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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 11, Number 3 March 2011 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Edward's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gondelman's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Joanne's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Keira's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Nicole's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Regis' Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Riva's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee
Karen Abbott
A Random House Hardcover
9781400066919 $26.00

Dr. Alma H. Bond

"American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee," written by New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City Karen Abbott and published by Random House, is a very exciting book. It charts the blossoming and death rattle of vaudeville in America, a part of United States history that long has been overlooked. The story is told through the extraordinary life of Gypsy Rose Lee, the queen of burlesque, and the world she survived and mastered. It was a time when speakeasies flourished behind dimly lit doorways, and money flowed fast and free - until America was laid low by the Great Depression. Then the country desperately needed a unique star who could distract them from the grim realities of hunger, unemployment, and despair. This was the time for Gypsy Rose Lee to strut across the stages of burlesque, Gypsy, that bold, bawdy, yet strangely erudite stripper who displayed an almost supernatural gift for delivering exactly what the country needed at the precise moment it was needed. Abbott, an excellent researcher, uses exclusive interviews and never-before published material to delve deeply into Gypsy's strange world, and brilliantly illuminates her triangular relationship with June Havoc, her younger sister, and their formidable mother Rose, the love of Gypsy's life, who loomed far more important to her than any of her husbands or lovers. Rose was a ferocious woman who moved heaven and earth to make stars of her daughters. Her fierce determination was a mixed blessing to Gypsy, who spoke of "The terrifying responsibility of carrying out someone else's dreams" (p. 290).

American Rose also tells the tale of the four short, scrappy, homely New York City Minsky brothers who modeled their shows upon audacious Parisian reviews and paved the way for Gypsy's original brand of burlesque. Falling just outside of the law, they managed to transform the shape of American entertainment forever. Karen Abbott skillfully weaves a fascinating tale of a woman who against all odds became a legend still talked about today, who sold being sexy without selling sex, and whose tragic and sensational life is the embodiment of the American dream. The book is cultural history at its best, that belongs on the shelves of history buffs as well as those of fiction lovers.

O. O. McIcIntyre wrote a revealing description of Gypsy Rose Lee in the Journal- American. According to him, "She is among the celebrity curiosa that collects at smart soirees. An eyeful in a showy way, but not quite the over carmined type on might expect...Gypsy is of an intelligence belying her calling. Quick on the she continues her slink through the Park Avenue drawing rooms there are not many who do not angle for her, and in every instance, to those who have not seen her she proved a surprise package. Those who expected to find Miss Lee over rouged and thickly veined with Rabelaisian repartee, discovered instead a self possessed lady with a cough drop voice and a dress suit accent who might have run up from Bryn Mawr for a prom" (272). Kirkus Reviews informed us that "Through sheer force of will, she had transformed herself into a national sex symbol and revolutionized the art of burlesque."

Gypsy also had a terrific sense of humor, which came across on stage. When June told her sister that she wasn't ready to be a star, as she couldn't sing, Gypsy replied, "Well, you see, June, if you are Gypsy Rose Lee, you don't have to act, you don't have to sing. All you have to do is keep up your strength so you can carry your money to the bank" (p. 71.)

Despite her apparent humility, Gypsy was a woman of many talents. She not only was a highly original entertainer, a bibliophile, an author whose autobiography served as the inspiration for Gypsy, one of Broadway's most enduring triumphs, a film actress, and a humorist, but also a political activist. When burlesque performers demanded their own union, Gypsy got herself named to President Roosevelt's executive labor board. When Minsky chorus girls, stagehands, and strippers went on strike in the fall of 1935, Gypsy organized the efforts against her former bosses. She got all the stripteasers to put robes on over their g-strings and parade outside the theatre flashing passersby and shouting, "Don't go in there, boys!" It only took a few hours for the Minskys to settle (p. 288).

Did you know that Gypsy Rose Lee was also a doctor? A "Doctor of Strip Teasing" (p. 297). The Minsky brothers got six professors from New York University to preside over the graduation festivities. Also present were ten other strippers, who wore dainty caps and gowns, and were given lesser honors. It was Gypsy's way of repaying them for the angst they experienced when New York politicians raged against burlesque.

The years leading up to her death were the happiest of Gypsy's life. She appeared on the syndicated talk show Hollywood Squares, where she shared the minutiae of her life with an audience made up of conventional middle-aged women. She was more herself with them than she ever had been onstage. She read them letters from Erik when he was stationed overseas, the results of her latest face-lift, facts about her birds, fish, dogs, and flowers, and how to make jewelry out of bread dough. Was it possible she was happy because at last she had an audience of adoring unambivalent mother substitutes?

Gypsy Rose Lee's body started turning on her when she was quite young, and she accepted her role in its demise; all those years of drinking brandy, smoking, sleeping either twelve hours a night or none at all surely had their say. She died reluctantly of cancer at the relatively youthful age of 59. Her sister June has the best line in the book when she said, "The body reacts because the soul protests (p. 335). Did June mean that Gypsy protested the lack of love in her life? Did she not want to live without her mother?

If there is any shortcoming in the book, it is that the author jumps back and forth between the past and present, so that it is sometimes difficult to keep tract of the time period she is discussing. Nevertheless, despite this failing, Karen Abbott in "American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee" has written a stimulating, insightful book, which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good read, learning about hitherto unknown history, and a fascinating story.

About the Author

Karen Abbott, the author of American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee, also wrote the New York Times bestseller Sin in the Second City. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania., she attended 16 Catholic schools, where she says she learned to pay attention to details, a skill put to good use in this book. She now lives in New York City with her husband and two African Grey parrots who do mean Ethel Merman impressions, and is at work on her next book. She's hesitant to jinx it by divulging the details, but it's certain to star some intriguing (and not entirely scrupulous) characters in history.

The EVERYTHING (R) Guide To Managing and Reversing Pre-Diabetes
Gretchen Scalpi, RD, CDN, CDE
Adams Media, a division of F+W Media
57 Littlefield Street, Avon, MA 02322
9781440509858 $15.95

Bonnie Jo Davis

The EVERYTHING (R) Guide To Managing and Reversing Pre-Diabetes: Your Complete Plan For Preventing The Onset Of Diabetes trade paperback is part of the Everything (R) book series published by Adams Media.

The book begins with a foreward by Robert A. Vigersky, MD. Dr. Vigersky is the Director of the Diabetes Institute of the Walter Reed Health Care System and an introduction by the author Gretchen Scalpi, RD, CDN, CDE.

The Table Of Contents includes:

* Foreword
* Introduction
* What Is Pre-Diabetes?
* Diagnosing Pre-Diabetes
* Your Action Plan for Pre-Diabetes
* Exercise: Essential for Your Success
* What Can I Eat?
* Translating Nutrition into Real Meals
* Breakfast Fare
* Soups
* Meat Dishes
* Poultry Dishes
* Fish and Seafood Dishes
* Casseroles and Stews
* Pasta, Rice, Grains, and Beans
* Vegetable Sides
* Salads
* Salad Dressings, Salsas, and Sauces
* Salt-Free Spice Mixes
* Breads and Muffins
* Reduced-Carbohydrate Desserts
Appendix A: Your 10-Week Plan to Kick Pre-Diabetes!
Appendix B: Resources
Standard U.S./Metric Measurement Conversions

Has your doctor diagnosed you with pre-diabetes? If your answer is yes then this is the book for you. Pre-diabetes is the state where your blood sugar level is elevated but not enough for you to be diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. You may not have any symptoms but if you don't want to join the millions of people with Type 2 Diabetes then you need to start managing your health more aggressively.

In addition to the main sections there are tip lists like "Great Ways To Get More Whole Grains". This included several different ways of getting more whole grains into your diet that were new and appealing to me.

The book includes 200 recipes organized into thirteen sections including soups, meat, chicken and reduced carbohydrates and more. These recipes look delicious and my favorites include sweet potato pancakes, lentil soup with herbs and lemon and healthy onion rings. These recipes prove that you can eat well while improving your health.

Exercise, of course, is included in this book. This is not my favorite subject but I was glad to see that the author recommends a sensible approach of adding a daily walk to your routine and including activities you already enjoy like gardening.

If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed then read the section "Your 10-Week Plan To Kick Pre-Diabetes". This will help you incorporate small changes weekly to your routine in order to build on your success as you go along.

This is a great book for anyone who has pre-diabetes or who is overweight and worried about their health. The recipes will work not only for those who have been diagnosed with the condition but for family members as well.

The author, Gretchen Scalpi, is a Registered Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Educator and the author of The Everything Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd ed. Gretchen opened her private nutrition practice in 2002 and has expanded to three office locations in New Windsor and Beacon, NY. Gretchen offers lectures and workshops on a variety of nutrition topics to corporate, educational, and community groups. She also offers The Balance Program (R) online in partnership with Real Living Nutrition Services (R).

Dearest Girl of Mine: Letters home from Kenneth Boulton Thurstone, World War I soldier
Edited by Toniann Scime
9780557731596 $15.95

Clive H. Orford

Without a doubt, by her simple act of opening an old cigar box in the storage room of the Amherst Museum near Buffalo, NY, in early 2005, archivist Toniann Scime has done the United States of America and scholars of World War I a tremendous service.

In that cigar box she found over 150 letters authored by 2nd Lieutenant Ken Thurstone, a 22-year-old Buffalo boy who had been commissioned in late 1917 and who was, when the story picks up, onboard a troopship on his way overseas with the 315th Ammunition Train of the 90th Division, American Expeditionary Force.

With obvious delight, Scime began to examine each of the items that had been carefully bundled-up for posterity years earlier. These were the letters that Lieutenant Thurstone had sent home to Buffalo, describing his overseas experience to his parents and to his one true love, Harriet Jackson, who would later become his wife of 51 years, and the mother of his two children.

The faithfully transcribed letters, which begin in June 1918 and end in April 1919, are every bit the priceless treasure that Scime suggests. But I would go a step further. I would offer that this book has the potential to be a precious resource for teachers and students of World War I; and, for anyone else who is interested in that period of history, or who would simply enjoy a great easy read.

Ken Thurstone's sometimes hurried and sometimes lengthy letters gave his loved ones back home an articulate and vivid window on what he was up to on the battlefield and later, following the Armistice, as he moved into defeated Germany. That he deeply valued the opportunity to lead his men in their duty, for the cause of the Allies and Uncle Sam, that he welcomed everything he did no matter how physically tiring or dangerous it was, that he marvelled at his sense of place in history, is positively palpable. Reading these letters, one can appreciate Ken's awe of the aerial battles and artillery barrages he witnessed frequently; one can share in his exhilaration as he and his troops brought up truckloads of ammunition to the Guns of The Front; one can cherish, as Ken did, the efforts of Sergeant Knight, the cook; one can be enchanted with the countryside he motored through and intrigued with the various quarters in which he was billeted; and, one can ache with him for the comforts of home (like a good bath) and his longing to be with his "dearest girlie."

In one letter, dated December 6th, 1918, Ken Thurstone prophetically writes to his future bride: "... But as I have said a hundred times I'd rather my experience than all the stars of a general because that is what is going to effect your and mine life dearest. Suppose that I had been away from you all this time and when I came back all I had to say was that southern France was a pretty place and Bordeaux a so so city. I would have been the most disappointed man in the world! Now darling, when a certain little lad says "Daddy where were you in the big war" I can be proud of my answer and tell him, what will then be an old story."

What is not clear from the short introduction or epilogue, which contain a few small but unfortunate factual errors, is whether or not Ken's son Granger (born in 1923, and later a US Naval Officer during World War II), learned all of what his father had seen and done during those watershed months at the conclusion of The Great War. Fortuitously, however, Granger Thurstone ensured that his Father's letters were preserved. Now, Toniann Scime has made that interesting 'old story' available for the world to know and to relish.

Ken Thurstone's first hand witness to, and his telling of history-in-the-making can be and should be read, studied and enjoyed by school aged children, scholars at the university level and in military academies, and by people of any age or gender who crave a true and remarkably personal story that portrays what it was like for a young officer being shaped, day-by-day, by his unique field experience during World War I.

Waiting to Know You
Karisha Kal'ee'ay
Linden House Publishing
2885 Sanford Ave SW #13249, Grandville, MI 49418
9780984546411 $27.99

Devon Hoffman

While searching through a list of recently published books, I discovered Waiting to Know You, the debut novel by Karisha Kal'ee'ay. The book's cover blurb mentions a character named Virginia who has been ostracized from her family because of her extreme obesity. The character's description reminded me of a person I met back in college so it piqued my interest. Thinking about it now, I realize that I have encountered many social castaways and although I have pitied them, I've never taken the time to consider the world from their point of view. After reading Waiting to Know You, I don't think anyone will be able to view society or its assumed norms with quite the same level of indifference.

Virginia sits at the center of this story like the calm introspective eye of a tornado while the other characters swirl around her, ferociously seeking love, acceptance, and companionship. She has sought out her estranged half brother Dan, who is not aware of their family connection, and she moves into the apartment down the hall from his. The book's tension centers around the question of if or when Virginia will reveal her family connection to Dan. Although Dan is a friendly neighbor, Virginia fears he might be ashamed to have such a morbidly obese sister, and she can't bear the thought of being rejected once again. As we learn more about Virginia's past we understand that her concerns are justified.

Of course Virginia is not alone in her desire to find a person or group that will welcome and love her. Kal'ee'ay artfully weaves in the personal stories of Virginia's half brothers Dan and Lunt so we can see that they too seek affectionate companionship. The expectations of these three characters strike a bold contrast. Like Dan and Lunt, most of us assume that we are lovable, or at least acceptable, to members of the opposite sex. There is a sense of entitlement in the belief that we will find someone to love us. For Virginia, this notion of entitlement is only a dream, and she has the self-awareness to realize it.

In life, when there is no friend or loved one that can comfort us, we often seek religion to ease our suffering. Kal'ee'ay exposes the hypocrisies of one well-known religion and contrasts them with a fictitious religion to highlight our desperate need to believe in a just and loving higher power. In this new religion, the word of God is revealed through leaves, which are studied and interpreted by the religion's prophet. We see that the followers of this religion appear to be happy and have strong families. To those of us raised in the rituals and traditions of any of the world's more popular religions, the notion of worshiping leaves seems strange. However, it serves to illustrate our common need for friendship and community. Whatever one's spiritual beliefs happen to be, Kal'ee'ay's leaf-reading religion forces us to consider that the higher power we seek might just be found in the friendship and shared experiences of our fellow parishioners.

Kal'ee'ay gives a voice to the marginalized with unapologetic depictions of her characters' desires. In exposing Virginia's fantasies, Kal'ee'ay makes the reader understand what it means to be obese:

There were times when Virginia would lie in bed with her eyes closed and picture her stomach with four hundred pounds of gristle removed. It would be smooth and flat, with faint parallel indentations running below her rib cage. Every time she turned on the television - back when she still had one - she had seen that stomach and felt a companionship with it, whether it was starring in commercials for health clubs, diet drinks, underwear, or a new sitcom.

Passages like this help us feel what it's like to be Virginia. As we share her yearning for the billboard model's flat stomach, we think about how difficult it is for an average person to achieve that idealized physique. That is when we understand that for Virginia, this dream is hopelessly unattainable. It is a fantasy indeed.

In the end, Waiting to Know You leaves us with a few important questions to consider. Who among us is deserving of love? If there is a God, why do his earthly ambassadors seem so corrupt? Why is physical appearance such a barrier for human relationships? These and other questions are what make Kal'ee'ay such a thought-provoking writer, and yet somehow she gives the reader a truly emotional journey full of smiles, laughs, and tears. The dialogue is so realistic that I felt I was listening to people talk. The interrelationships of the diverse mix of characters remind me of many admired Joyce Carol Oates' books, while the provocative irreverence toward social norms will appeal to fans of Milan Kundera. Waiting to Know You is one of my new favorites, and I will be eagerly awaiting the next book from Karisha Kal'ee'ay.

I'm Not Muhammad: An Ordinary Rendition
Jason Trask
Red Wheelbarrow Books
310 W. 72nd St., New York, NY 10023
9780975951521 $14.95

Diane Simmons

Like many people Jason Trask appears to have been both troubled by "extraordinary rendition," the practice by which the United States sends suspects to countries where their interrogation can be enhanced by torture. I suspect many of us too have wondered how we would feel and behave if we found ourselves in the hands of torturers, especially if we had no information to give. Unlike most people, Trask has taken the next step: he has gone inside the body and the head of just such an individual to try to experience this practice firsthand.

In this novel, which is both well-researched and deeply imagined, Trask's first-person protagonist, the victim of mistaken identity, is kidnapped of an American street, slapped into a diaper and a jumpsuit, blindfolded and put on a plane to Egypt. Here he will be water-boarded and tortured in other ways by interrogators who are trying to force him to admit to being someone he's never heard of, and of being privy to names and information he does not have.

After a great deal of suffering, Trask's protagonist - who both is and isn't named Muhammad - tries to do what I'm pretty sure I would do in the first five minutes; he decides to make stuff up so the torturers will feel that he is co-operating and lay off. I think my favorite part of the book - how often do you get a laugh when reading about torture? - is when Muhammad uses remembered scenes of criminals plotting in the movie Reservoir Dogs to invent realistic-sounding terrorist meetings.

There's a second plot line in the book as Trask's Islamic-American protagonist decides to use the confusion of the 9/11 attacks to flee his life and create a new identity. As someone who was in downtown Manhattan on this morning, I can say that Trask's account of the physical scenes as well as the confusion of the first few days is right on. I was also interested in Trask's perception that those who experienced 9/11 were, despite the horror, also thrilled and a little exalted to feel themselves part of such a monumental event. Muhammad's actions are believable in a moment when it felt as if things had changed forever.

In addition, Trask wants to take the reader inside the world of the devout Muslim. I'm not a Muslim and I don't think Trask is either. But this part of the book too feels both well-researched and deeply-imagined, the work of someone who really wants to know and feel what others are experiencing.

Voices of Arra
Dave Hoing & Roger Hileman
All Things That Matter Press
Somerset, Maine
9780984629763 $16.99

Donald Schneider, Reviewer

Arra is a mythical world populated by three races of humans: Lyhians; Drun; and Cresyns. Lyhians are a tall, slender and fair race and are the oppressive overlords of Arra. The Drun are a dark, short muscular people with ruddy complexions, while the Cresyns are half-breeds, despised by Lyhians and Drun alike. Cresyns are the offspring of male Lyhians and female Drun. As Drun are bereft of civil rights, Cresyns delivered by Drun women are permitted to live as they cannot be violated under the laws of the Lyhians. Conversely, Cresyn babies born of Lythian women are condemned to death as a moral abomination.

If this scenario conjures up images of Kyle Onstott's Mandingo, rest assured that Voices of Arra constitutes more than just another parable with retrograde racial overtones. It's a series of nine imaginative short stories, some of which advance the scenario of an unlikely insurrection while others seem more asides which provide context and enrich the series by adding flavor. Although the book is credited to Dave Hoing and Roger Hileman (Hammon Falls) as co-authors, seven of the nine stories were written by Mr. Hoing; five of which have been previously published in periodicals. Mr. Hileman's two stories are published for the first time in this anthology. Due to the individual authorship of the presented stories and the various publication dates of Mr. Hoing's contributions, the series has a somewhat disjointed tenor to it that does not, however, diminish its effectiveness in toto.

The series begins with "Tashi's Future Lover," which starkly establishes the ruthless tenor of the social mores of Arra as developed by the dominant Lythian race. Tashi is a young "shorn woman," a Lyhian woman who either had sexual intercourse with a male Drun or is the daughter or descendent of such a hapless woman. The name is a reference to the fact that such social deviants are condemned to keep their hair shaven as a societal scarlet letter. Female offspring of such women must suffer a humiliating haircutting ritual upon hitting puberty. Although not required to by law, since shorn women are, like Drun, judged to be outside the law, for their own protection most live in colonies isolated from general society.

Unwilling to accept life consigned to a colony of outcasts, Tashi runs off and finds refuge as a prostitute in a seedy inn, illegally hiding her status with a wig while enduring brutal conditions. One day she meets a Cresyn boy named Ket who figures prominently later in the series. Like all Cresyns, Ket's most memorable feature is his hair: dark brown when still, but illuminated by the wind into a flaming rainbow of myriad colors. The story's title is a harbinger of later developments.

"The Dugout" recounts a Drun boy's love and coming of age, while providing a hint as to the social upheaval to come within the world of Arra. Except for an occasional individual who is spared the ordeal, upon hitting puberty Drun are infected with a congenital disease that via a fever ravishes the parts of their brains responsible for intellectual activity. The result is that the adult Drun seem to be moronic in their everyday activities, though by way of compensation their creative skills are vastly enhanced. They are able to produce artworks and handicrafts much in demand by Lyhians upon whom they have a mesmerizing effect much like a narcotic. Moreover, the Drun's ability to intellectually function is greatly enhanced by touching one another and tapping into a sort of collective unconsciousness and intelligence.

"City of Ice" and its sequel "Kivam" recount an incipient Drun insurgency in the far-flung outpost of Echoes, a onetime mining town in the Northeastern region of Arra, once worked by Drun slaves whose descendents have managed to surreptitiously survive long after the mines' and their laborers' usefulness have played out. The leader of the insurrection is a heretical religious figure who has managed to disguise her real intentions, as well as other personal aspects of herself, until ultimately revealed.

"The Healer" is a thought-provoking, philosophical story concerning a visit to a Drun community by a Cresyn man with the power to heal the Drun affliction by virtue of his extraordinary mental powers. The story raises the questions as to what the value of ethnic heritage and cherished traditions are and at what price are they worth maintaining. The story is reminiscent of the painful personal introspection that some deaf people face when considering cochlear implants in the hope of gaining hearing.

"Brothers of the Stone" concerns a young provincial stone mason, a member of a religious order, who yearns to travel to Hoxa, the capital city of Arra, in order to help repair his order's temple, their holiest shrine. The temple has been ravished due to social upheaval. Instead, he is ordered by his order's lodge master to travel to a sea resort owned by the order, which has fallen into nonuse, in order for him to reflect upon his true aspirations in life. While there, the Lyhian mason encounters Drun for the first time in his life. Despite his initial revulsion, he learns a lesson regarding the value of tolerance.

I found "A Transitional Death" to be the most substantive story of the lot, and the anthology's most intriguing. It's a murder mystery set against a profound societal transformation. The writing throughout is engrossing.

"As the Crow Flies" is an aside piece concerning the gift of "Augraam," a kind of mental telepathy inherent within a small group of Lyhians. The gift is largely employed by "crowmasters," people who raise crows as couriers which constitute the most rapid form of communication within Arra. The story recounts a crusty crowmaster passing along his craft to his gifted but reluctant youthful granddaughter.

The series concludes - and is tied together - with "Servant of the Stone." An elderly Drun sets off on a pilgrimage to meet with a now reclusive elder statesman who once played a paramount role in the politics of Arra. The Drun seeks a personal favor from the august recluse and discovers a melancholy figure jaded and disillusioned by power and life. The story is beautifully crafted and is the most poignant piece in the series.

As allegorical racial commentary, I found the scenario to be hyperbolic which at times somewhat detracts from the series's effectiveness. However, the superb writing talent of Hoing and Hileman amply compensates for such a literary architectural shortcoming. Philosophical musings and pensive points of social commentary are adroitly woven into an intriguing fantasy tapestry. Although not devoid of action and adventure elements, Voices of Arra will in particular appeal to those with an affinity for fantasy of a more cerebral nature.

Eyeballs growing all over me... again
Tony Rauch
Eraserhead Press
205 NE Bryant Street, Portland, OR 97211
9781936383337 $10.95

Kate Onyett

Eyeballs growing all over me... again is a collection of short stories by Tony Rauch. Some are very short: just a paragraph or two. Some are pages long and split into parts. Yet the whole book presents as a carefully staged show of playfulness, and like anything playful, could be read by any age that could deal with the concepts. There are no viscerally grisly moments here, and no bad language. A short search for Rauch himself brings up his webpage, and right there on the title page he asserts he is only full of 'good things'. He also gives a run-down of other writings, confirming they have all been among the fantastic: 'surreal [...] fantasy, sci-fi, dream-like pieces [...] absurdist pieces'. His other activities include architecture, art and photography. This is a graphically-minded man with an eye for detail. The press that publishes eyeballs is also not one of your run-of-the-mill presses, specialising in fantastic, weird and what appears to be a large number of zombie fictions. Aligning himself to a genre that goes by the name of 'Bizarro'; don't expect the mundane from this guy. I had high hopes of something perky and deliberately off-centre.

When one starts to write reviews, one hopes to come the day when in all honestly one can type 'and then a true gem comes along'. I started eyeballs on a Sunday evening. Even with two full days of work in between, I was done by Tuesday early evening. I was hooked. I may be a sucker for the fantastical, but most of the time I was laughing; and not at the antics on the page, but at the reflected antics of 'real life' as it was stitched up by Rauch.

To begin with, we are met by a series of quotes; normally these are stirring words relevant to the text or as inspiration for the author, and three of the four are Biblical.. A verse from the Book of James abjures one to be tested to have one's mettle proven and one's patience awoken, making one more perfect. Lines from Romans follow the theme of being tested as a means to improvement; a rather Protestant work ethic whose sternness is mitigated by the idea of just rewards and a sense of fulfilment and love. Finally a well-known quote from Matthew tells us the merciful will be shown mercy. What to make of this before a collection of outlandish and fantastical tales?

Having boggled over these for a short time, I came to the conclusion that Rauch wants us to chill out, stand back, and stop trying to impose our ego on others. Indeed, his first quotation, about true personal freedom coming from removal of cultural and social hang-ups and restraints, seems more in keeping with the hectic games his stories play with reader expectations.

Having finished the collection, I realised that the examples of being able to deal calmly with trials and tribulations, and the surprisingly rewards and small miracles that happen because of this that crop up throughout the collection is exactly what all this is about. It's all about not getting swept along with a mindless mass, and it is about having your preconceptions tested, your character questioned. A good narrative should do that: it should hold a mirror up to life and make you look again.

But Rauch's book wants to do this by going out to play with you. Indeed, the reviews on the back jacket cover are all about praising Rauch's 'playful style'. The blank pages between sections - sections that really aren't needed because a collection of short stories are self-contained units as it is - are pauses, moments to take a breath and consider before ploughing ahead. The choice of 1950s and 1960s sci-fi images with robots, aliens, pilots, scientists and sinister-faced men in suits are what one could expect from fantastic tales. But because they are dated, they are a little bit campy; they rubbish just a bit the very 'serious' fantastical themes they represent. They are a child's eye view. These things may seem odd, but not inexplicable if one applies one's imagination; when of course they become assimilated into the main picture and are completely natural.

The biggest take-away message for me was that all this; content and presentation, as well as choice of non-sequiteur titles for the book and the stories, is intended to shake up ideas of normalcy and rock usual narrative complacency. It would be naive indeed to say that writers do not have intent when they write: personal politics and polemics will inevitably inform their writing, but Rauch is going to have a little fun with this established mode...

Rauch is a self-confessed academic (in an explanatory note that came with the e-book), alive with hyperbolic adjectival usage. He is proud, having clarified this aspect of his life, of his academic achievements, but he says he wanted to make a more actively non-academic-sounding book. And he makes good use of the simplest statement sentences and the unashamedly frank first person. This makes the narrative slide down as easily as if overhearing a conversation or watching a dramatisation; almost as if there is no effort to the reading as it reads just like colloquial English to the ear, as no one really speaks in neat sentences and well-versed paragraphs.

'I turn my head to where she's pointing. Sitting there on our couch watching t.v. is a great big hairy beast. He is huge - eight feet tall at least. His thick, shaggy brown hair is matted and snarled. And the stink. Worst stench ever. A crippling fog' ('the stench').

The old trick of using shorter sentences during exciting moments adds to the breathless pace the stories sometimes achieve.

This somewhat over-familiar style of writing actually put me most strongly in mind of the artless frankness of a primary-school child's reporting-style story-writing: 'and then I said this, and she said that and we went to there...' In the first person narrative, read in adult fiction, this then translates to something akin to stream of consciousness. In this way narrative conventions are maintained: the unconventional becomes encapsulated by and 'excusing' stylistic factor. But instead of the solemnity and artistic poetry of other stream of consciousness writings, this is very much grounded in the language of day to day:

'"Desmond steps up to us "There a problem here?" Hinrich looks over to him, "He's just anxious, that's all." I look over to Desmond, then back to Hinrich, "Hey, at least I'm tryin' here..." ('send krupac though the portal').

The choice not to begin a new paragraph when characters report others' speech means that the words strike the reader on an intimate level. I had not previously considered how the formal positioning of words on the page can make such a profound difference. After all, we do not think in, or recall speech in, neatly arranged paragraphs. Those formal conventions again, arranging words place fictional action firmly beyond the fourth wall for acute observation. Running it all together, playing about with an 'artistic' style, monkeying with the conventions, Rauch's writing read like nothing I have read before.

And I liked it.

It could not have been done by an amateur, or someone who had a less able grip on language. There's no note or preface to explicate all this in the book itself. But even without the note I received, it is plain that this is someone so familiar and comfortable with all walks of language, he can play with it with impunity and see the quality of his writing suffer not at all.

There's a rude, unpolished feeling about the whole book that seems entirely on purpose. Some of the stories end with a sudden cut-off, leaving one feeling a bit cheated feeling. A good example is 'small giants', where, speaking with a tiny farmer, riding a miniscule tractor through the grass, the child protagonist reports;

'"You'll wanna see this. Ha! Trust me!" and with that he puttered off, into the long grass and weeds, disappearing into its shadows and deep textures.'

And that's it, after a story that is part poetic pondering on the landscape and the sky, and part involved conversation between boy and pixie-sized farmer. I was actually physically looking for the next bit. There wasn't any.

There is also a somewhat alienating factor. A mild suspicion that at odd impenetrable moments, some jokes and references sound like they could be in-jokes for an American audience. Little details of social mores and familial relationships that did not translate well for this British reader

The biggest gag in the bag is a book where outrageous juxtapositions abound. There are the religious quotations at the start, followed by the idiomatic, individualistic and carefree content of the stories. The youthful protagonists that feature in the greater number of the stories 'speak' with the fluency and consideration of degree level adults. The calm, considered and clever speech we wish we'd had as teens, but only learned through living life and started to acquire maybe in our late twenties ('the new kid', 'I discover an army of...', 'little giants' and 'the eyes' being the best examples). Secret, inner emotional landscapes and thoughts are laid bare to judging gaze by the virtue of reader omniscience over the first person. The characters are sharing intimately with us, the reader, and by extension, the world, and absolutely no one else. One becomes so involved with these characters, so grabbed by their voices; the irony of this is not lost.

Stylistically, counter-positioning the bald, colloquial statement alongside the flowery, frilly descriptive passages and elongated diatribes occasionally indulged in by characters makes the texture of the writing quirky. A hodgepodge scrap-book of thoughts, feelings and experiences. .

The usual scenario of writers on a mission is to lead the reader down the chosen path of narrative, and oh my, what have we here? A scene or a comment by a character that is actually a pictorial metaphor for a BIG LIFE LESSON the writer wants us to engage in. This can be done with varying degrees of subtly, and at its most extreme, the story becomes hijacked by pamphleteering and saddling up the author's hobby horse. In eyeballs, the tales vary from snippets to pages long, from daft to the meaningful. But when SOMETHING is going to be SAID, instead of wooing the reader, Rauch dives right in there, and his meaningful stories really hammer it home. The highfalutin conversation of teens in 'the eyes' becomes a self-mockery of the 'deep' conversations young adults have while discovering life lessons. 'Activate the mathias' is a mind-boggling mass of scientific supposition and 'send krupac through the portal' is a quick trot through layman's quantum inter-dimensional theory. The prose is denser, the ideas as discreet as a ten-tonne elephant on your foot, and there is no doubt that this is SOMETHING IMPORTANT being flagged. But, by such blatant flagging, the narrative deflates its own pomposity, and one begins to question the faith modern life puts in psychosocial-babble to explain everything. For many of the characters, things happen without explanation (the couple who lose their roof to a robot in 'gigantic', and the night-time stampede in 'the run').

Yes, there are themes: 'the stench' could be read as an environmental tale, 'the new kid' a moral about not fearing the new and different. 'People have been drifting away lately' could be read as a warning about the shallow, non-committal nature of modern life and 'the eyes' multi-tasks: gently mocking the intellectual naivety of teenagers, while underlining the weirdness and awkwardness of transition from child to adult through the metaphor of strange and random diseases. Rauch himself hopes that we will notice his topics of "longing, discovery, secrets, escape, eeriness, surprises, and strange happenings in everyday life." Indeed, in keeping with the childishness and innocence of the book, these could be said to be the very preoccupations for growing juvenile minds struggling to grasp an understanding of the world. But, the greatest gift Rauch's book gives us is that, like the Fool in a King's court (and there is a large clown puppet from a parade on the cover), he shows us very real truths and relatable experiences and problems, dressed up in foolishness to sweeten the blow.

I wanted strange and wonderful things to happen to me after reading this: Rauch has helped me to believe in the power of fairy-tales, and this book, his book of weirdly cool fairy tales and parables, shakes away the ridiculous and precarious nature of 'adult' perception and adult expectations, and the remembrance of things playful gives us the hope mentioned in his opening quotations. The stories test and tease; but we come out the other side feeling hopeful and more light hearted. This is the sort of book I wish I'd had to discuss during literature classes at school: clever, erudite, but funny, too, and very surprising and a damn good read.

Locker Letters
C.M. Hedgecock, S.J. Booker, Rising Authors of North Elm High School
Royal Shield Publishing
8808 Thornbridge Drive, North Richland Hills, Texas 76182
1935636977 $12.00

Katherine Boyer

Locker Letters is a fictional story about high school students in Texas who find mysterious notes in their lockers. All the notes are written in purple gel pen and sealed with a hot pink kiss. The way each student reacts to these notes creates the storyline.

"When I went home after work, I turned on the TV. There was [a] news story about our school. The reporter said, "Hello, my name is Cari Carter. There have been numerous robberies at North Elm High School and mysterious notes have turned up in lockers. People say there is a ghost that has lived here for fifteen years." --- Maria Armani, Super Detective, Locker 445

Several mysteries pop up in the book that are brought to a conclusion with a little enhancement of some very minor characters introduced earlier in the story. It is almost like the "deus ex machina" of Greek origins that we learned about in high school. The book depicts serious subjects that the students face. It also has features that may appear humorous to the reader, but are serious to the characters involved.

The book is the result of an actual North Texas High School class assignment. The students wrote the stories, created the characters and made them come alive on the pages of this intriguing book. Their teachers and some other faculty members enhanced the stories with their own contributions.

I found Locker Letters to be an interesting study in teenage behavior and group cooperation. Notwithstanding the coordination of the stories by so many writers, the class also dealt with unexpected publishing problems. The project became a real-life learning experience for the students as well as their teacher.

All in all it was a good book that teens will be interested in reading and comparing the stories to their own lives. Parents will be interested in the thought processes that this book brings out by the characters involved. It might even leave them wondering if the some of the stories written by the kids are semi-autobiographical.

Blood, Money, Power
Michele Marie Tate
Portland, Oregon
Genre: Historical Fiction
9780983114802 $15.99

Kaye Trout

Rating: Highly Recommended

Quoting from the back cover:

"An epic novel inspired by a true story. What drives someone to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of love? Would you lie, cheat, break the law or murder to protect the one you love?

"Blood, Money, Power. Follow the Preston family bloodline through three generations--1920's rich and famous, 1960's uninhibited, 1990's corruption.

""The glamorous Hearst ear, with movie star parties at San Simeon and the 'Ocean House'...Life among the very rich members of high society with never-good-enough Otto, exotic Adan, wicked Cynthia and determined Amber...dastardly deeds, murders most foul and rampant couplings of every variety. There are conflicts, dark secrets, adventure and danger..."" R. Craig Hindley

I thoroughly enjoyed Blood, Money, Power from the first page to the last, and the ending was a surprise. It is extremely well written and the best edited novel I've read in many years. I liked the first person perspective from each character and excellent description but not too much. I was carried along effortlessly and felt it totally believable, and yet, was left with several unanswered questions.

Blood, Money, Power is Michele Marie Tate's literary debut, and I would highly recommend it.

The Memoir and the Memoirist
Thomas Larson
Swallow Press/Ohio University Press
Athens, Ohio 45701
9780804011006 $10.00

Lois Wells Santalo

This book "explores the craft and purpose" of memoir writing, and best of all, plunges into the thorniest problem faced by the writer: the question of revelatory truth.

Having taught memoir writing classes to elderly people who wanted to leave a record of their lives to their descendants, I was particularly drawn to this book. I know the problems. Since no one wants to read the boastings of a blowhard about his wonderful ancestors and great accomplishments, there is little reason to write a memoir unless we are willing to tell the unvarnished truth. Our aim must be to recapture the past as closely as possible, while commenting on it from the perspective of the present.

Yet what is the truth? The memoirist is dealing not only with his own truth, shaded by the clouds of time gone by, but the truths of all those who lived the experience with him. His truth may not be their truth. No two people experience the same event in the same way. We remember making our way home through a terrible blizzard from some high school event, yet our family insists it didn't snow at all that week.

To further complicate matters, there is the reluctance of family members to have secrets exposed. Each person harbors a private agenda. If you confess in print that Grandpa was an alcoholic, Aunt Jane and Aunt Ann may never speak to you again. Aunt Cynthia, however, cares little about that, but is anxious that you not reveal the illegitimacy of her daughter's baby.

Yet these matters are at the heart of the family dysfunctions. Because Grandpa was an alcoholic, Uncle John had to quit school early to help support the family, while Uncle Peter ran away at an early age and Aunt Cynthia became a timid person who never dared to try her wings or develop her talents. She later proved to be a restrictive mother whose daughter rebelled - and so on. It all hangs together.

What do you leave out? Unless you focus entirely on a specific subject: My Experiences as a Nurse in Vietnam or My Days as a Teacher at Union High, you will have to wrestle with the issue. If you choose to leave a record of your life and your thoughts, you will face these hard decisions. Yet if you choose not to, you deprive future generations of important insights into who they are. We know ourselves more fully when we know our forebears.

Thomas Larson also addresses the thorny question of what Virginia Woolf calls the I now versus the I then. The person doing the remembering is not the same as the person remembered. The past is always fluid in our minds, and may present itself in quite a different light as time goes by. So what is the "truth?" Is it the way we saw the past yesterday, or ten years ago, or the way we see it today? Who is the rememberer and how do we present him or her?

Larson provides helpful guidelines. The author, he says, tells the story about the person, and needs to keep in mind the distinction between the two.

An invaluable aid for the would-be memoirist, the book is highly recommended.

Millicent Quinones
Jeanette Michelle
Xlibris Corporation
9781441581266 $19.99

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Jeanette Michelle's Millicent Quinones opens as the now pregnant Mycall pushes Angel's stroller through the flower garden. It has been a difficult time for Mycall following the death of Saul; his murder had shaken her badly. Leaving Minneapolis to spend time grieving the loss of the man she hoped to marry had brought Mycall some peace.

Millie's arrival helped fill some of Mycall's lonely hours as she pondered the marriage proposal proffered by Saul's brother Angelo.

With the arrival of a letter for Millie revealing that a family member has been grievously injured Millicent boards a plane for Chicago to be with her family.

The narrative then picks up with a recounting of Millie's early life with her husband Hector. The elopement marriage had taken Millie's family by surprise. Millie hoped her marriage would prove to be as wonderful as she wanted it to be.

Before long Hector borrowed money to buy a small apartment building, Mille began ironing to earn a little extra cash. It wasn't long before Millie discovered lipstick smears on one of Hector's shirts, and the reader is carried along with Millie as she realizes that life may not turn out exactly as she had hoped.

Decision making, the affection of her aunt Big Momma, miscarriage, death of her husband, raising a child alone, a daughter facing problems with the law and more from the people she chooses to allow into her life, drug use, and heart ache are all a part of the tale as we follow Millicent on her life journey.

Writer Michelle writes a quick paced narrative filled with a rousing cast of intriguing characters set against a backdrop of hope, infidelity, skirting along the edge of the law, a missing child, death, and life all wrapped up in the trappings of family and extended family, despair, hope, resolution, and some unexpected twists and turns all of which serve to keep the reader turning the page from the opening chapter right down to the Epilogue.

Michelle indicates Millicent Quinones is a spin off from her first novel Mycall and serves a prequel to Mycall part II. As such, it is suggested that Mycall be read prior to reading Millicent Quinones in order to better understand the characters, pick up the story line and gain a feel for the action and intrigue. The tale will keep the reader guessing and reading to learn what will come next.

Filled with plenty of tension, turmoil and even murder Millicent Quinones is a work of fiction that reads at times much as do the headlines for the evening news. Millicent Quinones is an honorable woman who seems destined to face and resist the influence of heartache, injustice, wickedness and a series of persons more interested in their own desires and wants than in a woman who is ready to help and ask for little in return.

When author Jeanette Michelle first approached me regarding reviewing her writing; she asked whether I would mind reviewing books written from a black perspective. I assured writer Michelle, that despite the fact that I am not black I foresaw no problem. And, I'm pleased to say, that Millicent Quinones has proven to be an exciting read penned by a black female writer using a black voice, presented from a black viewpoint. That having been said; Millicent Quinones presents a storyline sure to capture the interest of readers of dramatic slice of life be they black and not.

Filled with noteworthy persona, writer Michelle crafts a fast paced work of creative writing peopled with true to life characters, first-rate detailed settings, a convincing storyline and a suitable of not all inclusive conclusion. Millicent proves to be a strong, clever woman filled with resolve and fortitude, as is often found in life receives little recognition for it beyond her own family and friend circle.

The rogues of the work are suggestive of occurrences and individuals who fill the evening news now and then.

Happy to recommend Jeanette Michelle's Millicent Quinones for readers who enjoy quick paced slice of life type action drama.

Catch Me if You Dare
L.D. Alan
Muslim Writers Publishing
P.O. Box 27362, Tempe, Arizona 85285
9780981977027 $12.95

Pamela Taylor

I've always enjoyed a good, old-fashioned who-done-it, especially the page burner kind that keeps you reading well past your bed time. Catch Me If You Dare not only drew me in and kept me up late several nights, it brings some interesting elements to the mystery/thriller genre that I had not seen before.

A serial killer on a hate-crime spree in Pheonix, AZ is strangling Muslim women with their own headscarves, leaving behind only chilling post-it notes: 3 of 10, 4 of 10, 5 of 10. The Muslim community is terrified but also wary of law enforcement, who have more often than not viewed the Muslim community with suspicion. The FBI sends in agent Rainey Walker, a consultant who grew up in Phoenix and still has connections to old friends in the Muslim community there, to hunt up some new leads. Tension builds quickly when the investigation explodes into an international, multi-jurisdictional turf battle with the arrival of the intense and charismatic Johnathon Daniels, captain in the US Army and agent for Interpol. Pressure mounts with taunting messages from the killer, and the investigation stymied in a miasma of distrust between local, national and international players.

With several interesting twists, a twinge of romance, and plenty of suspense, Catch Me If You Dare has all the elements of a good read, especially for those who enjoy realistic crime dramas. L.D. Alan served for 26 as a police officer in the Phoenix area, is clearly very familiar with the American Muslim community, and writes about them both with authority.
The book took a little longer getting into the scenario than I would have liked, but once the action started things heated up fast. The tension between the various departments working on the case, and the fact that the reader never knows just how much information was being withheld from Rainey by the people she is trying to work with, thereby leading her perhaps to wrong conclusions, was an interesting side-plot to the serial killer mystery, and added a different dimension to the book than many I have read. I also liked the fact that the serial killer's back story is not only timely, but plausible. The ending, with its promise of more Rainey stories to come, was satisfying, if open-ended. One thing I really liked about this book was that even though it is about a brutal serial killer, most of the gory details were left to the imagination, making it suitable for a teenage audience as well as an adult one.

As a bonus, the author's website,, includes true stories from the years L.D. spent as a police officer. I find these stories to be an interesting adjunct to the book, giving insight into the years of experience that are behind the novel and a way to connect with the writer on a deeper level.

Dracula the Undead
Dacre Stoker
Dutton Adult
9780525951292 $18.00

Valentina Cano

I've been having really bad luck with choosing books lately. I've never had so many books making me want to build a bonfire in my backyard. This is definitely one of the ones I would burn while jumping and singing for joy.

Where to begin?

I wanted to read this book because I truly enjoyed the original Dracula. I didn't really care too much that it was written by Bram Stoker's great grand-nephew, but if anything, I thought he at least would have respect for his great uncle's masterpiece. Boy was I wrong.

There are so many things off with this book. From erroneous characterization (Jonathan Harker as a drunk, really?) to just things that are so unbelievable (like Mina knowing how to drive a car, think about that, a high class woman in Victorian England just knows how to drive?) to completely predictable situations (like Quincey Harker really being Dracula's son, not Jonathan's, which you could see coming from the very first chapter and being told ad nauseum that there was a secret Mina kept from him).

The main villain, Bathory was also a joke. She was completely one dimensional, which made her soooooo evil she was actually funny. Her tantrums are the stuff of sketch comedies.

Dracula was, of course, not dead and he appears as a weak second-rate version of himself. If you loved him in the original, then RUN from this book, because it will screw with your head and mar the way you pictured him.

Stoker, Dacre not Bram, wanted to clarify the mistakes his predecessor made in the historical aspects of Dracula. He actually had Dracula, using the name Basarab, give a fictional Stoker a lecture about the faults in his book. This alone is enough to make you want to throw hot coffee on the book (or at least for me, I actually had to will myself to PUT THE COFFEE DOWN). A little subtlety, Dacre dear, okay?

And then there's the ending. Wow.

Mina becomes a vampire and dies all in the same half hour, it seems. Dracula dies, or so we think...completely set up for a sequel. And then, we see Quincey getting on a ship to New York, and behind him, without him realizing, are two crates with the name Basarab on them which also get on the ship. Can you guess which ship?

That's right, the Titanic. Marinate in that for a bit: vampire Mina, Dracula and their son Quincey on the Titanic. What do you think they'll do when the boat starts sinking?

I guess we'll find out, because he's writing a SEQUEL!

1 (and I'm being generous) out of 5 stars

A Long Way From Chicago
Richard Peck
Puffin Modern Classics
9780142401101 $6.99

Zhangjie Wan

A Long Way from Chicago is a children's novel by Richard Peck, which was rewarded the Newbery Honor in 1999. Set in a small town during the Great Depression, the main characters depicted in this novel - that is, Joey Dowdel, Mary Alice and their Grandma, carry us young readers back to a time where American families faced great challenges. This book takes us on a wonderful journey along with the characters through this period in history.

The stories involve several week-long vacations from 1929 to 1935 with each chapter recounting a different adventure. Two children, Joey Dowdel and his younger sister Mary Alice from the city of Chicago, spend time with their affable and crafty witty grandmother in her small Illinois town. These annual summer visits provide both the brother and sister with unbounded joy and enormous excitement.

Having written over 20 novels, Richard Peck is a prominent writer in America because of his great contributions to modern children's literature. Dedicated to his beloved writing career, he is also fond of traveling around the country, which adds intriguing factors to his books. Besides the numerous awards he has received, his books are strongly recommended by renowned persons and publications.

In search of writing inspiration, Peck drew on his earliest memories of visiting his grandmother in a little town, just like in the novel. "It was, in fact, Cerro Gordo, Illinois. I use that town in my stories, though I never name it, wanting readers to think of small towns they know."

The stories are narrated in a humorous, warm and engaging way, quite suitable for young kids. Joey Dowdel and his younger sister Mary Alice have an adventurous, rough-and-tumble style of life in their hometown, Chicago. This sort of setting teaches young readers about a specific background and the big city serves as a sharp contrast to their blissful rural life with Grandma.

Very popular with young readers, Grandma displays her problem-solving skills and admirable qualities vividly when she is caught up in different amazing situations. When outwitting a silver-tongued banker, she shows great wisdom; as she lets her grandchildren paddle a boat freely in an illegal fishing area, she is a courageous hero; while the whole town is filled with fear of the Cowgill Boy, it is again our Grandma who devises a plot to quiet the disturbance.

Sometimes I feel that the two young characters rise up off the pages and take on life. Joey and Mary Alice also grow up little by little through the stories. Mary Alice, a mischievous child, becomes wiser and more mature. Tears will start from our eyes when Joey has to wave goodbye to the indistinct shape of Grandma in the gloom as his train heads off to the frontline in the last scene.

The novel is worth reading and studying. With specific and vivid descriptions of a small town in America, A Long Way from Chicago reveals that one touch of nature makes the whole world kin and that limitless love binds both Grandma and her kids together. Full of life and pleasure, the figures in the novel live young forever whilst we readers grow old.

Ann's Bookshelf

Proust's Overcoat
Lorenza Foschini, Eric Karpeles, Translator
Portobello Books
Allen & Unwin, PO Box 8500, 83 Alexander St. NSW 2065, Australia
9781846272714, A$29.99

This is a curious little book. It is not so much about Proust's overcoat or about Marcel Proust himself but about a collector, a bibliophile, Jacques Guerin, whose passion for acquiring anything which had belonged to Proust - manuscripts, furniture, photographs, even his old overcoat - reads rather like a detective story.

Guerin was the bastard son of the famous French perfumier, Jeanne-Louise Guerin, whose own story, briefly told in this book, is as complex and fascinating as that of her son. As a young man, Jacques was trained by her as a 'nose' (one whose special olfactory gifts allow them to create unique and enticing perfumes) and he eventually took over the highly successful business of Parfums d'Orsay which she had founded. His real interest, however, and the primary focus of his life, became his growing collection of rare books, manuscripts and other 'treasures': and he had the wealth to indulge this passion.

Lorenza Foschini begins Proust's Overcoat by describing the way in which an interview with costume designer, Piero Tosi, which she undertook for a television programme, led her to Guerin's story. Tosi had begun to work on a Visconti film of Proust's most famous book, In Search of Lost Time. The film was eventually abandoned, but as part of his research Tosi had met Jacques Guerin, had been shown Proust's overcoat, and had heard Guerin's amazing story.

As a young man, Guerin had become a fascinated reader of Proust's books. Then, a bout of appendicitis introduced Dr Robert Proust, Marcel Proust's brother, into his life. Calling on the good doctor after his operation, Guerin was intrigued to learn that the massive and imposing bookcase and desk in the doctor's rooms had been inherited from his brother. He was even more interested to be shown a stack of manuscript notebooks inside the cupboard which comprised the complete works of Marcel Proust.

In 1935, shortly after the announcement of Dr Robert Proust's death, Guerin was exploring an antiquarian bookstore in the Faubourg Saint-Honore when he discovered some proofs annotated by Marcel Proust. Talking to the bookseller about these, he learned that the bookcase and desk which he had seen in the doctor's room were also for sale. He was introduced to a Monsieur Werner, who, over the next few years (and after much prodding and questioning) would sell him many Proust treasures which he had come to own through contact with Dr Robert Proust and his wife, Marthe. The final treasure, which Werner parted with after much delay, reluctance and embarrassment, and which he gave to Guerin free of charge, was a battered and worn overcoat which Mme Marthe Proust had given him to keep him warm when he went fishing. This overcoat, a dark, heavy woolen coat lined with otter fur, had been worn constantly by Marcel Proust from the time it was given to him by a friend in 1901. It had become legendary amongst his friends, because he was always seen in it, even at dinner. Finally, in the days before his death, it had kept him warm as he lay in his bed in unheated rooms (kept cool to help his asthma), pen and notebook held aloft, frantically finishing his masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time. Guerin, of course, was thrilled to have acquired it.

Guerin, writes Foschini, "had a taste for secrets and a love of hidden things". Clearly she shares this love of fossicking out treasures and in this small book she follows Guerin's tracks and tells, beautifully, his story, Monsieur Werner's story, that of Dr Robert Proust and his wife and something, too, of Marcel Proust's life. All of this is brought together by that battered relic, Proust's overcoat, which now resides in a tissue-lined box in the Musee Carnavalet in Paris. Foschini's book contains a number of the photographs of the Proust family which Guerin had collected, and, of course photographs of the coat itself as Foschini saw it, "laid like a shroud at the bottom of the box". It reminded her, she says, of the words in another Marthe, Marthe Bibesco, whose memoir was published in 1978: "At the ball", she wrote, "Marcel Proust sat down in front of me on a little guided chair, as if coming out of a dream, with his fur-lined cloak, his face full of sadness, and his night-seeing eyes". The photograph of Marcel Proust which Foschini includes in her book shows him looking just like this.

Brighton Rock
Graham Green
Random House
9780099478478, A$12.95

"He knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him".

It is many years since I first read Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, but that opening sentence immediately drew me in again. Brighton, being just one hour by train from London, is still the seaside resort to which Londoners flock on hot weekends, public holidays and race-days. The Palace Pier is still almost as Greene described it - a place for strolling couples, deckchairs, amusement arcades and music; and the Aquarium and many of the other places mentioned in the book are still there. But the 1930s slums have been replaced by trendy apartments and the trams no longer run from the Railway Station to the sea. Whether there is still "a nest of criminal activities, centring on its racetrack" (as J.M.Coatzee put it in his Introduction), I have no way of knowing but Greene's chilling young gangster 'Pinky" Brown surely has a modern counterpart amongst the drug-addicted, disaffected youth in any populous city such as Brighton.

Pinky's determination to avenge the death of his gang boss, Kite, and his unwilling but increasingly necessary entanglement with the innocent local girl, Rose, who inadvertently threatens his alibi for murder, is at the centre of the story. With his casual, unfeeling violence, his dislike and distrust of women, his bravado and his repressed sexuality, Pinky is a very unpleasant character. But ranged against him is the indomitable Ida. Big bosomed, sympathetic, fun-loving and easy-loving Ida, with her firm belief in Right and Wrong, is determined to see that justice is done and that Rose is saved from her misguided love and loyalty to Pinky. Ida follows the thread of mystery surrounding the sudden death of her chance acquaintance, Fred (Kolley Kibber) Hale, to the bitter and dramatic end.

From this seemingly simple scenario, Greene wove a gripping story. He intended it to be filmed (and it was) and all the elements of cinema are there in its structure. "When I describe a scene", Greene once told an interviewer, "I work with the camera, following my characters and their movements". In Brighton Rock, this makes for vivid scenes, fast action and sharp dialogue, but there is depth to Green's characters, too, and maybe more to think about(as J.M. Coatzee suggests in his Introduction) that is immediately apparent.

Coatzee's Introduction, however, is prefaced with a spoiler alert: it reveals details of the plot. Predictably, he also discusses Greene's Catholicism and its possible relevance to this story. Greene once rather tetchily said that he wanted to be viewed as an author who happened to be a Catholic, not as a Catholic author, and certainly Catholicism is part of this story (both Pinky and Rose are Catholic) but it is by no means an obvious part of the plot. Nevertheless, Coatzee's comments are worth reading for the different perspective they offer.

Graham Greene was a masterly story-teller and Brighton Rock is still an exciting and enjoyable read. Now, thanks to Random House's new paperback series of Vintage Classics, it is again easily and cheaply available.

Poetry and Childhood
Styles, Joy and Whitley
Trentham Books
Westview House, 734 London Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 5NP, England
9781858564722, 22.99 Brit. pounds

It is almost impossible to write a short review of this book. The essays in it are all of high quality but the range of topics and styles is as broad as the background, cultures and countries of the contributors. The best way of showing the variety and interest of this book is to list its contents at the end of these brief notes.

Gathered in Poetry and Childhood, are papers presented at a conference which took place in 2010 to complement the British Library's exhibition Twinkle, Twinkle, little bat! 250 years of poetry for children. Although the publishers acknowledge that the book is primarily aimed at scholars and teachers, there is something here for anyone who is interested, as they put it, "in poetry and children". Apart from a few essays, where readers who are not familiar with discourses, meta-discourses and signifiers and the jargon of modern literary criticism will be lost, this claim is true. There are historical papers, analytical papers, a fair amount of poetry from different countries (including the USA, Brazil, England and Ireland), some rude playground humour, and a degree of irony about the whole practice of theorising children's poetry (anyone who has enjoyed Frederick Crew's book, The Pooh Perplex will enjoy David Rudd's dealings with Humpty Dumpty).

That there is no consensus between writers on what defines children's poetry is as apparent in the title, Poetry and Childhood, as it is in the essays themselves. However, the two poets whose pieces bookend the collection, tackle the question in different ways and both write from their own experiences of sharing poetry with children. Michael Rosen, a former British Children's Laureate, reminisces about his own childhood and young adulthood and the influence of his immigrant parents on his love of poetry. He tells of (and demonstrates with some of his poems) the ways in which having to read his poems to children changed him and his poems. Philip Gross writes of the need for 'alongsidedness": the need for adults and children to share and enjoy the reading and writing of poetry. He offers practical advice on how to go about this; and he presents some of the results of a poetry-writing exercise he shared with conference participants.

Understandably, in such a wide ranging selection, there are a few writers who seem to lose touch with the essential imagination and fun of the poetry itself. But in spite of the rather ponderous titles listed in the Contents (below), many of the essays are interesting, informative and full of curious details.


Foreword by Andrew Motion.
Introduction: Taking the Long View of the State of Children's Poetry Today.


Theory, Texts and contexts: A Reading and Writing Memoir - Michael Rosen
Confronting the Snark: The Non-Theory of Children's Poetry - Peter Hunt
What Is Children's Poetry? Children's Views of Children's Poetry - Stephen Miles
Ted Hughes and the 'Old Age of Childhood' - Lissa Paul


'Childish Toys' for Boys with Beards: John Bunyan's A Book for Boys and Girls - Pat Pinsent
'Those first affections': Wordswoth and Mournful Adolescence - Louise Joy
'The Land of Play': Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses - Shaun Holland
A.A Milne's Poetic World of Childhood in When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six - Jean Webb
'The Penny Fiddle' and Poetic Truth - Michael Joseph
'A child, barefoot: alone': Innocence in Charles Causley's Poetry - Debbie Pullinger
'Not Not Nursery Rhymes' and 'Not Not Lullabies': How Carol Ann Duffy and Porarinn Eldjarn Refurnish the Nursery - Olga Holownia


Humpty Dumpty and the Sense on an Unending - David Rudd
'If it rhymes, it's funny': Theories of humour in Children's Poetry - Karen Coats
Children's Oral Poetry: Identity and Obscenity - C.W. Sullivan III
Poetry in Children's Annuals - Victor Watson
Wicked Thoughts: Fairy-tale Poetry for Children and Adults - Laura Tosi


Anthropomorphism Dressed and Undressed in Beatrix Potter's Rhymes and Riddles - Lorraine Kerslake
Once upon a time in the realms of Eden: Children's Poetry in Brazil - Telma Franco Diniz
Animal Poems and Children's Rights in America, 1820-1890 - Angela Sorby
'Imaginary gardens with real toads in them': Animals in Children's Poetry - David Whitley


Poets in the Making: Ted Hughes, Poetry and Children - Peter Cook
Articulating the Auditory Imagination: When Children Talk About Poetry They Hear - John Gordon
The Affordances of Orality for young People's Experience of Poetry - Joy Alexander
Exploring Poetry Teachers: Teachers Who Read and Readers Who Teach Poetry - Teresa Cremin


Playing with words: Two children's Encounters with Poetry from Birth - Virginia Lowe
Writing Alongside at the Poetry and Childhood Conference - Philip Gross

Ann Skea

Bethany's Bookshelf

Receiving David
Faye Knol
Wm B. Eerdmans
2140 Oak Industrial Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802865434, $15.00,

Through the worst infancy, he emerged alive, and that's all they could ask for. "Receiving David: The Gift of a Son Who Taught Us How To Live and Love" is a memoir of Faye Knol and family as they face down adversity, giving birth to their son David who wasn't suppose to live. Even with disability, they state the joy they have experienced and the lessons that have been learned. "Receiving David"" is a fascinating read and is very highly recommended.

The Crooked Cross
Helga Tucque
Privately Published
9780986640704, $24.95

After the fall of Germany in World War II, many people found themselves displaced. "The Crooked Cross" tells the story of Helga Tucque, and her fate surrounding Germany's fall and the arrival of the Russian army. Telling the story of what Germans faced as their country was split and the cruelty of the Russians, "The Crooked Cross" provides some insight that is rarely heard of.

Even Sunflowers Cast Shadows
Douglas Armstrong
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450258739, $18.95,

The best of intentions can go horribly astray. "Even Sunflowers Cast Shadows" tells the story of helpful and driven Emma Starkey and her life in small town Kansas in the 1920s. A coming of age tale of young life, family, friends, community, and the will to do good, "Even Sunflowers Cast Shadows" is a fine novel filled with fascinating characters, highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Mark Allan Gunnells
TZF Books
c/o Apex Publications
PO Box 24323, Lexington, KY 40524
9780984553563, $9.95

There are those who would love to be locked away with plenty of cute guys, but not like this. "Asylum" takes a spin on the zombie invasion with a gay twist, as Curtis and Jimmy find themselves locked away at the Asylum, a gay club, as zombies begin to ravage the club and leave the party goers doing something that is most definitely not partying. "Asylum" is a fun read, and very highly recommended.

Shadow Walkers
Brent Hartinger
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738723648, $9.95,

To find his brother, Zach will literally risk his soul. "Shadow Walkers" tells of Zach, a young man who embraces his skill with Astral Projection to search for those who took his little brother Gilbert. Meeting with Emory along the way, time ticks as something much older than all of them threatens not only to devour Zach's very being, but everything around him as well. With a positive message for gay youth, "Shadow Walkers" is a fine collection for many a young reader.

The Symphony of Leif
Paul Y. Csige
Privately Published
9781603650045, $14.95

In desperation, one often makes mistakes you regret even more later. "The Symphony of Leif"" is the story of Leif, a young man who in order to escape home, finds himself in a Scientology school. Faced with the horrors that the Scientology school holds along with it, Leif realizes that becoming an adult in this avenue was a mistake and holds on to what few friends he can find. "The Symphony of Leif"" is a fascinating tale, very highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

My Heart is a Mountain
Catherine Holm
Holy Cow! Press
PO Box 3170, Mount Royal Station, Duluth, MN 55803
9780982354551, $15.00,

America's mountains and forests take a special type of individual to call them home. "My Heart is a Mountain: Tales of Magic and the Land" is a collection of short stories along with some memoir from Catherine Holm as she speaks and reflects on mountain life and its special breed of challenge and the exhilaration that comes with it. A fascinating and insightful short fiction collection, "My Heart is a Mountain" is very highly recommended.

Catcher, Caught
Sarah Collins Honenberger
Amazon Encore
PO Box 81226, Seattle, WA 98108-1226
9781936697100, $14.95,

A life without knowing who one is a life wasted. "Catcher, Caught" tells the story of terminal teenager Daniel London wants to understand his own identity before he bites the dust all too soon. A story of facing death, coming of age, and embracing what little time you have, "Catcher, Caught" is a fine novel with inspiration drawn from J.D. Salinger's classic, "Catcher in the Rye".

My Dream
Sharon Clarkson
SClarkson Books
PO Box 178, Cheltenham, MD 20623
9781450741644, $12.95,

A determined spirit is something that proves highly contagious. "My Dream: Book of Poems, Inspirational and Heart Warming" is a collection of musings and poetry from Sharon Clarkson who hopes her thoughts will drive others to their own successes. "My Dream" is thoughtful and worth considering. "Don't Care?": Don't ask me why I don't care/When I'm in the middle/of Despair//And I have a husband/That is rarely there/Don't ask me why I don't care.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Storme Business Center
Julia E. Antoine
Privately Published
9780972878906, $30.00

The business world can seem like a highly intimidating place. "Storme Business Center" is an educational guide aimed at those who are breaking into the business world, on what is expected by those in the professional world of business, no matter what the profession's call for at a higher level. "Storme Business Center" is a thoughtful and useful workbook for those who are entering a very business driven career.

54 Simple Truths with Brutal Advice
Michael Wash
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9780953644841, $16.95

Honesty isn't always the nicest thing in the world, but other times, it is the nicest thing in the world. "54 Simple Truths with Brutal Advice: How to Face the Challenges of the Life" is an inspirational book from Michael Wash as he reminds us all that we're all vulnerable, prone to mistakes, and will do many things we regret - and that it's okay. With its wisdom and frankness, "54 Simple Truths with Brutal Advice" may be the advisory guide those who struggle to cope with life need.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Winds of Fate
Caitlyn Hunter
L&L Dreamspell
Hunter, TX
9781603182843 $11.95

After her Cherokee grandmother's death, Schuyler Lambert finds a list of women's names with their dates of birth and death. What bothers Schuyler is her name is the last one on the list with a message to her to "challenge the winds of Fate". Schuyler goes to Cherokee, NC hoping to find answers and there meets a mysterious man who communicates with her telepathically. Josh Harlan tells Schuyler they've been together through six lifetimes in the past, spanning over two hundred years, relaying to her the legend of Blowing Rock and the roles he and she played in that saga which has destined them to be separated each lifetime through an early death. This lifetime, their seventh, is the last chance they will have to prove to Fate that they should be allowed to be together but they only have a short time to accomplish this before Schuyler is doomed to die. Will they be able to reverse their ultimate destiny?

Caitlyn Hunter excels at spinning intriguing romantic tales based on Native American legends. Her characters are vivid and heartwarming and so likeable the reader will be vested in their quest to change their doomed destiny. The romance sizzles in a story that is magical and sweet and too good to put aside. This excellent book is not just for romance readers but for all who like an exceptional story written in prose with a beautiful poetic cadence, taking the reader on a romantic adventure filled with enchantment and suspense.

Morning Menace: Book One of the Menace Trilogy
Terri Ann Armstrong
Amazon Digital Services
B003QMKVWG $0.99 (ebook)

John Grayson and his wife Rose are owners of JRW Stables, which has been in existence since 1841, passed down through the Grayson generations. Since John's heart attack, his son Bo helps run the successful horse-breeding farm, along with John's good friend Frank. When minor things start happening around the farm, such as missing farm supplies, John and Bo are stymied, but not too suspicious. However, when thirty-eight brood mares are brutally murdered, the entire family is up in arms without a clue as to who would harbor such hatred. While the police investigate, the Graysons draw together to support one another and try to figure out who is behind recent events. When their barn is burned to the ground, Frank's body inside, things take a sinister turn, the Graysons unaware the next intended victim is one of them.

Armstrong pens a very nice mystery here, expertly leaving the reader in the dark until the ultimate revelation as to the murderer. She also places a mystery woman in the book that doesn't seem, at first, to fit into the story yet becomes an important aspect. The unexpected twist at the end ensures readers will be anxious for the next installment in this intriguing trilogy.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

Pearl A Life Too Short: A Death Too Long
Darlene Cox
Outskirts Press, Inc.
9781432766368 $19.95

"Pearl" is Darlene Cox's third self-published novel. Other books written are "A Little Bit of Larceny" and "Web of Deceit". A fourth novel will be out in November, 2011 and is the sequel to "Web of Deceit."

Faircloth, Virginia was a small and peaceful town where everyone knew and trusted each other, so it seemed, until a young beautiful woman was found by two young boys beaten to death in Jacobs Gully partially buried under a pile of leaves. Her name was Pearl and she was 28 years old. Possible suspects in her murder would prove to be many. Faircloth's Sheriff Atherton and his small staff of deputies would have their hands full.

Pearl was a free-spirited woman who was married to a much older man who owned a Cadillac dealership and she was well taken care of by him. She drove around often at night in her Cadillac convertible with the top down, hair blowing in the wind, anytime and anyplace she felt like it often speeding down the highway. The authorities were perplexed about her death. They wondered if she may have had a flat tire and someone gave her a lift, or maybe she picked up a hitchhiker. She was a kind person and they figured she might have known her killer.

The investigation is most intriguing as the cast of characters lure you into the plot keeping you guessing as the clues unfold.

In addition, to the brutal death of Pearl, the charred remains of an unknown young woman were found in an abandoned house adding more suspense, more secrets, and more questions. The story gets complicated, picks up speed, and authorities believe these two murders may be connected as many townspeople became suspect.

For a small town, the investigation was an exhausting task with only a few deputies and a medical examiner's office. The search for the murder weapon that killed Pearl had been determined to be a small rock with possible blood splatters on it that would become a grueling chore to find in the woods surrounding the crime area. And, the medical examiner was a well-known drinker who would be too slow in giving the results of his findings regarding the DNA and autopsy reports. Onlooker's footprints and tire tracks ruined valuable evidence that could have been helpful to the forensic team. Hours and hours were spent on the road and in the woods looking for a bloody rock and Pearl's Cadillac which had been missing since the day she died. Most interesting, her car was a valuable clue needed to help solve the crime.

To add to the mysteries, a third woman was found on the shoulder of the highway badly beaten and left in a 'catatonic state.' The plot gets murky and leads become dead ends.

Darlene Cox has once again created a classic "who done-it" tale pulling the reader along guessing at every turn, with a surprise ending. This book is highly recommended.

Kids Teach Yoga Flying Eagle
Lynea and Jim Gillen
Three Pebble Press, LLC
097992894X $18.00

Is Yoga only for those Indian Mystics who practice it for spiritual and peaceful tranquility? Or is it useful for helping calm those children who are afflicted with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) by helping them focus their attention on how to be calm through the Flying Eagle?

This 21 minute DVD stars Haley, a 12-year-old who is poised and graceful as she leads a group of boys and girls (ages 4-11) on an easy and fun yoga adventure.

What was impressive is the setting where the children were doing their exercises. Grass and trees abound as the children commence their simple yoga poses and exercise activities. These are specifically designed to show them how they can calm themselves in order to develop strength, focus, caring, and other virtues of the eagle.

Lynea Gillen, one of the producers, is a school counselor and yoga teacher with 35 years of practice in yoga. She developed new ways of using yoga breathing techniques and poses to help children in the school's "behavior classroom" calm themselves and focus.

What makes this DVD outstanding is that the major portion is led by Haley. This young lady is able to command the attention of youngsters in an unobtrusive way. Sometimes, as adults, we can be a little overbearing, especially with ADHD children. Using Haley as an instructor, a peer of the class, is what gains the trust and admiration from her students and clearly shows in the video.

There are two bonus features in the video which were unexpected. One is a presentation by Audubon Naturalist, Steve Engel, who presented the beauty of the Grand Canyon and soaring eagles that show the calming effect they can have on children.

Another feature was that of Dr. Jeff Sosne, an expert on ADHD who teaches one important eagle skill - focus- by engaging the children in a game designed for classrooms and home to develop eye contact and improve concentration.

This DVD is highly recommended for those parents who are seeking to improve their skills in working with their children who have ADHD. Also, there is available a book written by Lynea Gillen titled Yoga Calm for children. Visit the organization's website at for more information

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

The Power Based Life
Mike Flynt
Thomas Nelson
Nashville, Tennessee
9781401604349 $14.99

The Power Based Life, by Mike Flynt, is a self-help book with a spiritual twist. Flynt writes to an audience who would appreciate sport analogies to realize one's real life goals and dreams. He is a strength training coach and writes about twelve 'power based' strategies to strengthen one's body, mind, and spirit using a fitness guide. He incorporates Biblical verses to reinforce his strategies.

The book seems to be of most value as a first self-help book for someone needing guidance physically, mentally, and spiritually. As for the avid reader, it does not contain any new information or 'a-ha' moments. For example, most know to 'play to one's strengths, strive for a positive attitude, and change one's adversities to work for us vs. against us.' The book just adds a Biblical verse to these 'power bases' for the reader.

I would recommend this book to a younger audience who may not have read self-help books before and who enjoys sport analogies. It certainly is not a bad book, just another run of the mill book for realizing one's life goals and dreams.

On Hallowed Ground
Robert M. Poole
Walker & Company
New York
9780802715487 $28.00

On Hallowed Ground, by Robert M. Poole, bestows upon readers deep emotions and realizations that will be engrained forever. Poole begins with informing readers of the history of Arlington National Cemetery: Robert E. Lee owned Arlington, Virginia's plantation during the Civil War. Even if one is versed in this era of history, something new is learned in every chapter. For example: the year Taps became official, appearing in the U.S. Army Infantry Drill Regulations in 1891.

Not all the history of Arlington makes us proud. Poole tells many stories from the Civil War to present day. The reader needs to keep in mind the time frame to empathize with decisions made. Poole is thorough and the facts complete the reader's prior knowledge.

Poole states there are more than 300,000 bodies buried at Arlington. Millions of visitors have experienced the ceremonies conducted on the grounds over time. Even if one has not personally lost a loved one in a war, the visit is emotionally draining. Pondering over those who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms, while standing on the sacred grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, is what Poole describes with such inspirational storytelling expertise.

I recommend this book for every American. I think young adults would benefit from a parent reading it to them. I feel obligated to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. I did not feel as strongly about making this trip before reading On Hallowed Ground. Robert. M. Poole has heightened my awareness to experience this in my lifetime with hopes Arlington will never run out of space.

Long Way Home
Bill Barich
Walker & Company
New York
9780802717542 $26.00

Long Way Home, by Bill Barich, left me wondering if the book would be more entertaining if written at a different time in history. The idea for his cross-country journey was sparked when Barich unexpectedly came across the book, Travels in Ireland. He decided to return to the U.S. and chronicle his journey while talking with Americans about the state of the country, much like John Steinbeck's, Travels with Charley.

Barich is critical of some small town Americans. He seems to take too much pleasure in writing about the shortfalls of those he interviewed. On the other hand, he does highlight other Americans and shares their positive stories and views, also taking pleasure in his research.

I thought there would be more thought provoking stories in the book. I find it difficult to review because there was not much substance to it. When I finished reading it, I have nothing to think about it. I find that undesirable.

I would recommend the book for a quick read if you had no other book available. It is an okay read, but not very stimulating.

February The Fifth
by Derek Haines
Create Space
1456344374 $14.95

February The Fifth, is the first book I have read by Derek Haines. It was an easy read with slight touches of science fiction and comedy throughout. There was no shortage of characters, some of whom the reader would most definitely relate to thereby making the book more enjoyable.

I think young adults would be the target audience for Derek's book. The learning curve for the characters unexpected responsibility and out of this world (literally) adventures would be enjoyed most by middle-school age children. I can picture the variety of favorite characters and the children's reasoning for their choices as a productive writing project. The book is rich with description for both characters and places that would undoubtedly spark children to improve their writing skills. What a great compliment to an author!

As an adult and inspiring writer, I was greatly impressed with the ending. Derek's words in his last paragraph, his last two sentences, could not have been written more perfectly to end this entertaining story.

The most loyal of loyal readers.

Mary Crocco

Daniel's Bookshelf

Plea of Insanity
Jilliane Hoffman
Vanguard Press
Division of the Perseus Group
387 Park Avenue South, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10016
9781593155070 $25.95

I have been tracking this author's work from her first book Retribution. I have never been disappointed with her clever twists of legal fiction. There are many female writers with legal backgrounds, but her experience as an Assistant State Attorney for four years and a Regional Law Advisor for the Florida Department Law Enforcement advising special agents. This involved cases on complex investigations including narcotics, homicide and organized crime definitely give her an edge on storylines and background to rely on with her plots.

Young ambitious prosecutor Julia Vacanti is facing a case that could be helpful to her career and put her on the court system map. The defendant a successful Miami surgeon and devoted family man is accused of murdering his wife and three small children. A plea is entered for him of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. This model husband and perfect father seemingly has just snapped one terrible night which the police have uncovered a horrific crime scene. It is hard to tell if he is guilty or feinting this for some other reason. The defense team claims schizophrenia that drove him to slaughter his entire family.

The state feels this defense is fabricated and he was cold-blooded and calculating in this act. If guilty Marquette faces the death penalty, and if found insane he could eventually walk free after some treatment. Julia must find a way to bring the killer to the righteous justice which falls into the mind of madness herself that has brought up her past. This was a struggle she has tried to forget for fifteen years. So she has to surpass this problem and learn to lead her into her own future while trying to prosecute someone who it's uncertain whether he is truly guilty of this crime or not.

Jilliane Hoffman is now the author of four legal thrillers including the already mentioned Retribution, Last Witness and Pleas of Insanity. This book Is her third, and I have noticed an impressive researched legal thriller. Each book she writes has an identify of it's own, timely with current problem themes that show case her knowledge. I mostly compare her to Karen Slaughter as her stories seem so intensely authentic. I will be patiently waiting for her next book when she finishes it hopefully in the not too distant future.

Pretty Little Things
Jilliane Hoffman
Vanguard Press
Division of Perseus Books Group
387 Park Avenue South, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10016
9781593156077 $25.95

I was happy to see this book nestled in the confines of the library used book sales, so I picked this up to keep current with one of my favorite authors of the legal fiction genre'. I have read many male authors in the field and Jilliane Hoffman is one of the best of these type of thrillers covering current problems in society today. I compare her stories following the bestselling authors like Karin Slaughter, and others too many to mention.

A young 13 year old teenager Lainey Emerson disappears, and the police are notified of her missing. They are familiar with the home, because that it already has one older sister in trouble had trouble with the law. They dismiss the disappearance, because they consider this is an another case of a runaway girl from South Florida who is disillusioned with suburban drama, and unhappy with her home life.

The FDLE Special Agent Bobby Dees, who heads up the department's difficult Crimes Against Children Squad (CAC) has other ideas about her disappearance. He is nicknamed "The Shepherd" by his colleagues because he has an uncanny knack to find the missing and bring them back home either dead or alive. Bobby investigate Lainey's computer and one 'down to earth' talk with one best friends to find out she was involved with a secret internet relationship. Bobby gathers through his checking that she was the victim of an online predator. He then learns she might not be the only one, that might be the victim. The faceless monster from cyberspace seeks an audience for his crimes, and he appears to be watching Bobby Dees every move on the case. Bobby has his own demon to face as this investigation unravels. His own teenage daughter has vanished from his life. So Bobby is drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the most prolific killer he has ever met in his work. The point he to get to is to find the victims, before the killer eliminates them to add to his growing body count.

Jilliane Hoffman is now the author of four books including Retribution, Last Witness, Pleas of Insanity and Pretty Little Things. Her background as an Assistant State Attorney and Regional Law Advisor for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement advising special agents. This gives her unique and excellent experience to give the reader an insider knowledge second to none. I will have to be patient for the next offering when the next book hits the bookstores. I know her effort will keep me in a loop of a fine story with clever twists with a current issue of law enforcement and legality, that will dazzle me with its relevance.

Daniel Allen

Edward's Bookshelf

The Legacy of Aaron Geist
Terry L. Durbin
7290 Investment Dr., Unit B, North Charleston, SC 29418
9781456512989 $12.99

With The Legacy of Aaron Geist (CreateSpace, December 2010, 360 pp.), Terry Durbin joins the ranks of others such as Stephen King and Anne Rice who have attempted to take the vampire story and give it a historical perspective from a modern viewpoint. Like King's Salem's Lot, this is a modern tale of an old vampire, Aaron Geist, who comes to settle in a small town in the U.S. Like Rice's Interview With The Vampire, we are given the historical tale behind this vampire dating back, in this case, to 1852.

For most of the novel, the story is really two stories running in parallel. The first tells us about Aaron Geist as he travels from the Old World of gypsies on a slave ship to America. Once in America, his toady, Kalman Geist (no relation to Aaron but allowed to call himself his son), sets up a new life in a mansion in southern Illinois.

The second story is a flash forward to modern times and centers around Hank and Ernie, two young men who go on a cave diving adventure in the same cave where Aaron Geist has been imprisoned by the community he preyed upon some 160 years prior. They are lead to this cave by the ghost of Kalman Geist, who is still hard at work for his boss.

Eventually the tales converge, and it's left to one of the boys not only to avenge his friend who's been consumed by Aaron Geist, but to inadvertently avenge all the others who died so many years prior at the same hands (and teeth!). Whether or not he succeeds, you'll have to find out for yourself as you read the novel.

But I think Durbin takes a risk by running what seems to be two different stories at the same time. Not that he doesn't keep the suspense going in both, but the reader realizes at some point the tales must have an impact on each other and waiting for this to happen tends to slow the narrative. So, I'm not sure his risk paid off.

Also, I'm not sure the character of Aaron Geist was explored to the depth he could have been. In many ways, rather than fleshing him out as a person, Durbin leaves the very namesake of the novel to a rather amorphous description of a monster. But there may be a reason for that. After all, Durbin masterfully spins a tale of good and evil that explores the very concept of the vampire as an archetype that today many readers cannot get enough of.

Why are we so attracted to the vampire? Long before Bram Stoker explored this creature in Dracula, tales have been told about the vampire. I think Terry Durbin adds to our understanding of this archetype in that he consistently has Aaron Geist referring to humans as "meat." And even more telling is when one of his characters, Father Harper, attempts to stop one of the boys from going after Aaron Geist by saying:

"I understand there is evil in all of us, son." [Father] Behan had stopped lighting the candles and stood watching the priest lecture the boy. A small flame danced at the tip of the thin splinter of wood he carried. "Evil is not something we can point to and say, 'There it is! Destroy it!'," Harper said. "We must all recognize the evil in ourselves and fight that."

Thus, in Durbin's novel, the vampire comes to represent the abandonment of our recognition of evil as a potential within us all. It represents our ability to dehumanize others, and then to use them to strengthen ourselves, to feed on them. Therefore, it is not the vampires outside we need to fear but the vampire within.

Terry Durbin adds significantly to the understanding of the vampire as a psychological archetype within the human mind. His tale is suspenseful, his prose beautiful, and his take on the classic vampire story is not to be missed.

Bryan Smith
Bitter Ale Press
B004NIFHD0 $2.99 Amazon Kindle E-book

In Bryan Smith's latest novel, "Darkened" (Formerly titled: "Deadworld," Bitter Ale Press, February 2011), Yin and Yang are having an earth-shattering domestic dispute - literally. The primordial forces of good and evil, light and dark, God and Satan, however you label them, have ripped through the fabric of reality and entered our world to vie for dominance.

Flying reptilian demons, disease, and the general sociopathic nature of humanity combine to eliminate all but a handful of survivors - and even they are distilled down to two by the end of the novel.

Smith successfully weaves humor, horror, suspense, and revulsion in this gothic gross out, achieving what eventually becomes a dark social commentary. And Smith is no amateur when it comes to writing good stories in pulp fiction. He has nine other novels to his credit including "Rock and Roll Reform School Zombies" and "The Dark Ones," but "Darkened" is the first put out by his own publishing company, Bitter Ale Press, and unlike his other books this one is available only through Amazon as a Kindle e-book.

Regardless whether it's in print or e-ink, I found myself wishing I could see a movie based on this story. Smith's brilliant hell-on-acid descriptions of the world's demolition belong up on the big screen in modern CG. But inasmuch as this novel surpasses the shock and horror of William Blatty's, "The Exorcist," moviegoers may not be ready to dig into the popcorn for this one just yet. It's a bit too x-rated for Cinemark.

Not only is there a lot of blood and guts, but the sex is pretty much in your face and in all five senses as well - most of it in the form of rape. In fact the book borders on a theatre of the misogynistic. Granted, a balance is struck by the brutal treatment of Zeke the newscaster at the hands of the psychopathic femdom Mary Lou, but even that sex-and-violence fest may be just another way of placing women in a bad light.

Yet in spite of the violence, graphic sex, and people eating their own appendages, a truly disturbing truth is revealed as the pages flip by. We are never given a reason why all the buildings, cars, and non-organic objects of the world are deteriorating at an accelerated rate once the action begins, but in a statement the evil god character makes near the end of the book to Emily (the songwriter/bartender), the mystery is revealed.

In one of the more viscous gore/sex scenes, he thunders at her when she won't submit to him saying, "I am the destroyer of worlds and the lord of the wastelands! You will not mock me!" This is an obvious reference to the Bhagavad Gita where Arjuna begs Krishna to show him his universal form, and Krishna says, "I have become Time, the destroyer of worlds."

Thus in Smith's story we read a hidden parable showing us the evil humanity constantly battles is really time, and time is in fact the destroyer of all worlds - eventually. Just as in the end, when the narrator questions his reason for even writing a book chronicling the events of a dead world, so we must question our daily reason for doing anything in the face of advancing time, which ultimately destroys us all.

Given the deep theme, moral, and symbolism inherent in "Darkened," it would have been nice to see a master storyteller like Smith treat it more literarily instead of as a voyeuristic sex and violence pulp show. Nevertheless, you get what you pay for when it comes to "Darkened."

If you want suspenseful, fast-reading gothic gore, you've got it. If you want to contemplate the story for its deeper allegorical meaning, you've got that too. Either way, you'll be holding your breath for his next novel and reading all his others while you wait.

David Russell
Stygian Publications
9780982496985 $14.95

"Samhane" (Stygian Publishing, December 2010) is a wild ride through the landscape of gothic gore. Living and writing in a land down under, Daniel I. Russell has delivered up a bloodstained gothic action thriller with a Mad Max pace.

This is the story of two men with an axe to grind in the English town of Samhane: Donald is looking for his fiance who's been kidnapped by a sadistic killer and taken there to lure Donald in as well; the other is Brian and his ten-year-old son, Sam, who've been solicited by the mayor to exterminate some rather nasty monsters that have popped up in the township.

What neither realizes is that Samhane is the demonic hub of The Order, an underworld, monster-producing cult lead by the story's villain, Mr. Belvedere. When they finally do come to understand what's behind the evil of Samhane, blood gets spilled - not to mention a great deal of organ meat, brain matter, muscle tissue, stomach contents - well, you get the picture.

Be warned, however: this is not a novel for your high schooler's book report, unless you want him permanently expelled that is. Russell has no problem mixing explicit erotic sex with ultra-violent gore. Like a literary psychopath, he never backs off the horror for a second, choosing instead to focus in close during the rape, torture, and dismemberments of his minor characters.

Speaking of which, the characters may seem a little shallow in this novel, but you can't move along the highway to hell at an AC/DC pace without the characters shedding a little weight along the way. But that's not to say the story itself is entirely superficial.

The word Samhane denotes a festival celebrated by neopagans, and a festival of neopaganism in this novel stands as a central symbol for the worship of God in a way that is different from that of traditional religions. The selection of the title, therefore, in my view, is a clue to the reader that just as the followers of The Order in the book worship Zandathru, the God of Chaos (making order from chaos being inherently hypocritical), so too, traditional religions have an inherent contradiction that makes them inevitably hypocritical, themselves. Ultimately, The Order in Samhane produces monsters just as traditional religions often produce monstrous people.

But don't let such academics distract you. If you like your eroticism served up in an unhealthy helping of gore and violence, the 304 pages of this book will be a real treat. Personally, I wanted to vomit more than once while reading Samhane - and for all the right reasons. It gets to you on a gut level.

The chapters are short and end with suspenseful cliffhangers, the dialog is plentiful, and the descriptions highly effective. I would like to have seen this book published as a mass-market paperback rather than in its 6 X 9 format, and I would've like to read it in a Kindle edition which is currently unavailable. Also, at $14.95, the publisher might be missing the price point for maximum sales. But even so, if you want a decent fast-paced horror story, it's worth picking up a copy. The pages just about turn themselves!

David L. Samuel
David Samuel via Kindle Books
ASIN: B004NEVS7S $4.99 Amazon Kindle E-book

Few horror novels are courageous enough to cross the bridge between literature and genre fiction. Literature is more character-oriented, and genre is more plot-oriented. "Nightwolf," however, by David L. Samuel (Kindle Books, February 2011), dares to go where angels (and most werewolves for that matter) fear to tread. I'm not sure he successfully navigates this treacherous territory.

"Nightwolf" starts out with a suspenseful sighting of a wolf that is beyond imagination, until it's caught on videotape. But at that point, the author flashes back into a coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old boy named Danny Correll who loses his mother in an auto accident and moves in with his aunt and uncle in Tennessee.

We are then treated to the next nine years of Danny's life as he moves through high school and overcomes such difficulties as bullying, peer pressure, and the ignorance of all things manly that his uncle David eventually teaches him, such as how to fight, hunt, play sports, pick up girls, etc.

He becomes quite successful at all these things, but on a hunting trip to Canada, a wolf bites him and his transformation into a werewolf begins.

The good news is he has complete control over when he changes into a werewolf and when he changes back into a man. For the most part he prefers being a werewolf. He often sneaks out at night and changes into a werewolf so he can hunt for deer, rabbits, and other assorted forest creatures au naturel - that is until the day his uncle and great-uncle are brutally murdered. Then he uses his power to make "The Change" for an altogether different reason.

There are no English moors or silver bullets, no "Blue Moon" by the Marcels, no single nurses in London, and no pentagrams in the Slaughtered Lamb. This is a story of a werewolf almost no one cares to notice. Nevertheless, Samuel explores the nature of the predator, and does so from the point of view of a hunter, a murderer, and a werewolf all in a way that would make this novel acceptable to a young adult audience.

Granted, you'll be the one flipping the pages; it may get hard to do at times; they aren't going to flip themselves, but what Nightwolf offers that other werewolf stories do not is a truly in-depth look at all the characters involved. And if it becomes one of a series of books by this author (which a rather exciting ending leaves open to possibility), "Nightwolf" will provide an essential backdrop to those future, hopefully more plot-driven, narratives.

If you like werewolf stories, this is one you should consider.

Edward Gordon

Gary's Bookshelf

Angry Candy
Harlan Ellison
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452263352, $12.99

In the 1960's a different type of science fiction genre emerged. It was called New Wave because numerous authors wrote about new concepts such as sex in science fiction that had not been touched on before. Three names are identified with this group of writers. Norman Spinrad, Philip Jose Farmer, and Harland Ellison. This is another great collection of short stories. There is a vast wealth of short fiction here. Twelve of the seventeen stories have only been published in this collection. The others have been in collections and magazines such as Gallery, Playboy and Omni. There are stories of science fiction, horror, fantasy, and other genres. In "Paladin of the Lost Hour" a young Vietnam vet saves an old man's life as muggers attack in a cemetery. In "When Auld Acquaintances is Forgot" a man becomes overdrawn at a memory bank Ellison is a master storyteller who blends into one collection some of the best stories anyone can ever read.

Blood Legacy
Prudence Foster
1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, In 47403
9780595237203 $18.95

This is a chilling tale of a vampire who comes to a Florida city and preys upon the people who live there. The vamp is in search of one woman and won't leave until he has her. Foster is a very talented master of the genre. Her writing comes alive as the dialogue crackles. She spins her web very craftily. "Blood Legacy" is a thrilling shivering gem of horror excitement that should be read with all of the lights on or the demons will come and get you.

Computer Legends, Lies & Lore,
Iris Forrest Editor
Ageless Press Sarasota, Florida

Computes are the target and 37 authors take their creative potshots at them in a great collection of short stories. Some read like tales from the "Twilight Zone" to warnings to readers to beware of the effect of the machines on our society. This is a fun collection that is perfect for any occasion

Murder A La Carte
Prudy Taylor Board
Worldwide Mystery
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780373265732 $5.99

I've read Ms. Board's horror novels and am delighted to say that this is a darling tale that is the first of a series of Clyde Colby mysteries. The novel is fun reading fare for genre fan. But also encompasses the fine art of cooking. The novel is told on several different levels with wonderful likable characters and a plot that just moves along to its revealing end. One of the things I very much enjoyed is that we get to see what it takes to produce a cooking show for television, while at the same time former journalist Clyde Colby now TV star has her crime reporter skills kick in at the first murder and all through the rest of the story as the bodies pile up. As and added bonus there are numerous recipes and they appear to be quite delightful. Board and Colby are off to a wonderful start with this charming first book.

Fresh and Saltwater Gamefish Cookbook
Robert Anderson
Winner Enterprises
9780932855336, $16.95 www,

In the search to be healthy Americans are paying more attention to an often overlooked food source: fish. Fish offers a nutritional diet that is low in calories and saturated fats. Accompanied with fresh fruits and vegetables it makes a truly wonderful weight reducing plan that is not a fad but a whole new way of eating. The author states that the old expression "Eat Seafood, live longer" has new meaning today. The book deals with the proper amount of protein, minerals, vitamins, fats and carbohydrates that he human body needs on a daily basis. Fish is one that fills the fill for all the body can use. The book names all types of fish, telling the calories, content, where it swims, whether a fresh water or saltwater kind. There are also cooking suggestions such as deep frying, broiling, microwave or barbecuing. But no book on the subject would be complete without recipes. Some of them are the author's own creations; others are from restaurants and kitchens from all over the country

Justifiable Homicide
Mark Osterman

Osterman, a former police officer with the Detroit department, writes about a cop who becomes a vigilante against crime. The tale is a nail biting story of suspense.

When All Reason Fails
Richard Sebastian
Publish America
P. O. Box 151 Frederick, MD 21705 301695-1707
9781592868445, $19.95,

This is a masterfully written novel of how relationships slowly fall apart. Sebastian has created a very clever story that flows along to its shattering conclusion where you have to read carefully or its impact is completely lost and it's a doozy of an ending that is one of the most memorable to recent fiction. Told in multi levels that complement each other, the book has a lot to say about men, women, and how we are so different about most things in life. Robert the protagonist, is a complex character. On the one hand the reader can not stand him at all because he is on a conquest to have sex with as many women as he can. On this he is very similar to Victor Newman of the hit CBS soap "the Young and the Restless." Newman has married just about every woman on the show, then tosses her aside in search of the next catch. No female can hold his interest for very long. Robert is very similar. He seems crude and disgusting on his quest. Anything dealing with sex is graphic. Robert is such a low life character that he asks women he has been to bed with about other sexual aspects of their lives. He wants all the details in as graphic terms as they will tell him. But Robert is also very much like Harry Angstrom of the John Updike novels of the "Rabbit" series of novels, where by the last book "Rabbit at Rest" the reader has very mixed emotions for the Harry Angstrom character. On the one hand, you hate him on the other you like him such is the case here with Robert, because of his journals that are spread throughout the novel. It is in these writing by the character that make him more complex. He does have emotions, is worried about getting older, wants a relationship, and wants to know different things about women that most men ignore about women. There also are religious undertones that some readers will pickup, but the beauty of this novel is that it is written by a man who has great insight into how women feel and what they want in a relationship. "When All Reason Fails is a book that is bound to brew a lot of controversy. It also would make a very fine movie.

There's Gotta be a Better Way: Discipline That Works
Dr. Becky Bailey
Learning in Action Books
978188960934 $18.95

Good parents today are often confused on how to raise their children. One of the reasons is there is so much bad information being given that adults cannot tell which is good or bad or what will work or what won't. Proper behavior so that the child can fit in with society is the ultimate goal but the author does not ever really show how to achieve it she talks about the parent who is too strict, or the one who just lets the young one control the household or situation with now equal doses of love and discipline. One of the most glaring points the writer makes is that you never tell the child he/she has done bad because that will affect their self image for the rest of his/her life. That, to put it mildly is just plain garbage because the message being sent is that the child's behavior is ok, when the parents must be allowed to tell the little one that it won't be tolerated. Though bill Cosby's material on his tapes was funny about the differences between the father's and the mother's approach, there is a lot of truth in what he said even if it was for comedy purposes. Here is another example of where Dr. Bailey makes a point about how to deal with students in school. "Research on older students has indicated that this authoritarian style does seem to increase the amount of work produced by learners: however, the side effect is student aggression toward the teacher" What is lost here is the fact that if the teacher makes the course interesting most students will want to learn. Techniques from the past do work but have been put aside because it is felt that to raise children it must be done as a psychological science. Today there too many of the Dr. Bailey types who usually have no children of their own and just have contact with kids through the school system. There is no mention that Ms. Bailey has any children of her own but she has dealt with kids in schools across the country. "you can't know what I have been through if you have not experienced it yourself" is so true in this case.

Night Beasts
Pinnacle Fiction Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10018
9781558177482, $4.50

Author Stetson has created a new kind of creature. It started as a genetic warfare experiment but something went wrong causing the creatures to seek a new food source....humans. They are called Warbeasts. Stetson utilizes a real situation of germ warfare to create a very terrifying monster. His characters are believable in a horrific situation of nature in a collision with mankind. The novel is a chiller full of biting suspense: but it seems to have a much deeper message about man interfering with the genetic code of animals.

Bimbos of the Death Sun
Sharon McCrumb
B003XRELCK $7.99 (Kindle edition)

The novel falls into the category of mystery fiction, but science fiction fans will have a very good time with it because it takes place at Rubicon, science fiction convention. One of the guest authors is killed. The mystery is finding who would want to kill him, and why. Half the fun of this novel is reading about the numerous people who also attend this event. Rubicon is surely the most memorable gathering of science fiction fans ever to be written about.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Mo Hayder
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802119643 $26.95

DI Jack Caffery, an 18-year-veteran of the Murder Squad and presently head of Bristol's Major Crime Investigation Unit, returns at a point six months after the events described in the author's last novel, "Skin." As the book opens, on a cold November night, Caffery is called to the scene of a carjacking in an underground car park, something one would not consider a case for the MCIU until it becomes known that an 11-year-old girl was in the car when it was taken.

Caffery puts a team together: DC Prody, just coming off four years as a traffic cop; DS Paluzzi [nicknamed "Lollapalooza"], DS Turner, and at some point Phoebe ["Flea"] Marley, now a support-group sergeant who also runs the Underwater Search Unit. ["She'd got her dumb nickname as a child because people told her she never looked before she leaped. And because of her irritating, incurable energy."] There are secrets in both Caffery's and Flea's lives that play in the back of their thoughts, coincidentally both involving siblings; children at risk are also a large part of the plot. The investigation takes a different turn when Flea tells Caffery there have been two other incidents closely following the same pattern, and they realize this was not just a random act.

The characters are very well-drawn and intriguing, especially Flea, who remembers her father telling her as a child: "We don't give up in this family. It's against the Marley code. Ancient belief system. Bad things happen when you do - - it's like flying in the face of nature." And that persistent nature is a good part of what makes her such a terrific cop, and fascinating individual.

The reader is kept rapt for more or less the first half of the book just by the mystery of the identity of the hijacker, and what he may have done to the child [shudder]. Then there is a sudden shift in intensity, as the plot takes unexpected and quite startling twists and turns, and from that point on I could not put the book down till its conclusion, breath held a good part of the way there. [I should add that my vocabulary has been enlarged by the terms "elasticated," "lumpenly," and "forensicated," which may just be a matter of Brit-speak.]

Happily, the final few pages hint of a return of Caffery and Flea, and one can only hope it will be soon. Highly recommended.

Set the Night on Fire
Libby Fischer Hellmann
Allium Press
1530 Elgin Ave., Forest Park, IL 60130
9780984067664 $24.99

In her first standalone novel, following her popular Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis series, Libby Fischer Hellmann masterfully combines contemporary suspense and historical elements in equal parts.

Dar Gantner has just been released on parole after serving 40 years in prison for his part in a bomb attack in a Chicago department store which resulted in three deaths. He immediately attempts to locate and contact the other members of a group of which he was part, young idealists turned social activists, forming a commune in those turbulent Vietnam-era days when everything was thought possible. But that past comes back to haunt the present, when old secrets become a threat to someone from those chaotic times. And soon the "accidents" begin, targeting those same group members. Lila Hilliard, a financial planner from New York in her late thirties and the daughter of Casey Hilliard, once Dar's best friend, very nearly becomes another victim when Casey and his son are blown up inside their home [in which Lila, only by a stroke of luck and circumstance, was not present]. But soon other attempts are made on her life. When she meets Dar, the two try to track down who is responsible.

Present times account for about the first third of the book, which then goes back over forty years to the days of Woodstock, My Lai, The Black Panthers, Jimi Hendrix, Chappaquiddick, and the Chicago Seven. The six members of the eventual commune have gravitated to Chicago from places like Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana, and all believe passionately in their cause: to overthrow the "military-industrial complex [which] had imposed its will on a quiet little country with no provocation." Those days of turmoil are re-created in masterful fashion by the author, bringing them to vibrant life.

Ms. Hellmann, a Chicago native, captures its winters perfectly: "A few snowflakes drifted down, dissolving on contact with the sidewalk, uncertain whether they wanted to be there at all. Chicago winters were like that . . . furious blizzards followed by periods of apologetic calm." She places an odd symbol, a "stylized Celtic knot," randomly through the narrative, an important motif.

When the past has been filled in, and the reader is brought back to the present for the final portion of the book, the tension builds to ever greater heights, and the reader is carried along swiftly to the fully satisfying finale. A terrific read, and one which is recommended.

[It should perhaps be noted that the book is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN 978-0-9840676-5-7, $14.99]

An Uplifting Murder
Elaine Viets
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451231703 $7.99 800-847-5515

The sixth and newest novel in the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series delivers exactly what her fans are looking for: a breezy murder mystery, on the light side, with just the right amount of danger, humor and romance. Josie is still single, raising her 10-year-old daughter with the help of her 68-year-old mother, with both of whom she shares a home, and dating Ted, a hunky local vet. [A shih tzu named Stuart Little and a tabby named Harry complete the household.]

Josie, who works for Suttin Services, has been assigned by her boss, "Harry the Horrible," to mystery-shop a lingerie store in a high-end shopping mall, an "undercover underwear adventure." Job done, and within minutes of leaving the shop with her friend, Alyce, they discover the dead body of a woman they had just encountered in the store and with whom they had gone to high school - someone known to have engendered the enmity of all with whom she came in contact. This naturally leads to a wide array of suspects. The police, however, arrest Laura, the store manager [another of several old high school acquaintances Josie encounters during the course of the book]. But Josie feels a particular obligation to this one.

Josie, knowing that Laura has a daughter who is having a difficult time with her pregnancy, and convinced that she is innocent, vows to do whatever she can to find the real murderer. She's told "Leave the investigating to the pros." But she continues, reasoning: "People tell me things because I don't look important or official. The police have to read people their rights or follow department procedure. They can't knock on doors and ask questions like I can. Nobody's afraid of me. They tell me things." In so doing, of course, she manages to put herself in some dangerous situations, but that's par for the course.

The book is a delightful addition to the series, and is sure to win Ms. Viets new fans, and it is recommended. [There is an excerpt from a new entry in the author's Dead-End Job Mystery series, "Pumped for Murder," due out in hardcover in May, at the conclusion of this one.]

Gloria Feit

Gondelman's Bookshelf

Simon Wood
Create Space
1456366750 $9.99

What's it going to take for San Francisco Detective Larry Hayes to hit rock bottom? His beautiful daughter Victoria? His career? Will it be the fact he has no clue where his car is after his latest bender? Maybe it will be waking up in an alley with no recollection of the past few hours. Could it be that one of his informants, Noble Jon, was viciously murdered just a few blocks away and leaving him wondering if, in his drugged out state, he could have killed him? Larry's drug issues aren't secret, as much as he would like to think they are. There are those on the force who would like to see him gone. And when the evidence starts to point directly at him, Larry knows he must do whatever it takes to find out if in fact he is guilty of murder, or if he's now got a target on his back and someone is trying to take him down. The story, though, isn't just about Larry, his addiction, the potential set up, and the informant's murder. We'll also see a glimpse of his ex-wife, Jennifer, and of Lauren Ortega, a beautiful PI, both of whom play pivotal roles that you'll find out about later.

Lowlifes has the most amazing concept. He's put together a multi-dimensional way to delve into this story. First - read the book. You will see the action through Larry's eyes, how he perceives what is going on in the world around him. It's relatively short, at about 136 pages, but filled with enough murder, deceit, tension, betrayal, drugs, guns and a captivating cast of characters you probably wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley to fill the pages of a "normal" length novel. Then, go here ~ PUT LINK TO JENNIFER'S BLOG. Here you'll read how Jennifer, Larry's ex-wife, views things, what causes her to do the things SHE does, and the repercussions of her actions. And that will certainly get you thinking. Finally, go here ~ INSERT LINK TO ORTEGA'S VIDEO's here. Now you'll see how things look from the eyes of private eye Lauren Ortega. What does she see that no one else sees? What does she know that no one else knows? Sure, anyone can write a book from the different perspectives of each character. But Simon Wood knocks it out of the park with this one. You not only get the different views of some key players, but you get to experience it in completely different medium not usually associated with a book. The book can certainly be read as a stand-alone (it's fantastic in and of itself), but you really should check out the rest of the story - you never know what you might get.

Absolutely, Positively
Heather Webber
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312946155 $7.99

Who is that masked man? That's the question on everyone's mind around Boston Common when a mysterious stranger, dubbed The Lone Ranger, starts throwing twenty-dollar bills around. And what, if anything, does he have to do with everything else going on in Lucy's life? A life that has left Lucy with a lot on her plate these days. She has Meaghan, the new client, who is looking for her foster brother, Tristan, convinced that he is the one true love of her life. Unfortunately it's been years since she's seen him and wouldn't even know what direction to send Lucy in. When she finds out what he's been up, to will Meaghan still think he's her knight in shining armor? Next is Mac Gladstone, an old friend of Dovie's who has gone missing. Mac went out to walk his beloved dog Rufus one day and never came back, even though Rufus did. Anyone who knew Mac knows he would never just leave his dog behind. Was he the victim of foul play or something more heartbreaking? Preston is right there, front and center, as usual. She has done an excellent job of worming her way into the Valentine family. Will they be able to keep their big secret from her, or will she use her journalistic skills to figure out the real reason for the Valentine's immense success? And just what does the FBI want Lucy to stay out of?????

Since this is all about matchmaking and finding lost loves, let's not forget about all of the love in the air these days. There is no doubt Lucy loves Sean and wants to spend the rest of her life with him. She knows that he is holding things back from her, and on some level it bothers her (considering he knows ALL of the Valentine's secrets), but she loves him enough to wait until he's ready to let her in. Unfortunately she can't let go of the dreaded Cupid's Curse; no Valentine has every found true, everlasting love. Can she break the Curse once and for all? Can true love conquer all? Then we've got Lucy's parents. When you find out who they're dating, well, you'll just plutz! Raphael is moving in with Maggie - YAY, but who will take care of Lucy's dad now? Next is Aiden (friendly state trooper) and Em (BFF). Everyone knows they are made for each other, except the two of them. C'mon people, let's get together now. Finally we have Lucy's new-found brother Cutter. He's such the ladies man that he has not one, but two women lusting after him - Marisol and Preston. Which one will he choose?

Seriously, what's not to love about Lucy and this series? She has psychic abilities, is whimsical, smart, beautiful, and head-over-heels in love with the scrumptious PI, Sean Donahue. This series has the perfect mix of cozy mystery elements - it's a fun read, stars a woman as an amateur sleuth, her significant other has his hands in law enforcement, it is light on the gore, it focuses on the characters and plot, and is filled with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing page after page. The book can certainly be read as a stand-alone book, but in order to fully understand Lucy and her quirky cast of characters, you should read the first two books in the series, Truly, Madly and Deeply, Desperately. You Absolutely, Positively do not want to miss this book.

So Close The Hand of Death
J.T. Ellison
Mira Books
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780778329435 $7.99

The Boston Strangler, the Zodiac Killer, and the Son of Sam are all back. OK, well maybe not technically, but someone is out there killing in the same gruesome fashion as these notorious serial killers. With the murders happening across the nation it soon becomes apparent that they can-not possibly be the work of one killer, that there is a greater evil out there. An evil all to familiar to Taylor Jackson. The Pretender has returned.

With this book taking place immediately after The Immortals ends, there is not one second for Taylor to stop and catch her breath, to deal with her emotions after having shot and killed a young man, or to process what happened to Fitz and figure out what is going on with Baldwin that he isn't talking about. But she needs to push all of that aside and once and for all take The Pretender down. She is over knowing that he's out there, waiting for her. She is sick with the thoughts that until The Pretender is caught, everyone she loves will be at his mercy, and there is nothing she can do about it. Will she be able to let others help her? Or will she find herself seeking her own kind of justice? Can she do what needs to be done? Can she protect the ones that mean the most to her against the one person that hates her the most? And when the ultimate betrayal comes who will be left standing to deal with the repercussions?

So Close the Hand of Death is the sixth book in the Taylor Jackson series. The book can definitely be read as a stand-alone, but to get a deeper understanding of Taylor, her G-man fiance Baldwin, her medical examiner BFF Sam, and the rest of her team, you should read them in order (All the Pretty Girls, 14, Judas Kiss, The Cold Room, The Immortals). I'm keeping this review, as vague as possible to avoid any spoilers. If you pay close attention, virtually everything that happens in this story is a clue about what has happened in the terrifying past, and what's going on in the intense present and what will happen in the explosive near future. There is no doubt J.T. Ellison is a master at her craft. Just when you think her last book is her best yet, you read the next one. And you realize just how wrong you were. So Close the Hand of Death is an edge-of-your-seat, white-knuckled, can't-turn-the-pages-fast-enough thriller that will have you clutching the book as you turn pages almost faster than you can read them in, a desperate desire to find out what comes next.

Lori Gondelman

Gorden's Bookshelf

Spartan Gold
Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood
Berkley Books
c/o Berkley Publishing Group, division of Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425236291 $9.99

A growing trend in publishing is the big name author mini-publisher. The major publishers have stopped supporting and producing the old bread and butter 'B' author. These are the workman type authors who produce the fun stories that don't necessarily break new ground but fill the reader's need for a good story to relax with. For these writers to get the promotion they deserve, they have been pushed to find more famous writers to co-produce their stories. You can find these books on the shelves with the famous author's name printed in large font followed by the 'B' author's name, at least three sizes smaller. Grant Blackwood is a very good writer who has found a publishing home with Clive Cussler. Their writing styles are similar enough for this pairing to produce a well rounded and fun story that the big corporate publishers will produce and promote. If you have read a Cussler novel before, you have the basic style of storytelling. Blackwood seems to bring into the mix a more plausible tale with softer characters.

The husband and wife treasure hunting team of Sam and Remi Fargo are exploring the Great Pocomoke Swamp in Maryland searching for pre-Civil War relics from a slaver and murderer when they come across a mystery involving a Napoleonic bottle fragment, a Nazi submarine and a killer for hire. They take on the challenge and travel through Europe searching for more Napoleonic wine bottles and clues to a treasure hidden for over two thousand years. Each step of the way they are dogged by killers hired by a Black Sea crime lord who wants the treasure for himself.

Spartan Gold is a surprisingly enjoyable tale that has a plausible historical hook that stretches back two thousand years to the epic battles between the Greeks and the Persians. The evil-doers are not super villains but people who might exist. Sam and Remi are likeable characters who you actually want to know. And the mechanics of the storyline is physically possible. The minor impossible fictions are very easy to ignore. The final result is a fun story you will enjoy enough so you will put the next Fargo Adventure novel on your must read list.

Red Dragon Rising, Shadows of War
Larry Bond and Jim DeFelice
A Forge Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765360984 $9.99

There are a few writers who have taken the job of writing war stories about mythical but plausible wars filled with accurate gritty details. Bond has been doing this for decades. The writing team of Bond and DeFelice has started a massive story about a possible war in the near future caused by the dislocations brought about by climate change. The premise is accurate but the timeline and other details are too fictionalized. If you ignore the minor problems, you can easily get lost in the story. Anyone considering reading this book should know that Red Dragon Rising is just section one of a larger story and you are left in the middle of an action sequence at the end of the book.

Climate change has severely changed and damaged the economies of the world. China's economy has been shifted to world production. With the changes, China's exports have fallen and their crops have been suffering from a series of draughts and floods. Vietnam is now a bread basket for the region and China's new rulers have decided to incite a war to get this food production. A climate scientist from the US, Josh MacArthur, is with a team measuring the climate changes near Vietnam's northern border with China. His research team is attacked and killed by a Chinese covert incursion into Vietnam to create a justification for the war. Josh has a video camera and filmed proof of the Chinese attacks. When he tries to communicate to the outside world for help, both China and the US find out about his existence. China sends out a commando team to kill or capture him and the US sends in covert agents to try to get him and his video out to the world. Both countries know that the fate of the region depends on Josh and his video.

Red Dragon Rising brings back all of the limited but lethal action of the early Cold War Era. It has none of the petty illogical nuances of religious and regional terrorism. It is about super powers trying to keep the balance without going to a full world war with billions of casualties. With the stakes so much higher, the story becomes more relevant.

Red Dragon Rising is a classic super power covert war story but with an updated storyline. It is a great story for the military reader. The biggest drawback is that Red Dragon Rising is just the intro to a multi-part story. Those who can wait for the next books should hold off and buy this one from the used bookshelves. The next book in the series should be available by the time you find this one on the used shelves. If you have the patience, reading two or more stories at a time will be a good start for a series you can look for finishing in the future.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet
Deepak Chopra
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York NY 10022
9780061782428 $25.99

Deepak Chopra is an enigma. While there is no dispute (at least among the educated) that he is a notorious public masturbator who peddles unrestrained drivel as nonfiction, it is an open question whether he believes his own lies. Some have compared him with the intellectually challenged Shirley MacLaine, whose published fantasies suggest that she thinks Alice in Wonderland is a documentary. Others see him as a mirror image of L. Ron Hubbard, a conscienceless liar who informed his publisher that his reason for inventing a science fiction religion was because, "that's where the money is." Chopra, like MacLaine and Hubbard, has made himself rich by pandering to readers so gullible that they would have had P. T. Barnum beating a path to their door. And here he is doing it again.

Muhammad is a novel, acknowledged fiction. It follows that even the wildest interpretation of events from history is legitimate if it has not been established beyond dispute that it is not what really happened. It is even legitimate for the author to assume that, every time Muhammad had a new brainstorm, he seriously believed it was put into his head by the fairy tale character of his choice, whether God, Allah, Gabriel, or Mother Goose. But Chopra goes beyond acceptable limits when he shows the god Mercury (under his Hebrew name, Gabriel) narrating the opening chapter. An analogous situation would be to have part of a novel about Doc Holliday narrated by the tooth fairy.

Such a violation of acceptable procedures changes Chopra's book from a historical novel to an imaginative fantasy. Since his similar treatments of Jesus and Buddha were lapped up by the ignoranti, in all likelihood he will get away with it again. If false-advertizing laws cannot be used against Shirley MacLaine, on the ground that she lacks the education to know that she is lying, they obviously cannot be used against an author of acknowledged fiction. On the upside, Chopra's novels are not the same kind of crimes against humanity as his pretended nonfiction, for which Dante would have consigned him to the lowest level of hell, alongside L. Ron Hubbard and America's most irresponsible pusher of scientifically illiterate hogwash (who has promoted Chopra), Oprah Winfrey.

Chopra sets the pattern for his storytelling in the earliest chapters, in which he describes events ranging from low probability to clear violations of the laws of reality, events that only a Moslem (as Chopra is not) could take seriously. Similar head-in-the-sand imaginings have been perpetrated by the Christian authors of Chronicles of Narnia and I, Judas. Does Chopra's culpable pandering to nonsense-believers make him more reprehensible than Taylor Caldwell or C. S. Lewis, who did believe that the impossible is possible? My answer to that is: not necessarily. Chopra's bottom line, like theirs, is sales, and awareness that anything that cannot happen did not happen would not change that.

Chopra's reconstruction of Muhammad's life differs considerably from the conclusions of Koranic scholars such as Ibn Warraq. That should surprise no one. Only an author who values accuracy ahead of profits would have done otherwise. Even Richard Dawkins, before he recognized that his real market was not curable believers but closeted nontheists, downplayed his recognition of "God" as the most repulsive monster in all fiction in order to avoid alienating the brainwashed. And since Deepak Chopra sees Moslems as potential book-buyers, portraying their figurehead as a terrorist and a pedophile would not have served his purpose. So he waffles between apologetics and propaganda. He rationalizes away his protagonist's decapitation of a whole tribe of Jews who refused to join his crusade to enslave Mecca. And his only mention of Muhammad's consummated marriage to a nine-year-old when he was fifty-four is relegated to one line in his Afterword in which he acknowledges that, "Muhammad married [Aisha] when she was a small child."

Chopra's description of Muhammad as "the last prophet' will probably offend this planet's 1.2 billion Christians, but not the 2.3 billion nontheists who know that "prophet" means a self-deluded confidence swindler.

Mohammad conjures up images of an army unit that reached an agreement that anyone who criticized the cook was obliged to take his place. So when nothing else that the current cook did could provoke anyone into complaining, he served up candied turds. The first person to take a bite immediately screamed, "That's shit - but beautifully cooked." Chopra's depraved indifference to the Prime Directive of historical fiction, that every speculation must have plausible credibility, makes his book literary guano - but beautifully cooked.

Revolutionary Deists: Early America's Rational Infidels
Kerry Walters
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616141905, $20.00, 279 pp.

In Revolutionary Deists, Kerry Walters thoroughly refutes the pretence of the crusaders plotting to turn America into a Christian theocracy, that the republic's Founding Fathers were Christian jihadists who really wanted to establish the kind of totalitarian theocracy that the First Amendment was designed to prevent.

In fact the authors of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were not merely un-Christian; they were anti-Christian. They were deists, meaning that they believed in a deity who created the universe, wound it up, thereafter paid no attention to human affairs whatsoever, and most assuredly never revealed its existence to any prophet, messiah, ayatollah, or author of such science fiction novels as bibles, tanakhs and korans. As Walters explains (p. 16), "They denied the possibility of revelation or miracles, refused to acknowledge that Jesus was divine or the Godhead trinitarian, and in many instances they even insisted that the moral precepts spelled out in the New Testament were unworthy of either God or man."

Biographies of four of the six individuals on whom Walters focuses are included in their respective chapters. The exceptions are Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, about whom such information is so readily available that it needs no elaboration here. I would have thought the same was true of Thomas Paine. But Walters sees a sufficient distinction between the common perception of Paine and reality that he needed to clarify Paine's true position in American history.

Walters describes Thomas Jefferson (p. 5) as a "deistic Christian." He quotes (p. 149), Jefferson's own words, "I am a true Christian." He quotes excerpts from Jefferson's writings that contradict that claim, such as (p. 157), "Question with boldness even the existence of god." But he ignores alleged quotations that cannot be located in Jefferson's works and may indeed be forgeries, such as (, "Christianity is the most perverted system that has ever shone on man," and (ibid), "I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature." While both statements are consistent with Jefferson's attitude toward orthodox Christianity, Walters was prudent in avoiding unprovable allegations that could have undermined his credibility. He harmonizes Jefferson's claim to be a Christian with statements by him that falsify that claim, by referring (p. 150) to "Jefferson's distinction between two meanings of the word 'Christian.' On the one hand, the term applies to any individual who admires and seeks to follow the teachings ... of the historical Jesus. [That lets me out.] On the other, the term is also a name for any individual who belongs to one or another of the various denominations that, collectively, constitute institutional Christianity. Jefferson clearly considered himself a Christian in the first sense, and just as obviously repudiated the second." The blogger who posted the questionable quotations is adamant that Jefferson was not a Christian, and I find myself wondering if he realizes how flattering to his subject such a conclusion is. Probably not, since he also claims that that good Catholic, Adolf Hitler, was not a Christian.

Benjamin Franklin, in Walters' view, was (p. 51), an "ambivalent deist" who "oscillated between opposing and sometimes incompatible perspectives." While suspicious of how literally he should treat Franklin's "imaginative autobiography" (ibid), he concludes that Franklin was "converted ... to the natural religion of deism ... by reading anti-deistic tracts," because (p. 52), "the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me to be much stronger than the refutation; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist."

But despite his endorsement of the basic principles of deism (p. 75), "Franklin never renounced his belief in the possibility of [divine intervention], nor his insistence that the belief was based upon a rational appraisal of divine nature rather than theological authority." Also (p. 80), "his insistence that virtuous behavior is tantamount to worship of the God of nature is in agreement with mainstream deism." In other words, despite his assertion that the question of Jesus' alleged divinity was unresolvable (p. 82), Franklin rejected the authority of synod or scripture as a source of truth. And Christianity stands or falls on the "truth" of its alleged revelations. Today persons who refuse to express an opinion on questions they (wrongly) think are unanswerable, such as the existence of the biblical god or the divinity of Jesus, call themselves agnostics. Franklin was not an agnostic. But just as certainly he was not a Christian.

Franklin's equation of the infallibility of synods with papal infallibility (p. 83) was a denial of any sect's right to impose its belief on others. As Walters makes clear (p. 81), "one aspect of his thought that he never forsook: an insistence on absolute toleration for diverse religious perspectives.... Franklin believed that neither government nor society had legitimate jurisdiction over a person's religious convictions, and that any attempt to coerce assent to a particular creed was destructive of both individual liberty and rational inquiry." Those words constitute an unambiguous endorsement of what Thomas Jefferson called, "a wall of separation between church and state."

Ethan Allen was the first American to write a book-length defence of deism, a book in which (p. 90), "He concentrated on attacking Christian scripture." According to Walters (pp. 88-89), "This unschooled frontiersman" wrote "neither a literary masterpiece nor a philosophical tour de force. Allen's prose is cumbersome, his grammar and spelling are idiosyncratic, and his philosophical defence of natural religion and criticism of Christianity are for the most part derived from the works of British deists." When he was captured by the British after a foolish attack on Montreal, George Washington paid the ransom to free him, but refused to give him a command in the Continental Army. While Walters does not go so far as to put the words into Washington's mouth, context makes clear that he saw Washington as endorsing the conclusion (p. 92) that, "The man simply was not a gentleman."

Elihu Palmer and Philip Freneau are names with which I am not familiar. But Walters sees them as playing a sufficient role in the founding of a secular republic in which the government was prohibited from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, that he spells out the evidence that they were deists, not Christians.

Thomas Paine (p. 113), "more than any of his fellow American deists, delighted in savaging the sacred cows of supernaturalist religion. In a steady barrage of pamphlets, articles, and speeches, he assailed the doctrines and dogmas of Christianity, mincing no words, pulling no punches." Despite god-addict Theodore Roosevelt's description of Paine a century after his death as (p. 114) "a filthy little atheist," Paine was not an atheist. "His primary deistic work, The Age of Reason, was in fact written partly to offer an alternative to the official atheism of the French Revolution, as well as to recall humanity to the 'original' religion of nature." Few if any pushers of the Big Lie that America was founded as a Christian state cite Paine as a champion of their cause. But since his role in the creation of the republic is not in dispute, Walters recognized that ignoring him might have created the impression that he had something to hide. So Paine gets his own chapter.

"American deism had a good and productive run, lasting some eighty-five years" (p. 245), from the publication of Benjamin Franklin's Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, until (p. 11), "it succeeded so well in ameliorating the dogmatic supernaturalism of orthodox Christianity in America that it reduced the need for its continued existence." In other words, the rise of deism so changed Christianity, that today no more than one-quarter of all Christians are biblical literalists. And only literalists, commonly called fundamentalists, suppress the reality that the Founding Fathers were deists, and push the Big Lie that they were Christian theocrats. As the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the Senate in 1797, stated, "The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." So the likes of Coulter and Beck are liars. So what else is new?

New Age Cults and Religions
Texe Marr
Riverside Publications
Bible Home Church, 1708 Patterson Rd, Austin TX 78733
9781930004583 $19.95

Memo to the head of security at the Cuckoo's Nest: Check Texe Marrs's cell. He seems to have escaped. Either that, or New Age Cults was written in crayon, since Nurse Ratched would not have allowed him access to anything sharp.

Since everything in Marrs's new book was taken from his website,, rather than cite pages from the book I will instead refer directly to his net ravings.

Do you believe in a god that does not hate the 95 percent of humans who are not fundamentalist Protestants? Then you are not a Christian. That is essentially the message of the Jew-hating, Catholic-hating, Deist-hating, fundamentalist blogger, Texe Marrs, who quotes from the King James Bible to support his belief in a god created out of the hatred and insanity he sees in the mirror.

According to Marrs, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, Pantheists, Deists Catholics, Unitarians, agnostics, egalitarians who believe that non-Christians can go to heaven, biblical scholars who question the bible's literal truth, and children who have never heard of Jesus, are all condemned to be barbecued with flamethrowers for all eternity in an underworld Auschwitz that can only be described as a sadist's wet dream.

Wikipedia describes Marrs as a conspiracy theorist who "has been accused of being anti-Catholic, critical of Freemasonry, and the New Age movement. His critics have accused him of anti-Semitism." It reports that his website says, "To this day, almost a century later, the sweep of history has proven the Protocols [of the Learned Elders of Zion] to be genuine, authentic, and a real-life rendering of the most tragic events that have bedeviled mankind."

Marrs denies that he is anti-Semitic, and claims to "love" the Jews and others whom his god hates: "Please understand that I don't condemn anyone, for the Bible condemns all humanity as guilty, dirty, rotten, hell-deserving sinners." Given Marrs's refusal to recognize that "Protocols" was the same kind of forgery as the Donation of Constantine and the Shroud of Turin, as even Holocaust deniers acknowledge, it comes as no surprise that he views the King James Version of the Bible to be the inerrant "true Word of God," presumably including its fourteen assertions that the earth is flat. And since later translations dared to disagree with Marrs's phallusocratic dogma, "In August 1997, he claimed that the New International Version of the Bible is a feminist book for the New Age," New Age being his term for any idea or philosophy that cannot be dated back to at least the eighteenth century.

Like most "my god can lick your god" fanatics, Marrs is homophobic. He stated in 2007, "You're a pastor of a church supposedly or a bishop. A guy in your church is a big homosexual faggot, and he's a U.S. senator, but you know people might accuse you of meddling if you told him if that's a sin."

Emulating other hatemongers who claim to "hate the sin, but love the sinner," Marrs sheds copious crocodile tears over persons who disagree with him. On a page labeled "Thomas Jefferson: Unbeliever," he writes, "I was greatly saddened to learn that Thomas Jefferson was NOT a Christian. I realize that ... Jefferson claimed, 'I am a true Christian.'" Since the only legitimate definition of a Christian is, "anyone who believes that he is a Christian," the word "bigot" springs to mind.

Jefferson was in fact a Deist, and as such rejected such Christian doctrines as divine incarnation, resurrection, and virgin birth. But Marrs does not limit his "not a Christian" label to persons who question biblical literalness. Like a dogmatic Protestant I encountered in Cambridge in 1976, Marrs also insists that the Pope is not a Christian. Consider:

"The Roman Catholic 'Church' is Not Christian."

"The Catholic religion is straight out of the pits of hell. I do not call Catholicism a 'church' because it is NOT a church. It is a FALSE religion."

"The Catholic religion is of the devil, and it's [sic] leaders are the sinister ministers of Satan."

"Pope John Paul II was a minister of Satan, a false prophet."

"According to the Bible, Pope John Paul II went to burn in Hell on April 2nd, 2005, because he trusted in the Catholic Church to save him."

Not many Christian preachers could make Catholic-hating Ian Paisley look like a moderate, but Marrs manages to do so.

But Jews, Catholics, and other opposition religions are not the only targets of equal-opportunity-hater Marrs. He also identifies Billy Graham and George W. Bush as non-Christians:

"The devil lurks within our churches, in the heart of heretics like Billy Graham (who has done more damage than anyone, trying to unequally yoke the Satanic Catholic religion with Christian churches.)"

"It tears at my stomach and brings me profound sorrow to say it. But I must. George W. Bush is a hard-hearted, calculating killer who merely pretends to be Christian."

"My friends, I am persuaded that George W. Bush has made a confidential pact with the devil. Forget this man's pious exterior. Do not be deceived by the compromised evangelical leaders who sing Bush's praises."

And for what reason does Marrs assert that Graham and Bush are not Christians? It is because, "Asked if he believes heaven is open only to Christians, Bush said, 'No, I don't believe that. I have shown people that I'm a tolerant person.... I've great respect for the other religions of the world.'"

"George's mother, Barbara, told her ambitious son that Jews do not have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven, and neither do Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religionists. Billy Graham backed up Mama Bush, telling George he should disregard scriptures." The scripture cited in support of that intolerance is "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me," from John 14:6 (or was it Through the Looking Glass? I'm always confusing those two.)

"Bush says Christians and Muslims worship the same God." And Marrs is adamant that, "Christians and Muslims DON'T worship the same God."

To Marrs, "There is ONLY one way to Heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to Heaven!"

I am tempted to ask Marrs, "Will you be there?" (as Ted Danson asked a doorknocker in a sitcom), and if he says Yes, that will be one more reason for not wanting to go there.

Marrs names Helen Keller as a Satan-worshipper, and identifies the "I love you" hand sign she created as a salute to the Lord of the Underworld. He then proceeds to cite persons photographed flashing the hand sign as possible Satanists, including Barack and Michele Obama, Bill Clinton, George and Laura Bush and their daughters, Sarah Palin, John Kerry, Dick Cheney, Silvio Berlusconi, Nicolas Sarkozy, Ahmed Ahmadinajad, Maria Kennedy Shriver, Yasser Arafat, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul McCartney, Amy Grant, and Prince William.

On his Power of Prophecy radio program in 2008, Marrs claimed (Wikipedia) that the American government allegations about al Qaeda were lies, and that it "could be making up incidents in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom." He declared that, "America is a psycopathic [sic] nation, and that, "A church can become dysfunctional because a psycopath [sic] gains control, and it's not always the pastor ... soon the whole church goes insane." As pastor of perhaps the only American congregation more insane than that of Fred Phelps, he should know.

Perhaps the best summary of who Texe Marrs really is comes from a Christian apologist at least sane enough to recognize that Marrs is an embarrassment to Christianity and apologetics, Dr James White: "Some people don't mind looking silly. Comics often employ absurdity as an agent of humor in their routines. But when a person claims to be a minister of the gospel, and yet engages in the most egregiously ridiculous thinking and arguing, something is seriously wrong."

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Peyton Place
James Rosin
Autumn Road Company
Philadelphia, PA
9780972868495 $19.95

Suitable for both the fan of the famed TV series as well the researchers of popular culture, Rosin's book provides material on the primary and secondary actors, writers, production staff, and schedules of programs. Most interesting for most readers are the summations of each of the five seasons from 1964 to 1969--514 shows in all--which altogether read like a short novel filling in blanks for many viewers.

Rosin is active in the film industry as an actor in popular TV shows and big-screen movies, writer, and producer. Besides similar works as this Peyton Place on the TV series Route 66 and Naked City, he has written books on sports and popular music. He brings diverse information together in a popular style and user-friendly format in line with the interests of enthusiasts of popular entertainment.

Last Voyage: Selected Poems
Giovanni Pascoli; translated by Deborah Brown, Richard Jackson, and Susan Thomas
Red Hen Press
Pasadena, CA
9781597094870 $22.95

Giovanni Pascoli was an Italian 19th-century poet, 1855-1912. In his poems, there is a sense of space, with space often as a metaphor for absence. "Silence, all around: from far away you hear/only the gusting of the wind..." [from "November"]. "I can hear from such a distance,/the farewell of a steam engine..." [from "The Kiss of Death"] Pascoli himself has suggested that his early poems are an elegy for his father, who died while young in an assassination that was never solved. But the later poems retain this elegiac tone too.

This elegiac, slightly mournful, though lyric quality comes to full fruition in Pascoli's long, multipart poem "Last Voyage" ("L'Ultimo Viaggio" in Italian) written toward the end of his life. This is a reworking of Homer's "Odysseus" in which Odysseus does not return home to Ithaca, but in a deep sleep passes it by and retraces parts of his voyage from Troy. Pascoli is so masterful with the mournful, melancholic tone that this poem of classical content covering about 50 pages (in the English) would not be called an epic, but rather, however improbably, a long lyric poem.

Odysseus like Pascoli passes by the conventional, given subject occupied by a different destiny. Though the translations sensitively, empathetically impart Pascoli's sensitive, ruminative mood in full, one wonders if the original Italian title "L'Ultimo Viaggio" wouldn't have been better translated "Ultimate Voyage." For in Pascoli's hands, Odysseus voyages to his death. He returns to the enchanted isle goddess Calypso who wraps the hero in the "cloud of her hair...[after] the sea returned him."

The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Imperial Naval Air Service
Peter J. Edwards
Pen and Sword
United Kingdom
Havertown, PA
9781848843073 $50.00

Edwards' work goes well beyond the dramatic images of the Japanese World War II air power unleashed at Pearl Harbor, the infamous Zeros, and desperate bravery of the kamikazes which have become an indelible part of popular history. Although the "rise and fall" phrase of the title denotes the bulk of the content, the book is a history of Japanese air interests and air power from their origins and early developments preceding World War II.

The growth of Japanese air power both paralleled and interacted with the growth in European countries and the United States. In close cooperation, Japanese engineers, military planners, politicians, and industrialists--and Japanese royalty too--pursued their country's path of development as they were also taking what they could from Western aircraft design, manufacture, and tactics and sometimes working directly with Westerners.

Like Western military aviation, Japan's began with balloons. About the time when these were first employed in warfare in Western nations, Western countries already had diplomatic missions in Japan. The British opened a diplomatic mission in the 1860s. And in World War I, Japan was an Asian ally of Britain and the Allies which used early war planes to bomb German warships in Chinese harbors and disrupt German naval activity in the Pacific. After World War I, Japan participated in aviation testing programs in the United States while keeping up with the most advanced aviation developments in England and Germany.

At the outbreak of World War II, Japan had an advanced, well-trained, formidable air force as a part of its Imperial Navy. The air force was closely associated with the Imperial Navy because it had concentrated on building aircraft carriers since these were not covered specifically in the global disarmament following World War I.

Edwards weaves together a variety of material for this engrossing history not only recounting the development of Japanese air power--a topic which has not received much attention despite the perennial keen interest in World War II--but also deepening understanding of the nature of the warfare and surrounding political, technical, etc., matters bearing on it. The reader encounters deliberations of Japanese wartime leaders, Japan's strategy for taking militaristic rule over large areas of Asia and the Pacific, the role of its air power in this, technical specifications of war planes, the turns of specific battles, and Japan's changing dependence on its air power in relation to its fortunes in World War II, among much else. For its material ranging from panoramic perspectives of WWII in Asia and the Pacific to listings of specifications of air plane parts, the history is a distinctive and engaging work filling a gap in any military history library.

Neo-Mexicanism - Mexican Figurative Painting and Patronage in the 1980s
Teresa Eckmann
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826347428 $45.00 800-249-7737

Peaking in the mid 1980s, the Neo-Mexicanism art movement "today is largely considered a thing of the past" by both the artists who were a part of it and the gallery owners who promoted them. Whether the movement is over, when it flourished and died out, its influence in following art, or even if there was such a movement is largely a matter of definition.

Assistant professor of modern and contemporary Latin American art history at the U. of Texas-San Antonio, Eckmann avoids any sharp definition of the movement while assessing the pertinence or irrelevance of factors which would go in to any definition. Whether Neo-Mexicanism was a differentiated style or ambition; whether it was simply a type of folk art; whether it was indigenous, or derived from U. S., wider Latin American, or international art; whether it was largely a commercial enterprise of popular culture, are among the considerations Eckmann assesses. And though not arriving at a staple definition, her assessment is incisive and illuminating.

Many readers interested in contemporary art and world art will be glad to learn about this sector--for lack of a better word--of modern Mexican art. Whatever may be opined or debated about it, there is no doubt that the art Eckmann takes up testifies that postmodernism had a deep influence on Mexican art of recent decades. "Using irony, more often than not neo-Mexicanists poke fun at worn narratives of historic continuity, national unity, and romanticized indigenism," the author writes. This is an art topic given scant attention, overshadowed by all the attention given to contemporary art and art interests in China, the Middle East, Russia, and other areas regarded as more representative of international art given their greater important in global affairs. One sees, however, that the Neo-Mexicanism is engaging and instructive on postmodernism's impact on a particular culture and art world and on particular inventiveness in international art.

In many ways, the neo-Mexican art reveals more specified, particular incorporation of postmodernism with the indigenous and traditional; and is keener in conceptualization and more challenging in execution. The contemporary Chinese art by comparison seems homogenized and repetitive, making one big point about the (so-called) modernization of China, whereas the neo-Mexican art makes many different points about individuals struggling to maintain their historic identity even as they admit the inevitability of postmodernism.

The pages are glossy as in better art books and many text books too. Hence the bright color illustrations convey the styles and mediums (acrylics for example) of the paintings. The format is not the typical art book format though: the more than 100 illustrations of "Neo-Mexicanism," many half a page or larger, are not confined to one section, but are mixed with the text as in a text book, sometimes almost overwhelming the text with their brightness and originality. Thus the book can--and should--be used as a text for appropriate courses in modern art, international art, and Latin America art.

On Your Mark - Reading Scripture Without a Teacher
William J. O'Malley
Liturgical Press
Collegeville, MN
9780814633502 $19.95

The book is a self-help workbook including questions and review suggestions at the ends of sections for ones looking to gain a deeper understanding of the religious significance of parts of the Bible from their own readings. O'Malley deals with the Gospel of Saint Mark. He makes some cross references to the other gospels. And some of his explanations and interpretations would apply to specifics in those gospels. But for the most part, he concentrates exclusively on the Gospel of Saint Mark phrase by phrase and often word by word.

Deeper understanding of this Gospel calls for some knowledge of literary techniques (e. g., metaphor), religious history, Middle East and Roman culture of the period, and the life of Jesus--which the author covers succintly in the front matter before the detailed literary, religious, and biographical analysis of Mark. As a Jesuit, O'Malley is interested mainly in the New Testament with its four gospels recording and spreading the "good news" of the coming of Christ. Having taught high-school senior religious classes for more than four decades, O'Malley has the ability to convey the material in a useful and instructive style for the general reader.

Richard Mazal
Fresco Fine Art Publications
Albuquerque, NM
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9781934491294 $50.00

The inspiration for Mazel's art work is religious practices associated with the sacred mountain Mount Kailash in southwestern Tibet. The prime one of these is the "kora [which is] both a type of pilgrimage and a type of meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition." The pilgrimage is a walk--circumambulation--around a temple, stupa, or other sacred site such as Mount Kailash. Mazel did make the three-day, rugged pilgrimage around the Mount. In doing this, he also became inspired by the Buddhist prayer flags of colorful, dyed, long strips of pieces of cloth tied to a pole which flutter in the wind. Mount Kailash is also sacred to Hindus, Jains, and the Tibetan Bon religion as the "source from which all creation sprang."

Awareness of this religious background and Mazel's kora with respect to Mount Kailash are preferable for a full appreciation of his abstract art works; for with such awareness, the works can become a medium for an aesthetic and religious experience along the lines of the artist's.

"Kora" is the third and last of Mazel's art work trilogy based on unique burial sites. The previous two art projects were based on the 1994 discovery of a tomb of a Mayan queen in Mexico and a "burial forest" in Germany where families buy a tree around which family members will be buried. Three types, or styles, of art work, all abstract, appear in "Kora." The first group are patterns of black-and-white representing the bare stone and snow covering of the Mount with a few flecks of color representing the prayer flags. These are dramatic with the strength of the Mount coming through by the play of black and white, and dramatic more so when one is aware of the religious experiences which are evoked by these. In the second group, the prayer flags have a larger place. Colored sets of squares--six or eight--are brought together; and in some, there is a black-and-white square or two included as an obvious reference to the works of the previous group. Taken from the dyes made by the Tibetan Buddhists for the prayer flags, the colors are especially rich. The third group is swaths and swirls of color representing the prayer flags fluttering in the wind, and also swaths and swirls of black-and-white as if Mount Kailash itself has joined the prayer flags in fluttering. The sequence of Mazel's art works is fetching, and resembles the kora around Mount Kailash.

Henry Berry

Joanne's Bookshelf

Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse
Thomas E. Woods., Jr.
Regnery Publishing
1 Massachusetts Ave., Washington, DC 20001.
9781596981416 $27.95

What an indictment of big government. What a clarion call for Tea Partiers, Progressives, indeed all of us. Woods, author of Meltdown, Nullification, and 9 other books, a graduate of Harvard and Columbia, says in Rollback: "If the Federal government is not scaled back, America will see massive unemployment, hyperinflation, and a complete housing collapse - a depression worse than anything America has known."

Despite some slight signs that the recession is ameliorating, Woods maintains our track record is inevitably leading us toward disaster. Citing our debt not as $14 trillion, but, rather $111 trillion with Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs, the "full future expense...exceeds the total net worth of the U. S. economy. That is what people...mean when they say the U. S. is bankrupt." A Democrat economist, Lawrence Kotlikoff "...estimates the fiscal gap at an astonishing $200 trillion." Woods says the Republican proposal to cut $100 billion from the federal budget is "like taking three dollars off a trip to the moon." If we do nothing, "It will all come to an end in a very nasty manner. The first possibility will be massive benefit cuts for baby boomer retirees. Second will be astronomic tax increases, and third will be government's printing vast quantities of money to cover its bills."

Nothing is sacrosanct here. The author cites waste, fraud, and inefficiency almost every place: states, transportation, the entitlements, education, Obamacare, Bush's prescription drug bill, Federal Reserve actions, defense spending and security, private insurance, drug law enforcement, hospitals, banks, manufacturers, special interest groups, HUD, environmental regulation, oil, labor unions, ad infinitum. Nearly every endeavor has been poisoned by government interference that has always backfired on those thinking government will solve their problems. It's all the 'unintended consequences' which won't feed very many people. He hopes "The institutions of civil society, long dormant, [will] be resurrected." Caring for our families, helping friends and neighbors in need, volunteering to help those falling between the cracks, and creating a clearinghouse or exchange to share our skills and talents with those in need and with each other would help the U. S. survive. "It is the choice facing America." Thirty pages of footnotes from both right and left perspectives substantiate his evidence. It should be required reading for politicians and citizens alike.

Leadership and Crisis
Bobby Jindal
Regnery Publishing
distrib. by Perseus Books.
9781596981584 $27.95

"The federal government was having workers clean the [BP oil-contaminated] marshes with the equivalent of paper towels." America imports scientists and engineers because our education system "can't produce enough of them here at home." Trillions spent on the war on poverty for 40 years has hardly changed the poverty rate. Medicare is unsustainable.

These issues, many of which affect all of us, as well as those about congress, immigration, healthcare, energy, defense, Hurricane Katrina, and culture are Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's topics in his new book Leadership and Crisis (2010, Regnery Publishing). He joins other Republicans such as Gingrich, Huckabee, Romney, Pawlenty, Palin, and others who are writing books these days. A "zealous proponent of free enterprise and an unapologetic advocate of American capitalism," Jindal critiques the issues and offers solutions.

It's hard to believe federal delays led to more spreading oil in the BP explosion. For example, the "feds shut down barges" needed to deploy booms because they needed "inspections and certifications." The feds wanted "barges to return to port so they could count life jackets and extinguishers" and refused Louisiana's request that inspectors go to the barges instead. After the barges returned to port for 24 hours, the feds eventually allowed their resumption without inspections. A week after the explosion, one site still had "boom and other materiel sitting on docks with skimmers nearby that were idle." A Coast Guard Admiral admitted "not requesting skimmers from Europe" because they might "take 5 weeks to arrive." The "...system was incapable of working quickly and efficiently. It was highly centralized, bureaucratic, and often unresponsive." He says, "The reason the federal government failed to respond effectively to the oil spill (and for...Katrina 5 years earlier) is precisely because government has become too big." He also says "BP's response was as bad as the federal government's." His solution: a 10 point checklist, two of which are involving locals as they are on the ground and know their area firsthand, and often know more than the "Nobel Laureates," and "don't wait for feds..." to tell what to do.

His position on education uses his experience as Governor and also heading the University of Louisiana, which has 8 universities and is the 16th largest in the country. He graduated from Brown University and attended Harvard and Oxford. He says, "With our dysfunctional education system, we risk being overtaken by other nations." He found that Louisiana was funding education based on enrollment, not results, and stated his concern about America's not producing scientists and engineers. His concerns include the true lack of educational opportunity when students attend schools based on their zip code. He advocates pay for performance, school choice and charter schools, special scholarships, discipline, improved personal conduct with more parental involvement, different suspension standards, and true competition for students, as the latter forces school officials to focus on getting results. He compares university students to public school students, saying the better results for university students is the competition for them, versus K-12 "owning" students. As Governor, he has signed serious education reform, such as a Teacher Evaluation Bill in 2010, Teacher's Bill of Rights, Red Tape Reduction and Local Empowerment Act, Recovery School District for New Orleans, and Student Scholarship Program in New Orleans.

Regarding poverty in America, he cites the 40 year war on it as ineffective, saying there is now a tug of war between those who feel what made America great is freedom, individualism, limited government, and personal responsibility versus those who see Americans as lost sheep unable to function without the enlightened guidance of the educated class, a wiser elite, with government playing a larger role - that we are sheep that need sheepherders. If we care, we would support a larger government agenda, but if we oppose, it means we "don't give a damn." There are times government needs to lend a hand, but it should also include help from the bottom up via individuals, civic society, etc. He cites Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks, who demonstrated that those skeptical of big government are actually more charitable, giving the lie that some people "don't give a damn." He further states, "...the most corrupt countries in the world [are] at the top of the list of centralized economies."

As for Medicare and Medicaid, he writes at length about free market and capitalist solutions because enlarging government programs deter free choice and the expense is disproportionate to good results. In 1965, Medicare A was projected to cost $9 billion by 1990; it became $67 billion that year, and now media reports are that the entitlements may bankrupt the U. S.

Space prohibits his solutions for congress, immigration, energy, defense, disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and the culture of America. Suffice it that they are conservative principles. He ends with a 7 step recovery program for America. It is a very readable book, having 18 pages of sources and an index. C-span has archived his book release speech of Nov. 20, 2010, which showcases his charismatic rhetoric (much better than his Republican response to Pres. Obama's first speech to Congress in 2009) and is worth seeing ( and search its video library).

Joanne Conrad, Reviewer

Karyn's Bookshelf

Mollie's War: The Letters of a World War II WAC in Europe
Mollie Weinstein Schaffer and Cyndee Schaffer
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers
Box 611, Jefferson, NC, 28640
9780786447916 $35

Excellent editing, including a painstaking inclusion of explanatory text, elevates a collection of old letters into a warmly human, accessible account of a young Jewish woman's service in World War II Europe. From 1943 to 1945, while in the Women's Army Corps (WAC), Mollie Weinstein Schaffer saw England, France and Germany. Ultimately, her sister saved 350 pieces of correspondence penned by Schaffer, friends and family. About 200 make it into "Mollie's War," as do some brief diary entries. In her editing, Schaffer's daughter Cyndee judiciously excluded portions of longer letters, a wise decision that keeps things from bogging down, contributing to a wonderful novel-like flow. And she injects beaucoup explanatory notes, with just about every letter set up by a few lines. They flesh out details such as where Schaffer is geographically when she can't divulge that, significant battles and other events that have just or are about to occur, happenings and attitudes at home and weighty topics such as the role of female soldiers, whose participation wasn't always supported. And they reflect on the generally upbeat tone of the letters not being due to a lack of difficulties, but rather to the fact that Schaffer couldn't talk about her work with the Army's Medical Intelligence Division (whose duties ultimately included analyzing records left behind by Nazis of horrific experiments done on prisoners) and didn't want to worry her parents with news of hardship. Social activities were often all that was left to recount. Many of the letters are breezy accounts of dates, which female soldiers were asked out on constantly as they were far outnumbered by men. Others talk about living accommodations, food, sightseeing and nightlife in Paris. Sometimes they get intensely personal, particularly those detailing the simultaneous relationships Schaffer had with two men, both of whom she considered marrying. There are religious references, as Schaffer revels in gifts of her mother's Jewish pastries and marks holidays. And there is the reality of war, including stretches without heat or hot water, uncertainty over where the Army was sending her next and moments such as when she and her roommate woke to bombs overhead. "You can bet your boots we both felt to see if we were wearing our dog tags," she writes. Throughout, Schaffer's wit endears. "You should have seen me get ready to go out on my date last night," she writes to her sister from a muddy tent encampment in northern France two months after the June 1944 Normandy invasion. "You would have really laughed. " After a cold shower she fixes her hair with a mirror wedged in a tree limb, dons combat gear and then puts on "a few dashes of cologne to make me feel like I wasn't a soldier." Later from Paris, writing on letterhead left behind by the Nazis, she quips "Can you imagine - ME - with the "handle" that I've got (that is, her Jewish name) using Hitler's stationary?" Ultimately, that she found friends, love and time for laughter in the depths of war is a testament to Schaffer's personal strength. And her story is a historically vital representation of the role played by the 20,000 WACs sent overseas in World War II.

Mad Love
Suzanne Selfors author
Walker & Company/Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780802784506, $16.99

In her third young adult novel since 2008's delightful "Coffeehouse Angel," Selfors continues to prove her flair for quirky teen romance. This time, the heroine is Alice Amorous, a Seattle teen who's been asked to write the memoir of a man claiming to be THE mythical Cupid, who's been alive for millennia. As in "Coffeehouse Angel," where the heroine struggles to save her family's small coffee shop, Alice faces an adult-like challenge. Her mother, a bestselling romance writer, has been hospitalized with debilitating bipolar disorder. But she doesn't want anyone but Alice and their neighbors - especially not her fans and publisher - to know, fearing adverse publicity. So Alice is left to deal with mounting medical bills and an impending publisher's deadline for her mother's next book. As Alice ponders how to deal with it all, she meets Errol, aka Cupid, who says he's terminally ill and wants Alice to quickly pen his life story that centers around a lost love. Meanwhile, she falls in love with Tony, a boy she's been admiring from afar. Alice, a Captain Crunch eating, imperfect teen whose life has been upended by her mother's illness, is warm and believable. Although Selfors delves into the complexities of bipolar disorder and touches on other tough things like a friend's eating disorder, "Mad Love," retains a soft edge, continually relying on humor and never terminally descending into uber-edgy adolescent angst. Accessible and fun; another winner.

Questions, Questions
Marcus Pfister, author and illustrator
NorthSouth Books, Inc.
350 7th Avenue, Room 1400, New York, NY 10001-5013
9780735840003, $16.95

Bold Crayola hues beckon from the cover of Swiss author and illustrator Marcus Pfister's newest work. Inside a color explosion continues, from amber autumn leaves to angry charcoal blue storm clouds to orange and purple butterflies. But it's not just the color that awes. Pfister's experimentation with texture - applying acrylic paint to cardboard and then thickly stamping it onto paper -- results in page after page of enticing composition. And the poem-based text ponders nature's mysteries in a wonderfully child-friendly cadence. "Does a whale make up a song so other whales will sing along?" it ponders. And "do apple seeds dream happily of growing up to be a tree?"Migrating geese, sea shells and fire are among the topics. Originally published in Switzerland and recently translated into English, "Questions, Questions" is a rare, near perfect symphony of art and words, a new treasure that once again cements Pfister as a formidable writer and artist of our time.

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
Sy Montgomery, author Nic Bishop, photographer
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780618494170 $18

From page one it's clear that author/photographer team Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop are passionate about saving the Kakapo. Their children's book that came out of their trip to New Zealand's remote Codfish Island, the last remaining habitat of the endangered Kakapo parrot, feels more a labor of love than a professional assignment. The latest in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's middlegrade "Scientists in the Field," series, "Kakapo Resuce," follows the efforts of volunteers and scientist who are trying to keep the last remaining Kakapo from disappearing forever. Currently, their numbers have dwindled to less than 100. The rescue effort has involved some extreme measures, including intentionally moving the non-flying birds to an isolated island where there are no predators. Visitors and gear are disinfected before embarking to the island, beaches are set with traps to catch rats that might escape from passing boats and teams spend long nights monitoring nests, covering eggs to keep them warm when a female leaves to feed. The top priority, of course, is to get the birds to successfully breed. Emotions overflow midway through the book when as previously thriving chick is found dead on its nest. "I know they must be weeping," Montgomery writes of the workers who discovered the death. "I am weeping too." And amid the photos of lush scenery and beautiful wildlife are Bishop's deeply personal photos of workers cradling chicks in their hands and caressing adult birds on their laps as they do things like weighing and replacing transmitters. "Kakapo smell sweet and earthy, like honey mixed with peat," reads one caption for a photo in which a worker has her nose buried in a bird's green feathers. If the workers' love for what they're doing alone could save the Kakapo, the birds would quickly repopulate. The kind of book that not only tells kids about science careers, but inspires them to choose a specific job path. Includes, of course, information on how to donate to New Zealand's Kakapo Recovery Programme, as well as a bibliography for further reading.

Carlo Collodi, author
Quentin Greban, illustrator
NorthSouth Books, Inc.
350 7th Avenue, Room 1400, New York, NY 10001-5013
9780735823242, $19.95

Like many classic children's tales, Carlo Collodi's original "Pinocchio" is darker than its 20th Century Walt Disney adaption, often intensely so. The original text, first published as an Italian magazine serial in 1881, is reprinted in its original entirety as 36 short chapters. The elements that Disney chose to use - the blue fairy, a talking cricket, the Island of Toys and the escape from the belly of a whale are all there...and so much more. The story begins acutely as a carpenter prepares to carve a table leg out of a piece of wood, and the wood cries out in pain at the touch of the axe. The carpenter gives the wood to puppet maker Geppetto, who fashions Pinocchio out of it. Other scenes that didn't make Disney's cut include Geppetto being hauled to prison on an accusation of abuse; Pinocchio's bludgeoning to death of a cricket, who later returns as a ghostly conscience; Pinocchio biting off the hand of an attacking bandit and two bandits later hanging him with a noose from a tree, leaving him for dead; and Pinocchio being tied up like a dog by a farmer, to keep away Martens who are eating his young chickens. It's an edginess that was still common in 19th Century children's literature, that has since evolved into a softer genre. The font is relatively small, with a lot of minute plot details that make it appropriate for kids age 8 and up. It would be a great bedtime read-aloud for that age group. Except for occasional splashes of bold red, the illustrations are muted, with earthy hues and a hand-hewn feel that harkens back to the book's original era. A great choice for older kids and others who appreciate the origins of long-beloved tales.

Karyn L. Saemann

Keira's Bookshelf

Hattie, Get A Haircut!
Jenna Glatzer
Moo Press
6 High Street Floor 2, Warwick, NY 10990
9780972485302 $19.95

"Hattie, Gets A Haircut!" is the perfect book for a child who squirms and wails during visits to the salon. With lyrical writing and lively illustrations, the story fairly dances across the page with Hattie's energy and emotions.

Hattie is a little girl who hates having her hair cut. So, when her mother informs her that the next morning, she is going to get a haircut, Hattie emphatically denies the possibility. The repeated "I will never / no way / not at all / let someone cut my hair" is sure to bring giggles from your child.

Before going to bed, Hattie fervently wishes for her hair to grow down to her toes with the belief that somehow that would prevent the hairdresser from cutting it. She then falls asleep and starts dreaming about the next day when her mother takes her kicking and screaming to the salon. (Watch Hattie's teddy mimic her emotions in the first third of the book.)

However, before the dreadful scissors can touch even a lock of her hair, Hattie has gained her freedom, and she takes to her heels. Into the ice cream shop she goes, where she first realizes that her hair has started growing longer. The swifter she runs, the quicker her hair grows. Soon her hair is so long that a bluebird builds a nest in it, a kitten makes its bed on it, a grandma knits it, a horse eats it, and children play in it. Hattie is beside herself in despair of all the trouble her long hair has gotten herself into.

Thus, Hattie learns how tiresome and dangerous long hair can be. She also learns valuable lessons about listening to her parents' wisdom, about how fortunate she is to be healthy and also about giving to those who are not as fortunate as herself. The whimsical nature of the book ensures that these messages are not stodgy or preachy and yet are understood easily.

"Hattie" is one of those storybooks children will want read to them over and over again. Monica Kendall's pencil and watercolor illustrations capture Hattie's moods perfectly. And the care Jenna Glazer has taken in choosing her words is evident in how the text does double duty: conveys the angst, fear and worry that a child will understand and conveys the humor that will have the parent chuckling every time.

What Not To Wear
Tinny Woodall & Susannah Constantine
Riverhead Books
Penguin Group, 375 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014-3657
9781573223577 $14.99

"Style isn't something you are born with, but something any one of you can learn." And with those words Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine beguile the reader into turning the pages of their fashion manual. However, it is with their humorous and succinct comments and illustrative pictures that they clearly ensure the reader gets their point: ".dress to show off what you love and hide what you loathe about your body."

Most women despair of ever fitting into the teeny-tiny clothes that the anorexic models sport with such poise. Diet and exercise, which many of us are reluctant to do citing time as the reason, are believed to be the only way to squeeze our unruly bodies frankfurter-style into chic clothing. However, as Woodall and Constantine explicitly show, looking stylish is not about following fashion, but forging ahead with what looks good on the individual.

The book addresses different problems areas one by one: big boobs, no boobs, big arms, big butt, no waist, flabby tummy, saddlebags, short neck, short legs, thick ankles and calves, in short, the entire body. The left-hand-side pages denote the wrong choice of apparel, while the right-hand-side pages display the correct choices. Each page is composed of a full-color picture of either Woodall or Constantine modeling the article of clothing with comments appraising the selection.

Theirs is a no-holds-barred approach to tearing apart the wrong choices for the different body types and to clearly point out why the right choices work. Their sarcastic, witty and honest take on what can be a painful subject makes the reading fun and intriguing. The book forms a great complement to their TV series on BBC.

Keira Soleore, Reviewer

Logan's Bookshelf

The Stronger Sex
Hans Werner Kettenbach
Bitter Lemon Press
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc.
9781904738671, $14.95,

When a time limit looms over one's head, everything becomes a rush. "The Stronger Sex" tells the story of attorney Alexander Zabel and his intriguing case of a dying near-octogenarian and his middle-aged mistress. Author Hans Werner Kettenbach explores a unique psychology of age, sexuality, and where our sympathies lie. Unique and riveting reading, "The Stronger Sex" is a fine read, not to be missed.

The Baseball Box Prophecy
Bruce Newbold
c/o Bronwyn Evans (publicity)
9780970120632, $15.95

His hobby spun him into having the fate of a world in his hands. "The Baseball Box Prophecy"" tells the story of young Cletis who while opening a baseball box, it quickly came to reality that it was more Pandora's box that he opened. Under the thumb of a witch of unclear intentions, Cletis will learn much about this world and himself in this fun and exciting young adult fantasy. "The Baseball Box Prophecy" is a fun and very highly recommended read, not to be missed.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Lost in the Sand
Shanna Ahmad
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
1425146848, $25.00,

When your people are marked for extermination, it'll take everything you have to simply survival. "Lost in the Sand" is a novel that author Shanna Ahmad holds is fact, as she tells a story of surviving Saddam's Iraq and facing the chaos that still remained after the Americans came, leaving her hopes shattered that a peaceful homeland could ever be a reality. "Lost in the Sand" is a riveting read that comes with much to think about and is very highly recommended.

Cedar Woman
Debra Shiveley Welch
Saga Books
9781897512371, $15.95,

Drawn form the tradition of the Native Americans of the Central plains, "Cedar Woman" tells the story of young Lena, a woman with a talent for changing the fortunes of those around her. Her talent will be put to the test as challenges to her life remain as strong as she can be, "Cedar Woman" is an enticing read and very highly recommended.

The Seeker is the Sought
Marvin Richard Montney
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432702267, $15.95,

Love should be easier to find that one would think, as not only are you looking for love, love is looking for you too. "The Seeker is the Sought: Poems of Lover's Joys, Lover's Empowerments" is a collection of poetry from Marvin Richard Montney on the accolades of love and what it does to people. Moving and charming, ""The Seeker is the Sought" is a collection that should be sought itself. "Misty morning encounter": Before she unstrapped hers/she barked, "Have you a dog?"/and I, approaching, snapped,/"No, Ma'am, I'm walking me."

Margaret Lane

Nicole's Bookshelf

How to Knit a Heart Back Home
Rachael Herron
10 East 53rd Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10022
9780061841316 $13.99

Do men find women who knit sexy? In today's looks-based culture, it seems more believable in the comforting world of fiction. Rachael Herron champions the idea in How to Knit a Heart Back Home. Lucy Harrison is the plain Jane heroine following in the footsteps of her late grandmother. From operating her financially strapped bookstore to habitually wearing her threadbare, hand-knitted sweater, Lucy willingly submerges her own identity in that of the deceased. Her life in the small coastal California town of Cypress Hollow is so quiet that the penultimate highlight of her romantic life occurred all the way back in high school with bad boy, Owen Bancroft. As the story begins, Owen is back home for the first time since their adolescent encounter. Needless to say, this sends Lucy into a tizzy.

Herron depicts Owen's nostalgia as on par with Lucy's, yet throughout the narrative the concept rings false. First, Owen does not recognize Lucy when they see each other for the first time. He's had several romantic interludes with other women throughout the years, one even a few weeks before returning to Cypress Hollow. He certainly is not the romantic hero who has been pining away for Lucy all these years. Since his abrupt departure, he never made a single attempt to reconnect with her.

As they begin to develop a relationship, the basis of it seems purely physical on Owen's side. Again and again, his attraction to Lucy is, for the most part, based on satisfying his desire. While this may be gratifying to Lucy to some extent, she is thrown into a constant state of upheaval as they begin to get reacquainted with each other. The further Owen advances, the quicker she is to pull away, but not before he moves her another step closer to his ultimate fulfillment.

The descriptive details relating to the amorous scenes are a tad on the cheesy side. They are more appropriate to a romance novel with a Fabio emblazoned cover than a love story with a knitting/literary theme. The frequent mention of prophylactics puts the book more on par with being a poster child for a STD awareness campaign. Herron even has Lucy's mother walk in on the couple while in the act. This cringe-worthy moment is the very antithesis of what any romance reader wants to uncover in a love story. It gets even worse when instead of bolting from the room, she tries to carry on a conversation with the amorously intertwined couple.

The saving grace for knitters is wrapped up in the legendary status of Eliza Carpenter. The fictitious icon of knitters the world over has turned Cypress Hollow into a mecca for those wishing to click their needles in their idol's former place of residence. The drawing together of Lucy and Owen is based on the discovery of Eliza's unpublished patterns. The reason Owen is back is because of his guilt over his mother's dementia and having to place her in a nursing home. After selling Lucy boxes of his mother's old books, the valuable papers are uncovered. The opportunity to work together on the project forges their strengthening bond.

However, when Owen begins to see Lucy as more of a person than an object, he becomes quite overbearing. He wants her to quit being a volunteer firefighter/EMT in order to ensure her safety. Being a former cop, he draws his gun on Lucy's brother mistaking him for a burglar. He even investigates her past by snooping through her private documents. Only by asserting herself does Lucy come to gain equal footing in the relationship.

The believability of some points is questionable. Can Lucy really afford a house of her own when visitors only stop by her bookstore to use the restroom or help themselves to the free coffee? Would the town bombshell really prefer Lucy's ear flap hat wearing, barely communicative, younger brother to the dashingly handsome, Owen, who just happens to be her old high school flame? At times, a slip here or there is allowable, but when questionable details start to add up it begins to detract from the work as a whole.

Overall, through the power of a love story, a meek knitter/bookworm converts the town bad boy into a romantic, leading man.

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels
Ree Drummond
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061997167 $25.99

Some girls have all the luck. Ree Drummond's depiction of her cowboy husband in The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels would make any female swoon. He is quite literally the perfect man, and yet totally believable in the role. Despite his wife's glowing characterization, the affectionately dubbed "Marlboro Man" still manages to come across as authentic and utterly likable. What seems to be a personality that is too good to be true is actually the genuine nature of a decent, respectable guy.

Ree is more critical of her own faults and short comings. She grew up as an American princess. Her backyard was the golf course of a country club. Her wardrobe was filled with designer clothes. When she moved back home after a break-up, she didn't have to worry about finding a job right away in order to support herself. Not to say that her life was completely devoid of anxiety, but she lived a life that was secure and protected. Her plan was to pick herself up, dust herself off and head to Chicago for a life filled with excitement and culture. That is until, she met Marlboro Man.

The two being to form an intimate relationship that can rightly be called a courtship. On most evenings, Marlboro Man drives Ree to his ranch in his pick-up truck where they spend the time cooking dinner, watching movies and snuggling on the front porch under the stars. Ever the gentleman, Marlboro Man doesn't push things farther than long make-out sessions on his couch and makes sure Ree makes it home every night. But not before calling to wish her a good night with his deep baritone voice that never fails to send shivers down Ree's spine.

If Marlboro Man has an agenda, it is to make Ree his wife. Though not necessarily reluctant to spend the rest of her life with the man of her dreams, she begins to question her suitability in regards to his rural lifestyle. The quiet. The isolation. The manure. Can she really give up everything she's ever known and planned for in order to adapt to the rugged, physical existence of life on the farm?

The beauty of the narrative lies in Ree's transformation. She was always a good-hearted person - having patience with her special needs brother, trying to be there for both of her parents as they go through a painful divorce - but she grows beyond the boundaries of her suburban mindset. It is as if she experiences a reawakening about what is really important in life versus what is just meaningless excess. The pure, unconditional love of Marlboro Man opens her eyes to a whole new host of possibilities now before her. It is beautiful to walk with Ree as she undergoes this transformation.

While in many ways a modern day fairy tale, the book is not all fluff. After their wedding, the couple comes to experience several back-to-back hardships that test their mettle right off the bat. Things do not begin to run as smoothly as during their dating days, but they come to rely on and support each other in a conjoined effort to face head-on whatever comes their way.

One wonders how the quiet, reserved nature of Marlboro Man feels about having his private moments with Ree captured in print for all to read. Does he truly feels comfortable sharing such intimate details with the world? However, he will no doubt feel the gratitude of every woman who picks up the book thanking God that a man like him truly exists.

Overall, women the world over will swoon for Marlboro Man.

Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost
edited by Barbara Abercrombie
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781577319573 $14.95

The loss of a beloved animal is often best commiserated among fellow pet owners. Those who do not have a four-legged family member in their lives often cannot comprehend the inconsolable void that accompanies the death of a pet. When the earthly bond of unconditional love is shattered, only the memory of it remains. That is the empathetic feeling that is captured in the short story collection, Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost edited by Barbara Abercrombie. It is a heartfelt look at bereavement and grief throughout the animal spectrum. There is no defined limitation as to what constitutes a pet, and each of the contributors reflects on the specific losses they have endured. For many, it is the first time they have turned to writing in order to express the emotions that accompanied their final good-byes.

The standout piece of the anthology is "True Love" by Samantha Dunn concerning her horse, Gabe. In a fitting description, she writes, "I see him again each time I go to a movie theater and the logo for TriStar Pictures appears on the screen - the strong white chest, the thundering legs." What makes this relationship even more remarkable is that at the time, Samantha was living in a trailer park - not the typical residence of a horse owner. Throughout her teenage years, Samantha enjoyed riding and caring for Gabe. It is not until she returned home during a college break that she learned that her grandmother had sold the elderly equine to a children's summer camp. Samantha never found out if this story was true, or just something her grandmother told her in order to comfort her about Gabe's final resting place. Choosing not to uncover the truth, this unresolved ending still effects Samantha to this day.

Another atypical pet revolves around May-lee Chai's "Red the Pig." Growing up in the farmlands of South Dakota with a white mother and an Asian father wasn't easy for May-lee and her brother. In order to fit in, they decided to work together in raising pigs. Red was the biggest of the piglets. May-lee named them by color in order to not get emotionally involved, but it wasn't long before she was posing with Red for her senior picture. As Red continued to grow, the day arrived when he was destined for the slaughterhouse - something that May-lee could never really accept. After the loss of her pig, she knew she "never wanted to live on a farm again."

In "Party Girl," Monica Holloway explores the animal-autism connection between her son, Wills and their shepherd-collie mix, Hallie. Monica shares, "there was a deep love between them, but it was as if Hallie were a protective aunt, standoffish but fiercely protective." When Wills was 12-years-old, he returned the favor. After Hallie fell into the pool and her arthritic body sank like a stone, it was Wills who jumped in and saved her. Pretty impressive for an autistic boy who didn't like getting his clothes wet. As the selection comes to an end, Hallie is rapidly approaching her final days. Monica ends with a poignant thought, "Hallie ... has been the one constant through the years, completely devoted but asking nothing in return." It is a fitting summation of love between pets and owners everywhere.

The subject matter of the book may be one that many readers will be afraid to approach. The loss of one's pet is hard enough without having to endure the blow-by-blow accounts of other owners for over 200 pages. The repeated scenes of physical deterioration and subsequent euthanization do not make for happy reading. The ending of each story is known before diving in. While it can lead to an experience of continual heartbreak, the collection's intention is to help a pet owner through the grieving process by being able to gain insight from the coping strategies of others. Whether this is a helpful strategy or not is up to the needs of the individual reader.

Overall, these writers share their personal experiences in order to empathize with other grieving pet owners.

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts
Lucy Dillon
Berkley Trade
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425238875 $15.00

Ah, angst. When women are stressed out and dealing with emotional life changing events, they tend to worry themselves to no end. For a book with dogs in the title and two canines gracing the cover, this comes as a bit of a surprise to those expecting a warm and fuzzy read. With the introduction to an American audience of her UK release Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, author Lucy Dillon is hoping to connect with readers who fell in love with uber-successful, pet-themed novels like Marley & Me and Dewey the Library Cat. However, what sets this story apart is not its four-legged characters, but rather the well-rounded, realistic depictions of three women facing the day-to-day struggles of ordinary life.

Rachel, Zoe and Natalie are not superwomen, but neither are they one-dimensional puppets used to advance the plot. Their inner motivations and thought processes ring true. They say things they shouldn't and behave in ways that are inappropriate. But that's what makes them real. They have problems and issues that they are doing their best to deal with. What helps them through the hardships and frustrations are their dogs who remain steadfast amidst the psychological tumult.

Rachel is the super chic, London career woman. At 39, she leaves her married lover and her prestigious job to run her deceased aunt's boarding kennel/dog rescue. She also inherits her Border Collie, Gem, who serves as a guide helping her negotiate the path from getting her hair cut in a posh salon to cleaning cages on her hands and knees. Add to the mix George, the town veterinarian, who the local women whisper looks just like Daniel Craig. Just when Rachel thinks she might be able to adjust to her new life in the country, an unexpected revelation and a visitor from her past threaten to disrupt her new found serenity.

Zoe is the newly divorced mom of two young boys. When her husband cheated on her and ran off with a younger woman, she was left holding the bag. Struggling to make ends meet on a hairdresser's salary and battling for alimony and child support, her ex selfishly dumps Toffee, a new Labrador puppy, in her lap in order to buy his sons' affections. At her wits end trying to keep things together, she turns to Rachel for help. They agree to a weekday doggy daycare arrangement with Zoe agreeing to walk the kennel dogs on Saturday mornings as a part of a volunteer group. Little does she realize that this set-up will lead her right into the arms of the handsome Dr. Bill. Finding herself more and more attracted to the charming physician, she must steel herself against his anti-children proclamation especially since she never worked up the courage to tell him that she's a mother.

Natalie is on the fast track to promotion as a marketing executive when her company unexpectedly lays her off. With ample time on her hands, she decides along with her husband, Johnny that they can now focus on starting a family. However, their plans go awry when Natalie fails to conceive. As the stress starts to mount regarding infertility treatments and doctor visits, they decide to serve as foster parents to a Basset Hound named Bertie from Rachel's kennel. As they start to drift apart and blame each other for their conception troubles, Bertie becomes a vital link in helping them remember what's most important in life.

While Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts isn't exactly a relaxing escape from reality, it does paint an accurate picture of the issues facing women in today's society. Dillon expresses the turmoil bubbling beneath the surface of everyday life from financial problems to relearning how to date. She creates viable, likable female characters facing these issues with the help, love and support of their canine sidekicks.

Overall, this is a more introspective and fully formed narrative than the average chick lit/pet story.

Nicole Langan, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

Zoolin Vale and the Chalice of Ringtar
Craig Smith Publishing
3581 Cottonwood Drive, Danville, CA 94506)
1600761909 $12.95

This is a fantasy story about a set of friends on two very different quests.

Disaster has struck the land of Melin; the Chalice of Ringtar has been stolen. It is a sacred relic, and its absence will make Melin look weak and incompetent in the eyes of their neighbors. A young man named Tennen, newly selected earlier that day as Lord Protector, leads an expedition to track down the chalice. Accompanying them is the wizard Rimotar, carrying a type of homing beacon, keeping them going in the right direction. When they aren't fighting off mud and stone creatures, the group hears stories of a being of great power, dressed all in black, a day or two ahead of them. Whoever stole the Chalice is not your everyday thief.

Devlin, Tyvn and Myke, friends of Tennen, are on a different sort of quest. Devlin has just learned that a long time ago, his parents were kidnapped and sold into slavery. Devlin was occupied at the time, having just escaped from an evil warlock who kidnapped and brainwashed him. On their journey, they rescue an imp named Hugen, who was tricked into going down to the bottom of a well, and was left there. The neighboring land of Welkland, where Devlin is from, is without a king. A grand contest, open to all comers, will choose the next ruler. The four are accosted by a man who says that he has given Hugen and Tyvn a special kind of poison. Only he has the antidote. To stay alive, the four must enter the contest, held at a place called Zoolin Vale. If any of them win, and become King, they are supposed to rsign in favor of their tormenter. Hugen doesn't make the cut, but the others make it to the finals. Along the way, Devlin gets closer and closer to
finding his parents. When he finally finds them, things are not what he expected.

Here is a really good piece of writing. It's interesting, it has plenty of action, and it has intelligence. The reader will enjoy this.

All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?
Joel Berg
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
9781583228548 $22.95

This book looks at the current state of hunger in America. Written by an anti-hunger activist, and former government official, it is not a pretty picture.

If food insecurity (the new euphemism for "hunger") is such a huge problem, then why are there so many obese African-Americans? Doesn't it show that they are getting more than enough food? What it really shows is that those whose food insecurity situation is bad, but not totally desperate, have to rely on cheaper high-calorie food that is full of chemicals and preservatives.

Why don't inner-city residents buy more vegetables, even organic vegetables? Most inner-city neighborhoods don't have a supermarket, so the people have to rely on convenience stores, that will carry cheaper pre-processed foods, instead of organic vegetables. Also, if you are given a certain amount of money, and have to make it last an entire week, vegetables are rare, and expensive organic vegetables are simply not a possibility. Find out what your state gives food stamp recipients each week to live on, and see if you can do it.

Another problem for inner-city residents is that the various government programs are administered by different agencies, which physically are nowhere near each other. It requires taking time off work, or finding child care, and getting on several buses, in order to go through several different sets of bureaucratic nonsense.

Everyone knows someone who says they have seen a food stamp recipient buying lobster or caviar or something else very expensive with food stamps. That is highly unlikely, because the average inner-city recipient has no access to such items, and benefits are distributed on what look like regular debit cards, to reduce the stigma.

What to do? Among other things, the author advocates putting all hunger programs together into one giant program. He also advocates making free school breakfasts available for all children, to reduce the stigma for children, and making healthy food much more available in the inner city.

This book is a large eye-opener. It is full of practical solutions, and is very easy to read (even with the charts and graphs). It is very highly recommended.

You Are Still Being Lied To
Russ Kick
The Disinformation Company Ltd
163 Third Avenue, Suite 108, New York, NY 10003
9781934708071 $24.95

This is a remixed version of a previously published book, containing articles on a wide variety of topics that will not be covered in the mainstream media. There is something here to upset or offend nearly everyone.

Howard Zinn talks about the real Christopher Columbus. Alex Jones talks about the coming North American Union. There is a piece on John McCain and his attempts to cover up the POW issue from the Vietnam War. R. Crumb contributes a graphic novel piece on the religious experience of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Jim Marrs explores the reasons behind the attempts by the Iraqi Government to ban Blackwater. There is a piece on getting high by licking toads, along with a piece on the unconscious roots of the Drug War. Other contributions in this book reassess the "official" version of the Oklahoma City bombing, along with the cover-up of the murder of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The titles of some of these articles are pretty self-explanatory. For instance, there is AA Lies (all about Alcoholics Anonymous); Amnesia in America; The Information Arms Race; The Truth About Corporations; Cheap, Crappy Food = A Fat Population; Chemicals Are Killing You; Drug War Mythology; We Were Silenced by the Drums of War; NutraFear and NutraLoathing in Augusta, Georgia; Pharmaceutical Crimes and Misdemeanors; The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV and Fear and Lying in 2012-Land.

Like I said, there is something here for everyone. It does a really good job at exposing the reader to a number of different subjects. For anyone who wants to get past the mass media version of how the world works, and get the "real" story, start right here. It is highly recommended.

Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer
Jeff Vandermeer
Tachyon Publications
1459 18th Street, #139, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781892391902 $14.95

Writing used to be all about putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). In the 21st Century, there are so many other things for a writer to consider. This book aims to answer some of those questions.

Every published writer needs some sort of Web presence. Will yours be a static website to which you post every week or so? Will yours be an active blog to which you post every day, along with daily Facebook updates, and a couple of tweets daily? Choose which is best for you; every minute blogging or tweeting is a minute taken away from writing. Isn't writing the most important part of all this?

Create checklists and stick with them. For instance, write an entire short story, edit it, and get it ready for mailing, every month. As soon as a story is returned from Magazine A, get it in the mail to Magazine B as soon as possible (the next day, if possible). How do you juggle a full-time job with a writing career? Few writers can make a living from writing. If writing is important enough to you, you will make time for writing (even just an hour a day).

Most writers will have to handle their own marketing and publicity. How good are you at reading a selection from your novel (no more than 15 minutes long), then answering questions from a live audience about it? If you have a hard time with that, then concentrate on podcasts and posting to other people's blogs. Again, choose which is best for you. Along with seemingly every other business book written in the 21st Century, the author stresses the power of networking. That person you casually meet at a literary convention may be a popular blogger, or know a magazine editor who would be interested in a submission from you.

On the personal side, the book looks at the process of editing and revising your stories, and how to re-charge your creative batteries.

This book will not help you get that first novel sale (there are plenty of other books available for that). But when you get that first check from a publisher, one of the first things you should do is buy a copy of this book. It will be of immense help in answering that eternal author question, "How do I get people to buy my book?"

Poisoned for Profit: How Toxins are Making Our Children Chronically Ill
Philip and Alice Shabecoff
Chelsea Green Publishing
P.O. Box 428, White River Junction, VT 05001
9781603582568 $17.95

Have you wondered why there seems to be an epidemic of serious childhood illnesses, like cancer, asthma and birth defects, in America? It has a lot to do with the huge increase, over the past 50 years, of toxic chemicals dumped into the environment. This book gives the details.

There are a number of towns all over the country, ranging from Dickson, Tennessee, to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Toms River, New Jersey, suffering much higher than normal numbers of severe childhood illnesses. Each town just happens to also contain a large industrial plant that handles lots of toxic chemicals. Are the illnesses all "isolated instances" or "just one of those things?"

The authors say that the CEOs of the major chemical companies are not evil people who deliberately want to poison innocent children, but profit is most important. It is very hard to prove, absolutely, that a particular case of asthma or cancer, for instance, was caused by chemicals from a particular industrial plant, though the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong. The chemical companies use that uncertainty to delay the paying of any fines or cleanup costs.

Scientists-for-pay are willing to say what the chemical companies want them to say. The evidence is not conclusive and more study (read: delay) is needed. Washington is no help. Through lobbyists and campaign contributions, it has been made clear to members of Congress that bills to add new regulations are to be watered down or defeated. Only a few of the thousands of chemicals in the environment have been tested at all. Those tests have been very short-term, and have looked at adult exposure to chemicals. The level of toxicity for children and fetuses is much lower.

What can a parent do? If you plan on having children in the future, adopt a healthy lifestyle. Get proper amounts of vitamins and minerals, starting today (men and women). If you already have children, let them play outside and open the windows in your house for at least a few minutes a day (to let out any built-up toxins). Stay away from pesticides and dry cleaning, buy organic food as much as possible, buy furniture and flooring made from solid wood instead of particleboard, which is treated with formaldehyde. There are also plenty of websites to visit with safer alternatives to everyday items.

This book easily reaches the level of Wow. It is very easy to read, and is quite an eye-opener for all parents and parents-to-be. This is highly recommended.

Internet Your Way to a New Job
Alison Doyle
20660 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 210, Cupertino, CA 95014
9781600050916 $19.95

This book gives a number of examples of how to conduct your job search using all the new Internet tools that are constantly being developed.

Do a Google search on yourself to see what the Internet says about you. If there are drunken or racy photos of you on Facebook, for instance, restrict their availability or delete them, now. You can count on a potential employer doing the same search.

Learn how to create an online presence. If you are seeking any kind of professional position, join LinkedIn and create a profile. Next, sign up on Facebook, but leave the bells and whistles off your page; for professional networking, keep it simple. The number of networking sites is rapidly growing; pick a couple of sites for your profile, and stick with them.

Before you start your job search, be very clear about the sort of job you are seeking, and make sure your resume targets that type of job. Start a new email account just for job searching. Store everything in a separate folder on your computer. Start an Excel spreadsheet that includes the company name, contact person and the date the resume was sent. If you find an interesting opening, apply immediately. Check your email, and your telephone, several times a day for messages. If you get an expression of interest, or request to call for an interview, respond immediately. Obviously, if you are job searching while employed, do not use your company email or telephone; be very discreet about telling colleagues you are job searching. No doubt, word will reach your supervisor.

It's not enough to post a couple of online profiles, monitor a couple of the major job sites, and expect the jobs to come to you; you have to constantly go and find them. The author also looks at resumes; a good review for those who suddenly find that they have to wipe the dust off of theirs.

This book is short, easy to read and is full of information for all job seekers, whether a "veteran" job seeker or a first-timer. It is a gem of a book.

The Death of Patsy McCoy
Levi Montgomery
Inflatable Rider Press
1685 H Street, #117, Blaine, WA 98230
9780984491810 $2.99

This is a novella about life in small-town America. It is not a very pretty picture.

It was summer in Bumford, Kansas, it was hot, and there was nothing for four adolescent boys to do. That is, until Babyface, Spittle, Farm Boy and Stud, the leader, met a new kid whom they named Patsy. He was kind of fat, and looked like he waddled, so, of course, he was continually tormented and made the butt of their jokes. They held out the promise that when the local high school started the fall semester in a few weeks, Patsy would be part of the group. No one wants to be the "new kid" in high school. Their treatment of Patsy started with the usual adolescent hazing, then quickly degenerated into cruel and downright evil treatment.

The story consists of reminiscences about Patsy and those days by several of the group as they return to town twenty years later for a funeral. They knew then that they could have stopped Patsy's torment, or at least reduced it, but they didn't do it. Perhaps it was some sort of groupthink, or wanting to be one of the crowd, that stopped them from speaking up. They were tracked down on the Internet by Patty, Stud's younger sister. She stayed in Bumford, and is a waitress at the local diner. She remembers the many quickies she gave the local boys in her family's barn.

In a way, this is very unpleasant reading, especially for anyone who was on the receiving end of such treatment. It is also really good reading. The author does a fine job with this tale of regret and bad choices from several different perspectives.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Let's Get Moving
Matt Mitter, Illustrated by SI Artists
Reader's Digest Children's Books
Reader's Digest Road, Pleasantville, NY 10570
9780794420093 $9.99

"Let's Get Moving" uses colorful illustrations to show kids all the fun activities they can do at the park, at the gym, in the snow, at the beach, and in the neighborhood. Each two-page spread is full of durable flaps for little ones to lift up and peek inside. There are also suggested activities to get toddlers up and moving. This book is a great way to teach vocabulary and introduce young children to a variety of different sports, exercises, and good old playtime fun. This is a large board book with laminated, wipe-off pages and sturdy flaps that will withstand use and abuse. A perfect book for 2-year olds. My 2-year old grandson loves it.

The Trouble with Chickens: A J.J.Tully Mystery
Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Balzer + Bray
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061215322 $14.99

J.J. Tully is a retired search-and-rescue dog living an all too quiet life on the farm. He was minding his own business one day when a wacky chicken he calls Moosh shows up at his doghouse with her two baby chicks he calls Dirt and Sugar. They need his help. Tully doesn't have much use for chickens but he's a sucker for a good mystery and Mama Moosh offers up a doozy - plus a cheeseburger. Irresistible - and so is J.J. Tully, who's a cross between Marmaduke and Sam Spade - lovable and sarcastic. This easy-to-read chapter book is fast and funny and full of hijinks. Cornell's black & white cartoon illustrations add the perfect layer of comedy and personality to Cronin's witty whodunit to make this book a winner with young readers.

Manni: From a World Beyond the Stars
Dreamworlds Beyond Time
733 North Kings Road, Ste 230, West Hollywood, CA 90069
9780976335436 $14.95

On the same night that hundreds of tiny sea turtles are hatched, a mysterious creature named Oonie is sent by the moon to come down to the sand and help one baby turtle named Manni return to the sea. Manni tries his best to make it on his own but he nearly drowns. Oonie appears at first as a coconut seed and shares his sturdy shell with Manni as they are tossed about by the ocean's current on an adventurous journey. Benrali combines natural science, Caribbean folklore, and a touch of magical realism to create an exciting tale of friendship and adventure. Benrali is an extraordinarily talented illustrator. Each turn of the page unveils a brilliant work of art. Even the backgrounds he draws are exquisite. His marvelous attention to detail draws readers into the pages for an out of this world experience.

Spaceship Earth: A Beginning Without End
Tom Schwartz
Reagent Press Books for Young Readers
PO Box 362, East Olympia, WA 98540
9781575451435 $19.99

Journey billions of years into the future where humans live hundreds of years. Mankind has solved all the problems on Earth. But the universe has stopped expanding and the sun is gradually dying. A team of scientists has been assembled to formulate a plan to save the planet from being incinerated in the next Big Bang. One solution is to evacuate Earth's population in thousands of space ships. The other, more radical idea involves turning the entire planet into a colossal spaceship and moving away from the sun. Billions of years into the future the president must choose which plan to implement. Scwhartz has combined science and science fiction in an epic story of survival. "Spaceship Earth" will pique the imaginations of budding astrophysicists and engineers and will certainly stimulate many questions in young minds.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

Red Wolf (1 star)
Liza Marklund
Atria Books (Simon and Schuster)
1451602065 $16.69

From the first pages of Red Wolf, I found not only the writing, but the very story itself hard to follow. A former newspaper journalist has struck out on her own as an independent investigative reporter. She focuses on terrorism.

A fellow male journalist has discovered secret information about a major unsolved bombing of forty years ago. This information pertains to the instigators of the bombing of a Drakan fighter plane at location F21 outside the northern town of Lulea, Sweden. For journalist Annita Bengtzon, this could be another big break into an unsolved story she could then sell lucratively to newspapers.

When Annita arrives in the small northern town of Lulea, she discovers that her male informant is dead - run over by an automobile several times, breaking and then crushing his skull. Sickened by this information, Annita decides not only to hunt down this man's murderer, but to solve the terrorist bombing of forty years ago.

In spite of police reports detailing the murder scene, Annita decides to visit the snowy place on her own. There, she accidentally discovers a young boy hidden in the shadows.

Convincing this lad that she is a reporter who would never mention the young man's name, he admits to witnessing the brutal murder. Now, more than ever, she is determined to expose those responsible for these atrocities.

Because he was sneaking home late, he had watched, unobserved, as a Volvo shot out of the darkness, knocked down the reporter, then ran him over. The killer dragged the smashed body up against a fence near the road to suggest to police that the reporters death had been a hit and run accident.

Part of Annita's story leaks to a newspaper. It mentions the existence of an informer. It takes little effort for the killer(s) to realize that someone from remote Lulea where the murder occurred is the informer. This young man is found dead - his throat slashed.

Meanwhile, Annita's unhappy husband begins cheating on her even though they have two children. These precious youngsters get passed back and forth between distanced parents. Their father is a very task oriented man who wants nothing more than for Annita to remain at home so he can go about his life as a professional businessman. He resents his wife's absence, because she wants the same rights to her career as he does.

As a result, both parents spend much time away from home. Although their children are left in the hands of good caregivers, Annita worries far more about them than her husband. He now begins to have an affair.

And this is where I will leave the reader of Red Wolf to discover how, or even if, Annita Bengtzon can solve so many problems and move on with a happy personal life. She will uncover how life threatening it can be to stir up the hornet's nest of forty years ago.

There is something terribly disjointed about RedWolf. Author Marklund uses odd descriptive phrases and clauses that impede the flow of the narrative rather than add more prosaic relevance to emotions and actions. I found myself stopping to reread words that, to me, were awkward and clumsy, sometimes trite.

___She felt adrenaline slowly start to spread out from the small of her back, up toward her chest.

___He served humanity in a way that he knew was right, and in return he got respect and reassurance that confirmed that his frame of reference was the right one. He was a solid person.

___The taxi drivers' voices by the entrance cascaded after her as she walked through the small airport, making her feel slightly hunted.

___The wind was damp and full of odors, soil and leaves and car fumes, the grass was still green, and half-dead leaves still clung to a few branches.

___Thomas demonstratively turned ninety degrees away from her, his shoulders screaming out that he was actively distancing himself.

I was truly disappointed to read Red Wolf. It seems to have a little bit of every kind of problem thrown in for good measure. As a result, none of the books major issues are fully developed nor are its characters, who appear emotionless and fake. This is one disjointed book I would not recommend to any reader unless it is carefully rewritten and carefully edited to avoid superficiality.

The Bird House: A Novel (5 stars)
Kelly Simmons
Washington Square Press
1439160937 $9.47

The Bird House: A Novel is an extraordinary book for many reasons, but above all, it is the second novel of Kelly Simmons and done so well, you'd think she'd been writing for years. Her characters are very well developed--in fact, it is difficult not to persevere with any of them as truly disturbing family secrets are uncovered.

At the very beginning, Ann Biddle makes the astonishing claim that she killed her first born daughter. If this isn't enough, immediately, narrator Ann begins her tale from her own faltering mind due to early onset Alzheimer's. Should a reader trust Ann's words or not? Are her interpretations of reality in sync with what really occurred in her early family life? If not, what happened to her firstborn girl?

Within the first pages of The Bird House, Grandma Ann attempts quite successfully to win the love, understanding, and trust of her grandchild, Ellie, an eight-year-old who has asked Grandma to help her complete a class assignment. Students are to retell, in youthful form, their family's history from some novel point of view with pictures, facts, and possibly a well documented fact thrown in for good measure. Ellie spots a birdhouse outside Grandma Ann's window and decides that birdhouse will be her connecting project theme. She has seen birdhouses in old family photograph albums.

As Grandmother Ann and Ellie spend time putting together Ellie's project, it becomes obvious to the reader that Ellie's mother is a bit fearful of Ann, who tends to forget recent memories, but who has a vise grip on past happenings. Ann seems to be hiding a deep family secret just as much as her daughter-in-law,

Ellie is a brilliant child. Even as an eight-year-old, she begins to notice unusual things about both her Grandmother and her own mother. She notices that mom is secretive about present events, particularly after she and Grannie appear to find evidence that Ellie's mom is an adulteress.

What event happened to Grandma Ann so long ago that, even today, makes her feel like a murderer hiding secrets in an attic trunk? Ellie's mother is uncomfortable with the growing relationship between the older woman and her young daughter. Ann has pictures of Ellie's mother's illicit affair. But is she reading the evidence to suit her dislike for her daughter-in-law; or has her Alzheimer's deluded her grasp on reality?

The Bird House is a stunning read. From the first few pages when the reader finds that Grandma Ann feels guilty of murder, to the last pages when so many believable secrets surface, the reader will begin to wonder if the entire narration is Ann's own mistaken semi-senile dementia.

The book is not without humor. Ann thinks to herself: "What a waste to be chaste in high school ... saving ourselves for infidelity, for cheating, and lies!"

The Bird House sounds like a book for women. It is not. It is a book for everyone who has dealt with troubling family secrets which, in this tale, are brought to life by an eight-year-old child and her doting grandmother. In my mind, Author Kelly Simmons thoughtfully placed little Ellie with her Grannie to bring some reality to the truth when it finally surfaces.

Male or female? Read this novel. It will encourage you to respect the elderly for their long term memories, and youth for its logic and inspiration. I would highly recommend The Bird House to ALL readers because, in the end, you will gain a much better understanding of yourself as you age!

Regis Schilken, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Radiance: If We Are the Light of the World, Why is Everything So Dark?
Randy Dean
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768436167 $14.99

Transcendent Supremacy - Kingdom Miracles Today

Randy Dean asks his readers to consider the question: If We are the Light of the World, Why is Everything So Dark?" His new book "Radiance" is made up of twenty-eight engaging chapters which explore the relationship of "Transcendent Supremacy" in worship and in "Kingdom Miracle's today. Randy encourages Christians to move from living lives of mediocrity to live as authentic Christians exuding radiance "like the sunlight."

Pointed illustrations and tongue-in-cheek humor are used to guide and transform the reader the from the dull lethargy so many of us have unconsciously grown accustomed to, into active, spiritually awakened, radiant followers of Christ. Randy asks real and probing questions with the hope that the reader will think, study, and seek real answers for themselves. He uses stories and illustrations of healing and victory to help the reader move beyond spiritual bankruptcy to claim the hidden "treasures" of God.

I was personally moved by the Randy's personal testimony included in the chapter titled "Just a Good- Looking Guy." The chapter includes profound insight into eschatology and introduces some new perspectives for contemplation and self examination. .

Expect to be profoundly moved by Randy's description of allowing God to nourish his heart, soul, and mind through the Biblical example of "the call and ministry of Moses."

An articulate communicator Dean's writing is a brilliant, scripturally sound, spirit anointed, powerfully passionate. Randy writes with power and confidence. "Radiance: If We Are the Light of the World, Why is Everything So Dark? is a clarion call for Christians today to experience a life of "Transcendent Supremacy."

Tree of Life Bible - The Gospels
The Messianic Jewish Bible Project
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310,Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768437195 $16.99

The Bible in Christian Text in Jewish Context

The "Tree of Life Bible - The Gospels" is designed to help today's reader, Jew or Gentile; to understand the message of the Gospel (Besora). The format and text of each individual book of The Messianic Jewish Bible Project give a fresh perspective on how first century Christians came to worship Yeshua as the risen Lord.

Comprehensive introductions to each of the four Gospel narratives help the reader grasp the background and setting to better comprehend the unique objective of each of the Gospel writers as they portrayed the Messiah in different lights.

A detailed summary of the events detailed serves as an outline of each of the gospels. These summary statements are incorporated as headers within the narrative that follows. This element helps the reader visualize the content of the passage. Another unique feature of the translation is the use of the present tense. This allows the reader to experience the sense of "hearing" the words as the apostles share their stories of traveling with Yeshua throughout his ministry.

Original dramatic drawings add another important dimension to he portrayal of Jewish life during the life of Christ. These illustrations add an important and help the reader interpret the written narrative.

"Tree of Life Bible - The Gospels" is a trustworthy and accurate text intended to be used as a text as a basis for family reading, congregational worship, and as a resource for academic and clerical professionals. A translation of the Gospels for a new generation looking for a better understanding of Yeshua in light of New Testament days.

A Field Guide to Spiritual Warfare: The Power to Pull the Impossible from the Heavenly Realm
Michael J. Norton
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768436426 $16.99

The Ministry of M16 Ministries Worldwide Deliverance Ministry and of the Night Strike Ministry in San Francisco

In his book "A Field Guide to Spiritual Warfare" Michael J. Norton, founder of M16 Ministries, describes his ministry as a team leader for Night Strike ministry to the homeless, drug addicts, and prostitutes on the streets of San Francisco. He relates stories and proven testimonies of broken lives, bound by sin, which have experienced the miraculous deliverance received freedom from the power of demonic possession.

Norton recounts his own personal testimony and tells of his introduction into the "Supernatural." He describes his experiences in the ministry of power evangelism and prophetic evangelism. He relates other incidents of his deliverance prayer ministry as a "Night Strike" team leader.

The guide is thoroughly researched and well documented. Norton presents the Biblical account of the entry of sin into the world, and the message of the gospel. He reminds the reader of importance of recognizing the authority of Christ available to the Christian and to those under attack by Satan.

Norton founded the M16 ministry (Based on the message of Mark 16) in 2007, a world wide ministry to heal the sick and cast out demons. M16 is also concerned with reaching the lost while ministering deliverance to the captives and to victims caught up in spiritual warfare. They minister to individuals battling with the satanic forces and demonic control. Michael provides guidelines and examples of exorcism, deliverance, and steps to evicting demonic spirits. He also talks about tactics used to confront voodoo, shamanism, Satanism, and masquerade.

I found Norton's writing engaging. Each story and testimony of God's presence, angelic assignments, incidents of specific deliverance and healing demonstrate the "power to pull the IMPOSSIBLE from the HEAVENLY REALM."

"A Field Guide to Spiritual Warfare" is for every believer desiring to see and experience the supernatural power of God manifest in their ministry.

The Freethinkers Child
Sean Phillips
Create Space
9781453737156 $9.99

A Combination of the Supernatural, Theology, and Paranormal Events

"The Freethinkers Child" combines theology, cultism, the paranormal, satanic worship, and the supernatural. Sean Phillips has brilliantly combined the writing techniques of a Frank Peretti thriller with a touch of a Stephan King horror novel.

The plot centers on David Louther, a small Montana town, Jebson Proust, a charismatic pastor, an atheistic college professor, Dr. Stewart Collins, and his eight year old son, Sam.

David is unsettled in his Christian faith, asking probing questions, getting pat answers and familiar cliches from well meaning Christians, his local pastor, his cousin Richard, and now from Jebson Proust. Although impressed with Proust's intellect, appearance of genuine concern, and interest in adding him to his church staff, David felt a sense of evil in the background. He was convinced that something sinister was going on in the Carlsville community and that Proust may be at the core.

Phillips' has carefully created believable characters and a fast moving suspense filled plot. His writing bears evidence of a good understanding of basic theology, supernatural spiritual battles, satanic influences, and the paranormal. He carefully weaves his own passion for truth throughout the dialog and storyline.

"The Freethinker's Child" should establish Sean Phillips as a serious thinker and a promising writer. I look forward to a sequel in which David Louther continues his quest for truth and meaning.

Healing Starts Now - Complete Training Manual
Dr. John Hunter
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768436457 $29.99

A New Paradigm in Healing Ministry

As a Christian bookseller in the 1970s and 1980s I became intrigued by the writing and personalities of Charles and Frances Hunter. The Hunters had a major impact on a whole generation of Christian leaders in that era.

In her new book "Healing Starts Now" Dr. Joan Hunter presents a powerful and effective model for healing. This is a complete training manual expanding lessons learned through the tutelage of her parents Charles and Frances Hunter. Dr. Hunter takes the mystery out of healing prayer.

The manual is made up of four parts: Healing, Root Causes of Disease, God's Wisdom for Vibrant Health and Wealth, and The 4 Corners of Your World.

Biblically based, filled with practical principles, the format is reader friendly with easy to follow directions, diagrams, photos, and model prayers. There is a natural progression of presentation throughout the manual.

Dr. Hunter's writing is clear, strong, and vital, specific in direction, offering the reader a new confidence in ministry. Included with the narrative are questions for consideration, opportunities for taking notes, and suggested prayers. Examples and illustrations are introducing using the testimonies of people released or healed from physical trauma, and stress related disease, mental illness, and generational curses.

I found the chapter dealing with nutrition especially helpful. Dr. Hunter provides a wealth of additional resources for reading and future reference in the endnotes.

"Healing Starts Now" is a manual with guidelines for Kingdom ministry for all Christians. Clear, proven instructions provide the reader with new insight and power for experiencing an anointed ministry of supernatural healing and miracles.

Love, Dating, and Relationships: Finding Love in All the Right Places
Shae Cooke
Destiny Image Publishing, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768436631 $14.99

A Single Parent's Guide to Moving into a New Relationship

"Love, Dating, and Relationships: Finding Love in All the Right Places" is a

proactive guide in which Shea Cooke openly talks about her personal journey in the pursuit of healing and the process for finding freedom to date, rediscover trust and to allow herself to love again.

The format of the book is attractive and inviting highlighting key ideas, with thought provoking review questions ("Catch the Drift?") These questions allow for introspection and are designed to help the reader resolve regrets, to set realistic expectations, and to restructuring wholeness. Another series of questions titled "Below the Surface" help the reader record and recognize their progress as the result of reading and applying the principles gleaned from the narrative.

Using personal experiences as well as stories from the lives of others as examples Cooke details important lessons that will help the reader avoid the pitfalls and unnecessary heartache experienced by so many. Shea stresses the need to accept personal responsibility for the results of mistakes in judgment and of the importance forgiveness plays in finding freedom and healing.

A wealth of additional resources for future further reading is given through the end notes following each chapter.

Cooke's writing is warm, compelling, humorous, and encouraging.

"The Single Parent's Guide to Love, Dating, and Relationships" should be available for counseling by pastors as well as professional and lay counselors. It is an excellent guide for every individual faced with the challenge of "single parenting."

Tree of Life Bible - The Gospels
The Messianic Jewish Bible Project
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768437195 $16.99

The Bible in Christian Text in Jewish Context

The "Tree of Life Bible - The Gospels" is designed to help today's reader, Jew or Gentile; to understand the message of the Gospel (Besora). The format and text of each individual book of The Messianic Jewish Bible Project give a fresh perspective on how first century Christians came to worship Yeshua as the risen Lord.

Comprehensive introductions to each of the four Gospel narratives help the reader grasp the background and setting to better comprehend the unique objective of each of the Gospel writers as they portrayed the Messiah in different lights.

A detailed summary of the events detailed serves as an outline of each of the gospels. These summary statements are incorporated as headers within the narrative that follows. This element helps the reader visualize the content of the passage. Another unique feature of the translation is the use of the present tense. This allows the reader to experience the sense of "hearing" the words as the apostles share their stories of traveling with Yeshua throughout his ministry.

Original dramatic drawings add another important dimension to he portrayal of Jewish life during the life of Christ. These illustrations add an important and help the reader interpret the written narrative.

"Tree of Life Bible - The Gospels" is a trustworthy and accurate text intended to be used as a text as a basis for family reading, congregational worship, and as a resource for academic and clerical professionals. A translation of the Gospels for a new generation looking for a better understanding of Yeshua in light of New Testament days.

Radiance: If We Are the Light of the World, Why is Everything So Dark?
Randy Dean
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768436167 $14.99

Transcendent Supremacy - Kingdom Miracles Today

Randy Dean asks his readers to consider the question: If We are the Light of the World, Why is Everything So Dark?" His new book "Radiance" is made up of twenty-eight engaging chapters which explore the relationship of "Transcendent Supremacy" in worship and in "Kingdom Miracle's today. Randy encourages Christians to move from living lives of mediocrity to live as authentic Christians exuding radiance "like the sunlight."

Pointed illustrations and tongue-in-cheek humor are used to guide and transform the reader the from the dull lethargy so many of us have unconsciously grown accustomed to, into active, spiritually awakened, radiant followers of Christ. Randy asks real and probing questions with the hope that the reader will think, study, and seek real answers for themselves. He uses stories and illustrations of healing and victory to help the reader move beyond spiritual bankruptcy to claim the hidden "treasures" of God.

I was personally moved by the Randy's personal testimony included in the chapter titled "Just a Good- Looking Guy." The chapter includes profound insight into eschatology and introduces some new perspectives for contemplation and self examination. .

Expect to be profoundly moved by Randy's description of allowing God to nourish his heart, soul, and mind through the Biblical example of "the call and ministry of Moses."

An articulate communicator Dean's writing is a brilliant, scripturally sound, spirit anointed, powerfully passionate. Randy writes with power and confidence. "Radiance: If We Are the Light of the World, Why is Everything So Dark? is a clarion call for Christians today to experience a life of "Transcendent Supremacy."

The Banker's Greed
P. M. Terrell & T. Randy Stevens
Drake Valley Press, Palari Publishing
Richmond, Virginia
9780972818698 $16.95

Corruption, Deception, Betrayal and Truth

Jessica Palmer, law school graduate student and daughter of powerful bank executive, Vincent Palmer is kidnapped. Palmer is arrested as the prime suspect as the mastermind behind the kidnapping. Jessica becomes the prosecution's star witness in the case. Plagued with the possibility that her testimony put her father behind prison bars in error Jessica struggles to find truth. This opens plot twists, surprises, and an opportunity for the reader to match wits with the FBI and local police authorities in pursing truth and finding resolution in the case.

T. Randy Stevens, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of First Farmers and Merchants Bank wrote the original story. p. m. Terrell was enlisted to add her collaboration and creative skills in the areas of writing suspense thriller to join in the project.

This collaboration of Stevens and Terrell raise the level of suspense, the drama of the courtroom, and adds a whole new dynamic to the contemporary action thriller. P. M. Terrell is recognized for her research, knowledgeable in the locale of her story, and a perfectionist in her plotting skills.

The detail in description awakens the reader's senses of smell, touch, hearing, seeing, and taste and uses a descriptive style that creates a mood in line with the content. I especially enjoy the careful attention to character development.

Destined to become an award winning best selling novel.

Richard R. Blake

Riva's Bookshelf

Imago Chronicles Book Four: The Tears of God
L.T. Suzuki
Writers Guild of America - West
B001W801R6 $TBA

The imagination of Lorna Suzuki is a rich and complex place and nowhere is this made more apparent than in her stellar novel The Tears of God. The Tears of God is the fourth installment in the fantastic Imago Chronicles.

The land of Imago is a wondrous place where brave warriors and knights still fight to preserve their people and keep them free of any evil that threatens to harm them. Imago is people with humans, elves, knights, kings, princes, princesses and all the wonderful things you love to see in fantasy. It is also full of great evil that threatens the lives and loves of the characters you have come to care intensely about.

In The Tears of God Nayla finds herself battling evil in a new form, but this time it's more personal than it's ever been before and she must not fail or cost would be unimaginable. The Order is gathered together once again to confront an unknown enemy, or is it really an enemy from the past? Could it be one they thought they had vanquished?

Imago Chronicles Book Four: The Tears of God is the best of the Imago novels to date. Suzuki's storytelling skills exceed all expectations and the story sets you in the middle of heart-stopping action from the outset. Suzuki handles multiple points of view with ease, always placing you where the story is the most intense. The pace is relentless in this addition to Imago Chronicles.

I highly recommend The Tears of God. It is a wonderful fantasy in the old tradition where the fates of not only individuals, but kingdoms, and entire lands are all at risk. The stakes are high, the action pounds through the pages like a herd of stampeding cattle and all you can do is get out of the way and keep reading till the final climax. I highly recommend Imago Chronicles Book Four: The Tears of God. The Tears of God can absolutely be read as a stand-alone novel. There is no need to have read the previous novels in order to understand it, any backstory that is necessary is provided within the novel itself.

After the War, Before the Peace
Sharon Poppen
1401065457 $22.95

After the War, Before the Peace is Sharon Poppen's stunning debut novel set in the years following the American Civil War. With stunning characters who leap off the page and into your imagination and meticulous attention to detail Poppen's novel is more than the story of one family ravaged by Civil War and left to rebuild their lives in a world that refused to acknowledge things like basic American civil rights, compensation for war crimes or the prosecution of war criminals.

The story of the Farrell family, whose patriarch, as well as two sons fought for the Confederate States of America and the wife and two younger sons left behind in Summerville, South Carolina will cause you to experience the gamut of human emotions from outrage and fear to love and joy. It is a tale of the triumphs, tragedies and deeply personal experiences of a family first torn apart by war, then separated by the need for retribution and revenge. It is a story of love that can overcome any obstacle, as well as love that fails to rise to the occasion and meet the challenges put before it. It is one family's story that was echoed multiple times throughout a war ravaged country, where, in the author's own words, "citizen fought against citizen."

I found myself caught up in After in the War, Before the Peace within the first few pages. I read in bed sick, because I couldn't put it down. I read it long past bedtime once I was recuperating because I just had to know what was going to happen next. When I awakened in the morning I reached for along with my morning cup of coffee. For seven days the Farrells were an integral part of my waking and sleeping moments and at no point in time was I sorry I had invested so much time and energy into their story. It left me deeply satisfied and looking forward to the sequel Lita's Story - A Meandering Tale, which is due to be released sometime in the future by Virtual Tales Publishing who incidentally have also picked up After the War, Before the Peace for re-release sometime in 2012. For now though After the War, Before the Peace can be found through Xlibris and on Amazon's website. Pick up a copy, it's a wonderful novel I'm sure you'll enjoy.

Appalachian Justice
Melinda Clayton
Melinda Clayton
Vanilla Heart Publishing
9781935407928 $14.95

Rarely has a character stuck in my head the way Billy May Platte of Appalachian Justice has. Melinda Clayton does such a rich job with the character you can hear her speaking plain as day by the end of her first chapter and her voices resonates long after she leaves the pages of the book behind. Other characters in the book are just as deeply drawn out, especially the antagonist who will make your skin crawl, almost literally.

Appalachian Justice is a tale of the cost of prejudice, the value of love and the price of courage. It is the story of everyday characters who happen to be settled in the Appalachian mountains during a period of time from the forties through modern day, though the vast majority of the story covers two critical times, one, a single day in the life of Billy May Platte that would change her forever, the other a few critical weeks, in the lives of four families that will once again change the face of the small mountain town and the lives of those living in it.

Appalachian Justice is visceral, reaching out to grab your emotions and senses from the first pages until the last. The tension is well-developed growing exponentially until it finally reaches the breaking point. It is a wonderful debut album for Melinda Clayton and deserves to be read by every family trying to teach tolerance and the cost of prejudice. The story, set in the past unfortunately still happens today in community after community, most of which aren't able to find a little Appalachian Justice.

Open the pages, but be prepared, while Appalachian Justice works to break down barriers and to bring about understanding of a few key issues it is raw and at times violent though both factors are critical to the story and are not done simply for shock value. It is a critical story for our time and for the ages to come, by reading it we may evolve enough as a people to never need Appalachian Justice.

Cherie Priest
Subterranean Press
PO Box 190106, Burton, MI 48519
9781596063662 $4.99

Clementine is the second installment set in Cherie Priest's "Clockwork Century" world. It is a world where the American Civil War still continues, great and terrible machines are being made and the city of Seattle, Washington is walled in and quarantined.

Clementine picks up the story of Croggon Hainey, a runaway slave who years before stole a Union war dirigible he renamed the Clementine. The Clementine is stolen so Hainey sets off in another stolen airship to try to recapture the Clementine and a race across the country, from Seattle, Washington to Louisville, Kentucky is on.

As Hainey races to recapture the Clementine, Maria Isabella Boyd, better known as "Belle" Boyd, a former Confederate spy has just gone to work for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, her job, to make sure the Clementine makes it safely to her destination. She's given the information that Hainey, a man wanted by the Confederacy Belle used to serve, is hot on her tail. Belle is given a free hand to deal with Hainey any way she wants, including turning him over to her former pals within the Confederate Army.

Clementine is a really good read, although I didn't like it as much as the first Clockwork Century novel Boneshaker. There is plenty of action in Clementine, but I didn't feel as though there was enough tension in the book. It's there in places, but it builds and releases coming to only a moderate climax at the end of the book. I personally prefer novels that continue to build their tension throughout the book without any of the periodic drop-offs that I experienced while reading Clementine.

I really enjoyed the characters in Clementine and the interplay that takes place between them. I was already slightly acquainted with Croggon Hainey through Boneshaker. To me he is the Civil War equivalent of a Rambo, rushing in guns blazing saying to hell with the consequences. He knows he wants his ship back and he'll run over anyone or anything that gets in his way.

Clementine is worth the time it takes to read it. It's relatively short, it's fun and it's a definite must read if you are a fan of Priest and her Clockwork Century world.

A Cure for Chaos
Alan Tucker
MAD Design
9780982686430 $14.99

A Cure for Chaos is Alan Tucker's much anticipated sequel to A Measure of Disorder the premier book in Tucker's Mother-Earth series. A Cure for Chaos reacquaints us with beloved characters from A Measure of Disorder including Jenni Kershaw, now a freshman who still wants nothing more than to be an ordinary teen and who finds herself being forced into situations that repeatedly require her to rise above the ordinary into the extraordinary.

A Cure for Chaos takes you across America and into Mother, a world beyond ours where beings from our fairy tales and mythologies come to vivid life, offering a unique glance into a world that offers a chance to experience what life could be like if all these things were real.

Jenni Kershaw, one of our heroes/heroines finds her kind, helpful, giving nature keeps landing her in difficult and often dangerous situations. Newcomers to Mother find themselves undergoing transformations and Jenni makes an unforeseen sacrifice.

A Cure for Chaos offers Tucker's unique and fantastical perspective to children, teens and adults alike in a wonderful world where dreams can come true and where they can be magical things. It is a visit to the best places in the human spirit, where good prevails and uniqueness is celebrated. It's a stellar trip into the world of imagination and a voyage you will never want to return from. I can't wait till the third volume comes out!

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

The War of the Dead
Brian Kittrell
Late Nite Books
PO Box 321, Brandon, MS 39042
9780982949504 $10.99

Often times we wait for the next book of a series to come out and then are disappointed, as it does not live up to the first book. I can honestly say that I liked this book even more than the first book.

In this second installment we are given the military perspective of what has happened in our country. The whole eastern seaboard has been hit by missiles. Many people have been killed from the attack, but then something strange happens. Some of the dead come back alive and are attacking and trying to kill the people who had made it through the initial attack.

Captain Andy McKenzie is assigned to a military post called "North Star," which is near Fort Hood, Texas. His job is to keep everything coordinated, and inform Washington of his findings. By satellites he can see what is going on in the country that has attacked us and also, how the Marines are doing in the jungles where the attack was launched.

After many attempts at contacting Washington, and reporting his findings, Captain McKenzie learns that Washington, DC has been hit and people are dead, or have become a type of zombie. McKenzie finds his own men and women are leaving their post to move as far West as they can, and taking everything they think they may need too survive on their own.

This book is captivating and will keep you reading. You will find yourself waiting for the next installment. This is not your ordinary zombie type of book. Do not let the word "zombie" turn you away, as this book can encompass a variety of different genres.

For some of us baby boomers this story can hit home. We grew up doing drills each month where we would have to get under our desk and cover our heads. Then, the threat was the U.S.S.R and some people even had underground shelters in case we were attacked.

Again, I have to say that this book also has just a whisper of truth in it that will keep you reading. We now live in a world that is filled with terrorist and extremist. Who can say that the things that are mentioned in this book can not happen in our world today? You need to read this book.

The Time of My Life
Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
1439158614 $16.00 1-866-506-1994

I adored Patrick Swayze as much as probably millions of other people have. The most sensuous scene I have ever seen was in the movie "Ghost." When Demi Moore sat at her pottery wheel and he sat behind her, and took her hands as they worked in the clay was pure magic.

What I found amazing in this book was his feelings of inadequacy. That he was never good enough no matter how hard he tried. He was a football player, gymnast, horseman, dancer and actor. Even though he was brilliant at what he did, he felt it was not good enough.

More than once in this book he has said, "It had to be done as a Swayze," which meant he could never do anything half way. He had to give his all and be the best at what he did.

He is so lucky he had his precious wife Lisa who helped him along his journey in this life, until his life ended. We will all miss him but he comes alive for us whenever we watch one of his movies. Or when you read this book and find the real Patrick Swayze.

The War of the Dead
Brian Kittrell
Late Nite Books
PO Box 321, Brandon, MS 39042
9780982949504 $10.99

Often times we wait for the next book of a series to come out and then are disappointed, as it does not live up to the first book. I can honestly say that I liked this book even more than the first book.

In this second installment we are given the military perspective of what has happened in our country. The whole eastern seaboard has been hit by missiles. Many people have been killed from the attack, but then something strange happens. Some of the dead come back alive and are attacking and trying to kill the people who had made it through the initial attack.

Captain Andy McKenzie is assigned to a military post called "North Star," which is near Fort Hood, Texas. His job is to keep everything coordinated, and inform Washington of his findings. By satellites he can see what is going on in the country that has attacked us and also, how the Marines are doing in the jungles where the attack was launched.

After many attempts at contacting Washington, and reporting his findings, Captain McKenzie learns that Washington, DC has been hit and people are dead, or have become a type of zombie. McKenzie finds his own men and women are leaving their post to move as far West as they can, and taking everything they think they may need too survive on their own.

This book is captivating and will keep you reading. You will find yourself waiting for the next installment. This is not your ordinary zombie type of book. Do not let the word "zombie" turn you away, as this book can encompass a variety of different genres.

For some of us baby boomers this story can hit home. We grew up doing drills each month where we would have to get under our desk and cover our heads. Then, the threat was the U.S.S.R and some people even had underground shelters in case we were attacked.

Again, I have to say that this book also has just a whisper of truth in it that will keep you reading. We now live in a world that is filled with terrorist and extremist. Who can say that the things that are mentioned in this book can not happen in our world today? You need to read this book.

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love
Julie Moir Messervy
The Taunton Press, Inc.
63 South Main St., PO Box 5506, Newtown, CT 06470-5506
9781600850080 $30.00

Turn your backyard into a living space where you are able to be able to live with the natural wonders of nature. Through Julie Moir Messervy's Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love you will be able to create a backyard that is worthy of a King.

I was amazed at all the unique ideas this one book presented. It allowed me to see the possibilities I could incorporate in my own home remodeling. What I found so enlightening was no matter what condition or size of your backyard, you can easily create a living space by using plants, flowers, and trees to bring out natures beauty.

Let your mind be educated by all the endless possibilities contained in Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love. For any home remodeler this book is a must have, for it offers a wealth of information that allows for an unlimited amount of creativity.

By following the guidance in this one book, I can easily see how it can save you hundreds on landscaping, and builders. Julie Moir Messervy has done an exceptional job in writing a book that provides you visual guidance that allows you to discover possibilities you never dreamed existed.

Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life
Nick Vujicic
Doubleday Religion
The Crown Publishing Group
A Division of Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780307589736 $19.99

Love, hope, and positive reinforcement can all be found throughout the pages of Nick Vujicic's Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life. Through his words he opens up his inner soul to reveal how he dealt with being born without arms and legs.

How Nick overcomes the obstacles his disability placed on him is a remarkable story in itself. This proud and courageous young man refuses to allow anything to slow him down, and has went on to have a successful career as a motivational speaker whose life saving energy has been felt and heard worldwide.

From the words in this book, you can see Nick's beauty radiate. He is a compassionate man who truly cares about mankind. He has dedicated his life to reaching out and telling his story to educate the world and show that no matter what crisis you are facing, there is always a light at the end of the darkest tunnel.

In my ten years as a book reviewer, I have never been so affected by one book. I found Nick's words were able to penetrate my darkest thoughts of self doubt I often keep hidden. He showed me that every person is worthy of love and acceptance.

Days after I finished Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life, I found myself still thinking of Nick and searching the internet to learn more of miraculous work. To say that this book changed my life is an understatement. I hope that my review expresses how much I was impressed with Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life.

I am a firm believer that books come into your life for a purpose. Through Nick's book I found the life saving balm that I needed to rejuvenate my spirit and know that as one of God's creations I am a very unique person who was placed on this earth to help beautify the world.

Thank you Nick for the lessons you taught me through your book. I one day hope that I have the privilege of hearing one of your speeches and meeting you in person. Rest assured that when that day comes I will look you in the eyes and properly thank you for all the positive encouragement I have found through your book and ministry work to the world.

The Millionaire's Proposal
Trish Wylie
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780373175406 Kindle Edition: $2.88

Kerry Doyle is the foundation that keeps her family business on solid ground. For years she had denied herself a true vacation. She knows that she needs a break from her family and hectic lifestyle, and decides to treat herself to a three month vacation to travel around the world.

On a plane bound for New York, she can't help but notice that she is sitting by a handsome man. As she is reading a travel guide, he offers her some travel tips. Further conversation reveals that his name is Ronan O'Keefe, and he is the actual author of the travel guide she was reading.

Ronan offers her a proposal she can't refuse, to travel with her and be her own personal tour guide on her vacation. Kerry hesitates to accept his offer, but she knows that this would give her an ideal way to explore places she would never dream of visiting on her own.

As the two travel the world, their feelings for each other intensify. There is a dark secret that Ronan is hiding from Kerry, one that when revealed will change both of their lives. Will Ronan reveal to Kerry the painful revelation of what his future holds? Will she accept his love and the consequences of loving him?

The Millionaire Proposal is one outstanding novel. Trish Wylie is an author who knows how to deliver the best romance has to offer. I was enchanted by Kerry and Ronan; they are the type of characters you wish you could meet in real life. For anyone romance fan who likes a romance with a heartwarming story, then this is definitely the book you want to add to your collection.

Change Your Life Change the World: A Spiritual Guide to Living Now
Ryuho Okawa
IRH Press
9780982698501 $16.95

Love, hope, and the pathway to personal growth can be found throughout the pages of Ryuho Okawa's Change Your Life Change the World: A Spiritual Guide to Living Now. In today's turbulent times change is an element we need to embrace for it brings us hope for the future.

Change Your Life Change the World: A Spiritual Guide to Living Now reveals how we should accept ever individual for their own unique personality and skills they offer the world. He also emphasizes that we should make time for our own self, and enjoys all that life offers.

This is the second title I have experienced by Ryuho Okawa and I found it just as moving as the first book I read. He is an author that has a special way to bring peace and tranquility to the reader. His words open up new ideas that will literally transform your life.

If everyone in the world practiced the life saving worlds of Ryuho Okawa the world would be a place where peace and harmony existed. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is facing a situation in their life that is draining their energy. Ryuho Okawa's healing words has the power to bring light to any dark tunnel.

29 DAYS ... to your perfect weight
Michele Bertolin and Richard Fast
29 DAYS Inc.
1078 Westhaven Drive, Burlington, Ontario, Canada, L7P 5B5
9780986537714 $29.99 http//

Are you one of the millions that made it their New Year's resolution to lose weight? If so, then you are not alone. With thousand of books, videos, and exercise classes available it is often difficult to determine which program would be right for you to achieve the weight loss you desire.

With Michele Bertolin and Richard Fast 29 DAYS ... to your perfect weight they reveal a simple to understand program that can achieve maximum results in just twenty nine days. Their programs reveal how you can start off by changing your mindset to develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

How the program works is it is divided up into four weeks. The first week is devoted to commitment and awareness. The second week is making preparation for how you will incorporate the new healthy habits into your daily lifestyle. The third week is where you actually put into action all of your plans to take measures to lose weight. The fourth week is where you learn to take what you have learned in previous weeks and then learn how to make them last a lifetime.

29 DAYS ... to your perfect weight is geared towards all types of individuals. No matter what your goal is of losing weight, this book has the powerful life changing force that will allow you to reach your weight loss goal.

In the past I have tried similar titles to help lose weight, none of them was as affected as 29 DAYS ... to your perfect weight . This is the first time in years that I was able to find a weight loss plan, see results, and decide it was worthwhile to practice after I lost the weight I needed. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to lose weight, the knowledge this one book contains is priceless.

29 DAYS ... to save money and achieve financial independence
Richard Fast
29 DAYS Inc.
1078 Westhaven Drive, Burlington, Ontario, Canada, L7P 5B5
9780986537738 $29.99 http//

Life changing habits can be formed in as little as 29 days. In 29 DAYS ... to save money and achieve financial independence, Richard Fast reveals the method needed to help change your mind set to help concentrate on the goal of saving money.

The first part of 29 DAYS ... to save money and achieve financial independence centers on commitment and awareness to the program. Week two is where the preparation stage begins; this is where you decide on what expenses can be reduced or eliminated, why still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Week three is where you take action and start living by the ways you have devised to help save you money. Week four is developed to staying on the course you developed since you began.

What sets this book so far apart from other similar titles is that it is presented in two parts. Section one is a book that you read and learn all the steps needed to make the plan a success. The second part is an online program that enhances your overall knowledge and keeps you motivated to staying on track to reducing your financial debt.

For anyone who is deep in debt, or wishes to learn a simple and effective method to help eliminate unnecessary expenses from their daily lifestyle, 29 DAYS ... to save money and achieve financial independence is definitely the book that you want to add to your book collection.

The Man Behind the Mask
Maggie Cox
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780373527977 $4.75

In Brazil, Eduardo de Souza watched in horror as his wife and unborn child's life was taken from him in an instant. The horrific day would always haunt his memory for it not only scarred him mentally but physically. He now lives his life far away from the place where it all happened. He locked away his feelings and heart to live a reclusive life.

Eduardo is drawn out of his misery one day when he was visiting the local town. A street singer's voice managed to touch his frigid heart. The petite girls voice was like the soothing balm his shattered soul craved. He believed her to be homeless, and was surprised when she turned down his generous cash donation.

Marianne Lockwood has suffered her own tragedy. She had married an older man who was terminally ill, and their marriage had only lasted six months. He left her all his worldly possessions. She tries to recover from her loss by becoming more focused on her singing career. She takes to the streets to deliver her melodies to the local town folk. Her plan is to gain enough courage to rebuild her life.

Marianne does not know what to make of Eduardo. His wealth is evident, and she is surprised when he offers a place for her to stay and a job as his housekeeper. With the cold frigid temperatures it is difficult for Marianne to continue singing in the streets. She makes the decision to accept Eduardo's job offer.

Will Marianne's presence under Eduardo's roof change him from a man who has shut out the world to one that wishes to live for the future? Or will she find that Eduardo's past experience has left an irreparable mark that has scarred his soul inside and out?

The Man Behind the Mask is an exceptional book. Eduardo and Marianne are two complex characters. Each one has experienced their own form of tragedy. There story will take you on a rollercoaster ride as you see them deal with their own personal demons. This is the first book I have experienced by Maggie Cox, but it definitely will not be my last. I highly recommend this author to any true blue romance fan.

Suzie Housley, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Border Lords
T. Jefferson Parker
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515,
9780525952008 $26.95

This latest Charlie Hood novel is as confusing as it is well-written and well-researched; the plot (or plots) are at once baffling and intriguing. The story draws the reader along by its sheer force right up to the end. Many of the characters that appeared in the preceding novel in the series, "Iron River," are present here, with Charlie, still on loan to the ATF from the Sheriff's Department, working along the Mexican border, this time chasing narcotic kingpins but still following the trail of guns crossing both ways over the border.

It is almost impossible to briefly summarize the book. There is Sean Ozburn, an ATF operative working undercover who goes crazily renegade after 15 months. A friend, Charlie has to look into Oz' behavior to find out why he no long resembles the man he used to be. Is it the stress of working undercover that led Oz to slaughter three low-level narcotics runners in a safe house he established for a Mexican drug baron?

The subplots, involving characters from "Iron River" like Bradley Jones and Mike Finnegan, are interspersed along the way, somehow interrelated with the main theme just to bewilder the reader, each with itsr own ax to grind. One walks away from this novel with one of at least two reactions: It is either a brilliant tour-de-force or an utterly psychedelic product of an agile mind. Either way, it makes for an interesting read, and it is recommended.

Red Jade
Henry Chang
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003, 212-260-1900,
9781569478592 $25.00

Detective Jack Yu somehow can't escape New York's Chinatown in this third novel in the series. Apparently, he is the Fifth Precinct's token Chinese-American, called upon when sensitivity to the community and its inhabitants is necessary. He had recently transferred to the Ninth Precinct in Brooklyn and he moved to that borough's Sunset Park area following the death of his father, but he can't escape his past.

In the early morning hours, he's called in to handle an apparent murder-suicide, his presence requested by the fathers of the victims who believe he can provide the necessary "face saving" for the families. This task accomplished, Jack then pays attention to a couple of open cases, eventually traveling to Seattle at his own expense in an attempt to solve them.

All three novels in the series are economically written, especially short chapters, with a smattering of Chinese words for flavor (no MSG). This police procedural moves in logical progression across the continent, looking at more than the Chinatown of New York's Lower East Side.


Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439156353 $26.99 800-223-2336

While Jeffery Deaver's newest novel is uneven, it is unusually enigmatic, always coming up with the unexpected. The characters often seem wooden, but their adventures are anything but dull, taking the reader from one gripping situation to another. The plot involves a secret government agency that specializes in protecting victims until the pursuer is captured or neutralized.

Information is received that a D.C. detective has been targeted by a "lifter" (one who specializes in extracting information from victims by any method necessary). Protecting the cop and his family falls to Corte, the protege of a man killed by the "lifter' seven years earlier on another job. While shepherding the family, Corte also has to find out what prompted the targeting of the detective. This leads to a deadly game as Corte and his opponent move back and forth to an endgame.

One can look at Corte as an exciting new character in Deaver's collection, or as a relatively boring protagonist who is extremely proficient at what he does in sort of robotic fashion. What keeps the story moving steadily is an unusual twist at each turn of events, not giving the reader any clue as to what is coming.


Outwitting Trolls
William G. Tapply
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312531270 $24.99 646-307-5560

Unfortunately, this is the final Brady Coyne novel. It was completed shortly before William G. Tapply's death last year. He left behind a substantial body of work, including 25 books in the Brady Coyne series alone. Mr. Tapply was a masterful storyteller. Reading his books has always been an immense pleasure, and he will be greatly missed.

Brady Coyne, of course, is a Boston attorney, specializing in a few private cases and kept up to snuff completing the drudgery of a mountain of paperwork by his long-time secretary. He is rescued from this tedium when he receives a phone call from a former close friend and neighbor, informing him that she is in her ex-husband's hotel room where she has just found him stabbed to death. Brady had just had a reunion with the victim the day before for a drink after a hiatus of a decade.

Naturally, Brady accepts the woman's request to represent her, and she quickly becomes the number one suspect. It's up to Brady not only to support his client's emotional state, but to protect her from the police and come up with the necessary clues to identify the real murderer. While it's not a complex plot, it is well-told. This book, as all his others, is highly recommended.

Negative Image
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781595087904 $24.95 800-421-3976

With each entry in the Constable Molly Smith-Trafalgar City Police Sergeant John Winters series, the plots become more sophisticated, the character development deeper, and the relationships more complicated. In this, the fourth novel in the mystery series, all these elements are present to a high degree.

To begin with, a has-been photographer, for whom Eliza Winters, John's wife, once modeled and to whom she was engaged to be married, visits Trafalgar, BC, inviting her to his hotel room. She had visited him shortly before he was shot in the head, making her a prime suspect (and raising questions about their marriage in John's mind). Molly, a third class constable, gets to assist on a puzzling number of break-ins in the town while facing her own personal problems, including whether or not to apply for a job in Toronto or consider a deeper relationship with her Mountie boyfriend, as well as the death of her father.

The conflicts have to be faced, exacerbated by obstacles such as sexist attitudes on the police force, rivalry between the national and local detectives, including Winters, among others. Well-written and smoothly told, the book was a joy to read, and is recommended.

G.I. Bones
Martin Limon
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569478639 $14.00 212-260-1900

Seoul, South Korea, is one of the more exotic locales for a murder mystery, and the C.I.D operatives, Sgts. Sueno and Bascom, are two of the more different protagonists around. This is the sixth entry in the series, but the first this reader has undertaken.

The setting is not only Seoul, but Itaewon, the red-light district, ruled by the Seven Dragons, a mafia-like group born during the Korean Conflict and following the truce in 1953, where they ran all the night clubs, prostitution and other enticements for the 50,000 American troops stationed there. The heart of the plot is a simple one: Sueno and Bascom undertake to find the bones of a "sainted" soldier who played a key role in rebuilding the district after the war before he was murdered, presumably by the Seven Dragons.

All other side issues seem irrelevant, but take up space and time, as the dynamic duo wander around, from time to time attempting to accomplish their main purpose. It is a perfectly acceptable "police procedural," however it seems at times to drag on and on. That said, much of the writing and observations about military life are pungent, oft-times witty, and the novel is recommended.

Box 21
Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312655341 $15.00 646-307-5560

This is not an easy novel to read, but it is well worth it because it is quite different from the usual crime-cum-thriller novels from Scandinavia. It really is a psychological study of the conflicts facing detectives in their moral and ethical judgments. It is the story of how they not only solve cases, but deal with personal relationships and crime.

There are two plots running through the book, each posing a separate question for the main protagonist, Detective Superintendent Ewert Grens, while only one of them presents itself to his sidekick, Sven Sundkvist. In the end, they both have to face up to reality.

The crimes are gruesome enough, one involving young Baltic women forced into prostitution and enduring humiliating circumstances instead of the promised 'good jobs' in Sweden. The other deals with a sadistic enforcer for a drug lord who breaks bones at stated prices, so much for a finger or a knee, a higher price for murder. In short, in riveting alternating chapters, the stories come together and the two detectives have to resolve the questions facing them as they relate to the crimes involved. Recommended.

Kind of Blue
Miles Corwiin
Oceanview Publishing
2817 West End Ave., Nashville, TN 37203
9781608090075 $25.95 615-297-9875,

The author, a former crime reporter for the L.A. Times, has published three non-fiction books prior to this, his first novel. It certainly reflects his deep knowledge of crime and police procedure, and certainly reflects all the past works that have preceded this effort, including such established authors as Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, James Ellroy, Jonathan Kellerman et al.

The protagonist, Asher ("Ash") Levine, has an unusual background: son of a holocaust survivor whose relatives all perished in the gas chambers, he volunteered to serve in the Israeli Defense Force. Upon returning to Los Angeles, he became a cop and eventually a top homicide detective with an elite felony squad. When a witness to a murder he was investigating and whom he was trying to protect was murdered, he was blamed and suspended for a week. Instead he quit. A year later he is lured back on the recommendation of his former superiors when an ex-cop is murdered.

Tenacity is the only word that can be used to describe Ash. His dogged determination and the haunting memory of the murdered witness keep him on a straight path to solving murders. In many ways, the novel is excessive: over-plotted and with much violence, making Ash a violent and over-zealous character, sort of a Jewish Rambo. But on the whole, the novel is well-written, smooth but complex, riveting to say the least. Let's hope this is the start of another interesting series.


Murder on the Palais Royal
Cara Black
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569478837 $14.00 212-260-1900

The sights, sounds and smells of Paris were authenticated not only in the reading of this novel, but in actually reading it while in the City of Light. Thus, a double pleasure was experienced as we followed the adventures of Aimee Leduc along the streets and boulevards through which we both walked.

Aimee's troubles begin in this, the tenth book in the series, when her partner, Rene, is shot by a woman witnesses identify as Aimee. Compounding this situation is an unexplained 100,000 Franc deposit in her business account from a Luxembourg bank on the government's watch list concerning money laundering. Other complications (and murders) follow as well.

On the eve of his parole, a convict who Aimee helped send to prison is found hanging in the jail kitchen, an apparent suicide, after she had just visited him at his suggestion. He attempted to pass damning information to her but failed. Then his girlfriend attempts to accomplish the task, but also is murdered. To resolve these various situations and clear herself poses formidable hurdles and great risk to Aimee's life.

Following Aimee's investigation takes the reader not only through the streets and buildings of Paris, but also in criminal investigation techniques. And, as she progresses, the reader is kept on edge until a logical conclusion is unveiled. Written with zest and a taste for high couture, the book is recommended. [The author's newest, "Murder in Passy," is due out very shortly in hardcover.]

Hollywood Hills
Joseph Wambaugh
Little, Brown
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316129503 $26.99 800-759-0190

The patented Wambaugh formula continues to enthrall the reader, even after reaching the Twenty-book mark. Most of the familiar characters from the preceding 19 books are present again, along with some new ones, and the accustomed anecdotes illustrating the madness that befalls the LAPD cops remain at the high level of the author's past performances.

The plot running through the novel to give it the feel of a police procedural involves an art scam which is doomed from the beginning, but allows Wambaugh to interweave four characters into the daily activities of the crime-fighting LAPD warriors.

Written at the sophisticated level of past novels in the series, Wambaugh introduces some deeply human and emotional situations to provide a touching pathos, raising the question in at least my mind as to whether or not he is planning to end the highly successful run of this series. At least we have this one to enjoy, and it is recommended.

Theodore Feit

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

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