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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 3 March 2008 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Betty's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Cheri's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Duncan's Bookshelf Franci's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Harold's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Larsen's Bookshelf
Liana's Bookshelf Lockstein's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Slessman's Bookshelf
Susan's Bookshelf Terrilyn's Bookshelf Tetrick's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf RebeccasReads

Reviewer's Choice

Sally: The Older Woman's Illustrated Guide to Self-Improvement
Judy Laddon
Illustrated by Sally Pierone
Sombrero Press
P.O. Box 31166, Spokane, WA 99223
9781934738597 $24.95

Cassandra Langer

I am among a good number of Americans who don't buy into the brave new world lotus land happiness project that tends to dominate our current political and social landscape. I am highly skeptical of the Obama collective along with all of the other unmet promises that are clogging the media airwaves. I admit to being suspicious of the overemphasis on the "just be happy" philosophy in vogue. I tend to think behind the bland smiling happy face is a fear of risk, of exploring and experiencing the disturbing realities that are a part of everyday living. This is why when Judy Laddon's book Sally, the story of a now 86 years young woman who is "Living proof that it's never too late to start again," fell through my mail slot and I opened the press package I did so with a certain sense of trepidation. Oh, oh, I thought, here comes another one of those dismal self-help books. What a refreshing surprise award-winning author Judy Laddon's book turned out to be.

Sally is a well written, fascinating, funny and moving book that traces the saga of Sally Pierone's very colorful life. It does a lot more than chronicle the life of "one lovable, flawed, real-life character who captured her hard-won life lessons with her paintbrush." No, rather it is a life primer for any gender on how to learn to live passionately and make the greatest adventure (with all its highs and lows) - LIFE - really meaningful. Sally's journey is sometimes unbearably agonizing as she moves from a dysfunctional family into an exciting youth spent in Paris working as director of the Marshall Plan and then returned home to an oppressive marriage to a dismissive control freak that resulted in becoming an unhappy wife and mother. Turning to psychotherapy in a desperate effort to turn her life around, Sally finally was able to reinvent herself. She spent two months studying with a gifted therapist, Virginia Satir. "After, Virginia, Sally used the f-word [substitute “spoon”] at the dinner table." Bob, who was used to "telling her what to wear, when to leave the party, when to speak," said, "Don't ever use that word in this house." Sally stood up, went over to him and said, in his face, "Spoon, spoon, spoon, spoon, spoon, spoon." Eventually she got the strength and courage to walk out. It took a divorce and a change of career to start her on the path to finding her one true self.

She had already found God at the birth of the last of her three sons, but even as a Born-Again Christian, she was still having problems. So she joined Unity Church, began to meditate and learned a lot. She became a counselor. Nevertheless, she still felt something was missing. At 60 she still felt like a little girl, and she had a yearning inside that she couldn't seem to push away. One day writing in her journal Sally had a vision. A beautiful wisdom figure appeared to her. It was Sophia, the female representative of the Holy Spirit. She said, "I'm coming to live with you, be with you and change your life. We're going to have fun!" So at the age of 73, Sally learned how to rediscover her artist self and how to really have fun. She shed her old burdens of fear, guilt and remorse.

As she approached the age of 80, she felt tired and contemplated dying. Instead, she took a workshop with the Frenchwoman Michele Cassou. Cassou's method of teaching painting is to pull images from one's own unconscious. The result was a surge of creativity and fresh images that allowed Sally to say goodbye to old sorrows and renew herself through her art. Her fascination with psychology and art came together in a surprising series of figures, which are illustrated in this book. Sally is a delightful graphic artist in depictions like "Buyer's Remorse," where a bride is seen struggling with second thoughts on her wedding day. "Bottom Feeders,” embodies Sally's feelings about trying to go on vacation. She is on a rubber raft, but a lot of little orange umbilical cords are connected to the raft. The painting is about all the nagging guilt that keeps her from enjoying herself. In "Soul Mates" Sally meditated on relationships. "I thought I'd be plugging into somebody in a relationship, but I realized that a lot of men I've gone around with have been plugging into me."

Sally is a gratifying read, it is about the ability to separate oneself from others and setting realistic boundaries that allow for a rebirth of oneself and one's creativity. This is more than a biography, more than a memoir. It is a book about life. The lesson it teaches is that life is not one-sided. A person has to struggle through all the discomforts, dissatisfactions, decision-making and more as part of the challenge of living fully. That if you live passionately your reward is relishing life - all that it has to give, its up and down moments, its sweetness, all of its actualities and potentialities. Then and only then will you truly be free. Life, as Sally's story tells us, is the greatest adventure and the most ecstatic.

June 2508
James Bhumi
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432700454 $14.95 1-888-672-6657

Chuck Gregory

It is not uncommon for authors to share their vision of the future using a novel as their platform. It is somewhat less common for that vision to be carefully projected, based on the writer's understanding of science and/or politics. It is far less common - in fact quite rare - for such a vision to resonate with the ring of truth. Such a vision has James Bhumi created.

The scientific developments in this book feel possible. They seem to be logical if frequently surprising results of research that is being performed today. Certainly it is difficult to predict with any accuracy what direction may be taken as gifted students and scientists study new concepts; just look at what's happened in the last 500 years to get an idea of what might change. Yet despite a number of paradigm shifts over that time our science today at least has its roots in the science of 1508. A look at history can be one of the best ways of understanding our current situation, be we looking at politics, military capability, environmental issues, or virtually any other topic.

Beyond the hard science, James Bhumi has looked at politics and especially economics, particularly as they are affected by an intriguing breakthrough in biology. He posits the abandonment of research into longevity, because of certain inherent problems. Not least of these is the increase in an older and more complacent population that serves as a drain on humanity rather than pushing it to new levels with the sometimes foolish but always energetic fervor of youth. This is on the surface radically different from the view frequently expressed in science fiction that long life brings wealth and innovation, as well as heartbreak as generations of loved ones fade into the past. Proponents of that view are many, including the esteemed Poul Anderson who was always one of my favorites. However Bhumi makes his case forcefully and logically, and most important of all he has fun - and so does the reader. And there is something else that he's proposed as an alternative direction for research, i.e. as a direction that was taken by visionary scientists in what to us is still the future.

I can tell you that his radical concept is not based on artificial intelligence; in fact he, or his alter ego who is the protagonist in the novel, believes that will never happen, that it cannot in fact happen. He does expect the continued development of computers and robotics to produce incredibly competent servants capable of independent action that oftentimes appears to be intelligence; but he does not anticipate a sudden (or for that matter protracted, like David Weber's Dahak) 'wakening' of machine intelligence. No, his 'valets' are tools that handle many of the tasks we today must perform ourselves, not intelligent beings in their own right.

Some of the developments in Bhumi's future landscape are exciting and wonderful, while others are depressing. All are presented with humor and a true appreciation of humanity with all its quirks. Most of the story takes place during a one-month period 500 years in the future, at which time Raemon Teeler has traveled to Mars to visit and perhaps join the thriving colony there. Teeler's lectures at the University serve as one of the mechanisms for Bhumi to let the reader know what's happened over that 500 year span between June 2008 and June 2508. Another method for presenting that information is the inclusion of an old friend who trades intuitive and intellectual insights with Teeler, who is himself extremely intelligent and at the same time practical - two abilities that unfortunately do not always go together.

There are some fascinating females too. I think I fell in love with at least two of them! The discussion of asymmetrical ways of thinking between women and men was as amusing as it was enlightening. I may not agree with it, entirely, but then I am just a man.

Bhumi has some interesting insights into the continuing polarization in the distribution of wealth. Where many of us are concerned and angry about the erosion of the middle class and the increasing power enjoyed by the super-rich, he posits that the mechanism is economically necessary to spur change. He feels that any society which has melded its citizens into one 'class' has lost its incentive for change, that such a society will inevitably stagnate. Further, if every member of a society is rich, then every one of them will begin to feel poor!

Despite turning many of our favorite notions on their heads, Bhumi makes sense. His book is carefully structured, with a bit of mystery to go with the science and romance. He calls it 'prospective fiction' because it is so strongly based on what can happen. It's a good term for it.

This is an exciting and funny book. I'm actually reading it a second time and I rarely do that; I want to see how much I missed. Not to mention that I want to find clues that would have led me to be less surprised at certain events! I know the clues are there because I know the author prides himself on consistency and on being fair to readers. But like Agatha Christie he enjoys hiding the clues and making us work to see where the story may go.

June 2508 is a fascinating work of fiction. I highly recommend it.

Dream Lives of Butterflies: Stories
Jaimee Wriston Colbert
BkMk Press
University of Missouri - Kansas City
5101 Rockhill Road, Kansas City Missouri 64110
9781886157590 $16.95

Richard J. Curtis II

The Beauty within the Chaos

Death and taxes are said to be the two most certain aspects of human existence. However, there exists a third human experience that also remains constant. This third force is the driving power behind Jamie Wriston Colbert's latest book Dream Lives of Butterflies. Through twenty-one short stories and a colorful inventory of unique characters, Colbert skillfully demonstrates how the chaos of life can either destroy the human spirit or give birth to a butterfly-like state of spiritual existence.

The concept of the butterfly is the dominant theme throughout the book's settings and characters. In fact, the first story sets the tone for the rest of the book. Colbert introduces us to Lucy, a young girl whose father has fled his family and moved to St. Louis. As time goes on and Lucy loses her best friend, she seems hopelessly lost. By the end of her story, she takes her friend Nalani's paint and covers a wall with a giant letter C. While the C stands for her nickname Creamy, it could no doubt also refer to caterpillar, the first stage of a butterfly's life. In fact, this theme of the caterpillar appears throughout the novel's many stories, revealing itself through imagery. In the next short story, Marybeth is snaking her way through the ground to sneak to her ex-husband's house (apparently because Jesus told her go to there), and she is "crawling on my belly practically," similar to a caterpillar. The fact that she is sneaking into a town called Shady Tree is certainly no coincidence, either.

Truly, there is enough Americana symbolism in this collection to make Nathaniel Hawthorne proud. Some of it is subtle, such as casually referring to St. Louis, where most of the novel takes place, as "the middle of the country." The apartment complex in St. Louis where most of the characters reside acts as a cocoon of sorts, where these human caterpillars can take their time to grow into something greater. Likewise, it's no coincidence that the manager keeps a prairie garden at the apartment complex, as it is one of the butterflies' natural habitats. And of course, one of the most obvious signs of the butterfly is the young Cassandra, hanging upside down from a tree like a butterfly in a cocoon. Even the name Cassandra, the daughter of the character Sandra, sounds like a combination of the words Sandra and caterpillar combined into one. The real fun, however, is seeking the deeper and more subtle connections. For example, keep an eye out at the end when Troy is metaphorically taking flight on an airplane to Hawaii, or when Caroline and Julia, constantly referred to as butterflies themselves, come alive again when they enter a butterfly house, an artificial environment created to allow the species to survive and thrive, even though every aspect is controlled. The shared similarities between the butterflies and their lives with their domineering husband/father make an appropriate parallel. The final scene in particular exudes surreal butterfly imagery involving an unlikely Corvette as a source of flight. Nevertheless, the blend of surreal description and concrete detail works well for Colbert's style. It is never too abstract or too flowery.

Unfortunately, not every story in this book blends in well with the overall mix. For example, "Fly Me to the Moon" feels out of place, with characters that are easily forgettable. Likewise, "Girl Dreaming" is also an incredibly awkward fit. Cindra and her adopted mother-in-law Neecie are both irritating are nowhere near as interesting as some of the other characters presented. Why pay attention to a lesbian and a selfish mother-in-law when Colbert offers us more intriguing characters, such as a young woman named Lucy with a strange multiple personality issue, a fortune teller who never sets foot outside, a teenage girl dealing with both a love-starved adolescent and pregnancy, an elderly woman who randomly goes outside to pee in a public field, and a grandmother who hears the voice of Jesus? If anything, Colbert proves with these characters that she is truly a master of characterization. They are perfectly imperfect; their flaws and quirks are part of what makes the story so great. Stories about lesbians and touchy-feely situations in a plane could have better been spent developing other characters, such as both daughter Lucy and roommate Lucy.

Of course, no story would be complete without conflict, and here also is where Colbert demonstrates her skill. In the midst of her keystone short story that shares the same name as her novel, Colbert writes about the butterfly effect, the concept that an event of China could have serious repercussions in another part in the world due to a chain reaction. This is amazingly demonstrated in the character Marybeth and the suffering she endures throughout the entire book. Although there are many main characters, this is the only character who is forced to withstand the loss of every child she has ever had, including her own grandchild. Her whole life demonstrates how seemingly minor events that occur in the back of a truck can lead to entire generations of heartache. It's no wonder that this woman's only comfort is in imaginary visions of Christ. Who else can show her how to survive a life full of death other than the master of resurrection himself?

In the end, Dream Lives of Butterflies is a superb demonstration of how humanity continues to plod on in the face of unrelenting time. Despite the setbacks that these characters deal with, and indeed there are many, each one carries on against the world, even if it means stealing a corvette, offering shelter to a homeless masked woman, or becoming a motherly breast for a young lost boy. And despite the pain and chaos of life, in the end, we are shown that these characters, no matter how absurd or crazy, have their own beauty, just like the very butterflies they are.

Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar
Alan Morinis
Trumpeter Books, Boston & London
9781590303689 $24.95

Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

New Year's resolutions about self-improvement may come and go, but the need for positive growth continues all year. Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar, by Alan Morinis, offers us a path to personal improvement based on the teachings of the Mussar movement. Mussar, also known as the Jewish Moralist Movement, gets its name from a Hebrew word found in the Book of Proverbs meaning discipline or conduct.

Mussar took hold in the late nineteenth century in Eastern European non-Hasidic, Orthodox Jewish communities, particularly in Lithuania. Rabbi Israel Salanter, inspired by the moral, ethical, and simple lifestyle of Zundel Salant, is often cited as the movement's founder. However, credit for institutionalizing the movement into the Orthodox community falls on one of Salanter's disciples, Rabbi Simcha Ziv. Others attribute the seeds of Mussar to the last century in the writings of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. Still others, like the author, argue that its roots go back to the tenth century in the Book of Beliefs and Opinions written by Sa'adia Gaon.

Eastern European Jewish communities, during the late nineteenth century, were affected by the Enlightenment, and its corresponding Jewish interpretation, known as Haskalah. The freedoms associated with the Enlightenment, along with acts of anti-Semitism, oppression by the Czar, the ideas of communism and socialism, even the Zionist movement and the pervasive poverty in this region, caused many Jews to become disenchanted with the religion and abandon Judaism or convert. Yet, some of those who maintained the faith noticed the decline in the observance even among professed Jews of traditional Jewish law and custom, as well as the loss of the emotional connection to Judaism's moral and ethical core. The Mussar movement offered a solution.

The first part of the book gives an overview of Mussar's core beliefs. The author, as the voice of the Mussar Movement, affirms that each person has a central task in life, which he calls "our individual curriculum," and each of us is responsible for understanding and accomplishing that curriculum. Just as each person's fingerprints are unique, so according to Mussar, each soul is unique. Rabbi Salanter wrote that, "We see the affairs of man constantly vary, each person clinging to different transgressions…. No person is like another when it comes to transgression." Many things hinder us from completing our life's assignment, especially our own shortcomings. Yet, our negative habits can be transformed though personal introspection and by employing the body of practices presented by Mussar.

The second part contains eighteen chapters. Each chapter examines one of Mussar's inner soul traits (there are many more than eighteen, but he only spotlights eighteen) and suggests methods for individual enhancement of each trait. The definitions that we associate with Mussar's soul traits, which include such things as humility, gratitude, order, honor, enthusiasm, generosity, etc, are not necessarily the way Mussar defines them. However, according the Mussar Movement, understanding and applying these soul traits in our daily lives are so important, that they are, in fact, the keys to satisfying our curriculum.

According to Morinis, "unbalanced soul-traits act as 'veils' that block the inner light." An overuse of anger, per se, is not the obstruction to fulfilling our individual curriculum because anger is required in the face of injustice, but anger becomes an obstruction when the person lacks anger's balance. More importantly, the desire to improve is not necessarily sufficient because of our inner enemy, the internal voice that subconsciously subverts our good intentions. Morinis pictures the soul as the battleground for two armies. Territory behind one line belongs to that army and territory behind the other line belongs to the second army. As the inner struggle ensues, new territory comes under the control of one side or the other. For each of us, the battle lasts our entire lives and to beat that inner voice, Mussar suggests finding a mentor.

To help us with the inner struggle, Mussar offers practical suggestions to inculcate the soul traits and obtain a balanced life. Consider the soul trait 'Patience'. There are times when impatience is a virtue, such as the speed needed to save someone's life. However, for the most part impatience does not speed things up, but rather causes grief. "It's like an inner blaze that burns us up without giving off any heat." To help us become more patient, Morinis reminds us that God is patient and long suffering and he asks us to remember how the eons of time in earth's history demonstrate that progress is made in small increments, like the creep of glaciers. To gain patience, Mussar wants us, in a sense, to open the space between the match and the fuse. "It only takes a split second for [impatience] to ignite into flames that course through us… Impatience snuffs out conscientious." We react without thinking: leaning on the horn, yelling at the child, cursing the stranger. Mussar teaches that in these situations, we can choose to have patience.

One means of self-enhancement is by the practice of "witnessing and naming." Here it means sensing the first sparks of impatience and saying, "I am feeling impatient" or "There goes impatience." Once impatience is identified, Morinis wants us to shift the focus. In the game of life no one is the prime actor or victim. When we understand that we have so little control over anything, we can keep the wasteful energy of impatience in check. The Hebrew word for patience can also mean tolerance; to learn patience is to learn to tolerate.

The third part provides the exercises to help the reader internalize the soul traits. Mussar offers guided practice in three forms: daily, weekly, and yearly. The daily reminder is a personal phrase said from the moment one wakes up that alerts each person to the soul trait that needs improvement. Another is individual meditation through chanting and visualizations of those things that lead us toward self-improvement. A third daily activity he calls, "bedtime practice," which is writing about and reviewing the day's activities that show positive development in the desired soul trait. There are also weekly practice exercises, such as text study, where the individual reads a portion of a book by a Mussar author. Another is based on the idea that "we are what we receive." A diet of violent movies, Morinis assures us, leads one to violence. Mussar responds that we perform a weekly checkup to confirm that we are receiving the messages that support growth in the soul trait on which we are concentrating. Finally, there is the annual cycle, where we review our progress toward the improvement of the soul traits by reviewing all that we have written. Morinis emphasizes time and again that Mussar is not a quick fix to personal growth, but rather is the slow and steady use of guided study and practice to enhance one soul trait at a time.

In recent times, some Jews have looked eastward to find life's meaning in Asian religions and by relying on gurus and swamis. Others have looked for charismatic leaders of faith in America. Morinis shows that seekers of self-fulfillment need only to look at the ethical and morals within Judaism, as adapted by the Mussar Movement, to satisfy that need.

Anti-Christ: A Satirical End of Days
Matthew Moses
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781601451101 $17.95

Hank Baum

As told in "Anti Christ: A Satirical End of Days", the world is in chaos - proving reality infuses fiction. Russia is eliminating democracy, returning to an authoritarian government. The US is fighting government corruption charges as a possible war between Pakistan and India formulates. Now China wants to rule Taiwan…the global issues never end.

On a civilian scale, Matthew Ford is an average college guy, suffering the usual issues. After waiting three hours, his internet date is a no show, the bookstore refuses to refund a book he just bought, and then his car gets a flat tire as it begins to snow. Arriving home, Matt's horrendous day ends peacefully once he throws out the ghost, haunting him for the last time. Okay, so this act is not usual however, it garners the attention of Heaven now commercialized and a power hungry Hell, both warring against the other to gain Earth peoples' majority support. As for his awareness of the previously mentioned world issues, Matt was busy watching professional wrestling; his priorities are quite clear.

Mr. Moses composes an engaging, humorous parody, drawing from timeless world events and American life. The U.S. President Lucas is a ditz, believing that Kashmir - in India - is a sweater company, and cannot understand why Pakistan wants that particular cloth. It's not material they want, it's all about the land. Russia's President Romanov wants to return his country into greatness. He dissolves the Duma, their legislative body, assuming sole leadership. After President Lucas' lengthy warning that the U.S. will defend democracy, Romanov, a taciturn man, replies with a barbed curse, "F--- America". Now that is honest communication.

The true witticism shines as Matt begins an enlightened journey first to Heaven, followed by Hell, then to the mystic Buddhist temples, and then back again to Heaven. Instigating this trek are two cherubs who abduct Matt, claiming the "Boss" wants to meet. Once in Zion (Heaven), the cherubs loose Matt, who wanders into a place called "Gabriel's". God's Archangels now congregate in a local tavern since Heaven and Hell signed a peace treaty two thousand years ago, outlawing wars. They drown their sorrows in unending chalices of holy water or engage in wrestling smack downs in the tavern's backroom; releasing pent up hostilities. The crowning moment is when Matt finally meets Jesus demanding that he take back the ghost he threw out; Heaven is overcrowded since Christ took over management.

The slapstick continues with attacks on big business, worker's unions, fad diets, immigration, military assistance in foreign countries, reincarnation…not even the Pope is exempt from this fast paced, captivating farce. Still, when Satan entices Matt into becoming the world's elite guru of wisdom, the amusing dialog turns gloomy. They attend congressional sessions discussing stem cell research and lecture overweight people simply to stop eating; naming only a few topics that some readers may not find amusing, in any form.

Yet, "Anti Christ" is a satire, "a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule" (definition from … hmmm, Mr. Moses has done his job well. His characters are well formed, genuine, aptly supporting this cabaret of imaginative intrigue. Even the typo, right at the beginning, "CwHyAPTER 1" only adds to this wacky novel. And yes, I roared with laughter throughout this distinctive book.

The Boxer And The Poet Something Of A Romance
James Thayer
Black Lyon Publishing
9780979325298 $17.95, $8.00 ebook

Kasey's View

I give it five stars *****

..... a fantastic and fast paced adventure filled with so many interesting and fascinating characters. This book keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end, wondering what will happen next. The chemistry between the weary battle scared boxer Dennis and the beautiful socialite Isobel is mesmerizing. If you've enjoyed James Thayer's books in the past then this one, his first but hopefully not his last attempt at a romance will delight you. I found this book almost impossible to put down and James Thayer has a brand new fan in me.

Locked in a desk for decades, a lost poem destined to bring together the unlikeliest of partners...

He'd been wrecked but good this time. At thirty-four, down-and-out boxer Dennis Jones is loveless, motherless, penniless and directionless. When he opens his eyes after a particularly brutal fight, he sees a raven-haired, blue-eyed demon in the guise of an angel. What she wants to do to his life is laughable, insane... Yet what does he have to lose?

New Orleans Garden District socialite and poetry professor Isobel Autry needs a fighter. One who will do what she wants with no questions asked. Someone who can cut through the obstacles between her and Edgar Allen Poe's last, undiscovered great work.

Weaving through ancient secret society rites, boxing rings, the New Orleans underbelly and right back to high society, Dennis and Isobel embark on a quest to revamp his life, find the poem and possibly discover each other. If they make it- it'll be close.

GoGoogle: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools
Greg Holden
AMACOM, American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814480595, $19.95

Mark Nash

Most Internet users think of Google for search functions. But, this mighty powerhouse offers a menu of additional services and applications that sole-proprietors and small businesses can utilize to grow revenues. Mr. Holden, a seasoned Internet author of thirty books and an owner of a online-based business. Written in a non-techy style that lays out the applications with grey-tone tip call-out boxes and screen prints to help you fast-track your learning curve.

Chapter titles are: Learning from Google: A 21st-Century Model for Success, Searching and Finding: Getting Started with Google, Goals for Google-izing Your Business. Improving Google Search Results, Improving Your Visibility with AdWords, Collaborating with Google Apps, Working with Docs & Spreadsheets, Working with Google Calendar, Gmail for Your Office, Google Talk, Publishing with Google Page Creator, Boosting Your Bottom Line with AdSense, Blogging to Improve Marketing and Customer Relations, Gathering Business Data: News, Gadgets, and More, Buying and Selling on Goggle Base, Improving Catalog Sales, Improving Web Site Performance with Google Analytics, Organizing Your Business Files, Organizing Your Images with Picasa and Moving Forward: Google Apps Premium, Pack, and More. Additional features include three Appendix's and an index.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on Google Base. A destination where small businesses can sell goods to consumers. And, Google intends Base to be the place where poetry, recipes, letters, sketches, paintings information booklets can be published online. But, Base isn't limited to the above mentioned uses, it also has a widely popular Vacation rental listing service, who knew? If you are looking for cliff notes on all the things Google is, check out this excellent new book.

Sad, Mad and Bad: Women and the Mind-Doctors from 1800
Lisa Appignanesi
McArthur & Company
0393066630 $34.95

Phyllis Chesler

This book is beautifully written and carefully, even lovingly, researched. The author prides herself on the fact that she is primarily a writer and is neither a patient nor a mind-doctor.

Thus, Lisa Appignanesi, who is also a respected novelist, views the literary arts as almost interchangeable with, or superior to, the psychoanalytic arts. In her view, "sad, mad, bad" women may be best analyzed, not psychoanalytically, but in a literary way.

Literary analysts may have compelling, even brilliant intellectual and historical insights but they do not view themselves as obligated to comfort, help or save a particular sorely afflicted soul. Indeed, Appignanesi views herself as an "outsider" who has "faith" in the writer's point of view.

The power struggle that may be at the heart of this book reveals itself in Appignanesi's description of Virginia Woolf as adamant that "the turf of the inner life and the imagination rightly belongs to novelists and artists and needs protecting from the reductionist inanities of ... psychological interlopers."

Permit me a brief psychoanalytic interpretation. To compensate for Woolf's view, which Appignanesi may share, the author tells us far too much about far too many mind-doctors, theories, asylums, cases, patients. Her textbook-like reach is sometimes overwhelming. Perhaps unconsciously guilty about her own bias, and in an effort to be "fair," she feels honour-bound to present a very long, if nevertheless informative, account of the history of female patients and their mind-doctors.

Appignanesi does not take sides; she has the luxury of understanding each approach without having to "do" anything. Therefore, she does not choose one school of thought over another, she simply presents them all. I wanted her to make a judgment about what helps: psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, political liberation movements, trauma theory, divorce, bed rest, cold showers - but she does not do so. Literature - and the long view - are redemptive solutions for Appignanesi.

I would, however, recommend this book for every abnormal psychology class in the world, since Appignanesi has really mastered the territory. She provides a sophisticated and nuanced history of how madness has been viewed and treated. She delves not just into the atrocities of confinement and of so-called treatment, but also the respite, safety and "tenderness" some asylums, keepers and mind-doctors have provided.

Historically, in Appignanesi's view, how we conceived of madness actually changed from male to female. She writes: "In 1815 the two writhing, brutish and chained male personifications of madness in front of Bedlam were replaced by figures of women - a youthful, beautiful, female insanity. Madness, at least in representation, it would seem, was becoming feminized and tamed, no longer wild, raving and dangerous, but pathetic."

Appignanesi does not deny that madness exists, nor does she romanticize it. She understands that madness was more acceptable in European society before the condition became medicalized, that madness may not be permanent, and that "cures are rarely absolute or forever."

She condemns asylum abuse, beginning with the practice of chaining, brutally force-feeding, blood-letting and straitjacketing those who are already in torment. Of the many examples of psychiatric abuse she offers, let me share one especially chilling account. The American psychiatric system tortured one poor woman for 54 years before she mercifully died. Martha Hurwitz lived in New Jersey in the 20th century. Superintendent Henry Cotton of the Trenton State Asylum "carried out an obscene campaign of surgery on the tonsils, stomach, colon, and uterus of (female psychiatric) patients alongside removal of teeth. In the process he maimed and killed thousands" - including Martha Hurwitz, whom he also diabolically, perhaps psychotically, overmedicated and in whom he induced more than 50 insulin comas.

Appignanesi is as much at home in European salon society as she is in Bedlam, Paris's Salpêtrière or in Freud's office. Reading this book was a way to learn new things about some old friends: Freud's Anna O (Bertha Pappenheim), the orthodox Jewish woman who co-invented the "talking cure" and who became a major feminist leader; Jung's Sabina Spielrein, a patient with whom he had a love affair during treatment - and who went on to become the first woman psychoanalyst; Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the writer and feminist, for whom S. Mitchell Weir prescribed bed rest and a domestic routine; Zelda Fitzgerald, the talented writer envied by her writer-husband Scott; the great Virginia Woolf, whose husband Leonard adored and protected her; the sublime but haunted Sylvia Plath, whose husband, Ted Hughes, left her. I also met some people here for the first time.

Appignanesi is at her best when she slows down and spends time with a woman, a doctor, a "case." Thus, her more extensive discussions of Mary Lamb, Theroigne de Mericourt, Celia Branden, Alice James, Virginia Woolf, Sabina Spielrein, Zelda Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe are excellent.

Sad, Mad and Bad also provides us with literary gossip at a high level. In a sense, this book is a social history of madness among intellectuals, poets and revolutionaries. Thus, we learn about Mary Lamb, who, in a fit of madness, killed her mother and who was, thereafter, both periodically confined and at liberty. This is the same Mary Lamb who, together with her brother, Charles, wrote Tales From Shakespeare and was a social intimate of Coleridge and Wordsworth. According to Appignanesi, William Hazlitt described Mary Lamb as "the only truly sensible woman I've ever met." Mary Lamb's alcoholic brother depended upon her totally and they lived together as adults.

We learn about George Cheyne, who himself had a "breakdown," but who went on to become a popular holistic healer whom Samuel Johnson praised.

Asylum reformer Phillipe Pinel (1745-1826), sometimes considered the father of psychiatry, was a member of a salon run by Madame Helvetius, who admired Stendhal; this was same Pinel who ran the asylum where the Marquis de Sade was imprisoned. Theroigne de Mericourt was rescued by none other than the revolutionary Marat; an all-female mob had stripped her naked and was publicly flogging her. William Makepeace Thackeray's wife broke down after childbirth and tried to drown her newborn and kill herself. Jung's former patient and lover, Sabina Spielrein, was Jean Piaget's analyst.

Alice James, the sister of William and Henry, once checked into an asylum that "treated nervous people who are not insane." James Joyce's daughter Lucia saw one of Zelda Fitzgerald's mind-doctors and consulted with Jung, who, as it happened, "hated Joyce's Ulysses."

There are many more such anecdotes and asides that will delight any student or teacher of literature.

Because Appignanesi is so comprehensive, I am surprised that she does not cite the excellent work of Dr. Paula Caplan about the psychiatric pathologizing of women - or that of author and therapist Kim Chernin, who has written a great deal about women's eating disorders. (Appignanesi is exceptionally eloquent about anorexia and characterizes those who suffer from it as "hunger artists" and "suicide bombers inside the bourgeois family.")

Early on, Appignanesi theorizes that her "interest in madness" is a "form of survival" since her family "fled the Holocaust." I do not entirely understand what she is saying here, but to the extent to which madness or evil may be narcissistically appeased, Appignanesi has "survived" in very high style indeed.

A Writer's Guide to Nonfiction
Elizabeth Lyon
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, NY NY 10014
9780399528675 $13.95

Rocky Reichman, Reviewer

Packed with well-researched information, this book is critical to any writer's success. Whether you're a freelance writer trying to sell an article, or an author who needs help organizing information into a book, Lyon's A Writer's Guide to Nonfiction is a certain fit for you.

The author includes sections not only on writing nonfiction, but also on how to market nonfiction. How to sell nonfiction. She also covers all the major types of nonfiction pieces, explaining what content types like profiles, columns and product review are--and how to write them.

The only criticism for this book is that it is weak in some places. For example, when talking about selling one's writing, the author only gives basic instruction in how to do so. And while there's plenty of space for determining who the audience for one's book is, the author only dedicates a few pages to how to actually organize your information and content into a completed book.

Despite any lacking this book may have, it is still an indispensable guide to writing nonfiction.

The Lonely Hearts Club
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
430 Herrington Rd., Johnsonville, NY 12094
9781602820050 $15.95

Cheri Rosenberg

Think Friends, Sex in the City, and The L-Word, with Radclyffe's signature touches, for an engaging, uplifting and truly sexy character-driven emotional adventure. The Lonely Hearts Club explores the hearts and minds of six professional women, all different, all sexy, and all complicated, and all searching for true love, even if they think they're better off single. Whether a playgirl, a person who prefers her fantasies, or a practical and loyal woman embarking on motherhood, everyone needs companionship, love, trust, and lust. Radclyffe succeeds in showing how different our sexuality can be - and how valid despite those differences.

Liz Ramsey is a thirty-five-year-old mal-practice attorney on top of her game when life altering changes throws her for a loop. Her best friends, Marilyn Monroe-esque Candace Lory, a commodities trader who gets around and Brenda Beal, a thirty-year-old quietly sensitive care-taker, who enjoys the fantasy of love perhaps more than the reality, remain the constant by which she lives her life. "For nine years [Liz, Candace and Bren had] shared secrets, heartbreaks, the joy of new beginnings and the pain of breaking up. They had forged something that went beyond friendship and created a family in a far more intimate way than anything Liz shared with most of her blood relatives" (page 19). But even a 'family of choice' can have secrets and still maintain a healthy, loving, nurturing, and protective relationship.

Add Dr. Reilly Danvers, an orthopedic surgeon, who is "melt-in-your-mouth hot," and feeds off the tension of her profession so that she's too tired to worry about her life outside the hospital, Parker Playgirl Jones, a sexy corporate attorney and Julia, Liz's ex among other surprise guests, and you have an ensemble of compelling characters, intriguing complications amidst soul-searching, tying up loose ends, and making way for fulfilling futures. Gay or straight, most women would agree that these are the key ingredients to a happier life.

Readers who aren't afraid to explore their sensual and sexual side and think about their needs and desires will want to read The Lonely Hearts Club because there's always something to learn. Between the witty and often funny, charming and meaningful dialogue, cliff-hanger scene endings, the hints of deep dark secrets along the way, and characters you'll love, it is no surprise that The Lonely Hearts Club will leave you lonely no more. Every gesture, look, sigh, and thought moves the plot along with just enough hints to maintain suspense. Each character has a unique descriptor. How Radclyffe keeps track of all these women is a wonder. Radclyffe empowers woman and being a lesbian is not a pre-requisite for reading her work. Happily married and single straight women who enjoy romance, exploring sexual desire, living vicariously through characters who etch themselves in your heart and mind, and who long for stimulating circumstances between multi-faceted characters, will not want to miss The Lonely Hearts Club.

Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet
Ted Nield
Harvard University Press
9780674026599 $29.95

Jim Sullivan

The heart of this tome is the Continental Drift Theory, proposed by German geophysicist Alfred L. Wegener, and how his idea came to be accepted. The various insightful scientists and those that weren't particularly helpful in the pursuit of Wegener's concept take up most of the pages.

Along with all that, the author elaborates on the single supercontinents: such as Pangaea and Rodinia, for which there is some evidence of; and how they broke up, shifted away, and moved around the globe as they have, to become smaller continents and islands.

Discussed also is the real possibility that there were numerous supercontinents before the two mentioned. Moreover, that still others could possibly come about millions or more years from now. Hence the "ten billion'' years reference in the subtitle.

Included in the early portion of the book are a plethora of mythological stories about other landmasses, possibly real, others merely imagined, such as Atlantis.

Nield writes in his Forward: "The drifting continents of the Earth are heading for collision. Two hundred and fifty million years from now, all landmasses will come together in a single, gigantic supercontinent. It already has a name (in fact, it has three): [Novopangaea, Amasia, or Pangea Ultima] even though human eyes will, in all probability, never see it.

"That future supercontinent will not be the first to have formed on Earth, nor will it be the last. The continents we know today--Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Antarctic--are fragments of the previous supercontinent Pangaea, which gave birth to dinosaurs, and whose break-up was first understood barely a century ago, in 1912. Yet 750 million years before Pangaea formed, yet another one broke up; and before that another, and so on and on, back into the almost indecipherable past. The Earth's landmasses are locked in a stately quadrille that geologists call the Supercontinent Cycle, the grandest of all patterns in nature."

The author, Ted Nield, edits GEOSCIENTIST magazine. Additionally, he serves as Scientist and Communications Officer for the Geological Society of London.

Recommended, despite the volume's seemingly rambling beginning.

Comstock Rose
Catherine MacDonald
JADA Press
1403 Shadowood Pkwy., SE, Atlanta, GA 30339
9780980062915 $12.95

Dr. Tami Brady

I have a new favorite fiction writer. I recently read Divine Diva by Catherine MacDonald and absolutely loved this empowering Chit Lit story. So when I came across another novel from Ms. MacDonald, Comstock Rose, I was eager to see how the author would do with historical fiction. I was not disappointed!

Comstock Rose is the story of Rose O'Conner. Rose was raised in a wealthy family who disowned her when she got pregnant by (and married) Ian O'Conner. Unfortunately, life with Ian was even worse than the scenario that Rose's mother had told the young girl. Ian was an abusive drunk who gambled most of their money away.

Due to Ian's loud mouth, gambling debts, and get rich quick schemes, the pair moved around a lot. This is how they came to Virginia City, a rough mining town. It was here that Rose's life would take a very strange turn. A mining accident took Ian's life. Deep in debt, with the worst kind of men, Rose needed to find a job in a town where the only positions for women were as ladies of the evening. As they say, where there's a will there's a way and Rose is a very strong woman.

Bethany's Bookshelf

From Japan With Love
Mary A. 'Kiddie' Ruggieri
Portsmouth Publishing
Courthouse Square, 1000 Fourth Street, Suite 785, San Rafael, CA 94901
9780979875717, $24.95

Offering a fascinating, informative, personal, and unique perspective of live in post-war Japan through excerpts from the letters, journals and photographs of Mary A. Ruggieri, an American college girl stationed in Japan from 1946 to 1948 as a member of Women's Army Corps as part of the American military post-war occupation , "From Japan With Love" takes the reader from an army hut encampment to some of Japan's most memorable shrines and august temples. Ruggieri writes eloquently of the Japanese people and culture, her falling in love with Japan, as well as meeting the American soldier who would become her husband. Remarkable for her articulate eyewitness account which is peppered throughout with her black-and-white photography, "From Japan With Love" is as engaging as it is informed, making it very highly recommended reading for anyone with an interest in the post-war Japan reformation, mid-twentieth century Japanese culture, and the transition of Japan from a defeated nation to its nescient emergence as a western style democracy..

Mix 'n' Match Meals In Minutes For People With Diabetes
Linda Gassenheimer
American Diabetes Association
1701 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311
9781580402897, $16.95 1-800-342-2383

Being diagnosed with diabetes does not mean being condemned to a lifetime of bland foods and tasteless menus. Now in an expanded and updated second edition, "Mix 'n' Match Meals In Minutes For People With Diabetes" by Linda Gassenheimer (a syndicated journalist, food expert, and the author of twelve cookbooks) has compiled a selection of quick and easy dishes appropriate for breakfast, lunch or dinner and which can be switched around in a 'mix and match' strategy for menu planning and fine dining. Each recipes is provided with a 'Shopping List' of ingredients required, cooking instructions, and 'Helpful Hints'. This new edition features a section of 'speed meals' that can be prepared quickly, easily, and still produce healthy, hearty, tasty dishes that will please any palate, satisfy any appetite, and conform to the dietary requirement of diabetics. The sample menus provided offer dishes that range from Grilled Turkey Sausage with Mustard and Sweet Pickle Relish; Spicy Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich with Oatmeal; and Chinese Chicken with Cashew Nuts; to Italian Roast Pork; Sauteed Scallops with Saffron Vegetable Pilaf and Mocha Froth; and a Ham, Mushroom, and Onion Pizza with Spinach Salad. Thoroughly kitchen cook friendly, "Mix 'n' Match Meals In Minutes For People With Diabetes" is an absolute must for the kitchen cookbook collection of anyone having to prepare meals with respect to diabetic diners that will appeal to all the other members sitting down to eat as well.

Free Mind, Free Body
D. R. Boisse Publishing
PO Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
9781602640344, $14.95 1-877-376-4955

A very quick and informative read, the 168-pages that comprise "Free Mind, Free Body: How to Use your Mind To Achieve More Than Ever Before!" offers a proactive plan that anyone can assimilate and utilize to create healthier lifestyles for them selves and their loved ones. Inspiring, motivating, practical, organized, and effective, "Free Mind, Free Body" focuses the reader's attention on understanding and emphasizing those functions of the human mind that recognize and promote the positive aspects of life, enable us to identify and learn from weaknesses, and achieve liberation from the domination of negative thoughts and emotions. Thoroughly 'user friendly', "Free Mind, Free Body" is a welcome and recommended addition to personal self-help, self-improvement reading lists and reference collections.

Intentional Healing
Jeanne Achterberg
Sounds True Audio
413 South Arthur Avenue, Louisville, CO 80027
AF01235D, $69.95 1-800-333-9185

"Intentional Healing Consciousness And Connections For health And Well-Being" by scientist and transpersonal psychologist Jeanne Achterberg is a six-CD program of instruction that teachers the listener how to focus thoughts in the form of 'positive thinking' as a dynamic element in a process of personal healing and recovery from both physical and emotional trauma and illness. A cutting edge presentation of specific and practical guided techniques enabling men and women to harness the power of their minds to achieve and maintain optimal health and well-being, and even prevent the onset of disease through the positive impact of the mind and body dynamic, prevent the very occurrence of an illness. "Intentional Healing" offers the five core elements of intentional healing along with practical application advice; teaches the use of guided imagery in the healing process; reveals the basic elements of transpersonal imagery and the steps for practicing distance healing; covers leveraging the power of prayer in the process of healing; surveys the different levels of healing relationships; introduces advanced modalities with respect to the use of energy healing and the healing touch; emphasizes the importance of family and personal rituals; and even addresses basic shamanistic practices with respect to personal healing. Flawlessly recorded and superbly presented, "Intentional Healing" is an articulate program of instruction that is especially recommended as a core addition to personal, academic, and community library Alternate Medicine reference collections.

Susan Bethany

Betty's Bookshelf

Robin McKinley
G. P. Putnam's Sons
345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
9780399246753 $17.99

As a longtime Robin McKinley fan, I am always excited to discover that she's published a new book. She has a way with words and characters that allows readers to enter a completely different world and stay there for the duration of the book without having to suspend belief in order to enjoy the story. When you're in a McKinley world, it becomes, for a time, your own.

Dragonhaven lived up to my expectations, but it also surprised me. All of McKinley's books to date have had a voice appropriate to the story, but overall, you can tell a McKinley book when you read one. Dragonhaven, told in first person by Jake, who starts out as a teenager and ends the book as a young married man, sounds totally different. If I'd read it without being told who wrote it, I would not have been able to tell. Quite a feat!

Jake is an ordinary teenaged boy with an extraordinary lifestyle: he's lived at Smokehill, home of the Makepeace Institute of Integrated Dragon Studies, ever since he can remember, with his mom and dad and a small handful of other people, and he never leaves. Ever.

That's OK with him, though. Smokehill is the home of all the remaining dragons (wings, fire, scales and all) in the US, and all Jakes life, all he's ever wanted is to follow in his parents' footsteps and spend his life studying dragons (even though, up to now, he's never even seen one and knows no one who has).

Even as a child, Jake's favorite book had not been one of the usual childhood favorites. Instead, he'd asked to have the memoirs of Pete Makepeace, the son of the founder of the institute, read to him, over and over, until he got old enough to read them himself. His first solo overnight camping trip, as soon as he turned twelve, would be his first step to his future.

But then his mother, on a sabbatical visit to another dragon compound, disappears and later turns up dead of a broken neck (ostensibly from a fall) and life as Jake knows it stops. As the book opens, fourteen-year- old Jake's grief (compounded by his dog's death and his dad's overprotectiveness) threatens to overwhelm him, and the news his dad is finally going to allow him to solo comes as a lifeline.

A strange drive pushes him to hike into the wilderness further than anyone else has ever gone alone, where he finds a dying female dragon, a poacher killed by the dragon in self-defense, and a litter of dead dragonlets. This is a crisis of major proportions: Smokehill's hi tech fences are supposed to keep unwanted visitors out (and the dragons in), and the dead poacher will certainly stir up world opinion against the dragons.

Then, he looks into the dying mother's eyes. He knows that the and can't just walk away. When he discovers one of the dragonlets is still alive, he becomes her foster "mother", despite knowing that it is a federal offense to try to save a dragon's life. , but Jake's spent his life helping the institute rangers to save orphaned animals of all types and he can't just let this little one die. Little does he know that trying to save her life may end up costing him his own.

Hattie, Get a Haircut
Jenna Glatzer. Monica Kendall
Moo Press, Inc.
PO Box 54, Warwick, NY 10990
9780972485302 $19.95

What a great book to read to a child whose hair is long enough to cut and donate to Locks of Love*! Long-haired Hattie refuses to let her mom take her to the beauty shop to get her hair cut, insisting, "I will never, no way, not at all, let someone cut my hair!"

Then, she dreams about it growing and growing, tripping her, getting entangled in things, being used as a jump rope and as knitting material, and causing no end of trouble. When she wakes up, she begs her mother to take her to the shop to get it cut.

Once there, the stylist suggests that Hattie should donate her hair to L.O.L., to be made into a wig for a child without any hair, and Hattie eagerly agrees. The last two pictures show Hattie dropping a package addressed to L.O.L. into the mailbox and then dreaming of another little girl who is admiring herself in the mirror as she wears a wig made from Hattie's hair.

Many children's books written in poetry are a nightmare to read out loud, due to awkward rhymes and limping rhythm, and a lot of them nowadays have drawings that look as if a five year old (or an illustrator badly in need of therapy) drew them. However, Glatzer's verses flow off the tongue with scarcely a hitch and Kendall's expressive pencil & watercolor illustrations are nicely drawn and cute. Good job, you two!

*the organization alluded to in this adorable picture book and mentioned in the front-of-the-book small print

Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Bloomington, MN, 55438
9780764203886 $13.99

Pride and Prejudice, written by Jane Austen and published in 1813, has obviously been around for a long time, during which it has inspired many writers, moviemakers, and script jockeys, as well as several generations of fond readers. In the nearly two hundred years it has been in print (quite a feat in the profit-driven world of publishing), it has appeared in a variety of editions.

This one, Bethany House's Insight Edition, may be the one I've been waiting for since high school (which was I-won't-tell-you-how-many years ago). Reading it, with its fan club "trivia, notes, and inspiration to amplify this beloved classic", isn't at all like reading a book that many of us were assigned to read in school. Instead, it's a bit like reading it with a good friend, trading comments and information and amusing if acerbic asides.

When Mr. Darcy tells Miss Bingley that he won't walk with her, since he can admire her and Elizabeth better as he sits by the fire, and the fan club cuts in with "If Mr. Darcy sat there and admired our figures as we walked… well, we'd be walking a lot," you can't help but laugh and nod in agreement. When Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth by telling her of her unworthiness and the club says wryly, "Romance tip: Try not to insult and/or anger your intended with your proposal," you want to say, "Well, duh, you'd think he'd be smarter than that!"

Reading Jane Austen in a book club would probably be a hoot (and I hope that's what the upcoming fall 2008 movie, The Jane Austen Book Club, inspires), but until I have time for that, this edition of P&P will suffice. Romance tips, historical information, spiritual asides, Austen family parallels, movie/TV trivia, and just plain giggles, alongside one of the greatest romances ever written, all in one neat package. What are you waiting for?

Just Jane: A Novel of Jane Austen's Life
Nancy Moser
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Bloomington, MN, 55438
9780764203565 $13.99

Although Jane Austen was not a huge success in her lifetime, her upbringing in a nineteenth century English clergyman's household gave her the best seat in the house when it came to the quirks and foibles of the human race. Her books were peopled with interesting characters, her dialogue was spot on, and her stories were driven, not by plot devices, but by human nature.

The result? Austen's books are not only still in print (a feat in today's bottom-line publishing business) but are still being discovered by new readers. And it isn't just high school and college English students, reading Austen under duress, either. Young girls exiting the theater, dazzled by big screen productions of Pride and Prejudice and Emma, are picking her up for the first time. Middle-aged women are rediscovering her in attic boxes from their school days. Male readers are bravely checking her out in spite of possible deriding (chick lit? maybe, but it's also good reading…)

Austen's stories have even made the silver screen, from the BBC's Pride and Prejudice miniseries to Alicia Silverstone's modern take on Emma in Clueless, with more to come (Becoming Jane and The Jane Austen Book Club, both due out in the fall of 2008).

With the current popularity of all things Jane, it's no surprise that Christy Award winner Nancy Moser decided to write Just Jane, a novel about Jane Austen's life. Thoroughly researched and based on actual Austen family letters and historical writings, Just Jane takes readers into Austen's life as she struggles to come to terms with the world she lives in and the people who surround her.

Following Austen through Moser's eyes as she seeks romance, deals with her beloved family, and finally finds purpose for her life and her talents, readers will come to understand Jane Austen in a new way. They will also gain insight into Austen's era and the issues and characters included in her stories. For Austen fans, romance readers, and history buffs alike, this is a do-not-miss book.

The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale
Trinka Hakes Noble
Robert Papp
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main Street, Suite 300, Chelsea, MI 48118
9781585362530 $17.95

A common nickname for the American Civil War is the Boys' War, since so many of the soldiers, especially the drummers and buglers were so young, sometimes as young as ten. Gabe, the hero of The Last Brother, is an eleven-year-old bugler for the Union Army, with one main mission - to make sure his remaining brother, Davy, gets home alive. He's already lost two big brothers. He's not going to lose this one.

Then, Gabe sneaks away during a lull in the fighting, to practice battle calls, and meets Orlee, the young bugler from the Confederate Army, who's using his free time to fish. The boys play dueling battle calls for a few minutes, then sit down together to talk and fish and forget, for a little while, where they are.

Later, Orlee sneaks up on Gabe to warn him the Confederates are heading his way. In exchange for this kindness, Gabe imitates Orlee's retreat call in the heat of battle. Davy is injured, but due to Gabe's honor and compassion, their little stretch of battlefield is the only one with no casualties.

Included in the book is a note by Trinka Hakes Noble about her family's Civil War history and the authenticity of the story's background. You can tell a lot of research and thought went into both the words and the illustrations: on the title page, Sleeping Bear Press thanks Sue Boardman, Licensed Battlefield Guide, for reading and reviewing the book's manuscript, while Robert Papp thanks the McClellan Rangers Reenactment Association for research assistance.

This book does an excellent job of introducing not only the Civil War, but also the personal conflicts that raged at that time between duty to country and duty to family and friends. The illustrations are lovely and accurate, the language authentic, and the overall feel gritty, but not gruesome.

Betty Winslow

Bob's Bookshelf

Outdoor Navigation With GPS
Stephen W. Hinch
Wilderness Press
1200 Fifth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-1306
9780899974453 $16.95 1-800-443-7227

If you recently received or purchased a GPS receiver and plan to use it for outdoor activities, you'll definitely want to get a copy of this updated, new edition of "Outdoor Navigation With GPS" by Stephen Hinch.

With more than 100 helpful diagrams and illustrations, this helpful guide will explain how to get the most out of your receiver. Written expressly for the outdoor navigator, Hinch shows how to handle both simple and complex routes without getting lost. He also explains how to use your GPS receiver in conjunction with those other two venerable tools of wilderness navigation, the map and compass.

The focus here is on practical applications, not technical theory. The theory covered in this guide is limited to what you need to know to achieve success on a backpacking, hunting, kayaking, snowshoeing or mountain biking journey.

If you don't already own a receiver, it might be wise to read the book now so you know what to look for when you go to purchase one. Part One provides the background behind what GPS is and how it is used. You'll learn what to look for in a receiver and how to do basic things like marking and going to waypoints and following compass bearings.

Part Two introduces the concepts of latitude and longitude and how to use them to find a place you have never been to before. The next section describes the critical wilderness navigation skills you should know if your GPS fails in the backcountry.

Part Four looks at such topics as geocaching, GPS games, trail mapping, and highway navigation. You'll also discover the latest in equipment offerings from major manufacturers.

Just as you wouldn't think of leaving home without your trusty GPS receiver, you also may not want to leave the house until you have fully digested the information in this important guide!

A Pale Horse
Charles Todd
William Morrow
9780061233562 $23.95
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022

A body found in the ruins of an ancient abbey sends Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge off to find a killer in this atmospheric mystery.
Set in 1920, the case takes a quirky turn when Rutledge realizes he is dealing with a murder that apparently some very important people don't want solved.

Wearing a hooded cloak and a gas mask, the nameless victim was found with an alchemy text next to him and no other clues.
The identity of the corpse, why he was dressed this way, and what he was doing at Yorkshire's Fountains Abbey in the first place are just part of the puzzle. Is this bizarre situation sosmehow linked to the British government's poison gas program or is it a macabre act of revenge?

The investigation takes Rutledge to Berkshire where he must deal with the inhabitants of cottages that stand in the shadow of a great white horse cut into the chalk hillside. Hiding from their own pasts, these folks don't intend to willingly give up their secrets.

Separating the truth from falsehood will be just part of the challenge Rutledge faces as he struggles to shed some light on a very challenging puzzle.

Last Call
James Grippando
9780060831165 $24.95

A new legal suspense story by James Grippando, "Last Call" features Miami criminal defense lawyer Jack Swyteck. This seventh adventure featuring the indomitable protagonist opens with his best friend, Theo Knight, waking Jack at three in the morning seeking his advice.
An escaped con from Theo's old neighborhood wants him to provide shelter and money in return for some shattering information. Year ago Theo's mother was murdered when he was just a boy and now he is being offered the name of the killer.

The identity of the purported murderer is a total shock and sets Jack and Theo off on a dangerous trail looking for hard evidence that will bring a member of the city's elite to justice.

Miami's "Little Harlem" and its Jazz roots are in the spotlight as James Grippando creates another solidly paced thriller that will delight his many fans.

Building Doors & Drawers
Andy Rae
The Taunton Press
63 South Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470
9781561588688 $24.95 1-800-477-8727

"Building Doors & Drawers" by Andy Rae is a must read for anyone with the woodshop equipment and desire to upgrade kitchen cabinets, redo some household doors, or create some freestanding furniture.

This illustrated design and construction guide focuses on how to construct dovetailed, utility, cabinet and full-size doors. Rae takes you through the design steps, the actual building and fitting of the drawers/doors and the installation of the hardware.

Even if you don't plan to rush out to your woodshop and put the ideas in this book to immediate use, you'll find browsing through Doors & Drawers will provide information that you can use when planning home built-ins. Refer to the pictures here to show your cabinetmaker what you would like the project to look like.

Trellis & Arbors
Steve Cory
Sunset Books
80 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025
9780376017970 $16.95 1-800-643-8030

"Trellises & Arbors" by Steve Cory is chock full of plans for creating some eye-catching trellis and arbors that can make a yard or garden even more attractive.

Whether it's a simple freestanding or wall trellis to hold up climbing plants or something more imposing, such as a tunnel arbor or garden portal, the ins-and-outs of construction are detailed here with plenty of illustrations on how to complete the job.

There's also some helpful information on selecting the right building materials, setting posts correctly, and finding the perfect climbing plants to add texture and color to your yard.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle: Volume 16
CLAMP, authors
William Flannigan, translator
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345501486, $10.95 1-800-726-0600

The sixteenth graphic novel collection of CLAMP's manga series Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle climaxes in a stunning twist in the group dynamic that has been present since the very beginning. Syaoran's search to collect and return the scattered feathers containing Sakura's memory takes a dark turn when the powerful seal on his right eye is released, freeing his ruthless alter ego personality - just as another, nearly identical Syaoran wearing the livery of the group's deadliest enemy appears! An earthshaking betrayal unfolds, with the unfortunate Sakura caught in the middle. Action-packed and drawn with stunningly beautiful art, Tsubasa Volume 16 is an absolute must-have for fans of the series.

A Walk for Sunshine
Jeff Alt
Dreams Shared Publications
PO Box 18188, Cincinnati, OH 45218
9780967948225, $15.95

Now in a newly revised and updated second edition, A Walk for Sunshine: A 2,160 Mile Expedition for Charity on the Appalachian Trail is the award-winning memoir and travelogue of author Jeff Alt, who embarked on an extended hike while taking part of an annual fundraiser for the disabled home where his brother with cerebral palsy lived. Jeff's journey is the stuff of real-life adventure, featuring encounters with wild animals, stunningly beautiful scenery, struggle against inclement weather, and much more. A treat for armchair travelers, or anyone interested in the next best thing to hiking through the Appalachian outdoors in person. "To combat the gnats torpedoing my ears, I picked up a trick from a section hiker. My handkerchief was draped over my head, secured in place by my ball cap. The handkerchief hung over my ears and prevented the little pests from entering the ear canal. From a distance, I looked like I was wearing a French foreign-legion hat, but it worked."

Teen People of the Bible
Daniel Darling
New Hope Publishers
100 Missionary Ridge, Birmingham, AL 35242-5235
9781596690882, $13.99

Teen People of the Bible: Celebrity Profiles of Real Faith and Tragic Failure is an eye-opening biblical study guide especially for young adults, focusing on the stories of teens confronted with incredible situations. From Leah and Rachel's conflict over the love of a man, to Solomon who allowed himself to be led astray, to Josiah who refuted his family's harmful choices and led his country back to God, Teen People of the Bible reminds the reader that one's age does not prevent one from making a positive difference - or causing great harm. Divided into one hundred entries, each with a brief reference to a biblical passage retold in contemporary language, a "just like you" passage discussing modern-day issues from internet predators , a daily prayer, and a journal question with blank lines for the reader to write down his or her response. One of the suggested prayers is "God, help me to make a difference in my family, my school, my church, and my community. I'm only one person, but I know You can empower me to do things that seem impossible." An excellent, faith-reaffirming resource for young Christians.

300 Ways To Ask The Four Questions
Murray Spiegel & Rickey Stein
Spiegel-Stein Publishing
48 Roosevelt Street, Roseland, NJ 07068
9780615150635, $39.95

Co-authored by Murray Spiegel and Rickey Stein, and featuring an informative foreword by Theodore Bikel, "300 Ways To Ask The Four Questions" provides a fascinating , colorfully illustrated, 368-page examination and presentation of the Sedar (including both the Jewish holiday meal and service) from the perspective of a variety of languages and cultures. This massive reference work is the result of some twenty-five years of research in the collection of translation of the Four Questions that form the basis of the Sedar celebration. Contributions were provided by Jews from Uganda to Uzbekistan, the languages range from Abkhaz to Zulu, and even includes sign language. Of special note are the contributions by experts of ancient languages -- including Egyptian from the time of the Exodus. Substantially enhanced with both a CD and a DVD with language and speaker highlights, "300 Ways To Ask The Four Questions" also features a variety of fun games, puzzles, and parodies., making it a unique and enthusiastically recommended addition to personal, family, synagogue, academic, and community library Judaic Studies reference collections.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Sex Offending
Jill D. Stinson, et al.
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
9780979212529, $69.95 1-800-368-5777

The collaborative work of Jill D. Stinson (Clinical Psychologist and Researcher at Fulton State Hospital -- a maximum-security forensic institution in Missouri), Bruce D. Sales (Professor Psychology, Sociology, Psychiatry, and Law, University of Arizona), and Judith V. Becker (Professor of Psychology and psychiatry, University of Arizona - and former President of both the International Academy of Sex Research and the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers), "Sex Offending: Causal Theories To Inform Research, Prevention, And Treatment" is a comprehensive, articulate, effectively organized and superbly presented combination of review and critique of current theories (along with supporting literature) on the reasons adolescent and adult males commit sex offenses that range from child molestation and rape, to voyeurism and indecent exposure, along with other types of violent offenses against children and adults. "Sex Offending" provides an informed and informative survey of theories that include biological, cognitive, behavioral, social learning, personality-psychodynamic, and evolution concepts, as well as combinations of these factors. "Sex Offending" then presents the authors own and original integrative theory of sex offending, how it may influence future research, as well as prevention and treatment efforts with sex offenders. A work of academic excellence from beginning to end, "Sex Offending" is an invaluable, seminal, and strongly recommended addition to professional and academic library Psychology & Psychiatry reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Middle Eastern Terrorism
Mark Ensalaco
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812240467, $39.95 1-800-537-5487

In one sense, terrorism has been employed as a weapon of both civil and international warfare since the earliest recorded events of human conflicts from the fertile crescent of Ur and Babylonia, to the kingdoms of ancient Egypt. The current expression of terrorism arising in and stemming from the middle east is largely focused on an internecine conflict between competing branches of Islam (principally between the Sunni and the Shia), and the conflict between a fundamentalist Islam and the Western cultural and political influences from the democracies of North American and the former colonial powers of Europe. The terrorism-based warfare that began against the United States and its allies (in both Europe and the Middle East) in the 1970s and evolved into the war against fundamentalist Islamic forces such as those that have attacked Americans at home and abroad directly is the subject and focus of "Middle Eastern Terrorism: From Black September to September 11" by academician and historian Mark Ensalaco (holder of the Raymond A Roesch Chair in the Social Sciences, University of Dayton) and is a vital contribution of the history of the violence that has ensued between hostile Islamic forces against the West, including its origins in American support for dictatorial suppressive governments of Middle Eastern countries as part of the Cold War confrontation between American and the Soviet Union, the Palestinian/Israel conflict, and the American/European corporate exploitation of Middle Eastern resources. Professor Ensalaco offers cogent insights and a coherent history that is as timely as it is necessary in light of the continuing and expanding terrorist-based violence seen today on the international stage. Also very highly recommended for both academic and community library collections from the University of Pennsylvania Press is "Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks In The Twenty-First Century" (9780812240658) by forensic psychiatrist and government counter-terrorism consultant Marc Sageman.

The Tigress in the Snow
Laura Benedetti
University of Toronto Press
10 St. Mary Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4Y 2W8
9780802097446, $40.00 1-800-565-9523

Laura Benedetti (Associate Professor in Contemporary Italian Culture, Georgetown University) presents The Tigress in the Snow: Motherhood and Literature in Twentieth-Century Italy, an analysis of how literature was influenced by and helped to frame concepts of motherhood in Italy during the late twentieth century. Touching upon subjects such as religious iconography, the Fascist government's attempts to raise Italy's birthrate, and even relatively modern feminist views of traditional gender roles, The Tigress in the Snow offers a fascinating glimpse of cultural transition, even revealing how literature can envision new models for the present and future. "In her pamphlet 'Le idee di una donna' (1903), Neera repeated over and over again that motherhood was to be women's only mission. Apart from mocking women who harbored other ambitions, she tried to ignore the socioeconomic factors that made marriage and motherhood impossible for many. Only in her last chapter did she acknowledge the fact that some women may never become mothers, in spite of their heartfelt desires. Turning to them, she envisioned for a moment the possibility of separating motherhood from its biological component." A thoughtfully written treatise, and a welcome addition to Italian literary criticism shelves.

Croatia Through History
Branka Magas
825 Page Street, Suite 203, Berkeley, California 94710
9780863567759, $60.00

Consultant and scholar Branka Magas presents the culmination of her intense research in Croatia Through History: The Making of a European State, an in-depth scrutiny of Croatia's history and development from its origin in the early Middle Ages to the modern day. The evolution of Croatia's institutions, ideology, social customs, and political strategies are all examined in turn. Croatia's rich and complex past includes eras when it was territorially and/or administratively divided between various states, and even times when the threat of extinction loomed. Croatia's long struggle for survival has produced a spectrum of national ideologies, some advocating independent statehood while others reach for the benefits of becoming part of an Austrian, Yugoslav or European federation. An even-handed history that pays close attention to the many plural ethnic, cultural, and national influences upon the region, illustrated with a handful of black-and-white and color images. Highly recommended especially for public or college library history shelves.

John Burroughs

Cheri's Bookshelf

A Tendering in the Storm
Jane Kirkpatrick
WaterBrook Press a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781578657355 $13.99

German Emma Giesy was independent and strong, determined, married to Christian five short years with a love that both thought would last forever, with two small children Andy and Kate. The struggle of everyday life consisted of always doing what the will of the community leader Herr Kiel dictated, but independent Emma was always trying to get Christian to leave the community but Christian felt they needed the community but did agree to stay in Willapa instead of going on to Aurora Mills as Herr Kiel wanted.

Than one day Christian doing what he did best helping others, drowned helping an old man save his belongings as he tried desperately to cross a river during a raging storm. Forced to carry on alone, not wanting the help of Christian's family or the community Emma sets out to raise her family on her own and run the homestead. A few days after Christian's death Emma finds herself pregnant with their third child and names him Christian, giving birth to him alone at the homestead. Emma is still determined to take care of her own children but Christian's family will not let her be. The worst telling her what she should and should not do in raising her sons but ignoring her daughter as though she is not important

Because of Christian's death Emma has even turned her back on God determined she doesn't need Him either. The final straw seemed to be while Emma was ill and Andy was staying with her in-laws they took him to Aurora Mills without even asking or telling her. She felt she had to do something for fear her in-laws would take her sons from her.

During her grieving time only one man proposed marriage to pick up where Christian left off and that was the strange Jack Giesy. She avoided his advances for a time than felt she had no choice thinking Herr Kiel and her in-laws were her enemies. Finally determined to protect her children she proposes a business proposition of marriage to Jack. Jack would have none of that wanting her as a wife in every sense. Fearing she had no choice agreed. From that point on her life turns from struggle to nightmare dealing with Jack's moods and outbursts of violence until she fears Andy will kill Jack. Emma knows she has to take the children and leave but where will she go?

Based on a true story this awesome story shows the ups and downs of the German community way of life during the mid to late 1800's under the rule of Herr Kiel and the life of Emma Giesy. You may find yourself just as I did routing for Emma in this page turner but humbled as she was to learn life's hard lessons and to depend upon the kindness of the very ones she considered her enemies. Multiple lessons for us all are woven within the pages of this novel, the biggest being the lesson of giving and receiving which we all must learn. The second book in the series author Jane Kirkpatrick has done an awesome job of bringing history alive. I truly like the extras included especially the interview with the author that explains so much more of the background. I highly recommend placing this one on your must read list!

The Voice
Bill Myers
Faith Words a division of Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020
9780446697996 $13.99

Jazmin's parents have created a program that allows them to hear the Voice of God, a program that they have been kidnapped for. Jaz is only thirteen years old, a very grownup thirteen year old and has ran to the one place her parents always told her to go if there was trouble, to her Uncle Charlie.

Charlie Madison a former special operations specialist. A man who has cut himself off from his family, a man who is angry at the world, himself and God because of the deaths of his wife and daughter and he feels his commitment to God was all fake. The last person who wants to see a thirteen year old girl come crashing into his music store and claiming to be his niece and shouting that someone is out to kill her. Quickly Charlie is out of retirement and Jaz with Lisa Harman who happened to be in his store at the time (who unknown to Charlie is an FBI agent and was investigating him as a threat!) are on the run for their lives starting an adventure that takes them around the world to find Jaz's parents and the program. Religious groups and governments want the program even if Charlie and Lisa don't quite believe until they experience for themselves the Voice of God!

But one thing is for certain they must find the program because who knows what could happen in the wrong hands it could be turned into a weapon or could possible be manipulated to fit one group's agenda!

What an awesome read! Perfect for teens and adults read as the very rocks cry out! Author Bill Myers has done an amazing job with this tale of suspense and intrigue. It will have you on the edge of your seat with all the twists and turns you can't even imagine what will happen next! This novel will make a believer out of you---no you don't need a program just listen for the voice of God! Myers is the writer of over eighty books not bad for someone who didn't like to read nor wanted to be a writer. But an amazing writer he is! This is this reviewer's introduction to Bill Myers and I think it is awesome as he takes the very mysteries of God and brings them alive in ways you won't believe possible. It will have you questioning is this real and is this possible and at the same time bring you closer to your own walk with God!

You Had Me At Goodbye
Tracey Bateman
FaithWords a division of Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue New York, NY 10017
9780446698948 $13.99

Dancy Ames has your typical up and down life. Separated parents her father is an alcoholic and her mother is rather controlling, really the reason why her parents are separated. She is working her dream job at Lane Publishing with her eyes set on the Senior Editor Position and living in an apartment with her two best friends Tabby and Laini. She helps out at the local coffee shop for the owner Nick who she thinks is part of the mafia with his rough exterior but can't help thinking of him as the father figure she so desperately needs.

Than all of a sudden everything changes Jack Quinn her brother Kale's best friend from college a gorgeous man from Britain swoops in and steals the position she's had her eye on and of all people it has to be someone she knows and can't help falling for but that can't be possible he stole her job! Out of the blue her parents decide to get back together and are giving their condo, her childhood home to her brother Kale and his fiance and they are moving to Florida. Dancy wonders what else could possible go wrong.

Clearing out her things from her Mom's condo she comes across her Granny's Bible upon reading it she comes across the verse "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not onto thine own understanding. In all of thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths." Proverbs 3:5 and 6, recommitting her life to the Lord and taking this verse as her own she sets out to allow God to control her life. Next thing she knows she's forced to take a month's vacation after she laughs at an author for getting upset over changes to her manuscript which leads to later being fired but even after she leaves Lane Publishing everywhere she turns it seems Jack Quinn is there. Than she finds out she has a sixteen year old brother from an affair her father had with her favorite nanny and he's moving in with her parents. So just what is God's plan for her life? Will she finish her novel, find another job, romance with Jack only time and God will tell……..

You will not want to miss this book two of the Drama Queens series the best chick-lit or God-lit series this reviewer has ever read! The author Tracey Bateman has a unique way of teaching God's word while keeping you guessing what will happen next and have you in stitches with her amazing sense of humor so much so that you won't be able to put this book down! The characters really come alive. Author of over 16 books with more to come God's talent is definitely on Tracey Bateman so stay tune for more!

Cheri Clay

Christy's Bookshelf

Dance on His Grave
Sylvia Dickey Smith
L&L Dreamspell
9781603180061 $16.95

Sidra Smart is 51 years old and recently divorced from her preacher husband. When her brother dies in a motor vehicle accident, Sid, inherits his investigative firm, The Third Eye, in Orange, Texas. Sid has no experience as an investigator and initially intends to sell the business but is intrigued by a young woman named Jewell, who claims her father murdered a woman 30 years before. Although Jewell was three when it happened, her memories are so intense, Sid can't help but wonder if they're real. She questions Jewell's sister, Emma, who corroborates much of what Jewell remembers. Emma and Jewell confide in Sid their father's cruelty, and both, along with their mother, are suffering mentally and emotionally as a result of his abuse. Sid contacts the sheriff of Orange, Texas with the information Jewell has provided, and shortly thereafter, her life is threatened. This makes Sid more determined than ever to bring justice upon the man who has severely damaged so many lives. But someone is intent on stopping her.

Dance on his Grave is a strong start to the Third Eye series and is sure to develop a large reader base. Sid Smart is a compelling character; a woman who lived a sheltered life until she decided she wanted out of a controlling relationship and is now determined to start her life anew, despite antagonistic actions from members of her husband's parsonage. A female baby-boomer as a private eye is a fresh addition to the mystery genre, even more appealing, one with intelligence and maturity. Sid's Aunt Annie is a likeable, albeit quirky, character and Sid's mentor George Leger lends a colorful Cajun ambience to the story. This well-written mystery falls under the category of page-turner and will keep the reader entertained throughout.

Flesh and Bone
Jefferson Bass
Harper Collins/William Morrow
9780060759834 $24.95

Chattanooga medical examiner Jess Carter has been acting ME for Knoxville since the suspension of Dr. Garland Hamilton based on testimony by Dr. Bill Brockton, forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm. When Brockton is asked by Carter to help investigate the death of a transvestite mutilated and bound to a tree in a state park, he recreates the crime scene at the Body Farm using a cadaver similar in appearance and body. As Carter and Brockton proceed through their investigation, they acknowledge their attraction for one another and tentatively begin a relationship. But very quickly, Brockton discovers Carter's nude body tied to the surrogate corpse at the Body Farm, and all clues point to Brockton as the murderer. Brockton is banned from his offices at the University of Tennessee and his house has been taken over by the Knoxville Police Department as they build their case against him. With the aid of friend and renowned criminalist Arthur Bohanan, Brockton begins a frenzied investigation into the murder of Dr. Carter, which puts his own life in peril.

Jefferson Bass is the pseudonym for the writing team of journalist Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass, the actual founder of the Body Farm. The two have once more created a good whodunit while providing an edifying look into the fascinating world of forensic anthropology. Although the book tackles an issue some may find offensive, this does not detract from an overall good read.

Pegasus Descending
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
9780743277723 $26.00

Years ago, Dave Robicheaux witnessed a good friend's brutal death during a bank robbery at a time when Robicheaux was too drunk to intervene or help. This memory has followed him through sobriety and into his job as a detective with the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department. Robicheaux is unsettled when Trish Klein, his dead friend's daughter, shows up in his hometown, even more so that the men he thinks responsible for his friend's death are now living there. Robicheaux suspects Trish has vengeance on her mind and grows concerned when he learns Clete Purcel, his former partner and best friend, is involved with Trish. Even more discomfiting to Robicheaux is his investigation into the apparent suicide of a young college student that leads back to the men who killed his friend years earlier.

Dave Robicheaux is a complex character, an alcoholic haunted by demons from his tour of duty in Vietnam. Married to a former nun, Robicheaux desperately tries to lead a good life and seeks redemption through her, but cannot shake the past nor his more primitive nature. James Lee Burke writes with a love and admiration for southern Louisiana, delivered with a Cajunesque lilt. The plot is twisty enough to keep the reader guessing, the characterization intriguing.

The Marathon Murders
Chester D. Campbell
Night Shadows Press
9780979916717 $14.95

When Colonel Warren Jarvis asks Greg and Jill McKenzie, owners of McKenzie Investigations, to take on the case of his good friend Kelli Kane, they readily agree. Jarvis was instrumental in one of their former cases and the McKenzies feel indebted to him. Kelli needs the McKenzies' help in clearing the name of her great-great-grandfather Sydney Liggett, accused of embezzling funds from Marathon Motor Works in 1914. Kelli's grandfather recently received a phone call from Pierce Bradley, a construction supervisor at the former Marathon Motors building, who found papers belonging to Sydney Liggett which would have exonerated Liggett had he not disappeared before he could turn them over to the DA. And now Bradley is nowhere to be found. The McKenzies have barely begun their investigation when Bradley's body is discovered submerged in a lake, but the papers he claimed to have come across are missing. The McKenzies hope to recover the papers, but nothing seems to jell and, to make matters worse, people connected to the investigation are ending up dead. The only clue: a Russian cigarette stub found at each crime scene.

This fourth installment of the Greg McKenzie Mysteries is proof positive the series remains strong and fresh and is a major contender in the mystery venue. Greg and Jill McKenzie are a nice pairing, an amiable blend against the shady backdrop of murder and deceit. This well-plotted cozy is sure to please its fans and lure even more into its fold, the not-so-easily-guessed mystery one readers will enjoy trying to solve.

The Scent of Money
Cherri Galbiati
L&L Dreampsell
9781603180368 $16.95

Matt and Becca McAllen live in the small town of Spike Texas, where Matt is Chief of Police. When their town's bank president and his wife are murdered, the only witness is their red German shepherd Tasha. Becca rescues the dog from a woman who is abusing her and becomes her caretaker. Tasha reminds Becca of a beloved dog she recently lost and Becca is determined to keep her, despite the fact that the bank president's wife's brother may stand to inherit her. Matt senses that Tasha can lead them to the murderer, but the murderer quickly targets Becca and Tasha, and Matt is beside himself trying to keep them safe while tracking the killer.

This is an intriguing mystery, filled with twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing throughout. Galbiati's small-town descriptive draws the reader into the story with a sense of actually being there. Becca has a feisty nature and is a delightful character, a woman who has no problem standing up for herself and who loves her husband very much. The relationship between Matt and Becca is at the center of the story and offers a sweet touch against the dark premise of murder. Tasha, the German shepherd, is an added bonus among a cast of lovable characters. The Scent of Money easily meets the criteria for a guaranteed good read: engaging characters, realistic dialogue, a galvanizing plot, and action-packed suspense.

Christy Tillery French

Daniel's Bookshelf

Plenty of Blame To Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg
Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi
Savas Beatie Publishing LLC
P.O. Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781932714203 $32.95 1-916-941-9896

I became familiar with Eric Wittenberg through his articles he submitted to North and South Magazine, and some of his earlier books on cavalry. My discipline into Civil War history expanded due to his expertise and this did add one more topic for me. He collaborated with another author J. David Petruzzi who happened to be an author who has written many articles on the Eastern Theater Cavalry. He conducts tours of cavalry sites of the Gettysburg Campaign. J. David Petruzzi also is the author and editor of the popular "Bufford Boys" website.

Both authors enhanced this book by giving it a new spin on Jeb Stuart's fateful ride during the 1863 Pennsylvania Campaign. Their book reflects massive work using many primary sources bearing on Stuart's activities. It is a well detailed history, that no matter what side one might view the ride, it would be a fair objective account. This is a well vividly well-researched book on all points clearly and cleverly argued. One could say it's as good an account of the ride, as one could expect.

I enjoyed another fine example of a definitive comprehensive book on this fascinating subject. This probably was displayed by the objectivity of the role Stuart's horsemen played in this disastrous campaign. As the title implies one portion of the blame, that contributed to the South's lack of success in this battle.

Rush's Lancers: The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War
Eric Wittenberg
Westholme Publishing
Eight Harvey Avenue, Yardley, PA 19067
9781594160325 $29.95 1-800-621-2736

I have an interest in the Civil War Cavalry, and I was fascinated by a special superb regiment, that was noted for intelligence, bravery, and stalwart service. They had used lancers in their unit and although an antiquated weapon stood for a symbol of an elite outfit in the truest sense.

Eric J. Wittenberg draws from his interest in this Sixth Pennsylvania unit to write an engrossing account of these young men. He uses letters, diaries, memoirs, service and pension files, contemporary newspaper coverage, official records, and other primary resources. The complete regimental roster of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry is available on the Westholme Web site.

The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry earned a reputation for their being a highly trained and reliable unit. They left their mark on major battlefields including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Hanove Court House, Chancellorville, Gettysburg, Brandy Station, (where they conducted the most famous charge of the war) and Appomattox.

Eric J. Wittenberg writes noted articles in North and South Magazine with his well-researched cavalry topics. He proves his being a distinguished military historian status with this book. This cavalry unit was a completely volunteer unit tracing their history from being George Washington's personal bodyguard during the Revolutionary War.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

Memoirs of a Mangy Lover
Groucho Marx
Da Capo Press
0306811049 $15.95

Groucho Marx's Memoirs of a Mangy Lover, originally published in 1963, is a collection of more than 25 essays loosely themed around the subject of love or, more accurately, the pursuit of sex. Groucho writes about unfaithful husbands of his acquaintance and the perks of polygamy, about a potentially amorous evening spoiled by pigeons, about an act of martyrdom that involved his courtship of the homely daughter of a Mexican cook. But there are also stories about his brothers cheating someone at cards, for example, and about the impositions of unwelcome dinner guests.

Groucho doesn't open up much in these essays. We're not given a sense of the man behind the moustache. But to the extent that the author is humanized in the stories it is, well, a little strange: Groucho is such an iconic figure that I've never imagined him as flesh-and-blood human. It is surprising to think of him doing anything so banal as driving a car. The essays are interesting for this reason and because they are the product of a world that, some fifty years on, seems very foreign. Much of the book is arguably sexist, and it contains some racial references that wouldn't escape an editor's pen nowadays. More surprising are the author's casual references to trips with his brothers to brothels, as if such a thing were completely unremarkable, or his account of essentially ordering up a woman from an old acquaintance while in town:

"What I was looking for was a companion--a dazzling, pulchritudinous wench who would hang on my every word and eventually obey my every command."

The essays are interesting as social history, then, but I'm afraid they're not very funny. I did laugh once, when Groucho described getting lost in Bel Air with Clare Boothe Luce, then U.S. Ambassador to Italy. A producer at Twentieth Century-Fox Studios, out walking his dog in the middle of the night, happened upon the pair while they were standing in the bushes on a street corner trying to read a street sign:

"He surveyed us for a moment, unwilling to believe his eyes, then turned and addressed his dog. 'Spyros,' he said, 'up to now I thought I'd seen everything, but if someone had told me I would ever see the United States Ambassador to Italy and Grouch Marx standing in a bush in Bel Air at two in the morning, I just wouldn't have believed it.'"

But in that case the humor lay in the situation. When Groucho tries to be funny the jokes are corny, forced, dated:

"Millions of years ago, love ran wild on this daffy globe of ours. Men were slimy creatures resembling a louse or the fellow your wife almost married. They were called amoeba--until they got money and changed their name to The First National Bank."

Did our forbears in the sixties indeed laugh at this sort of thing? I have to believe they did: this is Groucho Marx we're talking about, after all. And maybe if Groucho were on screen delivering the same lines they would be funny. But don't expect to guffaw your way through this one. Read it for the sexism and antiquated social mores instead!

Pinkerton's Secret
Eric Lerner
Henry Holt
9780805082784 $25.00

Eric Lerner's Pinkerton's Secret purports to be the memoir of Allan Pinkerton, who founded the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in Chicago in 1855. The Pinkerton Agency grew to become the first national police force. Pinkerton and his agents policed the nation's railroads, for example, and they infiltrated the Confederate forces during the Civil War to smuggle information to the Union. Lerner's Pinkerton, writing in the mid-1880s, describes some of his cases and his role during the War as well as his involvement in the Abolitionist movement: Pinkerton was an acolyte of John Brown--a relationship which, at least as Lerner's novel has it, proved fatal to Pinkerton's marriage--and his house was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Atop this historical scaffolding, Lerner has written a romance: Pinkerton begins his account in 1856, when he hired his first female operative, Kate Warne, an eminently competent woman with whom he would eventually have an affair.

My copy of Lerner's book does not include a note about the story's historicity. (It's possible that other editions will include one; if not, they should.) As such it is difficult to know from the book itself how much of Lerner's story is based on historical evidence. A bit of Googling and a gander at Lerner's own (nicely designed) site suggest that the story is firmly rooted in the evidence, though he has of course taken liberties with what is known of the relationship between Pinkerton and Kate Warne.

Pinkerton's Secret is not an edge-of-your-seat read, although some of the material Lerner had to work with (e.g., espionage within the Confederate ranks) would have lent itself to such a treatment. And Lerner's characters do not grip our emotions. But the book is a decent read and a pleasant enough way to swallow some history.

Death of a Gentle Lady
M.C. Beaton
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780446582605 $23.99

M.C. Beaton has written more than twenty Hamish Macbeth mysteries, the first published in 1985, and the books inspired a series that aired on the BBC. I haven't seen the program, and Beaton's latest installment, Death of a Gentle Lady, is the first in the series that I've read. Hamish Macbeth is a constable in the village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands. He lives in the police station with a dog and a near-feral cat. He's unmarried but pines intermittently throughout this book, at least, for two women with whom he apparently has long histories. He is clever enough that he might have moved up and out of Lochdubh based on his job performance, but he aspires only to remain in his beloved village, and he is forever battling to keep its small police station in operation.

In this outing Macbeth becomes acquainted with a certain Mrs. Margaret Gentle, an elderly widow who has recently bought a mock, cliffside castle in Macbeth's jurisdiction. She puts on a sweet-old- lady act that's won the rest of the villagers over, but Macbeth sees through it at once to recognize the bitty within. A double homicide later and Macbeth finds that he's the killer's next target, and the most likely suspect is among the Gentle woman's heirs. Meanwhile, the good folks of Lochdubh are staging an amateur production of Shakespeare's Macbeth; Hamish Macbeth's nemesis on the police force is harboring a grudge; and a Putin-esque Russian policewoman, visiting from Moscow, is hovering around the Gentle investigation-- and giving Macbeth the willies.

Death of a Gentle Lady is a readable cozy with a likable sleuth, firmly bound with its Highland setting. The plot is interesting, though its twist occurred to me long before Macbeth caught on. The details of the crime are revealed in a stock let-me-tell-you-how-I- did-it-before-I-kill-you-type information dump, which is perhaps a bit sloppy. But I enjoyed the book and will likely be reading more in the series.

The Geography of Bliss
Eric Weiner
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780446580267 $25.99

In The Geography of Bliss Eric Weiner (who was a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio for a decade) visits ten different countries, interviewing locals and considering each country's cultural eccentricities with a view to identifying the factors that contribute to each population's happiness--or lack thereof. Weiner's itinerary is set to a large extent by data collected by the World Database of Happiness: yes, there is such a place, and it's housed in a nondescript building on the campus of Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Weiner's first stop on his grand tour. The author's quest leads him also to Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, and the United States. Not all of these places can boast a happy populace. If you play Which of These Countries Doesn't Belong with the above list, the most obvious odd man out is Moldova, a miserable country that Weiner visited more or less to cleanse his palate after too much sweetness and light. But this visit too is instructive, as he is able to come to some conclusions about why Moldovans are on the whole so wretched.

What's fascinating about Weiner's book is how different the cultures he writes about are, and how different some of the things that make them happy are. Sure, everybody's better off if they've got enough money to support themselves (though beyond "enough," money doesn't matter all that much), and having familial and community support is always a plus. But there do seem to be cultural differences once you get beyond these basics. A humorless interlocutor in Switzerland identified clean public restrooms as a source of Swiss happiness, for example, while the Moldovans Weiner spoke with named as their sole source of joy their country's fresh fruits and vegetables. In Thailand as a rule people eschew excessive thought--a light- heartedness that breeds contentment, while in India people revel in unpredictability.

Weiner's conclusions about the sources of happiness won't knock anyone off their chair, but that's not really the point: it's the journey, stupid! This armchair jaunt through ten disparate cultures is a great read, funny and interesting and well-written. Just the sort of book I like.

The Serial Killers Club
Jeff Povey
Warner Books
9780446616645 $6.99

The plot of Jeff Povey's The Serial Killers Club is ridiculous. Our protagonist, targeted as the next victim of serial killer "Grandfather-of-Barney," winds up killing the murderer himself in self defense. Then, rather than calling the police like any normal person would do, he gets rid of the body and, posing as the killer, answers an invitation he finds in GOB's wallet to join an exclusive club--for serial killers only, because even mass murderers need to relax with their peers now and then. The club's members, who adopt the names of old film stars, meet in a public restaurant and tell funny stories about their recent slayings over dinner. (As luck would have it, their regular waitress--who apparently never needs the night off--is deaf.) Our faux killer, who adopts the name Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., finds that he likes the club so much that, yes, he'd kill to keep his membership.

It gets even stranger when an FBI agent forces Dougie to take part in an unusual undercover operation. The body count is high. The gross- out factor is high. There are misunderstandings among the principals of the I Didn't Kill Him, I Thought You Did! variety. What's clever is that Dougie, who narrates the story, is so clueless: he may be able to beat the serial killers at their own game, but he's too self- deluded to realize that they don't like his company as much as he supposes. He's also not as smooth with the ladies as he'd like to think.

Part thriller, part romance, this black comedy is one weird book.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Duncan's Bookshelf

Waiting for White Horses
Jorgenson, Nathan
Flat Rock Publishing
PO Box 166, Fairmont, MN 56301
9780974637006 $23.95

Grant Thorson and his friend Will love duck hunting and fishing. They enjoy each other's company; they share a tin coffee cup on early morning outings, waiting for the flare of incoming ducks. They are neighbors on the south shore of a lake in northern Minnesota. And Grant has begun to find a love to replace that of his recently dead wife.

In a short period of 18 months Grant loses his wife, then his father and his very best friend dies in a hunting accident. He turns inward when he believes he will never risk the pain of losing another vibrant person from his life. He begins to isolate himself from his daughter and commits an even more heinous crime …he pushes a new love (Susan) out of his life.

White Horses is a float down the 'river' of life and explores the shoals and boulders that become obstacles in Grant Thorson's life. The author captures the trauma of loss (through death) and the mellow pleasure we experience with our true friends. Of Note: White Horses received the Benjamin Franklin Award for New Fiction from the Independent Publisher's Association.

The Mulligan
Jorgenson, Nathan
Flat Rock Publishing.
PO Box 166, Fairmont, MN 56301
9780974637020 $16.95

Joe Mix has money and the status of a successful dentist. He has lived the life that met the expectations of his father and his community. After thirty years of marriage, Joe realizes that he has wasted these years meetings the expectations of other people, including that of his socially prominent wife. Joe rebels and walks away, intent on finding what life has to offer. He becomes a cowboy; he enjoys the hard work and camaraderie of the ranch hands but his life is empty.

His old truck and new puppy lead him to a new career as a guide on a trout river where he finds his love of the quiet, bubbling streams and begins to find the love of a good woman. Joe Mix (and his readers) know that we each have a destiny to fulfill; we each must cast our lines upon the waters and reel in happiness.

Marty Duncan

Franci's Bookshelf

Dumped by Popular Demand
P. G. Kain
Aladdin MIX
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020
9781416935193 $5.99

The clever intrigues of High School girls does not, usually, interest me. The opening line in this novel, by P. G. Kain, caught me and carried me well in to the story, laughing all the way.

"I firmly believe that one day the world will understand the unspoken cruelty of alphabetized seating charts."

Dorie Dilts is about to move from California to New Jersey, and instead of seeing this as the worst thing to happen in her 13 years, Dorie sees this as a great opportunity--an opportunity to reinvent herself as one of the popular crowd. Her approach is one of a scientist. When she arrives at her new school, she immediately sets out to determine which girls are most popular and why, scientifically. She deduces the one thing that connects them is their shared experience of having gone out with and been dumped by the arrogant Grant Braddish. Once she determines this, Dorie is quickly on her way with a plan to win the heart of, and then get dumped by, Grant.

Sound simple? Righhht. This is a book you will enjoy.

The Nexus Ring series Veil of Magic: Book 1
Maureen Bush
Coteau Books for Kids
2517 Victoria Ave., Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4P OT2
9781550503623 $6.95

Josh and his sister Maddy are on vacation in Canada, when they find a ring which proves to be magic. Little do they know, the ring opens the door to a parallel world, but closes the door back to their own. The scenic backdrop is the Canadian Rockies through areas I have visited and are readily recognizable. This story is filled with adventure, evil beautiful women and ogres, and will appeal to fantasy readers of a young age.

Franci McMahon

Gary's Bookshelf

Reuben on Wry the Memoirs of Dave Madden
Dave Madden
Book Surge
North Charleston South Carolina
9781419681950 $13.99

Finally there is a book by the actor who played Reuben Kincaid from the TV show "The Partridge Family" He goes behind the scenes and tells how the show began, his relationship with other cast members and he explains why the show that was a number one hit got the ax. The book is more than just the story of that series. Madden tells about his one season on the mega hit "Rowan and Martin's Laugh In" the forerunner to "Saturday Night Live," the show "Camp Runamuck" and his seven years on "Alice" Oddly enough he points out that "Partridge" was the only show that he has maintained friendships with other cast members. Unlike other autobiographies by stars, this one is always very positive and the reader is struck with how many friends Madden has made over his 50 year career, that he is still in contact with. REUBEN ON WRY is the most perfect title that will have readers laughing out loud by the many jokes and stories Madden masterfully tells.

7th Heaven
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316017701 $27.95

Patterson and Paetro have written the best novel of their collaboration of the Women's Murder Club. There are two complex storylines here that move the story along to its final surprising ending. Readers will have a great time trying to figure it out. The clues are all here in a tale that races along with page turning excitement. I love this series that has gotten better with each book.

Stranger in Paradise
Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154607 $25.95

Jesse Stone is back in a new thriller that has the Parker trademark of snappy dialogue and a fast paced story that has readers turning pages. This time out Stone has a complicated case with a hired killer who comes back to Paradise and won't let anyone know why he is there. It has something to do with a woman who ran away from her intolerant father who lives in Miami, Florida. Also Stone's life with his ex wife is even more complex than ever before. Parker is a master of the mystery genre.

The Book I'm Doing the Best I Can
Sirena Press an imprint of
Murmaid Publishing
13799 Park Blvd # 162, Seminole, Fl 33776
9780976063469 $12.95

For so long books about parenting have been written by professionals in the psychological field of medicine who usually do not have children of their own. Those books have put out so much bogus information it's no wonder we have the society we have today. Thankfully author Hein gives solid time proven ways for parents to raise offspring. Some of the things she talks about are that fathers and mothers have to establish rules and perimeters for youngsters to follow, say what they mean especially in the case of punishment, let them know when they have done something bad and deal with it with sensible penalties. She also shows that parents must be more involved in the education of their kids. Other things she talks about are that parents should have meetings with teachers, be more supportive of the school, and get involved in the kid's studies at home.

Abner the Clown
Jeffrey Breslauer, Illustrations by Linda Campbell
Wandering Sage Bookstore & More, LLC
810 Liberty Village Dr, Florissant, MO 63031
1933300221 $19.95

The message of this kid's book is be happy with who you are. At the beginning of the book Abner is not so happy with his name and wants to change it to something else. What he finds is that his is a special one and each is unique. Breslauer tells his story well and the boldly colored artwork by artist Linda Campbell adds another dimension to the delightful kids book that is not just for young readers. The author will be an attendee at the huge comic book convention in Orlando named Mega Con this month.

Exploring Idioms
Valeri R. Helterbran
Maupin House
2416 NW 71 Place, Gainesville, Florida 32653
9781934338148 $19.95 1-800-5240-634

We've all heard of them but how many of us really know what they are? Author Helterbran defines what idioms are, shows us where different ones came from, and related ones we all know. This is a very educational book for any age to read and enjoy.

Scary Godmother the Boo Flu
Jill Thompson
Sirius Entertainment
PO Box 834, Dover NJ 07802
1579890385 $19.95

Halloween may not happen this year because the Scary Godmother is laid up sick in her bed. Someone has to take over and get the holiday started. Hannah Marie finds out it's not all that she thought. The author, who is also the artist, has written and drawn a very fun story for all ages to enjoy. The artwork is lavish and adds a lot to the telling of the story. This is the first of a series.

Stop Procrastinating Now
Kerul Kassel
New Leaf Publishing
PO Box 701379, St Cloud, FL 34770
9781978688509 $16.95

We've all at one time or another procrastinated. The target audience is those who do it too much. Kassel teaches many different ways that can be easily learned to stop putting off things that need to get done now. The writing is light hearted and is very simple to follow to change bad habits.

Tales from a Thornbush
George Arthur Davis
The Peppertree Press LLC
Attention Publisher 4017 Swift Road, Sarasota, Florida 34231
9781934246573 $9.95

I'm not a big one for symbolism but to me the words thorn bush in the title represents characters lives that are either bitter or sweet. The stories are filled with strange wonderful people who march to a different beat. Some readers will be offended by some of the individuals in the tales for any number of reasons. That's too bad because the author has produced a very interesting collection of short pieces that are very different from mainstream anthologies.

Lady Killer
Lisa Scottoline
Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060833206 $25.95

Mary DiNunzio is back in a new tense thriller. It begins on a light hearted note when her father and a couple of his friends want her to settle a dispute they are having with a senior woman who has said that Dean Martin was a drunk and that Frank Sinatra had it all. They have said something bad about Sinatra in retaliation for her comments. DiNunzio then confronts a former high school friend Trish Gambone who wants to know what she should do about her mobster boyfriend. Shortly after the meeting Trish and the boyfriend disappear. Later the boyfriend is found, but dead. He was shot in the head. Now the search is on for his killer and Trish, who is presumed dead as well. Scottoline has always written a great thrilling court novel but this one explodes and is fast paced read excitement. Part of the fun with this one was finding out who the killer was. Scottoline has a winner with this one.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Fault Tree
Louise Ure
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312375850 $23.95 646-307-5560 212-674-5151

The title of Louise Ure's wonderful new book derives from a quote from a NASA publication: "A Fault Tree analysis is touted as one of the best methods of identifying and graphically displaying the many ways something can go wrong." No one knows of the many ways things can go wrong more than Cadence Moran, Ms. Ure's 31-year-old protagonist, who was blinded eight years prior in a horrendous auto accident that also left her beloved niece dead. Not one for self-pity, Cadence refuses to use a Seeing Eye dog, and, not wanting "anything that relied upon me for food or water, companionship, or a job," she uses a plain wooden cane, saying "I don't like people thinking of me as a blind person before they've had a chance to think of me as a person at all."

Cadence [nicknamed "Cade" by her family and "Stick" by her co-workers] works in Tucson, AZ as an auto mechanic [taking a leaf from the pages of the late Barbara Seranella, who she honors here] when, one summer night while walking home, she hears a woman scream. She continues on her way when no further sounds are heard, only to find out the next day that a woman has been killed [apparently the cause for the outcry]. Just as she feels she was to blame for the accident that took her sight and her niece's life, so too does she feel the onus for not having responded to the victim's scream that preceded her death, and tries to assist the police in their search for the killer. She has an uncanny ability to interpret sounds [especially on anything motorized] and smells, and the skeptical police ultimately come to value her contributions.

The author has created an unforgettable 'heroine' in this absorbing tale; the detectives too are original creations, and the book is an absolutely engrossing and splendid addition to the genre [and beyond]. The author, in one of many memorable lines, states: "Funny that we take credit, snatching it before it can get away, but we accept blame, holding it close only when no other arms reach for it." This novel is highly recommended.

The Crazy School
Cornelia Read
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780446582599 $23.99 800-759-0190

After being introduced to Madeline Dare in Cornelia Read's first novel, "A Field of Darkness," readers are again treated to an encounter with this original protagonist. Now 26 years old, she has left upstate New York for the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts and, when her husband's job offer falls through, begins teaching at the Santangelo Academy, a boarding school for disturbed teenagers. The school motto is "Free to Be," and it has a rather unusual way of doing things: "Everyone at the school had to do Santangelo-approved therapy - not just the kids but the teachers, the administrators, and the parents of every student. We did ours on campus. Santangelo had a traveling crew of shrinks who met with parents around the country. If they missed a session, they weren't allowed contact with their kid by phone or mail for a month. I couldn't believe that was legal, but they were desperate enough to suck it up without complaint."

Touted as a "healing community," it begins to look more like "The Snake Pit," and Madeline suspects that the Academy's director is "just the latest charlatan to wrap himself in their snake-oily mantle of overpriced navel-gazing hooey." When two students die in what appears to be a double suicide, Madeline, who had sincerely cared about these kids, both especially vulnerable, is determined to find out the truth. At this point the novel, which had been proceeding at an unhurried pace, rapidly kicks into high gear

This is another compelling novel by this author, the plot alternately funny and suspenseful, and the world she has created is a bit like passing the scene of an accident but finding onself unable to look away. [I might add that I loved her use of a line from an old and classic Danny Kaye movie.] The book is a very enjoyable read, and is recommended.

Salt River
James Sallis
Walker & Company
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780802716170 $23.95 646-307-5580

"Salt River" is the third novel by James Sallis in the John Turner series, and it begins two years after his beloved Val was killed at the end of the prior entry, "Cripple Creek." Turner, now in his 50's, has a fascinating background: ex-cop, ex-con, Vietnam was veteran, and former therapist. Now Sheriff in a small town near Memphis, he had been reluctantly persuaded to return to the job after the present sheriff, Lonnie Bates, retired and Turner had "failed to step backward fast enough."

One afternoon Lonnie's long-lost son comes roaring down the street in what later appears to be a stolen car which he then drives straight into City Hall. When Turner returns home later that day, his buddy, Eldon, appears, telling John "I think I killed someone." Of course, it is Turner's job to find out exactly what is going on, which turns out to be more difficult than one would at first expect.

Mr. Sallis' spare prose is wonderful, and the novel a deeply affecting one. Some of my favorite passages: "I was not only a psychologist of sorts, I was a cop who had seen some of the worst mankind had to offer and an ex-con who had been privy to society's best, gnarled efforts at greatheartedness and manipulation. Altruism gets handed to me, I'm automatically peeling back the label, looking to see what's underneath…So many people come into our lives, become important, then are gone…And I felt all about me the sadness of endings…The world is so very full of words. And yet so much that's important goes forever unsaid…That's pretty much how it goes, for most of us. We don't stub our toes on streets of gold and lead rich lives, we don't tell the people we love how much we love them when it matters, we never quite inhabit the shadows we cast as we cross this world. We just go on." Above all, the book is about "how much a man can lose and how much music he can make with what he has left,' which were the last words spoken to him by Val before she died, and which are Turner's, and the author's, mantra and recurrent theme.

There is a hint that the John Turner books may be coming to an end - I certainly hope not.

Gas City
Loren Estleman
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765319562 $24.95 212-388-0100

Unneedful of haste, Loren Estleman, in this standalone novel, limns a tale of an 'ordinary' Midwestern blue-collar city with its usual equal parts of good guys and bad, corruption and greed, which with one precipitating event begins to boil to a point where it may just combust. Pivotal characters include Police Chief Francis Russell, married for 55 years to his beloved Martha ("Marty"), and devastated by her death as the book opens; Anthony Zeno ("Tony Z"], boss of The Circle, an area of ten square blocks ["the only thing the area required to be considered an independent city was its telephone exchange"] to which all the sex-for-sale, drugs, gambling, etc. of the city are confined; Nicholas Bianco ("Mr. White"), Tony's boss; Moe Shiel, the unofficial and unsworn Chief of Police of the Circle, as well as its unelected Mayor; and Hugh Dungannon, Russell's boyhood friend now a Bishop in the church; and assorted others. The town was built around an oil company which is and always has
been its most important component and employer.

Russell's life is now immeasurably saddened. He hasn't seen his daughter in 12 years; his son was killed while serving in the Armed Forces in southeast Asia. He has served as Chief for five terms, during all of which time he has had an "understanding" the local Mafia boss With his wife's death, the latter is unsure whether Russell will "continue to hold up his end." Indeed, he ponders whether redemption is possible, and considers actually doing the job he was hired to do all those years ago.

In addition to those described above, the book is full of colorful characters: The hotel detective who says of himself: "Being a busted copy was as bad as being a defrocked priest. It took practice to keep your lies straight;" Zeno's wife, Deanne, whose husband describes her as "healthy as a horse. And just as expensive to keep;" a local judge who "had developed the bad habit, after seventy, of slipping in and out of gear when he was running for reelection. In his dotage he thought his seat on the bench had something to do with ballots." In the midst of a mayoral campaign, the town is hit with a serial killer, variously referred to as the Black Bag killer [for his choice of container for body parts] or Beaver Cleaver [for his choice of weapon].

I found I had to pay close attention when reading for fear of missing subtlely wonderful passages, which abound. One of my favorites was this description of Russell's reactions upon his wife's passing: "And then the rage and heat were gone, and there was a hole through him and he had to turn so the wind wouldn't whistle through it. He'd been preparing for this moment for weeks - years, he corrected, from the time the results of the first tests had come back and he'd stopped arguing with them - and he'd hoped the dread of the waiting would give way to a sense of release. He'd felt it for a moment, with the last exhalation, when she took her leave of her body, a lacy apparition in a cheap religious print. But this was a new level of emptiness. What he'd thought was the bottom collapsed beneath his weight, the thinnest of crusts, and he went plummeting yet again. It was like falling in a dream. They said if you woke up before you hit, you were okay, but if you didn't, well, tha
t was when people died in their sleep. It seemed better than this eternal falling."

"Gas City" is a very pleasurable and satisfying read, and is recommended.

The Graving Dock
Gabriel Cohen
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312362669$23.95 646-307-5560

"The Graving Dock" is set in the New York City of December of 2001, and is the second in the Jack Leightner series. Leightner is a NYC detective and a member of the Brooklyn South Homicide Task Force. The book begins a few months after Jack had barely survived a shooting incident in a basement in Red Hook, a section of Brooklyn near the docks where Jack lives. Divorced for 15 years, and the father of a boy in his early twenties, Jack has been working up the nerve to propose to his girlfriend, Michelle, with whom he is deeply in love.

When a handmade coffin washes up on the shore in the harbor, Jack gets the call, and it is found to contain the body of a young boy with the letters "GI" written on his forehead. At a loss to identify the boy, things only get more complicated when another body turns up, with the same letters emblazoned on it. The ensuing investigation requires dogged police work, but Jack is determined to find the killer. At the same time, he has to find out the reason for the preoccupation - almost to the point of indifference - of the detective from the local precinct with whom he is partnered, while at the same time dealing with the not-as-easy-as-he-thought matter of his engagement. The hunt takes him, and the reader, to Governors Island, a relatively unknown parcel of land a quarter-mile from the Brooklyn shore now in disuse, formerly an old Army and then Coast Guard base until the mid-nineties.

To this reader, most of whose life has been lived in Brooklyn, the author gets the descriptions and the feel of that borough, of New York, and New Yorkers, exactly right - especially nailing the "shell-shocked, dazed" world in which they lived in those traumatic days, mostly by oblique references that capture the atmosphere, not with a heavy hand, but with an expert touch. Some authors are good storytellers, some are good writers - Mr. Cohen is both. If you haven't read any of his books yet, now is the time to do so. The book is recommended.

The Killing Moon
Chuck Hogan
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9780743289658 $15.00 800-223-2336

Donald Maddox is a rookie, a part-time, auxiliary policeman in a town he describes as "full of nothing-to-do, this tiny rural map-smudge in the northwest corner of Massachusetts, a fading and forsaken hamlet named Black Falls." He had left Black Falls, where his father had been a cop, fifteen years before, after receiving a college scholarship and, now 33 years old, has returned after his mother's death and lingered, to the amazement of most of the citizenry, who can't believe anyone who'd actually been able to get out had returned voluntarily. With 1,758 inhabitants, the town had virtually died after its paper mills closed down 20 years before - it is "a well of desperation hidden deep in the valley; pain-filled voices that go unheard," with "pockets of beauty amid acres of neglect."

Maddox was a legacy, put on the job by "Pinty," a town selectman--a cop there for much of his life and Maddox' father's partner when he was on the force, before he "had been stupid enough to get himself killed in the line of duty in such a sleepy town as this." The soul-deadening atmosphere is brought to vivid life by the author in a distinctively offbeat and wonderful style.

The residents are, understandably, mostly damaged souls. The worst symptom of the general malaise is the police department, with a budget so small the "uniforms" consisted of a t-shirt and cap, and corruption the extent of which this reader was totally unprepared for. When a local resident is brutally murdered, state homicide detectives take jurisdiction, and the ugly secrets of Black Falls begin to come to light, including Maddox' own.

This is the fourth book by Chuck Hogan, and I wish it hadn't taken me so long to discover this author. "The Killing Moon" is a wonderful read, and it is recommended. [It should be noted that the book is also available in hardcover.]

The Chameleon's Shadow
Minette Walters
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307264633 $24.95 800-726-0600

Minette Walters' newest psychological suspense novel focuses on the effects of war, not on those who inhabit the country of warfare, but rather on those who fight the wars, and the horrendous injuries they sustain that affect every aspect of their lives, both physically and psychologically. The protagonist is British lieutenant Charles Acland, 26 years old, home from Iraq with devastating head injuries, including loss of sight in one eye and total disfigurement of that side of his face, tinnitus, and migraine headaches. Even worse are the resultant personality changes: suspicion of those around him almost to the point of paranoia; outbursts of uncontrolled anger ["red mist" is a recurring phrase]; distrust of nearly everyone, especially women; inability to tolerate being touched - whether all this is the result of post-traumatic guilt over the death of two of the men under him in the same attack or what is termed "the prolonged destruction of a personality," or something else entirely, is unclear. The effects of traumatic brain injury and subsequent antisocial behavior are explored.

When several men in the London area are attacked and beaten to death over a period of several months, and it appears that it is the work of one man, Acland falls under suspicion. It is unclear to the police, and the reader, whether or not he is in fact the attacker. He unwillingly turns for aid to a woman whose lesbian partner runs a bar in which he has started a fight, a doctor called merely "Jackson." A fascinating creation, she is variously described as being "the size of a whale" and "over six feet…this wide and looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger," but she earns Acland's grudging respect and becomes his savior, his psychiatrist [though that is not her area of medical specialization] and, ultimately, his friend.

The title derives from (1) Acland being described as, chameleon-like, projecting "different images of himself to different people," and (2) the Jungian definition of a "shadow" as "the dark aspect of personality formed by those fears and unpleasant emotions which, being rejected by the self or persona of which an individual is conscious, exist in the personal unconscious." The view is a disturbing one. I must admit that I couldn't help but feel that the resolution was somehow less compelling than that which had preceded it. Nonetheless, Ms. Walters has again written a gripping and suspenseful novel.

Gloria Feit

Harold's Bookshelf

Ask Anything
Richard P. Olson, Ph.D.
The Haworth Press, Inc.
10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY 13904-1580
9780789028174 $29.95

In this book, author Richard Olson notes that Jesus often asked questions as a way to get people to better understand themselves, their world, and their relationship with God. Olsen examines the way Jesus used questions and how they affected the person involved.

Each chapter starts with a common question followed by related questions from Jesus and a discussion of those questions. For example, the first chapter presents the common question "Where do I find meaning in life?" This is followed by questions Jesus asked that might be used to explore and find perspective related to this main question. The related questions Jesus asked are "What are you looking for?", "How many loaves do you have?", "Which was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?", "Why do you call me good?", "Are you able to drink the cup and be baptized with the baptism?", and "Do you know what I have done?". After listing the Scriptures sources for those questions the author follows with several scenarios and a discussion of how answering these questions ultimately answers the first one. Each chapter ends with questions for personal or group discussion.

Appendix A contains a list of questions Jesus asked in the synoptic Gospels and appendix B contains questions from the Gospel of John. Ask Anything: A Pastoral Theology of Inquiry is a highly recommended read to anyone questioning life or their purpose in life

Beginning Ruby: From Novice to Professional
Peter Cooper
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781590597668 $39.99

A new addition to the "Beginning..." series of books from Apress this one follows the highly successful layout of the other books. It starts with how to install Ruby on various operating systems including Windows, OS X, and Linux. Then the reader gets a good introduction to the basics of Ruby including writing your first few lines of programing. For those who need it the author takes the time to introduces the reader to the concepts of class and object as they related to the object oriented programming environment. From there the reader moves into the basics of programming with Ruby, including variables working with integers, characters and strings interpolation working with an array flow control and regular expressions.

The book then walks the reader through building a text analyzer program. Of course you to know more to create more complex programs and the author delivers a more advanced discussion of classes objects and modules. And no program is complete without documentation, built in error handling and testing. The author goes over these and other items in detail. Finally, in Chapter 12, you develop a much larger Ruby application by writing a bot program. The book ends with a discussion of Ruby on rails.

The book contains several excellent appendices and is filled with code examples. Beginning Ruby is highly recommend to anybody interested in this programming language and provides sufficient information to write basic programs without any difficulty.

Ceremonies for Spiritual Healing and Growth
Henry Close
The Haworth Press, Inc.
10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY 13904-1580
9780789029058 $10.95

One of the most powerful techniques for healing, change and growth is the use of ceremonies. In this book author Henry Close examines the use of ceremonies in a liturgical setting. For several different situations he includes a description of the specific facts and circumstances and then provides the ceremony that he created to address those circumstances. The ceremonies show a deep understanding of the situation, sound psychotherapeutic techniques, and how it helps the individual, couple or family involved to heal their emotional wounds or grow as a person. Ceremonies for Spiritual Healing and Growth is highly recommended and easily one of the most powerful books on healing and growth that I have read in a very long time

Expert MySQL
Charles A. Bell
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781590597415 $49.99

Expert MySQL starts with a section on the anatomy of a database system including the common types of systems. This is often missing in database books and a very important part to understand if you going to use one to its fullest potential. Other sections include one on the source code and one on extending and debugging MySQL. The author devotes a chapter to embedded MySQL including building embedded MySQL applications as well as one on adding functions and commands. The third and final part of the book covers advanced database internals and includes a good section on query optimization.

Throughout Expert MySQL the author has included notes embedded with the text, sidebars offset by a different shading, and other notes, diagrams, and illustrations as appropriate to help the reader understand the text. There are also plenty of coding examples. My book had some printing problems towards the back with pages that had a vertical black line running down the center of the page. This sort of problem is highly unusual with Apress but occurred in my copy nonetheless. Chapters 10, 11 and 12 have exercises at the end to help ensure that you understand the concepts. The answers to the questions are included in the appendix.

This is not really the best book for the person new to MySQL but is more appropriate to the person who understands MySQL and wants to extend its functionality into new areas. Expert MySQL is recommended to those people who want to learn how to modify and extend MySQL.

Harold McFarland

Harwood's Bookshelf

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever
Christopher Hitchens, editor
Da Capo Press
2300 Chestnut St., Suite 200, Philadelphia PA 19103
9780306816086 $17.50

A reading of hostile reviews and comments of books disproving religion by Christopher Hitchens, Victor Stenger, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins leaves no reasonable doubt that the writers of such alleged rebuttals are not sparking on all neurons. There are four kinds of godworshippers: the stupid, the ignorant, the insane, and the intestinally challenged. No one who has read any of the foregoing authors can continue to plead ignorance.

Godworship survives and thrives by the promulgation of Big Lies. There is the Big Lie that a god exists and has revealed its existence, even though all such claims have been traced to the same Tanakh, Bible and Koran that also assure their readers that the earth is flat. There is the Big Lie that religion has, historically, done more good than harm, even though it has been the cause of ninety percent of all manmade evil for at least 3,000 years. There is the Big Lie that nontheists constitute only a tiny fraction of the population, even though nontheists make up 33 percent of Americans, compared to 25 percent Catholics, 22 percent Baptists, and 20 percent all other religions combined. Worldwide, nontheists number 2.2 billion, compared to 1.1 billion Christians, 1 billion Muslims, 0.9 billion Hindus, and 1.3 billion others. There is the Big Lie that identical behavior in identical circumstances is reprehensible when "Satan" does it, but virtuous when "God" does it, that mass murder was evil when Hitler did it with gas chambers, but is not evil when God does it with a tsunami. There is the Big Lie that persons who believe in God are more worthy of respect than persons who believe in Mother Goose, Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. And there is the Big Lie that believing that 3 + 2 = 97 is more insane than believing that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1.

There is also the Big Lie that many prominent nontheists have converted to religion on their deathbeds. One sixth of the human race, meaning one quarter of all believers, are so terrified of the inevitability of death that, without the mind-deadening opiate of an afterlife belief, they would have to be institutionalized and diapered. Since they are convinced that terror of the Christian Hell would compel THEM to become believers if they were not already brainwashed, they project their pathological cowardice onto the educated, and pretend that nontheists must also react to imminent death by turning to Mother Goose (or equivalent) in the sky. Hitchens makes clear that such stories about Charles Darwin are unmitigated lies. Similar lies have been perpetrated about Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein.

Not all of the authors Christopher Hitchens brings together in The Portable Atheist agree with all of the foregoing. Some argue that the sane, intelligent and educated should say nothing to offend that nice Mr. God, much the way Americans in 1940 and 1941 considered it politically incorrect to offend that nice Mr. Hitler. Some think the Western World should have caved in to Muslim demands that the democracies criminalize free speech and refuse to allow Mohammad to be subjected to the same satire and ridicule that is considered acceptable when its target is Jesus or Moses. Presumably, since they want to emulate Neville Chamberlain, they think that his policy of appeasing an earlier terrorist was the prudent thing to do.

In response to nontheists who "have relinquished belief only with regret," Hitchens asks (p. xxii), "who wishes that there was a permanent, unalterable celestial despotism that subjected us to continual surveillance and could convict us of thought-crime, and who regarded us as its private property even after we died? How happy we ought to be at the reflection that there exists not a shred of respectable evidence to support such a horrible hypothesis."

An early satirical questioning of the logic and sanity of religion can be found in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (p. 11):

"Did God set grapes a-growing, do you think,

And at the same time make it a sin to drink?"

John Stuart Mill lived at a time when admitting irreligious views was so dangerous that his essays on the subject were not published until after his death. Among his observations (p. 59):

"Such is the facility with which mankind believe at one and the same time things inconsistent with one another … that multitudes have held the undoubting belief in an Omnipotent Author of Hell, and have nevertheless identified that being with the best conception that they were able to form of perfect goodness."

From Mark Twain (p. 116): "There is much inconsistency concerning the fly. In all the ages he has not had a friend, there has never been a person in the earth who could have been persuaded to intervene between him and extermination: yet billions of persons have excused the Hand that made him - and this without a blush. Would they have excused a Man in the same circumstances, a man positively known to have invented the fly? On the contrary."

Albert Einstein (p. 155): "I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly."

Bertrand Russell (p. 184): "If 'Sin' consisted of causing needless suffering, I could understand; but on the contrary, sin often consists of avoiding needless suffering."

Carl Sagan (p. 231): "If we say that God made the universe, it is reasonable to then ask, 'And who made God?'"

Charles Templeton (p. 286): "The Bible says that 'the Lord thy God is a jealous God.' But if you are omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, and creator of all that exists, of whom could you possibly be jealous?"

Richard Dawkins (p. 305): "The four doomed flights of September 11, 2001, were Gerin Oil [anagram of RELIGION] trips: all nineteen of the hijackers were high on the drug at the time."

After listing the names of 138 gods, H. L. Mencken wrote (pp. 144-146), "All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead."

Among more than forty other writers excerpted are Charles Darwin, Daniel C. Dennett, Sam Harris, Penn Jillette, Karl Marx, Salmon Rushdie, Michael Shermer, and Victor Stenger.

Every chapter in this book is a powerful argument for the imbecility of religion. The downside is that the arguments are comprehensible only to readers who are sane. And the one thing the Soviet Union ever got right was its recognition that incurable godworshippers are NOT sane.

Welcome to Jesus Land: Formerly the United States of America
Chris Harper, Andrew Bradley, and Erik Walker
Hachette Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780446697583 $16.99

"As He was wont to do with almost tedious regularity, the Lord appeared in the form of a woodchuck or other nut-gathering creature as Pastor Enoch made his way through the New England wilderness" (p. 1). That introductory sentence reveals that Welcome to Jesus Land is a parody of the King James Version bible, presenting alleged history that should have been recognized as beyond belief even in 1611 when the KJV was published. "And if they don't accept Jesus as their Personal Savior, you can blow their frigging heads off later" (p. 3). And that sentence establishes that the book accurately parodies "born again" Christian thinking.

Polls show that "atheists" are America's most distrusted minority. To help True ChristiansTM to identify atheists, the tongue-in-cheek authors explain how "America's most popular fatal disease" is caught: "Like mosquitoes are to stagnant ponds, Atheism is to active minds. Anywhere conditions allow for unfettered thought, an infection of logic or a Baptist asking, 'But why?', chances are someone is about to catch himself a nasty case of Atheism" (p. 8). While Christians tend to become apoplectic when nontheists satirize their brainwashing, the fact remains that the foregoing passage could have been taken from a sermon by Pope Ratzinazi or Mad King George II in the White House. The True ChristiansTM are warned, "Any time a classroom, book or mind is open, it is Atheism season my friend!" Atheists can be identified by listed symptoms such as (1) "Hanging out in coffeehouses and any university not started to pay for a Bible-believing pastor's beach house," and (4) "Possessing a rash of diplomas. In enhanced cases, post-graduate degrees" (pp. 8-9).

In the kind of news item commonly found in Time and Newsweek, WTJL reports (p, 14) that archaeologists have "provided Creation Scientists with undeniable proof that Noah's sons used flying dinosaurs to transport polar bears, penguins and other species from far-away lands to join them for a forty-day ride on Noah's ark." Does that sound over the top, something Believers would not swallow if it appeared in Christian Science Monitor or on the Fox news channel? Anyone who thinks so cannot be familiar with the Canadian theofascist politician and former Opposition Leader, whom a critic once accused of thinking The Flintstones was a documentary. Indeed, if they were not told up front that the authors are not really True ChristiansTM, I suspect that the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter would give it their unequivocal endorsement as a delineation of their personal philosophy. While Welcome to Jesus Land is no Modest Proposal, it is permeated with the kind of satire of which Jonathan Swift would have been proud.

Books can only be evaluated on the basis on what they set out to achieve, whether that objective was intrinsically worthwhile, and how well they accomplished their purpose. Welcome to Jesus Land was designed as a comic book, and intended to be a cross between Mad Magazine, The Onion, and the Katzenjammer kids, ridiculing the ridiculous and holding the absurdities of Christianity, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, up to the cold light of day. As a certain talking chimpanzee once said with far less accuracy: Mission Accomplished. It is comic relief in a very unfunny universe, and will appeal to anyone with a functioning human brain (i.e. nontheists), fans of The Simpsons, and even moderate or liberal believers who recognize the Christian Taliban as an embarrassment to primates.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America
Frank Rich
Penguin Books
375 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
9780143112341 $15.00.

Impeaching George W. Bush and his Administration
Stefan Strozier
World Audience Inc
303 Park Avenue South, #1440, New York, NY 10010-3657
9781934209912 $15.99.

The author of The Greatest Story Ever Sold has been a political columnist for the New York Times, the New York Post, and Time, as well as a drama critic. While journalists tend to lack the specific skills of police investigators and historians, they do need to write with sufficient accuracy and professionalism to avoid making unsupported allegations that could get their publishers sued and themselves fired. On rare occasions they have even solved crimes that professional investigators could not. Frank Rich is accordingly well qualified to recognize the blatant criminality of Mad King George II and the puppet masters of the Christian Taliban who are pulling his strings, and sufficiently professional to present convincing arguments for his conclusions.

The authors of Impeaching George W. Bush, despite some of them having academic qualifications and writing experience matching or exceeding Rich's, are all amateurs in the field of political commentary. Their only relevant qualifications are common sense, and the ability to recognize that the observable behavior of George W. Bush is incompatible with the laws of the United States of America. Unfortunately, most of them consider that conclusion too self-evident to see any need to spell out the evidence in sufficient detail to satisfy the only jury that counts, the Congress of the United States, that Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors are sufficiently provable to justify impeachment.

According to Frank Rich, "This book is not intended to be a harangue about George W. Bush…. What it is instead is a critical retracing of the sophisticated steps by which some clever people in the White House, handed an opportunity and mandate by the shocking events of 9/11, unfurled a brilliantly produced scenario to accomplish a variety of ends, the most unambiguous of which was to amass power and hold on to it….. The Bush administration … dramatized its fable to the nation … even when it wasn't remotely true" (p. 2). In other words, if 9/11 had not happened, the American Hitler and his Republicanazi Gestapo would have invented it. And that is precisely what they did, seizing the unrelated events of 9/11 to justify the imposition of a Patriot Act written before 9/11 that had the sole purpose of turning America into the Texas Fuhrer's Fourth Reich, and to justify a war also planned before 9/11 against a nation that had not attacked America, a war that had no purpose but to expand the Bush Reich into an empire rivaling the grandiose ambitions of Germany's Bush prototype.

Despite Rich's disclaimer, his book is in fact a harangue against the theofascist moron in the White House. Since it is a detailed political biography of a power-crazed megalomaniac, starting before 9/11, it could not be otherwise. But its pinpoint accuracy is precisely what makes it slow reading. The information contained in The Greatest Story Ever Sold would convince any Grand Jury in America to indict the entire Bush Gestapo for high crimes and misdemeanors. The difficulty in pursuing such a course of action would lay in finding jurors - by definition, persons too dumb to be able to get out of jury service - capable of reading it without falling asleep. History can be detailed or entertaining, but not both. Rich's book is detailed.

About the most notable observation in Chapter One is, "Bush's petulance about appearing in presidential debates wasn't merely, as most of his critics felt, a function of his inability to do his homework and his fear of tripping into linguistic disaster. His absurd debate-negotiation demands … seemed to be those of a spoiled brat who wanted to play by his own rules or else take his feather pillow and go home" (p. 14).

That passage expands on Rich's various descriptions of Bush as "a dim-witted Price Club surrogate" [for Clinton] and a "pale understudy" (p. 8), "a colossal boob" (quoting David Letterman, p. 12), "Bush's greatest pre-White House successes - as a cheerleader" (p. 17), "a forgettable chief executive with no driving agenda beyond [the Star Wars boondoggle]" (p. 12), "The standard rap on Bush from Democrats in the 2000 campaign deemed him an airhead - or, more commonly, an idiot, a moron, a monkey" (p. 12).

Chapter Two is equally detailed and therefore equally dull reading. The most notable paragraph compares Bush's behavior on 9/11 with that of Rudolph Giuliani, culminating in a Bush speech that Rich describes as, "sounding every bit as fake as Rudy sounded real" (p. 24).

Rich describes Bill O'Reilly of the Republicanazi Propaganda Network (aka Fox News) as, "the self-appointed voice of the masses" (p. 8). And while he uses no stronger terminology than "professional provocateur" (mad dog might have been more appropriate) to describe Ann Coulter, he reports her call to invade the hijackers' countries and, "Kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity" (p. 28), as if the fifty million murders perpetrated by the Christians in obedience to their Sky Fuhrer's hatred of the human race were less reprehensible than Osama bin Laden's three thousand. But he is much harsher on Bob Woodward. He shows that Woodward's gullible hagiography, Bush at War, started from the assumption that the Bush Gestapo's version of events was nonfiction (p. 16). But Woodward long ago demonstrated, when he wrote that Barry Goldwater thought, "Bullshit," that his ability to separate fact from fiction has always left much to be desired. And after showing that the entire scenario swallowed hook, line and sinker by Woodward was a pack of lies of Nixonian proportions, Rich summarizes, "Still, the administration had its 9/11 story and was sticking to it - with Rove making the same unsubstantiated claim to The New Yorker and Dick Cheney doing likewise with Tim Russert on Meet the Press" (p. 25).

After spelling out in great detail the Bush Gestapo's propaganda campaign to sell the American people and Congress on the Big Lie that Saddam Hussein was preparing to attack America with nuclear weapons, biological weapons, and deadly gasses, unless America struck first, Rich reports that, "Within the next week, both the House and the Senate passed a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq … the margins were 77 to 23 in the Senate and 296 to 133 in the House" (p. 61). Rich makes no mention of who voted for the resolution and who voted against it. But he makes clear that, if the information on which Congress based its vote had been accurate, voting not to strike first would have been comparable with Neville Chamberlain's naivete at Munich. Presidential candidates are currently making an issue of Hillary Clinton's vote with the 77 and Barak Obama's vote with the 23, as if turning out to be right is all that matters and to hell with the evidence.

Americans should ask themselves whether they want their next president to be a man who attributes his recognition of the Bush propaganda as a pack of lies when 77 other Senators were willing to accept it at face value to infallible judgment, and as President will base foreign policy decisions on what might be called a gut feeling but is better interpreted as a delusion that he can read minds, or a woman who has no delusion that she is infallible, who, in the absence of any compelling reason to regard the current President of the United States as a conscienceless, warmongering liar, was willing to base her decision on the information the President made available, and as President will continue to base her policies on the best available intelligence rather than the conceit that, "they can't fool me."

Rich does not ignore Bush's ongoing attempts to turn America into a fascist theocracy comparable with the regime of Tomas de Torquemada or Afghanistan's Taliban. While he capitalizes possessive adjectives that refer to the Christian Sky Fuhrer, presumably out of terror that his self-aggrandizing deity will zap him with a thunderbolt if he is insufficiently obsequious, he recognizes, "That America's homegrown admixture of fundamentalism and political paranoia could be Taliban-esque at its extremes was a point fundamentalist fellow travelers such as the Republican hierarchy, the Bush administration, and the press claque at Fox News and the [Wall Street] Journal largely chose to ignore, if they noticed it at all" (p. 29). But that Bush's values are subhuman and antihuman precisely because they are taken from the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction, a fairy-tale ogre named "God," Rich is apparently unwilling to consider.

The rest of Rich's book is virtually a day-by-day journal, including an 80-page timeline on "what the White House knew and when it knew it," of the lies, distortions of reality, suppression of free speech, rewriting of history, violations of the Constitution, impeachable offences, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, of the most corrupt, egotistical, rationally challenged, intellectually bankrupt, morally depraved, totalitarian, dictatorial, unspeakably evil head of government since Adolf Hitler. In agreeing with Condoleezza Rice that, "History will be the judge of the Iraq War," Rich predicts that, either "future generations will discover that George W. Bush was a visionary who worked a miracle…. If so, he will be among the luckiest players in the history book, and history tells us that sometimes it does pay to be more lucky than smart" (p. 207), or that:

"[T]his war of choice could prove to be an enormous victory for Iran and Al Qaeda alike … and a political boon to other jihadists worldwide…. Should that be the case, the Bush presidency could well prove, as its most severe critics have maintained, the worst ever. Its legacy will include the destruction of America's image, credibility, and prestige abroad; record budget deficits … a subversion of the Constitution achieved by rigidly ideological judicial appointments; the abridgement of civil liberties, and outright lawbreaking in the White House … and the promotion of America's homegrown religious fundamentalism .… And that's just the short list" (pp. 207-208).

In other words, if Bush is unbelievably lucky and is retroactively credited with any possible good results of his bad decisions, he may not go down in history as the American Hitler. To any Republicanazi who expects that to happen: Don't hold your breath.

Impeaching George W. Bush tries to make the same points, but with rather less success. Editor Strozier writes (p. 13), "It is important to note that we arrived at our present troubles by outright lies spoken by the lips of President Bush. Remember when President Bush, the first, [broke an election promise]? Like father, like son…with one important distinction: the son's lies are premeditated." He also recognizes (p. 15) that, "We, the people, must recognize that the only reason we are fighting, and losing, in Iraq is to further the political aspirations and legacy of President Bush." Even most Republican Senators have reached those same conclusions - and have not considered the possibility of impeachment. Nor will reading what amounts to a prosecutor's closing statement in the absence of direct testimony persuade them to do so.

Similarly, when a Fulbright Professor, Hugh Fox, writes that (p. 9), "trillions are being spent sending soldiers over to a country at civil war with itself, as if the English had sent over troops to stop the American civil war," he is likewise speechmaking, not testifying.

In a chapter asking, "Are we asking the right questions?" poet Ernest Dempsey notes that, "No efforts at impeachment have ever been made against presidents who strengthened and armed the Taliban, or Saddam Hussein's regime." While Dempsey agrees (p. 36) that "there certainly should be an impeachment of Bush and of everyone else who went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq," he suggests that, "Bush … had to carry out the aggression as it existed for him when he became president of the US." As near as I can interpret Dempsey's point, Bush inherited predecessors' problems that left him no freedom of choice - but he should be impeached anyway. That is not a thesis I would wish to argue to the United States Senate.

Mel Waldman's 26-page conglomeration of prose and poetry might have earned a place in a literary magazine. As an argument for impeaching a theofascist demagogue it is about as useful as tits on a bull. Since Dr. Waldman continues to practise psychoanalysis, pseudomedical humbuggery that the rest of the world has long recognized as glorified tealeaf reading, his inclusion cannot fail to raise questions about the credibility of the book's other authors.

The chapter by Frank Romano is in French, a language understood by no more than five percent of the American population. So why include it in a book written for Americans? Illogical.

Journalist Franklin Liu makes a valid point when he writes (pp. 123-124), "The U.S. Senate may not have the final vote count to convict both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for their impeachable excesses, but the U.S. House of Representatives ought to pull the impeachment lever to preserve America's democracy. The power of impeachment lies in its symbolism."

Tom Frozart offers the following reasons for Bush's impeachment: "Serial lying; bogus claims about special powers, WMD; Conducting an illegal war; facilitation of crimes as described in Nuremberg Charter and Geneva Convention on POW; Committing/inducing his administration to commit a sizable number of federal crimes against civil liberties." Frozart elaborates on those points, but not, in my view, very effectively.

It is highly unlikely that either of these books could induce Congress to launch impeachment proceedings against the talking chimpanzee who has singlehandedly transformed America from the most respected nation on earth into the most hated. But at least Rich's book spells out the evidence for doing so. Strozier's does not.

William Harwood

Kaye's Bookshelf

Vanishing Act
Todd McCormick
Llumina Press
7915 W. McNab Rd., Tamarac, FL
9781595269096 $14.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Billionaire James Preston has skipped bail and vanished into thin air. Seen getting on a non-stop flight from New York to Napa, and not getting off, only days before his first scheduled court appearance, he has completely disappeared. Co-founder of the world's largest software company, Preston looted the company pension fund and ran, a crime that could bankrupt the company and send shock waves through the world if he is not captured.

"Bounty hunter Nick O'Shea specializes in catching rich-and-famous fugitives. But Preston is his most elusive and cunning prey yet. And with only a handful of people aware of Preston's disappearance, Nick must work almost alone.

"From a remote resort town in Mexico, to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and across the open Atlantic, Nick chases Preston while trying to stay in one piece. Then Sandy, the woman in Nick's life, gets ensnared in the case and placed in great jeopardy. Out in the open Atlantic, dodging a huge Category Five hurricane, the two chase the crafty and dangerous billionaire who might yet destroy them. A riveting tale of mystery and suspense."

Well, I don't know that I'd call it 'riveting suspense', but the sea tales are excellent, particularly if you've ever been to sea in a storm. It's very clear that Todd McCormick knows his boats and something of the sea. Vanishing Act is a good classic mystery novel, with some light sexual romance added for fun. The story is well-written and well-edited, with the exception of a few minor errors. If you're a mystery buff, I'm sure you'll enjoy the chase.

Morning of the Rising Sun: The Heroic Story of the Battles for Guadalcanal
Kenneth I. Friedman, Ph.D.
BookSurge Publishing
9781419680960 $39.99

First, let me say...the writing of this book was a monumental undertaking and particularly well done considering its size and content. The book is 10"x7", 1 1/2" thick, and weighs over 3 pounds - not light-weight bedtime reading for us gals, and that's the paperback edition. However, don't let its size intimidate you. This is a very personal, well-organized, thorough accounting of this lengthy battle.

Quoting from the back cover:

"Morning of the Rising Sun: The Heroic Story of the Struggle for Guadalcanal by author and his historian Kenneth I. Friedman, Ph.D., provides a thorough and thought-provoking examination of this pivotal struggle fought between the US and the Japanese Empire during the early days of the Second World War. Like other earlier battles such as Verdun in World War I and Stalingrad in World War II, both sides sent every gun, airplane, and man they could spare to Guadalcanal to decide who would win. When the Americans evicted the last Japanese solider from Guadalcanal in February 1943, the Japanese strategy shifted from the offensive to the defensive, and they began to lose territory. The Americans were now on the offensive and would not stop until they sailed into Tokyo Bay to accept Japan's surrender aboard the USS Missouri. Dr. Friedman is also the author of Afternoon of the Rising Sun: The Battle of Leyte Gulf."

If you're a history buff or have a special interest in WWII, I'm certain you will find this book worth your money and time. I particularly enjoyed the personal memoirs from that time period, the attack on Pearl Harbor and this lengthy struggle.

Willie the Actor
David Barry
Libros International
1905988192 $15.99

Quoting from the back cover:

"Glancing quickly over the bar, he saw the bartender lying face down in a pool of blood, senselessly gunned down simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"New York City in the prohibition era, and Bill Sutton's wife thinks he earns an honest crust as a rent collector. Instead, he leads an extraordinary double-life as 'Willie the Actor', a notorious bank robber.

"Based on a true story, the novel's protagonist is a gentle gunman who never once fires a shot. But it was believed he was jinxed and almost everyone he works with comes to a violent end."

Willie the Actor was a fun, easy read, and David Barry, actor turned author, writes with a captivating style. The novel is well-written and well-edited. If you enjoy stories about the prohibition era, burglaries and bank robberies, you'll most likely enjoy this book.

Puppies from Heaven
Susan Luginbuhl
Llumina Press
Coral Springs, FL
9781595268174 $12.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"A heartwarming collection of true stories detailing the joys and trials that take place in the life of a full-time dog breeder. Full of feeling and emotion, the stories are as much about the people who purchase the dogs as the dogs themselves, showing rare insight into the magical bond between dogs and their owners."

Susan Luginbuhl breeds Labrador Retrievers, and if you love animals - dogs in particular--you'll certainly enjoy Puppies from Heaven. Susan's an educated, sensitive writer; the book is well-edited, and her collection is as delightful as a James Herriot classic. You won't be disappointed.

The Inn - A Cocoa Beach Ghost Story
Ron Starr, Inc.
9781601453365 $17.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Stay as a welcome guest of The Inn at Cocoa Beach, and if you have the nerve - request room 107. Maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones who check in and check out without experiencing anything beyond a periodic ice-cold breath of air caressing the back of your neck, or a feeling someone is watching you, or a nagging sensation defined only by your soul - something is not right about the room. Or maybe you'll be one of the unlucky few to have all your senses explode as you discover 107's secret. These guests check in but never check out - at least not through the front desk."

The Inn is classic mystery genre, well written and well edited. Ron Starr is a good writer with an active imagination who writes mysteries which take place in and around Florida. Ron's other novels include Welcome of the Ahwahnee, Mounds and Retribution, all of which I have read and reviewed in the past. If you enjoy fast-paced, intriguing mysteries, you'll probably enjoy this novel.

Kaye Trout

Larsen's Bookshelf

A Beckoning Hellfire: A Novel of the Civil War
Julia Dawn Ryan Hawkins
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595435319 $14.95 1-800-288-4677

Following his father's death at Fredericksburg, Virginia in December 1862, his 18 year old son, David Summers and David's best friend, Jake left their northern Alabama farms to join with J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry in Virginia. On arrival in Richmond, Jake's horse died and he was forced to join an infantry regiment, and was subsequently killed. David found his body and buried Jake on the field of battle.

David with his super horse Renegade joined Stuart's Cavalry. Many adventures follow. Renegade has an injured hoof but helps David escape while on picket duty.

At the conclusion of her story David, following Gettysburg is wounded and trapped in a barn. Renegade leaves him and David is left to die alone. His thoughts turned toward home, his mother and sisters. He felt the life oozing out of him and prepared to join his father and Jake, closing his eyes as the "Star Spangled Banner" accompanied him toward impending death. The next and last line is "To be continued."

This novel is not "Gone with the Wind" or "Cold Mountain" or "The Crater," but it does have a good, if predictable plot. The conversations among the characters do not "ring true" and I'm left with the mystery of why the "Star Spangled Banner" was accompanying Confederate David Summers march toward death.

I enjoyed reading this book, checking facts and locations and finding some fault, but Ms. Hawkins intrigued me sufficiently to read volume two.

The French Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest
Louise Phelps Kellogg
Heritage Books Inc
65 East Main Street, Westminster, Maryland 21157-5026
9780788417665 $39.00 1.800.876.6103

Finally a publisher has the foresight to republish this landmark study of the French Regime in Wisconsin and the old Northwest as told from a "western" point of view. Published originally by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in 1925 this reprint with a comprehensive index excites many genealogists and historians interested in the Huguenots, the French-Indian War, the fur trade, exploration of the old Northwest, and the French residents of Wisconsin.

The first part of the book provides information regarding the early explorations of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes in the 17th century, the second section covers the 18th century, from the Fox Wars to the end of the French regime in the Northwest in 1761.

Of much interest to Genealogists is Chapter 18 from page 386 to 405, French Residents in Wisconsin.

Ms. Kellogg also wrote "Early Narratives of the Northwest 1634-1699," "Frontier Advance on the Upper Ohio 1778-1779," "Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio 1779-1781" and wrote with Reuben Gold Thwaites, "Documentary History of Dunmore's War, 1774" and "The Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 1775-1777," all books hard to find and groundbreaking studies.

Though 82 years old, "The French Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest" is a very readable history that has stood the time test and deserves a new market.

The Marching Twelfth, The Story of the Twelfth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment As Told By the Men Who Served in It
Peggy M. Singer, Editor
Heritage Books, Inc.
65 East Main Street, Westminster, Maryland 21157-5026
9780788420184 $22.00 800-876-6103

One hundred and fourteen years ago, in 1893, Swain and Tate, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, published a 547 page history of Company E and the Twelfth Wisconsin Regiment during the Civil War. Hosea W. Rood, late of Company E of said regiment, gathered memories from the participants of several unit reunions and produced this wonderful source of recollections about the Marching Twelfth. This regiment traveled 3,159 miles by steamboat, 2,506 miles by rail and 3,838 miles on foot. They lost 329 men killed, died of wounds, disease and accident during their almost four years of service.

Fine editing of this long out of print book by Editor Peggy M. Singer resulted in the publication of her book, "The Marching Twelfth, The Story of the Twelfth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment as Told by the Men Who Served in It."

Whitcomb and his regiment saw service in Kansas, at Vicksburg, Jackson, Natchez, and the Meridian Campaign in Mississippi, Kennesaw Mountain, Nickajack Creek, the battle of Atlanta in Georgia. Jonesboro, the pursuit of Hood, the March to the Sea and the Carolina Campaign with a final appearance at the Grand Review in Washington, D. C. in May of 1865.

Superior editing by Ms. Singer has produced a readable, affordable and accurate story of the Twelfth Wisconsin. The inclusion of the regimental roster and an index is always a joy to the genealogist.

Richard N. Larsen

Liana's Bookshelf

Glamour Job: A Fairy-Tale for Grown-ups
Doug Farrell
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419674969 $20.99

Highly Recommended

Doug Farrell, a professional theater and TV actor, is also the creator of WBAI comedy show, Nearly Normal. He lives with his family in Savannah, Ga.

This book is an original comedy story that has got fast action, and the readers will find themselves in peculiar situations. The story is about the adventures of a model, Laurie, who encounters Hawley, a blue gnome which is over 400 years old. The goblin confesses Laurie the other goblins want to replace her and warns her to take care. In this story the readers will see goblins disguised as humans and acting like humans.

Reading this book is like reading a comic book without print images. However, the images of the characters pop out in the course of the dialogue which is vivid and full of action. Glamour Job is an original fairy tale with an unexpected ending. The characters spin around Laurie whose background is Jewish, so related issues are mentioned in the story. The language is simple and colloquial and the plot is quite interesting. To sum up, this book is something out of the ordinary, and it is written in a humorous way that will appeal to a wide audience. So, it caters to adults who would like to experiment with a fairy tale and have fun!

Dump Your Trainer: The Only Thing They'll Reduce Is Your Wallet!
Ashley Marriott, Marc L. Paulsen
Booksurge Publishing
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
1419680234 $20.99

Ashley Marriott has been designing and instructing dance and fitness programs for more than ten years. Marc Paulsen is a graduate of Stanford University Medical School. Visit them at

This book is a fitness guide that will make readers reconsider their ideas about personal trainers. The book starts with Myths about personal trainers. It is interesting to notice what many people really think about them and how much a trainer can help. The diet and Fitness program is quite interesting too, as well as the exercise program that follows. On page 111 there is a food list that will make readers aware of the healthier alternatives they can use in their diet, while the goal setting section on page 113 is an important part of this book. The book includes Action steps from Day One to day 21 that inform the readers about the exercise they should do and the kind of foods they can eat. There are also tips for fast food alternatives on page 186 that will interest most readers.

It is written in a simple style that can be read by everyone, and there are photos and illustrations throughout the book to make it more appealing. It caters to anyone interested in losing weight and keeping fit at a low cost.

What They Want You to Know! Messages from Beyond the Grave
Carter Shepard and Carolyn Cummings
As narrated by John Scudder
Cumming Press
Atlanta, Ga.
9780976706311 $19.95

Very Highly Recommended

Carter Shepard has been studying metaphysics and spirituality for almost 30 years, while Carolyn Cummings has been a professional Medium and Intuitive Psychic for over 20 years. Visit them at

This book is highly original. It could be categorized as a non fiction work since it includes interviews with celebrities. However, it belongs to the field of metaphysics and spirituality and it is about the individuals who have passed on the other side, so 'fiction' should be more appropriate. The first thing that strikes the eyes is the large print; it is comfortable for the eyes and this is an extra benefit of the book as it addresses a wider audience (the elderly included).

The authors address the topic of religion, political issues and talk about forgiveness. Israel, Iran, immigration reform and social programs are some of the topics mentioned in this innovative book. The political figures in the book express their views on world matters, and all individuals mention their experiences in their past lives. The latter issue is one of the most interesting ones since the authors raise the subject of reincarnation. The book also mentions love. Leonardo da Vinci speaks about unconditional love and touches religion issues that may not appeal to everyone. Generally, this is a comforting book that will offer valuable spiritual gifts to its readership. "Earthy rewards are short-lived. Heavenly rewards are never, never short-lived" says John F. Kennedy, Jr. on page 165. Black and white photos enhance the book. Apart from the messages it shares it is very interesting since readers have the chance to 'meet' celebrities of all times.

It is an incredibly original book that no one should miss. An exciting read for those who love to travel into the spiritual world and get to know 'the other side', how it is to cross over.

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Lockstein's Bookshelf

101 Cups of Water: Relief & Refreshment for the Tired Thirsty Soul
C.D. Baker
WaterBrook Press
1745 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
1400073995 $13.99

101 Cups of Water: Relief and Refreshment for the Tired, Thirsty Soul by C.D. Baker is an absolutely charming book. It's a small hardcover filled with simple black and white photos that compliment essays by Baker about faith and the human spirit. Each essay fills only one page, and with titles like A Cup of Healing and A Cup of Strength, it's easy to find one to suit the needs of your spirit whatever the circumstance. The essays are written in first person, so it's easy to relate and learn along with the writer. I really enjoyed reading a few essays each night. I'd flip through the book looking for a title or picture that caught my eye, and then the essay would capture my heart. This book would make a terrific gift for yourself or someone else.

Splitting Harriet
Tamara Leigh
Multnomah Books
1745 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
1590529286 $12.99

Splitting Harriet by Tamara Leigh tells the tale of Harriet Bisset former rebel without a cause now Christian without a clue. Harriet, a PK (preacher's kid), lives in a trailer park for senior citizens, still attends her childhood church, and works at the diner she hopes to buy when the owner retires. After a major rebellion as a teen that included tattoos, promiscuity, and drinking, Harriet is trying to make up for her sins to the church she abandoned by taking care of the elderly within it. But Maddox McCray, the new church consultant, roars into town on a Harley Davidson and gets her bad girl blood boiling with both his edgy style and the changes he wants to make to her church. This is the first of Leigh's books that I've read, and I already have another one on my to-read pile. She manages to create lovable, realistic characters and delve into the inner life of Christians with equal aplomb. Harriet turned her life over to God, but lives in constant fear of slipping again, so she surrounds herself with safety. When I was a new Christian, I fell into the same trap: Christian music, Christian books, Christian TV. It's easy to live only within a small world within the larger world, and it feels safe. But God did not call us to retreat from the world, but to be his messengers within the world. Harriet is afraid of change and afraid of her feelings for Maddox because she doesn't trust herself to make right decisions. Leigh gives a powerful lesson about God's forgiveness being unearned and about not locking ourselves away from the rest of the world. I really fell in love with Harriet, and you will too.

Matthew Raley
Kregel Publications
0825435757 $11.99

Fallen by Matthew Raley is a surprisingly good read. Jim, a banker and chairman of his church, sees his pastor, Dave, getting out of a strange woman's Mercedes. First, Jim weighs the pros and cons of talking to Dave about appearances and propriety, then when the bombs start dropping, he has to decide not only what to do about Dave and the church, but also has to re-evaluate his own life and faith. This book started out a little slow for me, Jim does an inordinate amount of internalizing. But as he started making choices, the plot moved forward rapidly, and when I finished reading, I was stunned by the depth and honesty of Raley's writing. The story is told in an almost steady stream of consciousness from Jim's point of view, and as he remembers lessons he's learned, he educates the reader (gently) as well. The themes Fallen addresses: the superficiality of churches, fallen leaders, the fake self we show to the world have been addressed in other books, but rarely with this amount of punch-you-in-the-gut frankness. Jim realizes through seeing Dave's sins that he is equally as guilty of living a lie. He presents a face for the world to see that isn't who he is on the inside. When the mask slips, especially in front of his family, he feels threatened and attacks. The kind of Christianity that Jim (and Raley) embraces at the end is frightening in its authenticity. No masks, no pretenses, just true compassionate, loving Christianity that isn't afraid to talk about sin and death. Raley took my breath away as he took the verse Romans 3:10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; This book is a wake up call to reject the false Christianity that's easy to embrace and turn to genuine faith that lives each and every day knowing that we are fallen and are only saved by the grace of God.

The Heroines
Eileen Favorite
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
1416548106 $24.00

The Heroines by Eileen Favorite is the story of 13-year-old Penny Entwistle whose mother Anne-Marie runs an unusual bed and breakfast: heroines from classic literature come there to recharge their batteries and rest. The heroines have been a part of Penny's life as long as she can remember, and keeping them a secret is starting to wear on her relationship with her mother. When a heroine named Deirdre shows up with her hero following her, the lies to protect them get Penny in deep trouble. First a warning: this book is NOT the chick-lit the back and cover would lead you to believe. Second, it's a frustrating read. Favorite's premise is fascinating and would have made a terrific book (and possible series) had she focused on the heroines and their interactions with Penny and Anne-Marie. Instead the book takes a very dark turn when Penny is institutionalized, and Anne-Marie does nothing to save her daughter. Anne-Marie is frustratingly passive throughout the story; she seems more like the pothead than her daughter with her inability to deal with situations constructively. Penny, like most confused early adolescent girls, pushes her mother away while craving her attention, and Anne-Marie seems incapable of taking care of anyone but her heroines. The time in the mental institution is an odd interlude and goes nowhere. Several interesting characters are introduced and then dropped. A police officer believing Anne-Marie and then making the trouble all go away seems too convenient and while I can suspend my disbelief about the heroines visiting the inn, the neat resolution is beyond credibility. The secret behind Penny's father is no secret and is told an another oddly placed segue way. The last chapter skips forward fifty years and leaves more questions unanswered than resolved. Penny seems to assume her mother's role of secret passivity. A dissatisfying ending. If Favorite had split up these major issues into separate books: Penny in the asylum, Anne-Marie's romance, etc. I would have read and probably enjoyed this as a series. Instead too much story is packed into a slim volume with frustrating results.

Chill Out Josey
Susan May Warren
Steeple Hill
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
0373785852 $6.99

Chill Out Josey by Susan May Warren is the sequel to Everything's Coming Up Josey and picks up shortly after Josey's marriage to Chase. Josey is planning her happily ever after to Chase with a cute two story Cape Cod and 2.3 kids with a dog named Boo when Chase drops a bomb on her: he lost his job and has taken one in Russia. She's determined to be the Proverbs 31 wife and so does what she can to be his helpmeet. But God has some surprises in store: Josey's pregnant and Chase wants to do his job on his own, leaving Josey to find her own way in Moscow. I love Josey; she's a funny, brutally honest narrator. Even when she's struggling to make Chase happy, the reader knows the cost on her and her faith. Her confessions of weakness and need to succeed make her easily relatable and a good friend. Most women can relate to her frustration with weight gain during pregnancy and seeing all of Chase's size 2 co-workers. Warren focuses on a couple of verses again in this book. This time it's Ephesians 3: 18-19 May have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Josey comes to learn just how deep God's love is, and how keeping secrets in a marriage can (almost) destroy it. I love Warren's style of writing. She teaches while entertaining and creates characters that you want to visit again and again.

Meet the Next President
Bill Sammon
Threshold Editions
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
1416554890 $23.00

Meet the Next President by Bill Sammon is a brief guide to the candidates with biographies and stands on major issues. The book covers Mitt Romney, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Fred Thompson, Bill Richardson, and John Edwards in detail. I was a little disappointed in the coverage; this was not the book I expected. Maybe it's asking too much in this age where every reporter has a bias, but I was hoping for objective, thorough coverage of each candidate. I didn't really notice the bias until reading the bio of Hillary. Then I flipped to the back flap and noticed that Sammon works for FoxNews. Ok, that explains it. While I'm no fan of Hillary's, his bio seemed determined to focus on the most negative aspects of her life. Romney's flip-flopping is accentuated, as is Hillary's shrillness, Obama's unusual upbringing, and Edward's legal antics. That said, I did learn a great deal about each candidate profiled, but I feel that perhaps Sammon released his book too soon. Richardson is already out of the race, Thompson has yet to show, and "dark horse" Mike Huckabee only merits 3 pages. This book is a good start to the research needed to make the right choice in the voting booth, but it's too incomplete and biased to give the whole story.

Self Talk, Soul Talk: What You Say When You Talk to Yourself
Jennifer Rothschild
Harvest House
322 South Enterprise Blvd., Lebanon, IN 46052
0736920722 $12.99

Self Talk Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothschild is a wonderful, convicting devotional. Rothschild, who is blind, addresses all of the ways that we hurt ourselves by thinking and talking to ourselves in negative ways. God loves us and calls us His own, so when we berate ourselves for mistakes and say that we're stupid, we're giving in to the words of Satan. Rothschild helps to discern between helpful lessons and harsh criticism. She uses the analogy of a closet to help the reader understand better how we can change our inner thoughts. We wouldn't wear clothing that came out of the dump or garbage, so why do we allow ourselves to wear attitudes created by harmful self talk? I was convicted multiple times by Rothschild firm, but gentle, teaching. The chapters are short and easy to read in one night. I really enjoyed reading this book, learning about Rothschild, a fantastic role model, and working to change my own soul talk.

Christian Writer's Market Guide 2008
Sally Stuart
WaterBrook Press
1745 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
1400074614 $34.99

Christian Writer's Market Guide 2008 by Sally Stuart is an amazing resource for Christian writers. With lists of agents, publishing houses, periodicals, writers' groups and conferences, this is a book that can and should change the life of any writer reading it. I found several magazines I intend to submit articles and reviews to, plus several agents who are willing to look at unpublished authors. The book is arranged in an easy to understand fashion with TONS of info packed on every page. A CD is included with the listings, so you can search through them on your computer as well. Stuart has provided a unique and vital help for any Christian writer either well established or just getting started. Don't pass this one up!

American Jennie
Anne Sebba
W.W. Norton
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110
0393057720 $26.95

American Jennie by Anne Sebba is the story of the incredible life of Lady Randolph Churchill. American Jennie Jerome fell in love with Brit Randolph Churchill in a whirlwind courtship. After overcoming parental objections on both sides of the match, the couple wed and quickly produced son Winston. But the romance faded soon, and both engaged in affairs. They pulled together to get Randolph into the House of Commons, but for most of the rest of their lives, they lived apart. Sebba digs through newspaper accounts, family records, diaries, and letters to produce this well put together biography of an unusual woman. Jennie was well known for her beauty and her indiscretions in a time when women were still considered a husband's property. She produced a literary magazine, helped get both her husband and son seats in the House, traveled extensively, and cared for her husband at the end of his life. Randolph, who suffered from syphilis, was a difficult man, capricious even before the disease attacked his mind. Sebba tries to defend and protect Jennie where possible, but even in the best of lights, Jennie was an atrocious mother who ignored her children. In the end, the picture that emerges of Jennie is of a woman determined to live life on her own terms. She produced children, but that didn't make her a mother. She was married, but was a better wife to her lovers. She lived very much in the moment, always in debt and buying Worth gowns. Sebba does her best to make Jennie likeable, and to an extent, she succeeds. Jennie would be a wonderful addition to a dinner party, but not someone you could count on as a friend. A couple of complaints: there are not nearly enough photos of Jennie. For such a famous woman, I'm sure there are many more out there that would have shown her recognized beauty to better advantage. Also, Jennie and her sisters spoke French, so they peppered their letters to each other with French phrases. Sebba also throws several in her writing. I don't know French, so I often felt a bit left out. Sebba easily could have included translations in brackets, because the meaning was usually not easily gleaned from the rest of the passage.

Other People's Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See
Bill Shapiro
Clarkson Potter
1745 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
0307382648 $22.50

Other People's Love Letters by Bill Shapiro is a fascinating peek into love: its beginnings and endings, and the twisted path between. Shapiro, whose website has many more of these letters, asked his friends and ex's for old love letters. They, in turn, asked others giving Shapiro a huge range of letters to choose from in making this book. From sweet text messages, to post divorce rants, these letters are enjoyable and insightful. It's amazing how similar letters written in the first throes of love are: you're amazing; I can't live without you. But Shapiro tried to pick letters that said something deeper and love and the human condition. It's not a book you want to read in one sitting; reading too many back to back makes them lose their potency. But taken in small doses, it's a great way to remember how good love feels in the beginning and how sweet it can be after many years. Some of my favorite letters were the ones written by married couples several years in. Shapiro includes a short epilogue with brief stories about some of the couples who wrote the letters. Reading these made the letters even more powerful, especially the one from a husband serving in Vietnam in 1969. A great read, perfect as a Valentine's Day gift; give it with your own love letter!

What's the Big Deal About Jesus?
John Ankerberg & Dillon Burroughs
Harvest House
322 South Enterprise Blvd., Lebanon, IN 46052
0736921206 $12.99

What's the Big Deal About Jesus by John Ankerberg & Dillon Burroughs is a perfect apologetic book. The authors sift through historical and archaeological information to give readers the lowdown on what we can really know about Jesus. From Was the tomb really empty to Did Jesus say he was the Son of God? each chapter addresses a specific question raised not only by nonbelievers, but by believers themselves who want to know the truth about Jesus. Did you know that there are LOTS of historical attestations to the character of Jesus outside of the Bible? Or that archaeologists have found Peter's house in Capernaum and Lazarus' tomb in Bethany? Me neither, and this book has not only information you can use to defend your faith, it also has factual tidbits that are fascinating. Sometimes apologetics books lean too heavily on Scripture alone for support or are written for scholars rather than laypeople. The authors are down to earth, at times humorous, and real. This book could easily be used in a Bible study or for youth; it's an excellent resource.

Happily Even After
Marilynn Griffith
Steeple Hill
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
0373785984 $6.99

Happily Even After by Marilynn Griffith is the last book in the Sassy Sistahood series (No!!!!) Griffith is one of my favorite authors. She always manages to capture real women in tough situations and do it with grace and style. I want all of her characters for my friends, and I definitely want to attend the churches in her books. Tracey has married Ryan, the man of her dreams, they have their fantasy home, and a perfect baby girl. What could go wrong? Well, just about everything. Tracey is struggling to make her web design business a go between taking care of her baby and trying to fit in at their new church. But Ryan's business isn't going so well, and in his fight to keep their finances afloat, he pulls some pretty shady maneuvers. And his mother named Queen Elizabeth (really!) scorns everything about Tracey from her weight to her breastfeeding. When the Queen embarrasses Tracey in front of their entire church, and Ryan doesn't back her up, she's at the end of her tether. But God works in mysterious ways, and he uses her humiliation as a way to introduce her to the women of the church. Soon Tracey is making friends and getting her self confidence back, except for about her weight; she just can't seem to lose the last few pounds of baby weight. Tracey is a realistic, fantastic woman, and reading about her frustration with her weight and mothering duties, plus handling her mother-in-law makes for enjoyable reading, whether I'm laughing or crying with her. Tracey learns to lean on God for her needs instead of her husband, and as her faith deepens, so does the story. Griffith has a powerful story with messages for women of all races and colors.

Finding God's Path Through Your Trials
Elizabeth George
Harvest House
322 South Enterprise Blvd., Lebanon, IN 46052
0736913742 $12.99

Finding God's Path Through Your Trials by Elizabeth George is not an easy book to read. George asks the reader to take the words of James "count your trials as joys" to heart, and that's a tough one. It's far easier to complain about our troubles and look for a way out from them. But George explains through Scripture that God brings each trial into our life for a specific reason. There is something to learn, something to be gained from it. There are many ways we try to get out of these trials, but unless we embrace them, we will have to experience them again and again until the lesson is learned. Suffering from the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis, this book came just at the right time in my life, and it spoke to my heart. Looking for the joy in this trial, I've found several lessons I've been taught and blessings that have come from it. George writes in a conversational manner that's easy to read and incredibly thoughtful. I can tell that she prayed over her words before she shared them. Going through a difficult time in your life? This book will help you find the joy in it, even if that seems impossible.

Abandoned Identity
Tamara Tilley
Evergreen Press
9350 Dauphin Island Parkway, Theodore AL, 36582
1581692420 $12.99

Abandoned Identity by Tamara Tilley starts off with a storm that brings Harrison Lynch and Jennifer Patterson together in their office one night. After months of bickering and fighting for power, the two see each other in a new light when Jennifer becomes ill and Harrison becomes her caregiver. Sparks fly between the two, but the next morning, Jennifer has abandoned her life and disappeared. When Harrison investigates, he finds that she wasn't who she said she was, and she haunts his dreams for several years until a chance meeting brings them back together again. Now Jennifer has to trust Harrison with her life and her secret if they are to be together. Tilley takes an intriguing premise and runs with it. Jennifer, a firm non-believer, is a great character; she's smart, fast on her feet, and stubborn. Harrison, who finds faith after losing Jennifer, is every woman's dream: handsome, caring, protective, and sweet. Together they make a terrific couple. Occasionally the dialogue is a bit clunky, and the plot doesn't always flow, but the story and action make it work. I really enjoyed how Tilley wove the story about David hiding from Saul into the mix. There are several parallels, especially when Jennifer fakes insanity, but they are never overpowering. The way Tilley uses them makes both stories come more fully to life. This is a wonderful book by a new author, and I think with a little more experience, she will make a first rate writer. I look forward to reading her other books.

Firefly Lane
Kristen Hannah
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, USA
0312364083 $23.95

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah is the story of Tully and Kate. Tully Hart and Kate Mularkey become friends in 1974 when they are both 14-year-old girls in Washington State. Their friendship weathers the changes of fashions, careers, children, and miles as they grow up, apart and together. Tully is the daughter of a drug addicted hippie who wanders in and out of her life. Kate is grounded by her strong Irish Catholic family, and each envies the others' lifestyle. Tully provides Kate with a much needed makeover, and Kate gives Tully a family and direction in her life. Tully quickly grabs hold of the dream of being an anchorwoman and depends on it to take her from foster care into a world where everyone loves her. Kate follows along on Tully's coattails for awhile until she falls in love with John, a TV news producer who at first only has eyes for Tully, but soon falls for Kate's sweetness and stability. Tully's career takes off like a rocket while Kate makes time as a stay at home mom, but both have regrets and questions about their chosen careers. Their friendship waxes and wanes through the years, but it's an amazing journey. The pop culture references make it a joy to read as well from Tully's Farrah Fawcett hairdo to the Norville/Pauley spat on the Today Show. The book is a homage to vintage snack foods and fashions; remember TaB? Hannah has a way of writing that makes it difficult to put the book down. Her writing is both lyrical and earthy, capturing moments with almost painful poignancy: But no matter how hard they all tried to be normal, their life was a dirty window that couldn't be wiped clean. Everything, every moment was coated by illness. The story of Tully and Kate is one of love and forgiveness and kept me up until 1:30 in the morning until I finished it in tears.

The Power of a Woman's Words
Sharon James
Harvest House
322 South Enterprise Blvd., Lebanon, IN 46052
0736918698 $12.99

The Power of a Woman's Words by Sharon Jaynes is a fantastic devotional about what our words can do for ourselves, others, and our relationship with God. Jaynes spends the first couple of chapters demonstrating what our words should be doing: praising God and encouraging others. Then the book dives into how we can change our attitudes and in doing so, change our words. She uses personal anecdotes and Biblical passages to back up her points and does so in a powerfully intimate way. It feels like talking to your spiritually mature best friend. The companion study guide is a must have.

The Power of a Woman's Words Study Guide & Workbook
Sharon James
Harvest House
322 South Enterprise Blvd., Lebanon, IN 46052
0736921508 $7.99

The Power of a Woman's Words Study Guide & Workbook by Sharon Jaynes is the first Bible study I've ever really done. Each chapter has lots of Scriptural look-ups for memorization as well as to illustrate the Jaynes' points about how our words have the ability to lift up or crush other people, bring us closer to God, and help us appreciate each day more. By pairing passages from Job's wife with Abigail, the true power of our words really hits home. She focuses on how we can help our husbands, children, church, and friends in ways that are real. I've read the Bible through three times, but doing this study helped me dig deeper in these stories and see them in a new way. I spent about three days on each study to let each point sink in. I learned a tremendous amount from this book, and the message is one that will stick with me.

Christy Lockstein

Margaret's Bookshelf

Marriages, Shack-Ups, and Other Disasters
Kurt Meyer
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive. Charleston, SC 29418
9781419666513, $16.99

Written by Kurt Meyer, a marriage and family counselor of over 35 years' experience, Marriages, Shack-Ups, and Other Disasters: How Choice Pollution Has Screwed Us All Up is more than a look at the root causes of today's skyrocketing divorce rate; chapters cover how cultural revolutions in the wake of the Sixties have offered a paralyzing array of choices, while simultaneously eroding human connections. Cohabitation outside of marriage has statistically been shown not to lead to any better chance of a successful marriage; Meyer traces the root of this to the fact that marriage involves legal and societal responsibilities that are the antithesis of a live-in relationship where either party is free to walk away at any time. Consumers are more burdened with debt than ever before, in part due to lack of spending control egged on by the frenzied pressure of endless advertising. Chapters discuss exercises meant to aid communication between couples and families, and examples of divisive dialogues rooted in underlying conflicts and the steps necessary to resolve the struggle for dominance abound. A thought-provoking commentary on social and relationship ills of the twenty-first century, offering innovative solutions and techniques for balancing responsibility, harmony, and respect for the authenticity of one's positive and negative emotions.

Living as if Heaven Matters
David Shibley
Veritas Communications
PO Box 2075, Canon City, CO 81215
9781599791661, $14.99

Missionary statesman David Shibley presents Living as if Heaven Matters: Preparing Now for Eternity, an inspirational guide for Christians to making the most of one's opportunity to prepare for the hereafter. Living as if Heaven Matters discusses the rewards of heaven for those who have lived a life of service and surrender, as well as ways to avoid and cope with negative emotions that detract from one's ability to serve including burnout, bitterness, and obsession with minutia. The crux of Living as if Heaven Matters is embodied in a single, yet utterly pivotal question: What are you doing now that will still matter one hundred years from today, or even forever? "When heaven matters to us, the gospel will matter to us. When heaven is center stage, the gospel will be center stage. The essence of our message - Christ crucified and risen - will be restored to its rightful place of preeminence. I am sick at heart that it is increasingly possible to slip into many evangelical churches for weeks and never hear the gospel. If the pastors of these churches lived as if heaven matters, it should not be so." An unforgettable revival of Christianity's core teachings and message of service.

Women, The New York School, and Other True Abstractions
Maggie Nelson
University of Iowa Press
100 Kuhl House, 119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781587296154, $42.50 1-800-621-2736

Award finalist poet Maggie Nelson presents Women, The New York School, and Other True Abstractions, an in-depth contemplation of women in and connected to the New York School of Poets from the 1950s to the present. Analyses of the work of Barbara Guest, Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, Eileen Myles, and abstract painter Joan Mitchell as well as feminist insights into a number of male New York School writers and artists offer new interpretations of issues of anonymity vs. publicity, solitary vs. communal existence, enduring vs. ephemeral aspects of life, domesticity, boredom, inspiration, sex, and politics. Above all, Women, The New York School, and Other True Abstrictions strives to have the reader reconsider the concepts of "schools" or "avant-garde", cutting down to the fundamental questions: why do we read, and how do our gender and sexuality affect our interpretations of what we read? "If there's one thing Mayer's work has to impart, it is a promotion of the paradoxical value of the gratuitous itself. To allow for this paradox - to pay attention to it, to admire it - is to salute that which is unpaid, uncalled for, unjustifiable, and, in a complex sense of the word, free." A small handful of black-and-white photographs illustrate this thoughtful analysis, including an unusual gelatin silver print of a man masturbating.

Greek East and Latin West
Rev. Dr. Andrew Louth
St. Vladimir's Seminary Press
575 Scarsdale, Road, Crestwood, NY 10707-1699
9780881413205, $22.00 1-800-204-2665

Written by Russian Orthodox priest Andrew Louth, Greek East and Latin West: The Church AD 681-1071 is the third volume of "The Church in History" series and continues the scholarly accounting, from the end of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod in 681 to the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. Examining the "Greek East" and "Latin West" branches of the church in parallel, and noticing developments destined to eventually foster a schism between Eastern and Western Christianity, Greek East and Latin West discusses iconoclasm, monastic developments, spiritual and intellectual life in Byzantium, and much more. An inset selection of black-and-white photographic plates round out this informed and informative analysis of a pivotal phase in Christian history.

Margaret Lane

Paul's Bookshelf

Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow
Jim Hightower and Susan DeMarco
John Wiley and Sons
111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9780470121511 $25.99

A central principle of American progressive politics is that the average American should not be afraid to stand up for justice and fair treatment for everyone in society. It is not necessary to attempt to fix all of America's problems all at once; start with your own town or workplace. This book visits a number of people and groups doing just that.

It's no great revelation to say that the American family farm is in very bad shape. A number of groups of farmers have banded together into democratically-run cooperatives to get decent prices for their products, something they could never have done individually. Employees of a Madison, Wisconsin cab company were tired of being treated like garbage, so they joined a union. A couple of strikes later, the owner abruptly closed up shop. The employees scraped together enough money to buy the company, and despite long odds and sleepless nights, have made the company a success. The employees of a strip club in San Francisco faced a similar dilemma. They joined a union and got their working conditions improved, then the owner suddenly closed the club. The women, several of whom have college degrees, decided that the only thing to do was become a worker-owned cooperative. They split up the duties, and got a crash course in running a business.

Creation Care is a growing movement that mixes environmentalism and evangelical religion. A way that corporations keep people apart is to assert, for instance, that gain for environmentalists means a loss for labor. Evidently, the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers of America never got the memo, because they recently developed a joint public policy agenda, with clean energy at the top of the list. Don't think for a second that a person loses their ability to make a difference in America once they reach "old age."

This is another excellent book from Jim Hightower. There is a list of addresses in the back (both regular mail and email) for all the groups mentioned here. If a person can't find a local group in which to get involved, they could do a lot worse than contact any of these groups. What can I do to make America a better place? Here is a wonderful place to start.

Prospect Factory
Ted Stevenot
Palmetto Publishing
P.O. Box 541145, Cincinnati, OH 45245-1145
0972542221 $26.95

As a salesperson or self-employed person, generating new sales leads is an important, but challenging (to put it mildly) necessity. It's worse when there is no natural market, you can't call people you know, and there are no referrals. This book shows how to get around such obstacles.

First of all, decide on a market for your product; not "everybody." Perhaps you should focus on companies in a 50-mile radius with sales of over a million dollars per year. Get a mailing list from the state business association or from a mailing list company, and decide who, on the list, should be called. Set aside a certain amount of time, whether daily, weekly or monthly, to call people on that list, and stick with it. Have a script in front of you identifying yourself, and asking to speak with the person who purchases widgets (or whatever you are selling). Come up with your own system, on the list, to distinguish between No Answer, Out of Service, Person Not Available, etc. If the person asks to be put on your Do Not Call list, always honor such requests, but don't cross them off your list. Cross reference your Do Not Call list with any future, or updated, lists you may purchase. That way, you have that many fewer people to call.

For those who say some version of Maybe, be sure to make follow-up calls, if appropriate. Ask if you can send them a one-page sheet about your product, which you will already have written and printed, and have ready to fax or mail, that day. If you are still "in the running," this is when you offer to put together a pricing proposal, or meet with the potential client, to see about turning Maybe into Yes. If they ultimately say No this time, they may say Yes next time, so your efforts are not totally in vain.

This is a specialized book, but a good and easy-to-read book. Anything that makes cold calling less unpleasant is worth investigating. This is well worth the time.

The Terror Conspiracy: Deception, 9/11 and the Loss of Liberty
Jim Marrs
The Disinformation Company Ltd.
163 Third Ave., #108, New York, NY 10003
1932857435 $16.95

The official 9/11 story says that a group of Muslim fanatics, full of hatred for American freedom, hijacked four airplanes on the same day, and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Led by one person with a computer in a cave in Afghanistan, they were able to defeat America's $400 billion defense system. Using mostly mainstream news sources, the author asks questions that no one else has asked.

US military war games took place the very hour of the 9/11 attacks. It is possible that they were designed to be so distracting that they may have contributed to the success of the real attacks. According to several experts, the destruction of the World Trade Center looked more like a controlled demolition than the result of terrorism. There is a huge difference between the temperature at which jet fuel burns, and that needed to melt reinforced steel. If planes really did bring the World Trade Center, where did those extra thousands of degrees come from? Firefighters who reached the affected floors reported a couple of small fires, but no steel-melting inferno.

The author also looks at the reasons for planning war in Afghanistan and Iraq, even before 9/11; namely, oil and drugs in Central Asia. He also looks at the connections between 9/11 and groups like Halliburton, Harken Energy and BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International).

He also explores the backlash in America, including things like the Patriot Act, the ignoring of the Posse Comitatus Act, the building of internment camps and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

This book does an excellent job of shredding, once and for all, the "official" 9/11 story. It is a first-rate piece of journalism that is very much worth reading for all Americans.

Heaping Stones
Rob Woodard
Burning Shore Press
P.O. Box 14479, Long Beach, CA 90803-9995
0976885905, $13.00

Set in present-day Long Beach, CA, this is the story of Rob, in his late thirties, and still an unpublished writer. He is having a hard time dealing with the abrupt walking-out of Maggie, his wife, several months previously. Rob seems locked into a cycle of self-hatred and drunken rages.

Veronica has a free and open sexual nature which seems to make up for a self-esteem level of zero. It is as if Veronica feels that her only worth as a human being is based on what is between her legs. After a three-day binge of sex, sleeping together and more self-loathing on Rob's part, he finally lets it all out, and physically throws Veronica out of his apartment.

Rob busses tables at a local restaurant to pay the bills. A fellow employee is Rachael, a vivacious recent high school graduate with a sweet and innocent nature. They engage in some playful flirting during work hours, which gets their fellow employees to gossiping. Even better, from Rob's point of view, is that Rachael enjoys reading Literature (she is actually familiar with Scandinavian writer Knut Hamsun), something about which Veronica is basically clueless. Rachael inspires Rob to take another look at some of his past writing attempts, stashed in a drawer. Her sweet nature begins to show Rob that there really is a light at the end of his emotional tunnel.

This is a short novel, moving from bitter to almost optimistic. It shows the big difference between "sexual" love and "real" love. There may have been a little too much emphasis on the sex scenes, but this is still a good piece of writing that is worth reading.

Don't Waste Your Talent: The 8 Critical Steps to Discovering What You Do Best
Bob McDonald and Don E. Hutcheson
The Highlands Company
1328 Boston Post Rd., Larchmont, NY 10538
0975511211 $15.95

A sure road to success involves two things: find out, once and for all, just what you are really good at, then find the right fit between you and your job. That's what this book is all about.

Few people think like this because of what the authors call The Lemming Conspiracy. People are supposed to work 60 or 70 hour weeks in some office building, because their worth as a human being is defined by their job title, and the number of zero's in their bank account. Anyone who is not on the "fast track," thinking of little beyond that next promotion, must be morally deficient. Liking your job, or feeling fulfilled, or having time for your family, is irrelevant; work is supposed to come first. Sound familiar?

Most books of this type look at just one or two areas, like interests, or goals, or hardwired abilities, to decide what is the "right" sort of job for an individual. This book explores eight different areas, with thought exercises throughout, so the reader can be pointed in the right direction.

Does the answer to a problem suddenly pop into your head, or are you more of a methodical, step-by-step type? Can you handle people coming to you with problems or questions on a non-stop basis, all day? Introvert or extrovert? Specialist or generalist? What is most important to you; family, health, excitement, spiritual fulfillment, etc? How much time per day do you spend doing what's most important to you? What sort of family did you grow up in? What sort of personal boundaries would you like to set up regarding your job (no more late nights, no more weekends, etc.)? What is your boss likely to accept?

Many books are available attempting to help the reader find the sort of occupation that is best for them. This one belongs at, or near, the top of the list. It will get the reader looking at themselves in a whole new way.

Metal Swarm
Kevin J. Anderson
Orbit Books
c/ o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
0316021741 464 $25.99

This book, part 6 in the series, takes place in the far future, after a brutal galactic war. Klikiss robots pretended to be humanity's friend, building soldier compies (battle computers) for the Earth Defense Forces in their war against the hydrogues. The compies were all programmed to turn against their human hosts at a particular moment, killing thousands and stealing many Earth battleships. Sirix, the leader of the robots, uses these Earth battleships to attack undefended Earth colonies.

The leader of Earth, Chairman Basil Wenceslas, is forced to abandon all of Earth's colonies, to concentrate whatever forces he has left on Earth's defense. The figurehead monarchy, King Peter and Queen Estarra, escape to a forest world called Theroc, to set up a rival confederation, which the former Earth colonies gladly join. Now that the war is over, Chairman Wenceslas wants those former colonies back under his leadership. He makes an example of an average, undefended farming colony, by sending a fleet with orders to flatten and destroy everything. The whole event is filmed, and is to be shown to all other former Earth colonies.

Meantime, the original Klikiss are a black, insectoid race that live in colonies (like a bee hive). They have an overwhelming desire to fight and destroy all other colonies, called breedexes. They attack breedexes on other planets through transportals, teleportation portals spread all over the galaxy. When there is only one breedex left, it grows until critical mass is reached, and that breedex spreads to other planets via the transportals, when the fighting resumes. The original Klikiss were thought to have been extinct thousands of years ago, leaving their mark on many, now inhabited, planets. They're back, and they want their planets back. The Klikiss have no problem at all with annihilating anyone, or anything, that gets in their way.

When reading a series, I am one of those who must do it in order, so the summary in the front of this book is a big help. It also helps because there is a lot going on in this book, perhaps too much. Having said that, if the rest of the series is as good as this volume, it is very much worth checking out. It is a very interesting story that will certainly keep the attention of the reader.

Paul Lappen

Richard's Bookshelf

Why Am I So Unhappy? And what to do about it
James Downton, Jr., Ph.D.
Robert Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759028 $11.95 541-347-9882

Dr. Bob the Happiness Coach

James Downton has created a fictitious happiness coach, Dr. Bob to provide entertaining and humorous stories in dialog form. Through these imaginary characters he tells about the people he has coached, those he has helped increase their happiness, creativity, and the wisdom to apply the principles discussed in the book. The book is about developing wholeness and creativity, cultivating wisdom, inner peace, and happiness.

Each chapter is made up of a story dialog and valuable coaching tips. These chapters deal with discovering your own inner critic, self acceptance, and the power of creating new choices. Downton emphasizes the importance of developing the gift of inventing positive stories and creating positive thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

Dr. Bob offers suggestions on learning to laugh at yourself, on evaluating fear, reducing guilt to elevate happiness, and to change your thinking patterns from "poor me" to "lucky me." He shows the reader how to deal with anger and lying, creating balance, developing a life purpose, learning how to handle resistance to what we cannot change. I was especially challenged by the results revealed about myself when I took the "Vampire Test." His analogy of the four chambers of a generous heart became especially meaningful to me.

Another feature of the book was the "Creative Side Tracts." These unique summary statements offered help in shaping your thoughts, the benefit of creating hope, pointers on living with the romance of unhealthy foods, the consumer truth test, on learning to like yourself, and how to appreciate being alive.

Jim Downton cultivates inspiration, imagination, and spontaneity in "Why Am I So Damn Unhappy?" This is a book that will help the reader expand awareness, unlock a bold and free spirit within, inspire creativity, and change. Humorous, entertaining, and life changing.

Thanks, Jack: In Need of a Miracle
Jack Rose
Back Channel Press
170 Mechanic Street, Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801
9780978954659 $19.95

A Story of Miracles, an Angel Named Jack, and a Boy Growing Up

Twelve year old John Albert Rose succumbed to an influenza epidemic in February 1936. His mother was devastated and was in deep depression for three months. In a dream or vision, in a miraculous way "Jack" brought his mother, Minnie Rose, a message of assurance that all would be well; another son would take his place. This gave Minnie hope and she resumed her life as mother and wife.

On the exact day of Jack's death two years later Minnie gave birth to a son.

Minnie claimed this as a miracle, a son to take Jack's place. He was named after his brother, John, and lived in his shadow for years to come. From an early age, Johnnie felt a bonding with his brother, Jack, and soon strongly believed that Jack was watching over him. He had his own personal guardian angel.

"Thanks, Jack" is Jack Rose's own story. It is an inspirational, humorous story of growing up in the 1940s and 50s. Jack's story is packed with fun filled memories of childhood mischief, neighborhood friends, and reminisces of miraculous rescues.

Jack relates times spent with Bogie, Colleen, Jan, and a dozens of other childhood friends. All had a part in Johnnie Rose's pranks that frequently backfired. The humorous adventures with Johnnie often end in close calls and calamities that take him and his friends to the brink of danger.

Throughout this entertaining and delightful memoir Jack (Johnnie) writes with a fresh candor that gives credence to his belief in a spiritual force and the power of angels in his life in a non theological setting. Johnnie's story is filled with fishing and hunting adventures with his older brother, George, and his friend Bogie. He tells of his success and failures in the classroom and of his love for classic hot rods. Johnnie's story is an inspiration to a good work ethic. He relates how he worked to help his widowed mother, by taking a paper route and working a odd jobs, how he was able to pay for his fishing and sporting gear and for rebuilding his car. As I read Johnnie's boyhood stories I found myself reflecting on my own life and the parallels I found in common with him.

From his earliest memories throughout his high school years and graduation, Rose keeps the reader entertained, engaged, and eagerly turning pages to discover another amazing frenzied "need of a miracle." The final chapters were filled with anticipation as the story drew to an unexpected, surprising climax.

"Thanks, Jack" is a book about family and about boyhood. It will be enjoyed by anyone growing up in the 40s and 50s and can be used as a challenge for the reader to relate their own stories, orally or in writing, for their own children, and grandchildren to enjoy and cherish for years to come.

On Common Ground
Vincent DiGirolamo
Celestine Publishing, LLC
9660 Falls of Neuse Road, Suite 138, #146, Raleigh, North Carolina 27615
9780978681531 $19.95

Vincent DiGirolamo has written "On Common Ground" in an attempt to bridge the divide that often exists between those of different religious persuasions. DiGirolamo sets out to address beliefs shared in common among people of all faiths. He maintains that there is a common ground of beliefs, principles, and values, from the scriptures accepted by all who call themselves Christians. It is this principle-centered approach that is followed throughout the format and contents of the book. These principles are arranged topically.

The book includes 2,000 principles cataloged and arranged under 1500 topics headings. The recent upsurge in interest in Latter-day Saint beliefs gave DiGirolamo the impetus, he needed, to compile the material included in this important effort to bridge the Mormon Evangelical Divide.

The principles addressed under the topical headings are drawn directly from the King James Version of the Bible or from additional Latter Day Saint Scriptures. No commentary or interpretation is provided other than the referenced Bible verses and reference sites of the Mormon writings, this is to help establish those principles that are common in practice and are determined to be shared beliefs.

This approach will not only help to clear up misconceptions but will encourage a deeper exploration into these Biblical principles. It is the authors hope that this will in turn foster a greater understanding of the commonality among those pursing an active meaningful Christian experience. "On Common Ground" has given me insight into a new approach to examining Biblical principles in my own personal Bible Study.

I found Vincent's own personal journey to faith interesting. He was raised Catholic, and converted to Mormonism. He shares a personal and intimate spiritual experience this way: "On bended knee I asked God in earnest one evening, having studied it out in my own mind. Is Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah spoken of in the Old Testament? That day I received my answer with all the warm feelings of my heart - Yes, He is - and I now knew it for myself and not from any other source."

This courageous step to "Bridging the Mormon Evangelical Divide" is admirable. I want to commend Vincent DiGirolamo for taking this first step in a worthy effort for Christians to take a solid stand "On Common Ground."

Under the topic "Deceive" Vincent asks us the reader to consider the warning found in Matthew 24:23, 24. "…For there shall arise false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Another exhortation under this topic is found in Ephesians 4:14. "Be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with the wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lay in wait to deceive."

While there are many common principles that can be agreed on among Mormon and Evangelicals, as Christian believers we must be careful to preserve sound doctrine and to acknowledge that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of God, the promised Messiah.

Defending Your Faith
John Ankerberg and Dillon Burroughs
AMG Publishers
6815 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421
9780899572451 $14.99

Knowing and Understanding the Basis for Your Faith, an Equipping Tool

John Ankerberg and Dillon Burroughs challenge the reader to consider the basis of their faith, in this user friendly study guide "Defending Your Faith." The book is designed to help the reader understand the development and accurateness of the Bible. The inter-active studies are formatted to be used over a twelve week period. They can also be adapted for personal or group Bible study. The book is one of six titles in the Following God Christian Living series which uses a topical approach to Bible study.

An important question regarding the Christian faith is considered in each individual lesson. The evidence is presented with clarity to help the reader understand the material preparing them to communicate these truths to family, friends, or others seeking answers.

The chapters are divided into suggested readings to be studied over a five day period. Lessons provide valuable information and background material on such topics as: The Bible as God's Word, other religions, evolution, creation, the resurrection, miracles, prophecy, and the problem of God allowing suffering and evil. Opportunities are provided for self expression to assist the reader in assimilating the material. The lessons are filled with scriptural evidence for study, reflection, and to equip you, the reader, to defend your faith.

I personally found the word studies helpful. I also appreciated the thought provoking questions, the personal application opportunities and the insightful quotes from renowned Bible scholars.

"Defending Your Faith" is an outstanding study and provides a chance for the reader to apply truths personally, It provides steps to learn what the Bible teaches and secondly how to communicate the message of the Bible. The lessons can be adapted for inclusion as curriculum in church discipleship and new believers training programs. I recommend this book for consideration by pastors involved in adult education opportunities, to every Christian Education Director, to small group leaders, and for individual study, and one-on-one discipleship mentoring.

Along the Templar Trail
Brandon Wilson
Pilgrim's Tales, Inc.
P O Box 791613, Paia, Hawaii, 96779
978097053681 $17.95

A Pilgrimage for Peace, an Adventure a Quest and a Purpose

Brandon Wilson's describes his own personal pilgrimage in his new book "Along the Templar Trail." This is Brandon's account of his own self-exploration on an important journey for the cause of peace. This is an incredible account of an exciting adventure and mission that took him from St. Jean de Losne, France to the city of Jerusalem, a distance of 2,620 walking miles.

Brandon's imagery is so vivid and real I could almost feel the pain of blisters forming on my own feet as Brandon told of the miles he walked. My back ached along with E'mile's under the weight of his twenty-seven pound backpack. I escaped the torture of Brandon's swollen feet and painful exposed blisters, as I laid back in my recliner; loaded some Gregorian Chant CD's in the player and lived vicariously the quest of two men traveling two continents on a pilgrimage for peace. With them, I entered the transcendent experience of the Baroque Chapel and the Benedictine Monastery at Beuron, Germany.

Brandon tells of quiet contemplation and reflection along his walk this way: "Isolated, I wore the solitude like a comfortable cloak…a primeval sanctuary, the most holy of cathedrals…allowing retrospection and quiet contemplation…"

Brandon and E'mile each faced their own personal quest. They had to individually confront their insecurities, the unknowns, the "what if" questions, the pains, limitations, and fears. Risk, danger, in-climate weather, and the challenge of physical endurance created an air of drama and suspense throughout the odyssey. As nerves became frazzled and patience wore thin the ongoing relationship between the two pilgrims was threatened.

I enjoyed the accounts of "angels" miraculously providing food, lodging, and encouragement at critical stages along the way. Engaging stories of generosity, and camaraderie, demonstrated the universal concern for peace among peoples of every ethnic group, culture, religion, and generation.

Brandon's clever word pictures and picturesque phrases reveal a subtle humor, even as these same words demonstrate the reality of the drama of life. "The streets were patched together like an ugly, gray, communist quilt, rife with moth eaten holes. It had more bulges than a fat lady in Spandex. The corridor was strewn with trash, rotting animals, and those ever present plastic liter bottles."

In the midst of all this poverty Brandon experienced another side of life on those rare occasions when at the end of the day he shared meals and the hospitality of emphatic hosts. I enjoyed Brandon's ongoing culinary descriptions of ethnic cuisine and epicurean delights as well as his commentary of wine aficionados, and his connoisseur's taste.

Opportunities opened for Brandon and E'mile to appear on TV through interviews reaching over 1,000,000 people demonstrate the power of one or two individuals to make a change when dedicated to a cause. These seed thoughts sown through the media coverage gave opportunity for prejudice to be challenged in hopes of producing needed change.

Photos depicting highlights of the journey, important monuments, buildings, and locales add a significant dimension to the book, especially for any who may want to consider their own pilgrimage along the Templar Trail. It is Brandon's deep-seated hope that as a result of his 2600 mile walk the route will be established as a path of peace. The first step has been taken so others may follow the trail in a bond of fellowship that goes beyond nationality, faith, or culture.

"Along the Templar Trail" is a timely, important book. This is a first step to fostering peace and eliminating the root cause of war. This is a book for every peace loving American to read. Wilson's writing is thought provoking, engaging and inspirational, highly entertaining and informational.

Oops! Wrong Family
Debi Toporoff
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
1591859166 $10.99

An Amazing Story of Abuse, Redemption, and Recovery

"Oops! Wrong Family" is disturbing, haunting, and memorable. The book is a testimony of survival and of emotional pain healed through God's redemptive love and salvation. It communicates an important message, and is a rewarding read.

Dr. Debi Toporoff's story is disturbing. It is a story of parental abuse. Debi's desire is to communicate a message of hope to encourage other victims, and survivors of abuse experience wholeness. Debi's speaks of redemption and recovery. Hers is a story of survival, of working through the pain and suffering of physical abuse. Debi tells of her father's neglect, and of her mother's irrational behavior.

Mistrust, insecurity, worthlessness, inadequacy and the pain of loneliness all describe the feeling Debi experienced. She graphically relates alarming stories of her mother's tirades and the consequence of the beatings that followed.

Debi's early life of personal dysfunction were the result of the effects of abuse, parental rejection, the damage of being berated, the emotional scars of continuous isolation, and of the failure of her parents as caregivers to provide needed food and clothing.

Several foster families, caring teachers, and co-workers helped Debi learn to trust, to reach out in love, and to understand the message of Jesus, his forgiveness, unconditional love, and hope. This is a story of rejection, redemption, and renewal.

Authorities today recognize child abuse as a major social problem, and acknowledge that it is the cause of scores of people's suffering, and personal Today we are facing up to the prevalence and significance of child abuse, physical, sexual, and emotional, and of the potential long term psychological and mental behavioral issues that stem from these abusive experiences.

It is Debi's concern that through the telling of her personal story the hurt of those dealing with the memory and pain of abuse will be eased. It is also her prayer that the book will minister to those looking to understand what children suffering from abuse have experienced.

What Does Jesus Say About. . .Christ Speaks to Us Today
Cecil Price
AMG Publishers
6815 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421
9780899576114 $34.99

A Comprehensive Topical Reference in the Words of Jesus

Cecil Price, Senior Research Fellow with Christian Information Ministries has compiled this thorough and important reference tool. His extensive research in preparation of the book makes "What does Jesus say about" a significant work for every serious Bible student and pastor.

Biblical Texts (quoted from the sayings of Jesus) are arranged in alphabetical order by a key word, term, concept or phrase, beginning with "abandonment" and closing with "Zechariah." The format includes the setting. This allows the reader to visualize more clearly the verse in context with the related scripture.

The book is not intended to be a commentary or a dictionary but is designed to give the reader an opportunity to study the words of Jesus' as the commentary on a topic, or concept chosen for consideration.

The New American Standard Translation (updated edition) of the Bible is used as the text source for the Biblical quotations and references. I found the introductory chapter on "How to Get the Most Out of This Book" especially helpful. The appendix includes two helpful significant articles: "How to Personally Know Jesus," and "Resources for Additional Study," as well as a "Map of the Ministry of Jesus."

This user friendly resource tool provides insightful, well organized material that will be a valuable addition to the library of pastors and Bible teachers alike. It is an excellent resource for sermon preparation, for research for Bible school and seminary students, and as an important guide for lay leaders. It is also valuable for any one desirous of becoming more familiar with the teachings of Jesus.

I personally found "What does Jesus say about…" practical and helpful for preparation for my own group Bible study participation and for reflection and devotional use. I have placed it in a prominent place on my study shelf for easy access and frequent use.

The Road to Catoctin Mountain
Robert J. Gerard
Xlibris Corporation
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781425703172 $21.99

An Inspiring Memoir - A Journey of Faith, Family, and Career

"The Road to Catoctin Mountain." is a memoir of the life of Retired Col. Robert J. Gerard. The book tells of an intriguing journey from his childhood days in New York and New Jersey during the depression of the early 1930s throughout a successful career covering over forty-five years. He shares in detail memories of his junior high and high school experiences during World War II.

Robert had a twofold purpose in writing this memoir: to leave a story of his life and experiences for his eight children and his grandchildren. He wanted them to see him as a man with both strengths and flaws. He was also encouraged by friends to write his entertaining stories which impart information and inspiration. It his hope that by putting them into print others will gain the benefit of his experience.

After graduating from high school Robert took a job at one of the Edison factories in West Orange, New Jersey. He was impressed by the heroic war stories told by two co-workers, veterans of WWII, and enlisted in the army in 1951 eager to service in Korea. During his basic training he applied and was accepted for Officer Candidate School prior to being sent to active duty in the Korean War.

Gerard records detailed accounts of his army career assignments and his observations into the leadership styles of many of his superiors and fellow officers. I personally enjoyed Robert's the subtle way he injected humor in telling of his diverse experiences, relationships and events. I found his forthright observations on business management and philosophies of classroom strategies and educational goals to be noteworthy and vital.

Gerard's career journey includes 31 years of service in the U. S. Army, several post-retirement jobs with the state, the federal government, a civilian corporation, and as a professor at Mount Saint Mary's College on Catoctin Mountain. In this final career adventure Robert found fulfillment as teacher, mentor, and advisor to his students.

A quiet sincere tribute to his wife and family characterize the narrative as Robert writes of the importance of his wife Mary Lee to his success. His children, his marriage, and his career all have a part in this journey. The pride he has for the individual members of his family bear evidence of their love and respect. The careers they chose and an ongoing pursuit of their parent's faith are testimonies that justify this family pride.

I highly recommend "The Road to Catoctin Mountain" to retired and career servicemen in any branch of the United States Military and their families, to World War II, Korean and Viet Nam veterans, and to all patriotic American citizens. This was an enjoyable reading experience.

Restoration Totally
Yvonne Mallory
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
1591859026 $11.99

Releasing the Bondage of Abuse through Rebuilding and Restoration

Yvonne Mallory relates her own story of a codependent relationship as a backdrop for her recent book "Restoration Totally." Yvonne is a popular speaker and CEO of the Women of Destiny Conference. She writes with understanding and empathy. Her goal in writing the book is to help others who are struggling with the heaviness of a battered spirit, and for those suffering the despair and helplessness of abandonment, and loneliness.

Yvonne shares a six-step formula which includes measures to be taken to put this plan into action steps including: root out the problem, pull down the strongholds, destroy the handicaps in your life, overturn the crippling components, and build your life on the foundation of Christ.

Putting this formula into action will help the reader overcome the negative challenges of low self-esteem, rape, molestation, and the resulting hurts of abuse. She draws lessons from the writings of the apostle Paul, and the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. She uses illustrations from the life of David, and from the prophets of the Old Testament to build a six step formula for total restoration, spiritual, emotional, and mental. In addition to her own story of vulnerability, and heartache Yvonne draws on events from Biblical history and from contemporary experiences to help the reader identify with the truths of the scriptures and to understand the principles of total restoration.

The message of "Restoration Totally" is strong. I appreciated Yvonne's candid in approach, her practical applications, and solid Biblical teaching. Yvonne Mallory offers help to anyone seeking release from the captivity of spiritual bondage.

Not My Child
Linda Harvey
Living Ink Books
6815 Shallowford Rd., Chattanooga, TN 37421
978089570341, $ 12.99, 148 Pages

Teen Paganism, Consequences, and Guidance for Parents

Linda Harvey in her new book "Not my child" informs concerned parents how the very core of our country's Christian heritage is being undermined through the media, the entertainment industry, liberal educators, and politicians who are laying foundations to attract children and teens to accept the tenets of New Spirituality and a Pagan lifestyle.

Well organized with a natural progression noting the deceit, distraction and dissension of pagan influences desensitizing and manipulating today's impressionable youth. These outside influences are producing twisted thinking and confusion among our young people. The emphasis on tolerance is misleading and in fact creates a spirit of dissension. Students who take a Christian stand are ridiculed and ostracized.

Linda gives a clear warning of the spiritual assault permeating our culture. She details the ways our teens are being exposed to casual occultism, mysticism and witchcraft and of the dangerous consequences of this influence on our youth. She alerts concerned parents of the subtle and blatant deception prevalent in recent legislation regarding self determination for minors in matters of heath care and children's rights.

I felt the information dealing with content of contemporary textbooks and curriculum being introduced at both elementary and high school levels in our public and parochial schools is extremely important.

The documentation, end notes, references, and helpful websites provided in the bibliography are available resource for every Christian parent to use to advantage. The final chapter provides proactive step by step suggestions for parents to take to counteract the evil forces corrupting our children today. "Not my child" is an amazing documentary on the threat to Christianity in a country based on the principles of the freedom of religion.

Richard R. Blake

Slessman's Bookshelf

Light of the Moon
Luanne Rice
Bantam Dell
9780553805116 $25.00

Suzanne Connolly, a cultural anthropologist, takes another of her explorative journeys when she travels to France to see the beautiful white horses of Camargue. The circumstances of her mother's death have left her seeking answers which can only be found by visiting the Camargue.

Upon arriving in France, Suzanne meets an American, Grey Dempsey who owns and operates a stable in the area. Grey's daughter, Sari, is a troubled teen whose mother, Maria, left her and her father suddenly five years prior. These two become Suzanne's focus during her visit as well as a band of Romani Gypsy women.

During her visit, Suzanne is drawn into the complexity of a mixed marriage, a damaged relationship between mother and child, the lure of the gypsy life with a sprinkling of the spiritual life.

Rice brings the book to an expected ending and a smile to the readers face. If you want a good afternoon's read, this is your book. Light in it's subject matter, it provides some entertaining and thoughtful prose.

Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog
Ted Kerasote
Harcourt Books
9780151012701 $25.00

Being a dog owner myself…count them, four…I was attracted to the fine looking dog on the cover of Merle's Door, Lessons from a Freethinking Dog. What looks like a cross of a Golden Retriever and maybe a bit of hound stares at you with eyes that indicate this guy has HEART.

The book offers both a compelling story of a relationship between a human and his canine friend and an education in dog training, animal behavior patterns and veterinary care. All aspects of this work offer good reading. A reader must not only allow time to read this work, but time to reflect on the philosophical aspect of the content as well.

I love a good tear jerker and the ending of this book will leave you with an aching heart and wet eyes.

Merle, the dog's name, is loved by all who had the pleasure of his company, whether that is those who skied, hunted and ran with him or the townspeople who came to know him from his visits to the nearby town.

Connected to Merle's story is the story of other dogs and their owners. Kerasote is a master at getting to the heart of these animals and leaves a reader with a distinct idea of the dog's personalities.

A writer by profession, Ted Kerasote knows how to tell a good story and I will certainly look for more of his works. To Mr. Kerasote, "thanks for sharing Merle with us; it was a pleasure getting to know you both."

Annie Slessman

Susan's Bookshelf

Have You Found Her
Janice Erlbaum
New York
9780812974577 $13.95

For anyone who has experienced rescue fantasies, Have You Found Her by Janice Erlbaum, a daily journal writer, offers a true story of a rescuer who learns and grows from her experiences. This engaging second memoir of Erlbaum's, invites readers to investigate her first book, Girlbomb, a story of her own struggles as a teenage runaway.

In Have You Found Her, a non-fiction thriller, Erlbaum relates her efforts to repay a debt of gratitude by volunteering at the same youth shelter that helped her when she was a homeless teen. In the course of her work as the "bead lady" who shows up every Wednesday to teach the girls how to make their own jewelry, she quickly learns to how reach the girls at the shelter. Giving them something to do allows the girls to open up to her at their own pace without Erlbaum becoming intrusive in their lives.

An honest storyteller, Erlbaum shows how she struggles with the shelter's rules to maintain distance designed to protect the girls and herself from getting too involved in each others' lives. From the start, she routinely breaks each rule as she becomes more engaged, develops favorites, and soon becomes attached to Samantha (Sam), a girl whose life parallels her own.

A writer who understands that dialogue moves the action along, Erlbaum shows the ups and downs of supporting Sam, being overwhelmed by Sam, being manipulated by Sam, feeling threatened by Sam, having compassion for Sam, and embracing Sam as she struggles with a variety of illnesses including a possible AIDS diagnosis.

At the same time, Erlbaum weaves in her love for Bill, the first man to love her in a humanly healthy way, her own addiction to pot, and her struggles with relationships within her family. Managing all these branches in the story without being sappy or preachy, Erlbaum shows how relationships can grow and thrive.

Using her own ambivalence toward the significant people in her life, Erlbaum chronicles her fear of having honest dialogue with others while demonstrating how her attempts at dialogue keep the relationships healthy and intact.

As Erlbaum builds suspense page by page, the reader must stay engaged to the end to find out who will survive these relationships, and who will ultimately survive as Erlbaum depicts her characters' metamorphoses from being needy to experiencing autonomy. Although the book gives readers an inside look at the life of a rescuer, it also is a "how-to" for showing how helping others results in personal growth and how relationships grow through compassion, support, mutual understanding, and respect.

My Bent Tree
Kathy Brodsky, Illustrations by Cameron Bennett.
66 Prospect Street, Manchester, NH 03014
9780615160665 $19.95

If you have ever wondered how to teach children about activism but lacked the resources that would help further your cause, My Bent Tree presents an opportunity to teach many lessons about diversity, activism, accepting differences, and working for justice.

In this brightly illustrated children's picture book, My Bent Tree leads the reader to appreciate differences in others and how helping them leads to rewards for herself. In this story written in rhyme, a child finds a tree in the woods that she notices is not perfect in every way, but she appreciates its shade and company. Soon, it becomes her favorite tree. Later, when the woods might be cut down to build a strip mall, the child, now a young adult, works with others to lobby against taking down all the trees, and a portion of the woods is set aside for a green space near the strip mall.

As a way to teach activism, ecology, and appreciation of those who are less than perfect, the book ends with two pages of discussion questions that guide teachers and parents in fostering inclusive attitudes toward others rather than discarding or disrespecting those who are less than perfect. Based on the author's own experiences of struggling to overcome the effects of polio and her subsequent work as a social worker, Brodsky's motivation in writing My Bent Tree was to show that "by reaching out and helping others, we also help ourselves."

Author Kathy Brodsky is a psychotherapist, life coach and poet living in New Hampshire. Her first book, Moments in Our Lives published in 2004 is a collection of vignettes told in verse about life's turning points from the birth of a baby through old age.

Illustrator Cameron Bennett has been illustrating children's books since 1977 when he was six years old. My Bent Tree is his first published children's book. He is also a portrait painter, and teaches Argentine Tango. To learn more about Cameron Bennett, go to

Susan M. Andrus

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

To Hell and Back
Lillith Saintcrow
Hachette Book Group, USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316001779 $6.99

The fifth, and final, Dante Valentine fantasy-horror-thriller, To Hell and Back concludes the journey and total transformation of a kick-ass, female, demon-killer. What other series contains such a cheeky protagonist who yells to the Devil: " 'Hey.' My voice, cracked and husky, echoed all along the bowl of rubble. 'Blondie. You two-faced lying sack of demon shit.' My face froze, lips stretched in a facsimile of a smile. 'You've got business with me first'" (p 354).

Like previous novels, Saintcrow includes several classic movie-worthy fight scenes (the one of Dante vs. the demonic spiders and imps while falling off a moving hover-train springs to mind as the best in this book). Overall, the book is wonderfully written with gorgeous passages such as: "He laughed like murder in a cold alley at midnight" (p 176). There were many demon characters in the book including a room full of them toward the end, each having a totally different look, smell, and feel to them: "A demon with fat yellow tentacled dreadlocks leaned slightly aside in his chair, his fingertips drumming the tabletop in one smooth arc. He had eight fingers on his right hand, and I stared at the muscle working in his slim forearm" (pg 293).

While repetition from previous novels in the series was kept to a minimum, there were many angst-laden internal monologues of Dante, especially in the first 150 pages of the book, that played the same tune over and over, ultimately dragging down the pace of the story.

However, followers of the series will not be disappointed in this final novel, as Saintcrow does a wonderful job tying up all the loose plot ends from the previous four installments.

Duma Key
Stephen King
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416552512 $28.00 592 pages

Though the first 50 pages or so of Duma King read like film noir, Stephen King eventually grew into the usual horror story that we have come to expect of him.

Having endured an accident at work that left him with only one arm and a brain that won't allow him to communicate as efficiently as he wants, Edgar Freemantle divorces his wife and moves from Minnesota to Florida to recover. While there, at the behest of his psychiatrist, Freemantle takes up painting, a past-time that he had all but forgotten in his former life as a builder. As Freemantle's paintings progress into works of disturbing art, he realizes that his brain, like those of two other residents of Duma Key, has an evil side.

The novel has well-developed characters who interact well with one another, however, there is only one fully-realized female character. Of the main characters, King does not explore the young male character until the final 100 pages of the novel.

The novel slowly moves from a psychological mystery/thriller to a horror novel. Like many of King's successful novels, he takes the ordinary, gives it a little twist (that makes it just plausible enough to maybe really happen), and then gives himself over to true paranoia. He also includes interesting historical and geographical references within the novel. It is a definite edge-of-the-seat horror thriller.

More Short Scenes and Monologues for Middle School Students: Inspired by Literature, Social Studies, and Real Life
Mary Hall Surface
Smith and Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755
9781575255606 $11.95

This large volume is rife with distinct voices, multicultural characters, and engaging scenes. The monologues are not just a string of questions, but the unseen character the soloist is speaking to is clearly defined within the monologue making them useful for character study and acting in general. The characters throughout the volume are age appropriate and the plots presented would be of interest to middle school and younger high school students.

The volume is organized well with short monologues divided by gender in the first half of the book and scenes with incrementally increasing number of characters in the second half of the book. The book is useful for classroom use (beginning through advanced classes), character work, ensemble work, and practice for students blocking and directing scenes.

Monologues range from the historical (immigrants coming to America, pg 74) to current issues (global warming, pg 78) but are always seen from the young person's point of view. The multicultural voices included in the collection are realistically written with appropriate diction and rhythm to their speech. Occasionally, indigenous words (xie xie, pg 10) are scattered throughout monologues, but the correct pronunciation as well as the word's meaning are always included so as not to confuse the student. The topics are relevant and even come from literature the students may be studying (To Kill a Mockingbird is mentioned in one monologue).

Some of the scenes in the second half of the book are adapted from longer plays (pg 82 "Over the Rainbow") and so have well developed characters. Surface also includes magical characters (a spirit cat, a cricket) as well as inanimate objects to give students a chance at playing non-traditional characters. Dialogue in the book is engaging and differs from piece to piece so students can work on pace and tone when speaking.

This is an excellent book and would be useful in a variety of classrooms including speech/communication, drama, English or social studies.

111 One-Minute Monologues by Type
Kristen Dabrowski
Smith and Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755
9781575255293 $11.95

Though less predictable than some of Dabrowski's monologue volumes, many of the monologues included in this book deal with conflicts outside of the character and are presented as a series of mostly questions to an unseen and occasionally undefined other character. As stated within the title, the volume is organized by "types" (players, geeks, addicts, troublemakers) feeding in to Dabrowski's biggest problem of stereotyping characters rendering the book useless for true character studies.

The most interesting monologues have characters questioning themselves about subjects such as whether or not to ride with a drunk driver (pg 34), convincing a friend not to have sex (pg. 39), contemplating a gender change (pg 54), confronting parents who don't recognize the speaker's worth (pg 55), acting stereotypical of the character's race (pg 71), or confronting an absent father (pg 78).

Some of the monologues are humorous looks at the characters' foibles such as self- aggrandizing (pg 14), gullibility (pg 16), acknowledging past mistakes (pg 36), or vanity (pg 27 and pg 64).

The benefits of this volume are outweighed by Dabrowski's never-changing voice and diction and by her usual use of general stereotyping of teen cliques (Emo pg 29 or Popular pg 67). This book could be used for classroom rather than tournament use, but volumes such as More Short Scenes and Monologues for Middle School Students (Mary Hall Surface) or More Scenes and Monologs from the Best New Plays (Robert Ellis) would be more universally useful.

My Life as a Musical
Maryrose Wood
Delacorte Press
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385732789 $15.99

This delightful novel would make any teen sing out in joy! The novel is written so that each chapter title is a song from a well-known musical (the name of the musical, date it was published, and who wrote the music, lyrics and book are all presented within the chapter title as well). Organizing the plot by song title is clever not only because of the plot twists within each chapter, but because it is a device employed within each chapter by Emily and Phillip, the two main characters, as an ongoing test of their music theatre knowledge.

Teens need not be well versed (or even necessarily interested) in musical theatre in order to understand or appreciate the novel. Wood has only used musical theatre as a framework for the larger theme: the rich fantasy life of teens. Wood explores the difference between reality and fantasy for teens as her protagonists try to solve the mystery of who wrote the smash musical Aurora.

Phillip and Emily make their way to the city each weekend to watch Aurora. They are fixtures among the fanatics of the show (some of whom dress up a la Rocky Horror style) who queue in line for tickets that are released the day of the show. Phillip comes from a poor background with a cruel big brother and a mostly absentee single mother. He has found solace in watching Aurora weekly with his best friend Emily and with keeping a log of statistics on Aurora. Emily, whose quirky grandmother pays for the two teens' tickets each week, is so immersed in the fantasy life of Aurora and its surrounding websites and other fans, that she is unable to think of anything else.

In desperation, after discovering Aurora will be closing in only one week, Emily lies to her parents as to her nightly whereabouts and steals money from her grandmother in order to purchase tickets for each of Aurora's performances over the next week. Upon being found out, Emily's mother insists she have spiritual counseling with Rabbi Levin. Emily explains to Rabbi the allure of Aurora - that even though Emily sees herself as "a unique and spectacular individual, destined for a life of joy and achievement. . ." that by being part of the weekly Aurora audience "she was also an inextricable and beloved part of something much, much larger than herself" (195). Instead of chastising her, Rabbi Levin tells her, "It taught you that life is ephemeral - the moments happen and are gone, and we have to cherish each one as it passes . . . . It's what we do, who we are right now that defines us. Not our memories, not our fantasies - but this moment, now" (196). Emily, Phillip, Emily's grandmother, and the author of Aurora, all discover that actions they perform in the everyday living of life are what are truly important.

Junior and senior high students (as well as adults) would enjoy the fast pace and humor of this wonderfully uplifting novel.

Terrilyn Fleming

Tetrick's Bookshelf

Batista Unleashed
Dave Batista & Jeremy Roberts
World Wrestling Entertainment
1241 East Main Street, Stamford, CT 06902
9781416544104 $26.00

Dave Batista, one of WWE's current big stars, while his autobiography was in the planning stages, stated that he was a pretty boring guy and was only going along with this because the WWE wanted to push a book about him. He was right - through no fault of his own, his book is not exactly must read material.

Batista Unleashed, likely as told to Jeremy Roberts by Dave Batista, is the life story of the sudden sensation of a big man who started in the industry late in life, debuting at the age of 33. As the man is only 38 when the book was released to store shelves last October, most of the book is mostly based on his personal life.

And that's kind of the problem. As a fan of a lot of wrestling autobiographies, I read mostly for the road stories and other industry workings in the strange and unique business of professional wrestling. Batista and Roberts do try to make the best of it, trying to put in as many interesting diversions as they can, since the book is an obvious cash in on Batista's current popularity.

The story follows Batista from his childhood on the rough streets of Washington D.C., into a run with a bad crowd and a brief life of crime. He spent much of his young adult life serving as a bouncer, a natural given his height and build. He goes into his time as a bodybuilder, which he credits to saving his life. He spends much time speaking of his relationships with various women, and the resulting unplanned children from those unions.

As expected, he doesn't actually start to speak of the wrestling industry until he's a good ways into the book. For what's there, he makes it entertaining and is seemingly not afraid to throw mud, which can be a positive or negative depending on one's opinion on the maturity of that. There are some fine gems of passages in the book, such as Batista's altercation in the WCW Power Plant with a small pasty white career jobber/trainer by the name of Sergeant Buddy Lee Parker saying that the future Wrestlemania Main Eventer would never make it in the industry.

Another plus I'll hand the book is that Batista actually reflects on his past and is actually regretful of some of his past screw ups, such as the aforementioned delving into a life of crime, and even in the wrestling industry such as his known backstage brawl with fellow star Booker T. This is a nice change of pace to other books in the genre, where the author was always in the right and everyone else has no idea what they're talking about.

On the flip side, as a duality, he still comes up as bullheaded a lot of the time, almost to the point of comicality. As an example, are his claims to be sleeping around with many of the WWE's Divas - women wrestlers. The need to promote this fact(if it is a fact) is a strange one to stick in one's book, especially given it's talking about a relatively current time of not even a year ago. One would think you'd keep your current sexual exploits to yourself until a later date, not publish them all for the world to see.

It's by no means the worst wrestling autobiography you could buy. But you could do better. If you're a big Batista fan, it's probably worth a read. A general wrestling fan? I'd place it low on your list behind A Lion's Tale, Have a Nice Day, To Be The Man..., Etc. For a non-wrestling fan? I wouldn't even bother, as I do not see much universal appeal here in this obvious WWE Cash-in.

A Lion's Tale
Chris Jericho with Peter Thomas Fornatale
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446580069 $25.99

Chris Jericho is one of the most charismatic and talented wrestling superstars of the recent era. During his recent two year hiatus from the ring, he took the time to put down in his memoirs and story down in book form for the world to follow. For a shocking change of pace, there is actually a contender to Mick Foley's first two autobiographies(Have a Nice Day & Foley is Good) for king of the professional wrestling autobiography, the book that spawned dozens upon dozens of other autobiographies in a genre previously empty, primarily due to the existence of Kayfabe (Professional Wrestling's code of Secrecy).

A Lion's Tale: Around The World In Spandex, written by Jericho himself with Peter Thomas Fornatale credited as a collaborator, is one of the few books of any genre to make me read it from beginning to end and become annoyed when I was interrupted from my reading time, a rare breed of book indeed with good pacing and few spots that drag on and on. Jericho keeps you reading with much of the flair of his microphone work in the ring- good solid content with a witty one liner here and there to catch you off guard.

A Lion's Tale follows Jericho from the less than humble beginnings of being a Sports star's son in the form of New York Ranger Ted Irvine all the way to Jericho's WWE debut in August of 1999 where the Lionheart moniker ended and the Y2J moniker began. Along the way, Jericho gives you entertaining insights into the road of the international wrestler, all while showing that he's quite possibly a bigger nerd than us all, drawing pictures of himself as tag team champions with Owen Hart in high school.

His story goes from being in a Training Camp with the Legendary Hart family. Well one Hart who shows up once then hands it off to some other guy. The fun of trying to get started in the pro wrestling industry, which consists of a lot of low paying jobs where you work with sleazy people who may or may not pay you depending on the alignment of the planets on that day - proving pro wrestling has much more in common with the other jobs in entertainment than most people would believe.

His first breaks where he screws up his first impression in Japan royally, starting a curse that dooms his first match to suck wherever he goes, but getting his first major break in Mexico where he goes from being some pretty boy gringo to El Corazon De Leon, who stars in comic books alongside magical talking frogs and has to buy his own bootleg merchandise. Traveling to Germany, he then has to adapt to the strange, and apparently exclusively German pro wrestling practice of wrestling the same man every night in front of the same crowd every night, thusly being forced to come up with a new match every night or not get payed.

His time in SMW, Smokey Mountain Wrestling is worth reading if only for his description of an insane fan tape titled 'Strange Kentucky People'. While that may be strange, it goes to just plain sad when you get to see the mess that WCW was from Jericho's perspective, where he got paid fabulously well because it was all Ted Turner's money anyway and the people who ran it didn't care. At all.

Jericho keeps the book flowing by giving the potential readership of his book exactly what they want- the meat of the industry and entertaining stories. He keeps any mention of his personal life light which is fine by my watch as other wrestling biographies went too far into it and it really hurt the book as a whole. The few delves into it are kept in good faith, such as a particularly awesome scene of him grabbing a guitar and rocking out with a street band in Mexico City. He does express his Christian faith throughout, but he never gets preachy.

It's not perfect though. While he keeps the mood of the book light and cheery throughout it all, it would have been nice for him to go into some pressing issues that effect the industry such as steroid and drug use. The most he says about it is admitting to some pot use while down in Mexico. Additionally, he falls into one of the most common pitfalls I've seen in autobiographies, the 'I'm always the good guy' philosophy. Which means you should always take his side of the story as just that - his side of the story.

Overall, if a non-wrestling fan were suggested to pick up wrestler's autobiography, I would whole heartedly recommend A Lion's Tale right along the holy grails of the genre Have a Nice Day & Foley is Good, being a solid insight to what it's like to try to make it in this industry. I personally anticipate the obvious follow up, as the book ends in August 1999 - giving Jericho nine more years of certainly eventful material involving his WWE career and hiatus to tell us about.

C.L. Tetrick, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

Hurricane Punch
Tim Dorsey
c/o Wm. Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060829681 $7.99 800-242-7737

Serge A. Storm returns with his zany antics and sense of humor flavored with Florida history, his love of truth, disdain for bothersome people and fascination with hurricanes. In this novel he chases a succession of hurricanes, ending with two climaxing at the same time. Accompanied by his unusual friend, Coleman, he rides the eyes of a succession of hurricanes all over the State.

Meanwhile a serial killer is besmirching his reputation, and he goes all out to find the imposter and end the competition.

The novel is amusing, inventive and is unexpected in both plot and denouement. We suggest highly that you read it. And then go on to the author's latest effort, Atomic Lobster, of which a review will be forthcoming shortly.

Vienna Blood
Frank Tallis
Random House/Mortalis
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 800-782-9000
9780812977769 $15.00

Following the monumental debut novel, A Death in Vienna, the author has followed up with a second book of equal proportions. He brings back psychiatrist Dr. Max Liebermann and Inspector Oscar Rheinhardt as they face a formidable serial killer who leaves strange symbolic signs in what appears to be random murders.

The novel takes place at the turn of the century in Vienna and is filled with hints of the onset of Nazism and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its culinary tastes. Sigmund Freud plays a minor - but crucial-- role in providing Max with psychiatric insights into the meaning of the killer's psyche. The combined talents of the police inspector and the psychiatrist again fortify each other's efforts to discover the identity of the savage murderer.

The depth of the descriptions of Viennese society and the city are magnificent. The plot is overwhelming and supplies a penetrating look into Max's personality and ethics. It is a great novel.

Half the Blood of Brooklyn
Charlie Huston
Del Rey/Ballantine Books
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345495877 $13.95 800-726-0600

Charlie Huston specializes in sick noir, and this novel is as hard-boiled as it gets. It seems there is a shortage of blood and the Vampyre clans in Manhattan don't wish to share with the outer boroughs whose Vyrus-infected members start to encroach across the bridges and tunnels.

Joe Pitt used to be a PI - his own boss - but times change and a sick friend with AIDS pushes him into becoming head of security of the renegade Society Clan. It gives him plenty of money and a steady supply of blood demanded by the Vyrus. Unfortunately, he has to cross the river into Brooklyn to find out why the natives are encroaching on the Society's turf. Plenty of danger.

The novel isn't for everyone. The plot, language and horror is far out. I, for one, was repelled by the book. If you have a taste for the macabre - and blood - maybe you won't be. One character sums up the novel in a few words: "Most people are f-ing prudes. They don't get anything. They think if something's different, that means it's like it's abnormal. Like there's such a thing as normal."

Death before Wicket
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
9781590581704 $24.95

The further adventures of the Hon. Phryne Fisher take place in Sydney where she and her maid, Dorothy, go for a "vacation." Phryne promises Dot 'no murders on this trip.' Instead, she does undertake to solve two mysteries.

Two young men, university students, implore her to solve a theft from the university safe in the Dean's office of a number of items, including an ancient Egyptian papyrus, so that a friend of theirs can be absolved of the thievery. Then there is the matter of Dot's sister, who is missing. Each involves usual circumstances, enabling the author to demonstrate Phryne's unusual tastes and ability to intuit, as well as to use a wide range of uncanny knowledge of ancient lore and rituals.

The novel is the 10th in chronological order in the series' original publication sequence. PPP has published 12 of these in no particular order. Each, so far, has been very much worth the while of the reader.

Bleeding Kansas
Sara Paretsky
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
9780399154058 $25.95

Setting aside V. I. Warshawski to allow her to recuperate from her travails in the last episode, Sara Paretsky has written a novel of monumental proportions. It is set in the Kaw (Kansas) River Valley, where the author grew up, and traces the lives of several founding families who settled there in the pre-Civil War days when the pro- and anti-slavery forces vied against each other.

The novel takes place in current times, with references to the past, and looks at the social politics and farm life of the area, including religion, pro- and anti-Iraq War, persecution, the hard lives of farmers and other themes. It is a far cry from Dorothy's Kansas which, at least, had a rainbow.

The characters are well-drawn, the story engrossing. The novel raises a variety of questions on a broad array of themes, including fundamentalism and scientific evolution, but more importantly, hope. The book should be read and is highly recommended.

Atomic Lobster
Tim Dorsey
Wm. Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060829698 $24.95 800-242-7737

The lovable psychopath, Serge A. Storm, appears for the 10th time, along with his larger-than-life sidekick, Coleman, in this typically [for this author] comical and absurd tale. Along the way we are treated to amusing sidelights, ending in a cruise from Tampa involving smuggling.

The novel includes the customary cast of unusual characters, including a serial killer, a timid husband and his mixed-up wife, a boozed-up and doped-up bottle blond strip-teaser and four elderly matrons who provide comic relief. The author's comments on cruise ships are not only funny but accurate and telling.

If you've never read one of the books in this series, start here. You will not be disappointed, as we promised in the recent review of Hurricane Punch [the book preceding this one and just released in paperback].

An Incomplete Revenge
Jacqueline Winspear
Henry Holt & Co.
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780805082159 $24.00 646-307-5095

Accepting an assignment to vet a business deal in which the Compton Corp, is to acquire most of an estate and a brick factory in rural Kent, Maisie Dobbs, in this the fifth in the series, encounters a strange series of crimes while conducting the investigation. Over the preceding decade, there appear to have been many minor thefts and burglaries, as well as a fire at about the same time and date each year.

The story takes place during the early 1930's, about a decade after the end of World War I, which always plays a part in the series, since Maisie served as a nurse in France and her fiance was mortally wounded there. Also, the Depression weighs heavily on her mind, as she worries about her investigations business. Maisie runs into a wall of silence, as the villagers exhibit prejudice against outsiders, Londoners who come there once a year to harvest hops, Gypsies, as well. They also seem to be possessed by the legacy of a wartime bombing by a German Zeppelin.

As in the previous entries, the protagonist remains human and charming, as well as capable, while exhibiting self-doubt. But she continues to grow in her efforts as well as a person. The historical setting provides a different milieu for a mystery, while not intruding on the plot. The writing is cogent and the story revealing. Certainly another good read, and recommended.

Whispers of the Bayou
Mindy Starns Clark
Harvest House
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97204-9173
9780736918794 $13.99 541-343-0123

This author has published two previous series - the Million Dollar and the Smart Chick Mysteries - both cast in sort of a lighter tone. With this novel, she has turned to a more serious and substantive theme, perhaps indicating a turn toward a more serious bent.

Set in the Louisiana Bayou area, the story brings us Miranda Miller, an art restorer at a Manhattan museum, the 32-year-old mother of a five-year-old daughter and wife of a promising architect. One day, she is beseeched to travel to the scene of her childhood home (which she left when she was five) by a dying Cajun caretaker who wishes to impart secret information to her before he passes away. Miranda has no memory of her first five years. The "aunt" who raised her tries to discourage Miranda, fearing the consequences of opening old wounds.

Thus lies a strange tale involving truths about the past, her family, her inheritance of the estate on which she grew up and most of all, Cajun history. It is a tale well told, with a heart-warming look at the foibles of human nature and the quest for understanding and the love of the Lord. Recommended.

Martin Baker
20 New Whart Rd., London N1 9RR
9780230703971 $19.95

This novel, published in England and Canada but not yet in the United States [and available in paperback as well as hardcover in both countries], is an attempt to depict the wild world of money, trading and speculation, not to mention manipulation, greed and conspiracy. Unfortunately, while the premise is valid, the execution leaves much to be desired. It is loosely fashioned on a number of financial dealings of the recent past, but artificially fashioned to fit into an implausible plot.

The story begins with the recruitment by a media tycoon of Samuel Spendlove, a legal scholar at Oxford, to go undercover at the Paris branch of an international investment bank, to learn how a top trader managed to win away a French publisher from under the nose of the Englishman who coveted it. Samuel becomes the trader's assistant and in a matter of weeks becomes sufficiently knowledgeable and proficient to match wits with his boss, known only as Khan. Then two colleagues are found murdered and Samuel is accused of killing them

The title of the book, "Meltdown," refers to the chaos created by driving down the price of a currency or other asset, creating panic on a scale far more dire than the Great Depression, destroying whole countries. While the plot has a great degree of potential, it really is far-fetched and artificial. The writing is somewhat stilted and sex is inserted needlessly at various points. The descriptions of the trading floor at the Paris branch of the American bank are fairly realistic and amusing.

Capitol Conspiracy
William Bernhardt
Ballantine Books
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345487568 $25.00 800-726-0600

Too bad Jimmy Stewart isn't around anymore. The character, Ben Kincaid, is a role that was made for him. In fact, he already played it in Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington. Kincaid is a young attorney with a very unsubstantial practice in Tulsa, suddenly catapulted to the nation's Capitol as an appointed Senator. As the junior Senator from the Great State of Oklahoma, no one pays much attention to him, but he has a way of getting into major situations.

At a major Presidential appearance commemorating the Oklahoma City Massacre, sniper fire kills the First Lady. Ben, of course, is present alongside the President, along with his best friend who saves their lives from a bomb underneath the Presidential limousine, but is hit by the explosion and remains comatose. The resulting furor results in the President proposing an Amendment permitting a six-person council to suspend various portions of the Bill of Rights in cases of "emergency."

The President, a Republican, asks Ben, a Democrat, to spearhead the effort to secure passage in the Senate. The House bill is a shoo-in, and given the high emotions extant, the public more than favors the measure. Various subplots play a role in moving the story forward. Will the forces of evil prevail, and the traditions and freedoms ensured by the Constitution be trampled on? Will Ben's friend survive? Will his new marriage overcome the split in the couples' opposing stance on the proposal? And so on.

"Capitol Conspiracy" is clever and entertaining, but unfortunately in pulling the various elements together, it almost becomes a potboiler. This is really too bad, because I rather enjoyed it until that point, despite the oversimplifications and somewhat wooden portrayals of many of the characters--but I suppose such descriptions are appropriate.

At the City's Edge
Marcus Sakey
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312360320 $24.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

As the song goes, "Chicago--my kind of town" - provided you're on the inside, part of the deal, the political cabal or whatever other corruptions define the city. Jason Palmer returns to his native city after nine years as a soldier, having served in Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving with less than an honorable discharge. His experience haunts him, leaving him at loose ends. His brother, Michael, owns a bar in a ghetto-like South Side area. He has an eight-year old son.

Michael is active in the community (which is rife not only with poverty but gangs), trying to improve it, clean it up. He is provided with incriminating evidence on a conspiracy involving politicians, cops, businessmen and who knows who else, and is murdered when he fails to divulge the whereabouts of the documents. The boy escapes to Jason's apartment and the ill-prepared uncle takes on the responsibility of protecting the boy, and avenging his brother's death. Along the way, he gets help from a woman police sergeant and a community activist.

The author makes various references to similarities between the war in Iraq and Chicago, which may or may not be a stretch of the imagination, depending on one's view. But corruption is universal, no matter the location. There's enough twists and excitement in the plot to satisfy the most hardened devotee of the genre. This is a thriller to be read and savored.

Fiddle Game
Richard A. Thompson
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584552 $24.95 800-421-3976

For a first novel, "Fiddle Game" is quite an accomplishment. The author has led quite a varied career, including a 45-year stint in construction. He is a civil engineer, a certified Minnesota Building Official and a registered professional engineer. But nothing in his biography indicates he has ever written anything prior to this novel.

An Amati violin plays a central role in a con game conducted by a gypsy family and going on since World War II. Herman Jackson is a bail bondsman in St. Paul who becomes the latest victim of the con. A woman enters his office offering the valuable fiddle as security for a bond for her brother. Unfortunately she is soon the victim of a hit-and-run and dies. The killer escapes with the violin. Herman quickly attracts the interest of the police as the possible perpetrator. The plot then has Herman attempting to solve the murder and retrieve the fiddle.

The story is extremely well-told, moving to a most unexpected conclusion. It is a surprisingly welcome debut, and we hope it is not a one-shot from this author.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Just Desserts
Barbara Bretton
The Berkeley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, N.Y. 10014
9780515144246 $7.99

Hayley Maitland Goldstein, mother of one and owner of a small bakery in New Jersey isn't expecting lawyer, Finn Rafferty's appearance on her doorstep. Rafferty has a cake order the struggling baker can't refuse. Rock Star Tommy Stiles wants Hayley to make a special cake for him. Stiles has no interest in the cake, but he wants to meet the woman that Finn Rafferty says is his daughter.

Tommy's a responsible guy who sowed his oats and has a small army of ex-wives and children as a result. He's a good man and one who takes care of his own. If Hayley's his daughter he wants to help her and Tommy's known for his generosity to his family.

Hayley is suspicious of such good fortune and with good reason. Her former husband's a lowlife. He's taught her to be wary of men. Hayley and Finn feel an immediate attraction to each other, but the romance's outcome may depend on how Hayley reacts to the paternity news. Her mother's on her way home with another secret and Hayley's life will never be the same.

Just Desserts is a fun, romantic read. I enjoyed it and recommend it for
all those who like a great story filled with humor and romance.

Some of Barbara Bretton's other works include: Just Like Heaven, Someone Like You, Chances Are, Girls of Summer and Shore Lights.

Cyndia Depre
Mundania Press LLC
6470A Glenway Avenue #109, Cincinnati, Ohio 45211-5222
9781594267239 $12.95

Olivia Chatham may be a spoiled rich young woman, but she's a generous one. She's always lending a helping hand, unaware that everyone in town is on to her. She's newly divorced and living back with Mom and Dad at the family mansion when she meets the new guy in town, Tucker Monroe.

Tucker's drawn to Olivia. The woman needs someone to watch out for her and Tucker feels he's the guy to do it. Olivia has a strange way of looking at life and a thought process that is both practical and different. Just when you think she's a total flake, she acts in a way that makes sense. Some of her actions make it clear to me where the title came from.

Olivia hasn't been able to figure out what to do with her life so far. When a former teacher of hers becomes a murder victim, the local sheriff asks her to keep her eye out and report to him if she hears anything. This sets the young woman on a new path. Now she thinks she's a detective. Tucker becomes her guardian and the man who once drifted aimlessly around now has his own mission. Can he keep Olivia safe, or will her well-meaning meddling lead them both into danger?

The story tickled my funny bone and kept me reading to see what trouble Olivia would get herself in next.

Cyndia Depre is the author of Amanda's Rib.

Shadow of a Doubt
Karen McCullough
Cerridwen Press
1056 Home Avenue, Akron, OH 44310-3502
9781419951398, $7.99

Detective Liz Ramsey is mature, intelligent and one heck of a detective. She's brought in to investigate the murder of a local woman. It soon becomes clear that young Allison Wannstedt earned most of her money turning tricks and one of her clients may have killed her.

Nothing much rattles Liz until she runs into Greg Conyers. He's a local celebrity in the small town of Hartersburg. He's also handsome, charismatic and very much a loner. The two have nothing in common, but every time they meet Greg sweeps Liz off her feet.

There's something about Greg that doesn't seem right. Liz decides that he suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. She tries to remain unbiased in her dealings with him, but finds herself having a tough time of it. It doesn't help matters when several witnesses tell Liz that Gregg Conyers talked to Allison the night of her murder.

The Deputy Chief is pushing Liz hard. She has to find the murderer soon. Her unimaginative boss will do anything to further his career and would love nothing more than to take the credit for solving the case. Liz's emotions are at war with her practical side as things begin to heat up.

More people turn up dead. It looks like the murders are all connected to the Winsted case, but how?

The story's well written, fast paced and engrossing. I liked Liz Ramsey from the start. Her character is solid, believable and interesting. It's romantic suspense at its best and I highly recommend it.

Karen McCullough's other books include: A Question of Fire, Witch's Journey and Wizard's Bridge.

Victoria Kennedy


Irene Watson, Editor

Honor Due
D.H. Brown
Big River Press
PO Box 371, Clallam Bay, WA 98326
9780979874413, $15.95, September 2007,

Reviewed by LuAnn Morgan for RebeccasReads

Ten years after Major Westfall retired as a special ops agent for the U.S. government, he'd found his own private sanctuary. Living deep in the Olympic Rainforest of Washington state, the Major wanted only to be left alone. He has very few friends he associates with and his nearest neighbor is miles down the road.

Unfortunately, others don't see things the same way. The Major is suddenly thrown back into the game when he finds himself being hunted, with no clue as to why. And he can't ignore it. These people -- whoever they are -- are dead serious. They've already tortured and killed one of his best friends.

Now, the Major sees it as both a matter of survival and revenge. Not only for himself, but also for the daughter of his friend, who witnessed the death of her father and managed to escape the same fate.

"Honor Due" is jam-packed full of action. From the first page to the last, the reader is carried along through a master plan of death and endurance as the Major must anticipate every move his enemies make.

This book is definitely for an adult audience. D.H. Brown wastes no words to describe in detail the violent steps the Major takes to save his own life. It's not a book for the weak at heart, yet that is one of the main reasons why this book is so appealing. Any watering down of the action would have made for an entirely different read.

Brown is currently working on a sequel, "Honor Defended," expected to hit the shelves this spring. If he can keep up the pace, it should be well worth the read. However, readers would be well advised to read the current novel first as included flashbacks to earlier days help describe who the Major is and why he lives the way he does.

Brown has found a niche in the literary world for himself and I, for one, am looking forward to reading more books by this author. So, move over John Rambo and Scott McCoy ("Delta Force"). You just may have met your match in Major Westfall of "Honor Due."

Journey from Head to Heart: Living and Working Authentically
Dr. Nancy Oelklaus
Loving Healing Press (2008)
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690439, $21.95, (734) 662-6864,

Reviewed by Lisa Heidle for RebeccasReads

For 30 years, Dr. Nancy Oelklaus has been on a mission to help people improve both their personal lives and careers. In her new book, "Journey from Head to Heart: Living and Working Authentically," Dr. Oelklaus focuses on the importance of moving away from the demands of ego toward a true, more authentic self. What separates this book from the majority of self-help manuals is the author's awareness that many people in today's world neglect to acknowledge the importance of personal faith and spirituality in the growth process, and in turn, are unable to integrate their actions with their beliefs.

Dr. Oelklaus believes that by not recognizing experiences from the past and not being accountable for our actions in the present, we are unable to genuinely connect with ourselves and the world around us. "Pride, perfectionism, people-pleasing, rebellion, stubbornness, and all other character defects that hinder potential and possibility," can lead to addictions and keep people from being content.

She insists that speaking from the heart creates a "safe space for others to learn and change." The phrase, "What I truly want to say is…," allows people to focus and limit their language in order to effectively communicate not only their words, but their energy. Dr. Oelklaus also impresses upon the reader the importance of surrounding ourselves with positive people as opposed to negative people. She supports the idea through explaining mirror neurons - the brain chemistry that is created when we are in the presence of positive chemical energy as opposed to negative, energy-draining chemicals.

Daily maintenance tools that enable the reader to stay on the positive path created are offered throughout "Journey from Head to Heart." Utilizing prayer or meditation, reading inspirational quotes and implementing the process of "Ask, Release and Wait" when asking questions in order to build patience are just a few examples. By utilizing these tools, we are able to recognize the issues that keep us from focusing on important aspects and people in our lives.

In Chapter 2 of "Journey from Head to Heart," Dr. Oelklaus writes, "But there comes a time in adulthood when we must align who we truly are with what we do and how we act. When it's time to become authentic - to realize our purpose in life, our heart's desire." Her voice resounds with sincerity, helping the reader know that authenticity is a gift we are all born with and, with a little internal work, can locate again. With a unique perspective on personal development, Oelklaus reminds us that enlightenment is a state of being that places us on the path to self-discovery. People believe that enlightenment is the destination, when in actuality it is only the beginning, the awareness that first we must discover where our soul resides before we can truly become whole.

Out of the Cocoon: A Young Woman's Courageous Flight from the Grip of a Religious Cult
Brenda Lee
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon OR 97411
9781931741651, $14.95, 2006, (541) 347-9882,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"Out of the Cocoon: A Young Woman's Courageous Flight from the Grip of a Religious Cult" by Brenda Lee is a memoir chronicling the author's escape from the binding hold that the Jehovah Witness religion had on her family and life and the consequences that met her afterward. When Brenda was a young girl, Jehovah's Witnesses visited her Pennsylvania home with their literature and talked her family into doing a free bible study. That one knock on the door would forever change Brenda's life and her relationship with her family. Her mother became immersed in the Jehovah beliefs and decided that the whole family would be baptized as Jehovah's Witnesses. Brenda's father refused and was the only one not baptized although he did attend the meetings at Kingdom Hall.

Jehovah's Witnesses have a very rigid belief system without any room to bend. Growing up in the Jehovah faith was very traumatic for Brenda as she found herself isolated from the rest of her classmates. She could not celebrate the events they celebrated, participate in school activities, or date. Also, as a Jehovah's Witness you cannot be friends with or associate with people who are not of the same faith as you. To top all of it off she even had teachers who abused her because of her religion.

When she finally came of age she escaped to live with a cousin that she had never met in Colorado and tried to start her life anew by breaking free from the holds that the religion had on her. However, her insecurities fostered from being isolated and ostracized as a child followed her into adulthood and there were consequences that followed.

Unfortunately in the Jehovah faith once someone leaves the religion they cannot be associated with anymore by those still in the faith. This even applies to family members. So in a sense by leaving the religion she also lost her family, all except for her father (he was not baptized into the faith). After trying to "save her" and failing, they would not talk to her anymore and essentially they cut her out of their life.

While I understand that the Jehovah faith did have a huge effect on the author's life it seems that she blames everything that goes wrong on that premise which I find a little bit unbelievable. There are other factors involved that cause things to turn out the way that they do. I do understand her anger but in some cases it seems that it is misdirected.

All in all, the book is a very engaging and a fast read! I read all 238 pages from start to finish in one night. I learned a lot about the Jehovah's Witness faith and I was actually shocked by a lot of the things that I read. I honestly had no idea that these people who come knocking on my door believed some of the things that they do. To disown a family member because they choose not to be involved in your faith is, in my opinion, ridiculous! I applaud Brenda Lee for having the courage to come forward and write this memoir and hope that others can benefit from reading about her experience. I think that anyone who is considering becoming a member of this religion or any similar religion should definitely read "Out of the Cocoon" before doing so!

Rapunzel's Window
Cheryl Lanning
Potagannissing Bay Publishing
P.O. Box 218, Drummond Island, MI 49726
9780979248801, $17.95, 2007,

Reviewed by LuAnn Morgan for RebeccasReads

Thomas Pope is an award-winning journalist. He's also an alcoholic, who hasn't had a drink in 10 years. Now, he's ready to slow down.

He buys a small-town paper and moves to Haver, Michigan, where it's supposedly quiet. Right away, he finds himself embroiled in the middle of a murder. And because he is also a witness, he has to separate his job as a reporter from his role as a private citizen. In the meantime, other factors fall into play. Thomas begins falling in love with the beautiful widow of the former publisher of his paper … the same woman he purchased the paper from. Yet, he's still dealing with the same issues that led him to the bottle to begin with and tries to pull away from starting a relationship.

Agnes Somes finds herself falling for Thomas, as well, but she has her own issues concerning her husband's death to deal with. The guilt of his dying and the total love she felt for him means she isn't sure if beginning a new relationship is either smart or possible.

Thus begins the story found in "Rapunzel's Window" by new author Cheryl Lanning.
Cheryl is a retired journalist, which gives her the experience to write about what reporter's face on a daily basis. It means she is able to add intelligence and personality to her main character and make him believable to the reader.

And as a journalist myself, I appreciate reading a fiction novel where the reporter in the story is pictured with a sprinkling of what that life is truly like.

This story is full of intrigue and pulls the reader in quickly. The intense drama is well written and has enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing what will happen next.

There are so many "main" characters in this story that you will feel as if you truly know Haver by the time you've finished reading the book. Then, you'll wish it would continue so you can find out what happens to your favorite person next.

Cheryl is one of the best new novelists I've encountered and I'm anxious to read more books by her. I, for one, hope she continues to grace the shelves at my favorite bookstores with her stories.

If you're looking for a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, "Rapunzel's Window" is an excellent choice.

7th Heaven (Women's Murder Club)
James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316004329, $29.99, 2008,

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan for RebeccasReads

My New Year's resolution for 2008 is simple-- I am going to quit reading James Patterson works. The sleepless nights, the tension it creates and the nagging desire to get back to the book to continue reading where I left off….it's truly getting to me. That said, this is the umpteenth time I have made this resolution, and the umpteenth time I have broken the resolution, and this time the culprit was "7th Heaven." As a confirmed Patterson addict, there is not even one Patterson work which I have left unread. I have with me 49 of his books-- including non-fiction, romance, children's books… you name it and I have it.

James Patterson is truly the ultimate thriller author. There is no sub-genre in the thriller genre that the author has left untouched. Be it psychological thrillers (Alex Cross series of books including "Kiss the Girls," "Along Came the Spider" etc.), science fiction ("When the Wind Blows," "The Lake House" etc.), children's books ("Santa Kid"), Romance ("Sam's Letters to Jennifer"), Historical thriller ("The Jester"), Legal Thriller ("The Beach House"); James Patterson has churned gold wherever he touched his hands.

The Women's Murder Club Series started with "1st to Die" published seven years back, closely followed by "2nd Chance" and "3rd Degree." This adventure series which is a fine blend of the psychological suspense and mystery genre has four dynamic, young ladies as protagonists. There are the Detective, Lindsay Boxer; the attorney, Yuki Castellano; the scribe, Cindy Thomas and the Doctor- pathologist Clair Washburn. And together the foursome has solved some neat cases. But this time around in "7th Heaven," Lindsay Boxer is called to investigate two cases. The first one involves the kidnapping and suspected murder of a teenager, Michael Campion--the son of the Governor of California. The boy with great looks and a congenital heart disease was the golden boy of the media, and the whole state is in a frenzy looking for the missing boy. At the same time, in the other end of the town, a series of arson cases has caught the attention of the police. The arsonist(s) specialize in torching the houses of the rich and the wealthy; they also make sure that the owners of the houses die in the fire. And the only clue the police have is the Latin phrases inscribed in books collected from the scene of the crime. The novel is all about the investigation that follows. The work is a hard and fast-paced suspense thriller, one with a twist in the tale finish.

And of course, just like with any other James Patterson work, "7th Heaven" kept me engaged, enthralled and engrossed. A sure-fire bestseller. Highly, highly recommended.

Children and Traumatic Incident Reduction: Creative and Cognitive Approaches
Edited by Marian K. Volkman
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690309, $19.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Lisa Heidle for RebeccasReads

In the book "Children and Traumatic Incident Reduction: Creative and Cognitive Approaches," therapists, social workers, parents and educators come together to discuss the approaches and affects of Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) as well as other inventive therapeutic methods.

"TIR addresses traumatic experiences to relieve any traumatic stress the client is carrying from that experience, bringing about a full resolution of the trauma, and often insights as well," explains Marian Volkman, the book's editor, in the introduction. Repetitive verbal reproduction of the traumatic event is used to help the patient address the experience, allowing them to reach a resolution, or end point, to the trauma.

Many contributors to the book have combined Traumatic Incident Reduction, or TIR, with Art Therapy and have experienced positive results. Therapist Anna Foley uses drawing to help the client express the incident that has caused the trauma. "Each piece of paper is a different scene. So that might take 30 pieces of paper, it might take 40 or 50, or as few as 10. But whatever it is, it's right; it can't be wrong. Whatever they have drawn, we map that out so one piece of paper reflects each memory."

Using objects like clay or magnetic sculptures allow the patient to feel comfort and grounded when delving into past events. Patricia Furze addresses the Western cultural approach, "…that contributes to children's avoidance of unpleasant feelings and sensations is our instruction to children to use distraction to move their attention away from whatever upsets them. This works well in the short term. Repression pushes the sensations and feelings out of conscious awareness. They lie dormant, yet in a position to continue to affect the choices the child makes." Because of this, many children are better able to handle future TIR, or imagined future events that resemble the original traumatic event. The benefits of this technique are the child feels empowered and becomes more resilient.

Protecting children from physical and mental injury is something we would all like to do, but the world in which we live can be damaging to everyone. It can be exceptionally devastating to children who have less power and control in the occurrences in their own lives. Although there are many differing opinions on the best method to use when helping a traumatized child, the majority of experts agree that early intervention is key. Parents, therapists, and educational institutions, along with all others who work with children, can benefit from "Children and Traumatic Incident Reduction: Creative and Cognitive Approaches."

Zero Cool
John Lange
Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0843959592, $6.99, March 2008, (212) 725-8811,

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan for RebeccasReads

John Lange is a widely-read author. He is world famous. He is the brain behind some of the world's biggest blockbuster movies and has a huge fan following, but most of you might be thinking-- if the author is so well-known, why can't I place John Lange? Which are his other 'bestselling works' and 'blockbuster movies'? Well the answer is simple--John Lange is a pseudonym and "Zero Cool" is a work which has remained out-of-print for close to 39 years. Under the Lange pseudonym the author also wrote thrillers like "Odds On," "Easy Go," "Scratch One," "Drug Of Choice," etc.-- which still remain out-of-print. Save for "Grave Descend" which was published in 2006 by Hard Case Crime, all other works remain out of print. Now enough suspense; without being a spoilsport let me give some clues about the man behind the Lange pseudonym. I will not give a straight 'disclosure' but one fall's easy 'prey' to the 'sphere' of suspense the author creates in his novels of 'jurassic' proportions and we are left wondering what will happen 'next.' And my friend, if you still have not identified the man behind this pseudonym, it's time you really brushed up your knowledge in mystery and thriller writing.

"Zero Cool" was first published in 1969 when Crich…oops I meant John Lange was still a student in medical school. Set in the era of the liberated Sixties, the plot, action and narration is reminiscent of the popular James Bond, Flint style action flicks which were huge hits of the day. And the author does not hide the fact that he was inspired by these books. Peter Ross is on vacation at Spain. He has just three things in mind, hot sun, hot beaches and hotter gals. Upon arrival at the beach, his attention turns to a girl in a slim bikini and he starts hitting upon her. But immediately a man comes and 'warns' the doctor that he should not do an autopsy-- and if he does it-- the doctor would be killed. Though Ross dismisses the words as raving of a mad man, immediately the next day, he is called…rather forced to do an autopsy on a criminal who died under mysterious circumstances. What follows is an archetypal, but classic novel of a man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and everyone knows what is going on save for Peter Ross. With a tight suspense plot, crisp narration and action (reminiscent more of Indiana Jones rather than James Bond), the novel is a fast page-turning read. The villains with names like The Professor and The Count (who has a penchant for cologne) the novel is one cool read. I especially enjoyed the part in the novel where the villain trains a falcon to attack and kill by the scent of cologne.

Another highlight of this edition of "Zero Cool" is that Lange has written a new prologue and epilogue to the novel, updating the book to 2008. The original story is now told in flashback which adds a bit of nostalgia while reading the novel.

I enjoyed the novel very, very much and Mr. Lange if you are reading this, one request-- please do republish "Odds On," "Venom Business," "Drug Of Choice," "Scratch One," and "Easy Go."

"Zero Cool" is one cool read….an ultra cool read. Highly recommended.

UnBreak Your Health: The Complete Guide to Complementary & Alternative Therapies
Alan E. Smith
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690361, $19.95, 2007, 734-662-6864,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"UnBreak Your Health: The Complete Guide to Complementary & Alternative Therapies" by Alan E. Smith presents a comprehensive guide useful for when you want to explore other options beyond traditional medicine. If you are considering complementary or alternative therapies you are not alone! According to a statistic presented in the introduction, in the year 2002 over half of all Americans turned to trying one of these therapies. Complementary and alternative therapies are positive on many levels. They focus on the fact that each person is a "unique individual composed of mind, body and spirit (or life-force energy)" and that each problem should be solved by tailoring the treatment to the specific person. Instead of focusing on the specific symptoms or issues as traditional medicine oftentimes does, complementary and alternative therapies often look at the body as a whole and work to heal the entire entity to make the body function in a more efficient manner. They go to the inner source of the problem rather than just treating the topical symptoms.

The author divides the different therapies up into three areas: the body, the mind and the energy/spirit. The "body" section presents an overview of such therapies from the familiar like chiropractic care and massage to the lesser known like Emei Qigong and the Nambudripdad Allergy Elimination Technique. The "mind" chapter focuses on therapies such as Art Therapy, Guided Imagery, Hypnosis, and Traumatic Incident Reduction. Finally, the "energy/spirit" section focuses on therapies which use human energy to heal such as Acupuncture, Crystal Bowl Therapy, Polarity Therapy and Qi Gong.

Each therapy examined in the book has a description explaining the origins, beliefs and techniques used in the method. After most descriptions is a favorite part of mine called "user comments" which aids in understanding how effective these therapies are. These are comments from actual users of these particular methods. It is very interesting to see the results that these people have had using the different techniques. This section makes the book more personable instead of strictly a reference guide. Websites are listed for most therapies if readers would like to seek out more information or specifics.

I recommend this thorough guide to complementary and alternative therapies to anyone who is frustrated with conventional medicine's approach to his health issues or to anyone who just wants to educate himself as to what is out there in terms of non-traditional care. "UnBreak Your Health: The Complete Guide to Complementary & Alternative Therapies" presents so many different options and techniques, some of which I never knew existed, and the information is presented in a very reader friendly and easy to use way.

We Came In Peace For All Mankind
Tahir Rahman
Leathers Publishing
4500 College Boulevard Suite 180, Overland Park, KS 66211
9781585974412, $65.00, 2007, 1-888-888-7696,

Reviewed by Rebecca Brown for RebeccasReads

Almost forty years ago we were glued to our tvs watching NASA's greatest show yet: humans encased in silver space suits cavorting on the Moon, our one and only orbital companion which has inspired us to lunacy and romance and poetry for countless generations. No, Virginia, there is no Man in the Moon, only astronauts upon it.

Above all other images we remember the one of Earthrise as our big blue marble hove into view beyond the curve of Moon's horizon. Then there was the planting of a floppy Stars and Stripes and the reading of the plaque below. What none of us remember, and the astronauts themselves almost forgot to do, was the placing of a cloth pouch in which reposed elegant powder compact-like cases of various materials which protected a silicon disc the size of a half-dollar, etched with goodwill messages from nation states around our world.

I'm a devoted NASA tv channel watcher and eagerly follow each and every activity they deign to show us, as well as camping out in my recliner when something's being delivered to the International Space Station, either by one of the Shuttles or Europe and Russia's rockets. At times it's like watching paint dry or grass grow; however, during those slow motion moments, I'm hard at work thinking Big Thoughts about Deep Space, Deep Time and deep excitement. Perhaps I'll come back in my next incarnation to be an astronaut.

So, when Tahir Rahman sent me his beautiful coffee-table tome "We Came In Peace For All Mankind: The Untold Story of the Apollo 11 Silicon Disc," I was hooked from page one and not only by the multitude of glorious color photos.

The silicon disc was intended to tell who/whatever opens it upon landing on the Moon how diverse the inhabitants of the planet they see on the horizon are, and hopefully dissuade the reader/s from violent invasion. What we left was an engraved invitation to come visit, and ""We Came In Peace For All Mankind" is your invitation, too.

In the beginning there are awe-inspiring photos of Earthrise, a footprint and the silicon disc coupled with quips and quotes from Moonwalkers and prime ministers, and then Tahir Rahman's story starts: "Neil Armstrong peered through one of the small windows of the lunar module, Eagle..." He was preparing to step outside his safety zone into the unknown. Six-hundred-million people watched him, and "we laughed and cried and lit up cigars." It was a different time, folks, B4PC = before personal computers and political correctness both! "Our world was united in a unique way while the astronauts walked on a surreal world for the first time in{our}history."

I enjoyed learning the story of the planning committee's conclusions, especially #2: "The activities should be in good taste from a world perspective." Naturally, like Columbus did, we thought to plant a flag, and a whole host of them was packed on board to be brought back as souvenirs for such places at the U.S. Congress and those who administer the hard cash (not nearly enough of our taxes, so I say) for NASA's projects. Then someone thought up the commemorative plaque and we see its genesis.

Soon we're briefly meeting the Apollo 11 Crew, reading about how slivers of wood from the Orville brother's Kitty Hawk would be in the baggage. Some attention is devoted to how it was decided to use a United States flag instead of another one, and how to make and hang such a flag in Moon's gravity-deficient atmosphere, as well as other Moonly scientific considerations.

Then we get to NASA's invitation to world leaders to add their 2 cents, and while we wait for them to reply, we learn who made the silicon disc and how. It becomes quite evident that Sprague Electric Company had a nightmare of a deadline. Then we're on to launch preparations, and soon they're off to the Moon.

The Library of Goodwill Messages makes up most of the rest of this volume: who and how the leaders of the world responded. I like that there's a map to each nation's reply so we can learn where on Earth they are/were. Plus it includes a whole slew of Americans who backed the endeavor. It all sounds so dry, until you read it and realize how much was etched in gold into that little disc.

Tahir Rahman, a physician fascinated by the Apollo Program, was given a duplicate of the silicon disc by Neil Armstrong. What he found, upon magnification, on that little piece of plastic (sic!) so astonished him that he just had to investigate further, rousing NASA historians to dust off their memories and unearth storage boxes in the warrens of the Library of Congress that had gathered decades of dust.

"We Came In Peace For All Mankind" is a superb addition to your library. To be oohed & aahed over by all the generations of your family. Very well done!

Lessons On Aging From Three Nations, Volume 1: The Art of Aging Well
Sara Carmel, Carol A. Morse, and Fernando M. Torres-Gil (Editors)
Baywood Publishing Company
PO Box 337, Amityville, New York (NY), 11701
9780895033697, $52.00, 2007, 1-800-638-7819,

Reviewed by Alma H. Bond for RebeccasReads

"Lessons On Aging From Three Nations: Volume 1, The Art of Aging Well" is the first volume in the Society and Aging Series, edited by Jon Hendricks. The series provides a vital dialogue in gerontology that helps us gain perspective on how three developed nations - the United States, Australia, and Israel - address aging as it becomes ever more prominent and exerts an increasingly crucial impact on the social and economic infrastructures of our societies. A careful look at the present means of coping with aging in the three societies points to the areas requiring assistance. As such, it helps inform policymakers, scholars, and caretakers of the need for change and enables us to learn from the creativity, achievements, and failures of others.

Volume 1 is edited by Sara Carmel, Carol A. Morse, and Fernando M. Torres-Gil, top gerontological experts who have edited a groundbreaking book that is certain to become a classic in the field. By and large, it is well written and highly informative, bringing the latest material on research and demographics of aging in their respective countries. The material is new, sound, and at times exciting and illuminating. Like most books of compiled articles, chapters in Volume 1 vary in the quality of their content and literary style. Material of greatest interest to me is discussed below.

Jacob Lomranz, professor and director of clinical psychology at Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel, demonstrates how creativity contributes to optimal aging and emphasizes those adult developmental processes that are conducive to and enhance creativity. He quotes Dissanayake to the effect that human beings are "Homo Estheticus," that creativity is a universal human endowment that has evolutionary significance and helps people to survive (p. 6). Lomranz believes that "creativity and art are human endowments, possessed by every person, reflected in emotional, cognitive, and behavioral processes to be found in everyday life" (p. 6). To him, that person ages optimally who reaches advanced years in a satisfying physical and mental condition, perceives life as meaningful, and experiences a feeling of well-being and creativity. He quotes Cohen (p. 8) to the effect that the second half of life is the "creative age," that "emotional longevity can be achieved (Anderson & Anderson), and that the elderly can fulfill constructive roles in society and culture (Stuckellberger)" (p. 8).

Similar thoughts on health and well-being in later life through occupation are given by Linsey Howie, senior lecturer and head of the School of Occupational Therapy at LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Howie believes that "occupation is fundamental to human experience… and… an important dynamic between what people do with their time and how that shapes a sense of who they are" (p. 20). Howie states that research has found that health benefits accrue in an aged population in which activities are freely chosen and meaningful. He suggests that in addition to planning at midlife for eventual financial retirement, people begin to engage at that time in occupational planning for a healthful old age.

Nancy Pachana, psychologist at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, informs us that each person ages in a unique fashion, determined by factors such as environment, intelligence, mood states, interpersonal relationships, and state of health. As a result, according to her, it becomes increasingly difficult to illustrate what a "typical" older person looks like (p. 29). She also speaks of the "cohort effect" (pp. 29-30), referring to the fact that individuals born within a certain time frame tend to experience similar social, cultural, and political situations that influence their development and functioning.

Pachana describes cognitive changes that occur with normal aging (Vol. 1, pp. 2-3). She says that while cross-sectional studies report an inverse relationship between cognitive functioning and aging, other aspects of cerebral functioning remain stable. For example, she cites that the ability to use and interpret language remains relatively intact and verbal skills, such as vocabulary actually improve with age. She mentions the wisdom demonstrated by many older people, and, like Lomranz, stresses the positive correlation between age and creativity. She cites research showing that mental activities afford protection against future risk of dementia (pp. 32-33) and concludes that investigations into the interplay of psychosocial, cognitive, and physiological aspects of aging expand our knowledge of the aging process and help health professionals to better assist the older people in maximizing functioning.

John McCormack, lecturer in Health Sciences at LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia, has conducted interesting research on supercentenarians, which he discusses in "Making the Most of It." In his experience, the "oldest-old" have an adaptive attitude to life and longevity that is positive and accepting without being unrealistic (p. 55). McCormack states that in very old age, no one escapes serious aches and pains, but, in the main, the centenarian respondents in his survey illustrate a stoic optimism, gratitude, and enjoyment toward the life they have experienced and continue to live. According to McCormack, "This demographic group is projected to increase rapidly in size in all industrialized societies, and it is important that we have a better understanding of their health, sociodemographics, and quality of life" (p. 66). Such knowledge can add valuable lessons about adding life to years rather than just years to life.

JoAnn Damron-Rodriguez, University of California, Los Angeles, and James E. Lubben, Boston College, in "Family and Community Care for Older Persons" discuss family and community health care for older people in an intelligent and knowledgeable manner. Community health care, as defined by Cantor (1994, p. 80) "is broader than the medical model, and is the entire spectrum of helping that supports older people in their environment." Such services are designed to augment individual competency and environmental mastery rather than increasing dependency of the aging on external help. Quality of life and life satisfaction are variables of vital importance to social care.

According to the authors, the ideal of community health care aims to facilitate older adults to age well and continue to contribute to the community. It promotes older persons' self-care capacity through enhanced home and community environments. It supports family and social networks through informed policy and programs. It seeks to facilitate the delay of disability onset in older persons or prevent it from happening altogether. (p. 89)

Howard Litwin, of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, in "The Interpersonal Milieu of Older People," states, "The interpersonal milieu of older life is of particular importance in understanding personal well-being in later life" (p. 169). As individuals age, their need for support and assistance tends to increase, particularly with the onset of physical and mental impairment. Unfortunately, however, as individuals age, their interpersonal milieu tends to decrease, as a result of the death of age peers or because of the desire to focus on meaningful relationships.

The interpersonal milieu can best be understood as the social network people maintain and from which they may gain a wide range of benefits (p. 170). The networks can differ in size, composition, density, and content, as well as in the dynamics that exist within them. Such dynamics can be measured by variables such as frequency of contact, reciprocity of exchange (including delayed reciprocity, in which people return in later life what they had received earlier as children), and emotional closeness. Assistance can include affective support that communicates to the member that he or she is loved and respected, cognitive guidance and feedback, and a range of concrete aids available to members in need. Networks, however, can also be a source of conflict when members challenge the perceptions and behavior of others. Structurally, the networks of older people tend to be smaller than those of younger adults, denser, and composed more frequently of family members. These contacts are often characterized by longer duration and a shared history.

Interpersonal surroundings, the author continues, are not stable but tend to evolve along with changes in the individual's circumstances such as immigration-induced relocation. Such changes can increase the vulnerability of an age group already at risk.

The interpersonal milieu can provide older people with support. Unfortunately, when the needs of the elderly become the greatest, less help is available, as informal caretakers often turn over their responsibilities to formal authorities. Social policies must recognize the limitations of informal care, along with their potentiality and pitfalls.

"Lessons On Aging From Three Nations, Volume 1: The Art of Aging Well" is an important volume that should be required reading for policymakers, scholars, and caretakers of the elderly, as well as the growing numbers of intelligent individuals who wish to grow old in the best possible manner. The book is full of important information, of use to both newcomers and people established in the field; it is highly recommended for everyone connected in any way with the discipline.

Lessons On Aging From Three Nations, Volume II: The Art of Caring for Older Adults
Sara Carmel, Carol A. Morse, and Fernando M. Torres-Gil (Editors)
Baywood Publishing Company
PO Box 337, Amityville, New York (NY), 11701
9780895033703, $52.00, 2007, 1-800-638-7819,

Reviewed by Alma H. Bond for RebeccasReads

While the first volume of "Lessons on Aging From Three Nations" focuses on aging and caretaking, the second volume, "The Art of Caring for Older Adults," concentrates on the challenges and concerns for families, policymakers, and governments in caregiving and end-of-life issues. This book affirms the philosophical belief that people joining forces can achieve great things that one person alone is unable to do. As in Volume 1, the editors and authors hope to provide clues and suggestions for future research, policies, and practices in the comparative study of global aging.

It is widely known that the population of the world is aging, but challenges caused by this burgeoning phenomenon are less well understood. "The Art of Caring for Older Adults" compares treatment of the aged in three countries and focuses on caregiving, family care, and end of life in each of them. The three countries vary in many ways; therefore, how they respond to the problems of aging naturally differs. But all face similar issues in terms of needs, conflicts, difficulties that need to be resolved, and possible solutions. These findings should prove useful to nations throughout the world.

In the introduction, coeditor Carol A. Morse compares the treatment given the aging in the United States, Israel, and Australia (p. 1). She comes to the conclusion that the picture is very similar in all three countries, where the number of people age 80 or beyond who achieve a healthy and well older life is increasing over time. As many more people survive to an advanced age, two generations of the elderly often must be taken care of by the same family. In addition, many women now have full-time careers outside the home. As a result, the old ways of caring for the elderly no longer suffice, as fewer and fewer people willingly take on the burden of family caretaker. Hence, Morse states, "In the years ahead, the governments must find different ways to provide financial compensation for caregivers through tax relief, income support, and indexed pension benefits" (p. 2). She suggests that the situation "requires a move towards a collaborative approach between consumers and workers to replace the paternal custodial model" (p. 3).

Esther Iecovich, in "The Interface between Family Responsibility and State," speaks of the rapidly growing older population in Israel. She states (p. 7), "A highly developed system of health care, improvements in nutrition and quality of life, and a decrease in fertility rates have resulted in an increased number of elderly people who are infirm, disabled, and dependent upon others." As the number of older people grows, the less their families will be able to provide adequate care for them. Iecovich questions what solutions family and society can provide to meet the growing needs of this swiftly expanding population. She proposes that adult grandchildren play a more active role in caring for elderly grandparents and aging parents. Social networks, in which volunteers play an increasing role, more formal services, and community care including day care, must become more significant factors in supplementing family care. She also suggests expanding civil service for those individuals not serving in the army to provide such services as home care and surveillance for the aging.

Cheryl Tilse, Jill Wilson, and Deborah Setterland have some interesting things to say about recent developments in Australia in "Residential Care: Informed Choices," which in many ways can serve as a model for other societies. According to the authors (p. 38), care of the elderly in Australia is now characterized by increased community services that support people in their own homes. The structural reform policy passed by the Australian government in 1997 sought to enhance choice in residential care by the development of a wider range of care options, greater community responsibility, policies of aging that link residential care to resident needs, and the development of outcome standards that include choice as a key aspect of residents' rights. In Australia, contrary to practice in the United States, entry to residential facilities is not dependent on the capacity of the patient or his or her family to pay for services but is subsidized by the government. The reform of residential care is characterized by a move away from the medical model to policies promoting resident-focused care. The authors (p. 40) quote Peace, Kellaher, and Willcocks (1997) to the effect that the changed approach in Australia is founded on an explicit recognition of the rights of residents and is supported by philosophies that recognize adulthood and citizenship. We in the United States could take a page from the Australian book.

Care for the elderly in Israel, according to David Galinsky in "New Demands on Education and Training for the Care of Old People," is not doing as well (p. 59). "Studies indicate… that care of the elderly in Israel is characterized by fragmentation, lack of coordination of services, and severe budget restrictions." Galinsky states that these issues have an impact on the education and training of personnel, as programs of formal education are not prepared to meet the challenge. He informs us that research in aging receives no special priority in Israel and suggests that universities as well as medical schools be carefully reviewed in the light of today's shifting attitudes toward care of the elderly (p. 60). He adds that different studies, such as those of Clarfield, Bergman, and Cane (2001), have reached similar conclusions.

In the introduction to Section 2, "The Art of Family Care," JoAnn Damron-Rodriguez informs us (pp. 63-64) that the huge increase in the number of elderly people challenges the family's historical role in performing caretaking functions. Yet despite the difficulties the new demographics bring about, the family still remains the major support for elders, caring for up to 85 percent in the United States. Many changes have occurred in recent generations, including fewer adult members of families, with those remaining more likely to be engaged in the labor market, wider dispersion of families, the fact that up to four or five generations are now alive at a time, and the increased divorce rate, which can change the relationships of family members to each other. Chapters by Raveis, by Aberdeen, and by Morse and Lau all relate the personal challenges of family care to the need for societal responses (p. 66).

In "In Care and On Call," Carol A. Morse and Rosalind Lau give us some idea of how widespread family caretaking is in Australia. Incredibly, according to them (pp. 69-70), one in three of the adult Australian population provides some sort of care or assistance to a family member or friend. The prevalence of people needing assistance rises with age until it reaches over 77 percent (!) in the 80-plus age group. Many individuals in need would be unable to remain in their homes were it not for the provision of informal services. Women are the majority of caregivers, providing largely unpaid service, and are most affected by community care policies. They are sometimes aided by formal care provided by government agencies and for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Minority groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people with lifelong disabilities are particularly ignored in terms of their needs for formal assistance. When no help is available to caregivers, negative effects on their health are apparent.

According to the authors, some general policy implications have emerged during the last 15 years. These include the recognition of the need to improve and expand services, address negative societal attitudes toward caregivers, enhance the recognition of and value of the career's role and contributions, transform the inequities in caregiving, create better home and community care systems, and alleviate the immediate and long-term burdens of informal caregiving (p. 80). Although a great deal of progress has been made in bringing about these reforms, there is still much to be achieved.

"The Challenges and Issues Confronting Family Caregivers to Elderly Cancer Patients," by Victoria H. Raveis, is an excellent source of information for caregivers of cancer patients, and as such, is one of the most valuable chapters in the book. In the United States, almost 60 percent of new cancers and 70 percent of deaths from cancer occur in people over 65. According to predictions of the Census Department, the number of cancer patients 65 and older will double in the next 30 years, while the number of cancer patients 85 or older will increase fourfold. Earlier cancer detection and more effective treatment methods have resulted in a greater number of older adults living for longer periods following a cancer diagnosis. These developments mean that cancer patients and their families are living with the effects of cancer for an extended period; hence, the great value of information such as that given in this chapter.

Cancer caregiving can affect every aspect of caregivers' lives, including social, professional, and leisure activities, diminishing their ability or willingness to continue their role. Adult married children may find that although their spouse and children initially were sympathetic to their care provision, over time their support wanes as they become resentful of the loss of the caregiver's time and attention. In addition, caregivers may feel guilty at not being able to devote as much time to their families as they previously had done. In instances when the parent has been otherwise healthy, his or her illness often marks the beginning of a marked role reversal, a life-altering event that can be both challenging and emotionally distressing. Older caretaking spouses are also more vulnerable to the losses caused by the serious illness of their life companions and are more likely to die soon after the death of their mates. As a result of these life-shattering effects of caregiving to the aging, there is a growing national recognition of the importance of providing services and programs to assist families in their care provisions.

One of the most difficult aspects of caregiving is knowing when to let go of the patient and give up one's identity as friend, spouse, child, or sibling. Susanne Aberdeen in "Letting Go and Holding On" responds to some of these questions, particularly in the case of individuals suffering from dementia, which may last 20 years or more.

Letting go of such patients is a progressive action occurring on many levels. Different victims of the disease may have dissimilar symptoms at various times, depending on the parts of the brain affected. In terms of when to let go of the caretaking role and assign the patient to community care, Aberdeen writes (p. 100) that such a decision is so difficult that some people are never able to make it and simply keep going. She compares their plight to that of a frog in a delightful Chinese proverb to the effect that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out, but if you place the frog in a pot of cold water and bring it gently to the boil, the frog will stay and be cooked. Palliative care may begin at the stage when living with the dementing illness becomes dying with it. Such care is often difficult to give the demented individual, and much research needs to be done in that area. In addition, there is an unfortunate shortage of health professionals in residential care for the aging, which must be remedied if successful palliative-care provision with appropriate family involvement is to be given.

There are strong needs for assessing the psychosocial, spiritual, and physical health needs of the primary caregiver; establishing the expectations of family for the health of the person with dementia; educating caregivers about the roles of staff in relation to patient support and end of life palliative care; encouraging ongoing communication between caregiver, family, and staff; and providing counseling and access to support groups.

Discussing another important aspect of aging, "Bioethics and End-of-Life Issues" by Gail Tulloch deals with matters of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. The Harvard Ad Hoc Committee (Ascension Health, n.d.) was the source of the influential brain-death criterion in the United States that became the international standard definition of death, in place of the absence of heartbeat and breathing. Permanently unconscious patients were potential sources of donor organs for other patients, but to remove the heart of a still-living patient was considered murder. Hence the Harvard definition of death was a great leap forward in terms of practice and policy.

Bills to legalize assisted suicide were introduced unsuccessfully in many states. In 1964, Oregon's Death with Dignity initiative was approved by voters, but because of an injunction by the District Court did not go into effect until 1997. Oregon is now the touchstone for the legal status of physician-induced suicide in the United States. In England, as long as the doctor's professional intention is to relieve suffering, treatment by escalating doses of morphine that leads to death is legal. The Netherlands, until joined by Belgium in 2001, was the only country that legalized euthanasia. It is interesting that while Dutch legislation was passed in 2001, it was preceded by nearly three decades of practice when doctors were not prosecuted if they followed appropriate guidelines. The Dutch definition of euthanasia is a narrow one, restricted to active voluntary euthanasia. According to Tulloch (p. 129), "Three characteristics of Dutch society concerning euthanasia are important to acknowledge: its openness, the long-term relationship people have with their GP, and the fact that nursing care is free, so there is no economic pressure to end life." Tulloch adds that she believes the Dutch experience "is close to exemplary," and has not polarized the country - unlike the situation in the other three countries discussed.

While there doubtlessly is much information of value to program administrators, staff, theoreticians, and caregivers of the aging in "Lessons On Aging From Three Nations, Volume II: The Art of Caring for Older Adults," I (possibly because of where I stand in the age pyramid) found this book much less interesting than the first volume of the series, "The Art of Aging Well." Nevertheless, Volume 2 provides much needed information on the worldwide situation of the burgeoning number of senior citizens and possible resolutions of the difficulties the circumstances entail.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food
Jennifer 8. Lee
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave, New York, NY 10017
9780446580076, $24.99, 2008,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"There are nearly forty-thousand Chinese restaurants in the United States-- more than the number of McDonald's, Burger Kings and KFC's combined." On March 30, 2005 one hundred and ten people who had patronized these restaurants became Powerball lottery winners just from using numbers that were printed in their fortune cookies. This event marked the beginning point of Jennifer 8. Lee's journey into exploring the world of Chinese food. Having the advantage of speaking perfect Mandarin Chinese, American-born Lee travels around the country and throughout the world delving deep into the world of Chinese food, both past and present.

Throughout her travels she researches many different aspects of Chinese culture and history and presents them to us in a very interesting and informative narrative that will hold your attention from start to finish. Among some of the topics explored in the book are the origin of the fortune cookie, the history of General Tso's chicken, and the immigration of the Chinese to America. I found it very interesting that Chinese food in America is completely different than authentic Chinese food and that the foods were changed to be more pleasing to the palates of Americans. Reading through some of the items that are "real Chinese" food, I am very happy that they were Americanized!

I think what surprised me most of all in the book were some of the differences between Chinese and American culture and our ways of thinking. A lot of these immigrants to America gave up their families in order to work in these restaurants. It was not uncommon for the children to stay back in their homeland with their relatives while their parents came to the United States to work. Even some children born to their parents in America were sent back to family to live. In one story in the book a woman was contemplating an abortion but after calculating that she would have to be away from the restaurant longer if she had an abortion than if she actually gave birth she decided to keep the child.

"The Fortune Cookie Chronicles" was definitely an eye-opener for me and I learned an immense amount about the Chinese restaurant industry and Chinese history. With my limited knowledge of Asian geography the only thing that would have added to the book for me would have been a map so that I could visualize where the different cities and towns were that were referenced in the book, particularly during the smuggling and immigration stories. In my opinion "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles" should be required reading for any Chinese history or culture class. This well-written book provided so many insights and did so in such an entertaining way that it was very hard to put down.

Gifts from The Child Within: Self-discovery and Self-recovery Through Re-Creation Therapy, 2nd Edition
Barbara Sinor, PhD
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690460, $20.95, 2008, (734) 662-6864,

Reviewed by Elizabeth E. Gibson-Evans for RebeccasReads

"Gifts from The Child Within" is a very refreshing and thorough book written for survivors of abuse, counselors, and those just trying to understand family and friends who are victims or survivors. Sinor, with her own personal experience and excellent skill in writing, makes you feel as if you are taking a journey through yourself with self-discovery as well as healing. She has written this book in a workbook form as well to aide the reader through this journey of discovery and healing smoothly and responsibly. She makes the reader work through their own abusive memories of childhood by reading and noting steps for healing in one very easy unique transition. In "Gifts from The Child Within," you are not only re-living the traumatic aspect of your childhood, it is done in a way that you are able to understand many feelings and issues that you may not have been aware of in your life today on a daily basis.

For my own experience or journey through this workbook, it was like an awakening into the very soul of my being. I not only learned of things or actions in my daily life today, I was able to understand where "they" came from and why, as well as understood these in a new light. As well, I myself have learned the techniques that Sinor suggests, explains, and walks you through. This book is a very handy tool for anyone who has suffered any kind of childhood abuse, be it physically or emotionally as they both set very deep scars within ourselves that at times cause us to act or re-act in childish ways with or without a conscious awareness. This workbook will awaken you to your own child within and teaches you how to become aware of when he or she is acting out, or up, in a situation. You learn to reel-in that child and teach him, or her, a more responsible way to act or re-act by learning to change the outcome of those abusive memories into positive memories either by a self-hypnotic state and/or The Process of Re-Creation Therapy.

I recommend "Gifts from The Child Within" to anyone who has been abused in their childhood, friends and family of those abused, counselors, therapists and the like who desire to learn, understand and aide one through their journey and enlightenment. It is surely one you will not forget; in truth, though the tools you learn you would not wish to forget as they walk you through victim to "The Present and Beyond" safely and with forgiveness and a self-knowledge. It will enable you to watch and control how one acts and re-acts in many situations throughout life with relationships, work, school and just daily emotions that come up. Thank you Barbara Sinor for this wonderful workbook and the smooth understandable read, as it is not filled with technical terms but with understanding, sincerity and a desire to help all of us that share this walk.

Lady Killer
Lisa Scottoline
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East, 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060833206, $25.95, February 2008, (212) 207-7000,

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan for RebeccasReads

Remember the classic movie "Lady Killers" starring Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers. It was a thriller, a mystery and, at the same time, a comedy, all rolled in one. The same is my verdict for "Lady Killer," the 15th legal thriller by lawyer, author and 'female John Grisham,' Lisa Scottoline.

It takes a lot of talent and vivacious imagination to imbibe humour in a legal thriller. True lawyers John Mortimer and Henry Cecil had explored the lighter side of law in their novels; but their novels were not thrillers. And Lisa Scottoline is one such exception who has succeeded in this unique attempt. I have been a die-hard fan of Scottoline works--though a late bloomer to the same. I read the first Scottoline work about four or five years back, and ever since I had religiously tracked down, bought and read each and every one of her thrillers. I had grown fond of the Attorney firm of Rosato and Associates--with its gusty, hardworking attorneys namely Bennie Rosato, Mary DiNunzio, Judy Carrier and Anne Murphy. In short, they are the 'Charlie's Angels' of the legal profession…at least in Philadelphia. However, in the past three books or so Scottoline did not focus on the exploits of this firm and strayed into other venues of legal thriller writing. Sure, "Devil's Corner," "Dirty Blonde" and "Daddy's Girl" were a class of their own, but I sorely missed my favorite attorneys, especially Mary DiNunzio. And my joy knew no bounds when I got hold of "Lady Killer." DiNunzio makes a fine return and Scottoline has written a neat legal thriller which will keep her fans happy world wide.

This time around DiNunzio has her hands full with a young Indian mother seeking help for her young son, a dyslexic boy named Dhiren; another case involving a defamation suit initiated by some die-hard fans of the legendary late actor Dean Martin and, to top it all, DiNunzio's high school Nemesis Trish 'Trash' Gambone needs her help. The case of Dean Martin is put on hold, and DiNunzio meets her old nemesis Gambone. It seems Trish Gambone has gotten involved with the mob, and she fears that her boyfriend will kill her real soon. Trish requires protection, but not from the court. DiNunzio cannot offer anything better than a court order, and Trish leaves in a huff and within hours disappears. Soon everyone is blaming DiNunzio for not coming to the help of Trish. Reluctantly DiNunzio begins her own investigation, taking into help three best buddies of Trish--their joint IQ will itself be smaller than their shoe size. But, after the dead body of Trish's boyfriend floats up, the plot takes a whole new turn. Was Trish actually the abducted or the abductee? Or is there a silent killer on the prowl?

What follows is vintage Scottoline suspense--and like fine Scotch, which gets better with age, Scotch-o-line gets better with each book. "Lady Killer" is highly, highly recommended.

Olive Kitteridge: Fiction
Elizabeth Strout
Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9781400062089, $24.95, April 8, 2008,

Reviewed by Audrey Larson for RebeccasReads

Each chapter in the book is a short story of different people and families living in a Maine community. Olive Kitteridge is a retired math teacher who knows, and/or has contact with, the people in the stories.

Olive Kitteridge is a female curmudgeon. She is harsh, opinionated, judgmental, quite unlikable, and manages to offend someone every time she opens her mouth. Most of us know a woman or women similar to Olive Kitteridge, who are abrasive, irritating and cause stress everywhere they go. Often, they don't even know, understand or care how badly they affect others. Olive's own son told her she was the most feared teacher in the school. Olive alienates her son with her harsh language and ways, even though she loves him. And people are always wondering why her husband puts up with her. Her husband, Henry Kitteridge, is just the opposite of Olive. He is happier, more easy-going, pleasant, positive, helpful and accepting of others. Henry is a very likeable person, where Olive is not.

This book is about relationships, family dynamics, every-day, ordinary people with their troubles, problems, tragedies, mistakes, and learning experiences throughout their lives. There seems to be very little happiness, peace or humor in any of the characters' lives. Certainly, Olive Kitteridge is too negative in all her thinking, and seems to lack a sense of humor. She takes herself way too seriously.

Olive Kitteridge is a senior citizen who keeps right on analyzing, learning and doing a bit of growing right to the end of the book. But describing her is a bit like "we grow too soon old and too late smart."

This 270-page book is well written, and the author has good insights into people's personalities, flaws, weaknesses and human nature. There is almost no humor in the book, except for a funny parrot. "Olive Kitteridge" would be far better with more humor, because even with all the characters' troubles and unhappiness, very few people really live totally humorless lives. But it is an interesting read. I give it three stars.

AIDS Orphans Rising: What You Should Know and What You Can Do To Help Them Succeed
Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd, M.P.F., Ed. D.
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690477, $15.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"AIDS Orphans Rising: What You Should Know and What You Can Do To Help Them Succeed" is a well-researched book examining what happens to the children who are left orphaned when their mothers and fathers die from HIV/AIDS. Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd presents the reader with some very grim statistics. Perhaps the most shocking is that "every 14 seconds a Child Headed Household is formed." These children are left on their own with only each other as support because in a lot of cases their relatives will not take care of them or are financially unable to take care of them. According to the book "there are usually three to eight children per household." These children do whatever they can to stay together, to get an education and to survive. The strength of the children in the stories presented in this book is incredible.

The sheer volume of orphans is staggering. "The data from UNICEF, UNAIDS and USAID indicates that in sub-Saharan Africa, 14 million children have been orphaned by AIDS - a number higher than the total number of boys and girls under 18-years-old in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland combined. That figure is expected to reach 18 million by 2010." The book examines the dynamics of the Child Headed Household, where these children live, what they eat, how they survive and what is best for them. Most importantly though is the question of what we can do to help. At the end of every chapter Sister Mary Elizabeth presents us with a list of actions that we can take to help and support these children. She also presents us with a plethora of websites and other references that we can use to further explore the issue.

I never realized how large and widespread this issue was until reading Sister Mary Elizabeth's book She presents the information in such a way that you can't ignore it. Not only is her book well-documented, but she also speaks from her personal experience as she has been assisting orphans and Child Headed Households for the past 12 years. Throughout the book are pictures of some of these children which help to make the issue even more real. "AIDS Orphans Rising" is an eye-opening book which truly inspires you to try to assist these children in their quest to stay together and to make it in this world. Just by purchasing the book you are not only educating yourself but you are also already helping because "100% of all profits from this book will go to help the Child Headed Households."

Devil's Peak: A Novel
Deon Meyer
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave, New York, NY 10017
9780316017855, $24.99, 2008,

Reviewed by Audrey Larson for RebeccasReads

Devil's Peak is a murder mystery/thriller set in South Africa. It is essentially three stories about three separate people whose lives converge along the way. The author jumps back and forth between the separate stories, sometimes in separate paragraphs on the same page. It can be quite startling and frustrating, having to stop and wonder for a moment just who he is writing about now. Further editing could make the reading less choppy.

The three main characters are an alcoholic detective, a man on a mission to track down and kill child molesters and killers (illegally), and a woman with a small child who works in the sex trade, hoping to get enough money to "retire" in a nice house with her child.
The book begins with the prostitute telling her story to a clergyman. She has a child, and gives insights into how her life evolved the way it has and why she does it. The author has actually interviewed prostitutes to get their stories, and it makes her story sound authentic, if unthinkable to us.

The child "avenger" uses an old-fashioned assegai, a type of spear. The press calls him "Artemis," and people have mixed feelings about him murdering the child-killers. Some people are glad that he is ridding society of them faster than the police can catch them.
The detective, Griessel, battles alcoholism that has caused his wife to put him out of their home. As he stays sober, his mind becomes sharper, and he does an increasingly good job. His two children support him, even though his wife does not. Ultimately, his own daughter is kidnapped, and the chase becomes very personal for him.

There is much suspense in the book, bloody murders, violence, profanity, revenge, tracking the killers, forgiveness, insights into South African police methods, and dynamics between whites and blacks in that country. It is written (or translated) in English, and sometimes some of the words will be unfamiliar to Americans. Sprinkled throughout are song lyrics and other words in a language foreign to us.

With "Devil's Peak," Deon Meyer has written a good, suspenseful book that keeps you intrigued and reading right to the end.

Faded Genes: Memories of a Motherless Daughter
Donna Jean Pomeroy
St. Jacques Publications
9515 EE.25 Road, Rapid River MI 49878
9780970317735, $12.95, 2007

Review by Lisa Heidle for RebeccasReads

In 1960, Rose Jacques died during childbirth, leaving behind a distraught husband and eleven grieving and frightened children. Donna Jean (Jacques) Pomeroy, the seventh child, chronicles the family's turbulent history in "Faded Genes: Memories of a Motherless Daughter."

"Every day of that first year after my mother's death was January ninth for me," Donna Jean shares. She is caught in the middle of her many siblings, she struggles with the trauma of losing a mother and the destitution of her family while witnessing her over-burdened father valiantly trying to keep his children together.

In a story-telling fashion comparable to a family reunion reminiscence we are taken back to a more traditional time when women stayed in the home, caring for the children and men ventured out into the world and earned a steady paycheck. With the death of Rose, the Jacques family is forced to challenge many of the ideals and survive purely through strength of will, ingenuity and the love they feel for one another.

"Faded Genes" reminds us that much of parenting is leading by example. Without a mother and with an ill-equipped father, the children of the Jacques family had to experience many of the simple, everyday life challenges through trial and error. In the absence of any supervision, the six girls set fire to the yard, permed the youngest girls' hair, and attempted to throw a birthday party for their sister Sarah without any food in the home. As the girls grow older, their fear of dying during childbirth is shared and they declare that only through adoption will they become mothers, Donna Jean the most adamant.

Interspersed with the telling of childhood pranks and adventures, painful and tragic happenings emerge. When Donna Jean is sent to the door to tell the gas man her father isn't home in order to avoid payment, her father stays in the other room, hiding in bed, under blankets. John Jacques shame and his daughter's frustration are easily imagined.

More startling is the manner in which the author breezes over the molestation and torment she and her sisters experienced at the hand of a family friend. When the youngest sisters tell their father, "Ernie plays dirty," his only reply is, "If he doesn't want to play fair, don't play the game." The same blase telling is used when Donna Jean recounts the date rape she endured. She chooses to lean on the overuse of exclamation points to express her outrage and pain instead of reaching a little deeper and locating the emotion through words.

The memoir, "Faded Genes," reminds us our past is only a small part of whom we are and that those who came before us were also, many times, victims of circumstances. If what Ms. Pomeroy wanted was to give testimony to her parents and family, she has succeeded. When the author acknowledges to her father that it must have been hard for him after the loss of his wife, his simple answer resounds with truth when he replies, "I just did what I had to do."

Head Wounds
Chris Knopf
The Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579621650, $28.00, 2008,

Reviewed by Audrey Larson for RebeccasReads

Chris Knopf is a master of phraseology. His use of "ten dollar words"--and often strings of them--is fascinating. Often, you just want to stay in a paragraph, reread it, and let the wondrous words, nuances and insights they convey soak in. Pure pleasure.

The main character in "Head Wounds" is Sam Aquillo. He is a well-educated, complex man, who was a successful corporate man and boxer, now turned carpenter. He lives in the waterfront cottage in the Hamptons that he inherited from his late parents. Sam has a dog named Eddie Van Halen, an ex-wife, and a next-door neighbor who is a property owner and developer. She is also his slowly-developing love interest. Sam has restored his late father's 1967 Grand Prix, and you can just see him driving along in it with Eddie, his dog, and perhaps a cup of his favorite gourmet, flavored coffee.

When a man is murdered shortly after Sam has a fight with him and his cohorts outside a bar, the police are so sure than Sam did it, that they don't even look for another suspect. So, Sam embarks on a long investigation of his own to find the motivation behind the killing and the real murderer. It is an interesting journey.

There is some fascinating engineering, medical and psychological information as Sam investigates everything. Along the way, there is also mystery, intrigue, arson, and insights into why Sam lost his marriage and former career. He has done some surprising things in his life, drinks too much, and nurses his head injury from former violence.

Since Sam is so likeable, you want everything to work out well for him. You want him to solve all the mysteries, find the real killer, stabilize his life, settle down and find happiness. And when there finally is a happy ending to "Head Wounds," you don't want Sam's story or the book to end. Thus, it is good that it is a part of the Sam Aquillo Hampton's Mystery Series. Sam's saga continues.

St. Barts Breakdown
Don Bruns
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Road, Ipswich, MA 01938
9781933515120, $24.95, 2008, (978) 356-1897,

Reviewed by Audrey Larson for RebeccasReads

"St. Barts Breakdown" is a murder mystery-thriller about Danny Murtz, a drug and alcohol-addicted psychopathic killer. Murtz is a wealthy record producer, who believes he is "Rock God."

Murtz has an attorney, Harvey Schwartz, whom Murtz pays huge sums of money to dispose of and cover up all evidence of his crimes. Schwartz receives millions of dollars for his services to Murtz, and he is very good at cleaning up his messes. Murtz does not like or treat Schwartz well, and Schwartz demands more and more money. It is a vicious circle of dislike and distrust.

When things get too hot for Murtz in Chicago, he flees to his home in St. Barts Island, in the Caribbean, where the local police say there is no crime, because they want no bad publicity--just tourist dollars. Therefore, they explain everything away as accidents.

St. Bart is a beautiful island paradise, with breathtaking views, good food, and lovely tropical drinks. Mr. B is a bartender who knows a great deal about the island ways and people. He mixes a great Strawberry Daiquiri, and the recipe is in the front of the book. It sounds so delicious even non-drinkers may want to try this one!

A Chicago Tribune reporter, Mick Sever, follows Murtz to St. Barts to get an interview with him. Sever also investigates and tries to get evidence of Murtz's murders and crimes, thereby putting himself into great danger. Murtz and his attorney, Harvey Schwartz, try to get rid of Sever several times, but always fail.

Danny Murtz's mind and body are deteriorating rapidly because of his cocaine and alcohol addition. He seems to spend most of his time doing the drugs and drinking, and his mind is often so foggy he can't remember much. The cocaine also causes him to have a hair-trigger temper, and he becomes increasingly paranoid, trusting nobody, even his attorney and long-suffering secretary, Nancy. Murtz does not even realize how much he depends on Nancy and Schwartz for almost everything.

Eventually, Murtz even wants to "clean house," and get rid of Schwartz and Nancy, along with several women who know too much. Murtz does not realize he cannot survive without Schwartz. There is increasing violence in the book, and the end is not surprising. "St. Barts Breakdown" is a book about a totally wasted life, despite fame and fortune. It is also a lesson to everyone how drugs and alcohol destroy lives. Another lesson the book teaches is that paradise islands are not always what they seem to be. There is very little safety and protection there, despite the great beauty.

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

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