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The Great Right Hope: Book 1 of the Sid Tillsley Chronicles
9781905091423, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Amy J Ramsey, Reviewer
Rating: 5 Stars
For the past two hundred eighty four years, the Vampire and Human Coalition has existed due to Michael Vitrago's ruling with an iron fist, to assure the survival of his kind, the Lamia Vampire race, among humans. Both the coalitions work together making sure that all vampires follow certain procedures like having sanctioned killings and feedings. Of course, what are having rules without those who wish to break them?
Gunnar is tired of suppressing his true nature and having to obey what he believes to be stupid meaningless rules of the Lamia Consilium. His desire to have some fun by massacring humans is overwhelming, so he teams up with his long time comrade, Gabriel, whose barbaric deeds even surpass Gunnar's thirst for blood, and they set out to begin their rebellious spree of terror.
Sid Tillsley is an extremely obese, naive and often slow-minded individual. His normal day consists of consuming an ungodly amount of alcohol at the Miners' Arm's Pub with his motley crew, chain smoking foreign cigars obtained by illegally working odd side jobs and fearing that his benefits will be taken away. However, the world as he knows it is about to change. When Sid encounters the malicious vampire duo, who he believes to be " them-lot," Sid's homophobic reaction is either to shut down mentally or fight, in this case, when he swung his well-known and legendary right hook, something extraordinary happened.
Sid and his friends enter the Vampire world by his unique ability to kill the undead and a prophecy meant for him to fulfill. Will Sid be able to come to terms with his destiny as a slayer? On the other hand, will his fears of losing his benefits, the woman he claims to love and a revengeful vampire send him over the edge, literally?
The Great Right Hope is one of the best vampire stories I have read since Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This amazing tale captures the contrasting qualities of what it would be like as the total opposite, mentally and physically, of an ideal vampire slayer. The Great Right Hope was keenly devised with wittiness and excitement in a way that the reader can appreciatively observe the pleasure that Mark Jackman has displayed while creating his awe-inspiring world. Kudos to Mark Jackman for inventing an out-of-the-ordinary vampire tale and offering diversity within the realm of familiarity. I have already recommended The Great Right Hope to several of my friends, and now I want to recommend this book to all those who are stuck in the rut of the same old vamp groove and want to expand their boundaries.
The Alexander Cipher
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446404709, $7.99, www.amazon.com
The main character of this work is Alexander the Great and the impact he has had and continues to have on the world at large. However, THE ALEXANDER CIPHER by Will Adams spawns a cast of characters that challenges the imagination.
Daniel Knox, well know and respected Egyptologist resigned his position as an archeologists and finds himself making a living as a scuba diving instructor. When he attempts to rescue a young woman who is being raped by one of the most powerful men in the country, Knox finds himself fleeing for his life.
Knox's travels bring him to Alexandria and the site of an excavation to uncover an ancient catacomb. Secretly, Knox explores the site himself and suspects it may actually be the final resting place of Alexander the Great. He is not alone in his discovery and it at this point, the story really takes off.
Adventure, intrigue, romance and a fair amount of interesting Egyptian history takes the reader on a roller coaster ride to be remembered. Once you start this book, allow ample time to finish it. You will not want to stop reading.
Adams proves to be a capable researcher who has taken the historical parts of this work seriously. If you are a historian at heart, you will find this book enjoyable reading. If you like adventure stories, this is your book. If you just want to lose yourself in a book for a few hours, leave now for your local bookstore.
Will Adams lives in Essex, England and after a varied career writing corporate histories and working in the communication field, he now spends full-time writing fiction.
A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears
William J. Bennett
Thomas Nelson Publishers
Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595551696, 24.99, www.amazon.com
A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears, by William J. Bennett, is a textbook version of a political magazine. It is a commentary which takes the reader from 1998 - 2008. William J. Bennett writes a balanced account of history which has the reader scratching his/her head thinking about the events he/she may have lived through. The key word here is 'thinking'. This is why I think the book is extraordinary.
Bennett describes ten years of political events that jog the reader's memory. He writes with his well established conservative view. He wants his readers to be informed about facts leading up to an historical event, and he gives us the background information and tells us why things occurred the way they did. He gives his opinions and reasons for his own actions at the time. The reader is left with knowledge to ponder and food for thought to keep or form new opinions.
Living in the moment of history is one thing, however, going back in time and reading facts about how and why an event happened is another. Bennett brings awareness to his readers and we may experience a new enlightenment that brings closure to our personal political confusion.
As a former American History teacher, I highly recommend this book to middle and high school students, as well as readers of all ages.
Publish This Book
Source Books, Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, Suite 139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402229350, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Del Price Boland
While searching the Internet for publishers, I recently stumbled upon an interesting book promotion by SourceBooks in Naperville, Illinois. Their promotion is for a book entitled, "Publish This Book" by Stephen Markley. They are offering a free critique for up to 5000 words of a manuscript when you purchase the book. I thought it would be worth the $10 (after the 35% discount) to purchase the book which appeared to address a topic of interest for me while meeting the promotional requirements allowing me to submit a portion of my manuscript for a fiction novel. So, I bought the book and obtained the required proof of purchase.
I looked at the cover art for Markley's book and I chuckled as it shows a young man holding what appears to be a broken piece of sheetrock with the title of the book, "PUBLISH THIS BOOK", along with the pitch line, "THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUE STORY OF HOW I WROTE, SOLD, AND PUBLISHED THIS VERY BOOK". The young man has torn pieces of paper taped to his jeans with footnotes. His face is obscured by an adequately sized red label with "A Premature Memoir" written on it. I can appreciate good cover design, so I was immediately intrigued enough to give it a few minutes of my time. After all, I paid for the book so I thought I might as well give it a chance.
I began reading this interesting concept book with every intention of putting it down as soon as I reached a point of waning interest. It didn't happen. I found the book interesting, irreverently funny and candid.
Actually, this book is multidimensional. It has many elements that may be difficult to describe without tarnishing the pure entertainment value. So, I will begin with the entertainment value. I believe this book is extraordinarily funny. Markley opens up his life in a way that would frighten the most daring among writers. He unabashedly offers his ego and id as window characters while describing the most private and objectionable details of his prurient mind. He is either dangerously self assured or he is completely nuts. Either way, I think he provides an insight that most of his contemporaries will enjoy. Yes, there is gross humor, but there is also a serious aspect to this guy that makes it very real.
At times, this book is an adult-coming-of-age love story. It is about friends who care about each other. At other times, it is a narrative on the issues confronting writers. Markley offers his personal experience with writing and promoting his book. It is a dose of reality. It provides a play by play of an aspiring writer struggling to gain a foothold in an uncertain environment that is publishing today.
On a sociopolitical level, this book represents a significant voice among Markley's generation. He describes the thoughts and reactions of his inner circle as they witness the presidential campaign of 2008.
If that isn't enough to satisfy your literary palates, there is a truly complex aspect of this memoir. It is a concept. He is writing the book about writing the book. It is ambitious and I believe Markley pulls it off with aplomb. This concept provides many opportunities for comic effect which he astutely recognizes and exploits. His penchant for using footnotes (as referenced on the cover) adds to the humor.
I will say that Stephen Markley is a great writer. Perhaps he sells himself a little short on experience as I found his days at his school newspaper to be enriching. While I did not have the good fortune to write for my school newspaper, I got a nice perspective from his accounts.
Markley uses every opportunity to promote himself in this story. However, in all fairness, that is what the story is about. While some may consider Markley a bit self absorbed, I think it is clever.
In summary, the book should resonate among writers and people who enjoy high concept literature. It is ambitious and entertaining.
Letters to a Black Boy
Farrah J. Jean
I purchased this book at Miami Dade Public Library's Annual Book sale on December 10th, 2009. Initially, I chose it for leisurely reading but I was soon taken by Bob Teague's dexterity with words and his need to inform his son Adam affectionately named "Adam Smasher" of the woes of his time. Teague, a former NBC- TV anchorman, reporter and producer of 25 years discusses and illustrates the social, economical and political inequalities of the middle class African American in the 70s and wishes his son to rise above theses hindrances. He shares in angst, trials and tribulations. He voices also his concern for his son future. He mentions the emergence of a new attitude and social consciousness and attempts empowers his son with the tools to become himself a vehicle for change. He makes a desperate plea to his soon that radiates throughout the book, that of making his own choices and setting his own path in life: "Let no man sell you his battle cry."
This read is suitable for a general audience, mostly young adult (ages 18 and up).
Bob Teague is also the author of "Adam in Blunderland" (1971) and "The Flip Side of Soul: Letters to My Son" (1990)
387 Park Avenue, 12th fl., NY, NY 10016
9781593156015, $19.95, www.amazon.com
Fern Sidman, Reviewer
If anyone was under the erroneous impression that the only segments of the US population that comprise the ranks of the Tea Party activists and the Conservative movement are upscale baby boomers, middle-aged Glenn Beck aficionados or white haired Republicans from affluent suburbs in the Midwest, then we must think again. In his meticulously researched thesis-like exegesis on the rise of Marxist style government expansionism and it's egregious consequences for the future of freedom in America, 14 year-old Jonathan Krohn steps up to the plate and sounds a clarion call to yet a new generation of American Conservatives.
"Defining Conservatism: The Principles That Will Bring Our Country Back" is Mr. Krohn's first book and may very well serve as the gold standard in textbook primers for those wishing to learn about the genesis of our constitutional freedoms, the deleterious ramifications to our liberty that judicial activism represents and how our collective "moral compass" must be preserved at all costs. Mr. Krohn deftly conveys his hypothesis from the perspective of a seasoned logician; promulgating an empirical, highly reasoned and profoundly rational approach to the reality of Conservatism. Unlike other books of this genre, this child prodigy steers clear of psychological manipulation, emotional appeals and ad hominem attacks against those he disagrees with. Rather, he engages in positive didactics, offering a cut and dry examination of natural law, individual rights, state sovereignty, rule of law, personal responsibility, morality, the purpose and value of life, judicial philosophy and activism and limited government as defined from the perch of a strict constructionist.
Citing a plethora of sources including the writings of Aristotle and Plato and more modern political theorists as Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, C.S. Lewis, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Mr. Krohn makes persuasive arguments for prudent constitutional interpretations as he spotlights the stark contrasts between individualism and victimization, the role of the public and private sectors in creating wealth, and the nefarious agenda of universalist government expansionism. Citing several major US Supreme Court cases including the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, Mr. Krohn illustrates the intrusion of the federal government into the scared domain of the principles of federalism and states rights. Calling Roe v Wade, "very shoddy jurisprudence" and informing us of "serious constitutional flaws in the Supreme Court's argument", Mr. Krohn concludes that "the reasoning use to prove the sacred and inherent nature of life must be applied to the debate within the states, and the constitutional argument for natural rights must apply legally in the states just as much as it is applied to the whole of society."
He also takes on social theory and the victim mentality when he points to such Supreme Court cases as Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, when James Dale, a homosexual advocate for "gay rights" challenged the legality of the Boy Scouts' decision to remove him from his position as an assistant scoutmaster. The Court upheld a lower court ruling defending the decision of the Boy Scouts, Says Mr. Krohn: "The victim mentality's use of the due-process clause as a means to embrace a left-wing agenda is a misuse of it" adding that, "the victim does not come for justice, however, but for vengeance against the unaccommodating, the inconvenient, and anyone who stands in his or her own way."
A staunch defender of capitalism and the inherent rights of the individual as the creator of wealth, Mr. Krohn believes that a harmonious relationship between the public and private sectors must be established but also points out that the concept of free trade which distinctly defines capitalism must also be free of dictation by the public sector. He stands in fierce opposition to government "bail-outs" and takeovers of the banking and automotive industries in the fear it will lead to state economic collectivism; based on "the Marxist theory of economics, a stated theory that because government must expand for the "good" of the changing society, so must the economy", he says.
Mr. Krohn's book could not have been released at a more propitious time. Concerning his views on the polarizing universal health care reform bill, which many consider to be the most irresponsible piece of domestic legislation in the history of the United States, Mr. Krohn intones, "instead of admitting that universal health care is government's theft of the private sector's health-care industry, the romanticist brands it as free health care for the uninsured" adding that "the expansionist government appears to be a charity instead of a greedy power grabber in the eyes of the citizenry." He also probes the commerce clause of the constitution and while not specifically stating as such, one can readily conclude that the basis of the new healthcare reform bill is in direct violation of this constitutional protection.
It is not clear whether Mr. Krohn will pursue a career as a constitutional expert or a conservative political theorist and/or pundit, but it is clear that this exceptionally intelligent young man will be a force to be reckoned with as he navigates the multi-faceted trajectories of the universe of American Conservatism. His love for his country serves as his impetus as he states, "I believe that America is truly great. It is the American enshrinement of freedom as a right that has made nations abroad draw themselves into the loving arms of republican government."
The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
Francis S. Collins
The Free Press
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416542742, $15.00, www.amazon.com
Rose Glavas, Reviewer
I have to say that "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief" was an enjoyable read for me… until I read it I hadn't even thought much about a rift between science and religion (I took it for granted that the two could co-exist).
The author, Francis Collins, is the head of the international Human Genome Project and a believer in God: he is also an excellent writer who is easy to understand and enjoyable to read.
To give you an idea of the topics covered in this book, they include (of course) the author's spiritual background and journey, plus a good description of various scientific beliefs. Collins also explores spiritual theories and how they impact on scientific theory (and vice-a-versa). I found this to be excellent reading.
Getting back to the topics… some of them include: Deciphering God's Instruction Book: The Lessons of the Human Genome; Atheism and Agnosticism (When Science Trumps Faith); Creationism (When Faith Trumps Science), and the appendix (which I particularly enjoyed) The Moral Practice of Science and Medicine: Bioethics.
All of these complex topics, plus more, were written about clearly, concisely and intelligently in a way that an everyday person can understand. This is a bit of 'rant' subject for me because I believe that a lot of information is kept out of reach for the everyday person through basically unintelligible language for the masses. So finding a topic as interesting as this written in accessible language is a real find.
I would recommend this book to a person who has any interest at all in spirituality, and/or science. Collins brought up many topics I hadn't even thought of, but enjoyed immensely.
Love in Mid Air
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue New York, NY 10017
9780446540445 $23.99 www.HachetteBookGroup.com
Author Kim Wright has been writing about travel food and wine for more than twenty years and is a two-time recipient of the Lowell Thomas Award for her work. She is the author of Walt Disney World with Kids and her work has appeared in several publications. She currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
A beautifully written debut novel in which the attention to detail is fascinating. In fact this is what makes this novel stand out. You immediately identify with Elyse the moment she meets the stranger in the plane and her life changes forever.
This will ring a bell for many women, do you take the risk is it worth it? Do you actually have a choice?
Back at home Elyse is in a marriage which many of her friends envy but her husband doesn't communicate. She has many friends especially the book club ones. They are reliable friends who meet regularly to discuss, apart from the books, their husbands. What is their reaction to Elyse's attraction for a total stranger and how does it affect them individually?
This is such a perceptive novel with well drawn characters who make a wonderful backdrop to this modern tale - you can't fail to be hooked. You want to know more and to know what happens next and why.
The differences between men and women and all the things they want from life and each other are expressive in this story in a way many women will relate to.
Kim Wright has taken a refreshing, truthful look at modern day marriage. She has conjured up a full on story of love and friendship. Painfully funny and yet heartbreaking at times with a surprising sting in its tail.
I can't wait for Kim to give us another excellent read.
The Handbook for Catholic Moms
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556
159471228X, $15.95, www.amazon.com
This is a lonely time to be a mother. Neighborhoods are empty during the day, playgrounds are occupied with babysitters, and the parking lot after church looks more like a traffic jam than an opportunity for fellowship. Where is a Catholic mom to get solid advice on things like; prayer, fitness, finances, time management, doctor visits, and creating a culture of faith in our homes? We Catholic Moms are confronted with a culture which considers us at best, quaint, and we long for acceptance and a sisterly arm about our shoulders. Lisa Hendey, the woman behind the popular internet gathering spot, Catholic Mom, has given us just that in her book "The Handbook for Catholic Moms".
For more than ten years, Catholic Mom.com has provided Catholic women with a place for friendship and counsel, wit and wisdom. Now she has organized the insights of her talented cadre of seasoned Catholic writers into several important themes to form a book to reach the mom in the trenches of laundry, dishes, teens and potty training with the message that they are not alone. They are part of a blessed sisterhood.
Lisa does not see herself as a Mom-guru, giving advice from on high; she's far too humble for that. Her attitude throughout the book is "I found some great ideas on this subject from a friend, come and see", or "here's how I struggled with this problem". I enjoyed reading about her experiences as a young mother moving to a new parish with a husband working long hours, and the story of her stirring victory over breast cancer.
The Handbook has sound, balanced advice on matters practical as well as spiritual, and the topics are so diverse, that any mom is bound to find a personally relevant section. The two which stood out to me were the nutrition and fitness sections; these are two areas where my husband and doctor have been trying to motivate me. Lisa's upbeat, affirming words have helped me take another look at how I care for my body. She has helped convince me that my health is worth taking time out of my schedule, and that taking care of me is an act of love for my family. Encouragement is her particular gift and she uses it well throughout this book.
Lisa is a natural cheerleader, and when it comes to sharing her faith, her enthusiasm is contagious, yet she doesn't get too theoretical. For example, in her section on prayer, she acknowledges the difficulty most mothers have maintaining an active prayer life and proposes practical solutions;
"The demands of our motherly vocation, couple with an ever-increasing societal "noise" level and the busyness of the schedules we keep, leave our spiritual reserves running on empty. In this chapter, we look at different types of prayer and how busy moms have succeeded in prioritizing prayer in their lives."
Hands-on strategies, heartfelt sharing of triumphs and tragedies, and authentically Catholic advice based on Scripture, the saints, and the Catechism are what make "The Handbook for Catholic Moms" an essential resource, you will consult frequently. As Lisa says, in her section on creativity, "When we take time to tap into our creative abilities, we acknowledge the God who placed them within us, and who crafted us, just so, knowing every aspect of us and loving every hair on our heads"."The Handbook for Catholic Moms" reflects both the creativity of its author and the love of the God who made us.
My Chunk of a Century: Moments that Mattered
Carol Poe Straubinger
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440150678, $16.95, www.amazon.com
Lois Wells Santalo
"My Chunk of a Century: Moments that Mattered" by Carol Poe Straubinger offers the reader a double fascination: history while it's being lived (via letters written to siblings during WWII), and the same history as viewed by the author in her later years. From the Ohio farm of her childhood to the small Southern California ranch operated jointly with her husband, Straubinger describes farming life of the prewar and postwar eras with the engaging detail of an updated The Egg and I. Despite the challenges of wartime shortages, the young couple carry on with enthusiasm. "Our pigs are growing. We start chickens next week...I'm working out a crop rotation scheme. John is having a great time plowing up everything with the tractor." The author ultimately found time to go back to college and become an English teacher even while carrying on with farming chores.
A great example of a woman's story, this book by a distant relative of Edgar Allen Poe offers, through its double time-line, an unusual glimpse of an era with an immediacy not otherwise possible after the passage of years. It's a good read for everyone and an invaluable resource material for historians.
Showdown: Confronting Modern America in the Western Film.
John H. Lenihan
University of Illinois Press
1325 South Oak Street, Champaign, IL 61820-6975
9780252012549, $22.00, www.amazon.com
Maria C. Nissi
John H. Lenihan's Showdown consists of a critical introduction and seven intensive chapters which explore the Western as a reflection of modern American life and social circumstance since World War II. Supplemented by several black and white Western films stills and footnotes, along with an extensive index and bibliography of the more than five hundred films Lenihan viewed for his study, the book, at its publication, was "the most comprehensive study of recent Western films" (Etulain 449).
Lenihan's introduction reads straightforwardly and concisely establishes his goals for the project. His clear statement of purpose, taken from his first paragraph, reads:
In this study I have chosen to analyze the content of one important cultural formula, the western motion
picture, in order to demonstrate its relation to major political, intellectual, and social issues and trends since
World War II and, in turn, to suggest some of the assumptions, concerns, and attitudes of the society that has rendered this genre so popular. (3)
Lenihan goes on to chart America's post-World War II social and political situation as "a
period of acute national self-examination" (5) and the Western's inclusion and reflection of these critical sentiments. Lenihan emphasizes the importance of considering the Western as a genre, as a collective form, rather than the individual film. He admits the Western's impact of society remains immeasurable, since the question encompasses the influences of upbringing, education, and religion. He concludes his introduction by defending the Western, and the film in general, as a medium representative of "the nation's transient mythic baggage," deserving of serious critical attention.
Chapter 2, "The Western Formula," considers the Western as a cultural answer to the struggle of rugged individualism in the face of modernity. Lenihan notes the irony in the technological vehicle of the film spreading and reinforcing mythic images of the West. He also parallels the dawn of the Western with the individualistic sentiment of Teddy Roosevelt's era in the first decade of the 20th century, a section Lenihan would have benefited to extend, given Roosevelt's enormous contribution to the conservation of the West through his National Parks initiatives, from which deeper-running parallels of preservation, both cultural (via film) and geographical (via conservation), can be drawn. Lenihan goes on to delineate classic Western plots, iconography, namely costuming and scenery, the prominence of the gun, and the romanticized "final union of hero and heroine" (13). The classic Western, he argues, aroused nostalgia for the Old West that was just missed and "addressed an audience for whom the frontier was no more" (14). Lenihan interestingly analyzes the Western as eternalizing an idealized historical moment of "socially responsible individualism" (15), yet fails to elaborate on reasons why writers and filmmakers saw this sentiment as fleeting. He notes Shane as representative of the classic Western struggle between the individual and society and goes on to elucidate Hollywood's use of the Western to confront controversial social issues of the time, although some critics view this form of social critique as perverting a classic art form. In the end, Lenihan concludes there is no template for the Western, and no reductive, cookie-cutter definition to fit its varied forms.
Lenihan begins Chapter 3 by charting the Western's chronological mirroring of the United States' political climate, most importantly Indian relations. He explains that the "classic rationale for declaring war on the Indian in western films is that of removing a dangerous obstacle to the expansion of a pioneering, civilized United States" (26) and goes on to cite films that, while sympathetic to the Indian, inevitably end in violence. Interestingly, this sympathetic trend shifted in the early 1950s when North Korea invaded South Korea and films "emphasized the need for a total military commitment against a devious enemy," where North Korea translates to the American Indian. Lenihan employs Rio Grande as a loaded example of Cold War symbolism, citing the very similar speeches of Colonel Kirby Yorke and MacArthur as evidence. Other recurrent Western themes consisted of friendships forging over a common enemy (mirroring desire for national unity against Communism), espionage and conspiracy (mirroring fears of Communist subversion in the United States), and, interestingly, a sub-theme of separating California from the union, which followed investigations of Hollywood by the House Un-American Activities Committee. He goes on to delineate several movies whose plots feature fighting a subversive enemy, within or bordering the United States, with patriotic loyalty, highlighting 1950s Westerns focused "on the dirty aspects of winning the war" (38) as opposed to the pre-WWII films which glowed with heroic patriotism. Lenihan succeeds in illuminating these pervasive themes when he delves into a particular film for more than a couple of sentences, for example the more in-depth sections he attributes to The Command and Walk the Proud Land. However, his brief mention of countless other films detracts from the fluidity and impact of his argument and instead reads like a tiresome laundry list, "failings due.to the cursory hurried text," argues Christopher Sharrett (40). Following McCarthy's public shaming in 1954, films shifted to mirror the nation's sentiment of the uselessness of war and, in the early 1960s, mirrored "the increasing skepticism and disillusionment with the direction of American foreign policy" (46). Subsequently, late 1960s Westerns reflected U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the futility and atrocity of unending war. These sections provide more historical explanation, resulting in more solid contextual moments of connection for the reader. As Sharrett notes, "Once you understand the basic premise of the book it is hardly necessary to go into each exegesis to grasp what the author is doing" (40). However, Lenihan cannot resist the inevitable overload of films, ending the chapter with yet another list, while neglecting a formal conclusion.
Chapter 4, an extensive essay entitled "Racial Attitudes," considers a chronology of racial issues in the United States and their respective reflection in Westerns from approximately 1945 to the early 1970s. Although a few films in the 1940s confronted anti-Semitic and anti-black issues, Lenihan acknowledges Broken Arrow, released in 1950, as significant in both its topic, which "forcefully stated an ideal of racial tolerance and equality," (59) and its coinciding with the country's early serious attention to race relations. Lenihan argues much more successfully here than in previous chapters because of his narrowed focus on Broken Arrow, Apache, and The Broken Lance, the latter two appearing circa Brown v. the Board of Education and commenting on racial oppression in a white-run society. Lenihan, however, again overloads his argument with film name-dropping and detracts the reader with lines like, "Gordon Gow.appropriately discussed Run of the Arrow in a chapter about films like 14 Hours and Man with the Gold Arm, in which maladjusted individuals seek escape from the harsh realities of modern life" (71), while never mentioning 14 Hours or Golden Arm again. Fortunately, the essay crescendos into more interesting analyses of 1960s race relations, complicated by the subordination of women (in Westerns, usually represented by a female kidnapped by an Indian). Most Westerns of the 1960s depicted an oppressive white society that rejected racial progress, which Lenihan nicely supports with evidence from Geronimo. Unfortunately, Lenihan thwarts his own momentum when he seems to arrive at the meat of his argument, that "it was only in the 1960s that Westerns began to relate directly to black characters in the process of providing racial commentary" (84), yet only attributes it a few more pages.
Not until Chapter 5, "Postwar Alienation from the Good Society," does Lenihan find an effective argumentative formula, providing adequate historical context, smooth transitions, and clear and ample plot summaries and analyses. The chapter considers the Western's fixation with "anxiety, alienation, disillusionment, and the search for individual dignity and meaning in a confused and hostile world" (91). Lenihan takes issue with Andrew Bergman's claim that the Western and the New Deal simultaneously gained popularity and reflected national self-assurance and argues instead that films mirrored a subtler social anxiety. Lenihan's more involved historical mapping, for example his section on New Deal politics and empire-building on the frontier (98-100), resonates more powerfully than his less-contextual movie-list sections. His plot delineations of American Empire and The Great Man's Lady resound with meaning following the provided historical context. Lenihan continues to demonstrate the Western's reflection of the political climate, for example the growing democratic sentiment in Red River and veteran disillusionment in Silver River, both of which resonate given Lenihan's historical prefacing. Films of the 1950s progressed into darker psychological subject matter as the alienated Western hero reflected the lonely disenchanted veteran, often employing the Civil War as a backdrop for issues during and after WWII and the Korean War. Glenn Ford, Kirk Douglass, and Gregory Peck shined as the leads in this sub-genre. Lenihan spends nearly three pages on The Gunfighter, an epic length for Showdown, and the disillusioned and ill-fated, though reformed, Ringo. He maps his argument so effectively that one can understand Gunfighter's influence on films that took "a jaundiced view of the quality and standards of the very civilization western heroes were supposed to defend and promote" (113). Though Lenihan lacks a strong conclusion, he does foreshadow his argument in Chapter 6.
The opening paragraphs of Chapter 6 cause momentary deja vu in their reminiscence of those of Chapter 5, particularly sentences like "If one judges from the Westerns produced for a mass audience, the decade of the 1950s appears less complacent than complaining in its popular views" (116). On the second page, the reader recognizes the differences in theses: Westerns reflected the "debilitating implications of a homogenous consumer society" (116) and a lack of spirited and focused leadership from President Eisenhower. Lenihan mentions Broken Arrow again in what reads as another redundant section before he moves into an in-depth segment on High Noon, a film which he convincingly argues conveys its director's (Carl Foreman) intentions in a Western setting: brainwashed compliance to misguided leadership was highly dangerous for the U.S. in the face of Communist threat, an assertion applauded by liberal critics. Lenihan continues in similar treatments of several other films that feature an alienated gunman protecting a town that is not clearly worth defending, tarnished by societal shortcomings, others (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Rio Bravo) which eliminate a social element completely, and still others (Man Alone and Johnny Guitar) which portray the alienated gunman in contrast to the negligent townspeople. Lenihan touches on an array of other social issues of the 1950s: an image-obsessed society (Three Hours to Kill), social-climbing by both men and women (These Thousand Hills and Man in the Saddle), and juvenile delinquency as a result of the depression and broken homes (Jesse James and The True Story of Jesse James).
Lenihan's interpretation of 1950s Westerns as reflections of societal unease proves foundational for his argument in Chapter 7, "Against the Establishment." Westerns of the 1960s "shared a profound disenchantment with the institutions and mainstream values of American society" (149). Kennedy's "new frontier" attitude prompted films like How the West Was Won and The Alamo which reinforced wholesome frontier values. Lenihan dedicates much of the chapter to John Wayne's films that contrasted his individualism with a weak or crooked society under several guises, for example that of rancher v. homesteader in McLintock. However, most films of the sixties focused on the deterioration of individualism and frontier values in the face of modernity, featuring urban landscapes as symbols of the decay, for example in Lonely are the Brave. Lenihan artfully recreates the symbolic opening scene of Lonely in which a jet flies over the protagonist's head, disrupting his peaceful existence. His subsequent description of Hud, however, falls short in an attempt to encompass the movie's plot in one paragraph. Lenihan goes on to chronicle the decade's films as a testament to the cowboy's fading individualism into the early seventies, including Italian director Sergio Leone's films, starring Clint Eastwood, that commented on the "dog-eat-dog world..where material success and sheer survival become the only viable goals for the hero" (169). Lenihan ends the chapter unexpectedly with a section on Western parodies, which satire a frontier that nurture violence and naturally produce heroes who act violently. This proves an interesting anecdotal section, although it arguably detracts from the chapter's central thesis. If Western heroes are logically violent, they are not violent in active reaction to their situation, but passively because of it.
In Showdown, Lenihan takes on a difficult task. His project is a huge one, relaying the knowledge base of more than 500 films into less than 140 pages of text. As Sharrett notes "genre study presents a massive and tiring effort" (40). Although his arguments and plot exposition are largely clear and concise, "thorough and lucid" (Etulain 451), the book at times becomes tedious. The reader must envision film after film in order to comprehend his arguments. Lenihan's passion for the Western is clear, but the written word as a medium for translating film will always inherently fall short, leaving the reader yearning to be in front of the screen, Lenihan in the next reclining seat providing live voice-over commentary.
Prefabulous + Sustainable
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780810984837, $32.50, www.amazon.com
Prefabricated housing might conjure up unpleasant visual images for potential new construction home owners, architects and designers. However, before you dig a foundation for a new home, Sheri Koone's second book on this evolving building style, "Prefabulous + Sustainable: Building and Customizing an Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home", will make you understand that sustainable housing does not give up asthethics. Prefabulous is filled with attractive photographs of 25 homes, floorplans, and sidebars which could convince even the stubborn stick-built consumer or professional to consider the energy, environmentally friendly and sturdier benefits of prefabricated housing.
A quick peek inside the book: Environmentalist, Actor and Director Robert Redford contributes a compelling Foreword that offers the reader many reasons to retain Prefabulous + Sustainable as an important inspiration to consider more environmentally friendly options in planning and creating new homes. The Sheri Koones introduction outlines why prefabricated homes lower costs and energy requirements in both construction and day-to-day living. The author defines the different types of pre-fabricated housing, defines and measurement of green and her own quest to bring this book to publication. Chapters include: Green Houses: Contemporary Farmhouse, Tucker Boyou, Artist Studio + Residence, The Barn, 468 House, A House of Show, Tall + Narrow House, A House of Straw, Tall + Narrow House, and the Eastbourne House. Greener Houses: The Porretto House, The Palms House, Rebecca Leland Farmhouse, The Method Cabin, Farmhouse Bungalow, The Wave Cottage, EcoFabulous House, and the Glen Cairn Cottage. Greenest Homes: Heather's Home, The mkLotus, PowerHouse, LEAFHouse, Highland House, LivingHome, Back from the Burn, The Mountain House, and the EcoUrban House. An in-depth Resource list rounds out this consumer-friendly book.
Koones latest book is more than a resource book for building professionals, it's food for thought for those thinking about green and sustainable issues. While some might park it in a resource library, it should be considered as a coffee table book, both for it's luxurious photographs and the knowledge of this sector of the green movement.
Answers From Silence
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439245941 $15.99 paperback, $9.99 Kindle edition
Rose Rosetree, Reviewer
I'm in love with Jeffrey Chappell. I'm in love with God. I can't tell where one begins and the other leaves off. And let's not forget to give a shout out to singing joy. Because "Answers From Silence: Using Your Inner Guidance To Find Purpose, Fulfillment, And Enlightenment" strengthens my own God-connection, too. Wow! But settle down, Reviewer Rose, and focus on the book. Plus what it can do to a reader like you or me.
What genre is Answers from Silence anyway? One answer is that it's self-help, verging on how-to. Only in disguise. Mostly the author teaches by example. (Sure, Chappell supplies a how-to exercise all the way at the end of the book, but that's pallid, compared to the brilliance preceding it.) The plot of this story is simple. For years, Jeffrey sought answers from God. And got them. And wrote them down. Along the way, he became spiritually Enlightened.
After some introductory chapters, the author simply presents some highlights of this evolutionary journey, grouped by categories like "Answers about Relationships" and "Answers about Career." Reading these, you get into a groove, tasting an amazingly clear sound/feeling/inner vision/experience of truth. It feels so natural being in the presence of this Divine conversation, the example can help you have one of your own. If you're like me, you like those free samples at Costco. Here is something different to eat, a contagious taste of the Divine. What a rare treat, even if arguably free!
Jeffrey Chappell certainly made me break out in bliss, better far than chicken pox or a few sample chocolate chip cookies. This author's consciousness creates this contact high, much as any particular words. Reading Answers from Silence creates a momentum: very personal, beyond inspiring. His momentum brings consequences for readers like you and me. That is, mostly, why I am in love with this book.
But there's more. To some readers, Answers from Silence may be perfectly satisfying as a dip-in book, something to read like a bag of chips. When you're in the mood for a munch of wisdom, you simply dig in. What could be easier than to snack on a quick sight-bite like this? Question from Jeffrey: Why did I have that episode where I felt so much physical pain? Answer from God: You collected much pain and felt it all in one moment to get it over with. What's got me smiling, however, is something more. Answers from Silence is a kind of Enlightened Spiritual Autobiography, a rare type of book because, at this time, so few people or writers are truly Enlightened. Others that come to mind are Oz Power by Bill Bauman and You Are the Answer
by Michael Tamura. How can you tell if someone is really Enlightened? You need energetic
literacy, the ability to read auras in depth and detail. Then you can find the author photo, read its energies chakra by chakra, and decide for yourself.
Does the author have an energy field that is STUFF-free, sparkling, enormous, balanced, aglow with delight? With Jeffrey Chappell, the truth is right there on the author's photo the back of the book, ready to knock your socks off.
And his descriptions of living in Enlightenment are, simply, the best I have read anywhere. Far as I'm concerned, the twinkly-eyed jazz composer and concert pianist has found the best way to communicate spiritual connection I've ever read. Move over, Bhagavad-Gita. (Fortunately there's plenty of space on that blessed bookshelf.) Thus, his Answers from Silence is in the tradition of Autobiography of a Yogi. Paramahansa Yogananda's magnificent autobiography no longer stands
quite alone on my bookcase shelf. Indirectly but substantially, Chappell has told us his life story - the parts that count: His petty jealousies and insecurities, the guilt and confusion and all the other milestones of his personal development. No holding back for him and, perhaps, consequently,
less holding back for us.
Speaking of famous authors, I can just imagine a mainstream editor taking a look at this book, a profit-fixated editor for one of the big houses, like Hay House, HarperCollins, or Bantam-Doubleday-Dell. "Oh, that's been done," the editor might say. "Neal Donald Walsh has been there, done that. And there's only room for one such author. Who is this brand, Jeffrey Chappell?" Sadly, many an editor today thinks that way, or even a book buyer. Come on,
folks. Is there room for more than one mystery book or romance novel? How about publishing more than one sample of that gritty and (to me, disgusting) pleasure known as "true crime"? Sure, intelligent readers might be willing to entertain the notion of more than one author writing about a certain xyz. Readers might be downright entertained by Sue Grafton plus Robert Parker
plus Dorothy Sayers - plus what, about a jillion? - other mystery writers. So there is room enough in the world, and in the wallets of book buyers, for someone beside Neale Donald Walsch.
How intimidating would it be to bring Jeffrey Chappell, this fully enlightened man, into your living room, or at least your kitchen bookshelf? I dare you. Just how serenely joyful are you willing to be?
The Book of Harold: The Illegitimate Son of God
P.O. Box 242, Austin, Texas 78767
9780984448807 $18.95 www.daltonpublishing.com
Owen Egerton's latest, The Book of Harold: The Illegitimate Son of God, thoughtfully, humorously, and compassionately calls life's meaning into question. Reading it, I was reminded to consider the possibilities that every homeless man might be Christ or at least Christ-like, that the guy in the next cubicle could be mentally ill, and also that Judas may have gotten a bad rap. Besides being thought-provoking, it also summons virtually the full spectrum of human emotion. Reading some pages, I found myself laughing out loud, while others made me want to cry.
Told from the point of view of Haroldian Blake Waterson, The Book of Harold, The Illegitimate Son of God relates the philosophy of Harold Peeks, introduced as Blake's coworker and "Second Assistant Sales Analyst" at Promit Computers. Blake documents in vivid detail the travels the two pursue after Harold takes the opportunity of a company banquet to announce that he is, in fact, "Christ, the Son of God."
Blake, a middle aged computer salesman, resists Harold at first, but then soon willingly participates in the unraveling of his own picture perfect life. It's that same kind of life which many a suburbanite will confess is never as perfect as it seems. The dinner party scene is uncannily realistic, and brilliantly walks a fine line of satire without verging on ridiculousness. It's clever examination of a lifestyle but without cruel judgment. Egerton finds a way to describe things we all seem to be thinking and feeling, yet most of us don't say, sometimes not even to ourselves. Egerton is so adept at describing the stagnation of Blake's life that I couldn't help but feel suffocated by Blake's analogy that his home is filled with sand. Rather than buy the cliche sports car, have liposuction, or start selling drugs like a cable TV series protagonist, Blake decides to follow Harold on a walk from a Houston suburb to Austin. Blake transforms from computer peddler to disciple, and the journey is as much inward as it is across Texas. As Blake moves forward from Figwood to Austin, he experiences a personal evolution.
The story that unfolds is an old one, but from this insider's view, it's one you probably won't recognize until you are completely personally invested in it. The structure of the novel evokes Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, flashing back and forth between time frames, but without being confusing. Like life, the story simultaneously unfolds on the surface and on a much deeper level. When you read it -because you should -you'll understand the mystery of it much better. While you're pondering the symbolism, and wondering who Jesus would have been without Judas, you're concurrently empathizing with Blake as he and his family try to cope with his Haroldism. You will come to feel for the other disciples, such as Irma and Beddy, and enjoy the little detours into each character's story, as well as into Blake's past. Blake's witty inner monologue through even the disturbing scenes and heartbreaking moments gives the novel a dark humor reminiscent of a Wes Anderson flick. Mostly, Blake seems real. I felt like he was someone I knew, and strangely, also someone who knew me.
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
Del Ray Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345391803 $7.99 www.amazon.com
When space travel writer Ford Prefect tells earthling Arthur Dent at a pub in England that his world is about to end, Dent responds "This must be Thursday...I never could get the hang of Thursdays." The bartender, within earshot, announces "Last orders, please." This deadpan gallows humor fills the pages of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and enables the book to be weighty and thought-provoking without being overly sentimental. Themes that would make for long passages of deep existential rumination in another context - the end of the world, inter-dimensional travel, and of course "the Answer" to the elusive question of the universe - are hilariously rendered in pithy exchanges through the collective wit of Adams' characters.
As a work of comic science fiction, The Hitchhiker's Guide lacks the rigor of so-called "hard" science fiction, but it is not mere wordplay either. Such ideas as the Heart of Gold (a ship that uses an "Infinite Improbability Drive" to travel at superlatively high speeds) or Magrathea (a planet inside of which other planets are constructed), while they might be scientifically implausible, nonetheless still provide some great food for thought. Also, there's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy itself, an encyclopedic travel guide of the cosmos which Ford Prefect writes for, and from which one can learn anything from what to drink in this or that part of the galaxy to why a towel is the most important item in any traveler's luggage.
With its hodgepodge of intrepid travelers and the uncanny events that befall them, The Hitchhiker's Guide manages to be fun and exciting almost effortlessly. The crew with whom the protagonist Arthur Dent hitches a ride includes, among others, a two-headed, three-armed president-of-the-galaxy-turned-renegade, and a congenitally depressed super-intelligent robot. To top it all off, at the point when the characters set about their impromptu voyage, the possibilities are literally endless (on account of the "Infinite Improbability Drive"). The Hitchhiker's Guide is the apotheosis of adventure story.
In a genre that often lends itself to overwrought serials, where authors ride the wave of a thoroughly original idea to an ineffectual and creatively desiccated end, Douglas Adams' sensational first installment in his now famous Hitchhiker series goes so far on so little that a desire for much much more is entirely justified.
What About the Children?
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
978143275197, $12.95, www.outskirtspress.com
There is no greater charity than to care for a child who is not your own, but one must beware of the evil who would exploit in the name of charity. "What About the Children?: What's the Strategy to Prevent These Tragedies" is Dianne Nelson's call to reform the American foster care system to help avoid situations where foster parents with sour intentions get young children to harm. Drawing on her own experiences, "What About the Children?" is a cautionary tale that should be heard out.
Dancing in the Doghouse
Alisa E. Clark
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439247143 $15.99 www.booksurge.com
"Dancing in the Doghouse: Sharing God's Presence in Everyday Places" is an uplifting Christian memoir from Alisa E. Clark as she blends art and reverence for God into her writing, and she hopes her readers will follow suite in doing the same, using God to find their way through life and enrich it. "Dancing in the Doghouse" is a choice and recommended read that shouldn't be missed for those people who want to weave more faith into their lives.
Barbara Taylor Blomquist
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781607999799 $17.99 www.tatepublishing.com
The desire to fit in and be apart of something drives many through their lives. "Randy's Ride" is a coming of age story following the titular Randy who embarks in life to find his place in life and establish what he wants to do in life. Through his travels, he meets his teachers in life, the many people who he counters along the way. From lessons in tenacity to lessons in love, "Randy's Ride" is a moving and poignant story of life, highly recommended.
The Fictional 100
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440154393, $25.95, www.iuniverse.com
Legend has almost as much power as history. "The Fictional 100: Ranking the Most Influential Characters in World Literature and Legend" discusses one hundred of the most important fictional people throughout history and how they have reflected and impacted the societies that created them. From biblical figures like Adam and Eve, to cultural legends like Genji, to the comic book icon of Superman, many are discussed with much insight. "The Fictional 100" is a strongly recommended read and fine addition to any literary studies collection.
Building Christian Women Warriors and Tacticians
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9781440120671, $12.95, www.iuniverse.com
War is not necessarily combat. "Building Christian Women Warriors and Tacticians" discusses how women can become warriors of God, fighting for their own faith against themselves and the world around them, and how to fight for the faith of others as well. Spiritual warfare is the topic Irene Revels-Hawkins discusses, and she urges many women to take up their arms in this battle as well. "Building Christian Women Warriors and Tacticians" is a choice and faithful read, recommended.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432751289, $19.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Technology is as wonderful as it is frightening. "Dead Game" follows independent detective Emily Stone as she's hot on the trail of a serial killer. The killer's victims seem to all enjoy a video game called EagleEye, and through investigating this link, she finds that while much of the world has embraced social networking, so too have the most of the evil of the world. "Dead Game" is an intriguing thriller sure to please mystery fans.
Dorothea in the Mirror
Lois Wells Santalo
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440190919, $16.95, www.iuniverse.com
The search for truth can often find itself going the wrong direction. "Dorothea in the Mirror" tells the story of Zoltan Szekely, who escaped Hitler's Germany and oppression only to find himself caught in the American legal system that finds Zoltan a suspect of murder, with strong evidence. His parents struggle to prove his innocence, fight their own faith in the world to do so. "Dorothea in the Mirror" is a riveting mystery read, recommended.
Behind the Columns
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432745943, $19.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Romance so often drives people in many directions. "Behind the Columns" tells the story of Desiree Bordeaux, as she inherits her grandfather's plantation and soon finds suitors in every direction. From the cruel and greedy, to the charming and more palatable, Desiree finds settling hard, as her heart looks towards a ship that has seemingly already sailed. "Behind the Columns" is a riveting historical romance, recommended.
Women Own All the Vaginas
Dick N' Jane Publishing
9781449946067, $19.95, www.womenownallthevaginas.com
Is the pursuit of monogamy one truly capable of happening? "Women Own All the Vaginas: Why Men Do What They Do" is a combination memoir and sexuality book from Richard Nocera as he argues that monogamy, one woman is simply not how many men are wired to go through life. He states the taboos against saying such thing leads to much heartache in the world, and that understanding the basest human nature, on both sides of the table, is a key to having a strong relationship that lasts a lifetime. "Women Own All the Vaginas" is an intriguing look into the sexuality of man, highly recommended.
An Endless Struggle
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, New York, NY 10016
9780533154982 $26.95 www.vantagepress.com
A meeting with both extremes gives one a unique view of it all. "An Endless Struggle: Reminiscences and Reflections" is a memoir from Paul Kuttner, who has had quite an unusual life, ranging from meeting with Hitler, standing against to him, finding his way to Hollywood, facing cancer, and so much more than that. His event-filled life makes for riveting reading that will grant much insight in the major events of the twentieth century. "An Endless Struggle" is a choice pick and addition to any memoir collection.
The Small Business Owner's Guide to Alternative Funding
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432748098, $24.95, www.outskirtspress.com
There's more than one way to get going. "The Small Business Owner's Guide to Alternative Funding: What the Small Business Owner Must Know to Get Through These Financial Times" is a guide to lesser known ways of getting the funding for one's business. Venture capital, raising your own money, small loans from banks, playing real estate, and more, Karlene Sinclair-Robinson gives readers plenty of ideas to get their money flowing. "The Small Business Owner's Guide to Alternative Funding" is a choice and very highly recommended pick that shouldn't be missed.
The earth cannot support the growth of mankind. "Apocalypse" is the musings of Don O'Connor, blending faith and science to gain his own view of revelations. Saying that the apocalypse is not as far off as we would like to believe and that God will not allow mankind to destroy itself, he presents an intriguing view of faith, making "Apocalypse" something to consider for Christian readers.
Tracking My Soul
William H. Odekirk
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432748821, $25.95, www.outskirtspress.com
A little bit of thought each day can do wonders to the provider and the reader. "Tracking My Soul: A Philosophical Autobiography" is a memoir from William H. Odekirk, presenting his life up to as it is now, as he presents much of his journal of the years, presenting his thoughts on the world and the politics of the world. "Tracking My Soul" provides some interesting insights, making for a thoughtful read.
The Spirit of the Lion
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449052003, $17.99, www.authorhouse.com
Mental Illness isn't a death sentence, it can be fought. "The Spirit of the Lion" is the work of Daniel Meyers, a man who has been working for much of his life against discrimination against the mentally ill. Explaining why those who have been diagnosed as mentally ill should not be simply written off as crazies, "The Spirit of the Lion" is an insightful and thoughtful read, highly recommended.
Willis M. Buhle
Point of Aim, Point of Impact
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449062064, $14.49, www.authorhouse.com
Returning from war is no easy experience. "Point of Aim, Point of Impact" tells the story of Jay Taylor, a Vietnam Vet who served as a marine sniper who experienced many of the horrors of war from both up close and afar. He tells his story of the war and the challenges he faced returning to civilian life after years in the service. "Point of Aim, Point of Impact" is a choice pick for any veteran who has found return to normal life a challenge.
Lance Huffman & Joe Natoli
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440186837, $20.95, www.iuniverse.com
When looking for answers to problems, one must be careful where they look. "Inflection Point" is a thriller discussing the near future and the world's problems of overpopulation and lack of resources. When a company with the answers the world's problems turn up dead and their products seem to be the problem, investigator Oliver Harcourt finds himself as the man who must get to the truth. A novel with realistic implications, "Inflection Point" is well worth considering.
Under the Williamsburg Bridge
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9781426918155, $9.95, www.iuniverse.com
To not follow in the family business is one thing, to choose something that may oppose it is another."Under the Williamsburg Bridge: The Story of an American Family" tells the story of Frank Bari, son of a Mafia family who chose to become a criminal defense lawyer. An interesting choice in life, he reflects on how he chose it as he became an expert in Asian American gangs. "Under the Williamsburg Bridge" is a unique memoir, and a very intriguing read.
A Death in Dallas
E. E. Hunt
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1424150612, $24.95, www.publishamerica.com
War has a bad habit of destroying lives. "A Death in Dallas: A Trafficking Conspiracy" tells the story of Jack Cassidy, a military sniper returning home after a terrible accident. Struggling to find his way in life due to disfigurement, he eventually finds himself faced off against a drug dealing and sex slave trafficking gang that has taken over his hometown of Dallas. "A Death in Dallas" is a riveting thriller, sure to entertain for hours.
The Secrets of Stonewood Sanitarium
Lina A. Krug
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432729813, $10.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Sometimes the parental warnings are right. "The Secrets of Stonewood Sanitarium" tells the tale of Nate Thompson, as he finds his place in rural Pennsylvania. Near his new home is an old mental institution, abandoned, yet Nate finds himself drawn to it. Through his meddling, he soon finds that he was cautioned against it for a reason, as there's something illegal and unsavory about the place. "The Secrets of Stonewood Sanitarium" is a fascinating adventure, sure to entertain young readers.
The Fourth Casket
D. T. Mears
9781450531047, $10.99, www.blueleafpub.com
As humanity becomes more closely tied to technology, it may fall to the same things technology does. "The Fourth Casket" is a science fiction story telling of two people equipped with abrain technology, giving them the knowledge of a civilization. But this technology like all technology is fallible, and a Trojan just may lead to the downfall of their republic. "The Fourth Casket" is a choice and highly recommended pick that shouldn't be overlooked for sci-fi fans.
David Del Bourgo
9781442119871, $14.95, www.daviddelbourgo.com
Some history is tougher to cope with than others. "Prague Spring" tells the story of Inspector Simon Wolfe who is on the trail of a murderer of a Senator's son. But he soon finds his own past as an assassin as well as a Holocaust survivor has it out for him, as both seem to cause him issues, as he faces his past and blackmail. "Prague Spring" is an exciting mystery and thriller, not to be missed.
The America of My Dreams
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9781440181474, $12.95, www.iuniverse.com
Could the decline of America lie in the incompetence of not one party, but both? "The America of My Dreams" is a discussion from author Dom Sgambellone, who wishes that America would embrace a third political party and reform the presidential primary system. "The America of My Dreams" also considers other aspects of politics, and what Sgambellone believes is leading to the decay of the country. "The America of My Dreams" provides some intriguing insight.
Sometimes We Fall as Boys but Rise as Men
Thomas Green III
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9781440178801, $16.95, www.iuniverse.com
War makes you grow up real fast. "Sometimes We Fall as Boys but Rise as Men: The Healing of a Purple Heart Iraqi Veteran" tells the story of Thomas Green III, a man who joined the military and quickly found his life changing. Injured in Iraq, he came home, was awarded the purple heart, and discusses the effects these injuries have on soldiers and their lives. "Sometimes We Fall as Boys but Rise as Men" is a choice read with much food for thought.
Carl E. Ring Jr.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162642, $16.95, www.vantagepress.com
Time brings many new events into people's lives, chancing them. "Pals: Three Guys from Another Time and Place" tells the story of bond trader Nick Drizos as he survives an attempt on his life. He soon believes that his childhood friends who have taken radically different paths in life may have some hand in the matter and finds himself not knowing who to trust as he tries to figure out who tried to kill him. "Pals" is a choice pick for mystery and thriller readers, highly recommended.
C. J. S. Hayward
C. J. S. Hayward Publications
9780557346509, $40.00, www.cjshayward.com
Many Christians seem to forget there is a third major sect of Christianity aside from Protestantism and Catholicism - the Eastern Orthodox Church. "Doxology" is a collection of Eastern Orthodox theology from C. J. S. Hayward, as he offers much philosophical thinking from the church on many of the issues of the modern day. Thoughtful and thought provoking, "Doxology" serves as more than enough to get religious readers thinking about faith and the world around them.
Back to Somalia
Glenn A. Bell
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432751258, $27.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Enemies never retire, so good men never retire either. "Back to Somalia" tells the story of retired special forces agent Ethan Breaux as he finds himself embroiled in a far reaching plot that throws the Middle East and Africa into the concerns of the world safety at large. But driven more than anything else is Ethan's love, kept by terrorists in Ethiopia. "Back to Somalia" is a fun action and adventure read.
Kaakyire Akosomo Nyantakyi
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432749132, $21.95, www.outskirtspress.com
English is considered one of the hardest-to-learn languages in the world. "Practical English: Level 365 Volume 1" is a guide for English learners who want to best learn the language. Requiring a day to day dedication, English is not a language that can be lazily learned. Packed with activities and tips on mastering the language, "Practical English" proves to be a valuable resource to anyone trying to learn English as a second language, with tools for both teachers and students.
M C Dutton
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781848762404, $7.99, www.troubador.co.uk/matador
There is nothing more frightening than uncertainty. "Silent Night" is a thriller by MC Dutton as he follows Christopher as he faces the uncertain challenges of his impending death, wondering where he went wrong and the promises he failed to keep, not knowing what kind of person he truly was or would be remembered as. Psychological and thought provoking, "Silent Night" is a choice and intriguing read that fiction fans will devour.
Far from the Land
Thomas J. Rice
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Jane Wesman Public Relations (publicity)
322 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1702, New York, NY 10001
9781440183072, $24.95, www.iuniverse.com
As society changes, customs change, and some are lost to time. "Far from the Land: An Irish Memoir" tells the story of Thomas J. Rice, a man who grew up in rural Ireland, as he reflects on the fading history of the Irish countryside and its people, granting a lot of insight and thought about the world and what it is leaving behind, for the better and for the worse. "Far from the Land" is a choice read, well deserving of entry into any memoir collection.
Michael J. Carson
Christina Johns' Bookshelf
Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843961867, $7.99, www.amazon.com
I have to warn you: this is my favorite Ray Garton novel and I have read quite a few of his books. Between the covers of this book, Garton shows readers why he is a master of horror and why he has been a master for so many years. Once you read this, you will see why his work commands high prices at auctions and why you may want to read his books when they are available at mass market prices.
Scissors is about a man named Stuart Mullond. Stuart is haunted by a bad experience from his past. Haunting him is the experience of getting circumcised. Unfortunately, in a dream that Stuart seems to continually have, before Dr. Furgeson (the doctor he had as a child) botches things up and slips with the knife, Stuart gets stabbed by a hypodermic needle in that most tender place. Garton says, "The pain is exquisite."
Stuart's mother has been telling him, for many years, that Dr. Furgeson did not mess up the circumcision and that, in fact, Stuart was not stabbed. Stuart doesn't believe his mother and the tension increases. His girlfriend Amelia doesn't know about the incident. His ex-wife Molly won't talk about it. Thus, Stuart is facing the monster alone.
"Do not read this novel if you or someone you know is about to go in for surgery--I'm not kidding." Writer Gary Braunbeck says of Scissors, as advance praise. "If Sigmund Freud and Samuel Beckett had co-written a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie starring Buster Keaton, the result would have been Scissors." I totally agree.
Stuart spun around, faced the owner. He spoke in a hoarse, tremulous voice. "My son, he's gone. He was just here. Playing that game, right there. The bald man. "His eyes scanned the faces staring at him. "Did any of you see the bald man? With the little glasses? Did anybody see him with my son? Scissors, he had a pair of scissors, he was standing right over there---"He pointed past the faces. "---holding up a pair of scissors."
Scissors, pg 40
You will enjoy Garton's study of the human psyche. It is savory.
At this point, the writer's expert pen pulls readers into the story until the experience is more like viewing a movie. And yes, it is hard to put Scissors down once you have started reading it.
Grown up Stuart, now a successful artist, remembers when eight year old Stuart had become totally obsessed with thoughts of Dr. Furgeson and the power the doctor had over him. Stuart can hear the scissors announcing their presence as Dr. Furgeson flexes them. Snick, snick, snick.
Garton provides personality sketches which present full characters which are sometimes overlooked in this genre. From his over religious mother to his seemingly somewhat distracted partner, Amelia, readers will soon understand the components of Stuart Mullond's personality.
Scissors is a deep and satisfying experience. Try it, you'll like it.
Got to Kill Them All
Dennis Etchison Artist: Harry O Morris
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane, Unit 7, Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
9781587670930, $40.00, www.amazon.com
The horror which flows from Etchison's pen is different and set apart from most of the horror available. Yes, his work is presented in an easy to read and understandable way, but there is something there-underneath the type-something trying to gnaw its way through the paper. Once you have read one of Etchison's stories, it's hard to avoid recommending all or any of his stories. That's how Dennis Etchison's writing is. It pushes you and pulls you along. Rocks you and lulls you along. Finally at the end.Who knows how frightened you will feel?
This book is a culmination of short stories and a fabulous introduction by George Clayton Johnson. "I want to talk to those book reviewers among you about Dennis
Etchison." Johnson tells in his intro. "I think his stories merit showcase attention from the mainstream. He is a literary treasure, as these stories of his
demonstrate." Johnson is, of course, correct. I remember one of the stories here from his early collection, "The Dark Country," Other stories have appeared in such publications as Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, Cavalier Magazine and Cemetery Dance Magazine, as well as many others.
In this volume, I would say that you absolutely must read "Sitting in the Corner, Whimpering Quietly," which is the leading story . Etchison's power of creating a regular, yet memorable tale is found here, right in this tale at the beginning. This early yarn is about a man who ventures into a Laundromat, late at night. His experience is unforgettable and one which keeps me watching my back at night! I am also choosier when it comes to striking up friendships with people I may meet in the night. This story is really a classic.
Another tale to make readers wonder is The Walking Man. In this scene, even the characters are wondering:
"How do you know no one is there?" she said.
"Because-" I flopped onto my back, took another lungful, executed a quick sit-up. I crossed the living room, drew open the top half of the door to the sun deck and leaned out. The tide was low, a good fifty feet from the supports, and nothing was moving but a line of sandpipers between the naked rocks. "Because there's nobody. On the beach or anywhere else around here." With irritation.
"What's the-" matter with you, I started to say.
"How do you know?" she repeated. My mouth opened. It stayed open, my jaw scissoring as I came back to the big
pillows. I squatted next to her on the rug, almost
"I need some more of that, I guess," I said, reaching for the joint, "before I can pick up what you're trying to say."
--Got To Kill Them All
The Walking Man, Page 22
Continue reading the story, it will pique your brain a bit.
Other tales here are The Pitch, You Can Go Now, Today's Special, Call Home, The Machine Demands A Sacrifice, On The Pike, White Moon Rising, The Scar, The Detailer, Home Call, Red Dog Down, One Of Us, In a Silent Way, My Present Wife, No One You Know, and the title story Got to Kill Them All.
This collection is definitely a treat for any Etchison fan and a wonderful primer for anyone new to the works of Dennis Etchison. Do yourself a favor and read Got to Kill Them All, you won't be sorry.
The Naked Truth about Book Publishing
P.O. Box 1984, Friendswood, TX 77549-1984
9781603188029 $8.95 www.wisdomtrends.com
Who better to offer a guide to publishing than someone who, after extensively researching the field, has actually entered the fray? Linda Houle, co-owner of L&L Dreamspell Publishing Company, has written an informative, easy-to-understand handbook about book publishing and the choices available to authors. Respecting the direction a writer takes with regard to publishing their book lies with the writer, Houle presents the facts about the publishing industry and its evolving changes in a clear, concise manner without sugarcoating or denigration.
Houle explains the different publishing options now available to authors and clarifies diverse modes of publishing, such as offset printing; POD, or print-on-demand; and ebooks, or electronic books. Explaining the pros and cons with each one, she takes the reader on a publishing journey with a hypothetical author who uses each of the publishing methods, including traditionally published with a large press, traditionally published with a small or indie press, subsidy published, and self or author published.
A step-by-step checklist for authors who wish to self-publish print and/or ebooks is included. Tips on promoting are offered, as well as red flags to be aware of concerning publishers and agents who are not the real deal. She offers an informative Q&A section, glossary explaining publishing lingo, and extensive list of resources for authors at the end of the book.
Without a doubt, this highly recommended handbook should be a major resource for writers across the board, from those thinking about publishing to those who have established themselves as authors.
All the Pretty Girls
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778324430, $6.99 www.MIRABooks.com
Nashville Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is called to the scene of a homicide, where the body of a young woman, sans hands, has been discovered. When a hand is found near the crime scene, DNA proves it doesn't belong to the murdered woman but to another woman, whose body was found in another state. This brings the FBI into play, via Taylor's lover, profiler Dr. John Baldwin. The Southern Strangler, as the killer comes to be known, goes on a killing spree throughout the South, crossing state lines, leaving the bodies of young women behind, all missing their hands, but with another woman's hand nearby. And his kills are escalating at a fast rate. Baldwin and Taylor team up to catch him although Taylor gets temporarily sidetracked pursuing a serial rapist named the Rainman while Baldwin travels in the killer's footsteps. But soon the two are back together, hot on the heels of the killer.
Taylor Jackson is not your archetypical Southern Belle. A woman from a wealthy family, she chose the life of a cop over that of a privileged soccer mom. She's well-educated, intelligent and tough mentally and physically, but her one weakness is Baldwin. The two are a winning combo and their personas complement one another. Peripheral characters are nicely developed, as is the chemistry between Taylor and Baldwin. The plot moves at a fast pace, with gut-wrenching suspense and plenty of action. Ellison's smart writing places this one apart from other mystery series and is sure to garner a plethora of fans eager for the next book.
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061537936, $23.95 www.harpercollins.com
Enzo loves nothing more than racing around a racetrack with his master, up-and-coming race car driver Denny Swift. Enzo has been with Denny since puppyhood and the two share a heartwarming relationship. Enzo is Denny's best friend and confidante and Enzo dreams of one day returning to Earth as a human with hopes of meeting Denny in that form.
The book begins on the eve of Enzo's death, and from that point backtracks to the life shared by a caring man and his dog. We read about the changes in their lives as Denny marries, has a daughter, loses his wife to an early death, then his daughter to her grandparents. We're part of Denny's angst and frustration as he determinedly tries to regain custody of his daughter, whom he lost due to unjust allegations. And through it all, his dog Enzo, by his side, grieving with him, rejoicing with him, ready to help his master any way he can. The plot moves like life: up and down, filled with intense pain and great happiness.
Enzo's take on life is refreshing and insightful and the analogies he makes between life and race car driving are poignant and eye-opening. Be sure to keep plenty of tissues handy, because this is a book that, although heart-crushingly sad, is at the same time uplifting and touching.
Cold Winter Nights: A Lake George Mystery
Hilliard and Harris
P.O. Box 275, Boonsboro, MD 21713
1591332982, $16.95 www.hilliardandharris.com
Emerald Point, NY Mayor Loren Graham is looking forward to enjoying the holiday season with her fiance and friends. The festivities have just begun when the body of well-respected nurse Denise McNaughton is found, beaten to death. Graham's friend, Deputy Sheriff Jim Thompson, in charge of the investigation and aware of Loren's propensity for amateur sleuthing, warns her to stay out of the case. Rumors are flying about McNaughton's social life and Loren, fearing for her town's safety, takes it upon herself to question those who knew McNaughton well. There are plenty of suspects, including a homeless vagrant and the ex-husband of Loren's best friend, both of whom reach out to Loren for help in proving their innocence. It isn't long before Loren's efforts to help these men turn the killer's eyes on her.
In this fifth installment of her Lake George Mystery series, White thrusts the reader into a thrilling whodunit, weaving into the story popular Lake George festivities, such as the New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge. Loren is an interesting character, a strong woman who feels protective of her town and job as mayor. Secondary characters continue to evolve and are heartwarming and entertaining. This cozy whodunit will prove a challenging read for those trying to solve the mystery for themselves.
Tales from the Porch
Curtis R. Blanton
Illustrated by James C. Sellers
P.O. Box 811, Norris, TN 37828
0978556003, $15.50, www.porchtales.com
Author Curtis Blanton has penned a humorous collection of "tall tales and short stories" about his childhood in the mountains of North Carolina. Utilizing realistic mountain vernacular, the book is filled with humorous stories and colorful characters surrounding events Blanton experienced growing up. This reviewer particularly enjoyed the stories about the formation of numerous churches due to warring congregants, the prank played on the owner of a virgin mule, frantic reaction to and cause of black snow, the wampuscat and "cats-purr fever", along with a multitude of others. Blanton is a true storyteller and holds his readers' interest regaling stories about the entertaining and endearing mountain folks he knew growing up, some of whom have names that are as colorful as the characters. Readers will also appreciate that Blanton maintains the dialect of the mountain people throughout, adding an extra dimension to some really good storytelling.
Christy Tillery French
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446580151, $24.99, www.amazon.com
Boston attorney, David Hosp, is the author of three previous novels: "Dark Harbor" (2005), "The Betrayed" (2006), and "Innocence" (2007). "Among Thieves" is his latest thriller featuring attorney Scott Finn, along with his unforgettable colleagues.
This novel was inspired by the greatest art theft in American history. On March 18, 1990, in the wee hours after the St. Patrick's Day celebration, 13 masterpieces were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and to-date, none have been recovered. These included works by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet, and others.
Two thieves, dressed as police officers, knocked on the security entrance door at about 1:24 AM and said they needed to investigate a disturbance. The young, inexperienced security guards naively let them in. The guards were handcuffed and brought to the basement. The thieves bound their hands and feet, duct-tapped their mouths and eyes, and strapped them to the support posts. With a map, they proceeded to the 2nd floor of the museum and stole the art and when they left, the surveillance tape was ripped out. According to newspaper reports, the guards were found alive and otherwise unharmed.
The hunt for the missing artwork is the intriguing theme of this novel. Even though this novel is based on fiction, the details about the museum robbery are based on fact. It is said that people have expended large amounts of money seeking to recover the stolen art, to no avail. Many theories have circulated through the years about who was responsible. Fictional character attorney Finn and his comrades have their own theories in their quest to recover the missing artwork.
Finn and his associates are put in great peril when they agree to represent an old friend for petty theft who was once mixed up with organized crime in the early 1990's. The representation of this client leads Finn into confrontation with Boston's underworld crime gangs with possible connections to the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Events begin to get ugly as excitement abounds with bloody shootouts, 7 heinous murders, and a kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl. This certainly makes this a page-turner with astonishing events that capture your attention.
The fascination with this heist is still on-going and many theories have circulated about the factual events throughout the years about who actually committed this magnificent heist. Today, the art is worth over 5 billion dollars and has a 500 million dollar reward for the return of the art in good condition. Thieves who try to sell stolen artwork at this time will find it more difficult to dispose of valuable paintings since the laws of foreign countries have changed so that the "innocent purchaser for value" protection has been lifted. Now, if you buy stolen art, you lose possession of it to the true owner and all the money you paid you lose. Artwork is now insured and there are specialists who track it down with more scientific methods than those which were available in the past.
Interestingly and fortunate for the museum, the most valuable piece of art, "The Rape of Europa" by Titian, was never taken because it was located on the 3rd floor and was omitted from the thieves' map which only detailed the 2nd floor.
"Among Thieves" is an action-packed novel with many twists and turns, including a surprise ending. David Hosp is a master story-teller who gives great attention to detail and meticulous historical accuracy. This book is highly recommended.
The Exodus Quest
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446563208, $24.99, www.amazon.com
Will Adam's debut novel, "The Alexander Cipher", was widely acclaimed and extremely well received by the literary community. His second novel, "The Exodus Quest", has the same characters continuing their pursuit of antiquities in Egypt. This novel is fast-paced, exciting, and soon the reader recognizes the similarities between Daniel Knox and Indiana Jones.
The story begins simply in a market bazaar where Knox finds what he believes to be an ancient earthenware bowl. He chases a young boy who attempted to sell him the bowl through twisted alleys and loses him in the crowd. His recollection of this item leads him to believe it is over two thousand years old and not a copy. Later, confirming his belief is an archaeologist friend who is renowned in Alexandria.
The quest is on when Knox tries to find where this extraordinary cover of a storage urn came from. This novel is very reminiscent of the Indiana Jones adventures as this story unfolds. He keeps on going no matter what pitfalls he encounters. He is in an auto wreck, loses his short term memory, and becomes a key suspect in the death of his archaeologist friend. Surviving these adversities, he manages to elude the police and attempts on his life, as he continues to search for the ancient Dead Sea Scroll which he suspected had been stored in the ancient urn.
At times, the "Energizer Bunny" is brought to mind. No matter what the adversity, Daniel Knox, keeps on ticking like the "Timex" watch. He continues moving forward to his goal. His damsel in distress causes him to champion her cause adding to the heightened excitement. He sidesteps the main story to rescue Gaille Bonnard, his erstwhile partner and love interest.
"The Exodus Quest" blends history with real time suspense and is a learning experience which clarifies many Egyptian theories by digging up an altogether different theory on some theological leanings of Jewish, Christian, and Egyptian beliefs. Whether Adam and Eve and several other historical patriarchs were buried in this newly discovered tomb is something which is left for readers to theorize.
One shortcoming in this book is the inference that some people in the Egyptian government are suspect to taking bribes, selling out national treasures, and were only interested in their own self-aggrandizement. However, to the credit of the author, they perished at different times and could no longer perpetrate harm to the Egyptian people.
This is an excellent read which is highly recommended.
Web of Deceit
Outskirts Press Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432746148, $16.95, www.amazon.com
Darlene Cox's first novel, "A Little Bit of Larceny", has been called "a classic caper". Her latest book entitled, "Web of Deceit", abounds with excitement in a tale of deception, ambition, unscrupulous attainment of wealth, and vengeance. The characters are sophisticated and cunning bearing their personal stories. Cox exposes the dark side of human emotions and the reasons why her characters decide to choose a life of betrayal while not even looking at the consequences.
Life had been good to Peter Brock. He was a young, handsome, intelligent attorney, and a senior partner in one of New York's most prestigious law firms, Morrison and Brock. Jack Morrison had plenty of money and Peter had the smarts, so they formed a partnership. It is clear they were two very different men who had opposite plans; one was out for the money, the other out for revenge. Hence, dangerous games of deception and intrigue commence.
The author develops non-stop suspense when her characters plot strategies against each other. While in Belgium, Peter meets a very wealthy man who deals in diamonds. They strike up a relationship and Peter agrees to represent him. This client is looking for an attorney to help him with his tax burdens, while Peter prepares to become even wealthier as he shifts his client's assets into his own accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. His professional life and personal life begins to take some complex twists and turns. Peter sets his plan in motion and enlists some very interesting women to assist in his scheme.
The women are portrayed as naive, but are very crafty as they engage in their own pursuit of wealth using their bodies to do so! Peter, in turn, makes insincere promises of marriage and convinces them they can attain an abundance of wealth beyond their dreams. Peter sees his strategies to be perfect. Every participant was carefully chosen and appeared to be cooperative. He was confident none of them would betray the game for fear of harm to themselves. The sudden mysterious deaths of Peter's client and his beautiful wife were not a part of his objective. He had seriously misjudged his friends and was unaware of his enemies.
This book is entertaining because of double-dealing schemes by men and women characters in this story. Unfortunately, they became mired in the entangled web of greed and deceitfulness, resulting in mixed results depending on their role.
Fast-paced with an equally fascinating storyline, are the players who are so dynamic you cannot put the book down. A great read with unusual surprises at its conclusion. As you can tell, this book is highly recommended. Darlene Cox has a third suspense novel coming out this year that will be a sequel to "Web of Deceit".
Under The Dome
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439148501 $35.00 www.simonschuster.com
I have read a number of Stephen King novels throughout my years including The Stand, and I picked this novel because the story-line intrigued me. I found this opened up the book covers to his novels once again. I usually pick my favorite genre like detective, mystery, suspense, and occasionally some science fiction. I saw this book on the shelf in a bookstore, and I couldn't resist it. I wasn't as disappointed as some readers might be looking for that certain thing in his stories or wanting something more. I liked the story and make no bones of seeing the conflict between good is battling where power and evil dominate, when it is in the wrong hands. The book has some parallels to history and other things in the world's past. The story had the major and minor characters line up to different sides. This enabled them to the outcome of their demise, whether natural or forced.
On October 21st on no specified year, (2009-2016) Chester's Mill Maine is separated from the outside world by an invisible semi permeable barrier of unknown origin The unexpected barrier causes injuries and fatalities and traps former Army Captain Dale Barbara "Barbie," who is trying to leave Chester's Mill. He is unable to get away from a problem town, and he is stuck inside. The main Police chief Howard Perkins dies when his pacemaker explodes getting too close to the barrier. This leave James Rennie known as "Big Jim" an used car salesman, now unopposed to exert himself over any significant resistance by the town. He is the Second Selectman, and he seizes the opportunity to use this as power play to run the town. Big Jim appoints one of his cronies, Peter Randolph as the new Police Chief, and expands the Chester Mill Police with questionable candidates. The new special deputies are including his son Junior Rennie and his friends. Junior had murdered two females when the barrier first appeared, and this eluded to more evil events to follow as the story winds down.
Meanwhile the local reporter, Julia Shumway is cell- phoned by Colonel James O. Cox to ask Barbie about the status inside the dome, and Cox learns about Big Jim's rein as leader. All the land line phones are down due to Army's control over that, and the Internet access. Cox also later contacts Big Jim and learns through the dialogue that the people under his power need to break free from his tyranny. He is hoping Barbie's talents could be the liaison to bring down the dome because of his skills as a former bomb factory hunter. The need to figure what is enabling the power of the barrier, and if he can locate the source of it.
Big Jim adds to creating more unease and power plays in Chester Mills by protecting his halted interest of his hidden Methamphetamine operation, and murdering some important town people. Those townspeople learned about this because the dead police chief kept a file on Big Jim. He frames Barbie for Junior's murders, and puts him in jail. Big Jim also makes sure to secure Barbie by influence of his detainment by adding more crimes with the murder of Reverend Lester Coggins, and the former police chief's widow Brenda Perkins. Her death occurs during a diversion of a grocery store raid by the residents fearing a shortage of supplies when the store is closed by order of Big Jim to the entire town's inhabitants. The reader is led to believe that the rules will only apply to people that are not lined up on his side.
Other residents track the Dome to extraterrestrial origin by beings known as "leatherheads." The story plows forward in a battle between good, being the residents to the evil Big Jim and his questionable police force and allies and the residents battling the attacks by them and trying to free up the barrier so they can be free to the outside world. Cox has a visitor day so the residents can see their relatives and visitors to witness the Dome. A major event occurs that disrupts this visit and the climax ends with mass confusion and catastrophic disaster.
I don't want to disclose the outcome and the some of the plot happenings, but the leave the story to its climatic ending, with significant loss of life. It shows how people might behave, and what it could be like when they're cut off from their society. It would show how their life might be different, and not the same from the one they belonged using a civilized democratic fairness.
Stephen King has entertained us at the top of the horror rein for so many years, and I am sure the readers have their special favorite where it is enhanced even more on TV with 9 teleplays or the 7 screenplays for movies. He has written 50 novels including The Dark Tower Series and all the others with 2010 upcoming offerings Blockade Billy and to be announced Doctor Sleep. That doesn't include the graphic novels and four unpublished novels. King has 3 music collaborations, and 15 articles to his credit. I have enjoyed many of his stories in the movie genre, and his books although dabble many words in his novels have kept a large number of readers looking for his next novel. I look forward to seeing what his next story will compile.
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316166300 $27.99 www.hatchettebookgroup.com
I leave no bones to picking this book from one of my favorite authors in the crime genre no matter who the main characters are or what their profession might be in the story. I recently read The Brass Verdict, and really enjoyed the intelligent narrative story along with the cat and mouse plotting and page turning legal story. I was not disappointed with The Scarecrow with a crime reporter named Jack McEvoy from previous novels introduced alluding one Connelly's early novels The Poet. So with out further adieu I found this novel to be not only fast paced, but have a good plot to keep any reader entertained and flipping pages.
Crime reporter Jack McEvoy has just learned he is riffed, with two weeks left if he volunteers to train his replacement. Jack is now no longer under the radar at the Los Angeles Times, and he is old school knowing that his novel to write might be his career after the end of his two weeks. Meanwhile he will pursue a good story to leave with a bang. He zooms in a young sixteen year-old drug dealer named Alonzo Winslow, who is now in jail for the brutal murder of a young woman found strangled in the trunk of her car. He decides to write about the society dysfunctional aspect, and Alonzo's family neglect has created a teenage killer. Jack finds out this story has more holes in it due to the confession which appears to be bogus. This supposed killer might even be innocent.
Jack connects the dots on this crime with a previous one done similar in Las Vegas with the details too close to be coincidental. He is on the biggest story since the time he ran into the Poet years before. This time he is onto a killer that has worked under the police, and the FBI radar with perfect knowledge of any move against him. Jack teams up with the FBI agent Rachael Walling. She gets into trouble trying to help him out, but the additional help does aid in the investigation.
The problem is that Jack is unaware that his investigation has inadvertently set off a digital trip wire. The killer knows he is coming closer to him and he is preparing to spring consequences to prove he is more than ready for Jack's arrival. Jack has to be observant with any bits of information he discovers, and is looking for the signature that will lead him to the killer. A deadly game of cat and mouse works both ways when the killer knows what you are trying to find, and Jack is tip toeing around him unaware that he is so close, but not sure who he might be.
Michael Connelly has written over twenty novels and one nonfiction one entitled Crime Beat. His next one is Nine Dragons, which I will get to soon and a new release Reversal coming out in October of this year. I encourage myself and other readers to read him to enjoy the New York Times Bestselling author's fine efforts no matter what he writes in the crime genre.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780439023498, $17.99, www.amazon.com
Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire picks up where The Hunger Games left off. Katniss and Peeta are compelled to run their victory laps around Panem's twelve provinces, giving uncomfortable speeches to audiences that include the family members of tributes they killed in the arena. Meanwhile, as victors they'll have a role--a larger one, as it turns out, than they might have supposed--in the upcoming games: the games are bigger this coming year, or rather, they come with a surprise, since it's the 75th anniversary of their institution. All of this plays out against a backdrop of growing unrest in the provinces: Katniss has unwittingly become a symbol of rebellion because of her refusal to play by the rules as a tribute. On a personal level, she remains torn between Gale, her hunting partner and would-be suitor, and Peeta, whose love for her is the talk of Panem. Catching Fire is a worthy sequel to The Hunger Games. It's almost as unputdownable as the first book. The plot offers surprises, but the direction the story takes makes good sense. And, as with the first book, reading Collins' prose is like drinking water, it goes down so smoothly.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061576614, $24.99, www.amazon.com
I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately: too busy to read much, and stuck in so-so books when I did have the time. Then Kate White's Hush came along and saved me. The book features Lake Warren as a newly separated media consultant, currently working on a campaign for a fertility clinic. Her husband is suddenly interested in getting full custody of the kids, and she's been warned not to give him any ammunition to use against her in court. Normally, this wouldn't be a
problem, but with her son and daughter away at sleep-away camp and a flirtatious doctor coming on to her, one thing leads to another.....
The climax isn't quite what she expected. One arguably unwise decision
later and she's caught in a nightmare, and her particular circumstances make asking for help out of the question. It gets worse from there. The author does a great job of separating Lake from any
possible avenue of escape, and in ways that are perfectly credible, while expertly ratcheting up the tension. The kids are out of sight and thus vulnerable, adding a further layer of concern. And neither she nor we know whom she can trust. My only complaints are minor. Lake's birthmark is mentioned often enough that it's surprising it doesn't turn out to be relevant to the plot. And in my edition there is a teaser before the first chapter, an excerpt from the later stages of the story. I would have much preferred going into the book without that hint of things to come. Otherwise, simply excellent. This is a breathless, well-crafted read.
The Skull Ring
Haunted Computer Books
9781907190902, $14.95, www.hauntedcomputer.com
Julia Stone moved from Memphis to a small town in North Carolina four months before Scott Nicholson's The Skull Ring opens: a quieter atmosphere, a less stressful job, a new therapist. Dr. Forrest has been helping Julia deal with her panic attacks, the black fear that greets her when she comes home to an empty house, the paranoid delusions. Everyone she passes on the street, everyone who comes to her door, could be one of them, the hooded bad men--the "creeps"--who
tried to kill her as a child, who have been haunting her since, rearranging knick knacks in her absence, making her electronics malfunction. Or not. Granted the nightmare was real when she was four years old, but after that it's all been in her head...or so she has to keep reminding herself. No one really came in through the window while she was out: she must have forgotten to close it....
Much of The Skull Rings plays out in Julia's mind as she assesses her fears, trying to hold on to reality when the bad things going on around her seem too real to dismiss as delusions. She's torn in one direction by her therapist, but a smothering fiance back home in Memphis is dismissive of her attempts to deal with the past by confronting it. And then there is Walter the handyman, who may be a human manifestation of infernal evil, or may just have shown up to check her windows. One never knows in Julia's world.
I had a few small quibbles with Nicholson's book. Some background information on Satanism at about the halfway point slows down the narrative, and there's a fair amount of Julia's contemplation to wade through--not only her wondering if she's crazy, but also her reflections on God and Satan. Julia also has a conversation with her neighbor early on that seems disjointed, almost as if a few lines have been mistakenly omitted from the narrative. But on the whole The Skull Ring is a good, tense read. It certainly starts out with a bang. And it's riddled with nice phrasing you'll want to pause to appreciate.
Debra Hamel, Reviewer
The Midnight House
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156295, $25.95, www.amazon.com
The Midnight House was a secret facility of our anti-terror activities located in Poland. Staffed with a small group of military and CIA people, this unit called squad 673, did not show up on any organization charts. Its purpose was to hold and interrogate hard-core jihadists. It methods were, simply stated, just about anything that worked.
After the Midnight House was closed down in 2008, the squad was disbanded and the members went on to other assignments or retirement. A year later the men from squad 673 start being murdered. One a doctor, the only female in the group, commits suicide, but most of the rest are shot and killed or disappear. To find the killer or killers, the CIA selects John Wells.
After a short investigation in the States, Wells is off to Cairo to pursue a lead. Where John Wells goes, action follows. This novel is probably the most complex of the John Wells stories, but it reads more like a detective story than the adventures of a top operative in the anti-terror arena.
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
9780765351463, $7.99, www.amazon.com
On a recent visit to a retail book super-store I came across a name from my past, Harold Robbins. Back in the Sixties and Seventies, Mr. Robbins' novels were best sellers on a worldwide basis. He sold in excess of 50 million copies of his books. Now, thirteen years after his passing his work is hard to find in stores and libraries. I purchased a copy of The Carpetbaggers, which was the only one on the shelf.
As I plunged into the massive paperback, 676 pages, I wondered if the story could grip me the way the orginal had in 1961.
The story opens in 1925 in Reno, Nevada. Jonas Cord, the twenty-one year old son of the owner of Cord Explosives is into wild women and wild rides in his father's biplane. At constant conflict with his widower father, the older man's demise results in Jonas running the company. So starts the adventures of Jonas Cord. He enters the manufacturing of airplanes which is a tremendous success, and then on to the motion picture business, where he can combine business and pleasure. The similarity between Cord and the real life Howard Hughes is striking. Going forward in the novel, other compelling characters emerge: Rina Marlow who becomes a famous screen actress like Jean Harlow, Jennie Denton, a good girl turned to prostitution, who becomes successful with her acting career in Hollywood, is somewhat patterned after Jane Rusell, a Hughes' discovery and finally, Nevada Smith, born Max Sand, the son of a rancher and his Indian wife.
With the exception of Jonas Cord, I found Nevada Smith the most interesting character in The Carpetbaggers. As a teenager on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, he finds his mother and father at home, tortured and murdered. He sets out to find the three men who committed the atrocity. He tracks them down one by one, and when he finds that the last killer is a prisoner in a Louisiana chain gang, he manages to have himself arrested and put there to plot one final execution. Nevada Smith, seemingly based on the actor, Tom Mix, escapes from the prison camp and comes upon the Cord Explosives plant where he is hired by Jonas' father. Ultimately he stars in Western films, has his own wild west show, and he becomes one of Jonas Cord's closest confidants.
This big novel has it all, action, sex, power, revenge, jealousy, betrayal and redemption. It hurtles along like an out of control oil tank truck on a steep mountain road. I loved it in 1961 and I love it now. Harold Robbins was not a critic's favorite in his day, but I suggest that you read him now and you be the judge.
I have always felt that Henry Miller opened a window to the raw underside of people's lives. I now must add, in that vein, that Harold Robbins opened a door, a big door.
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
9780451227386, $9.99, www.amazon.com
Mr. Silva continues the adventures of Israeli special op Gabriel Allon. His 'daytime job' is that of an accomplished restorer of famous paintings. The story opens in a ski resort in France frequented by rich and sometimes criminal Russian people. The murder of a Russian journalist brings Gabriel into the picture when he is contacted by the deceased reporter's colleague. A meeting is arranged in Rome, but before Gabriel can make contact with the man, that person is also murdered by poison injection in a public venue.
Gabriel's headquarters in Israel have information that jihadists are buying sophisticated weapons from a Russian arms dealer to use in an attack on a city in the United States. Gabriel is assigned to pursue this "tip" and to make contact with a Russian journalist, a beautiful woman, who can provide more details. He is off to Moscow to meet the woman, Olga, and pursue this lead. In Moscow much action ensues with Gabriel using his spycraft and physical skills to great advantage.
This novel is Dan Silva at the top of his game: great character development, a plot that makes sense, action, intrigue that culminates in an ending that is thrilling and satisfying. This book is highly recommended for fans of the international thriller genre.
Wendy A. Woloson
The University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226905679, $35.00, www.amazon.com
"In Hock: Pawning in America from Independence through the Great Depression " is a slim volume in which Wendy A. Woloson sets out to correct the misconceptions of pawning and pawnbrokers she sees embedded in American history and society. The book's arrangement is topical rather than chronological with each chapter devoted to one subject but ranging in time "from Independence through the Great Depression." Some of the topics discussed are: the Jewish connection to pawning, pawnbrokers as fronts for stolen goods, and charitable pawning organizations. Woloson is ceaseless in her argument that pawnbrokers provided an essential service for the poor to get by because they could not get money from most lending institutions. Determined to counteract negative perceptions of pawnbrokers, she is quick to point out any fact in their favor. This makes her objectivity questionable but does not prevent the book from being a fascinating study of a rarely explored subject.
The War that Made America
c/o Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780143038047, $16.00, www.amazon.com
The thesis of "The War that Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War" is that the French and Indian War (1754-63) precipitated the American Revolution is common, but Fred Anderson goes further. He sees the war as a new chapter in Anglo Indian relations that profoundly affected the early republic. Formerly, Indian nations and tribes allied themselves to whichever colonial group best served their purposes. For most that meant mutually beneficial trade with the small but wide-flung French population of hunters and trappers rather than British settlers. The war, fought between the French and British with the help of their respective colonists, destroyed that status quo. Britain's battlefield victories and growing ascendance in North America caused it to replace France as the principal Indian ally. To reward their loyalty, the British government made some attempts after the war to guarantee Indian land rights on the frontier against the encroachment of colonial farmers. In consequence, the American colonists increasingly saw the nearby native tribes as threats and hindrances to expansion. The issue became one more grievance against the British government.
Anderson's investigation of the French and Indian War is unique because he continues the story well into the 1760s and 70s, which saw the birth of opposition to Britain's authority. The new self-confidence and independent spirit fostered by the war made Americans dissatisfied with Britain's autocratic approach. This seamless narration gives the war its proper place in molding the colonial world of the American Revolution. The book is a concise look at a broad topic, but very readable.
The Complete Green Letters
Miles J. Stanford
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310330516, $12.99, www.amazon.com
"The aim of this book is to carefully bring out some of the more important principles of spiritual growth, to help the reader build on a sound biblical foundation in Christ." So begins this remarkable book on the Christian's life in Christ. It is divided into five parts covering the Principles, Foundations, Ground, and Realization of Spiritual Growth, and ending with A Guide to Spiritual Growth. "The Complete Green Letters" is an essential discussion of these topics, offering hope to Christian's struggling in supposed failure. Stanford urges readers to shun the temptation of self-willed efforts to be better Christians and instead rely on the finished work of Christ on the cross and the continual prompting of the Holy Spirit within. Rather than seeing failure as a reason for personal disappointment he views it as God's means of awakening us to our need for His intervention. When we rest solely on our acceptance through Christ, God can begin to conform us to His image. Stanford's theme is that "Christian living is not our living with Christ's help, it is Christ living His life in us."
The Collaborator Rules 101
Safflower Publishing Inc.
9780974761718, $12.95, www.amazon.com
I'm not a big fan of partnerships in writing because so many of the ones I've been in and that I've seen end up so negative. I have to say though if there is a formula to not have problems, "The Collaborator Rules 101: Surefire Ways to Stay Friends With Your Co-Author" is the best resource to guide the two writers to a happy working relationship. Shields easily points out 101 surefire ways to avoid major problems. The book is easy to follow and has a lot of simple things that people never think to do. "Class 101 Collaborator Rules" is now in session.
Never Say "I'm on a diet."
George R Gressell BA, BSN, RN
P.O. Box 9691, Treasure Island, Fl 33706
9780984139767, $10.00, www.amazon.com
I loved this book! "Never Say "I'm on a diet.": Learn Energy Balance For Weight Loss That Stays Lost" is the first that I know of to teach people to stop thinking they are on a diet. Instead he talks about eating in moderation. He tells why it is a better approach and that taking off weight and keeping it off is healthier than the standard failed routine we all know and hate. This is a fresh approach that really works and is a groundbreaking method.
The 9th Judgment
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316036276 $27.95 www.amazon.com
Wow, these 'Women's Murder Club' novels just keep getting better and better. In "The 9th Judgment", Lindsay Boxer is on the trail of a killer who viciously kills mothers and their children. She is also working on a case of an actor's wife who was shot and killed by a suspected cat burglar. Boxer has her hands full with the two cases. The novel races along to its final surprising ending with lots of twists and turns the authors are known for .
What About the Children?
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432751975, $12.95, www.amazon.com
Child abuse is a hot topic these days and "What About the Children?: What's the Strategy to Prevent These Tragedies?" deals with a different perspective of the issue. The author delves into the realm of foster parents and how they abuse children. This should have been a first class expose. Instead it is a very poorly written account of the situations the author was in. Breonna is the girl the author tells about. The author, for some reason, never gives her sister a name; she is just Breonna's sister. The writing is sluggish and the author tells a series of events with nothing that leads into them. We also know nothing about Dianne Nelson other than she lives and works in Maryland. The reader never really knows the age of Breonna throughout the work. It reads like a series of thoughts on the part of the author. Another thing is that the title has very little to do with anything depicted in the book. She also shows no strategy to avoid this situation. I have been a defender of self publish and POD books for a long time. This is a shining example of why they get the negative attention they receive.
10 53rd Street New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061584459, $7.99, www.amazon.com
It begins for Travis Chase, an ex-con/ex-cop, in the Alaskan wilds when he stumbles upon a crashed 747. Among the dead passengers is the wife of the President of the United States. So begins "The Breach", a tale that has lots of twists and turns and nail biting suspense until the final page. This is a new author to look for in the future.
Just After Sunset
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416586654, $9.99, www.amazon.com
I don't read many of the newer novels of Stephen King because they are so long winded. But I have to say that this collection of short fiction is very good. More like the author I read a long time ago. The 14 stories are scary tales that should have readers reading into the wee hours of the morning. I also like the introduction King wrote on why he continues to write shorter fiction.
Fear the Worst
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553591750 $24.95 www.amazon.com
Before this one I had never read this author. I will have to add him to my list of authors to look for because in "Fear the Worst" he tells a walloping tale of a father's search for his lost daughter. Barclay has a lot of weird characters who fill this suspenseful novel. Tim Blake is looking for his daughter who disappeared without a trace. He begins to learn that not everything is as it seems with her and her friends. He is obsessed with finding out what happened to her. The characters are believable in the tense nail biting situations that lead to a shattering climax. Barclay is a first class writer in the genre.
Finger Lickin' Fifteen
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
9780312383282 $27.95 www.amazon.com
I have enjoyed the series and "Finger Lickin' Fifteen" has a lot of good things about it. The pacing is fast with fun characters in humorous situations. Stephanie Plum is involved in a lot of complicated circumstances that are entertaining reading The one thing I've noticed is that Evanovich has put in a lot of toilet humor throughout the work. I, for one do not understand authors who feel they have to resort to that kind of comedy to get a laugh. In all the writings of Donald E. Westlake, the master of the comic caper, I can't remember ever reading toilet humor in any of his long body of work. It will be a while before I read another Plum novel after this one.
Robert Haggerty & Bobbi Switzor
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432745509 $17.95 www.amazon.com
Written by Robert Haggerty and illustrated by Bobbi Switzor, "Bailey's Day" is a kid's book about a dog named Bailey who has a fun day out of the house with his numerous friends. The author tells his delightful story with illustrations that add to the story. At the end of "Bailey's Day" are pictures of the real Bailey.
RV Canada On A Dime And A Dream
Dreams Inspirations Seminars
#14-7624 Duncan St, Powell River, BC, V8A 5L2, Canada
978097361988, $20.00 www.amazon.com www.write2dream.com
In diary form the writer tells the story of her husband and herself and how they drove their RV from one side of Canada to the other. The trip began in Powel River and concluded in Halifax. Along the way they sold items at farmer's markets and flea markets to make some money. There are lots of travel hints on how to save money and lots of interesting people Rees met along the way. She also deals with repairs to the engine and how complicated they sometimes can be. "RV Canada On A Dime And A Dream" is a fun excursion throughout the huge country to the north that most Americans know very little about "RV Canada On A Dime And A Dream" is also a fine resource to learn about Canada.
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061432712, $24.99, www.harpercollins.com
One's first impression on beginning this book, the 12th in the Serge Storm series, is that this is going to be one raunchy book; the second is that it's going to be filled with violence; the third is that this author has a strange sense of humor. And that's just from the (very brief) prologue. The plot almost defies description. It is comprised of hard drinking, larceny, a bit of drug dealing, Spring training baseball, Florida history, in pretty much equal measure. Irreverent, very funny, possibly in poor taste, and definitely not politically correct. Serge is accompanied by his buddy Coleman, who wears a t-shirt reading "Alcohol, tobacco and firearms should be a convenience store, not a government agency."
The fallout of events which took place fifteen years in the past contributes to the story line, which events are interspersed gradually in this tale, slowly bringing the reader up to speed. The plot veers back and forth from the frigid and snowy northeast US to Florida, before the different story lines converge in unpredictable fashion in the Sunshine State, where Spring break is in full swing. Serge, a man suffering from severe ADHD, has an odd sense of morality, but what there is of it is very strong and dictates his behavior. He even manages to make a trio of young, proselytizing church volunteers question their till then staunchly held opinions on everything from homosexuality to evolution. The reader is soon caught up in the insanity, and the hilarity, falling under the spell of Serge as, apparently, does everyone else he encounters.
The Little Death
P. J. Parrish
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416525899, $7.99, www.amazon.com
When a man's body is found in a place called Devil's Garden on the westernmost fringe of Palm Beach County in South Florida, it was startling enough. The body was naked, but even more disturbing was the fact that it was missing its head. Neither the clothes nor the head were anywhere around. The man arrested by the police is Reggie Kent. The dead man had been his 'friend' and lived in Reggie's house in Palm Beach. Reggie is a "walker," or escort to the wealthy matrons of Palm Beach, and Mark Durand, the murder victim, was his protege.
When Reggie calls upon his friend Mel Landeta, whom he had known when the latter was with the Miami P.D., Mel in turn calls upon Louis Kincaid, another ex-cop and presently a pi in Fort Myers. Together they travel east across the state to investigate the murder. Not an easy task, Louis finds, where even the local police "looked down there noses at him because he didn't have a badge. But he was used to that. He was even used to being the only black guy in a town of whites. What he wasn't used to was feeling like some kind of insect because he wasn't wearing the right jacket."
The backdrop to the murder investigation is Louis' troubled relationship with Joe Frye, the sheriff in Echo Bay, Michigan. Louis is pretty sure he loves Joe, but she has suggested they start seeing others.
Mel is slowly going blind, and Louis feels he must continue to work the case with him, despite his antipathy toward the residents, who, as he is told, "come to Palm Beach to reinvent themselves. It's just Vegas with better clothes." All is superficiality here, and smugness the default attitude, especially towards the NOCDs ["Not Our Class, Dear"]. The snobbery and homophobia are almost more than Mel and Louis can tolerate, but they doggedly pursue the case no matter where it leads.
The characters are, as always with these authors, wonderfully drawn, especially Andrew Swann, a cop with the local police force, and I hope he returns in future books. At the conclusion of the investigation, Louis says "I'm going home, sit on my beach with a beer, and wait for the next case to come along." So will we all! [well, the last part of that at least].
Hank Phillippi Ryan
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Rd., Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778327974, $7.99, www.MIRABooks.com
Charlotte McNally [dubbed "Charlie Mac" by her 9-year-old soon-to-be step-daughter], the protagonist in this engrossing series, is an investigative reporter at a local TV channel in Boston. She is engaged to Bexter Academy professor Josh Gelston. Splitting her time between her condo on Beacon Hill and Josh's Brookline residence, she finds her loyalties somewhat divided when Josh confides in her something which she feels can be the tip of an iceberg which would be a huge story. Things become even more complicated when she is offered a network job in NYC, and her personal and professional lives battle for supremacy.
A second, seemingly prescient plotline deals with serious and potentially lethal automobile defects involving recalls of autos never repaired, some still on the market either as car rentals or used cars; we all know the parallel real-life situation dating back only to November, 2009.
Penny, who Charlie thinks of as nine going on sixteen, and their calico cat, "Botox," fill in the background of Charlie's increasingly complicated home life, as her priorities shift back and forth between a huge professional move to the big-time and the man she dearly loves, as she finds herself pondering the question: "How many secrets can one person have?" The suspenseful tale escalates with threats and deaths among the Bexter 'family' and the 'who-is-behind-this' tension in both aspects of the plot. The fact that the author herself is an investigative TV journalist and multiple Emmy-Award winner lends an unmistakable authenticity to the novel, which is recommended.
Live to Tell
Wendy Corsi Staub
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061895067, $7.99, www.harpercollins.com
Lauren Walsh is a young Westchester, NY suburbanite still devastated by the breakup of her marriage, made even more so by the fact that her husband left her for another woman, and the not-unexpected effects that has had on her three children.
Elsa Cavalon is trying without much success to recover from the disappearance of her son, Jeremy, at the age of seven. He had simply vanished, and despite the passage of 14 years she has never really given up hope that she can some day achieve 'closure,' whatever that may mean, and discover whether or not he is still alive.
The third story line of this book deals with a ruthless "bad guy" who seems beyond the reach of any kind of justice, and whose efforts to stay that way have far-reaching and unpredictable ramifications. The point is made, and made again, that "bad things happen everywhere."
The novel shifts from Lauren to Elsa seemingly every few pages, increasing the suspense as, I am sure, is intended, but proving disconcerting to this reader, who would have preferred to linger a bit longer along the separate plotlines. The back-story of each of the three main characters is doled out very slowly as the tale unfolds, over and beyond the first two to three hundred pages and beyond. As it does, the reader - and the characters - are unsure who is what he, or she, appears to be and who can be trusted. I for one was totally unprepared for the point at which they converge. All does not even start to become clear until well over 300 pages have been turned, as the tale shifts into overdrive. Suspenseful and eminently readable, the book is recommended. [The reader is given a peak at the next novel by this author, "Scared to Death," in which at least some of these characters reappear.]
Little Brown/Reagan Arthur
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316015639, $24.99, www.amazon.colm
Two young men, cloaked in balaclavas, burst into a non-descript residence in suburban Glasgow in a home invasion. When the attack is over, they have kidnapped the elderly grandfather, terrorizing the family and demanding a huge ransom. The police who investigate the crime are baffled - did they have the wrong house? It would appear that the family is of modest means and could only manage to scrape up a fracture of the millions of pounds demanded. The answer to this question is not made clear till very near the end of this character-driven novel, although the reader is teased with small hints from time to time.
DCI MacKechnie, DS Bannerman and DS Alex Morrow of Strathclyde CID are assigned the case, but it is the latter who is the most interesting of these. The reader is told little of her backstory, although similarly teased with occasional small hints. We are made aware, early on, that her career has been and is affected by office and societal politics of class, race and sex, but her personal problems appear to have put up somewhat of a buffer against much of the anger and resentment thus aroused. She is a careful and clever detective, and is determined to find the kidnap victim before the kidnappers' threats are made good.
I have read and loved the Garnethill trilogy written by this author, and found this standalone an engrossing read. Ms. Mina captures even small roles eloquently: A college professor whose "office and personal appearance spoke of a man who lived for pretentious obfuscation and all things dusty," an automobile showroom where "the cars were even shinier inside, their lines beguiling and the colours bright, like perfect children lined up for adoption." Despite an ending that was unexpected in its suddenness, I very much enjoyed this book, and recommend it.
G.P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Publishing Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155987, $26.95, www.amazon.com
It is fun reading a good contemporary fictional story that takes place in a location that you know. In Rough Country, Sandford has used a location that I live in. A writer has to work a balancing act between reality and fiction when using a modern setting. Too much reality and you might place a killer living at your Grandmother's home. Too little and it will not connect with the reader. Sandford uses enough reality to get the core and feel of the Grand Rapids region of Minnesota but fictionalizes enough that no local will mistake the real town for the one in the story. This actually adds a huge amount of humor for the local reader as he/she laughs at a location or fact that they deal with everyday but is hidden in the guise of a hard-core detective novel. Sure there are a couple of facts wrong but enough are right that Rough Country should be a story anyone familiar with the region has to search out and buy. You will not just want to read it once.
Virgil Flowers, a detective for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is in a musky fishing tournament on Lake Vermilion when he gets a call from his boss, Lucas Davenport. A woman has been shot kayaking on a resort lake outside of Grand Rapids. The murdered woman is well known in the state and the local sheriff's department is busy with the disappearance of a teen girl. Virgil is ordered down to the resort and walks into a complex web of sex, jealousy and money with the addition of a crazed serial killer or killers. The trail leads from the bedrooms of Grand Rapids to the board rooms of the Twin Cities to a country honkytonk in Iowa and back. Lust, money and country music are blended into a real location that is interesting enough that you just might like to visit, if not live in--minus the crazed murders.
Sandford is one of the best hard-core detective storytellers today and Flowers is a light, easy to like, character. Sandford is best known for his Lucas Davenport character but Flowers has less back story baggage than Davenport so the story is lighter and fresher. Rough Country is another winner and should be on the list of every reader in the genre.
Solar Sipper Publishing
PO Box 86, Weston, MA 02481
Powerboat Racer is a fun mystery with a lot of local color. But it suffers from an all too common problem with today's publishing industry. The big publishers only want volume sales or those that fit particular volume niche markets. A simple, but good, mystery just doesn't find a home with the big publishers. This pushes the story into the very small or individual publishing markets. For a book to be produced it requires multiple line and galley edits. Even the big publishers with staffs of editors will produce books with multiple editing errors. Small publishers will usually have only one editor who has to handle everything from the line edits to the galley edits. Powerboat Racer suffers from too many formatting and line editing errors. Once the reader gets past the problems, he/she can enjoy a classic style mystery that is too frequently missing from the bookstores.
Harry Jacobson has just purchased a small local paper in River Sunday, Maryland. He has been given a story lead from a local deputy sheriff that an old powerboat has been found, a powerboat belonging to a notorious criminal, Walker John Douglas, on the run for murder and arson. Harry has just stumbled into a thirty year old festering wound of racial politics and greed in the small coastal town. The more he learns about the events thirty years in the past the more threats and danger he uncovers. He is too good a reporter to give up on a great story but the real question is who will survive the eruption of violence that has been held in check by the disappearance of the just discovered powerboat, the Black Duck.
Powerboat Racer is a mystery that brings to life a small town with a hidden past that flows from the Civil War to today. It is the type of cozy mystery that is relatively hard to find today. The rich local color and characters bring into existence a small town that we can't find in our lives today but that we still would like to think exists. The story suffers from many minor editing errors and an ending that is overly sweet. But it is still better than many of the over-plotted contemporary mysteries that are produced by the major publishers. If you are looking for a cozy read during a vacation, Powerboat Racer would be a fine choice.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
Why Bad Things Happen to Good People
World Audience Inc
303 Park Ave South, Suite 1440, NY 10010-3657
9781935444183, $20.00, www.amazon.com
World Audience tries to maintain a balanced catalogue by publishing books by authors with the sanity, education and intelligence to recognize that religion is the most antihuman perversion the human imagination has ever concocted; and books by authors so lacking those qualities that they can delude themselves that a bible that states in fourteen places that the earth is flat is nonfiction. In contrast to God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion, which does to the god delusion what the first photographs of the Martian surface did to the canals delusion, the same publisher now offers Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, to cater to readers who continue to believe that there are two sides to every question. There are not.
If the editor of this collection of rationalizations for why a good god would do bad things was trying to bring together the strongest proofs he could find that incurable godworshippers are dangerously, criminally, certifiably insane, he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
Consider Swearingen's Preface (p. 5), "'If this is how Christianity or Judaism works in times of need; if this is how God operates, I'm not interested!' Such is not an uncommon agnostic's response." But he proceeds from there to the Big Lie that what makes a difference to "devout Christians and dedicated Jews" is "a substantial knowledge of the Bible." He shrewdly attributes a questioning reaction to the earthquake with which his imaginary Sky Fuhrer allegedly murdered a quarter-million Haitians, along with similar atrocities, to "agnostics," self-confessed ignoramuses who lack the moral courage to face reality, rather than disbelievers. It was precisely "a substantial knowledge of the Bible" that cured every nontheist of my acquaintance of his affliction with the god psychosis. As Mark Twain observed, "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me; it is the parts that I do understand." Isaac Asimov clarified, "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived." A couple of centuries ago, the Catholic Church attempted to close every university on earth, in recognition that students were going in as godworshippers and coming out sane.
Only a tiny fraction of persons who claim to believe in religion have ever read a bible, and are not encouraged to do so by their pushers out of fear that it will cure them also. The only persons who can actually read the most obscene paean to evil ever written, and Manchurian Candidate-ize themselves that its protagonist, called "God" in English mistranslations, is something other than the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction, are theologians, accurately described by H. L. Mencken as "a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there-and finding it." All of this book's authors are theologians, and almost all insert the word "Reverend" in front of their names in an unambiguous confession that they are bloodsucking parasites who make their living fleecing the godphuqt.
In chapter one, "Reverend" John Huffman cites the declaration of Romans 8:28 that "All things work together for good." He then rationalizes that, "All things do not work together for good if we have a non-biblical understanding of this promise." In other words, unless one believes that right and wrong are whatever Huffman's bible says they are, he might see the Indian Ocean tsunami as "not good." He continues, "On the other hand, you and I can declare an emphatic YES-all things really do work together for good if we correctly interpret this verse in the light of the rest of biblical teaching." He elaborates, "To get in stride with the good that Paul talks about, you must be in stride with the God of eternity, realizing the transient, temporary nature of the life which you are now living." Translation: to see evil as good, you must view it as a necessary step toward pie in the sky when you die. According to Huffman, "The issue is whether or not you have responded to the call of God upon your life." And what does "responded to the call of God" mean? As he has made very clear in his sermons (not reprinted here), it means sending money that you cannot afford so that the god's self-appointed satraps can live in the luxury to which the contributions of suckers have made them accustomed.
In Chapter two "Reverend" Thomas Tewell asks, "Why didn't God intervene at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and in Western Pennsylvania? Where was God?" In a pretend response to those questions he babbles, "Hear me carefully. God doesn't cause all evil. God doesn't cause suffering. But evil and suffering are within the sovereignty of God. Out of it God can bring good. How do I know? The cross is empty." Such non-sequitur theobabble has two possible explanations. Either Tewell has no more capacity for logical human thought than a mynah bird, or he is gambling on his intended audience having no more capacity for logical human thought than a mynah bird. Unfortunately, it is a gamble he is likely to win.
Tewell criticizes Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson for their declaration after 9/11 that, "the United States of America is being punished for all of your liberal views." For that he would appear to deserve praise. But he explains that, "I was upset because I thought they were ill-timed and inappropriate and because they are frankly theologically inaccurate." He is not outraged that the god Falwell and Robertson created out of what they see in the mirror differs in no significant way from the god reflected in Osama bin Laden's mirror. Instead he sees their interpretation as "theologically inaccurate," despite believing that the god of 9/11 is the same god that in several places in Genesis massacred innocent bystanders for the crimes of other people. Praiseworthy Tewell is not. He may be less despicable than Falwell and Robertson, but his belief that right and wrong are whatever his imaginary deity's dead scriptwriter said they are makes him every bit as morally handicapped.
The author of chapter three, James Kennedy, who is now a good parasite (a dead one), discusses evaluations of the Book of Job by other theologians, and their conclusion that, since God is by definition all good, he therefore cannot be all powerful. After dogmatically asserting that his imaginary friend is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, despite his treatment of Job, he writes, "Just imagine . that God were a cosmic ball playing with people like grasshoppers in a bottle. Or suppose that God were a demon, filled with malevolent hatred." How should someone who recognizes that, if there really is an all-powerful god, it must be one or the other, respond? Kennedy's answer is to pray to such a monster, "Help us realize that all that comes to us has meaning and purpose and Thou will turn it to our good. And we will rejoice." Presumably he is telling persons who have a problem believing an absurdity to brainwash themselves until they do believe it, because that is what worked for him.
Early in chapter four William Bouknight, who also bases his drivel on the Book of Job, reports that a parishioner once asked him, "Rev. Bouknight, I would like to . understand where God was when Dr. James Blair was shot." Instead of answering, or reporting how he answered at the time, he deftly changes the subject and, a few pages later, cites a movie in which some children ask a preacher why their cat died. After hearing the preacher's answer, one of the children remarks, "He doesn't know, does he?" I wonder if Bouknight realizes how appropriate that response would be to his own mental contortions? Instead of looking at the real implications of questions that are not unanswerable if one rules out Mother Goose's male equivalent (luck of the draw), he fantasizes that, "Never in this world will we understand all the mystery surrounding suffering."
Adrian Rogers, author of chapter five, writes, "The question is often asked, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? I don't like the question. I'll tell you why. First of all, there are no good people, no not one. I don't know whether you believe that or not, but that's scripture.. There is none good, no not one." Rogers was not the first person to project what he saw in the mirror onto the rest of the world, but he was one of the most paranoid. He is now a good parasite.
Billy Graham in chapter six also focuses on the Book of Job. Anyone who has a favorable opinion of Protestantism's equivalent of Ayatollah Khomeini cannot have read the definitive biography of that North Carolina hillbilly. In Prince of War, Cecil Bothwell draws attention to Graham's ties to the John Birch Society, the Ku Klux Klan, Senator Joseph McCarthy, whom Graham has never repudiated, and the most fanatic warmongers of the Republicanazi Party. He even urged Richard Nixon to kill a million North Vietnamese by replicating the kind of dike bombings for which a Nazi was sentenced to death at Nuremberg. He asks, "Why does God allow evil and suffering? Frankly, I have asked myself that question hundreds of times over the years, and I have to admit I don't know the full answer." That may be the only truth Graham has ever told in his life. Let me give him the answer: Because your god does not exist!
The author of chapter seven, "Pastor" (meaning herder of sheep) Chuck Smith writes, "So often in life we are faced with problems, circumstances, hardships, sorrow, suffering, and we ask why did God allow this to happen?" Smith's response is, "God thinks with the advantage of omniscience; God knows all things." Really? That is not what the author of Genesis 18:20-21 believed: "So Yahweh said, 'There is an enormous outcry against Sodom and Khomorah, that their faults are extremely bad. So I'm going down to find out for myself whether the accusations that have reached me reflect what they have really done. For if they were lies, I want to know that.'"
In chapter eight, Michael Foss argues that improbable events, such as the recovery of a small number of sufferers of a medical condition that kills the majority, are miracles. I wonder if he similarly categorizes the New Orleans Saints' Superbowl victory or the Boston Red Sox finally winning the World Series?
In chapter nine Robert Schuller expresses the belief that, "When bad things happen to good people, they become better people." If he believes that, he should hurry back to the Cuckoo's Nest before Nurse Ratched gives his bed away.
The ability of these ten scions of the Christian Taliban to defend absolute, unspeakable evil (as disease, starvation, and natural disasters would be if an all-powerful Sky Fuhrer had authorized them) raises two questions: (1) where were they when Adolf Hitler's good buddies at Nuremberg really needed them? and (2) why are they not all confined to cages with padded walls where they cannot pass on their mind-AIDS to the uninfected?
The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture
Darrel W. Ray
15699 Kansas Avenue, Bonner Springs, KS 66012
9780970950512, $15.95, www.amazon.com
There are many books about religion that reveal its imaginary Sky Fuhrer's true status in the book's title. To The Messiah Myth; The Christ Myth; The Jesus Myth; The Jesus Hoax; Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, and Jesus; God Fraud; The God Delusion; and The God Psychosis; we can now add The God Virus.
The God Virus is written from the perspective of a "doctor of education"(1) who does not believe in religion, or in Scientology (which he mistakes for a religion), but does believe in psychiatry (which he thinks is not a religion, even though the discipline it most closely resembles is faithhealing), psychology(2) (which he thinks differs significantly from tealeaf reading), and hypnotism(3) (which he thinks is an altered state of consciousness involving a "trance," rather than a combination of placebo effect, self-delusion, and simulation to please the self-styled hypnotist). In Ray's defence, while he describes a psychotherapy technique as "hypnotism," he also describes the techniques of televangelists and salesmen as hypnotism. So perhaps he is using the word as a metaphor for effective persuasion, the way I describe god-infection as "insanity" as a metaphor for incurably undisciplined thinking even though I am aware that insanity is as nonexistent as hypnotism.
Ray makes many valid points and astute observations. Consider the following:
"We can apply the viral concept to religion.(4) While the parasite takes over the perceptions of the ant, religion similarly takes over the perceptions of those it infects.. When a religion infects a person . it immediately begins creating antibodies against competing viruses.. Once a person is infected with Catholicism, she rarely become a Buddhist" (pp. 23-24).
"Some people who experience a religious conversion seem to undergo a personality change. They can be quite congenial and easygoing when talking about mundane things, but when they start talking about their 'faith,' their demeanor changes.. It looks like a scene from the cult movie Invaders of the Body Snatchers (1978), where alien pods take over the brains and bodies of people and change them into emotionless automatons" (p. 20).
"With a few changes, a Pat Robertson sermon could easily be turned into something bin Laden might preach.. the god virus has disabled some of these [brain functions] as effectively as Toxiplasma gondii disables the rat's fear of cat pheromones" (p. 27). "Just as surely as the Toxiplasma gondii takes over control of the rat brain, the god virus takes control of the suicide bomber, priest, preacher or nun and directs behavior to ensure survival or advancement of the religion" (p. 36). "The god virus infects and takes over the critical thinking capacity of the individual with respect to his or her own religion, much as rabies affects specific parts of the central nervous system" (p. 32).
"Kim Il-sung . is as much a god to the North Koreans as a dead Pharaoh was to the ancient Egyptians. It seems bizarre to the western mind to venerate a dead dictator, but how is that different than a Christian worshipping a dead Jesus?" (p. 52)
Commenting on Pope Benedict's speech in Brazil, in which he told descendants of the victims of the homicidal conquistadores (p. 55) that, "Christ is the Savior for whom [their ancestors] were silently longing," Ray writes, "Were people to say that the Jews were waiting for Hitler to show them the light, they would be called to task for such ignorance, but the Pope seems to get a free pass with such calloused statements."
"Since the 1980s this mutation of the civil religion has become very influential in the political world in this country.. It succeeded in putting a fully infected person in the White House with George W. Bush. Five infected justices now sit on the Supreme Court, all conservative Catholic" (p. 70).
"It took two world wars for the Europeans to realize that the prayers of millions of people were not answered. It doesn't take much intelligence to see that the god isn't working too well when 92 million people die in two world wars" (p. 75).
"Here are some of the beliefs people are exposed to in their early training. God loves you, but he will send you to hell if you don't do exactly as he says" (p. 86).
"The Four Great Religious Truths: 1. Muslims do not recognize the Jews as God's chosen people. 2. Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. 3. Protestants do not recognize the pope as the leader of the Christian world. 4. Baptists do not recognize each other at Hooters and liquor stores" (p. 118).
"Many a sermon has been preached on the superiority of the Christian over the non-believer. They say it often enough that one begins to wonder who they are trying to convince" (p. 171). "Study after study over the last 20 years has shown no correlation between morality and religiosity.. the god virus makes a person feel more moral without regard for objective reality.. self-identified atheists are almost non-existent in the prison system" (p. 120-121).
"90% of eminent scientists had no belief in a god or an afterlife. It seems the more intelligent and educated the less belief, at least within the scientific world" (p. 162). "No peer-reviewed study to date has found anything to indicate that religiosity enhances intelligence. In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect, which leads us to the hypothesis that the intelligence of otherwise intelligent people may be suppressed or inhibited by the constrictions of religiosity" (p. 163).
"The focus on a past that never existed is pervasive in all fundamentalist groups-whether Christian, Hindu or Muslim" (p. 156).
"I wonder what Christians and Muslims think of the man who won $330 million in the lottery in 2007. He made a deal with the gods a week before [and] credits his winning to his Wiccan faith and the gods. Looks like his gods are as powerful as the god of other winners who attribute their winning to Jesus or Allah" (p. 18).
"If your daughter said she was pregnant but still a virgin and conceived by an angel, you might want some evidence beyond her word. But somehow that idea needs no verification when part of a god virus" (p. 209).
Ray also reveals his own infection with what might be termed the psychology virus:
"Many evangelical and fundamentalist groups have a deep distrust of psychologists and psychiatrists" (p. 101). Guess what? So do many television viewers who, just from watching Law and Order, are aware that any allegedly expert opinion of one psychiatrist will be directly contradicted by roughly fifty percent of other psychiatrists. Even Scientologists recognize that psychiatry is a pseudomedical fraud, in conformity to the reality that a stopped clock is right twice a day.
"There are many powerful threats to religion today. First is the great interest in books like this one.. The second threat to religion is the continual march of science.. Psychology is a third threat. Scientology and Jehovah's Witnesses both prohibit members from seeing psychologists. Fundamentalist religions are often suspicious of psychology" (p. 227). Let me reiterate the point about a stopped clock.
"American evangelism is a new virus with new tools and methods for infection and propagation, including psychosocial methods such as hypnosis" (p. 134). "Thus, group hypnosis, trance induction and post-hypnotic suggestion are the art of the modern evangelical preacher.. Research in hypnosis and meditation has shown the power of these techniques to reduce pain, create euphoria, or an altered state of consciousness" (p. 143). As his argument for the reality of hypnotism, Ray (p. 145) cites an experiment in which a psychiatrist successfully instructed volunteers to demonstrate a "proof" that I more than once had no difficulty simulating as a professional stooge.
While correctly pointing out (p. 112) that, "Before the invasion of the hugely successful, sex-negative viruses of Christianity and Islam, many cultures were more sex-positive," Ray pulls the rug out from under himself by citing as his authority for that observation the fully-discredited Margaret Mead.
"coming out of the tomb after His resurrection" (p. 155). I checked several Protestant and Catholic bibles, and not one of them capitalized "him" in Matthew 27:52. Since Ray is clearly not terrified of the Sky Fuhrer zapping him with a thunderbolt, perhaps he is unaware that capitalizing pronouns and possessive adjectives that refer to the tribal god is no longer considered Correct English?
"If Mother Teresa can't get god to talk to her, what hope does the common person in a pew on a Sunday morning have?" (p. 181. While I am prepared to cut Ray some slack for citing a sacred cow in order to make a point with the ignoranti, I can only surmise that he is unaware that the lying Albanian swindler has been exposed as a hybrid of Leona Helmsley, Imelda Marcos, and Bernard Maddoff.
Despite his references to "books like this one," as if The God Virus were comparable with the books of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger, Ray has made a useful contribution to the case against the god delusion. While he adds little to the books of his predecessors, it would be unduly harsh to say that he adds nothing. For persons looking for responses that they can use against unwanted door-knockers, Ray provides much useful material.
(1) By the time I completed the B.Ed. degree that was a prerequisite for a teaching career, I recognized that anybody so devoid of rational judgment that he would take a single graduate course in Education, let alone complete an Ed.D., would have had P. T. Barnum beating a path to his door.
(2) A dozen psychology courses as an education student was sufficient to satisfy me that psychology is the same kind of pseudoscientific doublethink by incurable Manchurian Candidates as theology, parapsychology, astrology, or UFOlogy.
(3) Forty years of working with professional hypnotists has satisfied me beyond a reasonable doubt that hypnotism does not exist.
(4) If I had not been aware that the equation of religion with a "virus of the mind" had been widely disseminated by Richard Dawkins, and did not originate with a "doctor of education" who believes that psychology is a field of knowledge rather than a field of research that may some day discover something useful but so far has failed to do so, I would probably not have opened this book.
Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine
Simon Singh & Edzard Ernst
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
Three things about this book had me apprehensive before I even opened the first page. One was that Edzard Ernst is described on the inside cover as, "the world's first professor of complementary medicine," a description analogous to "the world's first professor of faithhealing." The second was the statement in the same place that, "there are alternative cures that are known to have almost entirely positive effects." Really? Then why do medical doctors reject them? Nonetheless, Ernst is clearly a skeptic-and a Doctor of Medicine-so the possibility that he was not simply taken in by a post hoc propter hoc situation demanded that he be given an opportunity to prove such a claim. The third problem, and this was the big one, was his dedication to England's Clown Prince, "HRH The Prince of Wales," a notoriously superstitious ignoramus who openly campaigns to have England's National Health Service pay for the snake oil placebo called homeopathy. But despite the unfortunate dedication, the authors later point out (p. 243) that, "The Prince was thus promoting a therapy that has been discredited and which is known to be potentially harmful."
S & E state in their opening chapter (p. 7), "This book is about establishing the truth in relation to alternative medicine. Which therapies work and which ones are useless? Which therapies are safe and which ones are dangerous?" They continue (p. 24), "Because clinical trials are an important factor in determining the best treatments for patients, they have a central role within a movement known as evidence-based medicine." They back up that assertion by spelling out how such procedures led to the awareness that vitamin C can prevent scurvy, smoking enormously increases the probability of contracting lung cancer, proper hygiene significantly reduces deaths in hospitals, and bloodletting tends to cause rather than prevent death. And they justify their approach by stating (p. 36) that, "Alternative medicine claims to be able to treat the same illnesses and diseases that conventional medicine tries to tackle, and we can test these claims by evaluating the evidence." They conclude the chapter by stating (p. 37) that, "Perhaps one of the reasons to categorize a medical treatment as alternative is if the establishment views it as blasphemous. In this context, the aim of our book is to evaluate the scientific evidence that relates to each alternative treatment to see if it is blasphemy on the path to revolutionize medicine or if it is blasphemy that is destined to remain in the cul-de-sac of crazy ideas."
Before reading the chapters on specific alternative medicines, I turned to the single page (313) in the appendix devoted to hypnotherapy, a field in which I view my association with the practice over several decades as more reliable than the conclusions of two casual observers. Given the limited scope of their investigation, I cannot condemn the authors for failing to reach the same conclusion as Robert Baker (They Call it Hypnosis) and myself, that hypnotism does not exist, has never existed in the past, and will not exist in the future. They do conclude that, "The prudent use of hypnotherapy can be helpful for some patients. Whether this is a specific effect of the treatment or a non-specific (placebo) effect is difficult to say." Actually their unwillingness to conclude that any positive result of hypnotherapy is a placebo effect augers well for their objectivity when they do conclude that other alternative medicines are indeed dangerous pseudomedicine.
The fifty page chapter on acupuncture contains far more information on the history of the practice than most persons reading the book will feel any need to know. The most useful information can be found on two pages. Page 84 reports that, "In summary, if acupuncture were to be considered in the same way that a new conventional painkilling drug might be tested, then it would have failed to prove itself and would not be allowed into the health market." A report of a clinical trial involving 650 patients (p. 85) concludes that, "sham acupuncture is just as effective as real acupuncture. This supports the view that acupuncture treatment acts as nothing more than a powerful placebo."
The equally long chapter on homeopathy is similarly saturated with descriptions of research that did not contribute to a final conclusion. Nonetheless, the authors eventually condemn the practice in the statement (p. 100) that, "from a scientific perspective, it is impossible to explain how a remedy that is devoid of any active ingredient can have any conceivable effect on any medical condition, apart from the obvious placebo effect." Homeopaths themselves acknowledge that their remedies are distilled to the point where they are indeed placebos. A homeopathic pill acknowledges on its label that it contains 100% sugar (p. 143). In summary (p. 139-140), "It would be fair to say that there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that homeopathic remedies simply do not work. This should not be such a surprising conclusion when we recall that they typically do not contain a single molecule of any active ingredient."
The chapter on chiropractic is less trivia-laden (only 45 pages), but more wishy-washy. About the only time the authors actually voice a conclusion is when they advise (p. 167), "The scientific evidence shows that it would be unwise to visit a chiropractor for anything other than a problem directly related to your back." And even then they do not point out that the only time a chiropractor might serve a useful function is when he duplicates the practices of physiotherapists.
Since I have never been tempted to resort to herbal medicine, I not surprisingly found the book's discussion of 35 allegedly therapeutic herbs that I had either never heard of or never heard of in connection with medicine about as entertaining as watching paint dry, and as comprehensible and informative as if it had been written in Etruscan. The passage that did strike me as useful (p. 219) was, "Herbal medicine undoubtedly offers some interesting remedies, but they are significantly outnumbered by the unproven, disproven and downright dangerous herbal medicines on the market." Perhaps because it ran too many paragraphs to include in the appendix, the therapeutic effect of prayer was included in the herbal medicine chapter. S & E found (pp. 228-229) that, "The number of deaths, heart attacks and other serious complications were similar in both [prayed-for and not-prayed-for] groups, which implied that prayers were having no effect."
The final chapter, "Does Truth Matter?" discusses whether therapies known to be ineffective and fraudulent should nonetheless be tolerated on account of the placebo effect that they trigger. After stating that the example of homeopathy would be used as an example applicable to all other alternative medicines, they point out (p. 245) that, "it might seem that the use of homeopathy as a placebo is an obviously good thing, because it gives patients hope and relief.. However, we take a different view." As indeed they should.
The appendix of Trick or Treatment devotes a single page to each of 36 alternatives to real medicine, most of which raise the question of how anyone with a functioning human brain could believe in them. The most recognizable, and presumably widely practised, include hypnotherapy, leech therapy, massage therapy, meditation, naturopathy, osteopathy, spiritual healing, and traditional Chinese medicine. Their conclusion concerning spiritual healing typifies their findings about all of the others (p. 327): "Spiritual healing is biologically implausible and its effects rely on a placebo response. At best it may offer comfort; at worst it can result in charlatans taking money from patients with serious conditions who require urgent conventional medicine."
My strongest criticism of Trick or Treatment is that it takes 342 pages to falsify pseudomedicine that could have been adequately debunked in twenty pages, thirty tops, analogous to using a sledgehammer to squash an ant. My first reaction to the conceit (p. 3) that, "Although there are plenty of books that claim to tell you the truth about alternative medicine, we are confident that ours offers an unparalleled level of rigour, authority and independence," was that the claimants must be fatuous poseurs. In fact, while most of the book is of little interest to the average reader, since its real market is the medical practitioners who need all of the information Singh and Ernst have brought together if they are to reject quackery on the basis of evidence rather than a priori assumptions, they indeed live up to their boast. Alternative medicine is quack medicine, and S & E prove it in spades, even if they do not always realize that they have done so.
Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA
Daniel. J. Fairbanks
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781616141608, $19.00, www.amazon.com
Persons who dispute the proven reality that the earth is more than four billion years old, and that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor, are being unduly flattered when they are described as scientifically illiterate. They are intellectually bankrupt. Unfortunately, Daniel Fairbanks' Preface to the 2010 edition of Relics of Eden indicates that his own scientific literacy leaves something to be desired. He states (p. iii) that "science . and religion need not be at odds." Is he claiming that the discoveries of astronomers and the Genesis chapter describing an earth less than 10,000 years old can both be true? Only by pretending that the Genesis myths are metaphors that their authors did not intend to be taken literally can such a conclusion be maintained. And any biblical historian could have told him that the authors of Genesis believed that they were writing literal truth. Even a metaphorical interpretation of the mutually exclusive creation myths of Genesis's first two chapters does not rationalize away the reality that all claims of a god revealing its existence have been traced to the same bible that contains fourteen fables that could be true if and only if the earth is flat.
Later in the book (p. 157) Fairbanks confirms his scientific illiteracy by asserting, "Although some scientists deny the existence of God, such a denial is a belief, not a scientific conclusion." Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! If Fairbanks had labeled as an opinion the conclusion that gods as a class do not exist, he would have been right. But by capitalizing "God," he designated the specific god of the most prominent religions. And as Victor Stenger has proven beyond a shadow of doubt (God: The Failed Hypothesis), that god has oxymoronic qualities that cannot coexist, and therefore a god with such qualities cannot exist. It is an integral part of religion that its sacred writings were "divinely inspired." Since those writings are incompatible with the discoveries of science, it follows that religion is incompatible with science. Religion stands or falls on the validity of its sacred writings, and those writings are fiction. Even Fairbanks' assertion (p. 157) that, "Discussions of faith, agnosticism, and atheism find their proper place . but not in science education," is only true is Logic is not recognized as a science.
"Transposable elements provide powerful evidence of human evolution and our common ancestry with chimpanzees and other primates." That sentence (p. 45) is preceded by two chapters of evidence, arguments and charts that justify such a conclusion. Unfortunately, I did not understand a word of it, at least not to the point of being able to summarize Fairbanks' reasoning with the book closed. Given the mindset of creationists, whose brainwashing does not permit them to share my willingness to believe that something I do not understand might nonetheless be right, I have to suggest that the only persons who will recognize Fairbanks' logic as irrefutable are those who already agree with his conclusions.
"The fifty-five base-pair deletion in the GBA pseudogene is an especially telling mutation because it is very unlikely that it would ever originate more than once.. a deletion of fifty-five base pairs in exactly the same place in the same pseudogene in different species is strong evidence of a common ancestor" (p. 55). My most advanced course in biology was grade 8 in Australia (about equal to a junior undergraduate course in North America). So if Fairbanks was writing satirical doubletalk (I am quite confident he was not), my lack of expertise would prevent me from recognizing it. What makes that relevant is that over ninety percent of the otherwise-educated population are equally incapable of knowing, as opposed to merely believing, that the evidence is valid and unanswerable.
After reading the first three chapters slowly and carefully and finding that my only useful comment would be, "If you say so, Professor," I saw no reasonable likelihood that the rest of the book would be more comprehensible to someone lacking even an undergraduate degree in genetics or biology, and merely skimmed the remaining chapters. I found passages that, while not telling me anything I did not already know, are worth repeating because Fairbanks backs them up with DNA evidence about which most readers are probably unaware:
p. 70:- "Humans and chimpanzees are more closely related to each other than to gorillas."
p. 74:- "Although we now reject this notion [heritability of acquired characteristics], Lamarck's writings on the ability of species to evolve were very influential because they contradicted the doctrine of special creation, proposing common ancestry for separate species."
p. 77:- Large bodies allow better heat retention and are better in cold climates, whereas smaller bodies allow better heat dispersion and are favorable in warmer climates. Thus, the difference in body size between Canadian and Mexican varieties of coyotes makes sense when their native environments are considered in the light of natural selection."
p. 109:- "According to analysis of mitochondrial DNA diversity in light of Vavilov's principle, modern humans-Homo sapiens-originated in sub-Saharan Africa."
p. 124:- "Given that dolphins and whales probably evolved from land-dwelling mammals, which modern land-dwelling mammal is most closely related to them? The answer, according to numerous studies based on extensive DNA analysis, is the hippopotamus."
p. 130:- "The results of hundreds of large-scale experiments based on DNA analysis overwhelmingly confirm the reality of evolution."
p. 157:- "The current evidence supporting evolution is so overwhelming that denying it is the intellectual equivalent of denying gravity."
p. 175:- "The mitochondrial sequence shows no evidence that Neandertals contributed DNA to modern humans, indicating that the demise of Neandertals was not a process of assimilation by humans through mating."
p. 176:- "They had the right DNA sequence for one of the major genes that governs speech. We cannot rule out the possibility of speech in Neandertals."
I reiterate that a non-specialist cannot independently confirm the accuracy of this book. It is no coincidence that comments on the back cover, such as, "This excellent book shows how DNA sequences confirm the fact of evolution," and, "The arguments are presented with unusual clarity and they are overwhelmingly convincing," come from a professor of biology and a professor of genetics. As embarrassing as my limited understanding of those subjects is, I am in good company. The most vociferous proponents of intelligent design, Michael Behe (whom Fairbanks demolishes) and William Dembski (whom he does not mention), have no more ability to understand DNA evidence than I do-or they would have already conceded defeat.
There has long been a need to prove the reality of evolution by analyzing the DNA evidence, and Fairbanks has now done that. But whether that will hasten the demise of creationism and its pseudoscientific reincarnation, intelligent design, remains to be seen.
Does God Hate Women?
Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom
80 Maiden Lane, Suite 704, NY, NY 10038
9780826498267, $24.95, www.amazon.com
If the purpose of Benson and Stangroom's opening chapter, "A God of Bullies," was to prove that the Moslems of Pakistan, Nigeria and other theocracies rank lower on the evolutionary scale than maggots in a septic tank, and that any country that tolerates subhuman evil on the ground that sharia law endorses it should be nuked from the face of the earth, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. "The system makes no distinction between women who have chosen to have sex with a man, and women who have been raped; both are a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison" (p. 2). That was not the worst atrocity reported in the chapter's opening pages. When a handful of teenage girls were buried alive for trying to marry men of their own choice, a Pakistani senator objected to the prosecution of the murderers on the ground that "honor" killing, including burial alive, was "a tribal tradition that should not be portrayed negatively."
In Nigeria, the penalty for the crime of being raped is execution for a married woman, and 100 lashes for an unmarried woman. A Nigerian state attorney general defended a death sentence imposed on a rape victim, telling a BBC interviewer, "It is the law of Allah. By executing anybody that is convicted under Islamic law, we are just complying with the laws of Allah" (p. 6). In Jerusalem a Jewish Rosa Parks was savagely beaten by "modesty police" for refusing to sit in the back of the bus. In Ghana, two elderly women were beaten to death when a mob accused them of practising witchcraft and causing a meningitis epidemic. Something similar happened in the Indian state of Jharkhand (p. 12). When a Kurdish woman was murdered by her brother in Berlin for the "honor" crime of leaving the Moslem husband her father has forced her to marry, a woman said on a Turkish radio station (p. 27) that, "She deserved it because she took off her headscarf." A woman in the Taliban's Afghanistan, where women were not permitted to learn to read, was beaten to death for writing love poetry (p. 16).
An 18-year-old girl in a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot in Arizona was ordered to marry a man "with weathered skin and yellow teeth" who already had three wives. Her father informed her that she must obey, because the cult's "prophet" had ordered her to do so. She only later learned that her father's reward for pimping his daughter was the husband's agreement to drop a lawsuit against the pimp (p. 20). As the authors note (p. 20), "Afghanistan, Arizona - they're not as different as one might expect…. In secular society, forcing girls to have sex with unknown men is called pimping, and it is straightforwardly a crime. If it is done under the umbrella of religion, and the girl is handed over for marriage rather than prostitution, then it is no longer a crime. But from the point of view of the girl, the experience is much the same."
"It is often claimed that forced marriage is geographical rather than religious, South Asian rather than Muslim or Sikh or Hindu. But religion gives traditions a backbone, and a veneer of justification, that make it easier to defend traditions and protect them from criticism" (p. 27). The attempt to blame culture for religious atrocities is refuted by the authors in their report of two girls, aged 9 and 10, who tried to sue for divorce in a court in Yemen (p. 28): "Islamic conservatives defend the practice [of child-rape], pointing to the Prophet Muhammad's marriage to a 9-year-old." In other words, when the Prophet does it, it is not evil. And when the President does it, it is not illegal. Thus spoke Richard Nixon.
As B & S observe (pp. 29-30), "These religious authorities and conservative clerics worship a wretchedly cruel unjust vindictive executioner of a God. They worship a God … of playground bullies, a God of rapists, of gangs, of pimps…. They worship a thug…. a God who looks on with approval when a grown man rapes a child because he is 'married' to her…. They worship a God who is pleased when three brothers hack their sisters to death with axes because one of them married without their father's permission. One wonders how they can stand it. One wonders how they can bear to worship and love and pray to a God of this kind - so brutal, so unjust, so petty, so stupid."
Are there still people on this planet who do not recognize religion as the root of all evil? Then they belong in asylums for the criminally insane. The one thing the Soviet Union ever got right was its recognition that the incurably godphuqt belong in cages with padded walls where they cannot pass on their mind-AIDS to the uninfected.
The chapter on Religious Apologetics starts by describing how a group of schoolgirls, some as young as 13, who had escaped from a burning building in Mecca, were sent back into the flames by the religion police because they were not wearing their full-body tents, and consequently died. The rest of the chapter is an annihilation of Mohammed-fellating apologist Karen Armstrong's schizophrenic attempts to portray Islam as a religion of peace and Mohammed as a really nice guy whose marriage to a nine-year-old was a cultural norm and therefore not child-rape. If the authors' purpose was to show that apologists for religious atrocities are enablers of future atrocities, and should be prosecuted as accessories to crimes against humanity, they succeeded well enough to convince any reasonable jury on this planet. They conclude (p. 51), "Armstrong's writings on Islam are an exercise in caricature. Her desire to sanitize and Westernize Islam means that she produces an account of the religion that is tendentious, incomplete and patronizing." Armstrong is totally Islamophuqt, and it can only be a matter of time before she comes out of the closet, dons a full-body tent, and starts boasting of how fortunate she is to belong to a god cult that gives her the freedom to choose to become a slave.
Chapter three describes how all religious nabobs, from popes to imams, argue that the societal roles of men and women are separate but equal, as a justification for the continuation of religious misogyny. That sounds remarkably similar to the arguments of mid-twentieth century Klansmen to justify the continued suppression of what were then called Negroes. B & S summarize (p. 82), "Priests and imams, ministers and rabbis … can't conceal the fact that millions of women around the world refuse to be … submissive to a husband. Clerical insistence that women are destined for smaller more obedient lives is a pustular pocket of injustice in the world, and has to be exposed and resisted." Concise and accurate. In case anyone cannot be bothered looking it up, "pustular," means "filled with pus."
Chapter four compares the treatment of women by Muslims and pseudo-Mormon polygamists. Any reader who does not reach the conclusion that adherents of both of those cults should be spayed or neutered to get the blueprints for congenital evil out of the human gene pool was not paying attention.
The chapter on "Holy Groupthink" brought back memories of a Star Trek episode in which a community of starfish-shaped parasites, one of which poisoned Mr Spock, were not individual entities capable of thinking for themselves, but physically unconnected cells of a single group mind. While Mormons, Catholics, Moslems, etc, may not be literally separate cells of a single mind, the inability of many such cultists to formulate an independent opinion not imposed by groupthink is a close analogy.
The chapter on mutilation in the name of purity disputes the widely-made claim that female genital mutilation is not mandated by any religion. While the practice predated Christianity or Islam, many Moslems in particular believe that it is an integral part of their belief system. And while the Koran does not mention FGM, other sources of the Moslem religion do (p. 136): "a number of ahadith suggest that it was an extant practice, and that Muhammad viewed it in a favourable light."
In the chapter, "Islam, Islamophobia and Risk," B & S write (p. 151), "As we've detailed the crimes of religion against women, Islam has been indicted more often than the other members of the religion community. Honour killings, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, child marriage … are all disproportionately associated with Islam. It is not as if we have ignored the sins of other religions … the Catholic Church's stand on abortion … Hinduism's cruelty to widows, and so on - but there's no denying that Islam is leading the pack in the misogyny stakes." They go on to say (p. 152), "Accusations of 'Islamophobia' are increasingly being employed in an attempt to defuse and silence criticism of Islam…. it is not unreasonable to think that Islam is irrational. Like any religion, it is founded on truth-claims that don't get anywhere near satisfying the criteria for rational justifiability." They go on to quote Anthony Grayling: "Religious belief of all kinds shares the same intellectual respectability, evidential base, and rationality as belief in fairies."
Of the several accounts of Islam in action in the final chapter, "Lipstick on a Pig," one case stands out, not because it went beyond Moslem norms, but because it exemplifies Moslem norms. In Somalia in 2008, in fulfillment of a sentence imposed by a sharia court, a 13-year-old girl was buried up to her neck and pelted with rocks until she was dead (p. 173), for the dual crimes of (1) being raped by three armed men, and (2) reporting the rape to the police. The stoning was carried out in front of a thousand spectators, sending a clear message to rape victims that they should remain silent if they wanted to stay alive. I cannot be the only reader who formed the opinion that the world would be a safer place, and the human race significantly better off, if the whole of Somalia was turned into a nuclear waste land.
The chapter, and the book, ends by pointing out (pp. 177-178) that three pseudo-monotheistic religions(1) endorse "a god who originated in a period when male superiority was absolutely taken for granted….. That is the God who makes cruelty holy and sacred and pious. That is the God who looks on approvingly when young girls are married off and raped, when women are whipped for showing a little hair, when men throw stones at a crying teenage girl until she is dead…. That is the God who hates women. That God has to go."
Obviously, "God" cannot be put on trial before the World Court, for the same reason Mother Goose or the Great Pumpkin could not be tried. But his/her/its most notorious pushers, such as the Nazi pope, Israel's xenophobic, theofascist prime minister, and America's Republicanazi televangelists, do not have the god's incontrovertible defence that they do not exist. They are both enablers of and apologists for monstrous evil, and should be held accountable.
Despite the quantity and quality of the evidence they have brought together, Benson and Stangroom are probably preaching to the choir. A woman who is not already aware that "God" is the most predatory, antihuman, hate-filled, male chauvinist pig in all fiction is unlikely to read a book titled Does God Hate Women? Nonetheless, each additional nail in the god perversion's coffin brings its demise a little closer. Religion, like AIDS, is more easily prevented than cured, and every new vaccine helps.
(1) A religion whose paramount god has three heads, Big Daddy, Junior and the Spook, is assuredly not monotheistic. Islam and Judaism rationalize that they are monotheistic by giving their second-ranking gods a different designation, such as angels, devils, and jinn. Christianity also has third-ranking gods called saints, who share the property of all gods - and only gods - of being able to alter the laws of reality on request.
The Code for Global Ethics: Ten Humanist Principles
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616141721, $27.00, www.amazon.com
All of Rodrigue Tremblay's degrees are in economics, one of a handful of alleged social "sciences" in which two dissertations, so diametrically opposed that for either one to be valid the other must be incompetent hogwash, can both receive Ph.D.s from the same department of the same university in the same year. I therefore had no expectation of this book being anything but a random collection of the author's opinions, and so was not disappointed. As a general rule, his opinions coincide with my own, and I have enough expertise in matters of religion to see that as a good thing.
For example, while supporting the generalization that doctors are and ought to be bound by a code of patient confidentiality, he declares (p. 63) that a doctor who diagnoses a deadly contagious disease (read: AIDS) has a duty to disregard confidentiality and inform the relevant authorities in order to protect the public welfare. "The same applies to a lawyer who learns that one of his clients is about to commit a murder.. Moral principles are never substitutes for one's judgment and personal responsibility." My only criticism is that, along with doctors and lawyers, persons who should be compelled to inform the authorities of a threat to public welfare include dog-collared parasites such as priests.
I also agree that (p. 68), "One of the greatest threats to freedom and democracy nowadays comes from the fallacious ideology of multiculturalism and its underlying false tenet that all cultures are equal . Even in cases when such cultural values are diametrically opposed to freedom and democracy." As a Quebecer, Dr Tremblay is strategically placed to experience the deleterious effects of multiculturalism (the anti-democratic demands of Muslim fanatics) firsthand. I initially supported multiculturalism -- until I saw how it was being used to 'binLadenize' North America by other means.
One of Tremblay's opinions strikes me as so self-evident that I cannot see how anyone who disagrees can be considered sane (p. 61): "The execution of another human being for the motive of revenge or retribution is contrary to humanist morality and is a legacy of more barbaric times. Only in situations of imminent self-defense can someone take the life of a fellow human being."
On the other hand, when he declares (pp. 61-62) that, "The biological cloning of individuals would violate the basic principle of human dignity and should not be practised," I find myself wondering if he would like to prohibit the birth of identical twins, since they are virtual clones of each other. And when he refers (p. 89) to "criticism of the caste system by Mahatma Gandhi," I can only conclude that he has not read the definitive Gandhi biographies by G. B. Singh. While Gandhi preached against the demonization of Untouchables, he spent his life campaigning for a caste-based theocracy in which the descendants of low-caste or no-caste Hindus would be condemned to belong to the same caste forever. Tremblay makes no mention of Mother Teresa, but presumably his brainwashing makes him see all such sacred cows as deserving of the indefensible praise a self-serving media continues to lavish on them.
Tremblay is right on the money when he draws attention to the use of propaganda, the reiteration of a Big Lie until the masses equate it with truth, by theocrats and other tyrants (pp. 181-182): "After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, only 3 percent of Americans thought that the country of Iraq or its president, Saddam Hussein, had anything to do with the attacks.. by February 2003 the percentage of Americans who believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the attacks jumped to 72 percent. The fact that this was an outright lie did not matter; the propaganda results were real and Bush could proceed with his war of choice while claiming public support. This illustrates the power of the propaganda tool, which consists of playing upon people's fears."
He also recognizes how propaganda is most effectively used (p. 195): "The more ignorant are the masses, the easier it is for dictators and demagogues to exploit the fertile ground of misery and consolidate their power.. it is in countries that invest the least in education . that one finds the largest proportion of people who are deeply engulfed in religion." That helps explain why theocrats are determined to keep the masses ignorant by removing science from school curricula and replacing it with religious pseudoscience. "Accepting new fundamental knowledge of human nature would be risking the collapse of the entire religious house of cards" (p. 208).
Tremblay draws attention to a problem so self-evident that one can only wonder why the mass media are afraid to highlight it (p. 128): "All efforts to thwart the degradation and destruction of the Earth's ecosystem could prove ineffective if concrete steps are not first taken to reduce population growth.. the global demographic catastrophe that is in the making." And he supports a basic humanist position that is one of the few points on which the sane and the religious can agree (p. 202): "The reciprocity principle, according to which one must treat others as one expects to be treated, establishes a fundamentally logical and enlightened selfish reason for being moral." It may have been Ayn Rand who first explained that altruism is enlightened self-interest.
It is when he enters the field of religion that Tremblay's judgment is not always at its best. He writes (p. 24), "It would seem that there is not necessarily an irreconcilable antagonism between humanism as a universal philosophy and religion as a personal human experience. It is only when religion becomes an aggressive political movement that crushes human liberty and dignity that it becomes hostile to the humanist worldview." I agree that it is only when religion ventures into politics that it becomes the epitome of absolute evil. I have no problem living in a world in which a tolerant believer like Jimmy Carter can become President of the USA. But there is an irreconcilable antagonism between the humanist philosophy that the difference between right and wrong depends on whether an action unnecessarily hurts a non-consenting victim, and the religious philosophy that right and wrong are whatever an imaginary Sky Fuhrer's self-appointed lawgiver says they are. But he is assuredly right when he says (p. 70), "There cannot be true religious liberty if the liberty not to be religious is absent."
He is also aware of the First Cause of religion (p. 98): "It remains that death, the terror of death, and its uncertainty are the principal reasons why humankind has developed the coping mechanism of religious superstitions.. The invention of another, imaginary world and of an everlasting life after physical death was precisely aimed at soothing man's fear of death and keeping alive a false and irrational hope."
In most situations, Tremblay is aware that modern interpretations of biblical passages were never intended to mean what present-day believers think they mean. "One discovers, for example, that while it is written, 'do not kill,' what is really meant is do not kill the insiders or allies. But anything goes regarding the outsiders-the members of opposing religions or coalitions, the foreigners, nonbelievers" (p. 25). Yet despite that awareness, he uses the mistranslation (p. 210), "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" when the correct translation (The Fully Translated Bible, Exodus 20:16) is, "You're not to give perjured testimony against your compatriot," meaning, "your fellow Jew." He also translates Exodus 20:7 as, "You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God." It would be an exaggeration to call that a mistranslation; it is merely misleading. The correct translation is, "You're not to swear in Yahweh your gods' [generic plural] name anything that is false."
On the next page he calls Jesus the Nazirite (as contemporaries styled him) "Jesus Christ," thereby endorsing the delusion that Jesus was the foretold fairy-tale character he believed himself to be. In more than one place he parrots the utter nonsense that a religion with three paramount gods, dozens of second-ranking gods called angels and devils, and thousands of third-ranking gods called saints, is a form of monotheism. And he refers (p. 173) to "John's prophecy in the book of Revelation." For his information: (1) John of Patmos was the author of the first three and last three chapters of Revelation. He was not the author of the bulk of the book. And (2) "Armageddon" was a failed prophecy that the war in progress at the time of writing, July-August 73 CE, would end in a Jewish victory at Armageddon, north of Jerusalem. It ended in a Jewish defeat as Masada, south of Jerusalem.
Tremblay is, however, very aware of religion's status as the root of much (if not all) evil. He writes (p. 140), "A clear indication of the moral bankruptcy of many religions is their condoning the killing of innocent people." And (p. 164), "In the humanistic order of things, one of the worst political systems is undoubtedly totalitarian theocracy, which denies people freedom of control over their own affairs and even their own thinking." Further (p. 208), "It is a dismal historical fact that organized religions, especially the more politicized and proselytizing ones, have, for centuries and even millennia, supplied the intellectual and ideological support for innumerable crimes against humanity, while aligning themselves time and again with totalitarian and oppressive political regimes." The Vatican continues to dispute the reality that Pope Pius XII allied himself with Adolf Hitler, ordering German Catholics not to speak out against the Final Solution in exchange for Hitler's agreement to act as his tax collector. But the reality that Nazism was an extreme form of Catholicism, just as Al Qaeda is an extreme form of Islam, is finally getting through to the brainwashed masses.
"The claim to or pretension of a supernatural world inhabited by supernatural entities such as gods, demons, angels, ghosts, and so on, is at best a harmless illusion, and at worst a scam and a cruel hoax perpetrated on the most susceptible and gullible humans, often among the least literate and least enlightened segments of society.. Hallucinating or cunning religious entrepreneurs have no qualms about taking advantage of such human weaknesses.. People retain their services and give them money for the same reason they buy magic powder or snake oil to soothe their fears" (p. 86). He notes (p. 98) that, "Peddlers of snake oil have always been around. However, they are never as successful as when they clothe themselves in religious garb." And he asks (p. 197) why "people who would never accept to be treated by physicians using twelfth or fourteenth centuries' medical techniques blindly accept to be led by religious ideas dating back to the seventh or twelfth centuries."
Tremblay tackles the Big Lie that only god-based morality can be valid (p. 31): "Secular Sweden is certainly as moral, if not more so, as fanatically religious Iran. Historically, who would pretend that the more secular Switzerland was less moral than the more religious Nazi Germany?" He asks (pp. 174-175), "In what measure were the Bush administration's positions on the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, Israel, the Iraq war, or Europe, for example, influenced by his fundamentalist religious convictions and those of his advisers?" And in an endnote (p. 215), "If we were to compare two US presidents, who would seriously say that enlightened secularist Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was less moral than deeply religious George W. Bush?" I have never encountered a believer who would consider the words, "deeply religious," insulting. Yet that same believer would see "deeply superstitious" as an insult, even though it means exactly the same thing.
The basic hypocrisy of religion catches Tremblay's eye (p. 35): "Most religions have a core moral code that teaches kindness toward other human beings.. The problem comes from the fact that religions rarely extend this goodness to people who oppose their faith-based certainties." Also (p. 139), "It seems that today, as in the past, those who say they are protected by God want to wage war on those who say they are protected by Allah, who in turn wants to wage war on those who say they are protected by Yahweh. It is a fact that too many religious people seem to have a holy book in one hand and a bomb in the other."
The role of religion in the ongoing oppression of women is noted:
p. 36:- "Only in democracies where secular humanist morality is followed do we find real equality of rights between men and women. In certain churches and in theocracies, in general, women are treated as inferior.. all religions are human inventions . that reflect the traditions and superstitions found in their cultures."
p. 37:- "The long tradition of misogyny is still alive in the Roman Catholic Church."
pp. 37-38:- "No other organized religion, however, treats women, in practice, with less respect and consideration than Islam.. In the most fanatic Islamic countries, the official religion mandates to women a status that is tantamount to slavery."
p. 58:- "In the Bible . the crime of rape is treated as an offense against the property of the father or husband, rather than as an attack on the dignity of the victim."
While Tremblay does not flay the news media for their role in promoting religion as much for economic as for any more "sincere" reasons, he hones in on a particularly vicious piece of fiction (p. 173): "In the world of religious fiction, the most successful works are . a series of apocalyptic evangelical novels called Left Behind.. What can be most harmful about such religious novels is the strong dose of hate propaganda they spread against the United Nations, against anything resembling a system of international or supranatural law, and even against Europe, if not against Muslims."
A couple of Tremblay's opinions are, despite his nontheism, based on cultural brainwashing by a religion-infested society. He writes (p. 59) that, "proper sex education is necessary to teach young persons that sexual promiscuity is incompatible with sound emotional development." "Promiscuity" is a purely religious concept. We do not have a pejorative term for a person who evaluates every program she chooses to watch on television on its merits. There should not be a pejorative term for a woman who evaluates every invitation to share joyful recreation on its merits. If "sound emotional development" can only be achieved by conforming to other people's superstitions, then homosexuals are in big trouble.
And when Tremblay asserts (p. 81) that "people who enter into living or marriage contracts have an obligation to respect their fidelity vows," I find myself concluding that he is not referring to the reasonable promise not to engage in any extramarital recreation that involves the risk of a fraudulent impregnation or the contraction of a sexually transmitted disease. I suspect, rather, that he has been brainwashed into regarding consensual, uncoerced, victimless, non-procreative, non-consequential sexual recreation as qualitatively different from tennis or golf. Whether he recognizes it or not, that is a religious belief, as indefensible as the belief that drinking coffee in Salt Lake City or eating a cheeseburger in Jerusalem is morally wrong.
I still do not regard economics as a science, despite the ability of economists like Rodrigue Tremblay to make sense when they pontificate in another field. And I do not regard Global Ethics as more than a collection of opinions, albeit defensible opinions, of a casual observer. But within that limitation, this is a book I wholeheartedly recommend.
Chinese History Stories
Renee Ting, editor
Qian Jifang, translator
1547 Palos Verdes Mall #291, Walnut Creek, CA 94597
9781885008374, $19.95, www.amazon.com
The 19 stories collected in "Chinese History Stories: Stories from the Zhou Dynasty, Volumes 1 and 2" are told with the simplicity and the lessons about morals and character of folk tales. They are based on real historical figures, however, and historical periods and events from the beginnings of Chinese history.
Volume 1 has stories from the Zhou dynasty lasting from 1122-221BC. The word for the ones heading it was leaders was king, not emperor. They did not have much control over the areas they ruled. It was by granting land to relatives and followers that they were able to maintain their power. This group of historical stories ends with Qin Shi naming himself "First Emperor of Qin" after he brought unity to what had been smaller states constantly vying for power and forming shifting alliances through the Zhou period. It was he who gave China the name "Middle Kingdom." Volume 2 containing eight stories ends with the Opium War between Britain and China in the nineteenth century.
The long span of Chinese history is colorfully and memorably compressed into a series of tales aimed at middle readers.
Maritime History of Baja California
Edward W. Vernon
c/o University of New Mexico Press
1312 Basehart Road SE, Albuquerque NM 87106-4363
9780578036687, $49.95, www.amazon.com
Published with the cooperation of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, the visual matter in "Maritime History of Baja California: A Photographic Essay on the Harbors, Anchorages, and Special Ships of the Baja California Peninsula" is mostly photographs, but not entirely. There are illustrations, historic prints, and maps too. These with running text on history, geography, commerce, and major points of interest bring the Baja Peninsula to attention as having a part throughout history and today as well in the discovery, growth, and development of the wider Pacific coast region including California and Mexico. In the contemporary time, the peninsula attracts especially vacationers and boaters.
Vernon organizes the diverse material around the peninsula's primary bays. He is a retired businessperson living in Santa Barbara, California, with a keen and incomparable interest and knowledge of the location. Besides bringing to view the interwoven histories of parts of the Peninsula, Vernon's work with elements of a gift book is an ideal souvenir or reference; which for some readers would inspire a trip once seeing what it has to offer in the way of activities and sites of interest.
How to Talk to Children about World Art
9780711230910 $19.95 www.franceslincoln.com
The world art dealt with is generally known as "primitive art." It does not include contemporary art of India, China, Mexico, Nigeria, and elsewhere around the world which has become known as "international art" in this time of globalization and which gets attention on auction markets. Some of the art is from indigenous peoples of the present United States, though the large majority is from Asia, Africa, South America, and Oceania.
In instructing on this primitive art, Glorieux-Desouche begins by explaining the distinction between handicrafts made by workmen and artisans and art per se such as painting and sculpture which has grown up in Western culture since the Renaissance. In studying and appreciating the primitive art (which is often highly skilled), "researchers have identified any number of societies which have their own sense of aesthetics, thus rendering any distinction between art and craft obsolete." It is this particular, yet recognizable "sense of aesthetics" Glorieux-Desouche brings out.
The author does this by focusing on representative pieces from a variety of cultures around the world. Many of these are masks; as masks evidence the skills of artisans/artists in aboriginal cultures and also bring up the ceremonies and rites of these cultures. Other objects include wood sculptures, pieces of clothing, puppets, weaponry, and drawings with pigments. Each object is pictured on a glossy page in a bright color photograph evidencing details and intricacies. Glorieux-Desouche's treatment of each is in digestible-size bits of information alternating among questions and also--unusually--replies to observations and occasionally exclamations, as if she is interacting with a group of students. For instance, the exclamation "It looks like the sun!" regarding Chinese tribal women's celebration clothing is answered beginning with, "The skirt of this outfit has been laid out flat like a shining sun..."; adding later in the eight lines of reply, "To complete the look this festival clothing would be worn with an elaborate hairstyle, leggings, and silver jewelry."
Though the book is geared for middle- and upper-level young readers and its formatting imparts the material accordingly, it is a commendable introduction to primitive art for all ages.
M. de Garsault's 1767 Art of the Shoemaker
An Annotated Translation by D. A. Saguto
Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
9780896726505, $65.00, www.amazon.com
De Garsault's original eighteenth-century work on shoemaking and shoes found in facsimile here is much enhanced by scholarly notes to the English translation; excerpts on shoes from other historical writings; annotated introductory material on the history of shoemaking; color photographs of tools, materials, and finished shoes with informed annotations to complement the simpler, plainer illustrations of the original work; a glossary of nearly 20 pages; and extensive bibliography and section of suggestions for further reading. One would not know there was so much to shoemaking, as a glance through the glossary with its many technical and some foreign words and terms attests. All of this is in book of the highest production quality with marbled end pages, expert color photographs (as in a museum catalog), and appealing design and format.
The purpose of the 1700's publication of the now-classic work was as a documentation and reference on the art and crafts of shoemaking. As a Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau asks in his "Forward" in the original as a way of stating the purpose, "Can not one expect new levels of perfection in the arts when scholars, practiced in their different branches of the physical sciences, take the trouble to study and elucidate the often ingenious operations that the artisan carries out in his workshop?" De Garsault's "Art of the Shoemaker" was an illustrated text and manual meant to preserve and make widely available skills and techniques for making shoes in the decades preceding the Industrial Age when many of these operations would come to be done by machines. The French Royal Academy of Sciences could not have foreseen this; but they recognized that society and industry were changing to meet a growing demand for everyday consumer goods from an increasingly democratic, bourgeois class able to purchase and appreciate these. As du Monceau elsewhere explains, "The academics should further apply themselves to clarifying practice in order to subject a number of delicate operations, which depend entirely on the accuracy of the eye or hand and the success of which are only too often uncertain, to certain rules." Author De Garsault accomplishes this sparing no detail. The "delicate operations" depending on "the accuracy of the eye or hand" were like instructions for the design of shoemaking machines in the coming Industrial Age. The translator's Introduction notes, "Mechanization of shoemaking began in the United States"; although this was not not completed until late in the nineteenth century.
The text, illustrations, and Saguto's rich annotations, many of which are like short essays, make for fascinating reading by anyone with an interest in social history, the history of crafts, and in clothing and costume. This "Art of the Shoemaker" is a recent addition to Texas Tech University Press's outstanding and growing series of exceptionally well-illustrated works with content that is both engaging and scholarly relating to what is termed "material culture." Other recent books cover sunbonnets and spurs. Readers and students of social history, consumer goods, manufacturing history, historical crafts, and like topics want to be keeping up with what this publisher is putting out in this field.
The Spurs of James J. Wheat, Pioneer Collector
Photography by Brandi Price
National Ranching Heritage Center
c/o Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
9780976183464, $35.00, www.amazon.com
The first thing the reader should do is skim through the book looking at the color photographs to get a changed orientation to this topic of spurs and shed conventional preconceptions. For by the full-page sharp color photographs with pairs of spurs aesthetically placed, one grasps immediately that they should not be considered only as utilitarian objects like tools or equipment for horseback riding such as reins or a bit. Many of the spurs have fine details of metalwork obviously done by skilled and imaginative craftsmen. The craftsmanship was done on the wider parts of the spurs which would go around the back of a boot near its heel and on the two narrow metal pieces from this to which the pronged spinning wheels would be attached. Tooled leather is also found for parts of some spurs. The wheels for the spurs don't change much except for number of prongs and small differences in length. One is reminded of the basic utilitarian purpose of the spurs by their placement on stones, fence posts, pieces of wood, and other outdoor objects of their working environment with trees, cactus, and sky in the background.
The noted Wheat Collection is practically entirely Texas spurs. The Golden Era of the Texas Style spur is roughly 1910 to 1940 "with the high-water mark being the late 1920s." Before 1900, this Style had not evolved as a distinctive style. Most of today's advanced collectors concentrate in one of the three main styles of spur to have developed from about 1900--the Texas, California, and Plains styles. During the 1870s, these grew out of the Mexican or Military styles.
The Wheat Collection is presented alphabetically according to the individual craftsman of the spurs; and in a couple of cases, a prison where spurs were made by inmates. The photographs and Bartlett's informative and colorful text bring alive the romance of the Old West in this unique illustrated book in the broader, perennially appealing subjects of Americana and Western lore.
Tsodilo Hills: Copper Bracelet of the Kalahari
Alex Campbell, Larry Robbins & Michael Taylor
Michigan State University Press
Manly Miles Building, Suite 25, 1405 South Harrison Road, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9780870138584, $39.95, www.amazon.com
Tsodilo Hills are two hills in the northwest corner of Botswana which are actually the size of small mountains. Since time immemorial, one has been considered male and the other female by regional indigenous African tribes. The hills stand out in the rugged area for their glowing, enchanting copper tone usually at sunset. They have been the center of spiritual life of tribes of the area since before recorded history. Today the hills have become attractions for tourists from all parts of the world because of their legendary reputation. And they are also the focus of study for anthropologists and other scientists and researchers for the ancient colored drawings found in parts of them and other artifacts shedding a light on the regional African cultures.
This work covers these varied, yet interrelated subjects pertaining to the Tsodilo Hills. The abundant photographs range from enthralling and intriguing parts of the Hills, timeless weapons and habitats of area tribes, individuals in traditional and in contemporary dress, rock paintings, and members of scientific teams. Many maps too regarding different aspects of the Hills (e. g., tourist facilities, excavation sites) fill in the multifaceted perspective on them. The work can be used by adventurous travelers wishing for a full appreciation of the unique natural sites and also students of geology, anthropology, Africa, and other subjects as a study on one of the world's natural wonders and oldest inhabited areas.
Art of the Middle East
38 High Avenue, 4th floor, Nyack, New York 10960
97818589945002, $69.95 www.merrellpublishers.com
Over 450 color photos in "Art of the Middle East: Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World and Iran" abundantly illustrate that modern-day including much contemporary Middle East art has taken a place in the development of international art as well as the art market alongside that of China and India. The art scholar and advocate living in London Saeb Eigner mentions in his Introduction that such an overview cannot be comprehensive. But including over 200 artists, there cannot be anything worth noting left out. While all active artists worthy of note may not be included, all genres, regions, and styles of art are found.
The many photographs and artists are grouped by fields of art and themes. Since "[h]istorically, the art of Islamic countries has been dominated by supremely sophisticated forms of calligraphy," such calligraphy continues to be a feature. The priority given to text and calligraphy is highlighted by the first chapter being on Sacred Scripture. The second chapter too titled Literature reemphasizes this. In these chapters one finds not only books, but also paintings and drawings and some geometrical figures where calligraphy is the subject. The next chapter covers Music and Performance--i. e., paintings, photographs, and other visual art works in these areas. These first three chapters imply an approach to art different from that of Western cultures. One cannot imagine that any book on modern-day Western art would begin with chapters on calligraphy and decorative text and performing arts. While the subjects are predominant ones of Islamic art, the styles are plainly influenced by Western and international art. Besides being engaging and satisfying contemporary art, the many and diverse works mark a center of appropriation (though not simplistic imitation) and ferment in Islamic culture.
Le Shack: A Very Special Fishing Place
Jim C. Chapralis, author
Charles B. Mitchell, illustrator
Angling Matters Press
3518 Davis St., Evanston, IL 60203
9780970865373, $16.95, www.amazon.com
It's the quintessential Wisconsin guys' getaway: the ramshackle fishing cabin with no running water where longtime friends laugh, drink and remove themselves from their lives (and wives) for a few days at a time.
It's the kind of place wives can smell from 100 yards away and wouldn't set foot in even if they were invited.
In "Le Shack: A Very Special Fishing Place," Chicago author Jim Chapralis draws on his memories of fly fishing road trips to a central Wisconsin shack, over a stretch of more than 40 years. The result is a wonderfully readable, often uproarious collection of vignettes. Avid anglers are certain to see their own experiences in it, non-anglers will be inspired to give the sport a try and wives will glimpse how their husbands spend their "gone fishing" weekends.
The book follows Chapralis and friends from Chicago as they travel to the cabin near Wautoma dubbed "Le Shack." Sometime he writes about their exploits at the cabin itself. But more often he describes his treks, sometimes alone and sometimes with others, into the local back country in search of the perfect trout stream. Sometimes he catches a big one, sometimes he heads home to Chicago without a bite. Sometimes he's in his waders during the daylight, but more often he's out at night, as late as 2 a.m.
Chapralis, who sadly died of cancer a few weeks after the book was published in 2007, was a great writer. "Le Shack" is well-written enough to more than hold the interest of non-anglers, even in those moments when the fishing lingo gets pretty deep.
For Chapralis, fly fishing was more than a hobby. He was a champion tournament caster whose Chicago-based company, PanAngling Travel Service, took people around the world on fly fishing expeditions. He wrote dozens of magazine articles and several books on the subject and in 2007 was elected into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. But despite his global travels, the book's introduction notes that he "was addicted to Central Wisconsin stream trout fishing at Le Shack."
Near its conclusion "Le Shack" take a brief conservation twist, talking about the declining state of trout streams in Wisconsin and the effect of industry on the sport. Chapralis particularly talks about the fight to keep a Perrier water bottling plant, which would have drawn from central Wisconsin's cold water springs, from being built.
But mostly "Le Shack" is a great fishing yarn, worthy of a spot on the Wisconsin anglers' classic cultural bookshelf.
The Boy Who Climbed into the Moon
David Almond, author
Polly Dunbar, illustrator
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763642174, $15.99, www.amazon.com
Masterfully comedic prose, an uber- imaginative premise and gloriously animated, character-driven art
combine in "The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon," a near-perfect collaboration from author and illustrator team David Almond and Polly Dunbar.
As he has shown so deftly in past chapter books such as "My Dad's a Birdman," Almond has a rare gift for writing middle grade chapter books that are uproariously witty, lightening-paced, chock-full of offbeat characters, subtly draped with a poignant, age-appropriate social message and creatively miles outside the box.
And as with her and Almond's past collaboration on "My Dad's a Birdman," Dunbar's artistic contributions are again a wonderful compliment to the text.
In "The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon," Almond and Dunbar offer the deceptively simple idea that the moon is not a brightly glowing, solid orb but rather a great hole in the sky.
What might lie on the other side of that hole captures the imagination of Paul, a boy who lives a bland, unadventurous life with his parents in the basement apartment of a high-rise building. One day, he decides to take the elevator up to the top floor. Along the way he meets other building tenants who open for him a world of new possibilities.
Ultimately, Paul gets a chance to climb a ladder into the moon.
The cast of odd characters that rocks his dull world includes Molly, who has recently changed her name and says she's the identical twin sister of the woman who resides on the building's top floor; Molly's war-veteran brother Benjamin; and a too-focused elevator inspector named Tom.
The social message? That eating sausages is better than war. That's oddly worded enough that it actually has a chance of resonating with young readers, who like ideas that sound weird and probably won't even realize that they're being exposed to a philosophical thought. The importance of connecting with others also gets a subtle push.
Tweens won't want to put down this funny page-turner, that also offers life lessons.
How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships
Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, authors and illustrators
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
The animal world is an itchy, dirty place, where fleas, worms and various bugs infest creatures' skin and need to constantly be picked off. Luckily, there are birds and small scavengers that like to feast on the tiny vermin that irritate warthogs, giraffes, rhinoceroses and other beasts.
In "How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships," author-illustrator team Steven Jenkins and Robin Page also look at relationships where animals protect each other from harm, hunt together and share food and dwelling quarters.
But the way that both animals that live on land and water inhabitants keep each other clean gets the most focus.
The oxpecker pulls ticks off the giraffe; the seagull pries parasites off the skin of the sunfish; a group of mongoose pick a warthog's skin clean; and a small bird called a plover picks meat scraps from between the teeth of the Nile crocodile.
The scores of vividly hued illustrations, set on each page as a succession of comic book-like tiles, are just cartoonish enough that they'll capture kids' attention. The text is also broken up into individual tiles, making it accessible to young readers. Readers get a lot of information but won't feel overwhelmed by vast stretches of copy.
Wonderfully educational with a bonus, creepy-crawly "ick" factor that kids will love.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Emma Chester Clark, author and illustrator
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763646806, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Award-winning author/illustrator Emma Chichester Clark updates the classic tale of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" with picture book text and illustrations for millennial-generation listeners. The story sticks to the traditional plot line, with naughty Goldilocks sampling the bear family's porridge, chairs and beds before finally being discovered. But Papa Bear wears a Hawaiian-inspired shirt and Goldilocks has a knee-length, a-line dress, a fashionably draped scarf and a modern haircut. And all four of the characters - Mama, Papa, Baby and Goldilocks, are drawn with facial and body language and given words to speak that insinuate attitude like you wouldn't have seen in a picture book a generation ago. Goldilocks pronounces the first bowl of porridge "disgusting and cold." Later, when she finds a bowl to her liking, she proclaims it "my kind of porridge." Mostly, the language is harmless fun that feels like kids talk today. But parents and teachers who are concerned about disrespectful language may wince at Goldilocks' characterization of a chair she sits on and breaks as a "stupid thing!" By no stretch a vulgarity, "stupid" is nonetheless an expression many preschool and elementary parents and teachers try to discourage children from using. That's an uphill battle on its own, and including such language in a book that will be read aloud to young children will either exacerbate the problem or force adult readers to bleep over it - something you shouldn't have to do with a picture book. Too bad, because Chester Clark's "Goldilocks" is otherwise a fun read with wonderfully animated illustrations, a quintessential reworked classic.
Kevin Henkes, author and illustrator
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
9780061715181, $17.99, www.amazon.com
As he's done in so many previous picture books, author-illustrator Kevin Henkes, in "My Garden," manages to both remain simple and rise to the extraordinary.
The story follows a girl who helps her mother with routine gardening chores like watering and weeding. If the garden were hers alone, the girl imagines that its flowers wouldn't need tending and would "keep blooming and blooming and never die."
The girl's daydream continues to build with visions of unusually colored and patterned flowers, chocolate rabbits she would eat instead of real ones that nibble her mother's lettuce, huge tomatoes, jelly bean bushes and carrots that "would be invisible because I don't like carrots." Ultimately, she puts her imagination to the test by burying a seashell in her mother's garden. Readers are left to wonder for themselves whether it will grow into a seashell bush.
Henkes' soft, pastel-hued watercolors exude springtime. From the girl's pink swing dress to the flowers to various elements like bunnies and seashells, there's not a harsh edge or hue in sight, just an abundant gentleness that's in harmony with the sweet storyline.
A glorious ode to imagination, offered in the softest of ways that makes it accessible to very young children who are just beginning to think outside their own garden boxes.
Cloud Tea Monkeys
Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, authors
Juan Wijngaard, illustrator
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763644536, $15.99, www.amazon.com
Sometimes, the simplest tales are the most memorable. In "Cloud Tea Monkeys," authors Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham retell Himalayan legend with the story of a band of monkeys who come to the aid of a desperate girl. The girl, Tashi, tries unsuccessfully to get the overseer at the tea plantation that employed her mother --until she became ill -- to let her work instead. Despondent at the overseer's rejection of her request to work to pay for a doctor, Tashi curls up near the plantation with a band of monkeys that she previously befriended. She falls asleep, and when she wakes up the monkeys have filled her mother's picking basket full of unusual tea leaves from an unknown place shrouded by clouds. Ultimately, a royal tea taster samples what the monkeys picked and buys it for the empress he serves, giving Tashi enough money to pay for a doctor and to support her family. Illustrator Juan Wijngaard's ink and gouache drawings are wonderfully emotive, capturing everything from Tashi's initial joy as she plays with her monkey friends, to her despair as she is turned away from work, to the sternness of the tea taster to Tashi's hesitancy as the tea taster drills her about where the tea came from. "Cloud Tea Monkeys," is just 56 pages long but the combination of the lovely story, exquisite illustrations and Peet's masterful use of language, with phrases like a description of the looming sunrise as "a light the color of lemons.soaking into the sky and painting out the stars," makes this a very special read.
The Brothers Grimm, authors
Bernadette Watts, illustrator
NorthSouth Books, Inc.
350 - 7th Avenue, Room 1400, New York, NY 10001-5013
9780735822795, $16.95, www.amazon.com
One of Europe's most beloved illustrators, Bernadette Watts continue to breathe beautiful new life into classic fairy tales. In recent years her reworks have included "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Ugly Duckling," "The Snow Queen," and "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." Her latest release, "Rumpelstiltskin," has the same old-fashioned feel as 2009's "Little Red Riding Hood," with a hazy style that approaches pixilation. The illustrations aren't blurry; small details like lit candle wicks, the little man's red cheeks and nose, a bird on a windowsill and a quill on a bedside table stand out sharply. The colors are a mix of sharp and subdued hues, with a particular abundance of orange, red and yellow. The text is deftly written, sticking to the classic tale without an attempt at modernization that can sometimes make reworks feel outmoded soon after they're released. As is customary of her work, Watts has produced yet another beautiful version of a classic tale that will take a lasting place on children's bookshelves.
Ubiquitous: Celebration Nature's Survivors
Joyce Sidman, author
Beckie Prange, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
215 Park Avenue South, NY, NY 10003
9780618717194, $17.00, www.amazon.com
Had they published nothing but the endpapers of "Ubiquitous: Celebration Nature's Survivors," author Joyce Sidman and illustrator Beckie Prange would have succeeded. The actual text, that in itself superbly lays out the evolution since the dawn of time of everything from bacteria to grasses to humans, feels like a bonus. Prange squashes a 46-meter-long string into the endpaper illustration, curled tightly around itself in variously rotated loops that meander across the page, representing the 4.6 billion years since the earth formed. Humans, the line shows, have existed for about a millimeter, or about 100,000 years. That's the kind of illustration that kids can wrap their heads around. The book itself continues in that kid-accessible vein, with each of 14 double-page spreads limited to the history of a single creature, told through poetry, informative text and dynamic illustrations. Each spread details why scientists believe a particular creature, from ants to crows to lichens to sharks, has thrived while other forms of life have died out. The mostly earth-toned illustrations compliment the text, with the poetry on the shark page, for instance, laid out in the shape of sharks. On the squirrel page, similarly, the poem is contained in the black shadow outline of a squirrel. If kids are to swallow science-minded books they have to be designed with them in mind. This one is, gloriously. And if nothing else, the cover illustration of a gecko munching a still partially visible insect, which is repeated inside as a mirror image, might have just enough "gross" factor to draw in the most reluctant readers.
Lila Prap, author and illustrator
NorthSouth Books, Inc.
350 - 7th Avenue, Rm. 1400, NY, NY 10001-5013
9780735822849, $16.95, www.amazon.com
Are chickens really descended from dinosaurs? With bold illustrations and a kid-friendly design, author-illustrator Lila Prap guides young readers toward an answer to that question in "Dinosaurs?!" Ultimately the answer is yes, explains Prap in a double-page spread about archaeopteryx, a half-bird, half-dinosaur "from which all modern-day birds evolved." The spread about archaeopteryx is the culmination, near the end of the book, of about a dozen spreads that depict a host of dinosaurs. Some of those, like Tyrannosaurus Rex, most kids will recognize while others, like suchomimus, remain more obscure. Unfortunately, for very young readers, the length of time it takes to find out how dinosaurs and chickens are related may stretch on for too long, with their interest potentially waning. But for older elementary schoolers able to stick it out to the answer, "Dinosaurs?!" is wonderfully informative. Keeping it child-accessible are a host of aids including the ongoing, chattily quirky conversation of a flock of chickens that takes place in the page margins. The main text blocks also do a good job of exploring the subject on a child's level, most notably comparing the size of various dinosaurs to the length of things like cars, (four for T-rex, two for triceratops) buses, sailboats and even children. Triceratorps' horns, for instance, were "larger than a 7-year-old child," a perfect comparison given that that's roughly the age of children who will be drawn to "Dinosaurs?!". The man text blocks are brief enough to not lose older elementary schoolers. And the drawings are sophisticated enough to not feel babyish but still cartoonish enough to engage 2-4-graders. A fresh, creative twist on an age-old subject.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450204033 $16.95 www.iuniverse.com
A happy person doesn't fret when their favorite beverage is in short supply, they instead improvise. "Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can't Afford Vodka" tells the story of how business executive turned stay at home Dad came to be. A charming story of how life can radically change but one can still retain their happiness and industriousness, "Sugar Milk" is quite the read for anyone who is the parent left at home.
9780646523071 $24.95 AU www.darrylgreer.com
Politics are in no way a clean game. "The Election" tells the story of the race for Australia's first president. Michael Takada, a half-Japanese man and his opponent David Shawcross meet for the first shot at the presidency, and the race is far from civil as radical groups target Takada, fueled by Shawcross's racist views. A story of politics and race, "The Election" is a fascinating and exciting read from start to finish.
9781845830328, $25.95, www.telos.co.uk
Some shows go above and beyond what was expected of them. "Assigned!: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Sapphire & Steel" is a fan guide to the United Kingdom science fiction television series Sapphire & Steel. The kids show turned cult favorite earned its place with its creative writing and episodes, and Richard Callaghan does them all justice. "Assigned!" is a must have for fans of the show.
The Spiritual Significance of Music
Justin St. Vincent
9780473156909, $29.95, www.musicandspirituality.com
Faith and spirituality reside in all music, not just music that is religiously oriented. "The Spiritual Significance of Music" interviews bands of various walks of life and genre, from the classical driven artists like Petra, to the offbeat music of Devo, to the shock rock death metal rockers of Cannibal Corpse to the work of DJ Ultra Nate, all music has a spiritual passion behind it, and these individuals explain how it comes into play. "The Spiritual Significance of Music" is a thought provoking and intriguing piece of work, a top pick for any musical studies collection.
Think for Yourself
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
No one ever had a thoughtful conversation with sheep. "Think for Yourself: The Importance of Maintaining Individuality and Freedom of Thought" is a book from David Charles encouraging readers to remember to always think for themselves and never simply be caught in the general consensus of life's issues. Providing much thought on many subjects, "Think for Yourself" is worth considering.
The Last Sacrifice
R. M. Putnam
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432750060, $32.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Against the most evil of evils, good must be willing to indulge in the same to succeed. "The Last Sacrifice: Number 2 in the Destiny's Warriors Series" is a fantasy set in a gritty and cruel world where those who stand against a force of vile and atrocious vampires struggle to unite and gain vengeance for the world they are destroying. "The Last Sacrifice" is a choice pick for fans of grisly fantasy.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432749637, $13.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Someone has to take the blame, may as well make it a tactically placed blame. "Scapegoat: Targeted for Blame" discussing scapegoating in business and what it can be used for and how it can be used well. Looking at history and modern business, Dr. Clifton Wilcox gives readers a better understanding of scapegoating and why it happens. "Scapegoat" is a choice pick for business readers who understand business isn't all about being everyone's friend.
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439257159, $18.99, www.booksurge.com
With millions of dollars on the line, treachery seems a lot more appealing. "The Opportunity" tells the story of Tod Harper, as he returns to his high pressure business world after dealing with a personal tragedy. But he faces a loss of something greater as he finds that the world he knew and loved can get much nastier. "The Opportunity" is a choice read for those who enjoy corporate thrillers.
Every Man's Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing
9780930251444 $14.95 www.ihatetodance.com
Class is an after thought to the modern man. "Every Man's Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing: Ace Your Wedding Dance and Keep Cool on a Cruise, at a Formal, and in Dance Classes" is a non-dancers crash course in understanding the basics of dance so they don't look like a fool on the dance floor. Understanding rhythm, finding the beat of the music, and how to practice when you don't want to totally reveal your ineptness, "Every Man's Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing" is a choice pick for every man who wants to avoid tripping up the woman of their dreams.
Universal Principles of Design
William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, & Jill Butler
c/o Quayside Publishing Group
100 Cummings Center, Suite 406-L, Beverly, MA 01915-6101
9781592535873, $30.00, www.universalprinciplesofdesign.com
Anything can be made better with the right thoughts and know-how. "Universal Principles of Design: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach Through Design" is a guide for would be inventors who want to create and improve new and existing designs. Taking many concepts and elaborating on them, further, the authors and engineers at Rockport provide an insightful and solid read. "Universal Principles of Design" is a collection that shouldn't be overlooked and is a fine addition to engineering collections.
The Digital Pandemic
Mack R. Hicks
New Horizon Press
PO Box 669, Far Hills, NJ 07931
9780882823157, $14.95, www.newhorizonspressbooks.com
Why ever actually talk to anyone when you can tweet, e-mail, instant message, telephone, and text them? "The Digital Pandemic: Reestablishing Face-to-Face Contact in the Electronic Age" discusses the decline of personal contact in today's world, stating that face to face conversations seem to be rapidly becoming a thing of the past. This lack of person to person communication can have many side effects, and Mack Hicks describes how to restore it and provides much in the way of information. "The Digital Pandemic" is a read that shouldn't be missed for those who miss the heart to heart talk.
Information Representation and Retrieval in the Digital Age
Information Today, Inc.
143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055
9781573873932, $49.50, www.amazon.com
We are in the information age, and the power to win lies in the power to get that info. "Information Representation and Retrieval in the Digital Age" is a guide to the finer details of modern information trading as Heting Chu gives readers a complete and comprehensive breakdown of the subject so that they may update their own systems to keep up with the times. With chapters covering every step and detail Heting Chu gives a top notch guide. Enhanced with indexes, appendixes, and plenty of tables to give a good display of information, "Information Representation and Retrieval in the Digital Age" is a vital addition to any technological or business collection.
Days of Dante
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781448995172, $24.95, www.publishamerica.com
Love is a catalyst to strange adventure. "Days of Dante" tells the story of Monica and her love of Dante, a married man. A horrible fire in Milwaukee separates them, and leads them both on adventures to save the injured and spurs them to find each other once more. A love story with some twists, "Days of Dante" is a fine read.
Happily Ever After, Texas Style
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432749316, $15.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Chivalry isn't dead; it's just taken its place elsewhere in the world. "Happily Ever After, Texas Style" is a collection of short stories set in the romantic display of Texas where chivalry lives through the men of Texas and stand up for what's right. These stories will charm readers seeking tales of a simpler time and men who act like real men. "Happily Ever After, Texas Style" is a choice and very highly recommended read for short fiction readers.
The Midnight Reader
9780982143919, $12.95, www.themidnightreader.com
When one's life is devolving into madness, any comfort you can find is welcome. "Depraved Heart" tells the story of Bronte White-Hawke, a young adult faced with her father's trial and a dead mother. The living dead just adds to a laundry list of problems that Bronte is faced with, and it seems the massive mansion she has to herself isn't going to help her. "Depraved Heart" is an intriguing read that thriller readers will cherish.
The Gnawing Thoughts
Hida Jessie Piersma
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432745714, $14.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Africa's many counties struggle for a sense of normalcy, with its people growing up in a depression. "The Gnawing Thoughts" tells the story of Hida Jessie Piersma, a woman who struggles through life, originally growing up in Uganda under the warlord Idi Amin. Telling her story of finding her way in life through her harsh start in life to America and a life worth living, "The Gnawing Thoughts" is a unique and thoughtful memoir, well worth considering.
The Cusp of Dreams
Diana E. Sheets
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
Gulotta Communications (publicity)
341 Lexington Street, Newton, MA 02466
9780557243730, $15.12 (pbk.) $5.99 (Kindle ebook), www.booktours.com
The ruthless ambition of the corporate world knows no gender. "The Cusp of Dreams" is a novel from Diana E. Sheets as she displays a world where women are just as driven as men to succeed in the soulless corporate world as she offers her own commentary on these jobs that seem to destroy souls in the name of comfort and profit. "The Cusp of Dreams" is a fascinating read that is sure to entertain and make readers think.
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781426920493, $18.95, www.iuniverse.com
Life never turns bad in just one way. "Crowd Pleaser: Autism - the Effect on the Parent" tells the story of Faith, as she faces the challenges of being a single mother as her child seems to not be speaking despite being two years of age. Faced with unemployment and her child's autism, her life seems unable to settle down, and the only hope is to perhaps find the biological father. "Crowd Pleaser" hopes to impart the challenges facing many parents of autistic children, highly recommended.
Beyond Those Distant Stars
John B. Rosenman
6470A Glenway Avenue, #109, Cincinnati, OH 45211
9781594263286, $16.95, www.amazon.com
Beyond Those Distant Stars is science fiction that plays well to a female audience. The heroine, Stella McMasters is a cyborg. After an accident at a radiation facility, her remaining essence is transplanted into a mechanical body. Through a futuristic Affirmative Action program, Stella is promoted to commander of a spacecraft due to her synthetic status. Her robotic body is a source of extraordinary physical prowess, but it leaves her feeling inadequate around members of the opposite sex.
She immediately feels a strong physical desire for Jason, the ship's captain. While fulfilling his piloting duties, Jason's brain is temporarily removed from his body. Still, he develops a relationship with Stella through the ship's communication system. After seeing Jason's naked body in its suspended state, Stella indulges in several R-rated fantasies. Yet she feels Jason, upon returning to his body, will be repulsed by her infertile state.
Their love story plays against the backdrop of an intergalactic war. The enemy is led by a God-like entity called the All-Mother. After boarding an enemy vessel, Stella is drawn into a mind meld with one of the All-Mother's alien sons. She gains an innate knowledge on how to operate the foreign ship as well as a direct mental link with the All-Mother herself. These extraordinary abilities, along with her cyborg status, arouse the suspicions of her superiors. Her motives are questioned and her loyalty is suspect. Many believe she is a traitor.
Vice is running rampant throughout the empire. Humanity is ruled by a child emperor, who is being drugged by his supposed protector. Insubordination in the chain of command is a common occurrence. Few can be trusted to maintain order, let alone win the war. Enter Stella and her extraordinary claims. General Gage, a fellow female in a position of authority, is the commander of the Loran Base, where Stella takes the alien ship. Gage believes Stella's story and does everything in her power to help her arrive at a culminating one-on-one battle with the All-Mother.
Rosenman fills each page with a source of tension that unfurls the plot at a rapid pace. The reader feels at one with Stella as she single-handedly turns the tide of an entire war. Her feeling of otherness, brought about by her new body, allows her to establish a unique connection with the All-Mother. Her passion for Jason is put to the test and she must choose between her personal longings and the good of humanity.
Overall, Stella McMasters makes geek chic for a feminine audience.
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781442151741 $10.00, www.amazon.com
Stories based on real life situations always add a degree of authenticity to a writer's work. The setting of Sylvia Melvin's Summer Guest is based on her parents' Canadian fishing lodge. Nature is so realistically portrayed that it feels like a three dimensional character - "morning mist caressed the placid lake" to "a tender glow from an exiting sun fell on the western horizon." The beautiful imagery weaves a spell transporting the reader to a relaxing summer by the lake.
Yet amid the natural splendor lies heartache for 24-year-old Amy Lawrence. Due to a downturn in tourism caused by rising gas prices, her family is forced to put their fishing lodge up for sale. The financial crisis has caused Amy's mother to suffer a mental collapse severe enough to require hospitalization. But with her father and cook Thelma, Amy - back home after a broken engagement - is determined to keep the lodge functioning.
She certainly doesn't anticipate falling in love with a vacationing guest. A disabled veteran of the Iraq war, Matt Monroe is left with a pronounced limp, yet it's his antagonizing banter that engages Amy in verbal combat. Just as they begin to break down each other's defenses, a flirty blonde named Sonja arrives with her parents for a stay at the lodge. Sonja sets her sights on Matt, and Amy must decide if she is willing to compete for his attention.
For foodies, there are an abundance of mouth-watering passages thanks to the marvelous dishes coming out of Thelma's kitchen - "steaming fresh vegetables and tender meat, oozing with succulent juices" to "[fish] fillets turned a crispy brown" to "a huge golden-brown turkey roasting in the oven." The home-like atmosphere extends throughout the book from "the swishing sound of hot, sudsy water oozing out of Amy's mop" to "transform[ing] the bed into a resting place of blue linen and soft, navy blankets." The day-to-day chores of the lodge add a layer of detail that provides readers with a sense of comforting familiarity.
The only minor flaw is the overly catty dialogue uttered by Sonja. Her jibes at Amy come off as scripted and unnatural. For example when Matt rejects her advances she exclaims, "Men find me irresistible. Why don't you?" It's hard to imagine any woman making a similar declaration no matter her degree of projected overconfidence.
Overall, two wounded souls find each other in the middle of a dark lake, but it is the "lights from the lodge [that] beckon them home."
Helena: Unwavering Courage
A woman gives birth while watching her husband's funeral procession from her bedroom window. She leaves town with her five children to secure an isolated riverside homestead. In a raging thunderstorm, she captains a rowboat in rough waters. With an ax, she decapitates a porcupine with termite-like tendencies. When a fast-moving fire threatens her home, she protects her children. Who is this courageous woman? She is Helena Matthews - grandmother of the author, Sylvia Melvin. All of the stories in Helena: Unwavering Courage are true.
Helena was a real life, flesh and blood woman who lived in a rustic settlement of Ontario, Canada during the early part of the 20th century. Advanced technology left her a widow when her pioneering husband, James, was killed while driving one of the area's first "auto wagons." With the help of her neighbors and her ingrained sense of determination, she perseveres in raising Edith, Ruby, Billy, Harry and Annie as a single mother.
Her children certainly put her to the test. Annie suffers a concussion after falling from the top of a stacked hay bale. Billy uncovers an illicit stash of moonshine during Prohibition. Edith thwarts her mother's attempt to encourage the advances of a gentleman caller. Ruby complains about having to leave her friends to live on the homestead for the entire summer. Harry joins the fun as the neighborhood children transform her brand-new window screens into makeshift sleds to slide down the steps, destroying them all in the process.
It is not just the antics of her children that Helena has to contend with. The owner of the general store cheats her. Their cow gets stranded in the middle of a river. A tuberculosis outbreak is a constant threat.
It is an enchanting idea to write a novel based on the life of one's ancestor. Melvin does a terrific job bringing her grandmother's past to life. What a wonderful way to preserve family history while at the same time sharing it with a larger audience. The book's pictures increase the narrative's depth. Helena's portrait graces the cover while interior photos show Billy and Harry fishing on the river and Edith, Annie and Harry playing in the woods. An epilogue explains what happened to everyone once the narrative concludes with the 10 year anniversary of James Matthews' death.
Overall, this is a real life heroine whose story deserves to be told.
You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers
B. Lynn Goodwin
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781606962978, $10.99, www.amazon.com WriterAdvice.com
Author B. Lynn Goodwin is a fellow book reviewer at WriterAdvice.com. When she became the primary caregiver of her elderly mother, she turned to writing as a form of therapy. In her book, You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers, she seeks to bring others the same form of release.
Goodwin cites the research of James W. Pennebaker, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. He studied the effects of journaling and found that putting thoughts and feelings on paper is powerful.
Journaling empowers the writer, who feels heard and acknowledged. It opens up perspective and insight. It reduces feelings of powerlessness. Journaling heals wounds and enhances mental stability.
Goodwin cared for her mother from 1994 through 2001. She knows firsthand what it is like when the parent-child relationship is reversed. Basic tasks can no longer be accomplished. Privacy is diminished. Confusion and embarrassment ensue. While acts of caregiving are rooted in love, frustration can lead to guilt. Goodwin understands the danger of succumbing to raw emotions. Instead of bottling them up, she suggests giving their expression free rein through writing.
The book provides several sentence starters broken down into four sections entitled "Thoughts about Me," "Thoughts about Caregiving," "Thoughts about the One I Care For," and "Thoughts about Reclaiming Myself." Prompts include "I wish I didn't resent...," "When I want to escape...," "I feel burned out when...," "I love you, but..." and "I forget what it feels like to..." These beginnings are followed by blank lines so that the reader can write a response in the book itself, although Goodwin encourages writing in a separate journal in order to fully explore each topic.
There are no rules for using the book. Goodwin suggests skipping items that do not particularly move the reader and focusing on those that open a cathartic doorway. She encourages caregivers who have hang-ups about writing to put away their insecurities. No judgments are made on writing ability. The key is to start writing regardless of one's level of expertise. Goodwin even suggests drawing for those who feel intimidated or creatively blocked by the act of writing.
The reader is not left hanging upon reaching the book's final page. At Goodwin's website, WriterAdvice.com there is information about writing with other caregivers, sample prompts, writings of those who have tried the process, booklists and more. She encourages caregivers to develop their journal entries into letters, essays, short stories, poems, memoirs and plays. Through her book, she provides an access point for caregivers to share their stories with each other and examine the healing power of the written word.
Overall, this book helps a caregiver sort out frustration and love from medications and bed pans.
Nicole Langan, Reviewer
The Swimming Pool
Doubleday & Company
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385531931, $25.95, www.amazon.com
The Swimming Pool is quite frankly a very heavy read. not in a long-winded or cumbersome way, but for sheer lack of action and a morbidly depressing theme. Every single character in this book is troubled and depressed. Every one of them is miserable in their own way and for their own (albeit intertwined) reasons. I have to give Lecraw props for theme development. I was depressed for at least an extra hour every time I walked away from this book. Whether you like it or not, you must admit that an author who weaves her theme that convincingly did a stunningly good job with it. The setting was fairly well-crafted too. I could almost smell the sea air at the Cape and I wouldn't mind spending a day in Marcella's glorious flower garden. The characters in this book were engaging for the first half. Then they became tedious: mope, whine, despair. Despair, whine, mope. Marcella started out as the most interesting character for me, but her sheer inertia throughout the story left me feeling ambivalent even toward her.
Plot development is where this book falls painfully short. I was roughly at the midway point when I realized that I had very little to gain from finishing this book. I was fairly certain I knew everything that was coming: who was probably responsible for Betsey McClatchey's death, where Marcella and Jed's relationship would probably end up, what Callie was probably going to end up doing. I stuck with it largely to see if I was right. And I was. While the mystery of Betsey McClatchey's death practically becomes a secondary plot to Jed and Marcella's affair, it's likely the only part of this story that will keep the reader engaged enough to read this novel all the way through.
I must say that the author did a good job with a narrative that skipped constantly between present and past. Two parallel stories were simultaneously revealed in a surprisingly seamless way. If only there had been more going on in one or both of those story lines..
The Bottom Line: A notable first effort but an exceedingly bleak read. At the very least, The Swimming Pool reveals an author with some genuine talent.
My sincere thanks to Doubleday for providing an advanced reader's copy for my review.
Freeze Frame: The Fourth of the Enzo Files
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590587171, $14.95, www.amazon.com
I must confess that this was the first of the 'Enzo Files' that I had read, so I was a little worried at the outset that I may be lost without the previous three installments already under my belt. Happily, that wasn't the case, though I might have understood Enzo's relationship woes better had I read the others first. At any rate, I was attracted to the whole forensic science aspect of the description, expecting detailed crime scene investigation and a peek at modern scientific techniques utilized in criminal justice. Based on the above description, you would expect something similar, wouldn't you?
Actually, very little science or forensic technique played a role in this book. In fact, checking fingerprints on a wine glass is about the only forensic science that got applied within its pages. So you think I'm disappointed, right? Not at all! While my first 'Enzo file' turned out to be completely different than I expected, what it did turn out to be was a fun little puzzle mystery full of twists and turns and hidden clues that kept me interested right up to the tidy (if not entirely unexpected) ending. Sure, it's unusual to have actual forensics play so little a role in a mystery centered around a forensics expert. But what Freeze Frame lacked in scientific detail, it more than made up for in intrigue, believable characters, and a setting drenched in well-crafted Channel Island charm. Peter May clearly did a lot of research for this book, both regional and historical. The result is a very enjoyable modern mystery.
The Bottom Line: The kind of mystery that I would describe as a "fun" read. Nothing overly gritty, no deep science, but an intriguing puzzle with a likable lead character: a cozy, lazy-Sunday kind of book. I'll be adding the first three to my TBR list, for sure.
The Information Officer
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400068180, $25.00, www.amazon.com
So much promise, so little delivery. The only thing I really liked about The Information Officer was the setting. Mills does a fantastic job of painting a period and place in history. Malta, World War II, and the war-time struggles on this small island nation come alive in this book. The time and place are masterfully created in vivid detail. In fact, it was so interesting that I did a little extra independent reading on the history of Malta. It's really interesting stuff!
The characters, however, are not done nearly so well. In fact, there are so many of them scattered throughout this novel that even when I finished, I still wasn't sure who they all were. or why we even met half of them. Most had no real bearing on the story. And the woman Max loves? Until she turned up as his wife in the end, I was unaware that he loved her. So much for a well-done romance.
From a plot perspective, the problem with this book was that it tried to be too many things at once: historical fiction, exploration into the mind of a serial killer, murder mystery, romance, tale of espionage. As a result, the story lines all got spread too thin and were rendered unsatisfying on all fronts. I just couldn't get behind this book at all. The ads tout The Information Officer as a must-read for fans of "Casablanca." That's a great hook, but every Bogart fan who gets snagged by it is destined for disappointment.
The Bottom Line: A poorly constructed novel that is interesting only for its period detail.
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, NY, NY 10019-4305
9780307381460 $24.95, www.amazon.com
Nefertiti is a brilliant novel on all fronts. In particular, it includes some of the best characters I have read in a long time. Each one is unique, believable and utterly fascinating. In contrast to some other books I've encountered recently, I had not a moment's difficulty keeping track of who was who. in spite of names like Mutnodjmet, Nakhtmin, Thutmose and Parahesi. Why? Because each and every character in this novel is well-rounded, one-of-a-kind and utterly relevant to the story in one way or another.
It is my understanding that author Michelle Moran has spent some time at archeological sites around the world. Her experience there and her understanding of ancient Egyptian civilization shine through in every moment of this book. If you want to take a magic carpet ride back to the time of the pharaohs, you simply must read Nefertiti. The period detail in this book's setting alone is worth the cover price. From the lasting glory of Thebes to the rushed folly of Amenhotep's doomed city of Amarna, the location and time are vividly brought to life within the pages of this book.
But it's not just the setting and the characters that make Nefertiti great. Let's face it, without a good story no novel is worth reading . Happily, the plot of Nefertiti is unparalleled by anything I have read in recent months. It is fast-paced and full of court intrigue, love, loss, conflict, jealousy, fear, ambition. you name it. The relationships between the characters (particularly that of Nefertiti and her sister Mutny, but others as well) are so well-developed and perfectly balanced within the story that this novel at once becomes everything from an epic tale about an ancient dynasty. to a love story. to a tale of undying devotion between sisters. and more. It is absolutely brilliant in nearly all respects. My only criticism is that things got wrapped up a bit too quickly at the end. After several hundred pages developing Nefertiti's rise, her fall happened over the space of just a few pages without much explanation or surrounding detail. The ending definitely seemed rushed. Regardless, I've already got a copy of Moran's next book, The Heretic Queen, on hold. Can't wait. (In the meantime, I find myself profoundly annoyed by the lack of
signed first editions of this book on the market. What's up with that? So the hunt begins..)
The Bottom Line: Genius. A must-read for all lovers of historical fiction.
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590587232 $24.95, www.amazon.com
The Columnist. Readers never know the narrator and central character of this novel as anything more than The Columnist. He is a finance columnist and old-school newspaper man who takes readers on a thrill ride of adventure, murder and espionage in Deadline Man. The book opens with an informal interview between the columnist and one of his sources: Troy Hardesty, a wealthy financier who doesn't seem to have much to offer by way of new market news. When asked about a small "off the radar" company based there in Seattle, Hardesty casually asks the columnist if he's ever heard of "eleven-eleven." When he says he hasn't, the source lets it drop and the interview ends as blandly as it began. Then, as the columnist walks away from the building, Hardesty plummets to his death from above. Soon bodies are piling up and mysterious "agents' are harassing the columnist. and it all seems to center around "eleven-eleven."
Deadline Man is one of the best suspense novels I've read in a while. Full of twists, turns, murder and mayhem, Deadline Man kept me anxiously turning pages right up to the end. Talton does a magnificent job of planting hints and teasers that keep readers guessing at what might happen. but he neither tips his hand completely nor leaves his readers in the dark. It's a delicate balance and it's perfect. The characters are all unique and well-crafted, though there are a few that I would have like to have known more about. Rachel Summers, in particular. The setting (Seattle and the Pacific northwest) was expertly drawn. At times, the narrative got a bit heavy-handed (read, preachy) over the decline of traditional newspapers in these modern times. Fortunately, even that meshed reasonably well with the narrator's character. so in the end, it was still a good fit. The voice of the columnist was perfectly captured in the direct, no-nonsense writing style of the narrative. And the ending left just enough unanswered questions to keep the reader thinking about this book without leaving the reader unsatisfied. Talton is one of the best talents I've encountered this year.
The Bottom Line: Fans of well-written suspense should not miss Deadline Man.
Jennifer A. Palombi, OD, FAAO
The Fine Print of Self-Publishing
212 3rd Avenue North, Suite 471, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781933538563, $16.95, www.amazon.com
As self-publishing, or Print-on-Demand (POD) publishing is becoming more popular, an important question for authors concerns the contract they are about to sign. Are they getting a good deal from the publisher, or are they (figuratively) signing their life away?
The book explores a number of things that the author must consider before signing a contract. Are the publishing fees fairly priced? Does it have a good reputation in the writing community? Does it offer decent royalties without fuzzy math? Can the author easily terminate the contract? Does the contract include the ability to obtain an ISBN or a UPC Bar Code? Never accept a contract whose terms extend for the length of the copyright (the life of the author plus 70 years). What happens to your book if the publisher declares bankruptcy?
Much of the book is taken up with an analysis of the contracts from 48 different self-publishers. The Outstanding publishers include Booklocker, Bookpros, Cold Tree Press, Infinity Publishing and Outskirts Press. The Pretty Good companies include Booksurge Publishing, Echelon Press and Third Millennium Publishing. The Okay publishers include Indy Publish, Llumina Press, Plane Tree Publishing and Publish to Go. The Bad publishers (to be avoided at all costs) include AuthorHouse, Holy Fire Publishing, PageFree Publishing and PublishAmerica. Any author thinking of signing with a "Bad" publisher needs to seriously reconsider if being a writer is really a good idea.
There is a more recent third edition available (this is the first edition). Regardless of the edition, this book needs to be on every budding author's bookshelf. It is full of information on what to consider, and what to avoid, before signing a book contract.
The Teen Girl's Gotta-Have-It Guide to Money
Jessica Blatt with Variny Paladino
c/o Crown Publishing
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780823017270, $8.95, www.amazon.com
This book is a basic introduction to the world of money for teens; how to get it, save it and spend it.
Before you can spend money on clothes or an MP3 player, you need some money coming in, so a job is a requirement. Apply at a favorite store at the mall, or the local supermarket, or advertise in your neighborhood as a dog walker. This is the time to put on your thinking cap and get creative. If you are underage, get the approval of your parents first.
Now that you have a steady income, what do you do with it? The authors suggest creating four "pots." Put 30 percent toward everyday expenses, another 30 percent toward short-term savings (like a new pair of boots) and the other 30 percent toward long-term savings (it's never too early to start saving for college or a car). Consider giving the last 10 percent to charity.
How do you get the most out of each dollar spent? Don't be afraid to shop at second-hand or thrift stores. Many times generic cosmetics have the exact same ingredients as the brand-name cosmetics; you are paying for the marketing and fancy packaging. Do your own nails. Read the details of your cellphone plan and know exactly what you are paying for. Bottle your own water instead of paying for it, and think about hosting a DVD night with your friends instead of going to the movies.
Savings accounts are an easy, and safe, way of making your money grow. For those who are more daring, perhaps investing in the stock market is the way to go. The potential payoff is greater, but so is the risk of losing your money.
There are alternatives to "retail therapy," the pick-me-up that comes from spending money. Hold a clothing swap, exercise, discover the things that your library has for free or become a volunteer at an organization that does work that you care about.
The authors do a wonderful job at painlessly taking the reader through the world of money. There are colors and graphics throughout, so it is really easy to read. Boys should not be put off by the title, this book is equally recommended for you, too.
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
The Dog in the Wood
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
9781590787014, $17.95, www.amazon.com
The setting is East Germany at the end of World War II. Ten-year old Fritz and his family face an unknown future as they fearfully await the invasion of the Russian Army. His grandfather, a Nazi sympathizer, vows to fight to the death. But Fritz knows they are no match for the Russian soldiers. Fritz and his mother and sister, Irmi are tired of fighting. They lost his father in the war and they long for peace. What they do not yet understand is the price of that peace.
Fritz endures the death of his grandparents, the occupation of their home by the Russian military, and eventually the loss of their farm, all with incredible strength. But when his mother is falsely accused of hiding weapons, is arrested and hauled away in the back of truck Fritz fights back. Risking everything he borrows a bike and pedals to the Russian headquarters in a nearby town to confront the Commander.
Based on Schroder's father's childhood experiences in East Germany after the war, this is the story of a young boy's courage in the face of impossible circumstances. The hardships that befall Fritz and his family portray the aftermath of war from a child's point of view and show that war has an echo that lingers on long after the bombings stop.
Warriors in the Crossfire
Nancy Bo Flood
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
9781590786611, $17.95, www.amazon.com
During World War II, the island of Saipan was occupied by the Japanese military until US warships and jet fighters arrived in the spring of 1944. Bombing raids erupted and a ferocious battle ensued which nearly wiped out the entire country. This is the tale of two best friends and cousins, Joseph and Kento. The 13-year old boys hunted turtles and pretended they were Samurai warriors until the war came to their tiny island. From then on their warrior mission grew up because they had to rescue their land and its gentle people from extinction.
In Joseph and Kento, Nancy Bo Flood has created two highly likeable characters to be our guides into a flourishing island paradise and eventually through one of the most horrific battles in the Pacific during World War II. To view war's destruction through the eyes of an indigenous people caught in the crossfire is haunting. However the remarkable story of Joseph and Kento's leadership and bravery shines through the darkness of their plight. Flood has done an admirable job of portraying a difficult event in history. "Warriors in the Crossfire" is both a gripping saga and a touching memorial to the native people of Saipan.
City of Cannibals
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
9781590786239, $18.95, www.amazon.com
Dell's father is an abusive drunk. Fed up with his cruelty she runs away to the big city to find out the truth about her past from a boy she knows. It could be the story of any teen anywhere but 16-year old Dell lives in 16th Century England under the oppressive reign of King Henry VIII. The boy, whom she knows only as Brown Boy, has quietly delivered a sack of gifts to her mother's grave every month for as long as she can remember. Except her father has forbidden Dell to show her face to him, so they have never met. Dell believes Brown Boy knows secrets about her mother who was a lady-in-waiting for Queen Catherine, before she died in a tragic accident. Throughout her quest Dell crosses paths with a parade of colorful characters and is exposed to more myths and realities than she bargained for. In the process she discovers that Brown Boy is hiding some secrets of his own.
Like a masterful storyteller Ricki Thompson transforms a dangerous state of affairs into a rollicking adventure. She balances the brutality of the medieval period with an innocent love story. Vivid details combined with earthy vulgarity transport readers to London's gritty streets. "City of Cannibals" is historical fiction with a healthy dose of Shakespearean charm and wit.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
The Blessedness of Waiting on God
Verna Foster Harvey
c/o WinePress Publishing
P. O. Box 428, Enumclaw, WA 98022
9781414107943, $16.99, www.amazon.com
Waiting on God - A Time of Preparation for Service
Christian Counselor and author Verna Foster Harvey has created a unique interactive study guide, a balanced combination of instruction and inspiration in her book "The Blessedness of Waiting on God: How to Deal with the Stress of Holding Patterns." The book also provides devotional thoughts and prayer meditations.
Harvey writes from her own personal experiences as she describes the holding pattern of waiting on God throughout in various seasons of her own spiritual journey. She relates how blessedness can develop during this time of preparation for service. She talks about how this can produce clarity during the training process.
Harvey uses examples from Old and New Testament characters that experienced similar periods of waiting, or being held in a holding pattern as they were being prepared to fulfill God's purpose for their lives.
I found Harvey's applications both practical and relevant. The chapter titled "Experiencing Holding Patterns in Today's World" resonated with me. In this chapter Harvey discussed topics including weight loss plateaus, unanswered prayers, and terminal illness. She also addressed issues of perseverance and focus. She included important resource tools available to read and reflect on during the waiting period. Each chapter provided a helpful worksheet with application questions which provided opportunity for introspection and direction for moving forward in readiness for service.
"The Blessedness of Waiting on God" conveys a powerful message of expectation and hope for anyone in the experiencing a dry, seemingly unfruitful season during a holding pattern of uncertainty. Harvey writing is filled with compassion, empathy, and understanding.
A Shattered Life an Amazing God
Madeline A. Spencer
2180 West State Street, Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, Florida 32779
9781615792597, $20.99, www.amazon.com
Cody's Personal Search for Self Acceptance and Sexual Identity
"A Shattered Life an Amazing God: When Fear Collides with Love" is Cody's story. It is a story of parental abuse, divorce, and duplicity. As an adolescent Cody was caught up in a cycle of fear, indifference, and complacency. By the age of eighteen he was on a downward spiral of personal and financial irresponsibility, substance abuse, and illicit sex in a search for sexual identity and self acceptance.
One by one living options closed for Cody as family and friends tried to reconcile his irresponsibility, life style, and rebellion. He became, in effect, homeless.
Inspired by the parable of the Good Samaritan and filled with Christian compassion the Spencer family opened their home to Cody who had just been forced to leave his father's home. The Spencer's took Cody and accepted him as a member of their family. Cody became their unofficial adopted son.
Madeline A. Spencer details a five year journey of heartrending disappointments and small victories, as Cody works through a pattern of fear, hopelessness, rebellion, and rage, as a result of a wounded heart and a crushed spirit. Spencer verbalizes her own hard questions as to Cody's motives as she tried to find a balance between tough love and becoming an enabler for co-dependency. She relies on an unwavering faith in the sovereignty of God, His love, mercy, and grace to carry her through each experience.
Spencer writes in an engaging style drawing the reader into her compassion and identifying with Cody's inconsistencies. True to her convictions, Spencer relies on the Bible as the basis for her life principles and core values. She acknowledges the power of God in every positive forward step Cody's life.
"A Shattered Life an Amazing God" is written for parents and concerned individuals reaching out to troubled wounded teens drawn into a culture of darkness and evil resulting in binding addictions, loneliness, and hopelessness, needing, repentance, restoration, and redemption.
Angel on Call
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
97819347598 $,14.95, www.amazon.com
Enlightenment, Transformation, and Fulfillment
"Angel on Call" is Helen Rothschild's story of commitment to service. She relates her journey on the path to enlightenment. She tells how she entered into a new level of consciousness as she ascertained the divine purpose for her life.
Helene's story reveals how the courage to do what you truly want to do will enlarge your perspective, reduce your anxiety, provide a sense of freedom, and allow you to reach your full potential.
Helene relates how her personal journey into spiritual growth and healing took a new turn in 1976 when she moved to California with her young daughters and enrolled at Santa Clara University to pursue the Masters Degree program in counseling.
Years later, after experiencing a successful counseling career in the San Jose area Helene relocated to a community in Sedona, Arizona for a period of spiritual growth and healing. Here she was surrounded by people of like interests who were also dedicated to a life of divine service.
After ten years in Sedona, Helene was encouraged by the angelic beings to return to California, specifically to the Carmel valley. She expresses the steps in her angel trust walk and how she received instructions for this move. In the years that followed Helene has made several other moves in response to the angelic messages. Each of these moves, in turn, became another adventure in her spiritual journey.
Rothschild illustrates what she calls being used as one of God's scribes. She talks about spirituality versus religion, cosmic partnership, cosmic mission, intergalactic Peace Corp, and twelve steps to enlightenment, the power of intuition, channeling and ghost busting. She includes excerpts from earlier writings including over 100 spiritual affirmations.
Rothschild's writing is fresh, written with clarity, providing the reader with keys to finding enlightenment, transformation, and fulfillment. "Angel on Call" is will be welcomed by those who read her earlier book "All You Need Is H A R T," and by anyone seeking to discover and pursue a journey to a deeper life for gaining access to the path to spirituality, love and spiritual illumination.
The Hero's Choice: Living from the Inside Out
Roger K. Allen
9780979783128, $16.95, www.amazon.com
Discovering the Champion in You
Highly respected and recognized for leadership, coaching, and team Dr. Roger K. Allen introduces new ways of thinking in his book "The Hero's Choice." He has chosen to use fiction as the platform to the reader to a place of seeing a new way of thinking.
Protagonist, Hal Stratton is distraught when the Board of Directors of his company, the company he founded, built, and managed, removed him from his management position. Bitter, in an emotional state of confusion and hurt, Hal drives to a familiar, yet remote, area in the Colorado Mountains to reflect on his devastating situation.
In an unexpected turn of events Hal meets and is mentored by Donald, an older man who lives alone in a nearby mountain cabin. The lessons Donald taught Hal are carefully incorporated into the story line enabling the reader to make application of their own situation and any personal trauma they may be facing. Although Hal's circumstances have not changed his life is empowered. Hal learns the principle of making the hero's choice through unexpected plot twists, informational narrative, and stimulating dialog.
Hal has to work though anger and the desire for revenge which alienate him from his colleagues, peers, and business associates. He goes through a period of blame shifting, self pity, which nearly destroys his marriage and family relationships. Hal's mind is poisoned as he dwells on childhood hurts and disappointments causing him to avoid contact with his concerned parents. He bitterly refuses their offers of help.
Allen's writing is realistic, straight forward, idealistic, compelling, and penetrating. Allen helps the reader exchange their hurt and personal grief for opportunities through change, self actualization, and personal transformation.
Each chapter is progressive, building on lessons leaned in the previous one. Allen clearly and accurately describes strategic life principles which help the reader face the challenge of hardship in the process of achieving business success. Plot and character development are exceptional. I found myself experiencing intense emotions of compassion, judgment, mistrust, and ultimate empathy with each major player in the story.
"The Hero's Choice" provides a balance of instruction, motivation, inspiration, and entertainment. A great read.
Roger W. Nielsen
R. W. Nielsen Company
1974 Alan Street, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83404
9780982035542, $19.95, www.amazon.com
The Basic Fundamentals for Writing Magazine and Online Articles
"Writing Content: Mastering Magazine and Online Writing" is a book for beginning writers. Roger W. Nielsen talks about the impact of the internet on today's reader. In turn he describes the influence this has on writers and publishers in today's market. He begins with suggesting getting ideas for stories or articles, the procedures for writing, and techniques that produce strong, to the point, and significant results. Nielsen encapsulates the essence of the lessons he personally has gleaned during a forty year career as a professional writer, editor, and publisher.
Throughout the book Neilson uses examples, anecdotes, and step by step instructions to guide the reader/writer through the process step by step from gathering the information to writing the story. He explains chapter by chapter the importance of shaping the focal point, carrying out stimulating interviews, creating structure, documenting quotes accurately, building transitional bridges, and establishing straightforward conclusions. Roger takes into account practical keys for conceptualizing and researching the story or article.
I found the chapters "How to Write the First Paragraph" and "Clear-cut Conclusions" extremely helpful. I also picked up practical pointers on "Using Quotations," "Transitional Bridges," and "Adding Anecdotes."
A successful career as a magazine writer, editor, and publisher give Nielsen the credentials that solidly re-enforce the message of "Writing Content." My copy of the book is kept readily available for frequent reference, review, and application. This is a book that should be in the library of every serious beginning and aspiring writer.
Defying Autism: A Miraculous Story of Hope
Karen Mayer Cunningham
600 Rinehart Road, St. Mary, Florida 32746
9781599796284, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Hope for Healing - for Victims of Autism
"Defying Autism" is the story of the journey of the Cunningham family. It is an account of the day to day struggles and heartache of caring for their son James in his fight against the disease of autism. James was formally diagnosed "classically autistic" after months of frustration throughout a downward curve in his learning skills. The diagnosis devastated his parents Tom and Karen Cunningham.
In her narrative Karen compares their story to a season of life. The story chronicles the early days of their marriage, the joy seeing baby James develop, and the events leading up to the diagnosis. Each chapter details another season in the development in the life of their son James and through the subsequent struggles they faced as parents and caregivers.
Chapter titles include: "The Santa Ana Winds," "Tornado Watch, "Possible Flooding," and "Tsunami." Karen kept looking for a rainbow of hope. She talks about navigating through the fog, working through state agencies, CPS caseworkers, and the discovery of the Gospel Revelation Ministry.
Karen subtitled the book "A Miraculous Story of Hope." Although few deny the ability of God to heal with miraculous power, many will struggle with the concept of healing as a result of the doctrines of demons and exorcism. "Defying Autism" testifies of James being miraculously freed from the disease and bondage of autism.
The flow of the narrative is gripping. I appreciated Karen's transparency in revealing her emotions, fears, doubts, and her vulnerability which allows the reader to empathize and identify with her personal anguish.
"Defying Autism: A Miraculous Story of Hope" is written to help and encourage others struggling, hoping, and believing for a miraculous healing.
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
9781599799391, $22.99, www.amazon.com
A Fresh Perspective on the Doctrine of Grace
"Unmerited Favor" will impact your appreciation for the fullness of life we received through the redemption which Christ's sacrificial death has provided. The book is a remarkable reminder of what Jesus accomplished on the cross for us. Joseph Prince uses Biblically sound principles as he helps the reader learn to walk in light of God's unmerited favor.
Each chapter is filled with scriptural truth. Every page reveals something of God's amazing concern for every aspect of our lives. Biblical references are well documented for each chapter in the notes provided after the final chapter of the book.
I personally appreciated Prince's emphasis on the importance of "practicing the presence of Christ," as well as the principles that dealt with experiencing "success beyond our circumstances," and the chapter which talked about "living in peace and contentment."
Prince unflinchingly proclaims the gospel message challenging the church to make an impact on the next generation. He exhorts the reader to recognize the importance of understanding that we are now living under God's new covenant of grace, his unmerited favor. He urges the reader to stop relying on their own strength to rely on the strength of Jesus for every success in life.
Whether a novice just beginning a walk with Christ or more mature and well advanced in your spiritual journey, wherever you are, "Unmerited Favor" will impact your appreciation of the fullness of life which Christ has provided through His redemption. Joseph Prince's writing is refreshing and rings with clarity. Theological concepts are present in easy to understand layman's terms.
Richard R. Blake
545 Rosewood Trail, Grayson, GA 30017-1261
9780982508749, $15.95, www.amazon.com
I chose RealmShift by Alan Baxter because I've secretly had a love of fantasy and dark fantasy ever since I discovered Tolkien in my teens, so Baxter's work was a natural choice for me. I only indulge in my love of fantasy occasionally, but when I do I try to make sure it seems interesting. Between his website and the book cover Baxter's work seemed to fit my needs. I wasn't disappointed.
Once I started I discovered there are some people whose heads you really don't want to be inside and dark fiction author Alan Baxter is one of those people. In RealmShift Alan Baxter takes you from blood sacrifices to the varied realms of hell and back again, battling demons, gods and Lucifer himself in a gore fest that makes your head spin.
Not only does Baxter spin a tale of life on the dark side, he questions, quite soundly, the basis for all religions, modern and ancient, treating all with the same irreverence and offering an alternate viewpoint that is so valid it's almost frightening. It'll challenge your deepest held beliefs. Belief creates reality and Baxter's reality is full of magic and darkness, evil and good, but a good that lies easily to serve its own purpose and with the full backing of the universe and all the power behind it.
Baxter's fight scenes are intense. They get your heart pounding, leaving you on the edge of your seat. With Baxter's own martial arts training the scenes are realistic, sometimes so much so that you find yourself wondering if Baxter himself has ever crushed someone's head or slit a throat and heard the blood gurgle and the breath hiss as his victim lie dying. Baxter draws you along a knife's edge of tension from the first page to the last, leaving your heart thumping and sweat on your brow.
A good example of the supernatural element in Baxter's writing, his use of imagery and his ability to write a good fight scene follows:
"Samuel could do nothing but watch helplessly as the battle began. Isiah's fingers were pressing with immense force into the devil's face. Samuel could hear the creak and crack of bones fracturing, Isiah's middle finger and thumb slowly sinking into the hollows of Lucifer's temples, dark black blood leaking out, running down his cheeks. Satan's own nails were drawing blood from Isiah's forearm, Isiah's skin taut and white under his grip. The devil lashed out with his other hand, clawing for Isiah's face. Isiah caught his hand with lightening reflexes, his hand wrapped around the devil's closed fist, squeezing. More of Lucifer's bones began popping."
RealmShift is phenomenal. If it's not already on your bookshelf it should be.
Blade Red Press,
9780982508756 $9.99 http://alanbaxteronline.com
MageSign by Alan Baxter is the second volume in a duology that began with Baxter's RealmShift. The character of Isiah must pursue a personal vendetta with no assistance, or direction, from the force he usually serves, known as the Balance. MageSign is a fast paced ride through the depths of darkness a human soul can hold. It builds in intensity with a mystery involving a dark and twisted cult that leaves you longing for more, while building a deeper sense of dread that leaves you nearly afraid to turn the pages.
A sample of the darkness, from the early pages of the book that made my skin crawl follows:
"'What am I doing?' the Sorcerer asked quietly. 'I'm feeding the baby, of course.'
With one swift motion the blade swept around and straight across Colley's thin, pale throat. Immediately blood poured from the broad gash in an arterial flood, showering over the child. The Sorcerer muttered the words of his magic, holding tightly as Colley bucked once, twice, before collapsing limp. As Braden screamed the baby stretched its arms up into the waterfall of blood, clutching and grasping at the hot, red fluid. The blood poured over the child and into his mouth and the child gulped and gurgled, swallowing as much of the blood as he could. Little arms and legs squirmed and writhed, his small body arching up into the flow, desperately drinking deeply, the movement of the newborn unnatural. 'He entered this world in a bath of his virgin mother's lifeblood,' the Sorcerer whispered, 'and his first meal is swallowed from the bloodbath of another. We begin here the creation of untold power."
While MageSign can be read alone I highly suggest reading the first volume of the series RealmShift, which provides an in-depth back-story for MageSign. After reading MageSign I found myself yearning for more of Isiah's adventures, which may perhaps include a few other characters from the book. Stand alone volumes that have nothing to do with the duology or a trilogy would be fine, just give me more Isiah!
The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman, Illustrations by Dave McKean,
HarperCollins Children's Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780060530938 $18.89 http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com
Neil Gaiman writes a wonderfully original tale for middle graders and young adults with The Graveyard Book. The Graveyard Book is the intriguing tale of young Nobody "Bod" Owens, a boy who is raised by ghosts in an old graveyard. He is given the run of the graveyard and its secrets.
Along the way Bod meets many characters from his crusty protector Silas to his loving, though ghostly "parents", a young girl and even a witch. Every other type of character you can imagine inhabiting a graveyard is also well represented.
The Graveyard Book, while infinitely interesting, probably shouldn't be read by anyone younger than the lower end of the middle grades age range which is eight-years-old. A younger child might find it frightening and there are some parts of the book that may even give them nightmares.
Here is a passage I particularly enjoyed from the book is:
"Her name was Scarlett Amber Perkins, she told him, and she lived in a flat with no garden. Her mother was sitting on a bench by the chapel at the bottom of the hill, reading a magazine and she had told Scarlett to be back in half an hour, to get some exercise, and not to get into trouble or talk to strangers.
"I'm a stranger", pointed out Bod.
"You're not," she said, definitely. "You're a little boy." And then she said, "And you're my friend. So you can't be a stranger."
Bod smiled rarely, but he smiled then, hugely and with delight. "I'm your friend," he said.
"What's your name?"
"Bod. It's short for Nobody."
Even as an adult I found The Graveyard Book to be entertaining. I was glad I had the excuse of reviewing it as a reason to read it. It is now a treasured part of my library and when my grandchildren are old enough I will certainly read it to them.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780007236343, $TBA, www.amazon.com
Sometimes the system fails and when it does, it's catastrophic. Damaged by Cathy Glass is the story of one such failure and the little girl involved, Jodie. Cathy is a carer, the English equivalent of a foster parent, with twenty years of experience. Jodie comes to live with Cathy when she is just under eight-years-old and while there makes a series of startling revelations to Cathy. The first thirty pages or so are back story, but keep reading, it's well worth your time.
Damaged is the true story of Jodie and the way the way the system fell apart, failing her in the most dramatic ways, keeping her in a dangerous home, where she suffered multiple injuries requiring emergency treatment, while they monitored the situation for nearly eight years. Her social services file was so extensive none of her social workers had ever read it in its entirety. What follows is a terribly sad scene from the book:
"...suddenly I was awake, with my eyes open and my senses alert. I turned and looked at the clock: it was nearly 2:15 a.m. I listened. The house was silent. Yet something told me all was not well; a sixth sense from years of looking after children.
I eased my feet from the bed and felt for my slippers. The house was cold, as the heating had switched off for the night. I fumbled to get my arms into my robe, tied it loosely, and opened the bedroom door. Suddenly, I gasped in shock. Jodie was standing outside the door, her face covered in blood.
'What is it? What have you done?' I frantically searched for the source of the blood. 'Where are you hurt? Tell me! Come on, quickly!' I couldn't find anything, but the blood was fresh.
In a trance-like state, she slowly raised her hands and showed me her palms. They were smeared with blood, but I still couldn't find any sign of a cut. I pulled up her pajama sleeves, and then I saw it. She had a cut on her left forearm, about an inch long, which was lightly seeping blood.
No one had mentioned anything about self-harming, but I doubted this was the first time she'd done it. I looked closer, and saw there were other fine, pink scar lines running up both arms. How recent they were was difficult to tell."
Cathy is the sixth carer to take Jodie in during a four month period. She is aggressive, developmentally delayed and difficult to manage. After Cathy takes her in her aggression is manifested toward Cathy and her three children, but Cathy stands by her, knowing she is Jodie's last chance at avoiding institutionalization.
Don't Throw Away Your Stick till You Cross the River
Five Star Publications, Inc
P.O. Bos 6698 Chandler, AZ 85246
9781589850576, $14.99, www.fivestarpublishing.com
As you read "Don't Throw Away Your Stick till You Cross the River (The Journey of an Ordinary Man)" you will find that Mr. Beach's life story is anything but ordinary. In fact it has been an extraordinary adventure for eighty plus years. I felt that in each chapter the author was trying to teach us all a lesson.
Vincent was born in a small village called Knollis, in Jamaica. His family was poor but I feel he learned a lot of life's lessons that helped him as he grew. His mom was abusive, but always told him "Don't throw away you stick, till you cross the river." I found that bit of advice to be profound. His father was a quiet man that did not talk a lot but loved his kids. His family life was not one that was filled with affection. Yet as a child he longed for it.
His thirst for knowledge would take him far in life; as well as his love for music. As in some non-fiction books there can be many lessons that we can take to our hearts and use it. This book is no exception.
In my humble opinion this book is a must read. On a sad note I have found out that Vincent Collin Beach has passed away. But his life story is still alive and is still available for all to read and learn about this amazing man
Misty Peak Publishing
Box AL, Filer, Idaho 83328
9780974679402, $15.95, www.mistypeak.com
I really have enjoyed this romantic novel. One of the things I liked about this book is it flows from one page to the next and holds your attention.The book completes itself, in that you are not left wondering what happened to all the characters. The characters in this book are engrossing, fun and loveable. If anyone out there has had a special grandparent like Bepo in this story, then your heart will be filled with all the lovely memories once again.
If you love a good romance then you will enjoy the twist and turns of this romantic novel. Ms. Jennings leads you through sadness and joy in this book. You just can't help falling in love with most of the characters in this book. From the some what crazy neighbor to Carrie's Grandfather.
For readers who just want to take a day and relax then this is the book for you to buy. You will be transported to Carrie's Farm but be careful as you may find you don't want this book to end. I hope Bette Jennings will continue to write and take us back to Carrie's Farm. For a first time author I was surprised at the quality of Ms. Jennings book.
Thank you for this story and all the wonderful people you have created
A Feather in the Rain
Five Star Publications
P.O. Box 6698 Chandler, AZ 85246
1589850114, $24.95, http://FiveStarPublishing.com
I knew when I read the dedication and saw the sketch of Mr. Cord's son that this book was going to take me on an emotional ride. This book did not let me down.
From the world of cutting horses, to the deep depression of the main character Jesse, your heart is crying out for him. The lost of his son from a drug over dose, fills him with pain and wondering if he could of done more to help him.
When he finds a chance for hope and love again, will Jesse be able to come to terms with his past? Will he have the strength to try again? Or will his past always sabotage any type of relationship?
This book should be made into a movie. It is that good.
Kick-Ass Creativity: An Energy Makeover for Artists, Explorers, and Creative Professionals
Mary Beth Maziarz
Hampton Roads Publishing
Distributed by Red Wheel/Weiser
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781571746214 $16.95 1-800-423-7087
With a title like Kick-Ass Creativity: An Energy Makeover for Artists, Explorers, and Creative Professionals you are assured to be in for one eye opening experience. This book allows your creative juices to reach to new heights as it shows you how to discover talents you never knew existed, or have been neglecting because of other duties.
Through Mary Beth Maziarz's Kick-Ass Creativity: An Energy Makeover for Artists, Explorers, and Creative Professionals it provides the electrifying jolt needed to make the most of your creative talents. It overflows with positive energy that will have you making time for that activity you have long neglected.
Kick-Ass Creativity: An Energy Makeover for Artists, Explorers, and Creative Professionals provides a way to unblock creative thoughts and allow your talent to shine. It will provide you the positive enforcement that you need to offer the world your artistic talent.
Kick-Ass Creativity: An Energy Makeover for Artists, Explorers, and Creative Professionals is a now holds barred look at reviving you into a take charge individual. It encourages you to see how the world is lacking if you don't allow you artist talent to shine.
Loving in the Moment
Hampton Roads Publishing Company
1523 Montessori Terrace, Charlottesville, VA 22911
Red Wheel/Weiser (distributor)
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781571746276, $16.95, www.hrpub.com
Love is a magical quality that two people share. In order to find true and lasting love it takes knowing and loving oneself before a person is able to give their heart to another.
Through the pages of Loving in the Moment: Moving from Ego to Essence in Relationships, you will gain a better appreciation for the person you are and how you need to change certain elements in your life to welcome love into your heart.
Gina Lake's advice is a true spiritual awakening of self discovery. It provides a journey of self awareness that everyone needs to be able to cleanse their soul. Her concept allows you to gain the confidence and guidance you need to recognize, find, and be able to have a lasting relationship.
No matter if you are single or married, there is something for everyone in Loving in the Moment: Moving from Ego to Essence in Relationships. With Gina Lakes advice you have taken the first step needed to find true and lasting love. It provides an enlightening means to discover what you heart desires.
Big Buy Cooking
Editors of Fine Cooking
The Taunton Press, Inc.
PO Box 5506, Newtown, CT 06470-5506
9781600851544, $19.95, www.amazon.com
In today's economy, it is imperative that you find ways to save money any way possible. Buying food in bulk portions is cheaper then purchasing small individual servings. It enables the purchaser a means to stock up their food pantry. Some may fear that buying large amounts will be hard to manage; the solution to this dilemma comes in the form of the book Big Buy Cooking: The Food Lover's Guide to Buying in Bulk and Using it All Up.
Big Buy Cooking: The Food Lover's Guide to Buying in Bulk and Using it All Up consists of 75 recipes. Each one offers a fresh new outlet to explore the way to use large quantities of food items. The recipes this book contains will turn anyone into a cooking genius.
This book appeals to me because it allowed me to gain the knowledge of how to purchase big cost saving quantities and then know how to turn them into mouth watering meals before they go to waste. Being single, it can be intimidating to purchase more than what you are accustomed to buying. This book gives you the confidence you need to purchase those large quantities knowing what the end result will offer.
Some of my favorite recipes that I tried included: Peach and blueberry galette, pan-friend southwestern has, and a tropical mango sorbet. Each one of these was simple to prepare and delivered unbelievable results.
For anyone who is looking to save on their monthly food bill there is no better book to add to your recipe collection. This book will pay for itself in gaining the knowledge needed to handle large food quantities. The initial investment will become a priceless collection to your cooking library.
A Little Book of Thank Yous: Letters, Notes & Quotes
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781573243742 $16.95 www.redwheelweiser.com
Thank you is two small words that offers' a wealth of happiness and appreciation. When a person goes out of their way to thank a person it shows them that they appreciate their generosity.
Addie Johnson's A Little Book of Thank Yous: Letters, Notes & Quotes is a beautiful example of a book that will reach out and touch your heart. It overflows with a potpourri of meaningful quotes, notes and letters that centers around how giving thanks rewards not only the receiver but the giver.
I was enchanted at all this book has to offer. As I read each offering I was amazed at how thought provoking each letter, note, or quote was, many times I caught myself rereading a passage I had just read to regain that feel good effect. There was one that really caught my eye and worth passing along. It includes:
"Every time we remember to say 'thank you', we experience nothing less than Heaven on earth.
~ Sarah Ban Breathnach
For anyone who is seeking something special and unique I suggest you purchase a copy of A Little Book of Thank Yous: Letters, Notes & Quotes for it is the ideal way to show that special someone how much you care.
Cooking from the Garden
PO Box 5506, Newtown, CT 06470-5506
1600852475, $29.95, www.amazon.com
From your own backyard to your dining table a feast fit for a King awaits you. In today's economy, food prices have gone up at a drastic rate. To save costs, individuals are planting their own garden where they can experience fresh fruits and vegetables without paying the high prices.
If you are a gardener, no matter what your experience level may be, you will find a treasure chest of mouth watering meals in Ruth Lively's Cooking from the Garden: Best Recipes from Kitchen Gardener. In this one book you will find 200 recipes that will have you cooking like a master chef.
There are so many wonderful recipes in Cooking from the Garden: Best Recipes from Kitchen Gardener it is hard to pick my favorites. These are the ones that I have tried and absolutely loved: Blackberries in Pecan Crepes, Tuscan Beans, and Peach Crisp with lavender. Each one of recipes was easy to make and enhanced the fruit and vegetable ingredients.
Whether you are going your own garden, or purchasing home grown fruits and vegetables out of you local grocery store, Cooking from the Garden: Best Recipes from Kitchen Gardener is definitely the cookbook you want to add to your collection. It is a cookbook that is worthy enough to be passed on for future generations.
Suzie Housley, Reviewer
Lay Down My Sword and Shield
James Lee Burke
c/o Simon & Schuster,
1230 Sixth Avenue, NY, NY 10020
9781439165454, $9.99, www.amazon.com
The introduction of Texas sheriff Hack Holland is brought back into print with this new edition. Hack in this novel is a troubled attorney suffering from his experiences as a POW during the Korean Conflict, in which he suffered wounds and subsequent harsh treatment at the hands of the invading Chinese captors. His father was a Congressman, and after his release and return to the States Hack goes on to law school and a successful practice in partnership with his brother Billy Bob. He marries a socially prominent woman, and both she and the brother cover for his excessive drinking and social foibles.
The story picks up with Hack running for Congress, with a long-serving U.S. Senator sponsoring him. The only problem is that Hack really doesn't want to run for public office and keeps avoiding meetings, his wife and brother continuing to cover for him by making excuses. Then a buddy from the war is railroaded by prejudiced rednecks in the Texas Valley on the Rio Grande and sentenced to the penitentiary. Hack goes to his rescue, filing an appeal. As a result, he becomes involved with the activities of the United Farm Workers union (a no-no in the right-wing Texas area) and falls in love with a beautiful union worker.
The reader can respond with ambivalence to Hack, but the author portrays him sympathetically despite his unceasing drinking and womanizing. Written with a hard edge, foretelling the many future novels he would go on to write about Dave Robicheaux, Billy Bob and Hack Holland and others, Mr. Burke builds each situation with tension and suspense.
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061944888, $14.99, www.harpercollins.com
Known for setting her novels in Baltimore, Laura Lippman tells a complicated story about the lives of five girls as they progress through life, through the eyes of one who becomes an author of two best-selling tell-all memoirs and a not-so-blockbuster fiction novel. While visiting her native city of Baltimore from her home in Brooklyn, NY, Cassandra Fallows starts researching an old case in which a former classmate was kept in jail for seven years after the discovery that her child was missing and she had refused to speak about it, claiming the Fifth. It was presumed that she killed the three-month-old infant.
The journey of discovery leads to all sorts of consequences, including Cassandra learning facts about her parents and the other three women with whom she sent to school. It is a story of the racial tensions of the 1960's and '70's and the complicated relationships among friends. Cassie is not a particularly nice character, but serves as a vehicle for bringing out the gist of the plot. Did the young woman murder her baby, or was there another reason?
And if the latter, who played what part in her refusal to talk? More important, Lippman asks the basic question: What is real and what is false memory?
The novel is not an easy read by any means, and the reader has to move forward with caution. While written with the same intensity that this author customarily exhibits, it is a far cry from her popular Tess Monaghan series. For those seeking a book with deeper meaning, it is recommended.
The Long Fall
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014,
9780451230256, $14.00, www.amazon.com
Leonid McGill (his father was a communist union organizer who changed his name to Tolstoy and named his brother Nikita) was first introduced to readers in this novel in 2009, now reprinted as a trade paperback. (His second appearance was in a hardcover issued in March of 2010.) A black private eye based in New York, Leonid lives with his wife and three children (two of whom were fathered by someone else) in a loveless marriage (although Katrina is a great cook and he is close to her son, but not his own).
Essentially, the plot revolves around Leonid's acceptance of a job to find four persons only identified by their boyhood nicknames, offered to him by a PI from Albany. It turns out the PI used a false name, making it hard to trace him after Leonid discovers the identities of the four men: One of them is dead, another in jail, the third is awaiting trial and the fourth appears to be a legitimate investment advisor. When they start dying off one by one, Leonid feels guilty and attempts to find the underlying client.
Meanwhile there are various side capers testing Leonid's resolve to give up his past shady activities and go somewhat honest in his endeavors. Many of his activities are amusing and offbeat, making him a colorful character. In fact, many of the personages he comes into contact with could inhabit a Jimmy Breslin or Damon Runyon column. This aspect of the novel alone is sufficient incentive to read the sequel.
A Night Too Dark
175 Fifth Ave., NY, New York 10010
9780312559090, $24.99, www.minotaurbooks.com
Sixteen novels have preceded this latest entry in the Kate Shugak series set in Alaska, and there is always something doing in The Park, this time pretty much between the Memorial and Labor Day Holidays. Since Global Harvest Resources opened up the Suulutaq mine on state property, there has been unrest disturbing the tranquility of the area as more employees are brought in to begin work on what is expected to be one of the largest sources of gold in the world, not to mention deposits of other mineral ores.
Then one employee heads into the woods, leaving a suicide note. When Kate and others go searching for him they find human remains apparently finished off by a bear. The case is ruled "suicide by Alaska," but Kate keeps turning up evidence that the case is more complicated, with some signs implicating funny goings on at the mine.
The author obviously has a deep feeling for Alaska, and her descriptions of the state and its inhabitants go deep. At the same time, she portrays the problems of the lack of jobs versus the needs of the environment with feeling. And always creating believable characters and a sustainable mystery.
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590586044 $24.95 hc
9781590587119, $14.95 pbk www.poisonedpenpress.com
There are two mysteries running though this excellent novel. The first involves a series of deaths of top Chinese athletes just prior to a competition with the United States. The second involves the on-again-off-again romance between Section Chief Li Yan and the American pathologist, Margaret Campbell, who is almost in her ninth month of pregnancy and carrying his child,
It remains for the combined sleuthing of the pair to determine whether or not the deaths of the six top-rated athletes are a coincidence or something much more sinister. At the same time, will their planned marriage in two weeks take place? Tune in and find out.
Overall, it is a provocative story, keeping the reader on the edge of his/her seat on both themes. At the same time, the author provides interesting insights into Chinese culture and society, as well as the clashes among other characters. Well-written and well worth reading, and recommended.
Shadows Still Remain
Peter De Jonge
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061882265, $7.99, www.harpercollins.com
The statement is made that this is a debut novel, although the author has co-written two books with Richard Patterson previously. Be that as it may, this solo effort s an impressive one. It introduces a troubled but determined protagonist, Darlene O'Hara, a detective in a lower East Side New York precinct.
One day, O'Hara catches a missing person case and starts working it diligently. But after three days, the investigation becomes a homicide case and she is told to keep away from it and leave it to the specialists, including a star detective from Homicide South. However, she can't let go and defies orders, attempting to solve the crime, until she is finally suspended. And she still goes on.
The author, a skilled journalist and researcher, spent three months riding around with NYPD detectives, absorbing routine and the smells and sights of the Lower East Side neighborhoods, and his descriptions attest to his powers of observation. Several chapters are introduced by dark, brooding photos of various sites in the neighborhoods (taken by Daina Zivarts, the author's wife).
Only one fault was found by this graduate of NYU: a description of a windbreaker worn by a co-ed is said to be purple and white. As any alumnus (alumna) of NYU knows, the school's color is Violet. Another criticism relates to several typographical errors; while not detracting from the quality of the novel, it certainly is unexpected from a publisher like Harper.
All that aside, go and get a copy. You'll enjoy. Recommended.
Manuel Vasquez Montalban
Translated by Nick Caistor
Serpent's Tail, c/o Profile Books Ltd.
3A Exmouth House, Pine St., London EC1R OJH,
c/o Meryl Zegarek Publication Relations
9781846686672 $14.95 www.serpentstail.com
An entry in a popular series about Pepe Carvalho, an unusual character who is a private investigator and a gourmet based in Barcelona, this novel was published many years ago in Europe and more recently translated with grace a couple of years ago. The publisher is to be congratulated in reprinting and releasing Tattoo and another, The Man of My Life (review to follow shortly), in February, among others in this series. Pepe is a charming rascal, with an intriguing background, having had an apparently successful career before he walked away from the CIA to undertake his more or less relaxed profession in his native Spain.
Pepe is retained for a hefty sum by the husband of a local hairdresser to identify a body pulled out of the sea with a face so badly destroyed that the only identification is a tattoo on the back reading "Born to Raise Hell in Hell." Barcelona police attribute the death to local prostitutes and drug dealers and sweep up these elements off the street. Pepe's investigation leads him to Amsterdam, where the victim worked briefly and apparently was involved with a drug gang. But the mystery is not so simple.
The descriptions of Amsterdam, Pepe's appetite for good food, and observations about Barcelona are all interesting, as is Pepe's sex life and relations with Charo, his long-time love [who happens to be a full-time prostitute with a high-class clientele], among others.
Sadly, Montalban died in October of 2003, but we are fortunate that he left such worthy works behind.
The Man of My Life
Manuel Vasquez Montalban
Translated by Nick Caistor
c/o Profile Books
3A Exmouth House, Pine St., London EC1R OJH
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 W. 108th St., NY, NY 10025
9781852429348 $14.95 www.serpentstail.com
Having just read and reviewed Mr. Montalban's "Tattoo," this reviewer found that this novel marks a deep contrast both in the writing and in the portrayal of Pepe Carvalho, the Barcelona private eye. In the former book, he is pictured as a light-hearted, irreverent lover and gourmet, and the tone of the writing is equally sprightly. In this installment, the writing is deep and somber, as befits the subject, and Pepe's approach to his two loves is anything but light. Only his taste for food remains the same.
Pepe is retained by a rich widow to find the identity of the murderer of her son. To accomplish this task, Pepe becomes involved in infiltrating all kinds of conspiracies: a murderous scandal, murky politics and the world of Satanism and religious sects.
At the same time, Pepe enters a mid-life crisis, torn between two women who both claim he is the only man of their lives. It all becomes very heavy, with long tracts on Spanish (and other nations') nationalistic efforts, and abstract religious discussions The various aspects come together to threaten Pepe's life. The novel demonstrates the depth and ability of the author, who died in October, 2003.
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061876745, $26.99, www.harpercollins.com
Serendipity plays an important part in the plot of this novel. Recently divorced, Adam Kindred decides to change his life and return to his native England. So he resigns his university position in Arizona and applies for a position in London. On the night of his interview there, he stops for a meal at a local restaurant and meets Dr. Philip Wang, an immunologist heading the development of a new asthma drug for a drug company. They chat for a few minutes and Wang leaves. Adam discovers that he left a file behind, and Adam phones him and is invited for a drink when he returns the paper.
From this simple encounter flows a series of incidents that change the course of lives and events. When Adam arrives where Wang is staying, he finds him with a knife protruding from his chest, just barely alive. Wang urges him to remove the knife, and then dies within a short period of time. It would appear that Adam interrupted the murderer who had been going through files and searching for something. Adam leaves the apartment, eventually returning to his hotel, only to be attacked. Fighting off his attacker, he goes into hiding.
The descriptions of a man hiding from the world, separated from all aspects of civilized society, are graphic and disturbing. Meanwhile, Adam soon determines that it is in his interest to maintain his freedom, not reporting his knowledge of Wang's murder (of which he is accused), and to begin his own investigation to determine exactly what occurred and why. It is a well-written, exciting albeit disturbing story. I have to admit that it felt vaguely unfinished, perhaps with a sequel in mind. Nonetheless, it is recommended.
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590586532 $24.95 www.poisonedpenpress.com
The roots of this suspenseful murder mystery go back to the Vista Program, the War on Poverty. A small group comes to poor, rural Mason County, Virginia in the 1960's to serve a year. A few remained to live there, including Cam and Meredith Taylor, owner and editor of the local money-losing and virtually bankrupt local newspaper. Cam attempts to raise or borrow money but is rebuffed by all he solicits. Then the bodies of both are found, separately, murdered.
The prime suspect, a cartoonist who had recently moved to the town, is the son of a former Vista worker. He is a friend of Rachel Goddard, a veterinarian who also relocated to Mason County. Each has a secret from the past, he in New York City, she involving her family. The past, of course, muddies Deputy Sheriff's Tom Bridger's investigations into the murders, as well as his relationship with Rachel (which is complicated by the presence of his former girlfriend arriving on the scene because she's the daughter of the murdered couple). Making his task more difficult is a subsequent murder and an attempt on Rachel's life.
The plot is finely hone, leading the reader forward to a most unexpected ending. Of course, the specter of Rachel's secret, which keeps popping up throughout the tale, was previously revealed in "The Heat of the Moon," one of two preceding volumes in this series. The characters are well-drawn and the inter-play between Tom and Rachel and Tom's former girlfriend add to the book's tension. (The book has also been issued in paperback.]
City of Dragons
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312603601 $24.99 www.minotaurbooks.com
Hard-drinking, practically chain-smoking her way throughout this noir mystery novel, Miranda Corbie, a 33-year-old PI, has a most unusual background. She served as a nurse during the Spanish Civil War and later was an "escort" in San Francisco, where the action takes place in 1940, three years after the Rape of Nanking and a year before the United States entered World War II.
During the Chinese New Year, SF's Chinatown celebrated with a Rice Bowl Party to raise money for China war relief following the Japanese invasion. Miranda is in the crowd when a small-time numbers runner falls at her feet fatally shot, setting her off on a mission to find his killer. The effort leads to other complications and crimes, all of which the powers that be wish to cover up. But that doesn't stop Miranda in her quest for "justice."
The novel delves deeply into the City by the Bay and the times, using the atmosphere and songs of the period to good use. The flavor of the pre-war period is well portrayed, evoking a poignant nostalgia for the songs of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and their bands. The prose is tight and the dialogue sharp. Characters are anything but puppets, moving and authentic. On the whole, the novel is reminiscent of Hammett and Chandler, and is recommended.
The Serpent Pool
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590585931 $24.95 www.poisonedpenpress.com
This is the fourth novel in the series set in England's northwest Lake District, an area well-known not only for its landscape, but the home of Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Carlyle, Beatrix Porter and Thomas De Quincey, this last perhaps best known for his "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater," but less famous for "On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts," a reference point in this plot. The series follows Oxford historian Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett, now reassigned to the Cold Case Squad.
A baffling six-year-old case involving a young woman who drowned in six inches of water in the Serpent Pool, a fairly bleak spot in the area, has Hannah running in circles. Was it murder or suicide? Meanwhile, two new murders take place with intriguingly disparate MOs, but Hannah discerns some obscure similarities. Are all three cases related?
All this takes place while a De Quincey Festival is being put together and Daniel is writing a book about the author, who influenced such writers as Poe, Baudelaire, Gogol and Borges. This novel has all the elements of the mysteries of these stalwarts: suspense, sinister aspects, hidden secrets, a tight plot and interesting characters and good writing. (It should be noted that the book has also been issued in trade paperback.)
Palos Verdes Blue
80 Broad Street, NY, NY 10005
9781605980850, $14.95, www.pegasusbooks.us
The various components of the 11th Jack Liffey novel are so dysfunctional and bewildering that it is almost impossible to summarize the plot. Liffey's family includes an ex-wife who yearns for him (or someone), a daughter who has just had an abortion after a brief, intense affair with a gang leader, and a girlfriend-op who can't make up her mind about their relationship. Other characters are even more dysfunctional.
As Gloria, the girlfriend, describes him: "Jack is a piece of work. When you/re with him, it's always a matter of adapting to the circumstances on some Mars mission, one that's just about to go totally out of control."
A "finder" of lost children, Jack is asked by his ex-wife to help a friend locate her missing daughter, called "Blue." She's a lovely, talented and smart young woman deep into ecology, the saving of the Palos Verdes Blue butterfly, and helping to feed Mexican illegals, as a result of which she gets mixed up with a bunch of neo-Nazis. As he delves into the investigation, Jack witnesses the changes and disparities in the area among the "haves" and "have-nots," the rich kids, surfers and "illegals."
The writing is good and entertaining, but somehow the novel tends to drift from topic to topic, complicated by the introduction of new (and sometimes extraneous) ideas without explanation and the insertion of letters from a few of the characters which are intended to move the story forward, but, instead, tended to slow this reader down. That said, the writing is inventive, and the author's story-telling abilities shine.
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432748432, $18.95, www.amazon.com
Mead's Trek revives convincingly and well nigh accurately the period covering the end of World War II in Southeast Asia, particularly in what was known at that time as French Indochina. In this historical novel, agents of the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S) and other American officials interacted with the Vichy French government of Indochina, the Japanese army of occupation, the Chinese officers of Chiang Kai Shek and the Viet Minh, a Vietnamese anti-fascist, anti-colonial and pro-independence movement fostered by the Communist Party of Indochina.
We learn that Mead's Trek originated during a meeting in Washington D.C. between President Roosevelt and his close friend William Donovan, the OSS Chief. They both knew well about Amos Mead as an agent who had accomplished a few feats against Nazi Germany. The aim of the present assignment is to
Amos Mead and his teammates started their trek out of Hickam Airfield, Hawaii en route to Southeast Asia or southern China, via Funafuti Atoll, Brisbane, Darwin, Australia, and India. The assignment was to defuse a plot allegedly concocted by the Vice President of the USA who had his own designs over the destiny of post war French Indochina, destiny that did not fully conform with what President Roosevelt had in mind for the same area. Their plane, unarmed, was shot down by Japanese military aircrafts; they bailed out and landed on the bank of the Irrawaddy River in Burma. By sheer coincidence, first they hooked up with members of the Burmese anti-fascist league, then with the Free Thai (Seri), and finally reached safely the OSS headquarters in Kunming, China. There they learnt that the Vice President was not the person who was behind the plot, but a certain spiritual "guru" of his, named Roerig whose description reminds us of Rasputin of the last Tsar of Russia.
Things move fast now. As they left Kunming and as soon as they crossed over to the Vietnamese territory, they were joined immediately by Vietnamese guides who, with dexterity and competence, led them to a hut in the middle of a small village. In the bare but clean abode,"it took a short, disorienting moment for the men to adjust to the dim light. As they did the form of a tiny man lying on a woven grass mat, propped on a gaily colored woven pillow that provided the only color in the room, became the center of their focus." They were in the presence of Ho Chi Minh, "a small brown man with the wisp of a beard on his wan chin", the leader of the Communist Party of Indochina, who, in spite of being sick with high fever, insisted on welcoming the American OSS men to Vietnam. Aided by Ho's organisation, the Americans were able to reach their ultimate goal of penetrating into the Palace of the Governor General of Indochina where, because of an unexpected circumstance, they were about to be made prisoners by Japanese guards when American bombers blasted parts of the palace thereby freeing the prisoners-to-be.
The novel ends on the tarmac of Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu: the Mead's trek participants came home, some in caskets, some on stretchers, none walking unaided.
An epilogue reminds us compellingly of the "historical fiction" nature of the book: in less than five pages, the author recounts the history of post World War II US-Vietnamese relations and shows how "ignorance, mistrust and misunderstanding, begun by President Truman, virtually ignored by President Eisenhower, and driven to heights of political insanity by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, finally spills out of the jungle bowels of the tiny country, culminating in the needless deaths of over fifty eight thousands American soldiers, Marines, Airman (sic) and Sailors." (p. 310)
The book has two venial weaknesses. First of all, the author wastes too much time in minute details about aircraft, airport, equipment, instead of trying to dwell deeper into the psychological mapping of the main characters. The second weakness: the use of foreign languages. I do not know why authors who write narratives that involve people speaking different languages feel the need to pepper their text with sentences in the languages of their characters. In this case: French and Vietnamese. It leaves a bad impression when one encounters incorrect French sentences or ambiguous Vietnamese phrases. Such an unnecessary mistake after all, for an accurate English translation is provided each time by no other than the author himself right after the incorrect originals!
On the whole, this book deserves the attention of all the people who like historical novels. The author has done his homework concerning the events that occurred in Southeast Asia toward the end of World War Two. He is familiar with all the popular movements existing in each of the countries his characters passed through and, especially for Vietnam, he shows plainly the particular circumstances that allowed him to draw the conclusions he did in his epilogue. All that detailed information is cleverly woven into a suspenseful adventure combined with a budding romance which titillates our mind and warms our heart.
Truong Buu Lam
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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