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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 3 March 2009 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Betty's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Hassler's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Liana's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Sullivan's Bookshelf Terrilyn's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Destiny's Prerogative
Karen Michelle Nutt
Tease Publishing
9781934678626 $3.99 ebook

Amy J. Ramsey, Reviewer

Gabriel Cruzado is a werejaguar and a descendant of the Nagual Clan. Centuries ago, the Naguals were known for being the spirit companions to shamans and are responsible for guiding lost souls to safety. All werejaguars experience a series of changes during their Lifespan. Gabriel is in the midst of his were-flux phase, which would have gone smoothly, if only he would have chosen a mate and initiated the final bite, but his stubbornness has interfered, resulting in agonizing and unpredictable shifts. In his weakened state he knew he shouldn't channel, but he could no longer resist the plea for help coming from a scared and confused female soul.

In the spirit plane, Gabriel attempted coaxing the soul back into her body because it was not her time to die, but he unknowingly marked her by appearing in his jaguar form. He admired the soul's courage and purity and felt regret for not having the opportunity to discover her identity and possibly befriend her at some point in the future. With only a few short weeks left before the new moon rises, Gabriel has given up hope of finding a willing mate, a female who will not fear the hybrid creature she will become, and even if he could, it was too late to introduce his were DNA into a human body, something that takes months to do.

Not willing to endure their older brother's suffering any longer, Demetrius and Lucas planed an intervention. With a friends' help, Demetrius located and apprehended Shay McCormick, who is the soul Gabriel marked. Neither of them expected to find such a feisty and strong willed individual, someone who also shares their same interest in wildcat preservation, but will Gabriel be convinced that his life is worth living knowing that Shay was forced upon him or will Shay's terror overcome her when she realizes shifters do exist? It's Gabriel and Shay's prerogative to accept that destiny brought them together. Time is of the essence and with an unknown killer lurking nearby, targeting young shifters, could Gabriel and Shay become his next victims?

Destiny's Prerogative is a sensational read. Mrs. Karen Nutt has, yet again, visualized an exceptionally marvelous story, one that will charm the reader, snaring them into the artistic world she has created. I am impressed by Mrs. Nutt's visualization and creativeness involving such a unique and innovative world centered on werejaguars. Mrs. Nutt truly knows how to captivate the reader with vivid characterization and imaginative surroundings, all of which entwine around a well devised plot. I will certainly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in paranormal romance genre.

Voyages: Reminiscences of a Young Abe Lincoln
Neil Waldman
Calkins Creek Books
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church Street, Homesdale, PA 18431
9781590784716 $16.95

Beth Rogers

2009 marks the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and this milestone has sparked a flurry of publications about the man who was arguably America's greatest president. Neil Waldman's Voyages: Reminiscences of a Young Lincoln captures hauntingly one of the formative periods of Lincoln's life, bringing to vivid life Lincoln's adolescent voyages on the Mississippi River and his first real encounters with the institution of American slavery. Targeting readers in the middle grades (ages 11-14), the author uses a picture book style more commonly associated with books for beginning readers, but he does so with an approach that is in no way childish or cute. Combining excerpts from Lincoln's own written letters and documents with his own narration in a style that admirably evokes Lincoln's voice, Waldman tells the story of young Lincoln's first steps into adulthood through wage-earning, his early adventures away from his boyhood home, and his first exposures to the cruel and ugly realities of urban slave auctions. Differences in text font, clearly explained in the introduction, separate the author's words from those of Lincoln and add visual interest to the page. Understated but compelling illustrations add depth and realism to the narrative and provide young readers with a glimpse into life in nineteenth century America. Additionally, the pages are formatted with subtle shading to give the appearance of an aged book. Waldman's use of the picture book format here is masterful; there is nothing juvenile about the book, but instead the carefully chosen format makes the book accessible in a way that a more traditional biographical text is unlikely to be. The book captures Lincoln's dedication to hard work and sacrifice, his firm belief self-determination, and his deep moral convictions about the immorality of slavery, yet manages to never be condescending or overbearing in its message. Well-known as a writer and illustrator of books for young people, Waldman succeeds admirably in crafting a unique addition to the canon of Lincoln biography.

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship
Longman, Tremper III and Enns, Peter, editors
InterVarsity Press (IVP)
PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 605151426
9780830817832 $50.00 1-800-843-9487

Charlie Murray

Biblical scholarship is fast becoming a major academic industry. It is difficult sometimes to keep up with the amount of new material, new theories, new interpretations, and new exegetical methods that are being developed by contemporary biblical scholars. Thus having access to recent contemporary scholarship on the biblical canon in a dictionary format is extremely helpful to professors, graduate students, upper level undergraduate students, and informed members of the public with an interest in remaining au courant with the best of recent thinking on biblical issues. IVP Academic Press is publishing such a series of dictionaries on the entire biblical canon in a number of volumes. The seventh volume in IVP Academic Press's critically acclaimed series, edited by Tremper Longman III (Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA; author of An Introduction to the Old Testament and several biblical commentaries) and Peter Enns (Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; author of Inspiration and Incarnation and a commentary on Exodus), has recently been published. It is a series whose every volume is worth waiting for and worth owning. Given the intense academic disputes over the theological interpretation of the biblical canon, it is important to have a publication that emphasizes objective scholarship rather than ideological interpretation.

The seventh volume examines the Wisdom, Poetry, and Writings sections of the Hebrew Bible; however, one should know that the editors discuss 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah in the volume on the Historical Books and Daniel will be treated in the volume on the Prophets. In this volume, every article is signed by an Old Testament/Hebrew Bible scholar. All articles are alphabetically arranged. This dictionary examines each biblical book in a full length article that imitates contemporary biblical commentary patterns by offering a description of the book, providing a literary analysis, identifying its Ancient Near Eastern context, discussing its theological message, and looking at its history of interpretation. Additional dictionary articles discuss major biblical characters (Naomi, Ahasuerus, etc.), new contemporary scholarly methods (e.g. intertextuality, etc.) and exegetical tools (editorial criticism, textual criticism, etc.) as well as important theological themes (e.g. concept of afterlife, messiah, chaos and death, etc). An up to date bibliography that lists the most important contemporary and historical critical scholarship is included after each article. In addition, one may find also a How to Use This Dictionary section, a Scriptural Index, and a Subject Index. It is written in a scholarly but accessible style that an informed general reader could understand even if the dictionary's primary intended audience remains scholars, graduate students, and upper level undergraduates and members of the general public interested in the bible. Very highly recommended.

Pius Charles Murray is Branch Manager of the Jungman Neighborhood Library, part of the Houston Public Library System, in Houston, TX and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

Raising A Child With Soul
Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
St. Martin's Griffin
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312541965 $14.95 646-307-5151

Fern Sidman, Reviewer

In our fast-paced hedonistic culture, raising children with stellar character traits can be a daunting responsibility for any parent. Despite our doughty efforts to shelter our children from the ominous presence of forces that are antithetical to our teachings, it appears that the lure of societal decadence is a definitive factor that holds sway with our youth.

Enter veteran parenting educator, Slovie Jungreis-Wolff, who comes with 13 years of experience teaching parents how to bring up a child who will become a true "mensch" (upstanding person). In her recently published book, "Raising A Child With Soul" (St. Martin's Press), Mrs. Wolff, (the daughter of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis), takes on tough parenting issues including disciplining with love, how to effectively communicate, diffusing tensions that arise from sibling rivalry, the inculcation of gratitude and appreciation in our children and establishing priorities, among others.

This book is a hybrid of sorts; combining practical parenting guidelines along with a delicious selection of poignant stories and a vast array of Torah related concepts that are presented with a palpable degree of warmth and love. The predicate of this book emanates from the greatest of all parenting sources; our Holy Torah. Mrs. Wolff's upbringing in a home completely imbued with Torah concepts serves as her most treasured oracle.

"The beauty behind the Torah path to raising children is the fact that Torah is immutable. It is a constant, never changing, eternal truth," says the author in her chapter entitled, "Raising Spiritual Children". She advises parents that a child's spiritual education begins at birth and our homes must represent much more than just a physical dwelling, but rather, we must work assiduously to transform them into a vibrant center for genuine holiness. The creation of a "mikdash me'at" - a miniature sanctuary, should be our ultimate goal.

Rather than viewing our parenting duties as mere drudgery, the author reminds us that, "The Creator of the Universe has chosen this specific soul to be brought in to this world through you. Raising this child with soul becomes your life mission. What an awesome and holy task!"

The modalities for communicating our standards, trust and respect to our children is beautifully brought to the fore through the outline of the Shema Yisroel prayer. "Many parents mistakenly believe that communicating with children is defined only by their words. The Shema so eloquently teaches us that we impart crucial values to our families through our very being," observes the author.

Moreover, you can rest assured that this book does not skirt the issue of greatest concern to today's parents. There is little doubt in anyone's mind that out of control children are fast becoming a ubiquitous phenomenon. Meting out discipline with love is courageously and compassionately discussed in both salient and nuanced detail. "Children who lack discipline grow without understanding the limits of acceptable behavior. They often cross the line and then can't comprehend why we get so upset," says the author. If this statement resonates with parents and educators who are experiencing difficulties in the discipline department, then what follows is a real eye opener.

Other chapters address such paramount issues as building self-esteem, teaching compassion to our children, defining the Torah definition of true happiness, inculcating our children with gratitude and appreciation for all that they have, having our children learn to deal with disappointments, how to instill cooperation and harmony amongst siblings and how parents can learn to prioritize. Each of these is given more than ample explanation as the author delves in to Torah wisdom with such ease and finesse.

The author's writing style is comparable to someone who speaks with the authority of a marriage counselor and child psychologist, yet her sage advice is reminiscent of a heartwarming conversation with a voluble grandmother or aunt. The trajectory of this compelling page turner is an exceptionally informative and cozy ride through the vicissitudes of parenthood as it explores in great depth the prosaic issues that parents grapple with on a daily basis.

By the conclusion of this parenting journey, one simply cannot leave the same as one entered. The inspirational words written here will reach deep in to the crevices of the reader's heart and soul, as one re-learns the joy of parenting. This book must take precedence on the "to be read" list of every parent, teacher, guidance counselor and principal and no home or library should be without it.

Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom, and Revenge
Edward Kritzer
New York, NY
9780385513982 $26.00

Dr. Fred Reiss

Think about the American Revolution, and 1776 immediately comes to mind. Yet, the history of America begins long before that date. The French arrived in America in the 1530s, and Dutch arrived less than a century later. Yet, this is still not far enough back in time. To understand the full history of America requires us to go all the back to Columbus and the secret Jews who sailed with him, together with those who later followed in his footsteps across the Caribbean islands and into North America. These secret Jews, referred to euphemistically as "the Portuguese" were driven to the New World by their quest for religious freedom.

Hordes brought to the public his admirable book, To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico, in which he weaves the tale of conversos, the Jews who left Spain outwardly displaying their conversion to Christianity while secretly practicing Judaism as a result of the Inquisition. His book follows them to Portugal, Mexico, and the American southwest. Kritzler takes a broader view in Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean by detailing the history, political machinations, and fortunes and misfortunes of "the Portuguese" who went to Jamaica on Columbus' second voyage, and those Jews who interacted with them and followed in the footsteps. The culminating event occurred in 1654, with the arrival of twenty-nine Dutch Jews in New Amsterdam (now New York).

Edward Kritzler, an historian and a former New York-based reporter, who lives in Kingston, Jamaica, provides fascinating stories that show connections between some of the most powerful monarchs in Europe and their dependency on Jews and Jewish pirates to establish and maintain New World outposts. In doing so, he introduces the reader to some remarkable Jewish characters and exposes a virtually unexplored world in Jewish history. He introduces us to such people as Isaac Aboab, first Rabbi in America, Sinan, the Jewish fighting arm of Barbarossa, the most feared pirate of his time, and Samuel Palache, the Pirate Rabbi, who tested Netherlands' promise of religious freedom. Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean is a well researched book on the history of the Jewish influence on early exploration of the New World. It is a book that should not just be read, but studied as well.

The Book of Chameleons
Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Simon & Schuster Paperbacks
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416573517 $12.00 1-800-223-2336

Georganna Hancock

The Book of Chameleons was written in Portuguese and won a Foreign Fiction Prize awarded by The Independent in 2007. This English edition was translated by Daniel Hahn, who also translated Agualusa's novel Creole that won the Portuguese Grand Prize for Literature, and the upcoming Rainy Season and My Father's Wives by Agualusa. So few books are translated, that it is a treat to have the opportunity to experience such literature.

This book is touted by the publisher as a "completely original murder mystery". I would hesitate to categorize it as such, because it is so much more. The murder plays a trivial role. The story is really about identity and memories - what is real and true, and what is not. Who are we if we have no memory of a past? If we choose a different identity, we need new memories to accompany the falsified life. That's where Felix Ventura enters the scenes in Angola, a war-weary land where many seek to bury their pasts. For these, Felix builds new lives from the present backwards, complete with grand genealogies demanding remembrances of a different past and constructed in hope for a different future. He falsifies identities for a price.

Unfortunately for Felix's client, who becomes Jose Buchmann, the true past has a bent for breaking out, no matter who we pretend to be later on. This wealthy client claims a true background eerily similar to Felix's new girlfriend's. The lovely Angela Lucia, an itinerant photographer, becomes Felix's first romance. Her past and that of Felix's client collide one fateful night in El Vendador's spacious home.

Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro
Faber and Faber
9781400078776 $14.00

Jennifer Palombi

Never Let Me Go is a somewhat surreal novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, the award-winning author of The Remains of the Day. It is an unusual tale told in the first-person by a 30-something woman named Kathy. Kathy reminisces throughout its pages about growing up as a young person in Hailsham, an unusual boarding school for "special" children. Here, the children have no parents, no last names and only a shadowy understanding of what it is that makes them so "special," yet they are continually reminded of their uniqueness by their guardians. Health and creativity are strongly encouraged, a mysterious woman periodically appears to take away the students' best art and one troubled teacher seems to want to tell the children more… but cannot bring herself to do so. Meanwhile, the author does a splendid job of relating the mundane complexities of juvenile friendship, bonding and growth so familiar to any reader. The central characters are well-developed and the small details of their inexplicably sheltered lives keep the reader turning the pages with enthusiasm.

Never Let Me Go is a well-told story that quickly draws the reader in to an atypical world that is, at the same time, very ordinary as it follows the familiar trials and growing pains of a small group of young people passing from childhood to adulthood. Any reader will doubtless identify with the commonplace details of the lives of these seemingly typical children. Yet a sense of secrecy and an implied ominous fate hang over the entire narrative, only to eventually lead the reader to a revelation of just how atypical these young people really are. Ultimately, the reader is challenged to consider the lines between scientific progress and scientific ethics, between what is right and what is wrong in the preservation of our very lives.

Sometimes touted as a modern mystery, Never Let Me Go is unlike any mystery in the traditional sense. The mystery here lies in the journey of self-discovery upon which the three central characters, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, embark, as they grow up together and progress with their peers toward the fulfillment of their unusual purpose in life. In other words, the mystery lies not in "whodunit?", but in "what does it all mean?". The final unveiling of these answers may leave the reader feeling a little empty. This is perhaps partly because the author is a bit heavy-handed with his earlier cues and partly because a lot of questions remain unanswered. But the reader will likely forgive this in thanks for an otherwise flowing and engaging read, full of well-crafted characters caught up in a somewhat disturbing tale.

Stop the world, I need to pee!
Cindy Vine
9781439213933 $14.99

Lucy Hill

Fenella Fisher is not beautiful or blessed with extraordinary talents or gifts. Fenella Fisher is an ordinary woman, not unlike the girl next door or a woman you might work with. However, Fenella appears to live her life going from crisis to crisis. Things just seem to happen to her, and instead of letting them get her down, Fenella always lifts herself out of the mess, or ends up having the last laugh. In Stop the world I need to pee, Fenella embarks on a rollercoaster ride through life, searching for love and the dream man - who always turns out to have flaws, as well as a better life for her children. On her journey, Fenella encounters con-artists, crazy sickos, other women's husbands and a few genuinely nice people who become her lifelong friends. You might love her, or hate her, but you won't deny the fact that Fenella's escapades, some a little raunchy, will have kept you entertained.

I found the style of writing easy to read, and it was the kind of book that you read from cover to cover as you can't wait to see what will happen in the end. This book is supposed to be fiction, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually based on the author's life. Definitely recommended and you can buy it from

The Devil's Alchemists
A.R. Homer
Llumina Press
8055 West McNab Road, Tamarac, FL 33321
9781595265036 $14.95

Marian Loreti

A.R. Homer, whose second novel, "The Sobs of Autumn's Violins," was awarded the Distinguished Medal by the Military Writers Society of America, has once again written an utterly engrossing novel of World War II, "The Devil's Alchemists." The novel interweaves the story of an ingenious effort by an SS officer to gain the atomic bomb for Nazi Germany with a dramatic tale of resistance in occupied Denmark.

The novel opens in 1942 with a meeting between Albert Speer, Reichminister for Arms and Munitions, and Germany's nuclear physics brain trust, which has been working on the application of nuclear physics to weaponry ever since German scientists first split the atom in 1939. When world-famous Nobel laureate, Werner Heisenberg, asserts that an atomic bomb will be highly impractical to build, Speer leaves the meeting in disgust. Later, SS officer Max Heldorf visits Speer and proposes a plan to develop such a bomb, a plan to which Speer agrees. But when Heldorf forms his team, he realizes with dismay that the work cannot go forward without the participation of a key scientist he is loath to include: Hannah Goldmann, an interned Jewess with whom, during their pre-Hitler university days, he was in love.

In New York, Christina Lindgren, a WAAC, is recruited by the OSS (a forerunner of the CIA) to go to Sweden to collect a message from a German scientist; it is a mission that almost ends in disaster. A return mission goes truly awry, but from a place of safety, Christina reads the message she has managed to collect and realizes she has no alternative but to act upon the information herself.

In occupied Denmark, the people have not yet felt the full brunt of the Nazi jackboot; yet Jorgen Sorensen, a member of the fledgling Danish Resistance, still seethes with hatred of the German invaders. Jorgen is a skilled saboteur, a tough guy with a soft spot in this heart for ten-year-old Peder, who is almost shut off from the rest of the world by his autism. Peder was homeless until Sara Gronberg, a Jewish widow who runs a butcher shop, took him in. But when a brick with a swastika is thrown through her shop window by Danish Nazis, Jorgen is powerless to retaliate: the Jews of Denmark, unlike Jews in other Nazi-occupied countries, have not yet been rounded up by the German invaders and have asked the Danish Resistance to take no actions that would jeopardize their position. But the taunts continue, and soon Sara's life is in danger, and Jorgen realizes he must get Sara and Peder to neutral Sweden. Peder, thinking he has been the cause of his mother's problems, runs away - and discovers a horrific secret, which, due to his autism, he is unable to communicate. Meanwhile, Jorgen sails Sara to safety in Sweden, but runs into trouble on the way back - an accident that will soon have him planning what is perhaps the greatest resistance operation of all time: the rescue of all of Denmark's Jews.

Homer is a gifted storyteller and weaves these threads together with consummate skill. Rich in historical detail and taut with suspense, "The Devil's Alchemists" also has characters which touch us and make us care. The novel is both compelling and believable, and from the first page right up to the thrilling climax and touching ending, it held me in its thrall. "The Devil's Alchemists" is a first rate work of fiction as well as a great read.

Erec Rex: The Dragon's Eye
Kaza Kingsley
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
9781416979333 $8.99


I am a 14 year old, and my favorite book is Erec Rex: The Dragon's eye. This book is not only action-packed, but it is suspenseful, funny, a pageturner, and everything you could want in a fantasy book.

The book's main character is a twelve year old boy named Erec Rex. Erec's lives with his five adopted siblings, and adopted mom in New York (His mom adopted all of them, not just Erec, and none of them are blood relatives except for the twins, Danny and Sammy) He is normal except for he has a weird ESP ability that he calls "Cloudy Thoughts" They are thoughts that suddenly take over his mind and force him to do whatever they command. These thoughts, though always end up helping someone. For instance, one time he was commanded to put pillows at the bottom of the stairs right before his young sister fell down them.

Erec wakes up one morning to find his mom has gone out for a job interview, and left them with a strange clown-like babysitter, who refuses to move from her chair. He assumes everything is alright, until he gets a cloudy thought that tells him to go look for his mom. He takes her picture, then, after sneaking past the babysitter, begins a magical adventure. While showing the picture of his mom around, Erec meets a girl who has seen his mom, but Erec's mom looked like she was kidnapped, and she was taken to a whole other world.

In this book, Erec has to compete in 12 challenges to become king, find out who is poisoning the current king and sabotaging the contest, and rescue his mother, all the time finding out more and more about his true identity.

There is also a second book, which is just as good as the first (if not better) called Erec Rex: Monsters of Otherness and a third book coming out in June. There will also be a new release of both books, and an audio tape coming out.

I would recommend these books to boys and girls, from second grade to adults. The books were the best of fantasy, and I would give it 5 stars!

The Everything Self-Hypnosis Book
Rene A. Bastarache, D.D.
Adams Media
F+W Media, Inc.
9781598698350 $9.95

Annie Slessman

THE EVERYTHING SELF-HYPNOSIS BOOK by Rene a. Bastarache, D.D. was my first venture into the area of self-hypnosis. Interestingly enough, I found myself drawn into the work and couldn't put it down until I had read the last page. Wonder if Bastarache has built a self-hypnotic suggestion into this book?

Whether you want to stop smoking, lose a bit of weight (and who doesn't?), want to improve your memory power, improve your reactions to family members or simply want to improve upon the way you see yourself, this book seems to cover it all. It is full of "positive" actions and provides simple, easy to do yourself exercises to put you into a hypnotic state and utilize it for good.

There is a test allowing you the opportunity to find out just how suggestible to a hypnotic state you are personally. As for this reviewer, I was highly suggestible. Maybe that explains my desire to read this work until the last word. Alternatively, maybe it is just written that well! Either way, I found it a most enjoyable read and plan to give the weight loss exercise a go. Bastarache gives a reader many choices in the methods they use to reinforce their suggestion and make progress toward their self-hypnosis goals. It is an inexpensive method of achieving success.

At $9.95, it is worth a try. Each exercise is positive reinforcement and that is worth any price you may pay.

Infinite Exposure
Roland Hughes
Logikal Solutions
3915 N 1800e Rd, Herscher, IL 60941
0977086682, free

Tami Brady

Nedim was a good Muslim but he wasn't a terrorist. At least, that's what he told himself. It had all started so innocently. He needed a computer to do his schoolwork. A friendly cleric wanted to help. The only thing he asked in return was that Nedim send a few emails for him, a couple of vacation shots, an embedded message here and there. What could be the harm in that?

The next thing Nedim knows he's being questioned by an anti-terrorist unit. The men asking the questions are playing for keeps. When they ask for Nedim's help in locating terrorist nodules, it's obvious that he has no other choice.

Infinite Exposure gives a balanced behind the scenes look at terrorism and the war on terror. Not all terrorists are religion fanatics looking to die for their cause. By the same token, often anti-terror measures aren't all that civilized. The average person has no idea of what's really going on or how far-reaching the implications.

Violet Cove
Ann Reillet
Int'l Plaza II, Ste. 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781436379458 $29.99 (hardcover)
9781436376441 $19.99 (softcover)

Tina Steinbach

I selected Violet Cove for a review because it was written by a person I've known for some time. It's not surprising to me that she turned out this fantastic novel. Although I've never visited the places she describes, I feel as though I have seen them firsthand.

Ann Reillet's writing style is unique and entertaining. She leaps across social boundaries to create likable characters that would otherwise be taboo. In her novel, Violet Cove, she successfully intertwines a ghost story and murder mystery. Although I can usually form a suspicion about the guilty character, I was truly surprised by the denouement here and realized afterward that the clues were there all along; staring me in the face.

I think Violet Cove is best suited to an adult audience, although anyone who enjoys murder mysteries would delight in this novel. I also believe that once you read this book, you're going to want more from this talented author!

Grace For The Afflicted: A Clinical And Biblical Perspective On Mental Illness
Matthew S. Stanford, PhD
Paternoster/Authentic Publishing
1820 Jet Stream Dr. Colorado Springs, CO 80921

Wheldon Curzon-Hobson

Star rating: 5

Summary: A brilliantly written Christian analysis of mental health issues which provides essential insights into the use of contemporary psychiatric and psychological treatments.

If you have ever been involved in Christian counselling or prayer ministry, or if you have acquaintances, friends or family who have a mental illness, then this book is, quite simply, an absolutely essential read.

Stanford takes the major issues of mental illnesses and describes their symptoms and their known causes according to the latest research and in the context of the agape love of Jesus. He outlines intricate brain disorders in the simplest of terms, without compromising essential detail. He then describes what drugs and psychological techniques are used and their positive and negative outcomes and, in each chapter of the book, as Stanford deals with a different mental disorder, he includes the story of someone he knows who is living with the condition.

He comments: "I included all these stories in Grace for the Afflicted to put a personal face on mental illness and to give readers a better understanding of just how devastating it is. When we discuss mental illness, we are talking, in the broader sense, about wounded people with damaged lives - precious children of God whom we have been called to love and whose burdens we have been called to carry."

He recognises the different skills that Christian pastors and church workers have, but acknowledges that many have not adequate training in the field of mental illness. This can lead to inappropriate diagnoses or an insistence that people with a mental illness should have more faith and be healed through prayer, the result being that people are hurt by the church and are not being given the treatment they require. As he says, "While pastors may have extensive training in interpreting the Scriptures, typically they have no formal training in the causes and treatment of psychiatric illnesses."

This book clearly shows that mental illness often has a biological element and, in the same way that a pastor may advise a person with Parkinson's disease to visit a health professional, so too do they need to advise a person with a mental illness to visit a trusted psychologist or psychiatrist and love and support them as they undergo treatment.

Matthew S. Stanford holds a doctoral degree in neuroscience from Baylor University and is a nationally recognized researcher and speaker in the area of aggressive and impulsive behavior, having published over fifty peer-reviewed articles in leading medical and scientific journals. In August 2003, he returned to Baylor University as a professor in the Psychology and Neuroscience department where he presently serves as the director of the Doctoral Program (Ph.D.) in Psychology. He is an active member of the American Psychological Association, Society for Psychophysiological Research, and the International Society of Research on Aggression.

This book is both fascinating and practical, providing spiritual insight into this most difficult of subjects. It is an absolutely fabulous reference tool for those with any interest in the area of mental health.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Love, His Way
A.J. Kitner
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158218, $13.95,

Is culture clash something that can easily be overcome? "Love, His Way" is a science fiction adventure following Mirilana, a girl of Earth who by some freak of luck finds herself on an unknown planet, millions of miles away from her home. She finds intelligent life, but it is so bizarrely like her own that she doesn't know how she'll fit in. Yet these things find a way, and Mirilana finds love when she least expects it. "Love, His Way" is a terrific blend of science fiction and romance, sure to please readers of both genres.

Always There
Landee Miller-Page
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741447789, $13.95,

When someone tries to kill you, it's shocking. When you don't know why, it's even more so. "Always There" follows Cecelia Patterson as she visits her hometown to mourn her mother. But then a woman called Irene Simpson tries to kill her, seemingly out for revenge. To survive, Cecelia must call on old connections to stop Irene and find out what her grievance is. "Always There" is an intriguing thriller, to be relished by genre fans.

Choosing to Be
Kat Tansey
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781935278139, $19.95,

What lies in the minds of the common house pet? "Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master" is a fictional look into spirituality using the housecat as a model for coming to terms with the lessons of Eastern philosophies like Zen. Charming, warm, and carrying a solid message, "Choosing to Be" is a must for the spiritual cat lover.

Brigitte Wynn
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159390, $12.95,

Your very parents wishing failure upon you does not guarantee failure. "Lilith" is a novel about a girl who had to live under this fact. Abandoned by her parents at a very young age, Lilith went through life without any of the advantages enjoyed by many children. At last she finds her niche as a psychiatrist, and tries to give back so that those who live in similar situations can have a better life. "Lilith" starts out sad, but ultimately ends up as a story of inspiration, highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Betty's Bookshelf

Avalon High
Meg Cabot
Harper Teen
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East, 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060755881 $8.99

Hi, my name is Betty and I'm a King Arthur junkie. I have been as long as I can remember, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. As a child, I read every book about him I could find, even ones too old for me. I appeared in my high school's musical production of Camelot. I memorized the soundtrack and couldn't wait to see the movie version. As a grown-up, I continued to hunt down and read every version of the King Arthur legend I could get my hands on - The Once and Future King, The Mists of Avalon, Black Horses for the King, Sword of the Rightful King. I saw First Knight at the theater and bought my own copy on DVD as soon as it hit the stores. So, when Meg Cabot's Avalon High arrived in my mailbox, I was excited. I like Meg Cabot's writing. (Airhead was fun, and so were The Princess Diaries and All-American Girl.) I love King Arthur retellings. This should be good!

It was. Sort of. The heroine, Elaine (Ellie, to her friends), is the only child of medievalist professors on sabbatical in Maryland, putting her in a strange new high school named (coincidentally, one thinks at first) Avalon High, surrounded by typical teen characters with strangely familiar names like Lance and Jennifer (the English version of Guinevere). However, as Ellie soon discovers, no one (even she herself) is exactly who she thinks they are, and the ensuing mix of reincarnation and legend-come-to-life, with a tinge of time travel thrown in, is a bit bewildering in spots, but what the heck, it's worth going along for the ride. There are some nice plot twists, a lot of bits that mirror various Arthurian legends, and a fairly satisfying ending. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to readers who likes Cabot, King Arthur, or teen romance stories with a bit of fantasy thrown in.

However, anyone familiar with Annapolis (where the story is based) or the US Naval Academy (where the hero might be going to college) will need more than a grain of salt to get through the story without falling out of it over and over due to factual mistakes. From her misunderstanding of the reason for the dockside statue of Alex Haley, to her belief that a teenaged boy in his last year of high school could still be waffling about whether or not to attend the Naval Academy (as though it were simply a matter of having the desire and enough money to pay for it), it was apparent that Cabot's research for this book left a few things to be desired.

Yeah, sure, including back-of-the-book material about the characters from the Arthurian legend made it obvious she knows a lot about King Arthur. However, a bit of research about Annapolis and the Naval Academy would have helped, making it a lot easier to suspend belief and just go with the flow. How hard would it have been to at least pull up the academy's website to discover the procedure for applying? Or to type "Alex Haley" into a search box and find out exactly why Haley's statue is on the Annapolis dock?

Wanna know why? Haley is the author of Roots, which told the story of his ancestor, Kunta Kente, who was kidnapped from Africa by slavers and who stumbled off the slave ship right about on the spot marked by the bronze dockside plaque. Haley was born in New York. If you want to know more, go to a site I found in less than a minute (although I've also been to Annapolis, stood by that very plaque, and watched the entire Roots miniseries on TV. Twice.)

As for the academy, my oldest daughter was a member of the USNA Class of 94, and I can tell you from experience that any high school student who wants to attend any of the service academies, including USNA, is heading down a long difficult road, filled with tons of paperwork, interviews, physicals, dental and optical exams, and a fitness assessment. The most important part, though, is applying for a nomination, which may or may not turn into an appointment from the academy of your choice. Hopefuls must start down this road in their junior year, in order to meet all requirements and deadlines, and their families are part of the process, which includes a home visit/interview of the whole family by an agent of the academy, known as a "Blue and Gold Officer". (More about that can be read at

All this means that Will's dad (who is supposed to be a retired admiral) would have already known that Will wasn't planning on attending USNA, long before the supposed surprise announcement, since none of the paperwork or other requirements were done yet. As an admiral, he would also have known that having enough money to pay for college doesn't come into the picture where USNA is concerned. He'd have known that not only is attending any service academy free for students who receive an appointment, but students are actually paid, since they are officially active duty military! Despite all that, I still enjoyed the book and look forward to Cabot's next production.

Time to Write
Kelly L. Stone
Adams Media
F+W Publications Inc
4700 E. Galbraith Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45236
9781598694383 $12.95

Having a hard time carving out time to write? Yeah, me, too. Life is often so full of responsibilities, distractions, crises, and interruptions that getting anything extra done seems impossible. Novelist and freelance writer Kelly L. Stone completely understands; she established her own freelance writing career while holding down a full-time job and raising a family.

Do I hear you asking, in a wistful voice, "But how?" Have hope, fellow writers! Reading Stone's Time to Write (with its bold cover promise of "No excuses, no distractions, [and] no more blank pages") will answer that question a dozen times over. No matter where you are in your writing career or what sort of writing you do, you should be able to find something helpful in Stone's bag of tips, tricks, advice and encouragement from over 100 professional writers. (And if you don't, read it again. You probably missed something the first time through!)

Trying to figure out how to balance writing and family life? Wondering if a schedule might help your production level? Dealing with distraction, rejection, or your inner critic? Looking for some useful tools to make your writing life smoother? All that and more is covered, in the voices of writers like Jodi Picoult, Debbie Macomber, Sandra Brown, Cecil Murphey, Steve Berry, and Rick Mofina.

However, if you're curious about how exactly Stone herself does it, you'll probably be a bit disappointed. Aside from a few (very) brief personal comments and anecdotes sprinkled here and there, she keeps her own writing life pretty much in the dark, which means you may end up (as I did a few times) wondering out loud, "So, how did you do this, Kelly?"

Still, this is a minor quibble. It in no way detracts from the book's value to anyone who's ever wondered how on earth to cram writing into an already jammed life. Are you already shaking your head and muttering, "There's no way!" There is. Truly. Reading Time to Write can help you figure out ways to fit writing into your own busy life. No more excuses!

Postscript: Time to Write also introduced me to a number of writers I was not be familiar with, and some intriguing titles. Looks like I'll be using Stone's tips to make time to read, too!

Betty Winslow

Bob's Bookshelf

Quarrel With the King
Adam Nicolson
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061154317 $27.95

In "Quarrel With the King: The Story of an English Family on the High Road to Civil War" Adam Nicolson relates the story of the Pembroke family and their rise to power and subsequent clash with the Crown.

Focusing on the first four earls of Pembroke and the period from the 1520s through the 1650s, Nicolson shows how this exceedingly wealthy family was not only at the heart of political power but was also often at odds with the government.

Although loyal to the royal family and occasionally one of its more efficient and brutal agents, the Pembrokes, led by the Fourth Earl, Philip Herbert, turned against Charles I in the brutal Civil War that tore the country apart in the 1640s.

As the remarkable men and women of this powerful family are presented in the pages of this history, the reader will meet individuals who were not only major landowners and government officials and advisors but also key players in England's cultural renaissance.

Reputedly William, the Third Earl of Pembroke, provided the inspiration for Shakespeare's early sonnets and might well have been the Bard's lover.

In this exploration of the Pembroke dynasty, Nicolson opens a window that provides the reader with a fascinating glimpse into one of the most turbulent times in English history. It was a time when the "ancient" nobility locked horns with the "upstart" crown, and the Pembrokes were right at the center of the struggle.

The Price of Butcher's Meat
Reginald Hill
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061451935 $26.95

One of the reigning masters of British crime fiction, Reginald Hill's latest effort, "The Price of Butcher's Meat" places Police Superintendent Andy Dalziel back on center stage. Set in a small, English seaside village and still on leave after surviving life threatening injuries on a previous case, Dalziel's recuperative sojourn is rudely interrupted by an exceedingly macabre murder.

Asked to investigate the crime along with Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe, who is called to the scene, Dalziel and Pascoe discover as motley a collection of suspects as they have ever had to sort through, but they are up to the chore.

Those familiar with Jane Austen's "Sanditon" will realize this plot driven whodunit is also Reginald Hill's way of paying homage to his famous countrywoman.

The Darker Side
Cody McFadyen
Bantam/Dell Publishing, 1745 Broadway, New York, New York 10019
9780553806946 $24.00

In this thriller a very public murder in an airliner thirty thousand feet in midair has FBI Special Agent Smoky Barrett looking for a killer who is on a very sinister and righteous mission. The victim's high-powered, grieving D.C. mother expects the director of the FBI to find who is responsible for her daughter's death. He, in turn, has dropped the problem in Smoky's lap and expects a quick wrap-up of what will turn out to be a very challenging and dangerous case.

They Made Their Mark: An Illustrated History of the Society of Women Geographers
Jane Eppinga
Globe Pequot Press
P.O. Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437-0480
9780762745975 $29.95

Established in 1925 when four women met for lunch in New York City and decided it was time to create an organization that would recognize and foster the efforts of women active in geography, world exploration, anthropology, journalism and other related fields, the Society of Women Geographers (SWG) was created. With over 500 members today, the SWG is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has chapters in San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Florida.

"They Made Their Mark" is an illustrated history of the SWG and describes the incredible lives and achievements of 28 of the society's famous and not-so-famous members.

From the bottom of the ocean to outer space, there are few places these women have not visited or subjects they have not studied. The more recognizable SWG members featured by Eppinga include Pearl S. Buck, Amelia Earhart, Rachel Carson, Margaret Mead, and Jane Goodall. That is all well and good, but there have been full, more detailed biographies written about these women.

The real attraction of this volume are the chapters of devoted to the less familiar individuals. For example, the four opening biographies feature the society's founding members: Margaret Harrison, Blair Niles, Gertrude Mathews Shelby and Gertrude Emerson Sen.

Other equally interesting women whose names probably won't be immediately recognizable to the reader include portrait painter and South Seas traveler Caroline Mytinger, aviatrix and White House correspondent Fay Gillis Wells, Antarctic explorer and researcher Edith "Jackie" Maslin Ronne and Jeanne Gurnee, an internationally renown speleologist (cave explorer).

The photographs and illustrations that accompany each short biography have been culled from the society's archives and some of them are published here for the first time. Also, there is a list of the SWG Gold Medal winners and what each woman received the award for, plus another section recognizing the society's "flag carriers" over the decades.

With permission of the SWG, members may carry the group's distinctive flag on special journeys that will make "a permanent contribution to the world's source of geographical knowledge".
The SWG flag accompanied Marion Stirling Pugh on archaeological digs in Panama, Kathryn D. Sullivan aboard the Challenger on a space mission, and Marie Poland Fish on an oceanographic expedition off West Africa and the Canary Islands.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Views from Over the Hill
Victor W. Doherty
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159260, $11.95,

There's a certain wisdom that just naturally comes with age. "Views from Over the Hill" is a collection of elderly wisdom from author Victor W. Doherty. Frank and honest, Doherty gives his opinion on a wide range of topics ranging from the problems in today's educational system to what a patriot is to even sex. "Views from Over the Hill" is entertaining and enlightening throughout.

Dead Reckoning
Jeffrey L. Cheney, Craig J. Cheney, and Jared L. Cheney
Tate Publishing & Enterprising
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781604622508, $19.99,

The technological edge has become the most important aspect of so many things. "Dead Reckoning" is the science fiction story of the WNS Pathfinder, which embodies a cutting edge new technology that could change the world of intergalactic travel as Captain William Brighton knew it. Living on the fringe, Cpt. Brighton's crew must recover the technology from a hostile government; everyone is nipping at his crew's behinds, while their hope of success dwindles by the minute. "Dead Reckoning" a fast-paced adventure, sure to please.

The Emerald Bracelet
Brandon V. Peters
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533150588, $13.95,

True love overlooks deception. "The Emerald Bracelet" is a novel of deceit and love. Philip seems to be nothing more than a grunt doing grunt work. When Harriet, a woman who is ever cautious of who to be with, enters into his life, the two don't seem as if they are destined to be together. Especially as long as Philip remains unwilling to reveal his true nature and ties... "The Emerald Bracelet" is a fine, simmering romance, something genre fans will relish.

Last Chance Rescue
Tracey Cramer-Kelly
Privately Published
9781434828477, $17.99

Put it off for too long, and it may be too late. "Last Chance Rescue: A Story of Rescue and Romance in the Rocky Mountains" is a novel blending adventure and romance. Brad Sievers is a forest ranger, and Jessie Van Dyke is his good friend. But friendship seems to soon become too weak of a word for it, as a disaster finds Jessie missing and Brad wanting to use the L word. "Last Chance Rescue" is an attractive novel that will be well enjoyed by many a reader.

Disrupted Ambitions
Kent D. Walsh
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160358, $22.95,

Reality is a harsh mistress, and too often people find this out early in life. "Disrupted Ambitions" is the story of a young athlete who, in spite of a debilitating medical condition, seeks to claim his dream of being an amateur wrestling champion. Ulcers can prove to be quite the serious condition for young athletes; "Disrupted Ambitions" explores this ailment through a true story, and provides encouragement to readers.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Don Busi
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595487035, $12.95,

Some wounds never heal. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door: A True Story of Courage and Sacrifice" tells of a son researching the deeds of his father in World War II. Jon Busi was one of the thousands of Americans who fought in the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, and went through the hell of warfare, only to be nearly fatally injured in the Battle of the Bulge. What he experienced changed him, and he lived with guilt until he returned to the source of that guilt, decades later. A story of overcoming the personal aftermath of war, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" is a must for anyone who loves the people stories in World War II.

Abraham Enloe of Western North Carolina
Don Norris
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158751, $12.95,

Could Abraham Lincoln, America's most beloved President, be an illegitimate child? "Abraham Enloe of Western North Carolina: The Natural Father of Abraham Lincoln" discusses a possible true father of our sixteenth president. Having undertaken extensive research, author Don Norris lists facts implying that such a thing could be possible. The result makes for intriguing reading about the origins of Lincoln. "Abraham Enloe of Western North Carolina" is a must for anyone who is fascinated by the story of Abraham Lincoln.

Common Sense II
Thomas W. Sulcer
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439203293, $13.99,

Common sense, sadly, is not all that common. "Common Sense II: How to Prevent the Three Types of Terrorism" is author Thomas W. Sulcer's recommendations in the style of Paine's historic pamphlet from more than two hundred years ago, applying Paine's values to today's uncommon sense inspired war on terrorism. Discussing what is wrong with today's methods and how they should be replaced or reemphasized, "Common Sense II" is an intellectual account that realizes the fight against terrorism is necessary, but argues that it is being done the wrong way.

Glutton at the Feast
Robert J. Brake
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741450461, $15.95,

There's no such thing as overindulging in knowledge. "Glutton at the Feast: Lessons Gleaned by a Lifelong Learner" is a memoir of Robert Brake as he reflects on the massive laundry list of lessons that is life. Ranging from the long roster of people he has met, to the amazing things he has learned, the experience of absorbing different languages, and so much more, Brake passes on much knowledge. "Glutton at the Feast" is a solid memoir, sure to enlighten as well as entertain.

Dalton Stephenson
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159543, $8.95,

Some people are just dealt poor hands by life. "Iggy" is the story of a young Russian immigrant who endures a cruel childhood in the early twentieth century. Ugly and poor with English, Igor may as well have a bullseye on his back, especially when among other children. A tear-jerking account, "Iggy" is the story of how one child copes in the face of adversity.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

On This Day in Tennis History
Randy Walker
New Chapter Press
9780942257427, $19.95,

Tennis is a sport with a long and storied history, full of intriguing trivia and facts. "On This Day in Tennis History: A Day-By-Day Anthology of Anecdotes and Historical Happenings" covers every day of the year and reveals important events in tennis history that had occurred on that particular day. The result is a certifiable encyclopedia of tennis in a day by day format. Any dedicated student of the game as well as general fans of sports trivia should strongly consider acquiring "On This Day in Tennis History".

When Movie Was A Band
Rick Schultze
Privately Published
9781892076502, $12.00

What one goes through for cheap booze... "When Movie Was A Band: The True Story Of My Short Life As A Rhythm Guitar Player" is a memoir about a short-lived band by the name of Movie, in which author Rick Schultze served as a rhythm guitarist. Set in the world of small time music during the early 70s, where there were many good and interesting times to be had, "When Movie Was A Band" is a terrific story, sure to please readers.

Mission at Stellwagen
Donald L. Angell
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
TCI Smith Publicity (publicity)
2 Split Rock Drive, Suite 12, Cherry Hill, NH 08003
1606104667, $29.95,

Money can buy many many things, but it can't buy time. "Mission at Stellwagen" is the story of Walter Jaspers, a marine mammal researcher. Things are looking up for him and his expedition to Cape Cod, as he has everything he needs to make this round of research a successful one. He has the people, the supplies, and the mind to accomplish what he wants most; if only he had the time. "Mission at Stellwagen" is an intriguing novel of science, highly recommended.

Poems for Everybody
Calvin K. Towle
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160419, $21.50,

Everyone has different interests, but Calvin K. Towle has an interest in everything. "Poems for Everybody" is an anthology that Towle has crafted, filled with poems for just about any topic to pique the interest of just about any reader. Towle is a resident of Boston, but he succeeds well in his quest for broad appeal. "Poems for Everybody" is a fine choice for those seeking a more diverse collection of poetry. "Domestic Diva": Martha's coming out of jail./Hurrah for Blondie!/Has lately bitten all her nails./Alas, poor lady./She will grab her hapless board,/Throw them on her shoulder./Thrash about, go on TV,/And do things even bolder./Her return will meet huzzas/From housewives and from frumps./At her game of bridge she'll cry/.Sorry, dahling, two no Trumps.

Adventures of the Homeless
Jagdish R Singh
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595532063, $8.95,

Escaping from poverty isn't as easy as shaving and getting a job, the latter which isn't easy as all. "Adventures of the Homeless" is about one man trying to free himself and his close friends from existence as vagrants and hobos. But there is a reason why they were in such a position in the first place, as their addictions and other problems soon sneak up behind them. A sad look into the experience of the poor, "Adventures of the Homeless" is absorbing and enlightening all the way to the last page.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Another Thing to Fall
Laura Lippman
William Morrow/Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061128875 $24.95

Private Investigator Tess Monaghan unknowingly ruins a shoot for the film crew of TV series Mann of Steel, and instead of being chastised for it ends up with a new assignment: bodyguard to the show's youngest actor, Selene Waites. The producer, Flip Tumulty, and his company have had a run of vandalism, leading to bad press, and Flip is concerned for Selene's safety. With the aid of her friend Whitney, Tess reluctantly takes on the job and quickly learns Selene is not as passive and uneducated as she appears. When Flip's assistant is found beaten to death, Tess realizes Selene may actually be in danger and begins her own investigation into what happened to the assistant.

As always, Lippman provides the reader with an interesting view of Baltimore and its people and culture. The plot seems to stagger along at first, with no real sense of the characters involved. The killer's mindset is initially hard to grasp, as is his reason for creating such havoc for the producer and his series. One interesting and refreshing character is Mrs. Blossom, one of Tess's students in her private investigation class, who this reviewer hopes will return in future books.

At First Sight
Stephen J. Cannell
Vanguard Press
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
9781593154820 $25.95

Chick Best, erstwhile millionaire, was at one time on top of the world, with a luxurious home in Hollywood, cabin in Big Bear, married to a beautiful woman, with a teenage daughter. But lately things have turned sour. Chick's business is going under, his wife is having an affair, and his teenage daughter's only interest is hanging out with a criminal biker and taking drugs. The family goes on vacation to Hawaii, where Chick encounters beautiful Paige Ellis and falls in love "at first sight." Chick is despaired to learn Paige is married to Chandler, a handsome, altruistic man from a wealthy family who uses his time and money to help learning disabled kids. Chick makes an effort to get to Paige through Chandler, but it's evident Paige is very much in love with her husband. Back home, Chick can't keep his mind off Paige. When an opportunity arises to go to New York, he flies there, rents a car, and drives to her home in North Carolina, where his life begins its slow, horrific spiral downward into madness and deception.

Cannell's depiction of the shallow mindsets of the materialistic rich is revealed with humor, although at times, it seems sad and unfathomable that people actually think this way. Chick is a character readers will not like, but his inner thoughts and insights, while usually obnoxious are, nonetheless, entertaining. The story has its suspenseful moments and the reader will root for Paige, an intelligent woman who grieves the death of a man she was very much in love with while trying to deal with Chick, a middle-aged, portly man with no morals who is slowly going mad.

Bones of Betrayal
Jefferson Bass
William Morrow/Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061284748 $24.99

When the body of renowned physicist Leonard Novak is found frozen in a swimming pool in Oak Ridge, Dr. Bill Brockton is called in to help. Dr. Brockton takes the body to Knoxville for autopsy, and there it's discovered Dr. Novak died from radiation poisoning through a small pellet found in his intestines. Brockton, his assistant Miranda, an investigating detective, and the medical examiner are exposed to radiation but the medical examiner received the most dosage and is hospitalized. Dr. Novak was an integral part in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, and Brockton's investigation takes him back to the secret city to try to find out who wanted Novak dead. There, he meets Novak's former wife, Beatrice, who regales him with stories surrounding the Manhattan Project. In Novak's home, Brockton discovers a mysterious film strip which leads the investigation in a different direction.

Fourth in the Body Farm series, Bones of Betrayal offers the reader an interesting glimpse into the scientists and laymen surrounding the Manhattan Project, as well as the development of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, called the secret city. Brockton is a likeable anthropologist who is compassionate and caring, and who seeks a committed relationship but never quite gets there. The character Beatrice's anecdotes are enlightening and enhance the story. Some will figure out the mystery, but this book is worth the read simply due to the historical facts relayed.

Fuzzy Navel
J. A. Konrath
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
9781401302801 $23.95

Chicago PD Lieutenant Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels is going through a good period in her life. She's engaged to Latham, a guy she's crazy about, is living with her mom in a house outside the city, and has just received word her archenemy Alex Kork is dead. Jack and her partner, Herb Benedict, are called to the scene of a murder, where a sex offender has been killed by a sniper. But the sniper isn't finished and keeps taking potshots at Jack and the police officers investigating the crime scene. Jack manages to get the officers out of danger, attracting the attention of the sniper, and subsequently learns that two other snipers have murdered sex offenders in other parts of Chicago. In the midst of all this, Jack gets a call from her mother telling her she needs to come home. Jack, feeling something isn't right, rushes home, where she finds her mother and Latham held prisoner by Kork. From that point on, Jack is engaged in a battle to save her own life, as well as her mom's and Latham's, and even that of her ex-partner Harry McGlade when he shows up. And not just from Kork, but from the snipers, who have tracked Jack down and want in on the fun.

Take a deep breath before beginning this book because there's nonstop action and nail-biting suspense from the first page. Jack Daniels is a tough cop but Kork proves herself to be more than a worthy adversary and is as relentless as the Energizer bunny. The book moves along at a fast pace, with plenty of dark humor and witticisms thrown around, and a quirky surprise involving the obnoxious McGlade. Some readers may feel cheated by the ending, which leaves a question unanswered.

Killing Bridezilla
Laura Levine
Kensington Books
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 1002
9780758220431 $22.00

Jaine Austen's career as a writer hasn't been so fluid. Best known for a plumbing company ad, Jaine is surprised when her former high school nemesis Patti Marshall asks her to write a balcony scene for her wedding ceremony. When Patti tells Jaine she wants the lines to be a mix between Romeo and Juliet and Friends, Jaine wants to turn down the job but she needs the money. Jaine is hopeful Patti has matured from the bully she was in high school, but that's not the case. Patti turns out to be the bridezilla from hell, demanding her idea of perfection from everyone around her while belittling them and making enemies of all. During the wedding ceremony, while Patti is saying her lines, she falls from her balcony and is impaled on a Cupid statuette below. The number of people who hated Patti is endless, and when one of Jaine's former high school friends is arrested for the murder, she decides to conduct her own investigation and find out who really offed the high school diva.

This is a humorous series built around a refreshing protagonist, a woman who can't say no to the wrong kinds of food and is a magnet for trouble. Jaine's perceptions of her cat's moods and expressions are amusing, as are the emails she receives from her parents, who have retired to Florida. The mystery is a good one, and the characters are simply fun.

The Devil's Bones
Jefferson Bass
William Morrow/Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060759858 $24.95

Forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton is trying to figure out who murdered Mary Latham and how her car caught fire and burned so extensively when his criminal defense attorney gives him what are claimed to be the cremains (cremated remains) of his aunt, which look more like concrete dust than bone ash. With the help of forensic scientist Art Bohanan, Brockton investigates the crematorium in Georgia that was responsible for the cremation but keeps butting up against stone walls. Eventually, he discovers a horror the likes of which he has never seen before. Meanwhile, he learns that his nemesis, former medical examiner Garland Hamilton, has escaped from prison and is on the prowl. Knowing he's in Hamilton's sites, Brockton is relieved to learn Hamilton's charred body is discovered at a fire scene in Cooke County. However, as Brockton soon finds out, things are not always as they seem.

This third installment in the Body Farm series is, as usual, chock full of interesting forensics information relayed through Brockton and his assistant, Miranda. Readers may find the book distracting as it seems to meander along from one investigation to the other, then dashes off to the conflict between Brockton and Hamilton. Although the three mysteries within the plot are good ones, perhaps focusing on one or two may provide a stronger read. The forensics investigations help buffer the distraction and will keep the reader invested throughout the book.

The Good Guy
Dean Koontz
Bantam Dell/Random House
9780553804812 $27.00

Timothy Carrier is a man who keeps to himself and tries to live as simple a life as possible. Until one day when a man sits beside Timothy at a bar and passes him an envelope with ten thousand dollars and a picture of a beautiful woman named Linda Paquette. Timothy is intrigued by the woman but horrified to know the man has mistaken him for the contract killer he employed to murder her. When the killer later arrives and mistakes Timothy for the man who hired him, Timothy tells him the hit is off and gives him the money but pockets the picture. However, the killer makes it clear he will not be stopped. Timothy rushes to Linda's house to warn her, and from that point on, both are engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with the killer, who now is determined to kill Timothy as well and will go to any length to do so.

Koontz excels at creating evil characters and allowing the reader a glimpse into the mind of a deranged murderer. The story moves at a fast pace and is filled with gut-wrenching suspense and continuous action. Timothy and Linda are two damaged souls who immediately connect and trust one another. Koontz's ubiquitous dog is present, and, as always, appreciated. The killer is deliciously malevolent and intense, and the story one that will keep the reader turning pages.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

The Forger: An Extraordinary Story of Survival in Wartime Berlin
Cioma Schonhaus
Da Capo Press
9780306817700 $15.00

When we exclaim that truth is stranger than fiction, it certainly is true in the book entitled The Forger, by Cioma Schonhaus. A gripping story of intrigue emerges from a placid beginning about a boy who grows into a heroic man in Nazi Germany. We soon become enmeshed into how some people survived and the methods they used to accomplish Herculean tasks which would seem impossible to accomplish today.

Schonhaus was an art student before WWII intensified and his studies were stopped by the Third Reich. Events were so chaotic in the early days that his parents were removed from their home and sent to concentration camps without protest. Cioma was able to avoid deportation, and this is his story of survival. Living underground and yet in plain sight, he was able to aid hundreds of Jews by learning how to falsify documents and using talents mastered by him as an art student. Many of the documents he copied and where they came from make this story compelling. Church members would put their documents in collection baskets so they could be altered and used by Schonhaus to create new identities. These pious members would report loss of documents and be issued new replacements, but with the risk of certain death if caught for aiding Jews! None of them knew who the forger was so they could not be forced to turn him in as their only connection was through the church basket.

Cioma tells of dating and eating out at the finest restaurants along with the hierarchy of the Nazi regime. His exploits of being in plain sight come to an abrupt halt when his identity is discovered and posters with his picture are posted all over Berlin. Still he continues his masterful plan after nightfall.

An epic tale of forgery could have been the complete story covered by The Forger, but the captivating tale of his escape to Switzerland on a bicycle makes this even more adventuresome. Cioma with his own forged documents passes many check points and proves he is quite an adept con man as he makes his perilous journey to freedom. This book is a good and worthwhile read.

The Last Mrs. Astor: A New York Story
Frances Kiernan
W. W. Norton & Company
9780393331608 $15.95

Starting from a humble beginning as the daughter of a Marine Corps Lieutenant, Brooke Astor's life is chronicled by Frances Kiernan in a slow-paced matter-of-fact way, until about the middle of the biography, when the author makes her connection to the main character, the Grande Dame of New York society, and the story takes off. The words then begin to sparkle and true admiration emerges to demonstrative heights as we get into some real meaty insights of this patriarch of Manhattan.

Brooke Astor had married three times and Kiernan tells her story as it was lived for the hundred plus years of Brooke's life. The great love she had for Vincent Astor and the wealth which was bestowed upon her and the Vincent Astor Foundation is breathtaking. Yet, through all this, Brooke only thought of the people of New York and making their lives culturally better. She endowed art projects, museums, parks, and many charities which needed assistance in the years when she was the chair of the Astor Foundation. Much to the chagrin of previous board and chair members, she imposed her will to those charities which needed special attention. As the years unfold, we are shown the strength of a lady who was indeed gracious, impeccable, and very strong minded in the face of others who had their own agendas to accomplish. She gave away over 200 million dollars!

We are given a glimpse inside her manipulations of those around her and how she was able to accomplish many great projects for the people of New York.

Her biggest disappointment was that of her son Tony Marshall, who allegedly took advantage of this strong lady towards the end of her life by swindling the foundation and her funds out of millions of dollars. He is currently under indictment and trial is set to begin in February 2009. He commenced his activities of taking control of her money when she was in her 90's and she died in 2007 at age 105. Replete with 24 pages of photographs, I heartily recommend this book, if only to see how the other half live.

Blackbird, Farewell: A CJ Floyd Mystery
Robert Greer
Frog Books
c/o Random House
9781583942505 $25.95

Robert Greer has an uncanny ability to grab your attention within the first few pages of his novels and keep the adrenalin flowing until the very end. Blackbird, Farewell is no exception with his wonderful formula character CJ Floyd, a private detective par excellence.

Just when you think this book will be different than all others by Greer, Shandell "Blackbird" Bird is murdered at the start of the story just after signing a multi-million dollar contract with the Denver Nuggets. This is a Farewell to a soon to have been basketball career and hello to a whodunit that exposes the dark side of the pro-athlete's good life. This is the story of Damion Madrid, Bird's best friend, and how he becomes a sleuth trying to solve the mysterious murder of his former teammate. CJ Floyd is in Hawaii on his honeymoon. He is a friend of all the players in this fast moving tale of intrigue, but decides to stay on letting the professionals solve this case.

Damion, who is supposed to be preparing to attend medical school, gets himself embroiled in the search for the killer. Set in the Denver locale, all of the action takes place in and around the city. Secrets of Blackbird's life unfold and Damion is disillusioned as he learns more about his buddy who grew up with him from grade school through college.

Robert Greer normally tells unusual yarns, all of which are very different in his CJ Floyd adventuresome books. Once again, he succeeds by keeping you constantly on edge and wondering when he will introduce his main man! If you have not read any of his novels, this would be a great time to start. It is not necessary to gather the cast of characters to become a new fan of CJ Floyd; you can jump right in with this book and go back and read others like The Devil's Hatband, The Fourth Perspective (reviewed by Clark's Eye on Books a few months ago), or several others which star CJ Floyd. A very entertaining book for mystery fans and one they will thoroughly enjoy; highly recommended.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

Dark of the Moon
John Sandford
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780425224137 $9.99 800-847-515

I have been a fan of John Sandford for quite awhile, and he never fails to disappoint the crime fan. The reader who craves a good mystery and a suspenseful story defining this detective crime novel. I attended an author visit in the Milwaukee area with Lee Child, and he mentioned two authors who have been consistent throughout the years in the crime detective mystery genre. One was Ridley Pearson, and the second was John Sandford. He introduced a newer protagonist with Virgil Flowers who is very much like Sandford's Prey series Lucas Davenport in character intensity. In this novel we get the same adrenaline rush with a page turner and a good plot that requires a good detective to solve the case.

Three murders take place in a rural Minnesota place and place Virgil Flowers investigator for Bureau of Criminal Apprehension smack into the center of a killer's violent personal vendetta and this is only the beginning. John Sandford keeps the reader page turning through a good investigating yarn that helps the reader move along into the story and observe the craft of crime fiction at its best.

John Sandford keeps the interest fresh with his newer main character Virgil Flowers. He also has written four earlier Kidd novels, and these two newer titles involving Virgil Flowers. He introduced Virgil in Sandford's Invisible Prey and he is the featured protagonist with a second one entitled Heat Lightning. He also wrote the The Night Crew and Dead Watch. He began as journalist and from 1990 has delved into the crime novels. The result is the books that has made him near the top of his profession and a fascinating read into the genre. I look forward to his newest book Wicked Prey numbering nineteen in the Prey series. It is scheduled out in May 2009, and I know he tries hard not to disappoint.

John Lescroart
Published by New American Library
c/o Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
374 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780451225702 $9.99 800-847-5515

I like John Grisham and my wife has been a fan of the Dismiss Hardy character in the legal thriller novels by author John Lescroart. I have been busy with my many books to read. I managed to place him on my calendar. I wasn't disappointed, and now Lescroart has a new fan for this genre. His novel displays a tour de force legal thriller which dispatches courtroom scenes with efficiency. He develops an intriguing plot and complicated emotions displayed between the major characters.

It all begins because of a love triangle murder arrest with the backdrop of the accused character Evan Scholler an ex-navy seal due to his earlier cold-blooded killing of Iraqi civilians that provoked slaughter of Scholler's squadron. Nolan was said to be involved with Scholler's ex-girl friend who was elementary school teacher Tara Wheatley. The story unfolds into an interesting legal thriller that keeps the reader turning the pages to reach the satisfying ending.

John Lescroart has written now eleven novels involving his main protagonist Dismiss Hardy and he has four with Dismiss best friend Abe Glitsky along with Wyatt Hunt with two novels to total seventeen. He has three earlier novels Sunburn, Rasputin's Revenge, and Son of Holmes. John has joined the other two best known writers John Grisham and Scott Turow in this genre. His new novel A Plague of Secrets is to be released this year, and I look forward to his new efforts.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

The Water's Lovely
Ruth Rendell
9780307388018 $13.95

Ruth Rendell's The Water's Lovely has a delightfully chilling premise. Twelve years before the book begins, Guy Rolland drowned in his bathtub. His stepdaughter Ismay, who was 15 at the time, is still haunted by it: the bleached body floating beneath the surface of the water. But more troubling is that she still doesn't know what role her younger sister Heather played in his death--Heather, who came down the stairs with her clothes wet, strangely calm, and led Ismay and her mother to the scene. Certainly, finding out what happened is impossible without confronting Heather, and confrontation, 12 years on, seems impossible. But if Heather killed once, mightn't she do so again?

In the here and now, Ismay and Heather live together in a flat downstairs from their aunt and mother, who's gone mad. The sisters and their aunt have relationships with various men, and the familial life of Heather's beau Edmund is explored at length. Indeed, his hypochondriacal mother's scheming acquaintance Marion comes to constitute a second thread to the story, and a threat, eventually, to Heather and Ismay.

Unfortunately, The Water's Lovely falls short of being a great book. In part this is because it loses focus, the author getting sidetracked by stories that are tangential to the plot. For much of the book our concern about Heather and what she may or may not have done is forgotten. Too much of the story, too, depends on coincidence. Finally, Rendell's final few pages are a sort of epilogue that comes out of nowhere and serves no purpose in the story. I can see what Rendell was trying to accomplish with the dramatic water-themed ending, but it doesn't work, and it leaves one feeling cheated.

Gabrielle Zevin
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
9780312367466 $6.95

Gabrielle Zevin's YA novel Elsewhere conjures up an interesting answer to the question of what happens to us after death. Elsewhere exists alongside but apart from Earth. Death itself turns out to be much like life--rather boringly so, in fact--the singular exception being that the dead age backwards, regressing from the age they were at death to infancy and, finally, rebirth. This makes things interesting logistically, as a dead person's "real" and physical ages don't correspond, and the relative ages between people who knew one another in life are more often than not altered significantly. Also strange is the body's backward development: tattoos eventually disappear and bald heads sprout hair; people who've been gumming food for decades teethe.

The protagonist of Elsewhere is Elizabeth Hall, who is killed in a hit-and-run accident at the age of 15. The book follows her death from her initial difficulties accepting the truth through her embrace of life in Elsewhere. I found the book clunky in parts: A couple things Lizzie does--but which I won't reveal--don't seem realistic, and none of the characters jumps off the page as particularly appealing or true to life. The idea of talking dogs also left me cold. (In Elsewhere, communication with dogs is an easy matter of picking up a new language, Canine.) Presumably this is meant to appeal to readers, but dogs would lose much of their charm if they could betray our confidences or comment on our ability as providers. They'd just be stupid humans with fur.

In short, Elsewhere is not a great book, but the author's conception of an afterlife is an interesting one, and young readers may be intrigued by the logistics of reverse aging.

A Corpse in the Koryo
James Church
St. Martin's Minotaur
0312374313 $13.95

James Church's A Corpse in the Koryo is the first in the pseudonymous author's series of Inspector O novels. (Church is former intelligence officer who spent decades in Asia.) The Inspector is a police officer, an insignificant cog in the legal machinery of North Korea. One morning he finds himself sitting on a hill at dawn, looking over a highway, under orders to photograph a car that is due to go speeding north. The orders don't make much sense, and the mission fails badly. But from this nonsensical episode stems the rest of the book's action, in which Inspector O tries to figure out the rules of the game he's apparently being forced to play--something that's got Military Security involved and may get O killed. The problem is that no one in the book--and by extension no one in North Korea--speaks his mind. All discourse is suggestive, the better part left unsaid, because in the paranoid atmosphere of the book you can't trust anyone. Thus trying to get simple questions answered is a lesson in frustration.

A Corpse in the Koryo has its good points. Inspector O is a likable, three-dimensional character: He inevitably fails to wear his pin of the Great Leader, which counts as rebellion in North Korea. He detests his brother for reasons that aren't revealed in this first installment. Most endearingly, O, the grandson of a carpenter (and hero of the revolution), is preoccupied with wood. He calms his nerves and intimidates suspects by rubbing pieces of wood in his fingers until they assume the shape and smoothness nature intended. Among his prized possessions is a small collection of sandpaper--which, because it's an American product, has to be hidden from the authorities lest it be confiscated.

Church's writing is also poetic in parts, Inspector O being unusually thoughtful and attentive to the natural world. Finally, the fact that the novel is set in North Korea makes it an inherently interesting piece of fiction. The book is suffused with a sense of paranoia and deprivation, but I didn't feel as immersed in that alien culture while reading as I had expected.

The problem with A Corpse in the Koryo is that the book is so slow that reading it feels interminable. It's also very hard to understand what's going on because everything is hinted at rather than spelled out. Eventually, despite good writing and enigmatic characters, trying to figure out the book's plot doesn't seem worth the effort.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Your Daddy Ain't Rich So You Have to Work
Robert O Boyington
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432714826 $12.95

Boyington has written a straight forward guide on how to get a job and keep it. The book has a lot to say in terms the average person can understand. I applaud the author for telling people looking for work to dress appropriately. I find it a shame that they have to be told to look clean and groomed and have a more professional appearance. To be honest that is the society we live in. People just don't care anymore; they feel they are entitled to everything they want, to which Boyington shows no one is; you have to earn it. He also talks about honesty, always being on time and how the customer should be treated. "Everyone working at any company has to realize that the customer is king and should be treated like one. Everything we can do to save the customer money or save him steps, making doing business with our company a pleasure, solidifies him as a friend. Friends like to do business with friends Never forget this fact." Another important aspect he delves into is taking responsibility for mistakes made and how to fix the booboo. "Always admitting responsibility, together with quickly fixing the problem, go hand in hand toward building a good reputation, impressing those who we need to impress of our honesty and integrity." These are principles that have long been forgotten in companies with employees and on how to do deal with customer issues. Chains like Five Guys, McDonalds, and Burger King, who have so many younger workers, should use this book to train them on how to function as a team player and how to treat customers. Managers should read and apply the rules set here to have a better relationship with employees and the customers

The Associate
Phillip Margolin
Harper Torch
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061030642 $7.99

David Ames overcame poverty to become an associate at a very distinguished law firm. He has everything he could ever want until he begins to work on a pharmaceuticals case in which he finds that not everything is, as it seems. As he delves more into the case someone undermines his work for the firm he is made to look incompetent leading, to his termination with the partnership. Two hours later he is charged with the murder of the person who fired him. The writing is tense as Margolin fills the novel with twists and turns that lead to a smashing finale.

Night and Day
By Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399155413 $24.95

This is another great novel in the Jesse Stone series that takes place in Paradise. This time Jesse is dealing with a principal of a school who does something that could land her in jail, a peeping tom, a swingers group and a pervert who likes to break and enter women's homes, intimidate them to strip off their clothes and have him take pictures of them nude. All of these are weird characters that make this one of the strangest tales in the series. I loved the fast pacing and the well-defined characters. Parker is a master of the mystery novel and this one shows why.

Don't Look Twice
Andrew Gross
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061791468 $25.95

Detective Ty Hauck from "The Dark Tide," returns in this new nail biting suspenseful novel. This time the story begins when Ty and his daughter are caught in a shooting at a mini mart. A customer is killed. He is a federal prosecutor. As Ty delves into this case he finds that clues suggest that the prosecutor was an innocent bystander. The clerk has a son who was involved in a tragic accident of a teenage girl. The police begin to think the clerk was the target. As the plot takes a turn, so does the investigation that leads back to the attorney. Now Ty begins to find that this case is much bigger than he ever thought possible. The list of suspects is seemingly endless and his own brother is mixed up in the whole affair. The pacing is rapid with well drawn characters who are not as goody goody two shoes as they are portrayed at first. Even Ty is one of those. The novel is the third by this author who is best known as one of the co-authors with James Patterson.

Hot Mahogany
Stuart Woods
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155154 $25.95

Stuart Woods is back with a new Stone Barrington that once again combines his several series. This time out Stone gets involved in the vicious inner workings of the art world. The story begins with a man who loses his memory then vanishes, while Stone was supposed to be taking care of him. Back are many of Woods' characters from other stories as well. This the most revealing character study of Stone I think I have read. Woods fills the novel with interesting characters and fast paced suspense.

Richard Laymon
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843945508 $5.50

This is very different from other vampire stories. Sam's former girlfriend Cat reenters his life with a different kind of proposition. Kill Elliot the vampire who is continually draining her blood. A simple scheme it seems at first. It is the conflict of what happens after Sam drives the stake into the vampire that sets up the rest of the novel. The writing at times is very comical, making this story very different from other vampire stories. One place that is truly hysterical is when they have to decide what to do with the body. "The car limped along making loud THUNK noises with every revolution of the right front tire. THUNK THUNK THUNK THUNK THUNK THUNK THUNK……Then she whispered, "What'll we do about the tire?"

"Change it," I said.

"What about Elliot? We can't change it with him in the trunk"

"I'll take care of him. But maybe we're going to need that flashlight, after all."

She went off to get it. I didn't like being left alone so close to the trunk -and Elliot. Besides, it was my duty to keep an eye on Cat. So I took a couple of sidesteps. She had already opened the right rear door, and was leaning in. I could only see her bare legs and the seat of her cut-offs. After a few seconds, she backed her way out, straightened up and turned around. She held the flashlight in her left hand, something pale and floppy to her right….."

BITE has off beat characters and situations that set this novel apart from any other vampire tale. Laymon, who has been around for some time, is not as well known as King or Koontz but he is one any fan of the two should consider reading.

The Dark Tide
Andrew Gross
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061143434 $7.99

An explosion rocks the train system in New York's Grand Central Station and at first it is thought to be the work of terrorists. With further investigation it is learned that's not the case. But things also do not add up to what they seem at first. A wife of one of the victims finds this out as she begins to question her entire life. She and a detective track the clues as she finds that everything she thought she knew is untrue. There are plenty of plot twists with a story that races along at a fast pace. Gross's second solo novel is better than his first. He had a great teacher in James Patterson and continues to excel. With this author, you are guaranteed a book filled with a suspenseful thrilling ride.

Bloody Sunset In St. Augustine
Nancy Powell & Jim Mast
Federal Point Publishing Inc
9780966825909 $10

Althalia Ponsell Lindsley, a 56-year-old former model and show girl who once had connections to the Kennedys was murdered in broad daylight in her own front yard and no one saw it on January 23, 1974 in St. Augustine,. Florida. Lindsley had married former Mayor James Lindsley who had served two terms. James moved to south Florida after retiring while Althalia stayed; some believed to guard her antiques that she believed would be stolen by her neighbor, County Commissioner

Alan Stanford. Later she monitored commission meetings and became a peoples' watchdog on county government. She also accused Stanford of everything imaginable from stealing to threatening to kill her. Police investigated the case and concluded that the only logical suspect was Stanford.

There was a bitter court case that ended after 13 days. The jurors came to a verdict that has left the city divided on who did the murder.

The writers have done a great job of telling the story of this brutal slaying and its aftermath.

Owl Goingback
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451205674 $6.99

Something is on a killing spree in old St. Augustine and detective Jack Colvin of the St. Augustine Police Department is on the case. Until this occurrence Colvin thought he had seen it all. An ancient Indian chief spirit contacts St. Augustine tour guide Ssabra Onih because she is part Cherokee Indian about the murders. He wants her to contact the police. When she talks to Colvin and tells him that a Wican priestess from Casssadaga, Florida opened a door for an evil spirit to attempt to crossover and mate with beings of this existence, he shows very little interest in what he's been told. He thinks Ssabra is just too weird to believe. Later when he hears from another source the same information, he begins to allow himself to realize that he is not dealing with something human but that the killer is something supernatural.

Goingback, known for his three other tales of horror that involve Native American folklore is on solid ground with the spirits that frequent this novel. He is also in new territory with telling the many interesting facets of the legends and lores of America's oldest city St. Augustine. He has added humor to this novel that makes it even more enjoyable. From the first time when Chief Tolomato contacts Ssabra to the other encounters the two have throughout the novel, readers will laugh out loud because the dialogue is just so witty as evidenced here: when Ssabra is told why she was contacted her response is, "Well you had better look around for another volunteer, because I'm not your girl. I'm a tour guide; I'm not a monster fighter."

"But I have chosen you."

"Then choose someone else, because I'm not going to fight it."

"It is not so simple. I have chosen you to hear my voice. I cannot choose another. Not now."

"Okay, No problem. Let me just grab my sword and shield, and climb on top of my white horse, then we'll be off to fight the Shiru bogeyman."

"You have a horse?"

She laughed. "Of course I don't have a horse. I was being sarcastic. I live in an apartment. Where in the hell would I keep a horse?"

"I had a horse. He was a gift from the Spanish."

"Enough about horses already. I don't have a horse. Never did and never will. And I really don't want to hear about your horse. I'm also not going to fight any monster for you"

"But you were chosen."

"I don't care, choose another."

It is even funnier when Colvin and Ssabra are tracking down the evil spirit when Tolomato explains to her that Colvin and she are on their first date.

CROTA, DARKER THAN NIGHT, and EVIL WHISPERS all by Owl Goingback are fast paced chilling horror novels but BREED tops them all with its added dimension of comic relief in the middle of the horrific situations he has created.

Owl Goingback is one of the finest horror writers writing today.

Wild Justice
Harper Torch
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061030635 $7.99

The bodies add up in this thriller that introduces Amanda Jaffee attorney at law. Amanda is a tough lawyer who gets involved in a mind-boggling case that might just get her killed. The tale is tense with enough turns in the plot that the reader is not sure who the good and bad guys are until the very end.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Charles Ardai
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
301 E. 62nd St., NY, NY 10065
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843959680 $7.99 800-481-9191

Tricia Heverstadt, 18 years old, has just arrived in New York City from her hometown of Aberdeen, South Dakota, looking for her older sister, Coral, and hoping to make her way in the big city as, she thinks, her sister has already done. She is surprised in many ways, however, as she finds nothing is as she expected: Her sister is now calling herself Colleen, and working in one of many clubs run by a gangster. Not what she expected to be doing, but she soon follows in her sister's footsteps. She has no problem landing the job: Tricia is described as "on the street in broad daylight, just walking along, and you'd see men's heads turn. It wasn't obvious just why. She wasn't beautiful. But when she moved, your eyes wanted to follow." She lands a job dancing at The Sun, described as "Manhattan's premier nightspot" - - - the other clubs owned by the same man include The Moon, and The Stars.

When Tricia searches for a place to stay [the reason why she cannot stay with her sister soon becomes apparent] she finds herself in a building where one of the tenants is a publisher of pulp fiction, to wit: Hard Case Crime which, one might notice, is the name of the actual publisher of this book. The first book she spots on the editor's desk is entitled Eye the Jury [no, not a typo] billed as a Mike Hammer, er, excuse me, Mack Hatchet Mystery, written by not Mickey Spillane, but by one Nicky Malone. The delight in the reading just starts there, and continues to the last page. The plot deals with Tricia being enticed into writing a true crime book based on information obtained from one of the gangsters she is sure to meet at her job, but the end product is something purely out of her imagination, with a little help from her friends, about a mobster who is robbed of three million dollars, the author identified as "Anonymous," the mobster in question being none other than her boss. As Tricia says, "she had a book to write. And not having found any true crime to write about wasn't going to stand in her way." But then there is an actual robbery, committed exactly as Tricia has described it in her book.

The New York City of decades ago is captured wonderfully by Mr. Ardai: "The El had run here once, she knew, its metal tracks casting the whole of the avenue into darkness; and though it had been demolished nearly twenty years back, as night fell it was almost as if you were still walking under its shadow, listening with half an ear for the clattering roar of ghost cars overhead." The author has gotten everything pitch perfect, and whether reading the book as an homage or simply as noir at its best, it works on both levels, and on every level. Whether the reader is a devoted mystery fan, who will greatly enjoy the "in" parts of the novel, or become such a fan after reading this book, it's a joy either way. The title references several things, among which are the odds of survival for Tricia and her colleagues, but also the fact that this book is the 50th title published by this author, who is also the editor of Hard Case Crime. May many more follow.

Face of a Killer
Robin Burcell
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590583746 $24.95 800-421-3976
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022,
9780061122309 $7.99

Sydney Fitzpatrick, FBI forensic artist, is uniquely qualified to draw the titular "face of a killer." But the face of a very particular killer, the man who murdered her father almost exactly 20 years ago as the book opens, is rather elusive. The man convicted of the crime is just days away from his scheduled execution, still proclaiming his innocence. And for the first time in all the intervening years, Sydney finds herself questioning whether there is even the smallest possibility that he was not guilty of the act that has shaped her life. But soon she finds that perhaps everything she thought she knew about her father's life - and his death - was a lie. As Sydney examines this possibility, she uncovers a plot involving a massive conspiracy reaching the highest reaches of political and corporate life.

Sydney, a cop for eight years, now with the FBI for four years, has recently transferred from Washington, D.C. to the San Francisco office, having dumped her former fiance, also an FBI agent. Above all things, she is known for following the rules, but that becomes more difficult as she begins the investigation, twenty years after the fact, into her father's death, ostensibly the result of a break-in at the pizza parlor he owned. Her father, ex-army, had been a civilian contractor working for the army after his discharge, till a tragic accident forced his retirement. Sydney, then thirteen years old, had been asleep in another part of the pizza parlor when he was killed.

The author, herself an FBI-trained forensic artist, police officer, detective and hostage negotiator for many years, brings an unquestioned authenticity to this suspenseful tale. I have to reluctantly admit that there were times when the narrative felt padded, going over and over the same ground. But the plot is quite interesting, and the author brings the tale to an exciting conclusion.

[Charmingly, Kate Gillespie, the protagonist featured in four of this author's previous novels, makes a cameo appearance here, introduced as "a San Francisco PD homicide inspector" and one of Sydney's girlfriends.]

Murder with All the Trimmings
Elaine Viets
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451225481 $6.99 800-847-5515

Elaine Viets, author of the Dead-End Job Mystery Series, this time give us the latest entry in her Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper Series, which came out just in time for the recently-past Christmas holiday season. Josie has a history of almost willfully poor choices in men: At the tender age of twenty she broke off her engagement to a 'good, decent man' for Nate, a dashing helicopter pilot who, after getting Josie pregnant [at which point she left college to become a mystery shopper], left for Canada to continue the drug-dealing of which Josie was unaware, and was then arrested as he was leaving Canada when drugs were found on his plane. Nate, recently out of prison and now an alcoholic, has shown up on Josie's doorstep, anxious to meet his now nine-year-old daughter, Heather. Josie had fallen in love with Nate's 'wildness and unpredictability,' but those qualities can make for bad parenting.

The book is replete with broken and dysfunctional [or 'blended' and 'unconventional,' depending on whether one's terms are current or more old-fashioned] families: Nate's father's wife ran off with another man, ending that marriage; Josie's mother's marriage had ended badly; Mike, Josie's present boyfriend, has a 14-year-old daughter [with his 'witchy' ex-girlfriend], a sullen girl whose relationship with Josie's daughter is antagonistic, to say the least. Josie meets the ex-girlfriend, Doreen, when she opens a store in their St. Louis neighborhood, strangely the third all-year-round Christmas stores in the space of three blocks. Of course, Doreen's 'alternative Christmas' store has the distinction of selling 'pornaments,' pornographic Christmas ornaments and decorations. When her store is picketed, Doreen is called 'Satan's handmaiden.' Bad feelings, and worse, abound.

The usual charming characters from this series are present, including Josie's neighbor, Stan-the-Man; Mrs. Mueller, the neighborhood gossip [perhaps somewhat less than charming]; her mother, Jane, who lives in the upper floor of their house, without whose help Josie probably wouldn't survive. When Josie, and then Mike, are suspected in two murders, their relationship suffers, and Josie's best friend tells her "I bet if you found the killer, things would go back to the way they were." So she sets out to do just that.

There were a couple of inconsistencies, e.g., though Josie's boss faxes documents to her when necessary, at one point when Josie needs to fax something to someone she has to run out to the local Kinko's. And there were some things that were redundant, such as tears 'leaking out of' Amelia's eyes on more than one occasion; and the reader being told more than once that Amelia has her grandmother's stubborn streak. But the story is fast paced and keeps the reader interested till the end, when the mystery is solved and hints are given about Josie's romantic future. Josie is a sympathetic and spunky protagonist, and it's a fun read.

Game Over
Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Severn House
595 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10022
9781847510563 $15.95 212-935-0966

The eleventh in the Bill Slider series finds the Detective Inspector trying to arrange his marriage to his love, Joanna, before the impending birth in approximately seven weeks of their child. As he says: "I've been trying to get married . . . arranging a wedding between a policeman and a musician is like trying to push a balloon into a milk bottle." As the book opens Slider and crew are investigating the murder of Ed Stonax, former BBC correspondent who had left to become a civil servant a couple of years back, only to be forced to leave that position when he became embroiled in a sex scandal. Is it a random burglary gone wrong, or does it stem from something in his previous professions that had somehow led to his demise?

At the same time, Slider is dealing with a communication he receives from a criminal in whose arrest he was a participant; the man, Trevor Bates, alias The Needle, had escaped during transfer to a different facility a month prior, and had not been seen or heard from since. Direct threats on his and Joanna's lives up the stakes, and indeed attempts are made on his life. Bates is variously described as a "wealthy businessman, property dealer, electronics expert, murderer . . . intellectual, cold-blooded, and pathologically vain." Quite a nemesis, and one that Slider is determined to re-capture, if only in self-preservation.

Slider's colleague, Atherton, never lacking for female companionship, finds a fast-growing attraction to Stonax' daughter, a journalist now living in New York but who has come back to the UK after her father's death. Only this time it feels different for the serial-dater. Emily, the daughter, begs to be allowed to stay involved in the investigation, and her experience as a journalist becomes a definite asset. For his part, Slider "was happily spoken-for, but there was no harm in admiring the scenery, even if you were on a non-stopping train." But his love for Joanna is never in doubt, despite that momentary thought.

The author's charming sense of humor is evident throughout, in spite of the sometimes grim nature of the plot. Another colleague is described as having a "face that lunched on a thousand chips." A superior has a habit of mixing his metaphors: "A leper doesn't change his spots, " "don't throw the winds to caution," and "still waters wait for no man." Ms. Harrod-Eagles is a wonderful storyteller as well as a gifted writer, two things not always, or even often, found together. The book is highly recommended.

Point No Point
Mary Logue
Bleak House Books
923 Williamson St., Madison, WI 53703
9781606480069 hb $24.95 9781606480076 pb $14.95 800-258-5830

The Lake Pepin area of Wisconsin has been enduring a late August hot spell, with temperatures in the 90's for over a week. When the body of a man is discovered in the Lake, Deputy Sheriff Claire Watkins, Pepin County's chief investigator, is hard pressed to find out who the man was, with nothing left to distinguish the body other than a dark-colored tattoo in his shoulder. The place where the body was found is known as Point No Point, an optical illusion at a spot in the Mississippi River "where the far bank appeared to be a wooded point jutting into the river at a sharp bend, but as you came closer the illusion faded away . . . It was a point that wasn't a point in a lake that wasn't a lake but a river." All of which I found fascinating, as it is apparently a real geographical location.

Competing for Claire's attention is trying to discover whether the death of Anne Baldwin, whose husband, Chet, has been the best friend of Claire's boyfriend, Rich, for most of their lives, is suicide or murder. If the latter, the only suspect would appear to be Chet. Apparent from the horror of Anne's death, the situation is fraught with problems for Claire on a personal level.

Chet and Anne [who was about fifteen years younger than her 55-year-old husband] had been married for ten years, and had been devoted to each other. But the ensuing investigation turns up evidence of some recent problems in the marriage. Chet's devastation at Anne's death is, however, very real, and his love for his wife was undoubtedly very deep and genuine.

Claire is a very human protagonist, one who takes her job very seriously but has other issues to deal with in this novel, the newest in a series by this author. Claire, now forty-five years old, has been living with Chet, although there is no talk of marriage. Chet has been doing his part in their shared household, preparing meals and helping raise Claire's now-sixteen-year-old daughter, Meg, who has some issues of her own, with a boy she cares for a lot who wants to introduce her to the joys of s-e-x .

For the first time in this series Amy Schroeder, the 23-year-old Deputy Sheriff, is given her lead on the investigation into the murder of the man found in the lake. Both cases turn on unexpected facts, leading to a suspenseful and poignant conclusion. A good read, and one which is recommended.

The Big Dirt Nap
Rosemary Harris
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312369682 $24.95 646-307-5560

Paula Holliday, at thirty-three years of age and now the owner of the Dirty Business gardening/landscaping company, returns in the second in this delightful series. It being the off-season in Connecticut, and with Paula looking to supplement her income, she has managed to combine an all-expenses-paid weekend at the Titans Hotel, courtesy of her friend Lucy, a tv producer working on a story, with an article for the local newspaper about the "titan arum," a rare plant described as "practically a miracle," less elegantly referred to as a "stinkweed."

The plant takes seven years to bloom, if ever, giving off a funky smell till it blossoms, at which time it smells like a dead body; hence the nickname "corpse flower." The plant is on display at the hotel in all its phallic wonder, and its expected blossoming is imminent. After she arrives at the hotel and while she is waiting for Lucy in the hotel bar, a sexy-looking guy strikes up a conversation with her. That budding relationship is doomed, however, quite literally, when the man turns up dead later that evening. And just to complicate matters, Paula receives cryptic text messages from Lucy, who never did show up at the hotel, nor does she explain where she is or what has happened to her.

With the able assistance of her friend Babe, former backup singer and ex-rocker who now owns a truck stop/diner, Paula tries to find out who has broken into and trashed her home, as well as what may have befallen Lucy. Babe is quite a character. As the author says, "Babe lived for this - - she genuinely loved solving other people's problems. In another lifetime she might have been a radio shrink," or, as Babe herself says, "I give out better advice than a bartender." The cops' search for the murderer also forces itself into her life when she becomes a "person of interest" in the case. Having once solved a murder in Ms. Harris' first novel, "Pushing Up Daisies," Paula is almost compelled to try to solve this one as well. In the process, the author has given us another winner, with a protagonist who is a delight. Maybe it's because the author is, like myself, Brooklyn-born, but in Paula she has created someone you would like to have as a friend. The book is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Lost Tomb
David Gibbins
Bantam Dell
A division of Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY
9780533591194 $6.99

Gibbons is an action/adventure writer following in the steps of the pulp action/fantasy writers from the early twentieth century. A revival of the genre started with Ian Fleming after World War II and continued with writers such as Clive Cussler. Gibbons takes the comfortable action format of Cussler and adds in a stronger and more realistic archeology. With The Lost Tomb, Gibbon taps into the current interest in biblical and religious history.

Jack Howard is diving off Sicily on an ancient ship wreck site. He is hoping to find the ship Paul sailed in on his last trip to Rome. Maurice Hiebermeyer, part of Jack's archeology team, is exploring a freshly opened tunnel in Herculaneum, which might lead to a scroll room in a villa buried for centuries by Vesuvius in 79 AD. They both make discoveries that lead Jack on the trail of a Roman Emperor and a possible lost manuscript written by Jesus. A powerful and corrupt secret society within the Christian Church has battle for centuries to keep hidden truths and doctrines they oppose from the rest of the world. They suspect what Jack might have discovered and track him with deadly force as he travels across the world following the archeological threads that he has found.

The Lost Tomb is a fun action story that brings the reader from ancient Rome, into Briton's conquering and Boudica's revolt, through the past region hidden by Vesuvius' 79 AD eruption and to Israel's past and present. The tale has the strengths and weaknesses of a fast action adventure. You can't help yourself but learn a little about history and even a little more about Christianity. Gibbins has a chance to poke at the mythology of religious history. He opts to tantalize the reader with a final open question. The Lost Tomb is a must read in this genre of action/adventure/religious history. It hits the high points with just enough facts to permit the reader to immerse themselves in the panorama of the past.

Dark of the Moon
John Sandford
Berkley Books
A division of Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425224137 9.99

Sandford is one of the best hardboiled detective mystery writers. His Prey series has become one of the standards other novels are compared to. His lead character in the Prey series is Lucas Davenport. As the series ages, a writer has two choices. He can stay locked in time and try to keep the characters from aging or he can let them develop into a set pattern. Davenport has been aged thus limiting the storyline. With Dark of the Moon, Sandford has shifted to a new character, Virgil Flowers. All of the old characters from the Prey series are still there but with the change in lead, Sandford has created a fresh story. Sandford has grown in his fictional skills and with Virgil he has taken a second and successful run at the hard driving detective tale.

Two grisly murders have taken place in the small Minnesota town of Bluestem. Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers is called in to help in the investigation. A spectacular third murder takes place as Virgil drives into town. A sadistic serial killer is taking out eighty year olds with a shady past. Suspects fill the small town and Virgil's investigation nearly immediately catches the attention of the killer. The death toll climbs as the investigation uncovers corruption both today and in the past. As Virgil comes closer to the psycho, he becomes a target.

Virgil Flowers is a unique character and the investigative details in the story are some of the best in the genre. The who-done-it storyline is surprisingly complex for a hardboiled detective action mystery. Dark of the Moon is a must read for any serious detective mystery reader and a gem for anyone new to the genre.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Prelude to Foundation
Isaac Asimov
1745 Broadway, New York NY 10019
0385245858 $18.95

For anyone wanting to read Isaac Asimov's Foundation books in chronological order of the events described, this is the place to start, even though it was the last book in the series actually written. To quote from a publisher's cover note, "Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels are one of the great masterworks of science fiction." Since that says it all, I have nothing to add and will not try. Instead I will discuss only the segment whose purpose and real meaning tended to be ignored or glossed over while the grandmaster was still alive.

In the course of his research for a science of "psychohistory," Asimov's hero, Hari Seldon, visits a xenophobic community called Mycogen that at first glance has much in common with Amish and similar religions that refuse to evolve beyond the nineteenth century. But as Mycogen's beliefs and customs are spelled out, it becomes clear that the Mycogenians are thinly disguised practitioners of a different religion altogether, a religion in which a much younger Asimov was oppressively immersed but managed to avoid being absorbed. Quite simply, Mycogen represents Asimov's perspective of Judaism, and is far more accurate than flattering.

Mycogenians refer to non-Mycogenian food as "gabelle," an invented term but undoubtedly equivalent to "trafah," for which "non-kosher" is an extremely expurgated translation, and refer to non-Mycogenians as "tribesmen." While that word may appear to be non-pejorative, the way it is used leaves little doubt that it carries the connotations of "filthy heretic scum" and "hell fodder," and is as intentionally insulting as "nigger," "kike," and "fag." "Tribesmen" was clearly a carefully chosen term, designed to convey the real implications of the Hebrew word for which it is a direct, literal translation, "goyim."

A Mycogenian woman expresses revulsion and makes clear that she has been insulted when Seldon circumspectly suggests that, "There are forces that guide and take care for us all." Her response is, "You're accusing us of having religion…. Religion is for the tribesmen, for the swarming … scum." To the Mycogenians, their beliefs and customs constitute history, not supernaturalism, Seldon's name for religion. While modern Jews do not dispute that Judaism is a religion, true believers nonetheless regard their Torah and other religious tomes as works of history - as do Christianity's fundamentalist creationists who likewise refuse to evolve past the early nineteenth century.

There are many clues that Asimov was not writing about a purely mythical religion. It does not take a great leap of the imagination to equate the permanent depilation of children before puberty with circumcision. Imposing a death sentence on any tribesman who entered the Temple is an echo of pre-70 CE Judaism. Requiring men and women to wear sex-specific clothing is demanded by the Torah. The subjugation of women as a virtual slave caste would be as strictly enforced in modern Israel as in Mycogen if black-robed religious fanatics had their way. Asimov, being sane, intelligent and educated, was no friend of any religion. But the opportunity to expose the religion with which he was most familiar as something even Jews would condemn if they saw the same absurdities and atrocities in other people's beliefs, was too welcome to pass up.

If you need me to advise you to read this or any other book by Isaac Asimov, you are not a science fiction appreciator.

Mere Christianity
C S Lewis
10 East 53rd Street, NY 10022, HC
9780060652883 $24.99

There are thousands of books no further away from anyone in the Western World than the nearest university library, that cannot fail to convince anyone with a functioning human brain that religion is bovine excrement; that the Christian bible contains the same proportion of fact and fiction as Wind in the Willows; and that the same bible is as useful a guide to morality as Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf or the Marquis de Sade's Juliette. The most prominent authors of such books are Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger. But none of the god delusion's debunkers proves the insanity of religion and the brain atrophy of its apologists as effectively as the apologists themselves, most notably the poster boy for fairy-tale-think, C. S. Lewis. Lewis's mindless, childish defence of Christianity as something other than fantasy raises the possibility, even suspicion, that he thought his Chronicles of Narnia was a documentary.

Lewis nowhere mentions Helena Blavatsky or Theosophy, and possibly had never heard of either. But Mere Christianity is nonetheless Theosophy, rambling inanity that starts from the contentless doubletalk of theology and uses further doubletalk to produce a nonsense discipline even more contentless than the drivel it impersonates. Lewis's book is one long sermon by an Alice clone about the metaphysical elements of her journey into Wonderland. I searched from cover to cover for a single logical argument, or even an illogical rationalization, for why he believed what he believed that differed from a three-year-old's reason for believing in Santa Claus. He offered none, and did not even try to delude himself that he was doing so. He expressed opinions, and made no attempt to support them with evidence. The only conclusion I was able to draw is that Lewis is the hero of believers who consider religion a purely emotional issue, in which evidence or reason can play no role, because he was one of them. And the reason he is an embarrassment to believers who rationalize that there is evidence to support their position, is that he was not one of them. Mere Christianity is theologically, philosophically, and theosophically, a mirror image of Alice in Wonderland, but is less entertaining and will appeal only to other residents of Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Is Christianity Good for the World? A Debate
Christopher Hitchens & Douglas Wilson
McClelland & Stewart
75 Sherbourne Street, Toronto ON, M5A 2P9, Canada
978-0771041181 $19.95

Is Christianity Good for the World? is bound to generate much optimism among nontheists. If the author of Letter from a Christian Citizen is the best the Christians can come up with to debate the author of God Is Not Great, then the god delusion is in big trouble. And if the publishers' concept of an objective moderator was the author of the oxymoronic Liberal Fascism that equated middle-of-the-road liberalism with left-wing socialism, they should have been disabused by his own words (p. 8): "The Nazis sought to replace Christianity with a kind of pagan self-worship." NEWSFLASH: Nazism was Christianity carried to its logical extreme.

Christopher Hitchens describes himself in his introduction as (p. 12), "an anti-theist … someone who is delighted that there is absolutely no persuasive evidence for the existence of any of [hu]mankind's many thousands of past and present deities." In other words, since God's own official biography portrays him as a mirror-image of Adolf Hitler, the absence of any reason whatsoever for believing that such a monster really exists is the most welcome Good News conceivable.

In Douglas Wilson's introduction he exposes himself as both an intellectual bankrupt who practices circular reasoning (p. 17): "God knew that we were going to need to pick up dimes, and so He gave us fingernails," (note his capitalization of possessive adjectives referring to his imaginary playmate, a practice all but the most intransigent, intestinally challenged believers have abandoned), and a liar (p. 19): "I would ask [the reader] to read it with the ancient triad of truth, goodness and beauty in mind." But that is precisely what he does not want his readers to do, since anyone who does so is bound to recognize the indefensibility of Wilson's position.

Hitchens writes (pp. 22-23), "Many of the teachings of Christianity are, as well as being incredible and mythical, immoral…. If Christianity can claim credit for the work of outstanding Christians or for the labors of famous charities, then it must in all honesty accept responsibility for the opposite." Wilson's response is (p. 28), "If a professor takes credit for the student who mastered the material … the professor must … be upbraided for the dope-smoking slacker that he kicked out of class the second week." That Hitchens was referring to the evil perpetrated by Christians in strict conformity to the teachings of their mythology, not in violation of it, Wilson fails to acknowledge. Either he is able to shut out such reality, in which case he is mentally dysfunctional, or he is writing for an audience he knows to be mentally dysfunctional, in which case he is providing further proof that he is basically a liar.

In response to Wilson's umptillionth paraphrasing of the Big Lie that, without a lawgiving god, there can be no truly objective morality (p. 29), Hitchens writes (p. 32), "We would be acting out of obligation toward others out of mutual interest and sympathy but without the impulse of terrifying punishment or selfish reward. Some of us can handle this thought and some, evidently, cannot. I have a slight suspicion as to which is more moral." Wilson's next repetition of the same Big Lie Hitchens had already demolished is (p. 33), "Morality has nothing to do with the supernatural if you want to be an inconsistent atheist." In other words, not only does he not grasp that there is no connection between morality and theism, and nontheism no more promotes immorality than theism promotes morality; he lacks the intellectual capacity to grasp such a self-evident truth.

The rest of the book consists of Hitchens trying to get past the firewall Wilson has built around his brain to keep out all logic, reason, rationality, moral courage, and sanity, and Wilson's repetition of the inflexible dogma he started with and has zero ability to modify. There are four kinds of godworshippers: the educationally challenged, the intellectually challenged, the rationally challenged, and the intestinally challenged. Wilson combines the mind-crippling handicaps of all four.

Reading Hitchens' demolition of his opponent's doubletalk, and Wilson's determination to live in an alternate reality in which Hitchens' points simply do not exist, it is hard to avoid seeing a parallel with the first pilot episode of the Star Trek series. Needing to penetrate an alien edifice, Captain Pike's crew fired their blasters (a more descriptive term than "phasers") at the building's entrance. But no matter how many ergs they unleashed against the door, it remained undamaged - or so it seemed. It turned out that the first burst of phaser energy had vaporized the wall, but the aliens were able to generate an illusion so that the Enterprise crew saw only the image that the aliens were putting into their minds. The difference between that situation and this one is that the Star Trek aliens were able to delude their opponents into believing that a totally destroyed defence was still standing; whereas in Is Christianity Good for the World, it is the antagonist whose defence was destroyed who is deluding himself that it is still standing.

To repeat: If Wilson's circular reasoning, repetition and distortion of opposing arguments as if quoting constitutes rebutting, inflexible dogma in the face of the quantity and quality of the falsifying evidence, and statements that are either outright lies or evidence of a brain that is clearly not in working order, are the best that apologists for the god delusion can come up with, religion is indeed in deep doggy doo.

This book does serve one useful purpose. While it will change no minds, it demonstrates in spades that incurable god addicts are not sparking on all neurons.

God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question - Why We Suffer
Bart D. Ehrman
Harper One
10 East 53 Street, NY 10022
9780061173929 $16.99

"If there is an all-powerful God in this world, why is there so much excruciating pain and unspeakable suffering?" That opening sentence of God's Problem is a question Bart Ehrman started asking himself when he was still a brainwashed godworshipper (tautology). Since his search for an answer, and for an explanation of the Bible's enormous number (actually 19,000) of demonstrably false statements and self-contradictions, led him to cure himself of the god delusion and become a nontheist, it is a safe assumption that there is no answer, at least no answer that would convince anyone with a functioning human brain. So having asked an unanswerable question, Ehrman contents himself with examining various Bible-authors' and religious apologists' attempted answers, and pointing out why none of them can be viewed as anything but a desperate attempt to justify the unjustifiable.

Ehrman is more competent - or has more confidence in his competence - in Greek than Hebrew. Whereas quotations from the Bible's Greek books are his own translations, his quotations from Hebrew books are taken from the New Revised Standard Version, a Protestant translation that repeats falsifications that even the Catholic Jerusalem Bible has corrected. Is he unaware that, where the NRSV substitutes the descriptive term, The Lord, the Hebrew actually says Yahweh, a proper name no different qualitatively than Zeus or Jupiter? Or does he consider such a falsification too insignificant to matter? Is that why he used the NRSV rather than a translation that correctly transcribes YHWH as Yahweh, the vowelless Hebrew proper name's most probable pronunciation? But he surely cannot view the falsification of the dual-sex, generic plural, allahiym, meaning "the male and female gods," into the male, singular, proper name, "God," for the purpose of promoting the Big Lie that Bible authors were monotheists, as trivial. Is he unaware that The Fully Translated Bible (Booksurge, 2006) corrects those and all other intentional falsifications?

Compare the following translations:

NRSV, quoted by Ehrman (Hosea 9:1-2), "Do not exult as other nations, for you have played the whore, departing from your God…. They shall not remain in the land of the Lord."

Fully Translated Bible, "Don't start rejoicing Israel. Joy is for other people. As for you, you have practised sexcrime against your gods…. They are not going to live in Yahweh's land."

Nor is Ehrman's use of mistranslations limited to quotations. He consistently refers to a character named "God" in his narrative, in blatant indifference to the reality that no character who can legitimately be translated as "God" even exists in the Hebrew Bible. Such disinformation is understandable from pushers of the God delusion who stand to lose their bread and butter if the masses on whom they sponge are allowed to learn the difference between what Bible authors wrote and what modern religion teaches. But from a nontheist, repetition of such falsifications is unconscionable. So is repeating as if it might be true (p. 61) the Big Lie that there are no atheists in foxholes. Dr Ehrman, to be on the side of truth, you have to abandon all falsehood. Is that so hard to understand?

Ehrman cites the many biblical authors who viewed suffering as their god's punishment for disobedience to his capricious orders (the true meaning of "sin"). He writes (p. 85) that, "The Christian doctrine of atonement, and salvation for eternal life, is rooted in the prophetic view that people suffer because God [sic] is punishing them for disobedience." Perhaps because he recognizes that disproportionate punishment for even trivial offences is already indefensible, he does not make an issue of a Sky Fuhrer's punishing whole populations for the offences of individuals. Does he justify such laziness on the ground that any godworshipper who needs to be shown that his deity is a sadistic psychopath cannot be told? He does cite Herod's alleged massacre of infants, and notes (p. 104) that, "there is nothing to suggest that these poor infants of Bethlehem had it coming to them." But out of sheer laziness or political correctness he does not mention that Herod's massacre was invented by the gospel author. As a fact of history, it never happened.

"It is no accident that the crucifixion accounts of the New Testament sound so much like Isaiah 53 - the authors of these accounts were thinking of the suffering servant of Isaiah when writing their accounts" (p. 84). That is true as far as it goes. But Ehrman does not mention that Isaiah's suffering slave was grossly malformed: "He has neither shape nor attractiveness … no beauty that would attract him to us…. we deemed him stricken, plagued by the gods and afflicted" (FTB). Did it not cross Ehrman's mind that the reason gospel authors equated Jesus with Isaiah's malformed slave was that, according to Josephus, the physical description also matched that of Jesus?1 Is he so afflicted with political correctness that he would try to write a biography of Adolf Hitler that did not offend Nazis?

Ehrman describes himself (p. 125) as "an agnostic who viewed the bible as a book produced entirely by human hands…. I don't call myself an atheist, because to declare affirmatively that there is no God (the declaration of atheists) takes far more knowledge (and chutzpah) than I have." Newsflash: An atheist is not a person who necessarily affirms that gods do not exist. An atheist is any person who does not have a belief that a god does exist: a-theist: "not a theist." Whether he acknowledges it or not, Ehrman is an atheist. And while it may not amount to chutzpah to declare it impossible to know that "God" does not exist, it certainly amounts to ignorance. The generic term, god, can be so widely defined that the nonexistence of such entities is indeed impossible to prove. But the nonexistence of "God," defined as a god, "having the attributes that are traditionally associated with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God," has been proven beyond sane dispute.2

Since Ehrman is explaining how the Judeo-Christian bible in its present form affected his thinking, he does not examine any one author's narrative individually. Instead he refers to the woman who tried to seduce Joseph as Potiphar's wife, even though the Yahwist who wrote the seduction myth did not name Joseph's owner and certainly did not equate him with Potiphar, identified by the Priestly author as Pharaoh's head eunuch. Given Ehrman's priorities, that may be defensible. But when he writes that the wife accused Joseph of rape, "because he refused to sleep with her" (p. 133), his use of the weaselism, "sleep with," to describe a waking activity is a sop to religious gutlessness.

Similarly, in analyzing the myth in current bibles of how Yahweh ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ehrman questions whether a dictator who demands such unquestioning obedience, even as a test, can be considered admirable. I get the distinct impression that Ehrman does not know that in the original Elohist Torah, Isaac really was sacrificed as a child and is never mentioned again. When a Redactor interwove the E Torah with the J Torah in which an adult Isaac is featured prominently, he harmonized the conflicting narratives by having Yahweh intervene to prevent the sacrifice from being carried out.

Ehrman writes (p. 221) that, "Jesus taught that a cosmic figure, whom he called the Son of Man, will bring in this kingdom in a cosmic act of judgment." While "Son of man" is a valid translation of the Greek, huios anthropou, it is not a translation of any expression Jesus ever used. Jesus spoke Aramaic and, when quoting scripture, Hebrew. The Hebrew term ultimately mistranslated as Son of Man was ben Adam, "Descendant of Adam." While any human was ben Adam (Ezekiel so described himself), Jesus saw himself as a special ben Adam, the Second Adam whose mission was to free the Jews from the sentence imposed on descendants of the first Adam for his disobedience. As Ehrman recognizes, he had no awareness that he would be executed with that mission unaccomplished.

In connection with Egypt's alleged plagues, Ehrman raises an obvious question (p. 135), "If Moses says he'll bring a plague unless his demands are met, and then brings a plague, you would think that after four or five times Pharaoh would get the point. But Pharaoh had a hardened heart." He does point out that parts of the (interwoven) narrative show Pharaoh hardening his own heart, while other parts show Yahweh hardening his heart. The explanation is that Pharaoh's obstinacy similarly made no sense to the Priestly author. So when he wrote an alternative to the Yahwist's Torah, he inserted the "Yahweh made him do it" rationalization to explain the unexplainable. Why does Ehrman not know that? Either he should learn more about the composition of the Jewish Testament,3 including the fact that incompatibilities between the philosophies of different books can be attributed to some of the books being written by Pharisees and some by Sadducees, or he should restrict his writing to the Christian Testament.

But even in writing about the Christian books, Ehrman is less than totally accurate. He correctly recognizes that Revelation describes events that its author(s) believed were in the process of happening. Armageddon, north of Jerusalem, was the prophesied location of the last battle of the Jewish war of 66-74 CE that would result in a Jewish victory and the overthrow of the Roman occupation. In fact the last battle took place at Masada, south of Jerusalem, and the Jews lost. "Armageddon" was not a hypothetical war that was to happen more than 2,000 years later. So far so good. But Ehrman identifies a Christian named John as Revelation's author. In fact neither author of Revelation was a Christian. The original author was an Essene who wrote chapters 4 to 19 in July or August of 70 CE.4 The Redactor was a Nazirite (Jesus-Jew) named John who wrote chapters 1 to 3 and 20 to 22, plus two brief interpolations in chapter 7, during the reign of Domitian. That he was a Nazirite rather than a Christian is made clear by his description of the Christians (2:9) as, "Those who call themselves Ioudaians but are not, but are a synagogue of the Enemy."5

To put it mildly, this is not Bart Ehrman's most useful book.

1 Robert Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, NY, 1931, p. 467.

2 Victor Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis, Prometheus books, p. 11.

3 from such sources as Richard Friedman (Who Wrote the Bible?); Gerald Larue (Old Testament Life and Literature); Peter Ellis (The Yahwist: The Bible's First Theologian); and William Harwood (Mythology's Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus).

4 William Harwood, Where is George Washington Now That America Really Needs Him? pp. 98-99.

5 William Harwood, A Humanist in the Bible Belt, pp. 119-121.

The Jinn from Hyperspace and Other Scribblings - Both Serious and Whimsical
Martin Gardner
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781591025658 $25.95

Martin Gardner has long been recognized as the foremost debunker of pseudoscience and pseudomedicine on this planet. Only James Randi has achieved comparable recognition in a much narrower field of delusion and humbuggery. As early as 1958 Gardner's expose of cranks, humbugs, and sincerely deluded researchers such as Joseph Rhine, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, became a bestseller after its targeted mountebanks gave it so much free publicity that the masses became aware of its existence. His 1989 follow-up, Science: Good, Bad and Bogus, reached a mass audience much more quickly, and to the best of my awareness was Prometheus Books' first publication to hit the bestseller lists.

But no matter how thoroughly a security belief is rendered as dead as phrenology, it refuses to get itself buried. In 1996 Gardner was obliged to write a further debunking of superstitions that should have long ceased to exist, Weird Water and Fuzzy Logic. And as always unteachables managed to keep their pseudoscientific humbuggery alive, proving once again that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of Homo gullibilia. So he has again taken on the thankless task of reminding the uninformed that disinformation is still alive and well and flourishing in America and elsewhere.

Only the opening chapters of The Jinn From Hyperspace are devoted to exposing the fraudulence of pseudomedicine. When Gardner elsewhere cites previously rebutted pseudoscience, he simply identifies the books in which his analyses can be found. He also examines recent developments in science and math, as well as analyzing some of his own favorite literature. And the title chapter is a science fiction tale previously published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.

The book starts with the latest updating on the status of the False Memory Syndrome that, at the height of the "recovered memory" delusion, destroyed thousands of innocent lives and even caused some falsely accused caregivers to commit suicide. He reports the publication of an article by a psychiatrist, "The End of a Delusion: The Psychiatric Memory Wars Are Over," that consigned "recovered memories" to the ashcan of history on the basis of the reduction of false accusations in 1999-2000 to .02 percent of the 1991-1992 level. Unfortunately he is also obliged to report that such dangerous disinformation as The Courage to Heal and Secret Survivors is still in print and still pretending that "more than half of all women are survivors of childhood sexual trauma" (p. 17). As Pete Seeger wondered, "When will they ever learn?"

Chapter Two is about a particular victim of a sex-abuse accusation based on false memories, who happened to be a Catholic priest. Child sexual abuse by priests is a worldwide pandemic that even the Catholic Church no longer denies. And in my view every priest is guilty of crimes against humanity simply for promoting a belief system that has no redeeming social value whatsoever (to paraphrase a Supreme Court ruling that criminalized a less-antihuman use/misuse of free speech). But innocent is innocent, and neither a priest nor Al Capone should be convicted of a specific offense that he did not commit, regardless of whether or not the world would be a safer place if he was placed behind bars purely as a preemptive measure.

Despite the overwhelming quantity and quality of the falsifying evidence that Gardner spells out, evidence that the jury was not permitted to hear, the priest in question was convicted and is still in prison. To Boston Catholics, the finding of Catholic apologist Garry Wills,1 that priests "ordained after 1981 say their seminaries were 70 percent gay," does not diminish the crime of being openly gay. To a jury of homophobic bigots, being gay was no different from being a child rapist, and the unreliability of the sole accuser was not relevant. The truly sad part is that the priest's hope of some day waking up in Cloud Cuckoo Land and learning that he has been vindicated is not going to happen, because by that time he will be totally, permanently, irreversibly dead.

One of Gardner's several chapters on speculative physics, including reviews of two books by cosmologist Roger Penrose, contains the statement (p. 34) that perhaps summarizes his entire perspective of such theorizing: "There is no galaxy in which two plus two is not four." Anyone who thinks he is wrong is probably a Scientologist. He also adds his endorsement to the objectivity of reality when he states (p. 93), "I am … astounded that there actually are physicists who think the moon would not be 'out there' if no one (not even a mouse? Einstein liked to ask) observed it. His review of Energy from the Vacuum describes it as, "much funnier, for instance, than Frank Tipler's best seller of a few decades ago, The Physics of Immortality, though not as funny as its 2007 sequel, The Physics of Christianity.

On the subject of homeopathy, Gardner does not reprint any of his previous demolitions of the science fiction postulation that the more a medicine is diluted the more effective it becomes, and the most effective medicine of all is diluted to the point that it contains not a single molecule of the allegedly curative substance. Instead he reprints a "Letter to the Editor" (p. 136) reporting that, "Reputable doctors tell a joke about a man who forgot to take his daily homeopathic pill and died of an overdose."

Gardner's chapters reprinted from Asimov's are fictionalizations of mathematical and logical paradoxes such as time travel. They are best described as "interesting." He reports (p. 121) that, "Some parapsychologists have suggested that tachyons (if they exist) might be carriers of precognitive ESP (if it exists)." Actually, such parapsychologists appear to be the only members of their pseudoscience capable of recognizing that precognition could exist if and only if information can travel backward in time. Can that actually happen? I get the impression that Gardner agrees that the answer is an unequivocal No.

One of the stories reprinted from Asimov's involves a lady who, "seated one day at the organ, weary and ill at ease," struck one chord of music that accidentally conjured up the devil. Obligated to answer her questions truthfully, the devil informed her that every word in the opening chapter of Genesis was literally true. Gardner raised the objection that the devil was not known for providing something for nothing, and asked his informant what price she paid for his revelations. Her answer provides the same kind of paradox that deactivated the android Norman in the Star Trek episode, "I, Mudd." (That is as much of a spoiler as I am willing to provide.)

In an otherwise generally favorable review of a British novel, Gardner writes (p. 131) "I was a bit put off by the frequency with which the book's characters … seem unable to speak without peppering their conversation with meaningless f-words." While I am nauseated by the way the media uses the weaselism, "sleep with" to refer to a waking activity, I am as put off as Gardner by the use of "f-words" as adjectives of emphasis in a totally non-sexual context.

The second half of Gardner's book is devoted to literature. Gardner writes (p. 155), "I sometimes imagine that I am the only non-Catholic who is an enthusiastic admirer of Gilbert Chesterton." Presumably Catholics tend to admire Chesterton because he shares their brainwashing. Readers who are already favorably inclined toward the author of the "Father Brown" books that portray a priest as a good guy may find these chapters appealing, even though Gardner is not blind to Chesterton's "unconscious anti-Semitism, his ignorance of science, his naive political views." As for Gardner's admission that, "I share his faith in a personal God," perhaps that confession of a blind, stubborn, dogmatic refusal to subject the God delusion to the same critical analysis that has made Gardner the preeminent falsifier of all other pseudo-knowledge explains his empathy for a writer with a similar indefensible mindset.

However I fully share Gardner's distaste (p. 193) for alleged poems, "that consist of prose, often obscure, divided into lines to make it look like poetry," as well as his "prejudice … against a subset of abstract art that goes by the name of minimal." My view is that all justification for writing poetry ended with Guttenberg's invention of the printing press (although I allow for such exceptions as "Casey at the Bat" and "How M'Dougal Topped the Score"), and that if it takes more than two seconds to be sure that an alleged work of art was not created by a two-year-old or a chimpanzee, it is nothing of the sort. His story, "The Great Crumpled Paper Hoax," appeals to me as the author of a similar hoax called The Gospel According to Saint Bartholomew. But his reprinted Introductions to the works of L. Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll are likely to be skipped even by readers who enjoyed the rest of the book.

William Harwood

Hassler's Bookshelf

A Girl Named Dan
Dandi Daley Mackall, Author, Renee Graef, Illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main Street, Suite 300, Chelsea, MI 48118
9781585363513 $16.95

In 1972, 37 words that made up the Title IX of the Educational Amendment ended sex discrimination under federally financed educational programs. For one author that law hit close to home plate, it meant girls were given a chance - to play ball! Author, Dandi Daley Mackall, shares her spirit of determination in this historical account of her own childhood experience. Illustrator, Renee Graef, captures the emotional challenges of the characters in expressive realistic illustrations that compliment Mackall's voice as she retells her young tale. The raw grit of this narrative and baseball lingo will excite any Sports - man or woman. A Girl Named Dan, highlights one girl's desire to play baseball in a world that had not yet accepted female participation in boyish sports. After being shunned from the playing field by her schoolmates, Dan turns her attention to securing her place on the field, as a batboy, for the Kansas City A's. Though this girl named Dan faced major league disappointments, she found herself left with a surprising gift that led her down another path to a new field. Dandi Daley Mackall really is A Girl Named Dan, and her story reminds young girls to handle their defeats with strength, courage and optimism.

The Sick Bug
Susie Bazil, Author, ,Shawn McCann, Illustrator
Beaver's Pond Press, Inc.
7104 Ohms Lane, Suite 101, Edina, MN 55439-2129
9781592982431 $16.95

The Sick Bug is a bugged-out world of fun and a timeless story that will appeal to children and adults. Delightful and amusing, rhyming dialogue between mother and daughter captures a sick child's imagination of what it means to be sick with a "sick bug". A little girl's mind runs wild with whimsical illustrations that depict what she imagines "sick bugs" to be. Innocent curious questions from her daughter leads this mother to playfully fill her child's thoughts with fanciful bugs when she describes them and says, "Some say they're sparkly and covered with eyes. Sticky and prickly with polka-dot ties". Children will easily fall in love with this imaginative story and parents can enjoy encouraging their imagination too. Family friendly and fun this book leaves readers with the simple message of how to get better, get rid of "sick bugs", and how to send them back to "Bugland". When youngsters are feeling under the weather this book will bring lots of giggles and toothy smiles!

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome
Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter, MA CCC-SLP, Authors
Clarabelle van Niekerk, Illustrator
Skeezel Press
2624 Lakeside Drive, Erie, PA 16511
9780974721712 $17.95

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome celebrates the challenges and triumphs of sharing life with autism. A heartwarming book that introduces the different ways a child on the autistic spectrum interacts with their family and peers. Written with compassion, colorful illustrations guide readers through this story as they discover the complex reality of what life is like for a child with this form of autism at home and at school - undiagnosed. As this story unfolds, a doctor's diagnosis and suggestions shows parents, teachers and classmates how they can contribute to the well-being of an autistic child. Audiences of all ages will applaud the significance of unified team work that encourages understanding and appreciating an individual's differences and talents. Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome educates parents, teachers and children about this common neurological disorder compassionately, with high spirits and positive messages throughout. This book is a great gift for families with autistic children and for parents who want to share the joys of loving a child with autism. Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome will prove to be a popular choice for educators, libraries and community reading groups.

An Angel to Watch Over
Laura Reavis, Author, Gary Withrow, Illustrator
Angel Insights Press
13518 S L St, Omaha, NE 68144
9780980009101 $9.99

An Angel to Watch Over, is a cheerful story that helps children understand what a Guardian Angel is and introduces the idea of having faith in what cannot be seen or touched. Henry the Cardinal guides readers in who these special friends are in this inspirational children's picture book. An Angel to Watch Over, easily opens doors for parents and educators to have conversations with children about God, angels and how angels watch over children as they grow up. Author, Laura Reavis' spiritual message is written in easy to read text that will encourage early readers. Illustrator, Gary Withrow, colors her story with friendly and happy illustrations that everyone will enjoy. This interactive book asks readers to draw their Guardian Angel, write their name and include how they see their angel in the story. An uplifting prayer on the last page will leave sleepy little heads drifting off with comforting thoughts of angels watching over them. An Angel to Watch Over, is for anyone who wants to share the special meaning of Guardian Angels with children and is a thoughtful gift for parents, newborn babies and spiritual families.

Sara Hassler

Henry's Bookshelf

Modern Masters - American Abstraction at Midcentury from the
Smithsonian Art Museum
Virginia M. Mecklenburg, with contributions by Tiffany D. Farrell
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Washington, D.C.,
9781904832591 $65.00

Thirty American artists rising after World War II to make the field of abstract art are featured. Most are painters, with a few sculptors. During the latter 1940s and the 1950s, with the rest of the world recovering from the devastation of the War and the United States at the peak of its power, American art overtly gained influence and commercial success over European art. Abstract art remained in the fore until it was gradually superseded by pop art and minimalism starting in the 1960s.

While retaining their individuality with biographical and career profiles and one (in a few cases, two) outstanding representative work, the artists are divided into three major areas within abstract art--Optics and Order, Significant Gestures, and New Images of Man. The names given to the three areas connote the industrialism and technology, the elevation of imagery, and the gropings toward a new modernist conception of humankind after the extremisms of Nazism and Communism. Ones sees also in these names intimations of the Andy Warhol and the postmodernism to come. The artist profiles are brief and compact; and followed by up to 15 or so notes for further study if desired. Art students, historians, and biographers especially will want to take in the notes as they cite not simply most widely-recognized sources, but invaluable lesser-known sources such as letters or periodical articles.

With its format of photograph of artist followed by profile and illustration of work of art, the book imitates the experience of the exhibition it is tied with. From now until January 2012, the exhibition will be touring six cities of Midwest and Eastern seaboard states. (for the schedule, see The expected major artists of abstract art are found--Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Diebenkorn, Josef Albers, and others. For many readers, however, the art book/exhibition catalog will be of most interest for including significant secondary abstract-art artists, not only men, but also women artists and ones from minority-groups. Especially for these secondary artists, Modern Masters serves as a noteworthy introduction to this important field of modernist and American art. Also, Mecklenburg's introductory essay titled Abstract Roundup - making and marketing postwar modernism (followed by 120 notes) offers as good an outline of the origins, rise, success, and demise of American abstract art as one could find.

Window on the Park - New York's Most Prestigious Properties on Central Park
D. Fitzgerald
Images Publishing
Victoria, Australia
9781864702767 $65.00

At the bottom of the copyright page in small letters is, "The information and illustrations in this publication have been prepared and supplied by the author." So that's how Fitzgerald did it! That is, the photographs of rooms in some of the most exclusive, classiest buildings in the world. The author (no first name or sex given anywhere) is in the field of New York real estate. So presumably he or she was able to gain access to the rooms denied to nearly all others. And despite the author's occupation, the photographs are not typical promotional, real-estate photographs. They are of interest to building historians, architects, and interior designers. For the photographs show features of the rooms such as bookcases, windows, doorways, and ceilings and also the high-end furnishings of couches, chairs, wall hangings, table-top items, and drapes. The brief text for each building and its apartments gives information not found in the photographs. This includes mostly historical or architectural notes on construction, style, and dimensions of rooms and details of outer or interior parts not displayed in photographs--e. g., "The dining room features Baroque-era shell niches on each side of the fireplace...."

The exterior shots, too, are not your typical promotional photos. Fitzgerald captures particular parts of buildings and architectural or decorative details such as ornate outside window frames or statuary. With many buildings, the author captures also the entrance with its awning or covered walkway.

The 51 buildings pictured border Central Park from several blocks north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue across Central Park South and up Central Park West a few blocks north of the famed Dakota and the nearby American Museum of Natural History. The Dakota was so named because when it was built, it was regarded as so far from the center of activity of New York City someone compared it to the Dakotas out West. Yoko Ono and John Lennon, Lauren Bacall, and Leonard Bernstein are among the famous artists who have been attracted to it. The exclusive buildings along Fifth Avenue are known as The Museum Mile. Besides the Metropolitan, interspersed among them are the Guggenheim, the Frick, the Jewish Museum, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Fitzgerald includes these as notable buildings (which they are) even though the are not residences.

Well-chosen photographs and information-packed text work together to relate why it is that these residences along New York's Central Park have their worldclass status.

Yale's Confederates - A Biographical Dictionary
Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr.
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN
9781572336358 $45.00

Hughes brings together the always attractive subjects of an Ivy league university, the Civil War, and the Confederacy. In his Note on Sources, he adds the curiosity that "a surprising number [of the Confederates] were born in the North, or had grown up in the North." The sources of the material were varied and scattered, being mostly obituaries in newspapers, letters, diaries, and business documents. Hughes did a painstaking labor of finding and poring through the documents for factual biographical material on each of the hundreds of former Yale students who were in the Confederate forces or who lived in the South and were affected by the War. Though the entries vary in length on two-column pages from about a third of a column to a little over a column at the longest, for each the editor has dates of birth and death, Civil War service or how affected by the War in living in the South, when and where killed in action when applicable, otherwise place and year of death after the War. One of the most interesting part of many of the entries is the course taking the individual into the Confederate armed forces from Yale. For a small percentage--about ten percent--there is a photograph or illustration.

Hughes does not embellish or speculate on the facts he painstaking got on each individual. Yet despite the spareness of the entries (reading like little more than Who's Who entries), the facts alone are captivating not only for being from this most spellbinding, fateful era of American history, but also for their variety. As the author comments, he leaves any "generalizing" on the topic of the sizable group of Yale Confederates to others because it "tends to minimize the individual."

Brief quotes from a few of the entries testify to how each individual stands out: John Samuel Donelson, for example, "enlisted 5 May 1961 as a pvt. in Company E ("Hickory Rifles") of the large and prestigious prewar Shelby Co. regt.; he then rose steadily to 1st lt.; though a staff officer, he entered the battle of Chickamauga in 1863, and was killed along with a general while coordinating troop movements. Randall Lee Gibson was a "splendid little soldier" who rose to the rank of brigadier general commanding the Louisiana Brigade of the Army of Tennessee. After the War, Gibson was a businessman and politician. In England when the War broke out, Julien Terrell Ransone returning with "field artillery for the Confederacy" was shipwrecked and taken prisoner. Upon his release, he "served as capt. of artillery under Joseph Johnson until the close of the war." He lost his left foot in a fight on James Island near Charleston in 1864.

Though relatively narrowly focused, this reference nonetheless appeals to Civil War historians and buffs and readers with interest in Ivy League graduates and memorabilia. Hughes' references to engagements, locations, and records and documents along with the biographical facts of occupations, changes of residence, relatives, etc., provide a much broader picture than the overt focus suggests. As Hughes notes, the entries were compiled not only for a record, but also as "signposts for further investigation."

The Ismaili Assassins - History of Medieval Murder
James Waterson, Foreword by David Morgan
Drexel Hill, PA
9781848325050 $39.95

The Assassins of Middle East history have an image of lone murderers killing their targets by knife blows. This image remains perennially enthralling because of the combination of viscousness and deviousness involved in it. Like whirling dervishes, the Assassins are commonly seen as particularly intriguing, exotic, though decidedly marginal figures of Middle East culture. This book by a graduate of the Oriental and African studies programs at the U. of London changes this view of the Assassins. Waterson does not banish their mystique--if anything he adds to it. The book, however, while paying attention to the Assassin's motives and methods, is a substantive and often specific history of the Assassins and their network throughout the Middle East mostly in the medieval era.

A glance at the locations and number of their castles in northwestern ancient Syria and around the Caspian Sea in ancient Persia evidences not only the breadth, but the strength of the Assassins in the Middle East. Clearly, a group occupying the number of castles over such a wide area is not a marginal group. Crusaders from Europe and Mongols from the east had to reckon with the Assassins as they invaded parts of the Middle East with the aim of establishing rule over them. In some circumstances, Crusaders and Moslems would make alliances with different Assassin groups in the hope of easing the way to their aims with the assassination of opposing Muslin leaders. But such alliances were inevitably temporary and merely expedient for both sides. For the Assassins were bound to the Muslim religious branch of the Shiites arising from uncertainty and strife over the true beliefs, practices, and direction of Islam when its founder Muhammad died in 632AD. It was their religious beliefs which motivated them; and their alliances and actions at any time were justified on the ground that they were helping to establish the true faith in Muslim lands.

A genuine, complete understanding of the Assassins as a historical phenomenon in the Middle East over centuries--as opposed to a sensationalistic or ideological one seeing them as representative of Islamic duplicity and murderousness--is impossible without a multidimensional history of Islam and the Middle East and its encounters, often as military conflicts, but also trade, with lands to the West and East.

"[T]he Assassins were not only responsible in large part for the success of the First Crusade, with their killing of Nizam al-Mulk...They were also responsible for the counter-Crusade that brought Zangi, Nur al-Din and Saladin to the fray with the Crusaders, and ultimately led to the Malluk war machine that finished Outremer's existence." Waterson does not simply summarize outcomes and effects of the Assassin's presence throughout Middle Eastern history and society over centuries, but narrates specifics of it. Without losing sight of the uniqueness of the Assassins and particularities of Islamic society and religion giving rise to them, the author weaves the Assassin's history, their political ideology, and their determined, deadly tactics into the broader tapestry of the region's history from their origination to the height of their influence to their fading as a historical force.

The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction
Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr.
Wesleyan University Press
Middletown, CT
9780819568892 35.00

Csicsery-Ronay's epigraph for his Preface, "I wanted to have a bird's view; I ended up in outer space," encapsulates how he came to write this work on science fiction--or rather how he tumbled into it, might be more apropos. A professor of science fiction at DePauw University, editor of the periodical Science Fiction Studies, and author of previous books on science fiction, he started out to write a book on the philosophical and historical aspects of the literary field he had devoted most of his professional life to which would be in the style of and the broad, diverse category of academic literary criticism of interest to both specialists and general readers. Instead, with no guidance from major literary theorists and critics such as Georg Lukacs and Northrop Frye and others who had little or nothing to say about science fiction; deepening insights and novel perspectives; clarification of his own, singular grasp of science fiction; and the increasing merger of the mentality inherent in science fiction and the culture dominated by technology and media, the author produced (in his words) a "work of steampunk criticism."

The title is also that of a medieval Persian poem in which a king discovers a secret room in his palace where there are portraits of seven beauties. The portraits are allegories for seven cosmic principles. The king falls in love with each portrait/allegory, searches the seven areas of the known world for them, and builds a palace with seven domes on honor of the beauties. Csicsery-Ronay's seven "beauties" of science fiction are: fictive neology (words), fictive novums (new thing), future history, imaginary science, the science-fictional sublime, the science-fictional grotesque, and the technologiade. These "beauties," cognitive attractions or perhaps tools for thought or however they might be regarded, "compose a constellation of thoughts that sf helps us to become conscious of." For Csicsery-Ronay, sf is not just entertainment in popular culture, but a trailblazing, inventive attempt, and often successful one, to disclose the principles and the basics and realities of modern life and a picture of the future rooted in these.

Csicsery-Ronay extrapolates from science more than than analyzes it. The book is not conventional literary criticism. It is as if the author was affected by science fiction, not simply probing it for insights or satisfied with an explanatory perspective. His goal is to "understand science fictionality [phrase in italics in original] as a way of thinking about the world, made concrete in many different media and styles, rather than as a particular market nice or genre category." Not quite sure what he ended up with, Csicsery-Ronay says the main purpose of this book is "to inspire better ones, not have the last word." It remains to be seen if anyone will or can follow the unusual, idiosyncratic, yet germane and illuminating path he has gone down. But whether or not, science fiction readers will find their own understandings and in some cases, convictions affirmed here.

Beyond the Flesh Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist
Sublimation of Sex
Jennifer Presto
U. of Wisconsin Press
Madison, WI
9780299229504 $60.00

An associate professor of comparative literature and Russian at the U. of Oregon, Presto engages in a "revisionist reading [of two Russian Symbolist poets'] problematic relationship with matters of the flesh" succeeding studies of this theme of the 1970s and 1980s. The earlier studies from a different era of literary criticism were for the most part feminist studies or gender studies. While illuminating, these studies had a limitation in that applying and referring to such critical principles and theories, they did not--could not--yield the fullness of the poets' ambivalences regarding the flesh; nor discern how they failed in their desires to transcend the flesh.

In their attempts to transcend the flesh--i. e., corporeal reality--the latter 19th-century Russian poets exposed the varied ways they were inevitably bound to it. The strength of their desires to transcend the flesh frequently gave rise to obsessive-like, sometimes lurid poetry. At its heart, transcending corporeal reality meant purging oneself of normal sexuality and with this denying such conditions as identity, relationships, and offspring. Presto exposes, however, that rather than rid themselves of these or flee them, Bloc and Gippius suppressed these; and the author specifies and delineates the aberrant, perverse-like forms these common human qualities and conditions took from this with the poets.

Bloc for example claimed to neither seek nor want any progeny. This gave rise to a quasi-genuine, quasi-forced--an ambivalent--attitude toward women, the mother especially. Bloc made the "mother" into an ogre in order to hate and repel her. "Bloc turned repeatedly in his poetry to the figure of the slumbering or ethereal mother who awakens and inflicts violence on her children." To try to shed her identity, Gippius took the pose of an asexual dandy; and her relationship with her husband was oblique and contorted.

Though focusing on the poets as individuals, Presto sees them to some degree in the context of Russian culture and Russian literary culture of the time. Eschewing the by now largely passe gender and feminist criticism, Presto relies heavily on psychology and aesthetics for her stimulating, trenchant critique of these fascinating Russian symbolist poets. Inherent in her literary criticism are questions of creativity, identity, values, and aspirations.

Edges of Empire: Documents of Michilimackinac, 1617-1716
edited by Joseph L. Peyser and Jose Antonio Brandao
Introduction by Jose Antonio Brandao, Translated by Joseph L. Peyser
Michigan State U. Press, East
Lansing, MI
9780870138201 $39.95

Sixty-two documents translated from the French arranged chronologically give a picture of the fur-trading center at the point of the present-day state of Michigan's lower peninsula at the junction of the Great Lakes Huron and Michigan. The documents are a part of Mackinac State Historic Parks' French Michilimackinac Research Project Collection. Most have not been previously published. The few which have been included for the sake of uniquely providing specifics on the colonial North America topic; and they have been newly translated to correct errors.

Texts in the original French would have been a further step in recording the documentation and in scholarly usefulness and historical research for the volume. But this step left out is made up to a considerable degree by footnotes for each document and by two glossaries in the appendices, one for 17th and 18th century French legal terms and the other for untranslated French terms.

In the time period of the collected documents, Michilimackinac was little more than an outpost of rough huts and mixed population. Yet as the documents indicate, it was a main commercial and trading center for the fur trade run mostly by the French which had a leading part in settlement of the American Midwest and western Canada. The documents illustrate not only relationships and operations of the fur trade, but also how conditions and activities in the New World changed traditional social roles. Women and in some cases Native Americans had legal recognition and rights not granted them elsewhere. Such recognition and rights were related to substantive roles in the fur trade. Upper-class Frenchmen entered into binding legal agreements with laborers and tradesmen.

The dry, legalistic titles of the documents belies their informative, frequent colorful material. Documents titled such as Petition by Charles de Couagne against Marie Felix, Judicial Investigation against Loisel and Villedieu, Statement of court expenses, and Death and inventory of Jean Gay (or Laurent) dit Cascadet relate the history of early Michilimackinac.

Max Ernst - Dream and Revolution
edited by Werner Spies, Iris Muller-Westermann, and Kirsten Degel
Hatje Cantz
9783775722353 $60.00

For their unmistakable surrealist style, especially their amorphous forms and irrational juxtapositions, Max Ernst's art work is easily and commonly associated with dreams, as if the paintings are dreamscapes. This book of 15 or so essays by European art historians reiterates this reading of Ernst--but only as a stepping stone (or orientation) to the revolution entailed in the Ernst art works. This is not revolution as a theme (as with politics or history, for example) like dreams, but revolution in technique--with the making of art--which brought such originality and uniqueness to the art. A closing section titled "Max Ernst's Artistic Techniques" describes briefly the techniques collage, frottage, grattage, decalcomania, and oscillation used by Ernst to create his representations and effects.

Essays outside of introductory ones fall within sections on locations and respective time periods--e. g., France 1922-1941, America 1941-1953. Germany and Europe are other locations respectively preceding and following these locations. The locations and time periods are not by themselves germane in revealing or explaining anything because evolution, stages of development, and even biography do not have much use in comprehending the artist's work. When Ernst began his work in Germany, modernist art was flourishing. While Ernst is a major exemplar of modernist art, he was not a pioneer or explorer of it. Rather than biography with its implication of changes over time, Ernst is better comprehended by discerning and relating to the instinct and intuition inhering in the art and which are its sources. Ernst's paintings reflect the element of psychology pervading practically all parts of modernist culture. The paintings relate more to the Jungian concepts of archetypes rather than Freudian principles and ideas about personality or relationships. A chapter on the paintings' sources in "historical myths" in conjunction with Ernst's interest in Native American spirituality while he was in the Southwest U.S. explores this topic.

For Ernst, techniques were agencies to record his deepest senses. For most artists, especially modern artists, such a conscious concentration on technique would result in a formality or anonymity in painting. Abstract expression is a prime example of how technique can take over art. And so in ways are the works of Jackson Pollack and Philip Guston (to name only a couple of modernist artists); although technique does not take over their work nearly to the extent as with abstract expressionism. But Ernst was so open to the fertility of psychological life that technique was not like a constraint or impress, but rather like a catalyst bringing on highly original imagery. This is the angle from which this work comes to Max Ernst. In taking up extensively what may seem to be the specialized topic of technique and Ernst, the book actually gives a broad, germane understanding of the art in bringing together its creation and its perdurance. As introductory material brings up, a new generation of art lovers would benefit from an appreciation of his work beyond perennial interest in it simply for its exotic, often mystical style.

Defending the Master Race - Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of
Madison Grant
Jonathan Peter Spiro. U. of Vermont Press/University
Presses of New England, Lebanon, NH
9781584657156 $39.95

Madison Grant threw his energies equally into conservation and eugenics. He wrote the book on eugenics The Passing of the Great Race seeing the blond-haired, blue-eyed Nordic race as the top, more desirable race. He was a cofounder of the Eugenics Committee of the U.S.A. and American Eugenics Society. Grant's racial positions extended to sterilization of those he regarded as inferior races. And he worked on racial policies and practices with Southern segregationists.

Grant stood out in the field of conservation too. He was identified with Theodore Roosevelt in helping to create the country's magnificent national parks. He was a leader in zoological organizations; and he founded the Bronx Zoo. For his decisive role in preventing the complete destruction of California's giant sequoia trees, he had one species named after him.

Spiro does not try to reconcile nor rationalize these two salient interests and activities of Grant. He does not even see them as contradictory. Grant was not conflicted over his beliefs, passions, and activities. For Grant was a robust, socially active, well-to-do, well-connected individual of the latter 1800s and early 1900s in the Teddy Roosevelt mold naturally taking a lead in fields he felt strongly about and felt were beneficial for society. Like Roosevelt, he hunted big game while at the same time working toward a major zoo where animals could be preserved and appreciated by the public. The basis of his racial views was a strong America. With the Holocaust and the coming of a racially diverse America over the decades following World War II, Grant's abhorrent racial views (pointed to by some defendants in the Nuremberg trials in support of their involvement in genocide) eclipsed his incomparable conservationist contributions so that he became identified with the former. Any interest in him thus sunk to zero.

Writing this voluminous biography on Grant going into different dimensions and influences while presenting him as a whole and understandable, though not necessarily sympathetic figure was particularly challenging for Spiro. Grant's relatives destroyed his papers when he died in 1937. Archival material in storage was ruined by a flood or carelessly thrown out. Spiro has overcome this "dearth" in the typical source material however by exhaustive reading of newspaper accounts of Grant's activities, letters of colleagues of his, and references to him in memoirs written by his contemporaries. Despite the obstacles, Spiro has written a balanced biography that portrays Grant as a prominent man of his time; which book also sheds light on controversies continuing to this day.

Rhetoric and Democracy - Pedagogical and Political Practices
edited by Todd F. McDorman and David M. Timmerman
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9780870138355 $59.95

With the election of Obama, this book of 10 collected essays is timely. Obama's oratorical and rhetorical skills have been noted and commented on by many. His inauguration speech is now being scrutinized and analyzed for what it might reveal about his perspectives, values, orientations, and goals as president. The essays here not only deal with the role of rhetoric in democratic public life, but also give partly by example and partly directly guidance and techniques for analyzing such rhetoric and determining its effects.

The essays originated as working papers for a conference on rhetoric named the Brigance Colloquy held at Wabash College in honor of W. Norwood Brigance, recognized as "an early leader in the history of contemporary rhetorical studies in the United States, and a fierce proponent of the role of rhetoric in the formation and maintenance of democracies." Rhetoric of major, highly visible leaders is particularly important in the multicultural democratic society giving rise to Obama as its principle leader at a time of financial and international crises and with the weakening of social ties between groups and levels of society.

The title of the opening essay is "William Norwood Brigance and the Democracy of the Dead: Toward a Genealogy of the Rhetorical Renaissance." Obama's evocation of former generations of Americans in his inauguration speech was as unmistakable as it was intended. Obama's model and inspiration Abraham Lincoln similarly often evoked the dead in his presidency during the Civil War, mostly notably in the Gettysburg Address. Other essays deal with rhetoric in general and particular uses of rhetoric, including images and symbols. NASCAR dads, single working women, and naming deadly armaments and programs for dealing with them such as Defense Biometrics Program, Improvised Explosives Devices, and Critical Homeland Infrastructure Protection by the Defense Science Board (DSB), the "most powerful institution you have never heard of," are familiar topics recalled from recent presidential campaigns and elections and reactions to 9/11.

The regard of rhetoric in democracy throughout the essays coincides with considerations and issues attached to Obama's political values and goals expressed in or inferred from his public speaking regarded by many as one of his chief strengths as a leader. A professor Hauser from the U. of Colorado - Boulder, for instance, remarks that the "contemporary problems that thwart democratic practices and deliberative democracy's promise of returning democracy to its inclusive possibilities make the presence of baseness of a bottom-up performance of democracy a defining concern..."; which concern "requires stirring discourse that makes public moral arguments in the name of representative groups." The essays specify the principles and purposes and describe the style of rhetoric of political and civic leaders in a democracy that aims at continuing to be a democracy. With the election of Obama, they have a particular timeliness in that they serve as a kind of handbook for analyzing and evaluating his rhetoric.

From Age to Age - How Christians Have Celebrated the Eucharist, Revised
and Expanded Edition
Edward Foley
Liturgical Press
Collegeville, MN
9780814630785 $29.95 800-858-5480

Foley did this new edition following the original by 16 years to "enhance the scope and content of the book so that it might be more useful as a textbook [in religious studies], even at the graduate level." Thus, this revision has more technical terms and words in languages other than English. This tilt of the content is modest, however, and does not stray much from the author's "original write an accessible book for lay people that would introduce them to something of the richness of our eucharistic history." The non-English words, for example, are explained and translated upon their first appearance in the text.

This major study of eucharistic history may now be even of more interest to lay persons as well as students with the considerable expansion of the illustrations and quotations. Many of the quotes, often fairly lengthy, are run in the wide outer margins; they alone offer a sketch of eucharistic history. And the varied illustrations are so plentiful that the work could be described as an "illustrated history."

The sacrament of the Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion, has been a fundamental part of Christianity since its inception. The Last Supper where the twelve apostles shared bread and wine with Jesus before his crucifixion is seen as the origins of the Eucharist. As one of the holiest, meaningful, and venerated parts of Catholicism and some Christian sects, the Eucharist hasn't changed that much since its origin. Devout participants believe, as they always have, they are engaging in communion with Christ by having tokens of bread and wine consecrated by a priest in a mass. For the most, the history of the Eucharist is not a history of ideas or theories or controversies about it, but rather a history of material culture surrounding it. Foley thus follows the architecture of the dwellings (beginning with homes followed by churches and cathedrals), vessels and other objects such as platters, liturgy as recorded in books, music, and artistic representations and imagery regarding the Eucharist.

As the sacrament is performed at an altar in a church, the location of the altar is significant. Floor plans and architectural drawings of churches through the ages locate the altar in the changed architecture of different eras. As the design of altars and areas for them changed from era to era, so too did religious music change to mirror the secular music of different eras. Changes in vessels and liturgy were not so pronounced as with church architecture and music; though Foley gives due attention to these.

The new, revised edition is only an improvement on what was already a basic text striking just the right tone of informative breadth and depth, scholarship, visual content, and thoroughness to appeal to all readers with an interest in its central religious topic.

American Luxury - Jewels from the House of Tiffany edited
Jeannine Falino and Yvonne J. Markowitz
Antique Collectors Club
Suffolk, United Kingdom/Easthampton, MA
9781851495672 $65.00

Tiffany & Company began in the 1840s with the dual aims of providing "Americans consumer with a taste for the style of Old World aristocracy" and offering a wide selection of jewelry to the country's growing middle class with a "democratization of luxury goods." For Tiffany, the two aims were not incompatible. While the middle-class jewelry was made of less costly materials, it had the same aesthetic appeal as the expensive jewelry. Tiffany jewelry not only bespoke good taste, it set the standard. It was during the Gilded Age in the 1880s and 1890s when Tiffany began concentrating on the expensive, highest-quality jewelry. Its reputation as a maker and seller of such jewelry confirmed by exhibitions and awards at international expositions, Tiffany became the jeweler for the wealthiest class of Americans in the Gilded Age as well as aristocrats, royalty, and newly-rich businessmen in Europe. Today, top-level fashion models, athletes, movie stars, and celebrities in all fields acquire Tiffany pieces.

Six chapters--two by the editors--track the growth of Tiffany & Company from its beginnings through the art nouveau period of the 1920s. The last chapter covers from the 1920s to the Super Bowl rings of recent years. Since Tiffany's always made distinctive, high-quality jewelry and was successful from its early years, the history of the company is largely a history of how it coincided with and took advantage of social and economic developments in nineteenth-century America; and once gaining its esteemed status, how it stayed at the top of its field by continuing to reflect changing designs and tastes and to cater to America's wealthiest and most socially conspicuous classes. The consummate craftsmanship and the compelling visual appeal of Tiffany pieces throughout this history are taken for granted.

The six chapters highlighting Tiffany's rise and changes are filled with sharp color photographs of the company's jewelry and jeweled objects from the different periods. The work can serve as an introduction to the history of Tiffany's and a catalog of the company's jewelry through its history.

The Early Paper Money of America, Fifth Edition
Eric P. Newman, with Stuart Levine
Krause Publications
Iola, WI;
9780896893269 $95.00 800-258-0929

Sharp close-up photographs of many paper bills throughout the text and also in a 20-page section of photos only demonstrate the printing and engraving art in early America. This can be especially appreciated in this Fifth Edition because of "highly improved color capability" for reproduction of photos, as Newman notes in his Preface. This Fifth Edition following by about 10 years the previous edition was desirable also to reflect "dramatic increases in values and improved research available through the Internet."

The long subtitle given on the title page summarizes the content: "An illustrated, historical and descriptive compilation of data relating to American paper currency from its concept in 1686 to the year 1800, supplemented with current collector values encompassing emissions for the geographical area now constituting the United States of America by...." Following the "by..." are historical areas of the present-day United States where paper money was issued and categories of particular entities issuing such money. The areas familiar to ones knowing American history are English, French, and Spanish Colonies and from the short period 1775-1777, the United Colonies; and after this, the United States of America to 1787. The four categories of particular entities following these historical areas are Individual American States; American Cities and Counties; Private and Public Banks; and Individuals, Businesses, Churches, etc. Some entities in the last two categories independently issued paper money up to 1800.

Early American paper money draws keen interest not only because of its age. It draws keen interest also because of its association with early America, thus putting it into the perennially popular area of Americana. But more than this, there is such keen interest because the paper money is virtually historical documents. Illustrations on many of the bills and often text and sometimes handwritten notations by one-time owners offer significant historical information in the same way that deeds, indentures, contracts, and other documents of the period do. Many of Newman's annotations--which in some cases grow into short essays--reflect this facet of the paper money.

One paper bill issued by the state of Maryland in July 1775 is especially indicative of interest in this paper money for its documentary value. Newman writes, "On the face is a propaganda-filled woodcut by Thomas Sparrow, depicting Britain receiving a petition of the Continental Congress...from a female figure representing America; a scroll marked SLAVERY and holding a Liberty Cap in front of American troops...." The three indexes for printers, engravers, and designers; secondly, watermark; and thirdly, mottoes and emblematic legends correspond to primary, though not all, attributes making for interest in money. Current prices for an issue's different denominations with respect to different grades of condition are located with the issue's photograph and Newman's annotation.

Hundreds and hundreds of bills are cataloged with front and back pictured for many. This is without doubt the top book--most authoritative, most comprehensive, most informative, most conveniently organized--in the field for the period covered. One can't say it's definitive though since as Newman mentions, new findings and new scholarship cannot be ruled out. This comment though is based on Newman's determined thoroughness on the subject as it is known to date, how knowledge on it has developed, and his honesty in representing it for his own standards and for the sake of serious collectors. The work the author has put together here can never be superseded or bypassed. Later editions may be desirable. Nevertheless, the work in this edition stands as the fundamental knowledge of and methodology for treating the American paper currency as a historical topic and field of interest for collectors.

The Red Canoe - Love in Its Making
Joan Cusack Handler
CavanKerry Press
Fort Lee, NJ
9781933880082 $16.00

In these poems, the poet is wounded, but does not, cannot heal. Handler is a psychologist as well, and also much involved in poetry organizations. The wounds are not definable or familiar psychological wounds. They have to do with more than the mind or even particular situation or experience; though they are exposed usually in the context of marriage and its ties and incidents.

The style of the poems is not confessional, nor complaining. The poet does not plumb for roots or causes. The wounds are an inherent part of being alive. Not attenuated however feebly by hope, recrimination, or reason, they bring the poet extraordinary power of observation, sometimes unerring and painful in itself; but sympathy too, for herself as well as others. Often keenly aware of herself and at times seeing her circumstances and feelings like a plight, sometimes momentarily angry from the irrationality of it all, Handler nevertheless sees her wounds as vulnerabilities and a type of openness which connect her to others in her life.

National Monuments
Heide Erdrich
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9780870138485 $16.95

From her marginalization as a woman and a Native American (an Ojibway), Erdrich tries to weave herself into the wider world. The fit is always awkward to some degree however. "There are roles no one can fill/in the movie of my life...In the movie of my life/I will just have to play myself. Though my talent lags/who else could I cast?" [from Personality] Erdrich is no good at playing roles others would require of her so she would fit. It's not that she's so committed to or proud of her identity. It's just that she doesn't know how to. Others though know how to fit the marginalized in; as the one who sells the unearthed skull of an aboriginal woman in "eBay Bones": Her tribe "should have buried her more deeply.../Should have known the web would one day/hold our dead in its sacred sites."

Edrich holds no bitterness towards those who make it problematic for her to find a good fit or who would commercialize relics of native cultures. These do not do so out of meanness or prejudice. They have no more idea than Erdrich how she would smoothly fit in. Erdrich sees the futility and also the comic aspect of this ideal. "Ki yippee ki ya yaay!/Howah!/Hokah hey...," she chants in "Goodnight."

Behind the Paint
Ken O'Neil
Stone Corral Press
c/o U. of New Mexico Press
9780981620206 $50.00 800-249-7737

Ken O'Neil is a former Silicon Valley executive who left his position at the age of 46 to pursue his dream of being an artist. He sensed he always had "a little pulse of nonconformity in my psyche, maturing slowly but succinctly." He explains his eventual shift from executive to artist, "There are subtleties in the physical surroundings and some other ones that are much more difficult to identify, all carefully orchestrating to bring things to a place of maturity." Many of the full-page color illustrations of O'Neil's art works are accompanied on facing pages by entries of varying lengths. These vary from mythological and similar references or sources for particular art works to journal-like entries of experiences or personal qualities going with a work, and sometimes a mix of both. With the oil painting Icarus (2006), O'Neil succinctly relates in his own words the myth of Icarus. With the chine colle monotype named High Desert (1996), his text beings, "The effect on my eyes is mesmerizing...."

O'Neil's works are grouped under the four headings External World, Internal Realm, Symbols, and--the fourth--Myth, Ceremony, Ritual. The styles and subject matter of the works are only loosely related to the titles of the sections. Many of the works could be placed in another or with some, in any other group. Taken most broadly, O'Neil's art can be seen as a somewhat New Age variety. The luminous tone of his art, not the compositional elements or the subject matter, is what is most noticeable about it. Much of the art is abstract in the vein of decorative, geometric, and biomorphic styles. Such luminous painting associated with mythology, spiritual states, and emotional experiences is identified with the Southwest; where O'Neil lives now after travels to Macchu Picchu, the Sea of Cortez, and other spots of natural beauty and spiritual excitement.

Works have been exhibited in galleries in New Mexico and California; and as some captions indicate, some are in private collections. The works do show a respectable skill and individualistic, freed imagination; though not sharpness or newness of vision or stylistic innovation. Within their limitations, O'Neil's art can be appreciated, mostly for their coloration, spiritual inducement, and regional association.

The Adam Brothers in Rome - Drawings from the Grand Tour
A. A. Tait.
Scala Publishers, London
Sir John Soane's Museum, London
9781857595741 $49.95

This is the first in a series of five illustrated books of the Adam brothers' drawings in a joint publishing project by the publisher and the Soane Museum founded by Sir John Soane after his purchase of the collection in 1833 about three decades after the brothers had died. This first book of this ambitious project surely much-anticipated by historians, curators, collectors, and such in the areas of architecture, prints and drawings, the English eighteenth-century classical revival, and London public works is mostly a catalog of drawings by Robert Adams during his grand tour from 1754-77 and the brother James during his from 1761-63 with drawings by other "draughtsman in their entourage" who they looked to as teachers or models. These drawings are selected from among 1,000 connected with the brothers' grand tours contained in seven of the 55 volumes purchased by Soane.

The grand tour to expose young adults of well-to-do English families to the cultures of Europe was de rigueur at the time. The Adam brothers, however, had a specific aim for their tours. "[T]he purpose of their tours was never in doubt. It was to provide them with a clear understanding of classical architecture, root and branch, and enable them to effectively express that understanding pictorially." Accomplishing this, they set up architectural shop in London, where they soon became leading architects identified with the 18th-century English revival of classical architecture. James Adams composed a pen and grey wash for the long facade of the new Houses of Parliament facing the Thames River. He also did a drawing for the "British capital" (i. e., column top) to be a feature of them.

The Adam brothers' drawings of the classical architecture and of their own architectural plans based on classicism are in the general style of the ones of their Italian contemporaries they did their training with. They differ somewhat in detail. The Adams' drawings can have a relative restraint of line; and in parts, they incorporate distinctly English imagery and symbolism. John Adam's British capital, for example, intended for the main portico of the new Houses of Parliament (in the words of Tait in the caption), "incorporat[ed] a lion and unicorn, [and] the British crown, thistles and roses, and the collar of the Order of the Garter."

Tait is an expert on the Adam brothers and architecture of their period. A former professor of art at the U. of Glasgow and a Trustee of the National Galleries of Scotland, he provides succinct, informative captions to each of the 110 illustrations; each of which is also annotated with subject, artist, medium, date, and size. Most of the historical, artistic, and biographical material is in the captions; and is thus somewhat random. Though Tait does give as well introductions to each of the sections. Readers would look elsewhere for comprehensive and organized material on the Adam brothers, such as one of Tait's other books on them. This work, as the forthcoming others on the Soane collection, is an illustrated record for the public to complement or supplement other studies on the Adam brothers.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Julius Lester, author
HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780061558900, $16.99

Achingly raw history and deeply flawed characters combine in Julius Lester's "Guardian," a brutally honest recount of racial injustice in the Deep South of the 1940s.

Lester, a past Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award recipient and past National Book Award finalist, blends historical truth with haunting poignancy, in a novel where even the best-meaning residents of a small southern town tragically flail and misstep.

Through the eyes of a 14-year-old white boy, Lester unflinchingly builds up to the wrongful lynching of the African American father of his best friend, for a murder the entire town knows the accused didn't commit.

Intertwined are brilliantly penned character studies that ultimately define the novel, from the teenage girl whose flip-flopping permissiveness and self-boldness stoke a murderer's rage; to a store owner who goes along with a lynch mob in his son's presence because business might otherwise suffer; to the young hero who upholds a lie and loses both a friend and his soul; to a mother who seems one of the town's strongest personalities before she inexplicably implodes. The complexity of these and other characters and their choices elevate "Guardian" from what could have been simply a sensational take on past wrongs to a masterfully developed literary work.

On a moral level, "Guardian" is about doing what's right and how easy it is to tumble from the high ground. It's also about the lifelong pain of knowing that you could have made a difference and didn't. And it's about forging your own path and not letting others define your choices, and how easy it is to stray from that. Those are all themes that carry beyond the lynching plot to broad life applications.

A lengthy author's note, an appendix and a bibliography tread further into the history of lynchings in a way that ensures young readers will want to learn more, and won't forget. The carnival-like atmosphere that defined many lynchings, complete with postcard images of the deceased that could be sent to family and friends, is particularly disturbing and important for today's youth to hear about.

Trick of the Tale: A Collection of Trickster Tales
John and Caitlin Matthews, authors
Tomislav Tomic, illustrator
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763636463 $18.99

Through time and across the world, literature and lore are filled with stories of animals who survive on their wits. British duo John and Caitlin Matthews have gathered 20 of the best and teamed with renowned Croatian artist Tomislav Tomic to produce a really beautiful anthology whose striking deep purple cover is the start of a good thing. Inside, Tomic's wonderfully animated black ink drawings of just about every animal imaginable - from hares and elephants to an eagle, lion, unicorn, foxes and many others - are just the coaxing young readers need to try out the stories, which like any good literature may not provide the spoon-fed, quick-hit instant gratification so much modern writing limits them to. The stories aren't long, typically 3 to 5 pages, but the line type is slightly narrowly spaced and is laid out in largish blocks, and that might be intimidating. Buoyed by the illustrations, however, children who delve in will find a memorable cache of cunning characters and tales.

Many of the stories have an earthy feel, with ties to the formation of the world or some aspect of how various creatures evolved.

Some of the animals aren't exactly on the best moral ground, like a fox who tricks others out of their dinner and cons a boatman into giving him free river passage; and the lion who lures in his enemy, the unicorn, and then kills him. But they're warm and alive, with full bellies, and that is what matters in their world.

Stories include a raven who steals back the sun and moon from a magician who is hoarding them; a hare whose family avoids being eaten by convincing a leopard they may eat him; a crayfish who avoids being a raven's dinner by flattering the raven until it drops him; a wren who is named the king of all birds after flying higher than an eagle in a contest to see who can soar the highest (it spent most of the flight secretly tucked behind the eagle's wing); and an ancient crow who lunches on a nest of baby eagles after tricking their mother into leaving to discern whether the frigid night is indeed the coldest ever. A wonderful collection that children will treasure if they give it a chance.

Cynthia Rylant, author, Lauren Stringer, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
9780152053031 $17.00

Two years after author and illustrator Lauren Stinger memorably took on frozen fingers in 2006's "Winter is the Warmest Season," she and Newbery medalist Cynthia Rylant team to again celebrate the frostiest season.. "Winter" focused on cozy indoor things like quilts, fireplaces and grilled cheese sandwiches. "Snow" takes children out of doors where starry, pale blue snowflakes swirl and drift. A peaceful, gentile approach pervades. Snowstorms that send children home early from school are "cheerful" and slippery roads return them home to "the rooms you love so well." When snow is falling thickly outside, cars are humorously "buried up their noses." There are snow angels to make, walks with loved ones "to see how beautiful the world is" and sleeping flowers that wait quietly for spring. A sweetly illustrated, child-centered ode on the season that focuses on its softness - which is what youngsters should see -- instead of on the harshness of plummeting temperatures and treacherous travel, which too often commands attention. A good reminder for adults, too, that they should enjoy winter while it lasts.

Hooray for Snow!
Kazuo Iwamura, author and illustrator
North-South Books, Inc./Ingram Publisher Services
1201 Ingram Dr., Chambersburg, PA 17202
9780735822191, $15.95

Softly-hued illustrations and the gentle tale of a squirrel family enjoying the snow delightfully combine in the perfect cold weather read-aloud..

Three squirrel siblings coax their reluctant parents away from the warmth and chores of indoors to the wintry woods. There, the parents rediscover the joys of sledding and family time.

Old-fashioned images -- a potbellied stove and a wooden toboggan -- lend coziness to "Hooray for Snow!"

Young listeners will love the family's tree-top home, will sympathize with the need for an adult to pull a sled through thick snow and will laugh when family members tumble into drifts.

A fun, easy read that will make children and parents long for a snowy afternoon to spend together.

Iwamura originally published "Hooray for Snow!" in Japan in 1983, and this is the first English translation. Well worth the westbound wait.

The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman, author, Dave McKean, illustrator
HarperCollins Children's Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780060530921, $17.99

Young Bod can see a bustling city beyond the iron gates of the graveyard where he's lived since he was a toddler, but he can't leave for fear of his life. Since the night he toddled into the graveyard after the murder of his family, he's been cared for by ghosts whose remains are entombed there and by a mysterious guardian who flits between the worlds of the living, the departed and the fantastical. The killer, a classic Jack the Ripper character, is still out there. But as Bod - short for Nobody - approaches adolescence he begins to long for the outside world despite its dangers, and he is drawn into a friendship with a young woman he first met playing in the graveyard when they were children. Ultimately, he must choose between staying safely sequestered or joining the living - not an unfamiliar theme for teenage readers who are beginning to stretch their own wings. The inclusion of a ghoul-gate element that briefly catapults Bod down into an underground world, and his ability to do ghost-like things like fade so he can't be seen, add intrigue without too heavy of a fantasy genre dose. In the end "The Graveyard Book" is largely about the relationships Bod has with his caregivers, graveyard inhabitants and his young female friend, and choices he must make about where his life will lead. But even as he makes his choices, much remains unanswered. Many questions central to the plot are only lightly addressed at book's end and there's a wide open conclusion, making it appear that Gaiman is setting up for a sequel. With the acclaim "The Graveyard Book" received, including winning the 2009 Newbery Medal, a follow-up would surely be embraced.

I Feel a Foot!
Maranke Rinck, author, Martijn van der Linden, illustrator
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, PA 18431
9781590786383, $16.95

The intense hues used in "I Feel a Foot" would have jumped out regardless, but the rare choice of a dark background makes them brilliantly pop. The mosaic of reds, blues, greens, purples, oranges - a rich rainbow soup of color - dazzles the eye without even considering the actual story. The story is good too, although its simplicity doesn't rise to the emotive drawings. Five friends - a turtle, a bat, an octopus, a bird and a goat - are asleep together in a hammock on a pitch dark night when a sound awakens them. In the dark they run into an elephant, and make lots of wild, erroneous guesses as to what the parts of the animal's body are. After feeling the elephant's foot, the turtle decides that a giant-sized turtle is lurking in the area. After feeling the elephant's ears, the bat decides that a huge bat is afoot. And so on, as each of the five animals envisions the elephant to be like itself. Ultimately, the elephant speaks and sets them straight, and then settles down in the hammock as a new member of the group. Originally published in the Netherlands, "I Feel a Foot" has the feel of a classic animal fable, with simply stunning art.

Knitty Kitty
David Elliott, author, Christopher Denise, illustrator
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763631697, $16.99

Nothing could be cozier on a snowy winter day that soft kittens and balls of yarn. Using lots of earthy, brick and salmon tones inside the cozy cottage shared by three kittens and a bespectacled maternal figure, and frosty blues and browns for their wintry outdoor jaunts, illustrator Denise Christopher elevates a well-written, yet simple story into something special. The illustrative details are wonderfully memorable. As the kittens play with balls of yarn on a hardwood floor, Knitty Kitty sits in a soft chair before a fireplace, wrapped in a blanket, making hats, gloves and scarves for them. But once outside the kittens decide that their snowman needs warmth, too, and give up their hand-knit things to bundle their frosty friend. At bedtime, they find that the warmest thing to snuggle up with is each other, joined by Knitty Kitty. A gentle, beautifully depicted ode to winter and to the warm ties that bind us.

The Blue Stone: A Journey Through Life
Jimmy Liao, author and illustrator
Hachette Book Group/Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316113830 $16.99

In 2006, Taiwanese artist and author Jimmy Liao graced U.S. readers with the American release of "The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination," a poignant, evocatively told and illustrated tale of a girl whose imagination and dreams remained as her vision failed. Now, with "The Blue Stone: A Journey Through Life," Liao continues in the same vein with an as-exquisitely drawn, as-memorably told story of a vibrantly-colored stone that suffers through years of fissuring caused by human handling. In the beginning, after it has sat in the same forest for thousands of years, the rock is simply broken in two and taken to a city where it is carved into a statue. In ensuing years, however, it is carved, recarved and whittled away until it is a no larger than a small stone in a necklace. Over and again as it find itself with new owners, it is at first revered and then discarded by people dealing with life's greatest challenges - death, abandonment, imprisonment, lost love. All the while, it longs to go home to the forest to rejoin its other half. Ultimately, the necklace is crushed and the stone's remaining particles are carried home by the wind. Beautiful, textually and visually.

As with "The Sound of Colors," "The Blue Stone" was translated from its original Chinese language version, which was released in 2006.

Julius Lester, author
HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780061558900, $16.99

Achingly raw history and deeply flawed characters combine in Julius Lester's "Guardian," a brutally honest recount of racial injustice in the Deep South of the 1940s.

Lester, a past Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award recipient and past National Book Award finalist, blends historical truth with haunting poignancy, in a novel where even the best-meaning residents of a small southern town tragically flail and misstep.

Through the eyes of a 14-year-old white boy, Lester unflinchingly builds up to the wrongful lynching of the African American father of his best friend, for a murder the entire town knows the accused didn't commit.

Intertwined are brilliantly penned character studies that ultimately define the novel, from the teenage girl whose flip-flopping permissiveness and self-boldness stoke a murderer's rage; to a store owner who goes along with a lynch mob in his son's presence because business might otherwise suffer; to the young hero who upholds a lie and loses both a friend and his soul; to a mother who seems one of the town's strongest personalities before she inexplicably implodes. The complexity of these and other characters and their choices elevate "Guardian" from what could have been simply a sensational take on past wrongs to a masterfully developed literary work.

On a moral level, "Guardian" is about doing what's right and how easy it is to tumble from the high ground. It's also about the lifelong pain of knowing that you could have made a difference and didn't. And it's about forging your own path and not letting others define your choices, and how easy it is to stray from that. Those are all themes that carry beyond the lynching plot to broad life applications.

A lengthy author's note, an appendix and a bibliography tread further into the history of lynchings in a way that ensures young readers will want to learn more, and won't forget. The carnival-like atmosphere that defined many lynchings, complete with postcard images of the deceased that could be sent to family and friends, is particularly disturbing and important for today's youth to hear about.

Trick of the Tale: A Collection of Trickster Tales
John and Caitlin Matthews, authors, Tomislav Tomic, illustrator
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763636463, $18.99

Through time and across the world, literature and lore are filled with stories of animals who survive on their wits. British duo John and Caitlin Matthews have gathered 20 of the best and teamed with renowned Croatian artist Tomislav Tomic to produce a really beautiful anthology whose striking deep purple cover is the start of a good thing. Inside, Tomic's wonderfully animated black ink drawings of just about every animal imaginable - from hares and elephants to an eagle, lion, unicorn, foxes and many others - are just the coaxing young readers need to try out the stories, which like any good literature may not provide the spoon-fed, quick-hit instant gratification so much modern writing limits them to. The stories aren't long, typically 3 to 5 pages, but the line type is slightly narrowly spaced and is laid out in largish blocks, and that might be intimidating. Buoyed by the illustrations, however, children who delve in will find a memorable cache of cunning characters and tales.

Many of the stories have an earthy feel, with ties to the formation of the world or some aspect of how various creatures evolved.

Some of the animals aren't exactly on the best moral ground, like a fox who tricks others out of their dinner and cons a boatman into giving him free river passage; and the lion who lures in his enemy, the unicorn, and then kills him. But they're warm and alive, with full bellies, and that is what matters in their world.

Stories include a raven who steals back the sun and moon from a magician who is hoarding them; a hare whose family avoids being eaten by convincing a leopard they may eat him; a crayfish who avoids being a raven's dinner by flattering the raven until it drops him; a wren who is named the king of all birds after flying higher than an eagle in a contest to see who can soar the highest (it spent most of the flight secretly tucked behind the eagle's wing); and an ancient crow who lunches on a nest of baby eagles after tricking their mother into leaving to discern whether the frigid night is indeed the coldest ever. A wonderful collection that children will treasure if they give it a chance.

Cynthia Rylant, author, Lauren Stringer, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
9780152053031, $17.00

Two years after author and illustrator Lauren Stinger memorably took on frozen fingers in 2006's "Winter is the Warmest Season," she and Newbery medalist Cynthia Rylant team to again celebrate the frostiest season. "Winter" focused on cozy indoor things like quilts, fireplaces and grilled cheese sandwiches. "Snow" takes children out of doors where starry, pale blue snowflakes swirl and drift. A peaceful, gentile approach pervades. Snowstorms that send children home early from school are "cheerful" and slippery roads return them home to "the rooms you love so well." When snow is falling thickly outside, cars are humorously "buried up their noses." There are snow angels to make, walks with loved ones "to see how beautiful the world is" and sleeping flowers that wait quietly for spring. A sweetly illustrated, child-centered ode on the season that focuses on its softness - which is what youngsters should see -- instead of on the harshness of plummeting temperatures and treacherous travel, which too often commands attention. A good reminder for adults, too, that they should enjoy winter while it lasts.

Hooray for Snow!
Kazuo Iwamura, author and illustrator
North-South Books, Inc./Ingram Publisher Services
1201 Ingram Dr., Chambersburg, PA 17202
9780735822191, $15.95

Softly-hued illustrations and the gentle tale of a squirrel family enjoying the snow delightfully combine in the perfect cold weather read-aloud.

Three squirrel siblings coax their reluctant parents away from the warmth and chores of indoors to the wintry woods. There, the parents rediscover the joys of sledding and family time.

Old-fashioned images -- a potbellied stove and a wooden toboggan -- lend coziness to "Hooray for Snow!"

Young listeners will love the family's tree-top home, will sympathize with the need for an adult to pull a sled through thick snow and will laugh when family members tumble into drifts.

A fun, easy read that will make children and parents long for a snowy afternoon to spend together.

Iwamura originally published "Hooray for Snow!" in Japan in 1983, and this is the first English translation. Well worth the westbound wait.

Karyn Saemann

Liana's Bookshelf

Life Cycles
Neil Killion
Author House
500 Avebury Boulevard, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 2BE
9781434366030 $18.48

Highly Recommended

Neil Killion, a psychology degree holder, has had a career in a commercial environment. Visit him at to learn more about his recent work.

Life Cycles is a highly original book that is both entertaining and informative. It is based on the new theory of Cycles that govern a human life. According to the author, in every journey of 12 years we reincarnate and the 12-year-cycles repeat. As Neil explains, these cycles govern our life and affect the way we see the future. The author urges readers to have a try themselves by creating a life chart and mark the most important events in their life cycles.

The book is written in a simple and easy way to read and it is quite gripping, since it excites the reader's curiosity to learn more about this new method of foreseeing the future. It is certainly a new way to read biographical material, and the examples the author displays about famous people's lives are quite interesting. The author quotes Aristotle and Alexander the Great thus adding more impact to his research. This book can be read as a new version of astrology, and it caters to everyone who is interested in analyzing his own bio and search for clues that will reveal his future. An entertaining read for those interested in this field!

Get this book from and

The Acronym: White Nights of St. Petersburg
Rebecca Lerwill
Langdon Street Press
212 3rd Avenue North, Suite 570, Minneapolis MN 55401
9781934938409 $14.95

Rebecca Lerwill, the author of her first wonderful title, Relocating Mia, now presents her second novel which is a sequel to the adventures of the main character in her first novel, Mia Trentino. Rebecca offers readers an exciting second story that will again entice the audience as much as her first one. Learn more about her at

Mia Trentino, who is in love with Douglas, a secret agent, is now involved in a new adventure trying to act as a court witness to the villains that she had met in her first adventure. This time her mission takes place in St. Petersburg, where a US security team try to protect her. Will they succeed? What will happen to her?

The readers will turn the pages of this novel avidly and feel the thrill of the plot to the very end. Gripping and interesting, this story offers entertainment and lots of cultural aspects at the same time. The last chapters are moving and unexpected, yet filled with romance that should not be missing from the story. A satisfying end and certainly a great read for everyone who loves romance and mystery. Get this book from

Baron Thinks Dogs are People Too!
Laurie Dean
Big Tent Books
9781601310354 $14.00

Laurie Dean, a relaxation expert, makes her debut in children writing with this wonderful book for kids. Visit her at

The story is about a dog that feels lonely and wants to have a best friend. But he must learn how to behave first, so they take him to a dog school.

This little story is wonderfully illustrated by Kevin Scott Collier who manages to add an artistic look to Baron's character. Illustrations are very important in a kids' book, as much as the storyline is, since the illustrator brings to life the author's ideas. The author of this book uses a very simple, yet effective, storyline that makes readers turn the pages to find out what happens at the end of the story. This is an entertaining book for very young kids who will certainly enjoy it! Get it from

Too Tall Alice
Barbara Worton
Great Little Books
PMB#139, 233 Rock Road, Glen Rock, NJ 07452
9780979066115 $15.95

Very Highly Recommended

Barbara Worton published her first book in 2007 and lives with her husband in New Jersey. The illustrator of this book, Dom Rodi, studied graphic design in the UK and lives in Florida.

Too Tall Alice is a highly original book for kids. The underlying theme is self esteem and the author skillfully highlights this issue through the story of Alice, a too tall girl who feels unhappy about her height. But things do change! Being tall is not a drawback for Alice, not any more! What made her realize that her life is beautiful? How did Alice become optimistic about her future? Read the story to find out; it is full of surprises.

Too Tall Alice is an entertaining book that it is also educational. It caters not only to kids 7-10 years old, but to educators and parents as well, who should understand certain problems kids usually face. The story is funny, yet gripping and makes the reader turn the pages to the very last. The illustrations are superb-lovable sketches and bold colors throughout the book that make the story more appealing. It is certainly a book that hooks the reader, and a great gift for everyone, not just the very tall girls! Get this book from

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Margaret's Bookshelf

Dear Sebastian
Bianca Tora
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432725877, $17.95,

Problem children are sometimes harder to deal with than usual. "Dear Sebastian: Reclaiming the Power of Metaphor" is a memoir by Sebastian's mother, faced with her son's constant outbursts and problems in school. Nothing seemed to work, except one thing... Tora writes the book as letters to her son in the future, hoping to demonstrate how they helped him out of his path to illiteracy and other problems. Inner power and transformation are key issues, and "Dear Sebastian" shows how they can be applied to children quite well.

Idle Thursday
Kelly Moran
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780578005935, $7.50,

Remember the day I died? "Idle Thursday" is a unique experiment of fiction where Kelly Moran tells her story from the point of view of the already deceased. Our protagonist relays her final day on the planet, leading up to her death, and everything that happened to her after it. "Idle Thursday" is a fine curiosity, well worth the look into.

Project Dark Savior
E.A. Mourn
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439201992, $15.99,

Some people are sick, twisted, and simply must be stopped. "Project Dark Savior" follows Floridian Dective Elizabeth Wylde, applauded for capturing a serial killer by the name of Billy Vegas. But when the murders start to occur again, Wylde's work is never done as she must track down this killer who seems to mimic Vegas in so many ways, despite Vegas's death. "Project Dark Savior" is a thrilling mystery, sure to please detective fiction fans.

We Need Our Daddy, Too
Karen P. Ronald
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595459384, $12.95,

Divorce is one of the nastiest things a child can experience. "We Need Our Daddy, Too: A Grandmother's Story of Her Son's Divorce" is a recollection of a mother's struggle through a hard time with her son, and a grandmother's struggle with the loss of contact with her grandchildren. Telling the story of the cruelty of divorce from another perspective, "We Need Our Daddy, Too" is a profound and saddening tale that will make grandparents cherish their children and encourage parents to rethink divorce.

Our Own Special Country
Dorothy Gray
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595424948, $12.95,

Every state in this diverse Union of ours brings something unique to the table. "Our Own Special Country" is an anthology of poetry from Dorothy Gray, a retired teacher. Hoping to outline what's great about the United States on a state by state basis, she succeeds with the charming verse that fills "Our Own Special Country" making it a fine recommendation. "Vermont": A river forms the eastern line,/ a tranquil lake the west,/ and tree-filled mountain form the core.//A pristine wilderness/of maple, birch, evergreens/protects the bears, wild turkey, moose, and deer.//This pastoral place proudly displays/the blazing yellow, red and green/in fiery foliage of fall.//Unique town meetings proudly show/the true old Yankee heritage/of independence and tolerance./Village greens and covered bridges abound/with red clover on the tree-lined streets/of each small town throughout the//Green Mountain State.

1089 Nights
Ann Von Lossberg
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440105203, $18.95,

There are those who dare to cut their ties to any permanent residence and travel the world. The Lossbergs are two such people. "1089 Nights: An Odyssey Through the Middle East, Africa, and Asia" is a travel memoir from Ann Von Lossberg and her husband, who both decided to leave the United States for an extended trip around the world. A true-life tale of nearly four years traveling through three continents, "1089 Nights" is a story of adventure, riveting to the end. "1089 Nights" is a must for anyone who has dreamed of embarking on a similar world tour.

Margaret Lane

Paul's Bookshelf

Say Goodbye to Stubborn Sin
Clark Gerhart, MD and Jefferson Scott
Siloam Publishing
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
1591856256 $13.99

You're suffering from some major and recurring sin, and it's ruining your life. Whether it's alcoholism, addiction to internet pornography or an inability to forgive others, you have read the self-help books, gone through the 12-step programs, and even attended prayer meetings, but nothing has worked. You are right back where you started, asking God's forgiveness for messing up, again. Are you destined to be like this?

No, but the important thing to remember is that "the flesh" really is rooted in the flesh. This book takes a tour of the human body, showing how the various systems react to different stimuli. For instance, the "normal" settings for your hypothalamus have been altered by sin. So you now need higher levels of pleasure or feelings of self-respect than you really do. Such new "normal" levels might cause a person to play online games for hours and hours at a time, or dress flirtatiously specifically to attract men. Reflexes are not just physical; conditioned responses can be developed around anything that goes to our brain through the nervous system.

There's a fine line between enjoying pleasurable sensory stimuli and living for those pleasurable responses. Such stimuli cause the body to release adrenaline, which causes the "rush" feeling. The body is trying to maintain homeostasis, or normalcy, so it "down-regulates" the thrill sensations for next time. That's why it takes a larger and larger jolt of stimuli to get that initial "rush" level. That's how addictions are born.

The way to treat this starts with LASTS: Listening, Admitting, Submitting, Trusting and Standing Firm. The author goes into much more detail for each part of the body.

This is a really interesting book. If you have tried everything else to be able to stop doing "it", whatever it is, you should try this. For those who might feel weird about the religious aspect of this, if it works, and you are no longer tormented by "it", that's all that matters.

The Twelfth Age
Lily G. Stephen
Blooming Rose Press
P.O. Box 1211, Mt. Shasta, CA 96067-1211
9780971265929 $19.95

This is the third in a trilogy about two parallel planets, Earth and Zamora.

In this volume, set mostly on Zamora, Shami is a young woman of oriental origin. While she was a small child, her parents were diplomats in a neighboring country. They were killed during a major student uprising, and Shami "fell through the cracks," ending up in a monastery, from where she was adopted by a Western couple.

In school, Shami has been doing research on ancient writings and prophecies, especially those by a person named Stair. Thousands of years ago, he prophesied that most of the country of Dwarnstile was going to sink into the ocean, except for one rocky part, which became known as Sharu. It happened, and one day, Stair disappeared into a semi-mythical tunnel from the Queen's Chamber, never to be seen again. For reasons she can't quite fathom, Shami is compelled to go to Sharu and look for Stair.

A seemingly disparate group of people also go to Sharu. They go partly for their own reasons, and partly because they are drawn by Shami's energy, her internal glow, call it whatever you want. Among them is Miranda (subject of Part 2), and Leroy, her husband. Residents of Earth, she was given a piece of ancient wisdom by an ethereal race called the Els. The two felt compelled to travel to Zamora, to be with Shami, and to pass this ancient wisdom to the others in the group at this particular time. The Els also make another appearance.

Familiarity with new age concepts like alternate dimensions, and the passing of ancient wisdom will certainly help when reading this book, but it isn't required. This is a really good book (and trilogy) that's just weird enough, without being too weird.

Gratitude With Attitude
Ed Charlton (ed.)
Bookcraft in Montclair
P.O. Box 3027TCB, West Orange, NJ 07052
0962931128 $12.95

This is a diverse group of stories, each only a few pages long, on the subject of gratitude.

A young woman is tired of being set up on blind dates by her well-meaning Aunt Martha, who, one day, finally gets it right. A man who is about to put a bullet in his head gets an out-of-the-blue phone call from a woman he helped several years previously. Her luck has taken a major turn for the better, because of him, and she is calling to say thank you, and to return the favor.

A young girl is a big fan of the '70s band The Bay City Rollers, and she has been looking forward to their local concert appearance for weeks. Concert day comes, and she comes down with a temperature and can't go. Her father goes to the band's hotel, gets them to autograph their latest album, and dedicate it to her.

On an Earth colony planet, a group of dissenters couldn't take it anymore, and tried to contact Earth to come and get them. They ended up breaking the only means of communication with Earth, and were exiled for life to a far island. Years later, their children ask to be allowed to return to the group (all of the original dissenters are dead). They are allowed to return, but the vote is not unanimous. A young man remembers years of school torture known as junior high gym class. The teacher for gymnastics class was a decent sort who was full of encouragement for all the students. Because of this teacher, he almost liked gym class. Now that he is in college, and home for Thanksgiving, he decides that he will re-visit his old school, and thank the teacher. Everything changes when he reads in the paper that the teacher's entire family was killed in an auto accident.

There are many ways to express gratitude. This well-done bunch of stories has some interesting ones. Anyone looking for a different way to say "Thank you" should start right here.

Wandering Star
J.M.G. LeClezio
Curbstone Press
321 Jackson Street, Willimantic, CT 06226
1931896119 $15.00

Written by the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature, this is the story of two young women who meet by chance in the turmoil of the Middle East.

During World War II, Esther is a Jewish girl living in a small town somewhere in southeastern France. The residents have an uneasy relationship with the Italian troops occupying the town, but they get along. When the Italians surrender and leave the town, the Jews know that the Germans will send them on a one-way trip to a concentration camp. So Esther, and her mother, Elizabeth, and the other Jews in town undertake a harrowing journey on foot through the mountains, to reach the coast, and passage to Jerusalem. Esther constantly worries that her father, who joined the resistance, will never be able to find them again.

After many days journey, carrying whatever they can, they reach the coast, and board a boat heading for Israel. The ship is halted by the authorities, and sent back to France, where the Jews are held for a time, before actually reaching Jerusalem. There, Esther meets a young Palestinian girl named Nejma, a refugee because of the fighting.

In the early days of their time in the camp, the Palestinians treat it like some sort of temporary setback; after a few days, weeks at the most, they'll be able to return home. The women gather at the local well and gossip like they are already back home. As reality sets in, and they begin to realize that they aren't leaving anytime soon (if ever), hope turns into despair and the feeling that they have been abandoned by the rest of the world. The only thing the Palestinians have to look forward to is the occasional arrival of the UN aid truck. Life becomes a daily struggle for survival. At the end, Nejma leaves the camp with Saadi, a black man who loves her, and wants to take her back to his homeland. As one person's wanderings end, those of another person are just getting underway.

Told in first person by both young women, this is a quiet novel, but it's also a beautifully written novel. So this is what Nobel-caliber fiction is like. I will make sure to look for more of it.

The Origin of Culture
Thomas Dietrich
Turnkey Press
2100 Kramer Lane, #300, Austin, TX 78758
0976498162 $18.95

Ancient history gets a very different treatment in this book, by looking at the scientific basis behind ancient mythology and astrology.

The country of Ireland deserves a much more important place in ancient history than it has received. According to a compendium of Irish history printed in 1625, the most ancient inhabitants of Ireland were a race of skilled navigators, astronomers and builders of forts and castles called Sea Kings, from Morocco. The Killamerry Cross contains Egyptian, Greek and Roman geometric principles and whose iconography has nothing to do with Christianity (presumably pre-dating Christianity). If one superimposes Da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" (the one with four arms), which came several hundred years later, over the Cross, the proportions are exact. The Cross is near a very old observatory at Knockroe. An ancient road was built right through it, so it was abandoned a very long time ago.

There is a cycle of world culture which generally moves from west to east, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, where culture is thought to have started. At the same time, there is a cycle of civilization which moves from east to west. Even though they conflict with each other, humanity needs both of them. It's not good to have one without the other. The ancients were quite sophisticated when it came to astronomy and the universe, knowledge which is only recently being rediscovered. They had no problem thinking in terms of thousands, or tens of thousands, of years. If there is such a thing as the center of world culture, it is a former colony of Atlantis, which is now called Morocco. From there, it moved to Libya, which was once covered with forests, and then to Egypt.

I don't claim to have understood everything in this book, but I very much enjoyed it. Those who are interested in ancient history will love this book. This very interesting book is well worth the time.

Old Man's War, John Scalzi
Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765309408 23.95

Mankind has started to spread out in the galaxy, and so have a lot of other races. The available real estate is scarce, which leads to near-constant war for land.

The only way for Americans to get into space is to join the Colonial Defense Force (CDF). They guard human colonies, and go to war over disputed planets. The CDF only takes people who have reached their 75th birthday. A vague promise of being made young again is a pretty strong incentive to sign up. The catch is that joining the CDF is a one-way trip. If you survive your tour of duty, hardly a sure thing, you will spend the rest of your life on some colony planet; returning to Earth is not an option.

John Perry signs up. He just turned 75, his wife, Kathy, died several years previously, and his one adult son lives on his own. On the spaceship taking him, and several hundred others, to basic training on another planet, he learns just what the becoming young part is all about. His consciousness is transferred into a cloned body, in its mid-twenties, made from his own DNA, which was extracted from him several years previously. It's very much of a new and improved body with a green skin color. He also has a computer implanted in his brain, which can talk to him and communicate with anyone else.

After basic training, Perry and his squad travel from planet to planet. Friends die, and new friends are made. During one disastrous operation, Perry crash lands on a planet, and is rescued by. . . his wife. She too is green, but the resemblance is way too close to be a coincidence. She (her name is Jane) is part of the Ghost Brigades, actually clones of dead people. Having no conception of what life is like as a realborn, they are kept far away from the rest of the CDF. Perry is made part of a Ghost Brigades squad, and begins to tell his squadmates what it's like to be married, and to love another person.

Here is an excellent novel. It has space travel, it has weirdness, it has heart and it has a lot of great writing. This is highly recommended.

Paul Lappen

Richard's Bookshelf

The Ecstasy of Loving God
John Crowder
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257- 0310
97807684272424 $19.99

Supernatural Interaction with the Passion of Jesus

"The Ecstasy of Loving God" gives a new and refreshing view of discovering the joy of supernatural and mystical experiences through divine encounters with God. Revivalist, John Crowder, imparts a clear clarion call for the Christian to become equipped and ready for spiritual battle.

Candidly honest and forthright, John conveys a message of renewal, spirituality, and revelation. In the vernacular of today's drug culture Crowder develops a radical and bold affirmation of present day resurrection power.

The pages of the book are filled with thrilling stories of people from every, financial, societal, ethnic, and cultural status who are eager to discover authentic spirituality by feasting at the table of God.

Crowder takes a look at the accounts of the trance in the lives of Old and New Testament champions as well as accounts found in the revivals throughout church history. Powerful spontaneity, effusive worship, physical demonstration, and a call for repentance marked these movements of Holy Spirit revival.

Crowder goes on to illustrate ecstatic prayer, its steps, distinctive marks, and supernatural manifestation. In the final chapters Crowder reviews the history of the Great Awakening of the Church, discusses martyrdom, and the resurgence of end time revival.

"The Ecstasy of Loving God" is a significant book for everyone desirous of knowing more of the heart of God. It is for those who want develop a life of contemplative prayer, or to "practice the presence" of God. John Crowder's message is an invitation to Christians to "embrace the finished work of the cross."

Rain drops on Roman By: Elizabeth Scott
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759240 $14.95

A Mother and Son's Remarkable Journey through Autism

Statistics reveal that one out of every 150 children is diagnosed with autism each year. Elizabeth Scott became aware of warning signs that something was wrong. Roman was exhibiting unusual behavioral patterns. He didn't want anyone but his parents to hold him. His head was extremely sensitive to the touch. He choked while nursing and could not swallow baby food. At fifteen months he was constantly running in circles around their living room.

Roman's pediatrician assured Elizabeth, "all is well." She gave simple explanations for each observation. After more red flags appeared, Elizabeth out of desperation sought another opinion. At seventeen months Roman was diagnosed with Sensory Process Disorder, a condition of the central nervous system, which left Roman with the inability to interpret sensory information correctly. By age two he had exhibited 45 symptoms of autism.

"Raindrops on Roman" is the account of Elizabeth Scott's dedication and persistence. It is the story of Roman's response to her consistent love and patient endurance. Elizabeth, an elementary school teacher put her career on hold, to devote herself completely to Roman's recovery and healing. She has written this account to give a message of hope to others as she relates the steps of Roman's recovery from autism. Theirs is an amazing journey of courage and fortitude.

I personally appreciated the fact that Elizabeth writes in easy to read understandable layman's language as she describes in detail the complex goals of tactile and speech therapies. She tells of confronting the challenge of adapting the skills learned from Roman's therapists into drills, and play times designed to change the negative brain patterns to create positive responses. These exercises resulted in cognitive development processes to enable remembering, reasoning, understanding, and the use of good judgment.

Roman's behavioral patterns also challenged Elizabeth. He was often obstinate and belligerent. He was frequently confrontational. These sudden outbursts repeatedly caused "mini meltdowns." The potential of these occasions created a sense of apprehension and embarrassment for Elizabeth in stores, at the park, the library, or in family gatherings.

Through her work with therapists, doctors, and program directors Elizabeth quickly gained knowledge and insights into sensory and autistic behavior. She clearly articulates and communicates this information to the reader. The skills, supplies, lessons, interventions, and new pediatric guidelines referred to in the book are included in a very useful series of appendices.

Elizabeth credits Roman's restoration and healing to her availability and willingness to devote her full time to working with Roman consistently while she created a plan of drills and skills as therapy. She also attributes the support of her husband, her personal faith, and the prayers of her family and friends as key factors in the healing process.

"Raindrops on Roman" is a remarkable story of a mother's love and complete dedication to her son. It is a tribute to Roman's response to her love. I highly recommend this book to any family touched with special needs children and to those who have chosen a career in meeting the challenge of working with these families.

Discovering the Basic Truths of Christianity
Larry Kreider
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427466 $17.99

Identifying the Foundational Truths of Christian Living

"Discovering the Basic Truths of Christianity" presents essential theology in an easy to read and understand format. Well known author and speaker, Larry Kreider, uses modern day stories, personal experiences and Biblical passages to help the reader discover the basics for building a solid spiritual foundation.

Kreider has arranged his work six sections. The first section addresses Jesus Christ as Lord and what it means to be a Christian. In section two he discusses the new life of the believer and includes fundamental principles of the Christian life.

Section three explains New Testament Baptisms. Kreider recognizes that there are different interpretations in this area and that this sometimes causes controversy, particularly when dealing with the subject of water Baptism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He then proceeds to objectively express his observations. For the most part Kreider adheres to the position of most evangelical theologians. His view on Holy Spirit Baptism is more in line with charismatic teaching, however without being dogmatic in his point of view. His line of reasoning of view is thought provoking and convincing.

Section four, five and six talk about: building for eternity, freedom from the curse of sin, and living in and experiencing personally God's transforming grace.

I found the reflection questions included with each chapter to be thought provoking, stimulating and often convicting. The short poignant stories that illustrate Christian principles like: Making Jesus Lord in our lives, understanding the terms of discipleship and the cost of commitment, and experiencing victory over sin in our lives were relevant and provide personal application for everyday Christian living. The end-notes are an excellent source of reference for future study.

Kreider's writing conveys the delight of awakening to God-given truth. His writing is resolute, well thought-out, and pertinent. Rich in spiritual content, the book presents a life changing message, of repentance, and renewal with a warning against apathy and compromise. It is sound in scriptural teaching, with a solid Biblical foundation.

This is a book that will resonate with new believers and is easily adapted to use as a tool for mentoring by more mature Christians.

Simple Living in a Complex World
B. R. Johnson
Pleasant Word A division of Winepress Publishing Group
1730 Railroad St., Enumclaw, WA 98022
9781414111902 $9.00

Illustrations on Living in the Way God Designed Us

Tired of the pace and stress of twenty one years of ministering as pastor of large city churches, Dr. B. R. Johnson accepted a call to pastor a country church in Harpersville, Alabama, a town with a population 1600.

In his book "Simple Living" Dr. Johnson relates anecdotes drawn from his country pastorate. His stories are filled with humor which reveals an understanding of human nature. Johnson, known simply as "Pastor BR," has a gift for developing spiritual applications using stories from the Bible that parallel his experiences. They offer inspiration and encouragement illustrating the benefits reaped from living the simple life in a complex world.

Johnson's stories tell of rounding up cattle, fixing the church's plumbing, overflowing the baptistery, and calling on a potential parishioner whose significant other was a pig on the rampage. After each story Johnson points out a "discovery" or a truth to encourage and inspire the reader.

The book is made up from nine of these "discoveries." In the nine chapters, Johnson talks about listening for God, warning signs to keep from going deeper into sin, and how God turns our troubles into opportunities.

Dr. Johnson looks at "simple living…as the enjoyment of success, focusing on basics, realizing the difference between what you can change and what you must accept."

"Simple Living in a Complex World" is especially for anyone in the "fast lane" who wants less stress and is looking for a slower pace. It is for anyone who wants to clear the messiness of their life to discover the beauty in nature, and the blessing of family.

God is Real: Undeniable Proof that will Change Your Life
Roy Davidson
Creation House
600 Rinehart Rd., Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599793962 $17.99

The Extreme Makeover - The Power of God to Change a Life

Retired artist, corporate executive and volunteer missionary, Roy Davidson, was an unconvinced skeptic, yet easy going kind of guy. Through some remarkable and unusual circumstances Roy discovered that God uses extraordinary and radical experiences to transform a person. God was in the process of bringing Roy into a deeper more intense relationship and understanding of Himself.

"God is Real: Undeniable Proof that will Change Your Life" is filled with Roy's personal stories and experiences. He tells of his miraculous escapes from death, a forty foot fall from a tree, and a fifty mile per hour collision with a tractor-trailer. He writes about his supernatural healing, of being beaten by demons, and of his experiences in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of "the cloud of glory." Roy recounts incidents in which he suddenly with no forewarning was "drenched in the Spirit."

Roy's biggest change was an increased concern for the people of third world nations. Roy shares testimonies of supernatural happenings in the lives people encountered. Roy ministered in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil, Uganda, and East Africa. He saw miracles of healing, casting out demons, and multiplying finances. All of these parallel Jesus' ministry, as recorded in the New Testament Gospels.

My appetite whetted, I was disappointed to close the last page of the book. I was ready for more of Roy's thrilling testimonies and stories of the life changing power of God. I wasn't ready for the story to be over. Roy's prayer, in writing the book, is that these stories and testimonies will cause readers to discover the reality of God and respond to His call. I am eagerly looking for a sequel of more of Roy's ongoing ministry and miracles.

Roy's writing is compelling and motivating. Incredible. He is an incredible storyteller and communicator.

The Hidden Power of Watching and Praying
Mahesh and Bonnie Chavda
Destiny Image Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427479 $16.99

Praying with Expectancy

Mahesh and Bonnie Chavda incorporate twelve phrases taken from the Lord's model prayer in their book "The Hidden Power of Watching and Praying." The book is written to inspire and encourage the reader to recognize the power of prayer with an expectancy while "offering up a sweet smelling aroma" in a sacrifice of prayer to God the father.

The Chavda's share dramatic experiences resulting from corporate prayer. They talk about specific occasions and life changing incidents which were direct results of waiting and watching in unified community intercession and supplication. They draw from the Old and New Testaments as they introduce Biblical principles that support the significance of fasting and prayer as a corporate church body.

I especially appreciated the sensitivity of Bonnie's writing. In a chapter entitled "Do What's Best: Your Will Be Done" she describes active prayer as "activating what is settled in heaven to be loosed on earth as we align ourselves with God's divine intent." She puts forward the assumption that "Praying the will of God instigates an aggressive advance of the Kingdom of God against the kingdom of darkness."

The book is filled with testimonies telling of God's provision of urgent needs in answer to prayer. Other illustrations tell of His forgiveness. These stories touched my heart. I found the chapter on temptation and being delivered from evil helpful. It addresses subjects such as: awakening moral conscience, pulling down the strongholds, and standing your ground, while watching in prayer. The final chapters are forceful and uplifting.

The Chavda's writing is persuasive and anointed. They exemplify the holiness and reverence of which they write and bear testimony of knowing what it means to enter into the sacredness of God's presence.

Pastors, Christian leaders, and layman who are eager to form a band of intercessors with a desire to see prayers answered will be challenged to enlist others to join them in corporate prayer as a result of reading "The Hidden Power of Watching and Praying." A vital call to renewal.

The Happy Intercessor
Beni Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
978-0768427530 $16.99

A Changing Paradigm for Intercessory Prayer Warriors

Beni Johnson steps out into uncharted waters as she boldly relates modern-day mystical experiences she and her teams of intercessors are experiencing, as they move into new paradigms of powerful intercessory prayer and prophecy.

"The Happy Intercessor" is the story of Beni's spiritual journey. She shares details of the lessons God has taught her about prayer and intercession. She describes intercession as: "capturing the heartbeat of heaven, or declaring, or praying that into my world. It's true agreement with heaven."

The book is filled with remarkable stories of incredible miracles and answers to prayer. It is packed with testimonies of lives entwined with God's life. It tells of radical examples of meeting God, and of the results of being uncompromising in prayer. Beni introduces keys and guidelines on how to meditate using the scriptures as the basis of prayer. I appreciated the amazing insight I received into the untapped supernatural resources available leading to experiencing intimacy with God.

Johnson's writing spurs and motivates the reader to exercise their gift of intercession, to offer up prayers of supplication, thanksgiving and praise.

Beni tells how intercessory prayer brought about renewal in their church with a profound personal sense of entering into God's presence through fellowship and worship.

"The Happy Intercessor" is written for anyone wanting to experience a new level of supernatural living. It is for the reader ready to move into new power in prayer and discover a new paradigm of intercession. Johnson's writing is timely and vital.

The Crucifier and in the Beginning: Two Short Stories
L. E. Azer
WinePress Publishing
P.O. Box 428, Enumclaw, WA 98022
9781579219550 $12.95

Transformed by the Power of the Cross and an Imaginary Story of Dinosaurs and Creation

L. E. Azer has included two short stories in this edition of his book "The Crucifier and In the Beginning." Both stories are fictionalized accounts of Biblical events. Both are reasonable illustrations of ingenious "what if" story telling

"The Crucifixion" is taken from the dramatic events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. It is the story of young Tyterrain, and of the impact Jesus' death had on his life.

While serving as a Roman Legionnaire in Jerusalem Tyterrain was assigned with his unit of twenty-five men to participate in an execution, a crucifixion. He was a participant in putting Jesus to death the cross. On the second day, he was assigned with others to guard the tomb of Jesus. He was present when they discovered the empty tomb.

The years that followed were years of searching for truth. Tyterrain could not forget the piercing eyes of Jesus nor the way he accepted His death while forgiving His enemies. Tyterrain shares the story of his journey to find truth and to finally discover how Jesus transforms the lives of people like him.

"The Crucifier" is a beautiful story of triumph and transformation, poignant, writing, offering a simple message of invitation to become a follower of Christ.

"In the Beginning" is a fantasy story of Astaria, described as a world of light. The events and characters are fictional but are based on the Word of God. There are parallels of the creation and of a war motivated by a power struggle when one of the Creator's beings, Tyrus, wanted to dethrone Him. Another parallel is the Creator's plan to develop a nation which would demonstrate the Creator's high standards. The nation fails in this and the Creator comes to Astaria in the person of Coshus. The Creator made a book to help humans understand His heart and mind, the Oracle.

Azer has chosen to use fiction as a platform to help people understand God's plan and purpose for man the universe. Azer believes that if scientists can create an assumption of evolution, he should be able to use Biblical knowledge to logically explain the existence of dinosaurs and the ice age.

"The Crucifer and In the Beginning" is highly entertaining, thought provoking, and credible. Azer presents a new twist on drawing fictional stories based on Bible incidents. Great family reading.

Unwrap the Gifts
Paul L. Cox with Julia Pferdehirt
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599793849 $7.99

The Fundamentals of a Prayer Ministry Team - Exercising Spiritual Gifts

Paul Cox has written guidelines for entering into a prayer ministry that allows you, the reader, to exercise your spiritual gifts. I found myself immersed in the well chosen personal narratives from the first paragraph of the prologue to the very end of the book.

John Cox in his book "Unwrap you Gifts" provides solid Biblical teaching, and foundational truths on the subject of spiritual gifts. Cox maintains that God has heard the cries of His people for freedom, and that He is raising up people in deliverance and healing ministry within the body of Christ today. Cox uses stories and testimonies to give evidence of this movement of the Holy Spirit and of the supernatural power at work today.

The book includes topics on: Spiritual warfare, deliverance, revelation, and prophecy. Cox also includes testimonies of healing and deliverance from generational sins. He discusses the function of spiritual gifts and the practice of discernment. He gives emphasis to the role of the prayer ministry team and provides insights into the imperative need of wisdom for the team as they enter into the front lines of spiritual battle. The book closes with a chapter entitled "Freedom for the Captives."

The principle of discernment operating through the physical senses and emotions was new to me. I received a better understanding of the gift of discernment and was impressed with the fact that prayer ministry is an "unfolding process."

The 12 Investment Myths
Jack J. Calhoun Jr.
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759196 $19.95

Practicing Consistent Objectivity in Your Investment Program

Jack J. Calhoun Jr. exposes "the 12 Investment Myths" in his book by that title. In plain words he explains why individual investors are failing in the stock market and how you, the reader, can avoid the trap of becoming one of them.

Each chapter deals with one of the popular myths of investing, discusses the issues involved and offers an alternate solution to avoid being misled by the myth.

Within the narrative Jack talks about objectivity, brokerage houses, sales charges, expense rations, turnover ratios, and index funds. He discusses commodities, derivatives, and options. He describes the importance of a sound investment philosophy and why it is imperative to find a wealth management firm that demonstrates expertise in investment counsel and investment planning. He discusses relationship management and a professional team concept.

I especially enjoyed the illustration of a telephone interview with a young finance reporter from the Wall Street Journal and the way Jack addressed the myth "the media is a good source of investment advice"

Jack succinctly sums up the four principles of investment success this way: Diversify effectively, control costs and taxes, control your emotions, and be patient.

"The 12 Investment Myths" offers profound advice, sage counsel and is devoted to help the investor discern and recognize popular fallacies of investing. Jack's writing is energizing, entertaining, and informational. A great book.

Richard R. Blake

Sullivan's Bookshelf

Outliers The True Story of Success
Malcolm Gladwell
Little, Brown and Company
9780316017923 $27.99

Though success in life, business, sports, etc. can be traced somewhat to a person's capability and/or to hard work or training, success, according to Gladwell, is mostly traceable, not to luck, but to some hidden 'edge.' It may be an age advantage, such as being older or being born into a certain age cohort, inadvertent training or experience in some specific area of law, or other field of endeavor, before that subject becomes popular, having cultural differences, or to any of a number of almost unnoticeable 'edges.'

For example, most kids at any particular age, say eight, who proved outstanding in the Canadian Youth Hockey were born, primarily in January, February, or March. They had been born earlier than the other children and consequently had had more time, sometimes only a month or two, for experience and/or maturity than did the other eight-year-olds. This was the slight edge that early-borns had. And they would be selected again and again, year after year.

The author writes, "This is a book about outliers, about men and women who do things that are out of the ordinary. Over the course of the chapters ahead, I'm going to introduce you to one kind of outlier after another: to geniuses, business tycoons, rock stars, and software programmers. We're going to uncover the secrets of a remarkable lawyer, look at what separates the very best pilots from pilots who have crashed planes, and try to figure out why Asians are so good at math. And in examining the lives of the remarkable among us - the skilled, the talented, and the driven - I will argue that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success."

This volume is well written, cohesive, and a quick read. Moreover, the book answers many questions about why one person makes it in life and why others don't.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author, works at The New Yorker magazine as a staff writer. Previously, he wrote for the Washington Post newspaper. He has also written two best-selling books: The Tipping Point and Blink.

Highly recommended!

A Prison Moment And What It Will Do For You
D. L. Lewis
Bloomington IN
978143437828 $11.99

Reviewed by Jim Sullivan

Lewis, a convicted felon, who was serving an eight-year sentence in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, talks about his conversion to a full believer in Jesus Christ while in the penitentiary. Half a decade would pass in prison before he reached that point. It happened when he had a 'prison moment.'

The author writes, "Until then, I had been incarcerated for five years and had yet to experience my prison moment. Funny how even in the midst of hell, you can still hide from the immutable truth that if you want a better y7ou, you must change. As I look back over my time there, I see how I avoided facing the truth..."

The whole book's about Lewis' prison moment. That's when he suddenly realized his true situation. Be it in prison, selling crack, prostituting yourself, stealing from others, or just being in a horrible place, time, or situation, you find, at last, that you want to change for the better.

With God's help you can and you will Oh, it won't be easy, but your life and world will rum around favorably. And you'll have the strength to bring it about if you stay and pray on the enlightened path.

The author, despite some typos in this slim volume, writes and tells his personal story grippingly. Consequently, this read is a page-turner that's not to be missed.

D. L. Lewis, a man of accomplishment, is a well-known public inspirational and motivational speaker. He, his wife, Devora, and daughter, Deanna, reside in Richmond VA. Near there, he works in a suburban dentist's office. Lewis is also the founder of Southern D'lights, a successful sweet potato cookie company.


Hot, Flat, and Crowded Why We Need a Green Revolution - and How It Can Renew America, Thomas L. Friedman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
9780374166854 $27.95

The 'hot' in the title refers to the undisputed fact that the earth is heating up thanks to greenhouse gases, CO2 and the like, which are caused by the use of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and natural gas. The 'flat' alludes back to Friedman's previous tome, The Earth is Flat, which tells about less developed countries, such as China and India, and how they are quickly catching up economically with developed countries, primarily the United States. 'Crowded' has to do with the tremendous population growth of underdeveloped countries and the leveling of new births in places like Europe and the U.S.

The author's intense analysis of these situations, particularly America's addition to oil, leads him to conclude that the world needs to act decisively and quickly to become environmentally sound to save the planet. That, he assures the reader, can only be done with everyone pitching in and going 'green,' employing environmentally safe methods.

Though there are many environment books available today, Friedman's is surely the most wide-ranging and thorough. He offers examples of persons working on innovative greening as far ranging as a group of military men and women, known as 'green hawks,' within the U.S. Army who are developing and using environmentally effective energy savings techniques: spraying tents in Iraq with a material that better seals them to the natural elements, heat for one, that saves substantial energy use for air conditioning. Aside from cost savings, the Army has also lessened its need to tap into the unreliable Iraq power grid to cool personnel quarters

Another example is when New York City cab companies and limo firms became convinced to contribute to the greening of the city by purchasing energy saving and environmentally safe taxis and limos. The amount of gas saved by the companies was considerable. Moreover, customers' positive attitudes towards the use of such vehicles was an excellent public relations stroke. Less pollution entered the city air, too, which has had a bad history.

The author, to his credit, goes deeply into the value of big and little businesses going green. Sure, most scientists agree that before an environmental catastrophe happens: Arctic, Antarctic, and glacial ice melting, causing rising ocean levels meaning coastline loss, heat negatively affecting food growth, and a further drop in air quality so people can hardly breathe, something must be done. So companies and corporations ought to stop producing additional CO2, which just worsens the current situation. Yet these business firms object to becoming green because it will cost the U.S. too much. Then American industry won't be competitive with the rest of the world.

In a chapter entitled "The Stone Age Didn't End Because," Friedman writes, "I cannot stress this point enough. If you take only one thing away from this book, please take this: We are not going to regulate our way out of the problems of the Energy-Climate Era [the current era, starting now]. We can only innovate our way out, and the only way to do that is to mobilize the most effective and prolific system for transformational innovation and commercialization of new products ever created on the face of the earth - the U.S. marketplace. There is only one thing bigger than Mother Nature and that is Father Profit, and we have not even begun to enlist him in this struggle."

The bulk of this book is devoted to how America can lead the world in becoming green: it's not only a good idea for the benefit of the globe, but it will also mean that the U.S., which is the greatest innovating and creating nation in the history of man, can make itself leader of the green world and in the process become the most economically successful country in the future.

First, the U.S. must, through its own efforts, demonstrate to the world how to avoid putting more CO2 into the atmosphere. That means substituting fossil fuels with renewable energy: wind mills, solar power, geothermal energy, and others, plus nuclear power. Yes, it'll cost a lot of money but it will be an investment in America's resurgence as a leading producer of goods, in this scenario green goods, in the world.

With the U.S. leading in the development of renewable energy sources, foreign nations will have no choice but to come to the U.S. to purchase what this country has developed.

The question may well be asked, Why would other nations bother to go green if they can produce products more cheaply, thereby having a marketing edge over the U.S.. A case in point is China. Its citizens are now having a hard time breathing their own polluted air. hi short, without greening relatively soon, the populations of China and those other competing countries will grow restive, not to mention unhealthy, and this will cause social and political unrest. More importantly, it will drive China and other nations to become green. And the only place they will be able to get help with that will be the U.S. because it began to go green much earlier and, consequently, is the farthest ahead in the world.

The author writes in another chapter of the book, " We have to do better, because ending our oil addiction is not simply an environmental necessity anymore. It's a strategic imperative. We will only breathe freely - in every sense of that phrase - if we can reduce global demand for oil and gas. Our own oil dependence is behind more bad trends domestically and around the world than any other single factor I can think of. Our addiction to oil makes global warming warmer, petrodictators stronger, clean air dirtier, poor people poorer, democratic countries weaker and radical terrorists richer. Have I left anything out?"

Thomas L. Friedman, author of this volume, is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his New York Times column. This, his fifth book, is bound to be a best seller as the earlier ones have been.

Highly recommended!

Jim Sullivan

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

My First Latino Monologue Book: A Sense of Character
M. Ramirez
Smith and Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755
9781575256078 $11.95

Marco Ramirez's monologue collection My First Latino Monologue Book is geared toward 11-14 year olds and is divided into 50 monologues for boys and 50 monologues for girls. After each monologue is either an imagination question or a hidden clue question about the monologue for students to complete. These questions could be used for whole class discussion or as a prompt for an additional writing assignment.

The monologues and activities are age appropriate. Titles of monologues such as Felix the Lumberjack and Celia is Miss Whiny will appeal to the students. Characters are presented in a variety of situations from humorous to serious and include some imaginary characters such as Edgar the Sleepy Cat. The illustrations are average and sparse. There is a smattering of Spanish words throughout the monologues, but there is no reason to limit students who use these books only to those who are Hispanic or speak Spanish as all of the vocabulary is explained in context. My First Latino Monologue Book would be a nice additional purchase for any middle grade classroom.

My Second Monologue Book: Famous and Historical People
Kristen Dabrowski
Smith and Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755
9781575256016 $11.95

Kristen Dabrowski's monologue collection My Second Monologue Book is geared toward 5-9 year olds and is divided into four parts: people you know (the doctor, the lunch lady), famous Americans (Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman), famous foreigners (Henry the XIII, Anastasia), imaginary people and folk heroes (Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood). After each monologue is an activity for the student to complete. Activities range from drawing a picture of the character in the monologue or doing a close reading and answering a multiple-choice question to completing a prompted character diary entry and brainstorming answers about the character in an actor's notebook.

The monologues and activities are age appropriate and will fire the imaginations of young students. There is a variety of male and female characters and a nice balance of Caucasian and ethnic characters. While the illustrations are average, they provide an additional activity for students allowing them to imagine and draw a costume for the type of characters they will be reading about in the following section. The book would be a nice addition to any primary grade classroom because it creates a well-rounded activity for students to practice reading, writing, speaking, and both critical and imaginative thinking.

My Third Monologue Book: 102 Monologues about Places Near and Far
Kristen Dabrowski
Smith and Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755
9781575256023 $11.95

Kristen Dabrowski's monologue collection My Third Monologue Book is geared toward 5-9 year olds and is divided into four parts: places you know (the woods, grandma's house), places in the United States (Laredo, TX, Flagstaff, AZ), foreign countries (Italy, Morocco), imaginary and far out places (Hogwarts, an alien world). The four sections are unevenly represented with the majority of monologues taking place in the United States and the least amount of monologues focusing on imaginary places.

After each monologue is an activity for the student to complete. Activities range from figuring out where the character is, circling or underlining grammar clues and making critical decisions about a foreign country they may have never visited to completing a travel journal.

The monologues and activities are age appropriate and will fire the imaginations of young students. There is a variety of male and female characters and a nice balance of adult and child characters. While the illustrations are average, they provide an additional activity for students allowing them to imagine and draw a scene around the characters they will be reading about in the following section. While this book builds on her first two primary monologue books, it isn't necessary to have them all as they stand alone quite well. My Third Monologue Book would be a nice addition to any primary grade classroom because it creates a well-rounded activity for students to practice reading, writing, speaking, and both critical and imaginative thinking.

My Second Latino Monologue Book: A Sense of Place
M. Ramirez
Smith and Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755
9781575256085 $11.95

Marco Ramirez's monologue collection My Second Latino Monologue Book is geared toward 11-14 year olds and is divided into 50 monologues for boys and 50 monologues for girls. After each monologue is the question: Does the character like the place he is describing? Why or why not?

The monologues are age appropriate. The characters are all young children and are presented in a variety of situations the students may find themselves: walking down to the river with their friend, buying school supplies, or visiting the zoo. Titles of monologues such as Ruben in the Best Hiding Place and Vivian at the Dump will appeal to the students. The illustrations are average and sparse. There is a smattering of Spanish words throughout the monologues, but there is no reason to limit students who use these books only to those who are Hispanic or speak Spanish as all of the vocabulary is explained in context. However, the English in the monologues is filled with slang, but is true to how a middle grade student would speak. My Second Latino Monologue Book would be a nice additional purchase for any middle grade classroom.

My Third Latino Monologue Book: Finding Your Voice!
M. Ramirez
Smith and Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755
9781575256092 $11.95

Marco Ramirez's monologue collection My Third Latino Monologue Book is geared toward 11-14 year olds and is divided into four sections: Kids versus the World, Escuela, Hermanos and Hermanas and Suenos. There is an equal amount of monologues for girls and boys. Each monologue is placed in context by a few sentences describing who, what, where, when. Each piece also includes minimal stage directions.

The monologues and characters are all age appropriate. This third book in Ramierz's collection builds upon the first two. The pieces are longer and the characters a little more complex. There is a smattering of Spanish words throughout the monologues, but there is no reason to limit students who use these books only to those who are Hispanic or speak Spanish as all of the vocabulary is explained in context. My First Latino Monologue Book would be a nice additional purchase for any middle grade classroom.

Terrilyn Fleming

Theodore's Bookshelf

Too Close to Home
Linwood Barclay
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 800-726-0600,
9780553805567 $22.00

In a small upstate city of 40,000 souls, three people are shot dead in the house next door to the Cutter family. Murder, much less a triple homicide, is almost unheard of in the quiet community. What was the reason?

That event is just one of many possibly false clues in this enigmatic novel, which has more twists and turns than a winding road on a mountain top. The plot incorporates more secrets embedded in the lives of its characters than the CIA has room to file them. And they all play a part in the story, some to confuse the reader, most primarily to tie up loose ends and put an end to the suspense.

The characters, from a buffoon-like Mayor to the protagonist and his family, are well drawn and believable. Written with a certain flair, the book is well-written and fast reading. It keeps the reader guessing from start to finish, with surprise after surprise right up to the unexpected conclusion, and it is recommended.

The Bodies Left Behind
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416595618 $26.00 800-223-2336

In this suspenseful novel featuring a new protagonist for this author, Sheriff's deputy Brynn Mackenzie, if something can go wrong or be misinterpreted, it is a deliberate effort by the author to move the story forward while treating the reader to another false lead. Something he is very good at doing.

An abbreviated 911 call, in which the caller utters just the word "this" before it ends, gives rise to the sheriff asking Brynn to investigate. What she finds are a man and his wife murdered in a home near a state forest miles from anywhere. The a nightmare develops as she has to escape from two armed men, eluding them during a chase through miles of wilderness, during which she comes across a young woman who says she too is escaping from the professional killers.

The plot twists are on nearly every page leading the reader by the nose with surprise after surprise. Along the way we learn more about Brynn's unfortunate relationships with her present and ex-husband, as well as her 12-year-old son. It has been suggested that Brynn might form the basis of a new series; time will tell. Meanwhile Mr. Deaver is finishing the next installment of a novel featuring Kathryn Dance as well as a new Lincoln Rhyme novel. Lots to look forward to.


Year of the Dog
Henry Chang
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569475157 $24.00 212-260-1900

The New York City Chinatown that tourists never see, whether from a bus or in one of the myriad restaurants, is the real subject of this second novel in the Jack Wu series. In his debut, "Chinatown Beat," Wu was a police officer in the 05 precinct in Chinatown where he returned to tend to his dying father. In this follow-up, part of a trilogy, he is now a second-grade detective assigned to the 09 precinct, a little further north, after making a major contribution toward solving crime in Chinatown.

The novels are less of a police procedural or mystery, although crime, gangs and murder all play their part (after all this is New York City and Chinatown), than studies and vignettes of the people, culture and the neighborhood. And well-told and penetratingly they are depicted. Many of the tales are remembrances of similar instances in the author's early years of growing up in the area.

The noir stories are fascinating, and while there are examples of Wu plying his detective trade, insights into the gang mentality, brothels, gambling dens and secret societies predominate, as well as the interplay of the various waves of immigrants, from original Cantonese to more recent Fukienese, and their relationship with mainland China and Hong Kong tongs. Highly recommended.

The Price of Butcher's Meat
Reginald Hill
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061459357 $26.95 800-242-7737

Sometimes being too clever is good. Then, on the other hand, sometimes not. This latest Dalziel and Pascoe Mystery provides an example of both. It is too clever by half. To begin with, the Fat Man, Andy Dalziel, is now awake from the coma he suffered from a bomb blast in the previous novel in the series, and, although weakened and thinner, is still, at least, awake and witty. His girlfriend talks him into going to a convalescent facility in an interesting seaside town and while recovering, he finds himself in the middle of several murders, but having to take a backseat to his protege, Peter Pascoe, because he is still on leave.

Lady Denham, who has outlived two husbands, taking over the wealth of the first and the title of the second, is found strangled and roasting on a barbeque. Between her rampant sex drive and penchant for subjugating potential heirs, there is no lack of suspects. Two additional deaths follow.

The problem with the novel is its construction. The first part is presented in the form of e-mails by a young psychology student. While observant and providing plenty of information, the pages tend to drone and drag on. These are complemented by Andy dictating his innermost thoughts and observations; also somewhat overdone. When the reader gets past these pages, one can hunker down to a traditional police procedural on a par with the best of the series.

As Yogi said, it ain't over 'til it's over. And the reader is never sure that the end is near, even at the final chapter, which is introduced again by a tape recording. The 500-plus pages are a lot to slog though. But reaching the conclusion is well worth the effort. And it is good to have the Fat Man amongst the living again. [In the last entry, he dominated the book by sleeping completely through it.] Recommended.

Bad Traffic
Simon Lewis
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416593539 $25.00 800-223-2336

What is it to be like a fish out of water? Certainly Chinese Inspector Jian finds out when he receives a telephone call from his daughter, who he sent to college in England, asking for help. He flies to Great Britain with absolutely no knowledge of the country or its language in an effort to find her. Thus begins the adventures of a foreigner lost in an alien environment with no knowledge of how or ability to communicate.

Along the way he stumbles upon a smuggled Chinese man who can speak English, and between the two of them they begin to follow a trail, sometimes hazardous, other times amusing, but always filled with lots of violence. It starts when Jian learns his daughter had dropped out of college and worked as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant. Then she disappeared. Together, they tackle a band of thugs involved in an immigration scheme.

Filled with lots of action, the novel is exceedingly entertaining and thrilling. Intertwined are lots of reflections on Chinese viewpoints, despite the UK setting. Fast-paced, the story moves along in so many unexpected ways that the reader just keeps on in wonderment. Highly recommended.

Another Thing to Fall
Laura Lippman
10 E.53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061128882 $7.99 212-207-7000/800-242-7737

Tess Monaghan returns for the 10th time in this Baltimore-based series when she is retained to babysit an obstreperous starlet, who is featured in a television show being produced in the city. A series of mishaps - a fire, a suicide and various other pranks and events--are hampering progress on the show, and the producer, fearing for the safety of his leading lady, asks Tess to protect her.

Then a murder takes place late one night near the production office, and Tess warms to her specialty. The task becomes more and more difficult amid the egos and foibles of the actors and writers, lies and hidden motives.

Laura Lippman is a skilled craftsman, using her native city as a backdrop, and her recently learned knowledge of the television industry (her husband was the writer/producer of a wonderful TV series) to good advantage. She has written about people with a deep insight into human emotions and, as usual, told a sparkling tale. Her newest book, "Life Sentences," is due out next month.

Highly recommended.

Michele Martinez
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060899035 $7.99 212-207-7000/800-242-7737

Melanie Vargas makes her fourth appearance in this novel, this time as the chief assistant in her role as an U.S. Assistant Attorney in New York City. As its predecessors, Notorious is highly readable, well-plotted and swift reading. And it starts off with a bang - literally. Melanie is heading up the prosecution team in a murder trial, with a much-loved rap star as the defendant. While standing in front the court house in Foley Square after speaking with defense counsel, she witnesses his murder when he enters his car and it explodes.

No novel in the series is without all sorts of complications, and this one is no exception. To begin with, who is responsible for defense counsel's murder? The defendant? His new counsel, who was sort of the former attorney's partner? Then there is the question of intimidation (or even possible elimination) of witnesses. And, of course, no plot is complete without danger posed to the protagonist. Or without a potential love interest.

As in previous entries in the series, the basic cast of characters remains familiar, even Melanie's "former" love, an FBI agent she has "spurned." This leads to some "schmaltzy" reactions on Melanie's part which in a way reflect badly on her character and really have nothing to do with the plot; one assumes they are put there to humanize her. Nevertheless, the book is on a par with its predecessors, and is recommended.

The Foreigner
Francie Lin
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312364045 $14.00 646-307-5560

This first novel tracks a journey by a 40-year-old bachelor, Emerson Chang, from San Francisco to Taiwan, where his younger brother, Peter, has settled in many years before. His trip follows the death of their mother who owned and ran a motel, which she left to Peter in her will. The lawyer for the estate has been unable to get in touch with Peter, who has not responded to any attempts at contact.

Emerson is a relatively innocent person, a virgin at his age, immersed in the minutiae of financial analysis in corporate finance, obedient to his mother with whom he dutifully has dinner each Friday night. Another purpose for his trip is to scatter the ashes of his mother in Taipei, her birthplace. Young Peter, on the other hand, cut his family ties and become enmeshed in criminal activity. This leads to all kinds of adventures for Emerson as he wends his way attempting to "save" his brother.

For a first effort, there are many good elements to this novel. However, to this reader, there seemed to be unnecessary descriptions and side issues which tended to be dry and ponderous. The basic plot was interesting, and the setting exotic and different.

The Private Patient
P. D. James
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307270771 $25.95 800-726-0600

One approaches a P.D. James novel knowing that it will be an intricate plot with interesting characters and individual detail unsurpassed. "The Private Patient" lives up to all these expectations and then some. Moreover, the juxtaposition of the characters fulfills the need to keep the reader on edge throughout. And, of course, there is Adam Dalgliesh, the erudite, introspective, poet/detective contributing a deep human aspect to the mystery.

The story is relatively straightforward: an investigative journalist enters a private clinic in Dorset to have a scar removed. The operation is a success, but the patient is found murdered the day after the operation. Dalgliesh and his team are called in and they discover little in the way of clues and a slew of suspects. A second murder is even more confusing.

The intricate unfolding of the plot shows how the special squad goes about its business, accumulating facts and impressions, slowly building the case, even if the solution leads to an unsatisfactory conclusion. Nevertheless, the Dalgliesh character is never satisfied with less than "the truth" and we are thankful for his steadfast adherence to the principle. Recommended.

Blood Island
H. Terrell Griffin
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938, 800-829-7062,
9781933515212 $24.95

There have been all kinds of approaches to novels with terrorist attacks as a plot. But none, to our knowledge, have put forward as different a tack as "Blood Island." The story begins simply enough: Matt Royal, a retired attorney who trouble always seems to find, is visited by his ex-wife, who implores him to find her missing step-daughter.

One would think that from this inauspicious beginning we would progress to a straightforward mystery involving a kidnapped college student or a wayward teenager. Instead we are confronted with a complicated but inventive plot that transcends the reader's ordinary expectations. Along the way we are treated to the attractions of Longboat Key and the Sarasota area of Florida, as well as the charms of Key West.

The story is fast-moving, with terse dialogue, violence and a sufficient amount of surprises to reward the reader. The conclusion may be overly dramatic, but such an approach is in keeping with the tale, and the book is recommended.

The Associate
John Grisham
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10018, 800-726-0600,
9780385517836 $27.95

We've come to regularly expect an interesting, rewarding novel dealing with the legal profession from John Grisham. The Associate is no exception. The reader is treated to a look at the protagonist's course of three years of law school, the honor of being editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Review, the dilemma of choosing between an idealistic post-graduate course or a highly-paid Wall Street law firm position, a cursory look at the rigors of the New York Bar Exam and the daily (and nightly) grind of a first-year associate at the "world's top law firm." All through the eyes of Kyle McEvoy.

Although Kyle plans to join a small Virginia public interest firm after graduation, he is blackmailed into accepting a proffered associate position with a top Wall Street law firm because of a youthful indiscretion (along with his three roommates) while in college. The purpose is to place him in a position to steal and deliver sensitive information regarding a law suit filed by a client so the defendant can better counter the legal action. The question, of course, is how Kyle can escape violating the Code of Ethics and other moral and legal duties.

All this makes for an interesting, and even, exciting plot. What isn't answered is just who is the "handler" forcing Kyle to betray everything he believes in. Kyle does come up with a half-brained theory which just doesn't ring true: that he is some government spy. Unfortunately, no matter what we believe, it is a little far-fetched, especially when Kyle accuses him of murdering one of his roommates. To think the government condones domestic murder defies belief (although, on the other hand, foreign assassinations have been known to occur). Otherwise, the author has once again delivered up to expectations.


Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

The House of Pendragon II: The Recruit
Debra A. Kemp
Amber Quill Press
PO Box 265, Indian Hills, CO 80454
9781592796991 $17.00

This is the second book in the saga of Lin, the daughter of King Arthur. Years after her father's death, Lin has returned with her family to an empty Camelot. Through flashbacks, we discover the story behind Lin's first visit to Camelot. As a newly freed slave and having left as a baby, Lin is in awe of her new home. Now she must learn to adapt to her father's court. It's no easy task for she's impulsive and headstrong and clashes with her mother, Queen Gwenhwyfar, the moment they meet. The Queen cares little for her long lost daughter and sees her as a nuisance. After all it was her idea to send Lin off to fosterage with Arthur's sister Morgause in the first place.

Gwenhwyfar's coldness hurts Lin, who desperately wants her mother's love and acceptance. The Queen has little interest in her daughter or where she's been all those years. Instead, she finds fault with Lin and pushes her to behave in the manner she expects.

Arthur returns home to find his wife and her priest punishing Lin. Arthur stops the beating and banishes the priest. Seeing her opportunity and loath to be around her mother anymore, Lin asks her father if she may train to become a warrior. He accepts and she begins her training.

The Recruit is enjoyable and realistic. Through Lin's eyes the reader's made to feel as if they're taking a peek back into the life of ancient Britain. King Arthur becomes believable and real-a true hero for the ages.

For more information you can go to the author's website at:

On The Grind
Stephen J. Cannell
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312366285, $25.95

On The Grind is Cannell's latest installment in his Shane Scully Detective Series. Shane finds himself accused of being a dirty cop, forced to take a plea bargain and booted off the police force. Not only that, but he's caught on tape having an affair with the famous movie actress he's accused of blackmailing. His wife, furious over his betrayal, kicks him out of his house and sues for a divorce. Even his son wants nothing to do with him.

Humiliated and shunned by fellow officers, Scully's forced to find employment with the small, but corrupt police department of Haven Park. There he finds himself driven to acts he normally wouldn't think of doing. Up to his ears in intrigue and danger, Shane's future doesn't look promising.

I hadn't read any of Mr. Cannell's books before and felt pleasantly surprised to discover how much I like his work. Once I turned the first page I found it hard to put the book down because I had to see what happened next with Shane Scully. I'd recommend On The Grind to anyone who enjoys the excitement of a good thriller. More information on his books can be found at:

Goblin Quest
Jim C. Hines
DAW Books Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756404000, $7.99

I chuckled all the way through this delightful Fantasy. The unlikely hero of the tale is one small goblin named Jig, who gets himself in a world of trouble when he unwillingly hooks up with a motley crew of adventurers out to find something called the Rod of Creation.

The two leaders of the small group are royal siblings. Both characters are pretentious, self-serving, and pompous idiots-to say the least. Their humble servant, a likable dwarf is all that keeps the pair from killing each other. The last member of the group, a poor elf girl becomes Jig's friend and together they manage to struggle through dark tunnels filled with hobgoblins and worse…trolls, ogres and dragons.

Jig and his fire spider manage to save the day over and over. His heroic antics anger the princelings, both of whom vow to destroy Jig. Jig's fortunes change dramatically when he decides to find his own god to help him out. It's fun to be in on a goblin's view of the world and follow along as Jig gets himself in and out of one scrape after another. If you enjoy great Fantasy chalk full of laughs, I recommend that you read Goblin Quest. For more information about Jim Hines and his other books go to:

Victoria Kennedy

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

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