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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 10, Number 11 November 2010 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christina Johns' Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf
Edward's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Nicole's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Regis' Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Riva's Bookshelf Rutherford's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

A Stranger Like You
Elizabeth Brundage
Viking Adult
Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670022007, $25.95,

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

Hugh Waters: Bad marriage. Boring life. Bottled dreams, now smashed. Big problem.

Denny Rios: Unloved child. Unraveling psyche. Unsung hero.

Hedda Chase: Privileged. Powerful. Professional. Pitiful.

When Hugh Waters, insurance agent, takes a screenwriting class and miraculously sells his salacious thriller to Hollywood, his drab and unhappy life takes on sudden meaning. But when a Hollywood executive dies, the successor, Ivy Leaguer Hedda Chase, denounces the script as chauvinistic and unbelievable, resulting in a cancelled contract for Hugh.

Hugh snaps, flies to LA, and stalks Hedda with a vague plan to convince her she's wrong about his story. Instead, with no qualms and with the calculating, level-headed insanity of a true sociopath, he submits her to the same quandary the character in his film endures, to prove that his plot is plausible. Hedda is locked in the trunk of her vintage BMW and abandoned at the airport, keys dangling in the ignition.

On another path, Iraq war veteran Denny Rios, pushed and berated by a group of decadent soldiers, was forced to half-heartedly join in the horrific rape of a young Iraqi girl when on duty overseas. Haunted by the experience, sickened by guilt, never free of the girl's face in his nightmares, Denny flees when the cops approach his aunt and uncle's home and steals the car with Hedda still bound and gagged in the trunk.

I know, it's an intriguing plot. But it's not the storyline that captivated me in this novel. It's more the Dostoevsky-like telling of the tale.

Although A Stranger Like You is billed as a mystery/thriller, I'd prefer to see it classified as literary psychological fiction. The "literary" tag comes from the pure poetry that infiltrates Brundage's well-written prose.

As a boy, he'd gone to the Jersey shore in summertime, but this was the Pacific. There was something about this ocean. In the distance, the air looked brown, like an old-fashioned sepia print, the water copper in the sunlight. The sea was calm, the air smelled of fish. Savage birds dove and fought.

Here's another passage:

They would smoke pot and make love, her skin the impenitent green of old bay leaves, her nipples like the smudged rubber thimbles of a bookkeeper, and then she'd make him tea with mint that she grew on her windowsill. Compared to his wife, Jolene was easily satisfied, uninhibited about her nakedness, her smells, her moody breath. She moved with the unhindered heft of a wrestler...

Brundage showcases very long and winding passages that contain little dialog or action, aside from the running stream-of-consciousness thoughts of each character. Layered over and between each other, these passages of inner thoughts, often told in present tense, second person, lend kaleidoscopic views to the story, hopping back and forth through time and focusing on the unique angle seen by each character. It's the use of second person ("you" POV) that brings the intimacy to these segments.

Death is something you fear, and you can never gauge its proximity. Sometimes you sense it encroaching upon you like some thief in the night, looking into your windows. Sometimes you lay in bed, brittle, waiting for evil to find you. Images sprawl through your mind, arbitrary scraps of terror that have become all too ordinary. To some degree, you have been nurtured on fear.

Here's another:

Maybe you are just tired after the long flight, but you feel conspicuous, profoundly aware of your middle class American roots, drawing attention to yourself as only an American can, in your schlumpy sweat suit, your clunky bag of indispensables (vitamins, pills, and medications for any possible problem, dental floss, makeup, Tampax, Nikes, your favorite Patagonia cap), and the way you move, with carbonated overflow, in comparison to the serene aerodynamics of the locals. As a female, you are sensitive to the feverish curiosity of strangers. Their eyes coat your body like paint.

Of course, there's suspense that draws the reader to the finale. We need to know what happens to Hedda Chase, locked in the trunk of that blue BMW. But it's the intense character profiles and the disturbing intimate lives we glimpse through Brundage's unique approach that were most riveting.

Following are some of my favorite lines from A Stranger Like You:

He didn't tell them the stars were like the teeth of the dead.

He carried the stories around in his pockets, in his fists, like stones.

Doubt is your compass.

...Sunrise like the smeared rouge on a whore.

A bruise floats over his eye like a jellyfish.

Brundage digs deep inside her characters' heads. In addition to the primary characters above, we peek inside the lives of a disillusioned screenwriter (Tom Foster), an escaped and ill-fated Iraqi student (Fatima), and a young homeless waif of a girl (Daisy). All of Brundage's well-rounded characters play to an unusual backdrop of a seedy vision of Hollywood interwoven with images of the war in Iraq, told through Denny's thoughts.

This is not a fast read. It's not a Patterson, or Hoag, or a quick thrill ride that you'll devour in one sitting. It's a study in human nature, and you'll have to work your way through it. But I guarantee, you'll enjoy the ride. The characters - all who move masterfully through their arcs of development - will haunt you long after you finish A Stranger Like You.

The EVERYTHING (R) Diabetes Cookbook, second edition
Gretchen Scalpi, RD, CDN, CDE
Adams Media
c/o F+W Media
57 Littlefield Street, Avon, MA 02322
9781440501548, $15.95,

Bonnie Jo Davis

The EVERYTHING (R) Diabetes Cookbook second edition trade paperback is part of the Everything (R) book series published by Adams Media. Although the book was written for diabetics it includes 300 delicious recipes that will be enjoyed by family members or anyone who wants to eat a healthier diet. I am the daughter and granddaughter of diabetics and I can't help but think how much this book would have helped my father and grandmother.

The table of contents includes:

* Foreword
* Introduction
* Managing Your Diabetes
o Where to Start
o What Can I eat?
o About Fiber and Whole Grains
o Reading and Understanding Food Labels
o The Glycemic Index
o Your Grocery Shopping List
o Making Recipe Adjustments
o What about Alcohol?
* Appetizers
* Soups
* Breakfast and Brunch
* Meats
* Poultry
* Fish and Seafood
* Casseroles and Stews
* Pasta, Rice, Grains and Beans
* Vegetables
* Salads
* Salad Dressings, Salsas, Sauces and Spices
* Yeast Breads, Quick Breads and Muffins
* Desserts
* Snacks and Beverages
* Appendix A: Resources
* Appendix B: Exchange List
* Appendix C: Herbal and Other Seasoning Mixtures
* Index

I am convinced that the quality of life is enhanced by the quality of food that people eat and enjoy. This book proves that even a person with a chronic and incurable disease can still cook and eat a delicious diet that can be shared with family members and guests. I'm not much of a cook but my favorite recipes are the Garlic and Feta Cheese Dip, Chicken Corn Chowder, Chicken and Green Bean Stovetop Casserole and Peach Bread Pudding.

The EVERYTHING (R) Diabetes Cookbook second edition makes a fabulous gift both for a diabetic and those who suffer with metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and hypoglycemia.

The author, Gretchen Scalpi, is a Registered Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Educator. She is also a Certified LEAP Therapist (Lifestyle Eating and Performance), specializing in the clinical management of food sensitivities and related conditions. Gretchen opened her private nutrition practice in 2002 and has expanded to two office locations in New Windsor and Beacon, NY. Gretchen offers lectures and workshops on a variety of nutrition topics to corporate, educational, and community groups.

Tales of Two Hypnotists
William Harwood
World Audience, Inc.
303 Park Avenue South, Suite 2440, New York, NY 10010-3657
9781935444213, $35.00,

G. Richard Bozarth

Tales Of Two Hypnotists offers two novels (The Great Zubrick and The Last Hypnotist) and between them some nonfiction. The lunch meat and cheese slices in this literary sandwich will be recognized as classic Harwood by those who have read his work in various Freethought publications. Of these essays and book reviews, the two that stand out are "Hypnotism" and "Recovered Memories" from his The Disinformation Cycle. Both are outstanding examples of Freethought debunking. Both reinforce points -made repeatedly in the novels: hypnotism does not exist, and recovered memories are bogus. What does exist is suggestibility, and those people who have a talent for suggestibility can be easily manipulated by con artists. The people most vulnerable are those who believe hypnotism is some kind of psychic power the con artist possesses. When the con artist is a professional psychotherapist, then "memories" of incestuous rape, Satanic ritual abuses, and alien abductions are easily "recovered." The evil these psychoquacks have caused during the Child Sexual Abuse Hysteria that has been going on since the early 1980s has been discussed in several books and also in the courts, where the innocent victims of false memory implantation have scored victories against the psychoquacks who implanted the false memories.

Harwood's qualifications to write novels about stage hypnotists were acquired during an astonishing forty years of working for guys like Pat Zubrick and Van Kruger. After reading the novels, it is hard to believe a Freethinker like Harwood, whose work often reminds me of Joseph McCabe, would have invested so many years of his life in something as frivolous as show business. The answer is of course very obvious - so obvious that it is a well-known cliche: there's no business like show business. The novels make that clear. The allure has to be strong because the novels show that being a stage hypnotist is not the easy route to fame and wealth, or even regular paydays. Zubrick and Kruger taste sweet success, but never really big success. That is why both give up their hypnotism acts for a different form of entertainment that has proven to be a reliable way to gain fame and wealth.

Both stories held my interest despite flaws that should be mentioned. One is a flaw more with me than with the general reading public. The style in both is minimalist description. This style is a product of Hollywood, first with movies and later with television. After decades of literally billions of people being entertained by movies and TV, there is a collective memory writers started relying on. Why bother to describe when the reader can be relied on to provide the scenery because he or she has seen it so often in movies and on TV? Minimalist description utilizes this collective memory of scenery to liberate the writer from detailed description. For example, when a reader sees the words "biker bar" or "penthouse suite" or "mountain cabin", images from movies and TV shows automatically come to her or him. The writer hardly needs more description, but will usually add a few details to tweak the generic memory so the reader feels as though a full description has been provided. Lots of writers use minimalist description today. Sometimes Bret Easton Ellis's novels get so minimalist that it is almost like reading a play instead of novel; yet he is, in my opinion, one of the best novelists of his generation. Often Harwood's novels get minimalist enough to read more like plays. It's not a style I care for, yet it can be successful. Harwood isn't as successful as Ellis, but he's more than successful enough.

Hypnotist started out promising. Van Kruger would not be the same person Zubrick is. Zubrick is a megalomaniac who is incapable of ethical behavior, which makes him obnoxiously, self-destructively egotistical. He is a reckless driver who is so blinded by his selfishness that he is incapable of realizing he's racing toward a spectacular crash, and most readers will probably naturally desire to see it happen to him. Kruger began as a serious person almost from birth. He thinks deeply about what happens to him and alters his behavior accordingly. He likes his pleasures, but he's not a megalomaniac and he is ethical compared to Zubrick. This is good because the Zubrick character is fully explored. Then like magic in chapter 7 Kruger is changed into a Zubrick clone! It is very disconcerting and disappointing. It cost the novel several points Harwood should not have been willing to give up since he could have accomplished Hypnotist's mission by keeping Kruger the same character he had established in the first six chapters.

Not changing Kruger into a Zubrick, clone would have helped mask another way Harwood unnecessarily gave up points. In the "Foreword" Harwood fairly warns the reader that he committed self-plagiarism. Because Zubrick was intended for Canadian readers and Hypnotist for British ones, "I saw no reason to avoid including similar scenes in both novels. To readers of this two-novel book who find themselves annoyed at having to read some of the same material twice, I say look on the bright side. While you are getting two stories, you only had to pay for one book." Unfortunately the side isn't bright enough. Whichever one a reader reads first, the plagiarized content in the other will cost the novel points it did not have to lose. The reader feels betrayed, and Harwood appears to be a lazy writer, which the amount of writing he has produced proves he is not. All these similar or in some cases nearly totally identical scenes could have been written differently enough to avoid self-plagiarism and still accomplish what Harwood used them for.

In a different pair of novels, the self-plagiarism might have been a fatal mistake. Harwood gets away with it because his stories are really skeletons supporting the organs, muscles, fluids, and skin of classic Freethought debunking. In other words, telling a story is not the purpose of these novels. Harwood has messages to deliver and he has put them in the form of fiction. Two of the major messages are that hypnotism does not exist and religionism is intellectual muck that has caused enormous amounts of oppression, repression, and suppression. Hypnotism and religionism both exist only in the minds of those gullible enough to believe in them. Supernatural entities, realms, and forces do not exist, and no human possesses a psychic power called hypnotism that allows him or her to control another person. Harwood is particularly harsh on the entertainment industry for selling hypnotism as a real power. The example of this vice he uses the most is a Columbo episode that has a murderer who uses hypnotism to commit the perfect murder because he is able to control the victim over the telephone like a remote controlled Predator drone.

Harwood's Freethought messages are very familiar to those who have read his articles in Freethought publications. My favorite example comes from Hypnotist (p. 250). It is a discussion 10-year-old Van Kruger has with his uncle, who is a Roman Catholic priest and also his biological father:

"Are priests allowed to make love?" Van questioned.

"We're not really allowed to," Gil answered, "but a lot of priests do anyway, those who don't prefer little boys. The pope says it's a sin, but a lot of priests think he's wrong. So we prefer to follow our own consciences rather than have to explain to God why we rejected his greatest gift in obedience to a pope who - how can I put this politely? - is not the brightest light on the candelabrum."

"Who's God?" Van demanded next.

"He's sort of a Santa Claus for grownups," Gil explained. "Kids stop believing in Santa Claus when he stops giving them presents. But what God gives is eternal life, so you go on living even after you're dead, and no one stops wanting to live forever. It's a priest's job to tell people what God wants, so they'll keep on believing in him even after they stop believing in Santa Claus. And being a priest has its benefits. Why support a wife when the parish is full of nuns, widows, and other men's wives, who all think that refusing to gratify a priest will send them to Hell? Only wives on the Pill, of course," Gil clarified. "Otherwise it would be adultery. And nice priests don't commit adultery."

Gil had already explained to Van what adultery is (p. 249): "It's a kind of stealing. When a man and a woman get married, he agrees to support her children, and she agrees not to let-any man but him father them. If she breaks that promise, and has a baby that her husband thinks he fathered when it was really someone else, she robs her husband of his right to raise and support children of his own genes. That's adultery." This same message is delivered in Zubrick. Not a lot of people will agree that this original definition of what adultery meant to the composers of the Ten Commandments, and continued to mean as recently as the 15th century, is still valid, including me. If a spouse promises to live in a closed marriage and breaks that promise, it's adultery even if birth control is used during the cheating. Adultery doesn't exist when the marriage is open, meaning the spouses agree to each other having other lovers or sexual events with transient partners. What Harwood and I agree on is the sexual liberation his revival of the original definition represents.

It surprised and delighted me that Harwood's third major message is sexual liberation. There is plenty of sexual activity in both novels, though the minimalist description style seriously dilutes the erotic thrills they could have delivered. The action is all heterosexual. Harwood doesn't think outside the vagina in these novels. The main characters are apodictically straight and tediously vanilla flavored. However, sexual liberation isn't about what you do with you body. What your sexual philosophy is determines if you are sexually liberated. The sexually liberated philosophy is this: all the ways a human can enjoy her or his sexuality are moral as long as sexual events involving partners are consensual. The novels communicated this philosophy to me. But that is not their biggest surprises.

The second biggest surprise is Harwood's unequivocal advocacy of an age of consent much lower than is now common in the Western World. This is bold since Western culture has been suffering the Child Sexual Abuse Hysteria for nearly 30 years now. CSA dogma erroneously defines adolescence as childhood; with equal error it defines sexual activity as physically and psychologically harmful for children; and it ludicrously asserts that it is government's duty to protect the sexual "innocence" of children until they are fully mature adults. CSA dogma has turned consent into a ridiculously metaphysical concept to enable them to argue that a child is incapable of consenting to sexual activity, and therefore a 17-year-old "child" in a state where 18 is the age of consent is always the victim of an adult sexual predator if he or she has a sexual partner over the age of 18 even if the number of days between their ages is less than half a year. CSA dogma is bluntly rejected in Harwood's novels, and I agree 100% with the rejection.

The novels unquestionably support 14 as the age of consent. There is no mistaking this. Almost all the characters in the novels who engage in partner sexual activity started having sexual partners when they were 14. These partners were not always their age peers. By having some characters already sexually active with partners by age 14, the novels strongly imply support for a lower age of consent, down to at least 12, which I agree is the lowest tolerable age of consent. It is absolutely immoral for government to use laws to control the sexual activity of adolescents, either completely forbidding it until the age of consent or only allowing them to select age peers for partners. This is definitely going to offend a lot of readers, including many who believe they are sexually liberated (they prove they are actually manque by supporting sexual liberation only for adults, because they believe some kind of mechanism turns consensual sexual activity into harmful behavior for adolescents and children). I applaud Harwood's courage as a writer who does not sacrifice his principles to make his book less offensive in pursuit of the largest possible number of sales.

The biggest surprise is the most courageous and, for an even greater number of readers, most offensive one. The novels blatantly declare this: consensual incest is moral where conception is prevented; therefore it should be legal. Because I am 100% convinced of the truth of that statement, I was thoroughly delighted that Zubrick's first chapter begins with incest involving Archie Fenton and his step-sister Beryl. Although not a genetic incestuous relationship, it is illegal incest because they have been living as brother and sister since they were very small children, and they became lovers when Beryl was 14 and Archie was 17 (they're 19 and 22 when the novel begins). They have a half-sister who knows about their relationship and approves of it. In Hypnotist there are two incestuous relationships. One involves Father Gilroy Chamberlain and his niece, which produced Van Kruger, whose last name comes from his stepfather. It is a long-term relationship, and the above dialogue between father and son happened because the boy had found out about the relationship. The other long-term "incestuous" relationship is between Ankhe Sibelius and her brother Bjorn, Lapps whose culture does not have an incest concept. It began before Ankhe was 14 (she's 18 and he's 20 when the novel begins). When they immigrate to England, they live with their uncle, who approves of the relationship, but strongly advises them to give it up because it is illegal in England. Uncle Sven doesn't believe that incest/unchastity, a purely religious concept that has no reality in biology (inbreeding is not the same thing) offers enough rewards to compensate for the prison sentences that would be inflicted on them if caught.

Harwood does not allow the reader to have the slightest doubt about his position on the morality of consensual sibling recreation. This is how he describes Ankhe and Bjorn's relationship (p. 284), "They quietly and tenderly loved each other in the safe, considerate, non-consequential familial recreation that their uncontaminated culture had viewed as a normal part of growing up for millennia prior to the coming of the missionaries." When Archie's wife catches him and Beryl copulating, he first tells Johanna (p. 102) that, "sin means hurting somebody, and sharing joy hurts nobody. The only sexual sin is rape, and the only sexual perversion is self-inflicted abstinence." Then he more directly defends the morality of sibling-sex by telling her that, "the capricious banning of nonconsequential joy-sharing, between persons with the strongest possible reason for loving each other, is even more insane than the meatless-Friday taboo of unpleasant memory." Johanna, who had surrendered to her brother's persistent lust after becoming pregnant with Archie's child, doesn't accept this, because she still suffers guilt for having copulated with her brother, and leaves him. Archie refuses to betray his sexual philosophy just to win his wife back.

Tales Of Two Hypnotists has faults, but they are more than sufficiently compensated by content Freethinkers and sexual revolutionaries will enjoy to the max. Both novels hold the reader's interest, especially since they offer a look into a branch of show business that is rarely explored by novelists (at least I have never read and do not know of a novel by another author about life in a stage hypnotism show). Harwood's nonfiction fans will find more of the sharp zingers they expect and appreciate from this master debunker of religionism, the paranormal, and other forms of human folly. The Great Zubrick, The Last Hypnotist, and the nonfiction treats in between offer more proof of Harwood's qualifications for a distinguished and lasting place in the pantheon of Freethought writers.

Shadows Over Paradise
Anne K. Edwards
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340 Ingsport, TN 37664
978160619354, $19.95,

Christina Francine

This is not your ordinary mystery. Edwards knows how to make reader's skin prickle with wonder and shockingly plausible scenes. With her recently published book, Shadows Over Paradise, readers might think they know what is going to happen next, believe they have the plot-line figured out, but they won't. Edwards shifts gears in unsuspected ways, so much so that readers will truly be surprised.

Edward's heroine, Julia, believes her trip to the Mantuan Islands offers a fond memory, one of watching her friend Suzanne marry. She'll have a memory all right, but a fond one? Doubtful. She'll find adventure though and mystery. There will be danger too - something she didn't ask for. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After awhile, Julia isn't sure she'll make it off the island alive. Before she knows it, she discovers Suzanne's groom has been murdered. Julia doesn't want to stumble upon more, yet fate thrusts more into her lap and she's involved up to her delicate neck. She's even a suspect in the murder.

Shadows of Paradise is a fun read. Edward's imagination combined with delightful revelations make it so. This book is for those wanting more from their mysteries, from their adventures, and light romances. Enthralling.

Lee, A Life of Virtue
John Perry
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
978595550286, $19.99,

Mary Crocco

An easy, quick read

Many books written about Robert E. Lee are on bookshelves across America. Lee, A Life of Virtue, by John Perry, is geared toward a young audience. Teachers would do justice to middle school students by assigning John Perry's book as part of the curriculum when studying the Civil War. Parents who enrich their children's school work at home may consider purchasing this book.

Perry described Lee, a major general, with role model potential: a diligent, honest student. Readers will understand Lee's attributes: leadership qualities, determination to get the job done, and responsibility for his actions.

People respected and admired Lee, without fearing him. He brought the best out of his soldiers by being humble, even sharing their deplorable living conditions during the Civil War.

In his book, Perry balances Lee's virtues by including his flaws: he was too trusting and not forceful enough. This may have cost him defeat in certain battles. Perry describes the battles Lee won and lost, stating probable reasons why. He points out, 'Lee never pointed a finger, never blamed anyone but himself.'

Lee, A Life of Virtue, is an easy, quick read for students and adults. I recommend the book to be on school and home bookshelves across America.

His Redeeming Bride
Ruth Ann Nordin
Privately Published
9781448677221 $7.99 (pbk)
2940000820230 $2.99 (kindle)

Deborah A. Warner

Nebraska, 1882

Sarah Donner, a young women, married, and in a loveless marriage. Jim Donner, Sarah's duty bound, older husband who only married Sarah because her sister, who he was engaged to ran away to marry another man. Hoping that her marriage will take a turn for the better, Sarah anxiously awaits her husband arrival from work so she can make the announcement of her impending birth. On the knowledge of this bit good news Sarah's hopes her excitement changes his attitude towards her, but what happens is just the opposite, leaving Sarah in an ever emotional wreck. What women can't relate to Sarah.

Jim gets an idea that Sarah should get "adjusted to motherhood" by staying with his mother, Beatrice for a couple of months. It's during this trip that Sarah and Jim are caught off guard by a couple of robbers and into the life of sinner, prostitute solicitor, the scandalous, Mr. Neil Craftsman.

From Sarah to Neil, and the ones not mentioned all have their onset of emotional baggage, but that's the fine thread that links each individual person together. The storyline is a familiar characterization of what some women experience in today's world. The author gives you a lot of emotions to deal with but I found that's what gave the story believability. Author, Ruth Ann Nordin phasing of words, and knowledge of the era makes it all come to life. Funny and sad at times with just a bit of sexiness thrown into the mix. Women will relate to this story and for our male counterparts, I think they just might appreciate us women just a little bit more. Well worth the read.

The Lucifer Code
Charles Brokaw
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765320933, $25.99,

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

The Lucifer Code is the second book by Charles Brokaw featuring Thomas Lourds as an action-hero academic with an implausibly encyclopedic memory--think Dan Brown's Robert Langdon and you won't go far wrong. The similarity to Dan Brown's oeuvre doesn't end with the protagonist: the fate of the world is at stake; there's a secret religious society guarding an ancient religious relic that needs finding and translating; and Professor Lourds will manage in a few weeks to crack the code that others have failed to do for some 800 years. Unfortunately, Lourds is unlike Dan Brown's hero in that he has the libido of a seventeen-year-old boy. Lourds' interest in the opposite sex is, one assumes, meant to imply sexiness, but he just comes off as middle-aged smarmy, like you might want to wash your hands after shaking his. The book comes close to being a good read, but misses the mark for me. The plot is kind of tired at this point. There's a potentially great villain, but he winds up mostly being wasted. Huge revelations are dropped on us without fanfare. A book's worth of sexual tension is brought to an anticlimactic climax. The ending is weirdly truncated. I'm afraid Professor Lourds has not won me over as he has most of the women who cross his path.

Blood Over Badge
Wayne Farquhar
3L Publishing
0615359116, $14.00,

Lori Gondelman

Lisa Russell ~ The daughter of the Mayor of San Francisco and murder victim. Found shot to death execution style with her hands and feet bound.

Jack Paige ~ An experienced homicide detective one year shy of retirement and leading the investigation into the murder of the mayor's daughter.

Casey Ford ~ Just joined the detective squad and is jonesing for his first murder case (not that he wants someone to die of course).

Kyle Sanders ~ Convicted of killing a store clerk, he has spent the past 12 years at Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana. So how could he possibly know how Lisa Russell was killed?
Justin Pierce ~ Sadistic new corrections officer at Angola who has a deep hatred for Kyle.
The Killer ~ An evil person who thinks nothing of killing whoever stands in the way of freedom.

The murder of the mayor's daughter, a murdering-rapist on the loose, a sadistic corrections office, a convicted killer and two detectives. These are the people you will meet in Blood Over Badge, a thrilling murder mystery that will literally have you hanging off the edge of your seat. A cast of characters who seemingly have nothing in common, and yet, when it comes right down to it, have the most important common thread of all. This book has everything you'd ever want to find in a solid murder mystery - death, family issues, intense dialogue, believable characters, am amazing attention to detail and enough twists and turns to make you so sick to your stomach that you'll want to keep a bucket close at hand. Blood Over Badge has an ending that will hit you in the face like a fly ball coming out of left field. An ending so shocking that you'll go back and reread it to make sure what happened really happened. A first time author with years of law enforcement experience, Wayne Farquhar certainly knows what he writes about. This book could only have been written by someone working with the ugliest of criminals, learning what makes them tick and the reasons they do what they do. He takes you to a place seldom seem by someone without a badge, with words that will have you right there in the prison, on the streets and in the precinct with them.

Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation
Kate Bornstein & S. Bear Bergman
Seal Press
1700 Fourth Street, Berkeley, California
9781580053082, $16.95,

Hannah C. Webb

Sixteen years ago, Kate Bornstein published a land mark book in the transgender community, titled Gender Outlaws: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us. It became a landmark work, exploring gender roles, attitudes and the fact that there are far more than just two genders. Now, in the year 2010, Kate and her co-author Bear Bergman have brought forth this generation's version, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation.

Kate Bornstein, born into a male body in 1948, transitioned to a woman in 1986, and settled into the lesbian community as an author, playwright and gender theorist. However, while she definitely did not feel that she was a male, she also questioned whether or not she was female, stating that her transition to such was because it was the only other option to being male available to her. She launched into explorations of the gender binary and questioned the rigid idea that only two polarities of gender - male or female - exist. Her books include Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, Roadkill: An Infobahn Erotic Adventure (Novel, co-authored with Caitlin Sullivan), My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely and Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws.

Bear Bergman's story comes from the opposite side of the gender fence. Ze was born in 1974, and is an activist, writer, theater performance artist and poet. Bear's work and life questions all facets of gender and gender expression. Hir's books include Butch is a Noun, The Nearest Exit May be Behind You, and now, with Bornstein, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation.

Gender Outlaws: the Next Generation is an anthology containing an Introduction, an Intermission and an Epilogue by Kate and Bear; and many essays, poems, and comics all profoundly exploring, deconstructing, rebuilding and revaluing the concept of "gender". Also included is one recipe for vegan curry.

I love the multitude of voices in this book, the varieties of viewpoints and artistic expressions! The book is divided into five parts; Do I Look Like an Outlaw to You?, Being Reconfigured is Not the Same as Being Reimagined... Which is Why I am as Cute as I Happen to Be, It Might Not Be a Picnic, But There's a Great Buffet, and the final, powerful, And Still We Rise.

Part one; Do I Look Like an Outlaw to You? opens with the essay "We're All Somebody's Freak" by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, founder of the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Going straight for the heart of the matter, and setting the pace for the rest of the anthology, Smith questions the prejudices and barriers that exist within the transgender community towards each other.

In Part Two entitled "Being Reconfigured is Not the Same as Being Reimagined", "Taking Up Space" by Kyle Lukoff, addresses the powerful issues of eating disorders and transgenderism. "The Wrong Body" by Scott Turner Schofield deals with the question of the bodies we are born into.

Part Three, "...which is Why I am as Cute as I Happen to Be" has one of the most humorous pieces in the book, "The Secret Life of My Wiener" by Corry Schmanke Parrish, as well as the return of a black belt martial artist to the mats and gyms once denied her in "Living Well and Coming Free", by Ryka Aoki.

In Part Four, "It Might Not Be a Picnic, But There's a Great Buffet", "The Manly Art of Pregnancy" by J. Wallace explores being a man and pregnant, a scenario that is having more and more impact in today's society. "Transgressing Gender at Passover with Jesus!" by Peterson Toscano restores one of the Bible's great stories in transgender terms, and "Today's New Name May Be Tomorrow's Old" by Sassafras Lowry confronts the taboo subject of transitioning and then de-transitioning in the trans subculture.

Finally, Part Five, And Still We Rise takes on the tragedy of abuse and murder that haunts transgenders today, giving powerful voice to the violence we face. "Princess" a comic by Christine Smith addresses humorously but with great force, bullying issues faced in the schools. "Marsha P Johnson::ten suns the transformer" is an elegy for Marsha P Johnson, a famous Drag Queen whose death was possibly murder, but ruled a suicide. "Shot, Stabbed, Choked, Strangled, Broken: a ritual for November 20th" by Roz Kaveney is a haunting poem for the victims remembered on the Transgender Day of Remembrance. These are only parts of this stunning anthology - 47 authors, poets and artists all told speak out on the fluidity, the power and the changes in gender in the world today.

The book is bracketed by conversations between Bear Bergman and Kate Bornstein, a rollicking walk down memory lane of their association and the changes in the transgender community, (I am still boggled by mental images of Sarah Palin and Kate Bornstein on a desert island!) and a look to the future of Gender to come. It is not just a book about transgender, but about gender itself, how it is shaped in society and how it shapes individuals and how those individuals continue to stand societal conventions on end.

There are some shocking and unsettling moments in the book - "In Our Skin" by A. P. Andre and Luis Guterierrez Mock is the transcript of an erotic performance piece (complete with photographs) of love making on stage that bends gender in dramatic ways. This piece will be startling and perhaps difficult for individuals who pick this book up to read with no previous contact with transgender and gender bending cultures. "Jihad" by Azadeh Arsanjani and "Pilgrimage" by Zev Al-Walid are powerful, much needed essays of transgenderism within the Muslim faith that may also be unexpected and disconcerting in today's political climate. All told, this book in its entirety is a powerful cohesive exploration of gender that speaks forth- rightly and with depth, poignancy and humor to a world that faces bewildering changes in the map of gender roles and expressions in the world today.

It would be my hope that "Gender Outlaws: the Next Generation" may reach a wide audience; not just those within the transgender community, but instead, travel even further to the world at large, becoming this generation's contributions to the changes in gender in our world. I cannot recommend it highly enough! Finally, the books dedication to Bear Bergman's son, Stanley Safran Bergman says it all - " the next generation".

Raising Eyebrows
Dal LaMagna
John Wiley & Sons
111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030-579013
9780470874370, $24.95,

Patricia Gale

"Tweezerman" Inspires Other Plucky Entrepreneurs

Like the start of most small businesses, Tweezerman, the global beauty tools company, was a one-man show. Founder Dal LaMagna did all the selling, inventory management, bookkeeping, shipping, and deliveries himself. He operated out of a 400-square-foot bungalow that was his office, warehouse, and home. His initial investment was $500. Years later, he sold the company and walked away with millions.

LaMagna's new business memoir, Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets It Right (John Wiley & Sons,, written with his two lifelong friends, Wally Carbone and Carla S. Reuben, is unlike any other. For those who are tired of entrepreneurship stories that gloss over hardships or sugarcoat risks, LaMagna pulls no punches in depicting the long and difficult work of realizing one's dreams. But he makes us laugh out loud along the way.

A self-described "compulsive capitalist," LaMagna recounts a string of ingenious entrepreneurial endeavors, starting with his first one, at age eight, when he was the top raffle ticket seller at his Catholic school. His trick? Hitting up the barflies at the local hole-in-the-wall each evening during happy hour, unbeknownst to the nuns. From creating the first computer dating service during his college years and inventing drive-in discotheques, to building a psychedelic light box and selling waterbeds, LaMagna's many failed money-making schemes tell the story of a sixties-era seeker who had inexhaustible ambitions, creativity, and resilience. According to Tom Hayden, "Karl Marx could learn from Dal LaMagna why capitalism is irrepressible."

This rollicking read has valuable lessons for other budding entrepreneurs. Each time one of LaMagna's businesses flopped, he got wiser. By the time he flashed on the idea for Tweezerman - after an erotic interlude on a splintery rooftop deck in California - LaMagna had, by process of elimination, made every mistake one can possibly make in business. He then went on to build the legendary, socially responsible American business, Tweezerman, which has inspired a new generation of visionary capitalists.

In Raising Eyebrows, readers learn:

Some nitty-gritty ways to finance your business dream
How to engage with partners and coworkers - and pick the right ones
How to risk it all, fail, and bounce back stronger
Top tips on managing debt and revenue
Why you need to consider how running a business will affect your lifestyle
How to balance your time and resources between sales, production, and control
Why focus, patience, and organization are essential for the self-employed
How to be a responsible capitalist - and why you should be one

In the end, Raising Eyebrows is a great American business story that offers insight into what it takes to build a strong and ethical company - whether it's a one-person operation or a global company. One walks away with the certainty that a profitable beach parking lot is every bit as worthy as a multinational manufacturing business, as long as you are happy, making money, treating your coworkers and clients well, and being socially responsible. It's a good message for today's unemployed and underemployed workers who have a modest entrepreneurial dream and the strong desire to make working for themselves a reality.

Beneath the Surface of Things
Kevin Wallis
Bards and Sages Publishing 2010
2010909376 $14.99

Mona Lisa Safai

Kevin Wallis debuts with Beneath the Surface of Things, his latest collection of twenty-five short stories. His collection is an emotionally impacting showcase of stories which take his audience on a rollercoaster ride with endless twists and turns. Wallis explores realistic and surreal worlds which vary in lightness and darkness. Every story carries a common thread that questions reality. There are no absolutes, no boundaries - only depth. He writes mindbending stories which challenge readers to ask themselves how much they really know and how deep they are willing to look to find the truth.

In Tempestuous Choices, a family seeks refuge from a furious hurricane. Without rhyme or reason a man in a spotless, white suit appears and tells the father, Terrence, that "You and family must die today." With great unease, Terrence, ignores this nameless man and begins to secure the house for the pending storm. Meanwhile, the man in white continues to appear with the same message "You and your family must die." How Terrence handles this man in white's message is truly fascinating. Wallis writes this with incredible attention to motion, character development, and internal spiritual conflict.

In She's Killing Me, Wallis writes a true story about one night when he, his wife, and another couple, Jen and Joe get together and play video golf. Jen is an excellent and competitive player. Kevin, on the other hand, is desperate to finally beat Jen just one time. Wallis describes the events of the evening with humorous, yet minimalist dialogue that accentuates the story.

Conscience is a flash fiction story that depicts human nature from an unnerving and grotesque perspective. Wallis describes a serial killer who holds a young woman chained in his kitchen. As he prepares to slaughter her, and then eat her, the killer begins to cry. Terrorized, the girl expects the knife to slit her neck. Instead, the killer rips her restraints. She quickly crawls to the door and glances back one last time to see he's cutting his own fingers, while crying and laughing. Wallis shows the audience a serial killer with remorse, usually not exhibited in such killers. The capacity to feel such an emotion is nonexistent. His style is precise, detailed, and provocative. Wrought with fear, horror, and disbelief, Wallis communicates the emotions of both characters clearly in such a compact space.

In Charlie's Lunch, a man sipping coffee notices that patrons begin to vanish one by one. His world and sanity begin to unravel as he tries to make sense of what he is witnessing. A waitress watches as he slowly falls more and more into nightmarish confusion. She holds the key to his understanding. Wallis pens this story as a bridge between two worlds - the realistic and the surreal. Together they mesh, but there is an uneasy feeling of motion without purpose--people living without knowing why. Again, Wallis uses powerful language to move readers into imaginative realms.

Wallis's stories encompass the darkness which lies within us. Sometimes, the darkness is brutal, raw, violent, and quiet until triggered, or simply spiteful and comical. There are no ways to compartmentalize our inner emotions. Wallis's has incredible ability to explore the internal realms of the human spirit and possible worlds beyond scientific explanation. His combination of horror with fantasy, surrealism with reality, light with dark, and mercy with death create compelling stories deserving the attention of all readers. Hopefully, many more works will follow.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Old Photographs
Sherie Posesorski
Second Story Press
20 Maud Street Ste 401, Toronto, ON M5V 2M5
9781897187784, $10.95,

It's never too early to put a sleuth's brain to work. "Old Photographs" is a mystery following young Phoebe Hecht, who seems doomed to spend her summer with nothing more than a collection of detective books. When a neighbor is attacked and robbed, Phoebe has an inkling of what the truth may be, and she may find herself the star of her own detective adventure. "Old Photographs" is a fascinating and fun read, highly recommended.

Together We Will Win
Karen A. McWhirt
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432748678, $19.95,

Cancer cares not about age, especially testicular cancer. "Together We Will Win: What Happens When We Don't Talk About Testicular Cancer: A Young Man's Story" tells the story of Ian McWhit, and his journey with his mother faced with testicular cancer, a deadly danger to young men as early as twelve, often not talked about due to the reservations society has with the body part. Losing her son to the disease, Karen McWhit hopes her story will teach others to be aware of a disease that can be stopped. "Together We Will Win" is a strong pick for those concerned with what isn't talked about enough.

The Courage Companion
Nina Lesowitz & Mary Beth Sammons
Viva Editions
c/o Cleis
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781573444095, $15.95,

A little bit of courage goes a long way to a happier life. "The Courage Companion: How to Live Life with True Power" is a collection of true life tales of courage and facing adversity that seek to inspire others to reach up for greater in their lives. Courage can come from anyone and is the key to success in many levels. For those looking for an amazing boost of spirit, "The Courage Companion" is not a read to be missed.

My Sister Chaos
Lara Fergus
Spinifex Press
1876756845, $16.95,

A chaotic world is a world where the maps keep changing, a nightmare for the cartographer. "My Sister Chaos" tells the story of two sisters fleeing a crumbling country and where they meet a cartographer and a painter. Author Lara Fergus brings readers into a world where chaos and order combat one another and the scales shift constantly, leading to an endlessly fascinating read that will be hard to put down. "My Sister Chaos" is not a read to be missed.

Cassie Draws the Universe
P. S. Baber
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450243797, $23.95,

In a world of billions unable to change anything, it's easy to think you're worthless. "Cassie Draws the Universe" tells the story of a unique friendship. Cassie was alone in the world, faced with a depressing introduction to adulthood. Amy, a girl moving to a small town after life in California left her with a tragic end to two of her family. A story of friendship and its power to help face the world, "Cassie Draws the Universe" is a thoughtful and remarkable read.

The Iron Bodkin
Amy Allegeyer Cook
Privately Published
9781453712818, $9.99

It can be hard to protect something you can't see. "The Iron Bodkin" tells the story of a young man in a family of witches, Lux. Turning his sister invincible in a world where that talent is taboo, he can't cure his mistake without outing himself so he has a very real problem in his hands. Racing against time and the inquisitors, "The Iron Bodkin" is a fun and exciting read that young readers will love.

Best Erotic Fantasy & Science Fiction
Cecila Tan & Bethany Zaiatz
Circlet Press
39 Hurlbut Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
9781885865618, $19.95

Fantasy and science fiction are works of the mind, so it's not surprising when it goes the way of the sensual. "Best Erotic Fantasy & Science Fiction" is a collection of fantasy and science fiction with a sexual twist. These stories explore elements of the future of sex, and the elements of sex in other worlds, giving a blend of thoughtful reading as well as something a little bit spicy. Deftly composed and no shortage of exciting reading, "Best Erotic Fantasy & Science Fiction" is an excellent compendium that no fan of the genre should overlook.

Conversations with My Son
Terryann Fisher & Troy Michaels
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450229975,$ 13.95,

No parent wants to outlive their child. "Conversations with my Son" is a memoir of Terry Ann Fisher faced with the AIDS diagnosis of her son. In these final years, she shares her stories and the poignancy she remembers with them all. Touching with hope and something to relate to for other parents of tragic children, "Conversations with my Son" is a moving read that other parents in grief shouldn't pass up.

Quest for Light, Adventure of the Magi
Byron Anderson
Privately Published
9780977376636, $14.95

The Three Wise Men have their own place in the story of Christianity. "Quest for Light, Adventure of the Magi" tells a story of the three as they travel along the Silk Road in the first century and the paths that bring them towards the birth of the Messiah, The Christ. Their trip however, is not without its challenges, and Byron Anderson brings a thoughtful and solidly recommended read that shouldn't be put down easily. "Quest for Light, Adventure of the Magi" is highly recommended.

K9 Heroes
Nicole Arbelo
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432744755, $14.95,

Man's best friend has continued to earn that name in recent years. "K9 Heroes: Together We Protect, Defend, and Conquer as One" looks at the role of the dog in warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Nicole Arbelo reflects on her own position as an animal trainer and handler to provide a snapshot of America' unsung animal heroes. "K9 Heroes" is a top pick with plenty of photos, very highly recommended.

G. H. Larrivee
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432746414, $17.95,

We always tell ourselves we'll do better than our parents. Easier said than done. "SonSet: A Memoir of Family Dysfunction" is a reflection of Gerry Larrivee, one who came up in a broken home himself. Looking forward, he tries to do better with his son, but finds himself failing. Reflecting on what he's learned and recording his efforts to mend broken fences, "SonSet" is a touching read, highly recommended.

Jacob Young
Privately Published
9780615385990, $14.99

To spread the word of God and be perceived as a nuisance. "Harvest: Memoir of a Mormon Missionary" is a recollection of Jacob Young and how he sent to Russia to spread the word of the Mormon faith. An unusual blend of man of faith being sent against a culture clash, he provides a humorous and frank look at the life of a missionary and working in a place far from his native Idaho. "Harvest" is quite the read, highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Irish Twins
Bob Huerter
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781609102609, $16.96,

With a terrifying ordeal can come a shocking revelation. "Irish Twins" tells the story of two individuals separated at birth. One gets a good life in America, the other is dragged through poverty and raised to become an assassin. A mistaken identity situation later in life may soon bring them together, in this thriller set among the high tension of Northern Ireland. "Irish Twins" is a top pick for thriller readers.

Living in the Spirit of Yoga
Gudjon Bergmann
Privately Published
9781451590838, $15.99,

The discipline of Yoga is something that will stay strong throughout human history. "Living in the Spirit of Yoga: Taking Yoga Off the Mat and Into Everyday Life" is a guide for practicing yoga and applying its principles and values to what one will face in day to day life. With plenty of thought empathy, and knowledge, "Living in the Spirit of Yoga" gives readers a thorough and thoughtful treatise on the value of Yoga.

The Tarnished Fed
Jim Kudlinski
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163182, $16.95,

There's more than number crunching in the fed. "The Tarnished Fed: Behind Closed Doors: Forty Years of Successes, Failures, Mystique, and Humor" is a memoir from Jim Kudlinski, discussing his time as an Executive Director of Operations in the Federal Reserve System. Discussing recent crisis and what they mean for the bigger picture, as well as the Federal reserve's other activities. "The Tarnished Fed" brings plenty of information to light, highly recommended.

Another One for the Crowning Act of God's Grace
Edward Alfred Swanson
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161508, $11.95,

The coming of Christ is something constantly on the minds of many Christians. "Another One for the Crowning Act of God's Grace" are the musings of Edward Alfred Swanson as he grants his own thoughts and pondering on the status of Christ and what lies ahead for us all. Bringing a good deal of common sense and seeking to inspire others, "Another One for the Crowning Act of God's Grace" is an excellent pick.

The Bridge Builders
Richard Bell
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162864, $16.95,

There's more to art and architecture than the blueprint doodles. "The Bridge Builders" is a memoir from Richard Bell as he reflects on being an American who came to love art and architecture in Europe and did well in helping establish important work that earned him a place as town hero in his birthplace of Raleigh, North Carolina. "The Bridge Builders" is intriguing and thoughtful for those looking for a read that bridges art and architecture.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Dickens, Drood, and Redemption
Ray Dubberke
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162772, $22.95,

Great writers write until they die, and this sometimes leaves things unfinished. "Dickens, Drood, and Redemption: Essays About Charles Dickens' Unfinished Novel" looks at the unfinished novel 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' Dickens last novel before he passed away. With much discussion and debate, author Ray Dubberke gives readers a thoughtful examination of the work, with plenty of wit and wise observations. "Dickens, Drood, and Redemption" is a fine read for the Dickens fan.

Who? What? Why? When? Where? How?
Bintang Hanson-Forero
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533154715, $8.95,

There is no better teacher than experience. "Who? What? Why? When? Where? How?: Conversation and Composition Topics for the ESL Classroom" is a guide for ESL educators for extra advice in teaching the English language through the many types of question and the Wh prefix words. With much useful information, "Who? What? Why? When? Where? How?" is a solid resource.

Trespass Into Eternity
F. Joseph Diaz de Leon
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162871, $22.95,

With pressures from a corrupt church, it can be hard to spread the truth. "Trespass Into Eternity" is a Christian novel as rogue archeologist Connor Donnelley stands against the church as he finds new evidence tied to the Dead Sea scrolls about someone who has truly witnessed the Crucifixion of Christ, and his writings may shake the world as we know it. "Trespass Into Eternity" is a riveting Christian thriller, highly recommended.

Ornella Grosz
Transformation Media Books
9780984575114, $12.95,

You can have the best paycheck in the world, but if you don't know how to use it, it won't help you for long. "Moneylicious" is a guide aimed at Generation Y for being smart with one's money and remembering what's important about staying afloat with one's cash while still getting the things you want out of life. Covering investments, savings, and making the important milestone purchases of life, "Moneylicious" is not a read to be missed.

Connecting Waters
Ric Schroder
Privately Published
9781453794296, $12.95

In pursuit of something greater, one often takes gambles which may not end well. "Connecting Waters" is a thriller following Dan Stevens, a chemical engineer who leaves his safe job for the bigger money. But the gamble of the bigger money may sentence him to lose something without a pricetag- his family. A fun thriller, "Connecting Waters" is a choice pick.

Before My Heart Stops
Paul Cardall
Shadow Mountain
9781606418185, $21.99,

Death can be gunning for you before you even know the meaning of the word. "Before My Heart Stops" is a memoir from Paul Cardall about his life long struggle, being born with half a heart. With low hope for survival, Paul Cardall fought for his life before finally receiving a heart transplant in 2009. Crediting his fight to his faith in God, "Before My Heart Stops" is a remarkable and uplifting read, highly recommended.

Awaken the Kryst Within
A'Dayara BudAea Rivera
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432755485, $13.95,

It can take a near death experience to finally set one on the right path. "Awaken the Kryst Within" is a spiritual guide from A'Dayara BudAea Rivera, reflecting on the tragedies that almost led to his death and made him understand the true value of life and what the priorities in life should be . Thoughtful with plenty of inspiration, "Awaken the Kryst Within" is a choice pick for spiritual readers.

Phantom Four
Roger Wilson
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432761226, $14.95,

To have the weight of the world thrust on your shoulders can prove quite the challenge. "Phantom Four" is a story of four brothers who after overcoming amnesia, find that they share a combined purpose. They find they have more power than they ever dreamed of, but the purpose of this power is to protect New York City from an oncoming demon invasion. "Phantom Four" is an excellent action and adventure novel, recommended.

Shine On
Alaine Sonnenberg
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781616638269, $10.99,

In the toughest of times it can hard to remember that God is still there for you. "Shine On" is an inspirational Christian read from Alaine Sonnenberg as she seeks to remind people that God's presence is still there and keep their eyes open for the light at the end of the tunnel. With plenty of wisdom for Christians, "Shine On" is a choice pick for Christian inspiration collections.

Gods of the Machines
Gary Starta
Privately Published
9780984452156, $17.99

Occam's razor should never be accepted so quickly. "Gods of the Machines" tells the story of humanity's expansion onto a new planet. Sam Benson, a New Yorker working on the new colony, is faced with murders popping up throughout. Fingering an android responsible, Sam may soon realize that humanity wasn't on this new planet first. "Gods of the Machines" is a fun and hard to put down science fiction thriller, recommended.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Triangulation: End of the Rainbow
Bill Moran, editor
Privately Published
9780982860601, $13.50

The trip to the end of the rainbow is one not knowing where you're going or what exactly you're getting. "Triangulation: End of the Rainbow" is a collection of short stories from assorted authors as they bring their own ideas to the table in this collection of science fiction and fantasy. From nineteen different writers, this is a fine collection of today's up and coming authors. "Triangulation" is a fine collection that will be hard to put down.

Rock N' Roll Supernova
Joe A. Crawford
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432761875, $25.95,

Fame and glory aren't a free reward. "Rock N' Roll Supernova" tells the story of Buddy Carmichael. A small town kid who gets a raging rise to fame, he finds that being a rock star isn't an easy job, as there's plenty to deal with that's not in the job description. A story of the toll of fame, "Rock N' Roll Supernova" is a riveting and exciting read that should be hard to put down.

The Keya Quests
Glenn Skinner
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432749392, $23.95,

The help one needs can come in the strangest of places. "The Keya Quests" tells the story of Keya who is searching for the hero to save her world, crossing a portal into modern America. There she finds s dysfunctional family, and that family may take her in, but her quest still looms strongly on the horizon. Looking for help in unusual places, "The Keya Quests" is a fun and fast paced read.

A Moment's Matinee
Bill Bailey
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432722456, $12.95,

His love of poetry lead him to teaching English, and now he returns to it. "A Moment's Matinee" is a short chapbook of poetry from Bill Bailey who gives readers a collection of wisdom and verse from a father, teacher, and leader. "A Moment's Matinee" is an insightful read, recommended. "Shunned": Full-blown rejection is surgery gone mad,/Slashing hope and healing,/Chopping, mercilessly at the grace of solitude./Even lepers know progression and communal dissolution.

Open Source
M. M. Frick
Privately Published
9781453719985, $12.95

A hijacked ship turns into something far worse for Casey Shenk. "Open Source" tells the story of Casey and his pursuit of justice when a ship is hijacked. With theories and reasoning to why it happened, his ideas come to be true, but being right has its own penalty as he and his newest friend Susan Williams find themselves in the crosshairs of international intrigue. "Open Source" is a riveting read that will be hard to put down.

Future Directions for the National Healthcare Quality and Disparties Reports
Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
500 5th St, NW, Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055
9780309149853, $59.00,

Healthcare is an important issue in the modern debate and more than ever, quality is the issue. "Future Directions for the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports" is an analysis and discussion of these reports in regard to the modern day and the issues surrounding the quality of healthcare in the modern day. Analyzing the data well with a scholarly eye, it describes ways to better it for the future of future reports and the advancement of healthcare in America in general. "Future Directions for the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports" is a wise and recommended read that's important to the national debate.

Making Kodak Film
Robert L. Shanebrook
Privately Published
No ISBN, $29.95,

Photography has become such a big part of modern society. "Making Kodak Film: The Illustrated Story of State-of-the-Art Photographic Film Manufacturing" looks into the complex manufacturing process of Kodak's film. Covering it step by step with plenty of information, full color photographs, and more, "Making Kodak Film" is a fascinating study of this staple of modern technology.

The Jesus Factory
Scott Lindquist
Aventine Press
750 State St. #319, San Diego, CA 92101
9781593306793, $16.95,

The true message of Christ can often be lost in a sea of other agenda. "The Jesus Factory: An Adventure Novel of the Spirit That Reveals the Lost Message of the Hidden Apostle" tells a story of a hidden apostle with a new and very different message for the world. Written out of the faith of author Scott Lindquist, "The Jesus Factory" will prove a thoughtful and very highly recommended read.

The Datemaker Chronicles
J. Thomas Tucker
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452025223, $17.00,

It was an easy thing to turn to, and far too many got lost on that road. "The Datemaker Chronicles" tells the story of Elizabeth Jones, a young woman in the 1970s who spins into the world of drugs and sex. A story of a life destroyed by traveling down this difficult and windy path of life, readers will be at the same time enticed and crestfallen as Liz's story is the story of far too many. "The Datemaker Chronicles" is an excellent read, all throughout.

Executive Career Advancement
Lorenzo G. Glores
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781420807554, $18.85,

Getting ahead in the corporate world is more than attaining excellence. "Executive Career Advancement: How to Understand the Politics of Promotion" is a career advancement advisory to give readers advice on to succeed on a greater level in their careers in ways that they never would have thought how to. Stating that being in a corporation is a lot like being a politician, Lorenzo Glores gives readers more than they need to know to make the most out of their stay in the corporate world. "Executive Career Advancement" is a choice and solidly recommended read which shouldn't be missed.

Satan's Head
Simon Oldman
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450242509, $17.95,

When you attack the United States, you have to go big to have any real effect. "Satan's Head" tells the story of rookie senator John Franks and a massive Jihadist plot against the United States that hopes to turn Inauguration day into the biggest tragedy in American history. Franks and the Homeland Security committee find protecting the country is in their hands but they may already be too late. "Satan's Head" is an exciting thriller that will be hard to put down.

The Contrail Chronicles
Dick Nelson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432755041, $23.95,

The call to follow the footsteps of the father are strong. "The Contrail Chronicles: An American Family's Journey Through War and Peace" is a memoir of Dick Nelson looking to his father's death in action in World War II and taking up his own route into the United States Navy. A story of what it means to follow in your father's footsteps and growing up the son of a fallen soldier, "The Contrail Chronicles" is a fine read, highly recommended.

Mess Management
Steve M. Cohen
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452058665, $14.99,

People don't like to be fired. They also hold grudges. "Mess Management: Lessons from a Corporate Hit Man" is a memoir from Steve M. Cohen, who spent much of his corporate career as a 'hit man', someone who could resolve problems quickly. Faced with an onslaught of disgruntled employees, the problems of firing someone, and how to handle these problems quickly and elegantly, "Mess Management" is an intriguing and useful read, especially for those who are tasked with managing human resources themselves.

Michael J. Carson

Christina Johns' Bookshelf

Hellfire and Damnation
Connie Corcoran Wilson
Sam's Dot Publishing
Box 782, Cedar Rapids, IA 52406-0782
9781935590071, $10.95,

This is Wilson's take on the 9 levels of Dante's Inferno, but this look involves contemporary storylines. Wilson's first book, this one, is an exciting, smooth, and well written book which some say defines her not so much as a writer to watch, but one to watch out for. After reading this, readers may not want to run into Wilson in a dark alley!

Beginning with Hotter Than Hell, Wilson introduces readers to "Big Jim" Bingham, a death row inmate on his way out. It is only odd that Big Jim receives a letter from Kuwait that gets the interest of the warden who is going to try to find out who the missive is from.

"Who in the hell do you think is writin' Big Jim, fellas?" he said to the guards on Death Row, as he half- walked, half-ambled John Wayne style, toward Big Jim's cellblock. "We got ourselves one hundred and twelve men on Death Row. Some of 'em have visitors. But have any of you known Big Jim to have a visitor since that second wife of his died of cancer? What was her name... Maizie?"

"No, Sir, Warden Presley, Sir! Big Jim don't get no visitors of any kind. Never has." Bob Mulligan wiped his nose with a dirty handkerchief that normally dangled from his pocket as he agreed with the warden. It was always smart to agree with Warden Presley. The warden had a mean streak."

Hellfire and Damnation, pg 9

The letter turns out to be from one of Big Jim's sons (the other two are dead) who is in the service. Big Jim only wants the best for this boy, but there is little he can do for him. The son forages a relationship with his father in this character study. The circle here is Limbo.

In Circle three: Gluttony, we meet Amazing Andy, the Wonder Chicken. This chicken loses his head for what his owners thought would be dinner, but Andy seems to be capable of living without his head! I won't say more (not wanting to ruin it for you), but you will want to read this light-hearted but deep tale.

Stanley also got me and Mama into the act of helpin' feed Andy with an eyedropper, since Andy didn't have no head and all. We had to make sure to keep his esophagus clear and give him grain and water, but, other than that, Andy put on weight. He weighed eight pounds before you knew it. I'd say he had an eye for the ladies, 'cept he didn't have no eyes at all. The ladies... chickens, I mean... liked him just fine. He was always in theredoin' his thing in the hen house. Andy was a fine specimen of a chicken, if there ever was one.

Hell and Damnation, Pg 436

Readers not well-versed about Dante's Inferno will appreciate this book. I knew very little and learned quite a bit! Wilson's fresh and informative style is a pleasure to experience. She breathes life into her characters and readers can't help but wonder when her next book will be out.

One under the Sun
Vincent Spada
Brambleby Books Ltd
90 Viaduct Cottages, Lower Harpenden Road, East Hyde, Beds., LU1 3TU, UK
9780955392863, $9.99,

Here is the new collection of poetry by the author of the children's book "Said the Kitty to the Cat." Make no mistake: This is not a book for children. This is a richly woven book for adults. Readers will enjoy the light and almost whimsical poems as well as the pieces taking the reader to melancholy. Some of the poems rhyme like the following.

When the Old Gods come back
When the Old Gods come back,
how the world will go insane
We will pull down all the comforts
and put up the endless pain
When the Old Gods come back,
how the mountains then will crumble
We will clap the clouds with anger,
and produce our sacred rumble
When the Old Gods come back,
how the bones will dry and bleach
We will spare no single person
from these lessons that we teach
When the Old Gods come back
how the blood will edd and flow
We will make them watch our horrors,
so that all will see and know
When the Olds Gods come back,
how the Sun will fade away
From the darkness we have risen,
to reclaim the Earth this day
When the Old Gods come back,
the sword of chaos rules the land
When the Old Gods come back,
we will make them understand
When the Old Gods come back, Pg 25

Of course, Spada also has a moody, dark side.

In a dark, dark place

In a dark, dark place
is where my mind does dwell
For things have not been pleasant,
and things have not been well

In a dark, dark place
I gaze out at the light
But all is so distorted,
and doesn't look quite right

In a dark, dark place
there's anger and there's hate
The structure of my thoughts,
is in such a jumbled state

In a dark, dark place
I see regret and shame
For youth was born and wasted,
burned in an ugly flame

In a dark, dark place
lies ruin and despair
The world may sink and suffer,
for I simply do not care

In a dark, dark place
is where I deem to be
To hell with everyone
in fact, to hell with me

--In a dark, dark place, Pg 9

In this book, Spada shares his views on a number of things ranging from the dark place his psyche is in to

Edgar A. Poe. Though reminiscent of older forms of poetry, Spada's work holds a certain timeliness which is modern.

Read this newcommer for yourself. You really won't want to miss this.

Harlan County Horrors
Mari Adkins, editor
Apex Book Company
PO Box 24323, Lexington, KY 40524
9780982159651, $15.95,

This anthology contains 13 stories by Debbie Kuhn, Earl P. Dean, Geoffrey Girard, Jason Sizemore, Jeremy C. Shipp, Maurice Broaddus, Robby Sparks, Ronald Kelly, Stephanie Lenz, Steven L. Shrewsbury, T.L. Trevaskis, Alethea Kontis, and Preston Halcomb. All talented writers, each wants to share a tale of the area with you.

"From the time the first stories began coming in," editor Mari Adkins tells in the introduction. "I knew Harlan County Horrors was going to be something special. Aliens, witches, vampires, portals to hell, zombies, djin, Aztec priests, chupacabra, zombies, and more dance a magical, oppressive, often violent reel through coal, ash, and blood."

Debbie Kuhn opens this anthology with "The Power of Moonlight," a picturesque love story that introduces the reader to the magic of the mountains. Of course, "Evil lives in the hills of Kentucky," we are told on the cover of this book, so it is no surprise when things go awry for Pris and Bobby Lee, the two lovebirds.

"On the last Saturday in March, Pris' mountain swallowed Bobby Lee Blackburn whole. He'd been helping Priscilla search for mushrooms that afternoon near an abandoned coal mine. A collapsing tunnel system had resulted in what the oldtimers called a "mountin break" - a rift in the earth above, this one well-hidden by foliage. The hole Bobby Lee had fallen into was eight feet across and hundreds of feet deep. After three days of risky recovery efforts, rescue workers from a local mining company gave up and went home." - Pg 5, The Power of Moonlight

Readers will find that the stories here involve mountains, coal mines and/or the superstitions invading the area. Some stories include everyday people, while others may introduce colorful residents like "The Witch of Black Mountain."

The chocolate in her mouth turned to dirt, and Ennica forced herself to swallow. She had alrerady welcomed insanit, or she would have never climbed this mountain in the first place. "Are you evil?"

"We are evil to good as night is to day and the end is to the beginning. We are solace and silence and solitude. We drew blueprints in the stars and fashioned this world from the dust, and we return all that thrives here to it. We complete the circle."

--page 171, The Witch of Black Mountain

Harland County Horrors is definitely worth your time. Take a little trip to the south with these writers. You won't be disappointed.

Festive Fear
Stephen Clark, editor
Tasmaniac Publications
P.O. Box 45, Hagley, Tasmania 7292, Australia
978098063672, $15.95

For those of you ready for a little Christmas strange, wanting to try something new, I give you Festive Fear. This is an anthology containing 14 short stories by Australian writers such as Stephen Studach, Felicity Dowker, Danielle Ferries, Marty Young, Amanda J. Spedding and more. This compilation brings a summer Christmas to readers. Where, as editor Stephen Cliark says in his introduction, "the festive period can be hot and dusty - not a snowflake in sight."

With "Christmas Lights," Brett McBean takes us into the kind of Christmas that we are not really used to. As single-parent Doreen deals with her young son thinking he has seen Santa on his way, it is soon that we find the red light the boy sees is not Santa. And Doreen's Christmas surprise for the boy is not a stock pile of toys. This is the darkness of this tale. Quite chilling.

"They had nowhere to go - no home, no family. Everyone else in the area had evacuated. Some had even stopped off and told Doreen to get away, take Luke and leave, now. It wouldn't be long before the area was awash with flame."

Pg. 14 Festive Fear

"Mr. Gallows Christmas Gift," by Josephine Pennicott, is a quiet little story that will get readers to think about the charity work they do on Christmas and what kind of danger there is in the evening. "I'm Dreaming," by Martin Irvings, forces us to think about that beloved "better half" when it comes to gift giving without being too graphic (something readers will appreciate).

Other contributions here are: "Black Peter," by Marty Young, "Christmas Breakdown," by Leigh Haig, "A Creature was Stirring," by Amanda J. Shedding, "The Package," by B. Michael Radburn, "Echt Garampus; or, The Dinkum St. Nicholas Offsider,"by Crisetta MacLeod, "The Bearded Ones," by Felicity Dowker, "The Wish," by Loretta Leslie. "Santa's Little Bitch," by Mark Farrugia, "Little Drummer Girl," by Danielle Ferries and "White Christmas," by Steve Gerlach.

"Daddy's Angel," by Stephen Studach, is a quick look at the Christmas of a Heroin addict who has become estranged from his wife and daughter. Lloyd has invited the two over for a Christmas surprise. The author here really knows how to surprise his readers. A gut wrenching tale.

"This is a showcase of Australian writers," Clark also says in his intro, "A worthy collection to keep the reader turning those pages."

It certainly does that. Worth your time.

Christina Johns

Christy's Bookshelf

A Dog's Purpose
W. Bruce Cameron
Forge Books
c/o Tor Books
75 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765326263, $22.95,

Toby, a mixed-breed pup, lives a feral life with his mother, brothers and sister until they are rescued by a woman who takes care of abandoned dogs. When she's forced to shut her rescue down, Toby, suffering an injury, is euthanized. He's reborn as Bailey, a golden retriever who finds a happy home with a young boy and lives a full life sharing adventures with the boy. When he dies, he reincarnates as Ellie, a female German shepherd trained as a search and rescue dog. Toby's next reincarnation is as Buddy, a black Lab. In this lifetime, Toby/Buddy realizes each life he lived has brought him to this one and understands his true purpose as a dog.

This wonderful book is joyously heartwarming, humorous, and at times sad, so keep tissues nearby. Told from a dog's perspective, A Dog's Purpose illustrates the love and affection dogs have for their human companions and the lengths they will go to to protect and serve. As a dog lover and rescue worker, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Those who have dogs will find themselves left with a deeper understanding of their dog's behavior and mindset and hopefully those who don't will understand how a dog can positively impact their life and decide to rescue and save a life. Absolutely one of the best dog books out there.

Merrywinds: A Dowry Girls Adventure
Jackie Griffey
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594149207, $25.95,

Good friends Gwenneth Hume and Patience O'Connor are fast approaching marrying age but there are no acceptable suitors in their small English community. Gwenneth's father owns an inn, where Gwenneth helps out, and Patience, an orphan, lives in a convent, where she trained as a midwife but must leave within the year. When they hear of an offer for young women to sail to America for free passage in exchange for marrying within a specified time limit, they sign up with a French shipping company and set sail on the Merrywinds to the New World. During the voyage, the young women's skills are put to good use: Gwenneth takes over when the cook falls ill and Patience helps treat the sick and injured. Before they reach their destination, each young woman has met the man she wishes to marry but will the seas keep them apart?

Jackie Griffey has penned an enchanting historical romance. Dialogue and characterization are realistic as to the time period and the plot heartwarming and entertaining. Griffey adds a bit of adventure and suspense to the story, which readers will enjoy as they join Gwenneth and Patience on their journey to a new world and new life.

No Such Thing as a Secret
Shelly Fredman
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781420843811, $16.95,

Brandy Alexander headed for LA after her cop boyfriend dumped her, where she landed a job as (what she considers) a puff-piece reporter for a local TV station. Four years later, she's back in Philadelphia for the wedding of her best friend. Brandy's happy to be back with family and friends, but these warm feelings are short-lived when her good friend Johnny's boat blows up while he's onboard. Brandy suspects this is no accident, since Johnny confided in her that he had evidence related to the recent death of a gay man which he turned over to the police, on top of which, he thought he was being followed. But the cops don't have the evidence, nor does the DA's office. If that isn't bad enough, Bobby DiCarlo, Brandy's ex, seems to be involved in the cover-up. Brandy, determined to find the murderer, plays amateur sleuth which gets her in a world of trouble with her ex and an axe-wielding mystery man who keeps trying to kill her. She joins forces with just-this-side-of-the-law Nicholas Santiago, who's so hot, Brandy sizzles every time she's around him. Bodies pile up and suspects abound but will Brandy survive long enough to reveal the murderer?

If book one in the Brandy Alexander mystery series is any indication of what's to follow, this series is a guaranteed bestseller. Fredman excels at characterization and is adept at pulling the reader into the story so that they will feel as if they're part of the gang, along for the ride. Brandy Alexander is a refreshing character, a girl-next-door type who doesn't seem to realize the impact she has on others. No crazy diets for this girl, she's a sweets-lover through and through and not afraid to prove it. Dialogue is so realistic, readers will think they're in Philly enjoying all the great food and locales. First-person narrative is witty and entertaining, leading to lots of laughter. The chemistry between Brandy and Bobby and Brandy and Nicholas is teasing and fun. The plot is thick with suspects and readers will be challenged to solve the mystery. All in all, an outstanding debut for this entertaining series.

The Night Killer: a Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451229601, $7.99,

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Diane Fallon, director of the RiverTrail Museum of Natural History and the Rosewood, GA crime lab, is returning from a trip to the mountains of Rendell County, Georgia where she arranged for the loan of an arrowhead collection from Roy Barre. Diane's SUV is struck by a tree during a storm and a skeleton rolls across the hood of her car. Unsettled by this, Diane gets out of her vehicle and is accosted by a stranger. She escapes into the forest, pursued by the stranger's dogs. Diane meets up with a man who tells her he had been taking photographs when he heard the commotion and offers his aid. When she refuses his help, he loans her his poncho and knife and agrees to call the police. Diane makes her way back to the Barre place, only to find Roy Barre and his wife have been brutally murdered. From that point on, Diane is involved in two separate cases: identifying the human bones in the tree that hit her SUV and finding the murderer of the Barres. But the sheriff of Rendell County isn't making things easy for her when he orders her out of his county and off the case. Even worse, the killer soon murders another couple and appears to have targeted Diane.

Beverly Connor's versatile thriller will appeal to readers on many levels. Her incorporation of forensics, geology and anthropology, along with smart writing and interesting characters, into an intriguing plot guaranty a good whodunit. Connor tackles complicated forensics in several different fields, but her straightforward, didactic narrative not only proves intriguing and entertaining but easy to follow and understand.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

Captain Cooked
S. P. Grogan
Addison & Highsmith Publishing
9780980116410, $16.95,

Stephan Grogan has done it again! Creating a vibrant epicurean delight in "Captain Cooked," his latest mystery, which allows you to taste your culinary arts in exploring the dishes of our 50th state, and at the same time have an in-depth look into the behind-the-scenes of modern Hawaii.

This book contains many recipes which tantalize your taste buds and follows the theme of a food reviewer who visits the land of enchantment to participate as one of the judges in a luau contest. His daughter is described as a newbie in the film world and comes along to record his involvement for the television show which features his prowess as a foodie and author of a New York Times best seller.

An outstanding feature of this novel is how well Stephen Grogan was able to express the feelings and thoughts of Madison Merlot Dayne. This travelogue-murder mystery is seen through her eyes. Her exploits abound on Hawaii, known as the Big Island, scuba diving, boating, restaurant hopping, and stumbling onto a murder scene will keep attentive readers guessing about what episode will tantalize her travails next. Many of the romantic inclinations this young woman has are expressed in a tastefully descriptive style without being smutty, but at the same time is fairly steamy. This is an adult book, but the audience will not be offended by its language or scenarios.

Corporate intrigue, wealthy investors, and native Hawaiians intermingle to create motives which cast aspersions upon each group that is introduced. Could this next set of characters be the killer(s)? This question permeates Madison Dayne's thoughts constantly. However, her romantic inclinations commence at the start and continue throughout. She has flirtatious involvements with several characters which might seem to be unrequited love, but there is always the possibility dangling before her that the next one will be her soul mate.

As in Grogan's last book "Vegas Die," there is a reward awaiting his audience for the discovery of a hidden item. $5,000 has been posted as a bounty for the finding of a shark-toothed club hidden on the Big Island and the clues are hidden in the book. The author's advice is, "Read first as a mystery, and then go back looking for clues." Grogan is not the first to establish a treasure hunt on the Big Island as there are 140 caches hidden by others for treasure hunters to claim.

Another outstanding feature is that $.25 cents from the sale of each book will be donated to "The Food Basket" Hawaii Island's Food Bank. A wonderful gesture for sure!

Have you every wanted to make a Blue Hawaii Cocktail?
Well, here is that recipe straight from the book:
3/4 oz Light Rum
3/4 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
3 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Sweet & Sour Mix

Mix all ingredients in blender with ice. Pour into tall glasses and finesse with pineapple slice and cherry, sugarcane stick, or an edible flower.

This is a very good book which I really enjoyed. There are some very good recipes which bear looking into and you can explore your creative side. They are not all drinks, there is a new way to make Rib Eye Steaks or your own luau pork roast.

To aid in the food bank project a signed first addition was auctioned and proceeds donated accordingly. This author is a really nice guy.

The use of local idiom and culture in this book brings Aloha a bit closer to us mainlanders. Hawaii's State Motto: "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina I ka pono" - The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. This motto truly encapsulates the theme of "Captain Cooked" and is why this book is highly recommended.

The Great Fire of Rome
Stephen Dando-Collins
Da Capo Press
9780306818905 $25.00

After 2,000 years, a burning question still remains - Did Nero fiddle while Rome burned?

Award-winning author and historian Stephen Dando-Collins in his book "The Great Fire of Rome" explores the mysteries surrounding the destruction and the rumors which have continued since July 19, AD 64 as to who was responsible for the setting of the fire which ravaged two-thirds of the city. The ramifications of the fire were not only horrific, but the political consequences changed history and the eventual fall of Nero and his great empire.

July 19th was an extremely hot day when fire broke out in an open shop beneath the Circus Maximus where chariot-racing and other events were held in the city. Historians chronicled that a cooking fire got out of control setting wooden rafters ablaze and quickly accelerated to other shops as they were being fueled by strong winds and spread in all directions. Buckets of water were used, but were useless. People ran for their lives, some froze in their tracks, others ran into burning areas looking for their loved ones, and many others perished in the flames or were buried in rubble.

Even though Rome had an elaborate water and sewer system, which is still in use today, they did not have adequate means to fight fires. Fire destroyed many structures, including sacred temples, priceless frescoes, and homes of the rich, which included Nero's palatial palace. After 5 days, the fire was finally controlled, but most of the city had tumbled and burned losing valuable Roman history.

Many rumors spread that Nero set the fire so that he could build a new city upon the ruins of Rome. However, Nero was out of town vacationing in Antium when the fire broke out and it would have been very unlikely that he set the fire himself. It was also rumored that the Christians were at fault. Rumors ran rampant and became a part of folklore.

During the next several years, Nero's reputation had been severely damaged, and he became frustrated and fearful that he would be overthrown like all the emperors before him. Being a young man, the last of the Caesars, he wanted to have a male heir to succeed him. However, this did not happen. Many attempts to take Nero's life were tried to no avail, as many sympathizers refused to help. Any conspirators were put to death or exiled from Rome.

Nero has left an historic legacy carried on by ancient and modern scholars. Dando-Collins has written a fascinating and absorbing historical human drama about one of the most colorful emperors of ancient times. Nero was despised by many aristocrats and revered by most commoners. Public opinion was important to Nero and Rome prospered under his reign. It is said that the singing emperor fiddled while Rome burned, but the fact is, according to scholars, Nero actually played the lyre in a musical competition in Antium at the time of the fire.

The author has carefully examined new facts regarding myths surrounding Nero and traces his sensational short life as a young visionary ruler who was manipulated by others. Yet, he managed to transform Rome into a city of beauty before and after the fire. There is little doubt that history would be different if Nero had lived longer than his 30 years and there was never a catastrophic fire in Rome.

This book is a page-turner and an insightful eye-opener to ancient Roman history relating to the fall of the Roman Empire. Brilliantly written and highly recommended.

Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools, and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework
Ann K. Dolin, M. Ed.
National Book Network (NBN)
9780971460980 $14.95

Children of today bring home their lessons disrupting the household routine from being that last bastion of peace and tranquility. Parents want to enjoy a pleasant evening after a hard day's work. Children want to succeed so they can bring joy to Mom and Dad. Little Jimmy or Ruthie break up a peaceful evening when they struggle to do their homework without guidance or a plan. "Homework Made Simple" is an organizational tool which every household can use to great advantage.

Ann K. Dolin, M. Ed. has put 20 years of educational experience into the parental guidebook, "Homework Made Simple" which has charts, diagrams, and references where to find some really nifty study aids directly from the internet. This is an up-to-date planner which can be used by both parents and children as they get on track to better grades, peace of mind, and a more serene home life.

Many homework conflicts arise because of lack of planning and organization. Each chapter of the book discusses different problems. There are a series of questions which lead into each section to help determine if that chapter applies to your homework situation. If there is a need to apply the advice, then you are instructed to continue. If not, move on to the next chapter. There is very straight forward advice on handling situations whether for a 6-year-old or an 18-year-old by using techniques which appear to be simple, but are very effective.

What made this book outstanding are the examples which are taken from parental interaction with their children and the solution which seemed obvious, and is backed up by studies by leading educators. Parents will recognize many of the problems such as "The Rusher," "The Procrastinator," "The Avoider," "The Inattentive," and these are just a few of the 12 Chapters which have "Tips, Tools and Solutions for Everyday Challenges and Concerns."

Organization of school work assignments is stressed throughout the book as being one of the crucial elements to success. Methods are discussed about how the parent can be involved in the selection of assignments that should be done first. The child is involved in the process so that when a contract (yes, a contract) is made, both the parent and child know what is expected of each other. There are rewards which are incentives to achieving completion of assignments. These are in the form of specific breaks, use of cell phone, listening to music, or other normal distractions. These uses are limited to specific time limits and can only be put into play if the child shows the parent that the homework covered by the contract has been completed.

Advice is given to single parent homes. Divorce does not eliminate the need for communication between the parents in a unified effort to ensure the child realizes that even though the parents are separated, homework and school success are still expected.

Ann K. Dolin has written an excellent guidebook which covers many topics. Not all apply to good parenting skills, but they certainly are a step in the right direction regarding homework. This is a reasonably priced book which is highly recommend to help achieve that peace and tranquility we all seek.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

Mister Slaughter
Robert McCammon
Subterranean Press
P. O. Box 190106, Burton MI 48519
9781596062764, $24.95,

I am very familiar with Robert McCammon's masterful story-telling no matter what genre' he chooses to write. I have been reading his latest historical fiction series set in Colonial America faithfully appreciating his return after a long absence. This book is the third in the series, which is written like an evolving camera shot forward in time from 1699-his latest 1702. I understand the series will keep moving ahead in time. This will follow each time with a new escapade for the central character Matthew Corbett doing his sleuthing in the next book I love the richness of the setting descriptions, and the fine detailed prose that never fails to enthrall the reading making it interesting and with historical depictions. I especially enjoyed the drawings done in this book, that showed glimpses illustrating the characters. This also helped visualize their dress of this period and the environment surrounding the story.

The story starts in 1702 Colonial metropolis New York City with Matthew Corbett a hero, now feeling famous, and more wealthy in his life. He is considering himself an elitist and working with his colleague Hudson Greathouse. Corbett is now an apprentice "problem solver." Some early confrontations in an early tavern set up some of the character's introductions that will define Matthew's later character values. The main plot begins with a commission handed out by Constable Gardner Lillehorne to Corbett and Greathouse to escort a notorious mass murderer Tyranthus Slaughter from an asylum named Westerwicke back to New York City gaol. (jail) Slaughter is wanted for murder, robbery, and other crimes by the Crown. On the epic journey Slaughter offers an intriguing and tempting offer. Some events change the outcome of by their responses to his offer. This alters the course of what is to be a complex and horrific outcome for all involved and in the close proximity of the captors along with this dangerous prisoner. The journey takes its twist and turns with this archetypal killer in a period of time that is well detailed and illustrated throughout the exquisite descriptions of this era. The story takes Matthew Corbett into more adventure and suspense with the additional help from an Iroquois Indian named Walker In Two Worlds. Matthew learns how much harm a destructive evil can be when it clears a path of all the good things in it's way. Mistakes and choices shove the innocence to be lambs sacrificed without any real rhyme or reason. Matthew does his redeeming pursuit of justice with his efforts to mend further atrophic losses.

Robert McCammon is a gifted writer, and no matter what genre' he has done to-date, whether horror, science fiction or personal human discovery of the human psyche. He has left his readers wrung out in emotional, powerful narrative prose. McCammon has written fifteen novels with two coming out in 2011 and 2012 entitled The Five, and the fourth novel installment of Mathew Corbett named The Providence Rider. His earlier best noted offerings Usher's Passing, Swan Song, Stinger, Blue World, (short story fantasy collection) Mine, and Boy's Life. I did like all his stories even the first four which he didn't want republished. Most writers have their early efforts looked upon with a point of view of this is where I was in the beginning, and my writing improved to where I felt I did much better work. I am glad I was able to wait for that later work. I knew he would get more skillful once he established himself as to what he wanted to do. His latest works caught me up in interest and I personally thank him for my favorite Speaks the Nightbird. I look forward with anticipation The Five, and The Providence Rider.

A Plague of Secrets
John Lescroart
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780525950929, $26.95,

I now have read my third John Lescroart legal fiction novel. My wife smiles knowingly after my finishing this novel, and I admit to like this author. I agree he is one the best in legal fiction. I mostly like the tight plotting, and an excellent written prose. This all does hold my attention with all the Lescroart characters bringing up to support this Dismas Hardy defensive case. He does lead everyone this time through a multiple murder.

A coffee shop manager Dylan Vogler is gunned down outside his business in the San Francisco's Haight Asbury district. The knapsack he is carrying is packed with high-grade marijuana. The crime doesn't seem to be robbery as his wallet and marijuana are intact on his person or nearby on the ground. It seems that the coffee shop was more than place where people just got their caffeine fix. The police and trace events and witnesses to look for connections to the victim which become plural with his accomplice in the marijuana trade. Levon Preslee is also murdered and the absentee owner Maya Townshend is eventually traced to the both of their crime scenes. She is the mayor's niece, so this becomes a high profile case. Dimas Hardy is asked to represent Maya Townshend as the police continue to build up their case. The newspapers make Townshend know as the coffee shop's celebrity. Hardy is wondering what she knew about the manager's outside business of marijuana selling, and questioned whether she was his lover or an accomplice.

While all these events are unfolding Abe Glitsky is having his own personal problems with the tragic severe injury of his youngest son who was hit by an automobile. He blames himself in not using prudent care watching to prevent the accident. He is barely attentive to the case, and the guidance needed for his inspectors. Meanwhile events go even more downhill for Maya Townshend where the manipulations of the higher power, United States attorney Jerry Glass itching to make this his own personal agenda interests in the case. Ambitious prosecutors zero in on Maya Townshend, and the truth of what actually is kept behind the secrets Maya knows around events of the case .Hardy is privileged bound to protect her as his client.

John Lescroart has written twenty novels but this one is his nineteenth which includes Betrayal, The Suspect, The Hunt Club, and The Motive. I reviewed Treasure Hunt before this novel and I can look forward to his next novel Damage (2011) and the upcoming Scavenger Hunt. (2012)

Daniel Allen

Edward's Bookshelf

The Defector
Daniel Silva
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, N. Y. 10014
9780399155680, $26.95,

Grigori Bulganov, a former Russian Intelligence Colonel, disappears off a rain-swept street in London where he has lived for one year since defecting from Russia. British Intelligence, M15, concludes that he has redefected to his mother country and that he was a double agent. Gabriel, his friend, and a top operative in the Israeli Secret Service feels otherwise. Based on conversations he had with Bulganov at a time when the colonel was to execute Allon, led him to safety in the West instead, Gabriel feels in his heart that Grigori would never go back to Russia.

Gabriel travels to London and using his unique detection skills he determines, with the use of CCTV tapes that cover every street in that city, that Bulgonov was abducted. Further, he believes he knows who masterminded the crime, Ivan Kharkov. Ivan a Russian oligarch and international arms dealer has a score to settle with both Grigori and Gabriel. The kidnapping is part one of a plan to wreak vengeance on them both.

While Gabriel begins his search for the colonel, Allon's wife is abducted from an Israeli safe-house in Lake Como, Italy. It then becomes apparent that her kidnapping and the murder of her bodyguards is part two of Kharkov's plan to draw out Gabriel and execute him.

So, begins a complex and exciting story as the Israeli operative reconnects with his team of agents and follow a trail through Italy, France, Switzerland and Russia while violence abounds along the way. The thrilling climax at Kharkov's dacha, [country home], in the woods one hundred plus miles west of Moscow is thrilling and satisfying.

Daniel Silva, in top form, has produced another first class novel in the international spy genre. I recommend this book highly.

For Whom The Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9780760796627, $12.95,

I have noticed a movement afoot in recent years to diminish the reputation of Hemingway as a writer and a person. According to some current critics he had a chauvinistic approach to female characters in his novels. Having always held him in high regard, I decided to re-read one of his novels with an open mind. I selected For Whom The Bell Tolls, published in 1940, about midpoint in his career.

This is the story of a young American volunteer to the Loyalist cause during the Spanish Civil War. Robert Jordan, a munitions expert, joins a band of guerillas with the task of blowing up a bridge during a planned counterattack. Pablo, the leader of the group, is not enthusiastic in accepting Jordan, a foreigner, into their circle.

The guerillas, numbering about twelve, literally live in a cave near a small town. There are two women, Pilar, Pablo's wife and Maria, a young single woman. Robert finds the people appreciative of his help and he strikes up an immediate friendship with Maria.

Jordan joins one of the band, Anselmo, in scouting out the bridge. He feels confident, given the logistics, that he can carry out his assignment, destroying the bridge during a Fascist attack thereby stalling their momentum. In the evening he gets to know Maria better and there is a strong attraction for each other.

On the second day, Pablo deserts his group, because he feels they are doomed to failure. Pilar emerges as the new leader and takes the rebels forward. She is strong, physically and emotionally, and supports the budding love affair of Robert and Maria.

Robert and Maria are only together for three days leading up to the battle, but they are hopelessly in love. Pablo returns on the third day, in disgrace, and serves under the leadership of his wife.

Jordan, aided by Anselmo, an older man, manages to blow the bridge and the group starts its escape through the mountains on horseback. Unfortunately, tragedy ensues when Robert is wounded and cannot continue. He stays behind, armed with a submachine gun, to provide cover for the guerillas. Maria wants to stay with him, even though they will be killed by the approaching Fascist soldiers, but in the book's most poignant scene, he insists that she leave, promising that he will be with her in spirit. So ends the beautifully written novel considered to be one of Hemingway's best. Seventy years later it holds up wonderfully.

The author's depiction of Pilar and Maria as strong and admirable characters defuses criticism that Hemingway as a writer would diminish women in his novels. Case closed.

Edward Smith

Gary's Bookshelf

Jack & Walter the Films of Lemmon & Matthau
Ben Costello
Five Star Publications Inc.
P.O. Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589851184, $31.95

This is a fun filled book that deals with the movies the actors did together. The author tells about the film itself then how it came to be made, comments by critics, and cast and crew credits. Costello also talks about some of the movies that were never made and why. This is a great collection of the work by these two fine actors.

Don't Blink
James Patterson & Howard Roughan
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316036238, $27.95

Reporter Nick Daniels is having a real lousy day. All he wants to do is interview a legendary baseball player at a restaurant while having lunch. A killer comes and shoots the diner at the next table. Now Daniels is involved in the case because he accidentally retrieves a major piece of evidence. What he delves into involves the Mafia, Italians and Russians and a lot more. The story moves along at a fast pace to its final conclusion. This is the type of Patterson book readers love. This one is another nail biting suspenseful tale by this great writing team.

Diva Las Vegas
Eileen Davidson
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451230751, $6.99

The third novel in the series has amateur sleuth Alexis Peterson on a new case. This time murder strikes a Halloween party given by Hugh Hefner. Along with Alexis are many of the characters from the previous two tales. They are all light hearted reading that go behind the scenes of the Soap Opera world. The stories by this author are delightful mysteries that I hope continue for a long time.

Painted Ladies
Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156854, $26.95,

I'm not sure if this is the last Parker but it is a great fast read of a Spenser novel. His trademark snappy dialogue races the novel along with great interplay between Spenser and Susan. What Spenser uncovers involves stolen paintings from WWII. The story is one of Parkers best books ever.

Passionate About Their Work
Leslie C. Halpern
Bear Manor Media
PO Box 1129, Duncan, OK 73534-1129
9781593935481 $14.95

151 celebrities, artists and experts on creativity talked to the author about taking risks, taking criticism, dealing with change, overcoming obstacles, the role of humor, and lots more. There are many well known people like Ernest Borgnine, Francis Ford Coppola, Dave Madden, Ed Asner, and others that are not as well known. They all have one thing in common. The comments are interesting and insightful and "Passionate About Their Work: 101 Celebrities, Artists, and Experts On Creativity" is a great resource for anyone starting into a profession.

Play Dead
Harlan Coben
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451231741, $9.99,

I did not agree with the author's statement in his note to the reader about if this is your first time reading one of his novels. This one is great from start to finish. For at least 15 years it has been out of print. Signet has republished it as is and it is a fantastic read for a first novel. Laura Ayars, a supermodel marries Boston Celtic star David Baskin in Australia. While on their honeymoon in The Great Barrier Reef she decides to take care of some business arrangements. David tells her he will wait for her. When she returns to their hotel she finds her husband gone and a note that says LAURA BE BACK SOON, WENT FOR A SWIM IN THE OCEAN. I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT DAVID. This begins the bizarre set of events that concludes back in Boston. The novel has lots of twists and turns and great characters. I am now a fan of Coben and want to read more of his books.

The Vampire's Tomb Mystery
Dwight Christopher Kemper
Helm Publishing
P.O. Box 9691, Treasure Island, Fl 33706
9780984139798, $16.95

I love this novel that begins when a landlord is contacted by a woman concerned about one of his residents. He's an old actor who once played a vampire character in the movies. It turns out he is dead. Now the question is, was he murdered? Or did he die a normal death? Along the way are many odd characters, and some real life people add to the mix of this fast paced mystery novel. Dwight Kemper has put the eerie fun back into the Vampire Legacy.

Adventures in Paradise: The Television Series
James Rosin
The Autumn Road Company
9780972868457, $16.95,

Here is another great book about an old TV show that tells all about it. There are episode guides, stories by some of the actors, writers, directors, and producers, and lots of pictures. The biographies of many of the people connected to the show are very interesting and reveal the many talented people who were part of the staff. It's too bad the series has not found its way to DVD.

The Economical Guide to Self Publishing How to Produce and Market Your Book On a Budget
Linda F. Radke (Forward By Dan Poynter)
Five Star Publications Inc.
P.O. Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589851016, $19.95,

I've read many of this type book but this one goes further than any other to teach authors things they need to know about the business of publishing. She deals with writing the book, getting it published, generating publicity, author appearances, using the media and lots more things. "The Economical Guide to Self Publishing How to Produce and Market Your Book On a Budget" is a valuable resource for anyone starting out in the publishing world.

Wine Service for Wait Staff and Wine Lovers
Rick Jelovsek
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432762469 $19.95

This is the perfect guide to learn everything there is to know about wine. The author shows when it is suitable to use a white or red wine. Though he is teaching servers the correct way to serve any type of wine and the right temperature anyone who wants to know the proper etiquette to serve any type of wine can learn from this book.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Vermilion Drift
William Kent Krueger
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439153840, $25.00,

In a perfect display of a not-unreasonable NIMBY mindset [Not In My Backyard}, most of the residents of Tamarack County, Minnesota and the surrounding Iron Lake area are up in arms, almost literally, when plans are announced to consider converting the long-closed [and fictional] Vermilion Mine to a nuclear waste site. In the midst of the protests arising out of this plan, Cork O'Connor is hired by Max Cavanaugh to find his sister. Max says she has been missing for a week. Describing her as "flamboyant" and "like sunshine if it had a voice," he begs Cork, former Tamarack County Sheriff [as was his father before him] and, now in his early 50's, working as a p.i., to find her. No ransom demand has been received, as might have been expected if it was a kidnapping - the family had founded the Great North Mining Company in 1887 and the name was synonymous with iron mining and wealth. But Lauren Cavanaugh was known to take off for distant places, both in the US and outside of the country, whenever the spirit moved her, complicating matters.

Cork's mind and heart, as the book opens, are still filled with grief over this wife's murder a little over a year before, as well as recent and pervasive nightmares regarding his father's death over forty years ago. When the investigation into the whereabouts of the missing woman leads to a shocking discovery, the ensuing events lead Cork right back to that exact time period. Coming as it does at a time when he is particularly vulnerable, with his beloved Jo dead and his 3 kids away from the nest, he thinks. "With Jo gone and the kids away, what held him to this place was history. And what was history but memory? And of what value, in the end, was a memory? A man's life needed to be made of stuff more immediate and substantial. Cork wondered what that was for him now." By the end of the novel, Cork and the reader find an answer to that enigma. The Indian culture [Cork is part Ojibwe], as always, is an integral part of this 10th entry in the series, as is the North Country itself, in all its endangered glory.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Teller
MIRA Books
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778327769 $7.99

To say that Harrison J. Walker [known to one and all as "Jaywalker": "he'd dropped the Harrison part as too pretentious and rejected Harry as too Lower East Side"], a member of the New York criminal bar, likes a challenge is a vast understatement. But when a judge appoints him to defend a teenage boy who has been charged with murder, it would seem too big a challenge even for him. There are three eyewitnesses who will testify that they saw Jeremy Estrada shoot a boy only a few years older than himself between the eyes at pointblank range, and despite the fact that Jaywalker's acquittal rate is about 90%, an acquittal in this particular case might be too daunting a task.

Jay's background is this: Fifty-two years old, a widower for a dozen years, he has a daughter, had been a DEA agent, and had been suspended from the practice of law about five years previously; now reinstated, he has no law office he can cell his own, and no support staff. But he has promised the boy, his mother and his twin sister that he will do his best, and he will do no less than that. A self-described "uncompromising obsessive-compulsive" who had "won cases and lost cases, . . no one - no one - had ever accused him of not doing his best." And it doesn't hurt that he has the ability to virtually mesmerize a jury.

So he spends most of the ensuing days and nights with little or no food or sleep, completely immerses himself in the case, interviewing all witnesses even when it entails flying to Puerto Rico and back mostly on his own dime. [By the end of the trial many months later he has been paid a little more than $1200 by Jeremy's mother.] If anyone can win this case, dealing as it does with young love [there is a stunningly beautiful young girl involved], teenage bullying so seemingly endemic in our society, questions of intent and self-defense, it is Jaywalker. A terrific courtroom thriller, laden with suspense and humor in equal measure, this is an exciting and completely satisfying novel, and it is recommended.

Trick of the Dark
Val McDermid
Little, Brown UK
100 Victoria Embarkment, London EC4Y 0DY
9781408702017 18.99 BPS

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK and Canada, not available in the US at this time]

As the book opens, Dr. Charlotte ["Charlie"] Flint finds her professional life as a forensic psychiatrist in tatters, her reputation destroyed, and awaiting a hearing by the General Medical Council to decide whether or not she can be reinstated as an expert in her field.

Magdalene ["Magda"] Newsam, a pediatric oncologist, is a 28-year-old woman whose husband was killed on their wedding night, attending the trial of her husband's partners for his murder. One of the two hubs of this book is Magda's mother, Corinna Newsam, who was Charlie's tutor while an undergraduate at St. Scholastika's College, Oxford University, which is the other point around which all else revolves. Each of the characters' ties to Corinna and Oxford have shaped their lives to this point. As is the case also with Jay Stewart, wildly successful businesswoman in the throes of writing her second memoir following her first bestseller, the point of view throughout the book variously that of the three younger women.

Corinna asks Charlie to investigate whether, as she suspects, Jay Stewart had something to do with her son-in-law's death, mostly due to the fact that Jay is now romantically involved with Magda. Seeking redemption, Charlie agrees. As the solution drew near, the feeling that I knew what lay ahead didn't diminish the suspense or the intricacy of the plot. And, of course, I was completely wrong in my expectations.

Few of the characters in the book are male; few of the romantic relationships/entanglements are heterosexual, a fact noteworthy only in the prejudices thereby aroused in others which are essential to the plot. The novel, though somewhat lengthy, is an absorbing and worthy addition to Ms. McDermid's past novels, and is recommended.

A Bad Day's Work
Nora McFarland
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439155486 $14.99

Lilly Hawkins has been having her problems lately, gaining a reputation for screwing up [or, as she prefers to call it, having a run of bad luck]. But of course, perception is everything, as she knows. Lilly is a news photographer at KJAY covering the Bakersfield, CA area, "the only woman in town who did this for a living," and when she gets called out in the middle of the night to get photos at the scene of a murder, she jumps at the chance to get back in the good graces of the powers that be at the station.

Lilly manages to get some exclusive video at the scene of what was apparently a hijacking gone wrong, the video constituting both a huge scoop for Lilly and the station, as well an ever bigger danger to her and those around her.

The author, a former CNN staffer, certainly knows whereof she speaks, but I found it surprising that a "shooter" takes on tasks I normally associate with reporters, if not investigative reporters, e.g., pushing and prodding her way onto crime scenes and interviewing family members of the deceased, among others [including suspects]. Lilly manages to put herself in jeopardy with some degree of regularity. The author creates what to me were some completely improbable scenarios wherein, e.g., details of crimes committed by the bad guys are spelled out by the latter in public for all to hear, near where Lilly is hiding and able to hear every word; a healthy suspension of disbelief was required.

That said, the novel is a lively look at a world known to few outsiders, and "A Bad Day's Work" was a fun and fast read.

The Last Lie
Stephen White
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525951773, $26.95,

In a follow-up to the excellent "The Siege," author Stephen White not only brings back detective Sam Purdy [introduced in that standalone], but also Alan Gregory, psychiatrist and clinical psychologist and long-standing series protagonist, and his wife, DDA Lauren.

From a rather curious opening dealing with his 'supervisory' duties involving sessions with younger clinicians, the scene is juxtaposed with that of a party [or, as Alan will later frequently refer to it, a "damn housewarming"] at the home of Alan and Lauren's new neighbors in the Spanish Hills section, their "quiet corner of Colorado paradise." The fact that new people have moved into the neighboring property is fraught with emotional landmines for the Gregory family, as the former owners were close friends, husband and wife having each been killed in separate, horrific incidents [each the subject of prior novels].

One might think of Alan Gregory as, among other things, a kind of male Jessica Fletcher, whose friends and neighbors frequently die a tragic death. This time, however, it is not a death, but a possible rape, that occurs at his new neighbors' house. I say 'possible' because the victim isn't sure what happened to her, only that she'd been the victim of . . . something. The book starts off more slowly than I recall Mr. White's novels usually do; unsurprisingly, the payoff is worth the relatively slow build-up.

I particularly liked the descriptions of area natives: "Colorado is home, almost exclusively, to weather optimists . . . some people wear their Boulder-ness so visibly that it is as obvious as a brightly colored outer garment." Alan's personal life is again a major story line, i.e., marital issues that are being "worked through;" Lauren's ever-worsening MS; their daughter Gracie, approaching adolescence; and Jonas, the son of their murdered neighbors, who Lauren and Alan are now raising. Conflict-of-interest questions abound. The usual quotient of suspense that Mr. White's readers expect is present in ample measure.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

206 Bones
Kathy Reichs
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743294393, $26.99,

Reichs writes murder mysteries about forensic anthropology that have an accurate feel. This is the strength in her stories. The weakness is the narration. The strength outweighs the weaknesses by far. 206 Bones is has a few more flaws than some of her other stories but the last few pages redeem the storytelling.

206 Bones starts out with the heroine, Temperance Brennan, waking up disorientated, bound and in a dark, damp, cold, underground space. As she struggles to remember what happened and escape her prison, the backstory is told. Old ladies are being murdered and someone is trying to discredit her work. Normally this story technique is a good one. The problem in Reich's use of the method is that the backstory starts out too soft to match the high tension of the beginning. You are halfway through the book before both the backstory and Temperance's struggle to survive and escape match with tautness.

206 Bones is a book the forensic mystery buff must read. But you would be more happy finding it in a library or on the discount shelves. The quality and style is enough to recommend the story to any reader wanting to fill time or explore a new genre with the same stipulation. Kathy Reichs is an author worth looking for even if a particular story isn't her best.

Trust No One
Gregg Hurwitz
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312389567, $9.99,

Trust No One is a non-stop action mystery. The suspense gives you little chance to breathe. The fast pace permits the reader to ignore the questionable events that only conspiracy theorists would consider possible. One key weakness is that the ending is a little too ordinary to completely satisfy adrenaline produced by the intense action.

Nick Horrigan is a broken man. As a teen, he enters his home to find his dying stepfather who he loved. Mysterious men threaten to frame him for his stepfather's death and to harm his mother unless he runs into hiding. He does, separating himself from his family and past life. After years of hiding, he comes back to his home town and right into a terrorist plot. An armed SWAT team breaks into his apartment and drags him out. He is given a phone and told a terrorist threatening to blow up a nuclear power plant is asking to speak to him. He walks past the SWAT teams and into the power plant. There he finds not a terrorist but a man claiming to be a friend of his stepfather. Before he can find out anything more, the man is killed and Nick is declared a hero. He has again become a pawn in a murderous game of lies and deception. Instead of running again, he decides to find the truth. But is the truth worth more than the deception?

Trust No One is a great non-stop action mystery thriller. Hurwitz brings to life the feelings of loss, fear and confusion. The story's weaknesses are easy to ignore. This is a top notch read for those into the thriller genre and it has enough mystery for the detective story fan. The fast paced storyline might be too frantic for some readers but, if you can handle the pace, this is a book to read.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Darwin's Universe: Evolution from A to Z
Richard Milner
University of California Press
2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-1012
9780520243767, $39.95,

There are many ways one encyclopedia can differ from another. Britannica contains far more entries than Funk and Wagnall, and the entries are longer. An encyclopedia with the word "Catholic" or the name of any other religion in the title starts from the assumption that biblical fairy tales are true unless theologians have acknowledged that they are not. Encyclopedias with the word "unbelief," "skeptical," or "rational" in the title start from the assumption that violations of the laws of reality are fiction unless proven to be fact. Darwin's Universe follows the Britannica pattern of providing as much information as necessary for a reasonable understanding of the topic catalogued, and the "unbelief" pattern of assuming that, while science is not infallible, the universally accepted discoveries of science are as accurate as possible pending additional data.

Hypotheses based on ancient religious documents are not ignored, especially when pseudoscientific arguments for their accuracy are widespread. Thus there are entries for "intelligent design," described (p. 244) as "Creationism's Trojan Horse," and for "Noah's flood." But there is also an entry, "flat-earthers," described (p. 171) as the "oldest 'Bible Science' Sect," even though the Flat Earth Society bases its religion solely on the bible's many endorsements of a flat earth, and has never tried to offer "scientific" arguments in support of its dogma.

There is an entry on "continental drift," a concept far beyond anything Darwin ever considered, but peripherally related to Darwin's contention that biblical "history" and discernable reality are antithetical. There is an entry on "creationism," justified by Milner's observation (p. 97) that, "Many Christians consider themselves both creationists and evolutionist, believing that God chose evolution as the method of creation." Under "scientific creationism" he notes (p. 377) that, "Creationists refer to a published body of scientific research that does not, in fact, exist."

Richard Dawkins rates an entry, based on his status as a promoter of Darwin's discoveries. "Evolutionary psychology" says only, "See ETHOLOGY." The "ethology" entry reports (p. 158) that the subject's original title, "sociobiology," was "abandoned as investigators of animal behavior redefined their subject." The entry endorses the concept of "behavioral ecology," while stopping short of labeling the inventor of sociobiology an imaginative fantasizer.

"Four thousand and four B.C." explains the difference between the chronology of pre-Darwinian religion, which dated the creation of the universe to that date, and reality. "Sigmund Freud" explains (p. 184) that, "Freud was strongly influenced by the theory that each individual replays the evolution of the species." "Homo erectus" demonstrates the author's awareness of the comparatively new consensus (p. 219) that, "far from being the 'middle' species in the evolving Homo lineage, Homo erectus is increasingly viewed as a local East Asian variant of Homo, which eventually became extinct."

The "hundredth monkey phenomenon" is effectively debunked, as are "Lysenkoism," "phrenology" and "missing link." The "Piltdown man hoax" is described in great detail. On the issue of "natural selection," Milner writes (p. 314), "That living things evolve is as certain as a scientific fact can be. What drives evolution is still an open and contentious question." But he acknowledges (p. 315) that, "Despite more than a century of attempts to dislodge it, natural selection remains a central idea in biology."

The entry for "race," defined as "a breeding population that shows some differences from closely related populations yet is still capable of interbreeding with the others," points out (p. 365) that, "When dealing with local races of differently pigmented frogs, no zoologist is inclined to praise the intellectual superiority of a 'two-spotted' over the 'three-spotted' population. In describing their fellow humans, however, scientists have historically propounded the most bizarre theories, based mainly on differences in culture, social traditions, and their own ideals of beauty or pigmentation, which they have confused with biology."

Under the entry, "selfish gene," the title of Richard Dawkins' least defensible book, Milner summarizes (p. 385), "Critics thought Dawkins's imagery was reductionism carried to absurdity, a caricature of the biological study of behavior. In the 1980s, these critiques helped trigger a backlash against 'biological determinism' and the newly established discipline of sociobiology and its spinoff, 'evolutionary psychology.'"

So should humanists, science teachers and librarians rush out and buy Darwin's Universe? Librarians, certainly. Anyone else, not necessarily. While it contains information not found in the 897 page New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, it does not supersede the larger volume, and for all but Darwinian specialists it adds nothing to what has already been published. Readers of this review might, however, consider recommending it to their local libraries.

The Grand Design
Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780553805376, $28.00,

I am a historian. I know no more about Stephen Hawking's field, theoretical physics, than I have been able to glean from such science popularizers as Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, and a number of lesser lights. Other than trivial details, this book contains nothing I did not already know.(1) So I can only wonder who its intended audience is. It cannot be expected to have any impact on persons whose answer to such questions as, "Why is the sky blue?" is, "God did it." Indeed, while it demonstrates that the "god" hypothesis is unnecessary, it avoids offering any arguments falsifying that hypothesis. Newspaper headlines screaming, "New Hawking book says God unnecessary," strike me as trying to sensationalize a repetition of a point made in his previous books.

Hawking acknowledges that he still has not formulated the long-sought Theory of Everything. But he postulates an "M-theory" that he considers a reasonable approximation. M-theory consists of a series of related theories that cannot be unified without producing inconsistencies. Hawking compares it to a series of maps that show accurate two-dimensional representations of the surface of a three-dimensional earth, but cannot be combined into a single map without distorting the extreme northern and southern regions.

I am not about to offer my inexpert conclusion about the plausibility of M-theory. But when Hawking suggests, even with no stronger emphasis than, "We cannot rule it out," that our universe may be part of an infinite series of universes in ten or eleven dimensions, I find such a claim to be as metaphysical as the God hypothesis. Perhaps such speculation in the area in which he is an expert is justifiable. But when he utilizes the offensively Christian dating system, AD, telling his readers that they are living in the "Year of the Master," decades after even liberal religionists have adopted the scientifically neutral CE, "common era," I can only wonder if he is as uneducated in my field as I am in his. As a physicist, he finds a god unnecessary. As a historian, I find "God," defined as a deity with the specific mutually-exclusive properties attributed to it by all one-paramount-god religions, as objectively falsifiable as a number that is more than ten but less than nine.

The passage that the media sensationalized out of all proportion to its political correctness is (p. 172), "It is reasonable to ask who or what created the universe, but if the answer is God, then the question has merely been deflected to that of who created God... We claim, however, that it is possible to answer these questions purely within the realm of science, and without invoking any divine beings." If physicist Victor Stenger (God: The Failed Hypothesis) could utilize mathematical logic to show that an entity whose attributes include both "A" and "not-A" cannot and therefore does not exist, why is Hawking unwilling to do likewise? The Grand Design is essentially Stephen Hawking for Dummies.

1 I do not claim to understand everything in Hawking's book, only to be familiar with the general principles.

The Twelfth Planet
Zecharia Sitchin
Harper Paperbacks
c/o HarperCollins
10 53rd St, New York, NY 10022
9780061379130, $7.99,

Before presenting my own evaluation of Twelfth Planet, let me quote what has to say on the subject: "Zecharia Sitchin, along with Erich von Däniken and Immanuel Velikovsky, make up the holy trinity of pseudohistorians... Sitchin, like Velikovsky, presents himself as erudite and scholarly in a number of books... both are nearly scientifically illiterate. Like von Däniken and Velikovsky, Sitchin weaves a compelling and entertaining story out of facts, misrepresentations, fictions, speculations, misquotes, and mistranslations... He has received nothing but ridicule from scientific archaeologists and scholars familiar with ancient languages."

The scientific illiteracy of the masses explains but does not justify Harper's reprinting of a book that was exposed as imaginative fantasy when it was first published in 1976. Assuredly we are living in a world run by the ignorant, the stupid, and the conscienceless. And as long as contributing to the dumbing of the human race remains profitable, that is not going to change. Does Harper not realize that taking customers' money in exchange for masturbating their egos with lies puts them in the prostitution business? Or do they not care?

It took me a while to locate Sitchin's book in my local library. I found it when I learned that it is catalogued under "nonfiction." If Twelfth Planet is nonfiction, then so is Star Trek. Sitchin's greatest accomplishment, judging by the almost 200 reviews posted to, has been his success in deluding the devoutly ignorant that he is a legitimate Sumerian scholar. Like Velikovsky, his only degree is in an unrelated field, and if he is as incompetent in economics as he is in archaeology and linguistics, the London School of Economics should immediately repossess his BSc.

Since I can add nothing to the foregoing concerning this book's worthlessness, I will simply cite some excerpts that caught my eye.

"An early Minoan script, called Linear A, represented a Semitic language." Reality: Linear A has never been deciphered and never will be, for the simple reason that there are insufficient documents to compare and test any speculated translation. Sitchin misrepresents his source, who speculated a cultural (not linguistic) connection between Minoans and Semites. He uses misrepresentation whenever it supports his thesis. And when there is no source to misrepresent, he simply makes it up.

"Some recent students... have concluded that the 'chariot' seen by Ezekiel was a helicopter consisting of a cabin resting on four posts, each equipped with rotary wings - a 'whirlwind' indeed... The description of the vehicles as 'bird,' 'wind bird,' and 'whirlwind' that could rise heavenward while emitting a brilliance, leaves no doubt that they were some kind of flying machine." And the description of Alice's "looking glass" leaves no doubt that it was a stargate opening a wormhole to another dimension. Scholars with functioning human brains conclude that the authors of Ezekiel and Through the Looking Glass simply gave free reign to their respective imaginations.

"A hymn to Inanna/Ishtar and her journeys in the Boat of Heaven clearly indicates that the mu was the vehicle in which the gods roamed the skies far and wide... There is evidence to show that the people of the eastern Mediterranean had seen such a rocket-like object not only in a temple enclosure but actually in flight. Hittite glyphs, for example, showed - against a background of starry heavens - cruising missiles, rockets mounted on launch pads, and a god inside a radiating chamber.:.. The seal design clearly depicts a rocket ship moving in the skies and propelled by flames escaping from the rear." And Lewis Carroll's depiction of the Cheshire Cat clearly depicts Scotty beaming it up to the starship Enterprise.

"Utu/Shamash was 'he of the fiery rocket ships.' He was, we suggest, the commander of the spaceport of the gods." The Sumerians could not fly, yet they pictured their gods as being able to fly. Therefore they must have seen real gods/astronauts flying. And there was no Brobdingnag or Lilliput in Europe, yet Jonathan Swift was able to describe both. Therefore he must have visited a real Brobdingnag and Lilliput.

"The sons of the gods who came to Earth from the heavens were the Nefilim. And the Nefelim were the People of the Shem - the People of the Rocket Ships." Sitchin's thesis required that shem, meaning "name," although it can also mean "sky," mean something analogous to "astronauts." So he concluded that it did. That no scholar before or since has ever concurred with such a capricious, ad-hoc translation bothers him not in the least.

"The problem [of a Sumerian star chart] can be solved, we believe, only if one discards the notion that the Mesopotamians [like all humans prior to about 500 BCE] believed in a flat Earth, and recognizes that their astronomical knowledge was as good as ours - not because they had better instruments than we do, but because their source of information was the Nefilim." And L. Ron Hubbard had better knowledge than we do because his source was trillions-of-years-old (sic) entities from an extraterrestrial domain called Arslycus.

"The Sumerian astronomers possessed knowledge that they could not possibly have acquired on their own... Teaching humanity the true nature of earth and the heavens, the Nefilim informed the ancient astronomer-priests not only of the planets beyond Saturn but also of the existence of the most important planet, the one from which they came: THE TWELFTH PLANET."

"When the Nefilim first landed on earth some 450,000 years ago... They searched, no doubt, for a place with a relatively temperate climate... it stands to reason that in their search for the most suitable habitat on Earth, the Nefilim would prefer a site rich in petroleum." A humanoid species capable of interplanetary travel needed petroleum-fueled rockets? Could the fact that rockets were state of the art when Twelfth Planet was written have triggered such a theory?

Sitchin interprets the Genesis myth of Adam eating from the tree of knowledge as a depiction of the space gods genetically engineering humans by inserting Nefilim genes into an ape species. He sees such an interpretation as an endorsement of both creationism and evolution. In other words, he rejects biblical myths where they contradict him, but accepts them when they suit his purpose.

Since Sitchin is able to give free reign to his imagination in order to concoct a scenario to support whatever fantasy he chooses to believe, why does he imagine that ancient writers could not do likewise? He brings to mind pseudo-archaeologist Barry Fell, who "translated" plow scratchings on rocks as a nonexistent language he called Libyan. Anyone who can take such inane drivel seriously probably thinks that Alice in Wonderland was a documentary.

Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance
Alexander Zaitchik
John Wiley & Sons
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9780470557396, $25.95,

Glenn Beck has only one talent. His 24/7 impersonation of the emperor Caligula surpasses even Rush Limbaugh's. Anyone who thinks that Beck is a stupid, ignorant, fatuous, ridiculous, rationally-challenged, self-serving turd of tapeworm excrement with no redeeming social value whatsoever is only familiar with his up-side.

Beck is not an innovator. The moral degeneration and fascist totalitarianism of the Republican Party begun by Barry Goldwater peaked with Sarah Palin. Beck merely jumped on a bandwagon that was already rolling along. The separation of the Tea Party from the human race, as the first step in its evolution into Morlocks, was initiated by Beck's predecessors at Faux News long before he replaced Bill-O the Clown as the most consistent "worst person in the world." Beck's transition into a televangelist who never tells the truth when a lie will serve equally well is a blatant rip-off of Elmer Gantry and Oral Roberts. And the Mormon Church, which stands or falls on the pretence that native Americans are descended from the imagined "lost tribes of Israel," a pretence totally falsified by recent DNA comparisons, looks no more ridiculous today than it did before Beck mistook Joseph Smith's plagiarism of a historical novel by Solomon Spalding for nonfiction in 1998.

Zaitchik reports that, within 72 hours of Beck projecting the racism he sees in the mirror onto Barack Obama, sponsors started boycotting his program. Common Nonsense was already in book stores by the time the New York Times revealed that the number of sponsors who had withdrawn their advertising from Beck's program had reached 297, and the UK version of Faux News had been carrying Beck with zero advertising for nearly eight months. Since Fox is in the business of making money, does that mean that they will fire Beck for his negative contribution to that cause? Sure they will - right after the Vatican fires the Nazi pope in recognition that 80 percent of all Catholics regard him as an embarrassing evolutionary throwback. Beck typifies what Faux News stands for, and that outweighs any monetary consideration.

Zaitchik identifies the Mormon fundamentalist theofascists whom Beck regularly cites as if their megalomania was rooted in reality. One was Willard Cleon Skousen, whom Beck described as "divinely inspired" (p. 215). Zaitchik's evaluation of Skousen is that he is (p. 14), "the most famous Mormon practitioner of the paranoid style ... a [John] Bircher whose three-stage intellectual odyssey from McCarthyism ... like Beck ... was often accused of playing a few Jacks short of a full deck." And like Skousen, Beck is also an admirer of the John Birch Society and Joseph McCarthy.

Beck's other inspirational hero was Ezra Taft Benson (p. 126), "a notorious illiberal Mormon Church president who helped pioneer Mormonism's apocalyptic hard-right strain ... a dedicated foe of the civil rights movement, which he thought was part of a communist plot to destroy the Mormon Church." In Zaitchik's view (p. 206-7), "Mainstream Mormonism is the closest thing the United States has to a Disney religion.... official Mormon culture is more than aggressively anti-intellectual; it is infantilizing.... In 1993 ... Brigham Young University ... purged it faculty of feminists and liberals."

"By any reasonable standard, Glenn Beck [the TV program] began 2007 as the new bottom-feeder in America's cable news aquarium. The same fatheaded viciousness that defined Beck's radio show had been transferred to television" (p. 115). A Washington Post writer was (p. 117), "dumbfounded by his subject's ability to 'contradict himself without even noticing.'" Author Stephen King (p. 117) described Beck as "Satan's mentally challenged younger brother." Zaitchik notes (p. 161) that, "At some point in his career, Beck has been condemned, sometimes more than once, by organizations representing Asians, Hispanics, Arabs, Jews, gays, and blacks."

"When the White House proposed restricting the use of taxpayer money to fund AIG bonuses, Beck screamed 'mob rule' ....Under no circumstances could the government step in to 'void legally binding contracts.' But that was true of only some contracts.... He fully supported the voiding of the UAW contract after GM's bailout" (p. 195).

Zaitchik reports (p. 119) that, "Beck began one of the most deranged chapters of his brief television career by comparing Al Gore to Adolf Hitler and the work of the UN's climate scientists to Nazi eugenicists." So Beck is a climate-change denier. So what paranoid, schizophrenic, certifiable, morally bankrupt, theofascist brain amputee is not?

I have long agreed with Thomas Szasz that insanity, by either the medical or legal definition, does not exist, although for some human behavior the term "insanity" is a useful metaphor. But at various points in history someone comes along who forces me to reconsider that conclusion. There was the Roman emperor Gaius Caligula. There was Pope Pius IX. There was Adolf Hitler. There were senators Joseph McCarthy, Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond. There are Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson of the Christian Taliban, and their Canadian mirror images. There is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There are Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. And there is Glenn Beck.

It is unlikely that Zaitchik's book will convince any readers that Beck belongs in the Cuckoo's Nest where Nurse Ratched can feed him through a straw, since anyone who does not know that already is probably unteachable. A generation from now, if America is still the democracy that proto-Morlock Republican theocrats are trying to overthrow, students of American history who encounter Common Nonsense in their university libraries, or the book it demolishes, Beck's Common Sense, will ask themselves, "Glenn Who?"

Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things
Richard Wiseman, Ph.D.
Basic Books
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9780465090792, $26.00,

"There is little doubt that Wiseman is the most interesting and innovative experimental psychologist in the world today." So says Michael Shermer. And while I have the utmost respect for most of Dr Shermer's opinions on most subjects, he apparently has no awareness that "most innovative psychologist" is analogous to "most innovative tealeaf reader." Psychology is a hoax and its practitioners are humbugs. There may be a "knowledge of the mind" some day, and finding it makes psychology a legitimate field of research. But as of this moment "knowledge of the mind" does not exist. Psychologists and tealeaf readers both practise cold reading for the purpose of passing off unsubstantiated guesses as expertise. But the discipline that most resembles psychology is theology. Theologians disguise their ignorance by padding their contentless doubletalk with nonexistent entities such as gods, devils and angels. Psychologists disguise their ignorance by padding their contentless doubletalk with various nonexistent syndromes, disorders, and complexes. The only good psychologist is an unborn one. And that is being optimistic.

Chapter one is about astrology. The kindest description I can think of is that it is superficial. While Wiseman's disbelief in astrology eventually comes through, his treatment of an absolute absurdity as if it was more worthy of serious consideration than tealeaf reading suggests that he would not have been taken by surprise if the evidence had supported its legitimacy. He mentions both Michel Gauquelin and the "Mars effect," but seems to be unaware that the former invented the latter. He fails to recognize that the alleged Mars effect was created by fraudulent sampling, analogous to proving that persons named Bobby have a higher-than-average likelihood of becoming hockey champions by sampling those NHL teams that had several Bobbys and ignoring those that did not. Instead he attempts to find a non-astrological explanation for the Mars effect as if it actually exists. He has only flattering things to say about fellow-psychoquack Hans Eysenck, and either does not know or suppresses the reality that Eysenck is on record as endorsing the reality of astrobiology, as Gauquelin called his new planet-based astrology. Professional courtesy? And in place of Gauquelin's astrobiology, Wiseman invents his own equivalent, chronopsychology.

Chapter two, about lying and deception, is only slightly better. Wiseman debunks the pretence that gorillas can conduct intelligent conversations in sign language. And he gives useful descriptions of how verifiably-false memories have been implanted. What he does not mention is the way false memories of childhood sexual abuse were implanted by self-styled therapists, and led to the criminalizing of hundreds of innocent caregivers. He mentions a polygraph operator who was among a group deceived by lying, but does not mention that the polygraph itself is a hoax, since it measures only involuntary bodily responses whose correlation with the subject's belief that he is or is not telling the truth is only slightly better than tossing a coin, "heads" for truth and "tails' for lie. Even the most effective means of assessing when an individual is lying, listening to his actual words, produced only the same 73 percent accuracy as a polygraph.

Chapter three, about popular superstitions, is subtitled, "Psychology Enters the Twilight Zone." Newsflash: Psychology was born and bred in the Twilight Zone. Wiseman makes no mention of religion, the most widespread superstition on this planet, with adherents numbering from about 10 percent in Scandinavia to 64 percent in the USA and possibly even higher in Muslim-dominated countries. In the same chapter he describes how, even after scientists explained that the low thermal conductivity of hot coals enables most people to walk approximately fifteen feet on them without being burned, firewalkers insisted on walking much further in the conviction that some kind of "mind control" would protect them. As a consequence they were severely burned. That anecdote leads to the most useful observation in the whole book: "belief in the impossible can be bad for your health."

In September 1957, a marketing researcher published a claim that he had inserted a subliminal message, "Eat Popcorn," into a movie, exposing the message for just one three-thousandth of a second, and pop corn sales had jumped 58 percent. The claim was so widely accepted as accurate that (p. 132), "in June 1958 the National Association of Broadcasters responded to public and political pressure by banning the use of these messages on American networks." The reality is that all attempts to replicate the experiment produced negative results, and the author of the original claim acknowledged that the story had been leaked to the media in the absence of any significant data to back it up. Yet to this day a majority of the population still believes that "subliminal advertising" really exists. The same chapter (four) refers favorably to "an evolutionary psychologist," as if evolutionary psychology was not a new name for sociobiology, invented to shut out the growing awareness that, if sociobiology is a science, then biology, genetics, anthropology, zoology and paleontology must be superstitious hogwash.

Chapter five is about attempts to find the world's funniest joke. Actual jokes take up less than ten percent of the chapter. The rest is an attempt to explain what makes a joke funny. Only another psychologist would see that as more entertaining than watching paint dry.

Chapter six, "Sinner or Saint, reports a survey in which Americans were asked to identify the person they deemed "somewhat likely" to go to heaven. While 87 percent named themselves, the next highest scorer was Mother Teresa, with 79 percent. Presumably, if Imelda Marcos, Leona Helmsley, and Bernie Maddoff had been among the options, they would also have scored 79 percent, since the lying, swindling, self-serving, hypocritical nun was an amalgam of all of their most despicable qualities. And in an experiment to test the comparative honesty of different professions, randomly chosen priests and car salesmen were sent cheques of £10 by a nonexistent company as alleged refunds. Even though all of the recipients would have known that they had never purchased anything from the named company, 50 percent of the priests and 50 percent of the salesmen cashed the cheques. That result really surprised me. While I have no high regard for car salesmen, I would not have believed that they are as morally bankrupt as priests.

Elsewhere in the chapter, Wiseman reports that a group of trainee ministers were instructed to prepare a sermon on the Good Samaritan fable in the anonymous gospel called Luke. They were then set up to pass by an injured hippie on the way to deliver the sermon. The number who stopped to help was always less than 50 percent, and when the trainees were racing a deadline it dropped to 10 percent. But what really jumped off the page was Wiseman's total ignorance that the story is a vicious slander of the first-century residents of Samaria, and that "good Samaritan" is analogous to "good nigger." He is presumably also unaware that the fable was part of the "Luke" author's attempt to sell a religion centered on a dead Jew to gentiles, and bore no resemblance to anything the viciously xenophobic Jesus would ever have preached.

Chapter seven considers "The Future of Quirkology." If Wiseman's book is the best thing the subject can produce, I suggest that "future of quirkology" is an oxymoron.

I cannot criticize Dr Wiseman for listing his Ph.D. on the book's cover, since precedent suggests that his publisher might have done so without bothering to seek the author s approval.

I was really hoping this would be a book I could recommend. That is not the way it turned out. I am reminded of a joke about a visitor to a loony bin who saw an inmate yell, "twenty-seven," and the other inmates break into unrestrained laughter. He was informed that the inmates knew one hundred jokes, and associated each one with a particular number. So the visitor yelled, "thirty-three," and nobody laughed. He asked, "Isn't number thirty-three very funny?" and was told, "It's hilarious. It was the lousy way you told it." Quirkology is filled with accurate information and interesting observations. The downside is the lousy way Wiseman told it.

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
Charles P. Pierce
1745 Broadway, New York NY 10019
9780767926140, $26.00,

America is a nation chronically infested with idiots. Fortunately they do not constitute a majority, or Dick Cheney would not have stayed out of the 2008 presidential election in recognition that no person whose I.Q. exceeded room temperature would vote for him. Unfortunately they constitute a large enough minority that one of them, Sarah Palin, seriously believes she can become the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2012. And given the number of idiots who won Republican Senate primaries in 2010, her belief in the stupidity of American voters cannot be dismissed as unrealistic.

The idiots Pierce targets, however, are not the Republican politicians who expose their Orwellian doublethink every time they open their mouths. Indeed, the politicians who get the most coverage are America's Founding Fathers, cited in every chapter for the purpose of comparing events from their lives with present-day behavior that can be attributed to their influence. I do not say that I found Pierce's arguments and analogies unconvincing. Rather, I found them so dull and uninteresting that I could not force myself to read them with the attention to detail necessary in order to evaluate whether or not they are convincing. Pierce is a journalist, and as such a virtual amateur when it comes to analyzing the facts of history. Fortunately, he is a reasonably competent amateur.

If any primary targets can be detected in Idiot America, they are religion and the media, virtual coconspirators that between them are responsible for turning scholars into pariahs and glorifying the most dangerous, bullshit-peddling idiots in American history. And the individuals he cites are indeed guilty of crimes against public enlightenment, even if they fall short of the legal definition of crimes against humanity, a charge on which most would almost certainly be acquitted on the ground of diminished responsibility. The offenders treated in the greatest detail tend to be persons I have never heard of. But better-known public enemies do not escape exposure by Pierce's "mightier than the sword" pen:

Michael Behe (p. 148): "Behe argued that . The flagellum refutes Darwin and implies the existence of an intelligent designer, who may or may not be God; Behe wasn't saying.. Scientists explained at length how wrong Behe was about it.. But the worst damage done to the defendants' case centered around the textbook that had started it all . not because it made the proponents of ID look like zealots, but because it made them look like clowns."

William Jennings Bryan (p. 31): "Bryan has come down to us as a simple crank, but there has never been anything simple about the American crank."

Pat Buchanan (p. 65): "The paleoconservative pundit Pat Buchanan stated, flatly, that he didn't believe in Darwinian evolution."

George W. Bush (pp. 50, 251): "Idiot America is what results when leaders are not held to account for mistakes that end up killing people.. With complete impunity, George W. Bush . wandered the landscape and talked like a blithering nitwit. He compared himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt. One more public appearance, and we might have learned that Custer was killed by the Hezbollah."

Dick Cheney (p. 246): "In his speech, Cheney said, flatly, 'There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.' Sitting behind Cheney on the platform, Zinni said, 'I'm listening to this case for war based on faulty or-and I'm being kind-embellished intelligence.'"

Ann Coulter (p. 153): "Coulter parroted much of the ID evidence that had been left in tatters during the trial."

Lou Dobbs (p. 57): "CNN's Lou Dobbs dedicated a portion of his nightly show on [North America Free Trade Agreement], calling the road 'as straightforward an attack on national sovereignty as there could be outside of a war.'"

James Dobson (p. 6): "James Dobson, a prominent Christian conservative spokesman, compares the Supreme Court of the United States with the Ku Klux Klan."

Newt Gingrich (p. 109): "Thus can . Newt Gingrich chase tail all over Capital hill."

Rudolph Giuliani (p. 269): "John McCain argued that, in addition to being basically immoral, torture doesn't work. He was quickly shouted down by Giuliani, who was once tortured by the thought that his second wife wouldn't move out of the mayor's mansion in favor of his current girlfriend."

Ken Ham (pp. 3, 279, 51): "Faced with the obvious question of how Noah kept his 300-by-30-by-50-cubit Ark from sinking under the weight of the dinosaur couples, Ham's literature argues that the dinosaurs on the Ark were young ones, who thus did not weigh as much as they might have.. The Creation Museum is a richly appointed monument to complete barking idiocy.. There is nothing wrong with a country that has people who put saddles on dinosaurs.. We have no obligation to climb aboard and ride."

Sean Hannity (pp. 112, 154): "Hannity was one of the last people to cling to the notion that, rather than use them . to defend himself against an imminent invasion, Saddam Hussein shipped his weapons of mass destruction to Syria.. Why should anyone pay Sean Hannity, an NYU dropout, a dime to talk about stem-cell research? Why not ask the guy who fixes your car? Why not the guy on the next bar stool? Why not you?"

Mike Huckabee (p. 253): "Senator Sam Brownback . was an out-and-out theocrat.. Former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas was just as amiably Jesus-loopy."

Larry King (p. 9): "A 'politically savvy challenge to evolution' makes as much sense as conducting a Gallup poll on gravity.. the only real news is where it appeared. On the front page. Of the New York Times.. Within three days, there was a panel on the topic on Larry King Live, in which Larry asked the following question: 'All right, hold on . your concept of how you can out-and-out-turn down creationism, since if evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?' And why, dear Lord, do so many of them host television programs?"

G. Gordon Liddy (pp. 99-100): "Gordon Liddy is an authentically dangerous man.. even Nixon's felonious attorney general, John Mitchell, thought Liddy was a lunatic, and Mitchell was no field of buttercups himself.. no country serious about its national dialogue would allow Gordon Liddy anywhere near a microphone, for the same reason we would keep Charlie Manson away from the cutlery."

Rush Limbaugh (pp. 108-9): "Limbaugh created a place with its own politics (where Hillary Clinton may have had Vince Foster snuffed), its own science (where tobacco has no connection to lung cancer), and its own physical reality (Rush is a roue who makes Errol Flynn look like a Benedictine monk).. Thus can Limbaugh pop pills."

John McCain (p. 263-265): "John McCain . was able to allay the fears of the Republican base while maintaining a grip on that dwindling element of his party that can fairly be described as Not Insane. That grip did not hold.. Desperate to dissociate himself from the previous administration . McCain instead wandered deeply into Idiot America himself, perhaps never to return.. The Republican party, and the brand of movement conservatism that had fueled its rise, had become the party of undigested charlatans."

Bill O'Reilly (p. 109): "Thus can . Bill O'Reilly engage in creepy phone-stalking that would have embarrassed Caligula."

Sarah Palin (pp. 265-6): "Once McCain got the nomination, he was denied his first choices for vice presidential candidates.. He ended up with Sarah Palin . whose hilarious lack of qualifications for the job was interpreted at the Republican nominating convention as the highest qualification of all. She said so herself. Palin's nomination was an act of faith in Idiot America almost unsurpassed in political history. If the country took its obligations to self-government at all seriously, the presence of Sarah Palin on a national ticket would have been an insult on a par with the elevation of Caligula's horse."

Ronald Reagan (pp. 234-5): "The country learned that Reagan had arranged to sell missiles to the people who sponsored anti-American terrorism in the Middle East, in order to finance pro-American terrorism in Latin America, and that on one occasion he sent an important official to Teheran with a bible and a cake. The country learned this without laughing its beloved, befuddled chief executive out of office."

Pat Robertson (p. 6): "Pat Robertson, another prominent conservative preacher man, says that federal judges are a greater threat to the nation than is Al Qaeda."

Mitt Romney (pp. 263, 269): "Romney spent millions of dollars to prove that he was little more than the Piltdown Man of American politics.. was once tortured by the fact that gay people in Massachusetts were allowed to marry each other."

Michael Savage (pp 123-4): "It is not a major exaggeration to say that Savage makes Gordon Liddy look like Bertrand Russell. Not to put too fine a point on it, Michael savage . is a raving public nutcase.. Savage celebrated the Fourth of July by . telling a gay caller to 'get AIDS and die, you pig.'"

Phyllis Schlafly (p. 152): "Ultraconservative activist Phyllis Schlafly wrote a syndicated column in which she pointed out how vital evangelical voters had been to the election of George W. Bush, and Bush had appointed [Judge John] Jones, and Jones had stabbed the evangelical community in the back [by ruling that ID was religion, not science]. However, the notion that he owed his allegiance to some political team got Jones angry enough to speak out."

Ben Stein (p. 156): "In the spring of 2008, a movie called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was released. Yet another defense of ID, this was a vanity project by Ben Stein, an economist who'd also been a speechwriter for Richard Nixon.. Now that he had come to pitch intelligent design, Stein's career arc could safely be said to have gone from hogwash to eyewash and all the way back again.. Stein argues, seriously, that Darwinism led to the depredations of the Nazis."

Nonfiction books should always have an index, and Idiot America is no exception. When my bookmarks fell out of the pages about von Däniken and Schlafly, I had to spend an unreasonable time relocating them. That made me mad as hell, and I briefly considered refusing to review any book that lacks such a necessary element. Nonetheless:

Pierce's demolition of the Vast Wasteland begins (pp. 34, 35, 41, 43), "Once you're on television, you become an expert, with or without expertise, because once you're on television, you are speaking to the Gut, and the Gut is a moron.. The Gut becomes the basis for the Great Premises of Idiot America.. The First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.. Which leads us, inevitably, to the Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.. The Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it."

"Television changed every part of this dynamic. Idiocy can come to a nation wholly and at once and, because idiocy is almost always good television, it can remain a viable product long after the available evidence and common sense had revealed it to be what it is" (p. 42).

"Television is an emotional medium.. It doesn't reason well. This is entertainment, not analysis or reasoned discourse. Never employ a tightly reasoned argument where a flaming sound bite will do. The argument of the academic is sort of dull, but a good pissing match is fun to watch" (p. 105).

"Immanuel Velikovsky and, later, Erich von Däniken proposed outre notions about life's origins so popular that they persist today. The History Channel regularly runs programs based on von Däniken's ideas about the prehistoric influence of extraterrestrials on the development of human life" (p. 157). While I have no problem with Pierce's singling out the History Channel as a persistent source of disinformation, he might also have identified the Learning, A&E, and Discovery channels as equally guilty.

The particular TV program Pierce identifies (p. 270) as a prime culprit in the dumbing of Idiot America is a Fox (big surprise) series titled 24. Just as the James Bond movies created the impression that British Intelligence really does employ assassins with a "licence to kill," and that such government hit men are necessary for the protection of the free world, so does 24's Jack Bauer brainwash Americans that sadistic torture, in violation of the Geneva Convention, is both desirable and effective. A self described "right-wing nut-job" told a reporter from The New Yorker (p. 271), "America wants a war on terror fought by Jack Bauer. He's a patriot." Pierce's view is that, "For all its whiz-bang action and pinballing plotlines, 24 is as resolutely and deliberately free of actual expertise in interrogative techniques as F Troop was of actual conditions on the American frontier."

Another prime target is the mind pablum for the braindead known as "reality television," described (p. 259) as, "little more than the creation of a context in which one set of connivers is set against another." As Pierce reveals (p. 282), "The most revelatory moment of all came in 2008, when the reality shows had to go off the air because the Hollywood writers had gone on strike and there was nobody to write the reality."

But television is not the only medium that abandons factual reporting to maximize audience appeal. "With its performance to date in the Schiavo case, the press is displaying a tell-tale tendency for tabloid-style exploitation in the guise of serious reporting" (p. 185).

Then there is the role of religion in overthrowing the Founding Fathers' attempt to create a democracy with equal rights for all, and replacing it with a totalitarian theocracy. Pierce quotes (p. 27) a writer who recognized that, "Christian thought . often gave irrationality the status of a universal 'truth' to the exclusion of those truths to be found through reason. So the uneducated was preferred to the educated, and the miracle to the operation of natural laws." Not that what the Founding Fathers came up with was ideal. In fact (p. 27), "This is still the best country ever in which to peddle complete public lunacy. In fact, it's the only country to enshrine that right in its founding documents."

"The very notion of a debate on evolution's validity is a measure of how scientific discourse, and the way the country educates itself, have slipped, through lassitude and inattention, across the border into Idiot America. Intelligent design is religion disguised as science, and it defends itself as science by relying largely on the 'respect' that we must give all religious doctrine" (p. 49). "Intelligent design is a theological construct-ostensibly without God, but with a designer that looks enough like him to be his smarter brother" (p. 50).

"Under the Third Great Premise, respect for the effort required to develop and promulgate nonsense somehow bleeds into a respect that validates the nonsense itself. Religion is the place where this problem becomes the most acute, where the noble tradition of the American crank is most clearly spoiled by respectability and by the validation bestowed by the modern media. Push religion into other spheres-like, say, politics and science-and the process intensifies. 'Respect' for religion suddenly covers any secular idea, no matter how crackpot, that can be draped in the Gospels" (p. 47).

"A politician describes himself as a 'person of faith,' which tells you more about the politician's balls than it does about his soul. He doesn't have enough of the former to call himself 'religious' .. Torquemada was a person of faith. So were Marx and Lenin. So is almost any atheist. In its essential cowardice, the phrase means nothing. It's a slogan. A sales pitch" (p. 133). If Pierce considers his atheism a "faith," I can only conclude that he lacks the relevant education of those of us who do not need "faith" in the fraudulence of religion because we have "beyond a reasonable doubt" evidence.

"To call something 'faith-based' for the purpose of hiding the clearly sectarian character of what you're actually talking about is to admit that there really is no difference between what went on at Lourdes and what went on at Roswell" (pp. 134-5).

"It is not an accident that [President] Madison listed religion first among the sources of dangerous fiction. He looked on religion in the political sphere the way most people would look on a cobra in the sock drawer" (p. 166).

Pierce's book is a rambling compendium of whichever of his magazine articles he happened to pick up at a particular point in its writing. But while it falls short of a well-argued Master's thesis, it does get the facts right.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Nancy White
Tamarack Editions
P.O. Box 523, Penns Park, PA 18943-0523
9780979668432, $15.00,

Poet Nancy White has a sharp style. This refers especially to her use of words; not the mentality of the writing, though this is true as well. Many of the parts of her poems are simple declarative sentences; with their effect so direct and simple that they are metaphorical can be unnoticed. And other types of sections such as compound sentences or compounded phrases and even phrases spread out visually have this same directness and simplicity. With this style, the poems are not lyric or narrative. The overall effect is refraction--the poem comes through in fractal-like pieces. The scope of these in any particular poem can vary. The poem titled "look up' begins, "could you refuse the stars...", followed by such as "chime and cold...the telescope...the cone of night..."; whereas near the beginning of "the water said" is, "...Too much/hair, he says, and flesh, and cigarettes. He was/drunk...."

Another technique White uses giving her poems this sharp, fractal-like quality is the use of the pronoun "you"; e. g., in "thirst", "you watch bubbles cling to the luminous side/of the glass...." This keeps the reader focused on the shiftings going on in the poems; which focus, incidentally, is one reason the metaphors can pass by unnoticed.

White's style serves well her interest in the fits and starts of emotions in certain situations. Reading her poems is a different experience than with most poems.

Visual Journeys
Nina Mihm & Mary Carroll Nelson, editors
Fresco Fine Art Publications
c/o University of New Mexico Press
1312 Basehart Road SE, Albuquerque NM 87106-4363
9781934491232, $40.00,

"Layering is not a label for a particular style or medium. It is a way of making art in order to express ultimate connectedness, a way to think about creating art as a synthesis from many sources...There is often a sense that something 'other' than the visible inhabits layered work," as explained in a statement on the group at the back of the book. In her Preface to "Visual Journeys: Art of the 21st Century, Society of Layerists in Multi-Media", editor Nina Mihm additionally explains that the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media (SLMM) is a "large international group of artists sharing a holistic world view that...[t]here exists a oneness and unity to everything, everyone, and the whole."

Over 90 art works by this number of members of SLMM are presented. The art is categorized under the five headings Visionary, Eclectic, Delightful, Evocative, Resplendent. Though as expected with art not defined in terms of content or style, these headings are elastic; and individual viewers will see some works which could be under different headings. But this varied art is not to be appreciated according to heading anyway, but for its color and forms ranging through biomorphic, geometric, collage, abstract, and occasional representational combined with one of these. The element running through nearly all is the sense or instinct of vitality inherent in holism which is the inspiration for the art. Most of the works seem to represent a moment in a process rather than a fixed state in formal, architectural terms.

The works are shown one per page with a paragraph by the artist on the work's origin and materials, with the artist name and location given. A section following the works lists the 90-plus artists alphabetically with contact information plus biographical notes and a general statement on their work as an artist and the appeal of layered art.

Hitler's Engineers - Fritz Todt and Albert Speer, Master Builders of the Third Reich
Blaine Taylor
Casemate Publishers
908 Darby Road, Havertown, PA19083
9781932033687, $39.95,

Todt is not so well known as Speer. Speer took his position after Todt died in a plane crash in 1942. With the exact cause of the crash unknown, sabotage was suspected; though never proven. While he was alive, Todt was Hitler's preferred chief engineer, and a member of his inner circle. In this position, Todt was responsible for the German autobahn, the Siegfried defensive line in western Germany, and German war material production. He was named Minister of Armaments and Munitions in 1940.

Holding this position until Germany's defeat, Speer was captured, held in Spandau Prison with other high German officials, and tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg and given a 20-year prison sentence. In captivity and after release, he wrote several bestselling books which kept him in the public eye before he died in 1981. Speer was known for his construction of German underground armament factories allowing Germany to prolong the war despite Allied bombardments and involvement in the German rockets whose development was cut off in its early stages by the Allied victory.

Both Todt and Speer were also architects of monumental projects meant to glorify the Third Reich and German infrastructure such as roads and public facilities. Taylor's focus is on their works as fundamental, invaluable parts of Nazi Germany enabling it to successively engage in warfare during the first part of the Nazi regime and then--what is even more interesting under Speer--continue to wage war against far superior Allied and Russian armies after devastating defeats.

Detailed biographies and studies focusing only on production plans and engineering and architectural feats can be found elsewhere. This book by an author with a military background is a heavily-illustrated popular work engagingly balancing biography, major Nazi engineering, architectural, and industrial projects, a profile of Hitler's leadership regarding such projects, and the complexities and rivalries of the Nazi hierarchy closest to Hitler which Todt and Speer had to content with to achieve and hold their high positions.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

In the Wild
David Elliott, author
Holly Meade, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763644970, $16.99,

From the roosters and cows in 2008's "On the Farm," author-illustrator team David Elliott and Holly Meade move on to wilder things. "In the Wild" offers double-page spreads of 13 different animals whose habitats span the globe, from wolves to tigers to rhinoceroses. A three-page spread on the polar bear caps off the book. The woodblock and watercolor illustrations are as exquisite as in "On The Farm," just cartoonishness enough to interest young children while sophisticated enough to satisfy the savviest art-minded adult. Hues flow from yellows and greens for animals who live in warmer climates into grays and blues for those in colder locales like North America. The lyrical text, that varies in length from four to 13 lines per animal, is sometimes humorous, sometimes contemplative. It deftly strikes the delicate balance between admiring the beauty and remembering the innate nature of the subjects that range from the "Boing! Boing! Boing!..." kangaroo to the beautiful rosette-backed jaguar who prowls with "a soundless step that warns...beware of those hidden thorns." Near perfect, once again.

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes
Salley Mavor, author and illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10003
9780618737406, $21.99,

Perhaps it was the depressed economy, that has hit book publishers hard, that kept Sally Mavor's "Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes," from having the shelf presence it deserves. Mavor's breathtaking fabric relief illustrations for the book, a collection of 65 nursery rhymes from "Baa, Baa Black Sheep," to "Ring Around the Roses" are worthy of a heavier and/or larger cover. Such an upgrade would have lent it an award-winning exterior feel. One hopes that "Pocketful of Posies" catches the eye of potential readers anyway, because they are in for a treat. Each of the nursery rhymes is illustrated with photographs of Mavor's stunningly intricate, museum-quality needlework, that in addition to embroidery thread incorporates small objects like driftwood, beads, buttons and even acorn caps. Unsurpassed in its detail and attention to quality, "Pocketful of Posies" will hopefully receive better treatment in a subsequent printing.

Tiny Little Fly
Michael Rosen, author
Kevin Waldron, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763646813, $15.99,

When was the last time you cheered for a fly? The usually disdained insect turns hero in "Tiny Little Fly," as large jungle animals unsuccessfully try to swat it. Author-illustrator team Michael Rosen and Kevin Waldron perfectly limit the irritated, fly-swatting animals to just three - an elephant, a hippo and a tiger. That allows the fly's encounter with each one to receive ample treatment. The text has a nicely repetitive feel that will appeal to young listeners, as each animal in turn winks and decides to try to catch the fly, ultimately losing as "off flies the fly." Oversized, all-caps printing as each animal thrashes around in its own way, trying to hit the fly, provides the perfect inspiration for adult readers to temporarily turn up the volume. The elephant tramps and crushes, the hippo rolls and squashes and the tiger swoops and snatches. Their movements culminate in a fold-out, four-page spread as the fly wins, getting away. The fly winks as it departs for the last time, humorously tying into the previous winking of the animals. The illustrations are fabulously large and boldly hued with the orange and black, green-eyed tiger (that was deservedly chosen for the cover) particularly beautifully done. Award-winning quality, destined to be a new classic.

The Bible For Young Children
Marie-Helene Delval, author
Jean-Claude Gotting, illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
c/o William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
2140 Oak Industrial Dr., NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802853837, $16.50,

Into the vast fray of biblical story books steps a beautifully illustrated volume that hits the all of the big book's high points, from creation to the resurrection, in just 88 pages. Originally published in the French language in 2002, 2010 marks the first English language edition of "The Bible for Young Children." The paraphrased text, which author Marie-Helene Delval notes "uses language and imagery appropriate for children while remaining faithful to the spirit of biblical texts," is child-minded, simply constructed and modern feeling. In offering God's reason for the flood in the story of Noah, Delval writes that the "people became mean, so mean that God was sorry that he had given them the world." Later on in the New Testament, Delval writes that "when Jesus was grown up, he walked along the roads of his country with twelve of his friends." Delval doesn't cover every story in the Bible but the major ones are here, from Moses to Jonah to the nativity. Neither is every detail covered. The commandments are mentioned but not enumerated; God calls to Samuel but we don't heard that the boy was living in the temple at the time. But the approach works; general ideas take precedence over details, a wise choice with little listeners who can probe deeper when they are older. Jean-Claude Gotting's illustrations transcend children's interest, rising to serious, inspired artwork that is a nice respite from cartoon-like counterparts. Yet the drawings are simply lined enough to hold the attention of kids. Of note is the distinct effort to depict biblical characters as having dark hair and skin, including the baby Jesus, who looks African. That should appeal to readers across ethnic backgrounds. A perfect baptism or christening gift, and the third in a series that also includes "Psalms for Young Children" and "Animals of the Bible for Young Children."

Animals of the Bible for Young Children
Marie-Helene Delval, author
Aurelia Fronty, illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
c/o William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
2140 Oak Industrial Dr., NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802853769 $16.50,

What do young children like more than stories about animals? Author Marie-Helene Delval offers the perfect route to interest kids in the Bible - focus on all the animals that pepper the adult text. Originally published in the French language in 2005, and now available in English, "Animals of the Bible for Young Children" mentions well-know biblical creatures, from the Garden of Eden's snake to the frogs that plagued Egypt to the dove that descended over Jesus' baptism. But there are also creatures pulled from lesser known passages, including a hippopotamus from the book of Job, a deer and a stork from the book of Psalms, bees from the book of Deuteronomy and a dragon from the book of Revelation. The paraphrased text, which the author notes "uses language and imagery appropriate for children while remaining faithful to the spirit of biblical texts," is simple and child-centered. Aurelia Fronty's bright yet refreshingly uncartoonish illustrations are worthy of adult interest yet simply lined enough to hold children's attention. Like the other titles in this series, which include "Psalms for Young Children" and "The Bible for Young Children," "Animals of the Bible for Young Children" is a great gift choice for a baptism or christening.

Switching on the Moon
Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, collectors
G. Brian Karas, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763642495, $21.99,

Gently joyful, child-minded illustrations mesh with some of the world's most beloved poetry in one of recent memory's most beautiful bedtime compilations. "Switching on the Moon: A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems," includes 60 works by more than 40 poets, some modern and some centuries-old classics, carrying readers from pre-bed bath time to the first light of dawn. Between dusk and sunrise, in sometimes funny and sometimes quietly peaceful ways, the collection touches on Teddy Bears, stars, night animal noises and a mother's touch and ponders whether the moon breathes. There are lullabies and a Native American verse, some very short inclusions and some that stretch over two pages. The illustrations are cartoon-like yet more sophisticated than most children's books, introducing young readers to good art while they're listening to good writing. A great way to bring poetry into the lives of children at a time of day when they're receptive. A treasure.

The Odious Ogre
Norton Juster, author
Jules Feiffer, illustrator
Michael Di Capua Books
c/o Scholastic Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545162029, $17.95,

Caldecott Medal winner Norton Juster ("The Phantom Tollbooth," "The Hello, Goodbye Window"), teams with Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer team in a hilariously original picture book about countering ill-tempered people. The "odious" ogre traverses the countryside, eating some people and generally terrorizing the rest. No one stands up to him until one day he comes across a young girl who meets his rotten countenance with calm indifference. Instead of cowering, she offers muffins and suggests that he bathe. This is so far afield from how others react that the ogre doesn't know what to do. In a manner perfectly parallel to a child's temper tantrum in the presence of a strong-minded adult unswayed by howls and kicks, he resorts to "bellowing, stomping, blustering, grimacing, twitching, snorting, belching, clawing and drooling..." That this doesn't elicit more than a quiet response from the girl is so unnerving that the ogre drops down dead. A great moral lesson, thinly veiled in an appealingly funny way. The wonderful illustrations include a double-page spread of the tantrumming ogre, in which parents will instantly recognize their children at their worst. The amount of text on some of the pages makes it more suitable to grade school, rather than preschool, listeners. Some big words, such as the Ogre's smug assessment of himself as "invulnerable, impregnable, insuperable, indefatigable, insurmountable..." will also appeal to kids a bit older. Grade schoolers will appreciate that the ogre's extensive vocabulary is due to his swallowing a dictionary while he munched on a local librarian. Pointed fun.

Saviour Pirotta, author
Catherine Hyde, illustrator
Templar Books
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763650766, $18.99,

Children's illustrator Catherine Hyde, a Kate Greenway Medal nominee for 2009's "The Princess Blankets," offers an as-exquisite follow-up in "Firebird." The story is about a prince who goes in search of a firebird who is eating his father's apples. Ultimatley, with the help of a magical gray wolf, he falls in love with a princess who becomes his wife. In illustrating award-winning author Saviour Pirotta's retelling of "Firebird"a century after it was famously made into a Russian ballet, Hyde once again stuns. Her soft acrcylics, infused with gold and copper leaf, are masterful, some of the best children's illustrations in recent memory. The use of color impresses again and again, with a pointed tilt toward rich red and orange hues. Although a bit longer than a typical picture book, Pirotta's writing is so strong and succinct that young listeners will stay raptly tuned. A near perfect package.

Karyn Saemann

Logan's Bookshelf

Listening to Ghosts
Bob Stockton
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450076531, $19.99,

Life in the navy is more than being on a boat for a few months. "Listening to Ghosts" is a memoir from Bob Stockton as he ponders his time in the United States Navy and provides a snapshot of different time and he comes to readers with much conventional wisdom and thought, seeking to entertain as well as educate. "Listening to Ghosts" is an excellent pick for memoir collections.

The Sign of the End
J. E. Becker
Tate Publishing
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781617390272, $17.95,

In the wake of war, Catholicism reclaims its power. "The Sign of the End" is the second book in J. E. Becker's Armageddon trilogy, as IDF agents David and Rachel face another mission to protect Israel from the growing oppression and power of the Catholic church, which has increased its influence greatly following a great nuclear war. A riveting story of religious intrigue, "The Sign of the End" is not to be missed.

Marvin Lindberg
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432758646, $13.95,

Terror is not often bound by morality, and a ponzi scheme is more than enough to pay for what they need. "Ponzied" tells the story of private detective Wayne Davis as he's drawn into a Vegas ponzi scheme that may be driving more than just greed. An exciting read that blends mystery with action and adventure, "Ponzied" is a choice pick, highly recommended.

All Eyes
Bainy B. Cyrus
Privately Published
9781450540315, $11.95,

The Deaf can function fine in society, but they need certain skills that aren't taught in everyday life. "All Eyes: A Memoir of Deafness" is a memoir from Bainy B. Cyrus growing up hearing impaired in a time where it wasn't completely understood. Speaking on the Clarke School for the deaf and keeping her humor as she tells her story of growing up with her own challenges, "All Eyes" is a remarkable memoir, highly recommended.

His Eye Is On the Sparrow
M. L. Vaughn
Privately Published
9781453711279, $17.95

There are values that ring true with many families, no matter where they were. "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" : God, Guns, and Grandma" is a collection of short stories from M. L. Vaughn focusing on the family and the values that unite them all. Poignant and thoughtful, these stories will prove entertaining as well as almost a trip down memory lane. "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" is an excellent read, not to be missed.

The Roadmap Home
Leonard Szymczak
Privately Published
9781439251263, $15.95

Home is a place where you are comfortable and can be very much yourself. "The Roadmap Home: Your GPS to Inner Peace" is an inspirational read from Leonard Szymczak as he encourages readers to find their way home, something many have lost and have failed to find in recent times in their lives. Using GPS, or the Guiding Power of Spirit, he hopes people will find their own personal home where they can love and experience inner peace. "The Roadmap Home" is a thoughtful and solidly recommended read that shouldn't be missed.

The Empire Strikes a Match in a World Full of Oil
Joel Clarke Gibbons
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450008693, $22.99,

Oil is both literally and metaphorically a volatile substance. "The Empire Strikes a Match in a World Full of Oil" discusses America, its thirst for oil, and how America can both be the cause of and solution to the upcoming worldwide oil shortage. Drawing through history and drawing comparisons on the past, present, and future of the Iraq war, "The Empire Strikes a Match in a World Full of Oil" is a fascinating read, through and through.

A Dubious Mission
Gerald J. Kubicki
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781450229760, $17.95,

Weight of the world sometimes places itself on the most unassuming of shoulders. "A Dubious Mission" follows Colton Banyon as he finds his middle aged business life torn to shreds and placed in peril as he enters a story filled with Nazis, white supremacists, thieves, and more. Faced with the remnants of a plot that the Nazis hatched decades ago now coming into fruition, "A Dubious Mission" is an exciting read, highly recommended.

The Template of Time
Tom Payne
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781450232968, $19.95,

Could history be repeating itself on a biblical template? "The Template of Time: Our Destiny Decoded" is a metaphysical religious book from Tom Payne as he reflects on his study of the Bible. Revealing that history unfolds in a template over the centuries, he presents his findings here for readers. "The Template of Time" has very interesting ideas, and is highly recommended.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

O Why Be Proud?
Sally Tyndale Hartley
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162840, $14.95,

A hundred and fifty years ago, the South was polite up front, but when the doors closed, sin was fully embraced. "O Why Be Proud?" is a story of New Orleans during the civil war, following one particular black slave who goes onto the battle field. A riveting story with plenty of intriguing characters and twists and turns, "O Why Be Proud?" is a read that will prove hard to put down.

Dorothy Dierks Hourihan
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163113, $11.95,

The time was different yet the people are the same. "1919: A Kansas Tale" is the story of Nan Heath, a woman faced with being out in the world and independent. Helping fight the fight against oppression and intolerance in her home state, she finds love, and also finds that it never gets completely better. "1919" is a fun read, recommended.

Separation and Return
Cate McNider
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161911, $15.00,

Searching for what one truly is a journey that may take decades. "Separation and Return" is a collection of poetry from Cate McNider, drawing on her own experiences with trying to understand her own desires to feel comfortable in her own skin. Touching and moving, "Separation and Return" is an excellent collection of poetry. "Fiction": This, a fiction we all live,/ceaselessly turning out plots,/no time to stop, yet/we move to still the frames.

The Silver Box
Nikki Elst
Vantage press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162741, $22.95,

The darkest parts of Africa were not without light. "The Silver Box" tells the story of Minnie Baume, a Constantinople girl who is left in Zanzibar in the early nineteenth century. Drawn to a silver box and between Zanzibar and Constantinople, and a story of the many peoples there and everywhere between. Thoughtful and exciting reading, "The Silver Box" is a choice pick for historical fiction.

The Lords of Time
Virginia Luman
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432758158, $19.95,

With no threats and no friends, America seems like a lonely place in the future. "The Lords of Time" follows Thomas Smiles, a man who in a now peaceful world finds his problem horrifying. Seeing thing in the past and future he shouldn't know, he comes to learn of the Lords of Time. And these Lords have been keeping mankind rooted in their place in history. Blending time, science fiction, and more, "The Lords of Time" proves to be a compelling read.

Count a Hundred Stars
Bonnie Wisler
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450047562, $19.99,

The serenity of a small town in Wyoming can do much to level one's head. "Count a Hundred Stars" tells the story of Hope Hanson, a woman looking to a Wyoming ranch to clear her life of complications. But life is never that simple. When she finds someone clinging to her life, she soon begins to understand what's truly important in one's life, making for a smart and thoughtful read. "Count a Hundred Stars" is a top pick, highly recommended.

Tiana Wilkins
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781441553911, $19.99,

One person can turn a persons' life around. "Adulation" tells the story of Cassie, a girl oppressed by her step family and finding no hope. When she is given algebra teachers by the nephew of her teacher, things turn around, and her life starts to improve. But even as life improves, nothing is perfect. A fascinating spin on the archetype of Cinderella, "Adulation" is a fine piece of fiction for younger readers.

Their Shadows Remain
Kathleen Searles Ermini
Tate Publishing
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781616636210, $19.99,

During World War II, America on the home front was another animal. "Their Shadows Remain" tells the story of Alexandra Lillis, a woman who watches much of her family ship off to fight the war, as she remains home and finds that the world she was used to is much different. Telling the story of the home front of World War II through the eyes of a young girl, "Their Shadows Remain" is a moving and thoughtful read, highly recommended.

A Place to Die
Dorothy James
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450082693, $23.99,

Family vacations don't usually involve corpses. "A Place to Die" tells the story of the Fabian couple as they visit Franz's mother in a retirement home, only to find a dead rich man in the basement of the home, bringing their Christmas vacation far more excitement than they really wanted. Blending mystery with the history of Vienna for a fun story, "A Place to Die" is quite the read, highly recommended.

Song of the Snowman
Rhonda Tibbs
Privately Published
9780982944103, $16.95

The dream of fame is one often out of reach for many. "Song of the Snowman" tells the story of Brian, a young man with high ambitions. With the help of a good friend, Rhonda Tibbs tells a story of a boy growing into a man, pursuing and realizing his dream. A thoughtful and riveting read, "Song of the Snowman" is not a read to be missed.

It's Not Weird Anymore
Laura Legere
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432750497, $19.95,

Weird is a term applied to so much but means so little. "It's Not Weird Anymore: An Extraordinary True Tale" tells the story of Laura Legere, who embraces the new age and its many aspects, dispelling the weirdness from it all and how it has helped her change her life. "It's Not Weird Anymore" is a unique memoir of finding one's own joy in places one never thought to look.

Vampire Source
J. L. Myers
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781453549506, $19.99,

The power of a Vampire Queen must be not be threatened. "Vampire Source: New Blood" tells the story of Lillian Hammerstein, pseudonym of Lilith, ancient queen of the vampire race and the challenge that rogue vampire Koelar places against her. An exciting story with roots throughout history, "Vampire Source: New Blood" is a fine and exciting read that will be hard to miss.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

Roastbeef's Promise
David Jerome
Smack Books, LLC
9780981545912 $23.95

David Jerome's Roastbeef's Promise is per the author loosely based on his own experience during the mid 1990s when he visited each of the lower 48.

-A chicken in every pot- screamed Charles Lindbergh Hume, birthdate 5/21/1927 the same day pilot Lindbergh set down outside Paris after finishing the first solo trans Atlantic flight. The baby whose parents intended to name Peggy Lynn surprised everyone when he was born a boy and not a girl.

The hardy youngster became a young fighting man during the 1940s, returned home, went to school on the GI bill, married, became a father to two sets of twins and then adopted son number 3 to offset empty nest.

As the narrative begins Mr Hume's memories are gone, he believes himself to be President Roosevelt and his son is Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior. Suffering from Alzheimer's he does not have long to live. His dying wish is that his son, Jim, Roastbeef, Secretary Ickes will take his ashes and sprinkle them in each of the 48 contiguous states, but not too much in Vermont, a state FDR never carried during any of the 4 elections Roosevelt won.

The inevitable death of Peggy Lynn, the name the Hume's planned for their daughter and the one Charlie was called during his military life, led to the usual gathering of family, discussion re what to do with his ashes, and agreement that some of the ashes would be placed in the mausoleum near those of his wife while son Jim, Roastbeef, Secretary Ickes set out with the balance to carry out dad's wishes.

Setting out from Maryland Jim and Charlie wend their way along a northwestern route across the upper states of the nation before reaching the west coast and travel along the coastline, reaching San Diego led first to Las Vegas and then 4 corners where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet then on to Lincoln, Nebraska before dropping down to Austin Texas, a little more wending and wandering and up the eastern coast line back to the starting point as Jim carries out his commitment while stumbling upon more than a few unusual, highly amusing, hysterical, and always out of the ordinary situations and meeting a whole cast of unusual, highly amusing, hysterical, and always out of the ordinary situations along the journey. Having traveled much the same route several times I have little disbelief that the writer may well have encountered many of the folks he has portrayed in his novel.

Somehow writer David Jerome manages to weave a very readable, humor filled narrative around what might be a tear jerker of a write. I know the tale is a novel, however, it features enough joy of life, and detail that the man portrayed as a figment of the imagination might well have been any dad. My own father died of - organic brain syndrome- which I suspect was what they called Alzheimer's before they knew he had had Alzheimer's and to tell the truth, the so called wake held for each of my elderly parents who had outlived everyone their own age was filled with more than a few chuckles and remembrances of our parents as younger fun loving folks much as was the remembrance service described for Charlie Hume.

The people and situations Jim encounters during his travels also come across as most believable and lead to reader thinking I know that place, or I met that person before again remembering this is a novel and is not meant to record fact.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend David Jerome's Roastbeef's Promise

Mexican Autumn
John Howard Reid
c/o Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781411677203, $19.95,

John Howard Reid's Mexican Autumn is, the author tells us, a series of inter-related short stories and while the tales are self contained, they are designed to be read in order.

Titles included are Sunrise, featuring the small Mexican fishing village Bahia de los Angeles on the east coast of Baja California where, as a rule, the town's electricity supply shut down punctually at 8 PM. It is in the narrative that we first meet Dr Jorge Santos.

It came as a bit of surprise to Jorge when another physician actually set up practice in Bahia de los Angeles, it was a village having only 300 people.

A priest, Dancing in the Dark, more tales revolving around Dr Santos, a wedding, tourists and fishermen, all in the reader is offered a slice of life set in an intriguing locale.

Reid is adept in adding details to flesh out his characters, from the droll to the serious, conniving to trustworthy all are presented as flesh and blood persons we each might consider and remember first one or another as quite like Aunt Whoois or Mr Whatwashisname.

The Baja California area is brought to life under the keen eye and proficient pen of write Reid. Reader's can feel the sand, taste the salt air and breathe in atmosphere and scent of the area as we tread with the locales and tourists alike in the various anecdotes offered by this writer. All in all Mexican Autumn is a satisfying read.

For many Mexico is an enormously captivating locale; especially so are the hardworking, delightful people of the area. Small communities filled with insightful local folk, perceptive fishermen, deeply religious women, and the priests who are the mainstay of many of those small towns are the back bone of this country which has seen more than its share of strife.

One of my favorite anecdotes is entitled Esmeralda wherein the named young lady proves her wit, determination and resolve with, acumen, ability and determination.

Peopled with a broad cast of intriguing folks, writer Reid crafts a collection of short works sure to please the most demanding reader. While the work reads pretty much as a narrative told in short, witty chapters, writer Reid identifies the work as a collection of short stories. I am reminded of a series of books I particularly enjoyed during my teen years; the Don Camillio books used the same technique and were highly enjoyable reads as is this dandy volume offered by Australia's noted author.

I do find each tale can well stand alone. I like the format whether viewed as short stories, or as a single entity told in snippets. I like anecdotes, the book can be tucked into briefcase, purse or glove box on the car and taken out for a quick read whenever the notion for a few minutes reading presents itself.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend John Howard Reid's Mexican Autumn

NOTE: author Reid offers the caveat that while many of the narratives may hold a bit of actuality the characters themselves are fiction and are not meant to denote any one particular person living in the Baja region.

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Bell!
Author Lucille Colandro
Illustrator Jared Lee
Cartwheel Books
c/o Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780545043618, $5.99,

Lucille Colandro's There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell is a favorite Osage County First Grade holiday singing fun book. We like these barmy, comical, just plain entertaining volumes patterned on a very old thesis.

- There was an old lady who swallowed a bell. How it jingled and jangled and tickled, as well! I don't know why she swallowed a bell. I wish she'd tell. - lays downs the mood as well as the amusement which just does not stop.

Lying on her back in the snow the Old Lady is observed gulping velvety bows, to tie up that bell. Subsequently she can be seen dancing in the snow at the same time as she is swallowing a torrent of gifts including a big sack to hold the gifts, that sack is followed by a shiny, red sleigh. The sleigh is to carry the sack of gifts, of course.

Turning the page, and we find her swallowing a squad of quite astonished, reindeer. - they were in full flight gear, goggles, bombardier jackets and scarves those soaring WWI outfitted reindeer. - Every one knows you must have reindeer to steer the sleigh carrying that big sack of gifts, you know.

The Old Lady was just planning to down some tasty peppermint sticks when she heard a - ho ho ho - and she knew it was time to go.

Read to discover the merry results of her whistle.

Packed with rhyming intonation and entertaining images, this spirited version of a traditional song/poem holds enormous appeal for Osage County First Grade. With each reading the kids' gusto develops. We sing our way from page to page reading this amusing Christmas account!

During the month of December Little Readers can be seen taking There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell for DEAR reading, personal pleasure reading, partner reading, and taking home to sing/read to family. We utilize the work as we do others as the school term progresses. Little Learners seek out nouns and verbs, and adjectives. Little Partners work together to choose one page for writing and illustrating in their journals.

Artist Jared Lee's wittiness is noticeably tickled as he produces the illustrations for Author Colandro's wacky Old Lady Swallowing books. On each page the representation fills about 1/2 to 1/3 of the page, and displays the old lady with her knit cap, buttoned jacket, gloves, frowsy skirt, skinny peppermint striped tights, warm socks and boots, AND her rotund, happy little dog.

From snow covered trees, a joyful snowman, audience of birds, horses peeking over the fence, stone cottage, excess of STUFF making its way down her gullet, and then coming together in her expanding girth - bows on bells, gifts into sack, sack into sleight, reindeer in place to - the astonished expressions on the faces of also rotund deer, to Santa himself; the images bring chuckles and bright eyed, excited conduct from Osage County First Grade.

Filled with pleasing, goofy, flamboyantly hued illustrations that just match the enduring feeding of the old lady, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell does go away from the original poem in which the old lady swallowed a horse/she is dead of course. In Colandro and Lee's account she does not die and, that is a more rewarding ending for Osage County First Grade.

NOTE: no living things die in the book.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell is an outstanding companion work to other Old Lady books including several more by Colandro and Lee.

Happy to recommend Lucille Colandro's There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell.

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow!
Author Lucille Colandro
Illustrator Jared Lee
CartWheel Books
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780439737661, $5.99,

Lucille Colandro and Jared Lee's - There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat is getting a real work out during October in Osage County First Grade. Another in the growing collection of Old Lady works from this talented duo There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat brings smiles, giggles and Little Singer enthusiasm as Halloween approaches. With each reading Little Reader enthusiasm increases; crooning our way from page to page while enjoying this entertaining Halloween anecdote is a fun activity at the end of a busy day of learning.

I like the collective yarns offering Little Learners occasion for reasoning the inevitability for why the old lady is downing an assortment of diverse items. I must admit, Osage County First Grade is beginning to marvel if is there anything this lady will not swallow? This Time her menu embraces a bat, a cat, an owl, a ghost, a goblin, a group of bones, and even a wizard wearing a wizardy hat filled with a cadenced tempo and engaging representations, this lively version of a long-established poem/song presents huge appeal for Little Learners.

From the cover showing a big eyed bat peering into the open mouth of the old lady and continuing as she swallows that bat, and each of the others; Osage County First Grade continue to be enthralled. During the month of October Osage County First Grade enjoy taking There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat for individual reading during daily DEAR reading activity. As with others of the series; using the content for language activities having a seasonal or holiday theme serves to augment awareness and participation as Little Learners listen for and then write nouns and verbs, and adjectives.

This Halloween themed version of a classic is patterned on the archetypal little old lady tales is certain to captivate and keep all spirited Osage County First Grade readers amused as they read and sing their way from cover to cover.

Happy to recommend Lucille Colandro and Jared Lee's - There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat.

Bible Wisdom: PSALMS of Praise & Power
John Howard Reid's
c/o Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9780557163069, $15.50,

John Howard Reid's Bible Wisdom: PSALMS of Praise & Power newly translated from the Greek Old Testament is a must have for those who enjoy reading Bible and especially Psalms.

Reid asks a question how many Psalms are there in the Bible? Seems simple enough for those of us who are familiar with Kings James. However, that is King James version and the correct answer, as Reid points out, is nobody knows.

Continuing Reid points out that psalms, odes, elegy and poems are scattered through the Old Testament, however for his new translation Reid has concerned himself only with the Biblical book entitled PSALMS. To be considered for inclusion in this specific work; Reid winnowed out those odes which were duplications of others as well as any failing to meet Reid's criteria of powerful or praiseworthy. On the pages of this in this motivated and moving rendition Reid has chosen 84 stimulating works to give special attention through paraphrase and/or translation of the Greek Old Testament.

I have long read for study many translations, versions and edition of Scripture, however, I have a real feeling that nothing quite compares with the beauty of language found in the old English of The King James version.

Section One addresses Psalms of Praise & Power Literal Translations from the Greek Septuagint Bible. While the words are not King James, the lovely power, support and joy found in the time worn, well thumbed editions are recognizable, easily read and powerfully presented.

I find comfort in the words 'The Lord God has graciously accepted my prayer. He has heard and harkened to my petition.' The old cry 'How long will you forget me, Lord God? Is as poignant offered in the literal translation as is found in others. However Reid rightly points out in the title that the answer is NEVER! The literal translations continue across some 137 pages followed by a ten pages of footnotes and illuminating paragraphs.

Section two begins on page 151. Section two offers Psalms of Praise & power as Poetic Paraphrases from the Greek Septuagint.

I enjoyed reading the beloved Shepherd Psalm in both literal translation, and in paraphrase from the Greek as I enjoy reading those comforting words in KJV, NIV, and any other version or translation I habitually read.

Writer, Biblical authority, seeker of all things interesting, Reid has chosen 82 Psalms for his work based on the Septuagint, the version of scripture often quoted by Christ and used as a basis for faith by many of the writers of the New Testament.

I found Reid's collection of Psalms to be a nice well rounded selection of the often quoted old texts. Included were those long credited to David as well as many penned by others, as is found in the various texts I read for Bible Study. Reid includes some meant to uplift and other meant to edify, show the way or serve as a guideline for life.

I like that the elected Psalms are offered as paraphrase and as a literal translation. For those who are more black and white in thinking the literal translation may have more appeal, for those of us who revel in words then the true to meaning but more poetic works will no doubt seem more than fitting.

Scattered throughout the work will be found many captivating black and white photos, lovely old woodcuts, and even a chorus or verse or two of well loved hymns.

As a long time Bible Reader, and daily reader of Psalms, 5 a day means completing the book in a month and 12 times in a year, I am most Happy to recommend John Howard Reid's Bible Wisdom: PSALMS of Praise & Power newly translated from the Greek Old Testament

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Nicole's Bookshelf

Magnetic Repulsion
Patricia A. Hawkenson
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432748548, $12.95,

Sometimes a book strikes a reader in a manner not initially intended by the author. "Magnetic Repulsion: 100 Poems from Desire to Disgust" by Patricia A. Hawkenson is more humorous than heartbreaking. It begins with a heavy emphasis on sex proceeds into metaphors about desire being lost concluding with an anger-fueled break-up. Hawkenson says the collection of poetry is a mixture of real-life events and those created in her imagination. Written over a 10-year span, the poetry does reflect the progression of a relationship from attraction to repulsion.

How is this serious subject matter given levity? Hawkenson's descriptions are quite hilarious especially when depicting physical desire. Lovers in bed are compared to a dryer set to tumble. Her man's hotness is related to the hissing steam of her grandmother's radiator. They want to devour each other like they would a Thanksgiving turkey. A hunger for fulfilling love is like the empty holes in a hunk of cheese.

At times, it seems that the love story is told out of order. Questions arise such as: Did the two know each other in high school? Was the man married before? Is he still married when he begins the relationship with the woman? Is the man still living with his wife while sleeping with the woman? Does the woman eventually become the man's second wife? Is the man in a hospital dying of lung cancer? The progression through the collection appears to be linear, but some pieces of the poetic narrative just don't seem to fit.

There are stand-outs among the pack. "Can I Borrow A Pencil?" is a great image of schoolboy showing his feelings for a girl by giving her a hard time: You stepped on it intentionally, all for the want of a room full of giggles distracting others from realizing you loved me. The first moment in doubting a lover's fidelity in "The Crack": "I couldn't tell you when it sprouted through the frozen earth the rock solid foundation of our partnership that seed of doubt." In describing the solidarity of women as casualties of love in "The Teller": "'Congratulations' and just then I wondered if the pain of divorce like the pain of childbirth is forgotten when the next hope for the new life comes along." A farmer's tan is compared to a hand missing a wedding band in "Saturday at the Farmers' Market": "but the white line of your finger where you have removed our ring, lies about your futile effort."

Hawkenson admits that she does not follow any particular rules when composing poetry. She writes as the spirit moves her, even if it takes her to some unusual places. The couple contemplates the beauty, not the mess, of broken eggs in "Over Easy." The sentimental post-coital statement, "My DNA is all over you" is made in "Call Me Cell." Feeling admiration for the buttery popcorn public display of affection by an overweight couple in "All I Want." Heartache is compared to "discolored and chunked" vomit in "When I've Had Too Much." Devotion is depicted as a towering mountain of folded underwear in "Stiff as a Board." While "Dating Dilemma" is a poem composed of all words starting with the letter d including dude, damn and diarrhea.

The final poem "Existing After Our Love Dies" leaves the status of the couple's relationship unresolved. Do they get back together? Are they now pursuing a purely physical relationship free of a marital bond? Is an unexpected night of passion going to be a mistake? It is up to the reader to decide.

Overall, desire and disgust aptly describe this collection of poetry.

The Goat Lady
Jane Bregoli
Tilbury House
103 Brunswick Ave., Gardiner, ME 04345
9780884482604, $16.95,

Teaching a child to have compassion is important. Jane Bregoli's The Goat Lady is a true story that shows how love can bring an elderly outcast back into the folds of society. When Jessica and David move to Dartmouth, Mass., they bring with them acceptance and understanding. They do not ridicule Noelie, who dresses funny and lets goats inside her house. Instead, they get to know her for who she truly is. By looking past her exterior appearance, they get to experience her generous, caring heart.

Jessica and David also share Noelie's true personality with others. Their mother (Bregoli) begins to capture Noelie's essence with her paintbrush - the impetus behind the book's creation. The Goat Lady's endearing portraits are intensely moving. They depict Noelie's quirkiness - one sock on, one sock off, her frugality - twine as a belt, and her gentleness - with a baby goat on her lap. For the town, the paintings provide a window into her life. With a new insight into their most-talked-about resident, the community embraces Noelie. She is asked to lead the Fourth of July parade and receives an award for providing the town with fresh goat's milk. Thanks to the interest of two children, she no longer lives in isolation.

What makes this story special is that it actually happened. It is not a packaged narrative with a simplistic moral tone. Instead, legitimate concerns, regarding hygiene and mental competency, are subjects that are mentioned, if only in passing. People may shy away from those who are eccentric, but usually not without reason. Noelie lives in a ramshackle, old farmhouse in desperate need of repair. Her poverty as well as her age are additional factors working against her in the realm of public opinion. The story does not gloss over the root causes behind these embedded perceptions.

Today, many forms of children's entertainment feature the antics of wise-cracking, know-it-all characters. It is refreshing to encounter a story that is so grounded in reality. It shows how a child has the power to make a difference in the life of an adult. Children are not powerless beings adrift in a world beyond their control. They have a voice, and when they use it, can effect change where it is most needed. Their influence is not to be underestimated.

Overall, this lady will get your goat, but in a good way.

April Lindner
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316084208, $17.99,

The Boss meets Bronte in April Lindner's remake of the classic Victorian novel, Jane Eyre. Re-imagined for 2010, the action shifts to America where a college student turned nanny is hired by an agency for a rock n' roll celebrity client. Lindner admits that the premise for Jane is based on her fascination with Bruce Springsteen as well as the numerous modern versions of Jane Austen's works such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. While literary purists might not appreciate a pop culture retelling, Lindner's love for Bronte's immortal heroine is apparent in this teen-friendly edition. Her take falls more in line with Clueless as an homage to Austen's Emma and Easy A representing Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. The book is for the texting, gum-chewing, iPod demographic, yet still holds an appeal for an audience familiar with the original.

Taking a page from The Nanny Diaries, Jane unsteadily begins in the waiting room of an au pair agency. Having just lost her parents in a car accident, Jane is forced to drop out of college and seek employment. She winds up on the gated estate of Nico Rathburn, a world famous musician on the verge of a major comeback. She is hired to care for his preschool-aged daughter, Maddy. The book finally gets going on page 44 with Nico's first bits of dialogue with Jane. Nico initiates most of the pair's verbal sparring throughout the novel, but it is more in a I'm-so-busy-tell-me-what-you-want kind of way rather than the fiery debates on morality by the original Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre.

Bruce Springsteen is an interesting choice as a model for the current day Mr. Rochester, vis a vis Nico. Even today, it is quite scandalous to think of a character - having reached his prime in the 1980s - taking up with a 19-year-old girl. Celebrity is depicted as the American counterpart to British nobility. Yet Nico is a self-made man, who did not inherit his wealth. Through drug addiction, infidelity and scandal, he is battling back to reunite his band for a world tour in order to sustain the lifestyle he has grown accustomed to. Despite his blue-collar roots and current lavish lifestyle, he has the soul of an artist fulfilled in his music. He is not as adrift as Mr. Rochester, lost without a cause or a purpose. He is the head of a mini-empire, which depends upon his success to meet its needs.

The recent PBS Masterpiece Classics version of Jane Eyre starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens is a better choice for those yearning for the sheer romance of the Victorian novel. Jane is a better fit for those looking for a heroine situated in the tumult of the modern world. It is heartbreaking to witness her poor self-image when comparing herself to the cosmetically perfect women in Nico's life. Any woman flipping through the Photoshop enhanced pages of a fashion magazine can empathize with her insecurities. She does not hold anything back physically from Nico, nor does she fall into an abject depression upon leaving him. She is a mixture of self-sufficiency and yielding values. The Victorian primness is replaced with a willingness for intimacy and riotous emotions are translated into a practicality toward survival. In the end, the grand design of fate is whittled down to the serendipity of hearing of a rock star's song on the radio.

Overall, Jane is a good introduction but not a replacement for those not familiar with the original.

The Aspirant
Dave Wilkinson
Phase Nine Publications
22 Stonewall Road, Harpswell, Maine 04079
9781452892481, $12.99,

A lobster isn't the most likely character for a children's book. Yet Dave Wilkinson creates a modern-day fable based on the life cycle of the crustacean in The Aspirant. The tale centers around Simon and his quest to reach the surface via a lobster trap. It's not until he meets old-timer Harold that he begins to question his ultimate desire. The moral of the story is a lesson about the danger of blind faith. The importance of an individual searching for the truth is emphasized over passively accepting what is believed to be common knowledge. A mob mentality leads to a life centered around a single motivation. In the end, the idea of living a more simple, authentic life is abandoned.

The main terms in the book are based on a vocabulary created by Wilkinson. A one-page glossary explains key words such as unfoldment (the time when a lobster sheds its shell), manna (lobster bait) and gobbler (human being). This may be confusing for a younger reader who is used to stories told in a literal rather than a figurative style. The lack of interior illustrations also makes The Aspirant a better choice for a tween reader with a more focused attention span. The book is best experienced in a group setting where the symbolism can be explained and expanded upon through interactive activities and discussion sessions.

Experiencing marine life through the eyes of a lobster is a fascinating look at an underwater world. The creativity of Wilkinson's narrative is extraordinary with its fresh approach to a genre dating back to Aesop. He effectively overturns long-held assumptions. Shouldn't a lobster fear a trap? Wouldn't the surface be the last place a lobster would want to go? Why would a lobster aspire to be eaten? Their contradictory behavior revolves around a lack of credible information. The handing down of false presumptions puts the lobster on a crash course for extinction.

Their saving grace comes in the form of human children who are not yet corrupted by the all-consuming drive for financial gain. Their hearts remain open to the forces of peace and love. As Harold recounts to Simon his rescue from the auction block, it becomes apparent that it wouldn't have happened without the heroic actions of a fourth-grade class. Their courage to stand up for their beliefs allow Harold to return to the deep with his new-found knowledge of the surface. Finally, the lobsters have access to the truth.

Overall, the propagation of fiction for fact is not a worthwhile aspiration.

Nicole Langan

Paul's Bookshelf

Red Serpent: The Falsifier
Delson Armstrong
9ine Inc.
1710 First Avenue, Suite 169, New York, NY 10017
9780982952306, $15.95,

First of a series, this far-future tale is about humanity really needing a savior.

In the 34th century, humanity has lost the war against vampires from the planet Migra, and have been exiled to Regnum, a giant spaceship in Earth orbit. The vampires, living on Earth, plan to harvest the humans for their blood. John Howe is the "President" of Regnum. His nephew, Alex, has grown up in the shadow of his famous father, who united the scattered remnants of humanity, and whom Alex never knew. Alex graduates from college, as valedictorian, has a girlfriend, Angel, and is about to become a father.

Some of the vampires, the Rebels, fought with humanity during the war, Afterwards, they were denied permission to join humanity in orbit; they have been systematically murdered until there are only a handful left. Alex learns, one day, that he is the long-prophesied Falsifier, who will bring about the end of the vampires. The vampires know this, too. Alex is kidnapped and taken to Earth. The kidnapping is not a complete surprise; one of the Rebels is a good friend of Howe, and has assured him that no harm will come to Alex. Killing him will not affect the prophecy.

The vampires give humanity an ultimatum: Disarm immediately, or it's war. Humanity responds with an ultimatum: Release Alex, or it's war. Meantime, Alex has been learning a lot about the prophecy, and gaining a great deal of power. John Howe practically forces the Regnum Senate to give him dictatorial powers to fight the war that everyone knows is coming. Does Alex fulfill his prophecy to end the reign of the vampires? What happens in the final battle between humanity and the vampires?

This is a really interesting novel that touches on a number of subject, including very ancient history, religion and racial prejudice. Yes, it's very much worth reading.

Three Lives
Joe Washington
MidMerc LLC
12421 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, KS 66216
9780615279930, $12.99,

Most people have to be content with just one life. This is the tale of a man who led three very different lives.

Nicholas Gambit is an African-American who has nearly graduated from the local university. He is desperate to escape his Kansas City ghetto, and is one of those who may actually make something of himself. Nicholas has gotten on the bad side of Raymond Smalls, a local drug dealer, by beating him up in a fight. Nicholas knows that it is only a matter of time before Raymond kills him, but he refuses to cower, or carry a gun.

One night, his mother is murdered, and Nicholas almost joins her (courtesy of Smalls). In a moment of emotional crisis, Nicholas leaves with a man named Wilkes, who has learned that Nicholas has special "abilities." He is taken to an isolated compound, and along with others, taught to be a trained assassin. This is very high-level, and very serious training, in subjects ranging from self-defense to forensics to recent US foreign policy. In one self-defense class, two men are brought in with orders to kill Nicholas.

Wilkes runs one of those super-secret organizations that is known to very few people. After several years of training, one of Nicholas' assignments is to protect a man who says he has evidence that the intentions of Wilkes are not exactly benign; that he is creating a private army. Meantime, an African princess named Chelsea is going to college in America. Back home, her father is overthrown, and her parents are killed, in a coup d'etat. Chelsea, who knows her way around subjects like weapons and fighting, takes it upon herself, along with those loyal to her, to kill anyone involved in the coup, no matter how indirectly. Another of Nicholas' assignments is to stop her.

Wilkes is killed in a gun battle, so Nicholas finds himself as a "man without a country." He travels for a long time, finds love, and eventually enters into his third life, as a preacher.

This is a really interesting story; the author certainly knows what he is doing. There is plenty of action and violence, but it also has heart and emotion, too. Here is a first-rate piece of writing.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

A Dog's Purpose
W. Bruce Cameron
Forge Books
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765326263, $22.99,

Not since "Lad a Dog" or "Beautiful Joe" have I been so moved by a dog story. "A Dog's Purpose" takes readers on a unique journey into the evolution of an intelligent and affectionate canine soul through several reincarnations. From a pup born feral, to a boy's beloved golden retriever, to a heroic search and rescue German shepherd, the dog learns the hard way about his place among humans. Through each lifetime he is driven by a higher purpose. An exceptional twist of fate near the end brings it all home for the dog - and the reader.

Cameron tells the story from the dog's point-of-view. He artfully uses familiar dog behaviors to create hilarious scenes as well as nail-biting action. The dog's actions, reactions, and thought processes come off as perfectly natural. The brilliance of Cameron's storytelling is that he doesn't paint the tragedies of a dog's life - or lives - with maudlin brushstrokes. The tears he invokes have everything to do with the memories of cherished pets he stirs up in readers.

Dog lovers will lap up this book in one sitting. No matter how well you think you know your dog, you will never see your dog the same way. "A Dog's Purpose" is a satisfying emotional sojourn that lingers beyond the pages.

The Fourth World
Natalie R. Collins
Binary Press Publications
4850 Harrison Blvd., Suite 1, Ogden, UT 84403
9781611710090, $5.99

Natalie Collins is famous for her mysteries that pull back the Mormon curtain. In "The Fourth World" she reveals a whole new dimension. Cassie Clark has suffered the unthinkable. She survived a car crash in which her husband and three children were killed. After six months in the hospital and rehab center she returns home with a broken spirit and her faith in Mormonism shattered. On top of that, the only person left to care for her is her estranged mother. Wracked with pain and plagued with terrifying visions, Cassie watches helplessly as what's left her of her life explodes around her. An old friend from the past, Ray Nez shows up but by then she is no longer certain whom she can trust. Bodies are piling up and Cassie has reason to believe she could be next. Or perhaps she has simply lost her mind. Native American and Mormon cultures collide in this well-crafted whodunit. Collins' brilliant plotting takes readers through a maze of clues, red herrings, and a long list of likely suspects to an astonishing climax. "The Fourth World" doesn't just keep readers guessing, it could make them question their own sanity.

The Familiars
Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson
Illustrated by Bobby Chiu
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061961083, $16.99,

"The Familiars" is the first book in a new series and soon-to-be a major motion picture. Authors Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson are former screenwriters. In keeping with that theme, "The Familiars" is Harry Potter meets "The Golden Compass" meets "The Fellowship of the Ring". Aldwyn is a street-smart cat with a taste for fresh fish and a talent for narrow escapes from Grimslade, the bounty hunter. After one such escape he winds up in a menagerie of creatures with magical abilities, known as familiars. To his amazement and delight he is chosen by a young wizard named Jack to be his familiar. Just when the alley cat thought he had it made, Jack, his sister, and a schoolmate are kidnapped by the evil Queen Loranella. It is up to Alwyn, plus a cheeky blue jay named Skylar and a bumbling tree frog named Gilbert, to save them. Despite its derivative nature this book features imaginative creatures like spyballs and gundabeasts and is jam-packed with the kind of comedy and adventure kids love.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

To Fetch a Thief: A Chet and Bernie Mystery
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
1439157073, $11.00,

So how well can a dog author a detective story? In To Fetch a Thief, the story begins with Pooch Chet and Detective Bernie photographing evidence that a woman has been unfaithful. Her suspicious husband wants hard evidence for a divorce settlement. Chet is Bernie Little's canine sidekick who loves to ride shotgun in his well used Saab.

As they sit patiently in front of a motel that has but two guests, suddenly Chet's ears perk up. With a low growl, Chet spots the unfaithful wife leaving one end of the motel and Bernie takes photos. A few minutes later, a man leaves and he too is caught on film.

Because Bernie is recently divorced, now Chet and he are, in a sense, alone in the world. As luck would have it, Bernie's divorced wife asks him to babysit their son Charlie because she has planned a weekend sensual fling with her new "ideal" man she hopes to soon marry. She gives Bernie two tickets for the Big Top to help him entertain their son while she becomes more amorously involved in a sensual tryst.

As his wife leaves, Chet and Bernie catch a glimpse of the man who is soon-to-be his wife's new husband. Interestingly enough, this is the same man Chet and Bernie had just photographed leaving the motel with yet another woman.

But this small intimacy is just the beginning of a deeper fascinating story. Arriving at the Big Top, they find the circus closed because Peanut the elephant and his trainer are missing. The police have cordoned off the entire circus grounds leaving Chet, Bernie and his son, Charlie, extremely disappointed. Charlie insists that his dad get involved in finding Peanut; after all, the man and his dog are a respected team called the Little Detection Agency.

Chet immediately picks up strange scents around the Big Top. The scent of Elephant Peanut is overwhelming and at first, easy to follow. It ends at the gate leading out of the circus area. Persuaded by his tearful son, Bernie begins his quest for Peanut and her beloved trainer. What is interesting in To Catch a Thief is this fact. Everything in the story is relayed to the reader through Chet's canine brain - the dog's feelings, his insight, his dog traits such as marking his scent whenever necessary, his unquenchable love for his master Bernie.

It is nothing for Chet's unspoken wishful thinking to want his master to take the money when some kind of payment or deal is forthcoming. Chet knows money is needed for dog food at home. Yet, the dog will warn the reader that he doesn't really know the value of money. After all, he can count to one and two, but can't quite get beyond that.

This is not a simple story children's story. It is not a make believe childish romp of some kind. The tale involves real feelings, canine and human, real danger, and extremely dangerous situations. From its first pages, To Fetch a Thief has a catchy plot loaded with suspense, attempted murder, and killing, particularly when Peanut's owner is found dead. As long as Bernie and Chet remain together as a team, Chet's welfare seems guided by thoughtful Bernie.

But in a life and death situation after the two become separated, the safety of this detective duo becomes critically uncertain. Bernie is badly beaten and taken prisoner, he tells Chet to "Run, run, run," to keep the dog from being mowed down in a hail of bullets. On his own, Chet does a masterful job of finding and retrieving Peanut. Because of her remarkable size, when freed and put in gear, her bulk becomes a formidable demolition machine.

To Fetch a Thief is a masterful combination of Chet's canine mind intermixed with Bernie's adult thinking in a human world. Although the two friends are inseparable at first, when life threatening events force them to go-it-alone, each survives in the most startling manner that indicates one is pure brutal dog instinct and the other pure human ingenuity. This enjoyable book is a lesson in canine common sense for all readers.

For sheer enjoyment, I cannot recommend To Catch a Thief more highly. For a who-done-it detective mystery, I would have to give it an A+ rating; for an author to combine the animal world so realistically with what we think animals know of our mental shenanigans, I would give it an A+ rating. For high school teachers looking for a way to get reluctant readers to want to read, I would give it an A+ rating.

To Fetch a Thief can make your world a more enjoyable space; read it!

Women, Work and The Art of Savoir Faire
Mireille Guiliano
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
1416589198, $10.00,

Staying Soft but Carrying Clout in the Business World
Want to check your business lifestyle against a very successful business woman? Then, Women, Work and The Art of Savoir Faire is the read for you. Born in France, Author Mireille Guiliano talks about her life as bounding forward in stages. In an early stage, learning new languages became her passion. She possessed a definite aptitude for picking up verbal cues and communication skills. But this same instinctive passion quickly led her to other stages: a high school exchange student in Boston; a college student back in Paris.

For a while, Guiliano worked as a translator at the United Nations, not the most thrilling job, she claims. But when chance earned her a toehold in the door at the New York office of Food and Wine from France, like other stages in her life, advancement came rapidly. Recognizing her talents, the Champagne bureau promoted her. Eventually she became Champagne Bureau Director where she could direct her talents to publicizing and advancing the entire champagne industry. Her work catapulted her into becoming CEO for Veuve Clicquot, Inc. for the next twenty years.

Vastly important to Guiliano's success she would say was her ability to communicate. She places this skill above intelligence, and even experience, as the key to success. She pokes fun at the number of Power Point presentations that were so outrageously boring that a presenter could have done without them entirely, or simply stood stock still, quietly flipping from one slide to another. Excellence in communication--oral, graphical, or written--is the dynamic she feels drives successful business people to the top of their careers.

Women, Work and The Art of Savoir Faire speaks of setting reasonable expectations for your life. To author Guiliano, too long have women felt success measured first and foremost, by the ability to produce babies; and then a life juxtaposed around raising children; and then a life pleasing a husband; and then a life running a household; and then,and then finally, a life having time to advocate oneself up the business career ladder. Any woman needs expectations to be successful, but those mileposts must be reasonable.

How often in the United States, she complains, is a person's worth either consciously or unconsciously defined by what they do rather than the being they are. "Boring" is the word she uses for defining ourselves by our job titles. Instead, she suggests a small network of close personal friends where one can "wear your most intimate persona," be yourself, and relax quietly within their trust and confidence.

Having worked amidst a world of males, Guiliano refused to lose her feminine style and charm when dealing with men. When entertaining hard-nosed distributors and liquor salesmen, she would take them to a steakhouse and jazz club; but she would not soften her tough candor for negotiation. Even when she had to put on the "riot act," she refused to raise the volume or pitch of her voice. It was her controlled authoritive professionalism that earned her the respect of the business world.

Women, Work and The Art of Savoir Faire even includes a section near the end listing favorite recipes the author used when entertaining business associates at home. She talks about proper business attire, elegant manners, responsible drinking habits. She writes of staying in good health mentally and physically by adjusting what another person might call an impossible schedule of business and travel so she always finds time to relax and enjoy her own thoughts.

In this review, I have hardly brushed the surface of Mireille Guiliano's suggestions for female success in the business world. If you are looking for a book that artfully states how you can set reasonable goals, keep your job while moving up the corporate ladder, yet remaining sane with your own winsome self at the same time, Women, Work and The Art of Savoir Faire, is the book for you.

Regis Schilken, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Over the Top & Back Again: Hiking the Alps
Brandon Wilson
Pilgrim's Tales, Inc.
P. O. Box 854, Volcano, HI 96785
9780977053629, $24.95,

Trieste to Monaco Over The Via Alpine Trail

As I read Brandon Wilson's account in "Over the Top & Back Again"

I enjoyed vicariously all the excitement, danger and adventure Brandon and his wife, Cheryl, experienced as they traversed a new hiking path called "The Via Alpine Trail."

After experiencing what Brandon describes as "facing the scary sameness of so-called normal life" he was ready for a new challenge. Together the Wilson's made the decision to downsize their belongings and to burn their bridges behind them to follow the alpine trail.

The Via Alpine Trail crosses eight countries and covers 200,000 square kilometers. The trail is made up of five tracks connecting existing long distance trails across the Alps. There are various stages and runs which sometimes intersect allowing hikers to explore a personal Alpine interest. The Wilson's itinerary was planned around the goal to complete the trail from Trieste, Slovenia to Monaco in one five month season.

They soon discovered the difficulties confronting them. In spite of the dearth of good maps, disappearing trails, and harsh weather Brandon and Cheryl enjoyed Slovenia scenery, culture, and the promise of "Discovering the Alps" as they traversed parts of Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France and Monaco.

Clever illustrations by Ken Plumb, accompany the helpful maps detailing the trek and spectacular photos that include: the "breathtaking grandeur" of the Alps, a "jaw dropping panorama," the marmot and other wildlife, a refuge hut, and a unique reminder of the danger of a trek, "agony of de feet."

Brandon has a gift for creating descriptive phrases that bring a scene to life. For example: a "breath taking, heart throbbing climb." Other graphic descriptions include colorful characters met along the way, "a crotchety fella" and "a grand mountain woman." These descriptions compare the vast range of attitudes of refuge owners. He uses the heart to illustrate both sight and sound, "heart stopping vistas" and "our hearts pounding a polka."

I especially enjoyed the thought of solitude as found in a "magical sanctuary" or "a cathedral among the clouds" as the epitome of tranquility, contrasted with a storm where the "thunder boomed like cannon fire."

I also appreciated Wilson's careful attention to detail, his subtle sense of humor, candid approach, and spontaneity.

Throughout the entire trek made up of 350,591 feet of vertical climbs and descents across the Alps, the rain, the snowstorms, and death defying dangers, Brandon and Cheryl, did not lose sight of their motive and the underlying joy that drove them to experience the adventure of breathing fresh air, the freedom to explore, daily measurable accomplishments, memorable views, personal peace, the companionship of community and reconnecting with nature.

"Over the Top & Back Again" is informative, entertaining, and original.

Award winning author Brandon Wilson is a pioneer in a ground-breaking genre of travel writing.

Immersed in Him
L. Emerson Ferrell
Destiny Image Publications, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768432657 $14.99

Be Energized, Be Transformed, Be Renewed Through Regeneration

"Immersed in Him" holds the key to transformation, renewal and being energized through abiding in Christ. L. Emerson Ferrell describes his experience of being immersed into a lifestyle of peace and joy, and of receiving refreshing in his soul. He talks about the inner assurance of having entering into a life of intense love.

Emerson explains the result of being infused by the Holy Spirit. He guides the reader into and understanding of the importance place of repentance in the salvation experience and of the power of deliverance from addictions. He talks about the supernatural healing from physical sickness and diseases.

Ferrell's writing is based on the scriptures.

He combines the elements of the Word, life, spirit, water, and the breath of life from the Genesis account of creation with the new life in Christ as it is found in the Gospels and throughout the New Testament. He talks about discipleship, baptism, and end times. He contends that these are principles to be examined, claimed and lived rather than as dogma to be analyzed and argued.

The personal illustrations drawn from the author's life experiences provide the reader with practical application for power packed Christian living. Ferrell's orderly writing style encourages a progression of discovery and revelation from the visible realm to the spiritual realm.

His writing is logical, sound, and encouraging, always forward looking with a natural sequence which reveals truth while moving to a new level experience creating an eagerness and expectation of more to come.

"Immersed in Him" takes the reader beyond "religion" into a total immersion if the ways of the Spirit. A dynamic life-changing message, transcending tradition.

Spiritual Java
Bill and Beni Johnson,
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, Pa 17257
9780768432855 $16.99

Explore New Spiritual Vistas for Walking in God's Perfect Plan

"Spiritual Java" is a collaboration of effort made up of a compilation of the writings from members of the pastoral staff of Bethel Church - Redding, California. The book contains 40 powerful faith building chapters. Each chapter is designed to energize, inspire, and motivate the reader to new levels of experience in Kingdom living.

The writing is motivated by a burning passion for Jesus, a passion resulting from a rich heritage in the Holy Spirit. The pages are filled with supernatural sightings of miraculous examples the gifts of signs and wonders, healing, evangelism, and prophecy in ministry.

Each chapter includes a meditation, a motivational message, and a section called "Points to Ponder." These thought provoking questions are designed to guide the reader in discovering personal life changing application for their own life and ministry. Every chapter stands alone and can be read at random or in sequence.

The book is made up of 40 faith building chapters. The theme of the individual chapters can be used as the basis for a 40 day adventure in renewal and revival. Each meditation provides thoughts for focus, reflection, with suggestions for faith building action steps. Topics include thoughts on character building, gifts of the spirit, worship, divine encounters, and pursuing your destiny.

"Spiritual Java" is ideal for anyone wanting to discover new spiritual motivation for pursuing God's plan for their life and ministry. This is a compelling collection of power packed spiritual energy builders.

A Christmas Snow
Jim Stovall
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768435191 $14.99

The Story of How an Icy Blizzard Melts an Icy Heart

A successful restaurateur, an elderly gentleman and a 10 year old troubled child, make up the unlikely trio featured in Jim Stovall's novel "A Christmas Snow."

As a result being abandoned by her father on Christmas Eve nearly 30 years earlier Kathleen Mitchell no longer observes any of the traditional Christmas celebrations. Sam Mitchell had one important request on his Christmas list - to see his daughter. Ten year old Lucy Wright's mother had passed away and now Lucy is insecure and desperately trying to hold on to her father's attentions. Struggling with these unresolved emotional issues Kathleen, Lucy, and Sam are drawn together in a set of unusual and unexpected circumstances.

A blizzard hit the Tulsa area three days before Christmas. The city was left without electricity. Kathleen with her two unexpected guests were devastated, no electricity, a cell phone with a dead battery, and a garage door - frozen shut.

In a surprising chain of events the odd trio "weathered the storm." A bonding relationship develops which leads them through an amazing healing process. Jim Stovall intertwines the gifts of faith, friendship, family and forgiveness throughout the story.

Stovall's writing is sensitive and compelling, filled with elements of conflict, surprise, and strong character development.

"A Christmas Snow" promises hope to the reader with inspiration and motivation to resolve longstanding unresolved relationship difficulties. A strong message of faith, hope, and forgiveness brilliantly written.

Nanci L. Danison
AP Lee & Co.
PO Box 340292, Columbus, OH 43234
9781934482001, $23.95,

Attorney Tells of Her Transcendent Experience - Living Beyond Death

In her book "Backwards: Returning to Our Source for Answers" Attorney Nanci L. Danison takes the reader with her on an extraordinary journey as she relates the account of her transcendent experience. She describes in detail dying and returning to life. She goes on to express what human life looks like from this perspective.

Danison reveals how her perspectives have changed. Throughout the book she refers to God as "the Source of the Universe." She gives details on her new understanding of the Source, on the nature of man, of the Source's expectation from humans, on the purpose for the earth, thoughts on heaven, hell, and her insights into true religion. She goes on to help the reader apply the lessons she learned as she talks about: a new way of thinking, changing perspectives, increased self awareness, and nature.

Although active in a private law practice Danison's primary efforts today are directed toward illuminating readers with the message of hope and love contained in her books and CDs. Her work is well documented and thoroughly researched.

"Backwards: Returning to Our Source for Answers" will be well received by students of metaphysics, self improvement, and readers in the genre of spirituality. However, because of the nature of the material, there will be controversy and opposition from traditional academics, physicians, scientists, and theologians.

Richard R. Blake

Riva's Bookshelf

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
Stephanie Meyer
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316125581, $13.99,

Like J. K. Rowling before her, Stephanie Meyer has become a literary phenomenon. Her latest installment in the Twilight Saga, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is a change from the past volumes in the Twilight Saga. The "book" is actually a 178 page novella. As a comparison, Breaking Dawn, the last novel in the Twilight Saga, weighed in at a hefty 768 pages. This is quite a difference in the size of the books, and in the ability to develop characters and storyline.

It is said The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner began as Meyer's attempt to explain the character's personality and motives to the cast and crew of Eclipse. While the book does in fact do some of this it is highly flawed. It moves too quickly through the storyline; motives aren't fully developed; and the character development leaves much to be desired. There is a love interest for Bree, but whether it is a "typical" vampire romance with the subsequent strong bonding is never fully explored. It could be your average teen romance for all the reader knows, even though this is not the case in the past novels.

Amongst all the new vampires recruited for Victoria's "army" - of which Bree is a part - there are only two who show any type of special ability, compared to the Cullen family of whom three out of six have special abilities. Also, the new "army" of vampires is essentially allowed to fun free causing havoc, but somehow manage to miraculously come together as a cohesive whole when it comes time to attack the Cullen family, drawing in even the reluctant Bree.

Meyer doesn't do nearly as well with the novella form as she does with that of the novel. There are many scenes and characters that could have been better developed and there was, no doubt, sufficient material for a novel had she chosen to write one. Instead she truncated storyline, characters, scenes and background in the name of expediency. After reading it you will definitely feel that something is missing and wonder why you spent the money for the book.

On the plus side, this is not another "Bella and Edward" book. It does show some of the character of Bree Tanner and what is happening in her vampire life. It does help you to develop sympathy for the character of Bree Tanner who has found herself caught up in events far more significant than she is. It also helps to explain a few events that are only hinted at in Eclipse.

But, having said that, there are characters whose stories would have been much more interesting and relevant to the Twilight Saga; There are Leah and Seth Clearwater, Sam and Emily, Alice - if she can discover more of her past, Jasper, even Rosalie and Jacob. The back stories of any of these characters would have been more interesting and far more pertinent. Even stories of the Volturi, the "guardians" of vampire peace and law would be better than this travesty that devotes 178 pages to a character who appears in only one book for perhaps a total of ten minutes worth of reading time.

What follows is a short excerpt from the novella:

"Everyone knows that old-timey vampires had to stay in coffins during the day," I went on. "To keep out of the sun. That's common knowledge, Diego"

"You're right. All the stories do say that."

"And what would Riley gain by locking us up in a lightproof basement - one big group coffin - all day, anyway? We just demolish the place, and he has to deal with all the fighting, and it's constant turmoil. You can't tell me he enjoys it."

Something I'd said surprised him. He sat with his mouth open for a second, then closed it.


"Common knowledge," he repeated. "What do vampires do in coffins all day?"

"Er - oh yeah, they're supposed to sleep, right? But I guess they're probably just lying there bored, 'cause we don't...Okay, so that part's wrong."

As you can see, this is the kind of junk that fills the pages of the novella; discovering and then arguing amongst themselves, or working to disprove vampire lore they've been taught to accept as gospel. The book is a bore and personally I found it fell far short of my expectations.

Imago Chronicles Book One: A Warrior's Tale
Lorna T. Suzuki
Lightning Source
distributed by Ingrams
9780986724022 $18.99

Imago Chronicles Book One: A Warrior's Tale by Lorna Suzuki is currently under negotiations for film production. This isn't surprising as the storyline for the book is action-packed and engrossing. The lead character, a half-human, half-elf young woman is strong, yet very vulnerable, but not in ways that are easily discernible, even to the reader's eye.

The heroine, Nayla Treeborn is taken away by a family friend after her father beats her. Nayla is taken to a hidden colony far to the north of the city where she grew up. Nayla is hidden amongst a fierce band of warriors who are also holy men, called the Kagai. It turns out the Kagai knew, and admired Nayla's mother, Kareda Bansho. Wanting to leave her past behind her, Nayla takes on a mortal name given her by her mother and becomes Takaro Bansho, leaving the identity of Nayla Treeborn behind her as she enters the Kagai warriors' town of Anshen.

The Kagai are kind people and under their tutelage Takaro flourishes. As time goes by she is taught the ways of the Kagai warrior and her long life allows her to extend her studies through multiple generations of Kagai masters. The down side of this long life is she sees so many friends pass away, but at last, she becomes a Kagai warrior.

The action scenes in Imago Chronicles Book One: A Warrior's Tale are extremely well written. I believe this is due in large part to Suzuki's twenty-five years of martial arts experience. She brings realism to the fight scenes that is often lacking in fantasy books.

Imago Chronicles Book One: A Warrior's Tale is Takaro's/Nayla's story. It is of the battles she fights we hear. It is of her loves that we are told and like her we long for its fulfillment. It is her passion, for life, for the people she protects, for those she loves and cares for, and even for those whom she despises that we care about. It is her life we wish to see preserved at all costs and throughout the novel we are brought time and again to situations where it is quite conceivable our heroine may not survive, especially since the novel opens with a scene where she is at last, preparing for death.

What follows is a scene from Imago Chronicles Book One: A Warriors Tale:

"...for soon, you shall be asked to take up arms to join your brothers," said Yaruke. "Your task will be to memorize the areas; the lay of the land Medaru shall be leading our men into. If any of the men become separated, it will be your job to see the warriors to safety. And as you are now trained in the art of healing, your task is to administer to the care of the wounded until they can be delivered back to Anshen."

"Will I be ready?" asked Takaro. "Will I be leaving any time soon?"

"You are as ready as you will ever be. And yes, you will be leaving soon," answered her master. "I had received word from the east that the Emperor has sent forth another army to enter our lands. He plans to invade our country before the next full moon."

"And I shall be going this time?"

"Unfortunately, yes," answered Yaruke, with a dismal sigh.

"How can that be unfortunate? I have trained for this a good long time, master. I have seen too many of my brothers go off to battle, some never to return. I feel a need to go; to fight by their side."

"Are you not scared?" queried the warrior priest.

"I cannot deny that deep down, I am scared, but I am more scared of failing than I am of dying," she responded in a small voice. "I am afraid that I may not have the courage to face the enemy when the time comes. I worry that I may lack the bravery to rise up against our foes to do what you and your forefathers have done."

"What do you define as courage, Takaro?" questioned Yaruke.

"A warrior who is courageous is one who can boldly charge into battle and willingly slays the enemy, as quickly and as many as possible," she answered with conviction. "And he can rise up to each occasion to do battle again and again without wavering."

"No, my child, this is not courage. Any seasoned warrior can enter battle and not think twice about the situation he is about to face."

"Then what does it mean to be courageous? asked Takaro, curious to learn more.

"The measure of one's courage is not dependent on the number of heroic feats one undertakes, or the number of foes taken down in battle," explained Yaruke. "Instead, true courage arises when one is forced to face his absolute worst fears, to be truly frightened, yet still find the courage to rise up and meet the challenge. Now that is true courage."

Takaro considered her master's words and with a sigh, responded: "Whether this type of courage is within me, is yet to be seen. I suppose I will not know until the moment of truth."

"Let it not be said that there is not one of us; my father, his father, or his father's father who did not question this the first time we were asked to take up arms. It is like a baptism by fire, not until you are tried in the heat of battle will you discover your true courage," Attested the elderly warrior. "For my part, I have shared with you all that I can of warriorship. I have imparted the wisdom of my forefathers on to you. And through you, I hope to keep our traditions alive for as long as it is need to secure peace and justice in our realm."

"I will try to do you proud master," promised Takaro, bowing deeply in respect.

"I know you will, little one. I hold great hope for you," said Yaruke. His eyes twinkled with pride as a smile creased his aged face. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze of reassurance."

Imago Chronicles Book One: A Warrior's Tale is a fantasy full of touches of realism. It speaks with action, love and wisdom. It draws you deeper into the story and into the fantasy as you continue to read. I highly recommend this book. Remember, if production negotiations go well look for it as film or another type of media.

From Frozenness to Freedom: A Healing Journey
Katharine S. Ayers
9781453520727 $21.99

Visceral, emotional, freeing are the words that come to mind when attempting to describe Katharine S. Ayers' From Frozenness to Freedom: A Healing Journey. Recounting her personal journey of healing Ayers' brings her readers through their own emotional/spiritual travels toward healing and wholeness. In pictures, poetry and words she bravely leads the way, exposing herself before causing you to yield to the instinctual desire to allow yourself to be exposed, evoked by her work.

From Frozenness to Freedom: A Healing Journey is brief, but powerful. The images, both in pictures and words are evocative of deep transformation from pain and darkness to light and healing. As a reader your reaction will be to immediately relate her pain and suffering to your own. If you have been through abuse, neglect, pain, or disease her writing will touch wellsprings hidden deep within. There may be pain, but there will also be healing - deep and true.

I highly recommend From Frozenness to Freedom: A Healing Journey. It is the true story of one woman's voyage of transformation, but it is the beginning of your personal journey toward the same.

On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility
Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD
420 East 64th, New York, NY 10065

Infertility is quite possibly the most trying situation a person, or a couple will ever undergo. It triggers all sorts of hidden inner insecurities and causes those involved to feel a loss of control. On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility helps place a sense of power back into the hands of couples going through the myriad procedures that may follow a diagnosis of infertility.

It is scientifically proven that hypnosis favorably affects the outcome of procedures used in connection with infertility. In a test group there was a success rate that was double that of the control group when the only difference between the two groups was that the test group received hypnosis prior to the transfer of fertilized eggs (embryos) into the women's uteri. Similar "letting go" techniques such as relaxation, meditation and self-hypnosis likewise favorably affect the outcomes of fertility treatments.

Helen Adrienne went through her own nightmares with the medical, gynecological society and it motivated her to change her life and become a force that advocates for those who need to regain that sense of control over their lives. Helen writes in plain English, so you are not left wondering what she is saying, or what it means. She remains at all times approachable and she writes with the ease of an old friend sitting down and having a casual conversation about a subject of interest to both of you,

Helen shows you coping mechanisms to help you go from feeling like a victim in the fertility process to aid you feeling like an active partner in the process. She helps you to develop an attitude where you detach from the outcome and participate in the process with greater ease.

Helen also shows how former clients of hers have benefited from the lessons they learned from her and also from the infertility process itself. The clients admit to developing valuable skills that actually improved their lives.

What follows is an excerpt from the early pages of On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility:

"Andrea was an infertility patient of a colleague of mine. She was kind enough to read an early draft of this book and she captured my central message:

I was struck by the thought that turning inward (learning to be) not only helps to provide a diversion for the infertility issue, but it also gets deeper into long-term healing. I was thinking that at such a turbulent time, it is almost overwhelming to think of who you are; yet if you can push past it, the rewards are plenty. After reading this book, I felt very hopeful. Learning how the infertility process became a learning experience that had lasting effects made it seem almost worthwhile. It is your choice to make it what you wish.

Soon after reading this book, Andrea conceived. You can take heart if you can anticipate feeling renewed hope the way Andrea did.

I formally interviewed more than two dozen former patients in preparation for writing this book. They chose to share the upside results of their downside experience because they wanted you to be inspired to keep the faith. These people rode the not-so-merry-go-round of what to do about their longing for a child, and in the process discovered a more profound and satisfying way to be. It was unanimous among my interviewees that the benefits of going within themselves and rising above themselves during the infertility challenge gave them the confidence to feel that there is nothing that they cannot handle. I heard this comment so often that it was another factor that prompted me to write this book.

I encourage you to start with the following attitude rather than energize the normal worry that northing will work:

Let's presume that your child will be conceived, even if, in the final analysis, that child grows in a surrogate's belly, is the product of someone else's genetic material, or is born for you. The many options for greater self-awareness along the way can be gifts in disguise for their capacity to transform the infertility desert into fertile ground, full of possibilities. From this vantage point, the fertility quest, working through an unwanted adversity, is about more than getting a baby - a lot more."

On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility offers hope, strength and clarity of purpose to the couples, or individuals going through infertility. It is not only the hope that letting go techniques can help raise your chances of successful fertility procedures, but it is more the hope than no matter what comes your way during the process you will be able to cope.

The techniques in On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility are easy to learn and apply. I used some of them to reduce my own stress level and was pleased with how well they worked. I think most users would have no problem learning a technique in a day and perfecting it over time.

I highly recommend On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility. I recommend it not only for the chance it offers to increase fertility but for the coping mechanisms it offers for use by those going through what may possibly be the most stressful event in a human life. You can survive it, you can cope and even more, you can emerge from the other side better and stronger than you were before you faced the adversity of infertility.

Tracy M. Riva

Rutherford's Bookshelf

The Light of Innocence
Carl Marshall
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker CO 80134
9781432748166, $15.95,

The Light of Innocence is a spiritual book by Carl Marshall. The author wrote this book with the aim of improving one's understanding of the Bible. This book presents life as a gift from God and therefore, everyone is expected to live a life in accordance with God's expectations. Unless we understand God's purpose in our lives, it is very hard to understand the good news God has provided. The main message is that God's Word will never change. However, our understanding definitely will. Because of God's love, man should follow His Word and live a holy life.

The Light of Innocence inspires people to follow God's ways. They are advised to live a Godly life, share with one another, and make life beautiful. At one point, the author states sympathy is expected from Christians. Towards leading a happy Christian life, the author presents the Bible as the most important tool. It will improve people's relationship with God their creator.

If you believe the Bible is an authoritative source, you will enjoy how the book uses Biblical evidence to support his statements and explanations. Loving one another and constant forgiveness is what is encouraged in the book. The author asserts that Christianity is about living holy and following the footsteps of Christ.

The book reveals the author's perspective on the actions of false prophets. The author encourages Christians to be ready to fight against this vice in society. This will not only help Christians increase their faith but also get them closer to their creator. With God's favor, mountains can be moved, and miracles will happen. I believe this is a book any Christian will find encouraging and inspiring towards leading a Godly life. The writer of this book had the intention of answering questions that have been confusing Christians in the last decades. This will make the book an important asset for any true Christian believer.

Crossroads at the Wilderness
Martina Vanderley
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515. Parker, CO 80134
9781432745578 $18.95

Crossroads at the Wilderness is an adult romance novel, where Vanderley uniquely takes on a controversial passion of an older couple, Tom and Leslie. She digs into their startling love, marriage, and bi-racial relationship as they grapple with their spellbinding attraction for each other. In one instance, the author reveals an intense moment in their attraction for one another where Tom says, ''I want you in my bed...a kiss won't do it for me.''

Vanderley's unique style of writing sets her in a league of her own; evident by her choice of approach to this unexpected love from a mid-life perspective. Being an older couple with grown up children and on the verge of their professional careers, it's fascinating to see that Leslie and Tom still take to curiosity. Fired-up passion serves to re-awaken and intensifies their youthful zeal.

She refreshingly illustrates the scenes in the blooming romance of this couple, offering escape from reality into a world of passion and romance while maintaining their firm footing on everyday life.

The author's balance in the display of a controversial relationship is evidence of her writing prowess. She states that at their first meeting, Tom addresses Leslie as "milady," while Leslie refers to him as "the black man" and "lady killer." Her inclusion of the African-American stance on bi-racial romance raises an extraordinary tone to this piece.

Further, her inclusion of faith adds zest to the work. Tom's place as an associate at his church is challenged by his choices. Though he is deferring "God's plan," Tom keeps his faith. The author injects questions of faith and belief in God as the story progresses. Tom comforts Leslie after a personal tragedy, ''God never gives us more than we can handle, sweetheart. We have to have faith...the miracle of love.''

The beginning of the novel is enrapturing. It delicately transitions into a spiral of tension and romance that gently unravels in beautifully planned increments sufficient to keep your emotions racing and fingers turning until the last page. You will never guess how it ends.

Todd Rutherford

Sandra's Bookshelf

Spiritual Engineering
Thomas J Strawser
Thornton Publishing, Inc
17011 Lincoln Ave. #408, Parker, Colorado 80134
0984483896, $19.97,

I was not prepared to like "Spiritual Engineering: The New Science for Happiness and Extraordinary Relationships". I thought to myself, "Oh, great, another self help book." Yet the more I read the book I came to realize it really can help people. This book begins with the author at the lowest point of his life. He searched for various ways to help himself, but could not pull himself out of the emotion wreck he was in. He even thought of suicide.

Then one day he started to think like an engineer. He came up with a plan to use his knowledge of engineering and spirituality to use. It was not an easy process but after much work he had found answers to help himself.

This book is filled with tools to help people no matter what their problems may be. Tools to help us all lived a better life. I really like the exercises that can be found at the end of the book. The author has told us about starting your day exercises, during the day exercises, and then nightly review exercises. I especially liked page 230 and the attitude adjustment cards. You will just have to read this book to understand what they are. But they can be used to help you with your marriage.

Excellent Read

Finding Father Christmas
Robin Jones Gunn
Faith Words
c/o Hachette Book Group, USA
237 Park Ave, New York, NY
9780446526296, $13.99,

This is a beautifully written book. Miranda's mother died when she was young and she has no relatives that she knows of. What she does know is that somewhere she has a father that her mother never told her about. Finding him has turned into a quest for the truth. Armed with only three clues a birth certificate, a theatrical playbill and a wallet size picture of a man with a little boy. She discovers that on the back of the picture a town is listed where the photographer's studio is, in England.

On an impulse she takes a flight to see what information she can find out about the picture, and the people in it. But what she didn't bargain for is more than she could have ever imagined.

Rated G

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Navigating Hope
Caroline Myss
Sounds True
413 S. Arthur Avenue, Louisville, CO 80027
B0036ZK3BC, $19.95, 1-800-333-9185

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow."

~Albert Einstein

Hope comes in all shapes and forms; it is the foundation in which dreams are built upon. In these turbulent times in which we feel uncertain of which direction our lives need to take it is refreshing to find an audio such as Caroline Myss's Navigating Hope: How to Turn Life's Challenges into a Journey of Transformation.

This audio will show you how to turn everyday life's challenges into a journey of transformation. It will enable you to see how to clear a path that is filled with life's obstacles. It will open up your eyes that will allow you to see what needs to be changed and then show you how to succeed in making the change happen.

With each title I experience of Caroline Myss's I grow more in awe of her talent. Her straight forward advice will set you on the road to recovery for your soul. There is no way anyone who takes the time to absorb her knowledge and guidance will not have their life changed by her words of wisdom.

Second Chance Brides
Vickie McDonough
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781602606487, $12.99,

Shannon O'Neil and Leah Bennett had come to Lookout, Texas each with the dream of finding a husband. As mail order brides, they were surprised when they learned their intended husband's heart had already been captured by someone else.

Shannon and Leah knew that in order to survive in Texas they would have to get a job or find a husband. In such a small town as Lookout finding either would be a major challenge. Both ladies knew that they had only themselves to depend on and had to make the best of the circumstances that had led them to Lookout.

Mark and Garrett Corbett felt responsible for Shannon and Leah. They were the ones who had devised a plan to bring them to meet their cousin. They were determined to do what was right by the ladies and help protect them at all cost.

Neither Mark nor Garrett anticipated their growing feelings toward Shannon and Leah. Will they be able to let them go and make their futures with other eligible bachelors in town? Or will they persuade them to see them as the men who is deserving of winning their hearts?

Vickie McDonough has done a magnificent job in writing Second Chance Brides - Texas Boardinghouse Brides, Book 2. For those who may have missed the first books in the series never fear this book can easily stand to be read alone. Characters such as Shannon and Leah warm a reader's heart, you hate to see the last page end for you know that you will have to say goodbye. I look forward to seeing the next installment in this highly addictive series.

Daily Guideposts 2011
Andrew Attaway
Guideposts Books
16 East 34th Street, New York, NY 10016
9780824948092, $19.99,

For any special person in your life who you are searching for a rare and unique gift there is no better purchase then a copy of Daily Guideposts 2011. This is the type of gift that the receiver can use throughout the year for it provides a daily inspirational reading experience that will help uplift anyone's spirit.

I was introduced to Daily Guideposts through my grandmother many years ago. Ever since then, I have been a devoted follower and think of her each time I purchase my new copy for the coming year. The theme for 2011 is "Growing in Love" it marks the thirty-fifty anniversary edition. Throughout the pages you will see how love is intertwined in each one of the heartwarming stories.

What I find so unique about this book is the high quality of authors you will find who have written the daily passages. These stories will have you stop and reflect on events that are occurring in your own life. Each one is a miniature masterpiece that each contributor should stand up and take a bow. It only takes five minutes each day to read one of these daily readings. My personal recommendation is to take this book with you just as the sun rises, and sit outside with a cup of coffee and start the day at a relaxing pace.

With Christmas just around the corner, why not purchase a gift that can be used all throughout next year? There is no better selection that you will find than Daily Guideposts 2011, who knows you may just start your own family tradition!

Suzie Housley, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

Three Stations
Martin Cruz Smith
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9780743276740, $25.99,

Russia, and more specifically Moscow, is Arkady Renko's home turf where, as a sometime senior investigator for important cases in the prosecutor's office [when he isn't suspended or dismissed], he somehow manages to solve cases nobody above him wants solved. On the brink of quitting out of disgust at the beginning of the novel, Renko refuses to submit his letter of resignation out of spite in light of his hatred for his immediate superior.

There is a matter of a dead woman found in a trailer in the Three Stations train depot area, which Renko believes to be murder, while other officials dismiss it as a case of a prostitute who overdosed. Meanwhile, another young prostitute runs away from her faraway brothel with her infant daughter, only to discover, as the train arrives at Three Stations, that the baby has been kidnapped from her arms as she slept, giving rise to two inter-related plots: the mother's quest for the baby, and Renko's search for a killer, maybe even one of a serial nature.

The emerging capitalist society gives the author an opportunity to reflect on the goings on in present-day Russia, while two other elements of the plot are told as twisted tales. In contrast with the excesses of the billionaire oligarchs, the author portrays the squalid existence of hosts of kids who live and steal in and around the Three Stations.

This type of complex story is typical of the Renko series, beginning with Gorky Park and continuing with Stalin's Ghost and other novels, casting light on the all-too-often harshness and ugliness of Russian life, official corruption, and hopelessness of the average person. Smith writes with fervor and the eye of a cynic.


From the Dead
Mark Billingham
Little, Brown
100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y ODY
9781408700754 16.99 BPS

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK and Canada, not available in the US at this time]

D.I Tom Thorne is one among the outstanding protagonists in the crime genre who doggedly solve murders and other mysteries while questioning their own talents, motivations and personalities, often to their own detriment. He, like many of the others, criticizes himself, albeit unnecessarily, because he, and they, do achieve success.

We see Thorne agonizing over the court's findings when it frees an accused murderer he and everyone else is convinced is guilty. Key to the innocent verdict is the fact that there is no body. But there is no time to worry about the case before another arises to occupy Thorne: a 10-year-old case that just won't disappear.

Donna Langford has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for having hired a hit man to murder her husband. Then she begins to receive photos of a man she says is that same husband. When she learns that her daughter has vanished, she can only conclude her husband is responsible, and she employs a private detective, Anna Carpenter, to investigate. Anna approaches Thorne and together they begin to work the case, setting off all kinds of repercussions which may be engineered by a man who is supposed to be dead but is perhaps intent on preserving a reconstructed life.

Once again, the author has written a deep police procedural with significant insights into the characters. While the investigation is hampered by the craftiness of the "dead" husband and roadblocks he throws in Thorne's way, he plods on doggedly, just in character. Written with smoothness and urbanity, the plot moves forward in unexpected ways. Recommended.

Bad Boy
Peter Robinson
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061362958, $25.99,

Murphy's Law seems to apply to the premise behind this novel. After a well-earned vacation touring the U.S. Southwest and the wonders of LA and San Francisco, DI Banks finds, upon his return to Eastvale, that an old friend has died after police tasered him, Banks' daughter is missing, and everything is in an uncontrolled mess.

It starts when a former neighbor of Banks discovers a gun which had been hidden by her daughter in her bedroom when visiting her parents. The mother visits the police station hoping to discuss the situation with Banks who, unfortunately, is still away. When the police raid the house, the woman's husband dies of a heart attack after the aforementioned taser incident; Banks' daughter, Tracy, infatuated with man who owned the gun (the "bad boy" of the title) warns him of the police inquiries and hides him in her father's cottage. And from that point on, as Banks returns, everything goes downhill.

The chase begins with Tracy's status changing from willing lover to hostage, and Banks and the rest of the police force struggling with the lack of clues as to where the fugitive and his captive are. As usual, Banks doesn't always play by the rules. But then, neither does the bad boy. Another well-written and off-beat story in the series, and highly recommended.

Dick Francis and Felix Francis
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399156816, $26.95,

This is the fourth work completed by Dick Francis and his son, and it certainly lives up the standards the late author set in a long and distinguished career until his death last February. As did the more than 40 novels Dick Francis wrote, it takes as its milieu the British horse-racing scene.

Captain Tom Forsyth, who left his mother's home (and horse-training stables) at the age of 17 to join the army, returns after losing his foot to an IED in Afghanistan, only to find that his mother is in some kind of trouble. She is being blackmailed to the tune of 2,000 pounds a week and is also being forced to make sure that her horses lose important races. It falls to Tom to sort out the culprits, solve his mother's business problems, and find his way into the future despite his physical condition.

"Crossfire" is a tale with the trademark Francis touch, carefully constructed, poignantly written and sensitive, especially with regard to observations of the trials and difficulties of being a soldier (demonstrated throughout by references to Tom's past posts as well as the skills he learned as applied to his present endeavors), and it is highly recommended.

Dog Tags
David Rosenfelt
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446551526, $24.99,

This legal-thriller-cum-amusing-background series, featuring the talented but not so enthusiastic defense attorney Andy Carpenter, once again demonstrates his love of canines. The plot starts off with Andy representing a German shepherd, Milo, being held in the dog pound under police guard, with Andy seeking a bail hearing. It seems that the dog is owned by Billy Zimmerman, an ex-cop who lost his leg while serving in Iraq and is now accused of murder. In fact, Andy gets to represent both master and dog before it's all over.

As the story develops, in order to survive after his return from Iraq and not being able to get his old job back as a Paterson, NJ, detective, Billy had trained the dog to jump up and snatch valuables which he could then convert to raise funds to survive. One night, Billy and Milo observe someone handing over an envelope to another person. Milo snatches it and runs away, later burying it. Meanwhile, the man who handed over the envelope is shot and killed. Billy, who had served under the man in Iraq, is accused of his murder.

Andy is begged initially to free the dog from the pound, and as that case develops he takes on Billy's as well. Complication upon complication then compound the plot, with all of the usual characters in the series, plus the dog, playing vital roles in what has become the trademark characteristic of an Andy Carpenter trial: a hopeless case to somehow salvage, and often a national catastrophe to prevent. The novels are always written with humor and a light touch, and this entry is no exception. Recommended.

The Price of Life
Greg McCarthy
Otherworld Publications
4949 Old Brownsboro Road, Ste. 113, Louisville, KY 40222,
9780982649459, $26.95,

This novel contains many of the pluses and minuses typical of a first novel. It has the germ of a good idea for a plot, many interesting observations, and excellent expert information based on the author's background. The author has practiced law in Texas for more than two decades, primarily in the areas of personal injury and medical malpractice. And it is from this experience that the book was born. Unfortunately, biographies do not make for a good murder mystery, and the book is overloaded with too many situations and conversations that are obviously derived from Mr. McCarthy's life and law practice, many of which should have been edited out as irrelevant.

The plot, however, is a good one: An eight-year-old girl suffering from a brain tumor is denied insurance coverage for an "experimental" operation to remove it. Her father, a U.S. Marine Captain who has served four tours in Iraq, returns home just as she dies. Her death might have been prevented a year earlier had the physician ordered an MRI and discovered the tumor when it was small and could be removed. Thus, a medical malpractice suit brought by attorney Grant Mercer, who suffers from his own form of burnout. And the inevitable discovery of political machinations to limit awards for malpractice to almost nothing, as well as the extremes to which people will go to obtain "justice."

The aspects of the legal ramifications of limiting malpractice awards and the details about bringing cases through the system, including depositions, are necessary for the reader to understand the subject, though overly detailed. That said, it is unfortunate that too often there are lengthy tirades on a variety of subjects which probably could have been eliminated. While an interesting effort, I suspect it could have been much better.

The Caterpillar Cop
James McClure
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569476536, $14.00,

This Kramer and Zondi novel, one of eight in the series written before the author's death in 2006, was first published in Great Britain in 1972. It is now reprinted for our enjoyment. Unlike "The Steam Pig," which focused on the horrors of apartheid, "Caterpillar" centers its attention on the repressive sexual attitudes of the South African regime of that time.

The case begins when a 12-year-old boy is found strangled and with multiple stab wounds, with the area around his genitals virtually destroyed. Initially it is believed to be an act by a pedophile. It was known that the boy was spying on someone. As Lt. Kramer and his sidekick, Bantu Sgt. Zondi, investigate, a link develops to what is termed an accidental death of a visiting American teenager.

This novel is more akin to a traditional murder mystery, as the police procedural progresses, as opposed to the initial entry in the series, "The Steam Pig." A new twist to complement the by-play between Kramer and Zondi is the introduction of a young would-be detective, Pembroke, as a foil for the Boer detective. McClure's ability to offset grim details with amusing interplay between the characters is truly remarkable, as is the smoothness with which he develops the plot, especially with the twist at the end.


The Steam Pig
James McClure
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569476529, $14.00,

Before his death four years ago, the author wrote eight novels in this series, featuring a white CID lieutenant, Tromp Kramer, and his black assistant, Sgt. Zondi. The setting for "The Steam Pig" was apartheid South Africa, and the descriptions of that society are poignant and overwhelming, while the plot follows the unraveling of a murder investigation. Thanks to Soho Press, it is now back in print, along with one other in the series.

An attractive blonde is murdered in an unusual way: a bicycle spoke through to the heart, a signature method of the Bantus. Little by little Kramer and Zondi follow a mixed trail to find out shy she was killed and by whom. Along the way the reader is treated to subtle and not so subtle elements of the horrid aspects of apartheid in South Africa.

The interplay between Kramer and Zondi, stressing the advantages of each (the Bantu obviously is able to obtain information from his black counterparts more easily than his white superior), quietly demonstrates the inadequacies of apartheid, while the fact that the victim, who was reclassified "colored" from "white," points up just one unfortunate aspect of the system.

The whole, of course, is more than the sum of its parts. A good, well-written mystery, interesting characters and a very different style makes for an excellent read, which brings this reviewer next to the second book made available by the publisher, "The Caterpillar Cop." Recommended.

Midnight Fugue
Reginald Hill
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061451973, $7.99,

Andy Dalziel (the "Fat Man") is still recovering from the after-effects of injuries (and a coma) resulting from an explosion two novels ago. But he ignores medical advice and returns to his duties as Detective Superintendent, albeit a little shakily. Is it time to turn over the reins to his protege, Pascoe? Or does he still have that flair and intuition?

This novel takes place in a 24-hour period in which, at the beginning. Dalziel is contacted by a woman, Gina Wolfe, whose London policeman husband disappeared seven years ago. About to be remarried after he has been declared legally dead, she receives a newspaper clipping with a picture in which her husband appears. She wants proof one way or another that he is dead and seeks Andy's help.

The plot broadens from this point in several ways, introducing all manner of characters from a couple of thugs to a possible future Prime Minister. The interaction between Andy and his colleagues (not to mention the rest of the world) remains humorous and still tickles the reader's funny bone. Tight plotting, with twists and turns, keeps one turning pages to see what comes next. "Fugue" is on the same high plane of the other books in this series, and is highly recommended.

Faye Kellerman
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061702563, $25.99,

As Lt. Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus grow older ("the Loo" celebrates his 60th birthday in this latest entry in the series), their lives certainly don't get simpler. Peter agrees to attend a meeting between an old friend, Terry McLaughlin, and her psycho husband, Chris Donatti, from whom she has sort of run away, with their 14- year-old son, Gabe, after Chris had struck her "to give her some space." The meeting seems to go well and Peter returns home.

Several hours later, Gabe calls informing Peter that his mother is not in the hotel room and he has not heard from her. Did Chris kill her? Or has she secretly run away? Peter reluctantly takes the boy home as a temporary measure and reports Terry as a missing person and begins to search for her.

Meanwhile a nurse at a local hospital is found hanging at a nearby construction site. Soon another murder victim is found, who turns out to be a close friend of the nurse. Are the crimes related? Will this turn out to be one of the few serial killer cases is Peter's career?

The two themes move forward with the new characters in the series, especially Chris and Gabe, adding some spice to the dialog. While Rina plays a relatively minor role, she remains the interesting character she has always been, and the interplay between Hannah (the Deckers' daughter) and Gabe is touching. Once again, the author has provided an excellent look into police procedures to solve a crime. Recommended.

Queen of the Night
J.A. Jance
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061239243, $25.99,

With a bow [by dedicating the book] to the late Tony Hillerman, who was a master at the genre of this novel (and the predecessors in the saga of the Walker family), J.A. Jance has written a murder mystery surrounded by the further development in the family's history peppered with lots of Indian lore.

The eponymous Queen is a once-a-year blossoming cactus whose legendary beginnings, like many of the tales in the novel, are based on the culture and history of the Tohono O'odhap people of southern Arizona. It plays a minor, but important, role in the story as the site of the contemporary murder of four people. Meanwhile, former homicide detective Brandon Walker inherits a 50-year-old open case from his Last Chance cold case mentor, one in which a popular coed was stabbed to death in San Diego while on a school break.

The broad sweep of the Walker saga provides interesting and deep personal observations about the characters and what motivates them. The plot lines in the novel are fairly complex, but move forward in a logical pattern. As usual, the writing is uncomplicated with beautiful descriptions of the Arizona terrain, and especially of the night-blooming cereus (the Queen of the Night) particularly appealing.


Moscow Sting
Alex Dryden
Harper Ecco
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061966842, $24.99,

There is a lot to like about this book, and much to dislike. To begin with, it is an interesting and diverting plot, reminiscent of all the Cold War novels of the past, albeit set in present-day circumstances. However, the characters seem wooden, caricatures filling in the blanks. "Moscow Sting" is the sequel to "Red to Black," with Anna Resnikov, the KGB Colonel who defected to the West to marry the assassinated former MI6 agent Finn, again playing a major role.

It seems everyone wants to find Anna who was hidden in the south of France with her two-year-old son by the French security arm, and is discovered accidentally by an ex-CIA agent who tries to sell her whereabouts for half a million dollars to the Russians, English and Americans. She and her son are "rescued" by a private United States intelligence company headed by a larger-than-life personage, who takes them to the U.S. to "debrief" her. The reason she is so important is the relationship Finn had with Mikhail, an informant extremely close to Vladimir Putin, and who she presumably knows.

George Washington warned against "foreign entanglements" and Dwight Eisenhower against the military-industrial establishment. However, this novel provides strong reason to distrust the intelligence community, whether public like the CIA or MI6, or private. Each has its shortcomings, with the latter only driven by self-interest which can be as disastrous as, perhaps, the demonstrated ineptness of employees of the official agencies. Written at a fast pace, the tale more often than not is exciting and enlightening, despite its shortcomings.


The Taken
Inger Ash Wolfe
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780151013531, $25.00,

In the debut novel in this series, "The Calling," we learned that DI Hazel Micallef suffered a severe back injury. In the interim between that time frame and this sequel she has undergone two operations and we find her flat on her back, dependent on pain killers, in the basement apartment of her ex-husband's house and being tended to by his present wife. Hazel is regularly visited by her apparent second in command, DC James Wingate, who recently transferred from Toronto to the small town of Port Dundas.

But you can't keep a good man (or woman) down, and when a couple of tourists believe they have found a body at the bottom of a lake, and the local paper begins a serialization of a story in which such an event is described, Hazel jumps out of bed to take charge of an investigation during which she is led by the nose with clues placed by an unknown person. The maverick Detective Inspector really has nothing more to go on than her intuition.

This is an extremely complicated plot, not only confusing to the reader but also to Hazel and James. Nevertheless, they plod on, determined to solve the case, by criminy. Along the way the various characters learn more about the meaning of love, toward others as well as themselves. Hazel remains the interesting protagonist she appeared to be in the first installment and presumably she'll be back to entertain us soon once again.


Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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