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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 5 May 2008 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrew's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Delta's Bookshelf
Duncan's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Liana's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mark's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Michelle's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf Terrilyn's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf RebeccasReads

Reviewer's Choice

Yasmine Galenorn
375 Hudson St., NY. NY
9780425216293 $6.99

Amy J. Ramsey

This is the 2nd book in the Sisters of the Moon/Otherworld series by Yasmine Galenorn. It's narrated by Delilah D'Artigo, the youngest of 3 sisters, Camille and Menolly. Delilah has the ability to shift into a were-tabby cat, unfortunately it can be at the wrong time and usually when she gets really nervous and stressed out. Delilah is trying to become more responsible to show her older sisters that she is able to take charge of her own situations without relying on them to solve her problems. With war breaking out in the Otherworld, a demon threatening to destroy Earth and when a mysterious stranger (that she feels a strong attraction to) shows up in her office asking for her help to find out who is killing all of his tribe's people, all chaos breaks out. She has to rely on her sisters and their friends to overcome the evil that awaits them and to solve the mysterious murders of the Rainier Tribe and ...some how find out how to save both of their worlds, plus come out alive.

This is a wonderful and exciting book, with lots of twists that keeps the reader guessing all the way through. If you like to read about shape shifters, demons, dragons, supernatural creatures and romance this is a book you definitely want to include on our TBR list.

Dr. Thomas Moore
Alphar Publishing
8419 O'Melveny Avenue, North Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA 91352
0978602404, $16.95, 228 pages

Anthony Chaytor

HILLARY, by Dr. Thomas Moore, bridges fiction and nonfiction to tell a strange if true story of coded secrets, psychotic delusions, truth, and lies. This story of greatness and weakness, of genius and hallucination, is based on the parallel lives of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Carmella Meeks, (a sophisticated prostitute) and Tony Chaytor, the greatest forensic investigator and structural engineer of many centuries. Taken together their work proved that truth is elusive, that knowledge has limits, and that structure can reveal past corruption. Chaytor was devoted to truth of the highest abstract nature, yet was unable to grasp the mundane truths of his own life. Through it all, the narrator wonders, along with these odd heroes, if any of us can ever really grasp the truth. Dr. Thomas Moore masterfully brings these great characters together in a slightly fictionalized version of their lives. This novel is no mere assemblage of biographical transcriptions. We are very much within the mind of an unreliable narrator, one whose dark obsessions resonate with the version of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Newt Gingrich, along with the sexy Carmella and the whistle-blowing Tony Chaytor.

Waiting for Normal
Leslie Connor
Katherine Tegen Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780060890889 $16.99

Colin Butler

I was fortunate enough to win Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor from the professor of my young adult literature class. Connor distinguishes her book from other young girl coming-of-age novels through a unique exploration of a daughter's bond to a less than competent mother. Addison 'Addie' Schmeeter must be the mature member of the family, holding down the trailer of a fort for herself, Piccolo, a pet hamster, and 'Mommers', who is compulsive and flighty to a fault.

"I ducked inside, put the macaroni in the pot and grabbed the broom. While I swept I wished everything good that I could for Mommers. I wished her up to Union Street in time for her bus. I wished her a seat by the window, and something as tasty as fish-and-chips for dinner. I wished up the best interview ever for Mommers. Then I wished something for myself: I wished Mommers back home before midnight." (Page 68)

Addison is the antithesis of the nebulous, mystical woman, and her frustrations with her mother are a critique of that oft promoted character. A similar critique is depicted in Midnight Hour Encores by Bruce Brooks, in which Sibilance T. Spooner, an accomplished cellist, goes on a cross country trip with her father to reunite with her estranged mother. This novel's biggest success is the genuine sense of love displayed between daughter and mother, and goes further than Midnight Hour Encores by placing the daughter in the chaotic home of the mother, and yet still achieving a sense of sympathy.

As an English teacher I feel it is important to not only create lifelong readers but also to keep abreast of the exploding young adult literary market. Waiting for Normal also represents an often contentious genre of young adult literature, that of the maturing young woman. The genre, and conventions used suggests this book is for maturing young girls. An age range of "Grade 5 and up" is specifically printed on the inside cover and there are themes, such as pregnancy, which should caution against the reading of the book by younger audiences. Although the book is somewhat longer than the usual young adult novel at 290 pages, the writing is not too complicated for the grade level intended. There is even a unique and helpful device employed by Connor to help reluctant readers assimilate new words. Addie is dyslexic and records words she does not understand so that she may look up the definitions later. Therefore, teachers and parents of children with learning disabilities should read Waiting for Normal because it provides a glimpse of the world as perceived by a dyslexic child.

Connor adheres to many of the conventions of young adult literature which is not necessarily a bad thing. Having a small cast of characters, a lack of parental supervision and a protagonist looking for a hero at a turning point in her life are definitions of literature for young adults, some of which Connor uses innovatively. However, innovation within this type of literature is not always the key to success, since predictability and adherence to the conventions creates points of access for reluctant readers. The exploration of other less developed relationships, such as those between a father and daughter, would create a story too complicated for beginning readers. Hopefully Leslie Connor will use her gift to create other complicated, yet loving relationships in future young adult novels. She has authored Miss Birdie Chose a Shovel, a picture book, and Dead on Town Line a young adult novel written in free verse. She grew up in Schenectady, New York which is the setting for the majority of Waiting for Normal, and currently lives in Connecticut.

Amish Grace, How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy
Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9780787997618 $24.95 201-748-6000

Corinne Gompf

The effects of a shooting at an Amish schoolhouse reached far beyond the rural landscape of Nickel Mines, Pa. in October 2006. Shocking not only the reclusive community, but also the country, this school shooting, which led to the death of five girls, resulted in a heartwarming, yet questionable, act of forgiveness.

This nonfiction book explores how a troubled milkman gathered weaponry, invaded an Amish school and took the female students hostage. The chapters that focus on the account are heart-wrenching, as the authors give an adept retelling of the details.

However, the shooting is only part of this in-depth look at Amish, as well as English, forgiveness. Immediately after the shooting, many in the Amish community reached out to the shooter's wife, children and parents to offer their forgiveness. This spurred the nation to question whether or not the Amish who forgave the shooter and his family acted too quickly, or if their forgiveness was real, leading to a debate on Amish versus English forgiveness.

The authors interviewed English and Amish parents, clergymen and laypeople about their ideals of forgiveness and what it truly means to them. They explain cultural and religious beliefs and significance of forgiveness.

"Amish Grace, How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy" also offers a brief overview of Amish culture, which proves to be a bit more interesting after a long-winded exploration of forgiveness and tends to lean toward a "textbooky" side. The style of the book is informative, but interesting, and should be able to hold a reader's attention. The authors are, of course, renowned experts of the Amish culture and teach at the college level. They have written multiple books on the subject.
All in all, this book is an easy read of an important topic, allowing the reader to think about his or her views of forgiveness. I found the insight to the Amish culture fascinating and would encourage anyone who appreciates their rural lifestyle to read "Amish Grace, How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy."

A Match Made in Heaven: America Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance
Zev Chafets
New York
9780060890599 $13.95

Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Zev Chafets, in his newest book, A Match Made in Heaven: America Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance, investigates how right-wing Christians act and interact with each other and with the Jewish community. He then asks if those deeds support or undermine the Jewish people in general and Israel in particular.

His first encounter with fundamentalist thinking occurred in his youth, when a Christian friend informed him that as a member of the Chosen People, he would be going to hell when he died. This led Chafets on a life-long quest to understand fundamentalists. In so doing, he attended their churches and sat in revivalist tents. Chafets is now in a unique position to draw conclusions about Evangelical Christianity, Israel and American Jewry. He was born in Detroit and raised there until, as a late teenager during the Viet Nam War era, traveled to and remained in Israel; eventually becoming an Israeli citizen. He fought in the Israeli Defense Forces and in due course became the Director of the Government Press Office for former Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin.

As a newly arrived emigre, Israeli territory had no emotional meaning to him. If the Arabs wanted land for peace, so be it. After a period in the Israeli Army, he went to work for the newly formed Likud Party. In 1977, the left-leaning Labor Party lost to the right-of-center Likud Party. This was the first time since the founding of Israel that the Labor Party lost a national election. Likud asserts the equivalent to America's 19th century belief in Manifest Destiny by calling for the annexation of all the land that makes up Israel, including the West Bank, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem. While taking a hawkish stance against the Palestinians, they were the first party to negotiate peace with its neighbors. Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords, which returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.

While working for Begin, Chafets learned that Christian Zionists, including Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, wanted to establish relations with the Israeli government. At that time, all Chafets could recall were his memories of the Bible-thumping hypocritical evangelical preachers from Detroit. Begin liked them from the start. The leadership of American Jewry was scandalized and outraged, but Begin didn't care because they "were willing to go to mat for him against Jimmy Carter over the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza."

A Match Made in Heaven gives us the perspective of events and issues dear to American Jewry through the eyes of an Israeli Jew who once had American citizenship. For example, many American Jews saw the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as a discrete act of terrorism, like the bombing in Oklahoma City. They heard Jerry Falwell blame the attack on American immorality and others call for severing America's close ties with Israel. Chafets supports Israeli belief that this assault on America is part of a worldwide jihad against Jews and Christians alike.

Chafets meets with two Evangelical Christians in the Israeli city Meggido, which some say is the site of the future Armageddon. They discuss eschatology, telling him that they subscribe to Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth. They believe that the Bible does make predictions; nations do fit into certain power patterns and most important of all, the Jews have returned to the Promised Land after two thousand years in exile. Who cares? No one, until Evangelical Christians became politically active. Now there is a great suspicion that "born again" George W. Bush is using his political position to push a biblical agenda.

And yes, Evangelical Christians want to convert Jews, even if it's by cell phone, as Chafets learned when he called a Baptist Church in Pontiac, Michigan. No wonder that American Jewry is leery of interactions with right-wing Christian groups. In 1923, the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago hired a converted Jewish professor to head their first chair in the Department of Jewish Studies. In 1964, the American Board of Missions to the Jews set up a booth at the New York World's Fair. Less than twenty years later, the Southern Baptist Convention asked its members to divert all their energy and resources toward proclaiming the gospel to Jewish people. On one hand, Chafets asserts that Christian Zionists downplay their serious efforts to convert Jews, especially when dealing with Israel, while on the other he observes that moderates declare that except for extremists, evangelical Christians do not intend to turn America into a theocracy.

Throughout the book, Chafets is asking, is the support of Evangelical Christianity good for the Jews, or not? By way of interesting vignettes and anecdotes Chafets takes us into the world of Christian Zionists and their interaction among themselves and with world leaders. Fallwell tells Chafets that "critics of my ministry have tried to drive a wedge between me and the Jewish community… They forgot that my master was a Jewish rabbi." Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin had no problem with either Fallwell or with the Moral Majority's four points of pro-life, pro-traditional family, pro-American, and support for the State of Israel.

So, are Israeli Jews from Mars and American Jews from Venus? Perhaps this was the case until 9/11, asserts Chafets, when American Jewish liberals realized that the Arabic translation of Mein Kampf was a best seller in the Middle East, the Palestinian rejection of the Camp David two-state solution implied more than territory was at stake, and Islamic heads-of-state began declaring, in support of article 22 in the Hamas Charter, that Jews controlled the world through a Zionist conspiracy. It was no longer Israel, but the Jews who were the enemy. Israelis support America's attack on Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein. "By toppling him, the United States was sending a clear message: even if we think you'd do something like 9/11, you're gone."

Throughout A Match Made in Heaven, the reader is made aware of the author's view that evangelicals are basically good people who support Israel because that's what the Lord wants. Consequently, they support American presidents who show unconditional support of Israel. Chafets sends the clear message that Israel gives unconditional support for Christian Zionists and hopes that American Jewry will see beyond the Christian mission to convert non-believers and subsequently rally behind presidents who support a strong Middle Eastern policy that recognizes the legitimacy and survival of a Jewish state.

The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture
John Battelle
Portfolio Hardcover, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9781591840886 $25.95

Margot Note

In the introduction of John Battelle's The Search: How Google Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, the author discloses that he did not want to write a business biography of Google, although the company is discussed throughout the book. Although the subtitle mentions Google, the book is a broader look at both the history of the search engine industry and the effects it has on our culture. Battelle wanted to follow the story of how searching has evolved from graduate student information science projects to the world's growing dependence on online information. He also discusses some of the battles between Google, Yahoo!, MSN and second-tier search engines.

It all began in the mid-1990s, when AltaVista showcased a new computer created by its parent company. The search engine they created worked quickly on the powerful computers. AltaVista did not realize that it had created something more valuable than the computers themselves - the power to search the web.

Search, in Battelle's book, goes beyond businesses like AltaVista or Google. As more users manage their lives through the Internet, companies that analyze our queries and deliver what we are looking for will flourish. Battelle calls it the "Database of Intentions," which transitions the Internet from presenting content to interpreting intention. The Database of Intentions is a system that not only helps us satisfy our individual needs and wants, but changes the way we interact with others. As more users participate, search engines will better anticipate what will be asked for in the future.

The value of contextual advertising depends on interpreting intention. Since text ads are targeted for their audience, the ad buyer only pays when the ad is clicked. This has revolutionized advertising because small businesses which could not afford to advertise can now do so, and they only have to pay when it works. As one ad executive said, only a half of advertising works, but you don't know what half. Text ads work for everyone involved: businesses get sales boosts without a large marketing budget, customers get what they want (or did not even realize that they want) and search engines make money by connecting the two. Of course, it is not as easy as it seems, and Battelle offers examples of how companies have benefitted and been damaged by search engine algorithm readjustments.

Battelle also discusses the downside of search engines, such as the various black hat schemes to rank pages higher or to commit clickfraud, among others. Google, whose motto is "Don't Be Evil," has been criticized for some of their business decisions. As search engine companies move into markets in countries like China, they will have to deal with oppressive government regimes that censor material, at best, and kill online dissidents, at worse. Google has issued a limp statement in defense of supporting China's censorship laws, and Yahoo! was recently exposed as helping China prosecute dissonant journalists that use its search engine. This topic will be discussed at great length in the coming years as companies try to profit in large, censored markets by compromising their ideals.

Although Google leads the market, other companies are gaining ground, like Yahoo! and Ask. In order to stay in the market, all companies will continue to analyze and market the Database of Intentions in quicker, faster, and simpler ways.

Murder's Madness
Alex Matthews
Veiled Intent Press
546 N. Humphrey, Oak Park, IL 60302
9780979475603 $15.00

Cynthia Penn

Very Highly Recommended

Once again peanut butter cup eating Cassidy McCabe finds herself embroiled in a murder and mayhem with author Alex Matthews's latest release, MURDER'S MADNESS. Favorite characters make an appearance including the wacky, brilliant wig festooned Gran, the rascal Starshine, and Cassidy's husband Zach. As Zach's career comes to a screeching halt due to a new editor, Cassidy invests her time and attention in a tenant's disappearance. Her tenant, a woman with schizophrenia, has witnessed a murder, but her mental state makes her testimony suspect, leading Cassidy into a dangerous world of disappearances and death. With her remarkably savvy style, Matthews once again creates a world of murder and mystery devoted fans of Cassidy McCabe will find impossible to put down. Very highly recommended.

Borne On Wings Of Steel
Tony Chandler
Hard Shell Word Factory
9780759947245 $15.95

S. Joan Popek, Reviewer

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reading Chandler's first EPPIE award winning book, MotherShip. I have never forgotten that book and always hoped there would be a sequel.

Well now there is! Mother and her crew are back in an exciting action/adventure/mystery sequel that encompasses worlds peopled with a variety of alien beings rivaling even "Star Wars" eclectic collection. Chandler has the unique talent of bringing his characters to life and making you believe that they are not only possible, but maybe--just maybe they are waiting for you right around the corner.

One of my husband's favorite adages is, "Never try to come between a mother and her child." As I read this book, I thought of that and couldn't help laughing. Imagine how much more that adage might mean if that "Mother" is a sentient starship fully armed with hybrid weapons built especially for her and ready for battle. Ouch!

Three children raised by Mother are now young adults full of the curiosity and exuberance of youth. Are these three the last remaining humans in the universe? Their home world, Earth, was completely destroyed by a war-faring alien race. The children barely escaped destruction because they were already aboard MotherShip. But their quest to search for other humans has not ended. Deep down, they hold out hope that they will find other human survivors. Because she wants them to be happy, it is also Mother's goal. The search leads them millions of light years away to strange worlds, where they encounter many exotic races--but no humans.

During their quest, they and their alien "family" become entangled in a web of espionage and danger where they encounter the mysterious Paum. Who or what is Paum? Why are the inhabitants of this universe afraid of Paum? Why is this Paum so interested in Mother? They soon discover that more than just lives are at stake. Perhaps the future of the entire universe lies in the hands of these three, young humans, Mother and their small "family."

Because I am intrigued by the idea of sentient machines with artificial intelligence, I found myself holding my breath to see what Mother would do next. One of my favorite lines from the book is, "Don't make Mother mad." This story will have you chuckling one minute and on the edge of your seat the next.

If you did not read the first story MotherShip, you will find that the sequel, Borne On Wings Of Steel, stands alone with high adventure, and will keep you entranced from the first page to the last.

If you did read the first one, your experience will be enriched twofold--you will reunite with old friends and make new ones in this second in the series. I strongly recommend that you get both at Hard Shell Word Factory and take not just one, but two exciting trips into this innovative future that Chandler has created for you.

Nuruddin Farah
Riverhead Hardcover
1594489246 $25.95

Priya Ramachandran

I picked up Knots from my local library where I saw it displayed prominently among under new arrivals. It seemed to me as if the subject matter - civil war, poverty in Somalia were heart wrenching topics and anyone writing about them with an insider's eye view were bound to make for interesting reading. I read the back blurb where reviewers from Salon to New York Times seemed to agree that Nuruddin Farah deserves a Nobel for his literary outputs.

The story is something like this: Cambara, a Somalian transplant in Canada decides to return to her country soon after losing her only child to a freak accident. The aim is ostensibly for her to recover her family's property from militiamen who have moved into the ancestral home by force. The Somalia that Cambara comes home to is an empty, dysfunctional shell of a country. Very few people want to live in Mogadishu (Mogadiscio according to the book). There are almost no educational facilities, and young boys have been initiated into various opposing factions of small armies - enticed by the promise of blood, war and the addictive qaat, leaves of a native plant that grown men constantly chew. Cambara comes to live with her cousin/ex-husband Zaak, a good-for-nothing fellow who she married out of loyalty to her mother's wishes. Zaak is both unable and unwilling to help Cambara with retrieving her family home. In the meanwhile, Cambara meets up with Kiin, a widow and single mother who runs an upscale hotel in Mogadishu. Together the two women manage to get back Cambara's home. Cambara's mothering instincts finds expressions in the two boy soldiers she informally adopts. And by the end of the book, love arrives in her life and all ends relatively well.

In spite of the interesting subject matter, this book was difficult to like. It seemed rather like a spinach side-dish that was good for me. Farah's language is very stilted, almost as if he found the longest words that could fit a sentence and stuck them in there. Americanisms thrown into the passages seemed entirely out of place. Farah, a male writer, seems unable to get inside a woman's psyche. On three separate occasions, the reader is treated to improbable descriptions of Cambara observing her driver clumsily changing gears. the writer also has a propensity to launch into inner thoughts and internal conversations and every action by the main protagonist is rationalized, explained, its root causes examined. The result is that the book's pacing suffers.

Apart from the stylistic flaws is the improbable story line. Almost nothing untoward happens to Cambara, considering how risky her undertaking is. Time after time, friends and friends of friends assist Cambara in her quest. Not once does she come face to face with the militiamen who are occupying her home. Even the pivotal aims of hers - the acquisition of her home - is by happenstance. It was rather like reading a Sherlock Holmes without Holmes and Moriarty ever facing off.

I didn't enjoy the book but I would still recommend it to anyone who cares about the crisis in Somalia. Why? Simply because we know so little of the Somalian conflict beyond what the newspapers and 24 hour news channels report. The ultimate message of this book really is how essential and needed women are in a war-ravaged country, and that is a message that would resonate anywhere in the world that is a staging ground for despicable atrocities. There are some books that must be written and read for pleasure's sake, and some that need to be put out in order to inform and educate. This book belongs to the latter variety.

We Are All One
J. M Harrison
Book Surge
9781419674051 $13.99

Shirley Roe

For a state of true awareness, consciousness is the underlying substance of all, the void between the atoms, the invisible One-ness, the very spirit of God. pg. 167

If I had to sum up this book in one sentence, this would be the one. We are all One is an inspiring, educational tool in the journey to find Truth and One-ness. As one who has read many books on this subject, I find J. M. Harrison to be a talented writer; one who presents, what could be a complicated subject, in easy to understand terminology and constant repetition to drive the point home. Readers will find new and interesting approaches to awareness and many tools that will help them find their "true self."

The author takes readers on a slow and enriching journey of conscious evolution from Spatial Consciousness through Perception and Experience, Lovelight and Healing and a complete explanation of the Metasenses. Each chapter should be read and reread to absorb the knowledge before moving on to the next in order to fully appreciate and absorb the multitude of information provided. Many important phrases are in bold type to draw your attention back several times as you read the page. Phrases such as "Nobody can ever give you anything, but you can give yourself all." Or "Seeking our greatest truth provides us with the clearest answer." The poem 'Lovelight" rang true on a universal level with me, as it was very similar in message and cadence to some I wrote myself. Never did I find the reading tedious. It held my interest from start to finish.

J. M Harrison is co-founder of The Dubon Centre of Healing and Awareness in Gascony, France. More information on the center can be found at: Once you have read this book, you will actually begin to feel the universal connection, the One- ness that joins us one to another, whether human, animal, plant or mineral. We can no longer argue, We are all ONE.

Well written, and highly recommended by Shirley Roe, Allbooks Review.

The Authentic Tarot: Discovering Your Inner Self
Thomas Saunders
Watkins Publishing
Sixth Floor, Castle House, 75-76 Wells Street, London W1T 3QH
9781905857159 $24.95 AU

Rose Glavas, Reviewer

It seems appropriate to see 'The Chariot' on the cover of this book… I'm only a beginner in the sometimes complex field of Tarot, but it reminds me of being taken on a journey with lots of things to discover. Saunders meaning to this card is '…journey into unfamiliar territory...', it also seems appropriate when I think about going from just learning about Tarot and moving into a deeper level of understanding through reading this book.

Thomas Saunders has taught many seminars in the UK and America and has been reading the Tarot for more than 18 years. In the past he was also a regular on the Pete Murray show for LBC London Radio, and became the Tarot expert for 'Marie Claire' magazine in 1993 for three years. There is a lot more that the author has been involved in that also contributes to his knowledge of the Tarot and other occult knowledge.

'The Authentic Tarot' was a very interesting read that was written in a way that was engaging, deep and easy to understand. There are full-colour reproductions of the deck the author prefers (Ancien Tarot de Marseille) - explanation is given for his preference for it in the introduction to the book. All of the cards are explored and a very detailed way of reading the cards is given in this title that was quite comprehensive and detailed (I really liked it but it was very time consuming for a novice like me). Thankfully there was a simpler spread for those of us who are just starting!

In summary I would recommend 'The Authentic Tarot' for anybody who has an interest in the subject, regardless of your skill level. This would appeal particularly for those of you who are looking for the next level of meaning to this symbolic art.

Lover Enshrined: Book 6 of The Black Dagger Brotherhood
J.R. Ward
Signet Books
9780451222725 $7.99

Roxanne Rhoads

J.R. Ward has outdone herself in the 6th installment of The Black Dagger Brotherhood, Lover Enshrined. Not only does she focus on the main couple, Phury and Cormia, in this novel but she really opens up her vampire world to the reader taking us farther and deeper than she has before. Ms. Ward has a very complex and completely different view of vampires and slayers than I've seen in any other works and believe me; I've read a lot of vampire fiction. Vampires are mainly what I read (and write) about.

In Lover Enshrined, the reader is introduced to new and interesting characters and some characters that were previously minor ones, just shadows in the background, were revealed more in depth and brought into the spotlight in some cases. The nature and depth to which she opens up these previously minor and new characters raises many questions and really spins and twists promises of stories to come, new plots, and subplots that will hopefully unfold in the future.

A few main characters were relatively out of the picture in Lover Enshrined, but hey the last two books were completely about them so that's understandable, I just kind of missed them since they are two of my favorite characters. Other characters that came into the spotlight were John Matthew, Blay, and Qhuinn. I suppose John Matthew will be the focus of the 7th book which raises so many questions about how Ms Ward is going to handle the whole John/Darius thing. Reincarnation intrigues me, but that's a very long philosophical discussion I'll save for another day.

Lover Enshrined was full of action and a lot of twists and turns in the story line that kept me wondering what would happen next. From the very beginning it was like, wow, that's deep. The Omega gains ground with a new weapon against the vampires. The lessers get a new, completely unexpected leader, one of the vampire's own and an angel wants to be part of The Brotherhood. What was lost is found and the vampire princeps council also gets a new and completely unexpected leader, you'll never see that one coming.

This book seems a little bloodier that the previous books in the series, but even though it is filled with violence and death Ms. Ward balances it with new life and hope for the future of the vampire race. She does a splendid job of mixing romance, sex, violence and hope into what some may just disregard as vampire/romance/trash without meaning. There's always meaning, you just have to read between the lines. Plus give me a good fiction novel to escape in any time. I have enough heavy "meaning" in my life; fiction is my escapist drug of choice.

The main focus of Lover Enshrined, is of course, the romance and the conflict between the two main characters in this novel, but I love how Ms Ward takes the basic romance formula and spins it in with other major plots and sub plots.

The book opens with Phury still struggling with the Primale role he took over from Vischous. He feels he is in no form to have the fate of his race resting on his shoulders. Hero complex aside he's so messed up he can't get his own head on straight yet now he's supposed to essentially be a vampire stud and sire young with his First Mate, Cormia, and the rest of The Chosen females. Needless to say it may be more than he can handle. After months he still hasn't sealed the deal with Cormia let alone moved on to her sisters.

Throughout the book Phury struggles with his past, fears his future, and can't seem to get past all his mistakes (real or imagined). He worries about his twin and his twin's pregnant mate Bella. Phury falls farther and farther into darkness letting his addiction eat away at him and lead him to the very edge of disaster.

While Phury hovers at the edge of everything, including being on the outside of the whole of what is going on in the vampire world and The Brotherhood, he is also distanced from Cormia as she discovers there is much more to her than just being one of The Chosen. She learns about this new exciting world she is in and starts to finally enjoy it even while she longs for Phury to discover her and take her as he is supposed to. Not just because it is her duty but because she really wants him to.

Lover Enshrined is definitely one of the most complex of the Brotherhood series. I can see where Ms. Wards writing skills are improving, not that she was bad to begin with, but as she writes the story unfolds and becomes deeper and more complex as her world grows. In this book she really lays her main characters bare, souls wide open for us to see inside while she teases us with what may come in future books. Hot, erotic, and thrillingly sexy she teases and pleases and makes us want more.

What she started with Butch and Vischous (which I found strangely and surprisingly super sexy) she continues with two other males (not as sexy for me). I wonder how far she will take the whole bi/homo eroticism and if will help or hurt the story line. I guess it probably won't hurt; it didn't seem to hurt Laurell K Hamilton's popularity in her Anita Blake series.

I have to admit that Phury is probably my least favorite of the Brothers. Although Phury is a beauty, a true male of worth (even if he doesn't see it), and has a major hero complex, I just don't care for him. I think it's the drug addiction, hits to close to home with men I've dealt with in my life I guess. I have no sympathy. Lots of people go through hell without turning to drugs. Anyway, I thought that would hurt my enjoyment of this book but it didn't. Maybe Ms. Ward foreseen this issue with many readers and that is why she made this installment so much more complex than previous books, or maybe it's just a happy coincidence.

So does Phury kick that habit? Can he overcome his past, get over his strange obsession with Bella and seal the deal with Cormia? Or is the weight of the vampire world resting on his shoulders just too much for him to handle?

You have to read the book to find out. It's a long, bumpy road but a thrilling ride.

Fans of The Black Dagger Brotherhood will love it. Vampire fans in general will adore it. If you haven't read any books in the series yet, now's a great time to catch up but really you have to start from the beginning so you get the full effect of everything that's going on.

Andrew's Bookshelf

Honor Due
D.H. Brown
Big River Press
9780979874413 $15.95

Few Americans know about the American forces fighting with the Montagnards in the central highlands of Vietnam. A battlefield for some 30 years,"the 'Yards" were one of the country's 54 major ethnic groups. Allied with the Americans, the Montagnards were horribly persecuted by the victorious North Vietnamese after the American forces left the country in 1975, with many emigrating to the United States.

Author D.H. Brown, a Vietnam vet who fought with the Montagnards, has written a fast-paced thriller based on the CIA-Special Forces-Montagnard relationships that continued after 1975.

With the hero patterned after a special forces vet living in the Pacific Northwest rainforest, Brown's story drags the hero, ex-Special Forces, back into the CIA- Spec Ops - Montagnard confusion of the late 1960's - early 1970's. His 'yard' friend suddenly and brutally murdered after an attempt on his own life, Brown's hero finds himself falling in love with his friend's daughter as they chase and are chased by a renegade CIA hit team. The action is realistic and convincing as our two defend themselves before a thrilling and surprising conclusion.

"Honor Due" is D.H. Brown's first literary effort, and the first of a planned trilogy and is well worth reading.

The Boys in Blue White Dress
William F. Lee
9781434327277 $25.50

All too often authors are told not to use the first person, or to not to personalize their story; what a shame because William Lee's excellent novel "The Boys in the Blue White Dress" could have been one of the better memoirs of 2007.

In addition to being one of the Marine Corps "The Few…The Proud," William Lee was a Marine officer who had the rare distinction of serving on the "Death Watch" as President John Kennedy's casket sat in the White House, and then on public display at the Capital's Rotunda back in November 1963.

Those old enough to remember those days can think back to those few ramrod-straight Marines on our black & white television sets who stood guard - so few people alive in the world today can claim such a view of history.

Lee has written an interesting book about the Marines who present the motivating Friday Evening Parade at "8th & I" - the Marine Barracks. A unique job even by Marine standards, Lee treats the reader to the stories that illustrate both the humanity and the effort necessary to for their pageants and presentations. Some of his vignettes of the Marines with whom he served are laugh-out-loud funny, as Lee personalizes the men under his command - all while woven into the surrounding tapestry of his and his Marine's efforts and feelings during those tragic November days. Included are photographs from 'back in the day' that only serve to reinforce the rarity of Lee's unique view of history.

Class of Twenty-Eight
Neil Moloney
1424110769 $22.95

Most veterans write stories based (sometimes loosely) on their experiences in battle. First-time author Neil Moloney has instead penned a unique book covering the lives of five young men - five high school friends - four of whom enlisted in the military following the Pearl Harbor attack.

Moloney's story follows these young men from boot camp to battle, as they participate in the war in different branches of the service. In an interesting twist, one of the five is Japanese, and his story is that of a Japanese-American trapped in Japan on 7 December, and forced to fight against America.

A former Marine who served in the South Pacific during WW2, Moloney's book deserves high ratings for his honest portrayal of combat, and how men behave in battle. He also remembered to weave in a war-time romance; so common as the young men - which brings in a touch of humanity to the brutality of the Marine's island war in the Pacific.

Shades of Gray
Jessica James
Patriot Press
9780979600005 $27.99

Set in Virginia during the Civil War, "Shades of Gray" is more a novel of the concept of honor and loyalty than battles. As the United States grew from a collection of brave, but independent states to a full-fledged federal system, a few states like Virginia struggled to adapt from the courageous but soon-to-be outdated concept of individualism to that of being part of a larger national entity. A romantic novel set within the framework of a Union-Confederate relationship, Virginia's Captain Hunter seems to have met his match in bravery, intelligence, and stubbornness until he meets Sinclair, a Union spy in disguise.

Set in the 1860's, author Jessica James's historical fiction contains many twists and turns, perhaps a few too many. The interplay between northern bluntness and southern graciousness is well illustrated as "Sinclair the spy" is soon revealed to be Andrea, a lovely lady who believes herself to be the equal of any man.

This is an interesting story on several levels; that of a Civil War novel, that of a romance story, but more importantly, one that delves into the thoughts and feelings of combatants who are fighting for respect (her) and honor (him) in a war in which both sides knew deep down what would be the outcome.

While perhaps too romantic and sweet for many Civil War readers, those who enjoy romance and the psychology that builds relationships will find "Shades of Gray" to be a very enjoyable book.

Andrew Lubin, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Adventures of Mom
J. Kaspar Barnes
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595472710, $17.95,

Middle age - the point where many people look at their lives and become depressed in believing that they have done absolutely nothing with their lives. Everyone deals with this differently, however. "The Adventures of Mom: A Natalie Quill Mystery" tells of thirty-eight year old Natalie Quill whose solution is her attempt at becoming a mystery writer, and for inspiration is working in her half-brother's private eye business. It turns out private investigations are not as glorious as they are in the books, and that Natalie might not get to finish her novel. "The Adventures of Mom: A Natalie Quill Mystery" is a deftly written and intriguing piece of work - highly recommended for mystery fans and for community library mystery collections.

Swimming on My Wedding Day
Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager
2001 Pine Lake Road, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595426553, $12.95,

The tragedy of cancer has a tendency to have no upsides - why it's usually referred to as a tragedy. But there was a huge upside to author Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager and her husband Paul - they found each other and found a huge thing to bind them - they are both survivors of cancer. "Swimming on my Wedding Day: My Cancer Journey Through the Seasons" is their story of fighting their cancers and their new marriage being their bastion of support through it all as they celebrate the life that was almost taken from them all too early. "Swimming on My Wedding Day: My Cancer Journey Through the Seasons" is a highly recommended piece of writing for anyone looking for strength in their reading to fight what may be a cancer of their own and for community library memoir collections.

My Splendid Concubine
Lloyd Lofthouse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595458431, $21.95,

Love for ones wives' sister is typically forbidden by most western religions, but the most successful westerner in Chinese history is faced with this conflict. "My Splendid Concubine" is the tale of Robert Hart who deals with the matters of his lust and how to deal with them the Chinese way, which so conflict with his upbringing. The Taiping Rebellion doesn't help matters, him making enemies of established and skill mercenaries in the process of protecting his interest and the women he loves. "My Splendid Concubine" is packed cover to cover with intriguing characters and plot, a must read for historical fiction fans and a fine addition to any collection on the genre.

Economics in the Present Tense
Joel Clarke Gibbons
Vantage Press
419 Park Avenue, South, New York, NY 10016
9780533157402, $15.95,

Inflation, the downward spiral of the economy, rising poverty - just a few of the money worries that dwell on the American financial mind. "Economics in the Present Tense: Dysfunctions of the Welfare State" is what a Ph.D in mathematics and economics believes are the problems with today's economy, written in simple terms that non-specialist general readers will be able to read and understand. Subjects like inflation and productivity are attacked in the form of informed and informative essays. The scholarly approach makes "Economics in the Present Tense: Dysfunctions of the Welfare State" a must have for community library economics shelves and for readers concerned about the future of their money.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

The Homeowner's Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook
Penelope O'Sullivan
Storey Publishing
210 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247
9781580175708 $29.95

Divided into three sections - design, care and plant profiles - this comprehensive guide covers every essential consideration when choosing and maintaining trees and shrubs. After an introduction to the principles of garden design, O'Sullivan guides readers through tree and shrub selection, with special consideration for owner expectations and growing conditions.

The heart of the book, an extensive encyclopedia of hundreds of tree and shrub portraits, featuring plenty of color images, will inspire hours of browsing. Each profile covers how best to use the plant in a particular landscape, as well as ease of cultivation, availability, history, hardiness, size, growth rate, and special characteristics.

The author also includes warnings about plants not to grow, such as invasive exotics and disease-prone trees and shrubs. The final section covers care and maintenance, with thorough advice on buying and planting, pruning, fertilizing and coping with diseases, pests and environmental problems.

101 Baseball Places to Visit Before You Strike Out
Josh Pahigian
Lyons Press
P.O. Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
9781599212517 $26.95

In "101 Baseball Places to Visit Before You Strike Out" Josh Pahigian takes the reader on a road trip across America to honor the game's players, fans, and ballparks. Through a series of essays, Pahigian looks at the game's effect on American culture, how the game has evolved, how baseball helped break down barriers and how the sport helped unify the country when we needed it the most.

As with any book of this nature, the reader will weigh his list of "must see" places against what the author has selected. For example, Pahigian's first five include the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Field of Dreams (Dyersville, Iowa), the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Monument Park (Bronx, New York), and the Pennsylvania Little League International Complex. Frankly, only two of these locations would have made my Top Five list!

You may not agree with all of the spots the author includes in this book but that is the problem with any volume of this nature. Each selection is accompanied by a short essay (and usually a photo) that explains why the place is mentioned. In some cases the author's logic will win the skeptical reader over, but more often than not it probably won't make a Doubting Thomas a believer!

Admittedly, a book of this nature is fun to page through. In many cases it will mention some places baseball fans weren't aware of and it will certainly generate a discussion about the appropriateness of some of the selections.

Although I might be reluctant to recommend this volume to anyone who was seriously looking for a list of "must see", iconic baseball venues, the book would be an entertaining read for the armchair traveler. The serious baseball fan would probably glean between 20-30 places from this list that would merit an actual visit.

The Last Real Season
Mike Shropshire
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., New York, New York 10017
9780446401548 $25.99

Purported to be "a hilarious look back at 1975-when major leaguers made peanuts, the umpires wore red, and Billy Martin terrorized everyone", this account of the Texas Rangers season is anything but funny.

After finishing this sorry, first persona narrative about the Rangers dismal, disappointing season, I wondered why anyone actually thought "The Last Real Season" was worth publishing. Not even the Texas baseball community will find this book a worthwhile read.

A running account of the author's alcohol consumption, a rehash of Billy Martin's juvenile behavior, and a week-by-week narrative of a team's less than satisfying season isn't something most people will consider riveting reading.

Quite truthfully, I was embarrassed for the sports journalist who wrote this drivel. I think he did his craft, his newspaper, his team and himself a grave disservice. Mike Shropshire steps up to the plate here only to strike out!

FBI 100 Years: An Unofficial History
Henry Holden
Zenith Press
400 First Ave. North, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9780760332443 $40.00

"FBI 100 Years: An Unofficial History" offers an up-close look at the best and worst moments in the history of one of the world's most famous law enforcement agencies.

Given unprecedented access to the FBI Washington, D.C., headquarters and the agency's academy at Quantico, Virginia, Holden not only delves into past history and notable cases but he also discusses the FBI's ever changing role and powers in a rapidly changing world.

Beginning with Teddy Roosevelt's trust-busting force and a need to deal with possible acts of espionage during World War I to the aftermath of 9/11, this oversized volume charts the course the FBI has taken since its inception in 1908 as a "Special Agent Force" attached to the Department of Justice.

It wasn't until 1935 that the moniker "Federal Bureau of Investigation" was used for the agency. As one would expect, in telling the story of the FBI's first century there would have to be substantial chapters devoted to its most famous (or infamous) director, J. Edgar Hoover, and the gang busting period that accompanied Prohibition. Besides these important sections of the book, there are other chapters on investigating organized crime, the McCarthy era and the accompanying blacklists, spy busting, and a look at such tragedies as Ruby Ridge and Waco.

Although it is largely a positive picture Holden presents of the agency, he doesn't duck controversial issues such as surveillance methods. Not only are Hoover's notorious files addressed but also the rumors about the director's supposedly X-rated private life.

How the FBI handled the Red Scare of the 1950s, civil unrest in the 1960s, political assassinations and the more recent Patriot Act are also discussed. The personalities you'll read about range from "Baby Face" Nelson, John Dillinger, and Al Capone to Alger Hiss, Patty Hearst, John Gotti, and Robert Hansen.

At the back of the book you'll find a timeline, the names of special agents who have died in the line of duty, a list of film titles called "The FBI Goes To Hollywood" and a page of acronyms and abbreviations.

Featuring 300 color and black and white photos, "FBI 100 Years" is a pictorial treasure-trove of images that will delight anyone interested in American law enforcement. Undoubtedly books more critical of the agency will be released this year, since this is an important FBI anniversary. But for a well illustrated and comprehensive overview of the organization, you won't find a better value than "FBI 100 Years".

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Where the Redwing Sings
Ed Kostro
Privately Published
19 W 238 Gloucester Way, Oak Brook, IL 60523
9781601454355, $12.95,

Prolific and award winning author Ed Kostro returns once more with his seventh book, "Where the Red Wing Sings", an anthology of lyrical poems and brilliant essays. With a focus on nature and the animal kingdom, "Where the Red Wing Sings" is a brilliantly written and composed book of poetry, and highly recommended for community library poetry collections.

Elan Vital
Suzanne M. Kelly
Privately Published
P.O. Box 16741, Ft. Worth, TX 76162
9780979648007, $21.95,

Self-described as a modern day Illiad, "Elan Vital" has a huge pair of sandals to fill. Author Suzanne M. Kelly writes out her twenty five years of musings about the universe to produce a massively epic poem, her ponderings on God, the bible, personality, free will, and the after-life - if there is any. Going through history and pre-history, she leaves no subject untouched or stone unturned. "Elan Vital" is highly recommended to any poetry lover who wants something a bit more epic from their reading and poetry, and for community library poetry collections.

Cold Season Poems
Jalal Ghavami
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY, 10016
0533149886, $8.95,

Jalal Ghavami describes his poetry as a bank for all of his memories over the years, and that his first anthology of poetry, "Cold Season Poems" is his first deposit into that bank. With a focus on the winter months, "Cold Season Poems" is a deftly composed anthology, brilliantly assembled in his own unique format, sure to bring joy to anyone who lays their eyes upon his rhyming and lyrical writing. "Cold Season Poems" is highly recommended for poetry collections everywhere. Let's Chill: C Block/D Block/G Block/What's making a/difference/let's chill//September, October 2003.

The Song Itself
Annonymous, Yaq Cuartz, translator
Privately Published -
1905 SE 50th Ave, Portland, OR, 97215
9780615169200, $17.45,

He has to deliver the ancient gnostic codex, but so much stands in his way. "The Song Itself: A Gnostic Remembrance" follows the anonymous and ambiguous messenger on his travels to deliver his parcel - pyromaniacal linguists, illusionary and real threats, and more comes to threaten his delivery of the ancient gnostic codex in "The Song Itself: A Gnostic Remembrance", excellently composed and written, and highly recommended to readers who want a fiction with a unique slant and for community library literary fiction shelves.

Best Fantastic Erotica
Cecilia Tan
Circlet Press, Inc.
39 Hurlburt Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
9781885865601, $19.95

The difference between pornography and erotic literature is a fine line of literary demarcation that is as subject as any other distinction between categories of art and artistic expression. Circlet Press is a premier publisher of erotic literature and its publisher, Cecilia Tan, is an expert in all aspects and segments of this specialized literary genre. Her newest publication is "Best Fantastic Erotica", a compilation of eighteen stories from authors around the globe who were winners of the first worldwide search for the best in erotic science fiction and fantasy genres. Five hundred entries were narrowed down over the course of a year, leaving readers to enjoy the contributions by both winners and runner-ups. The carefully crafted, deftly executed, imaginatively original, and memorably entertaining stories range from Arinn Dembo's Monsoon, to Argus Marks 'Copperhead Renaissance', to Fauna Sara's The Caretaker; to Dan Recht's 'A Circlet Crossword'. "Best Fantastic Erotica" is an impressive and superbly produced volume that is enthusiastically and confidently recommended for readers of sophistication who appreciate an erotic element infused with seminal stories of science fiction and fantasy.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Dominium
Privately Published
9780980096323, $22.22

The LHC project, despite all the money that has been poured into it, could end up destroying everything - and that means everything. "The Dominium" speaks of a near-future man-made doomsday scenario where an object made as a symbol of peace, cooperation, and scientific advancement could collapse the universe into yet another big bang, speaking as if this a very real reality, and not just fiction. In publishing his book, Hasanuddin passes the burden of responsibility to the reader - what could you do to stop the LHC project. Highly recommended to readers with an interest in hard science and who would ask of a more through understanding of the LHC project.

Diamond Rewards
Robert J. Sonstroem
Infinity Publishing
1094 New Dehaven St., Suite 100, W. Conshohocken, PA 19428
0741442914, $14.95,

Rick is a former jock coming home to his home town - with no other job to take other than coaching little league. "Diamond Rewards: A Tale of the Little Leagues" follows Rick as he goes through changes in life and gains a piece of happiness as he learns he enjoys helping others and takes a orphaned child under his wing while flirting with the water ballet coach, Rick teaches his team the mastery of baseball while dealing with the balance of educational athletics and winning at all costs. Heart warming and uplifting, "Diamond Rewards: A Tale of the Little Leagues" is highly recommended for both sports and fiction collections everywhere.

The Wrestler from Montreal
Arnold Holtzman
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
TCI Smith Publicity (publicist)
2 Split Rock Drive, Suite 12, Cherry Hill, N J 08003
0741440288, $18.95,

Two brothers, split by tragedy, look to the long spiraling road of life lying ahead of them - where will it lead them? "The Wrestler from Montreal: Prophecy for a Separate Man" is the tale of their journeys on that road, as they immigrate across Eastern Europe, bombarded by the tragedy, evil, and temptation that wishes to devour them. With only the words of their dying mother to guide them, they try to find the goodness of humanity in this touching tale, and exploration of the character of people towards travelers and strangers. "The Wrestler from Montreal: Prophecy for a Separate Man" is highly recommended for literary fiction fans and for community library collections dedicated to fiction

Roc Roth
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Avenue, South, New York, NY
9780533156252, $14.95,

A small town with a elaborate rainbow as a cast of characters and their struggles - the setting of "Chinook". Narrated by an Indian spirit with the title of the book for his name, the story of a Scottish prostitute, a lecher with childhood trauma still plaguing his life, an honest trucker with a loose wife, a man who rebels against the unions of the town, a state senator with dark secrets are just a few of the many well written and intriguing people readers will find and fall in love with in "Chinook", a highly recommended and well crafted piece of literature that should be a part of every community library fiction collection.

Home Away From Home
N. Dao
Privately Published
9780980237009, $15.95,

The end of the Vietnam War, 1975. The Americans were leaving the country, and many of the native Vietnamese as well wanted to escape the country. "Home Away From Home" is the story of one of these immigrants and his family as he made the long last minute escape from the communist Vietnam for the democratic America. This is the tale of his long journey from there, to the refugee camps and finally to the small town of Coffeyville, Kansas, "Home Away From Home" both a story of appreciation and culture shock, and a deftly written account of an oft-forgotten set of immigrants. Highly recommended to community library memoir and biography collections.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

The Cross, The Star, The Crescent vs. Radical Islam
Jack Chinn
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1424191823, $19.95,

Rhetorical questions are never meant to be answered - but author, poet, artist, teacher, and father Jack Chinn seeks to answer them anyway, dubbing them in need of answers. "The Cross, The Star, The Crescent vs. Radical Islam" is an examination of how the three Abrahamic religions, even Islam, are under constant attack by the Radical Islamic Extremists who act without apparent logic or sense in their slayings of their fellow man. Chinn goes to answer the obvious why to these acts, and suggestions on how the world, both religious and secular, can seek to face this problem. "The Cross, The Star, The Crescent vs. Radical Islam" is a well composed writing and highly recommended for any social issues community library collection.

Scott Michael Gallagher
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
142419184X, $24.95,

Can two wrongs eventually make a right? "Geneva" is a story of that possibly being true. An aspiring author meets a gorgeous woman, maybe a little bit crazy, and they seem to hit it off - although mostly in the bedroom. They soon realize that this was all a mistake, their first wrong - and soon divorce in nasty and angry fashion - they soon learn was their second wrong. In the time that follows, the two realize there have been more to their odd relationship than just the sex - a love for one another that they both had ignored until it seems it's far too late?

The Obviousness Of It All
Adrienne Petterson
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
142417807X, $19.95,

Common sense is something that people harvest from experience - it can't be taught in a classroom. "The Obviousness Of It All: A Guide to Common Sense" hopes to impart those experiences as best it can to its readers, to help them refine and improve their common sense so they are more alert and can be better equipped to handle decisions when they come up in life. "The Obviousness Of It All: A Guide to Common Sense" is a deftly written guide, highly recommended to anyone who has been accused of lacking common sense and taken it personally - and for community library self-help collections.

Leroy G. Carey
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, New York, NY
9780533156405, $8.95,

The very first anthology of poetry from Leroy G. Carey will make readers wish it wasn't the only one so far and will leave them yearning for more. "Goldmine: A Book of Poems and Beautiful Love Stories" is quick and delightful read that will leave readers wondering aloud why there isn't more - deftly written and vivid lyrical poetry throughout this volume, "Goldmine: A Book of Poems and Beautiful Love Stories" is highly recommended to poetry lovers and community library poetry shelves everywhere. Come to Me: Oh dream, oh dream from beneath/The sea/Where there is land we/Cannot see/Where thunder is heard as/A spoken word and/The angels sing of liberty/Come to me Darling/Come out of the sea/And be my love and set me free/Because she was a mermaid/Made just for me.

Building the Future
Mac and Sam
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, New York, NY
9780533156801, $10.95,

Technology exponentially improves every year that passes, and in "Building the Future", an optimistic view of the advancement of technology and the good it can bring mankind, a shining beacon in the sea of pessimism of cyber crime, threats of nuclear war, and child predators getting marks on the internet. Life will only get better and better in the grand scheme of things claim Mac and Sam, writing under pseudonyms for reasons they say they won't explain, and future generations have a lot to look forward to. "Building the Future" is highly recommended to community library technology collections.

Michael J. Carson

Cheri's Bookshelf

Interpreting The Times: How God Intersects With Our Lives to Bring Revelation and Understanding
Chuck D. Pierce
Charisma House A Strang Company
600 Rinehart Road Lake Mary, Florida 32746
09781599791982 $14.99

In this concept of time author Chuck D. Pierce teaches us that we can transition into a new dimension of God's success by faith. That God is not limited by our idea of time. He can travel past, present and future. And as the author teaches we must rise above man's thinking of time and see time in God's perspective.

In this awesome book the author takes us on an amazing journey of understanding the concept of time and being in God's perfect timing especially in certain situations using prayer, fasting and worship. Not only does the author touch on the understanding of time, he also shows us how to develop faith for our future, how to be in God's perfect timing and making it through the transitions as well as other topics.

The author has done an amazing job in this very comprehensive teaching for the times we are in now! Touching on a subject that this reviewer has not seen dealt with before. Key are the Hebrew words and meanings translated to our understanding as well as references to other books and teachings by the author and others. This book is for men, women and even teens who wish to move in to a deeper relationship with God and would be perfect for Bible study groups with the only thing missing is a study guide to make this book complete. This is one teaching that should not be missed and stay tuned as the author will continue this subject in his next book!

Sisterchicks Go Brit! Sisterchicks Series #7
Robin Jones Gunn
Multnomah Books a division of Random House Inc
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781590527559 $12.99

Liz and Kelly by chance meeting or God ordained meet Opal in La-La Brew Coffee Shop which sets things in motion for Kelly to get her interior design company off the ground when Opal decides to hire her to redo her apartment. Opal wants to go back to England to visit her twin sister and drafts our midlife divas to help her get there.

Nothing about this trip goes as our ladies have planned but both women know that God has ordained and taken care of everything from a balloon ride, madcap taxi rides even accused of being a terrorist, to returning to the states with the wrong twin! Every wish of both women's hearts comes true even fulfilling Liz's crush on Big Ben. See the sights of England from Olney, Oxford to London through our midlife divas eyes.

This book is absolutely amazing this reviewer felt she was in England with Liz and Kelly having tea time at the Ritz, Windsor Castle and all the other amazing things our ladies did while there at the same time keeping you in stitches with the madcap escapades.

Author Robin Jones Gunn has done an outstanding job of bringing her characters to life. But whatever you do grasp hold of the teachings God has for our Sisterchicks for they pertain to our own lives as well!

Payback: The Secret Life of Samantha McGregor Book Four
Melody Carlson
Multnomah Books a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781590529348 $12.99

Samantha McGregor has a gift a truly special and powerful gift from God. He gives her dreams and visions of things to happen. Most of the time it's only bits and pieces and with God's help she puts them together like pieces of a puzzle and this time is no exception.

Sam works with the local police department who accepts her gift but especially with her dad's partner Ebony. Her dad was killed in a shooting and it really hasn't been easy for her family. Her mom is dating a man that neither Sam nor her brother Zach like or trust and her brother is in rehab for meth addiction. Not everyone knows of Sam's gift just her mom, who really doesn't want to believe, Zach, Ebony and her partner Eric, her best friend Olivia and a few others at the police department.

The visions this time seem to be about a boy who is being bullied and beaten up and Sam sets out to find him to protect him. Then visions come of a shooting at a school prom and working with the police department they set out to find out which school and kids are involved and to try and stop it. As they all grow weary attending high school proms Sam's mother disappears and the truth begins to emerge of who her mother's boyfriend really is. An awful lot for a teenage girl to deal with but Sam is determined to sort it all out. Are the visions connected or separate incidents and what of her mom……..

What a totally awesome book! Author Melody Carlson has written an exceptional novel concerning just one of the gifts of the Spirit. Written for teenagers but highly recommended for adults as well. In this outstanding page turner book four and sadly the last for this series the author draws you in from the Author's Note to the section on wanting to know more about visions and dreams. Included also is a Reader's Guide as this book would be definitely be perfect for a youth teaching or book study. But whatever you do get this book into your teen's hands and read it for yourself as the God teachings are as tremendous as the story!

Cheri Clay

Christy's Bookshelf

The Fiery Cross
Diana Gabaldon
Bantam Dell/Random House
9780440221661 $7.99

In the fifth installment of the Outlander series, time-traveler Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser and her eighteenth century husband, Jamie, have established their homestead on Fraser's Ridge in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Grumblings among colonists against British tyranny have begun, and Jamie and Claire are resigned to the fact that the American Revolution will take place and there is nothing they can to do stop it. Although Jamie sympathizes with the colonists, his allegiance, for the time being, lies with William Tryon, Governor of North Carolina, who gave Jamie a land grant of 5000 acres in North Carolina, although Jamie is Catholic and this was forbidden at the time. When Governor Tryon appoints Jamie Colonel and asks he put down a forthcoming rebellion by the colonists (called Regulators) at Alamance, Jamie follows Highland tradition and calls together his fellow clansmen by burning a large cross, referred to as the Fiery Cross. Accompanied by Claire (acting as field surgeon) and Roger Wakefield, Jamie's son-in-law, they journey to Alamance, where a brief but brutal skirmish takes place.

This installment addresses interesting issues of the eighteenth century, including everyday mundane activities, medicinal herbs and treatments, Highland superstitions, amidst a wide array of characters, savory and otherwise, made all the more intriguing by the time period. The love story between Claire and Jamie, is, as always, in the forefront and continues forward as they age with each book. Recommended.

Charm City
Laura Lippman
William Morrow/Harper Collins
9780061210037 $19.95

In the second installment of the Tess Monaghan series, Tess, a former newspaper reporter, is working for an attorney while applying for her license as a private investigator. After business tycoon Wink Wynkowski announces he is going to bring pro basketball back to Baltimore, an article about his troubled financial situation appears in the local newspaper, the Beacon-Light. The managing editor of the Beacon-Light hires Tess to find out who placed this article in the paper, since it was rejected until sources could be confirmed. But before Tess can fully investigate, Wynkowski is found in his garage, dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is attributed to suicide. When the reporter Tess suspects planted the story is found dead, also ruled as a suicide, Tess becomes convinced the two have been murdered and extends her investigation further to find out who is behind these deaths.

Charm City was initially released as a paperback by Avon Books in 1997, followed by the hardback edition by William Morrow in 2007. As a reviewer who has read and reviewed and enjoyed later books in the Tess Monaghan series, this was a somewhat disappointing read. The plot is slow and laboring, and Tess does not come across as a very likeable person. She seems immature and irritable and at odds with what to do with her life. Tess's best friend Whitney Talbot is superficial and annoying. Tess's boyfriend Crow adds much-needed warmth, but the saving grace is Esskay, the greyhound Tess's uncle adopted, who ends up under Tess's somewhat negligent, resentful care. As with each book, Lippman's love for Baltimore shines through via her visual descriptions and narrative.

Sunset Express
Robert Crais
0786860960 $21.95

Wealthy entrepreneur Teddy Martin is accused of murdering his estranged wife, but Martin's defense attorney, Jonathan Green, is alleging the arresting officer, Angela Rossi, planted evidence against his client. Green hires private investigator Elvis Cole to check into Rossi's background concerning another case in which she was accused of planting evidence, as well as the present one. Cole's investigation clears Rossi, yet Green announces to the media that Cole has cleared his client of the wrongful death of his wife. This puts Cole on the defensive and he begins to look into the attorneys surrounding Martin and their suspicious undertakings, all under the guise of proving their client innocent.

The Elvis Cole books are good reading, some better than others. This is one of the more mundane of the series, with a mystery that's pretty simple to resolve, amidst commentary on the LA police department and their efforts to get past unsavory events. Cole is involved with Louisiana attorney Lucy Chenier, who seems distant and less involved in the relationship than Cole. All in all, a good read.

Christy Tillery French

Daniel's Bookshelf

A Revolution In Arms
Joseph G. Bilby
Westholme Publishing, LLC
Eight Harvey Avenue, Yardley Pennsylvania 19067-2064
9781594160172 $26.00 1-800-621-2736

I am an avid reader of other magazines and columns of the Civil War period, and I am familiar with Joseph G. Bilby. He wrote a column in the Civil War News entitled "Black Powder, White Smoke."Bilby also has written some excellent articles pertaining to firearms and referencing them by the use of his books, and other articles in North and South Magazine. It dealt with firearms and shooting, so in this book he delves in a comprehensive work on repeating rifles. The book covers the story of breech-loading to repeating rifles. He concentrates on the development of them, and a great amount of detail on their history and events that led to the first repeating weapons firing a self-contained cartridge.

Bilby's beginning chapter explores the history of the ultimate weapon search by man. He traces the most primitive stone-throwing sling, through spears, the bow and arrow and last a projectile propelled by gunpowder. The mechanics of the matchlock, flintlock and percussion systems are explained in order to set the background for the desire to create a firearm that would fire faster and would be loaded from the breech. Bilby's chapter on Christopher Spencer and his breechloader with a self-contained cartridge is important to the story of repeating guns. There is a wealth of information in the development of the cartridge and the marketing of carbine and rifle versions to both the Army and the Navy. Bilby concentrates on the Henry and the Spencer, but first spends a great amount of detail on the history, that led to the first repeating weapons. Bilby covers the history and weapons discoveries and developments on Samuel Colt and Christopher Spencer. His study leads us through the early work of Benjamin Tyler Henry and Oliver Winchester. Later on, with the advent of the Civil War, the success and massive sales of Henry rifles seemed assured. Bilby's last chapter covers the use of rifles/carbines in the final months of the Civil War. What happened to the military repeater to the military repeater in the postwar Army.

A Revolution In Arms well-written and researched. The story line progresses in an understandable way for the those unfamiliar with the subject. There are extensive notes and an excellent bibliography. The book covers photos of weapons and personalities associated with the Spencer and Henry, several maps, a photo and sketch of the Blakeslee cartridge box, patent drawings of the Spencer and Henry, and ammunition examples. This book has interest whether you are a military historian, cavalry enthusiast, arms collector shooter or interested in the technology of the Civil War. I found how important the use and development of firearms covered in this book did help end the Civil War sooner, and created a more highly effective cavalry arm.

Small Arms At Gettysburg: Infantry and Cavalry Weapons In America's Greatest Battle
Joseph G. Bilby
Westholme Publishing, LLC
Eight Harvey Avenue, Yardley, Pennsylvania 19067-3064
9781594160547 $29.95 1-800-621-2736

I found that after reading the fine general history of the repeating rifle in his earlier well-disciplined work on firearms, A Revolution In Arms, I was prepared to understand and enjoy Joseph Bilby's new unique book. The book studies the small arms used in the Battle of Gettysburg in great detail for the three day battle. He analyzes the firearm and other individual soldier weapons. The battle was a watershed with military weapons technologies representing past, present, and future sabers, smoothbore rifles, and breechloaders in action alongside each other. This provided an unique opportunity to compare performance and use, as well as determine how particular weapons and their deployment affected the outcome and course of the battle. The small arms included, muskets, rifle muskets, carbines, repeaters, sharpshooter arms, revolvers, and swords. It provided a detailed examination of their history and development, technology, capabilities and use on the field of Gettysburg. One learns that the smoothbore musket, although beloved by those who carried it, sang its swan song. The rifle musket began to come into its own, and the repeating rifle, although tactically mishandled, gave a glimpse of future promise. This is the story of the weapons and men who carries them into battle during the early days of July 1863.

Joseph G. Bilby examines the numerous types of firearms used by both the Union and Confederate armies at Gettysburg. Cavalry as well as infantry the development history of these weapons is covered, as well as how they were actually used on the battlefield. The most space is devoted to the rifle muskets.( be that they were the most common shoulder arms used at Gettysburg) The smoothbore musket, and breech loading rifles, carbines, revolvers are also described.

I found it interesting the author's detailed discussion on "buck and ball" ammunition This was commonly used in smoothbores and is given its due attention for the first time. The entire writing is vivid, and informative for a serious student of the Civil War or those wanting to learn more about the weapons technology history of this war. This book is definitely a good reference book to have on your bookshelf.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

Born Standing Up
Steve Martin
9781416553649 $25.00

In his autobiography Born Standing Up, Steve Martin sets out to explain, as he puts it, "why I did stand-up and why I walked away." The result is a history of his career, from selling guidebooks at Disneyland when he was ten through his decade and a half as a struggling magician turned comic to, finally, the years of meteoric success on which he abruptly turned his back in 1981. Martin explains his philosophy of comedy and describes the development of his act, profiling the various colleagues and acquaintances who influenced him along the way. In one chapter he provides what amounts to a thumbnail history of comedy in 1960s America.

The chapters focusing on Martin's career, if the raison d'etre for the book, are less interesting than those in which the author unpacks his less than idyllic home life as a child. In a passage that must have been difficult to write he describes the incident which led him to resolve, at roughly age nine, that thenceforth "only the most formal relationship would exist between my father and me...." This too, Martin suggests, was a sort of preparation for his career:

"I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts. I tell you this story of my father and me to let you know that I am qualified to be a comedian."

Most of Martin's book has to do with his hungrier years. But these led eventually to a four-year period during which he was at the pinnacle of success, playing to audiences of thirty and forty thousand. As he describes it, his act in fact suffered because of the size of the crowds:

"The act was shifting into automatic. The choreography was in place, and all I had to do was fulfill it. I was performing a litany of immediate old favorites, and the laughs, rather than being the result of spontaneous combustion, now seemed to roll in like waves created far out at sea."

Martin's popularity led to his increased isolation and depression.

"Though the audiences continued to grow, I experienced a concomitant depression caused by exhaustion, isolation, and creative ennui. As I was too famous to go outdoors without a discomforting hoopla, my romantic interludes ceased because I no longer had normal access to civilized life. The hour and a half I spent performing was still fun, but there were no band members, no others onstage, and after the show, I took a solitary ride back to the hotel, where I was speedily escorted by security across the lobby. A key went in a door, and boom: the blunt interior of a hotel room. Nowhere to look but inward."

Celebrity means that normal interaction is no longer possible. It's not hard at all to see why he walked away.

Born Standing Up is a quick read. There are occasional witty turns of phrase in the book, but it is not funny per se, and it in fact borders on being dry in Martin's recitations of the people and places that studded his early career. Martin's forays into his person life make for good reading, but one is left wishing the author had spilled a little more of himself on the page.

No Time For Goodbye
Linwood Barclay
Bantam Book
9780553805550 $22.00

Cynthia Bigge woke up one day when she was fourteen years old to find her mother, father, and brother gone. No note. No sign of struggle. No explanation. The police investigation into their disappearance was inconclusive. Cynthia wound up living with an aunt, her mother's sister, and managed somehow to get on with her life. Twenty-five years later, Cynthia is still haunted by what happened, and when a crime-stopper program runs a segment on the cold case, she finds herself thinking about her family's disappearance more than ever. Were they in fact all killed that night? Are they still alive? Did they choose, inexplicably, to abandon her? We watch Cynthia struggle with her past through the eyes of her husband, high school teacher Terry Archer. Since we're not privy to Cynthia's unexpressed thoughts we, like Terry, cannot know for sure whether she's losing her grip on reality--or if something more sinister is going on--when she tells him, for example, that a car has been following her and their eight- year-old daughter, or when she claims to have received a menacing phone call when alone in the house.

Linwood Barclay does a good job of sowing doubts about Cynthia's sanity--and about her culpability in her family's disappearance--but she's not the only one readers have to worry about. For most of Barclay's book we don't know whom to trust. This is not a story that scares with gore and firepower, yet it's one of the most frightening and suspenseful books I can remember reading. In part this may be a function of the ostensible ordinariness of the characters' lives. They're not secret agents or gun runners or private eyes, just middle- class suburbanites. And Cynthia didn't wake up that morning to a bloodbath, something outside of the average experience, but to an empty house--which is far more readily imagined and thus more truly frightening. Barclay also has a delicious way of casually injecting into otherwise mundane scenes small but heart-stoppingly chilling details.

In short, Barclay's thriller is the sort of book you stay up late reading--I speak from experience--both because you don't want to stop and because the prospect of turning off the light doesn't bear contemplating. It would make a great movie.

Pete Jordan
9780060896423 $13.95

In his memoir Dishwasher Pete Jordan writes about the twelve years he spent pursuing his unusual goal, to wash dishes professionally in all fifty U.S. states. Pete's quest landed him in plenty of run-of-the- mill diners and restaurants, but he also sought out unusual gigs whenever possible. He writes about dishing on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, and at a commune in the Ozarks. He washed dishes for snobs at a ski resort in the Rockies, and he worked salmon season at an Alaskan cannery. He "dished kosher" at a Jewish retirement home.

Dishing was the perfect job for Pete, a sort of cheapskate slacker whose idea of the good life was a rootless, near possession-less existence. Dishwashing jobs are easy to get and easier to quit-- perfect for a guy who can't stay put in one place for more than a few months. And in most restaurants dishwashers have access to a steady stream of table scraps, which is likewise perfect for a guy who'd rather save his pennies than squander them on undefiled foodstuffs. Pete spent his dishwashing years traveling the country, crashing on friends' couches, freeganing out of the "dish tub buffet," and quitting jobs the moment--often quite literally--the urge to do so struck.

The surprising twist in Pete's story is that he became something of a celebrity. He started a zine dedicated to dishwashing, a staple-and- Xerox affair, which grew, incredibly enough, to have some ten thousand subscribers. He eventually attracted the attention of publishers, whose advances he rebuffed once he'd gotten a free meal from them, and even the producers of the Letterman show, on which he didn't quite manage to appear. It wasn't until Pete had hung up his dishrag for good that he seriously considered writing a book about dishing.

It's always interesting to learn about the inner workings of unfamiliar subcultures. Each has its own hierarchies and jargon and rules for acceptable behavior. Prior to reading Jordan's book it hadn't even occurred to me that there was a dishwashing subculture, but I'm happy to have been introduced to it. Jordan's descriptions of the process of dishwashing are interesting--I'm always fascinated to learn how people organize their work. And the characters he encounters while hopping from restaurant to restaurant can make for good reading:

"Most of my interaction at the restaurant was limited to the patriarch, the old man who paid me every week in a bizarre ritual. I'd stop by the restaurant during the afternoon lull. The old-timer would go to the register, count out some cash and then motion me to follow him into the corner of the dining room. He'd glance over his shoulder and scan the empty restaurant to make sure we weren't being watched. Satisfied that the scene was secure, he'd grab my hand, jam a clump of fives and ones into it and then force my fingers to make a fist around the dough."

But about halfway through, the book loses steam. The dishwashing- related historical snippets with which Jordan peppers his narrative are on the whole uninteresting. And the recitation of Jordan's own doings could have been pruned to make for a tighter read.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Delta's Bookshelf

Unexpected Interruptions
Trice Hickman
Platinum Books
9780979561801, $15.00,

Love is so abstract. You must be attracted to the person in some way first, right? Well, Victoria Small has establishing her event planning business as number one thing to do on her list. Even though she has prayed for God to send her a soul mate she isn't holding her breath for him to come knocking on her door. In a series of 'unexpected interruptions' Victoria gets more men in her life than she ever expected.

Enter Ted Thornton, a power CEO who has his eye set on Victoria. His loveless marriage, business concerns, and inability to get Victoria to see him as more than her boss can make a man do strange things. Ted manages to get Victoria interested in several major projects at work but can he get her to overlook the fact that he's white?

Enter Mr. Gorgeous AKA Parker Brightwood, dedicated surgeon and super sexy black man. Parker is a ladies man that works his magic on the most unsuspecting females. Victoria is putty in his hands but will she allow her trust issues to put the kibosh on their relationship?

Hickman tackles some difficult issues in this chronicle of love. Be ready to ponder these issues: feelings on interracial dating, the age old debate of light vs dark African Americans, when to leave the corporate world and start your own business, and who do you trust in the workplace. It is refreshing to read a novel that discusses underlying issues with meaning. Hickman is one of the few serious writers that will bring respect back to African American literature. I look forward to reading more from this new up and coming literary star.

ACT in a Box (Cards)
Kaplan Publishing
1 Liberty Plaza, 24th floor, New York, NY 10006
9781427796691, $19.95, 1-800-223-2336

There are over 600 flashcards that provide detailed tidbits that will increase your ACT score. The cards are small enough to fit in your backpack, purse or desk drawer. The cards are colored coded according to subject and chock full of information. The Math cards have information on general math (common terms, formulas, and concepts) and math problems (sample test questions and step-by-step explanations). Reading cards contain vocabulary (detailed with word, part of speech and pronunciation with the definition, synonym and word in a sentence on the back) and word roots. The Science cards cover general science, chemistry, biology, and physics basics. The English cards review grammar basics most commonly tested, word choice, idioms, prepositions and the new optional writing tips.

If you are preparing to take the ACT exam, this would be a great investment. As an ACT prep instructor, I recommend that my students get these cards and use them everyday. Not only do they serve as excellent study tools for the ACT but great for anyone wanting to brush up on their basic education.

Shadow Living: Paintings of Grief
Deborah Slappey Pitts
Harobed House
5003 Willowbrook Drive, Columbus, GA 31909
9780978789701 $12.95

Imagine living life after the one person you love more than anything else died. Shadow Living chronicles the thoughts and intimate emotions of Deborah Slappey Pitts after the death of her soul mate and husband, Clyde. Pitts offers a detailed account of the range of emotions and how she came to acknowledge and eventually begin to live again. This inspirational story will encourage you to make the most of everyday and celebrate the small things with those you love. Pitts gives words of advice and ideas for planning for the inevitable - death.

Shadow Living is a brilliantly written narrative that offers rich description of emotions experienced by those left in the aftermath of death. The explanation of Amyloidosis disease, the recent research, and support groups serves to educate readers about the terrible disease. It is admirable how Pitts relies on God, hearing and reading of the Word, and works through grief therapy. After reading the book, I felt her pain and realize that we all experience grief differently; the important thing is that you keep trying every day. Thanks Deborah for sharing your story, you have provided a road map on how to live after death.

Where Souls Collide
Stephanie Worth
Leisure Books
9780843959703 $6.99

Do you believe in psychic gifts? Is there really a spiritual realm that connects the past, present and future? Well, Navena Larimore has started to question reality as her psychic gift has awakened. The past comes back - Maxwell left her heartbroken years ago and now he is her new boss. The present - Luke is always showering Navena with gifts and even though he has asked for her hand in marriage she consistently refuses. The present also offers terrible nightmares of murder and mayhem. The future - will Maxwell believe Navena and will she open up her heart to accept his help?

Worth has masterfully written a paranormal adventure with superbly developed characters. The imagery in the descriptions will force you to stay up late reading and thinking about Navena's next move. The suspense, romance and fiery love scenes all brilliantly combine to make this one of the best paranormal romances this year. There are a few editing issues but that don't take away from the story. The twist in the storyline along with smoothness of time shifting will leave you in awe. Stephanie Worth is ready to pick up where the late Octavia Bulter left a colossal void.

All That Glitters
D. L. Sparks
Xpress Yourself Publishing, LLC
P.O. Box 1615, Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20773
9780979975743 $15.00 or

Santee Mitchell keeps coming up short. She is short on her rent, her car payment is way past due, and the love of her life gave her the short end of the stick. Santee knows that things have to change and it must happen fast. A distant friend, Monique, introduces Santee to a world of flashy clothes, fancy houses, and fine dining. The extravagant lifestyle leaves Santee's nose wide open. At first she didn't know what to think of the sexy dancing and long nights, until that first outlandish sexual experience turned her out. As she agreed to sell her soul to the devil, her money woes disappeared but her peace of mind takes a beating.

All That Glitters is a sure fire page-turner. The character development is creatively wrapped around the drama that Santee encounters. The story has twists and turns that this reader never expected which made this reader finish the book in one setting. All That Glitters has a few gangsta characters but its not what I would consider urban lit as the plot doesn't focus on the drugs, murder, or videotapes rather on the relationships that behavior changes. Sparks definitely ranks among my new favorites and is an author everyone should watch.

Passover by Design
Susie Fishbein
Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
4401 2nd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11232-4212
9781578190737, $19.95,

This cookbook is an exceptional tool for anyone wanting to update their recipes, change their table decor or wanting an understanding of this Jewish tradition. The explanations are clear and concise giving the reader a vivid picture of the rich history Passover entails. The plate presentations, "green" table decorations, and modern Passover dishes will compliment any dinner and can be used year round. The Kosher dishes are separated into several categories: appetizers, soups, salads, poultry, meat, fish/dairy, side dishes and desserts. The recipes have interesting stories, serving size, apparent instructions and thorough ingredients.

Passover by Design offers over 170 recipes and 140 photos which will make your mouth water. These dishes take the hum drum out of the Passover dinner adding sophistication and spice that will help update this wonderful tradition. I noticed that most dishes are gluten free which gives tasty food options to the millions that suffer from allergies. Even though this cookbook is 'Passover-centric' these dishes can be used year round to compliment any dinner table. Fishbein has a new fan and this reviewer can't wait to prepare steamed artichokes with two sauces, creamy peach soup, purple cabbage salad, and tomato-basil chicken. Thanks for introducing a healthier way of cooking and providing attention-grabbing insight to this Jewish holiday.

The Savvy Gal's Guide to Online Networking
Diane K. Danielson with Lindsey Pollak, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781601452535, $14.95,

The Internet provides you with a new world to networking. This guide gives you the history of online networking - starting with email, introducing e-newsletters, how to increase your Goggle presence, the 411 on social networks, basics to blogging, closing with internet forums and discussion groups. The plethora of information is presented in a fun and interesting format comparing today with the old world of Jane Austen.

The Savvy Gal's Guide to Online Networking is a must have guide for those not familiar with what the Internet has to offer today. The humor and relevant stories will encourage you to increase your time spent online. There is also information about the Downtown Women's Club - the what, when, how, and where to set up a local club. The easy-to-read nature along with the on-going storyline will keep you entertained while you learn.

Exam Cram - ACT
Susan Ludwig, Teresa Stephens, & Paul Felstiner
Que Certification (Que Publishing)
c/o Pearson Technology Group
801 East 96th Street, #300, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759
9780789734433, $24.99, 1-800-428-5331

This compact guide offers test taking techniques, essential math, science, English, and writing. The step-by-step procedures discussed are clear and easy to understand. The most exciting aspect of this book is the tear out cram sheet. This cram sheet has the most frequently tested material in a effective, concise and clearly explained. The Exam Alerts offer information about the test that you won't want to miss.

If you are looking for a condensed version of test prep information this is the guide for you. The explanations are written by educators with years of experience in tutoring for the ACT exam. With over 3 million copies of this book sold, I'm not the only one that believes that using this study tool will increase your score.

Million Dollar Networking
Andrea R. Nierenberg
Capital Books, Inc.
c/o International Publishers Marketing
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166
9781933102054, $19.95, 1-800-758-3756

What is the best way to grow your business, further your name recognition and meet new people all at the same time? Learn to effectively and efficiently network. Many people see networking as a burden but Nierenberg flips the script giving you motivation to get your networking on. Million Dollar Networking is packed full of useful advice, time saving tips, along with all the how to's and what for's. Even though this book is stocked in the business section, it should be read by people looking for employment, business owners, and everyday people wanting more out of life.

Million Dollar Networking is a follow-up to Nierenberg's "Nonstop Networking" but can easily be used as a stand alone and provides new information. The easy to read format, clever stories, and use-it-now ideas will increase your networking skills making you more marketable. Reading this book has provided keys to increasing my networking circle and I'm sure it will do the same for you.


Duncan's Bookshelf

Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas; New York, NY 10020
0671026704 $16.00

The helmsman aboard the Stockholm deliberately steers the sleek ship into the side of the Andrea Doria, just off Nantucket Sound. While she sinks, a waiter sees a team of assassins kill the guards who were hired to protect a fortune in gems and a priceless pre-Mayan artifact.

Forty five years later Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala rescue a marine archaeologist who escaped from a massacre; a research team has been killed and buried. Kurt and Joe, another of the NUMA teams, set out to stop a Texas industrialist (Halcon) who kills people to prevent the discovery that the Phoenicians were first, and not Columbus. Halcon has a master plan to lead Latinos in a rebellion to carve out a new nation from the southwest U.S. and Mexico.

Kurt and Joe foil Halcon's plan and recover the artifact from deep inside the Andrea Doria .

Cussler and Kemprecos have given us a pair of heroes for the new century in an adventure novel with lots of thrills. If you like action and heroes who struggle against evil men and the occasional flirtatious scene with a curvaceous female archaeologist, then you will enjoy the adventure with Cussler's new heroes, Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala.

Trojan Odyssey
Clive Cussler
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St. New York, NY 10014
0399150803 $27.95

An intriguing change. Our heroes Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino are older, grayer and 'thinking' about retirement. The gray hair is mentioned. The lady love of Dirk's life (the Honorable Loren Smith, US House of Representatives) has minor wrinkles and crow's feet. Dirk begins to think it is time to retire from his life-risking adventures.

Dirk's son and daughter (Dirk Jr. and Summer Pitt) are trapped in a NUMA sea-bottom laboratory when a horrendous hurricane scours the Caribbean Sea, with no escape and running low on oxygen. Dirk and Al (meanwhile) are risking their lives to haul a cable out to a NUMA tug that pulls a floating hotel off rocky shores that could demolish the hotel and kill a thousand persons. Dirk Jr. and Summer in their NUMA lab are shoved into a crevice; the airlock is jammed against a rock wall.

Adventure leads to adventure. Dirk and Al investigate a brown muck that is killing the sea, east of Nicaragua. They find a cabal of aggressive women who practice and dress as Druids and discover an evil plan to change the Atlantic currents and bring perpetual winter to Europe and the East Coast (U.S.).

They are still our heroes, making sharp barbs and insults while risking their lives to save imprisoned scientists. The humor was familiar; the adventure was tingling. Fans of our 'old' hero are treated to a especially poignant scene when Dirk decides to change his life style (that's a hint). You will truly love what our brave, naive hero does (it involves Loren). Alright, no more hints. Read the book. You will love the adventure.

Marty Duncan

Gary's Bookshelf

The Year Of Disappearances
Susan Hubbard
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416552710 $22.95

For years I've reviewed Hubbard's different works. She began with several short story collections then wrote two novels in the romance genre and now her second weird horror novel is a chilling addition to the realm of vampire tales. Her character of Ariella Montero is fascinating because like any other teenager she is searching for her own self image but hers is more complicated because she is half human and half vampire. She does not fit in with humans or vampires. Her life is a search for where she belongs. Hubbard also adds to the mix friends of Montero who disappear mysteriously. There are zombies, demons and vampires in a chilling novel that changes a person concept of the vampire story. The writing is dark and sinister and the novel moves along at a brisk pace to its final revealing ending. Hubbard is a master weaver of a chilling tale.

Solving The Migraine Puzzle
Judith E. Chiostri and L. Brooke Dubick
C and D Solutions
6448 Mellow Wine Way, Columbia MD 21044
9780977287604 $27.95

12 percent of the population suffers from migraines. Women are three times more likely to endure migraines than men. The authors tell that there are four types of migraines, what triggers, and ways to prevent them, foods that activate them, foods to prevent them, medications that work and side effects. One nice thing though is that most of the book tells a lot about foods and they even have plenty of recipes that sound delicious. Now in a 2nd edition this is a book that should be the bible for anyone who suffers from migraines.

Sundays At Tiffany's
James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316014779 $24.99

Nope, it has nothing to do with "Breakfast at Tiffany's." It's more like the Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan movie "City of Angels" The premise is very similar but there is nothing wrong with that. Here the story is Jane Margaux, a young girl with an imaginary friend named Michael. She is the only one who can see him. At the age of nine he leaves her. Years later when she is an adult he re-enters her life. This time everyone can see him and he begins to become human. The characters are interesting and the story moves along to its surprising ending. There are many twists and turns along the way that makes this a very delightful read.

Stranded Stories From The Edge of Infinity
Kimberly Raiser
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432706012 $11.95

The short story is hard enough to write. Even more difficult is the short short story. Raiser is a master of both types as evidenced in "Stranded." There are generous doses of tales of sf, fantasy, and horror. Her writings have appeared all over the Internet. This is the first time they have appeared together in one collection. Some of the pieces are dark and sinister while others are very funny. Many of them are in the realm of the "Twilight Zone."

Demon Key
David Brookover
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432718145 $17.95

Things are different in Florida and David Brookover shows why. A kidnapper in the small town of Gator Creek, Florida is terrorizing women. The evidence leads to the small island of Demon Key. What is found on the island is even more sinister than a kidnapper. The style of writing is much like James Patterson with its short chapters and fast pacing. The characters are realistic with dialogue that crackles and a story that is just weird.

My Life Is A Joke! And The Joke Is On Me!
Rob Bob
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432705855 $12.95

So many times we get jokes in e-mails from all over the place many of them are funny and make us laugh out loud. Author Rob Bob used many of them to tell his characters' life story. The book is a fast paced read of a person who has lived his life though many jokes. The writing will have readers laughing out loud at how silly many of the situations are. The beginning starts with the character remembering his birth then gets funnier and funnier. Rob Bob has a great gimmick.

Alfie's Bark Mitzvah
Shari Cohen
Songs by Cantor Marcelo Gindlin
Illustrations by Nadia Komorova
Little Five Star
c/o Five Star Publications
P O Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589850552 $18.00

You don't have to be a dog lover to enjoy this wonderful kid's book. When I first saw "Alfie's Bark Mitzvah" .I thought, that's cool a dog who has a bark mitzvah (a play on words for bar mitzvah.) After reading the book I was amazed how Shari Cohen Marcelo Gindlin and Nadia Romorova combined their talents to tell the story of a puppy who becomes a dog at his bark mitzvah ceremony in the Jewish temple. What they all show is that the ceremony of a bar mitzvah is a joyous occasion for family members and friends to celebrate the happy event together.

Blood Redemption
A.H. Holt
Thomas Bouregy & Co Inc
160 East Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780803498907 $21.95

Westerns have always been fun reading and this is a very good one. Holt mixes in historical fact with a character driven story that races along to its very satisfying ending. The story begins with a horse race. After the race the two bitter enemies, Red Thornton and Wes Lane get into an argument in a bar. The barkeep is shot and killed and Red is accused and tried for the murder. He is innocent but serves his time. When he gets out things in the town have changed drastically. He has his work cut out for him. The book is fun reading and unlike "Deadwood" the characters are believable. Holt is a very good storyteller, and this one shows why.

Club Shattered
PZ Hopkins
Stoney Street Press Inc
13799 Park Blvd # 162, St. Petersburg Beach, Fl 33706
9780977983902 $14.00

At first glance of the authors picture on the back cover many would say how could anyone that looks that good have any problem in a relationship? First of all, looks are not everything. Second, it takes two people to make it work. So often only one of the people is committing himself/herself to the liaison. Unlike other books in this field that are written by therapists who have elaborate solutions, PZ Hopkins gives a first person account of her own situation that strengthens her advice because she has already been there. She gives women step-by-step information to follow to move forward in their lives.

Knowing Joseph
Judith Mammay
Blooming Tree Press
P.O. Box140934, Austin TX 78714
9781933831053 $13.95

Everyday TV news and newspapers have stories about autism. "Knowing Joseph " deals with someone who is autistic. This novel is being published at a perfect time when the public is becoming more aware of this condition. At the beginning of the book Brian is bothered that his younger brother Joseph is not like other normal kids. It takes friends of his to teach him that Joseph is not that unusual and to accept him the way he is. The characters are believable and the story moves along to its educational ending. This would make a very good movie.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Slip of the Knife
Denise Mina
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316015585 $24.99, 1-800-759-0190

Denise Mina's newest book opens with the shocking murder of Terry Hewitt, former boyfriend of her protagonist, Paddy Meehan. They had known each other since they were both in their teens, eleven years ago, but it had been six months since they had seen each other. Paddy is now 27, and has graduated from her lowly position at the Daily News to her present celebrity status with a regular column of her own, in addition to being a published author. Terry, in turn, had just signed a book deal of his own, and Paddy is told by the police that his killing "had all the hallmarks of an IRA hit…his body found stripped naked in a ditch, single shot to the head." He had been a journalist as well, later "went to war zones, conflict zones, did hard reporting on a world stage…the last of a dying breed…had witnessed corruption and brutality, women raped and murdered, children mutilated, whole villages put to the torch…a fifteen-year-old Angolan boy, shot between the eyes right in front of him." But in the moments before he is killed, after thinking that he "had been arrested in Chile, seen a woman necklaced in Soweto, stood on the edge of a riot in Port-au-Prince," he has no idea why he is about to be murdered on a road on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland.

In many respects Paddy has changed little over the years since she first appeared in Ms. Mina's books, of which this is the third: She still hates her appearance, believing she is too fat; still feels she has to prove herself to the misogynistic men around her; though she attends Mass, she still rebels against her family's Catholicism - her sister is a nun, "wasn't even prepared to take communion and had had a child out of wedlock," a son, Pete, now nearly six years old, who she adores. When she is told by the police that Terry had listed her as his next of kin, with her new address that she didn't even realize he had known, she has no choice. When the effects of that investigation threaten not only Paddy but her son as well, the stakes are raised all the way around.

A parallel story line deals with the release after nine years in prison of young Callum Ogilvy, who with another boy had been found guilty of the brutal murder of a toddler, following Paddy's investigation - she had been engaged to Callum's cousin, Sean - described in an earlier book.

Ms. Mina's descriptions conjure up her characters precisely, e.g., someone's wife is "blond, tall, and so thin she could have opened letters with her chin;" in a photo she sees "a woman of eighty, arms crossed, grinning, the folds in her skin deep enough to lose change in;" and, of her editor: "Nature, time and his temperament had conspired to perfect McVie's glower. His face and posture fitted around misery as neatly as cellophane over a cup." The author maintains an undercurrent of menace. Paddy is a gutsy, slightly vulgar and very human protagonist, the characters and the setting very well drawn, the writing and the story taut with a hold-your-breath quality. Highly recommended.

L. A. Outlaws
T. Jefferson Parker
c/o The Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525950554 $25.95, 1-800-847-5515

LA Sheriff's Deputy Charlie Hood has just made detective, a temporary assignment after he was first on the scene of a horrendous crime scene: ten men shot dead inside an auto body shop, apparently members of opposing street gangs, although one 'civilian' is dead at the scene as well, a diamond merchant there to hand over nearly half a million dollars worth of diamonds to repay a large gambling debt. Charlie is included in the squad organized to investigate the murders. He is 28 years old, former NCIS, and filters everything through his experiences in Anbar province.

Another prominent player in this tale is Lupercio, a Salvadoran killer known as 'the lone wolf" who, by the way, walks around with a machete strapped to his leg. The two men's lives cross when they both become focused, to the near exclusion of all else, on Suzanne Jones, 32, a beautiful LA history teacher who, in her other life, is self-styled Allison Murrieta - she is a direct descendant of a real-life infamous outlaw, Joaquin Murrieta, who was shot and beheaded in 1853. Among other things, over an eighteen-month period and wearing a mask and a wig, she has committed 34 armed robberies of various retail businesses, mostly fast-food chain stores, and stolen a couple of dozen high-end cars for sale on the illegal foreign market, literally leaving behind a calling card each time. Since she donates large amounts of money to various charities, she is known variously as Robin Hood, Bonnie Parker, or, as one cop says, "a delusionary babe with a death wish."

Thanks to the ubiquity of security, video and cell phone cameras, Allison's exploits have been shown on tv and in the newspapers. Charlie Hood meets Allison just after she has left the scene of the murders, where she came upon the gory scene after hoping to make off with the diamonds - which she does - having known of the planned meeting. He shortly suspects her dual identity. Lupercio, on the other hand, has been ordered to find her and gain possession of the diamonds. When he sees her, he wonders "why anyone with such beauty would choose to be a criminal." A valid question indeed. But she does know a helluva lot about expensive cars, stealing them often, since she gets "bored after five days of just about any car."

Allison is an original and obviously over-the-top creation. She has three sons, a baby and a ten- and nineteen-year-old, all by different men, and is presently living with the father of the youngest. She has become a local folk hero. Charlie thinks "Allison Murrieta was just brazen enough to think she could lift diamonds from gangsters and live to tell about it, as if the underworld was just another fast-food joint and all she needed to conquer it was an attitude and a gun." Charlie becomes obsessed with her, and the results are not good. But they make for an exciting and suspenseful read. This book is a bit of a change for Mr. Parker, being less grounded in reality than his previous novels, but no less well-written, and is recommended.

Shades of Blue
Bill Moody
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584859 $24.95 1-800-421-3976

Bill Moody's fourth Evan Horne book is a welcome return of this series. Evan, a jazz pianist who has been living and working in London and Amsterdam, has returned to the US and settled down in San Francisco. When he receives a call from an attorney in LA telling him that his mentor of many years ago, a pianist named Calvin Hughes, has died and named Evan as his sole beneficiary, the world as he knows it is turned upside down.

Evan travels to LA and, among Hughes' things, discovers evidence that, incredibly, Hughes might be his father. [As far as he knew, Cal had never been married and, further, Evan's mother and father are alive and well and living in Boston.] Also unearthed are some sheets of music, in Hughes' writing, that Evan recognizes as famed old jazz pieces ostensibly written by the late and great Miles Davis, that were included in two legendary old jazz albums. Is it possible that Hughes was the actual composer? Either one of these mysteries would be daunting enough to solve; Evan must attempt to get to the bottom of both. He turns for assistance to his girlfriend, an FBI agent, though he vaguely fears she has some knowledge she is not sharing with him.

The sense of place is strong of both NYC and California, and I especially enjoyed the description of the small town on the Russian River in northern California where Evan lives. The author, himself a skilled jazz musician with an impressive background, brings to life the vibrancy of this music and its practitioners, and a knowledge of the history of the music and the musicians isn't at all necessary to thoroughly enjoy his writing, although it is certainly makes it that much more wonderful. As good as the story is, what makes it so special is the entree it provides into the world of jazz music. The articulation of what a jazz musician, or indeed probably any musician, has in his head as he listens to, or creates, great music is absolutely elegant. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it is recommended. I was delighted to see that Poisoned Pen Press has published this new Evan Horne book, and hope it portends more of the same in the future.

Burn Zone
James O. Born
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399154546 $25.95 1-800-847-5515

This novel is the second in the series featuring Alex Duarte, ATF agent living and working in Florida. Alex, whose family is from Paraguay, is now nearly thirty years old, and seems to have commitment issues. His nickname is Rocket, because of his focus and drive; he believes "once you hit your stride, you never let up." He is called in by his friend, DEA agent Felix Baez, working out of the agency's headquarters in West Palm Beach, to assist in the attempt to shut down a smuggling operation run by a mysterious Panamanian named Ortiz--guns and drugs seem to be involved, thereby bringing it under Duarte's jurisdiction as well. With the informal help of his girlfriend, a crime scene tech [or 'forensic scientist' as he prefers to think of her], Alex joins the hunt for this infamous and slippery criminal.

The ensuing investigation pits them up not only smugglers, but a white supremacist group intent on "changing America." The man called Ortiz is seen to be a sadistic brute, but sadism is the least of his failings. A helluva combination, as it turns out.

This is a thriller which doubtless will be enjoyed by many. This reader was disappointed, however: Having enjoyed Field of Fire, I expected more from its successor novel in the series. The identity of the alter egos of the two 'bad buys' was apparent to me early on, which might have been intentional on the part of the author, perhaps to heighten the suspense - if that was the purpose, it didn't work, at least not for me. The book began with a great opening line, addressed to Alex by his ATF partner: "You ever think we should write some of this b***s*** down and put it in a book?" With the author's background, it just may have originated that way, and while I am sure the scenarios laid out are possible, this thriller just didn't hold up for me. I found the characters almost caricatures and the whole not nearly as well written as the prior entry in the series. That said, I would probably read the next chapter in Alex Duarte's life, in the hope that it will come up to the level seen in Field of Fire.

The Granite Ridge Initiative
Karl Vincent
Citation Press
P.O. Box 818, Bromley G London, BR1 9AG, U.K., 01959 573360
9780955123801 6.99 Brit. pounds

[This book is presently not available in the US, only available in or through the UK or Canada]

After an impressive debut with Black Knife last year, Karl Vincent has delivered an even more effective thriller in The Granite Ridge Initiative. The book opens with the kidnapping of 52-year-old Perry Norman, CEO of Empire Oil, the UK's largest privately held petroleum provider. Before marrying the boss' daughter, however, he was much more than a 'desk man' - ex-Royal Navy who had been a Special Ops officer who had earned 'a chest full of medals in the Falklands War.' The kidnappers' demand is the release of a number of Islamic prisoners, on threat of beheading, viewable live on TV, within 72 hours

Maggie Norman, the victim's wife, and a forceful and independently wealthy woman, follows the instructions given to her by her husband in an apparently prescient moment: He has directed her, if he is ever taken hostage by Islamic radicals to contact his American friend Vinnie Player, who will launch something he describes as the Granite Ridge Initiative. Ex-Special Forces, Vinnie and Perry had worked together in NATO joint operations, and they trusted each other implicitly. He outlines for Maggie a shockingly innovative plan to deal with the kidnappers which, when launched, unleashes unforeseen results with far-reaching consequences, and then things really get completely out of control and, as the author says, gives "the population of the planet one hell of a roller coaster ride."

The action takes place in Aberdeen, Scotland; England; in and around Washington, D.C.; Havana, Cuba, and, brief ly, in Russia. The book presents in lucid fashion the age-old but always relevant question of whether the ends justify the means. I found the ending rather abrupt, but there were no loose ends so that is a small quibble. There is just enough realism in these pages to make for a truly frightening scenario. The tale is well-plotted and intricate. As one character is heard to say, "This is getting more complicated than a John LeCarre novel!" And so it is, but that is not a bad thing.

There is a teaser at the conclusion of the book excerpting a few pages of the author's next novel, Romero's Tunnel, and that will be something to which I will look forward.

C. J. Lyons
c/o Penguin Group, 375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425220825 $7.99 800-847-5515

C.J. Lyons is an engaging new voice in the mystery scene, and a most welcome one. With her debut novel, she presents Dr. Lydia Fiore, who as the book begins is entering her first day of work as attending physician in the Emergency Department at Angels of Mercy Medical Center, as well as the new medical director and training advisor of the EMS. Lydia, now 30 years old, is a product of LA's foster care system, newly arrived in town and trying to adjust to life in Pittsburgh, a far cry from the surfer world she knew. She appears to be earning the grudging respect of her new colleagues when a trauma patient comes in, a twenty-eight year old male pedestrian struck down by a car, suddenly in much worse condition than originally thought, having lost consciousness and gone into profound respiratory distress in the ambulance en route to the hospital.

Although Lydia takes every conceivable step she can think of to save him, the patient dies. Lydia, tormenting herself with what she may have missed that might have saved the young man's life, finds she doesn't have that luxury as her problems have more far-reaching consequences: the dead man is the son of the hospital's chief surgery, who publicly accuses her of killing his son. She is immediately placed on suspension, threatening her entire professional career and civil and possibly criminal charges promised. The mystery arises when it appears that the dead man, a gay rights activist, may have been murdered.

Lydia is but one of the hospital workers featured in the book. There is also Gina, third-year emergency medical resident; Amanda, 4th-year med student; Nora, the charge nurse who butts heads with Lydia on her first day but is slowly coming to admire her medical skills; Seth, fourth-resident surgical resident and Nora's boyfriend, who apparently has some secrets; and the assorted male docs, interns and paramedics who orbit their lives. Interspersed with exciting and realistic medical crises both in and outside of the hospital [the author is a pediatric ER physician] are scenes giving the reader gradual knowledge of the women's private lives. At the risk of getting corny [which the book is not], the novel is all about the literal as well as figurative lifelines we all reach for. This is a first-rate novel, with strong plotting, well-drawn characters, and just enough romance to not get in the way of the mystery, and is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Masada Scroll
Paul Block Robert Vaughan
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765351845 $7.99

The Masada Scroll is an interesting mix of subgenres. It has the miraculous events that you would expect from religious fiction and the historical technology that has become a mainstay of popular action/adventures. The blending of subgenres frequently produces superior stories but in this case the storyline drifts between the two opposing styles. A small nudge to place the story more solidly in either camp would improve the power.

Father Flannery is called in by his archeological colleague Preston Lewkis. A scroll has been found at the dig site in the Masada ruins. The scroll is an unknown, and possibly earlier, gospel with an unusual symbol that combines the Star of David, the Cross of Christianity and the Crescent and Star of Islam. Father Flannery discovers this ancient symbol is the Trevia Dei, or Three Paths to God. A group, the Via Dei, has corrupted the gospel and has and will kill for its secrets. The miraculous past of the New Testament and early first century church combine with the now to a murderous climax as the investigation into the recently discovered scroll unfolds with Father Flannery in the middle of both stories.

The plot and theme of The Masada Scroll makes for a unique and fun story. The sole weak point is the integration of the two subgenres. The Masada Scroll is a fine read that holds more for the religious but is worth the time of those who love the archeological action/adventures. It just hits the target of a good tale.

The Richness of Life, The Essential Stephen Jay Gould
Steven Rose, editor
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393064988 $35.00

The Richness of Life is a collection of articles and chapter selections from the writings of Stephen Jay Gould. It is a hint of what Gould produced. The writings are a little technical and the science seems to be a touch outdated but if you place them in the time and context they were written in they become unique. The articles are short and varied forcing the reader to change the topic just when the line of reasoning becomes interesting.

Gould had two great strengths as a scientist. He questioned and he questioned. He also realized that seldom is only one thing responsible for an event. The mistake most make, including scientists, is looking for a single precipitating event that produces a result. A tree might fall down in a wind storm but years before insects infected the bark, followed by a woodpecker making a hole, followed by a dry rot… All these events happened before the tree became weak enough for the wind to take down. People in general look for the single event of the wind storm. The real scientists look for everything that happened. This collection gives the briefest hint of Gould's questioning and search for the complex answer.

The Richness of Life is a quiet celebration of the works of Gould. It isn't strong enough to stand alone. The articles have aged with the patina of time to a familiar tone. It holds the same place as your old photo album, a place holder for the days in a life.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Letters from the Flesh
Marcos Donnelly
Red Deer Press
1512-1800 4th Street SW, Calgary AB, T2S 2S4, Canada
9780889953024 $19.95

After reading at least three Amazon reviews that compared Letters from the Flesh with a fantasy novel by C.S. Lewis, I was on the verge of telling my local library to remove my name from the book's waiting list. Lewis is a self-appointed propagandist for Mother Goose (or is it "God"? I'm always confusing those two) and, as every competent biblical scholar is aware, he is not the brightest candle on the menorah. But I figured: What's to lose? Since Robert Sawyer chose to publish it under his Imprint, that is surely as useful a recommendation as I could ask.

So I read it, and was neither delighted nor more than minimally disappointed. While I shuddered at Donnelly's credulous acceptance of biblical and post-biblical propaganda in non-theological areas - for example, he has Paul of Tarsus refer to "Jesus of Nazareth" centuries before Jesus' sectarian title was mistranslated as having a geographical meaning; he thinks that Paul wrote the second-century letters to Timothy; he thinks that Matthew the tax collector of the second gospel and Levi the tax collector of the third gospel were the same person, as apologists for the Jesus delusion rationalize; and he thinks that "incest" is a biological reality rather than a purely religious concept that is as much an "eye of the beholder" delusion as heresy, blasphemy, chastity, state of grace, mortal sin, or nonprocreative adultery (oxymoron) - he does not swallow religion's supernatural absurdities. He is familiar with "Thomas the Twin," but unaware that the only gospel that called Thomas a twin identified him as Jesus' twin. In a book written for the unlearned masses, such errors are insignificant compared to what he gets right. For example, he recognizes that Paul believed in a flat earth. And his delineation of the strategies used by tactical liars to pass off fundamentalist doubletalk as science is right on the mark. Indeed, Letters from the Flesh gave me a new and improved understanding of how criminally fraudulent peddlers of "creation science" (oxymoron) and its current reincarnation, Intelligent Design, really are.

Donnelly's technique of telling a story through letters from his characters is not new. Wilkie Collins included a letter from Count Fosco in The Woman in White, and Gulliver's Travels includes a letter from Lemuel Gulliver to his cousin Sympson. But the format is comparatively rare, probably because few authors can use it as effectively as Donnelly, and some of the Amazon reviewers imagined that it was innovative. What is innovative is the interweaving of letters from the first century with letters from the twenty-first century, an intrinsically risky procedure that worked better than even the author probably expected. Instead of confusing the reader, having successive chapters narrated, in the form of e-mails, by an extraterrestrial occupying the body of Saul/Paul, and a modern professor of evolutionary biology, contributes to the reader's understanding of the Big Picture.

While ET-possession would be incompetent hogwash in any other genre, it is a legitimate "what if?" concept in science fiction, since it does not encourage readers to believe that it has a real-world parallel, as a book that incorporated demon-possession might do. Despite far more scholarly shortcomings than I could cite in a short review, Letters from the Flesh is a memorable achievement from a talented imagination.

How Jesus Became Christian
Barrie Wilson
Random House
2775 Matheson Blvd East, Mississauga ON, L4W 4P7
9780679314936 $25.95

The back cover of How Jesus Became Christian quotes blurbs by self-confessed theologians, a subspecies of Homo ignoramus defined by H. L. Mencken as "a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there - and finding it." That was an early warning that this was not going to be a book that placed evidence ahead of incurable brainwashing. A check of Wilson's bibliography confirmed that apprehension. Among its indefensible omissions are the names of Michael Arnheim, Earl Doherty, Robert Eisler, William Harwood, Randell Helms, Joseph Hoffman, Martin Larson, Robert Price, and G. A. Wells. Then in Wilson's introduction is a confession that he subjected his son to the bar mitzvah ritual that, like all religious indoctrination, constitutes child abuse. And to cap it off, an endnote concocts a rationalization for Wilson's use of the bigoted dating system, BC/AD, that is offensive and insulting to the 5.5 billion persons on this planet who reject the pretence that they are living in the "Year of the Master," even though the author is familiar with the scientifically neutral equivalent, BCE/CE, that even liberal believers have now adopted.

No person with a functioning human brain can make a scholarly study of the Christian Testament and fail to recognize that Christianity is a collection of fairy tales that are as much a product of the unbridled human imagination as Scientology or Alice in Wonderland. I could not, and Wilson could not. Wilson's reaction was to turn Jewish, as I might well have done if I had not been protected by a "once bitten" reality. Instead, my reaction was to make an equally intensive study of the Jewish Testament, as I strongly urge Wilson to do. The discovery that the Tanakh features a talking snake and a talking donkey; that it endorses the existence of the gods of Babylon and Egypt, but prohibits their worship in Judea "before my face", where Yahweh would be subjected to the indignity of having to watch; that "God" is a mistranslation of a Hebrew dual-sex, generic plural meaning "the gods and goddesses"; that pre-Captivity Judaism rejected life-after-death as a superstition of the goyim, a superstition specifically repudiated as heresy in the Sadducee books that are part of the Septuagint - as well as Catholic bibles; that fourteen Tanakh passages unambiguously endorse a flat earth; and that the paramount Jewish deity's morality was a mirror image of Adolf Hitler's; cured me of the god delusion totally, permanently and irreversibly - as I am confident it will cure Wilson if he has the moral courage to investigate, provided he does not need the mind-deadening opiate of an afterlife belief to annul his fear of death and get him through the day without having to be institutionalized and diapered.

"Jesus was thoroughly Jewish. Mary, his mother, was Jewish, and Judaism was the religion he practiced throughout his life" (p. 1). After that accurate opening, Wilson then proceeds to argue that, while Jesus and his followers saw him as Messiah, Paul and his followers saw him as Christ - as if Khristos, "Anointed," were something other than a Greek translation of Mashyah, "Yahweh's Anointed." This is admittedly a minor quibble, since the religion invented by Paul indeed repudiated the religion preached by Jesus. While Jesus' transformation into the god of the Christians happened a century later than Wilson imagines, it nonetheless did happen. And while it was the anonymous author of the fourth gospel, between 130 and 138 CE, who transformed King Jesus into the god Jesus, it was indeed Paul who changed him from a typical Jewish xenophobe into a Greek anti-Semite. So I am not going to attach an unwarranted significance to a trivial problem of chronology.

Wilson recognizes that the books of Isaiah and Zechariah contain chapters written long after the deaths of their original authors. But he quotes from Deuteronomy in a way that indicates a belief that it was written by Moses. He even states that the Torah dates from more than 1,000 years before Jesus (actually it was completed in 434 BCE). Is he really that ignorant? While not all scholars agree that Deuteronomy's real author was Jeremiah, they do all recognize that the Torah was compiled by riffling together narratives written over a 500-year period by authors whose theology was far from identical with one another. Has Wilson never heard of J, E, D, P and R? But refusal to accept the Documentary Theory of the Torah's composition is not Wilson's most blatant incompetence. Anyone who could teach religious studies at university level for twenty years without it ever crossing his mind that, either a god with the omnibenevolence to want to exterminate evil, and the omnipotence to do so, cannot exist, or non-manmade evils such as disease, famine and tsunamis cannot exist, is clearly a few cards short of a full deck - but what theologian is not? Indeed, anyone who can sit on a toilet seat or watch a TV ad for tampons, and continue to believe that the human body was intelligently designed, is not sparking on all neurons.

Wilson gullibly accepts Luke's pretence that Jesus and John the Immerser were cousins, when in fact their respective followers viewed them as opposition messiahs. Since Jesus' career began after John's ended, Jesus could safely claim him as a precursor. But decades after the death of both, adherents of the Immerser cult continued to reject Jesus as a usurper. Wilson also swallows the gospel fiction that Jesus was betrayed by his own treasurer, Judas the Sicarius, a fiction concocted by the anonymous author of Mark for the purpose of convincing Vespasian that the Christians were not anti-Roman like the Jews with whom he was currently at war, but rather that Rome's enemies, the Zealots/Iscariots, were also Jesus' enemies. He thinks Jesus was a descendant of King David, even though all three synoptic gospels include Jesus' acknowledgment that he was not Davidic, since he was a descendant of gentiles forcibly converted to Judaism by the Maccabees, as was King Herod. Wilson thinks that the gospel called John was written before Luke, even though John's primary purpose was to repudiate Luke's (his synoptic source) endorsement of practices Romans deemed repulsive, such as celibacy and communism, as well as such absurdities as the establishment of a Jewish state independent of Rome within a time limit that, by John's time (130-138 CE), had already expired. He also thinks that the virgin birth interpolations in Matthew and Luke were part of the original gospels, even though they were placed alongside or close to genealogies with which they were incompatible. Does he really think the gospel authors were that stupid?

Wilson thinks that Jesus could read (a literate Galilean yokel? Is he kidding?), that he may have been bilingual, and that quotations from Jewish scripture put into Jesus' mouth by the gospel authors were really preached by him. Has he never heard of the Jesus Seminar, and its finding that less than one-fifth of the words attributed to Jesus were ever spoken by him? He thinks that Jesus really had Twelve Apostles, a concept that Mark backdated to Jesus simply because the Nazirite commune in Mark's time was led by a Twelve. He anachronistically calls the Nazirite supervisor Jacob a bishop, at a time when episkopos meant nothing remotely equivalent. The Christians had bishops. The Nazirites did not have bishops. And he imagines that the prohibition of "murder" in the Jewish Ten Commandments included the killing of gentiles. In fact it banned only the killing of fellow Jews without priestly or magisterial consent. No doubt the rabbis involved in Wilson's conversion to Judaism did not draw his attention to Sanhedrin 78B in the Talmud, or to Leviticus 20:10, both of which make clear that injurious acts were only prohibited when the victim was a fellow Jew. They also could not have told him that the Hebrew word translated in English bibles as "neighbor" meant strictly a fellow Jew. Wilson thinks that Jesus saw "love your neighbor" as meaning that he should love the Romans. Camel excrement.

Wilson recognizes (pp. 66-67) that Matthew's tale of Jesus' parents fleeing to Egypt after his birth is a fantasy concocted to make Jesus fulfill a prophecy that really referred, retroactively, to the exodus from Egypt. Yet he blandly declares that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, even though both gospels that make such a claim stretched credulity to the breaking point in order to do so. There was indeed a Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth, but recent archaeology has found that it was not currently inhabited. And he buys the gospel fantasy that Jesus' hometown was Nazareth, a village that did not exist earlier than the third century. Mark wrote that Jesus came from the Nazareth, an Aramaic word roughly equivalent to Diaspora. Matthew and Luke, using Mark as their source, misinterpreted Nazareth as the name of a village. Jesus' actual birth place and hometown was Capernaum in Galilee, but Wilson could not be expected to know that because he has not read any of the books written by scholars who do not have an axe to grind.

Wilson states as if they were facts that Islam and Mormonism derived from separate revelations. Since he is neither a Muslim nor a Mormon, he clearly does not believe that Mohamed's divine revelation or Joseph Smith's golden plates had any historical reality. So is he simply being politically correct, or prudently avoiding expressing opinions in areas in which he knows he has no competence? If he had carried the latter policy to its logical conclusion, he would not have written this book.

What makes Wilson's multitude of errors on points of history that have no bearing on his basic thesis worth mentioning, is that they provide early evidence that he does not know what he is talking about (what theologian does?). So when he starts writing about Paul's role as the inventor of Christianity (as indeed he was), he does so from the perspective of a well meaning amateur who has not learned to evaluate his sources well enough to separate fact from fiction. What he does get right is that (pp. 138-139), "In linking the Christ movement to the Jesus movement, what the writer of Acts has succeeded in doing is fusing together two separate religions. It's as if he blended together two different movements - say, in contemporary terms, something like Islam and Christianity - in spite of their having different origins, beliefs and practices…. The effect of Acts' endeavors was to put forward that Paul's movement arose out of the religion originating with Jesus, when it clearly hadn't." But his getting more right than he gets wrong does not make Wilson a reliable source for his unlearned intended audience. Caveat emptor.

How Jesus Became Christian adds no useful information to what can be found in the books noted above as conspicuously absent from Wilson's bibliography. That is unfortunate, as an accurate exposition of how Jesus became Jewish might have superseded all previous books on the subject.

Atheism Advanced
David Eller
American Atheist Press
P.O. Box 5733, Parsippany NJ 07054-6733
9781578840021 $22.00

There are many ways of opening oneself to thousands of words that sound profound but in fact convey no more useful information than if they were expounded in Etruscan. One way is to watch Oprah Winfrey. Another way is to read this book. I cannot recall ever before reading a book that reached only conclusions with which I agree (other than the author's attempt to coin and justify the nonsense word "discredism"), that simultaneously struck me as a criminal waste of a perfectly good tree. But perhaps ATHEISM ADVANCED can be put to good use, by having students in a creative writing class study it as an example of how to fill 490 pages without saying anything.

Consider the following passage (p. 280), "Just as religion conquers and organizes space, it also conquers and organizes time, structuring the yearly, weekly and often daily course of private and public events. Some of these means of time-colonization exploit real natural happenings, while others are occasions invented entirely by religion." Couldn't he have simply said that Christianity appropriated the rebirth of vegetation at the end of winter and turned it into Easter?

Frank Zindler states in the Introduction (p. vii), "If one were to read no more than the chapter 'Speaking Christian,' it would justify the purchase of this book." I read the chapter, and respectfully disagree.

Eller's chapter, Making Gods, briefly summarizes several religions invented in the 19th and 20th centuries. While Ellen White is mentioned, Mary Baker Eddy is not. The superficiality of Eller's treatment of such cults is exemplified by his pages on Scientology (pp. 141-143). He writes as if it really were a religion, rather than a confidence swindle invented because a science fiction writer decided to "start a religion, because that's where the money is."

Eller writes (p. 35), "We take words like GOD or HEAVEN or SIN as seriously as we take 'cat,' when perhaps we should take them as seriously as we take BLORK." He points out that (p. ix), "Once we discovered oxygen and the principles of combustion, we stopped thinking that there was a substance called phlogiston." He recognizes that (p. 233-234), "To study god(s) or religion(s) is to demystify them, to bring them within human reach and human knowledge, to cross any boundary between them and us, in fact to dispel the very boundary." He summarizes C. S. Lewis's contribution to the dumbing of humankind in the words (p. 343), "Wrong from the very title, MERE CHRISTIANITY has ruined more modern minds than perhaps any piece of literature in the twentieth century…. I am amazed that anyone has ever read his book past page six." And in citing biblical passages that prove the Torah authors to have been, not monotheists, but monolatrists whose deity demanded that they ignore all of the other gods, he asks the obvious question (p. 17), "Why make such rules unless there really are other gods?" But in going through Eller's book and identifying all conclusions worthy of a comment, the cited quotations were the only passages I bookmarked.

Eller concludes (p. 426), "In this book I have given some clues as to how religion provides these experiences and how atheism might claim them back." Pardon me if I disagree.

The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity James D. Tabor
Simon & Schuster
Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743287234 $27.00

In James Tabor's second sentence he states that, as a teenager, he made his first trip to the "Holy Land." That, along with his dust jacket's long list of gullible recitations of biblical fictions, as if they were facts of history, was an early warning that, if Tabor is a legitimate biblical scholar, then so is Joseph Ratzinazi. Some up-front corrections: There is no "Holy Land." The term has no place in a book posing as nonfiction. Jesus' mother Mary may have become pregnant before her marriage, but if so the father was her fiance. All claims to the contrary stem from allegations made a century later in response to the second gospel's virgin-birth interpolation. There is no reason to believe that John the Immerser was Aaronic, and as an opposition messiah he was certainly not Jesus' cousin. Jesus was not a descendant of King David, and for an author who has made a study of the gospels in which Jesus acknowledged that he is not Davidic to think otherwise is indicative of a chronic degree of mental dysfunction. Jesus did not appoint a Council of Twelve. His brothers were not his followers, and until his execution they considered him a madman. Only Peter's "resurrection" preaching converted them from their dead messiah the Righteous Rabbi to the equally dead messiah Jesus the Nazirite. James (Jacob) the Righteous was not "the Beloved Disciple." While such statements may sound as arbitrary as Tabor's, they are backed up by solid evidence in Mythology's Last Gods (Prometheus, 1992).

The rest of the jacket blurb is basically accurate. Tabor's speculations are not as imbecilic as those of John Allegro or Roman Piso, but neither are they worthy of any serious consideration. Perhaps the closest parallel is the indefensible fantasies of Michael Baigent.

Not surprisingly, considering his brainwashing, Tabor refers to Jesus the Nazoraios as "Jesus of Nazareth," a mistranslation recognized by linguistic experts as philologically impossible. He declares that Jesus grew up in Nazareth, even though no village named Nazareth existed earlier than the third century. He states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and after the birth his parents returned to Nazareth. But that account is taken from Luke's masturbation fantasy that a decree from Augustus Caesar required Galileans to travel to Bethlehem to register for the taxation census, far from the Galilean tax collectors for whose benefit the census was conducted. Does he really think Augustus was that stupid? He starts out by ignoring Luke's incompatibility with Matthew, which shows Jesus' family living in Bethlehem and only moving to "Nazareth" after Jesus' birth, although in a later chapter he argues that Luke was right and Matthew wrong. As for Tabor's use of the Christian dating system, BC/AD, that insults and offends the 5.5 billion humans who do not believe they are living in the "Year of the Master," while liberal Christians have switched to the scientifically neutral equivalent, BCE/CE, it would be unrealistic to expect bigots and ignoramuses to do so.

While the absence of a bibliography normally denotes laziness, in Tabor's case it is more likely an indication that he has not read any of the biblical scholarship published by persons who do know what they are talking about. Bart Ehrman's back-cover blurb at first glance appears to be flattering, but Ehrman in fact describes Tabor's theses as "boldly provocative" without in any way endorsing them. Perhaps Ehrman was reluctant to refuse a colleague's request for a comment, but recognized that his own reputation as a scholar would be damaged beyond repair if he gave the impression of agreeing with Tabor's incompetent drivel.

In defending his fantasy that Jesus was "really" fathered by a Roman named Pantheros, Tabor belittles the reality that pantheros was a pun on parthenos, and blandly rationalizes that, "the two words don't match very closely." Newsflash: other than reversing two letters, the words are identical. The pantheros pun was invented after Matthew was interpolated with the virgin birth fable, and was a logical Jewish reaction to what was seen as a confession - one hundred years after Jesus' birth - that Jesus was not Joseph's son. Despite Tabor's desperate pleading, the claim that Jesus was not Joseph's son originated far too late for any competent scholar to interpret it as having a factual basis. Tabor also tries to justify the Catholic pretence that Luke's genealogy differed from Matthew's because it was really the ancestry of Mary. That the rationalizations Tabor swallows were invented at least two centuries after Jesus' death apparently strikes him as insignificant. He rationalizes away the acknowledgement in John 7:5 that Jesus' brothers rejected his messianic pretensions, by claiming that "many scholars" (meaning himself and no one else that I am aware of) consider it "a late interpolation." When he writes of James, Jude and Simon (p. 164), named in the gospels as Jesus' disciples, "I am convinced that these are the three brothers of Jesus," that is the closest he ever comes to acknowledging that his whole thesis is imaginative fantasy.

Tabor reaches many of the same conclusions as the scholars named in the following paragraph, and on those issues he is usually right. But it is his disagreements with them that are his justification for writing this book, and on those conclusions he is hopelessly, indefensibly, totally wrong.

Many competent scholars have reached conclusions about the origin and evolution of early Christianity that are not identical with my own, some even arguing that there was never a Jesus of history onto whose biography the Christian fairy tales were posthumously grafted. Even so, I have no difficulty recommending the books of Michael Arnheim, Earl Doherty, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, Gerd Ludemann, Robert Price, G. E. Wells, Frank Zindler, and even John Dominic Crossan (despite his crippling theological conditioning). They all utilize a valid methodology and do not blandly parrot a party line. I sometimes wonder why they don't always agree with me, but given the sparsity of evidence, even the best argued conclusions must be recognized as less than definitive. But I recognize that they are not naive, gullible doublethinkers, incapable of grasping that mutually exclusive narratives cannot both be true or that fables concocted a full century after the alleged fact can have no historical reality, and they are not given to unbridled speculation that they mistake for a logical extrapolation of the evidence. That is the difference between them and James Tabor. While the poster boy for the hypothesis that all theologians are brain amputees is the author of The Dawkins Delusion, the author of The Jesus Dynasty is a serious contender.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

The Age of Enchantment: Beardsley, Dulac, and Their Contemporaries, 1890-1930
Rodney Engen
Antique Collectors Club
Easthampton, MA
9781857595239 $45.00

Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen, and Edmund Dulac were the leading illustrators of the Age of Enchantment covered. They were known as late-Victorian/early modern-era illustrators of children's books. Their popularity remains high among book and art collectors. Today, books illustrated by them, especially limited editions often signed by them, can bring thousands of dollars at auction. When original art by one of them appears for auction, prices can rival those for other artists known mostly for their paintings. Willie Pogany, Charles Robinson, Annie French, and Frank Brangwyn are other popular, similar artists of the period; though not at the level of top group. Engen, author of over 20 books on British illustration and curator of illustration exhibitions, also brings in the Demold brothers Charles and Edward for their fantasy-like illustrations mostly of animals and natural settings. The Glasgow School is also included for its ornate, fantasized style.

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) was the aesthetic and stylistic progenitor of the art of this age of enchantment. Though his career lasted only six years, the daring of his themes--often a mix of exoticism and sexuality--and the elaborateness along with the detail of his style opened up new possibilities for artists in Victorian England. Linked with the controversial Oscar Wilde who saw in Beardsley's illustrations the ideal visual representation of his own ideas about a flamboyant freedom in art, decadism, and playful or provocative treatment of unspoken subjects of the contemporary public, Beardsley's acceptance was limited in his lifetime. Beardsley's example, nonetheless, with its extravagant lines, ornamental natural imagery, theatrical poses, and suggestion of mystery, magic, and the exotic inspired the following generation of leading illustrators.

Nielsen, Rackham, and the others of this generation were drawn to children's books for the imagination going naturally with these. Unlike Beardsley, they were not aiming at provocation; nor at portraying ideas and virtues of decadism. Like children's book illustrators of all eras, they were interested in entertainment and their own popularity. The waning of the didacticism and overt moral instruction of Victorianism in the early decades of modernism also allowed Nielsen, Rackham, and company new freedoms in portrayal, tone, and suggestion.

The illustrators' work was never meant only for children, however; even though it is found mostly in children's books of the period. For its consummate skill, imagination, color, and evocation of magic and sensuality, the art was and is popular with persons of all ages. Its influence continues, Engen notes. The influence can be seen in both The Lord of the Rings books and the movies; and seen in Walt Disney films and design of parts of the Disney parks, particularly Fantasyland. Though covering only a few decades and the top artists of enchantment, Engen's book gives a visually engrossing view on an enduring, evolving vein of modern popular art.

Gustave Courbet, with essays by Dominique De Font-Beaulx, Laurence Des Cabs, et al.
Hatje Cantz
Germany/Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York
9783775721097 $85.00

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) embraced the democratic ideas and values taking root in French Society following the overthrow of the French monarchy in the latter 1700s not only in his art, but in all other areas of his life as well. A moody bohemian-like person who naturally drifted to the margins of society, Courbet nonetheless sought political positions. At one time, he was the mayor of Paris's Sixth Arrondissement.

Courbet is often simplistically labeled a painter of Realism. But he disapproved of this label; and attention to the style, compositions, and innovations of his paintings disputes this as well. While Courbet's art patently and by intention marks a break with the formal, academicized, and rhetorical paintings popular with France's Ancien Regime, his turn to realism was not an attempt to depict nature with verisimilitude. The individuals of his paintings imply the broader, ideological reach of his paintings. As his contemporary the critic Castagnary put it, Courbet aimed to paint a democratic public "with all the seriousness, strength, and character normally reserved for gods, heroes, and kings." While Courbet replaced the later traditional subjects with the former contemporary ones, the dignified, to varying degrees romanticized presentation of such subjects carried over in Courbet's paintings. Courbet for instance never engaged in the caricature of Hogarth in England or even Daumier in his own country of newly-empowered democratic types crudely, vulgarly coming onto the social scene.

Furthermore, Courbet "is less concerned with presenting the truth [of nature as seen or experienced]...than with presenting solidity...[h]e seeks to express the materiality of the world around him." Like Caravaggio or Rembrandt, Courbet often uses shadowing--i. e., shades of darkness--to bring out various literal and evocative dimensions of his subjects; though this does not go nearly so far as Rembrandt in sometimes almost effacing the physicality of the subject. With Courbet, the physical is never lost. Although Courbet is not strictly a naturalist painter, the individuals and features of the natural world in his paintings ordinarily do have a naturalness of pose and ease of presence. Courbet's treatment of persons leaves the poses and coloration of those in the paintings of Manet--another 19th century French painter commonly regarded in the "movement" of realism--seem mannered. Such are the precise artistic qualities (instead of stereotyped) which make Courbet stand out as an exceptionally masterful painter as well as a historically important one.

Courbet's interest in photography is another subject. Period photographs, some of nude women, are juxtaposed to paintings. Courbet's interest in the relatively new field of photography was more like a curiosity that there were certain coincidental affinities. Courbet was naturally interested in photography because it reproduced parts of the immediate, sensible world--as he did in his own paintings.

This major study involving biography, criticism, art history, and a catalog of works is built on the Courbet exhibition at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art through mid-May 2008.

Vintage Furniture - collecting & living with modern design classics
Fay Sweet
Antique Collectors Club
Easthampton, MA
9781851495573 $45.00 800-252-5231

"Modern" encompasses furniture from the beginning of the 1900s down to recent years in the beginning of the 21st century, roughly the past century. American and European furniture of this period is taken according to general phases of it such as Pop and Post-Modernism and Late Modernism with a special chapter on The Scandinavians between Early and Mid-Century Modernism. The Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Finland and to a lesser degree Norway receive a separate chapter because in the first couple of decades of the 1900s they produced modernist furniture that was "accessible [and] soft]" in marked contrast to the "industrial aesthetic of the Bauhaus" centered in Germany which had a strong influence on design. Political changes in these countries including Finland's independence from Russia in 1917 and the breakup of the union of Norway and Sweden in 1905 precipitated movements for new identity which distinctive contemporary furniture design free from former historical and cultural influences were a part of along with other, widespread social and economic changes. The Scandinavians made furniture, along with other products such as automobiles by Saab, which were "high quality, easily exported, and high-value." Although Scandinavia got a strong start in early modernist furniture, designers and manufacturers in other European countries and the United States soon followed in its tracks.

"Modern" refers more to a period of time than a particular style. Like modernist painting, architecture, and other arts and consumer items, modern furniture was eclectic and unpredictable in both appearance and materials. As in other modernist arts and goods, furniture designers imaginatively and idiosyncratically made chairs, sofas, dining tables, bedroom sets, etc., in a wide array of shapes using metal, wood of all kinds, textiles, plastics, glass, and synthetic materials as these were created in the course of the 20th century. The modern furniture--chairs, for example--could appear little different from modernist sculpture. And though it was all meant to be functional and utilitarian, this consideration ostensibly vied with individuality and in many cases an almost experimental reach for innovation and novelty. In many cases, as well, "style" meant a designer's mood or concept entirely; often whimsy or humor as shown with a bright red couch than looks like an oversized pair of lips, a large seat resembling a baseball mitt, or chairs dangling on chain links hung from the ceiling.

The "vintage" and "modern" of the different parts of the title is not careless or unthinking. As collectors, designers, auction houses, and others in the trade know, modern furniture, even some from recent decades, has achieved a high status in the world of desirable and valuable collectibles. Sweet deals with identifying such pieces, bidding at auction, etc., in a short section toward the end. Despite the modernist styles using chrome, teak, and plastic, and other industrial, nontraditional materials, the furniture is regarded as vintage--vintage modernist, so to speak. Numerous color photographs and Sweet's succinct, informative text highlight the variety of outstanding modernist pieces of furniture from both the design and the collectibility/investment standpoints.

Theophilus Brown: Paintings, Collages, & Drawings
John Arthur
Chameleon Books
Chesterfield, MA
distributed by Antique Collectors Club
Easthampton, MA
9780915829750 $45.00,, 800-252-5231

With Richard Diebenkorn, Paul Wonner, and other area artists, Theophilus Brown was a member of the group that became known as the San Francisco Bay Area Figurative Movement. Formed in the 1950s, by the 1960s, the Movement had gained national prominence. Brown, like the others and more so than most of them, made a decided turn from the abstract expressionism and pop art dominant at the time. Brown, like the others, did landscapes as well as figures. His city and industrial landscapes have a geometric formality and sharp coloration like those of Diebenkorn; though Brown's retain closer representation. The persons in Brown's portraits are recognizable individuals; while he employs limited cubist techniques and imaginative, unconventional color. As William Inge perceptively described the artist's work in 1967, "[T]he human figure takes its place as a natural part of the landscape, unseparated from it, as in the Matisse interiors. Man is not portraitured against a physical world that serves him as a mere backdrop. He is an integral part of that world." The figures in Brown's paintings always seem a natural part of the overall scene despite their cubist accents and unnatural colors and occasional De Kooning-esque electric striations of vivid color.

Even while turning to figure painting and related kinds based on the physical, visible world, Brown's paintings nonetheless display influences from De Kooning, Rothko, and Leger; who taught him in the latter 1940s. The paintings also display influences from Picasso, Braque, and Guston; all of whom Brown knew in his movement from Europe to New York to California.

The "turn to figurative art" denotes the long middle period of Brown's work. In the first stages of his career, the work shows Modernist art's characteristic disinterest of representation in favor of celebration of materials and raw imagination. In the last stages of Brown's career beginning at the opening of the 21st century, he again, in an unplanned and unexpected way, makes modernist art in a style of the day. In the early 2000's, Brown took "colorful little screeds" that were remnants clinging to his palette of acrylics he had been working with and "pinned them to the wall" for assembling into collages. "Like the Proustian sweet, the inherent beauty of these viscous snippets recalled the open-ended, improvisational traits of Willem de Kooning, the gestural physicality of Jackson Pollock" and also traits from Franz Kline and Mark Rothko. Closing with these most recent works of Brown's, the art historian and critic and curator John Arthur completes a comprehensive, multifaceted overview of Brown's career.

The Secret to Getting Listed at the Top of Search Engines
Alexandra Saieh
Bloomington, IN
9781434394532 $12.99 800-839-8640

As most contemporary authors, as well as actors, designers, and other ambitious and savvy professionals and amateurs in other fields have learned, one has to have an effective Internet presence, in most cases a website, to hope to compete in their field. Saieh provides a to-the-point, experienced handbook for how to get rated near the top of web search engines such as Google or Yahoo. This is all important considering that keyword searches with these search engines often turn up tens of thousands of responses.

Some of what is found in Saieh's handbook is in other books on the broad, multifaceted subject of websites. But Saieh goes beyond the cursory material found in most of these, so that her book is more useful. She not only says what is necessary to be listed at or near the top of search engine listings, but also explains in nontechnical language how the search engines work so one understands the reason for this.

Saieh assumes the reader is already convinced of the incomparable importance of having a website to establish one's identity in the field of one's choice, further one's career, sell one's product or services, or communicate one's message. Going beyond this, she also assumes nearly every reader will already have a website. So she does not spend time on trying to persuade one of the importance of a website, nor on how to get one up and running. She focuses sharply on getting one's website to stand out with the search engines once one understands the importance of a site and puts the effort into creating one.

Leading up to her main topic of search-engine listings, she does go over the elements of a good--i. e., effective, productive--website and research one should do to ensure such a site. In the style of the handbook the work is intended to be, each chapter ends with a bulleted listing of "Action Steps to Take" highlighting the to-do and how-to parts of the respective chapter.

Getting listed highly in search engine results is not the only aim in trying to make a website work: Keeping a high listing is an ongoing aim; and the author covers this as well.

Saieh is a website consultant with a specialization in search-engine optimization research and methodology with a decade of experience. Stellar Image is the name of her business. Many artists, writers, marketers, etc., will find her compact, informative manual invaluable in being effective in the highly-competitive and ever-growing world of the Internet.

The Chouteaus - First Family of the Fur Trade
Stan Hoig
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826343475 $29.95 800-249-7737

A movie of the life of the Chouteaus would have to be one of those generational epics running as a week-long series on channels such as HBO. "This family [featured] energetic, adventurous men destined to play significant roles in the advance of the United States and Euro-American civilization westward from the Mississippi River." The Chouteau men were active mostly before the Louisiana Purchase. By their explorations and commercial ventures in large parts of the area of the Purchase and contacts with Native Americans, they eased the growth of the United States beyond the Mississippi River. Some of the Chouteau men were prototypes of the mountain men who became legendary in American lore; though the Chouteau men were usually more entrepreneurial (rather than individualistic) in their activities and aims.

One of them spent time in a Spanish jail in the Southwest for misunderstandings with Spanish authorities about his presence in Spanish territory. And rather than trapping themselves and selling or trading the seasonal catch, most of the Chouteau men worked to create business networks of Native American tribes, European and American buyers, and varied commercial interests such as transportation and banking. In general, the Chouteau men also recognized the desirability and in some ways necessity of relations with governmental authorities.

The first of the Chouteau men were actually children of a man who has come to be known historically as Laclede and a Marie Therese, the wife of Rene Auguste Chouteau, who after some time in New Orleans returned to France abandoning her. The children were given the Chouteau name because the mother had to keep this name since the parents' Catholicism forbid them from divorcing. It was Laclede who set the pattern for the following two generations of the Chouteau men who had such an influence on opening the West for Euro-American settlement and development. In sympathy with French claims to upper parts of the Mississippi at the time of the French and Indian War, Laclede "committed himself to the proposition of constructing and operating one of the first franchised trading operations in the barely explored wilderness of the Mississippi Valley." In 1763 with his teenaged son Auguste a member of his crew, Laclede set out by keelboat up the Mississippi from New Orleans. During this trading venture, in the Spring 1764, Laclede named a site where cabins for shelter and sheds for storage of furs had been built Saint Louis in honor of the French king. This was the origin of the city of Saint Louis which at first an outpost, later became a key crossroad in trade between the western lands and the eastern towns and cities. Before long, Laclede's wife moved from New Orleans to Saint Louis with their children. One of these was named Pierre Chouteau.

Auguste and Pierre Chouteau and their male children carried on the tradition begun by their father Laclede. Pierre's eight sons especially had an incomparable role as sources of information about the areas and in advancing trade and other commercial interests as a prelude to settlement as they pursued their varied interests. Hoig--professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma--follows the adventures and accomplishments of the Chouteaus through developments relating to the Louisiana Purchase up to the Civil War.

There are many legendary explorers and pioneers in the story of the United States' westward expansion. But the Chouteau's are unique in that they were generations of one family whose combined efforts largely in pursuit of business opportunities and becoming wealthy are beyond compare.

Italian Locations - Reinhabiting the Past in Postwar Cinema
Noa Steimatsky
U. of Minnesota Press
Minneapolis, MN
9780816650880 $22.95

Steimatsky describes images and the tone in which they are pictured of the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1966 film "The Earth as Seen From the Moon" as "reconstruct[ing] the ramshackle, marginal world, seeing its humility as grandeur, its muteness as eloquence, its tragic-comedic resourcefulness as a 'desperate vitality'." Such circumstances and characteristics applied to large sectors of Italian society in the post-World War II decades. Steimatsky's timeframe for the postwar cinema stretches to about the latter 1960s. As with the foregoing comments on aspects of Pasolini's films, the author does not basically engage in interpretation (which often becomes overwrought or fanciful with many critics) nor in explanation (which can become didactic or wallow in the elementary). Instead, her style is basically explication, or clarification for properly orienting the reader as a premise for moving on to other matters regarding the subject at hand.

Steimatsky, who teaches film studies at Yale, considers the study of film as a part of cultural studies. In so doing, the author regards Italian film as having a major role in restoring and in so doing reinventing to considerable degree Italian society after its decades of Fascism under Mussolini and alliance with Hitler and the society's devastation in World War II. This is a large claim going beyond the perspective of many critics, film historians, and such of expounding how film can represent situations or issues; make impressions on masses of viewers; and stir imagination. These and more inhere in this author's appreciation of the Italian film. Notwithstanding the novelty and even possible hyperbole of the author's regard of Italian film, one agrees with it. Film in Italian culture is seen to have had such a role considering the weakness of institutions such as government and the military in Italian society.

Taking the top directors of Rossellini, Visconti, and Antonioni with Pasolini, Steimatsky devotes a chapter to each; in which she focuses on each director's primary theme or distinctive style. Antonioni's films, for example, are characterized by their display of modernism. Rossellini depicted "corpse-cities" where children and adults and sometimes foreigners tried to live a normal life in a pre- or post-civilizational condition while also trying to comprehend the enormity of the changes they face symbolized by the destruction of buildings, familiar places, etc.

It is when Steimatsky departs from her spare identifications of elements of a scene that the critique opens into the area of cultural studies around theme of the renewal of post-War Italian society. The author's insights and formulations range from the sociological to the religious to the psychological. In discussing the "Altered Terrain" created by the director Antonioni's camerawork and varied subjects, the author sees "[b]etween quotidian detail and a movement of emptying-out of the landscapes, fragments of river life, less-than-episodes, and unpursued plot clues traverse...the documentary body" of one of his films. Cinematic aspects, images, and subjects of Pasolini's films present an "aesthetic system [which] draws on the potency of the devotional image, whose reverential archaism also carries a realist claim."

This is film study at its most engaging, stimulating, and informative.

Shedding Skins - Four Sioux Poets
Adrian C. Louis, editor
Michigan State U
East Lansing, MI
9780870138232 $15.95

Adrian Louis opens his Introduction with a poem named The End of the Trail Is the Beginning of the Trail which alludes to how many Native Americans, like the Sioux in the collected poems, have gone off the trail. With no idea just what the trial was like or how to find the way back, the Sioux drift aimlessly and hopelessly. A couple of lines of the poem are, "...Sleep/deep & bring us a dream." But no dream comes. Trevino L. Brings Plenty ends one of his poems, "...I don't dream anymore,/I only remember." The memories are of romanticized Plains Indians for the most part an image created by white Americans. Such memories offer no sustenance or guidance in the present; offer no ideas about adapting to the realities of the Sioux's plight in present-day America.

In his Introduction, after the poem, Adrian notes the poems of the four contemporary Sioux poets combine the public image of Native Americans who are mostly artists and educators with those who are the "grassroots people" of the medicine men and women, story tellers, and community activists.

The poems are simple in form and language; though each poet has his own voice. Many are based on simplified settings, a typical situation, a dialogue between two persons, or a monologue. Again and again they circle back to the core subjects and themes of the materially and spiritually impoverished plight of Native Americans, particularly the Sioux of the upper Midwest and the plight's diffused angers and stultifying confusions. Despite their raw emotions and dehumanizing circumstances, the poems are free of complaint. The poets realize complaint is useless. Their aim is to describe and record, and in a way to witness though in a lively, involved, not typically faceless or anonymous manner.

Joel Waters, Steve Pacheco, and Luke Warm Water with the already-mentioned Brings Plenty evidence awareness, but not much digestion of the plight they write about. It is as if they are of a generation of Native Americans that has had history dropped on it like a ton of bricks: The poets are reacting to the event and its immediate effects. This uncompromising assault of history, so to speak, occurs hand-in-hand with the flight of the protective and consoling myths and lore; a process that has been called disenchantment in other areas of the postmodern culture. As the poems relate, the Native Americans however have not naturally adopted the illusions, evasions, and blindnesses many others have been able to; thus leaving the Native Americans naked, vulnerable, and helpless in an anti-Eden.

The West the Railroads Made
Carlos A. Schwantes and James P. Ronda
U. of Washington Press
Seattle, WA
9780295987699 $39.95

More than any other single factor, railroads made the West the way it was and is in many respects today. The Federal government undeniably had a major role too. But the Louisiana Purchase, offers of free land, troops for security, and such, were government measures related mostly to setting the stage. It was the railroads which accounted for the details of Western development; details which caused settlers to lead their lives in certain ways and make decisions about which opportunities to pursue. Thus did the railroads play an incomparable role in how the West was developed. "The railroad was foreground, everything else was background," is the way the authors put it.

The co-authors steeped in Western history with academic and professional backgrounds go into all aspects of the railroad's effects. Railroad lines not only determined the location of towns, but also the layout of them. In their earliest stages, roads in Western towns were oriented toward the railroad depot. Furthermore, the railroad depot was the first experience settlers and immigrants had of a town; and as a place for the receiving and shipping of goods, a town's economy and in some cases its existence depended on the depot.

Railroads adapted as they changed the West by their presence. The original few early lines tied all parts of the West together internally and with the cities and states of the eastern parts. The value of land, the farms growing corn and wheat in such quantities that it affected the diet of all Americans, mountains of ore for Midwestern and Northern factories, and transport of large numbers of persons for rapid growth in many inviting areas were all major economic and sociological developments directly related to the railroads. As the West became more developed and their original roles faded, the railroads adapted by promoting tourism based on the natural wonders of the West and travel to major cities and other vacation areas.

The work is based on innumerable facts colorfully related; which facts were taken from the authors' scholarly knowledge and interest in Western history. Another part of the book's popular style are the hundreds of illustrations enhancing the text. A map of one early Western town, for instance, demonstrates the town's streets leading in straight lines from the railroad depot so people and goods can move easily to and from this hub. Color travel posters complement text on the different railroad lines' playing up the West as a tourist destination. Railroad documents, prints, and photographs are other sorts of illustrated materials. The assorted visual matter is so bountiful it spills over into the back matter of notes, bibliography, and index.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

The Time Thief
Linda Buckley-Archer, author
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416915270, $17.99

"The Time Thief," by Linda Buckley-Archer makes the most of London's history and lore while offering a wildly satisfying science fiction ride. It is the second book in the popular Gideon Trilogy.

A young girl makes it back to modern London after being accidentally catapulted to 1763 via a time machine. But her friend remains stuck in the past. In his place, an 18th century henchman has entered the 21st century.

As they try to rescue the boy, characters headed for 1763 mistakenly land in 1792 France at the harrowing height of the French Revolution. Historical figures like Thomas Paine and George III and Charlotte, the king and queen of England, pop up throughout.

As characters move between modern and 18th century London, "The Time Thief" weaves a picture of a city that has greatly changed - and stayed the same. Street names, neighborhoods and landmarks remain. An 18th century villain's favorite pub is still in business.

Backed by a less enticing tale, all the history in "The Time Thief" might feel burdensome. But the plot is thoroughly entertaining and the references injected lightly enough that the story isn't weighted down.

Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, authors
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780439871778, $17.99

"Tunnels," by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, was published in Great Britain to acclaim before release here. While listed for 9- to 12-year-olds, its length and complexity edges into young adult interest.

"Tunnels" has significant depth, but it remains to be seen whether its intrigue can be sustained in the sequel expected in 2009.

An obsession with abandoned tunnels, some nearly two centuries old and designed to carry trains, sewage and water, sends a father and son below ground on covert digs. They come up with lots of artifacts that clutter their house and the local museum, which the father runs.

Among their greatest finds, before things go terribly wrong, is an abandoned yet intact 1895 underground railway station. Such stations in fact exist under London, left ghostly and untouched since being shuttered.

"Tunnels" starts off relatively lightly, but quickly becomes dark.

When his father goes missing, the young hero, named Will, goes underground in search of him. As he heads down a tunnel that originates in his father's basement workroom, Will can't fathom the evil he is about to encounter. He's about to descend farther under the earth than he and his father ever went, and he is about to see creatures far more terrifying than the rats and cockroaches he's used to encountering in old city tunnels near the surface.

Arabella Miller's Tiny Caterpillar
Clare Jarrett, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763636609 $16.99

The neon pink, gold and blue hues that author and illustrator Clare Jarrett chose for "Arabella Miller's Tiny Caterpillar" are an eye-catching repose from winter's gray. The pencil and collage drawings are lined simply, yet boldly filled.

The 32-page picture book, about a girl who adopts a caterpillar she finds crawling on her sleeve and cares for him while he cocoons and becomes a butterfly, is delightful. For preschoolers, the joyous tale is a great first-time look at a natural process including insights on how caterpillars shed their skin and things they eat.

Randy Cecil
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763630720 $15.99

"Duck" is a follow-up to "Gator," Randy Cecil's well-received 2007 picture book about a lonely carnival carousel character.

This time, Duck, a carousel character at the same carnival, dreams of flying with the real ducks she sees in the sky above.

Then, one spring day, a lost duckling wanders up to her. After teaching it to fly while whirling around on the carousel, Duck mourns the day the duckling suddenly takes to its wings and disappears. But later that year, the now-grown friend returns and straps Duck on its back for the flight of a lifetime.

The simple illustrations warmly capture the emotional bond between the carved wooden Duck and her feathered friend.

The Ugly Duckling
Hans Christian Andersen, author, Retold by Stephen Mitchell
Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, illustrators
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763621599 $16.99

The story of "The Ugly Duckling" is a familiar one, and in his retelling Stephen Mitchell doesn't toy with the long-cherished plot. A swan born to a family of ducks ultimately discovers his inner and outer beauty.

What are memorable this time are the illustrations.

The cover, featuring the swan's embroidered lace-like tapestry of grayish feathers as he breaks out of his shell, is striking.

The quality of the paintings doesn't diminish inside, with insets and full-page depictions of pond life including ducks, reeds, lily pads, turtles and splashing webbed feet. The baby swan's humiliation, as pond and farm animals berate it, is palpable.

The only drawback may be the book's length, which is great for children in early elementary school but may be too detailed and drawn-out of a read to hold a preschooler's interest.

The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Inga Moore, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763631611 $21.99

The text of this new version of "The Secret Garden" is unaltered from Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved 1911 story. Its 278 pages, appropriate for readers aged 6 to 12, begin as an orphaned girl is brought from India to her uncle's rambling English estate.

Ultimately, Mary comes to know her uncle, but also a crippled cousin, a maid and her family, a gardener and the birds and animals that reside on the grounds.

The secret garden is a walled-in space that has been locked since the death of Mary's aunt 10 years prior.

Her first days at the home, as winter slowly subsides, mirror the feel of early spring in a way that Midwest readers will appreciate.

Moore's artwork, accompanied by nicely spaced lines of text that won't intimidate young readers for whom too many words on one page might be a turnoff, is a splendid mix of wildlife, garden and character scenes.

Mary, in particular, goes from being a pinched-faced, skinny shrew to a plump, smiling child who brings her crippled cousin a baby lamb to feed and gets him out to the garden that was so dear to his dead mother.

Moore, who lives in England, isn't new to re-illustrating classics. Her illustrations for Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind in the Willows" drew international praise.

On the Farm
David Elliott, author, Holly Meade, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763633226, $16.99

"On the Farm," by David Elliott with illustrations by Holly Meade, is an enchantingly illustrated poetic ode to barnyard life. The woodblock prints and watercolors are beautifully detailed and done in natural hues that speak of springtime grass, sky and blooming flowers. The 16 animals, each featured individually, include everything from a grass snake to a barn cat to a bull who humorously "knows what he likes - cows and corn. Knows what he is - muscle and horn."

Elephants Never Forget
Anushka Ravishankar and Christiane Pieper, authors and illustrators
Houghton Mifflin Co.
222 Berkeley Street Boston, MA 02116
9780618997848, $16.00

Originally published in India, "Elephants Never Forget," by Anushka Ravishankar and Christiane Pieper, follows an orphaned elephant adopted by a clan of water buffalos. Simply illustrated in purple, black and cream, it offers lots of fun sounds, reminiscent of Dr. Seuss's classic "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?"

There are cracks, booms and flashes during a thunderstorm, an elephant's trumpeted "toot-toot," the "splitter, splatter, chitter, chatter," of monkeys and lots of buffalo bellowing. And, there's a gentle story about acceptance and becoming part of a family.

Sisters & Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World
Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Houghton Mifflin Co.
222 Berkeley Street Boston, MA 02116
9780618375967, $16.00

"Sisters & Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World," by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, melds captivating picture book illustrations with lengthier non-fiction text that is suitable for elementary students. It focuses on the family ties of a host of animals and insects, from bears to bats to giant anteaters.

Jenkins and Page have collaborated on other popular books including "What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?" which won a 2004 Caldecott Honor. They continue their success here.

"Sisters & Brothers" offers lots of information, presented in a fun way. Tidbits include that female elephants help care for younger siblings, that black widow spiders eat their siblings and that newborn crocodiles huddle together for safety in their parent's mouth.

Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures
Julie Larios, author, Julie Paschkis, illustrator
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, FL 32887
9780152063252, $16.00

"Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures," by Julie Larios with illustrations by Julie Paschkis, takes on the fantastic with 14 poems individually devoted to dragons, mermaids, centaurs and other mythical beings.

It melds lots of orange and green with other colors, resulting in marvelous individual illustrations that feel like insets from a larger medieval mural.

The phoenix, that Harry Potter fans might recall is reborn from its own ashes, is one potentially recognizable subject. Readers might be less familiar with others, like the seven-headed Naga and the Cockatrice, a snake-tailed rooster.

"Imaginary Menagerie" is a great introduction to mythical lore, hopefully whetting the appetites of young readers to further investigate the historical origins of what's presented.

My Big Book of Spanish Words
Rebecca Emberley
Little Brown and Company
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316118033 $8.99

Rebecca Emberley's bilingual Spanish/English board books are well known, individually covering subjects like food, animals, shapes and colors. But previous titles were limited to one topic. Now, in a perfect form for broadly introducing toddlers to world language, comes the brightly illustrated, oversized "My Big Book of Spanish Words." In the durable board book that concisely covers 11 subject areas familiar to young children, from toys to bath time to things that go, Emberley has penned the ideal all-in-one language primer for 1-to-3-year-olds. But it's also a wonderful resource for preschoolers and kindergartners who are learning Spanish at school or at home - and conversely for children of a Spanish language background who are learning English. And it can grow with children as they move past just listening to the words to actually reading them independently.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

It Was Never about a Hot Dog and a Coke! A Personal Account of the 1960 Sit-in Demonstrations in Jacksonville, Florida and Ax Handle Saturday
Rodney L. Hurst, Sr.
WingSpan Publishing
PO Box 2085, Livermore, CA 94551
9781595941954 $14.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"On August 27, 1960, more than 200 whites with ax handles and baseball bats attacked members of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP in downtown Jacksonville who were sitting in at white lunch counters protesting racism and segregation. Referred to as Ax Handle Saturday, It was never about a hot dog and a Coke chronicles the racial and political climate of Jacksonville, Florida in the late fifties, the events leading up to that infamous day, and the aftermath."

This informative memoir is about a dangerous time. The events are a part of our history, and through Rodney's story we learn more about the people and groups involved and the courage it took to sit. The book is well-written and well-edited. Thanks, Rodney, for taking the time.

The Last Deer Hunt, A Yooper Mystery
Jerry Sarasin
Outskirts Press
Parker, CO
97891432717414 $14.95

The Last Deer Hunt is a classic mystery story about a protagonist named Hank Duval, his family and friends in the town of Fairhaven, Michigan, the unearthed body of Ronald Pettiford, and Hank's love, Maggie. Hank has recurring nightmares from his youth which lead him to believe that he is Pettiford's murderer. His buddies from the Omega gang tell him bad Vic Pollo, now dead, was the murderer...but something just isn't right.

Jerry Sarasin is a Yooper from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He tells a good story which keeps you guessing while he brings Fairhaven and its people to life.

The novel is well written and generally well edited. There are a few minor editing errors, but that is true for most any mainstream novel. His writing style is pretty straight forward and flows smoothly...not dynamic or unique, but he gets the job done. I can certainly recommend The Last Deer Hunt to mystery buffs.

Kaye Trout

Liana's Bookshelf

Creating Your Own Way to Happiness: a New Life Perspective for Those Considering a Relationship or Marriage, Are Married, Divorced, or Widowed
Robert Bruce &Lee Ann Kirby
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd-515, Parker CO 80134
9781432703455 $13.95

Non fiction/self help/personal growth

Highly Recommended

R.Bruce has authored three books and is a professional speaker, while L.A. Kirby is a co-author of this book. Visit them at

This book is a guide for those who seek help to reconstruct their life. Written from a Christian perspective it encourages people to believe in themselves and go on with their lives. Many people do not like making changes in their life, the authors state. This book will help them to reconsider their lifestyle and become happy again. The authors address many important issues such as marriage, divorce and death and try to make readers use their advice throughout the book to enhance their life.

The book is in the format of a workbook rather than a conventional book so that the reader can make notes at times and follow their own progress. There are ample references to the Bible that help the authors to illustrate their points. It caters to everybody within the Christian religion who wish to transform their lives and feel happier and more fulfilled. It is written in a clear style that can be read by people from all walks of life. Get this book from

Dream Moments: The Voice in Your Dreams, Prophecy and Intuition
Ruth Frances Hoskins, Ph.D., LCSW, BCD
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd-515, Parker CO 80134
9781432713959 $10.95

Highly Recommended

Ruth Frances Hoskins is the Director of Relaxation International and a stress management consultant. She has authored many books in the field of relaxation and dreams and can be reached at and

Dream Moments is an account of personal dreams that the author has found prophetic or important in some other aspects. It takes the readers on a journey into the world of dreams and tries to explain the significance of each dream. The large letter size makes reading comfortable for the eyes and the style is clear and easy to read by all people from all walks of life. This book caters to those who wish to know more about dreams and their meaning in our life. Get this book from

The Essential Engstrom: Proven Principles of Leadership
Ted W. Engstrom
Timothy J.Beals, Editor
Authentic Publishing
1820 Jet Stream Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
978193068069 $16.99

Non fiction/Business and Economics/Leadership

Very Highly Recommended

Ted W. Engstrom, known worldwide as a leader, preacher and teacher, produced more than 50 books. Timothy J.Beals, the editor, owns Credo Communications, LLC, serves as Adjunct professor of Writing at Cornerstone University and as Instructor of Publishing at University of the Nations.

This book is an anthology of the best writings of Ted W. Engstrom who devoted his life to teaching others and was one of the most influential Christian leaders of the last century. He was devoted to the evangelical movement and his strategies for the practical application of Christian leadership have been of outmost importance.

This book has got 40 chapters and includes topics such as the importance of mistakes, attitude is everything and making critical choices. The section addressing the future, The new world, is very interesting to read, while the whole book serves as a guide for all those who seek success. It is written in an academic style and it is a valuable handbook that will certainly satisfy those who wish to get educated in leadership and effective management issues within the Christian religion.

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The Chocolate Queen
Lee Brooks
Publish America
1424102596 $19.95

Lee Brooks, a chocolate lover and a member of The red Hats Queen Bees of Brooklyn, lives in Connecticut with her husband and cats. The chocolate Queen is her first published book. Visit her at

The Chocolate Queen is a marvelous story that involves chocolate, love and adventure. The land of Reverent consider chocolate a taboo, while in the city of Carmel, hidden in the woods, a loving Queen lives and they all honor chocolate. The residents of Carmel are in constant battle with the residents of Reverent, and in the course of events many bad things happen. What will be the outcome of their fight? Is chocolate going to be banned for ever? Amidst the turmoil a love story unfolds and keeps the readers' interest intact to the very end of the book.

The author has invented a code language that is based on the Greek alphabet and which is quite interesting to see! There is a table of contents at the back of the book to help readers decipher the code. This book is a beautiful tale for kids of all ages. The city of Carmel serves as a kind of Utopia where people live happily in a tropical paradise. Could this happen in the real world? The sketches throughout the book are cute. The cover is very attractive, chocolate lovers will just love it! To sum up, this is an unusual fantasy book for everyone who loves fantasy and chocolate.

One Foot In The Black: A Wildland Firefighter's Story
Kurt L. Kamm
9781435706262 $ 14.95

Kurt Kamm knows very well what it means to be a firefighter! Visit him at

This book is an account of a firefighter's life story that unfolds in the childhood years of the main character, Greg, who suffers abuse by his violent father who is a firefighter. The whole story revolves around this traumatic experience of Greg who consequently becomes a firefighter himself.

The story involves social issues that assist in shaping the hero's behavior and personality and shed light into the issue of domestic violence. Despite the abusive family surroundings the main character manages to live and find the courage to start a new life. The author makes his hero brave enough to go on with his life and seek the love and happiness he was deprived of during his early years at home. The characters in this story come live and 'speak' as if real persons. Written in the first person, this story is more like a personal diary-more lively and more intimate and direct than a third person prose that helps abridge the distance between the characters and the readers.

The author uses clear every day language so as this story is easy to read and can keep the reader's interest intact from start to finish. It is interesting to learn all about firefighting and get to know the rules and lifestyle of a firefighter in USA. There are hard scenes at times, but sensitive at other times, as the hero of the story makes the reader feel his emotions and expectations of life. Realistic as it is, it could be read as a non fiction story rather than fiction. This story touches the hearts of readers who sympathize with the plight of Greg who seems to be so desperate for love. Was this need of his that made him become a firefighter?

It caters to a wide audience, and especially to those who love to get informed about the firefighters' lives.

What to Do When You Become the Boss: How New Managers Become Successful Managers
Bob Selden
Outskirts Press
9781432714284 $24.95

Very Highly Recommended

Bob Selden, an Australian who currently lives in Switzerland with his wife, coaches on the Mobilizing People program at the international Institute for Management Development in Lausanne. Learn more about his work at or/and at

This book is a useful guide for new managers. It covers a wide range of topics that interest a manager and is quite innovative in the aspect that it can suit any individual's learning style. It is easy to follow and integrate the concepts into one's needs, and its format and layout facilitate the reader to spot the part they are interested in fast.

It is divided into 22 chapters, each one dealing with new concepts and how to tips. The writing style is simple enough to read, yet entertaining and easy to follow. It is a valuable guide book that will educate new managers and those interested in this topic. Practical to use and fun to read is the perfect handbook in this genre. Get this book from

I am Your Disease
The Many Faces of Addiction
Real Lives, True Stories
Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis with Heiko Ganzer, LCSW, CASAC
Outskirts Press, Inc.
9781598006995 $16.95

Very Highly Recommended

Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis is a loving wife and mom to her remaining son. Heiko Ganzer is a clinical social worker, certified addictions specialist and relationship therapist. Visit them at

This book is about the disease of addiction, a big issue that kills. It is a shocking account of true stories that highlight drug using and death. Emphasis is drawn to the fact that those young drug addicted kids can be found in people from all walks of life, showing that drug addiction is an every day problem that makes no discrimination among people.

May this book be read by everybody and help those who consider to or have already tried drugs. Can we stop this fatal abuse? Certainly, there is a way, and this book is the perfect gift to any family with kids. Written in a simple, everyday style, each story will touch the heart of the readers and will motivate them to react to drug abuse. Though his book is only a small step towards the elimination of this huge drug problem, it is nonetheless a valuable read for everyone on this planet. Via a combination of true stories and poetry this book is moving, true and shocking all the way through. At the back of the book there is a section on Internet Grief support Sites that may be useful to those interested.

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The Mindful Woman: Gentle Practices for Restoring Calm, Finding Balance and Opening Your Heart
Sue Patton Thoele
New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
5674 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609
9781572245426 $15.95

Very Highly Recommended

Sue Patton Thoele, a psychotherapist, is the author of ten books. She lives in Colorado with her husband.

This book is a spiritual guide for women who need to find balance in their life. It is divided into 10 chapters that are easy to read and understand and, moreover, practice. The book consists of three parts that include some theory and a lot of practical tips that can help a woman achieve her aims.

Reading this guide from page one to the very end will certainly educate the readers who wish to have an overall taste of the contents of the book, but taking one step/chapter at a time it is wiser as every single chapter requires some practice if the reader intends to use it to get full benefits. Reading this book is like talking to a personal psychologist as it is direct and simple for every woman to follow. Any woman can use it regardless her faith or religion and it can certainly be valuable in a variety of cases. For example, anger or fear can cause real trouble but the author shows readers how to face it and react promptly. It caters to all women on this planet, and I would say that it is a mini bible every woman should have and consult.

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Margaret's Bookshelf

I'll Bet You Taste Like Wine
Kris Lewis
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1424193478, $19.95,

Vampires and their mythology have been enthralling the western world for well over a century since the creation of Bram Stoker's Dracula in the late nineteenth century. "I'll Bet You Taste Like Wine" is a new take on the vampire genre, a new approach to the story and creature we know so well. Enhanced by artwork from Josh Murzynski, "I'll Bet You Taste Like Wine" is highly recommended to vampire-tale lovers everywhere and for all general fiction community library collections for exciting and riveting writing all through its pages.

Second Son
Edith Dondero
1451 Norway Rd., Lowman, NY 14861
059538286X, $17.95,

What do you do when your brother starts promoting himself as the Messiah, the savior of your people? "Second Son" asks the hypothetical question of what if Jesus had a brother and how would he stand in all of this and the events of his life. James plainly observes everything and the events that seem inevitable to happen to him, but he is powerless to do anything about it, and overcome with grief when the infamous events happen. Highly recommended for anyone who would want a different perspective on the life of Jesus as a work of literary fiction, and for Christian fiction collections in community libraries everywhere.

Did I Expect Angels?
Kathryn Maughan
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595402595, $13.95,

Grief affects everyone in many different ways- but there's a healthy limit to it. "Did I Expect Angels?" is the story of Jennifer Huffaker and her seemingly never ending grief over her husbands death. The mental agony of it all slowly becomes more and more intense and she's left with a drastic decision, but an old friend stops her and imparts his infinite wisdom to her to save Jennifer's life. Heartwarming, sorrowful, funny, and insightful, "Did I Expect Angels?" is a brilliantly written emotional roller coaster which will take you from page 1 to page 168 with little desire to stop. "Did I Expect Angels?" is highly recommended to community library fiction shelves everywhere.

The Strings of the Lute
Eileen Colucci
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA, 19113-1513
9781425773083, $22.99,

Catholic schoolgirls growing up on Long Island Lorraine and Suzanne are inseparable best friends - until their college years manage to break that bond. "The Strings of the Lute" is a story of a clash of civilizations, as Lorraine falls for a Moroccan man whom she bears a child with and follows back to Morocco. Suzanne discovers this and follows Lorraine with a hidden agenda, to bring Lorraine's child home with her for a more Catholic upbringing in spite of Suzanne's new husband. The conflicts of culture, religion, and background come to ahead in a deftly written piece of literature, "The Strings of the Lute" is highly recommended for community library fiction shelves everywhere.

The Lead
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533155408, $11.95,

Alcohol is widely and justifiably regarded as one of the great scourges of mankind, and the road to recovery from addiction to it is a hard and rough one. "The Lead: Daily Inspirations in Search of Peace and Serenity" is one's unedited account of their quest to rid themselves of that poison for good and how the twelve steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous saved his life. Sober and recovering alcoholic author RMA, following the tradition of the Alcoholics Anonymous way, remains as such to give the most complete and invaluable advice possible about his AA experience. Highly recommended for anyone who yearns to free themselves of it or for anyone who's already began the process and wants strength to keep them always from the liquor that has destroyed their life.

Margaret Lane

Mark's Bookshelf

Internet Riches: The Simple Money-Making Secrets of Online Millionaires
Scott Fox
AMACOM, American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814409954 $17.95

And you thought tech was so yesterday. Well Scott Fox's new book Internet Riches will make you take a long, hard second look at the multitude of potential money-making opportunities the now tried and true Internet has too offer. This is not another get-rich-quick book, it lays out the formula to get a low-cost (as little as $25 says the author) e-commerce website up and running. This book though is not just for novices, as an experienced e-commerce business person, I learned quite a few new web site tips and marketing ideas from Mr. Fox.

Chapter titles are: The Internet Business Revolution, Starting Your E-Business: Can You Afford Not to?, The Internet's First Millionaire Wave-Efficiency, The Internet's Second Millionaire Wave-Products, The Internet's Third Millionaire Wave-Niches, Applying Millionaires Types Theory: A Case Study, The ICICLE Business Model Method, What E-Business Should You Pursue?, Technology Secrets and Strategies Overview, Choosing Your Domain Name, Choosing a Website Hosting Company, How to Build a Website in One Hour, Finding a Web Designer, E-Commerce Shopping Carts, The eBay Phenomenon, Developing Killer Content on a Start-up Budget, Reality Checks Before Investing Real Time and Money, An Action Plan for Your Million-Dollar E-Business, Testing Your New Business, "No Budget" Marketing Secrets, Small Budget Marketing Secrets, Real Budget Marketing Secrets, Copyright, Trademark, and Incorporation Choices, Partners: Should You Share Your Million-Dollar Idea?, Congratulations!. Additional features include an introduction, acknowledgments, glossary, index and two appendixes: Index of E-Business Entrepreneurs and Services and Internet Research Skills.

The author explores the "mom and pop" culture of Internet businesses, those that found a niche and carved it out in the competitive world of Internet marketing. He stays away from the headline success's like YouTube and Facebook, because not every Internet start-up is an automatic millionaire. If you're looking for an easy-to-read road map for starting up an Internet business, pick up a copy of Internet Riches, you'll be surprised by the wealth of information on how to make it big in the next big Internet cycle.

The Wall Street Diet
Heather Bauer, RD, CDN and Kathy Mathews
77 West 66th Street, New York, New York 10023
9781401322588 $23.95

Rarely does a diet book cross my desk that is really different and very smart. Heather Bauer's new book on that over-hyped topic; The Wall Street Diet: The Surprisingly Simple Weight Loss Plan for Hardworking People Who Don't Have the Time to Diet is a report from the trenches by a Registered Dietitian whose business is working with over-weight Wall Street types. The Wall Street Diet for anyone on or off Wall Street who's looking for a step-by-step reorganization of their body.

Chapter titles are: The Wall Street Diet Begins with You, How it Began, Your Wall Street Portfolio: What's Your Personal Eating ID?, The Plan, The Challenges, The Office Politics of Food, Entertaining Wall Street Style: The Ins and Outs of Eating Out, The Walls Street Travel Itinerary: Trimming the Fat from Your Business Trips, The Wall Street Commute, The Wall Street Weekend: Eating Well at Home and High-dividend Exercise Tips, The Wall Street Closing Statement, The Wall Street Cheat Sheets, Beverages, Buffet, Bar, and Deli Meal Picks and Skips, Salad Bar Tips and Recipes, High-dividend Chain Choices, Wall Street Restaurant Menu Survival Guide, Movie Theater Picks and Skips, National and International Airport Terminal Food Options, Airline Meals and Wall Street Shopping List. Plus Acknowledgments, Index, and an introduction.

The author's just-the-facts-please writing style makes an engaging and interesting read for revamping your food inventory. I just completed a self diet and found all her recommendations meaningful, easy-to-follow and above all rational. Her "Skips" were better than her "Picks" because you learn how many foods are laden with fats and sugars, and how rapidly the calories pile up in our high-fructose convenience food culture. I especially liked the shopping list at the end of the book, I've made copies to stick in my briefcase when grocery store forays are necessary. If you're looking for a life time of good eating habits, pick up this new book.

Mark Nash

Mayra's Bookshelf

Phoebe Wray
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 2L7
9781894063401 $15.95 (403) 254-0160

This is one of the most interesting Science Fiction novels I've read in a long time. What makes Jemma7729 stand out is the strong heroine and the feminist issues Wray weaves in the story, making the reader wonder and think at its implications.

It is the late 22nd century in the United States. The government as we know it has completely collapsed. People live under huge city domes, afraid of what lies on the outside. Brainwashed by AGNA -- the State Security of the Administrative Government of North America -- they have been told to be believe that the 'outside' is toxic and inside the dome is the only safe place for them. Feminism has vanished. Indeed, any type of feminist idea is violently suppressed and women are accused of the destruction of democracy and the 'old regime'.

The story is told in the first person by Jemma herself, and begins when she is but a stubborn, willful young girl of seven. From the very beginning she questions her world and its laws, a behaviour that only leads to her punishment and incarceration at the tender age of ten. The event emotionally destroys her loving parents, but it's either that or death for Jemma. The few years she spends incarcerated, however, only serve to harden her more and make her more rebellious. She has high ambitions and feels she's destined for something great.

More than anything, she desires -- while overthrowing a corrupt and oppressive government -- to help her people, to make women realize that there's more for them than simply being housewives or mothers, and to enlighten the citizens about what's outside the city domes - freedom and hope for all. And the first thing she must do is escape. Will Jemma succeed? Will she live to overthrow the government and see the freedom of her people in spite of the prize that's being put on her head?

Jemma7729 is a clever and thought-provoking novel with lots of action. The narrative moves at a quick pace, propelled by Jemma's sharp wit and crisp dialogue. But at the center of it all is Jemma herself - brave, rebellious, definitely too strong for her own good, yet sensitive at the same time. Wray has painted a vivid world filled with original, interesting rules and way of life, transporting the reader to another place and time. I highly recommend this novel not only to fans of SF, but also to those readers who enjoy women's fiction.

Monkey Trap
Lee Denning
Twilight Times Books
P.O. Box 3340, Kingsport TN 37664
9781931201346 $19.50

Two objects resembling asteroids approach earth. They collide in a flash of green and blue light. One falls on a Columbian jungle, the other on Washington.

In the Columbian jungle, John Jacob Connard, US Special Forces veteran, better known as Assassin, is on a mission to eliminate a drug lord. He is shot and mortally wounded. Upon waking, he discovers his wounds have miraculously healed and an alien voice in his mind is 'talking' him.

In Washington, Lara Picard, environmental lawyer and mother, has a serious biking accident, grave enough to end her life. Yet, as she is rushed to the hospital, she can feel her own wounds mysteriously healing as if by magic. And just like Connard, she now seems to share her mind with a strange being.

Alien, intelligent entities have invaded the consciousness of the two protagonists.

One is good and wishes earth to step into the next level of consciousness. The other is evil and seeks nothing but human destruction. But which is which? What exactly are they? And why do the computers at the Global Consciousness Project suddenly seem to go berserk?

An impressive, ambitious first novel. The first of a triology, Monkey Trap is an action-packed, suspenseful, fascinating extraterrestrial story that will keep you reading compulsively until you discover the conclusion. Its originality sets it apart from the rest of SF novels being published these days. If you enjoy action stories with a strong touch of mysticism and scientific detail, you'll love this book.

The sequel to Monkey Trap, titled Hiding Hand is coming out this August and I've already asked for the advance review copy. If it looks at all like the first book, it should keep me pretty busy reading at night.

Black Magic Woman
Justin Gustainis
Solaris Publishing
Willow Road, Lenton, Nottingham NG7 2WS
9781844165414 $15.00

Quincey Morris isn't your typical private investigator. For one thing, he happens to be a straight descendant of Bram Stoker's Quincey Morris. He also specializes in supernatural cases involving vampires, werewolves, succubi, and other terrifying beings.

In this first book in the series, Quincey is called to help a family who is being tormented by, supposedly, a ghost. On closer inspection, however, it becomes evident that a simple ghost isn't the culprit, and that darker, more sinister and eminently dangerous forces are at work: a powerful curse dating back to the time of the infamous Salem witch trials. Together with his partner Libby Chastain, who happens to be a white witch, Quincey sets out to undo the curse in order to save the tormented family. The investigation takes them to Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York as they try to discover the identity of the black witch who is the root of all the problems. At the same time, innocent children are being abducted for utterly despicable reasons. Are their killings related to the curse? Will Quincey and Libby outwit the evil witch, fight the villains who work for her, and stop the murder of innocent souls?

Black Magic Woman is one of the most enjoyable paranormal suspense novels I've had the pleasure of reviewing recently. Black magic, witches, and a thoroughly sympathetic supernatural detective team, together with the plot's many exciting twists and turns, make this book a thrilling and enjoyable read. The author combines elements of traditional witchcraft with Zulu fetish witchcraft - truly creepy, truly fascinating.

The protagonist possesses just the right amount of boldness and braveness, strength and sensitivity, and has the perfect sense of justice. He's the good guy next door - except, of course, his job is investigating paranormal events and destroying supernatural fiends. The secondary characters are very well drawn as well: the villains are evil without being stereotypical. Indeed, the characterization of some of the minor characters, and not only the witchcraft, is what makes this novel truly terrifying.

The action doesn't let up, and the ending is satisfying and will leave readers hungry for more. I can't wait to sink my teeth into the sequel, Evil Ways. If you're a fan of paranormal thrillers/mysteries and urban fantasies, you'll want to add Gustainis to your list of favorite authors.

Mayra Calvani

Michelle's Bookshelf

Making Money
Terry Pratchett
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061161643, $25.95

America has finally caught onto Terry Pratchett, and not before time. 20 years ago, copies of this British fantasy author's first books, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, were as rare in the United States as an unambitious wizard at Unseen University. A request for a Discworld book at your local Large Bookstore got you only a blank stare. (Actually, you get a blank stare from them regardless of what you ask for, but that's another gripe.) Those of us Americans addicted to Terry Pratchett (all 10 of us) couldn't understand what the hell was wrong with the other 350 million. Now, Discworld mania is sweeping the nation faster than a fire in down-town Ankh-Morpork. Reviewers from The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, and The Washington Post fall over each other in hysterical exuberance at each new Pratchett invention - "Ingenious," "Brilliant," "Hilarious," they rave.

Now, the 33-odd Discworld romp, Making Money is out. If you've followed the Discworld since its Rincewind beginnings, enjoy; if you're a fantasy lover but have never seen Ankh-Morpork's twin sunrise, laughed deferentially at Lord Vetinari's quips, or had an uncomfortable midnight tangle with the Night Watch - welcome home.

Making Money is the story of the Royal Mint of Ankh-Morpork and one of the city's teeming throng, Moist Von Lipwig. To visualize Ankh-Morpork, imagine a magical fantasy world meets the Middle Ages meets The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Think perpetual Renaissance Faire, except zanier, if that's possible.

Moist Von Lipwig is an accomplished con-man, a cheat, a thief, and an incredibly suave liar. He is also Ankh-Morpork's Postmaster General, a position, incidentally, that he was not appointed to because of his outstanding citizenship. Rather, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, saved Moist from the swift hand of Capital Punishment by giving him the laughably impossible job of rehabilitating the city's postal service. Some would say capital punishment would have been preferable. However, Moist turned the post office around - a once defunct branch of government with aged letters piled to the ceiling of each room is now a paragon of efficiency. (See Discworld book #31, Going Postal, for all the hilarious details.) Everything is running as smoothly as the third pint of ale down the throat of an assassin. Everything except Moist.

Moist is bored: with respectability, with walking the straight and narrow, and with worrying about mail all day. He misses the thrill of danger so much, he takes to sneaking about Ankh-Morpork, picking locks by night. Moist thinks no one knows what he is up to, but someone does - Lord Vetinari.

Lord Vetinari wants to use Moist's pent-up energy to revitalize the city's bank. Lord Vetinari offers Moist the position of Master of the Royal Mint of Ankh-Morpork. Ankh-Morpork, Vetinari tells Moist, is "…a large, bustling city, full of ingenious people spinning wealth out of the common clay of the world. They construct, build, carve, bake, cast, mold, forge, and devise strange and inventive crimes. But they keep their money in an old sock. They trust their socks better than they trust banks…Our serious banking system is a mess. A joke, in fact."

The Royal Mint is controlled by the wealthy Lavish family. 49% of shares in the bank belong to the children of the bank's late founder, Mr. Joshua Lavish; 50% belong to his second wife, Mrs. Topsy Lavish; and 1% belongs to Mrs. Lavish's dog, Mr. Fusspot. Because Mrs. Lavish is Mr. Fusspot's owner, she owns 51% of the bank and is thereby Chairman and Manager, to the united disgust of her step-children.

Mrs. Lavish is old and needs a reliable successor. When Lord Vetinari brings Moist to visit and presents him as possible head of the Royal Mint, Mrs. Lavish takes to him immediately and is delighted. Moist, however, turns the job down. One job making bricks without straw is surely enough for a lifetime, he thinks. Prematurely, it turns out.

The next morning, Moist is informed by the city's best known lawyer that Mrs. Lavish has died in the night, leaving all 50% of her shares in the bank to Mr. Fusspot. And leaving Mr. Fusspot to Moist. Overnight, Moist has become the Chairman and Manager of the bank as well as the owner of the most valuable dog in Discworld. Just to make certain Moist is as conscientious as she would wish, Mrs. Lavish has paid Ankh-Morpork's Guild of Assassins to murder Moist if Mr. Fusspot dies of unnatural causes.

Instantly, the attention of every remaining member of the Lavish family is laser focused on ousting Moist so that his (and Mr. Fusspot's) shares revert to them. Although the Lavishes hate one another, they are united in their universal hatred of Moist. The ostensible head of the family, Cosmo Lavish, (who, incidentally, is morbidly obsessed with Lord Vetinari) tries to find anything that will allow the Lavishes to rid themselves of Moist.

Meanwhile, Moist is invigorated by the overwhelming challenge of his new post. He knows nothing about banks, but he loves it. Moist does what many a one of us could take a lesson from - he sticks with his strengths: namely, in Moist's case, conning people and spinning gold from straw. An unusual strength for the Master of the Royal Mint, but a strangely apposite one since all the gold in the bank's vaults has mysteriously evaporated.

Moist announces that he is doing away with the gold standard: "The world is full of things worth more than gold. But we dig the damn stuff up and then bury it in a different hole. Where's the sense in that? What are we, magpies? Is it all about the gleam? Good heavens, potatoes are worth more than gold." He follows this stunning announcement with another: "…in a few days, I shall be giving away money. It doesn't like to stand still you know. It likes to get out and make new friends."

Moist wants to introduce paper money and give out loans. Everything is going swimmingly until two speed bumps shake things up a bit: (1). an old crony of Moist's, one Albert Spangler, who knows a thing or three about Moist's thieving, conning, anything-goes past shows up breathing blackmail, and (2). Cosmo Lavish arranges an audit of the bank, discovers the alleged gold in the vault is nonexistent, and accuses Moist of spiriting it away.

Pratchett is in top form in Making Money. Who else, after 32 hilarious, cult-inducing Discworld books could still manage to create characters like Mr. Fusspot's canine chef, Aimsbury, who is allergic to the word "garlic"? (Not the substance itself; just the word - it makes him throw a knife and speak in fluent Quirmian for four seconds). Or Gladys the golem who wears a blue dress and insists to Moist that A Man And A Young Woman Should Not Be In The Same Bedroom, despite the fact that golems are, not to put too fine a point upon it, sexless? Or the long dead wizard of Unseen University, Professor Flead, who agrees to help Moist only if he afterwards he will be permanently ensorcelled into Ankh-Morpork's Pink Pussycat Club?

At the rate Mr. Pratchett is going, he will soon have enough money to purchase 1/4 of his native England, the other 3 bits of course being currently owned by the Queen, J.K.Rowling, and Paul McCartney. And good riddance to Mr. Pratchett; we'll not likely see such inspired lunacy from anyone else.

Novelist's Boot Camp: 101 Ways to Take Your Book from Boring to Bestseller
Todd A. Stone
Writer's Digest Books
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
9781582973609 $19.99

It's not every day writing a novel and boot camp converge in our thought patterns, but in Todd Stone's Novelist's Boot Camp, they not only converge, they work together to make a comprehensive and useful plan for getting that novel out of your head and onto the page.

In the book's introduction, Stone contends that "The discipline needed to be successful in the military and the creativity needed to be successful as a novelist are by no means incompatible. In fact, it is only by applying discipline to your creativity that you can be successful. It is discipline that helps a soldier attain an objective. It is discipline that will allow you to exercise your creativity and your objective - a finished, polished manuscript."

Stone then proceeds to lay out a detailed plan for writing your novel, beginning with the formation of your ideas, through developing characters, setting, and dialogue, to revising and polishing your completed manuscript.

What sets Novelists Boot Camp apart from other writing books (apart from the charmingly old-fashione3d line drawings of soldiers that decorate every section) is Stone's attention to the mechanics of planning and revising the novel.

In the first section of the book, Battle Plan Alpha: Mental Preparation and Mission Planning, Stone takes the would-be author through 13 "drills" that prepare them for the battle ahead: learning to think like a writer, how to read to improve your writing, and setting up realistic writing goals.

In Battle Plan Bravo: Invention, and Battle Plan Charlie: Development, the books' second and third sections, Stone gives short, detailed instructions on planning the overall concept of the story and developing the characters. This may sound like every other writing book on the shelves of your local Large Bookstore, but it differs radically: Stone gives extremely specific instructions on the most effective ways to develop, record, compare characters by demonstrating the use of a character matrix, character cards, and character biographies. Nothing is left in the no-man's-land here; Stone takes the reader through step by step - a real boon if you are a beginning novelist big on ambition but low on ideas about how to go about it all.

The fourth section focuses on writing techniques for producing a quality first draft.

Section five and six detail a plan for revising and rewriting this initial draft.

At the end of the book is an Appendix that includes an ambitious but well thought out Twelve Week Novelist's Boot Camp plan for producing a novel - from creation to final draft - in twelve weeks. Stone points out (to the more timid and less ambitious of us)that the plan can be used with any time period preferred, whether a week for each group of tasks as Stone recommends, or a month or 6 months, etc.

The Novelist's Boot Camp is definitively one of the most down and dirty useful writing books on the market today. Where other writing books give nebulous advice like "Be sure to develop your characters," The Novelists Boot Camp actually leads you by the hand through the process. While other writing tomes tell you to be sure to revise your first draft and look for inconsistencies, Stone details a specific 9 step revision process that is fully explained, step by step in the fifth section of the book.

The story planning and revision portions of the Novelist's Boot Camp are priceless; however, any aspiring writers will definitely need a grammar book or two or three style guides along the path to a finished novel since this book does not cover these with any sort of comprehensiveness, though Stone does touch on their very general aspects.

This book should particularly appeal to male writers (if I'm not being too damn chauvinistic to say so) because of Stone's insistence on using military lingo in every "drill" in the entire book. It can get a bit annoying to read a command to "drop and give me twenty!" every few drills or so, but anyone can put up with a little testosterone injected verbiage to get good writing advice. Don't be put off by the Novelist's Boot Camp because of its military flavor - it's an invaluable resource for all aspiring novelists.

The Year of Eating Dangerously: A Global Adventure in Search of Culinary Extremes
Tom Parker Bowles
St. Martin's Press
175 5th Avenue NY, NY 10010
9780312373788 $24.95

The first thing you notice about The Year of Eating Dangerously is the author's name - Tom Parker Bowles.

After you've flipped to the back flap and confirmed in the note about the author that yes, this is the son of the notorious second Mrs. Prince Charles; flipped back to the book cover and checked out his picture with renewed interest; and then mentally reviewed all you'd heard or guessed about his mother's late predecessor, Princess Di (she was an angel/a devil/a drunk/a run-about/murdered), you can then settle down to reading the actual book.

It's a pity that Mr. Parker Bowles must be saddled with the detritus of his mother's liaisons because he is an amusing and informative writer. The Year of Eating Dangerously is a delightful, if sometimes stomach churning, book about the quest for authentic food around the globe - whether that is shish-kebabed cockroaches or ant egg salad.

Parker Bowles is a well-known food critic in his native Britain, so he knows a thing or two about food in all its forms. Yet, even he was baffled by the extraordinary food aversions that normal well-adjusted people can develop: one of his friends could not abide peas; another detested the very sight of bananas. "One man's pea is another man's tripe," as Parker Bowles philosophizes.

He decided to explore this notion more fully by traipsing about the world in search of "dangerous" food. The book's subtitle actually states it more accurately: a "search of culinary extremes." Beginning in England, then traveling through New Mexico, Nashville, China, Tokyo, Korea, Laos, and Spain, Parker Bowles tries (or attempts to try) everything from stewed dog to silk worm pupae to a 600,000 SCU chili pepper.

Reading about someone eating something repulsive is infinitely more rewarding than watching someone eat it. On camera, people eating squirming eels or stir-fried cobra or raw sheep tongue seem restricted to only one of three themes: (1). Grotesque facial expressions (2). Exclamations of loathing and disgust, or (3). Impromptu testimonials on the unexpected tastiness of the dog/eel/tongue.

Print, however, lifts the lid on a smorgasbord of tasty descriptions.

Like Parker Bowles' delightful description of eating a silkworm pupae in Korea: "A creamy goo spurts onto my tongue, producing one of the most repellent tastes I have ever experienced. A fetid rottenness…engulfs my mouth, spreading its filth to every corner. Every cell in my body is suffused with this festering horror and all I can think of is freshly dug graves."

Or his experience eating raw tripe (cow stomach) in a small Laotian restaurant: "The texture is more rubbery than ever when uncooked, with a slight beefy taste. But my teeth make little headway on the slippery piece of tummy going round and round my mouth...."

Best of all is his reaction to eating dog in Korea: "I'm just imagining myself bragging about eating dog to friends back home…when it hits me - the smell…. You know when your dog has been out in the rain, possibly down a hole, and he turns up at the door, soaked and wretched? And you bring him into the house and start drying him with that dirty dog towel kept out the back. That is it, the smell of wet dog…wet, dirty, dead dog. No spice, however pungent, could mask this stink."

The book's title is actually a bit misleading: while some of the food Parker Bowles snacks on in the course of his culinary year is truly dangerous, such as the fugu or puffer fish in Tokyo (a lethal dose of poison from this fish could fit on the head of a pin), most of the food is dangerous only to one's pride, psyche, or waistline.

When Parker Bowles attends the 16th annual Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational BBQ in Lynchburg, Tennessee, the only real danger was that his stomach would burst after ingesting an astounding 15 lbs worth of brisket, ribs, and chicken. At a formal family dinner in Korea, his pride is in serious danger when he retches trying to eat the main dish offered to him - a hunk of white beef sinew.

Parker Bowles' writing is intelligent and witty; imagine a British Anthony Bourdain - posher, brainier, and better-looking. However, he does sometimes forget that he is a food writer and dabbles in a bit too much of environmental and political soapbox punditry. Not all the trips add up to a dangerous or even moderately dangerous experience: in England, despite the fact that he begins the book in search of elvers (eels), he never actually eats them - a bit of a let down to say the least. In several of the chapters he seems to spend more time discussing the people he met in the country than the food.

Despite this, The Year of Eating Dangerously is refreshing honest and the easiest way to get first-hand knowledge about the taste of fermented fish eggs.

Get Out of that Pit: Straight Talk About God's Deliverance
Beth Moore
Integrity Publishers
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781591455523 $21.99

Are you in a pit? Do you feel trapped by the problems in your life and powerless to change your circumstances? Have you lost all hope of a pain-free future? In Get Out of That Pit: Straight Talk About God's Deliverance, Beth Moore speaks directly to pit dwellers.

Everyone, regardless of their spirituality, ends up in a pit (or two or three) in their lifetime. When we are in a pit, Moore says, "we're miserable. We know something has to change, but we've got so many issues, we don't know where to start. We don't even know who we are without them." Moore frankly discusses our pits of pain and despair and assures us that God can deliver us if we cry out to Him.

In her characteristic conversational style, Moore talks candidly about the pits we can end up in: some we are shoved in by the cruel actions of others or terrible circumstances outside our control; some we slip into through unguarded behavior that leads to sin; still others are pits we deliberately enter through willful actions of our own.

Although each person's pits are different, all result in a stunted life: a life lacking the effectiveness, abundance, and joy God wants us to have. However, Moore reminds us that it is not God's will we remain in our pits. He can set us free.

Moore details a "Get out of the pit" plan based on the first three verses of King David's 40th Psalm:

I waited patiently for the Lord: he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.

We must do three things to follow King David's example and escape our pit: (1) cry out to the Lord, (2) confess our souls to Him, and (3) consent to wait upon Him to do what He has promised. Moore thoroughly explains each step and, at the end of the book, she includes a week's worth of scripture prayers to help readers through the three step plan on a daily basis. Also included is a Discovery Guide with Reflection and Personal Application questions for each chapter. The Discovery Guide in particular makes this book an excellent choice for a small, thoughtful group study.

Reading Get Out of That Pit is like having a cup of coffee and a no-holds-barred conversation at the kitchen table with an experienced Christian woman.

Beth Moore is the author of over a dozen best-selling Christian books. Read more about her and her organization, Living Proof Ministries, at .

Life on the Refrigerator Door: A Novel in Notes
Alice Kuipers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061370496, $15.95, 2007

Alice Kuiper's Life on the Refrigerator Door sounds as if it describes alien magnet people struggling to survive on the barren waste of an unsuspecting family's Kenmore. In fact, it is a novel consisting entirely of notes written between a mother and daughter over a 9 month period. Readers generally like a book to contain a complex plot, sparkling with the witty dialogue of quirky but loveable characters; Life on the Refrigerator Door contains none of these. However, reading the private outpourings of people in crisis will give you a voyeuristic thrill - and who doesn't fancy a peek in the neighbor's window or at their refrigerator door as it were?

The initial notes reveal the refrigerator correspondents to be Claire and Mom. Claire is fifteen. Her notes to Mom are engrossed with the trinity of friends, boys, and complaints against Authority. They are packed full of the angry BOLD CAPITAL statements and excessive exclamation points !!!!!!!! that characterizes female teenage note writers.

Mom is a busy divorced obstetrician whom, Claire scribbles, is never home; or, at any rate, when Claire happens to be there and not at a friend's, at Dad's, working on a project for school, etc.

Claire and Mom are like enemy warships passing in the night - darkly brooding, but stopping short of firing up the warheads. After a series of notes between the two trying to coordinate a Sunday lunch bash complete with roast chicken, the plans disintegrate into polite acrimony:

Claire - After STARVING TO DEATH FOR AGES I made a chicken thing using a recipe off the Internet. I waited for you but I figured you weren't EVER going to get back…Emma NEVER has to cook for her mom….

Mom - I had a stressful weekend. It would be nice to come home and not be made to feel guilty….

Any passing family psychologist would be able to read Mom and Claire's problem in letters as screamingly capitalized as Claire's: this mother and daughter love each other but simply don't connect and don't know how to go about beginning.

The notes take a sharp emotional turn when Mom drops an "I want to talk to you about something" in one of her notes. The "something" turns out to be a bombshell that throws both Claire and Mom into life-changing tail-spins. The notes in this section capture mother and daughter in a kind of shared coming of age: while Claire is busy confronting the uncertainties and responsibilities of impending adulthood, Mom is confronting her own mortality. The collision of their separate crises causes each to rethink what they know about themselves and to reevaluate their relationship as mother and daughter.

Theoretically, the note-on-the-refrigerator structure Kuipers uses should make readers feel more emotionally connected with Mom and Claire than they would with characters in traditionally structured novels. Ironically, however, it doesn't. Without descriptions, dialogue, or the characters' past, present, or future to relate to, it's difficult to get to know Mom and Claire well enough to care about what happens to them.

In addition, Kuipers tries to make the notes seem as authentic as possible by including a lot about the mundane details of ordinary life Again, this seems like it should hammer home to readers the poignancy that even in the midst of personal upheaval, grocery lists must be made and rabbit cages must be cleaned. However, these ordinary life touches end up acting like dead weight, dragging down the novel's emotional momentum.

To kick start the story back up, Kuipers sometimes resorts to awkwardly melodramatic means. She has Claire and Mom writing things for refrigerator publication that most people would not commit to the poshest watermarked stationary, much less a sticky note. Would any mother confess that she is sad she has never read Proust in a letter stuck to the door of a fridge? Would anyone save that heart-stopper all questions - "Have I been a good parent?" - for a Post-It? Maybe. But for those of us whose only written missive from our parents is a scribbled "Happy Birthday" on an annual card bought from Wal-Mart, it does seem just a touch contrived.

Michelle Kerns

Paul's Bookshelf

Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery
Lois W. Stern
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven St., #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
074143220X, $19.95,

Whether or not to have cosmetic surgery is one of the biggest decisions a woman will ever make. This book will make that decision much easier.

The first question to be answered is: Why? If yourself-image is in bad shape, cosmetic surgery can make a huge difference in your personal life (and your sex life). If your "problem" is deeper, like clinical depression or Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a mental health professional will help a lot more than a plastic surgeon.

Do not choose your surgeon based on his (usually it is a man) TV ads, or because he is a member of your church. Go to more than one surgeon; feeling comfortable with him is most important. After he agrees to do the surgery, disclose all medical problems or conditions you may have, no matter how small, and all medications you are taking. The doctor and anesthesiologist need to know in advance. Do some research on Doctor X. Is he Board Certified in your surgery? Has he done a number of them? Is his facility properly accredited?

Friends and family members may have very different reactions to the thought of cosmetic surgery. Do not be surprised, or hurt, at reactions ranging from Whatever to Are You Insane?

When it comes time for the surgery, be prepared. Clear your calendar for a couple of weeks. Stock up on soft foods. Have someone stay with you for the first couple of days after the surgery, armed with many packages of frozen peas (for the swelling). People recover from surgery at different speeds, so don't panic if you are recovering "too slowly." Last but not least, you chose Doctor X for this surgery, so trust that he and his staff know what they are doing.

This book is full of comments from regular women who had surgery, for a variety of reasons, along with the author's own cosmetic surgery story. It has many checklists and questionnaires, to help the reader decide if this is such a good idea. It also has a list of questions to ask a cosmetic surgeon. Plastic surgery is not for everyone, but for those who are1considering it, this book is very highly recommended. It will help answer any and all questions.

Operation Supergoose
William Hart
Timberline Press
6281 Red Bud, Fulton, MO, 65251
9780944048382 $15.00

After terrorists destroy the awesome phallic symbol of the land of Plunder, with help from gasoline-filled blunderbusses, Lieutenant Ernest Candide goes on a mission of revenge. When he was younger, Candide fell into the core of a nuclear reactor, then later he accidentally shot himself in the head. The bullet is still there, up against his pineal gland. This has turned Candide into a bona fide superhero, with X-ray vision and the ability to fly.

Candide unhesitatingly accepts a mission from his Commander in Chief, Buzz Twofer II, to sneak into the country of Ragistan, to find and eliminate Moolahal-Razir, the architect of this awful attack on the people of Plunder. Candide sees many dead civilians, and unintentionally causes some civilian deaths. He is captured by Moolah, and, attempting to escape, runs into Delilah Jihad, part of Moolah's harem (and a Shrinkistanian and Zionian double agent). They escape into the hills between Ragistan and Pockistan, where Delilah tells Ernest that the war is all about oil, and, for instance, why a person would become a suicide bomber.

Returning to Plunder, Candide is immediately accused of treason, for allegedly spilling classified information to Jihad, and for expressing doubts about his mission. Given a chance to redeem himself, Candide flies into the country of Qroc, to eliminate Madahm Badassi, who has tons and tons of weapons of mass destruction that he is just itching to use on Plunderian forces. Candide sees and hears more things in Qroc that lead him to believe that Plunder is not the land of truth and virtue that he was taught from childhood. Failing to carry out his mission, Candide gets a one-way trip to Guantanamo, where he is tortured, and gets a "trial," where he faces about a dozen different death sentences, for his sexual relationship with Jihad, for doubting his mission, and for failing to save his commanding officer's life quickly enough.

As you might have guessed, this is a satire of the"war on terror," and as such, it does an absolutely wonderful job. This book doesn't just reach the level of Wow, it leaves Wow in the dust. It is extremely highly recommended.

The Fifth Sun
Mary Helen Lagass
Curbstone Press
321 Jackson St. Willimantic, CT 06226
1931896054 $15.00

This novel is about Mercedes Vasconcelos, a young Mexican woman convinced that the road to a better life for her and her growing family passes through the United States.

Set in the early 20th century, Mercedes is used to poverty while growing up in Mexico. Armed with a name and address, she takes a boat to New Orleans, to make a better life for herself. Around this time, she has a child out of wedlock, and is told, in effect, don't come home.

Life is hard in 1930s New Orleans, but Mercedes becomes a housekeeper at a local rooming house, and she manages (sometimes just barely). She meets Manuela Maldonado, an older woman from the same part of Mexico. Manuela is a strong, proud woman who becomes a sort-of substitute mother to Mercedes.

When the housekeeping job ends, Mercedes and Manuela cook various food items, like tamales, and sell them door-to-door. Mercedes marries Jesus, who changes his name to Jesse, and has several sons. One of them is born with severe digestive problems, and doesn't live very long.

The family is sent back to Mexico. Letters from Manuela assure Mercedes and Jesus that their three boys will have no problem returning to New Orleans, and can stay with her (they were born in America).Through a bureaucratic snafu, Mercedes and Jesus are not allowed to join them. The reason is the concern that Mercedes and Jesus will immediately go on welfare, despite the total lack of evidence that the two ever used welfare in the past. After months and months of separation, a very pregnant Mercedes enlists a coyote to take her across the Rio Grande River.

This story of the Mexican immigrant experience is a quiet tale from a native of New Orleans, but a really good tale and is well worth reading.

Trial in Jade: The Mayan Return
Margaret Evans
Moonlight Mystery Press
P.O. Box 7722, Gaithersburg, MD 20898-7722
0978907612 $16.00

Part two of a trilogy, this story is about the coming of a new Mayan empire in the very near future. In December, 2012, according to Mayan prophecy, big things are supposed to happen.

Amy Magee, and her husband, Joe, are well-known archaeologists and Mayan experts living in rural California. In the nearby woods, a buried Mayan pyramid is being uncovered. It will become the centerpiece of the new Mayan capital city. As Bringer of the Sixth World, Amy's task is to travel around the world, leaving packets of seeds in certain places at certain times. One day, she might hand a packet to a street musician in Florence, and the next day, she might leave a packet in the mouth of a stuffed tiger in a shop in Thailand. Along the way, Amy comes into possession of many pieces of jade, which she must fashion into a mask.

There are two separate groups vying for the position of King of the Maya. Will Rodriguez, one of the good guys, has to undergo a trial, including ice, bees, grasshoppers and fire, while wearing the jade mask, in a certain cave at a certain time. The bad guys kidnap a little boy named Carlos, who has an important part in everything, and take him to Guatemala. Candis, his mother, enlists the help of Leo Martinelli, Joe's cousin, and a government intelligence agent, to rescue him and get him to the trial on time. Candis and Joe run into each other in a supermarket parking lot, which was not supposed to happen, and Joe has been obsessed with her ever since.

This is intended more as a thriller than as an accurate portrayal of Mayan culture. Even if this book just gives a peak through the keyhole at Mayan culture, it works (also as a thriller), and is worth reading (but read part one first).

Phoebe Wray
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, AB, T2P 2L7, CANADA
9781894063401220 $15.95

Around the year 2200, everyone in North America lives in domes. They have been told by AGNA (Administrative Government of North America), who controls North America with an iron fist, that the atmosphere is toxic and deadly. Women have had all rights taken away from them, under the guise of protecting them.

Jemma7729 (everyone's name is a group of letters and numbers) is someone who does not act "appropriately."When she is five years old, Jemma gets into a fight with a boy at school. Jemma is the one who must publicly apologize to the whole school. Females are not allowed to show aggression, or express an opinion. While her mother is away for a few days, Jemma's father takes her Outside (there is nothing wrong with the air) and shows her the stars on a clear night. For Jemma, there is no going back.

At ten years old, everyone must go through Choosing Day, where they must choose what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Jemma has few available options, the least awful of which is Woman Who Marries. She is very uninterested in spending the rest of her life pleasing her husband, arranging flowers and being an AGNA spy (like her mother). Jemma refuses to choose, and is immediately hauled to "rehab" (prison), where, after a year of harsh techniques to break her spirit, bordering on torture, she escapes to the outside world. Jemma is eleven years old.

Jemma quickly learns to live on her own and spends her time sabotaging the factories that make the chemicals to keep women "altered" (docile and compliant). After a couple of years, the "underground" catches up to Jemma, and convinces her to join them. She spends the next several years traveling to this small town or that isolated hamlet, letting the people know that they are not alone. Meantime, AGNA has described Jemma as some sort of horrible terrorist who likes killing innocent people, which is totally untrue.

This near future, one person against the system, story, might seem a little basic, but the author does a fine job with it. It's interesting, plausible and it's well worth reading.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Rusty Son of Tall Elk
Charles Bertram
DNA Press, LLC
PO Box 572, Eagleville PA 19408, USA
9781933255439 $9.95

Becoming Cheyenne - A Story of Captivity and Adoption

Russell Weaver a bright ten year old Midwest farm boy, called Rusty, because of his red hair and freckles is imaginative and fun loving. Rusty day dreams of Cowboys and Indians and of his own great courage and bravery.

Rusty was sent ahead to set up camp and to build a campfire while rafting timber with an Uncle and his brother. As he set up the camp his boat was stolen by two men. Soon after the theft of the canoe Rusty was taken captive by Cheyenne Indians.

Rusty's red hair attracted the attention of the chief. Chief Tall Elk and his wife Walking Dove adopted Rusty into their family. Walking Dove had a red haired daughter a year older than Rusty. Late Setting Sun became his sister and tutor in the language and customs of the Cheyenne. She often was jealous of Rusty and often played tricks on him. Rusty soon became a vital part of the family and adapted to the ways of the Indian culture. He developed a keen sense of nature, survival techniques, and in his understanding of the Cheyenne people.

Rusty's adventures include a cold winter, misunderstandings with the Indians, narrow escapes, and tribal competition. He quickly took on the ways of the Cheyenne. He learned respect and obedience as he matured. He was rewarded with support, friendship, gifts, and respect.

Rusty Son of Tall Elk" is imaginative, enjoyable, and enlightening. Charles Bertram is a natural story teller. I highly recommend this Young Adult Historical Adventure. A thought-provoking story.

Love Focused: Living Life to the Fullest
Bob and Judy Hughes
Crossroads Publishing
25283 Cabot Rd, Suite 117, Laguna Hills, CA 92653
9780980077209 $15.99

Powerful, Life Changing, Transforming

Bob and Judy Hughes address the complexities and challenges faced by readers in today's society. Christians and non-Christians alike are often overwhelmed with their lives and their relationships. "Love Focused" is more than another book on keys to successful living but is a life map that leads the reader to the one master key. Love. A love focused life.

Ideas learned from traditional psychology influence our behavior patterns as well as a goal-driven stimulus to succeed. A change in these goals must be implemented if we are to experience love focused living.

The authors label this quandary as the unseen struggle and trace our emotional needs and pain to living in a sinful world. They go on to point out God's provision for man's need. Part Two of the book deals with identifying the problems we face and then discusses topics like personal agenda, instinctive solutions, control, and dealing with issues of anger.

Part three gives the reader a look at God's answer and the power to love.

These chapters deal with the benefits of acknowledging that God is sufficient to produce positive benefits in our lives. It is necessary to recognize that we do not have to be in control, and points out the barriers we face which make it difficult to step out in faith. Part four deals with personal application and discusses legalism, grace, forgiveness, perfectionism, and provides a model for becoming love focused.

Bob and Judy are gifted communicators. Their writing is powerful, refreshing, and practical. They are articulate and infused with insight for change, ultimate transformation and fullness of joy. The book has and attractive user friendly format. Concise summary statements, bulleted lists, and paragraph headers all add to the ease in reading and assimilating the information, for, study, review and application.

Highly recommended by Christian leaders from all walks of life "Love Focused" is dedicated to help the reader live life to the fullest. This is an important life-map for everyone seeking to know and trust God more deeply and to move forward in their personal spiritual journey.

Midlife Manual For Men
Stephen Arterburn and John Shore
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780764204234 $19.99

A Wake Up Call for Men - Finding New Significance in Midlife

In "Midlife Manual For Men" Stephen Arterburn and John Shore join forces to help men in midlife find significance as a man, a son, a husband, a provider, and a father. This is a book for and about men. The authors provide insights into how all of life to date is preparation for the days ahead, the last half of life, his best years.

The book approaches the stages in a man's life and the roles he takes in each of these stages. The authors use their own experiences and those of other real life men as examples to illustrate important principles. They often use a humorous approach to look at real life dilemmas faced by men. They contrast the myths and preconceived suppositions prevalent among men today.

Because Christian men often have unique backgrounds, passions and goals, they will appreciate the strong emphasis on the importance of integrity, openheartedness, lovingness, faithfulness, and humility. I was especially helped by the suggestions and ideas for putting into practice the life lessons introduced under the various topics within each chapter.

I am the second son of a family of eight children and a father and the provider for my own four sons, as well as the husband of a loving wife, so I found practical meaningful applications on nearly every page of the book.

"Midlife Manual For Men" provides life planning for men in transition. This is a manual filled with hands-on information, and is timely, inspirational, and important. This description is only a forerunner to the impact this book can have on a man willing to apply these principles.

Well qualified, articulate and genuine John Shore and Stephen Arterburn write with heartfelt concerns to motivate and enable men to develop their full potential while enjoying the experience of being the man they are and the man they were intended to be. "Midlife Manual For Men" will appeal to every man in midlife or approaching the second half of life.

Advice from the Blender
Susan J. Hetrick
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781602665699 $13.99

Entertaining, Humorous, Candid, Inspiring

In her new book "Advice from the Blender" Susan J. Hetrick proffers practical advice, hope, and a renewed sense of purpose for blended families. This is a book for and about stepfamilies or blended families.

Susan and her new husband David began their marriage with two ready made families. These two families were made up of two boys, two girls, two dogs, one cat, and a hamster. Susan draws insight from their experiences as well as from introducing a compilation of similar accounts from other couples in similar blended family circumstances.

A consistent common thread is apparent in all of the stories. Susan has labeled these: eight key ingredients for blending a family. These keys center on expectations and the roles of each family member, the baggage brought into the new relationships, the need to deal with the past, and how to bond together in the new family relationships.

Adjustments of the children, the couple themselves, and parenting skills are among top priority considerations. Holiday traditions and celebrations can become calamities. Experiences with extended families can turn into culture shock.

In the final chapter Susan incorporates all of the eight ingredients into a recipe unique for your personal blended family. She provides additional tips and pointers for making things fun as you work out your strategy, develop contingency plans, to enjoy the process. The comprehensive resource list and a compilation of Bible verses directed specifically at blended family needs are provided in the appendix.

The book is arranged in a user friendly format with short illustrative examples, real life stories, weighty quotes, bulleted points, paragraph summaries, family formulas, summary statements, and questions for reflection and discussion for the whole family. The book is an important resource for pastors, counselors, stepparents and their children. This is a book that will be especially helpful for anyone planning to enter into a blended family relationship.

"Advice from the Blender" addresses a definite need, in an area where there is an obvious void of helpful information. This unique segment of our society is often overlooked, misunderstood, or shunned by former friends, and family members. Hetrick writing is transparent, humorous, and candid, and provides a positive contribution in effectively addressing this need.

The Christian Olympics
S. E. Gregg
Xulon Press
2180 West State Street, Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, Florida 32779
9781597815307 $12.99

The Christian - Running the Race

S. E. Gregg captures the contagious excitement and the competitive spirit of the Olympic games in the book "The Christian Olympics: Going for the Gold Crowns." Gregg draws the reader into the thrill of participation in the competition and training of Olympic competition vicariously while applying spiritual application for athletes in the Christian race.

The Christian life parallels Olympic competition in many ways. Training and discipline are as imperative to the life of the Christian as they are to the Olympic competitor. The Christian keeps fit through spiritual exercises, walking by faith, stretching by faith, and practicing the discipline of obedience to God's will.

Gregg incorporates planning strategies for running well with specific instructions for all stages of life. Using the scriptures as the source the author gives instructions for becoming equipped for the competition beginning with what to wear. The Bible describes the whole armor of God this way. Prayer is our breathing exercise and the first step to becoming equipped with spiritual gifts. Workouts, trials, tests, aches, pains, and reproach are all a part of the preparation for endurance to finish the race well.

Olympic winner are present trophies made of bronze, silver, and gold at the awards ceremony. These are only temporal crowns. In the Christian Olympics the awards include: The Incorruptible Crown, The Crown of Rejoicing, The Crown of Righteousness, The Crown of Life, and the Crown of Glory. These Crowns are eternal. Gregg's writing is entertaining, inspirational, and motivating. "The Christian Olympics" is expressive, Biblically sound, and challenging. Let the Games Began!

Current Events, Conservative Outcomes
G. A. Freiman
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
978-1604775990, $ 17.99, 2008, 324 pages

Fighting Fear with Knowledge and Vision

Today Americans are faced with unknowns, the uncertainty of the economy, the threat of terrorist attacks, and a concern for our nation's leadership and respect around the world. In his book "Current Events, Conservative Outcomes" G. A. Freiman talks about, and analyzes these fears in light of current events with predictions for America's future. He uses information he has received in the form of a visionary process, meditation and reflection, as well as through life experiences and his own educational opportunities.

Freiman has an innate passion and love for America. This is reflected in his writing. His writing is deeply spiritual, expressive, and logical. Freiman's sets out to help the reader form honest opinions on politics, religion, and social issues. He hypothesizes on political correctness, the threat of terrorism, the impact of global warming, poverty, abortion, and euthanasia with clarity, perception and forthrightness.

I found the questions that accompanied each issue thought provoking, meaningful, and practical. The reader was also shown action steps could take to have an impact on the future, in personal areas, the political arena, or on social issues. Freiman's predictions on American culture provide important insight and are worthy of consideration even for the skeptic of physic phenomena.

Although the book's title may limit its audience, this is a book for liberal and conservative a like. It is a call for positive participation and a dedication to create a better future for our children and for those generations still to come.

Frieman's approach draws the reader into a personal assessment of their faith. He helps them take a fresh look at the meaning of life, at root causes, into global thinking. He invites the reader to consider their relationship with God, His creation, and with all of humanity. "Current Events, Conservative Outcomes" is highly perceptive, entertaining, and thought provoking.

Positive Force
Tim Stewart
Nightengale Press
10936 N. Port Washington Road, Mequon, WI 50392
9781933449579 $ 15.95

The Power of a Positive Force in Fighting Gang Power

Tim Stewart joins together a creative imagination with a natural gift for story telling. In "Positive Force" he uses the elements of murder, mystery, intrigue, and romance into this novel to deliver an important message.

The city of Oakwood has been beleaguered with gang activity for decades. Recently Officer Brandon James was appointed as head of Oakwood's gang commission. He was faced with the challenge of curbing the activities of five individual gangs rampant within the city.

Although making major headway in reducing crime activity, Officer James was faced with a mysterious dilemma in this war on gangs. A tall red headed kid often appeared without warning. His appearance would bring a peaceful outcome to the situation.

Officer Brandon James discovered that someone had offered a million dollar reward offer for taking the lives of his teenage boys. This was discovered after a chance meeting with April O'Reilly at the police department. During a short visit with the O'Reilly's in their home TV news coverage showed a picture of an explosion and fire that had destroyed the James home. Both sons were safe with James at the O'Reillys.

Police and school official created a complex plan to apprehend the perpetrators. A fake funeral was staged. The boys were given false identities, and disguises. Michael James and Joe O'Reilly infiltrated five gangs. They then became instrumental in recruiting members for a new gang "Positive Force." Recruits switched over from each of the gangs to become one combined gang which was organized to overcome all the negative gang action.

The mysterious redhead was active in the organization of the new gang. Whether an angel or ghost, the redheaded teen used his influence and supernatural powers to help found the "Positive Force." Gang leaders unwilling to become members of positive force were taken into custody. The entire city of Oakwood was changed for the better.

The book is primarily written for the young adolescent and teen reader, however, because the magnitude of the message it is a must read for adults as well.

Tim Stewart is dedicated to the mission of influencing teens with a challenge to achieve their goals while becoming a "Positive Force." This call to commitment comes through loud and clear in the story line, dialog, and character development of the book. "Positive Force" has great potential for becoming a movie with a powerful impact. Tim writing is forthright, sensitive, and compelling. Highly recommended.

Kill Me If You Can
Nicole Young
P O Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516
9780800731588 $13.99

Non Stop Action, Suspense - Forceful Reading

In this the second in the Patricia Amble Mystery series Tish has returned the childhood environs in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where she lived as a child. She hoped to discover clues into the secrets of her past as well as opening a new renovation opportunity as she pursues her chosen career of locating, redecorating and restoring historical residences.

Award winning author, Nicole Young's artistic descriptions of nature, Michigan's beauty and community life are brilliant and provide an extraordinary back drop for her story of suspense, intrigue, mystery, and romance.

Tish struggles with a determination for independence, a sense of guilt, stubbornness, pride, sensitivity, vulnerability, and justice Tish. Because of this she often finds herself conflicted and as a result makes decisions which lead to possible risk and put her life in danger.

The book is written in the first person. Nicole has done an outstanding job of revealing Patricia's thoughts and emotions. Her character development is superb. They are made up a full spectrum of personalities. They range from awe inspiring to despicable. Others genuine, all are flawed imperfect people trying to find meaning and purpose for their lives.

Key characters are at various levels of understanding in their spiritual journey. Self esteem, abuse, and healing are underlying themes throughout the story line and give substance to the message of God's love and forgiveness.

The Door Than No Man Can Shut
Roger Thomas
Xulon Press
2180 West State Street, Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, Florida 32779
9781064775334, $ 13.99, 2008, 140 Pages

A Warning of Judgment to Come

"The Door That No Man Can Shut" tells the story of Roger Thomas, a spokesman for God, a chosen vessel called to share his testimony and an anointed message of his interaction with God. It is a message of judgment to come at the end of the Church Age and a wake up call to Christians today.

As a young man Roger left the faith of his mother to pursue pleasure in worldly, sinful ways. However, during this time he continued to attempt to communicate with God. He battled a demonic force and felt the grip Satan's hold on his life. As God began to take control Roger moved to faith and obedience as he accepted, personally, the salvation provided through Jesus.

Since taking this step of faith Roger Thomas has continued to serve the Lord in ministry for over 30 years. He has studied intently and searched the Bible for meaning and understanding. He continues to share his testimony of "A Door That No Man Can Shut." The call and purpose on his life is to help those who are deceived about their true spiritual condition, to help them move from confusion to living a life of faith.

Roger's writing is scripturally sound and Holy Spirit anointed. I was led into the very presences of our Lord as I read of Roger's relationship with the Savior. As I considered the insights Roger shared on the compassion of Christ and of God's ordained purpose for my life I was moved to a new sense of awe in worship, and a renewed call to share the gospel message with others.

Sacred Grief
Leslee Tessmann
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690538 $19.95

The Mystery of the Unknown - A New View on Grief

Leslee Tessmann relates her spiritual journey into self discovery in her book "Sacred Grief". It is her story of moving from unresolved heartache and grief into a new awareness of the comfort and healing that come with acceptance and a conscious commitment to bringing a sacred context into all of her life.

Leslee's story includes incidents that led to her emotional trials and the stress that resulted in anger, guilt, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, sadness, and pain. She tells of her disappointment, self doubt, and uncertainty that left her drained physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

She relates the process of her experience in exploring and exchanging a new dimension of consolation and healing as she worked through the process of bereavement.

Leslee exchanged the conventional approach to this anguish by accepting grief as sacred. She explains: "Relating to grief as sacred is like watching a fabulous epic drama of my life unfold and I'm the star. I become curious and interested in each scene and want to stay with it until the very end. I find myself entertained, energized, and surprisingly content."

Leslee's father moved into the unknown during his final days by celebrating the adventure and mystery of death. Leslee expresses the pain of losing her father as "poignant moments of tenderness." Genuineness, compassion, generosity, and a global view have an impact in this spiritual journey of experiencing the rewards of "sacred grief."

I was intrigued with Leslee's conception of self induced suffering, of the danger of losing the excitement and exploration of life as a child with the acquired judgment and assessment of the adult. She discusses how self pity, apathy and depression lead to exhaustion.

Leslee reiterates the importance of expressing feelings, and of resolving issues from past relationships with a reminder that every moment is sacred. Sacred relationships are based on mutual respect and the freedom to be fully self-expressed.

I appreciated the thought provoking questions provided in the study guide provided for use in individual study or with a support group. I also found the comprehensive bibliography to be helpful.

Leslee moves the reader from turmoil to order and peace as her story unfolds. Her writing is compelling, grounded in reality, profound, insightful, dynamic, and sensitive.

Love Me If You Must
Nicole Young
Fleming H. Revell
P O Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516
9780800731571 $13.99

Deception, Forgiveness and Restoration

Award winning Nicole Young blends romance, intrigue, and mystery, into her story of deception, greed, and murder. Patricia Ambler reflects on her past and takes and honest look at where her life is going as she faces emotional challenges, mental stress, and tests of physical endurance, as her life is endangered. Threaded throughout Tish's first person account is a new awareness that she is on a spiritual journey as she seeks to forgive herself for a difficult, disturbing mistake she made in her past.

Tish has purchased a Victorian house in a Detroit suburb to renovate and resell. She discovers that the house has come under the jurisdiction of the town's Historical Society. Although Tish buys, renovates, and resells these derelict houses to increase neighborhood values, and to make enough profit to live on, it is also her desire to preserve a community's heritage.

Nicole's characters are well developed, strong, and believable. They are unpredictable, sometimes lovable, and sometimes despicable. Young is a gifted story teller and communicator. She combines the elements of conflict and resolution throughout the narrative. She has the gift of drawing the reader into the suspense and intrigue of the plot as they work with Tish to solve a murder. There were a number of suspects. I was kept engaged and guessing right up to the climatic surprise ending.

"Love Me If You Must" is the first in a series of Patricia Amble mysteries and a great foretaste of more to come.

The 86th Degree
Barbara Harken
Robert D. Reed Publisher
P O Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781931741941 $ 14.95

Abuse, Rejection, and Healing

Barbara Harken writes with passion in "The 86th Degree." This is the story of Amber Helm. The novel combines the elements of romance, conflict, rejection, self acceptance, and emotional healing.

Amber is young and idealistic. She has intentionally chosen teaching as a profession to provide her with the opportunity to positively influence high school students. She is a teacher in Chicago's inner city. Amber has been involved in securing a grant for the school to fund a special short term course for young journalism students from her classes. Ethan Michaels, a former acquaintance, will be teaching the five week class.

Amber is conflicted as she learns that it will be Ethan leading the class and that she has been assigned to welcome him to the school as a department host. Three years earlier Amber had walked out on Ethan after a brief summer romance and had not seen or heard from him since.

As Amber relives some deep rooted childhood emotional experiences, her mother's illness, and the demands of her prosperous father she finds herself on an emotional roller coaster.

Amber is faced with an emotional crisis one of her students, Jocelyn, is going through. She begins to cultivate a friendship with Jocelyn and soon discovers that there is an abusive relationship in the home. Amber's own deep seated anger and emotional scars cause her to make unwise decisions that have serious ramifications on her teaching career.

Harken introduces information on basic issues of child abuse, verbal and physical, and of the paradigm shift in philosophical, psychological, and the legal ramifications being faced in our society today.

Conflict, resolution, and more conflict engage the reader. I was glued to the pages of this important novel. Harken creates a social awareness and critique of the problem of abusive relationships and the importance of emotional caregivers, and necessary interventions.

Barbara Harken writes persuasively. She has a strong plot, crisp dialog, and believable characters. Her own experience in the classroom adds credibility to this timely, engrossing, heartrending story of hurt and healing.

Who Made the Morning?
Jan Godfrey and Honor Ayres
New Day Publishing, Inc.
26 Bluff Ridge Court, Greensboro, NC 27455
9780979824708 $9.99

In Search for an Answer

The story of Little Brown Bird comes alive for the young reader as the contagious excitement and curiosity of waking to a new and beautiful day poses the sudden question "Who Made the Morning?" The short crisp dialog and the endearing and delightful illustrations express the gratitude and appreciation of Little Brown Bird in her search for an answer.

The indifference, vanity, fears, and subtle put downs by the flowers, the cow, the other birds, and the rabbit, do not discourage Little Brown Bird's perseverance in her quest. Her first clue comes from Breeze who shared that, "It is God who made the morning." Now Little Brown Bird had a new question. "How do I find God to thank Him?"

In here search she flew over the countryside, the city, and the mountain tops. Suddenly an eagle pursued her. As she called out in a frightened plea for help the eagle suddenly turned away. As night came Little Brown Bird took refuge from the darkness and cold in the cleft of a rock. In a dream Little Brown Bird found her answers and awoke to another beautiful morning.

As she returned home she shared with her bird friends how she found the answer to her question and discovered God. In a song of of thanksgiving she offered up a song of praise.

Jan Godfrey and Honor Ayres have created a masterful combination of story and illustration in this story teaching gratitude, appreciation, and of God as creator in words and pictures readily grasped by the preschool child.

Children in Crisis
Glenn Myers
OM Publishing
P O Box 300, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 0QS UK
1850782709 $6.99

The Shocking World of Children in Crisis

Staggering statistics reported by Glenn Myers in his book "Children in Crisis" although written ten years ago continue to reflect conditions today. The spiraling crisis faced by children in third world nations continues to rise.

Earlier problems and to other debilitating diseases have in part been reduced but are now replaced with a new quandary, a new crisis. Street children, child soldiers, a global sex industry, child labor, and various forms of slavery are growing problems. Excessive poverty, lack of education, and abuse in various forms add to the nightmares experienced by these children.

Recruitment of adolescent children to take part in modern warfare and to witness the atrocities of violence and death have created trauma in the minds and lives of these "child soldiers." These children in crisis have been exploited and now make up a big part of a global sex industry. Myers details these problems, reports on the government's failure, the churches lethargy, and the community neglect in meeting the urgency faced by children in crisis.

I was encouraged by positive steps now being taken to address the role of the church in a renewed all out effort to minister healing and reform in this multifaceted area of need. UNICEF and the Christian community have made inroads in facing the crisis by providing education, training, and a holistic approach to meet the physical and spiritual needs, by providing food, medical supplies, street workers, drop-in centers, and night shelters for the children.

The many photographs included in the book depict children in various and stages of crisis and circumstances that clearly illustrate the dilemma they face.

Readers are encouraged to become active in intercession, networking, and church planting. "Children in Crisis" is a wake up call to a need for action. A list of resources and organizations is provided to help the reader become involved. "Children in Crisis" is timely, important, and compelling.

Celebrate Your Life!
Melissa Galt
Publishing by Design
11626 Tracey Road, Hayden, Idaho 83835
9780979010316 $21.95

Making Every Day A Celebration

Melissa Galt's writing is powerful. She writes with passion as she offers the reader a road map for the journey of celebrating life. She attributes her philosophy of living life in the moment to her mother, Anne Baxter, her inspiration for sharing the contributions of celebrating life to her great-grandfather, Frank Lloyd Wright, and her dedication to celebrate others to her Godmother, Edith Head. It is her desire to share this legacy with the readers of "Celebrate Your Life!"

Chapters include "Design Tips" which provide guidance in realizing your celebration daily. In the "Memorable Moments" feature Melissa shared intimate glimpses into her personal life celebrations. The "Affirmations" at the end of each chapter help the reader to assimilate and apply their own celebration of a creative spirit, health and well being, family, friends, and career.

Other chapters offer suggestions for celebrating your personal image and style, travel and adventure, your home, and the seasons and holidays. The final chapter provides, you, the reader with fun and different ways to celebrate your own life legacy.

The unique easy on the eyes format of the book make it a pleasure to read, to ponder, and re-read. I especially enjoyed the well chosen quotes, paragraph headings, tips, summaries, and memorable moments.

Melissa Galt's writing is relevant, inspirational, engaging, a powerful motivating force on the road to self discovery. Take a deep breath, get ready to enjoy yourself and begin to "Celebrate Your Life" by learning the art of celebrating every day.

Beyond the Quiet Time
Alister McGrath
Regent College Publishing
5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC V6T 2E4 Canada
9781573832656 $12.95

A Refreshing Approach to a Direct Engagement with the Scriptures

In "Beyond the Quiet Time: Alister McGrath presents a refreshing approach to finding a direct engagement with the scriptures. McGrath helps the reader develop a plan which offers a new approach to spirituality as it relates to personal Christian Living

The book includes both a devotional and a theological importance on reading, studying, and applying the Scriptures to daily life. The book brings a new flavor to the "Quiet Time", presenting a plan for receiving spiritual nourishment, encouragement, and motivation for living out the Christian life.

The format of the book integrates possibilities for use in a study group or for individual study. The chapters include: a theme, a passage from the Bible relating to the theme, commentary with questions for consideration, thoughts for reflection, discussion points, a "Study Panel," and recommended exercises for meaningful application to daily life.

Alister writes with clarity as he models this devotional approach to the Scriptures. He defines spirituality, addresses the question as to why it is important, what we can learn from the past, and how the Scripture gives guidance relative to everyday life.

The five chapters of the book provide the groundwork for future devotional study. They cover the foundational essentials of the Gospel message setting the scene with contemporary illustrations which provide a relevant setting for application. McGrath includes the concept of being lost, the need and provision of rescue, involvement in the world, faith, and living life to the fullest.

"Beyond the Quiet Time" provides the reader with a resourceful, creative process for adding freshness to spirituality though direct engagement with the Scripture.

Red Sky Morning
Andrew J. Rafkin
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432719425 $14.95

Fast Moving True Life Non Stop Adventure

Andrew Rafkin has a tremendous respect for the ocean and a love for sports fishing. In his new book "Red Sky Morning" Rafkin relives the summer he turned 17 in this coming of age fast moving true to life adventure story of life on a commercial tuna fishing expedition.

Andrew relates his story in a first person narrative. A gifted story teller, Andy drew me into the story taking me back to my own teen years, as a younger Andy relates the adventure from his viewpoint. Interwoven throughout the story are interludes with Rosa, Lauren, Nicole, and Erin. These liaisons add an element of romance to Andy's 17th summer. The climax of the story is set two years later in a sports fishing incident that turned a dream opportunity into a recurring nightmare.

Rich in information on the back ground of sports fishing and the history of commercial fishing Andrew takes the reader From Monterey to San Diego on the West Coast all along the East Coast from Florida to Massachusetts. He describes the Western Ace as a "Navy seagoing tug that was converted to a modern day purse seiner. She was 176 feet long and cruised at 11 to 12 knots…she had the capacity of 800 tons of fish."

I experienced a kinship with the fourteen members of the crew as Andy described their reaction to the delays in port, the thrill of the catch, the tropical rain storms, the hurricane force winds, and the crashing waves battering against the ship. I learned that the life of a commercial fisherman is death-defying and is the most dangerous of all professions with more fatalities per year than any other vocation.

I was especially touched as Andy told of the importance of the summer as a bonding experience with his father. "…one of the best things was the time I spend, with my father, who, prior to this summer, I only saw a few days between fishing trips. Spending the whole summer with him gave me the opportunity to get to know him in his domain…I gained a tremendous amount of respect for my father, and came to understand what an awesome amount of responsibility he had being captain."

"Red Sky Morning" is a compelling seafaring adventure story that will be enjoyed by sports fishermen, by anyone who loves the ocean, and those who own or have dreams of owning their own catamaran, yacht, or boat.

Richard R. Blake

Sullivan's Bookshelf

The Most Noble Adventure The Marshall Plan and the Time When America Helped Save Europe Greg Behrman
Free Press
9780743282635 $27.00

This is the definitive history of the U.S. Marshall Plan for Europe's recovery after World War II (WWII). The plan was named for its author, Army General George Catlett Marshall, the military Chief of Staff to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt throughout the war. Afterwards, Marshall would serve as a cabinet officer in the administration of Harry S. Truman.

President Truman could have taken credit for the Marshall Plan. It was even suggested that he do so, but he refused. Truman is famous for saying (paraphrased) "It's amazing what you can get done when you give others credit." The chief executive lived this saying throughout his political life.

The U.S. had prospered economically throughout WWII. It had been the only nation, engaged in the war, to do so. Europe, on the other hand, had been devastated, not only physically but also economically.

Many American officials toured Europe's nations following the war. What with their ruins and the damaged economies, those countries need help - and fast! And another, perhaps more serious, problem quickly became apparent: the Communist Soviet Union had already put many of the weakened Eastern European countries, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and others, under Soviet political control.

The very real fear was that if the remaining destroyed countries were allowed to flounder in their weakened condition, the Soviet Union could and would put Western Europe under the communist sphere of influence and the U.S., for its own security, could not allow that to happen.

So, in 1947, retired General Marshall, then Truman's Secretary of State, gave a speed at Harvard's Commencement, ostensibly to a group of undergraduates, their parents, scholars, and dignitaries, but in reality to the nation at large. His talk covered Western Europe's sad, helpless, and dangerous condition. He emphasized how and why it was o f the utmost importance for the U.S. to financially back those countries to assist them in regaining their former strength and economies. This would require a staggering amount of American financial aid.

Marshall's speech, initially, though well received, didn't cause much of a stir. Slowly, however, the message caught on across the 48 states. Though a Democratic Party idea, Senator Arthur Vandenberg, Republican of Michigan, recognized the need for such a plan and joined in support. This boded well for the Marshall Plan's passage in congress.

Still there were numerous stumbling blocks to enacting the Marshall Plan. Mostly, the Republicans set up the obstacles. But thanks to Senator Vandenberg fighting his own party members, and the strong push from Democrats in congress, the plan and it appropriation were approved. It amounted to a monumental, at that time, sum of money.

The author writes of the senate vote, "On the eve of the senate's vote, Taft [Senator Robert A., a Republican] once more railed against the Plan, as present. 'If I vote for this bill it will be with the distinct understanding that we are making a one-year commitment. If we don't want to continue this program after the first year there is no commitment, moral, legal or otherwise, requiring that it be continued.' …On the eve of that vote on March 13th, 1948, it was the senator from Michigan, "a dog tired' Arthur Vandenberg, who 'was in complete control of the legislative situation.' Among those joining Vandenberg in finally voting for the bill were Taft and Joseph McCarthy. Five minutes past midnight on March 14th, the Senate, with a vote of 69 to 17, authorized $5.3 billion for the first year of the four-year program for European recovery (formally, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948.)

Then the plan was made operational. It required a bureaucracy of, eventually, thousands. Then each supported country in Europe: Great Britain represented by Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin, Frank with Foreign Minister Georges Bidault, Germany led by Chancellor Conrad Adenauer, the Netherlands, Italy represented by Prime Minister Alcide DeGasperi, Denmark, and others had to sit down to determine, amongst themselves, exactly how they wanted the money coming from the U.S. to work. It took some time for the sovereign nations of Europe to agree. But finally they did. This action would be the precursor to NATO and to European Union (EU).

One of the most important aspects of the Marshall Plan was that the U.S. thought it best for Europeans, themselves, to determine specifically how the Marshall Plan would work rather than having the U.S. tell them what to do.

The most wrenching, and controversial, decisions the Europeans had to make was whether to include the defeated enemy, Germany, in the plan for recovery. Though disarmed, Germany was still seen as a future war threat. France in particular, but also by other nations, was worried. The two world wars were on their minds.

Another question the European group had to answer was: Should the Soviet Union be included as one of the Marshall Plan's recipients? It certainly wanted to be.

In the end, Germany was included, which is what the U. S. had hoped for. After all, the Americans were focused on the fact that Germany was now a split country, the Soviets having gobbled up East Germany while West Germany was still in the Western European's purview. But for how long was the question. This and other facts led to the Soviet Union not being included in the Marshall Plan aid.

And so, the Plan got underway in 1948. It lasted until 1951 when the U.S. found itself embroiled in the Korean conflict. Every year during the Plan's operation, congress had to be approached for additional monies. Doing most of the requesting were Marshall Plan executives, too numerous to mention her, save for its head, Paul Hoffman, a fine and much beloved gentleman, statesman, and a Republican. He had been a successful automobile salesman, dealer, and chief executive for Studebaker Motors in South Bend, Indiana. Throughout the Marshall Plan's existence, he did a yeoman's job. He attracted other good, hard-working men to head various sub-agencies of the Plan. Included in that select group were W. Averell Harriman, Richard Bissell, Will Clayton, and George Kennan.

The upshot of the plan was that it was wildly successful, even before it ended. Oh, there were more than a few disagreements between the various European countries themselves and with the U.S. Recall, too, that the Soviets, at that time, were making serious challenges to Western Nations. There was, for example, the Berlin Airlift during 1948. In it, brave U.S. and other nations' airmen flew into beleaguered Berlin with all the food and coal those Germans needed. And throughout, the Soviets hovered menacing nearby.

In conclusion, the U.S. reaped a harvest of good will and a bounty for its economy. The Marshall Plan proved to be a 'you win, we win' policy. It remains one of America's greatest good deeds in its entire history as a nation.

Greg Behrman, the author, is a Foreign Policy Fellow at the Aspen Institute. He holds a M. Phil in International Relations from Oxford. An earlier book of his was The Invisible People: How the U.S. Has Slept Through the Global AIDS Pandemic, the Greatest Humanitarian Catastrophe of Our Time. He has also been published in Newsweek International, the Los Angeles Times, and the International Herald Times. New York City is his home.

Highly recommended!

With God on Our Side One Man's War Against an Evangelical Corp in America's Military Michael L. Weinstein and Davin Seay
Thomas Dunne Books
9780312361433 $25.95

A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1977, Mikey (nickname for Michael) Weinstein was the son of a Naval Academy graduate who switched over to the Air Force. His father-in-law was an Air Force pilot. Numerous other family members were also Air Force Academy graduates.

Mickey had an outstanding record at the academy both academically and sports wise. He was a varsity member of the tennis team. Moreover, after his graduation, he was a proud supporter of the Academy. Though he didn't spend the usual 20 years in the Air Force, he did manage to get an education in law through the Air Force. Later he joined the Reagan administration.

With his pride, connections, and background, it isn't surprising that he sent his boys Curtis and Casey to the Air Force Academy. It's where they'd always wanted to go.

But things went sour very quickly. Anti-Semitic remarks and behavior began to be directed at both boys at the academy. They were also hearing remarks like Jews would burn in hell if they didn't accept Jesus. Besides students, teachers, too, were pushing the born-again life as the only way to heaven. The movie The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson was being promoted not only by students but faculty, too. Evangelical prayer meetings were offered. If a cadet didn't choose to go, he and others like him were marched off to spend their time doing drills.

When Mikey got wind of what was going on, he got very incensed. This evangelical fervor was permeating the Air Force Academy. Mikey worried about abuse of the first amendment concerning the establishment of religion. This was not the way it had been when Mikey and others had attended the academy. Being a devout Jew, he took it personally. As an aggressive lawyer, he didn't take this news sitting down. He went to the top academy brass to complain. And though he was given due deference, nothing got done. And no changes occurred. Even in regular academy classes Jesus or God came up. Mainly it was Christianity that was promoted to the students. And most of it was of the Evangelical brand.

Eventually, Mikey sued the Air Force over the matter. But nothing much came of it, save for more cover-ups. Even some members of the Evangelical persuasion in the U.S. Congress gave Mikey a hard time. Soon, major newspapers were covering the story. People were outraged. Many of them flocked to Mikey's cause.

Then opponents, so to speak, 'swift-boated' Mikey. Seems that during his years at the academy in the early '70's, some anti-Semitic episodes had occurred to him, too. He'd always kept this quiet from his family. What had occurred was that he received several anti-Semitic letters slipped under his dorm room door. They each had a Nazi swastika on them. He informed Academy authorities and they began investigating. A short while later, someone, from behind, knocked Mikey unconscious. The culprit was never found. Then an investigative officer accused Mikey of making all this anti-Semitic stuff up, including the beating. Mikey was so angry and frustrated that he hit the officer, which is a court martial offense. At that point Mikey called his dad for help. He called another lawyer. The situation was settled in the dark of night and quietly, which allowed Mikey to continue to his studies and to graduate.

But that recent revelation made people wonder if Mikey was telling the truth now about the Evangelicals. Still, he faced that problem head on and with the help of friends stood up to the false accusations. His supporters believed his contention that the Evangelical Christians, who saturate the community of Colorado Springs home of the Air Force Academy, had virtually taken over the place and to a lesser extent the Naval Academy and West Point, not to mention the active military services. Finally, some attention was being paid to this problem.

Military chaplains played a big apart in this story. One quit under pressure. Most went along with the program to get along, but one or two did see the wrongfulness and have tried to get Evangelicals to back down somewhat. For their part, Evangelicals say they can't perform their religious duty unless they try to convert non-born again students (i.e., Jew, Roman Catholics, Atheists, Main Line Protestants, Hindus, Moslems. etc.) But they must hold back on that at a government sponsored, tax supported institution like the U.S. Air Force Academy.

"It's a contentious colloquy," write Mikey, "long since internalized, which seems to occupy his every waking moment, a high-stakes battle with opponents whose arguments he has committee verbatim to his prodigious memory. 'Fundamentalist Christians imagine that another Holocaust, a worse one, awaits not just Jews, but anyone who doesn't accept their particular belief in Christ.' His pause now is for effect. 'They quote John 14:6 Where Jesus says that no one comes to the father except through him. But they ignore Acts 10:34, where Peter states that God shows no partiality and that any person who fears Him and does right is acceptable.'

Mikey Weinstein, the author with Davin Seay, heads up the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. An attorney, Mikey resides in New Mexico.


Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life
Robert B. Reich
Alfred A. Knopf
$25.00 9780307265616

The roles of U.S. democracy and capitalism are now topsy-turvy. Democracy, which was and still should be the citizens' powerful defense against the rough edges of capitalism, has grown weaker. And the world of the consumer/investor (capitalism) has grown stronger. So the author named capitalism, in its newly strengthened form, supercapitalism.

Reich writes about how the world changed, especially the U.S., just after the so-called 'Not Quite Golden Age,' (life wasn't always as 'golden' as people seem to remember those days) between 1945 and 1975. That's when American democracy was in the ascendant and capitalism was subordinate. Democracy is now at the mercy of capital! Why? The author claims that it's due to globalization, deregulation, new technologies, new production processes, all leading to more competition.

No longer does the citizen control his destiny through his elected representatives. What's more, the citizen now puts his economic interests ahead of his democracy interests. He and she are now, before beings citizens, customers and investors. They want the best deals from places like Wal-Mart and the greatest investments on the Stock Market.

Consequently, business is doing well. It's doing so well, in fact, that it is controlling the nation's politics. Business pays politicians to run for office and when he or she wins, business and corporations want favors in return. One of those is to let business and corporations have free rein. This is not unique to the U.S. It's a worldwide phenomenon in most democratic capitalist countries.

As a result of this change, democracy has few, if any supporters. Legislation to help the citizen in this democracy seldom gets off the congressional committee floor. Oh, sure, elected officials pay lip service to laws that would help citizens. But little will happen while the citizen is busy otherwise getting a good deal at the retail store or making high interest on investments. Thus, supercapitalism is changing America for the worse.

The author has several suggestions to change this role reversal and to get democracy back into the hands of American citizens: First, the government should leave business and corporations alone, stop taxing them, stop letting them get involved with politics or contribution to it in any way, and, perhaps most important of all, stop treating corporations as if they were persons.

"The most effective thing reformers can do," explains the author, "is to reduce the effects of corporate money in politics, and enhance the voices of citizens. No other avenue of reform is as important. Corporate executives who sincerely wish to do well can make no better contribution than keeping their company out of politics. If corporate social responsibility has any meaning at all, it is to refrain from corruption democracy."

Robert B. Reich is a former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and is currently a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkley. Published in numerous prestige publications, Reich has also written nearly a dozen books. He is, further, co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine.


The God Delusion
Richard Dawkins
Houghton Mifflin Company
9780618680009 $27.00

If this book were a sporting contest, the final score would have to be announced as Dawkins 7, God 0. Certainly that would disappoint, if not offend, all believers in a religious Higher Power. Yet Richard Dawkins, surely the world's most prominent scientist/evolutionist/atheist, makes a convincing case, in numerous logical arguments, for ways that God, or merely god after reading this tome, is a delusion, untrue and imaginary.

"If this book works as I intend," writes the author in his Preface, "religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down. What presumptuous optimism! Of course, dyed-in-the-wool father-heads are immune to argument; their resistance built up over years of childhood indoctrination using methods that took centuries to mature (whether by evolution or design). Among the more effective immunological devices is a dire warning to avoid even opening a book like this, which surely a work of Satan. But I believe there are plenty of open-minded people out there: people who childhood indoctrination was not too insidious, or for other reasons didn't 'take' or whole native intelligence is strong enough to overcome it. Such free spirits should need only a little encouragement to break free of the vice of religion altogether. At very least, I hope that nobody who reads this book will be able to say, "I didn't know I could."

One of the strongest arguments cited in the volume is based on the results of a recent study about the efficacy of prayer. The test was conducted by Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at Mnd/Body Medical Institute near Boston. The Templeton Foundation (this organization is frequently commented upon in many different circumstances in this read) financed it. Prayer groups in a trio of churches were given just the first names of seriously ill people needing help in three hospitals. And concentrated prayers were said for those sick folks. The usual double blind testing technique was employed. The outcome was that the prayers did nothing!

Dawkins goes over the standard atheist territory and arguments such as Thomas Aquinas' circular proofs of god's existence, Pascal's Wager, and, of course, the Bible's inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Detailed, too are such historical luminaries as Thomas Jefferson who didn't believe all that Jesus was reported to have said and done. So the third U.S. president actually cut out of his Bible those items he didn't accept as true about Jesus. Today's retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Song, according to Dawkins, is another who doesn't agree with parts of scripture, either.

The fallibility of the Bible, the author continues, is rampant in its justification for slavery, anti-gay rhetoric, and authorization to kill people guilty of, besides murder, adultery, disrespecting parents, and on and on. The bloodthirstiness of the old testament, seemingly justified because of the times, is compared to that of the new testament supposedly less blood thirsty. But Dawkins details just how brutal the new testament is, too.

Perhaps the author's most convincing story is that of the South Sea Island Military servicemen and their supplies. These Native believers are still waiting, over 50 years after the end of WWII, for the God of Cargo to send them more of it. This vividly shows just how easily the superstition of religion can come about. It would be a laughable tale if it weren't so sad.

The overwhelming, and growing, proofs offered about Darwin's Evolution Theory make up the convincing capstone of this wonderfully argued polemic.

Believers probably won't read this volume, at least not all the way through. But for those who do warning: LOOK OUT! Your whole life's paradigm is about to shift. Incidentally, Dawkins is not only against religious fanatics but opposes those who are 'moderate' in their religious beliefs. He thinks, as does writer Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, that religious moderates lend legitimacy and credence to religious fanatics. Better that the moderates leave religion altogether.

Richard Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. All his previous books, such as The Ancestor's Tale, The Selfish Gene, and Climbing Mount Improbable were critically acclaimed. They, too, were paradigm shifting in their impact. Dawkins is an excellent writer and storyteller, also.

Highly recommended!

Jim Sullivan

Susan's Bookshelf

Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics from a Woman at the Top
Nina DiSesa
Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
New York
9780345496980 $25.00

Having grown up with three brothers, recollections of living with them came back to me as I read Nina DiSesa's book, Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics from a Woman at the Top. At the beginning, I thought I was reading humor as she relates her childhood "…my long road to uncertainty started when I was twelve years old and lasted until the end of my thirtieth year, when I metamorphosed almost overnight from a shy and insecure loser to a first-rate conceited jerk." But once I realized that this humor helped her work effectively with the men in her organization, I began to pay closer attention.

Another source of my confusion with DiSesa's premise came from her assertion that breaking the plexiglass ceiling involves women becoming more seductive and manipulative. To me that sounded unfair. But having proven herself after progressing from writing resort ads for the Catskills to becoming chairman of McCann Erickson New York, the flagship office of the internationally renowned advertising agency, DiSesa makes her points with these sometimes humorous, sometimes insane, but effective strategies for working with men. Using many examples, she shows how she spent her creative energies figuring out the men in her office. She says, "It's like solving a murder mystery. Collect the clues, lay them all out, and you will solve the puzzle."

Throughout the book, DiSesa shows how she struggled to be taken seriously by twenty and thirty-year-old employees. Once she used a high-powered water rifle to quell their inappropriate behavior. She reminded me of the time when my own children were teenagers and my daughter, annoyed by her brother's antics, asked whether sisters could divorce their brothers.

But along with the humor, uncensored commentary, and good advice, DiSesa shows how her lessons helped change the climate of her highly-competitive workplace by identifying her masculine side in order to accomplish creative tasks, meet impossible deadlines, and gain the trust of her co-workers. And in the process she helped her co-workers find their feminine side making the workplace more pleasant for everyone.

Usually DiSesa relates solving a particular situation, showing what she did and summarizing the lesson learned, but she is so eager to get to the next topic that occasionally she fails to tie up the threads of the narrative. But this is a minor flaw and may have been intended to keep the reader engaged. This book can help women who study DiSesa's techniques overcome the roadblocks to success by providing a proven path to follow.

Nina DiSesa is chairman of McCann Erickson New York, the flagship office of the internationally renowned advertising agency. In 1999, she was selected by Fortune magazine as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business. She lives in New York City.

Madness: A Bipolar Life
Marya Hornbacher
Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116
9780618754458 $25.00

Just reading the table of contents in Marya Hornbacher's book, Madness: A Bipolar Life, offers the reader some insight into the world of bipolar illness - "Depression," "Meltdown," "Escapes," "Hypomania," "The Diagnosis," "Losing It," "Hospitalization #1," "Hospitalization #6," "Release." The nature of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia makes the illness worse by the vicious cycle of paranoia, pain, and insanity that cause the suffering person do everything to sabotage her treatment, or as Hornbacher says, "…how to make sure that you'll be getting crazier by the day." So when her psychiatrist says, don't drink alcoholic beverages, keep a routine, eat healthy, take the meds and so on, Hornbacher does just the opposite. Not because she's intentionally trying to disregard her doctor's advice, but because her manic episodes and the voices in her head tell her that she's okay, while the depressive episodes prevent her from taking any action at all.

Confounding all this confusion, the quality of care also takes its toll on her mental state as the emergency room doctors sometimes make medical decisions that oppose her own doctor's treatment plan. In a sad, but amusing account Hornbacher patiently explains to the hospital psychiatrist that she's not depressed, but coming off a manic episode. The psychiatrist decides to increase her antidepressant medication and sleeping pills. When Hornbacher argues that she's an addict and can't take the medication the doctor prescribes, the doctor says, "I'm sure you won't start abusing it." Nothing Hornbacher says can convince the doctor to follow the regimen prescribed by her own doctor.

Hornbacher's account of her heroic struggles to escape from the insanity of bipolar disorder and her honesty and insight into her bizarre behaviors makes a fast-paced, gut-wrenching story that causes the reader to not only better understand those who suffer from this illness, but cheer with the hope that Hornbacher expresses when she experiences good results as she strives to take her medications, exercise, do yoga, use light therapy, participate in group therapy sessions, and listen to her therapist. Whether she can maintain this tenuous balance depends upon whether she can keep her swinging moods under control.

A brilliant writer, Hornbacher chronicles the often humorous but sad episodes of a person with bipolar disorder. In her manic episodes, she's a university teacher, a writer, and a lecturer doing a hundred and one different things all at once, while drunk, on medication, with little or no sleep. With insight she says, "That I have made it all this way without dying or killing myself or someone else is a miracle, or a joke." But it's no joke that she has successfully chronicled an illness that has contributed to her brilliance as well as her sufferings in a way that allows the reader to understand and feel compassion for those who have been afflicted with bipolar disorder, and offers direction to those who might help.

Marya Hornbacher is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated national bestseller Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, a book that remains an intensely read classic, and of the acclaimed novel The Center of Winter. An award-winning journalist, she lectures nationally on writing and mental health and lives with her husband in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Susan M. Andrus

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

Readers Theatre For Middle School Boys: Investigating the Strange and Mysterious
Ann N. Black
Teacher's Idea Press
88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881
9781591585350 $30.00

The number of same-gender schools is on the rise, and even schools with both boys and girls are experimenting with single-gender classes. Ann N. Black has rewritten classics for readers theatre appropriate for middle-school boys that lends itself perfectly to the all-male classroom.

Many of the original literary short stories, this collection is based on, are studied in the major text-books found in schools, and so would be familiar to both their readers and their audience. Black has done a terrific job finding classic literature that particularly appeals to middle-school boys including strange, frightening, and action-packed stories such as: The Masque of the Red Death, The Monkey's Paw, To Light a Fire, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, White Grizzly, The Pied Piper of Hamlin, Sleepy Hollow, The Ransom of Red Chief, and The Country of the Blind.

The readers theatre format encourages the shy as well as the class clown to participate. It improves reading skills and increases vocabulary while using cooperative learning. It is a cost-effective way to do a performance for a school that may be lacking the funds to put on a full-scale production as well.

Black includes a short background on each author and a few paragraphs for teachers concerning production notes for costuming and staging ideas. The character parts are weighted equally so no one performer will lose focus before he is "on" again. Black has done a good job with translating the stories from page to stage, though she does use a broad literary hand adding additional characters and utilizing narrators. The dialogue is fast-paced and the writing is clear.

Though the title explicitly states it is readers theatre for boys, girls could easily play a variety of parts in the selections, so it would be appropriate for any middle school library, speech or drama classroom, or any classroom that studies communication.

Acting Games for Individual Performers
Gavin Levy
Meriwether Publishing, Ltd.
PO Box 7710, Colorado Springs, CO 80933-7710
9781566081467 $17.95

This collection of 110 acting exercises would be appropriate for beginning actors grades 9-12. Some exercises rely on specific events in order to practice them (going to the dentist, having a broken heart). Some exercises are to be practiced daily for an extended period of time (keeping a journal), and some can be accomplished in a just a few minutes. Many of the exercises ask the actor to watch clips from movies.

Each exercise presented has questions for the actor to ask himself, different variations of completing the exercise (allowing the exercise to have more than one life), and states the purpose of the exercise. The book is divided into 21 acting elements (improv, physical, emotional recall, vocal, characterization, imagination, etc.) with 3-6 exercises in each element.

Unlike older acting games books on the market, this one utilizes a multi-media approach and is not geared toward group rehearsal.

Acting Out: Six One-Act Plays! Six Newbery Stars!
Justin Chanda, Editor
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416962137 $16.99

This collection of six one-act plays for middle school students feature Newbery winning authors such as Avi, Sharon Creech, Susan Cooper, Patricia MacLachlan, Katherine Paterson, and Richard Peck. Each play was inspired by a theatre improv game using a combination of words chosen by each author for inspiration: dollop, hoodwink, Justin, knuckleball, panhandle, and raven. Part of the fun of these six plays is identifying how each author incorporates each of the words into his play.

The range of characters is everything from young to old, talking boulders to talking dogs, and everything in between. Most are humorous, and they are all appropriate for middle school having a great many child characters. Plots tend to be similar to stories already on the market, but are not adaptations of those stories.

Production requirements range from easy to difficult; plays such as The Bad Room, Effigy in the Outhouse, and Not Seeing is Believing being easier to stage than the remaining three plays.

Terrilyn Fleming

Theodore's Bookshelf

Desert Cut
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584910 $24.95 800-421-3976

Scottsdale PI Lena Jones, in four previous appearances, has tackled some different and interesting and controversial topics, ranging from polygamy, the homeless and a former WWII German POW camp. In this latest novel, she uncovers horrific subject one knows about in Africa and the Middle East, but hardly comes to mind in the United States.

While horseback riding with her boyfriend scouting a film location in the Arizona desert, Lena finds the body of a seven-year-old girl. It turns out there are other young girls either missing or dead from a nearby town. Many of the inhabitants work for a chemical factory there, and are African or Middle Eastern immigrants. Lena can't get the thought of the little girl she found in a shallow grave from her mind, and starts her own investigation. Eventually, she ties together a common thread for all the dead and missing young girls, and a horrific one it is.

As in the previous books in the series, the plot is meticulously researched, with an outstanding bibliography, carefully written and documented, and the writing and story substantial. While constructed as a mystery, the novel truly has an importance beyond the genre.

Highly recommended.

Hell's Bay
James W. Hall
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010, 212-674-5151
9780312359584 $24.95 646-307-5560

Thorn, the iconoclastic and naturalist protagonist of James W. Hall's novels set in the untamed regions of Florida, has gotten himself into all kinds of dangerous situations in the past. This time, he seems to have outdone himself in a thriller containing a huge surprise for him. Set against a privately owned conglomerate headed by a rugged 86-year-old free-enterprise-and - all-else-be-damned matriarch intent on running her billion-dollar phosphate and-whatever-else conglomerate to milk the last penny of profits, the novel enables the author to use his ever-present ability to describe the wild Everglades to a tee.

The plot involves the fight against environmental hazards, and pits Thorn against those fighting the dangers of the mining operations. Early in the book, we discover that Thorn actually is a member of the family that owns the mining dynasty, setting him up as both a target for the opposition, as well as possibly making us wonder if he will change his values in his own economic interests.

It seems the matriarch drowns--or is she murdered?--shortly after which Thorn's uncle and niece engage Thorn and his ex-girlfriend, Rusty, to take them on a fishing expedition. That is when Thorn learns of his mysterious background. But more important, on the first day of the trip, all hell breaks loose. It is a shocking tale of environmental rape and misguided revenge. A well-told tale that is highly recommended.

Stranger in Paradise
Robert B. Parker
G.P. Putnam's Sons
c/o The Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399154607 $25.95, 800-847-5515

A decade ago, Jesse Stone confronted a band of ex-cons, including Wilson "Crow" Cromartie, the so-called Apache hit man, when they captured and looted Stiles Island, an enclave off Paradise Island, where Jesse is Chief of Police. Now, in the latest book in the series, with the Statute of Limitations running out, Crow is back in town. He makes a great counterpoint to the droll Stone. This time, they cooperate with each other to a rousing bang-up finish.

Crow is there on an assignment from a Miami mobster. Stone, as usual is grappling with his love for his ex-wife and penchant for alcohol. It all makes for another amusing chapter in the series, with the customary Parker touch and dialog. Parker just goes on and on. Thank the Lord.

Martha Grimes
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670018697 $25.95 800-847-5515

Andi Oliver, in a previous novel, underwent various traumatic experiences, and now suffers from amnesia. She remembers nothing of her previous 19 or 20 years, except for the past two years. She does remember shooting a man and running away, walking across three states, with short stopovers for waitress jobs to earn a few dollars, then continuing on her journey.

Walking down a dirt road near Kingdom, ND, she sees a mistreated donkey by a fence. She liberates it and treats various sores, afterwards taking it into town. Andi befriends a local widower who offers her a part-time job and room and board. Later, with time on her hands, she takes on another part-time job at a hog "factory farm," as well as at a nearby slaughterhouse, where she witnesses untold acts of cruelty toward the animals. These observations allow the author to feature her own beliefs in animal rights and vegetarianism.

Another element of the plot is the two men trailing Andi (who knows what her real name is? She adopted her current moniker from the initials "A O" on her backpack) across three states, one of whom seeks information from her past, which she can't remember. As in the previous novel that introduced Andi, Dakota is tender and appealing, as well as informative. One can assume we will be seeing Andi again, a good thing to be sure.

Death of a Gentle Lady
M. C. Beaton
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10160,
9780446582605 $23.99 800-759-0190

When an author creates a character that's so appealing, with all the human emotions and foibles and the ability to bumble into solutions to murders and crimes, it is mandatory that the series continue on and on. Such a protagonist is Hamish Macbeth, the constable in the sleepy village of Lochdubh, Scotland. This novel is the 23rd, and it is still as fresh and entertaining as the first.

In Gentle Lady, Hamish encounters a recent resident to "his" town who is much adored by the people for her sedate manner and promises of donations, for example, for a new church roof. Hamish, in performing his perceived duties, pays her a welcome visit and apparently antagonizes her for some reason he can't fathom. As a result, she undertakes a strong effort to get his one-man police station closed.

In an effort to stay in his beloved village, Hamish blunders his way into a foolish situation. Then two murders take place, giving him the opportunity once again to prove himself.

A delight to read.

The Sudoku Puzzle Murders
Parnell Hall
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 100110
9780312370909 $23.95 212-674-5151

The latest chapter in the Puzzle Lady Mystery series is a convoluted, complicated but amusing plot in which Cora Felton proves adept at solving Sudoku puzzles in quick time. The problem is that she is a syndicated newspaper "author" of crossword puzzles and she can't write, much less solve, them. But then, she does assist the chief of police in solving murders and other crimes.

In case you don't know what a Sudoku puzzle is, it uses numbers instead of letters in nine squares, each consisting of nine boxes. The spaces have to be filled in with numbers one through nine without conflicting with the same number in another row or column. The book is enhanced with several crossword and Sudoku puzzles created by Will Shortz, the crossword editor of the New York Times. These serve as "clues" in a couple of murders.

The book is light and fun to read, and the puzzles (both the mystery and crosswords and Sudokus) more than worth the effort. Recommended.

Up In Honey's Room
Elmore Leonard
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060724269 $9.99, 800-242-7737

Elmore Leonard has written at least 40 novels. Published last year in hardcover and being released this month in mass market paperback, Honey is among the best--if not the best, just because it departs from the customary. It is different from his past work in the sense that it is set in the last days of WW II and the characters include a supposed Nazi spy ring and two escaped German POWs. What is familiar is that it takes place in Detroit and U.S. Marshal Carl Webster returns, seeking to recapture the escaped prisoners.

A review can't capture the delightful story of Honey and do it justice. Just read the novel and enjoy the inventiveness, humor and writing of Elmore Leonard.

Prepared for Rage
Dana Stabenow
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010,
9780312369736 $24.95 212-674-5151

When an author has a passion for a subject, it shows mightily. Such an author is Dana Stabenow, who expends great efforts in first-hand research aboard Coast Guard vessels in an effort to portray the men and mission of that service with authenticity. This approach was demonstrated in the previous effort, Blindfold Game, and again in this the author's 15th novel and second standalone, which also adds NASA and a space shuttle launch to the mix, as well as a terrorist plot on a level equal to 9/11.

The Coast Guard's mission during launches is to keep a wide area off the coast of Florida clear of surface ships to avoid collisions with falling debris. In this case, the cutter Munro, captained by Cal Schuler, son of a U.S. Senator, is assigned the duty of directing the operation because it is named for a relative of Kenai Munro. Kenai is one of the shuttle's crew, and also has the role of providing a love interest for Cal.

The "bad guy" goes by many names, the latest of which is Isa, apparently a play on the name of Jesus. He is acting independently of bin Laden and al Qaeda in an effort to establish his rep, and recruits his own cell independently of the terrorist organization. He is determined to strike at the space shuttle, a most visible symbol of the United States on a par with, if not even more important than, the twin towers.

Written with the power and excellence of the previous novels, the book is mind-boggling and eerie, full of action which includes a high-speed ocean chase. It is a clever concept, smartly executed, and is highly recommended.

Killer Heat
Linda Fairstein
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385523974 $26.00 800-726-0600

This latest legal cum detective fiction brings back the dynamic trio--DA Alex Cooper and her two detective buddies Mercer and Chapman. This time, they are faced with a series of rape-murders with almost no clues. As side stories, Alex prosecutes a serial rapist decades after the events, is faced with gang-related revenge efforts, and, on the lighter side, pursues her romantic involvement with the Frenchman, Luc, who she met in the previous novel in the series.

As in previous entries, Ms. Fairstein's trademark descriptions of various New York City landmarks providing authentic knowledge of the sites and history lend an unparalleled flavor to the story. In the present case, such information relating to Governor's Island and Breezy Point provide background to the plot.

The novel is so well-paced that the reader will have a hard time putting it down before reaching the stirring climax. About all that's unresolved in this, the author's tenth crime novel, is what is going to happen next--if anything--with her relationship with Luc. Nevertheless, it's a great read and shouldn't be missed.

Hollywood Crows
Joseph Wambaugh
Little, Brown & Co.
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316025287 $26.99 800-759-0190

Joseph Wambaugh literally invented this kind of novel--the daily lives of LAPD police--on patrol in the streets as well as in their personal lives, through use of anecdotes, situations and quips. This is the 13th novel of the type since the first--The New Centurions--was introduced 14 years ago.

The story is about a crime, but more important, about the men and women of Hollywood South, cops like the two surfer cops--Flotsam and Jetsam-- and Nate Weiss, Cat Song, Ronnie Sinclair and Bic Ramstead. The plot describes the duties and foibles of the Community Relations Officers--the Crows--in their efforts to assuage the fears or complaints of citizens, such as illegal parking in an apartment house lot across from an upscale strip joint or the noise from a house whose front lawn is strewn with stolen supermarket shopping carts.

The strip club is owned by Ali Azis, who is going through a bad divorce suit with his wife, Margot. Each wishes the other dead (for different reasons). Margot's plot involves a couple of the cops, which leads to more complications, as she continually makes complaints about her husband's "threats" to establish a record. It is Wambaugh at his best, and should be read.

Highly recommended.

Devil's Peak
Deon Meyer
Little, Brown & Co.
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316017855 $24.99 800-759-0190

Three very flawed but sympathetic characters populate this novel. There is Thobela Mpayipheli, a Black South African who was trained as an assassin by the East German secret police. Then there is Benny Griessel, alcoholic detective. And lastly, Christine van Rooyen, a prostitute with a three-year-old daughter. Somehow, their lives intertwine in a gripping story which keeps the reader off-balance all the way.

Initially, Thobela is introduced as a farmer who recently lost his wife, leaving him with a young boy who he loves very much. The boy is shot dead during an armed robbery, setting off a chain of events which leads Thobela to act as an avenging vigilante against abusers of children. Benny, once (and possibly even in his present continual alcoholic haze) a superior detective, is kicked out of his home by his long-suffering wife with the admonishment that he might be permitted to return if he stays sober for six months. Meanwhile, he is placed in charge of two important cases, including the serial killer of abused children. Christine's story alternates with the other two as she sits confessing to a priest. Her tale plays a pivotal role in the lives of the other two.

This is the author's fourth novel, each superior reading. His complex stories and descriptions of South Africa are exceptional, his characters unusual and graphic, his works top-notch. Like his previous efforts, Devil's Peak is highly recommended.

The Dark Tide
Andrew Gross
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061143427 $25.95 800-242-7737

A couple of million here a couple of million there, before you know it, it adds up to a lot of loot. In this novel, in fact, Charles Friedman, who runs a hedge fund, managed to lose a billion dollars trading. And the consequences lead to his trying to cover up the losses from some very dangerous people who stop at nothing, including murder.

Then one day, when he rides into Grand Central Station to his office, a bomb goes off on his train and fire spreads all over. When he doesn't show up at work, he is presumed dead. But is he? Meanwhile, a hit-and-run death near his home in Greenwich, CT, intrigues a police detective. And threats against Friedman's wife brings him into contact with the cop.

From there events progress in a fairly straightforward manner, leading to a pretty obvious conclusion. That observation isn't particularly negative, in any sense. The book is well-paced and logical. All one has to do is follow the hidden secrets from beginning to end. The only question unanswered and unexplained is how a billion dollars can be lost before steps are taken to prevent massive losses, or just how Friedman's cover-up really works. Otherwise, a good read, and recommended.

The Silver Swan
Benjamin Black
Henry Holt & Co.
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780805081534 $25.00 646-307-5151

In a sequel to his first crime novel, the 2008 Edgar-nominated Christine Falls, Benjamin Black (nom de plume of John Banville) creates a complicated tale, filled with unnecessary characters and obfuscations clouding the mystery. It brings back Quirke, the Dublin pathologist with an "incurable curiosity."

A college acquaintance implores Quirke to forgo an autopsy on his wife who jumped off a pier and drowned in Dublin bay. In eyeing the body, Quirke discovers a puncture in her arm, and blood-work shows presence of alcohol and morphine. But Quirke allows the coroner to give a finding of accidental death. The plot involves the back story of the dead woman, alternating with events including those of Quirke's family, especially his daughter. The narratives are intended to lead the reader forward to decide whether her death really was suicide or murder, as well as laying the groundwork for future developments.

The novel is atypical of the usual mystery or crime book, and is more like an Irish drama (written without the brogue, fortunately). Perhaps that is the shortcoming of the novel, no matter how well-written it is. Nevertheless, it should be read and despite my problems with it, it is recommended.

Close Call
John McEvoy
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584958 $24.95 800-4-21-3976

In the previous three novels in the series, John McEvoy demonstrated his uncanny ability to match the master, Dick Francis, in writing mysteries with a horseracing background. Now, he again has written a memorable tale using the same protagonist, Jack Doyle, and his "fairy godfather" and raconteur, the furrier-to-the-mob, Moe Kellman.

Just returned from New Zealand and at loose ends, Moe suggests that Jack become the publicity and advertising director of a rundown racing park south of Chicago, Monee Park. The track was owned and operated for many years by Moe's friend, Jim Joyce, who recently died, leaving 51 percent ownership to his niece, with the balance to his nephew who lives in Ireland. The racetrack is run down and hardly making any money. The niece, whose husband suffers from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), intends to keep running the track in the memory of her uncle. The nephew would rather have it sold to developers and use the cash to expand his bookmaking business.

From this conflicting interest a whole series of events takes place, with Jack at the center. As in previous entries in the series, this book is tautly written and suspenseful, well-plotted and exciting right up to the conclusion. It is highly recommended.

Another Thing to Fall
Laura Lippman
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061128875 $24.95 800-242-7737

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

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

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

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Pale Death
David & Aimee Thurlo
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765352569, $6.99

Officer Leo Hawk whose real name is Lee Nez is a New Mexico State police officer. Lee had to fake his death in 1945 to hide the fact that he’s a half-vampire. He’s now in his nineties but looks like he’s twenty five.

Lee and his close friend Diane Lopez get together again to hunt down amass murderer. The culprit is also a vampire and through no fault of his own has been turned into a destructive monster. The killer, Stuart Tanner, was imprisoned in a government facility. While there he was tortured and tested in a vain attempt to uncover the secrets of his powers. An accident of nature frees Tanner and he takes retribution on his captors. They’ve driven the man mad with their cruel experiments and now he’s out for vengeance on all federal agents.

All this puts Lee himself in danger of being discovered. He and Diane must find Tanner and take him out before he kills more people. It won’t be an easy task, but Lee’s determined. He’s a vampire out to do good and he usually succeeds. He’s a super hero without the title or costume.

Pale Death is a fascinating tale of mystery and the paranormal. The Thurlows can always be counted on for an entertaining story, but the Lee Nez series is a particular favorite of mine. Other books in the series include: Second Sunrise, Blood Retribution and Surrogate Evil.

Between the Sheets
Robin Wells
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780446618410 $6.99

Temporary butler and self-employed Emma Jamison has a job at an exclusive New Orleans mansion. When the president elect’s liaison there with a hooker ends in death, she’s hustled out of the mansion by the Secret Service. Emma’s photographed leaving half dressed and the news media has a heyday, blaming her for the demise of the president elect.

Emma tries hard to clear her name, but no one believes her. The Secret Service’s refusal to talk creates a roadblock she can’t get around. Shamed and with her business ruined because of the scandal, Emma packs up and leaves the city. She finds a job in a small town in Louisiana as a housekeeper at her grandmother’s retirement home.

Emma’s grandmother’s involved with a man in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She’s constantly getting herself and Emma in trouble with the mean-spirited management of the home. The story gets more complex as Emma starts to fall for the grandson of her grandmother’s boyfriend. Max Duval is the local district attorney who’s running for office again. Neither he nor Emma can afford the bad publicity if they’re seen together, but they can’t help themselves. They’re drawn to each other like magnets.

As if that’s not enough a young would be reporter has found it’s lucrative to sell whatever he can find out or make up about Emma. Max tries to discover the truth and help Emma. It won’t be easy, but Max has a few connections.

Between the Sheets is warm, romantic, humorous, sexy and just plain fun. Other books by Robin Wells include: The Babe Magnet and Wild About You.

Victoria Kennedy


Irene Watson, Editor

Divorcing Dwayne: A Novel
J. L. Miles
Cumberland House Publishing
431 Harding Industrial Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581826500, $14.95

Reviewed by Gina Holland for RebeccasReads

"Divorcing Dwayne" is a hilarious, but heartfelt novel. I believe that in this novel, the writer was trying to mix romance and humor together. I think that she pulled it off, but not until well into the story. "Divorcing Dwayne" starts off slowly but then picks up the pace pretty quickly. The author, J.L. Miles, did a great job! This novel was written for teens to adult readers. I think it would be an interesting read to both age groups. If you can get through the first few pages, then the story becomes very interesting.

"Divorcing Dwayne" is a story about a woman named Francine. Francine tells the story herself throughout a lot of the book. She tells the story of how she met her husband Dwayne. They met at a pig-pull, apparently some kind of contest folks do in the town of Pickville Springs I suspect. Dwayne used to be married to Sheila, who owns the saloon in town. Dwayne cheated on Sheila with Carla, the town's exotic dancer. Francine and Dwayne meet and fall madly in love. They get married and things go great for a while. Then trouble begins. As Francine tells her story, you will meet her best friend, Ray Anne, Trudy, her kind stepsister, Francine's grandma, Nanny Lou, who thinks that her dead husband is having an affair with the neighbor and is not really dead, and a whole bunch of other characters you will fall in love with! Or not! In the end, you will find out why Francine shot at Dwayne and Carla, why she divorced Dwayne twice, and why she believes that Dwayne is dead!

I would love to see a continuation novel of Francine and her life. I am curious to see where she ends up. This story was thrilling as well as entertaining. I would definitely recommend it to romance readers and suspense readers everywhere! I will also be happy to read any follow-up story about Francine that J.L. Miles writes. I am sure that anyone who reads "Divorcing Dwayne" will want to follow-up on the story as well. J.L. Miles was great at getting her plot and point across. She also left an opening for anyone who reads this story to want to read more. J. L. Miles left me laughing; that's for sure! "Divorcing Dwayne reminded me of a situation that I had not long ago and it was very close to what Francine went through. Francine shows up that we can get through a lot in life if we have too and still come out smiling!

God Is a Salesman: Learn from the Master (Faithwords)
Mark Stevens
Center Street
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781599956909, $18.99,

Reviewed by Elizabeth E. Gibson-Evans for RebeccasReads

"God Is a Salesman" is written by Mark Stevens, best-selling author and CEO of the marketing firm MSCO, and one of the most famous marketers in the world. His company's website,, takes you into a fascinating commercial of God as The Master Salesman, though not in a negative way as one may think of a salesman in today's world, but in a unique direction as he combines the "commercial with the spiritual to show and teach you how to achieve great success and a new dimension in life."

I cannot say anything better than what you will learn from this book, if applied in your life, will teach you how to be more positive and will be beneficial in your own life. I would have never thought of God in the way of a Salesman, however now I can see and understand a whole new way of thinking about Him and life. An extraordinary lesson in this book, well-written, understandable, filled with many experiences of the author that helps you to apply a real-life view and wonderful lesson in your own life. This presents an absolutely great lesson and new view on belief and faith in God--a true blessing to learn from "God is A Salesman" and the true experiences of Mark Stevens. Thank you, Mr. Stevens for a new outlook and lesson in a God-filled life.

Elizabeth Jennings
c/o Hatchett Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446618915, $6.99

Reviewed by Gina Holland for RebeccasReads

"Pursuit"-- Elizabeth Jennings thought of the perfect name for this book. "Pursuit" is a very romantic, yet thrilling story. It's a story of love, greed and possibilities. The story starts off with a greedy character, named Robert Haine, who works for the Court family. He wants in on the family fortune. The father, Philip Court, is very sick. He is dying from pancreatic cancer. He has a lovely, unspoiled daughter named Charlotte Court. She is very devoted to her dying father and is always by his side. One day when Charlotte is visiting her father, she finds a man and he is smothering her father with a pillow as she is coming into the room. Charlotte tries to fight the man, when he shoots her, and also shoots the nurse, who has been attending to Charlotte's father. The nurse is dead and Charlotte is bleeding, and in shock. She runs, not knowing what else to do, and tries to go to the police, but Robert has both her home and the police station watched by his people who are ready to kill her.

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Sanders was shot in combat, shot saving his own team, shot up so bad, that he should have been dead. But he was stronger than that. He lived. And his living would save another life.

Matt Sanders and Charlotte Court meet up in Mexico purely by accident. Matt is trying to build up his strength once again, and Charlotte needs a place to hide, because she knows that Robert will have someone kill her, just like he did her father. Now she finds out that the police are looking for her as a suspect in her father's murder. Charlotte watches day by day as Matt is trying to become the man he once was; he fascinates her. He catches her eye while she is watching him, and he believes that secretly, she is giving him the motivation he needs to get better. Life for these two has come full circle. Can Matt help Charlotte overcome her fears? Can Charlotte help Matt overcome his tragedy?

"Pursuit" is one of the best romance novels I have read in a long time. The author makes the characters come to life, and you recognize the pain and hope in both Matt and Charlotte. As they both struggle to find the peace that they are looking for, it's like you are right there with them. I could not put this book down. It was so wonderful to read and I hated to see it come to an end. I think the point in this story was the fact that sometimes, when you think everything is coming to an end, there can be a wonderful beginning somewhere very near, and you have to fight hard but you can win. This novel would be for young and old adults everywhere who love romance. Even though there is a bit of thrills there as well, it all comes together perfectly. In "Pursuit," Elizabeth Jennings has you rooting for this couple the entire novel. I really hope that Ms. Jennings decides to visit Matt and Charlotte again in another novel. I am looking forward to see what they are up too!

Revisiting John Grisham: A Critical Companion
Mary Beth Pringle
Greenwood Press
88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881
9780313323355, $65.00,

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan for RebeccasReads

John Grisham-- the name spells magic-- and no one can deny the fact that it was Grisham who took the law outside the courtroom in his novel, and gave the legal thriller genre a place, a niche, of it own, in the mystery genre map.

Unlike many who fell to the charm of Grisham after reading "The Firm," I fell for the magic only after reading "A Time to Kill" about a Black-American on trial, before an all-white jury, for the murder of two white kids who had raped his 12-year-old daughter. Never since "To Kill a Mockingbird" had I read such a haunting and bleak portrayal of the law and justice in a novel. I was hooked and from there on each February I religiously bought and read each and every legal thriller- right up to "The Appeal." Today I am the proud owner of all Grisham works including sixteen legal thrillers, one non-fiction legal thriller, "The Innocent Man," four non-legal novels and copies of the manuscript of two Grisham original screenplays--"Mickey" and "The Gingerbread Man."

Though Grisham, the author, has become a household name--(I am reminded of an episode from the TV serial "3rd Rock from the Sun" where aliens John Lithgow and Company are trying hard to adjust to the American culture. They read in a newspaper that an average American reads John Grisham, eats pizza, etc., and the particular episode ends with Lithgow and Company all reading a Grisham bestseller and eating pizza)-- the man, Grisham still remains an enigma. It is difficult to get an insight into the man who keeps to himself, away from the glare of publicity as much as he can. It is here that "Revisiting John Grisham: A Critical Companion" comes to the rescue. Nope, it is not a biography, but a hard, critical look at all the fiction works written by Grisham and a follow-up to the author's earlier work "John Grisham: A Critical Companion" (1997). The author has really studied the man Grisham before embarking upon this project and the same is reflected in the book. The painstaking job the author has done in editing, researching and collecting material is to be appreciated and this book is a must resource guide to the fans of John Grisham. This is both a critical companion and a biography (in a limited sense)

Mary Beth Pringle has done a grand job; and my only peeve is that the author doesn't delve on the original screenplays written by Grisham. But again that is understandable, for the same are not available as books. However, the story of Grisham as an original screenplay writer in Hollywood is interesting, which I believe would have amused the Grisham fan; hence the 'peeve.'

"Revisiting John Grisham: A Critical Companion" has inspired me to do a bit of revisiting myself and I plan to reread my favorite Grisham works.

Coinage of Commitment
R. Costelloe
Saga Books
9781894936835, $15.95,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"Coinage of Commitment" begins in a lounge called Sullivan's in the late 1960s. Wayne is there with a group of friends and takes notice of Nancy, a beautiful girl who walks into the bar. Nancy is soon joined by a male companion but after sensing that there is something wrong, Wayne stops by their table on the way out and inquires if everything is okay. After being told that she is fine, he leaves and heads toward the trolley system to ride to his grandfather's house to stay. While at the trolley station he briefly sees Nancy again as she must have left shortly after him. Moments later he hears a female's cry for help. Trying to be heroic and thinking that it is Nancy, Wayne risks his life to come to the aid of the girl in distress only to find that help had already arrived and that it wasn't even Nancy who was in trouble. However, Nancy was there standing next to the victimized girl and Wayne's actions did not go unnoticed. After a brief introduction they decided to go grab a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant and this was the beginning of their relationship.

In a sense though, the basis for their relationship had begun back when they young even though they did not know each other at that time. They were from two entirely different worlds. She was from a well-to-do family and he was the son of a machinist. However, they both shared an interest in being able to obtain a higher plane of love. When he was younger he secretly enjoyed reading Jane Austen stories to learn about love. His goal was to learn as much as he could so that when the right person came along he would be able to have the perfect love. Nancy had the same interest when she was younger. She had kept a notebook where she recorded her thoughts about this special type of love, superior to the love that most people have. She labeled this phenomenon as "Aesthetic Love."

"Coinage of Commitment" explores what happens when two people who are more emotionally and mentally aware of the workings of love come together as a couple. Costelloe writes about their past relationships and their family life and how those factors mold them into who they are now. This book is definitely not your typical love story. It is much more intellectually written and is of a lot deeper nature than any book in the romance genre that I have ever read. The ideas that the main characters ponder and discuss are very thought-provoking and I think, that as a reader, you will find yourself thinking more about the subject even after you turn the last page. While you would think a novel of this nature could be predictable, Costelloe definitely throws a few major curve balls your way making for a very unique and interesting story! I definitely look forward to reading more from this author in the future!

Sam Moffie
UEL Enterprises
765 Golfview Road, Boardman, Oh 44512
9780978606206, $14.95

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"Swap" is the story of Sheldon Marsh, his wife Eleanor, his friend Tom, and Tom's wife Lucy. Sheldon who is half-Jewish and hearing impaired was raised solely by his mother. Now, he and his mother own a bar together in Youngstown, Ohio. Sheldon's mother is a major movie trivia buff and relates everything that happens in their lives back to some movie or another.

As a child Sheldon had a collection of baseball cards, saving the less desirable ones to put in the spokes of his bike tires. His love of baseball followed him into adulthood where he played in the Major Leagues for a while before being bumped back down to the Minors.

The inspiration for Moffie's novel was the true wife-swapping incident between two former New York Yankee players, Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson, in the 1970s. In the fictional "Swap," Sheldon is unhappy with his wife and feels that he would be much happier if he traded Eleanor for his friend Tom's wife Lucy.

The book consists of four chapters, each devoted to one of the four major characters. Every character is very well-developed and by the end of the book you will know everything (and I do mean everything!) about each and every one of them. At the very end of the book, Moffie has pages of "updates" for each character and tells the story of where they are today. I really enjoyed this part as I am a person who loves those types of updates at the end of movies, particularly those movies based on true stories.

Although the title of the book is "Swap," the book really doesn't go into the details of the actual exchange. Instead it focuses on each character's life before the actual swap takes place. For instance, the chapter detailing Lucy's story ends with, "It wasn't too difficult to get Lucy to agree to the swap." It would have been interesting to delve a little deeper into everyday life after the exchange occurred throughout the actual novel rather than solely in the Epilogue at the end.

The main focuses in the book are baseball, sex, and movie trivia so if you enjoy reading about any of these topics then this book may be of interest to you. However, "Swap" is also full of crude humor and language and not for those easily offended. If you are a fan of Howard Stern, Jerry Springer and the like, you will most likely enjoy this book.

Eleven Roses
Alexander Hernandez
iUniverse, Inc
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln NE 68512
9780595452019, $14.95, 800-288-4677,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"Eleven Roses" begins with the main character, thirty-seven-year-old Michael Alvarez, sitting in a bar in Key West. Even though it was only noon, Michael had already been drinking for over three hours. His friend, bartender Marco Antonio, could not help but to call him out on it, telling him that he was wasting his life away. Michael was a former successful attorney who had left his law practice to pursue a writing career but, since retiring, was spending more time downing drinks than picking up a pen.

The book alternates between the present day and periods throughout the past thirteen years, as Michael relives that time-period with Marco Antonio over a bottle of scotch in the bar's office. Michael's story begins right after he finished his first year of law school. To celebrate the beginning of three months of freedom before the fall semester started up again, Michael decided to have a night out on the town in South Beach. His friend Jessie was a bartender at one of the hottest Ocean Drive clubs and got him on the guest list. Once inside Michael saw one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, standing next to the dance floor. He asked Jessie about her but Jessie told him not to waste his time. Her name was Alexis and not only was she married but she was married to one of the wealthiest men in Miami. Michael, however, chose to ignore his warning and proceeded to walk over and introduce himself. Even though Alexis' husband could destroy Michael's future career with a single phone call, Michael put that thought on the back burner and chose to pursue her. The rest of the novel explores the relationship in depth.

The author, Alexander Hernandez, is an attorney who grew up in South Florida. Therefore, both the field of law and the setting in which the book takes place are very familiar to him. This definitely is apparent in his writing as he skillfully intertwines his knowledge of these areas into the sensual affair between Alexis and Michael. The characters are also very well developed and you will have a clear sense of exactly who they are by the time the book is finished.

While the beginning of the book moves along at a good pace, I found that there were some parts in the middle that were a little slow moving. However, once you get through those areas there are plenty of surprises at the end awaiting you. If you enjoy steamy love stories then I recommend giving Hernandez's debut novel "Eleven Roses" a try.

Journey to Enlightenment
Ross Bishop
Blue Lotus Press
201 Jefferson Dr., Palmyra, VA 22963-2325
9780966982220, $22.95

Reviewed by Irene Watson for RebeccasReads

Ross Bishop is a natural shaman that writes from the heart and his truth. He says "No matter how you slice it, it's about compassion. Certainly about compassion for others, but mostly it is about compassion for yourself." He couldn't be much closer to the truth. Bishop explains in "Journey to Enlightenment" being compassionate toward oneself, letting go of limiting beliefs, acceptance of challenges in life and steps on what to do about them. According to Bishop, understanding why we created the beliefs and challenges is the first step to enlightenment.

However, as Bishop explains, this is not an easy task. He quotes Carl Jung "He who looks outside, dreams. He who looks inside, awakens." Dreaming is easy but wakening is often a task we consider as being difficult. Bishop talks about awakening and why we struggle against it. According to Bishop, our inner child is usually damaged due to parental dysfunctional behaviors as well as disharmony within the environment - home and outside influences. Changing our pictures and rewriting the scripts, combined with resolution is the first step to awakening. Bishop contends we "came to Earth to resolve" the issues.

Bishop further challenges us, when we are worried, upset, or have "problems" we "take a deep breath and recognize that this is not occurring as punishment, or because you are unworthy, or that you are messed-up. It is happening because you need to learn to open your heart." He feels this is an opportunity that presented itself to us to learn how to open up our heart. However, we can choose to take it as an opportunity or we can wallow in our issues and feel sorry for ourselves, usually getting nowhere but deeper in our "stuff" and further away from enlighten.

Bishop explains that according to traditional concepts blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint issues, or cancer are systemic illnesses. According to non-traditional healers these are just "natural progressions from unhealed psychic or emotional disturbances." This is where Bishop comes is, as a healer in non-traditional means. "Journey to Enlightenment" not only explains why we have challenges but he gives the process of awakening through a "journey" of an ancient shamanic healing process (in a Western concept.) But, he doesn't just leave you there; he explains how to deal with issues that manifested during the process and move past the obstacle stage to awakening and enlightenment.

I give Ross Bishop's book, "Journey to Enlightenment" a resounding YES! Being a student of the enlightenment process myself, I've read many books and attended many workshops. I've even facilitated workshops and retreats myself. From my personal experience, I must say this is one of the most concise, yet simple books I have come across. Bishop writes with extraordinary precision, giving the reader the opportunity to look at their own beliefs and interferences in a gentle way while bringing an end result of compassion to oneself and enlightenment.

N.S. Koenings
Back Bay Books
c/o Hatchette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316001861, $13.99

Reviewed by LuAnn Morgan for RebeccasReads

N.S. Koenings offers a variety of styles in this collection of short stories, with each one having a slightly different theme.

The first story, "Pearls to Swine," is about a woman who looks back on what she considers to be a huge mistake she made. Celeste is proud of her home and wishes to invite people to visit. Her husband Gustave, however, prefers a more solitary lifestyle. She decides to invite two teen-age girls to stay at their home for the summer. One of the girls is from a "privileged" background -- in fact, she is Celeste's goddaughter -- and the other is from a home for troubled girls.

Of course, the girls become fast friends and exclude Celeste from their relationship, causing her to feel lonelier than before they came to stay. She begins spying on them and finds out more than she wants to know.

The author demonstrates the prudishness often found even today among those who feel they are better off than others, not only monetarily but morally, as well.

In "Wondrous Strange," Koenings introduces us to a group of would-be psychics. They meet every Thursday night and dabble in seances and channeling. When one of the newest members is possessed by an African spirit, it sends the group's leader into a tizzy and she accuses her of faking it. The other members believe her, though, and they set out to do what the spirit tells them to.

Demonstrating how powerful friendship can be, Koenings paints a wonderful picture of loyalty and love with this story. Watching these ladies band together to help one another reinforces the ideas of devotion and caring.

"Theft," the title story of the book, is about a young woman who demonstrates her independence by setting off on a trip alone. She has been enjoying herself more than she ever imagined when the bus she is riding on is robbed during the night. While the passengers slept, all their luggage was stolen. The ticket boy (or tout) helps her find a place to stay and his story runs parallel to hers throughout the tale.

This story shows the reader that there a theft does not always involve material goods. Our innocence can be stolen, as well.

The fourth tale is titled "Sisters for Shama". The reader meets a man who was banished to the basement of the house where he lives. An invalid accused of improper motives toward the boy of the house, he must spend his days confined to bed. His only entertainment and companionship is when Shama comes down to bring his meals and talk. They become friends, in his eyes, and he looks forward more and more to her visits.

He begins to tell her stories, leaving off in places that will entice her to return soon to hear what will happen next. It's a story of jealousy, abandonment and dysfunctional relationships.

Finally, love is tested in "Setting Up Shop" when Zulfa gives Masoud an ultimatum. He already has three wives and wants her for a fourth. The difference this time is that he is 100 percent in love with her.

Zulfa, on the other hand, doesn't really want to marry. She has dreams of traveling … by herself. She wants to visit faraway lands and see the world, especially the United States.
Tired of Masoud's persistent attempts, she tells him she will only marry if he gives up his other wives and his children.

Her plan backfires when he agrees to her terms.

This is truly a tale of "be careful what you ask for." Well-written and fun to read, the reader will find it difficult to decide who to sympathize with. Koenings has truly demonstrated her grasp of writing with this collection of stories. I truly enjoyed reading about all these characters and liked each of the tales for different reasons.

This writer also leaves the reader to draw his or her own conclusions as the stories never quite have a definitive ending. I found myself imagining what happened next to each of the characters. I will be sure to recommend "Theft" to my friends as I'm sure they will enjoy it, as well.

Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace
Catherine Johnson
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln NE 68512
9780595706822, $26.95, 800-288-4677,

Reviewed by Melissa LaMunyon for RebeccasReads

In "Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace," Catherine Johnson writes about the affluent Pierson family living in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area in the mid-1990s. The Pierson's have built a real-estate empire which is now run by their three grown children. The family appears to be healthy, loving, active and well-respected within their community.

Tragedy struck the Pierson family, however, when the youngest son, Paul, loses his wife to ovarian cancer. A dark period for the entire family, Paul seemed to lose himself in his grief and despair. A year later, when Paul falls in love with and marries Pamela Schaeffer, the whole family believes that the darkness is behind them. Despite a few troubling incidents, the Pierson's are determined to put aside any doubts about Pamela's sincerity and love for Paul and welcome her to the family with open arms.

Narrated in first person by Kay, the Pierson's only daughter, "Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace" chronicles the family's journey as they realize that Pamela Schaeffer is not who she seems to be. Rather than representing healing and a fresh start for Paul, Pamela slowly reveals herself to be a calculating gold-digger who becomes intent on destroying the entire Pierson family.

Written for adult fans of drama and suspense, Johnson is successful in creating a sense of horror as the reader watches the Pierson family, despite their innate goodness and considerable wealth and power, be torn apart by the malicious intent of one woman. Woven throughout the novel is a chilling story of how the governmental systems of power, which are put in place to protect people, are used to torment and abuse those who have done nothing wrong.

As compelling as the storyline is, Johnson's writing is choppy and leaves much to be desired. I also thought that the dialogue was stiff and unbelievable. It was as though I was reading a script, as opposed to hearing the characters speak in my head. I felt as though I was watching the story unfold from behind a soundproof window. While there was obviously something very interesting happening behind the glass, I found myself only mildly curious; because, as much as I wanted too, I couldn't emotionally engage with the characters.

I believed that the character development was extremely uneven. In the beginning, Kay, the narrator, comes across as a frumpy, meek pastor's wife, determined to turn the other cheek and forgive Pamela's outrageous behavior. It was confusing when through the book, Kay is smoking, cursing, angry and Pamela's biggest critic.

Johnson tries to portray Paul, Pamela's husband and main victim, as the tragic, put upon hero, but it was difficult to feel any sympathy for him. I know that I was supposed to feel sorry for him, because his first wife died, but I have to admit that it was a challenge. As Paul fails to stand up to Pamela's growing manipulation, and gives in her greed time and time again, often at his family's cost, he starts to seem pathetic. Yes, Pamela is revealed to be a monster - but it was hard at times to not think that Paul asked for these problems.

I would recommend that Johnson go through "Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace
" and completely re-write the dialogue and descriptive scenes. I thought that the dialogue was stiff and unnatural. Also, far too often the reader is told what the characters are feeling, rather using action to show what is happening.

All that being said, however, I had a difficult time putting down "Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace." It was an engrossing read, major flaws aside, and I thought the ending was perfect; satisfying and thought-provoking. I am looking forward to Johnson's next novel, which I might even consider buying on a slow, summer afternoon.

Fragments of a Forgotten People
Henry Fast
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781931741866, $15.95,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"Fragments of a Forgotten People" is an incredible memoir written by Henry Fast about his and his mother Rena's experiences during World War II. Henry and Rena Fast lived in an apartment in Bochnia, Poland. After two army officers boarding with them told them that the enemy was nearing and that they should gather their belongings and go, they packed what they could and set out on a journey far longer and more painful than they ever expected. Their original intention was to travel to Rena's brother's house in Brzesko anticipating that he would take them in. Upon arriving in Brzesko they were received rather coldly by his brother's family who was also planning on evacuating. Henry's Uncle Roman was leaving to report for duty and his Aunt Dora and cousin Zenek were going to flee East with family friends. You would think that family would be more than willing to assist each other in times like these but that was not the case. They were incredibly rude to Rena and Henry, took advantage of them, and refused to let them ride in the wagon or share their food. The way that they treated them was terribly cruel and finally they abandoned them altogether.

Things did not get much better for Henry and Rena as they moved from place to place, severely lacking nourishment and proper clothing. They tried to stay with another brother of Rena's and received the same unwelcoming reception as they had with Henry's other uncle. It is horrifying the way that these people acted toward one another during these events. Although there were some people that helped each other out, they were few and far between. After all of the running, like the fate of many during this time period, they were arrested and the deportation process began.

"Fragments of a Forgotten People" is a very well-written story chronicling a family's hardships during that terrible period of war. Watching Henry and his mother struggle to survive with little assistance from other family members is heartbreaking. I was shocked at the things that were done to them by their own family! The photographs and the maps in the center of the book are very helpful in fully grasping the story that Henry has to tell. I think that anyone with any inkling of interest in memoirs or history will be intrigued by this book. "Fragments of a Forgotten People" is very eye-opening and is a book that you better not start reading unless you have the time to finish it because it is not possible to put it down!

Dump that Chump!
Dr. Debra Mandel
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061213304, $13.95

Reviewed by Sylvia Del Toro for RebeccasReads

The author's main point in "Dump that Chump!: From Doormat to Diva in Only Nine Steps - a Guide to Getting Over Mr. Wrong " is to get women to realize their self-worth and to get them to let go of losers. This book is to help women build their self-esteem and figure out that they don't need a man as much as they want one. They must realize the difference and not subject themselves to abusive relationships and value a good relationship.

"Dump that Chump!" is a catchy title. It grabbed my attention and was looking forward to reading it. From the outer package, I made an assumption that it was going to be entertaining and possibly helpful.

In my opinion, "Dump that Chump!" was anything but…..helpful. I felt that the author was rambling and filled up pages with many of words before the point was made. It was drawn out and unclear more times than not. I believe the author was trying to be witty and entertaining on a serious topic, but it was dry, sarcastic toned and hard to stay focused on the main point.

I could take bits and pieces of "Dump that Chump!" and apply it in my place and say that I have dated some chumps in my day. I can even understand how women can get stuck in unhealthy relationships, but it takes more than a few steps to put it behind you or break away from it. If anyone wants to give advice on the topic, it should either be serious with strategies or entertaining pointing out the "errors of the man's way" or ours for that matter in a constructive manner.

Quip City
Howard Baldwin
Robert D. Reed Publishers
PO Box 1992, Brandon, OR 97411
9781931741347, $11.95,

Reviewed by Sylvia Del Toro for RebeccasReads

"Quip City: Incisive Quotes & Intriguing Quirks about America and its Cities" was entertaining and fun to read. It gave a lot of ideas that and insights to many parts of our country. I was amazed at all the little details.

It gave me a sense of knowing the country in a whole different way. Reading "Quip City" makes me want to travel and visit all the "quirky" sights.

Giving My Heart: Love in a Military Family
Lisa H. Farber-Silk
Modern History Press
5154 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690446, $15.95

Reviewed by Sylvia Del Toro for RebeccasReads

Having been part of military life in my married years I can relate to many of the inferences that are made, as well as the heart-wrenching losses that the family endures during challenging times.

Military life is hard enough without having to endure the painful loss of your partner. I don't necessarily mean physically, like death, but emotionally. Death may be better to some people because of the emotional stress that PTSD causes. PTSD, if not handled properly and professionally, will escalate to a whole new level.

My ex-husband was in the military and part of the whole Desert Storm thing. It was difficult for him to readjust to normal life after what he saw and had to do. He did two short tours; the second tour was harder than the first. He had many sleepless nights and times of emotional outbursts and anger. He never talked about it and eventually broke up our marriage.

I have had a few family members, a couple of acquaintances, and a couple of friends that died in Iraq and a couple that came back. It is not the same for them and they, too, have had a hard time adjusting. However now, we know more about PTSD and how we can work with them.

The author is very descriptive and touches the heart of the reader in "Giving My Heart." She brings the book to life and you almost feel as if you are there living it through her eyes.

Sleuth Slayer
Jeffrey B. Burton & Bruce W. Burton
Pocol Press
6023 Pocol Drive, Clifton VA 20124-1333
9781929763320, $17.95,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"Diminutive, Yoda-faced P. Jax Thornton III sat on my sagging couch, nursed the tepid root beer I'd poured him, from what was maybe a halfway rinsed coffee mug with a busted handle that'd been turning into a Petri dish in my sink." It is 2:30 am and mystery writer Guy Davitt is awakened by a visit from fellow writer Jax who has concerns about the recent deaths of two other mystery authors. A month ago, Angus MacDougall was found dead with the cause of death determined to be alcohol poisoning. Just the day prior to Jax's visit, Alexandra Case was found dead due to smoke inhalation. Jax believes that these deaths are more than just a random coincidence.

Although at the time Guy had dismissed Jax's suspicions, he soon found himself placing more value in his friend's beliefs. Shortly after their talk Jax was the victim of a fatal car crash on a twisting canyon road. Therefore, yet another mystery author was dead. After Guy pays his respects to the Thornton family, Jax's father tells him that he is welcome to clean out Jax's writing area and take whatever he wants. Guy uses this as an opportunity to see if he can find any evidence confirming Jax's suspicions that there is a mystery-writer serial-killer out there.

To see what others think about the recent chain of events, Guy posts the information that he has in a mystery writers' chat room. In the numerous responses to his post, he receives a rather unusual comment from someone he does not know with the user name of "Scythe." "Scythe's" coded, chilling comment infers that Guy is going to be one of the next victims. Soon after, another writer, Frances Whiting, shows up on Guy's doorstep claiming that she too had almost been a murder victim as she was attacked on her yacht, but had escaped. Together they work to determine who is behind the serial slayings and to try to unravel the mystery.

As you can see in the quote at the beginning of my review, Burton and Burton are very talented at writing descriptive passages. Whether I wanted to or not, I could vividly picture what was growing inside of that coffee mug. This skillful writing combined with a strong plot will have you turning the pages in anticipation of what is coming next. There are many twists and turns throughout the book and just when you think you have it all figured out you will be proven wrong.

"Sleuth Slayer" is a fast-paced novel from start to finish with no dull moments in between. The writing is suspenseful and the characters are memorable. I think that any fan of the mystery genre will truly enjoy this book. I would love to see this novel become the beginning of a series and I look forward to reading more from the authors in the future.

Case Study: A Taylor Case Mystery
C. R. Cardin
Evolution Press
Perceptive Marketing, 13202 Dogwood Blossom Trail, Houston, TX 77065
9780979741265, $23.95

Reviewed by Elizabeth E. Gibson-Evans for RebeccasReads

"Case Study: A Taylor Case Mystery" is one of the best mysteries I have read in a very long time. I say this because the author writes this book in a manner that makes you feel as if you are right there in the story; your mind takes you into what the author describes excellently to bring them into the action. It is like being right there watching the story transpire before you as if watching a movie.

This mystery takes place in the South. The main character is Dr. Taylor Case, PhD, who is a Professor at Georgetown University. You find him teaching about chemistry, science and crime -- forensics. Then you find yourself as if in a "Laura Croft - Tomb Raider" movie as your mind starts reeling the images and actions described in the book.

Now drawn into the story of disappearances is child pornography (though not graphically distasteful). You are intrigued by the mystery of what happened, by whom and now a mysterious secret-agent-like "Laura Croft," with her wit, capabilities and secret arsenal, takes you on a ride you cannot stop nor desire to until you have all the answers.

I am one reader who will be looking forward to books written by C. R. Cardin. The story, descriptions of everything from a cloud to characters are right on the mark, keeping you enthralled and unable to put the book down. Wonderful writing, exceptional story, characters and action, would make a wonderful TV/Movie series. I hope that the Taylor Case mysteries continue.

I recommend "Case Study: A Taylor Case Mystery" to all mystery lovers, nonfiction or fiction, and, most certainly, anyone seeking excitement while they read that is almost taking place before them.

God Is A Salesman: Learn from the Master (FaithWords)
Mark Stevens
Center Street
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781599956909, $18.99,

Reviewed by Elizabeth E. Gibson-Evans for RebeccasReads

"God Is a Salesman" is written by Mark Stevens, best-selling author and CEO of the marketing firm MSCO, and one of the most famous marketers in the world. His company's website,, takes you into a fascinating commercial of God as The Master Salesman, though not in a negative way as one may think of a salesman in today's world, but in a unique direction as he combines the "commercial with the spiritual to show and teach you how to achieve great success and a new dimension in life."

I cannot say anything better than what you will learn from this book; if applied in your life it will teach you how to be more positive and will be beneficial. I would have never thought of God in the way of a Salesman, however now I can see and understand a whole new way of thinking about Him and life. An extraordinary lesson in this book, well-written, understandable, filled with many experiences of the author that helps you to apply a real-life view and wonderful lesson in your own life. This presents an absolutely great lesson and new view on belief and faith in God--a true blessing to learn from "God is A Salesman" and the true experiences of Mark Stevens. Thank you, Mr. Stevens for a new outlook and lesson in a God-filled life.

Honey B. aka Mary B. Morrison
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446582285, $19.99

Reviewed by Sylvia Del Toro for RebeccasReads

The main point of view I believe the author was trying to make was that one never knows what kind of life one is leading, despite what the outward appearance may be.

Wow! The characters were so out there. I never expected the outcomes of each character. Each character struggled with their individual demons. Sex was definitely an issue no matter how "great" they thought they were. They were insecure and felt that the only way that they could control their partner was through sex. Even then they couldn't.

I believe we all can understand and even apply parts of it in our own personal lives -- not to the whole degree, but to use sex as part of control. How many times have we said to our partners, "I have a headache," or "You got to be kidding!," or "If you do this, I'll give you some!" Those are all control; sex for something in exchange.

In "Sexcapades," the control was applying sex to make them feel better temporarily to disguise the past.

Jesus Brand Spirituality: He Wants His Religion Back
Ken Wilson
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
P.O. Box 50737, Colorado Springs, CO. 80949-0737
9780849920539, $19.99,

Reviewed by Elizabeth E. Gibson-Evans for RebeccasReads

"Jesus Brand Spirituality: He Wants His Religion Back" written by Ken Wilson, Senior Pastor of Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor, Michigan (, with Foreword by Phyllis Tickle. Ken Wilson takes you on a path through Bible-believing faith the way it is meant to be.

He cross-references the ways of today's world, to the world as it was when Jesus walked among men. He takes us through many questions that most, if not all, of us have asked ourselves and others at one time or another. The author has searched biblically for these answers and scripturally notes them for the reader. I especially enjoyed reading Jesus' pilgrimage among us teaching, showing, touching lives to be all that God the Father desired for us.

Ken Wilson walks us through "Jesus Brand Spirituality: He Wants His Religion Back," from the very beginning, detailing and explaining the different types or kinds of religions. He covers how and why they started, and who its particular followers and leaders were, timeframes, causes and how and if they have progressed to now.

At the end of each chapter, Mr. Wilson adds a "For Reflection" area with questions to ponder and learn from. These can also be used to teach or instruct others trying to discover their journey to God and His gift of eternity. His words are chosen to understand and inspire learning and discovery as well as to keep your interest peaked and alive throughout the book.

He guides you through the book to what is and how to get back to the movement of Jesus spirituality as it should be. "Jesus Brand Spirituality: He Wants His Religion Back" is excellently-written, provocative and compelling. I highly recommend this book to one and all who seek The Truth.

Nonprofit Nonsense & Common Sense
Marshall McNott
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon OR. 97411
9781931741996, $14.95,

Reviewed by Elizabeth E. Gibson-Evans for RebeccasReads

"Nonprofit Nonsense & Common Sense," written by Marshall McNott, who spent nearly 40 years as the Director of several nonprofit organizations, uses his knowledge and experience to enlighten and open up the world of Nonprofit Organizations from the inside out.

He not only explains what nonprofit is all about, he teaches you differences in what creates and drives them, as well as about funding these organizations. He teaches the many kinds of organizations, the reason they start or were started, such as what the organization desired and expected to accomplish.

Included is a foreword written by Dave Clark, Anchorman KCAL/KCBS-TV, CBS Studio City Broadcast Center in CA, in which Mr. Clark tells a bit about Marshall McNott's start in nonprofit, which surprisingly with all his knowledge shared in this work, you find he started his career as a musician. Then, by a divine calling, he surged into nonprofit with a drive and flare. He explains through "Nonprofit Nonsense & Common Sense" how to begin and establish a nonprofit organization, the reasons and goals to begin one, along with funding and fund-raising ideas.

He discusses methods of organization, achieving the goals and stabilizing them. He is enlightening on CEOs/the board, how they get along and work together, as well as reasons for giving, why and how. I believe my favorite phrase in this book says a lot -- "Helping another by enabling that person to become self-sufficient - through a gift or loan, or help in gaining a skill or finding employment." It is in the beginning, though throughout my reading, I personally could not shake that thought and learned a lot regarding nonprofit organizations.

I appreciate the author's candidness and easy transition to keep you interested and wanting to learn more. He gets right to his point in a manner you remember. "Nonprofit Nonsense & Common Sense" is highly recommended to anyone beginning or already involved in nonprofit, very useful tool.

Executive Privilege: A Novel
Phillip Margolin
Harper Books
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061236211, $ 25.95,

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan for RebeccasReads

Remember the chartbuster movie "Absolute Power," starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman, wherein a burglar, Clint, witnesses the President of United States, Hackman, commit murder? The movie was based on a novel written by a lawyer novelist David Baldacci. More than a decade after the publication of the book, another lawyer novelist has decided to explore the same realm, albeit in a different style-- Phillip Margolin with his 2008 novel "Executive Privilege."

The novel (and I am sure a screen version is bound to follow) starts slowly with a young lawyer, Brad Miller, chugging it out in his law firm at Oregon. He is assigned the appeal case of a serial killer, Clarence Little, awaiting judgment on the charges of killing, among others, the daughter of the private secretary to the Governor. A routine pro-bono case turns into a shocker when Little drops a little hint that the Governor might have had something to do with the murder. The said Governor is now the President of United States, Christopher Farrington. Miles away at Washington D.C., Private Detective Dana Cutler, is on an assignment trailing a young girl, Charlotte Wash. Cutler gets the shock of her life when she finds Walsh having a midnight rendezvous with the President, and within hours of the same Walsh is brutally murdered. There is a killer on the prowl, and he is none other than the President of United States. Circumstances force Cutler and Miller to join hands and what follows is breathtaking suspense that culminates in a finish, that subtly put is a shocker.

The 13th work is often considered unlucky, but Margolin need fear nothing. "Executive Privilege" is a bombshell and come June, the author can rest assured that he has another bestseller in his hands. Margolin, is more famous for his lawyer Amanda Jaffe series of novels including "Wild Justice," "Ties That Bind," etc., recently lost his Amanda Jaffe in real life -- his wife of 38 years, Doreen Margolin. "Executive Privilege" is a dedicated to her memory-- and one thing I can say, Doreen sure is goanna be proud of "Executive Privilege."

"Executive Privilege" is one great book; I just can't wait to see the movie hit the screen.

Slip of the Knife: A Novel (Paddy Meehan Book #3)
Denise Mina
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9780316015585, $24.99

Reviewed by Melissa LaMunyon for RebeccasReads

As a journalist, Paddy Meehan had accompanied the police many times throughout her career on their "death trips," when they tell the family of a recent murder victim the news. So, when Paddy hears the knock on the door of her recently-purchased flat, she knows that someone close to her is dead.

Her first thoughts are that it's her five-year-old son, Pete, who is visiting his dad, or her sister, Mary Anne, who is a nun at a nearby convent. When she discovers that the victim is Terry Hewitt, an old friend, colleague and lover with whom she had a falling out with six-months ago, Paddy can't figure out why the police came to tell her the news.

The puzzles increase when Paddy finds out that Terry was executed and the police are whispering rumors of an IRA hit. Terry seems to have wanted Paddy involved, however, because, despite their falling out, he leaves Paddy his belongings, including a house and a box of notes; notes that Paddy presumes hold the details of a story that Terry was following and that perhaps lead to his death.

While Paddy becomes embroiled in a new mystery, an old mystery is about to be released from prison. Callum Ogilvy was jailed at age 10 for the death of a toddler nine years ago. Forced to murder the child, Callum is a sought-after news story in Scotland; and Paddy is trying to help keep Callum away from the press. Both mysteries, new and old, collide in away that threaten the people Paddy loves most.

"Slip of the Knife" is the third book in Denise Mina's acclaimed crime thriller series. If you are a new reader to the series, like I was, I would strongly recommend starting with the first Paddy Meehan book, "Field of Blood."

Considering, however, that I was jumping blindly into the third book of a five-book crime series, I really enjoyed "Slip of the Knife." Despite being incredibly confused as Mina drew heavily on convoluted plot lines established in the first two books, the sheer brazen fabulousness that is Paddy Meehan drew me headlong into the story.

Paddy is a strong, independent woman who does what she wants, and considering that she lives in Scotland, is very unusual. Paddy has established a successful career as a journalist in a culture that frowns on things like career-oriented women and children being born out of wedlock. I loved the scene where Paddy tells her son's teacher that she isn't married and the teacher starts to frown, while fingering her gold crucifix.

The same way I could relate to Paddy's mother issues as personified by a container of split pea soup; I felt the growing horror and fear right along with Paddy as she discovers that Terry's death might lead to her son being hurt. Mina writes a smooth, sharply funny story woven around Paddy's courage and love for her family. "Slip of the Knife" is a tightly written crime thriller that fans of the series are sure to enjoy.

The Joy of Selling
Steve Chandler
Robert D. Reed Publishers
750 La Playa Streets, Suite 647, San Francisco, CA 94121
9781931741262, $11.95,

Reviewed by Gina Holland for RebeccasReads

Oh the joys of selling. How many of us wish that we could be great at selling? Some of us are good and some of us are just really, really bad. In my opinion, selling is nothing more than a sort of art. It's like trying to win someone's attention and then keeping that attention. It's like forming a scenario for that person and then seeing what they like most about it. Selling is like appealing to someone's nature and then keeping them interested for a long time to come.

In his book, "The Joy of Selling: Breakthrough Ideas That Lead to Success in Sales," Steve Chandler teaches us the best ways to become a great salesperson. He brings to life the best ways for us to attract customers, hook them and to keep them happy. He also will show you ways you can lose customers as well. He shows you how to have high expectations for yourself and how that will work for you. There are so many ways that a salesperson can go about selling. Getting started is the hardest part, but once you reach that place where you feel comfortable, then it gets a whole lot easier. The main thing to remember is that selling and buying inspires the world. In this book, Steve Chandler appeals to the adult group, and maybe the younger generation just starting out in life, if selling is what they decide to do.

In today's world, selling is very important. It brings more money to places, sometimes power as well. Some folks think that in the selling world, it takes a few phone calls, and maybe one or two visits to prospective customers, to get and keep those customers. But in the real world, you must spend time and energy on customers if you hope to succeed in peaking their interest in your products and pricing. For example, a person with plenty of enthusiasm, versus someone who is not so enthusiastic, will sell more and keep more customers in the long run. After you get established with regular customers, Steve shows us how to troubleshoot and help them if they have questions about your products or prices. Our main goal is to come to an agreement in order to make the customers come back to you again and again. If there is someone else out there who can offer a customer more for a better price, you better believe that customer will move onto some other company. You need to keep communications open at all times with your customers. Find out what makes them happy and what doesn't. Then work with them however you can.

You can make a lot of money in sales. The amount of money you can make depends on how much of yourself you put into the selling. Remember that time is money. So if selling is what you decide to do and you are really great at it, just remember the most important thing is to keep open communication between yourself and customer, talking things over, and never quit. The more time you put into your work, the happier you can make everyone! Anyone who is a salesperson or is thinking about becoming a salesperson should read "The Joy of Selling." It has a lot of wonderful tips and ideas for the perfect seller.

Dolphins Under My Bed
Sandra Clayton
610 East Delano Street, Suite 104, Tucson, AZ 85705
9781587368165, $21.95,

Reviewed by Gina Holland for RebeccasReads

"Dolphins Under My Bed" was just one of those autobiographies that keeps you reading, no matter if you are bored with it or not, because you really want, need, to get to the end to see what happens to the two lovely people in the story. This novel, as it was written by Sandra Clayton, tells us about an awesome journey, troublesome times within the journey, but more than anything, the freedom and peace that was found at the finish of the journey. Sandra Clayton starts from the beginning; from the time she and David, her husband, discuss taking this long journey on a nice big boat, to warmer climates, so that their health may improve. David has lots of allergies and the thought is that if they journey to warmer waters and better climate that his health will improve. David suggests to Sandra that they give up their home and everything they know, to retire to a life of sailing. At first Sandra is questioning David's suggestion and wondering if they could ever do it. She hates sailing or so she thinks she does.

As we travel along with the Clayton's they let us in on the places that they see, the people that they meet. Some of the places are beautiful and some are just sort of plain and just there. But they seem to enjoy every stop that they make. They meet people of different cultures. We learn of the different foods that they find in the various supermarkets along the way. Surprisingly, there rarely come across any mean spirited people. Sandra is a little bit fluent in some of the languages; therefore, she does her best to communicate. Keeping the boat equipped and cleaned is something that Sandra and David get used too; at first it is a real tough time for them. But as the story goes on, you see that they get accustomed to everything that needs to be done to put their sailboat in port and to keep the boat running. I really adore and admire these two people for the accomplishments that they make during their sailing journey.

I think that "Dolphins Under My Bed" would be great for any age readers. I think that it shows us, that when we set our minds to do something, it can be done. Some things can make us better if we see it through and that's what the Clayton's teach us. I was somewhat disappointed with the title of the story. There was only one mention of what Sandra thought was dolphins under the boat. Turns out the singing she heard and the calls were whales. They did mention that dolphins and whales were moving about together, which was sort of rare they said. I was looking forward to hearing about more ocean animals as they went on their journey, but nothing was ever mentioned again about their run-in with any other ocean creatures. I was really hoping that there would be more talk of dolphins, as I have loved them all my life. The story itself was great and I wish the Claytons all the luck in the world. Maybe Sandra can write us another book about what happened when they got to the end of their journey. Or maybe when they got their, it was really the beginning of the journey of the rest of their lives.

Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister's Memoir
Heather Summerhayes Cariou
McArthur & Company Publishing
322 King St. West, Suite 402, Toronto, ON M5V 1J2
9781552786789, $16.95,

Reviewed by LuAnn Morgan for RebeccasReads

Pam Summerhayes was four-years-old when she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF). She had health problems since shortly after birth, but in the 1950s testing was ambiguous and it wasn't the norm to suspect a devastating illness in one so young. The focus was more on polio than CF.

With diagnosis came attempts at survival, even though that was rare. Many children died by the time they reached age ten or eleven. In Pam's case, the doctors told her parents not to hold any hope. She would survive perhaps a few months.

Yet, Pam had a will to not let her disease get the best of her. Determination showed itself right away, even in her honesty with strangers. "I have sixtyfive roses," she told people.
She fought strongly and bravely, living until just past her twenty-sixth birthday. As she struggled for her final breaths, she told her older sister Heather to write their story. The result is the book "Sixtyfive Roses," a memoir of a life growing up in a family facing the eventual loss of not only their daughter, but a son as well (Pam's younger brother Jeff was also diagnosed with CF).

Heather Summerhayes Cariou did indeed write their story. She tells the reader what they dealt with on a daily basis as they struggled to keep Pam alive, how her parents founded the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the brave face they put on for those outside the family.

She also tells about the deep love she shared with Pam, the fun they had growing up together and the pain she felt watching CF ravage her little sister.

Heather tells her story with an honesty and brutality that is rarely found in a book of this type. And she goes beyond the love to the hatred she often felt toward her parents, and even Pam, as she fought for a place in a family that was typically too busy dealing with the disease itself to notice she also needed attention.

I particularly appreciated Heather's candid approach to a subject that is often difficult for many to express in words. She doesn't pull any punches as she tells about how each individual in the family dealt with CF. "Sixtyfive Roses" is a book that should be read by anyone facing a similar situation. It would be especially important for families faced with the eventual loss of a child, not only for what to expect, but to understand how it affects their other children.

This book would also be an excellent read for the sibling who is struggling to find his or her place in a world where support from the parents is often rare because they are so busy dealing with the sick child in the family. In that type of situation, it's often encouraging just to know "you're not alone" in your feelings, doubts and fears.

I rarely find a book I can describe as one of the best I've read. "Sixtyfive Roses" is one of those books. It's more about life and survival than it is about death and I would recommend this book to anyone who asks for a suggestion on what they should read.
It's an absolutely marvelous read.

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
Joshilyn Jackson
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446579650, $23.99

Reviewed By Gina Holland for RebeccasReads

"The Girl Who Stopped Swimming"--ghosts are about in this fantastic novel by Joshilyn Jackson. She simply captivates her reading audience and keeps them dangling until the very end. The story begins when Laurel Gray Hawthorne, married to a wonderful man, and with a beautiful daughter, hasn't seen a ghost since they moved to their new home in Chapel Circle thirteen-years ago. Before the move, Laurel was bothered by images of her dead Uncle Marty night after night, but not sure exactly what he wanted from her or what the image meant. Laurel married at the age of nineteen, to David Hawthorne, a very quiet but loving husband. David was dedicated to his work and spent a lot of time doing just that. They have a daughter named Shelby and all were very happy with their lives. You will also be introduced to Laurel's sister, Thalia, who is a bit on the wild side and totally different from Laurel. As the story moves on, Laurel awakes one night by a ghost, but this time it wasn't Uncle Marty. It is the ghost of a small child, Shelby's friend Molly. Molly shows Laurel the way to where she is lying face down in the family swimming pool. Laurel and David try to revive her but it's too late. As Laurel makes her way downstairs to help Molly, this begins the unraveling of truths and lies. Molly is dead, drowned, but who killed her? And why? Shelby also has a friend over, named Bet, who is from Laurel's hometown, and what most people would call a half-wit. Does Bet know more than she is telling? Do Shelby and Bet know what really happened to Molly?

When you read this novel you will find all the answers to the questions. This was one of the hottest novels I have read in a long while. The story is both interesting and mind-boggling. Laurel comes across so many things that she has to deal with because of the one night she finds her daughter's friend dead. The author brings you back to Laurel's hometown throughout the story so that you can see where Laurel comes from and how she has overcome her past and her family's secrets. You get a peek into Laurel's childhood and just what happened to Uncle Marty. She brings to light how Laurel and her sister make amends in order to figure out just what has happened to Molly. Also, in the story, Laurel begins having doubts about her husband David, which is something that she has never worried about before. This comes upon Thalia's insistence that David is no good for Laurel. Will Laurel get help, or more hurt from her sister? Who has done such a horrible thing as harm a child? I recommend buying "The Girl Who Stopped Swimming" and reading it because it is a very wonderful story and I hope that there may also in the future be a continuing story in the life of the Hawthorne's. I would definitely buy it.

The Story That Must Be Told: True Tales of Transformation
Edited by Irene Watson and Victor R. Volkman
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690385, $18.95,

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for RebeccasReads

Try to imagine a round table with 19 chairs circling it. In these chairs sits a colorful menagerie of people from various faith traditions, with assorted backgrounds, having distinctive problem-solving tactics. Now picture yourself listening to each person tell their story of grief, fear, woe or worry, one after the other, and how they coped with these grievous circumstances. You will begin to notice a common theme: trouble comes in many shapes and sizes, and people struggle, more or less successfully, to become the champion over their problems. This is the value of the small paperback "The Story That Must Be Told: True Tales of Transformation," edited by Irene Watson and Victor R. Volkman.

In this short piece Watson and Volkman have pulled together 21 short stories written by the 19 people who lived them. Each narrative will strike the reader in different ways, because the authors approach their target from diverse angles. Some writers address their unique problem from the angle of faith, shamanism, yoga, or other religious experiences, while others through revelatory moments in counseling, a stroke, or a happenstance meeting with a car salesman. A few of the accounts deal with death, grief and disability. Several expound the tale of their previous addictions. Certain writers rehearse their involvement in crime and the socially/emotionally disintegrating consequences. But the theme is the same: people have troubles, whether self-inflicted, other-caused, or disease-based, and they have dealt with those troubles, more or less effectively.

Besides the occasional editorial oversight, "The Story That Must Be Told: True Tales of Transformation" is nicely put together, with the stories grouped under 10 headings. There are some real jewels in these personal recountings, and the reader will find herself surrounded by real-life people, living through real-life situations and succeeding. I would imagine that counselors, pastors, prison chaplains and others in the helping professions would be able to use some of these stories to great advantage with those who come to them for help.

Things I Know Now That I Wish I'd Known Then
George Newman
Robert D. Reed Publishers
PO Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781931741668, $11.95,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"Things I Know Now That I Wish I'd Known Then: 150 Tips for Living Smarter" is filled with practical advice to help you live a better life. In the Author's Note at the beginning of the book Newman informs the readers that this book is a compilation of lessons learned from his own personal mistakes. He is sharing the knowledge that he has acquired throughout the years in hopes of steering others down the correct paths.

The book is divided into nine different sections: Dollars and Sense, Traveling Smart, Relationships, Life Skills, Your Health, Business, Time Savers, Buying Houses and Investments, and People Skills. Within each section there are multitudes of tips with one to two pages explaining each tip in detail.

A lot of Newman's advice will help you stretch your hard-earned dollar. He recommends that when you are purchasing big ticket items to ask for a cash discount. Instead of buying a new car every three years he proposes buying one every ten years and just maintaining your existing one well. Rather than taking your banking business to a large nationwide bank, shop around and you will find that a lot of the smaller banks will have lower fees.

Other tips are included to save you time. If you have an option, instead of traveling during peak rush hour times, travel during off times. Instead of leaving a voice mail message for someone to call you back just leave a message saying what you would have said if the person would have been available to answer the phone.

Some of the advice I found to be obnoxious. One tip in particular that I didn't care for was how to obtain those "Hard-To-Get Appointments." In this section Newman gives advice on what to do if you have to wait months to get a doctor's appointment. He says to take whatever appointment you are offered no matter how far out it is and then ask that your name be placed on the waiting list to be called if there are any earlier cancellations. This advice is fine but then he proceeds to tell readers that you should then continue to call the doctor's office once a day to check if there are any openings. He says that you will "have a good chance of getting someone's cancelled appointment, if for no other reason than the office staff realizes they won't have to answer your daily calls any more." In my opinion, that is just being annoying and a waste of the receptionist's time causing delays for everyone else.

"Things I Know Now That I Wish I'd Known Then: 150 Tips for Living Smarter" would be ideal for someone who is struggling financially or someone who feels the need for more practicality, sensibility or common sense in their lives. The advice is basic and presented in a very easy-to-read format. While I found a lot of the tips given to be advice that most practical people would already know, I definitely could think of a lot of people who would benefit from this book!

The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success
Frank J. Eberhart
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln NE 68512
9780595411986, $18.95, 1-800-288-4677,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success: Nine Essential Steps for Planning, Budgeting and Investing" is a compact 137-page book that is overflowing with financial information. In Eberhart's introduction he tells us that in today's world investors need as much help as they can get and I readily agree. To anyone who has ever been stressed by all of the options available when making a financial decision this book is for you!

In the opening pages, Eberhart assures us that no matter where we are in life it isn't too late to start our planning. This is good news to me since there are some items that I have been putting off doing mostly because I was unsure of how to go about doing them. The book is composed of "Nine Essential Steps for Planning, Budgeting, and Investing" and covers common financial decisions that most everyone will be making sometime during their life. I found that many of the areas that I was confused about were included and most of the questions that I had were answered in this guide.

In meticulous detail, Eberhart explores topics such as estate planning, budgeting, life insurance, investments, mutual funds, and bonds. Each section explains your options to you and defines commonly-used terms relating to that financial area. For instance, in the "Trust, Wills, Probate, and Executor Duties" section, the details of what an executor actually does are outlined for us. I had known of the term 'executor' before but I guess I never had realized the number of things that this individual is truly responsible for. It is quite a list! Also, in this same chapter different types of trusts like "grantor-retained income trusts," "fixed annuity trusts," and "a revocable and amendable living trust" are thoroughly explained in a clear manner in order to allow us to make the decision as to which is the proper route to take for our own individual needs.

Many of the sections contain workbook sheets for you to fill in your own personal information. For instance, there is a "Budget Worksheet" to help you detail out your monthly and yearly expenses and see how they compare to your income. There is also a "Retirement Budget" section to assist you to planning for what expenses you will have after you are no longer employed.

Once you finish reading "The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success" you will have a very good understanding of common financial terms and options so that you are able to make educated decisions for your financial future. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by the plethora of confusing terms out there in the financial world. This book would make a wonderful addition to any home reference library. I know that I will be turning to it when I stop procrastinating and get around to making some of the decisions that I have put on the backburner.

Even if you have a financial advisor it is important for you to understand terminology and options available to you. Even though you would like to think the advisor has your best interests in mind they still are in the business of sales and the extra knowledge you will gain from reading "The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success" will go along way in assisting you in making the right decision.

Crisis Intervention Training for Disaster Workers: An Introduction
George W. Doherty, MS, LPC
Rocky Mountain DMH Institute Press
c/o Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor MI 48105
9781932690422, $29.95,

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for RebeccasReads

Awareness of how crises affect various people-groups, thinking through the important role disaster workers play in re-establishing normalcy in people's shaken lives, and planning immediate and long-term approaches to help traumatized people recapture mental equilibrium are vital aspects of a crisis intervention program. George W. Doherty paves the way in his book, "Crisis Intervention Training for Disaster Workers: An Introduction." This intense course manual is ideal for aiding Mental Health professionals, as well other specialized and helping communities, to establish a workable, multi-modal, well-informed crisis intervention program.

The bulk of "Crisis Intervention Training for Disaster Workers" is informing the participant on defining crisis and its effects on people (chapters 1 and 2); how various cultural groups deal with crisis (chapters 3-6); and two devastating forms of disaster (chapter 10 and 11). In these chapters Doherty pulls in loads of research to assist the reader's grasp of the variegated aspects of calamity, along with the multifaceted responses people have. These eight chapters give significant assistance to disaster responders on what to look for and the reactions they can expect. One of the groups the author spends a large portion of time describing is children and how various forms of catastrophe affect them.

The middle section of this course manual (chapter 7-9) describes the layered approaches needed for the psychological first aid necessary to help in a crisis, along with the long-term aid Mental Health workers might need to apply to hurting, distressed people. In chapter 7 Doherty lists reasonable and sensible suggestions for establishing and training a Crisis Intervention Team and setting out the intervention strategies they will more than likely need to use. Chapter 8 puts forth helpful proposals for identifying and dealing with stress for both the responder and the crisis victims. There is also a strengths/weaknesses type of analysis of Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) in this chapter. Finally, there is a discussion in chapter 9 on resiliency and recovery, and the benefit of long-term crisis counseling for some victims.

At the end of the book the author has added a mass of references and resources the reader or course taker will find valuable. There is a section listing websites with more information and material. There is an appendix with disaster scenarios for participants to work through, as well as a suggested Disaster Victim's Needs Assessment. Finally, because this manual is part of a 15 contact hour CEU course, there is a course test and instructions on how to obtain the proper certificate.

"Crisis Intervention Training for Disaster Workers: An Introduction" is just what the title says it is. This is a beneficial and informative tool to raise awareness and plan levelheaded crisis intervention.

James Patterson & Howard Roughan
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316018708, $27.99

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan for RebeccasReads

James Patterson is an institution by himself. I mean this, both literally and figuratively. With at least one fresh Patterson title coming in print every third month, it's now an open secret that James Patterson does not always write these novels. But as the author himself pointed out in an interview, he just gives the idea for the stories; the words are put in by his writer/collaborators. Thus, James Patterson is no longer an author; he is a brand name.

With that said, did I enjoy the book? Did I find "Sail" as engrossing and enthralling as previous James Patterson titles? And, the answer is yes--I absolutely, fantabulously loved and enjoyed "Sail."

The third outing of Patterson and Roughan, who previously collaborated with "Honeymoon" and "You've Been Warned," has all the sizzles and chills usually associated with a Patterson thriller. The Dunne family is on the brink of breakup. Three years after her husband died, Katherine Dunne finds herself in a mess. True, she has achieved stupendous success as a surgeon, but on the home front it's disaster to the core. With a suicidal teenage daughter and a pot-addict son, Katherine is on the verge of a nervous breakdown; and the only saving grace is her younger son Ernie. The only thing Katherine can think of to bring her dysfunctional family back together is a trip in their luxury yacht, The Family Dunne. They are joined by Katherine's brother-in- law Jake, and together the four set sail across the Caribbean. But disaster strikes from day one, and it's not a natural disaster. Someone out there is all set to kill Katherine and her children. The initial few attempts fail due to the rugged and fighting spirit of Jake. But when the whole family is shipwrecked following an explosion, Katherine finds herself knowing more about her children. And finally, in the midst of disaster, the family is back to normal.

But who is behind the blast? Who wants Kathy and the children dead? Is it lawyer Peter Carlyle, the second husband of Katherine, who will inherit everything if something nasty happened to the kids and his wife….or is there something more than what meets the eye? What follows is suspense at its Pattersonish best and one that would keep the fans of this institution quite happy.

Nothing more, nothing less-- what we always demand and get from Patterson. "Sail" is recommended for James Patterson fans, and all lovers of suspense mysteries. And I just can't wait to get my hands on the July Patterson novel, "Dangerous Days of Daniel X."

Turtle Dolphin Dreams
Marian K. Volkman
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690101, $13.95,

Reviewed by Gina Holland for RebeccasReads

"Turtle Dolphin Dreams" is a small book of wonder. The story begins with a turtle telling us a tale. The tale includes turtles, humans and dolphins. As the story goes on, we learn how much turtles, humans and dolphins are alike. We learn about dream states of dolphins and humans and how close they both are. We learn about how different breeding is for turtles compared to humans and dolphins. Turtles lay their eggs, and then move along. The eggs hatch and the baby turtles are on their own, no one to watch over them. No one is there to guide them. They need to have strong survivor instincts right from the beginning.

We then learn that dolphins and humans breed alike, carry babies alike, and have babies alike. After the humans and dolphin babies are born, we stick to our babies like glue, we protect and keep them, and we have to teach them how to survive, unlike the turtle that has eggs and abandon them. We learn different types of communications between humans, dolphins and turtles. Somehow I think that the author was trying to say that humans and dolphins had more communication then turtles do with us.

Turtles are alike with humans and dolphins by being able to breathe in the water and out the water. Dolphins can do the same. Humans can breathe in the water with tanks of oxygen, but breathe normally outside the water to live. Dolphins and humans like to play games. Sometimes that's how they communicate. Dolphins are very intelligent creatures. On some levels, people have studied dolphins and believe that dolphins speak in their own language, as do humans.

This book was very fascinating to read, it was very enjoyable. I think the author had some very good opinions and facts in this very pleasant book. I would recommend "Turtle Dolphin Dreams" to children of all ages and adults as well. I would like to see a book number two in this title. I commend the author for a writing job well done. The book was very easy-to-understand. I give this book thumbs up in my mind.

Yoga for Computer Users
Sandy Blaine
Rodmell Press
2147 Blake St, Berkley CA 94704-2715
9781930485198, $14.95,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"The human body evolved to hunt and gather, to run and jump and climb, to play hard and rest fully - not to sit in front of a computer all day. Evolution has not kept up with the rapid changes of the technological age; we are simply not equipped to deal with all the requirements of modern life." (p. 15) Sitting at a computer for a prolonged period of time can wreak havoc on your body. Not only can it affect your back, neck, and shoulders but it can also be the cause of tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome among other things. In order to counteract the negative effects that heavy computer use can have on your body it is important to develop some sort of regular fitness regimen.

Throughout "Yoga for Computer Users: Healthy Necks, Shoulders, Wrists, and Hands in the Postmodern Age," Sandy Blaine provides us with a variety of yoga poses along with detailed explanations and photographs showing how to perform them correctly. There are poses in the book that can be performed right at your computer desk at work and there are others that are for when you are away from your computer. Under each exercise's name is a list of what body areas this particular stretch will help to work. To receive the highest level of benefits Blaine advises us to take "at least two focused, 10-to-20 minute yoga breaks during the course of a full workday." (p. 25)

Being an avid computer user, this book was definitely geared toward me. Even though I had always wanted to, I had never tried yoga in the past. I found that the instructions and photographs that Blaine provided were very adequate in helping me to achieve the desired positions. There were some exercises that I could not fully do because my body just didn't stretch that way; but I am hoping in the future, with more practice, that I will be able to master them. With the short amount of time that I have been practicing the poses in "Yoga for Computer Users," I have noticed the benefits already, particularly in my neck and shoulders. I think this book would be beneficial to anyone who spends a lot of time on a computer or at a desk.

Narrow Lives
Tyler R. Tichelaar
Marquette Fiction
1202 Pine Street, Marquette MI 49855
9780979179037, $20.95,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"Narrow Lives" is a stand-alone novel that consists of a collection of short stories which are all linked together. However, as an added bonus if you are familiar with the author's "Marquette Trilogy," several of the characters in this newest novel will be familiar to you. For those that haven't read any of the "Marquette Trilogy" books, like myself, there is a handy list at the beginning of the book naming all of the main characters with a brief description of exactly who they are. I found this reference list to be extremely useful and found myself referring to it quite often so that I could keep all of the characters straight. Without this character outline I would have been very confused as there are so many different people involved in the story.

Each chapter in the book is set in a different time period in the 20th century and is told from a different person's perspective. The main linking factor among all of the people in the book is that their lives were affected by Lysander Blackmore in some way. Lysander Blackmore is a wealthy banker who takes advantage of people and isn't exactly the most faithful person to his wife. It is interesting to see the effects that his character and his indiscretions have on everyone.

Tichelaar does an excellent job of developing interesting, memorable characters and an even better job at tying them all together with a common thread. This is the first of his books that I have read, but reading this book definitely made me interested in going back and reading his trilogy to find out more about these diverse characters.

The novel is set in the U.P. of Michigan and, as a former resident of Northern Wisconsin I was familiar with the towns mentioned in the book which made it all the more interesting. I think that anyone from the U.P. or the surrounding areas would really enjoy this book. Tichelaar himself is a resident of Marquette so he is definitely familiar with the area that he writes of and it shows. Full of drama, "Narrow Lives" is a great work of historical fiction and I look forward to reading more from Tichelaar in the future!

Launch Out Into The Deep!
Acacia L. Slaton
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781597817042, $13.99,

Reviewed by Gina Holland for RebeccasReads

We all get a little lost in ourselves at times. We doubt God, Jesus and everything that is related to religion. Some people actually get so busy and caught up in their lives that they actually forget about God, Jesus and the Bible. Acacia L. Slaton has written this book, I think, in hopes of getting us to remember what we have learned about God. I believe she is trying to get us to remember that God is there, no matter what we think or believe. She is trying to make us understand that sometimes, it is God who puts us through trials and tribulations and he does it for a good reason. She has some very good Bible quotes in her book. A lot of us have many tragedies that take our thoughts so far away from the Bible, that it causes us to question God and his love for us. Some ask, "How can God do this to me?" Acacia also tries to remind us of how the devil is also in our lives and is tricking us almost every moment that we breathe. She teaches us that we need to be strong and steer totally away from the devil at all times. God is not the one, who wants us to suffer. God is not purposely hurting us or making us follow the wrong path.

A lot of Acacia's quotes from the Bible are pretty much consistent with what she is speaking about at the time. She speaks about Christians questioning their salvation and belief in the Almighty God. Throughout the book, it seems as though Acacia is bringing to light, some of the things that happened in her life. Her stories were wonderful and sad. I am glad that she shared them with us. I can relate to some of them.

Aaron L. Slaton writes the poems in the story. He is the brother of Acacia. His poems are good at times, but then at other times, I didn't truly understand what his poem meant. I am a poem writer myself and for the most part, Aaron did very well. His poems added some light to the story. I think it was a great addition to the novel.

I really enjoyed reading "Launch Out Into The Deep!" This was truly a wonderful story of courage, well-being, kindness, mistakes, and feelings about God. Acacia brought to life some of the trials that we all go through at times, and she showed us a way to get through them, with the help of God's love. Jesus died for us. He went through pain for us. That helps us see that we should not to turn our backs on God at times when we are weak. Jesus might have been weak, but to me, he was a strong man, and he loved us enough to die for us. Acacia really gets us thinking that we need to sit down, take a time out, and remember what God and Jesus has done for us. When we get caught up in society's bad times, we need to turn to God and let him take care of us, the way that he did his only son. Whether it be decisions on life, love, sex, or anything that truly matters to us, we should know that God is watching and we should never lose faith. Knowing that God is there is a breath of relief for many of us. The saying of "Let Go and Let God" truly helps.

Shades of Gray
Jessica James
Patriot Press
427 North Magnolia Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801
9780979600005, $27.99,

Reviewed by Robin Witte for RebeccasReads

Jessica James' "Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia" is a sweet and romantic tale about a young woman, Andrea, who works as a Union spy during the Civil War. The reader sees her start out as a scout dispatching messages across enemy lines and watches as she progresses to more dangerous duties. Andrea meets the handsome Captain Hunter, a Confederate Officer, and saves his life from drowning as she tries to outwit him. The reader watches as her life becomes more and more tangled with this dashing officer's life. Andrea is a bit impetuous and has a temper, too; what ensues is tale that follows Andrea as she gets into scrapes and more serious problems and works her way out of them by sheer willpower.

There are a few problems with this book that make it hard to recommend. No reader picks up a historical romance and expects to find a completely plausible story line; that being said, this plot has some twists that are so forced that it is hard for the reader to get engrossed in the story and it does not seem to jump from the page and draw the reader in. The writing style is on the juvenile side with very little descriptive elements and conversations comprised of one-line banter between characters.

The plot moves along quickly at some points and drags at other points as the reader watches Andrea meet a Union officer in one chapter, falls in love with him in the next, and watches him die a few chapters later. Given this quick pace of action, the novel is long at over 500 pages. It is written as if it should be an epic, but falls short of the mark.

While "Shades of Gray" is a pleasant piece with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested, its superficial and jumpy plot will cause the reader to forget it existence in a week's time. Andrea's immature beginning to foreseeable transformation along the length of this work makes her hard to relate to, or even care about too much about, because we have seen it all before. I don't mean to be too harsh, but my only regret is that I took the time to read all 524 pages of this book when I think a more concise version would have done a better job.

The Trouble With Paris
Mark Sayers
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780849919992, $14.99,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"The Trouble With Paris: Following Jesus in a World of Plastic Promises" shows us how popular culture is working against young adults and hindering their quest for true faith. The author, Mark Sayers, is the director of a ministry that focuses on young adult discipleship. He is pastor of a church in Melbourne, Australia and a coveted speaker "in the areas of Generation Y, pop culture and mission."

Sayers' teachings are divided into three different parts: Hyperreality, Reality, and God's Reality. Hyperreality is a souped-up version of reality but we still perceive it as being completely real. One example given to explain this concept is a magazine photo shoot. The model goes in and is made up by the hair, makeup and wardrobe people. The lighting is adjusted to her benefit as well. Then, any imperfections that may have snuck past are edited or airbrushed out. However, we, as readers of that magazine perceive the photo that we see as real and strive to look as "perfect" as the model does. In reality we probably wouldn't even recognize her if we saw her in public because the photo is so altered by the time that we see it.

In the second part of the book, Sayers explores the reality of how hyperreality makes us unhappy. He also looks at how it hinders our faith. "On the surface we claim adherence to Christ. We may worship in church on Sunday, but deep down we know our allegiance and hope lie elsewhere."

Finally the book wraps up with direction as to how to see Jesus in a new light and not in the light of hyperreality. In this last section, Sayers presents us with the "Six Keys to Living Well within God's Reality."

The target audience is defined by the book as being between the ages of 19 and 35. I am in the higher end of the intended group and found that I could relate to quite a bit of what the author was saying. The book is well written and filled with a lot of examples that give you a clear vision of the points that he is trying to get across. The writing does seem a little redundant in some areas, but by reading the same points over and over again, it does serve to get the message across.

"The Trouble With Paris: Following Jesus in a World of Plastic Promises" and the accompanying DVD study guide would be a great tool to use for young adult church groups or for any young individual who wants to grow spiritually. The DVD study guide consists of four different modules interjected throughout with numerous study questions. It is a great resource to use alongside the book in order to gain a full understanding of what the author is teaching.

Dethroning Jesus
Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780785226154, $21.99,

Reviewed by Robin Witte for RebeccasReads

"Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture's Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ" is an in-depth evaluation of Jesus as viewed in Christianity and Jesusanity. Bock and Wallace describe each of these viewpoints in a lengthy introduction that lays the groundwork for the reader to follow the debates set forth later in the book. Christianity is described as the belief in Jesus as the "anointed one" and messiah found in the Bible, a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Jesusanity, however, is described as the belief that Jesus, while being a teacher and spiritual leader, was solely human and not divine. The background information and scholarship of Jesusanity is detailed and gives the reader a decent framework to evaluate and understand each claim. Six claims are discussed in this book and range from the validity of the gospels to the new revelations in recently found gospels to the claim that Jesus was not physically resurrected. Each claim is clearly laid forth with the evidence and writings written about each claim described with the writers' arguments against the claims. Each claim is concluded with Bock and Wallace's educated opinion.

The reader can form their own opinions for themselves based on the evidence suggested. Bock and Wallace are proponents of the Christian view of Jesus and this is a good book to read if you want to learn more about Christianity as opposed to a more liberal view of the Bible. "Dethroning Jesus" is not an easy read and does require the reader to have a thorough knowledge of the Bible and early Christianity. Bock and Wallace refer to many works of theology and Christian criticism that are not completely relayed to the reader of this book. If you want to know what they are referring to, you need to purchase a few more books.

"Dethroning Christ" is clearly written by men in academia and might be a bit complex for many people to understand. Without having read "The Gospel of Thomas," I have to admit that I was a bit confused as I read their debate into whether it was an authentic and valuable description of Jesus. That being said, this book is well-researched and clearly shows many points of views into Jesus. The reader will come away from this book knowing a lot more about how varying groups view this man who is always at the center of so much controversy.

Copper Fire
Suzanne Woods Fisher
Vintage Romance Publishing
P.O. Box 1165, Ladson, SC 29456-1165
9780981559209, $14.99,

Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

"Copper Fire" begins in July of 1945 in the town of Copper Springs, Arizona. Louisa, a former Resistance worker from Germany, has settled in to her new life as the wife of Reverend Robert Gordon. Also living in their household is William, Robert's deaf son with his former wife Ruth, and Aunt Martha, Robert's aunt. Any sense of a quiet family life is disrupted when a telegram is delivered for Louisa informing her that her niece Elisabeth has just been let go from Dachau, one of the worst of Hitler's labor camps. Louisa makes the decision to travel to Germany and bring the girl back to the US to live with them.

In the back of her mind she wonders how the International Red Cross Tracing Service was able to track her down to Copper Springs. When Louisa arrived in the US she had changed her name to hide her identity. Her question was soon answered when she arrived at the Red Cross facility in Munich to pick up her niece and saw Karl Schneider standing before her. He was the one who had recognized Elisabeth and tracked down Louisa. Even though she had come close to marrying him, Karl was the one person in the world that she felt that she could never forgive as he had betrayed her in one of the worst ways you could imagine. Karl asked for forgiveness but Louisa would not freely offer it. Instead she asked Karl to track down Friedrich Mueller, a man who had betrayed her family and the whole town of Copper Springs. With this she left Germany and took Elisabeth back to the US with the difficult task of trying to assimilate her into a safe, post-war life, all while expecting a baby of her own.

"Copper Fire" is the sequel to Suzanne Woods Fisher's first novel "Copper Star." While I have not had the privilege of reading the first book in the series, this second novel read very much like a stand-alone novel. There was enough information divulged at the beginning of, and throughout the book, that I had a clear sense of the chain of events that led everyone to where they are now.

Throughout "Copper Fire" I really got to know and understand the characters as they are very well-developed. From Elisabeth and her "organizing" to William and his spying, each character has such unique traits and personalities. I don't think that there was one major player that I did not feel that I completely "knew" by the time the novel was finished.

The storyline was very engaging and I found the novel to be hard to put down. I read the entire book from start to finish in one day because I could not wait to find out what was going to happen next. Fisher is a very talented historical writer and is really able to draw the reader in and keep them transfixed until the last page is turned. Whether you have read the first novel in the Copper Star series or not, I believe that any fan of historical fiction will enjoy "Copper Fire." I look forward to reading more books by Fisher in the future.

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

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