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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 3 March 2007 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Arlene's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Betty's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf Brenda's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Dustin's Bookshelf
Emanuel's Bookshelf Franci's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Harold's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Lori's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mayra's Bookshelf South's Bookshelf Sullivan's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

A Dirty Business
Joe Humphrey
DaKarna Publishing
P.O. Box 8242, JAF Station, New York, New York 10116
0978787102 $11.95

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

A Dirty Business, the new debut crime novel by Joe Humphrey, goes down smooth and easy, like a slug of Chivas Regal on the rocks. Kevin Bailey, a young black man recently back from a self-imposed hermitage in the Blue Ridge Mountains, returns home to the color and vibrancy of New York City, broke, with no place to live, and badly in need of a job. Armed with a degree in criminal justice and a kindly referral from a friend in Harlem, Bailey lands a job at Frank Givens' detective agency.

His new boss, swamped with work, throws Bailey a test case that should be cut and dry: a simple assignment from a NYC socialite to dig up dirt on her son's gold-digging prospective fiancee. The client, a pompous blue-haired matron named Selena Eldritch, reluctantly confides in Bailey, whose shabby clothes initially weaken her confidence. Resolved to improve his image and show this woman and his boss that he has what it takes, Bailey digs into the case with gusto.

With a photo of Edward Eldritch and his girlfriend Donna Greenwood in hand, Bailey tails Eldritch on a wild pursuit hours away from Manhattan. After winding through villages and chasing the Hudson north, they arrive in the historic village of Cold Spring, where Eldritch meets a brunette and ducks into a local tavern. Bailey, bold as brass, follows them inside and learns the woman's name is Donna Greenwood. Problem is, she doesn't match the blond in the photo. If the gold-digger isn't Donna Greenwood, who is she?

What appears to be a straightforward case begins to unravel into a tangled web of intrigue and bizarre obsessions. When Bailey finally identifies the blond as Norma Vidon, he discovers she's been missing for two years and the local police have apparently given up on the investigation. Bailey's sense of injustice kicks in, and like a terrier on a bone, he gnaws at it with diligence and purpose, unearthing dead bodies and intriguing red herrings that keep the reader guessing until the end.

Mr. Humphrey writes with a strong sense of place and a consistent voice, with none of the pretentious tools often found in new writers. His style is simple and engaging, and the story moves, whether Bailey is in a fistfight in a parking lot or staking out a suspect and calmly observing the detailed architecture of a building. Following is a sample of Mr. Humphrey's style:

"I missed out on the B&B's inclusive breakfast and was sore about it all morning, but nothing was more aggravated than my stomach, which, at the moment, sounded like a humpback whale splashing around in a puddle."

Mr. Humphrey offers a touch of romance in the appearance of Amelia Helton, a delightful waitress with smooth caramel-colored skin and a ready smile who warms to Bailey and will hopefully play a larger part in the mystery series. This reader will anticipate the second book in the series, and hopes that Mr. Humphrey is writing fast.

Sue Mundy: A Novel of the Civil War
Richard Taylor
University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508-4008
0813124239 $29.95 1-800-839-6855

Ann Allyn Slessman

Written as an account of the Civil War, Sue Mundy, A Novel of the Civil War, is a matrix of history, biographies, emotional outpourings and poetic prose. Our future will surely note that Richard Taylor was a writer who took factual material and romanticized it by his flair for language. Anyone who reads this work realizes they are reading the work of a master writer.

Taylor's main character, Jerome Clarke aka Sue Mundy, began his career as a soldier at age fifteen. While some would think this young man lacking in education due to his young years, Jerome was an avid reader and self-schooled well beyond his tender age. Dubbed Sue Mundy by a Kentuckian journalist due to his young age, lack of facial hair and his flair for clothing, the journalist took liberty with the facts at hand and created a legend of young Clark that more often than not, held little truth. This he did to embarrass the Union leaders. Curious about this journalist's accounts of Clarke and his fellow guerrillas, Jerome often sought out the accounts written by this particular journalist with an avid curiosity. There probably is not a better account of the Civil War that raged in Kentucky and the surrounding states. Taylor's research is thorough and his account filled with tidbits that tease the reader.

How Clarke moved from a confederate soldier into the world of a guerrilla soldier makes for some good reading. The chapters are filled with biographies of the men he served with during these years. Some names are recognizable and some are not. Fact meets fiction in a very interesting and fascinating manner.

There is a love interest as well for Jerome and whether or not he is able to carry through with his intentions in this arena will have to wait until you read the book. Anyone who has an interest in the Civil War, the State of Kentucky or simply wants a book worth the price, Sue Mundy is a book worth the money.

Steven D. Levitt and Steven J. Dubner.
HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
006073132X $25.95

Jason Carney

According to its authors, Steven D. Levitt and Steven J. Dubner, Freakonomics has no unifying theme. The book's motley collection of arguments, they confess, depends on an assumption: by asking the right questions, we can trim the briar from the hedge-maze we call the postmodern world.

Recklessly unguided by appeals to conventional wisdom, Levitt and Dubner ask those questions: "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? What kind of impact did Roe. v. Wade have on violent crime? What do school teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?" (inside flap). After the last page is turned, deciding which is more freakish--the questions or the answers - is not an easy matter. Yet this discursive economic analysis, as eclectic as a parking-lot circus, successully humanizes the postmodern experience.

Levitt and Dubner write, "Morality [. . .] represents the way that people would like the world to work - whereas economics represents how it actually does work" (13). Though they attempt to abstain from moralizing, they do seem to support a number of social policies. For example, by interpreting data regarding the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, Levitt and Dubner argue that the legalization of abortion caused an unprecedented decline in violent crime in the early 90s. In other words, the benefits of a pro-choice policy supercede the realm of personal freedom and impact society as a whole.

Levitt and Dubner never exclusively focus on the validity or invalidity of their politics. They highlight the data - drug-dealer ledgers, Sumo win/loss statistics - as opposed to the implications and applications of their findings. Their arguments are neither forced nor sensational, despite the sensational nature of the questions they pose. Although the authors playfully - if not casually - chat us through their data-analyses, occasionally they pause to consider potential misinterpretations. Levitt and Dubner do not frustrate us by withholding their conclusions until the end of each chapter in some showboat attempt to defer the reader's gratification. They ask their odd questions, give their odd answers, and then draw us through an intellectually rigorous conversation that is both lighthearted in tone and merciless in its self-criticism.

The revelations in Freakonomics intrigue, yet their appeal is not an effect of economic theory or expert language. Levitt and Dubner, undeniably experts themselves, do not go in for expertise: "Experts depend on the fact that you don't have the information they do," they lament. "Armed with information experts can exert a gigantic, if unspoken, leverage: fear" (71).

Freakonomics's accessible language and inviting tone alleviate this type of fear: the helpless anxiety we feel when we confront the world and sigh at its immensity and complexity. Contrary to the authors' claims, their book is unified by a theme: do not be alarmed, Levitt and Dubner seem to say. The world is not as unknowable as we have been led to think.

When Pigs Fly
Bob Sanchez
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595407706 $18.95

Carter Jefferson, Reviewer

Bob Sanchez writes like Carl Hiaasen on speed. You can't call his characters surreal, because they're all too human. They make one hilarious mistake after another, but the flock of vultures trying to steal a million-dollar lottery ticket from Mack Durgin is just menacing enough to keep the reader wondering whether they'll succeed. And Durgin doesn't even know he has the prize they're chasing.

Interrupted in a routine burglary in Massachusetts, a smelly, obese sociopath nicknamed Diet Cola hides the ticket he's just pilfered in a funeral urn, down among the ashes. He figures he can get it back from the old couple's house as soon as he serves a jail term already scheduled.

When he's released, he returns and is about to throttle the elderly owner when two other burglars, helped out by the owner's wife, drive him out of the house. He discovers, however, that the couple has sent the urn, complete with lottery ticket, to their son in Arizona--Mack Durgin. They think it's his duty to dispose of the ashes of his old friend George.

Diet Cola takes off for Arizona after the loot. On the same bus he rides, however, are the men who stopped him from killing Mack's parents. Ace is the brain of the two; Frosty, his younger brother, is expert at hot-wiring cars. Durgin, a widowed, retired but fairly young policeman from Lowell, Massachusetts, knew them back when--he'd arrested them, and also let them go as too stupid to cause a lot of trouble. He thinks the pair has a combined IQ of about eighty, but they're smart enough to want that winning ticket.

Moved to Arizona largely to get warm, Durgin meets charming Calliope Vrattos, who becomes his highly desirable but elusive sidekick as he squirms to avoid trouble from his pursuers. The treasure hunters come to include yet another pair--Zippy, a murderous eccentric who thinks Durgin wants his girl, and Elvis Hornacre, who impersonates the real Elvis and thinks Calliope is his dream come true. All Durgin wants is to find a suitable spot to deposit the ashes of his friend George, with whom he chats when things get too confused for him to understand.

One crazy incident follows another at breakneck speed, while Sanchez's comic prose chases after them. Alone with Elvis after a particularly harrowing disaster, Diet Cola says to him: "You're a homicidal maniac. And I mean that in a good way."

And then there's Poindexter, a pet javelina ousted from his owner's house and looking for human companions to feed him Brussells sprouts. The reader knows he'll fly, but when?

Sanchez worked in the Lowell area as a technical writer until he retired recently to New Mexico. His published works include short stories, essays, and book reviews. Only a few novels have made me laugh out loud, but this is one of them. Readers won't put this book down, because Bob Sanchez has a truly twisted mind. And I mean that in a good way.

Mama Fela's Girls
Ana Baca
University of New Mexico Press
1601 Randolph Rd. SE Suite 200 S. Albuquerque, NM 87106
0826340237 $24.95

Connie Gotsch, Reviewer

As Ana Baca's 'Mama Fela's Girls' opens, the Romeros have lived for generations in Santa Lucia, a dusty little town in New Mexico on Route 66. Now, in the middle of the Great Depression, the aging Mama Fela has become the family matriarch.

With the sturdy black umbrella that protects her from the sun, her no nonsense clothes, and impeccable manners, she rules the women of the Romero clan, daughter Cita, granddaughter Cipriana, and daughter-in-law Graciela. Fela even keeps her husband, son, and son-in-law in their places when she has to, with a wink, a sigh, a sharp look, or a very subtle hint. But usually, she lets the men take care of themselves. She's too busy to worry about them. At six, Cipriana must learn how to behave properly with elders, subordinates, and peers. Mama decides to show her how, since Cipriana's mother, Graciela,. is often away teaching school. Grandmother and granddaughter adore each other, so the lessons are given and accepted willingly.

Author Baca tells the story of 'Mama Fela's Girls' through Cipriana's eyes. As the child grows up learning that a proper lady keeps hair groomed by licking her fingers and smoothing stray strands off her forehead; says 'yes' to an offer by saying 'no' first; and puts her husband and children before herself, Cipriana watches her mother support the family when Cipriaina's father can't keep a job.

Cipriana also observes her lively Aunt Cita plunge into caring for neighbors and nieces and nephews, all the while trying to figure out out to escape Santa Lucia, and make a life for herself in Albuquerque as an artist. When Cipriana has a chance to stand up and read a poem in school, her beloved Papa, Mama Fela's husband, gives her the courage to try performing. Mama Fela provides the material for a special dress to wear for the occasion.

In 'Mama Fela's Girls,' Ana Baca has created a detailed portrait of life in a Hispanic family in 1934. Whether Cipriana plans to make sure she gets to school on time the first day by sleeping in the new dress Mama Fela has made for her, or helps her father fry sausages, Baca catches the joy, tension, comedy, and pathos of everyday living.

As Cipriana goes to carnivals and Shirley Temple movies, Baca depicts loving aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents both protecting and exposing her to the world. Even silly boy cousins add their support in their own way, and there is always a girl cousin around to climb a tree with.

The author details the changes Route 66 slowly brings to towns like Santa Lucia Graciela, Cita, and Cipriana embrace the modern ideas they encounter. Mama Fela does not, despite tragic results for her. Other sad times come, too. Though they've lived in New Mexico probably since the 17th or 18th centuries, Cipriana's family must work for the wealthy white landowners, who arrived barely a hundred years earlier.

Cita cleans and cooks for a lady who can be nice sometimes, while at other times, she can be a condescending nuisance. Still when Cita goes to her house to help her aunt cater a party, the little girl sees a way of doing things she has not encountered before. The experience adds to her maturity.

'Mama Fela's Girls,' offers a glimpse of how people lived just before the middle of the last century in parts of New Mexico, how they conducted themselves, and how they transmitted their values and culture to the next generation. At the same time, the story speaks to the universal act of just being human during any historical period. What child doesn't fear standing up to recite in school? Who has not tolerated the teasing of a boy cousin? Who has not had a relative they look up to, and who finds them wonderful?

'Mama Fela's Girls' is a terrific read. It's funny, tender, tragic, and joyful, just like life in any place during any age.

Letters to Doubting Thomas: A Case for the Existence of God
C. Stephen Layman
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
019530814X $26.00 1-800-451-7556

David Roemer, Reviewer

Like most American intellectuals, Professor Layman doesn't have a rational concept of God and doesn't understand the proof of God's existence. I feel lucky because I was not educated by American intellectuals but by the Roman Catholic Church at a college it ran in New York City in the early 1960s. I'll be comparing his ideas about God with those of Karen Armstrong (Armstrong, A History of God).

They both remind me of a story Howard Gardner, famous for his work on the different kinds of intelligence, told at a conference of educators I once attended. One day his daughter, frustrated to the point of tears, complained to him about the difficulty she was having understanding a college course she was taking in physics. Describing himself as the perfect father, he related how he listened patiently while she spoke, praised her industriousness, and tactfully suggested that she discuss the matter with her physics teacher. His daughter said, "You don't get it, Dad. I get hundreds on all my tests."

His point was that students succeed by repeating on tests exactly what the teacher said in the classroom, regardless of whether or not they understand what they were taught. The more successful students become professors themselves and pass on their so-called knowledge to succeeding generations. I'll begin my critique of Layman's book is with the following quote:

Just as a contingent truth is true but might have been false, so a contingent being is one that does exist but might not have. And suppose we claim, with regard to any contingent being, that it exists, e.g.,"I (Zach) exist" or "You (Thomas) exist." Such propositions are contingent truths, not necessary ones. More generally, we can state the relationship between contingent beings and contingent truths as follows: A being is contingent if (and only if) every proposition affirming its existence is a contingent truth. (p. 85)

Not in the above quote, nor anywhere else in the book, does he say that humans are finite beings and that God is an infinite being. I agree that humans are contingent beings, but this is not as clear and unmistakably true as the proposition that humans are finite beings: Zach exists and Thomas exists, but Zach is not Thomas and Thomas is not Zach. Zach and Thomas are different beings, that is, finite beings. God is a being that is not finite. A finite being needs a cause outside of itself whereas an infinite being can be the reason for its own existence. Since the universe would be unintelligible if every being needed a cause, there must be at least one infinite being. QED.

Like Layman, Armstrong does not understand the concept of the infinity of God. She recalls memorizing, at the age of eight, the following question and answer:

"What is God?": "God is the Supreme Spirit, Who alone exists of Himself and is infinite in all perfections." (p. xvii of A History of God)

Ms. Armstrong's recollections about what she was taught is quite accurate. The second of the 499 points of the Baltimore Catechism is

2. Who is God?
God is the Supreme Being, infinitely perfect, who made all things and keeps them in existence.
In him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

Ms. Armstrong's comment on this is:

Not surprisingly, it meant little to me, and I am bound to say that it still leaves me cold. It has always seemed a singularly arid, pompous and arrogant definition. Since writing this book, however, I have come to believe that it is also incorrect. (p. xvii of A History of God)

Layman jumps from his underdeveloped idea that man is contingent to his necessarily underdeveloped idea that God is necessary. This is Layman's "theistic hypothesis":

(1) There is exactly one entity that is (2) perfectly morally good and (3) almighty and that (4) exists of necessity. (p. 12)

This book is written in the form of a letter to an imaginary Thomas (natch), who doubts God's existence. Layman (Zach) expatiates upon these four points in letters to Thomas. He supports points (1) and (2) by referring to revelation, but his explanations of points (3) and (4) are hopelessly circular. "Almighty" means "maximal power" and "exists of necessity" means "cannot fail to exist under any possible circumstances." In short, he fails to explain that the infinity of God is a reference to the finitude of man.

Professor Layman rejects the proof of God's existence I outlined above:

Many people become disappointed with philosophy because they demand proofs. By a "proof" I mean an argument with these two features: (1) Its premises are acceptable to all rational people, and (2) its conclusion follows logically from its premises. Proofs in this sense are rare or nonexistent in philosophy. The defense of virtually any major philosophical position will involved controversial premises at some point, i.e., premises not acceptable to all rational people. (p. 1)

Professor Layman uses another type of argument:

In an argument-to-the-best-explanation, there is a description of a phenomena or fact to be explained. The argument proceeds by giving reasons for supposing that one hypothesis explains the phenomenon better than rival hypotheses do. (p. 3)

Concerning the proof of God's existence, Ms. Arstrong says:

The argument that we are "contingent" or "defective" beings proves nothing, since there could always be an explanation that is ultimate but not supernatural. (p. 379 of A History of God)

Both are butting heads with the Roman Catholic Church and St. Paul:

22. Can we know by our natural reason that there is a God?
We can know by our natural reason that there is a God, for natural reason tells us that the world we see about us could have been made only by a self-existing Being, all-wise and almighty.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice; because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it unto them. (Romans 1:18-19)

The use of the word "know" and the phrase "wrath of God" constitutes a criticism of the character of naturalists, atheists, and agnostics. Armstrong thinks God's existence is only a possible explanation for the existence of man and not a good one at that. Layman says it's the best explanation without criticizing those who disagree.

Explanations play a role in our daily lives and are part of common sense and reason. Scientists propose theories that explain observations, and juries render verdicts that explain the evidence. We also come across them in our relations with other people: "Lucy, you have some splaining to do."

In my opinion, the proof of God's existence is not an explanation, it is logical deduction from the fact that finite beings exist. The proof doesn't say what man is or what the direct cause of man is. The proof only says that there is an infinite being that causes all finite beings. Nor does the proof try to explain what would motivate an infinite being to create finite beings. Rejecting the "supernatural explanation" for man and preferring a "natural explanation" does not refute the proof because a "natural explanation" would only include finite beings.

One of Layman's arguments is that the "theistic hypothesis" gives a better explanation for the fact than humans have free will than naturalism, the philosphy that there is no supernatural being. Layman begins his argument by attempting to define free will:

Free will is traditionally characterized as the power to do otherwise than one in fact does. Let's say you recently voted in a meeting by raising your right arm. If you performed this action freely, then you had the power to do otherwise, to refrain from raising your right arm. If you have free will, then when you face a decision between incompatible courses of action (such as speaking and refraining from speaking), although you cannot take more than one of them, each of them is within your power. Another way to put it: If you have free will, then when you are confronted with mutually exclusive courses of action, which one you take is genuinely up to you. (p. 139)

All he is saying here is that free will is free will. It is another example of circular reasoning. Undaunted by or unaware of his inability to define free will, he goes on to discuss related concepts at great length: mechanism, determinism, compatibilism, and incompatibilism. I agree, however, with the following statement he makes about naturalists:

Many naturalists deny free will altogether because they see it as incompatible with a world governed by natural law. (p. 162)

I think I can do a better job than Layman of explaining why naturalists deny humans beings have free will. A "world governed by natural law" is a world in which there are no persons exercising their freedom. All Layman is saying is that naturalists deny free will because they don't think there is such a thing.

People who deny humans have free will in philosophical arguments act as if they had free will in the day-to-day living of their lives. They have the same experience we all have of existing, being aware of our existence, and acting through time. If they do something wrong they feel guilty, apologize, and promise not to do it again. If they work hard on a project for a few hours or a few days, they take pride in what they did. Their denial of free will is not only irrational, it raises questions about their sincerity and motives.

We can comprehend ourselves and recognize that we are finite beings, but we cannot otherwise define ourselves since we cannot define free will. This leads rational philosphers to say man is an indefinabilty or an embodied sprit, or that man possesses a spiritual soul as well as a body. Thomas Aqinas's formulation was that man is a compostion of two incompelete beings: a material incomplete being and an immaterial incomplete being that are metaphysically combined to form one being.

By denying free will, naturalists are really admitting, however perversely, that they agree with the logic of the proof of God's existence: If humans have free will, then they are finite beings. If finite beings exist, then an infinite being exists. If their motive for denying free will is not to refute the proof of God's existence, what is it?

I did not invent the proof of God's existence which is sometimes called the "cosmological argument." It can be found, for example, in the Baltimore Catechism:

10. What do we mean when we say that God is self-existing?

When we say that God is self-existing we mean that He does not owe His existence to any other being.

I am who am. (Exodus 3:14)

While the answer to the question is as vauge and circular as Layman's "theistic hypothesis," the use of Exodus 3.14 as a proof-text shows the authors understand the proof, which is based on Aquinas's analysis of finite beings. According to Aquinas, a finite being has two principles operating within it: an essence and an existence. To quote from the glossary of a textbook on metaphysics (N. Clarke, One and the Many):

Essence = that in a being which makes it to be what it is, this being and not some other.

Existence = that is a being which makes it a real being.

An infinite being can be thought of as a being which does not have a separate essence and existence. In other words, an infinite being's essence is the same as its existence. Its essence is to exist. Just as God told Moses.

The List
Tara Ison
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
0743294149 $23.00 1-800-223-2336

Dawn M. Papuga

Folk wisdom about love proclaims that opposites, like magnets, attract. Tara Ison's second novel, The List, depicts the obstacles and darkly comic circumstances of two opposites trying repeatedly to tear themselves apart. Isabel, a gifted heart surgeon about to begin her residency, and Al, a video store clerk and director whose only film turned into a cult-classic, are involved in a toxic relationship where neither of them is capable of breaking the cycle of enabling the other's destructive behavior. In a vain attempt to bring her chaotic personal life into the kind of black and white order her career contains, Isabel and Al create a list of things they always talked about doing together but never got around to, and then proceed to ceremoniously check the activities—a sunset walk on the beach, steamed clams on the Santa Monica Pier—off in order to bring closure to their dysfunctional relationship. But like their every attempt to smooth things over, eventually things take a wrong turn with their final plan. They persist with The List (sometimes with the begrudging notion of completion rather than enjoyment) and destroy a little bit of each other with every item they cross off.

Unlike in many relationship crisis novels, Ison manages to balance strong plot development with an insightful examination of the emotional and psychological roller coaster that Al and Isabel experience in The List. The narrative voices of both main characters are clearly distinguished as each chapter shifts between their points of view, and decisions that might otherwise seem haphazard are justified as the story is not just told, but experienced through the eyes of both Al and Isabel. The strength of this novel is not in the main characters alone, though. Because of the depth of the minor cast of this novel the audience is able to experience the relationship as intimately as Isabel and Al, and at the same time clearly see how their behavior is comically destructive through the eyes of family and friends.

Anyone who has ever done something seemingly out of character, irrational, or sacrificial because of love will immediately recognize and appreciate the complexity of The List. Emotions and rationalizations don't fit into any neat little boxes (though, Al and Isabel would argue that their lives can be seen in terms of physiology and classic film), and Ison's treatment of the down-spiral of a relationship is unapologetic and gritty. In short, it's real. Readers will certainly find the characters conflicted, but may be surprised by their own shifting allegiances between Al and Isabel, what is healthy and unhealthy, and whether or not they should stay together in the end.

The List is a captivating, nearly voyeuristic look at the reality of a contemporary conflict in love—to stay with a partner for the sake of comfort and the looming ticking of a biological clock and career, or to enter into the frightening world of independence and being single. The journey blends dark humor, vulnerable intimacy, and snapshots of the highs and lows that virtually anyone in the dating world can, perhaps disconcertingly, recognize. With her sharp wit, honesty about love, humor about dysfunction, and her gift for unforgettable characters, Tara Ison spins an addictive novel that leaves the Al or Isabel in us wanting more.

The Book of Dave
Will Self
Bloomsbury USA
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
1596911239 $24.95

Michael Frechette

In A Vision, perhaps Yeats' most difficult text, he describes a complex system of gyres that represents his conception of human history as cyclical, a conception first alluded to in his famous poem "The Second Coming": "Turning and turning in the widening gyre." For Yeats, Christianity's massive decline in his own lifetime marked the beginning of a new turn in the historical cycle and created a space for the advent of a new historical epoch. Will Self's most recent literary endeavor, The Book of Dave, offers a similar conception of human history and actually envisages for the reader what this new epoch might be. It utilizes Yeats' vision to buttress its own similar claim that human civilizations rise and fall in cycles, and that each new civilization contains the same basic elements of the one before it – class warfare, oppression, and religious fanaticism, to name but a few.

The first chapter begins over 500 years in the future after a flood in the early twenty-first century has apparently turned England into an archipelago. Human society, while still complex with burgeoning urban centers, has nonetheless been reduced to a more primitive state, devoid of the type of technological sophistication that has come to define the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Institutionalized religion governs all aspects of human behavior, a religion that has been founded upon the ranting of the book's main character, Dave Rudman. Dave is a cab driver in contemporary London, and his story comprises half of the novel's tale. The chapters alternate back and forth between the two settings, challenging the reader with the task of juggling two separate plot lines. In modern-day England, we learn that Dave's wife Michelle has ditched their loveless, abusive marriage for another man, and that Dave struggles, albeit unsuccessfully, to maintain some semblance of a relationship with his son, Carl. In some ways, Dave is archetypal, a dim-witted figure with limited self-understanding who is besieged by the pace, complexities, and uncertainties of modern life. His domestic dysfunction is symptomatic of his time and place, and in this way, Dave is a character easily recognized by any reader.

Soon after the dissolution of his marriage, Dave has a psychological breakdown and decides to record a religious creed based on his own experience, something to keep people "in line," some "fatherly advice" for his son Carl (345, 346). What the reader soon discovers is that Dave's book has physically withstood the test of time and is being used as religious doctrine by the futuristic society of the other half of the novel. In his book, Dave outlines some basic principles for living inspired by his failed marriage and generally angry disposition – that men and women should live separately, that women should remain subject to men's dominance and abuse, and that children should split their time evenly between mummies and daddies. In the future of 523 AD (After Dave), Dave Rudman is a deity whose principles are rigidly enforced by the priestly class in power. These priests have instituted what Dave in his book calls the Breakup, resulting in a world where the sexes are actually forced to live apart. And at mid-week, children observe the Changeover where they must leave their daddies to spend the rest of the week with their mummies.

Obviously, watching a future society adopt as religious creed what contemporary society considers social dysfunction is both humorous and satirical. It is also laughable to the reader to hear certain words and phrases from the twenty-first century used in the context of a futuristic society. For instance, the time of creation is referred to simply as the MadeInChina, clearly the label stamped on the scraps of twenty-first century rubbish found near the shores of future England. The people of Ham, an island of the archipelago where much of the action takes place, refer to these scraps as Daveworks and string them into necklaces that they wear like rosaries under their clothes. At the same time, the very idea that future civilization has religiously embraced the social ills of contemporary London serves as a reality check to the modern reader that human history is circular, not progressive. When Dave first meets his wife Michelle and is escorting her in his cab through the web of London streets, he thinks, "Feeling the city wheel about the cab – a widening gyre of miles and years – Dave thought, I'm never going to be this connected to anything ever again…I'm falling"(110). Such language clearly evokes Yeats' vision of human history. Not only is the center soon to fall out of Dave's life, but also the impending natural disaster will reset human civilization back to zero and allow for a future society to rebuild it. In the particular case of this novel, the social ills of the past become the social objectives of the future, implying that future civilization will make the same mistakes and suffer the same consequences as our own contemporary society.

The novel's satire certainly rings true, but Self does not offer anything terribly new or original to Yeats' century-old vision. In a hundred years, has much changed if we're still waiting for the turn of the tide, the great event that is going to redefine human civilization and inaugurate a new historical era? Such a question forces the reader to wonder if Self is preoccupied with a historical conception that is outdated and untrue. Self cannot prove that the novel's vision of history is reality, but can only imagine a potential scenario in which such a conception of human history might actually be the case.

In any event, the novel is a pleasure to read, and the language soars in many places. The writing is smart, crisp, and eloquent. At first, the chapters concerning the England of the future are difficult to digest as Self has invented a new dialect for this society along with a vocabulary that has evidently evolved over the course of time. Fortunately, Self provides a glossary at the end of the novel in the fashion of A Clockwork Orange, and after the first chapter, the novel as a whole becomes easier reading. The plot is moderately-paced for most of the book, and initially, the thrill of envisioning Self's conception of futuristic England is absorptive for the reader. However, the novelty of this imagined world wears off in time, leaving the reader much more engaged with the plight of Dave Rudman in contemporary London. Nevertheless, each plot line develops speed and anticipation towards the end, making the novel much more gripping altogether as the reader approaches the final chapters. All in all, Self should be praised for attempting such an ambitious project with a mixture of humor and seriousness. It in no way overshadows what Yeats accomplished in the previous century, but it is a well-written, noteworthy piece of fiction that makes one reconsider the contemporary assumption about human progress.

The Frugal Book Promoter (How to Do What Your Publisher Won't)
Carolyn Howard Johnson
Star Publish LLC
P.O. Box 20664, Sun Valley, NV 89433
193299310X $17.95

Ian Middleton, Reviewer

The Author's promotional bible. Always keep it close it times of need.

What can I say about this book that hundreds of other authors haven't? As a writer and self-publisher, the onus has always been on me to promote my own books; a task I've always found extremely difficult and laborious. I'm a writer and photographer, not a sales and marketing expert. I hate feeling like I'm talking to someone just to sell them something, or boast about my fantastic book. I always imagine them thinking, "Of course you would say it's good, you wrote it!" And like most writers, I want to write, not be a salesman.

But Carolyn Howard Johnson has shown me a whole new way to not only promote, but make it fun and tie it in with the thing you are passionate about: writing!

The Frugal Book Promoter shows us how you need to brand yourself as an author, and publicize yourself as much as your work. You don't have to boast about your work, just simply let people know it's there. If your book is good, others will boast about it for you. Exposure is the word Carolyn uses often. She teaches us that the trick is to simply brand yourself as an author and let people know who you are, and what you write. Carolyn shows us a prolific amount of ways to do this, from writing articles for free to blogging, joining discussions groups, writing book reviews and so much more. It's so simple, and in most cases completely free. I often hated the thought of writing articles for free, but the book emphasizes that although you may write for free, the tagline at the end could well result in book sales, so effectively you are likely to get paid indirectly. Think about it, these publications wouldn't have paid you anyway, and you would have to pay for advertising, so effectively you are working for your advertising. And of course you are writing, which is what a writer wants to be doing.

This is just one example of the priceless advice offered in the Frugal Book Promoter. This book is an absolute treasure chest of useful information, and not only inspires you to get up off your backside and start promoting, but is also packed full of useful websites for you to get started. I've committed the ultimate sin with this book by folding over numerous page corners (something I never do with a book) to bookmark all the useful reference points. The websites listed here, often lead on to other useful sites.

I'd always dreamed of the day when I would snag a major publisher so they could do all the promotion for me, but the Frugal Book Promoter has taught me that even with a major publisher, the onus will still be on me to promote my books; after all, ultimately the author cares more about the book than the publisher. So now I plan to forget about that and march best foot forward into a new world of endless promotional opportunities that this book brings.

If you are an author then this is one book you cannot afford to be without. Written with Carolyn's free-flowing and easy prose, the Frugal Book Promoter stands out head first above the rest and is the sort of book that you will always want to refer back to. I don't know how I ever survived without it.

Text: Ur—The New Book of Masks
Forrest Aguirre, editor
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
1933293209, $29.95 (hc) 193329339X, $15.95 (pb)

Kristina Marie Darling

Featuring such award winning writers as Brian Evenson, Lance Olsen, Rikki Ducornet, and Terese Svoboda, Forrest Aguirre's anthology Text: Ur – The New Book of Masks includes both experimental and more traditional fiction, all of which is imaginative, quirky, and wonderfully surreal. Short stories and flash fiction in this anthology depict such diverse subjects as the strange worlds that lurk within libraries, children built from parchment and twigs, and evil dictators. These pieces are similar in their match-up of form and content, often using the shape of the narrative, sentence structure, and other formal devices to convey the story to readers.

Toiya Kristen Finley's "The Avatar of Background Noise," which portrays the libraries of people's thoughts and daydreams as well as the scholars who research there, exemplifies this match-up of form and content. Told from the point of view of one of these scholars, Endnoter, the narrative is often interrupted by pages from the manuscripts of the author's thoughts and musings, simultaneously explaining and complicating the main story. For example, as Endnoter and his crew sift through the thoughts of an author who is writing fantasy novels, the narrative is interrupted by one of her thoughts: "Fantasy novels set in Ratasharia sell very well, and now I'm going to be writing a ton of them. They will 'mimic reality'" (35). The narrative itself is set in Ratasharia and mimics the reality of university scholars. Notes like this one create ironic twists to Finley's story. Other stories (e.g. Tom Miller's "The Fifth Tale: When the Devil Met Baldrick Beckenbauer" and Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold's "Incipit") use similar formal devices, such as footnotes and text boxes, to augment their stories. Each writer gracefully weaves together multiple strands of narrative.

The collection is self-consciously experimental, but it also features more traditional work. Nadia Gregor's "Faure, Envenomed, Dictates," for instance, is the tale of an attempted assassination of an evil dictator that employs other formal devices, like sentence structure and repetition, to create a narrative style that mirrors the content of the story. Constructed mainly of declarative sentences, the narrator's tone is formal, reflecting the order and militarism of the dictatorship that he describes. The repetition of character names and the absence of contractions add to this staunch, military quality, which contrasts nicely with the story's humor.

Text: Ur is diverse, fun, and well-crafted. A rich introduction to these innovative authors, it is filled with inventive, audacious, and intelligent work. Anyone looking for a compilation of high-quality fiction will enjoy this book.

Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage
Cheryl Dickow
Bezalel Books
Waterford, MI
0979225809 $8.99

Lisa M. Hendey, Reviewer

Beth Gantry, Liz, Elizabeth…the main character of Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage is many things to many people. What seems unclear in the opening pages of this debut novel from established non-fiction author Cheryl Dickow is how Elizabeth will be able to reconcile her roles as wife, mother and teacher with the woman she feels she has always wanted to become.

In the opening pages of this engrossing story, we meet Elizabeth and depart with her on the journey of a lifetime: her solo trip to Israel. She has dreamed of this pilgrimage for many years, but in the end it appears to be her discontent with her life that drives her to finally embark on her voyage. Beth has given her life to serving others and has come to feel only disappointment and resentment in return for her loving efforts. Her relationship with her husband Luke is strained to the point of near divorce. She feels a growing gulf between herself and her teenage children, the oldest of whom has flown the coop for college. Even her spiritual life seems dry and distant.

Beth looks at her journey to Israel as an opportunity to regain the life she feels she has missed out on in all of her efforts to care for others. "Her ache for what life hadn't yet held was becoming almost unbearable at times." Leaving her children in the care of her very driven and increasingly distant husband, Beth throws herself into her travel. Her desire is not to have the typical tourist experience of the Holy Land. Rather, she arranges for apartment housing in hopes of truly experiencing the traditions of the Jewish people. After having spent years studying the Jewish culture, "Elizabeth wanted to know, up close and personal, what is was like to live as a 'chosen one'."

Elizabeth's logistical efforts are rewarded immediately when she meets the friendly neighbors at her Jerusalem accommodations. Meir and Ayala Goldfarb, along with their adult children David and Miriam, immediately embrace Elizabeth as a part of their family's Sabbath celebrations and she finds herself invited to dine and worship with them.

Just as the reader is joining Elizabeth in settling in to her wonderful scenario, unexpected tragedy strikes. Beth, at the urging of a very concerned Luke, contemplates cutting her trip short but eventually decides to remain in Jerusalem. The ensuing events draw her even more closely into the Jewish rituals and traditions she has longed to experience. Ultimately, through her wonderful relationship with the Goldfarb family, she meets Sipporah and Rachel, who will become her guides. Their tutelage is both historical and spiritual – embracing their companionship Elizabeth ultimately reconnects with her own personal spirituality. A fire is lit within her as she reconnects with God with a new intensity.

Interspersed throughout the accounts of Elizabeth's trip, we find Luke experiencing his own journey of sorts. As he steps in for the role his wife has played within the family, he begins to understand her perspective and his part in the damage that has occurred in their relationship. Like Beth, he finds himself longing for a deeper and more convicted connection with God. But has his marriage suffered too greatly to be repaired? The closing chapters of this lovingly crafted novel bring a tender response to this dilemma.

Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage is not the typical inspirational novel. Part travelogue, part history lesson, part Bible study, this book blends a wonderful story with empathetic characters. Author Cheryl Dickow's research and attention to detail are apparent in this smartly written tale. Dickow's strengths lie in both character development and in educating the reader without taking on an overly dogmatic tone. In reading this novel, I learned a tremendous amount about Jewish culture and its relevance to the roots of Christianity. The close connection I felt with several of the characters in this book, along with my admiration for the wisdom and spiritual reflections of author Cheryl Dickow, leave me hoping that we will be treated to a sequel to Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage.

Give Me Liberty
L. M. Elliott. Nielsen
Harper Collins Children's Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
0060744219 $16.99 1-800-242-7737

Vicki Talley McCollum

Nathaniel Dunn, an 11-year-old boy, arrives in America to find a New World filled with hardship and loss. His mother dies of ship fever, and his father abandons him, selling himself and Nathaniel into indentured service to pay their passage. On a Virginia plantation where he serves, Nathaniel gains a friend—Moses, an African slave. Moses looks after Nathaniel, and Nathaniel teaches Moses the alphabet. The plantation master declares bankruptcy and sells everything, separating Nathaniel and Moses. A blacksmith buys Nathaniel's contract at auction, then loses his temper and beats Nathaniel. Basil Wilkinson, a school teacher, takes pity on Nathaniel, and sells valuable books to scrape together enough money to outbid the blacksmith for Nathaniel's contract. In return, Nathaniel offers Basil his grandfather's German flute, but Basil teaches him to play it. Nathaniel goes to Williamsburg to live with Basil. He begins an apprenticeship to a Williamsburg carriage house where he meets Ben, a young idealist. Conflict develops quickly and the reader roots for Nathaniel and his friends as the carriage shop becomes caught up in opposing Loyalist and Patriot sympathies. "

An historical novel written for grades four through middle school, "Give Me Liberty" is an excellent supplement to social studies curriculum, adding rich detail of daily life in Colonial America. Elliott captures the struggle of the era through her portrayal of common people living out their lives in a period of social upheaval. Her characters display a strong sense of loyalty mixed with desire for self-determination. Nathaniel questions whether the revolution fueled by Patrick Henry's words, "Give me liberty or give me death," will apply to slaves like Moses: "If Moses is fighting for the British to secure his liberty, something wasn't right with the patriot cause."

Elliott's style is fun to read and filled with delightful descriptions such as this of Basil: "He was an angular, older man, all elbows and knees it seemed, like a grasshopper…., and his eyebrows were hairy and a bit wild, sticking almost straight up." Readers who've had the pleasure to know Latin teachers can easily imagine Basil's mixture of humility and wit. As an added bonus, Elliott includes period English lyrics "borrowed" by the Colonist's and reworded as Patriot songs.

In a touch of irony, Ben, a zealot—but a poor-student—is wounded before he's called to fight. Through Basil, he learns the value of words to support the cause; while Nathaniel—a good student—decides to fight alongside Basil as Patriots. Ben says to Nathaniel: "You're stronger than you think, Nat; I've learned that steady men make better leaders."

"Give Me Liberty" raises important issues for classroom and home school discussions. Neighbors, good and honest people, find themselves on opposing sides of the Revolutionary War; and many question the morality of slavery's continued existence in colonies fighting for liberty. Guided by Basil, Nathaniel and Ben grow in wisdom and character, each adopting for himself Thomas Jefferson's vision of the inherent "nobility of common man." In addition to "Give Me Liberty," L. M. Elliott has written two Young Adult historical novels, "Annie, Between the States," and "Under a War-Torn Sky."

Dying To Call You: A Dead End Job Mystery
Elaine Viets
Signet New American Library
375 Hudson Street New York NY 10014
0451213327 $6.50

Sharame Vodraska

A very funny and sparkling mystery. The main character Helen Hawthorne, working as a telemarketer, comes into her own in this installment. The whole series is fabulous and if you have never read any of the books in this series, this would be a good place to start. Helen says and does many of the things that some of us only think of doing. She is very headstrong and adventurous. No matter what job she finds herself working she always finds time for some part time detective work in the interest of friends and strangers alike. So if you like mysteries and find yourself wishing you could do something about your job I am sure that you will enjoy Elaine Viets' book Dying to Call You. And once you have read one of her books you will definitely want more, so check out the whole Dead End Job Series.

Arlene's Bookshelf

Stellium in Scorpio
Andrews and Austin
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
1933110651, $15.95

Teague Richfield, a screenwriter from Los Angeles, is on her way to the Desert Star Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and what she hopes will be a fortuitous and sizzling reunion with Callie Rivers. However, Callie, the beautiful astrologer and psychic, has other pressing concerns on her mind. There are strange happenings occurring at the Desert Star. A Vegas showgirl has made "the list," nefarious types have infiltrated the ranks of theater performers and staff, and Callie just has that feeling that things are just going to get worse.

Appealing lead characters that possess wit and intelligence drive this novel. The dialogue is smart, humorous, and realistically expressed. The authors' experience with professional screenwriting is most evident in the conversational instances. These spoken sequences successfully drive the plot forward. Dialogue is too often given short shrift by some writers. Perhaps they fail to see the deep and irrefutable connection between that and character development. Andrews & Austin recognize that connection and move easily from the humorous and wry comments to the more sobering and thoughtful, all the while revealing the different layers of their characters. Sharp and witty banter is difficult to achieve without becoming annoyingly obvious and contrived. This novel displays a well-crafted technique and an innate ability to succeed in this goal.

Timing is an important factor when trying to create that suspension of disbelief so vital to a credible storyline. This novel is fast-paced and transitions quite easily without confusing the reader or leaving any unanswered questions within the plot. Chapter endings flow easily into the next and create that necessary suspense and anticipation so essential with this particular genre. Stellium in Scorpio is a novel that can be easily read in one sitting, yet there is substance here and noticeably clever storytelling.

There are countless mysteries out there from which to select and spend that hard-earned dollar. If the reader is looking for a well-written, intelligent, and thoroughly enjoyable one, Stellium in Scorpio is for you. Richfield and Rivers make a wonderful couple who experience the various ups and downs of life with a sense of humor, affection, patience…and an astrology chart.

When Dreams Tremble
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
1933110643, $15.95

Radclyffe, one of today's most prolific authors of the lesbian Romance genre, has written her twenty-fifth book, a stand-alone novel entitled When Dreams Tremble. It is bound to satisfy her legion of fans, and for those who have yet to experience her writing, this is perhaps, a good opportunity to discover this best-selling writer.

The setting is the Lake George area in New York. Successful Manhattan corporate lawyer, Leslie Harris, has returned to her family's upstate lakeside resort after receiving some unsettling health-related news. Also, in the area is Dr. Devon Weber, the former town bad girl, who went to high school with Leslie and with whom she shares a rather secretive past. Devon is now an environmental biologist conducting some research of the lake. When unexpectedly asked by Leslie's mother to pick up her daughter at the train station, Devon agrees. Fifteen years have passed when last they were together so it is with a sense of anticipation and a degree of trepidation that Dev finds herself waiting in the train station parking lot. After all, the last words she heard Leslie say that calamitous night hurt Dev as nothing ever had or would. "…it was a joke! I was just fooling with her. She doesn't mean anything to me. She's nobody!" (p. 36).

There are several basic questions this reviewer considers when evaluating a book. How well the author achieves the answers determines the quality of expression and the level of craft. Does Radclyffe show rather than tell her story? As in other works by the author, When Dreams Tremble manages to create a setting so vibrant and distinct that it transports the reader to that time and place. Does the introduction grab the reader? The opening scenes clearly delineate the persona of Leslie, at least the façade she puts forth in the world. The courtroom action and aftermath engage the reader from the outset creating that anticipation needed to keep turning the pages. Are there basic truths to be found within the chapters? Radclyffe writes about the causes and effects of disappointment, heartbreak, and regret, while at the same time exploring, through convincing characterization, the implications and ramifications of culpability, remorse, and contrition.

As for the romance genre, When Dreams Tremble is a notable example of the genre and well worth the reader's time. The use of the flashback technique expands the plot development giving it that story within a story aspect. The usual Radclyffe fireworks take more than the usual time to ignite; however, this reviewer found it to be a surprising and refreshing departure from past works. When Dreams Tremble is a commendable addition to the Romance genre.

Night Vision
Ellen Hart
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312349440, $24.95

Night Vision by Ellen Hart is another engaging entry in the Jane Lawless mystery series. This 14th novel featuring the amiable restaurateur and amateur sleuth is every bit as inventive and entertaining as readers have come to expect from this superior mystery author.

An old friend of Jane's has agreed to star in Cordelia Thorn's latest Allen Grimby Repertory Theater production, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Joanna Kasimir has achieved fame, fortune, and Hollywood movie star status, but she has also paid a price for rising to the top of the entertainment business. Almost ten years ago, she sent her ex-husband, Gordon Luberman, to prison for stalking her. As she is about to leave for her trip to Minnesota, she receives a harrowing reminder of his nefarious harassment, a bouquet of roses.

Also arriving in the Twin Cities and on Jane's doorstep is David Carlson, Joanna's brother who is also Jane's best friend from her high school days. He appears to have some extra baggage that he isn't willing to immediately reveal to Jane. Making matters even more confounding is the unsettling fact that Joanna and David have been estranged the past year, and David does not relish the idea of having to see her.

Sprinkle the plot with an unexpected corpse, a private detective eager to have Jane's assistance, the usual commotion involved with any Cordelia Thorn extravaganza, and several more circuitous storylines, and you have not only an incredibly enjoyable reading experience but also another classic whodunit in the witty and revelatory Hart style. Night Vision glides facilely back and forth between the action of the moment and the back story of Joanna and Gordon. In many ways, the latter plot element could have stood alone as a novel.

As always, Hart's mysteries revolve around the characters and their disparate relationships. The presence of Cordelia Thorn continues to add to the continuity of character. Cordelia Thorn is has an intrinsic function in these novels because she provides not only the steadfast friend, the comic relief and witty retort but also the sounding board for Jane as she sifts through the clues which will ultimately solve the mystery. On the other hand, Jane's long distance relationship with Kenzie Mullroy is put on the back burner in this episode which was regrettable for this reviewer. However, perhaps in the next Jane Lawless installment, the author will choose to offer more elaboration. Hart has a gift for creating secondary characters that are not always as they appear to be. The elements of surprise and discovery are essential if one is to captivate the reader.

Ellen Hart's Night Vision is another superb mystery that will not disappoint her legion of fans. A rather common dilemma, stalkers, is given an original and unique take in this book. This reviewer is always concerned with the manner in which an author resolves the conflicts in a mystery. In a Hart novel the inevitable resolution is always consistently logical and thorough, never contrived or artificial. Night Vision is a well-crafted story with appealing protagonists and believable malevolent antagonists. There is also an unexpected twist at the end which readers will find tantalizing. Now bring on the next in the series.

Snow Moon Rising
Lori Lake
Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
4700 Highway 365, Suite A, PMB 210, Port Arthur, TX 77642
1932300503, $20.95

Mischka Gallo is a Roma girl traveling with her people through Germany and Poland in late 1918 just prior to the end of World War I. She and her group have learned to disregard the pejorative, Gypsy, which often is hurled their way, and live their unassuming life with malice toward no one. One evening an AWOL and shell-shocked German soldier, Emil Stanek, stumbles upon the group. Soon he is adopted by the clan, and he eventually marries Drina, a Roma woman,. At the wedding, Mischka meets Emil's sister Pippi, and they soon become fast friends. Unfortunately, the Roma vagabond lifestyle allows only infrequent visits. And, sadly, unbeknownst to either girl, future personal and world events will provide them both with even greater hurdles to be overcome and challenges to be met Theirs is an adventure and a journey that the reader will discover to be innocent, harrowing, heartbreaking, yet ultimately uplifting and re-affirming.

Among the many laudable qualities to be found in this novel, the one element with which this reviewer is most impressed is the bookend structure of narrative that Lake chose to convey her story. This form has a large dominant section which usually encompasses the bulk of the work which is then sandwiched between two smaller sections that introduce and conclude the work. The opening scene introduces the main protagonist, Mischka, an eighty year-old woman talking to her fifteen year-old grandson, Tobar. The year is 1989 in November. The concluding scenes return to that same time frame. The fact that this character is telling a story serves to enhance the overall storytelling of the author.

Snow Moon Rising is a consummate work of literary fiction. With her latest novel, Lori L. Lake succeeds in breaking through the glass ceiling of lesbian fiction and enters the realm of mainstream literature. She has crafted a period piece of such authenticity that any aficionado of the two post-World War periods will certainly be impressed with the meticulous attention to detail through extensive and exhaustive research. The inclusion of the German and Romany languages in the narrative and dialogue, the ancillary index of the Roma moon cycles, and a Select Bibliography section further indicate the unequivocal desire for accuracy that the author has invested in her writing.

Superlative editing is evident throughout this lengthy work; both the substantive and line editors have served this author well. Rich narrative is tightly composed, yet expansive when the plot requires it. The imagery used is both original and evocative. As a result of Lake's adept combination of understated yet powerful expression, scenes from the slave labor camp are intensely memorable. The heartbreak, terror, and sense of despair and desolation are all captured through the masterful and precise selection of word choice and the accomplished turning of a phrase. Equally true is the presentation of the indefatigability, courage, and love within the Roma culture, and in particular, Mischka and her familial relationships as well as her commitment to Pippi.

Snow Moon Rising is a novel that entertains, enlightens, and affects the reader long after the last page is read. The book has been nominated for the Lambda Literary Foundation award for Lesbian Fiction and for the Golden Crown Literary Society award for Lesbian Dramatic General Fiction. Lake has created a level of expertise and accomplishment with this novel seldom seen by this reviewer when evaluating other fiction. She has definitely raised the bar for the quality of writing which, hopefully, more authors will strive to attain. Snow Moon Rising is an experience not to be missed. It offers readers an unforgettable heroine in Mischka who transcends the most depraved and despicable adversities humankind can inflict upon one another while never losing her own innate sense of decency, love, and loyalty. Both Mischka and Lake have accomplished something remarkable, and they have done it with grace.

Arlene Germain

Bethany's Bookshelf

Vessie Flamingo Outshining the Moon
Jerelyn Craden
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1425935478 $14.49

Written by Jerelyn Craden, Vessie Flamingo Outshining the Moon: A Tale of Self-Mastery and Love is a novel about Vessie VanCourtland, a burned-out, thirty-year-old former psychic and levitator-mediator turned jingle writer. Determined to turn her life around and place a new value on authenticity, she dares to make drastic changes with the aid of ancient yoga techniques, the insights of her wise-cracking Inner Child, and the long distance support of Mrs. Smith, her surrogate Jewish mother who speaks in a hodgepodge mess of folksy sayings only Vessie can interpret. Vessie's sweeping transformation brings with it unexpected surprises; reinventing her life doesn't necessarily make anything any easier, in this charming, witty adventure of self-discovery.

Seducing the Rabbi
Jala Pfaff
Blue Flax Press
3068 10th Street, Boulder, CO 80304-2522
0977255808 $14.95

Seducing the Rabbi is anathema to the traditional romance novel. When linguistics professor Aviva Goldberg is recovering from the end of a steady relationship, her two best friends come up with a salacious challenge - for her to bed thirty new men in the next year. Eager to experience new pleasures Aviva accepts. Yet Murphy's Law rears its cynical head: when you're not interested, you have to beat potential candidates off with a stick, but when you're looking, they're nowhere to be found! A somewhat risque, tongue-in-cheek romp told through Aviva's eyes, sporting a witty and often wicked sense of humor.

Celebrating Drusilla
Drusilla Deja
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
1413431623 $25.99

Written by Drusilla Deja, Celebrating Drusilla is a most unusual look at great women throughout history who have proudly borne the given name Drusilla. From Empress Livia Drusilla to pioneer and saint Drusilla Doris Hendricks to anthropologist Drusilla Gould and many more, these thumbnail biographies of each notable woman is sure to inspire a new generation of young girls bearing the Drusilla name. The name Drusilla in literature, poetry, and media is also surveyed. What makes Celebrating Drusilla truly special, however, are the full-color photographs of handmade, amazingly detailed dolls representing the famous individuals named Drusilla. Highly recommended as a treasured giftbook for doll lovers and especially for young girls carrying on the Drusilla legacy.

On the Altar of Greece
Donna J. Gelagotis Lee
Gival Press LLC
PO Box 3812, Arlington, VA 22203
1928589367 $15.00

Award-winning poet and longtime resident of Greece Donna J. Gelagotis Lee presents On the Altar of Greece, a free-verse poetry collection that explores the majesty, venerable history, and wonder of Greece from an American woman's perspective. Poems contemplate mundane aspects of daily life such as food preparation or the relationship between neighbors, as well as holiday celebrations and the taste of simply experiencing a different way of life. An evocative and memorable tribute. "Remembering You": Gamma, epsilon... / Slowly your name spells itself / to me, my tongue catching the letters / along the contours, bulging through / interior openings that flip the letters / onto their backs. And I have / forgotten what they said to me. / I have forgotten the taste of your alphabet.

Living in South Korea
Rob White & Kyoung-mi Kim
Pro Lingua Associates
PO Box 1348, Brattleboro, VT 05302
0866472223 $9.95

The latest volume in the "Living In" series for travelers and would-be foreign residents, Living in South Korea: How to Feel at Home, Make Friends and Enjoy Everyday Life is a basic primer for business and pleasure travelers as well as prospective residents of South Korea. Illustrated with black-and-white photographs, Living in South Korea does not offer maps or information about tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, and the like; instead, the focus is upon delivering a solid primer of Korean culture and manners. From how and when to bow, to rules of etiquette concerning gift giving and who pays when going out, to warnings of what to expect when searching for a job teaching English (such as the importance of bringing an original university diploma, at least two letters of recommendation, and several original copies of a police check from one's local police department indicating no criminal record), to types of employment opportunities available, and much more. There is a brief summary of the Korean language and a pronunciation guide, but no phrasebook - Living in South Korea is not intended as a substitute for Korean language reference or study materials. An absolute "must-have" for anyone considering a visit to South Korea.

Practical Shamanism
Katie Weathercup
Hands Over Heart
0977815404 $14.95

Written by shamanic practitioner, Reiki master, and mechanical engineer Katie Weathercup, Practical Shamanism: A Guide for Walking in Both Worlds is a guide to the metaphysical power of exploring worlds beyond the mundane, building a bond with spirit guides, past-life healing, shadow work, soul-retrieval, and the search for a more meaningful existence. Written to be accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Practical Shamanism guides both novices and experienced shamans with sensible advice and provides numerous anecdotes of other individuals' mystic experiences. A bibliography rounds out this excellent guide that blends modern views with time-honored shamanic traditions.

Susan Bethany

Betty's Bookshelf

Daddy, Will You Dance with Me?
Sandra Schoger Foster.
J. Countryman
c/o Thomas Nelson, Inc.
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
1404103503 $10.99

Cydney (the daughter in Sandra Schoger Foster's book Daddy, Will You Dance with Me?) is three when the story begins. "Daddy, will you dance with me?" she asks, and her father scoops her up in his arms and waltzes her around the room, humming into her cheek. Delighted, she tells him, "I love you, Daddy." He replies, "I love you, too, my sweet Cydney girl. And God loves you as though you were the o-o-only one in a-a-all the world to love – and that makes you very special."

Throughout her life – from a wedding reception at the age of six through her growing-up years to her own wedding reception – Cydney turns to her daddy for comfort and affection by asking him to dance with her. And as they dance, he tells her once again how special she is to him and to God.

When Cydney's first child, Jordan, arrives, her dad comes to meet his new granddaughter and ends up dancing around the room embracing both Sydney and Jordan as he tells them both how much he loves them and how special they are to him and to God. At the end of his life, Cydney gently sets her daddy's cane aside as she guides him around the floor, whispering back to him the words he has told her so many times, and assuring him that some day they'd meet again and dance together on streets of gold.

The book ends with Jordan finding a picture of her mom and grandpa dancing together. "Daddy, will you dance with me?" she asks. Away they go, twirling around the room, and Cydney watches and listens from the doorway as her husband repeats to their daughter the words her own daddy always said to her.

This little book is packed with emotion, and the misty photos are a nice complement to the gentle story. The cover is a lovely pale green and white, printed with pink daisies and a little girl standing on her daddy's shoes as they dance. The presentation page in the front makes it a natural gift item, and if a little girl of any age is looking for a gift for her daddy, this book may be just the thing. It might also be a nice gift for the daddy of a brand-new little girl, to encourage him to spend time dancing with his daughter and telling her just how special she is to him and to God.

American Heroes: Stories of Faith, Courage, and Sacrifice from the Front Lines.
Stephen Mansfield.
J. Countryman
c/o Thomas Nelson, Inc.
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
040410416X $10.99

On the cover of this little book, the upper half of a saluting military man is silhouetted against an American flag, while on the back, the full silhouette stands next to these words: "A tribute to those who serve in the American armed forces". Inside, a presentation page makes it easy to use American Heroes as a gift to encourage and inspire a soldier – or a soldier's family - in need of a pick-me-up.

The text itself is comprised of stories that reveal the courage and dedication of today's troops and quotations from well-known military figures, reminding readers that today's soldiers are carrying on the tradition begun by other American fighting men.

However, if the soldier who needs encouragement is a female, send her something else. Not one story or quote in American Heroes includes a female soldier. How disappointing! My eighteen-year-old daughter proudly volunteered to serve during the waning days of Desert Storm, and many of her female comrades are still serving today. Don't they also deserve a salute? American heroes come in both genders, and so do military stories of faith, courage, and sacrifice. It wouldn't have been difficult for Stephen Mansfield to track down and include at least one female soldier's story in his book. What a shame that he didn't.

Tales from Tanzania: A Mostly True Story.
Scott Balows.
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1414003951 $11.50

I've never really wanted to go on an African safari. Bugs (internal and external), extreme heat, dirt, wild animals, languages I don't speak and customs I don't know – it just never appealed to me. I'm also not a big fan of self-published books. They're often poorly edited and meandering, self-important, filled with bad grammar and rank spelling – no thanks.

So, why did I even pick up Scott Balows's self-published account of his safari in Tanzania? It sounded like a challenge, that's why. Could anyone besides Dave Barry take a disastrous safari that included internal distress of epic proportions, run-ins with wild animals, and a bunch of rude British tourists, publish it himself, and make it well-written and interesting, even funny? Doubtful, but I was willing to give it a chance. It wouldn't be the first train wreck of a book I'd made myself read.

Boy, was I surprised! Balows was hilarious as he piled one mishap on another. He has a way of telling a story (even one about unpleasant bodily functions gone wrong) that makes you glad you aren't drinking a soda as you read. (I've snorted Coke out my nose before – not fun.) I even had to restrain myself from reading portions of the book out loud to random family members passing by as Balows introduced the Daft One, Minouk, QE2, and his other tormentors on the trip. How can you not want to share statements like "Always keep a slower and more delicious guest between you and the wildlife" and "Even while hurling, the Brits maintain a certain level of cilivilty and refinement"?

Whether you're an armchair world traveler or just got back from your umpteenth trip, you'll enjoy Balows's twisted look at an African vacation. I don't know if Balows has written anything else, but I'm going to find out. Stay tuned!

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beading Illustrated
Georgene Lockwood
Alpha Books
Penguin Group USA Inc.
375 Hudson St., New York, NY, 10014
1592572561 $18.95

I love jewelry, the bigger and bolder the better. I always tell people, if an earring can't double as a Christmas ornament or fishing lure, why bother? That sort of jewelry often presents a few problems, though; it's usually more expensive than your run-of-the-mill stuff and it's way harder to find, especially if you need a certain style or color. My solution to that was to learn to make it myself. How hard could it be?

Well, it wasn't quite that easy; it took several classes and a number of books to bring me up to speed. Too bad I didn't start out with a copy of Georgene Lockwood's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beading Illustrated. It has everything you need to know to keep you going for years. Once you get beyond the insulting title and the series-wide choppy design that seems geared to ADD [Attention Deficient Disorder], you'll discover a wealth of basic information, great illustrations, and scads of helpful hints.

Lockwood has been an avid beader for 10 years and has a real feel for explaining things in simple, step-by-step directions. Bead weaving, stringing, wirework, creating your own beads, tool and technique information – it's all here. There's even a section with projects you can make. Also included are a glossary, a resource list, and some very helpful charts. If you can only buy one book about beading, this is the one.

Betty Winslow

Bob's Bookshelf

Truck: A Love Story
Michael Perry
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060571179 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

This is an offbeat celebration of small town life in which the author struggles to grow his own food, live peaceably with his neighbors, restore his 1950s International Harvest truck, and sort out his love life. Along the way, he sets his hair on fire, is attacked by wild turkeys, takes a date to the fire department chicken dinner, and proposes marriage to a woman in New Orleans.

"All I wanted to do," writes Perry, "was get my old pickup truck running. That, and plant a little vegetable garden. Then I got distracted by this woman…"

A memoir that begins on a pile of sheep manure, detours to the Whitney Museum of American Art, and returns to the deer-hunting swamps of northern Wisconsin, "Truck" is compiled of a series of vignettes which introduce some very memorable characters. Among these local "notables" is a one-eyed land surveyor, a paraplegic biker who rigs a sidecar so his quadriplegic buddy can ride along, a bartender who refuses to serve light beer, and a very remarkable beagle named Bob.

A delightful combination of insight and humor, Perry ruminates on everything from small-town living, laundry tips for bachelors and his mis-firing brain. Musing on the unintended consequences of love, he notes, "We plunge into love with a naivete that ignores all prior humiliations. Thank goodness, I guess."

Treehouse: View From the Top
John Harris
The Lyons Press
246 Goose Lane, Guilford, CT 06437
1592281559 $29.95 1-800-836-0510

If you have always dreamed of having your own treehouse or perhaps have thought about building one for your children this is a book you'll want to read. The founder of the TreeHouse Company, a firm that has designed and constructed over 150 treehouses across Britain and Europe, the author has created some truly astounding lofty retreats that have served as offices, conference rooms, and arboreal hideaways for adults as well as playhouses for children.

As you will see, Harris' structures are a far cry from the small and unstable affairs that we knew as children. These top-of-the-line models nestled in large trees feature electricity, running water, stained glass windows, and other amenities. Although some of them sport wooden or rope ladders, more often than not a more formal stairway takes one up into the branches.

Lavishly illustrated with color photos, this volume lets you dream of what "might have been" if your parents had the money and inclination to create such an expensive hideout for you. On the other hand, for those who may wish to construct such a structure the author offers practical suggestions on how to tackle such a undertaking. He offers advice in how to select a tree, assess its health, plan the treehouse, and even make allowances for the continual growth of the tree.

Ranging from simple children's playhouses to complex two-storied fantasy structures linking a number of trees, there are over twenty tree- houses detailed in this book. Each case study discusses how the designer works in symphony with the surroundings and what steps are taken to conserve the tree's integrity. Construction materials are listed and, at the end of the volume, Harris walks the reader through the construction of a simple treehouse for the do-it-yourselfer.

Fire Places
Jane Gitlin
The Taunton Press
63 South Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470
1561588350 $24.95 1-800-477-8727

"Fire Places" is a practical design guide to fireplaces and stoves for indoor and outdoor use. The wide array of styles, sizes, and colors combined with a variety of fuel choices and special features for cooking or heating can make selecting a fireplace or stove a confusing proposition. Gitlin provides a unique combination of design and decorating ideas to help you get the most out of your fireplace. No matter whether you are concerned about creating an efficient heating system or just the aesthetics of a fragrant, crackling wood fire, you'll discover lots of practical advice here to achieve your goal. The basic chapters in this guide cover masonry vs. prefabricated fireplaces, chimneys, mantelpiece design, various types of stoves, alternatives to using wood, and outdoor fireplaces.

Anyone planning to do a fireplace makeover or convert an existing woodburning hearth to some other fuel, such as gas, pellet stove or an electric fireplace, would be wise to spend some time perusing this informative guide before launching the project. Over 250 photos and 20 drawings illustrate exactly what the possibilities are in fireplace and stove design.

Bob Walch

Brenda's Bookshelf

The Religion
Tim Willocks
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003
0224077988 $26.00 1-888-330-8477

The Religion is a beautifully written account of a group of Christian knights, 'The Religion', who defended Malta against the Moslem Turks in 1565. Against this gory, bloodthirsty backdrop is set the story of Carla La Penautier, a noblewoman who returns to Malta in search of her son. She recruits the assistance of a merchant, Mattias Tannhauser, for this dangerous and seemingly impossible venture.

Willocks' language is extremely descriptive and almost lyrical in its beauty. The story opens with a scene in which a young Mattias forges a dagger in a fire: "Thus he drew the hardness, for hardness is not itself strength. When the spine was a solid dark blue he worked the tang and the ricasso darker still. And to the very tip of the blade he gave a pale blue temper, like the early morning sky on New Year's Day." (page 7). Through tragic circumstances Mattias is uniquely equipped to deal with both religious sides of the war. This advantage proves to be somewhat of a conundrum to the reader as he/she is faced with the irony of the bloodlust and crime committed in the name of God.

The story of loyalty, love and betrayal is set firmly in a detailed historical account – the very genre I enjoy most. One point of criticism in this emotional saga is that almost the entire book of 600 plus pages maintains a high level of action, without a gradual climb, peak and then tapering off.

Other novels by Willocks include: Bad City Blues, Green River Rising and Bloodstained Kings. The Religion will be enjoyed by devotees of the historical novel. I highly recommend it.

Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker
WestBow Press
Nashville, Tennessee
159554156X $15.99

I was introduced to Frank Peretti's books some time ago and was enthralled by the element of fantasy, the high suspense and the underlying Christian/moral message. House, is a collaborative effort between Peretti and Ted Dekker.

The four main characters, Jack, Stephanie, Randy and Leslie are fairly well-portrayed and undergo noticeable changes as the story advances. The book quickly launches into the depraved and strange with the introduction of a sinister patrolman, food which turns bad as it is eaten, and a peculiar family in an equally peculiar house. The four become trapped inside the house and are relentlessly pursued by enemies without and within the house, as well as within themselves.

House is certainly a page turner with plenty of suspense. The action fails to change, however, and the story seems to contain more of the same dead ends and undiscovered passages etc, which becomes tedious. Also, despite the denouement being saved for the end, the salvation message of Christianity is obvious. I found this irritating and a departure from Peretti's customary treatment of the subject.

Magdalene: It's Never Too Late to Begin a New Life
Angela Hunt
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
1414310285 $13.99

Mary Magdalene has been made famous, or infamous, most recently by Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Labeled by different authors as a prostitute or even as Jesus' wife, Hunt paints a far more sympathetic picture of Miryam of Magdala. That Mary was possessed by seven demons and was present at Jesus' crucifixion is recorded in the Bible. In this account Miryam is portrayed as a feisty character and a skilled businesswoman who loves her husband and children. When Miryam's entire family is murdered by Romans she begins a slow descent into "darkness", something from which only "Yeshua" is able to save her. Despite having her demons cast out and deciding to follow Yeshua, Miryam cannot forgive the Romans who took her family from her.

The book is a well-researched account of the Roman occupation of Israel and Roman characters are given life in a parallel story to Miryam's. The two story lines finally meet in a tragic and illuminating ending.

Having bought Magdalene as a gift for my teenage daughter, I also enjoyed this clear and simple account of a well-known, yet mysterious biblical character. An interesting interview with the author is included as is a series of discussion questions for book groups. Other historical books by Hunt include The Silver Sword and The Velvet Shadow.

Brenda Daniels

Buhle's Bookshelf

Beyond the Techno-Cave
Harold Jaffe
Starcherone Books
PO Box 303, Buffalo, NY 14201
0978881117 $16.00

Grant-winning author Harold Jaffe presents Beyond the Techno-Cave: A Guerrilla Writer's Guide to Post- Millennial Culture, his latest "docufiction" anthology of short original stories frequently bearing the bent or structure of a documentary. Current events and headline-grabbing news as well as little-known anecdotes of history are recurring topics in this at time sardonic social commentary, written with a tongue-in-cheek zest for exposing human foibles. At times Beyond the Techno-Cave reads like a weblog, but not just any blog - the one golden blog among heaps of blog dross, that keeps the reader paging through entries all night long.

Fumbles, Field Goals, and the Myth of the Hail Mary
Steven Shiendling, Ph.D.
Brown Books Publishing Group
16200 North Dallas Parkway, Suite 170, Dallas TX 75248
1933285265 $17.95

Written by Steven Shiendling, Ph.D., Fumbles, Field Goals, and the Myth of the Hail Mary: Helping Men Become Better Relationship Partners is a relationship self-help guide written especially for men. Drawing heavily upon football metaphors in order to effectively communicate its points to guys everywhere, Fumbles, Field Goals, and the Myth of the Hail Mary covers everything from improving personal communication from learning how to take a "time out" when emotions such as anger may provoke a person to say or do things they would regret, to the parallels between a successful relationship and a positive team, and much more. A superb and practical self-help book sure to fully engage the attention of any reader familiar with football terms.

The Lean Product Development Guidebook
Ronald Mascitelli
Technology Perspectives
PO Box 8539, Northridge, CA 91327
096626973X $44.95

Project management professional Ronald Mascitelli presents The Lean Product Development Guidebook: Everything Your Design Team Needs to Improve Efficiency and Slash Time-to-Market, a handbook written especially for design team managers in all business fields. The focus lies upon making the product development process "lean", thereby improving both its efficiency and its effectiveness. Chapters describe how to establish product design requirements, heighten the pace of project execution, and apply self-assessment tools to keep design paradigms operating at optimal levels. The Lean Product Development Guidebook is spiral-bound, able to lay flat or be folded over on itself for easy reference, and is written in plain terms, with numerous black-and-white charts and diagrams illustrating its principles. Enthusiastically recommended as an overview resource and guideline for design team managers everywhere.

Ready To Sail
Dr. Ed Mapes
Offshore Publications
4903 Carolina Circle, McKinny, TX 75071
0977777200 $29.95

Written by USCG licensed master mariner Dr. Ed Mapes, Ready To Sail: A Captain's Guide to Boat Inspection and Repairs Preparations of Boat and Crew for Offshore Passage-Making is a practical guide to inspecting every last aspect of a ship from its hull and mast to its propulsion machinery and electrical system to shipboard amenities, safety features, and much more. Numerous black-and-white photographs and illustrations add a visual touch that will prove as useful to sea veterans who want to be absolutely certain they didn't overlook any details as it will to new captains. Appendices filled with inspection checklists and other quick-use references and resources round out this "must-have" before-you-set-sail bible. Highly recommended.

Lynched by Corporate America
Herman Malone & Robert Schwab
HM-RS Publishing
3840 York Street, Suite 2008, Denver, CO 80205
0978509439 $19.95

Written by Herman Malone (CEO of RMES Communications) & Robert Schwab (editor of Colorado Biz), Lynched by Corporate America: The Gripping True Story of How One African American Survived Doing Business with a Fortune 500 Giant is the true-life tale of one man's bitter fight against a corporate conglomerate. When communications titan US West (now Quest Communications International Inc.) started to systematically cancel contracts with African-American-owned businesses, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, chaired by author Herman Malone, dared to fight back. US West settled its race-discrimination lawsuit with six of the seven plaintiffs, but Malone would not soften his demand for justice. Lynched by Corporate America gives an intimate view of the legal proceedings, trial, and fallout, in a thoroughly readable prose style. Highly recommended.

Maximizing Me
Hart Cunningham
Aslan Publishing
2490 Black Rock Turnpike, #342, Fairfield, CT 06825
0944031994 $15.95

Written by Hart Cunningham, founder of numerous still-flourishing global businesses, Maximizing Me: 30 Lessons on the Journey to Self-Empowerment is a self-help guide to realizing one's dreams, whether in business or other areas of life. Chapters address how to overcome the inertia that keeps one enmeshed in failed habits and choices, reject egoistic self-deception, orchestrate a series of realistic, well-chosen goals, and reinvent oneself for the better. Other invaluable skills covered include how to exercise emotive influence, effectively manage time, use tasking to measure progress, and much more. Bullet points and sample "try this" paragraphs close each chapter in this highly accessible and thoroughly solid self-help guide especially recommended for aspiring entrepreneurs.

CB Follett & Susan Terris, editors
Arctos Press
PO Box 401, Sausalito, CA 94966
0972538461 $12.00

Edited by CB Follett and Susan Terris, Runes: A Review of Poetry is the 2006 anthology of one hundred carefully chosen poems by an immense diversity of authors, all submitted in a competition open to the general public. Bound by the common theme of "hearth", these brief verses touch upon thoughts of family, memories, togetherness, and remembrance. A handful of foreign-language poems are printed both in their original language and in English translation. This latest volume of Runes upholds the high quality standards evidenced by previous, award-winning volumes, and is enthusiastically recommended for poetry lovers everywhere. "Hearth": A bird has flown / down the chimney. / A redbird, a fistful / of molten life. // We used to make / space for such luck. / Roused / from coiled dreams // we'd beat the pans / till daybreak, / then raise a fable / from the common ash.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Stephen W. Eubank
Catellus Publishing
PO Box 55049, Houston, TX 77255-0409
097854210X $19.95

The debut book of Stephen W. Eubank (Bachelor of Arts in Economics and History), Alliances: A Theory of Concerted Human Behavior is a scholarly examination of alliances between human beings throughout history - how they form, how they change, and how they decline. From true alliances that combine resources to achieve common objectives, to semi-alliances that aren't always in the best interests of all participants, to illusory alliances that dangle the carrot of perceived benefits to its exploited "illusory" members but in essence have far different objectives than what is openly stated, to tyrannies that exist solely to funnel resources to the benefit of its controllers, Alliances examines human collective behavioral structure in detail often using simple models. Alliances scrutinizes its topic from an amoral point of view - the intention is not to discount the importance of morality in forming alliances; it is simply that evaluations of ethics and morality is beyond the scope of what Alliances covers. From limitations imposed upon decision makers, to how individuals are deceived into being in a mutually beneficial alliance when they are not, to ways of viewing history as the growth, development, and destruction of alliances, Alliances is a thought-provoking study of human behavior and enthusiastically recommended for public and college library sociology shelves.

The Bible Through the Eyes of Its Authors
Frederic March
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595379125 $35.95

The debut nonfiction compendium of religion and history expert Frederic March, The Bible Through the Eyes of Its Authors: A Political History of Ancient Israel and Judah is an in-depth examination of the Bible in the context of five historical eras. The Bible Through the Eyes of Its Authors does not shy away from moral quandaries of the Bible, such as the existence of a supposedly loving God that commands Israel to annihilate entire nations. Researched at length, and breaking down Biblical text passage by passage in historical context, The Bible Through the Eyes of Its Authors is enthusiastically recommended for both public and private religious history and Bible studies shelves.

The Singular Adventures Of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Alan Stockwell
Digory Press
Three Rivers, Minions, Liskcard, Cornwall, PL14 5LE, United Kingdom
1846855047, $12.95

There is no more popular character in British mystery fiction than Sir Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. So popular was this deductive genius of a sleuth that stories continued to be published by fans and admirers long after the death of Doyle. "The Singular Adventures Of Mr. Sherlock Holmes" featuring new stories by Alan Stockwell recounting the adventures of the Baker Street detective is just such an example. Stockwell does full justice to the character of the famous sleuth with his imaginative, ingenious, inventive plots that are completely faithful to the spirit and tone of original Doyle stories. A superbly crafted and grippingly entertaining collection of stories, "The Singular Adventures Of Mr. Sherlock Holmes" features seventeen thrilling and enthusiastically recommended Sherlock Holmes short stories that once again bring England's most famous detective to live in our minds and imaginations.

Searching for Sacred Ground
Raylene Hinz-Penner
Cascadia Publishing House
126 Klingerman Road, Telford, PA 18969
1931038406 $19.95

English and literature teacher Raylene Hinz-Penner presents Searching for Sacred Ground: The Journey of Chief Lawrence Hart, Mennonite, the chronicle of a modern-day Cheyenne leader who strives to guide his people with a balance of Cheyenne tradition, Mennonite faith, and practical modernity. Thoroughly researched, drawn from extensive interviews, and sporting a chronology, references, and an index, Searching for Sacred Ground follows Hart's life from his boarding school education to marriage, service as a Navy fighter pilot, his efforts to teach others about Cheyenne culture, to his refinement of a respectful and deeply spiritual leadership style. An unparalled personalized biography.

Nice Jewish Felon
Michael Eliot Mehler
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595400477 $14.95

Nice Jewish Felon is the true-life memoir of author Michael Eliot Mehler. Born into a prominent family, the author suffered molestation at the age of eleven, and therapy did little to help his self-destructive tendencies. He became a career criminal as an adult, associated with the former alleged mob boss of the Bonanno/Massino crime family, and endured incarceration and probation. His pattern of abuse repeatedly surfaced against the people he cared for the most. With the support of his wife and child and the unconditional love of his dog, he embarked upon a remarkable turnaround. In writing Nice Jewish Felon, Mehler presents the unvarnished truth about himself and his life; the difficult process of coming to terms with his past and determining to shape a better future is plainly evident within the prose. A singularly powerful and vivid memoir.

Overcoming Pain
Allan Platt, Jr., Susan Platt & Cathy Hedrich
Hilton Publishing
110 Ridge Road, Munster, IN 46321
0974314420 $16.95

Written by the team of Allan Platt, Jr. P.A. -C., Susan Platt, M.D., and Cathy Hedrich, R.P.T., Overcoming Pain: What It Is, Why It Is, And Successful Ways To Treat It is a guide written especially for lay readers concerning chronic pain - its causes, diagnoses, and treatments through modern, cutting-edge, and alternative medicines. Especial concern is given to indigent and minority patients, who are often under-assessed or have inadequate access to medications. From advice for dealing with the medical world, to the pros and cons of pain medications as well as non-medical pain treatments, to why participating in a clinical trial can potentially be beneficial (patients of such studies get expert medical care, the latest information, free lab studies, and free treatment), Overcoming Pain is a down-to-earth, go-to resource enthusiastically recommended for anyone coping with chronic pain.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

The Personal Leadership Puzzle
Susan K Wehrley
Thomas & Kay, LLC
161 W Wisconsin Ave., Suite 2G, Pewaukee, WI 53072
0972950516 $19.95

Written by transformation expert Susan K Wehrley, The Personal Leadership Puzzle: 8 Missing Pieces To A Complete Life! is a self-help guide to improving one's leadership skills. From learning to embrace curiosity and therefore become more receptive to new ideas, to developing an inner wellspring of calm, opening one's heart to the vital quality of compassion, improving communication skills, using dovetailing (combined activities) for better time management, and much more, The Personal Leadership Puzzle covers a broad spectrum of virtues to cultivate for more effective leadership. A highly accessible, well-rounded primer recommended for leaders and aspiring leaders in all fields.

The Science of Extraterrestrials
Eric Julien
Allies Publishing
PO Box 2187, Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742
1601771010 $24.90

The Science of Extraterrestrials: UFO's Explained at Last is a serious and highly readable discussion of metaphysical influences that manifest as what humans call extraterrestrials, or to use the author's term, extratemporals. Chapters discuss the weaknesses and limits of scientific culture without consciousness, what the stars can tell mortals about time itself, the concept of "absolute relativity", the role of consciousness in creating the world, and the nature of what humans call ETs, as well as the discrete nature of what humans call God. Black-and-white diagrams illustrate author and ET-contactor Eric Julien's insights into the fundamental quantification of time, space, and existence themselves. A welcome addition to metaphysical cosmology shelves.

Steven Paul Mark Inc.
1601450621 $17.95

Entertainment attorney Steven Paul Mark presents Drift, a high-strung thriller novel about Max LaFollette, an unemployed ex-Marine who says the wrong thing at the wrong time to Imperium Solutions, a powerful oil company that is utterly ruthless in exercising its mysterious agenda. Shortly afterward, Max's wife is murdered and he is forced to flee for his life, in a cat-and-mouse chase that leads from the Manhattan undercity to the halls of Washington to the desolation of Chechnya. Set amid a modern era of global warming, catastrophic heat waves, and melting polar ice caps - an accidental byproduct of Imperium's work, or the more sinister outcome of their deliberate plot? - Drift follows LaFollette as the most unlikely instrument of Imperium's destruction, with the ecology of the Earth as humankind knows it in the balance. A taut, suspenseful read, highly recommended.

Funky to Fabulous
Eli Davidson
Oak Grove Publishing
269 South Beverly Drive, Suite 248, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
0976631601 $24.95

Written by nationally recognized empowerment expert Eli Davidson, Funky to Fabulous: Surefire Success Strategies for the Savvy, Sassy, and Swamped is a go-to self-help book offering tips, tricks, and techniques for better coping with a broad range of life's problems. From strategies to cope with nagging fears to the power of envisioning success to overcoming tendency toward unproductive perfectionism and much more, Funky to Fabulous presents salt-of-the-earth wisdom in a trendy, lighthearted manner. Though written particularly with the overworked woman's perspective in mind, Funky to Fabulous is sure to prove valuable to readers of both genders and all backgrounds. Highly recommended.

Death By Pedicure
Dr. Robert Spalding
Chattanooga Fu Fu Factory
1225 Taft Highway, Signal Mt., TN 37377
0971106819 $19.95

Written by Dr. Robert Spalding, Death By Pedicure: The Dirty Secret Of Nail Salons is a chilling indictment of health code violations that are all too frequent in nail salons, and their catastrophic consequences - which are sometimes lethal. Wherever bacterial organisms and instruments that can draw blood are found, therein lies danger. Chapters discuss how the reader can protect himself or herself from unsanitary nail salons or nail technicians, and common foot and nail care products to avoid. However, Death By Pedicure also discusses the positive benefits of manicures and pedicures, including the possibility that nail technicians can detect and refer foot problems before they turn serious. A serious-minded, highly readable discussion accessible to lay readers and recommended for anyone with ties to the nail care industry, whether as a client, an employee, or through business connections.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Deadly Advice
Roberta Isleib
Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Group
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425214745 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

Dr. Rebecca Butterman is a practicing clinical psychologist who also writes a weekly advice column for an online magazine. Divorced and living in a condo in Guilford, Connecticut, Rebecca is distressed to learn her neighbor, Madeline Stanton, apparently committed suicide. Rebecca is unsettled that she had not made efforts to know her neighbor very well, and when Madeline's mother asks her to take care of Madeline's cat until she can find a home for it, Rebecca readily agrees. But when Mrs. Stanton expresses her suspicions about her daughter's death and nudges Rebecca to look for clues as to why her daughter died, Rebecca's wary. Consequently, Rebecca's editor wants her to branch out and begin writing about her experiences in the dating field, but Rebecca is reluctant. However, when she learns that her neighbor had been involved with a speed dating service, she thinks it wouldn't hurt to look into Madeline's death while obtaining information for her column. It isn't long before Rebecca's reeled into the world of fast-paced dating, Internet seduction, murder investigations, and a killer on the loose.

Dr. Rebecca Butterman was first introduced in Isleib's Golf Lover's Mysteries, and fans of that series will enjoy the Advice Column Mysteries series, as well. Butterman is an engaging character, a psychotherapist who is divorced, approaching middle-age and trying to move forward with her life while dealing with past traumas. Her strongest features are her compassion for humans and animals and her inner sense of rightfulness. Deadly Advice is a fast-paced mystery, with red herrings around every corner, and plenty of twists and turns. Recommended.

At Risk
Patricia Cornwell
G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399153624 $26.95 1-800-847-5515

Massachusetts District Attorney Monique Lamont, in an effort to validate her plans to run for governor, has developed a program called At Risk, which will incorporate advanced DNA technology in solving crimes. The first case she wants to headline is an unsolved 20-year-old murder that occurred in Knoxville, TN, where State Investigator Winston "Geronimo" Garano has been attending the National Forensic Academy.

Garano is biracial and dresses in designer clothes, which he purchases at second-hand stores. His respect for Lamont is nil and he is frustrated she's called him back to Boston to lay a cold-case on him that occurred in the city he just left. When he spontaneously decides to visit Lamont at her home to voice his displeasure, he interrupts a man who has tied Lamont to her bed, raped her, and intends to kill her. Instead of being grateful for her rescue, Lamont puts Garano in the hot seat. While Garano deals with the investigation following Lamont's rape, his good friend TBI special agent Delma Sykes begins to reinvestigate the cold-case in Knoxville, which seems to tie into a suspected suicide in North Carolina.

Patricia Cornwell is best known for the Kay Scarpetta series, which is meticulous in forensic detail and very well-received. At Risk is a short novel sans in-depth characterization and the usual twists and turns readers expect from Cornwell. Lamont isn't a character the reader will feel empathy for and Garano comes across as a man with a chip on his shoulders who cannot seem to get out from under Lamont's control. A somewhat disappointing read compared to other books from Cornwell.

Christy Tillery French

Debra's Bookshelf

A Perfect Mess
Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman
Little, Brown and Company
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316114758 $25.99 1-800-759-0190

In their book A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder authors Eric Abrahamson (a professor of management at Columbia Business School) and David H. Freedman (a contributing editor at Inc. magazine) question the widespread assumption that organization and neatness are inherently better than disorder and clutter. They argue that in fact some degree of messiness is very often to be preferred to strict order--because the cost of maintaining order can be higher than the benefits accrued from it, for example, because disorder can be the mother of invention, because messy systems can be more efficient and robust than perfectly neat ones. In making their case Abrahamson and Freedman do not confine themselves to domestic mess--the topic that leapt to my mind when I first saw the book's title. Clutter is just one of twelves types into which they categorize messiness. Others include "time sprawl," as when tasks are left unprioritized, and "convolution," which occurs when organizational schemes are illogical. Accordingly, the authors discuss not only messy homes and offices but messy leadership and messy organizations, pathological messiness and artistic messiness.

The topics covered in A Perfect Mess are far reaching--from the suspect claims of professional organizers (for example, that the average person wastes an hour a day looking for things) to Arnold Schwarzenegger's "improvisational lifestyle" (incredibly enough, he doesn't keep a schedule, or didn't, at least, when he was first running for governor), from the Noguchi filing system to natural landscaping to cell phone noise and compulsive hoarding. Throughout, the authors profile people and businesses and systems that have profited from the introduction of some degree of some type of messiness.

"...we argue that there is an optimal level of mess for every aspect of every system. That is in, in any situation there is a type and level of mess at which effectiveness is maximized, and our assertion is that people and organizations frequently err on the side of overorganization. In many cases, they can improve by increasing mess, if it's done in the right way. At a minimum, recognizing the benefits of mess can be a major stress reducer--many of us are already operating at a more-or-less appropriate level of mess but labor under the mistaken belief that we're failing in some way because of it."

A Perfect Mess is an interesting book, written for the general reader in perfectly comprehensible prose. The authors' thesis won't necessarily surprise readers. If you think about it, it's obvious enough that there must be some optimal level of order for every situation. But it's not so much the conclusion that matters here as the guided tour through the messy worlds of city planning and hardware stores and trombone tuning and so on: you'll almost certainly learn something along the way, and in the end you may feel a little better about letting the dishes pile up.

Kill All the Lawyers
Paul Levine
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440242754 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

Steve Solomon is beset on a number of fronts in Kill All the Lawyers, the third installment in Paul Levine's series of legal whodunits. The most worrying of his concerns is that a certain Dr. William Kreeger--former client, celebrity psychiatrist, and sociopath--is out of prison and out to punish Steve for having lost his case. Meanwhile, Steve's father, disgraced judge Herbert T. Solomon, has gone Orthodox. Steve's sister Janice has found Jesus in rehab. And Steve's nephew Bobby has found the "harlot-in-training" down the street. To top it off, Victoria Lord, Steve's law partner and lover, is having doubts about their relationship. She spends most of this book agonizing over her decision to move in with him.

Steve has found a worthy nemesis in his Dr. Phil-ish celebridoc, whose motives remain a mystery for the better part of the book. Ultimately Kreeger's story merges nicely with those of Bobby and Bobby's mother--who has shown up in Miami with her own brand of menace, the threat of removing Bobby from Steve's care. But it's unfortunate that Victoria takes a back seat in this one. Her relationship with Steve is less interesting here than in previous outings. Too little is made of Herbert Solomon, too, who shows up now and again to spout some Yiddishism and then exits the story. On a brighter note, there is some nice development in the relationship between Steve and Victoria's mother Irene, a woman at once magisterial and tawdry--and with a penchant for naked display. We watched Irene cavort naked poolside in Deep Blue Alibi. This time around, alas, we are made to look on as she splays her legs for an intimate waxing. The scene falls short of funny and into the realm of the shudder-inducing.

Kill All the Lawyers seems a little stale in comparison with the first two books in the series, the characters often more cartoonish than not. I'm hoping the next outing finds them a bit more nuanced than they were allowed to be here.

Seize the Daylight
David Prerau
Thunder's Mouth Press
245 West 17th Street, 11th floor; New York, NY 10011
1560256559 $23.00

I grew up hearing as an explanation for Daylight Saving Time that it was "good for the farmers." It turns out that this is a widespread misconception, and it also turns out not to be true: farmers have in fact historically opposed the adoption or expansion of DST because of the inconveniences it imposes on them. Another childhood illusion put to bed, if decades late.

Since 1986 the U.S. has observed DST from the first Sunday of April to the last Sunday of October. Beginning in 2007, DST is to be expanded by three weeks (in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005). It will now begin on the second Sunday of March and extend until the first Sunday of November. Given this change I figured it was high time for me to find out what Daylight Saving Time is all about.

I review below David Prerau's Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time. It's the first of two DST-related books that have been weighing down my TBR shelves. Both books were published in 2005--the idea of exploring DST apparently being very much in the air in the first years of the new millennium.

Benjamin Franklin proposed in 1784, when he was serving as the American minister to France, that Parisians conserve energy--in the form of candle wax and tallow--by changing their habits, rising with the sun rather than sleeping in with their shutters closed against the daylight. The idea never caught on, and it is at any rate impractical as it would depend on the alteration of individual habits on a large scale for it to have any chance of working for a community. Over a hundred years later, in 1905, a certain William Willett devised an alternative plan for increasing the number of usable daylight hours during England's summer months. His plan, what we now call Daylight Saving Time, called for setting the nation's clocks forward in the spring (he initially imagined the time being changed in 20-minute increments on each of four successive Sundays) and back in the fall, thus not relying on people to alter their sleep patterns on an individual basis. His idea didn't catch on either, at least not immediately. In his book Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time author David Prerau, who has coauthored government reports on the effects of DST, traces the complex history of DST from Willett's tireless campaigning on behalf of its adoption to the modern era. Prerau also provides a chapter on the two artificial adjustments to natural sun time that men adopted prior to the introduction of DST. (Mean solar time was adopted starting in the late 18th century. It differs from apparent solar time in that the length of a day is a constant throughout the year rather than depending on the amount of daylight in any given day, which varies throughout the year. The second artificial adjustment was standard time, adopted in the late 19th century, which is when a single mean time is recognized over a large area.)

The history of DST has been, as Prerau's subtitle asserts, a highly contentious one, the case for and against its adoption taken up over the years by a variety of special interest groups--the railroads, theater operators, purveyors of sporting goods, golfers and farmers and concerned parents and religious purists. Political cartoonist jumped to portray its inconveniences. Presidents and prime ministers came to recognize its merits as an economizing measure. And scientists and astronomers were divided on the question of implementing it. The editors of the scientific journal Nature, for example, ridiculed DST early on by equating the time change with the artificial elevation of thermometer readings in the winter:

"'It would be more reasonable to change the readings of a thermometer at a particular season than to alter the time shown on the clock, which is another scientific instrument.' They wondered if perhaps another bill would be proposed 'to increase the readings of thermometers by ten degrees during the winter months, so that 32°F shall be 42°F. One temperature can be called another just as easily as 2 A.M. can be expressed as 3 A.M.; but the change of name in neither case causes a change of condition.'"

It's surprising just how many people have had an axe to grind one way or another on the DST issue.

The implementation of DST was neither a quick affair nor a straightforward one. Initially adopted in the U.S. during World War I, for example, it was repealed in 1919, retained in pockets of the country between the Wars, adopted again and expanded during Wold War II, and repealed again by Truman after the War. It remained in use by local option in the decades following, and wasn't adopted as national law until 1966. Even now its implementation is not entirely regular, as certain states and territories have opted not to observe DST. In short, the history of Daylight Saving Time is a confusing mess. Transforming the complex story of its adoption in the U.S. and England and elsewhere in the world into a readable narrative is a great accomplishment.

Prerau's book is packed with information, some of which certainly surprised me. I'd had no idea, for example, that it was standard as late as the 19th century for communities to determine their time locally, so that the time from town to town would vary by minutes depending on how the communities were situated from one another longitudinally.

"As long as travel and communications were relatively slow, it didn't much matter that, for instance, in the United States when it was 12:00 noon in Chicago it was 12:31 in Pittsburgh, 12:24 in Cleveland, 12:17 in Toledo, 12:13 in Cincinnati, 12:09 in Louisville, 12:07 in Indianapolis, 11:50 in St. Louis, 11:48 in Dubuque, 11:39 in St. Paul, and 11:27 in Omaha. The relaxed pace of travel, the lack of instant communications, the inherent inaccuracy of contemporary clocks, and the less frantic pace of life all made minor time variations unimportant."

What a strange world our great-grandparents inhabited.

Prerau sometimes errs on the side of including too many details in his book, but for the most part the story he tells is fascinating, and the book well written. Seize the Daylight is a nice example of a type of book that I particularly enjoy, one that is as informative as it is interesting to read, one that sheds light on a convention or invention that quietly informs our daily lives but which few of us bother to investigate on our own. Seize the Daylight definitely rewards the reading.

Spring Forward
Michael Downing
Shoemaker & Hoard
1400 65th Street, Suite 250, Emeryville, CA 94608
1593760531 $23.00

Michael Downing's Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time is one of two books about Daylight Saving Time that were published in 2005, the other being Seize the Daylight by Michael Prerau (see my review). Downing and Prerau cover much of the same ground in their respective volumes, both authors detailing the complex history of DST since its adoption in England and the U.S. during World War I. But there are, of course, differences between the two books. Downing's is a shade more conversational in tone than Prerau's, and Downing seems to be less sold on the benefits of DST than Prerau, his relative negativity toward the time shift perhaps signaled in the "Madness" of his subtitle. Another difference between the two books is that Prerau's approach to telling the story of DST is primarily chronological, while Downing adopts more of a thematic approach to the subject. He offers chapters on DST and sports, for example, on New York City's role in the DST debate, and on the oddities of time management--sidereal days vs. solar days, solar months vs. lunar months, and so on.

Certainly Downing provides information in Spring Forward that Prerau does not include in his book. Downing offers a fuller account of the 1966 U.S. legislation that regularized (more or less) DST, and he writes about the attempts of various Pacific island states to profit from the millennial celebrations by tinkering with their clocks. But on the whole Prerau's Seize the Daylight is the more thorough and informative of the two books. Prerau's approach to the subject is easier to follow and, frankly, his book is simply a more interesting read. If you have the time, as it were, by all means read both books. But if you're going to read just one book about DST, I recommend you make it Prerau's Seize the Daylight.

Small Acts of Sex and Electricity
Lise Haines
Unbridled Books
200 North 9th Street, Suite A, Columbia, MO 65201
1932961275 $23.95

Mattie and Jane have been friends since they were little girls, neighbors for part of the year on the Santa Monica beach. Both were escaping from dysfunctional families in those years, Jane summering sans parents with her grandmother Franny. And Franny wound up offering a second home also to Mattie while her parents sailed and mingled and drank cocktails. This pattern--Mattie playing the loved but resented (by Jane) third wheel--would repeat itself in the girls' adulthood. When Lise Haines's Small Acts of Sex and Electricity opens, Jane has been married to Mike for some fifteen years, and Mattie has been watching their relationship since its conception, as if with her nose pressed against the glass, debarred from a relationship that might have been, should have been hers: the "electricity" of the book's title refers in part to Mattie's attraction to Mike.

But Haines soon upsets the balance of this not quite comfortable threesome. After Franny's death, Mattie returns to the beach house to help appraise the property, and Jane takes the opportunity to walk out on her family, in essence surrendering her life to Mattie. Haines tells the story of what happens in the following weeks, how Mike and Mattie respond to Jane's offering, from Mattie's perspective, in the first person. Direct speech is introduced by dashes rather than quotation marks, and the speakers are rarely identified, which makes following conversations difficult at times. Haines's writing has a dreamy, indistinct quality to it, perhaps reflecting Mattie's state of mind after Jane leaves. The characters seem to float through the story, not addressing their problems directly, not communicating with one another effectively. Sometimes the writing is strained:

"I have no affinity for the afterlife. No desire to play with its rolling energy as Jane did. She treated death like a boy inside a tire at the top of a steep road. She stood in his path, unflinching, taunting his friends to let go of the rubber rim."

The premise of Haines's book is an interesting one, but I never came to care about the characters--a bunch of not particularly likable people doing not particularly likable things. They are more than two dimensional yet fail to come to life on the page. Book groups will enjoy dissecting the motives of the author's various principals, but in the end I don't think the book is likely to linger in one's memory. Not a bad read, but not a great one.

Portuguese Irregular Verbs
Alexander McCall Smith
Anchor Books
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400077087 $9.95 1-800-726-0600

Portuguese Irregular Verbs is one of only three books in Alexander McCall Smith's series featuring Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, author of the philological masterwork that gives this book its title. (See my reviews of the other books in the series, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs and At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances.) All of the von Igelfeld books were published in 2003, so that there is arguably no starting point to the series, yet readers would be advised to begin with this volume. The eight stories included in Portuguese Irregular Verbs provide a great deal of background information about our hero. We learn of his acquaintance while a student with Florianus Prinzel, now his colleague at the Institute of Romance Philology in Regensburg, and of his early work as an assistant to a professor of Celtic philology:

"'I couldn't have hoped for a better start to my career,' he confided in Prinzel. 'Vogelsang knows more about past anterior verbs in Early Irish than anybody else in the world.'"

We are given accounts, too, of the very moment when the idea of writing about Portuguese irregular verbs came to Igelfeld, and of his ill-fated near courtship of a certain lady dentist. Von Igelfeld travels to Ireland and Zürick, Siena and Venice and India in these stories. He meets a holy man and (maybe) a murderer, gets a tooth pulled, and provokes a sword fight. Throughout von Igelfeld is characteristically self-important and endearingly out of touch:

"Von Igelfeld sat down in the reception room and picked up the first magazine he saw on the table before him. He paged through it, noticing the pictures of food and clothes. How strange, he thought--what sort of Zeitschrift is this? Do people really read about these matters? He turned a page and began to read something called the Timely Help column. Readers wrote in and asked advice over their problems. Von Igelfeld's eyes opened wide. Did people discuss such things in open print?"

Some of the stories included in the book are better than others. In the most poignant of them ("Portuguese Irregular Verbs") Igelfeld attempts to beef up sales of his monograph to save it from being sold off by shelf foot. His quest for readers leads Igelfeld for the first time to the home of his colleague and nemesis, Professor Dr Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer. The visit is initially infuriating:

"Von Igelfeld peered at the plate above the bell and drew in his breath sharply. Professor Dr Dr D-A. von Unterholzer. What extraordinary, bare-faced cheek! It was little short of an outrage, on three counts, no less. Firstly, Unterholzer did not have two doctorates; there was no doubt about that. Secondly, what was all this nonsense about the hyphen between Detlev and Amadeus? Amadeus was his second name, as the whole world knew, not part of his first. And finally, and perhaps most seriously of all, there was the von. Von Igelfeld felt the anger surge up within him. If people got away with adding vons to their names whenever the mood took them, then that immeasurably reduced the significance of the real vons."

But after a moving discovery while browsing Unterholzer's bookshelves, von Igelfeld finds himself warming to the man. Alexander McCall Smith is a charming writer, and von Igelfeld a delightful character--pretentious and jealous and deeply flawed, but ultimately capable of goodness. The Igelfeld stories are delicious, quiet reads. It's unfortunate that there aren't more of them.

The Thirteenth Tale
Diane Setterfield
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
074329820 $26.00

Vida Winter is an enigmatic, bestselling author who has told the story of her life innumerable times over the years but never truthfully--until, her health failing, she determines to confide all in a certain Margaret Lea. Margaret has spent her life absorbing the contents of her father's bookstore, and Setterfield lingers over the details of Margaret's life in books, pausing to explain even the economics of her father's business. Setterfield tells us also of the tragedy that has been the singular fact of Margaret's life, that her twin sister died shortly after their birth. Margaret's life is quiet and reclusive, but she has contributed to the world of letters herself in a small way, having written a handful of biographical pamphlets, studies of ordinary lives. It is one of these which attracts Ms. Winter's interest.

Margaret's story in the present frames the tale that Winter tells her over months, the initial, quiet chapters yielding to something nightmarish and ugly. Winter's story is filled with sadism and incest, haunted lives in a decaying mansion--Angelfield Hall--the truth about its inhabitants hidden from the world. Winter's story, too, has to do with twins, Adeline and Emmaline, inseperable from one another and neither of them quite right in the head. There is a mystery in Winter's story, or a series of them, and I'd be shocked if any reader should guess what really happened at Angelfield the night that changed Vida Winter's life.

I was not initially excited by The Thirteenth Tale, though I was impressed at the languorous pace with which its author dwells on the details of Margaret's life. In its early chapters the book seems almost a 19th-century product in that Setterfield is not afraid to take her time with it. And in fact the story has a timelessness to it: there are cars and telephones in Margaret's present but apparently no computers; it is difficult to be very specific about its temporal setting. The story Vida Winter tells Margaret, meanwhile, is initially offputting because of its violence. But Setterfield has woven an intricate story which, if slow to start, becomes downright gripping by mid-book. One finds in it also the occasional, beautifully-wrought passage:

"With a bit more imagination they might have been able to leap the bounds of their own expectations; they might have recognized their feelings for what they were: love of the deepest and most respectful kind. In another day, another culture, he might have asked her to be his wife and she might have said yes. At the very least, one can imagine that some Friday night after their fish and mash, after their fruit pie and custard, he might have taken her hand--or she his--and they might have led each other in bashful silence to one or other of their beds. But the thought never entered their heads. So they became friends, the way old married couples often do, and enjoyed the tender loyalty that awaits the lucky on the other side of passion, without ever living the passion itself."

My one reservation with Setterfield's book has to do with Margaret's obsession with her dead twin sister, the intensity of which I thought highly implausible. But it hardly matters. The Thirteenth Tale is a book that will leave its mark on you.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Dustin's Bookshelf

William F. Nolan
Delirium Books
P.O. Box 338, North Webster, IN 46555
No ISBN $35.00

William F. Nolan has done it once again. This vastly talented author has written what I can only describe as an amazing piece of fantastical horror fiction. Paranormal investigator, David Kincaid is hired by a Hollywood producer to find a young, unknown actress for what he is told is a job opportunity in films. As David follows the leads provided, he stumbles into a world of darkness that swallows up his life even after leaving the case. With help from friend and Sheriff, Mike Lucero, and psychic, Irene Hopwood, the protagonist of Demon! will discover the horrible truth behind his investigation and will confront the evil Broxa demon in a bloody, flesh-ripping culmination.

The Delirium Books staff has done an excellent job producing this limited edition hardcover. With an explanatory preface by the author and excellent cover artwork by the notorious Alan M. Clark, Demon! is a tight little package that will keep the reader glued to its pages in anticipation.

Bloodstained Oz
Christopher Golden and James A. Moore
Earthling Publications
P.O. Box 413, Northborough, MA 01532
0976633965 $35.00

After a storm destroys the southern countryside in 1933, strange events begin to happen. Horrifying monsters stalk the night, anthropomorphism seizes a little girl's playful being, and a woman struggles to survive the night inside her covered wagon as flying demons peck at her dead husband.

From two of the most talented authors in the genre today comes a novella that has all the makings of a masterpiece. With deep characterization and true southern atmosphere, creatures of pure evil and dark enchantment, and a story line that keeps the reader occupied and entertained until the last page is turned, Bloodstained Oz will bring found memories long after the book has been read.

This signed and numbered edition comes with breathtaking artwork by Glenn Chadbourne and an introduction by Ray Garton. With Bloodstained Oz, Golden and Moore have created a truly graphic masterpiece of fantastical horror that ranks up there with the best of Poe and Irving.

Patrick Lestewka
Delirium Books
P.O. Box 338, North Webster, IN 46555
No ISBN $19.95

Imprint is the second title in Delirium Books' line of beautifully crafted hardcover chapbooks. Patrick Lestewka has written a memorable tale about a man bent on revenge. Sam Richards has lost his wife and he is willing to do whatever it may take to see that her killer meets his fate by the hands of the widower. Sam will go to extreme lengths to find himself placed in the same prison as the killer, to study his prey, and make the final move. But has he taken out the wrong man? While conversing with a prison doctor, it becomes evident that Sam's memory may not be as reliable as he initially thought.

Patrick Lestewka (aka Craig Davidson) has brought to life fears that hide deep within our psyche: the loss of the past, the contortion of our memories and the actions that could result due to such disillusions. Imprint is full of sorrow and bewilderment, a concoction of fear and hatred, and forces the reader to keep their eyes moving and pages turning in a wonderfully written story.

Dustin La Valley

Emanuel's Bookshelf

A Soldier Never Cries
Laura E. Johnson
Lyrical Soldier Publishing
5936 Lawndale St., Philadelphia, PA 19120
0977311201, $15.00

Receiving the call to go to war is a serious matter for any soldier. A soldier's thoughts are consumed with months or years away from family, the possibility of dying, and even faith. In Laura E. Johnson's "A Soldier Never Cries" the protagonist must face these issues along with a long-distance relationship, the reasons behind a war, and the deaths of her fellow soldiers.

Sara Cornwall is a 26-year old soldier in the U.S. Army. Her family and her Jamaican roots keep her grounded, and her life in American keeps her happy. When the call comes to go to Iraq, she must deal with her mother's concerns, hers and her boyfriend's promise of faithfulness, and her own apprehension about dying too young. But instead of wallowing in pity, Sara relies on her wits, her writing, and her strong faith to see her through.

"A Soldier Never Cries" contains some thought-provoking passages regarding war, military life, and what it is like to be a female in the majority male military. For example, the author writes:

As of today there are 240 female soldiers injured and 33 killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though women are not on the front lines, we are facing the same risk because of the shortage of US troops. We are doing the same missions as our male counterparts, which places us in the same danger. There's really not one particular front line. The entire place is a front line.

It's passages like this that make you root for the main character and for the author. But Laura E. Johnson is not a great novelist just yet. Her novel wanders from subject to subject. It's in need of a professional edit. And it suffers from an identity crisis. Is it a novel, a poetry book, or a journal? It's hard to decide. However, there's something so genuine about "A Soldier Never Cries" and how it portrays the authentic range of emotions one goes through when preparing to fight a war you know nothing about in an unfamiliar land that you have to recommend it to soldiers who've been there and those who are considering signing up. This is especially true for young black women since Johnson's voice is one of the few authors who can speak from that perspective. "A Soldier Never Cries" would make an ideal gift for a high school senior considering service in the military or for that soldier who understands what the main character has endured.

Caught in the Middle
Steve J. King
Higher Power Publishing
629 E. 130 Frwy, Suite 208, Garland, TX 75043
0978763122, $15.95

In "Caught in the Middle" by Steve J. King (no, not that horror writer guy), a case of mistaken identity catapults the life of a disabled truck driver out of control. Not only does the street-savvy Stoney Ramon fit the description of a man accused of armed robbery but his best friend Avery Jackson just happens to be the guy to pick up the bag full of stolen money. And that's just the beginning...

While in prison, Stoney befriends Jose, a Hispanic man with connections and Shorty a hot-tempered black man whose long-term sentence gives him the ultimate power. Though his best friend offers him a role as a partner in his new detailing business, it's the relationship with Jose and his subsequent job offer as a strong arm that gets him involved in the seedy world of crime, drugs, and ultimately, murder.

"Caught in the Middle" is a fast-paced, high-octane thrill ride with old school flavor. Steve J. King (Blood Brothers) does an excellent job in creating a strong protagonist and a cast of supporting players the readers will easily identify with and love. Though it seems like the book's editor fell asleep at the wheel and never woke up, it's King's style and Stoney's strength that will cause readers to stand up and take notice regardless. With a proper professional re-edit, it's easy to predict this novel as a future bestseller right up there with books written by folks like Relentless Aaron, Vickie Stringer and Teri Woods. Street lit authors beware. There's a new man in town with a pen on fire, and his name is Steve J. King! Recommended.

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

Franci's Bookshelf

Flight of the Fisherbird
Nora Martin
175 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10010
1582348146 $16.95

Nora Martin has created an endearing character in Clem, a girl living in Puget Sound during the year of 1889. Clem, an expert sailor at age thirteen, sails her boat, the Fisherbird among the San Juan Islands. She makes lists, which are her poetry of all the things around her.

Things I have found in the sea:
Three round glass balls that float.
A perfect sea urchin shell
with all its spines attached.
Driftwood that looks exactly like our cow's head.
Many bottles--blue are best. red the rarest.
Two old boots and one
small lady's slipper.
One live man.

Which takes us to the heart of the story. Out sailing, she finds a nearly drowned Chinese man, and hides him on a small island. She is shocked to discover that he was meant to drown. The times are cruel for Asians, no longer needed to chop sugar beets, or risk their lives, hired for pennies to dig deep into mines about to collapse. Laws are passed to close United States borders to all Chinese. They are often murdered or sent back to China. Secret hiding places under buildings in San Francisco and Port Townsend shelter illegal immigrants. Under the streets of Havre, Montana is another city, a place of refuge from rampaging whites, who would shoot Chinese on sight. In the back of the novel is an excellent bibliography for further reading about this stain on America's history.

Martin tenderly and with great understanding writes about this difficult issue, through the eyes of a character all will come to love. Her language is concise, beautiful and entertaining, and she has researched her subject. I heartily recommend this book for all young readers.

Mary Patterson Thornburg
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, Indiana 47403
142590064X $14.49

First novels are a special treat to review because the author brings passion to the story. There may be some rough edges among the pages, as there are with Underland, but the journey is well worth the untraveled road. Alyssha, running in fear from two men who threaten all that is familiar, sets off on a search for her older brother. Following his advice on the path to take, she finds herself in another world.

Thornburg deals with some important issues. In a society sorted by the degree of racial differences, the Rydors represent the central government, and the Bandoru are the nomads of this world. Alyssha is of mixed race, as are many of the people in this pre-industrial fantasy. Thornburg's love of animals comes through clearly, creating interesting animals.

The novel moves along at a good and believable pace, and will please fantasy lovers especially. While this book is recommended for ages 10 and up, I would say, more specifically, this is a Teen, YA novel. The story leaves Alyssha at an excellent place for a sequel to begin, one which I will be watching for.

Franci McMahon

Gary's Bookshelf

Roots of Evil and Other Stories
Yvone Wisdom
RC Press a division of Radical Concepts Inc
6520 Metro West Blvd 716, Orlando, Florida 32835
1934128147 $14.95

Wisdom has a whole new slant on the stories of "Mother Goose." A reporter named Blake Sullivan interviews a now half blind Mother Goose to have her tell stories in an adult way of what happened to some of the characters from the famous tales. What he learns is that nothing is as it seems. Part of the fun of this book was figuring out which character Wisdom is writing about, She has a delicious dark and sinister way of telling her eight stories that is helped along by the artwork of several artists; Mary Hanson Robert, Mike Conrad who also did the outstanding cover, Paul Vincenti, Stanley W. Morrison are some of them. The book is a wonderful combination of art with prose that has a very sinister ring to it. This is the first of a series. I look forward to seeing what this slew of talent comes up with next time.

Step on a Crack
James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316013943 $27.95

The authors introduce a new character who is a bit different. Detective Michael Bennett is the parent of ten children. He adopted them at his wife's suggestion. She is deceased and Bennett has to raise them himself. This adds a different type of conflict to the suspenseful novels Patterson is known for. I loved the shocking beginning in which a former first lady, while celebrating an anniversary with her husband, dies after eating something at a restaurant in New York. The novel is a little bit slower than other Patterson tales I've read but it ends on a high note with a smashing conclusion. Fans of Patterson should like this new book.

The Hooters Cookbook
Rodney Foster, editor
Rick Schafer, photographer
Arnica Publishing Inc
3739 SE Eighth Ave Suite, 1Portland OR 97202
0974568678 $19.95 503 225 9901

Hooters is a great place to watch sporting events and have some good food served by some of the most beautiful women in the world. The wings and girls have been their trademark for more than twenty years. Now Corporate Chef Scott Kinsey has compiled interesting and tasty recipes of different types of wings, fries, onion rings, dips, and other kinds of foods. None of what he has compiled is sold at the restaurants. Employees were asked to contribute their favorites and there is a wide range of things to choose from. There are also short articles about many different aspects of the Hooters universe. The only thing missing are pictures of the girls. This book is interesting and is another glimpse of the world of Hooter.

The Treasure Tree
Joel Chumleg
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, Oklahoma 73064
1598862227 $13.99 888 361-9473

The author, who is a teenager, tells a story while also delving into teachings of the old and new testaments and shows how we should apply them to everyday life. The book is easy to read, interesting, and fun.

The Green Trap
Ben Bova
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765309246 $24.95

Bova is one of the finest writers of sf and with this title he again proves why. His characters are well defined with logical near future societies. He has always told very good stories but this is one that politicians should read and learn that we have to convert from fossil fuels to other safer energy sources. Set against the backdrop of a murder this is a novel that shows human nature doesn't change even with all of mankind 's sophistication and scientific knowledge.

Ultimate Italian Trivia
Scott Paul Frush
Marshall Rand Publishing
P. O Box 1849, Royal Oak Michigan 48068-1849
0974437484 $14.75

The author has pulled together many things about Italy, Italians, Italian food, in the form of trivia. You can learn a lot more than you think by taking the challenge and playing the game of trivia. Though it's a lot of fun it is also very educational. Schools should use this title to help teach children about the Italian contribution to the world.

Cowboys & Aliens
Fred Van Lente, Andrew Foley, and Luciano Lima
Platinum Studios Inc
11400 Olympic BL 11th Floor, Los Angeles Ca 90064
1934220027 $4.99

I really enjoyed the combination of the old west with an alien race that comes to planet earth to conquer it. I loved how the Indians and cowboys band together to fight their common foe. The artwork of the comic book was very well done and adds another dimension to the story

Fairy the Art of Jasmine Becket-Griffith
Written & illustrated by Jasmine Becket-Griffith
P. O Box 470932, Celebration, Fl 34747-0932
0978996759 $24.95

I was captivated by the mesmerizing artwork by this author. She has a captivating style of blending color schemes with her several beautiful females. One in particular has the most incredible eyes and a little girl look. Collectors of fairy or fantasy art should make a point to buy this book for their collections.

Mighty Mite a New Beginning
Tao Nguyen
The Amazing Factory LLC
097768213 $14.95 www.THEAMAZINGFACTORY.COM

Max comes home after school to his adoptive parents the Johnson's and tells them all day kids picked on him for being different and he's tired of it. His parents try to console him by showing that there is nothing wrong with being different. The author has told a story in very simple terms that packs a lot of deeper meaning. Kids and parents should and discuss this book together.

The Dragon Who Ate His Tail
Ray Bradbury
Gauntlet Publications
5307 Arroyo Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80922
1887368914 $14.99 719 591-5566

I've been a fan of Bradbury for a long time. For the last few years I have not read very much from him. Now this new short collection shows that he is as good as ever. There are several short stories of time travel that unfold quickly but contain the charm that sets him apart from other writers in the field. There is also a very brief commentary and several portions of stories in raw form complete with markings by the author. He is also the artist for many of the drawings that are very interesting. He continues to show why he is a master storyteller.

Cassie's Creepy Candy Story
Sheila Sauvangeau-Smestand
Illustrations by Kelly Berg
A Better Be Write Publishing
713 Glenside Road, Millville NJ. 08332
0976773228 $17.95

This is not your normal candy store. Strange things go on here. This is a fun kids' book with beautiful artwork that enhances the bizarre store. Kids of all ages can read this fast paced book and enjoy. This is a perfect title for the Halloween season.

The Project
Jan Coffey
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
0778324060 $6.99

Violence is erupting in our schools by the most unlikely students. Classified as the "good kids" they are picking up guns and shooting anyone in their way. This is another tense nail biting suspense novel like "Silent Waters" by the same author. This is not even close to a romance novel though Mira markets romance titles. The tense situations are handled brilliantly with a very surprising ending. I raced through this great novel and wondered which high school the author used as the one in Orlando.

Your Resume Sucks
Mark Simon, Jeanne Simon, and Dr. James E. M. Irvine D. M
A& S Inc
8137 Lake Crowell Circle, Orlando Florida 32836
0978847709 $18.00 407-351-0893

While seeking employment people often make blunder that prove to be very costly. Part of it is they do not know how to write a decent resume. Also they do not know things to leave off and things they should include. The authors tell things like number of years of employment at one place, a person's age, year they graduated from high school or college, are all bad things. For each they tell why. They also show the proper way to include information and why you should write it the way they are revealing. The things they tell are logical, very easy to follow and should help get the prospective end result

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Jesse Kellerman
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0399154035 $24.95 800-847-5515

Jonah is a third-year medical student at a New York City teaching hospital, over-worked and stressed out. One night, having run out of the hospital on a personal errand, he hears a woman's scream, and comes upon what appears to be a murder in progress. He instinctively intervenes, and the knife-wielding attacker is killed. The woman, he later finds, has survived with nothing worse than sixty-two stitches. Nine days later she shows up in his apartment. They go for a couple of drinks; he is attracted to her, but the evening ends with his failing to get her phone number. Then, soon after, she appears behind him in a downtown book store and goes back to his apartment with him. They start seeing each other every day, and what begins as an exciting, intensely sexual relationship becomes something much darker, as implied by the book's title, but so much worse than merely that.

The author is, at this point in his career [this is his second novel, following "Sunstroke"], known primarily as the son of Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, but now coming into his own with this book. I had a couple of problems with it, specifically, the writing style, which at times seemed jumpy [for lack of a better word]. Similarly, I found it unsettling and a bit disorienting to read about characters whose identities are not made clear, e.g., when it's discovered that one character, Hannah, is the daughter of someone first mentioned a few pages back but not identified at the time and then, a bit further on, someone else who's been a presence in the novel is identified as being her father. The use of adjectives such as "normative," "japanned," "acidulated," "bactrian," "gravid," "eructing" and "plastinated," and something described as being a "panjandrum" had me thinking I'd better have a dictionary beside me. The main characters' surnames, somewhat self-consciously, are "Stem," "like a plant, the root of all goodness, the benevolent earth god," [originally Stein], and "Gones" [originally Jones but misspelled at some point in time and still pronounced "Jones"] All of which serves to pique the interest while at the same time pulling this reader briefly out of the story. But these things occur early in the book, and as a whole, this is a fascinating and original story, which I must admit at times had me wanting to look away as when one passes the scene of an accident, horrified but needing to see what happens next, and it's got a shocker of an ending.

Poison Pen
Sheila Lowe
Capital Crime Press
P.O. Box 272904, Fort Collins. CO 80527
0977627608 $14.95 970-481-4894

The body of Lindsey Alexander is found in her LA-area penthouse apartment, in her bathtub Jacuzzi, with what appears to be a suicide note beside the tub. Ivan Novak, her close friend and business manager, asks Claudia Rose, a noted handwriting analyst frequently called in by the police, among others, for her expert assistance, to examine the note [not trusting the police to have done a proper job] to prove, or disprove, that it was indeed Lindsey's handwriting. The note consists of six words, not a whole lot to work with. There is no lacking for suspects: Lindsey was a woman who made enemies with ease, and at one point Claudia thinks, "Maybe the world is better off without someone who made a career of hurting others."

At one point in time Lindsey, Claudia, and a third woman, Kelly Brennan, had been best friends. Lindsey had been following the same path as Claudia in handwriting analysis, but had dropped out to forge a very successful career in public relations, with many high profile clients. But her sadistic propensities had caused Claudia and Kelly to have maintained only the most superficial contact with Lindsey for at least the past ten years. Now, with events indicating Kelly may become a suspect in what is increasingly believed to have been Lindsey's murder, and beyond authenticating the 'suicide note,' Claudia determines that "she would have to do everything within her ability to uncover the truth." She also comes to realize that "personal acquaintances make the worst clients."

The resulting tale is fast-paced and filled with interesting tidbits on graphology [handwriting analysis], one that the author is well-placed to do since that has been her profession for over thirty-five years, having authored books on the subject and testified in court as a forensic handwriting expert.

I must admit to having had a problem when Claudia, before the police arrive, takes two items from a crime scene that might be crucial evidence, even given her determination to get to the truth; admittedly the author makes her 'theft' integral to that part of the plot, but it seemed like something someone that sophisticated wouldn't have done. Other instances stretch credulity as well, as when Claudia puts herself in harm's way on more than one occasion. That aside, Poison Pen is a good read, and one that I enjoyed.

Accidents Waiting to Happen
Simon Wood
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
0843958308 $7.99

Josh Michaels, a young man with a wife and little girl he adores, while driving back to his home in Sacramento, California, is forced off the highway and into the river in what appears to be an accident born from what he thinks of as reckless stupidity on the part of the other driver. But the actions of that driver, before he gets back into his car and speeds away, convince Josh that it is anything but. Josh survives the 'accident,' but starts to doubt his ability to continue to survive the ensuing events, all appearing to be accidents by increasingly obviously [to him] staged attempts to end his life. Josh is staggered as he comes to this unavoidable conclusion and cannot believe that he is the target of a killer, but has no choice but to accept this fact and attempt to figure out who wants him dead, and why, if he is to survive. To make matters worse, if that's possible, past indiscretions and errors in judgment are now coming back to haunt him.

At Chapter 4 the reader meets "the professional," the man hired to kill another person, a woman, as well as Josh. Who has hired him? Is there a connection between the two intended victims [something not readily apparent]? And what is the motive? As 'the professional' himself muses, "a seemingly motiveless murder was just as hard to solve as a well-planned accident."

Simon Wood has fashioned an exciting and well-written novel of suspense, with a nail-biting conclusion during which this reader held her breath in anticipation of what new horrors might be in store.

Dry Ice
Stephen White
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0525949976 $25.95 800-847-5515

Stephen White's newest thriller is all about secrets: "We choose secrecy at some point in our lives—presumably it makes sense to us at the time—and we protect the secrecy through the phases that follow. Do the facts truly remain dangerous later on? Worthy of all the subterfuge? Or does the existence of the secrecy become the real danger requiring protection?... Secrets aren't secrets. They're just hidden treasures, waiting to be exploited." Alan Gregory, the Colorado psychologist, returns as the protagonist in this wonderful series. A ghost from his past ha s come back to haunt him, a brilliant, vindictive and seriously disturbed killer who, in Privileged Information, the first book in the series, was his patient before being sentenced to an indeterminate period in a State mental hospital until such time as he is found competent to stand trial. Now, fifteen years later, he has escaped, and Dr. Gregory's life will be profoundly affected. A seemingly innocuous enough incident, a patient noticing a woman's purse lying outside the window of his office, triggers a series of events that will put his life, both personally and professionally, in peril.

The trademark suspense of Mr. White's books is present here along with a fascinating tale of the price we all pay for the secrets we keep from even our closest friends and loved ones, and the implicit issue of trust that is involved. The Colorado setting and the characters, dialogue and plot keep the reader involved right through to the end of this gripping novel.

What the Dead Know
Laura Lippman
Wm. Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0061128856 $24.95 800-242-7737

A young woman driving on a Baltimore highway loses control of her car, which veers out of control and sideswipes another vehicle. Stunned, she keeps driving, pulling off the highway shortly thereafter, and is picked up by a local patrol car, obviously disoriented, and taken to the hospital to be treated for her injuries. She is questioned in connection with charges of leaving the scene of an accident and refuses – or is unable - to give her name, but finally tells the empathetic social worker who comes to see her, Kay Sullivan: "I'm going to say a name…It's a name you'll know…There's a girl, and she's dead, and that won't surprise anyone. They've believed she was dead, all these years. But there's another girl, and she's not dead, and that's the harder part to explain…The Bethany girls. Easter weekend. 1975." Thirty years previously, two sisters, 12 and 15 years old, disappeared from a Baltimore mall and were never seen or heard from again, other than false sightings and bogus ransom demands. The young woman offers tantalizing clues indicating that she may be the younger sister, Heather Bethany. It becomes impossible for her listeners, or the reader, to differentiate the truth from the lies.

With its genesis in an actual incident, Laura Lippman, in her eagerly anticipated and beautifully written new standalone novel, has created a fully fleshed-out life for her protagonist, before and after that date in 1975. Is it possible that the Jane Doe is really Heather? Kevin Infante is the lead detective who must try to answer that question, to gain her trust sufficiently for her to tell him the truth. When asked where her sister is, she tells him "Killed. Murdered. Her neck snapped right in front of me."

The novel juxtaposes scenes from thirty years ago with the present, with "Heather" reflecting on her childhood before "that day," her father instilling in her true family values [before that phrase become fraught with politically correct meaning]: "A family was a team, a unit, a country unto itself, the one part of her identity that would remain constant the rest of her life. 'We lock our front door against strangers…but never against each other.'" The concept of 'family' is insightfully explored in What the Dead Know. The suspense is sustained throughout, and despite the fact that all the clues are there the resolution, when it comes, is stunning.

Probable Cause
Theresa Schwegel
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
0312343167 $23.95 646-307-5560

In her second novel, after the Edgar Award-winning Officer Down, Theresa Schwegel has brought us a cop novel with just as much nitty-gritty realism as its predecessor.

23-year-old Ray Weiss is a third-generation Chicago cop, which makes for something like resentment on the part of his fellow officers. Partly to overcome this, and to finally be "in" – and also apparently because it's a regular practice - as a rookie he must undergo an initiation: He must break into a jewelry store and steal a few pieces, looking particularly for a ruby ring that his senior partner wants to give his wife. He doesn't really want to do it, but reasons "Every profession has its scams," and feels he really has no choice. "He's taken endless flak over his father's position in the department…His dad didn't help him get the job; in fact, his dad is the reason he has to prove himself tonight."< SPAN style="mso-spacerun: yes"> Unfortunately, there is a complication: Once he's gotten into the store, he finds a dead body on the floor.

The author has created a sympathetic protagonist in Ray, as she limns his relationships with other cops: Jed Pagorski, a fellow rookie, with whom he bonded in the academy; his father, who he still refers to as The Lieutenant; Sloane Pearson, the female homicide detective assigned to investigate the murder. He has nightmares about the dead man, both literally and figuratively, fearing he can somehow be traced to and implicated in the murder. An arrest is quickly made, but Ray is skeptical about it, and doesn't hesitate to say so. And then he finds himself questioning whether all the bad guys are on the outside of the precinct house. He's told: "You're one of us now." But he wonders, is he really?

This is a swiftly-paced, engrossing novel that will keep the reader turning the pages. I must admit that the plot caused some confusion for this reader, but that may have been more my problem than the author's, and it didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the book. I look forward to reading the author's next novel, and Probable Cause is recommended.

Past Perfect
Susan Isaacs
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020, 212-698-7000/800-223-2336
0743242165 $25.00

Katie Schottland is a woman with an enviable life: She has a husband and ten-year-old son whom she loves and a successful career in New York City as the writer of a long-running cable tv spy series. But fifteen years earlier, she worked for the CIA, until the day she was summarily fired and escorted from the premises, to her great humiliation and without explanation. And just when she was convinced she was in line for a promotion. She has never been able to get over her termination from a job she loved more than anything else before or since, but pretty much pushed it to the recesses of her memory. Until the day she gets a phone call from her former CIA colleague, Lisa Golding, who beseeches her to help her "on a matter of national importance," and to coax Katie into agreeing to speak with her she promises to tell her the truth behind her dismissal. And then Lisa disappears. When two men who Lisa with whom Lisa had dealt in her job are found dead, Katie has no choice but to try to get to the bottom of whatever is going on, lest she find herself next on the list. True, in Katie's two years with the CIA she was never a 'spy,' working desk jobs as a financial analyst for the first six months and for the next eighteen months as deputy chief of the Office of Eastern European Analysis [and for a few months having had an affair with her married and mysterious boss in that office, but that's another matter entirely]. For some reason beyond her present comprehension, she is somehow involved in the present events .

I have enjoyed Susan Isaacs' writing from the time I read her first book, Compromising Positions. Now, ten novels later, she is still creating funny, endearing female protagonists, albeit ones who unexpectedly find their lives in jeopardy. The writing is humorous, witty and able to capture and hold the reader's interest throughout, and just as delightful as it was in book one.

The Grave Tattoo
Val McDermid
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010, 212-674-5151/646-307-5560
0312339216 $24.95

The Grave Tattoo represents something of a departure for Val McDermid, although admittedly this reader hasn't read everything this author has written. If memory serves, however, Ms. McDermid's prior works are quite a bit darker than her newest novel, which deals with murders past and present, though the murders take place offstage. The former is a body discovered in a bog which apparently is 200 years old, nicknamed Pirate Peat for its location and the fact that the body showed signs of tattoos typical of the South Sea Islands and thought by some to be that of Fletcher Christian, of Mutiny on the Bounty fame, or infamy. Christian was known to have had relatives in the area where the body, or what was left of it, was found. More intriguing still is the fact that it appears possible that when he returned to the Lake District of England, he told his tale of what had transpired on that fateful journey to his friend, William Wordsworth, who in turn may have committed that tale to a long narrative poem which, if it truly exists, would be worth a fortune, both in money and scholarly fame. At least that is the line of thought being followed by Jane Gresham, a native of the Lake District herself and a Wordsworth specialist, who is tantalized by such a possibility. After the body's discovery, Jane takes a study break from her university seminars [and her part-time waitressing job] in London to follow up the possibilities of the existence of such a document. But when she starts seeking out and interviewing the descendants of the past person known to have had the putative papers, someone appears to be murdering them, though the police are none too sure the deaths are murders as the victims are all quite elderly and their deaths might easily be from natural causes, albeit suspiciously coincidental. But when attempts are made on Jane's life, that certainly seems to indicate that there is a murderer about.

The Grave Tattoo is more of a historical novel than one expects from Ms. McDermid, and a genre this reader generally shies away from. But the quality of the writing is exactly what one expects from this author, and I soon found myself caught up in the mystery of the long-ago murder victim [a section of whose writings appears before each chapter], as well as the present mystery, and the suspense builds up to the solution of both at the very satisfactory conclusion.


The Blade Itself
Marcus Sakey
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010, 212-674-5151/646-307-5560
0312360312 $22.95

This remarkable debut novel by Marcus Sakey opens with 32-year-old Danny Carter, a petty thief, robbing a pawn shop in downtown Chicago with his partner, Evan. The robbery goes bad and Evan shoots the pawnshop owner, who had unexpectedly returned to the store. Danny, having already served two short terms in county and State prisons, flees the scene, determined not to go back to jail. He vows to turn his life around and turn his back on "the life." And a big part of the new Danny is Karen, the woman "who knew his past but was willing to bet on their future…He'd been straight, with a job, a home, and a relationship to prove it." But a little over seven years after the robbery/shooting, his past catches up with him when Evan is released from prison and, as Danny says, he is afraid his past will poison his future.

The title comes from a line by Homer: "The blade itself incites to violence."

The writing, swiftly-moving plot, well-developed characters, suspense which steadily builds, all of this belies the fact that this is a first novel by Mr. Sakey. A small example of the writing, the scene unimportant, but describing Chicago's Union Station: "Danny couldn't help but find Union's Station's Great Hall breathtaking. Pillars lined the mammoth room, gracefully vaulting upward to support Beaux Arts alcoves and balconies. Eighty feet above, the domed glass ceiling cut the twilight sky into neat blue-gray geometries. The room had the echoing quiet of a church. The benches dotting the floor even looked like pews, though instead of a gathering of the faithful, the benches held a congregation of the unwanted, men and women with a pallor of dirt that couldn't be washed away by a thousand showers…"

I read with a mounting sense of dread as Evan ponders how to convince Danny to do what he has in mind, in order, he says, to restore a sense of balance and of payment of the debt that he feels Danny owes him. As the reader continues, the resolution [no good one seems imaginable] is impossible to predict.

The book has garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly, among other plaudits, and it is easy to see why. The Blade Itself more than meets the expectations raised by its glowing reviews, of which this is now one. Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Bill Napier
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
031293680X $6.99

What makes a good book is a good story. 'Nemesis' is a technical and intricate good story. The minor fumbling of the storytelling is easy to ignore. Napier uses a few well used techniques such as starting the tale with a high action sequence from the middle of the story that are not well blended into the narration. The power of the core story permits the reader to forgive the weakness in the telling.

Dr. Webb and a few other specialists from around the world are pulled into a secret group by their governments when intelligence sources indicate that an asteroid is on a collision course with the earth. In complete isolation, they are assigned the task of locating and developing a method for deflecting the asteroid. They are given only a week to do this. Webb soon finds out that something more is going on when one of the team is killed and important information is stolen or falsified. Staggering from the exhaustion of the near impossible schedule, Webb has to navigate through a maze of deceptions and across the world to find the truth before the deadline catches up to him.

'Nemesis' is a fun action mystery with a heavy dose of science and history. You will enjoy the story. It is far from the best in this popular genre but it is unique enough that it should find a place on your bookshelf.

'Cold Company'
Sue Henry
Avon Books
An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0380816857 $6.99

'Cold Company' is a book about Alaska with a murder mystery added and not a murder mystery set in Alaska. This point of view change makes 'Cold Company' a gentler read even when the killer is murdering his victims.

Jessie Arnold is in the process of building a new cabin. In the side of the excavation for the basement, she finds a skull. The skeleton that is unearthed had a butterfly pendant belonging to a woman who disappeared twenty years earlier when a serial killer stalked Alaska. Jessie stumbles into the middle of a new investigation when a complete body is found fitting the pattern of the serial killer.

For hardcore mystery buffs, 'Cold Company' is a little light but the complete story is a comfortable well-rounded read. It is a book to read huddled under a blanket with a hot cup of coffee. It will not haunt you with the viciousness of a twisted mind or gruesome killings. The beauty of the Alaskan wilderness is the most lasting image the story portrays. The murder mystery is just a pinch of added spice.

S. A. Gorden

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Color Managementin Digital Photography
Brad Hinkel
26 West Mission Street, Suite 3, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
1933952024 $29.95

Written by photographer, software designer and teacher Brad Hinkel, Color Management in Digital Photography: Ten Easy Steps to True Colors in Photoshop is a methodical, full-color guide to making the most of digital color photography using Photoshop software. Numerous computer screenshots illustrate the step-by-step instructions, and the straightforward text is written to be accessible to digital photography novices as well as seasoned digital photographers who are relatively unfamiliar with what Photoshop has to offer. Steps range from the most basic "Select a Color Space" (such as RGB or Adobe RGB) to "Profile Your Monitor" to "Advanced Printing" and "Adjusting Your Color for Printing". Enthusiastically recommended for any Photoshop user interested in improving the quality of their digital color photographs.

Why Good People Make Bad Choices
Charles Lawrence Allen, MSW
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
1932690255 $21.95

Charles Lawrence Allen, MSW presents Why Good People Make Bad Choices: How You Can Develop Peace of Mind Through Integrity, a self-help guide to overcoming maladaptive behaviors that erode one's personal integrity and therefore one's well-being, as well as how to recognize integrity in others. Chapters discuss how human beings are susceptible to near-automatic "instinctual management" behaviors, and teach methods for managing anger, sadness, fear, and other emotions that threaten to overwhelm one's judgment, actions and integrity, thereby transforming unwanted behavior. An uplifting self-help book for improving one's character and regaining control over one's life, one choice at a time.

Hickok's Gold
Joseph Kropp
Day to Day Enterprises
1721 Canoe Creek Road, Oviedo, FL 32766-8533
1890905259, $11.95

When Benjamin and Martin arrived in the Black Hills with their parents, Mr. Kaye was ready with campfire stories of Cowboys, Indians, and the Gold Fields that sparked danger and a host of legendary characters. A fascinating and engaging story of adventure that blurs the distinction between fantasy and reality, there are ancient riddles to be solved and a quest for wild Bill Hickok's lost gold mine to be made. Author Joseph Kropp is a superb storyteller and "Hickock's Gold" is a deftly crafted novel that will hold the reader's full attention from first page to last. Also very highly recommended is Kropp's previous novel, "Bowleg's Bounty".

Open Your Heart With Bicycling
Shawn B. Rohrbach
DreamTime Publishing
1601660030, $14.95 1-866-623-6203

DreamTime Publishing is an independent press that has as its particular mission and focus the publishing of books devoted to the development and enhancement of the mind and the body through their 'Open Your Heart' series. In "Open Your Heart With Bicycling: Mastering Life Through Love Of The Road", bicycling expert Shawn B. Rohrbach emphasizes the value of bicycling as a fun and enjoyable source of low impact exercise. But more than that, Rohrbach provides the reader with a wealth of information about everything from the bicycle business, to what dedicated bicyclists should eat, how they should get fit for cycling, commuting, bike paths, and more. Enhanced with appendices on 'Favorite Recipes', 'Off-Season Training', 'Internet Resources', as well as a glossary and an index, "Open Your Heart With Bicycling" is a 'must read' for all dedicated cyclists. Also highly recommended from DreamTime Publishing series of inspirational sports titles are: Lisa Marie Mercer's "Open Your Heart With Winter Fitness: Mastering Life Through Love Of The Slopes" (1601660022, $16.95); David L. Wilson's "Open Your Heart With Art: Mastering Life Through Love Of Everyday Creativity" (1601660014, $14.95); and Christopher J. Bibey "Open Your Heart With Basketball: Mastering Life Through Love Of The Game" (1601660006, $12.95).

Lamentations On The Rwandan Genocide
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
Final Thursday Press
815 State Street, Cedar Falls, IA 50613
0974276421, $9.95

A native of Rwanda, the theme and focus of Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure (Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa) "Lamentations On The Rwandan Genocide" is a true human holocaust. Fifteen poems and an extensive section of notes on Rwandan culture provides an American readership with a strongly recommended introduction to a genuine African tragedy as only memorable and deftly crafted poetic expression can provide. 'A Father's Lament': Ryangombe, do not forsake me;/And you, my ancestors, help me./I cannot take it anymore./The other night I heard my daughter say:/"Tutsi rebels and the Hutu. Children do not have/water" As if this was her song.//"Hush child," I said, "stop saying that./You've been watching CNN again./It's not a song. Those are your people, not killers;/Your cousins may be among those/dry-lipped and emaciated children./Your grandma, unless, and aunties may be on the run again/(like those you see on the screen)."

African American Heritage in Upper Housatonic Valley
David Levinson, editor
Berkshire Publishing Groups LLC
314 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230
1933782080 $24.95

Edited by cultural anthropologist David Levinson, African American Heritage in Upper Housatonic Valley is a fascinating, in-depth history of American New England life as seen through the eyes of its African-American residents, including not only historical figures such as author W.E.B. Du Bois and one of the founders of the NAACP, but also everyday businesspeople, teachers, religious leaders, artists, and social activists. Illustrated with sketches and numerous vintage black-and-white photographs, and covering a time line spanning from the early 1600's to the modern day, African American Heritage in Upper Housatonic Valley is an accessible insight into an oft-overlooked dimension of American history and is enthusiastically recommended for American History and Black Studies shelves as well as high school and public library reference collections.

Able Greenspan

Harold's Bookshelf

The Great American Detox Diet
Alex Jamieson
Rodale Press
33 East Minor St., Emmaus, PA 18098-0099
1594862311 $23.95

Diets don't work for you? Maybe what you need to do is detoxify your body, not only for weight loss but also for optimal health. That is where this book comes in handy. The first part examines why there is a problem with the American diet and why detoxification is the answer to that problem. The second part then details the detoxification plan. The plan is thorough and includes dealing with sweets, caffeine, fat, and carbohydrates. The third and final part contains recipes and resources for detoxification.

The biggest problem with detox diets tends to be the difficulty of following the advice. The recipe section of this book resolves this problem by providing nutritious meals that taste good while allowing you to follow the detoxification plan. The Great American Detox Diet is a recommended read.

Sharing the Table at Garland's Lodge
Amanda Stine, Mary Garland
Garland's Oak Creek Lodge
P.O. Box 152, Sedona, AZ 86339
0977334902 $34.95

As you read through the pages of this wonderful cookbook you quickly feel like a personal friend of the authors as they welcome you to Garland's Lodge in the beautiful mountains of Sedona, Arizona. This book is a collection of pictures, history, and a very personal look at the Lodge as well as a collection of their most popular Lodge recipes. The recipes run the gamut from the very basic to wonderfully crafted creations. Some of the recipes not to miss include Molasses Gingerbread, Grodzinsky's Apple Cake, Cheddar Crisps, Herb-rubbed Roast Chicken with Lemon Herb Vinaigrette or Mushroom Thyme Sauce, Baby Back Ribs with Ancho Honey Barbecue Sauce, Beef Filets with Forest Mushroom Sauce, Creamy Green Chile Rice, Lemon-Almond Cake, and Chocolate Profiteroles.

The only problem with the book is the lack of captions for the mouth-watering food pictures. When you see something that piques your interest it might take a few minutes of effort to find out which recipe is being shown. Other than that one problem the book is excellent. I found myself wanting to visit the Lodge and savor the recipes in the atmosphere in which they were created. Sharing the Table at Garland's Lodge is highly recommended.

Christian Counseling That Really Works
Dr. Dan Montgomery
Compass Works
9524 Vista Casitas Dr. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114
1411687531 $29.95

This book introduces the reader to the compass model and how to use it to zero in on exactly where a counselee is having problems. The compass theory is easy to understand and to apply in its basic form. Author Dr. Dan Montgomery has developed this technique and shares it with Christian Counselors as an effective counseling tool. Dr. Montgomery is well respected among his peers and has held a license as a Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist for over twenty-five years. He has taught at the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Psychology, the United States International University, and the University of New Mexico. His work and techniques are praised by the likes of the Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary.

In the book Dr. Montgomery covers the basics of the Compass system, the anatomy of a counseling session, dealing with the counselee's image of God, and using metaphors and symbolization in therapy. Appendix I provides basic commentary on twenty-five specific techniques that provide quality tools to aid the counselor. In the second appendix he even includes some short True/False self-assessment tests to help map out the counselee's position on the compass.

Written for the Christian Counselor these techniques and the compass model can be used not only by clinicians but also by pastors, chaplains, and others involved in this healing ministry. Christian Counseling that Really Works is highly recommended to everyone involved in counseling in any form.

Strange and Dangerous Dreams
Geoff Powter
The Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134
0898869870 $22.95

Given the cover graphic and book title this is not a book that I would normally have picked up and started to look at. However, after reading through it I find that it would have been my loss. The author points out that there is often a fine line between the quest for adventure and madness. To make his point he examines the lives and dreams of several adventurers and how something in their character caused them to cross that line into madness or at least come very close to it. Some of the adventurers examined include Meriwether Lewis, Robert Scott, Donald Crowhurst, Jean Batten, and Aleister Crowley. This is a really interesting account of each of these people and an insight into their personal lives. Strange and Dangerous Dreams is a recommended read for people with a passion for adventure and history.

Mastering Regular Expressions
Jeffrey E. F. Friedl
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
0596528124 $44.99

Regular Expressions need to be fully mastered in order to truly gain access to the power of many languages and programs. Whether you are working with Perl, PHP, Java, .NET, Ruby, C, Python or any of a variety of other languages the use of regular expressions allows you to work with your data in powerful ways. As a general rule most books that even mention regular expressions just mention a very few of the common ways to build an expression. This book takes the reader well beyond that level and explores the many more unusual ways regular expressions can be used. If you don't know what a regular expression is then you have no need for this book, but if you have ever worked with regular expressions then you are in for a treat with this book. I have used them for years and built a whole spam filter system around regular expressions but there is so much more they can do and this book can make you an expert.

After a basic introduction covering the most common tasks regular expressions are used for (substitution, selection, wild cards, etc.) the author delves into examples of regular expressions in Perl, and follows that with a section discussing some of the variations in regular expressions as implemented in different languages and common programs. One of the most important features of the book is the plethora of real world programming examples. Mastering Regular Expressions is highly recommended to anyone who wants to completely master the full art of regular expressions.

Statistics Hacks
Bruce Frey
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
0596101643 $29.99

Very few things create the visualization of dozens of students sleeping in class like mentioning the subject of statistics. But, statistics can be interesting, fun, and useful as Bruce Frey demonstrates in this very approachable introduction to the subject. The first three chapters cover the necessary introduction to statistics with a discussion of sample size, distributions, standard deviation, correlations, chi-square, and random sampling. Starting with the fourth chapter the author moves from the theoretical to application in a chapter on beating the odds in cards, dice, and various gambling devices. With chapter five he moves into the area of games like the now infamous Monty Hall question (do you switch doors if offered a chance to), tic-tac-toe, and even sports games. The final chapter is using statistics to think smarter by spotting faked data, explaining things that appear to be a coincidence, and other common situations. While Statistics Hacks is not for everyone, everyone will find some portion that is interesting to them, even if it is just how to play the currently popular Texas hold-em while taking advantage of probability to improve your odds of winning. Statistics Hacks is a recommended read for those interested not only in statistics but how to use them immediately in the real world.

Foundations of PEAR
Nathan A. Good, Allan Kent
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
1590597397 $44.99

The first thing I should address with Foundations of PEAR (PHP Extensions and Applications Repository) is the appropriate audience for this book. Since it is a book on PHP extensions and applications repositories the authors assume that the reader already has a basic understanding of PHP5. If you already know the rules of basic syntax, using variables, creating objects and similar items then you will probably be interested in looking at this book.

After a brief introduction to PEAR including how to install and configure it the rest of the book is a compendium of PEAR packages, their content, and how to use them. For each package it includes information on common usages, related packages, dependencies, the API, and examples. The book is broadly divided into ten topical sections - Authentication, Utilities and Tools, Dates and Numbers, HTML, Images and Text, Database, Files and Formats, HTTP, XML, and Mail. Each of these sections contains several packages that fall under that category.

The index is complete and detailed and makes the book a great resource. A solid reference book that is sure to be on the shelf of most PHP5 programmers Foundations of PEAR is highly recommended.

Harold McFarland

Harwood's Bookshelf

Dictionary of Atheism, Skepticism, & Humanism
Bill Cooke
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
1591022991 $70.00 1-800-421-0351

The function of a dictionary or encyclopedia is to provide easily accessible statistical information about a variety of often-related subjects, "statistical" in the widest sense that includes not only dates and amounts (When was Giordano Bruno barbecued? How many wives did Joseph Smith have? What were their ages?). While a dictionary is bound to reflect the philosophical viewpoint of its editor(s), it nonetheless can also be used as a source for non-statistical information, although it cannot itself be cited as a reference as if its assertions were as substantiated as those of a scholarly treatise. As an obvious example, Catholic encyclopedias spell out dogmas rejected even by other Christian sects, as if they were facts of history. Bill Cooke shows his recognition of that reality when he defines Objectivity as, "A word that many people suppose to be the same as their opinions. Genuine objectivity, however, is a far more difficult condition to reach."

Dictionaries compiled from humanistic, nontheistic, skeptical perspectives, if not totally unbiased, at least have the advantage of attempted objectivity, since their compilers do not have an axe to grind or a theology to propagandize at any cost. Dictionary of Atheism is as unbiased in this respect as can reasonably be expected. When Cooke, writing about abstinence, concludes that, "There is no evidence that abstinence has any other positive function," that is undoubtedly the position from which he started, but it is also consistent with all competent subsequent research, as the opinions expressed in propagandizing works are not.

In responding to the accusation that nontheists "believe in nothing," Cooke writes, "This prejudice is preposterous. Freethinkers of any persuasion are identified by what they believe. What is more, many of the things they believe are the same things religious people believe. The importance of civic virtues, personal responsibility, compassion for those who suffer, the facts of science, the beauty of nature … the list goes on." He is equally devastating in his annihilation of the Big Lie that there are no atheists in foxholes.

Cooke's entry on Glossalalia is approximately the same length as my own (see below). Mine begins, "Gibberish spouted by religious fundamentalists who believe they are speaking a sacred language comprehensible only to their sectarian god." Cooke's ends, "No independent study has ever demonstrated that glossalalia is anything more than a psychological condition brought on by the emotional intensity of an occasion or the need to secure the attention of one's associates." Both entries mention missionary Paul's reference to "speaking in tongues," but offer different explanations of what Paul meant. And his entry on Playing God consists of three paragraphs, whereas my entry is limited to the single sentence, "It's a dirty job, but there's no one else to do it."

Among other points of disagreement is Cooke's translation of Hizbullah as "party of god." It means "party of Allah." And despite the politically correct pretense that the Muslim Allah, the Jewish Yahweh and the Germanic God are the same deity, they are not, as Osama bin Laden makes clear every time he orders the murder of addicts of an opposition god. And Cooke consistently echoes the absurd pretense that Christianity, with its three primary gods, dozens of secondary gods called angels, and thousands of third ranking gods called saints, as well as Islam and Judaism, with their planetary gods under new names (Mercury/Gabriel, Venus/Satan, Mars/Michael), are all monotheistic. A clearer example of the effectiveness of the Big Lie in brainwashing even the discerning into believing self-evident absurdities would be hard to come by.

Cooke's entry on Brights as a catch-all name for all nontheists, while acknowledging that it won some initial support from persons who failed to look at its implications, recognizes that it has not and will not win acceptance from the theist majority for a very good reason. Heterosexuals have no difficulty denying that they are "gay." Does anyone seriously suggest that theists will ever agree that they are not "bright"? With any luck, Cooke's handling of this ill-advised invention of a new label for a much maligned minority will put the final nail in the "Bright" concept's coffin.

There is an entry on Theocracy, but not on Theofascism, on Feminism, but not on Phallusocracy, and on the Rationalist Press, but not on Who's Who in Hell? There are many more that provide a concise summary of concepts most people have heard of but know little or nothing about, including: Alternative Medicine, Argument from Design, Bonfire of the Vanities, Bread and Circuses, Cosmological Argument, Immaculate Conception (which is not about the conception of Jesus), Inquisition, Opium of the People, Opus Dei, Pascal's Wager, Pathetic Fallacy, Psychoanalysis (described as "long discredited pseudoscientific fad" that nonetheless did not diminish Freud's status as "one of the most influential thinkers of the first decades of the twentieth century,") and Social Darwinism. And the article on Suicide Bombers spells out the historical context of a phenomenon about which most people know only what they see on television.

Dictionary of Atheism contains 1,600 entries, compared to the similar number in Michael Shermer's The Skeptic's Encyclopedia, the 666 of James Randi's Encyclopedia of Claims, the 400 of Robert Carroll's The Skeptic's Dictionary, and the 3,500 of my Dictionary of Contemporary Mythology. I am not about to say that more is better (that would be self-serving). In fact, with Cooke's smaller print and equal number of pages, his book contains more useful information than any of the above, and Prometheus are justified in comparing it to Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary, and Joseph McCabe's Rationalist Encyclopedia. It belongs in every thinker's (or freethinker's—same thing) reference library.

Atheist Universe
David Mills,
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703

(The following review is based on the 2004 edition, from a different publisher and with the different subtitle, Why God Didn't Have a Thing to Do With It. The opening chapter with quotations from fifty famous persons has been deleted from the 2006 update, and a new chapter on "Intelligent Design" replaces the earlier chapter, "Answering Creationists' Objections to Evolution." Other than that, the new edition is virtually unchanged, although the cited errors could conceivably have been corrected. This review of the 2004 book is relevant to the 2006 version.

According to the author's web page (, "Atheist Universe became Amazon's best-selling book on atheism." That is unfortunate, not because Atheist Universe has sold well, but because more informative books have sold less well. Mills' book is almost (but not completely) devoid of misinformation, and offers logical and coherent arguments against creationism and theism that should be required reading for every schoolchild. But it is the output of a well-meaning amateur, and as such generates the impression that this is the strongest argument against religion that can be formulated. That is so far from the reality, that Mills simultaneously does humankind a service in spelling out the facts, and a disservice in creating the impression that he typifies or even represents biblical scholarship. Peter Angeles, S.T. Joshi, George Smith, and Michael Martin have all written books justifying nontheism, or "atheism," a word the ignoranti have learned to view as pejorative, much more effectively. Unfortunately, all of those scholars take a philosophical approach that John Q. Public is likely to find incomprehensible. On that score, Mills' book is more useful than theirs.

Particularly useful is Mills' quotations from fifty prominent persons who criticized religion, almost all of them familiar Names that only hardcore biblical literalists refuse to recognize as top-ranking scholars in their various fields. If Einstein, Asimov, Sagan, Watson and Crick lived as nontheists, while the opposing view was and is espoused by the likes of Falwell, Buchanan, Robertson, Bush Junior, and let us not forget Osama bin Laden, that comparison alone carries a message that even incurables must have difficulty shutting out.

On the subject of perceived miracles, Mills cites "the fallacy known as 'Selective Observation,' a perceptual error also referred to as 'Counting the hits and ignoring the misses.'" He points out that the tobacco industry uses the same selectivity when they commission fifty studies that investigate whether tobacco kills people, suppress the forty-seven that answer "Yes," and promote the three that found insufficient evidence for the majority conclusion. He writes, "It never seems to occur to anyone that a God powerful enough to miraculously deliver the survivors could just as easily have forestalled the disaster altogether and spared the innocent victims."

All of that would be totally trivial, since the same point has been made in dozens of previous books, perhaps even hundreds or thousands. But the brainwashed masses are, amazingly, unaware of the selectivity factor in miracle claims, and for that Mills places the blame firmly on the news and entertainment media that headline pretended miracles and pointedly ignore the atrocities of which their imaginary playmate must be guilty in order for the survival of an individual to be a miracle.

On the downside, Mills makes factual errors that a high school student could not expect to be overlooked by his marker. He puts into Jesus' mouth the message, "But those mine enemies, which would not that I reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." That passage does appear in a parable that the anonymous author of Luke (19:27) attributed to Jesus, for the purpose of conscripting his dead messiah to damn the individual who spoke the words, and whom the Luke author himself detested. That person was Herod Antipas. Gospel authors indeed attributed sermons to Jesus that could only have been preached by a monster (Luke 16:1-9 comes to mind), but Luke 19:27 was not one of them.

Mills lists Homo erectus as a human ancestor rather than a dead end. While that taxonomy is still held by many competent anthropologists, it is no longer as widely believed as Mills implies. While he recognizes that it was Bishop Ussher who dated creation to 4004 BCE, and that Jewish-testament "begats" indeed gave the patriarchs' ages at the birth of the next generation, he blatantly states that the Christian testaments "continue the genealogy from David to Jesus, again specifying the age at which each male descendant 'begat' the next generation." All he needed to do to discover that this is totally WRONG was open any bible. Is the rest of the book a combination of inferences drawn as much from his fallible memory as from legitimate reasoning?

Mills capitalizes possessive adjectives and pronouns that refer to Christianity's Big Daddy, Junior and the Spook, clearly unaware than virtually all skeptical scholars and even a majority of liberal theologians have abandoned the practice as offensive to proponents of Correct English. And he accuses the bible authors of legitimizing such concepts as unicorns and dragons, apparently unaware that those blunders should be attributed to translators. Tanakh authors may well have believed in unicorns. But scholars are generally agreed that the word translated as unicorn in the King James Bible probably meant a musk ox.

Since the bible authors did believe in superstitious hogwash, it does the cause of nontheism no service to accuse them of specific pieces of ignorance of which they cannot legitimately be convicted. And it only takes one factual error to discredit a whole book in the eyes of devout unteachables: "You're going to believe anything from an author who thinks that…?" The converse, of course, "You believe that a bible that says in fourteen places that the earth is flat is nonfiction?" would only work on persons with functioning human brains, and that is one attribute creationists have never been accused of possessing.

Atheist Universe says nothing new or profound, and has little to offer persons who are already free from the brainwashing of religion. But for anyone who has been conditioned by the Big Lie that a nontheist is more motivated to commit an injurious act than a theist (in which case nontheists would be over-represented in prisons rather than significantly under-represented as is actually the case) this book will not eliminate their ignorance. But it might conceivably prompt them at least to question their autonomic acceptance of mind slavery as a norm.

Left Behind
Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins
Thorndike Press
P.O. Box 159, Thorndike, ME 04986
0786224681 $19.99

Writing a 575-page novel is no mean feat, even with a computer. Considering that institutions that house people like Tim LaHaye do not allow their inmates access to sharp instruments, so that the whole book must have been written in crayon, writing a 575-page book is an incomparable achievement.

Science fiction novelist Trevor Hoyle once acknowledged a debt, "not least to the authors of the Judeo-Christian Bible, King James Version, which has got to be the greatest work of science fiction ever written." The authors of Left Behind acknowledge a similar debt when a character says of the vanishings that initiate the plot, "Only thing I can compare it to is the old Star Trek shows where people got dematerialized and rematerialized, beamed all over the place." And like the bible authors, LaHaye and Jenkins also have no awareness that they are writing science fiction—or more accurately, fantasy. And by writing unintentional science fiction, they give science fiction a bad name.

The novel starts promisingly, with an initially nontheistic protagonist so alienated by his wife's new status as a born-again brain-amputee, that he finds himself contemplating an extra-marital diversion. But any expectation of something other than the Religious Right's party line evaporates by page 16, when the author capitalizes The Holy Land, as if such a place objectively exists. The next part of the first chapter shows Russia sending its entire arsenal of offensive weapons to turn the whole of Israel into a nuclear wasteland, for no better reason than sheer spite at Israel's refusal to share a newly discovered method of fertilizing the desert, only to have the attacking forces wiped out by divine intervention in a manner that the authors seriously believe is prophesied in their bible. The chapter ends with passengers vanishing from a jumbo jet, leaving their clothing on the seats, and causing the supposedly nontheist captain to realize that his religious fanatic wife was right. The Rapture has begun. A metaphysical Scottie has beamed the Elect up to King Jesus' Cloud Cuckoo Land, and the poor miserable sinners have been left behind.

The rest of the book makes Mother Goose seem like a documentary. It spells out the most mindless, imbecilic, insane interpretation of biblical passages since Immanuel Velikovsky turned the planet Venus into a comet spewed out of Jupiter, and the author of Chariots of Ezekiel turned a biblical hallucination into an alien starship. Not only do LaHaye and Jenkins belong in funny farms. So does each and every person who fails to recognize them as certifiable fruitcakes, and their book as a close approximation of Alice in Wonderland. The authors probably do not even realize that, by portraying several of the "left behind" characters as fine, decent, good people, they are confessing that religion's concept of right and wrong differs greatly from that of any sane lawcode.

Consider the passage, "If the disappearances were of God, if they had been his doing, was this the end of it? The Christians, the real believers, get taken away, and the rest are left to grieve and mourn and realize their error…. Irene had always talked of a loving God, but even God's love and mercy had to have limits. Had everyone who denied the truth pushed God to his limit?" In other words, religion's imaginary Sky Fuhrer judges its domesticated livestock, not on the basis of how they treat other people, but by what they believe. Have LaHaye and Jenkins any comprehension how offensive and insulting such a creed is to the sane, intelligent and educated?

At first glance, Left Behind raises the question of why anyone would write such drivel. The answer is that brainwashed god addicts (there's another kind?) are like vampires. Having been themselves infected, they instinctively bite the necks of persons not yet afflicted, thereby increasing the number of victims and thus making vampirism or religion (there's a difference?) the norm.

The Left Behind novels and picture books are targeted at the one-sixth of the human race so intestinally challenged that they are incapable of living in the real world, so that without the mind-deadening opiate of an afterlife belief to annul their pathological terror of death they would have to be institutionalized and diapered. Since LaHaye and his co-coward are contributing significantly to the dumbing of America, ensuring that the next generation of the Christian Taliban grow up as ignorant, scientifically illiterate and myndephuqt as their parents, the most surprising non-consequence is that LaHaye has not been appointed Secretary of Education by the talking chimpanzee in the White House. He is as intellectually handicapped as Bush, as morally retarded as Bush, as rationally challenged as Bush, as educationally deprived as Bush, as childishly gullible as Bush, and as much a throwback to a pre-human stage of evolution as Bush. What more could a theofascist Dictator want in a Propaganda Minister?

Left Behind is set in the large print that makes it more accessible to the segment of the population that cannot read their native language without moving their lips. That suggests that, right from the start, the authors were hoping it would be read by their favorite talking chimpanzee. And perhaps it was. Bush's foreign policy is observably aimed at bringing about the god hoax's mythical Rapture.

The beliefs encouraged by this book are far from harmless. Persons who believe the world is going to end within their lifetimes tend to pursue policies they believe will make it happen. Ronald Reagan's Interior Secretary, James Watt, undermined all attempts of the Environmental Protection Agency to preserve Planet Earth as a human habitat, because he was convinced that his dead junior god's second coming was no more than a decade away. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is so convinced that his dead Mahdi's second coming is going to occur in 2010, that he is pursuing policies likely to trigger a nuclear war. Nim Chimpsky Bonzo started two wars in the delusion that his imaginary Sky Fuhrer told him to do so, and is continuing to make the world a more dangerous place, because he likewise sees no reason why Earth should be preserved beyond the Rapture that he thinks he can hasten by bible-inspired atrocities.

There is nothing wrong with Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, and the Republicanazis whose beliefs they exemplify, that 30,000 years of evolution could not cure. To say that Rapturists are insane is like saying that Hitler was not a nice man.

So apart from the authors' mistaking Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm for historians, how does Left Behind stand up as a novel? Let me ask an analogous question: "Apart from that, Mrs Kennedy, how did you like the parade?" Given the repulsiveness of Left Behind's supercilious, self-righteous, "We alone have the truth" equation of "true Christian" with "virtuous," and the infantile gullibility of its propaganda that the most sadistic, evil, insane serial killer in all fiction not only exists but is totally admirable, I had surprisingly little difficulty reading the first 260 pages. All I had to do was mentally replace "God" with the alien overlord of Childhood's End, and it became just another "what if?" piece of science fiction—not good science fiction, but perfectly adequate science fiction. But by page 260, the sermonizing had become so nauseating, not merely because it was fatuous but also because it stemmed from gross, unbelievable ignorance, that reading any further would have made me vomit. It is understandable why persons who share the authors' hatred of the human race have made it a bestseller.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe
Michael W. Fazio and Patrick A. Snadon.
The Johns Hopkins University Press
2715 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218-4363
0802882048 $75.00 1-800-537-5487

Nothing is spared in the way of breadth and depth of scholarship, nor in the way of production quality--for a definitive study of this important, but generally overlooked, American architect of the late 1700s into the early 1800s, the early period of the American Republic. A leading architect popular with the English royalty and gentry in their adaptations in a growing democratic society, Latrobe attracted the interest and commissions of the old and newly wealthy in the United States in the decades after the Revolutionary War for design of homes with many similarities to those he had done for the upper classes in his native England. And he attracted interest from government officials wishing to build impressive buildings representing the pride, the values, and the ambitions of the new Republic. Latrobe's architectural principles and designs went far in America as they had earlier in England because they characterized what he called his "rational house" based on ideas of the Enlightenment partly originating in England and embraced by America's Founding Fathers in their creation of the basics of the American political system and its institutions. Fazio is a professor at Mississippi State U.'s School of Architecture; Snadon is a professor of interior design at the School of Architecture and Interior Design at the U. of Cincinnati. The abundant biographical, critical, and analytical text with the hundreds of illustrations of all scales of architectural works are peerlessly informative standing alone. But also they work to render the authors' revisionist perspective that "perhaps only Thomas Jefferson...held a panoramic view over the international architectural scene comparable to Latrobe."

The Treasures of Islamic Art in the Museums of Cairo
Bernard O'Kane, editor
The American University in Cairo Press
420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-2729
9774248600 $49.95 800-758-3756

The woodworks, ivory carvings, metalwork, ceramics, manuscripts paintings, sculptures, glass, and other art works, despite their variety, different ages, and countries, all "bear something of the essence of the Islamic faith: divine unity, balance, and peace." Unlike much Western art, Islamic art is not meant to be provocative or idiosyncratic. There are works from Turkey, Iran, and other places in the Muslim world. But most are from Egypt arranged according to different ruling dynasties starting about 600AD. Fine color photographs catch the details of designs, the textures, and the workmanship of the varied pieces. General text gives historical and cultural background of the different historical periods, and there's an informative, concise annotation with each art work pictured. The variety of the art works, the specifics of the annotations, and the text sections giving background convey the bounty of the world of Islamic art.

The Art of Glass Toledo Museum of Art
Jutta-Annette Page
Antique Collectors' Club
116 Pleasant Street, Suite 60B, Easthampton, MA 01027
1904832237 $65.00 800-252-5231

The Toledo Museum of Art was founded in 1901 by Edward Drummond Libbey shortly after he moved his thriving glassmaking business to the Ohio city from Boston. Along with the Old Master paintings, Egyptian antiquities, and other types of more or less conventional art and relics sought by most museums in this period, the Toledo Museum also concertedly engaged in collecting many pieces of art in glass in accordance with Libbey's interests and wishes. About two years ago, a Glass Pavilion for the storage and exhibition of the sizable and growing glass collection was added to the original Museum. As the numerous skillful color photographs demonstrate, the Museum's Pavilion has many choice, exquisite pieces from all eras and places around the world ranging from the utilitarian to the sheerly aesthetic. This art book tied in with the opening of the new Pavilion arranges much of the collection chronologically from the ancient Mediterannean cultures through the Renaissance and Baroque to the early 20th century with the insertion of one chapter on glass in the Islamic world. A last chapter displays art glass works by artists of the past few decades. Many readers will be struck by how some of the artists, especially from more modern and contemporary times, use glass as a medium for sculpture with dramatic shapes and colors.

Fired with Passion - Contemporary Japanese Ceramics
Samuel J. Lurie and Beatrice L. Chang
Eagle Art Publishing
New York, NY
1891640380 $60.00

Chang, director of the Dai Ichi Arts gallery featuring Japanese ceramics, joins with the noted collector Lurie for an overview of Japanese ceramics from 1945 to the present organized by region. The dramatic, inventive ceramic works (most ceramic sculptures rather than utilitarian objects) are displayed in more than 200 color photographs varying from views of entire pieces filling a glossy page to close-ups of a few square inches capturing details of workmanship, design, and material. Each of the 45 artists from the six geographical areas is given a brief biographical profile which is followed by notes on the two to six ceramic art works of his shown. To each of the sections, Chang and Lurie also provide introductions focusing on their respective distinguishing styles and related historical and cultural information. General introductory material puts the relatively recent ceramic art in the broader Japanese tradition beginning many thousands of years ago and also notes four "Pioneers of Abstract Sculpture" who led up to the period of 1945 to the present which is the main topic. For its breadth and knowledgeable, succinct text, this work immediately becomes the leading guide to this relatively specialized field of ceramics.

Routes of Passage - Rethinking the African Diaspora, Volume 1, Part 1
Ruth Simms Hamilton, editor
Michigan State University Press
Suite 25, Manly Miles Building
1405 South Harrison Road, East Lansing, MI 48823-5202
0870136321 $34.95

This first of an 11 projected volumes in the African Diaspora Research Project Series presents the diaspora of Africans as a multidimensional global phenomenon occurring in the "diaspora age" of the 1800s and 1900s, not mainly as a diaspora focused on the United States and the West Indies associated with slavery as such a diaspora is commonly regarded. Africans moved to most parts of the world for diverse reasons. In some cases, they were forced to find new areas to live or pressured by political, religious, or racial circumstances, along the lines of Jewish or Irish populations leaving their traditional homelands. In other cases, Africans were drawn to particular areas by economic opportunities or a natural desire to move into the wider world. More than 20 papers by leading academics helping to fashion this relatively recently identified field of study provide "situational and historical explanations of the proliferation of African diaspora passages and circulatoriness in the Middle East, Asia, Germany, Australia, and Russia." A couple of chapters deal with the topics of library collection development in this emerging field and academic programs reflecting approaches to it and course content.

William Holman Hunt - Painter, Painting, Paint
Carol Jacobi
Palgrave Macmillan
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0719072883 $55.00 1-888-330-8477

Jacobi "attempt[s] to rationalise Hunt's problematic aesthetic." One English art writer said of the Victorian-era/pre-Raphaelite English artist Hunt's works that they "are not good-looking." "Garish," "crude," "sharp and severe" are other terms that have been applied to Hunt's paintings. Jacobi does not disagree that such descriptions apply. But seeing that Hunt was a skilled painter with technical command, was self consciousness about the subjects he chose and the style he applied, and had a sharp eye (some have said he could see the moons of Jupiter with his naked eye), she looks more deeply into Hunt's works for the psychological, cultural, and religious bases of them. Basically, the lecturer and teacher of art and visual studies at two English educational institutions finds that Hunt's "anachronistic" Christian beliefs "impelled him to test the extremities of his art against modern circumstance." Working from the mid 1800s to the first years of the 1900s, the religiously-minded Hunt experienced an ineluctable modernism to make paintings that "are not failed imaginings of a comfortable middlebrow fantasy, but successful investigations of uncomfortable, not wholly controllable, individual actuality." While Jacobi's acute, multi-sided study (as the subtitle suggests) does not presume to elevate Hunt beyond his standing as a particularly interesting nineteenth-century English artist, it does discern and clearly define challenges Hunt presents to art historians and critics; and does resolve the primary ones through extensive biographical research, historical and sociological study of the period, and expert art critic skills, understandings, and insights.

Alaska Native Art - Tradition, Innovation, Continuity
Susan W. Fair, edited by Jean Blodgett.
University of Alaska Press
PO Box 756240, 104 Eielson Building, Salcha Street, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6240
1889963798 $65.00 1-888-252-6657

Sleek lines and minimalist features place the varied Alaska Native American art as 20th century. But the number of artists from all areas of the state, including many contemporary artists, for the most part use traditional natural materials of bone or ivory, wood, animal skins, beach grass, and others. These are often combined for a kind of "mixed media" piece; such as a model of a Northwest coast dwelling made from cedar wood, twigs, deerhide, and horsehair" among other materials. With some works, there are manufactured or synthetic materials such as masonite, commercial paint, glass beads, or brass buttons. Some, paintings especially and some of the dolls, are done in a folk art style; though with these too the superior craftsmanship is evident to mark them as modern works. Abundant visual matter (nearly 300 individual selections) including not only color photos or reduced-size reproductions of art works but also photos of artists along with the text involving historical and cultural background, customary and innovative techniques, and artist portraits offer a state-of-the-art work on the subject area. The bibliography of nearly 10 pages will also be welcomed by ones interested in developments in this regional Native American art.

City of Laughter - Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London
Vic Gatrell
Walker & Company
104 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
0802716024 $45.00

Gatrell seamlessly blends art history and appreciation with social history for an elaborate, panoramic treatment of the spirit of ribaldry and satire captured in numerous comic prints of the era. The author goes well beyond the best known satirical artists of Hogarth, Gillray, Rowlandson, and Cruickshank to include numerous others as well. (The treatment carries over into the early nineteenth century.) Nearly 300 of the prints are reproduced in color in varying sizes from full-page to one-third of the 5" x 10" page size. In this century of sweeping social change from the old order to a much more democratic society, the artists took full advantage of their new freedoms and the growing number of newspapers and other media including posters to portray the antics and vices of English men and women. No one, not royalty or high politicians, escaped the scathing portraits of Hogarth, Rowlandson, and the others; though many of the prints had generic characters such as lechers, lusty women, hypocrites, and drunkards. Pornographic and scatological material and illustration knew no bounds. Still, much of the art of caricature and satire had a moralistic or political intent. In the early 1800s, the "radical commentary turned solemn and earnest on the whole, as a new optimism about the prospects for social- and self-improvement developed." Democratic society had grown to understand itself, its potentials, and its desirable proprieties better. The Victorian era was dawning. Adulterers, drunkards, etc., were no longer to be simply ridiculed, but reformed. Besides, it was becoming increasingly risky to make merciless and often bitter fun of recognizable leaders of society--the legal and financial troubles of some of the satirists moderated others. But generally, as democratic, middle-class values and tastes spread throughout the society, the wicked satire which could send a heir to the throne into seclusion and evoke "wild, coarse, reckless, ribald laughter...was beginning to be taught good manners," as the novelist Thackeray saw. Gatrell is a professor of British history in England.

Henry Berry

Kaye's Bookshelf

Wild Alternatives
Suzanne Seller
LangMarc Publishing
PO Box 90488, Austin, TX
1880292947, $15.00

Suzanne Seller is a senior with a purpose . . . to inspire other seniors to continue living and enjoying their lives to the fullest. It is definitely an inspirational book, well organized and well written.

If you're a senior who feels you need some inspirational guidance, I can highly recommend Wild Alternatives. With all her interests and busy life Suzanne Seller has found the time and discipline to write this inspirational book. I wish her much success and hope she has something to say to inspire you to move in a positive direction. I am a firm believer that age is a state of mind, and Suzanne's book is here to help you think so too.

Under the Eagle's Beak:The Search for the Treasure of Pirate's Pit
John Girone
Booksurge LLC
729-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
1419637959, $12.99

Under the Eagle's Beak is an excellent juvenile adventure tale about two boys in search of a lost treasure, a missing father, time travel and encounters with pirates. Allow me to quote from the back cover:

"Billy Marshal and his friend Figgy Newton have grown up around treasure-hunters. Every summer, the search for the treasureof Pirate's Pit begins again in Clark's Cove. Not wishing to be outdone by tourists, Bill and Figgy are determined to be the first to find the treasure! So far, however, they've had no luck finding even one gold piece.

"But Bill and Figgy won't give up - they've caught pirate fever! After discovering a mysterious letter that leads them to a time machine, Bill and Figgy are transported back to the 18th century where they learn the dangerous secrets of the Treasure of Pirate's Pit! Can Bill and Figgy find the treasure and return to the future - or will they be stuck on a pirate's ship forever?"

It is a well-written and well-edit story which I can highly recommend to juvenile readers. It is short, fast paced and full excitement. You won't be disappointed.

A Safe Position
Kathleen M. Burke
Llumina Press
7915 W. McNab Rd, Tamarac, FL
159526454X, $14.95

Kathleen Burke tells this tale as a memoir, and it is possible much of it is true . . . based on her personal experiences as a teacher and counselor . . . how much and exactly what we'll never know for sure. She is a very good writer and will grab and hold you throughout. Allow me to quote from her introduction:

"Some lessons can best be learned with a story. This story is fiction. It is based on events and people I encountered during my twenty-nine years in public education. Parts of it are tongue-in-cheek, while others are dead serious. My imagination was employed to enhance the reality of my world; my purpose was to supply a glimpse of one individual's history. Teachers are the tools of policies, whether federal, state, or local. Often, instructors become scapegoats when they're merely enforcing directives from a higher authority. Generations change in experiences, needs, and personalities, based on their environment. We should continually study trends to devise solutions that accommodate such transitions. I hope this book will provide a springboard from which to launch future dialogues among faculty, parents, and anyone else who may be interested."

If this little intro stirs your interest, check her out. You won't be disappointed and most likely pleasantly surprised by her style and the quality of writing.

Supervising Solutions - Managing People Made Easy
Tuwanda Jenkinson
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1424156122, $12.95

Supervising Solutions is a very small book and really should be a chapter in a larger text book on the subject. Tuwanda breaks down management styles into three types: aggressive, passive and assertive. She then explains a little about each one.

It is my opinion that most of what was written would be common sense to anyone interested in the subject of management. In the last chapter she present a number of problems a manager might face but gives no solutions to those problems, only "How would you handle that?"

It is not clear to me why this book was written as it certainly is not substantial enough to provide assistance to someone in a management position. The price of $12.95 is high for a 48 page book with little substance.

Beyond the Veil of Innocence
D. L. Jones, Inc.
1601450745, $13.95, Inc.

D. L. Jones had an amazing experience as a young boy: and I quote:

"Forty-two years ago when I touched an aluminum pipe to a high line wire, I died. I found myself in a very dark place with a light in the distance. When someone called out to me for the light, I went in to see whom it was. I met a friend I never knew I had. He told me many amazing things; he showed me many more."

Beyond the Veil of Innocence is an easy to read book: well organized, presented in an honest straight-forward manner, and the text is open, clean and designed for easy reading. While reading, I felt that D. L. Jones is a simple man with extraordinary life experiences who came to believe that it was time to tell his story. He does not present this material from a religiously fanatical perspective but with a spiritually inspirational attitude.

You may find his recollections of life after death interesting, along with his ideas about communication, energy and the soul. I can certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in true life stories and after death experiences.

Jim's Bahamas Adventure -Small Boats vs. the Devil's Triangle
Stephen L. Blain
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1424158478, $12.95

This short memoir of an adventurous group vacation is well written and an easy, fast read. I think the price of $12.95 is a bit high considering its length. If you are interested in a personal memoir about a group of men on three boats who take a sea voyage from West Palm Beach across the Devil's Triangle to Freeport, Grand Bahamas and what they did while vacationing, then I can recommend it.

Stephen Blain is a good writer and tells this travel adventure with an upbeat flair.

Out of Hell's Kitchen
John H. Hanzl
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
0595395074 $17.95

Out of Hell's Kitchen is a story about a new pop drug on the scene–Rave N. What is this drug, what does it do, and who are the people who make and distribute it? Rave N is the key in this fast-paced ,intrigue-oriented, action adventure for Luke Hawthorn as his friends begin to disappear.

John Hanzl's writing style and story are similar in some ways to Robert Ludlum's earlier novels–a definite plus. John has an exciting style which draws you in and keeps you turning the pages. In addition he has a rich vocabulary and is masterful at description and depth which add a distinct richness for his readers. There's lots of action and intrigue here, and the conclusion may surprise you.

Yes, I can highly recommend Out of Hells' Kitchen to readers who enjoy mystery, action, intrigue and a well-written novel.

Lynched by Corporate America
Herman Malone & Robert Schwab
HM-RS Publishing
3840 York Street, Denver, CO 80205
0978509447 $15.95

Lynched by Corporate America is a true story about African-American business leader, Herman Malone, and his race-discrimination lawsuit against US West (now Qwest Communications International, Inc.). After Dick McCormick became chairman of US West in 1992, the company began terminating contracts with African-American-owned businesses and later settled with six out of the seven plaintiffs. Malone was the sole holdout, and this is his story.

The book is well organized, concise and well written. He has put it all out there for you to decide–a case study in the reality of our legal system.

Herman Malone is the President and CEO of RMES Communications. He is the former Chairman of both the National and the Colorado Black Chambers of Commerce. Robert Schwab of Colorado Biz and former editor for the Denver Post helped get this book to press.

Lynched by Corporate America is a story about contemporary racial discrimination and shortcomings within our judicial system. If you're interested and care about such things, I can highly recommend this book.

Who Done It? Three Mind Boggling Mysteries
Patricia Stinson
P.S. Read LLC, Inc.
1601451083, $12.95

Patricia Stinson is an educated writer and has provided us with three short mysteries packaged in a delightful, eye-catching cover by Julie Sartain. Who Done It? is an easy, fast, fun read to help us relax and rejuvenate. I would have to say that Enduring Love, the last story in the book, was my favorite because the murder was solved in an unusual way by the murdered woman.

Patricia Stinson has extensive experience as a teacher, including teaching for two years in the jungles of New Guinea, and brings a unique perspective to her mystery writing. If you are a lover of the short mystery genre, I can indeed recommend this book. It is well written and well edited. Enjoy!

Divinely Framed
Ora Stearns Smith
David Seven
Orange County, CA 92781
0972982345 $9.45

Divinely Framed is a spiritual Christian self-help book to help women find their identity and excel in life through their faith and understanding of God. It is of considerable size–some core, some fluff and fill–nicely designed, and a quality book.

If you're a woman of the Christian persuasion, you may find it helpful. If you're not, you probably won't, and therein lies the limit to its marketability.

Ora Stearns Smith writes with great spiritual enthusiasm, clearly believing in what she has written and in her role to share it with other women. I wish her much success.

Prescription for Healthy Weight Loss & Optimum Health
Billy C. Johnson, MD, PhD and Daniel Chong-Jimenez, B.S.
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
1595263918, $27.95, 432 pp.

This is a large book filled with lots of information about diet, health issues and dieting. The authors have presented this information in a logical, organized manner. The essence of this particular diet is "balance your carb intake with how active you are" as carbs are necessary for energy and good health.

I can certainly recommend this quality publication to those interested in their health and to those who want to read another book about dieting. The authors have included a 30-day meal plan to assist you in trying their program. It is always interesting to read another diet plan to help us over weight Americans find some balance in our lives.

Craig W. Tweedie
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
1595266798 $12.95

What is this story about? Allow me to quote from the back cover which tells us the essence of this tale.

"Neil has been bullied since as far back as he can remember. One evening, he is beaten near death over an altercation that took place earlier that day in school. In his delusion, he is met by Luharen, a six-hundred-year-old demon that offers Neil unlimited power and vengeance. In return, Neil only needs to offer his allegiance to Luharen and his brotherhood of demons. Neil accepts Luharen's offer, becomes a demon himself, and starts off on a horrific rampage of vengeance and gore. The once innocent and timid Neil becomes a blood-thirsty demon, evil to the core, unleashing his wrath on those who dared to belittle him all his life. One by one, his enemies are killed in the most brutal and violent of ways."

Maybe not a new theme, for sure, but Craig Tweedie has a true gift for telling a tale and with a flare I'm certain will appeal to contemporary teens who enjoy horror stories, and I'd like to share a sample of his writing with you . . . from Page 131:

"There, in the mirror, he saw the boy who had been shoved into a locker. He saw the boy who had been ripped bare of clothing and whipped in a school parking lot. He saw the boy who had been beaten to an unrecognizable pulp and left for dead. And he say the boy whose father would just as soon drink as console his son. In fact, the old man had sooner put Neil in crisis than help him.

"'They are all dead now, Neil,' Luharen whispered from the hallway. It was the first time Luharen had called him that name since his emergence. 'They fell at your hand. What they tried to do and failed, you accomplished single-handedly.'

"Andorean stepped back from the mirror, looking at what was once Neil MacAllistair. He shifted his appearance to look like John, then Jordan, then Andrew, and finally Heather, before shifting his appearance back to his demonic self. He balled a fist and slammed it into the mirror, shattering it into several pieces."

If you like fast-paced, horror stories, you won't be disappointed by Demon.

Better Living Through Bureaucracy
Greg W. Starr
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
978-1595266330 $15.95

Well, well . . . what do we have here . . . a contemporary, synergetic version of Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince and Phineas T. Barnum's The Art of Money Getting? . . . the antithesis of Henry Ford's What I Learned About Business.

Yes, that is precisely what we have: a new, in-depth guidebook on how to succeed in the business world without doing any "real" work, as advertised in the subtitle–How to Make It to the Top Without Doing Any Real Work.

Greg W. Starr is clearly not a man to write a book without a goal ('mission') or plan ('strategy/framework/tactics'), nor one to choose his words frivolously, as demonstrated in his subtitle. In Better Living Through Bureaucracy Mr. Starr shares his perspective and knowledge acquired over thirty years working or, as the case may be, 'not working' for major corporations and federal agencies.

Quoting from the back cover he tells us:

"You will discover how to:
- Bring great distinction to yourself while leaving the work for others.
- Sound like a natural leader without making commitments.
- Turn everyday activities into powerful image enhancers.
- Allocate your time to benefit you and avoid wasted efforts.
- Quickly get noticed by top management as the next person to promote.
- Establish and grow your own organizational empire with ease.

"Why not zoom up the corporate ladder with a minimum of effort? You could spend hundreds of dollars on career development courses that won't get you anywhere, when everything you need for success is in this book."

And my favorite . . . Chapter 10, Corporate-Speak Bureaucratese, will instruct you how to become a 'subject matter expert' on 'The Power of Language' and 'facilitate' your 'objectives' by mentoring you in the use of nebulous ('champion') and noncommittal ('framework') words, power adjectives ('strategic project direction'), compound nouns ('plan process strategy'). You can learn how to mangle the language, make up new words, and use buzzwords, acronyms and jargon . . . "to fool people into thinking that you and what you are doing are important, while at the same time obfuscating what, if anything, you personally will be doing." He tells us that "Effective Corporate-Speak Bureaucratese (CBS) requires a confident, self-important delivery spoken as though the meaning of the words is self-evident, even though no real definition of the words could be given." Use plurals as an easy way to sound like you're doing more. "Always use the royal 'we', as in 'We need to follow up on that.'" And to 'advise' you in your endeavors to become a 'subject matter expert' in CBS, he has included an 'English to Bureaucratese Dictionary'.

Personally, it sounds like a lot of work and expense to learn and apply Mr. Starr's techniques needed to 'fool' your co-workers, avoid work, and ape and ingratiate yourself into upper management, but then, if you're an egomaniac, me-me-driven, integrity-lacking Prince (or Princess) looking for the easy way to Easy Street, this may be just the book for you. The author tells us, "It's the American dream. Something for nothing . . . or nearly nothing."

My, my . . . how the American dream has changed, and very possibly this is the new dream, as our young people who have been given so much take it for granted that life and success should continue to come easily. In the end, however, there is very little value in things that come too easily, and usually, if something appears too good to be true, that may, indeed, be the case.

Better Living Through Bureaucracy is well-organized, well-written and -edited. I can recommend the book based on these qualities; however, I do not support Mr. Starr's efforts to encourage others to share his American dream: "Something for nothing . . . or nearly nothing."

A World of His Own - In the Land of the Creoles
Arlette Gaffrey
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515 Parker, CO 80134
097888910X $13.95

Arlette Gaffrey has put a lot of time and effort into providing us with this historical romance novel. To tell you what it's all about, I quote from the back cover:

"A World of His Own is an epic saga of love, marriage and betrayal. Andre de Javon escaped the French Revolution as a child. Now as an adult, he arrives in New Orleans to start a new life. In due time, he becomes one of the wealthiest plantation owners in the Territory. He is helped by his mentor Jean-Claude Charlevoix, whose young daughter Julie Marie falls in love with Andre, and hopes he will wait for her to grow up and marry her. But, Andre marries Gabrielle Ste. Claire who turns his life into a nightmare. Gabrielle dies leaving Andre with her illegitimate son. As Julie Marie grows up, Andre realizes how much he loves her, and wants to marry her. But will Julie Marie still have him, a man who is eleven years her senior with an illegitimate child?"

Such is the essence of this novel, and I couldn't have put it better. Arlette Gaffrey has a smooth, flowing style of writing which I believe will appeal to most romance readers, but particularly to those who like 'fairytale-type' romances, and I quote from page 380 to give you a sample of Ms. Gaffrey's writing style:

"It was late in the evening when, finally, Andre opened his eyes.

Julie was curled up in a big chair near the hearth. When he saw her, Andre smiled. 'What are you doing sitting over there?'

'I didn't want to disturb you. You needed your rest.'

'Well, I am quite rested now.' He grinned at her and pulled the covers back. 'Come here, you sweet thing.'

Julie rose from the chair, crossed to the bed, slipped under the covers, and gave herself up to his wonderful lovemaking.

When their desire had been fulfilled, Andre smiled at her and, kissing her eyelids gently, said, 'God must be very fond of me.'

'I'm sure He is but why do you say that?' Julie asked, a contented look on her face.

'Because He gave me you, because He gave me such a wonderful father-in-law, and gave me such a beautiful little son. I am a very blessed man.'

An hour later, Julie rang for the food; and the two of them ate at a small table in front of the fire. They spent the rest of the night in each other's arms."

Arlette Marie Gaffrey is a French-Spanish Creole native of New Orleans, and she weaves her knowledge and background into her first historical romance novel. If you enjoy light romance, you won't be disappointed in A World of His Own.

Kaye Trout

Lori's Bookshelf

Hit By A Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Barn
Catherine Friend
Avalon Publishing Inc./Marlowe & Company
245 W 17th St – 11th Fl, NY, NY, 10011-5300
1569242984, $14.95

No one was more surprised than Catherine Friend when her long-time partner informed her that she'd always dreamed of being a farmer. Early on in this hilarious memoir, the author writes, "Farming had never been my dream. My dream was to grow my writing career into something I could call 'successful,' whatever that was. I'd already sold two children's books and a handful of magazine stories. I was hungry for more" (p. 6).

But Melissa's dream had merit, and Catherine believed she could help the dream come true. And so, "The classic face of farming in Grant Wood's American Gothic was about to get a facelift: two thirty-something women in bib overalls holding pitchforks" (p. 6).

Devoting a great deal of time, energy, and work to their project, the two women researched farming, bought land in southern Minnesota, built a house, and settled in to raise sheep, chickens, and grapes for wine. Apparently that was the easy part. From auspicious beginnings, the road they embark upon is filled with a learning curve so steep that shoveling manure and mucking horse stalls might have been easier. While Melissa's dream ascended, the livestock, crops, and natural disasters seem to conspire to make Catherine's life miserable. Living off the land wasn't at all the romantic idyll so often put forth.

By turns hilarious and sobering, touching and surprising, Catherine Friend's memoir tells the tale of two thirty-somethings who not only have to learn to love the barn, but also to find their way back to one another after such a huge life-change nearly sideswipes them for good. It's a terrific story, very well-told, and is cram-packed full of humor, insight, and a zest for life that can't be vanquished. If you only read one memoir this year, make this be the one. I give it my highest recommendation.

Blockbuster Plots: Pure and Simple
Martha Alderson
Illusion Press
708 Blossom Hill Road #146, Los Gatos, California 95032
1877809195 $25.00

Have you ever been deep in the writing of a novel – only to discover that you've lost the thread, that the plot doesn't square up the way you thought? Do you find yourself swimming in deep water – or perhaps completely over your head – when you think about plot? Even worse, have your initial readers told you that your plot doesn't make sense? If so, this is the book for you.

Whether you plan your plots in advance or improvise as you go along, Martha Alderson's two major tools, the Scene Tracker and the Plot Planner, will improve your overall writing product. By the time you finish this book, you'll have learned seven major ways to improve your novel, and you'll have a much better grasp of the plot and structure of any book you choose to create.

With the use of Scene Tracker, Alderson artfully explains how to break down your work to identify scenes, then determine when to use scene and/or narrative and decide how to keep track of flashbacks, the timeline, character development, goals, conflict, theme, and change, all in an organized and effective manner.

In the second half of the book, the Plot Planner is used to work through beginning, middle, and end, with careful focus upon cause and effect, character emotional development, and thematic significance. Step-by-step guidance is provided. To demonstrate the principles throughout, the author uses examples from the work of authors like Ursula Hegi, Cormac McCarthy, and Billie Letts. Appendices are included breaking down scenes and plot from the work of Mark Twain, Ernest J. Gaines, and John Steinbeck.

This book will assist the budding new writer and the already-published author. It's easy to follow, the tools are accessible, the text is filled with good advice, and the book is laid out so that there is plenty of space to make notes or to use it as a workbook. Students of the Craft need this book, but writing teachers will also find the book useful. Highly recommended.

Hit By A Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Barn
Catherine Friend
Avalon Publishing, Inc./Marlowe & Company
245 W 17th St – 11th Fl, NY, NY, 10011-5300
1569242984 $14.95

No one was more surprised than Catherine Friend when her long-time partner informed her that she'd always dreamed of being a farmer. Early on in this hilarious memoir, the author writes, "Farming had never been my dream. My dream was to grow my writing career into something I could call 'successful,' whatever that was. I'd already sold two children's books and a handful of magazine stories. I was hungry for more" (p. 6).

But Melissa's dream had merit, and Catherine believed she could help the dream come true. And so, "The classic face of farming in Grant Wood's American Gothic was about to get a facelift: two thirty-something women in bib overalls holding pitchforks" (p. 6).

Devoting a great deal of time, energy, and work to their project, the two women researched farming, bought land in southern Minnesota, built a house, and settled in to raise sheep, chickens, and grapes for wine. Apparently that was the easy part. From auspicious beginnings, the road they embark upon is filled with a learning curve so steep that shoveling manure and mucking horse stalls might have been easier. While Melissa's dream ascended, the livestock, crops, and natural disasters seem to conspire to make Catherine's life miserable. Living off the land wasn't at all the romantic idyll so often put forth.

By turns hilarious and sobering, touching and surprising, Catherine Friend's memoir tells the tale of two thirty-somethings who not only have to learn to love the barn, but also to find their way back to one another after such a huge life-change nearly sideswipes them for good. It's a terrific story, very well-told, and is cram-packed full of humor, insight, and a zest for life that can't be vanquished.

If you only read one memoir this year, make this be the one. I give it my highest recommendation.

Blockbuster Plots: Pure and Simple
Martha Alderson
Illusion Press
708 Blossom Hill Road #146, Los Gatos, California 95032
1877809195, $25.00

Have you ever been deep in the writing of a novel – only to discover that you've lost the thread, that the plot doesn't square up the way you thought? Do you find yourself swimming in deep water – or perhaps completely over your head – when you think about plot? Even worse, have your initial readers told you that your plot doesn't make sense? If so, this is the book for you.

Whether you plan your plots in advance or improvise as you go along, Martha Alderson's two major tools, the Scene Tracker and the Plot Planner, will improve your overall writing product. By the time you finish this book, you'll have learned seven major ways to improve your novel, and you'll have a much better grasp of the plot and structure of any book you choose to create.

With the use of Scene Tracker, Alderson artfully explains how to break down your work to identify scenes, then determine when to use scene and/or narrative and decide how to keep track of flashbacks, the timeline, character development, goals, conflict, theme, and change, all in an organized and effective manner.

In the second half of the book, the Plot Planner is used to work through beginning, middle, and end, with careful focus upon cause and effect, character emotional development, and thematic significance. Step-by-step guidance is provided. To demonstrate the principles throughout, the author uses examples from the work of authors like Ursula Hegi, Cormac McCarthy, and Billie Letts. Appendices are included breaking down scenes and plot from the work of Mark Twain, Ernest J. Gaines, and John Steinbeck.

This book will assist the budding new writer and the already-published author. It's easy to follow, the tools are accessible, the text is filled with good advice, and the book is laid out so that there is plenty of space to make notes or to use it as a workbook. Students of the Craft need this book, but writing teachers will also find the book useful. Highly recommended.

Lori L. Lake

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Most Secret Window
Natalie Vanderbilt
Random River Press
PO Box 631723, Highlands Ranch, CO 80163-1723
0978805623 $13.95

Written by sculptor, poet, and businesswoman Natalie Vanderbilt, The Most Secret Window, Poetry As A Weapon is a free-verse, book-length epic poem following the passionate, at times joyful, at times tragic bond between two lovers. From hidden dreams to dark desires to the intrusion of a serial killer, The Most Secret Window follows the lovers amid a landscape that almost appears surreal at times, and at others intrudes with unyielding, ruthless reality. An index of first lines rounds out this dramatic and captivating tale. "Why do I want you? / Why do I suffer until my lips press yours? / Why is your softness a salve against pain / Against turmoil, against the physical pull of the earth?"

Joy on the Job
Doris Helge, Ph.D.
Shimoda Publishing
PO Box 32, 2 South Quartz Street, Atlanta, ID 83601
188559805X $24.95

Businesswoman and empowerment speaker Doris Helge, Ph.D. presents Joy on the Job: Over 365 Ways to Create the Joy and Fulfillment You Deserve, a no-nonsense self-help guide to improving the quality of one's life while on the job. Written on the precept that everyone deserves to delight in work as much as in a cherished vacation, Joy on the Job discusses the value of curiosity, how to harness the power of focus and communicate unmet needs, learning when and how it's necessary to abandon "happy face paint" for negative emotions, tips and tricks for overcoming procrastination, multisensory mind-body techniques to improve happiness in one's journey through life, and much more. Reference and research notes as well as an extensive index round out this enthusiastically recommended guide to greater personal happiness and job satisfaction.

Your Doctor Said What?
Dr. Terrie Wurzbacher
Lifesuccess Publishing
8900 East Pinnacle Peak Road, Suite D240, Scottsdale, AZ 85255
159930029X $23.95

Dr. Terrie Wurzbacher applies her 30 years experience in the medical profession to Your Doctor Said What?: Exposing The Communication Gap, a no-nonsense look at common problems obstructing doctor-patient communication, and therefore impeding proper medical care. Written in an informal tone for lay readers and medical professionals alike, though especially valuable for patients and their relatives who feel confused and helpless while trying to talk to medical professionals, Your Doctor Said What? discusses common - and from the author's point of view, questionable - practices, such as allotting patients a maximum of 10 minutes to explain what's wrong, forcing patients to wait a long time in a skimpy hospital gown, and the seemingly impenetrable barriers erected by answering services. Your Doctor Said What? walks readers through why doctors say the things they do, and offers valuable advice for both patients ("Do NOT wait till the very end and realize that he hasn't given you any medication or shots. You have to strategically time your questions and requests.") and medical professionals ("Don't assume that the first problem is the most important problem. Sometimes patients 'lead into' what is really bothering them.") Enthusiastically recommended, especially as reading material for doctor's waiting rooms, and a "must-have" for anyone nervous about medical visits.

Layers Of Moments
Kimberly A. Blanchette
Sk-C2 Publishing
229 Ba Wood Lane, Janesville, WI53545
0978619005, $19.00

The work of author and photographer Kimberly A. Blanchette, "Layers Of Moments" combines evocative black and white photos with prose poetry in a series of images and verses that linger in the mind long after the volume is closed and placed back upon the shelf. Divided into six categories titled: Depth; Declaration; connections; Twofold; Awe; and Spiritual, the poetry successfully reflects Blanchette twenty years of effort to translate emotion and concept into words and images. "Layers Of Moments" is a welcome and recommended addition to any personal, academic, or community library Poetry collection, and showcases Kimberly Blanchette as a unique Wisconsin poet. 'The Voice': the wind so still/A voice cries out/In the wilderness/It is not the Eagle/It is not the Bear/Or the Coyote/No it is/The voice of man/Howling in silence/The wind so still/A Voice Cries out/In the Wilderness/Silence echoes/Through the trees/The Eagle, Bear and Coyote look/A reply is heard/It is God's voice/Can you hear it?

Kid Power
Gloria Bond
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560

Gloria Bond has developed and published three 'Kid Power' titles specifically designed to teach preschoolers their colors and introduce them to simple words (each of which is paired with an illustration of the object the word describes) that they can learn to read. The "Absolutely Stupendous Books Of Colors" (978-1411693241, $TBA) is profusely illustrated with direct correlations between basic colors and images of objects exhibiting those colors. This is an ideal learning experience for toddlers that will tech them their colors, help them exercise their concentration, and enjoy the success of learning all fifteen colors in just five days. "24 Words Toddlers Can Read" (978-1411687585, $TBA) pairs twenty-four common words with their full color illustrations in a thoroughly 'preschooler friendly' format that has the single word in big bold lettering on the right with the full page illustration on the left. "60 Words Toddlers Can Read In Black And White" (978-1430307990, $TBA) offers 138 pages of words and their images thoroughly appropriate for kids ages 3 to 6 in black-and-white. All three of these 'Kid Power' beginning reader instruction books are enthusiastically recommended for homeschooling parents, daycare center curriculums, and as learning/bonding opportunities for rainy day shared experiences between a parent and their preschool child.

Nude In Winter
Francine Sterle
Tupelo Press, Inc.
PO Box 539, Dorset, VT 05251
1932195335, $16.95

The poetry of Francine Sterle is as memorable as it is unique, as superbly crafted as it is lyrical. "Nude In Winter" will prove to be a welcome introduction to one of the most distinctive voices in American poetry today. 'The Uncertainty of the Poet: Giogrio de Chirico": Near the dark arches of the arcade,/a headless, plaster torso of a woman./By her dimpled hip, two dozen/green and yellow bruised bananas.//Off in the distance,/a train with its ample banner of steam/speeds left into oblivion. Menacing,/monumental shadows master what we see./Wait: the wish of reason is revered./The poet aims her words at what's unworded,/startled by the horizon's vaporous wall.

Mayberry Momma's Food For The Soul And Body
Jewell Mitchell Kutzer
Dynamic Living Press
PO Box 3164, St. Augustine, FL 32085-3164
0971100055, $17.95

Jewell Kutzner has compiled a simply wonderful collection of 'kitchen friendly' recipes for down-home cooking that will enable even the most novice family cook to set a table that will please even the most gourmet palate and satisfy even the most robust appetite. Enhanced with her personal memories of growing up in a small town, the recipes range from Miss Georgia's Buttermilk Cheese Biscuits; to Chicken Cordon Bleu Saucy Mini-Meat Loaves; to Creamy Potato Soup with Okra Dumplings; to PaPa's Favorite Custard Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce. "Mayberry Momma's Food For The Soul And Body" truly lives up to its title and is an enthusiastically recommended addition to any family and all community library cookbook collections.

D. E. Steward
Kings Estate Press
870 Kings Estate Road, St. Augustine, FL 32086-5033
PO Box 1239, Princeton, NJ 08542-1239 (author)
1888832223, $TBA

Enhanced with occasional illustrations by Wayne Hogan, "Torque" is a collection of highly recommended poetry by D. E. Steward which clearly documents him as a master wordsmith whose employs a genuine linguistic flair for engaging the reader's imagination with his verse in both subject matter and style. 'Inventing Writing': Tradition says it was for accounts/Explanatory notes for the numbering/And then for codes of laws and kings/But no more than Altamira painting/Was done as diagrams for butchering/Should anyone believe that all along/People have not wanted to get it down/Their oceanic moments and revelations/Insights and the way words sound/Probably it was the line and color/Artists who sketched and scrawled/And maybe their first letter was red/Their second blue their third brown/With the convention of the notation/Being artists' color-coded ideograms/Well before dead clay rigid cuneiform.

The Heart Of It All
Lori Goff
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
1674 Bolton Street, Walled Lake, MI 48390 (author)
0595407013, $14.95

In the pages of "The Heart Of It All", Lori Goff deftly articulates the joys and sorrows of ordinary life while drawing upon landscapes comprising the natural world. Poet, essayist and editor, Lori Goff is clearly a master wordsmith who intimately memorable verse and lyrical prose is to be treasured and read again and again. 'Rhine River Vineyards': Acres of snarled, blackened stalks,/bent from heavy bearing years,/dance a one-legged jig.//Acres of gnarled darkened trunks,/tortured contortions,/are scary as Halloween hags.//Acres of intertwined branches/with no beginning or end/hold hands for comfort.//Acres of crisscrossed stakes/are strung with wound wire,/bound together forever.//Acres of canopy-formed leaves/with clusters of swollen grapes/wait for harvest.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

Becoming Your Own Critique Partner
Janet Lane Walters and Jane Toombs
Zumaya Publications
3209 S. IH 35 #1086, Austin TX 78741-6905
1554102928 $15.00 512-707-2694

This new book on self-editing written by two very prolific authors is one you'll definitely want to add to your bookshelf.

What are the major problems you should be on the lookout for when editing your own work? The answer isn't always easy, as authors tend to become so involved in their plot and characters they turn blind to the obvious. Sometimes the problems are easy to spot and fix, sometimes not. Whatever the case, Walters and Toombs guide you through the process of completely editing your fiction manuscript.

With specific examples taken from their own works, the authors demonstrated how to handle telling instead of showing, stilted and flat dialogue, weak and unrealistic characters, unnecessary scenes, overuse of adjectives and adverbs, lack of atmosphere, point of view shifts, bloated prose, cliches, among others. They also share the secret to strong characters and the six necessary elements to a master plot. Each chapter concentrates on a specific subject, with helpful exercises at the end of it. Written in a clear, friendly, straight-forward style, Becoming Your Own Critique Partner is a reference book that both beginners and professionals will profit from.

Ghostly Tales from America's Jails
Joan Upton Hall, editor
Atriad Press LLC
13820 Methuen Green, Dallas, TX 75240
1933177098 $15.00 (972) 671-0002

Are you intrigued by true ghost stories? Author Joan Upton Hall has put together a collection of spooky tales that will be thoroughly enjoyed by fans of the paranormal, especially by those readers with a particular interest in old jails and prisons.

The stories, forty in all, take place in different times and locations across the United States, bringing in the flavor of each individual setting--from an old Salem Witch Jail from the 1600's to a Charleston Civil War prison for pirates to a modern state penitentiary in the Wild West. These haunting stories written by a group of versatile authors from various backgrounds, appeal to the reader's imagination and capture the dark mood of these jails, bringing to life the misery and violence that once took place there. The fact that many of the jails and prisons are now restaurants, inns, offices, shops and museums is interesting.

The chapters are arranged in chronological order from the oldest to the newest haunting, and each story is accompanied by an author photo and bio. Some of the authors are host hunters, psychics, and correctional officers.

How do investigators of the paranormal seek verification? What are their methods? How do they classify and study hauntings? What type of people encounter ghosts? Is there a pattern? Is this something that happens to believers—who may be easily influenced—or to skeptics as well?

If you're a ghost hunter, the book includes addresses and contact information of the institutions, that is—as the editor notes—"if you dare." Whether you're a believer or a skeptic, this is an intriguing book that will tickle your sense of wonder and offer some spooky excitement on those long rainy evenings.

Dead Giveaway
Brenda Novak
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324796 $6.99

Talented author Brenda Novak weaves yet another tale of romance, suspense and deception in this the second book in the Stillwater trilogy, Dead Giveaway.

After a painful divorce, detective Allie McCormick comes back to her childhood town of Stillwater to start a new life with her six-year old daughter. Of course, it doesn't hurt that her father happens to be the chief of police and offers her a job. Immediately, Allie begins to work on a cold case—the strange disappearance of Reverend Lee Barker nineteen years ago. But the time factor is not the problem. The main problem is the chief suspect, handsome and brooding Clay Montgomery, who everybody in the town hates and believes to have murdered the Reverend.

As the investigation unfolds, and Allie falls deeper into her relationship with Clay, she realizes the man she has fallen in love with could not be capable of murder. She decides to help him to the end, even if that means putting herself in danger and fighting the whole town and its most important family. Will she succeed? And what if the famous Reverend, who everyone respected to much, turns out to be the most despicable of criminals?

Surprising twists and turns and a couple of interesting sub-plots keep the story moving at a fast pace until the very startling ending. Novak has a keen gift for combining suspense and romance, as well as for creating real, sympathetic heroines and darkly mysterious heroes that beautifully stand out from the typical stereotypes of the genre. The way Allie 'solves' the case at the end is smart and unexpected. Dead Giveaway will draw the reader in different levels--both intellectually and emotionally, making this a very compelling read. Highly recommended for fans of romantic suspense.

Aiming At Amazon
Aaron Shepard
Shepard Publications
1102 Olympia Ave NE, number 18, Olympia, WA 98506
093849743X $15.00

In his latest book, Aiming at Amazon, Aaron Shepard proposes a revolutionary way to easily self publish your non-fiction work and market it successfully.

No, this is not one of those books that will teach you how to become an instant Amazon Bestseller. What Shepard suggests is much more ingenious. While becoming an instant bestseller may appear glamorous, the effect of this marketing trick lasts little compared to a real bestseller with good steady sales over a long period of time. Furthermore, the author's innovative technique includes ignoring—yes, totally disregarding—bookstores. With this plan, your aim will be selling your book via Amazon only. While this method may appear a little extreme, there's a beautiful simplicity to it.

Shepard demystifies distributors and wholesalers and offers you a practical, step-by-step plan on how to become your own small press, print your book, and sell it to the public via Amazon. He explains why it's important to stay away from subsidy companies that use print on demand, and he takes you right to the POD printer itself—Lightning Source—saving you an infinite amount of money in the process.

Some of the topics discussed include: choosing POD for printing your books, researching the market, designing and layout, cover design, setting up accounts with Lightning Source and Amazon, Amazon marketing tactics, and getting reviews, among others. In sum, everything you need to know to become your own press and start selling your book online.

Whether you live in the US or in another part of the world, this is an important book to read if you plan on self publishing a non-fiction book, as Shepard also offers valuable information for those living abroad. Written in Shepard's friendly style, Aiming at Amazon is a must read for anybody who is considering self publishing without too much hassle or expenses.

Mayra Calvani

South's Bookshelf

If Truth Be Told
Lynda Fitzgerald
Five Star An Imprint of Thomson Gale
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
1594145687 $26.95

WOW, I loved this book, this story touched me so deeply, this is an emotional and a great read.

The story is told through the eyes of one of the main characters Christie . The setting takes place between Cocoa Beach and Melbourne Beach, and the story begins in August of 1961. Christie is the youngest of the three O Kelly sisters, and is 14 years old when she meets the boy of her dreams. His name is Todd, soon to be her step cousin. Her Uncle Jack is marrying Carly, Todds mother. After falling for Todd she decides to put away her teddy bear, which from time to time she takes back out of her closet for comfort. After four years of dreaming about her future with Todd, she is devastated from a letter to her aunt and uncle revealing that Todd is married.

The story progresses through eight years; Christie comes home to find that Todd had been to her place looking for her. Todd is determined to win Christie back, but Christie wants no part of being hurt and lied to again. Todd offers to be there for her as a friend due to her uncle's illness, she does not believe him and calls her uncle, and it is true, he is sick.

They are thrown together time and again due to her uncle's series of medical conditions. Christie finally gives in due to Todd's persistence. They become engaged, and then suddenly her uncle dies.

Christie is confused she though he was doing better, and Carly's behavior and actions around her are very different, almost as if she feels guilty about something. Christie is determined to find out the truth, she does not believe her uncle's death was natural. So she begins asking questions, prodding for the truth, but is afraid this will be the end to her relationship with the man of her dreams.

The author mixes romance and a touch of mystery. The plot is intriguing, the characters are believable, and the story has vivid details. In my opinion the writing as a whole can have no blemish thrown its way. The story will tug at your heart and will bring tears to your eyes.

A fascinating read, I could not put this one down, highly recommended, a definite 5 star read.

The Will To Defy
Ken Myler
ACME Publications
New York
0977463605 $14.99

The Will To Defy is a gripping story filled with intrigue--a psychological tale that will send chills up and down your spine. Ken Myler draws you into the story with vivid accounts and detail.

Ben Pearce is a husband, a father, and a broker in New York who is thrown into a nightmare in this suspense/thriller. He is woven into a whirl of trying to prevent his own demise because the daughter of an underworld mobster is killed accidentally. Her father, underworld boss Victor Draeken, is out for revenge, and Ben Pearce is set on a quest to keep his family and himself safe.

Ben is faced with extraordinary experiences, turning his peaceful life into one of survival from a father's revenge. Ben even goes as far as starting to plan his own funeral, but stumbles upon a one-page document that may keep Victor Draeken at bay out of fear. So Ben decides to put a plan into motion using this document, but as with most plans--things become complicated.

Ken Myler has developed a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The story contains twist and turns, and just when you think you have it figured out: Wrong! He takes you in a different direction to keep you confused and guessing.

This is a definite page turner and demands to be finished in one read, so I recommend you start it on the weekend as you will want to read it through to the end. The Will To Defy definitely earns 5 stars and is a must read!

Terry South

Sullivan's Bookshelf

Life Out of Context
Walter Mosley
Nation Books
c/o Avalon Publishing Group
1400 - 65th Street, Suite 250, Emeryville, CA 94608
1560258462 $12.95 1-800-345-5473

This little book is actually a monograph between soft covers. But the words inside it are dynamite.

They will impact African-Americans and the United States. Yet even more directly, the Democrat Party in the U.S. will be strongly affected. Best known otherwise as a writer of detective stories, set in pre-Katrina New Orleans with Easy Rawlins as the lead character, Mosley has put down his ramblings before, during, and after encounters and discussions with Public Intellctuals, such as Harry Belafonte, Hugh Masekela, and one or two others. The words and thoughts encompass the state of black America, the state of democracy and capitalism, and the state of America internally and in the world.

The political situation blacks find themselves in today, mostly belonging to and siding with the Democrat Party, despite the fact that it has done little or nothing for the blacks is closely reviewed. For example, Democrats have done nothing to reduce the prison population that is lopsidedly represented with black males. Poverty still runs rampant in the nation and it's mostly black. And little if anything is being done to improve the health of blacks etc. The author admits the Republican Party does even less for blacks. But he points out that that party doesn't promise anything either, contrary to the Democrats who do but then don't ever deliver. Colin Powell, a black Republican, and former U.S. Secretary of State, is bashed as an Uncle Tom and Condi Rice, Powell's successor, doesn't fare very well in this volume, either. The entire George W. Bush administration, in fact comes in for heavy criticism particularly as to its waging of war in Iraq and in its globalization efforts. Breaking away from both parties, primarily, of course, from the Democrats, is the main proposal here. Mosley believes that a strong bloc of blacks, to be known as the Black Party, would have more bargaining power with one major party or another. He goes on to say that other groups, gays for instance, ought to form blocs of their own, also. Thus, they will have a way to bargain or barter their bloc's vote to gain political momentum with a particular party. In this way, all these blocs could get several of their members into the U.S. House of Representatives where some positive things could finally be done. Here's Mosley's list, from the book, of possible demands a Black Party could put forward:

"1. A commitment to revamping the legal system and the penal system to make sure that citizens of color are getting proper treatment and that current inmates will be given the utmost chance to rehabilitate and re-establish themselves in society. (This rehabilitation will include suffrage for all ex-convicts who have served their sentences.)

"2. An expectation that there be equal distribution of all public wealth and services among the citizens, no matter their income, race, or history.

"3. A demand that a true accounting for the impact of slavery be compiled by all government bodies in authority over records that give this information.

"4. A universal health-care system.

"5. A retirement system that will ensure that elder Americans have the ability to spend their later years in relative comfort and security.

"6. A commitment to assemble a general history of our nation in both its glory and its shame."

The author invites other African-Americans to add to that list. Mosley, who has won many writing awards, also writes literary fiction, science fiction, and political philosophy similar to this book. Highly recommended! This read could change the U.S. political landscape tomorrow. Democrats ought to really be alert here to a monumental political change in the making!

The Long Tail
Less of More,
Chris Anderson
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th St., NY, NY 10023-6298
1401302378 $24.95 1-800-759-0190

The author, who is also the editor in chief of WIRED magazine, introduces in this well written, interesting book the previously unrecognized economic/marketing breakthroughs and benefits to be gained from the digitization of information, such as books, music, movies, TV videos, and video games. Essentially, digitization allows for storage of the information from those mediums on computers and the Internet (, for instance) at no, or very little, cost. Then, when needed or wanted, that information, e.g., book, can be located and obtained for the customer or printed out for the buyer in actual physical form, which the author refers to as the 'atom' form. No book, therefore, need ever go out of print from now on.

Moreover, millions of bits of information on what items of, say, music, are out there, means that more and more numbers, and varieties of, defined as niches, of that music, can be inventoried and made available for every taste, regardless of how small. No longer does a music lover have to depend upon the actual CDs that are available at music stores and Wal-Mart, both of which traditionally carry only the current hits or at least a limited quantity of CDs with the highest sales.

Now, if you looked at q sales graph indicating music CD sales ranging from hits and the most popular, on the left side of the chart, down to the fewest sold on the graph's right hand side, the sales line for all of those items would start high with hits but 'tail' off to the right of the chart on CDs with very few, or no sales. The line that tails off is what Anderson calls the Long Tail.

It means that companies that sell books or CDs can now grab sales under the Long Tail. Though there are many fewer numbers of each item sold as one moves along that Long Tail, there are sales. And those items don't have to be kept on hand on shelves or even stored in warehouses to be made available. Since they're digitized, they only need to be printed out for the customer. In some cases, items sold under the Long Tail amount to as much as 25% of sales of all items in that category (i.e., TV videos, video games, etc.). This is a boon to sales.

"The new niche market," writes the author, "is not replacing the traditional market of hits, just sharing the stage with it for the first time. For a century we have winnowed out all but the best-sellers to make the most efficient use of costly shelf space, screens, channels, and attention. Now, in a new era of networked consumers and digital everything, the economics of such distribution are changing radically as the Internet absorbs each industry it touches, becoming store, theater, and broadcaster at a fraction of the traditional cost."

In the last chapter, the author takes the reader for a fantastical trip into the future (though as is often heard, the future is already here). He discusses the role of a 3D Printer. It costs about $30,000 today but its price is falling. It can, he says, take information from the digiital and produce the real item. It uses, according to Anderson, "a laser to urn a bath of liquid polymer or powder into any shape you desire." It seems too much to believe, but...!

A resident of California with his wife and children, Chris Anderson has also worked at THE ECONOMIST, SCIENCE, and NATURE magazines.

The exciting information in this volume will have an impact in the worlds of entertainment, leisure time activities, marketing, sales, computers, the Internet, and business in general. Very Highly Recommended!

Stanley Newman with Mark Lasswell,
0060890606 $14.95

In six chapters on various aspects of constructing, editing, and solving crossword puzzles, such as "A Day in the Life of a Crossword Fanatic" and "Pulling Back the Curtain: The Hidden Rules of the Grid [the puzzle's shape and structure]," Newman tells the reader how crossword puzzles first came into being, how he left bond trading on Wall Street for crosswords, how they vary from one newspaper to another, and how they get more difficult to solve from the start to the end of the week.

Perhaps most valuable of all to readers, particularly cruciverbalists, are the numerous hints and helps offered in this thin volume on how to more easily complete a crossword puzzle. But, wait, there's more to learn.

"Two case studies..." writes Newman in Chapter 4, "...showed that adults who pursued intellectually stimulating games and hobbies [such as crossword puzzles] were 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those who didn't...."

Currently the crossword puzzle editor at NEWSDAY newspaper, Newman's work is syndicated to several other publications. Earlier in his life, while publisher and editor-in-chief at Random House's PUZZLES AND GAMES imprint, he edited or wrote over 100 books in those categories.

Mark Lasswell, a New York City resident, serves at the WALL STREET JOURNAL as deputy books editor. Recommended.

Reduced Shakespeare
Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th St.,New York, NY 10023-6298
1401302203 $17.95 1-800-759-0190

Arguably, according to literature professors in the English-speaking world, Shakespeare may just be the greatest writer ever (in the Elizabethan dialect that is, or was). Martin and Tichenor are actually stage performers who know well the works of Shakespeare. Over the years, they've taken the great writer's works (shortened, of course, to help those who can't concentrate for very long), like HAMLET, AS YOU LIKE IT, and the sonnets and acted out various parts of them on stage, TV, and radio.

Now they've taken their knowledge of Shakespeare and put it into book form. And they've managed, as they had in the past with their performances, to keep it brief, informative, interesting, and, above all else, humorous. These actors are inherently funny and smart, a combination that comes across in the volume to this reviewer as a variant of Woody Allen's intelligent humor.

The authors ask, "Why have we written this book? [...]

Their answer: [...] Because we're fed up.

There are simply too many Shakespeare books out there, most of which are an utter waste of paper and readers' time, and the issue needs to be addressed. Where can any reader--from the mildly curious dabbler to the most rabid Shakespeare geek--learn everything he or she needs to know about the greatest dramatic poet the world has ever known? Somebody, somewhere needs to boil down all the pertinent information into one brilliantly concise, intellectually cogent and entertainingly readable volume. Until somebody does that we've written this."

A whole chapter of this book is devoted to movies made from or derivative of, Shakespeare's work. Though it goes on and on, it, too, is fun to peruse. Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor reside in Californian. Recommended for lavatory, or any other room in the house, reading!

Jim Sullivan

Theodore's Bookshelf

Death on the Nevskii Prospekt
David Dickinson
Carroll and Graf
245 West 18th St., NY, NY 10011
0786718978 $24.95 800-788-3123

Lord Powerscourt, as he recovered from a near fatal wound two years before, was convinced by his wife, Lady Lucy, to retire as an investigator. Now, in the year 1904 he is coaxed out of retirement to undertake a secret mission to St. Petersburg on behalf of the British Foreign Office to learn the details of the death of a diplomat who himself was on a secret mission to the Russian capital.

The plot revolves around a secret presumably known by the murdered man, but which is unknown to everyone but King Edward. Powerscourt becomes involved with the Russian secret intelligence service head who also wants to know the secret, among others. He witnesses the bloody massacre of workers at a peasant demonstration, the torture chambers of the secret police, and is even subjected to whipping by the palace intelligence service after he meets with the Tsar.

In the end, Powerscourt applies logic to unlock the mystery of the diplomat's death, but not before the author takes us on a vast tour of the pre-revolutionary era, the royal family and even Rasputin as he enters the picture. It is a tale well told and worth reading. The real question is: was this Powerscourt's last investigation, and will he finally retire for good? Recommended.

Heart-Shaped Box
Joe Hill
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0061147931 $24.95 800-242-7737

In this debut novel, the author has created a far-out ghost story which creates wonder and suspense. It may not be a book for everyone, but those who enjoy the genre certainly will eat it up. Jude Coyne (Justin Cowzynski), a 54-year-old rock star, collects all kinds of weird things—a hangman's noose, a cookbook for cannibals, a 300-year-old confession from a witch, a Mexican snuff film. Then one day, his assistant tells him of an offer on an auction site: the suit of a dead man and his ghost to go with it. Jude offers $1,000 and snares the bizarre item.

And that's when the tale takes off. The ghost is the hypnotist-stepfather of a girlfriend who Jude discarded, and she supposedly committed suicide as a result. The ghost is sent by her sister in an act of revenge and the trials and tribulations mount as the ghost attempts to convince Jude to kill his present girlfriend and then himself, and Jude and his current paramour try to get rid of their nemesis.

The idea and theme of the book is certainly original and will keep the reader on edge throughout—if he or she is up to the terror and eerie goings-on. The novel raises the emotions and tingles the nerves.

Fringe Benefits
F. M. Meredith
Tigress Press
P.O. Box 30859, Columbia, MO 65205-3859
09771609X $13.95 573-446-8525

In a way, Fringe Benefits is reminiscent of a Wambaugh novel: it is a tale of police work, the lives and trials and tribulations of the cops on the small town force of Rocky Bluffs, CA. It is the third in the Rocky Bluffs P.D. series, although it is the first read by this reviewer.

While the book consists of short vignettes of cops on the job, the main thrust of the novel is the illicit sexual liaison between the bored wife of one patrolman and one of his co-workers, which leads to the planning of the "perfect" murder. The sex-driven cop, to satisfy his paramour, arranges the death of his wife to obtain $2 million in double-indemnity insurance money. They then marry and the plot takes a twist, which the reader (at least this one) doesn't expect. It's a fast and enjoyable read.

A Fifi Cutter Mystery
Gwen Freeman
Capital Crime Press
P.O. Box 272904, Ft. Collins. CO 80527, 970-481-4894
0977627616 $14.95

Fifi Cutter, half black, half white, makes her debut in this novel, along with her Caucasian half-brother, Bosco, and the publisher hints they will reappear in the future. They are a couple of characters. She is an insurance adjuster who lives in an inherited house with no furniture. He is a ne'er-do-well drifter and sponger.

When Bosco turns up on Fifi's doorstep after a hiatus of five years, he presents her with a potential murder investigation, one for which neither is qualified. It seems "Uncle" Ted Hefferman was found in his office, supposedly dead of a heart attack, but one of his co-workers is convinced he was murdered so the firm could collect $5 million in key man insurance, sorely needed to pay off a judgment. They are offered compensation to find the murderer (although the money is as hard to get as a solution).

It would appear that many of the deceased's co-workers, including his two partners, had motives to slay him. Among the ruses Fifi and Bosco use in their "investigation" in an attempt to garner clues is to pose as grief counselors to employees of the insurance brokerage firm. Just one of the many quirky characteristics of the two.

For a first effort, the novel is fast-moving and interesting. The plot is different, although the traditional "closed door" mystery is at its base. The dangers to the protagonist are several, including the bombing of her vehicle, and the police suspecting her of various crimes. And, of course, the conclusion is unexpected.

In Dublin's Fair City, A Molly Murphy Mystery
Rhys Bowen
St. Martin's Minotaur
0312328192 $23.95

Molly Murphy fled Ireland two years before, fearful of arrest for the murder of her employer's son. She came to New York City in 1909, made friends, met Captain Dan Sullivan of the police department in a somewhat romantic way and opened a detective agency. So much for the backstory from the previous five novels in this series.

In this book she meets a rich show producer at a party atop the original Madison Square Garden. He offers her an assignment to return to Ireland to discover whether his baby sister, left behind because she was ill when the family fled the Emerald Isle during the potato famine, survived. The producer is a very rich man with no real heirs, and his finding her would benefit the sister if she still exists.

With trepidation, Molly accepts the job. However, as she puts it: she doesn't seek trouble, but it has a way of finding her. And it does. Molly begins her assignment with a second class passage on a transatlantic steamer. Before she can even unpack, she is summoned to the first class cabin of a famous actress, who she also met at the party, asking her to switch cabins and identities, including a maid, so the actress could avoid attention. On the last day of the voyage, Molly discovers the maid dead in "her" bed, suffocated. Suspicion is cast on Molly when it is found the actress left the ship before it departed, leaving five trunks behind.

Upon arriving in Ireland, Molly finds the trunks in her hotel room. She begins her investigation and learns the young girl she seeks indeed survived, but each lead turns out to be a dead end. Meanwhile she receives instructions to forward the trunks to a hotel in Dublin, where Molly eventually visits. There she inspects the trunks and sees rifles, presumably for the Irish Brotherhood. At this point the plot becomes complicated. When a few men come to remove the trunks, one of them is Molly's brother. Because of her recognition of him as he flees, she i s kidnapped by the Brotherhood and learns that her older brother is in jail awaiting execution. Molly volunteers to assist the Brotherhood in attacking the jail in the hopes of freeing her brother and other prisoners. Meanwhile she is being stalked by someone for some unknown purpose. And she still fears the police suspect her of various crimes. It all comes to an exciting end, perhaps the most unusual in the series, and one you shouldn't miss.

The Pact
Roberta Kray
Carroll & Graf
245 W. 17th St., NY,NY 10011

0786719028 $26.95 800-788-3123

The Pact is a book that is very different, with plot changes and character development so unexpected that the reader needs a road map to follow the curves and developments. It begins simply: Eve Weston's brother is in jail for a six-month sentence, but on a visit she sees he has been beaten. In return for her promise to do whatever he asks, she makes a deal with another prisoner to protect her brother.

Meanwhile, Eve is recovering from the suicide of her father and the loss of her job because of her close relationship (purely platonic) with her married lawyer superior, misconstrued as an affair. Then the fun begins. Her apartment is broken into and ransacked, she is followed, her ex-husband's residence is broken into and ransacked, two men are found murdered and other odd occurrences take place. What's going on? Who's responsible? What is at the heart of these misadventures?

As the plot moves forward it becomes obvious that someone believes Eve has something they want, but she doesn't know what it is. All the characters, seemingly unrelated, become intermingled and the mystery unwinds in spectacular fashion. It is well worth reading to find out the reasons.

Roberta Kray is the widow of the late, legendary London gangster Reg Kray. Her first book was a biography of her husband. This is her second novel.

Michele Martinez
Wm. Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
006089900X $23.95 800-242-7737

All the elements of the previous two novels in this series are present in Cover-Up: Melanie Vargas, talented Assistant U.S. Attorney, a brutal murder, a host of suspects, a near-miss attempt on the life of the protagonist, and, of course, her on-again-off-again (in more ways than one) romance with FBI agent Dan O'Reilly. It is a well-crafted tale that the reader follows swiftly and which reaches an unexpected conclusion.

The story begins with the gruesome rape-murder of a muckraking television scandalmonger in Central Park. The murderer inflicted multiple stab wounds and carved "bitch" on her stomach. Dan O'Reilly gets the call while celebrating his birthday with Melanie and off they go to view the scene. Melanie is assigned as prosecutor and the investigation begins, complicated by the yellow journalism of the television station. Suspects include a Park Avenue plastic surgeon, a dope-peddling personal trainer, a city councilman and mayoral candidate whose extra-marital affair with a 20-year-old intern was exposed by the reporter, and all the other victims of previous programs.

Slow, painstaking detective work is done to try to eliminate the various suspects. Along the way, Melanie receives threatening e-mails from the killer, dubbed the "butcher." When they finally meet, the novel reaches an exciting conclusion. But you should read it to find out what it is. Recommended.

High Profile
Robert B. Parker
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
0399154043 $24.95

It is always a delight to read a Parker novel. No one writes dialog or repartee like he does. And this book is no exception. It doesn't matter who the protagonist is—this is not a Spenser tale—or what the story line is. It's just a sheer joy to be exposed to the witticisms and observations that Parker creates.

High Profile features Jesse Stone, his ex-wife and current girlfriend in a pas de trios, complicated by the dual murder of a television celebrity in Paradise, MA and his bride-to-be. Jenn, Stone's ex- and forever love, claims she was raped and is being stalked. Lacking the time because of the murders, Stone asks Sonny to take on the task of protecting Jenn while he goes about his duties as Chief of Police.

Enough of the plot. Just read the novel and enjoy it to the hilt. Highly recommended.

Under a Raging Moon
Frank Zafiro
Wolfmont Publishing
P.O. Box 205, Ranger, GA 0734
0977840212 $12.95 706-307-0068

The days and nights, lives and deaths, loves and lost loves of the cops of River City, WA?hat is the thrust of this novel. A sequel River City book is forthcoming. Raging Moon is largely patterned on the Ed McBain 87th Pct. series, with the cast of characters manning the police patrols in a fictitious city, following their routines and procedures.

The one thread running though the novel is a series of convenience store robberies by a scar-faced male, and he eludes capture and the efforts by the cops to put him out of circulation. The book chronicles day by day the efforts to capture him, as well as the inter-action among the officers. Under a Raging Moon is a quick read and well-written, and the series promises to provide further entertainment in the future.

A Deeper Sleep: A Kate Shugak Novel
Dana Stabenow
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
0312343221 $24.95 646-307-5560

In this, the 15th novel in the series, Kate and her current lover, State Trooper Jim Chopin, are faced with a fiend, Louis Deem, who has a fondness for murdering his successive young wives. Set against the Alaskan wilderness and tribal ways, the plot presents the protagonists with a dilemma when Deem is found murdered along a lonely road. There isn't an inhabitant of the area that doesn't welcome the news, but who is responsible for the murder, and should anyone care?

Deem previously had been tried and acquitted for the deaths of his wives, even though everyone—judge, jury and the general population—knew he was guilty. Then a popular bar owner's home is robbed of gold nuggets and his wife and son shot during the act. The finger points to Deem, so everyone believes justice was done when he was found murdered.

But for Kate and Jim, truth is still important no matter what they want to believe. And the truth is as complex as the cultural traditions and environment of the Alaskan wilderness, really the last frontier. It is an extremely fascinating story.

Blue Springs
Peter Rennebohm
North Star Press
P.O. Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56302, 888-820-1636
0878392270 $24.95

There are enough heroes in this touching tale to populate at least a couple of novels. There is 11-year-old Charlie Nash; Taffy, a two-and-a-half year old dog; and Willis Purdue, days away from death, among others. And several villains to boot.

The saga begins when Charlie decides to run away from home because of the mental and verbal abuse of his alcoholic father. He shows a coin collection to an unscrupulous coin dealer who recognizes the value of the coins, and when Charlie doesn't sell the coins for a few hundred dollars arranges to have them stolen. Charlie hops a freight car and encounters his first danger. Escaping, he goes to a beanery to have lunch and meets Purdue. Afterwards, he tries to hitchhike and is snatched by Virgil Pisant, a man who is seeking revenge on Charlie's father. Pisant had kicked Taffy in the ribs and left her along the side of the road. Meanwhile a con tract killer also has taken up the chase, following Pisant.

Luckily, Purdue forgot his hat at the eatery, retraces his steps, recovers his hat and resumes his trip to the home he left 10 years before when he caused the death of his grandchild. He spots Taffy, putting her in his station wagon, then proceeds to rescue Charlie. They take the dog to a local vet and Charlie joins Purdue on his trip. They become fast friends, and Charlie joins Purdue's family. Of course, eventually, the contract killer catches up, still seeking the coins, providing for a dramatic, if somewhat predictable conclusion. Despite the loose ends being mechanically and swiftly tied together, the story flows smoothly to a satisfying finale.

The Night Lawyer
Michelle Spring
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 212-782-9000/800-726-0600
0345437462 $24.95

Eleanor Porter is one mixed-up woman: she believes that as an eight-year-old she was responsible for the death of her father; she has a nervous breakdown when her lover abandons her; she's insecure in her new job as the night lawyer for a London tabloid; she's unsure of herself in the one positive aspect of her current life—karate—at which she's pretty good; her fear of a stalker…

The novel meanders through the days and nights of Ellie's personal and business life, her moods and fears and discoveries. Somehow, this reader found Ellie less than an interesting person. However, she does develop along the way to some degree, as does the plot [any further description of which would constitute spoilers]. If one can accept the premise, then the story is fulfilling.

Damage Control
Robert Dugoni
Warner Books
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020, 212-364-1100/800-759-0190
0446578703 $24.99

In this sprawling saga a lot of territory is covered: several murders, breast cancer, job dissatisfaction, politics, spousal abuse—even motherhood, in the course of which Seattle attorney Dana Hill learns a lot about herself, while attempting to learn the truth about the death of her twin brother: was it murder during the commission of a robbery, or something else?

The detective on the case believes, initially, that her brother's death was the result of a robbery in which he surprised the culprits. When the two suspects also are found dead, another reason seemed apparent. Dana and the detective undertake to follow the slim leads available, including an expensive earring Dana finds in her brother's home. This clue leads her to Hawaii to meet with the designer of the piece.

The plot unfolds against a powerful force seeking to minimize any damage to his plans and reputation. Against this story line are the everyday and not- so-mundane events of the lives of the various participants in the drama. The plot unfolds in a somewhat stilted—albeit satisfying—manner.

Russell Andrews
Mysterious Press, March 14, 2007
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020, 212-364-1100/800-759-0190
0892960213 $24.99

The goal in this novel is truth; truth is also all that Justin Westwood, chief of police of East End Harbor, seeks. It is an elusive quality both in life and in this piece of fiction. The multi-layered plot involves the murder of the husband of the woman with whom Justin is having an affair--in fact, they are in bed together the night the man is killed. Justin is suspended and has to clear himself of possible complicity.

In the wake of Justin's efforts, he uncovers an international financial conspiracy. Along the way, his brother-in-law and a female FBI agent are murdered. Before she dies, she writes some mysterious clues in her own blood on her skin, including the word "Hades." Are all these elements separate events or related?

Justin teams up with an FBI agent with whom he previously had a history, including a brief love affair and also an altercation which contributes to a degree of mistrust. Mixed in with all of these factors is Justin's own past and two young sinister and mysterious young Chinese assassins. The novel moves forward with suspense. The writing is fluid and the plot solid, reaching a conclusion that is hardly predictable. Recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

R. J. Leahy
Zumaya Otherworlds
3209 S. IH35 #1086, Austin, TX 78741-6905
1934135216, $15.99

Tigra is Mr. Leahy's debut novel and I can't praise it enough. Although I'm a fan of Science Fiction, it has been a while since I last picked up a book written in that genre. I opened Tigra started reading and immediately became engrossed with both the characters and story.

Jeena Garza an officer fighting for the Union in an intergalactic civil war was captured and tortured by the other side, the Coalition. During a Union raid on the planet where's she's imprisoned, Jeena manages to escape by stealing a ship. Crash landing on the planet Ararat, she finds enough food stores and supplies aboard ship to aid in her survival.

The planet is isolated with only two charters having been granted to colonize it. The ship's computer has little information on what might have happened to the colonists and there are some strange things about the Union's classification of the planet that makes no sense to Jeena.

Her first meeting with one of the wild tiger like creatures which inhabit the planet ends unhappily. She finds a tiny tigra cub and takes him under her wing. The Union Star pilot next discovers that there are still humans on the planet and in doing so finds herself caught up in events that could destroy the peace on Ararat. Jeena is tough and feisty with just enough of a soft side to endear herself to the reader. She and her tigra companion are in the adventure of their lives, one that will ultimately change the fate of the planet and all who live on it.

I really enjoyed reading this book and can't wait to read the sequels. It's an excellent and entertaining read. Tigra is the first in a planned three-book series.

Chill Of Night
John Lutz
Pinnacle Books
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
0786016353 $6.99

This thriller is about a serial killer's insane romp through the streets of New York. He's out to right the wrongs of the judicial system-his way. The Justice Killer is becoming a household name and a folk hero of sorts. Retired Homicide detective Artemis Beam has come back to the NYPD as a captain with orders to hunt down and capture or destroy the cold blooded killer. Lutz kept me in suspense right up to the end. It's a great read!

John Lutz has written over 40 books. His latest book In For The Kill will be released sometime this year.

Becoming Your Own Critique Partner
Janet Lane Walters & Jane Toombs
Zumaya Publications
3209 S. IH35 #1086, Austin, TX 78741-6905
1554102928, $14.99

Whether you're in a critique group or not, this book can do nothing but help improve your writing. It tells you how to keep the reader's attention, to evaluate scenes, ways to improve dialogue, pacing, point of view and more. Using this book should help you to tighten your writing and cut away the excess like a pro. Are you wondering if you've started your story with the right scene or are there holes in your plot? The authors' instructions will help you find the answers. A checklist follows at the end of each chapter and there are exercises to help you put what you've read to good use.

Any writer who wants to improve their writing should buy this book and keep it with their other reference books. I feel fortunate to have stumbled on to this book. As a writer struggling to get a novel finished it has been of great help to me and will sit on my desk within easy reach. I know I will be using it on each new project to make sure my writing is a product that is ready for an editor's desk.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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