Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Reviewer's Bookwatch

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 11 November 2013 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Buhle's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Heidi's Bookshelf Janet's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Katherine's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf
Sandra's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Priscilla: The Hidden life of an English Woman in Wartime France
Nicholas Shakespeare
Harvill Secker (British)
9781448155996, A$24.95 (paperback), 423 pages
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062297037, $27.99 (HC), $12.74 (Kindle),

Ann Skea, Reviewer

How much do we ever really know about our relatives? In the days when it was possible to go and page through the old registers which recorded births, death and marriages, I remember hearing people exclaiming over newly discovered family secrets: "I never knew I had another brother!"; "I didn't know they didn't get married until I was nine!". Bare facts which left untold the emotional upheavals which may have accompanied them, and too often those who could have explained are no longer alive.

Nicholas Shakespeare's aunt Priscilla had hidden her early life more than most, and discovering it, then tracking down the details, was no easy task. This book, then, is as much a detective story as a biography. And, for me, its real fascination was in learning about the historical and social settings in which Priscilla had lived.

As a child, Nicholas Shakespeare had seen his aunt Priscilla as a rather glamorous and mysterious figure. She lived in a large, forbidding house on a mushroom farm with her second husband, and she spent much of her time in her bedroom. Only when offered a chest full of old letters and photographs, which had been unseen by her closest family until after her death, did he discover more about her. His mother, for example, revealed that she had not known until she was ten that she had a sister, and she had not met her until she was thirteen and Priscilla twenty-eight. His father was reluctant to talk about her and confessed that he had never known what 'made Priscilla tick'. There was evidence that she had once been arrested and charged with trying to smuggle an expensive bag through British customs (this was in the time of post-war austerity measures). And there were local rumours that she had driven trucks in war-time France; that she had been dropped behind enemy lines and had injured her leg; and that she had worked in the Resistance. All of these rumours turned out to be false, but the real story was equally surprising.

I felt a certain distaste in reading the personal details of family relationships and, especially, the intimate accounts of Priscilla's love-life, her aristocratic French first husband's impotence, and her numerous love affairs. But the description of her grim incarceration in a POW camp for women with British passports in German-occupied France; her life in France after she managed to get herself released from that camp; her seeming connections with men who were high-placed in the German military hierarchy; and the dilemma and difficulties faced by ordinary people living in Paris during that time - all this kept me absorbed.

Nicholas Shakespeare's own voyage of discovery encompassed family letters and photographs; accounts of Priscilla's life left by her closest life-long friend, Gillian (who revealed some disturbing details about Priscilla's life in war-time Paris); interviews with people who knew her in the German POW camp and, afterwards, in Paris; official records and documents in France and Germany; reading many books and articles about Vichy France, occupation, the black-market and a great range of other subjects, and much more. He frequently came up against opposition to his research, whether deliberate or because parts of history are best forgotten was hard to determine. There is little recorded, for example, about the POW camp in which Priscilla and other women with British passports were interred. Many, like Priscilla, were married to French men, and had children born in France from whom they were cruelly separated. Few French people know, or want to remember, anything about it and even the Mayor of the nearby town knew nothing of it and sent a local photographer with Shakespeare when he visited it in order to record what still remains. Some of Shakespeare's account is speculative, and he is open about this, but mostly he sticks to facts and, in one case, his research enabled him to put right a damning accusation about Priscilla's connection with a particular German man.

As a fragment of history and the record of a very unusual life, this book is fascinating. It is also a fine example of careful and thorough research, and Shakespeare is admirably objective and uncensorial about Priscilla's life and about the lives of French citizens during the four-year Occupation, about which few wish to speak. The reader is left to ponder what their own behaviour might be if faced with the stark choices needed for survival in a country occupied by a foreign power.

The Art of Pausing
Judith Valente
ACTA Publications
4848 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60640
9780879465094, $14.95,

Dan Ursini, Reviewer

Writing that Locates the Connection Between Poetry and Prayer

Since moving into the world of poetry, author Judith Valente has focused on the tightly webbed connection between poetry and prayer. That is the case both for books containing her own poems such as "Discovering Moons, " and books for which she serves as an editor/contributor like "Twenty Poems to Nourish Your Soul." Her most recent book is a splendidly realized collection of haiku paired with prose reflections. Entitled," The Art of Pausing : Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed, it is edited by Valente and authored by three poets: Brother Paul Quenon OCSO, writer and editor Michael Bever, and Valente herself. A book of 99 haiku poems, each one illuminating," one of the 99 names of God in sacred texts," it is thoroughly satisfying and delightful. Almost every one of them delivers the reader to a state of mind that Bever describes as,"the Pure Land, the place of 'one-thought moment.'" The consistency with which these poems deliver the reader to that kind of moment speaks very well of Valente's gifts as an editor.

The poems are set in a range of geographical settings. They key of course is where the poems locate the reader in the internal world, remote from the abrasions and hazards and sheer nuttiness of everyday life. For Valente, compassion is a valuable point of entry. She writes with much feeling for commuters struggling through their day. She show how these refreshing pauses can happen in the urban deadline hustle of downtown Chicago:

Cicada crawls up
side of building, brick by brick
no deadlines to meet

Brother Paul Quenon lives at the Abbey of Gethsemani in rural Kentucky, a landscape which figures in many of his haiku:

After long rainfall
Leftover music dribbles
Dancing on puddles.

Nature also figures highly in the work of Michael Bever as he writes of the wilds of California's San Gabriel Mountains:

Plum blossoms astir
Lingering pale afternoon
Intimate with day

As in Valente's Twenty Poems, poems are paired with prose reflections -- though some of Paul Quenon's haiku are matched with his elegant understated photos. The prose pieces provide a prayerful context which extends the length of the poem's life in the mind. That serves as an incubation period often essential for deliverance to the vital moments of epiphany and perspective which the book focuses on. Besides, these prose pieces truly enrich the experience of the poems. If a haiku is a single-note melody, what we have here are vibrant chordal melodies which resonate and refresh. The whole book is marvelous.

Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Press
Publicity Department
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780345539472, $27.00, 400 pp,

Daniel Allen

I have read many books about Will Trent, Sara Linton, Lena Adams and other regular characters of Karin Slaughter. This novel is the eighth Will Trent novel, and I couldn't resist the temptation to pick it up. I like her powerful detective fiction novels and for the last four or five years I have been reading them. She also has ebooks on which I managed to pick up a few of those to read as they are shorter novellas or stories to fill in between her novel releases.

Will Trent who is a officer of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation or GBI for short has to go undercover to go after a rising problem with drug traffic coordinated by a notorious drug traffic dealer 'Big' Whitey. Will is now with the name of Bill Black with a record placing his position with the cops as not favorable. He is also faced with a situation caught between multiple forces, and they all seem to make him as the bad guy. The only people who likes him is one woman who is a nurse at the local hospital, who likes guys who have a rough side to them, hence the bad guys.

Will's pursuit of his undercover operation runs into two elements that cause trouble for him in the physical sense. 'Big' Whitey has thugs who are under his leadership who discover that Will isn't who he appears to be. Their mission is to expand the drug business and their businessmen thugs seem to get away with crime due to his having first rate lawyers to keep out of prosecutional jail time. Will gets beat up by them and his hanging around with his partner in crime leads him to an ambush. The police become the other side of his problem, especially one bad cop who gives him a rough time ever chance they meet up.

Will tries to keep his relationship with Sara Linton, but they have a falling out due to some of his underground activities and secrets. He seems to have a hard enough time with his past with his abusive foster care life, which he faces enough demons in his life besides Sara's mistrust. Will must prove himself worthy, and he has plenty of diversions with the thugs, police and the police officer who has her own problems in the mix named Lena Adams. Somehow this intense drama and problems of the community will not all come to a head, unless Will and other police expertise leadership can solve the major drug traffic and issues hurting himself along with everyone else. There is a lot at stake, and some young lives are among the innocent, who might be hanging in the balance.

Karin Slaughter the author of the above named characters and good detective fiction. She has eight novels featuring Will Trent, and six novels named the Grant County novels. She has earlier works exploring various subjects with two being a collection of short stories and Lee Child and Michael Connelly Stephen Coonts, Jeffrey Deaver among others. I look forward to reading her series novels or her stand alone ones. Unseen is her latest release to-date.

The Returned
Jason Mott
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778315339, $24.95, pp. 352,

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

The undead are hot right now. (Some might even say they're on fire.) People just can't seem to get enough of zombies, vampires, ghosts, and demons. Though Jason Mott's novel "The Returned" fits in the aforementioned category of the undead, it kind of doesn't.

In the novel, Harold and Lucille Hargrave learn of a phenomenon by watching television. People who were once dead are coming back to life. They think of the events as ungodly. That is, until their only child, Jacob, returns from the dead and ends up at their front door. Though the boy passed away back in 1966, he returns as the eight-year old, joke-telling kid who drowned all those years ago.

Agent Bellamy is the face of the Bureau of the Returned. The government agency's job is to help the newly alive to reconnect with their families and smooth the transition. They also work with the military to round up the undead who do not remain at home as instructed. But what happens to them when they don't follow the rules?

It's easy to see why this book can have a certain appeal to readers. The prose is amazing and full of life. The subject matter is interesting, especially when characters attempt to discover what the undead know about the afterlife, what happens to dead criminals when they reclaim their lives, and how the governments of the world are to deal with the overpopulated earth.

But beautiful prose and interesting ideas don't save this novel. At Page 80, you hope something exciting happens. By Page 100, you figure it's sure to come. But by Page 150, you may just do as I did and give up. Zombies are interesting because they look like hell and want to eat your brains. Vampires are exciting because they drink blood, turn into bats, and are immortal. (Some of them are even sexy.) Even paranormal ghosts and demons cause enough havoc to make you shiver. The undead in this novel are just like the plot, boring. Imagine if the first page hinted at the return of Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy. Now their return would have been exciting to read about. An eight-year old kid getting excited about picking berries? Meh. I hear the book is being made into a TV show. I pray that the screenwriters get to the good stuff faster than the novel does.

An American Bride in Kabul
Phyllis Chesler
Palgrave MacMillan
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780230342217, $27.00,

Fern Sidman

Reality Eclipses Love in "An American Bride in Kabul" - A memoir by Phyllis Chesler

In her 15th book, prolific author and iconic second wave feminist Phyllis Chesler takes her readers on both a trenchant and profoundly intimate sojourn, 50 years in the past, to a harrowing chapter in her life in this deeply poignant and absolutely enthralling memoir entitled, "An American Bride in Kabul" (Palgrave MacMillan).

For those not in the know, Chesler is the author of such bestsellers as " "Women and Madness" (1972), "Woman's Inhumanity to Woman" (2001), "The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and "The Death of Feminism (2005).

Speaking in a duality of voices; one of a young, winsome and naive Jewish woman seeking a glorious adventure and that of a seasoned veteran with a here-and-now retrospective tone replete with a sagacious wisdom; Chesler imparts her spellbinding narrative with the level of adroitness that only a consummate raconteuse can muster. Relying on the array of indelible memories etched in the recesses of her mind and her copious dairy entries, Chesler recounts her nightmarish experiences in vividly descriptive prose as her words leap off the pages and into our souls.

The year is 1961, and the young Ms. Chesler's academic proclivities bring her to an American college on a full scholarship. It is there that she meets and falls deeply in love with an exotic man she would later refer to as an "Omar Sharif" look alike. His name is Abdul Kareem, a westernized, wealthy Muslim foreign student from Afghanistan. "He is suave and self-assured and has thick dark hair, golden skin, and penetrating eyes. I have never met anyone life him," she writes.

Their love, however, transcended the physical, as they crafted their very own European salon of sorts; traversing the intellectual and bohemian realm and engaging in seemingly endless hours of riveting conversation on "Camus, Sartre, Dostoevsky, Strindberg, Ibsen and Proust" amongst other esoteric matters.

After her paramour offered her a grand tour of European capitals and a visit to his native Afghanistan, the alluring temptation was simply impossible for Chesler to resist. Only one caveat, said Abdul Kareem. They must get married, he said, or else they could not travel together. One suspects that he did not want to offend his family's devout Muslim beliefs in morality. And so it was.

Their time spent in Europe was only the proverbial calm before the storm. When she arrives in Kabul, her American passport was taken from her in a trice; never to be returned. That was only the tip of the iceberg. Most painfully, what was taken from Chesler was her youthful innocence; her freedom, independence and dignity. For the lessons that she learned served to inextricably link her to the feminist mission that defined her professional career.

Among the multitude of culture shockers in store for Chesler was the fact that her father-in-law was a polygamist; having three wives and three sets of children; all living behind the high walls of the family compound. If that weren't enough to digest, she was to discover that she was to be held captive in a "posh purdah" style of existence. Simply put, Chesler was now in a veritable harem; against her will and with no way out.

"I am expected to live with my mother-in-law and other female relatives, wear hijab, and live in purdah. That means that I cannot go out without a male escort, a male driver, and a female relative as chaperones. I am also expected to convert to Islam. I am living in a culture where extreme gender apartheid is the norm and where my reactions to it are considered abnormal, " she writes.

As Chesler offers her nuanced perspective of life in Kabul for the five months she spent there, the reader is transported back in time; as the author treats us to a magic carpet ride to an arcane land. We go into sensory mode as we imbibe the plethora of sights, smells and sounds of Kabul as Chesler experienced them.

Besides dealing with a tyrannical mother-in-law who could only be described as an escapee from Bellevue, Chesler was somewhat comforted by the kindness of her sister-in-laws who attempted to protect her from the family matriarch and the abuse that she would endure from her husband.

Her days were spent sequestered in the compound with the other distaff members of the family, doing virtually nothing productive. Because their lives were circumscribed for them, they did not leave home and everything was done for them by the bevy of servants who were treated like slaves by none other than their own personal, "Mommy Dearest"

She writes: "The daily routine is as follows: In the morning Abdul Kareem and the men disappear and are gone all day. The women mainly stay at home. The servants clean and cook. Bebegul (her mother-inlaw) stays in her own quarters and sews and hums to herself. She orders her servants about, chcks on their work and sits in the garden."

As she literally battles a raging hunger each day because her mother-in-law has ordered the servants not to cook her food in Crisco but in foul tasting ghee, Chesler starts scrounging around for canned foods before she was beset with a horrible case of dysentery and later the near fatal hepatitis that killed most foreigners that year.

Now that her physical well being is in jeopardy, her mother-in-law works on spiritual end by coercing Chesler to convert to Islam. Fearing for her life, she does so reluctantly and the guilt she harbors for doing so is reflected in her work.

When she tries to sunbathe in a bikini, Chesler almost causes a mini-riot amongst the men folk who catch a glimpse of this anomalous sight. When she tries to explore Kabul on her own, she is followed by a baneful man in a car. When she sees burqas all around her and registers a complaint to her husband, he callously dismisses her grievances as being hyperbole, as he does when she tells him of the reprehensible way her mother-in-law is treating her.

Abdul Kareem now assumes a bellicose posture as he eventually becomes emotionally and physically abusive; launching scathing verbal tirades and hitting Chesler when he can't keep her under the patriarchal grip that he would like to.

Severely weakened by the hepatitis and fending off her mother-in-law who tries to kill her by pulling out the life sustaining IV from her arm, Chesler concludes that she must get out at all costs. She beseeches the American consulate in Kabul to help her and is summarily refused because she has no US passport. She then contrives a plan with the assistance of a foreign couple, but at that juncture, her dapper father-in-law intervenes and acquires an Afghani passport for her to leave on the grounds of her illness.

When Chesler kissed the ground at Idlewild Airport (now JFK) in New York City, she carried with her a fierce determination to focus on the horrendous plight of women and for the kind of equality that had eluded them.

When Abdul Kareem arrives in New York prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, they reunite for visits and she even develops an amiable relationship with his children from another marriage. His patriarchal arrogance is evidenced, however, as he chides her for not showing enough ambition about bringing Afghanistan into the modern world as he had done as a cultural minister there and for writing books that he asserts few people read.

What makes this book so compelling is that Chesler's personal narrative is juxtaposed with historical and factual insights that really provide the reader with an education for the reasons she was treated like chattel. And it is precisely this part of the book that even trumps her roller coaster of a ride story.

Quoting a treasure trove of Western sources; mainly of American, British, French and Scottish travelers who has embodied the pioneering spirit and visited Afghanistan in the last few centuries, Chesler allows the reader a comprehensive understanding of the role of tribal warlords, of Afghani monarchy and the culture it engendered.

The genesis of the inferior status of Afghani women and the "indigenous barbarism" they were subjected to is meticulously explored as is the abject history of the Jews who were persecuted in economic, religious and social ways.

Says Chesler, "I had no idea that historically Muslims had viewed themselves as superior to all infidels, but especially to Jews, whom they tolerated but also tithed, impoverished, humiliated, persecuted, exiled, and massacred."

She adds, "Abdul Kareem had loved me, he had loved a Jew. I do not doubt this. I loved him, too - although everything changed after my first month in Kabul."

Her conversations with her ex-husband are rife with a visceral intensity and when she speaks of the tragic attacks on 9/11 we understand why this book as written. How could it not be? Afghanistan was the country she lived in and it was there that the plans for these attacks were incubated.

Chesler is to be lauded for prodigiously plunging into dark and treacherous waters; for penning a book where each page is brimming with rich insights and for serving as an avatar of inspiration for all oppressed peoples fighting for freedom.

Opportunity: Optimizing Life's Chances
Donald Morris
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781591024026, $28.99,

Irene S. Roth

Have you major life changing missed opportunities in your life? Have you regretted missing some opportunities that you knew at the time you should perhaps try for? We all seem to have missed opportunities. That is something that happens to all of us, whether we like it or not. And most of us think that opportunities are a simple matter - however as Dr. Morris argues nothing is further from the case.

Opportunity is individual and personal. What is a real opportunity for someone is not much of an opportunity for someone else. There is nothing generic about opportunity. They are subjective and they need to be moulded to individual person in order for them to really matter. This is why there are so many stumbling blocks, pit falls and blind spots in individual opportunities. For instance, how an individual poses or frames questions when looking for the solution to a problem affects the kind of answers the person acknowledge. Also, the way a person frames an opportunity also affects the kind of opportunities that the person will take and which ones she will walk away from and possibly experience remorse later.

Most people believe that opportunities are straightforward and not problematic - one either thinks that an opportunity is a good one or not. But as Dr. Morris argues in this book, the concept of opportunity shows that a problem exists with recognizing and exploiting opportunity, allowing us to search for and point to the specific reasons for this difficulty. Our recognition of opportunity is affected by the problems that we face, our notion of sacrifice, how we evaluate risk, how we perceive time, what conditions we believe will improve our life, and the techniques to predict our future, just to name a few. These underlying issues can cast a haze over our judgments and adversely affect our decisions with respect to opportunity. In spite of our self-confirmed ability to recognize opportunities, we will miss many important opportunities in our lives. Some people will miss more than others.

I found Dr. Morris' book fascinating and intriguing. Being a philosopher, I really enjoyed the analysis of the concept of opportunity in this book. It is a nontechnical read but it is a book to dissect and read slowly. Only then will we take the time to decide whether or not certain opportunities are good for us.

First Reviewed on Blogcritics at

Blood Brothers
Ingrham, Stienke, and Farmer
Timber Creek Press
9780989122085, $16.95, 397 pp,

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

This is the fourth well-written, exciting, suspenseful, and enjoyable tale about the Black Eagle Force by bestselling and award winning authors Buck Stienke and Ken Farmer. Doran Ingrham joined them in writing this book as he did in Blood Ivory. It is an adventure story filled with action. It is a continuation of the adventure in the prior Mark Ingram adventure, Blood Ivory, but people who have not read the prior book can still enjoy this one because the authors are careful to describe what happened previously. The heroes of this drama, especially Mark Ingram, are virtual supermen, good looking, extremely strong, and smart. Ingram carries a "get out of trouble card" from President Bush. Women find him virtually irresistible. When Ingram needs transportation, he can telephone the current president, Annette Henry Thompson-Hermann and get immediate help.

Ingram is not a member of the powerful uniquely equipped Black Eagle Force, which is trying to recruit him. The US Posse Comitatus act of 1878 limits the power of the federal government to use military forces for law enforcement. Accordingly, according to this novel, President Ronald Reagan had a secret civilian ultra rapid deployment black ops strike force organization established that was independent of the military for plausible deniability. This is the Black Eagle Force. They protect the country. The president made sure that the Force had the best trained creme de la creme men and women, special ops personnel from all military branches, and the most up to date equipment, far better than any other military organization. Their motto is Semper Paro Bellum, Latin for Always Ready for War. The men and women in this Force are usually tall, muscular, handsome, capable, and sure of themselves. They are uniquely close to one another and, as brothers and sisters, frequently josh with each other.

In the prior volume, Black Ivory, a US senator and his daughter are kidnapped while they are on a safari in Africa by men who brutally butcher elephants for their ivory tusks. Mark Ingram rescues them and kills the kidnapping leader. In this volume, the senator's daughter is sexually involved with Ingram, but he needs to leave her to help a friend in Kenya, in Africa. Some Kenyans have initiated a coup against the Kenyan president. Mark's friend is his bodyguard, and he, the president, and less than two dozen soldiers are surrounded by hundreds of rebels. Mark rushes to the rescue with only a handful of men, and faces a situation not unlike the Texas Alamo. While just a few, the men that Mark brings with him, each promised $100,000 for their work, are seasoned fighters.

This is not Mark's only problem. The elephant poacher who Mark killed has a brother who is seeking revenge. Additionally, while Mark was able to slow down the elephant poaching, it has started up again, and its leader is helping the dead man's brother in setting a trap to kill him.

The Blue Between
Patricia Little
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781484066454, $10.99, 278 pp,

Mayra Calvani

Genre: Young Adult - Sci fi, fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Heather Lucas is playing soccer one day when she's hit by lightning, leaving her with a weird scar on her hand. The girl who she clashed with when she got struck dies. Thus Heather becomes the odd one at school, the one everyone whispers about.

To make matters worse, her mom suddenly abandons her, and she experiences blackout moments that she can't explain. Her dad doesn't believe her and she's forced to see a psychiatrist. Also, a new boy at school, Alex, has taken a keen interest on her - an interest that goes beyond the fact that she's a pretty girl. Who is he, and why is he so interested in her scar and a place called Alanar - a make-believe place Heather's mother used to talk about?

As Heather becomes more in control of her blackout moments, she taps into 'the blue between,' a place outside of space and time, only to discover shocking realities about her mom and her own origins. The stakes are high, and her mom isn't the only innocent being she must save from the void...

I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written, entertaining story for young adults. It has a strong, brave, sympathetic heroine, an interesting array of secondary characters, mystery, action and adventure. The story moves at a pretty quick pace, propelled by high-tension scenes and realistic dialogue.

The author keeps the mystery alive throughout, offering increasing bits of information as the plot progresses until the action-packed climax and satisfying ending that can only be the beginning of an exciting new series. I also enjoyed the author's original world-building.

If you're a fan of YA fantasy and the paranormal, but are tired of werewolves and vampires, I recommend you pick this one up.

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956
Anne Applebaum
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385515696, $35.00,

Paul Binford, Reviewer

The words "Iron Curtain" were coined by Winston Churchill in 1946 in a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. What we don't know about the tragedy in Eastern Europe after World War II far surpasses what we do know. Anne Applebaum's book, titled Iron Curtain, is a fascinating look behind the curtain.

A columnist for the Washington Post and the Director of Political Studies at the Legatum Institute in London, Applebaum begins the book with a chapter titled "Zero Hour." That title has an ominous ring to it, as it should. From the Adriatic to the Baltic, those countries "liberated" from the Nazi's by the Russians escaped one nightmare and landed in another. During the worst years, between 1945 and Josef Stalin's death in 1953, the order of the day was to follow the Soviet communist ideology, or else.

As the Red Army advanced towards Germany at the end of the war, they were accompanied by the NKVD, an acronym for the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs. In other words, the secret police. As soon as the front moved west, the NKVD went to work arresting whoever might oppose Stalin. The lucky ones were released after a few weeks, others were tortured, executed, or sent to prison camps in Siberia. The idea was to inspire terror, and it worked.

Ironically, the Yalta conference in February 1945 required the Soviet Union to hold free democratic elections in eastern Europe. This did happen, with communist parties campaigning alongside more democratic parties. Failing to win the elections, the communists turned to the secret police, so that by 1949 there was no more pretense that the elections were free and fair. This is the result of allowing the NKVD to escape from civilian control. They were never accountable to the elected government, only to the communist party.

It's a captivating story, full of human drama. The tale of two cardinals might illustrate the dilemma faced by anyone, but particularly those in an influential position. Cardinal Minszenty, in Hungary, chose to resist the party line and keep the integrity of the Catholic Church. He was arrested and tortured for three months; on his release he issued a formal apology to the public. Cardinal Wyszynski, in Poland, tried to compromise with the ideologues, and he managed to escape arrest (at least until 1953) but he was branded as a collaborationist by Catholics. On his arrest, he exclaimed that "'s good that our priests are in prison too, since out task is to be with the nation."

The Church was not the only institution that was attacked. From the beginning, the party infiltrated youth groups like the Boy Scouts. Teachers trained in Marxist thought gradually replaced the teachers left from the pre-war years. The radio stations were a prime target, as they were the best means for spreading mass propaganda. Art and culture organizations were taken over, as were charities. The aim, according to Applebaum, was to create a new human being, which she dubs Homo Sovieticus.

There might be some black humor alongside this terrific tragedy. One could chuckle at the names given to the various "class enemies." They were called, of course, the usual names such as reactionaries, bourgeois, aristocrats, Trotskyites. Then there were formalists, members of a religious cult, foreign imperialists, sometimes just plain criminals. None of these names had any basis in reality, yet they were enough to cause mass arrests and deportations.

Having grown up during the Cold War, I took a personal interest in Iron Curtain. I remember when I was young and curious, wondering how my parent's generation could be so afraid of communism. I see now that they were more informed than I gave them credit for. There was indeed, a lot to be afraid of, given the examples of the countries behind the iron curtain.

Monkey: A Novel
Jim Meirose
Sweatshoppe Publications
442 Raven Way, Suite D
Chubbuck, ID 83202
9780988782006, $12.00,

Savannah Schroll Guz, Reviewer

In his 2010 short story collection Crossing the Trestle, Jim Meirose deftly explores his characters' emotional responses to loss and loneliness and the way in which they compensate for their circumstances. In his newest novel, Monkey

A Novel, loss is also crucial to the narrative and has a gravitational pull that brings ruin to almost all the central characters.

Meirose treats the narrative in a way that may remind readers of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. The straightforward statements, absence of quotation marks, and stream of consciousness flow resemble Faulkner's story about absence and shifting identities. However, instead of 15 viewpoints, we experience the central action as explained by the book's four main characters: Kevin, the younger son; George, the father; Anna, the mother; and Monkey (a.k.a. George Junior), the older son. The book revolves around each character's descriptions of events, some of which overlap exactly and others of which reveal differing perceptions.

Loss figures prominently throughout the book, but is evident at the narrative's outset, specifically in the opening monologue by Kevin, who seeks affirmation from his emotionally remote older brother, nicknamed Monkey. It is for this reason that Kevin, usually closer to his mother than anyone else, is collecting cow patties from the neighbor's pasture. Their purpose is not immediately specified, but can be intuited from Monkey's talk of revenge on the county offices that fired their father. While crossing the road with yet another wheelbarrow load of cow dung, Kevin is killed by a speeding truck. It is at this point that we learn Kevin is speaking as a spirit, who continues to watch and listen from somewhere near the mound of patties he was collecting for Monkey.

Father, George, is a catalyst but also a cipher. While he impacts others, he appears to have little if any internal life, manifested by his largely emotionless demeanor, even when exposed to the heated arguments and mean-spirited ribbing of co-workers, Jolly and Bobby. His career identity seems to be the only thing reinforcing his sense of self. And having started out alone, with no family before he meets Anna, he ultimately retreats into his own mind, isolating himself by way of catatonia once he loses his job as county mechanic.

By comparison, Anna is the most finely limbed character. She is fully three-dimensional, filled with passion and rage and quick to provide readers with sensory descriptions, the most interesting of which is the scent of fresh-cut grass, a vibrant fragrance indicating wholesomeness, even new beginnings. It's a smell Anna seems to associate with the first stages of love, as it appears again and again when she becomes infatuated with a boy. Her story extends beyond George in both directions, relating her previous fascinations and disappointments, continuing through her gradually disheartening life with George, and the long period of emotional and physical isolation in the family farmhouse afterwards.

Monkey, as he was affectionately (if casually) nicknamed by his father before birth, remains an enigma until the end. Only when we get to hear his internal monologue do we see what drives his actions, his devotion to his father, his desire for revenge on the county, and his dissociation from his mother. What might be perceived in Monkey as aloof narcissism in the eyes of other family members is actually revealed to be conflicted emotion and extraordinary loneliness. In Kevin's opening version of events, he explains that Monkey returns again and again to the spot where Kevin's spirit lingers, the site of the old dung pile. He sits with Kevin, talks to him. And whenever Monkey is seeking something: first a wife, then a child, Kevin is somehow able to move these elements into his life. But these too are transient. Monkey ends up alone, isolated, in the same position his father was before he met Anna.

Monkey is less a story about revenge, as the book description bills it to be, but more a narrative of loss, cataclysmic emotion, and changing identities. It is also a novel about the human condition and points to the fragility of interpersonal connections. Here, absence, too, is made a central character. It becomes a presence; has a disastrous gravitational pull; and defines the shape, length, and trajectory of the lives it dominates.

Buhle's Bookshelf

Hot Springs District
Michael Honack, author
Kyer Wiltshire, photographer
Rebecca Speakes, editor
Lovolution Press
9781467571319 $14.95

Hot Springs District: Truth or Consequences, New Mexico 87901 is a softcover coffee table book filled to the brim with striking, full-color photography of the people, architecture, and art of Truth or Consequences ("T or C") in New Mexico, a place famous for its revitalizing hot springs. Though there is a brief introduction and a few snippets of text, by and large the pictures speak for themselves in this armchair traveler's delight. A visual tour de force, Hot Springs District is the next best thing to traveling to this varied, charming, and friendly American town in person!

The Alternative Medicine Cabinet, second edition
Kathy Gruver, PhD, LMT, RM, NHC
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
c/o Words a la Mode (publicity)
9780741459039 $11.95

Now in its updated second edition, The Alternative Medicine Cabinet is an award-winning guide to nontraditional remedies to common health problems. Author Kathy Gruver (PhD in Natural Health) does not refute the need for modern medicine, and emphasizes that The Alternative Medicine Cabinet cannot substitute for the diagnosis or treatment of a trained medical doctor. But sometimes simple, natural, drug-free remedies such as massage, homeopathy, reiki or herbal tonics can work wonders at a fraction of the cost - as can changing one's environment or improving the quality of one's diet and exercise habits. The Alternative Medicine Cabinet is highly recommended as an excellent supplementary health and wellness guide.

The Cleanse Companion Cookbook
Bonnie Nedrow & Jeff Hauptman
Confluence Books
c/o White Cloud Press
POO Box 3400, Ashland, OR 97520
9781935952664, $14.95,

Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation. Naturopathy favors a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and generally avoids the use of surgery and drugs. Cleansing in the context of alternative medicine is an approach that claims to rid the body of "toxins" - accumulated harmful substances that are alleged to exert undesirable effects on individual health in the short or long term. This cleansing or detoxification usually includes one or more of: dieting, fasting, consuming exclusively or avoiding specific foods (such as fats, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, juices, herbs, or water), colon cleansing, chelation therapy. "The Cleanse Companion Cookbook: The Definitive Guide to the Naturopathic Detoxification Diet with 70 Hypoallergenic Recipes" is a 160 page compendium of naturopathic detoxification dieting information and seventy hypoallergenic recipes. Informed and informative, "The Cleanse Companion Cookbook" is especially recommended for the cookbook collections of anyone with diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, chronic illness, seeking a basic diet for healthy weight loss, or in need of hypoallergenic recipes for the purpose of reducing inflammations. "The Cleanse Companion Cookbook" is also a recommended addition to community library vegetarian and vegan cookbook collections as well.

Willis M. Buhle

Cheri's Bookshelf

Mind Maps: Improve Memory, Concentration, Communication, Organization, Creativity, and Time Management
Ken Arthur
Amazon Digital Services
B0098B6V6E, $6.99 (Kindle), 224 Pages,

Thoughts don't randomly bounce around in our heads, but instead connect to previous thoughts or patterns like a connect-the-dots puzzle. Example is how one thought or experience can connect to memories of other experiences and thought patterns. In this unique and concise book, we discover how to do this using mind maps to help us learn better and faster. While we know mind mapping is nothing new, this author explains it in much simpler terms; everything from the how, why and even the when to use and apply the technique. Even more this author takes mind mapping beyond any other book.

While excellently outlined, the flow of the chapters are very easy to understand starting with an explanation of what a mind map is, how to create, and even enhance one. From there the author explores the numerous mind mapping possibilities from note-taking, research, and brainstorming. He even shows how mind mapping can be an excellent tool for writers. We finish with how children can benefit from mind mapping and software programs available to make the process easier.

One argument for mind mapping is that you are using a part of your mind that is visual, which is more powerful, faster and efficient at making things easier to learn and remember. So I liked that the author used different examples of mind mapping throughout, which were simple and easy to understand and made for an easier flow of thinking so the reader isn't lost.

Overall an excellent read and learning tool for most anyone.

Leading a Special Needs Ministry: A Practical Guide to Including Children and Loving Families
Author: Amy Fenton Lee
c/o The reThink Group, Inc
9780985411688, $18.99, 165 pp.,

Fenton has written an exceptional book looking into the situations that anyone who works in a ministry with children with special needs may or may not face. At the beginning is an outstanding section that is especially insightful called "Loving Families". It seems in many other books on special needs ministry this subject was barely touched on or not at all. But Fenton goes in-depth showing us the right things to say and do to accept and love the family that has a child just diagnosed whether at birth, pre-school or elementary age. From there the author seems to knowingly know what challenges or situations are faced and thou a small book the detail is remarkable and in-depth even covering statistics, terms, training, recruiting, safety, as well as many other subjects. The only negative point seemed to be that the coverage seemed to be more on children with autism which is very helpful but would have like to have seen more on other types of special needs. But overall an excellent handbook that should be in every church library and used as a training tool for special needs ministry.

As exceptional as this book is for ministry it is also very insightful for the parents of children with special needs to answer questions and concerns especially what to look for when placing their child in a church ministry.

So whether you are a parent or in a special needs ministry or looking to start one this book is an absolute must read.

Cheri Clay

Christy's Bookshelf

La Bella Mafia
Morgan St. James and Dennis N. Griffin
Houdini Publishing
6455 Dean Martin Drive, Suite L
Las Vegas, NV 89118
9781936759187, $14.95,

Bella Capo's childhood was anything but normal. Sexually abused by her brother, physically and mentally abused by her alcoholic father, with a mother who was a drug addict and never tuned in to what was happening to her daughter, Bella suffered PTSD at an early age, a condition which followed her into adulthood. Bella's early life influenced her decisions as an adult, from an affair with an older man at the age of 15 to marriage to a man affiliated with organized crime who became violent and abusive. But Bella is a courageous woman with a strong faith who, through each ordeal, pulled herself up and got on with life and now helps other abused women through her online support group La Bella Mafia.

La Bella Mafia is a powerful, inspirational account of domestic violence and abuse and how one special woman dealt with the horrific mental and physical sequelae and the steps she is now taking to help those who suffer from this find a way out of their hell and back to a normal life. Bravo.

The Third Eye (Pine Barrens Mystery)
Andrew Seewald & Jacqueline Seewald
Five Star Publishing
4696 W. Tyson St., Chandler, AZ 85226
9781432826987, $25.95,

Ariel Spencer, troubled by repressed memories of her childhood in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, convinces her husband and two sons to move there so that she might face her demons and be free of her emotional instability. Ariel's son Jimmy tries to fit in with his colleagues at school while her other son Raven, who has the "third eye", is more of a loner and content to spend time doing what he loves best, working on automobiles. Jimmy makes friends with Sara Woodson, a distant cousin, and together the two discover two corpses, later determined to be homicides and both linked to Ariel. When police focus their investigation on Ariel, Jimmy is determined to prove his mother innocent of murder with the help of his psychic brother Raven.

Jacqueline and Andrew Seewald have penned an intriguing mystery set in an area known for the legend of the Jersey Devil, adding a more sinister ambience to the plot. The story moves at a nice pace with twists and turns and enough suspicious characters to keep the reader guessing. The Third Eye is a smartly written book which reaches beyond the realm of mystery into the mystical and supernatural, with well-developed characters and nail-biting suspense; a book readers will be reluctant to set aside.

Christy Tillery French, Reviewer

Crocco's Bookshelf

The Flower Who Wanted A Name
Christina Louise
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00CGPDGCG, $0.99,

Less is More

A story about how little flower finally received a name. The key word - 'finally.' In his quest for a name, little flower asked for help from all the flowers he met on his path through the garden. He was so eager; the other flowers wasted no time directing him to King Dandy Lion, the king of the garden.

Once he found the king, he received a name suited just for him. To find out the name the king of the garden granted to little flower, you will have to read the book.

Christina Louise's clever approach to illustrate each flower to match the specific name was brilliant. The Flower Who Wanted A Name is short and sweet, a perfect story for young children.

Treasure of La Dura
Robert Cawley
Houdini Publishing
6455 Dean Martin Drive, Suite L
Las Vegas, NV 89118
9781936759170, $14.95,

A Deadly Appetite

La Dura possessed the treasure to save the protagonist, Maria Ropero, from ruin. She was the last of a proud Spanish family and the sole owner of a giant cattle empire along the Arizona/Mexican border. About to lose everything, she contacted a group of unsavory men to cross the border with her, into Mexico, in search of the treasure of La Dura.

Aware the dangers of the mission were life threatening, didn't keep Maria from seeking the riches, to make her the wealthiest woman in the world. As Maria begged for her life, she cried, 'You stupid fool. I am Maria Ropero. I own La Dura.'

The story is violent, as expected on such a quest. The men hired to find the gold are the worst of the worst, and their disgusting behavior proves it during the hunt for treasure. There is one exception, Flynn O'Neil, a hero from the Iraq/Afghanistan War. He and Maria fall in love, which I found unnecessary in the midst of the story, with awkward love making scenes.

Treasure of La Dura by Robert Cawley, is an action adventure, with an unpredictable ending sure to surprise readers.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

Kingdom Woman: Embracing your Purpose, Power & Possibilities
Tony Evans & Chrystal Evans Hurst
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781589977433, $19.99,

The father-daughter team of Urban Alternative founder and senior pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Texas, Tony Evans and daughter Chrystal Evans Hurst combine their talents and expertise to pen Kingdom Women. An encouraging book that inspires women to be who God created them to be. Chrystal's frank and authentic perspective, enhanced by her father's biblically sound teaching merge into one concise message about women's "purpose, power and possibilities."

Women today are challenged with families, work and multi-tasking that leaves many with feelings of inadequacy because they can't be all things to all people. Women have lost sight of God's plan and forgotten that men and women were created "equally in the image of God" with distinct and different roles" within God's order, reasons Pastor Evans.

He believes people haven't learned the "value of God's kingdom" or "what they're been placed here to represent." He contends churches have settled for "buildings and programs instead of teaching men and women how to access the authority of the kingdom." He asks readers to consider the fact that Jesus only mentions "church" three times in Matthew, while He uses "kingdom" fifty-four times.

Chrystal writes about women spending more time analyzing what they are not or what they don't have than they do recognizing who they were "created to be." She uses Satan's temptation of Eve as an example of what first had to happen in Eve's mind before she bit into the apple, brought about by her "conversation with the devil."

She cites instances where women "rehearse," over and over, their "dissatisfaction, unhappiness and displeasure," reinforcing the negative in their thoughts, words and actions. Instead, she says it's all about "choice" and that's what this book is about. Choosing to see ourselves as God created us to be or believing the lies of Satan, "cultivated by the culture we live in."

She reminds women God didn't create Eve at Adam's request. Instead God created Eve because "it is not good for man to be alone." Gen 2:18. Chrystal and her father offer women scriptural tools to see themselves through the God's lens and His values and purposes for them. Or to quote Eleanor Roosevelt, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Kingdom Woman divided into three sections, first focuses on the biblical values, hope and commitment necessary to the Foundation of a Kingdom Woman. The middle segment illustrates the power, pursuit and possibilities of a Kingdom Woman's faith and why "prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of a kingdom woman." The book concludes with how such a woman bears "fruit" in their personal, family and professional lives within their churches and community. In Chrystal's own words.

The book is more motivational than self-help and is designed to empower women to find their God-given potential. Chrystal follows in the exceptional steps of her father with this debut book and devotional featured in the list that releases October 1.

Not Quite Healed: 40 Truths for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Cecil Murphey & Gary Roe
Kregel Publishing
PO Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI, 49501-2607
9780825442704, $14.99,

Cecil Murphey, better known as "Cec" with co-author Gary Roe write about childhood sexual molestation from a male survivor's perspective in Not Quite Healed. After sexually traumatic childhood circumstances left confusion, fear and scars behind when a trusted adult betrayed them. This is the story of their journey toward healing and the "forty truth's" they learned that taught them "healing from sexual abuse is a process not a one-time event."

Since Cec and Gary are "fellow pilgrims on the road to healing" each of forty chapter's include personal stories and insights from them both that end with simple statements of truth they learned on their journeys. Statements that they hope will encourage others to study, memorize and recite when lingering effects of childhood sexual abuse arise. Such as:

I am not quite healed; I am a healing-in-progress.
I can't change the past, but I can pick up the painful pieces and become whole.
My childhood was stolen...
Admitting I need help is a sign of humility, not weakness...
Reaching out for help is a sign of courage...
Pornography is only a substitute for intimacy...

Chapters include their battles with shame, confusion, doubt and broken trust that scarred them as children with what they call the "gift that keeps on giving" when they entered adulthood. Their candid accounts portray the devastation of childhood sexual abuse and it's haunting after effects.

Cec begins with the question "Shouldn't I be Healed by Now" the topic of chapter one, where he

says he's "closer to total victory..." yet frankly admits he still isn't completely healed. Even though he works on and desires "complete emotional healing."

In the same chapter Gary writes about his feelings of childhood neglect and the need to find the "mother love" he never received that left him with feelings of abandonment where he felt "unloved and un-loveable." This unmet basic need made Gary easy to victimize because he was a "needy kid" susceptible to child molesters who "...gravitate toward unfulfilled and disadvantaged children."

Children who are sexually abused struggle with feelings of victimization, same-sex attractions, pornography, forgiveness and other issues as adult men. The American Psychological Association documents what parents should know about the characteristics and effects of childhood sexual abuse.

The book is not an easy read and I'm equally sure it wasn't easy to write. Yet, Gary and Cec write with honest transparency about a for-the-most-part "hushed topic" to encourage and help others toward healing. Visit Cec's blog: Shattering the Silence to read about or share stories of other survivors and their remarkable journeys. Or listen to Cec's YouTube interview on childhood sexual abuse

Peace: A Crittenden County Christmas Novel
Shelley Shepard Gray
Avon Inspire
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062204523, $12.99,

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Shelley Shepard Gray releases Peace, Tuesday, October 22nd. With a Christmas love story that re-connects readers with lovable characters, Beth Byler and Chris Ellis from Crittenden County's 2012 trilogy - Secrets: Missing, The Search and Found .

Peace opens with secret DEA agent, Chris Ellis, about to collapse, leaning against the Yellow Bird Inn's front door post torn between knocking and leaving as he watched his blood drip "onto the pristine doormat under his feet."

He had promised himself never to return to the small Amish community when he left almost a year ago. Now, badly beaten, he had no other option and getting to the Kentucky Inn had taken the last of his energy.

Although he didn't know the Inn's proprietor Frannie well, he sensed she would help him and respect his need for secrecy. Besides it was three days before Christmas and with that thought he used his last bit of energy to raise his fist and knock - once.

The front porch light turned on to shed a bright glow over the front porch and he saw a face peer through the window next to the door, a face he recognized - of "...the one person he couldn't afford to ever see again."

Thus begins a charming Christmas romance between a man and a woman from two different worlds, wrapped in danger, secrecy and intrigue drawn together by an attraction neither could deny. A perfect read to set the mood and tone of love and forgiveness which is what Christmas is all about.

If you missed Shelley Shepherd Gray's FaceBook chat October 15, she's hosting a Peace Christmas Novella Book Launch party Saturday, October 26, 1:00 pm, invitations not required.

For more Christmas with the Amish:

Harvest House-An Amish Family Christmas by Murray Pura
Zondervan's-A Christmas Gift for Rose, by Tricia Goyer
New Hope's-The Doctor's Christmas Quilt by Kathi Macias
WaterBrook Publishers-The Dawn of Christmas by Cindy Woodsmall
Abingdon Press's-The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman
Create Space-Bright Christmas by Susan Rohrer
Abingdon Press-Annie's Christmas Wish by Barbara Cameron
Revell-A Simple Wish by Melody Carlson
GoodBooks-The Christmas Visitor by Linda Byler

The Legacy Builder: Five Non-Negotiable Leadership Secrets
Rod Olson
David C Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434705747, $17.99,

Rod Olson, popular speaker, author and mentor better known as "Coach O" uses a parable style narrative in The Legacy Builder to illustrate how one man lost sight of what was important in his drive to succeed. It's a modern day parable that teaches five "non-negotiable" leadership principles from ethical values to trustworthiness and how to walk a balanced life "with integrity."

Lance Marshall, former high school star quarterback had "always done anything possible to win," a characteristic that helped Lance and three friends launch a successful business enterprise that took off like a "bottle rocket." It was an exciting time where the impossible became possible due to enthusiasm, long hours and hard work.

However, the business success led to a loss of personal and professional perspective and Lance realized his wife and children's needs no longer came first. Stress and anger characterized both his home and work life, while his wife, children and even his employees walked in fear of his frequent angry outbursts.

When Lance missed their wheelchair bound son's latest birthday party after his profound promise to attend, his wife Amanda made a mysterious phone call. When Lance did arrive home, after the candles were blown out and the cake eaten, Amanda's question, "When did enough stop being enough for you?" left him sleepless that night.

Thus begins a story of authentic relationships at home and in the workplace that teaches real life leadership principles of accountability. Values Lance learned from his high school coach and mentor Coach Moore that he had lost sight of. With his wife's encouragement, Lance goes back to the past to relearn the principles of "FAT," an acronym for "Faithful, Available and Teachable," coach taught him.

Rod Olson uses the Navy SEALS definition of "mental toughness" that teaches personal responsibility and accountability in the face of adversity which is what this book is all about.

Readers learn the power of spoken words and how to value "people over productivity" through a "challenging tour of teaching and self-examination." Whether reading to learn or reading for story content, there is something for everyone within these pages, but especially for anyone in a leadership role. In Olson's own words: Legacy Builders How-To

American Sniper: Memorial Edition
Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen & Jim DeFelice
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062290793, $29.99,

The commemorative American Sniper: Memorial Edition, by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice that releases Tuesday, October 15th offers more than a beautiful new dust cover and binding. The Memorial Edition includes the original text and pictures from American Sniper with eighty additional pages of pictures and writings from those who knew this courageous Navy SEAL best.

Treasured insights penned by Chris' wife Taya portray the reality of marriage to a career Navy SEAL. She never romanticizes her husband, but lives with the "messy reality" of the career he chose because the couple was crazy in love. Crazy included times of laughter, times of anger, times of fighting and times of separation that never lasted because of their deep love for one another. She knew her husband well and today has serious questions about the real cause behind his death.

The touching notes inset mid-book from Chris's young son "Bubba" and daughter, "Baby Girl," remind readers of the price this family paid because their husband and father served his country with passion and renowned honor. Their promises to love him forever, "even if he died" and how much they miss him bring tears.

Other accounts from friends, parents, fellow Navy SEALS, veterans and wounded warriors he worked with all portray a humble, Christian man. From his well-earned reputation as the deadliest American sniper in military history to his legendary "2,100 yards kill shot outside Baghdad" pictured mid-book. The historical shot that exceeded the "dope card range" he had mounted on the side of his rifle and caused him to "eyeball" it due to his physical and mental training.

While the enemy called him "the Devil of Ramadi" because of his extreme accuracy and kill count his Navy SEAL brothers called him "legendary." Chris Kyle was a true American hero. His realistic and gritty first person account penned by the man who lived it, portrays his love, "sacrifice and service" for his country and fellow Americans.

Although the book reads like a fiction story, it's a true account that celebrates the life and legacy of Chris Kyle and his fellow warriors. All of America owes this amazing man and his friends a huge "thank you" for their service that saved fellow American lives.

The Mountain: My Time on Everest
Ed Viesturs, Contributor, David Roberts
Touchstone Publishing
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 12th floor, NY, NY 10020
9781451694734, $27.00,

The Mountain, My Time on Everest is an historical style memoir penned by veteran "world-class," high-altitude climber Ed Viesturs with Dave Roberts that releases Tuesday, October 8th. The first-person account includes breath-taking photographs of Everest's challenging beauty along with the "bold principles and lessons" Ed learned with each ascent.

He begins with his first Everest climb spring of 1987 when "only 209 successful ascents" had been claimed by "191 different climbers." His esteem for the earth's highest mountain encouraged a purist attitude that prompted Ed to "take on Everest...without bottled oxygen." That was a risk few had taken.

Tom Hornbein writes about "palatable risk" in relation to climbers in the book's introduction, where he says some climbers are "adrenaline junkies or stimulus addicts" who have a need for extreme risk to feel fulfilled. He says Ed isn't one of them.

Ed's exceptional high-altitude performance takes courage, skill and the ability to measure risk, maybe because he "has a lower tolerance than most for the prospect of dying on the mountain," writes Hornbein. He's been known to turn "around a few hundred yards short of the summit" if he feels conditions aren't right. That's what Hornbein calls Ed's "uncommon trait."

However, he's also known to measure risk by a different ruler than most. In addition to Ed's "uncommon trait" he never suffers from altitude sickness or any other kind of climber's illness, other than a mild headache or "traveler's diarrhea" in "thirty-one expeditions to 8,000-meter peaks."

Ed credits his unusual ability to the rigorous conditioning he puts himself through prior to any climb. However, he admits he's also been blessed with genes that have blessed him with a "physiology that functions well with little oxygen." (pg.8)

In The Mountain Ed offers "riveting you-are-there accounts" of his own and others climbs as well as some ill-fated ascents. For Ed or any serious "high-altitude" climber, Everest remains the world's highest, most majestic, famous and challenging.

According to Ed, unlike 1987 when few could be found on Mount Everest's slopes, recent Internet photos show as many as "150 climbers on the Lhotse Face, lined up like Depression jobseekers in a free-lunch queue."

In addition to the rich detail of his own experiences on Everest, Ed references earlier climbing expeditions from previous books that afford "armchair climbers" a rare glimpse of legendary, historic climbs. Insets of breath-taking photographs include past expeditions and images of Everest's indescribable snowy glaciers, ridges and summits. The photographs and descriptions are the next best thing to being there. If you're interested in mountain climbing or hiking, check out The Mountaineers

Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change
John Hagee
Worthy Publishing
134 Frankline Road/Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781617952142, $14.99,

Pastor John Hagee writes, "something is about to change," the subtitle of his new book, Four Blood Moons that releases Tuesday, October 8th. He explores the supernatural connection between the sun, moon and stars, several Jewish Feasts and NASA's discovery of four blood moons known as "Tetrads." He writes about their appearances, April 15 & Oct 8, 2014 and April 4 & Sept 28, 2015: Four Blood Moons and their meanings, in addition to the meaning of the complete solar eclipse on March 20, 2015.

Hagee begins with his 2012 arrival in Puyallup, WA to speak at Night to Honor Israel, sponsored by Pastor Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries and Christians United for Israel. Biltz asked if he had ever studied "...the sun, moon and stars as a source of prophetic revelation?" When Hagee said he hadn't Biltz explained why he believed the skies were God's method of speaking to the world although he believed "no one was listening."

When Hagee returned home he began his research with Gen. 1:14 where God said the "lights in the heavens were to divide the day and night; and let them be for signs and seasons." The Hebrew word for "sign" also translates as "signal."

Joel 2: 31 in the Old Testament and Acts 2:20 in the New Testament both say, "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the...coming of the Lord." Was Biltz correct, was "God using signs in the heavens..." to announce coming events?

Hagee knew the Bible said, "There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars and on the earth distress of nations, Arab Spring with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring." Luke 21: 25 at the "Coming of the Son of Man." Was Jesus' return on the horizon? Was NASA's discovery of the four blood moons evidence of the Rapture or Christ's return?

Could it be America wasn't listening when Hurricane Katrina the Oklahoma Tornados or Hurricane Sandy struck? Or the ten-thousand ton meteor that exploded over Russia February 2013? Was that God's "high-definition" billboard in action?

Hagee answers these questions and more in three sections of his new book titled: Signs in the Heavens, the Spine of Prophecy and the Four Blood Moons. In the first segment Hagee teaches why Israel is important to the world, the blessings for those who support Israel, why "warning comes before judgment," meaning of blood moon Tetrad's, the Shemittah year and why he believes America is under Judgment and much more.

In the Spine of Prophecy, Hagee compares the vertebrae that connect the skull to the tailbone to the backbone of Spinal Prophecy. If prophecy becomes distorted, spiritual distortion occurs in the same manner as vertebrae's out of alignment cause pain. This section also covers the Rapture, wars, rumors of wars, God's timing, famines, earthquakes, anarchy and the Gospel message of salvation.

The final part concerns the four blood moons of the past, present and future, the meanings behind solar and lunar eclipses and how two Feasts, Passover and Sukkot, relate to NASA's forecast of the blood moons. Hagee writes, "It is very rare that Scripture, science, and historical events align with one another, yet the last three Four Blood Moon series, or Tetrad's have done exactly that."

These events happened three times in the past 500 years and are scheduled to happen again next year and the year after. Hagee asks, "...are we listening?"

Pastor Hagee, Bible scholar, world-renowned pastor and preacher's new book is a must read for anyone interested in prophecy and End-Time events. The implications are clear. Something is about to happen, however are we listening?

Fear Has a Name: Crittendon Files#1
Creston Mapes
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781408165, $14.99,

New York Times bestselling author, Creston Mapes begins his new Crittendon Files series, with Fear Has a Name, an inspirational tale of fear, suspense and intrigue that keeps the pages turning long after the lights should go out. The multifaceted and gripping dual story line includes a possible murder-suicide, a missing pastor, a family terrorized by a crazy stalker and a journalist whose lives intersect in mysterious ways.

The story opens midday with Pamela, wife of ace reporter Jack Crittendon, drawn to the front door by an aggressive and insistent ringing doorbell. When she sees a large, pasty faced stranger in black through the glass she pauses, Jack's at the newspaper and their seven-year-old daughter Rebecca and five-year-old sister Faye are upstairs playing.

When the front doorbell rings "a third time" without response, the man outside raps so hard on the door's glass inset the harsh sounds drew Rebecca and Fays to the head of the stairs. Pamela's rising fear reflects in her voice as she tells the girls to go into the media room and shut the door. Then she yells, "Who is it?"

When the man sees Pamela in the foyer he tears at the door handle until Pamela fears the decorative knob will break. Now drenched with fear she shouts hysterically, "Get out of here...I'm calling the police..." then turns and runs for the phone. That's when she hears a loud "boom" and turns back to see the man drive his shoulder into the glass.

Pamela's plan to call for help flew from her mind. Instead she leaped up the stairs to the girls, now mesmerized by the scene below, "swept them up" and plunged back down the stairs. She heard shattering glass and the doorframe splintering as she sprinted towards the backdoor. Both Jack and Pamela unaware the Crittendon's "adrenaline-laced nightmare" had just begun...

Thus begins a character-driven, suspense-filled drama of faith where nothing is as it seems. From kidnapping, depression and embezzlement to missing money, pornography, mysterious secrets and police searches that lead to fears of loss, abandonment. Readers are unable to guess what might happen next.

Mapes adept and skillful "cliff-hanger" chapter endings, keep readers' engrossed with clever plot and sub-plot twists that reflect his faith and journalism background in an account that is Christian suspense at its best.

40 Days Devotional Journal
Therese Marszalek
Word & Spirit Publishing
P.O. Box 70143, Tulsa, OK 74133
9781936314812, $19.99,

Therese Marszalek believes many know Jesus Christ as Savior and the Holy Spirit as Counselor, but few know or understand Father God in the role of a loving Father. She draws on Scripture and her own "five-year wilderness journey" that taught her the love of Father God in a life-changing way. An experience she documented in a previous book, From the Wilderness to the Miraculous.

With that experience in mind she put together this devotional journal which can be used alone or with the 40 Days companion devotional she penned. She uses the number forty in the prophetical context since forty represents a "wilderness" time. Such as Israel's forty year journey to the Promised Land or Jesus' forty days of testing and temptation in the desert.

She wrote and organized the journal for those who seek deeper intimacy to "pave the way for a deeper relationship with the Father," writes Therese, a time of intimacy, renewal and transformative change drawn by the Holy Spirit.

Therese begins with suggestions on how to use the journal where she recommends setting aside a span of 40 days to meet with the Lord, free of "interruptions and distractions." For those with a growing family that might mean rising an hour earlier or going to bed an hour later.

Each day begins with space to record what you are thankful for. Sometimes it might be something as simple as seeing the sun rise, or the bountiful food in your cupboards or for your loving spouse. She suggests reading the following meditation, taking a moment to pause and reflect on its meaning. Sometimes reading the words aloud brings additional clarity because the ear picks up what the eye doesn't see.

Other portions include Scripture, repentance, confession of sin and agreeing to submit to the Lord's will and leading. Daily journal entries close with a message from the Father written in first person as if God is speaking directly to you with ample space to record a "personal word from my Father." 1 Samuel 3:9 "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening" from 1 Samuel 3:9 completes each day's activity.

The nice size journal is easy to handle and lies flat so it's easy to write in. The extraordinary original sketches featured in the daily readings are by Jan Foland from the exquisite "Father Loveline Greeting Cards."

If you yearn for deeper intimacy with God and desire a closer walk with the Holy Spirit, Therese's "40 Day Devotional Journal," filled with inspiration and encouragement will not disappoint. For more information, click on Therese's YouTube presentation:

40 Day Devotional Journal

Stitches: a Handbook of Meaning, Hope and Repair
Anne Lamott
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594632587, $17.99,

Bestselling author and spiritual sage, Anne Lamott releases Stitches: a Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair Tuesday, October 29th that follows her popular book on prayer, Help, Thanks, Wow. Stitches, captures her unique, wry and sometimes funny spiritual insights aimed at how to make sense out of life's chaos in the midst of "evil or catastrophe."

Such as unwanted divorce, suicide or natural disasters that she writes are examples of "when life hotfoots it out of town," a phrase indicative of her unique writing style. Which she then summarizes with this question - "Where is meaning in the pits?"

The book is "intended to be useful on the bad days," she writes. For days when the phone rings with news of a devastating car accident or the mail arrives with ominous diagnosis results that suggest cancer or the television pans horrific pictures to announce the largest tornado every recorded on earth such as the one that struck El Reno, OK, May 31, 2013.

She uses the example of the classic darning egg that fits insides damaged socks to make them easier to repair, to the familiar "rituals and repetitions" that make lives easier to repair and knit back together - "one stitch at a time."

She shares her own recovery from addiction, the loss and death of close friends and her inability to explain the horror of the Connecticut Newtown massacre of 20 children to her Sunday school class as examples. It's the return to everyday "fragments and experiences" that equip us to survive, she writes, whether with the help of a stranger, loved one, or neighbor.

That sense of community that draws communities together is what affords the "stitches" to recover "wholeness after loss" in the patchwork of life. Where, pain, grief and sadness are embraced with the help of God's grace and the support of loving family and friends.

Anne's thoughts on human loss and brokenness are served with slices of quirky humor, wisdom and spiritual insight that pulls readers in and won't let them go, perhaps because of what O Magazine calls "her honest portrayal of chaotic human emotions."

For more of Anne's unique outlook check out Anne Lamott Quotes posted by Brainy Quote.

Fifteen Minutes
Karen Kingsbury
Howard Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
216 Centerview Dr., Ste. 303, Nashville, TN 37027
9781451647051, $22.99,

Fifteen Minutes, by Karen Kingsbury, the author Time Magazine dubbed "Queen of Christian fiction" exposes the high cost of fame when star-studded dreams become reality. The drama is set amidst the glamour, glitter and glitz of Fifteen Minutes of Fame, a show patterned after American Idol 2014 and "X Factor" 2013 Although elusive temptations may lead to fame they also lead to serious compromise, one seemingly small request at a time.

The story centers around Christian worship leader and teen country singer, Zach Dylan who believes God has given him an enormous witnessing opportunity when he auditions and wins a place on the Fifteen Minutes reality show.

Back home in Kentucky, Zach's parents, grandpa and fiancee Reese know he's talented enough to win yet fear the experience will change him, even though his purpose isn't to seek fame. Zach has no fear of fame since he feels sheltered by his faith in God. Instead, he intends to end the family farm's financial crisis, pay for his sister's expensive medical treatments and fund college for his younger brother.

Reese promises Zach her support and prayers even though she has reservations. Still her faith and confidence in God are strong and she trusts God as much with Zach as she does her pending decision about a year-long job commitment in London for herself.

Karen captures the behind the scenes action where compromises and important choices come wrapped in the guise of good intentions for judges and contestants alike that mask the real "ratings and profit" motivation. Her life-like characterizations and innovative storyline and themes weave seamlessly into the narrative to reveal issues all Christians face.

Fifteen Minutes also wraps popular social media platforms like FaceBook and Twitter usage and influence into the story in the same way they impact real life. Yet the theme of God's relentless love and grace abounds. Although the ending is unexpected it brings the narrative to a solid and satisfying conclusion. Karen again doesn't disappoint.

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Doing Hard Time
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399164149, $26.95,

"Doing Hard Time" opens with Teddy Fay, but shortly into the novel Fay ends up protecting Stone's Son and those around them. Just when the Stone books were getting routine, Stuart Woods adds this interesting twist that moves the novel along at a break- neck pace to its conclusion. Stone is delightful as always and more fun now that he and Dino do not have Elaine's to hang out in. Stuart Woods with "Doing Hard Time" once again shows why he is still a great fun read.

Robert B. Parker's Silent Night
With Helen Brann
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157882, $24.95,

Unlike the books of Spenser written by Ace Atkins, "Silent Night" is a novel that Robert B. Parker was working on at the time of his death. Helen Brann, Parker's agent for thirty- two years and the literary executor for the estate, decided with the permission of Joan Parker's widow to finish the Christmas novel he began. Brann has done a great job of keeping the feel of Parker's tightly written stories. There is the trademark snappy dialogue and the interplay of Hawk and Spenser, and Susan and Spenser that made the Parker novels so much fun to read. Brann was also a logical choice to finish the work because she worked with Parker for so many years. "Silent Night is a great addition for the millions of fans of Parker's Spenser series.

Solo A James Bond Novel
William Boyd
c/o Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062223128, $26.99,

"Solo," is a celebration of the 60 years of James Bond in print. Casino Royale made its debut in 1953 and sold out its first print run within a month of its release. Later it was learned that President Kennedy had read and enjoyed one of the Fleming novels. After that Fleming's books took off and in 1962 the movie series began that is still hot today. Sadly he never got to see the success of his creation. He died in1964, the year the movie "Goldfinger" established the character of James Bond. The holders of the Fleming estate hired William Boyd to continue the Bond character in "Solo," a different kind of Bond novel where Bond is on his own with no help from Q branch or the rest of the Secret Service. The novel has some interesting moments but is a disappointing story because there is no larger than-life-villain with evil plans to take over the world, and there is not much action. Nor are there other elements that made the Fleming adventures so much fun to read. The books by Kingsley Amis writing as Robert Markham, John Gardner, and Raymond Benson are all closer to the original character than Boyd's version of James Bond and the world he lives in. "Solo" is a nice idea to celebrate the 60 years of Bond in print but it falls far short of people's expectations.

Grave Descend
Michael Crichton writing as John Lange
Hard Case Crime
c/o Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London, SE1OUP, England
9781783291243, $9.95,

Crichton wrote 8 novels under the name of John Lange. Most have been hard to find collector items until now. Hard Case is publishing all 8 in the next few months with both names. James McGregor, a diver is hired to find something on the wreck of Grave Descend. He's used to exploring sunken ships, but this time the work could just get him killed. The story moves along at a rapid pace with complicated characters that make "Grave Descend" fun reading that any fan of Crichton should read and enjoy.

James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316211000, $30.00

"Gone" begins 6 months after "I Michael Bennett," with the Bennett family in hiding from the terrorist who is still at large. Michael Bennett also makes a decision that he has to come out of hiding to catch the terrorist because he sees no other way to resolve the matter. Patterson and Ledwidge tightly draw the web of suspense and race the story along to its final smashing ending. "Gone" is another great novel in the Michael Bennett series sure to please Patterson fans.

How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill
James Patterson & Chris Tebbetts
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
97803162311756, $14.00

Rafe Khatchadorian is back in trouble in "How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli and Snake Hill" a fun addition to his Middle School adventures. This time out it's summer and that means summer camp. Rafe has to put up with bullies and lots of other things that go on in summer camp. Patterson and Tebbetts take Rafe into new conflicts that are resolved by the end of the novel that is fun reading for all ages to enjoy.

Treasure Hunters
James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Little Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316207560, $15.99

"Treasure Hunters" is the first of a new series about a family of kids who lose their parents at sea and have to finish the work they started. There are many bizarre characters the Kid family members encounter as they learn more about the work their parents were doing. "Treasure Hunters" is a page turner of suspense guaranteed to thrill readers of all age.

Top of the Morning Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV
Brian Stelter
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455512874, $28.00,

The author, who writes for the New York Times, had total access to all three of the network morning shows and tells how ABC's Good Morning America" has beaten out The Today Show for 1st place in the ratings. Through a series of bad decisions on the part of management at NBC, The Today, Show steadily decreased its lead and then fell behind while "Good Morning America slowly gained and surpassed its competition. The CBS morning show is also mentioned but no matter what CBS does they stay a distant third place. "Top of the Morning" is very revealing and shows that Matt Lauer is not the reason many of us thought in the steady decline in viewers of "The Today Show."

Professor Birdsong's Zany But All True Criminal Law Stories
Professor Birdsong's Zany But All True Criminal Law Stories Volume 2
Professor Birdsong's Zany But All True Criminal Law Stories Volume 3 Stories From Florida and Beyond
Leonard Birdsong
Publish America
PO Box 151 Frederick, MD 21705
9781456033002, 9781627091831 9781462665440
$19.95 each,

Professor Birdsong, a professor of law at Barry University in Orlando takes time out from teaching law students to write the series of books about the loony things people do that get them in trouble with the law. For example the lady in Germany who needed help working her crosswords by calling 911, or the lady who had an interesting way of dealing with her husband who liked watching movies of Jennifer Lopez. The stories are all crazy but true gathered here for the first time in the numerous collections. The Professor Birdsong series is an enjoyable laugh out loud reading.

California Girl Miss USA 1959
Terry Huntingdon Tydings
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478716433, $13.95,

"California Girl Miss USA" could have been so much more than what the author depicted. I was baffled about whether the author was competing in the Miss USA contest or Miss Universe contest which I thought are supposed to be two separate events. I was baffled because she talks about contestants from Miss Universe contest while it seems she is competing to be Miss USA. What is also bothersome is that the author has had a very interesting life and she does not do enough to talk about her many accomplishments. Don't bother wasting time with "California Girl Miss USA 1959"

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Mo Hayder
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802121073,$25.00, 378 pp.,

There are, primarily, two mysteries presented in this newest Mo Hayder novel, which marks the return of D.I. Jack Caffery, a "plain-clothed" member of Bristol's Major Crime Investigation Team, now 42 years old, and Sergeant "Flea" (Phoebe) Marley, 30 years old and just returning to work nearly a year after having been seriously injured in an explosion in a tunnel. The first is a case of a woman gone missing a year and a half ago, when Misty Kitson, a 25-year-old model and recovering drug addict, walked out of a rehab clinic. Despite abundant police measures, her body was never found, and the case still haunts both of them.

As the book opens, Caffery is called by AJ LeGrande, a psychiatric nurse and senior nursing coordinator, to Beechway, a high security mental health ward housing "killers and rapists and the determinedly suicidal." (He was dubbed "AJ" - - Average Joe - - by a co-worker, and it had stuck.) As one might expect, things are not quiet there. And they become decidedly less so when a patient - the second one to do so - is found dead, apparently a suicide. But there are other-worldly things at play here - - or are there?

The book delivers Ms. Hayder's trademark suspense and intricate plotting. The writing is lovely even during the frequent passages when it produces chills up one's spine, itself a frequent occurrence. A bit more than half-way through the book, that breath you've been holding becomes a gasp. And everything suddenly goes into high gear. One thing one can always count on with this author: Expect the unexpected.


Dangerous Wind
Alan Cook
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781484074701, $9.95, 237 pp.

Within the first few pages of this third in the Carol Golden novels, we are swept immediately into the world of terror into which the protagonist finds herself, as she is kidnapped and flown partway across the world from her hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The reasons behind her kidnapping are unfathomable to her, other than the thought that it could be related to the wealth she had come into from her parents' estate. Her captors appear to be a could-be model and a sexual harasser.

This is hardly the firs time Carol (whose real name, Cynthia Sakai, she had only recently discovered) had survived an attempt on her life. She had had most of her memory destroyed after being attacked and left, unconscious, in a dumpster nearly a year ago. Still recovering from amnesia, she has only recovered bits and pieces of the first twenty-five years of her life before the attack. Her captors release her soon after they all arrive in London, when she becomes involved in their mission to track down a man with whom she was in a relationship when she was in college, in fact a professor who was even then considered a radical. She is told that he is trying to bring about the "downfall of the Western World," which would seem to be hyperbole until they explain that his weapons are financial as opposed to militaristic and involve various complex financial manipulations which would affect the world banking system, all too real and sounding very close to exactly what the U.S. (among other countries) is and has been going through in recent years..

To say the plot is international in scope would be a vast understatement, taking our protagonist as it does from England to Switzerland, Egypt, Tahiti, New Zealand and on and on, covering all seven continents. (The brief descriptions of the world capitals and their most famous sites are beautifully done, I might add.) There is quite a bit of action and suspense here, and the plot doesn't sound like a recipe that would lend itself to humor, but don't let that fool you (although it is rather sly). If this work of fiction causes its readers some unease, that may have been at least part of the author's intention. Be that as it may, it is a page-turner, and definitely recommended.

Parenthetically, the title derives from an old Chinese proverb: "A crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind."

The Innocence Game
Michael Harvey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307961259, $24.95, 256 pp.,

Michael Harvey has portrayed the city of Chicago and its environs in past novels to wonderful effect, and in his newest novel, a standalone, he does so once again. The tale is told from the 1st person p.o.v. of Ian Joyce, one of three graduate students chosen for a highly sought-after spot in a seminar at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism (considered one of the best in the world), run by a three-time Pulitzer-winning journalist, Judy Zombrowski. ("You can call me Z.") The seminar, which she has been teaching for more than a decade, is called The Innocence Project, apparently based on an actual program in Chicago and a similar one in New York City, whose purpose is "to work on wrongful convictions . . . [of] men who've been sentenced to death for crimes they didn't commit."

The three students chosen are Ian, Jake Havens (a brilliant law-school grad) and Sarah Gold, a beautiful girl who had gone through under-grad school with Ian. The case they choose (well, actually, it's Jake who chooses it) is that of a man convicted of killing a ten-year-old boy in Chicago 14 years earlier who, almost parenthetically, had been killed in prison 14 months after being incarcerated. As Jake says, defending his choice, "Does the fact that he's dead make him any less innocent?" The young men are discovered to be more complex than they first appear, with their own secrets. But the three turn out to be a great team, each bringing his or her own compulsions to the task, with intriguing results. Their search into old murders morphs into the discovery of others not nearly as old. As the 3 J-School students pursue their investigation, trouble seems to follow them, including and not limited to break-ins and arson.

The credo that Z has instilled in them is that above all, their job is to find out the truth. Along the way, they discover several other things, among them: "'Playing a hunch' is what journalists in the movies called it. Felt like fishing without a pole;" "In a splintered moment, we knew more about each other than we could in a million lifetimes" and, when corruption on several different levels is found, "This is Chicago we're talking about. Cops, detectives, prosecutors. I know you're a smart young man . . . "

Suspenseful from the start, the last third of the novel becomes much more than "just" a page-turner, when I found that I could not put the book down until the final page, with an ending this reader absolutely did not see coming. It is highly recommended.

Not Dead Yet
Peter James
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250029669, $15.99, 448 pp.,

This is a tale of obsession, in all its infinite variety and manifestations, some more lethal than others but mostly just a matter of degree, with neither gender being excluded from its clutches. There are enough seriously disturbed characters here to populate several novels, in a few different story lines.

The main plot deals with the discovery of an unidentifiable body whose headless, armless and legless torso is discovered on a chicken farm in East Sussex. As if that isn't enough, the area is faced with an at once wonderful and problematic event: a major American superstar [think Lady Gaga, in fact the fictional counterpart is named Gaia] is about to arrive from Los Angeles, with her entourage and film crew, to Brighton, England, the city where she was born, to star in a film which will chronicle the love affair between King George the Fourth and his mistress Maria Fitzherbert. Needless to say, her hordes of obsessed fans converge on the city as well.

A second story line revolves around another obsessive, the target of this one none other than DS Roy Grace, in charge of the Major Crime Branch of Sussex CID. But a resolution, if any, of that one awaits a successive novel, I suspect. The personal lives of Grace and of Glenn Branson, to whom Grace is a mentor, get a lot of the focus in this, the eighth series entry, as Grace's fiancee, Cleo, is in her last month of pregnancy, and Branson, who has become a "long-stay lodger" in Grace's house since the latter moved in with Cleo, is facing child custody problems in the aftermath of his now-dead "marriage-from-hell."

Cavil: It bothered me when, as happened frequently, the p.o.v. jumped around, sometimes without identifying the person from whose point of view the chapter was being told. I assume this was intentional, but it was somewhat disconcerting. As well, I felt that perhaps the first two-thirds of the book was somewhat bloated and repetitive, causing this reader's attention to wander, a first for any of this author's books. No wandering attention in the approximately last third of the book, I hasten to add, when the plot lines start to come together with more than one climactic scene, with a finish you'll never see coming. All in all, it is recommended.

Die Easy
Zoe Sharp
Pegasus Crime
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605985082, $14.95, 336 pp.,

This sixth and newest entry in the series brings back Charlotte ("Charlie") Fox and her lover, Sean Meyer, a junior partner in Armstrong-Meyer, an elite "close-protection" [read "bodyguard"] organization.. This time around they are tasked with the safety of one of the men behind a celebrity fundraising event for the still nascent recovery of the city of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina several years ago. But the soiree doesn't go exactly as planned.

Charlie and Sean are still dealing with events in their past, Charlie's much further back that Sean's: She left the service after a court-martial and then an "equally disastrous" civil trial following her gang rape many years ago. Sean's trauma was much more recent: He had been in a coma for months after a near-fatal shooting while on their last job, leaving him with only scattered memory of the last four years, and now dealing with "the long road back to some kind of physical and mental fitness," the question being whether or not he could still handle the job.

In addition to the man Charlie and Sean have been hired to protect, nearly all of the other well-healed attendees at the event have brought their own bodyguards with them, one of these, unfortunately for our protagonists, being Vic Morton, with whom Charlie has a history, and not a good one (gross understatement): He was one of the men who had raped Charlie years ago.

When a robbery aboard the paddle-wheeler on which the event is taking place escalates into a hostage situation, Charlie and Sean have their hands full, and Sean's abilities are well and truly tested, as are the loyalties of both of them. The author has once again delivered a well-written, taut and suspenseful novel, and it is recommended (as were all the earlier series entries).

Don't Ever Get Old
Daniel Friedman
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250028921, $14.99, 294 pp.,

Daniel Friedman's debut novel introduces Baruch "Buck" Schatz, an 87-year-old Jewish ex-cop from Memphis who is told, at the bedside of a long-time acquaintance trying to clear his conscience as he lies dying, about an ex-SS officer who'd been in charge of the prison camp where they were interred in 1944, from whom he'd accepted a bribe to allow him to escape from Germany after the camps were liberated. Buck had nearly been killed by the Nazi during the war, and still bears the emotional and physical scars. He vows to try to track down the man, apparently now living in the US and ostensibly carrying a fortune in stolen gold bars.

The protagonist is an unforgettable character, self-described as "grumpy more for sport than out of necessity." No less unforgettable is his grandson, a student at NYU Law School named William Tecumseh Schatz, whose nickname is Tequila (apparently a frat thing). (Of his grandson, Buck says "Maybe because he was family, I disliked him less than most other people.") Buck and Rose, his beloved wife of 64 years, still dealing with the loss of their only son six years prior at age 52, are now dealing with matters having to do with escalating frailty, both mental and physical.

A few murders take place as Buck tries to track down the ex-Nazi and the gold, and Buck and his grandson try to find the killer as the body count rises, as various suspects, including a Mississippi loan shark, a 300-pound Russian, and the Mossad, cross their path, often engulfing them both in threatening situations. We are frequently reminded by Buck that "nobody's innocent."

Interspersed from time to time are brief passages from Buck's notebook of "Things I Don't Want to Forget" (primary among which is a reminder that "paranoia was an early symptom of dementia in the elderly," important for him to remember since paranoia seems to be recurring with worrisome frequency). These are often more like ruminations than part of any story, but they are intrinsic to knowledge of the man, as well as occasional historical details.

Having somehow let the hardcover edition of this book escape me, I was delighted to see the paperback edition hit the shelves. I had seen the starred reviews the book had received from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews, and after it won the prestigious Macavity Award for Best First Novel, I said 'this is a book I must read!!" And once I started it I was hardly able to stop reading, till today, when I put the book down, still smiling. The author does not shy away from the occasional difficult and wrenching truths. Alternately laugh-out-loud funny, often poignant, frequently touching, and with a whale of an ending, the book is highly recommended. Parenthetically, and on a personal note, of the title, I have two comments: (1) I agree completely; and (2) it's too late :-(

The Black Box
Michael Connelly
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, NY, NY 10017
9781446556729, $10.00, 480 pp.,

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

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

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

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

Dead Wrong
Connie Dial
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor NY 11963
9781579623340, $28.00, 256 pp.,

The author's bona fides are evident from the first page of this, her fourth novel, and the second in the Josie Corsino series: Connie Dial had 27 years of varied experience as a member of the LAPD, including undercover work, narcotics detective, Internal Affairs surveillance officer, watch commander and captain. And her protagonist, Josie Corsino, is an LAPD captain, trying to juggle that demanding job with that of wife and mother, and not always succeeding. After 20 years in the DA's office, her husband, Jake, had just made partner in his new law firm, and the friction in their marriage is mounting. The tension includes her relationship with her 23-year-old son, still dependent on his parents for support, now involved with a woman Connie's age.

In the opening pages, Kyle Richards, a sergeant Connie had appointed to supervise a burglary task force in Hollywood division, is involved in a fatal shooting. When it is discovered that the dead man was a fellow police officer, after over 20 years on the job, Kyle is faced with a hearing and a possible suspension until it can be proven that it was a justified shooting. Added to the fact that the dead cop was a black man, and Richards white, the political implications make every aspect of the investigation more difficult. With the help of her best friend, vice lieutenant Marge Bailey, and Detective "Red" Behan, Connie goes out on a limb to prove his innocence in the matter. Things only get more complex when another killing occurs, and Connie believes the two events are connected. The novel elucidates the theme that "perception most of the time was more important than truth in the world of policing. A good reputation was difficult to tarnish; a bad reputation whether it was deserved or not was indelible."

This was a well-plotted tale. I have to admit feeling that the writing could have been more polished, but the novel held my interest throughout, and I will look forward to reading the next chapter in Josie Corsino's life.

Angel Baby
Richard Lange
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316219822, $25.99, 304 pp,

This newest book by Richard Lange is unlike most of the books I've read recently. Very dark, filled with people who have lived brutal lives, with the only driving forces apparently the accumulation of money and power, and their children. To say that corruption is rampant on every conceivable level in the Mexican towns where the main characters live is a vast understatement, and is taken for granted by all.

Among the main characters is Luz, virtually held prisoner in the Tijuana mansion owned by Rolando, a man connected to the drug cartel who is known as el Principe, or The Prince. But though she may die trying, she is determined to somehow find a way to escape and be with her daughter for her upcoming fourth birthday. She had not seen the child for three years, and any effort she had made to escape was met with violence and even more stringent confinement. This time, having managed to break her addiction to pills, she appears to have succeeded, at no small cost, leaving with only the clothes on her back and the money she steals from her husband's safe as well as the gun that accompanied it, and two dead bodies lying on the floor of the house.

We soon meet Kevin Malone, 35 years old, who lives in LA and appears to be a typical surfer with scraggly blond hair, and who comes to Tijuana once or twice a month to drive a load of illegals across the border into the US at $500 each. Always in debt because of his gambling habit, he takes on other jobs that come his way, all equally illegal. Another principal player is Jeronimo Cruz, known as El Apache, who is hired by El Principe to find Luz and bring her back. The degree of brutality of which each of these is capable may vary greatly; they all are killers, but gradually each draws the reader's empathy. Luz and Jeronimo are each loving parents, seeking only to be reunited with their children. A lesson they learn: Never love anything too much.

Despite the relentless brutality with which the novel begins, it draws the reader in and is a true page-turner, especially in its final chapters. One somehow becomes inured to the cruelty and violence, and invested in the characters somehow being able to defeat the circumstances in which they find themselves.


Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Dead Ever After
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781937007881, $27.95, 338 pp,

Dead Ever After is the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. The TV series diverged from the books after the first few hours until today there is little similarity, other than the character names, between the two. Although this book can be read by itself, there are so many details from previous books you should really read them first. But for anyone who has enjoyed these books this is one to search for. The story is sound and the character and story development holds through to the solid but not spectacular end.

People, and creatures, are after Sookie. Sookie's first hint at what is happening occurs when she is framed for murder and arrested. Enemies she has inadvertently thwarted have decided she needs to pay with both her freedom and her life. Friends and old lovers she has from the past seem to be pulling away. To survive her enemies, Sookie will need all of her inner strength and the help of her true friends.

Charlaine Harris has said she needs a break from writing about Sookie and this book brings about a solid end to the story but also leaves open the possibility that after a few years away from the storyline Harris could bring Sookie back. This book is an easy recommendation for anyone who has enjoyed the series. It is not an ideal book for people who have not read any of these books before or those who have been introduced to the series from the TV show. For the Sookie Stackhouse fan, this is nearly a must read. Those looking at reading their first Sookie book should go back to the beginning of the series.

A Provencal Mystery
Anne Elwood
2442 Montgomery Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007
Amazon Digital Publishing
97814477692301, $4.99 US ebook,

The formatting of A Provencal Mystery takes some getting use to. It has been rendered into a straight electronic file, better suited for the screen on a phone than any ereader or tablet. The formatting is a distraction when reading the book on most devices. Just a touch more of formatting would create a more readable book on any electronic device.

The story itself is a cozy murder mystery that spans multiple events in and near a French convent. The current murder of a nun has some link to the saving of a Jewish child from the Nazis in World War II and a nun's diary from the late 1600s. A historian, Dr. Pandora Ryan, from the US and looking through historic documents in Avignon, France, has to find out how these events are linked to the murder of her friend Sister Agatha. The bigotry, greed and social repercussions of the past in this idyllic French countryside have conspired in Sister Agatha's death and against Pandora's search for the truth.

A Provencal Mystery is a slow paced cozy mystery with an interesting historical back-story. Most contemporary mystery readers will find the sedate pacing of the mystery a little too slow but the whole story holds up well even if the linkage of the World War II and 1600s events seem a little contrived. This is an average cozy mystery that should be considered for readers who enjoy a touch of history in their stories or those who just want a quiet relaxing escape.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Heidi's Bookshelf

Indian Cooking Unfolded
Raghavan Iyer
Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
225 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014-4381
9780761165217, $19.95,

Indian food offers fascinating flavors, a variety of options and often challenges for home cooks who haven't been trained in the traditions. This book introduces a variety of interesting dishes, instructions for making important basics, and new ideas that can make your mouth water.

The "unfolded" part of the title literally refers to the format of the book. Each section starts with an instructional centerfold. While this is an interesting take on a cookbook layout, it doesn't seem to significantly lend something different to the book.

I've used different recipes for the basics of ghee and paneer. Iyer offered slightly different recipes for each, so I made both of these staples for the Indian kitchen. I found the method for ghee faster and I will use it again. His method required a shorter cooking time making the process more manageable over the hours-in-the-crockpot approach I used most often. The ghee came out clean, with a lovely color, and I found out that letting the milk solids brown in the bottom of the pot is a good thing!

The paneer recipe, on the other hand, is a combination or great results and an overly neutral flavor. The cheese had a great texture and nice tooth. However, I missed the flavor that come from using lemon juice instead of white vinegar. I'm curious to find out how a combination of the two would work; perhaps the texture could be maintained while getting a more interesting flavor. The paneer made to the recipe instructions had very little taste. Imagine the low-profile flavor of tofu without any of the nuttiness from the soy beans. So I found this recipe a serious toss-up.

The Chickpea Pancakes turned out well even though I plan on making the onions much finer. Although besan can have an odd flavor in some recipes, this recipe makes a satisfying result. I couldn't resist putting yogurt on mine - you might enjoy this as well.

Make sure to try the Plantain Chips. Simple, easy to make, and so good I might fight someone for the last few chips. The seasoning combination is perfect. Whether you decide to get this book for your kitchen or borrow it from the library, I'm sure you'll find a number of interesting, accessible recipes.

Home-Cooked Vegan Comfort Food
Celinie Steen & Joni Marie Newman
Fair Winds Press
c/o Quayside Publishing Group
100 Cummings Center, Suite 406-L
Beverly, MA 01915-6101
9781592335886, $19.99,

Satisfying and Fills a Gap for Many Vegan Homes

Sometimes vegan recipes can be a bit overwhelming. I found very few of these recipes to be overly complicated or precious. The recipes delivered what the title promised: satisfying comfort-style food with all vegan ingredients. In my house, the big test is how the carnivores respond. Our favorite recipe got a big thumbs up from this group. Some of the other recipes were interesting and one was just odd.

The odd recipe was for a Peanut Butter Molasses Shake. This doesn't mean we disliked the recipe, but rather that the results were unexpected. The addition of molasses somehow simply makes the combination have a stronger peanut butter flavor. With such a dominant flavor profile, I didn't anticipate this result. No doubt a food chemist could explain how the molecules combine to make this happen: we just enjoyed experiencing the result.

The "Roasted Cauli-Mole Salad" came in as an adequate showing. This combination got my attention as I'd never thought of dressing roasted cauliflower with guacamole. The recipe scored about 75%. Overall it was enjoyed, but something was missing to bring that complete, umami experience. We never really did figure out what addition or change would bring the remaining percentage into the dish. Maybe you'll find out and let me know.

However, the hands-down winner, proclaimed by veggie fans and carnivores alike was the "Roasted Broccotato Soup with Bacon-Flavored Chickpeas." The soup is lovely, satisfying, and just a bit unique to keep the dish interesting. The Bacon-Flavored Chickpeas are the clean-up heater, bringing everything on base home with a stadium-sized yell. Even if you try no other recipe in this book, the no-bacon-included chickpeas are worth fighting over.

Remaining recipes cover the spectrum from breads and sides to tasty desserts to go with the tasty main dish items. With 3.5 stars this cookbook deserves a look by committed Vegans or even those who want tasty vegetarian options to weave into your weekly routine.

Bobby Flay's Barbecue Addition
Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas & Sally Jackson
Clarkson Potter Publishers
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307461391, $35.00,

Recipes that are Hits and Misses

My experience of Bobby Flay has changed over the years. In his younger days the impression of arrogance and lack of emotional depth in front of the camera put me off being a fan. He seems to have found more humanity and sincerity the past 3-5 years.

Although I felt more willing to make Flay recipes, the results were mixed. Based on my experience I wouldn't recommend exchanging orange peel for lemon in recipes that include brussel sprouts. In Flay's example, it was just odd. I'll stick with the classic combination for this odd vegetable that's popular in my house.

The Mustard Aioli-Grilled Potatoes were decent. While I liked the method of par-boiling the potatoes before grilling, the dressing and herbs resulted in a nice side dish but not anything amazing. I'd rather make the Irish Roasties if I'm going to spend extra time on a potato dish.

Chef Flay's interpretation of Brazilian dish will however, be up for repeat performances. The combination of flavors and textures are perfect. Some of the combinations are unexpected but I enjoy finding new ways to pair known ingredients. One of the best aspects of the recipe is that the quantity of dressing is appropriate. Mayonnaise can easily take over a salad and when you see the quantity you might expect that result. Good news: it remains a player in the ensemble.

Many other recipes looked promising but that will take more time and testing. One formatting aspect is odd: orange boxes towards the spine-side of the page. One pages without pictures, the boxes run together looking like a single recipe. That isn't always the case. Perhaps a color block in the center of the layout is trendy. If it is, hopefully it will a short-lived trend and we'll go back to easier to read formats.

Overall I find the collection acceptable but not something I would run out and buy. This one could be a great loan from the library or wait until a used copy is available. You have many other, more valuable options, for grilling books in your kitche.

Heidi Sue Roth

Janet's Bookshelf

The Wedding Gift
Marlen Suyapa Bodden
St. Martin's Press
175th Avenue, New York NY 10010
9781250026385, $19.02 (HC), $12.23 (Kindle),

Wars are fought for different reasons; trade/border incursions, religious/racial hatred and territorial expansion. At the heart of all these reasons/excuses for aggression is greed, eyes on the prize, nations battle it out for control. Suffering of local communities, rarely considered by opposing governments, most conflicts are unwarranted; differences could have been settled by diplomacy and compromise.

There is one war, in recent history, however, that was warranted: The American Civil War, 1861 - 1865. Fought between the Northern and Southern states of The United States of America, it put an end to the Southern States inhumane slave trade by making the importation and imprisonment of slaves illegal.

The time frame before the Civil War, 1852, was chosen by Marlen Suyapa Bodden for her remarkably accomplished debut novel, The Wedding Gift.

The location, a cotton plantation in Alabama, the story is alternately narrated by Sarah Campbell, a young woman of mixed race: mother, Emmeline, a slave and father, Cornelius Allen, the plantation owner. The other narrator is Mrs. Theodora Allen, the wife of Cornelius and mother of his three children, Paul, Robert and Clarissa.

While Sarah and Theodora's status appears to be very different there capacity for self-determination is in reality quite similar. Sarah, much loved by her mother, Emmeline and sister, Belle, as the daughter of a slave, is powerless to escape the brutal plantation regime. Theodora, ostensibly a woman of position and influence is also enslaved; nineteenth century legislation and societal conventions guaranteed male domination and ownership of property and finances - woman were seen but rarely heeded.

Both Sarah and Theodora's fate is determined by one man, Cornelius Allen, a brutal alcoholic, the ruler of both his family and with the help of sadistic overseers, slaves that work on the Allen family plantation.

Cornelius, physically and verbally abusive to Theodora, she lives a shut-in life, unable to choose her friends or pursuits. Emmeline, Cornelius' mistress, must continue her sexual relationship with him or suffer the consequences; he will sell Sarah and Belle to the highest bidder. As time passes, Theodora, initially hostile, becomes reconciled to Emmeline's relationship with her husband. She realizes that like herself, Emmeline has no choice but to obey the tyrannical Cornelius.

Sarah, companion and later maid to Clarissa, is included in the English lessons Theodora conducts for her daughter. This is undertaken at great risk to both Theodora and Sarah - illegal for slaves to be taught to read and write, if Sarah's education is discovered both the teacher and the pupil will be punished.

The portraits drawn of Sarah and Theodora, indeed all the novels' characters, are enthrallingly believable. I loved The Wedding Gift it was a couldn't-put-down read for me. Not just a chronicle of the suffering of slaves and woman generally in the American Southern States it is so much more - social customs/prevailing opinions, dress, racial relationships, exterior/interior of plantation landscapes and dwellings, river trade, abolitionist movements and slave freedom routes are all explored in a well researched fascinating story.

Sarah, a child who becomes a woman with an unquenchable thirst for freedom, is spurred on by the actions of Cornelius Allen - Emmeline stops her nightly visits to his bedroom and to display his power over her family, he sells Belle. The chapter where Belle and two other young female slaves are brutalized by members of the white male community was powerful and impossible to read without feelings of great sorrow- Ms Bodden, while a first-time novelist is an exceptionally talented writer.

Clarissa Allen and the events that surround her marriage to the quite possibly crazy Mr. Cromwell, son of a neighbouring plantation owner, take centre stage in the story. Sarah leaves the Allen plantation to live as the maid of the pregnant Clarissa on the Cromwell plantation. The treatment both Clarissa and Sarah suffer as a result of this move, terrible, the plot changes from an historical family saga to a suspenseful thriller.

Sarah makes a fateful decision - she will run; run the term used when southern slaves make a bid for freedom. Sarah knows the risks - slave catchers, dogs and a very long way to travel all against her chance of success, she leaves her family to begin a journey of epic proportion.

Before Sarah leaves she puts in train a series of events which ensures that both her family and Theodora's futures will be changed for the better. Her actions are not revealed until the very last page of the novel; an innovative, exciting twist - great book, great read.

Cold Tuscan Stone, A Rick Montoya Italian Mystery
David P. Wagner
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E, First Ave., Ste. 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201929, HC $16.96, PB $10.96, Kindle $6.99

Volterra is a walled town in Italy's Tuscany region. I have to admit that before reading David P. Wagner's debut mystery novel, Cold Tuscan Stone, I knew little about Volterra or its medieval and Renaissance buildings, Roman theatre, and Etruscan sites. David Wagner's description of the town and the surrounding countryside where it's possible to come upon ruins from antiquity without looking over the shoulders of a tour group has made me want to visit this historically significant hill town.

The history of the town and its previous inhabitants has been woven into a mystery that has at its centre: art scams; the illegal selling of stolen Etruscan burial urns and the fraudulent trade in copied urns sold as originals.

Rick Montoya arrives in Rome from the US to set up a translating business. He embraces Italian life bigtime - loves the food, wine and people; especially his girlfriend Erica. Of a feisty disposition, Erica is not a young woman to trifle with and Rick sometimes has difficulty keeping their romance on an even keel.

A charmingly laid back guy, Rick finds it hard to say no when an old school friend Beppo, employed by a branch of the Italian police art squad, asks him to travel to Volterra to investigate Etruscan tomb raiders - ancient art works are being removed from burial sites to be sold to foreign buyers. Rick accepts the undercover assignment and despite Erica's protestations travels to Volterra posing as a scout for a New Mexico gallery wanting to buy art works that will appeal to their clients.

On arrival, Rick contacts the local Commissario who, on the eve of his retirement from the force, is peeved that Rome have sent an amateur, even worse: a foreign amateur to solve the mystery of the missing urns. Beppo has supplied Rick with a list of local identities, all involved in the town's art galleries, who may or may not be supplementing their income by the illegal selling of Etruscan antiquities.

Rick, not a guy who lets the grass grow under his feet, on his first day in Volterra interviews the owner of a gallery who employs local workers to reproduce ancient carvings for sale to foreign visitors. The gallery owner's assistant is detailed to take Rick to the factory where the carvings are produced. Halfway there the employee stops to talk with a guy and then tells Rick: Something has come up and he will have to wait until tomorrow to visit the factory.

Tomorrow never comes - the employee is found dead after a fall from a cliff top at the edge of town. Did he fall or was he pushed? Rick's pretty sure he was pushed and the next question he asks himself is: why? The last one seen speaking to the dead man, Rick's real purpose in coming to Volterra is questioned by the Commisario. Rick decides the only way to convince the Commissario that he had nothing to do with the tragic death is to find out who did.

He follows up the leads supplied by Beppo, interviewing local commercial and government run gallery staff. A strangely assorted group, Rick comes to the conclusion that given the opportunity most of them wouldn't think twice about selling stolen art works or passing off fakes as originals.

Erica arrives unexpectedly from Rome. Was the visit planned as a surprise for Rick or is Erica jealous because one of the Volterra's leading art dealers (an old friend of Erica's) is an exceedingly beautiful woman?

Rick doesn't have time to figure out Erica's motivation, the heat is on and he becomes a target for the gang of art thieves. The Commissario, always a step behind the pace isn't much help - Rick's got to find out who is behind the thefts and he's got to find out fast.

In an exciting surprising conclusion, Rick thwarts the thieves and a little less trusting, a little more cynical, he returns with Erica to Rome, to a life more ordinary.

But not for long, I suspect, as this enjoyable mystery is the first of a series featuring Rick Montoya and his Italian peregrinations. Looking forward to the next.

Janet Walker, Reviewer

Karyn's Bookshelf

The Kingdom of Little Wounds
Susann Cokal, author
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763666941, $22.99,

The inner sanctum of a 16th century Scandinavian royal court roils in this macabre tale about birth, death, passion, succession, lies... and poison. Ava Bingen are Midi Sorte are trusted servants to King Christian and Queen Isabel, whose children are dying of a mysterious illness. What -- or who -- are to blame? Is the Queen, pregnant with yet another child, going mad? Can the King trust the person with whom his heart lies? And is evil afoot in the ghostly return of the eldest royal daughter? A web of dark intrigue and sexual and political alliances -- the lines between which often blur -- ensnare Ava and Midi, other royal advisors and personal servants, and the king and queen themselves. This is a deliciously twisted and often gruesome, masterfully stitched tale that is rich in its period lore, medicine, superstition and sense of time and place. It's also intensely personal in its exploration of the characters' complex stew of relationships. Couldn't put this one down; a great new read.

Walk This World: A Celebration of Life In a Day
Lotta Nieminen, author and illustrator
Big Picture Press
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763668952, $17.99,

Vibrant color, abundant illustrative detail and scores of interactive lift-the-flaps take children on a world tour that begins and ends in New York City. Each of eleven spreads feature a different urban streetscape, including New York, Africa, France, Italy, Russia, Brazil, India, Australia, London and Japan. Behind a cinema flap in New York, moviegoers settle into their seats with popcorn. Behind a bus flap in Africa sits a rider with a chicken on their lap. Behind a Brazilian beach scene flap, a diver swims. The text is sparse, just four short lines per spread; the exquisite illustrations are center stage. This is a beautiful book. However, it would have been improved by additional explanatory text, or an afterward, that offered more information about the depicted cities and regions. An overarching title on each page might have helped, too. Astute readers will find, woven deep into the illustrations, words that hint at the location: Gelato in Italy, Fish and Chips in London. But the location is never told straight out. The Africa spread, notably, contains no written hints as to where this is; you simply assume based on clothing and other pictures that this is Africa. Without a better explanation, the significance of the many intriguing cultural scenes will be lost on readers who aren't familiar with that part of the world. A beautifully illustrated tour, whose text could have been better developed.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Twice Upon a Time
Frank Allan Rogers
Solstice Publishing
614 Wal-Mart Drive, Farminton, MO 63601
9781477696910, $16.99,

Twice Upon a Time, by Frank Allan Rogers kept my attention. I wanted to continue reading to find out what fascinating turn his storyline would take. Although I am not a big reader of time travel, this did not seem to be the "run of the mill" time travel novel. It was actually believable in the sense that something like it could happen if you put yourself in the skin and mind of Frank's main character, August Myles.

The characters were well defined and the story came to the only conclusion it could. They were believable as living, breathing human beings and interacted with each other as you would expect them to, but with a few little surprises. Frank was able to transport August from the 21st century to the 19th century and into paradise without it seeming contrived.

"So is this how it works. You throw a human infant, helpless and ignorant, onto a strange planet, in a trial-and-error life with countless hazards and no way to know when or how that life will end. And when it does, you send that poor soul to hell, not for being a bad person, but for common mistakes. For being human. Where's the justice in that? Is the Devil in charge of the universe?"

With a plea to his "mentor", Socrates, August persuades him to go back and ask the Council for a second chance. To the surprise of both of them, the Council reconsiders their decision and gives August a second chance, but he has to carry out a mission. Thus begins a trek through 1847 wagon train life, fraught with bad men, Indians and a damsel in distress. How August deals with all of these things is the premise to the story. I highly recommend it to all.

He considers himself, not just a writer, but a storyteller and hopes his readers will take away the same feelings he has had in the telling of the story. Frank lives with his wife, Mary Rogers, an award winning oil artist in west Georgia.

When Life Throws You Curves, Keep Swinging
David Vince
Langmarc Publishing
PO Box 90488, Austin, TX 78709-0488
9781880292457, $19.95,

When Life Throws You Curves, Keep Swinging by David Vince is the inspiring journey of a man who lives as a double amputee, who loves sports, baseball in particular and is able to achieve his dream. Through his perseverance and his faith he became a family man with a wife and three children and a baseball coach without ever playing the game himself. "Disability" is not a word in his vocabulary. This memoir relates an incentive that everyone can use as their own life's goals. It is an easy read.

David says, in his introduction:

"The purpose of this book is to encourage others who may be facing difficult or trying times in their lives so they too can overcome adversity with proper attitude, perspective and determination."

He has done this through his faith and knowledge of his abilities.

David lost both legs as a baby due to a congenital bone disease called tibial hemomelia. As a result, he learned how to cope with the physical limitations as well as the perception by his peers at an early age. David had many supporters, including his employers, his teams and especially his wife. They did not look at him as a handicapped person, but as a man who could do a job. And he did it. He improved every team he coached.

David worked as a 29-year baseball coaching career. He had 470 career wins, was named Coach of the Year 10 times, had 30 players earn baseball scholarships and 5 players selected in the MLB draft. He now lives in Louisiana with his wife and three children. David Vince kept swinging!

Josephine Bailey
Timber Creek Publishing
312 N Commerce St, Gainesville, Texas 76240
9780989122054, $12.49,

Cervantes might need to take a back seat to Josephine Bailey. This sometimes amusing and sometimes sad book for young adults gives us another look at the story of Don Quixote with the maturing of Donkey Hotey. Although the stories do not actually follow Cervantes adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the results are close to the same. OK, it is all different, but it is a story that young adults (and adults) will really enjoy.

Hotey (Donkey Hotey) is born into a wild herd of donkeys, but is accidently captured with a herd of horses by cowboys. Thus begins his travels. From the very beginning, he longs for his home and herd. As he travels, he encounters sadness, joy and excitement. His time is spent growing up and learning about the life of a donkey - as well as horses, humans, cows, dogs and, of course birds in the form of Sancho, the parrot.

"He had yearned for freedom and adventure, but now he had found it, it did not feel as wonderful as it had done in his dreams."

Will he get home or accept his plight as a working donkey? You will have to read it to find out.

Josephine Bailey was born in London, England. She studied at the Corona Theatre Academy and appeared in several British television plays and films. Since coming to the United States her voice has been featured in animated productions for Nickelodeon, Disney and Dreamworks. She has a love of animals of all kinds and sizes. She has 2 daughters and one granddaughter and lives in South Carolina.

A portion of the sales of this book will go to the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue.

Katherine Boyer

Paul's Bookshelf

Single Guy: How to Live Smarter, Date Better and Be Awesomely Happy
Joe Keller
Scruffy Olive LLC
2960 Auburn Rd., #214167, Auburn Hills MI 48321-4167
9780984936809, $16.95, 286 pp,

You suddenly find yourself single, either by choice or by divorce. Now what do you do?

If your soon-to-be-ex agrees, hire a mediator or write the divorce agreement yourselves. It will save both of you a lot of money over hiring divorce attorneys, and it will cut down on the arguing (very important if there are children involved). If you are the one who is moving out, look for a new place now (don't put it off). Make sure your children have a space of their own when they visit your new residence.

Your new home will probably need a good cleaning; even if it looks clean, a thorough cleaning is still a good idea. The author looks at various cleaning products that have worked for him. After all that cleaning, you are going to be hungry. In the kitchen, the author suggests sticking with the basics for now, like pots, pans and measuring cups. The fancy, high end items can come later.

At some point, you will want to invite women to your home. No to pictures of your ex, or of scantily clad women. Yes to plants, candles or pictures by your children. Other good ways to impress a woman are by showing her that you know how to cook (easy recipes are included), and that you know your way around the world of wine; the author helps with the basics.

How else can a single guy meet women? Volunteer your time, learn how to dance, join a fitness class or shop in a women's clothing or personal care store. Make sure you look presentable, approach her with confidence, and say something interesting (more than "Hey, you wanna go to a nightclub?"). When creating a dating website profile, it's OK to get a bit creative with your photo. Don't make it look like a mug shot, but don't make it part of an obviously cropped group photo. Give her a reason to open your message before all of the others she receives.

This book is excellent. It puts things very simply, for guys who have never been on their own, or whose wife has done all the cooking and cleaning. This gets two strong thumbs up.

John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars
Roland Hughes
Logikal Solutions
3915 N 1800 East Road, Herscher IL 60941-9506
9781939732002, $19.95, 274 pp,

This is a dystopian novel about life after a pair of worldwide catastrophes, one of which was man-made.

Near-future Earth now has 12 continents. America is gone. The vast majority of Earth's population has perished, along with a similar percentage of human knowledge. If a machine stops working, for any reason, it is not used any longer. That is because no one alive knows how to fix the machines, along with having no facilities to make new parts to fix those machines. As far as those still alive are concerned, recorded history began about 60 years previously.

Susan Krowley, a reporter for The Times (printed twice a month, with a circulation of 5,500), interviews Smith to ask about the Microsoft Wars. Smith feels that she does not have the right frame of reference; it's like Susan was asking to read the last chapter of a mystery novel without reading the rest of the novel. Smith starts by spending a lot of time talking about Atlantis.

It was a very advanced society, the superpower of its day. The elite lived in complete luxury, while lower-class workers kept everything working. As the centuries went on, it became necessary to leave Atlantis before it was destroyed (nuclear explosion?). They took to the water in city-sized submarines (when Smith mentions computers, submarines or the Internet, Susan has no idea what he is talking about). They had mastered the science of human cloning, so a person could live for thousands of years. Their overall influence on very early humanity was huge.

More recently, as the world fell apart, Smith's family built a shelter out of a bank vault. His parents died before they could join him in the shelter, so Smith and his grandfather used it. Grandpa did not survive (there was no possibility of going outside to bury him), so Smith spent his puberty years alone in the shelter with a dead body. His shelter contains racks and racks of DVDs, filled with human knowledge. When his computer stops working, all those DVDs will become worthless, as there will be no way to read them. At the end of the book, Smith finally tells Susan all about the Microsoft Wars (no, they did not try to take over the world).

This may be rather dry reading, because it is all in interview format, but don't let that be an obstacle. This book is very interesting and well-done, it's plausible, it's a bit spooky, and it is highly recommended.

Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA
Charles S. Faddis
Lyons Press
246 Goose Lane, Guilford CT 06437
9781599218519, $24.95, 224 pp,

As shown in the title, the author, a CIA veteran, doesn't believe that the Agency needs fixing or "tweaking." He strongly believes that it needs to be torn down and totally rebuilt.

During World War II, in the days of the OSS, a person or group was given a mission, which usually involved being dropped behind enemy lines, and was told to make it happen. They treated intelligence work as some sort of holy calling. Today, the CIA is filled with bureaucrats and buck-passers who consider it as merely another federal job. It is thought of as a cardinal sin to make waves, even if it will save American lives. The solution to intelligence failures, like 9/11, seems to be to add layers of bureaucracy and "coordination" instead of reducing it.

The US Army's ROTC program trains and continually evaluates potential officers. If a person doesn't measure up to Army standards, they are asked to leave the program. The CIA has no such training program. A person could be a wonderful case officer, but be totally incompetent in a position of leadership. Despite the CIA's rigid bureaucracy, they still know how to put together a covert operation in days, or even hours, when an intelligence opportunity presents itself. Other agencies, like the military and FBI, need months and months of briefings, re-briefings, evaluations and approval from several different people before there can be a final approval. That is why the author strongly feels that the CIA should be the only foreign intelligence agency, and that other agencies should stop their foreign intelligence operations.

In a US embassy overseas, the ambassador is the boss. No covert operation happens without his (or her) approval. The ambassador works for the State Department, whose top rule seems to be "Don't upset the host country", even if that covert operation will save lives. Occasionally, there will be visits from Washington bureaucrats, who would not know a covert operation if they tripped over it. They usually have this wonderful intelligence idea, which sounds great in a Langley conference room, but on the ground, is an amazingly stupid idea.

Physical training for covert agents used to be very rigorous, because an agent had to be able to deal with almost anything. Over the years, standards have been reduced to almost zero. What was "very rigorous" training is now something like mildly stressful. The CIA is in strong need of people on the ground, so physical standards have been reduced to the point where people from other divisions have been let in to the program. It doesn't matter if they have asthma, diabetes or some other major ailment. If they complete the course (there are no repercussions if they don't), they suddenly think they are qualified to go overseas and work on real covert operations, right next to someone with 20 years experience.

This is a very scathing book, but it is much needed. Regardless of your opinions about recent CIA actions, America needs some sort of foreign intelligence agency. This book is an excellent place to start putting together such an agency the right way.

The One-Percenters
John Podgursky
Damnation Books LLC
P.O. Box 3931, Santa Rosa CA 95402
9781615720125, $15.25, 165 pp,

This is about a man who finds his purpose in life, but not through any of the usual ways.

Edward is your average married man. He is now on the receiving end of the wrong kind of notoriety, after his wife was a victim of a serial killer. After several months of dealing with people's attempts at sympathy, Edward abruptly moves several states away. His plan is to make a fresh start.

Already in a downward emotional spiral, Edward hooks up with Cristen. They exchange stories of their difficult childhoods; as time goes on, they find themselves in a relationship. On a camping trip, Cristen drowns (with Edward's help). He takes off, knowing that it will not be long before the police get involved. While on the run, Edward realizes something about himself.

Evolution is a funny thing. The vast majority of people on Earth will make no noticeable contribution to society. They will simply live and die, probably breeding more useless people. Edward thinks of himself as part of the One Percent (not the financial One Percent). They have the right, and the duty, to decide who lives and who dies, with the intention of bettering humanity.

Over the next couple of years, Edward is constantly on the run, carrying out his "duty." He murders several people, thereby, supposedly, improving the gene pool. One night, in a seedy bar, Edward learns that there are others like him. Throughout all of this, Edward knows that, sooner or later, he will get caught by the police.

This is a pretty dark novel, almost a psychological horror novel. It will give the reader a mental workout, with plenty to think about concerning the present state of mankind. It's also a short novel, told in flashback, that is very much worth the reader's time.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Mr. Wuffles!
David Wiesner
Clarion Books
215 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
9780618756612, $17.99,

Mr. Wuffles is a black and white cat with a lot of toys, and he's not particularly interested in any of them. Until one day a miniature spaceship catches his eye. Come to find out the spaceship is not a toy after all. Inside, the five green aliens - which sort of look like grasshoppers dressed in robes - are terrified as Mr. Wuffles playfully bats their vessel around the room. The aliens manage to escape their damaged ship but Mr. Wuffles is onto them. Then just as he's about to pounce, a flying ladybug distracts him and the aliens flee under the radiator. Inside the walls of the house they meet up with an insect colony that has depicted their long war with the cat in pictographs on the wall. In turn the aliens, who don't speak bug language, illustrate their skirmish with the cat in pictographs. Friendship ensues. They pose for pictures and share a cracker. Together they devise an ingenious plan to repair the spaceship and foil Mr. Wuffles so the green aliens can make a clean getaway.

As with the insects and aliens, Wiesner tells this delightful story in pictures consisting of colorful cartoon frames done in watercolor and India ink. There is no narrative and most of the dialogue is alien and insect language that young readers will have fun trying to decode. The pages of Mr. Wuffles! are jam-packed with humor, mischief, and action. The joy of Wiesner's unique storytelling method is each time readers open the book they will certainly discover subtle details they missed the last time and want to return again and again.

Battle Bunny
Jon Scieszka & Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Matthew Myers
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781442446731, $14.99, 32 pp,

At first glance it appears as though some mischievous child has scribbled all over this book. Upon closer inspection the extraordinary plot unfolds. From the inscription we learn that GranGran, apparently thinking Alex is still a toddler, has presented her "little birthday bunny" with this sappy picture book, "Birthday Bunny" on his "special day." In response Alex, who is clearly not a toddler and maybe needs to lay off the video games, has taken a No. 2 pencil in hand and transformed the whiny little bunny into a ferocious farting rabbit with super powers. In Alex's re-write it takes an army of bomb-throwing forest zombies, two presidents, and the real birthday boy to stop this psycho bunny from carrying out his Evil Plan, which involves a rocket.

Sciesczka's and Barnett's writing and Myer's illustrations magically combine to create a rare comedic masterpiece that works on so many levels it's impossible to describe them all. You must read it for yourself and savor the nuggets of nuance. "Battle Bunny" is wickedly funny.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Sandra's Bookshelf

Jetpack Jenny
Pauline Richards
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492842729, $2.99, 45 pages,

I liked the cover of this book. It is colorful and invites people to turn the page. The main character is Jenny. From the beginning of summer she volunteered to be an assistant to Mr. Suchare who is a family friend. Jenny's father was always talking about how brilliant Mr. Suchare was. So Jenny would go to his house and help him in any way he might need. There was really not a lot to do so Jenny started working on a jetpack. She hated flying because of the long lines of people trying to get their tickets and checking in their bags. By time they got on board the plane Jenny was always tired.

Jenny had borrowed a lot of books from the library and was working on a jetpack that would help her so she could fly by herself and avoid airports. Then one day Mr. Suchare had her sit down and told her she was "The Chosen One." He told her that she was the only person who could save the world from an alien attack.

This is the type of book where a parent could read a chapter each night to their kids. The chapters are not long so the book could hold the attention of younger children. I think the best age group would be 6 to 9 year olds.

Rated G

Marilyn Monroe
Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.
Bancroft Press
P.O. Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610881081, $23.95, 215 pp,

One of the things I liked about "Marilyn Monroe: On the Couch, Inside the Mind and Life of Marilyn Monroe" is the fact that, Dr. Bond did a lot of research and has made each conversation believable. This book may be fiction but by all accounts the things Marilyn could have said; I can resonate with Dr. Bond getting them right. This story is Marilyn talking to her shrink and what was said. The books starts with a little girl named Norma Jeane Mortenson. Her mother suffered from mental illness and was in and out of mental hospitals all of Norma Jeane's life. The child was left with friends sometimes and then orphanages at other times. Norma Jeane was a very sensitive little girl. The sexual things that happened to her stayed with her, her whole life. She felt like she was never good enough never smart enough and love never lasted. Her own father she had never met, and she had a tendency to become attracted to older men. I was surprised that she had a death wish. Life did not really matter to her. She expressed her feelings in poems she wrote. Or took poems of other author's and she would change some of the words to fit her life. People can say a lot of bad things about her, but everything she did related back to her childhood and what happened. She wanted to become a very good actress and a mom. She got her first wish but was never able to have a child of her own. She was the sexiest, most beautiful woman of her time but plaque by the way her life lead her. She tried to kill herself more than once. Each time someone saved her and she was not happy. Then one day she went to sleep and never woke up again. To me she was a delicate butterfly who finally got to spread her wings and fly. Excellent book!

Five Stars

Sandra Heptinstall

Susan's Bookshelf

Wasp's Nest - Roma Series Book Two
Gabriel Valjan
Winter Goose Publishing
9780988184534, $17.99, 294 pp,

Genre: action, thriller, murder, mystery

About Gabriel Valjan: Ronan Bennett short-listed Gabriel Valjan for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize for his Boston noir, 'Back in the Day.' Gabriel's short stories and some of his poetry continue to appear in literary journals and online magazines. He recently won first prize in ZOUCH Magazine's inaugural Lit Bits Contest. He lives in New England. He is the author of the Roma Series, Book 1: Roma, Underground, Book 2: Wasp's Nest, and Book 3: Threading the Needle, available from his publisher, Winter Goose Publishing, and in paperback or digital format from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Gabriel can be contacted through his publicist, Rachel Anderson.

About Wasp's Nest: In the highly anticipated sequel to Roma, Underground, Bianca returns to the U.S. for her former employer, the covert organization Rendition, to investigate Cyril Sargent and Nasonia Pharmaceutical. Although ambivalent about the assignment and uneasy about her online "friend," Loki, she is enticed into researching what Sargent is doing with insect genetics that might upset the world of cancer research and treatment. Old friends Farrugia and Gennaro uncover a twisted conspiracy from their past and join Bianca in Boston where they will experience conflicted loyalties, question allies, and confront uncertain enemies, as they're drawn into the wasp's nest.

In this, the second book in the Roma Series, the story opens with Alabaster Black (alias Bianca Nerini) returning from Rome to Boston, Massachusetts, leaving behind her lover, Dante, and friends in Rome, Italy.

Rendition, her employer, a covert U.S. agency, has persuaded her to infiltrate Nasonia Pharmaceuticals, a drug manufacturing company owned by Cyril Sargent. Nasonia, is working on a revolutionary new drug using insect-based genetics to develop a new cancer-cure and Rendition want to know more.

Then, when Farrugia and Gennaro, her friends from the Rome, arrive in Boston for another reason, she discovers that leaving the past behind is not as simple as just getting on a plane; they bring some disturbing news for her, ghosts from the past have resurfaced...

I found Wasp's Nest a compelling reading, action-packed and with intriguing characters. The plot had plenty of twists and turns, some surprising secrets, and it kept me on the edge of my seat, guessing until the very end.

Gabriel Valjan includes a tantalising glimpse into Book 3 of the Roma Series, Threading the Needle which I had read first, but I realized that the author created each volume independent of each other.

Threading the Needle - Roma Series Book Three
Gabriel Valjan
Winter Goose Publishing
9780989479219, $18.99, 366 pp,

Genre: thriller, politics, murder, mystery

About Gabriel Valjan: Ronan Bennett short-listed Gabriel Valjan for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize for his Boston noir, 'Back in the Day.' Gabriel's short stories and some of his poetry continue to appear in literary journals and online magazines. He recently won first prize in ZOUCH Magazine's inaugural Lit Bits Contest. He lives in New England. He is the author of the Roma Series, Book 1: Roma, Underground, Book 2: Wasp's Nest, and Book 3: Threading the Needle, available from his publisher, Winter Goose Publishing, and in paperback or digital format from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Gabriel can be contacted through his publicist, Rachel Anderson.

About Threading the Needle: Milan. Bianca's curiosity gets a young university student murdered, but not before he gives her a file that details a secret weapon under development with defense contractor Adastra. Guilt may drive her to find justice for the slain Charlie Brooks, but she is warned by the mysterious Loki to stay away from this case that runs deep with conspiracy. Bianca must find a way to uncover government secrets and corporate alliances without returning Italy to one of its darkest hours, the decades of daily terrorism known as the "Years of Lead."

Isidore Farrugia is a cop, brought up during the Years of Lead, a horrific period in Italian history, a time of terror and killing, his childhood memories, scarred forever by the brutal death of his mother. Nevertheless, he is a good man, loyal and protective of his friends and colleagues.

This is why although off duty and out of jurisdiction, when his friend Bianca arranges a meeting with her informant, Charles Brooks, he insists on coming too. However, soon his onlooker role changes, when the young 23-year-old American, Bianca came to meet is killed, and so are his assassins.

Then another murder takes place, and the Italian police investigators find themselves unearthing a web of political intrigue.

Bianca has a secret though, she knows, she must uncover the truth behind the information she has been entrusted with, despite warnings from her mysterious online contact Loki, to stay away. Adastra, a weapons manufacturer is hiding something... But what?

I found myself hooked, right from the start of this brilliant, action packed, political crime thriller, which is set in Milan.

For those, like myself, who are interested in history, the Afterword about the Years of Lead by Claudio Ferrara was very interesting.

This is actually the third book in the 'Roma' series, by this talented author, and there is a tantalising glimpse at the end into his fourth book, 'Turning to Stone.'

The Gift - The Chronicles of Tucker Littlefield
Tegon Maus
Netherworld Books
9781909224070, $13.89, 170 pp,

Genre: Fantasy, adventure, romance, fairytale

About Tegon Maus: Dearheart, my wife of forty three years and I live in Cherry Valley, a little town of 8,200 in Southern California. In that time, I've built a successful remodeling /contracting business. But that's just my day job... everyone that writes, everyone who tells you how to write, all say the same thing... Write about what you know and what I know is me.

Well, at least the me I see when I write... a protagonist frequently wedged between a rock and a hard place but manages to work things out at the last minute after all.

Like most of us when pushed into a corner it only brings out the best in us and we become the unstoppable force of a reluctant hero. If I have a signature style for creating a character then this is it.

About The Gift:

Transformed by a primitive magic beyond a civilized man's understanding, I was given a horrible gift that no man should possess... It held me, twisted me, turning me at its bidding. I was enslaved by its power, compelled to devour the souls of the dead until I became the monster of my fears. I have seen things I wish never to see again. I have done things of which I wish never to speak. Yet I must if I am to find the answers to fulfill my hope. I have walked upon blue ribbons of molten stone to peer into the depth of a man's soul. I watched as a promise made at birth brought my friend Enon to sacrifice everything to become whole again - all in an effort to save the life of his child. I have cried without shame for the loss of all I hold dear and for fear that the future will hold more than I can bear. I am Tucker Littlefield. Know all that I say now is true-spoken.

When Tucker Littlefield enters the tavern, its story time and his audience have come from near and far. The room falls silent as he begins the tale of how he first met Enon Tutelo, and the adventure, which followed.

They say, that sometimes an incident can change a person's path in life forever, and Tucker's attendance at a very special birthday party; and the events which followed, changed him forever. For Tucker is given a life changing gift, then a mission which takes him on a journey to other lands, far, far away from the Kingdom of Irkland, where he meets strange people, and unimaginable creatures.

Magical, is the first word, which came to my mind when I finished this story. Right from the very first page, I found myself totally captivated by Tucker's storytelling of this is a wonderful adventure.

Tucker Littlefield is an amazing character, when reading it I immediately thought of John Carpenter's fisherman storyteller at the beginning of 'The Fog' film, where the children gather round as the scene is set... as, when reading it, I felt as if I too was actually there, sitting in the tavern, listening.

I cannot praise this book enough; it truly deserves to become a classic, the stuff of legends. As far as I am concerned, it has a fantastic storyline, the author has created some wonderful characters and I believe it would make a brilliant film!

I hope we shall be seeing more Chronicles of Tucker Littlefield in the future.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Teri's Bookshelf

The Universe Versus Alex Woods
Gavin Extence
Redhook Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316246576, $26.00, 401 pp,

Are come people born with everything against them? If some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, it makes logically sense then that some people are just born with more challenges than most other people. What makes the difference between those born with this burden is whether they choose to allow these setbacks to become part of their life or whether they choose to literally make lemonade from the lemons that life has given them.

Alex is seventeen years old and being held by custom's officials. He was driving a vehicle with 113 grams of marijuana and an urn with the ashes of a recently deceased neighbor. Why?

Alex Woods started out with a normal childhood with being the only child of a single parent mother. However, that is where ordinary ends. His mother is a fortune teller and has even been considered to be a witch.

When Alex was ten years old, a meteorite crashed through his house hitting him on the head, putting him in a coma for two weeks. It almost appeared as if the meteorite had aimed for Alex. The advantage of this event was the contact with a real astronomer who wanted it to study for science. This meeting turned into a friendship. The attention did not help Alex with his peers at school and he quickly discovered that life with adults was easier for him.

Adding to those within Alex's limited friendships, was an elderly widower, Mr. Peterson. Mr. Peterson is an American who fought in the Vietnam War before falling in love with a British woman and relocating himself. With the recent death of his wife, Mr. Peterson preferred to live his life with little contact with the outside world while cultivating his private marijuana crop until Alex appears at his house. Through developing an interest with other adults from the local library, the two develop a special friendship over Kurt Vonnegut.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a debut novel by Gavin Extence. As a child, Gavin exhibited a rare ability in playing chess representing Britain and has competed internationally.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a rare novel with a strong personal voice. It is well-organized and with an addictive writing style. The generational relationships between a teenager and adults is realistic and wonderful as the story develops. The ethical decisions in the story makes each reader question their personal values and also considers the problem of what is fair and just that is against the law.

The characters is this novel are realistic. With a caring mother, a loyal friend, a science advisor, adult friends from a book club, an understanding librarian, a grouchy old man, and a boy who just wants to do the right thing, whatever that may be, makes The Universe Versus Alex Woods an outstanding book.

If You Were Me and Lived In...France...
Carole P. Roman
Create Space Publishing
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781481032001, $9.99, 22 pages,

If You Were Me and Lived In...Mexico
Carole P. Roman
Create Space Publishing
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781480209626, $9.99, 24 pages,

If You Were Me and Lived In...South Korea
Carole P. Roman
Create Space Publishing
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781481062343, $9.99, 26 pages,

If You Were Me and Lived In... is a series of books which illustrate the cultural uniqueness in France, Mexico, and South Korea. These three books each discuss the famous events and attractions of each country. This is a quick overview of the culture and language with each one stating words such as boy, girl, mom, dad, money, school, and a quick look at the food choices.
Each book begins with the physical shape of the country and then show its place in comparison to the rest of the world. A drawing of recognizable and well-known sights from each capital city is described and illustrated. All of the books show a common shopping scene while discussing common children's proper names for each of these countries.

For the book discussing France, how the children address their parents as well as the money, and everyday activities such as buying bread in Paris, a visit to the Eiffel Tower, eating crepes, playing football which is really soccer and to learn about Bastille Day.

In the book about South Korea, there is information about the money system, how the children speak with their parents, common sites from ancient times to modern amusement parks, the food and how to eat it, Taekwondo, dolls, the Lunar New Year celebration, as well as many of the cultural tradition in dress with elders, and going to school.

The book about Mexico won the Pinnacle Award in 2013 for the Best Non-fiction for Children. This book continues as the other two while also bringing in the significance of Columbus Day. The illustrations strongly support the written information with a review of the foreign words on the last page of each book. Also, the last page of each book is a quick reference for all the foreign words used in the book with the translation into English.

Carole P. Roman is a former social studies teacher who has also been an instrumental in her family's business. She resides on Long Island.

For anyone curious about the cultures and life in South Korea, France, or Mexico, these books are a wonderful introduction to life in a foreign country for young children.

The Boob Girls IV: Murder at Meadow Lakes
Joy Johnson
Grief Illustrated Press
7230 Maple Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68134
978156123237651, $14.94, 136 pp,

The man was more than dead. Because he was living in a retirement community, it was likely that he would eventually succumb to death naturally. However, this was unquestionably, overkill.

His throat was cut and his head was smashed. Also, there was a bullet hole in his jacket, a knife in his back, and a nylon cord wrapped tightly around his neck. Which method really killed him? Strangely, his toes had been freshly manicured and painted, even the ingrown ones. Is this a murderer who is a pedicurist?

For the victim, Perculator Rasmussen, he was hanged, banged, and stabbed. Yes, he wasn't well-liked, but no one deserves this much death.

Also living at this facility are the three surviving Boob Girls, the Burned Out Old Broads at Table 12, who have experience as amateur detectives, much to the chagrin of local law enforcement. They do believe in doing the right thing even when others don't.

For those who have read the previous three novels, this is a fun addition. If you have not read them, read the first book at least before reading this one. The first one is strong with the development of the major characters who are so important in the series. These Omaha-based novels are a combination Nancy Drew meeting Saturday Night Live.

Hadley continues to spend the money earned by her late husband while enjoying the attention of her retired sheriff. Robbie thrives in intellectual challenges and is considering moving on now and might discover a new relationship. Mary Rose has kept her weight off for quite a while now and is keeping Wiley close to her.

How are the girls going to react to this new resident? Driving a gaudy Smart Car, black with large pink polka dots and eye lashes over the headlights, is a retired homicide detective, Madge Aaron. How will she get along with the girls and the investigating officers?

The Boob Girls IV: Murder at Meadow Lakes is a light, quick, simple mystery. The story is fast-paced, maybe too fast-paced. With only being 136 pages, the story is over almost as soon as it started. There wasn't much room for further misadventures of the group.

With the fifth book in the series being available now, The Secret of the Red Cane which is longer, hopefully this one will offer a more involved story similar to the first book in the series.

Joy Johnson, along with her husband, Dr. Marvin Johnson, are the founders for the largest and oldest bereavement resource center in North America and Ted E. Bear Hollow for grieving children.

All THE BOOB GIRLS are fun, light reading for those women of a "certain" age.

Margit Liesche
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201806, $24.95, 326 pp,

Are we all victims of our heritage?

Ildiko Palmay lives as a single working woman in Chicago as a part time ESL teacher for the local community college in Chicago. She continues to maintain her relationships with family and friends from Hungary. She delights in making connections with her adult students as they share their cultures with each other as they attempt to become part of the American culture. She is perfect for this job since her family came from Hungary and brought much of their culture with them.

However, Ildiko is haunted by her mother's death. Her mother lost her life when she fell in front of a train. Ildiko has always questioned if she fell or was pushed. Her mother had plans that would not be consistent with someone planning to kill themselves. How do you ever discover the truth?

Much of Triptych reflects on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 when the country was occupied by Russia. During this time in Hungary, it was illegal for anyone to be taught the history of their country. The government at this time questions Evike about her family and whether they are part of the rebellion against Russia. Even though as a student she knows of her family's involvement, she refuses to confess to anything..

Her mother's twin sister is a teacher and she has disappeared during this time of rebellion. No one ever found any evidence of what happened to her when she was questioned by the authorities. She disappeared. Is she still alive? What happened? Could Ildiko's mother have discovered the truth when she visited Hungary? Since she died shortly after her trip, could this discovery be related to something in the past?

Alternating between a Hungarian neighborhood in Chicago in the 1980s and life in Budapest in 1956, TRIPTYCH is a family saga interweaving history into the mysteries of the past which haunt the present.

Margit Liesche writes from her family stories of life during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against Russia and life in the country in the 1980s while Russia occupied Budapest. As a child, like one of the characters in the book, her parents worked as missionaries in China prior to World War II. Also, similar to the character in this novel, her childhood was spent in Chicago.

TRIPTYCH is a family saga with believable characters who care for each other interwoven into the rebellions in Hungary blending the past with the present in this wonderful page turner. The writing is hypnotic with the reader being in Ilkido's shoes for every step. Combining the past events into an organized and relevant story is as masterful as the woven TRIPTYCH being unwound and again stitched mixing the past with who we are today.

The Poisoner's Handbook
Deborah Blum
Thorndike Press
c/o Cengage Learning
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781410425126, $34.99, 544 pp,

No, I hope I never need the information in this book. "The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York " is really the development of forensic science from the view point of New York City's medical examiner, Charles Norris, toxicologist, Alexander Gettler and many others at the beginning of the twentieth century. In many respects, this book is the evolution of science as the processes for identifying chemicals with humans was developing. As our society became more industrialized, more poisons were created and either misused accidentally or purposefully. Unfortunately, few people before these scientists really studied these poisons and knew how to identify and differentiate each.

Parallel to the actual poisons is the history of famous cases where the poisons were found or suspected and how the investigators discovered what poison what used. With viewing the cases first through law enforcement and then through the scientific evidence was fascinating. Before this time, even securing a crime scene was not standard procedure.

The sections regarding prohibition were fascinating and greatly educational in literally understanding this time period. To me, it is amazing the during the time of Prohibition, there were more alcohol related deaths. Being that alcohol was illegal, the cheaply made forms from industry or distillation were not regulated in any manner creating an environment for alternate types.

Each poison is a chapter explaining the history and the people who became famously identified with each poison. From chloroform, wood alcohol, cyanide, arsenic, mercury, carbon monoxide, methyl alcohol, radium, ethyl alcohol, nicotine, aconite, silver and thallium, all of these were easy to obtain and use.

The author Deborah Blum has won a Pulitzer Prize for her journalism.

What is special about this non-fiction novel is how easily it reads. With each of the poisons, the stories of real people and their misadventures with their choice of poison and the challenges of the chemical investigators all blend into a developing science surrounding the crime as a mystery.

There are some technical errors in the science section of this book. I view these as acceptable because this is not an instruction book about how to poison someone but a procedural development of toxicology in forensic science. Also to catch these scientific inaccuracies, a chemist would have needed to be consulted, not a book editor.

The Poisoner's Handbook is not for the queasy folks. The testing process and the crimes can be blunt and at times gory. Unfortunately, these early scientists went through questionable ethical situations to develop their factual information. That's reality. Their past allows for the science success of today.

For those who enjoy non-fiction that reads like fiction or just a good mystery, The Poisoner's Handbook is for you.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781594744761, $17.99 (HC), 352 pp,

All of us are born with different abilities and talents that make us "special". Some have more and some less. Where is the line between what is a special ability or talent and what society considers strange, odd, or peculiar? Are the people with the most unusual natural talents thought of highly by their peers or are they outcasts?

Grandparents frequently have special bonds with their grandchildren. For some reason, neither is usually close to the generation between the two.

Abraham Portman realized early in his life that he was special. However, his timing for entering this world was not the best since growing up in Poland at the beginning of World War II as a Jewish child with a special ability was very dangerous.

He was sent to live in a house on a Welsh island where children with unusual talents were sent. Basically, this was a orphanage but unquestionably a loving, caring place for many special children called Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Many years later, his grandson, Jacob Portman, is being told the stories of growing up in this home. However, separating fact from fiction is difficult with his grandfather's tales of his youth. Upon his grandfather's death, Jacob looks through some of his grandfather's photographs and wonders if these people really existed. He becomes so obsessed that his parents send him to a psychologist who suggests a visit to the island and the home. Perhaps this is just what it takes to realize reality.

Thus begins the story...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is an enthralling novel whose intended audience is for young adult readers. However, anyone older will thoroughly enjoy this novel which combines fantasy with mystery through the eyes of a character who doesn't connect well with either his peers or his parents. Combining the photographs of people doing unusual things such as contortionists, human heads on dog bodies, and people levitating with a story of searching the past and attempting to do what you believe to be the right thing makes this truly enchanting.

For Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is his debut novel with a sequel, Hollow, to be released in January. While living as a child in Florida, Ransom graduated from Kenyon College and the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. He writes Strange Geographies which is a series of travel essays for Mental Floss Magazine.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is for anyone who has ever felt that they didn't fit in with everyone else and to believe in your own goodness.

The Cantor Wore Crinolines: A Liturgical Mystery
Mark Schweizer
St. James Music Press
P.O. Box 249, Tryon, NC 28782
9780984484676, $12.95, 204 pp,

Released to bookstores 2013
Released to Amazon- January 2014

The murder of four women whose bodies where placed in four separate vacant houses is a crime in a novel read by an exclusive book club the has their own website. However, when three bodies of women are found in vacant houses in the small community of St. Germaine, North Carolina, does that mean that someone is going to be murdered?

Three houses have been auctioned off in St. Germaine for unpaid taxes. No one had been allowed to enter the houses to examine them closely so for each new buyer, really doesn't know what they will find when they enter the house. Those who bid on these houses are just guessing at the condition inside.

After the first new buyer enters their house, the local law enforcement is called. In a closet there is the body of a woman. She is nicely dressed and there is no obvious reason for her death. Known only to the police though, is that she is missing one earring.

Just like the story of the three bears, as each new owner enters their house, a well-dressed woman is found in a closet, missing an earring, with no obvious reason for her death. Who are these women? Wouldn't someone notice that each of them was missing?

For Sheriff Hayden Konig, life is quiet contentment is this small town. There is not usually much crime and personally, he has it all. With a beautiful home, money in the bank, a wonderful wife, and a dog, he has taken a sabbatical from his job as church organist and choir director for St. Barnabas Episcopal Church where his gun is kept in the organ bench.

With recent changes in the leadership of the church, he felt most comfortable taking a leave-of-absence until things settled. Now, the church has a new interim, Father Dressler who supposedly wants to change to the Anglo-Catholic tradition but no one is certain what that really means.

Hayden's wife,Meg is well-respected in the community. Her mother, Ruby notices that these deaths are very similar to a recently read book recommended by a book club where she is being excluded from joining.

"The Cantor Wore Crinolines" is a comical mystery which is perfect for those who are over educated in the field of church music.

Referring to some of the classical choral works as warm-ups or recommendations is sometimes invigorating. Sure, using F. Melius Christiansen's "Lamb of God" as a choir warm-up? I have nightmares of learning this particular selection eons ago with a director who knew that for the piece to be sung well, everyone must know their music, listen for blending, and have eyes on the conductor at all times.

This is book number twelve in this series featuring Hayden Konig, organist/sheriff. The relationships progress through the books which are "fun" reading with a story in the style of Raymond Chandler within the external mystery of the murders. The entire selection is just relaxing and enjoyable to read.

For someone not acquainted with this series, I would recommend to at least read the first few books in this series before reading this one to better understand the characters. This book is currently only available at and independent bookstores. It will be available on Amazon and other on-line sellers in January.

What do you give your favorite music teacher or church organist for Christmas? Why not purchase for them these books by Mark Schweizer? They would thoroughly enjoy his off-beat humor in a harmonious way.

The Quest
Nelson DeMille
Center Street
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
97810455576425, $26.00 (HC), 464 pp,

"But if you believe in love, then you believe in God."

In 1974, Ethiopia was experiencing a civil war resulting in the death of the last member of their royal family descended from King Solomon and Queen Sheba. This historic and biblical lineage ended a three thousand year reign.

Unfortunately, there were not just two sides in this battle but many with support from both Great Britain, Italy, and local tribal factions.

Two reporters Frank Purcell and Henry Mercado along with a photographer Vivian Smith were searching for a shelter in this vast savannah to rest for the night. Riding through this rugged and dangerous country in a jeep was not always safe or easy. They found a relatively safe spot at an ancient mineral spa with Roman baths.

The three watched nearby illuminating skies from the nearby fighting, their plan was to report to the victors, whoever they might be, in the morning until they saw a man in front of them, holding a skull. Quickly they approached the elderly man who immediately wanted water. They were reluctant to give him any since he was obviously wounded in his abdomen. Water and food often is the worse thing for anyone with an abdomen injury.

The man identified himself as Giuseppe Armanno, an Italian priest who supposedly had been imprisoned for thirty-eight years. He knew that he was going to die so and he wanted his story heard. What they didn't plan on was his story turning into their "Quest". Could the priest's story be true?

He didn't give them all the details so the three would need to explore and research more before beginning their unbelievable "quest", but who better than reporters could discover the truth?

"The Quest" is definitely a page turner. As each clue is uncovered, the reader feels the urge to continue while alongside his trio of journalists. They don't have any special skills or abilities, but their curiosity drives them into this dangerous land with a possible dream of their treasure. The three main characters are realistically written with the problems of traveling in a third world country of being tired, filthy, thirsty, lost and people viewing them as foreigners. This is not an Indiana Jones but people who drink too much and frequently make stupid choices, especially when having sex while drinking and are frequently drunk and hung-over making the characters unlikable.

The descriptions of both the Gallas and the Falashas seemed narrow-minded and judgmental. Granted this was a viewpoint by the foreign journalists, but it was limiting the story line.

Nelson DeMille published this book back in 1975. He chose to rewrite this story into the 2013 version. This New York native is well-known for writing bestsellers such as "The Gold Coast", "The Gate House", and "The General's Daughter".

"The Quest" wandered through much of the story, along with the characters creating a realistic view of the story. Basically, it is a decent story with interesting history that could have been an Indiana Jones, but was in actuality, three drunk journalists.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol
Gyles Brandreth
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439153758, $16.00 (PB), 301 pp,

In previous entries in this series Oscar Wilde acted as the detective and Arthur Conan Doyle the role of Dr. Watson. In this novel, Conan Doyle is present only by reference, while Oscar Wilde occupies the entire plot since it really is biographical, beginning with his incarceration for two years at hard labor, and describes the horrors of the English penal system at that time. Whatever mystery is to be solved is left for an astonishing ending.

The novel begins with Oscar Wilde, having fled England because of his disgrace, sitting at a cafe in Dieppe where he is confronted by a stranger who says he wishes to write a book about the murderers Wilde met in prison, and then flashes back to the author's experiences while jailed and vivid descriptions of how the prisons were run and the treatment of the prisoners in great detail.

This is the sixth novel in the series, and the author promises several more, hopefully more like the predecessors to Reading Gaol which were a lot more pertinent to the theme, although this book certainly provided the reader with a lot of insights, especially on how degrading the prisons were to the prisoners. It is amazing, really, that Wilde, on the brink of despair and possible madness, retained not only his deductive abilities, but was able to write such a gem as The Ballad of Reading Gaol.


David Rosenfelt
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY 10010
9781250024763, $7.99 (PB), 320 pp,

This standalone by the author of the popular Andy Carpenter series is so unlike the humorous dog-centered novels that the reader might think it was written by someone else. But it only proves that a good writer can create excellent fiction on a variety of levels. "Airtight" is a complicated story involving murder and mayhem, good police work, and family loyalty.

The plot revolves around the murder of a judge nominated to sit on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, knifed to death in his garage. A tip leads Lt. Luke Somers to the alleged murderer's home. When the drug user Steven Gallagher raises a gun, Somers puts three bullets in his chest. Gallagher's brother, Chris, does not believe he was responsible for the murder, and sets up a challenge for Somers to reinvestigate the Brennan killing to prove Steven's innocence by kidnapping the policeman's brother, Bryan, and entombing him in a bomb shelter with only seven days worth of air [very early on in the story - no spoiler here].

The book moves at a rapid pace, with considerable action, enhanced by greed and explosions. What will be the outcome is never really clear until the final pages, with no prior groundwork to set the stage for the conclusion. Nevertheless, the novel is very enjoyable, and is recommended.

The Dinner
Herman Koch, author
Sam Garrett, translator
c/o Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780770437855, $24.00 (HC), 292 pp,

The real question about this novel is whether it is a satire or a psychological study of an aberrant personality or two. The book is divided into various dinner courses, from aperitif to digestif, during which two brothers and their wives await the entree into the real reason for the dinner. One brother, Paul, the younger, a history teacher, has been unemployed for a dozen years; the other, Serge, is on the verge of being elected Dutch prime minister seven moths hence.

Except each family has a guilty secret caused by the misadventure of their 15-year-old sons who assaulted a homeless woman, resulting in her death. The boys even recorded the event with their telephone, the video eventually finding its way onto television and the web. The older brother proposes to do something about the situation, while the younger sibling and the wives prefer to hope that it just fades away.

In the early pages, Paul finds everything to criticize about the fancy restaurant his brother has chosen, as well as Dutch society in general. Initially, Paul gains the reader's sympathy, but as his personality is disclosed along the way, this feeling dissipates. The translation is free-flowing, so the reader can take it in easy bites, with a lot to chew on.

Enigma of China
Qiu Xiaolong
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250025807, $25.99 (HC), 288 pp,

Chief Inspector Chen faces more than a riddle in this latest chronicle of life in Shanghai. He has to weigh his role as a cop and party official against the truth. As a result of the supposed suicide of the head of the Shanghai Housing Development Committee following his exposure of massive corruption, Chen is asked to act as a consultant in the police investigation. The premise is that the result would be a verdict of suicide, burying the case, and Chen's "endorsement" would seal it, he being known as an incorruptible cop.

The case, however, develops into far more than what the authorities wish, especially when the detective in charge of the case leans toward a murder charge. The corrupt practices came to light from exposure over the internet, giving the author license to look at the conflict between the loosening of Chinese "democracy" and the conflict with the needs of the one-party system to "harmonize" political crimes.

In a way, the novel takes place on three levels. First, it is a straightforward police procedural. Then, as in all of the books in the series, it is a serious look at present-day China. Lastly, there is some degree of romantic interest, introducing a female journalist who not only provides Chen with much assistance in his investigation, but a sexual attraction as well (although, at least to this point, unconsummated). The novel follows the similar pattern of including snippets of Chinese poetry along the way to make points. The one negative comment concerning the novel is the inconclusive ending. But, perhaps, that is to be resolved, along with Chen's love life, in a future volume.


The Double
George Pelecanos
Little, Brown
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316078399, $26.00 (HC), 304 pp,

In light of the disjointed activities in recent weeks in the nation's Capital, the situations described in this novel, featuring Spero Lucas, who initially appeared in "The Cut," to which this book is a follow-up, should not come as a surprise. Lucas, an ex-Marine, is an investigator for a defense attorney, and takes jobs on the side in which he finds things for people.

"The Double" of the title is a painting, stolen from a woman friend of a bartender who asks Lucas to retrieve it. What seems to be a simple enough task turns into all sorts of violence. At the same time, Spero is asked by his English teacher brother to follow up on the murder of one of his students. And just to keep busy, he embarks on a torrid love affair with a married lady.

Mr. Pelecanos capably blends in Spero's concerns for his war veteran friends and the flavor of Washington, D.C., past and present. Not the shenanigans in the Capitol, but on the streets and in the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland. Luca is a complicated character, appealing, with loose morals, but rigid ethics. The plot is action-packed and is much more than just a crime story or thriller.

Highly recommended.

Original Skin
David Mark
Blue Rider Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399158650, $26.95 (HC), 448 pp,

Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy showed in his debut in "The Dark Winter" that he not only blushes easily, but his gut leads him to see crimes passed over by others. Once again, he follows his instincts to solve a murder chalked up by others in the CID as a suicide. It's not as if the Yorkshire Serious and Organized Crime Unit hasn't enough to do, but by conducting his "informal" investigation, McAvoy brings the "solve" statistics way up as at least two more murders occur.

Simultaneously, the Unit is overwhelmed by a series of crimes brought about by a vicious group seeking to take over the drug trade previously run by Vietnamese. But McAvoy sniffs foul play in the year-old discovery of the nude body of a young man found choked in his home, hanging in his kitchen. So he looks into it informally, with a sort of blessing by his superior, Detective Trish Pharaoh, and learns more about underground erotic sex activities than he bargained for, as well as coming too close to politicians who can cause him more trouble than it's worth.

The plot moves swiftly, and the interchanges between Aector and Trish are so understated and poignant that the reader can only marvel at the author's low-key approach. This follow-up to the debut novel is more than a worthy successor; it is a wonderful addition to the series, which, we hope, will continue strongly in the future.


Standing in Another Man's Grave
Ian Rankin
Back Bay Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316224604, $15.00 (PB), 432 pp,

Old soldiers may never die and John Rebus hopefully will never fade away. After a couple of years in retirement he's back as a civilian consultant on cold cases (which seems to be becoming a trend in resurrecting protagonists in crime fiction). In the course of this work he is informed by the mother of a girl who disappeared many years before that her daughter may have been the first in a series of disappearances ( and presumably murders) along a northern highway (serial murders apparently are becoming de rigeur among retired detectives as well). And Rebus is off to the wars, albeit with no official standing.

Rebus worms his way into an active investigation with the help of his old sidekick, Siobhan Clarke. And he uses all the old techniques frowned upon by his old nemesis, Malcolm Fox, of the Complaints, including consorting with the likes of gangsters such as Rafferty to gain information. While a massive police force goes about the investigation by the book, of course Rebus goes it alone.

It's good to have Rebus back, and hopefully more is in store because the rules have been changed and he has applied for reinstatement. All he has to do is pass the physical. Can he do so, despite all that hard liquor and cigarettes? And, of course, if successful, Fox is looking forward to Rebus making a colossal mistake on the job to justify his enmity.

As with all the previous novels in the series, this one is highly recommended.

The Devil in Her Way
Bill Loehfelm
Sarah Crichton Books
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011
9780374298852, $26.00 (HC), 274 pp,

Maureen Coughlin made her initial fictional appearance in "The Devil She Knows." Now, at the age of 30, after being a waitress for nine years, living through a series of unrewarding relationships, and residing with her mother on Staten Island, she decides to become a cop. When the test for the NYPD is postponed, she applies and is accepted for the police academy in New Orleans. And that's where this novel begins, with Maureen serving her probationary trial period under the tutelage of Preacher Boyd, a wizened, jaundiced but savvy veteran NOPD police officer.

The plot, such as it is, follows Maureen and Preacher from her graduation from the police academy through her probationary period. On her first day, she answers a domestic call where she is brutally punched by a man bursting through the door. While backup officers recover two pounds of weed, while she looks on from the street, a young boy seems to want to tell her something, but is warned off by someone across the street. This sets the stage for an ever-inquisitive Maureen to pursue what turns out to be a major investigation, including murders, best left to homicide detectives, a specialty to which she aspires.

As a protagonist, Maureen leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps it is too early in her career to wish for more and she will develop more fully in future installments. As a rookie, as her training officer reminds her often, much of what she attempts is none of her business. Sometimes it turns out OK, others, not so much. The novel starts out slowly, and does not grab the reader, at least this one, until virtually the final pages The author, who also moved from Staten Island to New Orleans, interweaves various post-Katrina observations throughout the book, reminding the reader of the devastation which still plagues the city.

The Walnut Tree
Charles Todd
Morrow Paperbacks
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062236876, $9.99 (PB), 272 pp.,

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

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

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


Silken Prey
John Sandford
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399159312, $27.95 (HC), 406 pp,

Some people have no respect for politicians, and in this novel the author certainly gives the reader reasons to feel similarly. One character is a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator from Minnesota who will do anything to win, and does: planting child pornography on her opponent's computer in his campaign office, and even condoning three murders. In the middle of this mess, Lucas Davenport, a detective with Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is appointed by the Governor to determine whether the pornographic material was there because someone had installed it to embarrass its owner, or if it was real.

Davenport has less than a week to find the truth since the discovery of the material swings potential voters to the challenger. The plot then develops into a relatively standard police procedural, hampered, of course, by the aforementioned murders, which are cover-ups to prevent Lucas from finding out the facts.

While the story seems a little far-fetched, it is an interesting thesis: Politics is really a dirty business and the author takes the opportunity to espouse what are probably some of his own views along the way. But somehow, the length of the book wore on this reader, and the conclusion was unsatisfying.

The Stranger
Camilla Lackberg, author
Steven T. Murray, translator
Pegasus Crime
80 Broad Street, NY, NY 10005
9781605984251, $25.95 (HC), 384 pp,

Unlike some other Scandinavian authors, Camilla Lackberg's protagonist, Detective Patrik Hedstrom, is a relatively normal person, about to be married and living with Erica and their baby girl, surreptitiously running the small police station in a little western coastal town in Sweden, Fjallbacka nominally headed by a superior. Three things happen in the town to set off a wide-ranging investigation.

First, Fjallbacka is invaded by a reality television show, with all the attendant problems and a cast motivated to drink, have sex and act in public to excess. And then, there is a local woman, known to abhor alcohol, who dies in a car crash with a blood level containing enormously high levels of alcohol. Then one night, after a drunken orgy, one of the contestants on the show is found murdered. Plenty to keep Patrik and his team occupied with few leads and plenty of questions.

This is the fourth novel published by the author in the United States, and each has been consistently high quality, well-plotted, carefully translated and well written Perhaps most importantly, the characters are natural, every-day type of people, living typical lives and working hard. The plots move forward with logic, and the loose ends come together at the end smoothly. (It should perhaps be noted that this book was originally published in the UK and Canada under the title "The Gallows Bird.")

Highly recommended.

Deadly Harvest
Michael Stanley
Bourbon Street Books
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062221520, $14.99 (PB), 469 pp.,

In this, the fourth Detective Kubu mystery, a new character, detective Samantha Khama, joins the Botswana CID, the only female on the police force. And immediately shakes things up, insisting on an investigation into the disappearance of young girls. After initial misgivings, Kubu takes her under his wing, and together they uncover what appears to be the harvesting of human parts for muti, a witch doctor's potion customarily made with plants and herbs and possibly animal parts, which is supposed to enhance a person's power or luck.

The plot follows one murder after another beginning with that of a leading opposition politician, followed by that of two young girls. Obviously a serial killer is at large, and Kubu and Samantha have their work cut out for them.

This is a grisly story, rich in detail. Written by a team of two that is quite knowledgeable of southern Africa, they have created a memorable cast of characters, and it remains to be seen how they will develop this latest, terrific, addition to the Kubu series.


The Jewels of Paradise
Donna Leon
Grove Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802120656, $14.00 (PB), 256 pp.,

For the first time, Donna Leon has written a standalone novel after so many successful and popular Commissario Brunetti mysteries. Apparently opera is the author's other passion, and so a once famous 17th century Italian Baroque composer, Steffani, serves as the focal point of this novel, set in the familiar Venice that serves so well in the Brunetti series, but to this reviewer hardly adds to this story.

When two trunks containing the composer's last worldly goods arrive in Venice, two cousins claim them as inheritance, tracing their ancestry back to Steffani. They retain an attorney who draws up a contract and persuades them to retain a researcher to determine which of the two sides of the family Steffani may have favored. They agree with his recommendation of "winner take all," and Caterina Pellegrini is lured from her position at the University of Manchester to study the contents of the trunks.

Thus the novel progresses as Caterina studies documents and researches the historical background in the library, uncovering little about any supposed treasure in the trunks, but a lot of information on the composer's life and, of course, the music. The detail is overwhelming. And the question is: Was this trip necessary when the time and effort could have been applied to another Brunetti mystery? It's not that the writing is not of the same high quality of past Donna Leon novels. Nor that the plot is wanting. It's just that "The Jewels of Paradise" is not as amusing or intriguing as we've become accustomed to in a work by this author. It is, however, an interesting effort.

Hit Me
Lawrence Block
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316127349, $16.00 (PB), 352 pp,

Keller had to disappear after the mess in a previous novel in this series, "Hit and Run," and he is now living in post-Katrina New Orleans under a new name, with a wife and young daughter. More important, he has "retired" from his previous occupation, that of a hired assassin, and is now a partner in a business that acquires dilapidated houses, then rehabilitating and flipping them - at least until the housing market and economy collapsed.

So, to keep his head above water, sustain his appetite to keep on buying stamps for his collection and just keep himself busy, he allows himself to be talked into accepting an assignment or three. These take him to Dallas, on a Caribbean cruise, thence to Wyoming and Buffalo. And coinciding with each, he manages to indulge his interest in stamps.

The author manages to keep the reader's interest at a peak on both subjects, with fascinating twists on each homicide mission. And the cryptic conversations with Dot, who brings him each undertaking, are not only amusing and droll, but in keeping with the over-all tenor of the characters. Of course, the novel is on a par with the high quality of previous Keller books in the series, and is recommended.

The Kill Room
Jeffery Deaver
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455517060, $28.00 (HC), 496 pp.,

At the beginning of this Lincoln Rhyme novel, the reader is asked to accept a premise: the existence of a federal agency (the National Intelligence and Operations Service) tasked with assassinating persons with anti-American sympathies. NIOS is headed by an unstable individual who submits questionable information to Washington to justify killing one Robert Moreno, known to have anti-American sympathies.

On the theory that the order to kill emanated in New York City, an assistant district attorney, determined to put the NIOS administrator on trial for murder, enlists the services of Rhyme and his associates to build a case, although the hard evidence is scarce. The plot follows the various developments, from attempts to cover up any case against the NIOS director who ordered the killing or the sniper, and along the way several murders of potential witnesses.

II found this book less satisfying than previous ones in the Lincoln Rhyme series. Perhaps the reason is the subject, which is pretty esoteric, stretching a criminal case to the limits with the usual detailed forensic analysis taking a back seat and cerebral speculation substituting for detailed investigation. The author, however, does again demonstrate his ability to formulate a story on several levels and move it forward, while introducing new angles to keep one reading steadily. On that basis, the book is recommended.

The Shadow Girls
Henning Mankell
Vintage Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307385932, $15.95, (PB), 336 pp,

Henning Mankell is widely known for his Kurt Wallender crime series, as well as for his deep social conscience. In his various novels and other works, he has exhibited his concerns on a wide assortment of such issues. In this novel, he turns his attention to the plight of immigrants seeking permanent asylum in Sweden.

The protagonist seems to be a writer of obscure poetry, Jesper Humlin, whose books account for little sales. His publisher provides a light touch to the book, insisting he write a crime novel which would sell many more copies. Of course, he refuses. Instead, Humlin becomes involved with three immigrant girls, two of whom are undocumented. Listening to them tell their stories, he learns of their attempts to leave their homeland and sneak into Sweden. As a result, he determines to write a book about them.

This then is the thrust of "The Shadow Girls." It is a dry polemic. But more importantly, the three girls who relate their tales in italicized segments use language that seemed to this reader as not likely available to uneducated persons. Clearly, it is the voice of the author and might as well be non-fiction. The novel's purpose is laudable, especially in view of the current efforts to do something about immigration policy in the United States. But it really is not a piece of fiction. The only reason to consider recommending it is that it is written by Henning Mankell.

Echoes of My Soul
Robert K. Tanenbaum
Kensington Publishing
119 W. 40th St., NY, NY 10018
9780758285355, $25.00 (HC), 230 pp,

Before the famous case that came to be known simply as Miranda, there was the celebrated arrest of George Whitmore Jr., a poor black youth with an IQ of less than 70, subjected to police questioning initially in an assault of a woman as she was walking home. Hour after hour, the detectives badgered him, wearing him down and leading eventually into a confession not only for the assault, but another murder that had taken place in the same Brooklyn neighborhood. Then to add insult to injury, he was blamed for the murder on the Upper East Side of Manhattan of two young women, even though he had never been to that borough.

Approaching the story like the novelist he is, the author recounts the efforts of one assistant district attorney to learn the truth, which eventually led to the arrest and conviction of the real killer, Richard Robles, in the case dubbed The Career Girl Murders. Step by step he reviews the investigation by Mr. Tanenbaum's mentor, ADA Mel Glass, and analyzes the forced confession of Whitmore. As a result, exposed were the tactics of the Brooklyn detectives who fed details of the crime to the young man so he could provide the confession they wanted and needed to convict him. Then, drawing from trial transcripts, he recounts the trial in dramatic fashion in which Robles was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

It was not long afterward that the Supreme Court reached the Miranda decision aimed at preventing such miscarriages of justice, guaranteeing the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning while in custody. The tale is written with a passion: The main players are well-known to the author, who served under them as an ADA in the New York District Attorney's office. Plotted like a fictional crime novel, the story is genuine and gripping, a well-told story of what the justice system should be, and sometimes isn't.

Highly recommended.

Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design