Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Reviewer's Bookwatch

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 5, Number 5 May 2005 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewers Recommend Alisa's Bookshelf Alyice's Bookshelf
Ann's Bookshelf Arlene's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Betsy's Bookshelf Betty's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf
Brenda's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carey's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf Christina's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Dian's Bookshelf Frank's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Hupalo's Bookshelf
Jeremy's Bookshelf Kimberly's Bookshelf Linda's Bookshelf
Lori's Bookshelf Lynne's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mayra's Bookshelf Michael's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Nancy's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Robyn's Bookshelf
Roger's Bookshelf Sherry's Bookshelf Smith's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf Terry's Bookshelf

Reviewers Recommend

The 4 Hundred and 20 Assassins of Emir Abdullah-Harazins
Joseph DeMarco
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1418441031 $18.75 140 pp.

Barry Allen

This is a book about a hash smoking assassin, one of the followers of the infamous Hassan El Sabbah (The Old Man of the Mountain). Sabbah was an entrepreneur of sorts using the assassin as a tool to gain political influence throughout the Middle East during the Middle Ages. The story follows one of Sabbah's assassins through deserts, jungles, and strange enchanted towns, on his way to kill the king of his country. The assassin who is named Anazasi seems fairly oblivious throughout the book and spends most of his time stoned to the bejesus on hash, weed, blow, reefer, dope, bud, whatever you want to call it.

This is a book for stoners and college students. If you have never enjoyed a toke before or do not smoke religiously, you probably will not enjoy this book. The background of the story centers around the legend of Hassan El Sabbah's Garden of Earthly Delights, which is the carrot dangled in front of the assassins. Sabbah would supposedly allow young men to enter his Garden of Earthly Delights, which was filled with exotic flowers, luscious fruits, strange animals, and many alluring naked women. After the young men were satisfied with food, drink, and sex, they were expelled from the garden and told if they did not carry out Sabbah's murderous wishes, they would never be allowed back. This is the story of only one of his Hashishiyyins (Assassins).

Stop Picturing Your Audience Naked (Beating the Fear of Public Speaking)
Scott Ann Setzer
Setzer & Associates
2580 Sierra Blvd. Suite C, Sacramento, CA 95825 800-767-6316
ISBN: 0976825007 $12.95 32 pp.

Bonnie Jo Davis

People all over the world, of various ages and different cultures suffer from Glossophobia (the fear of speaking in public.) Seventy-five percent of all Americans including celebrities such as Carly Simon, Antonio Banderas and Nicole Kidman admit to having a fear of speaking in public.

If you type the phrase "fear of public speaking" into a search engine or on you will find thousands of overpriced books, seminars and unbelievably expensive coaching. Chances are that unless you know Scott Ann Setzer you will throw away hundreds of dollars and waste hours of research in the hope of learning to overcome your fear of speaking in public so you can make that sales presentation next Tuesday.

Luckily you can stop throwing away your hard earned money and save yourself valuable time because you are about meet Scott Ann Setzer. Despite her own paralyzing fear of speaking in public, Ms. Setzer built a career giving presentations to thousands of clients both big and small, for profit and not-for-profit. One of her most popular presentations loved by audiences worldwide is "Stop Picturing Your Audience Naked." This presentation has been captured on CDs, DVDs and in a new soft cover book by the same title.

Anyone suffering from a fear of speaking in public (including celebrities) can benefit from reading "Stop Picturing Your Audience Naked." The size of this charming book makes it clear that good things do come in small packages that don't waste your precious time and money. As you open this slender book you immediately realize that overcoming your fear is going to be fun and stress free. Gorgeous colors are used throughout to emphasize text and the hilarious cartoon illustrations. The book opens with facts, figures and anecdotes to educate the reader and help them to realize that they are not alone in their fear.

Clearly laid out throughout the book are the tips, techniques and strategies you need to get ready for your next big presentation. Ms. Setzer covers physical preparation, mental preparation, your voice, body image, your audience, your presentation and more.

This delightful, funny and helpful book should be in every high school, college and public library. Entrepreneurs, business owners, management and employees should have a copy of this book on their desk in order to refresh their memories before they stand up to present. Speaking skills are a critical success factor in the business world and in other places such as churches and clubs. Buy this book, read it from cover to cover, and take it with you when you need to make a speech. You'll find yourself having fun with your audience while you grow your business or promote your cause!

Also available from the publisher is the book combined with a CD of the presentation by the same name for $24.95 or the book combined with a DVD for $32.95. These combination packages would make a great gift idea for a colleague, friend or family member.

Billie's World
Kim Grossman Finkel
My Journey Books
P.O. Box 1169, Olney, Maryland 20830-1169
ISBN 097662950X $8.99 143 pp.

Charisse Floyd

"My mom likes to tell me I'm wise beyond my eleven years. 'Billie, you have a keen sense when it comes to knowing how other people feel,' she once told me. Right now, my keen sense says there's trouble in the air."

The first day of any school year is always difficult for eleven-year-old Billie Louise Kramer, but as she approaches the first day of middle school, her anxiety level is off the charts! Billie not only faces the first-day unknowns, but her heart awakens to a mighty crush on a boy in her advanced math class, she delivers the right answer to the right question at the perfect time, and she mends a broken friendship with her best friend Sarah. All of this pales, however, as she realizes something at home is just not right. Doors are closed, whispers are heard, and moods are shifting. Divorce! Billie never saw it coming.

Finkel, a graduate of Ohio State University's School of Broadcast and Journalism, explores the ups and downs associated with divorce and the uncertainties tossed into the mix of familial relationships. By giving Billie a voice through the first-person point-of-view, the author establishes an instant connection between the reader and the main character. The reader literally feels her foundation crumbling in a most believable way. Her twinges of embarrassment, her humiliation, and her overwhelming desire to be understood, all pull the reader into the delicate tangle of her complicated story. For an even more candid peek into Billie's internal dialogue, Finkel gives Billie an immediate forum through straightforward diary entries placed at the beginning of each chapter. These entries reveal the dire unrest in the tornado's spiral and hold nothing back!

The author approaches the issue of divorce with honesty and clarity. The family's disintegration is a true and ominous threat. Billie experiences each and every nuance this unwanted change brings into her life as any other girl her age might in the same situation. Finkel's treatment is especially sensitive to the maturity level of her readership, but she doesn't shy away from the realities at hand. Billie's emotional turmoil reads like an open wound. The author, however, consistently offers hope by empowering her main character with forward movement and a charming sense of humor. Her secondary characters and plot lines work in concert to actively support her heroine's powerful struggle to make sense of it all. Through this struggle, the reader experiences Billie's remarkable spirit and applauds her personal victories. In the end, Billie is safe. She learns there is still solace to be found in the loving relationships in her life, that there are lessons to be learned from those who have been in her shoes, and that her precious inner voice will never lead her astray. With these realizations, both Billie and the reader discover a new definition of family.

Billie's World, a glowing debut novel written for ages 9-12, would be a sound choice for classroom discussions about divorce, family dynamics, and emotional coping skills. Finkel, a resident of Rockville, Maryland, writes with raw intensity, allowing her characters room to feel and express what boils within. The dialogue is refreshing, and the arc is as strong and determined as Billie's will.

The Stowaway
Robert Hough
Random House Canada
One Toronto St, Unit 300, Toronto, Ontario Canada M5C 2V6
1559707453, $24.00, 232 pp.

Coletta Ollerer

The reader will be gripped by this story of escalating fright on three levels: severe anxiety felt by the stowaway, worry and trepidation experienced by those who determined to help him putting themselves in harms way and disquietude encountered by those in authority who wished to exterminate the perpetrator along with the problems he might introduce. I read it in a very enjoyable and exciting two days

The book opens with the cold decision of the captain of a huge cargo ship to put two stowaways overboard onto a palate hastily fastened to steel drums. The bosun, Rodolfo, is horrified to find himself ordered to prepare the primitive float knowing full well that the probability of its finding a welcoming shore in the churning sea miles from land is certainly dim. "Seeing this, the stowaways drop to their knees and begin pleading in loud, panicked voices." (p13) The remainder of the Filipino crew stare in appalling disbelief as they see the two stowaways being ordered to get onto the makeshift raft. The crew return to their duties shaken and aware that under the authority of these brutal men their own lives have little value.

The crew settles down but a few decide they must inform the authorities and set forth on a course to do that by confiding in a priest they met in a seafarers establishment in the port at Houston. They compose a letter to him and surreptitiously find a way to get it into the mail when the ship pulls into another harbor. All they know is the letter is mailed. They are unsure if it has achieved its intent.

Some months later at the same seaport where earlier stowaways came aboard, two more slip onto the ship and remain hidden until far out on the ocean. The crew members who discover one of them don't want to experience the same stress the first incident provided; they don't know what to do. Their indecision allows time for the officers to find the trespasser. Those same begin to assault the intruder, the four of them pushing him further and further toward the gunwale where they push the unfortunate overboard. The crew watches this terrifying event while peering from portholes and doorways held slightly ajar and their memories fill them with dread. While recovering from this episode, Rodolfo comes upon the last stowaway, Daniel. He determines he will hide this one and save his life. Seven of the Filipino crew agree to help. Rodolfo knows every square inch of the ship and finds a suitable place to hide Daniel. "Yet as he (Daniel) follows the sailor down flights of stairs, bypassing all of the container holds, he wants nothing more than to turn back. As they burrow deeper and deeper the air becomes hot, and stale, and thin, and if there's any place he doesn't want to be it is here, in the tomblike depths of the ship." (p162) The stress on the crew and Daniel builds.

Robert Hough bases his story on real events using the narrative form. His tireless research into actual facts allows the reader to gain insight concerning life aboard a ship at sea where rule of law is in the hands a few with scant restrictions if those few are without personal integrity and morality.

Openings to Lighten the Way
John Sorrell
World House
available from
ISBN 1897107994, $22.95 US, $29.95 Canada 222 pp.

Ella Kilpatrick

Empowering Enlightenment

Openings to Lighten the Way is that rarest of finds - a creation so startlingly unusual that it keeps taking you by surprise, but at the same time so universal that page by page, Opening by Opening, it feels like coming home.

Light enough to take easily to heart and carry wherever you go, each Opening fuses inspiration, prayer, and poem in just a few charged lines, breathing from the inside out to unfold our own truest gifts. Over and over, we come home to ourselves, finding our own power to grow - grow luminously, boundlessly - from right here and now.

This empowering enlightenment ranges wide as our lives. Over 200 Openings here embrace both the big and the small, from just washing the dishes to taking on our greatest challenges. A colleague of mine even says that the more we face here in this ever more turbulent world, the more this book can lighten our way.

Sometimes crossing the trails blazed by such explorers of the soul as Buddah, Saint Francis, and Rumi, these Openings always take their own unique turns. Most turns feel as though they have always pulsed deep down inside us but for the first time here find light. While others may seem strange at first, these often grow on you the most, opening up even wider inside. Surging with wisdom we can use every day, this book brings us home to what truly matters, at the same time casting bright beams away from the beaten track to show a whole world of new paths we can forge.

Critics call author John Sorrell "a master," but mastery here overflows into living mystery. As these Openings reach ever deeper through body, spirit, soul, we breathe them in, lifting closer to ourselves, each other, and the world without end.

Bursting with not only enlightening but exhilarating empowerment, this book belongs in the hands of us all who reach for the richest life and growth we can know.

Caviar Dreams
Judy Nichols
Zumaya Publications
P.O. Box 2146, Garibaldi Highlands, B.C. V0N 1T0, Canada
(604) 898-9703
ISBN: 1894942345 $15.00 315 pp.

Ben Jonjak

Judy Nichols' "Caviar Dreams" is a tale of seduction and murder with an element of class conflict thrown in as a wild card. The story follows the interaction of several people from vastly different backgrounds, and explores what happens as they each, in turn, attempt to use one another for the purposes of gaining love or money. The story reaches its first dramatic peak when the spiral of human emotions gets out of hand resulting in several crimes of passion and greed.

For the first half of "Caviar Dreams" I have to admit that I found the novel quite captivating. The characters were all extremely real and compelling. Of special note was the character Derek who is the catalyst for virtually every significant moment of the book. Derek is a handsome drifter and con-artist, and the best parts of "Caviar Dreams" are when he embarks on one of his grifter schemes. These schemes involve everything from blackmail; to credit-card fraud; to clever ways to make other people pay for your dinner. There is just something delightfully compelling about a character who is so self-absorbed and evil that s/he thinks it is completely justified to rob every innocent party that happens to cross his or her path.

Unfortunately, at the midpoint of the novel the focus changes dramatically. The book stops being a study of character and social class and descends, instead, to the rather weary format of mystery. This is not to say that the second part of the novel isn't handled well; it is. But in comparison to what came before, the second act is certainly a let down.

In a way, the second act sabotages itself from the get go. The book is structured so that the reader sees the crime in question. It then becomes rather anti-climatic to watch as various police detectives and other characters arrive at revelations that the reader already knows. A better way to do it would have been to leave the crime scene as a revelation at the very end of the book.

Were I an editor at a major publishing house, I would accept Judy Nichol's work in a heart-beat. However, this acceptance would be based more on the talent she shows as a writer than on the finished product "Caviar Dreams," and would require a massive re-write. Her characters are marvelous and fully-developed, and she constructs believable scenes of true conflict. I would very much like to see her re-imagine "Caviar Dreams," and focus on Derek as the main character. As it stands, "Caviar Dreams" is an interesting and compelling novel, and a good read. However, I think Judy Nichols' has the talent to write something truly spectacular.

Waiting for Beethoven
Laurel Yourke
Marsh River Editions
M233 Marsh Road, Marshfield, WI 54449
ISBN 0971890978 $8.00 45 pages

Karla Huston

In Waiting for Beethoven, Laurel Yourke composes poems about music, about rooms, about writing, poems written about sonatas, little love songs filled with the magic that is part, no matter how difficult, of the world she weaves. There are no barriers in these poems. "Everyone is welcome at this party." All the reader needs is here:

Don't bother searching under the mat,
behind a bush or somewhere you can't reach.
You need not push - just lean.
This door is always open.

"The Rooms of Poetry" 3

While the title poem suggests the narrator waits for the storm of Beethoven's music to create within her a sure rapture, the rapture for the reader comes from opening the poems' doors, entrances (and exits) to rooms in which it is sometimes too painful to stay. In "Walls and Closets," the narrator plasters her walls thick to create a barricade from what she fears: "The more she fears the wild / the thicker she plasters her walls." Yet in other poems, the narrator confronts the "wild" and enters its dangerous spaces only to find that in entering, there is deliverance, a release from fear not unlike Gretel who goes into the woods to pursue her own magic: "Hope drives her deeper into the forest, / searching for a talisman all her own."

The doors to the poems' rooms open to reveal a yellow school bus which discharges two, angst-ridden teens, a cat hungry for spring and suspended in a canoe high in a garage, and even a woman who searches for a moon that seems to have gone impossibly missing. There are minnows and frozen ponds, Casey Stengel and St. Brendan, and the sweet memory of a Jewish girl's wish for of a gift of Christmas from Macy's Santa when she finds what she seeks: "The real gift / is her mother's smile."

Many poems in this collection address gardening and writing, both of which - like opening a door - might be considered acts of faith.

Follow your heart, which can bring you
petals in snowflakes,
bird of paradise plumes of sunset,
acres of carelessly sown star.

"Green Things" 10

Even the act of tending the garden takes on sensuality: "Like a lover / the garden whispers / how good / a touch / would feel here / and oh here."

In carefully crafted metaphors, Yourke creates poems filled with light and memory and sometimes loss. These are poems about fathers and mothers and others who occupy the narrator's rooms, halls, closets, imaginary letters, and even empty glass bottles. The narrator addresses the "empty bottle [that] guards her kitchen table" and considers the need "to stay ever vigilant" with evil as she considers the "dangers you create yourself." "He's taught her all she knows of light, bottles, / emptiness." In another poem the narrator pictures letters filled with praise that she never received from him. In another, she imagines him sleeping downstairs on a sofa. Yourke chooses words that contribute to a distinct tone: words of danger: "sunlight stabs her kitchen" and "sky's half-streaked with blood" and "a sun pale and bitter." In spite of the risk inherent in her word choices, there is always something hopeful--like the clear decanter, empty save for the light that enters it.

Light is present in these poems; it enters abundantly, leaks into the most unexpected places, as in the chess game where the boy considers that he's been trapped by the master, and to get out his snare and win, he must understand that: /"You can take all the joy from it / or get all the joy from it. Simple." /And it is simple, really. In these poems, Yourke's narrators' room are open, the doors are always open. To these small songs, she brings "her insides out," no fancy dresses and no artifice. No matter how difficult, there is always the chance of light from an improbable moon, the possibility of blossom and of music to carry her to ecstasy.

Grown Folks Business
Victoria Christopher Murray
Touchstone Publishing
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0743270975 $14.00 425 pp.

Kathleen Jackson

After 17 years together, Quentin Hart, announces to his wife, Sheridan, that he's in love with someone else - a man. Sheridan is then faced with many obstacles in her life - her 16-year old son's rejection of his father, and his fear that he will become gay also, her best friend and parents reaction to Quentin's announcement, her father's prostate scare, and having to learn how to live without the only man she's ever loved. Through all of this turmoil in her life, Sheridan Hart's faith never fades. This is a story about love lost, love found, forgiveness, and most importantly, a family's faith in the Lord.

With or Without You
Lauren Sanders
Akashic Books
P.O. Box 1456, New York, NY 10009
ISBN 1888451696 $14.95 280 pp.

Keith Potempa

"Your eyes found mine and for the brief seconds we connected I felt a series of convulsions charge up my legs as if your spirit had invaded my flesh... What happened on that set between us was too big for the rest of the world. It had to remain between us. For better or worse, till the end of time, world without end."

Summer of 1987 in New York, Lillian Ginger Speck is waiting in a prison cell for her next appeal, where she tells her story of puberty, isolation, a neglecting family, struggling with concepts of friendships, relationships, sexuality, and fitting in. She asks the reader what it truly is to be alone and misunderstood. But most of all, she tells the story of how, on one afternoon in New York, she murders her one true love; soap opera star Brooke Harrison.

Meanwhile, Brooke's mother Mildred weaves a different voice into Lillian's story, relaying a third person story all of its own about the life of her daughter. Mildred watches from the sidelines as Brooke grows up, gains popularity and stardom, struggles to advance into the film industry, and mourns as her ashes are scattered in the backyard. Through Lillian and Brooke, both sides of the narrative unfold. They're growing up before the reader's eyes, one beautiful, charming, and destined for stardom; the other homely, antisocial, and driven to obsession. Sanders employs two very distinct voices and styles of writing while she intricately winds the stories of murderer and victim together, crossing Lillian and Brooke's paths countless times with great skill.

Sanders also has a very powerful eye for imagery, drawing out small details to their fullest extent to be used later in deeper metaphors. She pulls together a net of interwoven strings of these images and metaphors, connecting them all together in their own way as they are repeated throughout the book. No detail lingers on the page without its own purpose.

But one thing should definitely be said about Sanders's method; it's very graphic. Her image of love and sex may not be the same as the reader's, but it is the one that will prevail within the novel. Because not much is left to the imagination during passionate scenes, it may be seen as offensive to the more sexually conservative individual.

Lauren Sanders stunned readers and won a Lambda Literary Award in 2001 with her strange portrayal of love and sex in her debut novel Kamikaze Lust. But With or Without You draws on a different illusion of love society has made for itself: obsession. She addresses the many obsessions of our modern age: money, love, status, fame, celebrities, beauty, crime, and even obsession itself. With two clashing plot lines detailing two very distinct lives, the reader sees the struggles of human existence differ greatly but spawn from the same pool of obsessions. Lillian's apology/love letter drives the reader's heart to ache for her but at the same time condemn her. Mildred's tale drives the reader to tears as we learn every beautiful detail about her beloved daughter, only to be swept off our feet at the end. Compelling to the very end, With or Without You pulls from a pool of every human emotion until we are left dry and tender.

In Lieu of Heaven
Kevin Archer
Xlibris Books
ISBN: 1413421865 $30.99 155 pp.

Garrie Keyman

Kevin Archer's first-person allegory of disenchantment with his spiritual journey is an ultimately enjoyable tale, drawing in the reader with smooth prose and accessible protagonists. Interest is sustained by thought-filled examinations of biblical precepts all of which are artfully couched in an entertaining fictionalization of what might be called an atheist's apologetics.

A lone drifter, wandering a parched desert, happens upon an oasis occupied by a single inhabitant we soon discover is no other than the original Adam. The ensuing conversations between Adam and our drifter become a veritable deconstruction of biblical teaching, Adam insisting all the while that our drifter's quest to encounter God will never be met, since God is dead. Adam knows; he claims to be the one who killed Him, committing the murder as revenge for His having allowed Eve to die.

Exactly why Adam never died is not made clear, but the crux of the tale - aside from pointing out many of the ironies and hypocrisies of biblical teaching - centers around our waiting to have Adam explain precisely how it was he murdered God.

Enter the book's main flaw, stage left.

Archer's denouement involves Adam and Judas being one, a resolution that had a difficult time gelling in my brain. Perhaps if Archer's Adam had conspired with Judas and claimed complicity in the death of Jesus I might have found In Lieu of Heaven slightly more cohesive. Of course, reading any manner of speculative fiction requires that the reader applies a hefty dose of what in drama has been dubbed "suspended disbelief." This doesn't mean, however, once the speculative fiction author has established the parameters of her "universe," that she can change them at any turn -- or toss them wholesale out the window -- without losing the reader's acceptance of said universe.

The other problem is, of course, that we all know Jesus died, but His death has never been equated with the death of the triune God. In Archer's work, the concept of the Trinity is not first deconstructed, as is so much else in biblical teaching, and therefore to accept the death of Jesus as equivalent to the annihilation of God requires a leap of, shall we say, faithlessness, that Archer has not wholly prepared us to accept.

He has, however, set us up to accept much, and has done it well. As a former missionary, his knowledge of the bible would seem fairly thorough, and he footnotes his references (citing chapter and verse) for the reader's convenience.

I first selected In Lieu of Heaven because I mistakenly thought it was going to be a scholarly approach to biblical deconstruction; I didn't realize I had ordered a novel. But if anything, In Lieu of Heaven was better than I anticipated precisely because it was a work of fiction. I say this because, in fictionalizing his thoughts, Archer's appeal becomes accessible on multiple levels and his intellectual acuity proven the keener for his approach. And yet by no means is to characterize In Lieu of Heaven as a scholarly work off the mark. Archer knows his subject well and evokes in the reader frequent and introspective thought-provoking pauses. I suspect this was one of his goals and he achieves it almost poetically.

In Lieu of Heaven is a brief 155 pages that will give readers more than 155 pages worth of impact, at least for those valuing well-written prose packing a punch that teeters on profundity. Over all well done. Earns three out of five possible stars.

Worm Story
Morris Gleitzman
ISBN 0143301969 $14.95

Magdalena Ball, Reviewer

Like all good characters, Wilton has a problem. Not only is he overweight, but he's fallen down his hill and can't get back up, there are terrible storms and everyone seems to be having headaches. Wilton is no ordinary character though. He's an intestinal worm with an inferiority complex, doing battle with teasing microbes and dangerous fungus. Despite his lowly status, Wilton is a heroic worm and, with the help of a tiny parasitic microbe named Algy, goes on a quest to find out the cause of his world's malaise, and to uncover who he is and where he fits in the overall scheme of things. In other words, Wilton is the Ulysses of the inner world, and his search no less dangerous, magical, or arduous.

Wilton is the perfect character for children--he's heroic, despite not fitting in, and kind, despite the many obstacles in his path. Squeamish parents and teachers may object to the rather graphic setting, which is the internal workings of one slightly overweight girl named Janet, complete with microbes, bacteria, fungus, and slime--the local name for faeces. At one point, Wilton falls out into Janet's underpants, and looks over the great hills of her bottom, after fighting his way through a tough sludge blockage. On the other hand, if you have boys under the age of fifteen, you are probably fairly used to a fair amount of potty talk, and the setting will help endear this story to children, encouraging reluctant readers to keep going to see how far Gleitzman will go in his descriptive setting, or to see whether this little but chubby intestinal worm will be able to save his host.

As Gleitzman points out, children don't generally feel like they are in complete control of their world, and at places like school, they can often feel strange, singled out, and unimportant, and will likely identify with Wilton. As a character he is kind, and the story is full of important themes. The symbiotic friendship between Algy and Wilton provides a positive example. Other important themes such as appearances being misleading, judging by character rather than by role or appearance, and even the importance of good food are all presented in a lighthearted fun way which children will enjoy. The persistence with which Wilton overcomes his emotional and physical challenges is inspiring, and his good natured wonder as he discovers his world is a pleasure to follow.

Gleitzman has done his research, and this story will also teach children about the inner workings of their body, and to respect themselves , and to view life in all its layers and diversities from a number of different perspectives. The respect for life, even parasitic life, is obvious in the writing. What is also obvious is that Gleitzman allows himself to have quite a lot of fun while writing his books. That fun is passed on to the reader, who will also enjoy the underlying exuberance.

'Don't feel bad, Wriggles,' said Algy. 'I understand how much you want to meet your lot. But the world world's in a mess. We're up to our tendrils in sick sludge and killer fungus and wild storms and headache epidemics. We've got to find out what's causing all this bad stuff.' Wilton wanted to suggest that as there were two of them, perhaps they could do both th i ngs at once. Meet worms and save the world. He didn't. Algy obviously felt very strongly about this. Wilton knew friends were meant to support each other as much as possible, and even though being a friend was a very new experience for him, he wanted to do it right.(44)

Worm Story is a lighthearted and very easy to read book which is surprisingly pithy in its morality and its sense of the beauty of life at all levels. This is a lovely, refreshing and enjoyable story which will appeal to everyone but the stuffy, and is highly recommended to encourage reluctant readers with a love of all things relating to the toilet. Anally retentive adults, however, should steer clear.

Light in the Storm
Margaret Daley
Steeple Hill Books
233 Broadway, New York, NY 10279 U.S.A. 716-684-1500
ISBN: 0373873077 $4.99 251 pp.

Martha Robach

38-year-old Beth Coleman is used to serving others. At the age of 19, after her father deserts the family and her mother dies of breast cancer, Beth raises her three young siblings alone, plus guiding hundreds of students as a teacher. But now it is her turn, and Beth knows exactly what she wants to do. She plans to throw a dart at a map of Central and South America, and where the dart lands is the place where she will apply for missionary work. The promise of this exciting adventure somewhat deflects the empty-nest ennui that has settled in after her brother Daniel leaves for college.

But Beth's plans begin to go awry when she meets Samuel, her new minister, a handsome widower with three children. Jane, his oldest daughter, is a student of Beth's who is struggling with a learning disability. Beth, always caring where others are concerned, offers to tutor Jane, bringing her in close regular contact with Samuel. Awakened by Samuel's evident admiration and attention, Beth sheds her dowdy clothes as well as the poor opinion she has of her physical appearance. But after all she has been through, can she, should she, give up her dream of missionary work to marry Samuel and once again take on motherhood and a settled life?

Unlike many novels, Light in the Storm deals in a genuine way with people we could meet any day in the "real" world. Beth Coleman is not 21, gorgeous and willowy, but she is a caring, faith-filled woman worthy both of love and the reader's attention. Margaret Daley is a teacher and a mother, and it shows in the lifelike, and not always perfect, relationships children have with their parents and teachers. This is not escapist literature but a warm rendition of good people who must struggle with life's problems and occasionally with their faith.

The story takes place in the fictional town of Sweetwater Lake, and this novel is part of The Ladies of Sweetwater Lake series written by Margaret Daley. Additional novels in this series are Gold in the Fire and A Mother for Cindy. And although Beth's friends can be snoopy, teasing her and match-making furiously, their obvious affection for Beth and each other is palpable and heartwarming. As Beth tells Samuel upon his arrival in Sweetwater Lake, "This is a good place to forge a new beginning," with friends that will hold onto you with their hands and with their hearts.

Light in the Storm is a uplifting slice-of-life story with endearing characters who handle life's challenges with courage and love; a highly recommended read.

The Loony: a Novella of Epic Proportions
Christopher WunderLee
Picaro Editions
ISBN: 1411624505 $10.00

Miyo Baird

The Loony Fakes the Moon Hoax

What exactly happened that day in 1969, when a rocket launched three Americans into space and took them to the moon? Did anything really happen? Did humanity actually visit another world?

Anyone who has a television, reads, listens to the radio, or goes on the internet knows there have been questions concerning this seminal event since it was first broadcast into many of our living rooms more than thirty years ago. It is one of the great conspiracy theories of our time - did the United States fake the lunar landings of the Apollo program?

If that sounds crazy, welcome to The Loony, Christopher Wunderlee's novella of epic proportions, in which one Doctor Albert Lochner is your guide, and a strange guide he is. And this, the great mystery, the uncertainty, the points when it just has to be a hoax, when it just has to be true, when nothing could possibly be true, when maybe everything is true, is the compelling structure behind Wunderlee's sprawling tome. His unwound prose-style and intimate narrative voice puts readers into the fray so immediately, so perfectly, you emerge in more wonder, as uncertain/certain as you began.

Wunderlee creates a creepy, almost lingering, atmosphere of doubt - doubt in the events, doubt in the protagonist, doubt in the world, doubt even in the narrator telegraphing the story. There's Albert Lochner's version, complete with recruitment and playing a key role in the conspiracy. There are the They of the black government, those peripheral figures invisibly maneuvering events behind the scenes. There's the love interest, a private/sex spy/ghost named Harris, who remains such a mystery, she conjures up a nearly Dulcinea-like aura. There are the references to repressed sexuality, previous hoaxes and conspiracies, there are the holes in Albert's biography, the questions about his relationship to Harris, the latent paranoia, the psychology of lies and the psychoanalysis of delusion. And, the moments of absolute clarity it just has to be true - Albert helped fake the lunar landings. But then, there's the official story and Wunderlee ensures we never forget it.

The Loony is a psychological page-turner that epitomizes lunacy, explores perception, our conspiracy culture, and individual consciousness. How is the world constructed by our own perceptions of it? Can one live within a world constructed completely out of a unique perspective? How do conspiracy theories play into this personalized world? Are they a universal construct accepted by a minority to alter the truth into their perception? Or, are they kernels of truth hidden by group-minded world in fear of possibilities that we are lied to, that we don't know everything?

Eventually, the reader must decide. In the end, there is no definite answer.

Wunderlee's writing is fresh, unbound, and stirring, with hints of taunting, and whiffs of erudition. In a short novel like The Loony, it is surprising to find oneself so wrapped up, so perplexed, so involved. Excellent narrative experimentation is rare, making this novel a potential conspiracy theory in and of itself.

In Defense of the Christ: Why Jesus Would Disown Christianity
Shawn Patrick Thornton
Publish America Publishing
ISBN: 1413746136 $19.95 188 pp.

Shirley Roe, Reviewer

Mysticism versus organized Religion! Any theological dissertation must find a balance between criticism and understanding to be effective. Shawn P. Thornton has succeeded.

Without sympathy and understanding, it would be impossible to adequately explain why people believe what they do. Without a critical attitude, one would abandon the ability to probe and ask "why?" In other words, to exercise one's "Free Will."

In Defense of the Christ attempts to explain the reasoning behind organized religion, the needs of the fundamentalist and what can be gained by blind acceptance. Author, Shawn Thornton freely admits that he was raised a staunch Roman Catholic. He attended a Jesuit University as a philosophy major and did not begin to question his religious upbringing until his life was threatened by a serious life threatening illness.

The author adopts the point of view of the mystic, touting the belief that man and God are "One" rather than separate. The book takes the reader chapter by chapter through the doctrines and teachings of the Bible making several comparisons to Zen Buddhism and mysticism. The doctrines of the Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian religions are closely examined. Each chapter leads the reader, intelligently and knowledgably, step by step through the dissertation. The author has researched his subject well.

As the title suggests, it is the author's premise that Christ would "disown" modern Christianity, which has wandered far from the original teachings of Christ himself. A Twelve Step program, Spiritual Confusion Anonymous, fashioned after the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, is laid out in the book as a possible solution to today's religious quandary. The author describes his own personal spiritual journey towards Nirvana and the realization that man is "One" with God.

An in-depth look at organized religion from the point of view of a modern day mystic, this book offers some interesting questions. Seekers of "Spiritual Truth" will find the explanations and scientific/historical arguments fascinating. Recommended reading for anyone searching for answers with an open mind.

1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019 USA
ISBN: 0679446265 $20.00 192 pages

Akua Sarr, Ph.D.

Push is the disturbing narrative of Claireece Precious Jones, a sixteen year old, illiterate, overweight African-American girl from Harlem, New York. When her story begins she is pregnant with a second child by her father. After years of abuse by her parents and neglect by the educational and social welfare systems, Precious begins a journey toward literacy and self-understanding when she enrolls in an alternative school. Journal entries, written in the form of a dialogue with her teacher, help Precious tell her life story, expose the abuse shes suffered, and come to an acceptance and love of self. The writing process for Precious is a testimony that allows her to transform her private shame into dignity. Giving testimony is not only a means of transformation but a way in which she (re)writes her life. Testimony has a double connotation; it contains objective, public aspects, as well as subjective, spiritual, cathartic, and private aspects. Her dialogue discloses intimate secrets to a confidant but at the same time is a public testimony. Her narrative allows introspection and self-examination but simultaneously discloses publicly the shame and humiliation inflicted by dominant others: her mother and father

Themes of violence against black women and girls are apparent in the black male literary tradition, but always shadow predominant themes of alienated black men and the psychological effects of racism on the black male psyche. Ralph Ellison's True Blood incident in Invisible Man depicts incestuous rape, but the novel's primary concern is the male protagonist's quest for self-identity. Nathan McCall's participation in gang rape in his autobiography Makes Me Wanna Holler is another example, but again, the central focus of the text is a black man's coming of age in America. In Richard Wright's Native Son, Bigger Thomas kills his black girlfriend Bessie but is neither tried nor convicted for the crime. Instead, he is sentenced to death for the murder of Mary Dalton, the daughter of his white employer. Sapphire's protagonist Precious is a response to Richard Wright's Bessie. Bessie is killed without us ever hearing her voice or her story. By having Precious write her story, Sapphire responds to Wright's missing narrative of Bessie. The character of Precious suggests a possible story for Bessie. In this sense, she can be viewed as a re-Wrighting or a revision of Wright's silent and tragic figure.

Sapphire's first novel Push is controversial because of its graphic language and revelations of incest and abuse. She joins Ntozake Shange, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison as she speaks about the unspeakable: incest, domestic abuse, HIV, prostitution, homosexuality, and drug addiction. Where this novel differs from this tradition is that it carries a message of hope as Precious finds salvation through literacy. Writing, or what Precious calls talkin' on paper, enables her to revise the dominant male narrative, and define herself.

The Hostel
Liana Metal
e-book at
ISBN/e book ID: 0016, $5.99 pp.119,

Bill Savanis

Very Highly Recommended

THE HOSTEL is set in London, UK, in the 70s and is about a young student, Nina, who strives to adjust herself to a new lifestyle so different from her own culture's.

The story unfolds in West London, at a nuns' hostel where Nina stays and gets to know her new friends. Soon a serious dilemma turns up in her life and implications start. Nina falls in love with a man who is her best friend's dad. She stubbornly refuses to accept him in her life, but nothing seems to be easy for her from the moment she meets him. What will happen in the end?

THE HOSTEL is a fresh story full of unpredictable turns that will entertain all ages. The readers who lived in that era will probably recognize certain events mentioned in the story or even identify themselves with some of the characters, while, the younger generation will get to know certain aspects of that time and feel how it is to 'live' in the 70s. It is a novel that includes old fashioned romance and elements of truth throughout the plot, merged with real events of that time. It is a successful hybrid of fiction and non fiction that will appeal to a wide audience.

A Call to Faith and Freedom
Shirley A. Roe
Grizzly Bookz Publishing
420 Wal-Mart Way, Suite 136, Dahlonega, Georgia, 30533
ISBN: 0974963445 $12.95 USA, $15.95 Canada 202 pages

Shawn Patrick Thornton, Reviewer

A Call to Faith and Freedom, by master storyteller and poet Shirley Roe, is one of the very rare books that can be referred to as a 'world-class novel'. The story takes place in seventh-century feudal Scotland. Invading Christians, using savage and barbaric torture and executions, try to force the conversion of the native Celts whom these Christians consider as Pagans. And, the Celts fight back to retain their land, their way of life and their religion, which is centered on a goddess. Throughout the book, which is rich in Celtic lore, Shirley Roe demonstrates a detailed knowledge of Celtic mores, customs, philosophy and religious practices.

One of the qualities that make this book a 'world-class novel' is the ability of its author to hold the reader totally spellbound from the first to the very last page. She writes from a deep personal spirituality, a tender compassion, a profound understanding of human nature and with a poetic grace. I was unable to put the book down. I hungrily devoured it in just over twenty-four hours. There were battles between knights on horses, deaths, traitor's plots, medieval castles, deep dark forests with fairies in them and sunny green meadows with clear streams and wildflowers of every color. There was music and singing, love affairs and feasts with great tables filled with mutton, wild game and tankards of ale. There were myths about the Arch Druid and High Priestess rising magically, mystically out of the early morning sun. Every conceivable human emotion is explored in an ever moving action setting. Only an author with the most vivid of imaginations could conceive of such a rich plot! It's the kind of book that you will want to share with your family and friends.

In conclusion, if you liked the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, or The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, you will love this book. It holds you spellbound like the Da Vinci police chase in France and explores every human passion in a simple, lovely pastoral setting; like the old rural China of The Good Earth. This book is destined to be a run away best seller. My advice is to buy it now so that you can immediately enter the magic kingdom of Shirley Roe and for 20 or more hours be far from your cares. And, before it is republished as a hardback for $32.50!

Quality of Care
Elizabeth Letts
NAL Accent
ISBN: 0451214102 $12.95 288 pages

Terez Rose

Quality of Care, Elizabeth Letts' debut novel, should come with a warning: do not attempt to begin this novel prior to undertaking an important task. I brought the book home one evening, opened it to the first page and stood reading for five minutes, coat still on, dinner unprepared. Then I sat and read until my son came in and asked if I was going to make his dinner since it was past eight-thirty.

Letts takes an irresistible premise - what happens when you are unable to save the life of the person who saved yours? - and delivers a riveting, fast-paced story with compelling characters and polished, highly-charged writing.

Clara Raymond is an obstetrician. One night a pregnant woman arrives at her labor and delivery clinic with minor complaints. The woman turns out to be Lydia, a childhood friend who once saved Clara's life in a horseback riding accident. Their reunion, however, ends in unspeakable tragedy, with the ensuing days a distorted echo of Clara's unresolved past. Temporarily suspended from her practice, Clara decides to return to the root cause of the pain in her life - the place of her childhood, and the haunting events she's tried to put behind her.

When Clara arrives at an estate in the coastal California community where she grew up, its dressage facility throws her back immediately into the world of competitive horse riding. The owner of the property is wealthy Eleanor Prescott Norton, the dressage judge who disqualified Clara from a pre-Olympic equestrian trial competition when she was fifteen, as well as being the chairman of the hospital board of trustees who contributed to Clara's father's professional downfall. Eleanor mistakes her for a stable hand applicant and offers her work. When Clara catches a glimpse of a dressage horse named Benedetto, reminiscent of the beloved horse she once owned, she decides to stay for a few days.

Clara's pain and confusion over Lydia's death are further complicated by the fact that Lydia's grieving husband is Clara's first love, as well. Gordon - orphaned at nineteen, charismatic yet adrift at the university they both attended, who alone could understand her silent grief, and she, his. A local memorial service for Lydia has now brought him back. Will their sorrow, loneliness and electric attraction once again draw them together?

Quality of Care weaves a tapestry of past and present, accident and fate, choices made and their consequences. Is Clara willing to hear what Eleanor knows about Clara's deceased father's demise? Is Eleanor as cold-hearted as she appears, or does she care that Clara's fellow stable hand, a teenager named Jazmyn, is heavily pregnant, her health and security at risk? The story asks the question, "Where is the line between trying to help the people you love, and letting them go to act out their own destinies?" Letts, a practicing certified nurse-midwife has a keen eye for detail - both technical and physical. Her knowledge of horses and obstetrics makes the descriptions ring with authority, yet without ever burdening the reader with unnecessary terms or lingo.

Letts is at her best when describing the coastal scenery ("The hillsides were variegated, some fields of tall grass scattered profusely with goldenrod, others a harmonious blend of dense low-lying chaparral, bluish green to grey, like a natural patchwork") as well as in flashbacks to Clara's developing relationship with the brilliantly-drawn Gordon ("I was drowning in him, plunging somewhere deep and fast - on that same speedy trajectory that a car would take when the land beneath it disappeared, or an icy airplane that decided to drop from the sky"). These stirring, evocative and sensuous flashbacks with their undercurrents of grief and mystery kept me reading, hungry to stay inside the story.

Letts delivers her story, much like the nurse-midwife she is - with deft hands, coaxing the reader on with absorbing dialogue and narration; providing them with a protagonist who never succumbs to excessive sentimentality, which helps the reader follow Clara through her painful journey to the story's ultimately uplifting resolution. The novel is not perfect - there are a few inconsistencies in characters' voices, and plot developments often rely on coincidence. The prose occasionally lacks the smooth veneer of a seasoned novelist, but even this works to bring us closer to the flawed but loveable Clara. Chosen as an alternate selection for the Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Rhapsody Book Club, Quality of Care is a novel that will appeal to women, to horse lovers, to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in a powerful, heartfelt story.

Bright Clouds
Pat Dwyer
Guajira Publications
Oaklawn, Ballyfin Road, Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Ireland
Phone: 00-353-502-20387
ISBN 0954869303, $TBA 221 pages

Tom Geraghty

Up to now Pat was better known as a poet and in 2002 he launched his first book of poetry 'From Thurles to Cuba with Love'. This latest book marks his first foray into prose. It is not so much a chronicle of Pat's experience of the disease as a personalised guidebook drawing on his experience and written in his inimitable style, typified by the book's sub-title 'Smiling in the face of adversity and coping with Multiple Sclerosis'. In it, he touches on subjects as diverse as the excellent health-care provided in Cuba, the role of humour in dealing with disability, Ryanair's despicable attitude to people with disabilities - if I can insert a personal prejudice, perhaps that phrase should have read 'Ryanair's despicable attitude' - his religious faith, the sexual needs of people with disabilities and many more. If, as I have said, this is a guide-book it is highly individual one, full of knowledge and personal reminiscence. Above all, it is a book devoid of the self-pity that few could begrudge Pat if he was so minded. As they say, with experience comes wisdom!

There is a convention that when people in full health hear of another's difficulties we claim that 'It puts everything into perspective'. In truth, it may but we don't. We experience sympathy and then get back to our own daily worries. To paraphrase a quote used by Pat in the book, we are very brave with other people's illnesses! This is a book that should not just be read by MS sufferers and their families. Books that are warm, witty and wise are worthwhile for all to read and are rare enough to be found. I would describe this one as life-affirming except that Pat would probably tell me that it makes me sound like a bloody hippy! Sail on Pat.

With publishers falling over themselves to publish trashy novels and vacuous dissertations on the lives of forgettable 'celebrities', it is a mystery why the big publishing houses did not beat a path to Pat's door to get their hands on this work.

The Original Country Bob's Cookbook
Country Bob's Inc.
Favorite Recipes Press
ISBN: 0975444107 $22.00 96 pages

Jennifer A. Wickes, Reviewer

"The Original Country Bob's Cookbook" is a wonderful cookbook utilizing the fantastic products from Country Bob's! The recipes are creative and delicious.

Country Bob's was founded by Bob Edson in 1968. He perfected his steak sauce which began being sold in 1977 as Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce. What came afterwards was a barbecue sauce, a seasoning salt and employee shares in a company that has continued to grow.

There are some delicious photographs at the start of each chapter, which includes: Appetizers, Soups and Salads; Grilling; Main Dishes; and Desserts. There are no complicated culinary terms here as this is just great country cooking!

The products available made by Country Bob's were even tested and recommended by Cooking Club of America! These products can be found directly at Country Bob's website, or you can go to their site and see which Wal-Mart carries the product. By the way, if you order through Country Bob's, they will ship for free!

The recipes in this book are easy-to-read and understand. They are creative and tasty. When I tried out some of the recipes on my very finnicky family, they rejoiced at me finally finding a cookbook that they like! The absolutely loved the products! Some of my family favorites are: Grilled Chicken-in-a-Pocket, Southwestern Black Bean Stew, Slow-Cooker Orange Honey Chicken and Butternut Cake!

This is a great cookbook and the products were a hit. Go to their site today and order up a gift pack, it's worth the price!

A Woman in Amber
Agate Nesaule
ISBN: 0140261907 $14.00 288 pages

Zinta Aistars

Being of Latvian heritage myself, perhaps it is impossible for me to read Nesaule's book as anyone else of a different heritage might. I have grown up on stories that are but variations on a theme to this one. My first language was Latvian, my first book was Latvian, my own first efforts in creative writing were in the Latvian language. Indeed, I have just participated in a literary reading of Latvian authors at the 11th Latvian Song Festival in Chicago, Illinois, where I had the honor of sharing the podium with Agate Nesaule. Is it possible for me to turn the pages of "Woman in Amber" without a deeply ingrained bias? Perhaps not. But I can say that these pages, these words, these memories, resonated profoundly with me. The war experience in many ways, however, is a suffering and a horror that crosses all lines of ethnicity, all borders of nationality. For this reason, I believe this is an important account for a far larger audience than just the Latvian reader; I am thrilled that this book was written first in English, then translated into, I believe, seven other languages.

Latvia is a tiny but beautiful country on the coast of the Baltic Sea. The Latvian language is one of the oldest still in existence. The country's history is one of the most war-torn and ravaged of any country anywhere - although it has existed for many, many centuries, Latvia has been independent, free of occupation by other armies, for only a wink in time. If this nation can be proud of anything, it can be proud of its ability to survive even the cruelest and most oppressive conditions. This memoir, "Woman in Amber," opens a small window of light shed on how such a people survive. Even more precisely, it gives an account of how a very young girl can survive - losing her home, losing her family, conditions of hunger, rape, pillage, exile, and the terrifying experience of being a stranger in an immense and completely alien country where the culture and language are all new and strange. Most memoirs of war and battlefields are written by men. It is particularly interesting to read a different kind of account, from the perspective of a woman. If soldiers on a battlefield suffer, there is a quieter, less evident suffering that happens behind the front lines, and this memoir reveals, painfully and movingly, the no less violent and scarring battles that happen there.

Agate Nesaule's memoir is a couragous sharing of the experiences she endured - not just during World War II, but for many years following the war. Long after the sounds of war have died down, the wounds are still bloodied and pulsating with pain. Healing can often take a lifetime. My respect to this author for sharing her experience, and my hope that it has offered her healing. This is a book I am proud to recommend to both my Latvian friends as well as my non-Latvian friends.

Alisa's Bookshelf

Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: 0553587080 $6.99 496 pp.

Haunted by Kelley Armstrong, is another fantastic adventure in the Women of the Otherworld series. Haunted has a very unusual main character - Eve Levine, Savannah's mother and a ghost. Eve was a black witch and a half-demon when alive. She believed witch magic had been corrupted and diluted, as Paige discovers in Dime Store Magic. Eve has done many murky things to gain sorcerer and witch spells that she was able to use. This quest for greater power made Eve careless, which lead to her death before the events of Stolen occurred. While her death was a peripheral plot line in the series, the consequences where far reaching for Savannah. Much of Dime Store Magic was the result of Savannah coming to terms with her mother's death.

Haunted gives a great deal of insight into how Eve and Savannah are so much alike. Eve will not let go of Savannah and spends a great of her time in the afterlife checking up on her. Eve has been reunited with Kristof, Savannah's father, but will not allow him to be more then a friend. Kristoff is not your average Cabal sorcerer. He has regretted not pursing Eve and Savannah for 15 years and is determined not to make the same mistake a second time.

The Fates, overseers of the supernatural afterlife, have decided to call in the favor that Eve garnered at the conclusion of Industrial Magic. Eve is being sent on a mission to track a Nix, a Germanic demi-demon nymph who feeds off chaos. This particular Nix has been jumping from woman to woman giving them the necessary drive to murder. The Nix feeds off the chaos and anguish these murders create. Eventually she grows weary of her partner and devises a way for them to be caught and create even more chaos. The Fates have sent three previous hunters to catch the Nix and return her to hell. Each has failed leaving the Nix to continue her reign of terror.

The Fates hope Eve, with her unusual talents will be successful is catching the Nix. With the help of Kirstof, an angel named Trsiel, and the infamous necromancer Jamie Vegas, Eve sets out on a course that changes everything.

Haunted starts out slow and is hard to relate to at first since all the main characters are not corporal beings. Once the plot with the Nix begins to unfold, the characters transcend death and the afterlife they live in begins to make sense. Kelley Armstrong is author to be lauded. Instead of cranking out another adventure using werewolves, witches, or sorcerers, she has created an entire mythological inspired afterlife that exists as another layer to the series. The world Eve and Kristoff inhabit is fascinating to read about. The living and the afterlife are connected, but the dead cannot touch, feel, or communicate directly (except through a necromancer) with the living. Eve has been desperately searching for a way to influence and protect Savannah - at the cost of her sense of purpose. The afterlife is supposed to be a nice retirement of the worries of the living. Eve is definitely not ready for any sort of retirement.

Haunted is well worth reading. Kelley Armstrong has created an entertaining novel and stretched her wings. Many writers in her position simply rest on their laurels, but Kelley has instead decided to create something entirely different. And it works as an entreating piece of fiction.

Kelley Armstrong currently resides in Ontario, Canada with her family. She has published five books in the Women of the Otherworld series; Bitten, Stolen, Dime Store Magic, Industrial Magic, and Haunted. The sixth in the series, Broken, will revisit Elena, Clay, and the werewolves and is to be released in May 2006. A mainstream novel titled Exit Strategy is forthcoming in 2006. She has an extensive website at Her website contains original novellas and short stories from the Women of the Otherworld series.

Dreams Made Flesh
Anne Bishop
ISBN: 0451460138 $16.00 448 pp.

Dreams Made Flesh is a wonderful addition to the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. The four stories contained in the anthology are "Weaver of Dreams," "the Prince of Ebon Rih," "Zuulaman," and "Kaeleer's Heart."

"Weaver of Dreams" is a brief history of the creation of the Spinner of Dreams, spiders. The evocative, rich, mythological inspiration for Draca's relationship to the spiders is fascinating to read about.

"The Prince of Ebon Rih" is Lucivar Yaslana and Marian's story. Many of the customs of Eyrien race are explored along with the intricate love between Lucivar and Marian. This story takes place at the conclusion of Heir to the Shadows.

"Zuulaman" is the story of the lengths Hekatah went to try and control Saetan. We learn a great deal about Hayll's Hundred Families and how Saetan became the ruler of the Dhemlan Territories. This story of treachery shows just how far Hekatah was willing to go to get her way.

"Kaeleer's Heart" is the long awaited story of what happened after the conclusion of Queen of Darkness. Janelle is healing, but not fast enough for Daemon. The real question is if Janelle wants to be all that she once was. Also addressed is the significance of Twilights Dawn, the jewel Janelle now wears. Many of the vibrant characters seen in the Black Jewels Trilogy make appearances in the story.

Dreams Made Flesh is a nice addition to the Black Jewels Trilogy. "Zuulaman" explains much of Saetan and Hekatah. "Kaeleer's Heart" puts a wonderful spin on the ending to the Queen of Darkness and gives a much more satisfying end to the series. The weakness of this anthology is that is not a stand alone. This book is primarily for fans of the series.

Anne Bishop is the author numerous fantasy books, the Black Jewels Trilogy; Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, and Queen of Darkness. Invisible Ring is set in the same world as the Black Jewels Trilogy. She is also the author the World of the Fae series; Pillars of the World, the Shadows and the Light, and the House of Gaian. Bishop won the William L. Crawford Memorial Fantasy Award for the Black Jewels Trilogy. Please visit her website, for more information.

A Stroke of Midnight
Laurell K. Hamilton
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345443578 $23.95 366 pp.

Cover Artist: Judy York

A Stroke of Midnight is Laurell K. Hamilton's fifth installed in the Merry Gentry series. While the plot-line moves forward in the series, A Stroke of Midnight is not a strong piece on its own.

At the conclusion of Seduced by Moonlight, Merry and her guards have survived numerous assassinations, violent encounters with other Fae, and lots of sex. Merry should be ready for sleep, but instead she is the focus of a press conference. It would appear the media is very interested in her life - each and every titillating tidbit they can glean from Merry herself and those around her. During the press conference, a double homicide occurs - a lesser Fae and a human reporter. Merry insists that a human investigation be done, and manipulates Queen Andais to this end. The importance of this investigation is never completely clear, other then as a way for Merry to avenge her father's murder.

A Stroke of Midnight has a great deal going on when the characters are not engaged in sexual encounters. We learn much about Merry's father and how his death affected her. With each Fae that Merry brings into godhead, the Sithern Farie Mound begins to regain its power and renew life. The story takes place during one night, but the Sithern has altered time so one night lasts a very long time.

In the scope of the book, A Stroke of Midnight is much stronger then Seduced by Moonlight. The plot is continued, but much is left out. Too many characters are introduced with not enough time for the reader to become attached to them. The sex scenes are less numerous then previous books, but they are not erotic. Merry is a woman who can do things a Tijuana whore would be unable to do. While I recognize this is fantasy and hence anything can happen, I wish for a little more realism. The sex acts themselves dominate so much storyline, it is impossible not to wish for more character development. A Stroke of Midnight will satisfy those Hamilton fans that have embraced the sexual tone of her recent works.

Laurell K. Hamilton is the St. Louis author of twelve Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series books and four novels in the Meredith Gentry series; A Kiss of Shadows, a Caress of Twilight, Seduced by Moonlight, and A Stroke of Midnight. She has published numerous short stories and novellas in various anthologies along with a novel which was recently re-released, Nightseer.

Dead as a Doornail
Charlaine Harris
Ace Hardcover
ISBN: 0441012795 $22.95 304 pp.

Cover Artist: Lisa Desimini

Dead as a Doornail is the fifth installment in Charlaine Harris' dynamic Sookie Stackhouse series. Sookie, the buxom, blond, barmaid from Bon Temps is once again thrust into things that she should not be. Her psychic abilities make her a magnet for the supernatural world.

At the conclusion of the Dead to the World, Eric has regained his self, but remembers nothing of his time with Sookie. Jason, Sookie's brother has been found, but is now a werepanther. Dead as a Doornail opens with Jason experiencing his first full moon as a werepanther. Amazingly enough, Jason embraces his new life and enjoys shifting. As much of a relief as this is for Sookie, trouble is looming. Someone is killing shifters and Jason is the prime suspect. To add to Sookie's turmoil, Eric does not remember his time with Sookie, but knows something important happened. In another twist, Debbie's family is desperately searching for her. This search finds its way to Sookie's doorstep once again.

In Dead as a Doornail we get a much clearer picture of the shifter communities - the werewolves and werepanthers. Sookie is drawn into the political struggles within the werewolf pack structure. The outcome is not a happy ending for Sookie or werewolves. Calvin Norris, the head of the werepanthers in Hot Shot continues to attempt to woo Sookie. Another love interest is most certainly not something Sookie needs in her already complicated love life.

I enjoyed reading Dead as a Doornail immensely. Sookie and her adventures are always a treat. The only drawback to this book is that Sookie and the reader become very disappointed when knowledge of certain character defects becomes evident within those close to Sookie. All of the characters, old and new, add flavor to the series and make Sookie's madcap adventures even more entertaining. On the whole, Dead as a Doornail is a fun read.

Charlaine Harris is the author of four previous Sookie Stackhouse novels; Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, and Dead to the World. She is also the author of two popular mystery novel series, the Aurora Tegarden series and the Lily Bard Shakespeare series.

Alisa McCune

Alyice's Bookshelf

Living In A Locker Room: A Mom's Tale of Survival In A Houseful Of Boys
Paula Schmitt
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
15115 Why 36, Deadwood, OR 97430
ISBN: 1932279156 $12.95

What reads like a series of newspaper columns, written by one distraught, yet hopeful mom is a book filled with motherly insight. And not those pretty, painted pictures you're often fed in other parenting books. Schmitt lays it all out on the line - sometimes serious, sometimes funny - but always insightful.

Thinking about tackling the role of motherhood? Already a parent, but tired of all the useful advice? Just want someone to say, "been there, done that. I understand. Here's how it really happens!" Then order a copy of Living In A Locker Room.

I Want My Dinner Now!
Renee Pottle
Hestia Hearth Publishing & Design
PO Box 7059, Kennewick, WA 99336
ISBN: 0976013711 $12.95

Today's busy parents don't have the time, energy, or desire to cook healthy meals. But they long for the family to sit around the dinner table, together. They long for healthy, home cooked meals, and they long for cost-effective recipes. I Want My Dinner Now! solves these problems and more. In less time than it takes to drive to a fast food restaurant, order, and bring home a meal, parents can have a simple, low-cost, nutritious meal on the table!

While I found the recipes simple enough to prepare, I couldn't help but enjoy reading Pottle's basic cooking tips. They were like a mini-refresher course on many of the ingredients used in this cookbook, as well as, actual cutting and cooking tips.

I'd have to say my favorite recipe is the Tamale Pie. Anyone who has ever tried to or has successfully prepared homemade tamales knows it's not only an all-day affair, but it requires lots of helpers. Now, I don't have to trot off to my favorite Mexican restaurant, I can make them with ease - at home!

Alyice Edrich, Reviewer

Ann's Bookshelf

Catherine de Medici
Leonie Frieda
ISBN: 0753820390 A$24.95 512 pages

A "merchant's daughter"; an Italian duchess without a duchy; a "barren wife"; an "eclipsed consort". Caterina Maria Romula de Medici was called all of these things but she was a most powerful and influential woman, Queen of France for eleven years, and Queen Mother, regent and de facto ruler for thirty more. She was one of the "Monstrous Regiment of Women" against whom John Knox fulminated in the sixteenth century. And, because of her involvement in the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris, she came to be know as 'The Maggot from Italy's tomb', 'The Black Queen' and 'Madame la Serpente'.

Leonie Frieda sets out to show that such judgments were mistaken and bigoted and that Catherine de Medici was, in fact, a remarkably courageous and pragmatic woman whose sole purpose in life was to ensure "the survival of her children, her dynasty and France". Overall, Frieda succeeds in her purpose.

Catherine may have been a merchant's daughter, but what merchants! She came from the rich and powerful Medici family, which traced its ancestors and their banking business back some two hundred years to Giovanni di Bicci de Medici. Her close relatives were some of the most influential secular and religious figures in Italy. And, on her mother's side, she was descended from Louis IX of France.

Catherine may have been a duchess without a duchy, but she did have significant wealth and property. Consequently, marriage negotiations began when she was a child and she had many suitors, including at one time Henry VIII's illegitimate son, the Duke of Richmond. Her eventual marriage to Henry, Duke of Orleans, second son of King Francis 1 of France, was therefore not too surprising.

Leonie Frieda describes Catherine's route to power, her intense love of her husband, the three-cornered relationship which soured her marriage, and her occult premonitions of her husband's bizarre death. Frieda is good, too, at providing curious details to spice the dry historical facts, such as the measures Catherine took in order to become pregnant: prayers, medicine, magical potions which included draughts of mule's urine and stinking poultices and, finally, spying on the sexual antics of Henry and his mistress in order to find out what she might be doing wrong. Clearly, something worked, for Catherine went on to give birth to nine children.

Both Catherine and her husband, Henry (who became King Henry II of France in 1547) had insecure and traumatic childhoods. Neither enjoyed a normal family life and both were made aware at a very early age of the dangerous power struggles which threatened their lives and those of their families and friends. Both learned early to dissemble, to hide their true thoughts and feelings, to scheme, and to fight in every possible way for survival.

Catherine lived to see her beloved husband and all but one of her children die. She survived eight religious wars and continuous plotting against her and her sons' positions of power. She constantly sought to reconcile the religious differences which were dividing people, states and countries. She was a formidable negotiator, an astute player of international games of diplomacy and, at the same time, she loved hunting, embroidery and the latest Italian fashions.

Leonie Frieda has done meticulous research to back up her claims about Catherine and, not surprisingly, given the number of contenders for power and the turbulent times through which Catherine lived, there are quite a few dry pages which seem just to be list of plots, people, events and changes. Nevertheless, the French court under Catherine's influence and, especially during the reigns of Catherine's sons, was something to be wondered at for its opulence, its decadence and the blatant sexuality of the royal siblings Francis, Henri and Margot.

When Catherine's son Henri was elected King of Poland, Frieda's descriptions of the contrast between his exotic, cross-dressing, sexually ambiguous gallants and the bearded, booted, macho Polish gentlemen, and of his clandestine escape from that country when he finally became King of France, stir the imagination. So, too, does her description of Henri's visit to Venice, where, on his way home to France to claim his throne, he was given a royal reception and his own lavish spending made him "a veritable one-man fillip to the economic life".

She is good, too, in her careful account of the events which led up to the terrible Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre of Huguenots, and of Catherine's unavoidable part in this terror.

All-in-all, this book is a readable account of the life of a remarkable woman living in remarkable times. You may not end up liking Catherine, - she was a product of her times and she had learned hard lessons well - but you have to admit that she was impressive. A gentler, less determined woman could never have supported her family through such public and personal dangers and disasters, or played such an active part in international affairs, as successfully and for as long as Catherine de Medici managed to do.

There are some nice illustrations in this book, but parts of the index are impossible to use.

Moon Zoo
Carol Ann Duffy, author
Joel Stewart, illustrator
ISBN: 1405020490 A$26.95 14 pages

Moon Zoo is a delight.

Carol Ann Duffy's humour, her empathy with small children and her versatility as a poet, provide exactly the right words to stir the imagination. And Joel Stewart's colourful, funny and very attractive illustrations make this book as much fun to look at as it is to read.

Mr four-year-old, in my family, found the idea of moon baboons flashing their bottoms at the human race suitably rude and hilarious. His six-year-old brother listened and grinned, and tried to pretend he was too old for this kid's stuff - but he wasn't really.

Carol Ann Duffy, like Ted Hughes before her, clearly believes that children's poetry is important and that they deserve the best. And rightly so, for how else can we foster the imagination, fun and delight which our children need to sustain them as they grow older?

Moon Zoo gives children a wonderful new world to explore. The zoo-keeper is an eight-armed alien who clanks her buckets along the Milky Way. The penguins float about playfully in the Sea of Tranquility. Polar bears, hippos and elephants are airborne in zero gravity. And space craft zoom around them all. There are even some strange, nameless creatures lurking behind rocks or peering over the edges of pages.

Words and pictures - perfect food for the imagination. And not just for the kids, either!

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Arlene's Bookshelf

Laurinda D. Brown
Strebor Books
PO Box 1370; Bowie, MD 20718
ISBN: 1593090307; $15.00; 234 pp.

Laurinda D. Brown's novel, UnderCover, tells the story of Chris Desmereaux, a professional woman who has recently survived a violently tempestuous relationship. While surfing the net and attempting to get her life back on track, she meets Amil, a doctor who is soon to marry a successful entrepreneur. The immediate friendship between these two women begins to develop into something more without their having actually met. Then, when Chris and Amil actually meet by chance at a business meeting, they realize their attraction goes beyond mere words on a computer screen. Prior to this event, Chris' friend Nathaniel, a former drag queen, has put his past behind him and now has assumed the role of loving husband to Chris' sister. However, when financial problems arise, Nathaniel resumes his former occupation and must now come to terms with his sexuality. The lives of these people entwine and overlap until, inevitably, each will discover what genuine love, acceptance, and compassion truly are.

Brown has written an unusual opening for this novel, a scene in a drag club. Nathaniel's lover, Patrick, has decided to honor a promise to his dying mother and is giving his life over to God. Hurt and confused, Nathaniel accepts this decision and walks away from Patrick and his performing career. The story then moves forward five years, and the reader is privy to the chat room conversation between Chris and Amil. These two brief vignettes manage to pull the reader into the plot and definitely makes one want to discover more about these people. It is always rewarding to see some ingenuity in story construction, and the initial pages of this novel reflect that.

The main characters are well developed and mostly credible in both their actions and dialogue. One can sense the anxiety and uncertainty each has experienced. The winning secondary characters are also written well, and the reader is easily engaged in their subplots. This reader found the Nathaniel storyline to be somewhat more captivating. At times Chris tends to over verbalize and display less than ideal traits, but one can overlook this as it does not affect the storytelling in any major way. To breathe life into the characters on the page, the author must create a dilemma, a problematic situation which will propel the narrative and thereby create within the reader a need to learn more. Brown achieves this through the writing of an absorbing and entertaining scheme. Her characters grow, expand, fail yet again, and accept others and themselves in a credible and intriguing progression.
Both explicit and implicit themes are dealt with in UnderCover. Understanding the importance of one's past, being true to oneself, tolerance, if not acceptance, of others and their ideologies, and recognition of both sincere and faithful love are dealt with, not through any proselytizing on the part of the author, but through the actions and nuances of speech. Amil's realization of where her future should be and with whom is conducted in a subtle and affecting fashion.

The tone of this novel is quite different from Brown's previous work, Fire & Brimstone. There is a maturity of writing and characterization not quite as evident in the latter. The overall story is much more compelling and thought-provoking. The evolution of Chris is well worth waiting for; she is a much more sympathetic figure here. One can care more deeply about a positive outcome developing for her. There appears to be a less vociferous snarl in her attitude and actions. This reader found it much easier to empathize with a more mature Chris.

UnderCover is a novel which will provide several hours of both entertaining and attentive reading; it is a novel which could certainly provoke serious discussion. Brown has stated that she writes about life and not lifestyles. This novel creates a portrait of people in crisis, of people with real hopes and aspirations, and of people who want to do the right thing even at the expense of others. Isn't that what life really is?

Shared Winds
Kenna White
Bella Books
P.O. Box 10543, Tallahassee, FL 32302
ISBN: 1594930060; $12.95; 215 pp.

Kenna White's novel, Shared Winds, begins soon after the devastation caused by an Oklahoma twister. Lan Harding's lake marina of the title's name has been completely destroyed, and her future and livelihood are becoming bleaker with each passing day. Unless Lan can find a contractor to rebuild her business in time for the new season, she will have to give up her dream of the perfect place to be. Unfortunately, many others have suffered structural and economic casualties as well, and Lan is not high on the priority list of the already over-extended contractors. Enter Emma Bishop, the daughter of a prominent local builder, who wants to perform the task Lan needs done in order to validate for her skeptical father that she is indisputably ready to take over the family business. As these two women begin the task of rebuilding the marina, they begin to experience feelings that go beyond the usual employer-employee relationship.
Since White's story begins with the aftermath of a tornado, the author must capture in the first few pages the extensive physical devastation to the marina and the emotional upheaval and turmoil with which Lan must now cope. The reader needs to be drawn in as quickly as possible, and White has achieved this with ease. "Eight years of work and reinvesting every penny into the business now seemed perilously close to vanishing" (p. 5). The dilemma in which Emma finds herself is written succinctly and clearly. The reader is shown the problematic situations these two women are experiencing in a forthright and direct fashion. Much of the narrative maintains that crisp expression which makes the novel especially readable. The main conflicts both implicit and explicit have been clearly determined, and the remainder of the story leads the protagonists toward logical resolutions.

The setting plays an important role in the book. One must be able to visualize the lake, the surrounding forest, and the spectacular views as Lan does in order to relate to this woman's commitment at any cost to re-build and start anew. Although the forces of nature and the heart can be capricious and indiscriminate, both Lan and Emma display the tenacity and self-reliance to deal with whatever fate has in store for them.

Telling the story through the use of the third person enables the reader to see beyond the superficial aspects of the personalities of Lan and Emma and into the psyches of these characters. Each woman has some vestige of past heartache, and White is able to show that through the use of subtly and deftly crafted dialogue and realistic interactions. The utilization of humor throughout much of the novel adds to the overall enjoyment level. Lan's attempt to share her Cherokee heritage with Emma is done in a lighthearted not heavy-handed manner. This proves to be equally enlightening for the reader.

Kenna White's debut novel, Shared Winds, is a charming and lively story of two determined women who must overcome adversity and self-doubt. Both Lan and Emma are attractive and appealing characters who succeed in capturing the reader's attention and empathy. It is not difficult to understand each woman as she endeavors to assert her independence and to establish a productive livelihood. An agreeable blend of Native American, in this instance Cherokee, philosophy and appreciation of nature adds veracity to Lan's characterization. It establishes her focal point from which all her actions radiate, thus making Lan a rather unconventional character archetype. The narrative is not too complex; the storyline has a leisurely ebb and flow throughout the book. If one is looking for tension-filled complicated scenes of character interaction, the reader will not find them here. However, what the reader will experience and appreciate is a satisfying and restorative novel that spins an unpretentious and emotive tale of recovery, renewal, and romance.

Hunter's Pursuit
Kim Baldwin
Bold Strokes Books
1020 Livezey Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119
ISBN: 1933110090; $15.95; 315 pp.

Kim Baldwin's novel, Hunter's Pursuit, Author's Edition, is set during a raging blizzard in the northern Michigan wilderness just a few miles south of Lake Superior. Living in a secluded bunker is Kat Hunter, an introspective, solitary, and lethal woman who is contemplating retirement from her job as a paid assassin. Determined to bury the past, she has forsaken her violent world and former associates. However, her tranquil days of music and photography are interrupted when she rescues a mysterious woman from a serious car accident. Upon bringing the woman back to the bunker, Kat discovers that the woman has no recollection of who she is. To further complicate the situation, there are several nefarious and ruthless people who are doggedly pursuing Kat for the million-dollar dead-or-alive bounty which has been offered by the one individual who knows Kat all too well. As the storm rages outside her hideaway, Kat will be tested as never before, and along the way, she will awaken feelings she thought were long dead.

Baldwin has created a gripping, fast-paced, and suspenseful wilderness adventure that reads easily and enjoyably. The two main characters, Kat and the injured amnesiac, Jake, are intelligent and appealing. The deft characterization displays the multi-faceted personality of the charismatic protagonist, Kat. As the reader begins to peel away each layer and proceeds to uncover the events that have molded Kat into the woman she has become, the reader is subtly made aware that nothing should be taken at face value. Jake is a character that immediately evokes one's concern and sympathy, yet Baldwin always manages to keep the presence of mystery and inscrutability in the forefront. Is Jake who she appears to be? Could she be a ruse perpetrated by Kat's enemies? Does she know Kat's Achilles' heel? Baldwin has indeed created memorably inventive and compelling characters. In the hands of an author with a less stylized technique, Kat could have come across as an extremely unsympathetic character who had committed despicable acts. However, through the use of fluid substantive dialogue and an impressive narrative depicting the inner conflicts of this main character, Baldwin has succeeded in creating a very realistic portrayal of a woman who displays, despite all odds, an intrinsic decency and compassion. It is for those very reasons that the reader genuinely cares for and about her.

This novel has some of the best action sequences this reader has experienced. They are animated, vigorous, and exciting. The reader can virtually experience the sensory world of the somber winter and its uninhabited forest. Baldwin's fast-paced sentence structure effortlessly sweeps the reader along at practically breakneck speed. The chapter endings make wonderful use of the familiar cliffhanger technique. Baldwin's chapter conclusions are extremely precise and definitely suspenseful. The juxtaposition of various plotlines, the evolving focal points of reader interest, and the realistic dialogue hurtle the reader forward at an ever increasing rate. Hunter's Pursuit is most definitely a page turner.

Kim Baldwin's novel, Hunter's Pursuit, Author's Edition, takes the reader on a dangerous, heart-pounding rollercoaster ride brimming with intrigue, betrayal, deliverance, passion, and ultimately, self-less love. From the stark setting to the character of the anti-heroine to the possibilities of redemption, Baldwin has managed to write a novel which is memorable not only for its energetic detail but also for its appealing and perceptive portrayal of a woman conditioned, but not held captive, by her past.

Maggie Nelson
Soft Skull Press
71 Bond Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
ISBN: 1932360719, $13.95, 224 pp.

Maggie Nelson's Jane is an original approach to the memoir genre. The author has used poetry, police accounts, dreams, news articles, diary entries, and personal reflections to tell the story of her aunt, Jane, who was brutally raped and murdered in 1969. Although the case was never officially solved, it was thought to be the third murder during a string of seven serial killings near the University of Michigan. Although Nelson never knew her aunt, this is her attempt to better understand her mother's sister, in both life and death. Nelson shares with the reader how this incident affected all who knew her aunt as well as family members who came after the crime.

When one first begins reading this book, it is a bit difficult to become acclimated to the use the poetic structure. However, soon the reader is so fully engaged in the subject matter that the rhythm flows easily from one form to another. The long-term devastation caused by a crime so many years before the author's birth is tellingly reflected through her interactions with family members, especially her mother. There are examples of irony and the juxtaposition of what was and what now is strikes the reader immediately. The simple lines offered, "Here is just where/ he dumped her, on a night of cold rain/ and where my mother and I stand today, / listening to the birds" (p. 217). So much heartache in so few words, but they serve to affirm that life does go on. Always reminded that she is so like her aunt, Nelson recalls her grandfather making the same slip of the tongue countless times. As he stares at her, he states, "Well Jane/ he says, I think I'll have/ another cup of coffee" (p. 37).

Jane is a book that long remains with the reader and causes one, when finished reading it, to think about those darker elements of life. The gamut of emotions experienced by Nelson vividly comes to life as she endeavors to solve the mystery of her aunt's death and to better comprehend how this horrific event affected her own psyche. This novel is upsetting as well as inspiring and certainly one not to be missed.

What makes this book especially absorbing is the author's innovative and unconventional format. It brings a fresh insight and an arresting technique to tell the story. The intertwining of prose of various forms and original poetry makes for a compelling read. This is certainly not a feel good book, not a beach read. What it does offer the serious reader with a discerning eye is an in-depth look of a fragmented life, family, and eventually understanding and reconciliation, if not redemption.

The Kookaburra Gambit
Claire McNab
Alyson Books
P.O. Box 4371, Los Angeles, CA 90078-4371
ISBN: 1555839045, $13.95, 226 pages

This novel is the second installment in the Kylie Kendall private detective series, and as Kylie herself would say, it is certainly bonzer! Having inherited a fifty-one percent interest in her father's detective agency, Kendall & Creeling, Kylie wants to become more involved in actual case solving and has begun her training. When her cousin back in Australia recommends her Los Angeles-based agency to twins Alf and Chicka Hartnidge, Kylie is grateful for the business and for the chance to conduct an investigation under the tutelage of Bob Verritt and the watchful eye of Ariana Creeling, her business partner and object of her unspoken love and passion. The boisterous twins arrive and are about to embark on a joint business venture with Lamb White, a film company owned by the highly suspect evangelist Brother Owen. However, it seems someone has been smuggling valuable Australian opals inside the Hartnidge brothers' plush toy characters from their popular show The Oz Mob. Unless Kylie can discover the identity of the culprits, thousands of dollars, the Hartnidges' reputation, Hollywood's charismatic guru, and jail time may all prove to be the common denominator. This important investigation is made even more difficult by Kylie's inability to resist the magnetic pull she senses from Ariana, her secretary Melodie's endless acting auditions which leave the office in chaos, and her fractious Aunt Millie who has arrived to drag her niece back to Oz where she belongs.

McNab has created a strong protagonist in Kylie Kendall. She is a genuine and captivating young woman who possesses just enough vulnerability and emotional insecurity with which the reader can readily identify. Through Kylie's speech and actions, we understand what motivates, elates, and exasperates her. By using a variety of Australian vernacular and sensibility, McNab has constructed an intriguing opposite for the typical Los Angelino woman. McNab often magnifies the inherent cultural differences in a most amusing manner. Although Gambit is a mystery, the author has included a fair amount of wit, humor, and sexual tension which propels the reader along at a fast pace. The characterizations are deftly drawn and engrossing. Kylie and Ariana are attractive intelligent women who initially appear to have little more than business in common. However, this second series book further develops and explores their personal relationship. The reader is well aware that Kylie finds Ariana to be simply and totally irresistible, and now through the nuances of word and action, Ariana's veil of mystique is slowly beginning to descend. One evening, upset by what her aunt may have told Ariana, Kylie fears she is about to cry. "Ariana put an arm around my shoulders I couldn't help it. I leaned forward and kissed her" (p. 128).

There are no corpses falling out of closets, no shoot-outs in dark alleys, no superhero antics. The Kookaburra Gambit is an entertaining and real depiction of a woman trying to come to grips with her new home, a challenging job, and inexplicably intense feelings for her enigmatic partner. What is especially satisfying about this novel is the sense of realism surrounding Kylie's attempt to begin her new life with a rather ordinary case which is further complicated by the everyday routines of the workplace, associates, and family. These are regular people going about their daily lives while trying to attain that which will make them ultimately happy and content.

McNab has created in Brother Owen all that embodies the slick exploitative con man operating under the guise of pious religiosity. One can easily infer parallels with several church groups of today. His type with his bombastic tenet to believe in him or die has been seen too often on cable television and in the headlines. The reader has an immediate distaste for this man and his cohorts; McNab has succeeded in creating an antagonist worthy of that loathing.

The Kookaburra Gambit is a wholly rewarding and satisfying reading experience. Amiable, appealing, and assertive protagonists, emerging character revelations, and a most compelling and enjoyable cast of secondary characters keep the reader engaged and immersed. McNab has created an amusing and delightful new series with Kylie Kendall. As an added bonus, there is also included at the end of the book an excerpt from the soon to be released third book in the series. This reader strongly recommends that you read The Kookaburra Gambit. You too will find it a bonzer experience.

The War Between the Hearts
Nann Dunne
Intaglio Publications
PO Box 357474, Gainesville, FL 32635-7474
ISBN: 1933113278, $17.95, 292 pp.

Sarah-Bren Coulter's mother asks, "Why can't you act like most other women" (p. 67)? Sarah responds with "Because, Mother...I'm not like most other women" (p.67). Thus, the thematic point in Nann Dunne's latest novel, an historical romance entitled The War between the Hearts, is established. The setting is the Civil War, and Sarah desperately wants to do her part rather than remain at home and help her brother run a factory. She has no doubts that she can pass for a male given her build, voice, and strength. With an additional bit of costume make-up, Sarah looks very much like the typical soldier. Because she knows the geographical area so well, she convinces the commanding officer that spying behind enemy lines would be a worthwhile endeavor. So begins her new career as a Confederate soldier/Union spy. It is not long after that Sarah witnesses the brutality firsthand. "shooting a man face to face ending his life with my own hand. That's a heavier burden than carrying messages back and forth. God, I hate this war" (29)! As the story progresses, Sarah suffers an injury and finds herself recuperating in the home of an attractive Union woman, Faith Pruitt. Unable to reveal her true identity and not quite understanding her attraction for this young woman, Sarah begins her recovery. However, this quiet interlude is soon interrupted with her capture by a squad of Union soldiers. Believing that Faith has turned her in because she is a Confederate, Sarah, feeling both angry and completely betrayed, is led away to an uncertain fate. As the title implies, many battles will be waged before these two women can realize what destiny has in store for them.

Dunne has captured this historical period quite effectively. The premise is based on fact; there were many instances, and not just in this particular conflict, where women assumed the male warrior role and fought for what they believed. Sarah is a three-dimensional character and one with which the reader will empathize and certainly will admire. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and Sarah rises to the occasion with bravery, intelligence, and cunning. This woman has set goals for herself, and though they are beyond the mainstream of behavior for the times, she is nonetheless undaunted in her quest. Sarah's vulnerability is evidenced as she experiences every woman's worst nightmare at the hands of her own Union soldiers who stubbornly refuse to believe that she is not the enemy. Despite all the trials and hardships Sarah encounters, her spirit, although sorrowfully tested at times, never wavers. She makes heart wrenching decisions whose consequences impact her greatly, but through it all, she has few regrets. Dunne has created a compelling and original character with Sarah. It is particularly arresting and riveting to read the scenes where she and her twin brother Scott heatedly discuss her abnormal feelings for the woman she loves. Sarah-Bren Coulter is a genuinely memorable multi-faceted character

Faith Pruitt is also a well-crafted round character who displays a quietly steadfast and tranquil demeanor. She is a loving and kind woman who aids Sarah in her time of need. Her unquestioning willingness to take her in and nurse her back to health has nothing to do with politics. Faith reacts to the individual; it is of no consequence to her if that person be a Union or a Confederate soldier. There is an immediate conductivity between Faith and Sarah, one with which Faith is familiar, even if Sarah is not. As the storyline progresses, the reader senses that beneath that cool and tranquil exterior that she presents to the world, Faith is indeed an intriguing and sensuous woman who will give of herself, body and soul, only to the one she believes to be her true soul mate. There is a smoldering sexuality about Faith which this reader found to be both captivating and enthralling. This is a self-reliant woman raising a child by herself who knows what and whom she needs and wants to enhance and complete her life, and Faith is willing to risk being profoundly disappointed and possibly emotionally scarred by rejection.

The War between the Hearts is a wonderfully written tale of suspense, passion, betrayal, and forgiveness. Original and striking characters take the reader on an unforgettably remarkable and fascinating journey. The novel is powerful in its depiction of two distinctive and assertive women who challenge the tenor of the times to pursue their goals and dreams and to establish a niche for themselves. The War between the Hearts is certainly a commendable contribution to the genre of historical romance.

Arlene Germain

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Good That I Should
Gwyn Borcherding & Vincent Nguyen
Concordia Publishing House
3558 South Jefferson Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 63118-3968
0758603924 $9.99 1-800-325-3040

A picture book adaptation drawn from Romans 7:19, The Good That I Should by Gwyn Borcherding is the story of a little boy who tries very hard to do the right thing but sometimes fails. The delightful rhyming text is nicely enhanced with the artwork of Vincent Nguyen. Young readers will learn that regardless of how often we fail to do the right thing, we can be forgiven because Jesus took the punishment for all of our sins. So it is always possible to start again, to do the right thing again, to not give into temptation or misbehave or neglect responsibilities. The Good That I Should is a welcome addition to family, Sunday School, and community library picturebook collections for Christian young readers.

The Lord Is My Shepherd
Christopher L. Webber & Preston McDaniels
Morehouse Publishing
4775 Linglestown Road, Harrisburg, PA 17112
081921986X $9.95 1-800-877-0012

In The Lord Is My Shepherd: Psalm 23 For Children, Episcopal priest Christopher L. Wepper adapts the text of one of most well-known and best-loved religious devotions in the Bible for preschoolers and early readers. Enhanced with Preston McDaniel's colorful illustrations, this picture book rendition of the sacred psalm provides a text of the Psalm that is less abstract than the versions commonly read in the Bible while remaining true to the original meaning and accessible to the minds and understandings of children ages 3 to 7. Ideal for family, Sunday School, and community library picture book collections, this edition of The Lord Is My Shepherd is ideal for parent-child "read aloud" bedtime storytelling.

Bless My Child
Julie Cragon
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556
1594710147 $9.95 1-800-282-1865

Bless My Child: A Catholic Mother's Prayer Book by Julie Cragon offers mothers a rich variety of prayers for every occasion. Herself a mother of six (ages 3 through 16), Julie Cragon draws from the vast treasury of Catholic prayer to create new expressions of many beloved devotions. Offered are "Novenas for My Child"; "A Rosary for My Child"; and Stations of the Cross for My Child". Prayers to the saints reveals that we are not alone in parenting, while prayers for growth in virtue aid the realization that the Holy Spirit is always at work in the lives of our children. Bless My Child is especially recommended for new and expectant mothers within the Roman Catholic communities of faith.

Mom PhD
Teresa Bell Kindred
Howard Publishing Company
3117 North 7th Street, West Monroe, LA 71291-2227
1582294240 $14.99 1-800-858-4109

Mom PhD: 6 Steps To Mastering Leadership Skills For Mom by Teresa Bell Kindred (Christian author, public speaker, high-school teacher, monthly "Kindred Spirits" columnist for Kentucky Living magazine, wife and mother of five) is written to assist other wives and mothers to create a vision for themselves and their families that will inspire to faith by knowing when and how to ask for help, being consistent in decisions and behavior, dealing with teens, requiring respect from others, setting clear boundaries for family members, instilling courtesy and manners, "catching children at being good", debunking the "supermom" myth, and tapping into the power of prayer for life guidance and family problem solving. Wonderfully readable and of immense, immediate, and practical value, Mom PhD is enthusiastically recommended reading!

Susan Bethany

Betsy's Bookshelf

Quotable Texas Women
Susie Kelly Flatau & Lou Halsell Rodenberger
State House Press
McMurray Station, Box 637, Abilene, TX 79697-0637
1880510898 $12.95 1-800-421-3378

From pioneer days down to the present day, the women of Texas have had a great deal to say. In Quotable Texas Women. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Susie Kelly Flatau and Lou Halsell Rodenberger, Quotable Texas Women is a collection of several hundred statements by Texas women on a variety of topics ranging from Electra Waggoner Biggs who recalls her mother's advice "to always be able to look at myself in the mirror with no regrets", to Artie Stockton's quip that "A good time to lie to yourself is that first look in the morning's mirror." From Molly Ivins opining that "If Texas were a sane place, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun."; to Babe Didrikson Zaharias' observation that "The formula for success is simple: practice and concentration, then more practice and concentration." Highly recommended reading, Quotable Texas Women would also well serve as a template or example of what can be done with recording and showcasing the wit, wisdom, and observations of women in other states and regions of America.

The Goddess Of Happiness
Debbie Gisonni
Inner Ocean Publishing
PO Box 1239, Makawao, Maui, HI 96768
1930722486 $12.95 1-800-916-3308

With Debbie Gisonni's The Goddess Of Happiness: A Down-To-Earth Guide For Heavenly Balance And Bliss, readers will discover how to make their life increasingly pleasant and personally rewarding at work, at home, and in their relationships. The Goddess Of Happiness is a compilation of stories, insights, and humor revealing how happiness is a choice and a practice that anyone can achieve including finding a personal balance, giving up guilt, enhancing self respect, rising above fear, and so much more. Of special note are "The Goddess of Happiness's 10 Steps to a Happier, Healthier You". If you only have time (and the energy) for one self-help, self-improvement book for personal growth, then make it Debbie Gisonni's The Goddess Of Happiness!

Homeschooling the Challenging Child
Christine M. Field
Broadman & Holman Publishers
127 Ninth Avenue, North, Nashville, TN 37234
0805430784 $14.99 1-800-251-3225

Former trial lawyer turned homeschool mother Christine M. Field presents Homeschooling the Challenging Child: A Practical Guide, written especially for parents who turn to homeschooling because their children cannot thrive in a traditional educational environment due to special, physical, or emotional needs. Chapters address how to deal with issues stemming from various learning disabilities, attention disorders, personality clashes, learning styles, discipline problems, managing stress and discouragement, how to plan a program, the importance of keeping in mind the tenets of God's love and forgiveness, and much more. Hands-on tips for managing a successful home education program, as well as how to obtain professional help from support groups and other such resources round out this superb guide for home schoolers or would-be home-schoolers of all persuasions - not just those whose child faces special obstacles.

The Student's Federal Career Guide
Kathryn Kraemer Troutman & Emily K. Troutman
The Resume Place
89 Mellor Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21228
0964702568 $21.95 1-888-480-8265

Enhanced with an accompanying CD-ROM offering case studies and samples, The Student's Federal Career Guide: 10 Steps To Find And Win Top Government Jobs and Internships shows students just how to utilize networking to discover the availability of federal jobs, how to identify and locate the relevant federal agency; what internships; federal pay scales; researching federal job listings on-line; writing a federal job oriented resume; writing cover letters showcasing knowledge, skills and abilities; the federal job application process; tracking and following-up job applications and interviews; and conducting oneself in the interview process. Of special note is the accompanying website at offering samples, internships links, job prospect information, and tips from actual government agency recruiters. Specifically designed for college students and recent graduates entering the job market, The Student's Federal Career Guide is also very highly recommended for men and women of any age seeking a public service career with the federal government.

The Complete Idiot's Guide To Quick & Easy Low-Carb Meals
Tod Dimmick
Alpha/The Penguin Press
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
1592573134 $18.95 1-800-847-5515

Packed from cover to cover with easy-to-make, mouth-wateringly delicious, low-carb recipes that can be prepared by even the most novice kitchen chef in twenty minutes or less, The Complete Idiot's Guide To Quick & Easy Low-Carb Meals is one of the most "user friendly" cookbooks that anyone could ever hope to encounter on their search for low-carb lunches, dinners, snacks, or desserts. With ever recipe being accompanied by a complete nutritional analysis (including carbs, proteins, and glycemic index data), the dishes range from Blueberry-Vanilla Breakfast Yogurt; Tuna-Stuffed Tomatoes; Curried Pork; and Moroccan Lamb Kebabs; to Sauteed Mushroom Enchiladas; Ham Steaks with Sweet Mustard Sauce; Lightning Chicken Stew; and Almond Chocolate Parfaits. Enhanced with a glossary, an extensive list of resources, a glycemic index and carbohydrate list, and a comprehensive index, The Complete Idiot's Guide To Quick & Easy Low-Carb Meals is a welcome and highly recommended addition to any and all family cookbook collections!

Betsy L. Hogan

Betty's Bookshelf

Yankee Girl
Mary Ann Rodman
Farrar Straus Giroux
19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003
0374386617 $17.00

In Yankee Girl, Mary Ann Rodman's semi-autobiographical story, eleven-year-old Alice Ann Moxley and her family move from Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi, in 1964, when her FBI agent dad is sent there to protect the Negroes who are trying to vote. At her new school, racial integration is just beginning. It is not going well. Her father is in constant danger from the Ku Klux Klan. The popular white girls scorn Alice for not knowing how to treat the Negroes she meets and nickname her "Yankee Girl". And to top it off, when Ann gets put into a class with Valerie (one of the Negro girls who have been bussed in under protest), Ann's friendly overtures to the girl are turned down.

Already bewildered by unwritten rules dealing with proper behavior between whites and Negroes and wanting to "fit in", she finally decides that the wisest thing to do is to ignore both Valerie and the cruel things that are done to her by the popular girls. Then, Valerie's father (one of Martin Luther King's right-hand men) dies in an act of violence, and Alice finds out what following the crowd really means.

Rodman knows her stuff. Her father was one of the 150 FBI agents who were sent to Mississippi in 1964 by President Johnson, to protect the Negroes who were trying to vote. In the midst of those days, Rodman's mother told her, "You know, someday you'll be glad you lived in this time and this place. You are seeing history in the making. You can tell your children and grandchildren about it." Rodman chose to tell a wider audience, though, and Yankee Girl (based on Rodman's own experiences as well as historical events) tells all of her readers, "I was there, and this is what it was like."

The Silver Crown
Robert C. O'Brien
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020
068984106X $17.00

Like many little girls, Ellen Carroll likes to pretend she is a queen and she spends many hours in a wooded park near her home holding court and ruling over her imaginary kingdom. All the grown-ups in Ellen's life pretend to believe her, except for her Aunt Sarah. Aunt Sarah knows she isn't pretending. Ellen really is a queen.

When Ellen wakes up on her tenth birthday to find a silver crown on her pillow, she isn't really surprised. For a real queen, it's the perfect gift. Slipping out of the house while the rest of the family sleeps, she takes it to the park. As she plays, wearing the crown, she notices it makes her feel different. Smarter. Able to think more clearly. Is it a magic crown? And did Aunt Sarah send it to her? There was no note with it.

Soon she hears sirens and smells smoke. When she goes to investigate, she discovers that her house has burned to the ground and there is no sign of her family. Although onlookers tell her no one could have gotten out of the house alive, she senses something odd is going on. Kindly bystanders keep offering to help her, but each one ends up trying to take her captive instead, and soon she can't trust anyone.

When she overhears that something called the Hieronymus Machine wants her and her crown in its power, she decides to head for Aunt Sarah's house in Kentucky. Her aunt will believe her and maybe she'll be able to help. But it's a long way for a ten-year-old to travel alone, even if she is a queen. Will the followers of the machine catch her before she gets there? Will Aunt Sarah really be able to help? And why does the Hieronymus Machine want Ellen's crown so desperately? Read the book and find out. You won't be disappointed.

Betty Winslow

Bob's Bookshelf

Sir Walter: Walter Hagen and the Invention of Professional Golf
Tom Clavin
Simon & Schuster.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
ISBN 0743204867 $26.00 370 pages

He ushered the game of golf into the modern era, was the first American golfer to top $1 million in career prize money, and battled with amateur Bobby Jones on numerous golf courses throughout his playing days.

Biographer Tom Clavin writes, "Hagen was the player most responsible for creating the occupation of professional golfer during the 1920s. Crucial to the explosive growth of golf in America during that decade, from 1923 to 1930 the Haig played in twenty-one professional major tournaments, winning seven During the rapid rise of golf in the Roaring Twenties, it was Hagen who carried the gold torch week after week and year after year, especially in the high profile events."

Before Hagen came along golf was considered a gentleman's game played at posh country clubs. Taking home the trophy from tournaments like the U.S. Open or British Open brought amateur golfers prestige but no money.

Professionals who did earn their livelihood on the course were generally looked down upon and considered just a notch above caddies. This caste system between amateurs and pros began to break down in the 1920s, and the flamboyant and talented Hagen was the first "pro" to transcend the "pro" stigma.

Beginning as a caddie for ten cents an hour when he was eight years old, Hagen became the head pro at the Rochester (NY) Country Club when he was nineteen. He seriously considered becoming a professional baseball player but all that changed in 1914 when he won the U.S. Open.

The "Babe Ruth" of golf, Hagen captured the public's attention not only because of his skill on the links but because of the life he led away from the golf course. He hobnobbed with Charlie Chaplin, Al Jolson, Warren G. Harding and the Prince of Wales. His playing partners for recreational golf included Hollywood notables like Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire, and Bing Crosby.

Although his personal life made occasional headlines just like his athletic exploits, Walter Hagen's enduring legacy is to the game he loved so dearly. A charter member of the PGA, Hagen was proud of all he accomplished and how he raised the professional status of the game.

"I think Walter Hagen contributed more to golf than any player today or ever," noted former golf professional Gene Sarazen. "He took the game all over the world. He popularized it here and everywhere. Walter was at the head of the class. Walter should not be forgotten."

Sports writer Tom Clavin agrees with Sarazen, hence this entertaining account of Hagen's life. Drawing on interviews, press reports, and the memories of those who knew Sir Walter, Clavin brings the great and beloved golfer to life.

A key component of the Hagen story is his battle with amateur Bobby Jones. Clavin contrasts the personal and athletic styles of both these golfers who shaped the game during the Golden Age of Sport.

Here Comes Eloise!
Kay Thompson
Little Simon/Simon & Schuster
0687871546 $6.99

This Lift-the-Flap book finds the indomitable six year old "helping out" all her friends at The Plaza Hotel in New York where she lives. Whether she's sorting out the boxes in the package room (and making a mess), lending a hand in the kitchen (and creating chaos) or making the patrons ride in the elevator a memorable one, Eloise always attracts attention. Fortunately, her nanny is there to sort out things and smooth over any hurt feelings Eloise's antics might have caused.

Lifting the flaps to see what kind of mischief little Eloise gets into will keep the youngster engaged in the story as mom or dad reads it. With art by Hilary Knight, this picture book is appropriate for children three years of age and up.

A Chocolate Moose
Fred Gwynne
Aladdin / Simon & Schuster
0689878273 $4.99

Children can often take things very literally; hence, certain expressions can be the source of confusion or, in this case, humor. Fred Gwynne assembles some of these expressions and then has some fun with them as his illustrations show what a child might think of.

For example, having a "chocolate moose for dinner" is portrayed with picture of a little girl sitting at the table opposite a very large moose. A "gorilla war" shows the large creatures decked out in full combat gear. Now that you get the idea, imagine what the author has come up with for "the arms race", "a new wing on the house", "airplane hanger", and "car pool".

This delightful paperback may drive you up the wall (yes, there's an illustration for this too!) but youngsters love this type of nonsense. Once they get the idea of how the game is played try coming up with other expressions not used in the book. You could begin with "cat's pajamas".

In case you wondered, yes, the author is the same Fred Gwynne who starred on "The Munsters" television series. He was also a very accomplished artist and writer of children's books.

Part of the Stories to Go! series published by Aladdin, this picture book is appropriate for children ages 4-8. (Actually older children and adults will find it amusing as well.)

Fannie in the Kitchen
Deborah Hopkinson
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
0689869975 $6.99

Subtitled "The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements", this children's picture book features Nancy Carpenter's artwork.

Set in the nineteenth century, the story introduces Marcia Shaw whose mother hires Fannie Farmer because the woman needs help in the kitchen. Resenting the new cook's presence because she was her mother's helper, Marcia is soon won over by Fannie's kindness. Not only is Marcia introduced to new culinary skills but the reader will also find "Fannie's Hints" sprinkled throughout the story.

There's also a simple recipe for griddle cakes at the end of the story if the reader feels the urge to rush into the kitchen and emulate Marcia and Fannie.

Although recommended for children 4 to 9 years of age, "Fannie in the Kitchen" will appeal more to youngsters in the higher end of this range who show an interest in helping out in the kitchen.

Wait! I Want to Tell You a Story
Tom Willans
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
068987166X $15.95

This quirky tale about a muskrat in danger of being consumed by a tiger illustrates how being able to think quickly on your feet (or paws) can be a lifesaving quality.

When the hungry tiger says, "I'm going to eat you," it appears the muskrat is in big trouble. But the endangered critter responds with, "Wait! I want to tell you a story."

Poor Tiger says, "Okay, but make it quick!" That hesitation or curiosity turns out to be the big cat's undoing and the muskrat's salvation as you see when you read this delightful story. Aimed at an audience of children three years of age and up, there's probably a moral here about clever storytellers but don't expect the youngsters to get it. Mom or dad might, though!

Surprising Sharks
Nicola Davies
Candlewick Books
Cambridge, Massachusetts
0763627429 $6.99 32 pages

Illustrated by James Croft, this paperback for children five years of age and up contains all sorts of information about sharks. The author's non- threatening approach doesn't portray these denizens of the deep as serious threats to mankind. In fact, it is just the reverse. Every year people kill 100 million sharks! Diagrams of the outside and inside of a shark, pictures of the various kinds of sharks, and lots of interesting tidbits make this a book young readers will enjoy. For example, gel-filled pits in a shark's nose can detect food while the placement of the creature's eyes allows it to see things behind as well as ahead.

My Big Book of Stickers
Matt Denny
PriddyBooks / St. Martin's Press
0312494327 $12.95

More than just a book with over 600 stickers, this volume is cleverly designed to help a child learn to recognize and sort things by color, type, shape and size. The subjects range from animals, vehicles and occupations to nature subjects and various types of structures. Special sticker puzzles show the child one piece of the picture and he has to locate the other three pieces. Each sticker has a number that corresponds to the spot where it should be placed in the book; hence, matching the numbers, if necessary, becomes part of the game.

An interactive book that does work on a number of levels, this is a good way of practicing some essential preschool skills. The only caveat here is stickers do pose a choking hazard with younger children. Make sure the stickers stay where they are suppose to - on the page, not in the mouth!

The Botanist and the Vintner: How Wine Was Saved For the World
Christy Campbell
Algonquin Books
127 Kingston Drive #105, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
156512460X $24.95 320 pages

British journalist Christy Campbell provides a fascinating account of how France's vineyards were destroyed by an invader from America. In the 1860's tiny aphids began attacking the root structure and leaves of grapevines destroying the plants. As the infestation spread throughout the country and to neighboring lands the wine industry was on the verge of total collapse.

Campbell explains the antecedents of this ecological disaster and how, after many false starts, the vineyards of Europe were eventually rejuvenated in such a manner that the tiny invaders were finally checkmated.

Although they often denigrate American wines the fact remains that for over a century all French wine has been made from vines grafted onto American roots. The reason for this is the subject of Campbell's compelling narrative.

Anyone with more than just a passing in wine will find this book not only informative but highly entertaining. Also worth noting is the fact that the threat to the world's vineyards defined by the author has not disappeared.

The mentioning of "le phylloxera" still sends a shudder through vintners from the Rhone Valley and Bordeux to the Napa Valley.

Bob Walch

Brenda's Bookshelf

Take My Breath Away
Tina Donahue
Kensington Publishing
850 Third Ave, New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 407-1500 FAX: (212) 935-0699
ISBN 0758210787 $14.00 / $20.00 320 Pages

He was there solely to understand survival skills in that climate. Cole Ryder was an ex-Marine so he knew the basics and theories. Yet when shooting a realistic action film, he needed to help from a survival expert that knew the area. And he wanted the best.

Cole admired her skills. He admired her body. But he could have lived without her uncle controlling his stay on their island. It was just his luck that Thaddeus Leigh outright stated romancing his niece was not allowed. So if this was true why were they being thrown together for three glorious nights? Nothing made sense. Especially his assistant, Gwen, who sided with his expert concerning the script. He was the writer. Shouldn't he be the one writing?

Ariel Leigh had a string of bad luck concerning men. But her uncle refused to give up in finding her a husband. So when she received a call from her uncle asking her to give tips on survival to the Hollywood types, Ariel reluctantly agreed.

Ariel could not keep her eyes from the man she was suppose to take into the rain forest. Would three days be enough to teach him everything? He was, after all, someone who would never understand survival. At least she thought so until her uncle spilled the beans that Cole was an ex-Marine Recon.

This sounds like an ordinary story of two opposites being thrown together. Quite untrue. Cole and Ariel are more alike than they would ever admit from the beginning. Yet the sparks really fly when Ariel starts making changes to Cole's script. Then top it off that Gwen approved every single change Ariel made. Cole thought it had sounded good without a female lead. Besides a pampered politician should be able to make his way through a rain forest unhindered without advice from a local. Shouldn't he?

Not to Ariel's way of thinking. And she sets out to prove she is right by taking Cole on an adventure of a lifetime through her rain forest.

For a Marine, even an ex-Marine, Cole is wimpy and unbelievable in some of his actions. Not many military types that I know would ever make a woman believe he cannot do something that he had been trained to do. It is in their blood. Yet Cole does. It is true that it fits in with his Hollywood character. But it is difficult to believe he would have become so soft after his stint in the Marines. Especially a section that deliberately goes out and has fun in the field.

Donahue does an excellent job of moving the story along from one point to another to keep the readers interested in going along for the ride. However, for those who want a speedy race to the end will be disappointed. TAKE MY BREATH AWAY is not one of those tales. It is slow, yet enticing as Cole continues to heat up on the inside from his attraction while Ariel does everything possible to get Cole to break his vow to her uncle.

Beyond a Wicked Kiss
Jo Goodman
Kensington Publishing
850 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 407-1500 FAX: (212) 935-0699
ISBN 0821774174 $6.50

Ria Ashby took her position as headmistress of Miss Weaver's Academy for Young Ladies in Gillhollow seriously. So when one of her girls came up missing, she went directly to her guardian for assistance since the school governors were determined to brush the matter aside.

This all begins shortly after the death of Evan Marchman's father, the Duke of Westphal. Evan never expected to inherit the title. He was a bastard born on the wrong side of the blanket. It simply had been his lot in life to be on the outside of Society. But his life was full of mischief and mayhem. Evan was no slouch. He was right in the thick of things and always got his man as the truth came to light. But when his ward came calling, Evan certainly did not want to be bothered. However, the facts kept adding up and he realized there was much more to the disappearance than met the eye. In fact, if he was not mistaken, the Society of the Bishops were at the root of the problem. And he was going to solve it. With the help of his friends, of course.

This series is unique in the fact that Goodman continues the thread with the Compass Club members telling the same story from different angles. Some readers may tire of the same plot line while others will be pleased to find another series on the market. While all members of the Compass Club play major roles in each book, the heroines are introduced separately which entices further reading.

BEYOND A WICKED KISS bends the rules repeatedly as it is set during the Regency era which is one reason why this particular series is being marketed as historical romances. Yet, it is very true that Goodman has wrought another fun and lively tale for those who enjoy her work. While this is definitely a must read for the followers of the Compass Club members, everyone will enjoy this stand-alone tale.

Brenda Ramsbacher, Reviewer

Buhle's Bookshelf

Cinema Today
Edward Buscombe
Phaidon Press
180 Varick Street, 14th floor, New York, NY 10014
0714845167 $39.95

In Cinema Today, author and movie historian Edward Buscombe explores the cinematic history, films, people, and technologies of movie making from 1970 to the present day. Beginning with the rise of the blockbuster in the early 1970s, Buscombe shows how a string of spectacularly successful films such as MASH (1970); The Godfather (1972); and Jaws (1975) transformed the economic climate of Hollywood and the evolution of how movies were made, distributed, and marketed. The first half of Cinema Today covers the "New Hollywood" and the rise of genre films including Crime, Science Fiction, Horror, and Comedy, as well as the rise of such influential directors as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, George Lucas, Spike Lee, and Steven Spielberg. The second half of Cinema Today focuses on the unique style of film output from other parts of the world including Australasia, Africa, Indian, Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South America. Specially attention is devoted to the "Bollywood" cinema of India, art house cinema of France, the British comedy, Japanese crime films, and Mexican horror films, as well as the specific contributions of such directors as Bernardo Bertolucci, Pedro Almodovar, Akira Kurosawa, Roman Polanski, and others. Enhanced with more than 700 iconic and behind-the-scenes images, as well as a comprehensive directors' filmography, a bibliography, a chronology, and an index, Cinema Today is a seminal and strongly recommended addition to professional, academic, and community library Film History reference collections and Cinematic History Studies supplemental reading lists.

Paris Vertical
Horst Hamann
Te Neues Publishing Company
16 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10010
3832790306 $45.00 1-800-352-0305

Paris Vertical showcases the black-and-white photography of Horst Hamann as he presents a unique pictorial tribute to one of Europe's most famous and beautiful cities. Hamann exhibits an artist's eye through the lens of a camera with new angles and perspectives offering a fresh approach to classic architecture and familiar locales. Enthusiastically recommended for students of photography and a seminal addition to academic collections of master photographers, Paris Vertical documents an original approach to viewing familiar pieces of sculpture and architectural details with a quite literal emphasis on eye-level, vertical framing. Indeed, Paris Vertical could well serve as a template for similar photography sessions with other cities of distinction and beauty.

Santorella Publications, Ltd.
13 Pleasant Avenue, Danvers, MA 01923

A new series from Santorella Publications is specifically designed to teach beginners of all ages a complete course of instruction on playing piano jazz and is titled Let's Play Jazz...And More!. The first title launching this thoroughly "student friendly" series is Primer (TS286, $14.95) written by music teacher and an expert in writing, composing and arranging, J. Latulippe. The second title is Book 1 (TS287, $14.95) and is co-authored by J. Latulippe and Sonny Doss who draws upon his many years of experience and expertise as a performer, as well as a composer and educator. Each book is accompanied by a CD with full band arrangements making the lesson material accessible and enlivening. Nicely illustrated and with enhancements that include a Music Dictionary, this superbly organized and presented instructional series also includes Book 2 (TS288, $14.95) and Book 3 (TS289, $14.95). The complete novice beginning with the primer and graduating through the conclusion of this four volume series will be able to hold their own at the keyboard whether for personal pleasure or public performance.

Keith Morrison
Renee Ater
Pomegranate Communications, Inc.
PO Box 808022, Petaluma, CA 94975-8022
0764931539 $35.00 1-800-227-1428

Comprising the fifth volume of "The David C. Driskell Series of African American Art", Keith Morrison showcases and explores the distinctive style of Keith Morrison, a Jamaican-born artist who became one of the leading figures in the American art world through the early 1960s through 2004. Morrison was a prolific painter as well as a respected scholar. This superbly illustrated monograph reveals the impact of his paintings on African American art, its critics, and Morrison's personal life as it impacted on his art. More than sixty full-color oil and watercolors depicting Morrison's abstract and figurative paintings provide the reader with the basis for appreciating the artist's subtly comic, religious, philosophical, and political viewpoints as depicted in his paintings -- some of which are included in the Smithsonian Institution and the Art Institute of Chicago, among other prestigious museums and collections around the country. Of special interest is the informative foreword by David C. Driskell who was a colleague and a friend of Keith Morrison and provides a uniquely intimate and personal perspective on the man and his work. Also very highly recommended for academic library Art History collections are the previous volumes in the David C. Driskell series of African American Art published by Pomegranate Communications: Charles White (2002); Betye Saar (2003); Faith Ringgold (2004); and Archibald J. Motley Jr. (2005).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Baseball For Dummies
Joe Morgan & Richard Lally
For Dummies/John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5773
0764575376 $19.99 1-800-225-5945

Now in a significantly updated and expanded third edition, Baseball For Dummies by Baseball Hall of Fame player and ESPN analyst Joe Morgan in collaboration with sportswriter Richard Lally continues to be the premier introduction to the sport of professional baseball. Readers will learn how to improve their hitting, pitching, and fielding; find a team to play with from Little League on up; knowledgeably evaluate games stats, players, and records; coach or umpire effectively; and simply get more fun out of a trip the ballpark. With this latest edition covering new star players, new stadiums, and new game milestones, no dedicated fan or aspiring player can afford not to have their own personal copy of Baseball For Dummies!

Eastern Arctic Kayaks
John D. Heath & E. Armia
University of Alaska Press
PO Box 756240, 104 Eielson Building, Salcha Street, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6240
1889963259 $45.00 1-888-252-6657

The collaborative work of the late John Heath (1923-2003) who was an acknowledged expert in kayaks, and the Canadian ethnologist E. Arima, Eastern Arctic Kayaks: History, Design, Technique combines informed and informative analyses of form and function with historical background and illustrations of kayaking techniques that will be of immense interest to recreational users of kayaks, as well as academics with an interest in Inuit and Canadian Arctic aboriginal culture. The reader is provided with a comprehensive overview of the evolution and construction of Greenland kayaks, supplemented with an illustrated series of rolling and sculling techniques. The definitive text includes woodworking tools, construction techniques, and the treatment of skins for the kayak cover. Superbly illustrated with historic photographs and expert drawings, Eastern Arctic Kayaks is especially recommended for readers with an interest in the history of watercraft and northern native material culture.

The Siege of Leningrad 1941-1944
David M. Glantz
c/o Casemate (dist.)
2114 Darby Road, Havertown, PA 19083
0304366722 $14.95 1-610-853-9131

The Siege of Leningrad 1941-1944 is the incredible true story of the German Army's three-year assault on Leningrad. A tale of heroism and tragedy, shelling and starvation (nearly 4,000 of the city's inhabitants starved to death on Christmas Day alone), The Siege of Leningrad recounts the details of a turning point of World War II. Intensively researched, and enhanced with a handful of black-and-white photographs, The Siege of Leningrad 1941-1944 is a welcome addition to library and personal world history shelves and reference collections.

Waging Nonviolent Struggle
Gene Sharp
Extending Horizons Books
c/o Porter Sargent Publishers, Inc.
11 Beacon St., Ste. 1400, Boston, MA 02108-3099
0875581617 $24.95

Senior scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution of Boston, Massachusetts Gene Sharp and his team of like-minded researchers apply 50 years of history, academics, and practical experience to present Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential, a meticulous accounting of how nonviolent methodologies can combat dictatorships, war, genocide, and oppression. Waging Nonviolent Struggle is particularly valuable in its use of logic and close analysis of specific historical cases of nonviolent struggle to debunk common myths concerning the practice. Such myths include the contention that nonviolence is ineffective against dictatorships and genocide, or that nonviolent methodologies rely upon an appeal to the moral character of the opponent (in fact, nonviolent coercive techniques such as economic boycott and social noncompliance have an impact regardless of the humanitarian stature of the regime in question). The high value of properly applied and disciplined nonviolent resistance is demonstrated, in particular because nonviolent methodologies have the potential to bring successful results at a lower overall mortality rate than violent methodologies, and uninvolved third parties (a.k.a. "innocent civilians") are less likely to suffer collateral damage. Scrutinized case studies, overviewed and documented by a variety of different researchers, range from a successful protest of German women in Berlin to save their Jewish husbands (who had intermarried) from deportation and execution during World War II; the 1989 student uprising in China that ended in a tragic massacre; the successful defense of democracy in Thailand after a long succession of military coups; the successful removal of genocidal dictator Slobodan Milosevic from power in Serbia; and much more. In addition, Waging Nonviolent Struggle offers a "handbook" concerning how to coordinate nonviolent resistance with an eye on practical results and success. Written especially to answer the demanding need for realistic alternatives to violent conflict, Waging Nonviolent Struggle succeeds admirably in its mission and carries the absolute highest recommendation.

John Burroughs

Carey's Bookshelf

Nea Anna Simone
BET Publications, LLC
C/O BET Books
One BET Plaza, 1900 W. Place NE, Washington, D.C. 20018-1211
ISBN 1583143182 $15.00 325 pp.

Rebirth is the theme for Nea Anna Simone's sequel to Reaching Back entitled Reborn. A powerful novel that describes the horrors of hate and selfishness and the beauty of letting go and letting God take control. Reborn is told through the eyes of Mignon as she chronicles the lives of the Daniel family members. From domestic violence to passing for white, Reborn covers just about ever uncomfortable topic that all African American families have been faced with at some point.

A well written story that is geared towards the mature reader, Simone does a nice job of raising our awareness on issues that have remained taboo in the Black community for far too long. Reborn reminds us that because of God, tests and hardships in life eventually become testimonies. "It's been a long time coming and a lot of living-but here I am able to exclaim-I have been Reborn."

How I Got By: A Family Saga
Glenna D. Livingston
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, Indiana 47403
ISBN 1418499854 $16.95 270 pp.

What started out as a research project of the Underground Railroad System soon turned into a remarkable novel about faith and family. Glenna Livingston takes us on a historical journey with her debut novel, How I Got By: A Family Saga. With her research serving as the backbone for this heroic tale, the intricate details of her studies are prominently displayed throughout the novel and add credence in establishing the characters as believable and their circumstances as real life scenarios to the reader.

How I Got By is the story of three heroines who collectively tell the story of one family's survival. Lily Redmond, born into slavery, but her destiny is freedom. When presented with the opportunity, her faith and strong will not only paves the way to her being free, but it also becomes the anchor that secures her offspring. Readers are then transported into the 1930's and the life of Violet Porter, Lily's great-granddaughter. An aspiring writer, Violet desires to become independent of her mother's iron fist and the responsibilities of running the family business, but a family tragedy forces her to reconsider the desires of her heart. Finally there is Nikki Alexander, Violet's granddaughter. Nikki has alienated herself from the family for 15 years both physically and emotionally. But during a family reunion she learns about her family history and the true meanings of courage, faith, love and forgiveness.

Glenna Livingston is the descendant of slaves and her great-great grandfather used the Underground Railroad to escape slavery in Maryland. Her research project has since been added to the permanent display at Uncle Tom's Cabin located in Dresden, Canada. Livingston currently lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan with her husband and son.

When Death Comes A Knockin'
Vanessa Alexander Johnson
Book Haven Publishing
P.O. Box 9, Ama, Louisiana 70031
ISBN 141162470X $17.36 168 pp.

"Death! Just the mere thought or mention of this simple five-letter word, especially used in the context of the loss of human life, immediately invokes images of something cold, dark, spooky and scary enough to cause the hairs on your neck to stand straight up!" What started out as a journaling exercise used to cope with the deaths of her mother and infant son, soon turned into a useful booklet on grieving. Vanessa Alexander Johnson is the author of When Death Comes a Knockin,' a detail account of her personal losses and experiences with grief.

What makes this book different from the millions of self-help and inspirational literary works available on the market today is that it is not cold and calculated. Instead, the reader feels like a close friend whom Johnson has chosen to confide the most intimate and sometimes painful details in the life of a grieving mother. Using the booklet as an opportunity to educate the reader about the grieving process, Johnson's approach is warm and refreshing about a harsh reality that many of us have a difficult time accepting and working through, "Getting your head and your heart on the same page is the hardest part in the grieving process you will never forget your loved one, but if you allow yourself to go through the grief process, you will learn to keep your loved one alive in your heart." In addition to her personal accounts Johnson also reflects on biblical scriptures and the usage of poetry as other sources of encouragement for the reader. When Death Comes a Knockin' is a good resource for anyone who is struggling with the death of a loved one, especially a child. I would also recommend it for clergy members, counselors and health care professionals.

Johnson resides in Louisiana where she works as a 911 Dispatch Supervisor. She is married to Welton Johnson and is the proud mother of Haven, Alexis, Johnnel and Jalen (deceased for 10 years and for whom this book was dedicated to).

Carey Yazeed, Reviewer

Cheri's Bookshelf

Above All, Honor
Bold Strokes Books, Inc
1029 Livezey Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119
ISBN 193311004X $14.95 190 pages

Being given an assignment that United States Secret Service Agent Cameron Roberts felt was beneath her she retorts to her superior officer, "I'm an investigator, not a goddamned baby-sitter." She is after all, a senior agent with ten years of impeccable service and should have a say what her next job should be. Once the headstrong woman is resigned to the fact that she has no choice but to be the next Agent in Charge of protecting the safety of an equally strong-willed woman, who happens to be the daughter of the President of the United States, Commander Cameron Roberts is willing to put her life on the line for those in her care and lets nothing stand in her way in Above All, Honor by Radclyffe.

Cameron Roberts thinks she's getting an easy job until she meets the stunning, willful, elusive, caged bird, Blair Allison Powell. Cameron's predecessor tells her that, "She's an angry animal in a cage, and you're the new zookeeper." He also informs Cam that the "high-profile subject" has a "problematic lifestyle." Blair's mission is to elude those who are hired to protect her in order to maintain some sense of freedom. Cameron's mission is to protect her while maintaining her privacy - if possible.

The USSS Agent in charge before Cam steps in and gives the President's daughter an apropos code name: Egret. Blair barhops from one seedy place to another and most of the time she goes unnoticed. Who would expect the respectable first daughter to be frequenting bohemian gay bars? She rightfully yearns for a private life, which is virtually impossible, and until Cam Roberts comes along, nobody has any sympathy for her. She is not only trying to escape her life in a birdcage, but she has some painful memories of the past that have her haunted as well.

Cam demands respect from those under her command and she gets it. She's shrewd, smart, has integrity, and strong work ethics - all of which result in glowing performance records. She has sharp gut instincts, amazing self-control, and is an expert at undercover work. Cam does not tolerate homophobia on her team. More to her credit, she has no qualms accepting the resignation of any officer who has a problem with the fact that Blair is gay. Cameron Roberts is an admirable hero worth emulating.

Cam works hard to ignore Blair's advances. While Blair tries hard not to allow Cam to get under her skin. Is it possible for Cam and Blair to find love? According to Radclyffe, the essence of the entire Honor series is "the conflict between private and public lives, the balance between duty and love, and the incredible power of passion between strong-willed but sensitive people."

After reading Above All, Honor, the first in the series of Honor books, you will want to read the entire series, including but not limited to Honor Bound, Love and Honor, and Honor Guards. I found Above All, Honor to be extremely fast reading, exciting, titillating, and realistic - especially the technically correct medical scene that one would expect from a surgeon. She equally and adeptly captures the essence of the secret service/police drama in her finely researched work. Radclyffe is a very talented, prolific, award-winning author who creates a believable and interesting story that will make you happy to become a "part of the team."

One of the things I like best about Radclyffe's writing is that even though she creates sexual tension and longing between the two main characters, at least she gives us tidbits - juicy ones I might add - along the way to quench our desire. The build-up is beautifully done and quite delightfully explicit, as is the climatic ending. A truly satisfying experience for all.

Above All, Honor is a five plus star action/adventure/love story that will leave you breathless and hungry for more.

Have Gun We'll Travel
Lori L. Lake
Yellow Rose Books
PMB 210, 8691 9th Avenue, Port Arthur, Texas 77642-8025
IBSN: 1932300333 $18.95 267 pages

Lori L. Lake's, Have Gun We'll Travel, the first thriller/action-adventure in her Gun series, is an engaging read that will have you on the edge of your seat rooting for the safe return of heroines, Desiree Reilly and Jaylynn Savage. Dez and Jay are first introduced in Lake's award-winning novel, Gun Shy. Their adventures continued in Under the Gun. In Have Gun We'll Travel, the off-duty St. Paul police officers are heading for a hard-earned R & R. When the gals set out on a hiking/camping expedition in the breathtaking Minnesota North Woods with friends Crystal (a fellow officer), and Shayna (her lover and a civilian), their vacation turns into something far from restful.

Dez and Jay are more committed to each other than ever. Dez has discovered the joys of intimacy - she cherishes and is less fearful of her relationship with Jay. Having battled post-traumatic stress disorder, Dez is put to the test in every way imaginable. She races against time as she tries to rescue Jaylynn, after escaped convicts from the Kendall Correctional Facility, located outside Buyck, Minnesota, abduct her. The State Police are not enough so the National Guard is called in, and Dez is frantic to save her lover before something terrible happens to her. Can Dez get to Jay in time?

More than ever, Dez is stronger in matters of the mind and heart. It's wonderful to follow along with Dez's emotional development and personal growth as the Gun series progresses. After she learns how to cope, she draws on experience in order to battle the trials ahead. Jaylynn is a good role model for handling crisis and stress. Together they make a good team. Their story is one that this reader would like to continue exploring and reading about for years to come.

When you pick up a novel written by Lori L. Lake, you are guaranteed a well thought out plot, characters worth emulating, multi-dimensional villains, and a thoroughly enjoyable story. Lake's writing makes readers feel like they are living the action and not just reading about it. The sights, sounds, and smells are vivid, as are the thoughts and feelings the characters experience during spine-tingling moments. Readers are taken on a thrilling ride of uncertainty, missed opportunities, and hope that Jaylynn will return to safety. Will good prevail over evil?

With prison escapees and the Russian mob thrown in for good measure, the action seems to have a life of its own as it grabs your attention and doesn't let go until the climactic conclusion. Lake has managed to pack plenty of action/drama/tension in the third book in the Gun series. Have Gun We'll Travel is a thrilling and often-chilling five star read. Don't miss this wonderful addition to Lori L. Lake's amazing collection of literature.

When Evil Changes Face
Therese Szymanski
Bella Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 201007, Ferndale, MI 48220
ISBN 0967775337 $11.95 235 pages

The fourth Brett Higgins' Motor City Thriller by Therese Szymanski, "When Evil Changes Face," is both gripping and sexy; Szymanski fans will be delighted to join Brett and Allie on yet another adventure. This time they are going back to high school. . . as students. The interwoven elements of the plot, a writing style that Szymanski is known for, keep the reader guessing, and glued to the pages. The main theme is evident, but there is much more to discover under the surface in this fast-paced, action-packed, high school sting.

Something sinister lurks in a small Michigan town outside St. Louis at Alma High School. A dedicated teacher at the school, Leisa Kraft, is duly worried about her students. Leisa hopes to find out what is going on before someone gets hurt. . . or worse. She enlists the help of her friend Madeline; together they come up with a brilliant plan. Leisa and Madeline ask Brett, who made her money in organized crime but is no longer in the biz, and Allison, a ex-cop who has experience as a detective, to pose as high school students in order to solve the mysterious change in the students. Brett and Allie are reluctant to get involved at first but they relent. Madeline and Leisa convince Brett and Allie to go undercover as brother and sister.

Brett does a very convincing imitation of a delinquent teenage boy and Allie joins the cheerleading squad. Once enrolled in the school Brett and Allie fit right in-but can a thirty-three year old and twenty-seven year old really pull off the charade and discover the truth about what is going down in Alma High?

Brett Higgins was twenty-three when she met her lover Allison Sullivan, who was seventeen at the time. Brett and Allie have a wonderful relationship. Allie has no problem when Brett flirts with other women since the bottom line is that Brett is hers-all hers. But for how long and under what circumstances can even Brett's resolve to be faithful withstand the test?

I highly recommend "When Evil Changes Face" to anyone who enjoys good mysteries, juicy love stories, and hot steamy sex. It is fun revisiting high school (from an adult's perspective) with all the raging hormones, turf battles, sports, dramas, and teenage angst. The story is more than just erotica with its multi-faceted plot and complex characters; it keeps the reader guessing all along. The author does an amazing job of tying up the loose ends while setting the stage for the fifth Brett Higgins' Motor City Thrillers, "When Good Girls Go Bad."

You will not want to miss all six books in the Motor City Thriller series. The sixth title, "When the Corpse Lies (2004)," is the latest addition to the collection. Check out Therese Szymanski's other selections as well including, "Once Upon a Dyke: New Exploits of Fairy Tale Lesbians (2004)," which has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in 2005. "When Evil Changes Face" is a worthwhile read and rates five stars.

Cheri Rosenberg

Christina's Bookshelf

Nature's Children, revised and expanded edition
Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Ash Tree Publishing
P.O. Box 64, Woodstock, NY 12498 USA
ISBN 0961462086 $11.95 181 pp.

No doubt giving a child roots from the burdock bush growing in your backyard may raise a few eyebrows. How about plantain from your front yard for diaper rash? And what would your mother-in-law think? Would your neighbor call the authorities if they saw you place your diaperless child in a cradle lined with sphagnum moss? You could tell them of course, if their curiosity got the best of them that The New York Unit of Herb Society of America lists this moss as an antiseptic and absorbent. You could also attempt to explain how you're raising your children naturally, providing lots of fresh air, using what nature abundantly provides. On the other hand maybe people wouldn't think you so odd after all. It's no secret more people are looking to natural alternatives to healing and eating. Maybe your best friend will ask for your advice.

One mother who lived her life and raised her children very naturally is the respected elder of contemporary herbology, Juliette de Bairacli Levy. She's also known as a gypsy and "Nature girl." Her beliefs, wisdom, and desire to share her knowledge and experiences led her to write this book. She wanted to help people looking to heal and raise their own children naturally. Levy guides readers through the health of a mother, pregnancy, birthing, nursing, raising children, provides a list of simple natural foods, and with the needs of a mother's and children's spirit, soul, and feelings. This author explains how to raise healthy children without drugs and through her experience and the lore from many other cultures she learned while traveling throughout the world. Levy in turn is known all over the world for her theories and techniques for the natural care of dogs, goats, horses, and other animals also.

Written as Levy's children were born and she first found publication in an English edition in December 1970; then later, in the spring of 1971, and later still, in the United States in 1996.

The tone is like receiving advice from a caring Aunt who is open and tells it like it is. So, the fact that the book is written in first-person is just right.

Sprinkled throughout the book randomly are delightful black and white photographs of Levy, her children as they grow, animals, and of different people from various countries.

Levy's opinion: "At the heart of all, for Nature children, there will always remain a core of love for natural life, for the fresh vegetables and fruits and whole grains, for the sun and the rain, the moon and the wind, for snow - and for beautiful things in general, because their bodies and minds were formed out of such things when in the mother's womb and in infancy and childhood."

Contents of the book include:

Author's Foreword to the Revised Edition
Introduction by Helen and Scott Nearing

1.The Mother
2.The Father
3.Birth and Lactation
4.The Infant
5.The Child
6.Nature Medicine
7.Recipes From Many Lands

Appendix 1: Resources
Appendix 2: Botanical Names of Herbs
Recipe Index

Excerpts from the book:

Acne - Treat acne internally with a cleansing diet (page 78). Externally,
bathe the affected skin with a standard brew of meadowsweet or elderblossom,
or with buttermilk. Then apply extract of witch hazel or a standard brew of
meadow marigold flowers.

Headaches - Headaches should be treated internally as well as externally;
use a cleansing diet (page 78). In severe headache give a complete fast for
several days allowing only fruit drinks, and nerve-soothing drinks of lime
blossom (linden) or red clover teas. Strong mint tea should also be drunk,
and cotton cloths soaked in cold mint tea with a little vinegar added should
be bound over the brow. Or a pulp of cucumber can be placed over the brow
and kept in place with a cotton scarf dampened with cold water.

Don't be surprised if while reading Nature's Children you pause long enough
to go for a walk around your yard, suggest a rain bath to your children or
suggest they plant a garden with you. You may wonder later why you didn't
start this years ago. If you long to get your child and self away from the
drugs, food additives, video-games, and out into the fresh air; closer to
nature and natural, this is the book to read. Levy will guide you gently
along the sweet, green path.

Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs
Gail Faith Edwards
Ash Tree Publishing
P.O. Box 64, Woodstock, NY 12498 USA
ISBN 188812301X $13.95 245 pp.

There are numerous herbal books out there, but how many deal with more than physical healing properties? This one goes into what herbs and plants also are able to do naturally for one's soul. Readers will finally open their wild heart to the healing herbs and awaken body and soul.

Edward's style is nurturing, informal, and intended for more than a quick fix. She attempts to help readers think about what their bodies are trying to tell them. One example is looking at pain with a new perspective. Instead of taking two aspirin and going back to work for a hurting foot, she advises an afforded break - some rest. Her advice is to take time to soak the foot and rub it with healing oil. Then, when going back to work there will be less pain and at the same time the ailing person will be refreshed.

Edwards organized this useful reference neatly; making specific information quick and easy to find. Her resources are multiple, and varied, and she speaks with confidence and knowledge about the power of herbs and plants.

There are four interesting and educating sections. Within each are chapters of elaboration.


-the lovely easy to recognize sketchings of herbs and plants (Some are done in black, but most in green);
-various recipes (candies, salves, juices, medicinal syrups, remedies, dream-pillows, smudging sticks, rose water and more);
-a bit about aromatherapy
-lists of books that make lovely field-guides
-spiritual and magical uses for herbs
-explanations on traditional earth honoring days
-illuminating information on Wise Woman traditions
-how specific herbs and plants taste
-their medicinal properties
-how to use them and for what ailment

A peak into one particular herb, Borage:

Borage leaves and flowers nourish, tone and strengthen the heart. For centuries grandmothers used it to uplift the spirits, dispel depression, and make the mind glad. Borage is loaded with nutrients good for the heart: calcium, potassium, and B vitamins. Mineral-rich borage builds stamina, strength and energy levels. Warning! Seed oil becomes rancid in minutes. Always use only freshly ground seeds. Grandmothers loved to make candies of borage flowers to decorate cakes and pastries. The pressed oil from borage seeds is very high in gummalinoleic acid (GLA), omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA'S).

As the title suggests, this book attempts to get the reader to open their wild hearts and connect to the natural world. Edwards believes in cultivating spirit in relationship with herbs. She prays readers understand herbs are not drugs. These plants carry powers and properties not measurable by scientific means, and are gifts for the spiritual, emotional, and physical sustenance. Herbs heal body and soul.

Edward's book accomplishes what it meant to. Readers not only learn about herbs, and gain a fresh perspective; they'll feel a sense of calm relaxation and find themselves taking full refreshing deep breaths.

I enjoyed this warmly written resource because Edwards seems sincere; to care. I also learned yet even more about how herbs and plants enhance can enhance life.

Christina Francine Whitcher, Reviewer

Debra's Bookshelf

A Window in Copacabana
Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
Henry Holt
ISBN: 0805074384 $23.00 256 pages

The three policemen found shot to death execution-style over the course of a few hot summer days in Rio de Janeiro had more in common than the circumstances of their deaths. Each of the men, importantly, had had sufficient cash to support a mistress and keep a separate apartment intended for their assignations--a sure sign that the officers had been on the take. Investigating their deaths and the corruption that may have led to the murders is the unhappy task of Detective Espinosa, chief of Rio's 12th district, a somewhat melancholy character who tries vainly to combat the encroaching boredom of his increasingly routine work by walking to and from his apartment by different routes.

Given its challenges, Espinosa's latest case provides at least a temporary respite from tedium, particularly when the mistresses of the dead policemen prove to be in peril themselves. Two of the three women are murdered at once, and Espinosa undertakes to protect the third. One woman's death--she falls from a tenth-floor window--is witnessed by a neighbor watching from her apartment across the street, a happenstance which provides the police with one of their few clues and gives author Garcia-Roza his book's title.

A Window in Copacabana, translated into English from the original Portuguese, is the fourth book in Garcia-Roza's Detective Espinosa series. The peculiar circumstances of the murders under investigation and the surprising identity of the killer make the novel a good mystery. But what sets the book apart is the mood it sets--the languid air of a city in the tropics--and the philosophical, bibliophilic Espinosa, whose character emerges slowly, without fanfare, as the story progresses. Mystery readers, and anyone enticed by a Copacabana setting, should give the series a look.

The Final Frontiersman: Heimo Korth and His Family, Alone in Alaska's
Arctic Wilderness
James Campbell
ISBN: 0743453131 $25.00 320 pages

Heimo Korth has lived in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for nearly thirty years, eking out a subsistence living some 250 miles from the nearest road. He moved to Alaska at twenty, eager to escape an abusive father and unwilling to submit to the yoke of a nine-to-five job. For six years Heimo ("HI-mow") lived alone, trapping and hunting and flying out occasionally with bush pilots to sell his furs. But in 1982 Heimo married Edna, whom he met while walrus hunting on St. Lawrence Island, and she followed her husband to the wilderness. They have lived together since in this desolate place where the sun dips below the horizon in November and isn't seen again until January, where temperatures range from a balmy 80 degrees to 50 below. They and their daughters live a semi-nomadic life, moving each spring from one of their three cabins to another so as not to deplete the animal populations in any one area. Every summer they spend six weeks in Fort Yukon, population 750, stocking up on supplies and getting a small taste of civilization.

James Campbell, who happens to be Heimo's cousin, visited the Korths several times beginning in 2002. In telling Heimo's story Campbell juxtaposes descriptions of life in the Arctic--the logistics of carving up a dead moose, the efficient reuse of toilet paper as a firestarter--with stories of Heimo's boyhood in Wisconsin and discussion of the politics of land apportionment in Alaska. The result is a fascinating look at a lifestyle that is impossibly alien yet unexpectedly familiar: Heimo's teenagers tack Britney Spears posters to the walls of their cabin.

One begins reading Campbell's account with incredulity, wondering why anyone would choose to live in such an extreme environment and whether the Korths were wise to raise their children there. But reading the fascinating, sometimes heartrending story of Heimo and Edna's life one comes to respect them and their decisions. We are left hoping that Heimo manages to live out his days as he wishes, growing old in a wilderness few men before him have experienced.

Max Mooth--Cyber Sleuth and the Case of the Zombie Virus
Stephen Kogon
ISBN: 0595333249 $10.95 114 pages

Max Mooth is a socially immature but intellectually precocious nineteen-year-old (he graduated from college at seventeen) with an inordinate fondness for computers--his favorite things in the world, with the possible exception of pudding. Indeed, Max is dedicated to tracking down cyber-criminals, the nefarious disseminators of computer viruses, which he does with the aid of an impressive array of high-tech gadgetry. The Robin to Max's Batman is Mr. Z, a similarly precocious eight-year-old who eschews age-appropriate play and views the world with the cynical eye of a noir detective. Like any hero worthy of the name, Max is saddled with a nemesis, in his case an enemy from his Berkeley days, the delightfully over-the-top Xefland Aurcracker. Aurcracker is the filthy-rich, computer-challenged CEO of a company that produces virus protection software. Aurcracker intends, with the assistance of a minion or two, to release a devastating computer virus, frame Max for the crime, and rake in piles of cash by selling the only software capable of defeating it. At the same time, Aurcracker means to break Max's heart by stealing away the girl he's just met and fallen for (principally because she is nearly as fond of her iBook as he is of his own numerous computers).

Max Mooth--Cyber Sleuth is not a perfect book. Max punctuates his speech with corny computerisms--"Feeling downloadable, punk?"--that grow tiresome. Occasional scenes don't work because they strain credibility: climbing a muddy hill, Max is beset by an unlikely number of worms; he extricates himself from difficult situations with the homemade screwdriver he carries around, which he fashioned, inexplicably, out of paper clips. Max lives in a retirement home, having been raised there by a now deceased grandmother. This is interesting in that it adds a further layer to Max's hesitant relationship with adulthood--the boy/man is more comfortable with children and the elderly than with his own age group. But the implausibility of the arrangement is distracting.

These shortcomings, however, are relatively minor, and they pale in comparison with what the book has to offer: a cast of delightfully quirky characters and some genuinely amusing dialogue and situations. For example, Aurcracker assembles a team of psychiatrists to ask them how best to steal Max's girlfriend from him. "I'm pursuing a woman," he says to them, "mainly to deny a nemesis from having her by completely lying, deceiving and pulling the wool over her eyes. Any ideas how I should proceed?"

Meanwhile, Max, having blocked the door to a certain Mr. Underwood's office with a chair, frantically searches the room and Underwood's computer while its owner is away:

"Just then, the door hit the chair, blocking it. Max jumped, and quickly turned off Underwood's computer. He dove over the desk, back in his chair, as Underwood pushed his way in. Max appeared bored, leafing through his briefcase.

"'What was a chair doing there?' Underwood asked suspiciously.

"'I don't know,' Max said. 'Must've fallen when you left. I'm not a physics expert, Mr. Underwood.'"

Stephen Kogon published Max Mooth himself via the online book publisher iUniverse. I'm hoping the book finds a traditional publisher, as it deserves a wider readership.

The Making of a Bestseller
Brian Hill and Dee Power
Dearborn Trade Publishing
30 South Wacker Drive, Suite 2500, Chicago IL 60606-7481
ISBN: 0793193087 $19.95 256 pages

In preparing their book The Making of a Bestseller Brian Hill and Dee Power interviewed more than fifty authors, agents, editors, booksellers, and assorted publishing industry experts on the subject of bestsellers--how books attain that status, what it costs an author to remain on the bestseller lists, what role various parties play in the creation of a best-selling book. The responses Hill and Power received form the backbone of their book, in which interview snippets are arranged thematically and interspersed with explanatory or introductory narrative. The book's eighteen chapters are divided into three broad sections--The Bestseller, Publishing, and The Author. The topics covered are too numerous to mention here, but the authors have included discussions of, for example, the various best-selling lists and how they are compiled; the importance--or not--of print reviews to a book's success; the influence of agents and editors on a manuscript; how booksellers select the titles they stock; and the process of adapting bestsellers for the screen.

The Making of a Bestseller is well written and clearly organized, and it is chock full of information about how the publishing industry works. Its authors, in interviewing so many subjects from throughout the publishing world, show readers a cross-section of the industry with its various strata, from author to bookseller, laid bare. The book should be of interest to would-be authors looking to scale the heights of bestsellerdom themselves as well as to industry insiders. Fans of the authors interviewed--among them Dan Brown, Peter Straub, Barbara Taylor Bradford, and Nicholas Sparks--may also be interested in this behind-the-scenes look at their favorite books.

My Life with Corpses
Wylene Dunbar
ISBN: 0151010153 $24.00 319 pages

The corpses of Wylene Dunbar's title are probably not what you think. Her book is indeed populated in part by the dead, but her corpses are most often mobile beings, difficult to distinguish from the living even for someone with a practiced eye, such as Dunbar's protagonist and narrator Oz. Oz grew up the only living member of a family of corpses, her mother and sister having died before Oz was born, her father perhaps shortly thereafter. It is difficult, in Dunbar's world, to determine precisely when the transition from life to death occurs. The process of dying can be a lengthy one, and besides, corpses tend to retain the characteristics they enjoyed in life: "...a southern corpse does not forget her manners just because she is dead, any more than a midwestern one suddenly learns how to carry on a charming conversation about nothing at all."

Dunbar's story begins with an appealing mystery: the grave of Oz's childhood neighbor and friend Winfield Evan Stark has been found to be empty, Oz's own published account of her childhood among corpses lying in the grave in its place. This discovery prompts Mr. Stark's relatives to exhume a nearby grave in the hope of finding the missing body, a task over which Oz is for some reason set as overseer. While workmen dig up the grave, Oz writes a continuation of her earlier account, in part as a warning to the rest of us. As Oz discovered in adulthood, her family of corpses was not as unusual as she had supposed. There are corpses everywhere--vacationing in Canada, publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals, meeting with friends at coffee shops--and if you're not careful you may get the life sucked out of you as well.

Oz's narrative--Dunbar's novel--is punctuated by keen observations and patches of lovely writing:

"He was quite thin and I would say he was tall and lean, but you would think of Gary Cooper in High Noon when what I mean is that he was a rather beat-up stick; a long, emaciated collection of bones and skin supporting a large bearded head. Everything about him was that way, even his hair, which was slicked down and lightly grayed, above a long wolfhound face."

But Oz's philosophizing slows the narrative down, and neither she nor the characters she describes ever become real enough to make readers care what happens to them. What is maddening about the book, however, is that Dunbar leaves so many questions unanswered: why can people other than Oz see some corpses but not others? How did Stark "rescue" Oz from her family of corpses, and why did he bother rescuing her subsequently from her perfectly normal foster family? why is her book found in Stark's grave? And so on. This is evidently meant to be a thinking person's book, inspiring in us ideas about the loss of spirit that can precede corporeal death, but the imperfections of the premise around which Dunbar's serious narrative is constructed are too distracting for us to take the book very seriously. An ostensibly absurd premise can be made to work if it is logically consistent, if all the loose ends are tied up, but Dunbar leaves too much unexplained.

While My Life with Corpses disappoints, however, Dunbar is clearly a very good prose stylist. There are passages in this book that merit rereading. It will be interesting to see what the author offers us in the future.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Dian's Bookshelf

Ted Dekker
Westbow Press
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
ISBN 0849943736 $21.99 (615) 902-2704

I am a columnist for Faithwriters Magazine as well as the Editor in Chief for Sisters in the Lord Magazine, and as part of those jobs, I look for good reading material that engages the mind and challenges the reader to pursue a relationship with our Creator. I ran across Dekker's work two years ago when I searched for "Christian Fiction" on the Internet. I had tired of the offerings in the market that were touted "Christian Fiction," and I hoped to find good entertainment without preaching. A couple reviews piqued my interest, and I bought the second book in his "Martyr's Song" trilogy, titled "When Heaven Weeps.

That first book served to build in myself an obsession to read all of Dekker's books, and I promptly bought all that were available at the time. I've yet to be disappointed.

Dekker writes for the average individual and targets his books at a secular audience. He's received both good and bad reviews for doing so. I happen to applaud his courage and insight into man's psyche and his ability to enthrall even the most jaded reader. Perhaps a reader won't immediately run out and become a born-again Christian, but at all levels, a reader will have his heart touched and a seed is planted that develops an urge to want more.

Dekker's style in each book is to capture the reader from the first page and not let up until the end. So far, all his books have left me gasping at the end and obsessed to seek more.

Since the year 2000, author Ted Dekker has had eleven books published. An amazing accomplishment by itself, but currently, he also has all three of his Circle Trilogy books on the Christian Booksellers Association bestseller list.

No one can quite figure out what genre he's writing in, though. Is it fiction, fantasy, science fiction, thriller, mystery, Christian fiction? He's crossed genres in all of his books and perhaps that's what makes his work so appealing.

Obsessed is Dekker's eleventh book, which combines mystery with a huge dose of suspense; historical fiction with compelling characters; and a quiet introduction to the true power and meaning of love. Obsessed has something for everyone.

It begins in 1973 with young real-estate broker, Stephen Friedman, whose mother disappeared after the Holocaust. He's a brilliant moneymaker, living a quiet lifestyle and seems content - until a phone call propels him into a madcap race to discover a treasure, his past, and possibly the love of his life.

Obsessed takes the reader on a journey into two eras with alternating storylines. In 1973, Stephen's quest to discover the truth of his past and recover a treasure pits him against villain Roth Braun, the offspring of Gerhard Braun, an SS Officer during the Holocaust.

Scenes from 1944-45 at the work camp Toru¤ (Thorn), in Germany (now Poland) tell the stories of Stephen's mother, Martha, and her friend, Ruth as they struggle to survive and keep their children alive while under the evil power of Gerhard Braun. Both women are pregnant, a condition that puts them in peril. Between them, they are able to ensure the survival of their children: Stephen, Martha's son; and Esther, Ruth's daughter.

The wit and courage of Martha and Ruth reach across a generation and instigate a pursuit to fulfill the promises of hope and defeat the power of evil on one hand; and on the other, a pursuit to destroy hope and defeat the power of good.

Stephen discovers that his biological mother, Martha, may have lived near him for many years, though he never knew her; they were separated after the war, never to be reunited. Her death sets into motion both Stephen's quest to find one of the treasured Stones of David and recover his past, and Roth Braun's mission to recover not only a journal of the torturous games of his father, but also the power he feels has been drained from his family by the cleverness of Ruth and Martha.

Braun is disturbing, perhaps more so than the fictional Hannibal Lecter. He is obsessed with regaining a power that can only be fueled by drinking the blood of the offspring of the women his father guarded in Germany almost thirty years ago. Right before he kills them.

As Stephen races to retrieve the stone, his obsession grows to encompass the mysterious Esther. Could she be alive? Are they meant to be together? Are they the true Stones of David?

Dekker is a master at creating suspense with his creepy villains and boy/girl next-door heroes. Stephen is not athletic, his reasoning is skewed at times, and his courage is pulled from the depths of his being. As his obsession leads him into dangerous territory, a battle for his life and for others, the questions of exactly how is he going to prevail keeps the pages turning. The touches of humor in Obsessed are a new device used by Dekker. But it works.

Obsessed explores the question, "how far would you go" to retrieve a treasure? To discover your past? To find the love of your life? To protect the ones you love? To seek revenge on the ones you hate?

The theme in Obsessed mirrors that in many of Dekker's books - the obsessive actions of a person in pursuit of his heart's desire, be that a possession, a person, or a god. Dekker also uses this compelling storyline to introduce readers to the parallel obsession of God in His never-ending pursuit of human hearts. At the end of Obsessed another question begs for an answer: How far will God go to woo our love?

Readers who are unfamiliar with Dekker's work can discover more online at his website, which is complete with trailers, soundtracks, free book downloads and a reader forum.

For a reader new to Dekker's style, I recommend two books to begin the heart-racing journey and obsession to read more:

Thr3e - A thriller which is under movie contract

When Heaven Weeps - the 2nd book in the Martyr's Song Trilogy. Start with the second book, then read the first, followed by the third.

All books by Dekker:

The Circle Trilogy: Black, Red, White
Blessed Child (with Bill Bright)
A Man Called Blessed (with Bill Bright)
The Martyr's Song Trilogy: Heaven's Wager, When Heaven Weeps, The Thunder of Heaven

I had an opportunity to interview Dekker about OBSESSED, and for those interested, it is available online at

Firecracker Jones Is On The Case
Christopher Klim
Hopewell Publications
PO Box 11, Titusville, NJ 08560-0011 (609) 818-1049
ISBN 0972690670 $9.95 116 pages

As a columnist and editor for two online Christian magazines, I am always on the lookout for good reading material to recommend to parents and their children that isn't full of immoral behavior, smut, death and violence for the sake of violence. In my search, I ran across charming author, Christopher Klim, who began writing for young adults because he was also appalled at the reading material available for young adults. Firecracker Jones is on the Case is by no means a Christian novel, but it's moral base and real-to-life characters is one that should have a place in all homes, including Christian.

Firecracker Jones is on the Case is a multi-level adventure book for young adults that explores friendship, mystery and the jungles of high school.

Our hero, Francis Jones, (he hates that name) known by everyone as Firecracker, or just plain F., is a freshman in high school, and he's funny and tells the story of how he solved the missing friend mystery.

F. was born on July 4, and you can guess where his nickname Firecracker comes from. He lives with his Mom, who is passionate about healthy eating - tofu and twigs being two of her favorites. F. has to also deal with being Attention Deficit Hearing Sensitive (ADHS), which translated, means he hears things most people don't hear, and noises can drive him nuts. At home, he has yellow earmuffs to drown out such noisy beasts as the blender, a hammer being used and the vacuum cleaner

Best friend, Chub, is F.'s sidekick and he's the perfect foil for F.'s wisecracks.

Another best friend, Ted, a sophomore football star, suddenly moves, and he doesn't tell either of his friends why or where; and F. smells a mystery he's determined to solve. If only to tell Ted how mad he is.

But F. and Chub find out something they never expected. Something terrible happened to their friend, and the family moved to keep it a secret. (You'll have to read the book to find out what the terrible thing is).

Driven by his need to give Ted something special, F. dreams up a plan to "be" Ted and score the last touchdown of the season - the touchdown Ted needed to break the school record. Chub and a special girl help F. with the plan.

At times side-splittingly funny, Firecracker Jones tells a timeless story of drawing on one's ingenuity, the importance of feelings and working them out, compassion, true friendship and self-sacrifice.

The quirky observations from Firecracker drew me into the story and held me captive until the last page, at which point I read it over again to enjoy the comments F. makes in the narrative, like, "Our kitchen looked like the cabinets got sick and threw up everything onto the countertops;" and "If those baked tree limbs "

Life isn't fair, but Klim manages to have this young hero learn this lesson without succumbing to a boiler-plat plot.

Firecracker is a kid I would have fell in love with in 9th grade - a little weird, a lot quirky, curious and brave, who despite all the problems of being between childhood and manhood, recognizes the importance of friendship and perseverance, and wears yellow earmuffs (at home, of course.)

Interview with Christopher Klim, Author of Firecracker Jones is One the Case

Dian: How does a guy who worked on space program satellites suddenly decide to pursue not just writing, but writing books for young adults and teens?

Klim: I grew up dyslexic before they knew what to call it. I couldn't read or write functionally before the 5th grade, but the stories piled up inside my head, mostly as pictures--scenes for stories. During my space program years, I used to work as a stringer--a freelance photojournalist. That's when the writing began in earnest, and when my first child was born, I stayed home to raise the kids and pursue my writing career. Today, I visit many elementary schools as a working author. I had FJ in the back of my mind, and when kids started bringing in my adult novels for me to sign, I thought that I'd better start writing that kids book.

Dian: Who is your inspiration for Firecracker Jones?

Klim: My nine year-old son had been nagging me for years to read my adult novels. This has been a way for us to connect on a deeper level. I wanted to give him a story that he could read and made sense to him. Also, I was appalled by the material for juveniles--heavy duty themes of death, rape, murder.

Dian: I must ask: Have you tried the recipes that Firecracker's mother prepares in the book?

Klim: I dated a holistic healer in college. I know of such culinary delights. Hmmm, does that sentence sound right? Anyway, she cooked up some pretty interesting food. I believe in healthy food, but I'm not sure man was meant to eat that way.

Dian: How long did it take from idea to final draft with this first book in the series; and what special challenges did you find along the way?

Klim: FJ was the first book contract that I signed on a concept. I brought the cover drawing into the editorial meeting, with a rough idea. Books really don't get sold that way, and then panic set in. Months passed, and I hadn't written more than a few paragraphs, but the story evolved in the back of my mind. When I finally sat down to do it, I drafted the entire book during the month of November, and edited it for three months.

Dian: I'm excited to see that we'll be seeing more of Firecracker Jones. Do you have a set number of books planned for the series, and will our hero remain the same age or grow up in the process?

Klim: There are at least three books planned, yet that's an interesting question. I can't imagine FJ growing up. I wanted a boy character who knows what it means to be a boy. In the US, the notion of "boy" is in crisis. I wanted to show the artfulness of boys. So for now, FJ remains the 9th grade detective, straddling childhood and adulthood in that mysterious time when everything is fresh and we see glimpses of who we'll become.

Dian: Which is more difficult to write: adult or young adult novels, and why?

Klim: They are the same, except for the voice and vocabulary. We come into this world understanding stories. Watch any kid at story time, and they just seem to know what makes a good story. Adult fiction is a grownup version of the same principles we craved as kids, with more complicated adult themes in the mix. Stories are as vital to society as food and water. A good story holds a mirror to our lives; a great story can change our lives.

Dian: How do you decide on what mystery Firecracker will attempt to solve.

Klim: As a dyslexic, I'm highly visual. I see the beginning of stories and know that this is where the story begins, and then I investigate what is happening and who's involved. In the first book, I knew that his best friend was missing and that he was very important to their community, but I didn't know why. In the second book--Firecracker Jones Gets Mad--someone throws a rock through his front window, and that's all that I want to say at the moment.

Dian: The additions of the drawings in the book fascinated me (I'm 42, so maybe I shouldn't be sharing this), but I'm delighted with this character and found myself believing that Firecracker is a flesh and blood person. What was your process in forming this well-drawn character, complete with his own drawings.

Klim: It's serendipity. I'd doodled his picture in the margins of note pads since college, and I don't know why. When I went to my publisher to pitch my idea for FJ, I brought a mock-up of what would eventually become the cover. I never expected the pictures to last. I'd only sketched them as placeholders for the real artist to put them in place, and when my editor (and later the publishing board) looked at them, they appreciated the rawness of quick graphite sketches. I never expected them to say, "OK, let's use them." That wasn't my expectation.

Dian: Tell us about some of your other writing projects - what are you working on now?

Klim: This is my most ambitious year as a writer. Not only am I editing a fledgling literary publication (Writers Notes Magazine), but I'll publish two books: Firecracker Jones and my latest adult novel, The Winners Circle, which is a pure comedy, a satire about lottery millionaires, the bittersweet story of a man who wins it all, loses the love of his life, and sets out to recapture her heart. While promoting these books, I plan to start the next FJ, the next mystery in the Boot Means series, and another novel that in itself requires more research than any previous project of mine. Whew!

Dian: In promoting Firecracker Jones, do you have any special stories to share?

Klim: It hasn't hit the shelves yet, but a fifth grader picked up my book, read just the last page, and announced, "I don't get it." Kids.

Dian: Please add anything you would like readers and parents to know

Klim: I think we expect boys and girls to be too much like each other. Girls are determined and brilliant. They are excellent analysts. They are their own worst enemy at times, although their compassion and generosity knows no limits. On the other hand, there is an unconscious beauty to boys. This is why they often fly so high. They don't realize people are watching them. They don't even see the ground. At times, they are dangerous to themselves and others. They dare to succeed and often fail. We recognize this as courage. But when you take all of humanity into consideration, there is very little difference between men and women. Let's not be so quick to close the gap. The variety and verisimilitude among race, sex, and people in general is the essence of freedom.

Dian: Thank you for your time. I can't wait for the next book in the series.

Readers, for more information on Christopher Klim, his other books, Firecracker Jones and writing, visit his website at Links to much more are found on his site.

Blessed: I'm So Damned Grateful
Raymond M. Saunders and Craig Saunders
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403 888-519-5121
ISBN: 1418445843 $27.75 564 pages

Once in a blue moon, along comes a book that is made extraordinary by the teller of the tale. Written by 94-year-old Raymond M. Saunders, (now 95), BLESSED, I'M SO DAMNED GRATEFUL, is a book every household should have. What better way to experience a century of history than through the eyes of one of its sons. Saunders shares the beauty of life lived simply, with purpose, and with foresight. Above all, his tale is one that proves the beauty of the celebration of family in its most honest form.

Saunders doesn't tiptoe around sensitive issues such as the murder suicide committed by his great grandparents which left a family of six orphans behind. Nor does he wax eloquent on the subsequent rise and success of his grandfather in the cattle business in Iowa. Rather, he has written a story penned for his family that begs to be shared in a larger audience.

Throughout the reading of BLESSED, I experienced something that doesn't often happen - that is of "hearing" the author speak. Throughout each page, each era, each memory, running through my inner mind was the voice of a man who has lived life to the fullest and recognized the lessons we are meant to learn.

Saunders decided to write some memories for his family when his eyesight began to fail in the early 1990's, and he introduces each chapter with a vignette into his day on the Iowa farm he still lives on today and grew up on for 95 years. Then, prompted by a memory, he begins a journey into the past that is rich with description.

Especially noteworthy is Saunders' honesty with human foibles. Accepting them, recognizing them, and working through them. The world as a whole can learn from this unique historical memoir that documents the wide and varied changes in technology, family values and world events over the past 95 years and more.

A unique portion of this special book is the numerous, well-preserved documents and photographs that illustrate the different events Saunders portrays in his written legacy.

If only all generations had such an engaging, forthright historian willing to share the history of our immigrant families I believe our country would find deeper value and meaning in our every day lives and recognize the importance of living life.

Though I was able to interview both of the Saunders by email, I regret not being able to meet Raymond Saunders in person. I would willingly sit at his feet for hours and listen to whatever tale he cared to share. A natural storyteller, Saunders has blessed America with this story, and I'm more than grateful to have had the honor to become engrossed in history made alive through the voice of an Iowa farmer.

Interview with Raymond M. Saunders and Craig M. Saunders, co-authors of Blessed, I'm So Damned Grateful

Raymond M. Saunders is now 95 years old, a retired Iowa farmer who still lives on the farm where he was born. He began writing this story in 1989 and completed it in 2003 with the assistance of his son Craig, shortly before completely losing his sight to glaucoma.

An amazing achievement in itself is Saunders' 70+ years of marriage to the same woman. He lists his greatest accomplishments as his four sons and his wife. One of those sons, Craig M. Saunders, M.D., helped his father complete the memoir after his father lost his sight. Craig now serves as the Chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Heart Hospital of New Jersey.

Dian: As a student of genealogy, I was thrilled to come across BLESSED. I've had the opportunity to read many memoir/family history books, but nothing quite like this. This book touched so many chords in me that I plan to keep it around for reference, inspiration and lessons to apply to life.

The book was released in November of 2004, and at that time, you were 94 years old. Now, at 95, how are you doing today?

R. Saunders: Doing fairly well, considering I broke my leg just before Christmas, I'm just so damned grateful I'm not a horse.

Dian: What projects are going on in your life today after the publication of the book?

R. Saunders: Mainly just visiting, talking and planning with family and friends. The book has put me back in touch with a lot of friends I haven't heard from in some time. But also I need to ensure that anyone in our family who wants to follow in my footsteps on this land, can.

Dian: You have given your family a precious gift in this personal accounting of your family's history as observed through your eyes. For me, history came alive and I felt as if I could hear you speaking, sitting at the kitchen table over apple pie and iced tea. What did you enjoy the most about documenting your family history?

R. Saunders: Keeping them alive. Spanning the generations. Allowing my great grandchildren a glimpse into the lives of my great grandparents. It's important that we know of the lives, the work and the sacrifices others have endured to allow us the life we have today.

Dian: Many of your family's experiences have been both tragic and character building at the same time. Your mother was a woman of great foresight, and throughout the story, I was struck by the lessons you learned from her. What is one of your favorite memories of your mother?

R. Saunders: When I was young, I helped more in the kitchen than in the barn. My favorite memory would be getting up and helping mother cook or bake cookies but the most important fact was that she was always there with a helping hand. There was never a time I couldn't sit down and talk to her, she was always there, right up to that last afternoon.

Dian: If you could do anything differently in your life, looking back with hindsight, what would that thing be?

R. Saunders: I wish I had learned to dance. I wish I would have taken Trudy dancing . . . she would have liked that. I'll have to wait now and dance with her in heaven.

Dian: It's not often a person is able to live on the same piece of property their entire life, especially for over 90 years. The family property where you still reside has remained in your family for many years and it has taken on its own character throughout the book. Living that long in a certain location must ingrain in your character the rhythms of the seasons, the ebb and flow of the land, and it comes across in your story your respect for the land. What advice would you like to leave for future generations as they connect with the land of their ancestors?

R. Saunders: Look after it. Tend the waterways and the terraces, make the land better tomorrow than it was yesterday. Take care of the land and it will take care of you.

Dian: Now that the book has been published, are there any areas you would like to elaborate on; or that you have had a nagging reminder of "oh, I should have put that in?"

R. Saunders: I should have put in more recent items, though it is true our memories increase in value with age, we often fail to see the value and importance of our everyday lives.

Dian: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in your personal life, one that has been lived long and well and full of hard work and family ties?

R. Saunders: Woody Allen said 80% of life is just showing up. My greatest accomplishment has been greeting the sunrise every day for 94 years, even though I can't see it now, I look forward to it every day and through it all is my wife of 70 years and four boys. As my grandfather said of his sons, "I do not think the sun ever shown on four better ones - though it might have on one."

Dian: Though your dream to become a doctor was not fulfilled, please know that your words in this simple volume are expressions to be cherished and learned from, the words of a teacher made wise through experience. In your own unique way, you have, with this story, brings understanding to descendants of children of the Depression era, and that in itself is an indication of the healer heart within you.

Please feel free to leave us with a comment or two or three of life lessons learned that in your experience could make or break a man and woman and/or his family.

R. Saunders: That's a tough one and comes with lots of responsibility but perhaps one of the most important things to remember is just as the actions of our ancestors affected who and what we are today, so our actions today will shape all future generations. We all have that responsibility, daily, not just Presidents and educators but every single one of us. It is thus our challenge to face these tasks and to live our lives with as much grace and dignity as humanly possible.

Questions for Craig Saunders:

Craig Saunders, one of Raymond's four sons, did become a doctor, and he helped put together this volume of lasting value for future generations of the world.

Dian: What is the greatest lesson you have learned through your father's recounting of his life?

C. Saunders: Well, first, I think I have learned that I have become my father. I would take one of his thoughts, write a few pages and read it back to him. He'd slam his fist in his hand and say "Your damned right." and we would go on. I'm not sure I can tell anymore what he wrote and what I wrote but it doesn't make any difference, we pretty much agree.

I think, though, the greatest lesson is what he just said. Our actions today are creating the memories and affecting the lives of our children and grandchildren. It is an awesome responsibility.

Dian: What plans are in place for the continuance of Cumberland Farm II?

C. Saunders: My brother Doug has taken Dad's place on the farm - he has three sons of his own. We are working now to ensure the legacy can continue.

Dian: Do you have plans to continue this legacy with your own memoir, picking up where your father left off?

C. Saunders: Well, if I follow my father's pattern I have another 20 years before I have to make that decision.

Dian: What legacy do you wish to build to continue the Saunders' family saga?

C. Saunders: Family values.

Closing comments from interviewer:

Thank you for sharing your story with the world. What started out as a legacy set in writing for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren has become a rich tapestry of a life lived in hard work, good values and faith in God. The world certainly needs more books of this type and it's one I recommend to readers as a guide to understanding the value of family and raising children to become responsible adults. Through shared experience, we can all learn valuable life lessons if we absorb the gift you have left with the world.

In closing, I wish your first dance with Trudy is one of grace and joy and the culmination of a great romance.

Dian Moore, Reviewer

Frank's Bookshelf

The Secret Life Of The Soul
J. Keith Miller
Broadman & Holman Publisher,
Nashville, Tenn.
A division of Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
ISBN 1573223301; $14.00; 280 pp.

The Secret Life of the Soul is a journey of the author's personal struggles and insights into people's lives. As a renown Christian counselor whose life fell apart, He explores the unknown part of the human soul trapped by secret pain and shaming voices from the past, present and future.

As Author J. Keith Miller describes, we build "constructed personalities" to hide shaming voices. The Secret Life of the Soul is like a two-edge sword that cuts to the core of the mind, the will and the emotions to instigate recovery. The book is an astounding light of truth to those who live behind of curtain of shame and props in their soul. Miller takes you on a journey of Christmas past--in a Scrooge like story fashion--and exposes the past, present and future soul secrets of men so they can pursue success without baggage. He goes behind the prison bars of the heart to rescue the self-esteemless man from his personal and private pain. Miller words unfold a life like a napkin and cleans up the aftermath of emotional events that's gone wrong in a person's life and in a soulless world. This book is for every Christian leader and layperson who wants to be real with themselves so they can live by the lessons of God's guidance system and not their own. Miller forecasts the next act by going behind the drawn curtain of our hidden lives and battles the tough issues with written words and vulnerability. If you want light to shine on your dark situation and bring understanding about how to radiate on life's stage without soul secrets, read The Secret Life of the Soul. An epic that is sure to change your mindset, helps you focus on your God ordained purpose and lights a path to destiny without emotional masks.

Raising Fences: A Black Man's Love Story
Michael Datcher
The Berkley Publishing Group
A division of Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
ISBN 1573223301; $14.00; 280 pp.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Raising Fences is a gripping true story of one man's journey through life to find purpose only to get tangled in webs of sex, vices of life, narrowly escaping. It is a book of struggle with self identity and finding destiny as a man, in the skin of black, wondering who is my father.

Michael Datcher's book, Raising Fences is real to the core of a man's heat and soul! It's not a tall tale but a true poetic story of a black man's trek through youth to adulthood, but not on the Starship Enterprise. The only enterprise he explores is his personal life that began with a birth certificate that read, "Father's full name: Legally withheld." This gut-wrenching book leaves nothing to the imagination. As the author of False Roads To Manhood, I can identify with a story that's raw truth telling vulnerability. In a time when men hide pain, Datcher throws his life on the table like dice. There are some books that drag readers through the mud and leave them wondering how to clean off the mess left in their mind. But Raising Fences doesn't take you by the hand but snatches and grabs your heart from beginning to end. A story of an educated African-American man experiencing many rites of passage to manhood but ends up on the dead end more than once in relationships. The story is a search for a missing father and him leaning to father but missing in action at times. But discovers he's been had. If anyone says a black man cannot love, Datcher proves them wrong even in wrong choices while he deals with private pain.

Michael Datcher's book Raising Fences is a brutal and honest story. A story of a boy who grew up as a loved foster child only to discover he arrived in this world a product of rape and never knew his real father. The book is a tale of tornado twists and turns of a man's roller coaster love story. His storytelling style of looking back into the past and jumping forward is a writing style that pulls you into his journey as he struggles to define his manhood in the world of women, street wisdom and religious conversion. The American dream of a house with a white picket fence is what we dream about but Datcher's dream is a rocky journey of sex, drugs, religious experiences and entrapment into fatherhood.

He traveled many roads as an African-American searching for identity as a man through high school, college and graduate school. Datcher as a writer, poet and main character of the book, maps out detailed accounts of his failures and unmasks his struggles. While looking for examples of fatherhood and manhood in other men who could not find themselves, he fights to rise to become the man he thinks he should be while longing for a father. Raising Fences is a gritty, raw tale and a window into the life of man who lays open his life, like a surgeon opens a chest to prepare for heart surgery. If you read Raising Fences, prepare to enter a man's world of hurt, pain, anger, love, struggles and finally marriage at the end of his journey. CAUTION! An off-the-hook book with language to boot that will offend some. It also contains poetic words that touch the heart. I felt glued to the book like watching a nail biting movie.

A man who's on the edge of life can learn from this book. Datcher doesn't teach but reveals his deep intimate private thoughts, recounting his entrance and settlement with never finding his earthly father. As a journalist, he could do no better than to journal about his life in the trenches of Los Angeles and how he survived to become a spoken-word poet with no protective emotional armor to hide behind. Datcher does exit the False Roads To Manhood in the end, but never reveals his spiritual conclusion, the other half of us all as sons of the Heavenly Father we desperately need.

Frank Chase, Jr.

Gary's Bookshelf

Florida Conversations I, II, and III
Edgar John L'Heureux, Jr.
Sabal Palm Press
P.O. Box 756, Goldenrod, Florida 32733
407 696-7222
No ISBN $14.95

This is a three-volume set of writings by an author who has constantly amazed me with his range from writing short story collections to novels and now collections that are not really poetry nor prose but more a delightful combination genre that should be called poerose. What I also liked very much are the observations of Old Florida before Disney began it famous theme parks in Orlando that changed the entire state.

Anne Coulter
Three Rivers Press
1745 Broadway, New York, NY10019
ISBN 1400050324 $14.95

I found that Coulter writes page after page with no other function than to clobber liberals. Coulter has every right to write what she has, and I have the choice to agree or disagree with her because that is what makes this country so great. I wish liberals and conservatives would quit bashing each other and tackle the problems of this country. I say this because there are good ideas from both groups but each is too busy picking apart each other. My biggest problem with TREASON is that she also likes to talk over her readers' heads by using big words or catchy ones. I see a parallel to the 1968 campaign of Eugene McCarthy when he ran for president of the United States. He talked so far above his audience that he lost many perspective voters.

Baby Step thru Computing for Seniors
Char Wood the Computer Granny
2028 Pine Tree Drive, Edgewater FL 32141 386-424-6788
ISBN 0971961352 $19.95

When I first looked at this book I was reminded of what the book series for Dummies is supposed to do; in each volume, make it easier to understand whatever the subject matter. Instead you feel very stupid because you can't grasp anything they say. I'm glad to announce that simply is not the case here. Char Wood makes it clear that no one will feel dumb and anyone can learn how to use the computer when they follow her hands on approach that is really the best way for anyone to learn to use a computer. She teaches terms like software, hardware, mouse, right and left clicking. I also like that she is not talking down to her readers. She is stating her information simply and concisely. I think the biggest reason so many seniors have not learned about computers is because they feel there is something to fear and that computers are so monumental. This book can put to rest anyone's panic of computers.

The Rubber Band Wars
Angela A. Pitenis
Xlibris Corporation 1-888-795-4274
ISBN 1413446647 $31.88

I'm simply amazed at the differences in cost for this book all over the Internet I guess, because I've never seen such a wide range of prices. I feel readers can look and find a better one than the one listed by the publisher. That said, I must also say that this YA title really impressed me. Here's how. It's a well thought out scenario of a war on the playground that happens with middle school kids as the combatants. The characters are well defined, with crisp writing that zips along to the final page. But most of all it is written by a 15 year old. Pitenis writes better than many adult writers works I've encountered through the years. I would love to see what she does with her next book.

Voices in St. Augustine
Jane R. Wood
Bluefish Bay Publishing Inc
1093 A1A Beach Blvd Suite 148, St. Augustine, Fl 32080 904-471-3142
ISBN 0970726767 $6.99

Joey Johnson hears voices but has no clue who they belong to and why he's the only person to hear them. What I liked about this novel in which Joey's quest takes him to St. Augustine, is that all of the characters here are believable. Joey has a brother he sometimes doesn't get along with, he meets a girl he really likes and his mother is always there for her children. But also this is a book for anyone who wants to know more about the country's oldest city. The author has written a story that moves quickly and has a very nice ending that should lead to a series of novels about these characters.

The Deadly Season
S.W. Stoddard
P.O. Box 250792, Holly Hill, Fl 32125 386-257-9554
ISBN 1591130824 $12.95

From the first page this is a novel that just gets stranger and stranger until its' shattering climax. Fifteen-year-old Tommy Bartlett is a kid who has a warped view of the world. After reading a newspaper story he forms a plan that gets more and more bizarre throughout the novel. He is going to kill someone the same way as the story he read. Matters aren't helped any by the fact his mother is a lesbian, and a male he trusts has sex with him. Those two aspects of the story help tip him over the edge to carrying out his vicious act of murder.

Tax Sale Tactics
Kathleen Walls
Global Authors Publications
ISBN 0976644924 $8.99

This is a great resource for anyone who wants to know all the ins and outs of tax sales. I personally have very little interest because mathematical matters have never been of interest to me, but for anyone who wants to pick up a home or property this is a great learning tool. The writing I found to be easy enough to follow, and the author talks in simple terms even someone like me can grasp.

Mortal Eclipse
David Brookover
Outskirts Press
ISBN 1932672117 $15.95

FBI agent Nick Bellamy tragically is changed when his wife is viciously murdered. From then on Bellamy seeks vengeance. He finds, though, he is involved in something bigger than just tracking down his wife's murderer. The story races along with characters that are believable while the wiring is tense, like reading a Stephen King or Dean Koontz.

Donald E. Westlake
Hard Case Crime
Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc.
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
ISBN 0843953578 $6.99

For a long time this novel has been out of print. Now for the first time it will attract many new readers as well as those of us who never got the chance to read this great early novel by one of the best in the business. This is a straight mystery not in the genre of his comic capers that he is best know for. I like the characters and the hard detective style writing of a service man who returns from duty only to find his father has been murdered. He now makes it his mission to find out all the details and bring the person to justice.

Stonewall Jackson's Surgeon Hunter Holmes Mcguire a Biography
Maurice F. Shaw
H.E. Howard. Inc
ISBN 1561900478 $25.00

I stumbled onto this very interesting biography and felt more people should know about Hunter Holmes McGuire and his effect on our society. Author Shaw shows the relationship of Stonewall Jackson, a very famous general in the Confederate Army, and his physician McGuire at the beginning of the book. "Strange parallels and contrasts can be noted between Jackson and McGuire. One was a professional soldier whose fame rested upon his success as a destroyer, the other as a physician who devoted his life to healing. One was an austere Presbyterian deacon who practiced his religion fervently. The other was a lifelong Episcopalian who enjoyed the good things of life and the advantages that his aristocratic background made possible. Despite these differences, they had many traits in common. Both were devoutly moral and possessed great leadership abilities. They shared a deep affection for Virginia and the deep sense of kinship so common in the South. They were men of ambition with abundant talent in their chosen fields. They were both young; Jackson was 37 at the outbreak of the war, while McGuire was 25 when he entered the Confederate Army." Shaw's biography tells that McGuire was much more than just a doctor of the Confederate Army. Hunter Holmes McGuire was one of the first doctors in the country to believe doctors need to treat all patients regardless of color or ability to pay. He used newer techniques he learned on the battlefields for operations. He believed the South should have a college to educate doctors in Richmond as well as a hospital to take care of sick patients. He also believed in many of the practices used in Europe that were very controversial in this country. Later as president of the AMA he changed the way of qualifying doctors. "One more important event occurred in the life of Hunter McGuire as he marked his 57th birthday on October 11, 1892. He was presented with a proposal for the founding of a new medical school Shortly after the opening of the new school its name was changed to the College of Physicians and Surgeons and it was as president of the newly named facility that Hunter McGuire, in May 1893, proposed that $150,000 of public funds be used to create a charity hospital for the indigent and the blacks. As president of the American Medical Association, a position he assumed at the organization's annual meeting in Milwaukee in May 1893, Dr. McGuire proposed a revision in the A.M.A. constitution and code, the formation of medical examining boards to help in the licensing of qualified doctors and the creation of a National Board of Health."McGuire was a physician who was way ahead of his time. Much of what he wanted in the medical field was instigated while other ideas of his today are debated but not instigated because they appear to be too radical. Maurice Shaw has done a very fine job of showing that even though the Civil War was one of the darkest periods of America's history, there was much good that came of it as well, in Doctor Hunter Holmes McGuire.

Guns of the Palmetto Plains
Rick Tonyan
Pineapple Press Inc
P. O. Box 3889, Sarasota, Florida 34230 1-800-746-3275
ISBN 1561640700 $9.95

This is a colorful historical Cracker western that depicts a Florida that could have been a key element to change the course of the United States. The War Between the States one of the darkest periods of the country's history is in its last few months. The desperate South is so strapped that it cannot even feed and clothe its armies. In a last stab effort the Confederacy turns to Florida, which is rich in food resources to help keep its cause alive.
Saving the Confederacy from total starvation depends on a man named Tree Hooker who must travel to the state, find cattle and herd them to the waiting hungry troops. Tree's mission is complicated by a Union officer named Major Dan Greenly who is determined to stop Hooker any way he can. Along the trail are quicksand and reptile infested swamps and waters, outlaws who have no allegiance to either side, and others who do not want to get involved at all. This is summed up very well by one of the cowboys who says" For all I care, Yankees n Rebels can go on killin' each other from now till the end of time. Just as long as they leave me alone to hunt cattle" Tonyan, like John Jakes did with the American series of novels, brings history alive and makes it interesting to learn while at the same time he tells a very good story with very well fleshed out characters. GUNS OF THE PALMETTO PLAINS is a big sprawling novel that is a great addition for the series called Cracker Westerns from Pineapple Press.

Gary Roen

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Darkness and Dawn Omnibus
George Allan England
Renaissance E Books
P.O. Box 1432, Northampton, MA 01060
ISBN: 1588732967 $4.99 520 pages

Disclosure: I have 5 novels published through Renaissance

England is a Nineteenth Century man writing at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Born in 1877, he had all of the social and cultural baggage of the age. The period also experienced a great burst of scientific discovery pushing aside many of the superstitions of the past. England called his own work pseudo-scientific and was proud of the freedom and expanse the new genre permitted his writing. Today's readers will be surprised at the modern feel of much of the plot. They will also be surprised at how much racism and superstitious thought were still evident in 1912.

Secretary Beatrice Kendrick and engineer Allan Stern wake from a hibernatic sleep thousands of years into the future. They have survived the chemically induced hibernation because of the isolated location of the office they were in near the top of a New York skyscraper. A catastrophe has changed the physical world killing most of its inhabitants. Evolutionary changes have populated the changed world with both familiar and new creatures. Beatrice and Allan have to find within themselves the strength and the creativity to rebuild the world around them into a better place, correcting both the mistakes of the past and the chaos of the future.

The world of 'Darkness and Dawn' is a mixture of the fantasy realms of Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and other writers of the period. It is a world of heroic characters and vicious super antagonists that are both human and non-human. If you can get past the racism to the story beneath, you are transported into the basics of the writing that became the genres of today. The idyllic prose is a little stiff but the imagination carries you beyond the facts you know are wrong and into the story. I recommend 'The Darkness and Dawn Omnibus: The Last New Yorkers, Beyond the Great Oblivion, and The Afterglow' to anyone interested in the development of the genre storytelling of today. It is a great but dated story. The century of time that has passed, since the penning of the first pages of the 'Omnibus' to now, is a little too much for the average reader today.

The Airlords of Han, Buck Rogers #2
Philip Francis Nowlan
Renaissance E Books
P.O. Box 1432, Northampton, MA 01060
ISBN B0000AHEJU $4.00 80 pages

Disclosure: I have 5 novels published through Renaissance

It is easy, during the passage of time, for people to forget. Clancy is considered the originator of the techno-military genre but Nowlan did it first with 'Buck Rogers.' Nowlan's accurate scientific predictions and solid military action adventure stories exploded into the writing scene at the time graphic tales and movies needed new subjects. Nowlan's shift to graphic stories and screenplays left only two written 'Buck Rogers' stories. The stories are a sound base to expand on but they have a feel of being unfinished.

In 'The Airlords of Han' the story started in the first 'Buck Rogers' novella continues. The tale tells how the American survivors of the Han invasion rise up in a second War of Independence. Buck Rogers, a man from the Twentieth Century, helps the war with military knowledge lost in the five hundred years that past while he was in suspended animation. The Han controlled the sky with their powerful floating cities, disintegrator and repeller ray equipped airships, and communication technology. The new Twenty-fifth Century American technology and the fighting methods brought by Rogers wrestle control of the air from the Han but the fighting has just begun as the Han launch counter strikes at the Americans.

'The Airlords of Han' has even more technical and detailed information passages than the original story. This distracts from the narration but adds a richness of speculation that is frequently lost in modern writing styles. It also corrects some weaknesses found in the first tale. The story brings a greater understanding of the later writing that borrows from 'Buck Rogers.' Even with the passage of 75 years, there is a freshness and spark to the dated storytelling. T'he Airlords of Han' is a must read for those interested in the roots of modern genre writing and is just plain fun for everyone else.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Bodmin, 1349
Roberta Kalechofsky
Micah Publications
255 Humphrey Street, Marblehead, MA 01945-1645
0916288242 $18.00

Bodmin, 1349: An Epic Novel of Christians and Jews in the Plague Years is a work of historical fiction, set during the Middle Ages when the "Black Death" ravaged Europe. A peasant from York and his wife, who is rumored to be a Jewish "leftover" from the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290, struggle to survive in a world seemingly driven mad, decimated by a virulent pestilance so severely and lethally contagious that disposal of the dead risks the spread of death. Entrenched heavily with accurate details and documented data of daily life in the 1300's, and society's struggle to adapt the plague, as well as a powerful interplay between Christian and Jewish religious heritage reflected in the private rift between husband and wife, Bodmin, 1349 is an unparalleled epic work.

Aharon Golub & Bennett W. Golub
Devora Publishing
c/o Pitspopany Press
40 East 78th Street, Suite 16D, New York, NY 10021
1932687475 $21.95 1-800-232-2931

In Kaddishel: A Life Reborn, Bennett Golub documents the personal history of his father, Aharon Golub. Bennett's purpose in doing so was to achieve a better understanding of himself and to preserve his father's experiences for the benefit of future generations. In the process, the reader is provided a first-hand account of three major historical aspects of Jewish life in the 20th Century: traditional Jewish life in a Polish town; the horrors of the Nazis occupation and holocaust; and the formation of the state of Israel. Kaddishel: A Life Reborn reveals Aharon's inner strength that even after witnessing the death of his family members, his resolve was not to rage or hate, but rather the formation of a deep conviction that the Jewish people needed their own homeland and the power to protect themselves anywhere in the world if they were to survive anti-Semitism. Aharon's personal journey eventual led him to America where he raised his own family and has his own "Kaddishel" to live on and help him tell his story. Kaddishel is a welcome and recommended contribution to the growing library of holocaust survivor memoirs and biographies.

God Has No Religion
Frances Sheridan Goulart
Sorin Books
PO Box 1006, Notre Dame, IN 46556-1006
1893732746 $14.95 1-800-282-1865

God Has No Religion: Blending Traditions for Prayer is a collection of prayers from diverse religious sources, from Mother Teresa to the Holy Qur'an to Gandhi, Native American traditions, and more. Each individual prayer is represented with options for when it is most applicable, suggested non-theistic versions, recommendations for focus, reflection, and closing, and a great deal more. An introduction offers a brief overview of prayer practices across various faiths, and the "prayerware" such as the Catholic rosary that go along with them. A deeply spiritual book written for individuals of all beliefs, written in the passionate conviction that the meaning and spirit of the prayer itself and the sincerity behind the sentiment uttered is what truly matters far more than the denomination to which the original prayer is attributed.

Able Greenspan

Harwood's Bookshelf

Sweet Jesus: Volume Two
A. J. Mattill, Jr.
Flatwoods Free Press
750 Lum Fife Road, Gordo, AL 35466-3357
no ISBN, spiral bound, $7 postpaid 193 pp.

reprinted from Freethought Perspective, January 2005.

Sweet Jesus, volume two, is a compilation of 61 articles about the Christian junior god reprinted from American Rationalist, Freethought Perspective and elsewhere. The articles make no attempt to evaluate the plausibility of the basic Jesus myth, or ascertain what may have really happened. Rather, Dr Mattill acknowledges that he starts from the assumption, "that the four Gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John do give us an accurate account of his words and deeds." (p. 4) In other words Mattill intentionally ignores the Jesus of history in order to demonstrate that the Jesus of the gospels is, to put it mildly, not a nice man. The advantage of using such an approach is that it shows that Jesus' official biographies do a far more effective hatchet job on their hero than any nontheist could accomplish in a hundred volumes.

Mattill quotes Mark 14:35-36, in which Jesus addresses his god as "Abba," an intimate Aramaic form of address approximating to the English, "Daddy." He extrapolates (p. 5), "For Jesus, then, and for traditional believers ever since, God is a personal, supernatural, supreme, conscious thinking being, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, an 'Abba' who hears and answers prayers." That being so, he then asks (p. 6), "Would an almighty Abba create half of all known species as parasites living on the other half?" In my view, half of all humans (religion-peddlers, talk therapists, pseudo-medicine pushers, salesmen, lobbyists, entertainment media people who promote fairy tale concepts as nonfiction because that is what sells, etc. etc.) are parasites living on the other half. But that is not a point Mattill raises.

The fourth gospel, (although Mattill does not mention that only the fourth gospel does so), in several places puts into Jesus' mouth a claim to be a pre-existing entity who was his god's equal partner. Mattill points out (p. 8), "Jesus' claim to pre-existence has led some of Jesus' critics to doubt his mental health." He adds (p. 9), "But his astonishing assertion that he was one with God, the great 'I am' (Exodus 3:14), is absurd, arrogant and unfounded. It's the claim of an egomaniac and megalomaniac." He adds (p. 18), "In my opinion, Jesus' claim to be one with God (John 10:30), plus numerous other words and deeds attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, enable us to conclude He suffered from delusions of grandeur and simply overestimated himself."

In a chapter on predestination, "God calls all people to repent, but for some reason known only to himself God predestines only a few to be saved and predestines the rest to everlasting torture." The Jesus of the gospels believed such a doctrine. "Thus when Jesus says, 'Many are called, but few are chosen,' he is teaching the harsh but logical doctrine of double predestination: God foresees and causes both the saved to be saved and the lost to be lost." (p. 14). "In sum, predestination is a despicable doctrine, if ever there was one. Yet Jesus endorsed it, lock, stock and barrel." (p. 146)

"It almost goes without saying that Jesus believed all of the Psalms were inspired writings, for he quoted them more than any other Old Testament book. Since Jesus, then, believed that God had inspired all of the Psalms, it follows that Jesus endorsed all of the unacceptable ideas in the Psalms, including the perfect hatred and heartless vindictiveness of the 'imprecatory' or 'cursing Psalms.'" (p. 20) "Needless to say, anyone who approves of these revolting sentiments is no saint. Such violent language makes sensitive people cringe." (p. 21)

Mattill cites some of the psalms that Jesus viewed as divinely inspired, psalms that applauded atrocities worthy of Hitler. "Think of it! God's mercy is proved by his slaughter of millions of people (at least 21,000,000, according to Exodus 12:37; Deuteronomy 7:1-6). An incredible blood bath proves God's mercy! Does not Psalm 136 prove that God is a cold-blooded, ruthless monster? Yet Jesus said, 'Imitate God. Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.'" (p. 96)

According to Mattill (p. 69), "Jesus also believed he would rise from the dead." Let me reiterate that Mattill is writing about the Jesus of the gospels, who indeed believed he would rise from the dead. The Jesus of history believed he was incapable of dying until he had overthrown the Roman occupation and been crowned king of an independent Judea.

Both the biblical Jesus and the Jesus of history believed in a three-tiered universe, with the sky above, a flat earth in the middle, and Sheol underneath. "Modern astronomy has done away with Jesus' heaven located a few miles above a flat earth, a local heaven to which he would miraculously ascend. Jesus, however, could not ascend to a place that doesn't exist." (p. 69)

Dr Mattill does, however, venture into the field of history when he cites my contention that Jesus was executed for leading an anti-Roman revolution. He writes (p. 82), "Scholarship in general, however, has concluded that all attempts to interpret Jesus as a revolutionary are failures." Many competent scholars assert that no such person as Jesus ever lived. But those who conclude that there was a historical person onto whose biography the myths were posthumously grafted, but he was not a revolutionary, take upon themselves the onus of explaining why Jesus was executed by the Romans for a Jewish crime in which Rome was totally disinterested, by a method used only against insurrectionists and slaves, if he was neither.

On Jesus' alleged perfect knowledge of everything, "The Jesus of Matthew 16:19; 18:18, and John 20:23, far from being infallible, erred in at least two ways: He accepted the biblical picture of a three-story universe, and he declared his disciples infallible. Hence Jesus himself was not inerrant. He was fallible like the rest of us!" (p. 73)

Referring to Jesus' authentication of the fable in Exodus in which Moses promised that, if someone bitten by a snake merely looked at a bronze caduceus, he would be cured, Mattill observes (p. 87), "Not only to rationalists but also to many modern believers the idea that looking at a magic bronze serpent will heal one of poisonous snake bites is pure superstition." He does not cite any cases of modern cultists who accepted the biblical fairy tales as literal truth, handled poisonous snakes, and were fatally bitten, presumably because most believers are aware of such incidents and dismiss them as the behavior of fruitcake cultists - as indeed they are. But what makes such cultists fruitcakes is that they behave as if their bible was nonfiction.

Mattill's chapter, "Worms and Fire: A Double Whammy," (pp. 186-189) pulls the rug out from under rationalizers who simultaneously maintain, (1) the eternal torture of hell is an obscene fantasy that cannot and does not exist in a universe produced and directed by an omnipotent, omnibenevolent god, (2) every word spoken by Jesus is inerrant truth, and (3) every word attributed to Jesus in the gospels was really spoken by him.

The historical Jesus, like the biblical Jesus, did preach the sadistic Hell doctrine that can only be described as a sadist's dream. It is adapted from the theology of the Essenes, and Jesus was raised as an Essene. But whereas the Essene/Pharisee Gehenna (hell/sheol/purgatory) was an execution chamber where heretics and infidels were permanently unpersoned by flamethrowers, in Jesus' hell the torture continued for billions and billions of years. Did Jesus realize that he was inventing the most repulsive obscenity ever to emerge from a diseased mind, or did he think he was merely repeating doctrines he had imbibed with his mother's milk? The answer is irrelevant. Anybody, whether Jesus or a modern fundamentalist, who can believe that an omnipotent god would torture its imagined enemies with flamethrowers for billions of years, but is nonetheless a nice guy, belongs in a cage for the criminally insane.

Common Sense Versus The Bible
Dave Matson
Oak Hill Free Press
PO Box 61274, Pasadena, CA 91116
no ISBN, spiral bound, $8.90 89 pp.

reprinted from Freethought Perspective, April 2005.

"What should I offer in place of the Bible? That seems to be a favorite question directed toward us skeptics. One might just as well ask, 'What might medical science offer us in place of smallpox?' Is it not enough to sweep the lie from truth's path? Do we really want to replace one crutch with another? Perhaps this is a good time to learn how to walk." (p. iv)

After that opening, Matson goes on to demonstrate that the Bible is a poorly designed paean to evil. For example, "What we find in the Bible are endless pages devoted to senseless slaughter. Common sense tells us that God could not write or direct such a work. You or I, let alone God, could have easily put that space to better use." (p. 1)

Furthermore, "The Old Testament is afloat in the savagery and cruelty of its primitive god. Many Christians would dearly love to jettison the whole Testament. Take Noah's Flood, for instance. Children, babies, pets, and the innocent creatures of nature's realm fall victim to this kill-crazy god who wipes them out without a hint of mercy." (pp. 1-2)

In the section, "A Supernatural War Criminal," Matson catalogues how the Israelites obtained their land by invasion, genocide, and the mass rape of captured virgins (non-virgins, being incapable of producing legitimate offspring, were simply butchered). He summarizes, "By modern standards of morality, the above activities constitute war crimes of the first order." (p. 6)

But the biblical god was an equal opportunity terrorist. "God could be equally brutal to his own people whenever his temper flared, as it often did." (p. 8) "God kills 70,000 Israelites because David took a census that God had ordered him to take. I guess it's 'damned if you do' and 'damned if you don't.'" (p. 13)

On the subject of the Christian Hell, Matson writes, "Between the pages of the Old and New Testaments this god creates a torture chamber of magic fire that neither burns out nor consumes its victims, the place known as hell. He does this knowing that a large percentage of humanity will wind up there and suffer for an eternity. Is this not a description of a fiendish monster, a devil?" (p. 19) So "God" conforms to every reasonable definition of a devil. But any sane person who has actually read a bible knows that already.

On slavery: "What a shock it is to learn that God does not oppose slavery. We look in vain for those bold, uncompromising words, 'Thou shalt not enslave.' ... The answer is profoundly simple; the Bible was written by men who lived in a slave-owning age, not by a deity with a clear sense of right and wrong." (p. 23)

"Yahweh is a god who is deeply obsessed with foreskins. The Egyptians were way ahead of God. Many of them were doing the foreskin thing as far back as 4000 BC, but that didn't improve their standing with God. The obsession God has with circumcision is entirely beneath the dignity of an infinite being, but not unlike the views of primitive societies." (pp. 29-30) So God is an evolutionary throwback. So what else is new?

"The Bible has 'manmade' written all over it. One of the obvious giveaways is Yahweh's fixation on one little tribe. That is to say, Yahweh acts no differently than Baal or Dagon or any of the other chief tribal gods in the neighborhood." (p. 31) He might have continued, "or Bush, or bin Laden, or Sharon, or Wojtyla," each of whom, while not claiming to be a god, perpetrates similar atrocities in the conviction that he is obeying a god.

"A sure reason for rejecting the Bible as 'God's inerrant word' is on account of the silly laws it contains, laws that God supposedly made for his people. Silly laws are one of the clearest signs of a manmade work." (p. 33) The laws Yahweh allegedly made for testing a wife's fidelity, or for dealing with leprosy, make "silly" seem too polite. A god who could endorse such nonsense would have to be as scientifically illiterate and ignorant as the Scientologists.

Under, "Does God Need Praise and Glory?" Matson writes, "Human rulers have a need for glory. It's also easier to rule if you convince the masses that you have God behind you. But what need has God for glory? A similar situation holds true for endless praise. The god of the Bible sucks up praise like a vacuum cleaner sucking up dirt." (p. 39) If one was asked to name a public figure who sucks up praise like a vacuum cleaner, and unleashes his paranoia against anyone who refuses to kiss his butt, the first name that might come to mind is George W. Bush. Is such narcissistic egoism a positive quality? If the answer in Bush's case is No, mustn't the answer in God's case also be No?

Matson devotes eight pages to "An Ocean of Contradictions." After spelling out the lengths to which biblical literalists go to rationalize away what they call "apparent contradictions," he observes, "Under such rules, one could defend the existence of Santa Claus and flying reindeer." (pp. 41-42)

On the scientific illiteracy of biblical authors, Matson writes, "Many educated people reject the Bible because of its total ignorance of science, ignorance to the point of making horrendous blunders that can have no place in a book by God." (p. 49) Specifically, "The story of Noah's ark is not only scientifically absurd, but it makes God look like an idiot. Thus you have two very good reasons for rejecting that biblical account." (p. 63) He might have added that, since the authors who passed off "Noah's ark" as nonfiction were themselves idiots, it should come as no surprise that they modeled their god on what they saw in the mirror.

Then there are the Bible's innumerable unfulfilled prophecies. "A failed prophecy is one of the surest signs of a manmade Bible, for God's prophecy cannot fail. What greater failure can we find than Jesus' central prediction that the world would come to an end in the first century?" (p. 68) In summary, "The working brain can only conclude that the Bible is a manmade product, given that its central prophecy by Jesus was dead wrong." (p. 75)

On the last page, Matson points out that, "The Bible denigrates women, indulges in obscenities of no particular value, and is centered around the disgusting idea of sacrifices. Did God really get a kick out of smelling burning animals, plants, and, on occasion, children? The Bible seems to think so." (p. 84) In short, the Bible touts a moral philosophy of which Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden and the Marquis de Sade would have been proud. Can any person with a functioning human brain believe that a god inspired such obscenity? To put it another way, can anyone who sees such a god as admirable be any less evil and insane than the god whose own official biography portrays it as the epitome of absolute evil?

More than a century of historians have annihilated the bible by textual analysis. But expertise in documentary criticism is not really necessary. Anyone who reads a Bible with his brain in ON can demolish it by utilizing nothing more than Common Sense.

Roma Eterna
Robert Silverberg
10 East 53rd St, NY 10022
ISBN 0380978598, $25.95 310 pp.

Imagine that the Roman Empire never fell, that it ruled the world from the time of the Caesars until the twentieth century and beyond. Imagine that the Hebrews were an obscure linguistic group in Egypt who invaded Palestine over 3,000 years ago in an attempt to create an independent theocratic state, and failed, with the consequence that the Christian religion was never invented. Imagine that a minor official of the Empire was posted to Mecca in punishment for annoying the Emperor, met Mohammed, recognized him as a potential threat to the stability of the Empire, and had him assassinated before his cult could expand beyond his own family. Imagine that the Reign of Terror occurred not in Paris but in Rome, and involved Consuls of Rome whose Latin names did nothing to diminish their resemblance to Robespierre and Napoleon.

Imagine that, despite centuries of reprisals triggered by their refusal to believe in the gods the Empire believed in and their intolerant dismissal of their surrounding neighbors as heretics and infidels, twenty thousand Hebrews survived in Egypt until the twentieth century as an exclusionist clique that made Basques and Quebec separatists look like moderates. Imagine that, accepting the priestly fable of an ancient failed "Exodus" as an event from history, they undertook a new Exodus - to a distant planet where they could establish the absolute theocracy that had proven unattainable on Earth. And imagine that the Messiah of the new Exodus, like a prototype of 2,000 years earlier, found that things did not go exactly as he had planned, and instead of freeing his people became a figurehead martyr in whose name a whole new cult would evolve.

Then turn all of those imaginings into a historical novel containing none of the science fiction usually associated with the author, beyond the fact that "alternate reality" is science fiction by definition. And if you happen to be Robert Silverberg, winner of more science fiction awards than any other author, the result will be a novel of which S.F.'s Big Three would have been proud. With Asimov and Heinlein dead, and Clarke apparently retired from the genre (except as a collaborator), Silverberg is the remaining Giant.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

The Habit of Fire - Poems Selected and New
Judith McCombs
PO Box 42164, Washington, D.C. 20015
ISBN 0915380579 $10.00 104 pp.

The quietness and inwardness of the poems are not resigned acceptance of the course of nature and situation of human life, but rather are a mode of openness to all of the potential and awareness of the limitations of these. In "The Trees in the Peaceable Meadow," trees "founded more surely than any creature" take the "steady rumble of water sliding" and the "original faults" with equanimity, though not indifference. McCombs is the daughter of a geodetic surveyor who grew up in nearly all the 50 states. Her poems on incidents, experiences, memories, and blood relatives and total strangers have the tones of familiarity, curiosity, and occasionally wonder.

Book Marketing from A-Z
Francine Silverman
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven St. - Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713 877-BUY-BOOK
ISBN 0741424312 $18.95 400+ii pp.

There are other books on devising an effective marketing plan. One goes to this book for its abundance of tips from writers at all levels of accomplishment and in all fields. The advice related a short paragraphs, many containing a vignette, is divided into chapters on the major areas of marketing and book marketing tools--e. g., book signings, book covers, contests, Internet, organizations, media, press kits, speaking engagements. Any writer will surely find any number of helpful tips in this commendable supplement to the related texts of devising a market strategy. As this book verifies, there is always some marketing that can be done for a book no matter what kind it is or when it was published.

Autobiodiversity - True Stories from ZYZZYVA
edited by Howard Junker
Heyday Books
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709;
ISBN 1597140074 $14.95 272 pp.

The 27 true-life, memoir-styled stories delight again and again. Noted editor Junker of his acclaimed literary periodical ZYZZYVA has no agenda other than fresh, high-quality writing. As the title of the anthology of selections from the periodical connotes, the pieces reflect the contemporary multicultural society, especially its West Coast diversity. A number of the writers are from different ethnic backgrounds, a number are women, a number combine the two. In the pages, one finds creative nonfiction at its best--mostly plainly honest (this is what makes for the freshness), though sometimes teasingly elliptic, colorful, amusing, comprehensible, enlivening.

Freaks & Fire - The Underground Reinvention of Circus
J. Dee Hill
photography by Phil Hollenbeck
Soft Skull Press
71 Bond St., Brooklyn, NY 11217
1932360522 $24.95 176+xvi pp.

J. Dee Hill is a former bureau chief of Adweek writing about "radical" or "alternative" circus. This is not your familiar Ringling Brothers Circus, meant mainly to drawn families and entertain and awe children. This radical circus cannot even be compared to a typical, traditional circus. Think the most outrageous performance art you even saw--and then some. The side show has taken center stage. Although some of the costumes and performances resemble the Mardi Gras carnival festivities of Rio de Janiero. Zamora the Torture King, Brothers Grim Sideshows, and Bindlestiff Family Circus are the names of some of the troupes. Hill takes these and a few others one by one with accompanying photos by Hollenbeck to demonstrate the exotic make-up and dress and the startling acts. The book doesn't play up the sensationalistic, sometimes macabre, occasionally repulsive aspects of such circuses--this is evident enough without any emphasis by the author. The book has a sociological and cultural vein too, with performers telling their interesting stories of what drew them to this field of contemporary entertainment and how they got into it.

The Royal Tombs of Great Britain - An Illustrated History
Aidan Dodson
Duckworth, London;
dist. in U.S. by International Publishers Marketing
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, VA 20166 1-800-758-3756
ISBN 0715633104 $45.00 248+viii pp.

Surprisingly considering England's attachment to the monarchy, there has been no comprehensive guide to the royal tombs--until this one. Dodson locates all of the known tombs of Britain and Scotland's long line of kings and queens of the varied kingdoms before they were united into the one United Kingdom and after they were when there was a single line of monarchs. With this, he gives notes on the historical background of each monarch, including his or her burial, and on "post-internment history," which sometimes includes movement of the body to another resting place. Surveying the lives and burials of the numerous monarchs, "Royal Tombs..." can also serve as a guidebook to the burial places. There's just enough material for the historian looking for basic information and for the curious tourist. A teaching fellow in archaeology and anthropology at the U. of Bristol, Dodson has written previous books on the pyramids and royal families of Egypt.

Modern Fishing Collectibles - Volume I, Identification and Guide
Russell E. Lewis
Collector Books
PO Box 3009, Paducah, KY 42002-3009
ISBN 157432277X $24.95 287 pp.

The great variety of fishing lures with the differences in their bright markings and sizes can be disarming to even experienced collectors. With his 20 years experience as a collector, Lewis makes sense of this area of collecting by classifying the lures by their makers, and with introductory essays on "Dating Techniques" and the "Modern Era." The chapters with the classifications are more than simple listings of numerous lures. Besides sharp color photos with annotations, these chapters also include information on the manufacture of the respective lures and details of them to look for. Advertising and promotional literature and displays are shown as aids in identifying different lures and understanding their design and features. A serious collector or dealer of lures could not find a better guide than this for what it does cover of this incredibly diverse and constantly changing field.

Gerhard Richter, Without Color
with essays by Julia Gelshorn, Elke Kania, Doris Krystof, and Reinhard Spieler
Hatje Cantz Verlag
Stuttgart, Germany;
ISBN 3775715835 $40.00 102 pp. English/German text, color photographs.

While Richter's art works without color may not have received the attention as his other works, they make up about one third of this major contemporary artist's work. "The absence of color has become a leitmotif" of Richter's career of more than 40 years. The works without color are more than a contrast, like a shadow, alluding to primary works. For Richter, colorlessness has its own status and value. Richter remarks, "Gray is the welcome and only possible equivalence for indifference, non-commitment, absence of opinion, absence of shape." About 40 works of different shapes, sizes, and mediums in various shades of light and dark from a smoke-like gray to a dense, pitch, black with occasional flecks or limited hues of color illustrate Richter's regard of gray. One cannot understand Richter's place as one of the foremost contemporary artists nor his intents as an artist without taking into account this "motif" of his art based on this regard.

Jackson Pollock, No Limits, Just Edges - Malerei auf Papier
with essays by Susan Davidson, David Anfam, and Margaret Holben Ellis
Deutsche Guggenheim/Guggenheim Museum Publications, New York
Hatje Cantz Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany;
ISBN 3775715878 $40.00 142 pp.

The German subtitle translates "works on papers." The three essays in German discuss the tools, materials, and techniques Pollock used for his art works on paper. The third essay has photographs of pencils, felt-tip pens, and eye droppers this major modern artist used in creating such works. Seventy-eight are pictured in color one per page in chronological order in one gallery-like section of this larger, rectangular-shaped book. Pollock's works are familiar, and need no general commentary. The more-focused, particularly revealing artistic theme of the essays is Pollock's liberty with lines, or edges. As the numerous works on paper show, his progress in this technique and impulse gave him unprecedented freedom and novelty as an artist. One follows the expansion of Pollock's liberty with line and corresponding new dimensions of artistic freedom over the course of this time. Early, roughly representational works and others indicating the probable influence of Miro and de Kooning lead to the more complex, abstract art that is regarded as typifying Pollock. The chronological presentation and analytic essays (in German) allow one to gain a particularly revealing understanding of the artistic achievement of this groundbreaking modern artist. The work is the catalog for an exhibition of these works of Pollock's that was in Germany and is in New York until the Fall 2005.

The Contemporary African America Novel - Its Folk Roots and Modern Literary Branches
Bernard W. Bell
U. of Massachusetts Press
PO Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004;
ISBN 1558494723 $80.00 ISBN 1558494731 $24.95 490+xxviii pp.

Bell builds on his previous work "The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition"; whose content is alluded to in the subtitle for this work. Chapters two thru five of this book are revisions and summaries of parts of the previous work. What is new to this book are its introductory memoir "On Becoming an African American Scholar," its Introduction, chapters one and six thru eight, and the conclusion. A professor of English at Pennsylvania State U., Bell both expansively and acutely deals with the body of African American literature. His knowledge of this field is encyclopedic. While sharing in the common origin of the folk literature, African American literature nonetheless reflects broader literary movements such as neorealism, modernism, and postmodernism. Such authors have also had the outstanding talent and creativity to develop distinctive styles and voices. This voluminous, comprehensive study also ranges to what Bell terms "paraliterature," which might also be called popular literature. This includes pulp fiction, formulaic adventure stories, supernatural tales, romances, science fiction, mystery and crime, and gay literature. Bell does not force these greatly diversified genres ranging from the enduring literary works of Richard Wright and Toni Morrison to the science fiction of Ray Delany and the mysteries of Walter Mosby into a procrustean bed of the folk tale sources of all. Rather, his ingenious linking of them together while doing justice to their uniqueness creates a constellation of African American literature which is both a guide to it and inducement for exploration of it.

Mastery's End - Travel and Postwar American Poetry
Jeffrey Gray
U. of Georgia Press
330 Research Dr., Athens, GA 30602-4901;
ISBN 0820326631 $44.95 288+xiv pp.

Gray--associate professor of English at Seton Hall--suggests an "alternative model" to travel--away from its "unsavory roots" associated with hegemony related to Western imperialism, penetration, and pollution, to travel as divulging vulnerability, incoherence, disorientation, diminution even. Modern and postmodern poets with their exceptional openness, familiarity with the contingencies of identity, and cross-cultural recognition and status are especially attuned to how travel affects one's life and how the modern habit of travel symbolizes essentials of modern life. The poets capture in the words and images of their poems the new, disorienting, etc., qualities of travel. Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, John Ashbery, and Derek Walcott are looked to individually for what travel signifies in the postcolonial era. The Beat poets are treated as a group. Through Gray's original and revealing readings of poems concerning travel, one learns much about the state of postmodernity.

Trembling Earth - A Cultural History of the Okefenooke Swamp
Megan Kate Nelson
U. of Georgia Press
330 Research Dr., Athens, GA 30602-4901;
ISBN 0820326771 $34.95 262+xiii pp.

Nelson coins the word "ecolocalism" for her historical and multi-faceted study of the Okefenokee Swamp bordering Georgia and Florida--a place that has long held a fascination for the romance and mystique surrounding its wildness. The Okefenokee "provoked people to develop a constellation of competing ideas rooted in beliefs about land use and value and shot through with convictions about race, gender, and class distinctions. These ideas and beliefs determined a particular pattern of action that communities took within swamplands, and thus shaped local cultures." Thus, "ecolocalism" is the way certain communities develop in relation to a local natural environment. Particular communities--regional Native Americans, runaway slaves, developers, naturalists (e. g., birdwatchers), and indigenous white residents--are all related to the natural environment of the swamp, but in different ways. This makes for inevitable tensions, between plans for profit and traditions of local residents, for example, or between environmental sanctuary and tourist attraction. Neslon mostly writes about the tensions between such competing interests; the different activities pursued by different groups; and how competing interests were often accommodated. In the end, a vibrant, carefully-balanced, but always somewhat tentative culture has been "forged." For now, it manages to preserve the ecology and unique natural features of the Okefenokee while satisfying to some extent the varied interests of the several groups.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church - Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
United States Council of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth St. NE, Washington, DC 20017-1194
ISBN 1574556924 $24.95 446+xii pp.

The "concise but complete overview of the Church's social teaching" runs some 225 pages. The principles of the many facets of Catholic social work are specified "to sustain and foster the activity of Catholics in the social sector, especially the activity of the lay faithful." There's no guidance on the practicalities or pragmatics of realizing the principles; the "Compendium" is not a how-to. Parts of it are almost theological in tone, e. g., "God's Plan and the Mission of the Church." And other parts such as those dealing with the "way of love" or alluding to the "new heaven" and the "new earth" are visionary and inspirational. Half a dozen or more footnotes on every page point to historical or doctrinal bases for the principles; most of which are found in papal encyclicals. The family, peace, human rights, work, and politics are major sections. An "Analytical Index" of 150 pages takes one to any particular topic one is looking for. The format is each of the numerous social principles in italics followed by brief commentary in regular type. The "Compendium" is not only a comprehensive new edition gathering Catholic doctrine relating to social work. With recurring references to moral issues raised by advances in medicine, globalization, and other contemporary matters, it carries these principles into today's world and its central social developments.

The Last Miles - The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991
George Cole
U. of Michigan Press
839 Greene St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3209;
ISBN 0472115014 $35.00 534+xi pp.

Not a biography, "The Last Miles" rather concentrates on the music Miles Davis created and recorded in the last decade of his career as one of America's leading jazz musicians. Cole is interested especially in the sources of the music Davis produced in this last period of his prolific and influential career and how each piece was recorded. Such interests are related to Cole's writings as a journalist in the fields of music and technology. The author's keen interest in Davis's place in these fields extends to answering how Davis came up with the titles for each of his recordings. To answer this and other questions, Cole went to musicians who worked with Miles Davis and also the technicians who recorded his pieces. The business of promoting Davis's albums by Columbia and Warner is also covered. A singular look into the last stage of Davis's long, somewhat checkered career gained from varied sources; which at the same time gives a picture of the modern music business.

The History and Development of the Shan Scripts
Sai Kam Mong
Silkworm Books, Thailand;
dist. in U.S. by U. of Washington Press, Seattle, WA
ISBN 9749575504 bibliography $35.00 374+xv pp.

The Shan language is one of those which, like endangered animal species, is in danger of extinction. It is the language of a distinct ethnic group from the middle of Southeast Asia, roughly the northern part of Burma and neighboring part of China. But this group has been dispersed by the currents of history and encroachments of modernity. Mong is a specialist in the history of the Shan people and their language. He follows the development of the Shan language primarily through its manuscripts from the probable origins of the Shan alphabet to the present-day threats to its survival. The language mostly developed naturally, but at times its adherents had to devise strategies to keep it from fading away. Parts of the book are passages, sometimes fairly lengthy ones, in the Shan language, especially where the author analyzes changes in it during different stages of its development. But these passages can be glossed over by the large majority not knowing Shan to nonetheless still comprehend this book on this historically and culturally significant, yet now fragile Southeast Asian language.

Poets on Place - Interviews and Tales from the Road
W. T. Pfefferle, with a Foreword by David St. John
Utah State U. Press
7800 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-7800; 800-239-9974
ISBN 0874215978 $21.95 294+xvii pp.

Asking variations on the basic question of what role place has in the poetry of more than 45 contemporary America poets, Pfefferle elicits a rich and revealing variety of responses. Many of the responses angle into the explicit and implicit influences of the region a particular poet is from, such as Florida, the South in general, or New England. Some poets who have moved to one or more different places reflect on changes in impressions and attachments to place. Nikki Giovanni, Peter Cooley, Mark Strand, and Charles Wright are among the poets whose names will be recognized by many. There's snapshots of some of the poets, or a photo of a local scene. And many of the numerous poets supply a poem illustrating what they have to say about the role of place in their work.

Art of the Ancestors - Antique North America Indian Art
George Everett Shaw, with Steven C. Brown, Benson L. Lanford, and Bill Mercer
U. of New Mexico Press
MSC11 6290, 1 U. of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001 800-249-7737
ISBN 0934324336 $65.00 179 pp.

The 100 Native American artifacts are grouped according to the major geographical areas of the Plains and Eastern Woodlands; Northwest Coast and Western Alaska; and Southwest and California. Each section is introduced by an overview of the art and objects of the tribes in the broad areas. Collectors, dealers, and the like will appreciate the full-page color photos in this large-size (13" x 12") book capturing the details of the jars, masks, blankets, garments, masks, carved objects, kachina dolls, baskets, and other items. The art-book quality along with the exceptional color photos and the informative introductory essays make this an especially attractive and useful introduction or reference for Native American art and cultural objects.

Bird Songs of the Mesozoic - A Day Hiker's Guide to the Nearby Wild
David Brendan Hopes
Milkweed Editions
1011 Washington Ave. South - Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55415; 800-520-6455
ISBN 1571312773 $15.95 230 pp.

Besides professor of literature at the U. of North Carolina-Asheville, author Hope is also a painter, actor, poet, and theater director. He uses his senses, skills, and experiences in all of these in writings on nature. He doesn't go looking for nature by trekking into the wilderness or vacationing to exotic places, for instance. Rather he takes nature where he finds it in the rounds and occasional excursions of his ordinary life. As he has found, "nature finds us where we are." In addition to the fetching essays, Hopes wants to impart the lesson that nature is always at hand in some way; and can, and should be, recognized and appreciated on this basis accessible to anyone at any time.

No Ordinary Place: The Art of David Malangi
edited by Susan Jenkins, with contributions by Nigel Lendon, Djon Mundine, Margie West, and members of the Malangi family
National Gallery of Australia
dist. in U.S. by U. of Washington
Seattle, WA
ISBN 0642541795 $35.00 112 pp.

In the transition to public art, aboriginal art usually becomes stylized to some degree, and sometimes becomes plainly commercialized. The kachina dolls of Southwest American tribes are examples of this; as are the totems of African tribes. But Malangi's Australian aboriginal art has stayed away from this tendency. The reason for this is not only Malangi's deep attachment to the aboriginal art and the culture it grows out of, but also his use of natural pigments and other natural, traditional, materials. Most of his works shown are natural pigments on eucalyptus bark, with others natural pigments on wood, and a couple using feathers as well. The sinuous, complex shapes and vivid, intermixed colors for which Australian aboriginal art has gained worldwide notice are retained practically unaffected in Malangi's art. The many works included are known as recent--from the 1960s to the 1990s--from their lack of wear, but not from any stylization as an influence of or concession to public or commercial art. Introductory essays with photos in the margins give the physical and cultural, anthropological, sources of Malangi's art.

Along the Maysville Road - The Early American Republic in the Trans-Appalachian West
Craig Thompson Friend
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN
ISBN 1572333154 $42.00 378+xvii pp.

What came to be called the Maysville Road was a 65-mile stretch of dirt road from the Ohio River to the Kentucky Bluegrass region that had its beginnings as a buffalo trace. Starting in the 1770s, it carried Euroamerican settlers of all groups and classes to what was at the time America's western frontier. U. S. Highway 68 now follows part of the old Maysville Road; while other stretches have become parts of farms and woodlands. The Road not only played a key part in the beginnings of the United State's westward expansion, but it was also an early symbol of the freedom, opportunities, and new beginnings of the American dream. "More than a narrative of regional improvements and national political personalities...[the book] employs the biography of a a microhistory of social and cultural change in the Early American Republic." Friend's narrative history focuses on the main types of individuals, families, and groups migrating to the area along the road in different periods. The first pioneers gave way to gentry from Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states; who in turn gave way to businessmen and immigrants. The blending and compromising among the groups led eventually to the formation and "triumph" of the middle class. In 1830, Henry Clay proposed a Maysville Road Bill for bringing government-funded improvement to the area; but this was vetoed by President Andrew Jackson. Friend is an associate professor of history at the U. of Central Florida who has written other books on Kentucky and edits the "Florida Historical Quarterly."

Stomp and Sing - Poems
Jon Andersen
Curbstone Press
321 Jackson St., Willimantic, CT 06226;
ISBN 1931896151 $12.95 72 pp.

This is Andersen's first volume of collected poems, his "debut" volume. Individual poems have been published in The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Connecticut Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal. Poems of Andersen's have also not surprisingly been published in Blue Collar Review and The Progressive. For the poet has stayed in touch with his blue-collar, working-class background. He doesn't write from the stance of the outsider or the rebel, but as one whose status and aspirations are not given by birthright or privilege. He doesn't so much struggle for what he achieves, but rather gains it by cleverness and fortune; as when arriving early to a Pete Seeger concert, he finds "all doors chained or locked but one," which one he goes through, and after making his way down "dark hallways" comes upon the famous singer, who "waved me over to sit on a folding chair beside him." [from "True Story"] By similar combinations of desire, luck, determination, and wit, Andersen regularly achieves such moments. They come about sometimes in nature, sometimes in a city, and sometimes in thinking about his father's life or aspects of the past. These moments are not restorative or epiphanic, as they would be for most poets. Andersen is not a romantic. Nonetheless, he realizes the value of such moments; and he is thankful for them, or else he could not put them so clearly.

Henry Berry

Hupalo's Bookshelf

Type & Layout: Are You Communicating or Just Making Pretty Shapes
Colin Wheildon, with additional material by Geoffrey Heard
The Worsley Press
FAP Books, Inc. (dist.)
P.O. Box 540, Gainesville, FL 32602
ISBN 1875750223 $36.95

Type & Layout by Colin Wheildon is an excellent introduction to typography and the readability of advertisements, brochures, and other written communication pieces. This book is valuable to anyone who creates advertising, direct mail, or graphic arts. It's also useful to authors and publishers who seek to enhance the readability of their material. And, it's extremely valuable to purchasers of advertising who wish to be sure their message to their readership is being maximized.

Based upon reader surveys, Type & Layout shows us how easy or how difficult it is to read various type. We learn the percentage of readers who cease reading due to poor design or poor type selection.

For example, when using a Roman font, switching to an italic type for emphasis has roughly the same readability as the base font. However, switching to a bold type tends to lose half the readership. We learn that long passages in bold are a definite no-no.

Surveying thousands of readers, it was found that 90 percent of the readers were happiest with 12-point type, set at 13-point leading (12/13). But, at 12/12, only 72 percent of the readers were as satisfied. More leading also created a drop in readability. When averaged over a large number of prospective readers, these drops in readability greatly affect the number of individuals who receive the full message. This has significant marketing implications.

Wheildon writes: "Let's set the scene by looking at figure 10a (p. 34), a very simple design. We'll assume it occupies a page in a mass circulation newspaper or magazine, and that its eye-catching illustration and thought-provoking headline have attracted the attention of a million readers. We've set the body matter in an elegant serif face, say, Garamond (see figure 6, p. 25). The conditions for comprehension are excellent. The chances are good that the message will be comprehended thoroughly by about 670,000 of those readers, two-thirds of them. Now let's suppose that we reset the type in a sans serif face, say Helvetica, reputedly one of the more legible sans serif faces. Figure 6 (opposite) shows how this looks. The chances now are that the message will be comprehended thoroughly by only 120,000 of our readers!"

Type & Layout teaches us the way the eye flows naturally across a page and downward and how interrupting this flow of eye gravity turns off readers. Surprisingly, we learn that justified type is actually more readable than ragged-right type. Ragged-left text has the worst readability of all. While 67% of the participants experienced good readability with justified text, a meager 10% found ragged-left text to have good readability.

We also learn how incorporating color in type or in the background affects readability. We learn how kerning and tracking affect readability.

After studying the lessons in Type & Layout, some of the professionally-created examples of poor readability design that are given in the book seem downright humorous, with the designs bending and twisting text and mixing colors like orange and yellow to make readability nearly impossible! It's argued that computers may give designers too much ability to do fancy things that distract from their ultimate message.

One great example shows how a scripted headline, tilted upward between a strong visual element and more readable text below, is almost never read in a hurry. Combining text which is barely readable with misuse of gravity, the headline is unintentionally buried better than the small print in a legal contract!

I highly recommend Type & Layout to everyone who works in advertising, publishing, or graphic design and who wants to maximize the impact of their materials.

All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan
Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi
Free Press
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN 074326987X $24.95

All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan, written by the bestselling authors of The Two-Income Trap, is a solid book about the basics of financial planning.

The authors tell us there are many good financial planning books on the market, if you already have a great deal of money and are looking to make more, but there are few books written for the majority of Americans who are struggling financially and who worry about money.

All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan helps average people get their finances in order. Harvard law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren is America's leading expert about the causes of personal bankruptcy in America.

Warren and Tyagi suggest that individuals must get their expenses into balance with their income. In particular, the authors say we should spend no more than 50% of our income on "Must Haves" or expenses that must be paid no matter what (rent or mortgage, utility bills, health insurance, property taxes, etc.). Then, 30% of our income can be spent on our "Wants" (for example, cable TV, tattoos or, actually, anything you want). The remaining 20% of our income should be saved toward building your financial future. The savings become automatic, if you get your must-haves and wants in balance.

The authors point out that historically Americans only spent about 50% of their income on "Must Haves." But, today, there is a trend for Americans to commit more and more of their income to expenses that must be paid, no matter what.

If your "Must Haves" are over 65% of your income, the authors write: "Even the smallest hiccup can seem like a major disaster because there is no extra money to handle anything that goes wrong. You need to get your Must-Have spending under control immediately."

To get your money in balance, Warren and Tyagi say you can't worry about saving a little bit here and a little bit there. Rather, look at your bigger expenses and find ways to save there. "Count the dollars, Not the pennies," they counsel.

For example, drive a less expensive car. They write: "Buy used, drive it until it falls apart, and then keep driving it. Drive your car until the odometer flips. Drive it until you're on a first-name basis with your local mechanic. Drive it until you embarrass your kids. And then drive it some more. And laugh all the way to the bank."

The authors show us how to reduce insurance costs, mortgage costs, and other big-expense items. We learn that many people overpay for insurance and mortgages.

We also learn that, due to changes in legislation, it's easier for people to get into financial trouble today, than it was in the past. Years ago, when lenders could only charge reasonable interest rates, lenders needed to be sure people weren't taking on more debt than they could handle. So, if a person couldn't really afford a bigger home, they wouldn't receive a mortgage for it.

But, today, people who struggle to repay their debts are often the most profitable area of lending. This allows the lender to charge high interest rates and hefty fees.

The authors write: "The truth is, debt peddlers don't want you to think about what happens when something goes wrong. Their only goal is to sneak that monster [debt] into your living room, in the quiet hope that something will go wrong in your life and they can make the big bucks. That's right: Your credit card company wants something to go wrong in your life. Why? Because that's when they make the most money! That's when the interest piles on, the late fees and over-the-limit charges balloon, and the bank racks up big profits from your troubles."

So, today, consumers need to learn to limit their own spending. The authors write: "practice saying something we've heard rich people say a thousand times: 'I can't afford that.' Say it with anger. Put some real heart into it - loud and furious. Now say it with resentment. Fill your voice with bitterness and envy. Say it with pain. Say it with disappointment. Say it with self-pity. The best one: Say it with good cheer. Laugh out loud about it."

All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan is a great book for people who want to get their finances into balance and avoid financial disaster.

Peter Hupalo

Jeremy's Bookshelf

From the Path: Verses on the Mystic Journey
William W. Simpson
PageFree Publishing, Inc.
109 South Farmer St., Otsego, MI, 49078 269-692-3926
ISBN 1589613457, $11.99 118 pages

Meditations From a Spiritual Journey

For me, the best poetry stirs my soul; it awakens my spirit through its clarity and simplicity. Its purpose is clean, pointing me towards greater understanding of who I am in this world, or, even better, towards comprehension of the divine that indwells both this world and me. It is this comprehension, this movement towards the divine, that enables each of us to make this world better as we work for justice and an "acting-out" of the divine's attributes.

Much poetry that is published does not fall into this category for me. I find it bland; I struggle with the lines, struggle to make sense of it, and eventually give up. But every once in awhile I am rewarded with a rich vein of spirituality comes to me. William Simpson, spiritual master of the Conscious Living Foundation ( has provided this vein for me, in his recent book, From the Path: Verses on the Mystic Journey. The poems in this book are food for the soul, providing both inlet and outlet for contemporary journeying with the divine.

Mr. Simpson is well aware that spirituality is a journey, that one never arrives. Through his long years of meditation, Simpson has discerned that each of us is here for a purpose. For him, part of that purpose was to record these sixty-six poems "found" during the course of his summer meditations in 2004. (He also includes a helpful primer on "first steps," described on the back cover as "practical techniques for growth and transformation.")

While he wrote, he struggled with his self - with whether the poems made sense, or how it would end. This struggle demonstrates the reality of the spiritual life as we move between the two poles of doubt and faith, darkness and illumination.

This struggle is clearly scene, and enhanced for each of us, in several of his poems. For example, in "And So I Sit," Mr. Simpson details the difficulty in maintaining a spiritual practice: "Distracted and enticed by / Flaws and indiscretions / I am pulled away from / Your presence." The joy of knowing the divine is attested in "To Rest In You," even with the awareness that a glimpse of truth now is not the end of the journey: "What a relief to rest in You! / To let go of pain. / To let go of tension. / To just let go. / And what of the world? / Terror and war." Finally, we learn in "Another Kind Of Love" that the path to the divine is learned and lived by love: "There is another kind of love. / One without an unfulfilled desire. / One that seeks no selfish end. / When the best way / To get it - / Is to give it - / Purely. / There is another kind of love."

We can thank Mr. Simpson for showing us how to dance. It is up to each of us to follow his lead and enter into this mystic dance.

Book Marketing from A-Z
Francine Silverman
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA, 19428
ISBN 074142431, $18.95, 400 pages

For beginning authors, book promotion is the key to success. Whether an author self-publishes or is published by a major house, most often that author needs to market her book herself if she wants there to be any chance at all of it being successful. Large publishing houses are too concerned with promoting the next blockbuster to focus even on mid-list titles, and smaller publishing houses usually don't have the resources to commit to marketing their titles. Even worse off are those who self-publish, because when they receive their books, they are on their own. Any marketing that happens, happens because of their efforts, and their efforts alone.

What is a new author to do? He can sit back and hope that his book sells somehow, or he can put money into a marketing plan and hope that plan is successful. But without a marketing background, that money can be wasted quickly. As a result, many authors don't market out of fear of loss and uncertainty, and sell far fewer books than they should.

Into this void comes a wonderful book - Book Marketing from A-Z by Francine Silverman. The sub-title explains it all: "More than 300 authors share the peaks and pitfalls in promoting their books."

Silverman hasn't so much written this book as she has edited it. She is the successful author of two books, as well as the owner of a very influential book promotion newsletter ( Over a couple years of publishing her newsletter, she has collected marketing success stories from many authors, and, combined with her own expertise, has put it all together into an excellent resource.

This book contains everything a new (or even experienced) author needs to begin marketing. Authors might be surprised to learn that there are many free things they can do to market their books! For example, I was surprised at how many authors related that something as simple as handing out bookmarks or pens stamped with their website and book name resulted in much publicity and many sales.

The book is comprehensive - arranged alphabetically, Silverman covers such topics as the importance of good reviews, what to do (or not do) at book signings, how to brand yourself, how to tie-in with holidays or movies, how speaking engagements can help a career blossom, and how to send out press kits. There are two huge sections on using Internet technology (web sites, ezines, e-groups, etc.) and newsletters to build a following. In my view, these two sections are the most informative sections of the book.

Silverman has produced a timely, comprehensive, and very helpful book that new and expert authors will return to time and again as they build their writing careers.

Jeremy M. Hoover, Reviewer

Kimberly's Bookshelf

Z is for Zookeeper: A Zoo Alphabet
Marie and Roland Smith
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main Street, Suite 300, Chelsea, MI 48118
ISBN: 1585361585 $16.95 40 Pages

A is for Animals
that live in the zoo.
Caring for creatures
is what zookeepers do.

How do zookeepers keep animals in their charge safe and healthy? How do they transport them, house them and save them from disease and extinction? What's the one sound a zookeeper will never forget? What's an incubator? For the answers to all of these questions and more, parents and teachers will want to share this delightful book with children. The rhymes are fun and peak interest, and the sidebars are full of fascinating information. The illustrations, done by Henry Cole, put the audience right in the middle of a zoo!

T is for Teachers: A School Alphabet
Steven L. Layne and Deborah Dover Layne
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main Street, Suite 300, Chelsea, MI 48118
ISBN: 1585361593 $16.95 40 Pages

T is for Teachers,
forever sowing seeds.
Their hope and prayer will always be
that every child succeeds.

What are the origins of the alphabet? Who began the first kindergarten in the United States? What's the difference between a quiz and a test? Who is the first person to arrive at most schools each morning? Children new to school will get a glimpse of some of what they'll learn about and some of the very special grown-ups that they will encounter. Steven and Deborah Layne draw from their experiences as longtime teachers to create a great tell-all about the wonderful world of school and all it has to offer. And like all good teachers, they end this book with a short quiz to see how well their audience was paying attention!

Kimberly Hutmacher

Linda's Bookshelf

The Truth About Beauty: Transform Your Looks and Your Life from the Inside Out
Kat James
Beyond Words Publishing, Inc.
Suite 500, 20827 N.W. Cornell Road, Hillsboro, OR 97124-9808
ISBN: 1582701008 $17.95 361 pp.

The Truth About Beauty: Transform Your Looks and Your Life from the Inside Out by Kat James grew from the author's obsessing to be thin to be beautiful and manifested as a full-blown compulsive eating disorder that ruled every minute of every day for 12 long years. Even while she was a successful spokesperson for major cosmetic brands and a TV makeover guru, who concentrated on making others appear beautiful, she was damaging her own beauty and health. At age 26, when a liver problem -- arising from her eating disorder -- threatened her life, she began her transformation toward better health.

As she searched feverishly for answers to restore her health, she was appalled at the bias against useful alternative health care approaches. She boldly explains to newcomers to alternative modalities that the true motivation of the prejudice the traditional health care industry clings to lies with its bedfellow, profitability, from patentable synthetics and pharmaceuticals. Nevertheless, she recognized the inextricable link between health and beauty and strode along a pathway to her most beautiful self. In The Truth About Beauty, James shares her journey and hopes to inspire others with "the incentive and tools" to take control for a better life (p. xix). She names tool number one as the "magic motivation" and defines it with the motto, "Think Health and Beauty Will Follow" (p. 26).

She blames not only herself but also a culture that embraces advertising images that promote the myth of perfection (p. 14). Her goal is to jump start the efforts of others to feel and look better by educating her readers to be conscious of and to insist on quality, health-supporting foods, health care products, and cosmetics instead of embracing nutrient-deficient foods and synthetic products that have been scientifically documented as detrimental. She encourages readers to think about what they feed their bodies and minds and souls and to read labels and to question and search for nutrient-dense foods and natural products that can serve their best interests rather than being duped into a white-knuckled, never-let-go "brand loyalty" that rewards companies for over advertising and fancy packaging rather than the merits of the foods and products themselves. Rather than creating a feeling of deprivation with new choices, she invites readers to recognize the modifications as upgrades for a better life.

If brand loyalty is important to you, then this book is not for you; but if you already have begun to explore to find health-giving natural foods and natural products, then this book will enhance your efforts. James would be the first to suggest, however, that you not follow her lead blindfolded. Instead, always continue to read and study and question to find what works best for you. Even some of the companies that she recommends as having natural cosmetics may fall short of your own goals when you read the ingredients listed. So make your own choices. James's book includes a hefty Resources Guide, an extensive bibliography, and a useful index. Find a comfortable place to read The Truth About Beauty, because Kat James will enchant and engage your interest to such a degree that you will not be able to put down the book easily. James's book is a must read if you care about yourself and your loved ones.

Life without Anger
Dean Van Leuven
De Vorrs Publications
553 Constitution Avenue, Camarillo, Ca 93012
ISBN: 0875167896 $16.95 244 pp.

Life without Anger: Your Guide to Peaceful Living by Dean Van Leuven, an esteemed lawyer who has seen anger in its overabundant stress-inducing forms, proposes a noble plan that takes readers beyond the goals of controlling or managing anger right to the heart of defusing existing, long-standing anger and becoming aware of the potentially incessant triggering of explosive anger to stop it before it can set its traps.

Van Leuven says that in a more primitive stage of human and social evolution, the "fight or flight" mode served individuals. In this stage, in which we would be expected to be enlightened, he says that it is far "more effective to respond intellectually rather than physically to the dangers and problems the we encounter" (p. 1). Continuing to manifest the more barbaric, warring responses merely exacerbates stress and ignites anger both of which damage health and well-being not only physically, mentally, and spiritually for individuals but also models very negatively for society.

He explains how the brain works, why we experience anger, and what we can do to re-program ourselves to prevent it from taking hold. Reducing, controlling, and preventing rebelliousness and anger lies with our efforts to watch for it creeping onto the scene. As we pay attention to recognize anger, notice how it operates, and understand why we feel it, we can improve our abilities not only to reduce and control it, but also we can apply Van Leuven's techniques to remove anger from our lives.

His two granddaughters, Kristin and Amanda, brought the terms "cold prickly" and "warm fuzzy" to his attention. He very aptly uses "cold prickly" to describe demonstratively how the negative, fear-based feelings of anger feel and "warm fuzzy" to describe the "positive, love-based emotions, such as joy and happiness" (p. 21). He points out that our emotional responses to events are largely a product of our pre-conditioning and our beliefs shaped and fostered by our parents, our friends, and our anger-based society. The very foundation of Life without Anger is that because we also can train ourselves to question our own beliefs we can choose a carefully thought out response rather that reacting robotically or automatically. To establish a better habit pattern, Van Leuven encourages us to think about our own, sometimes tainted, beliefs and to analyze to understand the words, actions, and behaviors of others before speaking. Before responding always ask if the response that I am about to give helpful or unhelpful. Do away with "good" and "bad" and "right" and "wrong" judgments. Instead, empower yourself with knowledge, seek to understand, and plan to choose a positive alternative to anger. Persisting in a rigorous effort to change our limiting beliefs, our narrow attitudes, and our reactive behaviors to open beliefs, accepting attitudes, and thoughtful behaviors, we truly can, with vigilance, free ourselves from anger. His message is clear, and oftentimes, he repeats parts of his message to drive home his points, knowing that often we must read or hear an idea or concept numerous times before we can inculcate it into our hearts and minds.

Van Leuven says that "If we could all learn to erase anger from our hearts, war, litigation, and crime would all become a thing of the past" (p. 3), a noble goal, indeed. Life without Anger is a must read if you want to free your life of anger, boost your health and the health of your loved ones and associates, and help to move our society onto a better track for peace in our troubled world. You may even wish to attend one of his life-changing workshops after reading his book. Between chapters, Van Leuven poses questions, encourages you to keep a journal, and further encourages you to remove unhealthy stress from your life by freeing yourself of anger.

Linda Davis Kyle, Reviewer

Lori's Bookshelf

The Order of the Poison Oak
Brent Hartinger
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0060567309 $15.99 240 pp.

Russel Middlebrook, a high school student readers last met in the novel GEOGRAPHY CLUB, is near the end of a very traumatic sophomore year. He was outed in the previous book, and he faced up to the ramifications of that, some of which continue on in the form of low-level verbal abuse from other students. "I'd put up with this kind of crap ever since we'd gone public with our Gay-Straight-Bisexual Alliance, and frankly I was getting pretty tired of it. Yeah, yeah, sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me. First of all, anyone who thinks that words can't hurt you has obviously never taken sophomore P.E. And second, did it ever occur to whoever wrote that stupid adage that hurtful words might be a pretty good indication that sticks and stones are on the way?" (p. 2).

From the start, it's clear that Russel has a good sense of humor and that he is strong enough to weather the ups and downs of his newly admitted gay status. But that doesn't mean it's easy, so he is glad that summer arrives, and he is heading off to be a camp counselor with his best friends Min and Gunnar. He figures they'll goof off, swim, play games with kids, and generally have a great time. No one need ever know he's gay. What a surprise to find out how wrong he is!

For the first two-week camp session, Russel is assigned a cabin of ten-year-old boys, all of whom are burn survivors. They go on the rampage almost immediately. At first Russel is inclined to cut them far too much slack because he pities them, but he quickly loses control. Some of the early laughs in the book come from his internal musings about what brats they all are and how helpless he feels trying to keep them in line. Pity doesn't help; he has to learn to treat them the same as other kids and hold them to the same standards.

Meanwhile, he doesn't see that much of Min and Gunnar, but he does meet one of the other counselors, Web Bastian, who is a real looker. Unfortunately, Min is also enamored with Web, and Russel's friendship with Min could be at risk. In fact, his friendship with Gunnar suffers some slings and arrows, too, and Russel is at wit's end. Only Otto, another counselor who attended the camp when he was younger and is also a burn survivor, is a steadying force for Russel.

The story reads very much like a teenager is narrating it. At the same time, Russel has an intuitive side to him that is a delight. His strong heart shines through every chapter of the book as he learns that scars - both internal and external - as well as secrets can bring people together and tear them apart as well. Hartinger shares the weaknesses in his well-written teenage character as well as his strengths. By showing the discrimination toward both gay youth and toward the scarred burn victims, the author makes it clear that any kind of unfairness, any kind of pain is hard on kids, and only by banding together for support can it be transcended.

This is a funny, touching novel about the continued growth and self-awareness that one young man attains during what should be ordinary summer camp events, but are really quite extraordinary experiences. Russel is the kind of character you wished you knew in real life, and this is a book that stays with you long after you've finished it. With this third novel from Brent Hartinger, I can see that he is an author who is only becoming more accomplished in his writing style, and I look forward to many years of reading his work. This book is highly recommended for all youth, ages 13 to 113.

Rosemary and Juliet
Judy MacLean
Alice Street Editions
a div. of Haworth Press
10 Alice St, Binghamton, NY 13904-1580
ISBN: 1560234830 $17.95 265 pp.

In the small California community of Divido, high school student Romey Arden is the only out lesbian teenage student. The day she came out - with the support of her ex-hippie, heterosexual, single parent mother - was the day a lot of the kids began shunning her. But not Elliot, the only other gay student. And not Amina, a straight girlfriend who sticks by her through thick and thin. Romey still feels isolated, particularly because there are no other lesbian kids to hang out with. Amina and Elliot are dear to her, but she wonders if she'll ever meet that special young woman.

Julie Wright is unknown to Romey. A gifted singer and student, Julie is home-schooled by her deeply devout Christian parents. When the book opens, Julie's dad, reverend of the Divido Bible Church, is at the local school board meeting damning homosexual teachers. Meanwhile, his only child is at home lying on her bed letting "moonshine in the window and along her body. She felt that liquid sensation, new to her these past months, blushing over her again. She had a private name for it: Yearning" (p. 23). Nearly age 15, she is "old enough to understand what her dad's sermons had to say about her own life. To Julie, the sermon said that this new Yearning was her own special blessing, chosen for her by Jesus. Its mystery would be revealed in time, or not. Either way, she would thank Jesus for the inner joy bestowed upon her, welcome Yearning, and protect it" (p. 26).

It is inevitable that Julie and Romey should meet, and despite their youth, they both feel the "Yearning." At first seeing one another requires only a little sneaking around, but soon they are facing major obstacles. It doesn't take long before Julie's parents do everything they can to keep the two apart. But the depth of feeling that develops between the two girls can't be denied. Their actions set off a string of unexpected events that shock everyone in town and cause change and disaster. And with so much against them, can the love of these young women survive?

MacLean uses beautiful language and a tight plot that moves along with all due speed toward the startling denouement. The novel's structure and prose are flawless. One of my favorite scenes contains this description: "Romey ran into the soft night. With every stride, she sensed the moment when both of her feet were off the ground, that moment she was airborne. It was a way to trick relentless old gravity, which, unlike a parent, never lets its attention wander for even half a second, but obsessively keeps you pinned down. Without engine or wings, for moment after moment, perhaps a fifth of every stride, a minute out of every five, twelve whole minute out of every running hour, she was flying. Gliding on air" (p. 64). The novel is packed full of fine writing. It's by turns serious and also funny in places. With a fine group of secondary characters, this book has it all: compelling plot, unpredictable storyline, and a knockout ending.

The mark of a truly fantastic story is that when you finish reading the book, off and on for days you remember the characters and explore alternatives for each person's future. When you are finished with this expert debut novel, you will find ROSEMARY AND JULIET has left an indelible mark in your memory. Don't miss this one.

Some Writers Deserve To Starve: 31 Brutal Truths about the Publishing Industry
Elaura Niles
Writer's Digest Books
4700 E. Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
ISBN: 1582973547 $14.99 240 pp.

From the very first entry, "Some Starving Artists Deserve To Starve," Elaura Niles gets straight to the point. She tells about when she was first a novice writer and attended a presentation given at the local library by a literary agent named Carolyn Swayze. Niles was certain that if she could "just find a way to talk to Ms. Swayze privately, tell her my story, I was positive she would want to see the book. I was so convinced of this that I brought all 487 single-spaced, red-inked, coffee-stained pages along with me" (p. 16). Instead of a private consult with the agent, by the end of the evening Niles realized "I lost my writing virginity and realized I was a 'crackpot writer'" (p. 17). As a result of what she learned from the literary agent, Niles researched the ins and outs of the publishing business. She realized that she could share loads of information with writers, and this book came to fruition.

In a clear, often cutting and usually humorous manner, Niles explains why so many writers do not get published and what they can do to improve their odds. Most of the reasons writers don't get their books in print have to do with the major gaffes they commit. So, for instance, Niles tells us "Many Writers Fail Because They Are Trying to Sell in the Wrong Markets," and she offers an amazingly simple solution: Get out of the house and 1) go to the local bookstore; 2) imagine a book like yours; 3) go find it; 4) look around at what section you are in. Quite simply she says, "That's your market" (p. 34).

Whether providing a list of Pros and Cons about the different types and styles of publishers or describing what makes a good query letter, Niles is delightfully brief and funny, more to the point than most other "How-To" books. She writes about the fact that "Hiring A Pro Doesn't Guarantee Success" and that "Some Agents are Dishonest from the Get-Go." She often provides resource information, for instance for organizations such as the Association of Author Representatives and the Writers Guild of America.

I found myself laughing out loud at times as I read. It's an odd shaped little book, about 6-by-6 inches, but the graphics, sidebars, and quotations are great! I particularly enjoyed the first quote, from Frank Lloyd Wright: "I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters" (p. 15).

Having worked slush piles for two publishers, I can attest to the fact that the advice Niles gives is accurate and insightful. This is exactly the type of book that should be read by any new writer or by anybody having trouble getting work accepted. I know that I wasn't aware of a number of the "brutal truths" early in my career, and any writer will be helped by reading Niles' no-nonsense advice. "Truth 6: Writers Are Like Popcorn: Publishers Buy Them by the Bucket and Eat Them by the Handful" (p. 41). If you want to avoid being a temporary popcorn snack - or being passed over for some other treat - read this book.

Lori L. Lake, Reviewer

Lynne's Bookshelf

"Author Day for Room 3T"
Robin Pulver, author
Chuck Richards, illustrator
Clarion Books
ISBN 0618354069; $16.00 32 pp.

Author Day in Room 3T is just around the corner and the children are anxiously getting ready. They've read Harry Bookman's books backwards and forwards. They've drawn pictures to go along with his text. They've even put on a play based upon them for the kindergarteners. They can't wait to meeting the seemingly exciting man who's behind their favorite zany books!

Mr. Topper doesn't want his students to be disappointed, so he tries to convince them that authors are ordinary people. Of course, they don't believe him for a minute. When it finally comes time for Mr. Bookman's school visit, two students discover a hairy stranger tapping on the library window. Thinking it is the author, the students let him in and the school visit begins!

Absolutely fabulous fun from Robin Pulver, author of "Axle Annie" and other humorous books. This hilarious case of mistaken identity will appeal to students, teachers, adults, aspiring writers and authors alike! Robin Pulver's text sets up zany antics which are well-carried out by talented illustrator Chuck Richards in stunning watercolor/colored pencil illustrations. "Author Day for Room 3T" is an excellent book to read, both at home and in the school setting.

"Jenny's Socks"
Carol Murray, author
Priscilla Burris, illustrator
Children's Press
A Division of Scholastic, Inc.
90 Sherman Turnpike, Danbury, CT 06816
Rookie Reader (Hardback), Level C
ISBN 1516258990; $19.50 32 pp.

Jenny loves socks of all colors and types, but the socks she loves the best provides a twist at the end of this easy-to-read poem.

In this Rookie Reader geared to ages 4-8, poet Carol Murray provides repetitive text with assonance and consonance that make for easy reading when the reader builds on the words that have come before. A word-list of the 59 words used to write the poem is included on the last page. Priscilla Burris' brightly-colored illustrations provide fun clues to help the reader figure out the text.

"My Daddy is a Giant"
Carl Norac, author
Ingrid Godon, illustrator
Clarion Books
A Houghton Mifflin Company imprint
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
ISBN 0618443991; $16.00 32 pp.

Ingrid Godon's tender cover illustration done in paint and pastel on textured paper set the tone for text---a soft, sweet tribute to a boy's father, written by Carl Novac. Told from the perspective of an admiring little boy, these lovingly exaggerated accolades about a father's height, strength and goodness show just how big a place his father has in his heart. Short and simple, but long on sentiment---just right for a young child to enjoy again and again. A perfect gift for a father and child to share on Father's Day or anytime.

Lynne Marie Pisano

Margaret's Bookshelf

Not All Of Me Is Dust
Moira Lovell
University of KwaZulu-Natal Press
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
1869140583 $14.95 1-800-944-6190

Not All Of Me Is Dust is an anthology of free-verse poetry that celebrates the sacred and acknowledges the relentless onslaught of mortality. Moira Lovell's style emphasizes simplicity to the extreme in verse that fills as much as possible into few words, sometimes only one to four words per line. The result is a stark impression that delivers its message directly to the heart and soul. "Reason": If God gave / To Man / Reason / He gave to Man / Reason enough / To Reason out / The existence of / God / And having done that / Man is left / Searching / (Godlessly) / For Reason.

Stomp and Sing
Jon Andersen
Curbstone Press
321 Jackson Street, Willimantic, CT 06226
1931896151 $12.95 1-860-423-5110

Stomp and Sing is a collection of free-verse poetry especially steeped in the daily experiences of working-class men and women. From the inner demons of alcoholism and domestic violence to the travails of a high school teacher trying to help kids on the edge of life and death make something of their lives, Stomp and Sing resonates with empathy, understanding, and the cutting-edge struggle to survive. "The Real World": This is the real world. // Or at least this is one world, as real / as any world, more brutal than some, far / less brutal than others, // but real. // Given the resources, I could prove it: / some kind of metaphysical tape measure / strung out and flopping in the space and time between / my B period class and my F period class / would show them to be as distant from one another / as any two randomly chosen moons / or their own neighborhoods.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

Shadow of the Scorpion
Elizabeth K. Burton
Zumaya Publications
3209 S. IH 35 #1086, Austin TX 78741-6905 512-707-2694
ISBN: 1894869974 $22.00 310 pages

Book II of the Everdark Wars

After fifteen years of exile, Perian Dawnstar alt Harbinnen would wish nothing more than live in peace with her people, the Drevnya nomads. But this is not possible. Together with Randrik, the man who loves her and whom she secretly loves back yet denies, she is on a quest to find the Sword of Light and destroy the souleater - Azdrefel, Lord of the Everdark - before he destroys them.

Their journey faces many obstacles. Not only is Perian pregnant and hiding the truth from Randrik, but keeping away from his alluring, powerful touch proves more difficult by the day. They must fight murderous creatures sent by Azdrefel, and keep constant guard against Watchers. To make matters worse, a price has been put to their heads and this forces Perian to drastically change her appearance in order to keep incognito.

The Lord of the Everdark has come up with a horrible plan to possess Perian and destroy Randrik and their unborn child Will he be able to accomplish his wish before they are able to stop him?

Nominated for an Eppie 2005 Award, Shadow of the Scorpion, the much awaited sequel to Dreams of Darkness, delivers enough romance, suspense, well-drawn characterizations and flawless, elegant writing style to satisfy demanding readers. The tension between the hero and heroine is explosive and will keep readers tingling. I was able to transport myself to another place and time and become emotionally involved with these dynamic characters. This is a story that will keep you entertained for hours and will make you want to read more of this talented author's work. A must for your fantasy shelf.

The Fat Moon Dance
Elizabeth Taylor
BeWrite Books
363 Badminton Rd., Nidley, Bristol UK, BS37 5JF
ISBN: 1904224288 $7.19 134 pages,

Delightful, funny and marvellously witty!

In The Fat Moon Dance, Elizabeth Taylor (yes, that's her name) takes us through a refreshing, totally fun ride through the pre-teen minds of Bayly James and her group of friends.

Bayly James has a serious problem. More than anything else in the world, she wants to go to the Harvest Moon Dance, where, she dreams, the handsomest boy in her class will ask her to dance. But her mother, who has never allowed her to attend a dance before, is not ready to let her yet. And so Bayly thinks of a plan. She is supposed to hand in a project for her social science class, and maybe, just maybe, if she manages to do a great job and finish it before the day of the dance, she might convince her mother to change her mind.

So she gathers her best friends and her not-so-great friend to help her with the project. It is as they work as a team that we get the chance to glimpse into their real personalities, and not the "cool" fa‡ade peer pressure compels them to take at school. Transformation occurs in the way they see each other, and in the way they see other girls.

Will Bayly be able to go to the dance? What about chubby, unpopular, book-worm Emma, who suddenly seems to becoming prettier and prettier each day, will she get the chance to dance at all? And what about the most gorgeous, coolest yet meanest girl at school, Kameko, is she really as "cool" and carefree as she pretends to be?

The language is so witty I sometimes laughed out loud. The author has done a superb job in bringing to life this youthful, charming, believable set of characters and make them real with their quirks, pre-adolescent fears and insecurities. Told with love and sensitivity, this is a story any young adult - and even adult - will enjoy. I certainly look forward to reading more of this talented author's books.

Kitchen Sink Concert
Ishbel Moore
Bewrite Books
363 Badminton Rd., Nidley, Bristol UK, BS37 5JF
ISBN: 1904224881 $8.83, 168 pages

At a church party, 16-year old Meredith Stevenson finds herself completely mesmerised with one of the boys. He's tall, handsome and has an air of danger about him, making her feel shy and insecure. After all, she's not one of those popular and gorgeous girls brimming with self-confidence.

Though he seems friendly and down-to-earth, there's one big problem: he's with a group of terrible-looking Skinheads. Why would a nice guy like that mix with that crowd? Eventually they meet. His name is Simeon and although he himself isn't in the group, his brother is. This doesn't completely solve the problem. For one thing, her parents would never approve of a boy with "Skinhead" family members.

To make matters worse, there's an accident during the party where the kitchen sink totally collapses and he and the Skinheads become prime suspects. In order to fix the sink they decide to organize a concert to raise the money, and Meredith is put in charge.

Will she be able to handle the responsibility of putting together a good concert? Will she trust herself enough to be able to sing? And what about "Prince" Simeon - will she be able to built a stable romantic relationship with him? But how can they when perfect and attentive Matt is always around Meredith like a puppy starved for love, and Simeon himself declares that they shouldn't see each other again, that they're simply two worlds apart and Meredith is better off without him?

A story sure to delight young teenagers, Kitchen Sink Concert raises issues with which they'll be able to identify - boyfriend problems, fitting in, self-doubt. A well-written and entertaining story.

Mayra Calvani

Michael's Bookshelf

Positive Impact
Gregory Scott Reid
Seven Locks Press
3100 West Warner Avenue, Suite 8, Santa Ana, CA 92704
1933063009 $19.95 1-800-354-5348

Positive Impact: Set Yourself On A Collision Course For Success is a compilation of stories about the business world derived from author, radio personality, and inspirational speaker Gregory Scott Reid's on-line newsletter. Each entry describes a real-life event and presents common-sense solutions and practical insights. Laced throughout with simple pearls of wisdom on achieve both business and personal success. Positive Impact is a quick and easy read that is by turns thoughtful, thought-provoking, informed, informative, and occasionally inspiring. Also very highly recommended is Gregory Reid's early book, The Millionaire Mentor.

Coach Wooden's Pyramid Of Success
John Wooden & Jay Carty
Regal Books
2300 Knoll Drive, Ventura, CA 93003-7383
0830736794 $17.99

With the assistance of co-author Jay Carty, 94-year-old John Wooden (one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time including 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years; an 88-game winning streak, and 4 perfect seasons.) provides a personal, in-depth look at the methods he used to achieve victory on and off the basketball court and which he imparted to generation of his students and players in Coach Wooden's Pyramid Of Success: Building Blocks For A Better Life. Coach Wooden demonstrates how success is built block by block in his "pyramid" where each block is a crucial principle contributing to life-long achievement in every area of life. Such key values as honesty, hard work, and respect for others make up life's "pyramid of success". Coach Wooden's determining factor of success is not in winning or in achievements, but rather is to be found in "self-satisfaction achieved when you know that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." If you only have time for one book on self-improvement, self-realization, then make it Coach Wooden's Pyramid Of Success!

The Bigfoot Film Controversy
Roger Patterson and Christopher Murphy
Hancock House Publishers
1431 Harrison Avenue, Blaine, WA 98230-5005
0888395817 $22.95 1-800-938-1114

The Bigfoot Film Controversy presents the complete text of Roger Patterson's landmark book "Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist?" along with a paragraph of historical corrections, and a supplementary update on the famous Patterson/Gimlin Bigfoot film. Black-and-white as well as some color photographs enhance the text, and a general index allows for quick and easy reference. Patterson's original book describes native american legends as well as details of various individual sightings and even a horrifying Bigfoot story attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. The supplement discussing Patterson's film includes enlarged color images and testimonies from a biomechanics expert, a forensic examiner, and anthropologist, discussion of questions raised (including issues concerning the anatomy of the creature the whether or not the film featured an actor in a costume) and more. An excellent resource for anyone looking to investigate the legend of Bigfoot, whether one is a skeptic, a believer, or simply an inquistive-minded individual at heart.

Michael J. Carson

Molly's Bookshelf

Jeff Stone
Random House
1745 Broadway New York, NY 10019, Print and CD format
ISBN: 0375830715 $15.95

Fast Paced Read .. Recommended 4 stars

The narrative opens in Henan Province where the reader finds twelve year old Fu, Tiger, mumbling from the bottom of a terra-cotta barrel. Lying on top of him are his temple brothers Malao, She, Hok and Long. It is China in the year of the Tiger, 1650 AD. The five orphans raised from infancy in the secret temdple have been hidden by the Grandmaster. The temple is their home; the warrior monks are their family. Enemy horses are racing up and down, weapons clash. Screams fill the air as warrior monks are toppled. Leading the attack carried out by the emperor's army is sixteen year old Ying, the Eagle, the renegade brother who earlier learned his own fighting skill along side the five youngsters. Ying is determined to destroy the Cangzhen Monastery, murder the Grandmaster and steal the sacred scrolls. Cangzhen temple is reduced to a fiery ruin, stolen library scrolls are retrieved and, Fu receives an offer to join Ying. A terrifying new weapon, a tiger pit, a motherless tiger cub, a garbage heap all figure in the narrative. Fu whose fighting style is patterned after the Tiger for whom he is named is captured and kept in a cart before he is freed in an unexpected manner. Fu and his brothers are the only survivors of the attack. When the five brothers are reunited each has a story to tell and they realize their bond is as strong as it might be if they were actually brothers by birth.

Adopted in infancy, writer Stone draws upon his understanding of martial arts and his awareness for the yearning an adopted child may harbor for knowing of his birth parents to craft an engaging look into an ancient account. The narrative of five warrior monks who managed to elude the seventeenth century devastation of China's renowned Shaolin Temple is told through the words and actions of five young boys each of whom is named for an animal whose fighting skill they emulate.

Tiger is the first in 'The Ancestors' series wherein five young warrior monks will learn to deal with the calamity of losing the only home and family they have known coupled with their search into their hidden pasts. Tiger is not for the finicky. Ying is a fear-inspiring scoundrel; fierce battles are depicted in intense detail in this narrative filled with savagery, conspiracy, artifice and intrigue. Well fleshed characters are portrayed in kid pleasing fashion in this fast paced adventure. Fu's impetuous 'act before thinking' nature is something with which youngsters in the target audience of upper middle grades into high school can readily identify. Tart dialogue between the various players is believable plus it serves to move the tale along at a steady clip.

Forceful motivations, story line twists, perplexity all flow from the pen of writer Stone in this fast paced debut anecdote of treachery, betrayal and intrigue.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend for the home pleasure library, the classroom book shelf and the homeschool venue. Tiger will no doubt draw boys especially toward the series.

Going Deeper: How to Make Sense of Your Life When Your Life Makes No Sense
Jean-Claude Koven
Prism House Press
69115 Ramon Road STE 1386 Cathedral City, California 92234
ISBN: 0972395458 $24.95

Intriguing Read .. Recommended .. 4 stars

Going Deeper: How to make sense of your life when your life makes no sense opens with the introduction. This is where the author indicates that if the reader is saddened by the way humans treat each other, suffers from allergies, feels a bit alienated from family and friends, likes to gaze at the stars and thinks often of UFOs and are more comfortable with plants or animals than people; then you too may be one of the seventy million wanderers who are here on earth. These Wanderers are here to help with the impending shift or end of the earth as we know it.

The novelized portion of the work begins with Chapter one wherein we meet Larry who has no dog and views dogs and their owners with some amusement. A freak tornado in 1999 was to change Larry's life in many ways. While he was not in Norman, Oklahoma for the F5 incident; events were set in place that would bring Larry and a most unbelieveable dog together. It did not take Larry long to learn that Zeus was no ordinary dog.

Writer Jean-Claude Koven presents one man's spiritual journey tying many New Age concepts in a single work of fiction. Going Deeper: How to make sense of your life when your life makes no sense takes place in part in the Joshua Tree National Park, an abstruse, most fascinating bit of desert area under any circumstance.

The physical presentation of the book is not as either novel or other mass reading edition. Going Deeper: How to make sense of your life when your life makes no sense is set down with an Introduction, twenty seven specific chapters, Acknowledgments, Suggested Explorations, Afterword, Glossary and an Index. The book is meant to be read in entirety and then re read as inclination or need dictates. Chapter titles, glossary and index will serve to guide the reader to specific portions.

While the book is not presented as either a novel or a self help tome per se writer Koven does offer practical advice for attaining better living and understanding. Going Deeper: How to make sense of your life when your life makes no sense is the tale of one man's spiritual search to understand his true nature and true mission here on earth. With the help of our High Self Writer Koven believes we can learn to live authentically in this interesting, unique and probing read. Koven uses Larry and Zeus who acts as teacher, guide and guru to explain the nature of self/soul.

Writer Koven presents his theory in clear understandable language, action moves the tale along so that reader interest is maintained from the opening chapter where we find Larry reading an intriguing newspaper ad, right on to the last pages where we find Larry wondering if it has all been a dream.

The work will have special appeal to the target audience of those readers who may have experienced some of the experiences Koven set down in the introduction.

Going Deeper: How to make sense of your life when your life makes no sense will make a nice addition to the home library and to the home office library.

I was sent a hard back copy of the book for review. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Apple Pie and Promises: Motherhood in the Real Worlds
Compiled by Linda Hoffman Kimball
Cedar Fort
925N Main, Springville UT 84663
ISBN 1555178499 $9.95

Entertaining Read .. Recommended 5 stars

Apple Pie and Promises: Motherhood in the Real Worlds is not a story book per se, rather it is a collection of 'quick reads' meant to be read at those odd moments in the day when readers have a few moments to turn to something interesting and fun to read. This is a 125 page work comprised of forty plus vignettes authored by a group of women who share their thoughts and experiences as daughters and mothers. Titles of individual works include: 'The Reluctant Mother' in which Lael Littke states "I look like a bellicose buffalo" in reference to her pregnant figure. 'Folk Wisdom,' 'Feisty Women,' and 'By Proxy' offer varying views of motherhood and mothering. 'What Mom Left Us' in which the writer tells of her mother's quilts touched a particular spark for me: my grandmother died when I was 4, she too left behind quilts, quilts, quilts. 'The Year of Mothering Intensely,' 'The Hunt,' and 'Picture Perfect' continue the narratives. 'Just Your Typical Mormon Family' is a poignant read telling of problems to be found in step parenting and how one family attempted both traditional and non traditional methods for achieving success in the long run. 'Up and Down and All Around' is a touching recounting of the problems facing those who experience fertility problems. 'Piece of Cake,' and 'Am I My Mother's Keeper?' recounts the sadness facing those when Mom or Dad experiences serious health issues late in life.

Linda Hoffman Kimball has brought together a delightful series of works in her book Apple Pie and Promises: Motherhood in the Real Worlds. Along with the short stories she adds quotes regarding motherhood and mothering taken from women and men from all walks of life. Quotes include a Spanish proverb, comments from John Erskine, Elizabeth Stone and Oprah Winfrey as well as a Chinese proverb. A verse from The Bible or Book of Mormon regarding mothering can also be found. A tongue in cheek remark by Mark Twain, an Indian proverb and a quote from Dr. Spock round out the work. Kimball has added a little something for everyone in her compilation of ancecdotes. Each of these honest to goodness real world MOM encounters presented on the pages of this little volume are worth the read. I like particularly the format: each short anecdote is just that - short, quick reads for busy women to enjoy over a warm cookie or while waiting for the train to cross the intersection.

While Apple Pie and Promises: Motherhood in the Real Worlds is written by Mormon women the themes are common to mothers the world over. Apple Pie and Promises: Motherhood in the Real Worlds is an excellent choice for the home library and pleasure reading for Mormon and non Mormon alike. After experiencing my own problems during pregnancy I found 'Up and Down and All Around' a particularly compelling read.

Apple Pie and Promises: Motherhood in the Real Worlds is a good book for a lazy summer afternoon or for the quick stolen moment when the baby is napping and all is quiet at least for this minute.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Parenting the Ephraim's Child: Characteristics, Capabilities, and Challenges of Children who are Intensely MORE
Deborah Talmadge and Jaime Theler
Horizon imprint, Cedar Fort Inc
925 N Main Springville UT 84663
ISBN: 0882907735 $16.98

Informative Read .. Recommended 4 stars

Parenting the Ephraim's Child: Characteristics, Capabilities, and Challenges of Children who are Intensely MORE Is not a story book, this is 279 page work filled with parenting tips explaining why ANOTHER parenting book is needed as well as explaining just what the Ephraim's Child is. Chapter titles include: 'Do You have an Ephraim's Child?', 'Intensity' and 'Persistence'. I particularly enjoyed the section pertaining to intensity, how it impacts the Ephraim's Child and how parents may offer alternatives to emotional overload. 'Adaptability,' 'Awareness,' and 'Sensitivity' are addressed in separate chapters. The importance of adaptability, giving effective directions and monitoring emotional stimulation are all addressed with wit and good suggestions. 'Activity,' 'Intelligence,' and 'Control,' are presented in chapters 9 - 10 - 11, routine, power struggles and giving choices are all addressed. 'Independence,' 'Disciplining the Ephraim's Child,' 'When You Don't Like Your Ephraim's Child,' introduce the areas of obedience, discipline vs. punishment, rewarding the good, and consistency. 'The Special Occasion Nightmare' when realistic expectations must be realized, preparing the child for the occasion, awareness of crowd affect upon the Ephraim's Child, and the gift trap offers much for parents to consider. 'Grandparenting the Ephraim's Child,' and 'Being Equal to the Task,' round out the work with suggestions to love the child unconditionally, provide support for the parents and enjoying the child.

Endnotes, Bibliography, Appendix, Recommended Additional Resources and an 'About the Authors' round out the 17 chapter book.

Often parenting books present a 'formula' method for dealing with children who are quick to adapt, accept parental instruction and seemingly always do what is expected of them. I don't know any children like this, and apparently the writers found they were not meeting many either. Authors Talmadge and Theler write from the viewpoint of LDS women/mothers to explain that Ephraim's Children are covenant people whose attributes may lead to building the kingdom of god because of their characteristics and not despite them. The nine common characteristics found in these determined youngsters are addressed in separate chapters. It is the writers' intent to aide parents toward understanding their children's temperamental traits as strengths needing refinement rather than as deficits needing eradication.

As a parent who raised what we termed 'the strong willed child' back in the 1970s when my own oldest child was growing up I found myself smiling, nodding, and at times chuckling with understanding while reading of the trials and tribulations attendant to raising a child who is, shall we say, 'a bit determined.'

If I were to pick one single chapter as THE one for parents to read it would be Chapter 6 which addresses the need for parental adaptability when dealing with a child who often resists adapting. The writers present counsel and suggestions in mother tested, plain language to help parents understand their child is not simply being resistive or disobedient. The strong-willed Ephraim's child IS resistive because that is his nature, not because he is overtly trying to misbehave or rebel. The importance of routine in children's lives cannot be over emphasized and the authors are quick to point out the real necessity of routine in the life of the Ephraim's child.

While the term Ephraim's Child may be more significant to those who are LDS, Parenting the Ephraim's Child: Characteristics, Capabilities, and Challenges of Children who are Intensely MORE is a good book for parents whether or not they are LDS. Solid parent tested ideas are presented in easily understood language. Excellent choice for the home library and therapist library for use when counseling parents in how to deal with determined, Ephraim's Children.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

90 Day Wonder: Darkness Remembered
Leon Cooper and Don Tait
1st Books Library
2595 Vernal Pike, Bloomington IN 47404
ISBN: 1410728757 $16.95

Absorbing Read .. Recommended 4 stars

The narrative opens with writer Cooper and his wife Alberta enjoying a trip to Washington DC when Cooper 'flips out' and certain the occupant of a passing vehicle is old nemesis Captain Boda, tries to open a car door. The account continues with an 'Islands of Valor' tour group visit to the Solomons, New Guinea, Marshall and Gilbert Islands where Cooper contemplates left behind armaments. President's economists had said country would be thrown into depression if war supplies were returned to states at end of WWII. Cooper visits sites where he had seen action during WWII. Cooper suffers recurring problems due to Post Traumatic Stress. Cooper was an engineering student at Illinois, and had interviewed in Washington for job with the government when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The 90-day transformation from civilian engineering candidate to one of eighteen midshipmen in Columbia University's Midshipman's School soon begins. And in a short time Ensign Cooper is sent to Little Creek, Virginia Amphibious Training Base to be trained to land on enemy-held beaches. When he met with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Lt. Commander, to discuss a transfer to another unit, Cooper learned his new assignment would be for 'the Big One', the invasion of German-held beaches in Europe. With his training completed Cooper boards the U.S.S. Harry Lee where he meets Cpt Boda. Boda who received a battlefield commission is less than enthralled with the 90-day wonders being cranked out by the military. During the following months Cooper learns more than he wants about Captain's Mast, takes part in six invasions including 'Bloody Tarawa', helps ferry the wounded to a waiting hospital ship, steps on Boda's non musical toes, and is assigned to stand extra watch. He meets the Captain's son and receives even more duty. Despite inclement weather Boda orders practice landings leading to predictable disaster and death. The anecdote continues with a Christmas aboard the Lee, Boda holding up orders, and Cooper gets in hot water again. The war ends and life goes on. Cooper marries, has a family and continues to suffer from what was then labeled as 'shell shock.' Finally Cooper loses Alberta to ovarian cancer and writes a letter to the now Rear Admiral Boda.

Writers Cooper and Tait have produced an enthralling account of a young mid American who is caught up in the nationwide trepidation following the attack upon Pearl Harbor during WWII. 90 Day Wonder: Darkness Remembered is a tension filled account recounting the four years of abuse Cooper endured at the hands of an ego maniac captain aboard the U.S.S. Harry Lee. The narrative flips smoothly from the present to the past and back again.

Accounts of physical combat and mental battles keep the reader turning the pages in this fast paced work. The insanity of Boda's heedless commands leading to deaths of Cooper's shipmates is depicted in stark realism. The antagonism present between Cooper who proceeds from a sense of equity and Boda from one of absolute authority is palpable. The reader comes to understand that during wartime the military may be compelled to install misfit or just plain madmen in charge of men.

90-Day Wonder: Darkness Remembered is a riveting tale recounting abuse of power, lunacy, carnage, retaliation, devotion and atonement. Central to the tale is the fact that sometimes malignant martinet tyrants are placed in command of men, that this miscalculation often leads to needless deaths and long-term, post-war psychological problems for the surviving subordinates is something the military has long denied and ignored.

Good book for the history buff and those who enjoy reading 'war' stories. Not for everyone, racial epithets and expletives are used.

I am a Vietnam veteran's wife who found the read compelling, happy to recommend.

Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change
Dennis C Flynn
PO Box 8006 Hilton Head Island SC 29939
ISBN: 0974414956 $17.95

Informative Read .. Recommended . 4 stars

The narrative is not a story book per se, rather this is an educational or training manual for those who hope to create a lasting impression for their work or business. Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change is a 134 page work comprising thirteen chapters filled with information to guide the entrepreneur toward improving customer relationships and enhancing customer loyalty. The preface explains the role of the CEO and corporate leadership. In chapter one the business model is explained. Why brand is important and brand identity and equity are revealed in chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 8 presents information for understanding how best to get along with customers and employees. Communication and its importance is the focus for chapters 9 and 10. Continuous relevance is the theme for Chapter 12. Chapter summaries and notes about the author are included in the work.

Filled with graphs, highlights, diagrams and graphics Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change is a well devised work meant to serve as a training tool for business owners. Chapters are kept short, writing is crisp, to the point and accomplished. Chapters are devised so that busy business owners can read a chapter at a sitting while waiting for the train to pass the intersection, or at their desk over a quick lunch. Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change is meant to be read, kept at hand, and re read as needed. Writer/marketing consultant Dennis Flynn has taken knowledge gained from his own business life and has turned that knowledge into a work in which chapters are presented with an overview, explanations of terms or other words used, and easily understood methods and techniques for achieving success. Definitions of terms, illustrations, bulleted points are all used to help the reader understand the principles offered. Chapter notes reinforces the key points covered in each chapter.

On the plus side Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance and Profitability Amidst Constant Change introduces the reader to consultant Dennis Flynn's Sonar Model for brand development. Readers will learn to create a process for evaluating and identifying technologies needed for achieving competitive brand advantage, develop new perspectives on existing and upcoming alliance opportunities for strengthening existing brands, and create increased leverage relating to brand options for competitive advantage. Flynn discusses future trends in brand marketing along with importance for using customer feedback effectively. Learning to ask the right questions is fundamental to success in the opinion of the writer who sets out a model for aiding companies in designing business models to take them to a solution share position. The Voice of the Customer is a tool designed to be used to glean perspective and intelligence from employees, investors, current, past and prospects and others who may have a stake in the success of the venture.

Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance and Profitability Amidst Constant Change is filled with specific branding information and useful methods and technologies presented in easily read form. Writer Flynn's avowed purpose for the book is to help business owners evaluate and reconfigure assets for more powerful business and brand outcomes. Develop new perspectives on existing and upcoming alliance opportunities that can strengthen your brand. Create increased leverage of brand options for competitive advantage. And Create a process for evaluating and identifying technologies that are and will be critical in achieving competitive brand advantage.

Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change is an interesting, easily read work sure to please those who are thinking about beginning their own business as well as for the experienced business owner who may be needing a little helping hand to improve his image with his customers. This book has a place on the home office library shelf as well as on the desk of business owners who operate in the public sector.

Enjoyed this informative read, happy to recommend.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Nancy's Bookshelf

Magic Man
A.P. Fuchs
Coscom Entertainment
12 Charles Hawkins Bay Winnipeg, Manitoba R2G 3K4 Canada
ISBN 097348487X $5.95 53 pages

For a fantastical ride, I'd highly suggest Magic Man by A.P. Fuchs. It's a whimsical journey blending comic book imagination with elements of the boogeyman. There is a price that comes with the Magic Man, and sometimes it's higher than you'd like, but often there's a message and a lesson to be learned. In this chapbook, you get to catch a glimpse of the man behind the name.

In the first story "The Exchange," we're introduced to Barry, a man who has never gotten over the woman he first fell in love with. The Magic Man pays him a visit, with the ability to grant him a special wish. To what extent will Barry go, to have his wish come true? If one endures anguish and pain along the road of dreams, will one appreciate the outcome more?

The other story, "Little Boy Who Would," centers on an intrinsic game of cards depicting fear, reason, hope, and wishes. Life itself is a game, and not everyone is a winner all the time.

Also included in this chapbook are striking artwork, poetry, and insightful reflections on the history and thoughts behind the illusive Magic Man.

I think any reader can take something different away from these stories. The messages vary, depending on what issues you may be facing. We'd all like our dreams and wishes to come true, but where's the line that is drawn? One person's selfishness is another person's glory, but who's to say one is more deserving? Entering into the realm of Magic Man may very well give you answers, or ask you to find them out the hard way.

Peter Fox
Coscom Entertainment
12 Charles Hawkins Bay Winnipeg, Manitoba R2G 3K4 Canada
ISBN 0973484829 $12.95 179 pp.

Reading the eloquent novella April is somewhere between a languid summer day and a moment of serenity. Told through the poignant voice, of author Peter Fox, it gives a firsthand account of one man's view into the soulful depth of where love takes him.

Central character Joseph is a struggling comic book writer, with a simple, average life. Routine works well for him from his work, to where he hangs out, to watching reruns of Seinfeld. However, over the course of one particular weekend, his life changes. From the moment the lovely and eccentric April sits down across from him in the Second Cup coffee shop, something clicks inside, and he is transformed. The reader is taken on a personal journey of how love can empower with its freshness, and subtle quirks.

The dialogue between April and Joseph is contagious, with true meaning, reminiscent of Before Sunset, but with a little more human quality to it. Sometimes all we have is a moment, and for Joseph he is forever changed, and deeply affected from the moment. It is his honesty, his strength, and his courage to plunge himself into something that may essentially lead nowhere.

As the story unraveled, I found myself cheering April and Joseph on, hoping that they find some common ground, and make it in the end. That of course is left for you to discover on your own.

April is not a conventional love story, but unique, with thoughts many can identify with. While first person narratives may put some people off, it works in this novella to give it validity, realism, and a chance to understand the headspace of the character. The length is just right, without drawing out on each emotion or becoming overly involved. If love were to unexpectedly fall in your lap, just how much would you leave to chance?

All Prettied Up
Elizabeth Blue
Naked Snake Publications
6 Rain Tree Lane Pawleys Island, SC 29585
ISSN 15457192 $5.00 30 pp.

All Prettied up is a gritty chapbook, written by rising author Elizabeth Blue, that ventures into the darkly bizarre. The three blood-soaked offerings, along with imaginative, haunting artwork, will leave you in a fashionable coat of goose bumps and shivers.

"Cemetery Dogs" serves up a nice, taut storyline of a man expected to pay penance for having a stranger's dogs frightened, and one shot. Just why does Terrence continue growing hair on his body, and finding himself in unfavorable surroundings at night? Vivid descriptions and a solid plot, make for a disturbing, yet captivating read.

In a more reptilian-like version of Cujo, "The River Snake" will have you squirming, screaming, and battling it out along with the main character Carson. After years of her remembering a story told by her grandfather, of a river snake that fed off little girls, her imagination comes back to bite her in the leg, or so to speak. When something slithers up her walkway, she finds reality is the stuff stories are made of.

The final story "Homer and Opaleen," is a no-holds-barred revenge story of sorts with a shocking twist. After forty years of marriage, a husband loathes his wife more and more. Even her cooking, the only thing that gave her a redeeming quality, wasn't worth the grief or aggravation. Somewhere between a carving knife, a pumpkin, and a collection of books, Opaleen is freed of her wifely duties.

All Prettied Up is an interesting collection of stories, each one unique and a thrill to get lost in. I would have liked a few more stories, but the chapbook is a comfortable length to peruse in one sitting. Of the three, I most enjoyed "Homer and Opaleen" for its creative ending. Elizabeth Blue has a refined talent of relating a story, which I hope continues for a long, long time.

Secrets, Fact or Fiction?
Diane J. Newton, editor
Oxcart Press (an imprint of Coscom Entertainment)
12 Charles Hawkins Bay Winnipeg, Manitoba R2G 3K4 Canada
ISBN 0973728256 $10.99 160 pp.

Editor Diane J. Newton, has put together an odd little collection of nine unique stories called Secrets, Fact or Fiction? fitting somewhere between taut suspense and heartrending. It's difficult to tell by the title and cover, where exactly these stories will take you, but that is of course, part of the enjoyment of reading.

"A Life Interrupted" has a slow, detailed start, with impeccable attention to the characters, so much so that I cared about what happened to each and every one of them. My only complaint is that after such a build up of emotion and tension, the ending was rushed and it left me a bit put off.

In "A Creature of Habit", author Larry Pontius, weaves a fast-paced drama, complete with an abrupt, but slick twist at the end. His main character was fueled with excellent inner dialogue, and by doing so, brought realism toward the events taking place around him.

The collection gains momentum with "The Apple Doesn't Fall Far..." deliciously written by C.T. Adams. This was one of my favorites for its flow, conversation, characters, and how the plot unraveled. It truly made for excellence in storytelling.

Unfortunately, "Crawfish Braud" by Hill Kemp, didn't work for me. Too much information was provided early on, leaving the plot convoluted and somewhat flat. I didn't find the dialogue realistic, as everyone spoke overtly polite and well mannered. The story did have an interesting concept, and perhaps done differently, would truly shine.

Things quickly slow down - almost too quickly, with "Josie," a must-have hankie story. While a predictable plot, it was moving and sentimental. Kathleen Strelow, knows how to work the heartstrings, which means, yes, I got teary-eyed when it came time for the bittersweet ending. While I can understand the concept of its inclusion in this collection because of the secret factor, I'm not entirely sure it worked for me here.

After such a poignant story, we are thrust back into the hard and heavy with "The Queen's Sin," which was thoroughly entertaining literature complete with dynamic storytelling and adventure. If anything can possibly be found unlikable within this story, it's the placement after such an emotional one. This was another favorite and I'll be certain to keep my eye out for more creative works by author C.W. Gortner.

"A Matter of Taste" was charmingly written by Cathy Clamp, and between the sensible character bantering, and a few hidden goodies, this is a delight to savor. For more reasons than one.

Probably the creepiest story of the lot is "Not There" with its superb tension and ambience. Author A.P. Fuchs has it down pat with bringing a reader in, using all of the senses, and letting the imagination run wild. Just when I knew where it was going, I was taken for a loop and left biting my nails. Equally as important, it stayed with me for days after reading. I would have placed this story first or last in this collection to give the readers something to chew on.

"The Baby Secret" by talented author Carlene Reed, exudes a nice writing style, with careful attention to details, but didn't leave me with a lot of emotion. I felt somewhat cheated with its neatly wrapped up ending, and the complete lack of realism with her main characters, given the nature of the situation. It also suffers by being toted as the final story, after following several high adrenaline stories.

Secrets Fact or Fiction? has a lot going for it with imaginative stories and fully developed characters. The authors involved are talented and skilled in their craft, with a few exceptional stories that stood out from the rest. As I mentioned, the order of the stories really threw me off. Just as I had my blood pumping, I was thrust into a somber mood, only to be thrust back into a hard driving story and left to ponder the whole collection after a final solemn story. Because of that, I'd suggest reading one story at a time, to enjoy them on their own merit, rather than reading the book all the way through. While I was certain the stories would be of a science fiction nature, I was happily proven wrong.

100 Jolts
Michael A. Arnzen
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place Landover Hills, MD 20784
ISBN 0974503126 $12.95 203 pp.

100 Jolts by famed flash fiction author Michael Arnzen, takes every day ideas and meshes them into a condensed, obscure, delightfully deranged view, with all the makings of a winning combination. Forget short and sweet, think intelligently formatted for your reading pleasure, where each word counts, delivers a potent image, and leaves you disturbed for weeks.

Right before the first jolt, we get a glimpse into the author's influences and thoughts on creative dark authors such as Poe. It's an interesting set up to allows the reader a chance to get up close and personal. What follows is one tale after another, where you have to laugh, cringe, blink, and remember to breathe.

There's no way to pick favorites from such a large collection, each story affected me in one-way or another - whether I wanted it to or not. From the Five Mean Machines stories to Nightmare Jobs, you can devour this as an elaborately coursed meal, or nibble on it one morsel at a time. "Skull Fragments" starts us off, deservedly so, and leaves a lasting impression. Probably the most amusing is "The Cow Cafe," which makes me thankful I don't do dairy. "Who Wants to be a Killionaire" is a fantastic knock off of the once famous game show, and "Mother's Haunted Housecoat" was in short, twisted. Other stories that I may need counseling over include "Tassels," a new kind of graduation, "Take Out," with its man-made pizzas, and "Stabbing for Dummies," which could be considered somewhat educational.

After regaining your composure, the book finishes with an in-depth interview between Michael Arnzen and Jerry Schatz on writing flash fiction, and how he has made a niche for himself. While many people assume flash fiction is just taking a story and editing it to death, there is actually an art to it, and not as easy as it seems. Take a stab at 100 Jolts, and let his mind electrify you.

Nancy Jackson, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

CAFTA and Free Trade: What Every American Should Know
Greg Spotts
The Disinformation Company Ltd
163 Third Avenue, Suite 108, New York, NY 10003
ISBN 1932857168, $7.95, 96 pages

This book looks at CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the newest attempt to bring "free trade" to the Western Hemisphere. A companion to the recently released DVD called "American Jobs," this book shows that the reality of free trade is nowhere near as bright as the promise.

If free trade in general, and CAFTA in particular, is such a wonderful thing, then a few questions come to mind. Part of the attraction of free trade is that people in Latin America are going to start buying lots of US-made products, leading to new jobs here in America. How is that going to happen when the trend in wages is very much downward, to see who can reach the bottom first? It takes years, and higher wages, to create any sort of consumer society in Latin America. If high American wages are an "inefficiency" to be gotten rid of as soon as possible, who is going to buy all those hundred-dollar sneakers and wide-screen TVs? Where are all these new industries for which laid-off American workers are supposed to retrain?

NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and outsourcing in general, has led to a large loss of jobs. In the 21st century, over 3 million American manufacturing jobs are gone, never to return. According to one estimate, almost 900,000 jobs headed to Mexico because of NAFTA. Those maquiladora jobs are now leaving Mexico and going to China, where the wages are even lower. Over 1.5 million Mexican farmers have been forced off the land because of cheap (and subsidized) American agricultural imports. The same thing will happen in Central America if CAFTA comes into effect. None of those displaced farmers are going to head north and illegally enter America?

This is an excellent book. It doesn't go into much detail (that's not the intention), but it gives the reader plenty to consider. It is written in easy-to-understand language, so even those who know nothing about free trade can understand it. Overall, it is very highly recommended.

What Can I Do? An Alphabet for Living
Lisa Harrow
Chelsea Green Publishing Company
P.O. Box 428, White River Junction, VT 05001
ISBN 1931498660, $7.95, 127 pages

Most people want to do whatever they can to make the world a better place and protect the Earth. For them, marching in demonstrations or engaging in direct action is not an option. What to do? In subjects ranging from Air to Water to Food to Global Warming, this book lists many web sites with more information to get the reader involved in protecting the environment.

Perhaps the reader just wants to find out what sort of recycling facilities are in their town. One of their first stops should be to To look for reusable or biodegradable diapers, visit The Wildlife Conservation Society ( has a very distinguished record in conserving endangered species. For those who have compost heaps, Starbucks will give you their coffee grounds. Details are at, or talk to your local manager.

A handy wallet card on produce and pesticides called "The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides" (bring it with you when shopping) is available from A good site on global warming is The Busy Person's Guide to Greener Living can be found at Do you have stuff you no longer need that someone else may want? Before that trip to the landfill, visit Adopt a lobster (and help ensure a continued supply of lobsters) at, the Lobster Conservancy.

This is a wonderful book. It's small (it really can fit in your back pocket), it's well laid out, and the reader can pick their level of involvement. It is very highly recommended. Saving the environment does not get much easier than this.

50 Facts That Should Change the World
Jessica Williams
The Disinformation Company Ltd.
163 Third Avenue, #108, New York, NY 10003
ISBN 0972952969, $14.95, 346 pages

Here is another example of the bad job done by the mainstream media in informing Americans about the state of the world. This book presents a number of facts, with accompanying essays, that will not be covered on the evening news.

In 2002, more than 80 percent of the world's executions took place in just three countries, China, Iran and America. Black men born in the US stand a one in three chance of going to jail, while white men have a one in seventeen chance of going to jail. Because of the Asian preference for male over female babies, and because of China's one-child policy, China has 44 million missing women. Over one-fifth of the world's population lives on less than one dollar a day. One-third of the world's obese people, and over 80 percent of the smokers, live in developing countries.

Did you know that nearly half of Americans believe that aliens have landed on Earth? According to one estimate, there are over 67,000 lobbyists in Washington, which equals 125 for each member of Congress. Ten languages disappear every year. Every year, America spends $10 billion on pornography, the same amount it spends on foreign aid. More than 70 percent of the world has never heard a dial tone.

This book also includes sources for each of the essays, and organizations to contact for those who are inspired to get involved in any of these areas. It is excellent, and I enjoyed reading it. Compare the subjects in this book to what is shown on the "all-news" channels. To get a very different view of the world, this is a fine place to start.

Capitalist Punishment: Prison Privatization and Human Rights
Andrew Coyle et al (ed.)
Clarity Press
3277 Roswell Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30305
ISBN 0932863353, $19.95, 235 pages

Prison privatization has become a major public policy issue over the last few years, in America and around the world. Advocates say that private corporations can run prisons better and cheaper than the state. According to the contributors to this book, the promise is much greater than the reality.

Prison corporations cut costs as much as possible, affecting things like education and rehabilitation programs for prisoners, staff salaries and training, which leads to a high yearly turnover of guards. An obstacle to greater privatization of prisons has been the power of prison guard unions. The cost savings don't go to the local government, but to the corporate office, where executives draw huge salaries. On more than one occasion, the state has had to take back control of a prison from a corporation, because of deaths in custody, or violations of prisoners' human rights, including those of juveniles.

Blacks and Native Americans are in prison in numbers far higher than their proportion of the general population, because prison is a method of social control more than a way to make the streets safer. Private prisons make little or no attempt to incorporate native traditions, like sweat lodges, into the rehabilitation process. Putting prisons far away from cities, or shipping prisoners to other states, disrupts the family structure back home, leading to more children growing up without one or both parents. Women, and people with diagnosed medical conditions, also do not get their needs taken into account by private prisons.

This is an excellent book. The writing gets rather dry and academic, so it will take some work on the part of the general reader; by all means, stay with it. It is well worth reading, for those involved with prisons and for the general public.

The Warm Wind of Palestine
Scott S. Crye
Athena Press
Queen's House, 2 Holly Road, Twickenham, TW1 4EG, United Kingdom
ISBN 193207757X, $14.95, 253 pages

Jenna Haabeb is a strong-willed young woman living in the middle American town of Springfield. She is a highly respected doctor and medical researcher working at the local hospital. However, she is also a Palestinian in post-9/11 America, a place of hostility and suspicion toward an unknown part of the world.

She has made many friends, including the Larsens; Catherine works in the same department at the hospital, while Jack is retired and independently wealthy. They begin to fill the void in Jenna's life left by the death of her family due to a "mistaken" bombing by the Israeli army.

Jenna is a devout Christian who attends daily Mass, and still dresses modestly, including wearing a headscarf at all times. There are occasional get-togethers of all the women in Jenna and Catherine's department at the Larsen's pool, in which Jenna is encouraged to "let her hair down." An old friend of Jenna's from way back, a Frenchman named Paul, comes to visit, and Jenna turns into a giddy schoolgirl. He invites Jenna and the Larsens on a month-long trip to France.

These bonds are severely tested when Jenna is badly injured in an auto accident. A man running from the police hits her car head on at a high rate of speed. Jack stays at her bedside for several days, feeling that someone should be there when Jenna wakes up.

This is a pretty "quiet" novel about American cultural misperceptions. It is possible for a cultural reconciliation amidst fear and ignorance about the unknown. It's an easy read that is very much worth the reader's time. Check it out.

Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
ISBN 1591295505, $19.95, 142 pages

This is a group of stories about family, and the occasional strangeness that goes along with it. A sequel to her novel This is The Place, about growing up Mormon in Utah, these stories are part recollections by older members of the family, and part things that actually happened to the author when she was younger.

During a drive in the country with her parents, the author got to watch an old-fashioned cow milking, up close and personal. Another story took place during the Depression, when any scrap of cloth was saved to be made into some piece of clothing. There are stories about this grandmother or that aunt, moving to Utah as a young woman. Included are tales of family secrets passed from one generation to the next.

Every family has stories like these. I enjoyed reading this book. The stories are very easy to read, touching, poignant and humorous. If this book gets the reader to start thinking about their own family history, it will have succeeded. This is well worth reading.

Being Frank: My Time With Frank Zappa
Nigey Lennon
California Classics Books
P.O. Box 29756, Los Angeles, CA 90029
ISBN 187939541X, $15.95, 168 pages

Lennon was your average rebellious teenager in 1960s California, until she discovered a strange looking album by someone named Frank Zappa at the local record store. She bought everything she could find by him, and wore out the albums due to playing them over and over. A budding songwriter, she and her boyfriend recorded several songs on reel-to-reel tape and sent them to Zappa.

Months went by, until the phone call came asking if they could stop by at the offices of Zappa's record label. That would be enough for most people, but to realize that Zappa actually listened to the tape was overwhelming. His general opinion was that she didn't stink, but that she wasn't ready yet. On thing led to another, and a trip to the Zappa residence led to an invitation to be a substitute guitarist on his next tour.

On tour, Zappa rarely, if ever, indulged in the alcohol and drugs that are part of any tour, if only to keep that boss/employee distance. He was obsessive/compulsive and a perfectionist who, because of constant stomach problems, drank kaopectate by the gallon. Lennon's time on the tour was rather short, only a couple of months. Zappa sent her home after word got to Mrs. Zappa that their relationship wasn't exactly platonic.

Time went by, and after Lennon got thrown out of the house (the relationship with her parents was not good), she was able to crash in the basement of the Zappa residence, on the understanding that she not disturb him while he was composing. He had been seriously injured at a concert in England, and, physically and emotionally, things had changed. The arrangement lasted for a while, until Zappa went back on tour.

More time went by, and Lennon attempted to continue her music studies at a local college. She again ran into Zappa while he was rehearsing a grand, orchestral piece called The Great Wazoo. She tried to be as helpful as possible, while also learning as much as possible. Zappa seemed to tolerate her, more than he actually wanted her around. The relationship between them ends badly.

Zappa fans should read this book. He is shown to be a lot more than just someone with strange ideas about music. For rock music fans in general, this is a gem of a book.

Raising a Reader: A Mother's Tale of Desperation and Delight
Jennie Nash
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
ISBN 0312315341, $19.95, 144 pages

Teaching a child to read, and getting that child to like reading, can be one of the most frustrating, and heartwarming, jobs for any parent. This book looks at one family's journey through such a process.

One of a parent's biggest wishes for their child is that they find something about which they are passionate, something on which they can build a life. For the parent, there is a fine line between passion and obsession, a line that is easy to cross.

It's hard to instill a love of books if the children don't have access to them. Regularly bring them to the local library, and let them take out a lot of books. If Child 2 doesn't progress in reading at the same rate as did Child 1, don't panic. Everyone progresses at their own speed.

Another way to instill a love of books is to set aside a reading period during the day. While the child reads a book, the parent should sit and read an adult book. The child will probably enter a phase in which they are interested in what the parent considers the children's literature equivalent of trash. Again, don't panic; they'll grow out of it.

Have faith in your child, especially if they are progressing too "slowly." Encouragement that the pieces will eventually fall into place is better than pushing. Realize that your children are individuals with different styles of reading.

Also included is a long list of reading suggestions for children of all ages. This book is a gem. It's very down to earth, and any parent can identify with it. For those parents worried that their child isn't reading "fast enough," take a deep breath, then read this book. It's time very well spent.

Frustrated Young Men
John O'Brien
Pulplit Publishing
762 South Street, Needham, MA 02492
ISBN 0974619604, $14.95, 100 pages

This is a first book from a recent Harvard graduate. These stories deal with real-life subjects, like depression, love and loneliness. One story looks at parts of growing up and being a teenager about which society has a tendency to forget. Another story is about a man who carries on a friendship/relationship with a young woman with bulimia, to the displeasure of his live-in girlfriend. A third story is about a young writer searching for himself. In short, each of these characters runs smack into this thing called "life." These stories look at how they deal with it.

This very short book belongs in that large gray area of Pretty Good or Worth Reading. There is nothing "wrong" with these stories, and the writer has lots of potential (I would be interested in reading his next book), but this book almost reaches the level of Recommended.

Belle Harbor Skeletons
Susan M. Hooper
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN 1414013728, $20.75 308 pages

Arnie Kotkin and Barnaby Moss are lifelong friends in the small town of Lawton, NY. Girls were never an important part of their lives while growing up. Their decision to live together as a gay couple, while not exactly a surprise, elicits two very different family reactions, the subject of this book.

The Moss family comes from a lower-middle class background, and always placed the health and well-being of their children above material possessions, anyway. If Barnaby is happy as a gay person, that's all that matters. The Kotkin's live in Belle Harbor, the rich part of town. Thelma, Arnie's mother, is a social climber with an inordinate interest in what others think of the family. Arnie's coming out is an absolute disaster, for her, and she lets Arnie know it. She can just imagine the whispering that will go on around town, now that they have a . . .queer in the family.

A few days later, Arnie is informed that his father has had a heart attack. Rushing to the hospital with Barnaby, and Helene and Jack Fentnor, Arnie's aunt and uncle who are visiting, they are confronted by Jimmy, one of Arnie's brothers. He is a medical student at the hospital and very much takes after his mother in being a self-centered jerk. He takes great exception to Barnaby's presence, and, in front of everyone, takes out a gun and shoots Barnaby, wounding him in the shoulder.

The incident becomes news, jeopardizing Arnie's teaching job at the local elementary school. Barnaby is released after a couple of days (HMO). Thelma begins to realize that there is more to life than worrying about the opinion of others. A few days later, another tragedy strikes the Kotkin family. Freddie and Jerry, Arnie's other brothers, were in a car that was deliberately forced off the road by another car. Freddie escaped with minor injuries, but Jerry was killed. Arnie and Barnaby decide that they had better do some fast crime solving, because someone has certainly targeted the Kotkin family. Amid everything else, Helene and Jack let Arnie in on some deep, dark family secrets.

This isn't just a good "gay novel," or a good mystery or a good story about family secrets, it's a really good novel, overall. It moves easily, and will certainly keep the reader involved.

Paul Lappen

Robyn's Bookshelf

Walking With the Dead
L.M. Falcone
Kids Can Press
ISBN: 1553377087, $16.95, 1553377095, $6.95.

What is more fun than dressing up in a glorious outfit for Halloween? Try chasing down a renegade corpse needing a gold coin to cross over into the Underworld. The corpse must cross the river and be judged fairly or condemned to an unjust eternity. Alex and best-buddy Freddie, are enlisted to help when the star of the Oddities museum suddenly wakes from his coffin. The journey has only begun when Alex and Freddie are mysteriously transported to the river where the ferryman Charon waits to deliver souls to the Underworld. On the other side is the gate to Hades, a barrier between eternal torment and a chance to get back home. They cross into the Underworld where they encounter deliciously evil monsters barring the path. One problem after the other emerges. Are they clever enough to overcome the challenges and will they be able to travel through time and stop a murder about to take place? A frantic but fun adventure, the storyline advances quickly calling upon a child's imagination for detail already gleaned from videos. Brief description and quick moving action make this feel like a television show. Greek mythology is nicely woven with modern details providing the reader with an enjoyable book. Grades 4 to 7.

The Hunter's Moon
O.R. Melling
Amulet Books
ISBN: 0810958570, $16.95

In the realm of Faerie lives an evil so great, it holds the entire realm hostage until it is appeased. In this unlikely romantic adventure, we cross between two worlds, one mortal, and an enchanted land trapped in a brutal game to survive. Parties, merriment, exquisite dress, glorious banquets of old, and royalty await anyone stepping into Faerie. But when American Gwen travels to Ireland to spend time with her Irish cousin, Findabhair, the two find themselves trapped in a game of love and death. The handsome and charming King of Faerie enters the dream world to kidnap cousin Findabhair, a willing bride to be. Only it's the summer of the Hunter's moon and the bride must be sacrificed to an ancient evil demanding payment. It's up to sixteen year old Gwen to resist the challenge of a powerful magic. Can she lead a force of seven to win the battle for her cousin's life or does tradition speak true and the evil can not be undone? The story is richly laced in fascinating fairy lore, evidenced by the author's academic knowledge of the subject. The romance is endearing but teen girls will feel it was rushed when it comes to Gwen. O. R. Melling does for fairies what Anne Rice did for vampires. The story is engaging and beautifully teaches the reader about the world of fairies and an Irish culture both old and new. This is the first book of four in The Chronicles of Faerie. To fully enjoy the story, I recommend referring to the glossary.

A Place for Mike
Susan Blackaby
Illustrated by Mernie Gallagher-Cole
Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1404810129, $18.60.

Mike likes to play. He likes to play at the beach, swim in the water, and fly kites in the yard. Mike is illustrated as a happy child experiencing the joys of a fun life. Young readers will savor scenes of digging in the sand, of walking in flippers, as well as playing in the water. Large print high frequency words repeated in a simple language pattern help the emerging reader to recognize words. Each scenic page displays one sentence, providing the reader with visual imagery as well as text. This is level one (purple) in a series of Read-it! readers. The Read-it! Series was created to support both the acquisition of reading skills and to foster the love of books. Six different levels ranging from purple to orange teach young readers different skills ranging from basic topics and objects to a wide range of ideas and challenging language structures. Formatted as a small hand-held book, it is easily handled by young hands. Advisors Adria Klein, PhD, California State University, and Susan Kesselring, M.A., Literacy Educator, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District endorse reading techniques highlighted in the series. Emergent Reader, Ages 4 to 7.

Robots: The Movie Storybook
Adapted by Kate Egan
ISBN: 0060591137, $7.99

Can you imagine a world of robots where each robot has a distinct look and personality and your new baby comes in parts through the post office? Welcome to Robots, a technological world where updates are the future. As a young bot Rodney Copperbottom grows up in a loving household watching his favorite show, The Bigweld Show. Bigweld tells his viewers, "Whether a bot is made of new parts, old parts, or spare parts, you can shine no matter what you're made of." From this, Rodney desires to be an inventor. When he becomes a young adult, Rodney leaves Rivet Town to meet Bigweld personally but Robot City turns out to be a different the kind of world. Corruption and calamity await the innocent robot and a life threatening adventure ensues. Will Rodney and his new friends uncover the secret and more important, will they be able to stop the evil that lurks? Meant as a companion to the movie, the text skips across the storyline to highlight key points. If you haven't seen the movie, the story may seem jagged. The extraordinary photographs are worth studying and pleasing to children. Each robot is uniquely different with body mechanics and facial movement conveying emotion. Ages 6-10.

Meet the Robots
Acton Figueroa
ISBN: 0060591145, $3.99

Rodney Copperbottom meets some worthwhile friends while trying to save Robot City. Pegged as a Festival Reader, this book is meant to help and nurture a love of reading. Written with a controlled vocabulary in short sentences, the child is encouraged to follow along as an adult reads. More confident readers may read the story aloud. The storyline is basic, illustrating small snippets of the Robots movie. Care has been given to a child friendly format using rhythm and appealing photographs. "Robot City is an amazing place. It is packed with all types of robots: big robots, little robots, nice robots, and some not-so-nice robots." Pictures and personality descriptions follow. This is a fun book for the kids to read and they'll enjoy some of their favorite characters such as Aunt Fan, the robot with the enormous bottom, and Fender whose parts keep falling off. Ages 4-7.

Robyn Gioia, Reviewer

Roger's Bookshelf

Get 'em While They're Hot
Tony Zeiss
Nelson Business, Nashville, TN
Division of Thomas Nelson Publishers
ISBN 0785208658 $19.99 168 pages

Wisdom and Warnings from a Special CEO

Tony Zeiss is especially well positioned to understand and appreciate the challenges of building a successful workforce. With years of post-secondary education under his belt, he's one of those rare people who has seen it all, "been there, done that," and "when I was your age." Dr. Zeiss is president of Central Piedmont Community College - with 70,000 students, the largest college in North Carolina. His credentials are impressive, as is his reputation for leadership in the field of workforce preparedness.

This book is disarmingly short. It looks and feels like a quick read, which will attract more of the busy executives who need to get this message. As author of thicker books in the field, I commend Dr. Zeiss for a concise work that wastes no time in conveying the most urgent message of our day.

The subtitle of the book tells the story: "How to Attract, Develop, and Retain Peak Performers in the Coming Labor Shortage." Our dilemma is an insufficient supply of workers who are educated and trained do perform the work that needs to be done. Zeiss begins with a recognition of the emerging shortage of skilled workers in the United States (a dangerous problem uncovered in our book, "Impending Crisis: Too Many Jobs, Too Few People.") Digging deeper into the issue, he reports that "at most community colleges, nearly 70 percent of recent high school graduates require remedial math or English before they can take college-level courses." A majority of high school students are programmed to go to college, but "only about 50 percent of all university freshmen graduate with a degree." And a chilling fact: "According to the Associated Press, of 1,000 who applied for manufacturing jobs at Siemens, only 35 had the skills to be hired."

With this context, it's easy to appreciate the value and timeliness of this book. Zeiss gets right into his content in his first chapter, going deeper into the trends and the challenges facing employers. He taps his own background and experience, and the work being done at his college, to illustrate his points. Subsequent chapters concentrate on attracting, developing, and retaining peak performers.

This book is a great how-to guide, presenting accepted knowledge in the field in a focused, credible manner. Zeiss' perspectives add extra power to the message, and his credentials suggest that CEOs will be more accepting of the information coming from him. The pages are filled with thought-provoking ideas that will stimulate readers to mark pages, highlight, take notes, and move to action.

Highly recommended.

According to Kotler
Philip Kotler
ISBN 0814472958 $17.95 168 pages

Sit at the feet of the guru

If you're in marketing, you probably know the name "Philip Kotler." He's recognized as the world's foremost authority on marketing. Lots of awards, recognition, books, etc. Well respected. If you're not in marketing, he's still the world's foremost, etc, etc. And from his perspective, we are all in marketing. So, this book is for everyone in business and then some.

You'll find this little paperback disarmingly short in appearance. First impression is that the book is too short to have much to offer. Surprise! There's an amazing amount of knowledge and insight in these pages. The format makes the book easy to read - in one sitting or in chunks or even sporadically as a reference book.

The format is somewhat unusual, which gives a sense of special-ness to the book. Think of a question you'd like to ask a man like this, if you could have him all to yourself for a few minutes. OK, good. Now, ask another one. And another one. That's what your experience will be with this book. Question after question - that people have asked the guru over the years, followed by his short answer. Not long treatises, just short answers like you might get in an elevator encounter.

The questions are organized into major categories and subcategories. The major sections are Markets and Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Tools, Market Planning, Marketing Organization, Marketing Areas of Application, and Marketing Excellence. The table of contents consists of the questions and the page numbers. Just let your finger move down the page and you'll find questions that draw you in because you're curious about his answer.

Bonus: this book has a comprehensive index that makes it easy to find the answers - and the questions - you're looking for. Hence the value as a reference book.

Drawbacks include the plight that the answers will often be shorter and shallower than readers will want. So, read his other books for the depth. There is some redundancy, as might be expected as the topics intertwine. All in all, this is a valuable book, perhaps worth multiples of the price to have a resource for quick, concise, sometimes provocative answers.

The Secrets of Great Sales Management
Robert A. Simpkins
ISBN 0814472389 $24.95 212 pages

Covers the Topic, Easy to Work With

I was pleased with this book. Sales managers - actual and aspiring - will find a tremendous amount of information in these pages. And the pages are easy to read. This book is definitely a useful tool.

The volume is organized into three sections: Planning, Preparing, and Producing. Topics include a current perspective on the changing world of sales management, setting goals and objectives, communicating expectations to your sales team, and using performance standards in hiring. And this is only the first section!

You'll learn about recruiting and hiring, use of technology, compensation, and danger signs to watch for. Measuring and managing performance, coaching and counseling, and a focus on the future are all discussed in a realistic, comprehensive design that is easy to read, absorb, and apply. Strange as it sounds for a book like this, you may find it difficult to put down. Yes, it's that engaging. I found myself turning page after page before I realized how many pages I'd read!

And the text is supplemented by two appendices: a leadership growth plan and a checklist for success.

There are a lot of books out there on this topic, but this one is worth the investment of your time. Advice: read more than one if you're entering this field. No one has all the answers! This is a great foundation book, covering a lot of topics without going too deep.

World Class Reliability
Keki R. Bhote and Adi K. Bhote
ISBN 0814407927 $39.95 218 pages

Good Insight into the Next Generation of Quality

The quality message has been central to the world of business, particularly manufacturing, for decades. We've gone from Deming and Crosby's Total Quality Management to Six Sigma. What next?


Keki Bhote was one of the creators of Motorola's original Six Sigma system and Adi Bhote, a long-time Motorola employee, is a Six Sigma champion black belt. They know where quality has been, where it is, and where it's going next. Their emphasis is now on reliability. What is Reliability? It "is the key to uncovering and stamping out product failures before they happen in the field."

To achieve higher reliability, the authors recommend an approach they call MEOST: Multiple Environment Overstress Testing. It's a non-mathematical model that uncovers the weak points so they can be corrected before a product goes to market. The low-cost process is said to reduce field failure rates by one or even two orders of magnitude. A huge promise is made in the preface: "This book can show companies, mired in miniscule and fading profits, how to really make money."

And this is an underlying focus of the book, beginning with the topic of Part I: The Challenge for Industry: Regaining Lost Profits. Next, the authors present what companies should not do, then they move into their MEOST presentation. An appendix, notes, and index supplement the text, adding value.

If you're in the quality field or have this kind of work woven into your job description, you owe it to yourself and your employer to read this book.

The Art of the Strategist
William A. Cohen
ISBN 081440782X $24.95 239 pages

Back Again With Good Stuff

Cohen is a consultant, speaker, and seminar leader with a PhD and significant military leadership experience (retired major general, US Air Force Reserve). His books bring helpful information to focus for leaders of all kinds of organizations.

My first impression of this book is that it is designed well. The text begins with a positioning of Strategy in the leader's tool kit, then dives right into a listing and explanation of Cohen's ten essential principles of strategic leadership.

The first is a no-brainer - or should be: Commit Fully to a Definite Objective. Remember the old adage: "If you don't know where you're going, any path will take you there." Your focus must be clear and shared with team members. Next, Seize the Initiative and Keep It. Economize to Mass Your Resources. The list continues, with a solid chapter on each theme. The presentations are illuminated by examples and stories that help the reader understand how the principles have been applied over history. This approach builds interest and variety for the reader, enhancing the value of the book.

The third section of the book addresses action steps to put the principles to work. Readers will learn how to link their plan to their environment, what to do when things go wrong (you know they will - Murphy is still with us!), and how to apply the universal principles.

This handbook is good reading, and will also be a valuable tool for leaders of any kind of organization.

The Ugly Duckling Goes to Work
Mette Norgaard
ISBN 0814408710 $17.95 193 pages

Philosophy, Interesting Reading.

This book is based on the classic tales written by Hans Christian Andersen. Norgaard, born and raised in Denmark, presents six of the tales. Each is presented in summary form, then in full context. Next comes commentary about what Andersen was saying, including nuances that come from the Danish text and not from the English translation. In each chapter, the moral of the tale is explained. Some business context is provided, but not enough that it was clear that this is a management book.

I found this book to be an interesting read. Taking children's fairy tales and finding lessons for business in the 21st century is an interesting concept. It's fascinating how the moral teachings of long ago apply in today's context. While the messages are related to business, this is more a book of wisdom than technique. You'll find the content to be thought-provoking and filled with relevant teachings. If you want a hard, practical book, look elsewhere.

The Project Manager's Partner
Michael Greer
ISBN 0814471331 $24.95 175 pages

Terrific Primer for New Project Managers

Every day, at numerous workplaces, somebody in power asks - or tells - someone to assume control of a project. In some cases, the designee is an experienced project manager. In most cases, however, the assignment is given to someone who has little or no knowledge or experience in project management. Consequently, too many new project managers stumble, flounder, look foolish, and don't achieve desired project results.

Give that neophyte some help! A partner to accompany the project manager step-by-step with guidance, advice, forms to use, and answers to the questions that are sure to bedevil you if you didn't have an expert by your side. The expert - the author - is a consultant and trainer in project management. His focus is to work specifically with people who do not manage projects as the principal element of their job, but who want - and need - to learn the techniques to do a great job.

Your learning will begin with a short introduction about how to use the handbook. This section will build your comfort and help you see the all-important big picture. Part One explores deliverables, project phases, and life cycles. After a brief time in Part Two, looking at project management processes, you'll dig right into a treasure trove of action items that take you right through the steps. The action items tie right back into the knowledge gained in Part Two, so the flow is easy to grasp.

Then come the appendices! Tips for Managing Experts Outside Your Expertise. Glossary of Project Management Terms. Shortcuts. And even guidelines for deciding when to kill a project. And this is only part of the picture.

Excellent resource for managers and would-be managers in any field.

The Enthusiastic Employee
David Sirota, Louis Mischkind, Michael Meltzer
Wharton School Publishing
Pearson Education, Inc, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
ISBN 0131423304 $26.95 363 pages

This one shouldn't be missed

From time to time, as a book reviewer, I come across a book that could easily slide under the radar - but should not. This is one of those books.

The book's subtitle is "How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want." For savvy leaders, this is a no-brainer. However, as a Certified Management Consultant with 25 years of practice under my belt, I can tell you that an uncomfortably large proportion of managers don't get it. And those who may suspect that they can do more to build their productive relationships with employees often question whether these ideas are just a lot of fluff and woo-woo.

This book presents 30 years of research with the results of surveys given to over 4 million employees. This is a huge contribution to the field, particularly when the book contains a significant amount of material in the appendix about research methodology.

The real meat of the book will be found in the sections on how enthusiastic workers are motivated by fair treatment (job security, compensation, respect), achievement (purpose and principles, job enablement, job challenge, feedback/recognition/reward), and camaraderie (teamwork). Even as you cruise through the table of contents, your mind will shout "duh!" But as you read the pages, you'll find a meld of academia and real-world that presents a serious handbook into how to gain greater commitment and results. This is a deep business book, not conversational light reading.

The final section of the text explores organizational culture and what the authors - consultants and professors - call the partnership organization. Naturally, consultants - internal and external - will gain quite a bit from this book. Corporate leaders - and particularly those charged with organizational change and positive cultural reinforcement - will find the book a treasure. Even a relatively quick read (a scanning for insights and ideas) will stimulate thinking for busy executives.

This is a book that will be scanned, re-read, and referenced by people dedicated to taking our workplaces back to the foundations that made them strong in days past when people really cared about their jobs - when they were genuinely enthusiastic employees.

Hiring Source Book
Catherine D. Fyock
Society for Human Resource Management
1800 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314
ISBN 1586440489 $44.95

Comprehensive, Excellent Resource

Hiring is never as simple as it seems. There is a lot involved in the process. It starts with the development of the job description and continues through the job offer being made and accepted or declined. The process is explained in a flow chart in this book, accompanied by text that details each step.

The hiring process need to be managed. That management task is accomplished through the use of a series of forms to be completed by participants in the process. With all laws governing employment, using the right forms (avoiding the wrong forms!) is essential.

The forms you need are all included in this book. They're ready for you to photocopy and put them to use. While the author recommends you clear use of the forms with your company's legal counsel, just to be extra safe and secure, the originals are all ready to copy from the CD-ROM that accompanies the book.

Fyock, a nationally-respected authority on hiring, has developed a very valuable tool in the Hiring Source Book. She starts by examining the hiring process (chapter 1). This information is helpful for the experienced human resources professional, as well as for management people (read: small companies without an HR department) who engage in hiring new employees. Her next chapter addresses the actual design of employment applications and how these tools fit into the process. The next chapters on interviewing and evaluating applications provide a broad range of advice and instruction that will build the confidence of even the most experienced hiring authority.

Hiring involves more than just looking at applications that may come in. Chapter 8 is filled with techniques that will strengthen the process and your results. Stay out of trouble by following the legal rules around hiring. They're explained in a way we can actually understand! And, since the composition of our workforce is changing in the United States, the chapter on hiring Hispanic employees makes this book particularly timely.

Highly Recommended. If you hire well, employee retention becomes a lot easier! As author of "Keeping Good People," I've seen that many retention problems arise just because the hiring wasn't done correctly. Read and use this book and save yourself a lot of grief and money.

Roger E. Herman, Reviewer

Sherry's Bookshelf

The Magic Token: A Journey with Alice in Wonderland
Eugene Orlando
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512 1-800-Authors
ISBN: 0595332765 $11.95 132 pages

The Magic Token is a journey into the magical wisdom of learning that loving is better than fighting.

Emma Thomas, a seventh grader, has lent her most prized coin to her friend. After waiting a week for the return of her Morgan Dollar minted in 1881, she confronts her friend, Dana, as to the coin's whereabouts. Dana sheepishly confesses she has spent the coin not realizing its value. Feeling betrayed and appalled at her friend's actions, Emma is rabid. Dana persuades Emma to accept a replica of a coin owned by the great writer Charles Dickens.

Dana returns home and while in a conversation with her brother she makes a wish about her most favorite story "Alice in Wonderland". In a finger snap, her wish comes true. She journeys through Alice's world learning much needed life lessons. There are lessons about race, judgment, anger, love and trust.

Emma tries to explain to Alice that Alice lives only in a story and Alice is perplexed by Emma's being Black. Emma tells Alice, "Everything seems real to you because it seemed real to the writer. Whatever a writer puts into a story, a reader gets the same out of it".

The author has put the written word to work in an out of the ordinary and first-rate chapter book filled with good hearted lessons and reminds us all, there is "no place like home".

One Big Hug
Shirley Hillard
Mamoo House
1626 Wilcox Avenue, Ste 929, Hollywood, Ca 90028 800-693-9380
ISBN: 1933014318 $15.95 32 pages

"How much do you love me" is a question that children and adults alike have fun asking. One Big Hug is an enchanting and brightly illustrated book. As a grandmother I enjoyed the conversation between Matthew and his grandmother. He needs to know the answer to the age old question and the two come up with lots of fanciful answers. Yet, all in all, perhaps one big hug is the best answer of all.

This delightful book for youths 5-9 has a nice Goldilocks effect - it is just perfect!

Who's Not Asleep?
Shirley Hillard
Mamoo House
1626 Wilcox Avenue, Ste 929, Hollywood, Ca 90028 800-693-9380
ISBN: 1933014318 $13.95 24 pages

Who's Not Asleep? is the perfect companion to the nighttime ritual of tucking in the young ones. Little animals are said "goodnight" to one by one, wooing the a child onward to sleepland. Eyes will certainly be heavy with slumber by the end of this tender and pleasingly illustrated book. Who's Not Asleep? is a charming book for nighttime reading for ages 2-4.

Deeper Grace
Dianne Reum
PO Box 151, Frederick, Maryland 21705 301-695-1707
ISBN: 141372650X $19.95 207 pages

The main character, Jamie, asks "Have you ever seen your heart?" This engaging question is in response to a little girl's difficult life question. This savvy book keenly deals with today's relevant and most provocative issues. Through Jamie's relationships the reader examines the subjects of faith, spirits, personal demons, love, wife abuse and sexuality.

.Deeper Grace is written with a smartness and an elegance. A storyline filled with wholeheartedness as well as philosophical depth and yet enough suspense to keep you intrigued to the last line.

With characters posing questions such as "Wouldn't it be something if homosexuality was part of God's plan for keeping the population in check?" gives this book an optimum "watercooler effect". Good job.

Searching for the Waters of Antiquity
Shirley Ryan
Soul Moments Publishing
PO Box 4763, Petaluma, CA 94952
ISBN: 0975519609 $24.95 115 pages

When life has you wobbling like a bobble doll, there is a prescription for health and wellness of mind, body and spirit. Searching for the Waters of Antiquity is a blissful exercise in truth. As you learn about the gifts of living, including affection and acceptance, you will find ways to triumph over stress and find inner peace.

Searching for the Waters of Antiquity is a marvelous and delightful navigation through a process for transformation. This simple but affective story follows a little turtle named Tag as he discovers the gifts for living a radiant life. The book is a 3 part quest for trouncing negative minds and refining productive thoughts. Shirley Ryan is a dazzlingly illustrator and a clever writer. The swooney colors will melt away tension as the captivating story will have you investigating your own self-portrait.

The author has ingenuously lured even a babble brain such as myself into the art of how to quiet my mind. Meditation isn't whimpy, it is much needed in today's society where reclusive temperaments, hard-shelled mentality, and fluttering thoughts fill our days. Meditation is a skill that I have tried many times to attain. This book put me on a path to conquering my perpetual mind gibberish. This is a book I will read many times over. The book also comes with an easy to follow guide "How to Use This Book".


Sherry Russell

Smith's Bookshelf

Moving From Windows to Linux
Chuck Easttom
Charles River Media
10 Downer Ave, Hingham, MA 02043
1-(781) 740-0400
ISBN 1584502800 $44.95 590 pages

I am not a Linux geek, but I am an Open Source fan. In fact, I'm typing this review on OpenOffice Writer. However, I am not a die-hard. What I see is a great operating system that offers a very cheap alternative to Microsoft Windows XP. Before my computer crashed, I hadn't really tried to use Linux. Once my laptop decided not to work anymore, I gave a free download of Fedora Core 3 (distributed by Red Hat) a try.

With knowledge comes power, and to facilitate my use of Linux, I got a hold of a copy of Chuck Easttom's Moving From Windows to Linux. I've never read a computer book that is so easy to use. By the time I had finished the first few chapters, I was able to create and delete files inside what Windows users refer to as the command-line interface. A few chapters down the road and I was using OpenOffice writer as proficiently as I had been using Microsoft Word.

Mr. Easttom writes with the beginning and intermediate users in mind, and that's the success of this book. Most average computer users think of Linux as a geek OS that is way above anyone who hasn't majored in computer science. The truth is that Linux, coupled with a good graphical user interface, is as good an operating system as the other two major OS's (MS Windows and Macintosh OSX). With this book, anyone can use Linux.

Searching for Pearly and Other Secrets
Donna Lessard
P.O. Box 151 Frederick, MD 21705
1-(301) 695-1707
ISBN 1413745768 $11.95 85 pages

I immediately fell in love with the characters of Searching for Pearly and Other Secrets, by Donna Lessard. When I met little Sarah, who was searching for her lost doll, I quickly became fascinated at the story behind her life. Unlike so many horror stories that seek to scare their audience, Ms. Lessard has actually told a story in the pages of her book that even an adult could enjoy, despite the intended age of the audience. Written for 12 year olds, Donna has created a story of intrigue that runs the entire length of the story.

Searching for Pearly and Other Secrets has my highest recommendation. I believe that young teens will find it an interesting story and adults will enjoy the fact that Lessard doesn't tinker with fright, gore, or any other Hollywood effect to get her audience into the story. Instead, she actually develops a plot that will keep the attention of any reader.

Watching Tamara, the main character, juggle her new responsibility to Sarah while managing her friends and her position in her own family (a separate plot line altogether) is an enjoyable experience. It's almost like stepping back in time to the Hardy Boys or to Nancy Drew and watching an actual story unfold. It's been a long time coming, and Donna Lessard delivers. She is a very good story teller.

S. Daniel Smith

Sullivan's Bookshelf

Everyone today is asking questions. Not everybody has answers. These four books reviewed here have both. Some are shocking; others are awesome; a few are provocative; none are boring or mundane. All four of these books are recommended.

Do Elephants Jump?
David Feldman,
ISBN# 0060539135 $19.95 335 pp.

DO ELEPHANTS JUMP? Some questions asked; 'Since Priests Wear Black, Why Does the Pope Wear White?" "Why is there a Two-Minute Warning in American Football?" "Why are Some Parts of Our Bodies More Ticklish Than Others?" The answers may surprise you. The book ends with a 23 page 'letters' section of reactions from readers to this author's previous books of questions, which include (among many): HOW DO ASTRONAUTS SCRATCH AN ITCH?, DO PENGUINS HAVE KNEES?, and WHEN DO FISH SLEEP?

David Feldman, author, lives in New York City and consults and lectures on the media besides writing this series of questioning volumes that he calls 'Imponderables.'

The Best Time to Do Everything: Expert advice on How to Live Cooler, Smarter, Faster, Better
Michael Kaplan
ISBN# 1582344876 $13.95 176 pp.

THE BEST TIME TO DO EVERYTHING answers the obvious question, "What is the best time to... place a sports bet?", "... buy a New Car?" "... deal with the IRS?" "... get married?" Several of the answers are accompanied by related anecdotes. Advice in this book could actually save or make you money, prevent major mistakes or heartches, and/or keep you out of major legal and financial trouble. Owners of this book should keep it handy by their lawyer's telephone number.

Michael Kaplan, a journalist, writes a magazine column on gambling for Cigar Aficionado. He has written for many other magazines from his Brooklyn Home.

Mail Call "This Book Takes Q's and Kicks A's"
R. Lee Ermey
ISBN# 1401307795 $17.95 244 pp.

MAIL CALL is based on the similarly named TV show on The History Channel and is authored by the program's emcee, who is known to viewers as 'the Gunny,' short for a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant. Gunny is a term of respect in this branch of the service.

According to the book, Ermey, the author, was, in fact, in the Marines for 11 years and served for a while as a drill instructor. His written commentary is similar to his banter on the TV program, meaning it's funny and interesting. Segments from the TV program have, seemingly, been downloaded into this slick paged, profusely illustrated book. Interested watchers of the TV show write in queries to the Gunny and he gets them answered by military and history experts.

Found in the volume are questions such as "Does the Military ever use Shotguns?" "What Kind of Rations Did Our Soldiers Eat Before MRE's?" "What is the Fastest Vehicle Used by the Army Today?" Q&A for all U.S. military services are published within this well illustrated book. Anyone reading it will no doubt turn on the TV and watch the Gunny do his thing.

R. Lee Ermey, the book's author, has acted in over five dozen Hollywood movies, including Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and Leaving Las Vegas. He lives in California.

I Can't Believe You Asked That! A No-Holds-Barred Q&A About Race, Sex, Religion, and Other Terrifying Topics
Phillip J. Milano
Perigee Books
ISBN# 0399530169 $14.95 272 pp.

I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU ASKED THAT! is the most provocative of these four books. A take-no-prisoners attitude prevails between the volume's covers. Questions in point: "As a black homeowner in a racially mixed subdivision, I've noticed that my Caucasian neighbors spend much more time on lawn care. Do Caucasians see lawn care as basic home maintenance, or is it more of a hobby?" "Do Catholics consider oral sex a sin?" "Do women fart? If they do, you'd never know from hanging around with them. When a woman is with her close gal pals and nobody is around, do they just let it fly? Or when a woman is walking through the woods or something all alone, does she let it slide? I mean, I can't imagine anyone holding it in for their entire friggin' lives?" Many of the questions go way beyond these. Men and women in the street, so to speak, provide the book's initial responses. That's followed by professional answers and advice. This book is hard to put down.

Phillip J. Milano is a journalist and served in a leadership role on The Recruitment and Youth Development Committee of The Newspaper Association of America's Diversity Board. He earned a journalism degree from Southern Illinois University. With his family, he makes his home in Florida.

Jim Sullivan

Taylor's Bookshelf

Bound Together
A. David Bos
The Pilgrim Press
700 Prospect Avenue, East, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100
0829816283 $13.00 1-800-654-5129

Bound Together: A Theology For Ecumenical Community Ministry by A. David Bos (ordained Presbyterian minister and founder of the Interfaith Community Ministries Network) addresses the intrinsic relationship between social justice issues and building ecumenical and interfaith communities of faith. Using an illustrative case examples of African American denominations and the theology of the laity movement, Bound Together explores just how congregations or denominations of same, similar, and different faiths can combine their resources and cooperatively design a common strategy or program in response to the social needs and economics assets of their particular communities. Bound Together is especially commended reading for clergy and lay leaders with an interest in ecumenical dialogue and the redress of social injustices, economic hardships, and cultural discord.

Surprised By Canon Law
Pete Vere & Michael Trueman
Servant Books
28 West Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
0867166088 $9.99 1-800-488-0488

Surprised By Canon Law: 150 Questions Catholics Ask About Canon Law, co-authored by canon law experts Pete Vere and Michael Trueman provides non-specialist general readers, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, a sound and practical guide to the oldest code extent in Christianity. The straightforward question-and-answer format addresses many issues and concerns regarding Catholic canon law today, such as "Can I attend and be a member of any parish I like?" (quick answer: "nobody is going to stop you"), "Can a living or non-Catholic person have a Mass offered for him or her?" (while once this would have been an issue, today there is no longer any prohibition against such), and "What is the annulment process?" (It is a judicial process in which the Church examines the presumption of validity of a particular marriage). An excellent primer and introduction to the rules and procedures the Catholic Church sets for both worship and daily living.

Toward A Dialogical Community
James F. Moore
University Press of America
4270 Boston Way, Lanham, MD 20706
0761828362 $24.00 1-800-462-6420

Toward A Dialogical Community: A Post-Shoah Christian Theology is a collection of thoughtful and thought-provoking essays by James F. Moore (Professor of Theology, Valparaiso University). These writings offer new approaches to sacred texts, explore different visions for Jewish-Christian relations, and offer insight into globe-spanning issues. From "The Israel-Shoah Link" to "Recovering the European Perspective on Post-Holocaust Theology" to "Christianity after the Holocaust and in the Twenty-First Century" and more, these essays deal with complex theological questions and issues in a meticulous, and well-reasoned manner, supplemented with excerpts and contemplations concerning the sacred texts themselves. A welcome and recommended addition to Judeo-Christian theology shelves.

John Taylor

Terry's Bookshelf

Bait and Switch
Larry Brooks
Signet Books
ISBN: 0451212479 $7.99 392 pages

Recommendation: ****

Author Larry Brooks continues to hone his craft and in BAIT AND SWITCH, he introduces his readers to a most interesting and complex male character, former male model Wolfgang Schmidt.

Wolf's love life is in the toilet and his professional career is on the skids, so when a Silicon Valley billionaire pitches him a win-win deal, Wolf doesn't have to think too hard to seal the deal.

What Mr. Billionaire wants is for Wolf to seduce Mrs. Billionaire so Mr. Billionaire won't have to pony up some $3 million per month in spousal support because if she lives with Wolf for more than 30 days, Mr. and Mrs.' pre-nup is null and void.

In return, Wolf gets a sizeable deposit in an off-shore bank account . . . and a ticket to financial freedom.

Once the players are engaged, so to speak, complications come from every angle. Wolf's former girlfriend reappears briefly. He begins to fall for Mrs. Billionaire. The IRS and the FBI show up at his door and make him a counter-offer that he CANNOT refuse, if he wants to keep any kind of freedom.

How Brooks brings all these angles into play, while keeping the reader from knowing the truth, is quite a tour de force. There's only one brief hint to the answer we're all looking for . . . and Brooks hides it well.

Wolf is a character I'd like to see again. And I'm glad Brooks has limited his interest in the "dark arts" to only a few pages this time around.

Well done, Larry. Keep it up.

The Ice Queen
Alice Hoffman
Little, Brown
ISBN: 0316058599 $23.95 224 pages

Recommendation: *****

Alice Hoffman: Magical Prose at Its Best

I've been an Alice Hoffman fan since TURTLE MOON. While some of her later efforts have left me a bit flat, THE ICE QUEEN grabbed me and held on until the very last word on the very last page.

An almost invisible librarian from New Jersey lives an almost invisible life, carefully removing herself from any emotional attachments after the death of her mother when she was a young girl.

Her older brother, Ned, is her portal to the outside world. When their grandmother dies, Ned moves her to Florida, where's he's a married professor.

One day, in the sizzling heat, the librarian (whose name is never given) survives a direct hit by lightning. She reluctantly agrees to become part of a study with other lightning strike survivors. She hears of a man named Lazarus Jones . . . nicknamed so because he was apparently dead for 40 minutes after a lightning strike, woke up, and simply walked out the hospital.

Our ice queen is compelled to find Lazarus Jones and hear his side of the story. Jones, it seems, is still burning (literally) from the strike, while our heroine's world has gone cold and gray (literally).

One of the wonderful things about reading anything Hoffman writes is that you must suspend your traditional beliefs and abandon universal truths to completely "get" her stories.

I read the book in one sitting. Mystical. Intriguing. Thought-provoking. Ultimately satisfying.

Yep. That's Hoffman at her best.


Terry Mathews

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design