Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Reviewer's Bookwatch

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 7 July 2009 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Clark's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf
Fern's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gina's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Hassler's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Lois' Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mark's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Slessman's Bookshelf Stephen's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

A Will to Love
Kim Smith
Red Rose Publishing
12065 Woodhull Rd., Forestport, NY 13338
9781604353440 $2.99

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

A Will to Love

I've never read a romance. Honestly. But I ordered Kim M. Smith's ebook, A Will to Love, because I fell in love with her silky smooth writing style when I discovered her first book, a cozy mystery entitled Avenging Angel. I ordered A Will to Love this morning - while recovering in bed from a hospital stay - and read it in one, luxurious sitting.

How many men actually read romance? I have no idea. I suspected the content would only appeal to women, but I was wrong. Smith's strong characters and the emotions they evoked wove magically together the moment I met Benton Jessup and Kitty Beebe.

Jessup, a man haunted by the loss of his lifelong soul mate Carla, tries to keep his southern inn afloat. He cooks meals for his guests with ease, and has even been written up in the local gourmet press. But his heart's not in it. He aches for Carla and plods through life in a haze of sorrow.

Enter Kitty Beebe, a romance author from Ireland with fiery gold hair and disturbingly beautiful blue eyes. One would expect this setup to result in a predictable rescue of poor Jessup, but it doesn't go quite so easy for him, which adds to the luscious tension. Kitty, a complicated lady, becomes besotted with Jessup, but isn't sure she's ready to rescue him for a lifetime.

Another character I fell for was "The Inn" itself. Set in the lazy southern countryside, its beguiling charm oozed from the pages. I want to go there. I want to live there. And I wouldn't mind being Benton Jessup. At least in my dreams.

In this passage from A Will to Love, we discover the depth of Jessup's pain:

"But they had to come back to Mississippi and the life that she wanted.

At least the memories would remain forever. Maybe that was why he had agreed to the Celtic cross now adorning the headstone. Its gray granite cast a faint shadow on the small bundle of pansies he laid on the grave. He didn't speak. He wouldn't know what to say anyway. His whole life, past, present, and future now rested beneath the fresh grasses growing over the mounded earth in the little cemetery on their land.

She would understand his stalwart silence. She had known him through and through.

There would never be another woman who would be that close to him.

He'd make certain of it."

The only issue I could find with the novelette was its requisite length. Of course novelettes are short. But I hated it to end and wanted to learn more about Kitty's past, the things that led her to a troubled sort of hesitancy to love. I yearned for more of their life at The Inn and in the cottage in Ireland. I guess that's the nature of a novelette, and of course, the skills of a fine writer. They always leave you wanting more.

Smith, "a true blue southern gal who was raised on black -eyed peas and cornbread," promises more books, including another romance short, Love Waltzes In due in the Forever Young Anthology at Red Rose Publishing, September 2009. The second Shannon Wallace mystery is due in December, 2009.

See more at her website,

Black Donald's Coin
Karen Michelle Nutt
Tease Publishing
9781607670506 $TBA

Amy J. Ramsey, Reviewer

At a glance, it seems to be an ordinary looking penny, but to the possessor, this coin has the ability to make all of their dreams come true, but with a price. An evil presence follows in the path of this coin, biding its time, waiting to collect payment in the form of ….their soul.

"See a penny, pick it up. All day long, you'll have wicked luck".

For a short story, Black Donald's Coin will sedate the cravings of any reader who desires a touch of mystery, suspense and supernatural. Karen Michelle Nutt has delivered a bewitching, irresistible and extremely enjoyable tale that adds a sinister twist to the old saying, "See a penny, pick it up, all day long, you'll have good luck" I would recommend this e-book short to any reader interested in the Thriller and Suspense genres.

Danu's Children
E. F. Watkins
Amber Quill Press
9781602728813 $16.50

Christina F. Whitcher, Reviewer

In Danu's Children the seduction of modern greed threatens to take over small-town Carbonville, Pennsylvania. An ecology group, who call themselves Citizens Against Valley Exploitation, struggle to stop the mall project. The odds are stacked against them even though a power aides their leader Megan Carey. The ancient entity has an objective of its own however. As the immortal gains momentum Carbonville struggles with the chilling events happening underground, to their buildings, and to their people. Can they blame it all on nature, or is the mall project partly to blame as well?

Photojournalist Kevin O'Leary battles his instincts about his cousin's suspicious death. He also finds himself battling the intrigue he feels for Megan. Others claim her powers are true, but Kevin doesn't buy it. None-the-less, he can't deny the feelings he has for Megan. Will he lose his life searching for the truth about his cousin, about what is happening to Carbonville, about Megan?

E. F. Watkins delivers an electrifying thriller filled with surprises, clever twists, and wonderfully drawn characters. Her imagination is strong and compelling, her tale irresistible.

Escape Under the Forever Sky
Eve Yohalem
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, California 94107
9780811866538 $16.99

Colleen Quinn

This book was an enjoyable read that did paint a vibrant picture of Africa, and gave some hint of the challenges that face that magnificent continent. Lucy is an engaging heroine who will certainly capture the hearts of young adult readers. She narrates with a clear voice that perfectly captures the trials and petulance of an average 13-year old; sometimes she is a mini-adult and sometimes a child crying for her parents. The other characters in the book are much less faceted than Lucy, perhaps not surprisingly given that most of the narrative focuses on Lucy and her solo journey.

The weakness for me lay in the details; I was originally drawn to this book because of my experiences at overseas embassies, so I was extremely disappointed by the glaring inaccuracies related to that part of the narrative. In my opinion, it wouldn't have taken much research to get details about the Marines and embassy security correct; having so many errors in that central part of the plot undermined the story for me. I also feel there was no real resolution to the kidnapping, no sufficient explanation for the reasons behind it. The book is short, so fleshing out those details wouldn't have added much heft and would have strenghtened the story.

The Believers
Zoe Heller
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061430206 $25.99

Deirdre Quinn

Well-written though this book may have been, I found the characters and also the story to be annoying at best, extremely frustrating at worst. I give Heller credit for once again creating a rich, layered protagonist -- I loved her 'Notes on a Scandal' and was hoping that 'The Believers' would not disappoint. But it did - I just found the characters to be so unlikeable, their thoughts and actions so distasteful, that it was hard to enjoy the book. I was thoroughly engaged, I don't deny that Heller has written an intelligent, witty and brutally honest novel about contemporary society - I just didn't like it.

Audrey is a shrew - mean-spirited, self-righteous and completely void of any moral compass. When her husband of forty years falls into a coma and the stories and secrets of his life come to light, she grows increasingly nasty. Her children are another story. At first I felt sorry for them, raised by two leftist ideologues who probably never should have had children. But as their stories were illuminated I began to feel antagonistic towards them - Rosa, the priggish 'new Jew' whose exploration of her inherited faith is full of bitterness; Karla, the timid parental defender with no self-image and a fear of happiness; and Lenny, the adopted drug addict whose master manipulation of family and situation was the most accurate metaphor for the family's problems. I just didn't like them.

I'm not someone who needs to identify with a character in order to enjoy a book - I read for the sake of the writing more than for the story or its' characters. And I do believe that Heller has written a masterful novel about the nature of family, and more keenly the very nature of individual life. But at the end of the day I found 'The Believers' hard to enjoy, I wanted it to be over so I wouldn't have to know these people anymore, so I wouldn't have to think about them. So I suppose Heller succeeded in her ultimate task of capturing humanity at its worst ... but really, that's more than a little off-putting.

Florida in the Popular Imagination
Edited by Steve Glassman
McFarland and Company, Inc.
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9780786439645 $35.00

Elizabeth Nelson

Professor Steve Glassman has put together a collection of essays on Florida's culture which is full of interest and variety. Naturally the state as a playground for tourists is highlighted: families bringing their children to the theme parks in central Florida - every child wants to see Mickey Mouse and Shamu, college kids flooding in for spring break, motorsports fans drawn to Daytona's NASCAR races early in January and February, motorcyclists roaring in for bi-yearly festivals in Volusia County, retirees and snow birds seeking relief from northern climes.

But who would have thought of Florida as being welcoming to gays and lesbians; or that Florida can boast of noteworthy architecture - the Mediterranean Revival architecture of Palm Beach, the Art Deco restoration of South Beach in Miami, the amazing, intricately designed and lavishly decorated resort hotels built by Henry Plant in Tampa (the Tampa Bay Hotel, with its striking Moorish design, is now a part of the University of Tampa), and by Henry Flagler in St. Augustine and Miami, as he extended his railway line to Key West.

In "The Highwaymen and Other Black Icons," Edmondson Asgill gives us another Florida phenomenon. In the 50s, a landscape artist, A.E. Bacchus retired to an artists and writers community in Fort Pierce. Somehow he became known to a group of African Americans who worked in the citrus groves. These men aspired to a better kind of life than was ordinarily open to blacks in that period. Bacchus befriended them, opened his home to them and made them acquainted with the tools and working methods of a painter. Without any training beyond the encouragement they received from Bacchus, but with natural talent, they developed vivid renderings of the brilliant colors of the Florida skies and lush landscapes they lived in the midst of. Without agents or commercial connections or savvy, they sold their paintings at roadsides, displaying them in pickup trucks or leaning them against fences - thus their sobriquet "highwaymen." They were surprisingly successful, and made good money. Today some of these paintings sell for thousands of dollars. It is a remarkable story, and Bacchus a remarkable man for his generosity in mentoring these aspiring artists, and welcoming them in his home and among his friends, at a time when the south was going through racist convulsions.

Rafael Miguel Montes, in "Cuban Miami: Manufacturing Casablanca," asserts how wrong are the insights of three well known established writers of travel literature - Joan Didion, the British Alexander Stuart, and David Rieff--on the culture of Cuban Miami. His detailed analyses regarding what he sees as the superficiality and myopia of their approaches makes me wish that he had provided further commentary of his own on the subject - he is a Miami resident and has published several studies of the culture of his town.

I was astounded by Alan Pratt's account of the extent of motorcycle culture in his essay "Motorsports Rev Up the Economy," astounding. He describes the ubiquitousness throughout Florida of motorcycle dealerships, motorcycle clubs, biker bars, tattoo salons, free barbecues at rallies, poker runs, retail sales of biker helmets, and leather and metal clothing and other paraphernalia, law firms touting their expertise in motorcycle law, motorcycle drawn hearses, a new biker cemetery in Palm Coast - "Wings and Wheels National Biker Memorial.

Florida's 400-mile thrust out from the mainland into the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, as well as its 230 miles of the Panhandle mainland shore, along with hundreds of lakes, rivers, ponds, freshwater springs, in its interior - all this makes Florida naturally encouraging to sailing and boating and all manner of water sports. Duncan H. Haynes fully explores this watery state in "Taking to the Water."

Not neglected in this survey are Key West, with its iconic relationship with Ernest Hemingway, the thrilling activities at the Space Coast, and movie and television treatment of Florida in all its variety. The range of subjects and the unusual nature of some show Glassman's impressive editorial acumen. The same assured competence was also demonstrated in another collection of Floridiana which he co-edited with Maurice O'Sullivan, Professor of English at Rollins College: "Crime Fiction and Film in the Sunshine State: Florida Noir," 1997.

Glassman himself has contributed three essays to this new collection, two of which can be considered of particular value for new arrivals in Florida and even long-term residents. They constitute advice and warnings concerning certain natural conditions and dangers which are endemic to Florida, and which should be thoroughly understood and prepared for. "Weathering the Climate" concerns Florida's often erratic weather conditions, including hurricanes, tornados, and lightning strikes; "Dangerous Game: Snakes, Gators and One-Ton Sharks" speaks for itself. Glassman's third piece concludes the series, a thorough examination of the part Florida played in the 2000 presidential election. Troubled, baffled, bemused, the writer ends on a faint note of hope that lessons learned will be acted on in the future.

This is a very good book. The essays Professor Glassman has selected are of very high quality, well written and quite evidently thoroughly researched. This would be a most appropriate gift book, especially for anyone planning to visit Florida, and most especially for out-of-state college students who are attracted by the climate and some very fine private colleges and universities, among them the University of Miami, Eckerd College, Stetson University, Rollins College, and Glassman's own institution, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

A Seat at the Table
Marc Miller
Greenleaf Book Group Press
P.O. Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781929774692 $19.95

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

Does it make sense to use the same selling strategies with executives that you would use on a manager? Marc Miller (Selling is Dead) makes a compelling argument against it in his new book "A Seat at the Table." The target audience for the book is salespeople who offer complex solutions, which could apply to those who sell consulting, information technology, and other services that may have a long and complex selling cycle. The question is, does the book offer something original? Or is it the same recycled ideas that a billion other authors who happen to own consulting firms put on paper? The answer may surprise you.

There are quite a few key points in "A Seat at the Table" that makes this book genius. Among them are Miller's teachings on how to be viewed as a caring consultant and not just a seller, how he teaches sellers to add value to a prospect's current strategy instead of using tactical selling to sell something the prospect may not even need, and his line of questioning with the acronym FOCAS (Fact, Objective, Concern, Anchor, and Solution questions) that helps you identify pains and connect them to the prospect's strategies and your solutions. A case study includes a look at how Proctor & Gamble became more than just a seller to Wal-Mart and was offered a seat at their executive board meetings to offer real value in regards to other key strategic objectives.

There are a few downsides though. For starters, it takes for granted that buyers are not clever enough to know that salespeople calling themselves consultants are still there to sell, regardless of how well they can align their products or services to the buyers' strategies. The book also instructs readers to stop asking pain questions yet the Concern portion of FOCAS seems to do just that. Finally, it would be nice if the author included sections on how to get a foot in the door and how to deal with price objections once solutions are presented.

The bottom line is this: "A Seat at the Table" distinguishes itself from a lot of the noise and reworded sales books you find on shelves today. Much like he did with "Selling is Dead," Miller has once again proven himself to be a thought leader and strategic thinker in the industry. Sales managers and executives should not only buy this book for their staffs but should seriously consider working with the author's firm if they are searching for a better way to connect to executives when selling complex solutions.

Highly Recommended.

Michelle Tea
Seal Press
1700 4th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

Jeff Bursey

Memoir or fiction? The back of "Valencia" opts for the second, the publicity material for the first. In her new introduction for this reprint of a book first published in 2000, Michelle Tea says: "What's more narcissistic than writing your own memoir? Writing an introduction to your own memoir. Welcome to it, people. Right before I began writing the stories that would become "Valencia"..." (6). However one chooses to regard it, one emerges enlightened, if not encumbered, from this tour of the 1990s San Francisco lesbian scene. Despite the muck of the characters' worlds (private and shared), and the many scenes of casual and deliberate agony, heartbreak, alcoholism, and self-debasement, scenes among the cliterati, the anesthetizing drinking and drug-taking along with the casual thievery, and the episodic nature of events, the narrative tone keeps the reader distant from the fraying lives.

There is a morality in the novel that's perfectly comprehensible to insiders of the lesbian world; to those who are just visiting that world, it will seem different. "I would sit and listen and regret being so normal and well-adjusted" (36), the narrator says early on, after hearing what she considers is more than enough from another girl, Gwynn, about her love life. Referring to Gwynn's non-drinking, the narrator says that "[s]obriety seemed a real stick-in-the-mud stance to take..." (34); Gwynn further irritates her by singing in a church choir, "which I thought was inexcusably weird" (35).. Employed by a courier company, the narrator deletes "calls from companies I disagreed with politically" (44), which is funny, and also one of the few times when the book has an actual edge, making one wish Tea would have ventured further into anarchic territory, like Robert Newman does in "The Fountain at the Center of the World". However, one ought not to wish a peach to be a lemon. The narrator pretends traveller's cheques are stolen, a "scam" (46) that gets her reimbursed, providing money when she doesn't want to work. Over the course of her adventures the narrator is a prostitute, takes part in a porn movie, and goes to a "play party" (189) where:

you could walk around and watch women in various states of undress having painful things done to them. This one was more of a fetish-themed dance party, though there were people being tortured. A girl was rigged up to this wooden structure, her hands stretched up with chains, and another girl was doing something like sticking pins in her, or pulling them out or maybe burning her. Quick, jabby motions that made the bound girl shriek milk-curdling shrieks (189).

Perhaps incongruously, Valencia calls to mind Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, where the narrator, "Henry Miller,", tells the reader:

As far as history goes I am dead. If there is something beyond I shall have to bounce back. I have found God, but he is insufficient. I am only spiritually dead. Physically, I am alive. Morally, I am free. The world which I have departed is a menagerie. The dawn is breaking on a new world, a jungle world in which the lean spirits roam with sharp claws. If I am a hyena I am a lean and hungry one: I go forth to fatten myself ("Tropic of Cancer", 90).

Certainly, Tea's narrator has freedom from morality, though this state comes off not so much as a position won through hard work as through taking care not to do well, which is less purposeful. She only wants to spend time with this or that girlfriend, or write, and no one wants her in the former position sufficiently or for long, while the second she must do on her own. Because the narrator is named Michelle--just as Miller created a "Henry Miller" we'd all take to be sort of like him--we legitimately ask if this is close to the truth, or a version of it. Is she "most likely to sleep with a serial killer" (208; italics in original), as one of her friends says? The narrator finds San Francisco an exciting new world, well away from the Tucson she's escaped, but she can't avoid heartbreak; indeed, she engineers it. When she is in a relationship with Celia, with its "really perverted sex" (238), she complains: "I was looking for someone who got into more trouble than I did, or who at least was open to getting into whatever trouble I could come up with. No trouble for Celia. Those days were over.... Now she was in the Twelve Step program and being good" (238). This love may not last, but that's okay. Heartbreak is the glue holding this picaresque together.

Past or present girlfriends are like figures in a video game. They are sketched in without much individuality amidst what's presented as regular life: Gay Pride Day, open mic events, tattooing, bed-hopping, little food, lots of attitude, and a liking for children's t-shirts. The narrator's prostitute gig doesn't last as long as it did before she moved to San Francisco, though the money is good. In case this job choice seems unusual, the narrator offers this: "Everything's cool, don't get '70s feminism on me, ok? At least I'm not paying taxes, yeah fuck you uncle sam" (49; lower-case in original). One bad john changes her mind, but not her attitude. "It's not rape if I knew I was going to end up fucked when I walked in the room" (56).

There's potential heaviness residing in the topics Tea brings in, but not much is allowed to weigh down on the reader. On the inside jacket Valencia receives praise for being "charged with reflection" ("The Village Voice"), being "edgy, supercharged, supersurreal reality" ("Booklist"), and for being "transcendental" ("Girlfriends"). There's no diplomatic way to put this, but readers who've not read much fiction (modern, contemporary, gay, whatever kind) will think that way; and those looking for a gender stance as opposed to literature will appreciate much of what's here. Contrary to what the blurbs proclaim, Tea offers little that reflects more than what her stand-in thinks. Only her dialogue is rendered in initial capital letters ("I'll Never Go Out With A Pisces Again, I proclaimed. You're Worse Than Geminis" [172]), and right from the first sentence, with the phrase "little tsunamis of beer" (11) soaking the narrator's sleeves, you see imprecision and the problem of scale that appear in the words of the self-absorbed.

Picaresque novel don't often immerse you in a place or social milieu, preferring instead to show the surface in rapid, light strokes. One can skim this book like a summer read--the prevalent liquid imagery aids the illusion--and are helped in remaining aloof from torture, where the next bottle or bag of crystal meth can be purchased, or that someone has overdosed, by a sensibility and voice that says these thing with no differentiation of seriousness, making everything indistinguishable, and therefore equally valueless. And, ultimately, of little interesting. In the end, all that matters is the girl. "Valencia" is a mash note from the narrator to her wonderful self.

Warren Fahy
Delacorte Press
9780553817530 $25.00

Joel Hacker

Before I write anything else, I would like to say that I loved this book. That in itself poses some unique problems for me as a reviewer. J. Michael Straczynski once wrote, through the mouthpiece of a character of course, that art is never improved by compliment. Reading that, it struck me as a revelation, and as a truth with a capital 'T'. Not only do I agree with that statement, but also feel there is the additional danger inherent in reviewing something we've enjoyed of simply illustrating a long list of virtues with no real eye towards constructive criticism. I have the additional problem of being a huge fan of science fiction. And while Fragment is more speculative science fiction than 'hard' sf, it still falls comfortably into that familiar niche for me. Taking all that into account though, Fragment, does a great job at being what it is. It has hallmarks of good science fiction of any kind, that being a certain logic to this new and different world it represents, an internally consistency to how the world works. Perhaps that is even more important in such an imaginative genre than in fiction set in a more real-world environment. On this point, as on so many others, Fragment doesn't fail to deliver.

Fragment deals with the discovery of an Hender's Island, more properly a lost fragment of an ancient super-continent, on which life has continued to evolve in a drastically different direction from the rest of the world for millions of years. Life very different from that with which we are familiar, and vastly more dangerous and aggressive. This discovery is made by an ill-fated crew filming a reality show about oceanographic scientific investigation. I'll admit I took perverse pleasure in what I took to be poking fun at the entire genre of reality shows, and many of the reality show stars' gruesome fates. With the obvious lethality of the indigenous life now apparent, Hender's Island is quickly barricaded by the U.S. Armed Forces, and a full scale scientific investigation is launched to determine what exactly to do about this new and alien ecosystem. There's some nifty bits for the hard sf fans out there about experimental NASA designed technology used in this investigation, though the life on the island ultimately proves to be far too dangerous to deal with. Just before a final solution is implemented to protect the rest of our planet's ecosystem, a startling discovery is made: intelligent life has managed to evolve and survive, with an albeit limited population, in this hazardous environment. The final parts of the novel deal with the scientists attempting to save this unique creatures dubbed Henders. The novel is put together in, well, fragments written in the third-person centering on different characters. We're given the time of day each fragment takes place, and they very in length from a few sentences to more traditional chapters. I feel like the format really helps drive the story forward and keep the reader engaged, especially early on when there are still a couple of B stories without obvious connections, other than ideological ones, to the A story.

From the beginning, Fragment reminded me of Michael Chrichton, a connection I'm not alone in making from the looks of other reviews I've read. Its present day setting and a scientific basis for this speculative sf makes it easily approachable and absorbing, even for those not normally fans of the genre. I can't speak for the veracity of the science presented in the book, as I don't have much of a background in biology, but what's important from a fiction standpoint is that it is presented in what appears to be a plausible manner.

The characterization in the book was good. There are a number of protagonists, all of them scientists, who were easy to identify with and root for. Though that may be attributable, at least in part, to my own nerdiness. While the book doesn't lack action, only one main character is what I would call action oriented. I feel that our own wonder at the new and unique is reflected in the scientists' curiosity. The Hender's themselves are funny, lovable and unique. They're innocence seeming innocence is refreshing, their intelligence astonishing and humanity a reminder of some of our own best qualities. They are also a statement of hope, that something amazing and valuable can be found amidst the most inhospitable of places, amongst the worst and most tragic violence. The only thing I found a bit lacking the novel was an antagonist. While it could be argued that the fatally hostile life of Hender's Island is itself an antagonist, I feel it lacks the directed, intelligent malevolence to be counted as such. That leaves us with Dr. Thatcher Redmond. There is an attempt to set up him up as a loathsome character before his actions at Hender's Island itself. And while it is generally good that a villain have internal justifications for his actions, as no one is a monster in their own eyes, I felt a lack of emotional investiture in his character. It wasn't until nearly the end of the story, when his actions endanger all life on the planet that began to truly revile him. He was, in many respects, the only character I found to be rather two-dimensional and unrealistic in book.

All-in-all though, I really enjoyed this book. It reads with the ease and speed of something I would normally consider 'light' reading. However, it is a good deal more thought provoking than that. Fragment leaves us with questions about the responsibilities and problems that come with humanity being the dominant life form on this planet. It in fact, it questions the very morality of that position, and what we are or are not willing to do in order to preserve our place at the top of the food chain. Just how far are we willing to go not only to protect ourselves, but how far should we go to protect unique species from one another and by what virtue are we granted the authority to make those sorts of decisions?

My '70s Book The "When I Was A Kid..." Book For The Generation That Grew Up in The '70s
Darryll Sherman
Dog Ear Publishing
9781598586909 $11.95

Kaye Trout

Quoting from the back cover:

"Do you sometimes find yourself longing for 'the good old days'? Do you laugh at yourself for even thinking this because - after all - you're not even 50 yet? And - upon seeing some of the things the kids of today have, or when you see how easy they have it, do you catch yourself thinking out loud 'When I was a kid...' only to cover your mouth in horror as you realize that you sound just like your parents? Do you feel a jolt of... you're not sure what... when you realize that you're thinking of the '70s? How good things were in the '70s?

"Join the author as he recounts his own experiences growing up in this avocado green and burnt orange decade. The things we had and the things we didn't have; the things we took for granted and what family life was like in those years. Remember the music, the movies, the cars, the toys, the fashions, and so much more as your sentimental recollections play once again before you like a worn out 8mm movie in your mind.

"We were kids of the '60s, teens in the '70s, and now we're almost 50. This is a humorous, nostalgic, pensive, and fun-filled look at what it was like to grow up in this generation. Try to keep up with the fun as you revisit your childhood memories, and don't be surprised it you, like the author, find yourself longing once again for 'the good old days.'"

This is a fun, well edited little book and not bad for the price. If you grew up in the '70s, you might like a copy to refresh your own memory, and the author has created a material memoir for himself and his family. It's always interesting to see life from another person's unique perspective, and for Darryll Sherman the '70s were 'the good old days'. I agree they were good - not as complicated or dangerous as today, but, the '50s, now there were some Happy Days.

My Sister Alicia May
Nancy Tupper Ling
Illustrated by Shennen Bersani
Pleasant Street Press
P.O. Box 520, Raynham Center, MA 02768
9780979203596 $16.95

Leticia Velasquez

In this view into the daily life of a little girl with Down syndrome, big sister Rachel lovingly describes her six-year-old sister, Alicia May. Alicia May has endearing traits; she bursts through Rachel's door in the morning with a sunny greeting, she gives great hugs, and she counts the dots on a ladybugs' backs. Alicia May is good at remembering the names of the neighbors, and loves visiting Rachel's friend Katie, however, she has temper tantrums when it's time to leave, which Katie learns to dissipate with a bit of bargaining. Rachel is growing in courage as she learns to defend Alicia May against the cruelty of their schoolmates. She is both proud of Alicia May's accomplishments and frustrated by her stubbornness.

Sister relationships are complex and beautiful things. When one of the sisters has special needs, the relationship may seem one sided; often the focus is on the special sister, and this is a mixed blessing. The typical sister learns to give more of herself and put up with more than most sisters do, growing emotionally beyond her peers, yet there are days when she runs short of patience for her demanding sister. "My Sister Alicia May" describes this unique relationship with a unique blend of candor and tenderness.

When I read the book to a group of older sisters of little girls with Down syndrome, there were some knowing grins when Alicia May acted up and surprised expressions when author, Nancy Tupper Ling acknowledged their 'special ness' as well. As a mother to an Alicia May and her two big sisters, I say it is long overdue praise for the big sisters.

This book will make those who love someone with Down syndrome alternately well up with tears and laugh as they relate to Rachel's authentic description of her sister. Shennen Bersani's lavish and vivid illustrations alone are worth the price of the book. Her realistic drawings of the girls portray with tenderness the unique character of our much-loved children.

This book is a must for anyone who loves children with 'designer genes'.

The Museum Guard
Howard Norman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780374216498 $24.00

Mitchell Waldman

Howard Norman's "The Museum Guard" brings us a compelling, page-turning, quirky story told by a museum guard named DeFoe Russett, whose parents were tragically killed in a zeppelin crash, and who was, as a result, raised by his uncle Edward in the Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. DeFoe's "family" is the staff of the hotel where he has lived for so many years. DeFoe's life is a narrow one. He has never left Halifax, has followed his uncle in his choice of careers, and in no way considers himself worldly like his uncle, who spends nights boozing and chasing women, and may or may not show up to work the next morning at the art museum where both he and his nephew work.

DeFoe falls in love with a half-Jewish woman, Imogen Linny, who works at the local Jewish cemetery. DeFoe's experience with women is limited, and his relationship with Imogen, after two years, has become strained. It is upon the appearance in the museum of a painting entitled "Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam" that Imogen starts to change drastically and pulls further away from DeFoe, herself, and reality, her world becoming that of the woman in the painting. And all this while word of the Nazis development of their world-dominating machine of terror is being reported daily from Europe by a radio journalist named Ovid Lamartine, whose accounts Edward listens to religiously every night.

This is a first-class novel, one that will keep you turning the pages. Its unique characters and underlying tragedies fill the novel with the stuff of daily life in 1938-1939. The impending horrors of the coming Nazi occupation in Europe, while seemingly faraway to most in Halifax, Novia Scotia, in such times is not seen so by Imogen and Edward, affecting them both profoundly in different ways, transforming Imogen and taking her into the center of the approaching Nazi storm. It is a story both of a young man in search of his own life, living in the horrific aftermath of the loss of his own parents in one tragic, holocaust moment, and the horrors approaching the world in the late 1930's where even half a world away from the coming storm, there appears to be no safe haven.

You will get to know and love, weep real tears for the characters in "The Museum Guard." It is a novel about holocausts affecting individuals and humanity, the lines between art and reality, and about a world colored by madness. An awesome read by a gifted writer and one that is highly recommended.

Access Denied (and other eighth grade error messages)
Denise Vega
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316034487 $16.99

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Readers may remember Erin Penelope Swift from"Click Here: To Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade". Or as Erin refers to it - YOHE (Year of Humiliating Events).

As eighth grade approaches, Erin vows to stop embarrassing herself and put an end to the humiliation 4-ever. But with an over-protective mom breathing down her neck who refuses to let her go to rock concerts and is the self-appointed movie police, Erin's resolve soon turns to all out angst. And there's always plenty to angst about at Molly Brown Middle School. Like her gorgeous and fascinating new locker partner named Reede, boys, makeup, designing the school's new website, boys, and getting her first period. Did I mention boys?

Erin flits from kissy-face Blake to we're-just-friends Mark to 2-hot-2-handle Jeff like a sugar starved hummingbird. Impatient for independence, Erin steps further and further outside the safety zones of home and school as she discovers a new self-confidence. Things once important to her like good grades, sports, and web design fall by the wayside as she becomes increasingly fascinated with her own hotness.

However the freedom she gains from sneaking around behind her mom's back comes with a price. When an old friend dies suddenly Erin-the-goody-two-shoes and Erin-the-party-girl collide. As she picks her way through the wreckage, Erin comes face-to-face with the people she has disappointed. Most of all she is disappointed in herself.

Can she somehow salvage the Erin Penelope Swift that everyone knows and loves? What if she doesn't like that person anymore?

"Access Denied" is a sometimes comical, sometimes poignant, and always captivating portrayal of teen angst. Vega draws an authentic picture of modern middle school mayhem and how popularity can lure anyone into leading a double life.

Gail Carriger
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316056632 $7.99

Terrilyn Fleming

Gail Carriger has hit a home run with her first-ever published novel, Soulless. In this unique Steampunk novel about werewolves and vampires, Carriger crafts a new mythology combining the supernatural with the preternatural. The result is a fast-paced, highly entertaining novel full of hilarious and quirky characters.

Alexia Tarabotti is the spinster protagonist, self-assured, extremely intelligent, and deferential to no one, yet still manages being able to maintain the proper innocence of a lady. Her foppish, flaming homosexual Vampire friend, Lord Akeldama, has a never-ending supply of outrageous nicknames for her: little creampuff, fluffy cockatoo, and diminutive gherkin. His diction only adds to his extravagant dress, propensity toward gossip, and overall outrageous eccentricity. Ivy Hisselpenny is her trusty companion with poor taste in headwear. Lord Maccon is the gruff alpha Werewolf love-interest whose inept attempts at wooing Alexia are devilishly funny.

The humor throughout the book can be subtle as well as slapstick happy. While in danger, Alexia rarely loses her head, and in fact, while a dastardly attacker is about to overtake her, Alexia thinks, "I do not want to die . . . I have not yet yelled at Lord Maccon for his most recent crass behavior!" Her sarcastic humor is lost on her dim-witted family. While at dinner her younger half-sisters grouse over the fact a science-club for men has opened next door to a fashionable woman in town. Alexia agrees with them, stating, "How ghastly for her. . . . People actually thinking, with their brains, and right next door. Oh, the travesty of it all." The comment is completely ignored by the fashion-obsessed siblings. Other times she renders men - human and supernatural - useless by a swift thwack of her trusted parasol to their vulnerable nether regions.

The story is engaging, the plot is entertaining, the characters are interesting, and the writing is very good. Carriger is a less verbose Dickens, a less crass Wilde, and a less proper Austen.

The second installment of The Parasol Protectorate, Changeless, will provide further opportunity for Alexia Tarabotti to wow the supernaturals in her world and the readers in our own.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Mamma Called the Doctor
Antoinette Romana
1663 Liberty Dr., Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440125447, $17.95,

Down syndrome can make life agonizing, even before the afflicted is born. "Mamma Called the Doctor: A Mother and Child's Final Journey" is a memoir by Antoinette Romana. "Mamma Called the Doctor" tells the story of how, after three healthy and normal births, her unborn fourth child was diagnosed with Down syndrome. An honest story of a conflicted mother, "Mamma Called the Doctor" is a recommended read for those who want to understand Down syndrome from the mother's perspective.

Community of Scholars
Mary A. Agria
Privately Published
9780578015590, $18.00

An accusation can cause a lot of damage, even if there is no truth to it. "Community of Scholars" is the story the widowed A.J. Ferinelli, and the sexual harassment scandal that overtakes his school. Now A.J. must and deal with the problem head-on, otherwise his career could be lost, his college could be lost, and even his life could be lost. "Community of Scholars" is a riveting thriller of academia, highly recommended.

In the Land of Cotton
Martha A. Taylor
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432734718, $17.95,

It's strange that another world could have been so close by. "In the Land of Cotton" is a fictional exploration of racial relations in the 50s, using a young unassuming white girl by the name of the Martha as the protagonist of the story. She finds a black family living in the woods, and discovers a whole different world as she learns to understand and despise the racial divide that was so prevalent in America during the time. "In the Land of Cotton" is a top pick for those seeking historical fiction focusing on the emergence of civil rights.

Approaching Neverland
Peggy Kennedy
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440126130, $19.95,

A mother is supposed to be a beacon of rationality in a child's life. "Approaching Neverland: A Memoir of Epic Tragedy and Happily Ever After" tells the story of Peggy Kennedy and her mother Barbara. Barbara was a loving mother, but she was plagued by a mental illness that made Peggy's childhood a very strange one. Reflecting on her past and her unique relationship with her mother, "Approaching Neverland" is a top pick for those seeking memoirs on mental illness and its effects on parenting.

Lots Of Fat And Taste Recipes
John De Kleine
Xlibris Corporation
International Plaza II, #340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781441530950, $23.99,

There are times when we need to suspend our diets and indulge in something created in our kitchens that will have our taste-buds revealing in unadulterated deliciousness! When the craving for something extra special good must be served, that's when it's time to refer to John De Klein's culinary compendium of delight's titled "Lots Of Fat And Taste Recipes". This 499-page celebration of recipes that pay no attention to calories, cholesterol, or fat offers the kitchen cook a cornucopia of dishes for every dining occasion with recipes that range from a Ukrainian Beef Stroganoff; to a Porkchop & Sauerkraut Casserole; to Shepherd's Pie; to Sweet and Sour Chicken; to Spicy Shrimp Scampi. There are entire chapters devoted vegetables, crock-pot meals, miscellaneous entrees, breads, soups and salads, sauces, and desserts. Enhanced with appendices on definitions, substitutions and equivalents, and cookware care, "Lots Of Fat And Taste Recipes" is a unique, 'user friendly', and recommended addition to family cookbook collections.

Love, Kristen
Kirk Forbes
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440113840, $18.95,

Cancer is a truly cruel thing. "Love, Kristen: One Young Woman's Courageous Battle Against Cancer" is one father's remembrance of his daughter's long battle with a sudden cancer that cut her life short after she finished college. A touching story of how young woman fought to the bitter end for her life, "Love, Kristen" is very much recommended for any parent trying to deal with a child with cancer.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

A Night Drive
John Brackeen
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
160703896X, $24.95,

War is not the nicest thing to put on someone's mind. It tends to screw with people. "A Night Drive" is a novel of the Vietnam War, written by a man who has personally experienced it. Using his experience, he weaves an all too familiar story of a soldier who quickly becomes jaded about the conflict he's a part of. "A Night Drive" is an intriguing adventure, sure to please.

Rise of the Anakim
Adin Kachisi
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438944883, $17.99,

The Apocalypse is not a guarantee if there are those there willing to stop it. "Rise of the Anakim: Tablets of Destiny" tells the story of Ethan Moore, a man who travels through time during the many different stages of apocalypse before settling on 2024, the last chance humanity has to save itself from inevitable extinction at the hands of cyborgs. "Rise of the Anakim" is a fine and entertaining science fiction adventure, and is highly recommended.

Chance Encounter
Sanford R. Simon
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434393166, $18.98,

The sins of one's father sadly do rub off on the children. "Chance Encounter: A Post-Holocaust Story" follows a Jew whose heritage traces back to those who suffered in the Holocaust, and a retired German who wants to retrace the footsteps of his father. As they both study their family history, they are faced with the cruelties of World War II and the guilt that resides in the German people. An intriguing discussion of the modern German perception of the Holocaust and the Jewish view of Germany, "Chance Encounter" is a compelling read all the way through.

The 52nd Floor
David A. Levy, James E. Parc, Fred R. Blass
Enso Books
PO Box 230603, Montgomery, AL 36123-0603
9780982018507, $25.95,

Everyone can be a leader, but there's a huge gap between mediocre leader and good leader. "The 52nd Floor: Thinking Deeply About Leadership" is a pondering of leadership and what it really is in a business's success. Not a typical business book on leadership, "The 52nd Floor" uses anecdotal examples and stories to deliver its message. "The 52nd Floor" is a must read for those who want a new approach to fine business leadership.

From Ashes to Beauty
Jeff Colon
Pure Life Ministries
14 School Street Dry Ridge, KY 41035
0980028612, $13.99,

A little bit of faith can go a long way in improving a marriage. "From Ashes to Beauty" is a guide to overcoming the weaknesses of one's marriage even through a time of crisis such as infidelity. Encouraging couples during this rough times to find comfort and strength in their faith, "From Ashes to Beauty" preaches that sin is not something that can break a true bond. "From Ashes to Beauty" is a must have manual for any couple in turmoil.

A Way of Living
Bill Hakala
Obiris Books
PO Box 250, Afton, MN 55001
9780977337712, $32.00 hc
9780977337729, $24.00 sc

What goes into the life of a magnificent painter? "A Way of Living: The Simple Life and Extraordinary Craft of Landscape Painter Don Koestner" takes a look into the life of impressionist painter Don Koestner, who has done hundreds of fine paintings. Koestner was more than just a landscape painter; author Bill Hakala explores the other themes behind the man's work. With full color reproductions of some of Kostner's finest works, "A Way of Living" is a top pick for fans of Koestner's beautiful art.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Larry Solomon
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -515, Parker CO 80134
9781432723477, $13.95,

Some people can't get a job. Others can't stop losing them. "Wrongsized: Become Chronically Unemployed In 26 Easy Steps" is a humorous novel about one eager job seeker who can't seem to keep a job down. His adventures are endlessly entertaining and highly amusing as he takes every job from soldier of fortune to vacuum cleaner salesman. "Wrongsized" is a top pick for those looking for a good laugh in this time of unemployment.

Robert Thomson
Privately Published
1881333102, $13.99,

Need is a primal desire, overwhelming a simple craving. "Need" is a collection of short stories from Robert Thomson exploring the concept of need and how it drives people to do things they say they never would do. Honest and candid, these stories explore the frankness of human nature and are highly entertaining. "Need" is a worthwhile investment for the short story enthusiast.

Michael Aro
Privately Published
c/o Michael Parker
9781932996203, $14.99,

Society is so ridiculous it deserves criticism. "M" is a hilarious novel by Michael Aro, which pulls no punches in its harsh judgment of today's culture using a collection of characters ranging from the mundane to the outrageous. With a healthy dose of science fiction elements as well as pure silliness, Michael Aro's "M" is well worth the read for those looking for a good laugh.

Milagro Lane
Jay Brandon
Wings Press
627 E. Guenther, San Antonio, TX 78210
9780916727574, $17.95,

Tragedy and heartache rarely occur in isolated incidents. "Milagro Lane" is a story of murder and intrigue, following what unfolds after an unexpected death. What spills forth is a spiraling plot that any mystery and thriller fan will very much enjoy. "Milagro Lane" is exquisitely written and well worth the read.

The Wonder Singer
George Rabasa
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
9781932961690, $15.95,

Who knew the career of a biographer could be so adventurous? "The Wonder Singer" is the story of ghostwriter Mark Lockwood, who lands a major job writing a biography for an international music megastar. But when the diva abruptly dies, his project is thrown into disarray as others gun to take his dream project away from him. On the run, Mark must finish his project and claim what's his. "The Wonder Singer" is a fine and recommended read for adventure and thriller fans.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Depth of Revenge
Richard Golden
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440115257, $13.95

Following Commander Gilad, the leader of the Israeli submarine "Tekumah", Depth of Revenge is a suspenseful novel about survival, vengeance, and the last hope of freedom in the wake of a devastating nuclear attack on Israel. With the chain of command annihilated, Gilad has no way to receive orders from his civilian or military superiors. Beset on all sides by food and fuel shortages, a fire, and an attack from a surface ship, Gilad must fight to retain order while keeping his larger mission at mind - fortunately, he has the aid of a plucky female intelligence officer and his heroic crew. Gilad will ultimately have to make a choice with millions of lives in the balance, which will determine the survival - or annihilation - of the free world. A tautly written saga that draws the reader in and refuses to let go.

Poems of Du Fu
Keith Holyoak
Broken Electric Records
B0026UZGK6, $16.99,

Keith Holyoak is a gifted poet and an accomplished translator of classical Chinese poetry. His latest recording is "Poems of Du Fu" in which he reads is original translations of the great Chinese poet Du Fu. Keith's eloquent readings comprising this technically flawless CD recording are enhanced with the inclusion of tradition Chinese melodies with contemporary and experimental themes featuring music composed and performed by Chi Linn and Yang Li. The result is a highly recommended and unique listening experience for the dedicated Chinese poetry and music enthusiast.

The King Of Gaheena
Squire Babcock
Motes Books
c/o Abby Kraus PR
1036 N. Dearborn, #802, Chicago, IL 60610
9781934894026, $15.00,

At 20 years of age, Calvin Turtle is the heir to a Louisville-based playing card company. His parents having perished in a car wreck just six months earlier, Calvin is now responsible for managing his family's company, along with an enormous hunting preserve in Gaheena, Arkansas. All this is complicated by charges that he was responsible for his parent's deaths and a man called Karl who is the very harbinger of sociopathically applied power and authority. Set in the 1970s, "The King Of Gaheena" is an emotionally charged, deftly written odyssey of novel that is richly complex and near instantly engaging with its issues of loss, confrontation lust, love, and ultimately, rediscovery and redemption. An original and thoroughly satisfying read, "The King Of Gaheena" is enthusiastically recommended for community library fiction collections.

The Philosopher King
Ronnie Lee
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432735814, $29.95, 1-888-672-6657

Ronnie Ka Ching is a Chenese poet and philosopher who is currently lives in the bustling city of Hong Kong. In "The Philosopher King: The Philosopher-Poet and Utopia" Ronnie has compiled a body of individually crafted verse drawn from such unusual sources as business theory, science, politics, leadership, finance, opportunities, morality, and the 'social psyche'. Combing elements of capitalist practicality with poetic sensitivity, these are seminal free verse poems that are as thoughtful and thought-provoking as they are insightfully engaging. "The Philosopher King" is highly recommended reading for anyone seeking to balance the realities of the world with the aspirations of the soul. In Ronnie's own words: We can gain in life,/Through money and contract,/Through spirit and unity,/Or through worth and dedication.

The Poodle At The Poodle
Bernard Ryan Jr.
Privately Published
1438222998, $14.95,

Set in the high-paced, volatile, and competitive world of Madison Avenue in the 1960s, "The Poodle At The Poodle" is the story of a young advertising copywriter who accepts a retired senior executive's offer to guarantee him wealth, fame and success. But there's a price -- and it's a doozey! Author Bernard Ryan Jr. draws upon his own years of experience and expertise in the advertising world to bring a feeling for genuine authenticity in this Faustian-style novel of greed, ambition, and the cost of success. Deftly crafted from first page to last, "The Poodle At The Poodle" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library American fiction collections.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

A Corpse in the Soup
Morgan St. James and Phyllice Bradner
L&L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendsville, TX 77549
9781603181204 $16.95

Goldie Silver and Godiva Olivia DuBois may be identical twins with the ability to communicate with one another telepathically, but that's where their similarity ends. Fashion-conscious Godiva, living in Beverly Hills, writes an advice column called Ask G.O.D. Free spirit Goldie lives in Juneau, Alaska, where she owns an antique store. Godiva takes Goldie's daughter Chili, a sous chef, to the taping of popular Chef Caesar Romano's show. Romano asks Godiva to sample the food and she passes out from food poisoning. Goldie flies in to help, and at the hospital, Romano confides that someone is sabotaging his show. Romano offers Chili a job as his assistant, and Goldie and Godiva put their heads together to try to figure out who's got it in for Romano. When his nemesis Biff Wellington is found with a knife in his back, Romano's the number one suspect and Godiva, romantically interested in Romano, is out to prove him innocent, along with the help of her sister Goldie and their mother and uncle, two former Vaudeville magicians.

This fun mystery romp will keep the reader guessing while enjoying the antics of Goldie and Godiva, along with their quirky family. The characters are amusing and endearing, and even the dog Waldo has his humorous moments. The plot moves along crisply, offering plenty of red herrings, and is twisty enough to provide a good whodunit. A Corpse in the Soup, first of the Silver Sisters Mystery series written by sisters St. James and Bradner, is a refreshing addition to the mystery world.

Dead Wreckoning
Sylvia Dickey Smith
L&L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendswood, TX 77549
9781603181389 $16.95

Sidra Smart, divorced from her controlling husband of thirty years and present owner of the Third Eye Detective Agency, temporarily keeps her office at her Aunt Annie's house, where she lives with her aunt and dog Slider. Sidra is reluctant to take on the case of Boo Murphy, a woman accused of murdering her neighbor. Sidra isn't too sure Boo's all there, as Boo claims to have seen an 18th century pirate schooner in the Texas swamp, and Boo doesn't have the means to pay an investigator. But when Sidra sees the schooner for herself, she is intrigued and begins to look into the case, only to be warned off by her mentor and assaulted by unknown assailants. With the aid of her dog Slider, Sidra pursues her investigation, which leads her into the past, to the days of pirate Jean Lafitte and Mary Anne Radcliff, Lafitte's partner and Boo's ancestor.

Smith adds plenty of action and adventure to this installment of the Third Eye mystery series, with an interesting dose of piratical history and ghosts. Sidra Smart is an engaging character, a woman fiercely committed to her independence. She is beginning to find her place in life and isn't afraid to stand up for herself, even against the bad guys. She's smart and likeable, and many women will identify with her. Sidra's dog Slider plays an important part, and Smith nicely weaves his abusive past into the story. This page turner will hold readers' attention throughout as they follow Sidra's growth as a woman and investigator.

The Coffin Dancer
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster Inc.
0684852853 $25.00

A bomb used to murder a federal witness convinces criminologist Lincoln Rhyme that the Coffin Dancer has returned to New York. Rhyme would like nothing more than to arrest the Coffin Dancer, who murdered several of his team members years before. But the Coffin Dancer is a master of disguise and always seems to stay one step ahead of the police. The two remaining targeted federal witnesses are taken into protective custody but the killer manages to infiltrate their safe houses each time the witnesses are moved. Amelia Sachs conducts a physical investigation while Rhyme, a quadriplegic, investigates from his own lab, both working against a forty-eight hour time frame.

This second book in the Lincoln Rhyme mystery series confirms this is a series that will be around for awhile. Deaver offers his reader a thrilling mystery packed with forensic science. Rhyme and Sachs are a winning combination and Deaver delves a little deeper into their personas and attraction to one another. A page turner that will hold the reader vested throughout.

The Foster Girls
Lin Stepp
Parkway Publishers
P.O. Box 3678, Boone, NC
9781933251660 $14.95

College professor Vivian Delaney rents a house near the Smoky Mountains, claiming she's on sabbatical. Scott Jamison, whose family owns the house Vivian is renting, runs neighboring Buckeye Knob Camp. When Scott meets Vivian, he suspects there's more to her story than Vivian is telling, but Vivian is adamant about her reason for being there. The two are attracted to one another although Scott is reluctant to love someone he feels he can't trust. Vivian eventually earns Scott's confidence, but their relationship is threatened by Vivian's attachment to a foster girl.

Lin Stepp creates a heartwarming tale of love and redemption, family and faith. Her visual imagery nicely establishes time and place, and readers will fall in love with not only her charming characters but the picturesque setting for this inspirational story. This debut novel in the Smoky Mountain Series is sure to garner fans across genres, offering a plot filled with romance and suspense, set amidst the backdrop of the breathtaking Smoky Mountains.

Mia's Gift
Victoria and Craig Weeden, Illustrated by Del Hopewell
Jazz Angel Press, Banner Elk, NC
9781439213292 $12.99

Since her mother's death, Mia is trying harder than ever to be closer to her dad, who researches manatees. Like her mother, Mia senses manatees and helps her dad locate them but what Mia's dad doesn't know is that Mia can also communicate with the manatees. Mia's favorite manatee, Muzzles, is pregnant and Mia worries about her safety. Shortly after Muzzles gives birth, her baby is stolen, and Mia and her friend Clark place their own lives in danger to save her.

This is a creative, well-illustrated book which children will treasure. Mia is a sweet character and her friend Clark, who stutters and whose family is down on their luck, is the perfect counterpart. The story is heart-warming, the characters engaging, and the message concerning manatees and the dangers they encounter from humans important and welcome and very much needed. Parents and teachers will appreciate the premise for this book, which would be the perfect addition for school classrooms as well as school, home, and public libraries.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

Cemetery Dance
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group, New York, NY
9780446580298 $26.99

Zombies, creepy people, death, and mayhem in New York City transport the reader from peace and tranquility to a page-turner which cannot be put down. Authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child demonstrate why they are the masters of creating fear in their recent novel Cemetery Dance.

Characters are fully developed independent of earlier exploits in which they participated. Previous books by Preston and Child focused upon the activities of the main character Special Agent Pendergast of the FBI and his investigative abilities stand alone. But to name a few, The Wheel of Darkness, The Book of the Dead, Dance of Death, and Brimstone give you an idea how these fellows can write fearful books, just by the titles!

Pendergast is a hero who is the exact opposite of Peter Falk's character, Columbo. Columbo is shabbily dressed, drives an old vehicle which makes one marvel at whether it will reach its destination or not, and appears never to be in command of the English language. Pendergast, on-the-other-hand, casts an aura of a strong detective extremely educated, nattily attired, travels in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce, and is always in control. The commonality between these two sleuths is their uncanny ability to piece together clues which lead them to the next step in solving crimes.

Where this book stands out above the rest, is the way in which the story unfolds. Oddly, the writing gets better as you proceed into the pages and the intensity arouses your interest so that you want more. Few books are rarely hard to put down. Cemetery Dance keeps moving you into mysterious passageways, spine-chilling caverns, darkness that is bloodcurdling, and with descriptive language keeping you begging for more even though you feel as breathless as the characters.

The only short-coming in this book is the date chosen for release! Halloween would have been an ideal time to unleash this frightening tale upon an unwary public.

A completely satisfying conclusion wraps up the end of this roller coaster saga and no, the butler did not do it! This is a story which will keep you highly entertained as you really get scared and will keep you guessing where another crypt has one more eerie entity. Highly recommended.

The Bourne Deception
Eric Van Lustbader
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group, New York, NY
9780446539821 $27.99

Robert Ludlum, author of twenty-one novels, including the Jason Bourne series, died in March 2001. Yet, even after his death, the fans of Bourne's adventures beckoned for more and Eric Van Lustbader, a novelist in his own right who has written 20 international best selling novels, stepped up and filled those enormous shoes of Ludlum by continuing the Bourne series with greater intensity of action and adventure.

The Bourne Deception begins in a peaceful, serene, and quixotic island setting where the most dangerous situation seemed to be the invasion of a mosquito through netting which covered Jason's bed. Then, his engulfing tranquility is shattered when Jason is shot by an unknown assailant in an ambush. Van Lustbader accomplishes all this decisive action in the first thirty pages!

An American passenger plane is shot down over Egypt by an apparent Iranian missile. In the ensuing investigation, Bourne becomes a key player, but at the same time is trying to piece together clues which will lead him to his assailant. His involvement puts him in the middle of both incidents deepening your entanglement to figure out what is going to happen next.

If you haven't read any of the previous Jason Bourne thrillers, have no fear, each of the characters are skillfully reintroduced taking their places in his present or past life. Then, without missing a beat, the action continues as each of them play an integral role in the Deception, which is the theme of this novel. Cliches should not find their place in good writing, but, this is a "page-turner; you really want to read.

One of the great strengths of both Robert Ludlum and Eric Van Lustbader is their ability to write clearly, concisely, and cleanly. Potty-mouth dialogue is not the norm and though many writers feel that in order to give the reader their "moneys-worth", they must write many four-letter words. This is not the case in The Bourne Deception. Be deceived, but pleasantly, if you please.

Tying together all the loose ends is a technique which is utilized by those writers who realize that abruptly stopping at a cliff's edge without conclusion will not satisfy true fans. Eric Van Lustbader concludes this story with flaring style and portends there will be further continuations of Jason Bourne's worldly adventures.

Highly recommended.

Stanley James
Clyde Henry
Xlibris Corporation
9781436361453 $15.99

Children are raised with the hope and expectation their lives will be better than their parents. School is a reverent place in children's lives and their experiences are supposed to be entertaining, educational, and teach them the "Golden Rule". Stanley James is a novel which does not follow this path. It is the story of a young boy who has learning disabilities and Clyde Henry tells this tale from an inside view. Even though this is a novel, Stanley James is based upon the true story of the author's cousin.

Coming from an era of the 1950's and 60's, it is a wonderful first novel by Henry based on first-hand knowledge gleaned from attending St. Mary's Catholic school in Alexandria, Minnesota, where he matriculated as learning disabled. He was a student who had been misdiagnosed and was not able to keep up with regular school children. Yet, with all his supposed disabilities, he graduated college Magna cum Laude, and also obtained a Masters Degree in Architecture from The Ohio State University.

His cousin was not as fortunate in his career path and this is the crux of the story. Humorous at first, we explore some funny tribulations which befall both boys as they meander through their younger years. Stanley James comes up with some concrete thinking which is far beyond his years and abilities which make you want to read on and enjoy the rich laughter which is engendered by this lad.

This is not a barn-burner novel. However, it is one which will anger you at the treatment given to youngsters in our society by those who are charged with the responsibility to care for them. By the time you turn the last page, you will realize that some institutions are in need of reformation. When you ask if the situations described are still going on, your answer will be found in the daily newspaper. Yes, the situations go on and Clyde Henry means to do something about it.

There is a foundation which receives the proceeds from these book sales. The website is By buying this book, you will contribute to those needy children who are described. There are many books which discuss problems and our need for reformation, but few seem to put their hard capital into constructive change.

Buying this book is a good read and is for a good cause.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

Phantom Prey
John Sandford
The Berkley Publishing Group
c/o The Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425277985 $9.99 1-800-845-5515

I selected this book from a well-established author. I have respected his efforts for most of his books to date, adding one more which is equally entertaining. I have more been catching up on some of the books in his Prey series. John Sandford has written several books that I missed, and a new one Wicked Prey now appearing on the store's bookshelves. I find his books worth the time and find the plot twists, and the story interesting to capture some good moments for detective escapism. I find that true here, and my review of his latest paperback. I have read the Prey series from the beginning and I don't want to miss what has become a solid effort in this genre.

Lucas Davenport is trying to solve a case where the clues take him after another college student disappears. A recently widowed Alyssa Austin returns back to her Twin Cities home to find the security system turned off and bloodstains dotted walls. The discovery later is from her missing daughter Frances and no body is found. Two students were found slashed to death, and it looking like a modern case of Jack the Ripper. A Goth girl keeps fading in and out in the case. More questions pop up where she originates, and where she goes at night. It all seems elusive like she is the phantom and the prey become the victims in this dark scenario. The case has a twisted plot which makes it difficult for the best of detectives to solve this bizarre case.

John Sandford has written twenty twenty-eight novels including his Prey Series with Lucas Davenport, Virgil Flowers Series as the main character, and The Kidd Novels. His stand alone novels are The Night Crew and Dead Watch. His great writing has kept him as a bestselling author with entertaining detective thrillers consistent in a market of many writers of this genre. I look forward to his latest Prey Series entry Wicked Prey with Lucas Davenport. Two writers who seem to keep the good novels in this field churning out are Ridley Pearson and John Sandford. I keep finding their benchmarks in the mystery detective novels usually worth the reading time........

Cemetery Dance
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446580298 $26.99 1-800-986-8666

I have been patiently waiting for the continuation of the agent Pendergast character, and the other main characters in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs' novels. I have enjoyed them in previous adventures in different cases or adventures. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child make a good team in the creepy setting in this story. Lieutenant D'Agosta joins Pendergast in solving a murder case concerning a mutual friend. Another character Nora Kelly is brought back into this story, while the character of Constance Green is left out of the story.

I will not mention any story spoilers or twists in the story. The authors abruptly throw a teaser in the end of the story. The story focuses mostly on the plot and the characters are used to drive the story forward. I noticed less character development, however the story is still good mystery adventure. The atmosphere of the New York Museum of National History reminds the reader of past interesting reading.

I understand the authors are planning to a continuation installment to the Ice Limit story they wrote a few years back. I await these adventure writers who delve into mystery, macabre, adventure, science into their yarns and following with their usual interesting settings. I believe this new offering from these good storytellers will add something to their accumulated genre, that rolls all of it into one. I recently read Lincoln Child's Terminal Freeze which was closer to the science fiction genre with some anthropology mixed in the story. The part of the anthropology angle put interesting roots in a great setting within the Alaskan Arctic Circle. It is interesting that the Ice limit story was being revisited, and Lincoln touched base in a recent book signing, that it might be coming out sooner than expected. I hope so, as I can hardly wait.....

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

The Osiris Alliance
Jack Ford
Ovation Books
9780981453453 $23.95

Adam Stark, a one-time army ranger turned federal prosecutor, is assigned to lead an investigation into shadowy reports of nuclear material being shipped from the United States to the Eastern Bloc. He winds up teaming with television journalist Megan Delaney, who's caught a whiff of the rumors herself. They uncover leads, but at every turn their progress seems to be thwarted by the bad guys, which quickly leads them to suspect that someone in the small cadre of people in the know is leaking information. The principal bad guy is a wizened old man who isn't identified until very late in the story. A spill-all journal, never meant to be made public, is stolen from his home at the beginning of the book, and he'll go to any lengths to get it back. But Adam and Megan would like to get their hands on the journal as well, since it reportedly holds the answers to a number of questions, including who's behind the nuclear shipments and who really orchestrated the Lindbergh kidnapping back in 1936.

The Osiris Alliance is the first novel by Jack Ford, whom readers may be familiar with from his work as a correspondent on ABC News, 20/20, and other news programs. It's a very competent debut. The plot held my interest, the writing flows well, and Adam and Megan are a likable pair of protagonists--even if Adam clenches his jaw a few too many times by way of showing emotion. Ford does a good job of blurring moral lines in the book, which makes for an interesting denouement. I don't know whether this is intended to be the first in a series of Adam Stark thrillers, but I'd be happy to read a sequel. (It can't be held against the author, but there are a couple of egregious typos in the book--see pages 11 and 45--where whole chunks of text have been omitted. The publisher should see to getting these corrected in future printings.)

Leonardo's Shadow
Christopher Grey
Simon Pulse
9781416905448 $8.99

Giacomo has been a servant in the house of Leonardo da Vinci for some eight years, since the great artist saved the boy's life after he fell from a cathedral roof. Giacomo doesn't remember his life before the fall, and as the years in Leonardo's service pass, despite his affection for and loyalty to his master, he becomes increasingly interested in finding his parents. While he's concerned with this personal drama, Giacomo also tries to keep creditors off Leonardo's back. Da Vinci, long planning his great painting, The Last Supper, is under pressure from the Duke of Milan to finish the work, and under pressure from scores of local businessmen who have long been extending credit.

Giacomo tells the story of Leonardo's painting and his own roll in its creation in the first person. The prose can feel a bit stilted until you get used to it, and the book sometimes reads like a history lesson. But after a slow start I found Leonardo's Shadow very pleasant reading. Giacomo is a likable character, under-appreciated by his master in particular, and that makes us root for him. (It also probably makes him someone your average teen will identify with.) For the book's intended audience of YA readers, Leonardo's Shadow is an enjoyable way to digest information about Leonardo, The Last Supper, and the 15th century.

Beside a Burning Sea
John Shors
New American Library
9780451224927 $14.00

After the hosptal ship Benevolence is sunk by a torpedo in the South Pacific, nine survivors struggle toward a nearby island. Once they reach land their immediate survival is assured: the island turns out to be an uninhabited paradise with ample food and fresh water, and enough medical supplies from the sunken ship wash ashore to meet their needs. The problem is that the island's strategic location makes it ripe for occupation. The survivors therefore must prepare for the eventuality of a landing by Japanese forces. As they confront the difficulties of living on the island and their fears for the future, their relationships deepen. The captain of the Benevolence and his wife, a nurse, mend a rift that had been developing between them. An unlikely love affair develops between another nurse, Annie, and the Japanese POW that saved her life. Jake, a farmer turned sailor, bonds with Ratu, a Fijan boy who had stowed away on the Benevolence. But there's a viper in the midst of this tropical love fest, someone who's not what he seems and who threatens the safety of all of them.

Like his gorgeous first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, Beside a Burning Sea is a good read. I was swept along by the story, worried about the characters and invested in their relationships, particularly that between Annie and Akira, a gentle former schoolteacher wounded by the atrocities he's been forced to witness. But the book is not flawless. The romantic protestations verge on the overly sappy, and the relationship between Jake and Ratu is both too sweet and rather dull. (And Ratu's constant Britishisms--bloody this and bloody that--quickly become annoying.) Finally, the bad guy of the book is too unrelentingly evil to be quite believable: even Hitler must have had his light moments, but this guy doesn't. All that said, Beside a Burning Sea is worth the read. I'm looking forward to reading Shors' third novel, Dragon House, due to be published in September.

Annie's Ghosts
Steve Luxenberg
9781401322472 $24.99

Steve Luxenberg's mother had always said--had indeed made a point of proclaiming--that she was an only child. So Luxenberg was surprised to discover toward the end of his mother's life that she had in fact had a younger sister, Annie, who grew up with her in their childhood home in Detroit. Annie was disabled--mentally impaired and perhaps mentally ill, and born with a bad leg that was subsequently amputated. She was institutionalized in 1940 at the age of 21, when Luxenberg's mother was 23. She would remain institutionalized for more than 30 years, until her death in 1972. During that time, apparently, Luxenberg's mother never visited Annie, and she never told her children--nor, quite possibly, her husband--about Annie's existence. Luxenberg began to investigate his mother's secret after her death, hoping to figure out why she had kept silent. While tracking down aging family members and long-lost acquaintances to ask about Annie, Luxenberg uncovers other secrets, and learns a lot more about his family than he had understood as a boy.

Although Luxenberg is writing about an ostensibly small piece of his family's history, his book covers a lot of ground. He discusses, among other topics, the history of Eloise Hospital, the psychiatric facility in which Annie spent more than half of her life, the history of psychiatric treatment in the U.S. and in Michigan in particular, Detroit's economy in the early 20th century, the execution of Jews in Radziwillow, Poland in 1941, the U.S. army's policies regarding psych cases during World War II, and so on. Luxenberg also writes about the progress of his own research, explaining the difficulties he had tracking down people and documents, for example. Some of the topics Luxenberg covers are fascinating (e.g., the Radziwillow segment), but some are really very dull. After a while, for example, one loses interest in how the author came by particular documents. And that's the trouble with the book: Luxenberg is an extremely thorough researcher, but he's included too much information in the book. A perfect example: In investigating his disabled aunt and the mores of the period she grew up in and his family's history, Luxenberg looked into his grandfather's (Annie's father's) life, which leads to a chapter about him and his experiences as an immigrant. Luxenberg writes about what conditions were like on the ship his grandfather came to the U.S. on, and goes so far as to look up the service records of that ship to see if it had been equipped with steerage quarters. Given the subject of the book, this really struck me as overkill.

There's a lot to like about Annie's Ghosts. The mystery at its core--why the author's mother kept her sister's existence a secret--is fascinating. Luxenberg is a good writer and, as I've said, a very thorough researcher. The story he has to tell is moving at times. But the book's pluses are obscured by the fact that it is over-detailed and over-long.

The Miracle at Speedy Motors
Alexander McCall Smith
Anchor Books
9780307277466 $13.95

In this ninth installment in Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana series Mma Precious Ramotswe again confronts a series of small problems that come to her attention at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Most disturbing is her receipt of a threatening letter, which refers indelicately to her traditional build and to the over-large glasses of her associate, Mma Grace Makutsi. Mma Ramotswe is also tasked with locating any surviving family of a woman who believes herself to have been adopted, an assignment that turns out to be less straightforward than one would expect. As usual, Mma Ramotswe deals with matters with great wisdom and vast quantities of bush tea. And as usual, McCall Smith's writing is perfectly charming.

The Miracle at Speedy Motors is the third book I've read in McCall Smith's series. Clearly, I have not managed to read the books in order, but the jumps I've encountered in the plot are not disorienting. For anyone who hasn't read the books yet I would advise jumping in, ideally starting with the first in the series (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency), but if that's not possible then anywhere will do. The novels are a treat that should not be missed.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Fern's Bookshelf

The Late Great State of Israel: How Enemies Within and Without Threaten the Jewish Nation's Survival
Aaron Klein
WND Books
c/o Midpoint Trade Books (distributor)
27 West 20th Street, Ste 1102, New York, NY 10011
9781935071082 $25.95

In his latest book entitled, "The Late Great State of Israel", Aaron Klein, intrepid investigative journalist and Middle East correspondent presents an ominous portent of the future of Israel. This meticulously researched exegesis of the complex world of Middle East politics graphically depicts the pernicious agenda of those forces conspiring to eradicate the Jewish state. As we know, the motto of the New York Times is, "All the News that's Fit to Print" and this book is a thoroughly documented repository of "All the News That's Fit to Print, that the New York Times Wouldn't", or any branch of the mainstream media for that matter.

In this eye-opening account of the global machinations that are predicated on the vilification of Israel and surreptitious actions leading to its potential demise, we recoil in horror to learn that in addition to the list of "usual suspects", i.e. Iran, Syria and their proxies known as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, etc, we find that other such players in the Middle East cacophony are also busy striking their own chords. Despite their declarations of support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the ultimate two-state solution, the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and other western governmental agencies, Klein informs us, have constructed their own end game as it concerns the viable future of Israel. What is most disheartening is the fact that Mr. Klein explores and spotlights in nuanced detail the sheer masochism of the powers that be in the government of Israel and the fact that it is they that are largely culpable for undermining Israel's survival as a Jewish state.

Mr. Klein is indeed a heteroclite reporter who blazes new trails in journalistic doughtiness as evidenced in innumerable and candid interviews he conducted with terrorist leaders representing Hamas, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hezbollah, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, as well as other covert groups of that ilk. The scope and magnitude of his research illuminates the fact that Fatah, the "peace partner" of both Israel and the United States, is playing a dangerously duplicitous role in this scenario by positing themselves by day as ostensibly legitimate law enforcement officers of the Palestinian Authority and by night as heinous murderers representing the "military wing" of the movement, better known as the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Replete with arms and training from the United States, these Fatah operatives continue to plan and execute terrorist acts directed against Israeli civilians.

If that were not shocking enough, Mr. Klein also reveals that Fatah's purported enemy Hamas has successfully infiltrated Fatah to the point of mass confusion within their ranks. This essentially translates into the fact that massive US arm shipments to Fatah are now making their way into the hands of Hamas terrorists and that these very same Hamas members are also recipients of advanced US military training under the leadership of Lt-Gen Keith Dayton. We also learn that Hamas operatives frequently travel to Iran for extended training in guerilla warfare and return to Gaza to re-train other wannabe terrorists, all under the watchful eye of the United States.

To add insult to injury, Mr. Klein informs us that Israel too, aids and abets the infrastructure of Fatah while simultaneously turning a blind eye to their penchant for deadly terrorism. Having stationed himself in Gaza during the 2005 disengagement, Mr. Klein laments the fact that despite Israeli intelligence reports indicating that Hamas was planning to use the "newly liberated" Gaza as a launching pad for Qassam rockets into Israel, the government proceeded with this suicidal policy while treating the Jewish evacuees with colossal disdain. He also warns us that any attempt by Israel to negotiate away the West Bank and East Jerusalem in peace talks with the PA will inevitably lead to the creation of a state financed and controlled by Iran, with its day to day operations being carried out by its proxy known as Hamas.

Other paramount issues that are examined here is the role of the United Nations is creating the Palestinian "refugee" issue by conferring such status on offspring of Palestinians who fled Israel decades ago and have been residing in such countries as Jordan, Syria and Egypt. Through the creation of the UNWRA (United Nations Work and Relief Agency), the Palestinian demand for the "right of return" can arguably serve as the death knell for Israel in terms of the demographic time bomb that such an influx of Palestinians would represent for Israel's continued existence as a Jewish state.

Mr. Klein takes great pains to dissect and analyze the horrific loss that Israel sustained during the summer war of 2006 against Hezbollah; yet another Iranian/Syrian proxy, and gives us an historical backdrop of the region and the sordid Israeli military blunders that paved the way for the humiliating defeat that shocked the world. As the government of Israel remained in a state of obfuscation concerning the clear objectives of this military endeavor, its convoluted polices have lead to a stronger, better funded and infinitely more confident Hezbollah. The burgeoning guerilla organization apparently now possesses lethal weaponry that can wreak deadly havoc on Israel's northern border and beyond.

Utilizing concepts and quotes from the Torah and Tanach, Mr. Klein connects the dots for us in terms of the historical and religious connection that the land of Israel holds for the Jewish people. He unabashedly admonishes Israel for relinquishing the vast majority of control of Temple Mount in Jerusalem that miraculously fell into our hands at the end of the Six Day War in 1967. Designating ownership of the site to the Muslim Waqf has emboldened the Muslim claim to Jerusalem and has created a mini theocratic state that seeks to spread it's tentacles far and wide. As it pertains to the Tomb of Joseph in Schechem, Mr. Klein tells us that if we think the partial abandonment of the Temple Mount was bad enough, Israel's complete withdrawal from Judaism's third holiest site is a "travesty" that borders on the reprehensible.

Ultimately, Mr. Klein leaves us with sober assertions regarding the political agenda of the Obama administration as it pertains to the Middle East debacle as well as the role that Benjamin Netanyahu's new government can and will play. He warns us of the existential perils of both global jihadist proliferation and the very real threat of a nuclear empowered Iran. Israel, it would appear is on its own, sans support from the West, yet through its own brand of distorted diplomacy is carving its own trajectory to self-annihilation. Klein makes an important point when he concludes that classical anti-Semitism is no longer considered politically correct by the liberal intelligentsia and has been summarily replaced by our enemies with more trendier term "anti-Zionism". He correctly equates the terms as one in the same and draws no differences. His final words might give us some measure of hope and bring us back down to earth at the same time when he opines, "I trust and believe that Israel will ultimately survive - against all odds and in spite of the threats from within and without - only through the grace of G-d. But for now, things don't look good."

Jerusalem: Footsteps Through Time - Ten Torah Study Tours of the Old City
Ahron Horovitz
Philipp Feldheim
208 Airport Executive Park, Nanuet, N.Y. 10954
9781598262513 $19.99 (845) 356-2282

For those who will be traveling to Israel for the first time, and even for veteran tourists, there is no doubt that the holy city of Jerusalem; in all its resplendent majesty continues to be a focal point of any journey. Jerusalem is known as "the center of the world" and as such is steeped in thousands of years of rich and vibrant religious history. Because each tourist desires a visit that is rife with powerful personal meaning along with a lifetime of vivid memories, then Ahron Horowitz's new book entitled, "Jerusalem: Footsteps Through Time - Ten Torah Study Tours of the Old City" (Feldheim Publishers) is simply indispensible.

It is safe to say that after reading this stellar travel guide that one can leave the well meaning but feckless tour guide behind because this book provides a trenchant ride through the annals of Jewish history. And for the visitor who possesses the predilection for meticulously researched Torah tours of the Old City of Jerusalem, then this book delivers a veritable wealth of invaluable information on the heart and soul of the city of gold.

Mr. Horovitz serves as our personal tour guide to the Old City of Jerusalem by highlighting each sight with direct quotes from the entire Tanach (the entire written Torah) the meforshim (commentaries), the Mishnah, Talmud and other scholarly seforim (religious books). Our sojourn is brilliantly enhanced by the impressive array of exceptionally beautiful color photos that will satisfy even the couch potato tourist. The highly informative narrative also includes the seminal discoveries of such renowned British archeologists as Stuart MacAlister, G. Duncan, Kathleen Kenyon as well as Raymond Weill, Yigal Shilo, Ronni Reich and Eli Shukron; who had all conducted extensive digs in and around the Old City; uncovering a plethora of artifacts dating back to the era of the patriarchs.

One cannot help but feel as if we are personally experiencing the awesome holiness of Jerusalem alongside our ancestors as they traverse the magnificent landscape. We begin in the "Footsteps of Abraham" as we learn about the first time that Avraham Avinu (Abraham, our father) saw the city when commanded by Hashem (G-d) to bring his son Yitzchak (Isaac) as a sacrifice. Avraham sensed the holiness of this place that we know today as Har Habayit (the Temple Mount) and we are told that "through his devotion, Abraham discovered the mountain's spirituality. He named it 'Hashem Yireh' - G-d will see - hoping G-d would one day observe His people serving Him in a house of worship on this site."

Other tours include "David and His City: The Rise and Fall of Biblical Jerusalem" in which we follow in the footsteps of King David's conquest of Jerusalem. Stepping back in time, we learn of the growth and expansion of Jerusalem during the reign of King Solomon and how the first Beis HaMikdash (Temple) was built until the destruction of the city by the Babylonians. What is most amazing is that this tour includes extensive research on the provincial water systems and how they parted a significant role in the city's capture and vitality.

Analyzing the life and character of King Herod who built the second Beis HaMikdash, we explore the remnants of the walls of the Temple Mount as well as getting a insider's look into the cutting edge modalities of construction in a tour called, "Secrets of the Temple Mount". If you've ever wondered what everyday life was really like during the second temple period, this tour introduces us to the "Main Street" of Jerusalem as we absorb the sights and sounds of the stores, the sidewalks, secret tunnels, the mikvaos (ritual baths), the grand concourse, the hotels, the shopkeepers and the patrons of 2000 years ago.

The reader will surely be moved by the author's description of the Kotel (Western Wall) and its environs on Tisha B'Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) in the year 70 CE. "Titus and his armies burned down the Temple, after which they razed the walls of the city and the Temple Mount. Had we had been there, looking up from the deep Tryopean Valley at the huge, western wall, we would have seen Roman soldiers toppling stones down into the valley against a background of smoke billowing up from the burning Temple, amid the din of cries of the wounded and dying", says the author.

We move underground for tours of the labyrinth of tunnels built under the Old City and then to the upper city of the second temple period for a detailed sketch of the last 100 years of that era. Lamentably, one the bleakest periods of the Old City came subsequent to the Bar Kochba revolt and this tour, "And Zion Will Be Plowed Like A Field" takes us through until the Middle Ages. Our spirits brighten in the next several tours which document the re-building of the Old City as we read of the religious fervor and mesiras nefesh (self sacrifice) of our great Torah luminaries. The promise of the sublime eternal character of the Jewish people and the city that is the center of their lives will resonate with the reader as Jerusalem of yesteryear leaps forth from these pages and in to souls of its readers.

Fern Sidman, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Never Say Never
Michele Cameron
Genesis Press Inc
P.O. Box 101, Columbus, MS 39703
978158572694 $6.99

No, this has noting to do with the James Bond movie remake of "Thunderball." Desiree Diamond has a boyfriend, a position in a law firm and a life anyone would envy. But all is not as it seems; her boyfriend is too tied down to his family and she wants to go higher in the firm. She decides to end the relationship because he will not commit himself to marry her; he is content with things the way they are. She starts to date Tyler, an attorney of the office something she normally would not do, and she has a conflict. He is white; she is black. She tells herself she loves him but she cannot introduce him to her family and admit to her sisters and brother that she is dating Tyler. She evades the issue of his race. Desiree is very likable as are all of her family members and Tyler. The story is very well paced and comes to a very satisfying ending. The novel is more than a good romance story, it also tackles several social issues and does it very well.

21 Bizarre Short Stories
Jose Cepeda Garcia
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432722210 $10.95

As the title suggests, these stories are strange. Three of the most memorable are "The Poor Teo" that deals with what happens when a character sleepwalks. "Trace" begins when a man chops off his hand and gives it to a man he never sees again. "Half and Half" a man goes to a Home Depot type of store to purchase a chain saw. What he does with it is very interesting. Some of the tales are in the realm of fantasy or science fiction while others deal with everyday situations. The stories are short shorts that have many great twists at the end.

Mary Jane's Grave
Stacy Dittrich
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843961607 $7.99

Dittrich's second novel is better than her first one "The Devil's Closet." Detective CeeCee Gallagher has a tough murder case to solve while she must deal with several conflicts in her personal life at the same time. Her stress level is overwhelming in a thriller that races along to its final twisted ending. The author tells her story with believable characters and writing that tightly draws the reader into the story.

A Boy With a Red Parcel
Steven Haderlie
Helm Publishing
3923 Seward Avenue, Rockford, IL 61108
9780980178067 $10.00

The author lost sight of the purpose of a novel. It is to entertain. The writer is too busy trying to teach kids to learn how to read, instead of telling a story. His usage of tree, trunk and park six times on a single page was annoying to the point I could not read any further. For a YA audience, this is beneath the target audience reading level. Why do the Oz or Harry Potter series have kids' interest? Because they capture everyone's imagination with stories that are well written and characters readers want to read about. This author should go back to Writing 101 and learn the mechanics before he attempts another book.

Nobody A Novel by a Taiwanese Author
Chen Uu-Te
Outskirts Press Inc, Denver, Colorado
9781432738020 $11.95

I have to admit I had no clue what the novel was about. I was also bewildered why it was important for the author to tell in the title that he is a Taiwanese author. The prose is very confusing as well. An example is the author's reference to a character. "He was well-born." As I read that statement I asked the question "What does he mean by well born? Here is another piece of chaos. "He sat early in the morning at a remote corner of a coffee shop - Donut, located around the corner at Sung-chiang road and Ever-green road, Taipei. My thought was is he in a coffee house with donuts or is the donut place around the corner. I just did not understand the importance of telling this. The whole book is written this way. I had to wonder what kind of English degree this author from Taiwan has.

Unlimit Yourself
Asiah Wolfolk-Manning. Esq
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington IN 47403
9781438946221 $17.77 1-800-839-8640

The author shows through her own life that you can overcome anything that comes your way. She deals with positives and negatives, personal responsibility, rewarding yourself, why quitting is not an option. The book is filled with upbeat tips to teenagers on how to stay focused on the road to being an adult.

My Safe Space
Angela Anielski
Illustrated by Bobbi Switzer
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432737740 $19.95

The author and artist have combined their talents to tell kids how to be safe away from home. Through the artwork and prose kids can remember the lessons that are being taught to them. Their lessons are simple: "never talk to strangers," "run and know what direction to go," "have a plan" are some of the things they discuss. This is a different approach that is very timely.

Moments of Clarity
Michele Cameron
Genesis Press Inc
P.O. Box 101, Columbus, MS 39703
978158573301 $6.99

Sasha Diamond, sister to Desiree from "Never Say Never" has her own problems to contend with. She dumps her boyfriend whom we first encountered in that novel. Now she is not as confident as she once was. She is much more cautious and not so quick to date until she meets NBA star Sexton. She also has a girlfriend who learns that her husband has a thing for prostitutes and that he is unwilling to change. Both women have to resolve a lot of conflicts. Once again Cameron writes about characters involved in social issues. She does it very well. For Sasha it is also a time when she learns all about those people around her, and by the end of the novel everything is very clear about the life she has. The pacing of this novel is very fast while the characters have many different dimensions that makes the work such an enjoyable read. Cameron is a writer to add to your must read list.

The Art of Michael Brooks Sketch Book
No ISBN $19.99

This book is filled with many strange and wonderful drawings by a very talented artist. The first half of the volume has sketches that are in black and white. Many are not finished. Later we see the completed work and how different from the original. We also get to see the artist's use of color and how it affects the drawing.

The Heroes of Googley Woogley
Dalton James
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432727826 $10.95

Space Boy Pete and his dad Space Man James have a series of adventures in space. What is unique about this book is that the author is only seven years of age. The book is a fun tale of the relationship of a father and son. This is the second story in a series of kids' books.

Gary Roen

Gina's Bookshelf

Robert Liparulo
Thomas Nelson
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780785261780 $22.99

"If you breathe, it will find you".

Robert Liparulo's sophomore novel "Germ" grabs your attention from Chapter One. The non-stop action begins by a statement of facts regarding Dr. Robert Guthrie, a microbiologist, and his development of the Guthrie Test, a medical test performed on newborn infants to detect an inborn error of amino acid metabolism.

Deduction is made of how such technology, in association with gene splicing and in the wrong hands, could selectively target and attack a particular DNA gene in the general population rending a person dead in a matter of days.

Details of the end result of such a virus on humans are graphically described. This is not a novel for the weak at heart. It is intense in its plot, in its characters, and almost non-stop action scenes.

That being said and for those who enjoy an action packed Thriller, this novel of DNA-specific biochemical warfare will take your breathe and not release it until you finish the last page.

Good and evil are presented with equal clarity.

FBI Agents Goodwin Donelley and Julia Matheson, the protagonist, are depicted genuinely, with a sincere, deep friendship.

Dr. Allen Parker and his brother Stephen Parker (almost Doctor turned Pastor) are unsuspecting participants but add much to the story.

Karl Litt, the antagonist, the son of a Nazi researcher, is diabolical and utterly without remorse.

With unexpected twists and turns and several complex story lines, true to the genre, this work kept me in 'suspense' wondering how all elements would merge to a conclusion. I was not disappointed as the story line ended.

This novel will surprise you as you become acquainted with characters only to learn they do not survive. Not all suspense novels can make such a claim. Unanticipated ends to major characters adds greatly to the development of those characters that remain as well as the plot.

Germ is a Christian Fiction novel. It is entertainment and does not resort to profanity or vulgarity. Great novels rarely do. It takes much more creativity to produce a work that captures the reader with the plot, the characters, and interaction alone.

I recommend this book highly and look forward to more of Robert Liparulo's work.

The Heir
Paul Robertson
Bethany House
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton Road, Ada, MI 49301
9780764203244 $28.95

"When a man knows his purpose, everyone else knows as well" - the scene setting quote from the first chapter of Paul Robertson's "The Heir".

Simply put, the plot centers around Jason Boyer, a trust-baby young man happy to exist on thirty-thousand a month until the untimely death of his father which plunges him into the political world against his will.

You are immediately taken with Jason's strange wit often sarcastic and cynical, we see a daring man emerge. His wife, his brother, and his fathers business associates notice a change in him as he embarks on setting his fathers house in order.

As he begins to make devastating business decisions primarily affecting those that chiefly benefit from his fathers corrupt business machinery, people start dying around him.

These events coupled with his own inner desire to know, prompt him to ask the question "Why am I here?". You will follow along as Jason Boyer faces events that shape his own philosophy, his moral values, his morality concerning money, power, politics, and more. The reader will find redemption and hope when the final decision is made as to what Jason does with the money.

An intriguing tale, with quick witted dialogue, fast paced events, and grand storytelling in a moral framework make this a very interesting whodunit.

Gina Hendrix, Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Murder of a Royal Pain
Denise Swanson
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
97804514226587 $6.99 800-847-5515

In the eleventh entry in the Scumble River Mystery series, Denise Swanson provides an equal measure of ghouls, ghosts, haunted houses and witches. Lest you think it is in the paranormal genre, I hasten to add that the Haunted House [primarily] at issue is part of a fund-raising event by the Promfest committee at the local high school, and the witches are three women who have 'volunteered' their time in that cause. One of the more reluctant witches is school psychologist Skye Denison, who is the faculty liaison to the committee. When the dead body of a woman in a witch costume is discovered on the first night of the A Ghoul's Night Out fundraiser, Skye fears that she may have been the intended victim, since all the witch costumes were identical. As she has been threatened by one crazed parent as well as by another woman with secrets which include an extra-marital affair, Skye takes it upon herself to try to find the murderer. Skye is a psychological consultant who has assisted the police [and her boyfriend, the police chief] in the past, so this is not too far-fetched a scheme.

Then there's the matter of the distractions presented by the newly hired female social worker at the school [a position Skye had, she had thought, been anxious to see filled] and the very sexy male reporter working for the local newspaper. As one character says to Skye, "It looks like a lot of things around here aren't what they seem." The Royal Pain of the title is a bit of a play on words, since the dead woman was Annette Paine, who had made many enemies and was apparently an equal opportunity annoyance, with few friends, of whom it is said "queen bees don't have friends, just minions . . . she treated everyone equally badly."

A welcome change from some darker recent reads, this was a good and a light read. The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger between Skye and her boyfriend, and a peek at the next book in the series, due out in April of 2010.

The 8th Confession
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017, 800-759-0190,
9780316018760 $27.99

James Patterson can outline a book like few other authors, and he turns them out, assisted by other writers, more than regularly. In fact his next is due out in time for Christmas. Yet the novels are hardly assembly-line; the styles vary according to the co-author, but the plots move forward according to his dictate. This observation is quite evident in "The 8th Confession," another in the Women's Murder Club series (although the joint effort of the women is not particularly in synch with past efforts, with each acting sort of individually, rather than collectively).

There are three sub-plots. The major story relates to a murderer of San Francisco's super-rich both in the present and in 1982. Are there two killers, or has the original come to life after all those years? Sgt. Lindsay Boxer and her partner, Richard Conklin, and the rest of the SFPD are without a clue. Meanwhile, the brutal murder of a street person known as Bagman Jesus sends Cindy Thomas, star crime reporter, ga-ga to find the killer of one whom she believes to be a saint. The third sub-story involves the love lives of Lindsay, Yuki and Cindy. 'Nuff said.

A fast-moving, interesting novel, and a fast read, the book is well-suited for a relaxing sit-down, whether at the beach or den. Smoothly written, with a light touch, the storyline, as usual, is carefully plotted out in advance.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

America's Hidden History, Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped the Nation
Kenneth C. Davis
Smithsonian Books
An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061118180 $26.95

Davis has collected a series of stories from the 1460s to 1790 that highlight religious fervor, greed, stupidity and other very human failings. In many respects, it becomes a history of war and fighting. Some of the stories are relatively unknown while some have been topics of bestselling books and famous movies. What makes this collection unique is that common thread and Davis's knack for finding a small and odd tidbit to build as a core theme in each section.

America's Hidden History has a fast and light narrative that smoothly brings out the story. It feels more like a good fiction novel than a history text. The strength in this technique is readability. The weakness is that the reader has a tendency to want more. Do not expect this to be a comprehensive tale about the vast number of little known stories, after all with close to a 350 year span of time there are a multitude of little known stories. But consider this a small selection that proves the point that history is not much different than life today. You still have stupidity, greed and religious fervor driving small events that make up a whole.

This isn't a depressing tale of human frailty but a story of making the best out of our weaknesses. America's Hidden History is recommended light reading for anyone with an interest in history or the human condition. As light reading, you may first consider testing it out in a library or used bookstore. The true historian will not want to wait.

What the Gospels Meant
Garry Wills
Published by the Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670018710 24.95

Anyone serious about reading and understanding a religious book, like the bible, needs to do more than just accept the face value of the words. The bible has been translated and translated and copied and copied and edited and edited. Many of the nuances that fit the historical setting and languages have been lost over time. Wills does a good job of examining how the meanings in the text have changed. But he falls into the category of many analyzers. He assumes a more focused theological reasoning for nearly every aspect of the text and assigns a little too much authority to some parts of the analysis that have to be guess work.

People write with the tools they are given. Religion texts are based on what religious aspects the writer knows and the cultural way they communicate. With religious analysis many factors in communication are assumed to be theological in nature. This is not always the case. The number five is important because it is the number of fingers on a hand. Twelve because it is the next logical grouping after the ten fingers; you just add two, one for each hand. Oral communication colors the written by using cadence and rhyming. People will use everyday cultural examples to explain events such as being hit with the same force as a Chicago Bears linebacker. There is a tendency when analyzing to place too much emphasis on what is seen in the story after and too little on just the skill of good writing.

Jesus spoke in parables. This is a similar technique that is still used by many Oriental religions and philosophies. There are many reasons for this. If you are part of an underclass, riddles will permit you to criticize those in power without direct offense. They are also a technique that forces students to critically think about what is said. This is a skill good teachers employ when they really want their students to expand their reasoning and logic.

Today we neglect the power oral communications has although we see it every day with popular song lyrics. Oral societies transmitted accurate information for generations. The details were in some cases modified for easier recitation but the accuracy was there. Written texts that overlap oral traditions had to honor that accuracy. You could fudge the details, create fiction or even take the text away from the culture that has the oral tradition but as long as the relatively accurate oral tradition exists you can not directly contradict it without it being seen as false. There has to be more accuracy in the gospels than many assume but there also has to be a 'people' logic for the differences. Today people are understanding the plasticity of eyewitness accounts in legal cases. We need to recognize the same thing in history.

Garry Wills, with What the Gospels Meant, does a very good job dissecting the gospels. Anyone who is serious about understanding the bible would be hard pressed to find a better single text on the topic. What the Gospels Meant is very readable and doesn't hit you with numbing details. I would recommend it as a good starting point in understanding both the Christian religion and the history surrounding it.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them)
Bart D. Ehrman
10 East Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061173936 $25.99

"The Bible is filled with discrepancies, many of them irreconcilable contradictions. Moses did not write the Pentateuch … and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write the Gospels…. The Exodus probably did not happen as described in the Old Testament…. It is hard to know whether Moses ever existed and what, exactly, the historical Jesus taught. The historical narratives of the Old Testament are filled with legendary fabrications" (pp. 5-6). "The fifth plague was a pestilence that killed 'all of the livestock of the Egyptians' (Exodus 9:5). How is it, then, that a few days later the seventh plague, of hail, was to destroy all of the Egyptian livestock in the fields (Exodus 9:21-22)? What livestock?"

Those passages make clear that, as brainwashed by the god delusion as Bart Ehrman once was, his study of the original language documents cured him (as I was similarly cured). So why does he then write, "that scholars who question such passages are not questioning God himself. They are questioning what the Bible has to say about God" (p. 11)? He is obviously aware that all claims of a god revealing its existence have been traced to the precise documents that he shows to be imaginative fantasy. So why does he recoil from saying so? Does political correctness demand that, while demonstrating that persons who see such documents as nonfiction cannot be sparking on all neurons, he should pretend that rationalizing that "A" and "not A" can simultaneously be true does not require mental dysfunction? Is he protecting his bread and butter (he is still a professor of religion) by writing a book that believers can view as falsifying interpretations of religion rather than falsifying religion itself? Or does he believe that "making haste slowly," pointing out biblical inconsistencies without dwelling on them, is the most effective way to cure the unintentionally ignorant? It is not my way, but since Ehrman is reaching a much larger audience, it is hard to argue with success.

There are elements of Ehrman's thinking that puzzle me. He correctly dates the gospel called Mark to "the time of the war with Rome, 70 CE" (p. 145). Yet he reports (p. 23) that, "Scholars have long thought that it was produced … around 65 or 70 CE," without anywhere drawing attention to the absurdity of such a dating. Since he is aware that Mark puts into Jesus' mouth a prophecy of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, an event that occurred in August of 70 CE, and is aware that information cannot travel backward in time, he must also be aware that the gospel could only have been written after the event it described. So why does he nowhere point out that only theologians think an event (the prophecy) could have preceded its cause (the event prophesied), and that anyone so lacking a functioning human brain as to think otherwise is assuredly not a scholar?

Ehrman expresses puzzlement that Matthew and Luke included both genealogies (mutually incompatible) that trace Jesus' ancestry from his father Joseph to King David, and virgin-birth fables that take the position that Joseph was not Jesus' father. Does it not strike him as self-evident that the virgin-birth fables were late interpolations that were not originally part of either gospel? Or does he think that neither gospel author noticed that he contradicted himself in adjacent paragraphs? The gospel authors were basically fiction writers, credulous, imaginative, and misinformed. But they were not stupid, as anyone who thinks they authored both the genealogies and the virgin-birth passages must believe them to have been.

Ehrman's statement (p. 71) that, "Luke and Mark begin with Jesus being born in Bethlehem to a virgin," is clearly a typo. Since spell-check software cannot detect a wrong name, and proofreaders do not have the author's ability to recognize when a wrong name has been used, such mistakes happen. It is really not a big deal.

Some of the issues on which Ehrman's conclusions differ from my own can be considered legitimate differences of opinion. For example, as convincing as I deem my arguments for dating John to 130-138 CE, Ehrman's dating it a generation earlier cannot be dismissed as indefensible nonsense. In contrast, his belief that the virgin-birth fables were original parts of the gospels into which they were interpolated does strike me as indefensible. Also, he shows no awareness that, far from being Jesus' hometown, a village named Nazareth did not exist until long after Jesus' death. And his belief that John of Patmos wrote the whole of Revelation, rather than only the first three and last three chapters, combined with his recognition that the Beloved Disciple was merely a quoted source and not the gospel author himself, makes his naming the Beloved Disciple "John," rather than Nathanael as I maintain, inexplicable.

While the absence of a bibliography supports a growing suspicion that Ehrman doesn't give a flying fig for any scholars' conclusions except his own, my strongest criticism is for his omission of information surely as important as the points he does make. He cites John's version of the raising of Lazarus, but ignores the Luke parable in which Lazarus is not raised, even though John clearly borrowed Luke's fable and rewrote it as a miracle. And while he shows that Matthew has Jesus born during the lifetime of King Herod, whereas Luke depicts him as still in utero ten years after Herod's death (pp. 30-31), it apparently did not occur to him to point out that, for both gospels to be nonfiction, Jesus must have been born ten years before he was conceived.

Generally, however, Ehrman succeeds in proving even to curable believers that their bible contains incompatibilities that can only be explained as emanating from the imaginations of authors with incompatible beliefs. For example, whereas the fourth gospel shows Jesus equating himself with the Jewish god Yahweh, no other Christian Testament author portrayed Jesus as anything more than the Jews' anointed king. Echoing a point I made in Mythology's Last Gods in 1992, Ehrman writes (p. 141) "If Jesus claimed he was divine, it seemed very strange indeed that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all failed to say anything about it. Did they just forget to mention that part?" My comment was, "Those biographers would have had strange priorities indeed to have dismissed as not worth recording a claim by their messiah to be the incarnation of Yahweh."

If any of Ehrman's reader cannot grasp that, when one bible author says "A" and another says "not A," they cannot both be reporting inerrant revelations from a god, that is not his fault. He gives them the facts, and that is all he can do. While evidence can provide a believer with the means to cure himself, he still has to take that final step unassisted, and neither Bart Ehrman nor Richard Dawkins can change that.

As for the self-confessed apologists (euphemism for brain amputees), whom Ehrman injudiciously dignified by debating one of them who denounced him for proving that Christianity is a product of the human imagination, much the way medieval popes denounced Galileo for proving that the earth is not the center of the universe, anyone who doubts that they are dangerously insane need only read their own books.

Psychiatry: The Science of Lies
Thomas Szasz
Syracuse University Press
621 Skytop Road, New York, NY 13244-5160
9780815609100 $19.95

Imagine George W. Bush being tried for murdering the 4000-plus American servicemen who would be alive today but for Bush's Big Lie that America had a more legitimate reason for invading Iraq than winning Bush a place in history as a conquering hero comparable with George Washington.

Imagine Joseph Ratzinazi being tried for murdering the forty million humans whose deaths can be attributed to his Big Lie that using condoms for overpopulation control and disease control is banned by his imaginary Sky Fuhrer.

Or imagine Charles Manson being tried for ordering the murder of a handful of human beings simply because he damned well felt like it.

Now imagine the defence calling as an expert witness an astrologer who testified that any or all of the foregoing was not guilty by reason of being star-beamed, since on the nights that the atrocities were authorized, the planet Beetlejuice was in superior conjunction with the astrological warlord Ares, and therefore as subjects of Beetlejuice the accused were not responsible for the homicides that their star-beamed condition compelled them to perpetrate. Imagine further that the prosecution then called its own expert astrologer who testified that the accused was not star-beamed.

Ignore the absurdity of the claim that an individual was not responsible for his actions because he was afflicted with the ability to commit those actions. Ask instead how long would it take any judge in his right mind to recognize that, if there had never been a case in all legal history in which astrologers were called as expert witnesses, in which the defence's astrologer and the prosecution's astrologer did not flatly contradict each other on absolutely everything, then not only were those specific astrologers incompetent fantasizers, but astrology itself was incompetent fantasy.

Now substitute psychiatrists for astrologers, and you have the situation that Thomas Szasz has been trying to tell the world for half a century. And still the self-evident validity of his conclusion that psychiatry is pseudomedical humbuggery has not penetrated the brainwashed skulls of True Believers. To this day, everyone who watches television is assailed on a daily basis by commercial propaganda that touts the reality of "mental illnesses" that exist only in the eye of the beholder, and implies that such thought patterns as pessimism ("depression") can be "cured" by priests of the religion of psychiatry. As Szasz writes in Psychiatry: The Science of Lies (p. 109), "Being an expert in mental illness is like being an expert about ghosts and unicorns." H. L. Mencken's description of theology is equally applicable to psychiatry: A blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there - and finding it.

Szasz contrasts medical illnesses with alleged mental illnesses (p. 1): "Today, medical healing is regarded as a form of applied science, the very opposite of faith healing, which is dismissed as hocus pocus. Mutatis mutandis, the medical profession defines imaginary illnesses as real illnesses, in effect abolishing the notion of pretended illness. Malingering has become a disease 'just as real' as melanoma." On the role of psychiatry in the courts, he writes (p. 2), "The legal system recognizes the elementary distinction between innocence and guilt. The psychiatric system does not: it proudly rejects the concept of personal responsibility…. those differences, together with the notion of mental illness, are the two great lies and injustices that undergird the psychiatric enterprise."

Szasz points out (p. 7) that, in "diagnosing" alcoholism and road rage as diseases, "we speak of the medicalization of homelessness and racism but do not speak of the medicalization of malaria or melanoma." He describes (p. 79) an attempt by David Rosenhan to investigate whether psychiatrists could distinguish the sane from the insane, even though, "He knew that the terms sane and insane are value judgments, like beautiful and ugly, not biological states, like alive and dead." Szasz's conclusion is that, "mental illness stands in the same relation to bodily illness as a fake Renoir stands to a real Renoir."

Not for the first time (The Therapeutic State, pp. 32-33), Szasz describes (p. 83) a hoax that could not have worked in any discipline that was not itself a hoax. A postal worker who, posing as a psychiatrist, lectured a world congress of psychiatrists in 2007, wrote in his published account of the incident (Playing Doctor: Confessions of a Confidence Man), "I introduced disease terms which do not even exist, e.g. the bipolar depression of the third degree, in front of 120 psychiatrists and not a single one dared to ask a question…. As far as Psychiatry is concerned it can be said that if you're able to perform linguistic acrobatics you can make a career for yourself. That is what Psychiatry is based on."

Is there any possibility whatsoever that a pretender posing as an oncologist before a seminar of physicians and surgeons could have fooled his entire audience by lecturing that, "The hyper-ionization of cholesterol in the hypothalamic endocrine canal appears to be an endopathic catalyst for iatrogenic transmuted hypodermic melanoma"? Genuine doctors would recognize such doubletalk for what it is. Psychiatrists in contrast failed to see through what they thought was a fellow psychiatrist's gibberish because it was neither more nor less contentless than their own gibberish.

In drawing attention to the parallel between psychiatry and religion, Szasz quotes (p. 114) Lord Acton's letter to a Catholic bishop after Pius IX pronounced himself infallible: "I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men…. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." He points out that, "Most people who quote Lord Acton's 'dictum' are unaware that it refers to papal power and was made by a Catholic." He goes on to suggest that, "It takes no ill will toward the Church of Psychiatry to see the striking parallels between Acton's critique of Vatican-sponsored mendacity and my critique of APA-sponsored mendacity." Perhaps it does not. Nonetheless I do feel the same animosity toward priests of the Church of Psychiatry who impose their mind-AIDS on the ignoranti for the purpose of concealing their status as no-talent parasites that I feel toward priests of Mother Goose or her male equivalent, God, as well as priests of UFOlogy, astrology, the paranormal, and all other superstitions that the Vast Wasteland treats as if they were something other than a pack of lies from start to finish.

Let me point out, however, that neither I nor Szasz endorse Scientology's rejection of a medical doctor's ability to diagnose a neurological disorder and prescribe appropriate medication, simply because he (also) happens to be a psychiatrist.

Szasz provides far more information about the fantasizers and humbugs, from Mesmer and Freud to the present, who invented and developed the credo that sympathetic listening is not therapeutic when a bartender does it, but is a legitimate branch of medicine when a self-styled psychotherapist does it, than I ever wanted to know. That does not mean that such information is not useful. My book, Mythology's Last Gods, contains far more information about the origin and evolution of religion than readers seeking only proof that religion is a product of the human imagination feel a need to know. But to anyone wondering how such an unmitigated fraud as psychiatry could have come into existence, Szasz provides the answer. Indeed the absence of such details may have contributed to the fact that psychoquackery continues to exist. That inadequacy has now been corrected.

Ever since taking my first psychology course as an education student, I have recognized the truth of Szasz's conclusion (p. 82) that, "Psychiatrists are physicians who impersonate physicians: they possess legitimate medical credentials but neither know real medicine nor practice as real medical doctors." (Szasz's emphasis) I have long recognized that the only good mind-sucking parasite is a dead one. That is true whether the parasite is a lying missionary (tautology), a lying "psychic" (tautology), or a lying psychiatrist (tautology).

William Harwood

Hassler's Bookshelf

Trouble Talk
Trudy Ludwig, Author, Mikela Prevost, Illustrator
Tricycle Press
an imprint of Ten Speed Press
PO Box 7123, Berkeley, California 94707
9781582462400 $15.95

Did you know about… I heard she did… You look a mess today… Don't say anything but she told me this… are all examples of relational aggression. These types of manipulative verbal statements are hurtful to those they target and the bystanders who witness them being said. How to handle difficult situations like these often leaves kids confused and afraid of peer interaction.

Trouble Talk helps adults rescue children by directly addressing destructive people and their behaviors. With a focus on understanding, forgiveness and acceptance that people can change, Trouble Talk, encourages healthy reactions to unhealthy situations.

Most children are bound to be exposed to social relationships that include gossiping, lying, spreading rumors and sharing others' information. In Trouble Talk, Author Trudy Ludwig, offers a non-confrontational solution to bravely stand up to emotionally trying individuals and the difficult situations they create. Illustrator, Mikela Prevost, captures Ludwig's story with realistic and wildly expressive characters who share their feelings of embarrassment and pain associated with "talkers". Through constructive advice by a teacher, readers will learn how to set boundaries and overcome their challenge with dealing with trouble talk from peers.

Trouble Talk is a perfect addition to classrooms, libraries and personal bookshelves because problematic behaviors like relational aggression and verbal manipulation make social interaction painful for everyone. This wonderful book encourages healthy talk through its Author Notes in the back of the book. Questions for Discussion, also included, will help parents and educators empower youngsters without subjecting them to retaliation. The Additional Resources, list positive social groups and organizations that serve as a guide on how to get support and further develop anti-bullying and character education lessons.

A Pirates Quest for His Family Heirloom Peg Leg
Laura Sams and Robert Sams, Authors
Heiner Hertling, Illustrator
Carl R. Sams II Photography, Inc
361 Whispering Pines, Milford, MI 48380
9780977010875 $19.95

From the Publishers of the award winning, In the Woods Series, Carl R. Sams II Photography, Inc, offers an enchanting new title to audiences of all ages in a Pirates Quest for his family heirloom peg leg. Fresh quirky humor and breathtaking scenes of nature tell the tale of a pirate who lost his peg leg. Passed down from generation to generation this lone pirate sets off on a grand quest to recover his family's greatest heirloom.

Young readers will imagine this pirate to say, Yarrr, harrr harrr 'ye mates! Grab 'yer telescope and follow me out to the open seas to help me find me family heirloom peg leg! Authors and Filmmakers, Laura Sams and Robert Sams, capture their audience with entertaining text and a story that will keep readers turning the pages. Children of all ages will enjoy drifting off in the moving water through streams, lakes, rivers and the ocean as they help with the pirate's search. Illustrator, Heiner Hertling, keeps readers engaged with his magnificent oil paintings of nature, its scenery and the animals that inhabit it.

An educational lesson appears on the last page with a beautiful double page spread that shows each animal, their name and what ecosystem they live in. Readers are encouraged to go back and find the animals that the pirate passed along the moving waters. Children will enjoy learning about different kinds of wildlife and where they live. Also included is a complementary download of the song that inspired this story. This entertaining picture book is an adventure filled with excitement where every page boasts stunning depictions of the natural world. Readers will be thrilled to see all the wonderful animals and the various ecosystems represented in this story and will have so much fun they won't even realize they're learning about animals!

No Perfect People, Please!
Diane Asitimbay, Author, Jim Whiting, Illustrator
Culturelink Press
PO Box 3538, San Diego, CA 92163
9780975927625 $16.95

No Perfect People, Please! is a wonderful collection of descriptive poetry that depicts children and their ever so different and sometimes silly personalities. Author, Poet and Humorist, Diane Asitimbay, shares her comical wit with her poetry and Illustrator, Jim Whiting, adds to the fun with his lighthearted pen and ink drawings.

Young readers will get the giggles as they read poems that gently poke fun at odd behaviors. Educators will appreciate No Perfect People, Please! and how these 26 humorous poems can open the door to character education in the classroom. Parents will also enjoy sharing this book with their kids so they can chat about not-so-perfect personality traits in the light of funny poetry.

Included in each book is a complementary CD with eleven of the poems read aloud by the author, Diane Asitimbay. No Perfect People, Please! will be a valuable book to have on any bookshelf and even more fun in the hands of an audience. Character education is easy to talk about when you have such a wonderful tool like this. If we could wish to offer kids a way to talk about their odd behaviors openly, honestly and without sadness or guilt, our wish comes true with No Perfect People, Please!

Beauty's Secret A Girl's Discovery of Inner Beauty
Debra Gano, Author
Dawn Pitre, Illustrator
Heartlight Girls
PO Box 370546, Denver, CO 80237
9780978768904 $17.95

Beauty's Secret A Girl's Discovery of Inner Beauty is the first in an inspirational new series - Heartlight GirlsTM. This introductory title is the inspiring story of a young girl's journey to find her inner-self. Difficult and confusing as the world can be girls of all ages and their female mentors will embrace this motivational storybook. International Model, Actress and Author, Debra Gano, shares a heartfelt message with readers in her Author's Note as she describes her own journey to self-discovery and introduces her passionate mission to empower girls. Gano writes from her own Heartlight with lovely flowing text that will captivate her audience. Illustrator, Dawn Pitre, compliments this story with striking artwork that connects readers to forgotten parts of themselves.

Beauty's Secret is a contemporary account of a young girl who readers will meet at birth, follow through to her early years and find themselves understanding her in her teens. Each of Beauty's life journeys to adulthood are challenged with familiar childhood issues, and each one she overcomes with grace. Beauty's Secret is a book of profound significance with its valuable message of how to lead our children to find their center, inner peace and true-selves.

Heartlight GirlsTM has set out on a mission to empower girls and guide them on their journey to self-awareness and encourages them to develop self-esteem and Beauty's Secret accomplishes that mission in whole. The lessons found within this mystical and spiritual book will be keepsakes of every girl's heart as she struggles with independence and maturity. Beauty's Secret is an ideal and lasting gift to girls of all ages from infants to seniors as it carries a message that will raise a child to a girl and a girl to a woman.

Beauty's Secret A Girl's Discovery of Inner Beauty has a place on every bookshelf and belongs in the hands of every child. We can all be a part of developing self-worth in ourselves and others through the reading and use of this indispensable book.

Sara Hassler

Henry's Bookshelf

Framing Famous Mountains - Grand Tour and Mingshan Paintings in Sixteenth-century China
Li-tsui Flora Fu
Chinese University Press
Hong Kong
9789629963293 $49.99

Starting in the 16th-century, well-to-do Chinese engaged in what Li-tsui compares to the Grand Tour engaged in by Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries. The comparison is meant primarily for orientation, however, for Western readers to the author's skilled management of the complexities of her subject which is at the heart of the history and subject matter of Chinese painting. Only a cursory exposure to Chinese painting, and one cannot help but see the central place of mountains in it.

The ubiquitous mountains in Chinese painting are not simply to satisfy an appreciation for the world of nature. The countless paintings with mountains are not simply "nature paintings." As Li-tsui skillfully shows, "Over the centuries [beginning in the 16th] 'famous mountains' were perceived as the abode of gods, a set of spatial symbols contested between different systems of sacred geography." In different periods and as portrayed by different artists, the mountains variously symbolized a realm of the sacred where individuals could retreat for communion with the divine and transformation; temporary retreat as if to a remote, peaceful monastery; physical settings associated with and inspiring the spirituality of Buddhism, Confucianism, and other Asian beliefs; the centrality and majesty of the state as a site for state sacrifices; and popular destinations for pilgrims.

Li-tsui uses three notable 16th-century painters of mountains: Ye Cheng (first decades of the 16th century), Xie Shichen (1487-1561), and Song Xu (1525-1606). Her historical and artistic study exceeds the particular treatment of these however by having the dimensions of a cultural study. The author is interested in the mountain paintings not only because of their prevalence in Chinese painting, but also for how they reflect changes--sometimes subtle changes which are more like colorations--in Chinese culture.

Readers of the art/cultural study come away with not only an understanding of the reasons for mountains as a predominant, abiding subject for much of the history of Chinese painting, but also an eye for the varying, often subtle tonalities, perspectives, compositions, proportions, and styles in portraying mountains and the meanings of these. This is a work of keen and knowledgeable art analysis which is fundamental with respect to its topic (or interplay of topics) and which also coincides with the growing place of Chinese antiquities, including art, along with modern and contemporary Chinese art in the worlds of museums, auctions, scholarship, and the art trade. Li-tsui is an associate professor of humanities at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Twenty-five color plates and 70 black-and-white illustrations give good visual references for the varied types of mountain painting and details of them in her art criticism.

Confederate States Paper Money - Civil War Currency from the South, 11th Edition
edited by George S. Cuhaj
Krause Publications
Iola, WI
9780896897069 $27.99 800-258-0929

Confederate currency comes in two general categories--currency of the Confederacy (comparable to currency of the Federal government) and currency of individual Southern states. With a broad and deep background in paper money (as well as numismatics), Cuhaj covers both of these comprehensively and in detail. Collectors in this field from beginners to advanced can use the well-organized information in clearly-titled chapter headings to suit their particular levels and interests. Over half of the more than 350 photos of bills (front sides) are in their natural color with their details clear (for further study with a microscope if desired). As important to collectors, especially beginners, to know about are counterfeits and copies. Cuhaj goes into these under "bogus notes" and copies. At the other end of the price and desirability spectrum are notes with errors, also covered by Cuhaj. (As with stamps, currency with errors often has the highest prices.)

First chapters review the Civil War with attention to aspects of Southern society, commerce, and military as an introduction to the images and symbols found on any of the paper notes. The two general categories--Confederacy and individual Southern states--have separate catalogs with prices for different grades from good to extra fine and then uncut and notes on visual elements of each bill and historical background.

This is the latest edition of this recognized authoritative reference which has become a staple in the field for containing all one needs for a confident entry through specialized collecting.

Beyond Isadora - Bay Area Dancing, 1915-1965
Joanna Gewertz Harris
Regent Press
Berkeley, CA
9781587901614 $40.00

Isadora Duncan (b. 1877) left Oakland, CA, in 1897. Gaining fame elsewhere, she did not leave her stamp on 20th-century dance in the Bay Area. The author Harris lays out the creative, diversified matrix which the world-famous Duncan arose from. The San Francisco Bay area was not only a center for dance training and performance for local talent, but attracted top dancers on their tours. Anna Pavlova, Martha Graham, Ted Shawn, and Merce Cunningham were among the world-renowned dancers who performed in the area.

Harris--who has choreographed as well as danced, formed her own dance company, and taught at the college level--brings all these in and more in a chronological treatment of dance and dancers in the Bay area. The attention the area got in the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition offered a showcase for regional dancers. In Harris's chronology, it marks a level of creativity and performance which successive generations kept up while reflecting social changes and changing styles of dance. The innovative, libertine atmosphere of San Francisco in the counterculture 1960s led to exploration of new avenues. And in following decades, Bay area dance embraced ethnic and folk dance. Spanish, Indian, and Afro-Haitian dance were taught and performed along with classical ballet and modernism dance.

Many period photographs and posters enhance the popular history of this relatively specialized, regional topic.

White Face, Black Mask - Africaneity and the Early Social History of Popular Music in Brazil
Darien J. Davis
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9780870138348 $29.95

Author of a previous book on African influences in Brazilian culture, Middlebury College professor of history Davis elaborates how today's Brazilian popular music came to "demonstrate the difficulty of determining where blackness ends and whiteness begins" from its origins in the early part of the 20th century where white musicians "incorporated black rhythms, idioms, symbols, and styles into their musical performances." Even so, blacks were in ways purposely, subtly, and habitually denied opportunities to perform for themselves the music being appropriated and developed by the white musicians.

Africans had been a part of Brazilian culture from the earliest days of Portuguese colonialism in the 1500s. It was only in 1888 when slavery was abolished, however, that blacks began in diverse ways to move into the mainstream of Brazilian culture. This movement was strengthened and to some extent encouraged and sanctioned in what is known as the "Vargas era" for the Brazilian president Getulio Vargas who was in power for most of the period between 1930 and 1954. The growth of radio as a popular medium and the emergence of a national cinema were related cultural developments influencing the development of Brazilian popular music during this period.

The progress of black music in Brazilian popular music is not essentially a South American version of such progress in American society. For although slaves, blacks with African roots from the beginning had a different place, a different status in Brazil; and when slavery was abolished, there was never the virulent racism, rigorous segregation, and Jim-Crow laws which were daunting hurdles to American blacks; and which led them to establish their own forms of society for survival and expression. Whereas in America, for instance, blues and jazz patently grew out of such black society and took a course of being embraced by and sometimes claimed by the majority white culture, in Brazil "it is difficult to treat 'Afro-Brazilian popular music' and 'Brazilian popular music' as two distinct categories" at any point. For despite slavery and its late abolition, Brazil was a "syncretic culture" with cultural fusion in ways America never was. Davis's book opening up a historical and social process unfamiliar to most readers is of particular interest with the current emergence of Brazil as a hemispheric power and also within the field of globalism and multiculturalism.

Illumination - The Paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin, and Florence Miller Pierce
Karen Moss, With essays by Timothy Robert Rodgers, Sharyn R. Udall, and Michael Zakian. Merrell Publishers/Orange County Museum of Art
9781858944814 $55.00

With the dominance of O'Keeffe, the other three Southwestern women artists cannot help but be seen in relation to her. The reader does this automatically. And the authors do too, although this is kept to a minimum. In terms of the artistic topic of illumination in the paintings from sensitivity to the interplay of land and light in the Southwest, the three artists have an almost equal status as O'Keeffe.

The essays with illustrations explore how "each artist manifested her personal sense of place and spirituality--both formally and conceptually--through illumination, using light to convey the mystical, ineffable, and sublime qualities of nature." The art of each is distinctive in its own way as each took a different approach to portraying the light of nature. Pierce's works are the most mystical with their biomorphic shapes and blending of colors. They evidence an Oriental influence and also suggest sculpture as many have geometrical or irregular shapes instead of the rectangular shape of most paintings. Martin's works including works on paper are like paled abstract or conceptual works for the way they catch subtleties of light within a particular narrow band of color, like a spectrum of ordinarily unseen light. The most idiosyncratic with brightness, whimsy, and symbols which can be private or common is Pelton's; with echoes of the work of Frida Kahlo. O'Keeffe's paintings with a graphic boldness and sensual lushness are familiar to all.

Following the four illustrated essays interrelating and differentiating each artist are sections of full-page color illustrations/art plates on each. There are about 12 illustrations for each one. The biological chronologies are not the simple, spare chronologies of dates and facts found in many books, but a section calling for attention almost on a par with the essays and illustrations. The life and career of each artist with photographs of her at different times and representative works in color spreads over six pages. The chronology of O'Keeffe (d. 1986) runs horizontally parallel to Pelton's (d.1961). Similarly, Martin (d. 2004) and Pierce (d. 2007) are paired.

Illumination in the visual arts, American women artists, and Southwestern art are all art topics of contemporary interest advanced in this comparative study.

Gourmet Getaways - 50 Top Spots to Cook and Learn
Joe David
Globe Pequot Press
Guilford, CT
9780762746842 $16.95

David gives just about any information anyone would want to know about the 50 top cooking schools across the U.S. Nonetheless, he notes in the Introduction that this should not be taken as the "final word" since personnel can change and the classes at most schools change too to reflect new trends and interests. So before signing up for classes or traveling to go to a cooking school, one should call to get the latest information on these matters which can change. Nonetheless, the cautionary, commonsense note does not compromise the basic, reliable information making up nearly all the content. Most cooking schools are based on an individual cook who was their founder or connected to an acclaimed restaurant--factors which do not change and are the main reason for interest in a particular school. There's also the basic information about location. Many readers wishing to upgrade their cooking skills and knowledge will be glad to learn about superior cooking schools not far away; or perhaps ones in places where they always wanted to take a vacation. Costs, length of classes, choices of classes at a school, format (demonstration or hands-on), class size, and contact are basics one would want to plan attending one of the schools.

Beyond such practical considerations, the background of the head of the school or in some cases its group of instructors and synopsis of the school's philosophy help readers select a school matching their ideas or aims in cooking. Diane Carlson, owner of the Conscious Gourmet school in Greenwich, CT, was motivated to become a chef by health problems of hers including blood pressure and mood swings. At the Woodlands Resort and Inn in South Carolina, there are demonstrations of specialized aspects of cooking such as "how to use artisanal salts and exotic peppercorns from around the world to enlarge flavor."

Cooks need not even be planning attending a school to enjoy and gain from the book. The material on the background of the school founder or staff (including references to top restaurants) and the food and cooking philosophy--i. e., approach to foods, preparation, and cooking--are informative and often instructive. Also the majority of listings have a representative recipe from the school, in some cases two, making a total of 53 widely varied recipes. Joe David has written many articles on cuisine for periodicals from newspapers to in-flight magazines.

Deutsche Soldaten - Uniforms, Equipment & Personal Items of the German Soldier 1939-45 Augustin Saiz
Drexel Hill, PA 19026
9781932033960 $55.00

The personal items were ones issued by the Germany Army to its soldiers for their personal use, not articles brought by troops from home for example. Forks and spoons, soap, razors, cameras, eyeglasses, pens, and sewing kits were among the domestic sorts of items. But rifles, pistols, gas masks, uniforms (including such accouterments as gloves and socks), helmets, maps, and binoculars were military items considered as personal because they were meant for individual soldiers (as opposed to trucks or tanks for instance). The work brings all of such individual items together.

Saiz's book which is both a historical record and collecting guidebook for these World War II personal items is nothing short of encyclopedic. Nearly all of the items are from his personal collection gathered over 40 years. Historians, researchers, collectors, etc., will find the innumerable color photographs helpful and often decisive in identifying such varied articles as German Army equipment or memorabilia in the first place. With so many of the items imitating or resembling normal domestic or consumer articles, identification of many of them as military items can be tricky. Saiz's expert notes are helpful as well; and often handy or decisive especially in dating certain items. For example, one canteen is "a late model [for] mountain troops and medical personnel [whose] differences from the previous model [pictured in an adjacent photograph] are notable...Production ceased in 1944." Similarly, ammunition clips are dated 1943 and 1944, and so on. The photographs of documents are particularly helpful in identification of these given their German wording. Saiz does not go so far as to translate, but one is at least able to recognize what kind a document one would have.

Going through the pages of articles categorized by type--belts and buckles, decorations, food, and tobacco are others--the militaria collector or historian will be able to visualize the German soldier making use of the diverse articles. One gets a more refined idea of camp life as well as combat.

Tamalpais Walking - Poetry, History, and Print
Tom Killion and Gary Snyder
Heyday Books
Berkeley, CA
9781597140973 $50.00

The woodcut and letterpress artist Killion has a Japanese touch to his artwork. The modest graphic style and the coloring remind one of Japanese woodcuts, as does the nature subject matter. Killion's prints though concern Mount Tamalpais north of San Francisco. It's a nature area popular with hikers and campers and also arousing spiritual feelings. Gary Snyder's poetry goes along with Killion's prints concerning the Mount Tamalpais notable throughout the region for physical and spiritual reasons. Snyder's poems with haiku-like lines mirror physical aspects of nature and spirituality in connection to nature. Beyond his poetry, Snyder embraced an Asian, Zen-like spirituality and lived close to nature. He spent much time hiking about Tamalpais, and he spent time in Japan to experience Asian spirituality directly.

Besides the art work, Killian writes fetching essays for the book. Snyder contributes journal-like parts going back to the 1950s and '60s. But the two are not the only ones found. Quotes from the writings of Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Kerouac, Ina Coolbright and anecdotes on such authors representing the fusion of Asian spirituality and American openness of spirit and attraction to nature are interwoven into the text.

There are 14 full-page color woodcuts of Killion's including the frontispiece. Others are of varying sizes in full-color or shades of dark colors. Coming upon the woodcuts of all sizes throughout the pages, one is drawn to them again and again perusing their details of coastline, clouds, craggy earth, and slopes. One wants to notice Killion's technical skill and spots of originality in this art, and also enjoy again and again the aesthetic and spiritual freshets afforded by them. At the end are three pages of color woodcuts four to a page.

The book is a rare book published these days, or ever. Not falling neatly into a marketing or shelving category of the book trade, it is a risky publishing venture even considering the reputations of the artist and poet. Despite this, no effort or expense has been spared in design or production. Though it has aspects of each, Tamalpais Walking cannot be reduced to a nature book, an art book, or a book of spirituality. These aspects are joined ideally; and to some point brought together subliminally, although the book is founded in the particular place of Mount Tamalpais. Primarily it's a book of spiritual and artistic enjoyment.

A Backward Glance - The Southern Renascence, the Autobiographical Epic, and the Classical Legacy
Joseph R. Millichap
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN
9781572336599 $39.95

As in other fields of American letters, the Renascence in Southern writing was effected largely in terms of biographical writings. These were sometimes straightforward biographical writings such as essays or autobiographies. Usually though the writings were novels of thinly-disguised autobiography, most notably Thomas Wolfe's novels. And biography which was the medium for the Southern Renascence often took the dimension of regional literature, notably with William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. Robert Penn Warren, Ralph Ellison, Allen Tate, and Caroline Gordon are other authors studied for their parts in the Renascence. While all have the stature of significant or major American authors, they are also known as Southern authors of a certain era. This was the era between the South in the few decades coming right after the Civil War and the modern-day South emerging in the years after World War II. The "backward glance" of the Southern Renascence was not essentially a nostalgic urge, but the way in which this generation of exceptionally talented Southern writers were trying to comprehend and come to terms with the historical and cultural currents at work throughout the South.

Millichap, an emeritus professor of English, starts off the literary critique with the thematic chapter "The Autobiographical Epic" exemplifying the mix of biography with classical form Wolfe, Faulkner, and the others struck upon and developed in their literary enterprise. No matter what forms favored by particular writers--e. g., poetry for Tate, short story for Welty--they all reflected autobiographical epic in varying degrees.

Millichap explains his unconventional use of the term "Renascence" instead of the familiar "Renaissance" for such an artistic enterprise of reinvigorating classical forms and ideas in a contemporary period by referring to Allen Tate's preference. Tate used this term in his 1945 essay The New Provincialism which gave Millichap a focus and theme for this book. "[T]he Latin etymology...probably appealed to Tate, perhaps the most Classical among his contemporaries, more than its evolution by way of French to its more customary spelling...." Besides, the two spellings have been used "somewhat interchangeably" among scholars.

Each of the major Southern authors is then taken up individually as to how he or she fed into the literary movement of the Renascence. As with any historical or literary concept or movement, the Southern Renascence was sprawling and loosely defined. It is not simply hypothetical or imaginary though. Before ending, Millichap points to examples in popular culture of the genuineness and continuation of the sources of the Renascence in Southern culture. These are undeniable in the idiosyncratic movies Big Fish and O Brother, Where Art Thou.

Ho! For Wonderland - Travelers' Accounts of Yellowstone, 1872-1914
Edited and Annotated by Lee H. Whittlesey and Elizabeth A. Watry, Foreword by Paul Schullery
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826346162 $29.95

Writings on Yellowstone Park are automatically nature writing. But the articles in this collection are not limited to this. From the first era of Yellowstone founded in 1872 (less than 10 years after the end of the Civil War), the articles also give historical views of Yellowstone and the society of the period and its outdoor, recreation activities. From its start, Yellowstone was a tourist draw. The title with its antiquated "Ho!" is taken from a term often used in broadsides and other ads of the time (a few of these shown in illustrations). Yet because transportation in the early part of this era was limited to trains and horse carts, the number of visitors was limited. Although it did have facilities including lodges, the Park was not nearly so developed as it became in decades following 1914 when automobiles started becoming the major means of transportation. Some of the writings describe features which are now gone and experiences that are no longer possible. And most of the writings describe features and experiences which have inevitably changed given the changes Yellowstone has undergone since its first decades.

The writings are collected from journals, letters, newspaper accounts, and other scattered writings of the period by a Park historian and guide, Whittlesey, working with the younger Watry who has written the book Women in Wonderland. The writings were selected to present such a picture of various sides of the Park as well as for their readability. Though some of the writers such as newsmen were professionals writing on assignment, most of the writers and even most of the newsmen were not literary people or highly polished writers. Though not crude or casual, the selections with their mostly plain styles and simpler communications and memories convey more directly the sights and experiences of Yellowstone than self-conscious nature writings; such as the writings of John Burrow's by contrast.

Through such varied plain though observant and literate writings of its first visitors, readers thus experience the delights, the curiosities, the newness of Yellowstone Park. The natural wonders such as the geysers, peaks, and forests are appreciatively described as well as the pleasures of hiking, fishing, and other activities. A couple of amusing anecdotes are persons washing their clothes in the hot springs and fisherman boiling their catches in them. Some of such anecdotes are found in the chapter notes making going through them as informative and fun as the text.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

The Christmas Rose
Sepp Bauer, author
Else Wenz-Vietor, illustrator
Charlesbridge Publishing
85 Main St., Watertown, MA 02472
9781580892322, $12.95

So much was lost in Europe during World War II -- architecture, works of art, historical documents and literature that burned in firestorms.

Such appeared to be the fate of a beautifully illustrated children's Christmas tale published in Germany in the 1920s. Even the author's daughter did not have a copy of "The Christmas Rose" and the original illustrations were believed destroyed during the war. But in 2006 a determined German editor tracked down a copy in a rare bookstore. In 2008 a restored edition of the book was released in the U.S. to delight children of a new generation.

The humble tale follows two children as they seek the Winter King, who alone has the power to make bloom a white rose whose scent will cure their gravely ill father.

The story has religious roots with the inclusion of Saint Nikolaus and the Christ Child (not the baby Jesus but a young child traditionally depicted in Christmas pageants as the bearer of gifts to Jesus).

But most poignant is the message of helping each other.. The children must travel a long way over frigid terrain to reach the Winter King. They are carried on their journey by a succession of creatures including a reindeer, a wild goose, a polar bear and a giant, who one-by-one take compassion on the children as they're told the reason for the dangerous expedition.

The original story was in fact an Advent calendar with a portion of the tale told daily beginning on Saint Nikolaus Day Dec. 6, ending on Christmas Eve Dec. 24. As these are a reprint of the original illustrations the daily numbering on each page remains intact.

"The Christmas Rose" is longer than a typical picture book but the story is so good that even very young children may sit to listen. Older children will instantly treasure it. A jewel of a tale, a Christmas Eve read-aloud tradition in the making, saved from the ashes by a diligent editor and lover of lore.

My Goldfish
Barroux, author and illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
2140 Oak Industrial Dr., NE, Grand Rapids, Mich., 49505
9780802853349 $15.00

Some books are deeply philosophical. Some are just quirky. "My Goldfish," by French author and illustrator Barroux is the latter, just a really funny take on a normally mundane fishbowl existence. Fifteen one-line statements about a pet goldfish are each accompanied by a corresponding illustration. The gentle humor is infectious. When the goldfish goes on vacation and comes back sunburned he's red-skinned as he swims around his bowl. When readers are told that the fish is 110 years old he's suddenly got a very long, white beard. And when we're told the author has to change the fishbowl water every day because his fish lives like a pig, the bowl is swirling with black gunk reminiscent of the dust around the character Pig Pen in old Charlie Brown cartoons. Good for a laugh, with no deep meaning, which is sometimes the best of all literary escapes.

Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation
Andrea Davis Pinkney, author
Brian Pinkney, illustrator
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780060821180, $16.99

If children are to take an interest in history it has to be offered to them in an interesting way.

In "Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation," author Andrea Davis Pinkney hits the right note, literally, with the story of Rosa Parks told by a blues guitar-strumming hound dog.

An image of the dog is set into most of the pages, but blending into the background so sometimes you have to search for it. What the dog offers, more than a visual, is a great blues-like poetic cadence that will draw young listeners in. Once engaged they'll learn about how exhausted seamstress Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 after ignoring a bus driver's demand that she give up her seat to a white man. They'll learn how that ignited a year-long boycott of bus riders in Montgomery, Ala., with blacks joined by many whites. And they'll learn about how the situation ignited the Civil Rights Movement. The depiction of Jim Crow laws as a pesky scarecrow, that pecked at Parks and others African Americans until the Supreme Court declared segregation illegal in 1956, is also wonderfully child-friendly. Ultimately, Pinkney writes, the crow's "bony wings began to ache" and he flew away.

Brian Pinkney's swirling ink drawings lend an uncertain, city night feel to the evening Parks is arrested. There are black storm cloud-like swirls in the sky as the boycott stretches on. But those shift to brighter shades of orange, green, teal and morning blue with pale yellow sunlight streaks as the fight turns the boycotters' way. A wonderfully creative take on an important moment in history.

Most Loved in All the World: A Story of Freedom
Tonya Cherie Hegamin, author
Cozbi A. Cabrera, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780618419036, $17.00

Historians debate whether maps sewn into quilts were actually used by slaves seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad of the mid-1800s. But whether they were or not their use has been cemented into 19th Century African American lore. They were the centerpiece of Jacqueline Woodson's unforgettable 2005 Newbery Honor book "Show Way." Now, they are the focus of yet another picture book about the black slavery experience. In "Most Loved in All the World: A story of freedom," which almost approaches the quality of Woodson's book in emotion and storytelling, a mother makes a quilt for her daughter and then stays behind as a slave as the girl - who can't be more than four years old -- is taken by strangers to freedom in the north. The most haunting image on the quilt is a red heart cut from a shirt the mother was whipped in, complete with blood stains. The whipping's aftermath is depicted early in the book as the mother returns from the field one evening with "whip marks cross her back…(and) tear marks down her face." Yet another well-written and illustrated reminder of the horror African Americans once endured and the sacrifices some parents made to ensure their children lived freely. Such stories can never be told enough.

I Spy A to Z: A Book of Picture Riddles
Jean Marzollo, author
Walter Wick, illustrator
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545107822, $13.99

The "I Spy" series of books by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick have become a staple of modern children's literature. Why? They challenge the brain and they're really fun, two things that draw kids. The latest in the series "I Spy A to Z: A Book of Picture Riddles," has a purpose: setting the stage for children to read independently. A great introduction for parents and educators explains how the book should be approached in four distinct stages: finding items in the collage-style photographs that correspond with words in the text; noticing examples of repetitive language; noticing rhyming words; and noticing phonics clues. That makes the book a progressive learning tool for children in preschool through about first grade. But of course, what lures children is not what they need to learn but what they find interesting. And the great photographs have preschoolers and kindergartners squarely in mind, with themes ranging from toy cars to dinosaurs to wooden blocks to beach buckets. Another title in a series that has yet to disappoint.

A Child's Garden: A Story of Hope
Michael Foreman, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, Mass., 02144
9780763642716, $17.99

Author and illustrator Michael Foreman didn't set his tale of a boy's determination to nurture a green shoot in a war zone to a specific locale or point in time. It could have been one of countless places or times where children had to -- or still must -- play amidst rubble and barbed wire, afforded glimpses of the peaceful world but not able to touch it. In Foreman's simple story a boy discovers tiny, spouting grapevine and tends it with water and love until it climbs high above a barbed wire fence. The boy is heartbroken when soldiers rip it down. Ultimately, in a gently coded message about the strength of the human spirit in adverse times, a few seeds that were left behind sprout again. And the new vines stretch across the barbed wire divide to meet the vines of a little girl playing in the free world, a testament to the potential for peace. A timeless story particularly meaningful to anyone who has held onto hope not just through a war, but through any life hardship.

Karyn Saemann

Logan's Bookshelf

Corporate Physics
John Calvello
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th fl., NY, NY 10016
9780533159314, $18.95

Author John Calvello puts his thirty-five plus years of business experience to paper in Corporate Physics: Accelerating Change to Achieve a Result that Satisfies a Need, a self-help manual for business leaders to improving one's leadership skills. A useful resource for supervisors, CEOs, board members, and even those aspiring to become management, Corporate Physics reveals that the formulas in Newtonian Physics can also be applied to make one's relationships with one's clients more competitive and profitable. "Businesses have many reasons for Changing. If your business can not meet either market place demands or competition relative to 1) the types of products or services offered, 2) the quality and reliability of those products or services, 3) productivity and cost, 4) price, or 5) timeliness and completeness of delivery, then the survival of your business is in jeopardy. For many companies, the ultimate survival is dependent upon their ability to Change from Point A, the way they do business today, to Point B, a new way of doing business to better meet market place demands and the threats of increased competition." A helpful and motivational guide, especially sure to appeal to business leaders with a keen mind for critical thinking.

Nothing Without a Woman
Les Hansom
c/o Accent Press
9781907016028, $14.99,

For some men, there is no activity that can't be enhanced by the presence of a beautiful woman. "Nothing Without a Woman" is a collection of stories from Lee Hansom discussing, to put it lightly, the various appeals that come with the wide variety of activities one can do with the opposite sex. Not for minors but deftly written, "Nothing Without a Woman" is a read for the man who wants something spicy but doesn't want to reach for the secret stash.

For the Victims II
Roger D. Grubbs
Privately Published
9780981668024, $14.95,

The desire for profit is a strong and dominating force that leads to much evil. "For the Victims II: Avenging Angel" is the follow up to Roger D. Grubbs' previous novel. Chronicling one family as they stand against vicious cutthroat corporations, "For the Victims II" is a novel of good and evil. Grubbs tells a classic story that is simple and easy to understand. "For the Victims II" is a strong choice for fiction fans.

Terror Occulta
Victor F. Paletta
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439202562, $15.99,

Humanity is at the top of the food chain, but will this fact remain so in the future? "Terror Occulta" is a science fiction story of the future; humanity seems to have met its match in a species of predator out to eliminate them from existence. One man alone holds the power that will return humanity to prosperity - or accelerate their extinction. "Terror Occulta" is worth considering for any sci-fi fan.

Louis Joseph Barbier
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159918, $22.95,

The how is perhaps one of the most important questions in a mystery. "Tiddlywinks" is a story focusing on the how of murder. Detective Brunside is forced to solve a case where there are so many questions, but the only lead is a bruise behind the ear, something viewed as non-fatal and only leaves the detective baffled. A thrilling mystery, "Tiddlywinks" is highly recommended.

The Star Temple of Avalon
Nicholas R. Mann & Philippa Glasson
The Temple Publications
9780955597084, $44.34,

The ancient world holds many mysteries the modern world just can't seem to crack. "The Star Temple of Avalon: Glastonbury's Ancient Observatory Revealed" discusses this legendary building on the Isle of Britain that has left many anthropologists in wonder and the technology level of the ancient Neolithic people. Explaining this site, its history, and the theories about it, "The Star Temple of Avalon" is an utterly fascinating piece for those with an appetite for prehistory.

Carl Logan

Lois' Bookshelf

A Layman's Guide to Managing Fear: Using Psychology, Christianity, and Non-Resistant Methods
Stanley Popovich
Mountain View Publishing
Sierra Vista, AZ
1928602975 $17.54

A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Stanley Popovich presents his guide to overcoming fear and anxiety in the form of a common sense booklet accessible to all ages. Stan explores three different approaches to managing fear: practising general counseling techniques, asking for God's help, and using non-resistant methods, which, when combined, can serve as a powerful tool in fear management.

Stan argues in favor of using critical thinking and deductive reasoning to manage fear, by first identifying its source and then determining its root cause. By establishing how rational a particular fear is, one can evolve solutions and options to manage it. Through numerous case studies throughout the book, Stan shows how to overcome fear and anxiety step by step.

Providing not only his own insights into fear-filled situations, Stan also relies upon experts in the field, who express their thoughts about the problem. Father Howard Campbell, a systematic theology and divinity master's graduate, discusses how the disabling effects of fear can manifest as anxiety or a phobia, while Larry Sutton, a clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. in counselor education, reveals how to overcome anxiety in job seeking.

An ideal text for any graduate beset with the difficulty of finding work, A Layman's Guide to Managing Fear shows how to break down the otherwise formidable task of job searching into a series of smaller, less daunting steps. Stan shows how harnessing determination and commitment can lead to the motivation to succeed. Positive reinforcement and self imagery is seen as a way through any crisis. This balanced text considers both the down and up side of imagination: the down side, as a source of fear, and the up side, as an aide in positive visualization exercises. Apart from considering the cognitive aspects of the techniques he explores, Stan also explains the importance of physical exercise to the development of a positive mindset. He encourages the reader, when in doubt, to consider both mental health practitioners and other experts in the medical field.

Stan shows how using non-resistant methods empowers the individual to reduce the strength of what might otherwise be overwhelming fear, thereby making it easier to manage. Making friends with God and developing a foundation of trust in the Lord is the third option that Stan presents for the overcoming of fear. He explores the power of prayer both in and outside church, as well as the strengthening of will that comes from reading the Bible and other inspirational books. Holding a religious symbol can provide tangible comfort, too. Stan also shows how Father Howard has been able to counsel those facing life-threatening illnesses to find the root cause of their fears.

Stan closes his book with a short list of organizations that can provide help and guidance for dealing with fear and other mental health issues, followed by some key Bible verses on how to deal with fear, as well as how to trust in God. He concludes by urging the reader to develop his or her personal strategy for coping with problems.

In brief, within relatively few pages, A Layman's Guide to Managing Fear packs a powerful punch and is well worth the read. Lois C. Henderson

Do I Hafta Grow Up? The Adult's Guide to Unfinished Business of Childhood
Gary Robertson
Standard Edition
9780557062683 $29.95

Almost half the length of the original edition of Do I Hafta Grow Up?, published two years earlier, the Standard Edition of this provocative work, produced in response to reader demand, is just as insightful as the original text. Presenting a healing model that integrates aspects of medicine, psychology and religion, Robertson, Director of the Springs Foundation explores the need for healing experienced by many who have not yet developed fully. Do I Hafta Grow Up? promotes understanding of what the problems are; how to define them; where they originate; and how to access who we are as bodies, minds and spirits.

After providing examples of problems caused by incomplete childhood development, Robertson explains the origins of common connection issues that might persist throughout further development. He stresses the importance of fulfilling the primary goals of the first five years of life: becoming individuated in the first 18 months; separating from our parents by the end of our first two years; gathering information in our third year that enables us to establish personal power in year four; and evolving our own identity about age five.

Sourcing the sociological ramifications of problems in the incomplete development of the individual's mental, spiritual and religious consciousness, Robertson explains how, by our becoming more aware of what has stultified and stagnated our progress, we can choose to free ourselves from extrinsic pressures and prescriptions.

Robertson shows how his teaching experience in the field of human relations has led him to evolve an understanding of how the application of energy psychology can release us from our karmic overload. He indicates a way in which to resolve issues left unresolved in previous lifetimes, rounding off his text with an annotated bibliography of works that provide additional information on some of the methodologies to which he refers in the course of his discussion.

With the tone of the Standard Edition being more concentrated and focused, due to its being more condensed than the author's Signature Edition, Do I Hafta Grow Up? The Adult's Guide to Unfinished Business of Childhood Standard Edition retains the logical and accessible flow of the original. … And yes, BTW, Robertson does, once again, answer his own question both cogently and clearly.

The Box from Braunau: In Search of My Father's War
Jan Elvin
New York
9780814410493 $24.95

Not All Quiet on the Western Front

In her preface, Jan Elvin writes how, by writing The Box from Braunau, she got back the father she had lost years ago. As the sole custodian of her family history, she recognizes herself as one of the children of the "Greatest Generation", who have shared an inheritance of silence and hidden wounds for far too long. This war memoir gives access to the front-line experiences of Americans who fought in what might be regarded as the most soul-destroying conflict of the twentieth century.

Jan's father, as she came to know him, was William John Elvin, Jr., more familiarly known as Bill, a newspaperman for the Washington Evening Star, and a decorated combat veteran of General George S. Patton's Third Army, 80th Infantry Division. When Jan was ten years old, he bought the McLean Providence Journal, a weekly newspaper with which he was associated for the rest of his life.

Jan tells how her father's passionate ambition to write for a newspaper was first given voice in his associate editorship of the University of Michigan's highly regarded Michigan Daily. While working in the personnel office of the local Celanese plant, however, World War II broke out, leading to him volunteering for the Officer Candidate School. Jan includes excerpts from her father's journal that he wrote up in 1945 from notes that he had kept during his first three months in combat during the previous year.

Even when enmeshed in the trials of life at the front, Bill retained a sharp sense of humor and sound outlook on life, as when he recalls fellow infantrymen getting soaked from sleeping under the stars, having neglected to pitch a tent. However, thoughts of his family were never far from his mind, leading him to write a letter, the text of which is included in The Box from Braunau, to his son, Jay, to be read only if he died in battle. Well referenced newspaper clippings from the time help to contextualize the journal entries, which are couched in a lively, credible style, marked by its immediacy. Often poetic and ennobling in tone (such as where he describes the dawn arriving "with a gentleness and assurance that changed every man from a fearsome, groveling worm to a warm, self-respecting human being"), the power of Bill's writing presages his later prowess as a news reporter.

Returning from the ever-present dangers of the front line to a secure life in suburbia was not easy for Bill, who never fully recovered from his wartime experiences. Jan cites his war journal description of avoidance of incoming artillery, "Tight, tight, tight, and down, down, down", as being equally applicable to his emotions. Over vigilant regarding the safety of his family, he distanced himself emotionally from them, preferring to bury himself in his work than to busy himself with their concerns. Eventually the strain on his marriage became so dire that Jan's mother, Jane, moved out.

The aluminum box, referred to in the title, was given to Jan's father by a prisoner interned in the German-run forced labor camp in Braunau, when his Division freed its inmates near the end of World War II. When first brought home, he used it merely for personal notes and phone bills. However, when Jane moved out, he replaced its original contents with his army medals and the Bible his parents had given him as a boy.

Well illustrated with black and white photographs, and supplemented by a comprehensive index, bibliography and glossary, this part history part memoir is of importance to scholar and general reader alike. In addition to helpful guidelines on how to search for wartime personal histories, information sources and address details of support organizations relating to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans are listed. The Box from Braunau: In Search of My Father's War provides accessible and informative reading for all those interested in journalism and the social dynamics of warfare.

Wagging Tales: Every Animal Has a Tale
Tim Link
Emerald Book Company
Austin, TX
9781934572146 $16.95.

Pawmarked with Meaning

Starting with the title page, we know exactly what this collection of tales is about: 'Conversations with Our Animal Friends'. And conversations are what these tales are, as Tim Link, a renowned animal behaviorist, actually talks with animals, finding out exactly what is troubling them. They also talk back - not quite in the same way as does Dr. Dolittle's menagerie, as these are all true tales, but in a way that is laced (pawmarked?) with meaning.

Each of the more than thirty tales in Wagging Tales relates Tim's encounter with one or more animals, ranging from the more usual cats and dogs to a far from conventional praying mantis. Developed over the space of forty years, Tim's telepathic insights into the different animals that people this work are based on his keen and careful observation of the way in which they behave.

Although we are told that the pictures of animals that precede all of the tales are not necessarily of the actual animals with which the author worked, illustrating the book in this way brings the collection alive. Wagging Tales is filled with the essence of the animals with which Tim has heartfelt discussions about images, smells, tastes, words or feelings that bother them - his role as mediator between owner and pet is pivotal to the text.

Wagging Tales should appeal to all caring youngsters, as well as make relaxing reading for all animal lovers. Tim punctuates the tales with some sage advice on how to look after animals as well. His kindness towards animals radiates throughout the tales, warming the spirit of the text. Written to elicit a generous and loving approach towards all animals, this book should find a welcome home on every child's nightstand.

Lois Henderson

Margaret's Bookshelf

Until The Skies Fall
Liza Granville
BeWrite Books
32 Bryn Road South, Wigan, Lancashire, WN4 8QR, UK
9781906609009, $15.99,

England is a post-apocalyptic condition. Genetic engineering has proved disastrous to human civilization. Laz is a young man who must save the world from the imminent threat of a true Death Star. As he sets out on a quest Laz encounters very strange (and hostile) remnants of previous genetically transformed societies with each one of them utterly convinced that they are the true representation of an authentic humanity. An original and superbly crafted novel, Liza Granville's "Until The Skies Fall" is a thoroughly entertaining read from beginning to end, and highly recommended for community library collections, and science fiction fan reading lists.

Travel Nurse Insights
Barry W. Padgett & Donna E. Padgett
Buffalo Nickel Publishing
PO Box 850458, Mobile, AL, 36685-0458
9780982114902, $27.95,

When most people think about nursing, the image that comes up is someone who works in a hospital or clinic or a school. And those are places where you will find a majority of nursing practicing in their chosen field. But there is a very special niche in the nursing profession that is not so well known is the 'traveling nurse', a certified nurse who goes from place to place and position to position, accepting temporary or part-time assignments. It's the nursing equivalent to being a freelancer. As such, there are a number of issues that must be addressed ranging from how such openings are filled and the role of the staffing agency, to compensation packages and health insurance between assignments, to contracts and seasonal assignments, and so much more. That's where "Travel Nurse Insights" comes into play. A veritable textbook and instruction manual, Barry and Donna Padget (herself being a seasoned and experienced traveling nurse) covers it all with an informed and informative text that is authoritative, informative, comprehensive, and essential reading for anyone who has ever contemplated becoming a nurse who, in essence, is his or her own independent contractor within the context of the nursing profession.

The Dungeon Diet
Robert M. Chuda, MD, MBA
Dungeon Diet, Ltd.
PO Box 245, Centuck Station, NY 10710
9781440497698, $12.95,

The necessity for losing weight because of health issues or concerns about appearance is widespread throughout our American society. There is an entire health industry based on diet books, exercise equipment, diet regimens, and groups ranging from Weight Watchers to Jenny Craig. All of us experience weight losses that were all too quickly regained. What's needed is a life-long strategy for weight control that is more than just restrictions on food intake; there also needs to be improved physical, sexual, and mental factors taken into account. That's why "The Dungeon Diet" and the concept of fasting is so very highly recommended to the attention of anyone of any age who is struggling with weight control issues. Readers will discover why they have failed so consistently in the past, a healthy and successful way to proceed in the future, and the benefits to be had from an holistically improved life-style with respect to weight control. "The Dungeon Diet" is recommended as being thoroughly reader friendly, informed, informative, insightful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

Outpatient Weight-Loss Surgery
Kent Sasse, MD
360 Publishing
c/o Joanne McCall Publicity
8200 SW 184th Avenue, Aloha, OR 97007
9781934727003, $22.95,

Obesity is a hazard that impairs and puts at hazard the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the United States. It has also given birth to a multi-billion dollar industry addressing the problems of obesity through legions of diet books, programs, exercises, equipment, medication, and surgeries. That's why "Outpatient Weight-Loss Surgery: Safe And Successful Weight Loss With Modern Bariatric Surgery" by Dr. Kent Sasse (a nationally recognized authority on surgical weight-loss procedures) is such a welcome and addition to personal community library Health & Medicine reference collections. Dr. Sasse provides the reader with an informed and comprehensive guide to every aspect of bariatric surgery including what it is, how it works, recovery, and appropriate follow-up. Of special note is what Dr. Sasse advises on avoiding common problems such as leakage, dehydration, and ulceration. Simply stated, "Outpatient Weight-Loss Surgery" is critically important and highly recommended reading for anyone considering the option of bariatric surgery as a medical response to their condition of morbid obesity.

Born Smart
Jeanette Bolvary
Privately Published
9781409252382, $24.95,

Both folk wisdom and modern medical science agree. The health, diet, and behavior of the expectant mother is critically important in giving birth to a properly developed and healthy baby. What is new in the discussion of good fetal development is the role of genetics. In "Born Smart: Unlock The Potential In Your Baby's Genes", Jeanette Bolvary explores the impact that proper nutrition and maternal activity has with respect to a baby's genes during pregnancy -- effects that, for good or ill, can last a lifetime. A key message in "Born Smart" is the possibility of increasing a baby's intelligence prior to birth by regulating the supply of copper to an unborn baby gestation and thereby enhancing the development of the hippocampus and dentate gyrus (the higher learning and thinking areas of the brain). Of special interest to expectant mothers is the practical advice dealing with the avoidance of varicose veins and stretch marks. Simply stated, "Born Smart" is informed and informative, thoroughly 'expectant mother friendly', and very strongly recommended reading for all expectant parents.

Margaret Lane

Mark's Bookshelf

The Third Coast: Sailors, Stripper, Fisherman, Folksingers, Long Ojibway Painters, and God-Save-the-Queen-Monarchists of the Great Lakes
Ted McClelland
Independent Publishers Group
814 N. Franklin St., Chicago, IL 60610
9781556527210 $24.95

Ted Million's The Third Coast is a long overdue tribute to the cultural geography of middle America's only coastline, one that spans two countries and eight states. Overflowing with tales of his road trip through urban cities and rural communities that all share one commonality, a harbor on the Great Lakes. The personalities the author shares with his readers, ooze a pre-technology richness that many North Americans would think long gone. Find a comfortable place and read this accounting of reality that is better than television.

Chapter titles are: East Side Stories, Suburbia's Waiting Room, The Drunkest City in America, Ya Hey!, Door to the North, Yoopers and Trolls, Boat Nerds, Marquette's Only Son, The North Country's Other Folk Singer, A Long Way from a Long Way from Anywhere, Highway 61 Visited, Above Lake Superior, The Ojibway Way, The World's Largest Freshwater Island, Emancipation Day, Southern Ontario Gothic, Greetings from Niagara Falls!, The New Canadians, For Queen and Canada, The Burned-Over District, The Irony of Buffalo, Ethnic Jazz, Black Bottom Blues, Like 1812 All Over Again, The Great Bay Port Fish Sandwich Controversy, What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor?, and My Lake Home. Additional features include acknowledgments, an introduction, map of the Great Lakes, index and an epilogue.

Mr. McClelland's travels took him over some of the areas I have covered in my own quest to explore the Third Coast. He carefully drills down to find the essence of the people, tribes, and cultures that are tucked along the shores of a series of beautiful and sometimes dangerous bodies of water. If your looking for a new perspective on real Americans, pick up The Third Coast, You'll be amazed at how much you learn about geography, people and history that make up the Great Lakes.

The Box From Braunau: In Search of My Father's War
Jan Elvin
AMACOM, American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814410493 $24.95

Who says that wars are only fought in real time and in just one location? Jan Elvin breaks that misnomer with a dramatic new book investigating her fathers military involvement in World War II, and it's impact on himself and his family. His wartime experience reaches far beyond the war years, and impacts everyone in his post war life. Being a son of a World War II veteran myself, this is a must read for unraveling the behaviors and the psyche of combat veterans in your life. World War II bred a specific personality dysfunction that baby boomers should attempt to better understand.

Chapter titles are: Mark Your Socks, The Golden Boy, Life in the Foxhole, Don't Suprise Your Father, Elvin, Can You Take This Town, A Door Closes and Another Door Opens, The Gift of the Box, The Unbroken Circle, KZ-Ebensee, Old Soldiers and Reunions, and The Box From Braunau . Additional features include a prologue, bibliography, index and five excellent Appendix's: Army Organization in World War II, My Father's Wartime Itinerary, Glossary of Terms and Military Acronyms, Sources for Information on Post-Traumatic Stress and How to Search for Your Father's War.

The United States is involved in a war today, one that will bring our military men and woman back into our households and family units. The commonality of all wars is Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome. The author lays out an accounting of her father causes and effects to many events he experienced in World War II, their impact on him and those around him over the course of many years. The Box From Braunau is compelling and relevant to yesterday, today and tomorrow, for anyone touched by a member of the military in the time of war.

The Other Kind of Smart: Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success
Harvey Deutschendorf
AMACOM, American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814414077 $17.95

Mr. Deutschendorf's new book The Other Kind of Smart educates the reader like no other in an area of life that can not be considered to much information; people skills. Not a rehash of old skills, but an in-depth, reader friendly guide to developing your own heightened awareness of emotional intelligence. Not touchy-feely, but a practical resource with real-life case studies that illustrate how we all can over come some built-in personality hurdles to bring ourselves fuller lives, personally and professionally.

Chapter titles are: What Is EI?, The Business Connection, Inspiring Workplaces, Success Throughout Your Life, Emotional Self-Awareness, Assertiveness, Self-Regard, Self-Actualization, Independence, Empathy, Healthy Relationships, Social Responsibility, Problem Solving, Reality Testing, Flexibility, Stress Tolerance, Impulse Control, Happiness, Optimism, Assess Your EI-Getting Real About Your Life and Increasing Your EI-Where Do You Begin.. Additional features include acknowledgments, an introduction, index and an five excellent appendixes: Questions and Answers, Mini EI Quiz, Recommended Reading, Websites and Organizations for Boosting EI.

The Other Kind of Smart will help you learn to let go of pressure, think before you speak or act, adaptation to others, solve problems more easily with skills, understand why others feel the way they do, rely upon your own judgment, be more satisfied with what you have achieved in life, surround yourself with people that are supportive of your goals, understand your full range of emotions, handle conflicts in a way that brings people closer and learn why disengagement is a real concern. Make the time to read this excellent new book, you'll be amazed at what you learn about yourself, your partner, children and workers.

Mark Nash

Molly's Bookshelf

A Very Curious Bear
Tony Mitton
Illustrator Paul Howard
Random House Books for Young Readers Random House Inc
1745 Broadway New York City 10019
9780375850837 $16.99

Tony Mitton - A Very Curious Bear introduces the reader to Little Bear and his/her friends.

The first two pages present a lovely landscape with farm house, broom on the porch, leaning against the wall and next to the open door which exposes a small bed with pillow and coverlet in blue and splashed with white stars.

Suspended over the porch is a heavily laden branch of a pear tree. The pears appear ripe and succulent and ready to eat, some have even tumbled to the grass where a picnic basket is waiting.

When Little Bear got up from bed he/she queried: Why does the sun come and light up the day?

Big Bear, might be Little Bear's; Mama or Papa, replied: to wake you from sleep so you come out and play.

Off go Little Bear and Big Bear. Big Bear holds that basket while Little Bear full of curiosity and enthusiasm, sporting his/her blankie cape and holding his trusty sword, zips ahead.

Why does the wind rush around in the air?

On the rocks by the side of the path twining through the woods, are waiting a duo of gleeful friends, a wee, vivacious white mouse and joyous, cheerful bunny. That the pair have been waiting for Little Bear is obvious from their elation filled demeanor.

The enchanting book continues with a question and an answer on each two page spread along with exploration and inquisitiveness and gratification.

Any parent or grandparent who has spent even a few hours with a Little Person can identify and remember just such a day spent with their own Little Bear.

Crossing a stream, daisies in the grass, a pic nic under a tree, friends to share everything from food to fun, a spring shower, and a lighting storm, finding future from the past, and making something new from something old, finding the good when there seems to be only bad, watching the moon rise and wondering; all are part of the charismatic, child like account.

What am I meant for and why am I here?

What a delightful read.

Author Tony Mitton and Illustrator Paul Howard have outdone themselves on the pages of A Very Curious Bear. I am anxious now for the beginning of our new school term. I have no hesitation to say my class of Osage County First Grade will be captivated as they track the adventurous day of one small bear and his/her companion.

While Little Bear does have a homespun sword and wears a blankie cape; I am pleased that neither bear is clothed in human clothing. Little Bear's friends, a mouse and a bunny, offer a sign of recognition, acceptance and joy in diversity, something we encourage in our classroom.

Vocabulary used to bring the narrative to life is not stilted or dumbed down for little folk, I like that, I find the children in my classes love to - stretch their brain- and - think second grade-.

I have no reservation that A Very Curious Bear will be chosen often for DEAR reading as my Little Learners carry a chosen book and their reading word book along with their basal reader to their - Reading Mouse House- for a session of reading uninterrupted by anything other than munching from their snack jars holding cold cereal.

I am prepared to read A Very Curious Bear aloud many times to the class as a whole as the Leader of the Day fetches his/her choice for me to read to the class previous to our leaving the classroom for the day.

Happy to recommend Tony Mitton's A Very Curious Bear.

Baron Thinks Dogs are People Too
Laurie Dean
Illustrator KevinCollier
Big Tent Books
115 Bluebill Drive, Savannah, GA 31419
9781601310354 $14.00

Laurie Dean's - Baron Thinks DOGS Are People Too - introduces Baron a small, perky brown pup who lives with people. He likes to squish between two people like jam in a sandwich. During the day he romps and plays and jumps up and down to gain Mom and Dad's attention.

While Baron enjoys playing with Mom and Dad, and he loves the yummy treats he receives, he really wants a best friend.

He wrestles with Billy, and wears the tutu and shoes Emma gives him to wear.

But, what he really wants is a best friend.

Attending doggy obedience school helps Baron learn rules and be a well mannered pup. But what he really wants is a best friend.

Then, Dad must leave for a while; his duty is with the Air Force until next July.

Will Baron ever find his very own best friend?

Writer Dean and Illustrator Kevin Collier have collaborated to produce a bright and colorful book designed especially for the younger set.

Osage County First Grade, as do most Little Readers, really have an affinity for dogs. Baron is a pup I am sure will tickle the fancy of those First Graders who will be entering my classroom come August. When that takes place I will amend the review to show their thumbs up.

My one concern regarding the book is the fact that the illustrations while joyous and child centered are so detailed, fill the whole page and over power the print to a degree. Suggestion: have print set on page in a white box and use larger print to enable Little Readers greater ease for reading.

Print is presented in a good clear font, and is suitable size for adult to read to children, and is good and dark, however, for Little Readers it will be a tad more of a problem.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that Baron will be well received, chosen often for DEAR reading, and for leader book of the day.

The story of Baron is endearing, he is the pup we all have known, and may still have in our homes. He is energetic, eager to please and lots of fun, much as is my own pup!

Happy to recommend Laurie Dean's - Baron Thinks DOGS Are People Too-

Big Ticket Ecommerce
Bob Regnerus
Innovation Press
9780976462491 $16.95

Buying and selling in modern times is much different than the old general store.

Bob Regnerus' - BIG TICKET eCOMMERCE is 206 pages jam packed with the writer's thoughts, ideas and suggestions for readers who hope to tap into information marketing via the internet.

Jam packed with sixteen easily read chapters, BIG TICKET eCOMMERCE provides steps for creating a strategy and developing effective websites. Writer Regnerus details how to go about attracting big ticket prospects and generating traffic. Regnerus is certain that key word research is imperative.

Section One of the work which comprises 148 of the 206 pages includes the Introduction and 13 chapters regarding various methods for generating traffic to the site. I don't know a lot about website, or making money via the Internet, however even with my limited knowledge I can understand that generating traffic must be key.

I found especially Section 2, Getting Started, to be very interesting. Writer Regnerus offers two suggestions; one, is start by analyzing the big picture to find the problem in your previous online efforts, and the other is focus efforts on the area that offers the biggest potential for improvement while requiring the least effort. Appears to be sound advice to me, whatever the endeavor locating problems and eliminating them have to a the top of the list of things to consider.

Regnerus provides a section detailing common problems and their related symptoms. He notes that there are some commonality of situations talking place in each of the four steps of the BIG TICKET eCOMMERCE system. One common problem the writer has identified is Skipping Steps in the Big Ticket eCommerce System. Another is Making Decisions Based on Opinions Rather than Numbers. Third problem is forcing a brochure website to be the primary lead generation website, and fourth Regnerus lists Focusing on traffic without analysis and optimization and finally he suggests Thinking eCommerce is a project when it is actually a process is problem five.

Having identified the problems Regnerus goes on to suggest ways to overcome them by fixing the biggest one first.

Rounding out the work Regnerus provides instruction for how to build the big ticket eCommerce team and offers implementation resources.

BIG TICKET eCOMMERCE is a book is for those planning to enter, or working in the online world of sales. Various processes, mistakes and problems Regnerus faced through trial and error he now sets down in readable prose to help others avoid those problems or mistakes, or if they are already there, ways to overcome them.

Regnerus points out that the click, add to shopping cart, check out approach is fine for some products and services. Where it does not work so well is for companies engaged in promoting high power, costly services and products.

Succinct and clearly written BIG TICKET eCOMMERCE should prove valuable for those who would like to tap into the eCommerce market interesting read, Happy to recommend.

The Fifteenth Letter
Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Swimming Kangaroo Books
Arlington Texas
9781934041628 $14.99

Once again Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler's police procedural, The Fifteenth Letter, conveys the reader to Falcon's Bend where twenty four year old Patrol Officer Amber Carfi and her partner Warren Jensen, who is a decade older, have been working the Christmas holiday to allow those having families time at home.

The pair has no yearning for spending holidays home and alone. Jensen has not quite recovered from the death of his wife. It was 4 years ago that Jen died due to ovarian cancer. Carfi is not certain how she feels regarding her father's impending parole hearing.

Abruptly the crackle of the car radio jars them back to reality, a bank robbery is in progress.

From that opening the reader is initiated into a mystery filled with distrust, expectation, death, aspiration, tracking devices, pandemonium, abduction and trepidation. A diary, deliberately aged to create the appearance that it is older than it is, kidnapping, torment, an assortment of stolen maps, bank thefts, and even romance are all included on the pages of Wiesner and Spindler's The Fifteenth Letter.

Back in 1989, Nelson Salim and Zeke Carfi, associates in business, partners in crime, entered a bank intending to rob it according to Zeke's -fool proof- plan. In the getaway car waited Salim's wife Serena along with their son Roman.

Sometimes even the best laid plans do go awry, that is what happened in 1989. When Nelson pointed his pistol at the bank manager, Zeke had to intercede.

Within minutes Nelson lay dead and Zeke was sent to prison.

Every year, on the anniversary of his partner's death, Zeke has been receiving a threatening letter signed by the man's wife. He has not opened the letters except for the first two. No need, they all read the same; threats and anger that Nelson is dead and Zeke is not. What Zeke does not know is that Serena too has been dead for years.

So who is sending those hate filled letters?

Ahead of Zeke and his wife Violet divorcing, Zeke all but lost real contact with his only child Amber. How the pair enjoyed working together to create secret codes and puzzles and unworkable designs. Zeke's affinity for puzzles culminates in the assembly of a globe he and Amber designed before the divorce.

In due time, Zeke Carfi does receive his parole and is sent to Falcon's Bend in anticipation that Carfi's being near his police officer daughter may perhaps help him reside outside prison more successfully.

Amber is torn between the affection she feels for her father, and the powerless childlike fury she harbors because he was so thoughtless as to take part in serial robberies; with the last one eventually sending him to prison. Zeke, with the smugness of a master criminal, actually penned his faultless robbery plan in a diary along with sheets bearing a series of inexplicable numbers and letters.

Amber received the diary from her father years ago, however she put it away, and has never taken a peek at it. Her emotions remain too raw.

Amber's police sense has kicked in, she has no idea why or who nevertheless; someone has been in her house. Warren Jensen is resolute in his purpose to look after his partner and woman he finds himself becoming more attracted to.

Overflowing with energy, joie de vivre and air of mystery, The Fifteenth Letter is a commendable account transporting the reader along on a breathless ride. That authors, Wiesner and Spindler, reinforce each other's writing approach is unmistakable, transitions are faultless, characters are abundantly developed, settings are detailed to draw the reader into the sequence of events, storyline is plausible and emotions exhibit are believable.

Wiesner and Spindler's The Fifteenth Letter conveys an exhilarating many-sided page turner offering readers all the excitement and conundrum they may look forward to when reading an edgy police procedural mystery.

That puzzling globe, along with the group of maps, menace, more than one stray bullet, and even the commencement of a romance are all combined into one rousing chronicle. Watch the red herrings!

Happy to recommend Wiesner and Spindler's The Fifteenth Letter for those who take pleasure in a good mystery well done, and in particular for those who have a preference for police procedurals.

While I do not keep all the books I receive for review, this is one that I will be keeping on my own library shelf.

Empty Nesters: 101 Stories About Surviving and Thriving When the Kids Leave Home
Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Carol McAdoo Rehme, and Patricia Cena Evans
Chicken Soup for the Soul
9781935096221 $14.95

Jack Canfield, Carol McAdoo Rehme, Patricia Cena Evans, Mark Victor Hansen - Empty Nesters: 101 Stories About Surviving and Thriving When the Kids Leave Home is a volume planned to support and give power to those who are facing the now vacant house after years of parenting.

Empty nesters is a collection of poignant, thought provoking sketches with reference to parents who are facing and dealing with a wide array of feelings as their children depart from home. A void of feeling, dejection, lonesomeness, and for some, a bit of jubilation are all a predictable, and normal ingredient of those emotional ups and downs.

On the pages of this Chicken Soup for the Soul edition are 101 accounts concerning how to go about thriving and enduring forward when the kids leave home and the house feels too empty. I enjoyed reading the variety of narratives and remember my own mother as my sisters and I each moved away from home a period of a year or so, college, first job, marriage; and the house which had resounded with the sound of rock - n - roll and calls of TURN THAT DOWN was now the hushed dwelling of Daddy and Mama.

I went to visit one weekend, and heard the radio blasting, in answer to my query concerning which of my sisters had also arrived, I was a tad astonished and a little amused to hear that I was the only one.

Mom had the radio blaring just to make it seem as though we were still there.

A work of 334 pages separated into Dedication, Foreword and eight divisions dedicated to an explicit area of the empty nest condition. First Flights is a dozen plus tales centered on departure for first job, college, or the military. I chiefly enjoyed My Nice Surprise and Simon the Rubber Snake. Intermingle with the yarns are poems, elegy and cartoons.

Systematized into segments having titles reading First Flights, Under Our Wings and in Our Hearts, Out on a Limb, and Ruffled Feathers, the sketches are offered over two or three pages per each account. Parents, siblings and those who are taking flight from the nest all have anecdotes to relate, and various of them are created here on these pages.

There are parents who are overflowing with contentment that their children are growing up, becoming adults and prepared to set out on their own, and there are others who just cannot in fact get a good handle on the actuality that the kids are mature and moving on. Our children growing up is just an additional juncture in their maturity and in ours.

Send Cookies brought a grin to my lips, how like my own sons is the young man in this account, as he coaches his mother on the subject of whether she should write to him while he is in boot camp, no she shouldn't he says, the other fellows will believe him a wimp. A week later Mom received a call, -MOM please write and send cookies, I'm the only one who is not getting mail.

Empty? Says Who? Is the story of my life, and so many parents everywhere -- the kids are gone, their stuff is still here.

Well written, packed with anecdotes to meet every circumstance, a manuscript for empty nesters, about vacant nests and those who have flown the coop.

Enjoyed the read, Happy to recommend Empty Nesters: 101 Stories About Surviving and Thriving When the Kids Leave Home.

That's Amore
Wendy Markham
Forever Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, NTC, NY 10017
9780446618441 $6.99

Wendy Markham's That's Amore's Daria is exhausted with the California earthquakes, she has relatives and contacts in New York City, on the other hand, perhaps Phoenix is where she should bring her restlessness to an end and put down roots. Maybe not.

Daria tends to keep on the move and not settle too long in any one spot.

It is August in Phoenix, Arizona; Daria Marshall's concentration is not centered on her dining companion, George. Rather she is focused on the Native American woman who, seeming unmindful to the lunch hour swarm hastening to the counter of the Tex Mex Restaurant, is sitting crossed legged on the floor. George, of course, has not noticed her.

Daria, who did not ask for her particular - endowment - she sees dead people; tends to pay no attention to her uncanny ability.

Sitting on Madame Tamar's sofa in Manhattan during late December Daria considers the last 6 months. Her sister Tammy, Madame Tamar, and Daria are not much alike. Tammy tends to wear her salt and pepper hair trapped in an elastic band, steers clear of make up and has no yearning to ever leave the reassurance of her New York home.

Daria, a fashionable gadabout, is an interior designer who would love to do a renovation on Tammy's apartment, won't happen. Tammy and her now departed husband Carlton resided in these rooms together, and Tammy is convinced Carlton's spirit continues to move in the place.

Followed along the streets of New York by a rather down in the dumps old gent who is, of course, unnoticed by others; Daria lives for exhilaration, and renovation and modifing. She has become quite proficient at ignoring all those dead people who have a propensity for following her everywhere, on balance, she has had lots of practice at it.

A New Year's Eve party conveys Daria nose to nose with one Ralph Chickalini. He and his extensive extended family have deep roots in the area. Daria feels Ralph might be perfect for her, apart from, he already has a fiancee and he is gloomy over the recent demise of his father.

Lenore and Mia, Mia's soon to be husband Dominic, and the latest Chickalini wedding all provide grist to move the tale along.

Meeting Ralph in Astoria; he does give the impression he shares Daria's feelings of interest, however, Ralph is engaged, and Ralph does not care much for change. Whoops, the engagement is off.

Now Ralph grieves both the loss of his father and his broken engagement.

While Daria longs for steadiness, permanence and family, she has no real desire to settle down anywhere.

Enter Papa Chickalini's ghost.

That's Amore is a swift, entertaining read. Characters are nicely represented; those who have read preceding Markham works will hail renewing their acquaintance with the Chickalini kinfolk.

The disparity between big city and small town are agreeably illustrated; local allusions do much to brign the ambiance of the neighborhood to life.

While I'm not much of a fan of romance centered tales; Writer Markham crafts an enjoyable, easy read that even held my interest beginning to end. Not many chick lit type works do.

Overflowing with out of the ordinary Chickalini's who add much to any situation, Daria and her affinity toward the numinous and just plain first-class writing go a long way to generate an agreeable anecdote.

Happy to recommend Wendy Markham's That's Amore.

The Unseen War: Winning the Fight For Life
David K Kortje's
Parson Place Press
PO Box 8277 Mobile Alabama 36608
9780978656775 $17.96

David K Kortje's THE UNSEEN WAR Winning the Fight For Life is a 151 page edition beginning with these words from the writer: So many have contributed so much in this life that God has given me. After listing those who have helped the writer in his journey for the project he mentions the readers, that is nice, I rarely see readers included in lists of those who contribute.

In the Preface the writer mentions that he cannot sleep, it is 4 a.m. and now he is awake and considering why when he asks, -Lord, do you want something-. It was that moment, he states, which led to the writer receiving a clear answer from God. The result of his question and answer resulted in six months of thinking, writing and at last offering THE UNSEEN WAR Winning the Fight For Life to the reader.

That Physician David Kortje has a deep, prevailing, confidence in God, coupled to a highly understandable writing style becomes evident from the outset of chapter 1.

Kortje's THE UNSEEN WAR Winning the Fight For Life is set down as Acknowledgements, Preface and 14 Chapters listing, The Red Pill, Gerry, Paradigm, No Ordinary Guy, Flesh, Light, Ears, Together, Surrender, Wounds, Retreat, Boot Camp, Casualties, Why.

Chapters are prefaced with a Biblical quote followed by Kortje's own words. Chapter one, The Red Pill states an often little thought about obvious which does bear repeating: Life is hard. The writer points out that yes, life is hard, and life is a time of struggle, hassle and complication, plus the writer feels, as one becomes closer to God, the struggles, hassles and complications only increase.

From that beginning Kortje explores his understanding that Christians are in warfare against a real, if unseen, enemy. The writer talks about Temptation, Creativity and Authority, he discusses the Sons of God, Heart Issues, in addition to, Paul and his prayer that Christ give Christians a Spirit of Wisdom. What is God Doing, is asked and answered, Jesus' relationship with mankind as detailed in the Gospel of John is explained, along with an explanation to the question Why is addressed.

On the pages of THE UNSEEN WAR Winning the Fight For Life; Writer Kortje explains why he feels Spiritual warfare is one of the least considered aspects of the Christian life, even though, he reveals, it may be one of the most noteworthy aspects to be considered. Kortje is convinced that the lack of concern is due at least in part to what he considers to be a gross underestimation of the situation causing many Christians fall prey to demonic manipulations.

Writer David Kortje, states in plain terms that he is convinced that there is an enemy who hates mankind, and why.

Rather than a feel good book encouraging readers to believe that Christians must only believe and all will be well; Kortje is upfront in his belief that there are times when no matter how deeply the reader believes, how often the Christian prays, confesses, hopes or thinks, bad things can and do happen. That is a difficult truth to consider. Kortje is quick to point out that even in the midst of all; Jesus remains close and provides grace to see the reader through the hard times as well as the good.

Kortje's THE UNSEEN WAR Winning the Fight For Life is a understandable, enlightening book, filled with a potent message of hope coupled to imagery intended to awaken readers from a religious stupor in preparation for their facing a real battle with a determined, unseen foe who will throw roadblocks, misunderstandings and half truths in their path.

Focus of this work is; the war Fundamentalist Christians are taught, must be waged with Satan coupled with the writer's understanding that God does call upon His people to do His work.

David K Kortje's THE UNSEEN WAR Winning the Fight For Life is a well written, edifying work sure to be well received by the Christian reader who is seeking meaning and hope especially in time of struggle.

Happy to recommend David K Kortje's THE UNSEEN WAR Winning the Fight For Life.

I received ARC from a publicist for review.

Lead Like a Pirate!
Christopher Novak.
CornerStone Leadership Institute
PO Box 764087, Dallas, TX 75376.
9780979800917 $14.95

Christopher Novak's Lead Like a Pirate! Leadership Secrets of the Pirates of St Croix is a small, fast paced book bringing together the writer's thoughts regarding the leadership qualities of 17th and 18th centuries and the modern business world.

Novak offers training programs including one titled Pirates of St Croix, a learning seminar instructing in critical business skills including teamwork, delegation, leadership, attention to detail, problem solving and creativity. Lead Like a Pirate! Leadership Secrets of the Pirates of St Croix is based on that pirate theme: Novak believes we can gain real world insight into leadership, teamwork and no excuse results if we study the workings of the pirate crews of old. Pirates enjoyed a long, history filled with measurable team success despite ever changing circumstances.

These 80 or so pages of prose are divided into sections bearing titles Leaders, Legends and Loot, Pirate Team Leadership Model, Secret 1: The Captain, Secret 2: The crew, Secret 3: The Mission, Secret 4 The Strategy, Secret 5 The Treasure, Scorecard, Extended Insights, Lead Like a Pirate! Training Ideas, Notes from the Captain's Log, About the Author and Bring Pirates to your Next Event! That is a lot to cover in a short space.

By introducing the reader to Pirate Crews led by colorfully named Captain Sara sly, Captain Tiger Eye Taylor, Crazy Jack Rack and Dreadlocks Darby; Novak uses humor, example and well written, easily read prose to present his knowledge of leadership principles.

Captain Tiger Eye Taylor is featured on the cover, and discussed at some length in the work as Novak recounts how this fictional leader respected by his peers the man struck fear in the competition through his ability to outmaneuver with innovative strategies, tactics and actions. While history does not reveal what became of the Captain, Novak notes; he left a written record of his leadership style in the form of journals filled with challenges, tales and insights. He tested his shipmates to be certain they understood his five secrets, and rewarded them with doubloons if their answers were the ones he wanted.

It is Captain Taylor's five Secrets which Novak sets down for the reader to use as a model. Each of the crew aboard his ships were given a medallion listing exactly what was expected. The five secrets are based on the verbiage found on the medallion; 1 Captain: Leadership, Vision, Courage, Expertise; 2 Crew: Specialists, Followers, Future Captains; 3 Mission: Build reputation, wealth and team; 4 Strategy: Opportunistic, Speed, Skill, No Excuses, Intelligently Simple; 5 Treasure: Share wealth, adjust reward, sail on.

While Novak's pirate clan may be fictitious the reality of Teamwork was an imperative aboard a pirate ship. The main purpose of pirate life was to gain treasure, without teamwork the crew would be nothing more than a crowd of people all working to their own advantage, teamwork brought the advantage, a crowd of me first individuals would not. The key to transforming a crowd aboard ship to a force to be reckoned with was teamwork, each of the actual pirate captains of historical fact were obviously masters of leadership, and not only because of a heavy hand. Mutiny was a real problem for captains who led only by force.

Scattered throughout the book are a collection of notes, parchment look-alikes filled with notes and hints and the like.

Novak provides insight for how to choose a crew, and how to train them to success. At first glance Novak's book may seem to be nothing more than one of those boring how to lead works that glut the shelves; not so. Quick, to the point suggestions, follow up, and examples provide more than a smattering of good usable idea for those who would like to better their own leadership skills. Mutiny today often surfaces as it did in the past when leadership is only accomplished by threats, force or intimidation, teamwork is the result of good leadership.

Happy to recommend Christopher Novak's Lead Like a Pirate! Leadership Secrets of the Pirates of St Croix.

Grumble Bluff
Karen Bessey Pease
Eloquent Books AEG Publishing Group, Inc.
845 Third Avenue, 6th floor-6016, NYC 10022
9781606932902 $22.50

Karen Bessey Pease's Grumble Bluff, takes us to the top of a ravine where the speaker stands on the bank of mid Maine's Grumble Brook. She is a fat girl - her words-, it is a quarter to five, and supper is at 5:30 sharp.

She says she has no friends. She used to, or she thought she did, that was before her school began bussing her class, 6th grade, to a campus twenty miles away and she had to start making friends all over again. All her old friends began shunning her, it was horrible, kids who had always ignored her weight, joined the others to make fun of her.

And then one day, Katherine Anne Kirby was shocked to hear mocking voices that were not directed at her. When Katherine, Kathy, steps into the fracas the crowd melts away and she and Greta Rommel are left standing together in the hall. Kathy is shocked to realize that Greta is not overweight, she is downright thin, and she is pretty. So why are the kids picking on her too?

Prime targets for the bullies and dweebs who people the halls at school; Greta's dad is dying of AIDS and Kathy is fat. From that beginning the tale follows the two girls as they face together the gremlins who are bullies, to deal with the loneliness each is experiencing, in addition to learning to cope with the intolerance exhibited by those who have little understanding of AIDS, and filled with misunderstanding, have little desire to change their thinking, and dealing with loss of connection with out of touch parents.

The budding friendship the girls share helps both on their road to maturity which includes ever-increasing understanding, coping with loss and death, and just growing up. The pair sit together on Grumble Bluff where they can chat, and giggle and muddle through both gloom and pleasure of becoming adults in a time and place where their being different is tantamount to having the plague or worse.

At best the tween years of 11 - 14 are laden with so many racing emotions, it is a troubling time for kids, and to spend those years as the butt of bullying jokes and revulsion only compounds the everyday dilemmas faced by all tweens.

Too old to be little kids and cry and fuss, not grown up enough yet to appreciate that bullies actually have little self-assurance and often try to make themselves feel better by trampling the feelings of others, Kathy and Greta do become skilled at dealing with their emotions, the bullies and school work, in constructive and rewarding manner while forging a closeness which can follow them throughout their adult years.

Through their friendship, the pair gain greater ability to shake off the maltreatment of the bullies and learn to trust one another and themselves. Kathy and Greta experience individually empowering successes which lead to confirmation of their own worth and liberation via their reciprocal contributions to the other's happiness.

It is in the course of their increasing camaraderie that the girls are able to face down the bullies, survive loss and self depredation and take back their daring and wittiness.

Loneliness weighs heavily any time, tweens in particular seem more defenseless and ill prepared to manage authentic or imagined sentiment of being without help, singled out or alone. To build a friendship is significant at any age, gaining friendship during the tween years as do Greta and Kathy is doubly important.

With dynamism and verve, in concert, the girls learn to face whatever life has to throw their way.

Grumble Bluff presents the account of affection and loss, camaraderie and family ties, all placed against a back drop of the, at times, horrifying desolation felt as an outcome of bullying. Following the emotional and social maturation of Kathy and Greta as the pair grow into empathetic and grounded teens filled with optimism and understanding produces a warm and satisfying read.

That Writer Pease is an accomplished writer proficient for producing intensely eloquent imagery is evident as the reader treks through the fragrant woods along with Kathy and Greta to sit with them and listen to the splashing of the brook.

Bullying at any age is thorny to face, is tricky to have to cope with, and when it takes place in school especially during those particularly at risk tween years, kids can be cut so acutely and psychologically that it becomes most difficult to salvage trust in others, to take back trust in self or to appreciate that the bullied are not the ones with the larger problem.

Addressing those hard to face issues inherent to just growing up which kids must deal as they mature; Grumble Bluff helps tweens understand that there can be hope and life can be better.

Grumble Bluff is a work for the counselor's shelf, parents and kids to read together and classroom. I plan to take my review copy and give to our school library where it can be available to our middle grade and older students to use.

It Starts With You!: Every Woman's Guide to Personal Growth and a Successful Love
Julia J Austin
Jackie Paper Publishing
9781432713591 $15.95

Julia J Austin's It Starts With You! Every Woman's Guide to Personal Growth and a Successful Love Relationship Table of Contents is instructive.

Section one outlines for the reader How to be the right person. Beginning with a questionnaire to abet the reader toward making some self discovery which she may not have recognized about herself is a starting point.

On the pages of Chapter Two the author pushes women to truly care for themselves, she says, it is more complicated to instigate or put together a connection with others when you don't really understand or think about yourself.

For those who take pleasure in Biblical reference; the writer offer; a Biblical clarification for what love is: long-suffering, kind, not resentful, not pompous or immodest, not vulgar or egotistical, does not become livid easily, does not well on real or imagined wrongs from others, is not cheerful with malevolence, is joyful with facts, good-naturedly acknowledges all things, trusts and hopes and endures.

It Starts With You is not a feel good little document set forth to add lubricant to smoldering self deception that the reader is but a susceptible pawn in the hands of the world as a whole or a manipulative partner on a personal level. The book IS projected to serve as an individual aid to guide readers toward appreciating how to take ownership of their own lives, and how to be successful partners in satisfying personal relationships.

Throughout the book, the reader is offered suggestions for becoming an improved person in addition to how to go about locating the right person for her and how to ascertain if an apparently ideal person is in point of fact companionable with the reader's particular individuality.

The author puts forward proposals for how to go about making a relationship last and centers her idea on relationship founded in reality and not on pie in the sky or endeavoring to shape the prospective partner into what the reader wants that partner to be.

As the reader probes the book there is found visibly defined approach methodology for learning how to organize notions and behaviors toward forging triumphant links. The writer's approach is augmented with individual experiences, including suggestions re learning from them and then setting down implications for the reader who may find themselves engaged in similar circumstances.

Offering buoyancy and direction for readers; confidence and supervision is drawn from down-to-earth guidance to supply readers with methods needed for dealing successfully and positively with unsatisfactory or disturbing experiences including lack of caution ignoring danger signals or even the self destructive need to stay with incapacitating relationships. The writer points out that in order to embark on a path leading to fulfilled, meaningful relationships hard choices may need to be may.

It seems at times that members of our society as a whole, as well as for many individuals in particular, have developed a feeling for trying to lay responsibility on others; whether parents, culture, upbringing, partner, anything but focusing on self regarding how interrelating with others, or behave in particular settings is performed. Rather than taking a cold hard look at the self to see what is going on to cause serial bad relationships, or self destructive behaviors it is much easier to lay blame elsewhere.

The writer's chatty writing technique is very readable. It Starts With You! is a down-to-earth guide filled with information, idea, thoughts and simple tactics for how to perk up and maintain a relationship far into the future. Using levelheaded philosophy for recognizing strengths and weaknesses in self in order to enter into and grow a relationship will help readers make constructive changes in themselves.

It Starts With You! Every Woman's Guide to Personal Growth and a Successful Love Relationship is a must have for the therapist's collection for the woman who may have had a series of destructive relationships, and for whom contentment seems indefinable and even for those who just plain hope to prolong and improve upon an already good relationships they now enjoy.

Happy to recommend Julia J Austin's It Starts With You! Every Woman's Guide to Personal Growth and a Successful Love Relationship.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
John Boyne
David Fickling Books
31 Beaumont Street Oxford OX1 2NP
9780385751070 $15.95

John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, set in Poland about 1930-1945 commences with Bruno who is astonished one afternoon upon his homecoming from school. In his bedroom the family's maid is packing his things into a suitcase.

Bruno ponders if he has perchance behaved in a manner so appalling that his parents are sending him away.

No, he is told, it is something to do with his father's job, Bruno and his parents and sister are all leaving Berlin.

Bruno is not positive precisely what his father's occupation is, nevertheless, every person says Father is a man to watch, and they say the Fury had big things in mind for Father. Of course, nine year old Bruno is very impressed; Father has a extraordinary uniform and he wears it so well.

Thus, the move to Out-With was made. Bruno did not care for it much.

Looking through his window Bruno did not comprehend what he was seeing.

About twenty feet along from the garden with its flowers and a bench at Out-With where Bruno and his family lived, Bruno saw there was a vast wire fence running along the span of the house, in addition, the barrier turned in at the top, where to continued extending further along in either direction.

The fence rose very far above the ground. From his window Bruno could see children. However, when his sister Gretel took a peek she realized what they were seeing was not children. They were adult men and young boys, although, they pondered where were the mothers and grandmothers and the girls.

And, everyone was wearing striped pajamas, how unusual.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the chronicle of Bruno and Shmuel who become best friends in spite of the reality of their very different lives.

Bruno moved from Berlin, due to his Nazi Commander father's job, and the Fury who leads the country. Bruno now lives in a house next to the camp where Shmuel lives.

Viewing the Holocaust through Bruno's childish, innocent eyes moves the reader along on a riveting expedition. Few of us are unaware of history, and that is what makes the reading so compelling, and so difficult. This is a book I could not put down, even though I knew the outcome was not going to be filled with the optimism young Bruno exhibits.

The relationship formed between these two boys who are separated by nothing more, in their view, but a fence is potent to read.

Bruno does not understand that he is living right next to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where Schmuel lives. Both youngsters ARE children after all. Feeling lonely and inquisitive Bruno sets out to investigate the area and that is when he meets Shmuel.

The two boys talk and become friends in this timeless narrative about two youngsters who are too youthful to be aware of what is going on in the world around them. On one side of the fence there are barracks and huts, and low square buildings and hunger and privation and smoke stacks. On the other is a home and garden.

The author's brilliance for placing the reader into the feelings and musings of a child whose father answers to the Fury -the Fuhrer- and who is sent to live at Out-With - Auschwitz-, in a home on the protected side of the enclosure, is compelling.

Boyne's powerfully persuasive account that unambiguously clarifies the environment widespread in Nazi Germany during the early 1940s that made possible the wholesale ill-treatment of Eastern European Jews is bleak.

Through the eyes of Bruno, a naive nine-year-old who follows along the fence into the distance, where he, and we, come to know Shmuel, a skinny, sad faced Jewish resident who, incredibly, has Bruno's same birth date.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the account of two boys who lose everything precious to them.

However, the reality of their loss is so very different. Ultimately Shmuel and his family will lose everything. Bruno has given up his familiar residence and way of life and his friends. The pair begins to realize the degree of their loss as they get together and sit on opposing sides of the enclosure and chat and become friends.

In some way, Bruno realizes, without being told, that his father must by no means realize Bruno's association with Shmuel.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was scheduled to come out as a movie during fall 2008. It will be an easy one to watch; as the book is not an easy one to read.

Little prepares the reader for the realism of the final scenes.

The writer utilizes an intriguing method for getting his story told, written in the third person, the account is related from the point of view of a nine-year-old.

Forceful, worrying, agony producing, John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is a work of fiction, which might well have taken place during that miserable period. As a parent, and a teacher, I want to reach out, gather both little boys and run away with them.

Commanding writing, memorable, powerful subject; John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is recommended for those who have an interest in history and for those who know little of the era, but should.

Speaking Is an Audience Centered Sport: How to Create and Deliver Presentations That Make People Sit Up, Take Notice and Beg for More
Marjorie Brody
Career Skills Press
815 Greenwood Ave STE 8, Jenkintown PA 19046
9781931148146 $24.95

Brody's Speaking Is an Audience Centered Sport: How to Create and Deliver Presentations That Make People Sit Up, Take Notice and Beg for More is one of her series of motivational works.

Convinced that all of life is a presentation writer/speaker Brody offers suggestions and thoughts about life situations. Whether facing job interviews, sales calls, or staff meetings; speaking moments are all dependent upon talent, mind-set and proficiency for making self-assured presentations. It is important to learn to make the best presentation possible since all have vast impact on careers.

I found the chapter on the subject of Stage Fright and how to Control It to be quite enlightening. Brody notes that the fear of speaking in public ranks ahead of death, flying, heights, and even snakes. She states that it is a fear that can be dealt with successfully.

There are six widespread fears that most speakers do face. These include

1 Fear of your mind going blank as you begin to speak, or during speaking.

2 Fear of exhibiting assorted physical signs of stage fright including nervousness, trembling or the shakes.

3 Challenges from someone in the audience for which you do not have an answer.

4 Fear of being judged and embarrassing yourself.

5 Fear that audience members might believe that you don't know enough regarding the subject.

6 Fear that a bad presentation will destroy your reputation.

Writer Brody advocates that after fears are recognized it is time to commence working toward how to deal with the fears, and, to even use the the fears to help better technique. Self talk for building self esteem is an interesting notion.

Per Brody; Visualization can be another effectual mode for controlling stage fright. She notes constructive self talk coupled with visualization; thinking the setting, talk, possible pitfalls and how to face them, nervousness, loss of memory and how to overcome them; are tools to help control stage fright.

There are some fundamental rules to follow which can also make controlling fears easier. Brody lists: reach your speaking destination early, eat lightly prior to speaking, include a little humor, and utilize some interactive techniques.

More topics include: Why You Need This book, Organizing Your Presentation and The Three Main Parts of Your Presentation.

I found Speaking Is an Audience Centered Sport to be a well-written resource which may well prove useful to anyone who wants to deliver more affirmative talks before co-workers, strangers or any audience.

Overflowing with graphic representations, sidebars, and photographs readers of others of Brody's books have come to expect; this edition is easily read and is intended for use in classrooms as well as on the corporate and individual individual level, and can be used by the private reader. Packed with an abundance of functional lists and infographic materials, Brody's tightly focused writing maintains reader interest by presenting content in small, well-organized subdivisions.

This tome is presented in 11 chapters consistign of almost 300 pages. I was particularly pleased to find print large enough to read without resorting to magnifying lens. I found the illustrations, photographs and side bars distributed throughout the book to be very helpful.

The author covers speeches over and above discussion of an assortment of types of presentations. Brody says there are three levels of influence meant to persuade intrinsic to presentations these include: motivate, convince, and call to action.

Writer Brody is the president of Brody Communications, Ltd., her international training corporation, centered on promoting people toward accelerating their careers. She is a specialized speaking professional who has authored or co-authored eight books including Speaking Is an Audience Centered Sport.

For those considering a career that will embrace public speaking; the data, philosophy and guidelines presented by Brody on the pages of Speaking Is an Audience Centered Sport are presented in understandable, concise manner. A first-rate source for those for whom speaking before a group is thorny, part of the job, or, for those who just want to learn to do a better job of speaking whether on an ongoing basis or only now and then Brody's work fills a real need.

Classroom teachers will discover the work to be an important personal tool as well as a textbook for classroom use. Speaking Is an Audience Centered Sport is suggested for school, home, personal and public library lists. Happy to recommend for the target audience.

Life After Hair Color
Susan V. Darden
1663 Liberty Drive Ste 200 Bloomington IN 47408
9781410792556 $12.50

Susan V Darden's Life After Hair Color is the narrative telling of one woman's journey from shoe hound, worried about appearance, colored hair and all, living according to what she perceived the social expectations of the day which included marriage, a house and children without really realizing that she may not have been living according to what might have been best for herself; to self acceptance and realization that she is stronger than she had thought.

Life After Hair Color is akin to a talk with an old and trusted friend who has experienced many of the very circumstances of life as has the reader. Such a friend does not always expect others to do everything as she does, but, because she too has been through a divorce, or a failed job, or any of the many problems which seem to dog us at one time or another in our lives from young to older; she is aware of what did or did not work for her and is willing to share what she learned without the intrusion of expecting that the reader will simply accept and try to become exactly as, and performing precisely as did the writer in similar situation. At some time in our lives we all need such a friend. Life has a way of taking place not matter how we try to manipulate it to fit our way.

I like Darden's opening line of her Introduction; she points out that many books are available to tell the reader what they are doing wrong in life. Because the writer feels that most readers do know what is wrong in their lives she is not going to write that type of book.

Across 132 pages divided into twenty chapters Darden has crafted what she hopes is a girlfriend-book which readers will use to begin to realize that they too can have the type of relationships they hope for and that they too are strong and capable persons.

From the opening chapter in which Darden discusses her decision to stop coloring her hair, to discussion of her marriage, shoes, to ridding her closet of the clothes that she had bought were not really hers, to the importance of being realizing self worth and having the ability to share knowledge with co workers, to engagement rings which may or not signify the love that is hoped for to the empowering gained by forgiving self, those who perceived or who have actually wronged us and realizing that life will go on even after a miserable situation has taken place; the reader finds the writer's style to be entertaining, illuminating, and very readable.

I particularly enjoyed chapter 16 in which Darden shares the pivotal moment in her life when she realized her parents were only human. She discusses that she was and is a Daddy's Girl, talks of her German born mother and their life in Germany and points out her belief that father's accept daughters as individuals easier than do mothers because fathers do not have the same preconceived ideas related to gender that mother's may hold. As the writer notes that her mother is a woman beset with negativity who is rarely if ever pleased with her life, children, husband, home, what her daughter does, or even what she herself does I am reminded of my own mother who was beset with many of these same problems. I like that Darden points out that there comes a time when adults simply have to move on from the time when expectation that parents not only will be there to provide happiness and approval but are responsible to do so; to recognition that it is time to begin providing happiness and approval for ones self.

I enjoyed the writer's entertaining ruminations regarding the life teachings and provocative self examination she has acquired during her life travels. The writer has a fun, chatty writing style designed for those of us at middle age or older.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

The Ultimate Alternative
Richard Watkins
Desktop Prepress Services
808 S. New Bethel Blvd., Ada, OK 74820
9780578024691 $TBA

A Realistic Look at the Results of Impetuous Choices

"The Ultimate Alternative" vividly illustrates the devastation of meaningful relationships brought about by illicit lapses into "out of control" choices driven by lust. Richard Watkins uses fiction as a platform to demonstrate the danger and downfall of sexual addictions in the lives of otherwise successful, outwardly well adjusted people.

The novel highlights the lives of Isaac, Jasmine, Derek, and Monica in a fast moving drama of flirtation, sexual affairs, deceit, unfaithfulness, and adultery. The story makes obvious the fact that regardless of how many degrees, career successes, or street smarts a person has there is a need for a solid spiritual foundation if we are to avoid yielding to the chaos brought about by sexual lust. Each of the four failed in their own way. Through forgiveness, family support, and pastoral counseling they are enabled to move on with their lives to become whole persons.

This is a book that says it like it is. This may be offensive to some. Much of the story is quite graphic, or it might become a stumbling block to others as it may cause some young men to falter by fueling their fantasies.

Watkins writes with a genuine heartfelt concern. He maintains that to overcome these temptations a person must be in fellowship with other Christians in the church and that they must develop a strong personal relationship with God.

"The Ultimate Alternative" is thought provoking, convicting, and a strong reminder to every reader that "the choices we make today will determine what we will have, be, and do in the tomorrows of your life."

Avenging Storm
Maurice Mayben
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759264 $19.95

Action Adventure, Combining History with Legend and Scientific Research

Maurice Mayben has drawn from events from history added colorful legend to create a techno thriller introducing scientific events and research based in part on his own military knowledge and extensive martial arts training to craft this masterpiece of suspense, international intrigue, and peril.

Derek Storm found himself stranded and wounded in the desert of Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. Within the ruins of an abandoned bomb crater Storm discovered ancient artifacts which held the key to an ancient Chinese healer's cure for cancer.

Brothers, Doctors Peter and Daniel Flynn, uncles of Storm, were on the verge of a breakthrough in cancer research. Shady government officials, depraved mercenaries, and a ruthless group of medical doctors driven by the greed and the lust for power joined forces to hold back the cure.

Derek Storm's Uncle Pete Flynn was murdered after he refused to divulge the secret location of their research lab. At this point the action picks up as Storm enlists a team of military and high tech experts to link up with him in an effort to acquire and decode the ancient tablets he discovered ten years earlier. Storm draws on his Kung Fun San Soo black belt skills in this race to recover the artifact.

Mayben deftly introduces strong characters that drive an intensive plot, jam-packed with action and sub plots. This team of characters put in motion and action adventure story that keeps the reader engaged right up to the spectacular climatic conclusion.

Pick One: Ways Your Can Help
Colin Ingram and Robert D. Reed
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759301 $14.95

A Passion and a Cause

"Pick One: Ways You Can Help: The World, The Nation, Your Region, Your Community" is a guidebook of charitable organizations compiled by Colin Ingram and Robert D. Reed.

In this collaboration of effort Ingram and Reed have created an comprehensive list of organizations, summarizing the type of service each renders. The entries describe not only what the organization does, but records sources of their funding, and the way these funds are used in administration, fund raising and in direct ministry or service related activities.

Although you may not think of yourself as a Philanthropist you are constantly faced with opportunities and choices for making a contribution of time and or money to worthy benevolent causes or for volunteering to give time and services directly to needy projects.

You may have a passion for solving the problem of worldwide hunger, of improving health care, or for finding a way to eliminate poverty. Whether you opt to join colleagues on a disaster relief project, a short term mission venture, through your church, or to volunteer to help in an urban renewal project "Pick One" will enable you to make wiser choices in giving or volunteering.

I found the section "Ways to Volunteer" to be a valuable resource in providing ways to take that first step in exploring a mission or a cause with a specific challenge for adventure, participation, or personal reward.

The listing of major charity rating organizations is valuable tool for researching additional information on organizations of particular individual interest. The complete alphabetical index of organizations is another important feature of the book.

"Pick One" is written with the intended purpose of equipping the reader with a well informed approach to finding ways to contribute locally, regionally, nationally, and worldwide. The book is a well-timed and significant resource for individual use, for family foundations, and for the Philanthropist.

Rendezvous Rock
Rickey Bray
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759257 $19.95

The Secretive Realm of the Three Circles

"Rendezvous Rock" is entirely a fictional account. Rickey Bray combines a mixture of Aztec wizardry, imagined half-lings, changelings, glammers, warlocks, and night stalkers in this unique novel. It carries all the marks of realism with a hint of biographical influence.

While on a short camping trip with his uncle Ned, Eric is bewitched by Susan, who is camping nearby with her parents. Eric and Susan spend the night before Erick is to return home together. Eric unwittingly agrees to a lifetime commitment to Susan.

Bray writes with an amazing sensitivity to the insecurity and innocence of youth and the beauty and blind devotion of first love. Rickey has been gifted with a remarkable imaginative mind. His writing combines fantasy, science fiction, and the occult.

The story includes references to mental projection, knowledge gained from dreams, potions which can heal and enhance the mind, and creatures who can touch fire without being burned. The account revolves around the prophecy of a child to be born to a witch and a young man who is a Halfling. A sexual tension reappears throughout the story. These scenes may move back and forth from poetic beauty to innuendo and eroticism.

Bray's characters are authentic and multi-dimensional. The plot although obviously fictional has a ring of authenticity that leaves the reader questioning…what if?

Bray has an unusual creative imagination and an appealing writing style. The novel was written while author Rickey Bray was in prison with no opportunity to use the internet and only limited access to library resources.

Bray has the literary style and polished quality of a seasoned writer. His writing raises the bar on ex-prisoner published books from second-rate to outstanding. "Rendezvous Rock" will be enjoyed by aficionados of fantasy the cultic and adventure with a romantic twist.

Live Courageously: Choose to Be the Real You
Terri Cadiente
Destiny Image Publications, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 1725-0310
9780768428209 $16.99

Rescue, Recovery, and Restoration

Terri Cadiente's book "Living Courageously" is a story of rescue, recovery, and restoration. Terri shares personal experiences from her journey with God revealing parallels taken from her life as a Jet Ski Champion and Hollywood Stunt Woman.

The book is based on Christian principles and steeped in spiritual insight. Terri talks about rejection, emotional insecurity, low self image, and the need for affirmation. Terri is straightforward, open and frank in her writing. Her testimony is genuine. Terri stresses the importance of making alternate choices in the process of discovering who you are and who you want to be.

Her approach to "life coaching" is compelling. Cadiente uses a life coaching approach as she offers the reader practical suggestions, keys, and guidelines for facing the tough challenges of life, replacing fear and frenzy with inner security and the exhilaration of living in freedom.

"Live Courageously" is written especially for anyone wanting to identify and reframe misguided beliefs and unmask self doubt to be freed from the bondage of emotional paralysis that accompanies the anxiety of rejection and abandonment through the power of Christ. Terri's invites the reader to join her in a walk with God that promises a richer and more fulfilling life.

Terri's life and experiences have uniquely prepared her to author "Live Courageously." Terri's has risen above the shame and self defeating behaviors to face the challenges of a busy career and personal accomplishments to embrace pursing a new life in Jesus Christ.

Dance As the Spirit Moves
Heather Clark
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768428186 $14.99

A Guide to Worshipping the Lord Through Dance

"Dance as the Spirit Moves" is a hands-on guidebook on introducing dance into the corporate worship of the church. Heather Clark is a pioneer, paving the way for a new generation of worshippers as she challenges the reader to consider the importance of integrating dance as an expression of worship. She shares a fresh slant on Biblical dance as applicable in today's contemporary worship celebration.

Clark defines dance in worship as "…a spontaneous result of a heart that is full of joy, love, passion, desire, or even pain." Heather shares the story of own spiritual journey and background relating incidents that shaped her development in the creative arts.

Heather talks about a number of various forms of dance mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. She uses Miriam, Moses' sister, as an illustration of the prophetic dance and King David as an example of the celebratory dance. She discusses how colors become spiritual symbols. She goes on to present an overview of dance history and the development of modern day spiritual dance.

Heather's material is not only comprehensive, but carries with it a profound sense vision with a genuine eagerness to pass along instruction to those desirous of introducing the art of dance as an act of worshipful expression as a meaningful ministry within the church.

"Dance in the Spirit Moves," is more that a practical guide to worship and dance. It is Heather's own paean of praise. Heather Clark is a gifted artist, articulates clearly, and resonates as a communicator.

Richard R. Blake

Slessman's Bookshelf

The Education of an American Dreamer
Peter G. Peterson
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780446556033 $34.99

As I read THE EDUCATION OF AN AMERICAN DREAMER, How A Son Of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way From A Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street and Beyond by Peter G. Peterson I heard the words of my own mother, "You and your willingness to work for it will determine what kind of life you have." It is apparent that Peter G. Peterson agrees with my mother.

Living in a small Nebraska town and working in his father's restaurant, Peterson learned early in life of the opportunities that living in America offered. Of Greek descent, his family worked hard and was very happy with the live they carved out for themselves in the U.S. Peterson's father financed his college education starting at MIT and eventually at Northwestern. No stranger to work, Peterson financed his social life at Northwestern by working as a waiter. Upon graduating from Northwestern he entered the advertising field and eventually worked his way into the financial sector.

The name Peter G. Peterson brings to one's mind the word success. From advertising to finance to politics, Peterson has proved to one and all that he has the ability and foresight to lead a generation of thinkers. His ability to say no to things that would tempt even the strongest of us, he has made choices in his life based on his own ideals and the ability to look forward. He is definitely not a man who lives for today only. He has always been a forward thinker, even today, as he wrote this work, he worries about what leaving a mess for our children and grandchildren. He even contributed one billion to finance his own Peter G. Peterson Foundation to hopefully educate our young in how to deal with the problems they are inheriting.

This was a good read. It provided a good analyst of today's problem areas while telling the story of a young Nebraskan man who made his life one that everyone will find interesting and motivating. In today's economy, $34.99 is a hefty price to pay for elective reading. However, I will go as far as to say, "It may be one of the best investments you make this year."

Always Looking Up
Michael J. Fox
Hyperion Books
9781401303389 $25.99

I, like so many, enjoyed watching Michael J. Fox in his many roles whether it was on the big screen or television. There is something rather endearing about his manner and smile. I became even more of a fan of Michael J. Fox after reading his new book, ALWAYS LOOKING UP. The manner in which Michael handles Parkinson's Disease is an inspiration to everyone. Instead of hiding his disease, he has brought it to the forefront for the better of those who also fight daily to get up in the morning, manage a toothbrush that seemingly has a life of its own, wills their legs and feet to move in a specified direction and deal with a head that often rivals a boggle head. Now, I am not being disrespectful…Michael himself have used these analogies to describe his daily battle with this Parkinson's.

This particular book is a great study of Parkinson's and its daily challenges. It destroys careers, builds frustrations that rival the Empire State Building and quite often, makes recluses of those who deal with it. However, Michael J. Fox is having nothing to do with the recluse part. He has built a foundation whose sole purpose if finding a cure for Parkinson's. Modeled after the foundation founded by Christopher Reeves and his wife, Michael fights daily to end this disease's hold on humans today. His foundation works a bit different in that it sends out funds as soon as they are received. While this method has the possibility of creating a financial crunch at times, Fox states he wants to move on this disease NOW.

I would recommend that you buy this book. I found it engaging, eye-opening and honestly told.

Annie Slessman

Stephen's Bookshelf

Evocative Objects
Sherry Turkle, editor
The MIT Press
9780262201681 $24.95

This is an unexpectedly delightful yet seriously thoughtful book that invites you reexamine your relationship to objects, about which, you seldom, if ever think.

It's a collection of essays written by humanists, designers, scientists and artists-thoughtful individuals-that disclose the fluidity and complexity of being alive by revealing their very personal relationships with objects as mundane as a rolling pin and as banal as comic book superheroes.

Each essay is paired with writings from philosophy, history, literature and theory which resonate with the essay in ways that illuminate both what the essayist is saying and what he or she means.

Each essay, in a very different way, demonstrates why it is a mistake to assume that objects are nothing more than inanimate collections of atoms and molecules. They show instead that objects can be and often are capable of evoking potent emotional responses dealing with grief, fear, loss, love, hatred, abandonment, intellectual curiosity, poverty and existence.

Here's a taste of what's in store for you should you choose to read this book:


Before the essay the paired writing offers this: "To get to the idea of playing it is helpful to think of the preoccupation that characterizes the playing of a young child. The content does not matter. What matters is the near withdrawal state, akin to the concentration of older children and adults. The playing child inhabits an area that cannot be easily left, nor can it easily admit intrusions. This area of playing is not inner psychic reality. It is outside the individual but it is not the external world. Into this play area the child gathers objects or some sample derived from inner or personal reality…[Thus] in playing, the child manipulates external phenomena with dream meaning and feeling [And] there is a direct development from transitional phenomena to playing, and from playing to shared playing, and from this to cultural experiences." --D. W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality

The essay is about the experiences of a little girl with an actual stuffed bunny and explores how, at first, she finds it no different from "the rest of the pastel objects" of her world. As you follow the story you learn how the little girl (the author's sister) develops the idea that a she can love a bunny.

Next you come to understand how she deals with the separation anxiety associated with the realization that when she begins nursery school she won't be able to take Murray with her. Later you learn how the little girl infuses Murray with a life of his own in a utopian setting with provinces and capitals and a complicated topography. And finally the author reveals this about Murray: "…he has given me a ringside seat at the performance of Shayna's imagination, even as I remind myself that in fact it was she, as his creator who bought me the ticket to that seat."

This book will make you laugh and cry, say WHAT(?) and oh yeah, I know exactly what that feels like. I found reading it like riding an intellectual rollercoaster that forced me to reexamine not only objects but my relationship with and to them.

The book begins and ends with an essay by Sherry Turkle which adds to the reading experience and further illuminates how and why objects, can and do become powerfully evocative.

I recommend this book without reservation.

Robert Lanza, MD with Bob Berman
Benbella Books Inc.
Dallas Texas
9781933771694 $24.95

In this book, Lanza deals with some of the ideas presented by Samuel Avery in Transcendence of the Western Mind.

His central thesis is "life creates the universe instead of the other way around." And, while he doesn't use the word what his thesis supports is solipsism.

What makes this book both interesting and worth the effort of reading it; is the unique perspective Lanza brings to the subject matter as a physician. Physicians are, by definition, intellectual chimeras because the discipline of medicine is an amalgam of hard science, healing, philosophy, metaphysics and ethics. Each physician must decide what to take and use from that intellectual palette and the decisions they make, in that regard, to a large extent define who they are, how they practice and what kind(s) of relationships they cultivate with patients and colleagues. I know this because I worked with physicians for most of my adult life in hospitals.

From the way he chooses to present his arguments, it's clear he has a solid grasp of esoteric disciplines like quantum theory, special relativity and particle physics. And what makes his presentation more compelling than other efforts I've encountered is his ability and willingness to weave personal experience into the thoughts and ideas presented.

His style is conversational and warm which tends to pull you along through the exposition gently. And his sense of wonder and befuddlement at shop worn enigmas like the double slit experiment, Bell's theorem, non-locality and Schrödinger's cat is as infectious as it is delightful.

He reveals his bent toward solipsism in this passage where he talks about his friend Barbara in the chapter on consciousness:

"Every morning, she opens her front door to bring in the Boston Globe or to work in her garden. She opens her back porch door to a lawn dotted with whirly-gigs, squeaking as they go round and round in the breeze. She thinks the world churns along whether she happens to open the door or not.

It does not affect her in the least that the kitchen disappears when she's in the bathroom. That the garden and whirly-gigs evaporate when she's sleeping. That the shop and all its tools don't exist while she's at the grocery store."

What he says about Barbara is true and, because it's true, he leads the reader directly to the precipice of the abyss of solipsism.

Like it or not, solipsism is an epistemological nightmare. Its premise is that everyone creates reality, on-the-fly. Everything we see, touch, hear, smell or feel happens only in our head and not "out there" in the real world. That's the reason solipsism is referred to as an abyss because the next logical and inescapable question is whose reality is it? Is it yours or mine or someone else's?

The way out of that quagmire is to understand that solipsism obtains for perceptual consciousness only. And, to truly appreciate what that means I recommend you also read Transcendence of the Western Mind.

I very much like what Lanza has to say in Biocentrism. My only reservation is his failure to deal with the implications of how firmly his thesis embraces solipsism.

Stephen J. Hage

Theodore's Bookshelf

A Not So Perfect Crime
Teresa Solana
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London W11 2LW
c/o Mery Zegarek Public Relations
255 W. 108th St., NY, NY 10025
9781904738343 $14.95 917-493-3601

This first novel (the author says she wrote several previously but relegated them to a drawer) introduces twin brothers scrounging for a livelihood in Barcelona. One is a part-time accountant in a bank, the other away for many years before returning with a different name to convince his brother to undertake a business of facilitating tasks for influential people who wish to bury their "dirty laundry." They are not investigators by any means but end up conducting a job for an influential politician who suspects his wife of infidelity.

One thing leads to another as the brothers con their client about their various discoveries until the wife suddenly dies of poisoning. The politician implores them to uncover the identity of the murderer since the husband is one of the potential suspects. They bumble around until they end up finding an unusual solution to all the problems.

Written with humor, the plot is an interesting and amusing series of vignettes, ending in an epilogue that ties all the loose ends together. It is deftly translated (albeit with a few misspellings and incorrect use of words) by Peter Bush. It is fast reading and won the 2007 Brigada 21 Prize for the best Catalan mystery novel, and it is recommended.

A Picture of Guilt
James Brownley
Severn House
595 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10022
9781847510402 $15.95

Alison Glasby is a fledgling reporter for a British newspaper, ambitious but with little experience. Then she gets a break, working with a star crime reporter, Bill Davenport, whose reputation was made when he received a confession from a notorious murderer and wrote a book about the abduction and killing of four young girls.

Alison's first task is to cover the death of the murderer at the prison, where she finds a photo of one of the victims and her sister, never before seen. Reviewing Davenport's files, Alison begins to get suspicious about the story as it had been published and begins to question everything, even looking into the facts herself. Davenport, on the eve of his retirement, merely wishes to protect his reputation.

The plot involves not only reaching the truth, but growing up both as a person and as a journalist. It is a well-told, clearly written novel, filled with insights. It is well worth reading, and recommended.

Neptune Avenue
Gabriel Cohen
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312380618 $24.95 646-307-5560

Brooklyn may have lost the Dodgers many years ago, but on a more positive note, in recent times it has gained Jack Leightner, homicide detective, in the series based on various sections of that borough. Initially, he appeared in "Red Hook," then in "The Graving Dock." Now, in the third in the series, he solves crimes in two areas: Coney Island/Brighton Beach and Crown Heights.

While recovering from a bullet wound, Jack befriends a Russian emigre sharing his hospital room. The roommate owns a fish import-export business in the Fulton Fish Market and is married to a very attractive woman. When they are released from the hospital, the two men rehabilitate together, walking, sharing steam baths, and getting closer. Subsequently his friend is shot dead, and Jack takes it personally. He becomes entangled romantically with the widow, who points him toward another Russian (Brighton Beach is home to a large segment of that population), and Jack attempts to prove him guilty of the crime.

Meanwhile two women are found hanged in the Crown Heights section, inhabited primarily by Hasidic Jews. Beaver fibers are located on each scene, where the women were determined to be strangled rather than suicide victims. Jack proceeds to follow each case while carrying on his affair with the widow, jeopardizing his career.

Each of the three novels in the series portrays Brooklyn, its sights, sounds and history, with an authentic flavor. And the author's ability to write a clear police procedural places him on a par with the best of the genre. In this latest chapter, we learn more about Leightner, the person, and it makes him more human than superman. All to the good. Recommended.

Little Blue Whales
Kenneth R. Lewis
Krill Press
P.O. Box 396, Rogue River, OR 97537
9780982144305 $16.95

The author is a Chief of Police in Oregon, as is the protagonist of this splendid debut novel. While it is the story of a messianic serial killer, it is really about how a repressed memory of a childhood incident can affect a grown person's life.

Kevin Kearnes was a policeman in Dodger City, with a wife and two sons he loved, until things went downhill for some reason and his marriage ended in divorce. He applied for and won the job of Police Chief in Cutter City, Oregon, in which the mayor and his cronies in city government and the police department were so corrupt that they fired and hired police chiefs almost annually.

Kevin, of course, not only has to stand up and battle the corruption, but undertake to conduct an investigation into the disappearance and murder of four young boys while battling his own demons from the past and coming to grips with a possible new love.

The book is an impressive start for a first-time novelist. It flows smoothly, is tightly plotted and believable. Obviously he author's experience as a police chief lends authenticity to the crime novel, but more impressive is the skill with which he portrays human emotions.

No mention is made as to whether or not Mr. Lewis is hard at work at a follow-up effort. Let's hope he is.


Parnell Hall
Pegasus Books
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605870256 $14.95 212-504-2494

Welcome once again to the wacky world of Stanley Hastings, a private investigator who works for a negligence attorney who reaps in loads of slip-and-fall cases through TV advertising. Stanley does nothing more exciting than sign up clients to a retainer agreement and take pictures of broken steps and potholes and the like.

That is until one day a hitman comes in to hire Stanley to prevent him from killing the person he has been hired to kill. The only problem is the "client" gives a false name and fails to identify the victim. Stanley undertakes the task, but then the hitman is shot dead and the person Stanley thought was the target also is shot and killed. From that point the plot gets more and more complicated and confusing.

However, the story, writing and dialog are very funny, in keeping with the tenor of the earlier entries in the series. Stanley's wry comments are multiplied by those of his wife and favorite police officers, as well as his attorney-employer. Fun to read, and recommended.

Italian Shoes
Henning Mankell
The New Press
38 Greene St., NY, NY 10013
9780595584366 $26.95 212-629-8802

This standalone (of course it isn't a Wallander mystery) is a sad story and probably an allegory on what the author believes to be the deterioration of Swedish society and culture as well as the world's attitude toward the environment. While such a negative view is predominant, he does hold out some glimmer of hope.

Basically, the novel is the story of Frederick Welin, son of a "lowly" waiter who was able to rise in status through college and medical school and become a surgeon. While a young man, he had a torrid affair with a young woman who he abandoned without explanation. Years later, an error during an operation led to an official reprimand, a decision he could not accept, so he fundamentally quit life retiring to an island offshore where he lived with only a dog and a cat for company. Lethargy ruled his days, exemplified by a growing anthill in his living room, ignored by him as it slowly took over the area.

Then one day, after 11 years on the island, now 66, his former lover is seen standing on the ice, leaning on a walker. She's dying of cancer but forces him to face up to the present (and hopefully the future).

Written by a masterful writer, this is a tale of redemption and renewal. The use of Italian shoes as a symbol of what can be accomplished by painstaking craftsmanship gives rise to optimism in an otherwise sad but poignant tale. Recommended.

About Face
Donna Leon
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802118967 $24.00 212-614-7850

It is no mean feat to sustain a mystery series at this high a level for 17 novels. Of course, that is just what Donna Leon has accomplished and more (this is the 18th Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery). Of course, "About Face" features that charming and erudite Venetian detective in a tale that begins with what appears to be mafia control of the garbage industry and illegal dumping of dangerous substances but soon turns from just a simple criminal inquiry into a more complicated morality tale.

Once again the reader is treated to the sights and sounds of Venice as well as Brunetti's love of classical literature and the delightful observances of his wife. Written with subtlety and insight into the characters, the novel, as its predecessors, is a pleasure to read, and is recommended.

First Family
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446539753 $27.99 800-759-0190

It doesn't happen very often. In fact, it's not supposed to occur at all. But in this well-constructed novel, the President and First Lady are at the mercy of an unidentified kidnapper, and the Secret Service and FBI are virtually powerless to stop the latter from carrying out his plan.

We are introduced to a young girl who is celebrating her 12th birthday at Camp David because she's said to be the President's niece. Shortly thereafter, she's kidnapped, her mother killed, and her father knocked unconscious, sustaining a severe concussion. The only clues: virtually all of the mother's blood is removed and some sort of gibberish is written on her arm with a marking pen. Meanwhile, another woman also is abducted.

Sean King and Michelle Maxwell to the rescue. Both are former Secret Service agents who were drummed out and are now private investigators. Sean is called in by the First Lady to get to the bottom of the mystery outside of official investigations; he did the First Family a deep favor in the past and she has confidence in him.

While the plot is somewhat far out, it certainly is interesting and well-told. The characters are believable, despite the super-human aspects of the two protagonists. The portrayal of the President and his wife is intriguing, to say the least. Sympathy for the "villain" swings back and forth to a fare-thee-well. All in all a good read, and recommended.

First Family
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017,
9780446539753 $27.99 800-759-0190,

It doesn't happen very often. In fact, it's not supposed to occur at all. But in this well-constructed novel, the President and First Lady are at the mercy of an unidentified kidnapper, and the Secret Service and FBI are virtually powerless to stop the latter from carrying out his plan.

We are introduced to a young girl who is celebrating her 12th birthday at Camp David because she's said to be the President's niece. Shortly thereafter, she's kidnapped, her mother killed, and her father knocked unconscious, sustaining a severe concussion. The only clues: virtually all of the mother's blood is removed and some sort of gibberish is written on her arm with a marking pen. Meanwhile, another woman also is abducted.

Sean King and Michelle Maxwell to the rescue. Both are former Secret Service agents who were drummed out and are now private investigators. Sean is called in by the First Lady to get to the bottom of the mystery outside of official investigations; he did the First Family a deep favor in the past and she has confidence in him.

While the plot is somewhat far out, it certainly is interesting and well-told. The characters are believable, despite the super-human aspects of the two protagonists. The portrayal of the President and his wife is intriguing, to say the least. Sympathy for the "villain" swings back and forth to a fare-thee-well. All in all a good read, and recommended.

Carol Higgins Clark
9781416562177 $25.00

If you're in the mood for something light and short, this novel will fill the bill. It brings Regan Reilly back to Los Angeles from New York where she moved when she wed Jack "No relation" Reilly. What prompts her return is a phone call from her former LA neighbor, Abigail Feeney, requesting Regan's help in locating a former boyfriend to whom she loaned $100,000.

Regan leaves for the West Coast within hours (the whole novel takes place in just about a day). Abigail's grandmother also is due to arrive on the next day, Abigail's birthday. It seems the money originally came from the grandmother, meant to be the down payment on an apartment or home for Abigail, and as a birthday present she intends to pay for a friend's apartment with the $100,000 contributing to the purchase price. Unfortunately the former boyfriend spent the money and disappeared.

The side stories include the machinations of the boyfriend and his partner to finance a film they are attempting to make, and various calamities befalling Abigail who believes she is cursed (her birthday is Friday the 13th, there are 13 letters in her name, etc.) as well as an earthquake and other roadblocks to solving the mystery.

For some light reading or to while away some time at the beach, the novel will suit the purpose well.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Palos Verdes Blue, A Jack Liffey Mystery
John Shannon
Pegasus Books LLC
80 Broad St., 5th Floor, New York, NY 1004
9781605980379 $25.00

This is the eleventh thriller in the series. Private Eye Jack Liffey is searching for Blaine, the missing daughter of one of his ex-wife's friends. The hunt leads him to the beach and a group of rich teenage surfers. The boys are mean and violent bullies who do what they want. That includes terrorizing illegal Mexican workers who live in makeshift shacks close to the mansions where they work.

It appears that there's a connection between the angry teenage boys, the poor Mexican laborers and Blaine. Was she caught in the cross fire during her visits to give aid to the Mexicans?

Unknown to Liffey, his daughter Maeve decides to help him find the young woman. The search leads father and daughter into dangerous waters as one poor Mexican boy's wish to learn to surf ignites a fearsome feud.

I enjoyed the book and liked Liffey's intelligence, wisdom and compassion. He's a character that's easy to like and care about and one that will draw me back to reading more books in the series.

For more information on this and other books in the series you can go to:

North of Montana
April Smith
Vintage Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780307390653 $13.95

FBI agent, Ana Grey works for the LA Field Office, but Ana's ready to move on. Her partner Agent Donnato gives her great support, but unfortunately she's stuck with a boss who resents her and an ex-boyfriend who likes to stalk her. Instead of a promotion, Ana receives the high profile case of a doctor accused of drugging his film star client.

Ana's already investigating the murder of a Hispanic woman claiming to be a distant cousin through her father's side of the family. She later discovers the Salvadoran woman worked for the doctor who's accused of drugging the movie star. Could there be a connection between the two cases?

Ana knows little about the immigrant father who left her behind. The investigation brings up old memories Anna would prefer to forget. Meanwhile, Ana becomes attracted to her partner and friend Agent Donnato.

The feisty and complex character of Ana Grey draws the reader in to the story and keeps them there right to the end. Readers should know there's a sequel out titled, Good Morning Killer. For further information on the series, check out

Victoria Kennedy

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design