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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 5 May 2013 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf
Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Janet's Bookshelf
Josh's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Regis' Bookshelf
Riva's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf
Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Ryan Doan, Cover Design
Imajin Books
PO Box 74274, Phoenix, AZ 85087-1004
9781926997957, $3.99 CAN,

Christina Francine, Reviewer

Beautifully written and constantly surprising. Tardif powerfully and projects energy. Combine expert craft with crisp plot and pages fly. Submerged uses the need for air as a common, fragile thread.

Rebecca Kingston and her children didn't have a lot of time. If Marcus Taylor, the 911 dispatcher didn't find their location soon, they'd drown. She wasn't sure why the truck ran her and her children off the road and into the murky river. She did know however, their chance of survival hovered next to nothing. How would Marcus find them at night and when the car lay slowly filling with water at the bottom of a river? She'd called 911 from her cell phone, but the emergency squad couldn't come, their hands filled with someone else's crisis.

Odds against their survival, Rebecca struggled against the car's grip and against probable broken ribs. Her young daughter with asthma lay unconscious in the back seat next to older brother, his leg pinned between the jammed front and back seats.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif is an international bestselling Canadian author. Her work compared to Michael Crichton, James Patterson, Dean Koontz, and Dan Brown. She's published numerous successful novels, is the publisher at Imajin Books, participated in TV series, has been nominated for the Lievtenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award, wrote a public service announcement, and is brilliant regarding book marketing.

Ryan Doan created the cover art for Submerged and graduated with honors from Maryland Institute College of Art with a BFA in illustration. Examples of his work can be found at his site. He's supplied work for places such as Barnes & Nobles, Excelsior Medical Corporation, Sterling Publishing, BMG Entertainment, Sababa Toys, Art Asylum, The Aquarian Magazine, The Sun, and numerous commissioned customers.

Tardif knows how to spin an absolutely satisfying tale that practically reads itself. Submerged is but one of many. Her themes are often a struggle against nature and/or resourceful foes. If this weren't enough to rivet readers, style and ability will. Tardif's work is always an absorbing pleasure and always a wild ride.

I Married a Billionaire
Melanie Marchande
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781482576986, $7.99,

Clint Travis

A simple business deal can turn into so much more. "I Married a Billionaire" is a novel from new author Melanie Marchande, following Maddy Wainwright, a graphical artist kicking around a white collar job with no clear future and rising debt. When her billionaire boss Daniel Thorne needs a loophole to get around the INS breathing down his neck, she's offered an opportunity to be free of financial worry forever, for the low price of entering into a sham marriage with him long enough to get him his green card. But Maddy soon realizes faking a marriage isn't as hard as it seems when truth enters her and Daniel's fiction. "I Married a Billionaire" is well worth considering for community library contemporary romance collections, enthusiastically recommended.

R. Lee Salkind-Meliment
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
B004WLOBR6, $8.95,

Irene S. Roth

Pearl is a wonderful nostalgic historical fictional novel of the early years of Pearl S. Buck. The story weaves the story of the life and background of this wonderful writer and author. It is an inspiring and spell-binding book, one that will be read and re-read by many.

The story begins when Pearl is quite old and disabled. She feels like a black pearl but not a white one, as when she was young. She is living in an old Vermont Farmhouse all alone. All she has are her memories. She feels like her life is getting close to the end.

Then the story weaves back in time to when she lived in China. Most of the story focuses on her home life and how they moved a lot because her father was a missionary. Her Dad wasn't home a lot either. So, her mother had to take care of the family on her own. Pearl also remembers her teachers and what an important role and influence they had on her formation as a writer. She felt completely indebted to them for who she became later.

She was always a writer first and foremost. She kept a diary from a very early age. One of Pearl's favourite pastimes was to sit down and write about her experiences and feelings. Some of her journal entries are contained in the book. They are warm-hearted and the reader is able to see what she felt at the time and what was going through her mind. There are quite a few gems of wisdom in the book as well which the reader could take to heart, such as Never stop educating yourself, When you come to a fork in the road, follow your heart, and so on.

What a splendid book! I enjoyed reading it from beginning to end. It transported me to a world of the writer and how at the end of one's life one should take stock looking at all the good and difficult things. It is also a ponderous book that feels a bit like a memoir. All the reader has to do is to sit back, grab a java, and be transported into Pearl's world and feelings. Thank you Ron for such a wonderful book!

Article first published as Book Review: Pearl: A Historical Fiction Based on the Early Years of Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author, Pearl S. Buck by R. Lee Salkind Merliment on Blogcritics.

Equity of Fear
Rudy A. Mazzocchi
Twilight Times Books
5432 Lonesome Pine Road
Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606192498 $19.95 print
9781606192481, $6.95 ebook

Mayra Calvani

Once again author Rudy Mazzocchi ventures into the shadowy world of controversial medical technologies. In his first thriller, Equity of Evil, the author revealed a dark world involving abortion, human trafficking and organ cultures. In this his latest instalment and 2nd book in the series, Equity of Fear, he boldly delves into subjects of the re-wiring of the brain to eliminate fear and the alteration of memory. Fascinating and terrifying stuff, to say the least.

Dr. Frank Moretti is CEO of Recon Innovations, a company that is developing a new technology designed to help millions of patients get rid of irrational fears, such as the fear of heights or darkness. He is also working on a neuroplasticity program designed to rewire the brain and restore the memory of Alzheimer's patients. It all sounds like the perfect way to contribute to science and help humanity.

However, the USA, Russia and Japan are secretly competing for this technology, for a nation that would be able to control fear and pain in the minds of the people would also be able to create a supreme, invincible army.

Roman Citrano, a member of the Recon Board of Directors (also the protagonist in book 1 of these series), warns his friend Frank about the possible sinister repercussions, but Frank decides to move forward and license the technology to other countries. For this purpose, he flies to Japan with his teenaged son Joey - a big mistake, for soon both fall into an evil vortex of international intrigue where sadistic, unscrupulous doctors experiment on orphan children in the name of science, and where father and son have to fight for their lives.

This was a great read! First of all, the science behind it, which the author so skillfully describes and explains, is both absorbing and horrifying. It truly reminds us of the two very different facets of science and what can happen when greed, ambition, and plain and simple human nature get in the way.

The story moves pretty quickly in spite of all the 'science talk.' I really liked the three main characters, Frank, his son Joey, and Roman, and felt compelled to stick with them to see how they were going to get out of their difficult predicament. I especially enjoyed the character of Joey; he really added spunk to the dialogue and situations. The Japanese scientist villain is well rounded, and I appreciate the tact and responsibility of the author in describing the Asian culture in the book. The ending is satisfying and utterly surprising.

One last word of caution, Equity of Fear has some scenes that are quite violent and graphic in nature, so this isn't a read for those of you faint of heart.

Ascending Spiral: Humanity's Last Chance
Bob Rich
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615991860, $19.95 print, $7.95 Kindle

Michael Thal, Reviewer

A Metaphysical Novel for Our Times

Buddhism is an ancient philosophy studying the human mind. As you read Bob Rich's new novel, Ascending Spiral: Humanity's Last Chance, you can't help but notice the Buddhist Four Noble Truths written between the lines of this exquisite page-turner.

The First Noble Truth states that life includes pain, disease, aging, and death. Through the eyes of Pip, the main protagonist, we learn of his early experience with the Nazis and how that encounter tormented his soul. Through Pip's determination, he digs within himself to uncover four past lives to bare the suffering his soul has experienced over the centuries.

During this literal soul searching, Pip learns the Second Noble Truth - craving, an emotion most of us know too well, and causes suffering. But as an extraterrestrial? Overcoming this suffering and finding happiness is a difficult assignment explained in the Third Noble Truth, and a goal of each of Pip's five lives, two of which take place beyond our solar system.

In a fluid writing style that will captivate readers from the first page to the last, Rich brings us a novel that is thought provoking as well as humbling. He brilliantly unfolds a story that entertains as well as educates as Pip develops wisdom and empathy - the Fourth Noble Truth. Ascending Spiral is a novel based on an ancient philosophy, but perfect for our times.

Selected Poems of A. Mao
A. Mao, poet
Zhang Zhizhong, translator
The Earth Culture Press (USA)
Chongqing City, P.R. China
9780963759962, US $20.00, CNY 50.00

Dr. R.K. Singh, Reviewer

Mao Juzhen (b. 1967), pen name A. Mao, is one of the top Chinese young writers today. She has four collections of poetry and other prose works, including a couple of novels and collections of short stories, to her credit. It is the recognition of her excellence that in October 2012 she was invited to visit the USA as a member of Chinese Writers' Association and participate in the prestigious University of Iowa's International Writing Program (IWP) Life of Discovery exchange program.

Mao is significant for her neat writing style, depth of voice, and sensibility. She chooses forms that help one remember her verses that are not banal, slipshod or feckless but passionate, free and graceful. Her poetic structure reflects her dreams and despairs, hopes and fears, family matters and social issues that engage the common woman's mind everywhere. Even as she develops her own voice, injecting her own concerns and themes, her own subjectivity for self-revelation and revelation of the diverse life in modern China, she evinces a larger awareness:

"First I am an individual
Then I am a collective
Finally I am the near and distant places of a generation."

('A Journal of Group Images')

Her interior landscape, a record of her talking to herself, reveals truth, conveying the experiences of her attempt to make sense of her own existence. The poems she writes are, therefore, not dry or abstract but rather part of a long tradition. Her introspection has an air of disappointment as she seeks to search for a way to recover some moment of contentment just as she seems to struggle to reveal moments lost in time that construct her very identity: "...I unremittingly/ Go mad, write poems." ('Cause of Disease').

At a time when "minor morals" are becoming stronger, A. Mao seeks to strengthen "major morals" with the consciousness of woman as creator. As she asserts, she possesses eternal energy, or the moral sense, or Prakriti that can sustain "generations and generations to come" ('Heavily Snowing Day and Anna's Train').

Since she writes about what she has lived or experienced - "I write about myself at present" in a tongue she loves to compose poetry in, i.e. Chinese - and since she feels "substantial when writing poetry/ But empty after love-making" ('Our Epoch'), she appears a poet with sensibility for awaking the mind, body, life, and soul ('Waking up at Midnight'). Her various verses testify to her physical, mental, and emotional response to different personal, familial, social, cultural, or literary stimuli, and memory makes these magnificent:

"We are the crowd of people who finally remain
The light of language through poetry

We enkindle ourselves
To illumine ourselves

To break rocks into pieces, into stars
To break ourselves into pieces, into a road leading to higher places"

('To Break Rock into Pieces')


"I have my own principle
In the night there is no species
Which is nobler than my soul "

('The Bat')

Her quest for the self is rooted in her understanding of the life she negotiates both individually and collectively:

"I take overlapping photos of life with words" (p. 219)


"I have not gone to sleep
Still watching in poetic lines
How a person runs an idle flashlight
Into searchlight"

('Nighttime Beijing')


"Here am I! But where is here?" (p. 237)


"...I am running on the rail
In order to give birth to the eternal you."

('Rail on Paper')


"By sitting one cannot possess rivers and mountains,
By standing one cannot love human beings!
The sobbing mouth of a cave,
The sympathetic maternity.
You fill it with air or candies,
I fill it with tears or fire."


As a woman poet, who considers herself "liberated" ('Rib') and wants "to be a gender bender/Growing in the middle of scale arm" ('Muffler'), she evinces strong social consciousness and commitment, as in poems 'The Formation of Diamond', 'Our Epoch', or 'Playwright'. She forcibly asserts her female strength:

"The first person born in prehistory
Or the last person at the end of the world
Is nobody but me "

('Eyes in the Wind')


"...Without knowing she is more
Beautiful and high than what we see,
Just like the winged angel or god."

('Women Dictionary')

She emphasizes that her goal is to extend her personal liberty, not for herself alone but for the entire community: "A new way has to be found/To view love, aging and grief" ('Soliloquy').

Her ironic 'dreaming' or rumination as a lonely woman, or "mortal grumbles and groans " offer an "x-ray vision" ('Rib). As she points out:

"I love this mortal world, without ambiguity of language
But with the innocence and revolutionary of the bed. "

('In Bed')

Perhaps, this is intended to suggest that despite her love for tradition, A. Mao would also like to be viewed in the company of the avant garde poets (cf. 'Our Epoch').

Poems such as 'Midnight Poet', 'How Much Do I Love', 'Form', 'Singing Style', 'To Comfort a Withered Leaf', 'The Train Ran Past My Home Town', 'I Cannot But Write About', 'A Dedicated Poem', 'Anti-Order' etc construct her aesthetics of creation. To quote from her 'Extreme Interpretation':

"A good poem is not written on velvet chair.
It was either born out of a disaster
Or under the scalpel of a surgeon or in the screaming of a lunatic."

In another poem 'Position', she seeks to be careful, "away from the center, and the whirlpool/ To stand to one side by oneself." She can observe from the edge "more shade of danger and loneliness," including

"Myriads of things are extending and shrinking on their own positions.
Not that I retreat to the page of spurring the horse on,
But that the horse stops its forehooves in time.

Writing is the neighing in this string of actions."


True, writing poetry is not only an exercise in self-exploration and self-revelation but also an exercise in social action. For example, the remarkable poem 'When My Brother Has an Extra-Marital Affair' is not only a critique of the extra-marital affairs of the people but also a visible social action on her part. As she writes:

"This is a serious matter
So much so that it is a disaster
I do not intend to be a moral judge
I only want to be a killer"

('When My Brother Has an Extra-marital Affair')

Elsewhere, she notes: "The pain of everything/Is the pain of some part of us" (' The Stones May be Painful'). Verbal creativity is thus not only poetic but therapeutic too: "...pain is often cured by imagination" and "she collects the rumbling on paper/Which is sound of nature, also the sound of breaking intestines by iron" ('The Train is Rumbling on Paper').

A.Mao offers a female perspective on social and cultural life in China and ironically questions all that is "sorrowful". She critically views the post-industrial urbanization and neglect of the countryside:

"There are a lot of colors in the field, and its feminine form:
Rice, cabbage, chicken, duck, fish ...
To fill the huge stomach of city.

Post-industrial age,
Makes those coarse throats, and fine mucus,
Not regard it as relative."


She images the city culture as the 'Cause of Disease':

"...Old, those I have loved are all old,
The road is narrowed, the river turbid.

In a city devoid of
Native accent, the lost heart is filled with pain,
Tears, become another form of the body.


"Low culture everywhere, particularly in places of filth and disorder.
No soil for elegance. Why do you write in the pyramid?"

('On Art')

She desires a return to the countryside because the cities with Western biases have corrupted people's taste and have been breeding low culture and inelegance. Aware of their living in vain, she sounds sad to find "only popular readings sell well" just as everywhere there prospers the "popular style or Western style" ('The Art School and Snack Booth'). She bemoans the absence of sensibility which is the cause of all that is rotten and fractured ('The Broken Autumn') in the emerging society.

Poet-translator Zhang Zhizhong and the publishers deserve kudos for making yet another valuable addition to the growing corpus of contemporary Chinese poetry in English. A. Mao's bilingual book of 108 selected poems, well-translated and competently edited and produced, provides a fresh perspective to the Chinese women's poetry which inspires thinking and looking beyond the confines of the traditional female sphere.

The Consummate Traitor
Bonnie Toews
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781461015383, $12.99 pbk / $0.99 Kindle

Susan Keefe

Brief bio: As a journalist, Bonnie Toews has covered significant events such as the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Her eyewitness view contributes to the plight of children in war as a recurring theme through her novels. With hundreds of published articles and five business press awards in her portfolio, Bonnie currently advocates for better care and treatment of Canada's wounded warriors and is a member of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy, Military Writers Society of America, American Authors Association and American Christian Fiction Writers. THE CONSUMMATE TRAITOR is her first novel in a trilogy about treason.

One woman is betrayed; the other, sacrificed. What happens to them triggers a chain reaction of double crosses that alters the outcome of World War II.

Lee Talbot, an American journalist, is in Guernica, northern Spain with Quinn Bergin on the day Hitler chooses to try his experiment 'total war' there. Devastated by the scenes of horror which unfold before her, she sends a graphic eyewitness account to London, where it is broadcast on the radio.

Back in London Sir Winston Churchill meets with his Director of the Secret Intelligence Organisation, Sir Fletcher McAlister and Lord Wynne Henry Radcliffe, as they build their spy network and watch Hitler carefully.

Undercover spies Lee and Quinn are in Vienna surreptitiously minding the lovely pianist Lady Grace, daughter of Lord Radcliffe as she wins the coveted Belvedere Medal; they are still there when Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) changes everything. That night Lee and Grace witness horrors which bond the young women from very different backgrounds together, and a close friendship develops.

England is at war and when tragedy strikes Grace's life, she decides to work with Lee undercover in the desperate race to stop Hitler from make an atomic bomb, knowing that if he does so first, all is lost. What follows is a tale of love, intrigue and betrayal, as the two women and the people in their lives face unimaginable dangers, and hurdles, in the name of duty.

The secret life of the underground network, and spies, who risked their lives to help others escape the tyranny of Hitler in World War II, comes alive as we learn of the dangers they faced constantly, and the personal sacrifices they had to make.

The knowledge that this author has firsthand experience of wartime journalism comes as no surprise when reading this engrossing book. With her thorough research and attention to historical detail, I felt as if I was taking a peep into hitherto hidden war files, rather than reading a work of fiction.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, full of love, betrayal and intrigue, it has so many twists and turns it keeps the reader guessing right to the end.

Ann's Bookshelf

She Rises
Kate Worsley
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315
New York, NY 10010
9781620400975, $26.00,

In a recent article about women's writing it was claimed that respect and a wide readership is more likely if the author adopts a male perspective. Kate Worsley's book half fulfills this criterion by offering a male and a female perspective in alternating chapters, but it also subverts it. However, to explain just how Worsley manages this subversion would be to give away one of the secrets of the book.

In 1740, fifteen-year-old Luke is drinking in a Harwich tavern when he is press-ganged into His Majesty's Navy. His induction into life on board the warship Essex is brutal and overwhelming, and Worsley captures his experiences vividly. The smell of the bilges and of the men, the constant noise and movement, the hard, unfamiliar routines, the roughness, the fights and the course language, the dangers and the brutal punishments - Luke becomes familiar with them all. But all the time he yearns for his lost love.

In a different, less dangerous but equally disorientating way, young Louise Fletcher (Lou) exchanges life on an Essex farm (where she was "trained up from the age of twelve in the dairy work, in cow milking, and the buttermaking, and cheesemaking, and getting up the wheys and syllabubs"), for life as a lady's maid in the busy sea-port of Harwich. Rebecca, her mistress, is the spoiled and willful daughter of Captain Handley, who runs a profitable packet boat which plies between Harwich and the Low Countries. Louise's introduction to the Handley household and to her new mistress is strange, and Worsley immerses Louise and the reader in this new town life with its constant bustle, its odours, its tall houses "rackety as a row of sties", the ships and the sailors, the drunk and the maimed, and the unpredictable and ever changing sea.

One of the great strengths of this book is Worsley's ability to inhabit the world of her characters and to capture their language and their emotions. There are secrets here, too, and the loss of loved ones and the loss and finding of identity are constant themes.

Louise is forewarned of the dangers of seafaring life. Her father and brother both went to sea and never returned, and Lou's mother has charged her with the task of seeking news of them, especially of her brother. Lou finds and loses a loved one; and finds and loses her own identity. Rebecca suffers several devastating losses, as does her whole family; and Luke sees and experiences losses of many different kinds on land and at sea. When Lou and Luke are finally brought together the consequences are not entirely unexpected but nor are they the stuff of cliched romances. The story does not end there, nor does it have an especially happy ending, although given the circumstances and the era that, perhaps, would not have been possible.

For a first novel, Kate Worsley's She Rises is remarkably assured. The descriptions of shipboard life, the dangers, the sickness, the fears and terrors of it, are gripping, and the characters are likeable and (mostly) believable. Worsley evokes the atmosphere, the people and experiences of many different places and she tells an exciting story. The course language of the sailors, and their inability to see women as anything more than providers of gross sexual gratification, is realistic but may offend some readers; and the depiction of lesbian love and sex may offend others. Both, however, are but part and parcel of a lively and enjoyable story. She Rises certainly deserves to gain respect and a wide readership for this particular woman writer.

The Ambitions of Jane Franklin: Victorian Lady Adventurer
Alison Alexander
Allen & Unwin
81 Alexander St.
Crows Nest, NSW 2065, Australia
9781742375694, $32.95,

Lady Jane Franklin, "a Victorian Lady Adventurer" as this book's title proclaims, is best known for her unflagging support of her husband, the Arctic explorer Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin, who disappeared in 1847 on an expedition to chart and navigate the North West Passage. In all, Jane Franklin raised the funds for seven expeditions to find her husband or some record of what had happened to him and his men. She was also unflagging in her efforts to protect his reputation against accusations that the men resorted to cannibalism in an effort to survive after abandoning their ship. She was a determined and energetic woman.

How Jane came to be a Victorian adventurer is less well-known but, as Alison Alexander notes, other biographers have charted her extensive travels and the lady herself left copious records of her life. Alexander, however, has turned to a variety of new sources of information to fill out what she suggests is a more honest assessment of Jane Franklin's character. Jane, it seems, was not averse to lying or to doctoring her writings in order to present herself as a loyal, devoted, loving and, above all, ladylike and charming wife, but this does seem to have been the way most people who met her saw her. Perhaps earlier biographers were naive in taking her writings at face value, but Jane was certainly not the only writer to fudge the facts, and in the end Alexander's biography does nothing to reverse the accepted view of her character, it merely adds "ambition" to Jane's goals. It also demonstrates the intelligence and intellectual curiosity of a woman who took every opportunity to explore the world around her, to broaden her own knowledge, and to be as innovative and effective in society as she could be.

Jane's childhood, schooling and young adulthood were not very different to those of other young women born into middle-class immigrant artisan families in England. Her father was a successful Protestant Huguenot silk-weaver whose own father had fled Catholic France, set up business in London, and become a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. Jane's schooling was carefully attended to but she was clearly not satisfied with just needlework, card-playing and genteel, ladylike conversation. She read widely, travelled widely with her family, and her father settled on her a sum of money which gave her an independent income. What was unusual, was her late marriage, at the age of thirty-six, to a forty-two year old widower who was already a celebrated explorer. She appears to have had no shortage of eligible suitors but, until then, had rejected them all.

Alexander is not the first to suggest that Jane saw in Captain John Franklin an honest, decent, modest man who was in need of a clever wife whose drive and determination could further his career. Certainly, Jane had those qualities and she exercised them, but she had been a friend of John's first wife Eleanor, and had met John Franklin socially whilst he was a celebrated and feted explorer who had also fought in several naval battles and had been wounded (slightly) at the Battle of Trafalgar. They got on well together, and she knew John was often away and that his wife had a good degree of independence. She knew, too, that although his first marriage had not been untroubled he was a mild man who appreciated intelligent women and was a warm and loving father to his small daughter. Whatever Jane's reasons for accepting John Franklin's proposal of marriage, there is nothing about their life together to suggest that ambition was Jane's only motivation, and his love for her was certainly matched by her life-long devotion to him.

John Franklin was knighted a year after their marriage and for the next three years he was frequently absent on naval duties. Jane travelled in Spain and North Africa during this time, meeting up with John whenever possible, although this was made difficult by his roving commission. Then, in 1836 John was appointment as lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).

Most of this book is taken up with Jane's life in Tasmania. This was certainly an adventure which she relished and she used her position as governor's wife to the full. As well as helping her husband with administrative work (which was not unusual for a governor's wife) she tried hard to improve educational opportunities for boys and girls; she initiated social gatherings at which intellectual discussion was promoted; she was instrumental in founding a scientific society and in building a Classical museum for the arts; she established the Huon land-scheme to encourage colonists; and she took an interest in the aboriginal population and fostered a young aboriginal boy and girl. She also explored the island extensively, reaching some of the most remote parts, and she climbed the rugged 1274m. densely vegetated Mount Wellington. Jane was also the first woman to travel overland from Melbourne to Sydney, camping each night along the way.

Judging by the footnotes, which mostly list manuscript references, Alexander's research has been extensive. Unfortunately, after the tantalizing excitement of her 'Introduction', the book often reads like paraphrasing of these documents. Alexander's express claim that she "stopped short of trying to get inside Jane Franklin's head" is undermined by her frequent authorial interjections which interpret Jane's feelings or offer Alexander's own exclamatory comment on the situation. Some readers may find that this enlivens the book: I just found it unnecessary and irritating.

As a Victorian woman 'adventurer', Jane was not unique. Like Frances (Fanny) Trollope, who published her own adventures in America in the 1830s, Jane perhaps hoped one day to publish her writings. Her status ensured that her story has been told, but there were other independent-minded, intelligent women who, as early settlers in Australia, had equally exciting and adventurous lives and were equally influential in shaping their society.

Clearly, Jane Franklin was a remarkable woman. That she crossed swords with some who resented her influence over her husband whilst he was governor of Tasmania, is not surprising. Nor is it surprising that revisionist historians have questioned her interference in the lives of Tasmanian Aborigines. However, she worked hard to improve the life of the colony. The Royal Tasmanian Society, the Huon settlement and the Ancanthe Museum still exist. And although they only lived in Tasmania for seven years, Lady Jane and Sir John Franklin are still well remembered there.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

A Heritage to Remember
Orpha Sanders Barnes
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456759322 $11.70

High school teacher Orpha Sanders Barnes presents A Heritage to Remember: Growing Up Poor but Blessed in a Small Midwestern Town, a poetic memoir of growing up during the Great Depression and World War II. In lilting, partially rhyming verse, Barnes speaks of the daily struggle to make ends meet especially when chicken-thieves and deadbeat buyers are rampant; the faith in God and the will to do His work; the heartbreak of being isolated from her mother when she was forced to reside in a TB sanitarium for a year; and much more. Thoughtful and vivid, A Heritage to remember is as much a work of poetic art as it is a vivid snapshot of daily life in historically hard times. Highly recommended. "Early in our lives we learned to pray / In our own simple, child-like way, / And no critical comment to me was made, / When 'God bless the Rawleight man' I prayed."

Sacrifices for Patriotism
Helen Greene Leigh
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
978145255605, $17.99,

The Korean conflict is not often mentioned in American history, in the shadow of the second World War. "Sacrifices for Patriotism: A Korean POW Remembers the Forgotten War" is a memoir from Helen Greene Leigh as she tells the story of Pharis Greene, who recounts being held in captivity for over three years, fearing for his life with a long journey of endurance for finding freedom from it all. "Sacrifices for Patriotism" is an intriguing look at the POW story of the infamous Korean conflict, highly recommended.

Stars Signs and One Minute Towards a Dead End Relationship
Tim Ekwulugo
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477231470, $18.24,

It's hard to know when a relationship is tattered and has no hope for the future. "Stars Signs and One Minute Towards a Dead End Relationship" is a relationship advisory from Tim Ekwulugo who advises readers on how to better piece together their relationships and cope with their significant other better off so that they leave relationships more effectively. "Star Signs and One Minute Towards a Dead End Relationship" is worth considering for those dealing with rough periods in a relationship, recommended.

My Journey to the Light on Route 7-52
Marguerite Belanger
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100
Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781452553764, $11.99,

Our route to better health and spiritual success is long, but we can make it work for us. "My Journey to the Light on Route 7-52" us an inspirational memoir from Marguerite Belanger who presents her story in both French and English, telling of how she found her way to live her life to its desired fullest in many ways, finding better health and wisdom along the way. "My Journey to the Light on Route 7-52" is a strong addition self-help and memoir collections with an extra note to bilingualism.

Born Three Times
Frieda S. Dixon
Inspiring Voices
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462503875, $15.99,

When all seem lost, a light can appear and we can chase and embrace its love. "Born Three Times: A New Life, A New Liver, A New Love" is a spiritual memoir from Frieda S. Dixon as she tells of facing the shambling of her life, topped with an incurable liver disease. Sharing a story of faith and how finding God once more let her piece it back together, "Born Three Times" is a powerful read and addition to memoir and spirituality collections, not to be missed.

The Castleport Murders
Peter Webb
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432706920, $16.95,

When murder strikes a small town, few understand how to truly cope with the weight of it all. "The Castleport Murders" is a mystery novel of small town England, where three women are murdered, and the town's renown as posh earns it national attention, and the hunt for the killer strikes and sweeps the ground. "The Castleport Murders" is a twisting thriller of mystery, very much recommended reading.

Coming Through the Fog
Tami A. Goldstein
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478714132, $16.95,

All parents seek their children's success, and that path can contain heartbreak. "Coming Through The Fog" is a memoir of coping with an autism diagnosis as Tami A. Goldstein tells of her tale of helping her daughter face the disorder through therapy and helping her on the path to more completely living her life to the fullest. "Coming Through the Fog" is a strong read for parenting and autism related collections, recommended.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Revelation: The Return of Mr. Breeze
Morrie Richfield
Privately Published
c/o The Barrett Company (publicity)
12021 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90025
9780615736464 $11.95 pbk. / $0.99 Kindle

The striking sequel to "Mr. Breeze" (9780615461038, $11.95 pbk. / $0.99 Kindle), Revelation: The Return of Mr. Breeze takes place two years later, and the future of all humanity hangs by a thread. Mankind's Creator has set foot on Earth, observing how selfish, violent, and cruel people have failed to heed the warning to reform their ways. Michael Ryan is at a crossroads, not only for the fate of humanity, but also concerning his lifelong, ingrained beliefs. The onset of Revelation has arrived, in this sober, thought-provoking, and captivating novel that keeps the reader in suspense to the very end!

I Left My Prostate in San Francisco
Rick Redner & Brenda Redner
Westbow Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781449779610, $19.95,

Prostate cancer faces many men, and it places a whole new gauntlet of problems before them. "I Left My Prostate in San Francisco: Coping with the Emotional, Relational, Sexual, and Spiritual Aspects of Prostate Cancer" is a memoir of coping with cancer and living to the fullest from Rick Redner & Brenda Redner, as they share the story of coping with Rick's diagnosis of prostate cancer and how the treatment has changed their lives in almost every way. "I Left My Prostate in San Francisco" is a strong addition to health memoir collections, highly recommended.

The Kahuna and I
Victoria Kapuni
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100
Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781452548913, $17.99,

Hawaii is more than some pristine paradise in the Pacific ocean. "The Kahuna and I: A Remarkable True Hawaiian Story" is a memoir from Victoria Kapuni as she shares her story of coming to Hawaii, finding love, and learning of the problems and spirituality of those who call the island home instead of a vacation destination. With humor and offering much insight on a whole new way of life, "The Kahuna and I" is a strong addition to inspirational memoir collections, recommended.

My Christmas of Miracles
Mary Jarrett Saubert
Inspiring Voices
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462402878, $8.99,

An organ donation can save someone's life, so why not sacrifice it if you're not going to be needing it anymore. "My Christmas of Miracles: And Other Short Stories About Organ Transplants" is a collection of short stories on the value of organ donation and the power they have in changing the lives of many throughout the world. A much recommended read about the strength of simple kindness, "My Christmas of Miracles" is inspirational and a strong point for organ donation.

'Goke Coker
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477291252, $16.95,

Sharing the word of God is our solution to the deep darkness of the world. "God'Fessions: Daily Confessions of God' Word and Promises Over Your Life" is an inspirational read from 'Goke Coker as he seeks to guide readers through the scripture and how to embrace it for dealing with the pain of life and those bleak times. "God'Fessions" is a must for Christian inspirational collections, highly recommended.

A Hole in One
Tom Ebert
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477258811, $16.95,

Small town peace isn't all that peaceful. "A Hole in One" is a mystery from Tom Ebert, telling the story of how Detective Pat Handel seeks to move to a small town with his family to escape the pains of the big city. But what he finds is that cases can find their ways to the hamlets too, and may be just as vicious. "A Hole in One" is well worth considering for those who like small town mysteries, highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Coping with Un-Cope-Able Parents
Carol-Ann Hamilton
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100
Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781452554877, $11.99,

We can love our parents, but caring for them in return can be harder than we expect. "Coping With Un-Cope-Able Parents" is a guide to dealing with ornery aging parents who are facing the plagues of and how their children, who may be charged with finding what's best for them, and how they might be able to deal with them when they don't want to be dealt with. With humor and inspiration on dealing with this touchy issue, "Coping with Un-Cope-Able Parents" is a strong addition to parenting and self-help collections.

Dragon Alliance: Dark Storm
J. Michael Fluck
Inspiring Voices
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462403592, $33.99,

Finding friendship with powerful beings may be the only way to stand against the threats of the world. "Dragon Alliance: Dark Storm" is a fantasy, the second book in the series follows the drama between the dragons of the alliance as they must bond together to face down the evils of Tiamat. With betrayal potentially lurking behind every corner, "Dragon Alliance: Dark Storm" is a riveting tale of intrigue, hard to put down, highly recommended.

Tarnished Hero
Jim Gilliam
Abbott Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781458208255, $17.99,

Redemption is a strange thing, but so many seek it. "Tarnished Hero" is an adventurous thriller as Tim Kelly, a Vietnam vet with a shady past that left him leaving the conflict with a bad record, as he tries to find romance and life back home. But when drug cartels seek to threaten his small bits of happiness, he must redeem himself for innocents, for his wife, and himself. "Tarnished Hero" is a riveting read that should prove hard to put down.

Where Magic Dwells
Andrea Archer
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468604798, $18.24,

The call of adventure and seeing the world can be overwhelming. "Where Magic Dwells" is an adventurous read from Andrea Archer telling the story of how Jason VanLord abandons the strict comfort of his life for the seas, only to see that the world he has shoved himself into is anything but typical. "Where Magic Dwells" is an enticing and recommended addition to new fantasy collections, recommended.

An Abduction Revelation
Thomas L. Hay
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452559575, $14.99,

What lies hidden in our minds? "An Abduction Revelation: The Comeback Kid Returns" is a novel as a couple comes to realize their the hidden history where both had been abducted in the past. The author takes from his own supposed life experiences to create a psychological and intriguing read. "An Abduction Revelation" is worth considering for metaphysical fiction collections.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

A Soldier's Odyssey
Frank W. Maresca
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781466917057 $38.44

A Solider's Odyssey: To Remember Our Past As It Was is a nearly 1000-page omnibus memoir of author Frank W. Maresca, a World War II soldier who served for three years, and earned the Legion of Honor award from the French Government. The saga vividly portrays the rigors of training, the snarls of military bureaucratic snafus, the boredom of waiting for something to happen, and the life-shattering horrors of war, including the terrible casualties when Maresca's company was hit by the friendly fire of its own artillery. Black-and-white peroid photographs, clippings, and even cartoons and illustrate this unforgettable testimony. A Soldier's Odyssey is not a short read, but it is an intensely vivid, personal, ground's-eye view of history in the making, and the fire that forged heroes.

Children of Bletchley Park
Neville J. Anderson-Budd
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468503333, $15.18,

Our family is rich, and filled with curious tales. "Children of Bletchley Park: With the Code Breakers" is a family memoir with photography from the past hundred years, as author Neville J. Anderson-Budd takes notes on the history and where everyone there came and want through it all. "Children of Bletchley Park" is a curious read, worth considering.

Retha's Song
Retha Bogard
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452551920, $28.99,

Finding and embracing our spirituality is invaluable. "Retha's Song" is a spiritual memoir form Retha Bogard who discusses her history of spirituality and enlightenment in her life and how she came to know her life and what she sought more completely in her life. "Retha's Song" is a choice pick for spirituality and inspirational collections, not to be missed.

After the Rain, The Sun
C. C. Carter
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468551303, $14.95,

A touch of spirit can make life seem all the more real. "After the Rain, The Sun" is a collection of down to earth, zen-styled poetry from C. C. Carter who shares his unique views of the world through his short, to the point poetic stylings that speak on everyday American life, and our most common problems, with a good dose of humor. With much inspiration, "After the Rain, The Sun" is a short poetry assortment to be considered.

Staying Happy, Healthy, and Hot
Dick Summer
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475955606, $16.95,

The stories of the past generation can resonate with those of any generation. "Staying Happy, Healthy, and Hot: We're the Brand-New Louie Louie Generation" explores these stories of the past and their candid nature of life and living throughout the years. Poignant and insightful about this generation past and how it has shaped his life as he enters his golden years, "Staying Happy, Healthy, and Hot" is a charming and recommended read, not to be missed.

A Medley of International Short Stories
Teresa Cosco Heslop
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468551532, $19.95,

The tales of everyday life resonate through our lives and inspire us to carry on and live our lives to the fullest. "A Medley of International Short Stories" is a collection of short bits of fiction set around the world and giving snapshots of their lives and the paths they weave through them. With good wisdom and practicality, "A Medley of International Short Stories" is a powerful and recommended addition to short fiction collections.

Michael J. Carson

Clark's Bookshelf

Worth Dying For
Janet Litherland
Infinity Publishing
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741483454, $13.95,

Grabbing attention from the opening pages of any novel is very difficult. Mastering that technique is critical and Janet Litherland does it with style in "Worth Dying For." "A bullet whistled past Hannah Rosse's ear as she crossed the living room of her home. It knocked a framed photo off the mantle, and sent it crashing to the floor."

This is how you keep the reader going from the top of the page to the bottom! What is going to happen next? Curiosity abounds and readers are compelled to move on.

The character development is excellent and introduction to this former CIA agent is swift. Agency respect for Hannah continues because of her training as a skillful agent. However, she is living in a small town and appears as a sedate widow even though she took up residence 30 years previously.

The story revolves around spies, murder, intrigue, and all the elements, which make up a thriller. Newbies to the CIA call upon this aged hero to do their groundwork and discover members of a foreign sleeper cell in her small community. She is asked to look at her friends in a new light and invade their privacy by gathering information proving either they are spies or not! What this means is Hannah must interact with a male acquaintance, get closer to him, and delve into his real motives for involvement in the community.

Litherland keeps it clean in this book, but there is romantic involvement between Hannah and her suspect. Keeping close contact with her handlers at the agency via a secure phone adds to the impact of secrecy. In all, detail of how the CIA roots out the bad guys is very realistic.

Another interesting background note is the discussion of Hannah living in Germany and the Nazi killing of her parents. Careful planning which resulted in her living in the Netherlands and then England spared her from certain extermination. Her living in these different places gave her language skills that the CIA acknowledged when they trained her to spy for them. Mastering skills to do combat, shoot, and observe became ingrained in her so that even after a hiatus of 30 years she could still be on the job!

Janet Litherland is an excellent storyteller. However, the main drawback is the book could have been longer. With all the character development, foundation for action that is more extensive, so that another 100 or so pages would have been in order. A sequel using many of the same characters can resolve this. Stylistic writing, descriptive dialogue, and action sequences drive this author to be recognized. She has written several other books, but this by far, is one her most outstanding.

"Worth Dying For" is a five star book and you do not have to take the fatal plunge just buy it to enjoy!

More Money, Please: The Financial Secrets You Never Learned in School
Scott Gamm
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452298439, $15.00,

Graduation from high school or college often raises the question what do we get as a present for the new graduate. Do we get a blouse, tie, or some other non-memorable item? Scott Gamm has written an enticing book that will put that new graduate on the right track to financial independence and good money management, "More Money, Please," is not a book, which begs for money, no it is a book about managing money written by a student for students or recent graduates. Scott is 3rd year finance major at New York University and is recognized as a financial guru who makes some complicated financial mumbo-jumbo as enticing as apple pie.

At the ripe old age of 17, he stepped into the limelight of finance by creating a helpful website: Immediately the media noticed his talents and made him a regular contributor on the media circuit such as MSNBC and CNBC's "Closing Bell." He is a third year student and has some solid advice for his peers in the realm of student loans, buying textbooks, or applying for internships.

In the formative years of learning about credit cards, debt, and buying things there seems to be a void in our educational system. Schools do not have an economics class, which covers the basics about how to select a credit card company or what types of cards are available. Many parents try their best to encourage saving habits and money management for their children. However, until they experience freedom, independence, and making choices, the children learn a lot by trial and error. Sometimes, the errors compound to utter futility so the child gets into debts deep dark hole. No one is there to bail them out. Discharging college loans in bankruptcy is not an option and students find themselves so squeezed they just give up by dropping out.

Scott Gamm is a realist. Much of his advice comes from his researching his topics thoroughly. Ably he quotes statistics, gives budgeting advice, and really harps about one main theme in this book. Pay your credit cards in full monthly! This is not only great advice for students, but their parents as well. Interest and low payments are the key elements in driving our country into deeper debt without hope of getting out.

One great feature of this finance primer is incorporating websites in the topic areas so readers can go directly to sources for help. Particularly interesting was checking available jobs on Twitter! In addition, exploring Linked-In for work.

Writing in a style that almost sounds like getting advice from an uncle who has had a successful life is what Scott is able to do. He is sincere in approach and his words ring out righteously, not as a preacher, but as a soothsayer. He points out that saving for retirement should start when getting that first job.

This book is an excellent gift for the graduate of college or high school. When the aspiring scholar enters college next fall, give this lasting book of advice, along with a check would be nice. This five-star book will last a lifetime!

K. M. Weiland
Pen For A Sword Publishing
9780978924683, $15.69

There are few speculative fiction books, which grab your interest from, page one and hold it through the end of the book. "Dreamlander" by K. M. Weiland is one of those outstanding books of this genre.

What makes her book stand-alone from many published each year is the outstanding style of this very talented author. We often hear the phrase "practice what you preach" and K. M. not only practices, she embellishes. "Dreamlander" is the embodiment of conflict, tension, surprises, and almost any other adjective you can think of to describe a thriller.

Weiland has been around long enough writing several other successful books which include a historical western, "A Man Called Outlaw," a medieval epic, "Behold the Dawn," and a Amazon bestseller "Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success."

She has many followers who listen to her podcasts, take her courses on writing, and faithfully read her blog, "Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors,"

Dreamlander has an interesting concept that some people can transcend from this world to another when they are asleep. K. M. calls them the gifted! Her main character Chris Redston has a recurring dream, which takes him to another world. He discovers in this other world that he has to save it from disaster! Chris does not have a background that prepared him for battles with primitive swords or ancient guns that could only fire one bullet at a time. In fact, he was an ordinary man living in modern times. However, when in the dream world, he discovers that he has talent to be an excellent swordsman and strategist.

Characters in any story are very important for the development of their interaction, but also for the telling of what is taking place. What makes this book unusual is that those characters from this world are normal, everyday people. Those in the dream world are more interesting. There are very short people or animals who speak! A relationship and romance foment between Chris and a princess. Royalty comes into play as Chris takes sides with the king and endeavors to take part in battles to save the realm.

What makes this an outstanding book is the fact it does not use offensive language and youngsters from age 12 and up can read it without their parents needing to protect them. On the other hand, the parents can read and enjoy this same book, which leads to a win - win situation for all readers.

Some humorous incidents occur during this epic saga. Chris Redston is able to introduce an advantage to his battle prowess by bringing a Glock to his dream world. The downside to this is his ammunition runs out each time he fights and he never has time to get more when he returns to the other world. In one scene, there is a need to travel a long distance in a short time and he is able to 'borrow' his friend's car that has a full tank of gas, taking it back to his dream world for the completion of the trip.

Lifelike descriptions of both worlds make this book a candidate for an excellent screenplay. One of the best parts of this journey is an exciting look into two worlds. There are some very interesting uses of the Internet. K. M. ties the end of the book up in marvelous fashion by taking her readers to a specially constructed website where there is music, outtakes, and more dialogue between the characters. This is a five star book!

Clark Isaacs, Reviewer

Crocco's Bookshelf

Embrace Loneliness - There's Nothing Wrong With You
Gail Billing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc
B00BTOLY24, $5.99,

While I read nothing new in Embrace Loneliness - There's Nothing Wrong With You, Gail Billing wrote her book with an objective of helping others. The information is good and for readers who have not read similar books on loneliness, then this book will offer sound advice.

Gail Billing wants readers to feel good after finishing her book. She stresses that loneliness is a way of life for some and if it is currently a source of pain, she offers tools to cope and maybe even enjoy being alone.

Embrace Loneliness - There's Nothing Wrong With You is written in a comfortable, non-threatening style, which is sure to benefit readers as they absorb each chapter filled with expertise from Gail Billing.

Odyssey through HELL Exit, Push here: X Reengineering strategies for business, personal and spirit...
M. Yero Morris
Amazon Digital Services, Inc
B00B7QXWAQ, $3.99

Odyssey is an autobiography of M.Yero Morris that reads like a TV drama on cable or HBO. Weaved into the story line, the author being the protagonist in his own drama, strives to help readers as a way of accepting his personal challenges dealing with business and personal life.

Included in Odyssey through HELL Exit, Push here: X Reengineering strategies for business, personal and spirit are apropos historical quotes full of wisdom I found to be quite engaging.

Beat Your Brain at its Own Game: 12 Essential Skills for Overcoming Depression by Andrew Wiseman
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00C5J1Z76, $2.99

If someone is suffering from depression and browsing for self-help to find answers, Andrew Wiseman's 12 Essential Skills may offer a different approach for solutions. It's written in a non-preachy, personal style, which is taken from his experience. Anyone searching for help will appreciate his sharing of first hand wisdom.

The skills are practical and the book would be helpful to the person suffering and/or family and friends to help a loved one.

Steven Whibley
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00CA3JQYG, $2.99,

An adventure filled with mystery for kids as well as adults. Glimpse includes all the elements of a great story a young person can relate to; family life, friendship, school, and teachers.

A Russian secret society created the mystery for the main character, fourteen year old Dean Curse. His life was suddenly changed and turned upside down on his way to school one day.

Readers will enjoy reading Glimpse and deciding whether Dean had been cursed or given a gift.

Dog Aliens 1: Raffle's Name
Cherise Kelley
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
1480063592, $8.99,

Dog adventures and space aliens create fun topics for stories - so what could be more fun than dog aliens from space.

Children in families with dogs will enjoy reading about the double life of the dogs in Dog Aliens 1: Raffle's Name. And children without dogs will be sure to beg their parents to bring them to the nearest animal shelter to adopt a dog.

The story is packed with plenty of humor for a 4th grader to appreciate. And the chapters are perfect in length to keep the young reader engaged.

The dialogue among the dogs at the pound may spark the interest of children for a desire to become involved in their neighborhood pound. They can have fun imagining if dogs everywhere think and talk like they do in Dog Aliens 1: Raffle's Name.

The Few: The Sequel to The Sons of Cleito
Derek Haines
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
1484080831, $11.95,

A non-negotiable destiny: damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

A message was delivered by Langley Garret's father that he will deliver The Sons of Cleito to safety, preservation and deliverance from harm, from The Few. The caveat - if he doesn't accept his destiny, his father will not think twice about killing him.

Realizing his kidnapping from months ago was deliberate; his mangled hand, broken nose, and dead wife serving as a daily reminder, Langley learned his unfortunate place in his new family from his partner in crime, Chara. She managed to convince him to come to terms with his destiny. Having no time to waste, Langley stepped up to the plate and became engrossed in the unspeakable and vile world of politics.

The Few is a captivating and entertaining read by Derek Haines. Once again he transports his readers to a place and time where we empathize with his main character, Langley Garret. His new family position placed him in an incredible situation of power and danger.

Does Langley succeed in his quest to protect The Sons of Cleito? Is he left unscathed to live another day and maintain his power?

I recommend The Few by Derek Haines as an outstanding book to add to your library.

Productivity: BIG Ideas from The Top 10 Books
Oran Kangas
BIGideas-Publishing; 2 edition
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00BQH98O0, $2.99,

It's always helpful having valuable information from a variety of knowledgeable sources condensed in one book for readers to consume. After all, that makes us productive, which is the objective here.

While I found the book to be beneficial for readers, I would have preferred Kangas to restrain what I viewed as an elitist attitude. For example: Saying most people who don't need a creativity toolkit are either flipping burgers for a living or are dead, wasn't only unnecessary but untrue.

The techniques and action plans shared by 'The Masters' are worthwhile and can be appreciated by all who desire to improve their productivity.

Secrets of Professional Organizers: Volume 1
Donna Smallin Kuper
Flying the Koop Press
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00BX3ASQO, $3.97,

A compilation of seven experts in the organizing field share their expertise.

With strategies, hints, and tips for those who feel overwhelmed with clutter and need a helping hand, these secrets from the pros might be just what the doctor ordered.

Secrets of Professional Organizers Volume 1: Leading Experts Talk about Chronic Disorganization & Hoarding includes the practical while adding the psychological viewpoints for those who see a real problem in themselves while reading this self-help book.

No matter what the range, there are suggestions for readers of all ages.

The Death by Money Report
Tracy Piercy CFP with Lisa Maxwell
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B008FWKOJW, $4.99,

This less than fifty page book can be summed up using the following advice offered - 'how can I fund this?' rather than immediately declaring, 'I can't afford it'.

Ten dollars is the beginning of the authors' strategies to obtain ones financial independence.

Piercy and Maxwell promote their website throughout "The Death by Money Report: The Cause of Money Stress And How a $10 Solution Can Save Your Financial Life ". It may be here where readers may receive additional help with their cause of money stresses.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

The Black Box
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hathette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316069434, $27.99,

Once upon a time, I stumbled upon a Michael Connelly's earlier novel, and I have been hooked every since that first reading. I have been a steady reader of his stories about Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller. I haven't been disapointed, when I compare his novels to others. He rides up near the top of the detective fiction series every time. On the opposite gender side, Jilliane Hoffman and Karin Slaughter have done some great writing to match him. So among great authors we set the bar based on their efforts to produce novels that stand the test of time. Great stories of these three and a few others like John Sandford, John Lescroart to enable readers to visually see the benchmarks in reality on their works of crime fiction.

Harry Bosch has been given the option of working cold cases instead of retiring, and the one he opted for was a real homicide back in 1992 during the LA riots. His history with that case goes back twenty years, and he felt he had to do the case proud this time making a better attempt to solve it. He is now a member the Open-Unsolved Unit.After a time he was fortunate to get a second chance to solve the case, and he wasn't going to let anyone including his supervisor stop him.

Twenty years ago he was pulled from the Hollywood Homicide Divison and now on a roving "B" watch team handling the rapid deaths occurring during the riots. He got to one particular scene following the National Guard, watching the perimeter, down a deserted alley. There was a dead newspaper camerawoman, named Anneke Jespersen laid shot by a Beretta 9mm handgun. He unfortunately had too many cases to check on with his partner. He and his partner were pressured to move on to the next case. The homicide couldn't be followed up with the usual protocol of securing the crime scene and investigation of who might have been the perpetrator. Bosch regretted the point of not being able to solve that crime at that period of time. She was shot execution style, and she had a journalist credentials. Bosch assumed she had come to the riots due to a story.

Now twenty years later after the LA riots, and Bosch has learned one important fact missing from the first go- around with Jespersen's murder. He comes across the gun that killed her. He plans to use all the leverage and his detective skills along with leverage to work anew. He interviews a murderer in prison seeking his parole in a short time to gain knowledge to continue his hunt to solve the case. He has to follow the clues, and his search for the black box to make justice eventually ring the bell for Anneke Jespersen. That is not to say that the journey will be easy, but it will help the investigation with his fresh eyes looking closer this time. It takes him through rough Los Angeles neighborhoods to distant parts of the world, where Jespersen had to cover a bloody Middle East war zone. His unrelenting persistence working to assist him on working the many turns of the case. Her past nemesises are still there to stop him, and it won't be easy for Bosch who might be moving close to the same evil danger she faced twenty years ago. He must do what ever he can to seek the truth. He does this by being angry to obtain justice for her and her family.

Michael Connelly is the author of twenty-five novels as well as the bestselling author of the Harry Bosch series of novels. His first novel is celebrated by Connelly entitled The Black Echo. He is the author of recent #1 bestsellers named, The Drop, The Fifth Witness, The Reversal, The Scarecrow, The Brass Verdict, and The Lincoln Lawyer. He is a a former newspaper reporter who has won numerous awards for his journalism and his novels. I take the effort to seek out his novels, and I enjoy his stories ranked among the best in the crime genre' depicted by some sources to be one a small number of crime masters.

Risk Agent
Ridley Pearson
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399158834, $25.95,

I first discovered this author, when I read one of Ridley Pearson's Lou Boldt detective novels UnderCurrents. I have read most of his books. It was a serial killer known as the Cross Killer, and I was hooked right away with his writing. I enjoyed that series, and some of his stand alone novels. The books featured various main characters, not in any other of his books. His other series feature Walt Fleming and Chris Klick as main characters.

The Rutherford Risk agency learns that a chinese national named Lu Hao, and its security detail, Clete Danner are reported missing in Shanghai, China. This makes this case difficult in a country, that allows no private investigations to take place. In China one has to move and operate the investigation much more subtly to not raise any flags. The agency has to locate where Hao and Danner were taken. The agency will be planning to use two people to track and follow the bread crumbs of the attack to find out, if they can rescue them. The days of the random are seven and counting quickly down. Shanghai is a big city, and they have to find the hostages before the deadline expires. The agency has to answer the random demands and hopes these two people will bring them back alive.

Brian Primer, who runs the Rutherford Risk agency in China, consults with his other key operatives David Dulwich, who will place a woman named Grace Chu to help find them. She is the best forensic accountant. Her job will be to track the money and records of all transactions that will occur during the random and bookkeepings. She will meet the CEO of the construction industry giant, The Berthold Group. The chinese national was part of his company. David introduces Allan Marquardt to Grace Chu. Grace has her mission to who is to seek out one guy, John Knox who has the other skills to support Chu. He has the take-no-prisoners attitude, and he provides the street smarts and arm-twisting savvy to pursue the location of these two hostages. He doesn't know it at this time, but he does have a special interest in one of the victims. Also David felt the two of them could work together to bring the victim back alive. POL was important so far to the people who kidnapped them, so their demands could be met. However, ''proof of life" was just to hold off killing them, until they get their demands. David knew that John and Clete Danner were friends. That both of them were trained with SERE, and they were fellow SERE classmates.

John Knox agrees with the plan to assist Grace Chu and now the adventure begins. Unbeknownst to them the people who are involved somehow in the kidnapping are tracking them at the same time they are looking for Hao and Danner. They have many different groups of people who will place roadblocks in their way. The agency they represent, an iron hand Chinese police officer named Shen Deshi, middle persons who are mongolians, and another faction of a person known as Yang Cheng. He is the opposing building company trying to hold all ties to all the building construction in China. No matter which way John and Grace turn in their quest to settle the random demands, and they know they must bring back the two kidnapped victims. The answer must lie in who is stopping them from learning the reasons and the truth.

Ridley Pearson has twenty-six novels with three series, and I am not sure if the last two will be revived or not. This novel is the beginning of a new series, and it is the Risk series with its main character Rutherford Risk. In 1999 he was writing as Wendell McCall with that last novel entitled Concerto in Dead Flat. He also writes books for children similar to James Patterson. I look forward to reading his novels when ever I get a chance.

Daniel Allen

Gail's Bookshelf

1001 Bible Questions Kids Ask and God Answers
Zondervan Kidz
5300 Patterson Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310725152, $6.99,

Children begin to ask questions soon after they learn to talk because they are naturally curious and want to know what things are and how they work. That's never more true than with youngster's questions about the Bible which they often find confusing. This excellent resource from Zondervan Kidz uses the NIV translation to answer 1,001 common Bible questions inquisitive youngsters ask.

Such as:

Where is the Garden of Eden? #5
What is a birthright? #41
Are dreams messages from God? #44
What did Joseph's robes look like? #51
What was the most Holy Place? #609
Who created God and where does He live? #785
How can God be three people in one? #807
Why did Jesus have to leave for the Holy Spirit to come? #810
Why can't I become a Christian until after I'd had my fun? #873
Will prayer always lead to healing? #919

Answers follow the NIV biblical format from Genesis to Revelation with Bible books noted at the top of each right hand page along with chapter and verse of where it's found in the Bible. If more information is needed search the alphabetized topical word index in the back of the book.

The Q&A book also includes a section of "miscellaneous" questions and answers such as why the Bible is important, who wrote it and whether there are errors in the Bible. However, this useful information isn't gospel specific.

Because youngster's questions are simple and direct they look for simple and direct answers from teachers and parents. This little book would be excellent to tuck inside an Easter basket, useful for a family bible study, used for a quick and easy reference or for older children to read by themselves.

Unbreakable: Road to Kingdom, #2
Nancy Mehl
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780764209284, $14.99,

Unbreakable, Nancy Mehl's book two in the contemporary Road to Kingdom series, continues the saga of romance, intrigue and danger begun in Inescapable. This time the narrative focuses on newly engaged Hope Kauffman and her father among other colorful Mennonite characters. The small, typically unified religious community finds itself divided because of recent events of arson and road rage. Some want to leave traditional Mennonite ways behind while others refuse to consider it.

It's a question Hope struggles with on her return home from the nearby town of Washington after picking up supplies for the quilt store she runs in Kingdom. The gentle sway of the buggy and sounds of Daisy's steady clip-clopping would normally be a time to dream. Today she could only think about Flo's warning.

Flo had told her chilling stories about nearby churches burnt to the ground and cars run off the road. She said she thought people were targeted because those doing the horrible things "...hated Christians." Especially since the attacks were on "houses of worship" and cars with "Christian bumper stickers." She then warned Hope to stay alert on her return home.

Still lost in her thoughts, Hope hadn't noticed the bright red truck behind her until she suddenly heard "...the roar of an engine..." Startled, she turned and saw the bright colored vehicle "...aimed straight at the back of the buggy."

Fearing for Daisy as well as herself, she pulled sharply on the reins, felt the buggy tip...then teeter on two wheels... before it crashed into the nearby ditch...and Mehl's delightful mystery begins.

Mehl's well-written mystery contains threads of intrigue, danger, romance and uncertainty that draw readers quickly into the story. The predicament of Hope's broken engagement and conflict between her fiance, Ebenezer Miller and charismatic Jonathon Wiese reflect broader divisions within their small community.

Written with unusual warmth and attention to detail, the authentic characterizations and believable plot illustrate the growing problem of violence across our nation. Although the community is Amish/Mennonite, there is nothing lukewarm about the questions they struggle with that conflict with their Mennonite trust and faith versus violence.

If readers like to read Amish with a dollop of contemporary mystery, romance and intrigue Unbreakable is not one to miss.

Review of book one, Inescapable:

Help for Women under Stress: Preserving Your Sanity
Randy and Nanci Alcorn
EPM Ministries
39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206
Sandy, OR 97055
9780970001610, Paperback $9.99, eBook $3.99

Randy & Nanci Alcorn's book, Women Under Stress is the only book they collaborated on in Randy's remarkable writing career. When the book released twenty-eight years ago women of all ages found wisdom and insight about the causes and effects of stress with suggestions on how to deal with it. Especially the "...wife of a Christian leader who kept her from taking her life..."

Is stress so life-impacting it can lead to suicide? Hans Selye, noted stress researcher who first coined the term believes, "Stress is the spice of life."

Randy says if that is true then "...many of us are over seasoned." He argues the problem isn't stress itself, but rather "...too much stress - and inadequate knowledge of how to deal with it."

When Randy reread the original manuscript he saw "major ways to improve the book" and decided to revise it. Since he first penned the words, greater demands imposed by our "on-demand" culture and modern conveniences have made life even more stressful than before. However, by the time he added new information and deleted old material, the revision could be considered a new book.

Trillia Newbell interviewed Randy for Women of God magazine March 26, 2013 and asked why he published a revision.

He said he'd had many requests for the out-of-print book and said, "Women are still under stress." Perhaps more than ever before due to the "...ever-changing, media-saturated, fast-paced world..." we live in.

In addition, since the book was first published he and Nanci had gained twenty-five years of at times stressful life experience, from raising their own children to helping out with grandchildren to other known stressors such as "...disease, surgeries, lawsuits, job loss" and more.

Those experiences taught them to rely on God's grace and providence according to Psalm 18:6. "In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears." They also learned "God uses stress to draw us to himself and to encourage us to make necessary changes." That's what Help for Women under Stress is all about - stress, God and change.

Thirteen chapters include stress-related themes from trying to be "Wonder-wife and Super-Mom," to issues of guilt, God and self-esteem. The last four chapters feature the impact and importance of exercise, nutrition, relaxation and women's overall health and the impact of hormones. Chapters include insightful charts, poetry and discussion questions.

The Alcorn's hope this book helps women to handle stress instead of stress handling them. The book is available in paperback, $9.99 or e-Book format, $3.99 through Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM)

100% of book royalties go to missions, famine relief, pro-life and other worthy ministries.

Help for Women Under Stress:

A Matter of Trust: A Mia Quinn Mystery
Lis Wiehl w/April Henry
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781595549037, $26.99,

Wiehl and Henry open their new Mia Quinn Mystery series with A Matter of Trust, a cutting-edge story of murdered prosecutors and vicious online teenage bullying that leads to suicide. Mia Quinn, recently rehired by the King County District Attorney's office after a five year hiatus, is the Seattle prosecutor assigned to the cases. She reluctantly agrees to investigate with lead homicide cop, Charlie Carlson, not realizing the part he would soon play in her life.

For now, Mia struggles with grief and the financial dilemma she finds herself in. Their family was deep in debt. Scott had never said a word just let the hole grow bigger. She didn't know which was worse, "the hole in her heart" from his death or the financial hole that caused her to schedule a garage sale that might at least afford groceries and gas.

That's where Colleen Miller's phone call found Mia - rummaging through boxes in the basement for items to sell. Mia's best friend and fellow prosecutor updated her on office activities since she'd been gone, cautioned her about office politics then told her how important social media and the Internet now were to investigations.

She told her about the vicious remarks left on the teen suicide's Facebook page that caused her to consider the charge of "...a hate crime..." Mia imagined her smile when Colleen said,

"... Facebook is God's gift to prosecutors."

Then Mia heard a "sudden boom" and what sounded like the phone dropping cross the line. Fear rose in her throat as she spoke Colleens name repeatedly. Even though she listened intently she could only hear the sounds of "...wet bubbly breathing...and moans..."

Thus the clever, fast-paced Mia Quinn series begins with an appealing lead character that's convincing as a single mom with two kids as well as a gusty prosecutor and investigator. One who's determined to find the murderer of her best friend.

Mia's struggles with a rebellious teen, angry creditors and debt that exceeds her full-time job as prosecutor and part-time teaching job at the University of Washington is realistic. Working with Charlie, who once caused her to lose a case because he didn't follow protocol, was a realistic compromise many make in the work world.

Contemporary themes of online bullying, gun rights, social media, children raised by single parents and more give the dramatic narrative authenticity. Spiritual themes aren't predominant, except for Mia's dad who recently accepted Jesus. The hint of future romance suggests more books to come with stories that keep readers guessing until the last page is turned and the identity of the killer comes as a complete surprise.

Wiehl and Henry write suspenseful, well-plotted mysteries without the use of profanity, salty language or off-color details found in other mainstream fiction. Yet the action, drama and suspense is every bit as intense with a story that strongly resembles the real-life murder of Seattle Federal prosecutor Tom Wales in October 2001. Great start to a new series!

A Journey to Heaven: A Daughter's Short Life Gives a Family Lessons in Love and Miracles
Tammy Brodowski Mott, Bruce Brodowski & Lisa Lickel
Carolinas Ecumenical Healing Ministries
13701 Portpatrick Lane
Matthews, NC 28103
9780982658130, $9.99,

"Twenty-nine days, twenty hours, and thirty minutes" after Tammy and Denny provided temporary foster care for the little angel they would one day name "Emily Kate," she again joined their family. It was July 25, 2008. This time they hoped their little "chubby cheeked" cherub would never leave.

Still they knew the days ahead would be difficult. They had ridden the legal "emotional roller-coaster ride" from temporary foster placement to adoption before. However, their excitement overcame their anxiety and they discussed names for months.

Thirteen long months later, September 2, 2009 they stood before the judge who asked what name they had chosen "for this child" and they said, "Emily Katherine Mott." However, the tiny baby girl with dark brown eyes would simply be known as their "beautiful Emmy."

That's how this "happily-ever-after-story" unfolded until Emmy turned three-years-old. Then Tammy noticed Emmy's "left eye" turned inward and she began to drool and frequently fall down. Tammy checked her over and found Emmy had "significant weakness on her left side," almost as if she'd had a stroke, yet that couldn't be - she was a baby.

After an exam with their family pediatrician, Emmy was sent to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh for a complete neurological workup, which included a CT scan and soon after an MRI. It wasn't until Tammy heard "Neurological Oncology" that she connected Emmy's diagnosis of a "mass in her head," with cancer. That's when the heartbreak began.

Tammy and Denny invite readers to share in their family's emotional roller-coaster ride of fear, faith and joy when their precious Emmy was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, Pontine Glioma, a rare form of cancer that afflicts "children between the ages of five and ten." The doctors said daily radiation and drugs could extend her life for one year at best, although she would be very ill. Without treatment Emmy had "six to eight weeks."

Although the doctors gave Emmy two months, "...God had other plans."

Their story of how one family put feet to their faith in the midst of devastation and fear takes readers into the private lives of the Mott family. It's a challenging story of walking through the "refiner's fire" with prayer and by God's grace. Tammy's diary entries connect readers with Emmy's progress with encouraging testimonies from family, friends and Facebook supporters:

Heartfelt and honest, some passages bring tears, others smiles, yet the Mott's family message is clear - "...God takes all things and works them for the good of those who love him..." Romans 8:28
A Journey to Heaven:

It's Just You & Me, Lord: Prayers for a Woman's Life
Marion Stroud
Discovery House Publishers
P.O. Box 3566, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
9781572935730, $14.99,

Marion Stroud's rhythmic reflections, scriptures and quotes connect readers to the Lord with heartfelt prayer petitions on topics of marriage, children, friends, faith, relationships and more. Many situations she writes about "spring from her own experience," while others are "rooted in the pain and challenges faced by others."

She quotes India's spiritual and political leader, Mahatma Ghandi who said, "Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement...prayer is the most potent instrument of action."

While Marion agrees she also likens prayer to "...sharing a meal with a loved and trusted friend..."And there's no better, more faithful, reliable friend than Jesus, which is what her book of poetical reflections is about - Jesus and prayer.

It's Just You and Me, Lord, has something for women of every age and season of life from young to old, from church affiliations to pastors, even suicide. Topical headings divided into eight segments include:

A Woman Within
A Woman and Marriage
A Woman and her Children
A Woman and her Friends
A Woman at Work
A Woman and Her Family of Faith
A Woman and the Wider World
A Woman Growing Older

Section pages feature a relevant quote and summary of the chapter topic. Selections within the segment include scriptures and quotes that further enhance Marion's messages. For example, Prayers in the Night, page 255 cites Psalm 91 - "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty..." Marion's message concerns lack of sleep, tossing and turning throughout the night due to worry, fear or lack of faith and trust. Amy Carmichael's quote on how to cope with feelings of worry and fear completes the selection.

She also quotes Corrie Ten Boom, who said, "Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden."

Marion's wise writings join common concerns and issues to practical prayers that change and strengthen readers. Some readers will make Marion's words their own, while others will use her thoughts as prayer prompts for their own concerns. Her practical suggestions inspire prayers of confidence, trust and belief in a Heavenly Father who really is "...your truest friend."

The Forever Stone
Gloria Repp
410 Terry N Ave, Seattle, WA 98109
9781482022339, $14.99,

Forever Stone, Gloria Repp's new mystery-romance is set in New Jersey's Pine Barrens well-known for "sugar-sand roads, tumbled ruins, and gleaming dark rivers." There readers meet Madeline, a young widow better known as "Mollie." A year has passed since her abusive husband was killed in an automobile accident, yet her feelings of grief still reflect relief that he can't hurt her ever again. It's the relief she feels guilt over.

Since she became a widow Mollie's scam artist mother, Sylvia, her Cousin Willa, Vera and Uncle Ashton continue to pressure her to join the family business and marry George, a man of their choice, not hers. They also mock her for working in a local antique store and again when she registers for art classes. However they take special delight insulting her passion for cooking and sarcastically call her the "pastry-chef wannabe," especially her mother.

Just as her mother did again today, when she learned Mollie had bought Granny Smith apples for a pie, instead of the coconut she knew George liked. Mollie had enough and "...turned to face them...and said...I will not help with the business and I will not marry George..." With those words hanging in the air she strode from the kitchen certain her rebellion would cause another family conference.

While her family stewed over what she might do, Mollie packed and quietly left for Virginia to help her Aunt Lin restore an old Victorian Mansion she'd purchased. She especially liked her aunt calling the restoration a "great adventure."

Mollie's confrontation with her family had made the decision to leave her troublesome family and past behind an easy one. However, what Mollie couldn't leave behind were horrifying memories of abuse or her unnerving panic attacks that struck without warning. She also couldn't know the men she would soon meet could make her situation far worse than she imagined or the danger and fear she would face.

Gloria's portrayal of a young woman's struggle with issues of domestic abuse, self-doubt and shame engage readers with concerns far too many women cope with today. She has penned a life-changing narrative of courage and faith that keeps the pages turning.

Inescapable - Road to Kingdom series
Nancy Mehl
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire South
Bloomington, MN 55438
9780764209277, $14.99,

Nancy Mehl's award winning writing brings another romantic suspense to life in her new debut series Road to Kingdom. With a story that starts out in Kansas City, then quickly moves to the small conservative Mennonite town of Kingdom, Kansas when Lizzie's new life begins to unravel. In Kingdom townspeople live typical Amish lifestyles without modern conveniences like electricity, indoor bathrooms, computers, cell phones, even cars. Or at least that's how it was when eighteen-year-old Lizzie Engel found she was pregnant and ran away from home five years before determined to never return.

However, all the best laid plans encounter detours and Lizzie couldn't have planned for the accusation that would one day send her back to Kingdom in search of safety for herself and "Cherry Bear." The nickname her once cuddly infant, now six-year-old daughter, Charity Lynn Engle had grown into. Lord knew that child was the only bright light in what appeared to be Lizzie's ever-darkening future.

Even though Lizzie knew she was falsely accused she also knew a thousand dollars remained missing and realized her initials beside the withdrawals was all the evidence needed to charge her. When she added that to the mysterious stranger she noticed on the street corner every night at dusk she knew she should follow her grandmothers long-ago advice. "There isn't anything too big for God, Lizzie girl. You gotta cast your care on Him..."

Then she found the threatening message in her mail box that read, "I'm watching you. It's just a matter of time before I get you and your little girl. You'll never get away from me..."

Thus begins another mysterious tale of emotional stalking, fractured relationships, romantic dilemmas and false accusations wrapped inside a web of lies and insecurities that Lizzie had run away from five years ago. Except now Lizzie had a young daughter to protect.

The escalating tensions of an estranged father, a frightened mother, a childhood friend bent on romance weave throughout this richly detailed narrative of mystery, intrigue, danger and romance. While hurtful memories, childhood wounds, fears, suspicions and distrust each add to the puzzle that drives Lizzie into the arms of a loving Father.

Mehl's engaging characters and complex plot keep readers involved until the last page is turned.

Embracing the Refiner's Fire
Dale and Ruby Price, w/Steve VanAtta
The Goehner Group
4125 Blackford Ave, Ste 205
San Jose, CA 95117
9780983128519, $15.99,

Dale Price, former pastor and director of Canyonview Camp in Silverton Oregon determined "...cancer will not define my life..." when he heard the doctor's diagnosis of lung cancer August 20, 2008. From the doctor's perspective Dale's situation was hopeless. From Dale's perspective it was not. Once he made the decision to trust God, accept necessary medical care and "...journey with the Great Shepherd into the valley of the shadow of death."

Still, the findings came as a complete shock to Dale, his wife, co-workers, family and friends. He had never smoked and had the appearance of an athlete who often hiked, backpacked and camped with youth in vigorous Christ-centered ministries. Still, after a "nagging two-year cough and occasional discomfort" Dale had finally agreed to an exam even though he and his wife were in Europe for Dale's niece's wedding.

That exam and tests were inconclusive so Dale followed up with a local doctor who ordered a CAT scan when he returned. Instead of calling with the results the doctor insisted on seeing him, something Dale hadn't expected until he heard the doctor say, "You have lung cancer."

Thus begins Dale's almost three-year battle with "Stage 3-B lung cancer," an opponent intent on taking his life. The diagnosis first brought shock waves of denial with complex feelings of fear and despair that battled against faith and hope. However, Dale won the battle when he started each day with Jesus' seeking daily guidance and direction.

Although the book concerns cancer, Dale wanted the larger message to be about Christ and not about him because "...cancer...isn't the message. God's faithful provision and grace, that's the message..." he wanted to leave with readers and that's the message in this book - God's prevailing love and grace.

Whether you need an example, inspiration or something to renew wavering faith and belief, Dale's incredible story does all that more with his account of what's really important in life - a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sometimes readers will laugh, other times they will cry and marvel at the faith of a man who courageously walked a path many approach with fear and dread. His wife Ruby completed this inspirational account with Steve Van Atta several months after Dale's death, April 16, 2011 at age 63.

One-Minute Devotions for Couples
Bob & Cheryl Moeller
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402-9173
9780736952033, $9.99,

Spring is the time of year most associated with wedding plans which include the expectation of "happily ever after," yet there is no insurance attached to any wedding vow. However, Bob & Cheryl Moeller write in One-Minute Devotions for Couples if they sold "marriage insurance" the policy would contain just four words - "prayer and God's Word."

It's when a couple invests time, thought and energy into God's Word and prayer that God hears and works in relationships since God's Word "...never returns empty and achieves the purpose for which He sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)

The Moeller's hope to inspire the newly married with 250 one-minute devotionals that encourage a daily habit of commitment to God's Word and prayer. They write that couples who do this build a "hedge of protection" around their marriage that "nothing will compromise." Then the wedding vows, "...for better or for worse..." become vows "for keeps."

Instead of page numbers, one-page numbered devotions contain a Bible verse, brief themed narrative and prayer. A variety of topics include love, selfishness, change, contentment, imperfect marriages, loss, rebellion, patience, anger and more.

For example, day 108's foundation scripture is from Ephesians 4:27, " not give the devil a foothold." The theme is anger, resentment and forgiveness, emotions common to marriage. The account begins with a question, "If you give the devil an inch, will he take a mile?"

The Moeller's use the analogy of a Lab-German Shepherd puppy that slept on the bed with Bob, who at first required little room. Then the small puppy grew into a large-sized dog! Unhealthy anger is like that pup who consumes "more and more" time and energy as he grows up. Anger acts in a similar fashion if not dealt with in the early stages. Small disputes grow into large cancers of selfishness and discontent that destroy relationships. The closing prayer concerns forgiveness.

As co-founders of "For Better, For Worse, For Keeps" ministries, Bob and Cheryl bring healing and restoration to marriages in "underserved communities:" In addition to Bob hosts a "nationally broadcast television call-in show, Marriage: For Better, For Worse, on the Total Living Network.

This couple's beliefs and ministry illustrate the message from Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) that says "...a cord of three strands is not quickly broken..." That's a simple description of a God centered marriage.

Limitless: Devotions for a Ridiculously Good Life
Nick Vujicic
Waterbrook Publishers
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780307730916, $14.99,

Nick Vujicic, bestselling author, evangelist and motivational speaker, plumbed the depths of despair, especially as a teenager and found God with the love and support of his family. It was there he found the courage to overcome the devastating circumstances of his life without limbs, and accept God found perfection in what Nick perceived as imperfection. That's what the perspective of Limitless: Devotions for a Ridiculously Good Life is about - God's unlimited, unmerited love.

This small book carries an enormous message of faith and hope tucked into fifty inspiring devotions. It was only when Nick could accept he was God's creation, designed according to His plan, that he could believe, "I am the perfect Nick Vujicic."

Although he quickly adds, with what must have been a smile, "That's not to say there isn't room for improvement."

The Apostle Paul warns in 2 Corinthians 7:5 that "in this world we will face tribulation, persecution and fiery trials." From the outside looking in, Nick's world seemed all about tribulation and fiery trials when his birth restrictions were considered.

To compare, if we are thirsty, we hold a glass of water and drink to satisfy our thirst. If hungry, we pick up a fork and eat. We can drive to the store, park, find a shopping cart and push the cart in front of us. Many take such activities for granted without thought, care, or even consideration. Then there's Nick. His activities restricted to what he's able to do with one tiny flipper. This young man lives a life of amazing grace and faith without limits because he believes that with God, all things are possible.

In these compelling devotions readers find Nick's hard-won wisdom purchased through daunting challenges such as learning to surfboard, play volleyball, basketball and speak to thousands with motivational messages of faith, hope and God's love.

That's the kind of love his mother exhibited when she wouldn't allow Nick to be labeled a "special needs child." Instead she said, Nick, "you need to play with normal children because you are normal; you just have a few missing bits and pieces, that's all."

Although Nick lacks the two arms and legs considered normal God's love and power has fueled his larger-than-life attitude. Last year Nick married his beautiful wife, Kanae and they celebrated their first anniversary February of this year, the day before their healthy son Kiyoshi James arrived:

Whatever your struggle, health challenges, anger, resentment, relationships or something else, Nick's inspiring devotions encourage, inspire and motivate. Each one illustrates that God can use anyone as His hands and feet, if they have a willing heart, in spite of disability. Where you too might find Nick's attitude of "no arms, no legs, no worries."

Every once in a while a book assumes first place in spite of other reviews in the scheduled lineup. Limitless is such a book. Nick Vujucic's heartfelt devotional is not one to miss.

Nick Vujicic - No arms no legs no worries - look at yourself after watching this! YouTube:

Congratulations to Nick Vujicic and his wife Kanae Miyahara. YouTube:

#Hooked: The Pitfalls of Media, Technology and Social Networking
Gregory L. Jantz, Siloam
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
9781616382575, $14.99,

Dr. Gregory Jantz, Seattle counselor and addiction specialist looks at the world of technology in #Hooked, where he writes a "cautionary tale" about the positives and negatives of the "digital umbilical cords" that tie users to technology. He writes about himself, his love for and use of techno gadgets to question if "technological tethers" need to be loosened.

"Technology is powerful," writes Dr. Jantz. Whether using increasingly advanced devices or surfing social media each offers convenience, instant access and saves time, besides making users feel "in control, in charge and capable."

Dr. Jantz's descriptions reminded me of mythological Greek sirens that lured unwary sailors to their destruction with enchanting music and words:

As well as the power of seductive drugs to alter user's worlds, expectations, even defines who they are. That's why Dr. Jantz sees a strong relationship between addiction and technology where he notes, "The ability to control a thing lies in your capacity to abstain from it."

However, abstain is a term many seem unfamiliar with in the world of technology. Instead family times, meal times or face-to-face conversations are often interrupted to answer texts, check email, or search for something on the Internet at a Smart Phones alert. Phone fastened to ear many abruptly leave, which proves the power of a device over anyone's ability to control it.

Today, our world is technologically tethered to 52" televisions, computers, Smart Phones, iPod Touch, iPads or iPhones. With "technological tethers" that create users "...dependent upon them for a sense of peace, calm self-worth and security." That dependency is never more evident than when "digital umbilical cords" are removed, for example, by power outages.

Readers learn how Dr. Jantz views the "i" in iPod Touch, iPads and iPhones. How technology "creates distance and triggers addiction." Why God is the "ultimate filter." The ways technology can "...flip traditional parent-child roles and interactions." How parent's "depth of experience" is challenged by tech-savvy kids. What danger lies "hidden in plain sight" even though household doors are dead bolted and windows remain barred and locked?

Chapters end with perceptive questions, statements or simple charts that help readers take a hard look at how they use or abuse technology and why. The insightful fill-in-the-blanks exercise on page 26 defines "personal technology use" by activity, dollar amount and time which many might find shocking.

The focus of the book isn't about the latest and greatest techno-gadgets. Instead it's about awareness of a need to control technology instead of technology controlling those who use it. Although technology changes, writes Dr. Jantz, people "tend to stay the same."

Dr. Gregory Jantz on media and the culture in #Hooked.


Shattered: Alaskan Courage-book 2
Dani Pettrey
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire South
Bloomington, MN 55438
9780764209833, $14.99,

Shattered, book two in Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series, once again draws readers into another hard-to-put-down romantic suspense with snappy dialogue, realistic characterizations and fast-moving intrigue.

The account set in Yancy, Alaska centers around Piper and her prodigal brother Reef McKenna, a professional snowboarder. The story begins in the middle of the night when Piper is wakened from a deep sleep by her furry buddy, Aurora. A white husky whose coat normally lay in smooth layers along her back, fur that now ripples across her spine in waves.

Piper, bleary-eyed from sleep, listens and overhears "heavy steps" in the downstairs hall at the same time Aurora's low growl turns to a whimper then a whine as the dog lunges and paws at the door. Piper, now on full alert, crosses the ice cold floor, cracks the door just enough to peek out yet keep Aurora in, hears footsteps at the base of the stairs then a loud thump.

In spite of holding her collar Aurora burst through the door and charges into the hallway, Piper right behind. She sees her sister Kayden in the darkened hallway, rifle in one hand, finger to her lips for silence with the other. Piper tiptoed toward her and together they moved toward the stairwell...

Thus begins another fast-paced suspense that keeps readers in its grip until the last page is turned. The impossible-to-guess-ending revolves around Piper's prodigal brother Reef who returned to Yancy for a snowboard competition after a five year absence. When friend and fellow snowboarder, Karli Davis is found murdered Reef turns up in Piper's stairwell, unannounced, covered in blood and swears, "I didn't kill her."

Deputy Landon Granger, already in a complicated relationship with Piper, joins forces with Piper to find the truth.

Dee Henderson, author of Full Disclosure believes Pettrey is a "name to look for in romantic suspense." When I closed the cover I understood her endorsement. Dani combines, mystery, suspense and intrigue with a sprinkling of romance wrapped in a riveting multi-dimensional plot, around engaging, realistic characters. All a tribute to her writing skills and the reason she's known as a rising star in the genre' of inspirational romantic suspense.

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

A Matter of Trust
Lis Wiehl with April Henry
Thomas Nelson
10 East 53rd Street
New York, New York 10022
97815549037, $26.99,

I have read other books by Lis Wiehl and April Henry and their works have been great page turners but there is something very different about "A Matter of Trust." Usually it is fiction imitates reality. This time it is the exact opposite. "A Matter of Trust" opens with the shooting death of prosecutor Colleen Miller at her home. Her best friend, also a prosecutor Mia Quinn is on the phone talking to Colleen when the murder occurs. Mia is given the task to solve this murder and look into a very similar case of another prosecutor of the same office that was left unsolved who was also shot at his home. On the same day I began to read this chilling novel, I heard the unfolding story of the prosecutor murders in Texas and Colorado that are tied in to each other. That is what makes this book very different from other thrillers. There are several other story lines including how someone who is bullied decides to commit suicide. The authors have created a strong female character in Mia who is also a single mom with a teenage son and a young daughter, coping with her job and raising two children by herself. "A Matter of Trust" has numerous conflicts, realistic characters and a thrilling story that take readers along for the tense page turning ride ending with a great conclusion that has readers wanting more stories about prosecutor Mia. "A Matter of Trust" would make a great TV movie on the Lifetime Network.

Alex Cross, Run
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9780316097512, $27.99,

I don't know how Patterson does it but each novel of Alex Cross is better than the last one and "Alex Cross, Run" is a prime example of that. This time Patterson begins with Cross being called into another gruesome case. Cross also has a stalker setting him up in many different ways to embarrass him while Cross has something devastating happening in his personal life. Patterson once again with "Alex Cross, Run" shows why he is at the top of the list of suspense writers.

Unintended Consequences
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399159879, $26.95,

Woods is back with another great Stone Barrington tale. This time Stone wakes up in a room in Paris and has no idea where he is and how he got there. He encounters some very strange people and slowly begins to put some pieces together. Woods takes readers along on a fun new excursion into the world of Stone Barrington. "Unintended Consequences" is a great addition to the long list of Woods novels.

Tales From the Sea
Alexander Flint
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478712763, $10.95,

With all the recent negative press attention about the ships of the cruise line Carnival; it is nice to see that "Tales From the Sea" is a great collection of seventeen short stories that show what really happens on these type of ships. Flint has created interesting characters involved in fascinating situations aboard the Queen Elizabeth. There are some tales of love and others where passengers die on the cruise and there are others that show that human nature does not change no matter what the occasion. Readers will love turning pages to read the adventures that take place on the Queen Elizabeth. "Tales From the Sea" is filled with great story telling that would make a great movie or TV series.

Squirrels & Puppies Dark Morality Tales
Russell A Mebane
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781300035459, $10.63,

I'm not sure what genre "Squirrels & Puppies Dark Morality Tales" is in because the stories here are truly bizarre. In fact over the many years I have been reviewing books I can not remember any collection of short fiction that has been so weird. The author also experiments with several different writing styles, and the cover is very deceiving. There are no other words to describe "Squirrels & Puppies Dark Morality Tales"

Memories of Mount Dora Painting Series
Amy Sellers
Amy Sellers Art Gallery
411 N. Donnelly St., Ste 101
Mount Dora, FL 32757
No ISBN, $19.95,

Mt. Dora is a small city in Central Florida that is filled with so much culture. Artist Amy Sellers takes her paintings that she sells in her art gallery and presents them in "Memories of Mount Dora" Each one has an explanation, while the art work beautifully captures the city's people and its landmarks to convey the feel of this small often overlooked area of Central Florida.

The Color of Rain
Cori McCarthy
Running Press
2300 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-43371
9780762448210, $9.95,

From the press material that accompanied "The Color of Rain" it sounded like a very interesting YA science fiction novel with a teenage prostitute in space. I found that from the first page the novel was confusing and did not get much better after the first chapter. Sadly I did not finish this work because I have too many other books that do catch my fancy and deserve attention rather than something that is just too confusing in the many characters similar names and boring situations. I do not recommend "The Color of Rain" for many different reasons.

Oops Was Bullied? Hey, Why Did You Hurt Me That Way?
Sharon King Illustrated by Misty Bailey LaRoe
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478713647, $16.95,

"Oops Was Bullied? Hey, Why Did you Hurt Me That Way?" shows children why it is wrong to bully someone who is different from them and the effect it can have. An alien comes to earth and meets three boys who tell him he is ugly and they throw things at him. Luckily they leave but the damage is done of how the alien feels about himself. He also meets a young girl named Allie who shows him that not all people of this planet are like the first ones he encountered. The subject of bullying is in the news and the topic of many recent books and "Oops Was Bullied? Hey, Why did You Hurt Me That Way?" is an excellent book to use to teach children to not bully other kids.

John-Paul's Secret Recipe
John-Paul Pigeon, author
Amy Sellers Oors, illustrator
Gallery Press
P.O. Box 1536, Sorrento Fl, 32776-1536
97809787632123, $14.95,

"John-Paul's Secret Recipe" teaches kids how to make and wisely use money in a story about a boy who makes lemonade that he later sells to customers "John-Paul's Secret Recipe" is further enhanced by the boldly colored artwork by artist Amy Sellers.. Kids of all ages can enjoy this fun book about making Lemonade.

Melbert the Vegetarian Tyrannosaurus Rex
Marni Knight-Duncan
Create Space
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463782214, $10.00,

"Melbert the Vegetarian Tyrannosaurus Rex" appears to be a simple story for children that has beautiful artwork that adds to the story but it is so much more with its several underlying messages to all ages about being healthy and the importance of family and friends.

Melbert Discovers Surfing
Marni Knight-Duncan
Create Space
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781481169080, $10.00,

"Melbet Discovers Surfing" is the second adventure of Melbert the Tyrannosaurus Rex in which he learns several lessons that include when you play in the water by the beach, and the importance of logs. Like "Melbert the Vegetarian Tyrannosaurus Rex" there is lot of hidden symbolism that takes place in the story. Author, artist, Marni Knight-Duncan has a great character in Melbert and lets hope there are many more adventures to come.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

A Wanted Man
Lee Child
Dell Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780440246312, $9.99,

The action in this newest in the Jack Reacher series begins with a body discovered in what is apparently an abandoned pumping station in rural Nebraska, an eyewitness able to give only scant details of the two men he saw with the victim, and who drove away in a bright red car afterwards. Very shortly thereafter, in addition to the local police, representatives of several governmental agencies designated by groups of letters such as CIA and FBI descend on the area. An alert is quickly put in place on all highways along the area interstates for the two men.

Jack Reacher is variously described here as ex-military, specifically a former major in the Criminal Investigation Division of the Military Police, now unemployed and essentially homeless, self-described, most pertinently here, as "just a guy, hitching rides." On the same mid-winter night, he has been standing at the side of an on-ramp for over an hour when he is given a ride in a car with two men and a woman inside, his ultimate destination being Virginia. That destination and his present appearance, the main feature of which is a badly broken nose, are the aftermath of events at the end of the last book in the series; an imposing figure overall, the broken nose is probably the main reason why it took so long for him to be offered a ride.

Initially the points of view alternate between Reacher and Julia Sorenson, the FBI Special Agent first called to the crime scene, a very capable 25-year Bureau veteran out of the Omaha field office. Eventually their paths cross, and they work together to get to the bottom of what turns out to be anything but your average murder.

The book is everything one can expect in a Lee Child/Jack Reacher novel, including terrific plotting and characterizations, and especially Reacher himself, who, when asked by one of the men in the car that picked him up, "You don't like to be pushed around, do you, Mr. Reacher?" responds "I don't know. I've never been pushed around. If it ever happens, you'll be the first to find out whether I like it or not." He demonstrates once again his vast knowledge of relatively arcane trivia, such as the population and area codes of almost any spot in the United States. It's great to have him back, and the novel, one I swiftly devoured, is highly recommended.

Dead Last
James Hall
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250015297, $14.99,

I have come late to this author's books, of which there have sixteen between 1987 and today, many of them in the series whose protagonist is Daniel Oliver Thorn, "the man from Key Largo" known simply as Thorn, whose well-deserved reputation is that of someone "going off the rails at warp speed." As this most recent book in the series opens, Thorn is drawn into the investigation of serial murders committed by a person dubbed as "the obit killer," with the police believing that the killer, who leaves a recent, seemingly unrelated obituary near his victims' bodies, has found secret codes hidden in them, codes he uses as blueprints for his killings."

Thorn contacts April Moss, the journalist who wrote the obituaries in question for The Miami Herald, a woman he met many years ago and with whom he had a very brief, but very intense, history, also known as a one-night stand. In an odd coincidence [or is it?], April has two sons, both of whom work on the cable TV show "Miami Ops;" one of them is the head writer for the show, the other is an actor in it. The other common factor in these killings is that it appears that they are copycats of plots used in the scripts for the show.

The supporting characters are all memorable: Laurence Sugarman, known to all as "Sugar," Thorn's friend and a "security professional" - - they were lifelong friends, "Thorn, a loner by choice;" Sugar, of mixed race " an outsider by blood"); April's mother, Garvey, a feisty senior citizen; their Doberman, Boxley; but most of all, Rusty Stabler, Thorn's lover for two years and his wife for a month (after it was discovered that she had terminal cancer), and the young woman whose foster mother was Rusty's aunt, a nineteen-year-old small-town Sheriff with the unlikely name of Buddha Hilton, an unforgettable character who gets Thorn entangled in the investigation.

The novel is written with lyrical prose that suddenly turns an interesting novel into something more urgent, at once literally breaktaking and unputdown-able, and it is highly recommended.

A Room Full of Bones
Elly Griffiths
Mariner Books
c/o Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St., Boston MA 02116
9780544001121, $14.95,

Dr. Ruth Galloway, the 41-year-old Head of Forensic Archaeology at the University of North Norfolk, returns in this new novel by Elly Griffiths. As the book opens Kate, the baby born to Ruth a result of a one-night stand with Detective Inspector Harry Nelson in an earlier entry in the series, is about to celebrate her first birthday. The relationship between Ruth and Harry is now, however, nearly non-existent: To save his marriage, when his wife realized the truth, he had promised never to see Ruth, or Kate, again.

Nelson, head of the county's Serious Crimes Squad of the King's Lynn police, now 43 years old and known as many things (male chauvinist pig among them), loves his wife and their two daughters. Despite his intention to remain true to his promise, he encounters Ruth following the discovery of the dead body of the curator of the Smith Museum, where Ruth is to attend what was to be the opening of a coffin containing the remains, it was thought, of a 14th-century bishop.

The man was thought to be in good health, and there is no evidence of foul play. However, when another death occurs within a few days of the first, the police believe there may be more involved than meets the eye, or the medical examiner's autopsy. There was quite a bit of controversy, it seems, about the museum's 'ownership' of skulls and skeletal remains of Aboriginal Australians, with very strong feelings that they should be repatriated to their native land. There is also a legendary curse associated with anyone who comes in contact with them.

The book is replete with mysticism and lore. The characters created by the author in this series continue to fascinate, and there is much discussion of animal rights as well as the repatriation issue. Having loved the other books in the series, this reader at first thought the book moved at a slower pace than the earlier entries, but by the end, as the various plot lines are resolved, and the suspense quickens, those reservations dissolved, and the book is recommended.

The Dark Hour
Robin Burcell
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062133472, $5.99,

Initially, in this book by Robin Burcell, it seems that the worst-case scenario in the storyline will be treachery of the marital and political kind. But that's only the tip of a much more sinister iceberg, and the tale that unfolds touches on such divers themes as a world-wide terror conspiracy, bioweapons, automated submarine drones, a Vatican spy, and even the lost kingdom of Atlantis. Also initially, this reader needed a healthy suspension of disbelief, a reaction I often have to thrillers, I must admit. But it isn't long before the author's skill in writing well-drawn characters that the reader comes to care about, and creating a taut action-packed plot, had me turning pages faster and faster right up to the exciting, nerve-tingling denouement.

In today's world, perhaps more than ever before, the threat of bioweapons is a very real one, and here the powers that be aren't even sure who the culprits are, that enigma continuing through most of the novel. The action takes place in various parts of the world, including the Cayman Islands, Washington. D.C., Paris, Switzerland, Brazil, Amsterdam, and San Francisco. The protagonists are Sydney Fitzpatrick, female FBI Special Agent and forensic artist, and Zachary Griffin, covert government operative, still grieving for his wife, a CIA agent believed to have died in an explosion two years ago. After the murder of a U.S. Senator, and with evidence that there is much more involved, a whole alphabet of government agencies become involved, e.g., FBI, CIA, NSA, DIA, and the possibly fictional ATLAS (Alliance for Threat Level Assessment and Security) and FCI (Foreign Counterintelligence Squad), NCTC (National Counterterrorism Center) et al.

This was only the second book by Ms. Burcell that I've read, but I can't wait for the next one in the series, which, luckily enough, I have in my possession: "The Black List," which came out in December, 2012, to which I greatly look forward. The book is, obviously, recommended.

S.J. Bolton
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250028563, $25.99,

The current obsession of Barney Roberts, a bright young boy with OCD, is something with which many in London are currently preoccupied: Five boys his age had disappeared in the last five weeks in South London, where Barney himself lives, their bodies turning up soon afterwards with their throats cut. And as the book opens, the bodies are being found more and more quickly, the killer seemingly escalating. Barney's den is covered with posters, maps and photographs about each boy, his kidnapping, and his death.

The police investigation is headed up by D.I. Dana Tulloch, of Lewisham's Major Investigation Team. Sure of only one thing, that the killings will continue, they have no clues. And someone, perhaps the killer, is taunting them online. On the periphery of the investigation is D.C. Lacey Flint, still recovering from the horrific event of her last case, in the aftermath of which she is still seeing a psychiatrist twice a week, fighting her own demons, unsure of whether or not still wants to remain a policewoman.

Barney is the youngest of a small group of kids (five boys and one girl) who are brave, and foolhardy, enough to do some investigating of their own. He also happens to live next door to Lacey Flint. One day he works up the nerve to ask her to help him find his mother, who apparently left several years ago, when he was four years old, and he is determined to track her down, going so far as to use all his meager wages working for a newsagent to run anonymous classified ads in very methodically and geographically plotted newspapers in London and beyond.

The novel is but the newest of several suspenseful books from this author, and characters, plotting and tension seen in her prior work are fully present here. The reader is never more than guessing at the possible identity of the killer, as are the detectives whose work is detailed here, knowing that if they do not succeed another boy will die. Obsession is a constant theme. This is another winner from S.J. Bolton, and is recommended.

Highball Exit
Phyllis Smallman
Touchwood Editions
340-1105 Pandora Ave.
Victoria, B.C., Canada, V8V 3P9
9781927129791, $18.95,

Billed as "a traditional mystery series serving Jack Daniels instead of tea," this is the fifth in Phyllis Smallman's Sherri Travis mysteries. The protagonist, who co-owns a restaurant/bar with her lover, Clay Adams, is going through difficult financial times in the current economy, and uneasy romantic times in her relationship with Clay. As the book opens, "Aunt" Kay arrives at Sherri's house in a police cruiser, and tells Sherri that her former waitress, 21-year-old Holly Mitchell, has been found dead, in what the police declare to be a suicide: There was what appears to be a suicide note with an empty highball glass sitting on it; it is their belief that she washed down some pills with a strong drink. Three months behind in mortgage payments, and terrified that she will lose the Sunset Bar & Grill, she finds a temporary solution to that problem when Aunt Kay persuades her to look into the young woman's death, made more urgent by the fact that there is no sign of Holly's baby, telling her that she will take care of the outstanding payments if Sherri will give her a week of her time.

Now thirty-one, Sherri's life had not been an easy one: Married when she was 19, she had survived the murder of her cheating husband, been kidnapped by a psychopath, and now takes martial arts classes, goes to the shooting range, and is never without her can of pepper spray, in spite of all of which she regularly suffers from panic attacks. Her current inquiries puts her life in danger from totally unexpected quarters, as she enters a world of drugs, sex workers, and perversion, but she is determined to get to the bottom of Holly's death and to find her baby.

The book is filled with interesting characters, starting with Elvis, "the only egret in all Florida who preferred hotdogs to fish;" feisty "Auntie" Kay, who had known Sherri from the age of five; Sherri's father, Tully, and Sherri's former mother-in-law, Bernice, who are now romantically involved, to Sherri's consternation.

This was a thoroughly entertaining novel, and it is recommended.

Death Comes Silently
Carolyn Hart
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425252093, $7.99,

This marks the twenty-first novel in the Death on Demand series featuring the mystery bookstore owner, Annie Darling, and her husband, Max, who runs Confidential Commissions, through which he offers "counsel to people in trouble." There is, of course, a death early on, a seemingly accidental drowning of Everett Hathaway, who was, strangely [it being early January], kayaking before somehow tipping out into the water and suffering hypothermia before drowning. Very soon thereafter there is another death, one that shakes Annie to the core: The victim was Gretchen Burkholt, who had taken Annie's place at the charity shop at which they both volunteered so that Annie could attend a booksigning at Death on Demand. When Annie returns to the shop after a series of calls from Gretchen, she discovers her body on the floor, a blood-covered ax nearby.

Annie is guilt-ridden at the fact that Annie herself should have been there, not Gretchen, and is determined to find the killer. When it becomes known that Gretchen had discovered something in the clothing that the dead man was wearing the night he died, with shocking implications, Annie is not persuaded that his death was an accident, and believes that that discovery might have led to Gretchen's death. Annie is aided in this by the usual cast of characters: husband Max, and his mother, Laurel; local crime writer Emma Clyde, whose booksigning took place on the night Gretchen was murdered, and Annie's long-time friend Henny Brawley. The reader is introduced to a whole cast of characters, any one of whom had a motive to kill

The action takes place in Broward's Rock, a barrier island 40 minutes from the South Carolina mainland described by the author as "undoubtedly the most glorious place in the universe to live." Fans of this delightful series will smile in recognition, as I did, at Agatha, the store's resident feline [the one who shares Annie and Max' home is named Dorothy L]. The story shifts from one to the other of these amateur sleuths, as they pursue different aspects of the investigation while the police continue to believe that Hathaway's death was an accidental drowning.

There are of course references to many much-loved mystery authors scattered along the way, along with the observation that "that was the comfort of mysteries. Bad things happened, but good people tried to make things better." A sentiment with which readers of this wonderful series can agree. A charming read, and recommended.

The Black Box
Michael Connelly
Grand Central
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455526956, $14.99,

This newest book by Michael Connelly in the Detective Harry Bosch series opens in 1992, when LA was in the throes of the civil unrest resulting in over 50 murders that followed the Rodney King police beating trial. Harry is called to the scene of a murder in the heart of South - Central LA, 45 miles from the suburban courtroom where the all-white jury had acquitted four LAPD officers accused of excessively beating a black motorist. The victim was a white woman, a 32-year-old blond photojournalist from Denmark. He was able to work the crime scene for less than an hour before being called out to other murders in the ongoing insanity.

Twenty years later, Harry is now working in the cold case squad. Now that "the 20th anniversary of the riots was approaching, the media savvy Chief of Police sent a directive to the lieutenant in charge of the Open-Unsolved Unit ordering a fresh look at all unsolved murders that occurred during the unrest in 1992 . . . The chief wanted to be able to say that all unsold ed murders from the riots were still under active investigation." His old case has been pulled from the archives and is now his to pick up again, and solve if he can.

The case was dubbed "the Snow White murder," unwittingly putting a racial spin on an horrific act of brutality. Now, years later, the thought that of all the racial tension and countless acts of arson, looting, and murder that had taken place, the one cold case that might actually be solved from those days would be that of a young white woman, does not go over well. To Harry, it is simply a matter of justice, to a victim over whose body he whispered an apology twenty years before, despite the fact that his relentless pursuit of that justice puts his career in jeopardy.

The "black box" of the title has more than one meaning here, but its primary meaning is a reference to the one crucial piece of evidence, analogous to the one thing looked for after a plane mishap, "the one thing that makes it all make sense." Slowly but surely, and despite the intervening decades, new leads start to emerge, and Bosch becomes reinvigorated, as does the reader. The book is not a page-turner in the usual sense, i.e., with suspense-driven tension and breath held, but 'simply' a terrific story, wonderfully well-told, that grips the reader and keeps him/her anxious to find out what will happen next as the story unfolds. And just when the reader thinks all the pieces of the puzzle are there, the author has one more surprise in store. This is a police procedural in the best sense of the term, and of the genre, and it is highly recommended.

If You Were Here
Alafair Burke
c/o HarperCollikns
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062208354, $25.99,

In her ninth novel, and second standalone, Alafair Burke introduces McKenna Jordan, a writer for the fictitious NYC Magazine. Before her marriage five years ago, she was McKenna Wright, who had spent four years as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, a job she lost in the aftermath of a police officer's shooting of a 19-year-old youth, there being a question as to whether or not the boy had been unarmed, the gun found nearby planted. McKenna's zealous investigation into that incident, accusing the officer of homicide and perjury, ultimately caused her disgrace and ended her prosecutorial career. This was soon followed by another, only slightly less traumatic event, when one of her best friends, beautiful West Point grad [and daughter of a two-star general] Susan Hauptmann, disappeared without a trace.

Now, all these years later, a cell-phone photo comes into McKenna's hands showing a mysterious Superwoman, a female crime victim who had plucked her attacker's body from the subway tracks to safety, who McKenna believes is that same friend, who she had become convinced was long dead. Susan, an athletic 32 years old who had been deployed in the Middle East prior to the time of her disappearance, could have easily been capable of the feat in the subway station.

There ensue a series of bizarre and seemingly unrelated incidents that this reader never saw coming, including but not limited to a mysterious private operative [hitman? private detective? something else altogether?], a dead cop, someone hacking into and forging e-mails, and no clue as to who is pulling the strings. The author somehow manages to tie them all up in a relentlessly intriguing plot.

Another well-written book by this author [who gives a tip-of-the-hat, without needing to name his completely recognizable protagonist, to Lee Child, which I loved], and recommended.

Dead and Buried
Stephen Booth
Little Brown
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781847444813, $26.95,

As this book opens, firefighters in the Peak District of England are fighting what seems to be a losing battle, trying to contain the flames engulfing this part of Derbyshire, with smoke covering acres and acres of the moors from the catastrophic wildfires that have been springing up, the worst seen in the area in decades, many undoubtedly the result of arson. But to D.S. Ben Cooper, his more immediate problem are the buried items found by the crew working one of the sites, and which appear to be clothing and other items - including a wallet and credit cards - which had belonged to a young couple who had seemingly disappeared over two years ago, in the middle of a snowstorm. They had last been seen in a local pub, with no trace found since, and the case, while no longer active, is as cold as it could be.

The Major Crime Unit is called in, and DS Diane Fry, Ben's old nemesis, is put in charge. [Diane had been his immediate supervisor before his promotion to detective sergeant.] Diane, for her part, couldn't be happier that she had, as she thought, put Derbyshire behind her, her career taking her on an upward path - - she has been with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit for six months, and is less than thrilled to be back again. In a bit of one-upsmanship, she soon discovers a dead body in the old abandoned pub - - Ben's office had received a call about a break-in there, but had yet to investigate.

With Ben's upcoming marriage to Liz Petty, a civilian crime scene examiner, coming up in a few months, the distraction of the wedding plans in which his fiancee is immersed causes him not a little irritation. Ben and the rest of his CID team at Derbyshire Constabulary E Division have their hands full, with the two investigations proceeding simultaneously, although Diane makes clear that the old case is her jurisdiction. Behind everything, the raging fires continue, a constant backdrop underlying everything which follows. The author's meticulous descriptions of the landscape make for a visceral sense of place.

Mr. Booth has once again created a suspenseful scenario, with many a twist and turn. This elegantly written novel is the 12th entry in the Cooper and Fry series, and at the end this reader reluctantly closed the book, fervently hoping it won't be the last.


Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Bad Luck and Trouble
Lincoln Child
Delacorte Press
Random House Digital, Inc.
c/o Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY
9780440336853, $9.99,

Bad Luck and Trouble is another action suspense book about Jack Reacher. Reacher is Lincoln Child's version of a Dirty Harry type independent investigator. Bad Luck and Trouble was written before The Affair in the Reacher series but the story comes after The Affair within the series timeline.

In this story, one of Reacher's former Army CID associates has been murdered and a many of his old team are missing. Former Sergeant Frances L. Neagley contacts Reacher through his bank account and tells him about the murder of their friend and colleague Calvin Franz and the disappearance of the other members of their old investigative team. Soon they are on the track of what happened but someone else is following their investigation. Soon bodies are dropping and the stakes involved in solving this crime become higher and higher.

Bad Luck and Trouble is a solid addition to the action suspense genre. There is just enough mystery to keep the reader guessing through the plot and enough action to keep you on your toes. If you can handle the bodies dropping throughout the book, this is a great escapist read. It is a solid tale that defines the core of today's adult action genre.

Cold Days
Jim Butcher
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451464408, $27.95,

Butcher with his Harry Dresden books has created a character with enough humor and panache that he has a huge fan base. Cold Days continues the story and has more than enough substance to keep Butcher's Dresden fans happy.

There are two general types of fantasy action stories. One is filled with conflict on the individual scale. This first type is more believable so it can form a more personal link to the reader. The other is filled with huge massive conflicts that project the story out of reality and into a realm beyond the framework of reality. The second has the difficulty of going so far into the unreal to lose the reader. In many of Butcher's books, this balancing act between what the reader can connect to and the unreality of the storyline can be a little much for the reader.

Dresden is the Timex watch or Energized Bunny of fantasy heroes. Every page is filled with another massive blow against him beating him down and down. He just picks himself up and goes straight to an even bigger smack down. What saves the story are the quips and deep morality Butcher gives to his character. The quips are those everyday people wish they could say during the daily grind of live and this brings the story home to the reader.

Dresden, now the Winter Knight, is given his first task from the Winter Fairy Queen Mab. It is a task that should be impossible, a mortal killing an immortal. His task becomes even harder because he has to fight to keep from being consumed by the power of being a Winter Knight. From the opening pages to the end, Harry has a life and death fight just to survive and this doesn't even take into account the tasks he has to do to stay human.

Finally Butcher, in this story, reveals enough of his deeper storyline to explain the war between supernatural forces that has just been hinted about in the books earlier in the series. This revelation saves the story from being just another smack down tale in the series to a key piece in the saga. This makes the book an important one to any fan of the series. But the Harry Dresden backstory is so massive that I can't recommend the book as an intro into the saga for the novice reader. The novice should read the other books first. An individual Harry Dresden book is a must for any fantasy reader and Cold Days is a must for any fan of the series but the frugal fan could easily wait for the mass market paperback.

Books: Crystal Clear Pond, Days Between Seasons, Faces of Doom, The Deuce of Pentacles, Eyes of an Eagle, Return of the Han (A Buck Rogers story), Murder Picnic Mysteries

See web page for selected short stories and book reviews

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left
Alex B. Berezow & Hank Campbell
250 West 57th, Street, Suite 1321
New York, NY 10107
9781610391641, $26.99,

I am instinctively wary of dogmatists with an axe to grind. And the authors, of Science Left Behind boast in their introduction (pp. 4-5) that, "What we describe in these pages amounts to a progressive war on science and reason.. And of all today's political philosophies, progressivism stands as the most pressing problem for science in our country. Progressives, not liberals, are the ones you see in the headlines trying to replace scientific research with unscientific ideology."

"Liberal," from the Latin word for freedom, refers to the philosophy that every person has the unrestricted right to do anything he wishes-so long as it does not lesson the rights and freedom of any other person. Since liberals universally detested him, a conservative named Adolf Hitler succeeded in convincing fellow evolutionary throwbacks that "liberal" was a dirty word and that liberals represented a politically incorrect attitude toward reality. As a consequence, liberals, particularly in America, abandoned the word that for all practical purposes meant "morally evolved," and started calling themselves progressives, as if the new name were not a synonym of the old. Now two anti-progressive moral retards (aka "conservatives") tell us that their denunciation of progressives is not a denunciation of liberalism. They dislike six, but have no problem with half-a-dozen. They also cherry-pick every policy that conservatives see as less-than-admirable, when it is advocated by an individual who happens to be liberal, and cite it as official "progressive" philosophy. They even identify (p. 4) the purely commercial scam, unrelated to politics, of selling garden food for up to double the price of identical products labeling it "organic," as a delusion promoted by "progressives."

Bill Maher called Sarah Palin a "cunt" on his HBO show. Certainly the word was insulting, perhaps even more insulting than "arsehole." But it was also generic, saying nothing more than that she is not an admirable person. Rush Limbaugh called a law student a "slut" for demanding that health insurance cover contraception. B & C make an issue (p. 216) of the left's denunciation of Limbaugh for his remark, while refusing to denounce Maher. Do B & C genuinely see a generic insult as equivalent to a vicious phallusocratic libel? Or are they simply liars who pretend to see an equivalence where there is none in order to win brownie points? The hardest thing to understand about Berezow and Campbell is why they are not working for the Faux News Channel.

"Thomas Malthus sired the vision that the human population will inevitably grow beyond its means to survive.. Malthus has been proven wrong over and over again." (p. 83) With the number of child-starvation deaths exceeding two million a year (, B & C have the barefaced gall to write, "The World Is Not Overpopulated." If I thought that they really believe that, I would be looking for a way to interest them in a bridge I have for sale in Brooklyn. But the Occam's razor explanation of their words is, as usual, that they are conscious liars aiming their propaganda at readers as rationally handicapped as themselves.

Just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, many of this book's targets (PETA, Jenny McCarthy) are indeed hypocrites or ignoramuses. The authors' blatant lying consists of identifying such organizations and individuals as poster-persons for left wing/ progressive/ liberalism. There is nothing liberal, or progressive, about endorsing disinformation. And just because Bill Maher is less than educated on many matters, that does not make him wrong when (p. 111) he "mocks religion as a mental disorder." If believing that a bible that states in fourteen places that the earth is flat is nonfiction, does not constitute a mental disorder, then what does?

The authors write (p. 254), "In his 2009 inaugural address, President Barack Obama promised to 'restore science to its rightful place.' Instead . he simply replaced conservative anti-science policies with progressive ones." My only disagreement with that is its inaccurate description of any anti-science policy as "progressive." Obama has indeed been a disappointment to persons who expected him to reverse George W. Bush's treasonous violations of the First Amendment's prohibition of any "law respecting an establishment of religion." But if theocratic behavior was not progressive when Bush did it, then calling it progressive when Obama does the same thing is the kind of special pleading that can legitimately be equated with lying. B & C are liars, and even though the bulk of their information is accurate, their spinning everything reprehensible as "progressive" makes their whole book a lie.

If Science Left Behind is the strongest argument evolutionary throwbacks can come up with in support of the pretense that progressive and reactionary politics are mirror images, liberals have little to fear.

Make the Break (If You Can)
Dr. Reginald J. Exton
Humanist Press
1777 T Street NW
Washington DC 20009
9780931779268, $9.99,

Dr Exton's primary handicap in writing about religion and its incompatibility with science, is that neither of his graduate degrees is in history or biblical analysis. He consequently has written a primer that spells out known reality at a middle-school level, but includes no evidence that backs up his assertions, and offers no rebuttal to persons capable of mistaking the opening chapters of Genesis for nonfiction.

Exton recognizes that, "humanity itself created gods and religions to shield itself from the unknown." He notes that, "Praying probably helps the person praying more than it helps those being prayed for because it apparently gives them an outlet to act and feel good for events they cannot control." And he recognizes that, "Often, the mythical beliefs become an obsession, making the individual a danger to society and to himself or herself." I seriously doubt that Make the Break will be read by any person who does not already know all of that.

So why did he bother writing it? His answer is, "My objective is to share, clearly and succinctly, the evidence that points to the human origin of religions." Unless I blinked and missed it, the "evidence" referred to must have wound up on the cutting room floor. Other than inaccuracies that only a biblical historian would spot, nothing in Exton's book disputes what I already knew to be true. But it has nothing to say to potential non-theists who are looking for a convincing reason to abandon their cultural brainwashing. Such persons should go to Michael Arnheim, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Bart Ehrman, Sam Harris, William Harwood, Christopher Hitchens, S.T. Joshi, Martin Larson, Robert Price, and Victor Stenger.

Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About It
Sean Faircloth
Pitchstone Publishing
1909 Stillhouse Road
Charlottesville, VA 22901
9780984493241, $21.95,

Sean Faircloth was twelve when he started reading The Children's Bible, and immediately wondered why a supposedly loving god would order Abraham to murder his son. He asked himself (p. 23) "Would a truly moral person obey such a command? Would a moral god issue such a command-even as a test of loyalty?" Since he is no longer a god addict, he clearly reached the right answers.

Faircloth starts his book by blowing the Big Lie that the American Constitution was based on Christian principles out of the water. He quotes statements by Thomas Jefferson (6), James Madison (4), John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington that, had they been spoken in the theofascist context of 21st century politics, would have guaranteed that none of them could win an election for dogcatcher.

Faircloth identifies (p. 12) "the fifty most egregious theocrats" in Congress, "all but three of them Republicans, omitting those who merely voted for theocratic policies while not being vocal about them." Notable among the fifty are Michele Bachman and John Boehner. He quotes Bachman's illiterate utterance (p. 93) that, "There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design," along with her declaration (p. 93) that, "believers in evolution represent a cult following." Anyone who does not see a Congressperson who believes that as criminally miseducated would not be reading this book. If millions of Germans had not been as incapable as Bachmann of questioning their brainwashing, there would never have been a Hitler. With Congress already on his side, a "Nehemiah Scudder" could make himself America's First Prophet as easily as Hitler made himself Germany's Fuhrer.

John Boehner (p. 94) advocates teaching creationism in public schools, and requiring women to submit to "biased counseling" before terminating an unwanted pregnancy. As Faircloth summarizes (p. 106), "Theocratic statements may be funny at first, but when such fanatical positions are articulated by many of the 535 most powerful people in America, it makes us take stock of what a serious problem we face."

Faircloth criticizes the news media for selective reporting. He points out (p. 73) that, while most readers will be aware that John F. Kennedy was "rather friendly with a number of women," far less are aware that Martin Luther King "had similar friendships with women." But while deploring the unequal reporting, he contrasts Kennedy and King with more recent taboo-breakers, on the ground that Kennedy and King "did not partake in hypocritical lectures about sex." He states that they "understood real morality and spoke for morality at its most essential and its most vital.. Repugnant obsession among those on the Right . with sexual trivia is deeply immoral because it distracts us from the real moral issues." While he does not cite Robert Heinlein's definition that, "sin means hurting someone unnecessarily; all other 'sins' are invented nonsense," like virtually all nontheists he agrees with its essential truth.

He refuses to condemn god addicts for their beliefs rather than their actions (p. 39): "I completely disagree with those who stigmatize Muslims as a group, but we should also face unflinchingly the extremist and violent actions taken in the name of religion." Among atrocities motivated by religion, but which the media habitually attribute to aberrant individuals who violated the "true spirit" of religion, are the following:

page 25: "In so-called faith-healing homes, children with otherwise treatable maladies . have died and continue to die in agonizing torture. It is unconscionable that, in most states, there are so-called faith-healing exemptions to basic child-protection law."

page 38: "Back in Maine I found delicious irony in the fact that fundamentalists passionately pointed to those biblical passages condemning homosexuality, yet never mentioned the prohibition of eating shellfish, a biblical edict that would be none too helpful to Maine's emblematic lobster industry."

page 39: "In 2002 in Saudi Arabia, fourteen girls burned to death in their school. Why? The country's 'religious police' blocked the schoolgirls from exiting their burning school building and blocked rescue workers from entering because the girls weren't wearing proper Islamic dress!"

page 45: "fundamentalist pharmacists in several states get special permission from state legislatures to ignore their professional duties and to even deny rape victims emergency contraception.. We must pass the Access to Birth Control Act, which would require prescriptions to be filled without delay."

page 48: "Religious extremists talk about choosing life, yet they halt research that could save millions of lives."

page 49: "It is unconstitutional to allow religious organizations that get federal funds to hire and fire employees because of their religion.. The George W. Bush administration permitted each of these unconstitutional activities, labeling them 'faith-based' initiatives. Despite his promise, President Obama has failed to reverse this unconstitutional policy.. To be consistent with our Founders and our Constitution, the U.S. government must overturn all faith-based initiatives and end preferences for religious organizations."

pages 52-53: "Civil marriage law was historically used to legally encode segregation. Blacks and whites couldn't marry each other in some states.. Constitutional amendments seeking to define marriage as 'one man, one woman' must also be opposed."

page 53: "The free expression clause of the First Amendment continues to protect religious freedom as always. Congressional action to 'restore' a freedom, such as the ability to ignore laws others must obey, is nothing more than special rights dressed up pretty."

page 55: "Whether we will teach our students the truth about science and history has now become a point of political contention, as religious bias competes with reality.. Textbooks and teachers must present accurate information on evolution, the age of the universe, America's secular founding, and laws affecting church-state separation."

page 60: "over thirty-five states offer some form of faith-harming exemptions from commonsense child protection laws that the rest of us must obey."

pages 76-77: "Let's be passionate and vocal about allowing consenting adults to make their own decisions.. Let's celebrate sex, not because we are immoral but because we are moral."

page 91: "Do we have a theocracy in America? Not yet. But at no other time in American history have we had such a high percentage of theocratic members of Congress.. Biased laws have been enacted despite our Constitution."

page 108: The first President Bush justified laws discriminating against the 36% of Americans who do not have an imaginary playmate in the sky in the words, "I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

pages 111-112: "[I]t's difficult to imagine Barry Goldwater or Gerald Ford referencing the Book of Revelations (sic) in specific connection with military policy. President Bush did so when discussing Iraq with French president Jacques Chirac."

page 112: "Jack Kennedy was almost uniformly applauded for his speech in Houston favoring church-state separation.. Senator Rick Santorum and former governor Sarah Palin have both reached back five decades to condemn Kennedy's Houston speech."

page 113: "As a whole, the 'nones' (people who report no religious affiliation) shot up dramatically.. It's clear that the number of Americans who care about secular values is vastly undercounted. This under reporting is . the result of polling questions that are just not phrased to get the most accurate result."

page 127: "openly non-theist members of Congress can do something very meaningful as well, simply by setting an example. You know who you are. We already know of over twenty-five secular members of Congress in office today, and those are just the ones who have said so to us confidentially." What he perhaps does not know is that, on the basis of statistical probability, the number of the 535 members of Congress who are non-theists must be at or near 193.

Among Faircloth's recommendations for an America in which all citizens are equal, perhaps the timeliest is (p. 134), "While marriage can be defined by a religion as that religion so chooses for the purpose of its internal ceremonies, our government shall never impose a religious law on the definition of marriage."

While I endorse all of Faircloth's recommendations to combat a clear and present danger, I would like to add one of my own. To get through to the Manchurian Candidate-ized masses the danger that creeping theocracy poses to freedom, democracy, civilization, and even the survival of the human race beyond the 23rd century, might I suggest finding the most visible, intransigent theocrat, and executing him/her, naked and without a face mask, on live television in prime time? Like all civilized human beings, I view capital punishment as revolting and subhuman. But when the alternative is anthropocide, the extermination of the human race.

William Harwood

Janet's Bookshelf

The Family Mansion
Anthony C. Winkler
Akashic Books
232 Third St., Suite A115
Brooklyn NY 11215
9781617751660, $15.95 pbk., Kindle $9.99

Hartley Fudges, a nineteenth century, English, upper class twit is the main character in Anthony C. Winkler's new novel, The Family Mansion. The story begins in 1805 England when at age twenty three, Hartley has to face the bitter truth - his prospects, indeed his life, have been blighted by the rule of primogeniture.

Unless you're a number one son, the then existing law of primogeniture guaranteed a life of penurious insolvency - only the first born male could inherit family properties, bank accounts and objects d'art. Numbers two to how ever many other sons survived childhood (difficult to do in an environment of open drains and free flowing sewage) didn't get a cent or more properly for the time, a penny.

Public school educated, Hartley lists among his accomplishments a working knowledge of the ancient Greeks; in particular the philosophy of Plato and the jewel in the crown: received pronounciation. Instilled in public school boys at an early age, RP, a posh way of speaking where vowels and consonants are delivered with an unattractive nasal intonation, instantly marks the speaker as a gentleman. Nineteenth century gentlemen, bound by the strict social conventions of the time, did not work, that vulgar pastime was reserved for the middle and lower classes. A second son of a Duke, Hartley's only options were: marry a rich woman, enlist in the armed forces or emigrate to one of Britain's colonies where, away from the eyes of polite society he could find employment that would provide for his preferred lifestyle of wine, women and lots of them.

Hartley figures a rich women is the ticket and courts a wealthy young widow. The future looks ticketty-boo until after dinner one night, the widow suggests a tryst in the library with a view to checking Hartley out in the pants department. Found to be over endowed, the widow declares further dalliance with Hartley could be injurious to her health and calls off their fledgling romance.

Understandably peeved by this turn of events, Hartley brainstorms a solution to his financial problems. It occurs to him that if his older brother, Alexander, were to die then his money worries would be over. How to bring about the demise of his father's heir is quickly solved. Gentlemen in the eighteen hundreds fought duels on the slightest pretext; Hartley hires a go-between who will arrange a duel between Alexander and a paid assassin. Before you can say "there's never enough snuff" Alexander will be dead and the future will be rosy.

Anthony Winkler's elegant crisp prose abounds with witty one liners and lol bawdiness. The assassination plan and following duel scene is written with a wonderful lightness of touch which incorporates a vivid description of putrid smelling, 1805 London; the slums, the drains and the pick-pockets and rogues who lay in wait for the unwary.

Hartley, discovered by his father to have authored the attempted assassination of Alexander is given one hundred pounds and a one way ticket on a schooner bound for Jamaica. His instructions: get a job and don't return to England for a very long time.

The history and colonization of Jamaica is woven seamlessly into the story - the disgusting slave trade described in a way that exposes the greed of the plantation owners and the crushing brutality of the white overseers who dispensed justice as a god given right.

Hartley arrives in Jamaica and makes his way to a hillside plantation to take-up a job as an overseer. Along the way he buys a slave, Cuffy, who has a profound affect on his life in Jamaica. After several weeks, Hartley succumbs to yellow fever. Cuffy nurses him back to health and refusing to forsake his gentlemanly ways and go 'native' in the punishing heat, Hartley, not a bad man, just a rather silly one, dresses and behaves as befits an English gentleman. What he doesn't know is: love is waiting to enslave him in a way that an English gentleman could never possibly foresee or explain.

The Family Mansion is written with the comic sensibility of Wodehouse and the insightful social comment of Orwell. Anthony Winkler, a native of Jamaica, has created a satirical, compassionate account of life in the colony of British Jamaica in the early 1800's where fear, prejudice and violence were the local currency. If your knowledge of Jamaican history is limited (mine was) then The Family Mansion will have you searching for more - good writing and a great read.

Little Girl Gone
Tucker Mayer
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466236189 $14.95 pbk. Kindle $2.99

There may be more villainous villains that have been written about other than Edmond Santes and his son Phillipe but I don't think so. The method d'jour of offing anyone unfortunate to be imprisoned in their Colombian fortress is an excruciating death by predatory fish; fish that invade a living body and eat away the internal organs leaving only skeletal remains. Seriously frightening, these really, really bad guys loom large in Tucker Mayer's thriller, Little Girl Gone.

Set in the US and Colombia, the story revolves around the selling of cocaine, the laundering of money and the actions Santes' takes to make sure those involved in his distribution network toe the line. US authorities, aware of the Colombian drug rings activities have little success in stopping either the spread of cocaine or the bogus bank accounts setup with the profits.

Pete Zwicker, an ex-Vietnam vet is haunted by the dogs of war and the kill-or-be-killed battles he was part of in the jungles of Vietnam. After returning from three tours of duty in Vietnam, he assaulted and killed a guy who bad-mouthed the war and the men who fought it. Jailed for 15 years he was released early on condition he mentor groups of troubled young men and in so doing, help them turn their lives around. An anti-hero is ever there was one; Tucker Mayer has created in Pete Zwicker, a likeable but flawed character with the derring-do of Indiana Jones and the my-might-is-right of Jack Reacher.

Seeking to control the dogs of war that have invaded his psyche, Zwicker lives a quiet life at his Florida orange grove, making a living by playing golf for money. Recommended by a woman whose son he helped, he is asked to find a missing teenage girl. Reluctant at first, he is drawn in by meeting her parents and the conviction that Alli Danderall was abducted from the US and is being held prisoner by Edmond Santes' Colombian drug syndicate.

Pete Zwicker puts together a team of three fellow ex-Vietnam vets. Their mission: do whatever it takes to bring Alli home. Pete has a sneaking feeling that during the assault on the Santes' home a medic would be really useful. Struck down by a freak act of nature, Pete is helped by medic, Carly Winter. A hot babe with a black belt in karate, Carly's in trouble; her husband and immediate family have been murdered by a drug gang and now they want her dead as well. Pete puts paid to an attempt on her life and Carli joins his team.

Making contact with Santes before he leaves the US, Pete gets an invitation to drop by the Santes' family fortress whenever he visits Colombia. The team arrive in Colombia, the plan: Pete and Carly will go to dinner at Santes' home and after getting the better of him and his reptilian son will search for and liberate Alli. Meanwhile the rest of the team will set up machine guns etc wherever necessary to knockout the security guards when Pete, Carly and Alli make, what is sure to be, a hasty exit.

It doesn't involve rocket science to realize that Pete's plan is a bit short on manpower and local knowledge. This doesn't spoil what is a rip roaring, hugely exciting ride through the passages and dungeons of the Santes' prison. Well written in a fast and furious style, neither the reader nor Pete and Carly have time to draw breath as they fight their way through to where Alli has been imprisoned. A big surprise awaits Pete - there are more prisoners than he planned for. What to do? Why get them out, of course. And with the help of his team that's what happens. The climax, a page-turning game of cat and mouse with Santes and the Colombian Navy, the pace doesn't let up until the harbor lights of US territory are on the horizon.

Tucker Mayer has constructed an unusual, intriguing thriller with a plot that constantly surprises. My only complaint: after the rescue is completed there is some unnecessary toing and froing between Pete Zwicker and the US President which slows down the story. A cut to the last chapter which has an exciting plot twist setting up the opening for the next in the Pete Zwicker series would have been more appropriate. That said: Jack and Indie fans take note; Pete Zwicker is the new guy on the block.

False As The Day Is Long
Sandra J. Robson
Rainbow Books Inc.
P.O. Box 430
Highland City, FL USA 33846
9781568251462, $16.95 pbk., Kindle $5.95

At forty two, Florida based, ex photo-journalist Keegan Shaw is an amateur surfer (two foot high waves are her specialty), a reluctant detective and the part-time lover of Tom Roddler. Keegan's pretty sure the part of the time when Tom's not with her, he's with another gal, name of: Sunni Russell. Sunni's got a problem; her sixty something mother, Abby, is about to fly to London and Sunni wants to know why. Reared by her mother with the help of a wealthy, recently deceased stepfather, Sunni doesn't know who her birth father is, or was, and Abby won't tell.

After a sex-sensational stay in the Bahamas with Tom Roddler, Keegan is persuaded by him to hire out to Sunni, her brief: masquerade as a psychic and join Abby, a true karma believer, on her London flight to investigate the why of the trip and the wherefore of Sunni's father. Uncomfortable about foretelling anything except maybe the spirit in a cocktail, Keegan Shaw, the star of author, Sandra J. Robson's exciting new mystery, False As The Day Is Long, joins Abby's flight.

Keegan doesn't have to assume the psychic disguise; after introductions (Abby's karma guide told her to watch out for a guardian angel with the initials: K.S.) they hit it off big-time. Seems like Abby is haunted by happenings that happened in London over forty years ago; her friend, Susan Miachi, was brutally bashed and murdered in the apartment they shared with Nigel, a gay guy.

Susan's murder, still unsolved, Abby feels the only way she can move on and stop the recurring nightmares of her friend's death is to return to London and try to find out whether someone from the 60's hippie group they both belonged to was responsible.

Embarrassed by spilling the beans to a stranger (even one with the initials of a guardian angel), on arrival, Abby splits from Keegan in the airport luggage area without passing on her London hotel address. This presents a dilemma to Keegan; Sunni has given Abby's address to her but to keep the investigation a secret she has to devise a means of accidentally bumping into Abby or setting up around the clock surveillance - a bit tricky when there's only one operative.

Sandra Robson has created an engaging tell-it-like-it-is character in Keegan Shaw. Written in a quirky witty style the description of London street life and streetscapes made me feel I was right there with Keegan as she navigates streets and lanes, catching up with what's gone down or up since her last visit in the eighties.

Abby and her 1960s' pals were heavily involved in a progressive, quite possibly crappy art scene where miniskirts, free love and drugs were all you needed to be a hit with the in crowd. Renewing acquaintance with them, Abby finds, despite the forty plus years gap in their friendship, not much has changed. She re-connects with Keegan and they go to Abbey's former lover, Joseph's gallery opening. Stuff happens - bad stuff; Abby, standing on the pavement in front of the gallery is pushed in front of a car. Was it an accident or was it deliberate? Abby votes for deliberate and so does Keegan.

Worried for Abby's safety, Keegan discovers nothing is as it seems, secrets and lies mask the identity of Susan's killer. Close to a breakthrough in the investigation, Keegan meets a nasty guy who segues to really really nice, spunky as well. She puts him on hold; determined to find out who murdered Susan and the identity of Sunni's father, Keegan interviews the major players in the 1960's murder mystery.

Abby's friends all share a common trait - they're accomplished liars. The weather in London, wet and woeful, Keegan decides it was all so long ago that only Susan's killer knows what really happened and as Abby won't divulge the identity of Sunni's father, maybe exiting centre stage is the best option. She can't leave - Abby is in real danger.

In a suspenseful, fast paced climax with as many surprises, twists and turns as a 60's psychedelic happening, Keegan unmasks the identity of Susan's killer and Sunni's father. Great ending - who would have thought? I didn't.

I liked False As The Day Is Long - a well written mystery with a fun, realistic lead character. The next Keegan Shaw mystery is on my wish-list.

Blood On The Stage 1975 - 2000
Amnon Kabatchnik
Scarecrow Press Inc
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200
Lanham, MD 20706
9780810883543, $125.00 hc, Kindle $74.39

A good mystery is a thing of joy to me and especially joyful is the experience of being part of an audience when a tale of mayhem and not a little murder takes centre stage - sitting in the stalls watching actors unravel an intriguing who-dun-it is an adrenalin racing, spine tingling experience.

Amnon Kabatchnik, author of Blood On The Stage 1975 - 2000 has compiled a list of these heart hammerers and a marvellous list it is; each play selected (there are over 80) has a detailed plot synopsis, info on the productions and staging of the work, bio sketches of the playwright, director, actors, and reviews by major critics.

Don't want to rave but am going to; so lovely to read about forgotten faves and relive the performance: Patricia Highsmith's 'The Talented Mr. Ripley'; a wonderful book, play and film (if there's a t-shirt, I need to know). Ripley's charm, impeccable good manners coupled with his chillingly creepy, dark-side were faithfully reproduced in Phyllis Nagy's stage adaptation. I'd forgotten how wonderful the sets were, some of the action takes place at sea - easy to depict if it's a movie but stage set design needs expertise to get an ocean liner mood right. The critics must have agreed with me because the reviews were unanimous; Phyllis Nagy and all concerned with the international productions were awarded top marks.

What is particularly engaging about Blood On The Stage is I've discovered books that were translated to the stage that I didn't know about. 'To Kill A Mockingbird' is on my top ten booklist - I've seen the film and now I know there's a play, I'll be watching out for a production.

Amnon Kabatchnik's entertaining research and reporting style makes for a really interesting read. He has included reports on all mystery theatre genres staged between 1975 - 2000: psychological dramas, who-dun-its, classical detectives, comic mysteries and let's not forget: musicals with a corpse in the cast list.

Some of the well-known playwrights included are: Anthony Shaffer, Jeffrey Archer, Terence Rattigan, David Mamet, Tom Stoppard, Ira Levin, Simon Brett, Stephen Sondheim, Lesley Bricusse and lots more. What is especially interesting is reading about some of their lesser known works - Lesley Bricusse gained an international reputation with his musical 'Stop The World, I Want To Get Off' but did you know in 1988 his play 'Sherlock Holmes - The Musical' was produced in Exeter, England? He wrote the book, lyrics and score... serious fun, love to see it. Similarly there are other plays written by playwrights unknown to me that have whetted my appetite - currently googling for more info on possible future productions.

Blood on the Stage 1975 - 2000 is a keeper. Doesn't matter whether you are a student or fan of mystery theatre, if you enjoy exciting puzzling stories (each play's synopsis is a descriptive short story without dialogue) then at 603 pages, Amnon Kabatchnik's scholarly recording of milestone plays is a book that is easy to dip into and return to, both for reference and pleasure. If you can't get it for yourself, lobby your local library or college and share the enjoyment.

Janet Walker, Reviewer

Josh's Bookshelf

Odds & Ends: An Assortment of Sorts
Dustin LaValley
Raw Dog Screaming Press
No ISBN, Price: Free

Dustin LaValley is a young, rising author who has already rooted himself as the modern voice of anti-genre literature. Though for convenience sake he, his work and this book itself has been categorized as fringe fiction for lack of a better term thus far.

His ability to create thought-provoking and well crafted stories in any genre is one of rarity. As the title suggests, here with Odds & Ends: An Assortment of Sorts we see how in a tight little package he really can offer an assortment. From dark thrillers, human-horror, absurdism, noir, political, social commentary and even alternative romance and love, LaValley offers his array of fifty stories under 250 words each with care and precision. These "micro-shorts" are each one compelling and striking in their own unique and individual short spans. Extremely short they may be, the thoughts that linger on after each story are much more dramatic than any 500 page novel. His voice is poetic and beautiful though not unwilling to be brash, bold and sharp. His demographic aimed at the lost twenty-something bored with today's redundant fiction though accepted by all ages and sexes.

Along with an introduction by Stoker Award-winning author and English Professor Michal Arnzen, Odds & Ends is illustrated by accomplished tattoo artist Jody Adams making this free E-Book a unique piece of compiled fiction.

The works themselves in this collection are manufactured unlike any other stories long or short. LaValley has taken the formula of fiction and erased the borders. He has taken apart the format and put it back together with aspects of other forms and mediums of artistic expression such as the transcript, radio script, comic script, screenplay and even technological lingo and code. Creating a movement that allows the author to convey a story in ways unlike anything being done in modern literature.

Provoking images of a mesh compiled of the early works of Brett Easton Ellis, William Burroughs, Chuck Palahniuk, and Hubert Selby Jr., this micro-fiction collection quickly shakes off the feelings of those who have come before and demands its own standard and appeal. To place Odds & Ends in a genre would be an insult and a tragedy, as this really is something that is common to no one label if one at all. It is beyond experimentation phase, growing into its own and is nudging through formulaic literature to plant itself and flourish. With the access to this book being free for all to download in every E-Book file from sources such as Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Amazon the author and his publisher Raw Dog Screaming Press have rooted LaValley even further into his own non-brand.

With Odds & Ends Dustin LaValley has initiated a free range movement, rooting himself as one of the leading voices of modern day anti-genre literature.

Narcotic Nation
Scarlett Savage
ASJ Publishing
1482016362, $23.99

Scarlett Savage writes with a flow of beauty to her prose, the embers of a fire that never die. A poetic voice, words like ashes glowing in the darkness caught in a summer night breeze to spread across the land to fall upon dry, crisp leaves. Sparking and catching and creating something uncontrollable, something disastrous though in a way, stunning.

Narcotic Nation starts off with a literal bang and from there at that very moment, catches aflame. The story is one of a world much like our own with a difference that is a current and has been a current subject of debate: drugs. As the title suggests, this novel centers on drug culture. It also includes that which is deeply rooted within said culture: rock and roll. Following characters that inhale and exhale breaths as real and deep as our own, they tug at our hearts and challenge perceptions. They come to be close; neighbors, friends and family. These denizens of Narcotic Nation travel through their lives sharing with us intimate moments that entice and entertain, their ups and downs and inner struggles.

With Savage's ability to thrill, allure and prompt thought on social and cultural norms she has with Narcotic Nation written a tight commentary on not only a heated subject and the human condition, but all the trials and tribulations that society creates for the sole individual.

Narcotic Nation is an invigorating injection into the very soul of alternative American literature.

Josh O'Conner

Karyn's Bookshelf

Russell Hoban, author
Alexis Deacon, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763659202, $15.99,

A soon-to-be-father must face his fears in this powerfully penned, hauntingly illustrated Arctic tale. Sixteen-face John has been in a slow life slide, putting less and less effort into himself, his work as a shaman and other things once of importance. He remains, as since childhood, stymied by anxiety and worry. His 16 faces represent the different masks he assumes to cope with all that scares him. John is the last person you would pick to summon the courage to save the world. But when it becomes clear that his unborn child isn't thriving due to something missing, that is needed for her birth, he reluctantly embarks on a journey to recover the World Songs that lure all children from the womb. In a perilous, poignant journey across the frozen north, he converses with spirits, relives past events, atones for past wrongs and sheds his faces, becoming vulnerable in a way that is needed to complete his mission. Throughout, just-right injections of humor continually lighten the story's intensity. The story and accompanying pencil and charcoal illustrations are alternately funny, dark and deeply thought provoking. One to pick up again and again, with a timeless message that will re-resonate with each read; a stunning collaboration.

Paul Thurlby's Wildlife
Paul Thurlby, author and illustrator
Templar Books
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763665630, $17.99,

Fun, factual snippets about two dozen wild creatures combine with art that is sophisticated yet simple, uncluttered and kid-pleasing. This is a follow-up to Thurlby's 2011 similarly retro-feeling, graphic alphabet primer. As with "Paul Thurlby's Alphabet," the digital artwork again looks old, crackled and purposely distressed. Intentional imperfections, in fact, make the book accessible, lending an ease and comfort that will attract young readers. In the succinct text, kids will learn things they're sure to retain and repeat: that dogs have unique nose prints; that hibernating bears don't poop for up to six months; and that giraffes have a 21-inch-long tongue. Superb, yet again.

Jemmy Button
Jennifer Uman, author and illustrator
Valerio Vidali, author and illustrator
Templar Books
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763664879, $16.99,

A talented author-illustrator duo pairs stunning illustrations with the memorable, true story of an 18th Century South American boy brought to England to be "civilized." The boy, nicknamed Jemmy Button for a button his parents were given at his departure, spends many years in upper-class British society. But when finally allowed to go back to his remote native island, the experiment collapses; the boy chooses to remain there instead of returning to his adopted world. This isn't a light-hearted story; homesickness and separation from all things familiar are reflected in the choice of muted, sometimes dark illustrative hues. But though never humorous, there is palpable joy in the boy's ultimate recognition of where he belongs and throughout the book, in his personal perseverance amid difficult circumstances. Beautiful and notable.

Open Very Carefully: A Book With Bite
Nick Bromley, author
Nicola O'Byrne, illustrator
Nosy Crow
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763661632, $15.99,

A classic children's tale quickly takes a raucous turn when a crocodile begins eating the letters..then moves on to the words, threatening the entire book! But a young, gray swan, the hero of the classic "Ugly Duckling," fights back. He colors a ballet tutu on the crocodile with a crayon to make him look less scary, and finally chases him out of the book. Throughout, young readers are invited to participate in the action. "Do you dare to keep looking?," readers are asked soon after the crocodile makes his first appearance. "You do? Then turn the page very, very carefully." Later, it's suggested that readers shake the croc out of the book. Pure fun.

Emily Gravett, author and illustrator
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781442452312, $17.99,

A tired-eyed dragon parent indulges their youngster, named Cedric, with multiple readings of the same bedtime story. With each reading, the story changes a bit to reflect the parents' growing weariness. "Cedric the dragon's a big sleepyhead. He's decided it's time HE WAS REALLY IN BED," goes rendition number three. When the parent suddenly falls asleep, things get fiery. No amount of tantrum succeeds in waking up the exhausted adult, but Cedric does manage to burn a hole in his storybook, which is also the last page of the actual book. In a great use of color, Cedric's initial, calm green scales gradually turn blazing red as he loses his temper. And in excellent attention to detail, characters in Cedric's storybook scramble to avoid his fiery breath, as it burns the hole in their world. Not a moralistic tale about regaining control; Cedric's scales are still blazing at the final page turn. But a fun beginning followed by an acknowledgement, that kids will appreciate, that we all lose our cool sometimes; a potential conversation starter about how Cedric might have better kept it together.

The Art of Stone Skipping and Other Fun Old-Time Games
J.J. Ferrer, author
Todd Dakins, illustrator
c/o Charlesbridge Publishing
85 Main St., Watertown, MA 02472
9781936140749, $14.95,

A one-stop activity Bible for camp counselors and anyone else who leads school-aged children, and a must-pack for family vacations. Ferrer offers nearly 200 pages of instructions, including detailed rules and lists of needed equipment, for classic ball, brain, by myself, car, card, group and partner games. These are games children have played forever: dodgeball, stickball, jacks, hink pink, telephone, how to make a cootie catcher and shadow hand puppets, string and yo-yo tricks, capture the flag, ghosts in the graveyard, tiddlywinks and much, much more. Each game gets anywhere from a long paragraph to a page or more of treatment, illustrated when that might be helpful. Fabulously comprehensive; if it's to be played, it's here.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Logan's Bookshelf

Yorkville Twins
Joseph G. Gindele & John F. Gindele
c/o Golden Valley Publishing, LLC
8014 Olson Memorial Highway, #243
Golden Valley, MN 55427
9780983933755 $19.95

Yorkville Twins: Hilarious Adventures Growing Up In New York City, 1944-1962 is a quirky, chuckle-inducing memoir by authors and twins Joe and John Gindele, who grew up in Yorkville on Manhattan's colorful Upper East Side in the 1940's, 50's, and 60's (eventually moving to Minnesota). Over 100 black-and-white photographs pepper this anthology of anecdotes about a first-generation Czech and German family working hard to realize the American dream. From the special bond they shared as twins (punctuated by moments that can only be describe as psychic), to keeping up in public school, putting one's back into part-time work, the lifetime treasure that is family and friends, and much more, Yorkville Twins is a "you-are-there" memoir sure to evoke nostalgia and warmth. A quintessential true-life American story, Yorkville Twins is highly recommended.

The Revelation of Earth
Jonathan Henry
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475935066, $17.95,

Deep into space, one is alone and always in danger. "The Revelation of Earth: First Contact" is a science fiction novel set in the far flung future from Jonathan Henry telling of Commander Virgil Artus as he seeks to lead his fleet deep into Alpha Centauri, only to encounter beings with less than helpful intent for Earth's first contact with another species. "The Revelation of Earth" is an enticing read for science fiction fans, highly recommended.

Jillian Becker
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477273944, $23.95,

The cult of personality is strong and can sweep through many a people. "L" is a work of political fiction, in which philosopher Louis Zander takes power as L, a dictator over England. His way of ruling draws many comparisons to history and the future of what may be the political tomorrow. "L" is an enticing read with much to ponder, highly recommended.

Beyond The Mist
Susan Thomas
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477246276, $24.34,

What lies beyond the mirrors? "Beyond the Mist" is a young adult fantasy and adventure, following Susan Thomas's first entry 'Mist on the Window'. The children go deeper into the Mirror's world, when the things they value most are threatened, so they must work together and act quick or lose so, so much. "Beyond the Mist" is a fine pick for fans of youth adventure, much recommended reading.

The Swan, The Demon, and The Warrior
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468585643, $23.95,

Justice doesn't have to be pretty. "The Swan, The Demon, and the Warrior" is a novel of fantasy, following Jasmin, a swordswoman who has a particular goal as he wanders the mountains, seeking to bring her own vigilantism on those who would do evil. A riveting and intriguing twist of characters and what justice is, "The Swan, The Demon, and the Warrior" is a strong pick for new fantasy collections, highly recommended.

Beyond Crossriver
Andre Carter
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477273494, $19.95,

Pursuing freedom in the south was a life-risking proposition. "Beyond Crossriver" is a novel of slavery, of how young Thomas rescues his sister Amanda, and how the siblings now face the world alone, without family as they seek for their chances at freedom with the world out to put them back in chains. "Beyond Crossriver" is an intriguing addition to historical fiction collections with a focus on slavery, recommended.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Kathleen Walls
Privately Published
No ISBN $14.95

Also available as a paperback or ebook (9780972851398, $12.99 print / $2.99 Kindle), Kudzu is a brief, downloadable audiobook of connections that reverberate across generations. After a bitter and harrowing divorce, Casey retreats to her great-grandmother's log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia. Yet even in this tiny retreat, she stumbles across evidence of adultery, murder, and treachery that took place over a hundred years ago. Complicating matters is her attraction to her new neighbor, whose own mess of a capsized marriage has left him suspicious and distrustful. As Casey becomes more and more involved with her family's intrigue-ridden past, will she ever find a way to change the present for the better? Captivating from beginning to end, Kudzu is highly recommended. 4 hours, 46 min.

Divine Act
Mt Naimi
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781467076371, $19.95,

As the world collapses into chaos around us, we come to guard our family from what we can. "Divine Act" follows young Ahmed, a young man living in Tehran as revolution hits, and he rushes to protect his son and the rest of his family when the government threatens them wholly and leaves him unable to protect anyone around him. "Divine Act" is a driven read of familial love and loyalty, highly recommended.

Searching Greener Pastures
Dolapo Ajakaiye
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456774424, $17.13,

The search for something better is a search all people share. "Searching Greener Pastures" is a memoir from Dolapo Ajakaiye, a Nigerian woman who shares her story of leaving her homeland only to face discrimination everywhere she turns in England and America, hoping for a better place for herself and her future elsewhere. "Searching Greener Pastures" is an enticing addition to international memoir collections, recommended.

You Can't Have My Pearls
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477273814, $15.95,

A life of abuse for many children is all too common. "You Can't Have My Pearls" is a memoir of coping with pain and abuse from author Nervona who tells her story and the long road to coping with all of the pain that comes with it. "You Can't Have My Pearls" is a moving and tragic story of facing a cruel childhood, highly recommended reading.

The Struggle
Matema Magagane
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781467000246, $15.18,

To simply live life can be a long riding struggle sometimes. "The Struggle" is a memoir from Matema Magagane as she shares her experiences of trying to get by, coming to America from Africa, and other endeavors on her road to some sort of success in life. "The Struggle" is a wise read with photography throughout, worth considering for international memoir collections.

The Messiah's Hand
Chris Night
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477243442, $13.95,

How much money is a father's life worth? "The Messiah's Hand" tells the story of the kidnap and ransom of millionaire boss held by those with nefarious intent. His son and the firm struggle to see what they can do and how much they may need to pay to see the return of their boss, and if there's anyway to save him without capitulating. "The Messiah's Hand" is an enticing story of money and its value, recommended.

Best Erotic Romance 2013
Kristina Wright
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781573449038, $15.95,

Sex is great...but love seeks to intensify that love. "Best Erotic Romance 2013" is a collection of short romance, sampling some of the best short romance with strong erotic romance from the newest writers of 2013. Touching on the deep romance and the deep feelings it can bring to the more visceral expression of love, "Best Erotic Romance 2013" is a strong addition to short fiction and romance collections, recommended.

Margaret Lane

Peggy's Bookshelf

War Dogs: Churchill & Rufus
Kathryn Selbert
85 Main Street. Watertown, MA 02472
9781580894142, $17.95,

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a tenacious leader through World War II. A champion of the people, they called him the British Bulldog. Contrary to popular belief, Churchill never owned a bulldog. He preferred the company of brown miniature poodles.

"War Dogs" is the story of the British Bulldog's leadership during World War II as seen through the eyes of his faithful comrade, Rufus, a brown miniature poodle. When Churchill was hard at work in the bunker under the city of London, or speaking at the House of Commons, or walking the bomb-damaged streets, Rufus was there by his side. Through the trials and tribulations of war, Rufus offered the kind of comfort and companionship only man's best friend could give. Selected quotations from Churchill's speeches appear on the pages like notes pinned to a bulletin board. They reveal the British Bulldog's enduring love for the people and his compassion for their suffering, whether citizens or soldiers. Kathryn Selbert's method of presenting the war from a dog's point of view is uniquely charming.

Selbert's acrylic and collage 2-page spreads depict the scope and drama of the British defense against the German invasion, as well as the love and devotion between Rufus and Churchill. End pages include a World War II timeline, more back story about Churchill and his poodles, plus many more resources about Churchill and World War II. Join this irresistible pair of "War Dogs" for a compelling journey through World War II history.

The Deductive Detective
Brian Rock, author
Sherry Rogers, illustrator
Sylvan Dell Publishing
612 Dodds Blvd., Suite A2
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
9781607186137, $17.95,

Who doesn't love a mystery? Brian Rock stirs up a delicious one for young readers. One of the cakes is missing from the cake contest. "Hoo could have stolen it?" asks Owl the night watchman. Not to worry Deductive Detective will "quack the case in no time." But he's going to need a little help. Young super sleuths can help Deductive Detective solve the case. Sherry Rogers' vibrant illustrations show the cast of animal characters all decked out in human garb. But pay close attention to the expressions on the critters' faces. One of them wears a rather guilty look. A bonus two-page section at the end offers learning activities for parents and teachers to help expand young readers' awareness of the world around them, which is how mysteries are solved. Using simple subtraction, deductive reasoning, and a heaping helping of humor, "The Deductive Detective" is a mystery and a math puzzle rolled into one. It will "quack" you up.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

Alive Again
Howard C. Samuels with Jane O'Boyle
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781118364413, $24.95,

The book Alive Again promises to assist addicted persons in getting back their sanity and returning to a more normal, enjoyable life without drugs and/or alcohol. After reading its contents and actually trying some of the author's recommended prescriptive steps, I found it easy to understand that he had actually been through his own serious addiction. He refers to this dependence as the "beast" within himself that he finally conquered.

After a terrific struggle and remaining sober since 1984, author Samuels has written down his own prescriptive 12 step program that could help me, or you, or any addicted person defeat their "beast." Alive Again states unquestionably that a truly dependent person may claim s/he wants help, but unless that person has hit rock bottom, therapy of any kind is fruitless.

So, what is rock bottom? This is the deep pit floor where a person has mentally moved beyond shame, lying, stealing, hiding, cheating, and even doing days behind bars. This is where the very first step, the most crucial step occurs. The addict admits to himself and to the world at large that "I am an addict and I want help."

The author would be the first person to tell the addict that professional help is a must. Notice I said, "professional help," not family members or even the best of friends. Alive Again is merely a prescriptive guidebook AFTER a true professional therapist has actually entered the picture. It will be this specialized individual who will interrupt the addict's feelings of worthlessness, meaninglessness, and despair to restore a feeling of well being and genuine self worth.

During ongoing therapy that may take many months, a counselor will motivate a dependent person to push on - and to avoid relapse; and if-and-when that occurs, so what! It's time to psychically shift gears, stand up, and drive on. Each charted minute, hour, day, week, etc. without dependence, if marked on a real calendar, in itself can show progress - and as that time span lengthens, any small achievement, in itself, can be self rewarding.

What I liked most about Alive Again were the open ended statements at each step where an addict must write down on paper her/his thoughts about their condition. This can be very painful. Some months ago, I was told by my doctor that if I continued to consume alcohol, I was heading for kidney and liver failure. I have personally found Alive Again helpful in admitting to myself what was happening to me physically.

As a result, I've included here some of my answers to Alive Again's open ended statements (shortened by me) on page 123.

When I obsess about using alcohol, my thoughts focus on making myself feel better.

Usually, the consequences of this are I don't stick to just 2 beers, I have 5 or 6 or more instead.

Even though I know better, I've been telling myself and others that if I drink beer instead of hard liquor, it's okay.

The signs that I cannot ignore my drinking any longer are test results; I'm killing my body organs.

I first suspected I had a problem when no amount of alcohol seemed to really affect me.

I am willing to live my life differently in order to stay alive and healthy for my wife, my children and grandchildren - all who want me around.

I'm sure this is not what one would expect in a book review, but it is the most honest and sincere way I know to show you the benefits of reading Alive Again. This book can help you. At each of author Samuel's 12 steps, there are many lead-in statements that will force you to look in a mirror and see your own beast. In so many ways, as seen by a this reviewer who is no longer a young man, life is so very quick and very short. Why make it shorter! Addiction is indeed a beast but that monster can be tamed.

If you have any kind of addiction and truly want help, seek ye first a professional therapist then buy Alive Again, and follow it feverishly day by day. It just may save your life and it IS worth saving.

The Zenith Syndrome
Robert Menzies
Phoenix Press
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00BH30U0Y $3.99,

Sometime in your life, I'm sure you have pondered ultimate questions such as: Will I survive death? Is God a reality? In The Zenith Syndrome, Author Robert Menzies dramatically transfers his readers into the mind of youthful Andrew as he examines such questions in a frighteningly deadly way.

Early in the morning at the local swimming pool, Andy meets his good friend Wombat. Andy dives into the deep water but does not surface. After far too much time has passed, Wombat summons the local lifeguard who hauls Andy to the surface and begins life saving techniques on the "drowned" boy.

Is it too late?

Floating upward, Andy sees his "dead" body lying atop the concrete walkway surrounding the swimming pool. He watches the lifeguard furiously trying to bring him back to life. In spite of the guards efforts, Andy passes to the other side. There, he meets people from the historical past who were either sadistically evil such as Ivan the Terrible or Hitler, or who were exceptionally good, like Buddha or Jesus Christ. These characters try to persuade Andy to "freely" join their after-death ranking in evil or good before his permanent final judgment by Ellexis (a judging God figure).

The Zenith Syndrome reveals a lot about Andy's obsessions. A seventeen-year-old virgin, more than anything else, Andy seeks sexual release. Since his earliest years, Marion had always been his puppy love fantasy. He simply wanted to be near her--to hold her--to love her like any child would love and caress a cute stuffed teddy bear.

Now, driven by howling testosterone, he is obsessed with bedding down with Marion; stripping her naked; then crawling in bed nude beside her. He wanted to love and possess her body in what he imagined as a life-long sexual relationship. But sadly, back in real life, Marion had been killed in an automobile accident leaving Andy dismally frustrated--despaired of ever possessing her love. Now, he just seeks explosive sex--any woman will do.

But, Ellexis permits teenage Andy to return to earth. There, he must fulfill a sacred quest that will atone for any evil choices or desires he had made either in the Zenith or in his past life. As he regains consciousness in a hospital bed, he finds that luckily, his "near-death" experience was just that. Yet, as he recovers in real time, strangely enough, the characters from the Zenith continue to haunt him. He even believes he sees his first love, Marion.

Are these phantasms valid or is he hallucinating? Although he sees the Zenith characters, do other people see them? Will anyone believe his deathlike adventure? Can he fulfill the charge given him by Ellexis? The answer to these and a multitude of questions I will leave to the reader of The Zenith Syndrome.

Unquestionably, this tale is an excellent read for teens who are dealing with their own real feelings of love, destiny, sexuality, and self identity; but it is also a thoughtful book for adults trying to understand their own feelings.

I would strongly recommend The Zenith Syndrome to ALL readers because, as adults, we must face final questions and the ultimate meaning of our own existence. When I began the book, I expected it to be a read to entice young readers. Not so! There were several places where the story line twisted my adult head in a direction that caught me off guard. I confess that the final chapters left me questioning and rethinking my own existence: good versus evil, life versus death, God or no God!

Get this 5-star book, The Zenith Syndrome, and read it. It will not disappoint.

Regis Schillken

Riva's Bookshelf

Veiled Mist
Eleanor T. Beaty
Q Publishing
117 Gillette Court
Franklin, VA, 23851-2345
9780615649481, $12.99 print
ASIN B008J72TGO, $2.99 Kindle

Veiled Mist by Eleanor Beaty is an almost perfect YA read that adults can enjoy too. Hanna is a spoiled rotten, fifteen-year-old socialite whose biggest concern is how good she looks and keeping her little clique together. She has it all: looks, money, and a dead Princess for a mother. She is on top of her little world and nothing can move her - she thinks.

Enter Mummy Man; the tormentor of Hanna's dreams who she is convinced is just a fantasy. Till one morning after dreaming about him she awakens to find her prize possession, a princess doll, with both of its arms having fallen off. Hanna is devastated and tries her best to find out who has ruined her doll, but no one in the house was in her room after she went and so Hanna has to leave the destroyed doll as a mystery - until a new doll store opens on the island.

Enter Ornella. Ornella is everything Hanna has been taught to fear. She is strange, a gypsy and she tells Hanna she has two days less until sixteenth birthday than Hanna knows. However, Hanna is convinced she is correct - after all, it is her birthday she's been celebrating all her life. What can a weird gypsy woman know about it, or her destiny? Why should she believe that she has some great destiny that if she doesn't accept by her birthday, she will die exactly one year later? But for some reason, even though she doesn't believe anything else she believes this. So Hanna makes up her mind she is going to refuse her destiny, returns home and begins to try to write her eulogy.

So Ornella sets out to reveal Hanna to herself. Bit-by-bit Ornella starts to reveal Hanna to herself. Some of the changes are hard for Hanna to adjust to, sometimes facing the type of person, she is really hard, but it is never done judgmentally on her part. Instead, as Hanna starts to act better and the people around her start to react, she begins to see exactly how self-centered and haughty she really was. Oh, and of course, finally catching the attention of the boy of her dreams helps Hanna too. She'd give anything to have him quit looking at her as if she was one-step removed from pond scum. Can she make him see the good in her?

I really enjoyed Veiled Mist. From the first pages, it caught my attention and kept it. When I had to put it down the first night to go to sleep, I was disappointed because I really wanted to know what was going to happen next. The tension is well developed and the characters are interesting and perfect for the roles they play in the story. The magical element is just right, not too heavy-handed, and there are great moments of comic relief. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone from middle grades on up to adults. It is a neat fantasy, taking place in the modern world that almost anyone can enjoy.

Souls of Darkness
Eleanor T. Beaty
Q Publishing
117 Gillette Court
Franklin, VA, 23851-2345
9780988590113, $12.99 print
ASIN: B00BC5KWM8, $2.99 Kindle

Souls of Darkness was a very different read for me. While it is YA and paranormal, both of which I'm familiar with, it featured a male protagonist, which is a first for me - at least in my memory. I have to say it was a pleasant experience and it brought to my attention how few books in the genre are written with strong, yet vulnerable male leads.

Alex's dad has passed away and an old pamphlet shows up from a location that isn't marked on his dad's map of travels. His mother's brilliant idea - visit the island themselves. Alex doesn't want to go, so he strikes a deal with her; He'll go if he gets to pick the location they go to next year. He plans on picking some lush tropical resort where Alex, who will be almost eighteen by that time, plans to enjoy some hedonistic pleasures. Mom takes the deal and the two are off to island of Mahini in Polynesia.

Alex gets more than he bargained for however, because upon nearing the island he has a disturbing dream and once he arrives he begins seeing the spirits of the departed. Some are harmless, but others are murderous spirits stealing people's souls so the people on Mahini are afraid to be out after dusk. But now, some of the spirits are getting braver, coming out before dark and one spirit in particular has devilish plans for Alex and his mother. He'll use them to get something he has wanted for centuries. Will his plan work?

Alex's character is really neat. He hates the island, which seems to be stuck somewhere in the past, and at first he doesn't believe in what he feels are their superstitions until finally too many weird things start happening to him and he has to face the fact that maybe there is something behind all their beliefs.

Helping Alex along the way is the girl he has fallen for hard, Taiya. She is the one who explains some of the islander's beliefs, particularly the one about being out after nightfall. As Alex begins to believe, and to need answers, she leads him to the local healer/shaman who tells Alex he has a role to play in freeing the island from its reign of terror. Alex's decision isn't as yes/no as you would like to think it would be upon receiving this news and it leads to some interesting plot twists that Beaty artfully foreshadows.

The characters and setting are done well, but these areas are always real strengths for Beaty. She makes characters you like and you become absorbed in their story. It makes you wonder if maybe people really do have a destiny; Have you found yours yet?

Fallen Ruler (Middle English Edition)
Eleanor T. Beaty
Q Publisher
117 Gillette Court
Franklin, VA, 23851-2345
9780988590106 $12.99 print
ASIN: B00AJVMW88, $2.99 Kindle

Eleanor Beaty comes up with yet another twist to make a memorable YA character that adults of all ages can identify with and route for in Fallen Ruler.

Lya is one of two sisters. Her sister hates her. Her parents do not remember conceiving her and only her grandmother loves and supports her without wavering. But what will happen when Lya discovers her identity as a sixteen-year-old girl from a pretty unloving family is challenged?

Beaty does a wonderful job creating the tension and foreshadowing in the story that lead up to Lya's big reveal. Turns out Lya really isn't human after all, but rather is the somewhat disgraced ruler of a parallel world. The biggest catch, the people she rules think she is dead and she can't afford to be found on her home world until her name can be cleared, but things go wrong and Lya is transported back there. Her memories were erased so she doesn't know what she did wrong, just that she did something and wanting to make her transition back to life on her own planet easier on her, her mentor sets it up so her memories will come back easily.

However, things never work out the way they are planned and Lya ends up demanding all her memories back at once. What she finds out about herself is more shocking to her than discovering she was from an alien race. Can she adjust to the person she is now and can her mentor clear her name so she can return to her home world for good.

I loved this story. The sci-fi elements are realistically developed and there is just a touch of fantasy involved that makes it all easier to accept. The characters are rich and multi-dimensional and while the ending wraps everything from the book up nicely, there is definitely room for a series based on these characters and I for one hope that is something Beaty decides to pursue. I cannot remember when I had so much fun being caught up in a storyline. There is deceit, murder, and all the typical human unsavory elements, but there is also joy that shines through Lya both in human and in alien form. Her bodyguards are also her friends, trusted companions, even the one who isn't that fond of her anymore and only continues to serve her out of duty. She never treats anyone poorly, unless they absolutely deserve it and she can fend for herself.

Don't get me wrong and think Lya is without her faults. She has them and carries some hefty baggage as a result of them, but she doesn't let it rule her life. She shows the example of overcoming past mistakes and learning to accept yourself and excel in spite of them.

I cannot praise this book, or Beaty's writing abilities highly enough, and I want to see more of Lya in the future.

Forever Home
Kimberly Kinrade
Daring Books
B00BOX65TC, $0.99

This true story by Kimberly Kinrade is one I thoroughly enjoyed. This is the true story of Kimberly's little sister and how she lost her canine companion, Triton, who had been with her since she four-years-old just three days before Christmas. Kinrade perfectly portrays the loss of a pet you had had for ten years perfectly. She gets the heartache that comes from it and it comes across clearly on the page.

However, this isn't just a story of loss; it is also one of hope. Three days before New Year's Cory finds the perfect dog - a rescue dog who is one day away from euthanasia. Cory wants the dog and even names him Barker although she is third person in line for him. Will Cory get the dog that can help mend her heart?

I loved the writing in Forever Home; it is realistic and touching without being overly sentimental. It makes you identify with both Cory and "Barker" and make you wish that things will really work out for them, despite the odds stacked against them. Kinrade tugs at your heart just enough to make you feel for the characters. I definitely recommend it.

Seduced by Power
Kimberly Kinrade
Daring Books
B00BWT3OEW, $3.99

Seduced by Power is absolutely the crowning achievement in Kimberly Kinrade's Seduced series. I loved everything about this book: The characterization; the storyline; the surprises; and the suspense. Kinrade brings together all the loose threads from the other books and weaves them into a masterful tapestry full of love, suspense and even moments of terror. I don't want to give away too much, but Rose puts her life on the line repeatedly to save those she loves and she and Derek face the biggest challenges to their love thus far.

Kinrade did an amazing job with this book. I sat up until 4 am reading it because I absolutely could not put it down. I was tired, exhausted really, but I had to know what was going to happen next. There was no point where I could have put the book down and even tried to go to sleep - the suspense simply would have pulled me back out of bed and into the pages of this astounding book.

Kinrade's writing just kept getting better and better throughout this series. Please note: * This is not a stand-alone book and absolutely must be read with the other books in the series. * This makes everything Kinrade has done up to this point in the series make absolute sense and everything comes together so completely it truly astounds me. I cannot praise the final book in this series enough. The Seduced series absolutely should be on your too be read list.

Valkyrie Slumbering
L. VanHorn
Inferno Publishing
B00BJAM55I $1.99,

I loved the storyline in Valkyrie Slumbering, an erotic novella by Lilly VanHorn. The verbal foreplay between the characters was terrific and I wish VanHorn would have spent a little bit longer on this aspect of the story because I find erotic language and double entendre as arousing as actual foreplay.

I do not want to give away the storyline, but let's say it is unusual because not only is it erotica, it's the prelude to what looks like an epic fantasy based on the Nordic gods and the idea of the Ragnarok: Including the nine realms or worlds of Nordic mythology. It really shows so much promise, both as erotica, and as a fantasy geared toward adults.

Back to the erotica though, you could start a fire off the sparks burning during these love scenes, because that's what Kyra and Grim have - a soul searing, burning love that not only fulfills them both but seems to be a part of their destiny. From the beginning when VanHorn brings them together she hints that fate has a hand in destiny. When they finally make love it is everything the other has always wanted and seals them in a bond that is going to have some substantial obstacles to overcome in future books.

Valkyrie Slumbering was a genre change for VanHorn and she brings a new life to a field that is rapidly growing and I can hardly wait for Kyra and Grim's story to be continued, not only because of the sizzle between them, but also due to the strength of the storyline VanHorn has brought into play.

Walk Away with Me (A Loving Nature Novella)
Darby Davenport
Evolved Publishing
P.O. Box 522
Cassville, GA, 30123-0522
B00BLQAWG4, $2.99

Walk Away with Me is the debut novella by Darby Davenport and she promises to be an author people are going to love. Her heroine is the footloose Charlotte Rockwell, aka Charlie. Charlie wants nothing to do with love. In her eyes love, romance and marriage only deprive a woman of her freedom - and Charlie values her freedom more than anything else.

Ethan Porter has been in love, and has been burned badly. When Charlie and her dog come rushing into his life at the dog park her similarity to his ex-girlfriend puts Ethan immediately on guard. Still, Charlie definitely needs help handling her huge Rottweiler and Ethan finds himself agreeing to provide some lessons in dog obedience, against his better judgment.

I loved the way Davenport set this romance up and the fact the storyline was a twist on the usual romance where it is the guy who wants to stay free. I loved that Charlie would be the one who needed to be convinced that love was worth taking a chance on.

And the love scenes. . .in a word, hot. They are mature and tantalizing, but not so much so that the book crosses the line into erotica, but it definitely blurs the line, a lot.

Davenport's writing is crisp and clean and her characters are realistic. They are people you would meet in any town in America. They are people you can identify with and root for and their pets, Tuck and Rugby are as much characters in the book as Charlie and Ethan are.

I definitely recommend Walk Away with Me by Darby Davenport and I expect to see great things come from her in the future. She is definitely on my list of author's to watch.

BLURB from Amazon:

A man with a painful past, a woman who fears commitment, and a dog with only one more chance at life--together, can they find love?

Evolved Publishing presents "Walk Away with Me," the first in the "Loving Nature Novella" series by Darby Davenport. These fun stories combine some occasionally steamy romance with a wholesome taste of the outdoors. FOR ADULTS ONLY. (Novella: Complete at 25,000 Words)

What is Charlie Rockwell supposed to do when the sad Rottweiler's eyes connect with hers through the TV screen and work their way straight into her heart? She adopts him without a second thought or the slightest knowledge how to take care of the large, needy dog with the traumatic past.

Ethan Porter is not happy when a savage Rottweiler picks a fight with his mild-mannered Golden Retriever at the dog park. But his anger quickly dissipates when tears begin to form behind the eyes of the dog's beautiful owner--eyes that are far too familiar for his liking. Disregarding his instincts, Ethan can't deny her plea when she asks him to teach her the basics of dog ownership.

Can he ignore the fact that she bears a strong resemblance to his ex and finally learn to trust again? Will she find committing to both man and dog more exciting than the freedom of a single, unrestrained life?

The Persnickety Princess
Falcon Storm
Evolved Publishing
P.O. Box 522
Cassville, GA 30123-0522
9781622530472, $9.95 print / $2.99 Kindle

I enjoyed this tale told by Upon. A. Time. A traveler who shows up outside a town riding a stolen and claiming to be on the king's business - only he never names the king or his business, instead he fascinates the guards who have arrested him with the tale of The Persnickety Princess.

The tale is lively with plenty of adventure in it and it shows how someone can go from being picky, snobbish and persnickety to a relatively nice person - after all, we all have our flaws. It is also perfect for 9 to 12-year-olds. It has a moderately difficult vocabulary. Those at the lower age range of this category would need help reading it and might need the book, or sections of the book read to them. After doing this the first few times that the story should come easily as it makes good use of alliteration as it expands vocabulary while engaging the reader in a good story that should keep their attention.

I would think the story would be of slightly more interest to girls than to boys, because although the young men in the story are heroic, the story largely focuses on two princesses who are sisters, and girls would tend to identify with this more than boys. In the other hand, the Young men are brave, daring and heroic, which may help hold the interest of a male reader.

Overall, I would recommend the book as I feel it would definitely interest young readers and establish a larger vocabulary without seeming to do so.

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

Sea of Crises
Marty Steere
Penfield Publications
2533 Eastwin Way, Signal Hill, CA 90755
9780985401405, $15.95,

It was once said, "In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you get through, but how many can get through you."

This book blew me away. I have never read anything close to this that had me guessing as much as this book did.

Commander Bob Cartwright was an astronaut and had been on a space mission. As the capsule was returning to earth the heat shield had failed and the three bodies inside were burnt beyond recognition.

Years later one of Cartwright son's discovered information and called his two brothers to meet him. He found evidence that it might not be their father who was in the capsule. But if that was true, then what had happened to their dad?

I really liked this book and the development of each character. The author really spent a lot of time in taking totaly different personalities and making them work as one unit.

Excellent Read and worth five stars.

Rated G

Sea of Crises
Marty Steere
Penfield Publications
2533 Eastwind Way, Signal Hill, CA 90755
9780985401405, $15.95,

It was once said, "In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you get through, but how many can get through you." This book blew me away. I have never read anything close to this that had me guessing as much as this book did.

Commander Bob Cartwright was an astronaut and had been on a space mission. As the capsule was returning to earth the heat shield had failed and the three bodies inside were burnt beyond recognition. Years later Cartwright's son discovered information and called his two brothers to meet him. He found evidence that it might not be their father in the capsule. But if that was true, then where was their dad?

I really liked this book and the development of each character. But be careful as this is not the type of book that starts out slow and then the speed increases. You open and read the first page and you are running.

Excellent Read and worth five stars.

Rated G

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Surgeon Sheik's Rescue [Sahara Kings Book 4]
Loreth Anne White
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780373277919, $5.25,

Sheik Tariq Al Arif was severally injured when his plane was blown up by terrorists. On that ill-fated day he not only lost his career, but the love of his life. To protect himself and his royal family it is announced he also perished in the fiery blaze.

Political reporter, Bella DiCaprio, had been on the scene when the royal prince's plane was bombed. She covered the story exclusively with the help of her boyfriend. Tariq was no stranger to her; for she had did intense research to write previous articles about his life.

When Bella is terminated from her position at the Washington Daily, her reporter genes refuse to be laid to rest. She accepts a position working for an underground online blog called Watchdog. When she discovers evidence that suggests Sheik Tariq could be alive and living in France she ventures to the location in hopes that her lead proves to be true.

Bella uses an alias name and accepts a housekeeper position when she arrives in France. Through her employer, she learns that the Abby was purchased by a recluse who moved in shortly after Tariq's accident. Bella makes it a point to travel by the Abby each day. On one fateful fog filled day, she manages to capture a picture of the owner. Enhanced computer face detection software confirms that Tariq is indeed alive.

Will Bella be able to get close enough to Tariq to be able to get the information she needs to reveal his story to the world? With the information she holds, her life is put in danger; there are those who wish to ensure she never lives to tell all that she knows. Will Bella be able to survive the madman who threatens to end her life?

SURGEON SHEIK'S RESCUE provides an adrenalin rush like no other book that you will be able to discover. Readers be prepared to have your breath took away as you take a back seat and witness all the danger, terror, and shear suspense this book has to offer. To say this book is a heart stopper is an understatement. Loreth Anne White, stand up and take a bow, for in this reviewer's eyes you have created a romantic suspense worthy of high rewards. SURGEON SHEIK'S RESCUE is a part of the Sahara Kings series; other titles in this addictive action packaged series include:

The Sheik's Command - [Sahara Kings 01]
The Sheik Who Loved Me - [Sahara Kings 02]
Sheik's Revenge - [Sahara Kings 03]
Guarding The Princess - [Sahara Kings 05]

The Dom with the Dragon Tattoo [Masters of Submission 5]
Jan Bowles
Siren Publishing
2500 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704
9781622428427, $14.50,

Tyler Stone is a self-made billionaire who owns Cerberus Technology. He credits the success of his business to his ability to hire the best in the world. He has tried for over a year to hire software engineer Rebecca Miles. When he receives her message that she would like to meet with him to discuss a future position, he doesn't hesitate to travel to hometown of Boston.

Rebecca has made a legendary name for herself as a software engineer. She knows that with her enhanced skills she can write her own paycheck and work for anyone. Far from her professional life she assumes an alias at night and works as an exotic dancer at local BDSM club.

In Boston, Tyler finds a matchbook advertising Club Submission; the name alone calls out to his inner Dom. At the club he finds the atmosphere to his liking, there a masked exotic dancer catches his eye. He watches fascinated as she dances on stage. What he remembers most about her is her intense blue eyes; all he is able to find about her is her first name is Dana.

The next day Tyler meets with Rebecca, from the moment he becomes acquainted with her there is something very familiar about her. Half way through the meal, Rebecca's mannerisms trigger a memory of the previous night, and then he realizes that Rebecca and Dana are one and the same person. He decides to keep his revelation to himself to reveal at a later date.

Rebecca has just finished a long term relationship with her Master. She knows that she needs to make changes to her life, and moving out of Boston is her first priority. When her high demands for employment are met by Tyler Stone, she makes the decision to move to Houston and work for his company.

Will Tyler be a strong enough Dom to bring Rebecca to her knees begging for his attention? Or will his strong willed employee resist his sexual charm?

THE DOM WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO - MASTER OF SUBMISSION 5 is another exceptional addition to the Master of Submission series. Jan Bowles knows how to paint a BDSM scene like no other author I have experienced. Her MASTER OF SUBMISSION series has taken this reviewer/reader by storm. I feel this series has set high expectation that other authors will find difficult to follow. To say that I have been pleased with the MASTER OF SUBMISSION series is an understatement.

Other books in the MASTER OF SUBMISSION series include

Master of Submission - Book 1
Destined for the Dom - Book 2
Taming the Boss Lady - Book 3
Master and Inquisitor - Book 4
Her Dream Dom - Exclusive Free App for iPad & iPhone

A Part of Me [Book 2 In The Philadelphia Series]
Taryn Plendl
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00B1V1A6U, $2.99,

After a hard day teaching the reproductive system to his high school students all Tom Crawford wanted to do was go home and rest. His friends tried to convince him to go out with them to visit the local clubs, but instead he selected to spend a quiet night at home.

Tom's quiet night turned into one of horror when he is struck by a van. As he feels his car spin out of control he tries to brace himself for the final impact. Before he realizes what the extent of his injuries will be, he is plunged into a world of darkness.

Talia is an Emergency Nurse; she loves her job for she has always wanted to be able to help others. Her latest patient comes in a PennSTAR Medi Vac; she learns that he has been involved in a serious car accident. Her patient is covered in blood and has suffered massive injuries. The worse seems to be the trauma to his left leg. Talia quickly prepares him for the scans and x-rays the doctor orders, as she works on the patient she feels there is something about him that seems familiar.

When Talia gets a moment away from her job, she goes to find out the identity of her gravely injured patient. She is shocked to learn that he is a close friend of hers, Tom Crawford. She calls in their other friends to alert them to what has happened to Tom. The group comes together to pray for Tom's recovery.

When the surgeon finally comes to tell them of Tom's condition, they learn that they were not able to save his left leg. Talia knows the loss will be devastating for his life revolves around sports and spending time partying with his friends.

With Tom having no family to take care of him, his friends question how they will be able to rearrange their schedule to help out their friend. Talia makes the ultimate sacrifice, and offers to stay with Tom three weeks after he is released.

Tom doesn't want to be a burden on his friends. He knows his recovery will be a long drawn out process. He questions why Talia would give up three weeks of vacation to move in and care for him. Before the accident he wanted to find a way to spend more time with Talia and get to know her better; now it seems the fates have intervened and granted his wish in a way he never would have expected.

Will Talia be able to convince him that his injury has no effect on how she feels for him? With Talia seeing Tom at his ultimate worse in life will he be able to believe that such a beautiful woman as her could love such a damaged man as himself?

A PART OF ME - BOOK 2 IN THE PHILADELPHIA SERIES is a wonderful romance. I found it very refreshing that the book is written from both Talia and Tom's separate perspective. This allows the readers to discover the emotions of each character. Although this book is part of a series, I was able to read it without reading the first book. With elements of tragedy, heartbreak, and hope this book contains the substance that makes it an outstanding novel.

Other books in The Philadelphia Series include:

In My Arms - Book 1 in The Philadelphia Series

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

The Accursed
Joyce Carol Oates
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062231703, $27.99,

A new Joyce Carol Oates novel is exciting. This phenomenal writer always intertwines a spellbinding tale by perfectly planning out her novels. This is one those novels that was planned years ago and put aside. Ms. Oates recently revisited this tale of the early twentieth century at Princeton University utilizing much of her personal experiences for the foundation of the story. With characters such as Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Jack London, Samuel Clemons, Upton Sinclair, and Grover Cleveland, this fictional novel could enlighten readers of life of the times through their perspectives.

This Gothic-styled tale weaves mostly around one family descended from the Rev. Winslow Slade. As a reflection old through the eyes of the historian M. W. Van Dyke II, in the year 1984,THE ACCURSED varies between realistic fiction and fantasy. Winslow's time viewing his grandchildren and their trials of life are definitely curses. How Winslow managed to have his family cursed and finally how it was lifted is the novel.

THE ACCURSED was an interesting tale. Much time is spent on the develop of the setting with much in-depth descriptions of the time and the places. Apparently the editors relied on Oates reputation and did not revise or read closely this novel since twice a character had the wrong last name. This novel definitely reminded me of those Gothic novels with overly wordy introductions, so much that the reader can easily become discouraged. As for the plot, the story was well-organized with the interweaving of character events. Overall, the story was unusual with dreams morphing into reality involving the mysterious Pine Boroughs of New Jersey.
THE ACCURSED excels with the prejudicial judgmental perspectives of people, places, and the time period around Princeton. The well-known characters are placed in their defined niche. Winslow's grandchildren are the focus as each one falls victim of the curse along with their parents.

Joyce Carol Oates has won numerous literary awards and being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. As a professor at Princeton she continues to teach and write.

If you have never read a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, I recommend THE FALLS or WE WERE THE MULANEYS. THE ACCURSED is for those who enjoy the words circling their heads for one-hundred pages before having any action, only descriptions.

Perhaps my expectations were too high for THE ACCURSED. I expected to have the history engulfing the story rather than the supernatural. Hopefully, Oates goes back to the real world in her future novels.

Trang Sen: A Novel
Sarah-Ann Smith
Pisgah Press
26 Dogwood Road, Asheville, NC 28806
9780615600710, $19.50,

Are we all a result of our choices or of our circumstances?

Trang Sen is not the typical girl growing up in the rice fields of South Vietnam during the early 1960s. She possesses an intelligence that is challenging to her parents and the traditions of her country. With her oldest brother attending school in France, this family relies on every person to be responsible and loyal to the family. Trang Sen excels in being the best for plowing the rice fields. Her raw determination and stubbornness makes her focus on her goals rather than her natural beauty and intelligence. What is a beautiful and brilliant girl doing plowing the fields?

As South Vietnam enters the war allied with the French, her brother, Long returns with plans on being a part of the local leadership joining with the forces of the South Vietnamese. As a brother, he quickly sees that Trang Sen needs more education and arranges for her schooling in Saigon at a Catholic school for girls. This is life changing for Sen as she quickly needs to adjust to life in a protected convent school and life in the city. She excels so well in her French studies that the nuns arrange to send her to France to continue her studies.

Through the eyes of Trang Sen, the reader actually experiences life in Vietnam from the beginning of the conflict with the French involvement through the American occupation. While at the convent school in Saigon, Sen notices an American soldier and is fascinated with his blond hair and blue eyes. As the war progresses, the changes in both the village and Saigon are closely monitored by the American military and diplomats. Sen's fascination and curiousity leads her into a completely new life that she never imagined.

Trang Sen is fascinated by an American diplomat who is mesmerized by her beauty. The two quickly begin a relationship against the wishes of Sen's family. What Sen naively does not realize is that the diplomat is married with children and cannot marry her. This becomes a difficulty when she becomes pregnant. What future is there for her now?

Sarah-Ann Smith actually was a member of the U.S. Diplomatic corps. She served in Taiwan and Hong Kong. She presently presides in Spartansburg, South Carolina.

Trang Sen is a well-written enticing story of the story of a Vietnamese woman adjusting to a quickly changing world. Even when the reader thinks they know what will happen to Sen next, the journey is truly addictive. The characters are believable and well-developed with both their gifts and flaws exposed as the story progresses.

Women who love romances would find this novel perfect for them. However, other readers would also enjoy this novel for its historical accuracies and perspectives. Trang Sen is a novel for everyone.

Signature in Stone
Linda Lappin
Caravel Mystery Books
c/o Pleasure Book Studio
201 West 89 Street, New York, NY 10024
9781929355907, $18.00,

Are there clues or signatures surrounding each of us that daily lead us to the answers? Do we just need to be more attentive to read these signatures throughout nature and our lives?

What do you do with a gifted author who has a drug addiction?

Daphne wrote a best selling novel, Signatures, which was a mystery based on the clues, or signatures, surrounding the main character. Since then, she usually is high and incapable of writing any logical. With her addiction, much of the time she is useless. Her publisher has the idea to take her to an isolated place in order to cut her off from her supplier hoping that this should give her the opportunity to again create another profitable masterpiece.

With this story set in time in 1928, what better place could be found than an isolated Italian villa. The

op opportunity arose to share the rent of this ancient villa with a resident professor researching the Etruscan ruins in the garden. These ruins could even be the inspiration for Daphne's novel.

Being that Daphne is a widow in her fifties, her addiction has caused her financial situation to be dwindled down to nothing. Her publisher/manager, Nigel, controls her money now as he drives rides in their Packard drives the one hundred miles north of Rome to the area called Tuscia along with Clive, an American artist. Daphne brings the few clothes and jewelry along with her.

As they arrive at the estate, there is an enormous locked garden. The visiting professor who is not around has requested this area not to be opened until his return so that he could safely guide them and protect them from the resident vipers, both snakes and human.

The caretaker seems to be a bully and his daughter, Amelia, is expected to clean and cook which she obviously resents. Perhaps all of these are signatures, signs that are telling us something.

Daphne quickly begins to discover the secrets of the house with its hidden staircases and rooms using them in her own sexual liaisons. With the arrival of Danilo, the mysterious and dark stranger, loyalties and secrets develop in the house and the garden known as "the Monster Park". Besides the challenge of writing, there is also the daily distraction of not being sober or being murdered. Why?

Linda Lappin has excelled in weaving this intricate tapestry of SIGNATURES IN STONE. Her command of the language as a poet excels with her descriptive choice of words to mesmerize the reader in this phenomenal novel. By residing in both Italy and the U.S., she expertly places the reader in Italy through utilizing the senses. Previously she has written THE ETRUSCAN, and KATHERINE"S WISH which are both highly regarded novels that she has written. Currently she is working on her next Daphne novel entitled MELUSINE.

SIGNATURES IN STONE has the texture of a Gothic novel with the layers of the setting being woven throughout the plot. The haunting reality of not knowing whether Daphne is lucid in her thoughts or hallucinating adds an intensity to this fast-paced, eloquently elegant novel.

They Called Her Tokyo Rose: Expanded 2nd Edition
Rex Gunn
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9780979698712, $18.99,

As children, most of us were taught the differences between legend and reality. With real people who were noteworthy like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, sometimes the lines between the real person and the legend can be hard to distinguish. We usually believe the reasons for this is due to the number of years ago that the person lived. What about someone though who has lived in the past hundred years. Are there people who are considered legendary, but in actuality are not the same as their reputation?

What was the truth about Tokyo Rose, the legendary femme fatale who supposedly demoralized our troops in the Pacific during World War II?

They Called Her Tokyo Rose delves into the story of Iva Togori, the woman who was believed to be this notorious person and follows her entire life. Iva is the woman was was tried in a lengthy trial and convicted of treason by our federal government for being Tokyo Rose. Was she the person who while broadcasting on Radio Tokyo reported about the American losses in the Pacific and who constantly weakened the spirits of our soldiers and POW's by mentioning doubts about their wives' and girlfriends' loyalties?

Back in 1977, 2500 copies of this book was printed for the Japanese-American Citizen League. No other copies were available for the general public. This was also the year that President Gerald Ford issued a full pardon to Iva Toguri which restored her American citizenship. Editor and publisher Brent Bateman made a promise to the author Rex Gunn to edit, reformat, and to publish this book. This was a story that both firmly believed needed to be available to everyone to discover the true story of Iva Togori.

This novel is a wonderful reflection of the time period explaining the values and core beliefs of life during the time as well as opening a window from multiple perspectives in who was Iva Togori. Truly viewing Iva from various aspects gives a balanced assessment of this person who has been labeled as a traitor of her country while she viewed herself as a friend of the prisoners of war in Japan. So was she the traitor, friend of the prisoners, both or neither?

"History is written by the victors," is a quote from Winston Churchill. That statement lets everyone understand that any history is judged only from the winners' perspective. However, is that the entire story? This story about Tokyo Rose shows that one perspective is not a fair assessment of this woman.

They Called Her Tokyo Rose has numerous lessons taught about the influence of the media, the legal system, living in a foreign country, the importance of a passport, being tried and convicted of treason, as well as trying to just be a person doing the right thing.

Did the punishment match the crime?

They Called Her Tokyo Rose is a wonderful story of a true person, who she really was, who others believed she was, and ultimately how she balanced the two in becoming her own person. Everyone needs to learn of Iva Togori through this wonderful account by Rex Gunn, They Called Her Tokyo Rose.

First Printed 1977 for Japanese-American Citizen League
2nd Edition 2008- Expanded and edited by Brent Bateman

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

Broken Harbor
Tana French
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143123309, $16.00,

Tana French's novels are full of psychological twists and turns, and this book is no exception. It features Irish detective Mike "Scorcher" Kennedy, a straight-laced professional with an enviable track record of solving the most difficult cases. Also, he does it by the book, with no short-cuts or unauthorized techniques.

After a down period, he is assigned to a high profile murder case, in which two young children and their father are found dead and the mother fatally stabbed but barely alive. Together with a rookie partner, Kennedy has to face not only what seems to be a clueless case, but his own personal psychological burdens, including his mentally unbalanced sister and the suicide death of his mother in the very town in which the victims are found.

This well-written novel is part police procedural, part psychological thriller. It is not an easy read, as it narrowly follows Kennedy as he intuitively moves the investigation forward. The characterizations are complex, the insights into each deep and penetrating. However, the 459 pages are rewarding, and the book is well-recommended.

Cop to Corpse
Peter Lovesey
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952297, $14.95,

There's an old saying (sort of): If you throw enough mud against the wall, some of it will stick. Well that is the approach Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond takes in this, the 12th novel in the series, to solve the case of three shooting murders of patrolling bobbies. Most of his theories turn out to be meaningless, but, after all, as another old saying goes, you can't otherwise get there from here.

The investigation is complicated by the fact that the third cop killed is from Diamond's own office, while the other two took place weeks earlier in other locales. As a result, headquarters is in charge of the investigation, and the lead officer is convinced they are dealing with a serial killer using an illegal automatic rifle. Diamond, of course, goes off on his own in his inimitable fashion.

The novel is a welcome addition to a much-loved series, and the investigation is followed in great detail. Diamond is portrayed as an intuitive genius, although he exhibits in this caper a great deal of physical effort. Written in clear prose, the author's style is straightforward, with some humor added. Perhaps most surprising is the conclusion, for which the clues along the way are few and far between, so that when revealed it comes as a complete surprise.


Beastly Things
Donna Leon
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143123248, $15.00,

There usually are three common elements in any Guido Brunetti mystery: The City of Venice plays a central role. Then there is the crime for the Commissario to solve. And, lastly, there is a significant social issue running through the novel. This, the 21st novel in the series, is no exception. A man is fished out of a Venetian canal, having been stabbed in the back. Brunetti sets off to find the murderer, and witnesses corruption on a massive scale among public officials and private business.

Looking at the retrieved body, Brunetti has the feeling that he has seen the man before, recognizing his odd shape. Later, learning the man suffered from a rare disease causing his upper torso to enlarge, the Commissario remembers where he saw the victim, enabling him to identify the man. From this point, the novel essentially becomes a straightforward police procedural.

Sprinkled throughout the story are Brunetti's observations and philosophical musings, giving the book a certain flavor and embellishing his personality. Unlike previous entries in the series, however, it lacks the usual deep look into his taste for food and his wife's ability to provide haute cuisine to a family of four (including recipes at the back of the book). It's unfortunate because such information really spices up the novels. However, any Brunetti mystery is well worth reading, and is recommended.

Dying on the Vine
Aaron Elkins
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425247884, $25.95,

The Skeleton Detective mystery series continues with this novel, set in the wine country of Tuscany. And the reader is treated to not only a first-rate crime story, but a gastronomic feast.

Professor Gideon Oliver, on sabbatical, while attending a seminar at Carabinieri headquarters in Florence, meets Lt. Rocco Gardella, where he learns that the deaths of someone he knew, the owner of the fourth largest vineyard in the area, and his wife, have been "solved," determined to be a murder-suicide. In discussion, the Italian policeman suggests that his "cousin" is the owner of the funeral home where the remains of the woman are to be cremated the next day and offers Gideon the opportunity to view the bones. How could a forensic anthropologist refuse?

And never again would things remain the same, as Gideon raises questions about the death just by examining the bones, stating that while she did fall from a cliff, she was still alive until she hit the rocks where her body was found. Then later, upon viewing the husband's bones, he tells Rocco that, as opposed to the conclusion of the police investigation, the man had died before his wife, causing the murder inquiry to be reopened. And thereby hangs a tale.

Sprinkled with descriptions of various restaurants in Florence, and of Italian cuisine, not to mention wine making, the reader really is in store for a well-written treat, not to mention a wealth of information about anthropology. At the same time, the author constructs a complex puzzle for the reader to solve (if he/she can).


Mandarin Gate
Eliot Pattison
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781312656041, $25.99,

The Inspector Shan series continues with a double-barreled story: an enigmatic murder mystery and a deep-seated description of the destruction of Tibetan culture and society. And Shan attempts only to seek the truth in face of the power of the state and his doubts of his own identity and role in Tibet.

It begins with the discovery of three murder victims, two men and a Tibetan nun, in a very old monastery which is being restored. Then a lama commits suicide while Shan is with him. None of these things makes sense and Shan attempts to solve the riddle of the lama's act and of the murders, which may be related. Meanwhile, vivid descriptions of China's efforts to put down dissenters, the harsh realities of internment camps, undercover agents in the form of monks, and other facts of present-day life in Tibet bring home to the reader how an ancient people can be "cleansed."

This novel is complex, colorful and touching. It is a further look at Shan, who once was a respected police inspector in Beijing before serving a prison term in Tibet. Now a lowly ditch inspector, he still has the instincts of an investigator when the need arises. But all is not what it appears to be. And the riddle has to be solved.


Target Lancer
Max Allan Collins
c/o Tor-Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765321800, $25.99,

There are so many conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy that another one hardly is necessary. Except that this entertaining mystery novel is not only entertaining, but actually based on a little-known event that took place in Chicago, days before Dallas. It is another in the Nate Heller series, all of which are based on some historical occurrence, such aske the Lindbergh kidnapping, the assassination of Chicago Mayor Cermak (when the real attempt was meant for FDR), Huey Long, and the death of Marilyn Monroe.

In each, detective Heller plays a key role to unveil the "facts" of the case. In "Lancer," the code name for JFK, a little know assassination attempt on his life is recounted, eerily similar to the one that took place in Dallas. All the elements of the well-known conspiracy theories, e.g., the Cuban connection, the CIA, the Mob, are all present in this book, with Heller involved each step of the way.

By including real life persons, such as Sally Rand, actual Secret Service personnel, Bobby Kennedy, Jimmy Hoffa, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and others, alongside fictional characters, the author creates a bona fide flavor to the tale. The narrative flows smoothly, the dialogue is sharp, and the book is recommended.

Bill Pronzini
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane Unit #7
Forest Hill, MD 21050
9781587672668, $19.99,

The second of the "Nameless Detective" novellas to be published simultaneously (although it should perhaps be noted that this one is copyrighted 1993) finds him chasing a couple of missing college kids in the northern California mountains. Allison Shay was bringing her boyfriend from the University of Oregon back to meet her mother in San Francisco. When she didn't turn up, "Nameless" was retained to find out what happened to the couple, who had not been heard from for five days.

From that point flows Nameless' efforts to discover whether the pair is even still alive. He travels to the last known place they were known to be, Creekside, CA, where he encounters widespread hostility and racism, a paramilitary group known as the Kinsmen, and finally the knowledge that the beau, Rob Compton, was African-American, while Allison was white.

Actually, the tale reads more like a short story, but its 160 pages, I guess, makes it a novella. The stark writing, coupled with Nameless' reactions to the bigotry he encounters, brings home the injustice of racism. The swiftness of the prose and the fast-moving investigation keeps the reader turning pages just as quickly. In fact the book can be finished in a single sitting, and it is recommended.

Bill Pronzini
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane Unit #7
Forest Hill, MD 21050
9781587672675, $19.99,

One of a pair of "Nameless Detective" novellas published recently (the other, "Kinsmen," published in similar format in April 2013, is next up for this reviewer), this is a hard-boiled tale about a pretty girl, Cory Beckett, with no morals, a penchant for marrying rich men and a spineless brother who usually does her bidding (along with other males who she entices with sexual favors). Nameless is called to his favorite bondsman's office to meet her about being retained to find the brother who has skipped town just days before his trial for "stealing" a $20,000 bracelet from the wife of the man with whom Cory is currently involved.

It remains for Jake Runyon, Nameless' associate, to find the brother, and when he does, various questions and suspicions arise. It is left for the two private detectives to bring this noir story to a satisfactory conclusion. This is a carefully constructed tale about a seductress, leading up to a rather bizarre conclusion. A fast read, it can be finished in a single sitting. That is not to say, be assured, that it is not a worthwhile read, and it is recommended.

Black Cherry Blues
James Lee Burke
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062206749, $9.99,

This trade paperback reprint brings back an early Dave Robicheaux novel (first published in 1989) in which he travels from his native Louisiana to Montana to escape his guilt over the murder of his wife. Of course, the familiar territory is covered: his attendance at AA meetings, care for an adopted refugee girl from El Salvador, among other things.

A land-hungry oil company is pitted against the interests of a Blackfoot reservation, and when two American Indian activists disappear, Dave's investigation puts him squarely in the sights of mafia thugs and the oil interests. Also, he enters into a romance with Darlene American Horse, his ex-partner's girlfriend.

The broad sweep of the story helps Dave relieve the demons of his grief, loss, fear, rage and need for vengeance. And the author shows how graphically and wonderfully he can write about the broad vistas of Montana's red cliffs and tree-line hills, as well as the accustomed bayous of Louisiana, and the multi-ethnic aspects of the United States.


The Twelve Clues of Christmas
Rhys Bowen
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425252789, $24.95,

A holiday mystery based on the twelve days of Christmas is the basis for this latest Royal Spyness Mystery series. Georgie (Lady Georgiana Bannock, 35th or 36th in line for the throne) escapes from Castle Rannoch and her sister-in-law, Fig, whom she dislikes, by answering an ad to act as a social hostess for a large Christmas party in a small English village, Tiddleton-under-Lovey. Her actress mother and Noel Coward are staying in the same village, supposedly writing a play, and Georgie convinces her grandfather to join them.

But almost immediately dead bodies begin to appear, one a day. The police think it is the result of a prison breakout by three convicts. Villagers believe the deaths are the result of the Lovey Curse, made by a "witch" burned there hundreds of years before. However, all the deaths appear to be accidental, at least until Georgie comes up with a possible motive for murder.

This sixth novel in the series is, as were its predecessors, very entertaining. The plot is clever, woven around the Twelve Days of Christmas theme. And as an added bonus, all the recipes for an old-fashioned English Christmas, food and games are provided after the mystery is solved. Who can ask for anything more?


Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307951151, $14.95,

In the three years since the conclusion of "The Leopard," Harry Hole has been serving contentedly as a non-violent enforcer based in Hong Kong, collecting money owed to his employer. Then one day, he ups and returns to Oslo when he learns that Oleg, the drug-using son of the love of his life, has been arrested for the murder of a fellow junkie. The police consider the case closed, so Harry acts independently to investigate.

And along the way he finds himself immersed in the midst of Norway's large drug problem. Hole uncovers a trail of violence and disappearances, police and political corruption, and Harry himself becomes a target of the mysterious drug lord Dubai. The novel is a bleak story of damaged individuals hooked on drugs, and the sleaziness inherent in the activity.

The prior novels were forceful, clearly showing Harry's tortured soul, and his unswerving ability to dig, dig, dig to the heart of a case, honestly and insightfully. "Phantom" accomplishes these ends, but to some extent is confusing at the end; whether the author did this purposely or not yet remains to be seen. As usual, the novel is translated faithfully and excellently, and the book is recommended.

The Walnut Tree
Charles Todd
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062236999, $16.99,

A change of pace for this mother-son author team: A love story, rather than a mystery. But still set at the start of World War I, with insights into the British class system and the horrors of war. It is the story of Lady Elspeth Douglas, torn between the attractions of two men, duty, and the iron hand of her guardian stifling her independent nature.

Just before the outbreak of war, Elspeth is in Paris, at the behest of her pregnant friend who is awaiting the birth of her first child. After the baby's birth and the German invasion, she attempts to return to England. Along the way she voluntarily becomes involved in the hostilities, bringing water to the troops. There she meets Captain Peter Gilchrist, setting up an emotional conflict with her fiance, Alain, to whom she sort of became betrothed the night before he left to join the army. When she gets back to England, she decides to become a nurse, and serves well in France, until her guardian decides that that is not an activity fit for a lady.

"The Walnut Tree" is an emotional tale from several points of view. And it is told without embellishment, simply and in a straightforward manner. And the writers couldn't resist introducing a mystery, even if only in passing.


Don't Go
Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250010070, $27.99,

This novel is far from the usual which issues from this author: It is not a mystery. In fact it is closer to a soap opera which, if it were a pilot, would not see its option picked up by the network. It is the story of Dr. Mike Scanlon, successful podiatrist, surgeon, husband and a new father who gets called up from the reserves to serve in Afghanistan and the effects on him and the toll it takes on his life and his family.

When his tour just about comes to an end, two surgeons are killed in an ambush and no replacements are available, so Mike is asked to re-up for a year. And toward the end of that period his wife accidentally stabs herself, bleeding to death, leaving a seven-month-old daughter whose care is taken over by her older sister, Danielle, and brother-in-law, Bob. To make matters worse, Mike loses his left arm during an ambushed convoy transporting his unit and he becomes addicted to an opiate pain. So, when he returns home, what further calamities could befall him?

Well, to top it off, the autopsy of his wife indicates she was one month pregnant when she died. Mike is determined to discover who her lover was, setting off further ramifications on his readjustment to civilian life. Obviously he can no longer perform surgery. And to make his life more complicated, his daughter cries every time he looks at or touches her. The pressures keep mounting and eventually he is asked to leave Bob and Danielle's house and they enforce a previously effected custody agreement, forcing Mike to seek legal redress, setting the stage for a tear-jerker of an ending. Enough already.

The Redeemer
Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307595850, $25.95,

This latest Harry Hole novel to be published in the US [termed "Oslo Sequence #4" in the series] may be an allegory, but it certainly is a high-powered crime story. It begins in Oslo in the days before Christmas when a Salvation Army soldier is shot on a street where he stood by the familiar kettle. Complicating Harry's investigation efforts is the fact that there are no witnesses despite the crowds attending a nearby street concert, and no suspect, weapon or motive. And to make matters worse, the assassin soon finds out that the victim was not his quarry, so he continues his mission.

The taut writing is supplemented with a broad cast of characters. But more important are the insights into Harry's psyche. He is still suffering from the death of his partner and the corruption of some of his colleagues who ran an arms supply business right out of police headquarters (an enterprise to which Harry put an end, somewhat to the disdain of some other police officers).

"The Redeemer" is a complex mystery which slowly builds to the point where the reader needs Harry's help in understanding just what has transpired. Along the way, it is filled with deep observations about junkies, rape, and even Serbian brutality, homelessness and other social issues. It probably is the best in the series to date, and is highly recommended.

Don't Cry, Tai Lake
Qiu Xiaolong
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250021588, $14.99,

While ostensibly a murder mystery, this latest Inspector Chen novel is more a polemic concerning excessive pollution, economic growth at any cost and the political and social system in China today. Still, it is so well-written, filled with poetic references as an integral part of the whole, that it is a worthy addition to the series.

Initially, Chen is invited to spend some vacation time at an exclusive resort for upper cadre (of which he isn't one) by his mentor in Beijing who was scheduled to use a villa there. So, right off the bat, the author offers observations on how the upper layers of officials benefit, while the rest of the population doesn't have such luxuries. Then Chen learns that the once pure waters of Tai Lake have become so polluted that fish are destroyed, the water can't be drunk and even causes illness to inhabitants. The pollution is caused by industrial waste, unimpeded in the interest of profits and "progress."

No sooner does Chen arrive than the general manager of a large chemical company is found murdered and Chen becomes involved, without disclosing himself as a Chief Inspector, in an unofficial investigation. He learns about the pollution from a young female engineer, and works behind the facade of a local policeman, observing, questioning and deducting in typical Chen fashion, including a long T.S. Elliot-type poem about the lake. Other than the murder solution, the criticism of societal and economic conditions in China is anything but subtle. [I wonder if the novel will ever be translated into Chinese.] Here, it is recommended.

Invisible Murder
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
Translated by Tara Chase
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
978161951702, $25.00,

This novel, the second in the Nina Borg series, reminds me of an old MGM epic: A big cast. Broad geographical setting (in this case from Hungary to Germany to Denmark). A tale of Biblical proportions. And yet, despite all this complexity, the plot is pretty simple.

It all begins when two young gypsy boys break into an abandoned Russian clinic in Hungary looking for some loot to sell. Instead they find a canister of cesium salt, a dangerous radioactive material which can be used to make a dirty bomb. One of the boys takes it to Denmark to sell to a buyer, and after he asks his brother to help, the brother comes to Denmark. But the boy dies of radiation poisoning. Meanwhile Nina, who treats gypsy children who were housed in the same hovel as the boy, is also poisoned by the radiation. It is only in the last hundred pages that the authors are satisfied with all the descriptive material and settle down to bring it all together.

So in the final pages we have an old-fashioned police procedural, which is a lot more interesting than what has preceded it. It all is very complicated and yet simple. This reader found it slow reading, and the tale quite burdensome, although the idea is a solid one. Having not read the predecessor novel, "The Boy in the Suitcase," which was highly praised, no comparison can be made. Apparently there is a third novel in the series in the works, so, perhaps, there's another chance to evaluate on a comparative basis.

Let the Devil Sleep
John Verdon
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307717931, $15.00,

In his third appearance, retired NYPD detective David Gurney probably wishes he never answered the telephone. By doing so, he ends up in a most precarious situation when a journalist who had written a laudatory profile of him when he was a top homicide detective asks him to look over her daughter's shoulder. The daughter has a chance to have her thesis idea converted into a TV series: "Orphans of the Murder," a series of interviews with the families of the victims of a killer known as The Good Shepherd. The homicides had taken place a decade earlier.

Gurney reluctantly agrees, but then becomes more and more involved in the case, which he believes was mishandled in the original investigation. Of course, as he continues to look into it and raise questions, he makes no friends in the establishment, especially the FBI which had assumed control of the case. And complicating his efforts is the Good Shepherd's attempts to forestall and kill the TV series.

The novel begins as Gurney is slowly recovering from three gunshot wounds, one to his head, as a result of his last exploit. And, of course, no Gurney story would leave him uninjured as a result of his determination to solve a case. While the plot is logical and straightforward, a lot of the writing is repetitive, especially Gurney's relations with his second wife, Madeleine, and his son, Kyle. That said, the story moves forward at a swift pace and has an unforeseen conclusion, and it is highly recommended.

The Famous and the Dead
T. Jefferson Parker
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525953173, $26.95,

This sixth novel in the Charlie Hood series brings it to a conclusion, sort of. A lot of loose ends are wrapped up as the story meanders back and forth, recounting various topics from the illegal flow of guns and drugs along the U.S.-Mexican border to the accompanying cartel violence. And, of course, there is a final confrontation between and among Charlie, Bradley Jones and Mike Finnegan.

The plot, such as it is, follows Charlie's work as an ATF agent working undercover to nab the men who buy and sell the illegal firearms which enable the escalating violence on both sides of the border. Meanwhile, Jones awaits the birth of his son and hopes to recapture the affection of his wife Erin. And Charlie, who knows all of Bradley's secrets, has to decide what to do with this information. And his obsession with Mike Finnegan consumes him and can cost him his love, Beth.

Written with the author's straightforward, but somewhat dry, style, this concluding novel in the series is not a particularly easy or enjoyable read. It is slow, often repetitious, especially when past events are recounted. The characters, of course, have been and continue to be memorable. However, this reader, at least, had to struggle through the 371 pages and was not particularly enthralled by the conclusion. Probably the only reason to recommend the novel would because it brings a noteworthy series to a final end, by an author who is a craftsman.

Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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