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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 6 June 2013 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Crocco's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Deacon's Bookshelf
Emanuel's Bookshelf Erik's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Heidi's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Janet's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Lois' Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Marjorie's Bookshelf
Mayra's Bookshelf Michael's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf
Regis' Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

The War of the Roses - The Children
Warren Adler
Stonehouse Press
9243 Countess Drive
Owings Mills, MD 21117-4508
9781590061121, $14.55, B00BSYIJX2, $7.69

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

The War of the Roses - The Children, by Warren Adler provides an intimate glimpse inside the fragile lives of the surviving children of the original blockbuster book/movie, War of the Roses, an iconic story that resonated across the globe for decades with an international audience.

When the marriage of Barbara and Jonathan Rose disintegrated, it launched a sequence of events leading to their ultimate demise, which left their two children alone. Although this story was told with savvy noir humor which appealed to many, its darker themes also rang true with scores of couples dealing with or about to delve into the complicated world of divorce.

In this intriguing sequel, poor little Josh and Evie were raised by loving grandparents, but the effects of exposure to parental violent screaming matches and obsessions over property destruction for spite marked these kids as damaged.

Often the consequences of divorce and parental discord are intangible, lingering and festering for years to come in the children's hearts and minds, and frequently such past events can ruin the next generation's marriages. Mr. Adler's treatment of this very serious situation is handled tastefully, and in spite of the nature of the subject, he manages to inject some delicious humor into this sequel.

As always in a Warren Adler book, the writing goes down like a cool mint frappe, smooth and delectable. Mr. Adler's dialog is natural and on target, and progressive scenes draw the reader forward in a rush to reach resolution. His characters come alive on the page and reveal human foibles. Infidelity and dishonesty run rampant in this story, and the length to which a headstrong mother goes to protect her son is rather alarming.

After the first few chapters, readers will feel as if they know these characters, not only recognizing common human frailties in them, but relating to and caring about them.

Josh Rose, son of Barbara and Jonathan Rose, is now a married adult with his own two children, Michael and Emily. His human failings are severe, and although on the surface of his marriage it seems all is golden, we discover there is a quagmire hiding beneath. The dichotomy between the verbalized philosophies of their family versus reality is striking.

Evie Rose, surviving daughter of Barbara and Jonathan, has tumbled in and out of relationships and finds her best friend to be mini-epicurean adventures. A talented cook with no acknowledgement of healthy eating, she whips up fattening, luscious meals to both soothe tears and comfort breaking hearts. Evie relates food to joy, to love, to happiness (don't we all?). And her upbeat attitude, regardless of her flagrant disregard for healthy eating, is contagious. Evie was unquestionably this reviewer's favorite character.

Tension simmers between Victoria, Josh's health-nut OCD wife, and the sweet, foodaholic Evie. Josh is torn between them, yet although he is mindful of his wife's desires regarding the kids and what they eat, he harbors great love for his sister. Fiercely loyal to her, this allegiance drives a wedge between the family. Subterfuge becomes the norm.

In the end, the grandchildren of Barbara and Jonathan Rose are the instigating factors of changes needed and changes to come. Brilliantly planned, they turn life upside down to force healing in their parents' relationship.

War of the Roses - The Children is highly recommended as a fascinating look at psychology and family with a tongue-in-cheek flavor that will make readers chuckle and smile. Question - will there be a sequel to the sequel? Perhaps Mr. Adler will consider it.

JoJoe: A Blackbear Pennsylvania Story
Sally Wiener Grotta
Pixel Hall Press
9780988387119, $29.95 hc / $17.95 pbk

Dr. Alma H. Bond, Reviewer

JoJoe, A Black Bear Pennsylvania Story, by Sally Wiener Grotta, is a highly unusual book. The heroine, Judith Ormand, is unique in that she is both African American and Jewish. At the early death of her mother, with whom she had lived in Paris, Judith is sent to America to be brought up by her white Christian grandparents. The only Black person among Caucasians townspeople, Judith feels very much alone. She is treated with hatred and brutality by her schoolmates, and returns to Paris as soon as she is old enough. She didn't come back to Black Bear for twenty years, when she was summoned to attend the death of her beloved grandmother.

Grottta is very good at communicating the loneliness felt by Judith, the only Black or Jewish person among a town of Caucasian people. The story of a Black Jewess is highly unusual in literature, and to my knowledge, has never been written before. Grotta seems to understand the psychology of Judith's religion and race very well, and portrays both in depth in a completely convincing manner.

Some of Grotta's insights are excellent. For example, Judith's comment about the elderly AH, "How lonely he must be, to find himself so old, all his childhood friends gone" (p. 248). This is a state one would expect to know only after having reached extreme old age. It is impressive that Grotta, who I believe is much younger, has deep understanding into a stage of life she has not experienced. Similarly, I like her reflection on death, "that's more an absence than a thing in itself (p. 98.)

Although most of Ormand's characters are well drawn, my major criticism of the book is that they are presented psychologically as either black and white. In real life, people are not pure good or evil, but possess both qualities in varying degrees. Gramma appears to be a perfect woman and surrogate mother who is adored by her granddaughter, but suddenly turns out to be a manipulator who has ruined lives. Surely nobody could be that good or that bad! Adding a few opposing traits in both characterizations would have made the lady seem more human. Similarly, Joe is everything young Judith wants in a man and best friend, but then she unrealistically turns completely against him and views him as pure evil. That she changes her mind about him again is crucial to the story, but again, unbelievable.

Nevertheless, despite this shortcoming, JoJoe, A Black Bear Pennsylvania story is a highly readable book which immediately captures the reader's interest and swiftly carries him or her through a story which is always interesting. It is a valuable book, which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good read and wishes to learn about an important neglected subject in American fiction.

Fossil Mammals of Asia
Xiaoming Wang, et al.
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd St., NY, NY 10023-7015
9780231150125, $99.50,

Andy Jordan

The Cenozoic Era is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras, following the Mesozoic Era and covering the period from 66 million years ago to the present. The era began in the wake of the Cretaceous - Tertiary extinction event (K-T event) at the end of the Cretaceous that saw the demise of the last non-avian dinosaurs (as well as other terrestrial and marine flora and fauna) at the end of the Mesozoic. The Cenozoic is also known as the Age of Mammals, because the extinction of many groups allowed mammals to greatly diversify.

Early in the Cenozoic, following the extinction of the dinosaurs as the dominant life form, the planet was dominated by relatively small fauna, including small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. From a geological perspective, it did not take long for mammals and birds to greatly diversify in the absence of the large reptiles that had dominated during the Mesozoic. Mammals came to occupy almost every available niche (both marine and terrestrial), and some also grew very large, attaining sizes not seen in most of today's mammals.

Climate-wise, the Earth had begun a drying and cooling trend, culminating in the glaciations of the Pleistocene Epoch, and partially offset by the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. The continents also began looking roughly familiar at this time and moved into their current positions.

The Cenozoic is divided into three periods: The Paleogene, Neogene, and Quaternary; and seven epochs: The Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Holocene.

"Fossil Mammals of Asia: Neogene Biostratigraphy and Chronology" by the team of Xiamong Wang (Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County), Lawrence J. Flynn (Assistant Director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University), and Mikael Fortelius (Professor of Evolutionary Paleontology, University of Helsinki) is a 752 page compendium comprised of 31 articles by experts in the field and methodically organized into sections covering East Asia; South and Southeast Asia; North and Central Asia; and West Asia and Adjacent Regions.

The field of paleontology has made extraordinary discoveries and advancements with respect to the mammalian biostratigraphy and geochronology of the Neogene period in Asia. "Fossil Mammals of Asia: Neogene Biostratigraphy and Chronology" is a seminal work of outstanding scholarship that should be considered a mandatory addition to professional and academic library Paleontology reference collections in general, and Neogene era mammalian studies supplemental reading lists in particular.

Cold Lonely Courage
Soren Paul Petrek
Black Rose Writing
P. O. Box 1540, Castroville, Texas 78009
9781467950640, $15.95,

Clark Isaacs, Reviewer

Armed Forces Day was on May 18 and during this week following; we celebrate the men and women who are currently serving in the military. It is only natural that we also reflect on those military who served in World War II pushing the Nazi German Army back from its occupation of France. "Cold Lonely Courage" by Soren Paul Petrek is a fictional story and based upon fact. This book is the debut novel that has received several awards for stylistic writing, characters that are lifelike, and a story needing conveyance again.

Main character is hero Madeleine Touch a French woman who serves the British secret service because she had killed without hesitation previously! She was the victim of a brutal rape by SS occupiers of her town. Ashamed in telling her father about this she was able to vindicate herself by learning how to use a gun and killing her main protagonist, a Nazi officer. In addition, her want to avenge the death of her brother shot in the first days of the Nazi occupation.

Madeleine used resistance connection to escape capture in her hometown and fleeing to England, she found herself as a new recruit in the British Intelligence force. Training for her was difficult, but she mastered all the techniques to kill by knife, gun, or her bare hands! As an outstanding member of the newly organized force, she received specialized training in anticipation of her return to France to carry out missions.

Upon her return, Madeleine was on her own given instructions as to what assignment for assassination she was to do next via wireless transmission from England. With British High Command's guidance, she assassinated Nazi SS officers and other troops who got in way of her sanctioned killing spree that lasted throughout the war. Toward the end of the war, her famous killings put her on the Gestopos most wanted list.

Toward the end of the fighting in France, when the allied troops were invading, Madeleine had an assignment to kill a high-ranking officer in the SS who was directing the defensive actions taken by the Germans. She roved from the German lines to the allied lines and ably completed her task from afar with a sniper rifle that she had acquired.

What is extremely interesting at this point of the book is that the officer she shot was the one who had ordered the massacre of the entire town of Oradour. Men of this town were herded into a barn, shot, and then their bodies burned. The women and children were locked into the town's church and all died as they were burned alive! Additionally, this same officer ordered the entire town to be set afire. Only five boys survived the barn atrocity and one woman from the church. These living legends, the burned out buildings, and monuments tell the stark story. However, naming members of the SS in this book as characters and their roles described is very fitting. Each of their death sentences commuted in 1953 set them free. Surviving residents of Oradour constructed their own monument to remember those lost.

This five star book is worth reading so that we can remember those participating in the resistance and secret service of wars gone by. Their roles keep the spirit of freedom alive, just as the brave men and women serving on active duty do today.

English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States
Rosina Lippi-Green
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8
NY, NY 10017-9209,
9780415559102, $150.00 hc / $45.95 pbk

Elizabeth Laurence

The inherent versatility exhibited in the various writing genres of talented linguist, Rosina Lippi-Green, is as remarkable as her seemingly random interest in quilting. Her ability to make connections with many things, in addition to fabric, is neither coincidental nor haphazard. It is far from surprising, therefore, that this independent scholar claiming "mixed European ancestry" utilizes three authorial guises: two for penning historical fiction and a third for academic writing endeavors, the most recent being English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States. Extensive documentation and factual data are but two persuasive means of support she utilizes to focus on and convince readers that the power of language upon social structures, especially in the discrimination and subordination of others, remains more strongly embedded than most people realize.

The former University of Michigan professor supplies various types of evidence to substantiate her thesis that language is used as a powerful tool of discrimination and subordination amongst and between speakers of English, particularly against those who speak variations of "standard" English. The intensity of Lippi-Green's passion for exploring language discrimination goes beyond multiple dimensions, capturing her audience and comprehensibly guiding them along a well-informed path toward insight into the pervasive power play instituted by those who attest to the supremacy of Standard American English.

"When native speakers of U.S. English are confronted with an accent which is foreign to them - either unfamiliar varieties of English, or foreign (L2) accented English, the first decision they make is whether or not they are going to participate. [Often] members of the dominant language group feel empowered to reject their responsibility, and to demand that a person with an accent carry the majority of the burden in the communicative act. The accents we hear must go through our language ideology filters. In extreme cases, we feel completely justified in rejecting the communicative burden and the person in front of us" (Lippi-Green, 72-3).

The author's knack of infusing historical facts and statistical data in an interesting way throughout each of the 18 chapters, attest to her expansive knowledge of history. Taking an excerpt from one letter written in 1753 by Benjamin Franklin, who according to Lippi-Green was "particularly irritated" by Germans and the German language, and he expressed his fear of multilingualism during a time when many German immigrants had come to the United States. Whether this fear was voiced by Benjamin Franklin or others, the fact remains that public fear of multilingualism has existed for years, and relates to shifting power bases and the development of legislation. The award-winning novelist delves deeply into commonly held beliefs and attitudes toward American English variation that often come with severe consequences when they influence personal and institutional policy.

With down-to-earth confidence that finds a pedantic agenda unnecessary, the Princeton grad adeptly establishes a strong foundation and creatively integrates timely information such as ongoing or recent court cases alongside qualitative and quantitative data. She proves her point about how various systems have gotten away with heinous crimes that can be traced to language discrimination. One such case she highlights is that of a pregnant Mexican woman from Oaxaca, who spoke Chitana, an indigenous language. When the Oaxacan woman delivered her infant daughter at a hospital in the deep south, the Spanish-speaking social worker assigned to assist the new mother was seemingly put off because of the new mother's inability to speak either English or Spanish. In addition to the social worker's own personal prejudice, she also had a hidden agenda. Claiming that the Chitana-speaking woman was an unfit mother, the infant daughter was removed from her custody and conveniently placed in the home of the social worker's attorney-friend, who wanted to adopt a baby. After a lengthy, one year court case, the baby was finally placed back in the hands of the biological mother.

The author's examples and explanations are as varied as her tendency to connect them. In one of Lippi-Green's university classes, she presented and compared the concept of standardized English to that of standardized humans: they must be the same color, shape, size, height, and weight; no variations were acceptable. With other such comparisons, many of which were laced with cynicism, humor, and irony, the author establishes the variability and versatility of language linking the reality that all spoken language is variable: it changes. Furthermore, she cites inherent human hypocrisy as a reality within and across groups who judge others even when the integrity of their own dialect or mode of speaking may be in question.

The author engages her reader in a multitude of ways that preclude boredom, and even entertain those of us with a penchant for language scrutiny, psycholinguistics, or sociolinguistics. Lippi-Green is as adept comparing the pros and cons of language theory as she appears to be switching proverbial hats and pseudonyms throughout her prolific, award-winning writing career. English with an Accent is so comprehensive that it is likely to be considered a reference book. Exhibiting characteristics of a compendium or a handbook for multiple disciplines, including social justice and particularly in the field of sociolinguistics, the author infuses the textbook with many bonuses: a companion website, which can be utilized by instructor as well as student, an instructor's manual, audio and video clips, RSS Feeds, Blogs, Web Links, as well as other resources. English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States is a resource to which this lifelong learner, researcher, and reviewer will refer time and again, continuously revealing yet another interesting facet of language discrimination. In addition to those fascinated by language, proponents of social justice will likely find Lippi-Green's book worth much more than its weight.

Red Sky, Blue Moon
Bruce Golden
Shaman Press
10773 Sayers Court
Santee, CA 92071
9781484133224, $15.99, ebook $4.99

Eric Swanson

While the plot may seem well-worn, the setting and the circumstances surrounding Bruce Golden's new book aren't. Red Sky, Blue Moon is about as far from the satire of Better Than Chocolate or the mysterious forests of Evergreen (his last two novels) as you can get.

Aliens who may have seeded the first life on Earth return eons later, collect humans in massive groups from various societies (along with animals from their environs), and transplant them on another world as a sort of science experiment. More than a millennium later, these transplanted cultures have evolved differently than their forbearers who were left behind.

One of these cultures grew from the barbaric roots of Scandinavian Vikings, circa 10th Century Earth. They have developed into a cutthroat corporate society in an early industrial stage. The political machinations and corporate maneuvering combine to create an intriguing socio-cultural dynamic. In addition, they're racial purists to whom even the slightest birth defect or genetic disease is a social stigma. Despite this, they are plagued by a cancer-like disease they call the "blight," though few publicly acknowledge it when they find they're stricken, because it's a social blight as well.

When one corporation's chief discovers the savages living on another continent have to trace of the disease, and also seem to have longer life spans, he plots to learn their secret--a secret which could bring him both wealth and power.

These "savages" as the "corporatocracy" thinks of them, were culled from various Native American Sioux tribes sometime in the early 18th Century. They've only been on this world a few hundred years, and haven't changed that much from the people of the plains most readers are familiar with. It's the juxtaposition of these two societies, and the conflict between them which forms the heart of this book (though the corporate Aesir are also in conflict with their lower-class Vanir workers).

As for the aliens who brought the humans to this world, their story is more of a footnote, told in journal-like excerpts in the prologue and at the beginning of some of the chapters. Their eventual fate is a bit of a surprise.

The storyline of this book is somewhat predictable, but it's the journey more than the destination that will enthrall readers. Like his novel Evergreen, this book is so rich in characters and detail that you won't want to let it sit idle for too long, or you'll forget who's who and what's what. But it's the attention to detail, and the marvelous world building, that make Red Sky, Blue Moon a completely enjoyable read. That, and the fact that, like Golden's other works, this book is fast-paced, moving through relatively short chapters, and keeping the reader hooked. If you enjoy pages and pages of prosaic description, this book probably isn't for you. Golden is known more for his dialogue and authentic, memorable characters. He doesn't get bogged down with purple prose. His scenes have more of a cinematic feel.

However, if you love world-building, this is the book for you. Golden has taken the history, traditions, and cultures of the Sioux and the Vikings and woven them into a completely new world, much the way Frank Herbert used Islamic culture in Dune (not so say this book ranks with Dune). And, a surprise at the end reveals they're not the only Earth cultures kidnapped by an alien intelligence.

Red Sky, Blue Moon is an epic science fiction tale that should draw you in and hold your interest until the very end. It's the kind of book you want to read again a year later to see what intricate tidbits you might have missed the first time.

Days of the Harbinger
Alex Cord
Timber Creek Press
9780989122023, $16.99,

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

This is the second novel by Alex Cord who starred in more than 30 feature films and over 300 TV shows. I enjoyed the book and I think that others will enjoy it as well. The story is told in a very interesting attention-grabbing manner and is filled with suspense. The characters are well-drawn and we can identify with them.

Johnny Grant, the hero of this tale, is a world famous movie star. He is handsome, well-liked and well respected. He is divorced but gets along well with his ex-wife and his son who adores him. He has two skills besides his acting skill, one of which is unusual: he has visions from time to time of people and events before he meets the people or the events occur. He can also hypnotize others and himself. We read how he helped an actress overcome her addiction to smoking by using hypnosis. But despite his charisma and acting success, he is short of money. So he is happy when he is offered the starring role in an Australian film.

While in Australia, he and two fellow actors, a man and a woman, disappear during a three day period. When they return, they tell people that they had a strange experience. What they saw, heard, and felt can affect all humanity. Some people believe Johnny and his friends, others do not. Still others want to use this event to take advantage of Johnny to their financial benefit.

Readers will find themselves wondering what exactly the three actors experienced. Are they telling the truth? Is there any danger to them and others in what they saw, heard, and felt? Will others also be able to have the same experience? Will any of the three actors be hurt by the people who want to exploit them? Or will what happens to Johnny enable him to change the world as we know it?

These questions and several sub-plots such as Johnny's relationship with an attractive Australian girl will assure that readers will enjoy this tale and the way Alex Cord presents it.

Conversations on the Bench
Digger Cartwright
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington IN 47403
9781483613536, $29.95,

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Inspired by actual events, "Conversations on the Bench: Life Lessons From the Wisest Man I Ever Knew" is about two men with a bond closer than that of brothers, though they could not be more different.

The author is invited to a high-class country club in South Carolina, to a meeting of Thinking Outside The Boxe (with an "e"). It's a non-partisan think tank with the intention of coming up with real, not "liberal" or "conservative," solutions to America's problems. The two people behind it are Robbie, a serious younger man who is always seen in a black three-piece suit, even while playing billiards at the local sports bar, and Sebastian, a very obese older man who knows everyone, and is the epitome of "larger than life." During a private round of golf, Robbie asks Cartwright to write a book giving Sebastian's view of life, without telling Sebastian.

The book consists of a number of short stories, with Robbie and Sebastian at their local bar, having dinner, playing billiards and solving the world's problems. If you are not satisfied with the current condition of your life, are you going to do anything about it, or just whine and complain? Don't be upset if you can't be a whatever-you-studied-in-college; the world will always need plumbers and bartenders. Always give your personal best, no matter what; don't fear failure. Some things, and some people, in this world just can't be explained. If you ever find yourself in a position of strength, don't let go; you will never get it back. There will always be negative people in this world; don't let them drag you down. Showing anger toward others is a sign of weakness. Sometimes, it's best to swallow your pride. Never live your life for someone else, no matter who it is, but live it for yourself.

I know what you are thinking: not another self-help/motivation book! This one is different, and is much, much better than the average book. Instead of trying to tell the "right" way to live, Sebastian shows just how to do it. This is extremely highly recommended.

Kaleidoscope Summer: Book One of the Serenity Cove Series
Rita Garcia
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
148104317X, $8.99,

Susan Keefe

Dr. Rita Garcia is a Clinical Christian Counselor. Her knowledge and passion for helping others provides realistic substance to the counseling woven into her stories. The theme that permeates her hope-filled fiction: Love, lit by the flame of hope. Romance is a big part of her novels. Hope is an even larger element of the stories. Rita and her husband reside in Southern California.

Samantha Forrester has it all together. Deafness at age fifteen has not hampered her success. Life, although predictable, has hit a comfortable stride. Until.

Her world crumbles when secrets of the past are brought to light. She travels to Serenity Cove to settle her birth mother's estate and search for her true identity. Samantha soon becomes enamored with the town. And then there's police chief Logan Delatorre who startles her pulse, and grandparents who refuse to acknowledge her. More mystery unfolds when an attack is levied against her - someone wants her out of Serenity Cove.

Samantha's faith is called into question when she stumbles over the need to forgive. Can Dr. Ellie Clarimonde help her connect the pieces of her past and learn the power of forgiveness?

Serenity Cove is a small town where everyone knows each other, the same families have lived there for generations and skeletons are settled nicely into cupboards.

Therefore, when Samantha and her hearing dog Goldie arrive spectacularly in town, she soon becomes the centre of attention, especially when people discover her identity.

Samantha, who became deaf at 15 years of age, is a beautiful, capable, independent woman and soon romance is in the air as she captures the heart of police chief Logan Delatorre. She makes some good friends, especially Logan's sister Mandy, however, in towns like this, there are always unusual characters and mischief-makers.

We follow her on her rollercoaster journey of discovery, sharing her emotions as she discovers her roots and, with her faith in God, comes to terms with her discoveries.

Anybody who has lived in a small village or community can immediately emphasise with Serenity Cove, its very real characters and the life this book portrays.

A lovely story, which captivated me from page one and kept me guessing throughout with its twists and turns.

The Boys From Manchester
J. T. Holden
Kuro Books
9781937696047, $15.95 pbk / $4.99 ebook

Zoe Muldoon

In his superb debut novel, The Boys From Manchester, J.T. Holden (author of Alice in Verse: The Lost Rhymes of Wonderland and Twilight Tales: A Collection of Chilling Poems) has created a truly unique hybrid: a coming of age/fantasy tale - one that dares to take the time to fully develop its cast of characters before plunging them into an explosive, action-packed finale.

On the surface, Daniel and Brandon appear to be a couple of average teenage boys, but each possesses a special power. For Daniel it is the ability to control water (indeed one pivotal and breathtaking sequence takes place inside a towering "crystal maze" that Daniel has constructed out of solid yet flowing sheets of water atop the surface of a lake); for Brandon it is the ability to command the sky (a Zeus-like power that complements Daniel's Poseidon-esque talents perfectly). But the special gifts of these two boys from Manchester only begin to scratch the surface of this richly textured and atmospheric novel, in which there is so much more than at first meets the eye. Unlike many of his peers - including Rick Riordan of Percy Jackson fame, and even J.K. Rowling - Holden has crafted a tale whose success is not solely dependent upon the mystical powers of its teenage heroes, and therefore one that is infinitely more convincing.

That said, The Boys From Manchester is far more gritty than the average reader of Riordan and Rowling is likely accustomed to. But one might also argue that the grit of Holden's tale is a fair price to pay for such passion and realism one rarely gets the chance to experience in a YA novel featuring fantasy elements. That the main characters happen to be gay teens on the brink of discovering not only their unique powers but also their sexuality only makes this story all the more vital, particularly for a growing generation of young people not only willing but eager to embrace a new era of unconditional acceptance.

With a skillful hand, Holden has carefully etched out a hauntingly beautiful and starkly realistic tale of adolescents on the shadowy threshold of self-discovery and disillusionment. And yet throughout, even as the razor thin line between good and evil is drawn, we never lose sight of the hope (or at least the promise of hope) that lies within the heart of any society's one and only true hope: those still young enough to dream and believe, and yes, even hope.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Don't Buy THAT Health Insurance
K. Woodfield, MBA
Dog Ear Publishing
4010 W. 86th Street, Ste H
Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781457515323 $13.95

20-year pharmaceutical industry expert turned insurance broker Katherine Woodfield presents Don't Buy THAT Health Insurance: Become an Educated Health Care Consumer, a guide to selecting the best health insurance plan to fit one's needs. Chapters teach the reader about the modern history of the health insurance, why lack of transparency makes the industry a money-sucking minefield, how to decode industry jargon, and much more. One trick that insurance companies play is to label their more expensive plans (which may also have higher out-of-pocket deductibles) as "upgrades" and cheaper ones providing the same service as "downgrades". An insurance company may simply send a letter offering the "upgrade", and if it receives no response to the letter, it may automatically start billing a higher premium! "The insurance company used the word 'downgrade' to repel the client from choosing a plan that saved him thousands of dollars. They did not use a neutral or more comforting word like 'switch' or 'change' or 'exchange' or 'modify' to give him consumer confidence in this decision. They were using English against him." A glossary, endnotes, and consumable or reproducible worksheets round out this absolute "must-read" for every financially independent adult in America!

The Art of Planning Allergen-Free Events
Stephanie Courtney
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478718314 $12.95

The Art of Planning Allergen-Free Events is a plain-terms, user-friendly guide to preparing food and drink that is safe for those with food allergens or intolerances to enjoy. Chapters teach the reader about food allergens and intolerances, describe risk management protocols that one should use with food service providers, how to keep track of allergy communication during an event (especially events with many guests, such as weddings), and much more. "Food for people with food allergies and celiacs must be prepared in a 'clean area'. Gluten is a particle. Like dust, it can be airborne, it adheres itself to surfaces, clothing, and hands. It cannot be sanitized away! It can still cross-contaminate food even in boiling water." A succinct and practical "how-to" manual, The Art of Planning Allergen-Free Events is worthy of the highest recommendation for amateur and professional event planners alike!

The Scarlet-Ruby War
Thomas J. Black
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478708223, $21.95,

War consumes all, lives spent for political gain. "The Scarlet-Ruby War" is a fantasy epic of political turmoil from Thomas J. Black as he spins a tail of many kingdoms committing acts of treachery and the retaliation which leads to a multi way battle that stresses alliances and the wills of the people. "The Scarlet-Ruby War" is a top pick for fantasy readers with a love of intrigue.

Hoopdance Revolution
Jan Camp
Arc Light Books
c/o Julia Drake PR (publicity)
9781939353016, $21.95,

The hula hoop is making a comeback for the modern era. "Hoopdance Revolution: Mindfulness in Motion" explores the hula hoop and how this child's toy can come back for the modern day as a toy of entertainment and exercise on many levels. Exploring the health benefits in both the physical and mental sense that the toy can foster in people, "Hoopdance Revolution" is a choice and highly recommended addition to health and self-help collections, recommended.

Help Wanted
David Scott
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781420838411, $14.95,

A murder unsolved is a crime unpunished. "Help Wanted" is a mystery thriller from David Scott who tells the story of Peter Dale and Darcy Garcia as they are on the path of a business man murdered and find those responsible. Inspired by Sherlock Holmes with many an homage, "Help Wanted" is worth considering for mystery fans, highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film - A Reporter's Perspective 1998-2012
Leo Adam Biga
Inside Stories, LLC
c/o Concierge Book Publishing Services (publicity)
13518 L Street, Omaha, NE 68137
9780988329317 $19.95

Cultural journalist Leo Adam Biga presents Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film - A Reporter's Perspective 1998-2012, a nonfiction chronicle of the career of world-renowned film writer-director Alexander Payne, from when Biga first noticed his extraordinary talent at an art cinema to the present day. Payne has created a number of critically acclaimed projects including "Citizen Rush", "Election", "About Schmidt", "Sideways", and "The Descendants". Drawn from Biga's analysis of Payne's works, to interviews, testimony from Payne's closest collaborators, the opportunity to visit one of Payne's film sets for a week, and much more, Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film is a "must-have" for movie aficionados with a keen interest in Payne's work, as well as a window into the creative process of a twenty-first century cinema artist.

Here Today and Perhaps Tomorrow
Peter Willaim Kent
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432786120, $17.95,

Laughter can make the onslaught of age go down all the easier. "Here Today and Perhaps Tomorrow: And Die Laughing in a Retirement Community" discusses finding humor and happiness in today's world with a growing amount of the population involved in the elder community and finding the place in today's world. "Here Today and Perhaps Tomorrow" is a wise read for anyone with a family member entering the curious world of modern eldercare, highly recommended.

Trying to Catch the Wind
Josef N. Ferri
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475969139, $16.95,

A love that was had and lost along the way is certainly something. "Trying to Catch the Wind" is a memoir of romance from Josef N. Ferri as he recounts his whirlwind of a romance with Marilyn, who from their youthful innocence and further, they faced many challenges and even stared down death...only to have this love lost forever as time went on. "Trying to Catch the Wind" is a must for memoir collections focusing on the allure of love.

Vengeance is Now
Scott D. Roberts
3L Publishing
9780989136006, $17.95,

People find their ways to live life all along the way. "Vengeance is Now" is a novel from Scott D. Roberts as he tells the story of Tate Halloway, a man with a crumbling life and finds himself accused of many a life along the way. With dark humor, a vague sexiness, and plenty of thrills to keep readers glued to the page, "Vengeance is Now" is a choice addition to contemporary thriller collections.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Individually Wrapped
Jeremy Bullian
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475057638 $12.99 print / $2.99 Kindle

Individually Wrapped is an engaging blend of suspense, human drama, and postmodern societal critique. The story centers upon an ordinary man in a society governed by insatiable consumerism and fascination with modern technology. During the course of his work as an advertisement mogul, Sam Gregory discovers what appears to be a ruthless, conglomerate conspiracy. The burden of his knowledge threatens his livelihood, and possibly his very life; he ultimately decides to resist in the way he knows best - by delivering a subversive advertisement for the Nutrixion Proximeals, with the goal of bringing their darkest intentions to light. Individually Wrapped is enthralling to the end because of the mirror it holds up to the present day. Highly recommended.

Stepping Out Of Addiction
Netheldia S. Porter
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438242484 $10.00 pbk. / $5.00 Kindle

Stepping Out Of Addiction is a true-life memoir about the struggle find a path beyond drug addiction and incarceration. Author Netheldia S. Porter offers the methods she used to turn her life around, in the hope of reaching out to others ensnared by drug abuse, or other voracious demons of the soul. Though accepting God's love is a vital part of Stepping Out of Addiction, this memoir is an honest, open letter to readers of all religious backgrounds. "Humbleness will take you along way on this road called life, and allowing God to transform your life, will be one of the greatest experiences you'll ever have the pleasure of encountering. Furthermore, while you are going through these changes, do not let ANYBODY tell you that God doesn't love or care about you. You child of God - are just as loved and wanted by him despite your shortcoming, as anybody else." Inspirational and at times heart-wrenching, Stepping Out Of Addiction is highly recommended.

Encounters with Heaven
Karin J. Gunderson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478708438, $18.95,

The blessings of life we find can be ever valuable. "Encounters with Heaven: Stories of God's Surprising Presence" is an uplifting read of Christian life, as Karin J. Gunderson seeks to share many stories of finding God's will and presence in our life and being driven and inspired by him in all of his presence. "Encounters with Heaven" takes notes and insights for many situations where a bit of the taste of God's wisdom will make all of the difference in the world.

Another Time, Another Place
Mary Verdick
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781481719322, $14.95,

Love is as essential to human history as anything else. "Another Time, Another Place" is a novel from Mary Verdick, as she shares a story of two generations of love and loss, as Phoebe and her great-aunt Weezy travel through the west only to be tempted by new loves along the way. Weezy shares her own story of love, as "Another Time, Another Place" proves to be a read that uses romance to be the uniting factor among us all, highly recommended.

Power in Mind
Susanne Burge
9781780884806, $18.99,

Time grows short as cruelty lurks behind every corner. "Power in Mind" is a novel of science fiction and psychological nature as Susanne Burge offers the story of soulmates Alesandre and Lina, as they must rise to the challenge and threat of Lina's so called real father who has monstrous intents who wants to use Lina's secrets against her. To find freedom, deals that may be regretted might be made, but for love, anything may be worth it. "Power in Mind" is a riveting read that should prove hard to put down, recommended.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Ellen L. Hughes
c/o The McKee Company
PO Box 22996, Denver, CO 80222
9781479135486, $14.95,

Sooner or later every one of us will be faced with the necessity of having to deal with a lawyer -- either ours or the other guy's. It's no coincidence that almost all the lawyer jokes paint a dismal view of attorneys in the public eye. When the time comes for you do deal with a lawyer, do yourself a very big favor -- read Ellen L. Hughes' "Snakebit: How to Hire, Fire and Work With Attorneys". It will prove to be an invaluable source of information, advice, and understanding. You'll know that you have resources for researching your case, understand legal jargon as it is translated into plain English, following practical guidelines when working with an attorney, things you can concretely do to improve your legal case, and perhaps most important of all -- understanding how a lawyer thinks. "Snakebit: How to Hire, Fire and Work With Attorneys" should be a part of every community library's collection in the country -- and a mandatory read for anyone having to deal with an attorney for any reason.

Looking Up
Linda Pressman
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781456470685, $15.00,

"Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie" by Linda Pressman is a 348 page compendium that presents the candid and personal story of two sisters whose parents survived the Nazi Holocaust. The author, Linda Pressman, and her six sisters grew up in Skokie, Illinois, experiencing all the teenage angst that would be typical of American girls. But compounding the ordinary factors of sisters growing up in America is the continuing and traumatic influence of what their parents had experienced. "Looking Up" is a superbly written autobiography that truly deserves being awarded the 20th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Grand Prize Book Award, as well as rave reviews from the Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. "Looking Up" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary American Biography collections.

Coyote Winds
Helen Sedwick
Ten Gallon Press
Santa Rosa, CA
c/o Julai Drake PR
9780615692616 $8.99 pbk. / $4.99 Kindle

Coyote Winds is a captivating novel about growing up in the Dust Bowl era, when crops were devastated and the Great Depression brought extreme hardship to nearly all of America. Framed through the lens of a twenty-first century boy discovering a box of true-life adventure stories written by his grandfather, Coyote Winds follows young Myles Vincent as he rescues a coyote pup from certain death, names it Ro, and raises it as a faithful companion. Myles also snares rattlesnakes, survives tornadoes, and works hard just to earn his daily bread. In a time when the specters of unemployment, hunger, and dust storms ravaged the land, Myles had the will to not only survive, but also enjoy the beauty and wonder of prairie life... a sentiment destined to be passed down through the generations. Coyote Winds is an evocative novel that readers of all ages and backgrounds will enjoy.

My Path to the Light of Happiness
Lulu Smith
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478711957, $10.95,

As long as we keep going, we will find happiness once again. "My Path to the Light of Happiness: The Story of a Chinese Woman" is an inspirational and motivational memoir from Lulu Smith who shares her own experiences with her life and how she came to terms with the world around her, gaining a more complete understanding of what she sought in life and finding happiness. "My Path to the Light of Happiness" is a choice pick for memoir and self-help collections.

Comes a Soldier's Whisper
Jenny La Sala
Trafford Publishing
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781466976856, $25.90,

War is a terrifying thing to face down. "Comes a Soldier's Whisper: A Collection of Wartime Letters with Reflection and Hope for the Future" is a memoir of daughter and father as author Jenny La Sala recalls her veteran father who fought throughout World War II, sharing his letters, and his experience and trauma he faced and overcame in the process. "Comes a Soldier's Whisper" is a powerful and uplifting read of the troubles a man faces from war, much recommended.

The One Thing
Gary Keller
Bard Press
c/o Cave Hendricks Communication
3006 Bee Caves Road, Ste. A300
Austin, TX 78746
9781885167774, $24.95,

There are many things we want to fix in our life, and we're often left with no clear understanding how to do so. "The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results" is an inspirational read from Gary Keller who shares what he holds is one simple thing we need in our lives to make everything come together and behave more sensibly out of what we want out of life. "The One Thing" comes with plenty of practical advice and wisdom for life, solidly recommended reading which is not to be missed.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Relatively Risky
Pauline Baird Jones
Amazon Digital Services
B00BZEQ62G, $3.99,

When artist/children's book author Nell Whitby slams her bike into the perpetrator trying to steal New Orleans Detective Alex Baker's truck, she sets off a chain of events that leads to danger for both of them. Nell is a misplaced librarian who moved from Wyoming to New Orleans after her parents' death and works for her best friend's catering company while trying to get her writing career off the ground. Unaware she is related to two families of a mafia trifecta active in New Orleans for years, Nell is the last person to speak to her mobster grandfather before he is killed. Her life as she knows it comes crashing down around her when she learns this and that her parents were the offspring of two of the mafia families. Alex, trying his best to protect a woman he likes more than he wants to, begins to wonder what his father, a retired cop, and his former partner are hiding from him. As Alex and Nell dodge bullets and thugs trying to kidnap Nell, the chemistry between them jumps into high gear and it's all Alex can do to keep himself and Nell alive.

Jones' writing style is unique: a strong dose of noir balanced with humor and witty dialogue. The plot moves at a fast pace as does the chemistry between Alex and Nell. The characters are well-developed and likeable, the relationship between Alex and his 12 siblings fun, and the New Orleans ambience conveyed so realistically the reader will feel as if they have been plopped down right in the middle of the Big Easy.

Sufficient Grace
Darnell Arnoult
First Free Press
c/o Simon & Schuster
0743284488, $18.00 print / $11.14 Kindle,

Gracie Hollaman follows the instructions of voices in her head telling her to paint Jesus on three walls of her house, then leaves her wedding ring in the middle of her bed, gets in her car and drives away, leaving behind her husband and daughter to wonder what has become of her. After Gracie crashes her car in a small Southern town, she is taken in by Mama Toot, an elderly black woman, and her widowed daughter-in-law who accept her taciturn behavior and need to paint Jesus on rusty automobile parts. Gracie's husband Ed, convinced she has left him, slowly begins to rebuild his life, unveiling a love for cooking which opens doors for him to a different kind of life. When Mama Toot discovers who Gracie's family is, Gracie refuses to return to them and claims the voices in her head tell her her circle is closing and she needs to be the ex-wife. Although Gracie is placed under psychiatric care, she insists on listening to the voices while exhibiting an artistic talent that is being professionally noticed. Like ripples from a pebble thrown into a pool of water, Gracie's impact on those around her is profound as each finds their own circle closing and another world opening to them.

Arnoult joins the likes of William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Harper Lee in penning a poignant story of family dynamics, faith, heartache, love and salvation revolving around a woman suffering from schizophrenia. Arnoult's beautifully written poetic prose invites re-reading and savoring of certain passages. She slowly peels away personas of her characters, revealing depths they are not initially aware of, while taking her reader on a journey of love and forgiveness, faith and healing.

Christy Tillery French, Reviewer

Crocco's Bookshelf

The Philadelphia Chromosome
Jessica Wapner
The Experiment, LLC
260 Fifth Avenue, Suite 3 South
New York, NY 10001 - 6408
1615190678, $25.95 print / $12.99 Kindle,

Renewed Appreciation

Reading the Philadelphia Chromosome transformed me into a mini scientist majoring in CML, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. I was diagnosed with CML in November of 2003, which required keeping up-to-date on news relating to CML. When I heard about the Philadelphia Chromosome by Jessica Wapner, I was anxious to add it to my shelf of resources. Reading the book with pencil in hand to highlight new facts as well as valuable previous knowledge, I found myself marking information on every page.

When I was diagnosed my oncologist informed me that if there was ever a good time to get CML, it was now. At that precise moment, I had no idea what he was talking about. He may have elaborated, but in that moment of shock, I didn't hear much. Wapner's book has renewed my appreciation of that conversation every time I swallow my oral chemotherapy pill, Gleevec.
I have an entire file cabinet filled with lab results since 2003. My oncologist reviews the findings with me twice a year, but after reading the Philadelphia Chromosome, my understanding of the labs has improved. I have registered for a couple of CML conferences and am confident I will easily grasp new information presented after reading this book.

Years ago I started writing a book about living with CML. I found it too depressing to continue, however, not abandoning the therapeutic effect; I turned it into a blog, which I update once a month. Being helpful to a few readers who have stopped by makes it worthwhile.

Wapner shared a story of a patient who cherished her Gleevec and defended it with her life. I do the same thing, always insisting to sign for it and checking the delivery time is set for the morning. I don't want my miracle pill losing its potency in the heat of a UPS truck.
Thank you, Jessica Wapner, for taking the time to write this incredible book, the Philadelphia Chromosome. I appreciate the effort required in your research to share with others who suffer with CML, or readers who have an interest in cancer treatments.

Bringing to life the names of medical doctors and institutions involved in the creation of Gleevec was important. I owe my life to Dr. Druker, and others, who dedicated a large portion of their lives creating a targeted medicine to fight chromosome abnormality in cancer cells.

Flying Soup by Bobby Adair
Bobby Adair
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00CD02ISW, $0.99,

Who said religion and politics don't mix?

Throw a can of soup at an antichrist underachiever who shares the left-wing view with his best friends - a gay cutting edge electrical engineer and a mid-level programmer, and you have a plot for a fascinating story.

To appreciate Flying Soup you must possess a sense of humor because Adair masters satire. There's more truth than not in the characters and situations and I found both written in an entertaining style.

Stumbling upon Flying Soup was a much appreciated change of pace. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a while, reading it straight through. It was an intelligent, amusing, and fast paced read.

I appreciated Blair mastering the mix of taboo subjects and creating believable characters to write a really fun book.

The Golden Grave
David Lawlor
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00CFNEOCU, $3.68,

An entertaining way to learn history.

A post WW1 impressive historical novel and the sequel to 'Tan', The Golden Grave picks up with Liam Mannion in search of gold. A train cargo packed with enough bullion bars to persuade Liam and his war buddy to return to the horrific battlefields of France once again.

Gold wasn't the only lure; there is a gold seeking, conniving bitch named Sabine, a former lover of Liam, who has recruited a group of servicemen to carry out her dirty work.

Lawlor takes his readers back in time by reliving the horrors during battles. Buried bodies, active explosives, and weapons all come alive in their search for gold. The stench and sight of war being thrown in their faces make the men sick and twisted with greed. Everyone has a plan, there are secrets and lies, and this is what kept me engaged from page one.

What differentiates a good book from a great book is unpredictability. The Golden Grave is packed with surprises throughout the story, none of which takes away from the historical details.

Who ends up with the gold, if anyone? Was it worth the return to hell?

I recommend The Golden Grave to readers who enjoy a great historical novel; it's an entertaining way to learn history.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

Two Graves
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446554992, $26.99,

I have been a fan of these two authors when, I picked up their first thrilling novel Relic in 1995 off a bookshelf in Barnes and Noble. I give them a lot of credit over the years for keeping this reader interesting in their thrillers, adventure novels and interesting setting of their novels. I met Lincoln Child at a book-signing meet including his daughter. A lot of attendees engaged with questions, after he did a talk about his main character Pendergast at a local large bookstore. The rest is history, and I am now have read this third book of the authors trilogy regarding Pendergast's wife. It has been a long history with me of two very good writers, who also do solo novels with the same flair.

Pendergast comes across the to meet Helen and her brother near Central Park in New York City. It was a nice meeting finding out she was alive, and her brother motioned to join him. Not long after some conversation occurred between Aloysius and his wife Helen then he motioned for her brother and her to get moving in a hurry. Shots are fired and as Pendergast along with his driver Proctor are fired upon including her brother. Chaos occurs as innocent bystanders flee including Helen who starts to run away directed by Pendergast to run to Fifth Avenue for the safety of being close to more people. That way she will be away from the joggers who are chasing her, as she is heading for the entrance stone gates of the park. Pendergast is engaging in firing on the couple who had started the attack who were sitting on a park bench. The two men jogging behind Helen get to her, and there is a cab waiting for Helen's abductors. They pull her into a van and drive away. Pendergast is exasperated trying to save her, but to no avail. He is wounded along with Proctor both unable to pursue or save her, as she is calling out for him.

Pendergast is showing signs of stress and fatigue because of what happened to Helen and his pursuit of finding her alive after all these years.with him pursuing Helen. NYPD Lt. Agosta is trying to help him too, but at the same time he has a serial killer killing people in hotels around New York City. He tried eventually to ask for help from Pendergast on the profile of the killer, but the police chief encourage Agosta to first use the FBI to use their expertise to track this killer. The seeking of the profile and basic information using on the outline of the signature, along with other factors used by the serial killer. Pendergast at first is reluctant to participate in helping Agosta in solving the serial killer's profile and track who might be the perpetrator. His wife's demise is first on his mind, and he is stressed out. Then he appears to help after Agosta asks him after a short time. Pendergast has his own idea who the killer is, and his help rubs against the other FBI agent. Pendergast keeps pursuing on his own to learn what the killer is doing. He uncovers a boy who claims to be his own. The boy's twin kills another woman, and Pendergast with Agosta are on the scene with Pendergast eventually chasing him. Now the situation is surrounding Pendergast going to the source of the this killer, and he must see how that is related to Helen. His journey must take him to Brazil, and Nova Godo'i. This was noted as root location and training ground for the serial killer. Helen's kidnapping and the resurgence of his son, which explains the importance of twins. Now Aloysius knows that the real danger and adventure will begin for him.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are authors of the Pendergast Series and the Gideon Series. They have some co-authored novels, that don't include the above main characters. They have done some of their own solo novels that dabble in science fiction, mystery and adventure. I enjoyed reading all of their books, and I was surprised on the subject matter, and the tales these two can cook up to expand their talents. I await their next jointly endeavor or a solo novel when it becomes available. They announced just recently White Fire will come out in November of this year. It is a joint written novel by both authors. It sounds interesting and I can't wait until the novel is released!

Private London
James Patterson & Mark Pearson
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455528158, $32.99,

I have followed books by James Patterson since his first book which won the Edgar Award in 1977. He won that for The Thomas Berryman Number. I also do follow Alex Cross, Detective Michael Bennett and the Private Series. I enjoy them all for their entertaining and fast clip page turner style. Due to all the books I read, and so many authors, I enjoy a fast novel, which is easy to read within a short time to get through the novel. Amazingly he manages to put through a lot of action, plotting and enough characters to keep a reader engrossed to the end.

Dan Carter runs the London office at Private International. Seven years earlier Jack Morgan saved Hannah Shapiro who was attacked along with her mother. A solo incident which cost her mother her life after being brutally raped. Jack approaches Dan and gives him a mission to watch over Hannah with the funding from her father supporting Private, the main reason for the obligation. Dan helps by putting Hannah into a college and giving her an assumed name to hide her identity. All remains quiet until one night at a local bar with two of her friends, and then Chloe walks out laced in confusion from a spiked drink. Her two friends Hannah Durant, and Laura Skelton are being roughed up by men by a van. Chloe after fighting boldly to help them gets clubbed by a baseball bat. The police are distracted by a number of women who are abucted on the street and their bodies mutilated with the same signature. DI Kirsty Webb, who is Dan Carter's ex-wife is leading that investigation. She also is missing after the street assault, while around the same time still another women's body is found on the street by the police.

The kidnappers contact both Dan and DI Kirsty in details about the abduction of Hannah, and Dan is thrown into a race against the clock to perserve Hannah's life. Kirsty was tipped by possibly someone on Private's team or an inside information given to her. It appears it also might be somehow linked to Hannah Shapiro. The details of Hannah in relationship to Private are kept secret, which adds to problems with Kirsty who wants to be included in Private's knowledge. Kirsty sees some connections of all what happening to women, but doesn't see the entire big picture. Dan and her are struggling to sift through the facts learned with Hannah and all the women victims.

A call comes to Dan's phone and a meeting place to set up to exchange something of value for Hannah. The next phone message which requires a different exchange which later Dan figures out the real purpose of the kidnapping. It's a hidden danger with repercussions to force Dan to pull out all the stops to wrap this case up. His goal to save Hannah is foreshadowed by surprises, he hadn't anticipated from the beginning.

James Patterson is the author of the Alex Cross novels, Women's Murder Club Mysteries, Detective Michael Bennett series, Private Investigator Series, and many stand alone novels. He also writes for Readers of all ages including Maximum Ride, Daniel X, Witch & Wizard, and Middle School.

Mark Pearson is the author of Britain's bestselling Jack Delaney Crime Series. He also is a multi-award-nominated television scriptwriter and work on a variety of shows for the BBC and ITV.

Daniel Allen

Deacon's Bookshelf

The Pope's War
Matthew Fox
Sterling Ethos
c/o Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
387 Park Avenue South, 11th floor
New York, NY, 10016
9781402786297 $22.95,

This writer doubts that former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) is the Antichrist. Still I say that anyone who swallows the whole of 'The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved' will come away convinced that Ratzinger is The Priest from Hell. Indeed this book, published two years before Benedict XVI resigned, goes a long way toward a detailed list of reasons for Benedict's failed papacy.

Author of 'The Pope's War' is Matthew Fox. Himself a former Catholic priest, theologian and member of the Dominican Order, Fox is an advocate of "liberation theology" (taught by many priests and nuns in Latin America) and of "creation theology." As this writer understands author Fox, liberation theology emphasizes Christ's respect and concern for the poor and the dispossessed and for social justice, while creation theology argues that (among other things) the Roman Catholic Church should accept and accommodate the ordination of women and facts of modern life such as birth control, gay marriage and other social changes.

Before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, Ratzinger headed up "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." Formerly known as "The Inquisition," The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith serves as the thought police of the Roman Church. Predictably, Ratzinger's role as head of theological purification led him to take a dim view of "heresies" preached by such as Father Fox.

Cardinal Ratzinger and his people came down on liberation theology and creation theology with both feet and all the hounds of outraged Vatican righteousness. Fox was forbidden to publish his theology and was pressured out of the Dominican Order. Driven by frustration, Fox finally resigned his Roman priesthood and took up with the Episcopalians, whom he now serves as a priest. Further, Fox states his not-unreasonable suspicion that Ratzinger (and possibly Pope John Paul VI) sat on their hands while dictatorial Latin American governments and "friends" of the Vatican in Langley, Virginia, disappeared (or murdered) some 800 priests and nuns for teaching liberation theology in Latin America.

'The Pope's War' also charges that Ratzinger and his hounds facilitated the cover-up of pedophilia and abetted the protection of criminal, pedophiliac Roman priests. Among other evidence that points to such a conclusion, author Fox cites the career of Cardinal Bernard Law. American readers will recall it was Cardinal Law who presided over the pedophiliac diocese in Boston. Law fled the country just one day before he was to be arrested, and today Cardinal Law has a cushy job at the Vatican replete with a six-figure salary. Other crimes against the faith, says Fox, have been perpetrated both by the Church and by organizations peripheral to the Church, such as Opus Dei.

It's true that Fox is a bit shrill about the multiple sins and shortcomings of Ratzinger and the Vatican. It's also true that Matthew Fox is a skilled writer (30 books to date) who knows how to build an argument. His knowledge of Roman Catholicism, the history of the Christian faith and the teachings of Christ are apparent throughout 'The Pope's War'. His case against Ratzinger is tight because it's not merely rational but for the most part documented with solid, credible sources. Lastly, this writer finds it perfectly understandable that a person of good faith might be shrill about some of the tactics used and weapons deployed by Ratzinger and the Roman Church against dissident clergy and congregations over the last 30 years.

By way of clarification, I am not a Catholic. Other than the fact that I have some Catholic cousins (from whom I am estranged), I have no knowledge of the Roman Church beyond what I've read in a few books down through the years. I believe in a god of sorts but I am not religious. Even so, where I question Fox is in his contention that the Roman Church is beyond repair and in his suggestions for a Christianity of the future. Without detailing those suggestions but in part because of them, I conclude with the observation that -- shrillness aside -- 'The Pope's War' is a solid book that offers a great deal for everyone in the world to think about.

Solomon sez: Put down the war stories and the westerns, the fantasies, the mysteries and the mommy porn. Read something that'll make you think for once. The times, they are a changin' and a hard rain's gonna fall soon. Don't let the storm catch you with your spiritual pants down.

Black Ajax
George MacDonald Fraser
Caroll & Graf
c/o HarperCollinsPublishers
10 E 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780786706181, $14.95,

When author George MacDonald Fraser passed from this life on Jan. 2, 2008, he left a hole in the literary world into which millions of Flashman fans stared -- teary, hollow-eyed and bereft. Beyond mourning the author's death, however, there was little reason for fans to be upset.

Indeed "Flash Harry" devotees can be glad of the fact that Fraser was fairly prolific. Besides the 12 books in his picaresque Flashman cycle, Fraser left us 5 standalone novels, 4 short stories, 2 volumes of straightforward history, 2 personal memoirs, and 24 screenplays (at least 8 of which have been filmed). So: if Flashman is all you know of George MacDonald Fraser, be aware that used-book sellers still stock plenty of Fraser for your reading pleasure.

Black Ajax, for example, is a novel from 1997 that no Fraser fan should miss. It's based on the true story of an almost-forgotten fellow named Tom Molineaux. A contender for the heavyweight boxing championship of England back toward the end of the Napoleonic Era, Molineaux was a black man born and reared a slave on a plantation in Virginia. Freed by his master while still a very young man, he made his way with his fists.

By and by Molineaux fought his way to England, where his talent was spotted by some aging pugs who kept a pub for a living and trained fighters for sport. The British pugs took Molineaux in charge. Under their tutelage, he quickly became the top heavyweight contender in England. When Molineaux fought for the heavyweight championship of England - but I don't want to throw a spoiler in here. You'll have to read the book to find out what happened.

As always, Fraser's novel is historically accurate. His fight scenes put the reader at ringside. We get to hear the ugly crowds and smell the sweat, the booze, the excitement. Sensational description and marvelous dialog give vivid impressions of the way Brits dressed and spoke and conducted themselves in public during the regency. The language is a joy. A glossary at the back of the book helps us ingest the antique argot.

Black Ajax is about race and racism. It's about what it takes to be a champion athlete. It's about courage and (especially) about courage under fire. It's about the fight game as it is and as it was, even in the eighteen-earlies. It's about honor and integrity and morality. It's about manhood. It's about alcoholism. It's about all those things but it is not pedantic because mostly (So typical of Fraser!) it's about having a heckuva good time with a heckuva good story.

Solomon sez: Black Ajax: Don't miss it!

Deacon Solomon, Reviewer

Emanuel's Bookshelf

Spiritual Warfare
Dr. Sheila Carpenter
Carpenter's Press and Media Inc.
9780615601946, $24.99,

When an old school pastor (Juan Cortez) suffers a tragic event, his church is overtaken by an opportunist minister named Marco Pablo. While Juan believes in the old school ways Marco is determined to transform the church into a more secular mega church. To combat this, God sends Ashshod and his team of angels to engage in spiritual battle. But the devil has his own army led by Greed, Covet and False Doctrine who will stop at nothing to win the battle for evil. This sets the stage for "Spiritual Warfare."

This novel also deals with issues of envy, fornication, and false doctrine in a unique way. While hardcore Christians will love its unsugarcoated message, it may cause others pause. Though the book has a strong introduction and ending, it kind of meanders in the middle. And the message in this novel will be a great cause for debate among Christian denominations.

Dr. Sheila C. Carpenter's (Forgive Me) first work of fiction works on two levels, the spiritual battles between angels and imps and the human difficulties faced by the characters in the book. It's reminiscent of Frank Peretti's "This Present Darkness," but is more intense.

Though Dr. Carpenter has written a couple of non-fiction titles, this is her debut novel. But it is written with the intensity and thought-provoking subject matter you'd expect from a more experienced novelist. Expect great things from this author.


Waiting to Be Heard
Amanda Knox
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062217202, $28.99,

Amanda Knox's memoir, "Waiting to Be Heard," could have easily been titled, "Lying Liars and the Liars Who Tell Them." In case you've been living under a rock, the author's story made international news. Knox is an American from Seattle who traveled to Perugia in Italy to study Italian. After a few weeks, her roommate and friend Meredith Kercher is murdered. She and her new boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito would later be accused and convicted of the murder. But did they do it? That's what everyone wants to know. "Waiting to Be Heard," attempts to give the answer.

There are five important parts to "Waiting to Be Heard": Amanda Knox's life before traveling to Italy, the effect Meredith Kercher's murder had on Amanda's life, the investigation and trial that ultimately led to her arrest, her life in prison, and the appeal that leads to her release.

Though other authors have done their best to shed light on the case, Knox shares some very important first-hand information. She was deprived of sleep when questioned by the police. She was not told she was a suspect until she was locked up. Italian police threatened her verbally by telling her she wouldn't see her family for thirty years if she didn't help them. She also claims to have been smacked on the head when she didn't tell police what they wanted to hear.

So why was she accused? Based on her own admission, she did some silly and naive things during the whole ordeal. She did splits in the police station while her boyfriend was being interviewed. She told Meredith's grieving friends that she didn't suffer because she got her f**cking throat slit. And though she says it was under extreme coercion and manipulation, she told the police that she remembered hearing Meredith scream and that her boss, a black man named Patrik Lumumba, did it. (Once it's discovered that a different black man was responsible for the murder, it makes you wonder if she really was there that night or at her boyfriend's apartment the entire night as she claims.)

What's also important is the way the authorities mishandled the case. While they bugged the interrogation room during the investigation, they somehow forgot to record Amanda's so-called confession. They contaminated the murder scene and made the DNA evidence unreliable. And the prosecutor (who is later convicted of abuse of his power) seemed hell bent on putting Amanda and her boyfriend at the scene and convicting them on circumstantial evidence and no real motive.

And speaking of lying liars and the liars who tell them, Rudy Guede, who was eventually convicted of the murder, makes things even more complicated. His recorded phone call states Amanda was not even there. In court, he pleads the Italian version of the 5th Amendment. He later admits being at the scene the night of the murder but says someone else killed Meredith while he was in the bathroom.

Of course, there is a lot more to "Waiting to Be Heard," that makes this a must read. It's based on Amanda Knox's journals, memories, and court documents. Knox wisely stayed away from the media between her prison release and the release of this book, which created a huge demand. The book is very well written and thought provoking. To say that it is a page turner is an understatement. It sheds light on Knox's life prior to her journey to Italy, her friendship with Kercher, and what she faced before, during, and after her conviction and eventual release. Is it slanted towards her innocence? Of course.

Does it leave out anything? Based on court documents and the internet, absolutely. It seems like the much-discussed email sent to her family and friends giving a detailed account of what happened should have been included. Was her boyfriend smacked and deprived of sleep when he said he believed Amanda had left the apartment that night?

Does it bring up more questions? Most definitely. Why didn't Knox call the American Embassy and ask for a lawyer? Why did she rely on her intermediate Italian-speaking skills while being questioned about a serious crime? What if she couldn't remember if she was at the villa during the murder was because of weed smoking?

Does it prove that she was not involved in the murder? No but her guilt wasn't proven either. It proves that a highly-intelligent student and weed smoker did some very off-the-wall things after her friend was murdered. And with all the lies that police, prosecutor, witnesses, Guede, and Amanda herself told, we may never know all the details of that night.
Highly Recommended

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

Erik's Bookshelf

Hell Hath Slow Fury
Warheads: Painting in the Age of Perpetual War
Tim Slowinski
Direct Art
$24.99 (hardback), $1.99 (ebook)

The Slow Movement began as a protest against the opening of a McDonald's in Rome's Piazza di Spagna in 1986. Deriving from this eco-friendly, anti-hectic philosophy, Slow Art is a concept conceived of and centrally epitomized by Tim Slowinski. Not only is his painting slowly, painstakingly realized in cartoon hyperrealism, it actively lobbies against high-speed culture in all its manifestations.

Take Fernando Botero's happily plump figures and cross them with the grisliness of Neue Sachlichkeit's Otto Dix and you'll have an inkling of what the world looks like to Tim Slowinski. In Slowinski's previous work, apparently benign food acts as one of the main targets. It stands as an apposite image for what he wants to deride: seemingly lustrous cartons of pure milk are shown to be packed with chemical agents and other transgenic horrors; cereals for kids contain carcinogenic substances and more besides. Junk food-related obesity is one of the reasons that explain why the majority of Slowinski's figures are still fat in his new collection. And although the industrial causes of obesity are lampooned with much ferocity, the ultimate meaning of it for this artist is as a metaphor for greed and its related sins.

Available this month, Slowinski's second book of paintings, Warheads: Painting in the Age of Perpetual War, is as mesmerizing as his first. Published in e-book format to keep the carbon footprint down, Warheads assails the industry of armament along with all its monstrous profiteers: priests and pro-war mongers, businessmen and servicemen, to name but a few. "Victory in Iraq" shows a veiled Iraqi woman dancing topless, wearing garters spattered with red hearts that evoke the star-spangled banner. In the background, a couple of red-spangled devils are raping a victim. The artist's accompanying commentary accentuates the mordant irony of the scene: "Released from her cultural shroud, the Iraqi woman is now free to display her flesh and dance naked before men".

Religion has always been one of Tim Slowinski's bugbears and its iconography is one of the main wellsprings of his art. His paintings use heavily outlined cloisonniste contours to lend his scenes iconic weight but also to evoke the stained-glass windows that first inspired artists to use the outlining technique in the inception days of modern art. Contrary to late nineteenth-century painters who employed the method to sanctify their art and the world it represented, Slowinski uses the reference to stained glass to place the viewer in a kind of modern medieval cathedral in which all the windows show us hell.

Hypocritical nuns and corrupt priests have long been the mainstay of Slowinski's paintings and the impact of Christianity on war-mongering in America is castigated relentlessly time and again, but the fiendish figures that people these paintings are motivated by a satirical intent that goes beyond fustigation of the Church. Slowinski's vision suggests that everything and everyone now is steeped in the valley of Hell, despite the fact that we don't seem to notice. His work is so unremittingly dark that it offers a Renaissance painter's intricate depiction of Inferno without the counter-balancing agents of goodness. In fact, the very notion of the wholesome is completely torn asunder.

"Virgin Bomber" is another recent painting that works to devastating effect: it's a perfect mix of 'suicide bomber' and 'virgin mother' in which both are indistinguishable. The painting represents the Virgin Mary flying over a war zone, dropping missiles out of a womb that opens like a book. Slowinski's comments on this and an accompanying painting are devastating not just for the iconographic role ascribed to women by the Church: "The woman, traditionally exempt from the violence and madness of killing, should be a voice crying out in the wilderness of war, calling the men back to reason. Instead, the Woman Warrior in Iraq has joined his ranks, and under the myth of equality, has lowered herself to join in the bestiality of men. The mottled deformity of her face, framed in the golden artifice of her hair and ruby lips, bespeaks her plight and is a testimonial to what she has become". "Myth of equality" is perhaps not the happiest of formulations here but the point hits home nevertheless. It would be unfair to tax Slowinski with misogyny; his paintings over the past three decades have lashed out at men and women alike.

One is tempted to feel at times, especially when browsing through Slowinski's first 188-page book, that his vision is so ubiquitously negative that it is cynical and merely hyperbolic. It's a bit like a representation of the world in which you see no good, hear no good, speak no good, but the reason for this is precisely that centuries of art have tended to show us only the beauty of the world, very often blinding us to its seamy, slimy sides, those hideous aspects of the world that are in need of urgent attention.

Slowinski is endowed with a dazzlingly fertile imagination and has created some of the most memorable iconography of our age. He is our greatest satirist and has accomplished for America and the West what Yue Minjun and his fellow Cynical Realists have done for China.

Durer, Cranach : Melancolie(s)
Claude Makowski
Somogy Editions d'Art
9782757205761, 20 Brit. pounds

The belly-band dustjacket of this short but lively account of the genre known as the 'Melancholy' claims that the present volume stands as the ultimate solution to the mystery of Durer's landmark etching. The book does indeed deliver some original insights and although its premises sometimes look a little strained to begin with, Makowski's argumentation is compellingly couched. The fact that the book is so readable, lavishly illustrated and erudite makes even the scholarly reader willing to forgive its methodological shortcomings.

Indeed the academic substance of the book could easily have been reduced to a short article since the additional interpretations that Makowski brings to bear take up little space. And yet the justification for the book-length treatment is there for the general reader not cognizant with the critical history of the engraving. The book offers interesting parallels with other works that may have influenced Durer's composition. It also provides captivating illustrations showcasing Renaissance depictions of meteorites that focus particularly on the Ensisheim aerolith that Makowski identifies as the defining experience for Durer. The book points out that the 1492 meteorite that fell near the German village of Ensisheim is also depicted at the back of the canvas of Durer's penitent St Jerome, now housed at the National Gallery in London. In Makowski's view, the polyhedron in Durer's Melencolia I is less an allegory of the art of sculpture than a second representation of the meteorite figured in the background. He claims that the original meteorite had a deltoid shape and the same proportions as the mysterious solid foregrounded in the etching. This interpretation underscores the apocalyptic valence of the work. Makowski goes on to argue that the letters of Melencolia I bear much resemblance to the letters present in the title given to the Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I(mperator). He might have pointed out that the S like decoration that separates 'Melencolia' from 'I' has also been interpreted as SI, 'Imperium Sacrum', the Latin initials of the Holy Empire, or just as convincingly as 'Melencolia Imaginativa', one of the types of melancholy identified by the German humanist Cornelius Agrippa.

Another bold claim the book makes is in the identification of the winged figure as a representation of Cybele/Rhea. Although there is little iconographic evidence to support this link (no lion or chariot and a set of prominent wings that Cybele does not traditionally possess), Makowski remarks that Durer's figure has a vegetal wreath which evokes the fertility symbols sometimes depicted in Cybele's hands. In his view, the winged figure is a dejected representation of the Magna Mater or Great Mother of Everything.

Makowski's premise is convincingly argued, though one is ultimately tempted to say that while Durer may have had Cybele in mind he invents a sui generis depiction of the muse of melancholy, since one did not exist in art up to then.

The book closes with a consideration of Lucas Cranach the Elder's four Melancholias, ostensibly inspired by Durer's Melencolia. The discussion is invigorating and focused, if a little too brief by comparison. Makowski opines that the female figure in Cranach's paintings also depict Cybele, in a more sadistic guise since she is whittling a stick with a knife. Makowski reads this as a reference to the fact that Cybele's original followers were priests who castrated themselves as a token of devotion. He aligns the series with Cranach's slightly earlier Golden Age which shows unclothed men and women frolicking like the ludus puerorum, the playing putti displayed in the four Melancholies. The darker, more threatening aspects of the flying demons above are linked to Cranach's earlier Venus and Cupid, which is generally taken as a cautionary venereal image of the dangers of unbridled sexuality, most notably in the context of the emergence of syphilis.

Makowski's book is ultimately a fine introduction to the subject, but it tends to dwell on peripheral biographical detail to the expense of iconic interpretation at times. He fails to mention the obvious reminders of the rota fortuna in both paintings, with the putti on the mill stone but also the sphere which early depictions of Fortune used before the symbol turned into a wheel. Likewise, the related death's head memento mori motif is left uncommented. The pale skull shape that appears in Durer's polyhedron assuredly alludes to a different kind of death than the one prominently featuring in the Cranach's Melancholia housed at the Musee Unterlinden in Colmar but it certainly partakes of the same medieval religious tradition of tempus fugit and its attendant anxieties.

Erik Martiny

Gail's Bookshelf

The Action Bible
Doug Mauss, editor
Sergio Cariello, illustrator
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781444996, $26.99,

The Action Bible targets juveniles ages eight and up with the look and feel of a graphic novel, from its kid-friendly artwork to its comic book style dialog boxes with easy-to-understand language. Because of that it doesn't follow a specific Bible translation, such as NIV, HSCB or King James. Instead the comic book style format simply tells over 200 Bible stories without further explanation.

The Action Bible was awarded best children's Bible in 2011 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA)

perhaps due to the efforts of award-winning DC and Marvel comic's illustrator, Sergio Cariello.

Doug Mauss, General Editor believes children are the " generation of difference-makers." He wants them to understand Bible stories are about imperfect people, just as you and I are imperfect, yet God used them in spite of their imperfections.

He uses the breathtaking artistry of Sergio Cariello to capture their attention with an analogy to the action hero Superman in the Preface where he writes, "...God is the original action hero..." even though people don't usually think of God in that way. While Superman saves "...the day with his strength...Jesus saves the whole world with his death."

Realistic, vibrant artwork makes this an excellent beginners or read-aloud Bible for kids without being too graphic as some Old Testament stories can be. Stories cover the Old and New Testament from Genesis through 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Daniel and Matthew and Acts. I especially liked the inclusion of Revelation, "The Final Days" that concludes with a salvation message.

Reference verses, where to find the story in the Bible, are included at the beginning of each story segment. A contents table of stories and Bible book index complete the book. There is nothing not to like in this storybook Bible and I understand why it won the ECPA award in 2011.

March of this year David C. Cook Publishers released a companion dictionary guide to The Action Bible similar to an encyclopedia of people, places and things to be titles The Action Bible Handbook.

The Action Bible Handbook: A Dictionary of People, Places, and Things
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434704832, $17.99,

This companion guide to The Action Bible is similar to an encyclopedia that gives precise details about important "people, places and things" of biblical importance. However, the guide's format isn't the same as The Action Bible's comic book style. Sergio Cariello did produce the graphic artwork inserted every two or three pages, but the focus is factual information similar to what's found in an encyclopedia or dictionary.

Topics are alphabetized in chronological order, which makes the guide user friendly and eliminates the need for an index. I especially liked the inclusion of specific page numbers that made it easy to reference the same topic in The Action Bible and the additional cross references provided. Verse references are also included in case other Bible translations are used instead of The Action Bible.

Over seven hundred kid-friendly descriptions about animals, languages, natural disasters, weapons and more add rich details to a child's understanding of biblical times. Sergio's colorful and graphic artwork engages youngster's attention with illustrations of difficult to understand topics, such as found in the book of Revelation.

The Action Bible Handbook is a rich companion resource to The Action Bible with just the right amount of kid-friendly detail to maintain a child's interest. Both books encourage youngsters to learn more about God, Jesus Christ and the Bible in general. On a scale of one to ten, these books deserve an eleven.

The Reason
William Sirls
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000
Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781401687366, $15.99,

The Reason, a story of supernatural suspense with a spiritual twist by debut author William Sirls, asks readers to set reason aside and "only believe" when belief in anything seems impossible. It's a courageous story of hope from viewpoints of a terminally ill child, a single mother without hope and the surrogate family they live with, a blind pastor, wife and mute son. Then there's the addicted friend, the month's long comatose patient, a mysterious carpenter and doctors and nurses who only seem to believe in their medical training, until....a series of extraordinary events arise after the "...fifteen-foot wooden cross centered on St. Thomas's church front lawn..." is struck by lightning and split in two by a sudden thunder storm. Although the church can't afford to fix the cross the damaged cross draws unrelated people together by accidental circumstance - or is it, could there be a larger force at work in this small Michigan community?

Readers meet genuine characters such as five-year-old Alex who struggles with cancer treatments, Macey Lewis, the brilliant pediatric oncologist who treats him while she worries about her $140,000 student loan, his mother Brooke who pleads with God to know why and the strange "Mr. Mysterious" who quotes scripture and asks everyone he meets to "only believe."

Then there's Dr. Zach whose hidden feelings of guilt and remorse masquerade as prideful arrogance and disdain who refuses to believe in anything until faced with a choice. Or sweet Charlie the pastor's mute son and Alex's best friend, who was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and today stands 7" tall and weighs 355 pounds.

This debut mystical suspense and its cast of well-developed characters comes wrapped in a compelling and thought-provoking plot that is amazing for any established author, let alone the author of a first book.

The book reminded me of other authors who writes spiritual stories of redemption, forgiveness and faith with a twist of suspense such as Rooms by James Rubart or The Listener, by Taylor Caldwell with a sprinkling of Crossroads or The Shack by Paul Young.

An "Author's Note" concludes the book with a brief account of Sirl's life, the story behind the story and why the narrative sat in a drawer for many years until he earned a "much-needed time out." Although it wasn't an experience Sirl's would "wish on anyone" the experience taught him he'd spent his entire " worrying about the wrong things."

This author's message of forgiveness and thankfulness blended with a surprising spiritual twist is not one to miss.

No Way Out: Justice Agency #3
Susan Sleeman
Love Inspired Suspense
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780373445394, $5.99,

No Way Out, third in Susan Sleeman's Justice Agency suspense series releases today, May 7th, this time the agency investigates an intriguing case of murder, intimidation and police corruption. Cole Justice, former US Marshal, back from two tours in Iraq, operates the non-profit firm alongside four other siblings with law enforcement backgrounds. However at the moment Cole is "...miffed at the family's interference..." in his life.

All four siblings insist he take time off to " through the baggage he still carries from two Iraqi tours..." Even though he disagrees they won't listen and he drives to the beach cabin to cool down, far away from family concerns and "self-recriminations."

That's where Cole saw a slight figure racing toward him through the mist in the moonlight from his vantage point high on a beach boulder. He went on "full alert" and knew from her long, lithe stride and slight build she was a woman - who ran in fear for her life. He couldn't know she was about to join him atop the slippery boulder.

Thus begins a tale of murder and nail-biting suspense wrapped in head-over-heels romance when recently widowed Alyssa Wells finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cole is hard-pressed to gain her trust since she's just overheard her husband's partner and fellow police officer admit to another officer that he murdered him because he wouldn't look the other way. If they knew she overheard their conversation they would kill her.

Then there's the treacherous neighbor, Alyssa's twin daughters and Cole's struggle with survivors guilt over losing his best friend and other exciting twists and turns. The strong spiritual thread of faith blends seamlessly into the narrative from down-to-earth characterizations.

Susan's clever plot and adept writing skills keep readers involved until the last page is turned with a story that can be read as part of an enjoyable series or a stand-alone title. For more information check the list that headlines the review or Susan's website:

Number four, Thread of Suspicion: Justice Agency is due October 2013 and Desperate Measures number five is scheduled for 2014.

They've Crossed the Line
Stephen Bloom & Kerriel Bailey
God and Country Press
c/o AMG
6815 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421
9780899571669, $12.99,

Attorneys Bloom and Bailey wrote an informative Patriot's Guide to Religious Freedom, the subtitle of their new release - They've Crossed the Line published by AMG, May 2013. With Christian religious rights challenged throughout our culture, from schools to the military to even our traditional moral values their topic is timely.

John Fortmeyer, Oregon editor of Christian News Northwest, May 2013 featured "...the assault on religious rights in the United States..." on the front page. Parson Rayphe, "Persecution in America," posted examples of similarities between Nazi Germany and America today that ask: Are Christians REALLY Persecuted in the U.S?

Indications from recent news stories point to a "post-Christian America." Could President Obama have been right in 2008 when he said America was no longer a Christian nation?

Bloom and Baily provide "...concise, easy-to-understand legal answers..." to the question former United States Senator, Rick Santorum raises in the book's Foreword: "What are our legal rights as American Christians...?"

Fifteen chapters divided into three sections of five chapters each say we "...still have a constitutionally guaranteed right to be a Christian "At School, At Work and Everywhere Else." Chapters begin with fictionalized accounts of "real-life controversies and circumstances" that illustrate the legal guidance that follows. Chapters end with "Quick Counsel for Christians" that summarizes chapter points for quick reference.

The first story concerns a nervous sophomore teen who wore her favorite summer camp tee shirt the first day of high school. Everything went well until third period when her name was called over the "public address system." Embarrassed at the unwanted attention and fearing her mother had been hurt or killed she made her way to the principal's office where she was told to "...remove her shirt" and change into a much-too-large pink hooded sweatshirt.

When she asked why, the principal's angry words, "You're in violation of the student dress code...the proselytizing message on your shirt...its blatant religious symbolism is offensive..." brought the young girl to tears. The shirt pictured a mountain, a cross and the verse. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" from Hebrews 1.

This powerful reference guide equips Christian's to know their guaranteed Constitutional rights. The book belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who experiences troublesome attitudes of political correctness engulfing our nation that breeds discrimination and hostility toward our most sacred Christian values and belief.

I Will Call Myself Future
Mama Jamie, author
Rachel Land, illustrator
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449755003, $15.95,

Mama Jamie wrote a true account of a nameless African boy to describe what it's like to be an orphaned African child. Her eye-opening narrative is taken from over ten years of short-term volunteer mission experience where she helped "...orphaned children in rural villages of Zambia, South Africa" alongside Aids Orphans and Street Children:

"Take the orphanage to the orphan" is their motto for a country that's the poster child for children in desperate need.

Mario de Queiroz's spine-chilling statistics reveal over two million African children and teens are without parents, aunts, uncles or siblings to care for them because of war, aids, cholera and famine: In 2010 U.N. statistics revealed "...53.1 million children under 18 will be without parents and...15.7 million will have had parents who died of AIDS..."

Comrades for Kids recently reported "... an estimated 2.2 million South African children have currently lost their parents and are child-headed households."

That's the story behind the story Mama Jamie wrote when she penned I Will Call Myself Future, an account of a young African boy in the care of his grandfather until he's sent to jail. The boy, alone and afraid, doesn't know how to care of himself since he has yet to be taught how to hunt, catch fish or grow maize, a corn like plant that's an African staple.

The story opens with the boy cooking his last bit of maize, worried about what he will eat when "...winter comes again..." when there is no more ground maize and ripe fruit doesn't hang from the tree branches or "...chickens do not lay their eggs..."

He wished he knew how old he was but can only note the passing of time by the change of seasons. He also notices his "...feet are growing bigger and his legs are getting longer..." which makes him hope to someday grow taller than the elephant grass that fences him in.

Join this nameless boy in his quest for shelter, clothes, shoes and food. He's a youngster without hope or a future until he meets Uncle Simon who teaches him about a loving Father who has a plan and purpose for him...

Thus begins a brief survival story of courage, hope, God's faithfulness and the missionaries who act as the hands and feet of Christ. One of the best parts is where the nameless child learns his name.

Jamie's touching story isn't designed for small children to read, although I believe they would enjoy listening to it and seeing Rachel's true-to-life illustrations. Her eye-opening portrayal of children and a culture far different from anything found in America stands in sharp contrast to what many Americans take for granted. The contrast in cultures illustrates the work missionaries do and why they are necessary Proceeds from book sales are dedicated to Zambian orphans care.

40 Days through Revelation: Uncovering the Mystery of the End Times
Ron Rhodes
Harvest House
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402-9173
9780736948272, $13.99,

Author and radio show host, Ron Rhodes penned 40 Days through Revelation to help readers understand the only Bible book that "...promises a special blessing to those who read it and obey its message..." He writes with spiritual clarity, from a pre-tribulation position, about a book of prophecy many have difficulty understanding and don't read - the Book of Revelation.

In the introduction Ron identifies and explains "four primary" beliefs about the book of Revelation that include, "historicist...idealist...preterist...and "futurist." Ron favors the futurist view and believes the events described in Revelation will "...take place..." word for word in what is commonly called the "End Times" just before Christ's return.

He encourages readers to begin the study with prayer and ask God for understanding, insight and wisdom about what they read. Then, Bible in hand, he instructs readers to read the assigned sections, "verse-by-verse," noting ones that speak to you in new and different ways. Topical chapter summaries include major themes, ample cross-references and questions that equip readers to dig deeper. The "Life Lessons" are for personal application.

Chapter Bible verses are broken into bite-size pieces and explained, sentence-by-sentence, while paragraphs guide readers to other Bible verses that support the statements Ron makes. If you were to compare Ron's teachings with that of Jack Van Impe's, Ron's views offer a similar but broader perspective.

Even though packed with references and information the book is easy to read. However, if suggested chapter references are looked up and read, the study takes two hours a day according to my husband who uses the book for personal morning devotions. He also believes 80 days is more realistic when using the book as a study guide, instead of 40 days.

Whether you agree or disagree with the author, Ron's practical explanations expand understanding and clarify topics many have difficulty with. The promise of blessing found in Revelation is more than worth the effort and Ron's book coupled with prayer equips readers to gain greater understanding than ever before. 40 Days Through Revelation is useful for a group Bible study, a Sunday school class or for individual use.

For another of Ron's books on the End Times, watch this video:

Jennifer: An O'Malley Love Story
Dee Henderson
Bethany House
11400 Hampshire South, Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780764211126, $12.99,

Jennifer, a romantic novella by well-known author Dee Henderson, released May 2013, with the "...untold story of..." the youngest member of the O'Malley family - Dr. Jennifer O'Malley. Jennifer's character has ties to the "beloved O'Malley series and Full Disclosure that released January 2013.

I reviewed Dee's riveting romantic-suspense Full Disclosure January 2013:

and became a fan of this new-to-me-author. Dee had been absent from the writing arena for five years and I wasn't familiar with her writing. Today I consider her a quality writer on the order of Steven James, another favorite author of mine. She wrote the "untold story" of Jennifer after repeated requests by readers to know more about her since she was the only O'Malley sibling who didn't get her own book.

Readers meet Jennifer, the young pediatric oncology specialist, in the emergency room hallway of the Dallas Hospital where she carries a young boy with "flailing hands and feet." She could barely hang onto him as she fended off head butts and warned "the chief ER resident to ...'Watch his burned hands...' Her words were hard to hear over the young boys "angry cries" of pain. Though only a small child, her acts of kindness toward him would signal more serious issues in the weeks to come...for him as well as the beautiful doctor.

Thus begins the story of Jennifer O'Malley, a busy physician with a pediatric practice in Dallas Texas. She couldn't know how the summer would change her life or that she would meet and be captivated by a gifted surgeon named Tom Peterson, or that she would entertain thoughts of marriage for the first time.

Although a love story, Jennifer is also a tale of bittersweet romance tempered by old-fashioned courtship that changes the lives of all involved. A thread of spiritual faith and belief weaves the narrative together, however Jennifer can't know her new found faith will soon be tested in unthinkable ways.

Dee's sensitive and emotional portrayals deliver in-depth characters wrapped in humbling life struggles all are familiar with. Join Jennifer on her bittersweet journey of faith, trust and love as she becomes the catalyst of change for the O'Malley clan.

If you'd like to know more about the series, click through the list that headlines the review to find the O'Malley series that starts with the first book, The Negotiator. If you enjoyed Full Disclosure, check the list for Unspoken, another riveting FBI suspense scheduled to release October 2013. For more information click through the list of O'Malley books. To read Dee's blog:

Making Good Habits-Breaking Bad Habits
Joyce Meyer
c/o Hatchette Book Group
12 Cadillac Drive, Ste. 480, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781455517381, $19.99,

Joyce Meyers, well-known author, speaker and Christian mentor's new release teaches how to develop successful habits that encourage confidence and healthy self-esteem. Unlike many habits that foster feelings of frustration, stress and discouragement. Her writing style is engaging and conversational with specific examples on how to create good habits and break bad habits.

In the introduction, she defines a habit as a "...behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition" that soon becomes routine behavior. Smoking, nail-biting and cell-phone addiction might be good examples of habits that control us instead of our controlling them.

The experts have told Joyce both good and bad "...habits can be formed or broken in thirty days." She cites examples from personal experience where she learned that to be true. With that in mind she encourages readers to focus on behaviors they want rather than obsessing over worrisome habitual behaviors that seem impossible to break.

She begins with what she calls the "God habit" and writes "...without the habit of spending time with God in prayer and studying His Word...habits overtake us and rule our lives." Throughout the book she cites scripture and encourages readers to look to God's Word for guidance. Although she writes about bad habits her emphasis is on the positives of faith, confidence and self-discipline.

Seventeen chapters demonstrate how to "...make or break a habit..." make wise decisions and gain control of yourself and your life with the following suggestions:

Begin with one habit.
Take it a day at a time...don't be overwhelmed.
Be clear about what you want to accomplish.
Focus on the "right" behavior, not the "wrong."
Commit to 30 days and don't expect overnight results.
Develop a support system.
Mentally keep your thoughts and words in alliance with your goal
Celebrate every success
If you make a mistake, let it go and start again.
Don't be discouraged, focus on what happens that day and never give up.

Joyce's practical suggestions feature the power of words and thoughts which she writes "...are the starting point for breaking all bad habits," (pg38) because our thoughts and words become actions that soon turn into habits. Changing habits requires self-discipline, commitment, time and hard work, yet the rewards are more than worth it. If readers hope to change some facet of their life reading Making Good Habits... would be a good place to start.

Our Daily Bread Devotional Bible NLT
Tyndale House Bibles
c/o Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414361963, $24.99,

If you're in need of a devotional and a Bible, consider Our Daily Bread Devotional Bible issued by Discovery House and Tyndale House publishers. Their motto: "Feed the Soul with the Word of God." They do that and more with this inspiring devotion-Bible that encourages reluctant readers to read God's Word in combination with Our Daily Bread devotions.

In addition to the popular New Living Bible translation, over a years' worth of dated devotions, penned by twenty "Our Daily Bread writers" are included. If you're looking for a specific devotion on discouragement, for example, it's easily found in the topical list in the back of the book.

The alphabetized devotional index features depression October 24th Thumb through the pages to find the dark green circled page dates located at the top of each devotion page, in this case found in Acts 28. The story is about a preacher suffering from a painful illness who's discouraged because he can't preach. The story illustrates Paul's discouragement when he was shipwrecked on the island of Malta. The narrative theme teaches to stop worrying about the impossible and instead focus on the possible because "God never puts you in the wrong place to serve him."

In addition to over 365 devotions, the soothing green color scheme contrasts well against easy-on-the-eyes black colored font with chapter headings and numbers in darker olive green. Besides the topical index, a scripture index and a dedication page for gift giving are also included.

Each Bible book offers a brief historical introduction that includes the author, date written, purpose and theme with a brief outline of the book. For example Psalms identities seven authors with writings from the time of Moses to the Babylonian captivity. Their purpose is to praise, trust, and worship, confess and ask forgiveness throughout the Psalms.

This daily devotional Bible with its softcover binding is especially good for new Christians since it uses the easy-to-understand New Living Translation (NLT) that has become the most popular Bible translation of the "English-speaking world." The arrangement of an understandable Bible translation with the easy-to-understand devotions makes this a wonderful gift for family, friend or loved one. It's also a favorite choice for bible study groups, devotional readings and is frequently read aloud in church.

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Father Knows Death
Jeffrey Allen
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
978075826691, $7.99,

Deuce Winters is back solving crime in the "Father Knows Death," the third installment of the laugh out loud "Stay at Home Dad" series of fun mysteries. Victor the midget detective partner to Deuce, Julianne Deuce's pregnant wife and their daughter are all here in another side splitting mystery novel. What makes this series so much fun to read is not the mystery but the delightful characters Allen has created in the small town of Rose Petal and how they cope with everyday problems including Deuce being a stay at home dad. The story moves along at a brisk pace with interesting characters, tight writing and snappy dialogue that make this an above average mystery. .I also love the several play on word titles Allen has so far come up with "Father Knows Death" is a great addition to this fun series.

Children of the Gates
Andre Norton
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781451638899, $13.00,

These are two separate novels under one cover for the first time by the Agatha Christie of the science fiction genre Andre Norton. It is nice to see that many of her works are staying in print and will continue to please new audiences of fans. In "Here Abide Monsters": and "Yurth Burden" Norton masterfully makes readers believe that anything is possible. The writing is easy to follow and character driven in two wonderful books that are a delight to see back in print. "Children of the Gates" is another shining example of why Norton is still one of the best authors of science fiction

Lady Go Die! A Mike Hammer Novel
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 OUP, UK
9780857684653, $25.99

"Lady Go Die" is the lost second novel by Spillane that was written but never finished following "I the Jury" the novel that introduced Mike Hammer but taking place before "My Gun is Quick." Now completed by literary executor Max Allan Collins it is being published for the first time almost 70 years after it was originally begun. Collins found the work among other incomplete works by Spillane and will be bringing out many new titles throughout the next few years. "Lady Go Die" picks up immediately after "I the Jury" and has the feel of the original books. It is a welcome addition to the works of Mickey Spillane.

Love is Murder
Edited by Sandra Brown
Harlequin Mira
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778314370, $9.99

Brown who writes intense romantic suspense thrillers has taken time out to collect 27 authors in the field to write shorter fiction that is sure to please readers of this genre. The stories are all nail biting tales with great writing interesting twists and turns and great endings in a fabulous collection that shows that the short story is still a popular form of writing.

ProActive Nutrition With A Brazilian Twist
Lucia Camara,HHC, AADP
Wellness and Nutrition Institute, Florida USA
97812937183226, $24.95,

Unlike many cookbooks that preach health issues "ProActive Nutrition with A Brazilian Twist" is filled with many different wonderful tasty recipes. Camara explains the importance of using vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, seeds, and other things in the preparation of meals. There are all kinds of delicious recipes starting with appetizers and ending with breakfast items that are wonderful ways to try something totally different and eat a healthy balance meal for all different times of the day or night. "ProActive Nutrition with A Brazilian Twist" is a surefire cookbook that has a lot of new items to try.

Asian Flavors Diabetes Cookbook
Corinne Trang
American Diabetes Association
1701 North Beaureguard Street
Alexandria, Virginia 2231
97815804501, $19.95,

Though "Asian Flavors Diabetes Cookbook: Simple, Fresh Meals Perfect For Every Day" is geared toward people concerned with Diabetes, it really is for all of us to look into to eat more healthy meals. The ideas here are not new, but just borrowing from what Asians have know for a long time that food in balance is healthy. Many of the foods sound tasty and anyone trying to lose weight should consider this fine resource to achieve that purpose.

The Presidents Club
Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781439127728, $18.00,

You do not have to be a Republician or a Democrat to enjoy "The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity". The authors show many of our modern day presidents after they have left office from Hoover to the present one. They go into detail about how the disgraced Hoover was able through President Harry Truman to work with that administration behind the scenes on America's foreign policy around the world and how the two men began the relationship of the President's Club. Gibbs and Duffy then trace how other sitting presidents utilized the talents of past ones. Richard Nixon is the one they focus most on because he is the most complicated yet fascinating person to ever hold the office. Perhaps the most surprising is Jimmy Carter who undermined President George Herbert Walker Bush when Bush was forming the coalition to go after Saddam Hussein. The pacing is very slow reading, at the same time it is a very interesting historical revelation of how past presidents have helped guide the country through the years and they reveal many other little known facts about the men and the people around them. "The Presidents Club Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity" is for anyone who wants to learn about many of the men who have served as president in the last eighty years.

Mary And Lou And Rhoda And Ted
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781451659207, $26.00,

In "Mary And Lou And Rhoda And Ted And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic", Jennifer Keishin Armstrong takes readers behind the scenes of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show "one of the most popular tv shows ever made. She reveals the many problems the creators had getting it on the air, how the cast came together, many problems there were from the pilot to the final episode are just some of the fun things readers can know for the first time. Any fan of the show should not miss "Mary And Lou And Rhoda And Ted."

Dark Marco
Sybil Nelson
Little Prince Publishing
9781482538489, $10.99,

Marco Avalon is a member of a small group of test subjects who are being altered from that of a human being to something engineered in a lab to become a killing machine in "Dark Marco," the first of a series of YA novels. Nelson has created a character who is realizing how the changes are affecting him and we the reader get to feel what he does as he becomes this new man made killing machine. This is one of the questions in science fiction that has always made the subject so interesting "Is it a good thing science can do or not?" "Dark Marco" is an interesting approach to that question and conveys a logical answer that is very well done.

Dana The Procrastinator
Dane Reid
Dare Books
245 N. U.S. Highway 17-92
Longwood, FL 32750
9780912444451, $15.99,

Dana, a boy who lives in a big city learns the consequence of always being late in "Dana The Procrastinator" Dane Reid shows in a fun way why people should always make an effort to be on time. Though "Dana The Procrastinator" is a kid's book, adults could learn a few of the warnings that are shown in the novel to always be on time, no matter what the occasion.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Her Brother's Keeper
Sara Hoskinson Frommer
Perseverance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745255, $15.95,

After a fairly steady diet of late of thrillers, serial killers and the like, it was a pleasure to delve back into the small-town atmosphere of Oliver, Indiana. In her latest appearance, Joan Spencer is leading a more-than-usually hectic life. In addition to her usual jobs [part-time manager of the Oliver Civic Symphony, and part-time orchestra music librarian, in addition to her regular job as director of the senior center in town] and the fact that it's almost Christmas, it is only a few days before her daughter's wedding, with its attendant chaos. Added to which is the fact that her brother, seven years older than she, from whom she has heard nothing for years, not only accepts her invitation, but unexpectedly shows up a week early. But no one could have anticipated his murder not long after his arrival, stabbed to death in the kitchen of the bed-and-breakfast where the out-of-town wedding guests were staying; and the personal implications for Joan and her family do not end there.

Complicating matters is the appearance of various friends and family members who converge on the small town for the wedding, primarily Fred's mother, suffering from an as-yet-undiagnosed form of dementia, and the groom's irascible mother. Fred, Joan's policeman husband, is of course not allowed to have any part in the ensuing investigation, though he manages to keep abreast of most aspects. Joan is increasingly worried, since the police have virtually no clues as to the identity of the murderer, fearing that other family members may be targeted as well. Her brother had quite a past, of which she had been unaware, including a stint in prison. And his well-known, and well-deserved, reputation as a ladies man widens the pool of potential suspects.

Although as the ending neared I thought I knew the identity of the killer, I was wrong, and it was a surprising finish.

This is a welcome addition to the series, with its contingent of [mostly] likeable characters and the familiar small-town setting. Thoroughly enjoyable, it is recommended.

Good Junk
Ed Kovacs
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312600891, $25.99,

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina [usually just referred to as The Storm in New Orleans, Louisiana], Cliff St. James had become the most sought-after private investigator in the city. He has an extensive c.v.: Formerly with the police department, from which he had resigned, he has most recently been running a dojo in the Lower Garden District where he teaches mixed martial arts. As the book opens, it is one year after The Storm. Cliff's life has been totally upended when he accidentally killed a 20-year-old man in a sparring session in his fight-cage ring.

He is pulled out of his quagmire of self-imposed isolation and back into the real world when a NOPD homicide detective improbably named Honey Baybee, with whom he has a long and so-far platonic relationship, asks for his help in her investigation of what appears to be a murder/suicide, with the blessing of thee NOPD, as an unpaid consultant attached to the Homicide Section. What they uncover is a rather bizarre mix of arms smuggling, possible espionage, several additional murders [including a close call for our hero], with a cast of characters that comes to include several members of several branches of State and Federal law enforcement, almost too many for this reader to follow.

The author knows whereof he speaks, on several different levels: He worked for many years as a private security contractor, including in New Orleans after The Storm, and is a member of the Association for Intelligence Officers. He paints a graphic portrait of the area: ". . . the ravaged city suffering from fractured infrastructure, decades of corrupt neglect, and the mostly laissez-faire attitude of a citizenry that tolerated it all." His most indelible portrait, however, is of a man both mysterious and enigmatic and, possibly, a charlatan, who goes by the name, among others, of "Decon." The complexities of the plot were a bit much at times, but the book comes to an exciting conclusion, and in the end I came under the spell of Cliff St. James.


The Black List
Robin Burcell
c/o HarperColins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062133540, $5.99,

Once again Robin Burcell has written a thriller that is eerily timely, in light of the recent bombing at the site of the Boston Marathon. Almost prescient as it now seems, with a plot dealing with a man of foreign background entering the US intent on causing panic, terror and destruction by placing a bomb in a very public place.

The author brings back her protagonists from previous books in the series, Sydney Fitzpatrick, female FBI Special Agent and forensic artist, James "Tex" Dalton and Zachary Griffin, covert government operatives, and once again a host of law enforcement agencies, American and otherwise, running the alphabet gamut including FBI, CIA, and the possibly fictional ATLAS (Alliance for Threat Level Assessment and Security.

Also featured are Special Agent Tony Carillo and his fraught relationship with his almost ex-wife, Sheila, whose current romantic entanglement is with a man who may not be what he seems, recently "arrested for allegedly embezzling money from his employer, a charity no less." But that is just the tip of this particular iceberg.

It was perhaps a poor choice on my part to read this novel so close on the heels of the preceding entry in the series, the terrific "The Dark Hour," published shortly before this one, because I must admit that my attention wasn't held with the same degree of tension as with that book, but once again as the ending grew near, the excitement rose to higher levels and I found myself white-knuckled as I raced to the conclusion, the author adroitly bringing this book to a terrific close, as is her specialty.

Never Tell
Alafair Burke
c/o HarperColins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061999178, $14.99,

Ellie Hatcher and her partner, J.J. Rogan, return in the fourth book in the series, as they are called to a posh townhouse in the West Village in New York City, the scene of a suspected suicide of a 16-year-old girl, whose body was found in her bathtub, wrists slit, and a suicide note nearby. When Ellie can't understand why the case requires the attendance of two homicide detectives, she finds the answer in the insistence of the dead girl's mother that it cannot have been suicide, it must have been murder, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

There is a suspicion that the dead girl had something she was hiding from both friends and parents; that she was a little too wild, too adventurous; added to the fact that prescription pills were apparently somehow involved, but nothing that they can pin down.

Ellie brings her own subjectivity to the situation, as she still has not come to terms with her own father's suicide a couple of decades earlier - a cop in despair after years of unsuccessfully chasing a serial killer and using his own gun to end his life.

A major theme of the book is that "sometimes more than one truth defined a family."

The main story line is interspersed from time to time with entries from a blog by an anonymous "former victim and current survivor" of ongoing rape/child abuse by the blogger's stepfather, as well as tantalizing snippets dealing with an ex-con in Buffalo, NY, the relevance of which is a mystery all its own, until one is tied in about one-third of the way into the tale, the other not until much later, in this intriguing and suspenseful novel.

This is the author's eighth novel, and this entry in the Ellie Hatcher series is every bit as good as its predecessors. The characters are very well-drawn, and Ellie's evolving personal life [her significant other is an ADA with whom she often works, as she does again in this case] every bit as interesting as the investigation she is pursuing. Highly recommended.

Die Easy
Zoe Sharp
Pegasus Crime
c/o Pegasus Books
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605984001, $25.00,

This sixth and newest entry in the series brings back Charlotte ("Charlie") Fox and her lover, Sean Meyer, a junior partner in Armstrong-Meyer, an elite "close-protection" [read "bodyguard"] organization. This time around they are tasked with the safety of one of the men behind a celebrity fundraising event for the still nascent recovery of the city of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina several years ago. But the soiree doesn't go exactly as planned.

Charlie and Sean are still dealing with events in their past, Charlie's much further back that Sean's: She left the service after a court-martial and then an "equally disastrous" civil trial following her gang rape many years ago. Sean's trauma was much more recent: He had been in a coma for months after a near-fatal shooting while on their last job, leaving him with only scattered memory of the last four years, and now dealing with "the long road back to some kind of physical and mental fitness," the question being whether or not he could still handle the job.

In addition to the man Charlie and Sean have been hired to protect, nearly all of the other well-healed attendees at the event have brought their own bodyguards with them, one of these, unfortunately for our protagonists, being Vic Morton, with whom Charlie has a history, and not a good one (gross understatement): He was one of the men who had raped Charlie years ago.

When a robbery aboard the paddle-wheeler on which the event is taking place escalates into a hostage situation, Charlie and Sean have their hands full, and Sean's abilities are well and truly tested, as are the loyalties of both of them. The author has once again delivered a well-written, taut and suspenseful novel, and it is recommended (as have all the earlier series entries).

Shotgun Lullaby
Steve Ulfelder
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250028082, $25.99,

This was my introduction to Steve Ulfelder and his protagonist, Conway "Connie" Sax, recovering alcoholic and addict, with a police record dating back to his early teen years. When he finally went on the wagon, it was with the help of AA, in particular a group calling itself the Barnburners, which he credits with saving his life. In return, whenever the group "assigns" him to a newcomer, he takes that responsibility very seriously. His reputation? "Conway Sax takes in another stray." In this instance, it is more of a challenge than usual: Gus Biletnikov is his own worst enemy - - well, almost. A brutal triple-murder in Gus' halfway house leads Conway to suspect that Gus was the intended target.

Determined to find out who is behind the murders and whether Gus was in fact the intended target and therefore still in grave danger, Conway checks out a growing list of suspects, with some assistance from the son of his parole officer [after his conviction for manslaughter, he is about to come off parole as the story opens], who has become a good friend; a Brazilian state cop; and, initially at least, a memorable character described as a "near-midget cowboy con man" with the unlikely name of Donald Crump.

The novel deals heavily with questions of father-son relationships, and guilt, on many levels. Conway's personal life is a very complicated one, as is Gus' as well. I felt that the author's writing style was at times less than fluid, which nevertheless works. Mr. Ulfelder, and "Connie" Sax, captivated me, and the plot kept me turning pages quickly as the suspense heightened and the novel ended in unexpected fashion. This was a very satisfying read, and I will look forward to reading this author's books in future. Recommended.

"and when she was good"
Laura Lippman
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062197733, $14.99,

The opening sentence of Laura Lippman's new standalone is nothing if not eye-catching: "Suburban Madam Dead in Apparent Suicide." The newspaper headline read by Heloise [nee Helen] Lewis is especially attention-getting in that Heloise herself is in the same profession. The dead woman had been arrested eight months earlier and was a month out from trial.

The events that led Heloise to this place in her life are recounted in deftly placed flashbacks going back 20 years, basically telling of a father who was abusive, physically and mentally, and a mother who valued the man more than she did her own daughter. Perhaps the mental abuse inflicted upon her which resonated most, and longest, was her father's comment that she had a "nothing face . . . not ugly, but not really pretty either. Unmemorable," something that she found ultimately worked to her advantage and allowed her to "fade into the background." Forced to quit school and start working to contribute to the household finances, Helen [her given name] finds herself in one abusive relationship after another, at some point becoming a "paid companion" [just one of the many euphemisms for sex worker], although she is now a registered lobbyist, she runs a high-class escort service, with many important men in the Baltimore/DC area among her regular clientele.

The most important thing to come out of her last liaison, with the pimp who initially set her up in her own business (now serving a life sentence for murder) is a son, eleven years old as the story opens, whose father knows nothing of his existence, despite the fact that Heloise visits him in jail bi-monthly. What he also does not know is that she was responsible for putting him behind bars.

The story unwinds at a gentle pace, with each chapter in Heloise's life laid out in orderly fashion, all the pieces in place. That is, up until an ending which the author has meticulously fashioned, one which took me completely by surprise and had me racing through to the stunning denouement. As good as any of the excellent Tess Monaghan series books and standalones which preceded it, this newest book by Ms. Lippman is highly recommended.

Murder is a Piece of Cake
Elaine Viets
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451238511, $7.99,

The newest book in the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper extraordinaire, has Josie tasked by her boss, "Harry the Horrible," to mystery shop wedding flowers and wedding cakes for a St. Louis wedding website. The timing couldn't be better for Josie, who is in the throes of planning her own wedding. The first of her mystery-shopper sites is Denise's Dreams, where the sales associate who assists her is a young woman named Molly, who in the ensuing exchange divulges - - well, gushes - - that she is also about to get married.

Josie is a thirty-one-year-old single mom to Amelia, a 'tween' with the usual fast-changing sulky-to-"flawless!" mood changes. Her life is about to undergo major changes, with her upcoming wedding to local veterinarian Dr. Ted, scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving, five weeks away as the story opens. Their combined pets include Stuart Little, Josie's shih tzu, her cat Harry, Ted's cat Marmalade and his black Labrador, Festus.

One week later, shortly after Josie arrives at Ted's veterinary clinic one morning, a surreal scene unfolds: the self-same Molly, dressed in all her bridal finery, exits a Bentley and pushes her way into the clinic, claiming she's there to pick up Ted en route to their wedding. Clearly delusional, the scene ends with Molly picking up a scalpel and attacking Ted when he insists that he is indeed shortly to be married, but to Josie. Ted's mother, also present, disarms her, brandishing the pistol she always carried in her purse. To cut to the chase, "mad Molly" is arrested and charged with assault. She is soon released from jail by a sympathetic judge, but the melodrama continues when, continuing to stalk Ted, she is shot to death in her car in the clinic parking lot. Things only get worse when Ted's "Boca diva" mother is arrested, as her gun proves to be the murder weapon.

The book was a delightful change of pace for this reader, contrasted with other fare of thrillers and serial killers. Besides an intriguing murder mystery with several possible culprits, it offers a few mouthwatering culinary tidbits, and culminates in several pages of shopping tips for wedding-related purchases, from flowers for various segments of the Big Day, bling, cakes, etc. Following which is a peek at the next offering in Ms. Viets' Dead-End Job Mystery series, "Board Stiff," published by Obsidian in May 2013, which I have the good fortune to have in my towering TBR/R pile - - more to come on that soon!

Die a Stranger
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780250000101, $14.99,

The newest novel in the wonderful Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton starts out, as do most of them, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The residents of the area, referred to as the "land of the Yoopers," consist heavily of Native Americans, most of them living in the reservations in that part of the country. As the book opens, Vinnie Red Sky LeBlanc, an Ojibwa Indian who is probably Alex' best friend, is mourning the death of his mother, a legend on the "rez." Alex, a former cop from Detroit, has been living for years in the town of Paradise, where his father had built several cabins for rental to hunters and winter recreationers, lives in one of those cabins, just down the road from Vinnie, had moved off the rez years before. Much is made of the clannish nature of the folks on the rez, and how difficult it is for 'outsiders' to be trusted. Vinnie has never been allowed to forget that he is now an outsider, just as he has never forgotten that his father had left thirty years before, the same father apparently still in prison for a vehicular manslaughter/drunk driving incident.many years ago, the reason Vinnie himself never drinks.

At the same time, at a little airport three hundred miles away, an event occurs that will effect their lives and those of several others when a small plane holding large quantities of high-grade marijuana lands, precipitating a hijacking which ends with several dead bodies left on the field, only one man making it out alive. Both Alex and Vinnie become deeply involved in the aftermath: Vinnie disappears, and Alex is determined to find him and to discover how he what part, if any, he played in this.

The Upper Peninsula is again brought vividly to life by this author who, along with fellow Yooper William Kent Krueger, seems to completely "own" this part of the United States, just below the Canadian border, in their fictional endeavors. Mr. Hamilton's description, in part: "It may be July, and it may feel like summer just got here, but the end is already on its way. The cold, the snow, the ice, the natural basic state of this place, it is right around the corner. . . It was another goddamned beautiful useless day in Paradise." The book veers south to perhaps a lesser-known part of the State apparently called Michigan's Gold Coast, with towns such a Petoskey and Charlevoix where one soon feels "like you're in the middle of Times Square," also beautifully evoked.

This is another terrific entry in the series, beautifully written, as usual, with a somewhat intricate, suspenseful plot and wonderfully drawn characters, and it is highly recommended. (The next entry in the series, "Let It Burn," is due out in July - - can't wait!)

Robert Crais
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399161483, $27.95,

There are two protagonists in this newest novel by Robert Crais: Maggie, a 3-year-old, 85-pound black-and-tan German shepherd dog [more formally named Military Working Dog Maggie], and LAPD cop Scott James, 32 years old with seven years on the job. But lest you think this is one of the tales told from an animal's pov, complete with animal dialogue, think again: It is far from it. [Though it must be said that there are brief passages with a Maggie pov, but these are a whole 'nother thing.] Maggie was a patrol/explosives-detection dog and, as with all MWD's, was bred to guard and protect what was hers. (An eloquent description of one of the scents she is able to detect: "the residual gunpowder that clung to [her handler's] weapon like a fine dust of death.")

Scott, having been partners with uniformed LAPD officer Stephanie Anders (herself on the job for eleven years) has been recently accepted into LAPD's Metro Division, the "elite uniformed division" in the city. As the story opens, the two cops come upon what seems to be a routine auto accident that turns into anything but, with masked men from one vehicle brutally murdering two men in the other, before shooting and killing Stephanie and leaving Scott close to death and guilt-ridden over his partner's death.

More than nine months later, Scott still has recurrent and horrible nightmares, but has refused to take medical disability or sit behind a desk, and when a slot opens up in the Metro K-9 Unit he applies for that. And is partnered with Maggie, making a duo each half of which is suffering from severe PTSD. Maggie also lost a partner, in Afghanistan, and she is as badly scarred from that incident, mentally and physically, as is Scott is from his.

Sgt. Dominick Leland, for 32 years on the job as a K-9 handler and a living legend in the LAPD K-9 Corps, expresses the following opinion about the pairing of the two: "That poor animal is unfit for this job, and I suspect the same about [Scott] . . . They are suspect." Scott, still feeling enormous guilt over Stephanie's death, is determined to see that investigation through to its end, and he, and Maggie, continue to do so.

This is an extraordinary tale, expertly written. Mr. Crais takes the police procedural to a whole new level. It is that, of course, but much, much more. The author makes palpable the bond between man and dog, as well as the concept of "pack:" "Pack was everything." I devoured this book, and it is highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Beautiful Creatures
Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
0316231657, $7.99,

Beautiful Creatures is a young adult witch story. Unlike some young adult stories there is enough fun details to keep the adult reader interested. The teen fantasy genre is hot today with a variety of stories filling the genre. Spin-offs abound but Garcia and Stohl have found a niche in the contemporary market that hasn't been filled yet. Beautiful Creatures is a rich detailed story that can pull the reader in. There are some minor weaknesses. The most obvious is that a few sections of the story beg to be written not for the young adult audience but the adult.

Ethan Waite is a sixteen year old living in the boring Southern town of Gatlin where everyone knows everything about everyone, where Ethan knows what will be taught by his teachers in the high school because their lesson plans never change and where he knows what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month, next year . Ethan is planning to break free from Gatlin and never to return as soon as he graduates from high school. That is until sixteen year old Lena Duchannes moves to town.

Ethan feels an electric attraction to Lena and, with her presence in his life, he sees Gatlin not as the sleepy Southern town it is on the surface but one filled with a teaming underground layer of supernatural suspense. A century old love story is about to be retold with Ethan and Lena and no matter how much they fight it they become bound by the love and the magic that has split a supernatural family in two and into a war with itself. The casualties in the war started in their families before Ethan and Lena first met and the fight continues to a climax of danger in the pivotal moment when Lena turns sixteen and has to choose which side of the war she will take.

For young adult readers Beautiful Creatures is an easy recommendation. It is a rich and detailed story. Adult readers will also find the story fun. It's robust enough for the adult reader to start looking for the next story in the series as soon as he/she puts finishes this one. The witch genre is an old storyline for the adult reader but Beautiful Creatures is unique enough to freshen the niche. It is easily worth the mass market price on the bookshelf.

Time Traders
Andre Norton
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Rivendale, NY 10471
0671319523 $0.00 e-book, copyright 1958, 1959

From the title, it isn't apparent that this is actually a set of the first two books in Andre Norton's Time Trader series, Time Trader and Galactic Derelict. Baen has for years offered a number of great titles for free in e-format and this is one of them.

Many contemporary readers avoid the old SF stories. They frequently think they can't stand up to modern tastes and science. This is far from true. Classic SF depends on character development and storylines as much as any contemporary story and most classic SF actually has stronger scientific underpinnings than the typical contemporary SF/fantasy tale. Time Traders actually stands up very well in the scientific arena with only a few minor details that have changed over time. In fact, many of the scientific prophecies in this 1958 work seem astoundingly accurate. Galactic Derelict, unfortunately, doesn't withstand the march of science as well but the storyline and character developments are just as good. Later time travel works such as those by Michael Crichton, suffer in comparison. The biggest difference between the contemporary works and Norton's is that she is a pulp writer with the deceptively simple, economical and richly detailed pulp writing style that covers more of the storyline in a paragraph than a contemporary writer does in a dozen pages.

Time Traders starts out by introducing Ross Murdoch. Ross is a streetwise teen living by his knowledge of the underworld of a future over-civilized society. While waiting on sentencing for his latest encounter with the authorities, a government official offers his a job instead of prison. He takes it unaware that he was picked for his independent and stubborn anti-social streak. Time travelers have to operate in violent primitive societies that demand independent actions -- just what Ross' youth criminal record indicates. Ross just doesn't understand how dangerous it is to be in the primitive earth.

Galactic Derelict adds a new character to the collection of individuals introduced in the first book, Travis Fox. Travis was an archeology student who dropped out but he is first and foremost an Apache. He lives and works in the deep desert and yearns for the ancient knowledge of his ancestors. He stumbles on a crew of time travelers preparing for a look into earth's past and the forgotten technologies left by a wrecked alien space ship.

Norton was one of the very best writers. She experimented in both science fiction and fantasy. Anyone who would like to explore these genres or even just enjoy an easy and fast reading tale will not be disappointed in picking up this collection. It is amazing how many people still remember reading her stories decades ago in their youth. This shows you the power of her writing if, after a half century, a former teen reader still remembers the affect of her writing. With these books available for free, this is an opportunity for those former teens to bring back the joy of their youth and for others today to find a great storyteller.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Heidi's Bookshelf

The Sexy Vegan's Happy Hour at Home
Brian L. Patton
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608682348, $15.95,

Funny, Fantastic, and a Great Sophomore Offering

When I got a copy of the first Sexy Vegan cookbook, I had no idea what to expect. I've been riffing on how great the book was since that first recipe I completed and we all consumed the results. The second installment breaks the usual publishing trend: volume two rarely lives up to the expectations established by the first experience.

For this review the group of testers completely agreed: fabulous recipes that everyone wants to make again. "The Sexy Vegan's Happy Hour at Home: Small Plates, Big Flavors & Potent Cocktails" is arranged in a menu-grouping format. I chose recipes from a couple different menus. We started with Mango Gazpacho. A blender was recommended for the soup; it was easy and effective. The flavor balance and texture was perfect. The size of the recipes, four servings, is nice for a small group or even a larger serving for two people. Often cookbooks make such a large amount the recipes become difficult to use on a regular basis. Patton breaks that trend.

We also tried the Quick Giardiniera, lightly pickled vegetables, as part of the main meal. For the test meal the gently brined cauliflower, red pepper, carrot and celery accompanied a marinated steak. We found it to b e a good accompaniment. For my tastes, I'd use slightly less of the pickling mixture to keep the flavor more subtle. However, even two days after the meal we were snacking on the pickled items. With so many recipes to test even this smaller batch gave us leftovers.

The absolute highlight was the "Hearst of Palm Ceviche." I saw the recipe and had to try it because I couldn't obviously figure out how it would taste when done. The results are simply brilliant. The texture is so accurate that everyone was completely satisfied with the dish. A small amount of jalapeno is key. Even if you don't care for spicy foods, be sure to include this ingredient. That slight edge is pivotal to making this "mock" ceviche all it can be.

I have many other recipes to make as time goes on, including some of the cocktail combinations. Enamored of the food options, I'll try the beverages later. With the first three recipes completed and devoured it appears Mr. Patton has conquered another entire group of fulfilling dishes of good food that happen to be vegan. Whether you eat vegan all the time or sometimes, no one miss anything eating from the Vegan reality of this brilliant cookbook.

Cookies & Cream
Tessa Arias
Photographs: Allan Penn
Running Press Publishers
2300 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4371
9780762447671, $18.00,

Many Options for Combinations, Intermediate Measure of Experience Needed

"Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich", an unexpected cookbook offered a mixed bag in my kitchen. A found many cookie recipes for the sandwiches that sounded interesting and tasty. A variety of options presented are sophisticated, refined tastes. By comparison a greater number of the ice cream recipes were less interesting.

Recipes for special food needs are missing; in today's current reality for allergies and special diets, this was actually a surprise. Nearly every other cookbook I've seen in the past year include some options to meet those needs. One cookie recipe was flour-free for those with gluten concerns. One recipe for ice-cream had no eggs in the base. One combination was Vegan. I found this small percentage atypical and not a selling point for the book.

The flourless peanut butter cookie had good flavor. For my testers, the recipe needed some adaptation for satisfactory texture. It seemed that if the goal was a Celia-friendly recipe, some additional input from a successful, gluten-free baker would have been helpful.

Everyone however, found the results of the Tiramisu Ice Cream Sandwich quite tasty. The cookie in this recipe is wonderful and confusing. Wonderful because it captures the lovely espresso flavor needed for good tiramisu. Oddly, the cookies perfectly mimic the texture of lady finger cakes used to make the traditional dessert. The experience puts the flavor components of the dessert into the sandwich in a different order.

The Marscapone Ice Cream delivered great flavor with one caveat. Despite hours in the ice cream maker, the mixture never formed the small crystals needed to make a real ice cream. I finally simply froze the mixture to get some result. Make no mistake, everyone liked the taste. Until I make the recipe at least once more I don't exactly where the problem occurred. The recipe is egg-free; perhaps that made a significant difference in how the base would freeze up. Maybe the error is my ice cream freezer - I've been wanting to upgrade to a new one so this could be a good excuse.

Considering the adaptations needed for the peanut butter cookies, it is possible the ice cream recipe also needs some changes. A surprising number of cookbooks present recipes that simply aren't accurate. Today it's unclear what influence is at work in this recipe. I still look forward to making the "Orange Cardamon" and "Cinnamon Roll" cookies just to name a few more recipes that caught my attention.

Heidi Sue Roth

Henry's Bookshelf

Masterpieces of Russian Stage Design (1880-1930), Volume I
John E. Bowlt
Nina and Nikita D. Lobanov-Rostovsky
Olga Shaumyan
Antique Collectors Club
c/o ACC Distribution
6 West 18th Street, 4th Floor
NY, NY 10011
9781851496884, $145.00,

The large, voluminous work is fundamentally a catalog raisonne of the incomparable, irreplaceable Lobanov-Rostovsky collection of Russian costume and related theater art breaking with the standard catalog raisonne format and also content to be a multidimensional art book. While not exhaustive since reflecting the Lobnov-Rostovsky collection, the breadth of the collection makes the art book a premier history, record, and visual reference for Russian stage and costume design from the latter 19th through the mid 20th centuries. These decades were roughly the last decades of the czarist monarchy through fairly advanced, early Stalinist Communism.

Different artistic and national--and sometimes nationalistic--postures, ideas, and themes are expressed and reflected in the designs of the fifty years. One vein is references to and plays on customary, often identifying wear for familiar or generic urban, court, national, religious, or literary figures such as king, witch, businessman, mongol warrior, and saint. Relating to this is elements or motifs of Russian folk culture. The Oriental influence of looser garments often brightly colored and flowing or in the Russian interpretations, billowing and sometimes flaring is also evident. The modernist art of cubism, constructivism, and fauvism are also reflected in the varied styles of the Russian theater art.

In addition to the expected names of Bakst, Malevich, Rodchenko and others represented, there are also lesser, yet still notable names such as Anisfeld, Lissen, and Soudeikine. Where the volume most obviously goes beyond the typical catalogue raisonne format is in biographical and artistic backgrounds of the many artists, cross-references to artists as applicable in Vol. II, some analysis of styles mostly with regard to originality and influence, and organization of text and visual matter not simply chronologically--as found in a catalog raisonne--but according to Russian historical and artistic periods and social history. The four periods are Between East and West, The Silver Age, The Avant-Garde, and Theater of Revolution. Another noticeable element continuing the art-book design are the full-page color illustrations interspersed with the 90-page bibliography in addition to the more than 225 throughout the regular text.

The large section "Addenda" more than 170 pages has 17 diverse sections including the index which complement the material and organizational criteria of the main part. Among these are Russian Art, Russian-born Artists Active as Set and Costume Designers outside Russia (1909-62), Typographical Designs on the Lobanov-Rostovsky Collection, Ballets and Operas Produced or Projected by Sergei Diaghilev.

With its historically and artistically knowledgeable documentation and commentary on the holdings of the Lobanov-Rostovsky collection and the large-size illustrations of numerous costumes and stage settings, this volume is incomparable on the field of modern Russian theater art. This and the second volume of the set are required works for introduction to and study and appreciation of the subject for social historians, theater historians and researchers, students of art history, costume designers, and the like.

The Landscape Designs of Doyle Herman Design Associates
Mark Ferguson
Images Publishing
c/o ACC Distribution
6 West 18th Street, 4th Floor
NY, NY 10011
9781864705034, $60.00,

The landscape design firm's basic influence - or source - of "ordered European landscapes with a historical connection to the land, home, and man" is evident in its distinctive work. Although European--mostly English and French--design is the primary reference, there are also noticeable contemporary touches. Doyle Herman Design does not aim to simply imitate traditional European yards and grounds, but to bring this atmosphere to specific locations making use as well of contemporary planters and furniture (for example), materials and colors, motifs, and occasionally ideas to bring out more fully the European atmosphere and effects.

Located in Greenwich, Connecticut, the firm designs landscapes reminiscent of the English country manors of tradition with the air (and usually the reality) of spaciousness inherent in this and the related effects of elegance, luxury, and wealth providing aesthetic, visual, and cerebral enjoyment and contentment. The designs are compatible with larger suburban or country homes as well. The firm creates landscapes that are most of all habitable, welcoming, and assuring with the imprint of particular ownership. No daunting modernist ensembles here, no self-conscious conversation pieces, no demanding artistic impulses. Although the firm's vision allows for distinctive, imaginative moments within the spaciousness.

While the focus of the European tradition is firm and acknowledged, the ways to accomplish this are varied. The numerous photographs of varying sizes of panoramas, aspects of landscapes and gardens, and close-ups of particular features or objects are divided into 19 categories. These might be called "styles" except that many involve subtleties to create an overall tone or particular suggestive or evocative features that do not dominate to make an "statement" in the modernist or idiosyncratic sense of this. Subtlety and layering creating atmosphere and resulting in a naturalness are the firm's central, signature principles.

The 19 named "styles" or "types" are meant to highlight the range of design imagination and realization, not demonstrate eclectic talents although talent is implied. Among these styles are formed, harmonious, legacy, tranquil, juxtaposed, and theatrical. Some overlap or include elements of others; and others such as theatrical are meant to be considered in the context of firm's central aim implied in such terms as unified and traditional. Among the features highlighted in theatrical for instance are sculpted shrubbery.

The book in the format of a coffee-table book largely of landscape photographs with short captions and brief passages of text following the Foreword and Introduction effectively and attractively highlights the work of this top landscape design firm.

Winterside's Wanderyear
Herbert Lobsenz
LFOD Books
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
9781466303386, $15.00 print
B00B8XYOE6, $2.99 ebook

It's fun, entertaining, to read Herbert Lobsenz. In his previous novel "Succession" after a break of 50 years from his 1960's award winning "Vangel Griffin," the main character faces the business challenge of downsizing a corporate, has suspicions about his wife's affections, worries over his financial situation, and jousts with an unpredictable boss. There is no high drama of life-and-death, alien forces, lurid sexual scenario, or political or sociological views nor undercurrent. Readily relating to a credible, recognizable character in multiple, interrelated real-life situations, the reader follows how he juggles these with alternating creeping unsettling feelings, humor, resignation, affection, wit, loyalty, determination, idealism, sheer blind movement, and a type of courage--the way most persons get through things living their lives.

In "Winterside's Wanderyear," unable to feel at ease in civilian life after serving in the Korean War, the main character Jude Winterside leaves everything including his wife and job as a lawyer to go live in Spain seeking a drastic change of circumstances he believes will allay his uneasiness. The foreign locale and also the harsh dictatorship of Franco beckon to him as he carries the wartime trauma he cannot shake in the routines of the conventional American culture of the period.

Intending to be at the fringe where he can mostly observe Spanish society to give him the stimulation but also the relaxation he seeks, Wanderyear nonetheless becomes closer to the precariousness and dangers of the Franco dictatorship. He becomes involved in a romantic relationship with the beautiful Satry Cordero. Through this relationship, he inevitably becomes associated with Satry's rebel brother Alonso secretly plotting to overthrow the Franco regime. Winterside also cannot escape the everyday violence of Spanish society such as brawls breaking out in cafes and the hostile tone of many he encounters under the thumb of dictatorship. Near the ending, Winterside foolishly, but humanely tries to save Alonso as he leads a violent demonstration against Franco's Falangists (Spanish fascists). First there are brickbats and stones, then gunfire breaks out.

The novel is a closely-observed portrayal of 1950's Spanish society with a variety of engaging fully-drawn characters. In the Herbert Lobsenz style now seen in three novels with others to come, the reader follows the story to see how things turn out for the characters. The reader becomes interested because of the identifiable characters and situations. Comic scenes, romantic interludes, brisk dialogue, growing threats to some, and the building violent political conflict reflecting actual circumstances and events hold the reader in the hands of this outstanding novelist.

Branding Terror - The Logotype and Iconography of Insurgent Groups and Terrorist Organizations
Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini, Foreword by Steven Heller
Merrell Publishers
38 High Avenue, 4th floor
Nyack, New York 10960
9781858946016, $34.95,

The Steven Heller doing the Foreword is the noted designer and design critic who as former art director at the N. Y. Times has written or co-authored over 100 books on design and popular culture. In the three-page Foreword, he briefly covers the purpose of logos in general, the grounds for critiquing the logos of the groups whose logos appear in the book (e. g., cliche, too many guns or eagles), and compares the logos to those of the Catholic Church, Coca-Cola, Apple, and other major established cultural presences.

Logotypes and iconography are intended not only as a means of communication--often in the simple terms of "sending a message"--and identity in the public and international sphere, but also as a means of internal, often secret or guarded identification, focus, and cohesion for members of a particular group.

Artur Beifuss is a counter-terrorist analyst for the United Nations. Francesco Bellini is a graphic designer involved in branding for companies and institutions. In Beifuss's Introduction, he notes the logos as a way of branding for a group. Beifuss also notes the book's purpose to help understand by a survey of the 64 logos collected mostly from open sources such as websites "why certain visual elements are preferred over others [and the] certain meanings, emotions, and values" attached to such elements.

The schema used for accomplishing the book's purpose is the same for each "logo". Under the heading of the respective group is its name in the script of its national language (many in Arabic) followed by the translation or approximation in English. Underneath this is a brief overview of the group, and underneath this a chronology of it major terrorist acts. The second page is a plain, black-and-white, drawing of the group's logotype with lines to notes pointing out its features above a chart breaking down the colors and associated pantone coding for each. The last, third, page is a full-color picture of the logotype with explanations of the meaning of its colors, elements, and symbols.

The book would be used by most as a reference to find out more about Middle East and other terrorist groups defined as groups using violence for political or ideological aims when specific or related groups were mentioned in the media, for example. Since many of the groups are similar, the details of each start to run together when used as a study text. However one regards this work, it has a distinctive, notable, self-evidently relevant and useful place in contemporary studies of the global terrorism.

Imagining Geronimo: An Apache in Popular Culture
William M. Clements
University of New Mexico Press
1312 Basehart Road SE
Albuquerque NM 87106-4363
9780826353221, $39.95,

By the time Geronimo died in 1909, the popularization of him was already well advanced, giving the Chiricahua Apache leader legendary status; thus assuring he would have continuing status in popular culture, to at a later time as this work evidences eventually become a subject for a scholarly study. Among the college-level subjects Clements has taught are cultural anthropology, folklore, and Native American studies. In an interdisciplinary approach, Clements explores the "canonization" of Geronimo, using the term that in academia is similar to "popularization" in media studies for example.

While Clements regularly refers to known facts of Geronimo's life to locate a source for or start a thread-like analysis of one of the portraits of Geronimo since the latter 1800s when he became a subject of popular culture largely through the national and foreign newspapers of the day for his struggle against the U.S. military in the Southwest, one cannot go so far to say that the image is grounded in or even much reflected in the facts of Geronimo's life. Not much detail is known about his life, and much of what has been reported as fact is seen by many as little more than conjecture. Additionally, Geronimo embellished or purposely omitted aspects of his life and activities, showing himself to have a canny, showman-like sense of public relations. This served him well as a main attraction of three World Fair's and many Wild West shows and even an appearance in President Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration parade.

Since the Apaches themselves had an ambivalent regard of Geronimo and there were no biographical records to speak of, it is inevitable that he would have a protean image in popular culture depending on changing social and political interests and perspectives. A work such as this, as the author says, is media/cultural studies, not history or biography. Clements does such a book on this major figure of popular culture in a unflaggingly entertaining and informative manner.

Henry Berry

Janet's Bookshelf

Tasting Home, Coming of Age in the Kitchen
Judith Newton
She Writes Press
9781938314032, $16.95 print / $9.99 Kindle

These days college degrees are available in just about any discipline, be it professional or artistic. If you have the perseverance, time and finances it's not difficult to find a degree course to further your chosen career path. What amazes me, though, is that for one of the most important careers around; parenting, there is no registered course and never has been. Couples, who start a family, do it cold turkey, mostly following the example set by their own parents. This is fine if their family circle was characterized by love, tolerance and understanding. If not, and a relationship isn't made anywhere remotely like heaven then communication breaks down and family life is served up as a bitter dish of unrealized expectations, conflict and blame for the parents and hard times for the children.

Judith Newton, Professor Emerita in Women and Gender Studies at U.C. Davis, lucked out in the parental department. In Tasting Home, Coming of Age in the Kitchen, Judith has written a memoir which chronicles her battle to overcome a lonely unhappy childhood with a fault-finding uncaring mother and a father who, disappointed in his choice of wife and angry at his lack of success in the business world behaved like a tyrannical bully.

Judith's mother did have one redeeming feature; she was the most marvelous cook. I'm talking fabulous pies, cakes, cookies; any dish where Mr. Cholesterol was a front liner. Doesn't matter. Reading this book as I have in Melbourne, Australia at the onset of winter, the recipes Judith Newton used at the beginning of each chapter to illustrate an event or rite of passage in her life are sublime. Not always originating from her mother, salivating doesn't begin to explain my reaction as I began each new chapter and read another mouth watering, riveting recipe. Perhaps, because of her inability to communicate with her family, the author's mother provided culinary delights and lots of them at every meal (the only time the family was together) as compensation.

Judith, friendless and as a result of the fat-laden meals, more than pleasantly plump is saved by her love of learning and a teenage love affair with Jesus Christ. A born again Christian she wins a scholarship to Stanford and begins to move forward towards an independent life. Growing up in times that were 'a changin' she samples everything that comes her way at university; feminism, the civil rights movement and cooking international recipes for the many friends she makes away from the indifference of her self-absorbed parents.

Surprised that once the extra pounds melt away guys find her attractive, Judith embarks on love affairs with mixed results. As with her forays into French cooking some experiences work out and some don't. She does though, meet and subsequently marry a man, who while possibly not ideal husband material (he's bisexual) becomes, along with cooking, the love of her life.

Motherhood comes a little late to Judith but when it comes, she shares her passion for cooking with her daughter, forming a glue that ensures their relationship will always endure. A Director of Women's Studies in the 1990's she setups a learning community for women from many different cultures and backgrounds, courses on and off campus nourished by opportunities to prepare, cook and share wonderful food.

Tasting Home is written in an intimate style that engenders empathy, occasional sadness and drop dead admiration for a remarkable woman who overcame the problems visited upon her by neurotic parents, sexism in the workplace and disastrous love affairs to emerge as a loving, intelligent, highly successful human being.

Judith Newton's life and storytelling skill as interesting and enjoyable as her recipes, Tasting Home is a book to savour and keep.

The Furthest City Light
Jeanne Winer
Bella Books
PO Box 10543,Tallahassee, Florida 32302
9781594933257, $15.95 print / $9.99 Kindle

I sometimes find prologues at the beginning of a book a downer - authors who use a prologue to foreshadow events in a story spoil what might have been a good read. I do, though, get excited by a prologue which contains quality writing which engenders understanding and empathy for the main character. I was excited by the prologue of Jeanne Winer's novel, The Furthest City Light.

The story's narrator, Public Defender, Rachel Stein is doing it tough. Twelve years in the job, Rachel is approaching burnout when she takes on a client whose defense for murdering her husband is: battered wife syndrome. At the time of the story, 1984, this defense was only recognised in a few US states. Emily, the defendant, is a woman who has hidden the beatings she suffered from an abusive husband until, about to be attacked again, she grabs a pair of scissors and ends his life. Rachel believes passionately in Emily's innocence and works desperately hard to win her an acquittal.

In a same sex relationship with Vicki, a medical doctor, Rachel finds it impossible to switch off from her work role and after Emily's trial is over Rachel's tunnel vision causes her life to become a train wreck - struck down by feelings of failure and the imminent breakdown of her relationship with Vicki, she resigns from the public defender's office.

The Furthest City Light was for me, two books in one. The first section describes Rachel's relationship with partner Vicki and the pretrial investigation necessary for Emily's defense, both written with humour and an insight into the private and public life of a state defense attorney. I can think of only one word to describe the writing of the courtroom scenes of Emily's trial and the word is excellent.

The second section of the book finds Rachel, worn down by the problems of her private and public life unable to focus on anything or anyone. Redemption comes from an unlikely source - friend Maggie has broken her ankle and won't be able to join a volunteer brigade travelling to Nicaragua to help the democratically elected government fight off the murderous contra gangs funded by the CIA. A trade embargo placed on Nicaragua by the Reagan Administration, they are in dire need; food and medicine is almost non-existent. Rachel, for the first time in weeks, makes a decision; she will go to Nicaragua in place of Maggie.

Vicki, upset by Rachel's decision to join the brigade, warns her this could be the final straw in their just about foundered relationship. Promises of letters and phone calls are made by Rachel and Vicki reluctantly agrees to wait for her return.

Arriving in hot sweaty Managua, Rachel questions whether joining the brigade will be a cure or curse for her depressed mindset. Surrounded by other US volunteers, she discovers that ashamed of their government's treatment of a country whose only crime is to be tired of US interference, they have come to Nicaragua to help rebuild a clinic destroyed by a contra gang.

The guys and gals in the brigade are fully rounded characters; as in life, some nice, some nasty and some, who aren't going to make it. Billeted with local people they all encounter a way of life where survival is a day to day proposition. Visiting Nicaragua during the timeframe of the story, author, Jeanne Winer's description of people, places and events in a war that should never have happened is heartbreakingly real.

Despite life being exceedingly cheap in the eighties in Nicaragua, Rachel's narrative is often funny; short of everything except bravery and hope, Nicaraguans are skilled recyclers; tyres retread to the very last shred of rubber, food and clothes shared, English language classes held by unusual teachers in unusual locations.

Fighting a war against the US isn't easy - hope, hope for a better future sustains and keeps a tiny flicker of light alive in the hearts of the Nicaraguan people.Through friendships with the other volunteers and Nicaraguans, Rachel comes to realize that truth and justice are not always possible but hope is - acceptance of life's paradoxical twists and turns while hoping for a just outcome is the first step of Rachel's healing process.

I guess the way to judge the success or failure of a first person narrative is whether a reader, after the final credits roll, cares about the narrator and wants to know more about their life. I did and I do.

Congratulations to Ms. Winer - The Furthest City Light is an engrossing great read.

Janet Walker, Reviewer

Karyn's Bookshelf

Grahame Baker-Smith, author and illustrator
Templar Books
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763663704, $17.99,

Stunning, collage-feel digital art accentuates this beautifully written, wistful story about unrealized dreams. A young son watches his father unsuccessfully try to build wings to fly like a bird. Baker-Smith's depicted wings are great, gilded contraptions, with gears and levers and real bird feathers. The father, obsessed with his idea, pauses only sporadically to spend time with his child. When he goes off to war, never to return, the wings are packed away. Years later, the nearly grown boy brings them back out... and gets them to work. Years after that, he ponders what his new baby son might create in his lifetime. A red poppy trail, backed by an angry British sea, trails his father to war; those who understand the significance of poppies know before it's confirmed on the next page, that this father isn't coming back. Blending on the front cover of the words "Farther" and "Father," both key to the tale, is creatively noteworthy. Cover-to-cover magnificent.

John Jensen Feels Different
Henrik Hovland, author
Torill Kove, illustrator
Eerdmans Books For Young Readers
2140 Oak Industrial Dr., NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802853998, $16.00,

A self-conscious alligator tries to fit in with those around him, learning a lesson in the process about being OK with his own, unique self. He exchanges his signature bow tie for a straight tie, and then wraps his tail around his waist to try to look more like the humans in his office. Interestingly, although he may feel uncommon, John has very common first and last names. When the tail around his middle causes him to trip and fall, earning John a visit to the emergency room, an elephant doctor kindly shares some wisdom about the important of accepting who you are. John's awkwardness is thickly palpable, enhanced by his large eyes that stare out unblinkingly, clouded with anxiety. Co-workers gather around a water cooler; he stands off to the side. He lives alone, eating his breakfast cereal in solitude. Tears flow in a taxicab to the hospital. Anyone who has ever felt apart from the world, wishing futilely to be anyone but who they are, will relate...and will be bolstered by the ultimate, gentle message. Distinctly lined, slightly (and intentionally?) irregular art compliments the text. Perfectly divergent.

Marion Billet
Nosy Crow
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
978076366550, $14.99,

With an artistic style reminiscent of the late Richard Scarry, Billet charms and challenges with a combination of bright-hued, child-pleasing art, simple rollicking text and a picture find test. In Littleland, a cast of animal characters moves through a day that preschoolers will recognize. It finds characters many places including at home, at the park, at the supermarket, at a farm and finally back home to wash, brush and settle to sleep. On each double page spread, children are challenged to find nine details in the main illustration. The level of difficulty is just right for a 4-year-old, with some items very easy to spot and other requiring a bit more effort; by age 5 kids should be able to find everything unaided. The art succeeds in being young child friendly yet just sophisticated enough that upcoming kindergartners won't find it babyish. Sweet fun... and mind exercising, too. Would enjoy a follow-up in which characters grow, perhaps heading to school. Perfect.

The Matchbox Diary
Paul Fleischman, author
Bagram Ibatoulline, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763646011, $16.99,

This exquisitely told and illustrated journey follows a young immigrant from his childhood in Italy to a quiet day, many years later, with his great-granddaughter. Inside individual matchboxes, carefully stored in a cigar box, are simple mementos from the great-grandfather's often tumultuous life. One by one, he shares the items in the matchboxes with his great-granddaughter. They range from an olive pit his mother once gave him to suck on in their native Italy, to stave off his hunger, to a crumpled photo of his father who emigrated first in hopes of finding work in the U.S., a hatpin dropped from the first-class deck on their immigrant ship, a fishbone from the family's hard labor in the canneries and his first baseball game ticket. The sepia hues chosen for the great-grandfather's reminisces contrast perfectly with the full-color, modern-day spreads of him with his great-grandchild. Rich and thoughtful, a beautifully crafted ode to those who those who came to America early in the 20th Century.

Sleep Like A Tiger
Mary Logue, author
Pamela Zagarenski, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
215 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
9780547641027, $16.99,

Everything sleeps. A young girl's parents gently share that truth as they coax her to close her eyes. All creatures, from the family cat to whales, bears, bats and snails, eventually curl up and snooze, they note. The bedtime conversation beautifully morphs into a drowsy, imaginative goodnight as the girl snuggles down like a cat, folds her arms like a bat and does a variety of other things that emulate the movements of animals as they prepare to rest. The girl, her parents and a tiger all wear crowns and the mother carries a copy of "The Little Prince," but the significance of their headdresses is not further explored. Are they actually royalty or is this just the girl's imagination at work? The art is richly hued and magnificent in its detail and quality. A beautiful new bedtime favorite.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Haunted Falls
Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke
Timber Creek Productions
312 N Commerce St.
Gainesville, Texas 76240
9780989122030, $14.49,

Shots ringing out from the brush signal the beginning of Haunted Falls, the second book in the Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke series of western novels.

The stories follow US Deputy Marshall Bass Reeves and his cohorts as they fight to keep peace in the Indian Territory of the late 19th century.

Bass Reeves and Jed Neal join another legendary lawman, US Deputy Marshal Selden Lindsey as they hunt the last survivor of the infamous Dalton gang, Bill Dalton. They're also trying to find out what happened to one of their undercover deputies and Bass' long time partner, Jack McGann.

They didn't know Jack had been shot in that first fracas and presumed dead, but by a strange twist of fate, he survived. Jack's journey takes him to a haunted falls where he meets a little girl and a white spirit wolf of the Chickasaw tribe. This meeting creates a mystery that will baffle the reader all the way to the end.

What follows is the archetype of the old west. You will be spellbound by the action, adventure, romance, tragedy and even humor.

The writing duo demonstrates some of the action:

"When the gunsmoke had cleared, it was discovered that in addition to the outlaw, Jim Wallace, Longview residents George Buckingham and Charles Learned were also killed in the battle. It was never determined whose bullets killed the two men. Wounded in the fight besides City Marshal Matt Muckleroy with a heavy contusion and broken ribs were citizens Walter McQueen and T.J. Summers. Over two hundred rounds were known to have been fired in the gunfight."

Often a sequel is not as well received as the first book in a series. In this case, Haunted Falls is as good if not better. You will have to read it to make up your own mind. I have made up mine.

Buck Stienke and Ken Farmer are the authors of the best selling and award winning Black Eagle Force series of books. They both have military backgrounds and have worked as actors, directors, producers and screenwriters. Now they've turned to writing novels. They describe themselves as "Faction" writers, shown best in their Bass Reeves novels.

Lakota Honor
Kat Flannery
Imajin Books
3715-14 Street NW
Edmonton, AB, Canada T6T 0H9
B00D0S530G, $3.99 E-book

Lakota Honor by Kat Flannery will hold your attention from beginning to end. Her ability to intertwine good and evil within the confines of the Indian and white worlds is nothing less than inspired. Nora and Hawk come together in a very different, magical way; she as a healer and he as a killer. The ancillary characters are well drawn. You either like them or hate them. You might also wonder about some of them as the story progresses.

Nora is kept away from society by a well-meaning, albeit good-for-nothing, father. Hawk is kept from society by his own thoughts of inadequacy as he does not fit in either the Lakota or white world. Their journeys to their personal and mental freedom move along different, but parallel paths. They both want the same thing, but have to go through their individual torment to reach a mutual happiness. They eventually realize a personal attraction to each other:

"He wouldn't allow the white man to take Nora's life. She was pure and innocent. A gem he'd not only had the pleasure to see but also to touch." (Hawk)

"I kissed him. She touched her lips, still wet from his. She cared for him. Her stomach flipped and she peeked at the doorway. He aroused sensations within her she'd never felt before, making her hungry for his touch. How did this happen? She barely knew him. But as she licked her lips, remembering their kiss, warmth spread over her to linger in her most private place." (Nora)

Reading Lakota Honor will be a great experience for you. The resolution to this story is one that you may or may not foresee, but either way, it is a resolution that will satisfy you.

Kat Flannery's love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. When not researching for her next book, Kat can be found running her three sons to hockey and lacrosse. She has her Certificate in Freelance and Business Writing. A member of many writing groups, Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. She's been published in numerous periodicals. Her debut novel Chasing Clovers has been on Amazon's Bestsellers list many times. Lakota Honor is Kat's second book and she is hard at work on her next.

hard at work on the next. When not focusing on her creative passions, Kat is busy with her three boys and dotinw

Dear Douglas
Eliza Beth Rawlins
Cracked Keyboard Productions
624 W University Dr #131
Denton, TX 76201
9781467512398, $9.95 Kindle

Dear Douglas by Eliza Beth Rawlins is one of those books that will tug at your heart. Almost everyone has a former love they have lost by one means or another. Once you start this book, you won't want to put it down.

Julia Richard was engaged to Douglas Daugherty when he was killed in Viet Nam. After a time of grieving, she falls in love with Ian Collins. But she cannot leave her feelings for Douglas behind. To deal with this grief she writes a book in the form of letters that she wrote to Doug, before and after he died.

Will her letters have the cathartic result she wants so that she can finally leave her past behind her and go into the future with Ian? Her quandary is whether or not Ian will understand what she has to do.

She begins her book with the last letter.

"...This'll be my last letter. I am not sure why I have continued to write but it kept me going day after day. So much of our life together was shared via the good old U.S. Mail."

You will love reading this touching love story. It will bring back personal memories that you may have thought were had been long forgotten.

Eliza Beth Rawlins (pen name of Peggy Fogle) lives in Denton, Texas with her family, their cats and an energetic border collie. She has been a nurse and health educator. She created a nurse named Julia Richards as her heroine in Dear Douglas.

What's in the Corner? A Muffin "Tail"
Laura Eckroat
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781625102522, $9.99,

Laura W. Eckroat has done it again. Muffin has done it again. What have they done? Answer: They have teamed up to craft another Muffin tail, What's in the Corner? This is a humorous little song with a big message about what Muffin, the rescue dog from Went Out to Get a Donut...Came Home With a Muffin, sees in a corner. Mrs. Eckroat's newest rhyming book is so descriptive that you will be able to picture in your mind's eye as Muffin conscientiously investigates that corner trying to figure out what is there and protect her family. And you will have fun trying to guess what she sees in the corner.

"What's in the corner,

What is THAT!

Oh my goodness it's a ???????????"

I am not going to spoil this sweet rhyming, sing-song story about a very sweet puppy. You are going to have to read it to uncover the mystery. When you get the book, you can even download the audio for it and join Mrs. Eckroat as she sings this lovely rhyming book.

The colorful illustrations by Greg White make this new Muffin experience come to life for children. We have all seen our own pet investigating something that only they could see. Muffin is no different. Children will love to go through the pages of this Muffin book and guess what Muffin sees in the corner. This is a book that you don't want to miss. What's in the Corner? A Muffin "Tail" is a book that will charm all children who read it or have it read to them.

Laura Eckroat was born and raised in Whiting, Indiana. After living in Colorado, Georgia and Massachusetts, she now lives in Fort Worth with her husband, Stephen, and Muffin, the estimable Anatolian Shepherd rescue dog. Laura Eckroat is a school teacher in Texas. Her daughter Ashley attends college nearby, so they get together often. Previous books by Laura are The Life of Bud, A Simpler Time and Went Out to Get a Donut - Came Home With a Muffin. The Life of Bud won the 2010 NTBF Book Award and A Simpler Time was an Honorable Mention in 2011.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

The Empowerment Mindset
Calvin Helin
Premier Digital Publishing
c/o Blessingway Author Services
134 Eat Lupita Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505
9781938582875, $14.99,

It is commonly (and correctly) understood that to be truly successful in life and in love we must understand ourselves. But self-discovery can be a difficult and confusing process. "The Empowerment Mindset: Success Through Self-Knowledge" by Calvin Helin is a 234 page compendium of insights, strategies, and techniques that are as practical as they are effective in helping the reader to successfully undertake a journey of self-discover and understanding. Of special note are the chapters on Addressing Negative Emotions and Toxic Thoughts; Understanding the Conscious and Subconscious Minds; Overcoming Psychological Barriers; Establishing Goals; and Making a Strategic Plan. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Empowerment Mindset: Success Through Self-Knowledge" is thoroughly 'user friendly' and especially recommended reading for anyone seeking to improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones through a better, clearer, more effective understanding of themselves.

Essential Anti-Aging
Michael Moshier
Privately Published
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781300258377, $27.00,

Trying to maintain youth against the inevitable wear and tear of the aging process is a multi-billion dollar industry. But it does not have to be a financial burden on men and women seeking to sustain themselves in a health life-style that will maintain their vigor and stamina. "Essential Anti-Aging" by Michael Moshier is a succinct 120 page compendium of methodically presented practical advice, strategies, and insights in how a senior citizen can avoid the necessity of a nursing home. Packed with information on what foods to avoid; factors that contribute to the development of heart disease, cancer, and strokes; key blood metrics to track; key nutritional supplements to take; and how to get the most out of a visit to the doctor. Informed, informative, and thoroughly 'user friendly', Michael Moshier's "Essential Anti-Aging" is enthusiastically recommended for community library Health/Medicine reference collections, as well as anyone and everyone concerned with maintaining and improving their health.

The Fountain: Secrets of Seulmonde
Vernell Chapman
Privately Published
9781481866125 $10.95 pbk. / $7.95 Kindle

The debut novel of accountant Vernell Chapman, The Fountain: Secrets of Seulmonde is an entrancing fantasy with a new twist to the classic legend of the fountain of youth. Veronica Adler has dreamed of seeing the wonders of Greece all her life; when the chance of a summer vacation in Athens with her successful boyfriends suddenly evaporates, along with their relationship, she decides that she will make her dream true on her own. Yet her destiny unexpectedly leads her to what may as well be another world entirely - a beautiful valley, hidden from human eyes, and brimming with mystery. The secrets hidden inside the valley and guarded by its enigmatic inhabitants have unlimited potential... and cause her to rethink the conscious and unconscious choices she has been making over the course of her life. Imaginative, picturesque, and thoughtful, The Fountain shines as brightly as an exquisite gemstone

Versus the Demons
Michael Wellman
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478709251, $15.95,

The Game of baseball is tied in well with American history. "Versus the Demons" is the historical novel of a young ball player whose love of the game ends with him stuck between many teams that want to do more than just play ball. Pulled in all directions, he struggles with himself and learns much about being human and living his life. "Versus the Demons" is well worth considering for general fiction collections, not to be missed.

Pure Fyre
KristaLyn A. Vetovich
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781625103284, $26.99,

Salvation can often come against a people's will. "Pure Fyre" is a fantasy from KristaLyn A. Vetovich, who shares a story of Gelyfed and Gaernod, two kingdoms which may soon be at war. Spyre, a young man of not much renown, finds himself in the center of the rising conflict, and that he may not have many allies along the way. As stakes rise, Spyre has to face everything, as the fate of the world as he knows it so hangs in the balance. "Pure Fyre" is a must for readers seeking new fantasy, highly recommended.

Shadow of Light
David David Kernan
DDK Books
9780967260617, $17.95,

Mankind's purpose, his calling, are rarely clear to all of us. "Shadow of Light: Sex and the Quantum Leap of Human Evolution" is a philosophical and spiritual novel from David David Kernan, who shares his own experiences in finding religion and offering what he holds is religion's greatest secret, something to bring new understanding to our lives and our knowledge. A book that transcends binary human sexuality, exploring the male and female aspects within each of us even as it reaches out in search of a path free from violence and suffering, "Shadow of Light" is a choice pick for those seeking their own thoughts and ideas about spiritual enlightenment.

Carl Logan

Lois' Bookshelf

Grave Goods
Ariana Franklin
Berkeley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425232330, $15.00,

Billed as a "richly detailed, almost indecently thrilling mystery" by the New York Times Book Review, this book ought to have been one that I couldn't put down. I approached it with high expectations, and to my disappointment I found it a book that I hardly longed to pick up.

In the beginning it promised to be fascinating. Set in the 12th century, it deals with an early day female forensic doctor, Adelia Aguilar, a woman who has bypassed marriage and allowed her child to be illegitimate so that she can pursue her career. When Glastonbury Abbey burns, some deep-buried bones are exposed which are assumed to be those of Arthur and Guinevere. King Henry II dispatches Adelia to study the bones and report to him as to whether they are or are not authentic. Meanwhile, her friend Emma has departed with her child for the home of her mother-in-law where she expects to be warmly welcomed.

The bones offer a mystery which in time Adelia successfully solves. But it seems someone doesn't want the truth made public. Arthur's bones, after all, had the potential to bring great wealth as the source of pilgrimages. The protagonist's harrowing struggle to return to the king are fraught with repeated threats to her life. Also, her attempt to join her friend Emma fails when she learns that Emma was not welcomed but was in fact turned away from the home of her mother-in-law, and has since disappeared on a dangerous road full of highwaymen. Adelia must face a double quest: find her friend and report to the king. Her progress is full of pitfalls and near-death experiences.

This fascinating material should have made for a great read, but for me its allure never quite materialized. The reading of fiction requires a touch of magic called the willing suspension of disbelief, and with this book, it failed to kick in. All those very modern elements, the woman forensic doctor, the marriage-versus-career issue, the presence of at least two gay couples, even the use of modern language, spoiled the reality for me. I needed convincing that these were not anachronisms. With effort, this might have been explained somehow. Since it was not, I felt the tale didn't fit the times.

Most of the book is true to the period and it seems a shame that a few elements were allowed to compromise a good story.

Two Dollar House
Laia Hanau
Inter-Cooperative Council
c/o University of Michigan
4002 Michigan Union Building
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Admittedly, this is an old book, written in 1942 - but it offers a message surprisingly relevant today. It describes the process of forming a student co-op house on a University campus.

I attended college during WWII and I knew this author; in fact, I believe I made a few suggestions which were incorporated into the final version. The co-op movement was very necessary then as we were just emerging from the Great Depression and many young people lacked the wherewithal for a college education. The cheap solution to their room and board problems proved a godsend. This book is both inspiration, describing courageous young people willing to seek unorthodox solutions to an education, and a how-to guide for forming such a residence. The young men of the co-op provided much of their own food by gleaning the fields of local farmers and seeking out the best of the bargains and sales in local markets. Somehow, they managed to keep a roof over their heads and feed themselves during their college years without generating a huge debt.

This sort of thing could still be accomplished today, not for $2.00 a week as it was then but for the contemporary equivalent. It would greatly cut down on student expenses and the need to borrow. Would-be students could learn much from this slender volume with its detailed account of the process of forming a group home.

I'm told the book is about to go out of print. I sincerely hope not, since its double role as inspiration and guide makes it unique. The author writes in a poetic style which immortalizes the dreams and enthusiasms of those intrepid young men who made Lincoln Co-op happen on the Michigan campus. At the same time, it confronts difficulties like the struggle to get the university to accept housing which is barely standard or close to substandard. Good plumbing and safe electricity are essential, but the walls need not be pristine in their paint jobs and the furniture can be rough-hewn, built or at least finished by the residents themselves.

New laws passed in the intervening years have made such economies more difficult of acceptance. Now, for instance, any person cooking or even working in the kitchen in a group home must have a health card. But with help from the universities, these problems can be solved in such a way as to make it possible for student co-ops to survive.

It is greatly to be hoped that this book can be rescued from oblivion and kept in print.

Lois Wells Santalo

Margaret's Bookshelf

Days of Love and Blood
R.S. Carter
Privately Published
97814820442054 $14.99 pbk. / $2.99 ebook

Part horrific dark fantasy, part love story, Days of Love and Blood follows a female survivor of zombie apocalypse as she tries to recover from the death of her husband and rekindle new relationships. The worldwide Demon Virus has transformed the overwhelming majority of humanity into violent, homicidal killing machines, yet Carson has fortunately discovered an enclave of uninfected survivors, and two men who remind her of the good times in her life. Cooper is independent, and willing to give her the space she needs despite his bouts of surly temper; Ben is kindly yet yearns to be closer to her than her heart is ready to allow, just yet. While her need for companionship reinforces these relationships, the constant threat of extinction as a species remains pervasive. Told in first-person perspective, Days of Love and Blood is an unforgettable saga of heartbreak and the last, tattered shreds of hope in the wake of Armageddon. Highly recommended.

Secret Green Beret Commandos in Cambodia
William P. Tangney
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477273081, $45.99 / $3.03 Kindle,

"Secret Green Beret Commandos in Cambodia: A Memorial History of MACV-SOG's Command and Control Detachment South (CCS), And Its Air Partners, Republic of Vietnam, 1967-1972" is a 742 page history of American special forces recon teams that went behind enemy lines to secure intelligence and carry out assigned military missions of search and destroy. Offering a wealth of detailed information, ""Secret Green Beret Commandos in Cambodia" is a strongly recommended contribution to the growing library of Viet Nam War military histories.

Pierre's Journey To Florida
Thomas N. Tozer
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781469199696, $15.99,

Pierre de Bre is a young French Huguenot whose family are massacred by the Spanish. Surviving the killing of his family, Pierre lives with the Timucuan Indians of Florida for a few years, then returns to France at a time when that nation (and the whole of Western Europe) was torn by religious and political conflicts. A superbly crafted historical accurate novel, "Pierre's Journey to Florida: Diary of a Young Huguenot in the Sixteenth Century" is enhanced with the inclusion of a number of black-and-white illustrations of the Timucuan tribal members engaging in their daily activities. A thoroughly entertaining read from beginning to end, "Pierre's Journey to Florida" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library historical fiction collections.

Never Borrow Your Mother's Pantyhose
Cristine A. Perlin
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478285311 $10.50

Never Borrow Your Mother's Pantyhose is a witty, true-life memoir from Cristine Perlin about working as an ER nurse, dating, interfaith marriage (her background was Christian, her husband's was Jewish), raising children, and the many foibles of life, such as desperately trying to sell the "money pit" of her first home, or live-trapping the squirrels that surreptitiously invaded her second home. A handful of cartoony, playful illustrations intersperse these delightful, chuckle-inducing and sometimes heart-touching anecdotes of the unpredictable journey through daily life. Highly recommended.

Why Try to Make Them Do It When You Can Make Them Want To?
Anthony D. Roberts
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478714705, $19.95,

Forcing someone's hand is a terrible habit to get into. "Why Try to Make Them Do It When You Can Make Them Want To?: The Art of Influence" is a business motivational read from Anthony D. Roberts as he offers insight on encouraging people to take up the mantle of leadership more effectively for their business, and how to push them towards the task more gradually and naturally. "Why Try to Make Them Do It When You Can Make Them Want To?" is a must for any business manager who wants more out of their employees.

Life Minus 3 1/2
Dennis Hart
Privately Published
9780985301019, $13.95,

The lure of millions often tempts people to take the risks. "Life Minus 3 1/2: A True Story Surrounding the Embezzlement of Eleven Million Dollars" is a tale of true crime and the drive to risk everything for the big score. But attempting such large-scale theft can quickly lead to a much shorter life! "Life Minus 3/12" is an exciting, plot-twisting read from Dennis Hart, ideal for true crime and memoir collections.

Margaret Lane

Marjorie's Bookshelf

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
Eben Alexander
Simon & Shuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 12th floor
New York, NY 10020
9781451695199, $15.99,

The difference in this Near Death Experience (NDE) over thousands of others that have been reported is that it happened to a medical doctor who for years was grounded in the scientific method. NDEs weren't believable to him. But in 2008 Dr. Alexander became ill with a disease that left in him a coma for seven days. Friends and relatives gathered around his bedside and prayed and hoped. He wasn't expected to live. Miraculously, he awoke from the coma to the astonishment of everyone. It took him several days to readjust to earth existence because it seems he had an experience of the afterlife in which everything operates much differently. Talking about such an experience is difficult as everyone who has had NDEs finds out. The experience was so compelling for Alexander that he tries to explain it in this book.

One lasting impression that I came away with is the extraordinary understanding he gained while in the NDE: "You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever; you have nothing to fear; there is nothing you can do wrong." He describes the world we can expect after our transition comes when the physical body expires. He feels that the unconditional love that he experienced on this journey is the single most important discovery he ever made and sharing the message is his most important task.

In the book he explores what consciousness is and how it has been viewed by science and religion. He relates his own background that leads up to the NDE. From the experience he comes to understand that God is present in us all times and communicating with God is natural. He gains a sense of the interconnectivity of all things. He points out how all the objects in the universe are made of atoms which made up of proton, electrons, and neutrons, all of which are particles. We don't know what the particles are made of, but we do know they are interconnected to each other. It was Alexander's turn to learn about this interconnectivity and pass it along to us.

He writes: "To experience thinking outside the brain is to enter a world of instantaneous connection that make ordinary thinking seem like . . . a plodding event. Our truest, deepest self is completely free. . . . It comprehends that it has no need to fear the earthly world, and therefore, it has no need to build itself up through fame or wealth or conquest."

Everyone who reads this book will probably take away something different. Anyone who has explored consciousness through spirituality will understand. Anyone grounded in science may not. But it is a worthwhile book to read and ponder.

Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780375714368, $15.95,

Abraham Verghese is a medical doctor and professor at Stanford. Having attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he is a writer as well. His first novel, Cutting for Stone, begins in 1954. It is a story of love, betrayal and redemption, a perfect combination for a good story. It opens with the birth of twin boys to a Catholic nun from India and an English medical doctor. The nun dies in childbirth; the father flees for reasons we come to understand as the story develops. The boys are raised by the woman doctor who delivered them at the Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa, capitol of Ethiopia. She marries a fellow Indian doctor who works at the clinic, a small one that serves primarily the poor. The two raise the boys with the help of the people who work at the clinic. The daughter of one of the servants, who is the twin's age, is raised with them. The story is told primarily from the viewpoint of Marion, one of the twins. He falls in love with the girl, Genet, which as we learn as the novel unfolds, is his undoing. She comes between the two brothers and starts a series of calamitous events that throws the entire family into upheaval. Since both twins become surgeons and the adoptive parents are surgeons also, we learn a lot about how doctors view the world and what they do in the course of medical practice. Since I haven't read many medical novels, after I got over being squeamish at some of the graphic descriptions of operations, I found it fascinating. I also loved learning about living in Ethiopia. Verghese captures the times and the country through very decent writing. Sometimes he used a trite phrase or two. Sometimes I thought he went a bit too far in the dramatization of the story, thinking "C'mon, that couldn't have happened". And the book is a bit lengthy for a novel. But fortunately for author and reader, the story is compelling enough and has enough likeable characters that it holds our interest. Overall it is a well-told tale, and worth the time it takes to read 541 pages. More information about the author can be found at his web site: He also gives a talk on TED - - on The Doctor's Touch, which is well worth the view.

Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer

Mayra's Bookshelf

Chasing Victory
Joanne Jaytanie
Books To Go Now
PO Box 1283, Poulsbo, WA 98370
9781482785203, $10.70 print / $3.99 Kindle

Chasing Victory is a delightful debut novel by first-time author Joanne Jaytanie.

Our beautiful protagonist, Victory Winters, is a veterinarian and geneticist specializing in molecular biology for Claremont Research in Poulsbo, Washington. She also has a special innate ability she keeps secret: she has almost a telepathic gift to communicate with animals. As head of her department, she's currently researching canine DNA and its potential benefits to humans.

Then one day, Victory receives a cryptic call from Jeffrey, an old friend and colleague who she hasn't seen or spoken to in 5 years. Like her, he's also a veterinarian and geneticist working for a competitor company, Biotec. Jeffrey insists he needs her help and asks her to meet him in a picnic spot. But, to her horror, once there she secretly witnesses his murder.

Soon after, she's approached by a representative of Biotec with an offer to work for them. They claim that Jeffrey is working overseas, and they want her to take his place. Though she doesn't trust them, she decides to play along in order to investigate her friend's murder. But things go unexpectedly wrong when instead she's kidnapped to a secluded island and forced to do research, injecting humans with wolf DNA. Unbeknown to Victory at first, the madman CEO wants to create the perfect invincible army.

Thus, Victory is soon pulled into a vortex of intrigue, blackmail and murder. Together with the hero, Tristan Farraday, a naval officer who also has telepathic abilities and who is sent undercover to investigate Biotec's experiments, Victory must find a way to stop the company from carrying out their horrific plans and to get out of the island alive.

This was a fun, light, entertaining read! They story is compelling and the hero and heroine sympathetic. Victory is intelligent, yet caring and sensitive. Tristan is the perfect combination, not too alpha, not too soft. The action moves at a pretty quick pace, and there's a lot of action and romantic suspense to keep readers turning pages. One thing I especially enjoyed about this story is that the love between Victory and Tristan develops gradually and organically. I certainly look forward to reading more works from this author. Recommended for fans of paranormal romance!

Vincent Hobbes
Hobbes End Publishing, LLC
PO Box 193, Aubrey, TX, 76227
9780985911034, $14.99,

I was doubtful when I picked up Khost for review. I'd never read a military horror novel before, though I've always been a big fan of the first two Alien movies. The Alien movies are military science fiction, so I thought that perhaps the two genres would be similar. They were.

Well, as it turned out, I had no reason to be apprehensive. Khost was a very pleasant surprise, and I found myself caring about the characters and their predicament and engrossed in the story until the end.

The tale begins in 1984, with the Soviet Union engaged in the bloody war with Afghanistan. Afraid of losing, the Soviets develop a chemical weapon unlike any other in history, one with the power to enhance their soldiers in the battlefield. They soon put it to the test in the province of Khost, where the Mujahideen hide inside a massive cave complex.

But things go awfully wrong. Instead of enhancing the humans, the chemical mutates them into beings that are way beyond human, into something horrifying and evil.

Move forward to 2010. The USA is at war with Afghanistan. And it becomes increasingly challenging in the province of Khost, where already an elite team of Delta Force Operators has gone missing. That is, except only one survivor, who has an incredible, terrifying story to tell, and whom nobody believes - nobody except the CIA, which soon sends a top-secret team to deal with the situation...

Khost is nonstop suspense, action, and thrills. The story moves at a heart-racing pace. The dialogue and descriptions ring with authenticity, and I was especially impressed with all the military language and details. I also found compelling the dynamic between the characters and their sense of comradeship.

None of them are your regular nice guy, yet they show admirable courage, honor, and responsibility for the wellbeing of their team. The scenes inside the cave are quite graphic and violent at times, but somehow they all felt essential to the story and not gratuitous. In sum, I enjoyed reading this novel and can fully recommend it to fans of thrillers, horror and science fiction, and well as those of you who would like to try something different.

Mayra Calvani

Michael's Bookshelf

Crashing Eden
Michael Sussman
Solstice Publishing
614 Wal-mart Drive, Suite #209
Farmington, MO 63640
9781477444894, $12.99 print / $3.99 Kindle

Fascinating Mystical YA Novel

Gnosticism is the belief that the material world should be shunned in favor of the spiritual world. With that theme in mind, Michael Sussman created a brilliant YA novel, Crashing Eden.

Joss, a self-described "seventeen-year-old punk" bullied his brother unmercifully until a neighbor took over the chore. Not surprisingly, Eli, a middle school student, hung himself in his brother's closet. In a revengeful rage, Joss burned down the neighbor's house disfiguring the neighbor's sister, Alessa. The novel opens with Joss recently returned from juvie. Though he's trying to turn his life around, it's tough with bickering parents and relentless depression. All things change when Joss runs into a park car's opened door while riding his bicycle without a helmet. The teen ends up in the ER of a Boston hospital with the unique ability of hearing a weird "OM" sound.

The young woman, whose car Joss wacked, visits the teen's hospital bed. When Joss reports to Shakti the sound he's hearing, she believes he's tapped into the Shankman Frequency, the heavenly channel piping in the sounds of heaven. Shakti, a graduate student at Harvard University and her boyfriend are developing a device that would enable the listener to hear the "OM" from heaven, a sound that brings the individual instant peace and contentment. This young couple wants everyone to be able to crash Eden.

In an easy reading style that YA readers love, Sussman has created a quick page-turner novel that will keep his readers riveted from the first to last page. Throughout it all we watch Joss mature as he tries to overcome obstacles that may lead to the end-of-times.

The Gunslinger Confesses
Tell Cotton
Solstice Publishing
614 Wal-mart Drive, Suite #209
Farmington, MO 63640
9781481806299, $11.99 print / $0.99 Kindle

A gunfighter wears his six-shooter low and tied down. If he has the talent he also has "the feeling". It's a fury that builds up inside him. He can't breathe nor swallow. His heart pounds, sweat dampens his shirt, and a wave of cold and hot scoops him up and won't let go.

In his debut novel, Confessions of a Gun Fighter, Tell Cotton brings to us Rondo Landon, a teen living with his father during the post-Civil War era. The story opens with Rondo waking up in a jail cell with a severe gunshot wound to his shoulder. He looks up to see his cousin, lawman Yancy Landon and Judge Parker rattle his cage. As the men sit around the gunman's cot, Rondo is coerced to tell his story.

Rondo grew up on a farm until Reconstruction people from the North came along, claimed his pa owed back taxes he couldn't afford, so the Landons invested in a new covered wagon and headed west to Midland, Texas where Pa was offered a job.

With a knack for Western drawl and a talent to put it to paper, Cotton tells Rondo's story in a novel packed with non-stop action, deceit, and deliverance. Rondo fights Injuns, joins up with legendary outlaw, Ben Kinrich, and hooks up with Texas rancher Craig Tomlin. Through his experiences we watch as Rondo evolves from a hotheaded kid to a man capable of living up to a respectable code of ethics.

Confessions of a Gunfighter is a novel any fan of Westerns will enjoy and thrill any reader interested in the evolution of the human spirit.

Michael Thal, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

A Tale of Two Dogs
Steven Kroll, Illustrated by Mike Reed
Amazon Children's Books
PO Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89149
9780761451617, $9.99,

This picture book gives new meaning to the saying, "there are no bad dogs, only bad people" - in this case Mom and Dad. Morgan was a cute little fluffy puppy when he was adopted by a family with three kids. But he developed some bad habits because no one in the family ever bothered to walk him, much less train him. They just expected him to be a good dog without ever teaching how to be a good dog. So, much to the heartbreak of the kids, Mom and Dad took Morgan back to pound to trade him in for a different puppy. There are so many things wrong with the premise of this story it's hard to know where to begin. A tale about two dogs who met at obedience school would have been a lot more interesting. The colorful illustrations convey all the humor and angst of a life with a new puppy. Unfortunately the story does not. It sends totally the wrong message to kids about responsible dog ownership.

It's Just a Dog
Russ Ryan
345 Boren Ave N., Seattle, WA 98109
9781484042014, $9.99,

When Charlie Keefe's Jack Russell terrier Pete died at the ripe old age of 16 - and a half - Charlie lost more than his "precious pal." He lost his "meal ticket." You see, Charlie is the world famous "painter of dogs" - the "Picasso of the Pooch Portraits." And his most popular subject was, alas, the dear departed Pete. Devastated, Charlie grieves for months, unable to paint or function, like a normal human being, much to the exasperation of his friends and especially his business partner. With the help of Janelle the dog rescuer lady and a cute little spaniel named Brownie, Charlie gradually starts putting his life back together. But he's haunted by the ghost of Pete. One day at the most inopportune moment, Pete's ghost appears and starts shooting off his mouth. From then on Charlie takes a swan dive into the abyss with Pete the wise-cracking, ghost dog by his side.

"It's Just a Dog" is a hilarious sendup of the dogoir genre. Reminiscent of the tongue-in-cheek satire in the film "Best in Show," Ryan captures the nuance of the quirky characters that inhabit the world of dog lovers with blithe affection but never sarcasm. Clearly Ryan is just another delirious dog lover with a highly-developed sense of humor. "It's Just a Dog" is a fun-filled romp through this dog park of life.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

A Case of Redemption
Adam Mitzner
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781451674798, $26.00,

A Case of Redemption is not just another court murder case where the accused is systematically defended/prosecuted and found either guilty or acquitted in the end. A Case of Redemption is quite different from those scenarios. My meaning for redemption is to raise someone from a lower state of being to a better higher condition. So who or what needs redeemed in this tale?

In this fascinating book, an imprisoned black gangsta rapper stands accused of murdering his former popstar girlfriend. Without question and lacking positive evidence, police and accusers become fixated on what seems to be an outright declaration of the rapper's intent to murder her. How is this so? Well, the lyrics of one of the songs recently written and released by the rapper contain damning words which practically describe how a woman who crossed him could be murdered.

Is it the rapper who need redemption?

Because of the rapper's known questionable reputation for hi-life and raucous living, A Case for Redemption explains that no decent lawyer will dare a defense. Yet a friend of lawyer Dan Sorenson convinces him to do so. Nina insists that this meaningful high profile case could help Dan do an about-face with his own despair and hopelessness. Dan Sorenson has been grieving for eighteen months over the sudden loss of his wife and daughter, killed in a freak accident. Prolonged depression enslaves him in his "dark night of the soul." He subsists day to day - bottle to bottle.

Is it Dan who needs redemption?

Dan's winsome friend Nina goes with him to call on the jailed rapper. During this short visit a thinly disguised but deeply hidden decent quality in the rapper's character leaks through the thick bulletproof glass. Dan agrees to defend the man.

As Dan and his sidekick Nina slowly put together clues that appear, at best, circumstantial, Dan builds his case. Nina helps him regain confidence in himself and his courtroom diligence as a skilled lawyer. The numbing fog, which had engulfed Dan's life since the automobile tragedy, begins to rise. Yet, while Nina helps his spirit heal, what happens to the rapper whom he has grown to trust?

Who is it that really needs redemption?

Now you can see why A Case of Redemption is not just another clever court case. The completely unsettling twists and turns that occur even in the middle of the book will leave you wondering who was really responsible for the death of the rapper's girl and who is responsible, now, for what, in the end, occurs to the rapper himself. You want to know - you must find out - you must read this book!

If you want a fascinating read with highly developed characters that yank at your heartstrings, particularly as a multitude of issues build to a baffling but what I found an unsettling climax, then get a copy of A Case of Redemption. This is a well told story that questions human fairness, human decency, and in the end, the power of the human heart to love, to seek justice, and maybe even to seek revenge in the shame of love.

M.J. Rose
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781451621501, $24.00,

What is it about Seduction that kept me so possessed when I, for one, does not easily believe in the supernatural? Is it the fact that author Rose never gave me the chance to not believe. From its very beginning pages, there is something inexplicably creepy about her choice of eerie words, expressions, and descriptions as the book slides back and forth between today and 1855.

In that unfortunate year while Victor Hugo dallied in Paris with his mistress, he was shocked almost to the point of psychosis. Imagine this man, one who understood and wrote about the horrors of evil (Les Miserables), haphazardly discovering in the daily news that his beloved daughter drowned in the Seine along with her very recent husband. This catastrophic shock ruptured Hugo's sanity - ". . . If I'd been there, maybe I could have saved her . . ." distressed him for the rest of his life.

From that awful moment, Hugo attempted, in every way possible, to communicate with his daughter on the other side. He missed her love. He needed her pardon. He obsessed about her terrified face as the dirty river water dumped down into her lungs and strangled her. Seduction reveals his countless seances, psychic readings, Ouija board attempts to reach out to her in death. He began writing about his communications with the dead.

Now, jump to modern times when a young woman, Jac, subject at times to lucid hallucinations, visits the mysterious Brittish channel island of Jersey, hoping to locate the caves and sacred hidden ceremonial passages and ritual chambers of ancient Druid priests and priestesses. Legend claims they are located in the uncountable number of caves along Jersey's pitted primeval shoreline.

In Seduction, the person who invited Jac to Jersey isle, a troubled man she fell in love with years ago at a mental hospital-like retreat center - Blixir Rath - now seeks Jac's company. "He'd lost his wife. She'd lost her way." He is interested in her because their exodus from the retreat center took place after an uncanny death-like fall from a high cliff that left both of them very disturbed. But now, this same man seeks Jac's keen expertise for the past, to help him locate transcripts of Victor Hugo's conversations with a man/thing he called, "The Shadow of The Sepulcher."

His notes claim that Victor Hugo interacted with this creature hoping to somehow communicate with his deceased daughter - maybe even save her? Had Hugo gone mad? Possibly! But who or what is/was this being thought to abide in the caverns along Jersey's coast? Is he/it not affected by time?

Is Jac mentally strong enough to subdue her own troubled past to follow Hugo's subtle written clues through ancient monuments, stone circles, deep caves and crumbling castles? Can she and the man whose love she now desires together face demon-like ventures to find out why they relate so closely with the ancient, almost mythical, past?

Seduction is not a tale for the faint of heart. It is a very descriptive detailed story reeking with deep mystery, strange confrontations, and bizarre coincidences - or are they? The characters in this suspenseful novel are so well defined that they will haunt your sleep regardless of your belief in the supernatural. M.J. Rose is a master of description: I remember one of her lines described the gnarled wrinkled hand of a great aunt: "The veins on the back of her hand stood out like the lines of her life."

If you are looking for a 5-star read that will puzzle you at so many turns, then get Seduction and read it. It will keep you guessing and maybe question your own blood-curdling relationship with the distant past!

Regis Schilken

Sandra's Bookshelf

Detour Trail
Joy V Smith
Melange Books, LLC
9781612355702, $12.95,

I found this so interesting on many levels. The main character is Lorrie and her uncle they were headed out west on a wagon train. Lorrie had many aunts and uncles who wanted her to stay with them as she had inherited a lot of money when her parents died. She had only one uncle who loved her for herself, and did not need her money. So they decided to go out West where they would never find her.

Along the way to the Oregon Trail her uncle was murdered and she was all alone. She had two wagons and many animals. The Wagon Master informed her that she would have to leave the wagon train and she should be able to find someone to buy her wagon and stock. Then she could head back East to where she had family members to take care of her.

Well Lorrie had other plans. She gathered up some other people and they decided to stop where they were and build their own town. It was Lorrie who found people to come to where they were and start a new beginning.

One thing I found really profound was that I did not know the real women of the West that made a name for themselves. One was Pearl Hart. She was not a Christian woman but when she was arrested, I found her words at her hearing very profound. "I shall not consent to be tried under a law in which my sex had no voice in making. " She was released from jail.

There were many women who helped shape our country and I am ashamed I never took the time to read about them. I found this book to be a good read for anyone.

Rated G

Fish: A Memoir From a Different Kind of Year
Ramsey Beyer
Houghton Miffin Harcourt
35 Stillman St. #21
San Francisco, CA 94107
978193697188, $15.95,

What a delightful book. The story and the drawing's are pure joy. The book begins with Ramsey who is a high school senior and has just found out that she has been accepted at the art college she hoped for. While she is happy, Ramsey has a lot of other things going on in her head. So Ramsey does what she always does and begins to make lists.

Will her old friends still like her when she comes home on school breaks? Will she be able to make new friends at college? Her lists are always pros versus cons. While she is at home her world is super. She has friends and loved ones all around. She knows when she will be doing things and with whom. Her friends are those she made in elementary school.

When she arrives at college she realized she is just a small fish in a big world. Everything is so different than she has ever experience in her life. Yet it does not take long for her to make some new friends. Even though her new friends have boyfriends, Ramsey has never had one. She just did not feel she needed one.

Now should I tell you more? On one hand I think you might like to know as I did. But then if I tell you more, you may not want to read it as I have taken the fun out of the book. Oh my so many decisions!

I will just say buy this book. It brought back so many memories for me. It is a fast read and fun.

Rated G

Sandra Heptinstall

Teri's Bookshelf

Is It Still Murder Even If She Was a Bitch?
Robin Leemann Donovan
Write Life Publishing
9781608080380, $12.95 print / $5.99 Kindle,

By being a part owner of an advertising business, if a former employee is murdered, you know that your business will be involved in the investigation. So what is the wisest thing to do? For Donna Leigh that answer is to just solve the murder with the help and resources of the business. Is that the smartest thing to do though? Are you endangering yourself and your co- workers? Only after finding the murderer will anyone know if that is smart, if she lives long enough for that conclusion.

When Claire Dockens was found dead, no one was really surprised. The woman had the bad habit of creating enemies. Unfortunately for Donna Leigh, her advertising agency had been one of Claire's stepping stones on her quest for riches with many wounded co-workers along the path.
A former employee, Clovis, firmly believes that she is the most likely suspect to be the murderer. With her flair for the overly dramatic, flamboyance, and being extremely self-centered, she made the book believable as well as comical. Her intention is for Donna to stay in constant contact with her on every development.

One conflicted situation revolved around Donna's husband, a gifted mystery solver. This man doesn't even read mysteries because he usually solves them within the first few pages of a novel. Early in the story, he believes that he knows who is the killer. He then writes it on a piece of paper and places it in a sealed envelope to be opened when the case is solved. Considering the his wife Donna is investigating everyone and has even been threatened, wouldn't a caring person at least advise his wife to stay clear of certain people?

The characters in Is it Still Murder Even if She Was a Bitch? are realistic. Who hasn't known a person who must always be the center of attention? With all the employees of the advertising firm, the characters are believable. With including their personal relationships whether solid and shaky.

The setting is easier to understand for those people who have a some background of the basic layout of Omaha. For those outside the metro area, it might be a challenge.

Robin Leemann Donovan is a transplanted New Jersey native who now makes her home in Omaha. Is It Still Murder Even If She Was a Bitch? is her first published fictional novel.

Omaha author, Robin Leeman Donovan is an award winning author for the blog, Menologues. This particular novel, Is it Still Murder Even if She Was a Bitch? won an AMA Pinnacle award. Obviously she has utilized much of her personal experience in writing this novel.

Is it Still Murder if She Was a Bitch? is a light cozy mystery which keeps the reader wondering to the end about who was the murderer. It was comical since almost everyone had some motive to kill the victim. The relationships and friendships with the characters were the strength of this novel.

Why not read this novel to discover the answer to Is it Still Murder if She Was a Bitch?

Music of Ghosts
A Mary Crow Novel
Sallie Bissell
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive
Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738735849, $14.99,

What college students wouldn't want to stay the night in a haunted cabin? When six students who are volunteering at a raptor center hear the legend of the Fiddlesticks' cabin, they can't wait to find out if there is a legendary ghost. With the legend of a woman and her lover being murdered in the cabin years ago, that just makes it more appealing and an adventure for the students who plan to videotape the entire event.

What the students didn't plan on happening was one of their own being brutally murdered outside the cabin. What was even stranger were the unusual and unrecognizable carvings or writings all over her skin. Is the killer trying to send a message?

To complicate things, the victim just happens to be the only daughter of the former governor of North Carolina. He public ally challenges the local law enforcement to make an arrest, maybe even before all the facts are discovered.

Mary Crow is a local attorney who lives in the area with her boyfriend and his daughter. Since a recent visit to Oklahoma, the nine-year-old daughter has been acting differently and has obviously been influenced by her grandparents who believe that Mary killed their daughter, the girl's mother, and now want complete custody of their granddaughter. The last time the daughter spent time with Mary involved rescuing an injured owl by taking it to the raptor center. This was the night of the murder.

The person in charge of the raptor center is the one who is now accused of the murder of the former governor's daughter. While looking into her life, it is obvious that she had a crush on this older man. However, he didn't seem to know a thing about it, or did he?

With the custody battle taking place in Oklahoma, Mary is free from her family duties and promises and finds herself being asked to represent the accused. She had promised her boyfriend to not be involved in any murder cases, but this is an exception and she plans to transfer this case to another attorney as soon as he returns from Israel. So, did she break her promise?

I find it amazing the this particular novel is the fifth in the Mary Crow series since the characters are so well developed and evolve as the story continues. Without knowledge of the previous novels, Music of Ghosts is outstanding without having read the previous installments.

At first it seems as if the story is disjointed but perfectly interweaves with the resolution complete with a lesson about Sacred Harp music. The tempo of the story is fast with the realistic parts of everyday life being important to each character.

Sallie Bissell spends her time either is Asheville, North Carolina or Nashville, Tennesee. Her previous Mary Crow mysteries were all published by Bantam Doubleday Dell.

The writing in Music of Ghosts is hypnotic and addictive. You can't put the story down as each chapter unfolds passionate intensity. The characterization is phenomenal making each character multi-faceted and having the reader understand their choices, while not always enjoyed reality. Music of Ghosts is a fast-paced hauntingly realistic novel that definitely makes me want to read more by Sallie Bissell.

Free Fall: A John Ceepak Mystery
Chris Grabenstein
Pegasus Crime
c/o Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10004
9781605984759, $25.95,

How many people are convicted only on circumstantial evidence? How many people are convicted because the accuser has money, power, and influence?

In the book Free Fall, Christine happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. Being a home health care nurse, frequently places her in a situation where people are more at risk to die. However, did she help any of her patients along the journey towards death?

Detective Danny Boyle along with his new partner, Salvaore Santucci are called to a house by a 911 call. The caller is a young teen in a wheelchair whose mother is fighting with his nurse to the level that the mother is actually choking the nurse. When the officers stop the fight, the old woman immediately accuses the nurse of attacking her. However, the nurse, Christine, has finger marks on her throat that are visible enough to be photographed. Danny recognizes the nurse as being a close friend of his deceased fiance and agrees to assist her in moving her personal items out of this house. Since Christine was a live-in nurse, now she has no place to live. Danny calls a friend who can give her temporary shelter.

Since leaving the hospital, Christine has both a day and a night job. Thee older gentleman that she cares for during the day is found dead from poison that was in his medication. Guess who administered the daily medication?Yep, Christine, again.

Free Fall is the 7th book in the John Ceepak series. This novel does require the reader to understand the characters of Ceepak and Boyle which were in previous books, Tilt-A-Whirl, Whack a Mole, Hell House, Mind Scrambler, Mad Mouse, and Rolling Thunder . You really need to read at least Tilt A Whirl before starting this particular novel in the series.

Yes, I love these light fast-paced enjoyable adventures of Ceepak and Boyle.

Christ Grabenstein is an award winning author with two Anthony and three Agatha Awards. He is successful as a comedian, playwright, screenwriter, as well as a children's book author.

Free Fall is like a reunion. The character combination of Ceepak and Boyle is special and delightful. This well-written novel continues with a well-organized plot that keeps the reader wondering as each step of the investigation unfolds.

Hawk Quest
Robert Lyndon
Redhook Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316219563, $ 25.99,

At the time of the Crusades in 1072, it was not unusual for a son of a noble family to gain further riches by going off to fight in the distant land. Many of these sons were trained to be skilled in fighting with cultural rules. Many were shocked while fighting when their opponents fought in a different style. Gold was highly valued by both friend and foe.

When the Turks won a particular battle, rather than killing the noblemen, they held these privileged sons for ransom, usually to be paid in gold. Since not all families, even noble ones were wealthy enough to pay the ransom, another option existed, to find the legendary white falcons and to transport them back to the captors.

Who would or could achieve this quest of first capturing these rare and elusive birds and manage to keep them alive during this journey?

Vallon is a disenchanted crusader who is a wanted man by the Normans. He is guilty of killing his wife and another man. In his depressive wanderings, he happens to meet an older scholar and his aide who are on a mission of delivering this ransom note to the prestigious family. When the old man dies, Vallon agrees reluctantly to assist the aide in this vast quest. What he didn't plan on was this becoming his quest.

Robert Lyndon, the author, is an experienced falconer. He utilized many of his own experiences into episodes in this epoch novel. Hawk Quest is the debut monthly novel for the new division of Hachette which will concentrate on only one book per month. This particular historical fiction novel is for those readers who enjoy epoch fiction interweaving actual historical events and famous people. In much the same style as Ken Follett, Bernard Cornwell, Margaret George, and Sharon Kay Penman, this also centers around England with encounters with Vikings, the Lapp people, and various tribes along the journey.

The characterizations are phenomenal in Hawk Quest. From the first page, Vallon is a questionable character never being quite certain about his loyalties except to himself. Hero lives up to his name and is the solid heart with Wayland becoming human through the adventures and trust of a woman.

The historical tidbits interwoven made this novel realistic. From the encounters with the Vikings and why they did not stay in North America, as to fleeing from the Normans, working with noble families, the people of Scandinavia and moving into what we now know as Russia, with the glimpses of the past as well as the threat to Christianity make Hawk Quest a thought provoking and well-written novel.

Unquestionably, Hawk Quest is an outstanding debut novel for both Robert Lyndon and Redhook Book.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Wrath of Angels: A Charlie Parker Thriller
John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476703022, $26.00,

This 11th novel in the Charlie Parker series carries the reader deep into the surrealistic world the author once again creates. And brings back two of the Maine detective's betes noir: the Collector and Brightman, the latter coming back in the form of a child after Charlie shot him to death in a different form. Of course, Angel and Louis, as well as Rabbi Epstein, get to play roles as well.

It all begins when two hunters discover a plane which had crashed in the Maine northern woods, in which are found lots of cash and a satchel containing lists of names. And a race begins among various opposing forces to discover the lists with Charlie in the middle, prompted by the story the daughter of one of the hunters tells him which she had learned from her dying father.

The author's ability to make the supernatural aspects of his tales almost believable defies the imagination. The lists contain the names of people who have made a deal with the devil. The woods are inhabited by a spectral young girl seeking to lure other bodies to keep her company. The forces of evil are represented by fallen angels. There is the Collector, who sits in judgment of those he would take out of circulation. And there is always Charlie, supposedly on the side of justice. Quite a tale, and recommended.

Trickster's Point
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451645712, $16.00,

Cork O'Connor has faced many perplexing situations in this long-running series set in Upper Minnesota. None, however, is as stunning as takes place in this latest chapter, perhaps because it begins at Trickster's Point, where, according to Native American legend nothing is what it seems as the spirits play games. At the foot of the monolith sit Cork and Jubal Little, the presumptive future Governor of Minnesota. An arrow protrudes from Jubal's chest, right through his heart. He asks Cork to remain with him rather than go get help, and it takes three hours for him to die, during which he rambles on, sort of confessing many past transgressions, but really leaving more questions than answers.

The arrow is an exact replica of those Cork makes for himself, leading to the suspicion that Cork may have killed his boyhood best friend. And Cork has to solve this mystery to exonerate himself. Another body is found nearby, that of a white man with a rifle. Who is he, and why is he there? Was he to have been backup in case the killer missed his target?

While the murder mystery is an essential element of the novel, more important is the look at the relationships of the various characters, to each other and to the locale. The author's appreciation of Native American culture and the environment in which the story takes place is, as usual, sensitive and insightful. Jubal is an enigmatic character, almost too large to be believed. Cork, however, continues to grow with each new entry in the series. Highly recommended.

The Absent One
Jussi Adler-Olsen, author
K. E. Semmel, translator
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780142196830, $16.00,

This follow-up novel in the Department Q series, in which Carl Morck made his debut in "The Keeper of Lost Causes," is quite different from the introductory book. It is more complicated, while the character of the protagonist and his assistant, Assad, essentially remain the same. And to spice things up, another "assistant" is provided to Morck, the head of the office devoted to solving cold cases. This time it is a female, Rose, who, having failed her driving test at the Police Academy, is unable to achieve her desire to become an officer and has to settle for working at headquarters as a secretary.

Carl becomes intrigued with a 20-year-old case for which someone who has confessed is already serving a sentence for the murder of a brother and sister. However, it becomes apparent that some of his boarding g school classmates, now rich and prominent figures in Danish society, may have been involved not only in that crime, but also in a series of brutal assaults and even other murders. It is up to Carl and his "staff" to solve the case, despite being told by higher authority to stop their investigation.

The story is brutal and black, filled with riveting descriptions and depravity, the portrayals vivid. A worthy successor to a well-received first installment, setting the stage for the third, it is recommended.

The Thief
Fuminori Nakamura, author
Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates, translators
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952020, $14.95,

This novel is an interesting idea in need of fulfillment. Somehow, it leaves the reader somewhat confused. It recounts the development of a pickpocket who generally only removes wallets from rich people. Along the way, the author philosophizes about the "profession" of picking pockets, including a little history of some of the more famous practitioners of the art.

The thief himself tells the story in the first person. However, for all he has to say about his work and life, we learn very little about him and exactly why what happens to him in the end occurs. Or, really, about any of the other characters. They all seem to be symbols of something, but none is precisely explained.

Tightly written, the book is a fast read. But on reaching the conclusion this reader, at least, wondered what it was all about. Hopefully, in a future work, the author will turn his talent to a more fully developed plot and characterizations, of which "The Thief" indicates he is capable. The book is worthy of note, and therefore is recommended despite the above reservations.

Blood Money
James Grippando
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
97800622019842, $26.99,

As the title suggests, money is at the root of this plot in this, the latest in the Jack Swyteck series. It begins with a case in which Sydney Louise Bennett, the mother of a two-year-old child, is found innocent of murder. Jack, who stood in for his mentor at an earlier hearing in the woman's matter, is the attorney of record, and the judge does not let him withdraw from the case.

The trial itself leads to a media circus, which fans a bloodthirsty crowd that surrounds the court chanting all kinds of slogans. Everyone believes Sydney to be guilty, fueled by the invectives of a cable channel, Breaking News Network. and its anchor. Jack is vilified, especially when the jury returns a Not Guilty verdict. Any further details of the ensuing plot would constitute a spoiler.

The author's background as an associate with a leading law firm provides the basis for creating interesting courtroom scenes and raising unusual legal questions. The story that develops is on the one hand somewhat complicated, while the characterizations, on the other, are a bit oversimplified. Nevertheless, "Blood Money" upholds the level of the ten Swyteck series novels, and it is recommended.

Live by Night
Dennis Lehane
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062197757, $16.99,

There is an old cliche about the prostitute with a heart of gold. This same thought can apply to the main character in this novel, a gangster who is, nonetheless, almost too good to be true. But the book is so well-written and -constructed that it would be a shame to arrive at that conclusion. It is a movingly built tale encased in a reconstruction of a unique period in American history.

Joe Coughlin, the son of the deputy superintendent of the Boston Police Department, probably could have achieved success in a legitimate manner, except the path was not to his liking. Instead he chose to be an outlaw, and eventually part of the Boston mob, and later the boss of operations in Florida and along the southern coast to New Orleans. What made this possible, of course, was Prohibition, which was the basis for bootlegging, as well as gang wars and murders. He is distinguished from his counterparts by his use of brains (brawn is a reluctant fallback) and hopefully doing good by giving some of his ill-gained profits back to society.

The story follows Joe's life from Boston to Florida and Cuba, his loves, schemes, betrayals, achievements and failures. One can quibble about how the novel concludes, but the sweep is still of epic proportions. It is a welcome addition to the author's chronicling of 20th century America, and it is recommended.

Close to the Bone
Stuart MacBride
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780007344260, $24.99,

Promoted to Acting Detective Inspector, Logan McRae finds himself in the midst of several bewildering cases, beginning with the discovery of a body chained to a stake, strangled and stabbed, with a burning tire around the neck. And that's just for starters, as more bodies begin turning up. At the same time, he's charged with finding two missing teenagers. And then there's the matter of someone crippling Asian immigrants. Finally, all in a day's work, rival drug gangs are fighting over product and territory.

All the while there is McRae's superior, DI Steele, riding him hard with her "witticisms" and pressure, foisting her paperwork on him while he's attempting to solve the various cases and capture killers. Confusion arises between the murders and the filming of a book in Aberdeen called Witchfire. in which the exact MOs are described.

This is the eighth in the series, and this reader felt that perhaps the author is beginning to get a little jaundiced with regard to his characters. Steele's humorous comments are not really funny, many seeming forced [but perhaps that may be the point]. And the 500+ pages become at times somewhat of a burden for the reader to traverse. Nevertheless, as always the writing is superb and the plotting taut, and the book is recommended.

Little Elvises
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952792, $14.95,

A pattern seems to be developing in the Junior Bender series. In the debut novel, "Crashed," Junior, a professional burglar, was blackmailed, indirectly, by Trey Annunziato, the female head of a crime family, to steal a Klee. In this, the second book in the series, he is blackmailed by a detective to try to protect his uncle, Vincent Di Gaudio, from a murder rap. I guess we'll have to wait for the third installment, expected in June, "The Fame Thief," to find out whether the trend continues.

Be that as it may, there are two stories in the present novel. First is the murder of a gossip reporter, for which a prime suspect is Vincent DiGaudio, known for finding and promoting various boys known as the "Little Elvises" during the 1950's. Then the owner of the motel in which Junior is living asks him to find her daughter, from whom she has not heard for some time. Apparently she was living with a man suspected of murdering several women. Just to add an additional touch of complexity and humor to the novel, Junior becomes involved with the journalist's widow, while his ex-wife and 13-year-old daughter each have new boyfriends, complicating his life further.

A hallmark of a Timothy Hallinan mystery novel are unusual situations and characterizations, and a whole lot of humor. "Little Elvises" is no exception. Junior continues to evolve in this book, and we find him becoming softer and more human, despite the bizarre confrontations he gets into. It's a worthy follow-up, and we look forward to the next chapter in his life.


Munster's Case
Hakan Nesser, author
Laurie Thompson, translator
Vintage Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780307946416, $15.00,

Scandinavian authors tend to combine societal questions with dour reasons for crimes to be investigated, and "Munster's Case" is no exception. Detective Munster has served as a sidekick to the now-sidelined Inspector Van Veeteren, who is on leave, choosing instead to spend his time reading and philosophizing in a bookshop he ostensibly is operating. The novels are an award-winning series in Sweden.

This book, as one might expect first published in Sweden, begins with four friends winning some money in the lottery and celebrating their good fortune. However, after a lugubrious dinner, the dead body of one of them is found in his bed, stabbed numerous times, and another seems to be missing. It remains for detective Munster and his team to solve the cases, which become more complicated as the investigation progresses. The murdered man's wife confesses to the deed, but more questions arise when a neighbor also goes missing and is soon found mutilated in a park.

The author seems to concentrate on the psychological aspects of the detective, rather than the perpetrators (at least until the concluding section, which explains it all): the physical toll on the policeman's life, the effect on his family, and the like. The plot builds very slowly and develops in keeping with the detective's character and thought processes. While the solution to the murders is somewhat hackneyed, that fact doesn't detract from the novel's over-all merit, and it is recommended.

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
Elizabeth L. Silver
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385347433, $25.00,

A study of a convicted murderer on death row, as her life is recounted in the final months awaiting her execution, is the subject of this first novel by an author with three college degrees, including one in law. At the same time, it delves into her relationship with her mother, her father, and others who have interacted with her, especially Marlene, the mother of the victim, who is not a particularly sympathetic character.

There is no suspense with regard to the ultimate execution of Noa P. Singleton, this fact is included in the title. Whatever suspense exists derives from the introduction of a possible clemency petition by the mother of the murder victim, a well-known Philadelphia attorney. Who, by the way, initially demanded the death penalty and then supposedly years later approached Noa on behalf of an organization she founded, Mothers Against Death, claiming a change of heart.

Apparently, a major point of the novel is the juxtaposition of Noa and Marlene and their motivations. About the only truly insightful looks into Marlene are in the form of letters to her daughter following her death, and these are really superficial and lack sufficient depth to create either sympathy for the mother or deeper knowledge as to why she has acted as she did. To tell the truth, for this reader the writing was too wordy, and the novel's construction somewhat artificial.

Murphy's Law
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010

Twelve years ago, this novel first appeared and was the beginning of a charming series featuring an Irish immigrant, Molly Murphy, to New York City at the turn of the 20th century. At long last, the first of the ten novels featuring Molly is available in paperback, and it is a welcome addition to one who has read the more recent entries in the series, and now gains additional insight into the beginnings of the relationship between Molly and the Police Captain detective, Dan Sullivan, whom she finally marries in the last book, "Bless the Bride."

In "Murphy's Law," Molly shows all the feisty characteristics which are exhibited in the ensuing chapters of her life, as she progresses finding her way in the New World, and especially her talent for solving mysteries, beginning with her first, the murder of a man on Ellis Island, a crime for which she initially is a suspect. So she has to go about clearing her name instead of settling into life here in the big city and finding a place to live and a job.

It's a good beginning, and apparently the second novel in the series, "Death of Riley," also is now available in paperback, picking up from the point where the introductory tale leaves off, and carrying the reader along in the lives of Molly and Dan. It is good reading and heartily recommended.

Line of Fire
Stephen White
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451418364, $9.99,

In a note the author informs the reader that this is the next-to-the-last novel in the long-running series featuring psychotherapist Alan Gregory. He intends to complete the series on his own terms because of the changing nature of the book industry with number 20. Not many authors reach such a conclusion. Even Ian Rankin had to bring back his popular Rebus protagonist. [The finale comes on August 20, 2013, with the publication of "Compound Fracture."]

And this book definitely sets the stage for that scenario. The novel introduces a new patient, giving Alan some insights not only into that patient, but himself. She also complicates his life in unexpected ways, especially as to Diane, his friend and partner. And as usual, Boulder, CO, plays an important part in the story with brush fires raging and destroying homes. Lastly, his friend, Detective Sam Purdy and he are exposed to unwanted risk as an old secret surfaces.

The novel slowly builds up as the various characters are brought into focus. It is an insightful look at Alan Gregory and provides plenty of factors to consider looking forward to how the series will end. I can't wait to find out. (Just an aside: the author says this is the right time to conclude the Gregory story. Some readers may disagree. But, after all, it's his decision alone.)


The Eagle Catcher
Margaret Coel
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425262740, $15.00,

There have been 16 novels in the Wind River mystery series, but this one was the first and is now available in paperback. It introduces father John O'Malley and Vicki Holden, an Arapaho attorney, who team up to solve murders and other assorted crimes. This debut novel lays the groundwork for the subsequent entries to the series, providing little background for future editions, but the framework around which they evolve.

The plot begins with Father O'Malley discovering the knifed body of the tribal chairman in his tipi on the reservation awaiting the Ethete powwow. His nephew is accused of the murder, but neither the Father nor Vicki believes he did it. And it remains for them to find the real killer and the motive behind the killing.

The series is filled with wonderful tales of Native American history and culture, along with first-rate mysteries. This initial effort is no exception, providing also a look at the bigotry pointed at Indians and the effects on them of poverty, including alcoholism and mistreatment by government officials who were supposed to protect them. Not only is this initial effort recommended, but any and all of the other 15 published so far as well.

As the Crow Flies
Craig Johnson
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143113293, $15.00,

The thrust of this eighth Walt Longmire novel is two-fold. Walt and his sidekick, the "Bear," also known as the Cheyenne Nation, are charged with arranging the wedding of Walt's daughter, a formidable task for the two men. Meanwhile, they witness the death of a young woman, holding her young son, who falls off a cliff to her death (the boy survives). Was it an accident or murder?

The event diverts the attention of the two, while they become involved with the investigation, although Walt is out of his jurisdiction. Complicating matters also is the fact that a new inexperienced tribal police chief is involved, and Walt sort of has to take her by the hand, mentoring her.

While the story is straightforward on both levels, more important is the further insight into Walt's personality, as he confronts the various personages with tact and psychology, especially his headstrong daughter and equally obstinate police chief.


Unnatural Habits
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201233, $24.95,

The long list of Phryne Fisher mysteries revolves around the stylish The Hon. Ms. Fisher and her entourage solving a murder here, another crime there. In this, the 19th in the series, Phryne sets about finding three missing pregnant women and soon discovers other upsetting mysteries to solve: young blonde girls, mostly teenagers, have also gone missing. And then she is confronted with the disappearance of an aspiring young woman reporter who was chasing a story about the missing girls.

The police are stymied, and as usual, it falls to Phryne to solve the various cases. And she goes about it in a pretty straightforward manner, albeit not without some difficulties.

This novel isn't like many of its predecessors, which were lighter in tone, with many amusing asides. "Unnatural Habits" is rather dry compared to them. This observation is not a negative, because the novel is an excellent and well-written mystery, just not as amusing as many of the preceding entries in the series, and it is recommended.

[The book is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN 9781464201257, $14.95]

Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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