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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 5 May 2007 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Betty's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Dawn's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Eric's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Lori's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mark's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Terry's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Valley of the Raven
Ken Ramirez
Twilight Times Books
Paladin Timeless imprint
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, Tennessee 37664
1933353759 $18.95

Aaron Paul Lazar

Valley of the Raven is a captivating novel set in the beautiful foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. When teenagers Ty Dettin, his younger brother Seth, and their pal Tanner White set out for a typical dirt bike ride in the California Sierra Gold Country, they are unaware of the life-altering adventure lurking around the next bend. Tooling along in the spring sunshine, Ty and Tanner follow Seth onto an overgrown trail that leads to decrepit buildings, vestiges of the California gold rush days, when the land was ravaged for the sake of monetary riches. While poking around one of the shacks, the trio discovers a map buried beneath floorboards in a tin box.

The yellowed map appears authentic, providing a detailed sketch of a gold-filled cavern, signed by “Coop.” Fueled with a desire to discover the gold, they set out to investigate.

In a strange and magical twist, the trio happens upon an elderly Native American woman, Nevar, who lives along the banks of a river in a remote and magnificent valley. She connects with them spiritually, most particularly with Ty, accompanied by her totem, the raven. Said raven, Kaji Taka, appears at all crucial points of the adventure, assisting and protecting the boys as they move closer to the awful truth of a pending scheme that threatens Six Hills and its pristine reservoir. Ty is touched by this encounter, haunted and somewhat frightened, but he cannot stop thinking about the old women and the strong urge to visit her again.

In a parallel effort to claim the gold of their ancestor, “Coop,” recently released jailbird Curtis “Junior” Cooper and his brother Carl begin an expedition to mine the gold. Assisted by fellow ex-cons, Skinny, a chain-smoking expert underwater diver who watched his abusive father drown in the pond by his home when he was a child, and Steve “Eight-Pack” Hunt, a body-builder mechanic who resembles a big Swede, Junior and Carl plan to drain a pond that hides the gold-filled cavern.

Mr. Ramirez expertly weaves yet another theme through the novel, bringing us back in history to the life of Buffalo soldier, Clay “Coop” Cooper, a strong and upstanding black man who fought bravely for the American army, and with his meager savings purchased the land that includes the valley in which Nevar appears to them. He and his wife, a lovely Lakota woman named Maka, begin a life in the rich Sierra valley, and implement a plan to purchase as much of the land as possible, donating it to the people and forbidding it to be sold privately in the future. The diverse history of the Native American tribes, the Buffalo soldiers, and their plights are beautifully told by Mr. Ramirez, a teacher himself, through scenes in a classroom where his own teaching abilities become apparent.

When the boys and their friends discover the Coopers are planning something so dastardly the entire region is threatened, they push forward with great integrity and courage, in spite of the mind-numbing roadblocks that constantly impede them. Ty is drawn to a destiny ingrained in his part-Comanche genes, and moves forward on a path of sheer lunacy and utter heroism as he endangers his own life to save the land and people of Six Hills.

Mr. Ramirez has created a lyrical world that breathes with life. The boys’ dialogue is natural and real. Their actions, fears, discussions, and reactions ring true, a testimony to the author’s acute understanding of youth.

Aside from the engaging storyline, Mr. Ramirez’s has painted enchanting descriptions of the countryside, as in this excerpt:

“As the sun crested over the surrounding granite peaks in the glorious morning scene reflected on the lake, its surface completely smooth, not a wave, not a ripple, a true mirror – Maka’s Mirror. The sky and lake together burst into a flaming golden-orange, accented with large white clouds whose fiery bellies seemed almost metallic. A small flock of Canada geese circled the lake and then, with extended webbed feet and outstretched wings, skidded across the surface of the placid mountain water, their honking amplified by the stillness of the dawn. When they finally settled on the water, the wakes of disturbance rolled through the liquid canvas, sending splinters of color and sparkling reflections in every direction.”

As the completely satisfying adventure escalates toward a pulse-pounding finish, Mr. Ramirez incorporates surprising, yet believable twists in his characters, all the while subtly sharing life lessons about responsibility, stewardship of the land, respect for people of all nationalities, and following one’s destiny. The most important lesson deals with the insight that our natural world – with its sparkling streams, wildflowers, tall pines, and unspoiled wilderness – provides the true “riches” which transcend monetary wealth.

I highly recommend Valley of the Raven to readers of all ages. It will quench a deep universal thirst for adventure and heroism. My only question is this: will Mr. Ramirez grace us with a sequel?

Vocal Moments
Vickie M.Oliver-Lawson
Poeticjava Publishing
0974260940 $15.00

Afrika Midnight Asha Abney, Reviewer

Ms. Vickie M. Oliver-Lawson is a public school administrator, wife, and mother from Baltimore, MD. She is the author of Vocal Moments (a collection of various poems designed to inspire, heal, humor and give you food for thought), released in 2003 and published by Poeticjava Publishing. Ms. Lawson is also the author of In the Quilting Tradition (a story about the interaction between a young man and his grandmother as she tells him about the tradition of quilting from an African perspective) released in 2005 and published by Poeticjava Publishing. "Vocal Moments" is an excellent of poetry that touches on a variety of subjects such as self, life, love, women, world, health, spirituality and humor written by Ms. Oliver-Lawson. Some of my favorite poems include “Call Me Woman”, “Daughter of Eve”, “I Am”, “The Urban Warrior Queen” and “Like the River.” From reading her poetry, it is clearly evident that she wrote these poems based on her personal lifestyle and travels through life. This collection of poetry is indeed a book that you want to share with your loved ones.

The End of Days: Armageddon and Prophecies of the Return
Zecharia Sitchin
William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishers
10 E. 53rd St., NYC, NY 10022
0061238236 $25.95

Ana M. Gomez

The End of Days is the seventh book in Zecharia Sitchin’s Earth Chronicle series. This publication and the series of books in general, aren’t for someone looking for light reading. Sitchin’s interpretations are highly controversial, and highly compelling given he is one of the few people on the planet capable of reading the ancient written language Cuneiform. Sitchin continues building his case backing his belief that men, like us, came from the planet Nibiru in search of gold, and gave ancient man an evolutionary jump-start. He builds a compelling case that the gods and man really walked together on Earth five-thousand years ago.

End of Days is a thought provoking, compelling work, which examines biblical and Mayan prophesy, and mythology for the different meanings of the books title; all the while referencing ancient history, archeological records, astronomy and modern science. Sitchin’s effective use of graphics in the work allows the reader to see what he sees as he presents his interpretation, leaving the readers wanting more as they examine ancient tablets. Those who enjoy ancient history, archeology, and the sciences will savor this slow and highly interesting read.

In the end, you will not look at historical figures, such as Alexander the Great and Sargon the Great, or the sign of the cross, in the same way as Sitchin explores the interaction of ancient man and the Gods. In the end, you may very well believe there was more than one Exodus in ancient times. The question left in the minds of readers will be: Is the biblical ‘End of Days’ about Armageddon or the return of the Anunnaki to Earth?

Autobiography of My Mother
Meg Stewart
Random House
947174166 8230 27.95 Brit. pounds

Ann Skea

What do you do if you have spent hours talking to your mother and recording her memories, researched some of the family history, and published it all as a ghost-written autobiography, and then you read a chapter headed 'Mistress and Wife' in someone else's book and realize that there was something your mother omitted to tell you?

This is what happened to Meg Stewart, whose mother, Margaret Coen, was a well-known Australian artist and whose father, Douglas Stewart, was an equally well-known Australian poet.

Margaret Coen's 'autobiography' begins with the story of her grandmother, Margaret O'Connor, who arrived in Australia in 1844 as a sort of mail-order bride. Her husband, Patrick Moloney, was a prosperous 'New Chum' who was thirty years her senior. He had migrated to Australia in 1838 to work on the land and he had done well. He saved enough money to buy a property in sheep country south west of Sydney and then, not wanting to marry a convict woman, he wrote back to his parish priest in Ireland and asked him to find him a wife. So, Margaret O'Connor, aged eighteen, set off for a new life in Australia. Between them, Paddy and Margaret Moloney produced eleven children in twenty years, and their seventh child was Margaret Coen's mother, Mary Moloney.

Margaret Coen's paternal grandfather was also Irish. He had been attracted to Australia by the discoveries of gold, but he soon bought a hawker's cart and did so well that he eventually established a General Store in Yass. He became a wealthy and prominent citizen but died at the age of fifty-six. Grandma Coen, who was also considerably younger than her husband, took control of the store and ran it for the rest of her long life. The Coen family, who were staunch Catholics, also prospered and grew, and religion in Grandma Coen's house was taken very seriously. There was daily family prayer, one son became a Passionist priest and three daughters became nuns. Margaret, who was born in 1909, spent much of her childhood in her grandmother's house and was so impressed by the religiousness that she decided she was going to be a saint. Fortunately, she remained a very normal, mischievous child, and her memories of those early years are fascinating.

Equally fascinating, are her memories of her unusual schooling at a small Sydney boarding school, Kincoppal, which was run by the Sacre-Coeur nuns, many of whom were French.

A major part of the book, however, is devoted to Margaret's memories of life as a budding artist in Sydney in the 1920s and 1930s, and her later years as an established artist, familiar with all the most prominent artists, poets and writers of the time. The Circular Quay area of Sydney at that time, was a place full of art-schools and artists' studios. During the depression years of the early 1930s, space could be rented in old buildings very cheaply. This suited the artists, because their earnings, too, were meager. They clearly enjoyed life, however, and hardship probably bonded them together more firmly than financial security might have done. Margaret Coen remembered an easy-going group of artists, art teachers, artists' models and other creative people who frequented their own chosen coffee houses and pubs in the area, where they would sit and talk for hours. She especially remembered the parties. The annual Artists' Ball was the highlight of the year, and it was obviously a very lively and uninhibited affair. When Margaret's mother, concerned for the reputation of her daughter, ordered an older brother to escort Margaret to the ball, Margaret worried that he might be shocked. Luckily, he dropped her off and disappeared for his own night on the town, then returned to pick her up later.

Amongst the artists and poets Margaret knew were Antonio-Datillo-Rubbo (who taught her), Grace-Cossington-Smith, Thea Astley, Donald Friend and Ken Slessor. She also befriended a visiting American illustrator, Jack Flanagan ( whose work she had long admired) who filled her head with stories of famous artists in New York, fed her Clover Club cocktails, and introduced her to another artist, Norman Lindsay.

Lindsay, whose many paintings, etching and sketches of nudes had made him notorious in Australia, was a driven man. When he was not painting, etching or writing books, he worked on model ships for which he made every piece himself. Margaret tells of one attempt he made to relax by taking up cards: he cut out and painted every single card himself. Margaret had clearly idolized Lindsay because of his work. When she eventually met him, he became her mentor and taught her a great deal about water-colour painting, at which she became expert. And Lindsay, so it seems, also became her lover. In remembering her life, Margaret told her daughter nothing about this.

The unexpected revelation of this affair to Meg Stewart as she read Joanne Mendelssohn's book, Letter and Liars, left her distressed and, as her mother's biographer, "stricken". The term 'mistress', with all the connotation it has acquired, particularly upset her. What did she do? She set about finding out if it was true. Family, when she consulted them, knew nothing and didn't believe it. The author of a book about Lindsay's art charted the progress of the affair from Lindsay's work. And although her mother's undated correspondence with Norman Lindsay (which, after her mother's death, Meg had deposited unread at the State Library of New South Wales) revealed an "undeniable bond" and real affection between the two which lasted until Lindsay's death in 1969, there was nothing "salacious" in them.

So, Meg Stewart updated her mother's 'autobiography' with newly revealed facts about her art, then simply added an extra chapter about her own researches in to the 'affair'. She describes the process of reading and dating her mother's correspondence with Lindsay as "by turn tantalizing, tacky and addictive", and her conclusion, finally, is "What does it matter?". Her mother was loved by two remarkable and creative men, her own father, who had also been a close lifelong friend of Norman Lindsay, and Lindsay himself. If she chose to forget "the sexual indiscretions or passions of youth" or to keep them secret from her daughter, it was nobody's business but her own.

Meg Stewart's Autobiography of My Mother is the sort of book many of us would like to have written about our mothers but left it too late to sit down and record all the details of their memories. It is a fascinating account of a life and a fascinating picture of Sydney in the early years of the twentieth century. Sadly, there are only two of Margaret Coen's painting reproduced in black-and-white in the book, but there are photographs which show that she was as a beautiful young woman, and an etching of a party by Norman Lindsay in which someone who Meg says looks "very like my mother" is dancing, scantily dressed, for an appreciative audience.

At Play in the Killing Fields
Joseph DeMarco
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1425986692, $15.49 1-888-519-5121

Barry Allen

At Play in the Killing Fields is a series of three very different science fiction stories that center around Joe Kaye (See also: The False Prophet of Fennimore Place). Although each story is significantly different they seem to carry similar themes about energy, education and the conservation of our planet's natural resources.

The first story is called Nightmarchers, and is written in first person where Joe Kaye is the narrator telling the story. Nightmarchers is a Hawaiian ghost story about the desecration of Hawaiian Heiaus (Temples) and a brief history of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. In the story the narrator (Joe Kaye) is a teacher and writer who is haunted by a ghost because of his grandfather's participation in the destruction of Puu Kapolei (an ancient Hawaiian temple). After a recurring dream of following a little green bird, Joe Kaye starts to expect that he might have been a Hawaiian in one of his past lives.

The second story, titled The Chemicals Between Us, takes place on earth, 2000 some-odd years after mankind has been extinct. When Drogen a strange alien, with his genitals on his face, delivers a package to earth, he gets more than he bargained for when he takes a book that seems to be haunted by ghost of Joe Kaye. Through the book (that Drogen takes) and flashback memories the reader observes Joe Kaye's philosophies about life and energy.

The Chemicals Between Us is really interesting and deals with a lot of holistic ideas about energy and dis-ease (See also: Heal Your Body, The Celestine Prophecy, What the Bleep Do We Know About Anything, The Secret of Shambhala).

It is during the story The Chemicals Between Us that the reader learns about Joe Kaye’s prophecy about the end of the human race and various other strange practices such as Voodoo Botany.

The third story The Spit of Siann takes place back in the present several years after Nightmarchers but before Joe Kaye makes the prophecy. The third story is written in third person, but maintains a child’s perspective through the eyes of a messed up little 12-year-old named Siann Campbell. Siann is in seventh grade and her teacher is a weird hippy from Hawaii named Joe Kaye. Siann gives her teacher a hard time because her father has died, and she is being raised by a mother who has little time and even less energy to raise a 12 year-old. The story focuses more on education but ultimately talks about what Joe Kaye refers to as the End of Time.

This book is very imaginative and reminds me of a cross between Ernest Hemingway's Islands in the Stream and anything by Philip K. Dick.

The Power of Simplicity
Patty Kreamer
Publish Connect
2429 Silver Oak Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15220
0972000119 $14.99 1-412-344-3252

Bonnie Jo Davis

Patty Kreamer is a professional speaker, author, consultant and residential and corporate organizer. Patty is the President of Kreamer Connect, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based company that helps individual and corporate clients become more productive and perform better while at the same time simplifying their work and lives. Patty has created the twenty-six week e-course "Making Life Simple... Again!" and authored the book "But I Might Need It Someday".

The Power of Simplicity includes a foreword, acknowledgments, introduction and an author biography. It is organized in the following chapters:

Chapter 1: Imagine the possibilities of simplicity
Chapter 2: Tackling the physical side of simplicity
Chapter 3: Confronting the emotional side of simplicity
Chapter 4: The Power of pause
Chapter 5: Taking inventory
Chapter 6: See it, say it, believe it...And it will come
Chapter 7: Dealing with procrastination...NOW!
Chapter 8: Take time to make time
Chapter 9: So many choices...not enough time
Chapter 10: Speaking simply...

When I began reading this book I was struck by a profound statement made by Patty in the introduction. She says "The issue is that as human beings, we tend to allow life to be difficult. Unfortunately, we are not alien creatures that would be satisfied with just the basics of survival: air, water, food, and shelter." Human beings complicate their lives endlessly and then find themselves trapped in overwhelm, depression and physical complaints triggered by their inability to make good choices.

You no longer have to be trapped. The Power of Simplicity will teach you that everything boils down to a choice. Patty defines choice as:



In addition to choice Patty defines clutter as nothing more than unmade decisions. Don't think that Patty drops these bombs and then walks out the door leaving you dumbstruck. She sticks by you throughout the book giving you concrete examples of making better choices and simplifying life the easy way. She teaches you how to make life more enjoyable not only for yourself but also for your family, your friends and your co-workers.

If you are overbooked, under stress, disorganized and at the breaking point then you need to read The Power of Simplicity. Think of Patty as your friend and this book as a step-by-step instruction manual for living a healthier and more simple life.

A Woman At War: Marlene Dietrich Remembered
J. David Riva, editor
Guy Stern, advisory editor
Wayne State University Press
The Leonard N. Simons Building, 4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
0814332498 $50.00 1-800-978-7323

Cassandra Langer

Why is this book worth read, worth buying? Well, it's a truly memorable book and it's quotable. Marlene's grandson, David Riva has hilarious and beautiful memories of his grandmother the late Marlene Dietrich not as the Von Sternberg icon so famous from the golden age of Hollywood studio icons but rather as a "woman at war." The spirit of the real Marlene hovers over Riva's book like a guardian angel. This beautifully put together volume is much more than a coffee table decoration. Featuring a series of interviews with the famous; Burt Bacharach, Cher, Rosemary Clooney and Hildegard Knef and less well known but equally wonderful people, Riva's interviews reveal a woman many who have watched her films are totally unaware of; Marlene the hero.

David Riva's journey in retracing his grandmother's footsteps began with a conversation in the kitchen in the 1980s while she was cooking him up a breakfast of her famous scrambled eggs. Mass as she was fondly known in the family began answering a question David had asked about performing. Before he knew it she related her experiences about working for the USO and performing in the Ardennes forest during World War II. The time she spent fighting against Hitler and all he stood for in her Native Germany. As a German she knew what was at stake and she never had a question about what side she was on. As a child David loved to tell his friends that his grandmother had won the Medal of Freddom. Smiling, Marlene would say, "Be sure to tell them which side I was on."

I am a collector of film stills and an art historian as some of the readers of my reviews know. Marlene has been my hero since I was a teenager. There are a number of reasons I have loved and admired her. One is her incredible insistence on being a free woman; free to make the choices that suited her as an individual regardless of other people's expectations, free to love who she would love to hell with what other people thought or said and free to practice her craft to the very best of her ability. That's the kind of woman Marlene was but she was much more. When I began collecting film stills of her I also began collecting press photographs. One of these showed her return to Berlin after the war. There were signs of hate everywhere saying stay out, go home, traitor and riots (143). These are pictured in the book as well as photographs of Marlene freezing her can off along with the troops and giving aid and comfort to the Allied forces in Europe. Speaking of these experiences she commented, "It was a hard time, it wasn't easy. But it was wonderful.(46) These remarks are supported by wonderful photographs of Marlene at war. David's interview with William F. "Buck" Dawson is an eye opener. Dawson is a WW II.veteran of the Eighty-Second Airborne Division. He was one of the first Americans to enter Berlin and was in charge of the press corps. he helped put Marlene back in touch with her mother. He met her in the Ritz hotel,dirty, exhausted and still dressed in combat gear. This interview has great picture of Marlene dressed in fatigues and combat gear. (50-51) What Dawson's interview and many others in the book reveal is how truly beautiful, remarkable and vulnerable Dietrich really was.

I supposed I am one of the few who was well aware of her war activities before I ever saw David's book but he has added so much more to who she really was. This was a woman who cast aside all pretensions and went to work fighting the enemy. She put on an American uniform, worked for the USO and spoke out against Hitler on the radio and in every other way she could. Marlene knew the power of images and used hers to fight against the Nazis in every way she could. In another interview historian and biographer, Felix Moeller points out that Marlene and Leni Riefenstahl were like polar opposites; one working against Hitler and the other supporting him all the way. Marlene, recollects, Col. Barney Oldfield, a celebrated war correspondant, had this radio program called "Marlene Sings to Her Homeland." It was the only way she could communicate with her mother in Berlin. This led to her performing for the troops when the war started. What comes across in David Riva's book is how deeply committed Marlene was and how useful she was to the war effort. The boys loved her because she told raunchy jokes and made them laugh. She was more like a buddy than a Hollywood movie star.

Guy Stern who acted as an advisor on this book and is a distinguished professor of German and Slavic studies a Wayne State University, was serving in Belgium. He and a few buddies went to see Marlene perform. She came out on stage and stepped up to the mike and said, "Fellows, I may have to break in the middle of a song to excuse myself, and, heck, you know the reason why. This brought down the house since they were all suffering from the trots because of the bad food and rotten conditions. She was one of them and they knew it.

My favorite interview is with one of my favorite singers, Rosemary Clooney. It is one of the most intimate and warmly felt tributes that I have ever read on a printed page. I am so deeply moved that David Riva was able to share it with his readers. Clooney speaks of Marlene's sense of camaraderie. To me it is evident from the first illustrations for one of her many reviews, one of which is shown on page 4. I encountered this very piece at a photography show in New York City several years ago. The dealer was from Germany and had a sensational photograph of Marlene and a sister actress in a very intimate setting which I would dearly have loved to buy but it was far out of my price range as was the illustration on page 4 which he also was selling. But it stuck in my memory and I was delighted to encounter it again in David's book. What comes across throughout is Marlene's intensity and sincere dedication to her craft. The thing she respected most was courage and work. What comes across is how very human Marlene Dietrich the person was. What a very beautiful individual she really was warts and all.

In concluding I want to say I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with David. he is a charming and delightful man whose sincere admiration and respect for Mass is evident in every page of this wonderful homage to her. I cannot think of a better book to give anyone. And especially anyone interested in a book that embodies the meaning of what one reporter tagged, "The Greatest Generation's" contributions to the world. They did make the world safer for democracy and Marlene Dietrich's contributions make her a hero for all of us particularly now when we have American boys and girls dying for that ideal in Iraq and elsewhere so others can enjoy some of the benefits we take for granted.

I'll try and catch up on a couple of other books later i.e. Kate and one or two others. I'm sorry but I've been swamped with paid work so no time. Hope this finds you well. This is a great book.

Flight Risk
Kim Baldwin
Bold Strokes Books
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
1933110686 $15.95

Cheri Rosenberg

Kim Baldwin’s fourth action-packed novel, Flight Risk, is a suspense and romance lover's dream. Blayne Keller and Alexi Nikolos are formidable opponents at first but their undeniable attraction, even under incredible circumstances, doesn’t diminish one’s hope for them to become allies, to survive against all odds, and to let love bloom.

Blayne works as a travel agent in her close friend Claudia’s family business. She fantasizes about saving enough money and getting away from Chicago for a South Pacific adventure in the Fiji Islands. A petite thirty-year-old, Blayne is feisty, independent, outspoken, and a stubborn redhead. When she inadvertently witnesses a murder, Blayne has to be gutsy if she's going to live through testifying against the boss of a major crime family. Entering WITSEC, the Federal Witness Protection Program, and permanently relocating and leaving her friends is not the vacation she has in mind when she finds herself running for her life.

Blayne and Alexi form an instant connection with just one look, but with all that Blayne has endured up until then, it’s understandable that the witness is suspicious of everyone, even Alexi, an Inspector with WITSEC, that she meets in her travels.

A commanding presence at only 5’6” tall, Alexi is confident, smart, sexy, and considered by many to be infuriatingly complex and controlling. She doesn’t allow romance and relationships to get in the way of her job or her sexual dalliances. At least, not until she meets Blayne. If anyone can penetrate Alexi’s cast-iron exterior, maybe Blayne can. Blayne does her best to entice the inspector to no avail but the sexual tension between them is thick because Alexi doesn’t give easily in to temptation. “Damn. Damn. Damn. Blayne sucked in several deep breaths in an effort to dispel the anger and frustration coiling low in her belly. She did it again. I swear to God that woman is going to make me implode if she keeps this up” (p. 195). This is one of Baldwin’s cliffhanger chapter endings, which increases the tension, not only making it impossible to stop reading (and you’ll have to read the book to get the full effect), but also making the rewards of the wait that much sweeter.

Hunter's Pursuit will always be special, but Flight Risk proves that this author is not a one-hit wonder. Baldwin balances action plot with romance. Her characters are rich and unique and each has a distinct ‘voice’, often rendering dialogue tags superfluous when distinguishing between Alexi and Blayne, yet Baldwin employs its use when appropriate.

It’s a pleasure following Baldwin's career from Hunter's Pursuit, through the riveting adventures Force of Nature and Whitewater Rendezvous to Flight Risk. Her gift for writing action amidst romance becomes more evident with each endeavor and this reviewer looks forward to future projects penned by this fine author. Flight Risk is popular lesbian fiction at its best—it’s exciting, hot, and satisfying with a few surprises. Pick up a copy today. Focus of Desire is coming in October 2007.

Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers
Amy Stewart
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
PO Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225
1565124383 $23.95

Kelli Christiansen

My mother, an avid gardener with a beautiful rose garden, recommended Flower Confidential to me. While her employ of the proverbial green thumb results in much more success than mine, I do enjoy playing in the garden and love having flowers in my yard and around the house. Flower Confidential opened up to me a world previously unknown, I suspect, to many gardeners and flower-lovers.

I confess this is not a book I likely would have picked up if not for the recommendation from my mother the gardener. But the topic became quickly absorbing; I soon found the book hard to put down. Author Amy Stewart uncovers the hitherto largely secret world of the manufacture and business of flowers. From flower auctions in Holland, to rose farms in Ecuador, to the cultivation of lilies in California, Stewart’s own enthusiastic interest for the subject matter comes through clearly in this fast-paced reportage of the industry, and that enthusiasm is infectious. She brings to light issues that most of us might never have thought of — and makes us understand flowers and the floral industry to such an extent that we may never look at a rose, a tulip, or a lily in the same way ever again (not that that’s a bad thing).

The title of the book is clearly a take-off on Tony Bourdain’s wildly successful Kitchen Confidential. While not as acid or disturbing as Bourdain’s expose, Stewart aims to uncover the flower industry, which she does fairly and passionately — without preaching her own point of view.

Avid gardeners, flower-lovers, environmentalists, and even business types will find this book of interest. While the topic may seem nichey — it’s about flowers, yes, but more than that — it raises some topical, even political, questions, touching on the interplay between business, immigration, and labor, for instance. She writes about a visit to Quito in Ecuador, “As the quality of Ecuadorian roses continues to go up, the pressure mounts. That is, they all have to grow a perfect flower. And that creates pressure — pressure on workers, pressure on natural resources, pressure on trade negotiations, pressure on infrastructure. The result is a host of problems. Not just in Ecuador, but also in other Latin American countries and in Africa, that attracts criticism from human rights and environmental groups around the world.”

Over the course of a year, Stewart traveled the world in search of details for her story. In doing so, she found herself uncovering not only details about the business of growing and selling flowers, but also bigger issues. I know I’m seeing the tulips in my garden a little bit differently today than I did yesterday. When I think about the journey that little flower went through to end up in my vaguely pathetic garden, I smile, but I also have to shake my head in disbelief. Stewart’s book illuminated this topic for me in a way I doubt any other book could.

Flower Confidential is the author’s third book, following The Earth Moved and From the Ground Up, a memoir of Stewart’s attempt to grow her own garden. Stewart lives in California, and writes for the North Coast Journal, Organic Gardening, Bird Watcher’s Digest, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others.

Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness, and Civil Rights
Prentice Earl Sanders and Bennett Cohen
Arcade Publishing Inc., New York
116 John St. #2810, New York, NY 10038
1559708069 $26.00

Kevin J. Mullen

In his 1968 book, The Police Establishment, ex-FBI Agent William W. Turner argued that police departments around the country were unable or unwilling to handle racial matters fairly and effectively. To make his case regarding San Francisco, Turner cited the Police Commission’s treatment of an African American officer assigned to the minority oriented Community Relations Unit.

In an off-duty fracas in October 1966 in Oakland, the officer had been fired upon by one of two men engaged in a dispute with a streetwalker. Hailed before the police commission on a charge of conduct unbecoming an officer, the officer resigned from the department. According to most in the minority community, says Turner – a position in which he seems to concur –“an indiscretion on (the officer’s part), ordinarily punishable by a reprimand and transfer, had been magnified into a cardinal sin in order to put the Community Relations Unit on trial.”

As things turned out, the officer, who had been in a relationship with the prostitute for several months, was waiting in her nearby automobile while she serviced tricks. It was after one of the johns demanded his money back that the officer got involved and the shooting resulted. Moonlighting as a pimp by a sworn police officer has always been considered something more than an indiscretion, yet Turner viewed the legitimate attempt at discipline as an affront to the African American community.

The curse of racism and its varied consequences have in some way infected just about every aspect of American life for centuries. In the last 50 years or so these issues have profoundly influenced the external relations and internal operations of many of the nation’s police departments, all of which has given rise to a literature, as represented by Turner’s book , that tends to view the world through a lens of racial injustice.

Now comes The Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness and Civil Rights, in which retired African American San Francisco Police Chief Prentice Sanders and his writer, Bennett Cohen, make their contribution to the genre. As suggested by its title, the book deals largely with that part of his career in which Sanders was involved in the investigation of a series of black on white homicides which terrorized San Francisco in the early 1970s. The Zebra killings were the most atrocious manifestation of a phenomenon which began in the 1960s when homicide rates soared in urban America generally.

By the late 1970s, San Francisco’s homicide rate was 18.5 per 100,000 population, up from 5.9 in an equivalent period in the early 1960s, much of the increase driven by a rise in black on white killings. It was in this climate that the Zebra killings occurred. The book is written from Sanders’ point of view, as well it should be. The question becomes, however: how does that view square with objective reality?

Sanders starts with a description of his attendance at the autopsy for the first victim, Quita Hague. Hague had been seized with her husband while walking on Telegraph Hill on October 19, 1973 and taken to an isolated area of the Potrero District where she was brutally butchered. Her husband survived. The case differed from the other 73 homicides preceding it that year only in its brutality and seeming senselessness. When 28 year old Frances Rose was shot by a black man who invaded her automobile on October 28, there was no reason to connect the Hague murder, other than the race of the perpetrator.

The killing of Saleem Erakat in his market on Turk Street on November 25 might have been a typical robbery murder except that the killers took the trouble to bind the victim and shoot him execution style. On December 11, Paul Dancik was killed while approaching a street phone booth. Police found that both Erakat and Dancik were killed by the same .32 caliber weapon, an uncommon size for such crimes. A week or so later three more white victims were shot down in the street without provocation in the space of a few days, all with the same weapon.

Realizing that they had a terror spree on their hands, department officials formed a task force under veteran homicide detectives Gus Corerris and John Fotinos. Two robbery detectives, Jeff Brosch and Carl Klotz, were assigned to assist the two lead detectives. Other homicide detectives were to continue taking cases in rotation as was the standard procedure, but under the coordinative supervision of Coreris and Fotinos. For a time the killings seemed to stop. Then they resumed in late January when four whites were killed and one wounded in a two hour rampage. Again there was a brief break in the killings until April 1st when Thomas Rainwater was killed in the street. On April 16, 1974, the last victim, Nelson Shields was killed with three shots in the back.

A simple recitation of the murders fails to convey the effect of the reign of terror on the city at the time. City residents were terrified at the seeming randomness of the attacks. The streets were deserted at night, and intense pressure was put on the police to bring the case to a successful conclusion. In the course of the investigation, investigators became convinced that the Nation of Islam, the black separatist group, was involved. In the absence of any hard information, almost in desperation, the department established controversial procedures to stop and question all young black men found out at night. Finally in mid-1974 the killings came to an end after 14 whites had been shot or hacked to death on the city streets and several more were seriously wounded.

There is an early published account of the case, Clark Howard’s 1979 Zebra: The true account of the 179 days of terror in San Francisco, a workmanlike job which covers much of the same the same ground. But what Sanders can bring to the subject, of course, is an insiders’ view of the case.

Promotional material provided by the publisher of the Sanders/Cohen book describes the Zebra case as a “riveting story, told by San Francisco’s first black police chief, of the racially-motivated serial killings that terrorized the city in the winter of 1973-4, and how it was solved by black detectives.” Even allowing for the customary hyperbole to which publishers are inclined, that statement is over the top. The case was eventually solved, after a massive amount of leg work by a large number of detectives--not just Sanders and his partner-- when one of the killers decided to claim the $30,000 reward offer, and contacted the police. Wisely, when the book came to print, the version claiming exclusive solution by Sanders and his partner was not in the main text of the story. Still, as some reviewers have noted, and as the dust jacket text of the book asserts, we are incorrectly led to believe that Sanders and his partner "spearheaded" the investigation which led to the solution of the case.

The reviews so far have been mixed, ranging from the fawningly adulatory: “The Real Deal” and “Stunningly Researched” to severely critical: “Not the Real story” and “You’ve got to be kidding.” Sanders and his partner, Inspector Rotea Gilford were in fact assigned to three of the 14 cases credited to the Zebra killers but their involvement in the solution seems to very much less than is suggested in the book.

The book is littered with errors and misstatements, too many to catalogue in a single review. Examples will have to suffice. If Sanders is the hero of the story, he also provides a set of villains. In his version of events, that role is played by an amorphous band of what he calls a “white Irish old-boys network.” “In 1973,” he claims, “only one man who wasn’t Irish had the rank of captain or higher in the SFPD.” As a simple matter of fact, at the time of which Sanders writes, the chief and almost all his top staff was demonstrably un-Irish. The Homicide Detail was riddled with Irish old-boy operatives as well, according to Sanders, from Charles Ellis, the detail’s commander, on down. Retired Captain Charles Ellis will doubtless be surprised to find out that he has been transformed into an Irishman. The fact of the matter is that Irish-named detectives were a distinct minority in the detail at the time.

A more egregious mischaracterization is Sanders’ discussion of an attempt by adversarial forces to find out where the man who had given up the suspects was being housed for his own safety. By Sanders’ account, the president of the OFJ, who also happened to be a member of the Nation of Islam --the very group of which the killers were members-- approached the lead investigator in the case and asked him where the principal prosecution witness was being sequestered. Sanders more or less brushes off that overture as an innocent act, saying, “It’s more than possible that someone in the Nation told him (the officer) they were afraid Harris was being held against his will, and all they wanted to do was ‘talk’ to him.” Yes. And John Gotti had someone ask an FBI agent for Sammy “The Bull” Gravano’s address in the Federal Witness Protection Program so that he could update his Christmas card list. In the end, it is for Sanders’ colleagues in the Homicide Detail at the time to report on just how involved Sanders was in the final resolution of the case.

While the story of the horrendous spate of murders serves to hook the reader into the book, its underlying purpose – the real purpose it would appear—is to provide a platform for Sanders to vent about what he sees as a career’s worth complaints about his victimization by racist forces, both during the Zebra investigation and otherwise. To that end he recounts the efforts of the Officers for Justice, an association of largely black officers, against what they saw as discrimination in selection, treatment and promotions of minority police officers. In 1973, with Sanders playing a prominent role, the OFJ filed a lawsuit in Federal Court claiming discrimination in hiring and promotions and petitioning for relief in the form of preferential treatment in future hiring and promotions.

According to the Sanders/Cohen formulation “It was proven that some of the tests given to minorities were statistically more difficult than those given to whites.” (This sentence doesn’t make sense. They probably mean to say that the statistical difference in results between whites and minorities proved that the tests were biased against minorities, a very different thing.) In any event, the statistical disparity was seized upon by the court in 1973 in a preliminarily finding of disparate treatment. The judicial proceedings which followed were intended to test the validity of that finding. After years of legal wrangling, the case finally came to trial before Judge Robert Peckham in November 1978. The plaintiff’s first witness – and only witness as things turned out -- was Homicide Inspector Prentice Sanders.

It was brought out on cross examination that for all the discrimination he claimed, only one other member his academy class had advanced farther in the department by 1979. And it was pointed out that good things had come to Sanders sooner than most. While his academy classmates were settling into their final patrol assignments, Sanders was assigned -- by non-civil service appointment-- to the much coveted robbery detail, a promotion his fellows could not hope to make for several years more at least. And at the time the OFJ case was filed, he was assigned to the Homicide Detail, the most prestigious non-management assignment in the department.

His claims of humiliation by whites were put to the lie when the defense introduced a set of photographs showing that Sanders had willingly decked himself out in racially offensive primitive African garb. At the close of Sanders’ testimony, the judge commented “This man has not been discriminated against,” and informed plaintiff’s attorney that they better get a better witness if they hoped to prevail. The court then adjourned until December.

It was during this period, on November 28, 1978, that former Supervisor Dan White entered City Hall and assassinated Mayor George Moscone and County Supervisor Harvey Milk. When the court reconvened on December 5th, the judge said, alluding to the Moscone/Milk murders – with a non-sequitur worthy of inclusion in a list of logical fallacies—that “Before the resumption of the trial with all its unavoidable divisive and embittering consequences, I desire to continue the trial for one additional week and request counsel for all parties to meet and confer.” What the OFJ case had to do with the Moscone killing is still not clear. In the following months, in the usage of Thomas Sowell, the city “preemptively surrendered,” and what resulted was a consent decree by means of which appointments to and promotions within the department were governed for years to come.

Since the question of whether the examination process discriminated was never really tested in a contested judicial setting, this would be as good a time as any to explain why minorities did not do as well statistically as whites in the civil service promotional process. Why did the minorities fail? Why couldn’t Sanders, who placed third on his entrance test, pass promotional examinations without special help from the courts?

The answer lies not in discriminatory practices but in the culture of the examination process itself as it then existed in San Francisco. Simply put, those who scored highest on the examination were those who studied the hardest. Despite obvious defects in the straight paper and pencil tests then in vogue, there was some solid, job-related content to be acquired in the preparation process. Truth to be told, the actual examination was more of an obstacle course, designed to exclude those who had not studied rather than as an instrument for determining suitable candidates for promotion. That said, neither was it designed to exclude any group based on race or ethnicity. The process was objective and fair, and discriminated only against those who did not study. The same cannot be said about the process which replaced it.

In an ironic way the department, in its stumbling efforts to accommodate itself to minority demands, may have in fact put black officers at a disadvantage when it came to civil service promotions. It was evident at the time to anyone paying attention, that the department officials put black officers in “plum” jobs as soon as they could. Witness Sanders’ speedy ascension to the Inspectors Bureau. Other minorities were assigned to high visibility non-uniformed day watch positions in the Hall of Justice. That practice, whether done for altruistic or political reasons, backfired in a way that made minorities less likely to pass the regular civil service tests.

The officers who tended to do best on the promotional exams, whatever their ethnicity, were the men working nights in the outlying district stations-- switching back and forth weekly from an evening to a midnight watch -- looking for a way out and up. Who – white or black—wanted to give up a clean day job in the Hall of Justice to go back to work nights as a sergeant in a district station? And with the best and brightest of the minorities in plum jobs, the pool of likely successful minority candidates was accordingly reduced.

There may be another explanation as well for poor minority showings. As the trial date neared in 1978, the city’s attorneys began deposing the plaintiffs. Before the plaintiff’s attorney got the court to shut off pre-trial discovery peremptorily, assistant city attorney Ken Harrington was able to get the president of the OFJ to admit under oath that he and other OFJ members discussed the possibility of deliberately doing poorly on the 1976 sergeant’s exam to strengthen their court case. He also admitted that he had read only three of the ten books on the scope announced prior to the test.

Perhaps the above factors were not the sort of thing that the court wanted to entertain, but that’s what the situation was, and, more to the point, they offer an explanation for minority failure to compete successfully in written civil service examinations without degenerating into racist formulations on either side of the equation. Furthermore, they may help to explain in part the mystery why Sanders, who was smart enough to pass third on his entrance examination, turned up 190th on the 1976 sergeant’s list, and was unable to be appointed lieutenant without help from the courts. The prize went to those who studied. It was that simple.

At one point in the Zebra investigation, Sanders had an epiphany which tied the killings to the OFJ suit. “That’s when it hit me,” he says. “The same thing that sparked the killing was getting in the way of solving it. As hateful as the killers were, it was racism that lit the fire that burned inside them. And it was racism that kept the department so white we didn’t have enough black officers to infiltrate a group like the one we were after.” Sanders ends his book with a suggestion that more minorities be hired so that better intelligence inroads can be made into minority communities. It’s generally conceded that a diverse department is a good way to get better intelligence, but it’s not the panacea it’s often envisioned to be. In the Zebra case investigation, the best efforts of Sanders and other black officers to turn up information in the black community came up empty. And remember, at the time, in the heyday of what he calls a “white Irish old-boys network,” 75 percent of homicides were solved. More recently, with blacks in top command positions and presumably situated throughout key positions in the department, the solve rate is 43 percent.

In the end, what grates on the officers who knew and worked with Sanders is his obviously opportunistic ingratitude. The man was pampered and promoted by the department at every step along the way. He was assigned to Robbery Detail with only two years in the department, a position that it took others ten years to attain at the time. A few years later he was assigned to the Homicide Detail. There he remained for 25 years until promoted to lieutenant over dozens of others who had bested him in the civil service examination. After serving a short stint in the Records Division he was appointed assistant chief in 1996. And in 2002 he was appointed chief of police.

All that time, his career was accompanied by a background noise of controversial and questionable activities which it is doubtful that others would have survived (and which are too extensive to detail here). Yet he goes on, as he has since he joined the department, complaining of how he has been used and abused by the very organization which made him what he became. It’s disgraceful.

Running with the Wind
Nell Stark
Bold Strokes Books
430 Herrington Rd., Johnsonville, NY 12094
1933110708 $15.95

Mary Jane Lowe

Sail away in Promising First Novel.

Running with the Wind is an engaging engrossing debut novel by Nell Stark. Corrie Marston, a graduate student in engineering, spends her summer teaching sailing in Rhode Island. Corrie is talented, intelligent, fit, good looking and very good at sailing--Olympic-class good. Denise Lewis was Corrie's crew for the Olympic trials. Their relationship was intense, exciting and closeted, as Denise wasn't ready to come out. Before long, Denise left Corrie for the security and validation of a heterosexual relationship with William, Corrie's brother. The siblings have always had a competitive streak but this blow created a rift between them. Since Denise and William's engagement, Corrie has shut off a great deal of her pain, anger and her capacity for love. She has "made a point to hook up with friends--not random, but no strings attached"(47).

Corrie is one of the most thoughtful and articulate depictions of a bisexual woman this reviewer can recall. As a friend of Corrie comments, "I get the feeling that gender doesn't really matter to her. That it's just another physical characteristic like body type or something"(48). Still, Corrie admits to herself that "seducing men made her feel powerful, somehow. Whereas women just felt good" (49). Some elements of Corrie's view might make readers uncomfortable. She has not dealt with the emotional scars from Denise's rejection and that has pushed Corrie into a patch of windless water where she is foundering.

Quinn Davies, an intelligent, shy, 27 year-old woman in vet school has been convinced by an old friend, Drew, to take sailing lessons this summer. Quinn's gift with animals results in her helping Corrie's dog, Frog when she has an accident. The event places the two women in more intimate surroundings than the marina. Aware of Corrie's approach to sex, Quinn, despite her attraction to Corrie, is careful. For Quinn, "The entire idea of casual sex-- even between friends--made her uncomfortable. Sex meant losing control, and losing control meant whoever you were with could really, truly see you. Not just physically because you were naked, but emotionally--and what if they didn't like what they saw? Even if they did, you could never take it back. Sex wasn't like blurting out a confession by accident that you could then pretend was a joke. It was permanent"(48). With this thoughtful self awareness, Quinn refuses Corrie's causal overtures.

When Corrie realizes that William and Denise will be sailing in the annual Regatta, she decides to court Quinn in a face-saving plan to prove that she can get a girlfriend. Despite her sexual experience, Corrie is the naive one in many ways and the leaks in this boat appear quickly as Corrie, whose observing ego is not very strong, begins to fall for Quinn. Yet the more "innocent" Quinn understands more of herself, Corrie, and the nature of love and loyalty. The two women will have to find winds of trust and love for the relationship to sail.

Appropriately, sailing is one of the characters of Running with the Wind. How Corrie, Quinn, William, and other characters approach and relate to the sport is fascinating and revealing. The race scenes, both impromptu and formal, kept this reviewer turning pages. Further, Stark uses the various characters' understanding of sailing to explain sailing elements without distracting the reader with details. Corrie's frame of reference for a great deal of life is sailing and her analogies are nautical. She understands the boats, the sails, the wind, the sea and her role as a sailor. Corrie finds solace in the power and non-judging challenge of the wind and the water.

Running with the Wind is a fast-paced read. Stark's characters are richly drawn and interesting. The dialog can be lively and wry and elicited several laughs from this reader. Like Kallmaker's All the Wrong Places, the discussions of the nature of sex, love, power, and sexuality are insightful and represent a welcome voice from the view of late-20-something characters today. Stark also captures lovely, intimate, and vivid moments such as, "Corrie remembered how smooth and soft [Denise's] eyebrows had felt as she traced them with one forefinger in the aftermath of their lovemaking" (14). The love scenes between Corrie and Quinn are erotically charged and sweet.

Running with the Wind is a wonderful debut novel which holds great promise. It's a touching romance with lively, realistic characters in an interesting setting. This reviewer looks forward to reading Stark's future stories and in the meanwhile, recommends readers pick up a copy and set sail.

What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful
Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter
77 West 66th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10023
1401301304 $23.95

Peter Hupalo

What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter is written for successful people who want to improve their social skills and eliminate behavioral flaws.

Goldsmith and Reiter write: "At the higher levels of organizational life, all the leading players are technically skilled. They're all smart. They're all up to date on the technical aspects of their job. … That's why behavioral issues become important at the upper rungs of the corporate ladder. All other things being equal, your people skills (or lack of them) become more pronounced the higher up you go. In fact, even when all other things are not equal, your people skills often make the difference in how high you go."

Goldsmith is a professional coach who helps CEOs, army generals, and upper-level executives overcome "classic destructive smart-person behavior." After discussing the beliefs shared by most successful individuals, Goldsmith chronicles twenty-one bad habits they tend to acquire.

Among these bad habits are:

* The Obsessive Need To Win

* Making Destructive Comments

* The Obsessive Need To Tell The World How Smart We Are

* Speaking When Angry

* Trying To Add Too Much Value To Other Peoples' Ideas

* Not Listening

* Goal Obsession

The bad habit underlying many of the others is the obsessive need to win, even when winning is counterproductive. Goldsmith and Reiter tell us the story of a father playing basketball with his 9-year-old-son. The game started with the father encouraging his son, but at the game progressed, the father's need to win kicked in and the father began playing aggressively to maximize his score. The need to win can overcome our common sense and damage relationships.

Goldsmith and Reiter explain how the competitive need to win affects conversations. We want to sound smart, although to others we often sound "unfoundedly omniscient." According to the authors, many bad habits are linked to "information compulsion" or the desire to share information we know, even when we know we should just be quiet.

Many successful people tend to pass judgment, but need to learn to be more reflective. Goldsmith and Reiter suggest: "Try this: For one week treat every idea that comes your way from another person with complete neutrality. Think of yourself as a human Switzerland. Don't take sides. Don't express an opinion. Don't judge the comment…."

But we're warned not to use the ubiquitous "pseudo-self-depreciating remark" to gain a insignificant conversational advantage. The authors write, "When a colleague at a meeting starts off by saying, 'Maybe I'm no expert on inventory control…' you can be sure that the comments that follow will suggest that he does think of himself as an expert on inventory control. When a friend launches into an argument by saying, 'I probably wasn't paying attention…' you can be sure that he's planning to show you that he was paying closer attention that you ever suspected."

Goldsmith and Reiter explain how this conversational one-upmanship is counterproductive and only serves our ego. For example, when we respond to somebody's idea with a "That's great, but wouldn't this be better?," rather than helping the person refine their idea (as we believe we're doing), we're taking ownership of the idea away from the person and, ultimately, making him less desirous of pursuing the idea. While we might have a marginally better idea, the overall goal is hindered. Ultimately, as a leader, you want to empower other people and turn other people in your organization into winners.

When working with clients, Goldsmith solicits feedback from the person's associates, family, and friends to obtain an accurate picture of the social flaws that afflict the individual. For those working on their own, What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful offers several ideas for honing in on the areas you need to improve.

The Mephisto Club
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345476999 $25.95 1-800-726-0600

Rocky Reichman

Did you ever read a novel where it started off slow but then came to a stunning climax by its end? Hopefully, your answer is yes.

The above aptly describes Tess Gerritsen's The Mephisto Club. The book starts off slow. It continues slow. Then, finally, toward the conclusion of the story, the writing becomes fast-paced. The story unfolds. The mystery slowly unravels. The reader is left with a sense of astonishment--not necessarily for a good reason. Sure, many aspects of the novel may be predictable, but that doesn't counter the plot's twists or strange ending. The final conclusion will undoubtedly leave many readers confused. Wondering where they all. Not safe, readers will see next time they encounter a story like this.

But stop. Wait a moment, there is good news. Despite the underexplained ending, Gerritsen more than makes up for the story's fault with a heart-stopping theme and witty prose. Her characters are complex. Gerritsen's given them deep psychological depth, too. Her beautiful prose helps the reader glide through the story. Gerritsen even manages to incorporate a theme with deep symbolic meaning into her cool prose and hot twisting mystery. Evil. That's the theme. Wonderful, yet complex. The interesting theme helps readers forget that the story ends unfinished. It provides a lantern to Gerritsen's readers. A light they will need when they close the book. Evil abounds everywhere, demons live among us. The book tells us of a subspecies of demons who have evolved alongside mankind for the ages. Call them serial killers. Label them idiosyncratic freaks. But no matter what, Gerritsen's theory about and theme of evil is palpable. She gives good evidence both that evil exists and does not exist. What's the final answer?
You decide. You may find it astonishing.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Your Picture Perfect Wedding
Galina Vitols & Mia Johnson
5341 Dorchester Road, Suite 16, Charleston, SC 29418
1419624954, $17.99 1-866-308-6235

In "Your Picture Perfect Wedding", award winning wedding photographer Galina Vitols has teamed up with seasoned writer for national bridal publications Mia Johnson to provide non-specialist general readers with a thoroughly 'bride & groom friendly' guide for selecting exactly the right wedding photographer for their very special day. Weddings are such important occasions that a lot of money and planning go into them, vows are exchanged, and a sanctioned life-time commitment put into effect. It's the photographs taken in documenting this very special event that provide a kind of family heirloom and one that can never simply be re-done if not accomplished properly the first time. "Your Picture Perfect Wedding" lays out all the steps to evaluate and secure an appropriate photographer, the kinds of pictures to expect and require, even what to do with those photos that provide a visual record of such an important and memorable occasion. There's even a terrific chapter on 'Finding Love and Great Wedding Photographs – The Second Time Around'. "Your Picture Perfect Wedding" truly lives up to its title and is enthusiastically recommended reading for anyone contemplating matrimony.

I Can Do All Things Through Christ Which Strengtheneth Me
Charity Gustovic
5341 Dorchester Road, Suite 16, Charleston, SC 29418
1419634364, $12.50 1-866-308-6235

Sexually abused as a child, Charity Gustovic struggled with years of depression, finally finding healing through the Christian faith at the age of 27. Her poetry reflects her dealing with personal demons and ultimate victory in Christ. Here captured in lyrical verse are Charity's observations on the essential role of faith, her belief in God, and her experience of religion as a fundamental aspect of her own personal recovery from the injustices of the past, as well as the promises of the future. 'Grace': Lord, give me the patience/to love more than I know how./Lord Grant me the patience/to find reason in everything, somehow./Help me to put out the anger/that burns so intense inside./Help me to see you Lord./Help me to let you be my guide./I know, My Lord,/you have lived here as well./And I know you kept your Godly life/in the midst of this living hell./You felt the same as we do now./But you found a way/to keep the evil at bay somehow./You are the strongest one known to man./I am asking for your help, Dear Lord,/let me hold your hand?/Come and hold me tight,/as I battle/this ongoing fight.

The Oil Vendor and the Courtesan
Feng Menglong, author
Ted Wang & Chen Chen, translators
Welcome Rain Publishers, LLC
532 LaGuardia Place, Suite 473, New York, NY 10012
1566491401, $25.00

Skillfully translated into English by Ted Wang & Chen Chen, The Oil Vendor and the Courtesan is a collection selected stories by Feng Menglong (1574-1646), during China's Ming dynasty. Merchants, scholars, housewives, magistrates, craftsmen, courtesans, abbots, nuns, and children populate these creative, witty, and insightful tales, which cover a surprisingly broad cross-section of Chinese life of the era, both urban and rural. As engaging for lay readers as it is for dedicated students of Chinese culture and literature, The Oil Vendor and the Courtesan is a wondrous work of classical literature, highly recommended. Readers hungry for more are sure to enjoy the previous anthology in the series, "Two Slaps" collecting more tales by Feng's contemporary, Ling Mengchu (1580-1644).

Susan Bethany

Betty's Bookshelf

When Skylarks Fall: A Joe Box Mystery
John Robinson
Cook Communications Ministries
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado, Springs, CO 80918
1589190548 $13.99

All too often, Christian fiction is syrupy, preachy, and ultra-religious, with salvation treated as an instant cure-all and Christians as perfect, squeaky clean wimps. That’s why I was delighted to discover John Robinson’s Joe Box mysteries. Joe Box (a P.I. who lives and works in Cincinnati, Ohio) came to know the Lord in his early fifties, after a life spent living hard and drinking to excess. Now, he’s struggling to overcome old habits and built new character traits, after a lifetime spent living for himself. It isn’t easy, but with the help of his church, the encouragement of a pastor who holds him accountable, and a desire to live up to what his girlfriend expects out of him, Joe’s becoming a new man in Christ.

Robinson gives poor Joe almost more than he can handle in When Skylarks Fall, though. First, a famous country singer needs Joe to find out why someone is harassing and stalking her, and she’s willing to pay top dollar. Joe’s good at what he does, true, but he’s by no means world- famous. Kitty Clark could afford anybody she wants. Why him? And the longer he works for her, the odder it seems. Why him? Who is Kitty Clark, anyway?

Then, Joe himself is targeted by the stalker, and Joe’s girlfriend Angela finally tells him something she’s been hiding about her past. As one secret after another blows up in Joe’s face, it’s all he can do to keep his mind on business long enough to get the job done. He needs to pay attention, though – someone wants to kill him, and separating the good guys from the bad guys isn’t as easy as it sounds.

In Search of Eden
Linda Nichols
Bethany House
Baker Book House
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516
0764201670 $13.99

Ever since Miranda Isabella DeSpain was forced to give up her baby at the age of fifteen, she’d been drifting, afraid to get involved in life, afraid to let herself get too close to anyone, for fear of losing yet another important person in her life. Now, as she approaches her 27th birthday, she’s wondering if she can finally settle down somewhere and recreate herself.

First, though, there’s a loose end she needs to take care of, in Abingdon, Virginia. Once in town, she meets Joseph North, the chief of police, an upright and dedicated man whose entire life is geared to performing his duty and taking care of those he loves. As he and Miranda get to know each other, he becomes suspicious of this woman who’s popped up out of nowhere, with no past history as far as he can tell and no real reason to be where she is.

Then, he discovers that Miranda has a baby picture of his fifteen-year- old niece, Eden. What does she want with Eden, and why is she hiding her past? Nichols tells the story with beautiful language and nicely-fleshed- out characters and ends it with a lovely twist. There are discussion questions in the back for reading groups that want to use In Search of Eden as a reading choice. This is Nichols’ first novel (although it doesn’t read like it), but I predict it won’t be her last.

Dream Jobs to Go: Book Reviewer
Deborah Bouziden, LCC
Dream Jobs To Go
6947 University Blvd., Winter Park, FL 32789
No ISBN $12.95 E-book

This ebook works just like a website, with clickable links and pop up email message blanks, but it also prints out nicely, for those who prefer reading on the fly (or in the tub). Oklahoma author Deborah Boudizen, who has written hundreds of reviews and several books, knows her topic and doesn’t pull any punches. She’s honest about the pay (slim to none, in most cases), the education and training required (usually also slim to none), and the pros and cons of reviewing. (My favorite? Stacks of free books that have to be read in a timely fashion – and from my reviewing experience, I’d say that it is both a pro and a con!)

Bouziden also interviews three other equally-honest book reviewers, who give a blow-by-blow account of their writing days, explain what they like and dislike about the job, and tell what they’d do differently if they were just starting out. Bouziden then explains how to break into the field, includes a list of resources (for those who want to know more), and offers a list of links that can be used to track down markets and locate new books to read and review. Finally, and possibly best of all, she offers a step-by-step outline of the reading and review-writing procedure.

If Bouziden’s book has one flaw, it’s that most of her information is geared to online markets and reviews. This didn’t surprise me – it is an ebook, after all - but it does give the reader the impression that the most important review markets are online. It’s true that many (probably most) websites depend on volunteered reviews and are always in the market for more. However, if you want to make any money at reviewing, you will need to look for better-paying markets (which are mainly print markets); at the most, what you’ll get from a majority of the online markets is a free book.

Of course, if you’re a bibliophile (and aren’t we all?), this is almost better than pay. To have someone send you a free book and all you have to do is read it and tell others what you think about it? Yes, please! This is why this is considered a dream job. And for bookaholics, free reading material means more money to spend on other stuff. Now, all you need to do is find a day job that’ll pay you to hold down the fort while you sit around and read….

The Literary Press and Magazine Directory 2006/2007
Council of Literary Magazines and Presses
Soft Skull Press
55 Washington St., Suite 804, Brooklyn NY 11201
1933368160 $19.95

From Rick Moody’s lapel-grabbing foreword to the Q&A sessions with top people in the literary field to the press listings themselves, this is a book that is meant to get you excited about the opportunities available in the world of independent publishing. It will also equip you to do something about it; it isn’t billed as “The only directory for the serious writer of fiction and poetry” for nothing.

The listings are in alphabetical order and include print magazines, online publishers, and small presses in the US, Canada, and England. Some publishers appear more than once, depending on which categories they fit into, and there are additional indices in the back that break listings down by geography, publisher type, writing genre (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, book reviews, translations, etc.) and methods of submission (unsolicited, simultaneous).

The listings themselves are very detailed and include contact information (including URLs that take you to previously published work), a sampling of published authors, reading periods, reporting time, author payment, circulation figures, format, and other helpful details. New in this edition: tips for success from leading editors, profiles of various publishers and editors, leading literary webzines, and a listing of Canadian literary publishers and journals.

The Q&A sessions interspersed throughout the book are especially helpful. For example, “Communicate with other writers you trust about where to send your work, and ask them if they think it is ready. Buy more books and read more. Revise. Shorten. Revise.” [Chris Fishbach, senior editor, Coffee House] Or “The single most effective way to improve your own writing skills is – in my opinion – to read LOTS of the best of the kind of writing you want to do. (Also, take notice: What publications do you like to read? Those might be good places to start sending your work since you and the editors obviously have shared tastes.)” [Kathleen Volk Miller, managing editor, Painted Bride Quarterly] If you want to succeed in the literary marketplace, adding this book to your collection will be a big help.

Betty Winslow

Bob's Bookshelf

Introduction to California Soils and Plants: Serpentine, Vernal Pools and Other Geobotanical Wonders
Arthur R. Kruckeberg
University of California Press
2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-1012
0520233719 $45.00 hc
0520233727 $18.95 pbk 1-510-642-9737

California boasts an abundance of endemic plants because of its rich geologic diversity. In "Introduction to California Soils and Plants" Arthur Kruckeberg looks at what he calls the "Kooky soils" that have shaped the state's rich flora.

This very readable book shows the patterns and relationships among rocks, vegetation, and plant species in areas as diverse as the Channel Islands, the Central Valley, and the High Sierras. You'll find 148 photographs (most in color), six maps, 11 line illustrations and 16 tables devoted to defining and explaining the state's natural wonder.

Using lively prose showing how geology shapes plant life, the author provides a geologic travelogue of California's unusual soils and land forms and their associated plants. Here's the perfect way to obtain a greater understanding of California's remarkable biodiversity.

Fantasy Baseball and Mathematics
Dan Flockhart
989 Market Street, Fifth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741
0787994433 $24.95 1-800-225-5945

Anyone involved in the education of a child realizes that the process of learning to read, write, or master mathematical concepts can be very challenging. Fortunately, there are some useful guides available that provide assistance to those who are involved in teaching these disciplines.

Focusing on the interest young people have in fantasy sports, Dan Flockhart has developed an innovative program that uses real world sports data to capitalize on this recreational pastime while teaching kids math.

"Fantasy Baseball and Mathematics" is a resource both parents and teachers will be interested in. Appropriate for students in the fifth grade and higher, this guide encourages the youngster to create his or her own fantasy baseball team. Then each week the newspaper or online resources can be used to locate the players' statistics in order to calculate the points earned by the team.

Preparation time is minimal once the game is set up and the youngster can play the game with friends or other family members. The book contains directions on how to select players, read box scores, collect data, and compute points.

Handouts or worksheets are provided for each step of the process. The mathematical concepts the game touches upon include graphing activities, working with fractions, linear equations, statistics, data analysis, and probability.

One of a new series of books, there are similar guides for football, basketball and soccer available. If you are trying to make math mastery more accessible and enjoyable for a young person, this approach is definitely worth a try.

Purpose Writing
Rebecca Browers Sipe and Tracy Rosewarne
361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801-3912
0325009554 $21.00 1-603-431-7894

"Purpose Writing" outlines a way to create a flexible writing framework that will meet the needs of older students. Designed for educators and parents who may be home schooling their children, this book presents a writing workshop model to fit the needs of a variety of adolescent learners.

Offering specific strategies that promote student engagement and providing day-by-day descriptions detailing two representative writing units, the authors' goal is to replace that "I hate writing essays" attitude with a more positive one. This field tested approach explains how to create conditions where genres can be explored and reluctant writers can increase their facility with many different types of material.

Best of California's Missions, Mansions and Museums
Ken and Dahlynn McKowen
Wilderness Press
1200 5th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-1306
0899973981 $21.95 (510) 558-1666

Ken and Dahlynn McKowen's "Best of California's Missions, Mansions, and Museums" profiles 135 historic and cultural landmarks throughout California. Rather than cover every historically significant venue, the authors identify and offer expert commentary on some of the most interesting destinations for experiencing the state's rich and eclectic past.

An interesting aspect of the book is that the authors visited the sites they include to "kid test" the exhibits and activities associated with each location. Besides highlighted "theme" itineraries, such as tours for kids, romantic getaways, and outings for the serious history buff, this well illustrated guide contains dozens of trivia questions about peculiar, historical and entertaining California facts.

Laid To Rest In California
Patricia and Jonathan Brooks
Insiders' Guide/Globe Pequot Press
P.O. Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
0762741015 $15.95 1-800-962-0973

"Laid To Rest In California" by Patricia and Jonathan Brooks offers a guide to the cemeteries and grave sites of the Golden State's rich and famous. The final resting places for sports legends, politicians, business titans, authors and movie stars are pinpointed here, along with a little information about each individual.

Besides details on the cemeteries' locations, visiting hours, and how to find the famous burial sites, the authors include information about related homes and nearby museums that might be of interest. In an unusual twist, sidebars recommend local restaurants for those who might have worked up an appetite during their cemetery trek.

After visiting John Steinbeck's grave at the Garden of Memories Memorial Park in Salinas, California, the authors suggest a stop at the downtown National Steinbeck Center and then lunch at the nearby Victorian Steinbeck House restaurant where the author's family once lived. Even if you don't plan on any field trips to these locations, detailed obituaries, sepulchral photos, and fascinating trivia make this an unusual but entertaining guide book.

You Know You're In California When…
Saul Rubin
Insiders' Guide/Globe Pequot Press
P.O. Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
076273745X $9.95 1-800-962-0973

In "You Know You're In California When…" Saul Rubin looks at 101 quintessential places, people, events, customs, lingo and eateries of the Golden State. From valley girls to veggie burgers, the Lone Cypress to Legoland, and the Haight-Ashbury to Hearst Castle, this book underscores what makes California such a unique and interesting place to live or visit.

To see where fiction and reality intersect the author suggests a walk through Monterey's Cannery Row, while the place to find people on horses shouting "Yahoo" is the California Rodeo Grounds in Salinas. After paging through this thin paperback you may wish to check out Bubble Gum Alley in San Luis Obispo. Or better still, drive a little farther south to feast on the barbecued tri tip at the Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe (just outside Santa Maria) or sample some aebleskiver in Solvang.

Bob Walsh

Buhle's Bookshelf

A Primer On Biblical Studies
John Paul Hozvicka
Trafford Publishing
2333 Government Street, Suite 6E, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8T 4P4
1412077079, $13.50 1-888-232-4444

An author, theologian, and expert in the Holy Scripts, John Paul Hozvicka sees to provide the non-specialist general reader with an informed and informative introduction to what the Bible has to teach us in "A Primer On Biblical Studies". The Bible as an ancient body of writings is presented in a context that includes antiquarian writing methods, manuscripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other sources of written records. Readers are also informed on how the canonization of the Bible came about. The apocryphal books that are a part of the Roman Catholic canon but excluded from the Protested canon are explained. Of special note are the chapters on 'The Language of the bible' and Biblical Reference Skills'. Very highly recommended reading for members of all Christian denominations and church affiliations, "A Primer On Biblical Studies" also covers analysis and criticism of biblical literature, the writings of the early church fathers, theology, apologetics, and the chronology of the Bible.

Mary: Shadow of Grace, new expanded edition
Megan McKenna
New City Press
202 Cardinal Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538
1565482603, $13.95

Written by teacher and theologian Mary McKenna, Mary: Shadow of Grace is a methodical examination of the life of Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, as told through scripture. Chapters quote passages of scripture and then discuss their nuance at length, offering historical, theological, spiritual, and even metaphorical interpretations of Mary, her relationship with God, and her role as Mother of the Savior. Now in a newly expanded edition, Mary: Shadow of Grace is as much an uplifting expression of worship as it is a methodical and scholarly study. "Theologically, the term 'virgin' is connected to the long history of Israel, which is characterized as the woman, wife, beloved of Yahweh, who is more often unfaithful, wanton, worshiping other gods and sacrificing to other powers and forces. But Mary is a virgin. She is faithful, not like Israel with its long litany of infidelities. Mary is not just an individual Jew, but the woman of the Jewish people; she receives the promise for a virgin people, with a pure, single-minded heart."

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Way We Were
Charles Dishno
Airleaf Publishing
419 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
159453957X, $14.95

The Way We Were: Growing Up in a Small Oregon Town Life as it was in the 40's &50's is the true-life memoir of author Charles Dishno, and his adolescence in the small town of Bly, Oregon. Peppered cover to cover with engaging anecdotes of small-town life a half-century ago, The Way We Were vividly brings memories alive, from fond remembrances of a sixteen-year-old friend who died tragically in an auto accident to the thrill of watching cowboy and Indian movies at matinee showings to the shocking day the fire house burned down and much more. A highly readable account of a bygone but not forgotten era.

The Scientific Worldview
Glenn Borchardt, Ph.D.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
Progressive Science Institute
PO Box 5335, Berkeley, CA 94705-0335
0595392458, $26.95

Written by Glenn Borchardt, Ph.D. (Director of the Progressive Science Institute, Berkeley, California), The Scientific Worldview: Beyond Newton and Einstein is more of a philosophy text than a science text. Questioning the twentieth century "scientific worldview" systems philosophy, which focuses too heavily upon systems and too little upon the influence of environments, "The Scientific Worldview" instead advances a system of "univironmental determinism" - a mechanism of evolution (not just Darwinian evolution, but all aspects of evolution) based on the fundamental axiom that whatever happens to something results from the infinite variety of matter in motion within and without. The ultimate logical extrapolation of the system is the predicate that the universe had no beginning and will have no end. The Scientific Worldview is most readily understandable by intermediate to advanced students and scholars of philosophy, though novice and lay readers willing to apply serious thought and study will be able to follow the complex tenets discussed. A revolutionary reexamination of longstanding conceptual assumptions about the base nature of life, the universe, and everything.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

The Shifting Sands
Layne West
1663 Liberty drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1425935281, $15.49

Written by Layne West (former Mayor of Oregon, Illinois), The Shifting Sands: An Epic Tale of Ancient Erotic Intrigue, Romance and Adventure is an erotically charged fantasy novel about a past world that could have been, when monsters ravaged humanity. One female monster in particular has devoted herself to devouring humans engaged in sexual congress, so as to prevent procreation; other monsters specifically seek to castrate men and ingest their seed. Virile men are a rarity, women are desperate for sexual partners, the widowed Queen is losing her mind, and the human race is in imminent danger of extinction. Passion, excitement, courage, violence, and raw, dripping sensuality bring The Shifting Sands to a red-hot boil.

The Right Hand of Allah
D.E. Dawning
BookSurge, LLC
5341 Dorchester Road, Suite 16, Charleston, SC 29418
1419634151, $18.99

Written by home designer and builder D.E. Dawning, The Right Hand of Allah is an action-packed novel about a counterterrorism agent thrust into an extraordinary position. When a terrorist bomb claims Kelly Rogers' life, he reawakens in the injured body of his Arab killer. Rogers is propelled into international counterterrorism intrigue, supported by two extraordinary women (one, the wife of his killer and the other his handler as well as possibly the most deadly woman alive) and hailed as a 'Chosen One' prophet who allegedly met with Allah in Heaven. A building vortex of action and adventure forms the heart of this fast-paced, thrilling odyssey.

The Adoption Mystique
Joanne Wolf Small, M.S.W.
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
Roberta Ross Public Relations (publicity)
PO Box 41016, Bethesda, MD 20824
1425961797, $28.95

Written by Joanne Wolf Small, M.S.W., The Adoption Mystique is not a general book about adoption, but rather a focused, politically-minded call for the civil rights of adoptees, specifically the right to access their own birth records and learn about their birth family's genetic heritage. Many American states deny adoptees the right to learn about their ancestry; others allow it under abrogated circumstances, and many subject those adoptees who inquire to rigorous interviews or worse, treating them practically as potential criminals. The Adoption Mystique examines fundamental myths endemic to the closed-adoption practice, debunks the claim that open birth records will lead more potential mothers to choose abortion over adoption (it hasn't in the two U.S. states that have always had open birth record laws), and calls vociferously for the civil rights of adoptees. The Adoption Mystique is uncompromising in its view that adoption should be a process that considers the rights of the adoptee over the wishes of the birth parents or adoptive parents in instances where no compromise is possible, examines bias against adoptees in the media and society, and debunks the myth that an adopted person is sundered of ties to their heritage, or that they should just "get over" the need to search for their birth record information. Strongly written and highly recommended.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

One... Two... Buckle My Shoe
P.K. Paranya
WhooDoo Mysteries/Treble Heart Books
1932695508 $13.50

Since the death of her daughter, Katharine Macklin has suffered from agoraphobia. Although Sergeant Richard Slater doesn’t believe in ESP, Katharine’s psychic abilities helped to find her daughter’s body and now Slater needs her help. A serial killer is on the loose, murdering young girls and leaving their untouched bodies wrapped in plastic, missing one shoe. Although Katharine is initially reluctant to help, she is pulled into the investigation when a small child named Bernie appears on her computer and shows her the shrine the killer erected with the missing shoes of the dead children.

Slater is frantic to find the killer yet Katharine holds close to her heart a promise Bernie extracted from her which reveals the motive behind the killer’s actions. As the investigation continues, she connects with the killer’s mind and tries desperately to figure out who the next victim is. Once the killer senses Katharine, he threatens her life and that of Slater’s small daughter Michelle. Despite warnings, Slater’s ex-wife doesn’t believe their daughter is in danger and Slater is torn between protecting his child and another the killer has targeted as the next victim. Although Katharine fears for her life, she cannot allow the killer to act again and begins a frenzied race to find and stop him before he can add another shoe to his collection.

Paranya provides an electrifying thriller here, allowing readers a peek into the mind of a serial killer and his twisted yet surprisingly comprehensible reasoning for murder. Nicely developed characters, plenty of psychological suspense, and a shocking twist at the end will leave readers thinking about this book for a good while.

The Nelson Scandal
Jackie Griffey
Airleaf Publishing
1600021336 $14.95

Pine County Sheriff Cas Larkin is investigating two homicides, one man killed by blunt force trauma, the other shot. Although there is nothing to tie the two men together other than they were both drug users, Cas suspects their murders are connected. Cas’s wife Connie becomes interested in Edgar T. Nelson, founding father of their small town of Maryvale, and his daughter Mary Lou. Rumor has it that after Mary Lou ran off to marry a Frenchman, Nelson shot himself and Mary Lou never returned home. Connie finds dated material about the Nelsons in the basement of the town’s library, and while exploring hears someone crying. However, no one else is in the basement with her. Strange things begin happening in the library and several people think it may be haunted. When a medium confirms this, Connie begins to investigate who might be haunting the library and why, which leads to past murders that tie into the present two her husband is investigating.

Griffey has written a highly entertaining story, incorporating small-town charm with loveable primary and secondary characters wrapped around two interconnecting mysteries. The Nelson Scandal is part of a series that promises to snag readers’ interests and not let go, with nicely developed characters, appealing locale, and the unique juxtaposition of a professional investigator paired with an amateur sleuth.

Bryce Christensen
Whiskey Creek Press
9781593747978 $12.95

Dave Lloyd has lived his life as an agnostic, unswayed by two very important persons in his life, both devout Christians: the man who saved his life during the Korean War and Dave’s wife Susan. Dave teaches at Dilthon High School, where his nephew Brad Porter is also a teacher and football coach. Brad is a tenacious man who does not believe in losing and will not accept defeat. When one of Brad’s players commits suicide after failing to score for the team, Brad doesn’t make an appearance at the boy’s funeral and seems unconcerned he is the reason for the boy’s death. But when Brad faces a personal tragedy, he becomes a different man and trades his position as football coach for that of cross-country. There, Brad coaches a bunch of stragglers, encouraging them to do their best to win but preaching that losing is a part of life. When Brad’s car veers off a road, causing his death, the town believes he committed suicide but an autopsy reveals otherwise.

Dave is a man who tends to stay in the background, observing and offering quiet advice to others. Throughout his life and following the deaths of several close family members, he has privately agonized over his doubts about God, but through the people who travel in and out of his life, he begins to find some measure of understanding and peace.

Powerfully written with in-depth characterization, Winning is itself a winner. Christensen’s philosophical style will appeal to all readers, along with prose delivered with a luring cadence that at times comes very close to poetic. A poignant, thought-provoking story providing a galvanizing look at family dynamics, inner struggles, and the impetus behind certain driven behaviors, this book will hold the reader’s attention until the end.

Paper Woman
Suzanne Adair
Whittler’s Bench Press
0978526511 $19.95

Widow Sophie Barton helps her father run his printing press and tries to stay out of politics in the small town of Alton, GA, which remains peaceful while redcoats and colonists clash in other parts of the colonies. Sophie’s father, however, has been acting mysterious and Sophie suspects he has aligned himself against King George. Although Sophie is being courted by the major of the British garrison, she isn’t so sure she wants to become his mistress and move to England with him. When her father’s burned body is discovered, Sophie is placed under house arrest with orders to decode a secret message meant for him. She escapes with Mathias, her former lover, and embarks South, accompanied by her brother and Mathias’s uncle, in hopes of finding the person who killed her father. Their trip turns into an electrifying journey as they traverse through Floridian swamps, sail along the Caribbean, and end up in Havana, Cuba, pursued by the major and his lieutenant, a demented man who enjoys torturing those who oppose him, as well as two Spanish assassins.

Adair takes her reader on a thrilling adventure with Paper Woman. Packed with action and breath-taking suspense interwoven around a fascinating time in American history, with the perfect blend of romance, this is an exhilarating story that will captivate the reader from beginning to end.

Christy Tillery French

Dawn's Bookshelf

Because She Can
Bridie Clark
Warner Books
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0446579246 $23.00

What would you endure to have everything you've ever dreamed of? In her first novel, Because She Can, Bridie Clark tackles the classic "overcoming adversity and cruel boss" trope, only she does it with tasteful flair and laugh-out-loud humor. Claire Truman's job is in jeopardy, her latest love interest turned out to be as much of a loser as the rest, and her best friend wants to drag her to a high society function when she'd rather sit on her couch and indulge in the deliciously cliché week-long obligatory break-up mope. After playing the socialite at the opening of an Art Gallery, Claire's life changes almost over night: she starts dating the very eligible bachelor Randall Cox (her college crush and previously dubbed "Pabst Blue Ribbon" by the friends) who sweeps her into the upper crust, and she takes a job with the a big name publishing house as an editor for the infamous Vivian Grant, rumored to be the most dangerous woman in publishing. After warnings from her mentor, family, friends, and colleagues, Claire weighs the potential benefits of doing her time at Grant Books and decides that career advancement in the competitive world of publishing is worth whatever Grant can throw at her. In the mean time, Claire's romance with Randall Cox moves on fast forward toward happily ever after—or so everyone thinks.

Because She Can certainly sets itself apart among the recently repopularized "boss is evil" genre, but this novel is not about glorifying the cruelty of an employer so much as it is about the strength, intelligence, and internal resilience of a woman able to capitalize on any opportunity presented to her—no matter how overwhelming. Whatever you do, don't let "Villainous Boss Malaise" keep you from this novel; if you do, you'll miss the differences that make this novel stand out so successfully—in fact, you'll miss the entire point. The heroine, Claire Truman, is not a naive greenhorn suddenly thrust into the scary world of executive business with a boss who Torquemada would applaud—she's an smart professional who accepts a job with a rumored tyrant with open eyes, and knowingly prepares herself for exactly twelve months of exhaustion, late hours, and psychological abuse all with the knowledge that regardless of the questionable stability of her boss, her term with Grant Books will further her career in ways that a lateral move in the field never could. Vivian Grant and her eccentrically cruel behavior are catalysts for story progression, true, but Claire's careful navigation through her balancing act between advancing in a career and thriving relationship is what makes this story and these characters so addictive. Claire dives in and learns everything she possibly can—good and bad—from Vivian Grant and her colleagues at Grant Books, while other heroines in this genre spend the length of a novel overcoming self esteem issues in regards to their career, body image, and personal worth. Clark's heroine recognizes her own potential before she accepts the position and even squares off with her future boss over her initial contract offer (much higher than Grant actually expected to pay out). Because She Can isn't a how-to guide on how to weather abuse for the good of your career—it's a treatise on knowing when enough is enough, in both the career and social worlds, and acting on it.

Because She Can is as much about deftly handling potentially explosive female working relationships as it is about translating those skills in a personal setting. Not only refreshing in its approach, Because She Can is genuinely funny and inspirational. Clark's Characters are memorable and carefully written to project their distinct personalities, and yet are so recognizable that it becomes difficult for readers not to see their own coworkers and friends in these roles. Each character—even odious Vivian Grant—is accessible. Because She Can manages to convey an uplifting message of self confidence and risk taking without bludgeoning the audience over the head—not an easy task in today's sound bite culture.

The Rose of York: Fall from Grace
Sandra Worth
End Table Books/Metropolis Ink
P.O. Box 682, Yarnell, AZ 85362
0975126490 $16.95

"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York."
Richard III, I.1.1-2

For all the disservice done to Richard III by Shakespeare, his opening lines of Richard III could do no more to accurately divine the shift in thought that Sandra Worth's trilogy seeks to influence about the last Plantagenet king of England. In "The Rose of York" trilogy (Love and War, Crown of Destiny and Fall from Grace), Worth joins the likes of Shakespeare, Sir Thomas More, Horace Walpole, Alison Weir, and Beth Marie Kosir in her contribution to the commentary about the most reviled king of the English monarchy. Unlike most of her colleagues from the Early Modern period, however, Worth is not writing to appease a crown; she has no sedition laws poised to censor her text; she isn't a mouthpiece of Tudor propaganda. Instead, Worth's historical fiction sets out to correct centuries of rumor, political attacks, and exaggerations that have molded the image of Richard III into a villainous, "bunch-backed toad."

In The Rose of York: Fall from Grace, Richard III is deeply in love with a woman, with the law, and with his quest to embody the ideals of King Arthur. Rather than displaying the Machiavellian suspicion that Shakespeare's villain thrives on, Worth's Richard III is too trusting and makes decisions based on the hope that the inherent good in his courtiers will outweigh their greed and opportunism. Unfortunately, the malicious scheming and plotting of individuals like Buckingham and Lady Beaufort consistently undermine the progress and general good that Richard III's new laws promote. Far from the traditional depiction of Richard III as a murderous opportunist, Worth's characterization of Richard highlights the villainy and cut throat tactics of those who would become the central core of the Tudor court.

In Rose of York: Fall from Grace, Richard is a handsome, athletic man who risks his own health to comfort his dying queen. He is a man touched by beauty and tragedy. He is a man who did not covet the title of King, but bore it with a raised awareness of responsibility and desire to change the world. Many historical fictions fall off the razor's edge and either inundate the reader with facts and dates, or dismiss historical accuracy altogether. Worth's Fall from Grace treads that ground carefully by giving Richard a voice that is idealistic and genuine—if not a little naive. Captivating description and real, recognizable dialogue act as a vehicle for not only historical accuracy, but a heartbreaking romance. Though readers will undoubtedly know the outcome of the story before they open the cover, Worth's skill as a storyteller heightens audience investment in the personal lives of these historical figures and makes their tragic ends more than just an historical laundry list of dates and names. The complex relationships of the medieval court of England become easily navigable through Worth's vibrant characterizations.

Attempting to overturn history is no small task. The complexities of court interactions and allegiances have always been convoluted, and the interpretations of those interactions have most often been told by those who had the most power. Thanks to Shakespeare, Richard III's legacy has been one of deformity, conniving, regicide, cruelty, megalomania, usurpation, and murder. When such a negative portrait has been painted (indeed, even physical portraits were altered to reflect propaganda spread by the Tudors to alter the legacy of Richard) and maintained for generations, persuading an audience to consider facts more closely can be a monumental undertaking. Luckily, Worth's intensive research brings together historical documentation and private correspondences to piece together the facts about Richard III's rise to power and his short reign. Most of these facts have been available to the public, but to get an audience with a set view to revisit those same facts for reconsideration is a decisive task. Not surprisingly, Worth tackles the public opinion and wrestles it into experiencing familiar facts from a new, creative point of view.

Through the parsing together of timelines, records, and documents that have survived over 500 years of threat and suppression, Worth manages to paint a picture of Richard III that stands in direct conflict with what most people are familiar. The text is far from a didactic gloss of historical dates, names and locations, but it manages to recreate the life of Richard III with such vivacity and personality that it will forever change the mental image of one of history's most hated monarchs.

Dawn M. Papuga

Debra's Bookshelf

Will Storr vs. The Supernatural
Will Storr
0061132195 $13.95

Journalist Will Storr wrote a piece for Loaded magazine about his experiences tagging along with a demonologist on a couple of errands--recording electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) in an allegedly haunted house in Baltimore, meeting with a suburban mother in New Jersey who is a habitual Ouija board user and may be possessed. Storr entered the project a skeptic, but he couldn't rationalize away everything he witnessed with the demon investigator. Will Storr vs. The Supernatural is the result of his decision to pursue the paranormal further. Storr's original article appears as the book's prologue. In subsequent chapters Storr details his further experiences: meetings with various groups of paranormal enthusiasts (such as the Scooby Doo-ishly named "Ghost Club"), a walk in the woods with a Druid, the few minutes he managed to stay in the most haunted room of Britain's most haunted house, an interview with a woman who, in her youth, was the central figure in a celebrated case of possession, an afternoon spent with the Vatican's chief exorcist. The stories Storr has to tell are at the least interesting. One, about an English pub said to be haunted by its former landlady, is downright chilling. And Storr's account in his last chapter of an alleged case of possession in Texas is horrifying--not because demons are on the loose but, alas, because humans are.

Happily, Storr never fully surrenders his skepticism. He isn't afraid to express doubts about the claims some of his interviewees make, if not in person then at least on the page, if not in bold type then subtly:

"'Hang on, he says, pausing with his duster and his can, 'I can hear sounds, like wooshing sounds.' His ear is cocked skywards. 'It's almost like windy conditions, even though it's not windy outside. Can you hear it?'

'Yes,' I say. 'Is it an aeroplane?'

'No, I don't think so,' he says. 'I heard it last night as well.'

We listen in silence as the aeroplane goes past."

Mostly, as in his report from the set of Britain's television series Most Haunted, Storr reports honestly on what he's observed and lets readers draw their own conclusions. He also considers possible scientific explanations for the ghostly phenomena he and others have observed, though in the end he finds that science in its current state cannot explain everything he's experienced. A fallen Catholic, he emerges from his research convinced that there is at least some kind of an afterlife awaiting us.

Storr's narrative is punctuated with some very nice bits of writing:

"I glance to my left through the window. There have been blizzards all down the eastern seaboard for the last three days. Fat whacks of snow cover the ground everywhere except the freeway. I pause for a second to watch the cars and trucks and monstrous articulated lorries bomb noisily through the night, all exhaust-steam and slipstream and white lights and red. And as I sit and look at the traffic, somewhere deep in my brain, a tiny alarm starts to sound. At this moment, I'm still barely aware of it. But I've just begun to sense that something isn't right."

Note that long fourth sentence in the example above, the repetition of the coordinating conjunction "and" slowing the reader after three short sentences in a row, the dactyls and rhyme after the comma. It's a sentence that begs to be reread.

Will Storr vs. The Supernatural is worth the read, because its subject matter is interesting and because Storr does a good job with it. Skeptics won't find his exploration of the paranormal convincing, I'm sure, but they should find it well-written, and possibly thought-provoking. I would only suggest that the author include in subsequent editions an index and some kind of documentation of sources and locations.

Secondhand Smoke
Karen E. Olson
Mysterious Press (Warner Books)
0892960256 $22.99

Secondhand Smoke is the second installment in Karen E. Olson's series of journalism procedurals. (See my review of Olson's Sacred Cows, the first book in the series.) Her protagonist, Annie Seymour, is a crime reporter for the New Haven Herald (the fictional stand-in for the author's former real-life employer, the New Haven Register). Annie lives in New Haven's historic Italian section, Wooster Square, the home of a great number of Italian restaurants, including a pair of nationally celebrated pizzerias. This time around her work keeps her close to home: an early-morning fire consumes the restaurant across from her brownstone, and a dead body is found in its ashes. The crimes bring the FBI, the mob, and Annie's enigmatic step-father to town. Annie investigates the arson and murder--her neighbors closing ranks to keep her in the dark about what's really been going on--while navigating an uncertain relationship with Vinnie DeLucia--marine biologist turned private eye--whom we encountered already in the first book of the series.

Annie is a hard-edged character, a bit foul-mouthed, callous and world-weary, and sick of her job after years of reporting on New Haven's criminal class. She seems to go to some trouble to hide her humanity from herself and others, but it's not clear to me precisely why she so armors herself. It's true that her relationship with her mother is strained, and her job as a reporter necessarily distances her from would-be newsmakers who don't want their peccadilloes showing up in the paper. The job contributes to Annie's identity as an outsider in her own neighborhood. But I'm not sure these sufficiently explain her cynical detachment. It would be nice, at any rate, to see her character develop some emotional nuance in subsequent outings.

Olson offers up a decent mystery her second time out, with a twist at the end you almost certainly won't see coming. And as with the first book--and as a New Haven native--I much appreciate that her series is so firmly rooted in the area: Wooster Square and the Q Bridge and Claire's Cornucopia figuring as backdrops this time around, Yale's Sterling Library and Sleeping Giant State Park in book one. I look forward to seeing where the next Annie Seymour mystery takes us.

Blue Shoes and Happiness
Alexander McCall Smith
Anchor Books
1400075718 $12.95

I've been wanting for some years to begin reading Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books. The series was begun in 1998, with another book added to it every year or two: the eighth book in the series, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, is due out in the U.S. this month (April, 2007). At last, woefully behind the author's prodigious output, I have stepped into the world of McCall Smith's creation, beginning with the seventh book, Blue Shoes and Happiness. I was worried that I might miss something by jumping into the series late, but I don't think I have: I was never left puzzled, at any rate, by any of the references in the book.

Having read McCall Smith's three books featuring Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld (Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, and At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances), I was expecting this better known series to be similarly charming and warm and well-written, and I was not in the least disappointed. The books, set in Botswana, feature Precious Ramotswe, a wise, "traditionally built" woman who has set herself up as a detective--after reading The Principles of Private Detection by Clovis Anderson--with a view to solving life's smaller problems:

"'Mma Ramotswe does not solve crimes. She deals with very small things.' To portray the smallness, Mma Makutsi put a thumb and forefinger within a whisker of one another. 'But,' she went on, 'these small things are important for people. Mma Ramotswe has often told me that our lives are made up of small things. And I think she is right.'"

She is assisted in this by Mma (the term of respect is pronounced "mah") Makutsi, a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College, and by Mr. Polopetsi, who is also employed by Mma Ramotswe's husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors.

A number of problems are brought to Mma Ramotswe's attention in the course of this book, not all of them in fact small--a case of blackmail, a doctor prescribing unnecessary medicine to his patients, and not least Mma Makutsi's concern that she has scared off her fiancé with talk of feminism. But even with so much on her plate there is time for Mma Ramotswe to sit and think and to drink bush tea, to reflect on the traditional ways of her country and on the traditional troubles afflicting man, to enjoy a drive in her tiny white van and the enormous pleasures afforded by other small things.

McCall Smith's book is imbued with humanity and homespun morality. It's a gentle, languorous read that I suppose might not be to everyone's taste but which I find delicious. McCall Smith offers a gentle look at the human condition in prose that is sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous, and always immensely readable:

"'No,' said Mma Makutsi. 'I do not think that you need to go on a diet.' She paused, and then added, 'Others may, of course.'

'Hah!' said Mma Ramotswe. 'You must be thinking of those people who hold that it is wrong to be a traditionally built lady. There are such people, you know.'

'They should mind their own business,' said Mma Makutsi. 'I am traditionally built too, you know. Not as traditionally built as you, of course--by a long way. But I am not a very thin lady.'"

The book is also a sort of love letter to Botswana, where the author taught law for several years (at the University of Botswana), and where he reportedly saw a woman, chasing a chicken around a yard, who would, years later, inspire the character of Precious Ramotswe.

"So it was in Botswana, almost everywhere; ties of kinship, no matter how attenuated by distance or time, linked one person to another, weaving across the country a human blanket of love and community. And in the fibres of that blanket there were threads of obligation that meant that one could not ignore the claims of others. Nobody should starve; nobody should feel that they were outsiders; nobody should be alone in their sadness."

With four series and nearly twenty novels under his belt--to say nothing of his children's books and short stories and his academic writing, more than fifty books all told--Alexander McCall Smith is an impressively prolific writer. Lucky for us.

By the Time You Read This
Giles Blunt
Henry Holt
0805080619 $19.95

John Cardinal and his wife Catherine live on a quiet street in Algonquin Bay, an idyllic, lakeshore community in Northern Ontario (and a stand-in for the author's real-life hometown of North Bay, Ontario). Cardinal is a detective with the Algonquin Bay police department. Catherine is a photographer and teaches at the local community college, and she is a manic depressive. The couple's happy, nearly thirty-year marriage has been punctuated by Catherine's hospitalizations for depression, but when the story starts she has been out of the hospital for a year--taking her medicine and seeing a psychiatrist regularly. Still, it hardly comes as a shock to most of Blunt's characters when Catherine turns up dead, an apparent suicide. Cardinal himself doesn't seriously question the coroner's finding on the matter until he receives an anonymous "sympathy" card gloating over her death. Other pieces of evidence--but nothing definitive--also begin to suggest that Catherine's death was not a suicide, and Cardinal, on leave from the department, investigates the matter quietly. Friends on the force assist him on the sly, though under orders not to waste police resources on a closed case. Other cases under active investigation compel more of their attention, however, and in fact wind up being connected to Catherine's death--though not in a way that readers are likely to anticipate.

By the Time You Read This is Giles Blunt's fourth novel featuring Detective John Cardinal, though it's the first I've read in the series. The book reads like a standalone novel, which I mean as a compliment: I never felt like I was entering Cardinal's life mid-story; there were no awkward references to past cases thrown in to connect this installment up with previous books. The mystery of Catherine's death is not easily unraveled: the evidence Cardinal uncovers leads him to erroneous conclusions, and the reader is likely to be misled as well. Blunt's principal bad guy is an unusual character, with unusual motivations. His identity is revealed to us not quite halfway into the book, and when it comes the subtle revelation is downright chilling.

Pausing to think about Blunt's villain after my manic rush to reach the end, I'm not sure that he's a realistic character, but I was certainly able to suspend disbelief long enough to finish the book. By the Time You Read This is a real page-turner.

It Might Have Been What He Said
Eden Collinsworth
Arcade Publishing
1559708123 $23.95

Eden Collinsworth's It Might Have Been What He Said begins with an arresting first paragraph:

"Isabel could remember the precise moment she tried killing her husband. Strangely enough, she couldn't recall why."

The lines suggest what sort of a story might follow: layers of mystery and deceit to be unwrapped, and pieces of Isabel's mental puzzle connecting to form a clearer image of the events that precipitated the story's violent climax. But that's not what happens. The book tells the story of Isabel's marriage to James, an account that encompasses forays into their respective childhoods. Isabel's was something out of a gothic novel (so even the author tells us), with a distant father who communicated almost exclusively through New York Times clippings, an undemonstrative, mentally ill mother, and a by-the-book nanny. James is the scion of an aristocratic but money-poor Virginia family. James' principal problem is that he's fiscally irresponsible. Isabel's principal problem is James. Their marriage should never have happened, should not have lasted for as long as it did, and when it fails no one should be surprised. As for the book's first lines, their promise is never paid off: Isabel, as it happens, eventually regains her memory of the event without any trouble at all, and the attempted murder, when it's finally detailed to us, proves to be anticlimactic. Since it amounts to nothing in the end, it becomes apparent that Isabel's memory lapse is merely a device used to delay the narration of the dramatic scene.

It's difficult to become emotionally invested in Collinsworth's story. That Isabel and James' marriage ends badly is hardly a tragedy. And Collinsworth's characters are not credible: James is impossibly egocentric and shallow, Isabel impossibly self-possessed (though not, admittedly, when she tries to kill James), and their son Burgo impossibly precocious. Here, for example, is a conversation between Isabel and Burgo when he was perhaps five or six years old:

"'Can you think of fictional icons as symbols of something real?'

Finally, Burgo decided to give his mother a graceful way out. 'Yes, I can think of other examples.'

'They are?'

'Well, Batman is fiction. Ulysses might have been real, but the Cyclops wasn't.'

'The waiter in the Greek coffee shop near my office has a kind of Cyclops unibrow,' said Isabel. She realized she was digressing when she saw her son's impatient look. 'I believe Ulysses was real. Ten years and countless hardships later, he was still trying to return to his wife. Women like to put men to the test, my dear. When your time comes--and it will, Burgo--try to do the right thing.'

Burgo ignored his mother altogether.

'Even in our own family, there is fiction and fact,' he pointed out resolutely.


' are fact; and Papi is fiction,' Burgo explained."

There are also episodes in the book that have no apparent purpose--the family's brief move to Los Angeles, their problems with an (impossibly) unpleasant neighbor. Even Isabel's extra-familial relationships--with her colleague John and with reclusive literary agent Monina--add very little to the story. Collinsworth's book has garnered a good deal of praise--Susan Cheever alone calls it "thrilling," "compelling," "gripping," "readable," and "shimmering"--so perhaps I'm missing something. But I left disappointed.

Debra Hamel

Eric's Bookshelf

Skydog: The Duane Allman Story
Randy Poe
Backbeat Books
600 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
0879308915 $24.95

Despite his short career Duane Allman is one of the most influential slide guitarists in music history. In “Skydog” Randy Poe details the career of Allman from his days in the clubs to his session work for other artist to the glory days of the Allman Brothers Band. Using interviews with former band mates and friends as well as the few interviews conducted with Duane himself, Poe constructs a detailed account of Allman’s life and the effect he had on the music. Poe also includes a detailed discography and for the gearheads in the audience, a detailed section on the guitars of Allman.

Pressing On: The Roni Stoneman Story
Roni Stoneman and Ellen Wright
University of Illinois Press
1325 South Oak Street, Champaign, IL 61820-6903
0252074343 19.95

Most people know of Roni Stoneman not by name, but by the character she played for many years on Hee-Haw, The Ironing Board Lady. The character was crusty, unkempt, loud and a little on the hateful side at times - in other words the complete opposite of Roni Stoneman herself. In “Pressing On” Stoneman recounts her life growing up in the Appalachians mountains to a family that had tasted fame and seen it slip away in the Depression (her father, Ernest V. “Pop” Stoneman was one of the earliest hillbilly artists recorded, pre-dating the Carters and Jimmie Rodgers by a couple of years). The book, as is noted in the foreword, is a transcript of an oral history. The text reads as if Stoneman was sitting with you and telling you the often heartbreaking story of her life. Suffering cruelty from other kids and abuse from husbands, Stoneman persevered and in the end the story is one of determination and hope.

Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry
Holly George-Warren
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
0195177460 $20.00

Gene Autry is arguably the most successful and popular singing cowboy of all time, despite the attempts of studio heads to replace him with Roy Rogers and bury Autry’s career when he made the decided to go off to serve the country during wartime. That story and a host of others are included in this exhaustively documented and researched book. George-Warren does an impeccable job of presenting the facts of Autry’s life and career detailing his early attempts at making records through his most successful periods. Autry served as an inspiration to many legendary country music performers through the years. Artist like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash spent their childhoods in front of movie screens dreaming of riding alongside Autry and singing his songs as they made their way in to music history with songs of their own. For fans of the singing cowboy, country music or general pop culture this book is highly recommended.

Shout, Sister, Shout: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Gayle F. Wald
Beacon Press
25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-2892
0807009849 25.95

As time moves us farther from the roots of the music we listen to today influential artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe can slide in to obscurity. In “Shout, Sister, Shout” Gayle Wald makes a case for Tharpe’s place in music history, a place that has often been overlooked due to the often racist and sexiest revisionist history that often surrounds music history and the history of rock ‘n’ roll in particular. With her exuberant singing style and great guitar playing Tharpe influenced artists from Johnny Cash to Little Richard, Ginger Baker to Bonnie Raitt. Books like this will help rewrite music history in the coming decades.

Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man, an Unauthorized Biography
George Case
Hal Leonard
19 West 21st Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10010
1423404076 25.00

In this unauthorized look at the life and career of the enigmatic founder of Led Zeppelin, George Case produces the first biography of Jimmy Page. Beginning with Page’s childhood Case builds a narrative that unravels many of the mysteries that surround Page and his music and his fascination with the Occult. Stories of the band’s formation and Road stories of Led Zeppelin’s early tours offer insight into the music and creativity Page.

The Rockabilly Legends: They Called It Rockabilly Long Before They Called It Rock and Roll
Jerry Naylor
Hal Leonard
19 West 21st Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10010
142342042X $35.00

“The Rockabilly Legends” is a large formatted book featuring the early popular Rockabilly founders: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. Author Jerry Naylor, who became the lead singer of the Crickets after Holly’s untimely death, provides an interesting book that intertwines sentimentality with biography as he talks personally about each of these Rockabilly principles. Historically speaking there isn’t much new information in the book, but Naylor offers a lot of great personal insight into the lives and careers of these legends. Beautifully laid out, the book includes great pictures of the early Rockabilly artists designed in an artful and attractive way. The book also includes a DVD which includes an hour long documentary that covers much of the same territory as the books and features interviews with Cowboy Jack Clement, Kris Kristofferson, Sam Phillips and others as well as performance clips from the artists.

To Live’s To Fly: The Ballad of the Late, Great Townes Van Zandt
John Kruth
Da Capo
Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
0306815532 $26.00

Townes Van Zandt has long been heralded one of the greatest songwriters in any genre of music and in “To Live’s To Fly” John Kruth examines the life behind the artistry. Thoroughly researched, the book features stories from many of the people closest to Van Zandt including his son, ex-wives, band mates and devotees such as Steve Earle. Kruth does an excellent job looking beyond the legend and stories of Van Zandt’s self-destructive behavior to show the man and where he came from.

Eric Banister

Gary's Bookshelf

Captive Audience
William Hatfield
Publish America
1413728111 $24.95

I don't read much of the new science fiction because many of the authors have lost sight of the fact good sf is about characters, conflicts, and stories that have a beginning, middle and an end. So many of them are too busy dealing with the science and not much else. I am glad to say this novel is a fast paced read with characters involved in numerous conflicts with a story that at first seems illogical but once you get into it is very plausible because he makes you believe aliens are real and that the passengers of the cruise ship Jade Viking have been taken prisoner. He also sets up many conflicts on how the earth people fight back. This novel should have had a mainstream publisher because so many readers will never find this excellent sci fi novel.

Short Straw
Stuart Woods
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
039915683 $25.95

Stuart Woods is one of the best in the business for holding the reader all the way through. This time he brings back a character from "Santa Fe Rules" I think the thing I like most about Woods' tales is that he starts with a simple premise and provides many different twists and turns until the end. Attorney Ed Eagle wants to get a divorce from his wife. He sends a detective down to Mexico to get her to sign papers that Eagle will file. What happens are so many plot lines and turns that add to the interest of the novel. The wife Eagle thought he knew is nothing like he thought. I gobbled this one and was rewarded with interesting characters that read at a breakneck pace.

Battlestar Galactica the Cylons' Secret
Craig Shaw Gardner
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765355175 $6.99

The author tells a story that takes place before the current war with the Cylons. The relationship between Adama and Tigh is revealed for the first time as the story unfolds quickly and adds to the "Battlestar Galactica" universe. So often novels of TV shows are turned out so quickly, one thing forgotten is quality. That is not the case with the "Battlestar Galatica novels I have read so far. They are all well written and fast paced that fit in with the Sci Fi series.

Mighty Mite 3: Good Mites, Bad Mites
Tao Nguyen
The Amazing Factory LLC
0979030234 $14.95

Each of these books has a deeper message than just the kid's story. The book is easy to get into and also see the symbolism behind it. The series is fun and this one reveals more of the background of the main character. The colorful artwork adds to the story. I look forward to seeing the next book in the series.

Before You Imagine, Forget All You Know
Philip Lee McCall II
Mythis Studios Inc
1411689895 $19.95

The author has writings in several different forms. There are poems that are biting satire, prose that is sinister, and some short stories of dark horror. Pay particular attention to the tale about Jack and Jill. He has a new slant to "Mother Goose" stories. They are some of the best of his writings because he depicts with very few words long lasting images.

The Smallest Toy Store
Regina N. Lewis
Illustrated by P. M, Moore
CyPress Publications
P.O.Box 2636, Tallahassee, Florida 32316-2636
0967258588 $12.95

I liked how the author and the illustrator complimented each other's work to tell the story of this very magical Christmas tale that has the underlying theme of being homeless. Kids books don't usually tackle dark subjects like this. The author has done a fine job of keeping this as a charming work for children.

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant Cookbook
William King, compiler
Rick Schafer, photographer
Arnica Publishing Inc
3739 SE Eighth Ave Suite 1, Portland OR 97202
0974568651 $19.95 503 225-9901

The owners of one of the most successful restaurants now show why their food is so well loved. There are many recipes of seafood dishes very few eateries have. Readers are treated to many wonder treats that can now be made at home. They have many ways to prepare shrimp, lobster, crab, fresh fish, and awesome desserts. The book is a food lover's extravaganza.

Daddy's Girl
Lisa Scottoline
Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060833149 $25.95

I think this is one of the best novels I've read by this author. As the narrative begins, Natalie Greco a professor of law is caught up in a riot at a prison. She is later accused of killing a cop and has to hide out until she can prove her innocence. Along the way are many interesting characters and numerous conflicts. Scottoline is a master of the legal thriller and it's easy to see why with this one. The pacing is brisk until the final pages in which the author pulls every one of the twists and turns together into a very satisfying ending.

The Only Suspect
Jonnie Jacobs
Kensington Publishing Corp
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
0786016698 $6.99

Strange things just keep happening to Dr. Sam Russell who was accused and acquitted of the murder of his first wife in the Boston area. Now seven years later in California his new wife is missing. Police think he is involved especially after learning of his past. Logically he is the first suspect anyway because many times it is the husband. It is only at the end of the novel that the reader finds out if he is or not. Jacobs pulls the reader in and doesn't let go until the final buildup conclusion. She moves the story along at a fast pace until her surprising ending. I've read many of her other books and feel this is the best one so far. This novel would make a great movie.

Mr Monk and the Blue Flu
Lee Goldberg
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451220137 $6.99

Mr. Goldberg is a perfect choice to write the Monk series of novels based on the hit TV show because he has written episodes of the series. He knows the characters very well and tells stories that would make great episodes. I loved how Monk never understood the term blue flu. Cops of the San Francisco police department go on strike. The mayor has a meeting with Mr. Monk. Monk is given his rank back at the department. He is to take over the job of Captain Stottlemeyer who is on strike. One thing leads to another as Monk is caught up in so many cases that he has to take charge of the command and delegate. The story is funny at times and also a good mystery. I also like how Goldberg once again tells the tale through the eyes of Natalie. Monk is a fun series and Goldberg does a great job of translating the show to novel form.

American Outrage
Tim Green
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10169
044657743X $24.00

I liked how Green takes the reader through the world of television journalism. Jake Carlson who works on the trash TV show American Outrage is used to digging into the dirt for the truth of a story. He learns firsthand what its like to be on the other side when his adopted son requests him to find out who his real mother is. Carlson sets into motion a series of events that get him bumped off the show, attacked by some Mafioso hit men who try to prevent him from learning the truth. The author gives generous doses of suspenseful situations with a set of characters who are very realistic.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Hot Rocks: A Nick Hoffman Mystery
Lev Raphael
Perseverance Press
P. O. Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
1880284839 $14.95 800-662-8351

Nick Hoffman, the protagonist in this wonderful series by Lev Raphael, discovers that the man near him in the steam room is not sleeping, but dead. Nick is a member of the gym [actually a palatial complex complete with restaurant and various courts for basketball, tennis and the like] where Vlado Zamaria, the victim, was head of personal training. Vlado is described as having a perfect body and ‘Byronic hair, ironic eyes,’ and Nick muses, ‘In this vast temple of health, he was a god. What could have brought him down from his pedestal?’ But it seems as though there is no lack of suspects: “He was young, hot, horny, and his clientele were mostly bored, rich, middle-aged women.” However, since Nick was th e one who discovered the body, he is seen as a prime suspect, and he goes about trying to ferret out the identity of the murderer. He realizes that the murder was ‘probably committed by someone I had spoken to, or even lived near to.’

The novel is, as one would expect from this author, filled with sly wit and sharp observations that make one smile and nod and occasionally say to oneself ‘Of course!’ It also contains ready asides, quotes and allusions to history, music and the arts – visual, film, literary – that are as good as the mystery at the heart of the book. Which is very good indeed.

Sleeping with Strangers
Eric Jerome Dickey
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0525949992 $24.95 800-847-5515

A man whose latest identity is, simply, “Gideon,” is the protagonist in this newest novel by Eric Jerome Dickey is a young black man who has been a paid killer since childhood. The book follows him through various cities in the US and on to London and other parts of Europe, going wherever the contracts take him. We are introduced also to the various women in his life, some having staked out places there over the years, such as Arizona, the Filipina woman who is his contractor from time to time, and Thelma, the woman he hates and whose death he vows to bring about and with whom he is obsessed, an elusive figure whose place in his life is only explained in the latter parts of the book, as well as two intriguing woman who are seated in the seats surrounding his on a transatlantic flight.

I was disappointed with this book on a number of counts: The action bounces around in time and place, disorienting this reader. I felt the language to be self-consciously and gratuitously vulgar, employing a quantity of sex bordering on the erotic as well as much use of ‘black’ street talk, idiom and references which for the most part went right over my head. I found the writing pretentious at times: “contemplation is prelude to commission,” “desire is a beast that must be fed,” and awkward at others, e.g., “he never spied my way,” and describing how a man “went and looked” in a room.

On the positive side, Gideon is an interesting protagonist, and there is plenty of action, treachery and excitement. The author is apparently very successful, having been on the NY Times bestseller list nine times, and the publisher is planning to bring out the rest of Gideon’s story in the sequel to this novel, entitled Waking with Enemies, in August. As to that, the conclusion of the present book leaves several key issues unresolved, which one assumes will be wrapped up in the next book.

The Woods
Harlan Coben
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0525950125 $26.95 800-847-5515

The very first mental picture given to the reader in the prologue of The Woods is of 18-year-old Paul “Cope” Copeland, watching his father in the titular woods, savagely striking a shovel blade into the ground while tears course down his face. Digging. The background is this: Two young couples sneaked into the woods at a summer camp where Paul worked as a counselor. They were never seen alive again, the bodies of one of the gi rls and one of the boys having been later found with their throats slashed and the remaining two, one being Paul’s teenage sister, never having been found. At one point Paul had become a suspect in the investigation. Ultimately the supposed killer, another counselor at the camp, was tried and convicted and is serving his sentence, though he has maintained his innocence.

Twenty years later, Cope is now the county prosecutor in Essex County, New Jersey, with political ambitions beyond that position. When a police investigation into a murder committed in New York City turns up evidence linking the victim to Cope, the police come to question him, and the media spotlight that has never really left him for two decades once more finds him. Cope’s present life is a fractured one: His father has recently died, his mother having disappeared many years previously when apparently she could no longer handle the uncertainty surrounding her daughter’s fate, his wife died five years ago from cancer and he has been ra ising their six-year-old daughter alone. And now once again that tragic event from so many years ago is about to ensnare him.

A parallel story line deals with the high visibility trial Cope is in the midst of, the most important of his career, with a Duke University-like rape case involving some of the wealthiest and most influential families in the city, who will go to any lengths to protect their sons, including threatening the prosecutor with unearthing any skeletons in his or his family’s closets. And everything revolves around and comes back to the woods.

As one character muses, “We all find our ways to cope, to adapt and survive,” and The Woods demonstrates exactly how true that is.

This was a book I couldn’t put down. It was not an action tale such as that woven so well by a Lee Child or Barry Eisler, as wonderful as those authors are, but a story so gripping that this reader raced along literally turning pages as quickly as I could because I had to find out what happens next. The ending is a shocker – although all the clues had been there, most of it only dawned on me one page before the author divulged it. But even then he had still another twist to deliver. Mr. Coben has written a novel as good as anyth ing he’s done before, and that’s saying quite a lot.

Deadman’s Switch
Barbara Seranella
Thomas Dunne Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
031236170X $23.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

Charlotte Lyon makes for an intriguing protagonist in Deadman’s Switch, the last book written by Barbara Seranella, published posthumously. Charlotte is a crisis manager with a 100% success record who suffers from OCD and has been recently widowed. She specializes in crisis response strategies, p.r., litigation support and investigation, and when there is a train derailment in Riverside County, CA, following which one passenger and the engineer are found dead, the rail line’s attorney hires Charlotte on its behalf.

The reader knows from the outset that this was no accident, and soon is told that there was an accomplice, an inside connection. Whatever his agenda, it becomes clear that the killer is determined not to let anything, including Charlotte, interfere with his plans. Charlotte meets and works with Todd Hannigan of the NTSB, and a growing attraction becomes apparent as the investigation proceeds. Somewhat controlled by meds, her quirks only serve to make her more endearing, Monk-like. She has a fascinating background, some explained and others only hinted at, including a period of time when she, her sister and their mother were in the Witness Protection Program, providing a tantalizing glimpse into what the future books in this planned series would have further delved into.

Wonderfully written, filled with suspense, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book, though at the risk of sounding maudlin, I must confess the underlying poignancy I could not escape while reading the novel, and the sadness which almost overshadowed my pleasure in the book at the almost overwhelming sense of the life and talent lost all too soon. For those who may not know, Barbara Seranella passed away much too young in January of this year, and she is, and will be, missed

What’s So Funny
Donald E. Westlake
Grand Central Publishing [formerly Warner Books]
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0892968036 $24.99 800-759-0190

What’s So Funny brings the welcome return of John Dortmunder in this, the 13th entry in the series. For those who have not previously had the pleasure, he is described by one man who is recommending his services to another thusly: “John here is just about the best you can get. He’s a thief when he wakes up in the morning, and he’s a thief when he goes to sleep at night. An honest thought has never crossed his brain. If he were any more crooked, you could open wine bottles with him. In his early days he did some time, but he’s learned how to avoid that now. I gu arantee him to be the least trustworthy, most criminal scalawag you’ll ever meet.” With that testimonial, John is hired – sort of. In the carrot-and-stick manner, he is kind of being blackmailed by a former cop [the one giving the referral above] into working for the man to whom his “praise” is given, the assignment being to “retrieve” a gold and jewel-studded chess set once intended as a birthday gift for the last Romanov czar – long story. Reluctantly, John and his cronies embark on their mission, which is fraught with peril.

The author’s “caper” novels have long been enjoyed and appreciated, and this offering is equally worthy. Dortmunder’s “faithful companion,” May, is on hand to, among other things, “pull John out of the clutches of despair and goose him into forward motion once more. After all, it isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s just you have to be in the goddamn game.” It is a book where one of its characters works for a law firm named Feinberg, Kleinberg, Rhineberg, Steinberg, Weinberg and Klatsch, there is a cop named Mologna, pronounced Maloney [think about it for a second], and where Dortmunder finds out the difference between being an independent contractor and an employee [besides the health benefits, retirement or softball team]. The answer to the titu lar question is, reliably, Donald E. Westlake and John Dortmunder.

Blood Matters
Taffy Cannon
Perseverance Press
P. O. Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
1880284863 $14.95 800-662-8351

Blood Matters is Taffy Cannon’s 14th novel and the second in her Roxanne Prescott series. Roxanne, a fourth generation copy, is with the San Diego Sheriff’s Dept., self-described as the lowest detective on the Homicide totem pole. As the book opens, she is called to the scene of a murder, the victim being the head of a La Jolla, CA firm named Adoption Central. He had been an inveterate if not compulsive collector, and was beaten to death with an item from one of his collections, to wit: a Michael Jackson statuette. His company provided services, mostly investigative, assisting people in locating their birth parents as well as handling actually adoptions, many of them international, the newest expansion of his enterprise dealing with the use of frozen embryos by those with fertility problems. Apparently nearly universally loved, it is up to the cops to discover who was the exception to that rule.

The novel is a good old-fashioned police procedural, with the only violence the murder around which the plot revolves, and virtually no profanity; though not at all something one would describe as a cozy, this is a novel with good characterizations, plotting and a satisfying whodunit. The descriptions of police work and routines sounded to this reader authentic and realistic, and unlike TV depictions thereof. Blood Matters is a good read, and is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

A Short History of Nearly Everything
Bill Bryson
Broadway Books
A division of Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
076790818X $16.95

Bryson takes a look at all of the major subjects in science with the feel and enthusiasm of a gifted middle school student. You sense the youthful discovery of the vast world with his narrative. It is the rare author who can bring the joy of new discovery into a text.

There is a fine line between brilliance and insanity. Bryson looks at the great scientists in history and brings them to earth with their very human foibles. In some respects, this book is a series of biographies stitched together by scientific history. We frequently place great scientists as mythic intellects. Finding the greed, sloth and everyday strangeness in them, makes them understandable to us.

This is a book for the lay person. It explores the intricacies of science by simplifying them into easily digestible chunks. Bryson does a great job in this. But because the science is simplified, some of its real beauty and truth gets hidden. In broad terms, it covers the known scientific history of the universe, the world and us. The missteps, mistakes and fumbles of physics, chemistry, biology and geology are covered as well as the amazing insights and advances.

'A Short History of Nearly Everything' is a must read. The average person will understand science and the current scientific awareness of the universe better while the scientist will both enjoy the misadventures of those who have worked before and learn some of the skills needed to explain their work to friends and neighbors. It is a book that is fun to read and brings understanding. What can be better in a book?

Prior Bad Acts
Tami Hoag
Bantam Books
A division of Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY
055358359X $7.99

Hoag writes good action mysteries. With 'Prior Bad Acts,' the action is stronger than the mystery. It is a robust story that is well balanced with action.

Karl Dahl is on trial for a murder spree that was so violent and brutal that the detective investigating the killings is forced into psychiatric counseling. Judge Carey Moore makes a ruling that prior bad acts of Dahl's can not be used in the trial and the public reacts in anger. On her way to her car after the ruling, Judge Moore is brutally assaulted. Detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska are assigned her case. In spite of thinking she deserved the beating, they start their investigation. Before they get a chance to finish their first interview with the judge, Karl Dahl escapes from prison. The suspects start to pile up on the assault case when Moore is abducted with the police in front of her home. The search for the escaped killer and whoever assaulted the judge blends together with the even more immediate problem of the kidnapping.

'Prior Bad Acts' is a complex layered story that creates a web of intrigue for the reader to enjoy. The suspects are numerous with abundant hidden agendas. The actual who-done-it is a little easy to pull from the complex story but the action keeps everything interesting to the end. 'Prior Bad Acts' is a book for any mystery or action reader to look for.

S.A. Gorden

Greenspan's Bookshelf

When My Fiddle's In The Case
Johnny Frigo
Lost Coast Press
155 Cypress Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
1882897854, $35.00 1-800-773-7782

"When My Fiddle's In The Case: The Poetry And Paintings of Jazz Violinist Johnny Frigo" is a compendium of verse and artwork by a master musician and a gifted poet. Johnny Frigo (now 85 years old) has played with the Jimmy Dorsey Band in the 1940s, and made a career of playing the bass in Chicago's commercial/studio jazz scene. He performed with excellent at the Umbria Jazz in 2002 and 'brought the house down' with his own 1946 classic composition 'Detour Ahead'. Multitalented, Frigo is an accomplished jazz violinist and a gifted painter. "When My Fiddle's In The Case" combines Frigo's impressive paintings with his equally impressive poetry to create a collection of word and image that undeniably documents an impressive and enduring talent. 'The Inlet': The inlet wore the stratus cloud/Like a gossamer silken gown,/When the sudden dip of/Oar disrobe it nude.//Then for a while it shimmered/In flashing sequin sparks/But soon relaxed and donned again/The Gown the rapist skewed.

A Studied Impression of That Which Is
R. Garner Brasseur, M.D.
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0533153654, $17.95 1-212-736-1767

Written by R. Garner Brasseur, M.D., A Studied Impression of That Which Is offers a unique examination of human history from a metaphysical perspective, exploring humankind's psychological makeup and ability to reason, as well as sexual behaviors and cultural impact upon social order. From defining the conditions that set the stage for experience, such as self-conception and mortality, to exploring religious impact on human history from the monotheism practiced by Zoroaster the Pharaoh to the New Testament and more, to observing the recurring theme of empires being lost to decay, to why divorce rates seem to be at such an all-time high in the modern world, A Studied Impression of That Which Is explores fundamental concepts with scholarly rigor and gifted insight. "When the life expectancy of individuals was 25 or 35 years, and when women commonly died in childbirth, there was plenty of reason why those 'marriages' may have been more stable... One could more easily endure living with a bad choice in the course of a very short and very busy life; less probably in longer lives of greater leisure where there was ample time to ruminate upon the unsatisfactory aspects of the arrangement." An excellent contribution to metaphysical studies shelves.

Able Greenspan

Harwood's Bookshelf

What Jesus Meant
Garry Wills
Penguin Group
375 Hudson St, NY 10014
0670034967 $24.95

What Paul Meant
Garry Wills

Why I Am a Catholic
Garry Wills
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Avenue South, NY 10003
0618134298 $26.00

When Garry Wills wrote What Jesus Meant, he had no intention of proving that godworship is a contagious form of insanity that destroys the ability to engage in rational human thought and reach only those conclusions that are compatible with the evidence. That was just the way it turned out.

Wills’ Foreword, “Christ Not a Christian,” eliminates the most charitable explanation for his doublethink rationalizations, that he did not actually read the Christian testament and therefore bases his conclusions on what he has been told by his brainwashers. Wills not only cites passages that portray Jesus as a thoroughly repulsive, conscienceless monster, and acknowledges that, “The Jesus of the gospels is scandalous” (p. xxiii); he adds comments that prove he recognizes the passages for what they are: “If relatives seek access to a Christian, should we say that he has no relatives but his followers? … Some Christians place a very high value on the rights of property, yet this [sending devils into a herd of pigs] was a massive invasion of some person’s property and livelihood … tell others to hate their parents … whip the persons holding out collection plates.”

Wills acknowledges that, “These are just a few examples of the way Jesus acts in the gospels.” But he doublethinks that, “They were acts meant to show that he is not just like us, that he has higher rights and powers, that he has an authority as arbitrary as God’s in the Book of Job” (pp. xv-xvi). In other words, Wills sees Jesus’ antisocial behavior as proof that the Nixon doctrine, “When the President does it, it’s not illegal,” is valid. “When Jesus does it, it’s not reprehensible.” Because even Wills could not defend his hero if he did so, he carefully avoids citing the sermon in Luke 16:9 that can be summarized, “Swindle those who are no longer useful to you, and use the stolen money to bribe those who are in a position to reward you for your deceit.”

Yet despite having actually read the relevant documents, Wills parrots Christian fairy tales with no awareness that the documents themselves repudiate those fairy tales. He writes, “He intended to reveal the Father to us, and to show that he is the only-begotten Son of that Father” (p. xviii). If Jesus ever claimed to be a god, as the fourth gospel alleges, why did neither the first three gospel authors nor Paul show any awareness of such a claim? The answer is that Jesus never in his life claimed to be more than a purely human “king of the Jews,” and anyone who can hypnotize himself that those authors did see Jesus as divine is not sparking on all neurons.

Wills’ gullibility is immeasurable. He writes that Jesus “was born on the run, fleeing Herod” (p. xix). If the story of Herod’s massacre of infants is nonfiction, why did biographers who detested Herod and catalogued his every atrocity make no mention of it? And if the massacre was a fact of history, why did it parallel several earlier massacres that Wills (presumably) recognizes as fantasies?

Wills is not unaware that the earliest version of the raising of Lazarus was a parable that made the point that even raising a man from the dead would not convince Lazarus’s brothers of the reality of the underworld Auschwitz that was Jesus’ only original contribution to theology (p. 42). Therefore he must have deliberately suppressed any recognition that the anonymous author of the fourth gospel rewrote it as a miracle, in case his readers reached conclusions that differed from Wills’ own. Flat earthers similarly suppress photos of the earth taken from satellites and space shuttles.

Since the flat-earthers are quite sincere in believing fully falsified nonsense, and are out to “protect” members of their cult from facts that might disabuse them of their concept of truth, it is a logical assumption that Wills’ motive for suppressing reality, perhaps even from himself, is similarly altruistic, lying to further what he sees as a greater truth. But regardless of academic qualifications or appointments, could one legitimately call any flat-earther a “scholar”? Can one legitimately call someone who, even after examining the evidence, thinks fairy tales about Jesus or Mother Goose are nonfiction, a scholar? Wills’ ability to believe that his bible says what it clearly does not say, and does not say what it clearly does say, raises serious doubts.

For example, Wills asserts that, “Paul … preached the divinity of Christ, his descent from the Father, his saving death and Resurrection” (p. xxvii). Paul indeed preached Jesus’ resurrection, but he saw it only as proof that Jesus was especially favored by his deity on account of his status as the deity’s adopted son. To support his contention that Paul saw Jesus as a god, Wills translates Philippians 2:6-7 as, “He, having the divine nature from the outset, thinking it no usurpation to be held God’s equal, emptied himself out into the nature of a slave, becoming like a man” (p. xviii).

The Correctly Translated Bible (, 2007) renders the same passage, “… [He] did not exhibit the shape of a god, because he considered it larceny to be equal to a god. Rather, he degraded himself by taking the shape of a slave, born in the resemblance of humans, being fashioned as a human.” While the ambiguous Koine text can be translated as either of the foregoing, the only legitimate way to ascertain which is correct is to look at the totality of Paul’s letters and determine if there is any evidence that he thought Jesus was a god. There is not, and only auto-reinforced mindwarping can delude anyone that there is.

Wills treats the fantasy of Joseph having to travel to the village of his ancestors in order to comply with the terms of Augustus Caesar’s census as an event from history, even though the reason for the census was to compile a list of local taxpayers, and such a journey would have nullified its whole purpose. Does he really believe Augustus was that stupid? And when he comments on the virgin birth fable, he leaves no doubt that he thinks such a violation of the laws of biophysics actually happened. Is he unaware that the myth was an interpolation, not an original part of Matthew or Luke? Does he think that the fifty virgin-born resurrected savior-gods who preceded Jesus by as much as 3,000 years were plagiarized retroactively from a historical savior-god not yet born? If so, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn that I think will interest him.

The most interesting, and only useful, part of Wills’ book is his reprinting of an anonymous letter “to a Protestant evangelical who believes in literal reading of the bible” (pp. 33-35). The letter’s ten questions that drive home in spades the absurdity of the pretense that even the most inflexible fundamentalist actually obeys his bible’s every directive includes, “I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?” Wills clearly recognizes that such biblical injunctions were invented by self-serving moral retards whose only inspiration was their own imaginations, not any god. Yet he is incapable of making that same recognition in connection with the biblical fantasies he continues to believe.

This book is one long self-contradiction. On practically every page Wills shows evidence of understanding what the original language of the gospels really meant, only to add interpretations so incompetent that they raise questions about his state of sobriety. He recognizes that the current pope’s declaration that, “Anglican bishops and priests are fake bishops and priests” (p. 82), is contradicted by words attributed to Jesus in the gospels; that Jesus did not found a church; and that Peter was never a bishop, of Rome or anywhere else (p. 80). Yet like Mel Gibson, who similarly accepts only those church doctrines that he finds convenient, he continues to call himself a Catholic.

After reading What Jesus Meant, I look forward to reading Wills’ account of What Santa Claus Meant. As with Jesus, there is disagreement on whether the Santa Claus fairy tales were posthumously grafted onto the biography of a real person from history. But an alleged scholar who can treat the Jesus fairy tales as more credible than those of Santa Claus has the discrimination of a kindergartner, the inflexible mindset of William Buckley, and the blockheadedness of Mel Gibson. As for his denigration of the “team of scholars [that] calls itself the Jesus Seminar,” as “the new fundamentalism” (p. xxv), that is what is called projection, attributing to others the inadequacies one sees in the mirror. If Wills is a legitimate biblical scholar, then so was Immanuel Velikovsky.

In What Paul Meant, Wills demonstrates the ability of all apologists for contrary-to-fact beliefs to equate the quoting of falsifying evidence with refuting it. For example, he acknowledges as early as page 2 that, “Paul’s letters have become the place to go, over the centuries, for attacks on women, marriage, gays, and Jews—especially Jews.” But for the rest of the book he makes no attempt to disprove such conclusions. He simply assumes that they must be false because that is what he wants to believe. And on the same page he writes, “Jesus came from Judaea and never moved outside it.” Correction: Jesus came from Galilee, and except for the last few months of his life never entered Judea. Wills agrees with the scholarly consensus that only seven of the letters attributed to Paul were written by him. I make it six, excluding Philemon. But his argument for Philemon’s authenticity is strong, and I may have to rethink my position.

Wills describes Acts of the Apostles as, “the work of someone calling himself Luke” (p. 10). Correction: Acts and its prequel were retroactively attributed to “Luke” at a time when all anonymous Christian documents were being attributed to persons named in earlier documents. Since a Pauline letter identified a Luke as one of Paul’s associate missionaries, attributing an anonymous gospel to him was an expedient choice. In fact the Luke-Acts author did not claim to be that Luke or any other Luke. That this is such a puny error is precisely what makes it an indelible stain on Wills’ competence. If he could read into a gospel a claim of authorship that is not there, how far does he reach when he makes a statement that is not so easily refuted?

Despite quoting Paul’s confession (1 Cor 9:19-23) that he did not hesitate to lie to win believers, Wills naively accepts as historical reality that, “The most important fact of Paul’s life, which determined everything else, was his encounter with the risen Jesus” (p. 19). Does Wills imagine that a conversation between a self-confessed liar and a dead person could be something other than a hallucination or, more likely, a blatant lie? A Catholic apologist justifying his church’s mythology by quoting Paul is analogous to a Republican justifying his party’s right-wing extremism by quoting Richard Nixon.

As in his previous book, Wills again utilizes an ad hoc mistranslation to prop up his pretense that Paul considered Jesus a god. He translates Romans 9:5 as, “From them are the patriarchs, and from them, by fleshly descent, is the Messiah, the God above all, be he forever praised” (p. 12). Even the Catholic New American Bible does not so blatantly falsify that verse as to have it equate Jesus with God (although the Catholic Jerusalem Bible does so). Since Paul had never heard of the theology, invented sixty years after his death, that Jesus was a god, much less the god, Wells translation is indefensible. The Fully Translated Bible renders the passage, “… the Khristos, in conformity to the protoplasm, is eulogized by the god above everyone throughout the eons.”

Wills does effectively demonstrate that the account in Acts of Paul’s pre-conversion persecution of Jesus-Jews (Wills correctly avoids calling them Christians) is what is best described as a masturbation fantasy. So he gets something right. A stopped clock is right twice a day. Yet having annihilated Acts as propagandistic fiction, he treats the stoning of Stephen as an event from the beginning of Paul’s career, describing Stephen as, “the first martyr for Jesus” (p. 31). In fact, if we start from the hypothesis that Stephen was a real person from history, then it is much more plausible that, following Paul’s execution by Nero, Stephen saw himself as Paul’s successor as Head Christian, and was so self-deluded that he tried preaching Paul’s purely gentile religion in Jerusalem.

And that brings up another example of Wills’ determination to convince himself that Paul did not found a new, totally un-Jewish religion that Jesus would assuredly have repudiated if he had not been totally, permanently, irreversibly dead. Wills portrays Paul as preaching a consistent doctrine, whether in synagogues or in the street. In reality, Paul initially preached Nazirite (neo-Essene) orthodoxy in synagogues, until his failure to convince persons he considered converts to submit to the circumcision without which the Nazirite commune on Jerusalem would not recognize them as converts, made him realize that, as a preacher of Jesus-Judaism he was destined to remain a permanent back-bencher. So, to his Greek audiences in the street and in private houses, he started preaching doctrines that were so anti-Judaic, that his fellow missionary Mark, who understood Greek (but did not write the gospel that bears his name) immediately returned to Jerusalem to report Paul’s heresy to the head Nazirite, Jesus’ brother. The consequence was that the Nazirites’ recognition of Paul’s “Christians” as Nazirites was immediately withdrawn.

That Wills has the academic aptitude to recognize so much of the Christian Testament as fairy tales, while shutting out the reality that a religion based on such fairy tales is itself a fairy tale, is incomprehensible. What Paul Meant puts the final coffin nail in Wills’ pretence to be anything but a brainwashed propagandist for Catholic orthodoxy.

As for Why I Am a Catholic: The first twenty-one chapters would have been more appropriate for a book titled Why I Am Not A Catholic. The remaining seven sections read like a rationalization of Alice in Wonderland. When someone who, despite having made a close study of the documents on which the Catholic religion stands or falls, as Garry Wills has done, can write such a book, it can only be a matter of time before an astronaut who has looked at the earth from an orbiting space station writes a book called, Why I Am a Flat-Earther. No person with a functioning human brain can look at the same evidence and reach the same conclusions.

There are four types of godworshippers: the stupid, the ignorant, the insane, and the intestinally challenged. Despite the absence from Wills’ books of any acknowledgment that Jesus was a carbon copy of fifty earlier savior gods, that the Christian triple-god was plagiarized from pagan triple-goddesses, or that the Catholic bible contains endorsements (fourteen) of a flat earth, the reality of Babylonian and Egyptian gods, and (in the Sadducee books) the nonexistence of any kind of afterlife, his previous writings, particularly Papal Sin and his definitive debunking in the New York Review of Books of the pretended “third secret of Fatima,” eliminate the possibility that he is ignorant.

So I have to assume that, rather than being unaware of the biblical passages falsifying his fairy tale beliefs, Wills has hypnotized himself into reading them with his brain in OFF. And since I seriously doubt that he is stupid or insane, that leaves only category four. Is he an incurable moral coward? Having seen such apologists as Don Cupitt, Tom Harpur and Bart Ehrman respond to their initial discovery of the falsifying evidence with rationalizations as far out in left field as Wills’ newest books, only to be eventually compelled by their intrinsic sanity to start living in the real world, my guess is: not permanently.

Piety & Politics The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom
The Reverend Barry W. Lynn
Harmony Books
1745 Broadway, NY 10019
0307346544 $24.00

Barry Lynn is a Christian. It follows that he believes a Book containing 19,000 discernible errors, including fourteen unambiguous assertions that the earth is flat, and features a talking snake and talking donkey, a la Wind in the Willows, is nonfiction. Does that make him incapable of recognizing the threat to the freedom of every American, including himself, posed by fanatic Christians who want to enslave the whole population to an evil, anti-human Sky Fuhrer created by Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush out of the insanity they see in the mirror? Fortunately the answer is a resounding NO.

Lynn is a practicing United Church minister, as well as Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He justifies what the mad dogs see as a self-contradiction by explaining (p. 11), “Even the most fervent believer wants to be free from imposed religion—especially if that religion is not his or her own.” That anti-theocracy stand has made him anathema to such icons of the Christian Taliban as Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, James Dobson, and the Republicanazi Propaganda Ministry, aka FOX News Channel. In response to the Christian Taliban’s delusion/lie—are they themselves aware of the difference?—that church-state separation has led to “rampant immorality … and the literal ‘persecution’ … of ‘people of faith’,” Lynn asks, “What planet are members of the Religious Right living on?” (p. 3)

Lynn draws attention (p. 167) to Pat Robertson’s hypocrisy in advocating separation of church and state in Afghanistan while simultaneously conspiring to overthrow that separation in America. Nobody with a functioning human brain has ever accused religious fanatics of being anything but liars and humbugs, but it is nice to see a card-carrying preacher recognize that reality.

Lynn is no fan of the current (assuming that this review is published before George W. Bush is impeached, prosecuted, convicted, and executed) President of the United States. His response to what Bush calls faith-based initiatives, Lynn corrects to government-sponsored religion (p. 119), and plain speakers call theofascism, is (p. 8), “As a member of the clergy, I frankly resent government intrusion on my turf. My church doesn’t pass appropriations and tax bills, and in return I expect the government to stay out of the business of saving souls—literally or metaphorically.”

Lynn is not a biblical scholar. His discussion of the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments (pp. 88-94), while pointing out some transparent strengths and weaknesses, reveals an appalling ignorance of what that lawcode meant to its composers. For example, he interprets the ban on honoring any of Yahweh’s rivals within the borders of Judah, where the tribal god would be subjected to the indignity of having to watch, as an affirmation of monotheism. It was nothing of the sort. The lawcode’s composers were monolatrists, not monotheists. He is unaware that “taking Yahweh’s name in vain” meant swearing a false oath, not speaking disrespectfully. He is unaware that the ban on carved godlets was invented by Mosesite priests of Shiloh to put down the Aaronite priests of Jerusalem who had installed carved godlets, called kherubim, in their temple.

He clearly does not know that the commandment against murder specifically meant the killing of a Jew (and only a Jew) without the consent of a ruling priest or magistrate. (“Anyone who, attempting to kill a goy, kills a Jew, is to be deemed guiltless.”—Talmud). He is unaware that “adultery” was a fraudulent-impregnation taboo, not a recreation taboo, since “adultery” specifically involved sperm intromission (Lev. 18:20), or that even sperm intromission was only a crime if “his adultery is with a compatriot’s woman” (Lev. 20:10).

He cites the banning of perjury against one’s “neighbor,” and discusses the possible meanings of neighbor—totally unaware that the Hebrew word so translated meant specifically a fellow Jew. All ten commandments restricted how a Jew could treat other Jews. They placed no restriction whatsoever on how a Jew could treat non-Jews. And Lynn’s interpretation of the ban on “coveting” ignores the historical reality that it was more than a reiteration of the ban on stealing. It was an affirmation of the legitimacy of private property at a time when the communism that would give rise to Buddhism was beginning to infiltrate Judah. To repeat, Lynn is not a biblical scholar; but that does not invalidate the ninety percent of his book that does not require such expertise. Lynn agrees that the posting of the Ten Commandments on public property violates the First Amendment. But he fails to use the even stronger argument that those Jewish commandments are as viciously ethnocentric and xenophobic as any speech or action of Osama bin Laden.

It has been argued, by Sam Harris among others, that the existence of religious moderates actually furthers the power of mad-dog extremists rather than hindering them. Perhaps. But I cannot help wondering if the restoration of heretic burning would be legalized much sooner if there were no moderate, tolerant, liberal, egalitarian believers like Lynn dedicated to resisting the theocrats. Let us say the jury is still out.

There is no such thing as a sane, intelligent, educated godworshipper. Barry Lynn is sane enough to recognize that the World Trade Center atrocity of 9/11/2001 was inflicted by insane Allah-worshippers, not by the insane god created by Falwell and Robertson in their own image. He is intelligent enough to recognize that the claim of those brain amputees, that the murder of 3,000 Americans who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time was their god’s reprisal against America for the alleged offenses of persons other than the actual victims, “should have forever exiled Falwell and Robertson from polite society” (p. 18). Yet he has apparently never learned that the virgin-born savior god who rose from the dead on the third day 2,000 years ago was plagiarized from fifty other virgin-born savior gods who rose from the dead on the third day as much as 3,000 years earlier, and that Christianity is therefore as much a fairy tale as Mother Goose or Alice in Wonderland. That makes him (despite his law degree) uneducated by definition. But he is able to welcome the assistance of nontheists to protect him from being mentally enslaved by a sectarian cult with which he disagrees, and nontheists should similarly welcome the assistance of Lynn and other moderate believers to protect us from the mind-slavery of a Christian Taliban that is hell-bent on turning America into a mirror image of theofascist Iran.
Lynn does not suggest that the most effective way to restore the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Sixth Article of the Constitution and the First Amendment would be to arrest Falwell, Robertson Buchanan, Bush, Coulter, Limbaugh, Catholic cardinals who, by threatening their parishioners with damnation, tried to blackmail them into voting for candidates who would make American laws subservient to those of the Vatican, and the whole Republicanazi Gestapo, and execute them, naked and without facemasks, on live television in prime time. But while he would not endorse such a proposal, I strongly suspect that, compared to allowing the conspiracy to Talibanize America to succeed, he would see it as the lesser of two evils. I certainly do. Failing that, they should all be confined to asylums for the dangerously insane for the term of their natural lives.

The Twilight of Atheism The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World
Alister McGrath
1745 Broadway, NY 10019
0385500629 $14.95

The Dawkins Delusion?
Alister McGrath
Intervarsity Press
P O Box 1400, Downer’s Grove, IL 60515
083083446X $16.00

About thirty years ago, out of curiosity about how someone would attempt to refute the irrefutable, I attended a lecture by a Cambridge professor of theology that was advertised as a rebuttal of Don Cupitt’s The Myth of God Incarnate. It took me all of three minutes to recognize that I was being harangued by a mindless, inflexible dogmatist who belonged in a cage with padded walls where he could be defanged and given rabies shots like any other mad dog. A decade after that, when I submitted my doctoral dissertation to the Canada Council with an application for a publication grant, it was reviewed by a Montreal professor of theology whose denunciation of my endorsement of the Documentary Theory, that the Pentateuch was compiled by interweaving several documents written over a five hundred year period, showed the same inflexible blockheadedness as his counterpart at Cambridge.

It was those two personal experiences that first convinced me that theologians were as incapable of questioning a lifetime of brainwashing as Osama bin Laden. Since then I have encountered books I would not hesitate to cite as solid evidence for that conclusion, including The Truth of God Incarnate; The Misguided Search for the Historical Jesus; and practically every word ever written by the Vatican Fuhrer Joseph Ratzinazi. Now along has come an Oxford professor I can only describe as an embarrassment to primates, who has me wondering if my conclusion that incurable theologians are as dangerously insane as Holocaust deniers and Scientology proselytizers was too charitable.

To incurable theologian Alister McGrath, the confluence of sanity, intelligence and education is an aberration that needs to be explained. He has no ability to grasp that it is the inability to distinguish fairy tales from reality that is the current aberration. Godworship is a throwback to a pre-human, or at best barely-human, stage of evolution, when the village headman could do anything he wished, and it was a logical corollary of that reality that the universe was produced and directed by a Sky Fuhrer who similarly could do anything he wished. That religion continues to exist long after it has been as definitively falsified as the flat-earth theory that is endorsed by Tanakh, Bible and Koran; astrology, likewise endorsed by those fantasy novels; and palmistry, ditto; can only be attributed to the fact that, while one-third of the human race have evolved to the point where they now recognize fairy tales about gods as childish and stupid, another third are as incapable of rational evaluation of evidence as the neanderthals whose substitute for thinking they continue to practise.

For example, McGrath’s assertion (Twilight, pp. 263-264) that, “99 percent of family physicians, and 94 percent of HMO professionals now believe that prayer, meditation, and other spiritual and religious practices exercise a major positive role within the healing process,” and that, “a growing body of empirical evidence … has established a positive correlation between spirituality and health,” is so demonstrably false that it can only be a blatant, cold blooded lie, since he cannot be unaware that properly conducted research has established that there is no correlation between prayer and cure. But it is the kind of lie, concocted by citing uncontrolled supporting sources while ignoring controlled falsifying evidence, that disinformation peddlers can rationalize is not “really” a lie. While I do see McGrath as a conscious liar, I simultaneously concede that his ability to shut out reality and go with incompetent endorsements of his delusion are better attributed to cerebral inadequacy. The man is actually something worse than a liar. He is a rationally challenged doublethinker who can delude himself that black is white if that is what it takes to reinforce his permeating ignorance.

In The Dawkins Delusion McGrath writes, “[He] abandons even the pretence of rigorous evidence based on scholarship. Anecdote is substituted for evidence … displaces rigorous and comprehensive engagement with primary sources. In the book [he] throws the conventions of academic scholarship to the winds; he wants to write a work of propaganda, and consequently treats the accurate rendition of religion as an inconvenient impediment to his chief agenda.” I could not have described McGrath’s book more accurately myself. The problem is, McGrath thinks he is talking about Dawkins. It is called “projection,” attributing to an antagonist what one sees in the mirror.

All godworshippers are insane. I have never encountered anyone who has had the disease and recovered who does not know that. Anyone who was not insane before he started believing that mass murder was evil when Hitler did it with gas chambers, but is not evil when an imaginary Sky Fuhrer does it with disease, famine, religious wars, natural disasters, transportation accidents, and old age, is certainly insane once he does acquire such a belief. Religion has been the cause of ninety percent of all manmade evil for more than 3,000 years, as even moderate believers do not dispute. But only theologians and pushers (as a class) are incurable. And even priests eventually recognize that they have spent their lives peddling an antihuman fraud, and react by committing suicide in far greater numbers than any other occupation on this planet.

Anyone who can read a bible and not recognize it as the most obscene paean to evil ever written, far outstripping Mein Kampf, should have his graduation certificate from kindergarten revoked. Anyone who can read a bible and not recognize “God” as the most sadistic, evil, insane serial killer in all fiction should consider a brain exchange with a cabbage—if he can find a cabbage willing to make the sacrifice. How can Oxford University support a Faculty whose members strain their mental equilibrium to the limit just remembering to disrobe in the bathroom? Any university that accredits a faculty or school of theology thereby illegitimates itself to the same degree as if it maintained a school of astrology or tealeaf reading. Religion does not have to be merely disbelieved. It has been disproven for more than 2,000 years by philosophers specializing in logic, and for more than a century by historians specializing in documentary analysis. If the Bible is nonfiction, then the earth is a flat disk covered by a solid dome called the skies, to which the sun, moon and stars are attached; the gods of Egypt and Mesopotamia are as real as the god of the Hebrews; and (in Catholic bibles) there is no such thing as life after death. And if the bible is fiction, then maintaining a belief system that stands or falls on the veracity of that bible is insane—and so is every person who believes that his bible’s 19,000 demonstrable wrongs add up to a right.

It is not atheism that is on its last breath. It is the “God” delusion. How else does McGrath explain the unprecedented sales of Dawkins’ The God Delusion, and the books of Sam Harris? In France the number of persons who openly acknowledge that they are not godworshippers is now above 30 percent. The percentage of nontheists in America is equally high, but in a theofascist culture in which the social and economic consequences of coming out of the closet can be disastrous, half of all nontheists continue to tell pollsters that they are believers. Thanks to Dawkins and Harris, that is in the process of changing. Only the Alister McGraths of the world remain purblind because they will not see.

So is Alister McGrath insane? Stupid? Educationally handicapped? A moral coward who needs the mind-deadening opiate of an afterlife belief to overcome his terror of death and get him through the day without having to be institutionalized and diapered? All of the above? Let me put it this way. Anyone who thinks that superstitious ignorance is a norm, and the ability to reach conclusions consistent with the evidence is a pathological response to some kind of trauma, is clearly not sparking on all neurons.

Am I creating the impression that what passes for human thought in the minds of intellectually deficient theologians (tautology) turns my stomach, and I would like to see the entire subspecies incarcerated so that they can no longer contribute to the dumbing of the human race? That is not quite accurate. I would be quite content to see such perverters of education transferred to occupations more appropriate to their intellectual limitations—such as cleaning toilets. Persons who teach that Hitler or Stalin was a nice guy have become unemployable. It is high time persons who teach that Hitler’s role model, “God,” is a nice guy went the same way.

The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God, and the Resurrection of the Dead
Frank J. Tipler
Bantam Doubleday
1745 Broadway, NY 10019
0385467990 $17.95

“And of course it was unbelievable. The only thing going for it was that some pretty powerful beings, somewhere in space, seemed to believe it very much.” That description of “The Physics of Immortality” is an excerpt from Frederik Pohl’s science fiction novel, “The Edge of Eternity.” Since Pohl seemed to be indicating that his sf character was describing a book from the real world, I Googled the title, and found that there is such a book and my local library carried a copy. So I checked it out. It was indeed unbelievable.

The science fiction religion that Frank Tipler invented in this book is as puerile and imbecilic as the science fiction religion invented a generation earlier by L. Ron Hubbard for the avowed purpose of parting fools and their money: “Religion is … where the money is,” as Hubbard informed editor John Campbell. In contrast, Tipler is not a conscious humbug peddling whatever Big Lie gullible ignoramuses are capable of swallowing. He appears to believe that his undisciplined speculation is a plausible extrapolation of the laws of physics. Where the Hubbard and Tipler fairy tales coincide is that they are both less entertaining and less believable than those of the Brothers Grimm. Where the two science fiction religions differ is that Scientology has accumulated a worldwide sucker list of 50,000 card-carrying brain amputees, whereas the Tipler religion has none—unless one counts the Amazon reviewers who gave his book a five star rating and evaluated it as something other than a masturbation fantasy.

As far as I can determine, Tipler’s book is written in English. At least, the individual words are English. But they are put together in a manner reminiscent of the gibberish Evangelicals tout as “speaking in tongues.” Consider: “Future-endless worldlines, like your own worldline, define past light cones. The past light cone of your own worldline is exactly the same as the past light cone of the endpoint of your worldline” (p. 131). To that I can only say, HUH???

According to Tipler, “This book is a description of the Omega Point Theory, which is a testable physical theory for an omnipotent, omniscient God who will one day in the far future resurrect every single one of us to live forever in an abode which is in all essentials the Judeo-Christian Heaven…. I shall show exactly how physics will permit the resurrection to eternal life of everyone who has lived, is living, and will live” (p. 1). If any reader believes that Tipler succeeded in doing that, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn that I think will interest him. If Tipler believes he succeed in doing so, there is a cell with padded walls waiting for him in Belleview.

The desperate distortion of science to support pseudoscientific conclusions did not end with the publication of Frank Tipler’s theobabble in 1994. It continues unabated in the form of apologetics for Intelligent Design. But Tipler’s level of doublethink, using allegedly scientific arguments to support the reality of Cloud Cuckoo Land, has not been seen since “The Chariots of Ezekiel” argued that biblical mushroom hallucinations were descriptions of extraterrestrial starships. That anybody could take “The Physics of Immortality” seriously is a measure of the moral cowardice of persons who cannot cope with the reality that death is permanent and irreversible, and that “pie in the sky when you die” is a delusion.

The one thing Tipler did get right is that religion and science are not Non-Overlapping Magisteria, as Stephen J. Gould postulated. It is indeed possible to determine whether the entity known as God exists by comparing the God hypothesis with the laws of physics. Victor Stenger has done so, in “God: The Failed Hypothesis” (Prometheus Books, 2007), and the answer is a definitive and resounding NO. Tipler reaches the conclusion that physics proves the existence of God by starting from the assumption that physics proves the existence of God. Consider this analogy: “Because two equals one, therefore four equals two. Dividing both sides by two, it follows that two equals one. Q.E.D.”

Frank Tipler is as much of an embarrassment to kindergarten graduates as William Dembski, Michael Behe, Immanuel Velikovsky, and John Mack.

Nothing: Something to Believe in
Nica Lalli
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-21907
159102529X $17.00

“Just because I call myself nothing doesn’t mean I don’t have ideas. I have belief. I just don’t have religion” (p.14). That is Nica Lalli’s response to the fact that a recent survey showed nontheists to be the most hated and feared minority in America, and to the fact that, “I have been living with this kind of reaction to my beliefs—in nothing—my whole life” (p. 11). She is, in short, one more sighted person trying to survive in a Country of the Blind in which a talking chimpanzee in the White House is hell-bent on imposing eye amputations on everyone who is not as blind, deaf, theofascist, paranoid, totalitarian, scientifically illiterate, morally bankrupt, rationally challenged, and certifiably stupid as he is.

“Nothing: something to believe in” is an autobiography, and autobiographies can be a useful source of social history. The memoirs of their life and times by Julius Caesar and Samuel Pepys continue to be studied centuries later. The autobiographies of Giovanni Casanova and Frank Harris provide clues to the problems faced by nonconformists to the cultural mores of the societies in which they flourished. The problem with “Nothing” is that Nica Lalli is a nobody who did nothing. And unlike a historical nobody named Jesus who was posthumously promoted to a Somebody by a preacher names Paul, Lalli is still a nobody—and this book is not going to change that.

Lalli describes her memories of growing up as a nontheist in a religion-infested environment. She tells how she interpreted jamming her finger in a door as a punishment inflicted by someone named God for lying to get out of a day’s school in first grade. She describes being solicited as a child by door-knocking Jesus freaks. She describes joining the Girl Scouts, only to find herself in a church surrounded by proselytizers for Jesusism. And she recounts how her parents explained to her that, despite coming from Catholic and Jewish families, they were “nothings,” members of no in-group god cult whatsoever. The downside of such a revelation was that she had to abandon her fantasy of wearing a pretty white first-communion dress and eating a piece of bread-flavored god. The upside was that her name was not entered on any of the church rolls that organized religion cites in support of the pretence that it represents 90 percent of the population, when the true figure is 66 percent.

In eighth grade Lalli read “Stranger in a Strange Land,” the book that more than anything else I have ever read helped me free myself from the mind-slavery of religion. Her reaction was, “I hated the book and thought it was plain weird” (p. 93). To this day she appears to think that “grok” has something to do with a deity. But what else can one expect from someone who failed to recognize “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as scientifically illiterate propaganda for the god superstition? On the other hand, when she went on a skiing trip and found herself being regaled with “testimony” by persons who had been “born again” and “accepted Jesus into their hearts,” she was as revolted as I would have been (p. 97). She might have no taste in literature, but she is not totally lacking in discrimination.

And that just about says it all. Lalli tells her story well, but cannot get past the reality that she has no story to tell. No doubt her autobiography will appeal to persons who see their own experiences in the Country of the Blind reflected in the daily frustrations of Nica Lalli, particularly the frustration of trying to get along with dogmatic “we-alone-are-right” Jesus-addicted in-laws. But beyond that, this book has nothing to offer. Read it for amusement, but don’t expect anything profound.

The Fall of Jerusalem
Penguin Epics
375 Hudson Street, NY 10014
0141026367, $8.95 102 pp.

Anyone who has been misled into believing that this is a translation of the Slavonic Josephus originating in Lithuania is hereby warned that it is in fact nothing more than a reprint of a segment of The Jewish War published in 1959. Buyer beware.

William Harwood

Kaye's Bookshelf

The Other Side of Yore
Joseph Lyon Layden
Illustrations by Kenny Savage, Inc.
1601451229, $14.95

I don’t get many children’s fantasy books to review, and I am not by any means an authority on this genre; however, I did read the book and can recommend it as enjoyable family reading material. The Other Side of Yore is an enchanting adventure story about Frawg’s journey with his friends into Mudgunkland to save the world of Terramore from destruction by Cobraxas, a snake. All the flowers are dying, poisoned by the green smoke from the dark swamps, and the good King’s daughter, Princess Lilypad, has fallen into a deep sleep.

Included in this story are thirteen artfully illustrated drawings by Kenny Savage, plus poems, riddles and songs to delight children of all ages. It is a delightful story–well-edited and designed–which I’m sure children will enjoy. Joseph Layden has been writing professionally for over ten years as a freelance journalist. The Other Side of Yore is his debut Children’s Fantasy novel,and I wish he and Kenny much success in their creative efforts.

When an Angel Falls
Stephanie L. Jarrett
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
0595428703 $19.95

Are you interested in angels, spirits, energy forces and wars between good and evil? If so, you might consider this novel. The protagonist, Laura is a fallen angel struggling in a warn-torn world as she seeks forgiveness. She encounters friends who help, others who shun her, and some who just want to destroy her. Are you interested in forgiving and seeking forgiveness? . . . then here’s a book for you.

As to whether you’ll enjoy Stephanie’s writing style, allow me to share an excerpt with you from page 318:

"A soul only had a fraction of a moment to experience Infinity. Primal matter hung indifferently within a state of suspended animation, yet it took only the tiniest increment of time for it to realize that it had been violated. The matter and energy that Laura shed after she penetrated Infinity sowed the seeds of order from which, all forces in the active Universe rose. The seemingly insignificant amount of energy that she carried with her was enough to awaken the possibilities of the unresponsive matter. It took little more than an instant for the infinitesimal primal strands to form a ray, and then a triangle. When the strongest, most basic structure of matter was in place, it heralded the birth of an electron. The chain reaction that followed the breach of Infinity was swift and explosive."

Stephanie Jarrett is a good writer with an captivating style. Her novel is well-written and well-edited. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Anthony G. Williams
Authors Online Ltd
19 The Cinques, Bedfordshire, England
075520266X, $14.95

Scales is a fascinating story about a man, Cade, who survives a mysterious explosion with massive burns and heals into a reptilian mutant with unique mental abilities, superhuman strength, and healing powers. It’s a story about aliens, parallel universes, terrorists, love and contemporary problems of planet Earth.

It’s a fast-paced read by a knowledgeable writer, and I enjoyed Williams’s style of writing. If you like science fiction which deals with contemporary problems, you may also enjoy this book. Anthony Williams is a military technology historian and the author of Rapid Fire, Flying Guns, the Foresight War, and co-author of Assault Rifle.

Dormant Courage
Barrie David
Authors OnLine Ltd
19 The Cinques, Bedfordshire, England
0755202627 $13.95

During his teenage years Bill Mallory had a terrifying, violent experience which left deep, residual mental scars causing him to be excessively timid and afraid of confrontations. After a conversation with his boyhood Sunday school teacher, Mr. Graham, Bill made a decision to confront his fears and worked with dedication to strengthen his body and his mind. The results of his efforts changed him to the extent that he would then live the life he wanted.

Besides being a highly inspirational story, Dormant Courage is full of marvelous adventures which make this novel quite enjoyable. Barrie David has done a good job as a writer, and I would like to quote a excerpt to provide you with a sample of his writing, from page 141:

"As the aircraft engines drone their ceaseless lullaby high above the English Channel, everyone around me is switched off to the welcome oblivion of slumber. It really has been an intensely demanding two weeks.

"Sleep evades me as the events of the last five years randomly trawl through my mind and bring the laughter, the tears and the moments of nailbiting fear. Reflecting on the events that led to them, I conclude, with profound belief that anyone can do virtually anything if they draw on the infinite potential of their human spirit. Suddenly, as the warm grin of Mr. Graham looms into my thoughts, as if I have picked up a book I simply can’t wait to read, I settle back to a banquet of thoughts about him. With graphic ease I again watch him dismantle my ingrained self doubt before handing me two five pound notes and sending me off to discover the meaning of determination. I grin very broadly at the next scene showing a tiny figure in a vast green landscape of pouring rain. Amazingly, it all seems like yesterday. Only now do I remember my emphatic promise to go back and see him and as I do so I feel the mammoth elation of having come full circle. He said this moment would come and here it is. I am ready to go back."

If you have ever had any fears about relating with people or confrontations, this little story can’t help but be a wonderful inspiration . . . to us all. Dormant Courage is Barrie’s first published book and is based on actual events in his life. I wish him much success in writing efforts. Good show!

The Private Lives of Teachers
Joseph A. Wellman
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
0595427251 $19.95

This novel is about one year in the lives of fourteen Payson High School teachers, their relationships and daily struggles. Rather than Payson High, the school could have been called Payton Place High as Joseph Wellman’s stories tend to include all types of sexual activity. In The Private Lives of Teachers he jumps right to it starting on page 2, and I quote:

"He’s staring now at Teri’s chest. Her sweat-soaked T-shirt is making her breasts visible through the flimsy cloth. ‘Look I said I’m sorry. I thought Tom was in here and he’s hard of hearing. And I assumed...’ His voice trails off, as he’s mesmerized by her nipples standing out like two dark beacons on the field of white as the T-shirt clings to her sweat drenched skin."

And from there the sexual talk begins: Teri Jacobs is quite candid, direct and outspoken as she ‘comes on’ to Jack Schroeder, a married man who hasn’t had sex in a year. An interesting beginning.

Among Wellman’s characters there is usually one woman who has prostituted herself at sometime in her life, then changed her ways. There is also a woman who had sexual relations with a younger man.

Joseph A. Wellman is a retired psychology/sociology teacher and a good writer, not an exceptional writer, just a good writer. If you like stories with lots of sexual content, you will probably enjoy Wellman’s novels.

The Coverup
William Daniel
BookSurge, LLC
18663086235 $17.95

The Coverup is a fictional mystery, suspense novel about multiple coverups starting with the 1947 mysterious crash near Roswell, New Mexico. Quoting from the back cover:

"Richard Cooper is an inherited millionaire and anthropologist. He has an encounter with the legendary El Chupacabra on a dig down in Mexico. Spending his inherited millions, he chases the creature across the south. John Barton, a former FBI agent who becomes a sheriff of a small town in south Texas, must solve the murder of Josh Hernandez, a local citizen. El Chupacabra visits Josh the night he dies. Sheriff Barton must prove that FBI director Jack Riley has killed Josh to cover up the visit. Bob Glass, a Cherokee Indian who owns an Indian resort in California, joins in on the chase. Together they uncover the real reason for the 1947 coverup."

If you have an interest in the Roswell story, you’ll probably enjoy this one, too. As far as William Daniel’s style and quality of writing, I’d say it’s straight forward and readable. I did at times feel, however, that I was reading a scriptwriter’s version of the story per the considerable detail to action and movements, plus some of the dialogue just didn’t ring true.

William Daniel and his wife live in Wake Village, Texas, where he works at an Army depot for the government. The Coverup is Mr. Daniel’s debut novel, and I wish him much success.

Places the Dead Call Home
Paul L. Hall
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
0595410715 $17.95

This novel is classic mystery genre, and Paul Hall does an uniquely artistic job of spinning this macabre tale of greed, ambition and murder. Quoting from the opening line from the back cover:

"Places the Dead Call Home begins on a summer night in 1958, as bullets tear through the body of a young man on a lonely Oklahoma highway. Nineteen years later, a soldier lies in the pool of his own blood on an army base in Virginia. Death has made room at home for both of them. Death can always find room for more."

Paul Hall is a colorful, intriguing writer, along the lines of Robert Ludlum, and here’s a sample to pique your interest:

"The man in the uniform was startled to feel himself rolling over the balcony railing and suddenly weightless. At the jarring impact, nausea rose in his throat, and, though there was little pain, he knew instantly that he was paralyzed. Vomit was pouring through his raw throat; the acid tang of asphalt was in his nostrils; his face stung with embedded pebbles, and he was trapped in his own body. He knew with certainty that he was dying, that life was draining from him. This, he thought, is the strangest sensation.

"His eyes would not move, but he could still see–could see with remarkable clarity. There was the road leading up to the intersection, the glowing red taillights of the moving cars, the traffic signal switching from red to green, and a half dozen vehicles beginning to move, now rolling slowly through the intersection. His mind was clear, and he wondered whether, if one of those drivers glanced in his direction, he might see him lying there at the base of the building. But it was dark, and these people had other things to do and places to be. After all, whoever got into his car thinking he’d see a man lying in the street, bleeding to death?"

Places the Dead Call Home is an iUniverse Editor’s Choice, with which I agree. Other novels by Paul L. Hall include the award-winning Our Father and The Big Island. Also, I’m delighted to find more and more accomplished writers are turning to POD publishers to have greater control over the entire publishing process, and iUniverse is one of the best.

Kaye Trout

Lori's Bookshelf

Dynasty of Rogues
Jane Fletcher
Bold Strokes Books
430 Herrington Rd., Johnsonville, NY 12094
1933110716 $15.95,

Leading Ranger Riki Sadiq has her share of detractors. She’s been in trouble all her short life, and she joined the Rangers to escape more of it. As a Ranger, she is a part of the armed force that protects the community of outcasts and heretics who have escaped the big cities and repressive religion that now marks all urban society. Unfortunately, Riki can’t even get along with the heretics. She finally has a lapse of judgment that gets her stripped of rank and sent off to the remote Westernfort for one last chance.

At Westernfort, Riki’s new supervising corporal is Tanya Coppelli, a woman close to Riki’s age and the daughter of the regiment’s captain. Riki isn’t sure Tanya is officer material, and she makes no secret of her skepticism, so of course she and Tanya get off to a bad start. Riki feels helpless to curb her smart-aleck attitude and unable to figure out a way to make friends, so the women in her new group, most of whom are already suspicious of her fitness to serve, are hostile toward her.

Riki is sent out on patrol with Tanya’s group, and at first there’s an uneasy peace. But when they encounter enemy Guards all hell breaks loose. One of the group will betray the others, one will be kidnaped, all will be suspicious. Naturally, who else is blameworthy besides Riki?

This is a tale of deceit and shifting allegiances, corruption and false pretenses. Riki’s life will not be the only one in danger, and an enormous miscarriage of justice will occur if she doesn’t take action. She’ll need all the cleverness and good fortune that she can muster to save her comrade and herself from an impossible-seeming situation.

When you pick up a novel by Jane Fletcher, you will always get a riveting plot, strong, interesting characters, and a beautifully written story complete with three-dimensional villains, believable conflicts, and the twin spices of adventure and romance. Ethical and moral dilemmas abound. Fletcher writes real characters, the type that William Faulkner once said “stand up and cast a shadow.” The reader can’t help but root for these characters, many of whom are classic underdogs.

Fletcher’s work transcends the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Yes, there are a few elements of science fiction and perhaps fantasy, but they register as entirely natural in this timeless world. The story people are so fresh, so individual, so real that they make a unique mark unlike anything I’ve ever read in lesbian adventure stories. The reader will feel like she’s living the action, not experiencing it on the printed page. I haven’t read such wonderful stories since I first encountered the work of Marian Zimmer Bradley and Elizabeth Moon.

To read a novel by Jane Fletcher is to fall in love with a world. You’ll wish her characters were your friends and that you could visit them – perhaps permanently. I give the highest recommendation for this book and to the entire Celaeno Series of which it is a part.

Creativity for Life: Practical Advice on the Artist’s Personality and Career
Eric Maisel
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
1577315588 $19.95,

The latest from Eric Maisel is an amazing and wonderful book that any writer, musician, artist, or performer would benefit from reading. In CREATIVITY FOR LIFE, Maisel brings together concepts and ideas he’s discussed in previous books, but here every part is synthesized and complete. It’s a smorgasbord of examples and tactics. He breaks new ground in detailing the artist’s personality in ways that the non-psychologist reader will instantly understand, and the book is highly accessible to anyone from beginner to master.

In the introduction he distinguishes between the “artful life,” which is the way many people wish to live; the “art-filled life,” which includes the joy that art brings; and an “art-committed life,” the process of actively choosing to be creative. It’s this latter that’s the focus of the book.

“As soon as you decide to be creative in a particular domain and that you mean to live as a novelist, biochemist, actor, or sculptor, you introduce a set of profound challenges that you would not have confronted if you had ‘settled’ for artful living and an art-filled life” (p. xii). In four major sections, Maisel thoroughly examines the challenges faced in seeking an art-committed life: The Challenge of the Artistic Personality, The Challenge of the Work, The Challenge of Relationships, and Strategies & Tactics. Each section is brilliantly detailed and will make sense to anyone at any stage of invention, innovation, or imagination.

Because creative folks face major obstacles that non-artists do not, Maisel spends a great deal of time giving hints, ideas, and suggestions. Just a few include ways to silence negative self-talk, using visualization, focusing, and practicing one’s craft while bringing to it skills such as regularity, honesty, self-direction, intensity, joy, discipline, and more. He tells us, “Creativity is the act of making one choice after another” (p. 120). Living an art-committed life is the same. As Maisel says late in the book, “Lifelong creativity isn’t given to you. You must earn it and attend to it every day… You will have to dig deep to find the requisite honesty, courage, and resilience to live an artful, art-filled, art-committed life… You must really want it and really commit to it in order to have it… to crack through everyday resistance and create for a lifetime” (p. 319-320).

I approach every new nonfiction book by Maisel with giddy excitement, wondering what fresh aspect of the creative process he’ll unearth, dust off, and show around. Sometimes I feel like the man must personally know me and the challenges I face in writing – but we have, of course, never met. Maisel is just an amazing creativity coach and counselor who knows the secrets and insecurities, triumphs and tribulations of those who seek the creative life. This book is the next best thing to personally experiencing Maisel’s creativity coaching, and I highly recommend it.

Lori L. Lake

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Seven Human Needs
Gudjon Bergmann
BookSurge Publishing
5341 Dorchester Road, Suite 16, Charleston, SC 29418
1419636669 $15.99

Icelandic writer, yoga teacher and inspirational speaker Gudjon Bergmann presents The Seven Human Needs: A Practical Guide to Finding Harmony and Balance in Everyday Life, a self-help guide to cultivating creativity, spirituality, and fulfillment. Chapters discuss the human needs for security, excitement, individual strength, relationships, expression, wisdom, and spirituality, and how to balance conflict between the needs (such as the obvious contradiction between the needs for security and excitement). An encouraging, practical, and viable guide to better understanding oneself and what one requires from a healthy and happy life. "You must learn to love your true Self, your divine nature and your essence, not your mere ego or animalistic tendencies (instead, their acts must be forgiven and disciplined). This kind of Self love will translate into a love emanating from you to all other beings. Contemplate this thought: Love is the gentle balance between always wanting to grow and expand and realizing that you are perfect just the way you are."

Sucka Free Love!
Deborrah Cooper
BookSurge, LLC
5341 Dorchester Road, Suite 16, Charleston, SC 29418
1419653857, $16.99

Relationship advice expert Deborrah Cooper, better known by the pen name "Ms. HeartBeat", presents Sucka Free Love!: How to Avoid Dating The Dumb, The Deceitful, The Dastardly, The Dysfunctional and The Deranged, a casual, tell-it-like-it-is advice for dating and relationships in the modern world. Sucka Free Love! is expressly for male as well as female readers - men can be suckas in the dating world too! Chapters begin with an overview of common misperceptions and problems that can affect one's dating life (such as taking first-date lines like "I'll call you" too literally, being too giving/having low self-esteem, being too selfish/disrespecting the other person, or simply getting involved with a person in the wrong stage of their life - say, when they're in the middle of a messy divorce). The bulk of Sucka Free Love consists of "Dear Ms. HeartBeat" letters and her replies, though. Enthusiastically recommended, and a solid, fun and easy-to-read primer for anyone ready to enter the Dating Zone. "Dear Ms. HeartBeat: How do I ask a woman out on a date? Plus, once there what can I say to her if I want to get involved with her? -Male, 19, Scared. Dear Scared: You open that big mouth and say: 'Hey, I'd love to take you out to ___ (fill in blank) this weekend. Are you available?' If it goes well, you like her and she likes you, and you want to get involved a bit more, then you ask her out again. You keep asking her out and spending time with her until you figure out if she is someone you want to keep around or not. I don't know why you are trying to make this so difficult!"

Margaret Lane

Mark's Bookshelf

Ripping the Roof Off Real Estate: How a Multi-Billion-Dollar Industry Came to Have an Identity Crisis
Mollie W. Wasserman
Gabriel Publications
14340 Addison St., #101, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
1600260128 $19.95

Ms. Wasserman's new book Ripping the Roof Off Real Estate offers outsiders an experienced insider's view of the nuts and bolts of an industry under fire by both consumers and the media. Not one to shy from tackling the pitfalls and problems with existing brokerage models, the author offers realistic solutions to an industry fragmented and at times adrift with new competition courtesy of the Internet. Ms. Wasserman's strongest point is that the residential real estate industry has always viewed themselves as salespeople, when the consumer is looking more for a consultant or resource in their home sale or purchase transaction. A flaw if not addressed sooner than later, could unravel an industry currently steeped in denial.

Chapter titles include: How in the world Did We Get Here?, The Other Side of the Fence, I'm Paying You How Much?, What an Agent Does, Why a Discount Commission is No Bargain, Real Estate and the Internet, Misleading Advertisements and Sensational 'News' Stories, The Unrespresented Seller, What is Real Estate Consulting?, How Fees and Hourly Compensation work, How About Some Choices?, Determining What You Need, Pricing Your Home to Sell for the Highest Value, Navigating Contracts, Disclosures, and Agency, Negotiating the Deal, and Troubleshooting the Transaction. Additional features are a preface, an introduction, epilogue, foreword, conclusion, and an author biography.

Highly recommended for home buyers or sellers, real estate brokers, educators and entrepreneurs looking to develop the future of residential real estate brokerage in the United States.

Untold Secrets: How the Real Estate Market Really Works
Kerry D. Bodily
Gabriel Publications
14340 Addison St., #101, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
160026011X $19.95

Untold Secrets: How the Real Estate Market Really Works is Mr. Bodily's companion book to his software system that prices and values all forms of real estate. His value model features utilizing today's competition versus the existing model of using yesterday's sold comparable properties. Written in an easy-to-understand style, lay people outside the industry can gleam important strategies to implement when purchasing or selling a home. The author's trio of chapters on wearing a buyer's, seller's and agent's hat places the reader in all three modes, that often are down-played by tunnel vision real estate transaction participants, are especially relevant.

Chapter titles include: History, Folklore, and Today's Key Characters, Applying Common Sense and Exposing the Nonsense, Wearing the Buyer's Hat, Wearing the Seller's Hat, Wearing the Agent's Hat, All properties Speak for Themselves, How Price and Value Really work, Measuring Emotions, Feelings, and Perceptions, Using the Rating System and worksheet, Finding the Competitors and Identifying the Factors, Assembling and Interpreting the Data, Raw Land, Apartments, Commercial, Farm and Ranch, and Recreational Properties, Quick, Down and Dirty Thoughts, Free and Other Stuff. Additional features are acknowledgments, preface, an introduction, epilogue, disclaimer, and an author biography.

Recommended for home buyers or sellers, agents, appraisers, brokers, educators and franchise managers in transitioning real estate markets.

Your Successful Career as a Mortgage Broker
David Reed
Amacom: American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0814473709 $18.95

David Reed's newest mortgage title; Your Successful Career as a Mortgage Broker rounds out a successful on-going mortgage banking career and his previous three mortgage-related books. Based in Austin, Texas, Mr. Reed writes mortgage columns for Realty Times and Mortgage Originator. For those considering a career as a mortgage broker, banker, processor, or underwriter, this book is chock-full of everything you need to know before taking the plunge into this exciting field of work.

Chapters cover: The Mortgage Loan Officer and His Team, How Do I Get Started?, Mortgage Banker versus Mortgage Broker, The Loan Application Process, Types of Mortgage Loans, Loan Prequalification and Approval, Loan Documentation, Interpreting Credit Reports and Credit Scores, Interest Rates: How They're Set, How to Quote Them, How Brokers Make Money, Marketing Yourself, and Marketing Secrets From the Pros. Additional features include a preface, a glossary, an index, and a thorough resource appendix The 1003 and Disclosure Forms, Ten Steps to Becoming a Successful Mortgage Loan Officer, Ten Steps to Becoming a Megaproducer ($250,000 + per year), Sample Marketing Pieces, Industry Resources, State Licensing Chart and Payments Per Thousand Dollars Financed.

I found the chapter on Loan Documentation especially informative. In an age where borrowers can choose to have all or none of their income or assets verified to secure a mortgage, Mr. Reed does an excellent job describing the process and alternatives for new or potential mortgage bankers or brokers.

Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Lois Kelly
Amacom (American Management Association)
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0814473830 $24.95

Lois Kelly's first book Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing drills deep into how marketers must move beyond talking at their customers and align themselves in their lives, to make the relationship connection, and thus the resulting sales. Kelly has an impressive resume that includes time at Harvard and has contributed articles to Advertising Age, Brand Week, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. Ms. Kelly understands the need to listen closely to consumers to find out as much about what turns them off and what turns them on, to drive sales. The bad news consumers share with service providers and manufacturer's in surveys or in discontinuing use, might not be what corporations want to hear, but Kelly's viewpoint has interested clients such as Dunkin' Donuts and Sun Microsystems.

Chapters cover Enough with the marketing blah, blah, blah-let's talk about something interesting, Make meaning, not buzz, Have a fresh point of view (or several), Listen up: Seven ways to uncover talk-worthy ideas, Nine themes that always get people talking, Straight talk: Talk like you talk, talk like you mean it, talk in these ten new ways, Shift to a conversational marketing mind-set, Building a "talk" culture, Be more interesting-conversations, passion, and an honest point of view. Additional features include a forward, an introduction, and a resource appendix. A must-have guide for prospective new-construction homeowners, manufacturers in the factory-built construction industry and those looking for a "green" alternative to site-built housing.

If you're looking for a cutting-edge book on how to reinvent your customer relationships, pick up a copy of this important new business book.

Mark Nash

Mayra's Bookshelf

Legends of the Serai
J.C. Hall
Dragon Moon Press
PO Box 64312
Calgary, Alberta Canada T2K 6J0
1896944043 $20.95

If you like books which combine fine writing, elaborate myth, and fantasy and magic, then you will deeply enjoy Legends of the Serai.

In a world ruled by the powerful legend of three mysterious stones, young and beautiful Cara’sen, descendant of a goddess and Lead-Officer in the Overseer’s Special Guild, is out on a special quest in order to save her precious Western Lands from destruction. The young protagonist’s struggle is internal as it is external, for she is torn apart by her love and desire for two very different men—her faithful spar Jai and the dark and alluring Karvel’len. At the heart of the mystery of the three strange opals is not only Karvel’len but also her long lost brother. There’s only one problem: instead of uniting forces as they should be doing, the two men hate each other and would like nothing more than to see each other dead. To add to this, Cara’sen is haunted by the whereabouts of her father, who she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl. Keeping this in mind, Cara’sen is a middle point surrounded by four male figures which affect and influence her life on various levels.

The story begins with a fascinating prologue which explains the hierarchy of the goddesses and how the legend began. Keeping a tightly controlled pace, talented author J.C. Hall weaves a believable and realistic imaginary world filled with passion and adventure. Her prose flows beautifully and the dialogue sparkles with authenticity, drawing the reader into the carefully plotted story. Heavier in characterization and more stylishly written than most commercial fantasy novels, this is a book to savor slowly and certainly not one to be swallowed overnight. J.C. Hall is a fine storyteller and her skill and love for her story and characters really shine through the pages.

The Vengeance Trap
A.L. Hansen
Ophir Publishing
P.O. Box 7341, Winter Haven, FL 33883
0978765818 $24.00

The Vengeance Trap is an action-filled, entertaining novel with an interesting twist—controversial protagonists.

The story revolves around two main characters—IRA ammunitions-buyer Kathleen O’Toole and modern-day pirate Omar Jabri. In spite of their cultural differences, several elements bond them—their painful pasts filled with family tragedy, their dreams of revenge, and their passion for dangerous adventure.

The story encompasses over a decade as we see Kathleen and Omar trying to maintain a ‘normal’ family life while dealing with their secret—and very deadly—careers, and see their sons grow into two very different individuals—one close to his Irish origins, the other to his Muslim ones. Bank robberies, stolen diamonds, secret arms deals gone wrong, bombings, and crossing the Zimbabwe forests are some of the struggles endured by the protagonists. But how far will they go to achieve their goals, and at what expense? Will love conquer in the end?

Because of its mainstream elements and controversial protagonists, this is not your usual James Bond story. The book offers strong characterizations and brings to the surface issues of prejudice and terrorism. At its core, it’s an ambitious attempt to portray people as they really are in their full complexity, making it difficult for the reader to come to terms with some of the scenarios in the story. For instance, is a loving mother capable of killing a teenager and shooting a pregnant woman for the sake of an ideal? Are goodness and justice subjective or ultimate realities? Ultimately, this is not a work which glorifies crime; it is an honest portrayal of the grim—and often contradictory—realities of life. The novel offers readers some interesting topics for group discussions.

Author A.L. Hansen is donating the royalties from all sales of this book to Cuidar for Veterans, a non-profit organization that helps America’s most wounded war heroes receive bedside visits from their families across the US.

The Vengeance Trap is the first book in The Vengeance Trilogy. The story leaves enough unanswered questions to leave you hungering for the sequel. Highly recommended.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

Duck, Duck, Goose
Tad Hills
Schwartz & Wade Books
1745 Broadway, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10019
0375840680 $15.00

We meet Goose standing very still in the meadow. There is a butterfly sitting on his head. Goose wants his friend Duck to see the butterfly. Before long Duck is seen coming his way. Duck is not alone. Duck is so excited. He has a new friend to introduce to Goose. Thistle is a little grey duck who loves puddles and can run very fast. Thistle has just moved to the area. Before long she is enjoying one up-manship, you have one butterfly, Thistle had three. You can do math, Thistle can do it better. Duck and Thistle are having a lot of fun, on the other hand Goose is not. Goose does not always want to compete or see who is fastest, loudest or best. Sometimes Goose just likes to do and do it without any pressure. At last Duck wants to find Goose and he does not want to continue to time Thistle or watch Thistle as she loudly proclaims her latest victory. The two friends chat before Thistle arrives. When she hears that the two have been thinking about a nap Thistle must show she is the best napper in the whole world, and so she was. Duck and Goose have a wonderful time as she naps and naps.

My resident critics, 4th grade, gathered to hear our latest ‘for review.’ They take their job as resident critics very seriously as they listen with care, note illustrations, judge whether the book is best suited for their age or for students older or younger. They are hard taskmasters and do not suffer poor writers or poor artists lightly. Duck, Duck, Goose met every test and passed with high marks.

The children agreed the book holds listener interest, that it is probably meant for a slightly younger audience than grown up 4th graders and that the writer has a good message to present. Braggart Thistle was recognized for her boasting and showing off. Illustrations are child pleasing.

One student thought she might like to borrow the book to read to a younger sister. All agreed that boastful crowing makes for tiresome relationships. The kids all ‘got the joke’ as Thistle missed out on fun by having to continue to nap so that she could win the nap contest. The work provided discussion fodder for us as we talked about friends who have treated us in the manner of Thistle and how we don’t really enjoy their company. We talked about what makes for good friends and whether or not we need to compete on every hand.

I’ll put the book on our shelf … it likely will not be chosen for 4th grade pleasure reading; we are so grown up now as we get ready for the last quarter of 4th grade. However, we already have a waiting list of children who want to take Duck, Duck, Goose ‘to read to the little kids’ in Kindergarten. We grown up 4th graders cannot admit that we too really like the book and want to read it, however if we take and read it to the little kids, our dignity is saved and that makes it okay. Ah, the intricacy of too big to be little and too little to be big.

As a teacher I really enjoyed reading the book. The volume itself is well made and will hold up to many child readings. Duck, Duck, Goose is a good choice for the home library. It is a read to for the younger 3 – 6 set, a read with help for the 7 -8s and a read alone/read to you little brother/sister/friend for the 9 -10s. The book is a good addition to our classroom library.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore
Jenny Offill, author
Nancy Carpenter, illustrator
Line/Publisher Schwartz & Wade
1745 Broadway, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10019
0375835962 $15.99

Frustrating Read …….. Not Recommended …. 1 star content/ 4 stars illustrations

Note: Child interest in the reading was high, but the message.... therein lies the rub. The illustrations caught the kids' attention immediately, but we kept waiting for the girl to show remorse, and she never did. Kids and I were really taken aback that she continued to misbehave, and at the end slyly decided to say sorry when she meant the opposite.

The narrative is a 32 page work meant for children to age 9. My resident critics, grade four students, settled in to listen to the reading. Reaction was mixed as we viewed the main character’s little brother with his hair stapled to the pillow. Reaction became more and more anti main character as we followed her supposedly humorous antics including little brother falling to the floor because his slippers were glued down, little brother terrorized into believing that he was to be eaten by hyenas, main character causing problems at school by refusing to follow rules, taking it upon herself to ignore the assignment and do her own thing, lie to her classmates, show her underpants to classmates, and set the shoe of a class mate on fire using sun and magnifying glass. Main character returned home where she continued misbehaving until finally she ended her recitation with the statement that she had the idea to say the opposite of what she really meant … thus saying to mother ‘I’m sorry’ when she didn’t mean it at all.

My students agreed the illustrations are great, the story had potential and little kids who don’t know better will be swayed by it. They also thought the main character should have shown some remorse, mended her ways and been honest when she apologized.

A book that presents a non apologetic and feeling no remorse for her behavior, misbehaving child in the position of role model is not one that I will soon return to my classroom. Lie to everyone by pretending remorse is not the lesson that I want to teach to my own children or to others.

I would like to see more work by this author/illustrator team, however I would like to see this particular character presented in a more responsible manner and as a more responsible little girl. I agree with my students, she is not a cheery little imp, she is a willful, misbehaving girl who needs to learn discipline. Reaction from my students ran the gamut from ‘I would be given time out,’ to ‘I would be grounded,’ to ‘I might even get a spanking, if I did any of the things that girl did.’ The fact that the little girl continued and continued to misbehave and not make any change even though consequence was offered was troubling to me as a teacher and a parent.

‘17 Things I’m not allowed to do anymore’ is a book I enjoyed as an adult, however, I cannot in good conscience recommend for use with young children.

My Alien Penfriend
Faiz Kermani
1663 Liberty Drive STE 200, Bloomington, Indiana
1420858602 $12.00

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend, 4 stars

The year is January 2286, Darius Chevalier, London, England, Planet Earth is so excited. He is writing his first penpal letter to Zmod a youngster living on the opposite side of the galaxy. Both boys are fascinated to learn about the lives of the other. Zmod lives on planet Bartoch with his glod Darak and the year is Hexile 14783.

The lives of the two are quite different. Darius likes to play sports, they do not do that on Bartoch... computers do everything for them. Zmod breaks his arm and it is healed almost immediately. Breaks don't heal so quickly on earth. Each boy has a pet. Through their letter writing the pair discover the meaning of true friendship. As the two boys continue their pen friendship they learn a great deal about the planet and lives of the other. Darius is fascinated to learn that live volcanoes, pet glods and moving rocks are commonplace on Bartoch. Zmod on the other hand learns about Darius’ family, his dog Ranger and the continuing search for a mysterious monster who is said to live in Loch Ness. Their friendship may be threatened by a dangerous force that may put the two of them in danger.

My Alien Penfriend is a fun read sure to please the target audience of 8 - 13 year olds. Writer Faiz Kermani has written an easily read work filled with excitement, interesting setting and learning how to deal with life as it and problems crop up.

I like the writing format of letters, news accounts and general information interwoven into a fast paced tale that is certain to keep young readers interested and turning the page to find out what is happening next. Young readers will hurt with Darius as he learns that a volcano eruption on Bartoch has taken a large toll on the population and for Zmod personally. They will share understanding as the boys discuss their lives, hopes and upsets. Filled with enough creative elements, droll youthful anecdotes and lightly informative nuance My Alien Penfriend guide young readers toward feelings of empathy and understanding that sometimes in our differences we find strength.

Sure to please target audience. A read to book for younger readers 8 – 9, a read alone for 10 – 12s.

Eight Frames Eight
Judith Cody
International Plaza II Ste 340 Philadelphia PA 19113
1401013619 $15.00

Interesting Read ... Recommended ... 5 stars

Eight Frames Eight is presented in five sections designed to move the reader along the cycle of life.

Part 1: Primary Colors: is a full of life aggregation completed with brilliance and conception tell of the rekindled soul to environment. Wondering eyes are essential to take it all in. Watching Half Dome from Yosemite Valley… Cody says, ‘in the black night the day is mine,’ Consider the death of Dragons….’O I’m afraid you’d hear me and believe,’ After the Growing Time ……’A year has returned again’

Part 2 Perspective: covers mortal refinement to face the question, ‘why do we exist’. This collection evokes reflections of humanity making inroads in the fabric of creation to declare that a creative intellect is an uninterrupted, explorative, developing entity. A Minor Distraction … Cody relates ‘Even the most minor distraction can disturb,’ The Headhunter’s Wife … ‘boring the temple hole is a skill my mother taught me’ Women’s Year Poem … ‘Now is the time for women’s voices to rouse the world with reason’

Part 3 Lifeblood : Cody now presents a variety of peppery, manifold works filled with a sense of being appreciated and needed, Say It … Cody says, ‘Begin simply say I love you,’ Encounter …. ‘We met for lunch,’ The Alison Rainbow Song … ‘O how helpless we are without bodies to store us’

Part 4 Soul Tears: Cody now deals with the end of life. The poems offered in this section are intended to show dying is the beginning of the life pilgrimage through infinity. Death is not the closing and is not an anomalous account. Rather Cody’s poems reveal death can be viewed as a celebration. Child of the Virgins … Cody says, ‘I steal a view of the nun’s procession,’ Biological War Needles … ‘Knitting, it surpasses death,’ California Drought Makes TV Winter News … ‘no water…no flowers … no nectar … no bugs’

Part 5 Epilogue: The poet now considers some of her thoughts pertaining to particular poems

On the pages of Eight Frames Eight gifted poet, artist Judith Cody presents a work filled with line drawings to accentuate her poems dealing with subjects from Yosemite to California’s Drought to Women’s Year Poems.

Writer Cody explains ‘Eight frames eight is the velocity of Universe entering ourselves’ as she offers a peerless approach to the poetic art. The construction of poems found in Eight Frames Eight is as varied and colorful as the language used by this talented craftsman. Poesy narrative by its very nature presents each reader with their own viewpoint re what is meant in a particular poem.

In Eight Frames Eight Cody will challenge readers to reflect on the way we look at the things around us.

Enjoyed the read, a nice work to be enjoyed and returned to time and time again. Happy to recommend.

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

Absorbing Read …….. Recommended 4 stars

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

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

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

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

Good book for the history buff and those who enjoy reading ‘war’ stories. Not for everyone, racial epithets and expletives are used. I am a Vietnam veteran’s wife who found the read compelling, happy to recommend.

2 x 4 Projects for Outdoor Living
Stevie Henderson & Mark Baldwin
Lark Books
387 Park Avenue South, New York City, NY 10016
1402714653 $9.00

Informative Read …….. Recommended ... 5 stars

The work is a how-to book filled with glossy photos, step by step directions and a layout of various objects to be made using simple tools, easily gotten wood and a minimum of building expertise.

What caught my eye first is the lovely porch swing on the cover of the publication. The swing appears usable and used in addition to being sturdy and very, very inviting.

A 23 page section describing materials in simple terms: adhesives, fasteners, together with wood and a variety of tools sets the tone for the work. Clear illustrations are provided to explain the term toenailing and how to set a wood plug over a screw for beauty’s sake. Advantages of using screws for fastening pieces rather than pounding nails is explained. Tables are provided detailing the pennyweight of nails together with their relative length as well as nominal size for wood and the actual dimensions of the wood. Illustrations provided are both hand drawn as in the good illustration of warped, cupped, split and knotty wood in addition to the photo profiling applicators, sealant, glue and finishes to use to complete projects. Good clear photos are provided showing simple, easily had tools needed for the projects along with how to use the nail sets, hammers, screwdrivers and clamps while working. A table of recommended basic tools to be assembled is a boon to those of us who may want to actually try a project but not have a lot of experience or expertise in doing so to date.

Projects for consideration include a birdhouse table for the patio, a free standing patio screen, lawn chair, an outdoor storage center. Gardeners will enjoy taking a peek at the glistening vine covered Tuteur while envisioning it in their own garden. The plans for the porch swing are ones I do intend to use come spring. Plans for each project comprise 4 to 6 pages beginning with a large full page photo of the completed project. In the case of the swing the following page begins with a table outlining materials, hardware, cutting list for the wood and a note on materials explaining why specific hardware to be used to hang the swing is not provided. The note makes good sense, lists the chain and bolts used by the author and offers suggestions to consult someone in the know at the local supply center.

A detailed explanation for building the swing seat, back and sides is accompanied by good line drawings and large photos that an even all thumbs builder (myself included) should find easily followed.

Other project plans include a portable deck made in 16 inch squares, an Adirondack Sofa to place on the deck, and a canopy to shade the deck. There is a trellis and fountain to provide soothing melody as you gaze out at the trellis arbor, outdoor bar, a table tray, hurricane lamp, mini gazebo, barbeque table, picnic table and benches, covered trash container all made by you and placed in your yard.

Written in clear, easily understood, ordinary language Handyman Writer’s Henderson and Baldwin have put their talents to good use to produce a well conceived book meant for the do-it-yourselfer wannabe who lurks beneath the surface in many of us. The numerous illustrations, clear directions and photos of finished projects hold reader interest fast from that swing on the cover to the last fountain trellis project.

This is not a nice little book to flip through, consign to the bookshelf and forget. 2 X 4 Projects for Outdoor Living is meant to be used. Cover and pages are sturdy enough to carry out to the building site, prop up and refer to often. The reader is allowed to make copies of the plans if they wish per the fine print at the front-piece of the book. I plan to tackle the moveable patio squares first and then move on to another project when my confidence builds. Perhaps that porch swing will be hanging on my porch come mid summer.

My only question would be: are there other books in a series? I can think of some indoor projects I might like to attempt.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend. A good addition to the home library, or home school library as a book to whet the interest of young men who may be reluctant to read a ‘story’ book.

12 & McGraw
Forrest Haskell
Top Publications
12221 Merit Drive STE 750 Dallas TX 75251
1929976291 $12 - $16.00

Interesting read Recommended for those who enjoy the genre 5 stars

Forrest Haskell Sr’s boyhood began in Attleboro, Mass where as a twelve-year-old with an egg route selling eggs for .12 a dozen the writer’s father was already earning and saving a tidy sum. Living on a hard scrabble farm during childhood made the making of money become one of the most important motivators for the writer’s father. Haskell knew the time to leave home and a father with a cruel streak was just after his sixteenth birthday and graduation from high school. Young Haskell arrived in Boston astride a second hand motorcycle, rented a sleeping room and became an orderly at a nearby hospital.

From that humble beginning Haskell went on to move to Detroit in 1934 where he drove a Checker cab, saved money, wanted more, got a second job driving truck for the Sunshine Biscuit Co, and realized more money was to be made from the amusement park industry. In 1940 when the writer was four-years-old, the Mobil Station on 12th and McGraw became the seat for Haskell’s growing businesses. Legal and illegal were both carried on from the site.

Haskell bought a house for Marie Roberts, a French Emigre, one block from the Mobil. Marie, married to a man she was loathe to leave for fear she might be deported was to rent out rooms. Young Will Roberts, writer Haskell was given the name of Marie’s husband despite the fact he was Forrest Haskell’s son, was always deeply involved in his father’s life. Sitting in trunk of the car with other children during a rain, covered with a blanket, eating bologna sandwiches and drinking Nu Grape pop, Pearl Harbor 1941 causing car repair to become big business during the war when new cars were not being produced figure in the narrative.

Real estate, illegal gambling in the rooms of the many houses owned by Haskell SR, book making, bringing in Canadian liquor, and a boat launching boat near disaster all helped to shape the writer’s personality. A candy machine that was actually a gun safe, loan sharking, warehouse full of tires all were part of the life writer Haskell experienced during his growing up years in Detroit. Young Haskell’s life was rat killing cats/cat killing rats, Carnie Talk, horse betting, and a caring father who taught his son to work, understand the value of money and practice safe sex. The secret life his father shared with a second family was discovered when Forrest was not yet a teen.

Filled with colorful characters bearing as colorful names 12th & Mc Graw is easily read. Fast Eddie, Swede, Jesse James a forty year old college grad numbers man, Tommy Streeter Bain called Streeter, ‘Doctor Freddie’, 12th & Mc Graw offers the reader a peek into the life of an exciting man who did not always play by the rules. The love and admiration felt by writer Haskell for his father is evident beginning to end. 12th & Mc Graw is a well crafted example of factual writing. First-time novelist Haskell, reaches deep inside himself to produce a nostalgic tale of a former time. Haskell bravely allows the reader a look into the time of his life that has shaped who and what he is.

Broken into chapters 12th & McGraw is an enigmatic quick race spanning the lifetime of a colorful dynamic man who lived life to the fullest. Forrest Wilfred Haskell was a charismatic man who was able to begin with little, amass a fortune, and raise two families in comparative ease during the mid 1900s. Haskell’s later life was spent in relative quiet as he retired to a small farm, continued strong in the lives of both wives and their separate groups of children. Writer Haskell tells of the bittersweet times spent following his mother’s death when he and his wife, his father and ‘the other wife’ met for a trip to Mexico. Writer Haskell was filled with hope that he would prove to be the peacemaker bringing all the siblings together. His father’s stroke, demands for DNA testing from the other family along with their apparent hiding of his father’s assets in addition to his father’s death brought only sadness.

The sadness Haskell felt when he realized his father’s second set of grown children were more interested in preserving his money than in allowing proper medical care for the Sr Haskell following a stroke comes through despite writer Haskell’s carefully chosen words to not appear biased. Haskell’s skilled writing brings the reader to hope that the second family will treat their father with more love and respect. That hope is shattered as we read that Haskell Sr lay in an unmarked grave for two years until the writer discovered the lapse and had a proper monument set in place.

Information from the Amazon site: ' About the Author:

Born in downtown Detroit in the shadow of the Tiger's Baseball Stadium and into the world with an uncertain future. Forrest spent his young life as well as most of his teenage years involved with his dad in the illegal rackets, mainly booking horses and loan sharking and the numbers. Through hard work, plenty of study and the desire to get out of the rackets, he managed to graduate from Northwestern High School at the early age of 16. A few years later, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent over two years as a military policeman and trainee helicopter pilot in Germany. A few months after his discharge from the military, he met a green-eyed beauty and not wasting any time got her to marry him after a three-month whirlwind courtship. She being a Christian led him to realize that he wanted to find a straight life and raise a family. As luck would have it, upon answering a newspaper ad to sell copy machines for the 3-M company he got the job and it changed his life for the better. Haskell stayed in the copy machine business for over thirty years and being the salesman he was became very successful as an owner of several companies related to the office machine and leasing business.

Wanting to try something new, he sold all his offices to a large company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, moved to Texas and went into the fast lube industry. A few years later when Jiffy Lube bought out all its dealers, Haskell sold out again. This time he and his son spend most of their time racing offshore powerboats on the national circuit.

Thought provoking read. Not for melancholy times, but excellent book to read on a long sultry afternoon when time is ample: book is best read cover to cover rather than in snippets.

Lovely tribute by a loving son, Happy to recommend

About Face: Odyssey of an American Warrior
Col. David H. Hackworth, Julie Sherman, Ward Just
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 11020
0671695347 $24.95

About Face chronicles the experiences of the man who would become youngest colonel serving during the VietNam situation. The book itself begins in February 1951 with Hackworth facing the enemy in Korea and is divided into twenty-three chapters. The work includes maps, the author's notes, an introduction by Ward Just, Epilogue and Appendix with a Glossary, Index and finals notes included. About Face follows David Hackworth along a journey from the days when as a young soldier nick named 'Combat' he charged into the face of the enemy along a path to near ruin at the hands of disgruntled superiors.

About Face is a compelling read. On the pages of Col Hackworth’s book the utter horror of battle is divided by paragraphs filled with the day to day minutiae as Hackworth set down his notions of himself away from combat. That Hackworth enjoyed his days in The Army is obvious. His action in combat was heroic in every sense as performed one after another courageous act during battles. But when the skirmishing came to an end, Hackworth candidly admits he had more problems in trying to adjust to ‘normal’ life. He admits to unfaithfulness in his private life, an inability to honor his wife and children, to theft, and acceptance of actions that might shock or cause law action outside the military, but were condoned if the action helped his unit. He admits to being pretty much a law unto himself.

I remember listening to Col Hackworth as he appeared on many talk shows before his death. His concern for the men under his command, his understanding that the Vietnam War was based in political rhetoric and misinformation on the part of our government was stated clearly. Hackworth understood that guerrilla warfare required a guerilla-style response from the Army and that politicians hampering the military with their notions of what ‘should’ work in the face of what was clearly was not working was the thing that caused 55,000 names to be written on a monument standing in Washington DC.

About Face is a well written page turner presented in language clearly understood by the average reader. While the work is not a story book, it is highly readable and well crafted. The edition is sure to interest those who enjoy reading books of historical value as well as those who have any link at all to the VietNam situation as was faced by so many men and women who served in the military from our country during those troubled years. The book helps to delineate what happened, when and to whom. About Face is both illuminating and troubling to read. Listening to Col Hackworth and reading his book helped me understand better the political machination that governs so much of our lives.

I first read About Face written by Col. David Hackworth during the early 1990s. I found it extremely valuable in helping me...a woman with little knowledge of anything military, understand better my children's dad, a land based VietNam combat vet and the problems he had to deal with following his return home before his death at the age of thirty seven.

As the wife of yet a second Viet Nam combat vet, Special Forces, I suggest this book for anyone who wants a better understanding of the debt of gratitude and respect we citizens owe those who served during the action in VietNam and those who willing to serve in The United States Military today.

I received a nice email from Col. Hackworth when I first wrote the review and am saddened that his worthy patriot is no longer with us.

Molly Martin

Paul's Bookshelf

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

Larry Randers is your average successful Los Angeles attorney, whose life is falling apart. He has just been through a painful divorce, and all his possessions have lost their luster and value. After the events of September 11, 2001, Larry takes his dog, Zeus, for what is supposed to be a vacation at Juniper Tree National Park. Zeus has other ideas.

Zeus is not just a talking dog. He leads Larry on a spiritual journey that turns his concept of reality inside out. They meet a talking juniper tree, ephemeral Native American masters, and all sorts of other beings who tell a fascinating story.

According to various cultures, including the Mayans, Hopis and the Bible, a planetary shift in consciousness is coming soon. Approximately 70 million highly evolved beings called Wanderers, have agreed to incarnate on Earth to help with the transition. Part of the deal is that they pass through the Veil of Forgetting, to temporarily forget who, and what, they are. At least, it was supposed to be temporary. This novel is an attempt to reach the rest of the Wanderers, those who know that they are "different," but can’t put their finger on it.

The famous saying says "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." I must not be ready, because I had a hard time "getting" this book. I do not mean to imply for a minute that this is any sort of bad book, because it isn’t. It’s a very interesting story, especially for those who know their way around the worlds of spirituality and metaphysics. I am sure that this book has helped, and will help, a lot of people. I am just not one of them.

Crossing the River: Short Fiction by Nguyen Huy Thiep
Dana Sachs, editor
Curbstone Press
321 Jackson Street, Willimantic, CT 06226
1880684926 $16.95

In the late 1980s, Vietnam was one of the poorest countries in the world. Combine post-war devastation with less-than-component running of the economy and the loss of a major source of aid, the Soviet Union, and the Vietnamese government started a process of renovation or "doi moi." The intention was to bring the economy more in line with market forces, but the government also eased its controls on Vietnamese literature. The author’s stories created a huge sensation and open controversy with their depiction of a society full of individualism and greed. This was in great contrast to the proletarian, government-approved stories that had been published up until that time. Some of these tales take place in the present day, while others include famous figures from Vietnamese history. Even the historical stories are characterized by alienation and lack of patriotism.

This book is really good. These stories are about humanity, about people just trying to get through this thing called life. They are universal stories that could have been set anywhere in the world. It is very much worth reading, once the reader gets past the lack of familiarity with Vietnamese culture.

Blood, Sweat and Chump Change: Taxi Tales and Vignettes
Kirk Alex
Tucumcari Press
P.O. Box 40998, Tucson, AZ 85717-0098
093912226X $11.95

This is another group of stories about life in present-day Los Angeles as seen from the inside of a taxicab. It isn’t pretty.

The author is a native of Sarajevo, who came to LA via Brussels and Chicago (with 2 years in Vietnam included). He dreams of being a writer. He spends his days driving people in the film business, or who are working on a "project" (which can mean practically anything), so they feel that they can treat others, including cabbies, like dirt. It would be a huge understatement to say that he hates LA, and would leave in a second, if he had the money. More important things come first, like wondering if he can pay the monthly rent on his apartment, and his cab.

Many things about Los Angeles get him angry and frustrated, but perhaps the worst is waiting in the taxi line at a hotel (which is bad enough). Hoping for a potentially lucrative fare to the airport, he gets pulled out of line by someone wanting to travel only a couple of blocks, a fare worth only a couple of dollars. Back at the hotel, he is now last in line.

There are only 2 things which help keep him sane during the day. The first is anything to do with books and writing. The second is the nice people that he sometimes ferries in his cab. There are some people who willingly give decent tips, or who otherwise are not arrogant, self-absorbed jerks, unlike everyone else in Los Angeles. The first story in this book, which, by itself, is worth the price of the book, is about being an unofficial tour guide for a young woman visiting from Denmark. He tries very hard to show that he is interested in a serious relationship instead of just sex (but if sex becomes a possibility...).

These stories are very much worth reading. This honest, almost painfully honest, writing does an
excellent job of showing the underside of humanity.

Invoking Angels
Rabbi David A. Cooper
Sounds True
P.O. Box 8010, Boulder, CO 80306-8010
1591795184 $19.95

This book looks at the process of invoking angels, bringing about blessings and guidance from the Divine at any time. Through a Jewish perspective, the author uses sacred texts to show how to connect with a broad number of angels to access their divine characteristics. The ultimate goal is to reach a new level of consciousness where the reader can experience the presence of the Divine in nearly every encounter.

Since there are a nearly infinite number of angels, the author concentrates on some of the "major" angels, including Sandalphon and Metatron, the Angel of Death and Archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. The CD that accompanies this book includes a number of guided meditations that get into How To Do It.

I must be the wrong person to review religion/spirituality books like this (maybe I am not spiritual enough), because this is not the first such book that I have had a hard time "getting." Absolutely no disrespect is meant toward the book or the author. I am sure that this book has helped, and will help, a lot of people. Perhaps some of us are meant to stay on the outside, looking in.

The Book of Air and Shadows
Michael Gruber
William Morrow
0060874465 $24.95

What would you do if you discovered a 17th century letter and a coded message? Would the quest for answering the coded message be plausible if not risky? It all starts with a fire at a used book store and a set of valuable books become damaged, two of the employees decide to take them home to see if they can be saved. Both Albert and Carolyn squabble over some manuscript pages which Albert finds and decides that the manuscript is a letter referring to an unknown Shakespeare play.

Carolyn and Albert take the manuscript to a Shakespearean scholar by the name of Andrew Bulstrode and he offers them a small price for the pages dismissing them as being credible. Later Bulstrode meets with Jake Mishkin, an attorney to inquire to copy write only to be found dead the next day. Now in fear of his own life Mishkin is on the run from the killers. Will Mishkin be next? Where will all the clues in this thriller lead?

Michael Gruber was born in New York City and attended Columbia, earning a BA in English Literature. Gruber now resides in Seattle, Washington with his wife and his very large dog.

This read combines suspense, thrills, humor, and mystery that provides twists and turns that engages you on the search to answering the clues. Gruber has developed a unique writing style that draws you into the heart of the story, which is engaging and surprisingly humorous at times; and contains vivid accounts and detail, and is a genuinely great read. His characters are well developed, compelling and memorable. Reviewing this title was a great pleasure and is a highly recommended read.

Undermining Science: Suppression and Distortion in the Bush Administration
Seth Shulman
University of California Press
Berkeley Way, Berkeley CA 94704-1012
0520247027 $24.95

This book looks at the ways that the Bush Administration has systematically misled the American public on policy matters by ignoring, suppressing or distorting scientific research. Politics has always been a part of science on the federal level, and a healthy debate on science is welcomed, but, according to many current and former government scientists, the climate has never been as bad as during the Bush Administration.

Abstinence and the use of contraceptives have been shown to be very effective in reducing national rates of teen pregnancy and HIV infection. But, abstinence alone (the Bush Administration policy) is close to worthless as an anti-HIV and anti-pregnancy policy. As Chief of Staff of the Council on Environmental Quality, Philip Cooney rewrote many government reports to make it sound like there was great disagreement about global warming in the scientific community, when such disagreement did not exist. His qualifications included being a lawyer for the American Petroleum Institute.

Other Bush Administration strategies include appointing partisans, who consider ideology more important than science, to second- and third-level positions (where the real work is done) and using political litmus tests. If a scientist is not sufficiently loyal to the Administration, or was part of a full-page newspaper ad critical of the Administration, they could forget about being appointed to any federal advisory board or commission, regardless of their professional qualifications.

This first-rate book also looks at the manipulation and cherry picking of Iraqi intelligence, Bush’s "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests" policies, stem cells and "intelligent design." This easy-to-read expose is not partisan, and is a worthy addition to what seems to be the growing list of books critical of the Bush Administration.

Inside the Space Race: A Space Surgeon’s Diary,
Lawrence E. Lamb, MD
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, #300, Austin, TX 78758;
1933538396 $20.95

This book looks at the early days of the American space program from the point of view of a key
scientist, someone who had a voice in deciding who would, or would not, be traveling into space.

In the early 1950s, there was much concern, even paranoia, about Soviet military capabilities. The concern got even worse when Sputnik was launched in 1957. Lamb was an Air Force cardiologist who was given the task of developing the cardiology portion of the physical exam used on participants in the Man in Space program. Starting from scratch (a couple of abandoned
buildings at Brooks AFB in Texas), Lamb and his group knew that they had to be as sure as possible about a pilot’s physical condition. Lamb did not have the final word as to who would be going into space, but his recommendation carried a lot of weight.

When he recommended that Donald "Deke" Slayton, one of the original Mercury astronauts, not be cleared for spaceflight, many important people were not happy. Attempts were made to find cardiologists who would publicly state that Slayton’s heart arrhythmia should not ground him. Other attempts were made to take the whole cardiology program away from Lamb and his group, and put it under the direct control of NASA or the Pentagon. Lamb strongly objected when he discovered that Slayton was to be the backup astronaut for John Glenn’s orbital flight (which almost never happened and which almost ended in disaster), and when Slayton
was to be the astronaut for the second orbital flight.

When the emphasis turned to longer flights, Lamb talks about the experiments that were devised to measure the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human body. Data from Russian flights showed that the human body simply could not take any more than several days of weightlessness. Until methods were found to ease the effects on the body, going to the moon (or anywhere else, for that matter) was not a sure thing.

This is a very interesting inside look at a famous part of American history. It is first-rate, and is
recommended for readers of all ages.

The Brainwashing of the American Investor
Steven R. Selengut
1663 Liberty Drive, #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
1403306203 $16.50

There are money-making opportunities in the financial markets, but the first thing an investor should do is ignore much of what comes out of "Wall Street." The investor should especially ignore the phone call from the new MBA at a brokerage firm pushing some hot new stock that is supposedly "about to take off." The stock is being pushed because of the size of the commission on any purchases. If the stock is so wonderful, does the broker have it in his or her own portfolio? Next week, some other stock will be "about to take off." The investor can also expect a call from a broker saying that their mutual funds or municipal bonds perform much better than what the investor is in now. How about a switch? More transactions equals more commissions. Wall Street does not do anything for free. Even if something sounds "no fee" or "no-load,"the brokerage will get its fee somewhere.

The investor should certainly keep up with the business news, but do not spend hours and hours everyday at it; that will not leave any time for actual trading. Go through the Sunday paper and come up with a list of buying possibilities. These are May Buy stocks, as opposed to Will Buy. Just some basic information is needed about each stock, like its52-week high/low and yesterday’s close. If a stock is down at least 20% from its 52-week high (not 19.5%),move it onto your Will Buy list. When choosing a broker, is it really worth going through several minutes of Press 1 and Press 2, before you reach a human, while the price of your stock goes in the wrong direction, all to save a few dollars on the commission? Pay the extra commission, and choose a broker where a human really is just a phone call away.

It is easy to buy a stock, but much harder to know when to sell it. If your stock rises from 20% to 10%below its 52-week high, sell it. Do not get greedy, and wait for it to rise just one more point; it may never come. There will be other opportunities. Besides, a double digit profit in the stock market is nothing to scoff at. On the other hand, if your stock continues to slide into oblivion, know when to cut your losses. There will be other stocks.

This book seems to be much easier to understand than the stock trading "systems" advertised on TV and in the Business section of the local book store. The experienced investor may kick themselves, realizing the money they have given to Wall Street, for little or no reason. It is also recommended for novice investors, and even non-investors (like yours truly).

The Uncommon Friendship of Yaltah Menuhin and Willa Cather
Lionel Rolfe
American Legends Publishing
562 Woodland Drive, Sierra Madre, CA 91024
1879395460 $14.95

This book is a look inside a very famous musical family, the Menuhins, and a long-term friendship between two very different women.

The Menuhin family contained three world-class musical prodigies, when most families would be happy with just one prodigy. Yehudi, the famous one, was considered the greatest musical talent of the 20th Century. Hephzibah, his sister, usually accompanied him on the piano. Then there was sister Yaltah, also a pianist. According to people who know about such things, she was the most talented of them all.

The family was run by Marutha, their mother, a cold, domineering woman. Yaltah was told, more than once, that the only reason she was alive was because of a broken diaphragm. Yaltah and Hephzibah were allowed piano lessons for the sole purpose of attracting a husband. When it came to marriage, all that mattered, according to Marutha, was whether or not he came from a well-to-do family; love was irrelevant. Yaltah’s first "arranged" marriage lasted about 6 months. The family lived in Paris, because that is where the great musicians were. The rise of Hitler in the 1930s forced a move to Manhattan, where they met Willa Cather.

She was a novelist and newspaper writer from the American Midwest, who became good friends with the family and became the children’s teacher (there was no regular school for the Menuhin’s). Marutha kept the children out of the public eye as much as possible (their educational walks with Cather began at 6:00 AM). As the years went on, the friendship between Yaltah and Willa grew. Willa helped Yaltah deal with her mother’s unfeeling personality, and Yaltah ended up inspiring several of Willa’s later novels.

For Yaltah’s second marriage, in the early 1940s, she eloped with an Army lawyer named Ben Rolfe. Her parents never accepted him as part of the family. The marriage ended after a number of years, partly because of his jealousy over her musical career. It was only after 2 more not-very-pleasant marriages, and her moving to London, that in the last few years of her life, she regained something like the musical career she had when she was younger.

Here is a very personal look inside a famous musical family, written by an “insider.” (the author is Yaltah’s son). It is very much worth reading, not just for classical music fans, or fans of 20th Century female novelists, but for everyone.

The Feng Shui Matrix: Another Way to Inherit the Earth
Kartar Diamond
Four Pillars Publishing
3824 Perham Drive, Culver City, CA 90232
0967193796, $19.95

For the uninitiated, feng shui is an ancient oriental system of balancing a person’s surroundings to achieve a happier and healthier life. It is no different than eating a balanced diet to achieve better physical health.

The first thing a person should do is to find out what direction their house faces. Don’t assume that it faces directly east, for example, or directly south; buy a good compass and find out for sure. It matters. The book lists the best, and worst, colors to paint the exterior of your house based on the direction it faces. Depending on the year a person was born, everyone has a personal wealth direction. If at all possible, sleep with your head pointing in that direction. Also, if possible, enter a house, or a room from that direction.

If personal creativity is more important, then using the year of birth according to the Chinese Zodiac, find your creativity direction, and sleep in that direction, or enter a house from that direction. Every Zodiac sign also has a draining direction, that will make it harder to save money, for example; avoid this direction if possible.

A vase of water and fresh flowers placed in the proper part of the house (again based on your Zodiac sign) does attract more opportunities for romance. The book also includes short descriptions of 72 different house types, based on the direction it faces and the time it was built. Finally, if an important part of your house happens to be in the bathroom or garage, don’t despair; there are ways to get around it.

Ready for a change in your life? Perhaps the problem is in your surroundings. This book is easy to read, and starts with the basics. If doing all the things in this book at the same time is not possible, then start with just one.

Bob Harvey
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, #300, Austin, TX 78758
1933538384 $21.95

Set among the mega-population growth of present-day Texas, this novel is about a group of ordinary people who are thrown together under extraordinary circumstances when their townhouse complex is severely damaged in a fire.

Javier is an ex-boxer who now works in construction, and his wife, Caressa, is recovering from a stroke. Dakota is a lady professor of archaeology, and Justin is a recent transplant from Philadelphia. He seems to have been accepted by a unique cat that Justin named You Too. The cat is already famous, leading rescuers to Geri, a deaf former Army nurse, the night of the fire. He also senses Caressa’s physical infirmities, because You Too thinks nothing of jumping on her lap, working himself under her damaged hand, and repeatedly moving it, like she was in physical therapy.

The group comes up with a plan to buy the land on which their townhouses sat, and build an eco-friendly co-housing complex. As much as possible, it would be made of recycled materials, and include a Native American longhouse. One of the major requirements for new tenants is not that pets are accepted, or even welcomed, but that pets are required to move in. Their opponent, construction tycoon Baron Barkley, and his adult son, Kyle Ray, are not about to give up without a fight.

Justin and company suffer a series of "mishaps" that threaten to destroy their good works. Dakota receives an envelope of adult photos of her, taken secretly by Kyle Ray, photos that are guaranteed to be misinterpreted. She decides that a one-year sabbatical in China is suddenly a good idea. Javier is jailed on a trumped-up assault charge. He beat up a couple of kids that broke into the construction site with vandalism in mind. More than once, Justin follows Kyle Ray, intending to do him great bodily harm.

The other notable thing about the book is the book itself. Printed on thick glossy paper, each chapter has a different colored background or photo. On each page, various words are printed in a different font or color. To slow a slide in reading among the young, the intention is to make this book more like a graphic novel. That is a very worthy objective, but for the rest of us, this is either a bold move in the publishing field or an unnecessary distraction.

This story about the power of animals takes a while to get going, but once it does, it’s pretty good. It will get the reader looking at their pet dog or cat in a whole new light.

Paul Lappen

Richard's Bookshelf

Deadline Stiff
J. M. Burns
Cold Tree Press
6120 Bresslyn Road, Nashville, TN 37205
1583850910 $14.95, 299 pages

Conspiracy, Mystery, Intrigue

David Endicott returned home from a tour of duty in Iraq with the military police. Within twenty four hours of his return David stumbles into his first case as Private Investigator. He rescues a dead body from a fire in the guesthouse of Baulden Grey, eccentric and rich. Grey hires Endicott to uncover three things: identify of the corpse, how he gained entrance, and his motive for entering the heavily protected grounds. He gave David a seven day deadline to come up with the answers.

The plot is two fold and introduces the secret power of a rare Chinese butterfly. The wings of the Golden Yellow butterfly possess a powerful powder strong enough to change the threat of gang crime in Southern California. The plot is based on little-known facts history of the U.S. Human Betterment Foundation. This foundation was the key source for information launching the German Nazi Party’s racial cleansing movement.

I was enthralled with David Endicott’s character. David is real, impulsive, and likeable. Burn’s scenes are well written. His choice of locale creates the awareness that Burns writes from his personal knowledge and experience.

Burns intricately intertwines the story line with engaging, crisp dialog. This thriller takes the reader on a fast moving pace that never slows down, right up to a strong finish.
This is an extraordinary first novel. Burns has created memorable characters in “Deadline: Stiff.” I am enthusiastically looking forward to more David Endicott Mysteries

In His Feathers
Sharon Bomgaars, and James Calvin Schaap
Dordt College Press
498 Fourth Avenue NE, Sioux Center, Iowa 51250
0932914683 $18.00

A Moving Legacy of a Vibrant Faith and Heroic Courage

“In His Feathers” has masterfully captured Sharon Bomgaars’ love for life, her faith in God, and her appreciation for nature. James Calvin Schaap has selected and compiled these writings from Sharon’s journals and correspondence. The book covers the period of her illness October 18, 1999 through September 28, 2002.

On October 18th in 1999 Sharon Bomgaars was told by her doctor that her body had been invaded by ovarian cancer. She was given a 50/50 chance living another five years. Sharon was devastated but not defeated. She offered thanks to God for her 24 years of marriage and that her four children had been allowed to see her four children grow into adulthood. This was an ongoing concern and prayer of hers during their childhood.

Sharon’s journals reveal her to be an amazing lady, a unique individual, and a devout worshiper of the God of the universe, the God of creation. Her life bears evidence of knowing the author of a redemptive plan that provides forgiveness for man’s sinfulness. Throughout her letters and journals she maintains an absolute acceptance of God’s sovereignty. They also reflect a refreshing humor as she banters with here husband and friends to lighten the hopelessness of some of the bad times.

“In His Feathers” is about Sharon’s four year journey of treatments, discomfort, and the pain of ovarian cancer. Her writing records her emotional and spiritual ups and downs. She gives acknowledges the faithfulness of her family and friends in upholding her in prayer, for their emotional and physical support which helped her maintain her unwavering faith in a sovereign God.

Healing Katrina
Timothy H. Warneka
Asogomi Publishing International
PO Box 20, Cleveland, Ohio 44092
0976862735 $19.95

An Amazing Story of Dedication in the Aftermath of Destruction

“Healing Katrina” is Tim Warnaco’s first-hand account of his experience as a volunteer mental health professional. Tim was deployed by the American Red Cross to Mississippi in the shortly after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita brought tragedy and destruction to the Southeaster United State.

The book is made up of Journal entries, blogs, photos and observations Tim made during his two week assignment. Warneka wrote this book in hopes of raising the awareness level of the American people to the extensive damage and devastation caused by these two storms.

In a concluding chapter Tim makes shares personal observations into the enormity of the destruction and property damage, as well as the psychological, financial, emotional and physical scars experienced by the thousands of people impacted.

Tim is a gifted writer and communicator. I highly recommend “Healing Katrina” as it is an eye opener for our representatives in Washington, for community service organizations, and for concerned citizens. It is a wake up call to the importance of disaster preparedness.

A Horse to Remember
Juliana Hutchings
Raven Publishing, Inc
PO Box 2866, Norris, MT 59745
0977252575 $10.00

Courage, Resolution and Aspirations

Hilary Thompson took a summer job at the Millbrooke Stables, adjacent to her new family home in rural Tennessee, Satan, a wild mustang stallion, had just been left at the stables for training. Hilary recognized Satan’s loneliness, even as she felt a need for friendship. She soon established a trust with Satan and eventually became his trainer, preparing him for competition in jumping events.

“A Horse to Remember” is the story of bonding between Satan and Hilary. It is a touching story of trust friendship. Juliana Hutchings’ writing is insightful, informational, and moving. She uses dialog to draw the reader into the plot. I found myself identifying with the emotions and feelings of her characters.

Isabelle Hutchings’ photo silhouettes create a feeling of warmth, trust, and devotion that brings the narrative to life.

Young readers, horse lovers and riders will enjoy this book. Juliana draws from her own lifetime of experience and her own love for horses to carefully lead the reader through the steps of training a horse for competitive events. Her glossary of horse terms is a helpful tool for understanding the background of training and the terms used throughout the book.

“A Horse to Remember” is Juliana’s first book. She is a gifted young author. Her writing and communication skills show promise of more to come. This is a book for pre-teens, teens, and the young adult reader. Well worth reading.

Do You Know Why Butterflies Fly?
Tom McWhirter & Mary Meade
Chupp Road Press
6547 Chupp Road, Lithonia, GA 30058
097618530X $19.99

Imaginative, Entertaining, and Inspirational

In “Do You Know Why Butterflies Fly?” Tom McWhirter draws on his own rich childhood experiences and imagination to recreate a sense of his own personal transformation. This is a story for children about facing their greatest fears with courage. The butterflies teach lessons on having faith in ourselves to change our circumstances into something better.

The exciting butterfly hologram on the cover is designed to grab the child’s attention. The colorful and vivid artwork by illustrator Mary Meade is stunning and imaginative. The pictures will awaken the imagination of the child. They beautifully portray and embody the important message of the narrative.

The book is a reminder to the reader, young or old, to follow their dreams. McWhirter, through the master butterfly, encourages us to understand that there are no limitations in life other than those we place on ourselves. This is a book for family, school, and public libraries. It is a book that will proudly be passed from generation to generation.

Richard R. Blake

Sullivan's Bookshelf

Notes for a Memoir on Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing,
Janet Jeppson Asimov
Prometheus Books
1591024056 $26.00

This author is the widow of science fiction and nonfiction writer Isaac Asimov. She is also a writer and a psychiatrist. This small volume is comprised of various thoughts about herself, her deceased husband who died at age 72 in 1992, and their relationship.

"This book," writes Mrs. Asimov in her Introduction, "is a series of notes, mainly about the human imagination, the sense of identity, the compulsion to write, and Isaac Asimov, who was good at all of them."

Her notes, including excerpts from correspondence between her husband and fans and/or herself, are sorted according to chapter headings:' Imagination and Reading, Journeys, Quirks, Religion, Philosophy, Sex, Identity, Being a Writer,' and much more.

In the chapter on 'Journeys,' she tells about her husband's unwillingness to travel by air. They always took the train to his far away speaking engagements. California was the site of the following conversation. "[...] [One] of our dinner companions was an influential businessman who asked when we'd flown in. Isaac said we'd arrived the day before by train. The man's face went blank.

"By what?"

"By train."

"There was a long pause. 'What'd you say?"

" 'By train from New York,' said Isaac."

"But nobody takes the train."

" 'We did.' said Isaac."

"My God!"

"One of the wives present, a young woman of thirty-five from Southern California, said, 'Do you know that I have never, in my whole life, ever been on a train?"

" 'My God!' we said."

Skillfully weaving her personal story throughout each section without taking anything away from information about Isaac, she concludes the book (in the appendix) with several of her own short stories. Anyone who liked her husband's writing will enjoy this brief read.

Janet Jeppson Asimov specialized in her profession as a psychoanalyst. While practicing that job, she wrote twenty books both fiction and nonfiction. A resident of New York City, she also wrote a syndicated newspaper science column for several years. Recommended!

The Flight of the Creative Class The New Global Competition for Talent
Richard Florida
006075690X $25.95

Florida, who previously wrote The Rise of the Creative Class, proves statistically, filling his book with lots of numbers easily skipped, that highly trained individuals from other countries no longer come to the U.S. because jobs they used to get here are now being outsourced to their own or to other nations. So those people are staying home to work or going to other countries for jobs.

Bright foreign students also are no longer coming to the U.S. for an education. Two reasons prompt that: other countries are offering their smart students universities capable of teaching as well as American schools. And, since 9/11, the U.S. has so overreacted to homeland security issues, that foreign students have a tougher time and lengthier waits to get visas to come to school here.

This has a couple of bad consequences: one, American universities have had precipitous drops in foreign student enrollment and, even worse, the U.S. has lost access to keeping foreign graduates working in this country. If America can't hold on to the creative class, such as these students, this country won't be able to continue creating and innovating products in the high tech future.

Even highly educated American students are taking their creative skills and going to work in foreign cities around the globe. And why? Because the major factors that generate creativity, openness and a mix of all kinds of people, immigrants, native-born, gays, high skill and low skill workers, is not being met with acceptance in the U.S. Yet some major metropolitan cities in the U.S. and around the globe are welcoming all kinds of people. As a result, creative individuals are moving there in droves. Consequently, such communities are thriving as creative centers.

Florida cites study after study that shows how the most open communities in the U.S. are attracting the best and the brightest. Cities like Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Austin, San Francisco and the like are world class. But the U.S. has far fewer of them than does the world. And creative people are flocking to those world-class cities out of the U.S. in Canada, in Scandinavia, in Australia, in Asia, and elsewhere.

And if many parts of the U.S. and, indeed, the U.S. itself, loses its creatives, this brain drain spells the end of this country's supremacy in the world of commerce. The book's author pleads for Americans to be more accepting of diverse peoples. Help them to adjust, he says, and help them to create. And this country will again attract the creative brains needed to keep America strong and a world leader. But the trend seems to be the other way. So woe be to the U.S.

"The United States today," writes Florida, "faces it's greatest competitive challenge of the past century, perhaps of its young life. The reason is basic; The key factor of the global economy is no longer goods, services, or flows of capital, but the competition for people. The ability to attract people is a dynamic and sensitive process. Now centers of the global creative economy can emerge quickly; established players can lose position. It's a wide-open game, and the playing field is leveling every day.

"Companies have always sought to attract the best talent: The difference today is that instead of bringing that talent to their existing locations, companies are setting up facilities where the talent already exists. Talent is the 'biggest magnet' for globalized innovation, according to a 2004 Economist magazine survey of 104 leading multinational companies. Remember how quickly regions like Austin or Seattle rose to the top of the pack among U.S. regions. The same thing can happen--and is already happening--around the world. Now we're seeing the 'jobs go to the people' phenomenon in global centers from Dublin to Wellington. As a result, the real foreign threat to the American economy is not terrorism; it's that we may make creative and talented people stop wanting to come here."

The author is a professor at George Mason University School of Public Policy and a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. Earlier, he was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Currently, he resides in Washington DC. This quick read is recommended.

Identity and Violence The Illusion of Destiny
Amartya Sen
W.W. Norton & Company
0393060071 $24.95

A philosophical look at how the world's people, who have much broader identities than just being, for example, Muslim or Christian, Eastern or Western, male or female, young or old, educated or not, Indian or Pakistani, rich or poor, and on and on. In short, an individual could be an Indian, Muslim, female, rich, educated in a Western university, etc. People, especially today, have several identities. No one is exclusively Christian but nothing else, like also being an Arab.

So, Sen asks, why do people fight under the one banner of being, say, anti-Western, Muslim, or American? Only irrational people do so. Logical individuals see the big picture: they do have connections, aside from the main identities of religion, nationality, or state of residence, with many others, which bind such people together.

The author cites the case of people, though quite different in many particulars, living together peacefully in India today. Though nearly 80 percent of that nation is of the Hindi religion, 145 million Indians are Muslims, not to mention numerous members of several smaller religions, like the Sikhs. Yet they all get along fairly well. In fact, the current prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh, the president, Abdul Kalam, is a Muslim, and the ruling Congress party is led by a female, Sonia Gandhi, who has a Christian background.

Sen writes, "The violent events and atrocities of the last few years have ushered in a period of terrible confusion as well as dreadful conflicts. The politics of global confrontation is frequently seen as a corollary of religion or cultural divisions in the world. Indeed, the world is increasingly seen, if only implicitly, as a federation of religions or civilizations, thereby ignoring all the other ways in which people see themselves. Underlying this line of thinking is the odd presumption that people of the world can be uniquely categorized according to some singular and overarching system of partitioning. Civilization or religious partitioning of the world population yields a 'solitarist' approach to human identity, which sees human beings as members of exactly one group (in this case defined by civilization or religion, in contrast with earlier reliance on nationalities and classes)."

The author, Amartya Sen, has won the Noble Prize for Economics. Currently he is a Harvard professor. His other books include ON ETHICS and ECONOMICS AND THE ARGUMENTATIVE INDIAN.

This volume is the latest in a series published under the rubric 'Issues of Our Time.' Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard humanities professor is the editor for these publications. Highly recommended.

The Three-pound Enigma The Human Brain and the Quest to Unlock Its Mysteries
Shannon Moffet
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
1565124235 $24.95

Here's a pound and nearly six ounces of book that's filled with details about the, on average, three pound human head's contents and how each part functions from the prefrontal cortex to the occipital lobe, from the hippocampus to the amygdala, and everything in between. Moffett has interviewed those physicians and scientists on the cutting edge, in some cases literally and in all cases figuratively, of brain/mind science.

She opens with Dr., Roberta Glick, for instance, a neurosurgeon who operates at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Much of her work is with trauma patients, like gunshot-to-the-head victims. Moffett follows this busy physician on her rounds. The work that this doctor does is miraculous though often heartbreaking.

Next, Dr. John Gabrieli, a cognitive neuroscientist, relates to the author how the brain/mind works in memory and amnesia. Another scientist, Dr. Allan Basbaum, who studies macaque monkeys, tells Moffett about vision. Then it's Francis Crick, Nobel laureate, with James Watson, of the double helix of DNA, and Dr. Christof Koch who are examining neurons in the human brain. They do this with functional MRIs to see what's occurring while thinking goes on up there. Also the scientists are looking at consciousness in humans and, the possibility of it, in animals, particularly primates. Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh is leading the work in that area.

Following is Dr. Bob Stickgold, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where he conducts dream research. Then Moffett interviews Judy Castelli, a singer, who suffers from DID, dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder. This woman suffers from having over 40 different personalities channeling through her mind at various times. Her experiences were truly bizarre.

Dr. Daniel Dennett, the philosopher of mind comes in for wide coverage in discussions on consciousness. And Dr. Judy Illes, a neuroscientist, covers the relatively unknown new field of neuroethics. Such subjects as the morality of commercial firms offering MRI screenings to anyone willing to pay for them. And this being done while no medical support or referrals offered. Lastly, the author delves into Zen Buddhism and how meditation affects the mind/brain.

The book is organized into eight narrative chapters, each on a particular subject told in an interesting manner. Except for the final chapter, each is followed with a two or three page technical explanation of brain/mind function, at various ages of a human's life, and what is known on the subject at that point. But if the reader chooses to skip the technical material, they may without taking away from the rest of this intriguing read.

Writes the author, "The Cerebral hemispheres, deep-brain structures, cerebellum, and brain stem are all encased in the skull that bony armor protecting the fragile, wrinkly, pudding-like blob that, as far as we know, is you--the seat of every hope, dream, fear, memory, capability, characteristic, idea, emotion, thought, plan, potential action, and conscious experience that makes you who you are."

Shannon Moffett, the author, is studying medicine at Stanford. This is her first book. Recommended.

Death by Black Hole And Other Cosmic Quandaries
Neil DeGrasse Tyson
W.W. Norton & Company
0393062244 $24.95

Tyson, the author, an American, has assumed, along with Britain's Richard Dawkins, the public persona of science spokesmen. Of course, there are many others, but none as well known. Tyson and Dawkins inherited the mantel from the now deceased Stephen Jay Gould. All named are prominent scientists, though from different disciplines: Tyson's an astrophsicist, Dawkins is a biologist, and Gould was a paleoanthropologist. Still they represented the public face of science, especially in debates over the importance of science and the truth of evolution over the untruth of intelligent design (ID) and creation science.

In this his fifth book written alone, Tyson, who writes clearly and humorously, covers the gamut of science subjects in 42 chapters. Each is brief and interesting. The topics relate to each other only in general ways: from the threatening and scary black holes within many galaxies, especially the one at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, to the potential dangers from asteroids, comets, and what have you that we have to watch out for as they fall from the sky. The history of science and the early day scientists are discussed, too.

Most of the essays have been lifted whole, though updated, from Tyson's monthly columns in Natural History magazine. This had been Stephen Jay Gould's venue prior to his untimely death. Though not as strident as Richard Dawkins in disagreement with intelligent design, Tyson does at the end of the book have a chapter challenging ID with sound reasoning.

Writing in his Prologue, Tyson wets the appetites for science readers: "While our confidence in the big bang description of the origin of the universe is very high, we can only speculate what lies beyond our cosmic horizon, 13.7 billion light-years from us. We can only guess what happened before the big bang or why there should have been a big bang in the first place. Some predictions, from the limits of quantum mechanics, allow our expanding universe to be the result of just one fluctuation from a primordial space-time foam, with countless other fluctuations
spawning countless other universes."

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and an award-winning writer, directs the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Recommended.

Jim Sullivan

Terry's Bookshelf

13 Bullets: A Vampire Tale
David Wellington
Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group,
A division of Random House, Inc., New York
0307381439 $13.95

Do you really believe in vampires? Would you be willing to seek out their lair knowing that you were a sensitive? Such questions had never entered Laura Claxton’s mind. Until she met US Marshall Jameson Arkeley, that would devastate her life as she knows it, her thinking and beliefs are all about to change.

The story begins in 1983; Special Deputy Jameson Arkeley and his partner Webster are on a stake out outside a diner where Piter Byron Lares is inside talking with the waitress. What happens next is rich with moments of terror and the horrifying events that follow will leave you breathless. Lares takes everyone in the diner out in a matter of seconds, Arkeley is in for a terrifying ride of his life. Lares takes Arkeley after killing most of the SWAT team, when Arkeley comes to he finds he is in a ships hold and focuses in on five coffins, only one is empty. The other four coffins contain decaying remains, Arkeley fight for his life, and removes Lares heart and as the sun comes up he burns the boat, believing he had killed them all.

But one single survivor remained, Justinia Malvern, who now has been kept alive at a sanitarium in Pennsylvania. Arkeley believed all the terror was over, he was dead wrong.

Now 20 years later, Arkeley travels to Pennsylvania as a US Marshall and meets with State Trooper Laura Caxton. Arkeley partners up with Caxton to exterminate all the vampires once believed to be extinct. Malvern is being kept alive by minimal life support, the sanitarium has installed special blue lights as she is sensitive to regular lighting, she is being fed fresh blood by her caretaker who has inserted a shunt into his arm to feed her. Why has Malvern been kept alive all these years? There are bizarre laws preventing her extermination, and she seems to be of no threat, until now.

Arkeley and Caxton are on a mission to find the vampires lair and exterminate them before they can get the blood Malverne needs. Then Arkeley is kidnapped in order to use his blood to replenish Malvern’s powers, Caxton must now forge ahead and destroy them before they can unleash unspeakable horrors upon everyone.

David Wellington is the author of the Monster Island trilogy, and is no stranger to this genre. 13 Bullets is the first book in the trilogy by David Wellington, and is a tantalizing wild high octane ride. Wellington weaves his plot line together and has developed some very intriguing characters. This vampire tale is relentless, gripping, powerful and a genuine page-turner, that is horrifying and rich with moments of terror. The reader is thrust into a state of uncertainty filled with nervous anticipation as the conclusion nears to find that we must wait for the next edition to this trilogy to tie up the loose ends.

13 Bullets is a blood curdling tale to sink your teeth into. I look forward to reading his novels for years to come. Reviewing this title was a frightening pleasure. I highly recommend it to the horror fans everywhere.

For A Few Demons More
Kim Harrison
Harper Collins Publishers
0307381439 $21.95

For A Few Demons More is the fifth installment in the Hollows series by Kim Harrison.

Rachel Morgan is a witch and freelance bounty hunter that is woken from her sleep to find a powerful demon wrecking her home and claiming she posses something of hers. Rachel resides in a sanctified church and in disbelief and being scarred that the demon can enter the church.

Rachel is an interspecies consultant for the police force which is run by humans; she is called down to the morgue to look at the bodies of murdered werewolves. Rachel starts piecing it all together and realizes the reason the women werewolves can not be traced is because they are not registered in the were registry. What does this mean, the conclusion must be they were not born as werewolves; they must have been humans that had been changed into weres.

Rachel recognizes that the Focus, which is a demon artifact she has been hiding, has been turning humans into weres spontaneously. If the artifact were to fall into the wrong hands it would start a new interspecies war between the vampires and the weres which would be disastrous for the entire world.

For A Few Demons More is an action packed fantasy delivering a mix of action, horror and imagination. And some of her characters from the series are back in this edition. Kim Harrison has introduced us to some intriguing and interesting new characters that hopefully will make appearances in future Hallows series. I will have to give praise to the author for taking risks with her characters, and with the killing of one of her main characters. Harrison has intriguing plot twists and incorporates taking her characters in such amazing directions to leave you with much anticipation of the next in the series.

Readers will not be disappointed. I look forward to reading all her novels for years to come. Reviewing this title was a delightful pleasure. I recommend it without hesitation and give it two thumbs way up. A definite 5 stars! I do highly recommend if you have not read the others in the Hallows series that you pick those up and start with the first in the series.

The Blue Zone
Andrew Gross
William Morrow an Imprint of Harper Collins
0061143405 $25.95

Would you want to know your family secrets, and what skeletons lie hidden in the closet? Would you really want to know the truth if it would destroy everything you believed? What would you do if you learned your life had been a lie?

Kate Raab receives a devastating phone call from her mom, now the questions of family secrets and skeletons in the closet, and the truth enter her mind like a whirlwind. The words she heard “your father has been arrested, come quickly” made no sense to her at all. There must be some mistake, her father had no connections to the Mercado family and he didn’t know anyone from Columbia, or did he? What lies ahead for Kate when the family secrets begin to unravel?

Kate soon discovers that her life has been a lie. Her family is placed into protective custody, but Kate refuses, and her contact with her family is limited as a result. Kate marries a year later and is working on regaining some normalcy to her life. She feels as if she is being watched, and is consumed by paranoia after her best friend is shot while they are leaving work. After all Kate is certain that she was the intended target, not her best friend. Kate’s world is beginning to come apart.

Kate learns that her father has disappeared from the Witness Protection Program. Agents begin questioning her about her father, now she begins to think and is determined to find her family and learn the truth once and for all. Kate is surrounded by agents and wonders if they can even be trusted. Can she trust anyone? Her mind is consumed with possibilities that no one including her father and even her husband can be trusted. She decides to find out the truth and finds herself entangled in a deadly web, and is confronted with a truth that is more painful than she could ever imagined possible.

The Blue Zone is the term that the agents use when people in the Witness Protection Program come up missing. Kate has her own definition of the Blue Zone and believes that we all live within our own Blue Zone. Andrew Gross is the co-author of five bestselling thrillers with James Patterson. The Blue Zone is Gross’s solo debut. I look forward to reading all his novels to come in the future.

Andrew Gross delivers an ingenious and intricately layered plot, while still creating convincing personal journeys for his characters. The Blue Zone delivers a tantalizing and intriguing story packed with shocking twists that will keep you guessing and begging for more.

The Book of Air and Shadows
Michael Gruber
William Morrow
An imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
0060874465 $24.95

What would you do if you discovered a 17th century letter and a coded message? Would the quest for answering the coded message be plausible if not risky? It all starts with a fire at a used book store and a set of valuable books become damaged, two of the employees decide to take them home to see if they can be saved. Both Albert and Carolyn squabble over some manuscript pages which Albert finds and decides that the manuscript is a letter referring to an unknown Shakespeare play.

Carolyn and Albert take the manuscript to a Shakespearean scholar by the name of Andrew Bulstrode and he offers them a small price for the pages dismissing them as being credible. Later Bulstrode meets with Jake Mishkin, an attorney to inquire to copy write only to be found dead the next day. Now in fear of his own life Mishkin is on the run from the killers. Will Mishkin be next? Where will all the clues in this thriller lead?

Michael Gruber was born in New York City and attended Columbia, earning a BA in English Literature. Gruber now resides in Seattle, Washington with his wife and his very large dog.

This read combines suspense, thrills, humor, and mystery that provides twists and turns that engages you on the search to answering the clues. Gruber has developed a unique writing style that draws you into the heart of the story, which is engaging and surprisingly humorous at times; and contains vivid accounts and detail, and is a genuinely great read. His characters are well developed, compelling and memorable. Reviewing this title was a great pleasure and is a highly recommended read.

The Naming Of The Dead
Ian Rankin
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10169
0316057576 $24.99

The setting is Edinburg, Scotland, the year is 2005. And the story begins as everyone is watching for the upcoming G8 summit. Reinforcements are called in from all over the country as a few hundred thousand demonstrators have come to protest poverty aimed at the World leaders. Detective Inspector John Rebus is originally stay on the sidelines away from the scene, but as luck would have it a routine murder investigation turns up with a clue that throws him right in the middle of things.

Rebus and his partner Clarke are on the case and due to the clues they are turning up believe they may have a serial killer. All the while tensions are running high between Rebus and Special Branch Commander Steelforth. The investigation leads to many questions of suicide or murder. Crime fiction enthusiasts will not want to miss this one. This is an astounding 5 stars!

Ian Rankin was born in the Kingdom of Fife and graduated from the University of Edinburg. The first of his Rebus novels, “Knots & Crosses” was published in 1987. Rankin is the UK’s number one best-selling crime writer and lives in Edinburg with his wife and their two sons.

Naming of The Dead won the Worldbooks Crime Thriller of the Year Award. Ian Rankin has developed an intriguing plot that is loaded with twists and turns, and has created some very witty and memorable characters. Looking for a great read that holds your attention through to the end, that is difficult to put down and is a real page turner, then this is a must read, especially for the crime fiction enthusiasts every where. Reviewing this title was a great pleasure, and I look forward to all his works for years to come.

Murder Off the Books
Evelyn David
Echelon Press Publishing
9735 Country Meadows Lane 1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
1590805224 $12.99

A definite 5 star whodunit

Do you enjoy a mystery with suspense and a touch of humor? What about a loveable hound? And how do you like your murder mysteries? With a Whiskey Chaser? If so "Murder Off the Books" is for you, it has it all. This is the first in the Sullivan Investigation Mysteries, and with this writing duet, hopefully many more to follow.

Mac Sullivan is a private eye, and a former DC cop who frequently visits his friend's funeral home in order to pick up whatever vehicle is available at the time so he can conduct his stake outs with his loveable Irish wolfhound Whiskey. Mac has used vehicles ranging from a hearse to a pest control van which seems to be used frequently by him. Rachel Brenner is 42 and is recently divorced, she meets Mac Sullivan while he is staking out her house and following her to her new position at a funeral home. Mac and his sidekick Whiskey are looking for Rachel's brother, Dan who is a suspect in the embezzlement of money and the murder of his boss. Rachel joins forces with the attractive Mac Sullivan and his loveable assistant to help prove her brothers innocence. Of course to add a little fun Mac's wolfhound Whiskey hates cats and as luck would have it Rachel has a cat who also hates dogs.

Rachel finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation when her brother comes up missing and is a primary suspect in his bosses' murder. Rachel finds herself being able to manage and cope in ways in which she never expected, but before the end of the investigation, Rachel is finding herself in conflict with not only the killers but also with Mac Sullivan. Will Mac Sullivan find the half million that is missing? Will Rachel's brother Dan be cleared? Or did Dan take the money and kill his boss?

Murder Off the Books has fast paced action, a strong plot throughout; it provides witty believable and memorable characters. And it contains a loveable Irish wolfhound named Whiskey that has a taste for fast-food. This is such an exciting and fun book and the first in the series, I'll be sure to pick up each one to follow in this series.

This read combines suspense, mystery, and humor and is packed with twist & turns, as well as plenty of surprises along the way. It is a real page turner and demands to be completed. I highly recommend this for everyone, a must read, I honestly can't wait for the next one. So if you want a whodunit that contains non-stop action and humor look no further.

The Chronicles of the Virago
Michael K. Bialys
Publish America
P.O. Box 151 Frederick, MD 21705
1424133653 $16.95

The stories main character is Makenna, who is your typical 12 year old girl. The setting is Pasadena, California.

It all begins when Makenna is approached one evening by three fairies who tell her she is to protect her twin siblings from evil forces. The fairies arm her with an Armasword which is a powerful mystical weapon. Upon their visit they also tell her that she is the chosen one, the protector which they call the Virago. Her twin brother and sister are born with a gift of goodness and Makenna must protect them from evil, this is her quest and so the journey begins.

In this fantasy an earthworm reveals the evil force by name and that name is Sir Seaton. It is he who will be on his own quest to locate and destroy the twins preventing them from defeating pure evil in the future. Will Makenna discover Sir Seaton among the many disguises? Will she fail or prevail?

This is contemporary fantasy at its finest. A rich captivating story between good and evil with a picturesque ending where good prevails. It is both enchanting and a stimulating read for young readers, and offers vivid accounts and memorable characters. The story will excite your children and spark their imaginations, all while teaching family values. Your daughters will be cheering for Makenna, and your sons will be captivated and thrilled with the story filled within the pages.

This is a must for children, and highly recommended. It was a delightful pleasure reviewing this title and look forward to the next in the series.

The Wish Club
Kim Strickland
Three Rivers Press
c/o Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
030735282X $13.95

Wish Club is a zany and witty story that you are sure to love. It involves five women, Claudia, Lindsay, Gail, Mara and Jill who are members of a book club. Their book club seems just like any other book club, five women sitting around talking, drinking wine, and even discussing the book they have been reading. Things in their book club had been going rather well until one of the women in the group introduces a book on witchcraft. Being out of the norm, the women are intrigued and decide to go ahead and try their luck at casting a few spells. They start out with a small spell that is to chant and the rain will stop; then they begin to chant and the rain does indeed stop. Due to their success they then decide to cast a spell on a cat that is a diabetic and the cat heals, its a miracle. The women decide to embrace their new found powers, now they begin to pursue their new powers further. The women decide to just make wishes to help out themselves in their daily lives, they wish for money, creativity, a baby, time to themselves and a perfect man. This all should be harmless as they are only focusing in on positive thinking and making wishes right?

Now instead of being called the book club they are the wish club. Claudia is a school teacher and wishes to have a baby of her own as soon as possible, she also wants to write a novel. Gail is a housewife and a mother of three and she wishes to have peace and quite time and to get her life back. Lindsay is a socialite and has a trust fund, she wishes to lose weight and wants to be in the Women’s Foundation spring fashion show. While Mara, a former singer wishes for money and to resume her singing career once again; and Jill, an artist wishes for creativity and inspiration, and a perfect man in her life.

As the Wish Club members get all too consumed with casting spells in order to improve the various areas of their lives they find themselves in a web of wishes that have gone haywire. What started as an innocent and fun set of small spells has now turned their lives inside out, and everything is out of control. Now they turn to the only person they can think of who might be able to help them get their lives back under control and regain some normalcy, a real witch, someone who can undo what they have done, undo their spells, and finally return their lives back to normal.

Kim Strickland is a pilot for a major airline flying 767s. Kim Strickland lives in Chicago with her husband, her twin boys, two cats and a dog.

Kim Strickland has developed her characters so well and they are so believable and charming and funny. The story line is great, and I can find no faults with this novel. It has been very well written, (cleverly written) and is highly entertaining. Wish Club is an enchanting read, I am recommending it for our reading group. The story is funny, smart and so intriguing. This is a perfect book club read. It is a magical, intriguing, humorous story and give it an astounding 5 stars.

Anatomy of Fear
Jonathan Santlofer
William Morrow
An Imprint of Harper Collins
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
0060881976 $24.95

The setting is New York and Terri Russo a detective for the NYPD is called to the scene of a murder where she discovers a sketch of the victim alongside the body. Russo is aided in her investigation by Nate Rodriguez, the police sketch artist.

Nate’s father was an undercover narc for the NYPD, Nate still very much disturbed by his fathers death, has managed to avoid doing any on the scene police work. All this is about to change as Nate is drawn into the case, and maybe even further than he could have imagined. Nate begins piecing together the face of the killer and he himself then becomes a target.

The killer also sketches people, his victims, and he uses his abilities to turn the investigation in a different direction. You will find this story erupts with some explosive twists, so hold on for a heart pounding ride.

Jonathan Santlofer is also an artist and has his works displayed in several locations including museums. He received his Masters of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. Santlofer began writing in 1989 after a gallery fire claimed five years of his works. Anatomy of Fear contains both of his talents; his artwork enhances the strong compelling and intriguing plot, each complementing the other.

Santlofer has a steady flow of action and suspense with enough twists and turns to leave you with anticipation. The characters are distinctive and interesting with qualities that make them believable. The scenes are written with such a compelling impact that is gripping and makes this a genuine page turner to the end. A guaranteed 5 star read.

Lawrence Light and Meredith Anthony
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938
1933515058 $23.95

Ladykiller is the debut suspense novel by Lawrence Light and Meredith Anthony, the husband and wife writing team, and what a unique writing team. They have penned a novel that is a must for crime enthusiast.

The setting is the streets of New York, and the year is 1991. Four women have been murdered from all different walks of life, including a cheerleader, stockbroker, a housewife and a prostitute. Homicide detective Dave Dillion of the NYPD is on the case and must solve these murders or risk losing his job. Dave encounters a beautiful social worker by the name of Megan Morrison, the two join forces in search for the serial killer, and romance ensues.

The press is calling the serial killer “Ladykiller”. The killer has left no clues and no trail behind to follow. The murders always take place in some out of the way place where no witnesses can be found. There are never any signs of the victim being taken against her will and no signs of a struggle with their attacker, and the murders all appear to be personal in nature. Will Dave find the killer before its too late?

Lawrence Light is an award-winning journalist and is currently the Wall Street Editor for Forbes magazine. He graduated from Columbia School of Journalism and is the author of the Karen Glick novels. He currently resides in Manhattan with his wife and co-author Meredith Anthony.

Meredith Anthony has written for a variety of sources including film, television, print and the web. She graduated from St. John’s College and also received a MA from The Johns Hopkins University.

Ladykiller is an intriguing, compelling and suspenseful crime novel packed with enticing twists and turns to keep you on the edge. The authors have created a powerful thriller that tantalizes with a sense of suspense and a steady flow of action. The characters are believable, finely developed and engaging. Ladykiller is superbly crafted with vivid detail that draws you into the story. An astounding 5 stars!

The Blue Zone
Andrew Gross
William Morrow an Imprint of Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061143405 $25.95

Would you want to know your family secrets, and what skeletons lie hidden in the closet? Would you really want to know the truth if it would destroy everything you believed? What would you do if you learned your life had been a lie?

Kate Raab receives a devastating phone call from her mom, now the questions of family secrets and skeletons in the closet, and the truth enter her mind like a whirlwind. The words she heard “your father has been arrested, come quickly” made no sense to her at all. There must be some mistake, her father had no connections to the Mercado family and he didn’t know anyone from Columbia, or did he? What lies ahead for Kate when the family secrets begin to unravel?

Kate soon discovers that her life has been a lie. Her family is placed into protective custody, but Kate refuses, and her contact with her family is limited as a result. Kate marries a year later and is working on regaining some normalcy to her life. She feels as if she is being watched, and is consumed by paranoia after her best friend is shot while they are leaving work. After all Kate is certain that she was the intended target, not her best friend. Kate’s world is beginning to come apart.

Kate learns that her father has disappeared from the Witness Protection Program. Agents begin questioning her about her father, now she begins to think and is determined to find her family and learn the truth once and for all. Kate is surrounded by agents and wonders if they can even be trusted. Can she trust anyone? Her mind is consumed with possibilities that no one including her father and even her husband can be trusted. She decides to find out the truth and finds herself entangled in a deadly web, and is confronted with a truth that is more painful than she could ever imagined possible.

The Blue Zone is the term that the agents use when people in the Witness Protection Program come up missing. Kate has her own definition of the Blue Zone and believes that we all live within our own Blue Zone. Andrew Gross is the co-author of five bestselling thrillers with James Patterson. The Blue Zone is Gross’s solo debut. I look forward to reading all his novels to come in the future.

Andrew Gross delivers an ingenious and intricately layered plot, while still creating convincing personal journeys for his characters. The Blue Zone delivers a tantalizing and intriguing story packed with shocking twists that will keep you guessing and begging for more.

The Strangeling
Saskia Walker
Juno Books
9710 Traville Gateway Dr., #234, Rockville, MD 20850
0809557932 $9.95

The setting is Edren a fantasy world created by the author who has a magical imaginative spark in storytelling.

The Strangeling is an erotic fantasy novel that revolves around Maerose, a beautiful young woman with magical powers. Maerose is the heroine and Bron is her hero. Bron is an elder and goes on the quest of rescuing Maerose from her captor, Veldor who is a former elder himself. Veldor’s intentions are malicious as he seeks to mate with Maerose in order to master the demons and rule the lands.

Veldor is knowledgeable on the prophecy made around 100 years ago; the prophecy is one of a chilling nature where the undead armies of Crondor and Yaxlan rise up from the underworld with great power. As the prophecy has foretold of a maiden that can save the forest and the elders all believe this to be Maerose due to the revelations revealed about the prophecy. Will good conquer evil or will evil prevail in this fascinating fantasy?

The Strangeling is a short fantasy novel that is packed with vivid details and a precise amount of action. Walker writes the story with impact and the story is a superbly crafted erotic fantasy. The characters are well developed with detail and the author manages to tie the characters together well.

This is the first of the author’s works I have had the pleasure of reviewing and have to admit I am hooked. I look forward to her new release next month which is also a fantasy entitled “Unveiling The Sorceress”.

Saskia Walker is a British author of erotic romance, fantasy and erotica. Her idea for this novel began at a tender age of between 8 and 9 when she first became interested in paganism and her parents took her to visit Stonehenge.

Saskia Walker earned her BA with honors from the University of Sussex, and has a MA in Literature and Visual Arts from the University of Reading. She currently resides north of London with her true love Mark. A Magical 5 stars for The Stangeling!

The Story of Kitten Cuckoo
Written and illustrated by Ed Baker
Centro Books
200 E. 90th St., New York, NY 10128
1933572043 $15.95

The Story of Kitten Cuckoo, written and illustrated by Ed Baker is an endearing picture book with cartoonish characters that are simple yet adorable.

The story is for children of all ages, teaching children the concept of friendship. Ed Baker has developed a loosely rhyming poem to enrich this tale of an unlikely friendship. Kitten Cuckoo and a baby elephant named Paquile E. Derm are best friends, despite their obvious differences. The animals at the zoo would stare, giggle and make fun of the unlikely pair.

Paquile escapes from the zoo with Cuckoo and ends up being captured and sent to Africa. Cuckoo returns home to find Harrison Cruz has moved; now homeless he decides to do what any friend would do, travel to Africa to find his best friend. In the end he finds not only Paquile but Harrison Cruz too.

The story delivers the perfect idea of true friendship and will engage young children while teaching them not to give up on friendships formed. You will find games, wall paper, art and other goodies located on their website at; the game located on their website is addicting to both children and adults alike.

The Wish Club
Kim Strickland
Three Rivers Press
Crown Publishing Group
030735282X $13.95

Wish Club is a zany and witty story that you are sure to love. It involves five women, Claudia, Lindsay, Gail, Mara and Jill who are members of a book club. Their book club seems just like any other book club, five women sitting around talking, drinking wine, and even discussing the book they have been reading. Things in their book club had been going rather well until one of the women in the group introduces a book on witchcraft. Being out of the norm, the women are intrigued and decide to go ahead and try their luck at casting a few spells. They start out with a small spell that is to chant and the rain will stop, so they begin chanting and the rain does indeed stop. So they then decide to cast a spell on a cat that is diabetic and the cat heals, it's a miracle. So now they decide to embrace their new found powers, so they begin to pursue their new powers further. The women decide to just make wishes to help out themselves in their daily lives, they wish for money, creativity, a baby, time to themselves and a perfect man. This all should be harmless as they are only focusing in on positive thinking and making wishes right?

So now instead of being called the book club they are the wish club. Claudia is a school teacher and wishes to have a baby of her own as soon as possible, she also wants to write a novel; Gail is a housewife and a mother of three and she wishes to have peace and quite time and to get her life back; Lindsay is a socialite and has a trust fund, she wishes to lose weight and wants to be in the Women’s Foundation spring fashion show; while Mara, a former singer wishes for money and to resume her singing career once again; and Jill, an artist wishes for creativity and inspiration, and a perfect man in her life.

Now as the Wish Club members get all too consumed with casting spells in order to improve the various areas of their lives they find themselves in a web of wishes that have gone haywire. What started as an innocent and fun set of small spells has now turned their lives inside out, and everything is out of control. Now they turn to the only person they can think of who might be able to help them get their lives back under control and regain some normalcy, a real witch, someone who can undo what they have done, undo their spells, and finally return their lives back to normal.

Kim Strickland is a pilot for a major airline flying 767s. Kim Strickland lives in Chicago with her husband, her twin boys, two cats and a dog.

Kim Strickland has developed her characters so well and they are so believable and charming and funny. The story line is great, and I can find no faults with this novel. It has been very well written, (cleverly written) and is highly entertaining. Wish Club is an enchanting read, I am recommending it for our reading group. The story is funny, smart and so intriguing. This is a perfect book club read. It is a magical, intriguing, humorous story and give it an astounding 5 stars.

Pattern of Vengeance: A Maria Sanchez Thriller
C. Hyytinen
Echelon Press Publishing
9735 Country Meadows Lane 1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
1590805208 $12.99

The setting begins in Minneapolis and then moves between LA, Minneapolis, as well as some scenes set in Florida. Agent Stan Bauer has been murdered and believed to have been a Mafia hit. Detective Maria Sanchez is on the case. Her partner is Tom Powders who is nearing retirement and he has been acting very odd lately, Maria is not sure what he is up too, but begins to speculate as the story continues. They believe there is a leak in the department and no one can be trusted. Special Investigator Joe Morgan is Maria’s husband of ten wonderful years.

Chief Sandra LaSalle is the new chief having moved from New York only a year ago, she is a petite redhead in her fifties and is not very well liked and has earned some names since arriving as the new Chief in Minneapolis. Due to the nature of the crimes being committed, the possibility of a leak within the department LaSalle has made the decision to assign the case to Sanchez and partners her with Morgan.

Maria was once married to Jack Sanchez known as The River Rat and was the father to her daughter Tess. He was also father to a boy named Tony, whose mother died and Maria and Joe adopted him, after all he and Tess are brother and sister. Tess is in college and is twenty years old, Tony is a teenager about sixteen. It is nearly Christmas and Tess has finished with finals and comes home to stay for a month, which is just in time as the case heats up for her parents. Will they finally be able to put an end to all the mafia’s crimes? Will anyone else die as a result of this investigation? Will the person responsible for leaking the information to Marco be discovered in time?

LaSalle brings in Etina Altmark a Russian from New York to go undercover as a runaway, she is twenty eight but looks as if she is only fifteen. Hyytinen has a way of leaving you on the edge of your seat, she has incorporated vivid details and accounts throughout the story, making this one that you have to read from front to back non-stop. The chapters are short and each chapter leaves an inevitable hook at the end leaving you with the desire to read one more and then another. The author has superbly written scenes with impact, with a steady flow of action and suspense. This story is so relentless, gripping and intriguing and a genuine page turner. The characters are so finely tuned, believable and real, you find yourself cheering them on, hoping for the best, and feel these are people you have known for quite some time. You will find yourself thinking of the characters long after finishing the book. The story erupts with explosive twists and delivers a powerful ending that will leave you breathless. This is a must read, I will warn there is mature themes including language, but I have no hesitation in saying I highly recommend reading The Maria Sanchez Thrillers. If looking for an explosive read you will not want to miss this one.

It has been a great pleasure to read and review Pattern of Vengeance and I truly cannot wait to read the first in the Maria Sanchez Thrillers, and look forward to all her new releases.

Toaster Pond
Peter de Witt
DNA Press
PO Box 572, Eagleville, PA 19408
1933255218 $14.95

Toaster Pond is a wondrous adventure for children. The setting is a place called Waterville. In Waterville during the summer the teens are ready for their championship game of Hide and Seek. But this is not your normal regular game.

The story will captivate your child’s imagination. You can discover within the pages six toed fairies, as well as a wealth of different characters. The stories main characters include Doug, Skip, and Pierce, and they are on the Hide and Seek team termed the best team. Peter de Witt transports the game to a magical place of Sangerfiled, here the main characters must put their expert skills into action. Will they be able to save Sanger Castle? To find out you will need to pick up a copy of this great adventurous tale, you will not be disappointed.

Toaster Pond is a quick compact read, once your child has started they will not be able to put this one down. This is Peter de Witt’s debut and is an excellent creation and there will be a high demand for more. This is one enchanting and magical read that the entire family will want to read. This title will win the parents approval, and will be captivating families for generations to come.

Peter de Witt is an author, a adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY., and he is also has been teaching elementary school for eleven years. He currently resides in New York.

Gun Shy
Ben Rehder
St. Martin’s
175 5th Avenue NY, NY 10010
0312357524 $24.95

Gun Shy is the fifth novel in this mystery series featuring game warden John Marlin. The setting is Blanco County, Texas and it begins as the National Weapons alliance and director Dale Stubbs gear up for the big rally. The rally is supporting Americans with the right to carry concealed weapons. This is a controversial subject to say the least, but the author has brought humor into the mix and makes light of both sides, remember this is a work of fiction. This rally is expected to be on a grand scale and the NWA’s spokesman is none other than Mitch Campbell.

Mitch is hosting the rally at his Blanco County ranch and will be performing the NWA’s anthem and his number one hit single “My Cold Dead Hands”, but he is no real cowboy, in fact he is an impostor; his agent thought the persona would boost his record sales, deceitful yes. This deceit could end up in a disaster or could make Mitch a big hit. Mitch’s true identity is that of Norman Klienschmidt from Middlebury, Vermont so he is not even from Texas. Will Mitch be able to keep up his hidden identity or will he falter and make a huge mistake?

Due to Mitch’s devious actions and all too fake persona, he has turned to drugs to cope and the drugs are clouding his thinking. He soon becomes paranoid, believing his life is in danger and ends up shooting his gardener. But when the dead Mexican turns up, game warden John Marlin and law enforcement officials are on the case. As Marlin begins checking into the murder a new series of events begin taking place, these events may bring Mitch down as well as the NWA.

Rehder has well developed characters, a strong story line with a very good plot as well as sub-plots. He has created some unexpected twists that will keep you guessing. Rehder does not take an extreme position on questions of gun control and he pokes fun at both sides equally in the book. He presents a comical crime fiction series, that is humorous and entertaining.

It was a great pleasure to review such a witty crime fiction series. I now need to get the other four books in this series. This was the first title I have reviewed from this author and now am hooked. If your looking for a humorous and entertaining read I highly recommend picking up a copy of Gun Shy as it is an enjoyable read. I believe this deserves a big star with 5 points, (here I am trying to be humorous). A definite 5 stars!

The Bone Whistle
Eva Swan
Juno Books
9710 Traville Gateway Dr., #234, Rockville, MD 20850
0809557924 $12.95

The setting is Lakota reservation in Greenview, South Dakota. Darly is a twenty year old and lives with her mother just outside of Denver. Every summer she accompanies her mother to an isolated cabin on the edge of Lakota reservation in South Dakota. This is no way for a college student to spend her summer vacation.

Darly is bored and has made the decision that this will be the last year she will accompany her mother to the reservation. Darly likes seeing Grandpa Jack and this year he gives her a bone whistle that has two blue feathers attached, he tells Darly when she gets good and bored to blow the whistle. She waits all of two weeks before blowing the whistle and learns the truth about her family and her father. She had believed her father was dead, but he is not dead nor human, but is wanaghi. Wanaghi are a shape changing people who left their tribes centuries before and now live in a magical land beneath the hill.

On the search for her father she is accompanied by Osni, but what she finds is a conflict among the wanaghi. Now she must choose her heart and feelings she has developed for Osni or her family. Will Darly be able to resolve the conflict between them? Before anything else she must discover own powers which puts her on a path of self-discovery.

Eva Swan combines both Native American and Celtic legends into a romantic fantasy. The author takes us through the story by different character perspectives. Her characters are believable and she maintains a good plot. This is Eva Swans debut fantasy novel, the only problem I found was that as a reader you need to pay attention as the author has point of view changes into different characters perspective which can cause some confusion while reading. I truly enjoyed the both the Native American and Celtic concepts she has incorporated into the story.

Eva Swan is the pseudonym for the author, editor, and artist, who is of Native American descent, who currently reside in England. I was unable to locate a website for the author to include with the review.

Terry South

Theodore's Bookshelf

Lone Creek
Neil McMahon
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0060792213 $24.95 800-242-7737

The chain of events that carry this tale forward are complicated and convoluted, creating a mystery in the mind of this reader. From a simple observation, the ramifications are really kind of far out and improbable, straining one’s imagination. Nevertheless, the story has its merits, even if the protagonist walks away constantly from danger and justice.

Hugh Davoren, a carpenter near and about Helena, Montana, is a graduate of Stanford who worked for a Sacramento newspaper for nine years, only to return to the area of his birth to live as a day laborer in a rustic cabin trying to come to grips with himself and his past. One day he sees two slaughtered horses in a dump on a ranch for which he is doing construction work, setting off a wild and wooly experience. At least two attempts on his life are made as a consequence and he murders one of the perpetrators. The rest of the book details Hugh’s hiding from the law, the owner of the ranch and the resulting hazards.

While the action is fast-paced, the writing solid, this reader’s reaction to the whole novel is one of incredulity and incomprehension. I guess it’s really a matter of taste—YMMV.

Lawrence Light and Meredith Anthony
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938
1933515058 $23.95 800-829-7062

A bizarre serial killer who stalks the streets of New York in 1991 shooting victims in the right eye terrorizes the city. The victims are women, except for a male social worker from a West Side office treating disturbed people. The killer leaves no clues, and the police are stumped. The pressure mounts and detective Dave Dillon is convinced the murders relate back to the social agency.

The husband-and-wife team that wrote this thriller has constructed a tale that is eerie, with a twist at the end that blows the mind. The descriptions of pre-Disney 42nd Street and some of its denizens are insightful and colorful.

Final Undertaking
Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590582292 $24.95 800-421-3976

It is Friday night, and in the streets of Gainesboro, NC, the weekly barn dance is underway. Suddenly, a man raises a pistol and aims it at a stranger. He fires, hitting a young woman. The sheriff shoots him, while in turn getting shot in the chest, effectively putting him in the hospital and out of commission. Enter Barry Clayton, former Charlotte cop now an undertaker in town. The sheriff appoints Barry as deputy in charge of the case, while overseeing the investigation from his hospital bed.

A web of intrigue unfolds, as the original premise for the incident becomes clearer. As Barry attempts to balance his duties to the funeral parlor business and as a deputy, various witnesses die under mysterious circumstances. Doubts arise as to who Barry can trust in his efforts to find the truth.

This novel is the fourth in the series, each a well-plotted, entertaining mystery featuring Buryin’ Barry Clayton. All I can say is: keep ‘em comin’.

The Blue Zone
Andrew Gross
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0061143405 $25.95

After having co-authored five bestsellers with James Patterson, Andrew Gross has struck out on his own with this solo effort. The Blue Zone is a state described in the Witness Protection Program as one where someone disappears from protective custody and whose whereabouts are unknown. In this novel, there are two such persons and the reasons for their disappearances are at the heart of the plot.

The story revolves around a family forced into the program, except for a daughter who refuses. There comes a time when she relentlessly attempts to learn the secrets of her father’s past, and the consequences that result from her efforts. Along the way several U.S. Marshals and FBI agents, as well as persons under their protection, are tortured and murdered. Who is responsible for these acts? What is afoot? Who’s next?

This is a gripping tale, with suspense mounting at every step along the way. The author proved his talent and earned his spurs to ride off alone. It is a worthy debut. Now for the follow-up.

Dangerous Outsider
Graeme Roe
Carroll & Graf
245 W. 17th St., NY, NY 10011-5300
0786719591 $24.95 800-788-3123

Inevitably when the theme of a novel is set in the English horseracing territory, the comparison arises with the master of the genre, Dick Francis. Dangerous Outsider is more than equal to the task. A series of calamities befalls a well-known and -respected trainer for unknown reasons.

First a relatively unknown Irish trainer sets up shop nearby, luring away horses and spending unreasonable amounts of money to challenge Jay Jessop’s successful operation. Then an attempt is made to frame him with a drug rap. A fire breaks out at the facility, horses are abducted, four New Zealand horses are killed for insurance money, an employee shot and the top jockey lured away. The plot is international—money to finance the endeavor seems to originate in Singapore, flowing through Swiss banks and Ireland.

As the story unfolds, facts are revealed to implicate an unlikely suspect and an even more unexpected conclusion. One doesn’t have to be a horse racing enthusiast to enjoy the racing scenes, which are exciting and worthy of the master. Recommended.

Lipstick and Lies
Margit Liesche
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
1590583205 $24.95

During World War II there were founded WAAC (later shortened to WAC), WAF and WASP. All were women auxiliaries to the armed forces. WASPs ferried fighter and bomber planes across the country and over oceans. The protagonist of this novel is a WASP pilot. She also is recruited to serve in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of today’s CIA, and after only three weeks of training (seems incongruous, doesn’t it?) she is sent into the field to participate in an FBI investigation of a Nazi spy ring in the Detroit area.

The story is based on a real live figure, Countess Buchanan-Dineen, who led a German spy ring. She was jailed with her cohorts after “cooperating” with the FBI and exposing the others, and it isn’t clear if she was a double or triple agent. Pucci (nicknamed after Puccini) Lewis, the WASP-OSS agent’s assignment is to work undercover and learn what she can about the “Countess’” activities, but she becomes much more involved as the plot thickens.

The mixture of real life and fiction blends, showing the author’s efforts and substantial research. While Pucci is an admirable character, her role seems far-fetched in the context of trained FBI and Nazi agents, especially with such minimal training. The novel reads well, however, despite my misgivings.

Murdering Americans
Ruth Dudley Edwards
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590584139 $24.95 800-421-3976

Irreverent, irresponsible, impossible—these are some of the adjectives used to describe Baroness “Jack” Troutbeck, member of the House of Lords and Mistress of St. Martha’s College in Cambridge. When she is invited (mistakenly) to become one of four Distinguished Visiting Professors at an Indiana college, the intellectually-rigorous right-winger is thrust in the midst of knee-jerk liberal academia, setting off a parody of affirmative action and political correctness. Along the way there are at least four murders, and not only do Jack and her sidekick, Amiss, have to solve them, but they must attempt to undo the harm to academic standards as well.

The novel is amusing until near the end, when lengthy expositions—sort of long-winded summaries to bring things up to date--cloud the light-hearted criticisms and observations and reading becomes bogged down. Since this reviewer has not read any of the previous ten entries in the series, no comparison can be made, although it should be noted that the author has been short-listed by the Crime Writers Association for the John Creasey Award for the best first novel and twice for the Last Laugh Award for the funniest crime novel of the year.

Simple Genius
David Baldacci
Warner Books [now Grand Central Publishing]
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0446580341 $26.99 800-759-0190

Michelle Maxwell is suffering from the aftermath of events which transpired in the preceding novel in the series, Hour Game, as well as personal demons resulting from a childhood trauma. As a result she undergoes psychiatric therapy to start off this tale. Meanwhile, her partner, Sean King, accepts an assignment to investigate the ostensible suicide of a brilliant scientist at a think tank in Tidewater, Virginia, on the opposite side of the river from Camp Peary, also known as The Farm, site of the CIA headquarters and training ground.

Michelle soon checks out of the facility and joins Sean at the secret enclave of scientific geniuses, seeking to create the world’s most sophisticated microprocessor. The interplay between these efforts and the possible involvement of the CIA in the scientist’s death sets off all kinds of dangers to the pair, as well as to an innocent young girl, whose father’s death also is suspicious.

The story and writing are up to the customary Baldacci standards, and while the conclusion is exciting, it may be considered by some a bit far-fetched. But it is good fun and fast-paced.

Deadly Appraisal
Jane K. Cleland
St. Martin’s Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
0312343663 $23.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

For a sedate antiques dealer and appraiser, Josie Prescott gets herself into plenty of dangerous and precarious situations. In the debut novel in the series, Consigned to Death, she was involved in a murder. In this sequel, Josie is again in the midst of a murder investigation—even as a possible suspect—when a friend is poisoned at a gala charity benefit she is hosting at her establishment. And the murder is complicated by the question: Who was the intended victim, Josie or the person actually killed?

The plot builds slowly, with clues—both true and false—strewn along the way. Building to a completely unexpected conclusion, the story is well-told and carefully constructed. The author’s expertise derived from owning and operating a rare bookstore in Portsmouth, NH, many years ago shines throughout.

Shell Game
Jeff Buick
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
0843958464 $7.99 800-481-9191

How do you con a con man? That’s what Shell Game is all about. Taylor Simons and her husband were the victims, along with many others, of an elaborate scam in which the perpetrators reaped over $200 million. Devastated, Taylor sold her business to cover the bank loan for $13 million, and when the local police and the FBI came up blank in catching the scam artists, decided to find the leader and recoup her money.

In a swift and penetrating tale, the chase builds to an unusual and surprising conclusion. The author apparently has taken some liberties with facts while describing the scam involving a bogus company. The description of securities and Blue Sky laws are at variance with the facts, as is the suggestion that the Securities and Exchange Commission “approves” an Initial Public Offering (the cover pages of prospectuses clearly state the SEC “neither approves nor disapproves”). Also in describing Paris: “…it pulsed, like a vein carrying blood from the heart: Of course, it should be arteries, n’est pas? Also, since the reviewer had only an ARC, there is no way to tell if Colombia is still incorrectly spelled with a “u” in the final version. These are minor criticisms in an otherwise fine effort which is recommended.

Anatomy of Fear
Jonathan Santlofer
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0060881976 $24.95 800-242-7737

This novel is one of the most original and intriguing books to have been read recently. It combines two separate and distinct talents: artistry and writing. It is a mystery about two artists, a police forensic sketcher and a serial killer, each pitted against the other.

Nathan Rodriguez, half Puerto Rican and half Jewish, is a trained police officer who prefers to draw faces instead of pounding a beat. He has an instinctive (and distinctive) talent for creating actual likenesses of criminals, allowing their capture. He is brought into an investigation of a series of murders in which the killer leaves a drawing of the victim attached to the body. His efforts use his talent to analyze the murderer’s motivation.

The novel proceeds in a unique manner: through use of graphic artist renditions and narrative. Each contributes to forwarding the plot. More than 100 original sketches contribute to the story. And a touch of the occult makes the protagonist somewhat of a superhero. The plot is gripping and the reading a must.

The Trigger Episode
Tom Straw
Carroll & Graf
245 W. 17th St., NY, NY 10011
0786718781 $25.95 800-788-3123

A Hollywood mystery of a different stripe, this novel features a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist fallen on hard times, after being ostracized for taking a picture of a prominent person in bed with a woman not his wife, something the establishment frowned upon at the time. Consequently, he is functioning hand-to-mouth as a member of the paparazzi. Then he is asked to find a TV star who has disappeared just before the taping of the 100th episode of her show, which would trigger syndication.

Hardwick finds and delivers the diva, who soon dies under suspicious circumstances following the completion of the episode. [Not a spoiler—all this happens very early in the book.] In the meantime, he crosses paths with his ex-fiancee, raising his hopes for a reconciliation. But the diva’s death nags Hardwick and he sets out to learn the truth. He is retained (by two different sources) to find her diary. Hardwick teams up with his ex-fiancee to find the diary, leading both into extreme danger--she is injured severely and he faces a brutal death. The story reaches a startling finale. Fluid and fast-paced, the novel is well-written and engrossing.

Fresh Disasters: A Stone Barrington Novel
Stuart Woods
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
0399154108 $25.95

Stone Barrington continues on his merry way is this latest episode. Two stories thread their way through this highly amusing and sharply-written tale. To begin with, pathetic Herbie Fisher shows up at Elaine’s while Stone and his friend, Dino, are having dinner and the result is a bit outlandish. Herbie is accosted in the restaurant by two goons, forcibly taken outside and beaten because he owes $24,000 to a bookie associated with a top Mafioso boss. Stone is trapped into bringing a civil suit against the gangster, who has never been touched by the long arm of the law.

The other sub-plot involves a sculptor who has a penchant for tall women and is dangerously jealous. One of these women is someone with whom Stone becomes involved (one of several throughout the book) and who is later murdered.

Obviously danger confronts Herbie, with the mob boss seeking to remove witnesses, as well as Stone and those close to him, from a few sources. The action is continuous, the characters acutely drawn, the story pleasurable. The good news: Stone and Holly Barker team up again in Shoot Him If He Runs, to appear this coming September.

American Outrage
Tim Green
Warner Books [now Grand Central Publishing]
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
044657743X $24.99 800-759-0190

This thriller is about a TV investigative reporter who, with his adoptive son, becomes the story itself. Along the way, he learns some truths about himself and his methods for getting the stories he is so proud of—no matter the cost—and getting the truth.

When his 13-year-old adopted son asks him to find his biological mother, it sets Jake Carlson on a quest that unearths all kinds of dirt involving organized crime, a nefarious child trafficking ring and a corrupt politician, the scion of a rich, established Hudson Valley family. The journey includes peril to Jake and his son, resulting in a violent ending.

The moral of the fast-paced and graphically written novel is: should past sins be revealed? It is strongly recommended that American Outrage be read to learn the answer.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Mourning Dove
Aimee & David Thurlo
Forge Books
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
0765350351, $6.99, 336 pages

Jimmy Blacksheep has just returned home to the reservation from a stint of duty in Iraq. On the way home he’s murdered and the crime appears related to several recent carjackings. There’s only one body at the scene, but the cops discover two different blood types. Is there another body somewhere?

Tribal investigator Ella Clah has the case and the pressure is on to solve it quickly. Ella suspects the carjackers are not the perpetrators of the crime, because certain facts of the case don’t fit. She receives a package that Jimmy sent before his death, but it’s written in code which she tries to break without success. Ella then seeks the help of the attractive and mysterious new minister in town.

The military and the FBI become involved with the investigation as well as the Farmington PD. The hunt for the perps heats up and Ella has to walk a fine line to keep from stepping on the toes of the different departments.

The Navajo detective also struggles to deal with changes in her personal life and for the first time in months she feels attracted to another man. Will the secret this man carries destroy their friendship? I look forward to seeing how this all plays out.

The story involves greed, betrayal and murder. Mourning Dove is another engrossing novel by Aimee and David Thurlo. The others in the series are: Blackening Song, Death Walker, Bad Medicine, Enemy Way, Shooting Chant, Red Mesa, Changing Woman, Tracking Bear, Wind Spirit, White Thunder and Turquoise Girl. I’ve read every one of them and liked them all.

On Writing Romance
Leigh Michaels
Writer’s Digest Books
4700 E. Galbraith Rd., Cincinnati, Ohio 45236
1582974365, $16.99

This book is a must for the new or inexperienced writer. The author walks you through each step of the writing process from studying how to write a romance book to researching your story and writing it.

Included is advice on writing conflict, creating the hero and heroine and how to make their romance work. “How are you going to resolve the issues you’ve created between your characters? How will you find solutions to their difficulties and disagreements?” These are some of the questions she asks. Do you know the answers? If not Ms. Michaels book will aid you in finding them.

How do you get your reader to love your characters? She’ll help you figure that out too. How will you start your story? How do you know what to say on that first page? You don’t want to give away too much at the beginning or the reader will lose interest.

The author covers the subject of how to populate your book with the right characters, how to write love scenes, POV, plotting, story resolution, background, and the list goes on. It finishes with advice on marketing your novel and shows you what a good marketing package contains, including examples of query, synopsis and cover letters. There is also a list of publishers in the back with info on how to find more.

I wish this book had been around when I started out. It could have saved me much time and hair pulling. If you’re new or you need a refresher course do yourself a favor and read this book, I think you’ll be glad you did.

Murder Unfolds
Sharon Short
Avon Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10022-5299
0060793279, $6.99, 272 pages

Stain expert Josie Toad fern has a problem; she’s haunted by her old junior high school teacher Mrs. Oglevee. She’s not thrilled about it as Mrs. Oglevee, a mean-spirited sort, was not her favorite instructor.

Josie gives a speech at the library’s ribbon cutting ceremony for the new history collection named in Mrs. Oglevee’s honor. During the event someone slips Josie a note saying that Mrs. Oglevee didn’t die a natural death. The note states it was murder.

This ignites Josie’s curiosity, but what captures her interest is the promise that Mrs. Oglevee will disappear and stop haunting her dreams if she finds the truth. Josie is thoroughly sick of the dour woman’s presence in her dreams and the thought of being rid of her is appealing.

Her investigation will lead Josie and her friends, Sally and Cherry into dangerous waters. Will she survive long enough to discover what happened to her teacher and if she does will Mrs. Oglevee be able to keep her word? Murder Unfolds is a great little mystery laced with humor and romance.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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