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

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 6, Number 5 May 2006 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Betty's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf Cowper's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Lori's Bookshelf
Magdalena's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Oliver's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Roe's Bookshelf
Tarbox's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Theft: A Love Story
Peter Carey
Random House
ISBN: 1740512561, $45.00, 269 pages

Ann Skea, Reviewer

"Whatever you want to invent in the art world has been done", Peter Carey is reported to have said in a recent Sydney Morning Herald interview. So, is that why the main character in his new novel, Theft, is an Australian version of Gulley Jimson in Joyce Cary's The Horses Mouth?

"Theft", says the publisher's blurb, explores "ideas of art, fraud, responsibility and redemption"; and Michael Boone, who is the chief narrator of the story, is, like Gulley Jimson an "artist, con man and aging lover" (to pick at random from some Internet synopses of The Horse's Mouth). Like Gulley, he has just been released from gaol when he begins to tell his story. Like Gulley, he is scornful of normal, polite conventions and he lets nothing stand in the way of his art. Michael Boone's art is unconventional and 'Modern' and the masterpiece on which he works has the Biblical title 'I, The Speaker, Ruled As King Over Israel': Gulley Jimson, too, was painting a huge, modern work on a Biblical theme. And, like Gulley, Michael Boone (or Butcher Bones as he is called throughout most of Theft) is in dispute with his ex-wife over possession of his own work which, as Butcher Bones puts it, has been declared by divorce lawyers to be "Marital Assets".

More than anything else, it is Butcher Bones's attitude towards the law, art dealers, art collectors, fashions in art, the gullibility and ignorance of the general public, and his own unquestioning belief in his own artistic genius, which exactly reflects that of Gulley Jimson. Jimson's saving grace, however, is his Blakean vision, and his ability to see through the surface ugliness of the world and the people around him to the essential beauty beneath. Butcher Bones has no such spiritual depth. As his brother tells us, he does not believe in god or in miracles and he relies solely on his own judgment, especially in his estimation of his own worth.

In spite of all this, Theft is also very different to A Horse's Mouth. Most obviously, its narrator is as true-blue Aussie as any uncouth, foul-mouthed, alcohol-fuelled, football fan can be. If you choose to spend time with him as he tells his story, then there is no point in getting prune-face and prissy about his attitude to women or about his scorn for all those he robs, sponges on and deceives. In his eyes, they are all fools. His greatest admiration - his enduring love, as he proclaims poetically at the end of the book - is given to the equally ruthless and immoral young woman in whose art fraud he becomes embroiled, and whose own selfishness ultimately exceeds his own.

Theft is different to Joyce Cary's book, too, in that it not only raises questions of authenticity in art through the words and actions of its main character, but it also embodies them in its creation and publication. Peter Carey may, or may not, have stolen Joyce Cary's artist idea (this book is, after all, entitled 'Theft'), and perhaps a court case like that involving The Da Vinci Code is a possibility; and he may or may not have imitated some of Cary's brush-strokes, so-to-speak; but this book is also distinctively Peter Carey's own work. Much of this is due to his creation of Hugh, Michael's "damaged two-hundred-and-twenty-pound brother". "Hugh the poet and Hugh the Murderer, Hugh the Idiot Savant", as Michael describes him, is the second narrator in this book and he is a fine creation.

Hugh became Michael's responsibility after attempting to murder their father. He describes himself as 'Slow Bones' and much of the time he is lucid and amiable, but he is prone to uncontrollable fits of rage and he tends to speak in CAPITAL LETTERS. Hugh makes a wonderful foil for Michael, but both are mad in their own way (as was the whole family, it seems) and often their 'voices' are not easily distinguishable. At times I could only determine who was speaking by the sudden eruption of capitals in the text. Nevertheless, Hugh is uniquely valuable as an observer and as a recorder of family history which, in his parroted phrases and borrowed opinions, can be very funny. He may have spent his time from fourth grade on sitting on a chair in the school playground, but he knows that "MAKING ART" is very much like being a butcher (which was the family business in the small Victorian town of Bacchus Marsh): "the labour never ends, no peace, no Sabbath, just eternal churning and cursing and worrying and fretting and there is nothing else to think of but the idiots who buy it or the insects destroying TWO-DIMENSIONAL SPACE". Hugh's job, whilst Michael is painting his masterpiece in a borrowed, bug-infested studio on a New South Wales country property, is to remove the bodies of dead flies "the fluff and bumph and snot of life" from the Dulux-painted surface, and to fetch and carry and be, as he plaintively complains, "his MANSERVANT".

The third important character in Theft is the young woman, Marlene, wife of a famous artist's son and (due to her 'eye' and her husband's total disinterest in art) effective wielder of the droit morale by which paintings are authenticated. She erupts into the Bones brothers' lives, becomes Michael's lover, manipulates art sales and art thefts and art frauds, and in the end shows herself to be as untrustworthy and mad as they are.

As for being a love story, as the sub-title claims, there are many ways to interpret that. There is Michael's love of Marlene, which may be love in his terms but which seems very much more like lust, admiration and puzzlement. There is Michael's love for Hugh, which is equally often an onerous duty. And there is his love for his art; although he is not above forging a piece of work by another artist, copying his brush-strokes exactly, adopting and adapting his style, and then revelling in the art-world's acceptance of what he clearly regards as his own masterpiece. At least Gulley Jimson forged an early Jimson and could be rightly proud that it was all his own work.

The twists and turns of the plot in Carey's book keep you on your toes. The book's Australian flavour, too, is strong, although some of the action also takes place in America and Japan. But this book does Australia no favours, feeding instead a popular caricature of Australia as a cultural desert inhabited by ex-convicts, frauds and uncouth, boozy larrikins. Interviewers, so far, have concentrated on trying to establish a biographical link between Peter Carey and his main character (both were born in Bacchus Marsh, both are divorced, both have young sons, both are creators) but Carey has been fiercely dismissive of such suggestions. Maybe, however, Michael Boone is Carey's alter-ego in a rather different way. Maybe both are masters of artistic theft.

Wild Abandon
Ronica Black
Bold Strokes Books
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
ISBN: 193311035X, $15.95, 247 pp.

Arlene Germain

In Ronica Black's novel, Wild Abandon, we meet Dr. Chandler Brogan, a clinical psychologist and expert in the field of sexual dysfunction. As she and her brother Hank race their motorcycles down the highway, Officer Sarah Monroe pulls them both over for several traffic violations. It is this first encounter that sets the stage for the ensuing battle of wills that will carry each woman to levels of desire and intimacy which neither one has experienced before. Further complicating the situation are mutually dark secrets, a crazed ex-husband, and a myriad of conflicting emotions that set the stage for an exciting and fulfilling reading experience.

Black has managed to create two very sensual and compelling women. Each appears to be functioning quite well in a superficially impersonal way. However, their chance meeting creates that small fissure in their personalities which will ultimately either transform or destroy the selves they strive to be. These are not caricatures of perfect young and successful lesbian professionals which one all too often encounters in today's genre. They are three-dimensional, flawed, yet aspiring, women who, when confronted with the ultimate and inevitable crises that come with 'real' life, react and respond as credible, substantial, and appealing people. The dialogue flows easily and both Chandler and Sarah possess an honesty that is to be valued.

The backstory is intriguing, original, and quite well-developed. Yet, it doesn't detract from the primary premise of the novel—it is a sexually-charged romance about two very different and guarded women. Black carries the reader along at such a rapid pace that the rise and fall of each climactic moment successfully creates that suspension of disbelief which the reader seeks. The author satisfyingly manages to expound upon a few implicit themes about relationships and intimate interaction but manages to do so in a deft, not heavy-handed, fashion.

This reviewer is the first to admit that she was not particularly taken with Black's first novel, In Too Deep. However, the style, flow, and transition technique evinced by the author in Wild Abandon has grown tremendously. This is what this reviewer searches for when reading several works by an author. Black has a more mature and confident phraseology in this work. The plotting appears more fluidly constructed, more suffused with plausible dialogue, as well as convincing and intelligible characterization. Wild Abandon is a novel that displays the author's creative imagination while at the same time boldly exhibits the author's maturation as an author.

Mr. Touchdown
Lyda Phillips
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, Nebraska 68512
ISBN: 0595359000, $13.95, pbk
ISBN: 0595672884, $23.95, hc

Susan Marya Baronoff

Star athlete Eddie, his sister, Lakeesha, and two other "Negro" students, hand-picked to enter an all-white high school, are swept into the very heart of the civil rights movement in Memphis, 1965.

Chosen to integrate Forrest High by the NAACP – and his father -- we follow high school junior, Eddie Russell, as he encounters the viciousness of certain white students – the coldness of others – and grapples with the sheer unfairness of leaving his friends and teammates to come to this hostile and dangerous environment. But we also follow Eddie into his own heart, as he struggles to, in his father's words: "…look into the soul of your enemies and find in them something to love."

The richness of this wonderful book, however, doesn't arise simply from its depiction of Eddie and the other black students as they enter a strange new world; we also experience that world as old and familiar, through our other narrator -- popular, white, Forrest High cheerleader, Nancy Martin.

Nancy is smart and confident and just beginning to notice a few teeny, tiny fractures on the fault lines between her and her best friends. Her dreams are changing – expanding – catapulting her to New York and Paris, while theirs are still centered around getting married and settling down. But when it comes to the dreaded integration, Nancy hates the idea just as much as they do. At first, anyway. Because pretty soon, she can't ignore the indignities and humiliations meted out to Eddie and the others. And when the attacks become physical… That's got to be more wrong than integration… Doesn't it?

It's in the interplay of these two characters – solitary, stoical Eddie and impulsive, inquisitive Nancy, that the book becomes bigger and deeper and compellingly human.

Mr. Touchdown is a terrific read. Using vibrantly descriptive language, Lyda Phillips creates a living world of shop class and gym teachers, pep rallies and pompoms, and pulls us right into it. Middle-school students and even their older brothers and sisters will enjoy the breezy dialogue, fast-moving plot, and genuinely shocking twists and turns. Rooting her story of radical social change in the familiar routines of high school, the author gives us a book that never abandons its characters, and it succeeds as both social commentary and adolescent rite-of-passage.

It's also a warm and big-hearted book that honors each of its central characters, without robbing them of their flaws and rough spots. It celebrates the unimaginable courage of Eddie and, by extension, all the boys and girls who made history as they dragged an entire nation into becoming better than it was. And it also acknowledges the decency and grit of the Nancy Martins who witnessed that history, first-hand. And played their own small role in it. And grew up to write it down for the rest of us.

Country Conversations: Timeless Stories from the Legends of Country Music
Timothy Edward Jones
Publish America
Baltimore, MD
ISBN: 1413796338, $19.95, 143 pp.

Steve Bond

In the wake of the glitz and glamour of today's "hot new Country music" Timothy Edward Jones rekindles America's passion for the true essence of traditionalism in his latest book Country Conversations: Timeless Stories from the Legends of Country Music. Jones has compiled a very accurate and entertaining book containing the true and unabashed stories from some of Country music's most celebrated and iconic artists and songwriters. This book stemmed from several years of research and personal interviews from Country legends like Bill Anderson, Charlie Louvin, Hal Bynum, Ricky Lynn Gregg and the Bellamy Brothers. Country Conversations tells the tales of Country music in the words of some of the artists that made the genre great. It takes a look inside the minds of the masters of Country music and takes the reader backstage and behind the scenes.

Highlights of Country Conversations includes rare glimpses inside the lives of Country music legends and relates what it takes to reach the pennicle of stardom. But all that glitters is not gold. Jones has a way in his interviewing style that brings out the harsh realities of life on the road, conflicts personally and professionally and allows the artists to be real people, flesh and blood.

This book also contains interviews with such non-Country artists like John McCrea, lead vocalist and songwriter for the eclectic Rock group CAKE. McCrea tells of his infatuation for the music of the 1950's Country duo the Louvin Brothers. It explores the enormous impact that Country music has on other genres of music and artists that are best known for recording and writing everything from Rock to Pop to Hard Rock.

Did you know that Jerry Garcia was an avid listener of Bluegrass music? Did you know the Beatles loved the music of Buck Owens? Or that George Jones and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones recorded a duet together? You will find these interesting facts in Country Conversations and the complete stories behind them and more.

Jones's latest book shares priceless advice for wanna-be Country stars from the legends as well. Music fans in general will find Country Conversations an easy read that is hard to put down. Filled with Country music facts, trivia, history and entertainment, Country Conversations sheds new light on what it means to be a Country music legend.

The author Timothy Edward Jones is almost encyclopedic in his vast knowledge of "old school Country-Western" and this book, his second in two years is a huge departure from his debut collection of poetry titled European Confession (ISBN: 1-4137-2867-7). Jones's passion for the old Honky Tonk Country music from Nashville's famed Music Row shines through in Country Conversations. The most discriminating music scholars and fans alike should be impressed with Jones's latest book.

Deep Wells, Burning Forests
C.K. Lucyk
Victoria, CA
ISBN: 1412067588, $30.42, 336 pp.

Karen Bronshteyn

World War II remains the most intriguing war for scholarship and literary endeavors, with every story adding a dimension of both understanding and enigma. The historical novel Deep Wells, Burning Forests, a first novel by C.K. Lucyk, artistically weaves the survival stories of three different families. Avid readers of holocaust literature will be particularly interested in reading about the Ukrainian experience, told through the dramatic and effective story line of four young adults, three siblings and one without any family, choosing their path to survival with strong nationalist sentiment and a vision for the political future of Ukraine, even though it would be easiest, and perhaps safest, to flee. Parallel to their story is that of a successful artistic family with less interest in politics, and an even lower inclination to take up arms. All strong characters with varying talents and abilities, their paths and stories intersect at various points, culminating in the convergence of their families in their new home and religious community in northeast Minneapolis.

The title refers to "policies," or crimes, committed by both Bolsheviks and Nazis: innocent victims found in various unlikely graves including wells; and entire villages, farmland, and forests burned. This novel differs from other WWII memoirs and historical fiction in that it depicts a controversial and not frequently discussed internal political struggle between followers of two different factions of the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists,) and the complicated situation of having essentially three enemies: the Red Army, the Nazis, and the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army), all of which held Ukrainian soldiers forced by circumstance to fight against one another.

"Maksym felt repulsed and wanted to tear off his uniform and run. In Kiev, he had thought himself a witness of what hell would be like… But something worse was now tearing away at his soul, fragmenting it into unrecognizable pieces… Having put on that uniform of his, he had believed that he stood on the side of those who fought for God and who respected the human need for freedom… Now, it was clear that he had made a Faustian deal with the Germans" (p. 28).

The situation of those who survived the war by escaping to Europe is also depicted in detail, through the challenges of postwar statelessness, the unwilling repatriation of many Ukrainians to the Soviet Union, and the difficulties of displaced persons in obtaining visas for immigration to North and South America.

Lucyk, an English teacher, former journalist, and second-generation Ukrainian immigrant, collected oral histories of Ukrainian immigrants in Minnesota, then conscientiously fact-checked and researched, and traveled extensively in order to write their story. The result is a novel rich with historical and geographical details, which includes even a background section, glossary, and endnotes; with Ukrainian words and place names that challenge and inform the reader. Lucyk explains that her impetus was a promise to tell the story of one survivor in particular, and implies that there are additional stories to tell. A marvelous storyteller and scholar to entrust with personal histories, her novel gives voice to a rarely heard but extraordinarily significant part of World War II.

The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100
Robert William Fogel
Cambridge University Press
40 West 20th Street, 7th floor, New York, NY 10011-4211 1-800-872-7423
ISBN: 0521808782, $24.00, 191 pp.

A. R. Cellura, Reviewer

A glass more than half-full?

Given that our vision is so heavily freighted with the moment, ideas of human progress are in short supply lately. Although not an easy ride, economic historian and Nobel Laureate Robert William Fogel's survey of the long-run, at least in respect to human morbidity, leisure and longevity, provides escape velocity from pressing concerns about war, pandemic, income inequality and the health of our ecosphere. It might be as another noted economist, Alfred Lord Keynes, said in a different context: In the long-run we are all dead. But, the long-run seems to be getting longer.

The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100 is an extension of Fogel's briefer 1993 Nobel Prize Lecture. It provides a synergistic view of the impact of increasing human environmental control on the demographic, economic and physiological conditions of successive generations over the past 300 years. According to Fogel, the interaction of these forces has over this period, and most dramatically over the last century, brought about a new stage of evolution - non-genetic "techno-physio evolution." He indicates this is evidenced by an unprecedented positive change during this period in caloric intake of about 250%, human body size of over 50%, and an increase in longevity of over 100%. Pointing to the future, Fogel's extrapolation of data over the last 140 years in optimal life circumstances, suggests that centenarians will be common by the last quarter of the 21st century. During the past three centuries there has also been an accompanying substantial decrease in the hours it takes each day to earn one's daily bread and increase in the percentage of discretionary income.

Although this is a "little" book, just 111 pages in the main body, it is densely packed with deep-mine data and illuminating higher-order concepts derived from a lifetime of concentration on economic development, particularly when Fogel was affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research as director of its Development of the American Economy Program and subsequently at the University of Chicago as the Charles R. Walgreen Professor of American Institutions and director of the university's Center for Population Economics. Metabolic indices, the thermodynamics of human physiological activity, Waaler curves, in utero effects on morbidity, protein-energy malnutrition, physiological capital, and Gini ratios are grist for Fogel's mill.

Fogel's treatment of the confluence of technological change, diet, morbidity, work demands, leisure and mortality extends beyond developments in Western society to include the rapid pace of technophysio evolutionary changes in third world countries whose per capita income increases piggybacked on Western innovations, consequently dwarfing the much slower pace of Western improvements a century earlier. In the process of his examination he emphasizes the need to recognize the optimal conditions for human adaptation rather than settle for standards such as daily caloric requirements derived from earlier phases of technophysio evolution. Policy issues in the areas of health care, personal savings and retirement are also discussed in the light of the demographic changes that are occurring.

Some data reported by Fogel and those from other sources are anomalous. For instance, in view of the technophysio evolution particularly of the past 100 years, it seems strange that Dutch males, who were on average about 5'5" in 1860 are now the tallest in the world at about 5'11" while over the same period US men, who were about 5'7" then, are only 5'8" now after the decline of the last few decades. One explanation derives from the widening gap between the rich and poor in the US (Gini = 45) compared to the greater income equality in the Netherlands (Gini = 30.9). (The Gini coefficient ranges from 1-100 with lower scores representing less income inequality). Also, there are data from millennia ago indicating a decline in average heights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the transition period from the hunter-gatherer economic regime to the first agricultural revolution (11,000 BC – 5000 BC). In John Kolmos (Ed.) Stature, Living Standards and Economic Development (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1994) there are a number of contributions that focus on such issues.

Professor Fogel touches very briefly on in utero, childhood and adolescence effects of economic status on morbidity and mortality, but his comment that "The exact mechanisms by which malnutrition and trauma in utero or in early childhood are transformed into organ dysfunctions are still unclear." (p. 32) is unwarranted. These relationships are detailed extensively in various chapters of the volume by Bruce S. McEwen and H. Maurice Goodman (Eds.) Handbook of Physiology: Coping with the Environment: Vol. IV (Oxford Univ. Press, 2001) for neuroendocrine abnormalities; in D. J. P. Barker's Mothers, Babies and Health in Later Life (Churchill Livingstone, 1998) and Fetal Origins of Cardiovascular and Lung Disease (Marcel Dekker, 2001) for specific organ effects; in Peter Gluckman and Mark Hansen's The Fetal Matrix (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005) for more general morbidity effects; and A. R. Cellura's The Genomic Environment and Niche-Experience (Cedar Springs Press, 2005) for the confluence of genomic influences, economic regimes, ecological niches, caloric intake, stature, morbidity and mortality.

Robert William Fogel's The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100 is that rare species of research – longitudinal study. Unlike the cross-sectional snapshots whose importance often quickly fades, there is gold in these data mines that is so precious because it is so difficult to find and so hard to get to. It is must reading for those in human biology, medicine and the social sciences who are interested in the issues surrounding human adaptation. It will also appeal to life-long learners drawn to the interface between the biology, economics and history of the human condition.

The Conjurer's Bird
Martin Davies
Random House
201 E 50th St., New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 1400097339, $24.00, 384 pp.

Coletta Ollerer

This is a side by side story of people living in the 20th century, that story involving John Fitzgerald and done in the first person. A prominent naturalist of the eighteenth century, Joseph Banks, is featured in the other part of this narrative and is told in the third person.

John Fitgerald is a conservationist and taxidermist who also teaches Natural Science at a local university. Gabriella Martinez, an old friend of Fitz, introduces him to Karl Anderson, a collector of rare objects, who is in search of the mounted remains of an extinct bird, called the Mysterious Bird of Ulieta. Karl asks for Fitz' assistance since he is known as a scholar in the field. This bird was discovered on Captain Cook's second expedition to the South Seas in 1774. It was captured and preserved and came into the possession of Joseph Banks, an 18th century naturalist. A drawing made of it at that time by the ship's artist is all that can be seen of it today. It is thought that Joseph Banks gave the bird to a friend. No one knows its whereabouts. Fitz meets with Anderson but doesn't like him. His suspicions concerning Karl inspire him to find the bird first.

Joseph Banks is a young well-respected natural scientist of the 18th century. He is a somewhat conceited young man and rightly so. He is wealthy, gifted and energetic. He is asked to join Captain Cook's first voyage to the South Seas as resident naturalist. He does well and is widely acclaimed for his efforts. But, before he goes with Captain Cook on this voyage to the South Seas, Joseph comes upon a girl in a wooded clearing near his home who is an amateur artist. He admires her work and she tries to put him off but she finds herself taken with him. "When she looked up she saw his eyes fixed intently on the drawing in her hand, and the expression on his face sent a flash of joy to her heart." (p48) This chance meeting becomes a warm and romantic relationship as time passes.

Fitz rents out a flat on the top floor of his home to a Swedish student named Katya. Slowly they become acquainted and he finds in her a kindred spirit who likes solving puzzles. They set out to find the Ulieta Bird before Anderson does. They suspect Banks gave the bird to his mistress whom they identify as Miss Brown. ".....finding her was the key to finding the Ulieta Bird." (p190) He returns home one evening and finds that his house has been burglarized. "Looking around the overturned bedroom, I realized why finding the Ulieta bird was so important to me. Not for posterity, not for science, not even for the fame of being its finder. But for myself . . . . . . seeing it held in my hands in defiance of all logic would be my proof that even the most fragile things can sometimes cheat oblivion." (p193) His resolve solidifies.

This is an engaging trip into an earlier century where we meet the persons and customs of the times while still enjoying the frustrations and satisfactions of detective work in century twenty. A worthwhile and enjoyable read.

Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea
Nancy Atherton
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0670034762, $14.95, 256 pp.

Connie Gotsch, Reviewer

If you like fun characters, and playful cozy mysteries without too much violence, you'll enjoy Boulder, Colorado author Nancy Atherton's "Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea." The book is part of an ongoing series, in which Lori, a lively mom and housewife, finds herself solving odd mysteries, with the help of the spirit of a departed relative, Aunt Dimity. Dimity communicates with Lori through magic writing in a big blue journal, which Lori opens whenever she needs advice, counseling, or a sympathetic ear.

In addition, Dimity has willed her cottage in the English Cottswold District to Lori. Lori now lives in the little house with her lawyer husband, Bill, who happens to work for an international law firm in London. The couple's five-year-old twin sons, Rob and Will, a cat, and some ponies round out the family.

In "Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea," somebody wants to get even with Bill for something, by harming Lori, Will and Rob. This person signs himself 'Abbadon' on threatening e-mails sent to Bill's office. There's nothing to do but whisk Lori and the boys away to an island on the west coast of Scotland, to a castle owned by an eccentric family friend, Sir Percy, while Bill stays in London to help Scotland Yard catch Abbadon.

Once on the island, Lori learns local legends about monks slaughtered by Vikings, and begins to see and hear mysterious things connected with the stories. She and two English aristocrat friends, also from the Cottswold District, uncover what might be a dark secret. That leads to an incident in which Sir Percy might turn out to be someone Lori never expected him to be.

But before she can grapple with any of this, Abbadon finds her hideout and kidnaps the boys during a horrific storm. Lori tears down a secret staircase in a rescue attempt. Then outside in the driving rain, the things she has discovered come together with Abbadon in a lighting flash that leads to both a thrilling ending befitting a mystery, and a fun twist, appropriate to a story where one of the characters communicates kindly from the Beyond.

Indeed, Aunt Dimity is a refreshing character, who offers a delightful twist on the occult. Nancy Atherton cleverly adapts the magic of having her spirit around to the every day world, making her different from Harry Potter, or Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, who live in carefully constructed, imaginary worlds.

Because of Aunt Dimity's presence, an ordinary person like Lori can have an aristocrat friend like Sir Percy. The right person or thing can show up to help solve the crime because Aunt Dimity will see to it from the spirit world. And Lori can tear down a secret staircase in search of her sons. Within the lighthearted parameters that Atherton sets, people can solve a mystery without a lot of blood and guts. They can laugh and enjoy fun settings, and all the swashbuckle of romance, without the action becoming a cliche.

Dorothy Parker's Complete Stories
Dorothy Parker, author
Colleen Breese, editor
Penguin Books
New York
ISBN: 0140189394, $13.95, 447 pp.

Dan Schneider, Reviewer

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) was cute, sexy, witty, vivacious, delightfully vicious, and the only member of the infamously bad Algonquin Round Table that had even a modicum of real writing talent, and it's on full display in this collection of her finest short fictions. However, that all being said, Parker's short fictions are just that- fictions; not real 'stories' with narratives that anyone can dig their teeth into. They are moments, fugues, scenes with a single purpose to illuminate, and most do those things very well. It is social criticism as art. But, there is not much real depth to much of her prose work- beyond condemning this or that faux pas, and as a consequence of that artistic choice, just as her light verse lacked any heft, this prose corpus stands in direct contrast to the writer who was her most obvious literary forebear- Oscar Wilde.

In a sense, though, this is an unfair comparison, for Wilde simply was the greatest published witticist in human history, but there is the gnawing feeling, when reading Parker's 'scenes', that she could have been so much more had she been less the bon vivant. Still, compared to what passes for comic commentary today, she is a genius. The New York that she details might best be described as the wordly equivalent to the paintings of Edward Hopper, for under all the goofiness there are extremely lonely and desperate characters. Her heroes, but mostly heroines, all struggle with capital L Loneliness primarily- in the gray beglittered nights of Manhattan neon life in the Jazz Age. They are ordinary folk with extraordinary dreams. Yet, their dreams are all that is extraordinary about them. They are divorcees, wannabe divorces, boozers, whores, womanizers, palookas, and others from that lot, but that's all they are. The tales are too short to tell us much else.

The basic problem facing Parker, in this collection of her Complete Stories, though, is that there is a rote quality that infects each 'scene'. They are all about the four D's: drinks, dames, dilemmas, dinners; such as this Spillanean opener from Dialogue At Three In The Morning:

'Plain water in mine,' said the woman in the petunia-colored hat. 'Or never mind about the water. Hell with it. Just straight Scotch. What I care? Just straight. That's me. Never gave anybody any trouble in my life. All right, they can say what they like about me, but I know- I know- I never gave anybody any trouble in my life. You can tell them that from me, see? What I care?'

No matter how well laid out, and no matter how fiercely attacking she is on a certain prejudice nor wrong, the limitations of Parker's worldview scream at the reader, and pull the whole construct down from individual moments that endear, move, and touch, to a mere collection that stupefies with its sameness. Despite her physical location in the greatest metropolis of its day, and that the world had yet to see, there is no reasonable way that anyone, even her greatest champions, could call Dorothy Parker a cosmopolitan writer nor thinker.

A typical Parker tale has a simple plot: a couple of people, usually two females, discussing society or divorce or the low nature of men, or some portrait of hypocrisy, such as wannabe moralists who forsake drink getting drunk the night before. In Too Bad, some women are perplexed that the happily married Weldons have separated. When we get a peek at their home life the reasons are not so hard to understand. In Here We Are, a just-married couple travel by train to New York City, to begin their honeymoon at a posh hotel, yet the reader sees that the marriage is doomed, due to their immaturity and selfishness. In New York To Detroit, on the telephone, a man on a telephone call pushes a desperate lover out of his life. The 'bad connection' helps him weaselly dump her. Yes, there is not a great depth to be plumbed, but these tales do work in achieving their limited aims. What Parker has benefited from, and what has kept her in print over other competent, but forgotten writers of her day, is a cult of personality of the sort that has buoyed the careers of poets Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. Not that Parker was not deserving of such devotion, even if not as good at what she did as the two poets were, but the consequences of that cultism must be considered in assessing her literary worth as distinct from that of her celebrity.

Parker's main narrative device is conversation, and she's very adept at conveying the New York brio of the interwar era. In her 'scenes', the conversation between characters often occupies perhaps ninety percent or more of the story, with background details seeping in, here and there, between quips and barbs. The speaker who is omniscient, every so often, is often a faux naïf. Revelations occur, but not in grand Joycean epiphanies, but in far subtler distinctions that lazy readers are likely to miss. The brevity of Parker's tales (most under five pages) also means that there is little fat, and all the words are there for a reason. They do work well and hard.

Parker was certainly not a careless artist, and this fact, revealed in scene after scene, only makes her ultimate corpus's heft and depth- or lack thereof- all the more distressing. Why did she not strive for more, when she was clearly capable of it? Yes, she was a celebrity, and reviewed for The New Yorker for decades, but is material success that damning an obstacle to the production of great art? Perhaps. Clearly, Parker was capable of greatness, but instead, ended up as an almost non-comic echo of her own gallery of female losers and loveless lasses. Yet, here is a woman who tackled abortion (in the 'scene', Mr. Durant, where the actual word abortion is never used at all), alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty, and racism decades before it was fashionable, and very well- as always. That some critics have called her a 'sentimentalist' seems, to me, absurd on its face. Parker's work is as shorn of such drippiness as one can imagine any writer being, and such idiocy only shows how little and closely most critics ever actually read their subject matter.

But, the charges of her ideological and artistic narrowness are not so easily disposed of, and perhaps Parker's prose clarity is part of the reason it damns so brightly and thoroughly. Had she been more baroque, poetic, ornate, she might have successfully obfuscated her limited purview. Ernest Hemingway, by comparison, was wise to disguise his utter lack of cosmopolitan tastes and writing with his real life globetrotting legendry. After all, when you've covered wars, visited Kilimanjaro, and run with the bulls of Pamplona, you have done nicely to insulate your rather predictable and narrowly macho words. Parker never did that, becoming almost a more famous version of the renowned hermit Henry Darger, whose own narrowness of outlook and personality eventually caved in his mind. Parker never fell that far, personally, but she never had the literary survival smarts of Hemingway to critically protect her work from its obvious shortcomings and limitations.

Yet, one cannot argue that Parker was not aware of her flaws, because her Complete Stories ends not with her already 'sketchy' short stories, but with works actually called Sketches, such as A Dinner Party Anthology or Our Tuesday Club, which are merely a litany of character descriptions, filled with bile and humor of the sort H.L. Mencken, Will Rogers, Mark Twain, and Ambrose Bierce practiced. Still, unfortunately, for every well sketched character there's an off the rack near-caricature: men who crude chauvinists and women who are vapid tarts, such as the lead character from A Telephone Call, one of Parker's most famous tales, who wails:

Please, God, let him telephone me now. Dear God, let him call me now. I won't ask anything else of You, truly I won't. It isn't very much to ask. It would be so little to You, God, such a little, little thing. Only let him telephone now. Please, God. Please, please, please.

Yet, I would love to have a Dorothy Parker around today- not just for personal purposes, but knowing she would join me in absolutely savaging Political Correctness. Her tales, however tasty as crumpets, simply lack the heft, overall, to propel her to greatness. But, she's still a good read, and an eternal cutie.

Diary of a Lost Girl
Kola Boof
Door of Kush
324 S. Diamond Bar Blvd. Suite 504, Diamond Bar, CA 91765
ISBN: 0971201986, $25.00, 441 pp.

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

In her dynamic yet controversial new book "Diary of a Lost Girl," author Kola Boof (known for admitting to being one of Osama Bin Laden's lovers) expounds upon her life's story. This includes her life in Sudan where she was raised by her light skinned, political Egyptian father and her dark skinned mother. Boof chronicles her life in Africa, tales of witchcraft within the village, and a host of other events, including the saddening murder of her parents.

Boof later goes on to describe what is was like to make the transition from Sudan to becoming the adopted daughter of a Washington D.C. family who learns of racism, music (especially hip hop) and even sex. The author discusses her no-holds-barred feelings on colorism, her family and the man who she believed would become her husband who turns out to be no more than a sexual predator. The author also recounts her life as an actress and model in Africa and discusses how she eventually came to become Osama Bin Laden's lover and managed to move on with her life to become one of the most controversial figures in black literature today.

"Diary of a Lost Girl" is the kind of book that book clubs will be dying to get their hands on. It is an amazing, thought-provoking, tour de force memoir that reads like a combination of the recent "Slave: My True Story" by Mende Nazir and "The Coldest Winter Ever Known" by Sister Souljah. The story is a raw, in-your-face look into the mind of a woman who makes no apologies for her contentious opinions. While it does have it share of editorial flaws and some may find a bit of it hard to believe, the book still packs a walloping punch and is definitely worth picking up and having a long discussion about. Highly Recommended.

Meditating with Mandalas
David Fontana
Duncan Baird Publishers Ltd
Sixth Floor, Castle House, 75-76 Wells Street, London, W1T 3QH
ISBN: 1844830543, $AU 39.95, 160 pp.

Rose Glavas, Reviewer

The blurb at the back of this book describes 'Meditating with Mandalas' as:

'A collection of beautiful new mandalas for meditation, all with new symbolism specially designed to be accessible to anyone practicing today. Embark on a voyage of self-discovery using 52 superb new mandalas for meditation – one for every week of the year. Grow in self-awareness and discover peace of mind. The ideal visual aid for everyone interested in meditation, including those meditating for the first time.'

Without knowing what a mandala is, or even what the book is about it is difficult to resist admiring the fabulous illustrations in this book. The urge to look at every single illustration is strong once you open this book at any page! So I have to agree with the blurb and say that the illustrations are truly superb (not to mention inspiring!).

Those of you who don't know what a mandala will need to know that these are highly decorative, symmetrical designs used as a focal point in meditation. In the Eastern tradition mandalas are often charged with an intricate religious symbolism based on representations of the cosmos. In 'Meditating with Mandalas' they are designed to appeal to Westerners. Some are based on traditional Tibetan mandalas, while others are inspired by nature. All are designed to be used even by those who are new to meditating.

The author, Professor David Fontana has been involved with meditation for more than 30 years and has produced many publications. One these is the bestselling 'Leant to Meditate' which has been translated into 25 languages.

'Meditating with Mandalas' is broken up into two sections: 'Introduction' and then 'Sacred Patterns'. The introduction is then further divided into subsections with many interesting headings – the following ones caught my eye: Stilling Body and Mind; Experiencing Stillness; How Mandalas Work; Patterns in Nature; The Self and Self Acceptance; Symbols of Love; Making Your Own Mandala; Symbolism.

The Mandalas themselves are broken up into six different sections: Sacred Patters; Nature; Self and Acceptance; Kindness and Love; Inner Strength; and Cosmos. Each of the mandalas is given a whole page of excellent quality illustration, with the facing page giving a description and ideas on how to use them. Each mandala and its instructions are unique.

If this is your first step in your exploration of mandalas and/or meditation then the author has given a list of suggested further reading, as well as providing an index and picture credits (what a great idea!). There is a general index and also an index to the symbols used, which is great if you are looking for a focus for a particular meditation you would like to try.

Personally I have been interested in meditation for many years but held a narrow view of what it actually was, so have not tried the alternative forms available. Through exploring this book I have discovered a method that I believe will help me to actually achieve a meditative state successfully.

I like the suggestion the author makes to start with a five minute meditation (for beginners) and to work up to a longer session that suits you – say twenty or thirty minutes. For some reason I thought that a session had to be at least twenty minutes long.

I would recommend 'Meditating with Mandalas' for people like me who need a focus for a session of meditation (that is, of course, if you can tear yourself away from the fabulous illustrations long enough to meditate!). This book would suit anyone who is interested in either mandalas or meditation.

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim
Mahmood Mamdani
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019 212-782-9000
ISBN: 0385515375, $14.95, 320 pp.

Jonathan Fantini, Reviewer

Mahmood Mamdani's Good Muslim, Bad Muslim is a theoretical analysis of the historical trends that have dominated the global events of the past half century. The book's central purpose is to conceptually link the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the world's subsequent reactions, to the imperialistic and Cold War conflicts that brought them about. The major obstacle that Mamdani hopes to overcome is the exceedingly narrow and simplistic view that the West, in particular, has taken with respect to foreign affairs. He argues that the Cold War divisions that justified "us against them" perspectives and "victory at all costs," have been maintained through time; the only thing that has changed is the characters involved in this conflict. The outward consequence of this shift in the post Cold War era, is that the battle lines are no-longer drawn upon overtly political or ideological grounds - like democracy against communism - instead, they have been drawn along "cultural" lines. The problem, as he sees it, is that these cultural divisions are ill-defined. The word "culture" has merely become a substitute for the more obvious differences that have justified "us against them" policies in the past.

Mamdani's approach is almost wholly conceptual; he does not, in general, offer concrete data to support his lines of reasoning because his aim is to link historical events, not dissect them. He explains, "Rather than offer the results of original research, this interpretive essay seeks to explain political events, above all 9/11, in light of political encounters - historically shaped - rather than as the outcome of stubborn cultural legacies." (Mamdani, 11). This causes Good Muslim, Bad Muslim to read like a long social treatise. Fundamentally, this method depends upon the notion that abstract understandings of terms like "culture," "freedom," and "evil" have been driving forces in global events. Accordingly, for Mamdani's analysis to be successful he must underline how these ideas have been misused or manipulated to generate conflicts that might otherwise have not existed. Obviously, this is a reasonably unique point of view to take - that historical events are largely conceptually driven - but it is grounded in Mamdani's grasp of the recent battles that have dominated the political setting of the past fifty years.

So if there is one political lens that Mamdani wishes to break, it is the perception that there are "good Muslims" and "bad Muslims." Superficially, it would seem, the idea bears so little merit that it is almost comical; however, the belief that the world can be drawn along these lines has manifested itself in very real struggles and violence. According to Mamdani, the Bush administration has made this point of view almost explicit by calling the war on terror a "crusade," and suggesting the idea of "good Muslims." He states that "this could not hide the central message of such discourse: unless proved to be 'good,' every Muslim was presumed to be 'bad.'" (Mamdani, 15). Basically, the war on terror ideologically calls upon good Muslims to unequivocally declare themselves on the side of the United States by identifying bad Muslims as the mutual enemy.

Specifically what fuels this modern political and social stance is what has emerged as "culture talk." Mamdani argues that attempting to understand the overarching conflicts of history through the divisions of culture is a grievously flawed method. The central problem with this concept is that while the history of political powers can be understood from the standpoint of geographic locations, culture is not clearly limited in such ways. Consequently, "We need to think of culture in terms that are both historical and non-territorial." (Mamdani, 27). The terrible mistake that other theorists have made, in Mamdani's view, is that they continually attribute contrasting cultural histories to distinct political events - like the crusades. He cites Bernard Lewis as having argued that the crusades were the result of two "incompatible civilizations," rather than decisive and pragmatic moves made my ambitious popes and European nobles (Mamdani, 26). Such is the recurring flaw in historical political and social theory. So it should not be surprising that, contrary to the image of Islam promoted by western mass media, the core beliefs of Islam endorse a society of peace, toleration, and equality; the code of laws centrally promotes these universally valued notions, and their full acceptance can doubtlessly be beneficial in the reconciliation of cross-cultural conflicts. Nevertheless, the supposed cultural incongruity of Christianity and Islam has been called upon time after time to justify warfare.

The natural progression of Mamdani's essay is to emphasize the point that history is not immutable. In fact, it has been written and rewritten with very particular aims in mind. Of course the crusades would be unjustified if they were launched because there were simply too many European nobles with no wars to wage; but if they were the unavoidable consequence of cultural forces, then they must be somewhat absolved from ethical condemnations. Mamdani writes, "Identities shift and histories get rewritten as a result of changing political agendas." (Mamdani, 35). This statement is almost undeniably true, but the full implications of it are only rarely recognized. One consequence is that if the history of the past half century can be written holding the idea that it was essentially "communism versus democracy," then Al-Qaeda is an ally of democracy. However, if it is reworked to be seen it as Western values versus Eastern values, then Al-Qaeda stands to be destroyed.

The ultimate result of this line of reasoning is that terrorism in today's world - at least that which occurs between the East and the West - must be thought of as a direct consequence of political affiliations. Currently, there is a substantial political divide in virtually all Islamic states; there are those who wish to adopt a form of government that is modeled after the West and changes through time, and there are those who believe that the Koran should continue to be used as the unalterable source of political theory. Mamdani asserts that modern terrorism is the unique product of Islamic intellectual theory, Marxist theory and democratic practice. Largely U. S. manipulation of internal struggles has broadened these conceptual fault lines and amplified the repercussions of conflict. However, this conceptual understanding has never garnered much backing in the West; instead, the idea that Islam is discordant with the modern world has become prevalent. This perspective "sees a necessary contradiction between Islam and modernity, this point of view also sees a necessary contradiction between modernity and democracy wherever Muslim populations reside." (Mamdani, 170).

Broadly, Mamdani's methodology is stylistically appealing; he does not fill his essay with anecdotes or personal experiences; he simply gets right to the heart of his argument and stays there with reasoned claims. The book also fits the role of an assault upon many other theories of political history - most frequently Bernard Lewis' - and it is in this capacity that it is most effective. Mamdani's strength seems to be in pointing out the grave flaws of competing positions; mainly, the idea is that Islam is wholly misunderstood. However, his complete argument is a bit meandering. He deconstructs conceptual terms but never satisfactorily offers substitutes. He stresses how political decision-making has significantly shaped our modern global setting, but he never fully dispels the idea that analogous political moves might have been inevitable due to inalterable historical undercurrents. For instance, it might be true that the particular political climate in Europe brought the first crusade about, but it could also be argued that the spread of Islam was a waiting scapegoat that European powers would eventually have taken advantage of regardless of political factors.

Additionally, although Mamdani manages to offer a relatively coherent theory of terrorism based upon the ideological manipulation of history, he fails to supply any realizable solutions. Even if the reader agrees with his central thesis, it would seem that there is little that can be done to change Western opinions of Islam on a wide scale. It is implied that the lack of autonomy in the United States press is one of the major culprits in the demonizing of Islam: "With the changing ownership of media giants, several have been taken over by corporations based in the defense or entertainment industry, reinforcing the tendency to treat news as marketable entertainment." (Mamdani, 239). Still, no course of action is suggested that could overcome this obstacle. So, though many are to blame for the current state of affairs in the world, it appears as if the only concrete step towards improving international relations, given by Mamdani, is simply to recognize that many are to blame.

The technical slant taken by Mamdani is very straightforward. He does not assail the reader with graphs or really any sort of statistical analysis. In fact, there are very nearly no statistics involved in his essay. This should not be surprising since it is very nearly a historiography of competing analyses of the modern international climate. The primary emphasis is conceptual; and as such, his illustration of how recent history has progressed must mirror this style.

I believe that Mamdani's central thesis is reasonably accurate. Namely, that subjective politics and ideologies have been, and continue to be, manipulated for specific ends by those in power. Yet, I cannot help but think that Mamdani's argument would have been stronger if he cited more detailed examples of how the government and media in the West have augmented the true face of Islam to produce an enemy. Although he certainly reveals how this progression came about through political policies, his argument would have been more substantive if he could have provided actual quotes from the president and the media, showing how their alignment with Islam has changed through time. Perhaps the most powerful lesson that Good Muslim, Bad Muslim gets across is that a cultural interpretation of history is not only insufficient, but contributes to biased or misinformed politics. Overall, Mamdani's book is effective, though flawed in parts and not as comprehensive as I would have liked.

The Sobs of Autumn's Violins
A.R. Homer
Llumina Press
8055 West McNab Road, Tamarac, FL 33321
ISBN: 1595264825, $16.95, 250 pp.

Carol Kellogg

In the spring of 1944, the BBC broadcast lines from a Verlaine poem which began "The long sobs of autumn's violins…;" it was the rallying cry to the French Resistance, alerting them to the imminence of the Allied invasion of France. The date of the invasion, which we know as D-day, was a secret, of course, but, as Homer points out in his gripping novel, "The Sobs of Autumn's Violins," it could have been narrowed down to a handful of possible dates depending on the tides, the moon, and the weather. It was where the landings would take place that is arguably the biggest secret of history: if the landing places were to be learned by the enemy, it would mean that the planned amphibious invasion, unlike any seen before or since, would result in thousands of Allied soldiers wading ashore into the barrage of Hitler's massed forces.

With over a million GIs waiting in England for the great day, how could such a secret be safeguarded, and how might it have been breached? In "The Sobs of Autumn's Violins" we learn the answer to these questions through the eyes, ears, and actions of characters who, wittingly or not, become caught up in the great saga of protecting the secret. While the characters are fictitious, the larger history in which they find themselves is grounded in historical fact or historical "what if" based on fact; in an Author's Afterword, Homer satisfies our urge to learn more and distinguishes between the two.

The novel opens with an anonymous diary entry: someone in England is out to steal the secret for the Fuhrer. While readers might assume that every German spy in England worth his salt would be trying to do this, we learn that, early in the war, all German spies in England had been captured and either "turned" or permanently put out of business. Consequently, the anonymous letter-writer, whose diary entries punctuate the story and arouse our suspicions in several main characters, is a historical "what if": what if a long-term sleeper spy had escaped England's spy dragnet? Could the invasion have failed, the war have been lost?

The central story involves Tom Ford, an American intelligence officer whose assumption that he will be in England comfortably sitting out the invasion gets pushed aside when he is recruited for a dangerous mission. German enemy boats have wandered into the middle of an American rehearsal for the landings off the coast of England, an incident modeled after a disaster that actually occurred but was hushed up for thirty years (Operation Tiger). Tom witnesses the bodies stacked up on the beach in the aftermath and sadly reflects: "none would ever again hear the thwack of ball hitting bat, would ever enjoy a beer with the guys in the bar, or would ever feel his girl's soft hand." But as tragic as the loss of life is, a more serious threat looms: an American officer who knows the details of the Allied invasion plan was captured in the raid and taken to France. Tom, it turns out, is the only man who can get him out, and what happens when Tom is dropped into France will astound you.

Meanwhile, Jeanne Busson, an English agent courier, is also sent into France, but on a puzzling mission she is loath to carry out: she has been ordered to assassinate a noted French Resistance leader, Philippe Josse. We watch as Josse swings between supporting the Allied cause and dealing with Richter, an odious but intelligent and highly motivated Gestapo chief. Josse, a devout man with aspirations to holy orders, despises Nazism but says he feels that it alone can stop the rise of the godless communists.

Embedded in the suspense and drama is a touching love story between the American Tom, who is married to a woman in his home town, and a mysterious Englishwoman. Tom sorely regrets his hasty marriage just before leaving for England: "All across America, young men of draft age and their sweethearts had rushed into churches, synagogues, and Justice of the Peace offices. Paradoxically, the same reasons were used to justify marriage as to argue against it: the uncertainty of the world in general and their lives in particular."

With so many American GIs stationed in England, there was an inevitable clash of cultures, and Homer beautifully captures this as well as life in 1940s wartime England. In a rigidly class-divided world, the aristocratic Sally Fortescue dons a naval uniform to work with her social inferiors. But she falls in love with a working-class naval officer, Danny, who harbors a profound bitterness toward his country for having evicted his and many other families from their farmlands, which have been handed over to the Americans to practice assault landings.

Eisenhower, Patton, and Hitler make appearances in this thrilling and poignant novel. But as with all great undertakings, success ultimately depends on those in the field, like Tom, Sally, and Danny. And then there's Celeste, a French orphan brutalized by war but still innocent, who determines the fate of all. Had there not been a war, none of these characters would have met and all would have led vastly different lives. But the war throws them together, and even as they try to sort out their personal lives in a world turned upside-down, they are suddenly all caught up in a life and death struggle to save the greatest secret in history.

The Last Disciple
Hank Hanegraaff & Sigmund Brouwer
Tyndale House Publishers
Wheaton, IL
ISBN: 0842384375, $19.99, 395 pp.

Maurice A. Williams, Reviewer

The opening scene in this adventuresome novel has Nero, disguised as Daniel's fourth beast, led on a leash into a garden hut by his fictional henchman, Helius. Nero is taunting four Christian prisoners with Daniel's prophecy, presuming the fourth beast refers to the Roman Empire. Three caged wild animals will soon be released to devour the prisoners. One of the prisoners is John the Evangelist, the last disciple, who, like Nero, is a real historical character. Approaching the hut is Gallus Sergius Vitas, Roman military hero recently returned to Rome to serve in Nero's inner circle. Like Helius, Vitas is a fictional character.

The authors, Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer, have cleverly blended real historical characters and events with fictional characters and events to create a fast-moving, interesting, adventure contrasting good with evil. Vitas, a good man, has become disgusted with Nero's cruelty. While Nero feigns being a beast under the control of Helius, Vitas risks his life by entering the hut and telling Helius to release the prisoners. Before anyone can react, a sudden small earthquake jars the cages open. Nero and Helius dodge the released animals. Vitas leads the four prisoners, including John, to safety.

The authors describe many other adventures, involving both historical and fictional situations. Vitas has a brother, Damian and a friend, Maglorius, both fictional. Damian is a close friend to Titus, a historical person who will later lead the Roman army to destroy Jerusalem and The Temple. The four of them interact in a rescue of an unwanted newborn infant left outside by its father to die of exposure, a common practice in ancient Rome. The mother died in childbirth. Her slave nurse, Sophia, plans to rescue the infant after dark, but the father had posted guards. Vitas noticed the infant and picked it up, only to be confronted by the guards. Damian, Titus, and Maglorius rushed in to help. Vitas, because of his high level connections, convinced the guards to release the infant to Sophia.

Vitas and Sophia, now friends, soon fall in love and marry. Because Sophia is Christian, they keep the marriage secret. In the meantime, John, the last disciple, has been writing about things soon to come and has been warning about someone given the code name 666. Helius and another fictional henchman of Nero, Tigellinus, plan to capture John to stop the coded messages before Nero hears of them. They hire Damian, Vitas' brother, a successful escaped slave hunter, to capture John. Damian captures someone he was tricked into thinking was John, while other men kidnap John.

When Helius and Tigellinus realize that Vitas has married Sophia, they inform Nero. Nero, incensed, invites Vitas to a banquet, making sure that Sophia is there also. To humiliate Vitas, Nero invites Sophia to accompany him to a private room where all his guests know he will forcibly seduce her. Vitas, seeing the fear on her face, pounces on Nero and starts choking him. Guards arrest Vitas and Sophia. Nero sentences both of them to death, Sophia by opening her veins, Vitas in the Arena, tied to the tusk of an enraged elephant.

Powerful men in Rome conspire to save Vitas from the Arena and John so he can assist Vitas. They have both men secretly placed on a boat headed for Alexandria. They gave Vitas one-third of a coded scroll, written in Latin. They gave a one of the crew a second portion of the scroll written in Hebrew with instructions to give it to John. When the ship reaches Alexandria, there will be a final portion of the scroll for Vitas. The novel ends with John and Vitas on the ship. The year is about A.D. 65. Nero is still alive, and The Temple is still standing.

Projecting what will happen next: Vitas will arrive in Alexandria and read the entire scroll. He will realize that powerful men want him to lead a coup against Nero to save the Empire. Historically, a man named Piso made such an attempt a few years prior to this scene. About five years after this scene, the Roman Senate will proclaim Nero an outlaw and order his execution. One can see how cleverly this novel is woven into the real history of the time.

The authors, Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer, believe Revelation was written to warn the early Christians what will soon happen. They also believe John wrote Revelation before A.D. 70 because Revelation makes no mention of the fact that The Temple has been destroyed. The authors are writing The Last Disciple series to present a long-held tradition that many of the predictions in Revelation have already taken place. The authors do not believe that most of Revelation will be fulfilled at a time future even to us in the twenty-first century.

The Good I Stand On
David Tucholski
2021 Pine Lake Rd. Suite 100, Lincoln NE 68512
ISBN: 0595368247, $15.95, 233 pp.

Barb Radmore

A debut publication of a new author is always a cause for festivity and joy. The dream of writing is one that haunts many but few can claim to have attained. But when the novelist also understand the writing craft, the power of the written word and the strength of a story it is an occasion to celebrate. David Tucholski's first novel, The Good I Stand On, is one of those moments.

Ben is the good boy, the big brother every boy would love to have, the little brother grown boys want to have. He has a quiet life in the his corner of rural Virginia, never straying far from home, accepting the world around him as he has always known it. But when he and his brother Christopher begin to explore farther and farther with their new friend Martin, all that changes. Martin is a lonely boy, living with only his remote mother after his father dies. He encourages the boys to explore farther and farther in areas the boys have never been. It is on one of those adventures that Ben's life explodes into a nightmare of mammoth dimensions. <>

It is not only that strong story line that moves this story. Tucholski has interwoven the plot fabric of a child's lost innocence with threads of loss of father's love, betrayal and loves thwarted. Not only Ben loses his innocence by the end of the book, but an entire village is tossed into the upheaval. In a stunning, unexpected waves of disclosures rock the village and the pace of the novel, the reader is drawn into the demise of peace in small town America. <>

The characters that inhabit this novel become very real for the reader. While some of them are sharply detailed, others wander through out the novel, not a large part of the story but on the periphery. A fascinating example is the deputy who dogs Ben's heels, causes the final outcomes but is never clearly described. But it is these peripheral characters that ultimately come into focus by the end, that affect the turn of events, just as they do in real life. It is the people who wander on the edges of our daily life who can often have the most dramatic effect on our futures. Tucholski understands and portray this in a forceful explosion of an ending. <>

In this age of developing publishing resources where the larger publishing houses no longer control the market, The Good I Stand On is a shining example of the power of the smaller presses. iUniverse deserves applause for recognizing and supporting this talented newcomer. Other publishers will lament not obtaining the talents of this up and coming author. Now we just await his next work.

A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism: Homeopathic Care for Exceptional Kids
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, N.D., L.C.S.W., Robert Ullman, N.D., and Ian Luepker, N.D.
Picnic Point Press
131 Third Avenue North, Edmonds, WA 98020 (800) 398-1151
ISBN: 0964065460 $22.95 US $27.95 CAN, 290 pp.

Shari Maser, Reviewer

Homeopathy is an alternative treatment for autism/Asperger Syndrome. Homeopathy in general is strongly supported by scientific evidence; as a specific treatment for autism spectrum disorders, it is strongly supported by anecdotal evidence from kids who have been treated and their parents, doctors, and teachers. Furthermore, homeopathy has virtually no complications or adverse side effects.

You will definitely be interested to learn more about this treatment if you are the parent, grandparent, teacher, child care provider, or pediatrician for a child with autism/Asperger Syndrome. Luckily, this informational tome is available to explain the who, what, when, where, why and how of homeopathic care for these children. The authors provide several case studies, lovingly presented, along with clear answers to the above questions. A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism: Homeopathic Care for Exceptional Kids is a book that is both uplifting and useful!

Before We Get Started
Bret Lott
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345478177, $13.95, 224 pp.

Zinta Aistars

When Bret Lott writes "I don't know" or "I know nothing" about the feel-your-way-as-you-go approach to the literary arts, he does it so eloquently that one can only say he "doesn't know" so very well. But he's right. Writing, art in general--there's no manual for it. And if there was, it would no longer be art. It would be reduced to a technical skill. And while skills can be learned, the extra mile beyond that gives life to a work of art can only be accomplished by the attitude Lott describes in his "practical memoir of the writer's life": approaching the blank page, the blank screen, with an openness and acceptance for the wonder to come.

"What knowing nothing means, finally, is that one must strip himself of all notions of what he believes he knows about the world and the way it works," writes Lott. " it's new terrain, undiscovered, left to this new explorer, the one who knows nothing and who now, armed with this ignorance, stupidity, and tendency to stare, sees things newly... what this explorer will ultimately discover is his own heart, who he is in the midst of all the know-it-alls of the world."

Finding one's own way is the only way. From the beginning, Lott expresses his reverence for the written word. As a small child, he holds his first book--Book of Psalms, puzzling over how the words "somms" could be spelled so strangely. He writes his name, several times, for the first time, on the title page of this book, and in that moment of writing, making claim, and connecting with the written page, the writer is born.

Lott warns, even while reminding us that writing must be done in solitude, that crawling too deep into one's cave of solitude has its own dangers. We must know the world, and explore it fully, to write about it well. We must be a part of it. There is a balance to be achieved, with involvement, acceptance, immersion, and then withdrawal again. In short, one must live fully in a world with others, but one must write about it alone.

Chapters included in this book are each one crucial to the writer, a light in the dark to the beginner, but a healthy reminder to the well practiced and established, too. Lott's chapter on remembering the reasons for writing is priceless. One enters the horrors of writer's block only when one forgets the purpose for writing--and mistakenly gets caught up in the false pursuit of publication. While acknowledging that it is quite human to wish to share one's story once it is written, wanting that connection between writer and reader, if the writer becomes too obsessed with it, too caught up with it while writing, then the art quickly becomes bogged down and stalls hopelessly. The cause of writer's block, he says, is the writer him or herself. Writing is its own reward. The rest is another story.

The importance of simple words, character detail, narrative and passage of time, pitfalls of technique, risking failure, accepting rejection, these are all topics Lott addresses. Perhaps the best chapter is on rejection. Lott has published 9 books, one of them rescued from oblivion by American icon, Oprah, but even so, he keeps counting up rejections (he's up to 597 at the writing of this book) and he keeps each and every one (except one, that he threw away in a temper tantrum, but later admitted, he learned from this one, too, as he did from all of them). Rejection, he reminds us, is inescapable in the arts. No use fighting it. All the more reason not to become obsessed with it. The writer must be, he says, "moved to write not by a will toward fame or fortune or even posterity, but because the work of writing is good work, and the reward inherent to writing is the writing itself." Lott writes candidly and honestly about how much he feels the hurt of the pink slip, and in some ways it never gets easier, but he also presents a system that works for him. Basically, to keep submitting. He keeps a careful log of where his work has been, is being, will be submitted, and makes a point of sending out his submission the very day it lands back in his mailbox rejected. There is always reason to hope.

Lott's memoir of his own writing life is one of the most practical, yet most beautifully and honestly written books on writing I've read in many, many years. He writes with wisdom even when he is being most humble (and therein lies his charm). He writes with a down to earth voice on a level with all of us, no matter what our level, and in doing so, inspires.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Cooking Basics
Maram Graphics
Thomson Course Technology
25 Thomson Place, Boston, MA 02210
1598632345 $19.99

Cooking Basics from the Maran family is a superbly illustrated introductory "how to" guide for creating easy, quick, and tasty foods. Presenting essential food preparation and cooking techniques with helpful, step-by-step full-color photographs, Cooking Basics explores how to create delicious and easy-to-prepare recipes (all with ten ingredients or less), along with information on all the appliances and cooking equipment necessary, as well as expert advice for purchasing and organizing the ingredients for each featured recipe. Cooking Basics is very highly recommended, especially for all new and novice cooks for its exceptionally helpful , "user friendly" presentation and diversity.

The Plank Grilling Cookbook
Dina Guillen, et al.
Sasquatch Books
119 South Main Street, Suite 400, Seattle, WA 98104
1570614741 $18.95

Collaboratively authored by Dina Guillen, Michelle Lowrey, Maria Everly, and Gretchen Bernsdorff (all of whom are members of the Sacramento-based Kitchen Table Cooking Club), The Plank Grilling Cookbook is an outstanding introduction to the innovative cooking style focused on the creatively culinary use of the wood plank. Featuring wonderfully delicious and easy-to-prepare recipes ranging from Beef Tenderloin Steaks Topped With Butter Spread; Gorgonzola And Spinach Chicken Rolls and Chicken, Artichoke, And Sun-Dried Tomato Panini, to Salmon Fillets With Mango, Peach, And Pineapple Salsa; Hot And Spicy Duck Breasts; and Beef Tri-Tip Roast With A Cherry Tomato Festival, The Plank Grilling Cookbook provides readers with recipes for a series of tasty and appetizing dishes. Enhanced with color photography, The Plank Grilling Cookbook is very highly recommended for all readers who are searching for new and different approaches to evening and weekend cookouts.

The Complete Book Of Vegetarian Grilling
Susann Hadler
Fair Winds Press
33 Commercial Street, Gloucester, MA 01930
1592331351 $19.95

The Complete Book Of Vegetarian Grilling: Over 150 Easy And Tasty Recipes You Can Grill Indoors And Out by Susann Hadler is an impressively creative compilation of visually appealing and appetite satisfying vegetarian meals. With recipes ranging from Grilled Bing And Queen Anne Cherries; Crostini With Grilled Zucchini And Eggplant; and Pizza With Garlic Tomato Sauce, Ricotta, And Fresh Greens; to Soft Tacos With Grilled Tofu And Pickled Jalapenos; Asparagus, Shiitake Mushrooms, And Tofu en Papillote; and Honey-Ginger Marmalade, The Complete Book Of Vegetarian Grilling is a well rounded and diverse collection of great vegetarian recipes suitable for any and all dining occasions. A core addition to personal and community library cookbook collections, The Complete Book Of Vegetarian Grilling is confidently recommended for kitchen cook's when preparing wonderful meals to be enjoyed by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

Mangoes And Curry Leaves
Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid
Workman Publishing
708 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
1579652522 $45.00

Expertly compiled and co-authored by food culture experts Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Mangoes And Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through The Great Subcontinent is a 381-page coffee table sized book that showcases the culinary art and artistry of the Great Indian Subcontinent, including the dishes and "kitchen cultures" of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Featuring a mouth-watering wealth of recipes ranging from Rajasthani "Buttermilk" Curry; Bangla Slow-Cooked Beef With Onion; and Nepali Green Bean-Sesame Salad, to Zinet's Chicken With Tomato And Greens; Sri Lankan Fenugreek Dal; and Andhra Spiced Eggplant, Mangoes And Curry Leaves is enhanced with the inclusion of succinct and entertaining stories associated with the diverse feasts presented within its pages. A welcome addition to personal and community library cookbook and multicultural culinary reference collections, Mangoes And Curry Leaves is very highly recommended for its presentation of remarkable, flavorful, memorable culinary particulars of the Eastern Subcontinent cuisines.

Cool Tools
Kate Klippensteen, author
Yasuo Konishi, photographer
Kodansha America
575 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10022
4770030169 $28.00 1-917-322-6219

Superbly enhanced with full color photographs from Yasuo Konishi, Cool Tools: Cooking Utensils From The Japanese Kitchen by Kate Klippensteen is an impressively informative introductory exploration of the kitchen cookware and tools employed in the culinary aspects of Japanese culture. Presenting readers with a stunning collection of photographs and knowledgeable explanations for Japanese utensils ranging from the oni oroshi or "devil grater" (which is a useful grating tool for the daikon radish), the saibashi or cooking chopsticks, and the yanagi-ba (which is a long sashimi knife), to the yukihira-nabe (which is a hand made and highly crafted aluminum cooking pot), Cool Tools deftly details a complete selection of the beautifully shaped and functional tools of the Japanese kitchen. A welcome addition to any personal or community library reference collection, Cool Tools is enthusiastically recommended as a simply beautiful compilation of photographs and informative briefings for the many decorative particulars of the Japanese kitchen.

Custom Kitchens
Melissa Cardona & Nathaniel Wolfgang-Price
Schiffer Publishing
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
0764323962 $29.95

Deftly co-authored by Melissa Cardona and Nathaniel Wolfgang-Price, Custom Kitchens: Fifty Designs To Satisfy Your Appetite is a fun and inventive introduction to fifty different kitchen design ideas and innovations. Creatively presenting an innovative and picturesque compendium of precision-crafted kitchens, Custom Kitchens is a superb introduction for selecting detailings and designs for kitchen setups, themes, materials and much more. Profusely illustrated in full color, Custom Kitchens is a very strongly recommended reference for interior designers and "do-it-yourself" homeowners searching for a beautiful and functional design ideas for finely crafted household kitchens.

One Stitch Quilting
Donna Dewberry & Cindy Casciato
KP Books
700 E State Street, Iola, WI 54990-0001
0896893189 $22.99

Co-authored and compiled by quilting experts Donna Dewberry and Cindy Casciato,. One Stitch Quilting: Twenty Fun Projects You Can Finish In Half A Day is a fun and easy-to-follow workbook showcasing many creative one-stitch quilting projects. Providing aspiring quilters with twenty original needlecraft projects and their variations including bags, throws, table accessories, and pillow jackets, One Stitch Quilting is enhanced with more then 300 instructive illustrations and full-color photos, block and applique patterns, and thorough reference selections which detail the tools, terms, and techniques for the "One Stitch" quilting method. A welcome addition to personal or community library needlecraft collections, One Stitch Quilting is very highly recommended for its unique approach to quilting and its innovative style for all readers searching for a new and promising ideal for quick and easy quilt production.

Jessica Vitkus
Stewart, Tabori & Chang
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
1584794569 $19.95

Writer, crafts expert, and television producer (Martha Stewart, Craft Corner Deathmatch, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Pop-Up Video) Jessica Vitkus draws upon years of needlecrafting expertise in Alternacrafts: Twenty Plus Hi-Style Lo-Budget Projects To Make to provide needlecrafters with a simply outstanding introduction to the fun and inventive world of modern crafts and style. Guiding readers through innovative and creative projects that will showcase artistic perspectives of the "Indie" trends capturing the attention and participation of so many young people today, Alternacrafts features fun and easy projects ranging from shaggy dog rugs to veggie print pillowcases and cowboy curtains. A welcome and original contribution to personal and community library needlecraft reference collections, Alternacrafts is enthusiastically recommended for its active and engaging exploration into the wonderful creation of accessories, clothes, and household items.

Tabletop Gardens
Rosemary McCreary
Storey Publishers
210 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247
1580178375 $16.95

Tabletop Gardens: 40 Stylish Plantscapes For Counters And Shelves, Desktops And Windowsills by gardening expert Rosemary McCreary is profusely illustrated with photographs by William Holt. Tabletop Gardens is an informative introduction to creating and maintaining an indoor miniature garden. Guiding readers through a all the germane issues for watering, fertilizing, pruning, repotting, and propagating plants suitable for a miniature garden, Tabletop Gardens deftly reveals a remarkable understanding of the exotic flowerings and plants that it contains. A unique and original addition to any personal, professional, or community library Gardening Studies reference collection, Tabletop Gardens is especially recommended for its innovative ideas and sound advice for those wishing to incorporate more serenity and nature into their personal household or business office environment.

Fifty Common Birds Of The Upper Midwest
Nancy Overcott & Dana Gardner
The University of Iowa Press
100 Kyhl House, Iowa City, IA 52242
0877459835 $34.95

Fifty Common Birds Of The Upper Midwest features an informatively descriptive text Nancy Overcott enhanced with beautiful watercolors by Dana Gardner and is an impressive showcase for fifty of the most frequently observed birds in America's Upper Midwest region. Delving deeply into the details of birds ranging from the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus), the Red-Eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), and the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macoura), to the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), and forty-five others, Fifty Common Birds Of The Upper Midwest provides readers with a remarkable coverage of the birds routinely observed in the multistate area. A beautifully presented showcase for Dana Gardner's superb watercolor paintings, Fifty Common Birds Of The Upper Midwest is very highly recommended as an informative addition to personal and community library bird identification and birdwatching reference book.

Susan Bethany

Betty's Bookshelf

Where There's a Will
Aaron Elkins
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0425200264, $23.95, 284 pp.

When former physical anthropology professor Aaron Elkins isn't traveling around the world getting ideas and background information for future books, he and his wife Charlotte live in Washington (on the Olympic Peninsula). When he is in town, he spends his time writing: short stories, magazine articles, stand-alone historical novels, and mysteries. So far he's written three different series, one which features Chris Norgren, a Seattle art curator; one with Lee Ofsted, a female golfer, and her cop boyfriend, Graham Sheldon (written by Aaron and Charlotte together); and one with his best known sleuth, Gideon Oliver, Professor of Physical Anthropology at the University of Washington's Port Angeles campus.

I've read and enjoyed each of his series, but don't take my word for it. His books have been given the Edgar, the Agatha, and the Nero Wolfe literary awards; chosen as selections by the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Literary Guild, and the Reader's Digest Condensed Mystery Series; made into an ABC TV series; and translated into a dozen languages. This man can write!

Personally, the series I've enjoyed the most has been the Gideon Oliver series. This is probably because I'm a big fan of TV shows like NCIS, in which a person's sex, age, and occupation, as well as the cause of death, is eventually figured out by an examination of their corpse. Therefore, Gideon Oliver is my kind of guy.

Actually, I'm not alone. Oliver has been dogged by fans in this series ever since the first time he used his extensive knowledge of the human skeleton to figure out the age, sex, height, handedness and smoking habits of a random body he was asked to examine. At that point, his astoundingly correct pronouncements caught the attention of the press, which promptly (and much to his chagrin) dubbed him "The Skeleton Detective".

Ever since, he's wanted to shake the name, but that doesn't seem too likely to happen. After all, he loves his work and he just can't resist continuing to mystify and amaze people by telling them things that seem impossible to determine just from bones. Too, many of the cases he's asked to sit in on are murder cases, so he and his wife, Julie, keep getting dragged into one dangerous situation after another. No wonder the press loves him!

In Elkins' latest Oliver book, Where There's a Will, the professor and his wife (along with their native-born Hawaiian buddy, John Lau, who's also an FBI agent) end up traveling to Hawaii, where a submerged plane containing the bodies of a man and a woman has been discovered on the ocean bottom. The Torkelssons, a wealthy Danish ranching family with extensive Hawaiian properties, think it may be their family's plane and they want Oliver to ID the corpses.

Could the man be Axel Torkelsson's Uncle Magnus? According to family lore, Magnus killed his twin brother ten years ago and then took off in the family plane and was never seen or heard from again. If the man in the plane is Magnus, it's high time he was brought home for a decent burial. If it isn't Magnus, who is it? And either way, how did the plane end up in the water? In fact, it may not be easy to make a positive identification, even for "The Skeleton Detective"; the plane and the bodies have been in the water a long time and there isn't much left to identify. But Oliver will do his best, even if it means exposing something no one really wants to know.

Meanwhile, it begins to dawn on everyone that identifying the bodies could make a major difference in the disposition of the Torkelssons' property and wealth, and no one wants that. Can Oliver and Lau figure out what's going on before someone silences them?

If you've never read anything by Elkins, what are you waiting for? Run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore. His writing not only holds your attention right to the last page, it makes you laugh along the way. The next Gideon Oliver book, Unnatural Selection, is due out in June. I can hardly wait!

Designer Knockoff: A Crime of Fashion
Ellen Byerrum
c/o Penguin Group USA
345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451212681, $6.99, 325 pp.

I'm all for today's new woman, who can do whatever she sets her mind to do. Heck, I am that woman. I've never been one to say, "Oh, wait, I can't do that, it's a job for a guy." Well, except for taking out the trash. And doing the windows. Oh, and mowing the grass. (It makes a husband feel needed, you know?) So I like to read mysteries that feature women who take on killers and kidnappers and the like and come out of it without so much as a bent fingernail. OK, it's unrealistic, but I still like it. After all, if I wanted realism, I could go argue with my kids.

I was therefore thrilled to run across Ellen Byerrum's Crime of Fashion Mystery series, set in Washington, D.C., which stars Eye Street Observer fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian (no relation). In the first book of the series (Killer Hair), Lacey takes on and subdues a killer named Razor Boy, in her favorite hair salon, armed only with a pair of scissors and some major chutzpah. You go, girl!

In Byerrum's second book, Designer Knockoff, a double mystery surrounding two DC women who've gone missing gets dumped on Lacey when she appears at a Congressional hearing wearing a vintage designer suit inherited from a favorite relative. The disappearances are separated by sixty years, but both women have ties to the same fashion house and its famous (and footloose) founding designer, Hugh Bentley. Are they both dead, as Lacey suspects, or did each of them go into hiding to avoid trouble with the Bentley family? Maybe wearing another of her Great-Aunt Mimi's inherited treasures to a fashionista gathering in Bentley's honor will bring out the truth about the disappearances. Or will Lacey end up joining the missing women - wherever they are?

I love mystery series that have non-professional female sleuths in them. You know - chefs, caterers, housewives, bed and breakfast owners - women who have jobs not normally involved with crime. Byerrum's series has joined my list of books to watch for. OK, maybe the premise seems a little odd, even if DC is a crime capital. Fashion reporting? In DC? But the fashion scene, even in a style-challenged city like DC, is full of newsworthy items that have more meaning than what appears on the surface. As Lacey's column "Crimes of Fashion" proclaims, "You are what you wear - aren't you? Your clothing is a clue to your personality, your lifestyle, your many moods." So it makes sense that fashion clues such as a pair of matching silk scarves or an outrageously expensive pair of heels could help bring down a murderer.

True, fashion reporting may not be the most interesting - or dangerous - job going in DC, but Lacey's threats and close calls make it obvious that people who feel passionately about something (even something as seemingly trivial as fashion) can be very dangerous. Passion brings out both the best and worst sides of people. Byerrum's motto for this series could well be "Never underestimate a fanatic!"

I like the supporting characters Byerrum has come up with, too. Stella the goth-dressing hairstylist, Tony the cowboy-booted cop reporter, Mac the editor who won't let Lacey out of the fashion ghetto, Gary the FBI agent who dresses like an undertaker, Brooke the attorney with a flair for conspiracy, Damon the webmaster for - you just know they'll be fun to watch as they develop.

The other thing I really like about this series so far is that Lacey has her hormones under control. Although she's been dating a ruggedly attractive cop named Vic for a number of months, she still hasn't hopped into bed with him, despite their chemistry and the fact that they're both single. When Vic spends part of Designer Knockoff taking care of personal business in Colorado (which may or may not include his ex-wife, Montana), Lacey starts to wonder where their relationship is heading.

While she waits for Vic to come back to DC, she dates a member of the fashion house family. Jeffrey's quite a package, even if he is related to the designer family; he's gorgeous, interesting, fun to be with, rich, and definitely interested in her. However, she doesn't hop into bed with him, either. And when Vic returns, she doesn't end up there with him, even though her best friends tell her she's crazy not to sleep with him. Finally, a modern woman who doesn't think that female equality has to include bed-hopping! I hope Byerrum keeps Lacey out of the bedroom until she's been down the church aisle. A fun modern mystery series that has some moral fiber - what a great idea!

Scent to Her Grave: A Bath and Body Mystery
India Ink (Yasmine Galenorn)
c/o Penguin Group USA
345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0425205339, $6.99, 260 pp.

India Ink (pen name of author Yasmine Galenorn) has come up with an interesting addition to the newest mystery twist: mysteries set in commercial surroundings such as antique shops, bed & breakfast establishments, needlework shops, and restaurants, and dotted with recipes, factoids, and craft tips. Scent to Her Grave is set in a Gull Harbor, Washington, bath and body shop called Venus Envy (a slightly suggestive play on words), owned by the main character, Persia Rose Vanderbilt.

Besides an interesting story, it also includes beauty and spa tips and several recipes for oils to be used in massage, perfuming, and aromatherapy. She mentions crystals and mental energy and the like, but the overall feel is one of " age ideas may or may not be true, but oils are useful anyway. It's up to you to decide." I'll be reading Galenorn's next book for sure. I hope she can keep the interest level going.

Deadly Collection
Elaine Flinn
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53 Street, New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 0060545828, $6.99, 336 pp.

Carmel, California antique dealer Molly Doyle is back and this time, she's been hired to assess and sell the entire contents of a house formerly owned by well-known Hollywood set designers. Molly hates estate sales, since they're usually way more work than they're worth, but this one is different - the house is crammed with priceless antiques, art, and collectibles, and if Molly can sell them to the right people, her twenty-five percent commission will bag her a small fortune.

A fortune, no matter how small, would be welcome, too; ever since her sister's abandoned twelve-year-old daughter, Emma, showed up on Molly's doorstep and became a (loved and welcomed) part of her household, costs have been piling up. There's one major catch, though - the designers were the parents of local artist Frances O'Brien, and she's a pain in the -ummm, behind - to work with.

Then Molly discovers a mummified body behind a fake wall in the house, which attracts the attention of the murderer who put it there. Despite the protests of family friend (and possible love interest) Chief Randall, Molly sets out to discover the identity of the killer. However, the killer is willing to murder again to protect some long-hidden secrets. Will Molly, Emma, and Randall figure out who the killer is, in time to keep him - or her - from killing again? Or will one of them be the next victim?

As always, Flinn grabs your attention and hangs onto it as she takes you from one plot twist to another. Along the way, she also manages to tuck in a few tidbits of antique lore, too. Nice to read an exciting book that doesn't automatically have the heroine hopping into bed with the hero or use dozens of four-letter-words to hype the action. (A few cuss words, when dealing with cops, is understandable, of course…) I hope Flinn writes fast; I can't wait for book number four!

Betty Winslow

Bob's Bookshelf

After The Ruins, 1906 and 2006: Rephotographing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
Mark Klett, with Michael Lundgren
University of California Press
ISBN: 0520244346, $24.95, 140 pp.

"After The Ruins, 1906 and 2006" offers graphic proof that in the ruins of the past the seeds of the present are sown. A photographic retrospective, the book presents 48 historic photographs of the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and then new photos of each view today.

Taken from the same vantage point as the vintage shots, the recent photos show what buildings and monuments have withstood the test of time and what has replaced the ruins and rubble of the devastating trembler. Published to tie in with the centennial of the 1906 quake which struck on April 18, the book is accompanied by an exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum of California, Legion of Honor, which will run through June 4, 2006.

By bringing the past and present into dynamic juxtaposition, Klett's photography not only underscores how San Francisco's urban landscape has changed but it challenges our preconceptions about time, history, and culture. Klett writes, "I find it haunting that details still exist that seem to prove that the two spaces and times are related. Buildings, monuments, objects that are the same can be found in each photo pair…There's an edgy reminder of the continuity."

In one pair of photos the viewer looks down Clay Street and sees smoke billowing in the background as the 1906 residents flee from the oncoming fire. From the identical perspective a century later, parked cars line the same thoroughfare and the 853-foot-high Transamerica Pyramid skyscraper looms where the clouds of smoke once were. Another set of photos show a Jackson Street home virtually unchanged. The only noticeable differences are new landscaping and the years of the autos parked in front of the house.

Along with the photography, the volume contains essays by Philip Fradkin and Rebecca Solnit. Fradkin discusses the events surrounding and following the 1906 earthquake while Solnit considers the meaning of ruins, resurrection, and the evolving geography and history of San Francisco. Paging through this collection of photos the reader will be not only be surprised to see how little the basic footprint of downtown San Francisco has changed since 1906 but also how many architectural remnants of the pre-earthquake city survived in one form or another.

Built to Win
John Schuerholz
Warner Books
ISBN: 0446578681, $24.95, 272 pp.

With an unprecedented 14 straight National League East Titles, the Atlanta Braves are one of the most successful franchises in professional baseball. In "Built to Win" Braves' general manager John Schuerholz shares the philosophy that has led the team to the playoffs year after year.

The secret of Atlanta's success is simple, Schuerholz says. Select the right people, invest in them, and listen to them and the victories will follow.

Looking at his tenure with the Braves, the general manager discusses some of the team's successful pitchers. Certainly the careers of standouts Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz get a lot of attention, as does the downfall of John Rocker. Schuerholz also includes a detailed account of the 2005 acquisition of superstar Tim Hudson. There's also an interesting rebuke of the "Moneyball" theory of management made popular by the Oakland A's where a player's worth is determined by his stats.

Written with Larry Guest, "Built to Win" is filled with fascinating anecdotes about a host of Brave players and staff, including third baseman Chipper Jones, scout Buck O'Neil, pitcher Millwood, and manager Bobby Cox. There's even the inside scoop on how Barry Bonds was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates and why the deal fell apart in just 15 hours. From beginning to end, "Built To Win" explains the ins and outs of how to create a winning baseball organization and do it with only an $80 million payroll.

The Only Game In Town
Fay Vincent
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743273176, $26.00, 243 pp.

Former Commissioner of Baseball Fay Vincent has brought together ten lively and informative narratives from some forty interviews that have been taped by the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of their ongoing oral history project. "The Only Game In Town" contains the colorful portraits of baseball stars of the 1930s and 1940s. The group includes Elden Auker, Bob Feller, Tommy Henrich, John "Buck" O'Neil, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, Warren Spahn, Larry Doby, Ralph Kiner, and Monte Irvin.

The tales these men share include numerous stories about some of the game's fabled players like Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Satchel Paige, and Joe DiMaggio. For example, both Auker and Henrich remember playing with Hank Greenberg and provide an account of when Greenberg took on the entire White Sox clubhouse after suffering anti-Semitic slurs from the Sox bench.

Auker also offers an account of a post season exhibition tour of Japan in 1939 and the mysterious behavior of catcher Moe Berg on the trip. Years later it was revealed Berg had been spying for the U.S. government at the time. In reacting to the coddling of pitchers today, Spahn said, "Everything today is predicated on preventing a sore arm and the five-man rotation and counting pitches. Well, we get more sore arms now than we ever had in history. And it's because pitchers never get their arms into shape."

A refreshing and candid look at the past, "The Only Game In Town" provides a look at baseball through the eyes of some of the players who took the field during this "golden age" of the sport.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Marking The Land
Brian Dibble & Jim Evans
UWA Press
c/o International Specialized Book Services (ISBS)
920 NE 58th Avenue, Suit 300, Portland, OR 97213-3786
1920694463 $26.95

Ably compiled and co-edited by academicians Brian Dibble (Personal Chair in Comparative Literature at Curtin University) and Jim Evans (Professor Emeritus of Journalism and Agricultural Communications at the University of Illinois), as well as featuring the landscape photography of Richard Woldendorp, Marking The Land: A Collection Of Australian Bush Wisdom And Humor is an engaging, entertaining, and occasionally inspiring anthology of colorful of quotes and sayings drawn from the frontiers of the Australian Outback. With a wisdom and humor ranging from random analogies of life to sheep shearing advice and worldly acceptance, Marking The Land contributes a wide range of Aussie excerpts taken from advertisements, newspapers, songs, books, colleagues and friends of the authors. Highly recommended to all intrigued with the Australian culture and its creative sense of humor, Marking The Land is a work of enduring value that will be appreciated by generations of readers.

The Must-Have Customer
Robert Gordman
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
Jane Wesman Public Relations (publicity)
322 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1702, New York, NY 10001
0312351690 $24.95

The Must-Have Customer: Seven Steps To Winning The Customer You Haven't Got by Robert Gordman (President of the Gordman Group) with the assistance of professional author Armin Brott provides a powerful and persuasive understanding of an expertise developed through over thirty years of business consulting and executive management for retail companies. Introducing readers to the tactics and wisdom from Gordman which helped dozens of companies improve their sale range from about ten million to eighty billion, The Must-Have Customer comprehensively provides readers with "user-friendly" and persistently informative guide to productive and securing utilization of the business and consulting process for any company. The Must-Have Customer is very strongly recommended for all business executives, consultants, managers, and productivity assessment officers for its exclusive and complete mapping of the entire system.

The Language Of Elk
Benjamin Percy
Carnegie Mellon University Press
PO Box 6525, Ithica, NY 14850
0887484549 $16.95

The Language Of Elk by Benjamin Percy (Visiting Assistant Professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is an eclectic collection of character-base short stories rooted in the diverse and desolate frontier territory of Oregon. Deftly carrying readers through the intricate world of taming the wild that so boldly summons its inhabitants, The Language Of Elk vividly depicts the mystical persuasion and haunting terrain of the Oregon front with eight memorable tales enhanced with an evocative dialect. The Language Of Elk is very highly recommended for all general readers of fiction for its unique and engaging style an the deeply insightful stories it tells.

Black Elk In Paris
Kate Horsley
Trumpeter Books
c/o Shambhala Publications
Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
1590303296 $19.95

Black Elk In Paris by Kate Horsley is an engaging and thought-provoking story of a young woman and her developing relationship with a distraught physician. Taking place in the year 1888, Black Elk In Paris follows the lives of Phillipe Normand and the young Madou Balise as their decision to help the poor state of an Oglala Indian named Choice which they encounter at a Wild West show touring Europe. Black Elk In Paris carries readers through the transitions which Phillipe and Madou experience as they seek to help Choice learn of his legendary Native American background. Black Elk In Paris is very highly recommended reading as an engaging and entertaining novel replete with metaphors drawn from Native American cultural beliefs.

The Europe Quiz Book
Helen Meade
Dufour Editions
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425
1903464781 $15.95

The Europe Quiz Book: Test Your Knowledge Of The EU, deftly compiled and expertly authored by Helen Meade is an informed and informative collection of questions for students of the European culture ranging from the roots of European history to the current events. With questions like: In what city was the heir to the Austrian Throne, Archduke Ferdinand assassinated in 1914?; In Spain, what is an omelette made from eggs, potatoes and garlic called?; and What Romanian dictator was overthrown in a coup in 1989 and later executed?, The Europe Quiz Book is a compilation a great multitude of questions from the categories of mixed bag, entertainment, sports, cities, writers, famous people, food and drink, artists, and much more. The Europe Quiz Book is very highly recommended as a fun and informative collection of European information and trivia.

Superior Death
Matthew Williams
Avalon Books
160 Madison Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10016
0803497687 $21.95

Superior Death by Matthew Williams is a gripping and evocative new thriller depicting the life of the small-town reporter Vince Marshall and his hot-pursuit of the truth and justice in his evermore secretive town. With a potentially cheating wife, a degrading and extremist boss, and the police deciding his mother to be the prime suspect for the mystery of a local woman's death, Superior Death deftly maneuvers the language and plot for a highly mystifying tale as Marshall delves deeper into the terrifying truths encumbering his small town. Superior Death is very strongly recommended for its unique structure and fascinating and intricately woven story for all fans of mystery fiction, and most particularly those familiar with the northern Upper-Michigan Peninsula.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Gary Young
Heyday Books
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709
1597140236 $12.95

Pleasure is an eclectic and vivid account of the many aspects of the persistence of pleasure presented by the delightful poetry of Gary Young set down in a true and comely prose poems. From deviant to cherishing to subtle, Pleasure tactfully and sensitively presents the inevitable aspect of human nature at its greatest. A woman kneeling at our table began to tell a story. It was my birthday, she said, I was ten, and I rode my new bike through a pasture on a dare. I was almost across when a bull charged from the far side of the field. I climbed a fence just in time, but the bull mad a wreck of my bike. She paused, and I could see that her neck was much whiter than her shoulders or her face--I suppose her hair had just been cut. It's strange, she said, the things you never forget. --Gary Young, Pleasure (p. 70)

Death Stars, Weird Galaxies, And A Quasar-Spangled Universe
Karen Taschek
University of New Mexico Press
MSC11 6290, 1University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001
0826332110 $17.95

Death Stars, Weird Galaxies, And A Quasar-Spangled Universe: The Discoveries Of The Very Large Array Telescope by Karen Taschek is an informative and easy-to-follow study of the Very Large Array (VLA) as constructed by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in in San Augustin, New Mexico. Ably authored, and historically concise, Death Stars, Weird Galaxies, And A Quasar-Spangled Universe presents the story of Karl Jasky and his discoveries, and continues on to share a wealth of fun and interesting finds attributed to the VLA's research. Beautifully illustrated throughout and a welcome addition to school and community library Astronomy reference collections, Death Stars, Weird Galaxies, And A Quasar-Spangled Universe is very highly recommended as a complete, active, thorough, and exclusive coverage of the fascinating world of the discoveries made with the technology of modern astronomical sciences for readers of all ages who are interested in the science of astronomy.

The Oatman Massacre
Brian McGinty
The University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
0806137703 $14.95

The Oatman Massacre: A Tale Of Desert Captivity And Survival by Brian McGinty is the historical study of the killing and capturing of the Oatman family at the hands of Native Americans. Motivated by his religious beliefs as a dissident Mormon, Roys Oatman set off for Gila and Colorado rivers' intersection with his family of nine and followers seeking to settle in a fertile country he called the "Land of Bashan". The Oatman Massacre is the descriptive story of what came to be called the "Oatman Massacre" in the mid-nineteenth century when all members of that doomed family were killed except for eight-year-old Mary Ann and thirteen-year-old Olive Oatman, and their wounded fourteen-year-old brother Lorenzo Oatman. The young women's captivity amidst the Mohaves tribe, and the experiences of Olive throughout the eight years prior to her rescue is ably recounted. The Oatman Massacre is a remarkable account and a welcome contribution to understanding the Mohaves culture, Mormon history, and a particularly harrowing event on the American frontier.

While Washington Burned
Joseph Whitehorne
The Nautical & Aviation Publishing Company Of America
2055 Middleburg Lane, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
1877853186 $28.95

While Washington Burned: The Battle For Fort Erie by Joseph Whitehorne (Historical Consultant and teacher at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, Virginia) is a descriptive study of the hard-pressed American forces against the British at Fort Erie. Recounting the first US victory on the land against organized British forces after the burning of their burning of the American capital in Washington DC on August 25, 1814, While Washington Burned provides the reader with an expansive understanding of the attacks and counterattacks which took place in the midst of Fort Erie, and a complete accounting of the results -- including the use of genealogical research and archeological discoveries. While Washington Burned is enhanced by the inclusion of maps, appendixes of the armies involved, strategies and tactics used, and knowledge of the every particular of the terrifying battles. A work of impressive scholarship and a thoroughly "reader friendly" text, While Washington Burned is very strongly recommended for personal, academic, and community library American History supplemental reading lists and reference collections.

An Informative Guide To Breeding And Raising Angelfishes
Ed Stansbury
TFH Publications
One TFH Plaza, Third & Union Avenues, Neptune City, NJ 07753
0793805635 $14.95

An Informative Guide To Breeding And Raising Angelfishes by tropical fish expert Ed Stansbury is an informative introduction to the selection, maintenance, and nutritional care for angelfish. Descriptively exploring variations of angelfish and particulars of genetics, Breeding And Raising Angelfishes knowledgeably presents details of water quality, dietary aspects, reproduction, and diseases with respect to the quite beautiful and enduringly popular angelfish. An Informative Guide To Breeding And Raising Angelfishes is very strongly recommended as introductory reader for anyone searching for a "user friendly" guide to assist them in the proper care and assessment of health and longevity of their angelfish.

Mental Health Care For Urban Indians
Tawa M. Witko
American Psychological Association
750 First St, NE, Washington, DC 20002
1591473594 $69.95

Expertly compiled and professionally edited by clinical psychologist Tawa M. Witko, Mental Health Care For Urban Indians: Clinical Insights From Native Practitioners is an extensive documentation of the cultural and historical impact of colonization on Native American cultures and the resultant psychological repercussions still present in the Native American population. Introducing a basic understanding of the history surrounding Native American urban migration and boarding schools, Mental Health Care For Urban Indians identifies the link between traditional healing methods and progressive psychology and advocates the practical use of both in treating mental health conditions manifesting in urban dwelling Native Americans today. With significant insights drawn in part from native practitioners, Mental Health Care For Urban Indians is very strongly recommended reading for psychologists, counselors, and health care professionals working with Native American clients in American cities today.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Woman Behind The Painter
Rosalie Hook
The University of Alberta Press
Ring House 2, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2EI
088864437X $49.95

Expertly edited by Juliet McMaster (Professor Emerita in English at the University of Albert and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada), Woman Behind The Painter: The Diaries Of Rosalie, Mrs. James Clarke Hook by Rosalie Hook presents the life, observations and comments of the wife of the artist James Clarke Hook. Presenting the full narrative details of Rosalie Hook domestic partnership with her artist husband, Woman Behind The Painter begins with the fifth day after the young couples' marriage in August of 1846, and continues through their travels to May of 1848. Hallmarked with her vivid and tangible dialogue, enhanced throughout with both color and B/W illustrations, and featuring three appendices ("Index of Artists", "Burton Family Tree", "Hook Family Tree from Adam Clarke"), a list of cited works, and an extensive Index, Rosalie Hook's Woman Behind The Painter is very highly recommended for Women's Studies, Art History, and Travel Diary supplemental reading lists and academic reference collections.

Make Your Own Woodworking Tools
Mike Burton
Fox Chapel Publishing
1970 Broad Street, East Petersburg, PA 17520
1565233069 $19.95

Make Your Own Woodworking Tools: Metalwork Techniques To Create, Customize, And Sharpen In The Workshop by carpentry and woodworking expert Mike Burton is an informative and superbly organized introduction to making, modifying, and altering woodturning and woodcarving tools. Methodically guiding readers with a "user-friendly" text on woodworking's most intricate particulars, Make Your Own Woodworking Tools covers such issues as steel and other raw materials equipment and tools, safety, tools without blacksmithing, simple blacksmithing techniques, heat treating, dressing and sharpening tools, handles and mallets, special purpose tools, and five innovative projects. Enhanced with five fund and easy projects, as well as being an ideal reference compendium of highly useful tips and techniques, Make Your Own Woodworking Tools is very strongly recommended reading for aspiring carpenters and craftsmen, and an invaluable addition to school woodshop and community library woodworking reference collections.

Screenwriters' Masterclass
Kevin Conroy Scott
Newmarket Press
18 East 48th Street, New York, NY 10017
1557046921 $19.95

Ably compiled and edited by Kevin Conroy Scott, Screenwriters' Masterclass: Screenwriters Talk About Their Greatest Movies is an exclusive compendium interviews, commentaries and writings from professional screenwriters about their most famous film projects. Included are interviews with Ted Tally, Carlos Cuaron, Darren Aronofsky, Jim Taylor, David Russel and a great many more. Screenwriters' Masterclass offers an in-depth and "behind the scenes" look into the world of professional screenwriters, as well as a fun and informative background into the making of so many amazing and well known films. Screenwriters' Masterclass is a very strongly recommended addition to professional and film school screenwriting and film production reference collections.

Tools And Techniques For Character Interpretation
Robert Blumenfeld
Limelight Editions
512 Newark Pompton Turnpike, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444
0879103264 $22.95

Tools And Techniques For Character Interpretation: A Handbook Of Psychology For Actors, Writers, And Directors by New York actor, dialect coach, and writer, Robert Blumenfeld is an informed and informative study of the interpretive science of psychology and the methodical analysis of acting and character interpretation on stage or before cameras. Presenting a superbly written instruction manual on the performance art of acting, Tools And Techniques For Character Interpretation provides readers with a thematically appropriate interpretation of the great psychologists Freud, Klein, and Jung, as well as a practical understanding of the applications of psychological analysis in acting. Tools And Techniques For Character Interpretation is to be given high praise and strong recommendation for all aspiring or practicing actors, directors and screenwriters for its remarkable coverage of the psychology involved with the art of acting. Also very highly recommended by Robert Blumenfeld is "Accents: A Manual for Actors" (Limelight, 2002) and "Acting with the Voice: The Art of Recording Books (Limelight, 2004).

A Study Of Major Political Thinkers In France From The Seventeenth To The Twentieth Century
Nigel A. Addinall
The Edwin Mellen Press
PO Box 450, Lewiston, NY 14092
0773465294 $99.95

A Study Of Major Political Thinkers In France From The Seventeenth To The Twentieth Century: From Absolutism To Socialism by Nigel A. Addinall (Professor in the French Department at the University of Wales, Swansea) is a scholarly introduction and study of the political thought as from the perspective the French. Following political philosophy and progression from the rise of Absolutism, the Age of Enlightenment, and Robespierre. A Study Of Major Political Thinkers In France From The Seventeenth To The Twentieth Century analytically surveys the French Revolution, Liberalism, Socialism and Maurras, as the French ideals took on effective attributes and influences. A concise and scholarly documentation of French political philosophy between seventeenth and twentieth centuries, A Study Of Major Political Thinkers In France From The Seventeenth To The Twentieth Century is a very highly recommended addition to college and university Political Science reference collections.

Pup Parenting
Lynn Lott, Jane Nelsen, & Therry Jay
Rodale Press
400 South 10th St, Emmaus, PA 18098
1594860815 $14.95

Collaboratively authored by the team of Lynn Lott, Jane Nelsen, and animal behaviorist Therry Jay, Pup Parenting: A Guide To Raising A Happy, Well-Trained Dog is an informative and "pet owner friendly" guide to selecting and training the perfect dog for a family. Providing readers with a comprehensive understanding of the many and varying canine breeds, Pup Parenting can be invaluable in determining which one is best for a particular family, as well as assessing the personality of the new doggy pal, and curing the immediate obedience troubles which might be encountered. Pup Parenting diligently and knowledgeably carries its readers through the wonderful world of canine companion ownership and the positive effects which dogs might have on familial relationships. Pup Parenting is very highly recommended for all readers wanting to make sound and informed decisions with respect to puppy selection and care for themselves and their families.

Ash Divan
Enis Batur
Tailsman House
PO Box 3157, Jersey City, NJ 07303-3157
1584980494 $15.95

Ash Divan: Selected Poems Of Enis Batur is a masterful collection of poetical rhetoric in the form of a poetry that whispers of gallant philosophy and wisdom. The words of this great poet are made available in English through ably translations by Clifford Endres, Saliha Paker, Selhan Savcigil-Endres, Mel Kenne, and edited by Saliha Parker. Ash Divan majestically traces the vivid demeanor of the Turkish poet's most intuitive and provocative creations with slight of inquiry of human nature and progressive luxury. Balcony: "Sweetheart, my darling, my Heloise, come/to me, jump in my lap." Sweet-talking guy,/in his voice that odd soft tone/we keep for newborn babies: "What nonsense/wasn't it for me to give you a name like that,/what nonsense wasn't it?" He laughed/from deep down and went on silently:/What nonsense Heloise and Abelard, History/ and Time, What nonsense Life and Death,/cats and words and poems.//And Heloise? Long gone to the balcony:/in a huge ink bottle spilled on the sky/whirling from evening to night/she was madly chasing her tail.

Different Views In Hudson River School Painting
Judith Hansen O'Toole
Columbia University Press
61 W 62nd St, New York, NY 10023
0231138202 $34.95

Different Views In Hudson River School Painting by Judith Hansen O'Toole (Director and CEO of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvania) is an expansive and beautifully presented anthology of the art and the artists who pioneered the first native style of American landscape painting. Providing readers with an illustrative compendium of examples supported by an informative and "reader friendly" text, Different Views In Hudson River School Painting delves deep into the study of many various artists in terms of their diverse styles and productivity. A perfect edition to personal, academic, and community library Art History collections, Different Views In Hudson River School Painting is very highly recommended and informative reading.

Michael J. Carson

Cheri's Bookshelf

Turn Back Time
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
ISBN: 1933110341, $15.95, 288 pp.

Radclyffe's knowledge gained during her surgical training clearly informs this work as the passion, dedication, frustration, and occasional disillusionment of the characters speak with the voice of authority. Based on realistic experiences, but entirely fiction, Turn Back Time is another utterly gratifying romantic medical drama that, in my opinion, is Radclyffe's crowning achievement so far. In this tightly woven tale about two amazing women who are destined to be together against all odds, Drs. Pearce Rifkin and Wynter Thompson tango around a relationship until they finally can't deny that their attraction is real. .

Classes graduating from Philadelphia's four medical schools gather at the University of Pennsylvania to find out where their training will continue. Quite by accident, fourth-year medical students Pearce and Wynter meet on match day. The meeting doesn't amount to more than a spark, but little do they know that fate will bring them together again after a four-year separation.

Radclyffe's novels continue to offer strong characterization, which makes it easy to become attached to the protagonists. Pearce is striking to look at with her angular features, dark shaggy hair, and athletic build: "Wynter tracked the path of fabric over flesh and was struck by the unexpected beauty of muscles playing beneath soft skin. She saw bodies every day of her life, clothed and unclothed, in every stage of health and disease, but she couldn't remember ever seeing anything quite so lovely" (p. 98). Pearce's self-confidence, intelligence, and prowess in medicine further make her desirable and admirable.

Pearce makes no apology for being gay, and she excels at everything she sets her mind to. Not one to want anything for herself and living her life as if following a script, she's surprised when she meets Wynter, the first woman who has ever distracted her from her goals. Pearce wrestles with her feelings for Wynter. "She didn't need to look at Wynter to remember the shape of her face or the color of her eyes or the way she tilted her head and looked out from beneath those long honeyed lashes when something amused her. She didn't need to look at her to feel that tug deep in her belly" (p. 71).

From something as simple as realizing that casual affairs no longer satisfy her to accepting that she is willing to forgo certain ambitions to be with the woman she loves, Pearce not only struggles with the fear of intimacy, but she shows an incredible growth curve. Strong women who have a heart, live by a moral code, make the world a better place, and yet struggle with vulnerabilities are what compel me to care about them and read on. I love learning what makes a person tick, and Radclyffe does it especially well by revealing different layers of her characters like buds slowly opening into flowers.

Radclyffe writes like a highly skilled surgeon; she demonstrates emotion with the same precision, paying close attention to detail, and making sure everything works and connects properly in the end. That her characters are imaginary defies logic. Pearce is one character this reader wouldn't mind emulating. She's a good person in every way, and I would trust my life in her hands, if only she were real.

Wynter, unlucky at love and struggling between her personal responsibilities and her career, is not looking for a relationship. She is surprised to discover she is attracted to a woman, and not just any woman, but her senior resident, Pearce Rifkin. The fact that Pearce pulls away each time they get too close doesn't deter Wynter. Once the strong-willed woman makes up her mind about something, there's no changing it.

One endearing trait Wynter shows is sticking up for and doing what's best for the people she loves. You have to admire a person who puts others' well-being before her own.

Crisp internal and external dialogue, which is believable, honest, and witty, shows the layers of the characters as we get to know them. In addition, Radclyffe's tight plot, where every scene moves the story along, maintains the intensity and interest. Wanting to find out what secrets the characters are hiding, what will happen next, and praying that it will all work out in the end, make it impossible to turn the pages quickly enough.

Romantic fiction is meant to engage the reader and elicit feelings of longing, desire, and intimacy. Sometimes, as an added bonus, it provides sizzling sex for a totally satisfying drama. Turn Back Time not only meets the criteria for the genre but goes beyond to give the reader more than she hopes for. Even readers who are not in the health field will understand, enjoy, and feel how vital and stimulating the environment is where life and death hang in the balance. Radclyffe displays remarkable skill at making settings believable.

Turn Back Time, by award-winning, best-selling, and beloved author, Radclyffe, is a winner. Don't miss this exciting glimpse into the medical world of two highly acclaimed surgeons or into the hearts and minds of two multi-faceted women. Radclyffe fans will love this one and beg for more about the two new exciting heroines.

Maybe Next Time
Karin Kallmaker
Bella Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 10543, Tallahassee, FL 32302
ISBN: 1931513250, $12.95, 245 pp.

Award-winning, best-selling author Karin Kallmaker has repeatedly proven that she has what it takes to spin a romantic tale. Kallmaker has an impressive body of work, and Maybe Next Time further shows her prowess. Her excellent command of the English language taps into human emotion as if she has invented it. Maybe Next Time, winner of a Lambda Literary Award for Romance, has everything readers expect from a love story, but with an edge.

Sabrina (Bree) Starling was a prodigy destined for greatness. An accomplished musician, she became a world-renowned concert violinist. The music spoke to her, and she felt as though the violin played her instead of vice versa. With talent, fame, and fortune, Bree would appear to have everything, but sadly, her gift came with a huge price and personal sacrifice. Was it fate, her own stubbornness, other people's jealousy of her talent, or a combination of these things that led Bree on the road to destruction? Would Bree ever realize that Jorie, her first love, the one person who makes her whole and fulfills her every desire cannot compete with a violin?

Unable to sustain a meaningful relationship with Jorie or the countless other women she slept with, Bree had many issues to overcome, including guilt after hurting her best friend Diane. Deep depression threatened to consume Bree. Wallowing in despair, guilt, and loneliness, she truly believed she deserved pain and suffering.

Kallmaker eloquently describes her character's state of mind and actions, which evokes the appropriate gut-wrenching response in her readers, including being angry and disappointed in Bree's poor choices but celebrating when she gets it right.

Maybe Next Time is one woman's journey to discover what is important in life. And the reader hopes she figures it out before it's too late. With foreshadowing and vivid imagery, Kallmaker sets up and explains the conflict Bree has with her music, Jorie, and Diane.

Bree's sexual awakening leaves her stunned when she discovers she's in love with Jorie, who along with Aunt Lani, is her "ohana," her family of blood or choice. "[Bree] was a musician, she was haole, she was Hawaiian, a mainlander, an islander, the daughter of a businessman and a singer. She was a woman and she liked girls…the list was long and it swirled like an arpeggio, different notes for different pieces of herself. The arpeggio became a chord and for a shining moment she understood all mysteries and magic, all wonder and music" (p. 37).

For most of her life, Bree felt the "sacrifices meant nothing because she was nothing without a violin" (p. 27). "Perfection was hers to reach for. The violin asked and she played" (p. 28). However, when Bree suffered a twist of fate and was at the lowest point in her life, she felt as though the "voice of her own violin poured over her body like lava" (p. 4).

Kallmaker uses catchy turns of phrase, descriptions that ring poetic, and analogies that make words read like symphonies. "The smile grew as she let the sun kiss her face with the last of its rays" (p. 31). Kallmaker describes the human condition from longing, desire, and love, to jealousy, fear, and loneliness. Bree always felt like an outsider. She was an orphan robbed of her childhood, but fortunately she was given a loving home with her Aunt Lani, who "tried to spare Bree the path of early fame, easy money, then the chill of not knowing who you really were, what you were made of, or who your ancestors were when life became hard" (p. 22).

Kallmaker adds morality to her work when Bree tries to save Jorie's daughter Penny from some of the hurt and shame she herself has endured from using women for pleasure. Bree tells Penny, "It's so easy to forget that sometimes things that feel good aren't good for you. You can't act like other people don't have feelings. You think you won't get hurt, but you do" (p. 103).

Filled with angst, sensitivity, intimacy, and joy, Maybe Next Time delivers a memorable tale. With flawed but likeable main characters, an intriguing plot with many surprises, award-winning prose and flawless editing, this five star novel epitomizes great romantic fiction. And in this reader's opinion, Karin Kallmaker tells it beautifully.

Cheri Rosenberg

Cowper's Bookshelf

Edens Lost And Found
Harry Wiland & Dale Bell
Chelsea Green Publishing
PO Box 428, 85 North Main St, Ste 120
193149889X $40.00

The companion book to the PBS television program of the same name, Edens Lost And Found: How Ordinary Citizens Are Restoring Our Great American Cities is co-authored by Harry Wiland and Dale Bell with Joseph D'Angnese and is an inspirational and instructive guide to environmental restoration projects undertaken by ordinary cities in the cities of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Chicago, as well as the remarkable work of many individual activists in their pursuit for a stronger, greener urban environment. Exploring the landscape and natural intervention of many smaller communities and neighborhoods, Edens Lost And Found carries its readers through the processes of remarkable transformations, and reshapings which these ordinary people in collaboration with one another help were able to achieve in a variety of circumstances and conditions. An invaluable addition to community library collections, Edens Lost And Found is particularly recommended reading as an inspiring collection of innovative, constructive project ideas for environmental and neighborhood improvement activists.

System Testing With An Attitude
Nathan Petschenik
Dorset House Publishing Company
353 W 12th Street, New York, NY 10014
0932633463 $45.95

System Testing With An Attitude: An Approach That Nurture Front-Loaded Software Quality by international software testing consultant Nathan Petschenik offers an informed and informative understanding of the problems and issues often confronted in computer oriented careers. Providing its readers with an invaluable approach to the proper application of system testing and developer-led testing, understanding the software's user, reduction of system-test costs, and increase of productivity by methodical technique and tool utilization, management of the "end game" of software developmental effectiveness, and institution of comprehensive measurement programming, System Testing With An Attitude is a superbly presented, "user-friendly" collection of accessibly helpful, usefully practical, readily applicable information. System Testing With An Attitude is very highly recommended to all readers with an interest in computer and software sciences, particularly career choice advisors in the field of computer repair and maintenance.

Motherless Daughters
Hope Edelman
Lifelong Books
Perseus Books Group, dist.
11 Cambridge Center, MA 02142
0738210269 $15.95

Motherless Daughters: The Legacy Of Loss by award winning journalist Hope Edelman is an informative and expertly contributive documentation of the psychological and spiritual effects the death of a mother might have on the life and psychological well being of a daughter. Deftly presenting how the absence of a nurturing maternal hand could influence the development of a daughter's self identity, and what might result from the loss of such a role model and source of emotional support, Motherless Daughters tells of why living beyond a mother's final year reminds a daughter of her exquisite separateness; how present-day relationships are defined by past losses; what the "unmothered" woman can do to reclaim her autonomy and restore her connection to the family of the motherline; and how to understand grief as an ongoing journey. Very strongly recommended reading for all women, who have lost or who are risk for the loss of their mother, Motherless Daughters is to be especially commended or its outstanding presentation of insightful and helpful material for coping with the death of a mother.

Sexy Shorts For Summer
Cathy Kelly, et al.
Accent Press
c/o Dufour Editions
PO Box 7 Chester Springs, PA 19425
0954489934 $13.95

Collectively compiled and edited by J. Sanger, Sexy Shorts For Summer is an intimate collection by Cathy Kelly, Jane Wenham-Jones, Lynne Barrett-Lee, and others, of sexy, funny, evocative, and creative stories drawing upon the theme of an especially memorable season of summer. Readers are carried through a series of entertaining, sensitive, and deftly written short stories as Sexy Shorts For Summer presents the many faceted art of summer fun and relaxation. Sexy Shorts For Summer is very highly recommended reading, especially for women searching for an easy and attractive read for their own carefree summer's entertainment.

White Tree
Sonia Edwards
Partian Books
c/o Dufour Editions
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425
1902638514 $14.95

White Tree by Sonia Edwards is a creative and intimate anthology of her of short stories and relative prose depicting the mysterious disappearance of the woman Nen. Providing a remarkable and vivid account of Nen's family and friends, loved ones, and those close, White Tree portrays Nen and details her most personal intricacies, as well as those in missing her, however never does touch base with the actual enigmatic character of Nen. White Tree is to be given high praise, and is very strongly recommended for all readers of sophisticated fiction for its amazing stylistic narratives and imaginative engaging depictions of an increasingly mysterious woman.

How Long She'll Last In This World
Maria Melendez
The University of Arizona Press
355 South Euclid Avenue, Suite 103, Tucson, AZ 85719
0816525153 $15.95

How Long She'll Last In This World is an articulate and engaging collection of remarkable poetry by Maria Melendez. Drawing from her expansive knowledge of the environment and biology, Melendez creates poetry which induces muse and highlights the spirit as it carries its readers through a creative and evocative philosophy. American Adhaan (October 2001): Watch night spilling on the western edge/of invisible, its cool surrender/to the peach-colored clouds (just water/that has lately collapsed/into form).//How violently natural/my petroliferous valley looks/in this faint, blue wash;/the slow, arc'd strokes/of a great egret's wings/deny the crude thickness/of this air.//The shattered world's particulates/fall everywhere around us;/the call to prayer means bowing/and facing them all.

French Postcards
Jane Merchant
Spinsters Ink
PO Box 242, Midway, FL 32343
1883523672 $14.95

An unusual and entertaining novel, French Postcards by Jane Merchant is the engaging story of Elinor and her husband's decision to move their family to France. As Elinor adjusts to the life among the French, French Postcards creatively depicts the progression of her unexpected attraction and relationship to a woman named Beatrice. French Postcards is an exotic narrative story of two women who betray their life with husbands and children for a love never before discovered or imagined, and is very highly recommended for its unique and diverse perspective on intimacy and passion, as well as love at its most pure and true state.

Character Building Day By Day
Anne D. Mather & Louise B. Weldon
Free Spirit Publishing
217 Fifth Avenue North, Suite 200
157542178X $15.95

Co-authored by educators Anne D. Mather and Louise B. Weldon, Character Building Day By Day: 180 Quick Read-Alouds For Elementary School And Home is an informed and informative introduction to character building for elementary school aged children. Guiding readers through 180 creative and productive strategies for inducing introspection into young minds, Character Building Day By Day draws upon many fun and inventive illustrative "read aloud" stories useful for children to engage in self-interpretation of the story's ethical implications. Character Building Day By Day is very strongly recommended for all elementary-level educators and parents for its invaluable collection of easily implemented daily practices for an overall better understanding by children of what good character and decision making consists of.

Smart Kids With Learning Difficulties
Rich Weinfeld, et. al.
Prufrock Press
PO Box 8813, Waco, TX 76714-8813
1593631804 $16.95

Co-authored by Rich Weinfeld , Linda Barnes-Robinson, Sue Jeweler, & Betty Roffman Shevitz (a team of leading experts drawn from America's "cutting-edge" schools), Smart Kids With Learning Difficulties: Overcoming Obstacles And Realizing Potential is an informed and informative study of teaching strategies appropriate to children with a variety of significant learning disorders. Covering such particulars as Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD and other Attention Deficit Disorders, Dyslexia and other learning disabilities, Autism, and other restrictive learning barriers, Smart Kids With Learning Difficulties identifies particular children and presents the legal requirements, accommodations, and classroom/curriculum solutions drawn from each of the authors many years of practical experience in teaching children with various learning problems. Enhanced with a glossary, references and resources, Smart Kids With Learning Difficulties is very strongly recommended for parents and teachers of children with variable learning disorders for its concise and thorough documentation and "reader friendly" text.

Mary Cowper

Debra's Bookshelf

Cover Your Assets
Patricia Smiley
Mysterious Press
ISBN: 0892960191, $23.95, 290 pp.

In this sequel to Patricia Smiley's False Profits self-employed management consultant Tucker Sinclair finds herself tracking down the murderer of an old flame, Hollywood agent Evan Brice. The problem is that Tucker's search for a killer may lead her to the door of old friend Cissy Brice, the victim's widow, who had ample reason to want to see the last of her unfaithful, drug-addicted spouse. While annoying the police with her amateur sleuthing, Tucker has to contend with memories of Cindy's perfidy ten years earlier--Cissy had an affair with Brice while he was engaged to Tucker--as well as a host of other annoyances--starlets with skeletons, malevolent bikers, her ex-husband's impending nuptials, and her mother's increasingly organic lifestyle.

Cover Your Assets is a likeable enough cozy, nicely written and sporting the occasional pleasing turn of phrase. ("I waited until she turned her back before using my hand to fan myself with the same urgency Icarus must have felt trying to get across the Aegean.") My worry, though, is that the book may not be different enough to stand out from the pack of other likeable-enough cozies, that there is nothing that distinguishes Tucker Sinclair as an unusually eccentric or otherwise compelling protagonist. Perhaps more can be done in future installments in the series with Tucker's day job, which barely figures in the storyline here. (But is management consulting a sexy or quirky enough field to add much spice?) Still, a good read that's worth your while if you're shopping for a breezy beach book.

A Murder, A Mystery, and a Marriage
Mark Twain
ISBN: 0393324494, $12.95, 112 pp.

In 1876 Mark Twain proposed to William Dean Howells, the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, that a number of authors including Twain himself each write a story--"'blindfolded' as to what the others had written"--based on the same skeleton plot, which Twain would devise. In the end the idea came to nothing, or almost nothing, because Howells never managed to interest other authors in taking on the task. But Twain did write his own contribution to the project. His A Murder, A Mystery, and a Marriage is a curious story about a greedy farmer's attempts to line his pockets by marrying his daughter off to a wealthy suitor. The farmer's plot is complicated, however, by his estranged brother's will and by the appearance in town, under unusual circumstances, of a multilingual stranger. The mystery--there is, after all, a murder in the tale--is laid to rest in Twain's final chapter with the unlikely introduction of Jules Verne into the story. Twain never published his novella, and part of the manuscript was lost for more than a hundred years. It appeared in print for the first time in 2001.

The Norton paperback of A Murder, A Mystery, and a Marriage includes four facsimile pages of Twain's manuscript and is beautifully illustrated with watercolors by Peter de Sève. In a brief foreword and a nearly forty-page afterword Roy Blount Jr. discusses the history of the manuscript and places the story in the larger context of Twain's more familiar work and the politics of the day. It is not the most interesting of essays, but Twain fans who are sufficiently familiar with his oeuvre and with mid-nineteenth-century politics may appreciate it.

The Courtesan's Daughter
Priscilla Galloway
Laurel-Leaf Books
c/o Random House Children's Books
ISBN: 0440229022, $5.50, 259 pp.

Priscilla Galloway's young adult novel The Courtesan's Daughter, set in Athens in the mid-fourth century B.C., tells the story of a young girl, Phano, who has been raised in Athens by her citizen father Stephanos and his paramour Nera, a former courtesan. ("Nera" is Galloway's Anglicization of the Greek name more usually spelled Neaira or Neaera.) Phano's upbringing has not been typical for an Athenian girl, in large part because of her step-mother's licentious past. In particular, when she was nine Phano had had to live virtually as a slave in the house of a certain Phrynion, an abusive character who had figured in Nera's past, this after legal troubles had forced Stephanos to flee Athens. Phrynion claimed that Nera was his slave and that Phano, whom he maintained was Nera's daughter rather than step-daughter, was likewise his property. Galloway follows Phano's story as she marries Theo (short for Theogenes) and settles into her husband's family, during which time Phrynion continues to cast a shadow over Phano's future.

Galloway's novel is based on a true story. Neaira, Phano, Stephanos, Theogenes, and Phrynion were all historical figures whom we know about primarily because of a still extant speech that was delivered in an Athenian court in the 340's B.C. Neaira was brought to trial on a charge of living with an Athenian citizen (Stephanos) as his wife--an offense because Neaira herself was not a citizen. In making his case against Neaira the prosecutor in the case, Apollodoros, dredges up all manner of dirt about Neaira's sordid past as one of ancient Greece's most infamous courtesans. Apollodoros had a lot to say about Phano in his speech as well.

The speech against Neaira is a highly biased account, and much of what Apollodoros says in it cannot be taken at face value. The text thus leaves readers with a great many perplexing questions about Neaira's history--and Phano's. Galloway, whose novel is set in the decade before Neaira's trial, has done a wonderful job of filling in the blanks in her account of Phano and Neaira. Much of her plot revolves around the question of Phano's parentage, for example, which is likewise one of the principal questions raised by Apollodoros' account. Galloway very neatly makes Phrynion a stooge of Philip of Macedon--who at the time was an increasingly menacing presence to the north of Greece--and pits him against Stephanos and Theogenes in the political arena. At the same time Galloway simplifies Phano's story, leaving out the brothers we know her to have had as well as a first, unhappy marriage.

Sticklers will find a few causes for complaint in Galloway's book. The author writes that Theogenes became a member of the Athenian Areopagus Council, in which "most citizen men could expect to serve," but she is presumably confusing that august body with the Athenian boule. It is hard to imagine, too, that an Athenian girl of the period would entertain the thought of becoming a courtesan in order to earn a few dollars, er, obols, as Galloway suggests Phano does. And I believe that Galloway attributes too much political authority to the office of archon basileus, the position which Theogenes held.

These are minor complaints, however. There is much to celebrate in Galloway's well-written and richly-imagined account, not least that her book may interest young adults, as well as their parents, in learning more about the society of which Phano and her family were a part.

Michael Robotham
ISBN: 0385508662, $24.95, 341 pp.

When Michael Robotham's Lost opens, Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz is being pulled nearly dead from the Thames, missing a finger and bleeding out from a gunshot to his leg. He has no memory of how he came to be there, and must, over the following weeks, reconstruct his likely movements in the days before he was shot. At the same time, Ruiz is haunted by his own version of a locked-room mystery, the disappearance three years earlier of seven-year-old Mickey Carlyle from her apartment building. The two incidents--Mickey's disappearance and Ruiz's shooting--may be related. To try to wrestle memories from his subconscious the Detective gets help from psychologist Joe O'Loughlin, who was the principal character in Robotham's first book, SUSPECT. Ruiz's quest for answers will lead him back into the minutiae of the Carlyle case, and back into the bowels of London's underground.

Robotham offers a very clever mystery in Lost that readers are unlikely to unravel before the book's denouement. But while Robotham's SUSPECT was a page-turner, his sophomore effort tends to drag. Lost is still a decent read, but a tighter, shorter book would have been more successful.

Remember, Remember
Sheldon Goldfarb
UKA Press
PO Box 109, Portishead, Bristol, BS20 7ZJ
ISBN: 1904781438, $15.99, 240 pp.

Sheldon Goldfarb's YA novel Remember, Remember opens with a charming scene: a class of Victorian-era school boys, one of them stumbling over a Latin conjugation, and their usually bearish teacher, Mr. Rawlins, so unwontedly distracted as not to have noticed that his pupil's recitation has trailed off before hitting the first person plural. Among the boys in the class squirming in discomfort is fourteen-year-old Aleister Lister Smith, a top student in the fourth form at Shrewsbury School. The reason for Mr. Rawlins's strange behavior soon becomes clear to Aleister when he overhears a conversation outside of his teacher's rooms: Rawlins's "impecunious brother-in-law," a Mr. Talbot, has shown up at the school with a crisis that threatens to bring scandal to the family. Meeting with no help from the imposing Rawlins, Talbot compounds his earlier transgressions--what landed him in trouble in the first place--by dragging Aleister back with him to Manchester on the off chance that the boy can be of some service. Thus Aleister's sheltered life is upended, and he becomes embroiled in an adventure that comes to involve spying, false arrest, private investigative work, and murder. Goldfarb's title is a reference to the children's rhyme about the would-be regicide Guy Fawkes--"Remember, remember the fifth of November..."--as actions central to the book's plot take place on that date.

Remember, Remember is a nicely written, quick read. It packs a compelling mystery and a pair of likeable teenaged protagonists: Talbot's daughter Kate flouts Victorian conventions by teaming up with Aleister to investigate the Guy Fawkes' Night murder; and Aleister himself, apt not to assert himself at the book's outset--indeed, arguably passive to a fault--is seen to grow in confidence as a result of the extraordinary events of his weeks in Manchester.

Any complaints I have about the book are minor: Aleister's dream sequences don't add anything, in my view, and he is too frequently described as tired: one begins to worry about his health. But these are minor quibbles. Goldfarb's target audience should certainly enjoy the book, but adults should consider it as well. It's a good read. I don't know whether the author intends to write a sequel to the story, but I for one would like to see a series of mysteries featuring Aleister as amateur sleuth. Surely the stately halls of Shrewsbury School are rife with crimes that need investigating?

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum
Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0192839306, $11.95, 336 pp.

Like many, perhaps most, adults, I had only been familiar with L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the classic 1939 movie. It was therefore an interesting exercise to read the original version of Dorothy's story--the first book, published in 1899, of what came to be a very lengthy series--and compare it with the film version. There are some substantial differences between the two. In the film version, Dorothy's journey to Oz is an unreal episode, an elaborate dream experienced after being hit on the head. Her dream world and her real life, meanwhile, were symmetrical insofar as some of the principal characters from Kansas were translated into characters in Oz. There is no such symmetry in Baum's version. The witch-like Miss Gulch and humbuggy Professor Marvel, the farm hands Hickory, Huck, and Zeke do not appear in the book. Further, Dorothy's house really is transported to Oz in the cyclone, and when she returns to Kansas Dorothy does so bodily: that is, she travels from Oz and does not merely wake from a dream. Smaller differences between the book and film versions are numerous.

On the whole, I think that the movie tells a tighter, more interesting story than does the book. The Wicked Witch of the West--whose demise in the book is strangely anticlimactic--plays a much bigger role in the film. This holds the story together nicely just as does the symmetry between Dorothy's real and unreal worlds. The movie also omits a good many of the less interesting episodes included in the book, such as Dorothy's adventures among the Dainty China people. What the book has to offer, in turn, is more on the characters' back stories, in particular those of the Tin Woodman and, of all creatures, the Flying Monkeys--much maligned, misunderstood beasts that they are. Who would have guessed their sad plight from the Monkeys' nightmare-inducing depiction in the movie?

While some of Baum's book could have been excised without losing anything, and though the movie tells an arguably better story, Baum's writing is pleasant and his characters well-developed and interesting. It's not surprising that the book has inspired so much affection over the years.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Meg and Jen's Other World Adventures: Daffyd and the Sacred Oath
Francis Dolan
Suite 6E 2333 Government St., Victoria, BC, V8T 4P4 Canada 1-888-232-4444
ISBN: 1412048621, $16.16

Though I'm not a big fan of fantasy novels I did like this one. The author has an easy to read style that flows along with many interesting characters. Two sisters enter an alternate world of kingdoms, magicians, and winged creatures. I hope this is the first of a series. Fans of the "Harry Potter"" books should pick up this fascinating novel. What really caught my attention was the cover artwork that should be displayed at science fiction conventions in their art room exhibits.

Event 2012
Curt Morelock and Ray Burke
Suite 6E 2333 Government St., Victoria, BC, V8T 4P4 Canada 1-888-232-4444
ISBN: 1553695283, $22.50

I liked the concept of going back through time to try to save the Titanic. The story is fast reading with many interesting twists and turns. The characters are interesting with several appealing conflicts that have to be resolved. This story has all the elements to be a great movie.

Agent 008 the Untold Story
Eric Prince
Suite 6E 2333 Government St., Victoria. B.C V8T 4P4 Canada 1-888-232-4444
ISBN: 1412046262, $28.00

I liked the author's idea of a villain who seeks revenge against the United States and that he can control the weather. The novel does have some fun moments but it badly needed a copy editor to go through it because the numerous types of mistakes slowed down the pacing. Also the story is a bit confusing at times because you are not sure if the character is the father or the son who have the same name. My biggest complaint is how the author tried lightly to say that the father got his 00 number as an honorary one from the Queen of England because he helped a man named James find stolen nuclear warheads. The man is James Bond and the story is "Thunderball" and the re-worked "Never Say Never." In order to do what the author has done, he has to get written permission from Ian Fleming's estate, Kevin McClory, Jack Whitingham, and the makers of the James Bond movies which he did not do. I think the author thought no one would pick up on this. I had my doubts when I heard the title.

How to Sleep with a Movie Star
Kristin Harmel
5 Spot
c/o Warner Books Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10020
ISBN: 0446694479, $12.95

This could be classified as a "chick read" because its audience is the same as 'chick flicks" but it is so much more. The author has written a novel that is fun reading fare for summer with very well fleshed out characters and several conflicts that are resolved. I paid special attention to the character Sidra who at first reminded me of the one Tracy Scoggins played on the first season of "Lois and Clark" But Scoggins character would never go as far as Sidra does to try to get what she wants. The novel shows the behind- the-scenes world of magazine publishing and the morality journalism. I also like that in the end all of the characters got what they deserve.

Silent Waters
Jan Coffey
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
ISBN: 0778322196, $6.99

On the side of the book it says "romantic suspense." I have to say no, it's a "high tech thriller" that rapidly moves along to its fantastic end. Armed terrorists hijack a US nuclear sub and target the city of New York. A civilian female and Commander Darius McCann who are on the sub are the only hope of stopping the insane plan. They must work quickly or else New York will cease to exist. The story is a first class nail-biting tale that is reminiscent of the movie "Under Siege."

A Memoir of the Craft
Stephen King
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020 1-800-456-6798
ISBN: 0743455967, $7.99

This older title is so good I had to include it for anyone who wants to know about writing. I like how King compares styles of other writers and shows readers many different forms of writing. He gives a long list of titles new writers should read that are in many genres. This is so good because many new writers think they should only read the type of books they write. This title should be included in anyone's collection about writing.

Florida Horror
Edited by Armand Rosamilia
Carnifex Press
P.O.Box1686, Ormond Beach Florida 32175
ISBN: 097597274X, $12.95

Something strange is going on in Florida. Rosamilia has pulled together twelve tales of horror by new voices in the genre. The stories are not for the squeamish and should be read late at night with the lights on.

Kitchen Privileges
Mary Higgins Clark
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020 1-800-456-6798
ISBN: 0743412613, $13.00

This is a very different book from the queen of suspense. First of all I's not a thriller. Instead it is her autobiography on how she became a writer. I found it most interesting that the first few books she published had different titles before they hit the bookstores. This is for anyone who wants to know her life story.

Never Leave Me
Harold Robbins
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
ISBN: 0765340577, $7.99

Robbins was known for great novels and this is one of his best. There's a lot of sex but it is also filled with very well defined characters and a fast pace that will have readers turning pages. Any fan of the TV show "Dynasty" would love this one.

How to Write Fiction like a Pro
Robert Newton Peck
Maupin House Publishing Inc
PO Box 90148, Gainesville, Fl 32607 800-524-0634
ISBN: 0929895851, $15.95

One of our finest writers now takes readers on an excursion on what makes a writer a good one. Peck's style is very easy reading and there is a lot to learn from an expert in the field. I especially liked how he used his own novels to illustrate his points.

No Yelling
Wally Adamchik
FireStarter Speaking and Consulting
ISBN: 0977900509, $24.95

The author shows how the principles of the Marine Corps can successfully be used in business. He also compares management techniques that have failed and why. Some of the things he reveals are how to make workers feel they are part of a team, complimenting them, how to take care of them, listening and hearing what is said. There are summaries at the end of each chapter to reinforce his points. This is a very positive book that should be required reading for every company executive in the country.

Gary Roen

Gorden's Bookshelf

Harem Girl
Fletchina Archer
Renaissance E Books
P.O. Box 1432, Northampton, MA 01060
ISBN: 1588736350, $4.99 electronic download, 83 pp.

Disclosure: I have 7 books published through Renaissance

The out-of-place contemporary lost in a past time has been a staple of American writing since Twain. Archer brings few new ideas to the genre. Archer is best when contrasting the flaws in modern culture to a believable but fictionalized slave culture.

Theresa is a karate trained typical modern teenager with all the problems of fitting in and teenage angst. Spending the summer in Greece is her way of escaping the irritations of her family. While crossing the Aegean, her boat is hit by lightning and she is transported back to the Seventeenth Century and the slave culture of the Ottomans. With this new start and the knowledge she brings back in time with her, she forges a new life.

'Harem Girl' is a light adult story. The storytelling is familiar and comfortable enough to satisfy but it is the type of story best read during an afternoon of rainy weather when there is nothing else to do.

The First Star Man Omnibus
Stuart J. Bryne
Renaissance E Books
P.O. Box 1432, Northampton, MA 01060
ISBN: 1588738183, $4.99 electronic download, 174 pp.

Disclosure: I have 7 books published through Renaissance

Bryne is one of the masters from the Golden Age of SF. His style is simple and open but one that hides the complexity of good storytelling. He creates a few believable personality traits for his characters and builds the tale around them. You find yourself wanting to learn what happens next. For three quarters of a century Bryne has been writing stories that have to be read.

Steve Germaine is flying in a NASA long range probe when a meteorite hits it and cold space instantly freezes him. Five hundred years later he is found by colonists at Alpha Centauri. A third world war and the development of a useable interstellar drive have produced a thriving human colony on the nearby star system. Unfortunately the population numbers and technological edge of old earth has produced an imbalance of power. In a repeat of history, the colonists are ready to revolt from a tyrannical absentee government. Steve Germaine, the star man from the past, becomes a pawn in the power struggle between forces and politics he doesn't understand.

There are two basic types of serial stories. The normal serial is a stand alone story that is linked to the next by characters and storyline. The second style was developed for the magazine. The stories are really chapters ending in a cliffhanger that begs the reader to buy the next installment. 'The First Star Man Omnibus' is of the second type, the classic pulp magazine serial that ends with a cliffhanger. The story has an open and even fresh flow that the classic pulp authors produced in mass. It is fun reading. The problem is that the story isn't finished by the end. It is only halfway there. If you don't have patience, wait for the next in the series of stories to be published and read the whole 'Star Man' series together. But make sure you remember to read the whole story. You will not regret it.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Illustrated Stories from the Bible (That They Won't Tell You in Sunday School)
Paul Farrell, author
Kathy Demchuck, illustrator
American Atheist Press
P. O. Box 5733, Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733
ISBN: 1578849225, $16.00, 188 pp.

reprinted from Humani May 2006.

Once upon a time, when Yahweh's nice Spokesman, Elisha, was about to enter Bethel, a gaggle of 42 children laughed at him and jeered at his bald head. So Elisha, in righteous indignation, called on his god to inflict appropriate punishment on the perpetrators of such irreverence. Yahweh promptly summoned two bears, and the bears mauled the 42 children to death. Since the obvious moral of that exemplary tale was, "You don't screw with Yahweh's Spokesmen," it does not take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that its author was a shop steward of the Spokesmen's Guild.

Following his retelling of the Elisha and the two bears fable, Farrell asks, "Could this story be really true? … Well, if one accepts the Bible as literal truth, then it most certainly is true" (p. 8). He goes on to explain how apologists for religion try to rationalize biblical horror stories, by arguing that "the Bible doesn't really mean what it says…. They claim that this is yet another mistranslation of their god's supposedly perfect book. One wonders, though, why a god would take the trouble to ostensibly dictate his message to the bible's authors (as fundamentalists assert) and yet not oversee the translation, leading to such gross errors." Other rationalizations include an attempt to argue that the "little children" of the KJV were "really" anything from young adults to a dangerous gang of thugs, so that Elisha was acting in self-defence (pp. 11-12). What Farrell does not point out, perhaps because it is self-evident, is that apologists who can justify Yahweh's unspeakable atrocities are by any reasonable definition of the word insane.

Farrell next spells out another biblical myth that no child has ever been taught in Sunday School, of how Jephthah vowed to Yahweh that, if Yahweh granted him victory against the dirty heathens guilty of peacefully occupying land the Jews coveted, Jephthah would offer up the first living thing to emerge from his house after the battle as a burnt sacrifice. That turned out to be his little daughter, and Jephthah obediently fulfilled his vow.

Apologists offer incompatible rationalizations of the myth of Jephthah's daughter. Some argue that Yahweh allowed the sacrifice to take place to send the message, "Don't make rash vows." Others assert that it could not have happened, and cite passages such as Deut. 12:31 that show Yahweh's alleged opposition to human sacrifice. "What they have unwittingly accomplished, though, is merely to prove yet another inconsistency in the Bible" (p. 23). In other words, either Yahweh is a homicidal psychopath, or the Bible is a collection of fairy tales. So what else is new?

Among several other biblical fairy tales given similar treatment are Yahweh's homicidal tantrum and attempt to murder Moses for the crime of not knowing that he should have circumcised his son; Yahweh's infliction of a fatal plague on King David's son in reprisal for David's impregnation of Uriah's wife; and Yahweh's execution by plague of 70,000 of David's warriors in reprisal for David's conducting a census that Yahweh had ordered him to conduct.

This is a book that all bible believers, including older children, should be required to read. Of course that is not going to happen. But at the very least, anyone bothered by uninvited, door-knocking missionaries should have a copy handy, so that he can invite Jehovah's (or Brigham Young's) alleged Witnesses to explain why Yahweh's own official biography portrays him as a role model for Adolf Hitler. If nothing else, it should prevent the doorknockers from ever returning, and even if that is all it achieves, it would still be worth the purchase price.

A Voyage to Venus
Dominic Healy
5341 Dorchester Road, Suite 16, North Charleston, SC 29418
ISBN: 141963092X, $23.99, 256 pp.

When the more-pathetic-than-evil antagonist of A Voyage to Venus, after defecting from the human settlement on Venus, arrives at the Jovian satellite that Pundit Mahatma Oskhosh Obigosh calls Gangstertonia, the first thing that hits her eye in the capital marketplace is an immense double statue of the satellite's founding gangsters. "They stood face to face, machine guns on hip, enshrined forever in the act of performing the ancient and honorable custom of bumping off." That passage perhaps better than any other typifies Dominic Healy's tongue-in-cheek approach to his subject.

Many books written in the 1940s and earlier by such science fiction giants as Robert A. Heinlein portrayed a habitable Venus. The later discovery that Venus is no more suitable for human habitation than the gas ovens at Auschwitz has not made Heinlein's books any less readable, and it does not make Healy's book any less readable.

A Voyage to Venus was first published in Australia in 1943, a time when the machinations of a fellow named Adolf something made the movement of books into and out of Australia impossible. It consequently did not receive the worldwide distribution it deserved. With any luck, this reprint should rectify that omission. Science fiction fans who have never before encountered Healy's delightfully whimsical A Voyage to Venus are in for a treat.

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
Michael Baigent et. al.
Delacorte Press
1540 Broadway, NY
ISBN: 0385338597, $25.00, 496 pp.

The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown
1745 Broadway, NY 10019
ISBN: 0385504209, $24.95, 454 pp.

Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code
Bart Ehrman
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Ave, NY 10016
ISBN: 0195181409, $20.00, 240 pp,

The Da Vinci Fraud
Robert M. Price
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2197
ISBN: 1591023483, $18.00, 296 pp.

reprinted from Humani, May 2006

In 1982, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail postulated that Jesus the Nazirite was married to Mary the Magdalene, and that he fathered an heir whose descendants are alive to this day.

In 2003, Dan Brown wrote a novel based on the premise that Jesus the Nazirite married Mary the Magdalene, and that he fathered an heir whose descendants are alive to this day.

In 2005, the authors of Holy Blood sued Dan Brown for plagiarism, arguing that his novel was a copy of their allegedly nonfiction book, and as such violated their copyright. What the plaintiffs apparently did not grasp, and learned the hard way when a London judge ruled against them, is that the facts of history cannot be copyrighted. By alleging plagiarism, Baigent et alia were for all practical purposes confessing that their book was fiction.

And that is indeed what it was. Bart Ehrman's annihilation of Brown's barely acknowledged source reads, "Of the hundreds of New Testament scholars whom I personally know - people who study these texts for a living, and who are trained in the ancient languages necessary to do so - there is not a single one, to my knowledge, who finds the claims of the book to be credible" (p. 196).

When I first read Holy Blood, I accepted its contention that a genealogy of Jesus' alleged descendants already existed at the time of the Crusades. I concluded that it had most likely been composed to justify Godfrey of Bouillon's status as king of Jerusalem by showing him to be Jesus' primogenitural heir. In an interview for a TV documentary on The Da Vinci Code, Ehrman pulled the rug out from under that delusion by showing that the genealogy was almost certainly composed in the twentieth century by a pretentious oaf who included his own name among Jesus' alleged descendants. But even after reading Ehrman, I continued to believe that san greal, holy grail, originated as a misreading of sang real, royal blood, and that the original holy grail was "really" Jesus' imagined blood descendant. I was disabused of that delusion when Robert Price pointed out that there was already a Celtic grail, or cornucopia, myth before Britain's folklore was corrupted by Christian influences. So I am now in complete agreement with the scholars and theologians (not the same thing) who concluded that Holy Blood is unbridled speculation based on incompetent research and gullible acceptance of unreliable sources - and so is The Da Vinci Code.

Dan Brown is not a biblical scholar. When he read Holy Blood and saw it as providing a historical setting for a mystery novel, he had no ability to see through speculation that any competent scholar could have told him was indefensible. And since Leonardo da Vinci plays no significant role in Brown's plot, one must wonder if the book's first draft made no mention of him, and Brown's mushroom fantasies about da Vinci's paintings were inserted into the final version simply to provide a catchy title.

On Brown's first page he lists items that he labels as fact, and states that, "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." Ehrman responds, "Even when Dan Brown strives to present facts (and indicates that he is providing them accurately), he has played with them - many of them are, in actuality, part of his fiction" (p. xx). "There were numerous mistakes, some of them howlers, which were not only obvious to an expert but also unnecessary to the plot" (p. xiii).

Bart Ehrman is a theologian, a kind of wannabee-scholar whose ability to evaluate historical questions is severely curtailed by his religious brainwashing and his need to preserve his bread and butter as a bible belt professor. While he has no difficulty identifying the fraudulence of Brown's thesis, his alleged corrections range from valid to equally fraudulent (although not intentionally so). It is precisely because Ehrman is, to put it politely, a team player who could be expected to falsify Brown's speculations without falsifying Christianity that O.U.P., a conscious agent and blatant propagandist for the god hoax, chose him to write what it hoped would be the definitive debunking of the false historical claims made in The Da Vinci Code. He is indeed more qualified for such a task than the non-experts who have also written rebuttals of Brown's errors and falsifications of history, and his willingness to view the fairy tales of religion as qualitatively different from those of Hans Anderson or the Brothers Grimm was precisely what O.U.P. was seeking.

In contrast to Ehrman, Robert Price is a biblical scholar. While he has been known to reach conclusions with which other scholars disagree, he does not reach conclusions that are not at the very least compatible with the evidence. So when he spells out the mistakes, wild guesses and plain lies in Brown's novel, his findings have far greater credibility than those of authors preconditioned to believe that the Bible is essentially nonfiction. There is no possibility whatsoever that Ehrman's conclusions are the best that biblical scholarship has to offer. Price's conclusions may be exactly that.

Unlike some previous critics, including Ehrman, of Brown's Big Lie that his fiction has a factual basis, Price does not make a point of praising Brown's skill as a novelist. That does not necessarily mean that he has a low opinion of Brown's talent. He could simply deem that element of Brown's book contextually irrelevant. But he does praise "one very positive result of the popularity of The Da Vinci Code: It has smoked out many people who, reading it, discovered that they were ready for something beyond what their churches had always spoon-fed them" (p. 114).

The reason so many books debunking The Da Vinci Code have been written is that no previous book said everything that needed to be said and corrected everything that needed to be corrected. Price has done so, and thereby made further books on the subject superfluous. Does that mean that the Catholic Church and Opus Dei (Brown's most incorrigible villain) will be delighted by Brown's conclusions? The fact that those organizations will refuse to acknowledge Price's existence should answer that question. And that would still be true even if Price had not written, "In fact, the real story is much more fascinating and colorful than Brown's bogus version, and no less subversive of orthodox security" (p. 148). Price's task was to replace Brown's falsehoods with reality, not to restore the even more blatant falsehoods of the Jesus hoax in general and the Catholic Church in particular.

But for all his incompetence as a pseudo-scholar, Dan Brown is an accomplished writer. I would even contend that The Da Vinci Code, viewed as a mystery novel and nothing more than that, is comparable with literature's first mystery novel, Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, as well as Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue, even though Brown's albino assassin is only an approximation of a trained orangutan. The only reprehensible element is the author's failure to stay within the bounds of plausible history - and that may well be unintentional. Go ahead and read it. But skip chapters 55 to 61, an extended masturbation fantasy that is superfluous to an otherwise well-wrought mystery. The Da Vinci Code is well told and entertaining - as fiction with no factual basis whatsoever, beyond the fact that Christians have indeed been conned for 2,000 years, even if not in the way Brown claims.

William Harwood

Kaye's Bookshelf

Desperately Seeking Sex & Sobriety: A Cautionary Tale of Sex Tourism, Drugs, Alcohol, Prostitution & Suicide
Paul Pisces
Authors Online Ltd.
40 Castle Street, Hertford SG14 1HR, England
ISBN: 0755201140, $14.95, 136 pp.

To begin, I would not recommend this book to anyone who is offended by sexually explicit language and descriptions, and if you are, you may not want to read my review. This autobiography is about the author, Paul, who realized at an early age that he had an alcohol problem and liked beautiful women. In his search for sex and sobriety, he takes us from London to Amsterdam; to San Francisco; to Bangkok and Pattaya in Thailand; to Manila, Angeles City and Subic Bay in the Philippines. He takes us through his education, jobs, women and brothels in exotic places. I quote:

"Beautiful women fascinate me. They always have, they always will. It's my Achilles heel. I'll do almost anything to be in the company of beautiful women. To hold them, to touch them, to love them, to fuck them. I'll do anything - I'll even pay (within reason of course).

Wandering the red light area is interesting. It's prostitution at its most efficient. The deal can be done and the transaction executed in less than twenty minutes. I wander into a bar and order a whisky and lemonade. A petite Asian girl wanders over to me."

I thought Paul had good insight not to marry and have children (although he is still young enough, if he found recovery and a woman to love). Even though he's telling us what a butthead he is and that he's not a very nice man, I found it reassuring that he understood the concept of love and had feelings for some of the women with whom he shared himself. I found humor in this book, too . . . Paul's measuring stick for a good time . . . how many fucks to the buck.

I don't personally see Paul's life as a waste (though others may)–nothing's ever a waste. Life is a guru and gives us puzzles to solve. When you can no longer take the abuse you are afflicting upon yourself, you stop or die. It's really a pisser to be addicted to something that controls you, and alcohol is a master at control. Paul followed what he loved . . . women. I'm sure he had lots of fun and good sex. Whose to say that wanting-to-be-with-beautiful-women is a wasted life? . . . especially for a man who does not feel he can be responsible for a family and children (considering our divorce rates and domestic violence problems).

For myself, I admire Paul's down-and-dirty honesty (even though the language may be considered objectionable) because it reflects real life, and real life is more interesting than fiction. I hope you can appreciate his honesty, too. As a woman, he has taken me to places I could never go and shared experiences I could never have. I personally believe that prostitution should be legalized. It's been around forever, which supports the premise that it must fill a definite need. If it were legalized, it could be taxed and health problems addressed with some control. Men have a need and there are women who want to fill it.

So, the author took a chance and exposed himself to the world, actually. It certainly took some courage. And though, as POD published authors, we may not sell many books, we evidently feel the need to share ourselves with others, even to the extent of expending many hours and much energy to get our book published. The bottom line certainly is not a profit margin. We all hope our books will be read, but that's not solely why we write them.

When Paul enquired if I would consider reviewing his book, he stated: "It is not a particularly nice book (I am in many respects a bad man) but it is an honest book." My take was that Paul is just a man struggling between his Apollonian nature and his Dionysian sexual appetites. There are many worse things in this life than alcoholism and patronizing prostitutes . . . war and greed to name just two.

Paul Pisces is an intelligent man. His story and the quality of his writing will appeal to readers looking for an honest, unique, provocative read. Glad you're still with us, Paul, and thanks for the honesty . . . so refreshing!

The Affairs of Maggie Trenter
Thomas Villiers
Authors Online Ltd.
19, The Cinques, Gamlingay, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 3NU
ISBN 0755200306, $10.63, 153 pp.

AFFAIRS is certainly an apt title as Maggie Trenter had one with just about every man in the book, with the exception of the police department and possibly the landlord, Jim O'Reilly. Maggie was one of George Black's agency girls hired out to local companies to fill in as background at promotional and social events. This was where she met and seduced her men.

Six such men, who met regularly at the Victoria Inn for camaraderie, were the prime suspects because they all had been blackmailed by this beautiful temptress. The stories of how each man became involved with Maggie unfold in flashbacks and then it's time for Detective Inspector Pierre L'Villiers's interrogations. There were a few clues here and there about Maggie's Irish background, but who could have guessed the rest?

If you like detective-type mysteries, you'll probably enjoy this book. It's a fast read and the book has a great cover. However, this is my take: 1) Nothing was revealed to make me believe Maggie cared an iota about anything other than herself; 2) I don't care to be led through six men's flashbacks and murder interrogations to an end with no connection--why not just read the last chapter? and 3) How sad the condition of man, but . . . if it were not so, we'd have no story, would we?

Thomas Villiers is married with a son and two daughters plus three grandchildren and lives in Sands, High Wycombe, Bucks, England. Other books by the author include: For the Love of Marie, a fantasy relationship novel, Nightshield and The Mind Readers science fiction novels.

Under A Blood Red Sky
Richard A. Collins
Authors OnLine Ltd.
40 Castle Street, Hertford SG14 1HR, England
ISBN: 075520154X, $14.95, 244 pp.

Several people have noted that his book should be banned because it is dangerous. I understand Dr. Collins's reason for writing the book . . . to warn us against our complacency with regard to economic terrorism using biological agents, in particular Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

Certainly Dr. Richard Collins is an accomplished writer as he is a well-educated scientist and has extensive credentials. However, I question his approach to warning us about this potential problem. My objection is: why provide the people with terroristic agendas with the information and guidance they need to create such a situation?

The theme of this book is not new, but the author definitely provides the reader with some in-depth information about FMD and how it would affect the multi-billion dollar cattle raising industry in the United States. If you like bioterrorism-thriller plots with lots of detail, and if you're interested in the potential problem, you may like this book. After you have read it, you certainly won't be as complacent.

Dr. Richard A. Collins is a scientist by profession with a Doctoral degree in Biochemistry. He has developed new diagnostic test for dangerous viruses such as avian influenza H5N1, FMD and the SARS coronavirus. He has lived in Hong Kong for over ten years and has a wife and two children.

As You like It or a Little Bit of the Unusual
June Thomas Reed
Authors Online Ltd.
40 Castle Street, Hertford SG14 1HR, England
ISBN: 0755202201, $14.95, 164 pp.

June, the author, and Jean, her long-time friend, are both seventy-nine now and this book is a compilation of their adventures together prior to marriage. In the early 1950's they were both twenty-three, single and working. They quit their jobs and with a little financial help from family purchased "Lisa," a vending truck from which they sold sandwiches and teas at fairs and events. Eventually they upgraded to a truck, named "Jonathon."

Among their adventures is the sharing of a large house with a group of actors. Eventually the girls decided they wanted to live on the river Thames and purchased a boat called "San Ree." After they sold the San Ree, they purchased the restaurant, "Toby Cottage." Considering that this was all happening in the early 1950's, one must give credit to these very adventuresome gals. It is certainly clear that they had a lot of spirit and perseverance.

The cover of the book shows June and Jean selling their teas from one of their vending trucks and other photos of their trucks, boat, scooter (Tilly), Beau Site chalet are also included in the book. June Thomas Reed has a pleasant style of writing, and the memoirs are presented as short anecdotes. If you enjoy biographies, particularly about adventuresome women prior to women's lib, you will certainly enjoy this book.

June and Jean are still great friends and share a garden which overlooks the South Downs. June gardens, plays golf, spins and weaves fleece, works at her computer, volunteers for the Chichester Area Talking News for the Visually Impaired, and travels when she can. A fun read, June, and thanks for sharing your story.

The Friendly Bob
Martin Salway
Authors Online Ltd.
40 Castle Street, Hertford SG14 1HR, England
ISBN: 0755202066, $12.95, 216 pp.

Let me tell you a little about this story. It's about the loves, lives and families of Chris Finch and Vinny Swift, friends since childhood, and their problems, adventures, and misadventures. Chris is a car mechanic with his own business. Vinny isn't too bright but can and loves to drive cars. There is a cast of characters from major to minor. Allow me to quote from the back cover:

"Chris and Vinny are best friends. When Chris's wife leaves him, Vinny takes him on an adventure that changes both their lives! A tale of friendship, love, corruption, money laundering, terrorism, motor racing and the discovery of a famous missing racehorse!

'From beginning to end, Martin Salway has you empathising with all his main characters. He moves the story along crisply, and you soon find yourself willing these basic losers to become winners against all odds. If you want to curl up, in more ways than one, with a good side splitting year then Martin Salway's 'The Friendly Bob' is more than recommended.'"

You might say that this story is somewhat like a British version of the movie Dumb and Dumber with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, although Chris seems to have some sense, yet is continually pulled along in this misadventure. As I am not familiar with contemporary English slang and colloquialisms, I am sorry to have missed some of the humor.

The author is a good writer, and the characters clearly come to life. This is Martin Salways's first novel, and it is a good first effort. Martin has worked in the design and architectural industry and teaches design when he is not writing. He lives with his wife in Surrey and is currently working on his second novel titled Football-crazy, football-mad. If you liked the movie, Dumb and Dumber, you will probably enjoy this book.

Mistaken Identity
Molly Gambiza
Authors Online Ltd.
40 Castle Steet, Hertford SG14 1Hr, England
ISBN: 0755210263, $15.95, 252 pp.

Family! This story is about the Bahiika family living in Uganda. Louise is the widowed mother of Denise, Annabella, Nicholas and Eric. It is about their marriages, trials, tribulations and their joys. Extended family is the heart of the story. As it is written from a contemporary Uganda cultural perspective, it does give us some insights into the values of this family and the community. Something of interest is always happening in this family and that is the puller that keeps the story moving.

It is a good story, but I do have to say that this is the first POD published book I have read which I felt could benefit from a professional editing. The book is well organized, the characters certainly come to life, but some of the grammar, spelling and punctuation could use a helping hand. For a writer, these are the basic tools of the trade. Molly Gambiza was born and raised in Uganda. She immigrated to the UK where she now lives with her family and works as a receptionist. True Colours was her first nover. She is currently working on her third.

Fish Out of Water
Felix Palmer
Authors Online Ltd.
40 Castle Street, Hertford SG14 1HR, England
ISBN: 0755201728, $15.95, 280 pp.

To begin, I do not recommend this book to readers who are not well read and do not read a lot, to readers who do not have an open mind, to readers who are offended by explicit sexual language and descriptions, and to readers who are not interested in thoughts which might challenge their perceptions of life. This fiction novel will disturb or excite, possibly both, but there's no middle ground. . . like Cy's mind.

What we have here is an attractive, middle-aged male protagonist, Cy, who can't seem to find much joy in life, but enough, so as not to take his own. He really is quite detached, observing others and himself with a God-like perspective, from the beginning with his decision to kill a perfect stranger to get past his personal last taboo–murder–to near the end, where he does take a life--not premeditatively--with no guilt, remorse or consequence. The first page in the story gives us the essence of Cy and his problem. Allow me quote:

One thing is clear; I must change radically in order to continue with my life. Murder is the first and the last taboo for me, which I must break in order to change, to move forward. Every one of us has a limit, a sort of last taboo, which limits him and defines his character, and I have only this last one. There are things I shall never do, nothing that would lower my self-esteem. Oddly enough I have a strong sense of right and wrong, which keeps me within bounds of moral conduct. I do not steal, lie, bear false witness . . . I do not fornicate. All this makes it nearly impossible for me to live. The way I am now makes life impossible. I cannot move forward. I can only maintain myself, just keep my head above the water. It is not enough to maintain the status quo. One must move forward, or else step aside. But this is the problem; there is no stepping aside when it comes to life itself.

Strangely enough, the act of murder does indeed make a positive change in Cy, and he is able to move forward. What do we make of that? Does he truly think he is God? . . . so it's okay to take a life? But in his Godness, why did he never think to create anything? Is Cy's sense of his Godness an aberrant manifestation of the Hindu belief that "thou art THAT"?

It has been a belief of mine for some time that superior intelligence is not necessarily a wonderful gift. Intelligent people can know too much and often cannot find serenity and joy in life or within themselves. If the mind is a problem solver with an extremely limited perspective–one's genetic history, personal experiences and environment–and one has an exceptional mind, I don't envy that mind's job.

The author shows us many things in our society that possibility we would rather not acknowledge, and Cy's opinions about women, in general, are not very complimentary. In a way he sees 'woman' as the enemy in his conflict between his Apollonian nature and his Dionysian sexual appetites. He doesn't like how women use their sexuality to manipulate men, he doesn't like sexually aggressive or active women, and he doesn't like their odor.

The author has something to say, and to my ear . . . worth hearing . . . mainly because I'm a woman who will never have the experiences of a man, and through such a book as this, I might possibly catch a glimpse of life from this man's perspective. Palmer weaves his knowledge of philosophy, psychology, and religion through this simple, journal-like story–a good contrast–reminiscent of Leo Tolstoy's technique in his story, Confession.

I'm a voracious reader, easily reading ten to twelve books a month, and this book plain stopped me. There's not much out there these days off the popular fiction genre mill which has much to say, most is just light distraction. Not only does Felix Palmer have something to say, but his gift for description is exceptional.

There is a darkness and heaviness about this book--a down-and-dirty honesty, which I personally like. When you hold it in your hands, you can feel it. I knew before I even opened the book . . . that it was not going to be an easy read. It is not filled with light, breezy dialogue but with large blocks of journal-like prose. Now I am going to include some excerpts so that you can make up your own mind if this book and the author's style might appeal to you.

The first excerpt is from page 14:

The ordinary semi-emancipated woman believes that by telling the truth about her past she can wash herself clean. It is a mixture of cleansing through confession, as well as exciting the interested male by telling him the details of her sexual behavior pattern and habits. It usually works. The man becomes excited and dreams of having the attractive sinner. . . Once implanted in your mind, it makes you go through the details again and again, fantasizing and hoping to realize your fantasies soon. It is as effective as subliminal persuasion applied by a skilled hypnotist. It numbs the better judgment of the infatuated male.

Second excerpt is from page 58:

One gets used to everything. This is why the life of the ordinary man is so banal. I was not an ordinary man, but sick, disturbed. I knew that I was insane, and yet I was functioning like a normal person. But what is normal? In southern California it means running after money and consumption. Yes! It is a strange feeling, to come to realize that one is not quite sane. Only a few months ago I was so sure of myself, my resolution to murder a perfect stranger, and yet . . .

Third excerpt is from page 61:

In the criminal world I am a Don Quixote. Really! I am even more ridiculous than Maurice. At least he knows how to deal with his problems, but I . . . The thought of Don Quixote came back to haunt me. I am insane. Yes I am insane. I know it, but how? How can I know that I am crazy? Even a skilled doctor has a difficult time bringing his neurotic patient to face reality, to realize that he is sick, to become conscious of what is actually happening in his psyche. How is it possible for me to come to such a revelation? I have all the typical characteristics of a criminally insane individual, of a homicidal maniac. This innate sense of superiority to others, this inner self looking down at everyone, is the essence of the criminal mind. But how is it that I am still functioning as a normal person; well, almost. I am maintaining myself, taking care of my bills. I have an excellent credit rating. I have a job. So what, that I don't like my work. Who likes working? Work means doing something necessary, regardless of one's personal predilections. Work is a must for all of us who have no capital. I have no capital.

Fourth excerpt, speaking of Friedrich Schlegel's work, is from page 90:

Then I remembered his writings on irony: the astonishment of the thinking mind over itself. It is the result of the feeling of being finite, and of knowing one's own limitation; in truth, the irony of love. Why . . . there . . . there was the source of my feeling of superiority, and not just that, but also the kernel, out of which the true criminal sprouts. I was a true criminal. I was trying to negate my own self, the very same self, whose essence was realization of its own private being with all its limitation. Yes . . . I was insane, because I identified with God. I believed in me alone, alone as God. This is why I had become a furniture salesman. I could have taken any job, because I did not identify with the world around me, but only with the absolute nothingness in the inner world. In my innermost being I had become one with God. This is why I could not have sex with Cathy. That is why she repelled me as a sexual animal. How could I go through the act while God was watching me? It was God taking full possession of me. There was no room for Eros. I was Thanatos. Oh, those Greeks! How could they manage both?

The last excerpt from page 2 is, for me, the essence of the book:

Everything takes time. I must be patient and wait for the right moment. Above all I must learn one thing, this is, not to miss the right moment. It is not easy to grasp the moment. Anyone who has challenged the everyday routine understands that to grasp the moment is like controlling one's dream, giving it a definite direction, an almost impossible task. There never has been, nor will there be, anyone to help. In a dream one is alone. It is like creating oneself out of nothing. Life is predictable, but only up to a point. The moment something unpredictable occurs, something sudden happens, the instant in which one must act spontaneously, one finds oneself in a dream-like state. Those who practise in front of the mirror, believing that they can prepare themselves beforehand, are just clowns. One cannot rehearse one's own ultimate self in front of a mirror. One can never be prepared to face the unknown.

Fish Out of Water is not an enjoyable book, and I don't think it was meant to be. It is, however, provocative and held me, regardless . . . although by page 200 I had reached a point of saturation. I do not pretend that I understood everything the author had to say, and I can understand why people might want to read it a second time, particularly readers who are interested in ideas and different perspectives about life, religion and sexuality.

As this review has become quite lengthy, I will just touch on some items not addressed: 1) Why did Cy so dislike abstract art when he could understand abstract thought? 2) Elements of humor . . . when bored, pulled out all your guns. 3) The irony in Cy's new-found sense of normalcy and motivation which was dependent in large part upon his satisfying sexual relationship with a younger, sweet-smelling, exotic, submissive woman. Whatever gets it up, and could it be? . . . he's still playing God.

I know nothing about the Felix Palmer except that he was in Berlin, Germany, when he sent me the book. He has chosen not to include any information about himself in the book or on the internet. Therefore, I would like to close with what he chose to include on the back cover: "They are geese crying out loud. This is all. You see . . . language does not speak about what actually 'is', but always expresses what 'is not'. It calls out something from nothing. Language speaks about nothingness."

Therefore, we can conclude that Felix Palmer has worked very hard and long to create this disturbing, exciting, controversial work of nothingness.

Bricks & Torture
Alan Neale
Authors Online Ltd.
40 Castle Street, Hertford SG14 1HR, England
ISBN: 0755201205, $16.50, 232 pp.

To start, I just love the cover design by Sandra Davis and the expression on the father's face. The art work is cartoonish and captures the essence of this journal-like account of Alan and his family's day-to-day living in a house which was being remodelled around them. It was a six-month project begun at the onset of winter in October, continued through the coldest and wettest months, and finished in the spring.

I can empathize with Alan, maybe more so than others, because I have personally built a house with a partner--doing all the work ourselves--which took us eight years to complete, two of which were drywalling--talk about mess.

It's sort of an unusual subject to write a book about, and I don't really know what the market is for such a book. Possibly the author just used this journal-like technique and particular situation in time to tickle us with his wit and sarcastic humor. He asks if you've ever had one of those Wiley Coyote moments? His life during this six-month period was one, very large, long Wiley Coyote moment.

But, allow me to quote from page 130 . . . a key to Alan's sanity.

All in all, this was not a pleasant day and once again tempers frayed rather badly, always signified by shouting at the children for the smallest of indiscretions, all punctuatedby long, tense periods of total silence between all. By the end of the day, virtually no-one is speaking to anyone else, save Cara, who has not yet developed the prejudice, resentment and all round antipathy of adults, and in these circumstances rather perversely acts more like an adult than the adults, who are being far too childish to notice. Just before bed, she sends me back into the land of the living, and makes me feel desperatley ashamed, by giving me a big, warm soft hug, the type that only your children can give you, and generally only up until the age of about ten.

"You're the best daddy that anyone could ever have!" she says with genuine feeling.

I am unable to say anything, but hug her back, gently stroke her hair, kiss her on the forehead, and bid her good night.

There is a reason to live after all.

This excerpt, from page 109, gave some local insight, at least from Alan's perspective, into Christmas in England. And I thought we Americans had the corner on avaricious consumerism.

It is difficult not to reach the conclusion that Christmas is the most enormous monument to avaricious consumerism. This is not the scene portrayed by so many films, TV dramas and sitcoms, of people pleasantly ambling around from shop to shop, all jolly and smiling, brass bands playing to an attentive gathering, snow falling gently, general joy and wellbeing gushing forth from the screen. The reality is, there is nothing joyous about this at all, there is not the merest shred of joy and contentment on people's faces, no feeling of happiness and ambience, and bugger all goodwill-to-all-men, women, children and dogs. There is not a smile on a single face, no social interaction, no acknowledgement and no manners. While shopping is never necessarily the most warming experience, I can't help feeling that the level of selfish, single-minded pursuit of something is perversely increased at the time of year when it is meant to be eased. It is actually pretty depressing to see people in a severe state of angst, rushing around with ever increasing burdens of shopping, hell bent in purchasing, rather than thinking and giving.

Alan Neale does not give us much information about his background or occupation; however, it is very clear by the quality and complexity of his writing, that he is a well-informed man and an accomplished writer. He definitely has a strong foundation in the English language and an interesting, colorful vocabulary. Of course, the heart of the book is Alan's sharp wit and sarcastic humor. In closing he asks . . . "would I do it all again?" To which he answers, "Not on your life!" And I say, ditto! Glad you made it through and stilll have your marriage and family.

Mr Chip and the Antimatter Affair
Dr. Peter Wright
Bright Pen
40 Castle Street, Hertford SG14 1HR, England
ISBN: 0755210018, $9.99, 76 pp.

This short story is about Lucy and Eliot Moody, their family, and a gift left to them by their Uncle Ronald who they lost in an accident.

"Uncle Ronald, Professor Ronald Moody, had been a brilliant scientist engaged in hush hush research of some sort, and from him, the children inherit Mr. Chip, a highly sophisticated robot developed by Ronald over many years," to quote from the back cover. There is mystery, intrigue, and a surprise ending.

I believe one of the themes in this story is that kindness to neglected children, Billy Shaw--the local bully, works to help them see a different way, another might be . . . how nice it is to have a brother or sister with whom to share adventures.

Dr. Peter Wright is a physicist and has a long teaching career. Through this little story he continues to teach and explain to children some of today's technology. He has also been a research scientist, a policeman, a pilot and a plumber. He lives in London with his wife and son and has a passion for motorcyles, so the book tells me. This book is well-written, and I would recommend it for children age 8 to 12.

Straight from the Horse's Mouth
Keith Hughan
Ladcrooks Publishing Company
11 Pevensey House, Castle CloseReigate, Surrey, RH2 8DJ
ISBN: 0954911202, $14.95, 240 pp.

I'm a firm believer that something good comes out of something bad . . . if only you can recognize it. Keith Hughan's book is the something good that has come out this life-shattering saga–his ongoing, twelve-year battle with Ladbrokes, the bookmaker, over a large bet he won in 1994 and they refuse to pay.

All the events in this story are true. When Keith became frustrated trying to work within the bureaucratic system to resolve his problem, he decided to take matters into his own hands, and through many misadventures finally ended up in prison, which he found to be most unpleasant. A good portion of the book is documentation of his efforts to work within the legal system.

He admits that revenge is sweet, but has come to find that the word is immensely more powerful than the sledgehammer, which he has used upon occasion. After the first writing of this book and ten years after the original bet, the Assistant Manager confessed that the error was his mistake and wrote a letter to that effect which is included in the book; however, Keith still has not received any settlement from Ladbrokes. You've got to admire this guy's perseverance.

About his style of writing, allow me to quote from page 2:

My knowledge of the English language is that of the common man. Not wanting to use a ghost writer meant that I had to go and buy a box of Metaphors, Synonyms, Adjectives, etc, and when I got home I tipped them all over the kitchen table. I then thought how the fuck do these work? I am just your normal man you would see walking down the street whistling, with a sledgehammer holding my hand.

I personally enjoyed learning some contemporary English slang like hump, bugger me and wank mag. He admits, "I have used some very naughty words while writing this book. Fudge off! Oh damn! And Oh dear! Would not express how I felt at certain times, so bollocks to anyone who is offended."

Since he lost his lady Deb, he invites, "If there is an attractive woman out there, middle-aged and can understand men a wee little bit, please get in touch." Just thought I'd add that in for you single gals who might be interested. He's a bit of hunk, ladies, judging from the pictures in the book, and I'm sure a hand full. He tells us a few things about his best friend Harry. Is this guy cute, or what?

Here's another excerpt, from page 238:

I guess the shit will hit the fan for printing my story, but will I worry? And if I am having a shave one day and I notice that there is a small red dot on my forehead then I'd better duck - a Hindu I'm not! It just may be that Ladbrokes have got the hump with me. Believe me, a lot of my life has been lost, and tears have been shed many times. The experiences I have encountered whilst battling it out with Ladbrokes, have opened my eyes. The World could be a better place, and it's a shame that many of us go through life hoping that other people will change it. I now know that the word is stronger than the sword, but, bugger me; I did enjoy the sword at certain times. Perhaps men relish in the physical and not the mental side of life more. I'm just a stubborn bastard. It took a lot more gumption to write this book.

Even though this book was inspired and completed because of Keith's ongoing battle, I do hope he will write another book from his "common man's" perspective. He knows he can write now, he's an honest writer, he has a sense of humor, and I bet he's hooked. Kayfucius say: Resentments and grudges only hurt man who holds them. The trick is . . . how to let them go. Negative things draw you in and suck out your positive energy. Can I hear an Amen!

Now that you know you can write, a whole new world is opening. If you're serious, Keith, I highly recommend Stephen King's book, On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft. A breath of fresh air, to be sure. And, if I were a wee bit younger, I might like to meet your friend Harry. Good luck, Keith!

The Last Jaguar
Bruce Bradley
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
ISBN: 1598001906, $13.95, 224 pp.

This story takes place in the Sierra mining town of Grass Valley in 1858. Widowed rancher Tom Allison is the pivotal protagonist involved in a web of suspense and danger when he discovers that a huge jaguar has pulled down one of his 1,000-pound longhorn steers and dragged it a quarter mile. While tracking the cat with his neighbor John Bowden, a retired military captain, he also discovers the brutal murder of the Anderson family by a giant, renegade Indian named Dark Rose.

There are many facets and sub-stories within this story and points of view: Tom Allison's children, Tyler age 10 (becoming a man) and Mattie age 12 (becoming a young woman); Ollie Barton, a little Irish man, and his conflict with Zeller; the Richard Palin family's tragedy (wife, Anne, sons, Lyle and Sean); Lorelei Crane's relationship with the jaguar and Sean; Kate Foster's boardinghouse and relationship with John Bowden; the jaguar from his point of view; and Dark Rose, from his.

I am going to quote an excerpt from page 200 to give you an idea of the quality and style of the Bruce Bradley's writing:

For days now, Death had been watching him. Dark Rose had felt its presence. Twice he had glimpsed Death standing just behind his left shoulder.

Dark Rose did not fear Death. His was a warrior's vision of the world. He looked at his Death as a friend, ever there to remind him that each moment, each breath might be his last. His awareness of Death guided him and made each action he took one of clear intent.

This wasn't the first time that Death had made his presence known to Dark Rose, but the fact that Death had chosen this particular time to follow him, coupled with the visions Dark Rose had begun having while asleep led the Indian to believe his time might actually be near.

Two white men had begun to invade his sleep–one light-eyed, the other dark. Both men wore grim, determined faces. Death hovered around the two, just as it followed Dark Rose. Unlike him, however, they were unaware of its presence. Few white men ever seemed to sense the presence of Death even when it was standing next to them. Few white men had eyes that saw what was obvious.

This is a true western novel and has a number of dark characters, all with their own agendas. It is a work of fiction; however, there are a number of parts which are historically accurate: The deaths of Rose, Glass and Menard in 1833, the descriptions of the towns of Grass Valley and Nevada City, CA, the history of the Empire Mine, the fact that jaguars did live in California at the time of the story.

The author begins with the problem of a rogue jaguar threatening Tom's livestock and brings us full circle to close when the jaguar returns. This is a good story, well-written, and will definitely appeal to western genre lovers. Bruce Bradley is a strong, straight forward writer–a man's writer–who surprises us now and then with bits of wisdom and sensitivity.

Bruce Bradley grew up living in California and Alaska. He has worked at many jobs: Cook, Sheet Metal Worker, Taxi Driver, Newspaper Reporter, Photographer, Private Investigator, Bartender and Winemaker. He published his first book, Hugh Glass, in 1999.

I thoroughly enjoyed your story, Bruce, and look forward to your next book.

Ladies, Are You Lost?
Options for Women in Unhealthy Relationships
Victoria Rose & Helena Gunther
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd #515, Parker, CO, USA
ISBN: 1598003585, $9.95, 132 pp.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout and Nicki Van Ness

This is a small, compact book with 10 clues to help women find their lost or stolen identity–their sense of "self." It is an open, easy read written in a familiar, understanding manner and includes contributions from other women . . . just average women reaching out a hand.

The contents of this book are: Chapter 1 - Are You in an Unhealthy Relationship; Chapter 2 - Ten Clues to Find You; Chapter 3 - Short Personal History; Chapter 4 Evolution of my Occupations; Chapter 5 - Contributions from Other Women; Chapter 6 - Options and Opportunities; Chapter 7 - Failure is Not an Option; Chapter 8 - Education Fund; Chapter 9 - Resources; and Chapter 10 - Conclusion.

Here is an excerpt from page 2:

WHAT IS THIS BOOK? . . . it's a solid object in your hand which contains my thoughts, refined thinking, and mental telepathy transcending distance and time.

When you picked up this book and began to read, you became a participant in a miracle and the receiver of a message that I wanted to send. Thoughts from my mind are being telepathically transmitted to your mind through the medium of this book, and more amazingly still, this connection transcends distance and time–you being farther up river in the stream of time. I sent this message in March 2006, and you are receiving it in? . . . . You don't know where I was when I sent it, and I don't know where you are while you're receiving it. Telepathy!

And a second excerpt from page 3:

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS? . . . your identity (the real you) has been lost or stolen, and we need to go to war to get you back. I use the concept of war because war is serious business and we are serious. Right?

Richard Marcinko, in his book Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior-A Commando's Guide to Success, writes: "Life is a struggle for survival, for success, and for dominance. Life is war." If this is so, then let us prepare for war.

Somewhere, in each of us, beats a warrior's heart. During our time together, I am going to provide your warrior mind with ten clues to finding you. I will list them briefly and later go into more detail. Once you have discovered or recovered yourself, you will no longer need our guidance, but you will need to protect this "identity," as it can be lost or stolen . . . again.

The focus of this book is not healthy relationships, the focus is finding you. Once you have a stronger grasp on who you are, the opportunities for a healthy relationship will materialize. Financial independence is an important part in this struggle, and that is what the "options" part of this book is about.

The book is addressed to women in unhealthy relationships who feel they have no options. The purpose of the book is to help them get back on track and take control of their lives. If they are serious about change, want a better life, and follow the 10 clues, the author guarantees they won't be disappointed. There are just 10 clues, but the courage to change is the challenge. As education is a key to improving one's life, any profits from the sale of this book go into a special education fund for women working toward a better life.

The author, Helena Gunther/Victoria Rose, her alter ego–the writer within, has written this book to tell women where she saw the opportunities, what she did when she saw them, how she faces her fears, and how she moves from the negative into the positive. This is her first nonfiction book. Her fiction novels include Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown; Christina; Toni; Josy (Sci-Fi Fantasy Romances); The Rose Sisters Trilogy and Trust Me, the Devil Said. If you have a lady friend who is in an unhealthy relationship, this is the perfect gift. If your friend connects with what the author has to say, it just might help.

The Rose Sisters Trilogy
Victoria Rose
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO, USA
ISBN: 1598001663, $15.95, 399 pp.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout and Nicki Van Ness

This story is about three sisters from the destroyed planet Gareth who come to Earth. Gareth was a smaller, older planet, and the sisters' brains, bodies and culture are more evolved than ours. There are three sisters and three interwoven stories.

I found this book to be uniquely different from the standard run-of-the-mill, formula-type novels, as it does not fit into one particular genre. It is really multi-genre, and if I had to classify it, I'd select science fiction/new wave: science fiction because it's about alien, shape-shifting women and new wave because it deals with the softer sciences–psychology, ecology, sociology, overpopulation, religion. However, there are strong facets of romance, mystery and erotica.

I can't say this is a fast-paced read because there are technical, historical, and philosophical elements which, if you want to learn something from the book, you need to slow down to absorb. She includes factual material about the physics of light, sexual anatomy, functions and areas of the brain, dance theories of Isadora Duncan, Native American cuisine and recipes, and historical information about Comanche Indians.

Her style of writing is smooth, her characters come to life, and there are elements of humor. The author's theme is strong and clear. Here is an excerpt: (Christina is telling Mac something about her culture.)

"Wars . . . why would we have wars? We are all one community working to care for our planet and our future generations. I'm sorry, but because your people do not understand that they are one community, they are not caring for your living planet very well. Actually, they are slowly killing it out of ignorance, greed, and selfish desires for power and control. Why would intelligent people want to drop bombs and make holes in the living organism that feeds them? Why would they want to pollute the air they breathe and the water they drink? My sisters and I have concluded that the level of human intelligence among the leaders of your countries is not very high. A simple ant colony has more intelligence."

This novel is a compelling blend of fact and fiction and would appeal to adult readers who are looking for something different–an educational, fun, thought-provoking story. The climax may not be as dramatic as some might like, and there is an issue which is not resolved–the hook for her sequel, Trust Me, the Devil Said.

Other books by Victoria Rose include: Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown (the erotic version of The Rose Sisters Trilogy); Christina - A Sci-Fantasy Romance; Toni - A Sci-Fi Fantasy Romance; Josy - A Sci-Fi Romance; Trust Me, the Devil Said, and her first nonfiction book, Ladies, Are You Lost? - Options for Women in Unhealthy Relationships.

Common Sense: Manufacturing Mandate
James Forbes
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO, USA
ISBN: 1598003240, $12.97, 168 pp.

James Forbes has worked with both automotive and non-automotive manufacturers for over 30 years. He has written this book about the archaic operating policies employed currently in manufacturing which are counter productive in today's competitive environment.

You might say that "Common Sense" is the author's effort to bring the problem of our manufacturing crisis to the foreground as manufacturing is the heart of our economy and standard of living. He hopes to provide motivation and direction as Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" once did.

His challenge to the manufacturing world is that we must change from a "push" production system (MRP) to a "pull" system with less variability, similar to Toyota Production System. Attitudes within the manufacturing culture must change so that there are no longer divisions and conflict between management and labor and that both work towards the goal of moving the company ahead. CEOs and officers must get real and fair about their compensation which is way out of line, which in the end will kill the golden goose.

James Forbes states that addressing this problem to protect the manufacturing industry in the United States and our standard of living is imperative. The brevity of his book is by design and meant to be read in a relatively short period of time. The issues discussed are clear but not meant to be comprehensive. In the back of the book he provides a list of References, so that one can further research the issues discussed. In his Foreword he states:

"The notion that U.S. companies cannot compete because of legacy health care and pension costs has been batted about for the past five years. This notion now comes to ahead with the 10/8/05 filing of Chapter 11 by Delphi, the world's largest producer of automobile components. Delphi has 44 domestic plants, and the filing represent the largest industrial bankruptcy case in U.S. history. This event takes place after the company failed to gain concessions from the United Auto Workers and a bailout from GM, its former parent. Delphi became autonomous in 1999 when it was spun off from GM. The bankruptcy is a staggering blow to the economy of southeastern Michigan and the country and may mark the beginning of a treacherous downward cycle."

This book is well-written, presented in a logical, understandable manner, and it would be my recommendation that a copy be sent to all CEOs and union leaders. The author encourages motivated manufacturers considering change to contact the Forbes Group by emailing him at Thank you James for taking the time to put your concerns in this book and to inform the public as to the problem and possible solutions.

The Autobiography of a Narcissist
Jonathan Foster
Early Morning Press
1731 Brown Street, Napa, CA 94559
ISBN: 159113871X, $15.95, 260 pp.

In this "fictional" autobiography, twenty-seven year old Tyler LePerdu shares his journal with us–a journal begun at the suggestion of his mandatory-to-receive-his-inheritance therapist, Jean, which tells us 'maybe' this man has a problem.

And, of course, such a journal can't help but be somewhat narcissistic (an excessive interest in oneself and one's physical appearance) as it reflects one man's perspective on life based on his experience and observations. Tyler's focus on his appearance and that of others–the "Beautiful Class"–certainly is part of his problem and what does that say of our culture in general? Stephen King's thoughts about sanity from Danse Macabre are: "we are all insane . . . just to different degrees."

So, what is the heart of Tyler's problem as he searches for Love? . . . to Love and be Loved, which he knows instinctively exists, though he has not experienced it. He shares with us that at an early age he shut down his emotions after hearing his beautiful mother slam her bedroom door so as not to hear him crying. From that night, Tyler was at odds with his insensitive, socially-active, money-controlling mother, somewhat reminiscent of Harold and Maude, though Tyler was not obsessive about death . . . he was obsessive about appearances.

He believes that he is in Love with Susanna, an exceptional beauty, but is unable to tell her. The ending of this Love is the beginning of Tyler's reconnection with reality and his emotions. Here are three excerpts which I feel are central to the story and which illustrate the author's style and gift.

First excerpt is from page 56:

"I submit to you, my dear reader, that now more than ever mankind hungers for the guidance of Beautiful Class! In this rapidly changing world where a scientific theory can be unveiled, awarded and then disproved in the same week; a world where new computers are obsolete before they're taken from the shelf; a world where street lingo changes by the hour and where the imprisonment of our favorite movie star can leave us curiously unsettled, mankind needs the stability that a beautiful face can bestow. We need a cultural continuity that can only be provided by someone tall and tan and young and lovely. You see, in the modern world, beauty is no longer merely an aesthetic preference; it has developed into a source of cultural security that is more comforting than any mother's arms, more calming than any known antidepressant, and more solid than the planet Earth itself!"

Second excerpt is from page 57:

"Before I launch into the story of our second meeting, however, let me remind you that by the time she (Susanna) walked into my life, I was so far differentiated from the common experience that I'd begun to accept that a life of solitude was my destiny. I'd realized at a very young age that mine was a very different road in life. Mine was a road less traveled by people. Rather, a road with virtually no other travelers on it . . . .

I'm sure this must sound to you like a very sad existence, that of all the roads to be traveling on, mine is the road most lonesome. It is. The only real way to survive it is by coming to a complete and honest acceptance of solitude. It requires courage and determination. It requires that one avoid the pitfalls of self-doubt and its red-headed stepchild, depression; that one keep a watchful eye on Emotion's clever and never-ending little shelf game; that one maintain strict standards of self-worth by being very selective about whom one gets too friendly with. These things I have long since achieved. I have always known that my life was meant to be lived by myself. Still, I have always secretly held a hope that one day I would discover someone just like me standing in the middle of my path. A bird of my own feather. A Frick to my Frack. Someone in whom I would see the same seeing of the same someone in me. But much more than holding hope, I was determined, if only for my desire to find Love. I knew that I needed to find that rare someone who was programmed with my same intuitive wiring to accept the obvious "what" and move on to ask the "why" of Love."

Third excerpt is from page 69:

"How the hell can you find something of your own in someone else?"

"By listening," she said. "By truly listening with the whole of your heart. Not just hearing the words and sounds coming from the person you wish to Love. Not by seeing their expressions and gestures, and then in turn, responding appropriately. Not even by respect for their individuality or admiration for their special qualities or acknowledgment of their overall importance. No. By listening. Listening. Listening to the entirety of their lives with the unbridled curiosity of a small child. And in the end, that is precisely what Love is: Listening."

As for style, Jonathan Foster knows how to set the hook . . . with the unexpected and a laugh, and I quote from the opening paragraph:

"My penis is quite good looking, really. It has a classic shape, is of healthy length and is boldly circumcised as though much too proud to hide its true form beneath a shroud of foreskin. Its girth is substantial and of admirable consistence for all of its length. In its disinterested state, it hangs down with perfect symmetry between my thighs, most notably when I stand with my feet eight to thirteen inches apart, knees slightly bent. When interested, it . . ."

He plays his catch and pulls you in with his rich, titillating vocabulary, expert language skills, a casual, intimate tone and memorable metaphors. Then, he brings you full circle to close with . . .

"My entire understanding of my own manhood has evolved. And though I feel a tinge of sadness when I say it, I know now that whether flaccid or erect, admired or unobserved, in truth, sometimes a penis is just a penis."

I read a lot books, and they all have something to offer. But, what a "Treat" when you open a new book and the author just grabs you and doesn't let go. Jonathan Foster is one such author. I truly envy his gift and language skills. Whether or not you like egocentric, psychological-case-study, journal-type stories, you might enjoy this book just for the pleasure of experiencing good craftsmanship . . . for writing is indeed a craft.

As it says on the back cover, Jonathan Foster is a screenwriter and playwright living in Napa, CA. The Autobiography of a Narcissist is his first novel, and I'm certain it won't be his last. It is of superior quality and will be the third novel included in my "In Search of Excellence POD Book List."

The Griffon Trilogy
Andrea & Douglas Murphy, Inc.
ISBN: 1931391912, $13.95, 236 pp.

About the story . . . quoting from the back cover, and I couldn't have said it better:

"A beautiful young woman suffers a brain injury during an accident in a car chase. The medical rescue team helicopters her to the local community hospital, and ultimately she end up on the service of Dr. John Bishop, a handsome, rehab doctor only a few years out of his residency. Despite a stable medical condition, she dies suddenly and mysteriously in the middle of the night. The event throws the young doctor into unexpected crises as he is caught between an angry, unforgiving family and an international crime cartel bent on his destruction. The struggle for truth and exoneration takes John through some of the most trying adventures of his life as he travels the world in search of answers. The Griffon Trilogy: Part I brings into focus some of the toughest questions surrounding science and medicine in a story that tears at the fabric of life in a blend of danger, mystery and romance."

Although this is a familiar story, the authors make this mystery thriller a page-turning read. The first few lines, besides being the hooker, give you a sense for the authors' poetic ear . . . "On a humid August day at dusk, a beautiful woman in her twenties drove recklessly down a winding country road outside of Baltimore, Maryland in a navy, 500 series BMW. Her hands were sweating from fear, and repeatedly she glanced into the rearview mirror toward the empty road behind."

Dr. John Bishop does indeed find himself in a big mess, and it is his ex-girlfriend, Cristina Gabriella "Gabby" Elizabeth Stavros, who guides and helps him in his search for information about the dead woman, Eva Bentley. Gabby is always handing him a plane ticket and sending him off to some foreign place--Budapest, Hungary to start. The mysterious Rudolf, who hands him an envelope, tells him: "You have stepped on the tail of the dragon and you do not know it. . . . The forces in this country, against which I fight, know about your trip and your purpose. For them you know too much and thus now they want to killl you. Assassination is one of their strengths. Stay more than two or three days here and you are a dead man. So my last message is, get out. Fast. Take the next plane out of here." The death of others and attempts on his life follow Dr. Bishop everywhere he goes.

It certainly must be wonderful to have the imagination to create the unusual and interesting situations in which John finds himself and how he gets out of his predicaments. It is my take that the story is heavy on intrigue and mystery and light on the romance. Genetic engineering and worldwide crime cartels are indeed contemporary issues of concern. It is my opinion that this is a well-written page-turner and kept my interest to the end. I liked their style of writing and especially appreciated the darker print, which made for easier reading.

I do not know much about Andrea, but Doug Murphy lives in Virginia where he works as a physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (physiatry). Doug has written a second book titled, Translator's Kiss.

Lanterns in the Mist
Edward Fotheringill
Cockeysville, MD 21030, Inc.
ISBN: 1591138841, $14.95, 240 pp.

Lanterns in the Mist is the most enjoyable book I have read since I began reviewing POD published books . . . for both the story and the beautiful quality of writing. About the story, I quote from the back cover:

"Part murder mystery, part philosophical discourse, part supernatural thriller, this novel explores the unexpected dimensions of both the light and dark sides of human nature. At the still center of the world lies the energy of pure potentiality, pure possibility. As that energy unfolds outward and manifests itself, anything can happen. We human being are left to interpret the happenings and endure them. We are rarely successful at either."

"Set in and around Baltimore, Maryland, the story chronicles the intersection of several lives gone strangely off course. At the center of it all is Father Dick Byron, a renegade Catholic priest who, despite his loss of faith in Christianity, has become an instrument of God. What Byron discovers is that life on earth is not unlike a Shakespearian drama where the forces of nature, however, inscrutable, are not to be denied."

This story is unique with its many twists and turns and spiritually enriched by metaphysical elements woven expertly throughout the fabric. To my mind, the author tells it like it is, plus he has a refreshing style of writing--short chapters moving to you-know-not-where, which do not fill in all the details, and yet, you understand what has happened. The attractive cover was designed by Julie Sartain.

The book begins with:

"Dreams. Dreams in the unfolding fertile awareness of the human race. Flickering images, never completely transparent, appearing and disappearing across the screen of human consciousness. Dreams breathe through the pulse of a subject, inner landscape which is, at the same time, paradoxically personal and collective. Some dreams flash-out during the waking state. They pick us up and compel us towards our destiny. Some dreams germinate out of the sleeping state. They reveal fragments of meaning, fragments of our possibilities. They are the fabric out of which myths are woven."

"Then, there is The Dream. The Dream in the Mind of God. This Dream has no boundaries, neither personal nor universal. It includes everything because it includes no-thing. Everything possible in the waking state is there. Everything possible in the sleeping state is there. This Dream displays no fragments, only the totality of pure possibility. This dream harbors all myths before their time." I highly recommend this book to mystery lovers, to readers in search of themselves, to readers on a spiritual path, and to intelligent readers who can appreciate the author's literary gifts.

Edward Fotheringill has taught philosophy for 24 years, from 1979 to 2003. He is currently a free-lance jazz drummer in Baltimore, Maryland, and leader of the Ten Directions Jazz Group. He and his wife, Linda, divide their time between Baltimore and Bridgewater, Vermont. I hope we will see more novels by this very talented author. Thanks for the great read!

Philosopher's Stone
Hank Kroll
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
PO Box 526, Kasilof, Alaska 99610
ISBN: 0741422352, $9.72, 212 pp.

This book is about an orbitally rearranged monatomic element (ORME) which Henry Kroll tells us will extend life. The book is the result of thirty years of study on the m-state also know as the white-powder-of-gold which was carried in the Ark of the Covenant. The book contains seven recipes which your can make in your kitchen.

Mr. Kroll says that the particle exists everywhere in ratios of 10,000 to one and can be flipped or transmuted into various elements depending on how many protons are available. It is about 100 times larger than atoms and its physical shape determines its unique superconducting properties. He also claims that it increases the brain's power and can be used to cure many illnesses. The majority of the book is concerned with providing evidence and explanations regarding this material in support of the author's claims.

For people interested in prolonging life and increasing their brain power, he provides many references and contact information. It would be my suggestion that he have the book professionally edited, as there are spelling and punctuation errors.

Henry Kroll has had many occupations. Currently he is doing motivational speaking and lecturing on the white-powder-of-gold, the mfkzt powder carried in the Ark of the Covenant. His latest book, co-authored with Brad Guth, on astronomy details the discovery of a neutron star which he believes is responsible for ending ice ages, by mopping up CO2 every 105,000 years. He discovered that the invisible ultraviolet light from the star creates limestone, crude oil, and coal beds. The title of this extreme documentary is Cosmological Ice Ages and Global Warming. He is currently writing a book about his voyage down the Mississippi titled Mississippi.

Kaye Trout

Lori's Bookshelf

The Exile and the Sorcerer: Lyremouth Chronicles - Book One
Jane Fletcher
Bold Strokes Books
430 Herrington Rd., Johnsonville, NY 12094
ISBN: 1933110325, $15.95, 320 pp.

Tevi is the oldest daughter of Red, who in turn is the daughter of the Queen of Storenseg. In this matrilineal society, the women are the warriors and the men are small, weak, and serve in roles as housekeepers, babysitters, and servants. Tevi does not belong. She is awkward—not good with a sword or any type of weapon—and the leaders of Storenseg do not believe she possesses any useful leadership skills. Her younger sister, Laff, is far better suited for power and ruling. Unfortunately, Tevi makes the mistake of revealing feelings for a woman, and in this profoundly heterosexist society, that is cause for death or exile. Like the ugly duckling, Tevi is a disgrace in the eyes of all her people.

Rather than sentence her own granddaughter to death, the Queen sends Tevi on an impossible mission to recover a chalice stolen under odd circumstances. In anguish, the 19-year-old woman embarks upon a journey to other lands. In classic Quest form, Tevi goes out in the world and this is when the fun starts. While learning new skills and finding talents she didn't know she had, she encounters wayfarers, sorcerers, enchanted castles, witches, wild animals, dwarves, and magic—and Jemeryl, who is a young Sorceress who not only saves Tevi from a terrible fate, but also proves critical in formulating a search for the stolen chalice. As it turns out, Tevi's quest has much further reaching ramifications than anyone back in Storenseg ever imagined.

Originally published as Parts One and Two of Lorimal's Chalice, this new incarnation leads off a series that will include a second book, THE TRAITOR AND THE CHALICE (June 2006), which comprised Parts Three and Four of Lorimal's Chalice, and the all-new third book, THE EMPRESS AND THE ACOLYTE (October 2006).

THE EXILE AND THE SORCERER is a mesmerizing read, a tour-de-force packed with adventure, ordeals, complex twists and turns, and the internal introspection of appealing characters. The author writes effortlessly, handling the size and scope of the book with ease. Not since the fantasy works of Elizabeth Moon and Lynn Flewelling have I been so thoroughly engrossed in a tale. This is knockout fiction, tantalizingly told, and beautifully packaged. It receives my very highest recommendation.

Beyond Machu
William Maltese
Haworth Press/Southern Tier Editions
10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY 13904
ISBN: 1560235683, $16.95, 300 pp.

William Maltese has done it again with his sexy and suspenseful new novel. From the first chapter, BEYOND MACHU is jam-packed with mystery, adventure and intrigue. Dan Green, travel photographer and investigative reporter extraordinaire, has a chance meeting with the mysterious and sexy Sloane Hendriks that results in Dan leaving his comfortable world and being thrust into an unexpectedly dangerous trip to the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. Sloane is a man with a dark past, which could be fatal, but Dan believes Sloane is the ticket to a newspaper story that will expose hidden ruins, illicit archeological finds, and long-lost treasure – if they can stay alive long enough to find it!

Sloane and Dan are captivating characters whose connection to one another only increases as the tension mounts. From the heights of Machu Picchu to the dangers of the South American rain forest, the reader is taken on a chaotic journey that can lead only to death—or riches beyond anyone's wildest dreams. It's Indiana Jones meets Allan Quatermain with enough boy/boy romance to make your toes tingle. Don't miss this one!

Lori L. Lake

Magdalena's Bookshelf

In Our Own Words, Vol 6: Stories, Essays, Lyrics & Verse from A Generation Defining Itself
Marlow Peerse Weaver, Editor
MW Enterprises
ISBN: 0965413675, $18.95, 288 pp.

Aside from Douglas Copeland's 1991 book Generation X, from a literary perspective, Generation X has been fairly significantly under-represented. Why? That's hard to answer for an entire generation. Perhaps because there was so much naval gazing in the previous generation that Gen Xers have kept their collective mouths shut. Or perhaps they aren't under-represented at all, but just don't write about their generation as a fixed period, after all, for those born between 1960 and 1982, the influences are fairly broad. What would a Generation X literature look like? Are Generation Xers really cynical, hopeless, frustrated and unmotivated? Or are they extra conservative due to their Boomer parents' experiments with drugs, dropping out and divorce in the 1960s. Are Gen X ultra responsible, filling in the gaps left by their hippy parents or ultra irresponsible, making up for their parents lost idealism by piercing their nipples and supporting punk? Is the distinction between the previous generation, the Baby Boomers and Generation X really that clear? What about those born in the early sixties or the very late eighties? Does the term Generation X only apply to those raised in the US, or is it international? It's very hard to make generalisations for the group known collectively as Generation X, and perhaps it is the variety of experience that makes this such a compelling group to explore and one which defies a concrete definition.

Marlow Peerse Weaver handles this in perhaps the only appropriate way, by letting Gen Xers define themselves. The In Our Own Words series is unique, partly because it the diversity of voices it represents, and by the sheer volume of material presented in this encyclopaedic collection which is up to Volume 6, with Volume 7 in the works. While there are, as with any collection, some strange, and even unreadable works here (many of which are translations), most of the materials in Volume 6 is surprisingly powerful. There are over 200 contributors from all over the world, both Eastern and Western, which certainly answers the question about whether the term Gen X is only applicable in the US. The collection contains a very wide range of pieces, including poetry, prose, short stories, essays and reflections that defy classification. One of the things which makes this collection unique is that Weaver accepts and positively encourages previously published pieces, so there are many award winners.

The book is broken into six sections, loosely collected around the themes of "Soils, Seeds & Awakenings," "Roles, Roles, Roles ???," "Transitions," "Bonds," "Finalities," and "Perspectives," which help orient the reader through this voluminous and extensive collection. There are a lot of poems here, with very little filler or white space. The reader can move through slowly, a few pieces at a time or quickly, swallowing a complete sense of a generation's voice. Some of the standouts, and there are many in this collection, include Gerard Wozek's poem "Sleepwalker," which characterises Gen X in terms similar to the Copeland world. The metaphors are original and strong and take the reader on a journey inside the poet's mind--traversing the relationship between a waking lethargy/fear and dreams of action:

If I should laugh for no reason,
Forget my name, make the ocean
sundowns my home. If I should
remember my secret childhood wish.
If I should seem incoherent,
translucent, touched,
will they say I'm sleeping?
Will they try to wake me?(58)

Tara Betts' moving poem "Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamp," traces the forgotten lives, using repetition and rhythm as incantation: "Backs bent to acquiesce as a road or ramp./Waters subsume histories like regret./Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamp." (73) This is an ode to those who changed the world in obscurity, died, forgotten, or disappeared under a mountain of glory afforded to other 'names'--the rich and beautiful faces we see on t-shirts or television screens.

Crispin Bduobuk's "The word they won't say," is part essay, part short story, bringing us into the world of those left behind: "You go girl! But damn, how could you?" (96)There's a full story contained within the short tribute; a romance, a political crisis, a tale of loss and longing. The language is simple but sensual, and full of the colour and feel of Nigeria.

Mandy Beaumont's poem (103) takes on a laundry list structure as it traces the demise of a junkie who "just wants a hit," and conveys in an almost story like fashion the fall from his initial moments of passion, wanting to "taste fear/To cure an illness,/stop boredom." to the final ending where all his energy is on the desperation for heroin. Leelia Strogov's "A Pantamime of No" is a well wrought excerpt from her book Before and After and pinpoints the moment of meeting between a woman and her old lover, which has enough impact to draw the reader to the full work. In a classic moment of epiphany, the narrator describes a moment when almost nothing happens on the outside while inside there is a storm of suppressed emotion. The juxtaposition of the calm exterior and the intensity of the interior is very effective:

He lets his arm very gently touch mine, as if by accident. Then he thanks me and purses his lips ina way I imagine a techer might do when watching his favorite student graduate. It's something a little sad, but mostly fond, and it makes me hope that I never have to see him again just so things can stay this way.(163)

There are many such moments in this book. There are destinations as far as Albania, Singapore, Israel Hungary, Angola, Switzerland, Guatemala, Belgium, Australia, and Estonia to pick just a few, and cultures which are equally divergent. Experiences range from the intense and rather punk to the sublime and delicate; from pieces musical to those analytical. The collection is a moving as it is eclectic and the divergent voices rarely fail to leave an impact on the reader. Weaver has chosen well, and there is much here to keep the reader engaged for many a subway ride, cold winter night, long queue or chaise lounge chair by the pool. This is a collection as rooted in the generation that has produced it as it is timeless.

Lies I Told About a Girl
Anson Cameron
ISBN: 0330422251, $22.00

"Forget his blood" is the sentence that opens Anson Cameron's latest novel Lies I Told About a Girl which follows the fifteenth year of Blue Black. Blue is a scholarship student at Mt Quartet, a prestigious boarding school in Victoria. The blood is royal blood, namely that of young Prince Harry, whose visit to the school is the crucial point in Blue's life. The fact that the prince is indeed, "just a boy," provides one of the many threads working through the story. Blue (for 'blue collar'?) is also just a boy, and while they are from opposite sides of the class system, their age and humanity brings them together in an almost level playing field. The story takes place in 1975, and corresponds directly with the governor-general Sir John Kerr's dismissal of the Gough Whitlam's government. The story mirrors these events by having the Prince fall in love with Sas, the daughter of Langhorne MacGovern (a shoe-in for Malcolm Fraser), the incumbent Prime Minister who was appointed as caretaker and who ended up replacing Whitlam in the double dissolution election that followed. The metaphoric affair between MacGovern and the Queen and the literal one between the Prince and Sas make for a fascinating political parallel, which is also represented by the upper class (Liberal)/lower class (Labor) split between Blue and his friend Bec, and the rest of the students.

The serendipity of the simple teenage affair is mirrored by the larger events happening in the country. This is made poignant in a moment where the Prince, affectionately known as YR (for "your royal") gives Sas a stuffed toy he won at a local fete:

It couldn't be coincidence. The newspapers insinuate a world of intrigue. Sas's father and YR's mother are got up like kings and queens of yesteryear arranging kiddy nuptials, royal blood to royal blood, to carve the world like a pie. (213)

Like all of Cameron's work, Lies I Told About a Girl is ambitious in the way it strives to say many things at once, and effectively toes the line between down to earth racy humour, heady thematics, and strong character driven plots. The narrative is less purple than Cameron's previous novel "Confessing the Blues and is kept in check by the pared down perspective of its young protagonist. However, there are moments when Cameron can't help his flourishing, such as the utterly poetic description of the corporal punishment received by Blue after cursing at the Prince:

He doesn't stop at six, he doesn't even stop at ten, where they say he must stop. He wales on me a storm for stealing his prince. A conductor huffing blasphemies in his crescendo, and me his orchestra of whimper and clench. (17)

The tension between wanting to let the language fly and the need for subtle decorum is a tension which is clearly present in Blue's own narrative characterisation. Blue is simultaneously a sensitive artist who is in love with the turn of a phrase, but he is also a tough teen from his working class background with a strong sense of pride in his own burgeoning manhood, even if it is bravado. His father is a sexy, rough, shirtless lumberjack: "Muscled in his jeans and his arms thick out of his cut-off flannel shirt, a finger missing from a broken chainsaw chain, a ponytail down his back. A working man in his prime." (174)

The Lies of the title refer, partially, to a story which Blue invents about Calamity, the wild butcher's daughter. It's a conspiracy of fiction which gives him strong street cred amongst his masturbating co-students, and he clings to the lie even when it threatens to undo him:

They come to rest on me. The hundred hunting eyes of these vigilantes fix on me, the veteran of a butcher's loose daughter. I have an urge to shout out my innocence. All my sexy stories are lies to make me a cool kid. I invented Calamity from my uncle's shed mags. I'm not the guy. I never so much as connected my fingertip to a girl's nipple. I'm a Quixote of coitus. My women are windmills.(141)

This is heady stuff for a fifteen year old's imagination (even a well read fifteen year old "boy with the words"), and it is perhaps difficult to imagine a real fifteen year old calling himself "a Quixote of coitus." However, the balance between introspection and the forward pace of the story are handled so deftly, and the phraseology so rich, that verisimilitude is preserved. Just as the other boys at Mt Quartet are prepared to accept the outrageousness of Blue's stories, the reader is prepared to accept Blue as he is. His lie about Calamity isn't the only lie about a girl.

A more insideous lie (unless you're the butcher) is the one which Mt Quartet is complicit in, allowing it to go on the record that the school troublemakers--those who had affairs--were the two poor scholarship students. This mirrors the Calamity lie in sustaining the myth that the rich have decorum and the poor have fun. The bisecting threads are cleverly managed, and show off Cameron's literary acumen, but his real skill, aside from poetic phrasing, is in characterisation. Blue is a precocious gem of a narrator, and while we might not believe that he ends up in an uneventful life as a butcher (presumably with a well protected daughter), it doesn't seem any worse than becoming a doctor, a judge, or indeed the King of England. All of the characters in this story are fully realised, from the illusory drowned boy Blue encounters during an act of bravado, to his father: "Punish Blue? Me? Do I look like the sorta bloke's crack his kid on the scone for a bit of the old in-out with a pearl-topped trollop" (235). The moment Blue comes across his father and uncle and feels he no longer fits with them is a powerful one, providing, in a few lines, a thorough sense of Blue's backstory and relationship with his dad:

They've changed, and I don't know how. They always wore jeans and flannel shirts. They always rolled their own smokes. Always White Ox. They always cut trees. They aren't any older…But they'd changed, those bastards, my heroes, those bastards. How'd they get so young and dirty and low, in these few months?" (182)

Other minor characters like Carter, the Prince's minder, Bec, the sacrificial lamb, YR, the trapped Prince who really is just a boy, Papa, the headmaster who is more like Blue than he appears at first, and even Bec's starstruck parents all come across as sympathetic, with more depth than minor, funny characters usually have. Lies I Told About a Girl is almost always ribald, light and entertaining, without ever sacrificing pith.

Magdalena Ball, Reviewer

Mayra's Bookshelf

Envious Shadows
R. P. Burnham
The Wessex Collective
P.O. Box 1088, Nederland CO 80466-1088
ISBN: 0976627426, $11.50, 235 pp.

Envious Shadows is a deftly crafted, engrossing contemporary novel, one of those works which is not afraid to face the grim realities of life and the cruelties of society. The story revolves around four main characters, all in some way alienated and simply trying to make the best of their lives in a world that ultimately is uncooperative and oppressive.

Fiona Sparrow is a shy young black woman who works at a house for schizophrenics and manic-depressives in Portland, Maine. Though well-educated, she is deeply insecure, a result of being the only black person in Waska, where she grew up. Adding to her identity conflict is the fact that she is the daughter of a white woman and a black man. The house where she works may very well serve as a metaphor for her life, for as a minor character states early in the novel, "To be black in America is to be schizophrenic." (p. 14)

Lowell Edgecomb has come back to Portland after been away many years. The son of a hippy mother and a father who deserted him early in life, he is also in many ways alienated and plagued by feelings of inferiority, shame, indifference and passivity. After having come into money in a most unexpected way, he now plans to build a cottage close to his mother's house. In a softball game, he meets Fiona. The rapport between them is instant. Most of their friends don't mind their "mixed" relationship, but other people in their community strongly do. It is with these people—Nazis and KKKs—that Lowell and Fiona have to deal with.

Bill Paine is Lowell's half brother. In spite of this, they are very close and trust and support one another. He has a solid, stable job, yet, like his brother, he is afflicted with feelings of inferiority due to his upbringing. He too has been deserted by his father. He has the "perfect" marriage and his wife Becky is the "perfect" mother to his two beautiful young sons. Yet Bill feels lonely, ignored, unloved, and ultimately vulnerable to another woman's charms.

Marilyn, described as a "female Don Juan," is Fiona's white cousin. This is one of the loneliest, saddest, most hopeless characters in this book. Her tragedy lies in being unaware of her own selfish and destructive behaviour. A temptress at heart with no consideration for anybody but herself, she "steals" Bill from his wife and children, an event which eventually has disastrous consequences for Bill. Another character who though minor is worth mentioning because of his influence all throughout the novel as well as his impact in the end, is Rett Murrey. A Nazi with dreams of greatness, he exemplifies all the ignorance, pathos, cruelty and injustice of society. His ugly essence permeates the whole novel like a poison cloud, even when he's not present in a scene.

The characterization in this novel really stands out. Bill Paine is the best portrayal of an unfaithful husband as I have ever seen in a novel. With the candor and sharpness of a razor, the characters' voices come to life, exuding all their insecurities and feelings of powerlessness. The other aspect of the novel which stands out is the insightful, elegant prose of its author. In spite of the book's small print and long, slow paragraphs, most of the time words flow beautifully and effortlessly, keeping a tight grip on the reader's suspension of disbelief. "Dinner over, they had walked down to Deering Oaks to spend together the remaining hour before she had to return to work," the author writes. "Their hands sought each other, the warmth of their palms like a transformer connecting two circuits. The sun was low in the west and the clouds glorious Japanese lanterns of purples, pinks and oranges as they strolled past the duck pond. The beauty of love is that it made you love not just an individual but the whole world, life itself. 'I love the evening, the quiet of it, the peacefulness,' he had said, and she had answered in a hushed tone, 'Isn't it lovely?' They had stopped and looked into each other's eyes. He had squeezed her hand. They both could feel love hovering between them like a beautiful butterfly, but first Fiona wanted to make sure no impediment, no misunderstanding, clouded that feeling. Haltingly she said, 'Lowell, you know that I am a black woman. That's how I see myself, I mean. It's my identity.'"

Though this is his debut novel, author R.P. Burnham is editor of the well-established The Long Story literary magazine, and has published a book of essays. He also has a forthcoming book dealing with similar themes of alienation and the nature of evil in society explored in this book.

Controversial issues of prejudice, racism, and the conflict between men's and women's roles are the landmarks of this novel. A beautiful work which depicts life in all its grim realities, Envious Shadows is a rewarding read and one I strongly recommend for group discussions.

Sandra Shwayder Sanchez
The Wessex Collective
P.O. Box 1088, Nederland CO 80466-1088
ISBN: 0976627418, $9.50, 124 pp.

Stillbird is a strangely powerful novel whose haunting, almost surreal images, lyrical, dream-like prose and complexity will challenge the most sophisticated reader. Divided into three parts, with each part focusing on a specific character or characters, the novel encompasses different locations and timelines. Either directly or indirectly, the characters and their fates are darkly connected to one other. In a bizarre way the events in the story seem to spring from the strangulation of a midwife who was suspected of witchcraft in the isle of Skye in the 1880's, and culminate tragically in Denver in the 1960's.

In Part One, the reader encounters a lovely Indian woman named Stillbird, a name she gave herself. "She nestled into the leaves and slept soundly without dreaming," writes Sanchez, "but sometimes she woke and watched the stars, and when she woke, it seemed the birds did too, and they spoke to her, and she got her name that night." (15) Before this, she called herself No-Name. Later, she is referred as "that woman." In fact, Stillbird is "an empty vessel, waiting for the gift of soul and identity." (14) A young window, Stillbird has to deal with her brother–in-law Abel, whose obsessive love for her impels him to rape her.

With a keen understanding of human motivations, Sanchez offers the reader a chilly portrayal of the twisted psychology of love. Layer by layer, she strips her characters raw. Abel worships Stillbird, but, not corresponded, and ignited by her serene indifference, his love gradually turns to violence. One evening, after an incident involving their son, Abel, for the first time, slaps her hard on the face and discovers something with catastrophic consequences: "He made a formal apology to his wife, after which he made love to her, and she was too confused to deny him. He sensed her confusion as fear, which made him first sad and then satisfied: if she could not love him, let her fear him, he would settle for that." (29)

In Part Two, the reader meets John Banks, an odd figure with a preacher's collar, suede Indian-like boots and "a wide brimmed hat that look like he'd gotten it from a theatre's costume room." (53) Full of pathos and hopelessness, he is almost a comical character as he roams from town to town preaching and telling "crazy" stories about the second coming. No one takes him seriously, especially when he raves about miracles and how he saved a young girl who was pregnant with the son of God. Only this baby who comes out of her, this so call "Jesus," is born with no arms and deemed as a devil.

In Part Three, Sanchez offers us a disturbing portrayal with Mary Queen of Scots. A victim of incest, and mother of her father's child, Mary is all that is tragic and painful in the world, a symbol of innocence lost and dreams crushed forever. Her father, seeing her pregnant with his own child, goes to a cave to "ask for a dream to guide him" (97) and decides to kill her. "He held her close to him as he walked in long strides, stepping over rocks and small ravines and snakes that wound, sluggish with cold, toward their winter holes… he lovingly lay her on the ground in a thicket of wild mint, and he took out a knife that he had sharpened so he could not cause her pain, and he carefully cut her throat, feeling a magical strength and sureness in his cold benumbed hands. Carefully, he held her lovely head and carefully, he made the cut." (97)

Sanchez utilizes the author omniscient point of view and very little dialogue. The cave is a recurrent image in the novel, and the wild animals add a delicate touch of myth and magical realism. "Once, in mid-summer, when she [Stillbird] fell asleep in the warm afternoon sun in a field of tall grass, and Charles wandered very near to her, the crows all flocked to her and landed on her body, dozens of them, to hide her sleeping form from the man." (40)

Sanchez's writing style, though, is exquisite. Her flawless prose flows like "the blood that streamed down her hands [Mary's] and arms as her father carried her to the river that would be her grave." (97) Sometimes beautiful, sometimes disturbing, but always memorable, Stillbird is a novel I highly recommend for the serious reader.

On a Darkling Plain
R.P. Burnham
The Wessex Collective
P.O. Box 1088, Nederland CO 80466-1088
ISBN: 0976627450, $12.95, 205 pp.

The novel opens with a shocking scene: In the small town of Waska, Main, retired professor Samuel Jellerson, while walking in the woods one day, witnesses an despicable act—a priest sexually abusing a young boy.

Jellerson thinks he recognizes the priest, but instead of notifying the authorities right away, a heavy cloud of confusion and denial falls over him, preventing him from taking action. Could he have imagined the whole thing? After all, who would be capable of such pure evil? A wretched inner struggle follows, during which time Jellerson tutors a teenaged girl who, much to his horror, awakens in him emotions not unlike the boy must have awakened in the priest. "No, he was no different than the priest," writes Burnham, "How could he say he had a restraint that Father Mullen lacked when his diseased mind picture Michelle doing with him the very thing he'd witnessed the boy being forced to do? A year ago, he could say that the priest was a perverted monster and he a respectable man, not no longer."

It is not before a month has passed that Jellerson decides to confront the priest and contact the police. Rumors spread quickly in a small town and soon everybody is talking about it. What compels a priest to abuse a boy? What impels a good man to keep silence? How will the boy, a musical genius, cope with such evil atrocity? How does society respond to this—with kindness and understanding, or with even worse cruelty?

On a Darkling Plain is a serious, carefully crafted, compelling novel about the dark, destructive side of human relationships, especially those between father and son. The novel also offers a tragic, almost comical view of the role of the law in society. The most interesting thing about this novel, however, is the way the author uses the priest/boy conflict to address the 'real' conflict in the novel, which is Jellerson's painful relationship with his son, a son he has never been able to understand nor express his affection to. In this sense, and in spite of what may appear like religious overtones, the priest and boy become a metaphor for what really lies beneath. The subtle layers in this story make it ideal for book clubs and group discussions.

Burnham's love for writing comes across in each sentence. True to his style, he relies mostly on narration, depth of theme and deft characterization to bring his story across. As in his previous novel, Burnham seems to have an inkling for controversial themes, which he handles excellently well. For the serious reader, this is a most rewarding and insightful read, and one I can highly recommend.

This review originally appeared on Armchair Interviews.

Mayra Calvani

Oliver's Bookshelf

Bridging The Tax Gap
Max B. Sawicky
Economic Policy Institute
1333 H St, NQ, Suite 300, East Tower, Washington, D.C. 20005
1932066233 $14.50

Deftly compiled and edited by Max B. Sawicky (Institute Economist at the Economic Policy Institute), Bridging The Tax Gap: Addressing The Crisis In Federal Tax Administration is an extensive study drawn from the collective works of top experts in tax enforcement about the direct effects and issues arising from governmental tax policy. Offering readers a complete and thorough understanding of the crisis facing federal tax administration and suggesting a practical approach to solving the issues that have arisen, Bridging The Tax Gap includes conceptual contributions from such people as the former IRS Commissioners Sheldon Cohen and Donald Alexander. Bridging The Tax Gap is very strongly recommended students of Economics seeking a greater understanding of the inherent problems of taxation and an analysis of their proper and productive solutions.

Military Transition To Civilian Success
Mary T. Hay et al
Impact Publications
9104 North Manassas Drive, Manassas Park, VA 2011-5211
1570232555 $21.95

Collaboratively compiled and co-authored by Mary T. Hay, Lani H. Rorrer, James R. Rivera, and Ron and Caryl Krannich, Military Transition To Civilian Success: The Complete Guide For Veterans And Their Families is an informative and "user friendly" reference for military personnel trying to successfully convert their lives back to that of civilians. Listing and presenting over 300 military-friendly employers, 103 compensation elements for negotiating salaries, 47 tough interview questions and proper preparation for their answers, 40 myths and realities of the job search process, 40 employment trends, 25 job-keeping and advancement strategies, 25 best places in the U.S. to live and a great many more greatly helpful ideas for civilian living, Military Transition To Civilian Success is an invaluable source for easing back into the working life outside of the military for discharged servicemen, and their families. Military Transition To Civilian Success is very strongly recommended for all former military men and women searching for an accessible introduction to working and living comfortably in a non-military setting.

Oliver Norton

Paul's Bookshelf

The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu
Mike Davis
The New Press
38 Greene St., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10013
ISBN: 1595580115, $21.95, 212 pp.

This book is a comprehensive look at just what bird (or avian) flu is all about, and what the world is, or is not, doing about it.

Influenzas are divided into three major categories. Types B & C are relatively mild, leading to the common cold, or, at worst, the winter flu. But Type A is the unpredictable, and lethal, strain that is fully entrenched among the bird population of East Asia. It is very easy for the disease to jump from migratory birds, to ducks, to chickens, to swans and egrets, and back again, mutating along the way. Until now, the human deaths have come from direct contact with infected birds. But the time is coming when that last mutation will click into place, causing it to jump from person to person. A worldwide flu pandemic, with a death toll in the hundreds of millions, is, as one researcher put it, "late."

What is America doing to prepare for the coming pandemic? Not much. Industrial chicken farms, with millions of chickens crowded into one building, are a wonderful breeding ground for diseases of all sorts, not just bird flu. Remember SARS from a couple of years ago? Among the reasons why it was contained is that the cities where it happened, Toronto and Hong Kong, are modern cities with modern health care systems. Imagine if SARS had shown up somewhere in Africa, with a much less modern health care system.

The major drug companies have opposed moves to allow other countries to make cheap copies of flu vaccines, even though there are nowhere near enough doses of vaccines even for first responders, out of concern for their corporate bottom line. The Bush Administration is more interested in spending money preparing for a smallpox or anthrax outbreak, something which has much less chance of ever happening, than in spending it on bird flu, which is coming in the near future.

This is a very spooky book, which I guess is the idea. It is written for the layman, and does a fine job at showing how unprepared America is for the next flu pandemic. It is very highly recommended.

Party Like a Rock Star Even When You're Poor as Dirt
Camper English
Alyson Books
P.O. Box 4371, Los Angeles, CA 90078-4371
ISBN: 1555838774, $12.95, 204 pp.

This book gives many ways for people to save money on their rock and roll life-style.

The single best thing to do is to visit many websites as possible, for bands, clubs, art galleries, etc, depending on your interests. While you're there, look for freebies or other discounts, but sign up for their e-mail list. The vast majority of messages received will be little better than spam, but there could be the occasional gem with a subject line like, "Free admission and free dinner." Forget clothing trends and visit your local thrift shop (the book even tells the best time of the week to visit). There you can buy a few pieces that can be mixed and matched, plus a funky T-shirt or two. Then you can go crazy with accessories.

Have you visited your local public library? Aside from books (not just bestseller fiction) they also have CDs, DVDs of classic movies, and talks and lectures on a wide variety of subjects, all for free. Exercising to get rid of your ghostly, all-night-partying skin color, is a really good idea, but you do not have to spend a lot of money joining a gym. An effective, low-tech workout can be done with regular, household objects, but the first step is getting off your butt.

In the area of making money, if you have something autographed or unique, sell it on eBay. Focus groups are fun and easy (after you are accepted, which is the hard part), and the pay starts at $25 per hour. Become a house/petsitter, or rent your place for movie shoots and commercials. Have you ever thought of renting yourself as a designated driver for party people, or renting your body to science by taking part in medical research studies?

This is a really eye-opening book. The best thing about it is that it is not just for mid-20s slackers. The ideas in this book are for everyone, regardless of age or lifestyle (who does not want to save money, if possible?). It is very much recommended.

Forged by the Knife
Patricia L. Dawson
Open Hand Publishing LLC
P.O. Box 20207, Greensboro, NC 27420
ISBN: 0940880644, $15.00, 176 pp.

This book, actually a doctoral dissertation, looks at the world of surgical residency for women of color.

Residency is supposed to be a tough, weeding out process. But female residents have several extra obstacles in their way. Most female doctors are in fields like gynecology or psychiatry. Those who want to become surgeons are encouraged to choose another specialty, because surgery is "too hard." Any patient complication will be looked at especially closely. Role models are rare; the number of female surgeons is tiny, while the number of black female surgeons is practically zero.

Since surgery is very much a male-dominated field, there is the usual obstacle of women having to work twice as hard to be considered half as good. Residency does not teach a person how to keep their humanity (which some surgeons have totally lost), or what to say to a family whose loved one has just been declared dead (suppressing their femininity).

This book looks at the personal experiences of several black female surgeons. Their residency experiences, whether at predominantly white or black institutions, ranged from difficult to very difficult.

Even though this is a doctoral dissertation, it is clearly written, easy to read, and worth reading. The next time a loved one is in the hospital, and the doctor is a woman, just remember that she probably is experiencing, or has experienced, the things mentioned in this book.

October Mourning: A Novel of the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
James Rada, Jr.
Legacy Publishing
315 Oak Lane, Gettysburg, PA 17325
ISBN: 0971459932, $15.95, 172 pp.

In late 1918, World War I is winding down, but America's major cities, like Boston and Philadelphia, are being decimated by Spanish Flu. The disease hasn't yet reached Columbia, Maryland, where Dr. Alan Keener, fresh out of medical school, treats a young mother named Sarah. She is feeling sick and feverish, classic flu symptoms, for which she is told to go home and rest. Sarah is found dead the next day, her lungs full of fluid.

The local authorities are reluctant to declare a health emergency over one death. They become convinced after the local death toll starts climbing, fast. All indoor gatherings are banned. Church services are moved outside. The local bars and taverns are forcibly closed. People start acting justifiably paranoid, afraid to leave their houses unless absolutely necessary. It becomes personal for Alan when his 5-year-old becomes one of the fatalities, and his wife almost joins her.

A traveling snake-oil salesman gets the flu, and during his flu-induced delirium, he believes that he is visited by an Angel of God. Mankind is being tested; he has been given the name of Kolas, and told to spread the disease as much as possible. Those who don't die are the new Chosen of God. After nearly infecting Alan, Kolas is captured by the police, where he is "encouraged" to give up several samples of blood to be made into a vaccine. It helps to return things back to something approaching normal.

This is a very good, and very easy to read, novel about a famous, yet unknown, bit of 20th Century American history. While reading this book, in your mind, replace all mentions of "Spanish Flu" with "bird flu." Hmmm. . .

Still Life in Motion
Sean Brijbasi
Pretend Genius Press
3417 Beret Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20906
ISBN: 0974726109, $11.25, 242 pp.

This is a group of very short stories, practically vignettes, on a variety of subjects.

A husband discovers that his wife is a shoplifter. A man walks into a hospital, asking for a refill on brain, or a new one, then discovers that he likes playing dead. Another piece consists of excerpts from unwritten novels. In a room across the street is a large, blue balloon that seems to float on its own. A married couple are living in a apartment with a picture of a tiger on the wall, which turns into a love-letter affair between a man named Stanislau Verbinsky and a woman named Elizabeth. After years of work, a man introduces a new punctuation mark called the rhetorical question mark. Imagine a pair of play-by-play announcers watching an author typing at a keyboard.

Those who like "modern" writing, where stories are told in broad strokes, with little or no background information, will enjoy these stories. On the other hand, those who like their fiction with character development, storyline, climax and all those English Literature terms, should consider looking elsewhere.

Making Change Stick: Twelve Principles for Transforming Organizations
Richard C. Reale
Positive Impact Associates
50 Colony Avenue, Park Ridge, NJ 07656
ISBN: 0976850109, $19.50, 176 pp.

It is easy for the head of any company, large or small, to decree Change Is Necessary. It is much harder to actually do it, and make it stick, from top to bottom. This book, written for executives, is meant to make that process of change not so difficult.

The first principle is to know where you are going. Dust off your company's mission statement and start putting it into practice (if your company does not have a mission statement, why not?). Do not be afraid to challenge your thinking. Just because the executive suite has successfully "changed," do not assume that all parts of the company will be as successful. There is no such thing as too much internal communication about the change. Silence from the top will invariably be filled with rumor and innuendo from the bottom, usually negative.

Take a hard look at your company culture. If you are a strict, by-the-book company, any change may have a hard time being implemented. Perhaps cultural alterations should come first. Some people will have a real problem accepting change, not just because they like the present system, but they will treat it like a funeral, mourning the "death" of the old system. Even partial improvement toward the company goal is better than nothing, so do not fixate on 100% improvement. Be honest when it comes to measuring progress toward the goal, because numbers can be fudged in any direction. When people are caught doing something right, be sure to reward them.

This is a much-needed book for executives of any size company. The chapters are short, in keeping with short executive attention spans, it is mercifully light on the buzzwords, and even non-business people can get it. It is very much worth the time.

Shining Mountains, Western Sea
Margaret Wyman
Idyllwild Publishing Co.
P.O. Box 355, Idyllwild, CA 92549
ISBN: 1931857016, $21.95, 671 pp.

This novel tells the story of the expedition of Lewis and Clark across early 1800s America, but not from the usual perspective. It doesn't use the point of view of Lewis or Clark, but those of John Colter and George Shannon, two Privates on the expedition.

Colter is an experienced mountain man and hunter, and Shannon is an inexperienced graduate of West Point, who tries, unsuccessfully, to get promoted to Lieutenant. The two Privates have an on and off relationship, ranging from tolerating each other to, figuratively, wanting to kill each other. They also have reasons for wanting to be away for a long time.

The expedition is one day after another of very hard work, rowing or pulling their boat upriver, hauling supplies down the side of a waterfall, or walking for days without seeing another person. Shannon's paralyzing fear of deep water is no help. Colter seriously considers abandoning the expedition, and joining a much more lucrative one, but his conscience gets in the way (he made an oath to the expedition). Also holding him back is another member of the expedition, Sergeant Ordway, who seems to have made it his personal mission to make Colter's life a living hell.

Some of the Native American tribes encountered along the way, who Colter would rather avoid at all costs, are decent and reasonable, while others are simply bloodthirsty thieves. Among the former are the Mandans, near whom the expedition makes camp for the winter. It seems to be almost a point of honor among the Mandans for their women to be intimate with the "paleskins" (the men of the expedition are happy to oblige). Against his better judgement, Colter meets, and falls very hard for, a recently widowed woman named Fragrant Grass.

Every waking moment of Colter's life, after the expedition continues on its way, is filled with thoughts of Fragrant Grass. Several chances to desert present themselves, but Colter's conscience again gets in the way, along with Sergeant Ordway. They reach the Pacific Coast, spend a miserable winter there, and Colter gets back to Fragrant Grass, only to discover that she is no longer "available."

This is a fine piece of writing. The author does a good job with the characters, and with showing a famous bit of American history from an uncommon perspective. My only criticism about this book is that the length could have been reduced by at least a few pages. I understand what the author was trying to do, and this is the sort of story that takes a long time to tell, but, personally, this book did not have to be 671 pages long. Don't let that get in the way of reading a really interesting story.

How to Teach Your Baby to Read
Glenn Doman and Janet Doman
Gentle Revolution Press
8801 Stenton Avenue, Wyndmoor, PA 19038
ISBN: 1591170079, $24.95, 262 pp.

According to this book, little children (0-5 years old) are more intelligent and capable of learning than previously imagined. After it is understood that they have a huge amount of curiosity about the world around them, the authors strongly recommend enriching a child's environment by teaching them to read.

The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (the group behind this book) was begun to see if it was possible to teach brain-damaged children to read. In this case, "brain-damaged" means children whose brains were normal at conception, but were damaged through injury or disease. After discovering that the answer to their question was a resounding Yes, the same method was tried on well children, with the same result.

For the average child, being able to explore their world, through crawling or walking, is vital to their development, so sticking them in a playpen with a bunch of toys, while understandable, is a bad idea. There is no "wrong" way to teach a child to read; the authors present their method, which involves writing words on flashcards in very large and bold print, and showing them to the child several times a day, for a few seconds at a time. It is never too early to start, even with children less than 1 year old. Do not be concerned if you cannot go "all the way" in teaching your child to read; even partial progress will help your child in the long run. Most importantly, the process should be joyous, and never a chore, for parent and child. If either one is cranky, or having a bad day, save the words for another day.

This is an excellent book. Written for parents, it is very easy to understand, and shows that it is never too early to expose your child to the world of reading. It was also first published in the 1960s, so they must be doing something right. It is very much recommended.

Use History Like a Tool
Steven Levy
Silver Lake Publications
111 East Wishkah Street, Aberdeen, WA 98520
ISBN 1563437740, $19.95, 300 pp.

History, that bane of many a high school and college education, is presented in a different and much more interesting way than in school. History is more than just names and dates; it is about the motion of people and events. This book also looks at a series of "laws" that anyone can use in their daily lives.

An important aspect of history is that it is best studied while it is moving. Real life is always in motion, whether it is your life, politics, economics or problems before the local Board of Education. But, do not mistake motion for movement. Movement means things are actually being done, while motion makes it look like things are being done (meetings are held, reports are filed, etc, but nothing more).

Through crystal clear hindsight, we can see that a certain decision or policy was a terrible idea, and assume that the people making that decision could also see it. Bad ideas are usually hard to spot, and all we can see is the result of one decision. Maybe there were no better alternatives at the time.

The best way to slow progress on a certain issue is to appoint a committee to study the issue. To sidetrack an issue for a long time, use the Law of Co-Equal Adversaries, and have two committees counteract each other. The next stage after non-movement is ossification, where everything grinds to a halt. The Law of Attendance says that being present is more important than doing anything productive. The Law of Editing comes into force when the person on top changes the rules in the middle to prevent change from happening. A good way to bring things to a halt is put all of a group's resources behind solving the wrong problem; switching from a problem that Can be solved to one that Cannot be solved. Don't ignore the "classics," like What's In It For Me?

This is a fascinating book. It also makes a good business book; if you recognize your company in here, Beware. Those who enjoyed history class in school will enjoy this book. Those who hated history class in school should also read this; it does a good job of showing that history is a lot more than names, dates and dead people.

Paul Lappen

Richard's Bookshelf

Coming Clean: The True Story of a Cocaine Drug Lord and His Unexpected Encoutner with God
Jorge Valdes, Ken Abrams (Contributor)
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
ISBN: 1578562945, $12.99

Fast Paced Compelling True Life Story

I was drawn into this first person account of the life of Jorge Valdez, former drug smuggler and money launderer, from the first page. This is a compelling story of deception, corruption, control, and greediness.

It is the story of the author's culture, family life and values. It is the story of a Cuban family trying to find their dream in America. Valdez emigrated from Cuba with his family when he was 10 years old. He was an honor student, planning a career in banking and accounting.

A series of events led to his becoming involved with a drug cartel. These events changed his life. Valdez was in charge of the entire U.S. operation that included smuggling, distributing drugs, and money laundering, by the time he was twenty years old. He was eventually got caught and spent a total of 11 years in federal prison. The account of his family's supportive role during his trial and imprisonment is especially touching.

The reader is given insight into the world of drug dealers, the prison system, and Valdez's personal ethical values. The story is written by, author, Ken Abraham. The book is a well-written account of the dramatic change in the life of Jorge Valdez. This is the testimony of a man freed from the power of sin by the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

Vignettes of fellow prisoners help the reader understand the consequences of bad judgment and wrong choices. The story takes you behind prison walls. The amazing contrast of life in prison before and after Jorge's conversion is solid evidence of a man changed by the power of Christ.

A Life in the Balance: The Billy Wayne Sinclair Story
Billy Wayne Sinclair
Arcade Publishing
141 5th Ave., Fl. 8, New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 1559705906, $13.95

From the first page the reader is caught up in the life of Billy Wayne Sinclair. Sinclair recounts how he was abused and beaten as a child. He got into a life of crime as a teenager. He was convicted of murder at the age twenty. The writing is dramatic. Descriptions are realistic.

The narrative covers events that span over thirty-five years. These events are related in a narrative that details political corruption in the Louisiana State Prison System. After years of living on a code of loyalty established by prison inmates, the author shaped a personal code of ethics. At great personal risk, Sinclair has been unwilling to compromise these new values. He has since exposed avariciousness, crime, and duplicity within the parole and corrections system. I highly recommend this book for all elected officials in community, state, and national politics and to anyone involved in prison administration, prison reform or prisoner's rights.

Richard R. Blake

Roe's Bookshelf

Stacy A. Nyikos, author
Shawn N Sisneros, illustrator
Stonehorse Publishing
ISBN: 0976419912 $15.95, 32 pp.

Shelby the lemon shark lives in the sea with many other creatures, but Shelby is shy and although she wants to make friends, she just can't come out of hiding. Being a shark is a scary thing and not everyone wants to take the chance of becoming her friend. One day as Shelby hides and watches all of the other fish play, a terrible thing happens. A net captures all of the fishes. Dolphins and eels try to free the fish with no success. Can Shelby help? Will she finally come out of hiding and save her friends?

Author Stacy Nyikos of Tulsa, Oklahoma uses rhyme to bring the story of Shelby alive. Musical cadence helps the children to remember the tale of the shy little shark that overcomes her own fears to help others. Illustrator, Shawn N. Sisneros a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, depicts the story well. Illustrations are realistic, yet charming. Cover is colorful and enticing. The back of the book contains a question and answer page that gives children some insight into the world of sharks.

The author and illustrator teamed up on their first book, Squirt, which inspired a new school program. Shedd Aquarium began its own Oceans & Arts Literacy program as a result of Squirt. This book would be a wonderful teaching tool. Downloads are available for teachers and parents will enjoy reading this book to their youngsters. As an environmentalist, I found this book to be educational as will as an inspiration to the youth of this planet to get to know the other creatures that share our space. Highly Recommended.

47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers
Troy Cook
Capital Crime Press
ISBN: 0977627667, $14.95, 282 pp.

Wyatt and daughter Tara are the ultimate bank robbers. By strictly adhering to the 47 rules they manage to avoid the law for more than a decade while amassing quite a fortune. However, as Tara grows from child to woman she begins to realize how psychotic Wyatt is and wonders what life would be like away from him. But escape from Wyatt is easier said than done.

Along comes sexy, young hunk Max and Tara begins to see a brighter future but alas, Wyatt is not willing to let her go that easily. The fact that Max' father is the sheriff further complicates things for the young lovers. The Feds get involved in solving the robberies and the action heats up.

Author Troy Cook excels in suspense and this is most apparent in his debut novel, 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers. The plot is fast paced, holding the readers interest from page one. Characters are loveable despite their rather shady personalities and Cook instills just enough humor to break the tension. Well written and a most enjoyable read. Mystery lovers will definitely want to pick up a copy.

Troy Cook has worked on more than 80 films, writing and directing. Shooting in exotic locations exposed him to the Russian Mafia, money launderers and murderers. He has taken his personal experience and turned it into an intriguing mystery novel. Highly recommended.

Shirley Roe, Reviewer

Tarbox's Bookshelf

Harvest for Hope
Jane Goodall
Warner Books
c/o Time Warner Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0446533629, $24.95, 296 pp.

I chose this book because I had never read one of Jane Goodall's books. Her name was familiar to me as being the expert scientist on chimpanzees and I knew she was one of Louis Leakey's "Trimates" he had hired long ago to study the Old World Apes. After reading this book I am now a fan and I feel this book has honestly somewhat changed me. I was saddened recently when someone asked me about the book I was reading and when I shared with them some of the gruesome facts of the book-- about how animals are treated for food consumption (small cages, forced fed to fatten them up, given a cocktail of antibiotics unnecessarily... the list goes on) I was disappointed the person was one of those who just didn't want to know the truth. To coin the old saying, "ignorance is bliss" and unfortunately some people don't want to know the suffering many animals endure before they end up on their plate or that the potato they are eating may be genetically modified, every single cell.

After reading this book I am glad I am no longer ignorant on the topic of GMO (genetically modified organisms), animal welfare, and organic farming. In fact, the book got me so curious about organic farming I have discovered a wonderful new hobby: organic farming. And after eating possible GMO products for years I can honestly say organic tastes better and I read in an article recently that an organic potato is eight times more nutritious then a non-organic potato. This book discusses many issues effecting our planet's health and our own. I highly recommend it as an informative book for those who want their eyes opened as to what we are eating and what some companies are doing. On page 279 of the book, "In 2005 the United Nations issued a rather daunting 'Millennium Report.' After a five- year study, a team of international scientists came to a sobering agreement: Unless we stop the pollution and degradation caused by industrial farming and seriously address overfishing and global warming, we will literally run out of enough resources to feed everyone by the year 2050." I "hope" you will read this book.

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes
Jack M. Bickham
Writer's Digest Books
F & W Publications
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45236
ISBN: 0898798213, $12.99, 118 pp.

As a writer I am always looking to improve, which was why I chose to read this book. The writer does an excellent job explaining the mistakes and explaining how to avoid them. He writes, "Writers are a favorite subject for cartoonists, from Charles Schults of Peanuts fame to those who contribute to the New Yorker. (You can't blame them for picking on writers; we are sort of weird.)" Maybe I am a little weird to like to write, as he says, but there is nothing weird about this book. It brings up good points, 38 of them, which I think can only aide a writer. Bickham is the author of over 75 published novels. This book is on my reference shelf, by my desk so I can easily refer to it, to double check if I am making one of the "38 most common fiction writing mistakes."

A.D. Tarbox, Reviewer

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