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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 11, Number 11 November 2011 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Aaron's Bookshelf AnanthaKrishnan's Bookshelf
Applegate's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Clark's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Dollycas' Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Murray's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Regis' Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Riva's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Bioinformatics Basics
Edited by Lukas K. Buehler & Hooman H. Rashidi
CRC Press
c/o Taylor & Francis Group
270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0849312833 $113.95,

Anand B. Surampudi

As the name suggests Bioinformatics is the name of a new branch of biological science that integrates seamlessly the twin disciplines of biology and information. According to the editors, it is a rapidly maturing science. They inform that, "Bioinformatics is a rapidly growing field within the biological sciences. It dates back to the 1960s following the discovery of the DNA double helix, when cracking the genetic code allowed for the ability to treat genes as strings of information that guide the building of cellular components, the faithful reproduction of an organism's form and function and its ability to evolve" (p. 1).

"Bioinformatics Basics: Applications in Biological Science and Medicine", is a groundbreaking book now in its second edition and co-edited by Lukas K. Buehler and Hooman H. Rashidi, who renowned in the fields of bioinformatics and medicine marries the best of their competencies to conceive and birth what is deeply relevant to our globalised world.

Indeed, if diverse human beings are to survive and succeed amidst competing and conflicting cultures, worldwide, it must garner all its resources to face the challenges that globalization brings. Today, bioinformatics is driven by the challenge of integrating the large amount of genetic and structural data emanating from biomedical research (see p.1). Reflecting upon the complexity of living organisms and the many different ways wo/man studies life, the term "bioinformatics" refers to the task of organizing, analyzing and predicting increasingly complex data arising from modern molecular and biochemical techniques (p. 2, italics by the editors).

"Bioinformatics Basics" argues convincingly that sound data evaluation is needed to improve medical applications in combating life-threatening diseases. To appreciate the value and limitation of bioinformatics in biology and medicine, one has to understand the source, quality, and biological significance of the data it depends on. The quality and accuracy of the data is crucial in order to correctly interpret their biological significance. The answer is simple. The manipulation and the artificial exchange of genes across species boundaries in the laboratory are possible because all living organisms operate with the same genetic code, molecular material, and mechanisms of replication. This astonishing likeness of genetic mechanisms across all forms of life is the single most important evidence of biological evolution as outlined by Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution. It also forms the basis of the success of bioinformatics in shaping modern biomedical research.

This book is a provocative read, and it contains much practical advice. While the different chapters hold together well, they present no party line. Readers will find contrasting views and orientations across the chapters as well as common themes. The writing reflects the realities and complexities of bioinformatics in biological science and medicine. The different, sometimes conflicting messages point up needs for better, clearer conceptualizations of data evaluations and pertinent research. Practitioners and theorists alike should come to prize this book as a valuable, user-friendly resource. The initial chapter provides overview, analysis and guide to the ensuing chapters. Many readers likely will repeatedly revisit certain chapters to examine particular evaluation issue. The book should be useful in introduction course especially at undergraduate level. While the book helpfully focuses on uses of bioinformatics in biological science and medicine, many of its lessons and the dilemmas it surfaces are applicable to a wide variety of human sciences contexts. I congratulate the editors and authors on making a valuable contribution to the literature of educational evaluation.

Dante in Love
Atlantic Books
Ormond House, 26-27 Boswell St. London, WC1N 3JZ
Allen & Unwin
9781848879485, $25.97,

Ann Skea

A.N.Wilson's stated aim in Dante in Love is to act as a travel-guide in the unfamiliar terrain of Dante's poetry. He tells us that after much research he is "still looking for a book which is a life of Dante set against the background of his times" and which acts as an introduction to Dante's Divine Comedy (the Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso). Unsurprisingly, since he also wants the book to inspire in him "a sense that there is a connection between fancying women, wanting to understand poetry and answering the deepest questions about life and the deepest needs of the human heart", he has never found such a book. So, in Dante in Love, he aims to supply that book himself. Sadly, for me, he does not succeed..

Dante in Love is handsomely presented and beautifully illustrated, but I finished reading it almost as confused about Dante's world and about the often obscure references in his poetry as I ever was. Partly, this is because Dante lived in very confusing times. Mostly, I think, it is because A.N. Wilson (who describes himself as "no Dante scholar") has tried to pack too much into this book. He also jumps around in time and strives to make his book relevant to a modern reader, so I was often lost in a long modern digression when I needed to be in 13th century Italy.

Wilson begins in Rome in Easter 1300, the time Dante chose as the setting for his Comedy. Purgatory had just been invented (defined in 1274 by the Council of Lyons), so, too, it seems had buttons in Germany, spinning wheels in France and windmills in England. Quite what these last three inventions had to do with Dante's Comedy is a puzzle, although other things that Wilson mentions, such as the growth of mercantile trade, the creation of Banks and the minting of Florins in Florence, where Dante grew up, were understandably important to the views on usury and power which are expressed in the Comedy.

From 14th century Rome, we move to present-day Florence which, as Wilson tells us, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. At the time of Dante's birth in the 13th century, however, Florence had none of the features which are now so well-known. Instead, like Rome, it was "infested with towers built by rival gangs". Iceland, Wilson tells us irrelevantly, was like this, too. He then takes us back to the eleven-hundreds, when "Mafia-style thuggery" was rampant in Florence between the supporters of the French backed Pope - the Guelphs - and the Ghibellines, who supported the Holy Roman Emperor, the German-born head of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. And finally we learn that this was still the same when Dante was born in 1265, and Dante's family were Guelphs. But the Guelphs themselves were divided between those who supported the powerful merchant, Corso Donati (the 'Blacks') and those who favoured the banker Vieri de Cerchi (the 'Whites').

To complicate matters further, the other great power in Italy was the Church, and Popes supported by, and supporting, different factions changed frequently. There were fifteen Popes during Dante's lifetime (1265-1321) and, confusingly for readers, each changed his name on enthronement. The most important Pope in Dante's life was Boniface VIII (Benedetto Caetani), whose influential rule lasted nine years, from 1294 to 1303. It was he who was responsible for Dante's banishment from Florence in 1301 after Dante, who by then was politically active and well-respected in Florence, failed to support the Pope's plans. The Pope wanted Dante out of Florence whilst he negotiated with the French and Dante, in Wilson's words, was "stitched up". Dante, in return, damned Pope Boniface VIII to the Hell of his Inferno and vilified him as one of the most greedy, licentious and brutal of men.

I read with interest of Dante's political skills and ambitions, of his interest in philosophy and about some of his mentors and his closest friends. In particular, I enjoyed reading of his close friendship with Giotto. I don't put much faith in Wilson's suggestion that Giotto's painted Hell in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua was a major influence on Dante's poetic version of Hell in the Comedy, but it is interesting to compare the two.

So where is Love in all this? Wilson's book, after all, is called Dante in Love and he did not intend it to be just a history or biography. Wilson's approach to love in Dante's life is not romantic but philosophical, although he allows for the physical expression of love in Dante's life, too. He argues, and I think correctly, that the status of Beatrice Portinari in Dante's life and, especially, in his work, was that of a Platonic Idea. It was shaped by Dante's exposure to French and Provencal poetry, the tradition of the troubadours and the dictates of Courtly Love. This was reinforced by Dante's study of Platonism, by his immersion in Franciscan and Dominican philosophy, and, especially, by the influence of the mystics, Thomas Aquinas, Saint Bonaventure and the former troubadour and monk, St Bernard of Clairvaux. Controversially, Wilson identifies the Donna Gentile, the woman of whom Dante wrote passionately in his Vita Nova, with Dante's wife, Gemma. But she, too, became a Platonic Idea and Dante later identified her as 'Philosophy'.

My guess is that Wilson's book will infuriate Dante scholars and that it will do little to enlighten readers like me who think they should know Dante and his work better. I was dismayed and frustrated when Wilson, summing up an important argument, suddenly chose not to translate the final four lines of the Paradiso from Dante's Italian on the basis the 'everyone knows' them. I for one do not. Perhaps Wikipedia will rescue me, as it did when Wilson's book bogged me down in historical complexities or in long and irrelevant asides.

What Fears Become, An Anthology from The Horror Zine
Edited by Jeani Rector
Imajin Books
9781926997186 Ebook $4.99, Paperback $16.99

Christina Francine, Reviewer

What do reader's fears become when they're examined? Top-notch tales, poems, and images will horrify and delight readers in this anthology called What Fears Become. Each feature rips through reality plunging readers into frightful situations deep enough to provoke a bag full of nightmares. It is unlikely readers will set aside a single whisper-read word. Like stepping onto a monstrous scene, their wide eyes can't look away. Thirty-one finely honed eager narratives, eighteen delicious poems, and eighteen visions touch all who dare venture inside.

The foreword is by Simon Clark, and he has nothing but positive comments about What Fears Become. He titles this foreword, "A Small Matter of Life and Death."

Besides penning horror fiction, authors are teachers, radio personalities, newspaper reporters, editors, gardeners, musicians, poets, reality TV contestants, aides at mental hospitals, technical writers, volunteers, graphic designers, inventory clerks, writers of chapter units for history textbooks, receivers of prestigious awards, founders of martial art systems and have had films produced from novels.

The collection opens with "Bast," by Christina A. Larsen, which is about a man who visits his dying grandmother. Do cats really take breaths away? Marty finds out in this eerie yarn. Descriptive.

"Next Time You'll Know Me," by Ramsey Campbell, is told in first-person by a paranoid person who threatens others because he believes they are the reason for all his bad luck. He focuses especially on someone who stole his stories and killed his mother. An unusual story.

Another narrative sure to raise hackles is "Ouija" by Cheryl Kaye Tardif. Liza doesn't like the Ouija board she's had for years and decides to be rid of it once and for all, but her friend, Sharon, is overcome by curiosity. She disregards Liza's warnings and asks the board a question. Suddenly, evil things begin to happen and the women decide to destroy it. By itself, the board reveals who will die and then they do. One night the women's names are spelled out. Now, they're determined to rid themselves of this evil once and for all. Wickedly scary, suspenseful reading. Tardif doesn't disappoint.

Scott Nicholson contributes a narrative readers cannot set aside. Their thoughts are held afterward too. His character, Kelly, becomes pregnant by Chet, the kind of man no woman should ever be with. Kelly decides that even though she's the last of her family, she'll soon have someone to love, to carry her family's name, and to inherit her family's humble farm house. Another infant hovers near Kelly. From the family cemetery Kelly realizes the ghost baby grows at the same rate as the one in her belly does. The white shape hangs around the old Stamey Cemetery, not far from the old Cherokee ceremonial mound. When Chet comes back to Kelly, he cruelly decides she and her baby shouldn't live, yet the ghost baby decides they should.

Poetry in this collection is respectfully good. Not only are the author's imaginations powerful, but it is evident they've studied poetry form.

When examining "A Guide for Ethical Zombie Murder," by Emon Anthousis, readers find six stanzas written in blank verse, and written as a "how-to" accept becoming a zombie. He explains the whys for each step, and the necessary cautions during this change. Authousis ends his rhyme advise on a humorous note.

"Bugs," by Dennis Bogwell, features ten stanzas. The rhyme scheme begins with abab, goes into cdcd in the second stanza, and then into fgfg for the remaining eight. Each line is short, carrying punch, not only creating a sense of squittering like a bug, but by bringing urgency to the exasperation the character feels about dealing with bugs. Readers will squirm themselves with this poem.

Peter Steele, carries a recommendation for those who consider resisting their morbid circumstances with a rhyme called "City of the Dead." The first three stanzas help readers realize their state and how much is changing. The last turns to sharing sentiments of empathy and reveals how the poem's author knows. This is because he was once there himself. Steele knows pain and advises readers a final resolve. Though sixteen lines and the rhyme scheme doesn't fit neatly into the English or Italian sonnet, The City of the Dead" is in fixed form. Each line in the four stanzas tries to stick to ten syllables. Each stanza contains two couplets and goes: aabb, ccbb, eebb, ffbb. No one can argue that Steele studied poetry, or that he has a sense of humor.

Besides writing poetry, poets write biographies, songs, screenplays, comic strips, novels, short stories, and non-fiction. They come from all over the world, won prestigious prizes, and have multi-published. Besides the writing profession, other vocations of poets include Navy engineers, chemists, musicians, and financial systems annalists.

Artwork in "What Fears Become" is in black, white, and shades of gray. Each conjures up feelings of loneliness, deep thought, boldness and a dark slice of freedom. Each dares a peak into crevices and borders, into eyes and into open body parts, and of their situation of thought. Artists include graphic designers, poets, writers, sculptures, tailors, and work in pencil, crayon, pen and ink, watercolors, digital, and oil paints.

Jeani Rector is the editor for "What Fears Become." She is also the founder and editor of The Horror Zine. Multiple publications have featured her stories. A novel called Around a Dark Corner was released by Graveyard Press in 2009 by Rector.

Dean H. Wild is the assistant editor of The Horror Zine. He has written love stories, and been a freelance copywriter.

What Fears Become examines the horrors of human-kind, dares to lift the lid, dares to step into the headlights and to follow dark whispers. Why examine nightmares? Because they remind us that monsters and horror lurk just under the surface, and by examining them we gain strength. Determination to keep them at bay is renewed when we realize horror resides only inches away. What do readers fears become if not examined - reality.

Get It On: What It Means To Lead The Way
Keni Thomas
B&H Publishing Group
127 Ninth Avenue North, MSN 114, Nashville, TN 37234
9781433672743 $19.99

Claudia Pemberton

Get It On: What It Means To Lead The Way is the debut, non-fiction work of U.S. Army Ranger (and country music singer) Keni Thomas. It is his own personal account of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, the same conflict that was depicted in the film, "Black Hawk Down".

This book is not simply a chronology of that fierce battle; it is an uncanny view of combat as seen through the eyes of a soldier who lived it ... lived through it ... and is now living above and beyond it.

Ranger Thomas' writing voice is melodious. His narrative is smooth and flowing, resonating with personality, truth, insight, and humor. Thomas has a gift for storytelling that manages to entertain as well as educate the reader on the very sobering subject of war. He is able to achieve that by exposing a side of soldiers that very few civilians will ever see, the unexpected side that can find levity in the direst of circumstances, and the endearing side that teases and nicknames their comrades.

As evidenced in this 222-page book, the camaraderie of soldiers is as sacred as any religion. Their bond is a selfless, sacrificial love that runs so deep that the life of the soldier standing to one's right or left becomes more important than self. To quote Ranger Thomas, "Men will fight for a cause. But they will die for each other."

Get It On is unique when compared to other "war stories" in that it has much more to do with life than it does with death. It has to do with living life to its fullest. Ranger Thomas' words of encouragement and wisdom are applicable whether the reader is a career soldier, or has never donned a uniform. This work will appeal to people from all walks and stages of life.

Readers who love Soldiers, Country, or God will find what they are looking for in this book ... pride, hope, and inspiration. For the reader who does not love Soldiers, Country, or God ... this book has the potential to change their mind.

Get It On comes with my highest recommendation.

Heather Beck
Treasure Cove Books
7290 B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9780986556906 $9.99

Daniel Stone

Haunted is the first book in The Horror Diaries series by Heather Beck and published by Treasure Cove Books. It includes Ghost Park, A Haunting Past, The Manor On The Rocks, A Medieval Nightmare and A Watery Grave.

In Ghost Park Chase finds a secret playground where ghost children play. A well-written, scary tale with moral undertones. A recommended read for children. A Haunting Past is about Truce's fight with a vengeful ghost. It's a tribal terror not for the faint hearted. The Manor On The Rocks features a haunted house that has a really bad past. New resident, Calla Lily, must stop the curse before it destroys her. It's a twisted haunted house story that will have you guessing until the end. Don't read this at night! In A Medieval Nightmare a school trip becomes deadly when the museum comes to life. Fun and scary, this is a well-written, captivating adventure. Finally, A Watery Grave has Justine and Kimmy running for their lives when a century-old ghost haunts them. This story is beyond scary and has a shocking twist!

I enjoyed every story in this unique collection. No two stories were alike and they all offered a fresh perspective on a classic genre. Beck's strong point is, undeniably, her creativity. The plots, characters and worlds are remarkable, especially since she's written over fifty stories for kids. Another strong aspect is her storytelling abilities. Each tale is brilliantly set-up and executed with several twists. All the endings were unpredictable and allows for potential sequels. Haunted and the other books in The Horror Diaries series will undoubtedly find a large audience with those who love unique, exciting stories with twists.

The Story Of Don Luis
Stuart G. Yates
Triskaideka Books
B00584P5MG $2.99

Deb Hockenberry

Fourteen - year - old Luis has so many problems in his young life. His father marched off to war only to be murdered. Luis is left as the man of the house caring for his sick mother and younger sister. Each day, he rises earlier than anyone else in his household to go to his job of delivering bread to people that can afford it. Upon returning home, Luis feeds his family breakfast of bread and some water that he carries from the village well each day. But Luis has the determination not to live in poverty for the rest of his life. So, Luis is being educated by Senor Martinez. Everyday, he's bullied on his way to Senor Martinez' house by the other boys in his village.

This reviewer liked The Story Of Don Luis and would recommend it to any young adult who's interested in history. Even though this is fiction, this is a well - written ebook. It's very detailed and shows what life is like in a small Spanish village in the 1600's. It shows the everyday struggles and prejudices that people faced everyday back then. The author created characters so well that I could see them in my minds' eye. He paints pictures with his words so that you can see the furniture, houses and even the kitchen utensils! I have reviewed the author before and this was a very different kind of book than he usually writes. He usually writes historical paranormal mysteries for young adults which are historical but much more action - packed and mysterious. Personally, I like his historical paranormal mysteries better but that's just my own taste.

If you would like to find out more about Mr. Yates just surf to Maybe you would like to read more about The Story Of Don Luis. If you do, please visit If you would like to buy this ebook, you can pick it up at or Or if you prefer you can go to to pick up The Story Of Don Luis.

Engaging Your Power: Using Your Diving Energy to Have the Life You Want
Mary Ann Robbat
9781462021970 $22.95

Gail Bradney

You can have the life you want. That's the big message in a new self-development guide by energy healer and coach Mary Ann Robbat.

In Engaging Your Power: Using Your Divine Energy to Have the Life You Want, Robbat shares the successful approach she's used with hundreds of clients and taught to scores of healthcare professionals at the well-known Robbat Center for Advancement of Energy Healing in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Robbat says she spent years watching clients struggle with career dissatisfaction, unfulfilling relationships, weight and health issues, money problems, and other common obstacles to happiness and success. Her eureka moment happened when she discovered that the key to helping people implement lasting and dramatic change in their lives involved a three-step process, now known as the Success Triad.

In Engaging Your Power, Robbat describes the principles behind the Success Triad and then walks readers through each part. Along the way, she presents client success stories showing how the process works in real life, and provides original, hands-on exercises to help readers understand and master each step.

Once you engage all three systems of the Success Triad, obstacles that seemed insurmountable disappear, according to Robbat. She's seen hundreds of people change careers, make more money, attract long-term committed relationships, resolve body image and health problems, and transform negative emotions and situations in their life into positive, uplifting states by working through the Success Triad.

In brief, the three pillars of the Success Triad are the energy system, the belief system, and the manifestation system. Here's a quick rundown of each.

The Energy System: Robbat says you can't change deeply entrenched patterns of behavior until you do body work that helps you locate where your energy is stuck; identify how those energy blocks affect your moods, thoughts, and behaviors; and learn how to get energy flowing freely through your body. Readers who are unfamiliar with energy healing and basic therapeutic bodywork will be wowed by Robbat's simple, fun, and powerful exercises that help you feel and work with your own three energy fields.

The Belief System: Next, she shows you how to identify the beliefs that guide you and how they originally formed. We pick up beliefs, consciously or not, from our family, culture, religion, the media, early experiences, and many other places. Until you discover how your beliefs affect your day-to-day behaviors and moods - and how these beliefs are expressed energetically in your body - Robbat says you won't be able to make lasting changes in your life. She helps you find out which beliefs are standing between you and the life you want, and shows you how to let go of them so you can release their hold on you.

The Manifestation System: Finally, after walking you through the first two parts of the Success Triad, Robbat shows you how to identify and articulate precisely what you desire, create a list of short- and long-term intentions, and practice sending out requests to the universe so you can get what you really want in life.

If this sounds new-agey, well, it is. However, this well-written, thoughtful guide is based on an elegant, tried-and-true methodology that has a great track record of success and is sensible, practical, and easy to do.

By implementing the three-part Success Triad, Robbat says you'll discover how to harness your energy so it's working for you, shift beliefs that are keeping you stuck, and become a powerful "manifestor" - a person who knows how to turn dreams of an ideal life into reality.

People who live the lives they want - lives they've imagined and consciously created - are full of vibrant energy, excited about their future, at ease with who they are, and very attractive to others. Achieving this kind of life goes beyond material success; it's the root of real happiness, joy, and peacefulness. Engaging Your Power can help you create this kind of life for yourself.

Reading The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914 - 1991
Eric J. Hobsbawm
Time Inc.
B0012UZJUS, $28.73,

J. White, Ph.D.

In Eric J. Hobsbawm's The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914 - 1991, we find such epic scope, impressive synthesis, and profound meaning as to defy comparison with other recent histories of the 20th Century.

The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914 - 1991 ultimately deals with 20th Century dystopia with genius and compassion. Hobsbawm's book is tremendously important given our increasingly transnational climate. We live in a time of transition amidst successive phases of globalization and the rising importance of the East. Hobsbawm illustrates why/how this dramatic era was a foundational period of globalization marked by far-reaching change in the international order.

No recent work in 20th Century history achieves as much as The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914 - 1991 in scope, reach, power, and timeliness. This extraordinarily fine history has great general appeal given the striking time frame and range of economic, ideological, geopolitical, cultural, and aesthetic issues involved. There is no doubt that this book speaks to a global audience.

The Age of Extremes examines the 20th Century's intricate relationships to the shifting contexts of the interwar period and the tensions (in life and art) between subjectivity and politics so characteristic of the modern moment. Hobsbawm's chapter, The Arts 1914-45, is highly recommended for anybody interested in the relationship between culture and cultural production in the 20th Century.

In speaking of the Age of Extremes, Eric J. Hobsbawm notes that international politics at this time can best be understood "as an international ideological civil war" between "progress" and "reaction" (144). He argues that "The lines between the pro-[fascist] and anti-fascist forces were both civil and international." He makes his case (and proves his thesis) by chronicling the rapid (often regressive) transformation of the public sphere via aggressive reactionary ideological and mechanical reproduction. Hobsbawm continues:

"What bonded... national[s] into a single global war, both international and civil, was the rise of Hitler's Germany. Or, more precisely, between 1931 and 1941, the [reactionary] march to conquest and war... The Axis push[ed] their conquests forward... towards the war which from 1931 on seemed unavoidable... In 1931 Japan (in the grip of a reactionary Army) invaded Manchuria... In 1932 Japan occupied China north of the great wall and landed in Shanghai... In 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany... In 1936, Germany and Japan concluded an "Anti-Comintern Pact... In 1937 Japan invaded China and set out on a course of open warfare... until 1945" (145).

William L. Shirer, in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, states that "The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it." Hobsbawm notes that some Germans did oppose the Nazis (especially the internationally inclined workers). Yet Hobsbawm observes that "the left was not adequately unified and this strengthened the arguments and forces of fascism and authoritarianism."

Eric J. Hobsbawm's book shows that freedom was - -and is - -extraordinarily fragile (given the rise of Hitler, Franco, Stalin, etc. in the 20th Century) and that peace (Hobsbawm notes that "fascism means war") and social justice were - and increasingly are - rare in the modern era.

Hobsbawm's first chapter "The Age of Total War" is deftly echoed in the cover which depicts a vivisected wasteland littered with the detritus of 20th war: crippled tanks, shells, guns - -and an animal examining and attempting (with difficulty) to make sense of all. The truth, however, is to be found in the background - -in the Sauron-like oil fires which serve as a searing reminder of the connections between war and economics.

Eric J. Hobsbawm's treatment of WWII in "Against a Common Enemy" is excellent. He states that the anti-reactionary unity of the Allies was "positive" as "ideologically, it was based on the shared values and aspirations of the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolution: progress by the application of reason and science, education and popular government; no inequalities based on birth or origin; societies looking to the future rather than the past" (176).

Yet he observes that the tensions between "progress" and "reaction" (144) have resurfaced in the global arena in the years since the war. In his chapter "The Age of Catastrophe," Hobsbawm indicates that it is not unimportant to interrogate gathering forms of reactionary ideology in order to protect intellectual freedoms and prevent historical repetition.

In later chapters (including "Towards the Millennium"), he observes (with concern) the "widening of the chasm between the rich and the poor countries of the world." Further narrative lines communicate implications about encroaching modes of control (a recurring theme in contemporary reality) and the lack of global social justice. In other words, if the world is clearly not liberatory (for all) due to oppressive economics and media, etc. control which continue to exploit the 3rd world and seem poised to enslave the Western masses, what can be done to fix the road before the crash?

Eric J. Hobsbawm offers (with care, precision, and composure) valuable observations about the transnational nature of 20th Century ideology, economics, politics, culture, and aesthetics.

Like all superlative historians, Eric J. Hobsbawm emphasizes the fact that we must learn from history to forge a better global future. We can find many vivid, potent, and profound lessons about our past as well as "the uneasy marriage of reason and nightmare which has dominated the 20th Century" (J. G. Ballard) in The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914 - 1991.

Hobsbawm, E. J. The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914 - 1991. New York, NY: Vintage, 1994.

Ballard, J.G. (1984) Quotations. In V. Vale & A. Juno (Eds.), J.G. Ballard. Special issue of RE/Search, 8-9, 154-65.

Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: a History of Nazi Germany. Secker & Warburg, London: 1960.

Yes You Can
Warren Bennis
Insight Publishing
9781600137167 $19.95

Jackie Paulson, Reviewer

This is a book I have won by

Yes You Can is the perfect title for this book as it gives and Q & A to Authors who help share their message of empowerment, determination and affirmations. Yes You Can is the perfect title for this book as it gives and Q & A to Authors who help share their message of empowerment, determination and affirmations. It answers your questions on :

The foundations for professional effectiveness and success.

Why leadership and management need to be understood for our new world.

How different cultures can come together and be accepted and embraced in with work force.

The major challenges leaders' face today and how they can be solved.

She Can Run
Melinda Leigh
9781612181516 $13.95

Jacqueline Busbee

Right at page one you are thrown into Elizabeth Baker's fight for her life. Congressmen Richard Baker cannot let his wife survive now that she has stumbled upon his biggest secret. Beth not only fights to save her own life but the lives of her children, she gets out alive but that's just the beginning. She is on the run.

Ten months later, the family must move, they're current hideout no longer safe from Richard's countless men that are searching for her. Beth gets hired caretaker of a remote estate seemingly safe and secluded. Upon arriving to the house she finds that her boss, or who would have been her boss has died, and has left his estate and holdings to his nephew.

Jack O' Malley homicide detective forced into retirement due to injury becomes Beth's boss. Right away he can tell that Beth is hiding something, and he is determined to get to the bottom of it, whatever it may be.

This book really pulls you into a fantastic story that is fast paced and gripping. The characters that Melinda Leigh has developed help pull you in as you fear, love, and root for them. She has found a fan here, and I'm sure many more will become fans after reading this book!

Samantha Shakespeare
Buddy & Schwamples Publishing
PO Box 47345 Kansas City, MO 64188
9780983984504 $9.99

Jerry Brewer

"My sleep had been anything but peaceful with several nightmares about demons sucking the souls out of humans. Normally, after I wake from these nightmares, I quickly realize it was just a bad dream and can shake the images. But today I could not, because they were real. Those creatures did exist, and I was falling for one of them."

In Samantha Shakespeare's Discern, Haley Helms is a twenty year-old college student whose life seems turned inside out when she catches her fiance being unfaithful. Haley knows that she needs her father's support as she recovers emotionally, so she returns home. Her life gets much more complicated as she meets Andrew Alexander, her new college professor who always seems to show up in Haley's new life back in Boulder. After they touch for the first time, sparks literally begin to fly as an ancient blessing is brought to the forefront. Andrew reveals himself as a being known as a Parevite and that she has the soul of a woman that he has loved for thousands of years. He also makes it well known that nothing will separate the two of them ever again.

Unfortunately, there are many factors trying to pry the pair apart once more. Her ex-fiance, his siblings who can not understand mortal love, even her father are vehemently opposed to them being together. When it is discovered that Haley has a book from ancient times that can impact how humans interact with immortals, it thrusts her directly into harms way that even Andrew can't protect her from alone. Haley Helms is a demure, caring young woman who does not adhere to conventional wisdom. With Andrew's guidance, she discovers that her soul's love for Andrew in the past has given her a lot of power to control the reality of the future - not just for herself but for everyone.

The book that Haley has in her possession really throws the family dynamics of the Parevites into a tailspin. Getting to meet more of Andrew's family allows the reader to see into his nefarious family and to see the grim future of humankind should things stay on the present course. The Parevite role in governments around the world throughout time has shaped what we have come to know as history. Will their historical love be allowed to bloom again today or will all the opposing factors be too much to overcome? Discern is a tale of eternal love in which Haley and Andrew find that being together is amazing, but that others just can't let them be happy for too long without turmoil. Haley has a bad habit of being at the wrong place at the wrong time which springs her immortal protector into action, normally an overtly violent one. The conclusion of the book makes the reader wish the second book was already on the bookshelf.

Samantha Shakespeare is a new writer on the scene who is an outstanding descriptive writer who uses action brilliantly. She has a gift for creating realistic characters with whom the reader can readily identify even though it is set as fantasy. The Parevite are a refreshing new twist on the immortal lifestyle. Haley's mental deterioration from the loss of her mother then reconstruction via new love is very fitting for a twenty year-old young woman. Furthermore, her description of how Haley reacts to the new reality of Andrew being immortal is very real and terrifying. The cafe scene where Andrew protects Haley from getting hurt is both grotesque and fantastic and lets you know just how much he will do to make sure nothing happens to his past love. Shakespeare creates readable dialogue, brings the entire cast to life, and engages our interest in the fate of her protagonists. Be prepared to hold your collective breaths, wondering whether this blossoming co-ed will ever reacquire the peace of mind that she once took for granted and be able to help save an unknowing populace from a very dark future.

The Woman at the Well
Ann Chamberlin
Epigraph Books
Rhinebeck, New York
9781936940097 $27.00

Kaye Trout

Quoting from the back cover:

"The Days of the Arabs, The Time of Ignorance.

A time of jinn, poets, prophets, blood feuds, deserts.

A young man meets a young woman by a well.

The world is never the same.

The young man is Khalid ibn al-Walid, companion to the

Prophet Muhammad, conqueror of much of the known

world in the name of Islam.

And the woman - she has power of her own.

"Ann Chamberlin's Reign of the Favored Women trilogy caused a sensation when it was published in Turkey. She is the author of eleven historical novels and a nonfiction history of women in the Middle East. She also writes plays, including Jibad, which was named Best New Off-Off Broadway Plan of 1996."

The Woman at the Well is an excellent historical novel - well written, well edited, and quite lyrical - and it is a contemporary novel giving insight into the history of Islam. Ann Chamberlin is an accomplished writer with a special gift. My only criticism would be that the type in the hardcover is small and not very dark. If you read with a Kindle, this is not a problem as you can adjust the size of the type.

I recommend this novel to anyone interested in gaining more understanding about Islam and the world today.

From Age-ing to Sage-ing, a Profound New Vision of Growing Older
Zalman Schachter-shalomi and Ronald S. Miller
Warner Books Inc.
1291 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020
0446671770 $12.99

Lois Wells Santalo

In a famous quote from Twelfth Night, Shakespeare established a view of old age which has survived to this day: "Second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." We are still so deeply oriented to that view that we feel surprised on hearing that a ninety-year-old has run a marathon, published an important book, or, like Andy Rooney, kept his job.

In this case, it's unfortunate that Shakespeare was such a great communicator. As the authors point out in their book, From Age-ing to Sage-ing, this situation is no longer true, if indeed it ever was. We have cataract operations to keep our eyes functional, and hearing aids to compensate for hearing loss. We have dentures, tooth implants, hip and knee replacements, and endless miracles of modern medicine to help us fight debilitating diseases. No senior nowadays need be sans anything. We shouldn't think in terms of retirement at sixty-five but rather a shift, a transition to a career offering less physically taxing work. It could be exciting looking forward to a new career, planning for it during the final years at the former one. We need a new paradigm, a new way of looking at elders. The old one has trapped us into thinking in terms of hanging around "waiting for God," as the PBS comedy puts it. Old age is no longer a do-nothing time, nor even a time for a life defined by rounds of golf and shuffleboard.

From Age-ing to Sage-ing addresses both society's view of old age and the tendency of the elderly to internalize that view, to cut back on living and think of themselves as waiting for God. In reality, this is use-or-lose time, in the sense that what we stop doing, we soon find ourselves unable to do. Therefore, it behooves us to keep exercising, keep moving, keep driving unless this is certifiably counter-indicated. We lose confidence in part because we hear so much negativity. When an accident involves an eighty- or ninety-year old, the news reporters never fail to mention the fact, leading to an outcry that we must get the old folks off the roads - blinding us to the fact it's the teenagers who cause most of the accidents.

The authors urge us to take charge of our lives in eldering. Much of the book has to do with the inner work elders must do to forge a new view of old age, and provides suggestions about the usefulness to society of those who have lived long enough to see long-term trends. At present we tend to be overlooked because we have not kept up with the latest apps available on the latest electronic device, but in fact it is not the devices but the overall trends of human nature, the tendency of history to repeat itself, that really affects our lives, and this is an arena where elders are knowledgeable and should be listened to.

This book is more relevant today, with Boomers aging, than when it was published in the nineties.

Mark Horne
Thomas Nelson
Amazon Digital Services
B004774LSE 9.60

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

This is a short biography of John Ronal Reuel Tolkien. He was born in 1892. He was an English writer, poet, philologist, (lover of learning and literature) and university professor. Horne wants his readers to know Tolkien's Christian faith impacted his writing.

Born in South Africa he and his mother moved to England after the loss of his father. The beautiful landscape of England and his mother's Christian influence shaped his writing style. He lost his mother when he was 12 years old, but he credited his love of language to her as she taught him Latin and French. He also learned Greek and Finnish in school.

Tolkien lived through WWI and WWII spending a short amount of time in a war zone. Even though the time was short, it also influenced his writing.

Tolkien became an English professor at Leeds, where he met and befriended C.S. Lewis. Lewis complimented Tolkien on his book The Fellowship of the Ring after reading the manuscript.
In this short biography, Horne wants his readers to know that J.R.R. Tolkien's writing not only entertains but could challenge and inspire his readers.

Tolkien died in 1973. He is best known for the classic fantasy books, The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings.

Never Forgotten
Patricia C. McKissack
Artwork by Leo and Diane Dillon
Schwartz & Wade an imprint of Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780375843846 $18.99 (212) 782-9000

Meagan Myhren-Bennett, Reviewer

This is the most difficult book review, to date, that I have ever written. Nothing I write can do justice to this superb work of art. Never Forgotten is indeed a work of art. It is moving and touches the soul. Never Forgotten is a story of love, a story of memory, and a story of family. The lyrical meter and the artwork add to the feel, to the moment of the story.

Never Forgotten is a story of slavery, but it is told from the perspective of those left behind. This is Dinga's story, and even more than that a story of every family that ever had someone stolen from them for the purpose of slavery.

Dinga is raising his son, Mufasa, alone after the death of his wife. But Dinga is raising his son with the help of the four Mother Elements - Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind. As the years passed there have been drums of warning - drums that spoke of an outside threat. But the threat was so far away that Dinga paid them little heed.

When Mufasa was old enough Dinga began teaching him the skill of his family - blacksmithing. But one day as Mufasa gathered the brush for the fire he did not return. Dinga and the village searched for Mufasa, but could find no trace of the boy. Dinga asked the Mother Elements for their help but they were unable to stop the slavers and save Mufasa and stolen children of Africa.

For several years Dinga lived in sorrow with no hope for his stolen son. But one day Wind returned and told Dinga a tale. A tale that made his heart celebrate - though his son was taken and lived across the ocean in a faraway land Mufasa had never forgotten. Mufasa used the skills his father had taught him and told of the father that had taught him well.

This touching story of loss reminds us that "... the family endures forever," and that "loved ones are never forgotten when we continue to tell their stories."

This title is a must for any African-American collection and would be perfect as the focal point of any Black History month display. It is appropriate for all age groups.

This review is from an Advanced Digital Reader Copy provided by the Publisher for review purposes.

Twilight Tales: a Collection of Chilling Poems
J. T. Holden
Kuro Books
B005SNNUUQ $3.99

Zoe Muldoon

For those who've read Holden's first book Alice in Verse: The Lost Rhymes of Wonderland, the fluid rhyming scheme and clever lyrics of Twilight Tales will come as no surprise. Though Alice in Verse had its darker moments (The Mariner's Tale; The Walrus & the Carpenter Head Back), none can begin to hold a candle to the darker moments in this book, which begins with a set of deceptively "innocent" poems, ranging from the subtle and mournful (The Depths; La Llorona) to delightfully morbid and creepy (Johnny; The Window in the Floor) to the nostalgia-inducing (Mary Worth; For Agatha), all appropriately listed under the heading Shadows in the Nursery.

Under the second grouping, things get noticeably darker and angst-ridden, with chills ranging from the Freudian (Night Terrors; Blueboy; The Final Chorus; Seamus) to the frightful and frenzied (The Harvester; Mikey, a nifty nod, one presumes, to the king of boogeymen, Michael Meyers), all very appropriately listed under the heading, The Darkening 'Tweens.

The third grouping, entitled Medieval Maladies, isn't really all that scary yet flows beautifully and eerily through a bloody dark ages battlefield (Darkly), a royal banquet with a main course that is literally to die for (The Perfect Servant), a Shakespearean playhouse after hours (Echoes from a Darkened Theatre), a gathering of witches summoning the Prince of Darkness (Bell, Book & Candle), the ghost of Richard III roaming the Tower of London, seeking the truth behind the murders of the princes (Richard's Lament), and a perhaps overly-esoteric yet compelling clash of titans (The Lads from Blaithmoor).

The fourth grouping contains The Epic Tales, and true to that title, they are epic in both size and scope.

The first is a wickedly delicious fable entitled The Sandman & the Dullahan, which tells the tale of one cold and snowy night when the kindly old Sandman is forced to accept a helping hand from a devious headless horseman known as the Dullahan (to reveal any more here would be a crime - this one is destined to be a classic in its own right).

In the second tale, A Warm Place, a lonely vampire is stirred from his musings by an unexpected visitor on a dark and stormy night (again, to reveal any more would spoil it - a perfect late night fireside read).

The third (and by far most gruesome of all the poems in this book) is entitled Just Desserts...and for good reason: This is the one they're talking about when they say, "Some content may be too intense for younger readers." Based upon a story every kid who didn't grow up in a cloister has probably heard, this one will stick with you, whether you want it to or not. It tells the tale of two brothers who are sent to the butcher's shop to pick up some meat for dinner. After spending the dinner money on candy instead, the brothers try to come up with a story to explain what happened to the money. On the way home, they pass the graveyard...where there just happens to be a freshly dug grave and...well, I'm guessing you know the rest. But that doesn't matter. It's the way this one is told (in gruesome detail) that makes it a great gory scare-fest...if you have the stomach for it, that is.

The final "epic" tale is an ode to the master of poetic terror himself, in which an adolescent Edgar Allen Poe narrates (and navigates) Poe's Labyrinth. While sitting on the dead-fall in his secret sanctuary down in the ravine one night Young Poe is disturbed from his reverie by the appearance of a kid not much younger than he. The kid's clothes are muddy and torn, his face bruised and scraped. In the distance (and closing fast) Poe can hear as many as three or four pursuers...older boys in hot pursuit of the battered kid staring up at Poe with desperate eyes. Poe makes a quick decision to protect the kid. Even though he himself is no physical match for the gang of boys headed towards the tall thorny walls of his sanctuary, Poe has the advantage: His innate guile and lightening quick reflexes. What follows is plainly and simply masterful storytelling at its very best. The fact that it is delivered in the form of a rhyming poem only heightens the suspense. The fact that this rhyming poem is written in the same rhythm and tempo as Poe's classic "The Raven" (not to mention that it contains exactly the same amount of stanzas as that classic poem) makes it an exceptional achievement, indeed. Absolutely not to be missed!

The fifth grouping, Two for the Road, contains only two poems, but they are both winners. The first, entitled Whitechapel, is a chillingly romantic ode to Jack the Ripper, while the second is a heartwarming (yes, you heard that right) love letter to the author's "clever girl" (to whom the book is dedicated) who hunts and kills on a nightly basis.

There are six major illustrations in this book (five by Andrew Johnson, who did the illustrations for Alice in Verse: The Lost Rhymes of Wonderland, and one by Gene Kelly, whose supplemental art is displayed in a section at the back of the book), and all of them are magnificent.

I stated this in my review of Holden's first book, and it warrants repeating here: J.T. Holden has brought the art of the rhyming poem back to legitimacy...and this exceptional eclectic collection stands as proof of that statement.

Aaron's Bookshelf

Stealing Faces
Michael Prescott
Amazon Digital Services, Ulverscroft
9780708943502 $29.91, $ 0.99 (Kindle)

I've been reading and reviewing a fair amount of books this year, all of them quite good, and most of them on Kindle. Of course, I vet them before I accept a review request by reading the first few pages and the synopsis. There's nothing worse than reviewing a book that bores you to tears or that just isn't your cup of tea. So I almost always love the titles I accept.

In the midst of all these excellent books, however, came STEALING FACES. This high suspense thriller literally knocked my socks off.

Mr. Prescott's writing style is what hooked me from the beginning. Smooth, tight, and fast flowing, the prose held me as spellbound as the suspense. Frankly, STEALING FACES is one of the best-written novels I've come across in a very long time, and I can't believe I haven't discovered Mr. Prescott's work to date.

Cray has been stalking and killing women for over a decade. Well-respected by day, savage hunter by night, the man's character is impeccably drawn using inner thoughts and dialog. The contrast between his day job (revealed partway through the book) and his secret, sick obsession, accentuates his evil.

Now, meet protagonist Elizabeth Palmer. Desperate, broke, resourceful, and lovely, this woman has fixated on finding and bringing Cray to justice since she escaped his clutches twelve years earlier.

From the first primal scream of Cray's victim to the kaleidoscope of terror-filled memories experienced by Elizabeth, Prescott doesn't let his readers relax, or even take a breath. Both characters, juxtaposed brilliantly against each other, drive the story forward to its very satisfying conclusion.

The plot is well recounted in many of the 100 plus reviews on Amazon, so let it suffice for me to say that many plot threads and themes are tightly woven into this book, with shock after shock and absolutely no letting down of the tension. I would actually recommend STEALING FACES as a primer for those interested in pursuing a career in writing thrillers.

Thank you, Mr. Prescott, for showing us all how it should be done, and for several nights of delicious, exhilarating thrills.

Highly recommended

Damage Control
Denise Hamilton
9780743296748 $17.82 hardcover; $12.99 Kindle

Damage Control is a complex psychological thriller set in current day Los Angeles, peopled with vibrant characters battling fears of survival and loss, tautly stretched loyalties, and well-camouflaged villains.

The story begins when Maggie Silver - a young PR rep who's struggling to support her cancer-stricken mother and keep a house with an upside-down mortgage - is assigned to insulate Senator Henry Paxton and his family from the press by spinning the sordid facts of his aide's murder and protecting the family's reputation. After all, the Senator has been tapped for a much higher office, and chances are he'll move upward quickly.

The problem is Maggie knew the Senator's family when she was a teenager and was the poor church mouse best friend of rich kid Anabelle Paxton. Years have passed, and in the time since they grew apart, neither has acknowledged or faced the memories of the one horrible night they shared on the beach.

Hamilton weaves some interesting themes throughout this complicated novel, including subtly erotic romance, power struggles and cover-ups, and dangerous flirtations with potential killers.

The author's style is breezy and smooth, and occasionally she sneaks in some lovely poetic passages, well worth savoring.

"At the cemetery, Anabelle threw the first spade of earth on the coffin. The wind shifted and ash fell softly and silently over us all, blanketing the dark soil and clinging greasily to our clothes, reminding us of where we'd come from and where we would all return."

(Note: the "ash" here refers to cinders from the wildfires burning nearby)

Here's another simultaneously lovely and unsettling segment:

"A voice whispered at the edge of my consciousness as the jets screeched and the tide sucked the pebbles. If only I could make out the words. But it was just out of reach, echoing with faint, faraway laughter, taunting me with secret knowledge.


What if she'd crossed the highway to the ocean, swimming out until she drowned? I pictured her body carried on the swell of the waves, arms spread like wings, orange crabs crawling in and out of empty eye sockets, long blond ropes of hair floating like seaweed, a million microscopic sea animals clinging to her curves, illuminating her in a phosphorescent shroud."

Most intriguing was the author's inclusion of scents into the story. Hamilton's descriptions of the perfumes Maggie loved and remembered was evocative and poetic, and her use of fragrance as a vital clue was brilliant. Her passages reminded me of my own passion for essential oils and their subtle, complex aromas capable of transporting one to places quite foreign and delicious. I discovered after reading the book that Denise Hamilton spends time with fragrance in a professional capacity (she blogs about perfume, for one thing) and this explained the interesting additions. See this passage:

"The previous Christmas, we'd stood at her mother's vanity table, dabbing Caron's Nuit de Noel behind our ears from the ravishing black Deco crystal flask. It was Christmas in a bottle, rich and exotic, all mulled wine and candied chestnuts, green pine with sandalwood and roses and a holiday goose roasting on the horizon. Anointed for midnight mass, we'd floated down the stairs in a cloud of scent and black velvet."

Although this reviewer is hardly a perfume aficionado, the descriptions of this fragrance brought to mind the Young Living essential oil blend "Christmas Spirit," a delightful amalgam of orange peel, cinnamon bark, and spruce leaf oil.

In DAMAGE CONTROL, surprises are deliciously revealed and sufficiently shocking. Denise Hamilton is a proficient writer who maintains perfect tension and keeps her readers turning the pages.

I recommend this tightly woven tale of deception and love.

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

AnanthaKrishnan's Bookshelf

The Stonecutter
Camilla Lackberg
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022-5299
9780007253975 4, $24.94,

There are some books that do the following to you: some ways into the book, you feel the need to hit the bed and you decide on a nice whole number as a page to signal the time to pursue your slumber needs. But it is at that page number that you are left in the middle of a riveting sub plot whose untangling you just have to get through. That urge leaves you making a treaty with the clock - so 1 AM becomes an official deadline. By the time the unraveling is done and you get a chance to peek a glance at your time keeper you realize that it is fifteen to two. It is then that you give in to the fact that 150 pages more and 3 AM is when you are most likely to inhabit dreamland and it is at that same precise moment that you finally understand that whole numbers, hands of clock and other such self-imposed points of discipline come crashing down in front of a wondrous book. But on the same hand when the lights go out and you finally close your eyes, only an avid book lover would have the slightest and inevitable sense of fatigue tremendously overwhelmed by an euphoric triumph at having completed the journey of words - Camilla Lackberg's Stone Cutter is all this and much more.

Of late, I have to admit that the Scandinavian breed of crime writers have been striking a chord when it comes to writing riveting and time-stopping page turners. Starting with Maj Sjwall and Per Wahloo's outstanding Martin Beck series to Steig Larsson and Jo Nesbo - all of them are churning out incredible crime fiction - Camilla Lackberg is slowly but surely on the ascent. The translation is top notch by Steven Murray who has done the honours for the likes of Mankell and Larsson.

The premise of the novel is fairly simple - an eight old year girl is found dead, apparently drowned. However, the subsequent post-mortem reveals murder - fresh water instead of salt water in her lungs - thus throwing investigator Patrik Hedstrom into what would be a maelstrom of events. Patrik, the proud father of a 2 month old daughter tries to strike a balance between the demanding investigation and Erica, his wife who is battling post natal depression. The fact that the dead girl's mother is a good friend of Erica further complicates matters. A deceptively straightforward case turns into a whirlpool of an investigation drawing a tapestry of characters into its vortex.

I have to admit straight out that this is not the best-of-the-breed crime fiction. Though the plot is intricate there is not a great emphasis on the actual intricacies of a criminal investigation, no great forensic science nor is there a looming threat of any homicidal villains or serial killers. Where Camilla hits home is the plethora of plots she manages to weave into the main course - you will see a vast array of characters peppered throughout. The laid back feel of Fjallbacka adds its own distinctive element accentuating the mysterious feel. The town serves as the perfect backdrop for the reader to witness social interactions, especially in the small everyone-knows-everyone town with a Swedish backdrop. Characters are fully developed and there seems to be a thorough thought process behind featuring such a plentitude of them. Undoubtedly the strong points of Camilla's works lie in the way she is able to portray how a small community faces a sinister crime amidst their close knit relationships.

Patrik has come a long way with his investigating prowess. Having read the first two novels featuring Patrik, he has indeed evolved into a veritable cop, so to say. The first two books, good reads in their own right, showcase Patrik as a tyro who is getting his hands dirty in what is possibly the biggest cases that the quaint old Fjallbacka would ever witness. In the StoneCutter, he is more at the helm driving things, more sure footed than ever before (He still makes some forgettable blunders and Discovery Channel is what provides the critical idea for the eventual breakthrough!!!). Another aspect of the book I enjoyed is the past being gently revealed in between chapters (and in italics, if I may add) finally converging into the present throwing light on all the events that unfolded (I also have to add that this structure is getting a little too repetitive!).

Camilla's magic potion is clear - an ominous crime set in an otherwise peaceful resort town absorbing a mass of characters into its dragnet. What makes it all work is the unquestionable credibility that she lends to each of the characters and the events that interlace them - every character etched is so believable that the reader cannot help but feel and react to everything that is happening - that in my opinion is what sums up a victory as a far as a book and its author are concerned.

The Stonecutter
Camilla Lackberg
77-85 Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, W6 8JB
9780007253975 4.49 GBP

There are some books that do the following to you: some ways into the book, you feel the need to hit the bed and you decide on a nice whole number as a page to signal the time to pursue your slumber needs. But it is at that page number that you are left in the middle of a riveting sub plot whose untangling you just have to get through. That urge leaves you making a treaty with the clock - so 1 AM becomes an official deadline. By the time the unraveling is done and you get a chance to peek a glance at your time keeper you realize that it is fifteen to two. It is then that you give in to the fact that 150 pages more and 3 AM is when you are most likely to inhabit dreamland and it is at that same precise moment that you finally understand that whole numbers, hands of clock and other such self-imposed points of discipline come crashing down in front of a wondrous book. But on the same hand when the lights go out and you finally close your eyes, only an avid book lover would have the slightest and inevitable sense of fatigue tremendously overwhelmed by an euphoric triumph at having completed the journey of words - Camilla Lackberg's Stone Cutter is all this and much more.

Of late, I have to admit that the Scandinavian breed of crime writers have been striking a chord when it comes to writing riveting and time-stopping page turners. Starting with Maj Sjwall and Per Wahloo's outstanding Martin Beck series to Steig Larsson and Jo Nesbo - all of them are churning out incredible crime fiction - Camilla Lackberg is slowly but surely on the ascent. The translation is top notch by Steven Murray who has done the honours for the likes of Mankell and Larsson.

The premise of the novel is fairly simple - an eight old year girl is found dead, apparently drowned. However, the subsequent post-mortem reveals murder - fresh water instead of salt water in her lungs - thus throwing investigator Patrik Hedstrom into what would be a maelstrom of events. Patrik, the proud father of a 2 month old daughter tries to strike a balance between the demanding investigation and Erica, his wife who is battling post natal depression. The fact that the dead girl's mother is a good friend of Erica further complicates matters. A deceptively straightforward case turns into a whirlpool of an investigation drawing a tapestry of characters into its vortex.

I have to admit straight out that this is not the best-of-the-breed crime fiction. Though the plot is intricate there is not a great emphasis on the actual intricacies of a criminal investigation, no great forensic science nor is there a looming threat of any homicidal villains or serial killers. Where Camilla hits home is the plethora of plots she manages to weave into the main course - you will see a vast array of characters peppered throughout. The laid back feel of Fjallbacka adds its own distinctive element accentuating the mysterious feel. The town serves as the perfect backdrop for the reader to witness social interactions, especially in the small everyone-knows-everyone town with a Swedish backdrop. Characters are fully developed and there seems to be a thorough thought process behind featuring such a plentitude of them. Undoubtedly the strong points of Camilla's works lie in the way she is able to portray how a small community faces a sinister crime amidst their close knit relationships.

Patrik has come a long way with his investigating prowess. Having read the first two novels featuring Patrik, he has indeed evolved into a veritable cop, so to say. The first two books, good reads in their own right, showcase Patrik as a tyro who is getting his hands dirty in what is possibly the biggest cases that the quaint old Fjallbacka would ever witness. In the StoneCutter, he is more at the helm driving things, more sure footed than ever before (He still makes some forgettable blunders and Discovery Channel is what provides the critical idea for the eventual breakthrough!!!). Another aspect of the book I enjoyed is the past being gently revealed in between chapters (and in italics, if I may add) finally converging into the present throwing light on all the events that unfolded (I also have to add that this structure is getting a little too repetitive!).

Camilla's magic potion is clear - an ominous crime set in an otherwise peaceful resort town absorbing a mass of characters into its dragnet. What makes it all work is the unquestionable credibility that she lends to each of the characters and the events that interlace them - every character etched is so believable that the reader cannot help but feel and react to everything that is happening - that in my opinion is what sums up a victory as a far as a book and its author are concerned.


Applegate's Bookshelf

Baltimore Blues
Laura Lippman
9780062070647 $9.99 Nook eBook: $7.99

Book Review: Baltimore Blues - A Mystery by Laura Lippman . . . Tess Monaghan, Laura Lippman's heroine, as the author describes her in Baltimore Blues, is out of work and out of unemployment benefits, although she has some freelance and part time work to keep ends at least close together if not meeting. Her favorite means of exercise and stress-relieving is rowing. Her commitment to that sport is blended throughout the tale.

Tess's town, Baltimore, is likely to set an unprecedented, record-breaking murder rate, and Tess will soon find herself right in the middle of it all. It begins when Rock, a friend and rowing companion, confesses his worry that his girlfriend, Ava, may be in some sort of serious trouble. He offers to pay Tess, a former reporter, to follow Ava for a few days to uncover her secrets, if they do exist. Tess isn't eager to do this, but the hourly rate he offers is irresistible to Tess in her present straightened circumstances. She signs on.

It turns out that her earlier experiences as a reporter hadn't prepared her for the challenges of surveillance, which first and foremost, include long periods of boredom, waiting for hours outside the law offices where Ava works as special assistant to one of the lawyers. When Ava comes out, finally, Tess follows her as she window shops and enters an occasional high end store.

Tess watches as Ava fingers some lovely lingerie on a table in one store, valuable jewelry in another. Suddenly she catches on. Ava is sliding some lingerie, some lovely pieces of jewelry into her briefcase, then leaving the store. Good God, Tess says to herself, almost unbelieving, the woman is shoplifting, she is a thief. Then Tess spots Ava entering a hotel, followed shortly after by her boss, an ugly but high-powered attorney.

The plot kicks into high gear with these discoveries. Tess confronts Ava with what she has learned; Ava laughs it off, claims her boss forces her into sex to save her job. When Tess tells Rock what she has learned, she is surprised at his reaction. He is sympathetic about Ava's actions, instead is angry at Abramowitz. He rushes off to settle things with him, despite the late hour.

We know from the prologue to the story that Abramowitz is found murdered in his office. We now learn that Rock, Tess's rowing partner and Ava's lover, is accused of the murder. The police have ample evidence of his guilt, and Tess must now carry through with her commitment to Rock and help his lawyer find the truth.

Lippman's Tess is an engaging heroine, a bright young woman who has had some hard knocks in her life, but who is optimistic, determined and loyal to a friend. She doesn't believe Rock is guilty - no, she knows he is not guilty and she's going to prove it! Whatever it takes. Proving Rock is not guilty involves:

More surveillance

Much interviewing of people connected in some way with the crime, including security at the office building

A former boyfriend/lover, an investigative reporter, who rekindles their affair, hoping to get information for his story.

Debunking crackpot theories set forth by various people with an interest in the case

A growing relationship with Rock

Many fascinating and relevant facts about Abramowitz, his past and present

Some suspicions about other members of the law firm

Serious danger to herself and others around her

I will leave the rest of the story for you to enjoy. Take my word for it; there is lots of action and twists and turns as Tess and the other characters play our their roles.

I'm quite sure you'll enjoy meeting Tess. I did. Baltimore Blues is listed on Barnes and Noble as #1 in a series of at least 10 Tess Monaghan novels. Tess wouldn't have lasted through as many books as she has if she weren't a likeable character. Lippman has created a young woman who is savvy and clever. She is strong when it's appropriate and can show emotions that are realistic to the situation.

I recommend reading Baltimore Blue. I'm going to start reading others in the series, in no particular order. I hope you will watch for reviews as time goes on.

The Abbey
Chris Culver
Chris Culver
2940012076793 $.99

The Abbey, a thriller by Chris Culver . . . Culver's character, Ashraf Rashid, generally called Ash, is an unusual individual, to say the least. He is a detective for the Indianapolis Police Department. He is a Muslim who prays on a schedule as do most followers of Islam. And he requires a drink or two, sometimes more - of alcohol, no less - now and then to keep him on an even keel. He cannot simply turn off his emotions at the end of a day. Ash's challenges in this novel are numerous and intense. The story opens when he has to undertake a part of his job that he dislikes and dreads - telling a victim's family of a death.

A tragic accident. Or murder? Culver sets his scene this way:

"Rana (Ash's sister) was in front of a gas stove large enough that it would have been at home in the kitchen of a Las Vegas strip hotel. The air smelled like garlic and yeast.

'Ash,' she said, 'I thought you and Hannah were going out tonight.' 'We were,' I said. 'I need you both to sit at the table. We need to talk.' Nassir and Rana did as I asked. In return, I broke their hearts as gently as I could." What Ash tells his sister and brother-in-law is the basis for the story.

Rachel, their adolescent daughter and Ash's beloved niece, is dead . . . Is this simply a tragic but accidental death, or is it homicide? Ash and his superiors disagree about the answer to that question. Ash, grieving his niece's death and angry at those in the department who won't act to resolve the issues surrounding her death, decides to go it alone. His relationships within the department have always been difficult, and he doesn't know whom he can trust - if anyone at all.

The Abbey: A former church now used as a front for evil . . . Ash's search for what he is now convinced is the truth takes him through ugly, dangerous parts of the city and its environs. The source of much of the criminal activity around the area is a former church building which has been converted into a club, called The Abbey, which attracts young people as well as mobsters, drug dealers and other varieties of miscreants.

The cast of characters, on both sides of the law, is vividly drawn. The mobsters fit the mental descriptions of mobsters that most readers will bring to the story. Ash's family relationships are warm and his love for his daughter plays a big part toward the end. The police department, however, as Culver tells the tale, is not one you would choose for your city. Culver's descriptions of police actions are explicit and frightening, and I suspect aren't too far from truth in the kinds of circumstances he presents.

I warn the reader that the body count is high and bloody . . . In addition, the manner of death of the various characters, be they good or evil, is often most unpleasant (if you will permit me the ultimate in euphemism) and the number of deaths grows from chapter to chapter. Early in the story, Ash attempts to gain information from Rachel's circle of friends, and it appears that by those actions he unwittingly causes even more harm, in several cases leading to awful deaths.

There is more than just murder and mayhem in The Abbey . . . Throughout this story, Culver blends bits and pieces of useful information about the daily life of an American family of Muslim extraction and their faith in a way that helps the reader understand how these elements of a person's life affect his actions. Why does a Muslim drink, when it goes against his faith, and what kinds of explanations does he make for his actions? You'll find Culver's take on these kinds of things.

It is, as I alluded to earlier, a story of family and neighborly relationships, and how the stresses of life in this time and place in America affect the relationships.

As thrillers go, this plot has murder, gore, treachery, evil-doing, and a good ending.

Don't let my criticisms below of the proof-reading keep you from delving into this story. For readers of well-plotted mysteries with a bit of philosophy included, this is worth your time.

But I have to ask: Where were the proof-readers? This book is rife with proof-reading and editorial mistakes. My understanding is that this is a self-published book, and more than once someone has suggested to me that self-publishers should have a little leeway. I don't agree. I think professionalism as a writer and publisher requires adherence to professional standards.

Murder in a Teacup
Nancy Curteman
Amazon Kindle edition
B005LW4GX4 Amazon ebook: $.99

Murder in a Teacup, by Nancy Curteman... Lysi Weston parks her rental car, takes a deep breath, and steps out into the near-triple-digit heat of Sage Deer, the home of her client's local operations. She's here to conduct a seminar about the costs - financial and legal - of sexual harassment in business. She's led many such seminars; it's a current issue facing many corporations.

Usually she enjoys the travel involved in her job. But today, things aren't going well. There is the awful heat; she is used to San Francisco's cool, foggy days and is unprepared for August in eastern Montana. She's a bit upset and definitely annoyed that she's been unable to reach her seminar partner, Cristin, despite leaving repeated messages on Cristin's cell phone. Then, as she steps into the client's offices, she finds that a poster announcing her seminar has been defaced in the kind of vulgar terms one would expect, given the subject matter. But Lysi's used to that kind of thing. There were always a couple of knuckle-draggers in every seminar. But that's part of the job she's signed on for, and she knows how to rap those dragging knuckles.

After doing the usual meet and greet that precedes a seminar and checking out the arrangements for the next day, she hurries to the motel where she and Cristin, her coworker, good friend and seminar partner, are registered. Now, Lysi's day goes from bad to unimaginable. She finds Cristin dead in her room. And it gets worse - Cristin has been murdered.

Lysi, a professional who gets the job done come what may - even come the murder of a dear friend - goes ahead with the seminar as planned, despite her grief and shock. And she knows it's gone well, except of course for the knuckle-draggers, one in particular, who mutter puerile jokes and wisecracks from the back of the room. But Lysi gets through it all, packs up her things and is ready to head back to San Francisco to bury her friend.

Once more, Lysi's plans go awry. Detective James Tennyson of the Sage Deer police department, who is investigating Cristin's murder, tells Lysi she must stay in Sage Deer until some things are clear. That's it, as far as Lysi is concerned. Detective Tennyson, attractive as he is, with dark good looks, part-Cheyenne, part-English, is just a small town cop who doesn't seem up to the job of solving this murder. So, she sets out to figure things out for herself, thinking that will get her away from the heat and back to San Francisco sooner.

Amateur detecting as practiced by Lysi is a recipe for disaster, and disaster ensues in many ways, big and small. In just the few days Lysi has been here, she has sensed tension between some of the players on the scene. Could one of them have killed Cristin? In Lysi's mind, everyone is a suspect, as she desperately tries to make sense out of this awful experience. Curteman provides a robust list of interesting characters that are clearly drawn for the reader:

The chief knuckle-dragger, who seems unable to understand what sexual harassment is, has a local girlfriend, and in the background, an ex-wife and daughter

The ambitious top dog at the local office of the corporation, whose good looks and charm hide what Lysi soon sees as a tendency to womanizing as she watches his treatment of his female employees

The waitress at the local cafe, who is at constant odds with a lifelong friend who is involved with the chief knuckle-dragger

A young female employee of the corporation, who offers help and friendship and seems to understand Lysi's grief; she quickly becomes Lysi's on-location confidant

Detective Tennyson's Cheyenne relatives and English mother, who displays an interest in Lysi as a potential mate for her son There are others, of course, who come in and out of the action, which develops quickly as Lysi continues her parallel investigation with that of Detective Tennyson. The two - Lysi and James - are attracted to one another, but antagonists also, particularly when she ignores James's repeated admonitions to cease and desist with what he considers her interference.

Curteman provides lots of interesting background about the culture and traditions of the Cheyennes. James introduces her to his Indian relatives and takes her to some native dances and ceremonies that she - as well as the reader - will find fascinating. The off-again on-again romantic relationship between Lysi and James weaves throughout the story.

As the investigation into Cristin's death continues, one suspect after another turns out to have secrets, some that could have led to murder. There are also some potentially murderous interpersonal relationships among the residents of Sage Deer, and the corporate staff. And, as the two-sided investigation into the murder comes close enough that the evil-doer feels threatened, Lysi finds herself at risk for her own life. The murderer may surprise the reader, although there were delicate hints here and there that I could have caught - but didn't.

Curteman's novel is enjoyable and, as a whodunit, keeps you guessing till the end. The descriptions of the town and its people ring true for anyone who has lived in a small, close-knit community with its tangled and often-surprising relationships. Particularly worth reading are the vignettes that display to good effect the traditions and culture of the Cheyenne people.

Murder in a Teacup is a good read. I would have chosen a different title, but titles are subject to considerable difference of opinion among writers and editors, advertising gurus and book-sellers. I suggest reading the book and deciding for yourself.

Marcia K. Applegate, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

So You Want to Go to College!
Richard LaDoyt Pinkerton
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163465, $15.95,

College gives you skills that may be necessary to succeed in tomorrow's world. "So You Want to Go to College!" is a guide from Richard LaDoyt Pinkerton as he advises readers in their pursuit of college, suggesting what one should know before choosing to dedicate years of their life towards college. With advice on paying for it, dealing with the reality of college education, and much more frank advice, "So You Want to Go to College!" is a wise and much recommended pick for anyone considering college for their future.

Not an Oxymoron
Garrett M. Carter
Privately Published
9781463660338, $14.99,

Gerunds can be hard to make fun. "Not an Oxymoron: Standards-Based Fun in the Classroom" is an activity guide for educators who want to encourage learning in their classroom through activities for much to do and encourage more hands on learning in the classroom. Cheap and easy to put in motion projects cover to cover, "Not an Oxymoron" is a useful and strong pick for any teacher who wants to enhance education on a budget.

Renewable Energy
Craig Shields
2Green Energy Alert
9780615388359, $14.95,

There is no silver bullet for the world's oil dependency. "Renewable Energy: Facts and Fantasies: The Tough Realities as Revealed in Interviews with 25 Subject Matter Experts" is an informative read as Craig Shields touches on the rough chronicle of the world's struggle to find a replacement for oil as our use of fossil fuels only increases with greater demand of the population. Touching on the reality, the pros and cons of each solution, "Renewable Energy" is a choice and much recommended read for those concerned about the future of energy.

Restoring the Mind of Black America
Eddie Taylor
African American Images
9781934155615, $15.95,

Thoughtfulness has been fading from the American landscape, especially for many Black Americans. "Restoring the Mind of Black America" is a call from Dr. Eddie Taylor analyzes the progress or lack there of for black America since the Civil Rights Movement and where the path is leading the people. With notes on psychology and the role of the church, "Restoring the Mind of Black America" is an excellent and much recommended read for community library black studies collections.

Principles of Abundance for the Cosmic Citizen
Dorothy I. Riddle
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449079253, $14.95,

What lies in our cosmic futures? "Principles of Abundance for the Cosmic Citizen: Enough for Us All" is a metaphysical discussion of spirituality in what we seek for in life, in our place in a massive universe that is not infinite, can more than provide for all of us in our search for spirituality. With a good dose of metaphysical science worked in, "Principles of Abundance for the Cosmic Citizen" offers more than enough for anyone to experience life's never ending progression through the universe.

(SOS) Stuck on Stupid
Tito Luv
Bookstand Publishing
Privately Published
9781589098459, $19.99,

Common sense sadly isn't that common. "(SOS) Stuck on Stupid: The Self Help Book: A Book of Common Sense!" is a blend of humor and self-help from Tito Luv as he ponders on the things we forget about making sense of it all and what we all know but so easily forget as we go through life. "(SOS) Stuck on Stupid" is worth considering for anyone who thinks they've lost the basics of life they should know.

Passion for Healthy Foods
Alexandra Zawieracz
Privately Published
9781463762858, $12.99,

From life comes life. "Passion for Healthy Foods" is an argument for healthier eating from Alexandra Zawieracz, as she states organic fruits and vegetables as well as organic meats should form the basis of our diets, as she provides many recipes for organic cooking and what organic diets can do for people. "Passion for Healthy Foods" is worth considering for anyone who is looking towards going organic for their life's diet.

Love All Men, Have Lunch with a Few
James B. Hylton
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432773830 $19.95

Retired secret service agent, and ordained minister James Barry Hylton presents Love All Men, Have Lunch with a Few: The Boys of Bunny's Restaurant: My Father's Story as a Japanese P.O.W., the true story of a Southern gentleman who joined the U.S. Navy, and experienced the greatest test of his character, as well as his ability to survive, in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Captured by the Japanese after Bataan and Corregidor fell, he endured for three and a half years as a prisoner of war. Transported on the notorious "Hell Ships", he labored as a slave in lead and zinc mines, and observed unspeakable cruelties. A spiritual outlook on life was part of what helped him through his horrific trial. Love All Men, Have Lunch with a Few is ultimately an uplifting story of courage and determination. Highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Eden Sterlington
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432761042, $17.95,

Happiness is attainable, one just needs to reach out and grab it. "SatisFillment" is a self-help and spiritual read as Eden Sterlington encourages readers on how to inspire themselves to look forward to everyday, learn to forgive, and be content with life, as well as attain greater health. "SatisFillment" has plenty to consider in how to take a more active role in one's own happiness, recommended.

Roland Allnach
Privately Published
9780984629701, $16.99,

The same thing that brings us a paradise can very easily bring us a wasteland. "Remnant" is a collection of three science fiction novellas from Roland Allnach as he presents unique tales of many futures and what we reach for to try to make sense of everything around our lives. With plenty to ponder and plenty to keep readers reading, "Remnant" is a fine assortment of thought, highly recommended.

Watching Grandma Circle the Drain
Allen Smith
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781463437930, $15.95,

This era is not a good era to be getting old. "Watching Grandma Circle the Drain" is a memoir of columns as Allen Smith provides his unique views on the world and everything else, showing his long series of published columns as he offers plenty of ideas on how to deal with a changing world. Fun and fast paced reading, "Watching Grandma Circle the Drain" is a strong pick for those seeking a good blend of humor and memoir.

Amnon Goldstein
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450294355, $23.95,

Through anything and anything, the duty to heal often wins out. "Screwed: The Path of a Healer" is a memoir from Amnon Goldstein as he reflects on is journey through many aspects of medicine and life and everything he has learned along the way, branching into other disciplines and going through Israel and South Africa, facing countless diseases and challenges. A memoir of a doctor who has seen a bit of everything, "Screwed" is a choice pick for anyone seeking a memoir of a medical doctor.

Remembering Private Lamb
Leon Cooper
Privately Published
9780979058455, $14.95,

There are many questions of history and of life that remain unanswered. "Remembering Private Lamb" is a collection of short fiction as Leon Cooper presents many questions, offers some intriguing answers and a conflict of nations that resonates through generations and will continue to resonate for generations to come. "Remembering Private Lamb" is an enticing read that leaves readers with more than enough to think about.

It's Your Decision
Ed Grizzle
411 Video Information
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462031863, $13.95,

Faith is a useful tool in dealing with the hectic and hard to manage endeavor of parenting. "It's Your Decision: Parenting the Way God Intended" is a guide for Christian parents who want to better deal with the pressures of parenting, planning their lives better, being there for the formative years, and helping children through the worst times of their young lives. "It's Your Decision" is a sage read with plenty of advice, highly recommended.

Voyage of Purpose
David Bennett & Cindy Griffith-Bennett
Findhorn Press
9781844095650, $15.95,

It's easy to be careless with something when you don't know its worth. "Voyage of Purpose: Spiritual Wisdom from Near-Death Back to Life" is an spiritual read from David Bennett as he recalls his brush with death that gave him a renewed appreciation for life after his carelessness almost cost him it all. Faced with many threats to his life, and with his wife, he has found that life is worth living and protecting. "Voyage of Purpose" is a fine and much recommended read for spirituality and memoir collections.

Meet Me at the Net
Ed Novak
Privately Published
9780615516844, $24.95,

There's nothing that beats fishing except maybe a good fishing story. "Meet Me at the Net: Stories from Steelhead Alley" is a collection of fishing stories from Ed Novak as he explores the stories of fishing throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York and the unique brand of game that one experiences in this region. For fishing enthusiasts, "Meet Me at the Net" is a fine and very much recommended read that shouldn't be overlooked.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

You Got Sick - Now What?
Tom Ingegno
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462023349, $9.95,

It's a terrifying fear in today's society- illness. "You Got Sick - Now What?: Seven Secrets From Oriental Medicine to Eliminate the Cold and Flu" is a suggestion of alternative medicine from Tom Ingegno as he advises readers on many things they can to do to battle their illness and overcome them quickly so they can get back to their lives. "You Got Sick - Now What?" is worth considering for those looking for other options to conquer their illness.

The Protein Myth
David Gerow Irving
9781846946738, $19.95,

A vegan lifestyle has numerous health benefits. "The Protein Myth: Significantly Reducing the Risk of Cancer, Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes While Saving the Animals and Building a Better World" is an argument from David Gerow Irving who believes humanity's exploitation of animals is harmful not only to them, but to humanity as well. Arguing the health concerns as well as the moral and ethical concerns, "The Protein Myth" is a thoughtful and much recommended read for those considering the vegan debate.

The Eternal Struggle
James Rourke
Open Books Press
9780984635924, $15.00,

Death is no barrier in the clash of good and evil. "The Eternal Struggle" is a riveting delve into a massive clash of good and evil, as James Rourke tell of two recently deceased individuals who find themselves fighting alongside Abraham Lincoln against Hitler and Stalin. With a bit of humor and plenty of adventure, "The Eternal Struggle" is quite the fun and much recommended read.

The Bridge of Deaths
M. C. V. Egan
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781463410414, $13.99,

What happens in the moments leading up to disaster? "The Bridge of Deaths" follows the story of a true life event of a plane crash shortly before World War II of an international meeting of many individuals. Compiling a work of intrigue based on those who lost their lives and what they may have been seeking, "The Bridge of Deaths' is an unusual yet much recommended read.

The Lament
Ercell H. Hoffman
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432743468, $9.95,

Love is what we all so often seek so much. "The Lament: Selected Poems and Prose" is a collection of writings from Ercell H. Hoffman as she speaks from the heart with a wide range of her poetic work with some essays worked in as well. "The Lament" is an excellent assortment, highly recommended. "About Miles": Miles flying high in the sky/riding the souls of thousands of others/making us feel good, good, good./Blow your horn, Miles./Blow till I forget my troubles./Blow 'till my souls soars with yours./Yeah, like that./Now ease me down just so.'/Yes, like that./Okay, baby, you're on your own now solo./Umm, so mellow, impetuous, outrageous./Frantic! Now softly, gently gentle, suave.

Batya Casper
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781617778285, $26.99,

Although only existing for half a century, Israel has formed a strong national identity. "Israela" is a collection of stories of three Israeli women, as they each proceed through their lives in ways that diverge from a common heritage. From leaving the heritage for love, to living for others, to wondering how you lost it all, "Israela" is a delve into the Israeli culture and how life can never be the same as yesterday.

Little Red Riding Hood
Shaunda Kennedy Wenger
Privately Published
9780615445977, $5.99,

There are more inhabitants to the forest than wolves. "Little Red Riding Hood: Into the Forest Again" is a twist to the traditional Red Riding Hood story from Shaunda Kennedy Wenger as she spins the tale to show that not everyone is out to do you harm. "Little Red Riding Hood" is worth considering for any parent who wants to share another wise moral from the Red Riding Hood story.

Hal Junior
Simon Haynes
Bowman Press
9781877034077, $5.99,

No one is too young for adventure. "Hal Junior" follows young Hal as he lives a life that never boring on a futuristic space station. With plenty of fun and adventure aimed at younger readers who look to the sky and wonder what's out there and what's in our future, "Hal Junior" is from the author of the Hal Spacejock series, sure to entertain and delight any fan.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

The Children of St. Minerva
Genna Bader
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781453586464, $29.99,

What you may have been looking for may not be what you wanted. "The Children of St. Minerva" follows many women as they look for what they want out of life. Finding lost family, finding lost love, Lauren and Minnie face many twists and turns on their road to something resembling romance, and it is brutally interrupted by the stench of murder. To save family, to save lives, two women must risk anything and everything. "The Children of St. Minerva" is a fine and much recommended pick for thriller fans.

Kiss Her, Kill Her
Lisa Dewar
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450259989, $16.95,

There may be the smallest glint of humanity in the most vile of demons. "Kiss Her, Kill Her" is a thriller following serial killer Tarryn Cooper Love as he seeks to collect another trophy. But a new woman entering his sights makes him think twice, and may lead him to something resembling redemption yet, if he can ever conquer the lure of the kill. "Kiss Her, Kill Her" is an unusual yet highly intriguing read, worth considering for thriller fans.

An Inconvenient Amish Zombie
Tom Smucker
Privately Published
9781461177746, $16.00,

The apocalypse and the tangled web that lies under it leaves many of us trying to make heads or tales of it. "An Inconvenient Amish Zombie: Left Behind the DaVinci Diet Code Truth" is a blend of the many thrillers and threats to our livelihood as Tom Smucker composes a unique and fun read that romps over Paris and the American Mid-West. Touching on everything and anything on pop culture intrigue and fear, "An Inconvenient Amish Zombie" may very well be worth considering for humor readers.

Port City Black and White
Gerry Boyle
Down East
9780892729579, $24.95,

A drive for justice can set on quite strongly. "Port City Black and White" follows Brandon Blake as he is hired by the Portland Police Department. Becoming enthralled in a case where a druggie mother loses track of her baby, Brandon is at first furious at the mother but more driven by the disappearance of the child. As he personal life tries to call him back from his mission, his drive cannot be underestimated. "Port City Black and White" is a riveting thriller set in a seedy town, highly recommended.

Out Time - Another Bond
Eric Hughes
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456824044, $19.99,

Interracial relationships have gained acceptance, but not long ago it would have had people up in arms. "Out Time- Another Bond" is a novel from Eric Hughes as he explores interracial relationships in the past and their advancements to the modern day, as he crafts a story of romance and reflections on race relations. "Out Time" is a thoughtful and choice read, very much recommended.

Pictures of the Past
Deby Eisenberg
Privately Published
9780615483122, $14.99,

With victory come spoils, a fancy term for theft. "Pictures of the Past" is a thriller spinning around World War II as a painting is accused of being stolen during the Nazi Occupation of Paris. Following a romance surrounding the painting, Deby Eisenberg crafts a unique and thoughtful story of the time. "Pictures of the Past" is a fine and much recommended read for historical fiction collections.

Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge
Kenneth Newman
Privately Published
9780557503858, $17.95,

The bond of a pet is more than property. "Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge" is a novel from Kenneth Newman as he paints a story of love and life of pets and their owners, using his experience as a doctor of veterinary medicine, to illustrate such a link and the power of such a bond. A strong and powerful read for pet owners, "Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge" is a strongly recommended read, not to be missed.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

A Hysterical Site
Jackie Griffey
Amazon Digital Services
B005FM7XGC $3.99 Ebook

Jeweler Edwin Wildermuse's body is found in an alley of New York City, missing one hand and the courier case carrying expensive jewelry to which it had been handcuffed. ID on the body leads Detective Eric O'Shaughnessy to contact Sheriff Cas Larkin of Maryvale, Tennessee, searching for relatives of Edwin. Cas locates Edwin's cousins, Bedrov Dedd and Svetlana Wildermuse, living in a large, rundown house on the outskirts of town. The cousins tell Cas that Edwin had a nephew in New York City, master chef Edgar Wildermuse. Edgar is devastated by the news and surprised to learn he stands to inherit millions from his uncle. Edgar wants to make sure Bedrov and Svetlana are taken care of so he and his partner visit Maryvale and hire a contractor to begin renovating the old place, unaware the two criminals who murdered his uncle are in the area searching for a valuable set of jewelry they suspect Edwin buried shortly before his death.

Reading the Maryvale series is as comforting as visiting well-loved family and friends. The town of Maryvale is enchanting, it's characters warm and likable. Griffey adds a touch of the paranormal to this latest installment, enhancing the story even more, and introduces new characters who will hopefully appear in future books. A charming cozy readers, mystery and otherwise, will enjoy.

Hot Flash
Kathy Carmichael
Medallion Press
B004IK8TN8 $4.99 Ebook

Sous chef Jill Morgan Storm, hoping to discover the secret of successful relationships, gets the bright idea to send out a "Marriage Satisfaction Survey" to couples who have been together for a good while. Jill's reeling from being dumped by her most recent lover, a college professor now dating one of his young students who won't let loose of Jill's favorite skillet. If that isn't bad enough, Jill's ready to hit panic mode. Her son will be entering college soon, and since his grades won't qualify for a scholarship, she has to come up with the tuition money. Jill's ex-husband, who is now a woman, isn't much help and Jill's well-to-do father is in prison, so Jill decides she needs a man with financial means. But the men she meets and dates seem to have more problems than Jill, who's beginning to suffer menopausal symptoms. One constant irritant: her son's former teacher, hanging around in the guise of helping her son, but Jill thinks it's only to needle her about her mothering skills. Jill determinedly forges ahead with her dating plans, unaware the answer to her problems has been there all along.

Kathy Carmichael offers her reader a rollicking good romp with this romantic comedy. Jill's a likable character, a woman who loves her son and wants the best for him but can't seem to find a way to make that happen. The men she meets and dates are quirky and the scenarios surrounding them laugh-out-loud funny.

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
9780439023528 $8.99 paperback; $4.69 Ebook

In a futuristic world, the United States, now called Panem, is divided into 12 districts. At one point, there was one more, but the 13th district was destroyed to quash a rebellion. Each year, the government, in order to remind the 12 remaining districts of the brutality of the rebellion and as a means of controlling its citizenry, holds the Hunger Games, in which a male and female representative from each district is chosen and subsequently must fight to the death in an arena the government has devised. The Games are televised and it is mandated that each citizen must watch; another maneuver to thwart rebellion and to instill compliance. The winner will live a life of luxury for the rest of their lives; the only caveat, they must mentor subsequent competitors from their district. 16-year-old Katniss lives in District 12, known as the mining district and one of the poorest. Since her father's death, Katniss has been sole provider for her family and is an expert hunter. When her sister is chosen for the Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. The male chosen is Peeta, the baker's son, who once saved Katniss and her family from starvation. Although Katniss does not want to go into the Games owing anyone, she cannot deny Peeta's charitable nature. During the opening ceremonies, Peeta declares his unrequited love for Katniss, endearing them to viewers. Now Katniss is indebted to him more, because as the favored couple, they will receive gifts to help them during the Games. If it comes to a fight between Katniss and Peeta, will she be able to kill the young man to whom she owes so much?

Collins depicts a cruel world in which the government controls every aspect of its citizens' lives and freedom seems unattainable. The author excels at revealing the complexities of the characters, including tertiary ones. Although Katniss seems a cold, calculating young woman, deep down, she cares for others yet is wary of acknowledging these feelings, even to herself. Peeta is personable, a warm, gentle young man who does everything he can to protect Katniss, even when it doesn't appear he is doing so. When he declares his love for Katniss, she isn't sure if this is true or if this is a ruse to gain more favor for himself. The Games are brutal and vividly depicted. The plot is excellent and moves along at a fast pace. Readers will root for Katniss and Peeta in the first book of this galvanizing trilogy.

Tempest in the Tea Leaves
Kari Lee Townsend
Berkley Prime Crime
9780425242759 $7.99

Sylvia "Sunny" Meadows has always felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round whole in her parents' hoity-toity world in New York City. At 29, Sunny packs her worldly goods into her Volkswagen bug and heads for Divinity, New York where she's purchased an old Victorian house and plans to open up a fortune-telling business. Her first client is the town librarian and Sunny is troubled when the tea leaves show the woman's life is in danger. After the librarian leaves, Sunny deems it best to tell the police, but by then, it's too late; the woman's already dead. And the investigating officer, Detective Mitch Stone, suspects Sunny's the culprit. Although there's major chemistry between them, the two get off to a rocky start which becomes even more treacherous when the mayor decides he wants Sunny to team up with Detective Stone to help solve the murder. Sunny's parents arrive to help clear their daughter's name and Sunny's frantic to find the murderer while the murderer is busy planting evidence against her.

This cozy mystery is charming and fun, although one distraction is the protagonist's demeanor. Although she's 29 years of age, she seems much younger, doing such things as sticking out her tongue at people and calling the detective names such as "Mr. Grumpy Pants". Her relationship with her parents is more along the lines of a rebellious teenager than a grown woman. Townsend adds a touch of the paranormal with a mysterious cat named Morty who hangs around Sunny's house, inexplicably appearing and disappearing, and scaring visitors. A bit implausible to this reader was the mayor's decision to partner not only a newcomer to town, but a suspect in the murder, with the detective investigating said murder. All in all, an engaging read with certain aspects readers might find distracting or may choose to ignore.

Louise Caiola
L&L Dreamspell
9781603183208 $13.95 paperback/$4.99 Ebook

Stricken with a terminal disease, 16-year-old Chessie Madrid fights for her life while keeping her illness a secret between herself and her grandmother, with whom she lives. Chessie pretends to be well around her friends and is a bit bemused that every fortune cookie she opens always seem to mock her with the proverb she will live a long and happy life. In a moment of despair, Chessie makes a wish list hoping for a brother or sister, for her best friend's brother Johnny to fall in love with her, and for her father to suffer for abandoning her as a child. When an unknown half-sister shows up, Chessie's delighted, but when her father seeks a way into her life, she's angry and bitter. And when Johnny turns an interested eye her way, she's happy for the attention but fearful it's for the wrong reason. As Chessie's disease progresses and her wishes are fulfilled, her life takes a different direction and she begins to wonder if her wish list was such a good idea after all.

This heartwarming coming-of-age story will bring tears and smiles as the reader becomes vested in Chessie and her fight to live while keeping her chin up and her secret close. Chessie is intriguing, a young woman with a strong spirit who accepts her life may be cut short but intends to live it to its fullest without infringing on others. Chessie's lingering grief over her mother's death and her struggle with her feelings over her father as he tries to make amends for his absence over the years, as well as the way she deals with her illness, are powerfully portrayed and well-told. The plot is exceptional and so well-written this reviewer was reluctant to put the book aside. Although couched as a book for young adults, older readers will be just as absorbed by Chessie's story.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

Sue Laing
Dog Ear Publishing
9781608449262 $14.99

Carrying a theme throughout a book, which is pleasant, is difficult when the main story line is about murder and mayhem. Sue Laing was able to do this with admirable skill when she wrote "Beth," the story of a young woman's disappearance that led to a trail of dead bodies who were her ex-husbands. During this murder string, tugging us in a different direction is the main character who wants to go fly-fishing in Colorado!

The mystery takes place in several nearby locales, Kingman and Bullhead City, Arizona; Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nevada; and Blythe, California. With a working knowledge of each of these areas, Michael Pearce, a recently retired, homicide detective from the

Los Angeles Police Department starts the search for his Kingman resident sister to help find the missing daughter of her friends. Beth has been gone a short while and her parents believe the police made a mistake when they found her car in the Colorado River with one of her dead children inside.

As Michael begins to read a journal given to him by Beth's parents, he too suspects that she is alive. Mattie, his sister, aids him in his quest by introducing him to a private detective she had engaged to locate Beth.

Many twists and turns throughout the desert take the team of Michael and Tim, the detective, back and forth from Las Vegas to Blythe and Kingman. For several days in a row, they discover the bodies of Beth's ex-husbands with their heads blown away by hollow point bullets, which made identification a key issue in their case.

Tim and Mattie strike up a relationship and one evening while they were leaving a restaurant after dinner, Mattie is shot! This time, it is not a fatal injury, but she has to take bed rest in Las Vegas before returning to Kingman. Easily persuaded, the whole entourage of Mattie, Michael, Tim, housekeepers for Mattie and Tim, and a bodyguard all take up residence in Tim's spacious house.

As Mattie recovers, Tim and Michael carry on their investigation of what happened to Beth. They travel to Blythe, interview the parents of one of Beth's ex-husbands, and discover there was no love lost when he died. He was a drug addict and they blamed this on Beth who they felt was a bad person.

One of the outstanding features of this book is the manner in which Sue Laing is able to set the stage for your suspicions. As a reader, you have been thinking all along that the perpetrator is one person and then she pulls the rug from under you. No, it was not that person at all! There are many characters introduced, but their place fits nicely.

Throughout the book, Michael keeps hoping and wishing to be fly-fishing. After a robust conclusion, he finally is in a trout stream and meets with a nice surprise.

This book is highly recommended and is a 5 star performance.

America's Great Railroad Stations
Roger Straus III, with Ed Breslin, Hugh Van Dusen
Viking Studio
A member of Penguin Group
9780670023110 $40.00

Traveling in the bygone era of railroads was a luxury for many. There are 250 full color photographs of these magnificent train stations in the book "America's Great Railroad Stations" by Roger Straus III, with Ed Breslin, and Hugh Van Dusen.

Roger Straus is an award-winning photographer joined by Ed Breslin and Hugh Van Dusen as they tell the story of how much of the life in our country's towns and cities revolved around these landmark buildings.

Our culture has changed in the way we travel today by train, airplane, automobiles, and Am Track. There was a mystique in train travel of yore, when many of the travelers would dress up for an excursion to the major cities. Today, with safety concerns about terroristic threats, we fore go the simple pleasures in deference to just getting there in the easiest way possible.

The photographs are so great in this over-sized book that display on your coffee table is where it should be. This is a learning experience for the children who will be able to travel from Washington DC to Los Angeles Union Station and visit the many stops in between without leaving the comfort of your living room.

Each of the resplendent railroad stations are architectural marvels with vast sweeping arches and columns. Carefully designed decorations maintain their luster of yesteryear. Each station is a museum and many visit them just to reminisce about the past.

This book is one that the E-Books of today cannot display the grandeur of the photography. There are some books read on 'Kindle', which do not diminish their impact, but this is not one of them. The cost is a bit more than the average book sold as a hardcover today. However, this is one of those special books which would warrant that expense, as you would be proud to give it as a special holiday gift to the railroad aficionado.

Grand Central Station in New York City has a two-page spread demonstrating the vastness of that famous landmark. Many of the smaller depots restored by local historical societies depict their charm and grace with a fresh clean face. There are black and white photos resurrected from archives to show the steam engines that visited these railroad terminals.

Some of the stations display railroad cars so they lend more of an atmosphere of their being museums. The text by Ed Breslin and Hugh Van Dusen enhances the experience so you can get a fine taste of what it was like in the old days and still capture the present so you do not feel too dated.

This is a five star book, which deserves a prominent place in your home!

Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy
Advice from Rock's Ultimate Survivor
Ozzy Osbourne with Chris Ayres
Grand Central Publishing
9781455503339 $26.99

An off-the-wall advice book that contains so many disclaimers and strong admonitions against following recommendations by Dr. Ozzy Osbourne as he tells others how to solve their problems (the doctor part is tongue in cheek).

Straight out comedy is never better in this question and answer format where the Prince of Darkness boldly proclaims that he has 'been there and done that' with regard to all the drugs and other harmful things one consumes in a lifetime. Ozzy has sold over a hundred million records both with Black Sabbath and as a Grammy Award-winning solo artist.

Ozzy's tell all book discloses his change in habits with regard to drugs, alcohol, and eating. It is hard to believe, but he says that he has even changed his nutritional eating habits to a more healthy style. Eating in a complete vegan way is not what he professes, but from the way he gives advice he discloses he is moving in that direction.

He writes with very strong language that makes this an adult book, but with some real candid glimpses into what he has done in the past and how he has changed. Reference to In-N-Out Burger and his getting their "100 x 100" burger is hilarious. Can you imagine 100 hamburger patties plus 100 slices of cheese for $100.00?

Some of the things that he advocates make sense in an offhand way, but when it comes to quitting smoking, he is supportive because it affects his singing.

Ozzy writes for Rolling Stone and in this book is included some of the best material from his column. He also has given kudos to his wife Sharon for putting him on the straight and narrow path to a better health style. Not only does he say it, but the doctors who put him through some rigorous testing also came to the conclusion as to why he was still alive and that comes right back to Sharon Osbourne!

This book does contain a lot of bad advice, but in the vernacular of today's children, bad is good. In a manner reminiscent of some old-fashioned Soothe Sayers, Ozzy candidly says to his audience, stay away from the drugs! Stay away from the alcohol! Stay away from the things that will harm you!

Dr. Ozzy's advice is straight from Rock's Ultimate Survivor and his answers to celebrities' medical questions, charts and sidebars, and such. Part humor, part memoir, and part bad advice are the best way to put this book into perspective as 100% pure Ozzy.

This book carries a fun read recommendation for those who have been able to cast aside their bad habits and replace them with a more wholesome life. A four star book.

Best Music Writing 2011
Alex Ross, Guest Editor and Daphne Carr, Series Editor
Da Capo Press
9780306819636 $16.00

"Best Music Writing 2011" is the twelfth in an acclaimed series of annual collections which celebrates the best writing on every style of music from rock to hop with all other long hair genres included. Short stories, which have appeared in various magazines and elsewhere, combine, giving insight into some of the backgrounds of artists who are still in the limelight, even though they may have left this earth.

Alex Ross, guest editor, is a music critic for the "New Yorker" and is the author of a best seller entitled "The Rest Is Noise." Daphne Carr, series editor, has worked on this project for six volumes. They have both combined to bring some of the most interesting stories written by the top writers in the music industry for the 2011 edition.

Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Duke Ellington, and even Beethoven emerge together in this delightful anthology. Readers who are not very familiar with Duke Ellington and the music he wrote and conducted will learn the legacy he left behind. When I asked several of my students what they knew of Duke, I was surprised how little this current generation knew about jazz greats of the past. It is easy to catch-up with this book, but at the same time become more aware of contemporary artists.

Educational cutbacks have created voids in music, art, and food appreciation; these short stories are one way in which to fill that space. There is an interesting article, which delves into one musician's specialty. Lauren Wilcox Puchowski's article "Notes from a Wedding" describes Kenney Holmes in a riveting story of how he developed a small wedding musical group that played society weddings in the Washington, D. C. area. His upbringing and development as leader are fascinating. Current financial trends have affected his bookings so that even the societal weddings are turning to other entertainment and instead of being booked every weekend, his group plays once a month.

Today's music performers influence our lives by bringing us enjoyment, music appreciation, and when combined with a bird's eye view what makes them tick, we can really appreciate how valuable this series of books is to our culture. Normally, a collection of short vignettes or stories will leave us wanting more, but in this case, each story is fully complete. Well done, and highly recommended is this 5 Star book.

The Devil's Puzzle: A Someday Quilts Mystery
Clare O'Donohue
Plume Books
9780452297371 $14.00

Halloween brings out the creepy, spooky, and haunting books by publishers at this time of year.

Someday Quilts Mystery series is the fourth novel written by Clare O'Donohue. Her locale for this latest mystery novel; "The Devil's Puzzle" is Archer's Rest; a fictitious New England town founded 350 years ago. Nell Fitzgerald and her entourage are at it again!

This time the town's people are planning a 4th of July anniversary celebration honoring founding father John Archer. Legend has it that he and his followers came to this peaceful place on the Hudson River to practice witchcraft according to these legendary stories.

Tourism needed a boost for this small town's economy. The celebration would include a parade, carnival, a quilting show, fireworks, and publicity was necessary. Archer's Rest may have gotten exactly what they wished for.

In an eerie turn of events, a skeleton was unearthed in Nell Fitzgerald's grandmother Eleanor's backyard as her suitor prepared the yard for new rose bushes. News got out and Nell and Eleanor became the talk of the town. Eleanor became the prime suspect in the murder of an unknown man who may have once lived in her Victorian home in the 1960's. But who was he? Why would such a young man be murdered and placed in a shallow grave without a proper burial? Many theories discussed among the people did not produce any concrete evidence. It appeared Eleanor knew something about this man, but kept very closed-mouthed and revealed little. Archer's Rest was unraveling with an abundance of suspicions and rumors. Secrets among several people created numerous suspects.

Nell, known as the amateur detective and her boyfriend Jesse, who happens to be the Chief of Police, collaborate in order to solve the mystery. When many of the town's people get involved, strange events start to occur - the defacing of a headstone in the cemetery with red paint, a series of unusual break-ins, and threats made to prominent people.

What makes this book outstanding is the main theme of quilters and how they analyze events at 'Someday Quilts', the store owned by Eleanor, who they believed was innocent of any wrongdoing. Quilters' small town gossip traveled quickly to shop owners and other townspeople who gather in coffee clutches at 'Jitters'. Secrets were slowly revealed along the way making this mystery haunting with fears that witchcraft may have returned to Archer's Rest!

O'Donohue has created some very amusing characters who add a whole lot of interest, to name a few of them, there is disheartened Oliver, Eleanor's love interest who wanted to marry her, but his proposal was put on hold because of the dead man found in her backyard. Glad, the town historian was not liked by the people. Folks found her to be pushy, snoopy, and they did not like the fact that she thought she owned the town. Or, was she just misunderstood? Then there was Glee, Glad's sister, who was called the "crazy lady", who never left her house, or did she?

Curious mystery fans and people who love quilting will be delightfully transported to this unusual place to discover a "Who Done It?" with a shocker ending. A Halloween, up all night, creepy, small town spook! This is a 5 - star treat!

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

Wicked Prey
John Sandford
Published By G. P. Putnam's Sons
A Division of the Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155673 $27.95

I purposely selected another one of John Sandford novels to read, since it was part of his on-going Prey Series. I enjoy his writing style, and interesting narrative involving Lucas Davenport. His stories delve into the characters of both sides in his fast pace, but entertaining dialogue and plotting. Sandford has created this criminal universe, and his signature Prey Series proves to be worth the time reading. I relish a good tale of this once tough no nonsense detective and now he is a state agent of criminal apprehension.

Lucas Davenport has to juggle some elements of criminal, which is creating tension in St. Paul Minneapolis. His daughter Letty is involved with her job of newscasting and bumping into an old adversary named Randy Whitcomb wounded by Lucas. He is now in a wheelchair. He is planning to target his frustration towards Letty. In the meantime, a band of professional stick-up men are working at obtaining easy political money in suitcase in hotels from a convention. They have worked at the weaknesses of the security system while learning the actual location of the money. Their past of killing cops, and others here from these individuals puts additional pressure on pursuit of ending these crime sprees. Davenport is using a group of police force including secret service who want to protect the current Republican political scene. Some of the most powerful politicians are to be in the area, and the stakes are as high as they can be. In another problem an individual Justice Shafer is roaming the political scene with a fifty- caliber sniper rifle. This individual who has a mental issue background, which adds to the on-going tension for the secret service. This makes their job potentially difficult, when their main purpose is trying to protect the powerful politicians.

John Sandford is the author of twenty-one Prey Series crime novels, along with keeping Virgil Flowers busy in his own six crime novels. He has written four earlier with the Kidd Series and two stand alone novels. His brilliant trademark is suspense, and some of the best characters in this genre' of crime fiction.

Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Press
A Division of Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385341974 $26.00

I discovered this author quite by accident, among assortment of adult fiction at a library book fun raiser. It proved to be a good way to discover someone new in the genre' mystery thriller. I found this story an interesting one displaying emotional and unpredictable guesses as to whom is betraying by whom in finding the truth for what person's hidden agenda. The end result becomes a devastating exposure with life hanging in the balance. I enjoyed the read and my selection although not planned became no mistake in my being lucky with this find.

Grant County police officer Lena Adams is investigating the death of a young waitress woman found in Lake Grant. A local suspect is later found dead in the middle of after a horrific mysterious suicide in the jail cell. An observation by a local resident Dr. Sara Linton who was the part time medical examiner three years ago in Grant County and was visiting for four days from her job in Atlanta. She was the chief pediatric attending in the Grady Hospital emergency room. She was asked to check on the suspect accused of murdering the young waitress and his death was discovered by careless protocol slipup by the police. Sara learned that one and the same police officer messed up on her husband who was the former police chief.

Sara Linton makes a call and Special Agent Will Trent is sent to investigate the police, along with the procedures of the investigation of the young woman waitress. Also some other hidden secrets that someone is hiding to protect certain facts for a hidden agenda. He quickly learns why Sara is suspicious of the previous death of her deceased husband, Chief Tolliver. It doesn't explain some of the protective walling coming from the town's police use to hinder the investigation of himself. Any crossing of this thin blue line seems to be murderous, if anyone ever crosses it. Trent doesn't waver and he keeps on the pressure to get at the truth. In the investigating process, another death occurs to maybe hide secrets. This allows more barriers which leads to a deadly out-comes for all those pursuing. Anybody getting close to learn the truth might make one dead.

Karin Slaughter is now the author of eleven novels in three of her separate defined series. Her latest book is entitled Fallen. I will seek her latest novel, and go back to get the earlier ones. A wise choice based on my expectations after Broken.

Daniel Allen

Dollycas' Bookshelf

Children of Paranoia
Trevor Shane
Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 USA
9780525952374 $25.95

All wars have rules!

1. No killing innocent bystanders.

2. No killing anyone under the age of eighteen.

3. Have a child before you are eighteen, the child must be turned over to the other side.


Children are indoctrinated at the age of 16 and begin their war training. On their eighteenth birthday they become the hunters and the hunted in the war of "us" vs. "them".

The war has gone on for generations, fought all over the world, with two distinct sides "good" and "evil". The terms vary based on which side you are on. Reasons for the war change depending on who you ask. Every killing is done in way to look random or like an accident right out in the field of innocents. Plus the "us" and the "them" are not even clearly identified by those fighting the war. There is one rule everyone knows, Paranoia will keep you alive.

When I finished this book, I said "Wow" and then sat back to contemplate the story I had just read. The news is filled daily with crime, scandal, and war. Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, gang wars, drug wars, political wars, but to think a war like the one described in this book never entered my mind. Many wars are entered into without exit strategies or based on unclear information but the fact that this war has divided two factions without even a clear inkling WHY? scares me more than any of the other wars.

This book takes us with Joe on his journey in this war. It is definitely an intense suspense thriller that at times will have you on the edge of your seat, but it is so much more than that. Children of Paranoia is a book that will make you stop and think.

What really knocked me for a loop is that this is Trevor Shane's first novel. He has created the character of Joe with so many layers, it is almost like peeling an onion and there is still more. He also surrounds Joe with other wonderful characters that the reader becomes invested in with a few short sentences. Joe's mother is just one of those characters, her actions were both shocking and understandable.

This story is heart stopping one moment and tear jerking in another. Shane has created a masterpiece you will pick up and not put down until the final word and then you will say "Wow" and sit back contemplate this story and then want to tell your friends all about it. Just like I did!!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Dutton, a division of The Penguin Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Recipes To Die For: A Victoria Square Cookbook
Lorraine Bartlett
Polaris Press
P.O. Box 230 North Greece, NY 14515-0230
9781466293687 $5.99

We were introduced to Katie in Lorraine's first book in the Victoria Square series A Crafty Killing. Artisans Alley is the cornerstone of Victoria Square. It is an old applesauce warehouse renovated into a collection of booths for artists and craft dealers to sell their wares. Katie's original dream was to open a Bed & Breakfast but plans changed when her husband died in a car accident and he already owned part of the Alley. Shortly thereafter, his partner is killed and Katie found herself sole owner of Artisan's Alley, which turns into a dangerous job until the killer is tracked down.

Since setting things in order at the alley Katie realized that it was her husband who was the real cook in the family. She has been sustaining herself on just sandwiches for far too long. Katie has now gone back to preparing the food she grew up with, the food her Aunt Lizzie taught her to make. As she becomes more than just an "adequate cook" she has generously decided to share her favorite recipes and those from some of her friends on Victoria Square with all of us in this wonderful cookbook.

Dollycas's Thoughts
This is an excellent little cookbook. My husband and I both come from a long line of excellent cooks. My mom even owned a small home town cafe, as did her mom. My husband has always been the main chef in our house but even more so since my accident. I couldn't wait to share this cookbook with him. He had it full of post-it markers in minutes! "This green bean recipe sounds like something by grandma used to make!" "This pie is perfect for Thanksgiving!" The comments went on and on. This book is already a family favorite.

Today there are so many fiction books that include recipes for food mentioned in the stories. Cozy mysteries are famous for this. The problem with that is that right after you finish the book you have to make sure you copy down any recipes you might like to try because you know when you are ready to bake it you won't remember which book that recipe was in. If you are like me and share your books, if you don't write the recipe down, it goes right out the door with the book. Thankfully a lot of authors put the recipes on their websites or you can go to Mystery Lovers Kitchen for some of the recipes found in the books.

I love this new idea of companion cookbooks and I hope the trend continues. Recipes To Die For: A Victoria Square Cookbook has found a permanent home in my kitchen with recipes like Sweet and Sour Green Beans, Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, Aunt Lizzie's Cream Scones and drinks perfect for Halloween like the Black Widow or Corpse Reviver. There are fun little anecdotes before each recipe. This is truly a one-of-kind cookbook that should be in your kitchen as well.

The next book in the Victoria Square series, The Walled Flower, comes out February 7, 2012, but is available to pre-order today.

The Chocolate Castle Clue
JoAnna Carl
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 USA
9780451234742 $22.95

This series features Lee McKinney Woodyard, her Aunt Nettie, and TenHuis Chocolade. Lee manages the store for Nettie.

In this edition Lee finds an old trophy while cleaning out their storage garage. She can't wait to share it with her Aunt. She found it at the perfect time since Nettie was hosting a reunion for her old high school singing group, The Pier-O-Ettes, the group that won the trophy.

But the trophy didn't get the reaction Lee had expected. It seems to have brought back some terrible memories. The trophy was won at the old Castle Ballroom on the very same night that the ballroom owner was found shot to death. It was ruled a suicide but his wife didn't believe that and neither did several other people. There were always questions about what really happened that night. The reunion and the trophy brought the whole event back to the forefront. Just how much does Aunt Nettie know? Before Lee can even wrap her head around what may have happened in the past someone turns up murdered in the present. Are these events connected? Well you know Lee is going to find out and put herself right in the middle of the sticky mess.

My Thoughts
This series is one of the first that made me fall in love with cozy mysteries. Set in a chocolate shoppe, full of tasty goodies, how could you go wrong?

The author is an expert at writing this genre. We fall more for the main characters with every installment and they just continue to put themselves in harms way. We keep turning the pages to make sure everyone is safe and settled by the final word. This story had a lot of additional characters due to the Pier-O-Ettes reunion and they added even more drama to quaint town of Warner Pier.

It was a very entertaining story. A delectable treat for the mind. The chocolate treats I consumed while reading it were an absolute must. I am proud to say I am a Chocoholic and these stories feed my craving perfectly.


Gary's Bookshelf

The Skinvestigator Rash Guard
Terry Cronin
9780983766704, $6.99,

"The Skinvestigator Rash Guard" is a much better book than "The Skinvestigator Tramp Stamp." Dr. Harry Poe is an interesting likable character who is a dermatologist and he also works with the Miami police department to solve crimes. The author has a nice pace to the story that is also filled with authentic medical information that Cronin mixes in generous doses to the novel. "The Skinvestigator Rash Guard" is a fast paced mystery filled with medical facts that are educational reading.

Myth Interpretations
Robert Asprin edited by Bill Fawcett
Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, New York 10471
9781451637533, $7.99,

Myth Interpretations" is one of the best collections of Robert Asprin that showcases some of his best humorous works. Two of the best are "You Never Call" how moms influence starship captains and "Con Job" that takes place at Dragoncon. All of the tales are fun reading by a master of comic sf fantasy. "Myth Interpretations is an outstanding collection that is sure to delight many new readers to Robert Asprin.

Miracle Cure
Harlan Coben
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451234919, $9.99,

"Miracle Cure," the second novel this author wrote that has been out of print for many years is back and it is a great fast paced tale that is filled with interesting characters and many complicated twists that move the book along to its surprising ending. Like "Play Dead" Coben explains that he feels there are many flaws in the story. I do not agree "Miracle Cure is a nail biting novel of suspense by a master story teller.

Perfectly Amanda Gunsmoke's "Miss Kitty" To Dodge and Beyond
Beckey Burgoyne
Five Star Publications Inc,
P.O. Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589851634, $29.95,,

"Perfectly Amanda Gunsmoke's "Miss Kitty" To Dodge and Beyond" is the first book to reveal little known facts about Amanda Blake who played "Miss Kitty" on the hit show "Gunsmoke" Author Beckey Burgoyne tells many other tidbits of information about the show, the actors, and many appearances the cast made throughout the years. There are also lots of great pictures. No fan of "Gunsmoke" should miss this great addition to the legendary show.

Cemetery Girl
David Bell
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451234674, $14.00,,

"Cemetery Girl" is one of the strangest novels I have ever read. Twelve year old Caitlin disappears from her parents. There are no clues, no leads, and no explanations for her disappearance. Four years later she walks back into her parents' lives. She is very different and she won't tell them any details of the lost four years. The author does a great job of showing the effect of a stressful situation like this and its effect on a marriage. "Cemetery Girl" is a page turner thriller that locks the reader in on the first page and never lets go.

Middle School the Worst Years of My Life
James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316101875, $15.99,

Patterson and Chris Tebbetts in "Middle School the Worst Years of My Life" have written a laugh out loud book that anyone in school can relate to. Rafe Khatchadorian has a series of adventures that are all fun. He has to deal with a teacher named the Dragon Lady, a bully repeatedly, and lots of other things. "Middle School the Worst Years of my Life" is a much funnier better story than "Diary of a Wimpy Kid."

Stony Man Terminal Guidance
Gold Eagle
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9,
9780373620005, $7.99,

The series is hotter than ever with "Terminal Guidance." Phoenix Force and Able Team are back in action this time up against a group of terrorists who want to once again hit targets in the United States. The "Stony Man" novels have always delivered great action adventure and "Terminal Guidance" is a shining example of why the books have always been so popular.

Let Me Be Me
Owen Doss and Deborah Motley
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449615, $14.95,,

"Let Me Be Me" is a message to kids on how to know what they would like to be, how to study themselves and know who they are. The authors tell how we all do things to impress others and that we have to be what others think we should be. They also are very practical in telling people to be who they want to be. "We are trying to be what we think people want us to be... .someone else is trying to change us into what they want us to be. The bottom line is I am never good enough. This is something society has taught us since the beginning of time. We are never satisfied with who we are, what we are, where we come from, where we are going" The authors teach people that it is alright to be the person you want to be in easy to understand terms and examples "Let Me Be Me" is a ground breaking book that everyone should read and learn from.

Dream Walking & Other Pursuits
The Artwork of Jenni Gregory
No ISBN $20.00

"Dream Walking & Other Pursuits the Artwork of Jenni Gregory" is an invitation to readers and fans of comic book to view the sketch book of a very talented artist. There are many different types of works Gregory displays. From comics to pieces that highlight color the book is filled with amazing things for readers to appreciate. "Dream Walking & Other Pursuits the Artwork of Jenni Gregory is an amazing collection by a gifted artist

Jagger Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rouge
Marc Spitz
Gotham Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781592555, $26.00,,

Most of what Marc Spitz tells in "Jagger Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue" I have either heard about or read in other books about the Rolling Stones. I was amazed that Spitz spent a whole chapter about Truman Capote telling about the article for Vanity Fair that never was. Capote never wrote the first word for them about Mick Jagger even though he was very close to him. I also felt that the book spent too much time dealing with the Rolling Stones of the 1960s and 1970s. Rolling Stone fans may enjoy Jagger Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Every Bitter Thing
Leighton Gage
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569479988 $14.00

On the opening page of Leighton Gage's newest book, the fourth in his series featuring the Brazilian Chief Inspector Mario Silva, the reader is introduced to Jonas Palhares, a petroleum engineer who is very soon after brutally murdered in his Ipanema apartment. This is but one of several murders committed in the same manner, and with the same weapons. A famous social psychologist is soon found dead in Sao Paulo State. But when the next victim is the son of the Venezuelan foreign minister and former ambassador to Brazil, the political implications become quickly obvious, and the investigation goes into high gear.

Silva, chief inspector for criminal matters with the Federal Police, is described as "a repository of totally useless information," but self-described as possessing "occasionally amazing instances of insight. He teams up with the head of the Brasilia civil police, as well as his usual team members, including Arnaldo Nunes and Haraldo "Babyface" Goncalves, known as the Federal Police's Lothario. The body count rises, and the cops are frustrated by the fact that there seems to be no common denominator among the victims.

The author provides another glimpse into a world and a country with which this reader and I suspect many others are unfamiliar [despite my having traveled there twice, but I'm pretty sure tourism doesn't count]. We are given examples of ". . . how things work in this country . . . how the rich and powerful get justice and the rest of us can go to hell." The investigation proceeds rapidly to try to find the killer before more bodies appear, and the ending is as logical as it is startling. A thoroughly satisfying novel, and recommended.

Damage Control
Denise Hamilton
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9780743296749 $26.00 800-223-2336,

On the very first page of the prologue to "Damage Control," the terrific new book by Denise Hamilton, the reader meets high school student Maggie Weinstock. Fast forward sixteen years: Maggie is now Maggie Silver, divorced, and 33 years old. The crux of the plot stems from that earlier time frame, when Maggie, in her first two years of high school, met the Paxtons, who became the "golden ones" in her young life. Before "BFF" became part of the vernacular, their daughter, Anabelle, was that and more - she was everything Maggie admired and, to some extent, envied. And her good-looking brother, Luke, was a Surf God.

Maggie now works for the top crisis management firm in L.A., doing corporate PR. The newest client to whose case she is assigned is a U.S. Senator with a wife and grown children, a probable candidate for vice president in the next election, whose 23-year-old female aide has been found murdered, in a scenario reminiscent of the one involving Gary Conduit and Chandra Levy a decade ago. The senator is none other than Henry Paxton, Anabelle's father, who had been a father figure and a role model to Maggie all those years ago. Welcome to the wonderful world of "damage control," or spin.

This novel provides a fascinating glimpse, in a schadenfreude way, into a world about which most readers know little. Maggie suspects that her past involvement with the Paxton family is what brought the assignment to her desk. She believes, and tells her colleagues, that no member of that family is capable of murder. The response is that "everyone's capable of murder if you give them the right reason." But she is determined to prove that no member of the family is guilty. The backstory of Maggie's friendship with Anabelle, and how it ended, is the lens through which Maggie views the Paxtons. In the end, it's all about the secrets we keep from one another. As with the earlier books by Ms. Hamilton, comprised of the five books in the Eve Diamond series as well as "The Last Embrace," a standalone, "Damage Control" is thoroughly entertaining, and is recommended.

The Devil's Edge
Stephen Booth
c/o Little Brown UK
100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DY
9781847444790 17.99 BPS

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK/CA, not yet available in the US]

Devil's Edge is a fairly insular world, defined, geographically at least, by the cliff edges which surround it. This book is, in a similar way, equally circumscribed. As the reader is told on the opening page, "It was one of the drawbacks of living in the countryside. Too much of the outside world intruding. Too many things it was impossible to keep out." In this novel, the outside world, and the aspects of it one would most like to keep out, intrudes in the worst way. On the eastern fringe of the Peak District, in the village of Riddings, in rural Derbyshire, there has been a rash of break-ins. The burglars have been dubbed The Savages by the press. The newest incidents escalate the anxiety when they suddenly turn deadly. The author speaks of the residents having sought sanctuary in the rural haven, noting, however, that "everyone had monsters in their lives." Suspicion turns from looking for an outside group of burglars to someone from within the community, targeting the victims, for reasons far more personal. Recently promoted D.S. Ben Cooper is assigned the investigation. He, particularly, believes it is not the work of The Savages, being much more meticulously planned and leaving no trace of the culprit[s].

D.S. Diane Fry, formerly with the West Midlands Police "in the days before she transferred to yokel land," is brought back into the squad to take over the investigation after an almost unimaginable turn of events changes Ben Cooper's life forever. Despite the past ambivalence of their relationship, where they were both vying for the same promotion, their usually well-concealed respect for each other is here on display.

The author's descriptions bring the land to palpable life, e.g., "the distant rocky outcrops seemed to change shape. They slid slowly sideways, merged and divided, their outlines shifting from smooth to jagged to a distinctive silhouette. It was all the effect of altering angle and perspective. With each step, a transformation took place in the landscape, a gradual reveal like the slow drawing aside of a curtain. At a point halfway across the flats, a split rock he hadn't noticed before came into view. As it emerged from behind a larger boulder, its two halves slowly parted and turned, like the hands of a clock creeping past noon." Simply gorgeous. [The landscape, and the writing, that is.]


The Informant
Thomas Perry
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780547569338 $27.00, 617-351-5003,

As in his earlier novels [and I'm thinking particularly of the wonderful Jane Whitefield series], the devil is in the details, and this author excels in conveying the meticulously planned and executed steps taken by his protagonist, so that credibility is never an issue. In this standalone - actually, a follow-up to Mr. Perry's very first novel, The Butcher's Boy [for which he won an Edgar award] - that eponymous character returns, twenty years older. Although he goes by any number of other names, that soubriquet is the name by which he is known, both to the authorities and to the mafia members who variously employed him, betrayed him, and then became his victims. The Butcher's Boy kills without compunction. It is, after all, what he does best, taught since childhood, simply as a job, or a way to stay alive, or to seek revenge for the aforementioned betrayal. Rarely is it personal. Although somewhat more so of late.

Well-trained from the age of 10 by an actual butcher, whose "side job" is in "the killing trade," beyond the necessary skills he is also taught "Everybody dies. It's just a question of timing, and whether the one who gets paid for it is you or a bunch of doctors. It might as well be you."

While working as a hit man, his philosophy was simple: He had "resisted the camaraderie that some of the capos who had hired him tried to foster. He had kept his distance, done his job, collected his pay, and left town before buyer's remorse set in. He made it clear that he was a free agent and that he was nobody's friend." He has been out of the US for over twenty years, now over 50 years old, and afraid he had gone soft. But his skills are not diminished. He leaves no witnesses. The ones who aren't dead never notice him entering or leaving a crime scene: "He was a master at being the one the eye passed over in a crowd." And the authorities - - with one notable exception - - haven't a clue.

That exception is Elizabeth Waring, of the Organized Crime & Racketeering Division of the Department of Justice. She connects the dots and has no doubt that he has come out of retirement and is the one now murdering Mafiosi at an alarming rate, and sees in him, potentially, "the most promising informant in forty years." Of course, to fulfill that possibility she must get him to agree and, even more difficult, keep him alive, as "he wasn't worth anything dead." They embark on an ambivalent, and somewhat fluid, relationship, equal parts grudging respect and fear of the danger the other represents, somehow both earning sympathy. The author's trademark suspense as the end of the novel draws near had this reader literally holding her breath. I loved this book, and it is highly recommended.

One Was a Soldier
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 100100
9780312334895 $24.99, 646-307-5560,

In the tiny Adirondack town of Millers Kill, in upstate New York, a group of recently returning veterans are attending therapy sessions, PTSD the common factor among them, affecting each differently. The group includes a 25-year-old woman, ex-Army. Each is finding the transition back to civilian life a difficult one. They are a rather disparate group, variously described as "the doctor, the cop, the Marine and the priest" or, less kindly, "a cripple, a drunk, a washed-up cop" any or all of whom might be at risk for suicide.

Against all odds, Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne are, finally, going to get married, and fans of this wonderful series can breathe a sigh of relief. Clare, an Army Major and an Episcopal priest originally from southern Virginia, has just returned after serving eighteen months in a combat zone. Russ, the police chief from Millers Kills, in upstate New York, is now widowed [after 25 years of marriage], and they no longer have to hide their love. But believing that he has never gotten over his wife's death and that he is starting to have second thoughts, she starts having second thoughts of her own. For his part, Russ thinks "What did she want out of marriage? Specifically, marriage to a guy fourteen years older, who thought God was a myth and whose job could get him killed."

The chapters of this newest book from Julia Spencer-Fleming, her seventh and her strongest yet [high praise indeed], alternate between these two major plot points, until they merge when one member of the therapy group is found dead and Russ is the lead investigator. Clare is convinced, all evidence to the contrary, that it was murder. In denial, perhaps, because that might threaten her own sense of safety, fighting, as she is, her own demons. Russ, too, is ex-Army, had served in Vietnam, and is mindful of the problems faced by returning vets.

There are several plot twists, including wholly unexpected ones near the end, and the precision of the way they are woven into the tale completely satisfying. In addition, the book makes the reader aware that aside from the obvious politics involved, one tends to forget the toll on lives lost and ruined by wars now lasting over a decade.


The Affair
Lee Child
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385344326 $28.00, 800-726-0600,

The first dozen pages of Lee Child's newest Jack Reacher book lays everything out in precise detail, as one would expect from Reacher, and from Mr. Child, as he enters the Pentagon on March 11, 1997, on what is to be "the last day I walked into that place as a legal employee of the people who built it." Reacher, the recipient of a Purple Heart and a Silver Star, is at this point in time 36 years old, and a major in the US Army Military Police. He is given a delicate undercover assignment following the death of a 27-year-old woman in a small town in Mississippi several times referred to as the "back of beyond," whose major source of income is the local Army base, and whose sheriff is a stunningly beautiful woman about the same age as Reacher. Not surprisingly, though the latter and Reacher start off as antagonists, that situation changes pretty quickly.

Reacher's background, for which fans have been clamoring for years, is finally given to them: The circumstances surrounding his sudden departure from the armed forces which shaped everything that is to follow, much of which has been described in the fifteen previous novels in this always exciting series. The reader immediately knows the immense pleasure of starting a new Lee Child book, and a smile spread across my face as when entering any favorite place.

The author always provides small tidbits of new information, e.g., "most right-handed people have left legs fractionally shorter than their right legs,' and "you can learn a lot from shoes," and backs up these statements, of course. Almost unexpectedly, the writing provokes smiles as much as tension, which is saying a lot. Reacher says of a friend, "He fancied himself a raconteur. And he liked background. And context. Deep background, and deep context. Normally he liked to trace everything back to a seminal point just before random swirls of gas from the chartless wastes of the universe happened to get together and form the earth itself."

Meticulously plotted, and with stunning twists, the book provides just what Reacher and Mr. Child always do: All you need, and nothing you don't. Highly recommended.

Confessions of a Suicidal Policewoman
Thomas J. Fitzsimmons
Thomas J. Fitzsimmons Inc.
1641 Third Ave., NY, NY 10128,
Lightning Source
1246 Heil Quaker Blvd., LaVergne, TN 37086]
978-0-9789762-5-51-7 $13.99

As with the earlier novel by Thomas Fitzsimmons, "Confessions of a Catholic Cop," which introduced readers to Police Officer Michael Beckett, the current book's authenticity is immediately apparent. With good reason: Following his service in the Navy during the Vietnam War, the author was an NYC cop for a decade in the notorious section of the South Bronx known as Fort Apache. Not surprisingly, Michael Beckett has a similar background, which also includes acting on tv, the fictional aspect having Beckett portray - what else? - a cop, on the show "Law & Order.

He brings some emotional baggage with him this time around: His girlfriend, with whom he worked while doing the tv show, is showing signs of discontent, and he fears the relationship might be coming to an end. In addition, he is still dealing with the emotional aftermath of his sister's death, of a drug overdose, at the age of 18, with all the attendant guilt and desire for revenge against the drug dealers who'd sold her the poison that had ultimately killed her.

That desire for revenge is perhaps what leads Beckett to become involved with some former and current members of the NYPD known as "rockers" - a group of vigilantes who, for a price, do what the "legitimate" cops can't do - among other things, rid houses of the drug dealers who inhabit them, "evicting" them by whatever means necessary, violent or otherwise.

Beckett's former partner and best friend, Destiny Jones, returns as well. The two are not working together any more, as Beckett, an armed robbery specialist and former Medal of Honor winner, had been suspended after drugs were found in his car, and although he was ultimately cleared of all criminal charges and reinstated, he is now assigned to the Building Maintenance section of Police Headquarters at One Police Plaza. To say that he was chafing under that assignment would be to strongly understate the case. Destiny is having her own problems, with a marriage that is about to implode, and medical problems with an as-yet unknown cause. The chapters alternate p.o.v., Beckett's in the first person, Melody's in third. Complications ensue when Beckett accepts a job moonlighting as part of a security detail for a Rupert Murdoch-like mogul, although he suspects there is more there than meets the eye.

The prose is a little rough around edges - but hey, so is Beckett, and he is a terrific protagonist. The plot is an engrossing one, and the reader has to wonder how much of it, e.g., the existence of the "rockers," is more than an urban myth, so realistically are they drawn.


Disturbance, An Irene Kelly Novel
Jan Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439152843 $25.00, 800-223-2336,

There are disturbances of the atmospheric kind, and then there are the other kind: Mental disturbances, the reverberations of their manifestations can last for years in their victims. In Jan Burke's long-awaited new book in the Irene Kelly series opens, that journalist's only real concern is about her employment status: she is "fully occupied by the distinct possibility that I would be out of a job within a few months. That didn't make me different from ninety-nine out of a hundred of the country's newspaper reporters." But those worries, real as they are, pale in significance when she learns that the vicious serial killer from whom she had barely escaped with her life in an earlier book in the series, "Bones," Nick Parrish, now in his fifties, has escaped from a maximum security prison. Known to have had as many as fifty victims, including a number of members of the Las Peirnas Police Department - - colleagues and friends of Irene's husband, detective Frank Harriman - - and as awful as is the prospect of him being at large in general, Irene is the one against whom he has sworn vengeance, holding her responsible for his suffering and his incarceration. Irene is an investigative journalist at the Las Piernas, California News Express.

Irene has finally recovered from the PTSD which her kidnapping and torture at Parrish's hands - - well, except for the nightmares she still experiences. Which only return again after his escape and threats from his online fan club, the Moths, serial killer groupies whose members include an unknown number of his born-out-of-wedlock sons, and who all appear to be nearly as deranged as the man they idolize.

After the threats, three things happen in rapid succession: A young woman named Marilyn Foster is reported missing; her car is discovered parked on Irene's street; and the body of another woman whose identity cannot be determined is found in the trunk of that car. When Irene insists there is a connection to Parrish and the police fail to believe that's possible, Irene sets out on a personal mission: to find out who the woman is and who is responsible for her murder. To that end, Irene enlists the aid of her colleague Ethan Shire and Ben Sheridan, the forensic anthropologist who had also been one of Parrish's victims.

The ensuing investigation results in a book in which the suspense is constant, to which is added the very real possibility of the sadistic violence and sexual assault for which the killer is known. The novel is fast-faced and tightly plotted. Plus I came away from reading it with an appreciation of a known truth in astrophysics: The universe is expanding. [Read the book.]


Ghost Hero
S. J. Rozan
9780312544508 $25.99

Lydia Chin, young New York private investigator, although she is what she refers to as an ABC [American-Born Chinese], cannot imagine why a new client wants to hire for an investigation dealing with contemporary Chinese art [what he refers to as a "cutting edge collecting area" in the West], freely admitting that she has no clue about art. Despite her reluctance, she agrees to accept his retainer to check out rumors of some new pieces of art by one Chau Chun, known as the Ghost Hero. This despite the fact that Chau is believed to have died 20 years ago in the uprising at Tienanmen Square.

This particular artist's work was known to contain "hidden" political symbols, and the putative new work contains current political references. There is a suspicion, then, that the work is contemporary, not created over two decades earlier. But the potential value of the Ghost Hero's "ghost paintings" is enormous, since in the past his work was worth half a million dollars, give or take.

As always with work by this author, there is a full quotient of clever, witty dialogue from clever, witty people - well, a few people in particular: Lydia; her cousin, Linus, tech geek [read "hacker"] extraordinaire; Bill Smith, a mid-fifties white guy [referred to by Lydia's disapproving mother as the "white baboon" - can you tell she doesn't like him?], also a p.i. and over the past few years Lydia's partner; and Jack Lee, a 2d generation ABC from the suburban Midwest and art expert as well as a p.i., in this case having also been hired [by an unnamed client] to investigate the possibility of the existence of the self-same paintings. The stakes are raised when the investigation sparks the interest of the wrong people, and bullets and threats start to fly.

Parenthetically, I have to admit to some small confusion on my part keeping the Asian names straight, but ultimately that is of small moment, as in the end the author makes everything clear. Brilliantly plotted, and with protagonists the reader cares about and roots for, the book is highly recommended.

Karin Slaughter
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345528209 $26.00, 800-726-0600

In her eleventh novel, Karin Slaughter brings us back to Georgia. Agent Faith Mitchell, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, finds that what started out as a normal workday becomes something else entirely. [A bit of background: A cop for 15 years, Faith is a single mom, diabetic, 34 years old, and a former detective with the Atlanta homicide squad; her mother has helped care for Faith's four-month old baby for the past two months, since Faith went back to work.] When Faith drives up to the house, she immediately sees a bloody handprint on the front door. Before the ensuing confrontation is over, three men have been shot to death - two at Faith's hand; she finds her baby locked in a shed; the house has been ransacked; and her mother is missing. Faith's mother, a decorated police officer, had been in charge of the narcotics division, and two of the three dead men appear to be members of a local Hispanic gang known to control the drug trade in Atlantic.

Will Trent, Faith's old partner in the GBI, is handling the investigation; there is a bit of a conflict of interest at work here: Amanda Wagner, the deputy director and his boss, had been the BFF [before the term existed] of Evelyn Mitchell, Faith's mother, a 63-year-old widow and a cop for nearly forty years, who had been implicated in a sting operation that had been headed by Will, to weed out dirty cops, part of the upshot of which was her forced retirement.

Will has a complex relationship with Sara Linton, formerly a county coroner and now a pediatric attending physician in the emergency department of a local Atlanta hospital. Widow of the county's former police chief, at 5'11", with red hair, Sara is a striking woman. The 'complexity' of her relationship with Will is due to the fact that he is still married, sort of. The relationship between him and his wife is strange, to say the least.

The plot is intricate, the main characters each strong yet vulnerable; the book is a wholly satisfying, fast read, and it is recommended.

Peter Lovesey
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569479476 $25.00 212-260-1900,

What a pleasure to find a book which includes two of my favorite things: a crackling good mystery, filled with humor, and a tribute to the theater. As the title might imply, the author obviously has much respect for the theater, with both a lower case "t" and upper case as well [see below]. His protagonist, on the other hand, not so much. In the newest book featuring Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond, head of Bath's CID, the reader learns that Diamond has always suffered from a phobia, what the author terms a "deep unease' and resulting in what can only be described as panic attacks where the theater is concerned.

Diamond is forced to confront his fear when he is called to the 200-year-old Theatre Royal, in Bath, which some refer to as "an itsy-bitsy provincial theatre" and others as "the prettiest theatre in the kingdom," when on opening night, the celebrity pop star with the unlikely name of Clarion Calhoun who has been cast as the lead in a production of "I Am a Camera" is stricken, just after the curtain goes up. She is apparently the victim of something which has caused third degree burns to her face and upper chest, precisely where her stage makeup had been applied some moments before, effectively destroying her career, not to mention her looks. Things get even dicier when two days later a dead body is found in the theater.

The novel is thoroughly enjoyable, with the last twenty or so pages keeping the reader in great suspense as the culprit is unmasked.


Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Side Jobs, Stories from the Dresden Files
Jim Butcher
New American Library a division of Penguin Putman Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451463654 $25.95

Butcher writes frantic complex action adventures with a liberal dose of a magic/fantasy/detective story. His detective/wizard, Harry Dresden, is a great character. Since the series is so frantic, this collection of short stories and novellas is a welcome addition. It is much easier to take a few minutes to an evening to read a good short escapist fantasy than the breathless days for a full length novel. In some ways, Butcher's writing style fits the short story genre better than the novel.

Side Jobs is a collection of eleven short stories about Harry Dresden and/or his friends. They fit into his series of stories from just before the first novel to just after Changes. The collection fills in some details about the series but mostly it brings the stories into a shorter, and in my opinion, better format.

Side Jobs is a great companion piece to the Dresden Files series. Anyone, who has picked up a Dresden novel, will find this collection a great accompaniment. If the reader has heard about the series and wanted to find out what it is all about, this book is a great way to test out the stories.

Blink of an Eye
Ted Dekker
Center Street
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781599953137 $7.99

Blink of an Eye is an average action/adventure. The plot is a little too familiar. The technical details are surface accurate only. A classic example is a physics scene in the second chapter where Dekker tried to present a physics controversy but the controversy was only a mix of pundit pseudo science and philosophy. Readers with no real background education in physics might appreciate the punditry but why include it when the storyline doesn't depend on it? All fiction stories have to use some fiction in the science and facts used in the tale but most readers will prize authors who use more accuracy and less second hand details in a story. Unfortunately, too many readers will assume Dekker was more fastidious in his research for the book and accept the popular myths as facts.

Seth Borders is genius bored with his predetermined and structured university educational life. He is on the verge of wrecking his academic career when he runs into Miriam, a Saudi princess on the run for her life from an arranged marriage to a sadistic thug. He tries to protect her but mayhem and murder follows them across the country and the world. Unknown to him is that Miriam's arranged marriage is part of a larger political scheme to control Saudi Arabia. Saudi factions and US authorities are all after the girl and Seth. He and the girl must thread their way past thousands of armed and dangerous pursuers in order to survive.

Blink of an Eye is a solid action/adventure. If the reader has not previously encountered one of the numerous variations on the plot, they will have a unique and fun time with the story. Even those who are familiar with the plot will enjoy the skilled action scenarios. Blink is a good weekend read. With its well worn plot, it is best to look for the book on the discount shelves or used bookstores. There you will find the price for your bit of escapism well worth the cost.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

The Case Against The Case For Christ: A New Testament Scholar Refutes the Reverend Lee Strobel
Robert M. Price
American Atheist Press
P. O. Box 158, Cranford, NJ 07016
9781578840052 $21.95

I repeatedly need to remind myself that, when scholars (scientists, historians, logicians) refuse to rebut incompetent, pseudoscientific drivel on the ground that acknowledging the existence of such mental masturbation grants it an undeserved dignity, the unlearned masses are encouraged to believe that it has not been rebutted because it cannot be rebutted. For example, when no prominent astronomer was willing to rebut the imaginative fairy tales of Immanuel Velikovsky, a high percentage of the general public concluded that Velikovsky must be right. It was Carl Sagan who recognized the problem and wrote a detailed rebuttal that blew Velikovsky out of the water. A similar situation occurred when scientists initially ignored the alien-abduction fantasies authenticated by John Mack.

Robert Turkel, alias JP Holding, a biblical literalist so incapable of modifying his position in the light of definitive rebuttals that other apologists consider him an embarrassment, wrote a book titled The Impossible Faith. When Richard Carrier wrote a book-length refutation of Turkel's repetitive hogwash, rather than a mere review as I had done, I suggested that he had thereby granted Turkel the respectability he so desperately craved.

Lee Strobel differs little from Robert Turkel, in the sense that each peddles a party line in a field in which he has no expertise. The difference between Carrier and Robert Price is that, whereas Carrier treated Turkel as if he were a scholar, Price makes clear up front that the apologist he is rebutting is not a scholar. As he explains (p. 12), "The Reverend Mr. Strobel's whole effort is predicated on the fallacy of the Appeal to Authority. That is, being admittedly no expert himself, he lists the supposedly impeccable credentials of those whom he interviews, as if that should lend weight to their arguments." And in rebutting Strobel's dogma that, "The gospel authors said so, so there!" he writes, "But the gospel writers were in no sense reporters - but then again, neither is Strobel! He is engaging not in journalism but in propaganda."

Strobel and Price both base their current positions on what they found when they started looking at works of Christian apologetics. But as Price explains (p. 11), "Ultimately I reached a different set of conclusions than Lee Strobel did. It puzzles and exasperates me ... as I read his accounts of his discussions with apologists, as the accumulating arguments he says won him to evangelical Christian faith were the very same ones that I found so unreliable, such weak links, limp reeds on which to rest either faith or opinion... . the literalistic fundamentalism to which I believe Lee Strobel has allowed himself to be converted ... is a mistaken conclusion based on a grossly slanted reading of the relevant evidence, as I hope to show in this book."

And that is precisely what he does, not so much by reconstructing the composition of the Christian Testament, a task he accomplished quite thoroughly in his previous books, but by showing the blatant falsifications and impossible interpretations of their sources by the apologists Strobel quotes, and the incredible doublethink that enables them to go on believing that irreversible death is only for other people.

For example, he shows Craig Blomberg to be "a scissors-and-paste historian" (p. 24) who attributes "scriptural authority to whatever scraps of ancient sources he has on hand, trying to credit as many, and therefore to harmonize as many, as he can... . He considers them his 'authorities' ... to be cited and believed. 'Papias said it! I believe it! That settles it!'" Then by showing (p. 25) that, "what Papias said does not seem to describe our Gospels of Matthew and Mark [since] Matthew was not originally in Hebrew," Price demonstrates that Strobel is simply citing a source who in turn cited a source that distorted and falsified the evidence in order to reach a pre-determined conclusion. It is unlikely that Papias and other ancient apologists consciously lied. It is unlikely that Strobel's alleged authorities such as Blomberg consciously lied. And it is unlikely that Strobel consciously lied. But all of those individuals followed procedures virtually guaranteed to lead them to conclusions that are untrue. Price explains such doublethink (p. 85), "Remember the wisdom of George Costanza: 'It's not a lie if you believe it.'"

Price defends the Jesus Seminar, of which he is a Fellow, against Strobel's accusations of dogmatic inflexibility, closed mindedness, and depraved indifference to falsifying evidence, that Strobel sees in the mirror. And unlike Strobel, Price shows a willingness to change his conclusions after a reexamination of the evidence. He initially concluded that the evidence does not support even the possibility that there was a historical Jesus onto whose biography the Christian fairy tales were posthumously grafted, but later agreed that the question of Jesus' historicity is too close to call. He currently writes (p. 142), "I think, for instance, that it is very likely that there was no historical Jesus at all." That is a conclusion with which I continue to disagree, but is by no means incompatible with the evidence. Strobel, in contrast, is incapable of considering the possibility that Jesus was not a god, did not claim to be a god, and did not violate the laws of physics by walking on water. Strobel looks reasonable when his arguments are compared to the verbal diarrhea of Robert Turkel, a certifiable escapee from Nurse Ratched's Cuckoo's Nest. But he is in fact no more capable of putting his brain in gear before engaging his tongue than Turkel.

Another of Strobel's alleged authorities, Greg Boyd (p. 157), wrote of the finding of biblical historians that Christianity plagiarized its dying-god myth from earlier religions, "Given the timing involved, if you're going to argue for borrowing, it should be from the direction of Christianity to the mystery religions, not vice versa." Price observes that (p. 156), "He will say just what Reverend Strobel wanted to hear. Strobel knew he would - that's why he picked him to ask in the first place!" Price's response to Boyd is (p. 157), "I must turn Greg's words against him. Given the timing involved, the influence must have been from the dying and rising god religions to Christianity for the simple reason that the myths and cults of Baal, Osiris, and Tammuz predated Christianity by many centuries." Even allowing for the Manchurian Candidate-izing (often self-inflicted) to which all sincere apologists have been subjected, is it reasonable to credit Strobel with believing that Boyd's statement was factually correct?

William Lane Craig, a notoriously incurable biblical literalist who argues for anti-evolutionary six-day creationism, claims that Jesus must have been placed in a tomb later found to be empty, since otherwise what did Joseph of Arimathea do with the body? Price (p. 219) compares such reasoning with, "The Emerald City must be real, because where else would the Yellow Brick Road lead to?" He adds, "I got news for you, Bill: there ain't no Yellow Brick Road, either!" In other words, Joseph was as nonexistent as his tomb.

David A. Carson, another member of Strobel's stable of alleged authorities, defends his god's right to sentence anyone who fails to grant it blind, unquestioning obedience, to be barbecued with flamethrowers in an underworld Auschwitz that can only be described as a sadist's dream. Price's response to, "when God does it, it is not evil," is (p. 191), "It is all a cartoon, and Carson, Strobel and their ilk are the most damnably pathetic of the type: they are poor submissive butt-kissers who have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome and now identify with their tyrannical captors." His summary (p. 202) is that, "the apologists' line is seen to be so flimsy, so utterly bankrupt, that one must call into question the basic sincerity of Lee Strobel and others like him... . They have to know better."

Price attributes Strobel's choice of his final inerrantist to the fact that (p. 254), "Reverend Strobel has apparently never met an apologetical argument he didn't like... . If it might convince some idiot out there, then by all means use it." His opinion of Strobel's choice is (p. 251), "Reverend Strobel's final interview, the one with J.P. Moreland, is so embarrassing, so pathetically weak, that for the sake of his book's impact, he really should have cut it."

Strobel's action in interviewing only persons he already knew agreed with him, and asking only questions he knew would be answered the way he wanted, can be compared to trying to prove that the Holocaust never happened by interviewing only concentration camp guards and Iranians. That might not conform to the dictionary definition of lying, but it is the moral equivalent. Apologists for the god delusion may not be conscious liars, but they are at best moral cowards, capable of rationalizing away an infinite amount of evidence falsifying the afterlife belief that is their only means of overcoming their terror of death and getting them through the day without having to be institutionalized and diapered. But what incurable godworshipper isn't?

Will Dr Price's annihilation of Strobel's circular arguments disillusion the sycophants who have made The Case For Christ Amazon's number-one bestseller among "historical Jesus" books? Sure it will - when Pluto goes nova.

In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir
Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439176191 $35.00

The least intelligent president America is ever likely to have, George W. Bush, somehow managed to graduate from Yale University. The most criminally evil vice president America is ever likely to have, Richard B. Cheney, flunked out of Yale. Bush went on to become a puppet president, with Cheney and Karl Rove as the Geppettos pulling his strings. As a result of that unholy alliance, America was transformed from the most trusted nation on earth into the most hated. It therefore makes sense that Cheney would eventually publish a memoir in which he confessed the war crimes for which hundreds of thousands of Americans still hope to see him strapped to a gurney with a needle in his arm, and apologized for them. In fact, far from apologizing for his crimes against the Geneva Convention, the American people, and the human race, Cheney boasts about them and claims that he would do the same things again. The man is pond slime, and his daughter's endorsement of his subhuman mindset confirms the proof she had already given the world that she is pond slime.

Neither Bush nor Cheney played any role in provoking the atrocity of 9/11/2001. The madman responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center had proclaimed a war against America before Bush was even nominated for president, and the reasons for his hatred of a large portion of the human race existed only in his own mind. That he was not caught and punished until the Bush administration was out of office raises questions about that administration's efficiency, but not its intentions. The war crimes perpetrated at Guantanamo stemmed from the inability of Bush or Cheney to grasp that information obtained under torture was invariably what the torturers wanted to hear, not what the person providing the information really believed.

I plowed through 363 pages of Cheney's self-hagiography before finding anything on which to comment. That is not a criticism, simply an acknowledgement of my own priorities. I searched the first 523 pages of Hillary Clinton's Living History, and similarly found nothing on which I wished to express an opinion. Only a minority of Cheney's readers is likely to be interested in anything other than his attempt to explain and justify his actions as vice president, and I am not part of that minority. It is on those actions that history will judge him, and I seriously doubt that the verdict will be flattering. Joseph McCarthy's status as the most morally-depraved aberration American politics has ever produced, hitherto unchallenged, is now gone forever.

In his chapter misleadingly titled "Liberating Iraq," Cheney commences his serious attempt to rewrite history. While acknowledging (p. 369) that "some of the intelligence we received was wrong," he continues to deny that the intelligence used to delude Congress into legalizing Bush's war of personal glorification was intentionally manipulated to support the Big Lie that Saddam posed an ongoing threat to America's security. He alleges that, "there was no place more likely to be a nexus between terrorism and WMD capacity than Saddam Hussein's Iraq. With the benefit of hindsight ... that assessment holds true." In fact that assessment has been totally falsified, as Cheney cannot be unaware. Osama bin Laden was as hostile to Saddam as he was to America. And the reality that Saddam had no WMDs or plans to obtain them was among the intelligence reports that Bush and Cheney suppressed when they had Powell and Rice lie to Congress. But what is a little thing like truth to a Manchurian Candidate like Cheney?

According to Cheney (p. 373), "We would remove Saddam Hussein, eliminate the threat he posed, and establish a representative government." The irony of the Bush administration imposing democracy on Iraq while systematically abolishing it in the USA is obviously lost on Bush's co-conspirator. (Let us not forget that a Republican supreme court overthrew the Constitution in order to appoint Bush president in 2000 in full awareness that he had lost the election.) I do, however, agree that, "were the Israeli-Palestinian crisis solved tomorrow, the terrorists would simply find another rationale for their continuing jihad."

I searched through Cheney's index for "waterboarding" or "torture." They were not there. But I found what I wanted under "enhanced interrogation." It is now abundantly clear that no intelligence gleaned by waterboarding proved useful in any way. Yet Cheney continues to pretend (p. 521) that it did. Is he an unmitigated liar, or is he seriously demented? The answer most people will deduce from this book is that he is both.

Cheney reports (p. 494) that his position as president of the Senate "pretty much boiled down to casting tie-breaking votes... . My ability to cast those votes gave Americans the Bush tax cuts that they still enjoy as I write." Does he really not see that as a confession that he was a culpable agent in destroying the American economy and generating a deficit unparalleled in American history - after Bill Clinton had left his successor a surplus?

Cheney praises convicted perjurer and obstructionist Scooter Libby, and upbraids Bush for refusing to pardon him. That comes as no surprise, since Libby's crimes were perpetrated at Cheney's orders. He praises Donald Rumsfeld, one of four persons, including Bush, Cheney and Karl Rove, Barack Obama is for some inexplicable reason protecting from prosecution for war crimes. And he reports that he three times suggested to Bush that he be removed from the Republican ticket for the election of 2004, but Bush chose to retain him for reasons Cheney views narcissistically. To this day it apparently has not occurred to him that Bush junior retained Cheney as his running mate for the same reason Bush senior retained Quayle in 1992 - as an absolute guarantee that no Congress would ever impeach him at the cost of putting such a VP in the White House.

One of Cheney's daughters is gay. Democratic opponents cited that reality as evidence of Cheney's hypocrisy, or something worse, in advocating laws depriving America's thirty million gays of legal equality. Cheney interprets the Democrats' action in accordance with the depraved opportunism he sees in the mirror.

Concerning his recovery from his fifth heart attack in 2010, Cheney writes (p. 525) that he "couldn't dismiss the possibility that more than the skill of the doctors, the luck of the draw, or my own will to live had pulled me through. I do know that my cause was pleaded in some earnest prayers." Were those prayers directed at the same imaginary Sky Fuhrer who steadfastly ignores the more than a million prayers each day asking for world peace? Perhaps the deity whose regular and repeated homicides and other atrocities are chronicled in its official biography, "the Bible," saw Cheney as "one of us"? At least his low-key confession of superstitious ignorance is less offensive to America's 110 million nontheists than the "my god can lick your god" boasts currently coming from Republican aspirants to be the White House's first self-confessed resident theocrat.

Steve Martin once said, "If you can't think of anything nice to say about someone, you're probably talking about the Ayatollah." Today he could as accurately say, "You're probably talking about Dick Cheney."

Born Again: My Journey from Fundamentalism to Freedom
Tom Harpur
Thomas Allen Publishers
390 Steelcase Road East, Markham ON, L3R 1G2
9780887627385 $32.95

Tom Harpur writes (p. 2) that, in his 2004 book, The Pagan Christ, "I made the case for the Isis-Osiris-Horus myth of ancient Egypt as the prototype for a much later Jewish version of the same narrative." He also writes (p. 4), "I say this with the greatest sense of humility because of my commitment to the belief that the Holy Spirit of God does indeed guide and inspire us all the days of our life." Those contradictory statements show that, despite being able to recognize that the Jesus myth is a copy of a copy of a copy, Harper is so desperate to continue believing in Mother Goose's male counterpart, that he is able to delude himself into concocting a non-evidentiary reason for doing so. Of the basic Christian fairy tales he writes, "Read as historical, they border on the ludicrous. Read as allegory, they shine with contemporary potency for one's daily life." In other words, the Christian bible is a work of fiction - but the Sky Fuhrer who dictated it is real. I am reminded of the Catholic atheist who says there is no god and Mary is his mother.

Harpur writes (p. 3), "I believe the current mushrooming crop of atheists, however vocal or eloquent they may be, to be very mistaken." There are two explanations for such a conclusion. Either he has not actually read the arguments presented by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Victor Stenger that the god delusion is incompatible with the evidence. Or he lacks the moral courage to question the afterlife belief that is the only thing that assuages his terror of death and gets him through the day without losing control of his bodily functions. Perhaps he is attempting to convince himself rather than his readers when he elaborates (p. 228), "In actual fact, upon closer examination their position is seen to be based upon non-rational, fallacious presuppositions every bit as fundamentalist in nature as those espoused by extremist religionists." That is as accurate a projection of what Harpur sees in the mirror as the inane apologetics of the author of Why God Won't Go Away, Alister McGrath.

L. Ron Hubbard is on record as acknowledging that he wanted to invent a religion because, "that's where the money is." That reality is so well-known that it is impossible for the world's fifty-to-seventy thousand Scientologists to be unaware of it. Yet they blissfully swallow Hubbard's science fiction scenario that planet earth was conquered by aliens from a planet called Arslycus (I am not making this up) several billion years before the Big Bang that created the universe. I would like to ask Professor Harpur if he thinks that persons who swallow the Scientology hoax, in the face of definitive proof that it is a product of the human imagination, are sparking on all neurons? If, as he surely must, he agrees that no person with a functioning human brain could be that gullible, how does he justify his own analogous doublethink?

After ten chapters that are no more self-serving than other equally boring autobiographies, Harpur explains in his Epilogue (p. 241), "It is today's physicists whose writings most appeal to me as I grow older. As their name expresses clearly, they have nature, the physical world, as their focus for meditation." In that case I can, with some hope of getting through the firewall Harpur has constructed around his brain to keep out reality, recommend that he read The Fallacy of Fine Tuning, by physicist Victor Stenger.

Born Again is basically an argument that, even though Alice in Wonderland is a compilation of fantasy tales that cannot and did not happen, the White Rabbit nonetheless survives and thrives in the hearts of all persons who invite it to be their imaginary playmate. It should surprise no one that Harpur's rationalizations have been welcomed and lauded by other moral cowards who, even though their thinking is not so undisciplined that they can Manchurian Candidatize themselves into believing in the young earth, flat earth, or creationism endorsed by their bibles, are able to buy into his doublethink that wanting to believe in a home-grown theology can make it true. The sad part is that neither Harpur nor his sycophants will ever make the posthumous discovery that the Cloud Cuckoo Land to which they think they are buying a ticket does not exist, because they will be totally, permanently, irreversibly dead.

A final piece of reality: All claims that earth's volcanoes are occupied by Thetans have been traced to the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. All claims that a god has revealed its existence have been traced to the same Tanakh, Bible and Koran that state unequivocally that the earth is flat. And the claim that, even though his bible is fiction, its Holy Spirit is more real than Alice's White Rabbit, emanates from the imagination of Tom Harpur. Can any thinking person take such sources seriously?

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True
Richard Dawkins
Free Press
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439192818 $29.99

"How old is the universe? Why do the continents look like disconnected pieces of a puzzle? What causes tsunamis? Why are there so many kinds of plants and animals? Who was the first man, or woman?" Of all the questions about scientific reality 101 that Richard Dawkins could have asked, it is no coincidence that those are the same ones consistently answered falsely by pushers of the god delusion for the purpose of defending their bread and butter. A comparison of the facts presented by Dawkins with the fiction of the Tanakh, Bible and Koran will not be sufficient to cure everyone who thinks the fairy tales in those novels are more factual than Alice in Wonderland; but it will aim curable believers in the right direction, and that is what organized religion is desperate to prevent. It is unfortunate that Dawkins did not include the question, "Is the earth flat or round?" since the bible's fifteen endorsements of a flat earth is the one reality apologists unanimously ignore in the hope that it will go away.

As a science fiction fan, I checked a book out of my local library that was labeled "young adult," in the hope that it was suitable reading for someone over twenty-one. It was not. So when the back cover of The Magic of Reality described it as "science for young people," I was afraid that this, too, might be unsuitable for a reader in his late youth. Fortunately, while it is indeed designed to be comprehensible to adolescents, adults will not find it insulting to their intelligence, as the quoted comment implied that it might be. Of course, as a former teacher I could be prejudiced in favor of a book that would have greatly simplified teaching reality to my junior high school classes. But while it contains little or no information that is likely to be new to anyone who has legitimately passed elementary school, it is useful to parents because it presents the evidence in a logical manner that even hardcore biblical literalist will find difficult to rationalize away.

Dawkins starts out by avoiding transparently religious questions, such as: How could a man who died two thousand years ago have been born ten years before he was conceived, as he must have been if two of his official biographies are both nonfiction? What kind of astronomical event could have caused persons on earth to see the sun and moon stand still in the sky for twenty-four hours? What would the real consequences of such an event have been? Does Immanuel Velikovsky's attempt to justify such a story have any credibility? If persons at Jericho really saw the sun and moon standing still, how come nobody in Greece, Rome or Egypt noticed anything unusual? Does undirected evolution or intelligent design better explain why men have nipples, or why wasps lay their eggs in the bellies of living spiders? By staying away from such issues, Dawkins increases the likelihood that curable believers will keep reading and learn enough to ask precisely such questions once they have the skill to recognize that the answers are not what their preachers want them to believe.

He does eventually get around to prompting readers to consider an issue that will not force them to come up with an immediate response, but will precondition them so that they eventually recognize that the right answers can only come from science. After noting that there are no religious myths about microorganisms that were not known to exist before the invention of microscopes, he points out (p. 95) that, "the stories in holy books don't contain any more information about the world than was known to the primitive peoples who first started telling them! If these 'holy books' really were written, or dictated, or inspired, by all-knowing gods, don't you think it's odd that those gods said nothing about any of these important and useful things?" At an even later point, when it is a reasonable assumption that anyone still reading is not incurable, he abandons all circumspection and states directly (p. 142), "It is obvious that the Jewish story of Noah is nothing more than a retelling of the older legend of Utnapishtim." And by chapter 12, in which he discusses miracles, he describe some outrageous claims that the religiously indoctrinated continue to believe, and asks his readers which of three explanations is the least unreasonable: (1) The miracle, such as turning water into wine, really happened just the way it was described; (2) It was a conjuring trick; or (3) Nothing of the sort ever happened; somebody simply made it up. No reader who currently accepts explanation (1) will immediately switch to explanation (3). But his willingness even to consider the alternatives makes it highly probable that he will eventually be able to face reality and relegate miracle-working gods to the same library shelves as fairies, Mr Spock, and Alice in Wonderland.

Despite Dawkins' purpose of making his book easily understandable to young adults, there were places where he struck me as oversimplifying. For example, in naming Homo erectus as a human ancestor, he does not mention that paleoanthropologists are divided on whether such a line of descent is correct. Since he is himself an evolutionary biologist, his opinion is as authoritative as anybody's; but he might have mentioned that it is not undisputed. Before proceeding to a scientific explanation of human origins, he describes Hebrew and other myths about the first humans. He then points out that there was no such thing as a first human, since there was never a clean break between a Homo erectus parent and a Homo sapiens child, because the transition to a separate species took thousands of generations. But he does not mention mitochondrial Eve (200,000 years Before the Present) or Y-chromosome Adam (100,000 years BP), calculated to be the most recent common ancestors of all living humans.

He draws attention (p. 231) to the absurdity of believing that bad things happen to good people because their distant ancestors disobeyed a totally capricious order not to eat a particular piece of fruit. But he does not mention that, to the male-supremacist theologian who composed the Adam-and-Eve myth, eating the vulva-shaped pomegranate that was the mother-goddess's sacramental body constituted the heinous crime of goddess-worship. He notes that the Tower of Babel is not etymologically related to the verb babble, as Genesis 11:9 claims. But he does not mention that Babel is simply the Hebrew spelling of Babylon. Such omissions can be attributed to oversimplifying. But one of his concessions to the god-infected I can only describe as indefensible. At a time when liberal theologians have adopted the scientifically neutral dating system CE (Common Era), in recognition that Anno Domini is a calculated insult to Earth's 5.8 billion non-Christians who do not believe they are living in the Year of the Master, Dawkins (p. 230) continues to use the offensively Christian "AD."

In trying to determine the reasons for Professor Dawkins' inclusions and omissions, it seems to me that maximizing his book's usefulness for middle school science teachers was a conscious objective. If that is indeed what he had in mind, he has undoubtedly succeeded. But except as a primer for teachers, The Magic of Reality is, despite its readability and inclusion of occasional lesser-known facts, not a book for adults.

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers
Debbie Maugans (Nakos)
Thomas Dunne Books
an imprint of St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010
9780312612245 $21.99

The title of this book hooked me. I love to bake, we enjoy eating the results and my small family does not need the results of most full-size recipes in the house. Making a number of the recipes turned out to be an interesting adventure that I recommend. I also have a few cautions to include while approaching the instructions in the book.

The book begins with well-written instructions on the equipment you need to succeed with this cookbook. Ms. Maugans points out full-sized implements, such a stand-mixer, are just overkill for these smaller recipes. Now that I've had the experience of working through a variety of the recipes, trust me, this is very true.

An enjoyable benefit to the recipes is simplified clean-up. On one day I completed five test recipes. I simply washed the small mixing bowl, beaters for my electric hand mixer and a couple measuring cups between each batch. Great results with less clean up? Now that's a real pleasure in the kitchen.

I do quibble with one of her equipment points however. The larger-size can recommended for some of the recipes is definitely the right size except for one problem: if you only need two servings of any recipe, you certainly don't need twenty servings of hominy or tomato sauce just so you can have the correct size baking tin. Fortunately, you have other options.

I found the sizes I needed in two different places. First, a local craft store had the smaller tart and spring-form pans in stock. They averaged about $7.00 each in Northern California where I live. If you are the kind of person who enjoys the hunt, however, I'd suggest visiting a couple thrift stores. I understand not everyone enjoys this kind of shopping - no worries, that craft store has just what you need. In my case, however, I found a small spring-form pan and two tart pans of the correct size to test these recipes. They were much less expensive than buying new. Either way, you can find items that match the descriptions with a little hunting.

We adored the Chocolate Chvre Cheesecakes on page 254. The results were lighter than a traditional New York style cake. The heavier version can lay on the tongue in a cloying manner. This was a great match to after-dinner without any coffee. The mixture of the goat cheese also adds an interesting note that goes well with chocolate. This recipe did have one surprise. It makes two cheesecakes and honestly each one is two servings. Neither of us could imagine eating an entire cheesecake. Of course, it keeps well in the refrigerator, so it's not a problem. And be aware that many of the recipes made four servings rather than two.

I found a couple recipes had been a little over-complicated for my taste. For example the shortbread recipe exchanged confectioner's sugar for regular granulated sugar. Many bakers feel this gives the final cookie a more refined texture. My personal taste is to go with the traditional ingredients. With rustic origins, I love how the larger crystals in the sugar cook with the straight-forward butter and flour. You can easily just use regular sugar if you make this recipe. The proportions are exactly right regardless which way you make the recipe.

Classic Chocolate Cake on page 17 was also fabulous. If you try it, don't skip the ganache recipe for the topping. It also got rave reviews with or without the cake. Despite the odd name, Chocolate Lime Bread, that recipe also went on the "keeper" list. The hands-down favorite however was Ms. Maugan's version of traditional chocolate chip cookies.

Simply the Best Small-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 T. unsalted butter, softened

3 T firmly packed light brown sugar

3 T granulated sugar

1 T well-beaten egg or egg substitute

1/2 pure vanilla extract

1/2 c. semisweet chocolate ships

1/4 c. chopped pecans, optional

Position a rick in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

Place the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend.

Place the butter and sugars in a small, deep mixing bowl; beat with a handheld electric mixer on low speed until blended, about 20 seconds. Add the egg and vanilla; reduce the speed to medium and beat until blended, about 10 seconds. Stir in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon; then stir in the chocolate ships and nuts, if using.

Spoon eight equal-size mounds of down unto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 2 1/2 to 3 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are golden brown, 12 to 13 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven, place it on a wire rack, and let it cool 5 minutes. Slide the parchment paper, with the cookies, onto the wire rack and let them cool completely. Use a metal spatula to life the cookies from the paper.

Makes 8 cookies.

You'll love how easy and fast it is to make a batch of cookies that's just the right size. You won't have to fight with reducing a recipe. This book takes out the worry of smaller portions that don't bake into anything like the original as happens on the time. You may also like Ms. Maugin's other cook book: Small-Batch Baking: When Just Enough for 1 or 2... Is Just Enough. This book contains a broader spectrum of baked goods such as breads. So if chocolate isn't your thing, this other book may be more to your liking. Regardless, enjoy! More fun in the kitchen, less time, and even less guilt when you eat the results.

In the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes from our year of cooking in the real world
Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061998249 $21.99

Living on a sailboat definitely means you have a small kitchen - part of my personal experience. As a result curiosity led me to this little gem of a cookbook. The introduction written by Ms. Ina Garten, one of my favorite food celebrities also intrigued me. She comments about how easily the writing flows in this book and I have to agree.

The young women who created the book write in a way that is accessible, realistic and fun. If you're looking for a gift for someone who is just starting out on their own or you wonder what you can possibly make in that tiny kitchen, I highly recommend a copy of this cookbook for your shelf. One of the best qualities of the book is how it literally takes you through everything you need to know to begin your cooking. You'll learn what equipment is needed, what pieces just aren't that important, and how to use them.

The recipes are also highly budget-minded. Most individuals starting out don't have a lot of cash to spare. Ms. Eisenpress and Ms. Lapine take this into good account. Occasionally, however, I'd recommend a few small splurges to improve your results. One recipe for BBQ Lentils simply falls a bit shy of effective flavor. Now, I am probably very biased: I lived in the Kansas City area for over seventeen years. While not a true connoisseur of barbeque, I certainly became a flavor snob. However, getting that important depth of flavor I missed in the recipe would be simple: rend down one or two pieces of quality bacon. The testers agreed that would really take it over the edge.

On the other hand, one of the pairings proved affordable, easy to fix and simply brilliant. Check out the Garlicky Chard when you make the lentil recipe. The combination is spot-on.

I also found a lot of peas in the recipes. At best, I'm neutral on traditional, shelled peas. If you don't care for this starchy vegetable, a number of the recipes may be off your list. You will, however, find many recipes for one that I recommend. One in particular has become a favorite in my go-to recipe collection.

"My Mother's Garlic Soup" felt like it came out of kitchen of the Jewish Grandmother I never met. My father's mother passed away long before I came along. Still, the results speak to family and tradition. I also recommend the Green Goddess Soup. This unique, tasty recipe is a great boost to anyone's health and well-being while taking your taste buds on a nice little trip.

When it came down to it the family chose Pretzel-Toffee Chocolate Bark as the favorite. My husband is not a fan of toffee and he still declared this recipe evil in the best possible way. I was told I had to bundle up the finished product and get it out of sight.

Pretzel-Toffee Chocolate Bark

2 cups milk chocolate chips

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3 1/2 cups broken pretzel pieces (see Notes)

2 cups toffee bits (See Notes)

Notes: To break up the pretzels, put handful or two in a re-sealable plastic bag and pound with your fist until they're broken up. Measure AFTER breaking. You may need to repeat this process until you have [enough].

You can usual find Health brand toffee bits in the baking aisle. If not, purchase health Bars and chope them up.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-second intervals in the microwave. You want it to be just melted - don't let it bubble or burn. As it's melting, stir it occasionally with a heatproof spatula.

Remove the chocolate from the microwave or heat, add the pretzels and toffee bits. Stir to distribute.

Pour the mixture onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread evenly with a spatula. Put the sheet in the freezer and let the bark sit until hardened. This should take about 1 hour. If you don't have room... in the freezer place in the fridge - [it] will just take a bit longer to harden.

Using your hands or a knife break the bark into bite-size pieces. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

What a nice, fast, easy recipe!. Be sure you use fresh pretzels. The 36 hours following completion, the chocolate in my batch began to bloom and eventually break. Everything had been fine during the melting process with no seizing or other problems. I finally figured out that the hydrophilic salt in my pretzels had been holding just too much moisture. Over time that was absorbed into the chocolate and changed it's texture. We still ate it and enjoyed every bite but the chocolate looked more attractive prior to this moisture invasion.

The Best One-Dish Suppers: a Best Recipe Classic
the Editors of Cooks Illustrated
America's Test Kitchen
17 Station Street, Brookline, MA 02445
9781933615813 $35.00

Cook's Illustrated is one of the top-tier cooking magazines in the United States. In my group of enthusiastic home-chefs we pass the issues around until they are worn and well-read. Excitement ruled with this book became available. Perhaps one of the most valuable things any cook can gain from this publication is a greater understanding of how to develop your own recipes.

Each recipe is presented with a fairly detailed description of the process used at the test kitchen to arrive at the final published results. For this reason, most people won't find this cookbook useful as a quick go-to when you're looking for something new to make with that pork, chicken or steak you have around when inspiration doesn't strike. This truly is a cookbook to take your time with and to read first before starting one of the recipes. The instructions are clear and a variety of illustrations for techniques are included as well as a few photographs.

Most of the items are presented in a menu style: usually a main dish and side dish. The first few recipes accomplish this by cooking both elements on one pan in the oven - this is handy and highly effective. The test recipe that got the best reviews at my house was from this category.

At the same time it was agreed that the Rustic Sausage and Spinach Polenta Casserole is one we'll use over and over. It is perhaps the most straightforward recipe to prepare found in the book. I was able to cut the preparation dishes down to one pan by preparing the polenta and placing it into my baking dish. Then I washed out that pan to prepare the sausage topping.

This does highlight something about the title, the recipes and the slightly misleading title. These are not recipes where you will only need one-dish for preparation. Far from it. The title seems to be a blend of the fact that some recipes will require only one cooking/baking device while others you'll only take one dish to the table. In nearly all of the recipes the opposite will not be true. Those with only one baking sheet require multiple dishes to finish. Others that will be dish to the table are highly likely to fill your dishwasher during preparation.

One recipe in particular stood out. The Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salad is laid out to serve with a tasty Spice-Rubbed Flank Steak. The unique salad combination completely floored us: simple, unexpected, with a very fresh flavor profile.

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salad

Serves 4 to 6

3 ears corn, kernels cut from cob

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime

2 scallions, sliced thing

2 teaspoons minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce

2 teaspoons honey

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped fine

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

Place a baking sheet in the oven and heat to 475 degrees.

[Once to temperature] brush vegetable oil over the baking sheet. Spread the corn on the sheet.

Roast for 7 minutes. Stir the corn and roast for another 7-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk 2 tablespoons oil, lime juice, scallions, chipotles, and honey together in a large bowl. Stir in the black beans, red pepper, and cilantro; set aside.

Stir the roasted corn into the bowl of black beans and season with salt and pepper to taste.

The recipe shared here gave us the best taste combination of familiar and new. Some of the recipes such as Slow-Cooker Artichoke and Chickpea Tagine seemed very confused. A successful tagine is truly a delight. The odd combinations of ingredients got my attention. The final result became confused. Perhaps because garama masala was a very odd addition or something was lacking to bridge the wide-reaching flavors. The speculation was that adding lamb to the dish would greatly improve it, but I haven't tried it yet.

Another stand-out character of this cook book is the price: only $35.00 US. This is a large-format book packed with information to help develop your skills. You won't go wrong investing that money into this book and your kitchen education. On the other hand, if you're looking for recipes that are fast and simple, check out the Fix and Forget series for your slow-cooker. I have three of these collections on my personal shelf. Cook's Illustrated is a slow-cooker for the home-chef's ability. These other books are about taking care of dinner when you have little time and inspiration.

Mini Pies: Adorably Delicious Recipes for Your Favorite Treats
Christy Beaver & Morgan Greenseth
Ulysses Press
P.O. Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703
8791569759086 $14.95

Do you or someone you know love to bake? Maybe you're always wondering which new cookbooks are worth the money or make a good gift. When it comes to finding new and interesting recipes for baked goods many home cooks search with little real results. For cookbook collectors the expectation of getting a truly new recipe is somewhere between 1:20 and sometimes as little as 1:50. This year, you can turn to "Mini Pies" with confidence; the size and number of recipes prove to have been carefully culled to make it a powerful collection.

The book includes a number of crust recipes ranging from traditional to vegan. Crust is often the trickiest part of putting together a successful pie. Ms. Beaver and Greenseth give you options that work, work well, and are well suited to the mini-dessert craze all around us. You may find that one of these will replace your go-to recipe for pie crust of any size.

You'll also find unexpected combinations. Based on the test pies, you'll love the new ideas. Well, we certainly did. I tried seven different recipes - all of them got great reviews. Pear is often underused in pies but "Mini Pies" includes this fruit by contrasting it with interesting combinations such as cranberry or blackberry. Both are less-traditional pairings that improve each fruit in the process. The Ginger Peach was also a winner. While I did not make any of the recommended decorative topping pieces, the little, leftover bits of crust would work perfectly. Our family tradition is to butter them, add some cinnamon sugar and eat them hot out of the oven.

One section of this book really stands out: Nut & Savory Pies. Nut pie recipes easily go wrong and en up cloying, overwhelming, or just plain annoying. Anyone who's treasured that finally-found perfect Pecan Pie Recipe knows this to be true. Savory Pie recipes (beyond quiches) appropriate for a cook's standard repertoire are rare. Sometimes it seems we haven't yet come far enough from badly-done steak and kidney pie. The savory pies in this section are so good one of them is already on my next party menu. Although the Savory Sweet Potato pie nearly clenched its place on the menu, The Caramelized Onion, Olive and Thyme Tart will definitely be one of the stars for this gathering of family and guests.

I'm highlighting the pie recipe I didn't want to stop eating. I understand it's based on a traditional Italian approach to nut pie. Even so, I'd never seen anything like it. Get some pine nuts and make this recipe soon - it can't be too soon!

Honey & Pine Nut Tart

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 egg

Shortbread Pie Crust (recipe on page 24)

2 1/4 cups pine nuts

1/4 cup soy milk

1. Combine the sugar, honey, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the butter gradually and stir until combined. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

2. Whisk the cream and egg together in a blow. Slowly pour the cream mixture into the honey mixture, whisking until well combined.

3. Preheat the over to 325F. Generously grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter or cooking spray.

4. On a thoroughly floured surface, roll out the crust to a thickness of 3/16 inch. Using a 4-inch-diameter round cutter, cut 12 crusts. Re-form and re-roll the dough as necessary, keeping plenty of flour on your work surface.

5. Using a mini cookie cutter (your choice) and leftover dough cut 12 shapes to use as pie toppers.

6. Carefully shape the crusts into the wells of the muffin tins, crimping the edges with your fingers.

7. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of pine nuts into each pie, then add 1 tablespoon of the honey and cream mixture. Add another tablespoon of pine nuts, then 1/2 tablespoon more of the honey mixture. Tope with a few pine nuts and pie topper. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the crust of each pie with soy milk, then sprinkle with sugar.

8. Bake for 35 minutes, until the crusts are browned. Allow to cool in the muffin for a few minutes, then carefully remove the pies from the pan and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.

9. Serve, or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

The resulting mini-pies have a more delicate flavor than a southern-style pecan pie. They are no less addictive for that being true. A cookbook of 25 recipes rarely contains so many winners. I'm pleased to highly recommend this little gem with all confidence and satisfied taste buds.

Betty Crocker: The Big Book of Cupcakes
General Mills
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030-5774
9780470906729 $19.95

I'll admit to very little excitement about reviewing this book when it crossed my desk. However, considering the current state of the cupcake craziness in the market I felt obligated to follow-up on the assignment. Fortunately, obligation can sometimes result in a surprise.

You see, I had very low expectations for a "Big Brand" cookbook. Over the years I've found such iconic sources to be effective sources for standards such as banana bread or basic chocolate cake. My experience with this cookbook was surprising, fun and effective. I made a number of recipes. Choosing a favorite presented an unexpected challenge.

The pictures are a high point of the book; nearly every recipe is clearly represented. Many of these little cakes showcase original presentations or flavors. The pictures help define where you're headed with some of the more involved adornments. Any home-baker can be sure to succeed with the images and instructions.

The Root Beer cupcakes, for example, are actually adorable. The only change I noticed was that the cups filled at least 2/3 full had a nicer appearance. From birthday parties to gifts you'll get some great ideas from the book. The Source Cream Chocolate recipe on page 42 comes highly recommended. This recipe was so popular at my house I made it twice: the second time I used high-end Crme Fraiche with exceptional results. The richer texture and stronger flavor justifies the investment.

The hands-down winner, however, was the Maple Cornmeal Cupcakes with Maple-Butter Frosting. With all the comfort of a cornbread and the charm of cupcakes this one is likely to be a winner with anyone who tries it.

Maple Cornmeal Cupcakes with Maple-Butter Frosting


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon maple flavor

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk


3 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

3 teaspoons maple flavor

3-4 tablespoons milk


Maple leaf candy if desired

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Place baking cups in each of the 18 regular-size muffin cups.

2. In medium bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In large bowle, beat 1/2 cup butter with electric mixer on medium speed 30 seconds. Gradually add granulated sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat 2 minutes longer. Beat in 1 teaspoon maple flavor and eggs. On low speed, alternately add flour mixture about 1/3 of mixture at a time and 3/4 cup milk about 1/2 at a time, beating just until blended.

3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.

4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans; place on cooling racks to cool.

5. In medium bow, beat frosting ingredients, adding enough milk, until frosting is smooth and spreadable. Frost cupcakes. Garnish each with maple leaf candy.

With so many cupcake options out there, some additional decorating ideas you might want to check out are"Hello! Cupcake! Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make" by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Other cooks may want to find some cooking resources in a more sophisticated direction. In that case look for "Bite-Sized Desserts: Creating Mini Sweet Treats, from Cupcakes and Cobblers to Custards and Cookies," by Carole Bloom.

Whether you're looking for fun, tasty ideas or a sophisticated upgrade, Betty Crocker the big cupcake book is worth more than just a casual glance. Take time for some extra fun in your kitchen today.

Refer to Wiley Publishing, Inc. and General Mills for copyright information. Review created by Heidi Sue Roth for Midwest Book Review and other sources.

Success defined as a little box is not success to me. Taking a small space and wresting every drop of potential seems a poor investment of my energy and hope. Rather, I would live on a vast, unexplored horizon. Where I do not know the answers, the possibilities. This is my success, my dream, the life I choose for myself. -- Heidi Sue Roth

Eat Greens: Seasonal Recipes to Enjoy in Abundance
Barbara Scott-Goodman and Liz Trovato
Running Press Book Publishers
2300 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-3471
9780762439072 $24.95

I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting recipes that use greens. Thanks to the huge health-boost they offer any diet, including them consistently is important. And sometimes, they can get a little boring. The most nutritious greens tend to be a little bitter with limited cooking options. So this cookbook really caught my interest.

If you're not used to fixing and preparing greens for you or your family, this cookbook is a great place to start. Using this book you'll learn how to select the best greens and green vegetables. Then you can try a few different ways to fix them. For persons more familiar with this part of cuisine, I'd recommend getting the book from library. You may already be past most of the combinations presented. Due to this fact, you may want to look for a few recipes to add to your repertoire rather than giving up precious permanent place on your book shelf.

"Eat Greens" is a fabulous choice for getting started. You'll discover the most famous ways to prepare and serve greens. Many of the recipes are manageable versions of very classic combinations. A few recipes will take you further afield. One of those selections got a great review at my home. Whether you find it at the farmer's marker or in the grocery store many people are intimidated by celery root or celeriac. Yes, it does look odd. In most cases it's not something you'd fix and eat solo. Celery root, however, is a great combination vegetable. Considering it's high in fiber and other nutrition, this strange-looking item is definitely one you want to incorporate into your meals.

Celery Root and Cabbage Slaw

Makes 6-8 servings

1 celery root (about 1 pound) trimmed, peeled, and finely shredded (about 3 cups)

1/2 small head green cabbage, thinly shredded (about 2 cups)

2 carrots, peeled and finely shredded (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground plack pepper

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3/4 safflower or canola oil

1/4 teaspoon ground paprika

Flat-leaf parsley springs, for garnish.

Put the celery root, cabbage, carrots, and parsley in a large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss well.

In a small bowl, mix the mustard and mayonnaise together. Stir in the vinegar. When incorporated, whisk the oil into the mixture until the dressing is cream and all of the oil has been emulsified.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss well. Add the paprika and toss. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve chilled or at room temperature, garnished with parsley springs. If you refrigerate the slaw for several hours need to refresh it with a sprinkling of lemon juice before serving.

This recipe is just one example of how easily and naturally you can incorporate additional and interesting items into your regular meals. Variety improves the nutrition provided and also just makes meals more interesting.


Truly Mexican
Roberts Santibafinez
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030
9780470499559 $35.00

Living in Northern California I have many options for good, authentic Mexican food. However, reproducing some of the more complicated items at home can be a challenge. With regional variations and a different version of common recipes between each family, mole and other things can be tough to tackle on your own.

The Truly Mexican cookbook provides a resource to solve this problem. In many ways it seems to reflect a more normal way of preparing these dishes at home. The style and approach is more of an assemblage rather than a more traditional cookbook. In other words, you get recipes for sauces, for meats to go with sauces and a variety of side dishes to combine with your meals as you wish.

Most home cooks will find this more accurately reflects figuring out what to fix for dinner. Often the though process goes something like this: I have pasta... what shape... okay, left over tomatoes for sauce so then what style... do I want to use the leftover chicken or some beef? In the same way you can tap the layered, fabulous flavors of traditional Mexican cooking and still use what you have on hand. In a hurry, this cookbook can be a bit frustrating. You are unlikely to be able to get a meal on the table in 20 minutes using this book. Be sure to save your explorations for those opportunities when you have a little more time and maybe even have a glass of wine while you're cooking.

You'll find sauces that clearly originated with Spanish settlers, traditional combinations from New World ingredients specifically from various regions in Mexico. Fortunately, the author provides substitutions if you don't have access to the traditional, local ingredients. One of the side dishes turned out to be our favorite.

Zucchini and Corn with Cream

Serves 10

1 pound tomatoes (about 3 medium)

1/4 cup mild olive oil or vegetable oil

1 cup finely chopped white onion

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 fresh Serrano or jalapeno chili, minced including seeds

2 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 2-3 ears) or 10 ounces frozen kernels, thawed

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds calabacits or zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice

1/2 cup Mexican crema or heavy cream

4 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (1 cup)

1 cup chopped cilantro

Set the oven to broil or preheat to 500 degrees with the top rack 8 inches from the heat sources.

Core the tomatoes and cut a small "X" through the skin on the opposite ends. Put the tomatoes, cored sides up, on a foiled-lined baking pan and roast until the tops have blackened and the tomatoes are cooked to the core (20-30 minutes). Slip the skins from the tomatoes, discard, and coarsely chop the tomatoes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 6-7 quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions, garlic, and chile and cook, stirring until softened, 3-5 minutes.

Add the corn, oregano, nutmeg, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the corn is lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring until it is just tender, 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cream, cheese, and salt and cook, stirring, 5 minutes more. Season to taste with additional salt, and stir in the cilantro just before serving.

The appearance of the dish is definitely something that may be unfamiliar for those who haven't been exposed to true Mexican dishes. Regardless, it was gobbled up the night I made it. And I have to say, it really does take that long to roast the tomatoes. I kept checking in surprise. So don't worry about that timing - wait at least 18 minutes before checking so you don't waste the heat in your oven.


Crazy for Cake Pops
Molly Bakes
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3449, Berkeley, CA 94704
9781612430447 $14.95

Cake on a stick is now a trendy epidemic. You see them everywhere, from Starbucks to upscale bakeries. Perhaps this reflects our desire for continued indulgence that won't break the bank or our waistlines. Regardless the reasoning, "Crazy for Cake Pops" may be just the book to get you started making your own.

If you have no idea how to begin I recommend starting here. My curiosity prompted a few purchases to see if I could figure out how they were made. You'll find some are made using the methods described in this book. Other pops come together in a more demanding method: spare time and personal skill will determine which is best for you.

This cookbook is also a treasure trove of creative ideas on what to do with your cake pop potential. Perhaps you are confident in your skills as a home baker but need some encouragement to branch out and be creative. No problem. Molly Bakes offers great instruction and the photographs done by Noel Murphy are truly inspiring. Seeing all the potential, I realized if I had small children at home and needed birthday ideas, this book provided years of options.

Some of the ideas are nice for adults as well. One of my personal favorites is the Mustache Pop on page 67. Lots of appeal results from combining them with bright red lip pops. Overall you'll find gorgeous illustrations and directions that are accessible to even beginning bakers. I have to admit, turning cakes into crumbs was an odd kind of fun. Once you've mastered these techniques, you can begin to branch out into your own combinations of flavor and excitement. Those beyond the beginning stages may actually want to jump right to that level and use "Crazy for Cake Pops" as your inspirational starting point for your own cake pop adventures.

Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One
Joe Yonan
Ten Speed Press
9781580085137 $22.00

Cookbooks for one are a long-term interest in my cooking life. Shortly after getting divorced I read a novel that described how cooking for yourself was an important part of effective self-care. It seemed like a healthy idea - unfortunately most of the recipes in the novel really bombed. Costly bombs in fact.

Mr. Yonan's cookbook addresses this common problem: how to eat well when you're cooking for one. A typical recipe can be hard to handle. Reducing portions isn't always just a simple mathematical equation. ON the other hand if you make the entire recipe how much of something do you really want in the freezer?

Cookbooks for one handle these problems and more. Over years, I've learned lots of great tips that apply even if you're cooking for more than one person. In fact, the process for two is nearly the same as one! Mr. Yonan follows one great tradition for solo cooking: make sauces and store them for future use. Whether you use the lovely recipes featured here or others, the approach is sound for solo or small-batch chefs.

One of the recipes we found easy to make was the Smoke Turkey Tacos with Mole Verde. The tasty mole sauce is worth the few extra minutes: you'll definitely enjoy the leftover sauce on a variety of things. I also found this recipe actually makes a more single-sized portion. Many of the dishes really make enough for two people. If you're watching your weight or counting calories count most of the recipes as enough for two meals.

A great example of this is the duck egg served with smoked salmon. This recipe prepares the eggs in the classic French method for a very light omelet. The recipes calls for two duck eggs - with richer yolks and slightly larger egg white definitely make this recipe some morning when you have a guest. The smoked salmon surprised and delighted. The chives make for a gentle onion flavor to share with a friend.

The star of the cookbook in my home however was the Mahi Mahi with Kiwi Salsa and Coconut Rice. We will definitely be making this one again and again. The method is simple. I chose the recipe because the salsa ingredients sounded unusual to me. Poaching the fish with the rice and coconut milk the flavors blends the flavors in a subtle, sophisticated way. Top with the accompanying salsa recipe for a surprising, satisfying pop.

Ice Cream Happy Hour
Valerie Lum, Jenise Addison
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3449, Berkeley, CA 94704
9781569759318 $14.95

Decadence just might be defined as combining homemade, premium-style ice cream base with your favorite type of alcohol. If you agree with that definition, the "Ice Cream Happy Hour" cookbook will make you very, very happy. With 50 amazing recipes combining fabulous flavors such as Guinness, Sake, and many more there is something for everyone who wants to try a spiked, frozen treat.

One of the nice things about this cookbook is the authors share with you both their process for reaching the final recipes and teach you how to make your own. If you haven't made ice cream before, don't sweat it. The book starts with everything you need to know. You will not only be able to get it right, you'll be able to make it great.

Although we've tried a number of the recipes from this book, I know we're no where close to being finished with all the recipes we want to taste. The consistent response was "So good it's evil" and similar comments. They are so good you won't want to wait until summer to start making the best "happy" ice cream around. The Guinness ice cream on page 82 was the first test. I'm not sure how long we'll be able to wait before making another batch. Thanks to great little counter-top ice cream maker models, the potential is nearly unlimited.

Rather than give away any spoilers on recipes or risk someone failing for lack of instructions at the beginning of the book for important techniques, I'm going to share one of the recipes you can use tonight. Although putting this on ice cream purchased from the store borders on sacrilegious, it's not a big enough offense to justify more than a small bit of penance.

Whisky Caramel Sauce

Makes a little more than 2 cups

Place 1 1/2 cups sugar in a medium saucepan and add 1/2 cup water. Make sure the sides of the pan are clean. Stir slowly over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. As the sugar cooks, the caramel will thicken and become rich in color. Resist the urge to stir. Once it reaches the desired caramel color, turn off the heat.

Scald 1 cup heavy cream with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Gradually stream the hot cream into caramel while whisking. The caramel sauce will immediately bubble over, so carefully stir until all the heavy cream is added.

Pour the caramel sauce into a container and refrigerate until cold, about 5 hours, then stir in 2 ounces Irish whiskey, or to taste.

This sauce is used in the "Irish Shot in an Irish Beer Sundae" recipe. Getting this cookbook just to make this sundae is worth every penny, the time and the effort. If you like chocolate and Bailey's, this recipe will put you under the table in sheer bliss. So don't get intimidated over making ice cream at home. With "Ice Cream Happy Hour" you'll succeed and enjoy every bite of the results.

Heidi Sue Roth

Henry's Bookshelf

Art and Agenda - Political Art and Activism
edited by R. Klanten, Matthias Hubner et al.
Berlin, Germany
9783899553420 $68.00

"This book is an investigation of the interactions between politics, art, and activism" coming about in the political turmoil and confrontations of the 1960s employing happenings, performance art, film, collage, photography, graphics, irony, and body art. These and related techniques and styles assimilated into all sorts of following postmodern innovations, concepts, and perspectives continue to be employed for political statement and criticism and social commentary. The particular vein of public art familiar now in films including documentaries, magazines, graphic novels, and other media as well as visual art is exemplified by works of artists mostly from Europe, the United States, and Asia.

Images of bodies and atrocities among the works from each continent are disturbing. Such images always have the power to shock and provoke. Apart from persons who are always the ultimate victims of political violence, corporate malfeasance, and social prejudice, there are also images of politicians, consumer products such as computers and cars, iconic structures such as the Statue of Liberty, and housing, city streets, and other features of contemporary life in each case given an artistic touch to make a statement. Themes range from ecology, urban clutter, the addiction of consumer goods, the effects of change on traditional culture, and the pretenses and deceptions of politicians. Along with verisimilitude, collage, installation art, and other styles, humor and wryness appear too.

The subject matter of suffering, recognizable though distorted products, housing projects, environmental degradation, and such limit composition and conceptualization. Settings, costumes, and particulars change. But as the political art aims at the practical purpose of making a readily comprehensible point, usually a criticism, to a wide audience of average persons, it does not reach into the realm of the visionary, futuristic, or idiosyncratic. Readers see the range of ways artists who are political activists make use of preferred, proven techniques of this field of public art to bring attention to grievances and injustices.

Colorado Goes to the Fair - World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
Duane A. Smith, Karen A. Vendl, and Mark A. Vendl
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826350411 $29.95

A professor of history at a Colorado college (Smith) and two authors who are geologists with a knowledge of Colorado mining history write a social history of the 1893 Chicago World Columbian Exposition, popularly known as the World's Fair, with respect to the city of Chicago, the state of Colorado, and the United States. The hopes, involvement, and ambivalent effects of the Fair regarding the three were intertwined. Authors with a knowledge of Colorado mining at the time are relevant because with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act requiring the U.S. government to purchase silver to back its currency along with gold created labor tensions and economic troubles for Colorado which the state hoped to ease by its participation in the Fair.

With the World's Fair, Chicago aspired to be recognized as the leading "Metropolis of the West". The United States hoped the Fair would demonstrate mainly to Europe that it was now a highly-developed, capable, and forward-looking nation.

The Fair was memorable--even to today--as a successful spectacle of industrialism, ambition, public relations, and publicity. However, as investigated by the authors, it fell short of satisfying the larger hopes of the three participants. Though the Fair was intended to display the vibrancy, diversity, and promise of the U.S., it in fact was mainly a testament to the current social condition of the Gilded Age where extraordinarily wealthy descendants of Europeans had practically complete control over exhibitions and the overall image. For Colorado, the effort the state put into the Fair in the hopes of generating a thriving tourist industry to make up for the depressed mining field did not materialize.

The Fair was an enterprise and image of its time of latter 19th-century America. "For middle-class [i. e., white, Anglo-Saxon] Americans, Chicago's Fair held out amazing hope, optimism, and pride." But the large numbers of African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe who were beginning to have a part in the growth of America so that the 20th century would become known as the American Century were for the most part invisible or when included in the Fair, portrayed in stereotypical, demeaning ways. It would be another 50 years before America would be portrayed as a multicultural society.

The authors analyze the social characteristics of the Fair while also relating many interesting facts going into it to make it the international extravaganza and the national showcase it was even though it did not fulfill all the hopes invested in it.

Georg Trakl: Poems
translated by Stephen Tapscott
Oberlin College Press
Oberlin, OH
9780932440426 $15.95

The poems of the German poet George Trakl (1887-1914) are engaging both for their style and for their subject matter. Trakl's short life ended when he committed suicide in World War I shortly after being assigned to a field hospital and witnessing the War's horrors. Although Trakl's style is plainly not modernist, it is not dated. The imagery from the world of natural is timelessly accessible (e. g., "There is a field of stubble, where a black rain falls./There is a brown tree that stands alone... [from De Profundis (II)].) And such imagery contains psychological states which are the actual subject matter of the poems giving them a relevance and appeal to following generations of modernist readers. Like Nietzsche who sometimes also compressed psychological states and insights into imagery from the world of nature, Trakl was a harbinger of the psychological tone of the developing modernism.

Poet and translator of Spanish poets, Tapscott "wanted to try to register, in English, that droll, ascetic tone" of Trakl's poetry. In this he has succeeded. The translations do capture and convey the "illusion of impersonal depth" of Trakl's poems commented on by Rilke, who was influenced by Trakl's style. Although there are other translations of Trakl's poems, Tapscott "think[s] the time is right for a fresh translation" because there are readers who will like to be exposed to the "strange disciplined pleasure" required for both writing and reading Trakl's poems and for their "egoless Romanticism" after more than a century of modernism's and more lately postmodernism's decades of pastiche, narcissism, distancing irony, et al. One gets the point--though inclusion of the poems in the original German would have allowed readers to assess Tapscott's discernment of the poems and also study his translations.

Though Trakl was not widely recognized in his short lifetime, he did have important supporters who helped to preserve his work. Besides Rilke, there were Ludwig von Ficker, publisher of the influential literary magazine Der Brenner where some of Trakl's poems appeared, and the major modern philosopher Wittgenstein.

Tapscott's nine-page Foreword should be read because it goes beyond the typical biographical background and word on the significance of the poet at hand to dissect Trakl's style and explain the means used for the translations.

Angel in Flames - Selected Poems & Translations, 1967-2011
James Scully
Smokestack Books
9780856417589 $14.00

These are selected poems of a lifetime of a poet of the generation of poets coming to age and coming to recognition in the 1960s. The 216 poems are divided simply into "Early Poems, 1967-1994: and "Later Poems, 2004-2011". The simplicity of the division of the poems reflects a coherence of the work of decades, the subject matter the poet has been drawn to throughout his career, and the unvarying moral perspective. Scully's poetry is more a project of witness than an aesthetic flight with the experimentation and visionary perturbations this usually entails. A rough chronology is seen from the poems' references and events and conditions prompting them; but the poet's descriptive, insightful, empathetic, and critical point of view and moral and humanistic sources remain constant and firm.

Scully's poems originate in the counterculture movement of the 1960s. Poems with titles like Dropping Out, Guerrilla, Workers United, and Revolutionary Poetic reflect the time's opposition to the Vietnam War and more broadly U.S. government involvement with right-wing military dictatorships particularly in Latin America by forging images of atrocities and oppressions, tendering searching questions, and commemorating victims.

Scully's poems come out of his life of engagement with the causes, peoples, and individuals he identifies with because they are victims of the atrocities and oppression. In 1973-4 following the military coup the U. S. government was involved in which brought the dictator Pinochet to power in Chile, Scully and his family lived in a Santiago apartment that was used as a safehouse by activists in opposition to the dictatorship.

The translations found mostly with the early poems are translations of Aztec and other indigenous verse and songs usually relating to the hardships and uncertainties of life and fragility of one's existence tying in with themes and content of Scully's other poems. Imagery and subject matter of the later poems concerns the military interventions in the Middle East; e. g., bombings of villagers, treatment of alleged terrorists in their orange jumpsuits.

Scully's poems are of interest for their unique expressions of political situations and events and their similarly unique style of witness and memory involving emotional and intellectual sympathies with suffering and neglected people. Although because of their imagery and references to particular places, events, and individuals the poems grew out of a particular period, they are not dated. With the persistence of injustice and folly of governments, the poems retain a palpable relevance.

Andre Domine
H. F. Ullmann
9783833146145 $49.95,

The content of this book can be put: Everything you wanted to know about wine, but didn't know to ask. The book provides more information and answers more questions about wine than any one person could know there was to the subject. All of this content is made accessible for reference or for absorption for ones whose interest in wine is at this level by a well-organized, detailed Contents as well as the four indexes and glossary. The content is organized by countries with regions within these, including European countries, Australia and New Zealand, and South and North America. Introductory chapters cover the general topics of choosing, storing, and tasting wine, using wine in entertaining, and terroir, climate, and growing grape vines as a framework for the detailed and in parts specialized material of the following sections concentrating on wines according to geographical areas.

The chapter on the wines of Italy serves as an example of the organization and content of all of the geographical chapters. History and background of the country's wines is accompanied by a detailed color map indicating the wine-growing regions. With Italy, there are 22 of these. This introductory part of each chapter alone provides interesting, useful, and colorful material beyond what all but wine experts are likely to know. The chapter then goes on to cover each particular region and its wines making use of maps, tables, and photographs to enhance the text. With some of the regions, there are tables of varying sizes calling attention to particular wines or producers by annotated entries and pictures of wine labels.

The encyclopedic, comprehensive, authoritative work goes far beyond what one can learn about wine in newspaper wine columns, mass-market wine periodicals, and even many books on wine. Such columns, etc., are in fact usually limited and repetitious--whereas this work while necessarily relating some standard, familiar material, presents abundant material going deeper into the subject of wine. The work's chapters on the countries from all parts of the world are as good and better than most wine books on such country's and regions.

In short for this voluminous book, it makes an ideal, incomparable gift, advanced course on wine, or reference for anyone interested in this alluring field involving history, human appetite, international commerce, agriculture, and other subjects.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Little Kids First Big Book of Why
Amy Shields, author
National Geographic Society
1145 17th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036-4688
9781426307935, $14.95

Why do some people wear glasses? Why does my skin wrinkle in the tub? Why can't fish breathe air? Kids ask lots of questions. Here's a book that tackles some of the most common inquiries. In all, about 60 questions are presented in four categories: amazing me, how things work, animals all around and wonders of the world. Frequently, the questions and answers are alternated with simple related experiments, such as how to make a rainbow with water and sunlight. Bold photography, a kid friendly layout with oversized fonts and lots of breakout boxes make this a fun read for 1-3-graders. That of course, is the best part, that a child can read the questions and answers himself. Great information, with curious young minds in mind.

Incredible Journeys: Amazing Animal Migrations
Animal Planet, Author
Kingfisher/Macmillan Children's Books
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780753467268, $19.99

The natural world has a rhythm all its own. Across the earth, creatures move from place to place seeking mating and birthing grounds, sustenance and a warmer (or cooler) seasonal climate. Animals often take the same circular route each year, travelling to a place and later returning to where they started. "Incredible Journeys" chronicles as many different migrations as is possible to fit into 120 pages. There's a lot of information; this is not a quick read. But the information is exceptionally well organized so reading is never difficult. The text is broken into easily digestible, short bites, interspersed with an abundance of bright, action-packed photographs. A cover-to-cover read will be time well spent. Inside, the book is broken into three sections - migrations by air, water and land. It then focuses one at a time on creatures in each category. Featured are creatures large and small, and common and endangered, from every corner of the globe. There are also excellent explanations about a variety of related topics, such as how animals' bodies are built to withstand travel and harsh climates; the impact of climate change on routes and destinations; and the role of things like wind and ocean currents. Great information, expertly packaged to be kid friendly.

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature
Joyce Sidman, author
Beth Krommes, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547315836, $16.99

Young children are challenged to look more closely at the natural world in this exquisite picture book that celebrates curiosity-driven questioning. This is a science primer, with lots of natural swirls including hibernating animals, unfurling ferns and a spider monkey's tail as it swings from a tree branch. There are tornadoes, ocean waves and flower petals. It is also an art primer with its subject, swirls, gloriously presented as finely lined scratchboard illustrations. That a humble snail, the coiled horns of merino sheep or a translucent spider's web are art renews one's sense of wonder. And it makes you think about what else exists in nature that could be grouped with similar shapes. Beautiful and educational, a great combo for kids.

The Great Global Puzzle Challenge with Google Earth
Clive Gifford, author
William Ings, illustrator
Kingfisher/Macmillan Children's Books
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
978-0753467213, $15.99

Books and technology intermingle in this fun, very kid friendly accompaniment to the new software Google Earth. Google Earth is a collection of thousands of satellite images. Users type in any address or location and can zoom in to see an image of it up close. Readers of the book begin by downloading the free software onto their computer and becoming familiar with its features. Then, they work their way through the book, which directs them to enter coordinates and location names that take them to famous places such as the Tower of London, the African plains and the Japanese imperial palace. The book is also packed with information about the featured locations and offers quizzes, puzzles and brightly colored illustrations that make it an interesting read even without going online. But the software provides the wow, so best used in combination.

A Month of Sundays
Ruth White, author
Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10010
9780374399122, $16.99

Rich family drama is set against a simple backdrop, allowing plot complexities to play out an uncluttered stage. It's 1957 and 14-year-old Garnet is sent to Virginia to live temporarily with her aunt while her mother seeks work in Florida. Garnet feels abandoned by her mother. Soon, she realizes that the father she thought walked out on them years ago actually never knew she existed. On top of that, cancer is killing Garnet's aunt and she meets a preacher's son with whom first love takes some wrenching turns. The setting -- small town America, in an unassuming era between World War II and rock 'n roll - quietly slips to the background. To the forefront come lots of emotions, chiefly anger, grief, love and hope. These are folded into a story that White masterfully holds to a middle grade reading level, while still offering ample detail and dimension. The pace also clips along rapidly, never miring down at difficult plot turns. An engaging to the end, not-so-simplistic read.

Karyn L. Saemann

Katherine's Bookshelf

Gunther, the Underwater Elephant
Ginger Neilson
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond OK 73083
9780983274025 $15.99

Ginger Neilson has written and illustrated an adorable book about Gunther, the Underwater Elephant. The story is different from the normal children's books in that Gunther does not get into terrible trouble that he cannot get out of himself, but he does show his courage and intelligence when a tragedy occurs.

Gunther, the little elephant, is accidently separated from his family and ends up floating out to sea where he learns how to use his trunk as a snorkel and meets a creature who helps him return home.

"When the bright morning sun woke Gunther, he found himself in the middle of a swirling sea.

Alone and afraid, he called and called for his elephant family. Suddenly, his tiny island came to life!"

When he gets close to home, he is met by a tropical bird who tells him of a tragedy involving his mother.

Follow Gunther as he figures out how to save the day with some of the things he found on his underwater trip. Children will love this story and stare in wonder at the lovely illustrations that are important in telling his story.

This is a wonderful book to read to your children as a bedtime story and will also be great for any time reading.

Ginger Neilson is a full time children's book illustrator and author. Her home and studio sit at the top of a hill, near the edge of a forest in semi rural New Hampshire. There is a magic wand on her desk and a dragon in her basement. Everything else is nearly normal. She has illustrated over 25 children's books. This is the first one she has written as well as illustrated.

Lady Justice takes a C.R.A.P. City Retiree Action Patrol
Robert Thornhill
Tate Publishing
Publisher's address: 127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781617393822 $15.99

Robert Thornhill is an excellent writer of mystery/comedy. This is shown in his first novel Lady Justice Takes a C.R.A.P., City Retiree Action Patrol. Just the title of the senior police action group gives me a chuckle.

Walt Williams has retired from his occupation as a realtor, but soon finds out that he is bored and at 66, not too old to continue in some sort of job. He soon finds his niche at the police department as a volunteer with the CPP, Civil Police Patrol.

"I vividly recall the day I sauntered into his office, took a seat, and blurted out, "Shorty I want to be a cop!""

So begins a new, exciting and so often funny new career for this former real estate agent.

He is given all of the same tests and training that the regular officers are subject to and passes. He is assigned to ride with a regular officer named Ox. They soon show that they are a force to be reckoned with as they solve several crimes. The intervention of "Lady Justice" in the form of happenstance is the way they put away the perps - along with Walt's senior friends, Willie, a former con man, Maggie, Walt's sweetheart, Professor Leopold Skinner, who has a sage saying for every situation and Mary, his seventy-five year old apartment manager.

Of course, there are the usual people who are against his being a police officer who give him a lot of grief, which he handles in a humorous manner. One example of how he handled the naysayers was during his initial interview when asked what he would do in a certain situation; he pulled out a taser and shot the questioner with enough volts to knock him off his chair. Although it did not endear him to the officer, it got his point across.

You must read this book for the absurdity in the way the crimes are solved. Although there are some sexual references they are not gratuitous (although the author might say different), they are an integral part of the storyline.

Robert Thornhill writes a lot about what he knows in that he was a realtor for thirty years. Many of the characters in his book are based on people in his real life. He has a healthy sense of humor about all segments of life. He lives in Independence, Missouri with his wife,

Lady Justice Gets Lei'd
Robert Thornhill
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781617771163 $17.99

In this, the third of the Lady Justice series, Lady Justice Gets Lei'd, Walt and Maggie are getting married, each for the first time. Pre-wedding jitters abound. Where to tie the knot? When to do it? Large or small wedding? Best man and maid of honor? All of these questions must be answered. Intervention comes in the form of Uncle Ray, a Hawaiian historian that they meet at an exhibit of Hawaiian artifacts who has a very strange prediction for Walt and Maggie.

""My homeland calls to you. It is not yours to understand now, but the day will come. You have been chosen."" (Uncle Ray)

When Uncle Ray and his nephew are killed, Walt and Maggie find themselves on the way to Hawaii with their friends Mary and Willie. Plans for the wedding begin to fall into place with the help of several relatives of Ray and his nephew. But not before a mystery that involves the prediction expressed by Uncle Ray becomes a part of their trip. Travel with them as they delve into superstitions and beliefs of the native Hawaiians and they get involved with adventure on each tropical island one at a time.

Robert Thornhill has written another hilarious and exciting story in his Lady Justice series. You will laugh all the way through it as it follows up the previous two in the series. You will laugh and hold your breath as Walt and Maggie and their friends tour the Hawaiian Islands in their own inimitable fashion.

Bob and his wife, Peg, lived in Maui, Hawaii for five years, so he has continued to do what all writers are told to do - write about what you know. Lady Justice Gets Lei'd is set in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. He now lives with his wife, Peg in Independence, Missouri.

Lady Justice and the Lost Tapes
Robert Thornhill
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781617393853 $15.99

If you don't read Robert Thornhill's second book, Lady Justice and the Lost Tapes, for any other reason, read it for the story of the 'family' Thanksgiving party. Putting the "usual suspects" together with no idea how to cook a big dinner is hilarious. They prove that it is the company that makes the day special, not the food.

"Not exactly a traditional Thanksgiving, but I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world.

To honor the occasion, we joined hands around the table, and each in turn, shared one thing they were thankful for in their lives."

Usually, the second book of a series is not as good as the first, but in this case, it is better, if that is possible. Mr. Thornhill has written what I consider another hilarious book, in case you could not figure that out from my previous comments.

Two new people are added to the group, Maxine, a prostitute and friend to Willie and Jerry Singer, comedian extraordinaire (and a bit obnoxious). The cases that the little group of fearless? octogenarians solve involve Walt having to go undercover in several joke inspiring costumes, including a "john", a gay man, a transvestite and the final one of this book, which I will not impart to you.

If you have read the first book, don't hesitate to pick this one up. Just do it when you don't have an important appointment coming up, because you will miss that appointment.

Robert Thornhill writes a lot about what he knows in that he was a realtor for thirty years. Many of the characters in his book are based on people in his real life. He has a healthy sense of humor about all segments of life. He lives with his wife, Peg in Independence, Missouri.

Rowdy's Night Before Christmas
Lynn Sheffield Simmons
Argyle Books
710 Old Justin Road, Argyle, Texas 76226
9780964257344 $TBA

Lynn Sheffield Simmons has written the enchanting words for this book. The beautiful color photos are taken by Denise Remfert, an award winning photographer. The pairing of these two talented people has produced Rowdy's Night Before Christmas, a colorfully photographed take on Clements traditional Night Before Christmas.

Rowdy, a Yorkshire terrier given to Lynn by her husband is three months old in these lovely pictures. Lynn used other mementos of other books and her life to showcase this cute little terrier.

Rowdy celebrates his first Christmas by getting into mischief with the Christmas decorations and presents, and a lot of resting in between his escapades; after all, he is a puppy.

"His eyelids grew heavy;
he started to doze
beside a sweet angel
in long, flowing clothes"

Children will love to pour over the pictures as the story is read to them as it becomes a tradition to be read on Christmas Eve. Parents will enjoy watching their children laugh in delight as they ask for a second or third or... reading.

Lynn Sheffield Simmons is the author of several children's books, including Sugar Lump, the Orphan Calf, Sugar Lumps' Night Before Christmas, Jack Crow Said Hello and Bo, the Famous Retriever series. She lives on a small ranch in Argyle, Texas with her husband, retired dentist, Larry Simmons. She has been involved with and the driving force behind many charity organizations including the North Texas Book Festival, the Community Civic League in Argyle and served as the volunteer director of the Argyle Senior Center.

Rowdy's photographer is award winning Denise Remfert. She lives in Copper Canyon, Texas with her husband, Phil and their poodle, CeCe. Her specialty is photographing children and families and loves to depict the beauty of nature.

Eyvonna Rains
B004MME40O $2.99

Eyvonna Rains has written a charming little volume of poetry with an oversize message that reflects a spiritual journey through life that she entitled Wanderer. She shares spiritual thoughts that touch everyone and relates romance and motherhood with that spiritual journey. As you read the poems, there will be some that specifically touch you that you will want to go back to and re-read.

She shares humor within several of the poems that made me remember how I felt in those same situations. I especially liked "You" as I felt the same way when my husband was late or made a joke at my expense and "Naptime", remembering my own times wanting to get something done as my young son slept.

The book is available on as a Kindle edition or from the author through her website

Eyvonna Rains lives in Oklahoma with her husband, Eric and her two boys, Parker and Cooper.

Carolina Calling
Barbara Dumas Ballew
100 Enterprise Way Ste A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453700488 $12.95

Carolina Calling is the first book in a trilogy about the aristocratic Borden family and their plantation life in the South. You will be transported to the tobacco plantations in Virginia and North Carolina when Barbara Dumas Ballew opens the saga with Joseph Borden, the second son of Emily and Leonard Borden as he courts and marries his love, Carolina Matthews. They start lives by starting their own tobacco plantation in Virginia on the land given as a dowry by Carolina's father.

Joseph and Carolina suffer heartache and hardship in their family life and the life on their plantation. When Joseph's father is killed in a riding accident all of their lives change as the oldest brother, John returns to the Borden plantation in St. Anne's Parish to take up the reins of that plantation. After starting the small plantation in Virginia, Joseph and Carolina's house burns down and they decide to make a life changing move to North Carolina. Go with them as they contend with their troubles and rejoice in their triumphs. Learn how they work to build their plantations and lives.

The story reflects the extensive research into plantation life and the buildings and equipment of the 18th century that Mrs. Ballew did to write this exciting and interesting story. Her descriptions of the layout of the plantation and the lives of the inhabitants are nothing short of extraordinary. You can picture in your mind's eye how the buildings looked and where they are placed and why. The depiction of the food they ate and the clothing they wore takes you to the era of the big tobacco plantations and the aristocratic life.

"... When Joseph opened the door, he took a deep breath. It was beautiful! The heart-pine floor was shiny and full of character. The white wainscot enhanced the dark green wall covering. Two glass windows were on the front wall of the parlor. The brick fireplace had a white mantle that matched the wainscot, and a row of seven picturesque tiles were inset between the bricks underneath the mantle. There were small glass windows shoulder high on either side of the fireplace."

Carolina kept calling me until I finished reading it. I had a hard time getting anything else accomplished.

Barbara's hobby is genealogy and after twenty-five years of research, she has written numerous articles for genealogy papers. Additionally, her first published writing was a historic, romantic novel about her ancestors beginning in 1790 entitled George's Creek to Georgia. Once she discovered she had a talent for writing, she has since penned eight additional books and has a ninth at the editors. She and her husband are retired and live in the beautiful Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. They have one son who is in Afghanistan.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

My Life in Mortgage Banking
Faith A. Copley
Privately Published
9781461055419, $27.00,

The mortgage business went awry somewhere in recent years. "My Life in Mortgage Banking" is a memoir from Faith A. Copley as she recollects her career in the industry as she shares her experience leading from the 1980s to the modern day and speaks on her views on where it all went wrong and how drive for greed led to sinking an entire economy. "My Life in Mortgage Banking" is a unique and very much recommended read for anyone who wants a personal take on the collapse of the modern economy.

The Sacrament of Sail
Matts G. Djos with Jeanine J. Djos
7290 Investment Drive, Suite B
North Charleston, SC 29418
9781461128991, $15.95,

The romance of the sea is not to be overlooked. "The Sacrament of Sail: Finding Our Way" is a memoir advocating setting sail into the sea. With humor, romance, and poignancy, authors Matts and Jeanine Djos cheerfully tell their story and what to expect if one seeks to go into the sea for themselves. "The Sacrament of Sail" is a choice pick for any nautical memoir collection.

Linebacker in the Boardroom
Marvin A. Russell
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432775575, $19.95,

Leadership is leadership no matter where it is. "Linebacker in the Boardroom: Lessons in Life and Leadership" is a leadership memoir from Marv Russell as he reflects on his history as a linebacker and man of business and states the values of leadership and making the most of a situation and scoring in life, the business room, and everywhere else. "Linebacker in the Boardroom" is a choice read with plenty of wisdom.

Terracotta Smoke
Toni Raben
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456851521, $19.99,

Our minds wander, and poets collect the experience from those wanderings. "Terracotta Smoke" is a collection of poetry from Toni Raben. With wisdom and a profound sense of what life is, her experiences will do well in offering a unique perspective on life. "Terracotta Smoke" is worth considering for any poetry fan. "Planting Flowers": She did not think of planting flowers/her reflection had been stolen/ten years before/It was Halloween night/The ones who were supposed to love her/denied her loveliness/dipped her in blue/and tattooed the word 'whore'/over the tiny door/leading into her heart.

Richard Bard
Privately Published
9781463534929, $13.99,

Coming out of something stronger is usually a good thing, but Jake Bronson quickly realizes some things are just as much blessings as they are curses. "Brainrush" follows Jake Bronson as he comes into new cognitive powers, but finds him targeted by both sides of the war on terror, as he embarks on a world wide journey to save his daughter, and maybe humanity along the way. "Brainrush" is a fine and hard to put down thriller, recommended.

Shadows in the Lotus Pool
Gwen Chen
Privately Published
9781609109202, $17.95,

The cruelest fate for a child is apathy. "Shadows in the Lotus Pool" is the memoir of Deng Yuan-Yu, who later took the name of Gwen Chen. Through the Chinese revolutions of the early twentieth century, she found her only parent was a careless father more concerned about his career than her, leaving her to be abused and left for dead, somehow surviving it all. "Shadows in the Lotus Pool" is a tragic, yet informative read of neglect.

Finding Zoe
Rosalee Jaeger
Privately Published
9781453866573, $10.99,

When you don't feel a part of the world, how can you connect to it? "Finding Zoe" follows young Zoe as she copes with her lack of connection to life, and tries to use her talents as a pianist to find something of worth in the world. Finding the ability to find friendship and to love for the first time, "Finding Zoe" is a thoughtful and poignant coming of age read of beating mental illness.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Consciousness Rising
Octavio A. Melo
Privately Published
9780578086835, $10.95,

Our existence leads us to ask more and more questions out of life. "Consciousness Rising: Observations on the Human Experience and the Question of What Has Greatest Value" is a musing of life and purpose from Octavio A. Melo as he presents his views and everything along with it in our lives search for understanding. "Consciousness Rising" is a choice pick for spirituality and philosophy collections, recommended.

The Safehouse
T. Thomas Ackerman
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432775247, $19.95,

Justice can sometimes be so hard to find. "The Safehouse" follows Detective Jessica Warren as she searches for justice as she joins with others in a crusade against domestic violence. But the law is not always on her side, and Jessica finds there are those who are working against her within it. Split between the law, her own goals, and sanding against the evil that reeks in the world, "The Safehouse" is a fine read that will grip the reader and not let go.

Because I Said So
Charlotte Rainey Green
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432773717, $20.95,

Parenting is a complicated endeavor because there are so many ways to do so. "Because I Said So: A Discussion on Parenting Styles and Achievement Gaps" is a solid guide for parents. Dr. Charlotte Rainey Green offers her advice on how to craft one's own personality as an authority figure in the child's life, leading to more home based harmony, with a particular focus upon academic accomplishments "Because I Said So" is an insightful and much recommended read for parents who wants to bring out the best in their children.

Traegonia: The Ember Rune
K. S. Krueger
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432776046, $17.95,

There are some things the world is not prepared for. "Traegonia: The Ember Rune" is a fantasy for younger readers. A follow-up to the previous volume, the adventures of this young forest civilization and their new friends from our world are pulled apart by a trip to California. A new adventure for the young people and the legend of the Ember rune becoming a reality, "Traegonia" is a fine pick for youth fantasy collections, recommended.

World War II
Victoria Aldridge Washuk, editor
Privately Published
9781463783693, $14.95,

As war rages on all around you, it can be hard to cope with the pressures of warfare. "World War II: London Blitz Diary" is a diary of Ruby Side Thompson as she tells her story of living under the pressure that the Luftwaffe put on London during the countless bombings throughout the war, pushing England to the brink of destruction. A personal story of a mother trying to keep her life together along with simple survival, "World War II" is a choice pick, not to be overlooked.

Lisa I. Meriweather
Privately Published
9780966060515, $12.95,

With a mastery of language, you can define life so easily. "Ambrosia: Streams from Many Springs" is an assortment of musings on life and everything else from Lisa I. Meriweather as she seeks to offer a gift of life and the mind with her work. For anyone looking for a bit of soulful wisdom, "Ambrosia" is an excellent and much recommended pick.

A Dubious Secret
Gerald J. Kubicki
Privately Published
9781460991947, $13.99,

The secrets of history could very well change our current world. "A Dubious Secret" follows Colton Banyon on a worldwide adventure and mystery as he searches for the second copy of Mein Kampf, which holds value to many powerful people throughout the world, and poses a threat to the world and its history. "A Dubious Secret" is a worthy considering for any adventure novel reader, recommended.

My Dog is Deaf
Hubble & Hattie
9781845843816, $19.95,

Hearing is important, but with good training you can help your dog overcome this handicap. "My Dog is Deaf - but Lives Life to the Full" is a dog ownership guide from Hubble & Hattie as they advise readers on how to live with a dog who is deaf, dealing with potential issues that come with the condition, communicating, training, and enabling the dog a good life regardless of it all. "My Dog is Deaf- but Lives Life to the Full" is a fine and much recommended pick for any dog owner who is facing this all too common problem with their beloved canine companion.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker
Marla Martenson
Bettie Youngs Books
15608 South New Century Drive
Gardena, CA 90248
9780984308101 $14.95

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be the head matchmaker of a high-class Beverly Hills dating service? In this her candid and witty memoir, Marla Martenson takes you on a humorous ride through the ups and downs of her life working for such a place, as she struggles with the often unreasonable demands of her wealthy clientele.

"I honestly had no idea how shallow, picky, selfish, and entitled some clients could be. After six years of feedback, demands, and expectations, I'm still thrown for a loop now and then," says Martenson. But what can you do when her clients pay $40,000 and up to find the right woman?

The author starts off by showing us what a regular day for her is like, answering annoying emails and trying to understand her clients' often incredible and unreasonable requests, as they continually find faults with their gorgeous, perfect Barbie-doll dates.

After this initial glimpse into her 'regular day,' Martenson goes back in time to recount how she got started, working at restaurant jobs and waiting on rude celebrities such as Joan Collins, who once barked at her for forgetting a fork. "For all my work, she left me a $2 tip on a $120 tab. The woman was clearly typecast as Alexis, right?" says the author.

She also talks about her dreams of becoming an actress, her marriage, divorce and remarriage to the perfect guy, her father's death and, finally, taking charge of her life. Eventually all fell into place and she started earning good money making commercials and getting small parts in films and print modeling work. She even got a couple of lines in the Mel Gibson film, What Women Want. Then, finally, how she got started as a recruiter for the dating service, on the lookout for what she calls "a fresh supply of goddesses" and her life as an author - a calling she never suspected she had.

The book is full of interesting anecdotes about Martenson's work in Hollywood with the stars. The writing is simple, straight forward, witty and honest. This is the perfect fun, beach read. I like the author's satiric slant on beauty and the mystery of dating and relationships, as well as the shallowness of Hollywood and the pressure put on women to look good. The book, though a light read, makes you think about society and the role of women and men in it, and explores interesting issues of gender.

Martenson is the author of two best selling relationship books: Excuse Me, Your Soul Mate Is Waiting and Good Date, Bad Date.

How To Tell A Great Story
Aneeta Sundararaj
66 Hamilton Road
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk NR30 4LZ
9781907498572 $18.00

For several years, Aneeta Sundararaj has been helping writers through her website with countless articles, reviews and interviews. Now, she has compiled all her experience and expertise in her new book for beginner writers, How to Tell a Great Story.

After a brief introduction, Sundararaj takes beginners through all the steps necessary to become a great storyteller, from vital preparation, to understanding themes, to the reasons for telling a great story, to painting your setting and much more. At the end of the book there are five appendixes: on planning and analyzing your research material, information for market research, character profiling, copyright issues for storytellers, and a sample storyline.

Written in an engaging, yet thoughtful style, and combining quotes and written material from other authors, How to Tell a Great Story makes a helpful, information-laden reference book for any aspiring storyteller. What I really like about this book, though, is the new angle the author brings into it: the importance of storytelling not only for writing stories, but for other aspects of our lives. For example, knowing how to tell a great story can be helpful in the workplace if you work in marketing and publicity and must give a presentation. A story connects people in a way that a simple explanation or demonstration cannot.

Sundararaj points out the importance of timing and intonation; in other words, often it isn't just the story that's vital but how you tell it. It is a talent some people are born with but it is also a skill that can be learned and improved. The same logic works for writing. You may have a great story idea, but how you write it and execute it is what counts. The author's advice works for aspiring short stories writers, novelists, and anyone who would like to get better at storytelling for everyday use. Reading this book was informative and interesting and I look forward to more of Sundararaj's work in the future.

The Silent and the Lost
Abu Bin Mohammed Zubair
Pacific Breeze Publishers, LLC
2527 Bowdoin Pl, Costa Mesa, CA
9780982593967 $24.95

The Silent and the Lost is an interesting and educational novel about the war between East and West Pakistan in the 1970s.

The story starts in Brentwood, California in 1997 at the beautiful wedding of Alex Salim McKensie & Sangeeta Rai, a couple deeply in love. Alex, our hero, was adopted at the age of four in Pakistan by an American couple and brought to the United States in 1972. A war baby haunted by the mystery of his identity, Alex decides to travel to Bangladesh to find out about his roots. The story moves back and forth in time, first reverting to 1971 to the heart of the revolution that eventually led to Bangladesh. When we first go back in time, we encounter a newlywed couple, Rafique and Nahar, happily walking the streets full of hope and dreams of freedom.

Their dreams are soon shattered when Pakistani President General Yahya Khan starts Operation Searchlight and West Pakistani soldiers begin their horrific massacre of East Pakistani citizens in an attempt to crush their dreams of independence. But the East Pakistanis don't give up easily and form guerrillas to fight the oppressors. To Nahar's dismay, Rafique leaves her to join the guerrillas to fight for what he believes in. Nahar is torn between what she knows is the right thing to do and her love for her husband.

I'm not a historian but the novel seems very well researched and Zubair gives a lot of attention to detail, not only to historical facts but also to the language, setting and description. He skillfully handles the graphic horrors of war without falling into unnecessary gore. The story combines love, war, peace, philosophy and spirituality. In a way, it reads like an epic and many a time the prose sparkles with clarity and vivid images.

I didn't know about this war so I found the book eye-opening and instructive. That said, it is a heavy read and the pace drags at times. I think the prose could have profited from a harsher copy editor. There are recurrent redundancies and unnecessary details that slow down the progression of the plot.

In spite of these flaws, however, The Silent and the Lost is a novel worth reading and one that historical fiction fans will find appealing and out of the ordinary. It is also one of those stories that stay with readers long after having read it, if only because it reminds us of the horrific events that have taken place in the past, and ones we all should be aware of.

Becoming: The Life & Musings of a Girl Poet
Nadia Janice Brown
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville NC 27560
9781257989171 $18.60

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of poems by Nadia Janice Brown. They are spiritual, inspirational and full of 'writer' sensibility, which I love. The tone is 'quiet,' making this little collection perfect for your night table, to be read before bedtime.

Brown's pen touches upon various subjects: God, the Genesis, marriage, fear, happiness, love, inspiration, writer's block, and the daily tribulations and insecurities of writers, just to name a few. Some poems break the general tone and are more serious, such as the one titled, "So this is Love?"

I've gotten used to broken things,

Even now to hear rage slice through


portrays a semblance of normalcy.

The brunt of your fist pelting my spine

is the only fixture in this home.

And you say this is love?

Sorry does not undo the scars

perverting my features,

will not restore fractured limbs.

Some of Brown's lines are beautiful and vibrant, such as these ones from "England:"

... I am standing on a Manchester bridge

feeding birds with crumbs of desperation,

giving them portions of my worries.

What they don't eat is packed away and

stored like lunch meat in the marrow of

my bones...

The author also includes several short essays among the poems, thus creating a sense of variety with her prose. Subjects such as what is your purpose in life, planning and preparing for change, living your dream, procrastination, and overcoming the author's blues come alive under this author's pen. If you enjoy poetry or have a friend or family member who does, I recommend you grab a copy of this uplifting collection.

Nadia Janice Brown lives in Miami, Florida where, apart from writing her own books, she helps other authors promote their work as a publicist for Author & Book Promotions at She's also the author of Becoming: The Life & Musings of A Girl Poet and the award-winning book Unscrambled Eggs. Nadia can be reached through her website at

Mayra Calvani

Murray's Bookshelf

Shin Yu Pai
White Wine Press
Buffalo, NY
9781935210184 $16.00

According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary (, adamantine which is the title of Professor Pai's new book of poems is an adjective that describes something that is very firm, strong, rigidly unyielding or is as tough or translucent as a diamond. Professor Pai who is Associate Director of the Hendrix-Murphy Foundation Programs in Literature and Language at Hendrix College and author of Equivalence: Poems, and Sightings (among other works) uses the word as a metaphor for human experience in a wide variety of settings.

Her book contains fifty poems. Twenty-six percent (or thirteen of the fifty poems) beginning with the very first poem titled "This Is Not My Story" mention or use the heart as central idea/metaphor. In her poems, the heart is described as the seat of emotion responding to an elderly man who cannot take care of himself due to age and infirmity ("We Are All Our Own Mothers"), or the selflessness of an act of self-immolation protesting some injustice ("Burning Monk"), or the opening of students' hearts to the possibilities of the natural world under the inspiration of a teacher ("The Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion, 2004"), or the loving self-sacrifice of a father such as James Kim who died trying to find help for his family who had been stranded in a snow storm in Oregon ("Search and Recovery"). Many images derive from Asia: jade cabbage ("Brassica Chinensis"), Buddha ("Does a Mouse Have Buddha Nature?"), Chola bronze ("Sold"). "Blossoms From a Japanese Garden," dharma sister ("Anniversary Poem").In her poem "Coincident," the author makes clear that although she is not herself a Christian, she exhibits religious sensibilities which seem Buddhist in their appreciation of resilience, perseverance, and search for harmony in all things.

A number of poems deal with actual events among which may be included "Requiescat" which compares the reactions surrounding the case of Amanda Knox who in 2007 had been accused of murdering her roommate in Italy which received extensive worldwide news coverage and In Choo Sun an immigrant who had been working at the University of Washington whose death caused barely a ripple in news coverage, "Search and Recover" which examines the loving self-sacrifice of James Kim who died searching for help for his family who was stuck in a blizzard in the Oregon country while his family was rescued, and "Transcription of a Text From A Sheet of Paper Picked Up by Roy Anderson about 7:00 PM on September 11, 2001, As He Was Volunteering At the Rescue After the Collapse of the World Trade Center." There is a prose poem, "Beneath the Word Oneness," following the example of Charles Baudelaire even if he is not the direct influence. Most of the remaining poems are free verse. The lack of capitalization except for proper nouns and the unusual punctuation and verse formation are reminiscent somewhat of e.e. cummings. The poems also contain stark, strong, vivid image contrasts that support the title Adamantine in a literary way. There have been major advances in poetry recently which unfortunately have received little coverage in the popular press but which nevertheless with collections such as Professor Pai's Adamantine deserve public notice. Very highly recommended.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer
Seth Grahame-Smith
Grand Central
New York
9780446563086 $21.99

Building upon the success of the author's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2009), Grahame-Smith offers a new fictitious reimagining of the life of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). The novel's cover (front and back) depict the thrust of the novel as a fusion of history and horror. On the front cover, Lincoln is standing upright in a pose taken most probably from a photograph by Matthew Brady; however over his shoulder one can see the tip of his axe with some blood it. On the back cover, one sees Lincoln's back, with one hand holding the axe over a shoulder while the other hand holds a decapitated head, and lots of blood. The novel's literary structure is based on a heretofore lost ten volume Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln that has been entrusted to a character who is a failed author (a stand-in for Grahame-Smith one might suppose?) and whose purpose is to create a written narrative for public consumption detailing how and why Lincoln was chosen to slay vampires. Another character named only Henry who has presented the journal is a seasonal visitor to Rhinebeck, NY. Throughout the novel, the reader will learn that Henry is a good vampire who wishes to serve, to guide, and to protect Lincoln throughout Lincoln's life from forces of evil that wish to do great harm to the United States. The specific event that inspires Lincoln to become America's most successful vampire slayer is the discovery that his mother who had died in 1818 of what contemporaries termed "milk sickness" was actually the victim of a vampire attack. To the author's credit, he does follow the main lines of Lincoln's biography faithfully even as he occasionally interjects preposterous hard-to-believe encounters with vampires. Perhaps one of the most fantastical plot turns describes the Confederacy's inspiration for secession from the United States as vampirically-inspired: Jefferson Davis in this plot has sold his soul to the devil in the hopes that a successful conclusion to the Civil War will earn him status, power, and wealth, from the crowd of vampires egging Southerners on; talk about demonizing one's enemies. Lincoln's assassination is reimagined as vampiric revenge at the hands of John Wilkes Booth, a vampire, an event that even Henry, Lincoln's vampiric guide, has been unable to stop. The novel is entertaining, a quick read, and contains enough real history (photographs included) to be of interest to readers enamored of horror fiction and historical fiction. Caveat lector however underscores that this is a novel, some of whose reimaginings are preposterous, go beyond literary license, occur in seemingly random places that do not advance the plot much, and adversely affect the overall reading experience.

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
David G McCullough
Simon and Schuster
New York
9781416571766 $37.50

McCullough is a noted historian who is most famous for concentrating on various aspects of U.S. history as he has done in 1776 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), as well as in his biographies Truman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992) and John Adams (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001) which won the Pulitzer Prize. This work is a highly readable, well-researched, informative intellectual history that traces the influence that Paris had on several generations of Americans who traveled there between 1830 and 1900. The author explains that unlike the earliest generation of Americans who had visited Paris (including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson) seeking financial and political support during the Revolutionary War against Britain, Americans who journeyed to Paris beginning in the 1830s did so for a serious purpose if not also for different reasons. The purpose for which they sojourned to Paris was to be exposed to advanced French thinking. During this period, Paris was considered to be the intellectual and cultural capital of the world in many areas. From the United States, artisans such as Samuel Morse (inventor of the telegraph and Morse Code), John Singer Sargent, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, politicians such as Charles Sumner, authors such as James Fenimore Cooper and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and medical specialists all journeyed to Paris to learn state-of-the art methods in their respective disciplines. In addition, the author brings alive French society and mores of the period including culinary arts, politics (including the Revolution of 1848 and the Franco-Prussian War), French medicine and its contributions to understanding disease especially during the cholera epidemic of 1848-1849, and the respect in which French engineering was held (given the construction of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower and despite the French failure to complete the Panama Canal). Descriptions of several World's Fairs including the famous Exposition Universelle in 1889 provide a glimpse into the far-reaching effect French thinking influenced the world. McCullough paints a panoramic view of the wide range of activities in which Paris at that time played a leading role. Aimed at a broad general audience, The Greater Journey is a fascinating narrative that connects ideas to events to real people. Thus it combines the strengths of 1776 which recounts the events and ideas surrounding the independence of the United States with the biographical interest of John Adams. Very highly recommended.

Jack M Bickham
Garden City, NY
0385114990 $TBA

Until 25-28 April 2011 when approximately 336 tornadoes killed 322 people over a three day period, the most severe outbreak of tornadoes in the US occurred on 3-4 April 1974 when 148 tornadoes struck thirteen states from Michigan to Mississippi to New York. The damaged area covered 900 square miles and was spread over a length of 2,600 miles; 319 people were killed. The severe weather lasted for approximately eighteen hours and caused $3.5 billion USD in damage in 2005 dollars. The worst weather occurred on 3 April 1974 in the Ohio Valley between 4:30-6:30 PM when five of the six F-5 tornadoes appeared. There were also twenty-four F-4 tornadoes and thirty-five F-3 tornadoes in that outbreak.

Bickham's novel uses the tornado outbreak of 3-4 April 1974 as the backdrop of a panoramic description of the effects of the unexpected outbreak of severe weather. The novel is structured in twenty-two chapters that follow chronologically according to date and time (from Saturday, April 5th at 5:00 AM until Thursday, April 10th at 11:00 AM); of the twenty-two chapters, fully sixteen cover a single day: Wednesday, April 9th from 7:30 AM until 10:00 PM. Thirteen of the sixteen chapters dealing with April 9th cover forty-minutes or less in time as the author seeks to concentrate ever more narrowly on the specific reactions of the characters to the unexpectedly severe weather and damage it inflicts. Bickham describes the frustration of the professional meteorologists (and Bill Frederick who is a part-time meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Lab, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who is responsible for studying weather as it develops and Ed Stephens who is Director of the Kansas City Severe Storms Office, who is responsible for forecasting bad weather and issuing warnings nationwide), elected public officials (Thatcher, OH mayor Mike Coyle who has to decide if and when to blow the tornado sirens to warn his community and Congressman Tattinger who is on an investigative jaunt to see where government fat can be cut from the US federal budget), and ordinary citizens as they respond to the fury of a large tornadic outbreak.

The author describes the then current technology that in most instances could provide a three-to-four minute warning of an actual tornado on the ground. The system included 185 ground stations spread across the US of which only twenty-five could collect data from 100,000'. In addition to constant watchfulness of changes in millibar readings, meteorologists also relied on ground observers to report a tornado spotted. By way of contrast today the percentage of successful identification of weather conditions spawning a tornado has increased from thirty to sixty percent. In addition, lead time from the time a watch is posted until actual severe weather occurs is now approximately one and a half hours. Newer technology such as Doppler radar, the more efficient use of storm spotters, and an effective public awareness campaign has helped prepare people and reduce casualties and damage except in only the most extreme of circumstances as this novel depicts.

The novel's main plot revolves around the difficulty that the professional meteorologists have in interpreting the data correctly to identify conditions early enough to warn the public about impending tornadoes. Ed Stephens is depicted as a very caring, involved government employee who gives up his free day to report to work because of the unusual and unsettling weather patterns developing. His opposite is Congressman Buck Tattinger, a self-absorbed bloated elected public official who is convinced that government employees spend too much money (possibly foreshadowing today's Tea Party members). He has undertaken his own investigation by visiting a number of government institutions so he could report his findings and recommend slashing the budget. His experience visiting the Kansas City Severe Storm Center during this severe weather outbreak will open his mind to dedicated, professionalism among certain government employees.

It is interesting to note that in the first six chapters, the novel's structure begins with the professional staff in Kansas City. The remainder of each of those chapters then describes the happenings of a bewildering number of characters in a bewildering number of locations; Chapter Three (Monday 4/7 from 6:50 AM-7:00 PM), for example, visits Kansas City; Thatcher, OH; Knoxville, TN; Monument Valley, KY; and Huntington, WV. The author, one suspects, is seeking to identify in a literary way the far-flung nature of the problem's extent and gravity. Of the remaining chapters, only in Chapter Nine (Wednesday 4/9 from 3:00-3:45 PM) does the action begin in Kansas City. In all the remaining chapters, Kansas City where the professional meteorologists are is found either in the middle of the chapter or not at all. This literary effect underscores the meteorologists' inability to stay ahead of the severe weather.

Along the way, the reader is introduced to a wide variety of secondary characters whose lives are impacted by the tornadoes. Milly Tyler is caught outside with her visiting grandchildren when a tornado strikes; she is injured but survives. Les Kerowiecz is a truck driver unable to outdrive a storm. George Abrams is a lawyer preparing to run for Governor of West Virginia when a storm intrudes upon a fundraiser. Mike Coyle is Mayor of Thatcher, OH who is torn between running for another term knowing his influence to address some local issues has been compromised or whether to run for an almost sure Congressional seat.

Despite the complexity of the plot (it probably might have been better to concentrate more fully on the plight of fewer characters), nevertheless the novel provides in broad strokes insight into the reactions of people faced with life or death situations in severe weather. Due to the outbreak of 336 tornadoes in April 2011, this novel is more timely than ever.

Pius Charles Murray

Paul's Bookshelf

The Murder Diaries: Seven Times Over
David Carter
Trackerdog Media
118 Ringwood Road, Walkford, Christchurch, Dorset BH23 5RF, United Kingdom
9780955977428 $2.99 (kindle e-book)

The northwestern England town of Chester (near the Welsh border) is being menaced by a serial killer. Inspector Walter Darriteau is on the case.

If there is such a thing as a "quiet" serial killer, that is the situation in Chester. There are no cases of multiple stab wounds, or blood all over the walls. A woman is drugged, and her head is completely wrapped in brown tape until she suffocates. Her body is stuffed in a suitcase, and dumped in an abandoned quarry. An old fisherman is pushed into a canal and drowns. An elderly woman is drugged and taken to a quiet patch of forest. The car is left running, and the exhaust is pointed back into the car with the windows rolled up. The police don't know if they are dealing with one or more killers, or their gender. There are the usual taunting letters, specifically intended for Darriteau. The killer/killers have a specific grudge against Darriteau, a native of Jamaica who is nearing retirement age, and wants him to suffer. A fellow member of the police department is attacked at the local race track. Is Darriteau next?

This is also the story of a boy named Armitage, more interested in singing, dancing and flower arranging than in the usual activities enjoyed by boys. Dad runs a failing car dealership, and Donna, his second wife, who handles the finances, has been embezzling thousands of pounds from the company. She also hates Armitage. When he is 11 years old, they are killed in a car accident. Armitage assumes that he will live with Mrs. Greenaway, the owner of the local florist shop, but she says that she does not have the space, or the desire, for Armitage. He spends the rest of his childhood in an orphanage. After he is released, he drifts from job to job. At one job, he crosses paths with Desiree, and falls instantly in love. She feels the same way.

Desiree is a brilliant student, and beautiful, who has been recruited to work at one of those super-secret research installations. She begins to have real doubts about her work, which involves experiments on live people. She starts bringing home samples of her work, and keeps a copy of her files off-site. Paranoia starts to set in. Desiree comes to an untimely demise.

Published in England, this is a kind of "quiet" novel, but a really good novel. The reader will stay interested until the end. Here is a first-rate piece of writing.

State of Mind
Sven Michael Davison
Bedouin Press
P.O. Box 570169, Torrance, CA 91357-0169
9780966614923 $25.95

This book is set in 2030 Los Angeles. It is about government mind control, and one man's attempts to fight back.

Jake Travissi was thrown off the police force for upsetting the wrong people. He is let back on the force after he is implanted with a P-Chip. It lets a person do practically anything with their mind; access the Web, see things through the eyes of another P-Chip recipient, record video on to a computer hard drive and talk to other P-Chip recipients telepathically. A person can even regulate their metabolism so that they can eat and drink whatever they want and not gain weight. Jake is part of a three-man squad working for Homeland Security.

Their first case is to investigate the very public murder of Dr. Veloso, a co-creator of the P-Chip. The shooter's eyes, teeth and fingerprints have been removed, making identification nearly impossible. While Jake is there, he has split-second flashes of his hands destroying the evidence. On another raid, taking out an alleged terrorist cell, Jake has more flashes of he and his colleagues doing very illegal things. He also hears voices in his head, which are the God Heads.

Sandoval, the Director of Homeland Security, who commands the three-man squad (the Enhanced Unit), also runs a super-secret squad of P-Chip hackers. It is possible to take a person "offline," to shut down their higher brain functions, controlling them to do or say whatever you want, then plant false memories to make up for it. Jake begins to push back against the God Heads, killing one of them. In retaliation, Jake is kept offline for several weeks, and controlled to resign from the Enhanced Unit. He is constantly filled with feelings of depression and suicide by the God Heads. He is also turned into something of a donut addict, becoming a fat, lazy parody of a cop. Sandoval's intention in pushing the skyrocketing popularity of P-Chips is to become one of the elite who actually rule the world, while everyone else is kept happy in some artificial P-Chip world. With help from Dr. Morris, the P-Chip's other co-creator, Jake is able to do a lot more pushing back against Sandoval and the God Heads.

This one is very plausible, it's more than a little spooky and it's really good. How long will it be before a cell phone, or Web browser, can be miniaturized enough to fit inside a human brain?

Gift From the Stars
James Gunn
BenBella Books
10300 North Central Expressway, Suite 400, Dallas, TX 75231
9781932100655 $14.95

First Contact with an alien species can happen in a grand moment of scientific discovery, like in the film "Contact." It can also happen in a much more mundane and accidental manner.

Adrian Mast is an aeronautical engineer (and frustrated astronaut). Browsing in a local bookstore, he picks up a remaindered book on UFOs. In the Appendix, Adrian finds what look like a legitimate set of plans for an interstellar spaceship. With help from Frances Farmstead, the bookstore's owner, Adrian tracks down the publisher, who nrevously denies that they ever published the book, even though their name is on it. Peter Cavendish, the author, is in a mental hospital in the Midwest, afraid that the government, or the aliens, is out to get him. Somone has gone to a lot of trouble to suppress the book. Adrian and Frances get the plans spread out to the scientific community, before someone "suppresses" them.

The alien machines built from the plans radically change Earth, bringing about an era of really free energy. Adrian and Frances put together a group of people to build a spaceship based on the plans. They get permission from the Energy Board. Cannibalizing an old space station, the ship is finally ready for launch. Mankind still has no idea who the aliens are, where they are or why they sent the spaceship plans. On its maiden voyage, the ship suddenly starts traveling in a very different direction. Before he left the ship, back at Earth, Peter Cavendish programmed the ship's computer to take the ship to the aliens.

The ship enters a wormhole, where the laws of time and space are turned upside down. There is no way to tell how long the wormhole is, or if the ship is even moving. The crew remembers events that haven't yet happened. The ship eventually leaves the wormhole, and reaches a planet with hundreds of spaceships in orbit, of all shapes and sizes. Evidently, humanity was not the only civilization to hear from the aliens. After months of waiting for a reception committee, which never happens, members of the crew land on the surface, find their way into underground tunnels, and get some answers to their questions.

This one is very plausible and rational, and it has believable characters. It is interesting from start to finish, and is very much worth the time.

Sun, Sand and Rock n Roll
Nikhil Lakhani
9ine Inc.
1710 First Avenue, Suite 169, New York, NY 10128
9780982952399, $29.99 222 pages

This is the story of a man who seems to have it all. That is, until the day that it is taken away from him.

JB Strassenberger is the leader of a 4-piece rock band called Generation Rebel. Wherever they play, they gather more and more fans. Whatever that undefinable "it" is that distinguishes a great band from an average band, Generation Rebel is overflowing with "it." The sky seems to be the limit. During a mass audition for Atlantic Records, JB meets KG, a guitarist who is every bit JB's equal. After getting over his initial jealousy that he may not be the best guitarist in the world, JB arbitrarily invites KG to join Generation Rebel. As a 5-piece band, if anything, their rise to the top picks up speed. One day, they take a helicopter to Las Vagas to play some concerts. The helicopter crashes, and JB is thrown clear.

He wakes up several days later in an Indian village called Shaktipur. Located in an isolated bit of Nevada, it is behind some sort of mental barrier, so it is not accessible to the average person. JB is angry, sarcastic to everyone, and a little scared, especially when he is told that his was the only body at the crash site. There are several escape attempts, all unsuccessful. The people of Shaktipur, despite his bad behavior, because of a prophecy that a white man will join their village.

JB decides to totally change his attitude, and accept being in Shaktipur, after he meets a beautiful woman named Saraswati, the chief's daughter. Red Rage, his beloved guitar, thought to have been lost in the crash, is returned to him, so he is able to show the villagers what he is all about. One night, the village is attacked by a shakti, a four-legged carnivorous beast that is all teeth and claws (another good reason why no one leaves the village). There are many casualties. JB finds the lair, and, with a little help from his friends, does battle with the shakti, armed only with Red Rage. During JB and Saraswati's wedding celebration, a helicopter suddenly appears and lands. The guitar battle was heard many miles away, and the authorities were notified. Does JB return to "civilization" or does he stay in Shaktipur?

Here is a great piece of writing. For those who are any sort of rock music fan, the guitar battle with the Shakti deserves to be read more than once. For everyone else, this story also has heart and emotion. It is very highly recommended.

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives
Justin Gustainis, editor
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781894063487 $14.95

These days, urban fantasy stories are big business (in literary terms). This anthology presents new stories of demon hunters by today's most popular writers.

Kate Connor is your average suburban soccer mom, who just happens to work for a super-secret branch of the Vatican. Allie, her teenage daughter, is a demon-hunter in training, but is not yet ready to join Kate on patrol (a never-ending source of sulking and whining on Allie's part). Allie sneaks off to a fancy party in a huge mansion owned by a demon who needs human sacrifices.

Quincey Morris is an occult investigator in Austin, Texas. His latest client is a man whose dot-com went out of business. Contemplating suicide, he signed over his soul in exchange for ten years of success. The ten years are up in a few hours, and the man is terrified that he is going to Hell. Can Morris do anything about it?

Petunia "Pete" Caldecott is a former Inspector with the London Metropolitan Police. Sitting in a bar one night, wanting to be alone, she is approached by an inhabitant of the land of Faery. The prince of Faery has been murdered, which is totally foreign to Faery, and human eyes are needed to find the murderer.

Tony Giodone is a former hitman who has been turned into a werewolf. He now works for the police force of the Sazi Council (they are the good guys). His latest case involves Carmine, a mob boss, who has snuck into Calgary, Alberta, because there are people who want a certain thing very badly. They have no problem with killing anyone who gets in their way. It involves a vial of a very sophisticated virus, and what looks like a photo of a brick wall.

These stories will certainly keep the reader interested. For non-horror readers (like yours truly), the horror part is not overwhelming. Urban fantasy readers will love this book, and it is a first-rate group of stories.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

David and the Heart of Aurasius: Book One in the World of Esmorde Series
R.J. Timmis
Zeus Publications
P.O. Box 2554, Burleigh MDC Queensland 4220 Australia
9780987111302 $24.95

David's parents aren't getting along so they drop him off with Grandma while they work out their problems. His grandma lives in Blackwater, a little village in the middle-of-nowhere Australia. She knits doilies, collects potato peelers, and has a bulldog named McFluff. David is certain he will die of boredom and longs for an adventure. One day a lorikeet lures him through a hidden glen to a hollow oak tree. When he enters the tree, he falls through the floor into the world of Esmorde. In his fall, David also destroys the Arch Room, his only way back home to the "otherworld". For that he is put on trial where he learns the ancient land has been cursed by the death of an evil, red dragon named Aurasisus. When he was killed by a warrior Aurasius's heart was turned to stone and the inhabitants of Esmorde, including humans, half-humans half-elves, animans, and several other unusual species, will eventually be turned to dust. They are led by Elder Nei and are awaiting the hero from the otherworld who is prophesied to appear and save them from the curse. But no one, including David, believes he is that hero. So David is sent on a harrowing journey with his three new friends Jeeka, Scud, and Tahn, to open up a Second Door to the otherworld for the real hero to enter. "David and the Heart of Aurasius" is the first book in the World of Esmorde series. The inclusion of Timmis's drawings - especially the map - add to this story's allure. Timmis has combined a vivid fantasy world with breath-taking, action-packed adventure into a page turner that will leave readers wanting more.

You and What Army? How to Neutralize Conflict and Negotiate Justice: For the Totally Outgunned, Inwardly Timid, Burnt Out or Socially Defunct
Lisa Bracken
New Flight Books
PO Box 30, Silt, CO 81652
9780966450583 $60.00

If there was ever the perfect convergence of book and movement that time is now. The movement is "Occupy Wall Street". The book is "You and What Army?" Lisa Bracken has created a guidebook for negotiating not just change but evolution. She is a communications consultant and paralegal which gave her the solid foundation for what has been the true grit of her education and experience with conflict negotiation. Bracken has spent most of the past decade in negotiations with the oil and gas industry over the impacts of drilling on her and her family's health, property, and the environment in general. Those of us who have lived under the shadow of natural gas drilling know all too well what a fire-breathing dragon the industry can be. Bracken is a modern warrior who is skilled at brandishing the sword of negotiation.

This is a big book - all 872 pages of it. However in the first chapter Bracken offers practical tips "for getting the most from this content". Whether you are negotiating with a multi-national corporation, a political body, or a neighborhood bully, this book provides a road map toward conflict resolution. Bracken covers all the bases including the basics of the negotiation process, managing situational variables, the six steps in designing strategies, how to neutralize misinformation campaigns and implement leverage, just to name a few. Each chapter contains worksheets with a list of questions to help distill goals and objectives. Expertly woven into these guidelines is the critical importance of effective, broad-based communications. Perhaps the best example is the introduction of the "cloud coalition", which brings people together from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds through online social networking. The detailed table of contents, the author's conversational tone, and the wealth of information combine to make this an easy-to-navigate, invaluable resource for any of us who view ourselves as the 99%.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

The Dog Who Knew Too Much
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books
9781439157091, $25.00

In The Dog Who Knew Too Much, author Chet delights readers with another top-notch suspense mystery. You see, Chet is a dog who authors tales in which he and his partner, Bernie Little, face the criminal element to bring about law and order. Bernie is Chet's master, but the story is written from the dog's point of view. Bernie is a private investigator, while Chet is his loveable, dependable, sleuth sidekick. In the books written by Spencer Quinn, these two beings are inseparable.

Dog-author Chet and Bernie begin a fearsome investigation for a somewhat soft, paunchy lad who has disappeared from a summer camp apparently during a hike into the deep wilderness. One can only imagine what it would feel like to be a parent and receive the message, "Your son is missing." His mother is a psychological wreck during this entire ordeal. Devin had been enrolled in the camp to "toughen him up" a bit. His mother worries that ex has somehow kidnapped the youth.

Although the defensive camp hiking guide insists that Devin has merely wandered off, his theory becomes more and more implausible, particularly when search parties, including those using helicopters, cannot find the boy.

Bernie uncovers that on one of the camp-out nights, Devin actually slept outside under the stars, rather than bunk inside, to be picked apart and jeered at by toughies. They knew the camp routine and had little mercy for soft newcomers. Disinterested local investigators feel that this is the reason the boy ran off and is probably hiding somewhere afraid to return.

But The Dog Who Knew Too Much becomes more than a story of a boy's survival. With Chet's indomitable help, Bernie locates a boarded up, partially hidden tunnel in the mountain around which the hike took place. Could Devin be hiding in there? Followed by Bernie, Chet engineers his way into the aging, collapsing tunnel. In some places, Bernie is able to crawl through some passages, only after Chet first wriggles through.

Later, on their second attempt to enter the mine, they find a heap of rocks that appear to be unnaturally piled up. On closer examination, they uncover fingers then a hand. It is not Devin, but it is a man with a nice round bullet hole through the front of his head. In his dog brain, Chet perceives that, "One thing I've learned about life: when it stops, the smell starts changing right away."

So where is missing little Devin? If he is in danger, will Bernie and Chet find him before he perishes? Did he wander away; was he kidnapped; is he simply hiding? Is there some kind of cover-up taking place with the local sheriff? What is the connection between the abandoned mine and the dead man found within?

The answers to these questions can be found in the delightful tale of The Dog Who Knew Too Much. If you are not aware of this series of books, author Spencer Quinn is a master storyteller who delights his readers by allowing a dog to tell his tales. Chet is an unusual animal. He thinks like a dog and he reasons like a human. Chet will think nothing of grappling with a killer and then walking over to the nearest tree to lift his leg.

This story is such a good read that I recommend it highly to everyone who wants to read an exciting mystery written entirely from a dog's point of view. If you are a teacher with reluctant readers, get them turned on by obligating them to read The Dog Who Knew Too Much. They will appreciate the intriguing story, particularly the comic remarks made by master sleuth, Chet. More than likely, they will ask for more.

Thomas Enger
Atria Books
9781451616453, $15.00

In the strange but gripping tale, Burned, by Thomas Enger, Norwegian Henning Juul, feels extremely self conscious in public because of the burn scars on his face. The reader learns by bits and pieces throughout the story that Henning's young son was killed during a fire that left Henning disfigured and extremely depressed.

After two years, he builds enough courage to return to his previous job as an investigative reporter. His very first case involves him in a gruesome murder mystery where police find a young woman dead in what appears to be an honor killing. The victim in Burned was buried almost to her neck. She appears to have been stoned to death - the punishment rite ofsharia for unfaithfulness. Police immediately imprison her boyfriend.

On the back of the neck of the dead woman, Henning notices tiny marks that a stun gun might have produced. Beginning with this discovery, he reasons that the woman's killer stoned her after he stunned her into unconsciousness. Although police assume her death was a sharia incident, Henning digs vigorously for clues to contradict their verdict. As a reporter, he seeks a top-headline story.

He notices that the victim had helped develop a screenplay to expose the absurdity of sharia law if carried out in modern Oslo. In the screenplay, an actress would be stone-murdered in gruesome detail for an alleged adultery. Now, Henning believes the murdered woman became a real victim in her own screenplay that she and several others were screen-shooting.

To say the least, Burned is not a book you can put down easily. While all clues seem to point to the murdered woman's jilted Pakistani boyfriend, Henning's reasoning and clues will leave your mind in turmoil. It isn't until the very end of Enger's story that Henning strongly hints who the real killer was. You, the reader must decide if he was correct.

Interestingly enough, Burned begins with a flashback to the fire that scarred Henning for life - that caused him to lose his son - that caused his wife to divorce him. Yet, even at Burned's conclusion, the author promises a continuation of events in a future book that will reveal what and/or who started the fire that changed Henning Juul's life so dramatically.

I would recommend this story to readers who love bizarre mysteries that are not the usual mystery/suspense fodder. Like me, you will learn a lot about sharia law and attempt to rationalize how radical Muslim's can continue to enforce it. The book is strong enough to make the reader seek out Thomas Enger's next installment.

There are several instances where active voice could be used rather than passive: page 117 "... a hole is ripped in the door behind him ... " A simple sentence such as "A hole rips through the door behind him ... " would suffice and might be a bit more exciting. All in all, this story stirs the imagination. I agree with the words on the very first page of the book: "... this gritty, shocking novel of suspense heralds the arrival of a major new talent."

Regis Schilken, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Strength to Stand
T. D. Jakes
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768438765, $16.99

Moving from a Calloused Heart to Victorious Strength

New York Times best selling author T. D. Jakes' books consistently proclaim characteristics of integrity, gentleness, and truth. "Strength to Stand" equips the reader with a plan for overcoming, for succeeding, for thriving, for advancing, and for winning.

The book includes:

Biblical instruction

Probing questions for building faith stamina and for finding solutions

Steps to finding God's calling on your life, to meet challenges to live out your full potential

Each chapter combines devotional reading and reflections with a practical study guide adaptable for personal or group use. The bite size chapters are rich in practical instruction for adapting scripture promises into life changing personal applications.

I personally found the truths presented in the chapter titled "God's School of the Spirit" especially beneficial. The "Stamina Secrets and Solutions" helped me formulate steps to communicating with God through intimate dialog, while thirsting for truth, operating within those truths, as well as influencing and persuading others with that truth. He also addressed other important issues, including: The danger of pride, healing for past hurts, and getting back on track.

Bishop T. D. Jakes' writing provides the reader with amazing insight into spiritual life changing principles. His writing is articulate, convincing, and practical.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

Creatively Ever After: A Path to Innovation
Alicia Arnold
Alder Hill Press
P. O. Box 563, Hanover, MA 02339
9780983440512, $15.95

Equipping for Innovation

"Creatively Ever After: A Path to Innovation" is an ingenious approach to meeting a critical need for creativity in leadership in the workplace today. Alicia Arnold is recognized as a creativity scholar and practitioner. She is a certified facilitator of the Osborne-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process. The success of her workshops led to incorporating these principles into the preparation of this guidebook for a wider audience.

Arnold builds the same childlike wonder experienced through nursery rhymes to help the reader tap into a sense of "playfulness" to open their minds to creativity. Each chapter presents scenarios that help the reader identify the challenge. The reader will learn lessons from Jack and Jill, King Cole, Humpty Dumpty, and many other favorites from well known nursery rhymes. Practical instruction provides principles to clarify the problem, gather data, seek and develop possible solutions, and establish an action plan.

Principles included in arriving at this action plan include:

A Definition of the Creative process

Focusing techniques

Positive steps to imagining

Approaches to life

Adopting a creative process

Transformational creativity

Attainable and effective everyday creativity

I consider the glossary and bibliography practical tools for a clearer understanding and for future study and reference.

"Creatively Ever After: A Path to Innovation" is a unique approach for equipping and developing leadership in the workplace. Alicia Arnold provides the skills needed for creative imagination and innovation.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

Reproducible Pastoral Training: Church Planting Guidelines from the Teachings of George Patterson
Patrick O'Conner
William Carey Library
1605 E. Elizabeth Street, Pasadena, CA 91104
0878083677, $19.99

A Training Guide for Discipleship Training - Equipping Church Leadership in Any Culture

"Reproducible Pastoral Training" is a compilation of sixty-eight specific guidelines from the teaching of George Patterson, cross cultural missionary, who served for twenty years in northern Honduras. Patterson served as a mentor to Patrick O'Conner who replicated these principles in his mission assignment in Western Honduras.

These sixty-eight principles are developed in a logical progression in five chapters which cover topics including: Gather the Flock, Develop a Healthy, Joyful Church Body, Let the Flock Multiply, Train Leaders in Jesus' Way, and Pass on the "Light Baton."

The book is rich in cross cultural missions studies with proven strategies in new church development, principles for intercultural communications with a religious focus and Christian culture. These principles also include church growth and evangelistic outreach.

I found the figures, tables, checklists, and clever "talking bird" illustrations helpful, practical, and adaptable. I also appreciated the extensive bibliography filled with missiological principals, strategies, and related church planting methods, as well as important Biblical teaching on Christian living in cross cultural environments.

"Reproducible Pastoral Training: Church Planting Guidelines from the Teachings of George Patterson" is a comprehensive manual and important guidebook for Christian discipleship based on New Testament principles modeled by the life and teaching of Jesus and further developed by the life and writings of the Apostle Paul. O'Conner has captured the essence of Patterson's teaching which provides the reader with hours of contemplative reflection, study, and application for meaningful ministry.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

Evangelism by Fire
Reinhard Bonnke, D. D.
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781616383718, $15.99

Proven Principles for Effective Evangelism

"Evangelism by Fire" is a refreshing reminder of the life-changing power of the Gospel of Christ. I sensed I was in for a good read from the moment I was drawn to the attractive exciting front cover - a quick perusal of the back cover confirmed the importance of Bonnke's message.

Bonnke's writing fires the imagination. Chapter one titled "When Arson is Not a Crime" is packed with burning messages, challenges from the Holy Spirit to allow His fire to flow through us in the world impacting power of His matchless proclamation.

The book is formatted in reader friendly fast moving chapters with frequent title headers indicating topical material, Biblical illustrations, or contemporary stories. I was drawn to the unique title "The Swimming Lesson from Ezekiel" in Part Three, Personal Drive. Throughout each chapter Bonnke's writing is Holy Spirit anointed, Christ exalting, engaging, and authoritative. Bonnke never loses sight of the focus of the book, the call to evangelism, and providing the reader with keys to effectively reach others with the Gospel of Christ.

The ongoing successful ministry of Reinhard Bonnke provides testimony to the effectiveness of the keys and cutting edge principles introduced in "Evangelism by Fire." This is powerful reading, practical, compelling, and convicting.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

The Great Grammar Book: Mastering Grammar Usage and the Essentials of Composition
Marsha Sramek
Arch Press
9095 Briar Forest Drive, Houston, Texas 77024
9780984115709, $19.95

Systematic Writing Exercises and Composition Essentials

"The Great Grammar Book" opens with a Diagnostic Test. What an amazing "eye opener." The twelve chapters that follow are packed with exercises that address your specific areas of weakness as identified through test. These exercises address subject-verb agreement, capitalization, sentence structure, and punctuation. There is an important comprehensive diagnostic test, a usage glossary, and a chapter dedicated to successful writing strategies.

Step by step instructions and exercises focus on the most frequent recurring grammatical errors and how to correct them. Sramek makes learning fun. The exercises are instructive, entertaining, and confidence builders. The practical exercises begin by identifying the topic to be considered, provide examples which help to clarify the object of the exercises that follow.

I found the chapter dealing with common errors especially helpful. The user friendly format includes descriptive chapter titles with a detailed listing of exercises which follow. The extensive index helps the reader/user navigate through the book with ease to accomplish the maximum benefit.

"The Great Grammar Book" is designed to improve writing skills; for students, with business applications, as a guide to better looking resumes, as well as many other applications. The book is also an important resource suitable for use with high school students, as an excellent addition for use with home school curriculum. As a writer and editor I have already recommended the book to family members and friends involved in writing classes, home schooling, and beginning writers. An important resource and reference guide.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

God is at Work: Transforming People and Nations Through Business
Ken Eldred
Manna Ventures LLC
236 South 3rd Street, # 330, Montrose, Colorado
9780984091102, $14.99

A Definitive Work on a New Paradigm in Missions Strategy

"God is at Work: Transforming People and Nations Through Business" provides the reader with a comprehensive view into the social, economic, and ethical philosophy and theology of business practice as it relates to World Missions. Ken Eldred does the Christian community a service as he illustrates how God is at work in and through "Kingdom Business."

Eldred's writing is rich in foundational perspectives on incorporating successful business practices while in the pursuit of fulfilling the great commission. The narrative is filled with examples of business ventures advancing the church in developing nations around the world. He describes a concept of missions that calls for skilled business professionals to create jobs so that the peoples of developing nations can learn how to live their faith as well as work and witness in the workplace. He calls for meeting current trends and dynamics in missions with a strategy that models doing business and outreach by displaying Christian principles and value in personal character, relationships and performance.

Other important issues Eldred discusses are his analysis of the barriers of government to mission enterprise, the historical perspectives of missions, and some approaches and objectives for sustaining successes within the parameters of this paradigm shift in world missions.
I found the topics, trends, vision, and practice explored by Eldred to be excellent tools for stimulating additional "thinking, research, and discussion."

Eldred is articulate in his presentation, comprehensive in his approach, and convincing in his conclusions. "God is at Work" is endorsed and highly recommended by creditable leaders in Christian missions as a "definitive work" which should be read by every, pastor, business man, and entrepreneur interested in the success of business impacting the world for the Kingdom of God.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Megan's Secrets
Mike Cope
Leafwood Publishers
1626 Campus Court, Abilene, Texas 79601
97808901122869, $14.99

A Father's Story of Lessons he Learned from his Handicapped Daughter About Life

Megan is a beautiful heartwarming story of how this mentally disabled child touched the lives of those around her. Father, editor, author, and pastor, Mike Cope shares experiences from the short ten years of Megan's life. Photos of Megan at the beginning of each of the four parts of the book help the reader understand why she had such an impact on those who knew her.

In addition to the anecdotes and stories from Meagan's life are stories of other young heroes faced with similar challenges. Cope used their circumstances to introduce lessons from the scriptures, Biblical characters faced with disappointments and decisions chose to claim the promises of God and follow His leading in their lives.

Cope quoted from the writings of several well-known authors, who also have experienced or written on the pain of grief and loss, including: Henri Nouwen, John Claypool, Philip Yancey, Frederick, and many others.

Cope shares his insights into the reality of the death of child this way, "Here's a little-known fact that many who have lost a child can testify to: life starts to make sense again shortly after the funeral... just before it falls apart and makes no sense at all. You realize that your life is going to continue, but your child will not be there. Ever."

I felt the emotions of pain, the grief of loss, as the tears came, as I sobbed bitterly throughout the pages of Megan's story and the poignant stories of others who experienced similar losses. I also laughed deeply as Mike related Megan's antics and how her joy and acceptance became contagious.

The comprehensive chapter notes and credits offer choice material for future reading. The discussion guide included add to the value of "Megan's Secret's" as a resource tool for grief counseling, support groups, and for individual reflection for family members and friends who are working through the process of loss.

I received complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself"
Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
Moody Publishers
820 N. La Salle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60610
9780802457059, $14.99

Insight into Understanding Poverty - How You Can Make a Difference

"When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself" is a combination of sound theology, extensive research, including foundational principles, and proven strategies for determining a ministry to "the least of these."

We all have a Biblical responsibility to help the poor, however, authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert point out that there is a great deal of diversity in how this may carried out. We can all become involved in the outreach ministry of our local church body. This book is written to help us understand that "we need the person of Jesus Christ to transform not only the poor but ourselves" as well.

Each chapter includes: Pre-Chapter Questions guiding the reader in establishing their initial thoughts, compelling true stories that illustrate the material being considered in the text, and post-Chapter Questions: Reflection Questions and Exercises that direct the reader in their analysis as they consider personal application and decisive action steps that might be taken. Completing these questions and exercises are an integral part of getting the most from the book.
The authors discuss the current renewed interest on the part of evangelical Christians in helping low income people. Even in today's environment of materialism, self-centeredness and complacency there us an influx of involvement in the short term mission movement, often with an emphasis on ministering to the poor at home and abroad in the interest of alleviating poverty. The chapter end-notes are rich in suggested tools and resources for further reading and study.

"When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself" reveals how churches and individual often unintentionally misdirect their efforts, funds in an effort to help those in poverty. Their analysis is written with conviction, is well organized, authoritative, and convincing. The book is ideal for group or personal study, assimilation, and application.
This is a book that should compulsory reading by every member on a church's mission committee. It should be on the required reading list of for every candidate considering missionary service.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Art of Making Things Happen in Your Life
Dean Drawbaugh
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768438642, $14.99

Set Your Course - Fulfill Your Destiny

Dean Drawbaugh helps the reader: locate opportunity, create a plan, and prepare for the challenge in his new book "The Art of Making Things Happen in Your Life." Dean offers specific steps for achieving goals successfully in areas of family, career, relationships, business, and ministry.
Each chapter includes "Self-Assessment Questions" to help you, the reader, to know what you are doing right and where you can improve. An honest appraisal of these thought provoking questions will help you form a response in the "Call to Action" exercises.

Additional pointers are provided for evaluating opportunity, analyzing attitude, adapting change, organization, and time management. I found the final section on team building extremely practical. This is such an important element to the secret of success and is so often overlooked. I was reminded again of the importance of 21 Day principle for re-evaluation of goals, identifying priorities, targeting a small improvement, conducting another evaluation, and targeting another small improvement.

The articulate writing style, short fast moving chapters, and highlighted key points to remember stimulate the reader to quickly capture each concept, assimilate the material, and convert the suggested keys to success into workable action steps.

An amazing model for interactive involvement in a rewarding training experience.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposed. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Soul Survivor: Captain Joe Townsend
Shawn Doyle
Destiny Image Publishing, Inc.,
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768439588, $15.99

Triumphing Over Adversity

Captain Joe Townsend had logged over 12,000 flight hours in planes ranging from small tandem two-seaters to corporate and charter Lear-jets as a U. S. Airways pilot when his aviation career came to a sudden catastrophic end on December 1, 1996. The Bellanca Citabria he was flying lost power, took a nose dive and crashed to the earth traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour on impact. The mechanical failure that caused the accident took the lives of Joe's wife and two young daughters.

In a (divinely appointed) chance encounter Joe Townsend and Shawn Doyle meet on a flight to West Palm Beach, Florida. Both men have been upgraded to first class. During the conversation that follows Joe relates how he became the "Soul Survivor" of this tragic accident.
Shawn Doyle is president of New Light Learning Center, specializing in human development and lifelong learning. He is the author of 10 books. Impressed with Joe's persistence, positive attitude in the face of tragedy, and exemplary determination to rebuild his life in the face of adversity, Shawn records Joe's story in the book "Soul Survivor."

The story of Joe's childhood, teen years, early stages of his career, and the beginnings of his family, his wife Kelly, and his daughters Laura and Kara are related through a series of phone conversations and over lunch when travel connections bring the two men together. I enjoyed the unique, casual, down-home dialog exchanged throughout the narration. Joe exudes a love for life, for resourcefulness and adventure.

Shawn captures the tragedy, pain, and suffering Joe experienced in rebuilding his life after multiple surgeries, extended therapy, and a season of delayed grief, financial challenges, and the Lord's provision of a new wife and family.

"Soul Survivor" is the story of one man's tenacity in light of heartbreak. It is a heartwarming story of faith, offering inspiration and encouragement to the reader.

A complimentary copy of this book was received for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

My Journey with the Angels: An Inspiring True Story of Healing and the Wisdom of Angels
Patricia Buckley
Penguin Ireland
25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
9781844882335, $TBA

An Amazing Journey - A Glimpse behind the Scene of the Spirit World

"My Journey with the Angels" is Patricia Buckley's remarkable story of growing up with a unique gift for communicating with angels in the spirit world. Her gift was misunderstood, often thought of as "madness."

She tells of the trauma of abuse, poverty, exhaustion, fear, and loneliness. She learned to rely on communicating with angels for feelings of security and affirmation. They give her comfort and courage, healing and guidance, and help her with communication.

Patricia's writing is compelling, magically drawing the reader into her story. Even in relating her deepest hour of trial Patricia has a positive word of gratitude, insight, compassion, and is able to see the humor in a situation. Patricia's story takes place in Ireland and in England. The American reader will note that the vocabulary has a distinctive flavor and vocabulary of the locale with an Irish/English vernacular.

For many years Patricia laid her gift aside because of the tormenting harassment of ridicule and misunderstanding. Today she is exercising her gift and is able to offer comfort and help to many through her gift of communication with angels.

"My Journey with the Angels: An Inspiring True Story of Healing and the Wisdom of Angels" is a deeply moving spiritual journey demonstrating determination and courage.

A complimentary copy of the book was given me for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

When Cancer Hits: Your Complete Guide to Taking Care of You Through Treatment
Britta Aragon
Cinco Vida Press
12 Desbrosses Street, New York, N. Y. 10013
9780982917503, $16.95

Your Guide to Surviving Cancer - Moving on to a Meaningful Life

Britta Aragon, a cancer survivor, tells of her personal journey from cancer discovery, surgery, and treatment to recovery and living a meaningful life in her book "When Cancer Hits: Your Complete Guide to Taking Care of You through Treatment."

Britta provides tools and guidelines for dealing with anticipated changes you will experience. She discusses skin care, as well as other personal items such as hair, nails care, emotions, stress, and episodes of recurrence. Thought provoking questions, bulleted lists, exercises, and personal stories of cancer survivors offer affirmation, encouragement, and inspiration.

The comprehensive index and the documented chapter end-notes are helpful tools for ready reference, review, and research. I also found the multiple indices especially helpful. These include:

Biographical Information on Contributing Experts

Contributing Organizations and a Favorite Resource List

A Listing of Favorite Books, CDs, and DVDs

A Listing of Personal Care Items and Foods to Avoid

A Guide to Finding Safe Products

"When Cancer Hits: Your Complete Guide to Taking Care of You Through Treatment" is an important guidebook for cancer victims, their families, healthcare professionals, family counselors, and clergy.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

Broken Identity
Ashley Williams
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768439212 $16.99

Unmerited Favor, Release from Guilt

Ashley Williams has brilliantly incorporated the basic elements of story in this heart wrenching novel. "Broken Identity" is Drake Pearson's story which portrays the anger of youth, the devastation of alcohol addiction, the hopelessness of poverty, the horrors of child abuse and abandonment. Drake Pearson desperately seeks to escape from his past, from the horrible secret of his immediate circumstances, as well as the offer of love and acceptance from caring Christians.

I quickly became engaged in the character driven plot which includes deception and lies, robbery and assault, kidnapping, and murder. In a parallel story Williams builds on the innocence of young children, the bonding of family love, and the message of God's unmerited grace.

Ashley Williams is a young writer with the promise of a remarkable career as an author. She writes with genuine conviction and a deep understanding of human nature. Her strong dialog draws the reader into the emotions of her characters, their frustrations, heartaches, and needs. She carefully weaves into the story a positive message of the Gospel, of Christ's crucifixion, and his sacrifice for man's salvation.

"Broken identity" offers hope to those seeking answers to life's meaning and encouragement to Christian's faithful in intercessory prayer.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The expressions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake

Riva's Bookshelf

The Dream Merchant Saga Book Two: The Silver Sword
L.T. Suzuki with Nia Suzuki-White
Privately Published
9780986724077 $16.99

L.T. Suzuki and Nia Suzuki-White's ability to tell a spellbinding tale keeps growing with each volume. I found myself enjoying The Silver Sword, much more than its predecessor in the Dream Merchant Saga, The Magic Crystal.

The witty repartee between the characters Princess Rose-alyn, Tagius Olivier Yairet and Cankles Mayron is just as good as it was in the first volume, with sarcasm still being Princess Rose's and Tag's main weapon when verbally sparring with one another. Princess Rose continues to grow throughout the story, although the focus of this story is much less on Rose than was the focus of the last story. Tag is the character who evolves the most in this volume, but the bond between the three main characters becomes true friendship over the course of this book.

There is more preparation for real battle in this book than there was in prior books. Tag, Cankles and Princess Rose-alyn are preparing to enter dragon country in search of their nemesis the infamous Sorcerer Parru St. Mime Dragonite, but Dragonite is devious and lays a clever plot to undermine the trio in their attempt to recover the magic crystal. The effects of his plan set a series of incidents in play that will continue to impact Rose, Tag and Cankles even beyond the pages of The Silver Sword.

I found The Silver Sword to be an even stronger fantasy than The Magic Crystal was. It brings together all the best elements of a fantasy and combines them within a clever story that keeps you constantly guessing at what is coming next.

I highly recommend The Dream Merchant Saga Book Two: The Silver Sword. I think it is some of the best fantasy I have read and it is easy to forget it is targeted at a young-adult audience as the story pulls readers of all ages into its web and keeps you eagerly turning the pages until then end and then leaves you longing for more. I shall remember it among the best of the books I have read and I am most eagerly awaiting the third installment in the series.

Something's Lost and Must Be Found
Lisa Begin-Kruysman
Amazon Digital Services
BOO51ZMY62 $0.99 Kindle

Something's Lost and Must Be Found, is a collection of short-stories about dogs. It absolutely is an entertaining, amusing and satisfying foray into the world of dogs and the people who love them, sometimes despite themselves.

Begin-Kruysman writes in an engaging, easy-to-read style about several special canines who bring joy, love, hope and happiness to those who cross their paths. The stories are each different, but united by a common theme of "something lost". In some cases it may be a human quality, in others it may literally be a physical thing lost but each story varies from the others and each is uniquely entertaining.

The collection of stories was written in honor of National Dog Week, which begins on September 17th. It is worth noting that each story highlights the importance of dogs in our lives and many highlight the importance of animal adoption and rescue.

If you are an animal person who can give a dog a home now is the perfect time to consider getting one if you are able. Do some research on the web, find out which breed would be best matched to your requirements, (e.g., size of the breed, size of your yard, energy level of the dog, type of recreation you like to participate in) and please remember that puppies aren't the only dogs who need homes, a lot of really loving older dogs are seeking their "forever home" too and are just waiting the opportunity to be adopted. For many of these older dogs the proverbial clock is ticking rapidly. Please consider giving them a home.

If you are a dog-lover you will greatly enjoy Lisa Begin-Kruysman's collection of short stories, if you are just a lover of a good short story you will also enjoy these tales. I enjoyed Something's Lost and Must Be Found" and I think you will too.

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

Tom's Wife
Alana Cash
Hacienda Press
PO Box 4731, Valley Village, CA 91617
9781449996321 $12.95 818-387-8628

While I had learned a little in school about the depression our country had gone through, and heard stories from my dad, I was not prepared for how bad it really was. Even though this is a work of fiction the facts during the time period are correct.

Because of the cost to feed and have clothes for family members, a lot of girls were wed to men they hardly knew. This is the story of Annie who was married to Tom Huckaby. Her mom did not prepare her for marriage and how it should be. During the first year of marriage her husband Tom had hit numerous times.

There was never even a soft caress form him. At night it was more like rape than a husband making love to his wife. She fled back home and her mom told her it was to be expected. That a woman had to do everything she could to not make her husband mad. That it happened in all marriages.

Annie had only two years of school. If it had not been for her friend Twila, she would have been totally lost and alone. That is until a peddler stop by to show what he carried in his suitcase for sale. Annie looked at him once and then could not look again. She felt things that a married woman should not feel. Things best left alone. But could Annie keep those feeling in bay or would she eventually give in over time?

One thing that I did learn is that there were different types of being poor during that time. Some could say a pecking order for lack of a better word.

This author makes the words she writes seem as if you are there with her. She takes you back in time with her. This book is not about a happy family like the" Walton's television show." In fact it is sad, but a book that I think people should read. Learn what it was really was like for people like Annie.

I Already Know I Love You
Billy Crystal
Harper Collins Publishers
1350 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10019
0060593911 $11.99

What an absolutely beautiful book. The illustrations are fabulous and the story is one most of us grand parents have felt. It has brought back so many memories. Each time my husband and I learned we were going to be grandparents again it was magic to us. It did not matter if it was the first or last of our grand kids it was a special occurrence each time for us.

Each night as we said our prayers together, we would ask God to take care of our unborn grandchild. Then as more came it was still the same.

We understand what Billy Crystal, is saying in his book! I cried as I thought back to the moments when we have heard, "Mom and Dad we have something to say. We are going to have a baby."

Well done Billy, well done!

I Never Intended To Be Brave
Heather Andersen
Windy City Publisher
1935 S. Grove RD, #349 Palatine, IL 60067
9781935766155 $14.99 1-888-673-7126

This book is the true story of one remarkable woman named Heather Andersen. I have never known a "title" of a book that fits like this one does. After finishing up her time with The Peace Corp, Ms Andersen finds she does not want to go home yet. She wants to see all of southern Africa. She wants to learn more about the different countries, cultures and people.

She contacts a well known cycling organization but only had one man who wanted to join her in her three month tour on bicycles. It was not long after meeting Paul that she discovered his agenda was not what they had agreed on. Tensions between them grew so great that they decided to each go their own way.

It was then that the heart of this story begins for me. The tenacity of the author to continue on alone is something that will keep you turning the pages of this book. It was written from the author's heart and soul. What else can one say

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Pleasure Partners, Book 5 - Perfect Master
Ann Jacobs
Ellora Cave
B005HBYPJY $5.60,

Twelve years ago, King Gawain thought he was on his deathbed. Obsidion law called for the succession of his eldest son. To do so, all of the Kings other children and male cousins were to be castrated. Arik was the second son, he refused to allow his manhood be taken and fled his homeland. A group of mercenaries was sent to find and kill Arik. When King Gawain found out that he was not to die, he called off the search to kill Arik. By the time his command was heard, Arik's manhood had been spared, but the mercenaries had savagely tortured and maimed him.

Arik will not allow King Gawain to forget the day he dedicated his death sentence. He refuses the help of Pak Song who is known to have the power to remove scars, and to restore the use of loss limbs with his bionic prosthesis. Instead, Arik spends his days in his room, whenever he ventures out, he is swathed from head to foot in leather to spare anyone from the horror what lies beneath his covering.

King Gawain knows that with Arik being the Crown Prince, he must carry out the royal lineage by bearing sons. With Arik's scars, he doesn't anticipate that anyone young maiden would come willing to his bed. He makes a decision to request Obsidion's matchmaker to find a suitable mate for Arik. Her skill as a matchmaker is a success as she matches him with one of Eli the jeweler's beautiful daughter Emerald.

Emerald is thrilled to be selected to wed Arik. She remembers seeing him once from a distance, and was enthralled by his handsome profile. As she is prepared for the mating ceremony she finds herself anxious to see Arik.

As the ceremony begins, she is puzzled at why Arik is covered from head to toe in leather. Emerald demands to see Arik unclothed; Arik fears that once she sees the monster that he has become she will want released out of their union. Will Emerald's love for Arik be strong enough to accept his scarred image?

PERFECT MASTER is the perfect way to break away from life's hectic pace. Ann Jacob's has once again written an award winning novel. For anyone who is worried about starting this series without reading the other four books, don't be since each story can easily stand alone. I highly recommend any of the Pleasure Series books or anything that Ann Jacobs writes. This is an author who knows how to provide the upmost reading enjoyment to her reviewers.

The other titles in the series include:

His Pleasure Mistress - Book 1 in the Pleasure Partners Series
Pleasure Slave - Book 2 in the Pleasure Partners Series
Enslaving the Master - Book 3 in the Pleasure Partners Series
Imperfect Partners - Book 4 in the Pleasure Partners Series

The Pilot and the Fairy Princess
Jack Saux
Arthur Hardy Enterprises, Inc.
B0056QJEXC $6.99

John Dees had arrived in Saint Francisville, Louisiana to keep a promise he had made to himself to find his deceased friend Duke's family and to check on how they were living their lives without him. John blamed himself for Duke's death. He feels if he had reacted differently that horrific day that his best friend would still be alive. Although he survived the crash by parachuting out of the plane, he landed in enemy territory in Iraq. With his landing, he broke his ankle that got infected and resulted in his leg being amputated by enemy hands.

John manages to locate Duke's widow, Louise, and his five year old daughter, Gabrielle. He doesn't reveal who he really is in fear they would reject his help. He applies for a job at the local school for he wants to ensure that he establishes himself in the community to be available to Louise and Gabrielle.

Gabrielle took an immediate interest in John. Louise welcomed him into her home and quickly grew to look forward to his visits. John seemed to be the missing piece of the puzzle from both her and Gabrielle's life. Although she would never forget her first husband, she can't help but feel a growing attraction to John.

When the day comes when John is forced to reveal his true identity will Louise be able to accept him and their growing love? Or will she throw away all her feelings because she can't accept his deception to bring himself in both hers and her daughter's life?

THE PILOT AND THE FAIRY PRINCESS is an enchanting story of tragedy, triumph, and the strong will to survive and move forward. Jack Saux does an exceptional job in capturing each one of these deep emotions. I was highly impressed at his skill as a writer by how he offered a story that captured my attention from page one. This is one book that you will have a hard time forgetting once you finish. Although it is not fully devoted to being a romance, you can't help fall in love with these beloved characters.

A Broken Christmas
Claire Ashgrove
The Wild Rose Press
B005ZTHB9Y $4.50

Aimee Garland thought she had the perfect marriage; then the unexpected occurred when her husband filed for a divorce fourteen months ago. She refuses to believe their marriage is over, and is determined to be there to greet her wounded husband as he exits off of the military plane. As he makes his way off the plane, she sees in his eyes that he is haunted by far more than just his physical injuries.

Delta Force operative Kyle Garland's last mission shattered his body and spirit. His physical wounds are nothing compared to the horror he witnessed in Afghanistan. To protect his wife from knowing the truth of what he had done, he made the painful decision to file for a divorce.

Aimee refuses to give up on the love Kyle and she share. Kyle thinks that to protect Aimee he must keep his distance. As Christmas time approaches, will the holiday magic be enough to allow them to put the past behind them and see that to heal, they are both in need of the love they share for each other?

A BROKEN CHRISTMAS is one exceptional book! Mere words can't express how much I fell in love with this story. Aimee and Kyle are two characters that you soon will not forget; I found myself hating to see their story end. Claire Ashgrove has definitely made an impact with her writing on this reader's mind. This is the first book that I have read by her, but I assure you that it will not be the last. For anyone who appreciates a book with which you will develop an emotional bond then A BROKEN CHRISTMAS is just the book to satisfy your needs.

The Rebel's Angel
Cassandra Lutheran
Melange Books, LLC
B005F9YDUE $5.99

The Civil War had divided a nation; as battles were fought, countless lives were lost. Jenna Carson's world has been torn apart when she loses her father and learns her brother is missing. As a battle of Antietam takes place close enough for her to see, she realizes the danger that she is facing.

After the smoked cleared, Jenna was relieved to see that her land and home were untouched. As she looked out toward her lands she spots a man slumped over a tree. She is uncertain of which side he is fighting for, but she knows that she can't leave him out there to die.

Major Miles Hanson is a confederate soldier. To Jenna, she should have seen him as her enemy but instead she saw a man who was gravely wounded. Jenna knew the risk she would be taking by helping to save his life, but her conscious would not allow her to leave him to suffer.

Miles thinks he has been rescued by an angel, for the beauty he sees before him is of angelic quality. When he recovers enough to have full control of his senses he meets Jenna. Although he has strong southern loyalties he can't help but be attracted to Jenna.

Will the war keep Miles and Jenna from exploring a forbidden love? Or will they overcome their views and be able to experience a love that is able to heal each other?

THE REBEL'S ANGEL is one fabulous book! I was so impressed with the in-depth historical details that the author provided to the reader. It made the reading experience that much richer. I was very impressed with Cassandra Lutheran's writing style. She brought a new meaning to the gene of historical romance with her exceptional characters and descriptive historical setting. THE REBEL'S ANGEL is worthy enough to be the next "Gone with the Wind".

Suzie Housley, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

A Drop of the Hard Stuff
Lawrence Block
Mulholland Brooks
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316127332 $25.99 800-759-0190,

The Alcoholics Anonymous program is designed to provide sustenance and guidance to those seeking to remain sober. Its 12-Step program is meant to provide them with a moral roadmap to atone for past abuse, mistakes and sins. In this early-days Matthew Scudder novel, it instead leads to a series of murders.

An alcoholic himself, Matthews enters AA in an effort to stay away from alcohol, which had basically ruined his life. Soon he meets Jack Ellery, another AA member with whom he grew up in The Bronx. While Matthew became a cop, Jack went the other way, living a life of crime. Now he is trying to take the seventh and eighth steps of the Program by making amends. The effort gets him murdered, shot in the head and mouth, presumably by someone who is afraid Jack's endeavors would expose the killer for an act done in the past. Jack's sponsor retains Matthew to look into some of the people Jack went to in his attempts to make amends, if only to eliminate the innocent.

The novel is a look into not only a murder investigation, but other things as well: Matthew's development as a sober person; love; loss; nostalgia; and most importantly, human relationships. Written with a fine eye for dialog and penetrating insight into the characters, the book is an excellent example of why the Matthew Scudder series is so highly regarded, and it is recommended.

Jude Hardin
Oceanview Publishing
2817 West End Ave., Nashville, TN 37203
9781608090112 $24.95 615-297-9875,

I'm not sure the world needs another hard-boiled PI, but that is what we have in this debut effort, which has a hard time finding a consistent voice, and from time to time lapses into trite asides, for almost no reason. Nevertheless, the book shows the author can write, and hopefully will settle on a method that doesn't simply try to emulate Mickey Spillane (who, obviously, not only invented the genre, but is in a class by himself).

Nicholas Colt makes his territory in the Florida Panhandle and is retained by a woman to find and bring home her runaway 15-year-old sibling. It doesn't take him long to find the girl, holed up in the apartment of a pimp, and he takes her to his girlfriend's apartment since the girl complains that she doesn't want to go home since someone is out to kill her. So he takes her the next day to his Airstream trailer, teaches her to fish, and then leaves her alone while he goes away for a short time. In his absence she is kidnapped, setting the stage for a more complicated [and contrived] ending.

The title is another mystery to be solved, and the answer is almost beside the point, especially since it involves the death in an airplane crash of Colt's wife and daughter 20 years earlier (another example of unnecessary and complicated contrivance in the novel). Let's consider this book a learning experience, from which a much better effort will emerge.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Tom Franklin
Harper Perennial
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060594671 $14.99, 800-242-7737,

Whether this novel is a mystery, or a story about two men, or a tale about the Deep South, it is a riveting look into the characters, their development and their environment. Larry and Silas, one white and the other black, were boyhood friends for a short time in Rural Mississippi more than a quarter of a century before (where children were taught to spell the name of the State and river: M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I). They are tied together by more than just an apparent crime that changes both their lives.

Larry is a shunned outcast in the town as the result of the disappearance, and presumed murder, of a girl with whom he supposedly had a date as a teenager. Silas moved to Chicago with his mother, but returns to the small rural town, eventually serving as its only constable. Now their lives intertwine again as Larry falls under suspicion when the daughter of the town's leading citizen disappears. The situation makes Silas face the past, something he'd rather avoid.

As a mystery, the novel is intriguing. As a description of life in a small Southern town, it is vivid. As a tale of racial conflict, it is mesmerizing. The complex analyses of the characters, their motivations and actions are profound, and it is highly recommended.

Carte Blanche, A James Bond Novel
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451620696 $26.99 800-223-2336,

Possibly only one of the handful of people who have never read a novel or seen a motion picture featuring 007 based on an Ian Fleming story, I approached Carte Blanche with a completely unbiased mind. Obviously, I had various impressions about the originals - - and fast cars, beautiful women, technological gimmicks do indeed exist in this novel by Jeffery Deaver.

The plot is relatively straightforward: James Bond embarks on an effort to prevent massive casualties based on an intercepted text message. The action takes him to Dubai and South Africa. Along the way he encounters all kinds of diversions and dangers, with plot twists galore.

I have the impression that the novel is unlike the originals, and that may not be a negative. It would seem that Deaver has placed his own stamp on the genre, writing his trademark adventure story instead. So, to judge the book on its own merits, it is a good read, and is recommended.

The Ridge
Michael Koryta
Little, Brown
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316053662 $24.99, 800-759-0190,

Mixing mystery with the supernatural, Michael Koryta has developed works that are eerie and fascinating, and "The Ridge" is no less than captivating. The plot is somewhat complicated, and it takes a while to follow the thread. And, of course, it requires suspension of disbelief. But it does hold the reader from start to finish.

The story involves a particular area in Kentucky where over a century or more, a series of accidents and deaths occur. In the midst of a forest, a drunkard has built a lighthouse. For what purpose? Then the man who built it is found dead by his own hand, oddly enough leaving a note asking chief deputy Kevin Kimble to investigate it. Meanwhile, a big-cat sanctuary has opened across the road, and the lions and tigers are uneasy in their new surroundings. What does it mean? Are there sinister forces at work?

Written with a keen eye, the novel moves rapidly from scene to scene. The characters are well-drawn and the surroundings described vividly, and the novel is recommended.

Bad Boy
Peter Robinson
Harper Paperbacks
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061362965 $7.99, 800-242-7737,

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.

Long Gone
Alafair Burke
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061999185 $24.99, 800-242-7737,

The author has written six previous novels, but this is her first standalone, so her familiar characters and themes do not apply. Nevertheless, she has demonstrated an ability to take an idea and run with it, in this case two separate themes with some common threads.

The main plot involves Alice Humphrey, daughter of a famous motion picture director and his Academy Award-winning wife. Somewhat estranged from her father, and wishing to demonstrate her independence, she presently is unemployed when a "dream" job falls into her lap. It turns out to be part of a plot against her and her dad, but that is as far as we should go in divulging the plot. A subplot involves a missing teenager. The commonality of the two themes involves the effects of the relationships between the mother of the missing girl and Alice and the law enforcement personnel with whom each is involved. Enough said.

Ms. Burke has amply demonstrated in the past her knowledge of the law and the various people involved in enforcing it, and this novel shows her insights into how detectives go about their business. Here empathy for the female characters is obvious, but the male characters seem to be stereotypes. On the whole, however, the novel is an excellent read, and is recommended.

Buried Secrets
Joseph Finder
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312379148 $25.99 646-307-5560,

It is a hard task to review such a well-written novel, peopled by interesting characters and with a well-drawn plot, yet have reservations because it seems to reverberate with cliches. There is Nick Heller, the second appearance by this former superspy turned Boston PI, who seems to be too good to be real. He knows everyone and seems to be smarter than them all; and some of the other characters seem like cardboard figures, especially some of the FBI personnel.

Yet the book is exciting, even riveting, despite the fact that a major premise - - the loss of over a billion dollars by Marshall Marcus, an investment manager "who never had a losing quarter, unlike Warren Buffet" - - seems somewhat preposterous. As does the source of the funds he managed to "lose." The plot revolves around the kidnapping of Marcus' daughter in an effort to force him to reveal a secret document which would provide a Russian oligarch business leverage. Marcus enlists Heller's aid in rescuing the girl, and the chase is on.

Finder's eye for detail is impressive, and he moves the story forward daring the reader to put the book down. The action is at a pace almost too much to absorb, packed with all sorts of twists and turns. Despite the above reservations, this is a book to be read, and it is recommended.

Red Jade
Henry Chang
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569479971 $14.00 212-260-1900,

Detective Jack Yu somehow can't escape New York's Chinatown in this third novel in the series. Apparently, he is the Fifth Precinct's token Chinese-American, called upon when sensitivity to the community and its inhabitants is necessary. He had recently transferred to the Ninth Precinct in Brooklyn and he moved to that borough's Sunset Park area following the death of his father, but he can't escape his past.

In the early morning hours, he's called in to handle an apparent murder-suicide, his presence requested by the fathers of the victims who believe he can provide the necessary "face saving" for the families. This task accomplished, Jack then pays attention to a couple of open cases, eventually traveling to Seattle at his own expense in an attempt to solve them.

All three novels in the series are economically written, especially short chapters, with a smattering of Chinese words for flavor (no MSG). This police procedural moves in logical progression across the continent, looking at more than the Chinatown of New York's Lower East Side.


Hurt Machine
Reed Farrel Coleman
Tyrus Books
1213 N. Sherman Ave., Unit 306, Madison, WI 53704
9781440532023 $24.95 620-258-0079,

Unlike the previous six novels in the series, this book is a lot more introspective and deep since Moe Prager learns he has stomach cancer. This leads to a lot of looking at the past and present and less at the lighter side of life. But that does not stop the formidable Moe from undertaking another tough task, made especially hard by the time restraints of his daughter's upcoming wedding in a week and his own possibly limited lifespan.

After a pre-wedding dinner, Moe's ex-wife and PI partner, who left him years before, accosts him outside the restaurant, asking him to look into the murder of her estranged older sister, one of two EMTs who refused to assist a dying man at a high-end bistro where they were supposedly having lunch. Moe doggedly takes on the task, and therein lies a tale.

The tone of this book is a lot different from its predecessors, necessarily so in light of Moe's serious illness. That does not, of course, take away from the plot; it only reinforces the intensity of the various elements. It is written with power and passion [albeit sometimes with too much schmaltz]. Let's hope the doctors can save Moe and that he returns to his old self.


County Line
Bill Cameron
Tyrus Books
1213 N. Sherman Ave., #306, Madison WI 53704
9781935562528 $15.95, 620-258-0979,

Before even attempting to evaluate this novel, it must be pointed out that at the beginning and end of the book as well as in between segments there are QR barcodes, purportedly featuring bonus material and extras. To do so, of course, one must own a smartphone and download an app to view the material. Since I have no need or desire to own such an instrument (what's wrong, am I anti-American?), I don't know how much, if anything, I am missing, especially what the barcode at the end of and within the novel provides. Since I had a feeling of incompleteness after finishing the book, I wonder. And if that is information I need to judge the novel, then it not only is a disservice to the reader who chooses not to utilize it, but a poor gimmick to sell smartphones and cellular service. As it is, I found it only a distraction, as well as questioning whether it was necessary for a full appreciation of the book.

As far as the novel is concerned, it is incisively written, with good character development. It begins when go-getter Ruby Jane Whittaker, founder and owner of a three-store chain of coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, goes off on what is to be a two-week trip. When she doesn't return, two of her boyfriends take heed, and undertake to find her. The effort takes them to San Francisco to see her brother (who becomes a hit-and-run victim before their eyes), then to a small Ohio town where Ruby Jane grew up and then back to Oregon. The effort raises more questions than it does answers.

Another section of the novel retraces Ruby Jane's earlier life in Ohio, and provides some background to the mystery, which is finally brought to a violent finish, albeit leaving this reader wondering whether or not that really is the conclusion, or just laying the groundwork for the next book in this series. If you own a smartphone, OK, you can take this as a recommendation. If not - - well, the choice is yours.

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525952114 $25.95, 800-847-5515,

Daniel Hayes wakes up on a beach in Maine, half drowned and with a loss of memory. This sets the stage for a slow, dramatic tale as he attempts to reconstruct his life. He finds a car nearby which is apparently owned by someone named Daniel Hayes from Malibu, CA. Is that him?

Then he decides to cross the country in an effort to find out who he is, after fleeing a cop attempting to arrest him in Maine. Dan is a scriptwriter, and his efforts are like episodes on a TV show. When he gets to Malibu, he sneaks in to what turns out is his home. So he has a name. And a home. Then he finds out a female character on a television show is his wife who apparently was killed when her car went over a cliff. While he searches for answers, the plot thickens.

And quite a plot it is. Interspersed with fairly crisp prose are simulated scripts, sometimes fantasy, others integral to the story line. The reader is kept off-balance with the question of whether Dan fled to Maine because he killed his wife. And when that question is answered, a whole new mystery arises to keep one turning pages.


Bill Pronzini
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765325648 $24.99, 212-388-0100,

The Nameless Detective in this long-running series is supposed to have semi-retired. It just isn't so. He's still working four or five days a week, and it's a good thing, because it makes for good reading. In the first of two cases described in this novel, he takes on a new client with what at first appears to be a simple 'trace' case. The oft-married client asks Nameless to locate his ex-wife so he can get her to sign a Catholic Church form to pave the way for an annulment, so he can marry the next, an apparently well-to-do prospect. Tamara, who is now running the agency in wake of Nameless' "semi-retirement," locates the ex-wiife, and after she refuses to sign the papers the client visits her, after which he storms into the office saying that it's the wrong person. This leads to the ensuing mystery to be solved.

The second plot line involves Jake Runyon, Nameless' partner, who has finally developed a relationship with a woman, Bryn, who has a nine-year-old son who is in her ex-husband's custody. It appears that the boy is being abused, but by whom? The father, or his fiancee, who is living with him and the child? The complication of the girl's murder and the subsequent admission by Bryn of having committed the deed lays the groundwork for some detective work by Jake to find the real culprit.

As in the previous more than two score books in the series, the tightly written novel, accompanied by terse dialogue and seamless transitions, take the reader forward effortlessly. The author's eye for detail is penetrating, and the novel is recommended.

Tigerlily's Orchids
Ruth Rendell
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
978439150344 $26.00, 800-223-2336,

Ruth Rendell novels are a study in human relationships, and this book is no exception. It takes a look at an assortment of tenants living in an apartment house block in London, particularly one building, but also a couple of homes across the way.

An inordinate amount of space is devoted to one tenant, a young, handsome youth, Stuart Font, who recently inherited some money and bought his apartment. He decides to have a housewarming and invite all the other tenants. His married lover forces him to invite her, setting the stage for her husband to invade the apartment and harm Stuart, who is later found murdered in a nearby park.

The mystery, of course, is who the murderer is. But it is almost superfluous since the interaction of the various characters is the prime focus of the novel: One woman who is determined to drink herself to death; three young girls, students of a sort, one of whom falls in love with Stuart, who in turn is obsessed with a beautiful young Asian in the house across the street after discarding his married lover; an elderly couple who once had a one-night stand in their youth and find each other again; the caretaker couple, the husband of which enjoys spying on young girls and watching pornography on his computer. Among others.

The author's eye for detail is sharp, and the personality descriptions vivid. For a crime novel, the mystery is virtually irrelevant, but certainly the character studies are vital. For that reason alone, the book is recommended.

Hell Is Empty
Craig Johnson
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670022779 $25.95, 800-847-5515,

This, the seventh novel in the Walt Longmire series, is perhaps the most harrowing. It starts out simply enough, with Walt, the Sheriff of a Wyoming county, and his deputies transporting three murderers to a rendezvous with two other local Sheriffs and Federal officials. One of the felons, a psychopath who says he hears supernatural voices, has indicated he killed a young Indian boy years before, and offers to locate the bones for the officials. There is a rumor, also, that he has secreted $1.4 million, perhaps in the grave.

This sets the stage for a harrowing experience for Walt, as the convicts escape, killing FBI agents and taking two hostages with them as they climbed Bighorn Mountain. A determined Walt follows under blizzard conditions, which almost kills him.

As in previous entries in the series, the geographical and environmental descriptions are awesome. The reader can feel the cold and ice as they penetrate Walt's body and inundate the mountain peak in glasslike cover and snow-filled mounds. Another excellent book, full of Indian lore and supernatural phenomena.


Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
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