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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 7 July 2008 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Amy's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Charlie's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf
Kerns' Bookshelf Kevin's Bookshelf Larsen's Bookshelf
Liana's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Priya's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Sullivan's Bookshelf
Terrilyn's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Chosen Forever
Susan Richards
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781569474921 $23.00

Annie Slessman

Owning horses myself, it was a natural that I selected Chosen Forever from the stacks of new releases at my local B&N. The cover shows an older couple sitting in front of a barn with a horse nipping at their hair. Book covers with children or animals will sell every time.

The story revolves around a woman who teaches writing part time, has a love of animals and still, in her fifties, has problems believing in her own worth. After writing several books without publication, she finally finds the right agent and sells a memoir of her life with an exceptional horse named, Lay Me Down. It is through her book tour that she finally reconnects with her family, her friends and finds a love to enhance and sustain her life.

The book also provides some insights into the life of a writer who has published their first book. The book tour she takes at the request of her publisher not only helps to sell books but helps Susan to find herself in the process. Somewhat of a loner, the book tour was a challenge and a mentor at the same time.

The passages regarding life with her animals are particular touching. The book is well written, honest and provides the reader with the desire to keep reading. What more could you want in a book? If you plan to buy one book this year, make it this one.

The Mortal Groove
Ellen Hart
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 5th Avenue, NY, NY 10010
9780312349455 $25.95

Arlene Germain

The Mortal Groove, Ellen Hart's fifteenth installment in her Jane Lawless mystery series, is a complex and compelling story of political machinations, family dynamics, and the insidious effects of violence and collusion. During Jane's New Year's gathering, the festivities are interrupted by a few of Minneapolis political movers and shakers. They have come to ask Jane's father, Raymond Lawless, to run for governor. With less than a year to conduct a campaign, Lawless is eventually persuaded to come to the aid of the party. Joining him in this venture is Randy Turk, a longtime associate, who will serve as the campaign legal advisor. Turk recommends his friend from his Viet Nam War days, Del Green, to be the campaign manager. As the race gets underway, circumstances begin to present a myriad of difficulties ranging from the campaign staff's thirty-five year-old secrets threatening to resurface to the sexuality of the candidate's daughter. Further complicating matters are Jane's brother Peter who has secrets of his own and her best friend Cordelia who is dealing with a personal loss which has all but devastated her. Add to this combustible mix the strain of Jane's trying to sustain her long-distance relationship with Kenzie, and you have a very entertaining reading experience.

The Mortal Groove is Hart's most structurally intricate novel to date. The plotting is both complex and multi-layered. A hallmark of a truly masterful writer is the ability to juggle many subplots while not diminishing the main plot or creating unrealistic elements which detract from the true mystery genre. Hart deftly interweaves these seemingly disparate threads into a well-paced, cohesive, and focused storyline. She skillfully engages the reader as the various characters pursue their assigned paths toward the resolution of the varied conflicts. Too often authors get bogged down by the intricacy they believe they have created; they become so overwhelmed by the demands and requirements of genuine focused storytelling that by the conclusion of the story, the reader can only feel cheated by an inept and unsatisfying attempt. They would do well to read The Mortal Groove for it is a primer for constructing and achieving the successful multi-plot mystery.

The Mortal Groove thoroughly demonstrates Hart's ability to create and sustain believable characters. Eschewing the stereotypical and flat characterization often seen in contemporary mysteries, Hart populates her novel with characters that are imbued with such a degree of verisimilitude that the reader cannot help but empathize with those who are enduring and hoping to overcome the unpredictable events that life thrusts upon them. Through it all, Jane evinces her keen sense of logic, wit, and her unwavering loyalty to family and friends. This novel delves more deeply into Jane's relationship with her brother Peter. He too has a secret which will compel him to behave in ways he never could have imagined. The introduction of Larry Wilton, the questionable Vietnam buddy of Randy and Del, serves as the viable catalyst which propels the gubernatorial race toward inevitable scandal and mobilizes Jane and Cordelia in a search for the truth. Incisive and consummately delineated characterization is a staple of a Hart novel. However, The Mortal Groove achieves a new level of excellence for the author. It is her finest exposition of character to date.

The Mortal Groove is an exceedingly satisfying reading experience. The story, characters, plot twists and turns, and tone of the novel totally involve the reader. Hart is one of the best contemporary mystery authors today, and this latest work continues to add to her stature in the genre. To create substantially significant characters that deeply affect the reader, to invent plots which stimulate the thought processes, and to continue to elevate the standard of quality literary writing are achievements few can claim. The Mortal Groove by Ellen Hart is a testament to her having accomplished all three.

West Virginia
Che Elias, author
Michael Hafftka, illustrator
Six Gallery Press
PO Box 90145, Pittsburgh, PA 15224
9780978296292 $18.00

Christopher Wunderlee

How It Is, or how it was, these are impressions, minute-by-minute minute collisions, a muddle of sensations, a stream of consciousness, or in this case, a torrent of consciousness, released by trauma, caused by trauma, dripping with it, indivisible, words flung like droplets over the falls. And you, reader, are in the Niagara-barrel. Feeling brackish gusts whip bare cheeks, soaked, knee-deep, tossed fiercely, flipped, flung, within the rush, the final forevermore always foreboding, that wet edge howling ahead, bellowing, spitting up hurricane rain. There is the current, the flow of words juxtaposed with broken images, the rocks awaiting your barrel below, the kindling of others, waiting like prophetic visions in rainbow sprays. This is not a b(r)ook, it's a storm-ride, a witnessing of a drowning.

West Virginia is bounded by great streams, unbroken flows of an awakened mind unable to comprehend a trauma. Rape forces a rage, a tearing from within, an implosion; West Virginia is a squall of consciousness. If Joyce flows through they microscopic hyper-experience and Beckett floods the fringe, Che Elias surges into the personal monologue, weaving an unbearable deluge of torment.

It was William James who coined the term, stream of consciousness, in The Principles of Psychology (1890), and the study of the mind has guided its development as a literary form, from Stephen Daedalus to Septimus. The unknown, un-dead voice of West Virginia is another other, but his passage is not of awakening, of falling apart, but of internal collapse, of a rambling rhapsodic deliverance akin to darling antiheroes, but this one of the dark yawn. This one needs therapy, medication, institutionalization, a savior, a faith, a lottery ticket. Consciousness has become a racket, the stream a rapid, the waking life a ridding. That way madness lies. Voices are murdering and torturing like some Elizabethan hanging in the public square. The confessional is wrought with sin, and there's hell to pay. Like true thoughts, Elias returns and returns to the theme, which is not a literary theme, not a plot device, not character development, but the stain, the scar, the sinking of the consciousness. The bitter words flung into perked ears, rebounding off forming lips, crackling over cerebella, resonate like a true memory, a true traumatic event.

We remember the arms flailing, the screams, the way the afternoon light looked like golden shards on white-tipped surf, and the heavy burden of the afterwards, when the sunken body was brought to the shore. We replay it accidentally in our bedroom sheets or during bus rides when our minds are given little leash. Tragedies have a way of remaining. And this is the tricky cruelty of our minds, of our inner voices, because when there is brutality, when we endure its initial assault, we are left with its meaning, and there is none. Fragmented, purposeless insanity visits our order, bludgeons reason, and requires some loss of accepting the mirage of any of it. We are a step closer to the falls.

West Virginia is a man over the cataract, tumbling, those last seconds a manifesto of spiked words groping for a branch, contorting to avoid the pike rocks. Elias is plunged deep into the torrent, post-fall, all too aware of the stain of sin and the Cain solution. Ripping open West Virginia is like swimming out to get him, and we all know, when someone tries to save a drowning man, usually they both die.

Minta Forever
Jean Campion
Western Reflections Publishing Company
P.O. Box 1149, Lake City, Colorado 81235
9781932738377 $15.95 1-800-993-4490

Connie Gotsch, Reviewer

Some authors go for the sleaze when they write on the theme of domestic abuse, dwelling on physical and sexual aspects until the reader wonders if the book's a novel or a nursing text. At the end of the story, the heroine puts all the trauma behind her and prepares to head for the altar with some handsome man who rescues her. Her abuser either languishes permanently in jail, or lies under a grave stone.

In real life, abusers destroy their victims mentally as well as physically, and the victims often have no easy way out of the situation. If they do get rid of the abuser, they can't find peace. The abuser might leave a victim alone, but there's always the fear that he might come back, because abusers do not go to jail forever. Sometimes they don't go at all, and just find another woman to batter

Southern Colorado author, Jean Campion knows this, and she recreates the real life abuse scenario in her novel 'Minta Forever,' published by Western Reflections Publishing Company.

Pushed by well-meaning parents, Ella Jane Morgan Skaggs' finds herself married to the abusive but wealthy farmer, Edmond. He does all the psychological things abusers do, including separating her from family and friends, and berating her at every chance. He brings her to his home town to live, where she knows no one. Worse, when he appears in public with her, he treats her well, so anyone she would ask for help would not believe she needs it.

When Ella decides to escape, she faces the dilemma of all abused women: where to go? Finally aided by a cousin, she gets a teaching job in a one-room school in a small Colorado town. Now the cousin and her husband are in danger of Edmond, as are the people in the town where Ella has taken refuge, under the new name of Minta Mayfield.

From page one of 'Minta Forever,' Campion sets up a cat-and-mouse game between the husband and wife, highlighting the psychological abuse, and suggesting the physical and sexual aspects just enough for the reader to grasp.

Once escaped, Ella/Minta, spends a lot of time wondering in her journal if Edmond will find her, and what that will mean to her new community Any real life abused woman faces the same questions.

Around the abuse theme, Campion presents a good picture of how one-room schools operated in Colorado in the early 1920s. She grew up in a family of educators and heard tales of one-room schools and the people who taught in them. The novel began as a research project on one-room schools in La Plata County, Colorado, and the author found plenty of descriptive material to make Ella/Minta's daily activities and surroundings believable. At no time, however, does she wallow in education history for its own sake. Every single historical mention relates to plot, action, character, or theme of the story.

Of course as Ella/Minta worries about Edmond's return, the reader does, too, and Campion cleverly creates several heart-stopping moments when Edmond might be lurking in the shadows; and an explosive scene when he finally is.

People in town react as one might expect. Some support Ella/Minta. Some want her fired as a bad example to the students. Campion explores the ideas of forgiveness as supporters outvote the non-supporters.

A final twist in the plot puts Ella/Minta in the dilemma of real life abuse victims. Is she safe from Edmond, or is she not? What decisions should she make about what she does next, based on not knowing for sure if she's safe?

'Forever Minta' raises provocative questions, and without being overly graphic, reminds everybody how hideous domestic abuse and violence is. The story also points out that there are no easy choices for an abused woman. She has make the best one with the information she has and hope it's right.

2020 Vision
Roy S. Neuberger
Feldheim Publishers
208 Airport Executive Park, Nanuet, New York 10954
9781598262131 $24.99

Fern Sidman

Rabbi Meir Leib ben Yechiel Michel (1808-1879), also know as The Malbim authored a commentary on Sefer Yechezel (32:17)and in it he stated, "In the End of Days, after the Children of Israel have returned to their land, the children of Ishmael and the children of Esau will unite to attack Jerusalem. They will form a world coalition against the tiny nation of Israel. But something will go wrong with their plan. The religious beliefs of the children of Ishmael and the children of Esau will clash, and the two nations will collide and destroy each other. That is what is referred to as the War of Gog and Magog. Following this cataclysmic conflict, the Final Redemption of the Jewish people will occur with the coming of Messiah, the son of King David."

It is with this prescient insight in mind does prolific author Roy (Yisroel) Neuberger begin weaving a tale predicated on the hallmarks of Jewish tradition; faith and trust in Hashem and the yearning for the Final Redemption. His recently released futuristic novel entitled, "2020 Vision" (Feldheim Publishers) represents an authentic testament to the strength and resolve of the human spirit in the face of horrific adversities and tribulations. Yet, the resounding theme of faith and trust in Hashem (G-d) and adherence to tenets of Torah against all odds have been an oft repeated mantra in Mr. Neuberger's previous writings as it permeates the pages of "From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul" (2000); his personal memoirs and recollections of his journey back to Orthodox Judaism and "Worldstorm: Finding Meaning & Direction Amidst Today's World Crisis" (2003); a history book that applies Torah reasoning to our current global situation.

While "2020 Vision" is a novel and thus symbolic of a departure from his non-fiction books, this action packed, thrill-a-minute tale retains a keen eye on the very real and often grim geo-political realities of our times. There is no question that this book can be termed a hybrid of sorts, combining compelling fiction with true to life, refreshingly honest biographical flashbacks that allow the reader a unique opportunity to get an intimate look into the psyche of the protagonist and author of this novel. While enjoying this fast paced page turner, readers should be cautioned to fasten their proverbial seatbelts because this is going to be the mother of all bumpy rides.

The trajectory of this apocalyptic sojourn begins on Sunday, July 5th in the year 2020. It is a leisurely summer day and Yisroel and his wife Leah are enjoying the simple pleasures of life at their Long Island home; a bike ride, sipping cool lemonade, watching the fireworks and taking some time to reflect on the many blessings in their lives. This was to be the last day on this earth that the Neubergers would experience a semblance of normalcy. Quite suddenly and totally out of nowhere the world is caught in the deadly grip of a global nuclear attack; planned and coordinated by a diabolical Muslim terrorist sleeper cell in the USA. The world outside their window "turned white" and their "house shook violently" while the sounds of sonic booms punctuated the air. As the author ruefully observes, "the events of July 5, 2020 made 9/11 look like child's play."

After listening to a report on an emergency radio indicating that an electromagnetic bomb detonated high above the earth's surface had destroyed communications for thousands of miles, the Neubergers decide to head off to New Jersey to locate their children and search for an escape route to Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel) where they could be reunited with their other children and bask in the safety of the place on this earth where the Shechina (G-d's presence) dwells. The roads were immersed in snarling gridlock and supplies of gas were scarce, so the Neubergers employed some ingenuity and utilized their only viable means of transportation; their trusty bicycles to get them to where they needed to be.

Turning to each other for comfort and solace during this arduous, if not impossible trek, Yisroel queries his wife. "Leah, how will we survive?" Leah's rejoinder is clear. "We will survive, G-d will save us. You will see." It is this unshakable faith and trust in Hashem that serves as the catalyst and driving force for their journey through the metaphorical dense darkness of night to the blissful eternal light at the end of the tunnel. On their road to reunification with their children, the Neubergers confront a seemingly endless litany of harrowing and life threatening scenarios; amongst them being almost crushed to death by commercial airliners, a close call after an attempted attack by a band of deranged hooligans, and an encounter with an unscrupulous and potentially murderous, mentally unbalanced miscreant who is the only person that can transport them by boat from Brooklyn to Staten Island.

Throughout it all, Yisroel and Leah never entertain the notion of relinquishing their faith and determination to survive. Having packed his tallis, tefillin, siddur and chumash, (Jewish religious articles) Yisroel prays three times a day; beseeching Hashem for mercy while he and Leah offer succor to each other with timely Divrei Torah (words of Torah), having plumbed the depths of our holy sources for words of encouragement in times of travail. What follows is nothing sort of miraculous. Feeling the Hand of Hashem every step of the way, Yisroel and Leah meet up with their children from Lakeville (Lakewood to us laymen) on the Garden State Parkway along with a formidable chevra (group of friends) of frum (observant) Jews who have joined them. Traveling together as a group, they negotiate a strategic plan for survival and decide to head north towards New England, where they hope to catch a sea worthy vessel to take them to Europe and then to their final destination; Eretz Yisroel.

Beset by a multitude of serious dangers, challenges and difficulties they meet extraordinary people, sent by Hashem to assist them on the path to redemption. With the help of relatives Uncle Phil and Aunt Bessie, who play a critical role in the story, they manage to expedite their journey in some small measure, while other characters such as righteous gentiles also posit themselves as facilitators; offering much needed practical guidance and assistance in this heart stopping drama.

The reader cannot help but marvel at the sheer eloquence and graphic depiction of the events leading up to the coming of Moshiach and the final end of days that Mr. Neuberger describes in words that sound a clarion call to teshuvah and tug at your heartstrings. This chilling account of the dawn of the Messianic era is not for the faint hearted and those who suffer from ideological myopia. No one can deny that each one of us has deeply pondered what events would look like when Moshiach (Messiah) comes, yet Mr. Neuberger takes this to a whole new level. He offers us a unique perspective on our daily relationship to Hashem and gives new definition to our collective role in our final destiny.


When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Will Need To Survive When Disaster Strikes
Cody Lundin
Gibbs Smith Publisher
PO Box 667, Layton, Utah, 84041
9781423601050 $19.95

Hobo's Rooks, Reviewer

"If you are going through Hell, keep going." - Winston Churchill

Once upon a summer day, a Grasshopper hopped and danced and sung to his heart's content. An Ant passed, dragging a huge sack of powdered milk, beef jerky, and salt.

"Why not come and sing karaoke and do a Jell-O (tm) shot with me," chirped the grasshopper, "Instead of breaking your back, working all day?"

"I am preparing for hard times ahead," said the Ant, "and I recommend you do the same."

"Why worry about winter?" said the Grasshopper. "There's plenty of food right now."

But the ant continued his hard toil. When winter came, the shivering grasshopper had no food and found himself slowly dying of hunger. So, he kicked down the Ant's door only to find out that the Ant had completed a comprehensive martial art training regimen that focused on close-quarters combat and self-defense, and that food was not the only thing the Ant had packed away. Only then did the Grasshopper realize that…

It is best to be prepared for the days of necessity. Haven't you ever stayed awake late at night running through "what if" scenarios? Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornados, zombies, asteroid strikes -- you didn't build that bomb shelter in the backyard just for the kids to use as a playhouse. Well, grab your gasmask and a copy of When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikes by Cody Lundin.

He is not another paranoid survivalist huddled in a cave spouting Bible verses and lovingly stroking his guns. Cody Lundin and his Aboriginal Living Skills School have been featured in dozens of national and international media sources, including Dateline NBC, CBS News, USA Today, The Donny and Marie Show, and CBC Radio One in Canada, as well as on the cover of Backpacker magazine. When not teaching for his own school, he is an adjunct faculty member at Yavapai College and a faculty member at the Ecosa Institute. His expertise in practical self-reliance skills comes from a lifetime of personal experience, including designing his own off the grid, passive solar earth home.

This book is not going to teach you how to wrestle an alligator, or try to convince you that all you have to do is gaze into your backyard to find endless amounts of wild edible plants, or that wild game is there for the taking. Hunting and trapping are true arts and require practice, the right equipment, and the proper environment to be successful. What this book will do is provide the knowledge to help you survive the standard survival scenario, which lasts about seventy-two hours, in the most practical, affordable, simple and realistic way possible.

The book is divided into two parts. Part one deals with the psychological aspect of surviving. According to the author "surviving a life-threatening scenario is largely psychological on the part of the survivor(s). Get this fact into your head now that living through a survival scenario is 90 percent psychology, and 10 percent methodology and gear." He covers how to define your survival priorities with his "Pyramid of Needs" and great checklists for preparing you physically, mentally and emotionally, as well as spirituality and the equipment you are going to need. This section will give you the common-sense foundation upon which to base your survival plan.

The second part of this basic survival guide contains the information to keep your physical body alive. Specific chapters on emergency sanitation, water, food, first aid, communication, and more are presented in the most practical detail as possible. Entire books have been devoted to each of the above subjects. So, don't expect this book to cover every possible aspect of these skills, but appreciate the excellent overview.

Perhaps the greatest survival skill of all is being able to keep calm in the face of chaos. This is accomplished by being sensibly prepared and not scared. It may sound romantic to live off the fat of the land. You may have a great yearning to live wild and free. I sometimes get the urge to grow a beard, live in a cave, and become a combination of Grizzly Adams and Daniel Boone, and then I realize that many indigenous peoples died young and died hard. No one plans to find himself in a survival situation. That's part of what makes those situations so terrifying when they happen. This book can be a useful for keeping you and your family alive, or you can pray and wait for FEMA…

Hobo Finds a Home
Hobo, author
Susan Gage, illustrator
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781601452641 $11.95

Jen Colson

I first read this book because I know (and am very fond of) the author, Hobo. He is a sweet, fluffy, mostly well-behaved (for a cat) individual and I was very excited when he finally published his first book. I also was concerned, of course, because it's harder to give negative feedback about a book when you are friendly with the author but to my great relief, I found absolutely NOTHING to criticize. Instead I found "Hobo Finds a Home" to be a completely adorable book!

Written from a cat's point of view (close to the ground) with a crayon (easier for a cat's paws to handle than a pencil or keyboard would be) and using beautifully drawn pictures (which were vetted by the illustrator's child) to illustrate the text, this book is sure to captivate any child with its wonderful tale of adventure (running away from home, chasing butterflies, playing 'lion'), danger (encountering a 'spice kitty', sleeping on the cold, hard ground, having dinner stolen by a bully) and, finally, of finding the security of a warm and loving home. After all, isn't that what all children and cats and even adults really want from life?

While this book was written for children by a cat (who, as anyone who's ever shared a house with a cat knows, are perpetual children), it will also appeal to adults who are looking for the perfect book to read aloud to their little ones and to cat lovers of all ages. Believe me, being the 'pet' of three cats myself, I know what I'm talking about here. I found myself laughing along with Hobo, especially at the end when he rearranges his new 'pet's' home and takes over the entire household! Plus, as an avid reader of author bios, ever since reading Terry Pratchett's and Neil Gaiman's in 'Good Omens', I loved Hobo's – he loves fuzzy bunny slippers and prefers chicken to fish? – silly, yes, but a terrific little bonus!

In conclusion, I would recommend this book to all children, all adults who refuse to grow up, all parents of young children and cat-lovers of all ages! I would also recommend it to anyone who has read and enjoyed 'Have You Seen My Cat?' by Eric Carle, 'Broadway Barks' by Bernadette Peters and Liz Murphy or 'A Home for Dixie: The True Story of a Rescued Puppy' by Emma Jackson and Bob Carey. To put it simply, this is the purrfect book to curl up by the fire with!

The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel
Doug Holder
Cervena Barva Press
PO BOX 440357 W. Somerville, MA. 02144
No ISBN $13.00

Pamela Annas, PhD

Doug Holder is above all an urban poet, an observer chronicling the everyday sights and absurdities of Somerville, Boston and New York City in plain talk flavored with cool irony and sudden startling bursts of imagery. His settings include hospital rooms, bars, coffee shops, Harvard Yard, the post office, buses and subway trains, the Boston Public Library, Shea Stadium, housing projects, city streets, and the Midtown Tunnel from Queens to Manhattan which is the location of the book's title poem. His characters are bizarre and ordinary like all of us. Several of the poems are inspired by newspaper stories - about a woman who sat on a toilet for two years in her boyfriend's apartment, about an old man who murdered his equally aged wife, about a middle aged man who died on a subway train: "the Daily dropped/ From his hands. . . .The trains backed up/ From Cambridge to Dorchester."

I'm reminded in the pages of this collection of meeting, a year or two before her death, the artist Alice Neel, who painted gorgeously surreal ironic portraits of famous and ordinary people in the 1930s and 40s--and shivering as she looked me over. Doug Holder looks at the world through a similarly sharp and amused set of eyes. Yet there is no malice but a profound sympathy here - for the helplessness of aging and of poverty, for physical and mental illnesses, for the complexity of family relations - and most of all, for the isolation and loneliness lurking underneath tenaciously crowded city life. In the title poem of the collection, the man in the booth in the Midtown Tunnel "paces the perimeter/ Of his cage" while outside the cars whip by: "And we are/ Faceless and a blur,/ Behind thick plates/ Of light-bleached glass."

However, let me assure you this is not a gloomy collection of poems. There are rich nuggets of humor and wry reflection throughout this collection and, to combat the isolation of urban life, in almost every poem a relationship is forged between the observing eye and the subject of the poem. So, for example, as the speaker of the poem observes a woman nursing in a restaurant in "Private Dining Under a Blouse":

I saw
The infant emerge
Held in an untroubled

I sucked on my straw
Flattening the plastic stem
Still awake
And troubled.

A few of the poems in this collection, like the one above, segue gracefully in subject from Holder's last book, Of All the Meals I Had Before: Poems About Food and Eating. Another is a poem toward the end of the book, "The Last Hotdog": "She brought it/ to his sick bed,/ He bit through/ The red casing/ The familiar orgasm/ Of juice/ Hitting the roof/ Of his mouth". And one more food-focused poem, "At the Fruit Stand," which is about bananas and melons and grapes and is too erotic to discuss in a family publication. However, you will enjoy it. And the whole collection.

The Acrylic Painter's A-Z of Flowers: An Illustrated directory of techniques for painting 40 popular flowers
Lexi Sundell
Simon and Schuster (Australia) Pty Ltd
PO Box 33, PYMBLE NSW 2073
9780731813322 $AU 34.95

Rose Glavas, Reviewer

The cover of this title is enticing enough to get my attention… the luxurious looking floral art on the front cover of 'The Acrylic Painter's A-Z of Flowers' looks fabulous.

Lexi Sundell is an award-winning artist whose subjects often are flowers: bold, dramatic and powerful. Her work has appeared in a variety of exhibitions, such as Avant-Garden at the Torpedo Art Factory, three years in a row at the Yellowstone Art Museum, and at the Museum of Arts and Culture. Sundell's paintings can be found in private and corporate collections worldwide.

The first part of this book 'Materials, Methods and Making Pictures' covers exactly these topics… and very clearly. Some of the topics covered in this section include how to sketch the various flower shapes (bell-shaped, trumpet-shaped, star-shaped, etc), basic colour theory, lighting and posing flowers, painting with an old/new brush. I liked the way the information was presented in that it provides a lot of information in a concise way that is easy to understand. It is also easy to find what you are looking for.

The instructions for painting the 40 flowers are also easy to understand and follow. For example, if you wanted to paint a begonia you would look to the contents where all the flowers are alphabetically listed. The begonia is on page 54. On this page there is a diagram showing all the various parts of this flower (in case you are not familiar with it), the palette you will need, and special details you will need to pay attention to. Most importantly there is a sequenced list of instructions on how to approach the begonia.

The painting reproductions are of an excellent quality and size, giving you a good idea of how Sundell's techniques work and the type of results you should be aspiring to using her style of painting. Of course, everyone has their own art style – but this book will give you the techniques you need to develop this.

I would recommend 'The Acrylic Painter's A-Z of Flowers' to the artist who wants to specialize in floral art, or as the perfect gift for the aspiring artist friend who has everything! This title could be used by the beginning artist but would probably be better for those with at least some experience working with acrylics.

The Confederate War Bonnet: A Novel of the Civil War in Indian Territory
Jack Shakely
Published by iUniverse
Bloomington, IN
9780595461400 $17.95

Bob Sanchez

Civil War buffs and historical fiction fans will enjoy this novel with its authentic and unusual take on the conflict. Based on historical incidents and real people, first-time author Jack Shakely brings us a view of the war from the point of view of Jack Gaston, a member of the Creek Nation who serves the Confederate cause. Gaston, one of two college-educated Creeks, leaves his studies at Harvard University in 1863 to serve his people, who have allied themselves with the South. For the many tribes that appear in this story - including Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek - the main issue is not slavery or keeping the Union together - it's survival. They must do what they can to preserve their own interests in the face of ever-increasing white encroachment.

Gaston's odyssey takes him through many of the Civil War's major conflicts. In one of his imaginative contributions, he writes a news column providing breathless accounts of one "Captain War Bonnet," who strikes terror into Yankee forces. As intended, Yankee forces read the detailed accounts that included his whereabouts, which proves to be a great waste of their time and resources.

Himself of Creek ancestry, Shakely presents a good story with a decent plot and sympathetic characters. His research helps readers understand some of the differences and conflicts among the various Indian cultures, and certainly between Indians and whites. The Confederate War Bonnet seems at times like a mix between a novel and a non-fiction history, because of Shakely's shifting point of view and the often reportorial style. It's obviously Jack Gaston's story, yet we occasionally hear from another narrator (the author) about what happens many decades later, for example:

…Maxey wrote to all the soldiers, "Your action has been glorious. You have made yourself a name in history."

This of course was true. To borrow a phrase from Franklin Roosevelt it was a name made in the history of infamy.

And on rare occasions, the author editorializes:

Nothing in American musical history is quite so cringingly, wincingly embarrassing as the minstrel show. But this phenomenon of white men in blackface was a theater tradition for more than a hundred years in this country, lasting well into the twentieth century. The vicious racist stereotyping…

Yes indeed, but passages like this can make the reader wonder whose story this is. Shakely also refers to "this Chautauqua," in the sense of the adult education movement, although the first such event didn't occur until almost a decade after the Civil War.

These are not major flaws; I take them as minor liberties that don't hurt the underlying story. Shakely states that most of the characters were real people, and the events historically accurate. The Confederate War Bonnet is a readable and well-told tale that Shakely fills with color, sensitivity, humor, and plenty of research..

Apparently, the war bonnet actually existed, with its Confederate stars and bars woven in. Too bad the author didn't have a photo of the headdress - it would have made a fine cover for a thoughtful book.

The Case of the Terrible Teacher
Rae Lowery
Publish America
Baltimore, MD
1413728030 $14.95

Tobi Meyers

Rae Lowery is writing a series wherein the main character is an 11 year old girl who fancies herself as sort of a self-proclaimed sleuth. The series is called "The Adventures of Charlie" and it can be a bit hard to find, but if one googles the name "Rae Lowery" all three of the books can be found on the Internet.

This latest book is set in her school. Charlie has a teacher that is being mean to the kids, and she sets out to see if she can find a way to make him nicer to the students. When she finds out that he is single, she determines that finding him a girlfriend will solve all of her problems.

Rae Lowery has a way of endearing the characters to the reader. Charlie (the protagonist) is a quirky, funny, intelligent girl that not only appeals to the age group the books are written for (8-12), but younger and older audiences find it hard to put these books down as well.

On a personal note, Rae Lowery is a teacher, so she weaves moral and ethical dilemmas into the storyline, with a satisfyingly happy ending every time. There are many book clubs and READ IT FORWARD programs celebrating this book series, and for good reason. Rae Lowery is the next Judy Blume.

Ancient Laws
Jim Michael Hansen
Dark Sky Publishing, Inc.
218 S. McIntyre Way, Golden, CO 80401
0976924323, $TBA

Wanda Maynard

Brilliant! In Jim Michael Hansen's most recent novel "Ancient Laws" snakes literally crawled out of every page. Very clever! Each scene made the action of the characters come to life even more. The chain of events, cleverly described, held me glued to the edge of my seat and kept me in wonder of what was around the next corner of this spine-tingling, sensational work of fiction.

Bryson Coventry, a hunk of a detective, along with other passengers on the flight to Cairo is in grave danger. The plane is about to crash. Will our hero be killed before he even gets a chance to catch the killer that is still at large? And what about the beautiful Paris homicide detective, Fallon Le Rue, who is assigned to the same case, will she wind up a victim of this deadly pastime even before she and Coventry get to really know each other?

When it comes to suspense filled thrillers, nobody electrifies the reader more with a crime novel than, Jim Michael Hansen, who is a Colorado attorney. His remarkable style of writing and rich use of dialogue grabbed me from his first novel, "Night Laws". He is so entertaining; he continuously leaves the reader with the fear of the unknown and yet, still wanting more.

Amy's Bookshelf

The Host: A Novel
Stephenie Meyer
Little Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316068048 $25.99

Earth has been invaded by alien life-forms. These parasitic aliens are called Souls and live in what they consider to be a peace-loving unity, similar to the way bees live in a hive together. They require Hosts in order to survive. The centipede-like body is inserted into the Hosts brain by the Healers, then the alien takes control of all functions of that body as its own and the original occupant disappears. The Souls chose to take over Earth when they noticed the violent and barbaric tendencies of the human race. They wanted to eradicate the evil and destructive ways that the humans were destroying their own planet. They wanted to bring peace back to Earth, but the Souls could not foresee one human entity, Melanie, fighting back to gain control over her body that the alien, Wanderer (Wanda), had stole.

When Wanderer (Wanda) came to Earth and was implanted into her human Host, she had no clue as what this planet would be like. She had never had a Host that had such strong emotions and desires before. She never questioned what happened to any of the Host's original occupants that was their before her, until now. When Wanda started to receive strong, emotional images from her Host's (Melanie) memories, she tried to resist and force her into disappearing, like all the rest of her Host's she had lived in before on different planets. Melanie was extremely strong-willed, determined and frantic to get her messages across and refused to disappear. Wanda had only one choice left and it was to discard this Hosts body as faulty and acquire another one. Out of desperation, Melanie released the images she was protecting from this alien, of her younger brother, Jamie and her lover, Jared. Wanda felt the desire and love Melanie had for them, as her own, and yearned to find and protect them. Melanie remembered a secret hideout in the desert that her crazy Uncle Jeb had claimed, just incase the end of the world came. She persuaded Wanda to search for the location. After almost dying of exhaustion, hunger and thirst, a group of human rebels found her and took her prisoner back to their underground cave.

Wanda is reunited with Jamie and Jared, but even though Jamie accepts Wanda for who and what she is, Jared is enraged with hate for the alien that stole his lover's body. Wanda has to prove to them that she does not want to cause any humans harm and that Melanie is still alive inside her. With few human friends at her side that trust her, she has to find out a way to control Melanie's desire for Jared, her personal feelings for Ian (her human companion and bodyguard), give hope back to the world for the human race to survive and deal with the alien Seeker that has been tracking her from the beginning.

THE HOST is the best novel by far that I have read and will bind the reader emotionally to the pages until the end. Stephenie Meyer is a wonderful, vivid and intriguing writer. THE HOST is a beautiful and romantic love story that will take the reader above the stars and into a different universe.

Stephenie Meyer is the author of the best selling Twilight series. She lives in Arizona with her husband and three young sons. To receive more information about her, visit her web site

From Dead to Worse
Charlaine Harris
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
9780411015894 $24.95

Sookie Stackhouse is a barmaid at Merlotte's, a local bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana. She also has telepathic abilities, to be able to read other people's minds. Sookie has a very hard time with humans not accepting her because of her unique ability, until the secret underground society of Vampires decided to announce their existence when the Japanese invented "True Blood", a synthetic blood that contains all of the nutrients vampires need without the killing of people. Sookie found out she could get a little peace around the supernatural community, she could not read their minds like she could with the humans. Unfortunately, there is a lot more at stake (pun intended) in the supernatural community when several groups want to use her telepathic gift for their own evil purposes ..

Sookie has returned home to Bon Temps after the bombing of Rhodes during the Vampire Conference that killed (permanently) a lot of the vampires attending. With the combined tragedies of Hurricane Katrina and the Fellowship of the Sun (anti-vampire "church"), Sophie-Anne, Queen of Louisiana and Arkansas, is in a much weakened state. When the King of Nevada sends in a scout to their territory, there is not much Sookie can do about it, other than let Eric and Pam know about this stranger, Jonathan.

The werewolf community is also in battle amongst themselves, due to the new pack leader, Patrick Furnan. Furnan killed Alcide's father in a fight for the next pack leader. Alcide and his members are enraged when it is speculated that someone from Furnan's pack was ordered to murder Alcide's girlfriend, Maria-Star. Sookie was asked to help use her telepathic ability to sort out lies within both packs, but of course this leads to a war that Sookie can only hope to come out alive.

Amongst helping both supernatural communities with their problems, Sookie has several of her own she has to attend to. Another strange man has been popping in keeping an eye on her and she soon finds out that he is her great-grand father and also a fairy. Sookie wants to know why he decided to show up after all these years and if his intent is to bring her harm. She also finds out her cousin, Hadley, had a baby with her ex-husband before she was turned into a vamp and later murdered by the Queen's jealous companion. Things get really interesting when Octavia, Amelia's mentor and fellow witch, comes to Bon Temps to bestow punishment on Amelia for turning a human (Bob) into a cat during sex magic. With all this going on in her life, it's amazing if she will make it out alive.

FROM DEAD TO WORSE is the 8th book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Charlaine Harris is a talented and brilliant writer. The character development grows with each book she writes. The plot keeps the reader intrigued and wanting more. I would recommend this series to anyone who loves to read about the supernatural, paranormal, mystery, romance and thriller genre(s). A definite must read.

CHARLAINE HARRIS is New York Times bestselling author. She writes both fantasy and mystery. Mrs. Harris and her family live in a small town in Southern Arkansas. The Sookie Stackhouse series will be premiering on HBO TV created by Alan Ball of Six Feet Under. The show "True Blood" will be based on this series and will be airing in September of 2008.

Amy J. Ramsey

Bethany's Bookshelf

An Obsolete Honor
Helana P. Schrader
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595490882, $28.95,

There are always dissidents – 100% agreeance in a large group of people is simply not possible. "An Obsolete Honor: A Story of the German Resistance to Hitler" is a work of historical fiction, but is quite believable. A German military offer is not pleased with the rising popularity of Adolf Hitler, disagreeing with the methods and means of the fascist government. Philip Baron von Feldberg is engulfed by the growing power of Nazi Germany from all sides, and his story of confronting harsh reality is a gripping read all the way through. "An Obsolete Honor: A Story of the German Resistance to Hitler" is highly recommended for community library collections seeking historical fiction pieces.

Nothing is Forever
Rae Ann Nargorski
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
160474068X, $14.95,

The tragedy of September 11th spawned additional evils in the form of hatred. "Nothing is Forever" follows a neighborhood as a new Muslim family moves in. The children of the town confront them, in fear for the peace of their neighborhood, in an act of horrible prejudice. The incident makes the families of the neighborhood realize that hatred and discrimination are no values to teach children. A touching novel of overcoming the dark side of human emotion, "Nothing is Forever" is a top pick for literary fiction collections.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Spend 'Til the End
Laurence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
9781416548904 $26.00

"Spend 'Til The End" by Laurence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns suggests ways to raise your living standard today as well as when you reach retirement.

In this book about personal finance, the authors debunk much of the conventional advice found in similar guides to financial planning. The road map Kotlikoff and Burns provide to significantly raise your living standard is definitely worth considering, but it may not be one everyone will want to follow.

The keys to "spending to end" involve maximizing your spending power, "smoothing" your living standard and pricing your love. You'll discover what this means and how you can accomplish these goals as you read this informative volume.

If you are concerned about the family finances or looking towards retirement, you might find parts of this book well worth reading. As with any book of this nature, you need to ask, "What is this author trying to sell me?" Read the introduction carefully and you'll discover the answer to this all important question.

Belong to Me
Marisa de los Santos
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061240270 $24.95

Cornelia Brown's move from the city to the suburbs means she has to forge a whole new set of friendships. In this complex novel about the interactions between Cornelia and two of the women she meets in her new community, the reader discovers that the course of establishing new relationships isn't always a smooth one.

When the new arrival meets Piper Truitt, Cornelia discovers a person who embodies everything she feared she would find in suburbia. Perfectly manicured, impeccably dressed and possessing impossible standards, Piper is judgmental woman who oversees two households, her own and that of a dying friend.

On the flip side of the coin is Lake, a woman with whom Cornelia can share her love of old movies and good literature. Lake, like Cornelia, is also a new arrival in the area but she harbors a shocking secret that may well jeopardize the bond between the two women.

As their individual stories unfold, these three women become entangled in a web of trust, betrayal, love, and loss that challenges them in ways they never imagined. For those who enjoy fascinating, complex character studies that feature individuals one can become attached to, this Book-of-the-Month Club alternative selection is a definite must-read.

Every Last Cuckoo
Kate Maloy
Algonquin Books
127 Kingston Drive #105, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
9781565125414 $22.95

When her husband dies, seventy-five-year-old Sarah Lucas is left with a big house, plenty of memories, and an aching loneliness. Remembering how her parents opened their home during the Great Depression, Sarah also decides to invite a disparate group of people to share her rural Vermont home.

First to arrive are Sarah's rebellious teenage granddaughter, Lottie, and two of her disaffected young friends. They are followed by an Israeli pacifist in need of a retreat, a young mother and son who have lost their home in a fire and another woman and her infant fleeing a violent partner.

This unlikely flock forms a family of sorts whose members nurture and protect each other. All of them, including their hostess, not only come to face their real and imagined fears but they also discover the hidden strengths they'll need to slowly rebuild their lives.

This stunning debut introduces a new writer whose strong voice will attract readers who demand well-delineated characters and a captivating storyline. You won't soon forget Sarah Lucas, the remarkable heroine of this novel, and her household of equally engaging guests. This beautifully written and thoughtfully executed story is one you'll want to share with your friends.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

A Delicate Imbalance
Brian Snowden
7290 B Investment Drive North Charleston, SC 29418
9781419683701, $23.99,

Life isn't easy, but for some it's even harder. "A Delicate Imbalance" is David Lavaliere's tale of overcoming the loss of his mother. An the injury left on him as a child reduced his mental facilities, making matters even more difficult. He meets a woman who becomes the most important person in his life since his mother's death, Pamela Dorsey. His conflicts rise from there, as he reflects on his past romantic and failed endeavors. A gripping tale from first page to last, "A Delicate Imbalance" is highly recommended for community library fiction collections.

Guilty of Nothing
Kevin King
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533157136, $8.95,

Getting pinned for murder and excelling at betting on the track should not be related items. "Guilty of Nothing" is Bill Eck's story of how that can be. Since he makes a decent living at the track, his consistent success earns him enemies. But when a serial killer strikes, and there seems to be enough circumstantial evidence to point to Bill, his enemies move to send him to jail for a crime he didn't commit. A gripping thriller, "Guilty of Nothing" is recommended for community library thriller collections and for those who visit them.

Madison Swift
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595511464, $12.95,

Never drinking, never smoking, never kissing boys – where is all the fun in that? "Skank-ology: How I went From Brainiac to Bimbo in 10 Easy Steps (and How You Can Too!)" is a work of fiction in the form of a how-to guide. Madison Swift, the pen name of the author, used to be the perfect high school good girl. When life kicked her in the face, she embraced the "skank" culture and recorded her experiences, taking to it like fly to... you know. A parody on today's modern culture, "Skank-ology: How I went From Brainiac to Bimbo in 10 Easy Steps (and How You Can Too!)" is highly recommended for community library fiction collections.

The Sacred Sin
Estevan Vega
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1424183065, $14.95,

To kill a man by stealing his soul – it takes a special type of killer for that. "The Sacred Sin" follows Jude Foster, a troubled L.A. Homicide detective who is faced with a unique type of murderer, one far more evil than anyone on the force has encountered before. A deftly written psychological thriller sure to grip readers all the way through, "The Sacred Sin" is highly recommended for community library thriller collections and fans of the genre.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Six-Gun Two Step
William C. Duncan
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1424186099, $24.95,

It's shocking how different two brothers can turn out. "Six-Gun, Two-Step" follows brothers Wade and Timmy. Wade enjoys a happy life as a successful business and family man, while Timmy has been drawn into the criminal underworld. Bonds of family brings Wade into Timmy's problems and makes Timmy's enemies Wade's enemies. Concerned for their family, they have to figure out how to set everything right without losing their lives in the process! "Six-Gun, Two-Step" is a solid thriller, highly recommended for community library collections catering to fans of the genre.

Called to Speak His Word Boldly
Roderick A. Davis, Sr.
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432720780, $7.95,

For some, their direction in life just hits them. For Roderick A. Davis, it took twenty-two years. "Called to Speak His Word Boldly" is the memoir of a man of God, and his days going through life and trying to spread God's word through the world. Following Davis' life from his start as a born-again Christian through his past twenty years preaching the Gospel, "Called to Speak His Word Boldly" is highly recommended for community library Christian studies and memoir collections.

The Modernization of Islam
Susmit Kumar
Book Surge
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419682117, $20.99,

Nothing in mankind is beautiful without a lot of effort – democracy and freedom in the Islamic world is no different. "The Modernization of Islam and the Creation of a Multipolar World Order" is a look the gradually changing world with a focus on the middle east and the Muslim world. Comparing the modern conflicts of today to how World Wars I and II began to purge Europe of its absolute monarchies, "The Modernization of Islam" is a thoughtful study of global transformation, offering an optimistic viewpoint of the region for a change. Highly recommended for community library religious and political collections.

Bible of An Alligator
Alphonso Taylor
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432718732, $10.95,

The challenges of being an urban black man are a tall hill to climb. "Bible of an Alligator" is an anthology of poetry from experienced poet Alphonso Taylor. He talks of life in general: dating, religion, war, the streets, and the problem of assumptions that he is not who he is because of how he dresses and the color of his skin. "Bible of An Alligator" is a skillfully written piece of literature for any poetry fan, and community library poetry collections in general. "Horoscopes": I Talk to horoscopes/No Need to look for hope/reading the Post/foreshadow for me what's next/from the page in the Express/separate the positive from negative aspects/Home issues and education/Social and religion/Finance to romance/I have questions that want answers/bargain pleading/Better than fortune cookies and tellers/tarot card readings/vague mind and palm readings/vague mind and palm readers/I See the bigger picture in the messages I can learn valuable lessons/the sixth zodiac sign/optimistic characteristics in the shrine/I'm a virgin to myths/psychic faith/reproductive miracles/have freedom from affliction/unity in extreme burdens/I'll adapt to the ending with no apologies/I've found my niche in the exploration of astrology.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Irene's Journey of Faith
Dave Dias
Book Surge
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419683909, $19.95,

Primary Amyloidosis is something few have ever heard of, yet terrible all the same. "Irene's Journey of Faith" follows Dave and Irene Dias as they are faced with Irene's battle with this rare, untreatable, and often fatal disease. A story focusing on Irene's faith and how it enabled her to overcome her illness and get back to her life, "Irene's Journey of Faith" exhorts the moral to never give up hope. Highly recommended for community library memoir collections.

Phebe Courier For Paul
Richard H. Hagerman
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158829, $12.95,

In the wake of tremendous despair, could hope lay in the hands of the Christians' one God? "Phebe Courier for Paul" is Phebe's story as she is left widowed, her children taken from her by the Roman Empire. When her own gods fail to grant her help, she turns to a new one, to serve the messiah. A finely written story of love and finding one's faith, "Phebe Courier for Paul" is a top pick for community library Christian fiction collections.

Into the World of Might Be
W.A. Harbinson
BookSurge Publishing
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419676390, $13.99,

How much of what one sees is real, and how much is one's mind playing tricks? "Into the World of Might Be" follows two astronauts acting as guinea pigs in a study of isolation in space. When technology starts to go awry, nothing is what it seems, and the two are faced with things they can't determine to be reality or fantasy. "Into the World of Might Be" is an exciting science fiction psychological thriller, and a top pick for community library sci-fi collections.

True Detective
James A. Huebner
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432717698, $21.95,

An expertly stuffed corpse – what in the world could that mean? "True Detective" follows two New York detectives as they search for the next plotter of a terrorist attack, desperately trying to avoid the next massive terrorist attack on par with 9/11. They find the strangest clue and suspect it may have something to do with the plot, but nothing seems to add up... at first. A good look at police work in the modern age, highly recommended for community library thriller collections.

The Unleashing of Evolutionary Thought
Oscar Riddle
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave, South, New York NY 10016
0533155975, $24.95,

Is religion impeding the full advancement of science's drive to learn more about the world? "The Unleashing of Evolutionary Thought" believes so, and examines aspects of religion retarding scientific advancement both through society's outcry and by lobbying the government on supposed moral grounds. Tackling every subject where science and religion clash – be it stem cell research, genetic engineering, or even what can be taught in American high school biology classes - "The Unleashing of Evolutionary Thought" is a top pick for anyone who wants to see just how religion has affected science over the years and recommended for both science and religion community library collections.

Michael J. Carson

Charlie's Bookshelf

Blind Fall
Christopher Rice
New York
0743293991 $26.00

Rice (son of horror novelist Anne Rice and the late poet Stan Rice; author of three previous novels, Light Before Day, A Density of Souls, and The Snow Garden) has specialized in taut thrillers that usually involve gay themes or gay characters. In an interview conducted by Josh Koll and Josh Helmin with the author did on Towleroad TV (cf., Rice explained the novel's plot as essentially a critical examination of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that had been implemented by the Clinton Administration in 1993. The main character, a straight ex-Marine named John Houck, narrates the story in the third person. The opening prologue sets the background and introduces the reader to the main lines of the story. While serving as a Marine in Iraq, Houck has a hallucination of his dead younger brother, Dean, while on a Force Recon Company mission; the apparition of his younger brother interferes with Houck's concentration to the point that he fails to act to protect the company leader, Captain Mike Bowers, who loses an eye.

The first chapter begins nine months later when Houck returns to the US. One of the first things he wishes to do is visit his former Captain in an attempt to make up for having failed to do his duty while on assignment in Iraq. What Houck discovers, however, is not what he bargained for. Not only has Bowers been murdered, but he had been living with another man, Alex Martin. Houck initially exhibits some fairly stereotypical homophobia having great difficulty accepting that his former Marine Captain, Mike Bowers, might have been gay. However as the plot unfolds, Houck discovers that Ray Duncan of the Hancock County, CA Sheriff's Department may have had something to do with Bowers's murder which complicates the situation. Finding Bowers's real killer would not only help Houck repay his debt of honor to his dead friend but would also offer Houck redemption and closure with the suicide of his younger brother, Dean, whom Houck caught having sex in flagrante with another man at home when Dean was eighteen years old.

The plot becomes potboilerish and predictable as the author tries to tie together Houck's search for redemption by coming to grips with the homosexuality of his good friend and his younger brother, both of whom die: Bowers is murdered; Dean commits suicide. For most of the novel, there is simply not enough action, nor sufficient subplots, nor suitably heroic characters. Houck asks his sister Patsy to help him find a safe place where he can undertake to teach Alex Martin, Mike's gay lover, to defend himself against the authorities in Hancock County who seemed to have been involved in carrying out or at least covering up Mike's death; Houck reasons that Alex will be next on their list of gay hate crimes so at least he can toughen Alex up to protect himself. When Alex escapes (after demonstrating to Houck that he can defend himself by already knowing how to fire a gun), Houck then is forced to come to grips with his attitude toward homosexuals as he is lead through an invisible gay underworld in Southern California as he seeks to find Alex.

Beginning in Chapter 14, however, the plot does take an unexpected twist with the arrival of Charlotte Martin, Alex's mother, whom Alex has claimed threw him out of the house and disinherited him. It seems that Alex was not exactly truthful with Houck about his relationship with his mother and the reason(s) for the disinheritance. In fact, Charlotte Martin informs Houck that Alex is the intended beneficiary of a $15 million inheritance from his grandmother. If Alex however is in jail and convicted of murder, then Charlotte would inherit the money. A relationship between Charlotte and Ray Duncan from the Hancock County Sheriff's office complicates the picture greatly. In the midst of all this, Houck finds a suicide note from his younger brother than explains to Houck that Dean was not being raped by the older man the day that Houck caught them but that Dean was actually enjoying himself; Dean had difficulty believing that his older brother would ever be able to accept him for who he really was.

Thus Rice's most recent novel, Blind Fall, is for the most part a pedestrian potboiler with many predictable twists and turns and stereotypical characters. Its plot concentrating on seeking redemption through acceptance of who some men really are while an important lesson is nevertheless too thin to support a 288 page thriller. In addition, it seems obvious that the author does not sympathize with those who are homophobic, particularly the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that in the author's opinion forces people to lie to themselves and others about who they really are. It may be that Rice's approach is intended to imitate real life as much as possible (as Gore Vidal tried to do in his 1949 novel The City and the Pillar) but Blind Fall is less successful than Vidal's novel because Rice does not or cannot empathize with those who find fault with homosexual behavior or the gay agenda.

Truth in advertising requires me to say that I own all autographed true first editions of all four of Christopher Rice's novels; three of them he autographed for me at an author event at Newtonville Books in Newtonville, MA several years ago.

The Story of a Marriage: A Novel
Andrew Sean Greer
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
New York
0374108668 $22.00

Don't let the brevity of Andrew Sean Greer's new work of fiction, The Story of a Marriage, fool you. It is jammed packed with unexpected ingenious plot twists and turns, unforgettable full-blooded characters, and philosophical musings about the nature of marriage, family, and commitment. Greer who has published two previous novels (The Confessions of Max Tivoli which made the best-seller lists and was very highly critically acclaimed and The Path of Minor Planets) and a short story collection (How It Was for Me) is a major new young literary talent. His current novella is told in the first person by the main character, Pearlie, whose personal experiences as a young married black woman are related against the backdrop of important events in US history in the 1940s (i.e. World War II) and the 1950s (i.e. Eslanda Goode Robeson's testimony before Senator Joseph McCarthy's Committee during which she invoked both the 5th and 15th Amendments and the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for treason).

In four sections does the author examine the relationship that Pearlie has with her childhood love and husband Holland Cook. The narrative weaves between the past and the present as Pearlie (and the reader) seek to uncover and penetrate the real truth of her marriage relationship. What is initially experienced, the author argues, may not be the truth, let alone the whole truth. We all wear masks to a certain extent. Trying to get to the real person can be an exercise in archaeology uncovering the various different layers that have accumulated over time. Many times in this exercise there are unexpected twists and turns.

In the opening sentence, the novel's entire plot is summarized in the first seven words: "We think we know the ones we love" as stated by Pearlie, the main character, whose subjective reactions to her emotional experiences of the trials and tribulations, successes and failures in her marriage with Holland Cook form the basis of the novel's plot. The first section provides the general introductory background to the plot. The reader is introduced to Pearlie, her husband Holland Cook, their son Sonny who suffers from polio, Holland's "aunts" Alice and Beatrice, and the enigmatic Charles "Buzz" Drumer. The author tells us that Pearlie fell in love with Holland twice; the first time as a teenager in their hometown in a farming community in Kentucky before and during World War II; the second time in California after her World War II job at WAVE ended and Holland had been recently discharged from a hospital.

A number of ambiguous, unexpected, or not fully explained events occur. Pearlie, for example, wants to marry Holland not only because she finds him extraordinarily handsome (as do most other people, the author notes) but also because she wants to take care of him. Holland's so-called aunts, Alice and Beatrice who are really simply older cousins, try to warn Pearlie that Holland has some form of unidentified illness which is why he had been hospitalized and so try to dissuade Pearlie from marrying him. Although Holland was drafted into the Second World War eventually, it was not via the normal course; Holland's mother kept him out of sight in an upstairs room in their home so that he would not have to enter military service where young black men were used as canon fodder for white soldiers she argues to Holland; only during an illness for which Pearlie went to seek a doctor did the military learn that Holland had not answered his draft calling. At the end of the section, Charles "Buzz" Drumer enters into Pearlie's and Holland's life. Drumer has run into Holland several times in the past; although Drumer had been a conscientious objector during the Second World War, he ended up in the same hospital as Holland yet Drumer was classified as section eight, a mental incapacity; the reader wonders as does Pearlie why were Holland and Drumer in the same room in the same hospital at the same time. Furthermore, Drumer had also been Holland's employer. Most interestingly, Drumer reenters Holland's life in an attempt to finally resolve their emotional relationship. Drumer offers to sell his company to raise $100,000 to essentially buy Pearlie off so that she and Sonny will be taken care of for life while Drumer seeks to reestablish his emotional connection with Holland.

In the next three sections, Pearlie struggles mightily with her dilemma: should she accept Drumer's word and his money letting Holland go, or should she fight for the man she loves and whose life story she has thought she understood because she had married him. How Pearlie reacts to this situation is recounted tenderly from her subjective viewpoint against the background of selected US historical events of the times; Eslanda Goode Robeson, wife of actor Paul Robeson, is introduced to highlight the plight of black identity in the 1950s; Ethel Rosenberg, who simply failed to try to stop her husband from passing on American atomic secrets to the Russians instead of actively plotting with him, metaphorically symbolizes the main point of the novel: we do not necessarily know all that we think we do about someone we love. It is Greer's great strength that as author he is able not only to sympathize with the plight of his main characters (unlike Christopher Rice, who in his recently published novel Blind Fall that is also reviewed in this month's issue, is unable or unwilling to get into the skin of his straight main character to make him more sympathetic and emotionally vulnerable) but is also able to inhabit their lives, their emotions, and their psychological battles. While Christopher Rice writes gay fiction for a gay audience (Rice's obvious sympathies lie with his gay characters while his straight characters are challenged constantly to overcome their supposed bigotry to arrive at an understanding of what being gay in America means today), Andrew Sean Greer does not seek to ghettoize himself in writing gay fiction but rather he writes – and does so very successfully -- literary fiction for a broader audience that may occasionally have gay themes but which nevertheless addresses profound, deeply moving issues that lay at the heart of the common human condition.

Truth in advertizing requires me to state that just as I own a complete set of autographed true first editions of Christopher Rice's novels, I also have a complete set of autographed true first editions of Andrew Sean Greer's books, three of which (How It Was For Me, The Path of Minor Planets, and The Confessions of Max Tivoli) he signed for me at an author event at Newtonville Books in Newtonville, MA several years ago.

Charlie Murray

Christy's Bookshelf

Snow Shadows
Caitlyn Hunter
L&L Dreamspell
9781603180382 $TBA

In early-day America, Mathias, Marc, Luke, and Jon are Cherokee cousins who have been blood brothers since the age of eight. As young warriors, they defy their clan's rules, which results in the shamans placing a curse on the four, confining them to the area around Eternity Mountain and commanding they protect the animals they each have been given the ability to morph into, as well as care for the environment. Matt, Marc and Luke choose to remain on Eternity Mountain, but Jon lives in Asheville, where he is a veterinarian. All men have telepathic and psychic abilities, and Jon is a healer.

In present day, Jon's divorced assistant Ellen continues to be harassed by her ex-husband. Noting Ellen's stress, Jon sends her to his cabin on Eternity Mountain, hoping this respite will help her to relax. Jon telepathically requests his three brothers keep watch over Ellen during her stay there. Matt saves Ellen, who is lost and injured, during a snowstorm, and their mutual attraction cannot be denied. The two quickly fall into a heated romance, the likes of which neither has experienced before. Matt is shocked to realize he loves Ellen and wants her for his wife, but the fact that he will outlive her keeps him from speaking these thoughts. Ellen, on the other hand, thinks of herself as unattractive and something of a nut case. She feels she does not deserve a man such as Matt and, although she knows she is in love with him, resigns herself to the fact that their relationship is, at most, temporary.

Unbeknownst to both, danger and death lie in their path, but the fates intervene with a gift that can bring Ellen and Matt together and end his curse. However, a fatal pact stands in the way.

This sensual paranormal, the first in the Eternal Shadows series, will have fans clamoring for more. Matt, Marc, Luke and Jon are intriguing characters, and Hunter excels at developing a fascinating story wrapped around Cherokee history and legend. With superb visualizations, sizzling romance, gut-wrenching suspense, along with outstanding characterization, narrative and dialogue, this is one book that will attract many readers across all genres. Count this one a must-have, must-read. Highly recommended.

The Pirate and the Puritan
Mary Clayton
The Wild Rose Press
1601541198 $14.99

At a young age, Mercy Penhall witnessed her mother's hanging and has not spoken in thirteen years. While sailing from Virginia to Massachusetts, her ship is destroyed by pirates and she is taken captive. Edmund Gramercy, forced by the pirates to be a captain, remains alive only because he knows how to navigate the seas. A compassionate man, Edmund protects Mercy from the other pirates, and is intrigued by her courage. Although attracted to Mercy, he realizes he can never have any sort of life with her due to his criminal background. Mercy has never experienced the feelings she holds for Edmund and would like nothing more than to remain by his side but fears she is not worthy of his love. Edmund helps Mercy escape and, from that point, both endure numerous hardships while longing for one another. Yet fate steps in more than once to bring the two together, only to be torn apart again.

Mary Clayton's historical romance wraps the reader in an enthralling love story that moves from the high seas to colonial America. Clayton provides vivid detail of the time period with keen insight into the differences between the religious communities, the ongoing political strife, the way women were perceived, and the brutality of a pirate's life. Characterization is excellent, from Mercy, a brave, mute Puritan who questions her religion and fears she is tainted, to Edmund, a compassionate man forced to live a cruel existence, to John Hanson, the evil Puritan minister intent on exorcising the witch within Mercy. Packed with action and suspense, readers will fall in love with the characters and this excellent love story. Highly recommended.

Certain Prey
John Sandford
G.P. Putnam's Sons
039914496X $24.95

As a teenager, Clara Rinker ran away from home and an abusive stepfather. While working as a dancer in a strip club, Clara is raped but plots her vengeance and kills the man who assaulted her. This begins a long career for Clara as a hired killer. Carmel Loan is a successful defense attorney in Minneapolis, a woman who is used to getting what she wants. And she wants Hale Allen, but standing in her way is Allen's wife. Through a third-party, Carmel hires Clara to kill Allen's wife, at which point, Lucas Davenport steps into the picture. Before Clara can enjoy her new relationship with Allen, the liaison she used to contact Clara tries to blackmail Carmel, so Carmel hires Clara personally to take care of this matter. From this point, things begin to unravel, which requires Clara and Carmel to team up and commit more murders. All the while, Davenport and his crew are one step behind the two killers, with no evidence to tie either one to any of the murders.

This is the tenth book in the Prey series by John Sandford, which remains as fresh at this point as at the beginning. Lucas Davenport is an engaging character, an intelligent and intense investigator who enjoys his career chasing killers. Although there is no actual mystery to figure out here, which marks this as more of a thriller, the chase by Davenport and several strong secondary characters is fine-tuned and all the more enjoyable to follow.

The Overlook
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
9780316018951 $21.99

LAPD detective Harry Bosh has a new job in the Homicide Special division, which handles murders with political, celebrity or media connections, or those called hobby cases, which are difficult to solve and take much time. His first call out involves a doctor killed at an overlook above Mulholland Dam. Bosch and his new partner, Ignacio Ferras, are surprised when the FBI shows up at the crime scene. The dead doctor worked with radioactive materials and the FBI thinks his murder is tied to a terrorist plot to build and activate a dirty bomb in Los Angeles. When they learn that radioactive material has been stolen from the doctor, the case shifts to investigate the terrorists who took the substance instead of who killed the doctor. But Bosch thinks there's more to this murder than what's obvious.

Harry Bosch is once more at odds with the FBI and his own police department, but this relentless detective will not back down and pursues his own investigation in his own way. Bosch is an edgy man with a rebellious streak, a detective whose skills continue to keep him in good standing with the upper echelons of the police department, although he always manages to alienate most of those around him. Although this mystery is relatively easy for the reader to solve, the plot is tight and suspenseful, and takes place within a 12-hour time span.

Colin's Conquest
Lisa Rene Smith
L&L Dreamspell
9780978772314 $19.95

Colin, a centenarian vampire, marks Joanna as his future mate when she is a young girl. Years later, Joanna is compelled to go to her family's cabin deep in the Texas woodlands, where Colin claims her for himself. But Joanna isn't willing to remain captive in Colin's lair and keeps trying to escape from him. Colin is surprised by Joanna's fiery, independent nature and is baffled at the human emotions this strong woman brings out in him. Joanna is fascinated by Colin and her passion for him cannot be denied. However, few females survive the transition from human to vampire, and Colin, once he realizes he is in love with Joanna, decides that he does not want to risk her life. He hypnotizes Joanna, commanding she forget him and his young companion Ben. But Joanna's body does not want to forget, and she risks her life to find Colin, unaware that other, powerful male vampires are heading her way, each determined to have her as his mate.

Colin's Conquest is a captivating tale wrapped around a sizzling romance between characters readers will not soon forget, filled with vivid details of the sometimes brutal lives of blood seekers. Packed with suspense and rocking with action, this superb paranormal raises the bar in the romance field. Readers will be quickly turning pages, engrossed in the fascinating world Smith has created, so much so that they will be reluctant to leave it. Highly recommended.

Chaos the Vampire Child
Lisa Rene Smith
L&L Dreamspell
9780978772376 $19.95

Smith begins the second of her blood seeker series twelve years after the ending of the first. Centenarian Colin and his transformed wife Joanna remain married, residing with their daughter Chaos, Colin's neophyte Ben and Linnea, Colin's creator. Chaos enters puberty and quickly changes from child to woman in one day, sending out her siren's song. Women vampires are a rarity and much coveted by the males of their clan, who hear her mating call and hasten to find her. But Colin and his family are committed to protecting Chaos and will gladly give their lives to see that she remains safe and by their side. But there are blood seekers more ancient and much stronger than they, and death and destruction lie in their path as they seek to protect Chaos.

Smith once more delivers an outstanding paranormal. Action and adventure abound and romance is hot and sweet. Characters from the first book in the series return for a more in-depth look into their backgrounds and personas. The fight scenes are well-written and filled with suspense. Smith's visualizations are uniquely poetic and draw the reader into the story as she takes them from the piney woods of Texas to the Floridian coast. Highly recommended.

Christy Tillery French

Daniel's Bookshelf

One Last Scream
Kevin O' Brien
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corporation
830 Third Avenue, New York, NY, 10022
9780786017768 $6.99 1-800-221-2647

A young women named Amelia Faraday has help from a therapist Karen Carlisle who becomes wrapped up in to attempting to prove Amelia's innocence from a series of twelve suspicious murders. The plot is devious and the author Kevin O' Brien keeps the story and twists turning, so the last 100 pages keeps the reader engrossed, and persistent to finishing a very satisfying mystery.

This story written is a complex puzzle, and a plot that keeps one guessing while reading it. I find that attribute to be the most important. The other facet of a twist that is not always so easy to detect during the unraveling of the storyline. The story begins with an abduction, which eventually multiple murders and the plot thickens to events taking place. The problem is the main character is closely tied to the events of the murders and she has vivid recollections of having committed them. The therapist and Amelia's uncle begin to investigate her past which uncovers murders in the present and the past. Everything seems to lead to Amelia.

The action, suspense, and this baffling mystery give credibility of the author to tell a scary tale of action, which keeps this reader not wanting it to end. Kevin O' Brien has written more than eight novels to date, and the best compliment to him is to look back to his earlier novels, and read them with my new found respect. I was lucky to have picked this novel by pure happenstance, and I am delighted I found this intelligent thriller mystery.

Deep Storm
Lincoln Child
Published by Anchor Books
A Division of Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway 3rd Floor, New York, NY, 10019
9781400095476 $7.99 1-262-765-9000

I have read all of Lincoln Child's joint novels with Douglas Preston and both of their solo novels with the exception of Douglas's Blasphemy. I have been entertained throughout the years with their good stories of adventure, interesting characters, and intriguing settings. Deep Storm is a fine read of mystery, adventure, and very intense setting at the bottom of the North Atlantic ocean. Lincoln wraps up a tight story with twists and a claustrophobic atmosphere that keeps the suspense pounding. The main character Peter Crane is sent to assist into this site to investigate mysterious illnesses. He is brought into a secret research facility and allowed access to seek out to find answers to them. The book moves at page turning pace, and the author keeps the reader interested into what the problem might be and guessing to the very end. A combination of all the subplots that don't take away from the outcome.

I was not disappointed into this tale of adventure in a world one knows really little about with all the security and high technology. The setting is a place where danger creeps up within this facility, that was there to uncover answers that only raised more questions. Lincoln knows how to keep the reader informed only to the point to help find out what is truly happening below the water's surface. This gives me the nod to put a comment that it was a good intriguing yarn and an intelligent anytime read. I end it with the thoughts that I recommend it to anyone who likes to read a thriller that moves along with good pacing.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

The 731 Legacy
Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore
Midnight Ink
9780738713175 $15.95

The forces of evil are hard at work again in The 731 Legacy, the fourth installment in Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore's series featuring Satellite News Network correspondent Cotten Stone. This time, the North Koreans are plotting to unleash an Ebola-like hemorrhagic virus on the world. The virus is the dirty work of Chung Moon Jung, an embittered, Japanese-born doctor who is eager to carry on her parents' work: during World War II they had been part of Japan's covert Unit 731, which conducted research into biological and chemical warfare and, notoriously, was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of their human guinea pigs. The North Koreans are being helped in their gruesome enterprise by Cotten Stone's nemesis, the Dark Lord himself, Lucifer: as regular readers of the series will be aware, Cotten isn't just a reporter; she's also the daughter of Furmiel, one of the Fallen Angels, who rebelled against God but later repented of it.

As in previous installments, Cotten's relationship with Cardinal John Tyler is central to the story. The two are a couple in all but deed, devoted to one another but, his position being what it is, incapable of acting on their affection. John winds up needing saving from the bad guys more than once this time around, and Cotten risks everything to rescue him. She in fact gets herself into trouble so deep that extrication from it seems impossible.

The 731 Legacy, just as the authors' previous books, starts with a gripping first chapter. The rest of the book is good too: it's well written, and the plot keeps you reading. I have no complaints about the book at all up until its denouement: the final battle between good and evil, because it's fought on an extra-human plane rather than by the protagonists, feels remote and anticlimactic. In addition, the book's last chapter is, frankly, shocking: the plot development it announces is wholly unexpected and, I think, far too sudden. It feels, in fact, like a series-ending conclusion, but there is no indication that this is the last outing for Cotten Stone. Assuming there's a book five, it's going to be a very different animal indeed!

I'm Proud of You: Life Lessons from My Friend Fred Rogers
Tim Madigan
Gotham Books
9781592403301 $11.00

In the fall of 1995 Tim Madigan interviewed Fred Rogers for an article he was writing on TV violence for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It turned out to be the beginning of a friendship--mostly conducted long distance, by email and phone--that would profoundly affect Madigan and would last until Mister Rogers' death early in 2003. In I'm Proud of You Madigan discusses Mister Rogers' role in his life during their seven-year friendship, explaining how Rogers' support and unconditional love helped him through problems with his marriage and his brother's untimely death from lung cancer. Madigan quotes liberally from Rogers' correspondence and from their conversations, both of which are infused with Rogers' spirituality: Mister Rogers was an ordained minister, and references to prayer and God were a staple of his communication.

By all accounts, Fred Rogers was possessed of an otherworldly goodness. It's impossible to come away from Madigan's account or other write-ups of Mister Rogers unimpressed.

"I had always hated to swim, but didn't have the heart to say so then. So Fred led me into the club's locker room, introduced me to the attendant and a few of his other friends, found me a swimsuit that would fit, then quickly and unselfconsciously stripped off his clothes. On the way to the pool with a towel over his shoulder, he stepped on a locker room scale and smiled.

"'One-four-three,' he said. 'I've weighed exactly one hundred and forty-three pounds for as long as I can remember. Did you know that in sign language that means, 'I love you'? One finger for I; four fingers for love; three fingers for you. Isn't that wonderful?'"

He was, Madigan's book makes clear, constantly thoughtful, apparently always on the lookout for a means of expressing his support to his friends, and to their friends and family.

Madigan's life was much improved by his relationship with Mister Rogers, particularly since the friendship straddled such rough patches in Madigan's life. Madigan is honest about those difficulties, and quite willing to expose his vulnerability. Indeed, his account is so honest it sometimes feels as if the author has rubbed his raw wounds on the page. I wouldn't do it, certainly, and, truth be told, I'm tempted to feel embarrassment on his behalf. The title of the book, for example, is a reference to Fred Rogers' response to a letter Madigan wrote him in 1996, explaining how he craved acceptance from his father as a child and that he was still looking for acceptance from a father figure:

"That is the question I have of you this morning, Fred. Will you be proud of me? It would mean a great deal to me if you would. I have come to love you in a very special way. In your letters, and during our brief time together in Pittsburgh, you have done so much to teach me how to be a person and a man. And now I have this favor to ask of you.

"Will you be proud of me?"

I am of a cynical bent, and find it difficult to believe in the possibility of--or even the desirability of--unconditional love (with an exception granted for one's children). So I confess that the intensity of the relationship between these two men strikes me as strange. But the book offers an interesting look at the sort of man Fred Rogers was, from someone with a unique perspective on the subject.

Guide to Pirate Parenting
Tim Bete
Cold Tree Press
214 Overlook Court, Suite 253, Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
9781583851272 $10.95

So, a pirate walks into a bar.... As Tim Bete tells it, at least, that's how his Guide to Pirate Parenting got its beginning. A pirate, one Cap'n Billy "The Butcher" MacDougall, sat down next to him at the Crow's Nest Tavern. After an hour's worth of chit chat and one potentially fatal faux pas on Bete's part ("Do you work in a theme park?"), Cap'n Billy, having learned that Bete was a writer, demanded that he transcribe the Cap'n's pirate-themed parenting advice. Teaching parents how to raise their children as pirates, the Cap'n figured, would be good for the pirating industry, there being a shortage of pirates in the modern day. As for parents, they'll find that kids raised as pirates will have higher self-esteem and a more colorful vocabulary. And the fact that one's children are pirates is useful as a ready excuse for any behavioral issues that should come up.

Following Bete's introduction on the genesis of his book are seven chapters in which the Cap'n answers common questions--a sort of pirate parenting FAQ--on the subjects of: pirate babies, food, sleeping issues, discipline, health, converting one's minivan into a pirate ship, and the teen years. For example:

"What is pink eye and how can I treat it?

"Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is inflammation of the conjunctiva, the white part of the eye. It is caused by bacteria and viruses and is extremely contagious. Do not let your child share another pirate's glass eye. While swapping glass eyes may seem like harmless fun, it often spreads disease. To treat conjunctivitis, get a prescription antibiotic from your child's doctor or change your child's nickname to 'Pinkeye the Pirate.'"

As for parents, they'll find that kids raised as pirates will have higher self-esteem and a more colorful vocabulary. Bete's book is cute in parts (I did laugh aloud when I read that Cap'n Billy used to call his grade school speech teacher a "speech therrrrrapist"), but the pirate jokes wear thin pretty quickly. Even at only 120-odd pages the book seems over-long. It may be that it's the sort of book one is meant to dip into rather than read straight through. That would make the salt cod jokes easier to take. Still, it's difficult to know who the appropriate audience for this book is. Kids might appreciate the jokes and the pirate-themed nursery rhymes Bete includes more than adults will, but then they're not usually in the market for parenting advice. But if you know a father-to-be with a slightly corny sense of humor, this might be just the book to get him as a gift.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Devil May Care
Sebastian Faulks (a.k.a. Ian Fleming)
9780385524285 $24.95

The intent on the part of the holders of the Ian Fleming estate was a great idea. They wanted to celebrate the 100th year of the birth of Ian Fleming by introducing a brand new James Bond novel that takes place a short time after "The Man With The Golden Gun" the last Fleming novel. But sadly that is the only good thing I can say about this novel. For starters the author should never have said he is writing as Ian Fleming because Fleming had a certain writing style that Faulks does not even try to capture. Fleming from the first novel "Casino Royale" in the first sentence described the feel of a casino at four in the morning. His description conveyed he had been to the city he was writing about and you felt he knew his subject. Here is an example from the first paragraph of "Live and Let Die" "There are moments of great luxury in the life of a secret agent. There are assignments on which he is required to act the part of a very rich man; occasions when he takes refuge to good living to efface the memory of danger and the shadow of death; and times when as was now the case, he is a guest in the territory of an allied Secret Service." I also found that in the Fleming Bond adventures the villains were larger than life, out to destroy the world. They also had memorable names. Hugo Drax, Goldfinger, Dr. No, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and Dr. Shatterhand. I can not tell you the name of this one. Faulks also replays certain aspects of the Fleming novels. Someone is sucked out of the airplane in a fight with Bond; the villain has a disabled hand like Dr. No are two of the things I noticed. I found the two women in the novel to be a distraction and the plot is very confusing. Kingsley Amis as Robert Markham wrote "Colonel Sun" that is much closer to the original novels than Faulks. Amis was also smart to not say he was writing as Ian Fleming. Even John Gardner, and Raymond Benson in their updated versions of Bond have done a better job of staying true to the character and feel of Fleming. It is overall a total disappointment. The reason I feel this way is because unlike many readers I have read all of the Fleming novels and am very fond of them. The estate holder would have done better to find another author to have written a Bond thriller closer to Fleming. Luckily Faulks has stated that this is his only contribution to the legacy of James Bond and Ian Fleming.

The Society of S
Susan Hubbard
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416534587 $14.00

"The Society of S" is the first novel of two so far that are about a teenager who finds out she is half vampire and half human. I read unfortunately "The Year Of Disappearances," the second novel, first. But actually it's not a real problem. I found both books to be interesting reading that take the vampire genre into brand new territory. The writing here is very tight with a story that races along to its final conclusion in Florida. Ari is on a quest to find her mother. Along the way she meets some interesting characters and there are a series of murders that possibly can be traced to her. There are plot twists and turns in which Ari begins to learn all about herself from her father and others around her. Hubbard has given new life to the vampire story.

James Patterson and Howard Roughan
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316018708 $27.95

After "You've Been Warned" by these same two authors, which I thought was one of their worst so much so that I couldn't even tell you what "You've Been Warned" was about. I am happy to say "Sail" puts them back on top with a lighting quick read that explodes on almost every page with suspense and a plot that races along like a runaway train. The dysfunctional Dunne family of Dr Katherine, her daughter Carrie, sons Mark and Ernie and Katherine's former brother in-law Jake are on the sailing trip of their lives. Katherine's second husband Bailey Todd stays behind and says he will see them all in a few weeks. The bizarre beginning in which a fish is caught containing a bottle with a message to the end makes this a tale that is filled with well-defined characters and situations that have readers turning pages. This one is their best one so far.

Destiny A Love Story From the Ashes of Despair
Don Helling
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432719920 $9.95

The western novel has always been fun reading. Don Helling shows with "Destiny" why. The characters are interesting set in a time when things were much simpler. The writing conveys the feel and manner of the late 1880s set in Colorado before it became a state. The novel is also a love story between a man who carries several secrets that he is afraid to reveal for fear of losing her.

The Woods Are Dark
Richard Laymon
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843957501 $7.99

At the beginning of this book there is an introduction by Richard Laymon's daughter Kelly that tells the progression of this novel to this edition.. I can see why Warner Books changed much of it for their version. Having read both printings I have to say this is the better one. The road was long to this version which is the one Laymon originally wrote It is more complete and answers a lot of questions left open from before. The story is gritty with graphic sex and just plain weird. The writing is memorable and the end is bizarre. Laymon who is no longer with us was one of the best writers of horror. We are lucky that Leisure has been printing new editions of his tales that are finding whole new audiences.

Sweet Mandarin
Helen Tse
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martins Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312379360 $23.95

Helen Tse has told her family story from Hong Kong to England over several generations of women. She also reveals how she and women in her family opened a restaurant in Britain. But there is more to this wonderful true story. She also shows the culture of Hong Kong that many of us have never known. Women are not just second-class citizens. They have no voice. At an early age it is decided for them who they are to marry. They own nothing. . They are to serve the needs of their husband and their education is limited. When their husband dies the property and all valuables go to the next male family member to her husband This is the society Tse's grandmother had to endure. Tse's grandfather wanted to raise the family's standard of living higher than it was so he opened a business that was such a threat to others of the same industry that it cost him his life. She was able to leave Hong Kong and live in England to start a new life. This is the story of three generations of one family. The author has done a tremendous job of showing the differences in cultures and how one family of women evolved and survived.

I Already Know I Love You
Billy Crystal, author
Elizabeth Sayles, illustrator
Harper Festival
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061450570 $7.99

The multi talented Billy Crystal now writes a kid's book that shows how a grandparent feels about the birth of a new child. From the point of view of the grandfather, he writes of the things he would like to tell the child, when it's a little older, of the bonding process of grandfather and grandchild. The book though short adds a new perspective and shows how important involvement with grandparents is to young children.

Welcome to Your World, Baby
Brooke Shields, author
Cori Doerrfeld, illustrator
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061253119 $16.99

Brooke Sheilds who has entertained us in many ways now turns her attention to a kid's book. She tells the story of a child and how she prepares for the arrival of a sibling. The book is fun reading and tells children a lot of how to prepare for the birth of another child. The artwork by Cori Doerrfeld adds a great deal to the work.

There's a Yak in My Bed
K. Pluta, author
Christy Stallop, illustrator
Blooming Tree Press
P.O. Box140934, Austin TX 78714
9780976941743 $16.95

This is one of the funniest kid's books I think I have ever read. Pluta has written a witty tale of a yak that tries to fit in to the human world. The illustrations add another dimension to this wonderful story. "There's a Yak In My Bed" is not just for little kids, it is a book that all ages can enjoy.

Patrick the Somnambulist
Sarah Ackerley
Blooming Tree Press
P.O. Box140934, Austin TX 78714
9781933831077 $14.95

Kid's books today are filled with many messages. "Patrick the Somnambulist"is about a Penguin trying to find himself. He goes so far as to seek out therapy to talk about who he is. Sarah Ackerley who is also the artist has told a very charming tale for all ages to enjoy.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Death Walked In
Carolyn Hart
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060724054 $23.95 800-242-7737

The newest entry in the popular Death on Demand series by Carolyn Hart returns the reader to Broward's Rock, described as the "loveliest of the South Carolina sea islands," and indeed the writer makes the town sound charming as its flora and fauna are lovingly described. The focal point of the action is the historic ante-bellum Franklin House which Annie and Max Darling are refurbishing. As the tale opens, Max is en route to the old house when he receives a call from a frightened-sounding woman seeking his help. Max runs Confidential Commissions, described as an agency devoted to assisting problems in solving problems. Insistent that it is not a detective agency, and having had a particularly nasty experience the last time he heeded a similar cry for help, he instructs his secretary to tell the woman to call the police. When the woman's dead body is discovered by Annie, his wife, shortly afterwards, he is overwhelmed with, as Annie describes it, "a good man's concern that he'd walked by on the other side of the road, leaving a helpless woman in jeopardy."

Though he might not have been able to prevent her death, Annie and Max determine to find the murderer. There seems to be a connection between the murder and the theft of some very valuable coins from the home of the dead woman's employer, the esteemed Grant family, only a few days prior. The convoluted relations between the various family members are exposed as the investigation continues, and another murder occurs. The killer appears to be "a shadowy figure who seemed to be able to move unseen leaving death behind."

The Darlings are as dogged as one might hope in their efforts to uncover the identity of the thief and the murderer [are they one and the same?]. Along the way we again meet two of the series' most delightful characters: Agatha, the elegant black cat who resides in the bookstore Annie owns, Death on Demand, described as the finest mystery bookstore north of Miami, and Dorothy L, the fluffy white cat owned by Max, named after arguably two of the best practitioners of the art of the small-town mystery, in whose footsteps this author wonderfully follows. [In debating which cat is smarter than the other, Max states "Depends on which reader you ask."] A delightful, suspenseful read.

Dead Time
Stephen White
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525960066 $25.95 800-847-5515,

At the outset I found the shifting points of view utilized by the author somewhat disconcerting, something I didn't remember from Mr. White's earlier books, which I have uniformly loved. The chapters written from the p.o.v. of Alan Gregory, the clinical psychologist who is Mr. White's protagonist in this series, are headed "Her Ex," while those from the p.o.v. of his former wife are "His Ex." These are in turn interspersed with a separate story line dealing with the mysterious disappearance a few years back in time of a young woman last seen on the Canyon floor at the base of the Grand Canyon, those chapters headed simply "The Canyon." These disparate lines are joined quickly enough when we learn that these latter passages are flashbacks to an incident in the life of Alan's ex's current fiance, the repercussions of which are still being felt, and in which she enlists Alan's help.

I must quickly state that the alternating p.o.v. and varying voices are handled so skillfully that they proceed swiftly and the reader becomes engrossed in the tale – or tales – being spun, and any negative reactions quickly disappear. And when another woman disappears, in the contemporaneous story, the action ratchets up, as does the reader's tension and absorption.

The action takes place variously in Boulder, Colorado, where the author and his protagonist live, as well as New York City, Los Angeles and of course the Grand Canyon, with wonderful descriptions of each. The novel deals with "buried things that refuse to stay buried," and with several parenthood issues, all engrossing. The writing contains just the right amount of humor at appropriate times to lighten the suspense-filled story, as would be expected from this wonderful author all of whose prior books – did I mention this? – I've thoroughly enjoyed. The book is hard to put down, and is highly recommended.

Easy Innocence
Libby Fischer Hellmann
Bleak House Books
923 Williamson St., Madison WI 53703 800-258-5830
9781932557664 $24.95

Georgia Davis is the protagonist of what appears to be a new series by Libby Fischer Hellmann. A cop for ten years on the North Shore of Chicago, she has been suspended from the force and is now working as a P.I. She has been hired to investigate the death of a 17-year-old girl, a high school student who was murdered in what appears to have started as a hazing, clubbed to death with a baseball bat in a forest preserve. It seems to be a pretty cut and dried affair, with all the evidence pointing to a 35-year-old registered sex offender. The latter's sister, fifteen years his senior, is convinced that despite his history, her brother is incapable of violence.

Although the case is described as a slam dunk, even the dead girl's mother has some doubts, telling Georgia: "Things started moving so fast it made my head spin. Everything all tied up in three or four days. With a big, shiny ribbon on top." Georgia's investigation uncovers up all kinds of unexpected discoveries, all to do with "families and friendships and secrets," some of which put Georgia's life in jeopardy. Georgia is not without conflict on this case: Her former partner on the police force is in charge of the investigation into the teen's death, and his animosity towards her is palpable. Then her path crosses that of her former lover, with whom she broke up two years earlier.

This was a book I could not put down, reading it cover to cover during the course of one day. The reader is drawn into the story immediately, and the wonderful writing makes the characters come alive. The startling turn of events as the book goes on is, on reflection, not all that shocking, but it certainly seems that way at first. I loved that Ellie Foreman, the protag in Ms. Hellmann's prior series, makes a cameo appearance, and that a character is named after Ruth Jordan, she of Crimespree Magazine renown. The suspense is sustained throughout as the search for the real killer goes on, and some unexpected twists as the books races to a conclusion will keep readers off balance to the end. Highly recommended.

The book had a simultaneous release in hardcover and in paperback format.

Alex Kava
Mira Books, Exon House
18-24 Paradise Rd., Richmond, Surrey UK TW9 1SR
9780778302025 6.99 Brit. pounds

[This book will not be available in the US til Nov. 2008, presently only available from or through the UK or Canada]

Alex Kava has written a thriller that could not be more timely – its themes are oil and greed.

Sabrina Galloway is a 35-year-old former academic, having left her home in Chicago one year ago to work as a scientist for EchoEnergy, a Tallahassee, Florida company apparently in the forefront of the race to convert refuse and other waste material into oil, a process known as Thermal Conversion [a very real science per the author's note]. The corporation seems on the verge of landing a $140 million government contract to supply the entire U.S. military, the first time such a contract would be awarded to other than a Middle Eastern oil company.

The book, surely written before the present-day preoccupation with gas prices and the per-barrel cost of oil ascending to ever greater and previously unthinkable heights, takes place during a post-George W. Bush administration, and got this reader in its grip early on [almost surprisingly, as I did not finish the one earlier book by Ms. Kava I had ever picked up]. But all the elements are here: a suspenseful story line, fast-paced writing, and engaging characters: Sabrina; her octogenarian next-door neighbor, Miss Sadie, whose gorgeous fluffy white cat, Lizzie Borden, plays her own small role; her father, seemingly victim of dementia; and her enigmatic brother, Eric, who she has neither seen nor heard from in two years, since the tragic accidental death of their mother; and then there are the Washington D.C. players, including Jason Brill, pragmatic chief of staff to U. S. Senator John Quincy Allen, a man with special ambitions of his own, and whose support of the EchoEnergy contract he hopes will further those ambitions.

This standalone entry from Alex Kava may make me seek out her several prior books, and it is recommended.

Chasing Cans
Laura Crum
Perseverance Press
c/o John Daniel & Co.
P.O. Box 2790, McKinleyville CA 95519
9781880284940 $14.95 800-662-8351,

In the tenth book in her Gail McCarthy series [only the second which I have read], Laura Crum's protagonist has, at least for the moment, and with only a bit of ambivalence, left her profession as a horse vet to be a full-time mom. Now at the age of forty, married for two years, Gail has found domestic life with her husband and year-old little boy to be more fulfilling than she could have guessed. As to the ambivalence: "I struggled once again with the inevitable conflict between this overwhelming drive to mother versus my own wish, neglected but not forgotten, to continue being the assertive, professional woman I was used to being. Gail McCarthy the horse vet, that was me. Independent, strong-minded, competent, in charge - these were the words that came to mind. Not tranquil, maternal, nurturing, patient - the virtues that went with mamahood. And yet, here I was."

As the book opens, Gail is confronted by her querulous neighbor, a horse trainer, where strong feelings, all of them negative, abound. When shortly thereafter the woman dies in what seems to be a freak accident while training a horse, termed a 'horse wreck," Gail cannot ignore the feeling that something about the incident seemed wrong. The woman's enemies abound - Gail herself can be considered one of them, for that matter. But when another woman dies soon after in another horse wreck, under different but similarly 'off' circumstances, Gail cannot ignore the fact that someone may have caused these events - the second woman is left in a coma, the question of her ultimate recovery unknown. When her friend Jeri, the detective assigned to the case, asks for Gail's help, since Gail knows all of the people involved and who could be considered suspects, Gail feels duty bound to help her, to her own peril it would seem.

The dead woman, Lindee Stone, was a well-known trainer of barrel racing horses, a sport of which I must admit I'd never heard. The horse doesn't actually race or chase the barrels. As it is explained, "three barrels, essentially oil drums, are set up in a measured triangle It is a timed event wherein the horse runs a pattern that involves making a specific, ordered U-turn around each barrel and then racing back to the line where he started. The loops around each barrel look a bit like the three lobes of a cloverleaf. The horse's time starts when he crosses the line, then he runs what they call the cloverleaf pattern around the barrels and when he crosses the line again, his time stops." Fastest time wins. It's a timed event and is apparently very demanding, both of the animal and the trainer as well. And Lindee had been one of the best, apparently earning medals as well as enemies along the way with equal ease. To me, the more interesting aspect of this is its reference to the sport as "Chasing Cans." As Gail says, "I guess it struck me as some sort of metaphor for the meaninglessness of life. We chase and chase after whatever it is we think we want – money, power, status – and then, in the end, it doesn't seem to mean very much. Not while you're lying in your grave," and seems to be the author's metaphor for meaningless pursuits.

The aforementioned work/amateur sleuth/full-time mother conflict is portrayed very realistically by the author, as Gail alternately pursues the investigation and then returns home to the magnetic pull of the incredible joys of bonding with her baby. But as she ponders the question "Was pursuing the truth for its own sake enough?" ultimately the answer has to be 'yes.' The gorgeous descriptions of San Francisco's Monterey Bay area and the equine [and other assorted] animal population that abound there are wonderfully evocative of the place. The author is a fourth-generation Santa Cruz County resident who has owned and trained horses for over thirty years, and that knowledge is made evident in her writing. An enjoyable read.

Empty Ever After
Reed Farrel Coleman
Bleak House Books
923 Williamson St., Madison WI 53703
9781932557640 $24.95 800-258-5830,

Moe Prager is a complex man, and Empty Ever After, the newest book in the series of which he is the protagonist, is a complex novel. Moe is an ex-cop and currently a p.i., as well as co-owner of four wine shops in and around New York City. He adores his teenage daughter, Sarah, and has a more or less amicable relationship with his ex-wife, Katy. As he says, "Divorce, no matter how amicable, isn't easy, and Katy, Sarah and I were still in the midst of realigning our hearts to deal with the new tilt of our worlds…Divorce impacts couples in different ways. It's an equation of losses and gains. The gains, however large or small, are usually apparent early on. The losses, as I was discovering, reveal themselves slowly, in painful, unexpected ways."

Moe's marriage fell apart when the truth of Katy's brother's death years earlier became known to her, and the fact that Moe had kept that truth a secret for all that time. Moe is called to the grave of Katy's brother, Patrick Michael Maloney, when it is found to have been desecrated, and subsequent events make it apparent that someone is out to hurt, if not destroy, Moe's family. Secrets are a big part of this tale, and the harm that they can do which can far outlive the events that gave rise to them. Moe finds it necessary to search back over the last few decades of his life, and has to "focus on closing chapters in my life." [Vengeance, cemeteries, and 'ghosts' all play a part.] He tries to comfort his daughter, distraught at the awful way unfolding events have affected her mother. In the past he had always been able to provide that comfort, but now wonders "Had she finally outgrown the magic…or was it that the magic wouldn't work if the magician no longer believed in his powers?"

Mr. Coleman has written a book that is much more than a suspenseful novel – it is a beautifully written work imparting some universal truths. About truth itself, the author says "….the truth doesn't conform to the rules of Sunday school or sermons, to cliches or adages. The truth doesn't always come out in the wash or in the end and it's frequently not for the best. The truth often makes things worse, much worse. The truth can be as much poison as elixir, cancer as cure." It's often moving, and it resonated with me as much as I did partially because I, as Moe, grew up as a Jew living in Brooklyn, with the Belt Parkway part of the backdrop of my life and Shea Stadium part of its fabric, but also because of the very human and well-drawn characterizations. The book, simultaneously issued in hardcover and paperback, is highly recommended. The author has a new book coming out in October from the same publisher, "The Fourth Victim," written under the name of Tony Spinosa , and I cannot wait to read it, as well as the next book in the Moe Prager series.

Fatal Encryption
Debra Purdy Kong
Gypsy Moon Press
3313 Henry St., Port Moody BC, V3H 2K4
9780969921110 $19.95 604-469-4852

Alex Bellamy, 28-year-old Chartered Accountant and computer geek who had been working as a temp, decides against his better judgment to accept a job as systems analyst for the family-owned McKinleys' Department Stores. Three successive men had left the position or been fired, and the stores' computers have been the target of pranks. Alex decides that virtual vandalism is a worthy objective for his talents and in fact, since normally he merely sets up systems and gets rid of viruses for his clients, thinks it might be an 'intriguing challenge.' Little does he know.

No sooner does he accept the job than the family receives threats which escalate from huge ransom demands to promises of retaliation ranging from a fatal encryption of the entire computer system used by all stores in the chain [the main store plus 21 satellite stores], to the burning down of the main store. The stakes are raised when the brother of a man who had been fired from the store is murdered. Could the killer and the hacker be one and the same? The suspects are, among others, "a disgruntled systems analyst, an employer close to bankruptcy, and a controller who couldn't keep his mouth shut."

The book is all about family dysfunction, from the McKinleys themselves to Alex [who had always been made to feel like the family failure when he rejected joining the Bellamy family's successful hotel empire] and various others around whom the plot revolves. Some of the writing felt somewhat stilted, e.g., "Just as I feared. Either the culprit, or his accomplice, works among us." The plot points first to one suspect as the most likely, then to another, then to another, and so on. After a while this began to feel repetitious, and the book might have benefited from some judicious editing. But the suspense builds to an exciting conclusion.

Among other unknown-to-me facts I picked up from the novel were the distinction between a "hack" and a "cracker," the former being someone who just wants to learn, the latter someone who wants to harm, and the definition of 'encryption," i.e., converting data into code which makes it inaccessible.

Scots on the Rocks
Mary Daheim
c/o Wm. Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060566548 $7.99 212-207-7000/800-242-7737

This is the 23rd entry in Mary Daheim's Bed-and-Breakfast series, and the first one I'd read. This time, instead of the Pacific Northwest, Judith Flynn and her cousin, Serena [known to one and all as Renie] Jones are in Scotland, where their husbands, retired cop and psychologist, respectively, are indulging in their love of fishing. Joe Flynn has arranged with a policeman friend who is to join them fishing the Scottish waters for the women to stay in a remote village near Aberdeen, where they soon find themselves "at loose ends…What else can we do with no car and our husbands off fishing? We're bored. We Yanks enjoy excitement." Excitement is soon found in the form of an explosion on the beach near the castle and a man's body found nearby. If that isn't enough, the castle is said to be haunted, and indeed a strange voice is heard from time to time, its source undiscovered. The dead man is the grandson of the caretakers to the castle and the estranged husband of a local oil heiress. There is a large cast of local residents [to the extent that I had difficulty keeping track of the various characters]. Judith has a habit, as readers of the series know, of finding dead bodies, to the extent that she says "sometimes I feel like the harbinger of death." For her part, Renie has a habit of occasional violent urges, though relatively harmless ones. They both are given to using expressions such as "gaga" and "neener-neener" and Renie at one point refers to her husband as a "nut doc," which struck me as particularly off key.

I must admit that cozies are not my favorite things, although that said, the book makes for a light summer read. I found it a bit corny, e.g., one character has the following phone conversation: "The Eagle has flown. The Jackal is trapped. The Leopard? Very well." From the Too Stupid to Live department, at one point the women accompany a stranger who had used subterfuge to get them to meet him and was a possible suspect, to his cottage, and then discuss at length the murder and their investigation, not to mention the fact that they fell for his ruse in the first place. But the book and Renie have a charm to them, not unlike Mrs. Marple in her time.

Assassins at Ospreys
R. T. Raichev
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569475058 $24.95

In this, the third Country House mysteries, one finds oneself in Christie territory, literally and figuratively. The tale begins at Hay-on-Wye, where the protagonist, author Antonia Darcy, is appearing on a panel of crime writers, being gushed over by an apparently devoted fan, one Beatrice ("Bee") Ardleigh. In short order Antonia and her husband, Major Hugh Payne, become embroiled in Bee's complicated life.

Bee appears to be an invalid, being confined to a wheelchair, but is she really? She has as a companion, Ingrid, a decidedly strange woman with whom she has lived for decades, who appears to loathe Bee's new husband [calling him "the interloper]." And she appears on the brink of being the sole heir of a very wealthy man she hasn't seen or heard from in many decades, one Ralph Renshawe, owner of the eponymous Ospreys, a "bleak Gothic mansion on the border between Oxfordshire and Berkshire" [now fallen into disrepair].

The reader is aware of the identity of the intended murder victim, but there is no dead body until more than halfway through the novel, something which startled me when I became aware of it. So much for the perpetual argument as to how soon in a book a body should first be discovered. Here there is no sense of the author having waited too long for that plot development – the journey has been too much fun to even notice. And just when a murder appears to take place, the author provides a twist sure to have the reader puzzled, but only for a little while.

The book is full of drollery and literary quotes, references and allusion, as well as bits of Latin and French. Ingrid thinks of Antonia's books as each being "a mere commercially motivated replica of its predecessor. Variations on a tried, if tired, lucrative theme. Well-bred characters sitting beside cosy fires, drinking tea, deliberating whodunit ad nauseam." Ospreys is referred to as a "house of death," characters as "devilishly devious," the case as a whole "marked by a pervading sense of strangeness." And all around Ospreys are the ever-present rooks, giving to the whole an ominous feel reminiscent of Hitchcock.

A subtle, clever and altogether delightful read, and recommended.

It Happened One Knife
Jeffrey Cohen
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425222560 $7.99

The good news, Elliot Freed is back, in Jeffrey Cohen's newest book and the second in the series, "It Happened One Knife." The better news, it's just as good as the first one [and that was very, very good].

Elliot has just re-opened his theater, Comedy Tonight, also known as The State's Only All-Comedy Movie Theatre, exclusively showing comedy classics alongside newly-released films. An unfortunate incident occurs the night before the officially re-opening when Anthony, the projectionist, is showing for the first time his very own film project, called "Killin' Time" [which Elliot, who was underwhelmed by Anthony's effort, sums up by saying "They're all dead. He didn't leave any of them alive." Not exactly comic fare]: The only copy of the film disappears from the projection room. Since no one other than Anthony and Elliot had keys to that room, the suspect list is narrow. [Vic, Elliot's film distributor, has a much higher opinion of the film, saying: "It's got blood. It's got cursing. Killing, sex, cruelty, characters nobody could possibly like. It can't miss."]

But the missing film takes a backseat in Elliot's mind when he is given the opportunity of hosting his boyhood heroes, comic legends Lillis and Townes, at a showing of their greatest comic hit, "Cracked Ice." His awestruck enthusiasm is curbed, however, when Lillis tells Elliot that Townes killed his own wife [who Lillis had dated before she met Townes] in an arson fire many decades before, and Elliot decides he must figure out the truth about her death, however unlikely that seems. [He justifies it by saying:"I'm a classic comedy film fanatic. This is as close as I'm going to get to being involved with the movies I spend my life watching."]

In between the mysteries, there is Elliot and his screwy cast of regulars, his ex-wife, with whom he may be moving past their weekly lunch dates to something closer akin to what they used to have when she sort of separates from her new husband; his father; his sullen, teenage feminist snack-counter person, Sophie, et al; and there is a smile, grin or guffaw on every page. [I didn't know there were that many ways to describe a monumentally large and probably steroid-enhanced male person, for instance.] The writing is so wonderful that before you know it people's lives have been endangered [or worse], mysteries have been solved, and you've finished a terrific book. Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Iron Man
Peter David
Del Rey Books
New York, NY
9780345506092 $7.99

The conversion from movie screenplay to book can result in a great book. Iron Man is an average book. It suffers from the occasional conversion problem of too closely following a video story in the written form. Books can go in depth about the behind the scenes motivations and back story that the limited time frame screenplays can not. Unfortunately, Iron Man's story contracts in book form from the wild option filled movie. Peter David does a good job with Iron Man but the beginning and end of the story slips a little.

Tony Stark is a certified genius and a millionaire defense contractor with a playboy persona. With his typical dash for the sensational, he demonstrates his newest weapons system, the Jericho rocket, in the Afghanistan battlefield. After the demonstration, he is kidnapped by terrorists and tortured for his knowledge. The terrorists have used his weapons against him. His escape from the terrorists and his near death brings Tony to the realization that he has to change. But the evil behind the terrorists is not willing to let him go. In his need to change, he becomes Iron Man. Tony, Iron Man, has bet his life that he can change.

Iron Man is a weekend escape from reality by journeying into one of the fantasy worlds created by Stan Lee. Everyone needs a little escape from time to time. It doesn't have the power of Spider Man or the shear fun of X-Men but it is still worth the eight dollar escape fee.

When Europa Rode the Bull
Barbara Berot
Streetcar Books
Mechanicsville, Pennsylvania 18943
0974889903 $18.95

When Europa Rode the Bull can be loosely lumped into what is currently called women's genre. It hasn't a strong mystery, suspense or even an action thread. It is a story about the life of a woman with more problems and luck than the average and her growth through them. The writing and descriptions are strong enough to make this story enjoyable. The reasonable way the events are laid out give the feeling that the story is possible and possibly that a few of the events could even happen to the reader with either good or bad luck.

Anne d'Inard is a middle aged woman in her second marriage. The marriage is disintegrating from neglect. She receives a notice from the Red Cross that she has tested positive for HIV antibodies and needs to be examined. The news blows her relationship with her husband apart and she decides to go back to St. Andrews in Scotland where a past love brought her back from an earlier destructive event in her life. The story of her life unfolds with flashbacks from twenty years earlier and her current turmoil.

When Europa Rode the Bull is a strong story that pulls you along. It reads shorter than its length implies. The biggest problem with the story is the ending. The end is more of a break before the story, hopefully, finishes in Lies & Liberation: The Rape of Europa. This is a relationship and personal growth story which isn't the type of tale I usually enjoy. The last time I became engrossed with a story of this type was the simpler and shorter tale of Billy and Saxon Roberts in The Valley of the Moon by Jack London. London is the better writer but Berot is an author worth considering.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Rebel Giants: The Revolutionary Lives of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin
David R. Contosta
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2197
9781591026105 $26.95

From 1860 to 1960, every president of the United States elected in a year divisible by twenty died in office. While the news and entertainment media devoted an inordinate amount of space and time to that coincidence, only hardcore metaphysics addicts saw it as something other than coincidence. When the president elected in 1980 lived out his tenure without mishap, such speculation ceased.

Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day, February 12, 1809. David Contosta points out that, if either had been born a dozen years earlier or later, history might have been very different. That is not particularly profound. If Napoleon Bonaparte had not been the right age to be a ranking general at the time of the French Revolution, the history of Europe might have been very different. What Contosta does not suggest is that the coincidence of birthdates carried any metaphysical or paranormal connotations. That they were born the same day might be fodder for trivia buffs, but he does not tout it as anything more than that.

Contosta writes adequate and detailed biographies of both of his subjects. But unlike Plutarch's Parallel Lives, he does not demonstrate that their careers had anything in common. Perhaps he saw the coincidence of birthdates as a solid starting point, and had written too much to abandon the project by the time he realized that he was trying to compare apples and oranges.

After relating Lincoln to Darwin by the only means available to him, the interspersing of paragraphs about one with paragraphs about the other, Contosta concludes (pp. 328-329), "The bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of his Origin of Species in 2009 may not attract as much broad public attention in the United States as the Lincoln bicentennial. Both men have left a legacy that continues to inspire some and to trouble others…. Whatever one may think of Abraham Lincoln or Charles Darwin, it would be a mistake to see them as superhuman, as individuals who had somehow burst the bonds of common humanity, despite their impressive achievements and great fame." True enough, but equally true of any other two randomly chosen names from the pages of history. To put it politely, this book did not impress me.

The Impossibility of God
edited by Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier
Prometheus Books
9781591023814 $32.00

"How can there be a successful proof that God does not exist when it is 'common knowledge' that you cannot prove a negative? … But almost everyone might be mistaken…. Briefly, an argument for the improbability of God assumes that God can exist but argues that the weight of the evidence is against God's actual existence; an argument for the impossibility of God argues that the concept of God is logically contradictory, and therefore God, like a square circle, cannot exist" (Impossibility, pp. 13-14).

As I stated in my earlier review of Impossibility (reprinted in Where Is George Washington Now That America Really Needs Him?), "Every chapter in this book is logical, definitive, indisputable (except by unteachables), and provides complete proof of its conclusions. It also adopts a line of reasoning that, despite its validity, has never cured a single worshipper of his delusion and never will." My conviction, then and now, is that the only way to cure religion addicts is by showing them that the only testimony of a god revealing its existence is to be found in the same Tanakh, Bible and Koran that also assure their readers - in fourteen places - that the earth is flat (among 19,000 other demonstrable falsehoods). Impossibility's paramount argument is beyond sane dispute: A god that has both the omnipotence to eliminate evil, and the omnibenevolence to want to do so, clearly cannot exist, since if it did exist, such evils as disease, famine, natural disasters and transportation accidents would not exist. But that argument was first raised more than 2,400 years ago, and religion still exists, although books by Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Stenger, and Dennett are diminishing it.

The Improbability of God spells out arguments not presented in the Impossibility volume, arguments ranging from self-evident (to anyone but an incurable) to incomprehensible.

Consider for example, the statement by physicist Victor Stenger in chapter 1 (p. 23), "Remarkably, the sum of the measured sums of the rest and kinetic energies of the bodies in the universe seem to be exactly canceled by the negative potential energy that results from their mutual gravitational interactions." To that I can only say: Huhhh? No doubt it makes sense to another physicist. But since physicists make up only a tiny proportion of the human population, the vast majority have no basis for accepting it beyond trusting that Stenger as a physicist has the competence to reach valid conclusions. But by that reasoning, so has physicist Frank Tipler, whose masturbation fantasies in the opposite direction caused Martin Gardner to write, "I am, dear reader, trying to keep a straight face while I summarize [Tipler's] convictions." There is no doubt in my mind that Stenger is right and Tipler is wrong. But to accept one on faith is as invalid as accepting the other. I am willing to believe that physics can prove the nonexistence of "God", but it would be unrealistic to expect anyone who is not already a nontheist to do so.

In chapter 2, Theodore Schick Jr. annihilates the delusion that Big Bang theory proves the existence of God. Schick does not argue that the Big Bang proves the nonexistence of God. But in a book aimed at demonstrating the God hypothesis's improbability, every refutation of arguments for the hypothesis reduces the likelihood that the hypothesis is valid.

The next five chapters, by Quentin Smith, expand on his belief (p. 94) that, "theism is prima facie theoretically superior to atheism, since theism at least purports to explain something that atheism does not even attempt to explain." By that reasoning, the theory that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe is theoretically superior to atheism. Sure it is. Why the editors allowed Smith so much space to propound his theology, instead of simply publishing rebuttals, I cannot figure.

Part 2, eight chapters, consists of teleological arguments against the existence of God. As the editors explain (p. 107), "A teleological argument against God's existence takes the following general form: 1. If God exists, then God is the designer of the universe. 2. Based on the weight of the evidence relative to the order in the universe, God is not the designer of the universe. 3. Therefore, God does not exist."

Part 3, eight chapters, contains arguments against the existence of God on the basis of inductive evil. "An inductive evil argument against God's existence takes the following general form: 1. If God exists, then God possess certain attributes. 2. Based on the weight of the evidence relative to the widespread and horrendous evil in the world, God does not posses all of those attributes. 3. Therefore God does not exist" (p. 231). My criticism of this section is that it is in the wrong book. Since God is defined as having the omnipotence to prevent such evils as the Indian Ocean tsunami and more recent cyclones and earthquakes, and the omnibenevolence to want to prevent them, the fact that such evils occur is not merely proof of the improbability of God. It is proof of the impossibility of God.

Part 4 consists of nine chapters that offer the widespread nonbelief in any particular concept of God as proof of God's nonexistence. "It is argued that the evangelical Christian God wants and has the power to bring about a world in which nearly all humans since the time of Jesus come to believe before their physical deaths that God exists and Jesus is savior, but even after two thousand years such a world does not obtain, as evidenced by the fact that a large majority of the world's population is non-Christian, and therefore the evangelical Christian God probably does not exist" (pp. 337-338). One of the section chapters shows that the same logic proves the probable nonexistence of the God of Orthodox Judaism.

In the book's appendix, written in 1770, Baron D'Holbach asks (p. 427), "If God is desirous to be known, cherished, and thanked, wherefore [why] does he not … manifest himself to all the earth in an unequivocal manner, much more likely to convince us than those particular revelations which appear to accuse the Divinity of a fatal partiality for some of his creatures?" Why indeed?

While arguments for the improbability of God are less compelling than arguments for the impossibility of God, they are nonetheless compelling. A person who is looking for good reasons for not believing that he will be barbecued with flamethrowers for all eternity for eating a ham-and-cheese sandwich, or for aborting a pre-human tadpole with zero brainwave activity indicative of human thought, or having an unmutilated phallus or an unturbaned head, or an uncovered face, or using a condom to protect against unwanted pregnancy or disease, or operating an automobile rather than a horse-drawn cart, or engaging in consensual non-consequential sexual recreation with the partner of his/her choice, or accepting the findings of science as more reliable than biblical fairy tales, should read both books. With so many arguments to consider, only one of which needs to be right to demolish the God hypothesis beyond dispute, there can be no such thing as overkill.

God: The Failed Hypothesis - How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist
Victor J. Stenger
Prometheus Books
9781591026525 $17.95

The appearance of books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens on America's most reliable bestseller lists is solid evidence that the religious propaganda that nontheists constitute as little as ten or even fifteen percent of the population is one more example of the Big Lie. Now Victor Stenger demolishes the biggest Big Lie, that religion can only be disbelieved, not disproven. Stenger does to the God delusion what the first photographs of the Martian surface did to the "canals" delusion, and is reaching an equally large audience. As he states in a Postscript included in the paperback reprint, "Part of the success of the hardcover edition of this book can no doubt be attributed to the fortunate timing…. Fine authors such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens have contributed to a growing popular literature on atheism."

Dawkins and Harris demonstrated that religion cannot be true, by using the technique of reductio ad absurdum to show that reality includes observable situations that could not exist if the world was produced and directed by an omnipotent, omnibenevolent Cecil B. DeMille in the sky. I demonstrated in Mythology's Last Gods that religion is not true, by tracing all claims of a god revealing its existence to the same Tanakh, Bible and Koran that assure their readers that the earth is flat. But that was sixteen years ago, a time when in all likelihood neither Dawkins nor Harris could have got their current books published. Obviously things have changed, and with Stenger and others reaching the masses, as I could not, the very survival of the human race that religion is threatening to exterminate might conceivably be possible. Of course millions of professional parasites, facing instant unemployment, will fight and scream all the way to the welfare banks, as happened following the abolition of the slave trade and the reduction of opium smuggling, whaling, and greenhouse gas emissions. But considering the alternative, that is acceptable collateral damage.

Stenger does not set out to prove that gods do not exist. Given the number of possible definitions of what constitutes a god, nothing short of close inspection of every cubic centimeter of the universe could prove that. He contents himself with proving that "God," defined as a god, "having the attributes that are traditionally associated with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God," does not exist (p. 11). "This book is an investigation of the evidence for the existence of God - not all gods" (p. 12).

According to Stenger, "The existence of a God will be taken as a scientific hypothesis and the consequences of that hypothesis searched for in objective observations of the world around us" (p. 17). He finds that, "It does not appear - based on the scientific evidence - that a God exists who answers prayers in any significant, observable way" (p. 103). "It seems inconceivable that a creator exists who has a special love for humanity, and then just relegated it to a tiny point in space and time. The data strongly suggest otherwise" (p. 161). "The observed universe and the laws and parameters of physics look just as they can be expected to look if there is no God. Even from this we can conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that such a God does not exist" (p. 164). "We should be able to find remarkable examples where specific information about the world, which was unknown to science at the time of the revelation, would later be confirmed by observation…. Instead we find the opposite" (p. 170). "Believers can accuse nonbelievers of being dogmatically skeptical and unwilling to 'open their eyes to the truth.' But our eyes are open and we see no convincing evidence for phenomena that under the god hypothesis would be expected to hit us all square in the face" (p. 173). And the big one: "The empirical fact of unnecessary suffering in the world is inconsistent with a god who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Observations of human and animal suffering look just as they can be expected to look if there is no God" (p. 224).

All of those conclusions, backed up by solid arguments, are summarized, "I am not proving that all conceivable gods do not exist. I am simply showing beyond a reasonable doubt that a God with the specific hypothesized attributes does not exist" (p. 228).

He does so by showing that physics is as incompatible with the God hypothesis as are biology, astronomy, geology, archaeology, paleontology, anthropology, and logic. Rebutting a claim often made by True Believers, he writes, "The natural state of affairs is something rather than nothing. An empty universe requires supernatural intervention - not a full one. Only by the constant action of an agent outside the universe, such as God, could a state of nothingness be maintained. The fact that we have something is just what we would expect if there is no God" (p. 133). Stenger concedes that, to anyone but another physicist, "No doubt this concept is difficult to grasp" (p. 131). It is but, as his sales indicate, not impossible.

God: The Failed Hypothesis could conceivably encourage the one-sixth of the population who, out of fear of social and economic consequences, continue to tell pollsters that they are believers when they are not, to come out of the closet and show the world that there are in fact more nontheists in America, an estimated 33 percent, than Catholics, 25 percent, or Baptists, 22 percent, and more nontheists worldwide, realistically estimated as 2.2 billion, than Christians, 1.1 billion, Muslims, 1 billion, and Jews, 13 million, combined.

In his chapter, "Do our values come from God?" Stenger finds that, "There are no significant differences in the moral sense between atheists and theists" (p. 208). That is of course a generalization, since he also reports (p. 194) that, "According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Christians make up almost 80 percent of the prison population. Atheists make up 0.2 percent" (p. 194). He adds (p. 209) that, "We can even see signs of moral or protomoral behavior in animals." No theologian to the best of my awareness has ever suggested that nonhumans have been taught the difference between altruism and depraved indifference by a god. Stenger responds to the central dogma of theology, that right and wrong are whatever the tribal god or its self-appointed scriptwriter says they are, with, "If God has a different conception of evil from ours, then so much the worse for God. He is nothing more than an evil potentate" (p. 221). And he contrasts nonbelievers with the Muslim suicide bombers who acted on their "afterlife" brainwashing by pointing out (p. 257) that, "On the other hand, the atheist has the comfort of no fears for an afterlife and lacks any compulsion to blow himself up." So much for Pascal's Wager.

In reference to such biblical stories as the Exodus and, "the extraordinary events reported to have occurred at the time of Jesus' death," Stenger writes that, "From the absence of evidence that should exist in the scientific and historical record, we can conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that these extraordinary events did not take place as the Bible describes" (p. 188). There are scholars who maintain that the Exodus myth was based on misinterpreted and grossly exaggerated historical events, and that Jesus, while not a miraclemonger, was a person from history. While Stenger seems to disagree, the disclaimer, "as the Bible describes," allows for the possibility that persons who hold such a position could conceivably be right. In contrast, his disclaimers when he describes the James Ossuary and the Shroud of Turin as "likely" forgeries (p. 184), and when he suggests that it is "highly probable" that the 9/11 hijackers will not wake up in paradise, are surely superfluous.

Stenger justifies his position by using analogies and questioning the motivations of hostile theologians. "We have no evidence for Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, and the Loch Ness Monster, so we do not believe they exist. If we have no evidence or other reason for believing in God, then we can be pretty sure that God does not exist" (p. 18). "When scientists express their objections to claims such as evidence for intelligent design in the universe, they are not being dogmatic. They are simply applying the same standard they would for any other extraordinary claim and demanding extraordinary evidence" (p. 28). "What possible reason would scientists have to object if convincing evidence for psychic phenomena was reported?" (p. 91) "The only precepts unique to religion are those telling us not to question their dogma" (p. 196). "Throughout history, people have claimed ... that they have been in touch with God or some other form of higher reality. I am convinced that many are sincere in that belief (television evangelists excepted)" (p. 171). "But, being theologians they have to find God somewhere. If they conclude God does not exist they are quickly out of a job" (p. 162). As for the "We alone have the truth" fanatics, Stenger states the self-evident fact that, "If anyone promoted such views in any area outside a religious context, he would be taken in for psychiatric evaluation" (p. 240).

Stenger hypothesizes that religion came into existence when the ancients concluded that a dead person was still "alive" in thoughts and dreams, and the notion arose, "That some 'spirit' carried on after the material body ceased to move and began to decay" (p. 253). My hypothesis (Mythology's Last Gods, p. 50) is that the observable death and rebirth of the moon and sun at monthly and yearly intervals led to the conclusion that the sky gods died in order to transfer the surrendered portion of their immortality to mortals who ate their sacramental bodies. Since neither hypothesis can be verified, I can only suggest that mine is better. And they are not mutually exclusive.

The only factual error I detected was Stenger's assertion that, "Jesus … assured his disciples that he would return before they died" (p. 236). Actually Jesus promised his disciples that he would defeat the Roman occupation and establish a theocracy centered in Jerusalem before they died. He did not predict any "second coming," because he believed he was incapable of dying before his imagined mission was accomplished. Fortunately such an error does not lesson the validity of Stenger's fully proven conclusions. And while I am nitpicking: Stenger consistently refers to the person reading his book as her or herself. No doubt his use of feminine pronouns is intended to make the point that even language is phallusocratic. But the fact remains that common gender pronouns are identical with the masculine, not the feminine. Using feminine pronouns to refer to a person of unspecified sex is substandard English.

In his Postscript, written to answer criticisms of the first edition, Stenger clarifies (p. 262), "I also take a stance in common with most theists, but contrary to the majority of scientists, that science can investigate the supernatural. If the supernatural can affect physical phenomena, then those phenomena can certainly be studied…. Absence of evidence can be strong evidence for absence when the evidence should be there and it is not."

God: The Failed Hypothesis is an extremely valuable contribution to human knowledge, as Dawkins and Harris (back cover) both agree.

The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life
Austin Dacey
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2197
9781591026044 $24.95

I have long regarded philosophers as poseurs whose vocabularies have outstripped their common sense, enabling them to write 400 page dissertations on how many shrdlu can umbriago on the qwerty of a spktkft. I have encountered exceptions, card-carrying philosophers capable of writing logical theses in comprehensible English - despite their being philosophers, not because of it.

Austin Dacey is not one of the exceptions. Just as Alcoholics Anonymous tries to replace the mind-crippling opiate of alcohol addiction with the even more mind-crippling opiate of god addiction, Dacey tries to replace the pathetic, oxymoronic doublethink of religion with an equally pathetic combination of doubletalk, mushroom fantasies, and fatuous cliches that for all the sense they make might as well have been written in Etruscan. Consider the statement (p. 29), "It was Augustine and Descartes whose cognitive spelunking ultimately led them to the inner light of the transcendent." To that I can only say, "Duh?"

Dacey is not a biblical scholar. His interpretations of biblical passages stem from uncritical acceptance of theological propaganda. For example (p. 142), he thinks that Jesus preached, "Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor." But "the Poor," Ebionim, was the name of Jesus' communistic cult. What Jesus really preached was, "Sell all that you own and give the proceeds to my communal treasury." Dacey (p. 141) declares that the Jews "were the first to see in all human beings the image of God." But the Jewish Testament is as viciously anti-gentile as the Christian Testament is viciously anti-Jewish. The retroactively-named "ten commandments" spelled out how a Jew was to treat fellow Jews. They placed no restriction on how a Jew could treat a gentile. And the Talmud stated unambiguously that a Jew who, in trying to kill a gentile, killed a Jew, was to be deemed guiltless (Sanhedrin 78b).

In discussing (p. 137) the subjectivity of the value judgment that, "infidelity is wrong," Dacey shows no awareness that the modern understanding of "infidelity" is far removed from the concept's original meaning. Unfaithfulness, "adultery," meant violating an exclusive breeding contract and thereby saddling a husband with a cuckoo's chick. The present interpretation, that uses the word to include non-consequential recreation in an age of reliable birth control, makes as much sense as prohibiting watching television when one's usual co-watcher is unavailable. And when Dacey suggests (p. 125) that "discouraging incest is a product of selection," I can only point out that "incest" or "unchastity" is a purely religious concept that has no scientific reality, and recommend that he read the chapter on the origin and evolution of the incest taboo in Mythology's Last Gods, as well as the rest of the book to cure his abysmal ignorance of all things biblical.

Dacey devotes three pages (144-146) to the Redactor's amended version of the sacrifice of Isaac, blissfully aware that in the original myth, by the Elohist, Isaac was sacrificed. In order to riffle together the E Torah in which Isaac was sacrificed as a child with the J Torah in which the adult Isaac features prominently, R interpolated a paragraph in which Yahweh intervened to prevent the sacrifice. Dacey's entire discussion presupposes that a biblical author was making a philosophical point, when in fact the Redactor had no purpose other than to harmonize incompatible sources.

Dacey discourses on the Christian perversion of the Golden Rule (p. 128), that transformed a perfect concept of morality - do not do to another whatever is hateful to yourself - into its impossible and immoral antithesis: Besides wanting a billionaire to give me a million dollars, I also want a supermodel to rip off my clothing and have her way with me in depraved indifference to my own wishes. The "golden rule" would have me do the same to her. Admittedly Dacey describes the Golden Rule as "neither evolutionarily nor morally sound." But he completely misses its absurdity.

Dacey avers (p. 59) that, "Theocrats are not idiots." He reports that John Calvin executed a man for having the sanity to deny that Jesus was his own father (and therefore presumably a motherfu…). But in defence of Calvin's non-idiot status he explains that Calvin earned a Doctorate of Law at the age of 23. By that reasoning, a talking chimpanzee with degrees from Harvard and Yale cannot be an idiot. Perhaps not - if one makes a distinction between an idiot and a moron. But if a person who thought that Jesus was his own father was not an idiot, then the term is meaningless.

All of that is not to say that, buried among his whole chapters of socio-psychobabble, Dacey does not make some valid points. He has some harsh words (p. 140) for "the misguided multiculturalism that keeps Western liberals from criticizing the oppression of women, religious minorities, and apostates [that happen] in Islamic societies for fear of being accused of 'Islamaphobia.'" He points out (p. 13) that, "Secular liberals are being asked to perform an act of cognitive contortionism, to object to the 'consequences' of conservative religion without rejecting the moral precepts that cause them." In other words, it is politically correct to denounce Osama bin Laden for obeying his Koran's demand that he murder non-Muslims on sight, but not to denounce the book and religion that order him to do so. As Edmund Burke observed, "For evil to succeed, it is only necessary for good men to do nothing."

On page 9, "Freedom of thought means nothing unless it implies the right to blaspheme, for blasphemy is a victimless crime. Why are so many Western liberals unwilling to say so?" Why indeed? Dacey does not believe that burying one's head in the sand instead of drawing attention to the reason religious extremists commit atrocities is the best policy, and neither should anyone else. With so many Western spokesmen apologizing to Muslims for exercising free speech, it is no wonder that the Allah cultists are convinced that all criticism can be suppressed by terror.

Dacey reports (p. 32) that, "80 percent of the Danish today say that religion is unimportant to their lives," and that, "at least 45 percent of Danes do not believe in the Christian God." Yet the Danish People's Church was able to get away with claiming over 80 percent of the citizenry as members in 2006. With that kind of bookkeeping, no wonder the alleged "news" media continue reporting a world population of two billion Christians, when the true figure is half that amount. The only belief system with two billion adherents, more than Christianity, Islam and Judaism combined, is nontheism.

On the imbecility and doublethink of fanatics who would grant pre-human tadpoles the same rights as self aware sentient beings, Dacey writes (pp. 54-55), "If any one of us were passing by an in vitro fertilization clinic in flames and we had the ability to save a five-year-old girl trapped inside, or save two or even ten thousand frozen embryos instead, no one would hesitate for even an instant."

On religion's Big Lie that it cannot be evaluated by scientific standards, Dacey writes (pp. 98-99), "In this age of bioscience, it is no longer credible that religion is private and free from objective inquiry. Religion and science are in conversation, and this would be impossible unless both could be held to publicly available standards of truth." And he gives Stephen Jay Gould's "non-overlapping magisteria" the short shrift it deserves (pp. 104-105).

On religion's attempt to pose as science under the euphemism, Intelligent Design, Dacey notes (p. 108) that ID pushers have never attempted to harmonize autism with their ID theology. And in pointing out that almost every lifeform that has ever existed on earth is now extinct, he observes that, "An engineer whose designs were this intelligent would not have a job for long." As for why the Catholic Church "does nothing to get current gay priests to come out of the cassock" (p. 135), he points to "the priest shortage" as the obvious explanation. With the number of gay seminarians ordained after 1981 amounting to 70 percent, up from 51 percent before 1960, (Papal Sin, by Gary Wills, pp. 190, 194) firing gay priests would be economically disastrous.

Nonetheless, despite the above-cited positive elements, The Secular Conscience is not a useful addition to such attempts to send a message of reality to believers as Toward a New Political Humanism; God: The Failed Hypothesis; and What Is Secular Humanism?

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Frida Kahlo: The Still Lifes
Salomon Grimberg
Foreword by Hayden Herrera
Merrell Publishers
London and New York
9781858944371 $45.00

Frida Kahlo painted some 40 still lifes, compared to the some 80 portraits for which she is known. Despite the difference in subject matter, her still lifes are as recognizable as her portraits. The still lifes display the same bright colors, which almost seem to shock they are so bright and unexpected. And with the still lifes, there is the rough collage compositional style, often including expressionistic forms and a seemingly careless mix of images. The still lifes, too, have Kahlo's surrealist aspects. Her paintings are recognizable for their mix of influences, imagery, and stark, though ambiguous statement.

Still lifes were not a way for Kahlo to distance herself from her artistic subject by the challenge of somewhat idiosyncratic, but nonetheless basically realistic reproduction or a tone of contemplation as with the still lifes of many painters. She put herself into her paintings of watermelons, bananas, grapefruit, flowers, corn, and other such subjects as much as she did in her self-portraits and portraits of others. There are the colors, the almost inventive colors; the unnatural arrangement, the mix of shapes often seeming riotous or incongruous, and the stray surrealistic touches. In Kahlo's still lifes, coconuts have tears coming from eye-like parts of their husks; a Mexican flag in planted in a watermelon, tropical birds are present.

Kahlo's still lifes "are as reflective of her internal reality as are her self-portraits," writes Grimberg, a psychoanalytic art historian who is one of the authors in the recently-published Frida Kahlo - Song of Herself. The artist's internal reality was colored mostly by "her struggle to master the fearing of loneliness and of confronting death." Along with giving biographical background on Kahlo and examining the tensions and hopes in her relationships as these topics shed light on Kahlo's paintings, Grimberg ties together details of Kahlo's life and both objects and qualities of particular still life paintings. With respect to the coconuts with tears, for instance, the author explains that the Spanish title "Lagrimas de coco" of one painting with such coconuts is a play on the Spanish "lagrimas de cocodrilo" for "crocodile tears." Kahlo hung the painting by her bed after it was returned by the woman physician who had commissioned it. It appears it a photograph of Kahlo in her bed shortly after she had one of her legs amputated. Grimberg draws the connection that the weeping coconut represents Kahlo's mood. And even in such a somber mood from her realization of her diverse, chronic health problems requiring painkillers and tranquilizers, Kahlo expressed her wry humor in the word play connected with the painting. Over and over, Grimberg's critiques and insights bring together biographical, artistic, temperamental, psychological, and psychoanalytical material to shed light on the complexities of Kahlo's personality, origins and subjects of her paintings, and the connections between these.

Though limited in scope, this "Frida Kahlo - The Still Lifes" contains material, analysis, and also pictures of art works which bring a fuller understanding of the perennially-appealing, beguiling Kahlo.

The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain, 1710-50
Maureen Cassidy-Geiger
The Frick Collection
New York
ACC Distribution (dist.)
Easthampton, MA
9781904832447 $275.00

This work is one of those rare works that is exceptionally visual appealing, exceptionally informative, and exceptionally useful. These qualities of interest to art historians, researchers, antique dealers, and collectors of porcelain in general or Meissen porcelain in particular are seamlessly interwoven by skilled, experienced editing and book design.

For example, as insets with many of the full-page color photographs of close to 400 highest-quality Meissen pieces are color photos of the maker's mark on the bottom of the respective piece. These smaller photos about the size of a snapshot are placed below the much larger photograph of the individual piece so as not to interfere with appreciation and study of it, but also to be readily available for collectors and researchers and such wanting to go into aspects of the porcelain piece in depth.

Makers' marks are not an unusual part of many antiques' books. But these are typically put in an appendix as a list with accompanying black-and-white photographs or facsimiles of signatures or symbols. So in most antiques' books, ones interested in the marks have to flip back and forth between individual pieces and the section on the maker's marks matching pieces with mark. The matching of piece and mark in this "Meissen Porcelain" seems so natural and useful, one wonders why the format is not found in all antiques books. But this is just one example of the publisher's awareness of the special appreciation knowledgeable collectors have for the Meissen porcelain and the publisher's intention and ability to do a distinctive work which is definitive on its relatively narrow, yet fundamental topic; record a major and historically important Meissen collection should it ever be broken up (as all others were in the turmoil of World War II for example); and to some extent revive interest in the top level of Meissen porcelain.

In addition to the thoughtful, unconventional formatting in places, there are also sections with sorts of material not usually found with antiques books no matter what their quality or ambitions. This material variously fills in on the fundamentals of Meissen porcelain of the period dealt with and casts light on aspects of the subject. One such section is a transcription of Lisa Arnhold's handwritten inventory of her and her husband's 262 Meissen pieces before the family moved to Zurich in 1937. Another section included for the sake of both thoroughness in keeping with the ambitions for the book and as unique material of interest to collectors and scholars is an essay on "Collecting Culture: The Taste for Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain" by Sebastian Kuhn, a former Sotheby's expert on European ceramics and glass. The primary author Cassidy-Geiger is Curator of the Arnhold Collection in New York. Heike Biedermann, who writes about the Arnhold collection in Dresden, is the curator of a leading Dresden gallery for porcelain and related items. Henry Arnhold, son of the original collectors, writes an introductory essay on the acquisition, integrity, and movement of the collection between Europe and the United States.

The focus of this study is the Arnhold collection which remained intact during World War II by being shipped to the United States; where over the years parts have been loaned to different museums for exhibitions, most recently the Frick Museum in New York City. The Arnhold family was a wealthy banking family in Dresden that put their collection together in the 1920s and '30s in response to advances in scholarship, public exhibitions, activity in the auction market, and interest among collectors and museums in acquiring Meissen porcelain.

The content is an interrelated combination of scholarly, historical, educational, and personal material which gives the subject area a wholeness and provides unique perspectives on it. The centerpiece of the voluminous work--literally its central part surrounded by the supporting parts--is the catalog of about 400 Meissen pieces. In addition to the maker's marks photos and the references (including provenance), there are one or more photographs of details of a piece supplementing the main photograph of the whole of it.

Book collectors and persons in the antiques field will recognize the book as a collector's item in its own right. Not only will it be recognized as a consummate example of book art and production, but also will be recognized as a sound investment. For the work offers guidance for collecting strategies for serious collectors and for purchases of the most valuable Meissen pieces. And the book itself, like similar unique books on other collecting topics, will in all probability only go up in value as a peerless, notable work which is a milestone in the documentation, visual record, and study of Meissen porcelain.

Buffalo Bill on Stage
Sandra K. Sagala
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826344274 $29.95 800-249-7737

Sagala is the author of previous books on Buffalo Bill and popular-culture subjects of his era in which he figures strongly. In this book, she fills in the period between his last years as a scout and Indian fighter in the early 1870s and when he became a world-famous star of his own traveling show named Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

By the 1870s, William Cody had already gained famed as a cavalry scout and Indian fighter helping to tame the "wild west." Yet he had no thoughts of performing on stage or of forming a Wild West Show to capitalize on his fame. Eventually though the combination of personality, circumstances, and opportunities were like a siren call for him to take up public performances.

In the latter 1800s, dime novels about the West and the cavalry and adventurous frontiersmen were a leading area of popular culture. Cody's exploits and traits were often the basis for the heroes of such novels. There were even a few performers who portrayed Buffalo Bill in vaudeville-like skits before large, enthusiastic crowds. The first time Cody appeared on stage was in 1872 when the actor J. B. Studley, who was portraying him, called him up at the urging of the audience after it learned that the real Buffalo Bill was sitting among them. It was not long after this when the dime novelist Ned Buntline persuaded Buffalo Bill to take up acting.

Buffalo Bill threw himself into acting with as much intelligence, energy, and commitment as he did with his work as a cavalry scout. Though his early efforts in shows put on by "theatrical association[s] of roving troupers who supported a star for the run of a single performance" were amateurish to the point of often being comically inept and usually panned by the critics, audiences nevertheless responded to Cody's authenticity and the true-life dramas he and his changing troupes performed. "The fact that Cody was [in italics in original] a brave Indian fighter, scout, and estimable man and that he could project his personality to the audience solidified his heroic status. Buffalo Bill of the dime novels and stage gelled with Buffalo Bill of the real West...He spent the theater's off-season actually doing the brave deeds, the shooting, and the scouting he was famous for, then returned to portray them on the stage."

Sagala does a good job of following how Buffalo Bill's true self and stage character and image recurrently blended and separated as he became the consummate showman. She sees Cody as the original star of the embryonic star system which would be implemented throughout Hollywood starting just about the time Buffalo Bill died in 1917.

A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture
John M. Hagedorn
Foreword by Mike Davis
U. of Minnesota Press
Minneapolis, MN
9780816650668 $24.95

"Hagedorn argues that the global gang is part of the continuum of crime and revolt that defines the new horizon of geopolitics in the twenty-first century," writes Davis in his Foreword. Multifarious gangs have formed in the environment of globalization to "mirror the inhuman ambitions and greed of society's trendsetters and deities." In this view, gangs are the underside of the era's unchecked, ungoverned free-market economics Davis calls "savage capitalism" and social trends creating a gulf between the better-offs and the have-nots.

The work is about the worldwide phenomenon of "gangs compris[ing] flexible forms of armed groups, some changing from gang to militia to criminal syndicate to political party, or some existing as all types of simultaneously." One hears about such groups--which often are not termed gangs--daily in the media. Absorbing Hagedorn's view--enlightening in many ways--one sees that gangs in one form or another and by one name or another are responsible for most of the headline news, particularly on international affairs. Among the multifarious types of gangs Hagedorn treats are ones involved in politics in some American cities such as Chicago and New York either from strategies of respective mayors or designs or alliances of particular gangs themselves. The author expands on this to denote how different social or political policies can actually strengthen gangs or create conditions for the growth of new ones.

Gangs are a social reality that is virtually impossible to root out. Not only are they a means to gain and exercise power, but they provide a ground for identity which is especially appealing to masses of persons not only in developed countries but in poor ones in this era of failed states, tribalism, and desire for material goods fueled by the success of the Western democracies and global marketing of consumer goods. Nonetheless, Hagedorn is not despairing of dealing with gang violence, drug trafficking, and other socially injurious aspects of gangs. Isolating the selflessness and solidarity of gang members, he sees gangs as basically manifesting as desire for a meaningful life in desperate, practically completely hopeless circumstances. In Hagedorn's view, gangs are also means of resistance against the depredations being committed against the ethnic, social, regional, etc., groups which their members come from. The author sees the ambivalences of the music, celebrities, vitality, and status of hip-hop culture in particular as the prime indication of the ambivalences, but also the promise of the characteristics of gangs.

This is an eye-opening account of a major international phenomena which will give one a new conception of gangs; as when Hagedorn refers to certain groups as "voting gangs" and describes their activities in getting and maintaining political power. Not only do the author's accounts of gangs from around the world, the conditions out of which they emerge, and their activities conduce to a new perspective, but he also puts forth new principles for an intellectual comprehension of gangs. Hagedorn puts aside the conventional sociological, structural, comprehension of gangs as alternatives, or outsiders, to ordinary society, and the related criminal-justice analysis of gangs seeing them as a crime problem to be resolved in favor of a "cultural" point of view seeking to comprehend gangs as phenomena of particular social conditions and as aberrant, in many cases wretched, manifestations of common social qualities, purposes, and aims.

Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction
John Rieder
Wesleyan U. Press
Middletown, CT
9780819568731 $24.95

Cyrano de Bergerac's mid-17th century satire The Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon and the Sun is greatly admired by science fiction scholars because it "suggests the disturbance of ethnocentricism, the achievement of a perspective from which one's own culture is only one of a number of possible cultures...[by] how it mocks, parodies, criticizes, and denaturalizes the cultural norms of de Bergerac's] French contemporaries." Whereas the satire displaced French culture as the norm governing the consideration of all possible cultures, Galileo's scientific findings displacing the Earth as the center of the universe suggested that other planets supporting other types of life existed. Increased commerce between Europe and Asia, interest in foreign goods, and exploration of the Americas, Africa, and other parts of the globe contributed to curiosity and imagination about other geographies and forms of life.

"The double-edged effect of the exotic--as a means of gratifying familiar appetites and as a challenge to one's sense of the proper or the natural--pervades early science fiction"; whose prototypes can be seen in fanciful works by Washington Irving and Samuel Butler.

The field of science fiction--as any aficionado knows--has become greatly elaborated by fleshing out seemingly every implication and nuance inhering in its origins and first literary examples. Over time, the field developed characteristic techniques and categories. For instance, the sleeping Rip Van Winkle of Washington Irving's early 1800's tale awakening into a strange new world became time travel machines placing science-fiction characters in different historical periods and space ships and other craft carrying them to unknown lands. Technological developments were quickly adapted into science-fiction stories in explorations of their beneficial or harmful effects. In the 20th century, the field dealt with social concerns in the areas of biological research, medicine, totalitarian political systems, and apocalyptical religious ideas of doomsday.

Rieder's literary critique ranging into all dimensions of science fiction is a good overview and introduction to this major field of popular literature. Science-fiction fans will appreciate its historical material as well as insights into particular works and authors. Rieder is a professor of English at a branch of the U. of Hawaii.

The Qur'an Manuscripts in the Al-haram Al-sharif Islamic Museum, Jerusalem
Khader Salameh
Garnet Publishing
International Publishers Marketing, Herndon, VA
1859641326 $67.50 800-758-3756

The manuscripts are held at the Islamic Museum (named in the title) connected with the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Two hundred and sixty-six Islamic illuminated manuscripts are only part of this Museum's collection. Before a knowledgeable, informative treatment of the parts of an illuminated manuscripts and of 29 manuscripts individually, Salameh gives an outline of all of the Museum's holdings; which includes as well coins, metalwork, glass, ceramics, architectural pieces, and other documents. The author is the Museum director and also the director of the Mosque's library.

Highlights of the 29 manuscripts examined individually are shown in color pictures with related commentary by Salameh. Highlights are mostly bindings, the first few front pages (the most important), and representative images. The commentary mostly cites specific examples of the parts of an illuminated manuscripts covered in the general introduction, with comments on particular colors, elements of the front pages, and sources or meaning of imagery. Rules enclosing text, marks signifying a certain number of verses, and the respective type of calligraphy out of four main types are noted as appropriate.

In Islamic culture, the Islamic manuscripts are similar to the medieval illuminated manuscripts in Christian culture. Both types are highly valued among antiques collectors; although in fact few are obtainable since most are in museums because of their cultural importance. Salameh's exegesis on the Islamic manuscripts is like a tour in parts of Islamic culture. His lucid, knowledgeable commentary on the manuscripts takes away some of their mystique or exoticism while augmenting artistic comprehension of them. In the end, one comes away with a greater appreciation for the manuscripts from knowing about the thought, work, and purposes going into them.

Hong Kong New Wave Cinema, 1978-2000
Pak Tong Cheuk
Intellect Books
Bristol, United Kingdom
9781841501482 $40.00

In the 1960s, Hong Kong films failed to achieve the international notoriety, critical notice, or box-office success of films from Taiwan or mainland China. There was neither the filmmaking professionalism or skills nor public receptivity for such films. At the time, the young generation had a "weak sense of nationhood and held neither long-term goals nor ambitions." With Hong Kong society "suffused with Western popular culture" mainly from the Western education that was given in the schools, Hong Kong films were largely imitations of Western films with respect to themes, characters, and style. Films were youth-oriented; and they dealt with drugs, antisocial behavior, relationships, and other issues especially of interest to adolescents.

By the 1970s and '80s, however, the status of Hong Kong films had changed so they were recognized as being incomparably more skilled and imaginative and more engaged with both regional and global issues than other Chinese films. With only a weak identity and superficial assimilation of Western culture, in these decades Hong Kong directors were able to easily, quickly, and fluently move to a new way of making films. The close-knit body of directors in the small area of Hong Kong, many of them having gained experience in the field of Hong Kong television, found inspiration in the French "New Wave" film movement. Highly technically skilled so they could produce zoom-ins, split-screens, fast-paced editing, and other state-of-the-art techniques and having the artistic vision and business acumen to join together the Cantonese and Mandarin branches of Chinese film giving their films access to a much wider audience (Singapore and Malaysia, for instance), the Hong Kong moviemakers struck out on a path taking them to the head of Chinese films. The Hong Kong films arising from the New Wave not only attracted attention as a compelling regional phenomenon, but they also had an influence on Western filmmakers regarding storytelling, characterization, tone, and other areas of film. The Hong Kong films found an enthusiastic Western audience. Bruce Lee, notably, "wrought miracles for Hong Kong cinema."

Cheuk, associate professor in film and TV studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, points to the 1978 film "The Extra" made by the team of Yim Ho, Dennis Yu, and Ronnie Yu as "the beginning of the New Wave." Yim Ho is one of the six "core" New Wave directors whose themes, style, development, and influence are studied individually. The others are Ann Hui, Tsui Hark, Patrick Tam, Allen Fong, and Alex Cheuk. Six "non-core" directors are grouped for study in other chapters. The filmography of each including screenwriters, producers, and production company is useful for further study of any one of the directors.

The content divided between the background and development of Hong Kong New Wave cinema and critical appraisals of central directors plus author Cheuk's nuanced comprehension from proximity to the subject make the work of particular interest to students of contemporary cinema.

Everyday Subversion: From Joking to Revolting in the German Democratic Republic
Kerry Kathleen Riley
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9780870138010 $69.95

"This is a story of how average people, relying on their everyday symbolic resources, can counter repressive propaganda, harassment, unmitigated ideology, and existential deprivation." Riley's focus is East German society in the decades leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism throughout Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union itself.

The "symbolic resources" whose effects the author describes range from civic disobedience of individuals, jokes told between persons or to small groups, sit-ins and other public protests of church groups, to mass street demonstrations of tens of thousands of East Germans. In dealing with each type, the author always also relates how the Communist authorities reacted. This dynamic between natural and in many cases inventive resistance and attempts to repress it and often punish it to varying degrees of severity is the crux of the story.

Since political parties, most social groups such as clubs, and even public gatherings were forbidden in East Germany, the types of "oppositional strategies" treated were not coordinated; though taken together they had the single aim of undermining and thus changing the totalitarianism of the Communism state. The range of resistance was a social movement to bring about an ill-defined political change (often called democracy for lack of a better word) rather than a political movement since political activity as this is commonly understood in free societies was impossible in East Germany.

A part of the publisher's Rhetoric and Public Affairs Series, this work by an independent scholar who traveled to East Germany as well as the Soviet Union and other parts of Europe as part of her research not only relates the "oppositional strategies," but analyzes and evaluates them. Not all were effective in a pragmatic or tactical respect. But as Riley sees, even the apparently ineffective or self-destructive acts indicated a way of social life including hopes and visions beyond the official Communism repressive ideology and repression and had meaning because they took shape at all and made a statement if nothing else.

Moving from the dynamic of resistance and repression leading to the collapse of Communism in East Germany to evaluating the "everyday subversion" as a rhetoric, Riley cites its "additive-aggregative" nature. "Oral expression is aggregative rather than analytic," she explains. "Orality relies on formulas, clusters, parallel terms, phrases clauses, antitheses, and epithets--all devices that high literacy rejects as cumbersome...." Boldness alone would not have been enough to put an end to Communism. East Germans had to be nimble-witted as well in their resistance. As Riley elaborates with numerous instances from East Germany society and related skilled sociological, psychological, and historical analysis, Communism was eventually brought down by a kind of irrepressible folk wisdom.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Black Rabbit Summer
Kevin Brooks, author
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545057523, $17.99

Master storyteller Kevin Brooks expertly taps into the teetering psyche of young adults in "Black Rabbit Summer," a harrowing, edgy novel about typical teens engulfed by ugly, atypical circumstances.

A half-dozen suburban teens who once were good friends but have gone divergent directions gather again at a mid-summer carnival. In the morning, after a long, steamy night of questionable occurrences, two of them are missing.

As the search for the two intensifies and their disappearances become increasingly suspect, one member of the group sets out to uncover the truth.

But those involved will stop at nothing to keep that truth hidden.

Over nearly 500 intense pages, Brooks explores how little we know about the people we think are our friends, and how complicated and intertwined young adult relationships can become, especially when there's something to hide.

Like most teens, the main characters dwell largely in their own reality, with adults in the picture but sidelined, rather than central, to the plot. Drugs, alcohol, sex and violence are all key threads, but adeptly treated in a way that leaves much to the imagination, rather than shocking for shock's sake. And Brooks thankfully doesn't neatly wrap up every twist, making for a satisfying, non-pat conclusion.

Set in Great Britain, "Black Rabbit Summer," was first published there to acclaim. It's certain to find an enthusiastic audience here. A great summer read.

Diamond Willow
Helen Frost, author
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 West 18th St., New York, NY 10011
9780374317768 $16.00

A thoughtful dollop of Native Alaskan mysticism elevates "Diamond Willow" from a simple tale of a girl and her sled dogs to a memorable reflection on our connections to those no longer living.

Printz Honor author Helen Frost's skillfully written middle-grade novel is about Willow, a 12-year-old whose lead sled dog is gravely injured in an accident. The injury occurs while Willow's parents are allowing her, for the first time, to mush solo to her grandparents' house in interior Alaska.

Willow is part Athabascan, descended from native people who have resided in Alaska for centuries.

What sets "Diamond Willow" apart is the wonderfully effective inclusion of an array of large and small animals, that unbeknownst to the human characters are reincarnations of deceased family members. Some of the animals, who range from a tiny chickadee to a mighty lynx, guide Willow home after the accident. Days later, they watch over her again as she defies her parents by secretly heading back out to her grandparents' house, in an effort to save her dog's life.

Chapters are alternately told in the voice of Willow and the animals. Ultimately it's revelations by the latter that most surprise, delight – and sadden -- making for a sweet, gentle, tale that young readers will relish.

I Will Make Miracles
Susie Morgenstern, Jiang Hong Chen, illustrator
Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9781599901893 $18.95

When so much in the world is askew, what can a very young boy do to set things right?

In "I Will Make Miracles," the U.S. translation of a picture book first published in France in 2006, author Susie Morgenstern tackles the most monumental of issues.

Backed by Jiang Hong Chen's voluminous, blur-edged, water spot-like illustrations done in colored Chinese ink, Morgenstern's text lets the little boy imagine a lot.

He envisions himself healing the sick, putting criminals in jail, feeding the hungry, stomping out natural disasters and making the world stop fighting. "I'd get it down in writing," he says. And that's just the start.

Of course, he's very young, with practical mountains to climb first.

"To change the world from dark to bright, first I should learn to read and write," he says.

It's never too early to start addressing such themes, to let children consider what's possible. In a fun way, this sets them on that road.

How I Learned Geography
Uri Schulevitz, author and illustrator
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003
9780374334994, $16.95

With effective simplicity, acclaimed author and illustrator Uri Schulevitz fictionally recounts his World War II childhood in "How I Learned Geography."

Fleeing the Nazi bombs that are tearing apart their native Poland, his family goes the run in 1939, settling for six years in Central Asia.

While shielded there from the full horrors of warfare, life is bleak with little to eat and primitive living quarters shared with other families.

Then, one day, the boy's father forgoes bread for dinner, instead buying a large, brightly colored world map that fills an entire wall of the family's tiny home. It becomes the boy's escape as he dreams of adventure and faraway, peaceful lands. In his imagination he travels to deserts, snowy mountains, temples, lush mango groves and tall cities.

As with his past picture books, Schulevitz's illustrations are uncluttered, with a particular knack for capturing in characters' faces the emotions of the moment.

And the message of hope in the midst of darkness is one that readers can apply to their own attitudes in troubled times.

A Visitor for Bear
Bonny Becker, Kady MacDonald Denton, illustrator
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763628079, $16.99

In "A Visitor for Bear," delightfully expressive watercolors gently capture the self-isolation of a friendless hermit who life changes after meeting a persistent mouse.

The mouse shows up unexpectedly one day as Bear makes his solo breakfast, and despite Bear's best efforts to lock the doors and windows and to otherwise secure the house, he keeps popping up in unlikely places, including the kitchen teapot, refrigerator and cupboard.

Finally, the bear gives up and invites the mouse in for tea, discovering in the process how pleasant a chat and a good laugh with a friend can be alongside a roaring fire.

As they giggle at the mouse's antics, the message about the importance of connecting with others won't be lost on young listeners. And adults reading the story, who are likely to see a bit of themselves in Bear, will benefit as well.

This is the first of a potential series of books about Bear and Mouse. Hopefully, more titles are on their way soon.

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai
Claire A. Nivola, author and illustrator
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003
9780374399184, $16.95

When a country's natural resources take a drastic downward spiral, the temptation is to blame the government. Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, of Kenya, recognized the government's faults but put the solution squarely on the shoulders of citizens.

In "Planting the Trees of Kenya," young children get a exquisitely illustrated lesson in how quickly the natural world can be destroyed, and how it is possible to set things right.

Beginning in the 1960s, Kenya began to turn from a lush, green land to one where trees were being clear cut for commercial farming, topsoil was blowing and washing away and poverty and hunger were increasing as citizens lost hold of traditional ways of feeding their families.

Maathai, who had been raised in Kenya and spent five years earning a college degree in the United States, began teaching women to replant trees. Over several decades, the natural landscape was slowly restored despite government resistance.

In 2004, Maathai earned the Nobel Prize for her efforts.

Paired with well-spoken text that tells the story simply without burdening children with too much politics or social science, Nivola's paintings effectively show the difference between a healthy landscape and a brown, dead one. And they beautifully capture the women whose work became the backbone of the effort.

Come and Play: Children of Our World Having Fun
Ayana Lowe
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
175 Fifth Ave., 8th floor, New York, NY 10010
9781599902463, $17.85

The photographs were pulled from a collection of professional work shot over the past half-century. The accompanying free verse "word riff" poetry was penned by New York City elementary schoolers.

Juxtaposing the images of children at play around the world with the words of American kids, ages 5 to 11, who can relate to the scenes, was Lowe's idea. She is a New York City school teacher.

The young poets, of course, didn't likely know the social and political implications of some of the shots. They just saw kids enjoying themselves.

So verses about two children on a rope swing in 1978 West Belfast, Ireland don't mention at all the political upheaval going on there that year. Instead, they talk about how swinging "feels like dangling from the ceiling," and "laughing feels like jumping on the bed."

Photos of Iraqi children on the streets of Baghdad in 2003 are similarly accompanied by a poem about playing tag.

The images are from the archives of Magnum Photos Agency, one of the world's most renowned photographic services, founded in 1947.

The resulting reminder, that children are children despite the circumstances surrounding them, is an important one.

Adults who know the social and political history of the places depicted may find much more to ponder in "Come and Play: Children of Our World Having Fun," than the young target audience. For young readers, it's a good launching pad for discussion about the bigger picture.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

Millie's Honor
Neal L. Powers
iUniverse, Inc.
0595472249 $15.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Things change when Millie comes to Raleigh County in 1957. She teaches students to think for themselves, and soon everyone know her slogan: 'Grammar matters. It proves you're educated!'

"Because of one teacher, teenagers learn to think critically about civil rights, the death of 13 year-old Donny Weber, the assassination of JFK and Dr. Martin Luther Kings, Jr., and Vietnam.

"Millie leaves a legacy. And Raleigh honors her memory in a most unusual way."

Millie's Honor is an eclectic mix of history, mystery, drama, romance and suspense. Neal Powers tells a most interesting, unpredictable, true-to-life story about three boys, Vietnam, and the mysterious death of Donny Weber. Neal is a consummate writer with a delightful style, and his novel is well written and well edited. Allow me to share a sample of his writing with you.

"Half a million years ago, give or take a hundred thousand years, an icy mass the size of Antarctica ground past Chicago on its way south. At its southernmost reach, its gleaming face carved a line on the earth we now call the Missouri River. Spanning all the way to New York, the eastern shoulder of the Laurentide Ice Sheet also gouged out the Ohio River Valley. Desperate for a path ti the ocean, the Ohio and Missouri Rivers joined forces to cut the Mississippi River. It wasn't trickle-down; it was cataclysmic. What sometimes begins as innocently as a snowflake can become a force to change the landscape. It is not unlike the affairs of men."

I don't think you'll be disappointed and price isn't bad.

The Aquarians An Ancient Mayan Prophecy - A Modern Phenomenon
Eric Rankin
iUniverse, Inc.
Bloomington, IN
0595443028 $14.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"According to the ancient Mayan Calendar, time as we know it will stop on December 21st, 2012. But what does this actually mean?

"Rebecca Larson, senior dolphin behaviorist at SeaWorld, San Diego, has a theory. She believes that the cooperative way dolphins live is the very reason they have thrived on earth for millions of years. What's more, she see the end of the Mayan calendar as a moment when humans may truly begin to integrate these same peaceful behaviors.

"Dr. Troy Wallace, a pioneer in the study of dolphin echolocation, is convinced that he is on the verge of an incredible scientific breakthrough. Recent research suggests that dolphins may send three-dimensional sonograms to each other, and Dr. Wallace hopes to be the first to decode and view these images.

"As handsome as he is shallow, Souther California television celebrity Ryan Ericson finds himself on a path that intersects with the lives of Dr. Wallace and Rebecca. Together, they are thrust into a mystery of coincidence and discovery connecting the Mayan Calendar end-date, dolphins and the very fate of humanity.

"What The DaVinci Code did to shed light on the mysteries of the Holy Grail, The Aquarians does for the ancient Mayan Calendar. I cannot imagine a more timely or enlightening novel. - Dr. Jim Turrell, Founder of the Center for Spiritual Discovery."

The theme of The Aquarians is most contemporary, and I'm certain there will be many more books written about 'the end of time' the closer we get to 2012. The subject matter makes for an informative, interesting read, though the storyline is not unique. Through his novel Eric Rankin shares his knowledge, experience and understanding of dolphins and the Mayan culture. He does an excellent job of weaving the multiple facets together to a full-circle conclusion. His style of writing is straight forward, educated, and the book is well edited.

Fashion Fighter - Cheeks-A-Saurus Rex-A-Maxamus
Deborah O'Dowd
iUniverse, Inc.
0595442676 $11.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Seven-year-old Kylie 'Cheeks' Acosta is the youngest of three girls, and there is another baby on the way. Cheeks gave herself another nickname when, at four years old, she dressed up in as many clothes as she could fit and announced she was 'Fashion Fighter', a sort of clothing superhero. But Cheeks doesn't want to be called Fashion Fighter anymore; she has more important issues on her mind.

"A smart and curious second-grader, Cheeks meets her biological father, whom she calls R-Daddy, for the first time. She discovers that he lost his legs in the war in Iraq. When she hears about soldiers and innocent children dying, Cheeks feels sad, frustrated, and anxious to do something about it.

"Rallying her fellow students, Cheeks starts a campaign to educate people about the war. She discovers that not everyone agrees with her, which helps Cheeks make sense of her own growing beliefs about the world around her. But the war is only one of Cheeks' concerns–she has to fight another battle of her own right close to home. Readers will be rooting for Cheeks as she valiantly stands up for what she knows in her heart to be right."

The cover and title of this juvenile fiction novel might convey the impression that Fashion Fighter is a light, simplistic, cartoon-like read. Surprisingly, that is not the case, and Deborah O'Dowd does an exceptional job of writing about family dynamics, child abuse, the horrors of war, and terrorism through the eyes and mind of a seven-year-old little girl. This novel is a contemporary story about real problems, real fears and real solutions designed to entertain and educate young readers. It is unique, well written, well edited, and an inspiration.

Deborah has taught high school English for over sixteen years and is also the author of Poetry Made Easy. Keep up the good fight!

Dogs Funny Side Up! Nola Lee Kelsey's Funniest Canine Chronicles from Dogtown to Bangkok
Nola Lee Kelsey
Dog's Eye View Media
Hot Springs, South Dakota
9780980232325 $14.00

Delightful! Worldly insightful!

Quoting from the back cover:

"Welcome to a 'dog-gone' hysterical perspective born out of a life that has literally gone to the dogs. From Nat Geo's Dogtown to the temples of Northern Thailand, Kelsey's biting satire offers an outrageously fresh perspective on the world of animal rescue and a life spent among man's best friends."

My favorite chapter is titled So Ya Wanna Start a Sanctuary. Allow me to share the opening paragraphs with you:

"Many of us dream of starting our own animal sanctuaries. In my world you hear this fantasy so often you'd think shelters would be as common as pigeons in Balboa Park or Republicans in denial.

"After two decades of working at, and volunteering for, every ilk of animal rescue, in addition to attending seminars on founding sanctuaries, and driving past many more, I fancy myself quite knowledgeable on the basics of sanctuary operations. This is precisely why I don't start one."

If you have any interest in animals, you'll like this book. If you're involved with animal rescue organizations, you'll love this book. Nola Lee Kelsey, a consummate writer who knows her stuff, has a quick mind and sharp wit, and it's not all about dogs.

Kaye Trout

Kerns' Bookshelf

The Way of the Christian Samurai: Reflections for Servant-Warriors of Christ
Paul Nowak
R.A.G.E. Media
9780977223466 $11.99

The Way of the Christian Samurai offers an unusual and intriguing way to think about the Christian walk; author Paul Nowak compares a Christian's dedication to Christ to that of a samurai to his feudal Japanese lord. Nowak explains how an understanding of the devotion, obedience, and self-sacrifice required of a samurai can help us truly comprehend the whole-hearted service we as Christians should give to God.

Samurai literally means "one who serves." For over 1000 years, the samurai were known for their constant "pursuit of perfection in both skill and usefulness in service." Like the samurai, Nowak says:

"Christians, too, are called to a life of service to their Lord, and to put His Way above their own wishes and desires - even, if necessary, their own life….Facing persecution bravely, forbearance in difficult times, defending one's faith, overcoming temptation, and practicing self-discipline are all common traits of the modern Christian and a soldier. Thus, there is something Christians can learn from the example and wisdom of the samurai."

Using quotes from ancient samurai texts, Nowak describes the mindset young samurai were trained in, such as constantly being mindful of their masters needs, learning from the successful examples of others, and doing good to all, even those who treat them badly. Nowak then parallels each of these samurai teachings with examples from the Bible. Using both together, he enumerates a list of more than a dozen characteristics that a devoted servant should strive to cultivate.

The book concludes with a section devoted to four steps Christians can take to develop - and maintain - the resolve to be self-less servants of Christ.

It may seem odd (and even faintly blasphemous) to compare Christianity in any way to an ancient belief system that, in many instances, advocated practices abhorrent to Christians. However, Nowak tackles this sticky issue straightforwardly in the introduction to the book; he reminds readers that although "the way of the samurai…is not a substitute or an equivalent of the Christian Way…there are many common teachings, and the Eastern insight can be a refreshing and enlightening look at the Christian faith as we know it. This is testimony to the universal nature of Truth…."

The Way of the Christian Samurai will be particularly appealing to anyone with an interest in ancient Japanese culture. Not only does the book include a short outline of the history of the samurai, one of its chapters is devoted to brief biographies of the famous samurai whose writings Nowak cites throughout the book. Many of the stories taken from the samurai texts read like Biblical parables and are moral as well as being frankly fascinating. Beautifully illustrated with black and white Japanese floral designs and line drawings of samurai warriors, The Way of the Christian Samurai is an informative peek into an ancient code whose rules for service modern-day Christians would do well to imitate.

Complete Curry Cookbook: 250 Recipes From Around the World
Byron Ayanoglu and Jennifer MacKenzie
Robert Rose Inc.
120 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 800, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 1E2
9780778801849 $24.95

In the United States, curry recipes generally fall into one of two categories: beef curry or chicken curry. Thanks to Byron Ayanoglu and Jennifer MacKenzie however, Americans can learn to appreciate the full range of delight curry offers the palate in their new book, Complete Curry Cookbook.

The curry recipes featured in Complete Curry Cookbook cover the entire spectrum from soup and salads to vegetarian and meat entrees; they also represent traditional ethnic foods from the predictable Indian (dal) to the Caribbean (Caribbean Chicken Curry with Papaya and Lime) to African (Botswana Pumpkin Curry, best eaten while reading a No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book featuring Mma. Ramotswe, who often prepares pumpkin curry).

In the pages of this book, curry becomes more than just a spice sitting quietly in the rack with tarragon and saffron; it becomes an essential ingredient like garlic or potatoes or onions: these recipes can be prepared without curry but they will be as different as a butterfly is to butter cream icing.

The recipes range widely in sophistication as well as in complexity of taste. For example, here is a recipe from the book for Beginner's Curry Chicken and Rice, developed as an introduction for children and the otherwise squeamish into the land of curry-dom:

1 Tbsp butter

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, chopped

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp mild Indian yellow curry paste or powder

1 cup parboiled long-grain white rice

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

1 cup chicken stock

2 cups frozen mixed peas and carrots, thawed

1/2 cup plain yogurt

Lime or lemon wedges

In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning once, until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to bowl.

Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic, onion, salt, and curry paste to pan and cook stirring until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice until coated in spices.

Whisk flour into milk and gradually stir into pan. Stir in stock and bring to a boil, scraping up bits stuck to pan. Nestle chicken pieces into rice in a single layer and add any accumulated juices to pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until rice is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Gently stir in peas and carrots. Cover and cook until juices run clear when chicken is pierced and rice is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve topped with yogurt and garnished with lime wedges to squeeze over top.

The recipes range from this basic beginner's taste of curry to the more complicated Green Mango Fish Curry, Lemongrass Coconut Curried Pork with Zucchini, and Spicy Tomato Curry with Poached Eggs.

Even if your only culinary experience with curry has been a Curried Chicken Salad at a wedding shower 5 years ago, this cookbook will be a revelation - it opens the doors to a global taste experience.

Michelle Kerns

Kevin's Bookshelf

Of Woods and Wild Things
Don Knaus
Infinity Press
1094 New Dehaven St, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
9780741432179 $16.95

This morning I wrestled a bear in my pajamas. Now, how he got in my pajamas, I'll never know. That's right give a man a fish and he'll eat for the day, but teach a man to fish and he'll be drinking beer and spinning tales before you know it. I grew up loving the woods and the wild things in them. Heck, I thought every ten year old knew how to identify a large-mouthed bass, or a pileated woodpecker, and knew that rattlers weren't really poisonous, but venomous, and believe me, there's a big difference if you are hungry (no, it doesn't taste like chicken) I still find it hard to swallow that city folk think food comes from a grocery store, and that they can't get milk from a bull. Milk comes from a cow. You try milking a bull and let me know how it goes.

See, the land doesn't belong man, and by man, I mean humanity as a whole, It is the other way around. Man belongs to the land, the earth. I believe that the spirit of a place can call to a man. Some folks just belong in certain places. Blood calls to blood and spirit calls to spirit. It sings to you, draws you in and once it has you in your grasp. Well, I'm getting ahead of myself again.

I love stories. Stories are webs, connecting threads to threads to threads, each following to the center, because the center is the end, each person a thread of the story. Of Woods and Wild Things, a collection of related vignettes by Don Knaus, has some good yarns that weave into the tale of a man, and his relationship with nature.

The first rule of writing (so, I've read) is to write what you know. It gives the writing a sense of verisimilitude that certain something that gives ones writing the sense of trueness, of realness. Although, Of Woods and Wild Things is a work of fiction, there's more than a hint of the autobiographical. The stories follow a young man through his life from novice fisherman and hunter to seasoned woodsman.

There's fishing and forests, hunting and hiking, camping and canoeing, but the stories are about more than woodcraft and the outdoors. It's about family and friendship, memories and mentoring, youth and yearning and a rite of passage that is becoming all too uncommon in our modern society.

Each story stands on it's own, some are humorous, some carry a sense of nostalgia and some just tell a tale. Being a ridgerunner myself I loved seeing the names of people and places I grew up with and around. The face of Wellsboro may have changed over the years, but the process of growing up remains unchanged. Each generation thinks it is the first to discover a new love or a new place, but the heart is the heart, regardless of the Age.

Don Knaus was born and raised in Wellsboro Pennsylvania. His book, Of Woods and Wild Things can be found at several area businesses in Wellsboro, as well as on his website , and check out his weekly column in the Wellsboro Gazette named appropriately Woods and Wilds.

Venomous Snakes
Cynthia Berger and Emily Damstra
Stackpole Books
5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-6921
9780811734127 1-800-732-3669

Humans have always been afraid of snakes. Maybe it's a vague mammalian memory from when timid, chipmunk-sized creatures scurried in the looming shadow of the giant reptiles. It is no wonder we discovered fire, and invented the repeating rifle -- just to make sure it's "really, really dead". Ophidiophobia, the irrational fear of snakes, is quite common. Although fear of snakes may be instinctive, it is increased by ignorance and lack of factual knowledge. With accurate information about venomous snakes, you can enjoy the great outdoors, and learn to appreciate these interesting creatures.

I recommend picking up Wild Guide: Venomous Snakes by Cynthia Berger. Cynthia and her publisher, Stackpole both reside in Pennsylvania. She is also the author of Wild Guide: Dragonflies and Wild Guide: Owls. Also a contributor to the NPR radio program "Earth and Sky" and "The Ocean Report" and Cynthia has written for Birder's World and Sports Afield, among other magazines.

Cynthia's Wild Guide is especially informative about the species that live in North America – including rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and the coral snake, found in specific environments. Cynthia Berger vividly details their habits and behaviors -- how they hunt and catch their prey, the effects of their venom, where they live, and how they survive in the wild. The book includes a mini-field guide with descriptions and photographs of twenty species.

It is important to note that venomous snakes are not common in the United States. Most states are home to just a few species, though Pennsylvania does contain three of the four venomous species -- rattlesnakes, copperhead and the cottonmouth. You aren't likely to see them if you don't know where to look. Venomous snakes make up only a small minority of the snakes you might encounter.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, only 7,000 people per year are bitten by venomous snakes, and those bites result, on average, in about five deaths per year. It is of interest to note that alcohol is often involved. Medical professionals report that forty to a hundred percent of venomous snakebite victims they treat are intoxicated. Therefore, it would seem most bites could be avoided. Cynthia Berger gives sensible precautions that will reduce the risk of a dangerous encounter: never go hiking alone, don't touch snakes, and teaching children to stay away from snakes.

If you do happen to get bitten, remain calm. Do not cut the wound and suck out the poison. Do not apply a tourniquet. Do not offer the victim a Jelloa shot. Get the victim to a hospital. It is helpful to identify the snake, but not necessary. The antivenom formulations contain a mixture of the most common venomous snakes in the region. Keep the patient calm. Be reassured the likelihood of dying is extremely low.

As a naturalist, Cynthia includes a chapter on conservation and ecology issues. The focus of this chapter in Venomous Snakes is that snakes are an important part of the ecosystem, and like many animals they are threatened by a loss of habitat. Cynthia gives some basic conversation tips, including how to keep a snake-free yard if you live in rattler country. She also discusses the rattlesnake roundup – a mountain tradition -- and its often-detrimental effect on the rattler. Though only one venomous snake is on the U.S. federal endangered species list -- the New Mexican ridge-nosed rattlesnake -- many others are threatened by habitat loss, past bounty hunting, and rattlesnake roundups. It is important to understand that anyone who is so passionate about animals that she'd write several guidebooks will have grave concerns and strong opinions about activities which are potentially threatening to that species, be they owls, snakes, or sidehill mooties.

Snakes figure prominently in religion and literature around the world, and Venomous Snakes also features a chapter on venomous snakes in folklore and mythology. The Bible may connect snakes with old Scratch, but not all cultures portray snakes as evil. Some see them as a symbol of rebirth or immortality, and regard them as the wisest of animals. So, enjoy the outdoors, put down that stick, save that cold brew for later, observe, and maybe you will come to appreciate instead of fear the snake.

The Bucktails' Last Call
William P. Robertson and David Rimer
Infinity Press
9780741439888 $13.95

Battling bears before breakfast, and wrassling my weight in cougars - yep, I'm a real wild cat, and I love reading about the Bucktails. Of all the unusual combat units of the Civil War; none was more colorful than the Pennsylvania Bucktails. In the spring of 1861, by raft, rowboat, and cattle cars, there came from the mountains of northern Pennsylvania's "Wildcat District" a group of young men who would form the core of a regiment destined to become famous. The regiment was made up largely of rough, hardy lumbermen who had their own peculiar "wildcat yell." The conduct of some of its men, as well as the region many of them were from, led to the designation of "Bucktailed Wildcats." (The "Wildcat District" had been given this name not for its feline fauna, but because its lumbermen were a loud and lively lot.) Because of the regiment's ritual of having each man wear on his hat the tail of a deer he had shot, the 13th Pennsylvania became known as the "Bucktails."

The Bucktails were all superior marksmen, and during the first year of the war, they distinguished themselves as skirmishers and sharpshooters. In July 1862, because of this excellent record, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton directed Roy Stone, a major in the regiment, to enlist an additional brigade of Bucktails. Stone raised 20 companies of recruits by the end of August to send to Harrisburg, PA., for official organization into the 149th and 150th Pennsylvania regiments. The new volunteers, having proudly adopted the distinctive badge of the earlier group, also called themselves the "Bucktails" or sometimes the "New Bucktails."

The Bucktails, old and new, fought in most of the major campaigns in the East. In the spring of 1862, four companies of the 13th were in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign while the rest of the unit fought in the Peninsula Campaign. The regiment was also prominent in the second day's battle at Gettysburg while the 149th and 150th participated in other eastern actions, from Chancellorsville to Petersburg, with skill and courage.

The trials and tribulations of the Bucktails have been captured in an easy and fun- to- read series by writers William P. Robertson and David Rimer. The books bring the story of the famous regiment to a younger generation of readers; though I know of more than one adult (other than myself) who love this series. I recently finished number six, The Bucktails At The Devil's Den, which is about the regiment's involvement in the battle of Gettysburg.

The series starts with Hayfoot, Strawfoot, The Bucktail Recruits, and introduces the major characters. I find the books to be well researched and a must read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, and the Civil War, and action-oriented prose. When I asked William how he writes the novels, he answered, " The way we write the books is this. First, we both do research to find out what the Bucktails actually did during a particular campaign. Using the history as the template, we come up with a creative plot. I then write the rough draft and give it to Dave for editing. He corrects the grammar, finds weak places in the plot, and checks for logic and possible historical errors. After that, I add in his corrections and find other mistakes, too. The book goes back and forth 5 or 6 times until we work the bugs out of it. I am the creative force behind the books, while Dave is the technical writing expert."

That passion and technical expertise shows, William P. Robertson is himself a Civil War buff and re-enactor, and his enthusiasm shows through his writing and photographs. Robertson does most of his own photography and there are several great photos of fellow re-enactors, which bring the books and time period to life. I often feel that good photography is under appreciated. I think I'm doing well if I don't cut off the head, and the eyes aren't glowing red.

Robertson's series wraps up in his next book that is releasing in May/June called, The Bucktails Last Call, but catch the other great titles: The Bucktails' Shenandoah March, The Bucktails: Perils on the Peninsula, The Bucktails' Antietam Trials, and The Battling Bucktails at Fredericksburg. Me? I'm gonna grab my Sharpe's rifle and practice my shootin' cause I ain't missing the next one…

Of A Predatory Heart
Joe Parry
Infinity Press
1094 New Dehaven St. Suite 100, West Conshocken PA, 19428
9780741444288 $12.95 (877) BUY-BOOK,

This morning, I wrestled a bear in my pajamas; now, how he got in my pajamas, I'll never know. That's right-- I was born right here in Wellsboro Pennsylvania and I grew up loving the woods and the wild things in 'em. I remember fishing for bass with my uncle, and gathering ginseng with my Grandpa and berries with my Grandma (I always ended up with more in my belly, than in the basket), and just lying in the backyard under a starry summer sky.

I'm writing this book review "Of A Predatory Heart" by seasoned woodsman, Joe Parry. Joe is just what he appears to be, a blue-collar, working class guy, but Joe has a talent that not everyone has. Joe is a natural storyteller, and he can put it to paper. The first rule of writing is to write what you know. Joe does one better, he writes what he is, a little guy with a big heart. His stories brought memories of my Grandpa, and my first hunting knife, of that special dog, and some brought tears of laughter. But more importantly, I thought these were stories that would do the same for many people the world over. You know how you read a book so good that you just have to share it? Yep, this is just such a book. Joe is chock full of tales and has many quality stories.

Joe Parry, a Vietnam vet and an outdoor writer, has written for the Pennsylvania Game News, Field and Stream, Fins and Feathers, Turkey Magazine, Sports Afield, Readers Digest, Northwest Outdoors, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, and our very own Wellsboro Gazette. These stories on hunting, fishing, and the outdoor lifestyle run from snort-milk-through-your nose funny, to bringing a tear to a seasoned woodsman's eye. It's a memoir of a lifelong outdoorsman, starting from his return from the Vietnam War, with tales ranging from archery hunting, flyfishing, introducing children to woodcraft, and the bond that forms between generations through appreciation of the woodlands.

I especially enjoyed reading, The Royal Roachman. My uncle was a dedicated fly fisherman, and I remember the dining room table covered with vices and tiny hooks and filled with turkey feathers and multi-colored deer tails. I would watch him create delicate mimicries and speak of matching the hatch. That's why I could not stop laughing when I read the short story. Anyone who has every tried to duplicate one of nature's creations, will surely appreciate "Big Bill's" gallant but feeble attempt, and the creation of THE FLY.

Perhaps, that's what is so familiar about Joe's book. It will remind you of home. Hunting and fishing is an important part of our culture here in Tioga County, and there's something about the smell of gun oil and the searing heat of a woodstove that has a place in any hunters heart. If you were raised hunting, you know there's just something about a gun. No man deserves the title of hunter that doesn't feel a deep, honest gratitude for nature's bounty.

Joe feels this and it's evident in his writing. This collection of short stories has a widespread appeal, from non-hunters to avid fishermen, to seasoned vets who cherish the solitude and majesty of the forest. If you enjoyed Of Woods and Wild Things by Wellsboro Gazette columnist Don Knaus, you are going to love Of A Predatory Heart. As my Uncle once said, "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish and he'll be drinking beer and spinning tales before you know it. So, grab a cold drink, hunker down, and enjoy some great outdoor writing.

Going Local
Ken Hull
The Indie Press
203 E. Main St., Boalsburg, PA 16827
9780979584206 $19.99

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."
Dave Barry

I was born naked, wet and hungry. The situation, thankfully, has improved, but I've never lost my appetite for good food. I was born lucky, because I've always found some of the best food and cooking right here in Tioga County. I love the black diamond steak at the Steak House, the French fries at the Hornet's Nest, and the mix and match six-packs you can get at Your Mama's Mug. Yep, if you want to know the best places to eat local and drink local, you ask a local. One man that has applied this wisdom to his travels is Ken Hull, author of Going Local: An Adventurer's Guide to Unique Eats, Cool Pubs & Cozy Cafes of Central Pennsylvania.

Ken Hull is a self-taught artist who resides in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. When he's not creating and painting, he likes to spend his time riding the byways and back roads of central Pennsylvania on his Harley, scouting out cool places to eat and drink. Hey, why settle for boring, cookie-cutter chain restaurants when you can eat well and eat local?

Going Local is more than a guidebook. Its part journal, travelloge, and memoir. It's about Ken's experiences as he's traveled through Central Pennsylvania, and the places he's discovered and the folks he's met along the way. He starts with the 200 year old tavern in Boalsburg and goes on to include eateries like Webster's Bookstore & Cafe in State College, Restless Oaks in Mcelhattan, the Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, as well as Wellsboro's very own Wellsboro Diner. He focuses on unique places, mostly the smaller places--places with a history, a sense of self, real personality. Ken says, "My general rule is not to include any chains, `big-time' operations or really upscale restaurants, unless they possess some uniqueness, creativity, or oddities..."

Since the book is somewhat of a guidebook, Ken starts off each listing with a section called Just a Taste. Here you will find the name of the establishment, the address, contact information and other basics like price ranges, cuisine specialties, and local attractions so you can plan ahead. The book also includes a detachable map that allows you to navigate your way around and find the places he's visited and listed. Find a place you would like to visit, unfold the map, and have fun.

Ken's intention with this book is to inspire and encourage you to break away from the ordinary. Free yourself of the monotony of chains and fast food restaurants, and experience the enjoyment of independently owned eating and drinking establishments that we have in central Pennsylvania. The book is not a definitive work. There's more to discover along the wonderful roads, sweet byways, and little towns and villages. You can even find some of your own. Just use your map, ask the locals. And hit the road to discover what's around the next curve. Take the time to slow down this summer and share these experiences with family and friends, or maybe even a stranger. Have your own adventures, and maybe write your own stories as well...

Don't Fry Bacon With Your Shirt Off: A Single Man's Guide to the Kitchen
Bob Woodley
Publish America
P.O. Box 151 Frederick, MD 21705
9781424183210 $13.95

A slight breeze whispers through the trees. Fortune favors me this misty morning, for the wind hides my scent, carrying it away from my intended prey. All morning I've tracked this fearsome beast. Waiting for that one perfect moment, that split second, frozen in time. I let fly my spear, giving a silent prayer to the Gods of the hunt. The animal screams, and falls dead. Today is a good day, because I eat. A voice from the heavens booms, "Clean up in Aisle 7." The manager starts screaming "Get Out! I'm calling the cops!"

It's not my fault. I told my girlfriend that guys don't shop. We hunt. Sure you can send us to the grocery store, but make sure we have a list. We hunt for the milk. We hunt for the bread, we make the kill and then we're out of there, and as for the tampons...

A lot of us also don't cook, and that's why Don't Fry Bacon with Your Shirt Off: A Single Man's Guide to the Kitchen by Bob Woodley is going to come in handy. Not frying bacon with your shirt off is the first rule for the single man for a number of reasons. You don't want to burn the skin off your chest, and you want to be able to eat your BLT without burning down the house.

The great thing about this book is that Bob breaks it down in guy-like instructions. Just like with any basic skill, there are levels of competence. You might feel comfortable rewiring your house or your level of handiness might be changing a light bulb. If you are eating cereal for dinner, and think that the refrigerator is just for keeping your beer cold, then this book is for you.

The book starts with the basics--a list of all the pots, pans, utensils and other stuff you may eventually want to have. Don't worry about having to run out and buy that fondue pot. He lists the stuff you will need most first, and just like buying any tool, whether a power drill or a frying pan, quality counts.

One of the few things that modern man has over Neanderthals is the ability to store food for later consumption. This handy book covers some of the basics. There's more to storage than Tupperware. What's the sense of buying the econopack of chicken wings only to have to throw half of them away?

This isn't a cookbook full of recipes, though he does manage to sneak in a couple. If you are a typical guy, a recipe is just like a set of directions for putting together a BBQ grill. First you read it thoroughly, drink a cold beer, and then throw it away, because you're a guy and you don't need directions. Bob does cover where to find recipes and how to follow a recipe, and you know Aunt Martha is just dying to give you her famous meat-loaf secret.

The book also covers Mexican and Italian food, pasta, ground beef, the amazing egg (it's not just for breakfast anymore), and how to cook for a party. The important survival mode chapter is for those who just need to get by, whether the end of the semester is coming or you're recently divorced, but you don't want to starve, live on fast food or microwave popcorn, and pizza. The best way to reheat cold pizza by the way is to use a toaster oven, not a microwave.

This book is a great gift for your friend who just got his first bachelor pad, or for the recently divorced buddy. Grab a six-pack, drop by and leave the book on the kitchen counter. Just don't consume alcohol and decide to cook up something. It may seem like a great idea, but jalapeno poppers are not for the uninitiated and grease fires can be nasty. (Note: do not use water, or beer to put out a grease fire. Smother it was a pan lid, use a LOT of baking soda, or a chemical fire extinguisher, and when in doubt, get out). So, do the single man you know a favor. This book won't make him a chef, but it can make him a cook. Grab this book, serve, and enjoy...

Kevin Coolidge, Reviewer

Larsen's Bookshelf

The Baraboo Guards: a Novel of the American Civil War
John K. Driscoll
Heritage Books, Inc.
100 Railroad Avenue, Suite 104, Westminster, Maryland 21157-4826
9780788441221, $31.00, 800-876-6103

This is not just another Civil War novel. This is the real McCoy. John Driscoll has studied his craft for most of his life and has come up with a staggering good story of farm boys and immigrants who caught fire when they became Company K, the Second Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers and donned General John Gibbon's Black Hats and became a member of the Iron Brigade.

The Second Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry was kept very busy, fighting at Bull Run, Virginia on July 21, 1861, at Gainesville, Virginia, Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Maryland, Antietam, September 16-17, 1862, Fredericksburg, Virginia, Fitzhugh's Crossing, Chancellorsville, May 1-3, 1863, Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, Mine Run, Virginia November 28-30, 1863, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna River, Totopotomoy River, and their last battle at Cold Harbor, Virginia, June 1-4, 1864. On June 11, 1864, the Second Regiment, greatly reduced in numbers, finished their term of service. The Second reached Madison, Wisconsin June 18, 1864 and were mustered out of federal service on July 2, 1864. This is the journey of the real Second Wisconsin during the Civil War. John Driscoll took us with him on his journey with the Baraboo Guards.

Company K, Baraboo Guards, a fictional company, is well drawn by John Driscoll. The characters seem real, the tour of battlefields in Maryland and Virginia is vivid, the dust of summer feels dry, the mud of December feels cold and slimy, and the noise of men living and dying feels real. For what more could an author ask? An audience! Thanks again to Heritage Books.

The Guadalcanal Air War: Col. Jefferson DeBlanc's Story
Jefferson J. Deblanc (1921-2007)
Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.
1000 Burmaster Street, Gretna, Louisiana 70053
9781589805873 $24.95 1-800-843-1724

Probably the last Medal of Honor winner of World War II to write his biography, Marine pilot Colonel Jefferson J DeBlanc died in Lafayette, Louisiana in 2007.

This is a fine personal narrative from one of the last of the great generation. DeBlanc was born in 1921 in Lockport, Louisiana, and died in his native Louisiana in 2007. In between he packed several lifetimes. He learned to fly at age 19 at Southwestern Louisiana Institute, now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He never looked back after the war began, joined the Marines, became a fighter pilot, and was assigned to the Cactus Air Force on Guadalcanal in November 1942 with VMF-112.

On his first combat in his Grumman Wildcat, he and a buddy shot down two Japanese bombers. On his second mission he shot down two fighter planes. He was soon leading the squadron. He soon became an ace with five kills. Later he shot down five Japanese planes the same day he bailed out of his faithful Wildcat, was rescued by Coast Watchers and after adventures, he returned to duty.

Some of the best moments in the book occur long after the war when DeBlanc and friends returned to Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands to help maintain the battle sights as memorials to those who fought there.

"The Guadalcanal Air War" is a worthwhile addition to any World War II library and a good read to boot.

Liberation of Paris 1944: Patton's race for the Seine
Campaign Series # 194
Steven J. Zaloga, Illustrated by Howard Gerrard
Osprey Publishing, Ltd
443 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
9781846032462 $19.95 212.685.5560

Book 194 title in the Osprey "Campaign" series.

This is a fine, slick history of days following the breakout from Normandy in July 1944. We find the Allies racing across France with orders to ignore Paris. Charles de Gaulle, French political pressure and a popular Paris uprising persuaded the Allied commanders to liberate the French capitol. This then is the story of Patton's Third Army advance toward Paris. The Free French armored division joins with resistance forces to liberate Paris on August 24, 1944. Retaking the French capitol generally undamaged was a moral boosting victory for Charles de Gaulle and the French people. American troops were saved from the inevitability of taking Paris street by street.

This writing sparkles. The artwork is dynamic. The maps and battle scenes put the reader in the battle.

I am new to the Campaign series, but if "Liberation of Paris, 1944" sets the standard, I'm ready for Campaign #195, what ever the title.

Finding a Fallen Hero: The Death of a Ball Turret Gunner
Bob Korkuc
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, Oklahoma 73069
9780806138923 $24.95 800.627.7377

On a B-17, Flying Fortress, the hottest hot seat aboard was usually filled by the smallest member of the crew. That would be the ball turret Gunner. On this particular B-17, on his last mission, on February 25, 1944, was a ball turret gunner, Anthony "Tony" Korkuc, who at 27, was the oldest man in the crew of ten. His was the squadron's only plane shot down that day.

He is reported missing in action. It wasn't until 1995 he was reported to be interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

This is the story of Tony Korkuc, as seen through the eyes of his curious nephew, Bob Korkuc who went on a seven year quest to find what happened to Uncle Tony.

The book is a fine blend of World War ll combat in the air, leading up to Tony's death and the education and growth of his nephew, who learned compassion and understanding while interviewing the various survivors of the flight. Both Tony and Bob grew in stature. In a manner Bob finished Tony's last mission.

This search opens a lot of doors to anyone who has lost a service man. There are fewer veterans to interview, but the trail is still inviting, and Bob Korkuc points the way.

Chappie: World War II Diary of a Combat Chaplain
Alton E. Carpenter & A. Anne Eiland
Mead Publishing
Norman Mead & Russell Mead
610 West McLellan Road, Mesa, AZ 85201
9781606435076 $18.50 480-964-0167

This awesome diary of Combat Chaplain Alton E. Carpenter, lovingly transcribed by his daughter A. Anne Eiland follows "Chappie" from the landing at November 8th 1942 in French Morocco in North Africa, through the landing at Sicily July 10th 1943 and finally the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach in France, June 6th 1944.

The Diary begins June 4th 1942, with Chaplain Carpenter's entry into the military and continues on to August 16th 1945 as he left Europe for home.

The diary is very personal with opinions, not always in agreement with "official reports." "Chappie" comments on George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower and a myriad of World War II personalities

This diary, along with Ms Eiland's additional biography of her father, cries out to be read. It is a fascinating daily account of World War II Africa and Europe, up front and personal, the way :Chappie" saw it, more than sixty years ago.

The original 9x 6 notebook-diary on which this book is based, is carefully preserved by his family.

The many photographs were candid shots taken by "Chappie" and give the feel of the times. It seems like only yesterday.

For all who have interest in World War II history, to those who like to read diaries, and anyone else who enjoys a good read, I recommend this book.

The Lions of Iwo Jima: The Story of Combat Team 28 and the Bloodiest Battle in Marine Corps History
Major General Fred Haynes (Usmc-ret) and James A. Warren
A John Macrae Book
Henry Holt and Company, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
0805083251 $26.00

Major General Fred Hayes and James A. Warren have achieved the historian's dream of telling tale so well that although the end of it is already known to us, we read on to find out what happens next. The momentum of the action during the six-week battle for Iwo Jima in 1945 creates an unforgettable impression. The angry roar of battle will remain with the reader for a long time.

Dramatic in the extreme, the secret here is the strong blending of memoir and personal narrative provided by authors General Hayes, then a Captain and the last surviving member of the planning team and veteran of the battle, and by James Warren, author of an acclaimed history of the Marines from Iwo Jima to Iraq.

"The Lions of Iwo Jima" tells the full story of the three assault battalions of Combat Team 28 from their training to the landing on February 19, 1945, the seminal battle for Mt. Suribachi and the flag raising thereon, and the remaining four weeks of hand to hand combat ending at Bloody Gorge on the north side of the island, ending March 26, 1945. By the time the battle was over, 70 percent of the 4,500 men of Combat Team 28 were killed or seriously wounded.

This book contains some of the finest descriptions yet written of Marine action in World War II.

Richard N. Larsen

Liana's Bookshelf

The Lifestyle Fitness Program: a Six Part Plan So Every Mom Can Look, Feel and Live Her Best
Debi Solber, The Mojo Coach
Morgan James Publishing, LLC
1225 Franklin Ave., Suite 325, Garden City, NY 11530-1693
9781600374265 $17.95

Debi Silber, a Dietician, PT, Whole Health Coach, writer, speaker and lifestyle expert, lives with her family in New York. Visit her at

This book is an excellent guide book that is all about health and wellness every mom deserves. It is divided into several sections, each one addressing a different issue of the health and fitness program the author offers to women. The nutritional fitness program is exceptionally interesting as it includes issues every mom should know about, such as the popular diet topic, the food guide pyramid, portions and plate sizes and so on. Debi also mentions the issue of emotional eating and offers solutions that are easy to accomplish. Another important topic is the stress factor. This section is a must for all moms who care for their family and tend to neglect themselves. The physical fitness program comes next with useful tips and advice, and then the emotional, relationship and spiritual programs, all very interesting to read and practice.

The book is written in a simple and clear style, and readers can easily follow the advice offered by the author in each section. There are weekly goals to accomplish in every single chapter, thus making it easier to stick to the plan and have results. It caters to every mom who thinks her lifestyle is a mess and needs some change. Even if the reader does not change much in their lifestyle this guide book will benefit them as it offers a positive outlook in a woman's lifestyle. It is encouraging and worth reading. Get this book from

Roswell or Bust!
Henry Melton
Wire Rim Books
Hutto, Texas
9780980225303 $12.95

Very Highly Recommended

Henry Melton writes books for teenagers. Visit him at and at

Find his whereabouts right now at

This story is about two teenage kids, Joe and mute Judith, who plunge into a fast paced adventure to save eleven aliens! It reads like a road movie, since the kids are mainly on the road, moving to different places and encountering risky situations.

The plot is tight enough to keep the interest intact till the characters solve their problem. A strange talkie, a mysterious courier and a couple of spies are all involved in this exciting story that will entertain kids of that age. The story is highly original, witty and educational as well. This is the second book I have actually read by this author and I would gladly read any other by Henry Melton. It caters to all the family.

The Ashes of Innocence
Alexandra Tesluk
Volumes Direct
9780980894202 $21.95

Very Highly Recommended

Alexandra Tesluk, a mother and successful business woman, has finally overcome her childhood abuse years and the loss of her father. This book is a tribute to his memory.

The book is a fine memoirs story that will move and touch the readers' heart. Alexandra could not find love in her childhood years though she craved hard for it. She was deprived of her childhood since her stepfather and mother made her work non- stop and was not allowed to play and have little treats the other kids used to have. She had to suffer for years before she finally found the courage to have a life of her own. Her only sister was violent and her mother seemed indifferent to her needs. It is a sad story, yet Alexandra gives readers a beam of hope that all problems can be resolved and everyone can find love and happiness in this life.

The story is written in a clear style that it is easy to read, and the characters are well drawn and described. It is a moving story that caters to women and men alike, and all those who have lost hope sometime in their lives. The author gives the public a story that can help them in their daily journey in life. Cruelty to kids and abuse is still nowadays a big issue and Alexandra's book shows that this important issue has to be resolved and children should be allowed to live their childhood happily and find love and affection. Get this book from

The Magic In You!
Sally H.Taylor
Outskirts Press Inc.
Denver, Colorado
9781432703240 $24.95

The Most Valuable Treasure
Sally H.Taylor
Outskirts Press Inc.
Denver, Colorado
9781432718213 $23.95,

Sally H. Taylor's fist book "The Magic In You!" was nominated for the 2007 EVVY Awards. Sally is a very talented author who illustrates her own books and other authors too. Read her first interview (after the publication of her first book) at

Sally's first book, The Magic In You, is a tender story about a flower that is wounded and unhappy. At the end of the story the little flower has been transformed into a happy flower that enjoys life and is full of love for the others. The process he has been through in this story taught him to learn to forgive and love everyone even those who have harmed him. It is a beautiful uplifting story that can help anyone who has got low self esteem and feels that their life has ended. The illustrations are marvelous! Sally is a very talented artist and author.

Sally's second book, The Most Valuable Treasure, is a story about a small community where an old lady lives hidden from the others. That lady thinks she cannot be loved, so the fear of being rejected makes her feel depressed and lonely. But one day, something happens and the old lady's life gets transformed for good. She learns that she can help others and feel happy, she shares her riches with the people of the community, and eventually her fear of the others gets dispersed. At the end of the story everyone is happy. The wonderful illustrations are also a big asset for this story too.

Both books cater to all the family, both kids and adults. They are definitely a beautiful and meaningful gift for everyone as the message they bring out is positive and helpful. Get both books from or

Shining Moments: Finding Hope in Facing Death
Georgia Lang Weithe
Reflections Press
PO Box 57, Lone rock WI 53556
9780979034312 $15.95

Very Highly Recommended

Georgia Lang Weithe, the founder of the Reflections Educational Consulting Firm, has spent her life as a teacher, educational consultant and alternative healer. Visit her at

This book is about the author's experience of death. Losing her father made her explore the subject of death and find ways to cope with the fear of it. It is a mini guide book that aims to make people aware of the transition to the Source, to the unknown that many times provokes fear. According to the author, death is a spiritual experience that leads to expansion and growth. Georgia urges readers to live their present life to the full accepting the fact that we all die some day, and that death is nothing more than a change, a transition into the invisible world.

This book is simple to read and enjoy, while the tips and advice mentioned can be very helpful for everybody. It is a positive story of the author's experience, and through her own thoughts and actions readers can become aware of the importance of the subject most of them do not want to think about: death. She illustrates her point in a clear way so that everyone can understand it and gives hope that there is a second world out there, the invisible world. This mini guide offers a positive view of death and can free people of their inner fear about it. Get this book from Baker and Taylor.

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Margaret's Bookshelf

Confessions of a Corporate Slut
Jacqueline Gum
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434344922, $24.99,

Whenever a woman makes it to the top of the corporate ladder, allegations that she slept her way inevitably arise. "Confessions of a Corporate Slut" follows Roberta as she rises to the peak of a corporate world and enjoys a very successful stay at the top. But her life is lacking, and she wants something more – love. To attain what she most desires, she may have to give up all she has worked for and pour her support behind the man she loves. A thoughtful novel of inner conflict written in a witty style, "Confessions of a Corporate Slut" is a top pick for community library fiction collections.

A Door to Your Imagination
Heath & Ian Knight
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434359780, $19.99,

What types of eccentricity is the human mind capable of? "A Door To Your Imagination" is an anthology of surreal poetry accompanied by strange yet charming full color artwork. Sure to please poetry fans, "A Door to Your Imagination" is highly recommended for community library poetry collections. Cattle Drive: My father and I dress in cowboy hats/Boots, bandannas, and leather chaps/To protect us from thorns and pesky flies/And to help with rain, and the dust when it's dry. We also carry supplies in our saddle side packs/Like bedrolls, lassos, beef jerky, and hardtack, To support our long ride through the countryside/ As we move a large herd on our cattle drive.

Tau 4
V. J. Waks
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781434333933, $20.49,, 1-800-280-7715

The first volume in a new science fiction series chronicling the transformation of Gerda Tau, a humanoid creature struggling for freedom, "Tau 4" by V. J. Waks is a superbly crafted work that will engage the reader's total attention from beginning to end. The story is set within the context of war between the planets of the Homeworlds and the Outworlds. Gerda Tau is the creation of Dyle Carzon's horrific experiments. When she breaks free of her creator's control, she is plunged into a series of dangers which will tax her strength, savvy, and persistence if she is to achieve the potential of her essential humanity. Science fiction buffs who appreciate a truly compelling read will deeply enjoy "Tau 4" and look forward eagerly toward the second volume of this anticipated six volume series.

The Longest Journey
Diana Patterson & Rita Turner
Emerald Publications
PO Box 7278, Nelson, New Zealand
Book Surge
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
0473110717, $16.99,

Sometimes when life keeps shoving you down, you have to stop rolling with the punches and start getting even. "The Longest Journey" follows Elspeth as she rises above a hateful step family who wrongfully accuse her and get her deported to Australia, then a penal colony of England. She finds hope and love when she gets there – only to have society condemn it and take away the one thing giving her happiness. A story of the long journey to overcoming life's troubles, "The Longest Journey" is a top pick for community library historical fiction collections.

Perfect ...On Paper
Maria Murname
Book Surge
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9780980042504, $15.99,

The plan of it all and the reality of it never seem to be exactly the same. "Perfect ...On Paper: The Misadventures of Waverly Bryson" is the story of Waverly, for whom nothing seems to go precisely the way she plans it - neither it her dates, nor her job, nor her life in general work out just so. Confronted with the reality that the unexpected will happen and one must take life as it comes, "Perfect ...On Paper: The Misadventures of Waverly Bryson" is a top pick for any faced with a similar realization, and for community library fiction collections.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

Shawn Cromier
Pine View Press
9780974015149 $12.95

Sequel to NiDemon

Night is almost upon them as Ilien, Kale and Rose struggle forward in opening paragraph. It is not safe to be found in the open in the Desecration once night has fallen. The reader is drawn into the narrative immediately with the opening lines found in Necromancer. The initial pages of the work include a hand drawn map, I like fantasy works which include maps, as I read I can refer back and keep myself on track as where, and what is going on in the tale.

As in the previous volumes of the trilogy we follow Ilien in his quest to make sense of what is happening and why. In Nomadin we found Ilien Woodhill to be a boy who is a bit of perplexity. We were introduced to Gallund, a mystic, who is caring for Ilien during the time his peasant mother is away from home. Ilien has in his possession a very special pencil which Gallund his mentor has pointed out more than once is to be used wisely for spells. Ilien has had his share of confrontation with witches and has discovered that the NiDemon are determined to destroy Gallund.

Later on the pages of NiDemon the reader realized the potential of a Prophesied Child, were introduced to a host of supernatural beings, met an intriguing personage -the Swan- and worried as terrifying Nephalim sought to wreak havoc. Betrayal, runes, a prophesy fulfilled were exposed before the tale concluded. NiDemon closed with farewells, hope and the beginning of a journey.

And now we begin Necromancer. Readers will find what have been awaiting. This is the concluding volume of the trilogy begun in Nomadin and continued in NiDemon. Magically moved into a cursed land, Ilien must find and destroy the thing that cannot be destroyed.

He is placing his hope in Kale, a deformed child Ilien himself caused to be maimed, and Rose a numinous woman whose past is mysteriously intertwined with his. In his pocket Ilien has placed Globe, the only light source he will have in many of the lifeless and drear areas of the Desecration.

It was not supposed to be this way. Anselm had prepared his pack, there should be plenty of food, well, there is, Awfull, a whole loaf, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ilien is less than overjoyed. He on his way to meet Gallund. Before long, Gallund, Windy, Ilien's friend of companion during many escapades will be setting out on another adventure. This one is the best, both Windy and Ilien will be seeing their mothers for the first time in so long. For the first time Ilien is a little shy in Windy's presence, the two youngsters are growing up.

Gallund is waiting for the kids, old companion Thiessen waits with Gallund, even Penelope -the Swan- is there. Ilien and Windy will be making –the Crossing- into a forbidding land where they will meet their mothers and find unspeakable danger, menace and mystery. A Crossing is always filled with a little obscurity. However, as long as those crossing do not resist; the pull of the Crossing poses little danger. Should they resist, Gallund assures the pair, they WILL end up somewhere else.

Gallund will open the crossing, Ilien will go first, then Windy and Gallund will bring up the rear. The last words Ilien hears are, 'No, Stop!'

Cyclops, danger, a deformed personage, Manna, a Breach, are all part of the lifeless, bleak and empty world Ilien has entered. For thousands of years the land has been waiting, Ilien is taken aback to learn they are waiting for him.

The narrative of Necromancer recounts the struggles Rose, Kale and Ilien face in the forbidding land where the cruel Onegod is ruler. Writer Cormier again has captured the quintessence of the genre to generate a dynamic, fast paced work sure to please readers.

Cormier's is a bright voice on the Middle Grades/Young Adult fantasy landscape. Cormier's Main Character Ilien is a kid youngsters can like. Necromancer is filled with all the ingredients Cormier rendered so well in the first two of the trilogy. Again he provides a superior grouping of likable, quick-witted, non-stereotypical characters populating agreeably detailed settings. Kid friendly discourse is used in this captivating account of inexplicable, delightful players set into play by potent impetus.

Moving against a milieu of well designed scenarios meant to bring the reader into the narrative this is Ilien's story. If he is to succeed in his quest to locate his mother, find Windy and hopefully save his world from years of desecration; Ilien MUST learn to control his powers as he faces mounting hazards.

Conflict is always present and is adroitly determined. At every turn Ilien faces near tragedy, hardship and wild upset before he once again discovers that much is nothing as he had first thought. There is an abundance of hooks and interweaving to please the most challenging reader. In spite of the horror of the dead and foreboding land where Ilien has come; humor is never far as writer Cormier fits allegory, wisecracks and out-and-out capriciousness into the tale.

Writer Cormier has done it again. Necromancer is an excellent conclusion to Ilien's story begun in Nomadin. The ending found in the closing paragraphs is perfect, leaves the reader satisfied, and the trilogy ends on an upbeat and positive note. Happy to recommend. Hopefully Writer Cormier is now hard at work on another tale.

The Dark And Bloody Ground
Robert A. Webb
TurnKey Press
9781933538082 $19.95

The story opens with a melancholic appeal, -Please don't go, Morgan-.

The year was 1840, Morgan Collier was resolute; he and his family were leaving at daybreak for the trek into southeastern Kentucky.

From that beginning we journey with the Collier family as they enter the expedition leading to the place where they will reside in the natural beauty of an area filled with vitality, liveliness and splendor.

On the pages of her first work of fiction Author Webb has fashioned a charming work of historical fiction. The Dark And Bloody Ground is overflowing with profusely detailed characters who refuse to accept hindrances. The perfect example of Kentucky strength is portrayed eloquently, devoid of pretense.

Morgan Collier's father John was working as blacksmith apprentice in England before his arrival to Boston in the early 1800s. He soon established himself as a master craftsman. It was Boston where he met and married his wife, Ingrid Thorsen. Soon the pair journeyed to Ohio where they settled down, built a home and raised their family.

Ingrid was overcome with a sense of premonition, she was certain that she would never see her beloved son again.

1828 had found eighteen year old Morgan marrying his sixteen year old neighbor Liddy Kreiger. Now, a dozen years later, Morgan was all set to set out with his wife and three young daughters ages seven, nine and ten for the wild, untamed Kentucky mountains, friend Calvin Kelly, the Collier's most frequent and value customer during the years of 1805 – 1807 had talked of during his visits to Ohio.

Set in Kentucky, The Dark And Bloody Ground is a history of five generations of one family. Writer Webb proves her talent as she illustrates the assorted characters, manages to keep them in line as she intertwines through time and generation and adroitly creates a plot that is fascinating, motivating, and furthers reader concentration through clashes, prohibition and bootlegging, the dreadfulness of the war between the state, and later world wars, births of children and deaths of fathers and sons and the myriad episodes of life that strengthened them as the generations continue. Coal mining and the rigors the family tolerates in a potent and evolving land are all part of the tale.

Much of the work relates how the family adjusts to mountain living in the wilds of unfamiliar land. The day by day struggles the family meet focus the narrative and move the chronicle forward. Morgan's daughter, Sarah, marries the son of one of the family's neighbors.

From that point; a great deal of the sequence of events focuses on this particular pair, their four sons and one daughter, Amy. Amy in turn marries the son of another neighbor, and the couple produces seven sons. Amy's husband, Levi, launches a successful moonshine production, which thrives during nationwide prohibition, foils all revenue agent endeavors and leaves the family very wealthy. The account follows Levi's whole family, while remaining focused on Ben, his wife and their family.

Learning to acclimatize to the natural untamed surroundings facing accomplishment involving elemental and human enemies, and the power of familial bond all continue the fast pace narrative onward. Morgan's heritage is secured when his daughter Sarah gives birth to her own daughter. Amy will be the mother of Ben Cantrell, Morgan's progeny, and grandmother of Thomas, Ben's son.

In due course, the all-embracing record of Kentucky record from early pioneer days to the mid 1900s, The Dark and Bloody Ground is the account of five generations who go all-out to build a paradise in the Big Sandy Valley. The Dark And Bloody Ground offers a wide-ranging account of Kentucky all the way through the mid-twentieth century from the pen of a gifted Kentucky native. I enjoyed the read very much. Happy to recommend.

Just Go To Bed
Mercer Meyer
Random House Books for Young Readers
9780307119407 $3.99

Little Critter and mouse return.

Little Critter is a cowboy who can lasso anything. Dad says "It's time for the cowboy to come inside and get ready for bed." Indoors; Little Critter, without his cowboy hat, boots, vest neckerchief and guns, sports a paper 'admiral's hat.' On the floor, his soldiers, tanks and mouse with a cannon look forward to their orders. "It's time for the general to take a bath."

An irritable Little Critter clothed in his 'jammies', toting his Bunny and none too anxious for bed is heading for the stairs on the cover of this Mercer Mayer work. Mouse is found sitting on the bottom tread. Just inside the cover on the title page we find another view, Little Critter is just as grumpy, however, the jammies are dragging on the floor behind Little Critter, stalwart mouse tramps at the side of buddy.

And so it goes, with his rocket in hand, Little Critter is a space cadet. Dad appears, and he carries the little space cadet to the bathroom where mouse is diving into a bubble filled tub. Before long; Little Critter is a sea monster doing violence to his bathtub ship. A slightly damp mouse is clinging to the ship when Dad appears holding LC's bath robe.

Snacktime finds Little Critter in the kitchen, peanut butter sandwich in one hand, chocolate chip cookie in the other. Mouse enjoys his cookie, surrounded by a horde of 'zoo animals' needing to be fed.

"Feeding time is over. Here are the zookeeper's pajamas."

Super Critter flies over the town, the train engineer is pursued by bandits. Once again Little Critter's patient dad reappears, little pajamas in hand, and a neckerchief masking his face.

"The bandit chief has caught you so put on your pajamas."

And, in a flash, a race car driver just speeds away.

A stern faced dad holds those pajamas, LC looks as though he may at last be bound for bed.

"I'm a bunny hopping around my garden."

Dad says, "Just go to bed!"

Protesting to the end, LC, quilt pulled up to his chin protests, "But I'm a bunny and bunnies don't sleep in a bed."

And the last page shows where a tired Little Critter bunny sleeps with his mouse buddy snoozing on his tummy.

I will admit, I read the Little Critter books a lot when my own children were little boys and again in my K - 1 classrooms in California. Because I love them as much as those children, I kept the books when I left teaching, perhaps forever, when husband and I moved away from California over a decade ago.

It wasn't long before I realized, 'you can take the teacher out of the class, but you cannot take the class out of the teacher,' or something like that. Every fall as the new school term rolled around the same old tug began. How hard, I wondered, will it be to turn a California Life Credential into one that will allow me to teach in Oklahoma… very hard I was told. So, filled with some trepidation I checked out the Oklahoma School site, downloaded the application and sent off my money order, found a position, and began teaching.

"You will hate it." I was told. "Kids today are a lot different."

I wondered whether to take Mercer Mayer with me to my classroom. These young, worldly wise, computer game playing kids may want something with a lot more jazz.

Yeah, right.

Little Critter, his family, Mouse et al are preferred as often as ever they were for 'free time reading,' for 'I'm the leader and I want this book read today,' and for anytime we have a little free time and choice is given as what to do.

"Read Little Critter to us." Is heard often and L O U D, in Mrs. Martin's first grade class.

The first graders in my class all giggle, talk about younger siblings or cousins doing precisely as does Little Critter when trying to prolong bed time. And, with sidelong glances they divulge that they too make use of countless of the maneuverings as well.

Mercer Mayer is a writer/illustrator who truly recognizes the psyche of young children. He presents child pleasing images adding to a most child pleasing read. Together that was an unconquerable combination twenty years ago, and it remains so today.

Permanent favorite Just Go To Bed is a must have for the pleasure reading shelf of little folks ages 2 – 6 and 7. Older kids may well sneak a peek when they think the grown ups are not watching. My former 4th graders, now 5th grade grown ups take pleasure in reading Mercer Mayer to 'the little kids.'

Happy to recommend Just Go To Bed for the classroom library, school, home school and public library catalogs.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

"Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!"
Patty Thomas, author
Wallace Tripp, illustrator
9780688093389 $16.99

Stand back,- said the elephant, -I'm going to sneeze!

I hate to alarm you, But I don't wish to harm you.
My friends, I fear, Its clear, Oh, dear,
You'd better stand back, I'm going to sneeze.-

The tale begins with a representation of an massive elephant standing on his rear legs

The opening page sets up the story line. Instantly each of elephant's neighbors begins to tell elephant precisely why they do not want him to sneeze. The reader meets many of the elephant's friends who are most apprehensive to hear that the elephant is needing to sneeze.

The critters begin to converse, confer, talk about and remind the elephant using child friendly rhythm and rhyme, that he just really must NOT sneeze. "The zebra yelled, "Yipes, You'll blow off my stripes, Plus lots and lots, Of the leopard's spots, And all of the snakes will be tied up in knots!"

Oh no. Not again. The elephant is going to sneeze.

Catastrophe is at hand, the jungle is in pandemonium.

The last time he sneezed; it was dreadful, just dreadful. Why elephant blew all the stripes off the zebra, and all the fur from the bear. He turned the crocodile's nose inside out and blew the stings right off the bees. They had to made due with rose thorns and glue. He even blew all the scales from the fish, and the monkeys out of the trees. Featherless birds were forced to walk south and not fly.

An alligator, and a buffalo, bees, and bear, crocodile, fish, giraffe, and hippopotamus, leopard, mouse, parrot, and snakes, and even the zebra are worried. It is going to be mayhem; if the elephant sneezes.

-Oh, please, Not a sneeze,- Said the bear. -Thats not fair. I declare.

The last time he sneezed he blew off all my hair,

And left me so bare I spent the whole winter in long underwear-
Nothing is so sad as a bear that is bare.-

Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze! was a much loved favorite of both of my own children when they were young as well as for the K – 1 classes I taught in California.

Sad to say, not too many people have even heard of the book. The premise and rhyme are amusing, words flow in cadenced, and lovely tempo that children adore. Images are a brilliant addition to the account.

For years the first book I read to my students, on the first day of the new school term, is Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!

I read it in part because, I just plain like the book. I read it too because; in spite of my being a small person, I have a sneeze that will rattle the windows in the next classroom.

I read the book, and the children and I talk about the absurdity of the tale, and I assure the kids they need not fear … when I sneeze I will try not to blow off their stripes.

I get pleasure from reading the book as much as the kids enjoy listening to it being read to them. The book is very repetitious leading to children being drawn right into the fun as they talk nineteen to the dozen along with the reader.

Synonyms like bare and bear, and fun observations like 'Bee's Knees are sprinkled into the text.

Following elephant's pronouncement a tiny gray mouse sets about to save the day. Rising up to full height he demands that the sneezing must stop. And within moments the elephant begins to giggle.

Even before turning the page; you just know there must be a consequence when an begins elephant laugh. And so there is. The unexpected ending always has my first graders animated, giggling and ready to talk.

And, they are mesmerized to learn that elephants really do not care for mice!

Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze! is a -read to- book for the 3 – 6 year old set and a -read with help- for 6 -8 -8. The book is written well, holds children's interest and is just plain fun to read. I particularly like the illustrations, they are child friendly, my first grade likes them very much

I have always enjoy the read, happy to recommend for the target audience. Stand Back," Said the Elephant is a must for the 3 to 8 set, the home, classroom, school and public libraries. Older children in the 9 – 11 group choose the book for reading to the little kids.

Children's Writer's Word Book, new edition
Alijandra Mogilner
Writer's Digest Books
9780898799514 $16.99

Divided into sections entitled Introduction, Alphabetical List, Graded Word List, Thesaurus, Some things you'll need to know, and a Bibliography the 355 page Children's Writer's Word Book is a resource for writers, parents and teachers.

The Introduction is packed with helpful information and should not be passed by without being read. Author Mogilner, who has been writing and publishing narrative for children since 1982, presents information concerning how and when children accomplish particular language skills in addition to modifications children may experience in the process.

Children's Writer's Word Book is a tome of words which the writer has determined to be the words many children will recognize and be able to use with fluency to read books independently. Mogilner who teaches at the University of California, San Diego provides both an alphabetical listing of all words in the book, in addition to Grade level Lists.

A two page spread –Introduction To The Graded Lists- prefaces each Grade Level list. Incorporated in the Grade Level Introduction is a concise note of Social Changes to be expected by children of a particular age, along with a paragraph or two on the subject of what the classroom day curriculum pertaining to children of a particular age will consist of. There is a paragraph or two relating to particulars of vocabulary maturity expected for children of a specific reading level, as well as what type of writing prowess can be anticipated coming from children of a specific point of maturation.

Children's Writer's Word Book is a resource providing writers, as well as class room teacher's with a fundamental set of words children will likely be on familiar terms with when they have completed a particular grade in school.

Potential authors of children's pleasure reading books have long realized that children's listening vocabulary is more highly developed than actual reading vocabulary. Consequently children's books can be targeted to a fairly wide range of youngsters. The read-to group is made up of the youngest children, the read-with-help are the children in the particular grade from which most of the vocabulary used in the book have been chosen. The read alone group are the youngsters who have completed that grade from which most of the words appear and feel very comfortable with the word list of the grades preceding the one they are now studying.

Vocabulary lists for K-1 are predictably less precise than lists for older kids because Grades k-1 is the time when children are actually learning the fundamentals of reading. Decoding words, figuring out what they mean, and the like is the focus of instruction for the five - six year old set. Reading vocabulary for the K – 1 group is going to be more limited for children in this group than is their listening vocabulary.

As a supplementary assist for authors who may be new to writing for children, Writer Mogilner discusses specifics of word count in stories, in addition to sentence length by grade level.

The word lists found in the book involve less than 1/2 the volume, the Thesaurus is a good bit larger and presents writers and teachers with an outstanding set of words which children can use to help jazz up their journal and other writing.

More than only groups of words, Children's Writer's Word Book gives aspiring children's writers and teachers an idea regarding what publishers are looking for and why. This is knowledge which can be used to advantage by writers and by the persons choosing books for the classroom or school library.

I bought my copy of the book at Barnes and Noble, it is also available online on several sites.

Children's Writer's Word Book gives specific examples of writing by grade level and sets down in plain language how to introduce new words and even foreign words into text along with providing specifics of different types of children's writing. Children's Writer's Word Book can be a handy resource for writers, classroom teachers and home-school teachers alike.

I use this book and recommend it for aspiring writers, teachers and parents.

Resource Work - recommended - 5 stars

Gods Behaving Badly
Marie Phillips
Jonathan Cape
Random House
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road London SW1V 2SA UK
9780316067621 $23.99

Being a Greek god is just not all what it once was. As always, along with striving to locate appropriate jobs, and keeping the house from tumbling around their ears, the family keeps right with their old time pastime of crossing and double-crossing one another.

The twelve gods and goddesses of Olympus are quite alive and are living in the twenty-first century. The dilemma is; they are all crammed chock-a-block, none too happily, in a falling down London dwelling. Their current problems started with their putting the ramshackle North London hovel in Zeus' name.

With their powers slowly waning; their immortality no longer appears to be assured.

The reader first meets the group early one morning. Artemis is out walking the dogs and suddenly, without notice, there is a tree where no tree should be. Artemis does know that this tree is out of place, she does run through this part of Hampstead Heath everyday. In fact, it is a tree that should not exist at all. Artemis quickly ferrets out the answer and learns the tree has only been a tree for a short time.

She is actually Kate who works in mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs.

From that opening; the reader enters into an unlikely, more often than not, uproarious romp starring the gods of Greek mythology. The group has fallen on hard times, are now living in London, and are forced to work in order to maintain themselves. The family actually had moved to London in 1665. It was a period when the plague was keeping property prices at rock bottom and was before the great fire of London sent them spiraling upwards again.

The gods are all present, and are basically killing time in unexciting jobs as Hera endeavosr to figure out how to rebuild their power. Zeus is no help, he has suffered a collapse. Apollo, when he is not wasting his declining power turning humans into trees, is working as a psychic wannabe which is a very slight TV professional.

While Demeter potters around in the garden, Aunt Aphrodite is a phone-sex operator, Apollo's twin Artemis walks dogs, and Uncle Hephaestus, Aphrodite's husband, sees to maintenance on the decaying residence and Dionysus runs a nightclub where he serves as a DJ. Ares is active with war demonstrations; start war demonstrations that is while Athena wearing glasses to enhance, she thinks, her facade of wisdom, is busy doing research. Eros, a budding Christian, is doing volunteer work; much to the indignation of mom Aphrodite and Hermes is a motorcycle messenger.

Into the dubious merger of mixed up gods and goddesses appear Neil and Alice. She is a char woman with a linguistics degree, while he is an engineer. One way or another the pair becomes entwined in the maneuverings of the gods when Aphrodite, undercuts Apollo by having Eros shoot him with an arrow of love, causing Apollo to fall in love with Alice. Alice is an run of the mill mortal who just happens to be in love with another ordinary mortal, Neil.

Everything comes to a head when Artemis employs Alice to neaten up the shack.
Before long, what commenced as a minor falling out between Aphrodite and Apollo has shot into a marathon battle of wills. Alice and Neil, who are caught in the middle of the dispute, understand the destiny of the world is hanging in the balance. It is going to take an act of true valor to resolve the mess and save the world.

Be prepared for an unforeseen ending to the book.

One liability of the work might be that in mythology the gods tended to multi-faceted persona; while on the pages of gods behaving badly a single feature of a gods personality is presented. Conversely, writer Phillips pulls if off satisfactorily.

The work is intended to be light hearted and entertaining. And, it does come across that way the majority of the time.

Amusing, droll, creative, nicely adapted to our time, gods behaving badly is a rollicking read to satisfy those who are looking for a light hearted book for an afternoon of casual reading. Not for everyone, references to sex and some graphic language will not appeal to all readers. Others will giggle and laugh from the opening line right to the last paragraph. Happy to recommend for the target audience of those who enjoy good writing, quirky subject and funny as heck.

Coolhead Luke and Other Stories
Jennifer Lasker White, Illustrator Colin White
BookSurge Publishing
9781419661624 $14.99

Entertaining and packed with excitement the compilation offered on the pages of Coolhead Luke is intended for the middle grade reader. Writer White is a media consultant who strings words together for pleasure. In the back of the volume she incorporate a Glossary of expressions relating to poetry along with a collection of optional questions for teachers to use with groups of children.

Laughable compositions having titles which include –Coolhead Luke-, -Ebenezer Nooze-, and –The Eyes Have It- set the tone for this work of verses and whimsical imagery. While aboard the –Freaky Bus- the reader will meet Old Baldy Bob, whose nose is gigantic, Stretch Joe whose neck is eight feet tall or so, as well as Bewildered Bill and Eraser Head McGee. Other verse lead the reader to a serpent hat, the King of Mud or even a cuddly Cyclops.

The commencement of the book includes the writer's notes to parents as poet White explains how at an early age her illustrator son Colin was interested in faces. Even as a very young toddler Colin started to become aware of faces in the outlines on curtains or leaves on trees. He began sketching faces at age two.

As his depictions progressed the writer noticed the representation seemed to have a tale to tell, thus the stanzas to go together with the illustrations was born.

Professor Bickle, we realize is in a pickle for the reason that he has a mouse who is fickle. A Motley Three is made of up of she, he and me. We have Lunch with the Mussies. And, we discover, nothing upsets Coolhead Luke.

Illustrator White is an upper middle grade student in Massachusetts where he goes on with producing drawings and other art work.

In concert, the White team of Mother and son, have created a characteristic and thought-provoking anthology of verse and art. Writer White tells the reader that the drawings set down on the pages of Coolhead Luke were fashioned by Colin when he was ten years old.

I have found my own class of students take pleasure in poetry. I like the addition of the glossary explaining Haiku, Rhyming Couplets, Rhyme Scheme and Structure along with Limericks. Following the glossary are helpful suggestions telling how to locate some of the poetic forms in the works offered on the pages of the book.

While my First Grade students are a bit young to truly understand the whimsy found in Illustrator White's work, they do take pleasure in the tempo and pulse of the poems themselves as they listen while I read the verses aloud. We often sing My Country Tis of Thee as one element of our daily opening exercise and after I read Coolhead Luke are learning to sing My Country's Teeth I See for the fun of it.

Target audience is middle grade and older readers. Interesting work produced by Mother and son White family members, happy to recommend for the personal pleasure reading collection, as well as classroom, school and public library collections.

The Chimes of Yawrana (The Snowtear Wars)
Scot R Stone
Behler Publications
9781933016429 $16.95

A sequence of maps over and above a prologue offer the reader a bit of setting and understanding for what is to come. The Chimes of Yawrana: The Snowtear Wars is writer Stone's book 1 in his fantasy series, and what a series it will prove to be.

Without overburdening the reader, The Snowtear Wars as the first in the series sets the scene for the works to follow: The book contains an introduction of characters, other inhabitants and world structuring in addition to the basic quest storyline.

Oreus Blake was now in his 19th autumn, and, as time would prove it was going to be one that would always stand out in is memory. Visitors to the Western Slope, a towering pillar, a battle to determine a sentence, protection by Rydor – champion of Baron Tauron Milet; The Snowtear Wars begins with a rapid succession of events, and the pace never stops right down to the last chapter –A Prophecy Fulfilled- where we find Oreus honored with a title: Baron.

Oreus, denizen from a distant land, is one of a small group of travelers entering the mystic realm of Yawrana as the book opens. Oreus and his seven companions are voyagers aboard the flying ship The Star Gazer. Soon after their appearance in Yawrana, a lethal sickness ensues among a number of the Yawranan Royal Court. Suspicion is rampant, and no one is spared its gaze.

The reader follows Oreus and his travels as a foretelling involving one of the travelers is slowly revealed.

If the Yawrana people are to save their dying queen and insure their own continuation; the empire will face the Lazul, a ferocious race of people who were alleged to be only a legend. The only known cure for her infirmity will be found contained in the inexhaustible medicinal powers of an ancient flower known as the Snowtear.

Oreus must attain the confidence of the Yawranan people as they begin the quest to take back the cosseted snowtears. There will be peril and hazard facing them before the quest is finished. Before the conclusion the sovereign of Yawrana will be murdered. Doubts form and all parties present will fall under suspicion, including the voyagers themselves.

A noteworthy divination is to be revealed in Yawrana: The Elders, seers of the land, warn of ruin and devastation as the two civilizations meet. Oreus is a bit surprised to learn HE is the key to the prophecy's conclusion.

Writer Stone has crafted a persuasive, captivating study sure to please readers of fantasy. Backdrops filled with element and detail draw the reader into the setting. Sequera trees, underground beings, the Shonitaurs, with eyes that change color depending on their moods, massive fire-breathing draguls, are only a portion of the imaginative flora and fauna found in the work.

The story plot itself is absorbing. It is an entwining of numerous plotlines woven together to create an appealing chronicle. In one instance is an assembly of stalwarts will who set out to locate the mythic Snowtear. Another line hinges upon the imminent combat between humans and the Lazul.

Sub-plots are inserted to add to reader interest. There is a conspiring to overthrow the royal family, the course of action for carrying out the stratagem, as well as determining why it is happening and who is responsible; figure heavily in the maneuver. The Voyagers arriving to Yawrana from across the sea must learn what the driving force behind their trip really is.

Writer Stone has created a spell binding tale filled with stratagem, mission, death, battle scenes, treachery, mistrust betrayal, voracity and courage as well as a nineteen year old man who arrives to fulfill a 4,000-year-old prophecy. Writing is well crafted, characters are believable to the genre, settings draw the reader into the action and the quest is compelling. Fascinating read, sure to please the target audience, happy to recommend.

Sway: A Novel
Zachary Lazar
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue NYC NY 10017
9780316113090 $23.99

Sway: is a descriptive work focused upon what became recognized as the counter culture of sex, music, drugs, together with atypical behaviors that was prevalent in the United States during the late 1960s. Author Lazar interweaves a made-up, three branched storyline interlacing independent, separate, episodes relating to the life of ultramodern avant-garde film-maker filmmaker Kenneth Anger; the early days of the Rolling Stones and actions of The Charles Manson family.

Lazar uses recognized names of real people, and reference to authentic or reported incidents taken from the era. These incidents involving The Stones, Manson Family and Anger are interwoven to create his novel.

Bobby Beausoleil of the Manson Family is used as criterion figure to bring together these three, unrelated, groups.

The account begins in 1969 with Bobby and Charlie going from the ranch into town where they enter a dwelling. And in 1962, on Edith Grove, a dilapidated street in London is the date in the following chapter beginning with The Stones, Brian, Mick, and Keith playing music.

Chapter to chapter the novelist moves the reader in a dance from one fictionalized incident to the next fictionalized event, with all focusing around characters bearing the names of well known personages during the 1960s.

From the outset the Author assures the reader, 'this is a work of fiction.' He goes on to assert that the book is an appraisal of how a hodgepodge of public lives were detached from the sphere of fact and have become a kind of contemporary folk lore.

While the players listed on the pages of the book may bear the given names of the actual people they name, their comings and goings, actions and interactions if any, have been imagined by the author and should be considered as products of that imagination.

The sway, or influence, the book is trying to elucidate is exposed as the control that results from having a camera trained on an actor and how that action causes the actor to consider himself significant and to be a star at least in his/her own mind, whether anyone ever sees the film or not is unimportant. The significance comes from simply being filmed.

Again, the sway, or influence, is also seen in the affect that Charles Manson had on the easily influenced young men and women who trailed along with him. That power continued even if it meant murder and mayhem. And finally writer Lazar presents the rock star way of life, which included the music and drugs, and the difficulty of rightness or wrongness that a person can have over the behavior of others during specific times or places which are filled with intense social renovation.

Writer Lazar set out to fictionalize and somehow interweave the dissimilar incidents which were 1. the short-term, turbulent climb and the return to relative inconsequentiality of intense filmmaker, Kenneth Anger; 2. the cyclonic rise to the top of the recording world by the Rolling Stones; and, 3. the misfortune centered around the Tate-LaBianca Murders.

A problem in writing a book in such fashion may lead to confusion for readers. Each of the individual circumstances, after being knit together in such fashion, may be viewed, by those who are unfamiliar, with the disparate stories and the non-connectedness of the incidents and may be left with a misguided understanding that somehow the three did have something to do one with the other.

The as presented on the pages of Sway; the 1960s was a period of adulation, cheeky disregard for convention, drug induced fog, insubordinate behaviors, psychedelic incidents, actions of missing rationality, at times violent, seething, disinclined and even self-righteous sneering. Sway is meant to lay bare everything the decade represented.

Sway, per author intent, portrays the spirit of the 60s as well as the, at times, unwarranted and inexplicable violence that was part of the times. While writing itself is good, flows smoothly from one storyline to the other, and holds reader interest; I was left pondering why Lazar wanted to knit together these particular three stories in his attempt to explain any of his premise. And, I pondered why he wanted to fictionalize them to begin with.

The intent of Sway, as I view it, is to exemplify how incidents, people themselves and their actions, or power as a factor may influence others. That seems pretty straight forward. It is by intermingling the separate elements that were separate and had no interaction with one another at all that more than a little confusion is produced. If these particular incidents were wanted to show that they did influence behaviors at that time it would have been a simple matter to simply set them down in separate chapters.

Underground filmmaker Anger is not a particularly awe-inspiring or even well known story from the 60s, however, having lived in California during the 60s I remember well the incidents of the Manson Family, the panic and repulsion shared by many, as the truth of the Tate-LaBianca murders became public and that is far more gripping than is a fictionalized anecdote produced by using the same names for the players and recounting the actual incidents as somehow linked.

I don't know anyone who lived during the 60s, especially those of my generation, who did not know something of the Stones, you didn't have to like them, but it was hard to not know something of them.

I remain puzzled, as to why the book written as it was. Sway: A Novel is not a bad book, and it is not a poorly written one. But, I must have missed something of the author's intent for intermingling these unrelated people and incidents.

Recommended for those who like fiction.

Befuddling Read …….. Recommended for those who like the genre ………. 3 stars.

The Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac, 1861-1865 Books
E. B. Long and Barbara Long
Da Capo Press
1094 Flex Drive Jackson, TN 38301
9780306802553 $19.09

Everette Beach Long, is acknowledged among the culture of history reading America, as one of America's primary authorities regarding the United States Civil War/The War Between The States. The exhaustive work he and his wife created in 1985 may have left out a single shot, a scuffle or a rattle of sabers somewhere, someday, however I doubt there were very many.
Long was scrupulous in his research. In his biography we read: "I got interested in the Civil War as a hobby," he explained. "Then it became an avocation, then a way of life. " Long was the director of research for Doubleday's multi-volume "Centennial History of the Civil War," written by Bruce Catton from 1955 to 1965.

The Civil War Day by Day presents day-by-day activities during the years of 1860 – 1866 beginning with November and the election of Lincoln down to Aug 20 1866 when the war was finally declared to be over. That was when Johnson declared the uprising in Texas to be finished.
For the many in our country who consider history to be 'boring', 'dry, and 'who cares, it was my least favorite class and how in blazes can there be 1135 pages in that stupid book when everyone knows there were only about six battles and it was over.' The Civil War Day by Day just may change your mind.

The table of contents lists not only the years of the warfare; but in addition notes information most/many people forget, never knew or just plain have never thought about regarding the war.
1860 1861 1863 1864 1865 Aftermath Special Studies The People of War
Men at War Economics of War

I reckon we would be hard pressed to locate anyone in our country who has absolutely no consciousness at all regarding Vicksburg, Gettysburg or 'Bull Run.' Long writing in his preface said, 'No one, no matter what method he uses, can encompass the entire course of those five years of our nation's greatest crisis. One form, that can add at least a measure of factual depth is an almanac. … The format used to present The Civil War Day by Day is straightforward. It covers many events of the Civil War/War Between the States period from the late fall of 1860 into early 1866, with main concentration on 1861-65.

The design lends itself easily to use in classroom or for personal investigative study. Researchers, historians and readers may look for a specific date, or check the headlines under dates for specific occurrences.

Secession of Southern states, including some states having Confederate ties are presented by date. Some readers, who are not aware that the actual number of seceding states was not the accepted eleven long called 'the Confederacy,' may be surprised to learn that many other states, territories and nations were included in the Confederate States of America.

The firing on Ft. Sumter, and skirmishes in Missouri, two major battles near Manassas Junction, VA and two in Indian Territory at the Cabin Creek Crossing, battle at Chancellorsville, in Virginia and White Oak in Missouri, battle at the Wilderness, VA and one at Prairie Grove, Arkansas, are all detailed along with hundreds of others, in the book.

Many readers will be surprised to learn: The battle waged near Carthage, Missouri on July 5 1861, well after the firing on Ft Sumter, S C was raging as the US Congress met to declare war on the Southern Confederacy. Many more, well known along with lesser known facts of the war will be found. I personally like history and find the book fascinating.

Daily accounts are concise and edifying in addition to providing a foundation for the researcher to use when moving on to other texts having more detail. The format of the years is uncomplicated, listed by year, month and day it is an easy matter to find what you want quickly if you are seeking a fact or incident found on a specific day.

My personal copy has been used much over the years I have had it, I bought the book at the book store at Shiloh Battle Field. Knowing that my history B.A. husband and I would be using the book frequently, I covered the paperback cover with clear contact paper as soon as we bought it.

The volume is very well made, and has held up well to repeated use for nearly two decades. I have highlighted facts, hand written margin notes, and book marks in place all over the pages of the book, however, I do not have missing pages. There is something to be said for the particular binding used in producing the book.

This wide-ranging work is a resource tool found in the library of every serious 'civil war buff', true historian of our country and those who devour everything they can locate regarding the bleak period of our country during the mid 1860s. At 1135 pages, and heavy as a sack of sugar The Civil War Day by Day is not a work to stick in your back pocket as you stroll one of the nation's preserved battle fields.

About 1/3 of the tome is given over to the sections listed as : Aftermath Special Studies The People of War Men at War and Economics of War . These pages provide a wealth of information regarding the time. Maps of the areas of fighting found in Virginia, W VA, Richmond-Petersburg, The Trans-Mississippi area of Arkansas-Missouri, Kentucky-Tennessee, Lower Mississippi Valley, battle of Vicksburg, and the south eastern Theater are all included.

The section entitled The People of war list particular numbers of inhabitants encompassing both North and South, Slavery, Immigration and Cities are touched upon in brief. Men at War details size of armies, offers some minutiae regarding nativity, ethnic and social background of the men who fought, in addition to stating facts regarding casualties, disease. The chances of war, desertion, and prisoners are touched upon.

Of particular interest to me are specifics of regiments, battles, the blockade and economics of war over and above the cost of war. An all-embracing bibliography is integrated for further reading. An index by dates is incorporated so that the reader who does know the name of a battle or skirmish but does not know the date can locate the battle. The index by date might be better called the index by name, but either way it works.

The Civil War Day by Day is an outstanding resource for the serious student of history, re-enactors, teachers of history, and those who want to learn something of the history of our nation during that desolate era of war. I use my copy ongoing and am happy to recommend.

The Daily Walk Bible NIV
Bruce H. Wilkinson (Editor), Paula A. Kirk (Editor), John W. Hoover (Editor)
Tyndale House Publishers
9780842322270 $29.99

Not all editions, translations and versions of the Bible available today are presented as Daily Walk, however, any rendition of the Bible can be used for daily Bible reading. A variety of versions today includes New Living Translation, Contemporary English Version, New Revised Standard Version, Revised English Bible, New Kings James, NIV, Good News bible: Today's English Version, New American Bible, New English Bible, Jerusalem Bible, Revised Standard Version, American Standard Version.

Rather than try to work out my own schedule for reading; I like the system for daily readings used by the publishers of The Daily Walk Bibles. When you open the Bible the scheduling is already in place, not as a chart, but as daily segments listed by calendar date, ie Jan 1, Mar 3, etc. Year is not included.

The Daily Walk Bibles have been around for over three decades, I bought my first in California about twenty five years ago. And, from that time I have continued to buy various of the versions to read. What I like best about the series is: the format is such that the bible can be taken to church and used with ease to follow the sermon, not true for all –yearly- bibles. As do many Bible Readers, I like to read through the Bible each year, I find that by reading a variety of versions the reading help me get a better understanding for the texts. Throughout history a wide range of people have been daily Bible Readers, two come to mind, Charles Dickens, and General George Patton.

For those who may not be familiar with Daily Walk Bibles, or various paraphrases and/or translations I'll address first the overall aspects to be found in The Daily Walk Bibles.

The format of each of the various The Daily Walk Bibles, is the usually the same with the Scripture divided into 365 readings.

The design followed for each daily reading: includes a synopsis which provides a peek into what will be read. The precise chapters and verses to read are listed. -Your Daily Walk- is a short editorial leading into the reading and includes some particulars for how to apply biblical insight to life, a homily is given, and –Insight- offers a further illustration of what to look for in the reading to help increase Bible comprehension.

Notes and sidebars steer reader understanding for the information provided in the Bible reading itself. Lastly: the definite Bible book, chapter, and verses are listed for reading. For those who have a preference that their reading is done without dressing, but also want an easy to follow technique for reading through the year, one suggestion might be, ignore the notes and simply read the daily scripture.

For the first time Bible reader in particular whether reading now or then, or reading daily, and for those who have read the Bible a good bit too, the format is a good one. Some of the notes offered may be ones the reader had not previously considered, may not want to agree with and will look for methods to refute, will uplift, or whatever.

I have read the Bible many times and find something new each time I read again. I don't always agree with notes, etc, but that is not a bad thing either, it simply makes me dig deeper to either prove my own notions, or to prove the ones of the writer.

The biblical portion of the edition is that of any other NIV Bible available today for reading, accepting or not, and using or not.

For those who may not have understanding; the Bible itself is set down in various portions called Books. And for most Bibles that means the books are not necessarily provided in chronological order for when they were written. ie the book of Genesis, the word means origin or beginning, is customarily listed as first in the Bible and presents the creation story. It is not the oldest piece of writing in the bible, some of the writings of the prophets date from earlier days but speak of later happenings.

They books presents are generally in the sequence of the activity portrayed. There are chronological order bibles, put together with the oldest writing first, available for the serious scholar.

The Daily Walk Bibles, in general follow the accepted, or traditional order of Bibles, book 1 is Genesis and the last book is Revelations. Each book is begun with a small introduction giving the historical setting and the main theme of the book, the writer, if known may be listed as is the time the book was actually written. For the first time reader these notes are valuable, they help to put the book into perspective. Each day's reading is placed in context with the whole Bible.

The general arrangement used all through this daily study format of The Daily Walk Bibles, is written at a level of comprehension so that readers who may have little to no church history will still be able to grasp the essence of each day's assigned reading.

The Daily Walk Bibles, is actually a series of Bibles offered in various translations, renditions and paraphrases. Basically a translation relies on the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts. Paraphrases are essentially a rewording into more modern English of the old tried and true.

The a choice of offerings provided by The Daily Walk Bibles includes that main stay of many; The King James version which was set to modern, at the time, English for use by common folk. King James is lovely in its old, by today's standard, English prose, it is also quite difficult to understand for many Bible Readers. Other versions of the Bibles include the NIV, or the New International Version, The Living Bible, New Living Translation, Revised American Standard and others.

While most of Christendom will agree that God does not change, language does.

Now to the Bible for specific review for today, The Daily Walk Bible NIV. The NIV is The New International Version of the bible and follows the format of The Daily Walk Bibles.

The NIV New International Version, appeared amidst some hand wringing and breathlessness back in the 1970s. It is not King James, and the purists were not sure at the time that God would be pleased. The version is widely accepted today. And it provides a good more modern English translation that is easier for the average reader to understand.

The NIV is listed in the preface as -a new translation and is the result of hundreds of scholars working directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. The rational behind 'reworking' the Bible is to put it into language more readily understood by the average reader-.

The NIV adaptation of the Bible was a vigilantly thought out endeavor including scholars from New Zeland, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and The United States in the endeavor to create a work that would have significance for the English speaking Bible Reader today.

Religious scholars from many areas within Christendom were included in the work. Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Mennonite, Lutheran, Evangelical Free, Church of Christ, Christian Reformed, Brethren, Baptist, Assemblies of God, Anglican among others were all involved in the work to produce .

The NIV translation which is in close harmony with the King James Version, however, it uses modern day English which is more easily understood by those who may not be versed in the fine distinctions of the spoken language of King James.

I find The Daily Walk Bible NIV to be a superb devotional/study Bible.

An index to the Books is provided so that the reader can straightforwardly see what will be read month by month. A table of weights and measures is included, quart I know, ephah I do not; foot and yard I understand, cubit I do not. An overview of the Old Testament includes a listing of the Historical, Poetical, and Prophetical Books. The overview of the New Testament lists the Pauline Epistles, the non Pauline Epistles and the historical books.

I use The Daily Walk Bible on an ongoing basis. Happy to recommend.

White-washing America Examing The Racism, Sexism, and Government Propaganda Being Taught in America's Classrooms
Troy Morris
Aventine Press
9781593302498 $13.95

The paperback is presented on 215 pages which include a Table of Contents, an Introduction, chapter texts, appendices, end notes and an index. Chapter titles are interesting and provide a good overview of what the reader may expect to find on the pages of White-washing America.

–Mythical America-, -Omitting the Nasty-, and 'Illigitimate (sic) Heroes'- set the tone for the work. The writer begins with the opening statement, "Some of the most well known and beloved myths in America are the stories about the discovery and the early colonization of the –New World-." The writer goes on to offer data to support his statement.

White-washing America is not a cheerful little, feel good book. The author writes from the hypothesis that in general; American history classes and textbooks used for teaching history in the United States, are more often than not filled not only with inaccuracy, and at times with half truths, as well as just plain fabrications. He says that while this view is true of many college texts, it is particularly true of the text books accessible today for use in the nation's public high schools.

Presented as illigimate (sic) heroes, per the writer's view, are Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and others. The chapter titled politically correct vs accuracy discusses American folk hero Kit Carson in far dissimilar vein than is understood by most of America.

The chapter titled Racism in the Whitehouse discusses the narrow-mindedness the writer believed to be demonstrated by Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, and William Clinton.

White-washing America is packed with information, minutiae and facts which the writer believes all point to the actions of many historians, teachers, artists, and even politicians to, white-wash, American history. In particular the chapter titled –Racism in the Whitehouse- asks whether a position may be viewed as racism patriotism or perhaps both, as well as asking if what we do is politically correct as relates to precision of historical past. Lies and Propaganda are explored as is –The New Rome-.

Writer Morris says the exertion for White-washing America has stepped up strength since the 1950's. Morris deems the motivation for at least a part of the half truths that he says are being offered; is owing to an effort to, twist portions of history that are not particularly becoming to the nation, or to a particular ethnic, racial or religious group in order that history will not appear to be as unpleasant as Morris says is so often the case.

Writer Morris' approach is that the 'cleaning up' of American history more than likely commenced as a derivative of the approval, political leanings, discredit, or remorse surrounding the events play out in the early days of the nation.

On the other hand, says the writer, many of the early chronicles regarding our country and the men who have become heroes, teemed with fanatical religious narrow-mindedness, racial prejudice, and erroneous conjectures, as well as some down right lies. As with all comparable accounts, he reports surrounding achievements of early Americans have become intensified over time and have become so renowned that they became accepted as truth by default.

As a member of the National Association for Ethnic Studies, the Society of American Archivists, the Organization of American Historians, as well as being a tribal member of the Appalachian American Indians of West Virginia; Writer Morris is a social and political historian.

I found White-washing America to be an interesting book. Most of us who like history are often on the search for the truth as it pertains to our national history, and most of us do realize there is much misinformation accepted as truth today.

A good addition for school, public and home libraries, White-washing America: Examining The Racism, Sexism, and Government Propaganda Being Taught in America's Classrooms Writer Morris indicates is the result of much personal research and a hope that America's children will receive a more balanced view of our collective past.

NOTE: While I do have a deep and abiding interest in our national history, and I know there are inaccuracies accepted as truth today, I am reviewing this book and am not reviewing the writer's bias, understandings or even his inaccuracies if they are present.

Because I too study history I have found that there is some truth to the notion that our mores, the media, as well as the government itself, have transformed history surrounding some individuals into legendary heroes. Early day figures are often presented as near perfect individuals whose actions were constantly performed from the finest of purposes in addition to always being like-minded with the American way of life.

As a result, Americans often are afforded little opportunity for receiving truthful representations of past figures to measure themselves up to. This fact is perhaps more significant should they be other than white.

I do realize many historical works available today are filled with pro-government misinformation in addition to regularly passing over any information that might reveal anything negative concerning the Founding Fathers, specific ethnic or racial groups, the government, or America in general. I do realize that this is especially noticeable when any of America's Presidents are being discussed.

And again I say: I am reviewing this book and am not reviewing the writer's bias, understandings or even his inaccuracies if they are present. I suggest read the book, if you find the writer to be in error, do some historical research and satisfy yourself as to his correctness, or lack thereof.

The Monster of Florence
Douglas J. Preston and Mario Spezi
Grand Central Publishing
9780446581196 $25.99

Just inside the front cover is a timeline, I found it most useful for those, including myself, who may not have an awareness of the events set down on the pages of The Monster of Florence. The timeline helped me keep everything in order as I read the work.

Subsequent to the timeline is a cast of names for those the reader will meet in the book. I like the system. Again, because I had no awareness of the serial murderer who was killing in Florence, Italy the list helped me keep the times, places and people straight. This serial killer, the events, or the people involved is not one I was aware of prior to reading The Monster of Florence.

While the facts surrounding the killings are factual; The Monster of Florence is not so much a sensational recounting of an appalling set of murders as it is a recounting of the men who have spent years investigating, researching, and trying to put the murders into perspective before beginning to write their findings into a book.

Part 1 is The Story of Mario Spezi. In 1981 Spezi, an Italian, was a young member of the press in Florence where he worked for La Nazione. He had held the post for several years. Spezi had no realization how his life might transform when he noticed a fellow reporter approaching his desk one Sunday. It was the journalist who usually handled the crime desk. The man was a phenomenon having worked and survived two decades covering the Mafia.

Spezi was asked to cover the crime desk for his coworker who had a family matter to take care of that day. His parting words would linger often in Spezi's memory: 'nothing ever happens in Florence on a Sunday morning.'

And, Spezi did hang around the paper until just about noon, his co-worker was correct, it was quiet as could be. Then, he determined to go and check out the local police station. While there he learned something indeed had happened. And, from that day onward Spezi's life was never the same. He was continually searching for answers regarding the subject of a most ghastly murder which quickly became murders in short order.

For 165 pages we follow Spezi in his pursuit to determine who The Monster of Florence really is.

Part 2 is The Story of Douglas Preston. Preston, an American writer, had long wanted to compose a murder mystery set in the period of the 1966 Florentine flood when the Arno River overflown its banks following forty days of rain.

Arriving in Florence in 2000 were Preston, his wife and two young children. It was not long before Preston learned that he had come right into to the heart of Monster country. He as Spezi was quickly caught up in a search for the truth. And he and Spezi soon joined forces and their investigation spanned years.

Near Florence, for over a decade the executioner killed and disfigured fourteen people. His killings included both members of seven couples he found in parked cars late at night. He was a serial killer who ritually murdered fourteen young lovers before he stopped. He is known as the Monster of Florence. And, he has never been caught.

The Monster of Florence is a particularly alarming book for the reason that it gives an account of definite horrendous crimes and is not a work of fiction.

Thomas Harris, an American novelist of crime narratives, even studied Florentine Monster data for some of Hannibal Lecter's more outrageous moments in his book featuring Hannibal. Most conspicuously Harris wrote The Silence of the Lambs.

One of the most interesting of elements found on the pages of The Monster of Florence is the twist of irony that has also faced more than one reporter or researcher of true crime; Preston and Spezi themselves became targets of a out of the ordinary police investigation.

The murders, which continue to be unsolved even to today, caught the dismayed notice and thoughts of the Italian people, especially those who lived in and around Florence. The Monster of Florence is a captivating peek into the management and mis management of one of the largest investigations into a series of grisly killings which stunned and concerned the populace of Italy as well as the situation continues to cause worry and shock today.

The Monster of Florence is the explanation of the investigation undertaken by Spezi and Preston for--and identification of--the man Spezi and Preston are persuaded did in fact commit the unspeakable crimes. Included in the book is a recounting of the chilling interview Spezi and Preston conducted with him.

Well written, factual, The Monster of Florence is not a true crime account in the strictest sense because the books centers more the writers and what their research shows than it does on the murders themselves.

Spellbinding read, happy to recommend for readers who have an interest in true crime and how the investigation into it can go awry.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Priya's Bookshelf

The 19th Wife
David Ebershoff
Random House
9781400063970 $26.00

David Ebershoff's latest effort, The 19th Wife, combines the historical elements from the autobiography of Ann Eliza Young with a present day murder mystery involving BeckyLynn, the 19th wife of a polygamist living in Mesadale, Utah. Ann Eliza Young was the so-called 19th wife of Brigham Young, the spiritual successor of succeeded Joseph Smith who founded the Church of the Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church. A young Ann Eliza married Prophet Young when the latter was well into his late sixties or early seventies. She slowly grew disillusioned with the polygamous practices of the church and finally denounced it.

Juxtaposed against Ann Eliza's life is the story of BeckyLynn Scott, the 19th wife of a present day First Church polygamist who is accused of murdering her husband. The First Church broke off from the Church of Latter Day Saints when Utah joined the United States and polygamy was made illegal by legal decree. The First Church of the book enforces polygamy and still adheres to the ideals of Brigham Young. While girls in this community are highly coveted, the boys are frequently expelled in because of the competition they provide to the older men for younger wives.

Jordan Scott, BeckyLynn's estranged son is a "lost boy", expelled from the community for frivolous reasons, forced to live on the streets from his teen years. He cannot abide by the fact that his mother could not stop his expulsion. When BeckyLynn's crime comes to light, everyone, including Jordan, is convinced of her guilt while she keeps protesting her innocence. In his meetings with his mother in the jail, Jordan realizes that she actually loved his father, and in the dogma of salvation through polygamy, and thus couldn't have killed him. This starts him on a quest to absolve his mother of the crime.

Through Ann Eliza's and Jordan Scott's childhood accounts, we get poignant glimpses into the world of polygamous marriages. While the men whittle down male competition and take on ever younger wives, the older wives and children suffer most under this setup. Petty jealousies and rivalries compensate for lack of attention from the husband and eat away at the women's self esteems. They go to extraordinary lengths to convince themselves that having "sister wives" is indeed God's will. The innumerable offspring crave the love of their fathers, but too often there's only a finite amount of love to go around. Ebershoff uses the analogy of a pizza pie - there're only so many pieces that can go around, no matter how thinly you slice it.

The expulsion of Ann Eliza from Brigham Young's favored inner circle of current wives prompts her to support herself by taking in Gentile (in this context, non-Mormon) boarders. When she comes face to face with the outside world, and how men outside the Mormon fold treat their wives, Ann Eliza realizes that she is slowly losing her faith in her church which promises salvation only when polygamy is part and parcel of their lives. Helped at various points by her boarders and her half brother Gilbert, Ann Eliza escapes the church. Constantly in fear of her life and paranoid about the powers wielded by Brigham Young, she nevertheless makes a name for herself lecturing to various urban audiences about the ills of polygamy. It is through her testimony to the Senate that President Grant promises to come down hard on polygamy.

The result that emerges is a complex picture of Ann Eliza Young – her apostasy of leaving the church and expose on polygamy makes her a heroine to most Americans, who eagerly lap up her books and lectures with unseemly appetites. Within Mormon and First Church circles she comes to be regarded as a troublemaker and opportunist hungry for the world's attention. On the other hand, we have the widowed BeckyLynn, who more than a 100 years after Mrs. Young's apostasy, cannot reconcile herself to living outside her First Church community, even after her husband's death.

The author employs various clever techniques in the book to bring the two storylines to life. Letters, lectures, term papers, newspaper accounts all supplement the narrative text, seemingly replicating the painstaking research process through which this book came into being. The sudden switches from Ann Eliza's story to the detective work in Jordan's and BeckyLynn's is somewhat disorienting to the reader. The length of the book (at 500+ pages in the review copy) also might deter some.

In 2003, Sen. Rick Santorum argued that if consensual sex within the privacy of a home were the deciding criterion, the state would also need to allow polygamy and incest into the fold of available rights. His statements caused a major furor among liberals. This book serves as a counterpoint to Santorum's claim. Ebershoff uses the example of Jordan Scott's relationship with Tom, a fellow expelled Mormon, to show us a different picture. The concern Jordan and Tom show for Johnny, an expelled teenage Mormon, drives home the point that it is possible for a gay couple to provide love and stability to a youngster. In sharp contrast we see the desperate childhoods of Ann Eliza and Jordan within polygamous Mormon/First Church families, ever hungry for fatherly love and never receiving it to their satisfaction. Each feels sorry for his or her mother but simultaneously fails to understand the compelling reasons that keep the marriages intact.

The timing of this book could not be more serendipitous. There was the recent scandal in Texas where Child Protection Services removed minors from the Yearning for Zion ranch following accusations of polygamy and sexual abuse of minors. The release of this book on the heels of that all-too-real event is sure to feed into the curiosity surrounding polygamy and how it is expressed through the various breakaway factions of Mormonism. All said and done, this book is a very interesting read, told at an engaging pace and with remarkable dexterity. The spirit of Ann Eliza must be smiling from above.

Last Dragon
J. M. McDermott
Wizards of the West
9780786948574 $14.95

"My fingers are like spiders drifting over memories in my webbed brain. The husks of the dead gaze up at me, and my teeth sink in and I speak their ghosts. But it's all mixed up in my head, I can't separate lines from lines, or people from people. Everything is in this web, Esumi. Even you, even me. Slowly the meat falls from the bones until only sunken cheeks and empty space between the filaments remind me that a person was there, in my head. The ghosts all fade the same way. They fade together. Your face fades into the face of my husband and the dying screams of my daughter. Esumi, your face is Seth's face, and the face of the golem."

J. M. McDermott's maiden writing effort opens with these haunting lines and grips the reader from the get-go and never lets up. Styled as a series of letters from the dying empress Zhan to her erstwhile lover, the book weaves back and forth through Zhan's life as she reminisces about the past to an unresponsive Esumi.

Zhan belongs to a family of shamans, and is separated from her family to train as a warrior once she attains puberty - a fate that she cannot wiggle her way out of, being that she is a second born, and has just started bleeding. Just when she is reconciled to her new warrior life under a ruthless sensei, a messenger arrives at her place of training with word that her entire family has been slaughtered by her grandfather. The only person her grandfather has spared is her uncle Seth, presumably because he is her grandfather's only true offspring. Once again, Zhan is forced to leave the surroundings she is most comfortable in, but this time, revenge spurs her to action. She hooks up with Adel, a deformed mercenary character who has her own agenda in helping the lead protagonist plot her revenge. She locates Seth, the lone survivor from the patriarch's bloodletting, and his girlfriend Korinyes and they too join Zhan in her quest. The rag-tag army is accompanied by the grandfather's golem, a creature that inhabits the nether state between the living and the dead. With help from the golem, they retrace her grandfather's steps through each of the sites of his carnage, till Zhan comes face to face with the true betrayal of her life – the truth was never as simple as it appeared to be.

Epistolary formats abound in literature, and first-second person exchanges usually feel clunky and contrived in most authors' hands. Not so in this case, where McDermott manages a stylistic breakthrough of sorts. Chapters are rarely more than two to three pages in length, with plenty of white spaces thrown in, mirroring the bleak snowy landscape through which Zhan and her cohorts labor. Bare-bones descriptions – city sounds, milkweed burning, baking bread – combine with astute observations to create a paradoxically pared down yet sensually lush experience. The result is surprisingly literary. Savor this paragraph for instance:

"I found new places each night, but all the faces seemed too much the same for me. All of them brown, with high cheeks and slender eyes… No words like songbirds. Only the purring and clicking of Proliux. That language sounds like cats dying slowly. I thought in words like crickets and bird, and only the pigeons spoke to me their two long notes. Coo hoo… Don't go…"

The light lushness of this book brings to mind Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - not only in a broad thematic sense of honor, betrayal and revenge, but also in the dreamy litheness of McDermott's words. This book is ripe with filmic potential. The erratic shuffling between present action and past events makes for some confusing moments, but again, that stylistic decision of the author makes sense with the realization that the main protagonist of this book is a dying empress, slowly losing her grip on reality even as she pines for her lover.

To classify this book a work of fantasy and relegate it to the sci-fi racks of a library or a bookstore almost feels like a disservice to the many readers who would never peruse those aisles (full disclosure: this reviewer is one of them). In fact, it was serendipity that drew me to the cover art of this book on the new arrivals rack. And for once I was glad I judged a book by its cover (art).

Priya Ramachandran

Richard's Bookshelf

Building Your Personal House of Prayer
Larry Kreider
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippenburg , PA 17257-0310
9780768426625 $15.99

Adding a New Dimension and Pattern to Your Prayer Life

"Building Your Personal House of Prayer" offers the reader a plan for an extreme makeover of their prayer life. Larry Krieder has used the Lord's Prayer as the model and basis for the twelve lessons presented in the book. Krieder helps the reader build their own house of prayer by using twelve rooms as his model. He begins with a courtyard, which represents the entryway into the twelve rooms or elements included in the Lord's Prayer.

Coming into the courtyard of praise and thanksgiving, I felt the presence of the Lord Jesus as I offered up thanksgiving and praise. Moving on to the family room I felt secure in the Father's love, and turning my attention to silently listening to him as I meditated on His Word.

Each of the other rooms provided opportunities for adoration, a declaration, surrender, requesting provision, seeking forgiveness, claiming freedom, and protection. The rooms called Warfare, Kingdom, Power, and Exaltation all provided opportunities for learning more of the true power and possibility prayer.

Larry's writing is anointed and based on scripture. His illustrations are relevant and helpful, drawing the reader into a new focus on the patterns of prayer developed in the days of the early church.

"Building Your Personal House of Prayer" is a valuable resource for personal study, prayer and the devotional life. Application questions at the end of each chapter and a Daily Prayer Guide in the appendix add to this 40 day adventure in prayer which will change and enrich your practice, effectiveness, and joy of prayer. The book is excellent for creating interaction in a Small Group Bible Study, or in a discipleship and mentoring training.

A remarkable devotional guide for enhancing the power and practice of your prayer life.

Nancy Douglas
Olive Leaf Ministries
1605 NE Debonair Drive, Lee's Summit, MO 64086
9780615188225, $19.95

Offering Encouragement to Parent of Special Needs Children

Nancy Douglas shares her spiritual journey in her new book "Freedom: Healing for Parents of Disabled Children." Disillusionment, frustration, anger, self esteem issues, and pride, all were a part of Nancy's journey to healing.

Shortly after giving birth to Danielle, Nancy sensed something was wrong. Earlier guarded medical opinions and uncertainties confirmed. Tests revealed that Dani was born Autistic, deaf, and Failure to Thrive.

Nancy details her struggle with acceptance, of the battles with pride, and the of going through the grieving process. I found the chapter dealing with the concept of "goals of grief" enlightening and helpful in areas of grief over loses experienced, other than through death.

She honestly discusses the impact of disabled children on marriages, and of her own relationship with her husband, Jimmy. She present insights on the appalling difficulties of social life, and of the effect on other children in the home. Personal anecdotes from her experiences convey a heart warming sense of family love and spiritual growth.

Nancy's shares her experience with openness, vulnerability, and candor. Her writing is articulate, her story compelling. Nancy tells of her journey in learning to accept Dani's condition as a gift from God.

Nancy has moved from a personal rebellion to a freedom in her experience. She continues to learn new lessons in accepting God's purposes, and is now able to share spiritual insights from the what she has learned. Nancy has a ministry of speaking, teaching, and writing. Although Nancy writes from a mother's heart, "Freedom" offers encouragement, transformation, and healing to all.

I'll Cross the River C. Hope Flinchbaugh
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426489, $15.99

Courage and Hope in the Midst of Persecution

C. Hope Flinchbaugh's "I'll Cross the River" is a fictional account of the heart rending drama taking place in North Korea today. Her novel is a composite of stories drawn from real life testimonies and interviews of refuges and persecuted Chinese Christians near the border of North Korea.

"I'll Cross the River" is based on the lives of two women and two interwoven dreams. Their lives converge as God's plan unfolds. Young Soon, recently widowed and pregnant, is facing a struggle to provide for her two starving children. She is steeped in a heritage of loyalty to a man god, Kim Il Sung, and is bombarded with Communist propaganda. Through the testimony of her brother, Young Soon is drawn to the God that loves. She dreams that her unborn son will grow up in another land. Learning that in conditions beyond North Korea children were not left to starve, Young Soon decided to risk her life and defect with her new born infant and young son.

Mei Lin, a young Chinese evangelist, felt called to make a mission trip deep into the remote mountain villages China. She had a dream of a baby crying from the muddy waters of a river. Her dream left her unsettled, and she took the dream as a message from God and interceded in the behalf of a young boy and the baby as they reached out to her for rescue.

Although this is a fictional account, Flinchbaugh writes with such realism and passion that I felt I was reading an actual biography. I was staggered by the horror of statistics that tell of the four million children who have died of starvation in North Korea since 1995.

Flinchbaugh's writing is sensitive, compassionate and articulate. "I'll Cross the River" is a wake up call to prayer and a call to action. The reader is provided with suggested resources and suggestions for ways to get involved in providing hope in this human tragedy. This is a book that should be read by Christians everywhere, and should be made available in every library in America. "I'll Cross the River" is an important book for concerned Christians.

How To Keep Your Faith in an Upside-Down World
Sarah Bowling
Destiny Image
P O Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426632 $15.99

Compelling, Convicting, Revolutionary

Ignited with a passion for becoming a world changer Sarah Bowling shares her vision in "How To Keep Your Faith in an Upside-Down World."

Sarah draws lessons from examples of modern day heroes who demonstrate the impact one person can have on the world around them to illustrate her message. She also includes biographical sketches from contemporary industry leaders, as well as personal stories from the field of sports and entertainment. These are testimonies of men and women that have gone the extra mile to change their own personal sphere of influence.

Mother Teresa is an example of a modern day heroine who has influenced the world by serving the poor in Calcutta India. Bowling shares stories of others from all walks of life, including those men and women in politics and religion who have been a positive influence and have revolutionized their world and beyond.

Sarah has used the Bible as a source for inspiration and examples. She describes how the apostle Paul revolutionized the cities he visited at all levels of life, social, religious, economics, and political, bringing about dramatic change as large segments of the population made decisions to become followers of Christ.

I personally appreciated the way Sarah made the scriptures relevant for today's Christian living in a world often seemingly out of contril.

Sarah challenges the reader to recognize that each of us are created with the potential of turning the world upside down. "How To Keep Your Faith in an Upside-Down World" is compelling, convicting, and revolutionary.

When You Know God…You Believe
Emma Jones

Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140
Longwood, FL 32779
9781604774962 $10.99 1-866-381-2665

Applications from the Bible - Relevant to Every Day Living

Emma Jones is an active educator, community leader, mother and grandmother. She writes passionately of the benefits she has derived from applying God's Word to everyday life. She guides the reader through simple lessons from Genesis to Revelation to help them learn to claim these same benefits.

Emma uses nearly hundreds of scriptures to apply nearly 100 topical lessons on the Christian faith. She labels these lessons "Chronicles of Revelation Knowledge." These topics are arranged alphabetically from: Abundant Living, and Blessing to Righteousness, Salvation and Worship.

Jones provides a complete index of scriptural references to help the reader develop a more detailed study. The book is designed to assist the new believer by pointing them to the benefits and promises recorded in the Bible. The book is also an excellent reference for the more mature believer. It can be used topical Bible study, for devotional reading, for inspiration, motivation, or as a tool for mentoring others. The message of salvation is clearly presented to help an unbeliever who is seeking truth. It is designed in a way that anyone can readily understand the gospel and accept Christ as their Savior.

The author's interpretation and challenge from Deuteronomy 18 and Ephesians 2:12, 13, is both thought provoking and convicting. It helped me recognize God as the source of all my strength and my need for complete dependence on him.

Emma has written this book after what she calls her "46 years in the wilderness," to help others grow, understand, and enjoy the Word of God. It is her prayer that the reader will apply the truths of God's word so that they will have years to fellowship with the Lord, serving him and pointing others to him.

"When You Know God" is, well organized, thoroughly researched and is an important resource for Christian in every stage of their spiritual growth.

A Miracle
Attie De Vries
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599793115 $14.99

Diagnosis Scleroderma

At age five Simon was diagnosed to have scleroderma, an incurable disease. Recurring testing, treatments, and ongoing therapy became a way of life for this young family. Attie De Vries writes a moving account of the dramatic story of her son Simon's healing from this devastating and debilitating disease in the book "A Miracle." Attie tells of her fears, frustrations, and of the ongoing battle and uncertainly of the disease.

Simon's story is beautifully written. The reader is drawn into a progression of faith building lessons from parallels of Abraham's life and the De Vries's journey of trust, patience, and faith.

Attie tells of how a whole new world opened up for she and her husband Simen after reading the book "I Believe in Miracles," the story of Kathryn Kuhlman and her ministry of healing. The family began attending "healing services," studied the scriptures, and stepped out in faith as they prayed for Simon's healing.

Simen and Attie acknowledged and obeyed God's call on their lives, and stepped out in faith, attended Bible School and formed a Television Ministry that airs in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Russia .

"A Miracle" provides the reader with encouragement and inspiration. De Vries writing is timely and relevant for today. Attie draws from the scriptures to provide the reader with solid Biblical evidence that God's miracles and healing are as available for Christians today as in New Testament times. Simon's story is poignant, memorable, and inspirational. I hope someday to read a sequel.

The Will of God
Kent Reynolds
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599793108 $18.95

How to Find God's Purpose for Your Life

Pastor Kent Reynolds helps the reader find answers to two important and pressing questions being asked by many Christians today, "How can I know the will of God for my life?" and, "How can I hear from God? Reynolds presents some detailed biblical principles that shape the way we think and which will help the reader develop strategies to promote spiritual discernment, and the ability to see things from God's vantage point.

Kent considers the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing and releasing the will of God in and through us. He explains what it means to be led by the spirit and how this takes place in the life of the Christian. He talks about the priorities we should choose and the practices we should adapt in living the life of faith. He cautions the reader of pitfalls, misleading notions and the obstacles they can expect to face as they encounter God in a relationship of worship and closeness.

Kent presents his material in a natural progression of information. Summary subject headers within the chapters are helpful and make the material that follows easy to identify. Kent writes with clarity, and logic. His writing is well balanced and thought provoking. Although theological in concept, the material is written in layman's language.

"The Will of God" is a book for new believers as well as more mature Christians. The information can help anyone solidify their faith and lead to a new experience in understanding the fullness and power of the Christian life. I found the reading to be relevant, inspirational and rich in application principles.

How Bad Do You Really Want It?
Tom Massey
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759035 $19.95

Keys to Transforming Desire Into Success

Tom Massey introduces twenty-one success principles essential to getting the reader from where you are to where you want to be. "How Bad Do You Really Want It?" is designed and formatted to be reader friendly. Tom's writing is engaging from the introduction to the conclusion. A cursory read has left me eager to reread the book so I can assimilate the material by focusing on the "Take Away" sections. I have already found myself making frequent applications to the many principles included in the book.

The "Take Away" feature includes antidotes, short stories, and quotes. The additional suggested activities and questions help enable the reader to put into practice the principle covered in each chapter.

The ideas on "Refreezing" your mental programming captured my imagination, as well as the practical exercises on "Taking Action." This concept took on personal significance to me.

The "Shadowbox" stories at the end of each chapter were inspiring and motivating. These stories encapsulate and powerfully affirm a principle of success and point the way to building a personal disciplines to help the reader take action to accomplish their dreams.

Tom Massey models the principles he writes about in his book. He has had a multifaceted and successful career, in corporate business, as an internationally known corporate trainer, and as a leader in the field of personal development.

"How Bad Do You Really Want It?" provides the key to transforming your desire into success. Powerful, practical, and inspiring, this is Tom Massey writing at his best.

Richard R. Blake

Sullivan's Bookshelf

All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.f. Stone
Myra MacPherson
A Lisa Drew Book/Scribner
9780684807133 $35.00

Here's the story, mostly admiring but showing warts and all, of iconoclast journalist Izzy Stone. He wrote about the Depression, Spanish American War, the Soviet Union Purge Trials, the Soviet/German Pact, World War II, Korea, the Cold War, the McCarty Era, the Rosenbergs, and much much more.

Born in 1907 as Isadore (Izzy) Feinstein in Philadelphia, Penn., he added Stone to his birth name initials I.F. in 1937. This change was to prevent his reporting against Nazis being discounted as just another Jew's writing.

A college dropout (University of Pennsylvania), he was, nevertheless, an intellectual all his life. Stone would write numerous books. He even became a scholar of ancient Greek writing and would pen a book on Socrates. But his primary vocation was that of a journalist.

He also was a man for the underdog. Not surprisingly, he took up and/or supported various socialist causes and believed in the Soviet Union as advancement for mankind. Later, like many others, though, he would grow disenchanted with Stalin and the Soviet Union.

Never a communist, Stone was admitted 'fellow traveler.' J. Edgar Hoover immensely disliked Izzy. And the FBI director built a file on the journalist over many decades of the writer's life. Never was there any anti-American evidence to indict Stone. Courageously, he was not afraid, as were many Americans, including some U.S. presidents, to speak out and report on the unsavory and unconstitutional efforts of Hoover.

For the most part, Izzy worked alone. He didn't believe in face to face journalism or in accepting what the government tells you. "All governments lie!" he said (hence this book's title). He felt that once3 a reporter was close to or friendly with a politician or an official, the reporter was, or would eventually be compromised.

Stone, therefore, did most of his investigating by reading documents This, he found, was seldom, if ever, done by even the most prominent of journalists. He made many interesting discoveries that he reported in one or another of the newspapers he worked on over his lifetime. Often he scooped the best known reporters of the day. In this way, he earned his reputation as a brilliant journalist. He also earned the enmity of many politicians and authorities for exposing information they wished to keep obscured or secret.

Throughout his career, Stone spoke out against injustice. Yet in the so-called McCarthy era, eh was being figuratively tarred for speaking out against the Senator and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) who saw communists under every desk and in every field.

Many a brave newspaper owner kept the controversial Stone on the journalism payroll. But eventually, he ran out of newspapers to work for. That's when he opened his own newsletter (I.F. Stone Weekly), which with its derring-do journalism would one day have 20,000 subscribers, making Stone not rich but very comfortable. This was a far cry from where he'd been financially all his life. His weekly ran for nearly twenty years.

A number of young journalists took Stone for a role model. Some of these novices even had Izzy as a mentor. Today's acclaimed journalist Walter Pincus was one of them who remembers Stone admonishing to "read the documents." Other young reporters would have liked to work with or for Izzy but were frightened away by his earlier flings with Socialism and fellow traveling with the Communists. Izzy wasn't easy to get along with, either.

"This book combines biography, a historical treatise on the press, and Stone's running commentary on twentieth-century America," writes the author. "All are necessary to draw some present-day lessons from the life and times of I.F. Stone. At pivotal points in their careers I have twinned outsider I.F. Stone with insider Walter Lippmann because they are dynamic examples of opposing approaches to journalism. Presidents and kings were so much a part of Lippmann's life that when he visited Paris, his forwarding address was in care of Charles De Gaulle. He [Lippmann] wrote speeches for presidents and never saw the dichotomy, lecturing younger colleagues like James (Scotty) Reston to remain detached. 'Walter was more engaged with more presidents from Wilson to Lyndon Johnson than anybody in the press! He was always in the White House, 'Reston once exclaimed to me. Meanwhile, Stone was blackmailed by the National Press Club after his premature gesture of civility in a Jim Crow era, inviting a black to lunch there."

Myra MacPherson has written other book including Long Time Passing about the Vietnam War. She has also been published in the Washington Post and The New York Times. California and Washington DC are both place of residence.


Mastering the Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success
Andy Andrews
Thomas Nelson
9780785261414 $19.99

As a sequel to his earlier The Traveler's Gift, this is also a self-help volume. Whereas the previous book had to do with famous individuals and how they arrived at the principles, this small read deals specifically with the principles and how to arrive at the correct decision to employ them. These seven guidelines, which the author has seen used to achieve goals, will help propel you into personal and business success, too.

The principles are as follows:

1. The Responsible Decision (that is 'the buck stops here')

2. The Guided Decision (read and learn from others)

3. The Active Decision (do something, take action)

4. The Certain Decision (make sure your heart is set on this)

5. The Joyful Decision (choose to be happy)

6. The Compassionate Decision (forgive others and yourself)

7. The Persistent Decision (never give up)

Andy Andrews writes in his Preface, "Can you imagine? Every single time I have harnessed or watched someone harness these decisions, they work! Why? Because they're principles…and principles always work."

The author has been judged a ''modern-day' Will Rogers type of person. His The Traveler's Gift has been on the New York Times best seller list for almost twenty weeks. That volume has now been translated into 20 languages. He is also an accomplished public speaker.

Recommended as a cut above most self-help books.

Jim Sullivan

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

Night Shift
Lilith Saintcrow
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316001786 $6.99

Lilith Saintcrow has crafted another hit series with the debut of Night Shift being released by Orbit, July 2008.

Determined, yet slightly vulnerable, hellspawn hunter Jill Kismet, works with Were-cat FBI agents to hunt a rogue Were and the hellspawn that is involved in several gruesome murders.

Saintcrow crafts depth in her heroine showing her to be a damaged, but determined woman who keeps going and going long after anyone else would have given up. Kismet's personality quirk provides comic relief as she flings bad jokes and puns with a "Get it? Arf, arf," after each one. The protagonist is instantly sympathetic through Saintcrow's smooth use of flashbacks providing the back-story necessary to understand how Kismet became a hunter.

Interesting characters are peppered throughout the story allowing Saintcrow a colorful palette of people from which to choose to focus on as the series continues. Dominic and Harper, two Were-FBI friends, bring Saul, hunky country Were, when they journey to St. Luz to investigate the murderous rampage. Through flashbacks, Kismet's deceased teacher, Mikhail Tolstoi is introduced. The reader also meets Pericles (hellspawn Kismet is indebted to), Galina (the local Sanctuary leader), a plethora of human police and forensic agents, as well as exorcists Avery, Eva, Benito, and Wallace.

Lyrical language and movie-worthy fight scenes are staples in Saintcrow's novels, and this one is no exception. In Night Shift, Saincrow's usual beautiful language is complemented with almost Chandleresque noir phrases: "No matter how tired I am, dusk always wakes me up like six shots of espresso and a bullet whizzing past" (47). Her fight scenes contain blood spatters that hang in the air and a billowing coat that snap out parachute-like when Kismet jumps from roofs. The scenes are so well painted it is like reading a graphic novel.

If Night Shift is any indication of the quality of the remainder of the series, Jill Kismet just may supersede Dante Valentine as Saintcrow's greatest heroine.

The second novel in the series, Hunter's Prayer, will be released August 26, 2008.

From Dead to Worse
Charlaine Harris
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441015894 $24.95

Bon Temps telepath, Sookie Stackhouse, returns in her 8th adventure, From Dead to Worse. Sookie again finds her life in danger, resulting from the Pelt family (returning characters).

There are some quick plot twists involving her relationship with Sam, Eric, and Bill; the Hotshot community and her brother Jason; Alcide's rise to power; and an upset in the vampire community that comes out of left field and may leave reader's wondering where Harris is going with the story.

Much of the novel is devoted to Sookie's relationship with her roommates (yes, she gets a second house mate). There is a happy turn of events for Bob the cat, and Sookie is introduced to two new relatives, leaving an opening for the next Stackhouse book to contain more supernatural elements than this one.

Though the novel was entertaining, the level of Sookie one-liners was way down, making it a more somber novel than Harris has provided readers with in the past.

Personal Demon
Kelley Armstrong
Bantam Spectra
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780553806618 $20.00

In this 8th installment of the Women of the Otherworld series, we travel along with Hope Adams, half-demon tabloid reporter, who goes to Florida to make good on a favor she owes the head of the Cortez Cabal. Unbeknownst to her, ex-boyfriend, werewolf jewel-thief and newly instated pack member, Karl Marsten, also comes to town to try to save the day.

Hope goes undercover in a gang who has been causing problems for the Cortez Cabal. She personally struggles between doing good and riding the high of the chaos vibes she gets hanging out with the bad guys. She begins to fall for enigmatic gang-banger Jaz, but too late realizes he is not what he appears to be. Hope discovers there is a mole in the cabal, and she ends up enlisting the help of sorcerer Lucas and witch Paige Winterborne to help catch the spy.

The story is told alternately from Hope's and Lucas's point of view. Though Armstrong makes it clear who is telling the chapter, the constant switching of characters makes the story feel disjointed. More of the story is told from Hope's point of view, making it even more difficult to switch gears when it is Lucas's time to tell the story. Though Armstrong is a super storyteller, her weakness is well-defined voices, and the switching of character points of view in this novel makes that weakness stick out like Christopher Walken's hair.

Armstrong's next novel in the series is Living with the Dead, releasing October 28, 2008.

Blood Noir
Laurell K. Hamilton
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425222195 $25.95 (US)

Blood Noir, the sixteenth Anita Blake novel, has Jason and Anita flying off to his hometown to make amends with his dying father. Anita isn't thrilled with going, and Jason is apprehensive about seeing his father who considers Jason a homosexual. When the couple lands, they discover that there is a high profile wedding happening the same weekend; it just so happens that Jason is a near identical twin of the husband-to-be, Keith Summerland, playboy son of the governor and a Presidential candidate. Because Jason is mistaken for Keith, a security detail is assigned to him and Anita. They realize, too late, that a vampire is trying to kill Keith, and Jason's life is in danger because of it.

Marmee Noir makes an appearance through a remote takeover of Anita, who "calls" to the weretigers around the country to find a suitable mate. This is combined with Anita's reservations about falling in love with Jason, so there are many opportunities for Blake to mull over her multi-emotional attachments to the men in the supernatural community.

Hamilton does well explaining the complicated relationships and previous plot entanglements for readers new to the series without being repetitive and derivative for veteran Blake fans. There is a rather explicit sex scene within the first thirty pages, but because Hamilton has written Blake as a succubus, that is going to be part of the package. A second sex scene later in the novel is handled with aplomb and is steaming hot because it wasn't explicit, giving just enough detail to suggest what happened, but allowing the reader's imagination to do all of the work. By writing the scene this way, Hamilton also kept the pace of the story up rather than bogging it down in detail that doesn't advance the plot.

The resolution is a bit facile making this novel seem like a bridge between The Harlequin (who are mentioned in Blood Noir) and the next Anita Blake adventure.

Actor's Choice: Monologues for Teens
Edited by Erin Detrick
Playscripts, Inc.
325 W 38th Street, Suite 305, New York, NY 10018
9780970904669 $14.95

This volume of highly entertaining monologues is gleaned from previously produced one-act and full-length plays allowing for full characters with interesting stories.

The book is organized well with monologues divided by gender including a section with monologues that would work with either gender. Pieces range from one to five minutes in length and cover a wide range of emotions. Characters run the gamut from historical to modern, literary to supernatural. While the age range of characters is 5-18, most of the characters are written as straight Caucasians. Dialogue in the book is realistic giving the teen actors opportunity to use strong voices.

This is an excellent monologue book for middle and high school students with applications for competition as well as use in drama, speech, or English classes. Drama instructors can also get an idea of tone and pace of the plays from which these pieces come, making it easier to select a school play.

60 comedy duet scenes for teens
Laurie Allen
Meriwether Publishing, Ltd.
PO Box 7710, Colorado Springs, CO 80933-7710
9781566081528 $16.95

The book is organized by male-male, female-female, and male-female scenes. A few might be long enough for forensic competitions, but most would be more useful in the classroom as practice pieces for a beginning drama class.

Though the topics would be familiar to teens, the feel of each scene is repetitious. The characterization is not very strong; most of the characters sound exactly alike, and there are very few opportunities for strong emotional choices. The characters drawn are stereotypical teens without depth, and the cultural focus is extremely narrow centering around middle-class, Caucasian students. Because of the previously mentioned failings, the book would be better suited for middle school students in beginning drama or communication classes. English classes could use the book as a springboard to journals or other topics middle-schoolers would want to discuss.

Terrilyn Fleming

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Whole Truth
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169, 800-759-0190
9780446195973 $26.99

In every story there is a premise. The plot can be real or a figment of one's imagination. If it is unreal or illogical, it can interfere with the reader's enjoyment. Such is, perhaps, the case with this novel.

The plot is a fairly simple one. Nicolas Creel, the head of a large defense contractor somewhat on the skids, undertakes to recreate the Cold War to encourage another arms race. Along the way, to accomplish this aim, the collateral damage is widespread, with many people left dead, Russia and China at each other's throats. Only Shaw, a larger-than-life protagonist, and Katie James, a two-time Pulitzer Prize journalist turned unemployed alcoholic (along with a little help) can uncover the plot and prevent Armageddon. Meanwhile, trillions of dollars of arms contracts flow to the instigator of the plot, as well as other defense companies.

The problem is, the premise is highly improbable. For a defense contractor to sell weapons and other materiel overseas, permission and a license has to be granted by the United States Government. Without such an OK, no sale. So the truth is the premise for this novel is pure fiction. But, after all, that's what novels are for. So, if the reader can by-pass this little impediment, a highly charged and entertaining read is available.

The Eye of the Leopard
Henning Mankell, Translated by Steven T. Murray
The New Press
38 Greene St., NY, NY 10013
9781595580771 $26.95 212-546-4406

Before we go any further, this is not a Kurt Wallander mystery. It was written many years ago, and is just appearing here in the US. The novel takes place in the author's native Sweden and in Africa, between which countries he divides his time. It is the story of someone who drifts through life, ending up inheriting by chance an egg farm with 200 native employees and trying to cope with the continent's mystique, superstitions and racial conflicts.

The chapters alternate between past and present, Sweden and Africa, in an attempt to give the reader an understanding of Hans Olofson's development through boyhood and his more mature years, as he attempts to understand what is happening around him and even attempt to do something about the inequities of the indigenous population.

The novel is not for everyone. It is deep in its way of studying Hans as a person, and its depth is far more penetrating in its analysis of the African mind. It is a far cry from the more intriguing Wallander mysteries, but well worth the effort if you so choose to read it. While recommended, bear in mind that it may not be for everyone.

The Cruelest Month
Louise Penny
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312352578 $23.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

A death takes place in a derelict house in Three Pines, an idyllic village near Montreal during a seance in this latest novel in the Three Pines Mystery Series. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec and his team come there to determine whether the victim was frightened to death or was murdered. All the suspects have a secret, making each one a plausible suspect.

Meanwhile, Gamache has to cope with the burden of his own past. A mud-slinging campaign impugning him and his family is underway in retaliation for his role in putting a corrupt former supervisor in jail. So he has a three-fold task: getting to the bottom of the case, protecting his back and his family, as well as maintaining a skeptical eye on his own investigative team, one or more of who may be working for his enemies.

While the novel gets off to a slow start, it picks up steam as it goes along. Armand is an interesting protagonist, quite different from those of other police procedurals. Perhaps it is the French-Canadian flavor. Recommended.

The Blue Religion
Edited By Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316012515 $24.99 800-759-0190

Presented under the auspices of the Mystery Writers of America, this novel contains 19 intriguing short stories, with a common theme: cops. There are police procedurals and mysteries, but more important, the stories reflect on the live of cops - as persons, on their jobs, how they perform their duties, their sense of right and wrong, and, of course, as Michael Connelly says in a short introduction, "How are we to weigh the burden of the badge if we do not carry the badge?"

The stories range from T. Jefferson Parker's story about a retired cop and how he handles a juvenile delinquent, to Alafair Burke's take on a policewoman and how her husband reacts to a gruesome event while she's on the job, to Mr. Connelly's telling of how Harry Bosch conducts an investigation into the death of a baby.

Each of the stories is well-written and absorbing. Each, of course, stands on its own. And each is worth reading. All told, the volume makes for fascinating reading. Recommended.

The Paper Moon
Andrea Camilleri
Penguin Books
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515,
9780143113003 $13.00

Inspector Salvo Montalbano is back in the ninth of this mystery series. It is a straightforward and charming novel, with the Sicilian detective embroiled in a murder case involving two beautiful women who continually lie to him. One is the sister of the victim, who was shot in the head and found with his penis protruding from his open pants. The other was his mistress, who claims she had broken off the relationship.

Meanwhile, some high-ranking government officials are found dead of overdoses, and rumors of poisoned cocaine are rife. Are the cases related? After all, the murder victim was a pharmaceutical salesman. Or was he involved with kickbacks to physicians? In between, the Inspector has time to reflect on old age and philosophy, as well as to indulge his culinary appetite.

The quaint story [a compliment, I assure you] is moved along with even more unusual observations and dialogue. It is fast reading and full of fun. Recommended.

Winter Study
Nevada Barr
G.P. Putnam's Sons
37t Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
9780399154584 $24.95

A six-week investigation of a 50-year-old study of moose and wolves in Isle Royale in Lake Superior brings Park Ranger Anna Pigeon to a brutal winter, in this 14th novel in the series. The investigation is under the scrutiny of Homeland Security, which wants to bring it to a grinding halt so the area can be opened to tourists the year round and close an easy entry for illegals from Canada.

Shortly after her arrival, strange things begin to happen. The wolf packs behave in unusual ways, and the interaction of the small team gives rise to abnormal behavior. Before it's all over, there are deaths and Anna has to fight for her own survival.

Once again, the author demonstrates a facility for writing about nature and provides penetrating character studies. Perhaps so much detail that it overwhelms the reader (at least it did me). One can nearly literally freeze to death reading the chilling chapters and descriptions of the weather and the tundra. Nevertheless, it is an exciting story, with unexpected consequences. A novel to be read by a rip-roaring fire, and recommended.

The Headhunters

Peter Lovesey
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569474907 $24.00 212-260-1900,

The latest in the Inspector Hen Mallin series brings forth an unusual story, especially so since it shows how she can leap to wrong conclusions {along with the reader) based on clues both obvious and murky. But the show must go on, and she, along with her police team, plod along from clue to clue in this peculiar but intriguing novel.

It begins with a double date during which one of the women brings up the subject of her boss at a printing works. She says he tries to portray himself as the "good guy," leaving her to do the dirty work. She brings up the possibility of murdering him, and the other three join in jokingly with various methods for the "perfect murder." Then the other woman, taking a walk along the beach, discovers the first of three bodies. Later she's in on the find of two others. All three victims have been forcibly drowned.

The number of suspects abound, as Hen Mallin leads the investigation, inevitably along several false leads. One of the possible suspects is the boyfriend of the woman who found the initial body (before she tripped over the other two). From the initial case on it becomes clearer that there is a serial killer loose. The plot development is so quirky, the reader is kept off balance throughout, right up to the unanticipated denouement. The writing is spare and the story moves along swiftly. Recommended.

The Genius
Jesse Kellerman
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399154591 $24.95 800-847-5515,

Genes (and genealogy) apparently play a vital role both in the writing of this novel, as well as in the plot itself. The author, the son of two well established writers, obviously has inherited his talent from his parents with the same surname. His previous two novels were outstanding, and the present contribution is no less, although I must admit there were a few touches which this reader could have done without. While hardly detracting from the novel, these asides - while deliberately used as a device - seemed worthy of a writer of lesser skills.

As for the plot, genes and family history play an important role. Ethan Muller, the wayward son of an extremely wealthy New York family, reminiscent of the Trumps or LeFraks, becomes a fairly successful art dealer after having led a wastrel life for slightly more than a couple of decades. He resents and is estranged from his father, but seems to be quite close to his right-hand man, Tony Wexler. In any event, one day, Tony summons him to a rather seedy housing project in Queens owned (among many other things) by the family and shows him thousands of drawings in an apparently abandoned apartment. Ethan goes "ga-ga" over the drawings and plans a showing.

The exhibition creates a furor, and the drawings attract extremely high bids. A retired detective notices a reprint, and one of the subjects resembles a murdered 10-year-old killed and raped years before. This sets Ethan off on an ambivalent journey. He considered the thousands of drawings high art, but are they the product of a murderer? He has to learn more about the artist, but clues are few and far between. It becomes an obsession - a quest for the truth.

It is a well-crafted study, worthy of the masters of the genre. While ostensibly a mystery, it is a family saga par excellence. It is an unusual and intriguing plot, filled with well-drawn characters. Except for the above-noted reservation, this standalone is a worthy successor to the author's initial two efforts, making for a hat trick. Now we await the next novel with baited breath. Highly recommended.

The Unraveling of Violeta Bell
C.R. Corwin
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
9781590585016 $24.95

Morgue Mama - Maddy Sprowls - returns in this, the third entry in the series. In the previous mysteries, Maddy, the librarian for a daily Ohio newspaper, did not give the editors an idea for a story - she just archived them. In this installment, however, she steps out of character, suggesting a story about four elderly women she observed getting out of a taxi one Saturday at a garage sale. She assumed it was part of a weekly routine and would make for an interesting feature story.

Shortly after publication, one of the women, a retired antiques dealer, is found murdered and once again Morgue Mama gets involved in another murder investigation. The victim was known for insisting she was the Queen of Romania. Could it be true? And the reason for the murder? Or is there some other reason?

Just as well-written and "cute" [intended as a compliment] as the initial two novels in the series were, this effort continues to amuse the reader. The plot moves along quickly. The characterizations are well-done, and Maddy, as ever, remains the zany but crafty protagonist. Recommended.

Dirty Money
Richard Stark
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780446178587 $23.99 800-759-0190

Parker - he of one name - spends his time in this novel correcting one snafu after another. If something can go wrong, it does, in keeping with his (and his partners') experience in the earlier novel, Nobody Runs Forever. In that adventure, they stole $2.5 million from a Massachusetts bank. There were only two problems: (1) They couldn't take the money with them and had to hide it nearby; and (2) the serial numbers were recorded and the money can't be spent - thus the title of this follow-up.

The plot is simple: how to escape capture, recover the money from the hiding place and convert it somehow to spendable cash. Each step along the way another impediment crops up for Parker to overcome. And he is inventive in each instance.

Fast reading and amusing, the novel progresses effortlessly. Like its predecessor, the writing is excellent and the tale smoothly told and underplayed. Highly recommended.

Still Shot
Jerry Kennealy
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur
9780312370916 $24.95

Can a movie and theater critic succeed in solving mysteries? Well, if it is Carroll Quint, the glib movie-dialog-quoting employee of the San Francisco Examiner, he can. After all, with the training of Bogie and the rest of filmdom's private eyes, he has all the background he needs to follow his nose, after his mother, a former starlet, calls him to find the murderer of an old friend. What makes it difficult is that the death was ruled a suicide.

But in a complicated although ingenious plot, Carroll not only plows ahead, but has to tackle the job while attempting to save his job (and those of his co-workers) when one of his suspects is near to purchasing the paper. And there are numerous other suspects to deal with as well. He story is peppered with all kinds of Hollywood tales, some of which are outlandish but amusing enough to lighten the mood. The author provides an entertaining parody of the silver screen industry and exaggerates the elements of the noir genre at the same time.

The plot moves ahead at a measured pace, with well-developed characters who contribute to the over-all thrust regarding the California culture during the heyday of Clifton Webb, William Powell, Myrna Loy, and even their Thin Man dog, Asta, among many others. Highly recommended.

Peter Abrahams
Wm. Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061137990 $24.95 212-207-7000/800-242-7737,

Friendship can lead to all kinds of results, as this suspense novel proves. Moreover, the consequences can not only be unanticipated, but lead to more complications than the human mind can conceive. But this author does a pretty good job of conjuring up as many as he can think of.

About 20 years before the story takes place, Nell Jarreau was strolling along the bayou with her boyfriend when they were attacked by a masked man demanding money. The boyfriend was then knifed and murdered. Nell kicked the attacker and the mask fell for a moment, giving her a glimpse of the man's face. Based on her ID, a man was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. A year later, she married one of the detectives, who, as the story is told, is now the Chief of Police, both apparently living happily until a telephone call changes everything.

As a result of hurricane damage, a tape is found exonerating the apparently falsely incarcerated convict. Nell feels guilty about having sent an innocent man to prison, but her memory of the attack is at best hazy, and she goes about attempting to investigate the matter. She meets with the released man, tries hypnosis and attempts to find the truth. Before the reader can reach the end of this well-paced novel, there is a dearth of clues pointing one to a logical conclusion. Yet the ending is consistent with the single earlier clue, and the characterizations are finely tuned. A well-written tale, and one which is recommended.

Justice Denied
J. A. Jance
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060540937 $9.99 800-242-7737,

The J.P. Beaumont series just rolls on and on, and keeps getting better. Beau and his partner Melissa ("Mel") are working for the State Attorney General's Special Homicide Investigation Team (the acronym is an inside joke) when the AG assigns each to a separate, secret "off the books" assignment without explanation. Beau is asked to look into the murder of a recently released convict exonerated by DNA evidence after several years. Mel is asked to analyze the whereabouts of recently released persons convicted of sexual offenses. Neither is to discuss his/her case with anyone. In addition, Beau is checking on missing person cases never solved as well.

Somehow, however, their cases begin to intertwine and they begin to work as partners professionally as well as in their private lives. Their investigation takes them into what might be a conspiracy involving cops or persons in high places. Meanwhile, Beau has to confront all kinds of personal problems.

This novel is the 18th in the series published in the last 20 years. It is of the customary high caliber, and let's hope they keep coming. [As a matter of fact, Damage Control, the author's newest novel, is due out in hardcover in July.]

Cheating at Solitaire
Jane Haddam
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312343088 $24.95 212-674-5151, 646-307-5560

A movie is being filmed on a small island near Cape Cod. The cast of characters consists of a couple of twits and the typical movie types. The island is the usual closed society consisting of year-round and summer residents, and a one-man police department with little experience. When a murder occurs, perhaps for the first time in anyone's memory, Gregor Demarkian is brought in as a consultant.

As the plot moves slowly along, there is little for the reader to grasp in this long, prolix story. It is full of wordy expositions, philosophy, and the antics of two female actors exhibiting their drinking habits and whatever else they can, and the plotting of a rich heiress who goads them on. Much is made of their showing off for a horde of photographers and the term "high school" is used throughout to describe a multitude of ills as well as the world in general, especially the celebrity culture extant.

This is the first book in the series which this reviewer has read (there were 21 previous entries) and based on this one, there does not seem to be any compelling reason to go back and read others. The characters in this novel are wooden, and Gregor seems to be a parody on Sherlock Holmes, arriving at the scene and immediately espousing his belief that he knows all, without any investigation. The book is written with a heavy hand and, to this reader at least, is ponderous. But there must be a lot of fans of Gregor Demarkian out there for 22 books to have been written about him, and presumably a 23rd is in the offing describing his forthcoming wedding endlessly previewed throughout this effort.

Random Victim
Michael A. Black
Leisure Fiction/Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843959864 $7.99 800-481-9191

There are police procedurals, and then there are police procedurals. In this novel the procedure is more like an obstacle course. On the one hand, there is Sgt. Frank Leal of the Chicago Sheriff's Department raring to solve a cold murder case, and then there is his superior, a lieutenant resolutely placing roadblocks in his way.

The plot is straightforward: a woman judge is found murdered in a trunk sunk in a lake. After months, no progress is made in solving the crime. But the Sheriff is up for reelection, and his opponent is running ahead saying he'd solve it. So a task force is formed, with Leal, a woman, a black man and an Irishman the components. The woman and the black man have no experience - except to provide "racial balance" in the publicity photos.

Despite all the foot-dragging and misdirection by the lieutenant heading up the effort, progress is made from time to time. It is a well-plotted and fast-paced story, leading the reader on step-by-step to a conclusion that probably should be anticipated, but is not seen until it is presented at the conclusion. Leal is a real character, while many of the others are stereotypes (for a good reason). The plot is interesting and the book well worth reading and recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Across The River
C. Solimini
Deadly Ink Press,
PO Box 6235, Parsippany, NJ 07054
9780978744229, $12.95

We're taken back to 1992 in this easy to read romantic suspense novel, Andrealisa Rinaldi or Andie is a reporter for a funky tabloid. It pays better than her old job, but it's not something she's proud of.

Her latest assignment takes her back to her hometown and involves the murder of the daughter of her former neighbor and onetime childhood playmate Joel Hartt. Joel is the prime suspect in the months old murder. It looks like an inside job, but the case is still open with no arrests made.

Andie's surprised at how much Joel's changed. A lot can happen in twenty-five years and Andie's about to take a walk down memory lane. Some of it will be pleasant and some of it shocking.

Before long there's a major fire and another dead body. Who's involved with this new murder and why? Andie works hard to figure it out. Old friends may become new loves and Andie must sort through her feelings. The story is full of warmth and humor with loads of interesting characters. Across the River is an enjoyable read.

C. Solimini's second book in the series is Under the Bridge.

Michelle Gagnon
MIRA Books
225 Duncan Mill Rd., Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778325390, $6.99

In this second book in the Kelly Jones series, the author leads us into the dark and twisted world of a serial killer. A hiker finds a body close to the Appalachian Trail. More bodies turn up, all of them young male prostitutes. The killer's puzzled about how they got there for he buried them somewhere else. Does he have an admirer or an enemy?

FBI Special Agent Kelly Jones must find the killer and it won't be easy for the trail is growing cold and there's a turf war going on between the various police departments in two states. One cop in particular is stalling the investigation. Does he have something to hide? People knew these boys were disappearing, but the police did nothing, why?

More young men fall victim to the killer. The police have one man in custody, but is he the killer or a victim? It's a tough case for Kelly and it keeps getting worse.

Things heat up when love interest Jake Riley shows up unexpectedly. Kelly's not so sure she's glad to see him, it's hard for her to get close to anyone, but she'll have to deal with it.

The tension and suspense stays strong throughout this chilling tale. It sweeps the reader up and keeps you captive until the end.

Michelle Gagnon's first book is The Tunnels.

Whispers Through Time
Kim Murphy
Coachlight Press, LLC
1704 Craig's Store Road, Afton Virginia 22920
9780971679078, $15.95

This sequel to Whispers from the Grave was like visiting old friends. The story takes place as before, at the old Virginia Plantation of Poplar Ridge. It's ten years later and Geoff Cameron and his wife Chris now have a daughter, Sarah.

Unfortunately, Geoff's wife Beth who's still possessed by Margaret's ghost shows up at the plantation and shoots Geoff. Geoff dies, and everyone's devastated. Beth's captured and returned to her old psychiatric hospital. She has no recollection of the event until Geoff's ghost tells her.

Geoff gets in touch with his daughter Sara and his wife. He wants Chris to wear a necklace he gave her and go back in time to "fix things." Chris can't figure out how to do this, but a car accident and the necklace suddenly whisk her off to Geoff's former life. Trying to help, Sarah contacts her in the dream state. Sara's a link somehow between the past, the future and her parents.

Shocked at the condition of the plantation in post Civil War Virginia, Chris finds Yankee soldiers roaming the property who pose a threat to her safety. It's something she didn't expect and she must tread lightly. At last Chris comes face-to-face with Margaret, the woman responsible for Geoff's death in both lives. Chris hopes she can reach the distraught woman and break the chain of incidents leading to Geoff's future death.

The author gives us a gripping tale of mystery, romance and the paranormal. The glimpses of life into this era of American history are realistic and intriguing. Whispers through Time's plot and characters will keep your fingers busy turning pages.

Kim Murphy's other books include: Honor & Glory, Glory & Promise andWhispers from the Grave.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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