity of Beasts is a savage allegorical novel about the power plays of modern politics. When an assembly of forest animals decide to set up a democratic government among themselves and elect a President, the candidates vying for office include an idealistic eagle, a self-centered skunk, a clever fox, and an idiotic ass - whose chief advisor is a savvy snake. The resulting drama unfolds with equal measures of wry humor and ruthless condemnation of the flaws within modern political society, corrupted by cronyism, corporate bribery, political correctness, citizen apathy and decaying common sense. A modern-day fable underscoring serious problems in today's democratic society, which are in need of immediate attention, The Polity of Beasts deserves a place in private and public library shelves, along with George Orwell's "Animal Farm". Highly recommended.

McQuinn in A Dragon in the Caribbean
Julio J. Castellanos
Villegas Editores
c/o Spotlight Publicity
2169 Pond Circle, Lincoln, NE 68512
9789588293189, $16.95

Cuban emigrant turned American citizen Julio J. Castellanos presents McQuinn in A Dragon in the Caribbean, the second action-adventure novel starring the hard-bitten NOC Central Intelligence Agency officer Felipe McQuinn and his trusted allies. McQuinn's dogged confidence and Latin American/Irish charm are put to the test amid an international hotbed of intrigue. When the People's Republic of China moves to use Venezuela as its military and economic beachhead, backing the power of Venezuelan strongman President Adolfo Carballo, it's up to McQuinn to uncover a hidden force behind the impending crisis - none other than Fidel Castro, master of war games. With the threat of war looming, McQuinn must race against the clock to identify the would-be doomsday masters, in this exciting can't-put-it-down adventure. Also recommended is Castellanos' previous novel, "McQuinn".

Able Greenspan

Harwood's Bookshelf

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America
Chris Hedges
Free Press
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas,
0743284437 $25.00

Chris Hedges is a card-carrying Christian. As a child, he tells us, "I prayed and sang hymns every Sunday, went to Bible school, listened to my father preach the weekly sermon and attended seminary at Harvard Divinity School to be a preacher myself" (p. 1). He graduated from the seminary, but was not ordained, and instead became a news reporter (p. 9). But while his father was a Christian preacher, he was not a biblical literalist. What Chris was taught was that, "The Bible was not the literal word of God…. It was a book written by a series of ancient writers, certainly fallible and at times at odds with each other, who asked the right questions and struggled with the mystery and transcendence of human existence. We took the Bible seriously and therefore could not take it literally" (p. 2).

His perspective has never changed. In most Christians that is not a good thing. The Christian Right's perspective has not changed since the heyday of Tomas de Torquemada. In Hedges' case, it means that he is still able to recognize that, "There is enough hatred, bigotry and lust for violence in the pages of the Bible to satisfy anyone bent on justifying cruelty and violence. Religion, as Richard H. Niebuhr said, is a good thing for good people and a bad thing for bad people" (p. 5).

He is aware that, "the writers of Genesis … believed the earth was flat with water above and below it. They wrote that God created light on the first day and the sun on the fourth day" (p. 7). He does not point out that, without the sun, earth would receive no light, presumably because anyone who needs to have that pointed out is probably unteachable.

Most of Hedge's book is about the threat to the freedom of every American, and indeed the whole world, posed by Christian zealots who do see the Bible as literal truth, and are determined to treat American moderates and liberals who do not agree with them the way Hitler treated German Jews. He writes, "I do not believe that America will inevitably become a fascist state or that the Christian right is the Nazi Party. But I do believe that the radical Christian Right is a sworn and potent enemy of the open society. Its ideology bears within it the tenets of Christian fascism…. The attacks by this movement on the rights and beliefs of Muslims, Jews, immigrants, gays, lesbians, women, scholars, scientists, those they dismiss as 'nominal Christians,' and those they brand with the curse of 'secular humanists' are an attack on all of us, on our values, our freedoms and ultimately our democracy. Tolerance is a virtue, but tolerance coupled with passivity is a vice" (p. 207).

American Fascists is not biographical. The names Buchanan, Coulter, Limbaugh and Buckley do not appear in its index, and, since it is geographically limited, neither do such foreign theofascists as Northern Ireland's Paisley and Canada's Manning and Day. Robertson, Falwell and Dobson have more index entries than America's fascist-in-chief, George W. Bush, but that tinpot Hitler is not totally ignored. Hedges writes, "The Bush administration has steadily diverted billions of dollars of taxpayer money from secular and governmental social-service organizations to faith-based organizations bankrolling churches and organizations that seek to dismantle American democracy and create a theocratic state…. The wall between church and state is being disassembled. These groups can and usually do discriminate by refusing to hire gays and lesbians, people of other faiths and those who do not embrace their strict version of Christianity" (p. 23).

Hedges reports how thoroughly America's Constitution was overthrown by the Christian Right's rigging of the Electoral College votes in Ohio in 2004. "The Diebold machines recorded record high turnouts—124 percent in one of the precincts—where Bush won overwhelming victories and low voter turnouts in districts that went for democratic Senator John Kerry…. Touch-screen machines in Youngstown were registering 'George W. Bush' when people pressed 'John F. Kerry' during the entire day" (p. 25). In other words, George W. Bush is not now and never has been the legally elected President of the United States.

"The drive to ban same-sex marriages in the 2004 election was just a step in a campaign to strip gays and lesbians of civil rights" (p. 107). Since the gay minority tends to support the First Amendment that prohibits the imposition of Christian Right or any other theocracy on the American people, depriving them of equality under the law is a recognizable step toward depriving all dissenters from the theofascists' totalitarian agenda of basic human rights. As Hedges points out, "Democracy is not, as these Christo-fascists claim, the enemy of faith. Democracy keeps religious faith in the private sphere, ensuring that all believers have an equal measure of protection and practice mutual tolerance. Democracy sets no religious ideal. It simply ensures coexistence" (p. 196). And coexistence with persons who refuse to grant blind, unquestioning obedience to the theofascists' hatred of the human race is precisely what the Christian Right does not want. As Hedges recognizes, "Debate with the Christian Right is useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want a dialogue…. It is not mollified because John Kerry prays or Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school. Naive attempts to reach out to the movement, to assure them that … we, too, care about moral values are doomed. This movement is bent on our destruction" (p. 202).

But the strongest warning of what the Christian Right is trying to do, and why they must be stopped now, is made in a quotation from theologian James Luther Adams, "Repeatedly … I heard anti-Nazis say, 'If only 1,000 of us in the late twenties had combined in heroic resistance, we could have stopped Hitler'" (p. 203). The current American Hitlers can still be stopped—but not by taking the attitude that if we ignore them they will go away.

On The Third Day
Piers Paul Read
Random House
1745 Broadway, NY 10019
0679400893 $20.00

Some years ago, I read a news report about an archaeologist in Jerusalem unearthing a human skeleton with a crucifixion nail through the ankles, and a sign attached (or maybe it was in a box) identifying the skeleton as the Aramaic equivalent of, "Jesus son of Joseph." Instead of having his find examined by forensic scientists, the finder promptly reburied it, declaring, "It couldn't be him. He rose again on the third day." The report said nothing about the archaeologist being burned at the stake, or even having his degrees revoked, for his unparalleled crime against scholarship, so presumably neither consequence ever occurred.

When James Cameron announced that he had made a documentary for the Discovery Channel, about an archaeologist's discovery of an ossuary similarly labeled, I tried Googling for the original story. No luck. What Google did find for me was this novel, written in 1990, by an author who presumably read the same news story and decided to write a "what if?" novel in which the archaeologist did not suppress his discovery before it could be evaluated, much the way Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code as a fictionalization of Holy Blood, Holy Grail—as if that fantasy speculation were not itself a work of fiction.

The jacket blurb begins, "Suppose Christ did not rise from the dead?" That is analogous to postulating, "Suppose the earth is not a flat disc like a dinner plate?" Nonetheless, Read is by no means as ignorant of relevant historical facts as Dan Brown. He is aware that Slavonic manuscripts of Josephus contain references to Jesus that Robert Eisler (whom Read names) concluded are basically legitimate even though they contain identifiable Christian interpolations. And he was able to insert a non-historical interpolation into Slavonic Josephus at precisely the point where it would be most believable (p. 94). But he is unable to recognize that passages such as, "A man appeared, if 'man' is the right word, who had all the attributes of a man but seemed to be something greater. For he worked such wonderful and amazing miracles that I for one cannot regard him as a man," are incompatible with anything the Jewish Josephus could ever have written. He is also unaware that Josephus (Halosis) described Jesus as four and a half feet tall, since the skeleton in the novel is five and a half feet tall (p. 122), and Read nowhere draws attention to the discrepancy.

Read's recitation of biblical fairy tales, as if the aborted sacrifice of Isaac were a fact of history and not a seventh-century redactor's harmonization of an eighth-century author's Torah in which Isaac was sacrificed as a child with a tenth-century author's Torah in which the adult Isaac was prominently featured, can be excused on the ground that the characters citing such myths believed them. But his statement that, "St. John loved Jesus in a special way" (p. 48), reveals his uncritical acceptance of the Christian pretense that Jesus' Beloved Disciple, and the author of the fourth gospel, and the John who redacted Revelation, were all the same person. But by having a character declare that, "a religious vocation is a symptom of a psychosis," he demonstrates his own ability at least to consider such a hypothesis. He is aware that much of what the masses believe about morality is promulgated, "not by priests from a pulpit, but by advertising copywriters over the TV screen" (p. 77). In asking, "Was love itself just an unreal idealization of a crude, atavistic instinct?" (p. 188) he reveals an awareness that cultural brainwashing is a fact of life. But in contrast, the statement that, "If there was a God, then what appeared absurd to us might seem sensible to him" (p. 169), appears to reflect the author's own cultural brainwashing, although whether Catholic or Jewish is never made clear. (Even the unanimity of the Jewish characters that, if the skeleton in question is not that of Jesus, then his remains are assuredly out there somewhere waiting to be discovered, could be a Catholic-thinker's perspective of Jew-think.) Newsflash: A higher lifeform whose concept of right and wrong is closer to the Marquis de Sade than William Wilberforce is an oxymoron.

But regardless of which stems from self-analysis, Read's portrayals of both Catholic-think and Jew-think are right on the mark. Dan Brown could learn much from Read's technique. For example, in showing the Catholic hierarchy justifying its habitual lying on the ground that, "We must weigh against the lesser evil of a small deception the certain and substantial evil that will result if it becomes known" [that a priest committed suicide] (pp. 19-20), he is totally accurate. And the scenes showing activist Jews behaving in a similar manner, even when the "lesser evil" is the murder of an individual who knows too much, are equally reflective of the real world in which Israeli prime ministers such as Menakhem Begin and Catholic popes such as Innocent III were prototype Osama bin Ladens. It would have been the scenes in which fanatic god addicts rationalized the virtue of deception and murder that caused a Sunday Times reviewer to declare that, "Read writes with such intensity that you can accept his central premise" (back cover).

Read puts into the mouth of a Jew the realpolitik that, "The sympathy we can still count on for what we suffered under Hitler will not outlive those who remember the last war" (p. 206). Many non-Jews are hoping so, since they see professional Jewish propagandists as inflicting a fraudulent guilt trip on the rest of the world for the purpose of retaining the sacred-cow status Jews still enjoy on account of atrocities perpetrated by persons long dead.

Read's observation, put into the mouth of a priest, that, "There are occasional suicides among priests" (p. 18), downplays the reality that only falsification of death certificates conceals that the suicide rate among priests is the highest in any profession, even higher than among psychiatrists, the most suicide-prone occupation in which the true cause of death is not habitually falsified. The day eventually comes when a psychiatrist recognizes that he has spent his life practising glorified tealeaf reading and is too old to learn an alternative marketable skill. And the day eventually comes when the number of times a priest has sat on a toilet seat reaches critical mass, and he recognizes that he is experiencing a reality that could not exist if humans were intelligently designed by an omnipotent creator. In both of those parasitical professions, suicide is often seen as the only way out.

Read's denouement is nothing less than a cop-out. His failure to leave open the question of whether the skeleton was really Jesus, or another crucifixion victim from the first century, or something else, including a possible hoax, is best attributed, not to political correctness but to a lifetime of brainwashing that allows him to consider any hypothesis except that the god delusion itself is a gigantic hoax. Nonetheless, as a compelling mystery, better thought-out and less dependent on incompetent nonsense than The Da Vinci Code, On the Third Day is well written. Only the educated will be disappointed by the plot's chicken-excrement resolution, and repulsed and disgusted that Mother Goose addict Read's concept of a happy ending includes having the novel's most rational character start to believe that all the king's horses and all the king's men really did put Humpty Dumpty together again.

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science
Martin Gardner
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2197
0879758384 $8.00

When I was a research student at Cambridge University in the 1970s, I watched a TV movie about Mary Baker Eddy with a Christian Scientist lady whose cult membership I had previously considered it inexpedient to discuss. She objected that the movie portrayed Eddy as mentally disturbed. So I asked her, "Could a woman who was not herself insane have invented a perversion as insane as Christian Science?" It should surprise no one that my hopes of getting into the lady's pants, previously estimated at better than seventy percent, were in fact not fulfilled. Was it worth it? In retrospect, an evening of recreation was not a great loss. An abandonment of integrity would have been. So yes, it was worth it.

Martin Gardner's biography of Eddy is slow, dull reading, for the simple reason that it provides far more information about a raving schizophrenic than I ever wanted to know. It is enough that her own son came within an inch of convincing a lunacy court that she should be institutionalized for her own protection. But for someone who needs solid confirmation that Eddy was indeed a nut case, it is required reading.

Gardner writes (p. 83) that, "During the last half of her life, Mrs. Eddy developed clear symptoms of paranoia. Not only did she have delusions of grandeur about her role as God's chosen instrument for a new religious revelation that would conquer the world; she also believed that she was under never-ending attacks by the MAM [malicious animal magnetism] of her enemies. Her creeping old age, with its inevitable changes in her appearance and health, surely contributed to her delusions of persecution. As we have seen, she taught that Christian Science could forestall the ravages of old age. How, then, could she explain to her followers and to herself that she was forced to go to dentists, to wear false teeth and spectacles, use a cane, and take morphine to relieve pain?"

Gardner is ambiguous on whether Eddy came to believe her own lies. On her refusal to take out life insurance, he writes (p. 74), "It is possible she half-believed she was immortal." And only the sincere self-delusion of a card-carrying crank can explain her asking a disciple to do genealogical research to trace her ancestry back to Christianity's mythical "Virgin Mary," and blaming the failure to find a connection on MAM. As to her alleged curative powers he asks (p. 63), "Did Mrs Eddy actually elongate a shortened limb? It is possible to believe that she did. I am more inclined to think she lied." He later on elaborates (p. 189), "There is not the slightest doubt that she was a chronic liar, especially in her vehement denials of any debt to [Phineas] Quimby." And he reports that, "Although Science and Health has no references to Mary Baker Eddy raising the dead, there are documents by her closest associates that say she claimed to have raised the dead on at least three occasions" (p. 76), without the news media ever managing to find and interview one of her alleged Lazaruses.

While Gardner's description of Eddy as a paranoid liar is backed up by page after page after endless page of quotations from her own writings, he makes clear that as illustrious a commentator as Mark Twain agreed with him. He quotes (p. 197) Twain's description of Mrs Eddy as, "Grasping, sordid, penurious, famishing for everything she sees—money, power, glory—vain, untruthful, jealous, despotic, arrogant, insolent, pitiless where thinkers and hypnotists are concerned, illiterate, shallow, incapable of reasoning outside of commercial lines, immeasurably selfish." While Twain's conclusions were definitive, it is Gardner's evidence that makes clear that Twain was right.

The essential facts about Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science are as follows. Her career began when she graduated from patient to assistant of mesmerist Phineas Quimby. Quimby in time came to realize that the curative element in his mesmeric mumbo jumbo was not "animal magnetism" but suggestion, and became the world's first talk therapist. His belief that the mind could "think" disease out of existence became Christian Science when Mrs Eddy passed it off as her own "discovery" after Quimby's death.

But unlike Quimby, Eddy incorporated into her new mythology elements that, while adapted from Quimby's fantasizing, demonstrated how far removed from reality she really was. She taught that the human body does not really exist, and therefore it could never fall ill. Belief in illness as an observable reality was "error."

Mrs Eddy was cured of psychosomatic ailments by Quimby's talk therapy, and based her pretend religion on the equation of talk therapy with divine healing, as televangelists continue to do to this day. But when that same talk therapy was practised by anyone else, under the name of mesmerism, she denounced it as "malicious animal magnetism," and attributed all of her failures to opponents' use of MAM. Her attacks on the medical profession decreased as their services became more essential to combat chronic pain. And when she could no longer convince herself that her nonexistent body was not suffering from pneumonia, she committed the ultimate "error" of believing she was dead. A rumor promptly arose that her gullible followers had placed a telephone in her coffin so that she could let them know when she ceased being dead, causing evangelist Billy Sunday to comment, "If old Mother Eddy rises from the dead I'll eat polecat for breakfast and wash it down with booze" (p.111).

Like most cranks, Mrs Eddy was also a humbug. "Few Christian Scientists realize that Mrs. Eddy's writings, like Mrs. White's [inventor of the Seventh Day Adventist cult], also bristle with plagiarisms. Quite aside from what she stole from Quimby's papers, and from early books on mind healing, she copied shamelessly, often word for word, from John Ruskin, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Kingsley, Swiss critic Henri Amiel, and from other authors. Like Mrs. White, not once did she credit her sources or even suggest to her readers that she was cribbing" (pp. 145-146). "One can only marvel at the fact that two frail, uneducated women—Ellen White … and Mary Baker Eddy—could establish and during their life totally control new religions that would spread around the world and acquire millions of devoted followers" (p. 110). Millions? I suggest that here Gardner is uncritically parroting highly questionable statistics from the two cults' propaganda peddlers.

To a believer in any or all of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim gods, Christian Science is the ultimate blasphemy. Not only do its cultists kill their children by denying them lifesaving medical procedures in the forty-three states in which Republicanazi governments have made religious child-murder legal (p. 71); they accuse their god of being a sadistic, misanthropic, homicidal psychopath who ordered them to perpetrate such atrocities. To a nontheist, Christian Science is so self-evidently imbecilic, that one can only wonder how persons stupid enough to swallow such bovine excrement remember to take their pants down in the bathroom. Of course, I wonder the same thing about Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists.

Awakening of a Jehovah's Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society
Diane Wilson
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2197
1573929425 $28.00

"Awakening of a Jehovah's Witness is both accurate and revealing. I'm sure that thousands of former Jehovah's Witness women will be able to personally relate to many of Diane's experiences and emotions. Her story makes compelling and believable reading" (p. 10). The problem with that endorsement by Peter Barnes, D.D., is that Barnes "is now an ordained Baptist minister with a support outreach for former Jehovah's Witnesses." In other words, just as Alcoholics Anonymous "cures" addicts by replacing the mind crippling opiate of alcohol with the even more mind crippling opiate of religion, preacher Barnes is currently offering Jehovah's Witnesses an alternative addiction that is no less mind crippling than the one he and Diane Wilson escaped.

"Every day thousands of people leave the Watchtower; and although some return, a total of about a million people have left for good" (p. 11). While the credentials of Jerry Bergman, Ph.D., who wrote those words, are impeccable, his claim that there have ever been as many as a million Jehovah's Witnesses should be treated with caution. The J.W.s claim 6.7 million preachers worldwide. But since Scientology claims an even larger number of marks, when the actual figure is little more than 50,000, a similar exaggeration by the Jehovah's Witnesses seems not improbable.

The author's own description of the "persuasive, seductive, cultlike religious group known as Jehovah's Witnesses" and its "deceitful, entrapping, manipulative ways" could be taken seriously even without a bookful of details to back it up, simply because that is how all cults operate. The only element of the J.W. delusion that is any more evil than any other form of godworship is that, like the Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses kill their children by denying them a lifesaving medical procedure. Wilson declares that, "a psychologist finally helped me to succeed in breaking free from their grasp" (p. 13). Anyone who could be helped by a tealeaf reader (correction: psychologist; I'm always confusing those two) must indeed have been in deep doggy doo.

While Diane Wilson has written a damning indictment of the way god cults treat their mindslaves, her book's value is significantly diminished by her unawareness that the totalitarian, sadistic, repressive, inhuman mind slavery to which she was subjected is not specific to a single cult. The Catholic cult, for example, not only matches the Jehovah's Witnesses in the threats it makes to persons who fail to grant blind, unquestioning obedience to its insane dogmas; it sentences all who escape its mind slavery to be eternally tortured with flamethrowers in a sadist's wet dream called Hell. While the J.W.s are equally vicious and vindictive toward recovered cultists (pp. 245-246), at least they reject Hell as incompatible with the existence of a benevolent Sky Fuhrer—while simultaneously accusing that same Fuhrer of ordering them to murder their children! Go figure. And the JW cult's assertion that it alone has the Truth (pp. 54-55) parallels what is preached daily by Scientologist shill Tom Cruise and Catholic Fuhrer Ratzinazi, not to mention the Allah cult's Osama bin Laden.

Wilson's chapters in what is basically an autobiography include "The Shoe Fits," in which she describes reading books about cults and, after comparing 56 attributes of cults, finding that the Jehovah's Witnesses fitted all 56; "Now You See It, Now You Don't," that spells out the JWs' endless predictions of the date of their imaginary playmate's Second Coming, changed every time the specified year came and went with no Jesus anywhere in sight; and "Playing Follow-The-Leader," that shows the cult's constantly changing version of the Truth on doctrinal matters. For example, "May Witnesses accept serum injections such as are used to fight against tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis, rabies, botulism, food poisoning, snakebites, and spider bites?" Answers: no (1931); yes (1958); ambivalent (1961); no (1963); ambivalent (1964); yes (1978).

Wilson's inability to harmonize such inconsistencies with the cult's claim to be the sole possessor of Absolute Truth explains why she resorted to a tealeaf reader to resolve the situation. Perhaps if she someday reads a bible with her brain in gear, she might consult an astrologer to help free her of the entire god delusion.

The chapter, "The Final Hurdles" begins (p. 238), "Although intellectually I understood that the organization exhibited cultlike characteristics, that the Society was guilty of false prophesy many times over, that its numerous vacillating doctrines betrayed the fact that it didn't really know what the truth was, that it utilized mind-control techniques, and that it had no basis for its claim of possessing divine authority—on an emotional level, I was still unable to free myself from the entrapment of the organization." I can empathize with that. Not until three years after taking the ancient history course that made me intellectually aware that Christianity is a 5,000-year-old religion with only the names of the gods changed, was I able to free myself from god addiction emotionally. Five years after the publication of Awakening of a Jehovah's Witness, in which she concludes (p. 279), "I do, however, hold a firm belief in Jesus," perhaps Wilson has finally stopped believing that cult A might be less oppressive and insane than cult B, or that one form of the god psychosis is less harmful than another. If she has not yet done so, I can only wish her a speedy full recovery.

The Satanic Verses
Salman Rushdie
Viking Penguin Inc
40 West Street, NY 10010
0670825379 $27.95

Mix equal parts of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, add a smidgeon of Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz, and the result is a ghastly, unreadable concoction called Satanic Verses.

Salman Rushdie was born in India, and may have learned English as a second language. Perhaps that is why he has set out to demonstrate his pretentious vocabulary to the ignoranti, and smirk as he fantasizes their inability to recognize which of his words can be found in the OED and which he coined for the sheer pleasure of farting in the faces of lower lifeforms. It is no wonder Muslims were so offended. They have been brainwashed from birth that only a book retroactively credited to Mohammad could pass off incomprehensible gibberish as profound wisdom. Now Rushdie has proven that anyone whose education has outstripped his common sense can do so.

As far as the Muslim hierarchy is concerned, Rushdie's "crime" was drawing attention to one particular self-serving reversal of Mohammad's teaching that they do not want their mindslaves to know. At a time when it was politically expedient to do so to win Arab support, Mohammad accepted three Arabian goddesses as Allah's daughters. But as soon as he had the absolute power to do anything he wished, he did a total about-face and denied that Allah had any daughters. He explained his former Koranic passages as "satanic verses" that the god Satan had tricked him into promulgating by impersonating Gabriel. Anyone capable of swallowing such a blatant insult to his intelligence is probably an inmate in either a Muslim theocracy or an insane asylum.

As Rushdie tells it (p.123), "This is what he has heard in his listening, that he has been tricked, that the Devil came to him in the guise of the archangel, so that the verses he memorized, the ones he recited in the poetry tent, were not the real thing but its diabolic opposite, not godly but satanic. He returns to the city as quickly as he can, to expunge the foul verses that reek of brimstone and sulphur, to strike them from the record for ever and ever, so that they will survive in just one or two unreliable collections of old traditions and orthodox interpreters will try to unwrite their story." That does help explain why the "satanic verses" were omitted from the Penguin Koran that I once read for review purposes.

"He stands in front of the statues of the Three, and announces the abrogation of the verses which Shaitan whispered in his ear. These verses are banished from the true recitation, al-qur'an. New verses are thundered in their place. 'Shall he have daughters and you sons?' Mahound recites. 'That would be a fine division!'" (p. 124) Now those verses were in my Penguin Koran.

Rushdie should be grateful to the gibbering idiots who made Satanic Verses a bestseller by demanded his head for writing a book they have assuredly not read, since it is barely comprehensible to the educated and therefore far beyond the understanding of anyone so stupid as to mistake the genocidal psychopath Allah for a nice guy. (The story may be apocryphal that Rushdie once asked a particularly vociferous accuser, "Who read it to you?"). So how come, in a country in which theofascist fanatics have sufficient clout to get a talking chimpanzee appointed president (Bush junior was never legally elected to that office), I cannot get the Robertson/Dobson Christian Taliban to denounce Uncle Yeshu Messiah, which is at least as unflattering a portrayal of King Jesus as Rushdie's accurate portrait of Mohammad?

The White Lie
Walter T. Rea
M & R Publications
Box 2056, Turlock CA 95381
0960742409 $19.51

Walter Rea identifies The Seventh Day Adventists as a cult. He should know. He attended an SDA high school and seminary, and was ordained an SDA minister in 1949. He defines a cult as any dangerous group that follows sociological principles calculated to bind the bodies and minds of its devotees. He apparently does not realize that such a definition is equally applicable to every religion on this planet. To most god addicts a cult is any religion smaller than their own. To a nontheist, the world's largest and therefore most dangerous and totalitarian god cult is the Roman Catholic.

Ellen White, founder of the SDA cult, was a liar and a plagiarist. Even the church she created has acknowledged that her pretended revelations from Christian saints and from the god Jesus were copied from the previously published work of various authors. Consider:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter …ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." William Hanna published those words in his The Life of Christ in 1863. William Harwood reprinted them in 2007—with an acknowledgement that Hanna was the original author. That is legitimate. Ellen White reprinted them in her The Desire of Ages in 1898—with no acknowledgement that her source was something other than a revelation from a heavenly being. That is plagiarism. And that paragraph is only one of dozens of Ellen White's alleged revelations that Walter Rea has traced to their original source.

An article in the Toronto Star, May 23, 1981, goes a long way toward explaining White's mental aberration (p. 213): "A rock that hit the forehead of the founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Ellen Gould White, when she was 9, almost certainly accounts for her visions, which are the basis of the church's doctrine, two doctors say. The blow caused a form of epilepsy."

As early as 1907, in his book, The New Nuts Among the Berries, M. Ronald Deutsch wrote, "I believe she is a victim of auto-hypnotism. She has actually hypnotised herself into believing that these visions are genuine. I don't think she willingly sets out to deceive—she's gotten into the visionary habit—but I do blame those who foist upon the people a scheme which is nothing more or less than a gross fraud." Rea suggests that knowledge of White's medical condition "would generate some sympathy for Ellen's actions—on the basis of diminished capacity alone" (pp. 212-213).

But for all his ability to recognize that the founder of the church into which he was ordained was a demented humbug, Rea remains to this day a braindead god addict (there's another kind?). He writes (p. 259), "Now Christ knocks once again at the closed door. The marriage of his church and Christ can be consummated only if … the Adventist Church can place Ellen in her proper subordinate role—that is, use her writings as inspired pastoral principles, but not divine utterances from the Almighty, not binding on all members and all people to Ellen's reshaping of history, and Ellen's unfolding of future events, and Ellen's dictation of day-by-day decisions affecting all phases of lifestyle and existence—only then can this true marriage begin. If, however, the door remains closed to the True Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, then the disaster that stalks Adventism must inevitably overtake it."

Clearly Rea is unaware that a man referring to another man as his "bridegroom" has connotations that have plagued the Christian religion from its inception. And just as clearly he has no awareness that it is not just a single religious cult that is founded on lies. All religion is founded on lies. In many ways Rea is as incurable and (for want of a better term) self-hypnotised as White herself. He should try reading the Christian gospels with the same critical eye he has focused on the writings of Ellen White. If he does not recognize that his hero Jesus was as mentally disturbed as Ellen White, it is because there are none so blind as those who will not see.

Kentucky Dreamin'
Ron Stauffer
Outskirts Press Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road—515, Parker, CO 80134
9781932672206 $11.95

When Ron Stauffer wrote Kentucky Dreamin', he probably had no idea that he was writing science fiction by setting his story in an alternate reality in which George W. Bush was removed from office in the 2004 election. Since Kentucky Dreamin' was written in 2004, it became a failed scenario within a few months of publication. Many science fiction novels have described futures that were eventually seen as failed prophecies. For example, books written in the 1980s described a distant future in which there was still a Soviet Union. And Robert Heinlein, as farsighted a futurist as Verne and Wells, in his first novel predicted that man would not walk on the moon until well into the 21st century. But none of those authors set their novels in a future that would be seen as unreal the day after tomorrow. And the rest of Stauffer's book shows a similar lack of concern, or even knowledge, of literary conventions or suspension-of-disbelief storytelling.

When I considered writing a thump-and-hump novel for what is usually called a porn publisher, I asked for the publisher's guidelines. Among the instructions I received was that characters be portrayed as speaking correct English even if they were backwoods bumpkins. If Stauffer ever gets around to revising his novel into something that will not cause readers to give up after the first dozen pages, I offer him the same advice. The prologue, in which the antagonists make Koko the gorilla look educated by comparison, was both unbelievable and nauseating. Even Fred Phelps is not as subhuman as Stauffer's bible-thumping thugs.

While making the point that fanatic, incurable believers in religion are not sparking on all neurons is an admirable end, Stauffer's means, to put it politely, suck. Any editor could have told him that using italics for emphasis should be restricted to situations where, without the italics, the meaning would have been ambiguous. His incompetent formatting of passages with dialogue, and his capricious alternation of past and present tenses, indicate a clear need for a course in remedial English. And his knowledge of the technicalities and stylistics of fiction writing, including spelling and grammar, likewise leave much to be desired.

But what Stauffer mainly needs to do is avoid making the bad guys sound like Pat Robertson's concept of nontheists. A couple of passages like, "I cain't hear ya," or, "thinkin' too much I s'pose," are tolerable. A whole book of such phonetic dialect is not. And the unpleasantness of being a freethinker in a community or family of "God will get you for not believing in him" incurables could have been effectively demonstrated in one or two paragraphs. Going beyond that is sermonizing, and sermonizing is annoying even when its message is valid.

Stauffer seems to think that having nontheist protagonists can make an appallingly constructed gong-show novel worthwhile. It cannot. Apart from revising the dialogue, and correcting passages such as—"I love you, Erin." He said.—into a correctly punctuated sentence, even moving the prologue to a point after the search for the serial killer has begun would enable many more readers to get to the meat before choking on the gristle and giving up in disgust, as I would have done if asking for a review copy had not obligated me to read the whole thing.

There is nothing wrong with Kentucky Dreamin' that hiring a competent editor capable of correcting the more than 1,000 (NOT an exaggeration), formatting, sentence construction, grammar, punctuation and spelling errors; eliminating comments on biblical passages that assuredly do not say what Stauffer thinks they say; plus thirty years practice at writing fiction; could not cure. Stauffer's only excuse for this appalling mess is that he went to school in North America, where schools have been babysitting institutions in which tender psyches may not be bruised by requiring them to learn anything since World War Two. Anyone looking for a readable modern novel in which the good guys are nontheists should try The Great Zubrick or The Last Hypnotist. Those who prefer historical novels should read Uncle Yeshu, Messiah.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Who's Who in the Zulu War, Volume I, The British
Adrian Greaves and Ian Knight
Pen and Sword
1016 Warrior Road, Suite C, Drexel Hill, PA 19026
1844154793 $50.00 1-610-853-9131

The authors, recognized authorities in England and South Africa on the Zulu War of 1879, allow that although this work is not comprehensive, it includes "all of the major figures, movers and shakers who shaped the conflict" along with many others they found particularly interesting for one reason or another. Seventy-four military figures are taken chronologically with short biographical profiles, noting of their significance in the Zulu War, and vignettes of military actions they were involved in. The massacre of over 1300 British at Isandlwana and the defense of an outpost at Rorke's Drift by about 150 British against thousands of Zulu warriors figure in many of the profiles. Many of the profiles contain too material on lesser-known encounters and the nature of the Zulu War. "On March 28, elements of Wood's command assaulted the Zulu stronghold at Hlobane Mountain." In taking the stronghold, the British encountered "Zulu snipers concealed among the boulders at the foot of the cliffs which surrounded the summit." Besides the traditional spears and shields, some of the Zulus had outdated rifles sold to them by Europeans. The 20-page introductory chapter is an especially good summary of the Zulu War.

Better to Reign in Hell- Serial Killers, Media Panics, and the FBI
Stephen Milligen
1900486539 $18.95

While not questioning the accepted view that serial killers are demented, Milligen is interested particularly in the origins of the image of serial killers and the reasons for its persistence despite considerable evidence that it is not accurate. Thus the content is basically on media studies, political agendas, and creation of the image of politicians and law-enforcement organizations, notably the FBI. Right-wing politicians, especially, have made use of the fear of crime, including serial killers, for election gains; and the FBI going back to the era of J. Edgar Hoover has publicized its attention to serial killers by creating a "profile" and frequent news reports on its leads in trying to solve cases. According to FBI and other widely publicized law-enforcement "profiles," serial killers are brilliantly cunning and commit their crimes over a large geographical area. But as Milligen proffers, while some serial killers (e. g., Ted Bundy) are exceptionally intelligent and do commit their crimes in far-flung places, many have low IQs and commit their crimes in local areas, as evidenced in those cases where numerous bodies are uncovered in a killer's backyard. But attributing high intelligence to a serial killer and assuming that his or in rare instances, her crimes are committed over a vast and unpredictable area explains why law-enforcement authorities cannot seem to catch a serial killer or prevent such a high number of wanton killings. This is an absorbing mix of true crime, sociology, and media studies. Many will find it especially captivating considering the current interest in and controversy over horror films and other images of and actual acts of violence in the culture.

How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake
Luca Crispi & Sam Slote, editors
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
0299218600 $65.00 1-800-621-2736

In this critical tour de force on modern literature's most distinctive tour de force, 15 leading Joyce scholars (including the two editors) enhance understanding of "Finnegans Wake" by "genetic criticism [whose] goal might be to show how the published text came into being or to demonstrate how the earlier documents can illuminate the published text, or might be more a matter of studying the writing process itself." "Genetic" implies the psychic origination, the embryonic, cellular-like growth, and the fruition of Joyce's work; which all combined like the strands of DNA as a code bringing it about. The code is not a code as in "secret code," as if the scholars were attempting to--or even could--decipher the book; but rather a biological or physiological code, something like a personality, making for its cogency as a work of art and its polyglot elements. "Finnegans Wake" has a cogency, but not a coherence; an unpredictable, ultimately unfathomable mix of elements which is not in the end gibberish.

The number of authors who know Joyce and "Finnegans Wake" inside out try to shed new light on what is going on by moving "away from a strictly textual approach" to consider factors of Joyce's life, including books he read, and also the creative writing process. Joyce worked on the book from 1922 to 1939. Thus the effects of time in this lengthy period are also considered. The insights and commentary of this approach by the authors with a lifetime of scholarship on Joyce are richly rewarding for ones interested in this singular modern author and in the currents and new terrain of modern literature in general.

Soviet Posters
Maria Lafont
Prestel Publishing
575 Prospect St., Lakewood, NJ 08701
3791337521 $25.00 1-888-463-6110

With the majority of peasants illiterate when the Communists seized power in the Russian Revolution in the early 1900s, the communications system including the press primitive, posters soon took a prominent place in spreading the ideas and ideals of Communism and focusing the far-flung, heterogeneous population on central institutions such as the army. The poster never lost its prominent position in the Soviet Union. While the subject matter of the many posters was limited by government authorities to accepted propaganda themes and perspectives, considerable latitude and even considerable innovation were allowed and even encouraged. Suprematicism championed by the modernist Kasimir Malevich "created a new artistic alphabet, based on the languages of color and energy. Vladimir Mayakovsky and Alexander Rodchenko were two Russian artists who pored their skills and visions into poster art in lieu of other hospitable mediums in the totalitarian state. El Lisitzky introduced the style "constructivism" in the 1920, followed by photomontage done by Gustav Klutsis and others in the early 1930s. Lafont, who was born in Moscow and is the author of "Pillaging Cambodia - Illicit Traffic in Khmer Art," cites such influential Soviet artists, whose influence spread outside of Russia, and follows the changing course of the Soviet poster according to changing artistic ideas, historical circumstances, and emphasis on certain propaganda in the Introduction.

In groupings of a few years to as much as a decade or more roughly defining historical periods of the Soviet Union, two hundred and fifty posters are pictured in full-page size with details of some shown on facing pages. Translations of their exhortations and in some cases longer message or text are found in the notes following the extensive gallery. But for 14, all are from the collection of Grigorian, a Russian lawyer who is working to establish a museum for Soviet posters. This collection of his plus ranging widely over styles, subjects, and periods of the statist posters of the former Soviet Union makes an outstanding retrospective.

Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink
Gary D. Joiner, editor
The University of Tennessee Press
293 Communications Building, Knoxville, TN 37996-0325
1572335718 $45.00 1-800-621-2736

A Union force of some 42,000 troops and over 100 vessels campaigned in areas of Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas in an attempt to take Shreveport, LA, headquarters of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department. Though geographically on the periphery of the warfare and not much covered at the time by newspapers concentrating on events surrounding the Union and Confederate capitols in the East and in the upper part of the Mississippi River surrounding the strategically important cities of Chattanooga and Vicksburg, the Red River Campaigns, as they are called, brought widespread changes to this region and had adverse effects on the careers of several high-ranking officers. Against the Union force of tens of thousands, the Confederates could bring together only 25,000 men, with no more than 12,000 in action in any one engagement. With the help of an inhospitable terrain and dissensions among Union officers, and despite dissensions within their own ranks, the Confederates held off the Union army and navy. Documents from veterans associations, official reports, and diaries by soldiers of all ranks of both sides, a Frenchman who was serving in the Confederate Army, and a woman living on a plantation recreate all facets of the military, historical, and personal aspects of the Campaigns. Appendices include orders of battle for both sides and a listing of the numerous Union vessels. The volume of the publisher's Voices of the Civil War series collects and puts into perspective considerable source material on this southeastern theater of the Civil War.

Kindred Spirits
Linda S. Ferber, editor
D. Giles Limited
9781904832263 $55.00

President of the National Academy of Design from 1845 until his death in 1886, Asher Durand had a major influence on American painting in its early, formative years. Durand's influence with his paintings and his writings and work with other can been as second only to Thomas Cole, who was at different times both mentor and competitor to Durand in his long career. Though Cole has the higher reputation, Durand went further in defining the genre of nature painting in this early era, including the Hudson River School, and articulating and exploring its principles, sources, and aims in his writings. A series of nine essays Durand wrote in 1855 for the art journal Crayon: A Journal Devoted to the Graphic Arts, and the Literature Related to Them" are reprinted in the appendix.

One hundred color illustrations of Durand paintings along with more than 80 black-and-white pictures testify to Durand's exceptional touch melding realism and idealism in the nature painting of the first generation of American painters after the United States became an independent nation. "Kindred Spirits," the book's title, is taken from a familiar 1849 Durand painting of the writer William Cullen Bryant and painter Thomas Cole standing on a rock ledge overlooking a valley with a stream running down it. Not only are the two men meant to be seen as kindred spirits representing the brotherly-like love in the new nation, but the two men are meant as well to be seen as kindred spirits with the nature world spreading out around them like an ampitheater. An 1855 painting titled "The First Harvest in the Wilderness" pictures a man working in a field of golden corn or wheat with misty mountains rising around him. In the background is a log cabin with a woman working at something by its doorway. No matter what the subject and scene of a Durand painting, it bathes in an Edenic glow implying being chosen as one of Providence's favorites and boundless promise.

Mostly before he came to the nature painting, Durand did prints, engravings, and drawings too. Forty of these are pictured. "Kindred Spirits" is a full, authoritative study of the life, career, art work, and influence of this leading early-1800's American artist concentrating on his nature paintings.

Defending the Damned
Kevin Davis
Atria Books/Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743270939 $25.00 800-456-6798

Kevin Davis's intellectual curiosity and witness make for an absorbing, elucidating tale about the lawyers at the Chicago Cook County Public Defender's Office. The field of criminology and the varied individuals from accused criminals to their public defenders, prosecutors, judges, and ordinary citizens who become involved in the criminal justice system one way or another are this award-winning journalist's chosen subject matter. Davis is a recipient of a Robert F. Kennedy Award for outstanding journalism who has written for USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, Crain's Chicago Business and other prominent periodicals as well as legal journals.

While at a particularly gruesome murder trial, Davis became gripped by the question of "how [the public defender] and her...colleagues were able to represent clients accused of such horrible crimes day after day, year after year, while keeping a safe emotional distance and preserving their sanity." He got into the position of being able to witness how they did this by being given unprecedented access to the attorneys, related personnel, and activity of the Cook County Public Defender's Office. And he availed himself as much as possible to relevant public documents and conducted interviews with both relatives of victims and the accused, among others.

A central figure is the public defender Marijane Placek, "fifty-four years old [with] bobbed hair...dyed golden blond with streaked highlights" given to wearing "snakeskin cowboy boots...when she wanted to look like a gunslinger." Placek is the lead public defender in the case of the murder of an undercover police officer--a case which allows Davis to give much attention also to the prosecutors and the police which are other necessary parts of the criminal justice system. In such a case of a murder of a police officer, prosecutors predictably try to "steal the flag," in the words of the public defenders' Murder Task Force chief Shelton Green; which means, they'll try to play up the normal public sympathy toward police officers to weigh the trial, including a sentence, heavily against the accused.

With a novelist's eye and human interest and a professional journalist's interest in and grasp of the law, Davis writes a consummate example of today's popular genre of creative nonfiction which casts a beam of light into one of democratic society's most disturbing areas and uncomfortable responsibilities.

Dot Dot Dash
Robert Klaten and Matthias Hubner, editors
Die Gestalten Verlag
c/o Prestel Publishing
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783899551617 $60.00 1-888-463-6110

Though rooted in the amorphous shapes, fantasies, and bright colors of the world of children, the figures designed by individuals and creative studios around the world are not only for children, or even mainly for children. Many make semiotic statements about stage-like costume similar to designer or faddish clothing, relationships with or images of kinds of animals, advertising, consumerism, and ecology and other current issues. Some are like logos for bands; and many have been adopted by individuals as a personal statement or ironic point of view. Noted in the brief introduction, the artistic abandonment, graphic influences, and populist orientations of the figures are the same as with graffiti.

The incredible panoply of toys, figures, and characters are made almost entirely from the simple materials of the fabric called plush and plastic--both of which can be molded into an infinity of shapes and given any color. The Angry Clobber Monkey, Turtlecamper (a turtle with an SUV-like shell), Mutation Sensation, King Ken, the Forever Sensible Motorcycle Club, the Elegant Waiter, Peepo Vizzy, Tiny Hearthead, and Dr. Recyclabotto are only a few of the names for the hundreds of figures shown individually in color photos for full appreciation of their shapes, colors, features, and message where intended. Their names are equal to the inspired silliness of their design. It's like looking through a comic book being bottomlessly amused and sometimes startled.

This vein of popular culture tied with cartoons, anime, graphic novels, and advertising is bountifully covered by works from designers and studios from Europe, the U. S., and Asia. Notes of the designers or studios, including websites, and specifics such as size and materials of the figures are contained in the two indexes. The art-book size volume is a treat to look through and also an encyclopedic reference on this popular art/product line exemplifying the free-floating humor and unpredictable tastes of the times.

Religion, Politics, and Sugar
Matthew C. Godfrey
University of Utah Press
1795 East South Campus Drive, #101, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9402
9780874216585 $34.95 1-800-773-6672

The U. S. government's differences, including investigations and Congressional hearings, with the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company in the early part of the 1900s brought together a long-standing guardedness toward Mormonism with antimonopoly efforts of the era. The company was founded by the leading Mormon Wilford Woodruff in 1890 who later related, "The inspiration of the Lord to me is to build this factory." The company based on growing, processing, and distributing sugar beets throughout the states of the Intermountain West was virtually a department of the Mormon Church, the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

While the survival--not to mention prosperity--of the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, originally the Utah Sugar Company, was touch-and-go in its early years, eventually it thrived, and came to be seen as a monopoly by antitrust legislators. Because of the importance of sugar beets in the Western economy and as food staple, which increased in importance during scarcities in World War I, the Mormon company inevitably attracted a high-level of Federal government attention and concern.

Godfrey is an associate historian with a Montana historical research group. A shorter version of the material of "Religion, Politics, and Sugar" won an award from the Mormon History Association. The company's rise to success from its precarious beginnings while struggling against concerted government efforts to change it is followed with a judicious selection of factual material, including parts of transcripts and other documents, and concise narrative.

In 1923, the Federal Trade Commission issued its findings against the company. These were overturned by the Eighth Circuit Court in 1927. The Mormon owners and operators of the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company saw their position as one of the members of the board of directors put it, "We were put to endless trouble and expense...for simply doing that which practically everybody else in the sugar business was doing." Despite its supposed monopolistic position in this industry, the company was able to survive from crashes in sugar prices coming in the 1920s and other economic troubles preceding the Depression only with financial aid from the U. S. government and the Church of Latter-Day Saints. The story of the sugar company during the years covers is of interest as well because of light it sheds on fundamental social, political, and economic changes in Utah and among the Mormons during this period. Godfrey focuses on how the actions of Mormon leaders of the company enabled it to succeed while at the same time become the target of Federal investigations.

Reinventing the Wheel
Stephen F. Teiser
University of Washington Press
PO Box 50096, Seattle, WA 98145-5096
9780295986494 $60.00 1-206-543-4050

Teiser--D. T. Sukuki professor in Buddhist Studies at Princeton--puts the classical source of the wheel as the preferred and eventually conventional symbol for the Buddhist spiritual concept of a series of lifetimes for nearly every person with the Mulasarvastivada school of Indian Buddhism. Although this school is only one of many schools of Buddhism which have grown up throughout Asia over centuries, the location of the Mulasarvastivada school in north-central India where Buddhism originated and the time of its formation in the early though not the initial development of Indian Buddhism gave its teachings and practices an exceptional canonical authority. "[A]s the canonical story of the wheel of rebirth shows, the vinaya [the 'voluminous canon of monastic discipline'] provided the narrative authority for a collective enterprise that drew lay people to Buddhist temples and sent monks and nuns out into the lay community."

The circular shape of the wheel is the basic configuration uniting this central symbol of Buddhism as it spread throughout Asia in the following centuries. Like the cross of Christianity, the wheel of Buddhism has become identified with this world religion. But different features of the wheel symbolizing different concepts and tenets of Buddhism have been emphasized in different regions and different times. The wheel's hub, spokes, and rim are three "compositional elements" highlighted by Teiser; with the hub, for instance, signifying both a focus and "what drives the wheel, what makes it go around." The fourth "property of the wheel is that it marks off an inside from an outside." This most complex compositional element of a wheel represents the closed system involving endless cycles of death and rebirth, but also indicates transcendence beyond this since the Buddhist wheel is always in the context of a square frame putting the wheel into perspective and suggesting that there is a realm of spirituality outside of it. "The point of the wheel, so to speak, is to move outside of it."

With keen aesthetic discernment, extensive historical scholarship, and sensitivity to Buddhist spirituality, this work seamlessly studies all significant aspects of the Buddhist wheel found in old Buddhist temples while bringing in relevant dimensions of Buddhist spirituality. Art, symbology, history, culture, and spirituality are interwoven in an engrossing, enlightening manner.

The Treasures of Coptic Art
Gawdat Gabra and Marianne Eaton-Krauss.
The American University in Cairo Press
c/o International Publishers Marketing
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, VA 20166

977424933X $49.95 1-800-758-3756

The most important museum in the world for Coptic antiquities, Egypt's Coptic Museum founded in Old Cairo in 1908 houses icons, stone pillars, textiles, incense burners, Bible containers, wall paintings, papyri, wooden altar screens, crosses, and church chandeliers, among other objects. Many of these are made from ivory and bone; and others from local and imported stone, paints, wood, fabrics, and other materials for religious, artistic, and cultural items of their period. A few surviving Coptic churches are also pictured to bring in to a limited degree Coptic architecture.

Over 130 of the assorted antiquities are pictured in clear color photographs of various scales, including many full page, allowing for appreciation and study of their details. For example, smaller pieces of jewelry are pictured close-up so that their carvings of figures and details of their features and clothing stand out. Parts of some textiles have close-ups where not only the woven figures and patterns can be viewed discretely, but their weaving is apparent. Text goes beyond just identifying the varied objects to treat theological inferences and implications as well as artistic and historical points of note. One image of Christ from about the seventh century "employs various devices" to render him "more approachable." Chief among these is the "halo around his head" calling to mind his particular holiness as a living person "[r]ather than representing him in a mandorla [a large oval halo frequenting enclosing a figure, from the Glossary], which would indicate his existence beyond time and space."

The work of coffee-table size, quality, and style offers a particularly handsome as well as a comprehensive portrayal of this distinctive, long-lasting religious art which reflects the pagan, Romanistic, and Middle Eastern cultures of its beginnings over two thousand years ago. Gabra is a former director of the Coptic Museum; Eaton-Krauss, a specialist in Egyptian art and archaeology.

Henry Berry

Kaye's Bookshelf

Beyond Majors and G.P.A.: A Real Philosophy for College and the World Ahead
Aaron Scott Robertson
0595431860 $9.95

This little book contains nine chapters: misconceptions about your major, positive attitude, set your pace, knowledge is power, leaders are made, G.P.A, flip-flopping, invest early, and endless possibilities. It reads like an essay assignment and really has nothing new or particularly significant to say in its attempt to be inspirational. I believe the author just wanted to write a book, set himself the challenge, and this is the result. It is well organized and edited; however, I consider the content trite and would not recommend it to an intelligent college student.

Taxes, Stumbling Blocks & Pitfalls for Authors 2007
Nash Black
If Publishing
101 Evergreen Rd, Jamestown KY
1432703633 $9.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"A clear and concise guide for organizing and preserving expense records for writers as a sole proprietorship under current rules and regulations of the Internal Revenue Code using Schedule C and its supplements for the 1040 IRS form. Vital tips for preventing identity theft, keeping your computer free of viruses, worms and other headaches, personal security planning, and designing worry free book tours. Contains all 50 states and DC as to their sales tax percentage and contact information."

There is some information in this small book which might be of interest to new authors, of which there are many these days; however, unless an author is fortunate enough to realize significant financial returns from his writing efforts to show a profit at some point, the IRS may consider his endeavors to be a 'hobby' and not a business and therefore not eligible for business deductions. It is always important to keep all your receipts, protect your computer and personal identity, and I think most people today have the common sense to do so. Would I recommend this book to new authors? I don't think so . . . based on its briefness.

Vampire Royalty: The Rebellion
Valerie Hoffman
American Legacy Books
Washington, DC
1886766452 $9.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Andrew Gabriel is awakened from his catatonic slumber by love's passion. His diabolical half-brother, Craven Maxwell, politically manipulates his way into the White House. Andrew realizes that this cunning predator now has access to the American presidency and will use his new position to dominate the United States and, eventually, the world. Only Andrew can end Craven's depraved schemes, but Andrew has one vulnerability–the newly found love of his life."

Valerie Hoffman is an educated, talented author and shares her gifts and interest in vampires with us through this novel. She became blind at the age of nineteen, yet became a successful psychotherapist. Dr. Hoffman is the vice president of the National Board of Forensic Evaluators.

If you also have an interest in vampires and unique variations on this theme, you may enjoy her novel. The price of $9.95 is very reasonable, considering the length.

Waiting for Wings - Assisting a parent to the edge of life
E. A. Davis
Llumina Press
7915 W. McNab Rd, Tamarac, FL
9781595266828 $14.95

Quoting one paragraph from the back cover:

"Navigating a maze of elderly healthcare issues, Waiting for Wings provides insights into the world of dementia, care facilities, medications, and final passage. Humorous, cynical, and inspirational quotations reflect a mood for the topic at hand. Practical tips are offered within the candid descriptions of care facilities, parent-child dynamics, financial matters, medications, funeral options, psycho-spiritual issues, and the dying process."

E. A. Davis is a good writer and tells her story with an appealing flare. She writes about a difficult situation, both the caregiving and the death of her mother, and provides the reader with information much needed at such times. If it has become your responsibility to take care of an elderly parent, you may find this book quite helpful and certainly an inspiration.

Health Care Responsibility: The Older Adult's Guide to Surviving the Health Care System
Raymond Lengel
HCR Books
P.O. Box 39655, North Ridgeville, OH
1570876975 $14.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Health Care Responsibility: The Older Adult's Guide to Surviving the Health Care System is a book that not only educates but also provides a method for the older adult to organize and communicate health care information. The techniques described in this book provide a system for the older adult to tap into the top-notch resources of the American health care system. The book offers:

-An overview of the current health care system and why each individual needs to assume responsibility for his or her own health.

-A seven-step system for the health consumer to report a complete yet concise medical history.

-Multiple forms to help assure patients get the most out of every health care visit.

-A method of prevent errors and get the most out of any hospital or nursing home admission.

-A system to track important preventative health care measures.

-Tips on exercise and nutrition to optimize health.

-Multiple questions to ask any health care provider about medication, diagnostic tests, medical conditions, medical procedures and blood work."

This is an excellent book . . . one which I will keep in my reference library. Raymond Lengel, a family nurse practitioner, has done an exceptional job of explaining many of the problems within our health care system and how to avoid them. It is well organized and full of pertinent information. I particularly like the forms he has provided to assist in communicating ones medical history to a physician. It is a book for the times in which we live and really helpful to anyone of any age. Plus, for the price of $14.95, it's quite a deal.

Off-Shoring the Middle Class: How to Compete When Globalization Can Drive Every Job Overseas
Steve Mushero Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 9949, College Station, TX
1589399137 $14.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Globalization and the off-shoring of middle-class jobs will be one of the most important forces shaping the 21st Century. Accelerating job migration is already permanently altering nearly one of the world's economies, typically leaving Western workers anxious about how to compete. For instance, just when Mr. And Mrs. Middle Class have finished school, gotten good jobs, had their kids, and bought their house, they find their jobs are exported to China or India.

"Destined to become a guidebook to thriving in the 21st Century, Off-Shoring the Middle Class outlines the prompt action required on many levels as governments, corporations, and individuals are all drawn into the battle to remain competitive, to move up the value chain, and to succeed in a world gone flat.

"Off-Shoring the Middle Class explains how off-shoring affects society and workers at every level and outlines a course of action for each, including a mix of better public policy, more innovation, more relevant education, and substantially expanded entrepreneurship, following the Silicon Valley model."

Steve Mushero has written an extensive, in-depth book about the problem of loss of white-collar jobs to Asia; plus, he offers up constructive solutions to the problem. This is definitely a timely book, well-written, and if this topic is of concern to you, you may find it informative.

Beginner's Luke Book I of the Beginner's Luke Series
Sol Luckman
9780615140353 $14.99

This is a story about a man, the author, dreaming up a surrealistic autobiography, and in doing so, thinking he has created a new genre.

Sol Luckman is clearly an educated, creative writer with a gift for 'word' gab; he also excels at the art of description. Beginner's Luke just might be Sol's approach to the concept of creative imagery, or you are what you think. I kept expecting something insightful, but in the end, realized nothing of value. There is humor in this tale, and if you love words, you may be delighted and want to decide for yourself.

Prayer at Rumayla A Novel of the Gulf War
Charles Sheehan-Miles
Cincinnatus Press
Cary, North Carolina
9780979411403 $14.95 www.cincinnatuspress.comGenre: Fictional Psychological/War Memoir

Chet Brown tells his story: life before, during and after the Gulf War–his transformation from a kind man into a trained killer. The straw which broke his mental back upon returning–loss of Amy, his love, to his best friend, set him off on a drunken, cross-country titty-bar spree. The war had changed him. The nightmares wouldn't stop, and he didn't know how to control the 'monster' he'd become.

Charles Sheehan-Miles originally wrote this honest, revealing novel shortly after the 1991 Gulf War. His story unfolds as he flip-flops back and forth between segments of his life–memories of his youth . . . his unstable mother, never having known his dead father; reliving the war he couldn't forget and betrayal by the ones he loved. Sheehan-Miles does an excellent job in relating the realities of his tank/war experiences on the ground at the front and the psychological conflict upon his return. Allow me to share a sample of his writing with you, from page 141:

"I jumped to my machine gun as the first round was fired by '31. The flash and concussion knocked me to the side, and a fuel truck exploded a hundred meters to my front, spraying burning diesel, chunks of metal and body parts in a fifty meter radius.

"Sergeant Arno and I were both stunned as we gripped our machine guns. Peering into the flame I could barely see the silhouette of a second truck, half engulfed from the flames of the first.

"A figure ran out, burning over half of his body. Instantly I depressed the trigger, then cursed. The safety was on. The bass thump of Arno's .50 started as I fumbled with the trigger. The man fell to the ground, just as a second ran across my field of vision, burning, desperately trying to escape.

"I launched a spray of bullets from the machine gun, just short. Following the tracers I walked the stream of bullets into the back of the running, burning man. He crumpled to the ground and I continued firing, a sudden feeling of triumph and lust in my body. Fuck yeah! Die motherfucker!"

I like Charles Sheehan-Miles's writing style, honesty and courage, and per the author, "...word of mouth from enthusiastic readers is what allows books to flourish...". Check him out ( You won't be disappointed.

Fur Kids: A Life with Dogs
William L. Buchanan
Baylaurel Press
775 East Blithedale Ave, Mill Valley, CA
9781931093026 $21.95

I get very few hardcover books these day to review, but this is one and with a very attractive cover. Fur Kids is a delightful memoir of Claire and Bill Buchanan's life and travels with their Brittany 'fur' children–Red, Max, Blazer, Joey and Brady–not that they had all five with them at the same time. It is a story about dogs and experiencing the outdoors.

Some parts of this memoir reminded me of John Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie and other reminded me of James Herriot's short animal tales. William Buchanan is an excellent writer with a sense of humor and special gift for describing nature in the wilds. If you're a dog lover and enjoy travel stories, I'm sure you'll enjoy columnist William Buchanan's latest book, Fur Kids: A Life with Dogs.

A Winter's Vigil
Norval Rindfleisch
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
9780595430277 $16.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"This fictional memoir, set in a blue-collar neighborhood movie theater of a Midwestern city, will remind the reader how quickly the past fades and yet how powerfully it persists unrecognized below the surface of later conscious decisions. Alternately comic, nostalgic, reflective, and even whimsical, the narrator recalls his tenure as the doorman and general flunky of the Imperial Theater threatened by the competition of television. He gradually drifts into a partnership with the long time woman manager, desperate to keep the theater going as a community institution, to restore with his free labor and her personal expense the dilapidated condition of the theater and to change the format from traditional B films to musicals of the 40's and 50's."

We follow Ted, a self-deprecating teenager, through his Catholic high school, home and first job experiences to the closure of the theater. I don't fully understand why people write fictional memoirs, but such is the case.

Norval Rindfleisch is a consummate writer; however, A Winter's Vigil could benefit from further editing. To whom might this novel appeal? . . . possibly teenagers working at their first minimum-wage jobs or readers raised in the Catholic faith. Would I recommend this book based on the storyline? . . . not particularly, but that's just my take. As the author has taught literature and writing at secondary and college levels, won writing awards and recognition, you may find something in this fictional memoir which appeals to your taste.

Survival Op: The Fear in the Wilderness
Scott Allen
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Lincoln, NE
9780595420629 $12.95

Marcus and Lynn, abducted runaway teenagers, find themselves on an isolated island in the Bermuda Triangle and part of a radical group's bizarre survival experiment. And, if that's not enough, how about the wild creature in the wilderness?

Survival Op was a fun, educational, exciting read . . . a captivating adventure. As Scott Allen is an English teacher, who also coaches football, basketball and track, his novel is well written and inspirational. Possibly, Allen wrote this tale to forewarn teenagers of real dangers in this world. It's an inspirational story from the standpoint of how Marcus and Lynn survived in the wilderness, and I can wholeheartedly recommend this book for its quality and substance.

1891: A Novel about Stanford University
Jerry Franks
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
9780595437948 $18.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"In the summer of 1891, Orrin Leslie Elliott brings his wife and young son to Senator Stanford's Palo Alto Farm in Northern California to work for David Starr Jordan, president of the new university being established there.

"The Elliotts find their new surroundings to be bleak and isolated: college buildings that look like a factory, little or no housing, and a murky water supply. Nearby Mayfield is peopled with cowboys serviced by numerous saloons and prostitutes. With faculty still to be hired, textbooks to be ordered, and dormitories only half finished, plans to open the university in four months seem ludicrous.

"This is the story of the founding of Stanford University, as seen through the eyes of the Elliotts, Dr. Jordan, and a sundry group of students. Rubin (Sosh) Weinberg is the only Jewish student in the class of 1895. Fletcher Martin, ex-U.S. Army officer, put his life on the line for others. Sally Forrest, whose father was slain by gunmen hired by the railroads, attempts to avenger her father's death. Sam Cutter, a devious product of the streets of Chicago, performs act of chicanery-thievery, intrigue, and murder, including the tormenting of Sosh Weinberg."

Jerry Franks has done an excellent job of weaving factual elements into this fictional novel to create a feel for the times. The entire story takes place during 1891, beginning on March 16 and ending on December 31. This novel is the first of a trilogy. It is well written and well edited, and if you enjoy historical novels, you won't be disappointed.

One Step Over the Border
Stephen Bly
Center Street
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY
9781599956893 $12.99

Quoting from the back cover:

"Hap Bowman and his rodeo partner, Laramie Majors, set out to find Hap's lost childhood love and are soon chasing down every Juanita from Wyoming to the Mexican Border. Every place they go leads to more trouble and excitement–whether it's herding cattle across the Rio Grande, facing off against a crooked park ranger in the Chisos Mountains, or rounding up wild mustangs on a desert military testing ground. Though their search may or may not lead to Juanita, it will definitely be the adventure of a lifetime for these two modern-day cowboys."

One Step Over the Border is a contemporary western, dealing with contemporary issues. As you read, you can't help but grow to like Hap and Laramie–rough, rugged, good-hearted, stand-up cowboys. While searching for Hap's Juanita, they encounter challenging adventures, always heightened by the 'purdy' women along the way.

Stephen Bly is a prolific author (ninety-five published books) and best known for his classic historical westerns. He's a consummate writer with a colorful, entertaining writing style–filled with delightful metaphors. He certainly knows his horses, cowboys, ranch and rodeo life. If you're a western buff and want a fun, true-to-life western story, give One Step Over the Border a read. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Kaye Trout

Kristina's Bookshelf

Discouraging at Best
John Edward Lawson
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
1933293195 $14.95

In his latest book Discouraging at Best, award winning poet, fiction writer, and editor John Edward Lawson takes on everyday American life as his subject, becoming at turns hilarious and gravely serious. Functioning as a bizarro page-turner as well as social commentary, this collection of interlinked stories follows the life a working class family, the thought processes of a comically pompous Nobel Prize winning author, and the inner workings of the White House. These stories often intersect and illuminate one another, presenting the reader with a satirical portrait of the ways people of different genders, ethnicities, and social classes interact and view one other.

Lawson's approach to satire is highly inventive. His writing drifts gracefully between different characters' points of view, allowing the reader to view the same plot through several characters' eyes. In the first chapter of the novel, which deals with the struggles and adventures of the Havenot family, July Havenot tries to rent his son out to wealthy neighbors as a disciplinarian, and this incident is recounted from the point of view of the father as well as his daughter Josephine and his son Malcolm. Early in the book, for example, Lawson writes from the father's perspective: "This son of his would go from door to door, yes, with that supple, imposing thorn switch, and he would hawk his wares, oh yeah, unlimited whippings for just five bucks" (10). The narrative then shifts to Malcolm's point of view, revealing how frightening this scheme has become to the young boy, then transitioning daughter Josephine's perspective and her confusion as to the general state of chaos in her family. Providing the reader with a mosaic-like narrative comprised of different voices and perspectives, Lawson's approach is both imaginative and hilarious in its pairings, juxtapositions, and contrasts.

In portraying the interactions between these characters, the stylistic aspects of the book often change shape to suit the individual being described. For example, Lawson makes a dramatic shift in tone and diction between the first chapter, in which he describes the day-to-day lives of the Havenots, and the second, in which he writes in the voice of a fictional Nobel Prize winner. He narrates in the first chapter, for instance: "This was his scheme of schemes; no way could this fail to bring home the bacon" (9). The conversational tone, use of slang, and informal diction form a stark contrast with the following chapter, which reads: "…By that time my antagonized mind was bubbling with the lewdest of obscenities dredged up from the course sediment of my darkest sentiments…" (48). This ceremonious and stately tone in the second section of the book suits the scholarly Nobel Prize winner's character, whose voice narrates this chapter, just as the more casual opening of the novel reflects the personality of the Havenots. This juxtaposition of several different narrative voices gives the reader a sense of the diversity of the cast of characters, expressing on a formal level how these dissimilar people, views, and voices coexist and relate to each other.

Discouraging at Best is an accomplished and enjoyable read. A fabulous introduction to John Edward Lawson's work as well as a treat for long-time fans, these stories are stylistically innovative and engaging. Highly recommended.

Jeremy C. Shipp
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
9781933293400 $13.95

Jeremy C. Shipp's debut novel, Vacation, delivers a healthy dose of humor while raising serious questions about the day-to-day life of most Americans. Filled with social criticism and slapstick, the story begins by revealing Bernard Johnson's boredom with his mundane life, which seems similar enough to that of most people, complete with a good job, a loveless relationship, and antidepressants. When Bernard decides to take his Vacation, a year long tour of the world provided to every U.S. citizen, he is kidnapped by terrorists and realizes just how discontented he was with the "American Dream," which he doesn't miss for a minute.

Shipp's use of everyday things in creating his strange and frightening dystopia is highly effective. The world of Vacation disconcerts the reader with its eerie similarities to his or her own comfortable life, particularly when things like schools, prescriptions, and time off work form a frightening underworld of which even some of the characters aren't aware. Shipp writes, for example: "It's not only the pharmaceutical companies that benefit from poisoned bodies, its every commercial entity. A healthy body is less likely to succumb to compulsion" (49). Displaying the dark side of the American dream to readers, Shipp's satire is imaginative and provocative.

Although the novel is at times dark and disconcerting, the fact that it's written in the first person as a letter to Bernard's parents renders the story heartbreaking and moving. The reader anticipates Bernard's parents' reaction to some of the events described in the novel, and the epistolary form in which this book is written adds additional layers of humor and pathos to the narrative. Shipp writes at the start of the novel, for example: "So this letter. It's not an apology. Not even an explanation as to why your son has abandoned the only home he's ever known […] I need these words to vacate me, so that I can get on with my life. So that I can say goodbye" (6). References like this appear at key moments in the book, and this bittersweet motif gives the narrative formal unity. Mixing fun, social issues, and heartache, Shipp's novel is a well-rounded and entertaining read.

Also rife with literary allusions to such well-known works as Mrs. Dalloway, Frankenstein, and Don Quixote, Jeremy Shipp's novel is a literate, erudite read. These references fit Bernard's character because he teaches English, but they also provide well-read humor and showcase the author's knowledge of the classics. Shipp writes, for example: "This is Don Quixote's psyche. This is TS Eliot's Wasteland library. This is Mrs. Dalloway's party, if she were really Virginia Woolf. This is Noh's room. Towers of books and notebooks clutter every available surface" (49). These literary comparisons form a consistent motif throughout the book, and, like the references to Bernard's parents, give the book a sense of formal unity.

Overall, Vacation is a diverse, unpredictable, and intelligent read. Two thumbs up!

Fish Soap and Bonds
Larry Fondation
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
9781933293370 $13.95

Larry Fondation's latest novel, Fish, Soap and Bonds, is the story of three homeless people struggling to survive in Los Angeles, two of whom (Fish and Soap) were married on the streets. All three characters are average people who unexpectedly find themselves without a home: Fish loses his job as an insurance salesman, Soap's husband divorces her, and Bonds ran a restaurant until demand lessened due to changes in the local economy. Told in a series of short, interrelated vignettes, the novel deals in depth with the everyday events of their lives, through which the reader observes the discrimination, apathy, and compassion found in American society.

Fondation's treatment of difficult subjects, such as poverty and social justice, is both subtle and multifaceted, often incorporating humor, pathos, and social criticism in the same narrative space. A scene from Fish, Soap and Bonds that exemplifies this quality takes place when Soap gets the makeover she's always wanted at a high-end department store. When she later attempts shoplifting cosmetics as a way to relive this memory and is taken to court, Fondation uses this anecdote as a way to critique both the unfair biases within the justice system and the comic absurdity of its rules and regulations. For example, Fondation writes in a section called "Not Grand Larceny": "'Your honor, I move to have the charges reduced to misdemeanor simple larceny…' 'On what grounds, young man? Your client stole more than $200 worth of merchandise. You're familiar with the statute…' 'Excuse me, your honor, but the items were on sale.'" (97-98). As Soap's lawyer gets her charges reduced from grand larceny to petty theft by demonstrating that the items stolen were on clearance, this section juxtaposes the gravity of a trial with the frivolousness of shopping at Neiman Marcus or Lord & Taylor. These incongruities within the courtroom become the source of humor and irony, but also suggest that the statutes which determine Soap's fate are just as arbitrary as the sale sign. Through juxtapositions like this one, the author hints that such laws don't really enforce justice or protect citizens, but instead present unnecessary obstacles to marginalized individuals.

As Fondation critiques the social structures that have made life difficult for Fish, Soap, and Bonds, rendering these aspects of society at turns ironic, ridiculous, and imposing, the shape of the narrative becomes just as diverse as the author's take on his subject matter. The novel is presented in the form of vignettes, also including recipes, encyclopedia entries, lists, and police reports. This innovative use of form enables the author to shift point of view, allowing the reader to view the same plot through the eyes of all three protagonists, in addition to giving background information in an economical, engaging manner.

Another impressive aspect of the book is its use of repetition in depicting the lives of Fish, Soap, and Bonds. Images and themes often are presented in the narrative, later resurfacing several times in different contexts, providing a more complex and nuanced view of the initial thought. The "Chaos Theory" sections that are woven throughout the story are one example of this quality in Fondation's writing. For example, the first section of this kind reads: "She is taken to a hospital where the doctors bill the federal government a lot of money for setting her broken leg. The Senate, crying deficit, cuts the housing budget so when she is released from the hospital, the shelter in which she has been living has shut down for lack of funds" (17). Emphasizing the interconnectedness of people's lives in this initial section on chaos theory, Fondation elaborates on this observation later in the book. In the second "Chaos Theory" section, the author stresses that many people, although their lives are interdependent, know little about each other and become too absorbed in their day-to-day lives to give it much thought. For example, Fondation writes about a lawyer who passes by a homeless man on his way to work: "After a month-long trial, the lawyer wins his case on behalf of an insurance company. He is sure to make full partner now. The man in the box spends his time in and out of jail. During the rains his box is ruined. It takes him nearly two weeks to get a hold of a new one" (124). Describing both the interrelatedness of people's lives and their blissful obliviousness to it, Fondation presents this abstract and philosophical subject in a concrete, tangible manner that is carefully structured and lyrical throughout.

Overall, Fish, Soap and Bonds is an enjoyable, eye-opening read. If you're looking for a book that presents serious and difficult subject matter in an appealing way, this one's for you.

The Million-Year Centipede
Eckhard Gerdes
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
9781933293356 $11.95

In Eckhard Gerdes' latest novel, the rock 'n' roll lifestyle of the sixties meets apocalyptic prophecy, setting the stage for a darkly funny, stylistically innovative work of fiction. The story begins when Wakelin, the frontman of rock band The Hinge, writes a poem, not knowing at the time just how prophetic his words will turn out to be. Anticipating the giant centipede god that comes to collect the true rock 'n' roll fans at the end of the novel, Wakelin's poem forms a striking and imaginative counterpart to the modern doomsayers and fundamentalists that have become so prominent in American culture. Built of fragments of memory, drawings, text, and songs, the novel raises more questions about hero-worship, the apocalypse, and rock music than it provides answers, forming an altogether postmodern parody of American culture.

Although the novel is written in the third person, Gerdes' ability to write in different narrative voices for different characters, which range from that of a giant centipede to a crazed fan and even an aging rocker, impresses with its stylistic range. One example of this novelist's aptitude for creating these distinctive narrative voices can be found in Chapter Eight, where Gerdes writes: "The innocent does not yet bother to unpack his one bag and its scanty contents of clothing, music, and a couple of books […] He dreams of meeting Wakelin and following him to the truth. He is fearful of failure, needing a way to work it out should his dream fall through" (41-42). Gerdes' use of declarative sentences, repetition, and abstractions like "truth" and "failure" creates a tone just as fanatical as the Hinge fan who attempts to track Wakelin down. The use of formal diction and the lack of contractions in this passage also contribute to this obsessive tone, which matches the character being described perfectly. This passage contrasts sharply with other parts of the book, such as the passages that depict Wakelin, which resemble rock lyrics in their dramatic metaphors and repetitions. For example, Gerdes writes: "He travels – alone in his ship he traverses the remaining space until he enters the void of pure darkness. All is still" (33). Metaphors like "the void of pure darkness" and "Sea of Death" set a tone similar to a sixties rock song, along with more conventionally poetic phrases like "All is still" and "the path which has beckoned him to follow." Carefully matching form and content, Gerdes' The Million Year Centipede is a stylistically diverse and well-written read.

Gerdes' use of typography also helps accomplish this stylistic range. Appearing in some of the passages that narrate the rocker's inner deliberations, the author uses typography to convey the scattered thought processes of this person. For example, Gerdes writes: "I have today/ today/ only/ today./ Quiet Alone/ (at peace)/ I awaken/ wake up/ alone alone" (11). An innovative approach to stream-of-consciousness writing, Gerdes allows the reader to experience the musician's disjointed train of thought by creating a visual field in which words and images are discontinuous and fragmented. Words and phrases often resurface in this visual field, but Gerdes still gives no definitive answers to the questions he raises, allowing the reader to form his or her own connections and conclusions.

This stylistic maneuvering compliments the subject matter of the book in unexpected ways, often adding a dark or ironic twist to the material. Gerdes writes, for example: QUESTION: WHAT IS ALL YOU NEED? WAKELIN: SANITY; LOVE. QUESTION: WHICH? WAKELIN: THEY ARE SYNONYMOUS. QUESTION: WHAT IS ALL YOU BLEED? WAKELIN: ALL I LOVE" (35). This question and answer section, which also resembles rock lyrics in both its format and the use of exact end rhyme, has darker connotations than most songs on the radio. Evoking Wakelin's own instability and the apocalyptic imagery that is prominent in the novel, this resemblance to song lyrics becomes both ironic and chilling.

The Million Year Centipede is a delightfully modern, wonderfully original read. Two thumbs up!

Kristina Marie Darling

Lockstein's Bookshelf

Over Her Head
Shelley Bates
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446694933 $12.99

Over Her Head by Shelley Bates is a fantastic read in an unusual way. Most Christian fiction books put a sympathetic character at their heart. Laurie Hale was the girl you hated in high school who was pretty and popular and homecoming queen. Then she grew up to be the woman you hate: leader in the church and community, perfect family, part of every club and function. Laurie has the perfect life with her two children: 14-year-old Anna and 10-year-old Tim. But on her morning run, Laurie comes across the body of a young girl Anna's age on a sandbar in the river. Questions race through town about the girl's mysterious death, and soon evidence comes to light that Anna may be involved. Laurie's pretenses and pride are stripped away as her friends and even family turn on her. The killer in the story is fairly obvious, but that's not what's important in this suspense tale. Laurie's quest for the truth about her daughter and all of the things she held dear is what matters here. I was very impressed by Bates' ability to make Laurie human while showing her falseness openly. Laurie doesn't understand the growing gap between her and Anna and that only causes them both to pull farther apart. Bates doesn't settle for a happy ending where all plotlines are neatly tied up, and that makes the story believable. This is a great book for suspense lovers, and it has a terrific message that even when we are lost, God is always there to help us find our way home.

Silent in the Grave
Deanna Raybourn
Harlequin Sales
P.O. Box 4104, Buffalo, NY 14240-4104
9780778324102 $21.95

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn follows the story of Julia March Grey as she tracks down the murderer of her husband in Victorian England. The first line of the novel is a cracker: To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor. Those lines set the tone for much of the novel following Julia as she breaks with convention and sets out to live up to the eccentricities her March family is known for. Brisbane, originally hired by Edward Grey to investigate some threatening notes Edward had been receiving, is employed by Julia to find the murderer. She is quickly intrigued by the enigmatic Brisbane, and anyone who enjoys these type of mysteries can figure out where the book is headed. Raybourn does a good job of taking the reader on an enjoyable ride. Perhaps I've read too many Victorian mysteries back to back, but the murderer was fairly obvious early in the book, but Julia didn't figure it out until almost too late (of course). Julia and Brisbane make for a romantic couple, but about the one intimate exchange between the two, Raybourn only parses information. Julia's eccentric family makes for humorous reading, and as the front flap makes clear, this book is just the first in a series about Julia, Brisbane and her remarkable relatives. Her parting gift from Brisbane is deeply moving, and if you look closely at the author's photo on the back flap, you can find Raybourn's inspiration there. My one complaint was the size of the book at over 500 pages. That seems a bit bloated. I believe it was Benjamin Disraeli who said, "When I want to read a book, I write one." That seems to be what Raybourn did with this book. She wrote a fun mystery with more than a hint of romance and lots of great characters.

The Savage Garden
Mark Mills
Putnam Adult
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399153532 $24.95

The Savage Garden by Mark Mills is an engrossing, enthralling read. In what other book can you find a discussion of Renaissance sculpture, the genetic ancestry of orangutans, Ovid, Dante, WWII, plus some spicy romance? Mills manages to throw all of that into this book and yet it remains a tightly written mystery. College student Adam Strickland is assigned a paper to look into the history of an unusual 16th century garden in Italy by his professor. Upon his arrival, he finds himself pulled into the intricate politics and machinations of the family as well as falling head over heels for the villa and its garden. The garden is filled with sculptures that seem to tell a story, it's up to Adam to put the pieces together and perhaps lift a family curse, because the eldest son was murdered by the Germans at the end of the war, and his death hangs heavily over the villa (including the entire third floor which has been locked since) and the small town as well. Adam is a friendly character who fills his narrative with bits of minutiae that may not move the story but are fascinating in their telling. His explanation for why he can see connections and meanings where others missed them is that he is so ordinary that perhaps he notices when things aren't as ordinary as they should be. Charming! My one complaint is that I figured out who Flora's lover was long before Adam. Mills describes the cities of Florence and Sienna with such love and detail, I wish I could book a trip right now. The denouement is a nice switch from what I thought was coming, and the last line was jaw-dropping. Does this mean that there are more Adam Strickland stories coming our way? I sincerely hope so!

The Book of Air and Shadows
Michael Gruber
William Morrow
Harper Collins
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
9780060874469 $24.95

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber is another entry in the recently popular genre of literary mysteries. Similar to The DaVinci Code, but without the religious controversy, and The Rule of Four, but without the factual existence of the document, Gruber writes a fast-paced thriller that makes fun of its own pretensions. Al Crosetti works as the resident computer guy for a NY rare bookdealer. After a fire damages some 17th century books, he and a co-worker discovered manuscripts bound into the covers alluding to every literature professor's secret dream: a lost work of Shakespeare. It sends Al and his family, plus an intellectual property attorney named Jake Mishkin and his family on a frightening journey meeting Russian mafia, Jewish mafia, Polish spies and ineffective police officers. Narration alternates between the 17th century letters, 3rd person Crosetti, and 1st person through the unreliable Jake Mishkin. Crosetti, a wannabe film student, relates to life through the lens of cinema and often makes observations about what would happen next if this were a movie. Even Jake rants about the possibility of being a fictitious character in a clever conceit of Gruber's. While a clever reader can put several of the puzzle pieces together before the characters, that's ok. It's so rare that an author actually allows a reader to have most of the pieces and give them the chance to figure things out without having a major disclosure thrown in at the end. Also, most of the characters are so busy protecting their own backs and lying to the other characters, they don't have the knowledge that the reader does. Gruber creates growing suspense even in the fragments of the old letters, and he fills the book with fascinating characters: even the minor ones deserve a book of their own. He also manages to switch the reader's sympathy (without realizing it) from Jake to Crosetti by the end of the book. I had a hard time putting this book down.

Christy Lockstein

Margaret's Bookshelf

Matt Mratinez Jr.
Bright Sky Press
340 South Second Street, Albany, TX 76430
1931721696, $29.95 1-866-933-6133

Matt G. Martinez Jr. is the grandson of the founder and owner of the first Tex-Mex restaurant that opened in Austin, Texas in 1925. he grew up working in his family's restaurant and today continues his family's culinary traditions in a restaurant chain that includes his own 'Rancho Martinez' in Dallas. In MexTex, Matt draws upon his many years of experience and expertise to compile a collection of more than 150 delicious, 'kitchen cook friendly', restaurant quality 'Tex Mex' recipes that would grace any meal time occasion from daily family dining to special celebratory occasions. Ranging from Chiles Rellenos, to Homestyle Guacamole, to Chili de Joya 'Home Style' Hot Sauce, to Avocado Soup, to Carne Asada, "MexTex" offers a true and authentic cuisine which honors the traditional methods and native ingredients used by himself and his family for more than eighty years. "MexTex" is an enthusiastically recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library ethnic and regional cookbook collections.

Where Will You Be in Two Years
Jessie Jamie Coleman
Autumn Girl Press
PO Box 1424, Chicago, IL 60690
9780976696421, $18.95

Written by Jessie Jamie Coleman, Where Will You Be in Two Years: A Two-Year Self-Discovery Journal is a consumable resource designed to help the user set goals and track his or her progress toward them. Virtually every page consists of two identical columns for a day of the year, asking the user to fill in the year number, and answers to the questions "What's good about me?" "Today was?" "I felt?" "I wish?" "I accomplished?" "Interesting events?" and "Anything else?". Through the course of the year, the user may fill in answers in the left-hand column on each page; then, at the start of the next year, the user may fill in the right-hand column and compare the progress and track record to where he or she was on that day last year. A very useful motivational and recordkeeping tool.

Pima Road
Virginia Nosky
Treble Heart Books
1284 Overlook Dr., Sierra Vista, AZ 85635-5512
9781932695434, $12.95 www.trebelheartbooks,com

Arizona native and prize-winning author Virginia Nosky presents Pima Road, a romance novel about the challenges of an interracial relationship. WASP-y Yale lawyer Sarah Livingstone and American Indian sculptor Jimmy Zah are both training to run in the New York Marathon; a chance encounter later resurfaces as a daring rescue, when Sarah nearly drowns in a fast-moving canal, and gradually the two of the build a relationship together as they train. When their feelings draw close to love, Sarah's mother becomes appalled to learn that her daughter is involved with an American Indian. Cultural differences, family pressures, and a stark divergence in traditions threaten to end the close ties between the two of them, in this turbulent story about the realities of making a relationship work - or watching it die - the face of mounting outside pressure.

All Encompassing Trip
Nicole Del Sesto
Afterbirth Books
PO Box 6068, Lynwood, WA 98036
9781933929125, $14.95

The debut novel of California author Nicole Del Sesto, All Encompassing Trip is a fantastically bizarre and whimsical story about the literal breakdown of reality. Caught amid a world of darkness in which nothing is on television but reality TV rerun, animals are talking back, and simple coffee is beyond mortal reach, stressed-out forty something woman Nikki Nasco and driven aerobics instructor and lesbian Amber Lawson must join forces with a singing Coyote in a do-rag to bring back the light. Irreverent to the point of being quixotic, All Encompassing Trip evokes the wild and crazy atmosphere of a world where normal is Missing in Action. A fun and funky read from cover to cover.

Margaret Lane

Mark's Bookshelf

Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home
Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder, Marcia Stewart
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781413306286 $24.99

Ask five home buyers or industry professionals a real estate question and you could get five different answers. But Nolo authors Bray, Schroeder and Stewart did ask the questions and compiled the common answers and themes in an excellent book whose style is comprehensive and sets a new bar for how-to residential real estate books. The authors didn't want a consensus book, but relied on experts and those experiencing the process to dig down deep to get to the truth, which includes the good, bad, and the ugly. Plus, the geography of the contributors that the authors utilized came from all corners of the country. Market specific information spews from the pages of Nolo's latest title.

Chapter titles are: What's So Great About Buying a House? Why You Can and Should Do It, What Do You Want? Figuring Out Your Home Buying Needs, Does This Mean I Have to Balance My Checkbook? Figuring Out What You Can Afford, Stepping Out: What's On The Market and at What Price, Select Your Players: Your Real Estate Team, Bring Home the Bacon: Getting a Mortgage, Mom and Dad? The Seller? Uncle Sam? Loan Alternatives, I Love It! It's Perfect! Looking for the Right House, Plan B: Fixer-Uppers, FSBOs. Foreclosures, and More, Show Them the Money: From Offer to Purchase Agreement, Toward the Finish Line: Tasks Before Closing, Send in the Big Guns: Professional Property Inspectors, Who's Got Your Back? Homeowners' Insurance and Home Warranties, Seal the Deal: Finalizing Your Homebuying Dreams, Settling Into Your New Home Additional features include acknowledgments, about the authors, an index, and a soup to nuts CD-ROM filled with forms, questionnaires, and resources for prospective home buyers.

The authors wrote a large part of this resource guide for first-time homebuyers, but with a lay person's perspective on asking the right questions, explaining the process jargon-free, handy tips, who does what in each stage, and step-by-step references to the CD-ROM. If your looking for just the facts please, Nolo who has published many legal and reference books, understands the needs and wants of today's real estate consumers in this essential guide to buying your first home.

Buzz: How to Create It and Win with It
Edward I. Koch with Christy Heady
Amacom: American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814474624 $21.95

Annette Simmons, a behavioral science consultant brings front and center something that many American business' in their quest for perfect communication to their clients omit, humanity. Bravo for Ms. Simmon's perspective on how relaying everyday stories can create immediate changes in other's attitudes and actions. Many consumers are overwhelmed with messages attempting to grab their attention, but Simmons approach with utilizing stories to stand out from the swell of information and thus control people's conclusions, which cements a better relationship.

Chapters cover: Thinking in Story, Finding Stories to Tell, Perfecting the Craft. Additional content includes; Acknowledgments, an Introduction, Index and Bibliography, a Call to Action, and About the Author. The five types of stories covered in the book are: Who-I-Am Stories, Teaching Stories, Vision Stories, Values-in-Action Stories, and I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking Stories. At the end of chapters there are handy and useful exercises in helping the reader develop their story telling skills.

I found the sub-chapter on The Gift of Brevity interesting in the lesson of how we can all talk more efficiently and tell a better story and make a deeper impact on the listener. With all the information swirling around in our everyday lives, Ms. Simmons approach to making your business message stick, is like most of the one-liners we remember, keep your story simple. Who Ever Tells the Best Story Wins is a book that should be required reading from under-graduates to corporate vice-presidents.

Mark Nash

Mayra's Bookshelf

It's Time
Judith Mammay
Illustrated by Todd Fargo
Jason & Nordic Publishers – Turtle Books
PO Box 441, Hollidaysburg PA 16648
9780944727201 $9.95

Does your child suffer from autism? Do you know what autism is? Would you like to teach to young children what this condition is without scaring them? Then I recommend you to get this book.

It's Time is the story of Tommy, a young boy who suffers from this so-often-misunderstood condition. He finds it hard to think in words and to express those words so that people may understand him. He needs to follow a strict routine, otherwise he gets incredibly frustrated and even afraid. However, by following a few simple rules, he is able to control his temper and fear of the unexpected.

Mammay addresses not only Tommy's fears and frustrations, but also those of his classmates as well. This is a helpful book to read to children so they will understand how to behave with children with special needs such as Tommy. The simple, colorful illustrations present the different scenarios effectively. At the corner of each page, enclosed in a small square, is a cute mouse demonstrating the emotion that Tommy is feeling at each particular moment.

The author is a special education teacher who has worked with children with autism. She writes with a straight-forwardness and sensitivity necessary in a story like this. It's Time is the type of book that will encourage an interesting class discussion among young primary school children.

Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers
Shel Horowitz
AWM Books
16 Barstow Lane, Hadley, MA 01035
0961466633 $24.95

If you're serious about book promotion, this work by marketing guru Shel Horowitz is one you'll want to add to your permanent reference shelf.

The book, which is divided into four main parts—Creating a Marketable Book, Publicity, Getting into-and out of-Bookstores and Libraries, and Advanced Marketing—covers the most important topics you'll need to master to market your book successfully. Horowitz begins by explaining how to prepare an effective marketing plan according to the audience of your book, using actual plans as examples to demonstrate his point and make his ideas clear to the reader. He also discusses topics such as how to build a high-traffic website and the importance of branding yourself as expert by writing articles on the subject of your book.

The author devotes a whole chapter to Google and examines its services beyond the basic "Search", as well as the use of Adwords and Adsense. Another thing I found particularly helpful in this book is that Horowitz uses specific examples of press releases to clearly demonstrate what works and what doesn't. Other chapters deal with the importance of discussion groups, building your own newsletter, doing interviews, selling to bookstores and libraries, getting into Amazon, trade shows, book fairs, direct mail advertising, foreign rights, sub rights, etc. In sum, all the topics you need to cover in order to be able to market your book inexpensively but successfully. At the end of the book there's an Appendix with a list of helpful resources.

The book is written in an engaging style and is a solid addition to other marketing books available today. I especially liked the use of specific examples in the press releases section and the fact that he devoted a whole chapter on the different uses of Google. I would have liked to see a longer list of book review sites on the resources section, and not only those publications that often ignore the small publishers and small press authors. In sum, the book is full of practical tips and advice and offers an amalgam of information you'll be able to profit from when promoting your book. Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers comes highly recommended from this reviewer.

What's on the Other Side of the Rainbow?
Carla Jo Masterson
Illustrated by Omra Jo Fochtman
Harmony Soup, Inc.
840 South Rancho Drive, #4-618, Las Vegas, Nevada 89106-3837
97811599752280 $24.95

Feelings. What are feelings?
Where do they come from?
What are they for?

These are the questions answered in this lovely picture book by author Carla Jo Masterson.

The story begins when Mr. Positively, a fantasy, dream-like being who inhabits the rainbow and who could be viewed as God, invites children to follow him through the colors of the rainbow in a journey of self discovery. Love, anger, laughter, shyness, fear, sadness, friendship, joy—these emotions are examined as the children move from one color of the rainbow to another.

The author uses repetition techniques for rhythm and cadence and a combination of rhyme and free verse. The surrealist illustrations in soft pastels create a nice splash across the pages and complement well the serene, almost spiritual tone of the story. This is an unusual book that invites young readers to self retrospection.

What's on the other side of the rainbow? The reader will have to buy the book to find out! Suffice to say it's a magic rule that everybody should know and every child should understand from a young age. A book that isn't only a fun story, but one that leads to parent-child bonding and spiritual growth, What's on the Other Side of the Rainbow? comes highly recommended from this reviewer.

Why is Crater Lake So Blue?
Michael LaLumiere
Stagger Lee Books
P.O. Box 442 7558 W. Thunderbird, Suite 1, Peoria, AZ 85381
9780979100628 $24.95

When Sam Hunter lands a summer job in 1975 as a seasonal maintenance worker at Crater Lake National Park in order to make some money for next year's college tuition, little did he imagine the unusual events which would take place there, events that ultimately would defy his moral beliefs and put to test his honor and integrity.

Though his superiors at the park aren't exactly friendly, and often do their best to remind him of his place, Sam makes a few friends among the other seasonal workers, especially with Sally, also a young student looking for a chance to make a little money during the summer holidays.
The setting is idyllic, the view breathtaking, the air couldn't be purer… that is, until people start getting sick. The park supervisors insist it's just a passing flu. Only the situation gets worse, with victims soon growing in the hundreds. Is it something in the water? The food? The air? While keeping the role of passive observant, Sam decides to get some answers.

What is going on at Crater Lake National Park? Why do the authorities act as if nothing is happening? Is it a cover-up?

The novel, which is actually based on real facts, brings moral dilemmas to the surface and shows how far people in high places will go, at the expense of innocent victims, to keep those positions. It is about greed and the abuse of power. Are moral issues black and white, or in different shades of grey? What about honor and integrity?

I found this novel interesting and enjoyable. The author has a way with words and the prose flows well. The protagonist—naive, insecure, yet intelligent, sensitive and ultimately brave—is highly sympathetic and possesses a wry sense of humor, as shown in this short passage, where a friend of Sam's suggests that freshly-killed deer makes some tasty food:

"…Yeah, run over a deer and we got a party."

"You're going to hell, Andrew."

"Oh, you're not one of those bleeding hearts, are you? I know you ain't no vegetarian."

Yes. That was the problem. I hated seeing the animals hurt or killed, but I liked my steaks medium rare. I might as well just shut up about that kind of stuff in this crowd. At least the animals could take some solace in the fact that people didn't treat people any better than they did animals. Except for the eating part.

My only problem with this book is that, while it may work well as a true-life account, as a novel its plot seems a little unbalanced. The first half of the book deals with the illness and cover-up, and this main conflict reaches a resolution midway through the novel. In this sense, this resolution is anticlimactic and takes impact away from the ending. The writing itself is good and the book as a whole is enjoyable, but the second half, which deals with another scandalous event related to Sam's friend Sally and one of the park's superiors, didn't grab me as much as the first one did. In sum, this isn't your usual run-of-the-mill novel and, taken as a true story, is one most readers will enjoy.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

Already Asleep
A. D. Tarbox, Illustrated by Julie Olson
Line/Publisher Moo Press Keene Publishing
PO Box 54, Warwick NY 10990
0976680564 $12.95

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dialogue of Civilizations
B. Jill Carroll
The Light, Inc.
26 World Fair DR Unit C Somerset NJ 08873
9781597841108 $13.95

Thought Provoking Read … Recommended … 4 stars

Writer Carroll states in the introduction that prior to a trip she made late in 2004 she was unaware that the organizers of the Institute for Interfaith Dialog based in Houston, Texas as well as the organizers of the trip itself were members of a community of people inspired by the notions of Fethullh Gulen, a Turkish Islamic scholar. Reading further we find Carroll's intent in this book is to 'place the ideas of Fethullh Gulen into the context of the larger humanities. Chapter titles are 1: Gulen and Kant on Inherent Human Value and Moral Dignity, 2: Gulen and Mill on Freedom, 3: Gulen, Confucius, and Plato on the Human Ideal, 4: Gulen, Confucius, and Plato on Education, 5: Gulen and Sartre on Responsibility. Kant's belief was that humans have inherent value, Gulen spoke of the transcendent value of human beings. Mills' assertions that the tyranny of the majority must be met head long was presented from his viewpoint of the nineteenth century Briton. Gulen avows that 'freedom allows people to do whatever they want, provided they do not harm others and they remain wholly devoted to the truth.' An intriguing 'trialogue' regarding the human ideal is constructed by Writer Carroll between Gulen, Confucius and Plato in chapter 3. Chapter 4 addresses the mastery of the Book of Songs - music and poetry as vital to self development, leadership and service of family and leadership.

A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen's Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse presents the query 'what is the level of resonance between Islam and the West?' That the twenty-first century has become an episode of heretofore unnoticed quandary is obvious. Up until 9-1-1 few worldwide really gave much thought to anything other than their own viewpoint. Writer Carroll finds significance can be gleaned an awareness of the theoretically divergent views of Gulen, Turkish Muslim scholar and those of Immanuel Kant, Confucius, Plato, John Stuart Mill, and Jean Paul Sartre regarding critical hypothesis including intrinsic ethical pride, creature significance, learning, autonomy, and accountability. The reader may be surprised to find out these figures who are separated by centuries in time, as well as oceans or continents have a propensity toward speaking the same language.

Writer Carroll's attentive writing style has produced a judicious and timely work, she is knowledgeable, presents her thesis in readable manner and holds reader interest. Not for everyone, if you are looking for a lighthearted, 'story' book for a quick afternoon read A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen's Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse is not that book. If you would like to learn a little more about Gulen and his notions of education and dialog then A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen's Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse will prove an eye-opening read.

Educational read, happy to recommend for those who are hoping to learn something of an interesting thesis. For review I received a soft cover edition from a publicist.

Molly Martin

Richard's Bookshelf

The Pledge: One Nation Under God
William J. Murray
Living Ink Books
6815 Shallowford Rd. Chattanooga, TN 37421
0899570356, $14.99

A Stand for Religious Freedom

William J. Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition in Washington, DC, in his new book "The Pledge," maintains that anti Christian forces are attempting to change the "Pledge of Allegiance" in an effort to replace faith in God with atheistic, secularist teaching. Murray warns the reader of the peril we face in America. We are in danger of losing our religious freedom.

Murray, author of "My Life Without God" and son of atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, has defended his position on ABC, CBS, FOX, MSNBC, and NBC news programs, and regularly appears on numerous radio talk shows.

In his new book "The Pledge" Murray introduces the Biblical concepts on the family, education in America, and the churches relationship to government. traces the history of the early-American settlers and their reliance on God in every phase of their lives. He outlines the progression of secularism in our society and alleges that war is being waged against religious freedom, as well as American freedom itself.

Historical background of the pledge and of the history of the words "in God we trust" on our United States coinage was particularly enlightening.. Recent court decision in favor of atheist Michael Newdow is another instance of the powerful influence of secularists in their effort to destroy religious liberty.

Murray offers suggestions for how the reader can fight back against these forces to old on to our religious liberty. Murray's premise is clearly stated and his analysis well articulated. "The Pledge" is a timely book. It is relevant, and important to every American. "The Pledge" should be required reading for high school social studies curriculum, in public schools, Christian schools, and in home schools across America.

ReFired Not Retired
Phyllis May
Wingspan Press
1800 Atlantic Blvd., Key West, FL 33040
0975899716 $14.95

Delightfully Entertaining, Hilarious, Helpful

Phyllis May in "ReFired Not Retired" proposes an attitude that will re-ignite your zest for life.

Phyllis includes some thought provoking questions and suggested exercises. I found that by writing out answers to these stimulating questions or making the suggested lists was personally very gratifying. This helped me take the action steps necessary to carry out my plans for a "ReFired Life."

In these short, fast moving chapters Phyllis shares from her own life experiences and from the lives of others who have success stories that inspire and motivate while illustrating how to find meaning and purpose for the rest of your life, by taking risks, and embracing change. Phyllis encourages the reader to face the reality and the promise of planning Life, Part II.

The abundance of cartoon illustrations included is priceless. These cartoons triggered deep hearty laughs. While reading the section titled "Save the last laugh for Me," I laughed until my eyes watered and I could no longer read the next hilarious quip, quote, or joke.

I highly recommend that anyone, midlife to senior, put this book on their "must read" list. Keep it handy to re-visit often. I find it hard to adequately describe the enjoyment I received from Phyllis May's "Re-Fired not Retired."

Energy Zappers: Dealing with People who Drain you Dry
Shaun Blakeney and Wallace Henley
Baker Books
P O Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780801068010, $14.99

How to Make the Most of Those Energy Draining Relationships

"Energy Zappers" is a helpful guide for leading a group, mentoring, or counseling. It is a "how to book" showing the reader what to do in dealing with those individuals who drain your group's efforts or deplete your personal energy level.

Shaun and Wallace write from their own life and ministry experiences. The book is a fast moving study on dealing with those energy draining individuals zapping your energy. Among them are "Angerers" "Foot Draggers," "Freeloaders, "Quitters" and "Wounders." .

The authors use contemporary stories and share illustrations from the life of Jesus that describe these same "Cynics," "Distracters," "Doubters," and "Whiners." They also include lessons learned from Paul, Daniel and other Biblical examples which are as applicable today as in Biblical times.

Blakeney and Henley are excellent communicators. They write with humor, emotion, and insight as they adapt the principles Jesus used to influence people. It is their goal to help the reader recognize "energy drainers," and to provide practical recommendations for turning these negative relationships into vital, dynamic, positive character building experiences.

"Energy Zappers" is easy to read, hard to put down, a ready reference for future study. Entertaining, informing, practical help.

Culture Proof Kids
Jeannie St. John Taylor
Living Ink Books
6815 Shallowford Rd., Chattanooga, TN 37421
9780899571164 $14.99

Pointers for Building Christian Character in Kids in Today's Culture

"Culture-proof Kids" by Jeannie St. John Taylor provides parents with practical pointers are for building character into their children. This blueprint for parenting is arranged in logical steps for easy assimilation and application.

Formatted in short topical subjects classified under headings related to following an architect's plans for building a house, St. John begins by emphasizing the need for a solid foundation. Each chapter includes Scripture verses related to the theme of building "Culture-proof Kids." A brief incident from the author's experience, a story from a family members life, or an application illustrating the developed is included the section called "What Parents Can Do."

These valuable "how to" suggestions for parents are Biblically based, time tested, principles, rich in positive affirmations. The chapters end with a reflective "Prayer for Myself", asking for wisdom, strength, and guidance, and an intercessory "Prayer for My Children."

Jeannie St. John Taylor is a gifted communicator. Her writing is articulate and demonstrates a genuine concern for problems faced by Christian parents in today's culture.

Richard R. Blake

Sharame's Bookshelf

The Great Good Thing
Roderick Townley
Aladdin Paperbacks / Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0689853289 $4.99

Roderick Townley has ventured into a world where P.L. Travers and Jasper Fforde have gone before, however he puts his own spin on the idea of "real" people and literary figures crossing paths, therefore making the idea new. The Great Good Thing and heroine Princess Sylvie make for a youthful yet sophisticated romp through the fairytale/storybook genre. Princess Sylvie is a character that you can love and identify with at once. She wants something more for herself and at the same time she wants the best for the family and friends she was written with. She dares to be different from most book characters when she decides to forge a possible relationship with the Reader Claire. Then one day Claire's brother damages the book and Sylvie along with her family and friends have to find a new place to live. So, since Sylvie has already been in Claire's dreams and thoughts she decides to live in Claire's memories.

Far Flung Adventures of Fergus Crane
Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
David Fickling Books
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
0385750889 (tp) 0385750897 (library binding) $14.95

Authors Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell have created an enchanting character, Fergus Crane, with an endearing story that a reader just wants to visit again and again. As soon as I had finished the book I wanted to go back an read it over again, yet at the same time I was hungry for a new adventure starring Fergus and company. The story is well paced and the language is vibrant. Many people talk about books that you can't put down once you pick them up, and this certainly fell into that category for me. Far-Flung Adventures of Fergus Crane is a wonderful new children's book with fabulous illustrations included to enhance the story. Fergus is a nine-year-old boy who attends the School ship Betty-Jeane during the day and in the afternoon he helps his mother at Beiderbecker's Bakery. His mother, Lucia, picks up extra work from the Fateful Voyage Trading Company to make ends meet. Fergus gets mysterious midnight messages via winged box. Eventually one of the messages takes Fergus on a journey in which he finds out just who the Fateful Voyage Trading Company is, and many other questions that he has are answered as well.

You Suck: A Love Story
Christopher Moore
William Morrow an imprint of Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street New York, NY 10022
9780060590291 $21.95

Christopher Moore uses the old Greek and Roman tradition of beginning the story "in medias res" or in the middle of things. Moore's character's Thomas C. Flood and Jody Stroud portray the life of newly turned vampires with sarcasm and irony, and sometimes they act like the naive young vampires that they are. Thomas "Tommy" Flood, a 19-yr-old from Indiana, moved to California to write, instead he found himself working as Jody's minion during the day and stocking groceries at night. Somewhere along the way Jody gets tired of keeping company with the vampire who made her, so she decides to turn Tommy into a full-fledged newbie vamp. Both Tommy and Jody forget what they did with Jody's sire. Moore tells the story of a vampire's life from a different perspective than Ann Rice or Laurell K. Hamilton. He makes it easier to see vampires as something that could possibly be real, instead of something that is fictional and horrifying.

Flood and Jody soon realize that with Tommy a vampire himself, they will need another minion, so they both go out to find someone. Flood is the only one of the pair that comes back with a volunteer, she calls herself Abby Normal, but her day slave name is Allison Green. Now the two vampires and Abby must tie up a few loose ends before they can have their happily ever after.

Knock Off An F.A.T. Mystery
Rhonda Pollero
Kensington Books
850 Third Avenue New York, NY 10022
9780758215574 $19.95

Rhonda Pollero's style is Janet Evanovich meets Lauren Weisberger with a lot of discount haute couture thrown in. Pollero's character Finley Anderson Tanner is a paralegal whom no one really took seriously before because of her shopping habits... and possibly her addiction to discounts. Finley gets what she thinks will be an easy estate case from her boss Victor Dane. It quickly turns into a murder investigation that involves a case Dane has previously tried. Along the way Finley questions her current romance when she meets the P.I. assigned to work with her, Liam McGarrity. The romantic aspect of the book is laced lightly through the whole story which is just the right touch. You can visualize the clothes from the intricate descriptions included throughout the story. The outfits and accessories are so realistically depicted and help to create a fuller image of Finley. The suspense and mystery aspect of the book are consistently gaining momentum, they never atrophy. Once you get to the end of the mystery I think you will be as shocked as I was to find out who actually did it and the reasons why they did it.

Far Flung Adventures of Fergus Crane
Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
David Fickling Books
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
0385750889 $14.95 1-800-726-0600

Authors Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell have created an enchanting character with an endearing story that a reader just want to visit again and again. As soon as I had finished the book I wanted to go back and read it over again, yet at the same time I was hungry for a new adventure starring Fergus Crane and Company. The story is well paced and vibrant. Also this is one of those books that you can't put down until you have finished reading every last page. Fergus Crane is a wonderful new children's book with fabulous illustrations included to enhance the story. Fergus is a nine-year-old boy who attends the School Ship Betty Jeane during the day and in the afternoon he helps his mother at Beiderbecker's Bakery. His mother, in the meanwhile, picks up extra work from The Fateful Voyage Trading Company to make ends meet. Fergus gets mysterious midnight messages via winged box. Eventually one of the messages takes Fergus on a voyage in which he finds out who really owns The Fateful Voyage Trading Company, however for every question this journey answers more beg to be asked.

Sharame Vodraska

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
James Patterson
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316155601 $16.99

The final installment of James Patterson's young adult trilogy, Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, is as fast paced, humorous, and thrilling as its predecessors, The Angel Experiment and School's Out Forever. Though it is marketed as a young adult novel, adult fans of Patterson's Alex Cross or Women's Murder Club series would find it entertaining and engaging as well.

Patterson's Maximum Ride series is based on the sci-fi premise of recombinant human-avian DNA splicing resulting in six children who have feathered wings and can fly. They are, of course, the result of an scientific experiment of a corrupt megalomaniacal group who plan on reducing the world's population by half, leaving only perfect, healthy human beings who they would have power over. While some of the scientists are two dimensionally evil with no redeeming qualities, the character of Jeb, the sometimes-good, sometimes-bad scientist is fully realized in this final story.

Max, the 14-year old self-appointed leader of the bird kids, and her compatriot, Fang, have a falling out and the flock separates, even though both Fang and Max want to save the world from its impending doom. Max takes the physical route and attempts to defeat the scientists with brute strength and caustic wit while Fang rallies the support of children all over the world through his blog. There are several twists and turns along the way. Some are predictable (readers finally discover who Max's parents are), and others will throw readers for a loop.

Patterson deftly captures the cynicism and self-deprecating humor with which intelligent teenagers communicate. Max sometimes speaks directly to the reader, acknowledging she is in a book. Sometimes the reader is privy to her innermost thoughts of inadequacies, usually covered by the response of a bored, "Whatever" and a condescending roll of her eyes. Patterson easily blends the dichotomy of child with emerging adult to create a very realistic, very fun protagonist. Who wouldn't want to be best friends with Maximum Ride?

The character of Max was inspired from his adult books When the Wind Blows and Lake House. Little, Brown and Company have heavily marketed the Maximum Ride series to schools and claims it is "the fastest growing adventure series in America." Patterson's ability to churn out novels should make even Stephen King proud. His 6th Women's Murder Club book was released just two weeks prior to this third Maximum Ride book. He has two more novels due out in the next few months, The Quickie (co-written with Michael Ledwidge) is a thriller with a female protagonist due out July 2, and You've Been Warned (think The Nanny Diaries as a thriller) is due out September 10.

While there are a few metaphors, a good theme, a few allusions (including one of The Wizard of Oz), and much witty repartee, I'm not sure the series is useful for studies in schools. It would be, however, a wonderful way to entice reluctant young adult readers to engage in active reading.

The Harlequin
Laurell K. Hamilton
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781425217245 $25.95

Laurell K. Hamilton has finally gotten back to the kind of writing that made the first few Anita Blake books kick some paranormal derriere in her latest Blake adventure, The Harlequin. Perhaps the catalyst for the change was the uprising of her fans complaining that her past few Blake books had degenerated into SMBD pornography with sloppy, page long descriptions of clothes and very little focus on plot or character. Hamilton then lashed back at fans through blogs, but whatever the reason for the change, Hamilton fans everywhere will breath a sigh of relief when they read this fast-paced, can't put-it-down supernatural thriller.

While out on an anniversary celebration with Nathanial, Anita is given a box containing a white mask. Jean-Paul tells her she has been contacted by the Harlequin, the equivalent of the vampire secret police, associated with no particular bloodline, and so completely neutral. The white mask is a message that they are watching Anita, but she will not come to harm. The Harlequin will not break their own vows and hurt Anita without giving her a red or black mask. However, Anita and her troop of otherworldly men are soon under attack and realize that they are dealing with a rogue group of Harlequin. Anita calls in reinforcements by contacting Edward (from Obsidian Butterfly). He brings with him the dreaded Olaf and young Peter. Though Anita is repulsed by whom Edward has chosen to bring, she can't afford to reject their help, as she is still dealing with how to control both the were-animals she is holding inside herself and the ardeur, the lust power that comes from Belle Morte's bloodline.

Unlike the previous five Blake adventures, each of the characters in The Harlequin have very clear wants and desires that develop them individually. Nathanial desires to assert his newly emerging dominance. Richard desires to be free of his ambiguity and self-hatred. Anita desires to gain control over her passions. Even the minor characters develop with clear focus: Peter wants to grow up, Malcolm wants his flock to be free, Joseph wants to avoid conflict, and Haven wants to rule the were-lions of St. Louis. The ardeur becomes a personified character in the book and also grows and develops from a narrow view of lust to a more broad definition of love including friendship and altruistic love.

In this novel, Hamilton includes characters from earlier books in the series, such as Donovan, the swan king, Marmee Noir, the queen of darkness, Belle Morte, the creator of Jean-Luc's bloodline, Edward, the human vampire hunter, his girlfriend's son, Peter, Olaf, the human serial killer, Sampson, son of the only mermaid in the world, Zerbrowski and Storr, the human cops from the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team, and others. Her inclusiveness doesn't exclude readers who are new to the series, as the novel can be read and easily understood on its own.

Hamilton creates continuity in the story line with reasons behind why each character makes the choice he does. Like many of her other novels, the action in The Harlequin takes place over the course of one day. The plot revolves closely around the mysterious Harlequin, and what each character discovers about his or herself based on their reaction to the Harlequin are like spokes radiating from the center of a wheel to help move the series story line along.

The best element of Hamilton's latest novel is the strength of the themes of personal character, commitment, eliminating energy vampires, and the importance of squashing self-doubt in order to reach your full potential. Her dedication hints to the theme and gives a nod to the embattled fan site wars who have criticized Hamilton's work in recent years when she says, "To Jonathon . . . . (for) helping me understand that just because someone else thinks you're a monster doesn't mean you are. Even if that person says they love you. Here's to finding love that builds you up, instead of breaking you down." Hamilton was incensed by her fans insistence that the quality of her writing had declined, yet they continued to purchase her books. Toward the conclusion of the novel, Malcolm and Richard echo what Hamilton intimated to her fans in her blog when Malcolm tells Richard, "Do not let your fears and doubts destroy us all. . . . I begin to believe the ardeur is a jewel with many facets, but it needs light to shine, Ulfric." Richard replies, "To reap the benefits, I have to take the bad with the good." Hamilton was telling her fans to hang in there, she had a vision of where the series was going even if it wasn't clear to the fans at that time. For many who have stuck with Hamilton throughout the rocky years, The Harlequin will come as a much needed last-minute save.

Undead and Uneasy
MaryJanice Davidson
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425213766 $23.95

The latest installment of the MaryJanice Davidson's Betsy the Vampire Queen series is a little darker than the previous five. Undead and Uneasy marries the Betsy series with the Wyndham Werewolf series bringing both groups of characters together in a mirthful clashing of vampire and werewolf culture.

Betsy is preparing for her imminent wedding to Eric Sinclair, Vampire King, even though the Book of the Dead proclaims them to already be married under vampire law. Without warning, her friends and family begin to disappear; some die, some leave of their own volition, some are kidnapped, and some are kept away by coincidence, but it leaves Betsy alone with Derik and Michael of the Wyndham werewolves to discover what has happened to everyone she loves.

Betsy Taylor's usual smart mouth is tempered a bit by the worry she has over Jessica who is on death's door due to cancer. She is also forced to visit Jon Delk, the hunky teenage vampire killer who has a crush on her, which she handles with aplomb. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she finds herself in custody of BabyJon and is forced to let go of some of her selfishness in order to care for him. Even though Queen Betsy seems to mature a bit in this novel, Davidson splashes much pop culture into the plot and Betsy still talks, and thinks, like a shallow valley girl from California rather than Queen of the Vampires but without as many snappy, sarcastic musings as usual. Even as Davidson tries to grow the series, she is strangling it from refusing to let the plot and characters expand.

The plot seems somewhat recycled with Betsy concentrating on holding onto her humanity, but for no good reasons except that she is stubborn. While the series began as a lighter, humorous, romantic paranormal novels rather than the serious and more violent writings of authors such as Kim Harrison, Lilith Saintcrow, or Laurell K. Hamilton, Davidson's soda pop seems to have lost its fizz. It looks as if this may be her last vampire novel to see the light of day.

Terrilyn Fleming

Theodore's Bookshelf

Screaming Room
Thomas O'Callaghan
Pinnacle Books
850 Third Ave., NY, NY 10022
9780786018123 $6.99

This police procedural features NYPD Lt. John Driscoll, who has just buried his wife who had lain comatose for six years following an accident caused by a drunken driver. He not only is mourning, but deeply depressed. His top two assistants also carry their own baggage--one a recovering alcoholic, the other having suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her cop father as an adolescent girl.

Counterpoint to the two is a set of brother–sister identical twins [identical in every way except for their gender], an event so rare it occurs only once every 17 years. The pair was prostituted from an early age by their father, who also disfigured them.

The twins embark on a series of murders, each with a similar MO. The victim is bashed in the head and left posed in a prominent tourist location in New York City. Driscoll is assigned to solve the serial killings and the novel proceeds to follow the investigation—seeking commonalities for the victims, identification of the perpetrators and other elements.

The story is quite unusual and is gripping and exciting. The author is at work on another Driscoll mystery scheduled for next year.

Gates of Hades
Gregg Loomis
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843959842 $7.99 800-481-9191

The "good" guy is a Russian eco-fanatic who leads a gang of thugs against the forces that "harm' the earth. The "bad" guy is a mercenary employed by a company used by the CIA to perform extralegal acts for which the government can claim deniability. The only problem is that the eco-friendly group resorts to all kinds of evil to achieve their aims. Jason Peters' assignment is to stop them from assassinating the President of the United States, while performing all sorts of murder and mayhem.

It seems that a cave in Italy, known as the Gate to Hell, contains a plant that produces an odorless hallucinatory gas that puts people to sleep enabling the assassins to slice the throats of their victims using a naturally produced product to justify their actions. They call it the "Breath of the Earth." Jason chases after the source, pursued by the police for his own violence, as well as by the Russian and his cohorts, without success until he discovers an early Roman diary describing someone's effort to visit Hades. After checking a series of caves, Jason finds the right one.

Any further plot details would constitute a spoiler: Will the protagonist save the world from the eco-fanatics? Will he find a "replacement" for his deceased wife, who died in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon? Will he be able to avenge his wife's death [the motivation for his violent career]? Gates of Hades is a suspense-filled novel which, of course, resolves all these issues.

The Sleeping Doll
Jeffery Deaver
Simon and Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9780743260947 $29.95 800-223-2336

Kathryn Dance was originally introduced by Jeffrey Deaver in a secondary role as an interviewer and kinesic [body language] expert talent, which play a large role in this novel. However, now she is the primary player, leading a manhunt for a Charles Manson-like character. Following her interview with Daniel Pell, he escapes from prison and she is assigned the lead in the attempt to recapture him.

Having no experience in such an investigation doesn't stop Dance from plowing full speed ahead, making decisions, issuing orders, directing the effort. Pell embarks on a series of murders, seeking to eliminate clues to his past and plans for the future. Dance seeks information of his past from a variety of people and sources, including members of Pell's former "family," as well as the only survivor of a family he murdered 14 years before, then a three-year-old—now 17—who supposedly was asleep at the time of the crime. Each person or source consulted contributes a clue, if only Dance can understand it, either intuitively or consciously.

This is a fascinating novel, full of surprises, especially as it approaches a conclusion. The novel is up to the standard of a Jeffrey Deaver effort and is rewarding reading. Highly recommended.

Up In Honey's Room
Elmore Leonard
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060724245 $25.95 800-242-7737

Elmore Leonard has written at least 40 novels. Honey is among the best—if not the best just because it departs from the customary. It is different from his past work in the sense that it is set in the last days of WW II and the characters include a supposed Nazi spy ring and two escaped German POWs. What is familiar is that it takes place in Detroit and U.S. Marshal Carl Webster returns, seeking to recapture the escaped prisoners.

A review can't capture the delightful story of Honey and do it justice. Just read the novel and enjoy the inventiveness, humor and writing of Elmore Leonard.

The Dark End of Town
Julia Pomeroy
Carroll and Graf
245 W. 17th St., NY, NY 10011
9780786719242 $14.95 800-788-3123

Introducing Abigail (Abby) Silvernale, a 30-year-old widow and waitress in a fictitious Hudson River Valley town with no greater ambition than to wait on tables in an upscale restaurant. However, she is nosy, with a penchant for getting into all kinds of trouble and danger in this murder-mystery.

The plot starts off with Abby being asked by her friend and boss to find out who is "borrowing" her minivan overnight. This is the first step in leading Abby to become involved in trying to discover the solution to two murders, theft of valuable furniture from several homes and other possible related complications.

This reader didn't find the protagonist a fully sympathetic character. The press release accompanying the ARC compares Abby to Kinsey Millhone—if only it were so. On the other hand, the character does have potential, and might develop into an interesting series involving small town, unsophisticated life. We'll wait and see.

Ken Bruen
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312341404 $23.95

This is a very Irish novel, and its protagonist is a very Irish character. The theme, of course, is typical: Irish guilt. Jack Taylor, disgraced Guard, is in a mental hospital as a result of trauma after he neglected to carefully watch a three-year-old as she climbed out of a window to her death, not to mention alcoholism, which caused his dismissal from the Guards. The other major theme is sexual abuse of boys by the Catholic clergy.

Jack's talents are put to use in several ways, against the backdrop of the changing economic, political and social conditions taking place in Ireland. The first challenge is the identification and elimination as a threat of a stalker of his "friend" Ridge, a gay Guard. Then there is a matter of finding a murderer who has beheaded a priest.

The tightly written novel deeply explores Jack's psyche in as few words as possible, while delving into the questions of personal relationships and social change. A fascinating read.

James Boice
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9780743292993 $15.00 800-223-2336

This debut novel is unusual, insightful and professionally written far beyond the expectations of a first effort. It is the story of the life and development of Gilbert Marcus, superstar basketball player, whose father started training him at the age of three by disciplining him, making him stand outside in the snow without shoes with his hands against the wall for hours.

As he grows up with strict and unusual diets, enemas, hours of running, shooting baskets and training, Marcus' skills develop. Star high school player, he turns pro upon graduation. All his life he is honed only to become the greatest player. He knows nothing else. Highly paid, he turns to sexual excesses, ultimately resulting in a rape and manslaughter trial.

The author has accomplished a novel of intense psychological depth. Gilbert is not a lovable character, but certainly an interesting one. It will be interesting to see if the author can follow up with another novel of equal caliber. Highly recommended.

Bangkok Haunts
John Burdett
Alfred A. Knopf
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
978307263186 $24.95 800-726-0600

Bangkok Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep returns in this eerie tale, the third volume in John Burdett's series, replete with the culture and superstitions of Thai society. It could even be viewed as a ghost story with a mystery setting. It begins when he receives a CD of a snuff film. The victim is a former lover, with whom the irrepressible detective is still in love.

Haunted by what he viewed on the video, Sonchai pursues the case, defying his corrupt superior and the powerful men behind the pornography trade. In his quest, we are witness to the inner workings of the Thai sex and drug trades, the lives and poverty of the people, Buddhism and spirituality, and the lawless border between Thailand and Cambodia. Ghosts, if you believe in them, play an important role in the book, as they do in the local culture.

The intriguing story functions on multiple levels, and is a more than worthy successor to its two predecessors. Highly recommended.

Lean Mean Thirteen
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010, 646-307-5151
9780312349493 $27.95

There have been 12 preceding Stephanie Plum novels in this series, and this one follows the familiar progression of the bumbling bounty hunter getting into all kinds of trouble, being rescued by Ranger or boyfriend Morelli. This time, she is involved with her ex-husband, lawyer Dickie Orr. After she attacks him in his office, he disappears and she is suspected of his presumed murder.

Orr is a partner in a law firm with three unsavory characters. Two of them disappear, one definitely dead, the other presumed dead. Meanwhile, Dickie had liquidated $40 million of partnership funds, and the fourth partner is hot after the loot, as is Dickie's girlfriend. So to the customary chase, with all the attendant perils for Stephanie.

This novel follows the customary path of Stephanie's love life, banter with Ranger, Morreli, Grandma et al. And in the end, the author ties all together in a neat package, as usual. Highly recommended.

Sraits of Fortune
Anthony Gagliano
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060878092 $23.95 800-242-7737

This debut novel is an unusual story about Jack Vaughn, an ex-New York City Cop who quit after shooting and killing another officer, and has been running from the memory ever since. He lands in Miami and becomes a personal trainer, to the rich and famous, among others. One of his clients telephones him to come to his home where he is offered an unusual task.

At first, Vaughn turns down the job, to sink a boat with a dead man on it. The victim, the client tells him, was shot by his daughter, Jack's former lover. The client offers $100,000. Against his better judgment, Jack later agrees. When he gets to the yacht, Jack finds a second body and starts thinking his former girlfriend didn't do the shooting, but perhaps the client's aide did.

After sinking the boat, Jack finds himself trapped by a speedboat, with someone firing shots at him as he paddles his kayak away. It turns out the aide is doing the shooting, and the question is why the client now apparently wants Jack dead. The rest of the tale is a series of adventures with Jack trying to stay alive and find out the truth. It is well-told and a fine effort.

Matt Richtel
12 Books
c/o Hachette Book Group USA,
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780446580083 $24.99 800-222-6747

This novel is written with an intensity and plotting that is unexpected in a debut. It is the story of Nathanial Idle, a graduate of medical school, with an MD degree, who decides to forgo residency to become a medical journalist. It begins with a bang—literally. Matt is sitting reading in an internet café when he is handed a note warning him to leave immediately because there is danger.

Matt only catches a glimpse of the blonde who handed him the note, but he thinks she looks like a girlfriend who drowned some years before. He runs out of the café and narrowly escapes death when there is an explosion. From that point there are flashes of the past love affair with his girlfriend, a venture capitalist in the technology sector, and strange goings-on, including more explosions, fires and deaths.

The mixture of medical and technological factors heightens the mystery. The writing is fluid, the story intriguing. A very good read.

Spare Change
Robert S. Parker
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 212-366-2000/800-847-5515
9780339154256 $24.95

First there was Spenser. Then Jesse Stone. And Sunny Randall. This novel is Sunny all the way, with support from her father, Phil, and cameo appearances by Spenser's girlfriend, Dr. Susan Silverman, Sunny's ex-husband Richie, and the usual cast of cops. There are two mysteries threading their way through the Book: a serial killer dubbed The Spare Change Killer, and the question of whether Sunny and Richie can get together again despite her psychological problems of living with anyone.

After interviewing various potential suspects, Sunny centers on one. But he plays with her, and she follows her intuition. She begins meeting with her quarry, but gets little or nothing for the effort. Then three murders take place, each victim resembling Sunny. Her father (and everyone else) begs her to leave the investigation but, of course, she continues, eventually preparing a trap to catch the killer.

As an amusing aside, Richie moves out of his home, leaving his wife, when both he and Sunny agree that they still love each other. But the outcome is to be determined. As Dr. Silverman says, there is still plenty of time (and maybe more books). Pure Parker, and highly recommended.

Stalin's Ghost
Martin Cruz Smith
Simon and Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780743276726 $26.95 800-223-2336

Arkady Renko, senior Moscow investigator, who first made an appearance in Gorky Park, is confronted by a multitude of sub-plots in this novel. First, there is a flash of Stalin's supposed ghost seen in a Moscow subway station that served as his war room during World War II. Then, Renko observes two detectives, reputed war heroes while they served in Chechnya, who he suspects of murders. Moreover, Renko discovers evidence belying their Chechnya heroism. Renko's girlfriend leaves him for one of the detectives, who is campaigning for a Senate seat from a town a couple of hundred miles from Moscow. And finally, there is the problem of his sometime ward, a young chess prodigy, who comes and goes like the enigma he is.

Complicated? After all, this is a Russian novel. It is full of present-day corruption, mafia-run casinos—and snow. And, of course, the past, especially Arkady's father, the WWII general, one of Stalin's favorites. It all comes to an overwhelming conclusion at Tver, the site of a last-ditch stand by the Russians against the invading Nazis. An exciting read, and recommended.

Earthly Delights: A Corinna Chapman Mystery
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590583937 $24.95 800-421-3976

The author of the delightful and popular Phryne Fisher mysteries embarked on this new series, featuring a zaftig baker, which now makes its appearance in the United States. Needless to say, it is equally up to the level of the other series.

Once a high profile accountant involved in investment banking, married to another banker, Corinna chucked both career and hubby to open her own bakery, Earthly Delights, rising at 4 am five days a week to bake bread and pastries—and loving it. Her bakery and apartment are located in a building modeled on the Roman, populated by an eccentric cast of characters.

Then one day, a series of strange happenings occur: a junkie lies half dead on her doorstep; other junkies begin dying from overdoses of apparently pure heroin; she meets a handsome man who served in the Israeli army who tells her she is beautiful; and she and others in the building begin receiving threatening letters labeling them scarlet women.

Life becomes interesting, and there are mysteries to be solved. The story progresses as the yeast rises. A tale well told.

Volk's Game
Brent Ghelfi
Henry Holt and Company
115 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011, 212-886-9200
9780805082548 $23.00

The corruption, gangsterism and violence that permeate today's Russia run through this debut novel. It introduces Alexei Volkovoy, a colonel who served and lost a foot in Chechnya and is a multi-talented assassin and instrument of assorted tasks for a midget general under whom he serves. Also, for a living, he trades in pornography, narcotics and other forms of lawlessness, including the black market.

Two different gangsters ask Volk what he knows about art, setting the stage for this complex tale. A lost DaVinci lies in the catacombs of the Hermitage, and Volk is to remove it. However, there are complications, with several competing for its possession. The dangers and betrayals abound. The painting disappears and Volk has to find it.

If the reader can sustain interest despite the violence, the novel moves forward with all kinds of surprises. It is well-written for a first effort.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

The Summoner
Gail Z. Martin
Games Workshop Ltd.
Willow Road, Nottingham, NG7 2WS, UK
9781844164684 $7.99

The kingdom of Margolan is where the story begins. The heir to the throne Jared Drayke a cruel and sadistic man falls in with the evil Fireclan mage Foor Arontala. Together they plot to awaken an evil magic.

Prince Martris Drayke witnesses a heinous crime committed by his brother Jared and Foor Arontala. The Prince, or Tris as he is called by his family and friends, must flee for his life.

Tris and his companions head north to his uncle's kingdom hoping to find refuge there. Along the way he discovers who he really is and where his abilities lie. He makes new friends and meets a special someone who's been sent by the goddess to help him in his quest. The prince is told by a group called the Sisterhood that he will have to return home to fight his brother and the evil mage in order to stop an ancient evil from being resurrected. Tris must learn to master his own power before he can hope to overcome Foor Arontala. If he fails, there will be war and no one can predict the outcome.

The Summoner is a pleasant and enjoyable read that any lover of fantasy should enjoy. The characters are well developed and the story line is solid.

The Lost Constitution
William Martin
Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765315380 $24.95

This combination thriller and historical novel is the story of rare book seller Peter Fallon and his search to find a lost copy of the Constitution. It's the saga of two men, one responsible for losing it and the other who must discover what has happened to it.

Peter Fallon finds himself crunched for time and caught between factions of both the political right and left in their effort to use the document for their own purposes. There are factions within the government who want to change the Constitution itself. If the wrong people find the lost document they will destroy it. It's a dangerous undertaking and Mr. Fallon and his ex-girlfriend Evangeline must risk their lives to do it. Will they meet the deadline and what will happen if they do?

As the author spins his tale he whisks us back and forth between past and present making us privy to some of the great minds that formed this country. It's a well written fast paced adventure guaranteed to entertain and make you think about what our country stands for.

Other books by the author include Back Bay, Cape Cod and Harvard Yard.

Bad Monkeys
Matt Ruff
Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061240416 $23.95

Jane Charlotte is a complex and screwed up character who's arrested for murder. She's in the psychiatric ward at the jail, spilling her guts to some strange doctor. Jane's claims to membership in a secret and unknown group of operatives dedicated to destroying evil seem unbelievable on the surface. As the story progresses you begin to wonder just who Jane is and what's really going on.

Jane's out to get evildoers, but who's out to get her? Read it and find out. The bizarre story is intriguing and cunning and is not only unusual, but highly entertaining. Once you start reading it you can't stop until you find out what happens next. It's all part of the fun of getting to know Jane.

Matt Ruff has also written Fool on the Hill, Sewer Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy. and Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls.

How Best to Avoid Dying
Owen Egerton
Dalton Publishing,
P.O. Box 242, Austin, Texas 78767
9780974070377 $13.95

This is an eclectic bunch of stories about dying and the human condition. If that sounds's not. Each tale is a journey itself through the human psyche. Some are bizarre, but thought provoking and entertaining.

The author lifts us up with his wit and humor and sometimes knocks us back to reality with his mockery and irreverence. You laugh one moment and cringe in disbelief the next. Sometimes I suspected he was high when he wrote some of it. Other times he lost me, but I got the gist of what he was saying or at least I think I did

Mr. Egerton is a trickster making us look at life and death from new angles. The stories smack of truth, compassion and perhaps a taste of madness too. They'll twist your mind around and make you look at life in a new way.

The Serpent's Kiss: A Derek Stillwater Novel
Mark Terry
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738708829 $13.95

Downtown Detroit is the scene of a sarin gas attack in a crowded diner of all places. DHS agent and bioterrorism expert Dr. Derek Stillwater arrives to look into the grisly crime. A maniac styling himself as The Serpent tells the news media that he's behind the mass murder. He's a killer with an agenda. A predator is loose in the city and out to destroy as many people as he can.

Derek Stillwater pairs up with FBI special Agent Jill Church and the race is on to find the killer before he strikes again. Thousands of innocent lives may be at stake and Dr. Stillwater decides to do whatever it takes to save them, even if means breaking the law.

Jill's superior at the FBI is out to discredit both agents. He's a self-centered jerk who cares only for his career. Can Jill and Derek get around the roadblocks he throws in their way? Can they save Detroit from The Serpent?

The story is a nail biting thriller that I couldn't stop reading. I loved the character of Derek Stillwater and how he cuts to the chase. I've put Mr. Terry on my list of favorite authors and look forward to reading his next novel in the series, Angels Falling. Other books by the author include The Devil's Pitchfork, Dirty Deeds and Catfish Geru.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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