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Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life
15 East 26th Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10010
0151011435 $30.00 1-800-543-1918
Alma Halbert Bond
Virginia Woolf was a genius, perhaps the greatest woman writer who ever lived. Yet most of the numerous biographies written about her stress her social life and connection with the Bloomsbury set. Very few look into the factors that shaped her artistry. Julia Brigg's book can be used as a text book on the intricate development of creativity and how it functioned in the life of Virginia Woolf. Reading her diaries, letters, and original manuscripts, Briggs has created a masterly study of the writing processes of Virginia Woolf and how they influenced her finished products. Briggs superbly connects each volume with what was going on in Woolf's life and why she needed to write each particular work at the time she did. The book also demonstrates with clarity the connection between mental illness and creativity in the work of this great author. We finish reading this superb biography with the feeling that we know who Virginia Woolf was, how she worked, and that she was a woman far in advance of her time. Most of all, we come away with a great respect for an author who survived the ravages of bipolar disorder to arise like a Phoenix from the ashes of devastating mental illness.
The Voyage Out (1915)
Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life begins with a discussion of The Voyage Out, Woolf's first novel. The structure of Brigg's book follows Woolf's major works. In between, Briggs skillfully inserts comments on Virginia's personal life and the influence of people close to her on her work. Woolf published The Voyage Out in 1915 when she was 33 years old, but Briggs states that Woolf's life in fiction really began eight years before, when she first developed her conception of the novel. According to Briggs, the title of the novel says as much about Virginia's creative journey as it does about the book. Woolf herself, when commenting on George Meredith's first novel, said that a beginning writer's word vacillates from one attitude to another, and that "the whole fabric seems to rock a little insecurely," thus preparing the way for a new and original vision of the human condition" (p 28.). Surely that is what Virginia Woolf accomplished in The Voyage Out.
Night and Day (1919)
Virginia's second novel, Night and Day, often sounds like a drawing room comedy. It is a love story that ends in a marriage that parallels some of the tensions of her own.
During the first year of her marriage, Virginia endured the worst breakdown of her life. The illness lasted over two years, and nearly resulted in her death. She had just completed The Voyage Out. Woolf frequently was depressed on finishing a major novel, as if she couldn't bear to let it go. In addition, she had just gotten back the proofs for The Voyage Out, and was afraid everyone would jeer at her. Some reviewers, including the present writer, believe that resentment of her husband's tyranny (he maintained absolute control over her eating, hours of sleeping, when she could see friends, and worst of all, how much or how little she could write, under the guise of looking after her health) contributed to Virginia's psychosis, and it was only in her illness that she could face her dislike of him.. For long periods of her confinement, she refused to see him. "I do not like the Jewish voice; I do not like the Jewish laugh," she wrote in her diary around this time (p. 45). Except for a brief period in their first year of marriage, she refused to have sex with him. At times during her illness, she became violent, talked incessantly for days on end, and then fell into a coma. According to her husband, Leonard Woolf, she became either ominously silent or over-stimulated and compulsively talkative, behavior symptomatic of bipolar disease.
Night and Day served as therapy for Virginia. She wrote herself back into the secure days of her childhood, when her highly educated Victorian family was still intact and spent delightful summers at St. Ives in Cornwall. In the process of recreating the enchanting atmosphere, Virginia also discovered how claustrophobic and entrapping that world had been, and began to question established social and literary convention. Night and Day is the most conventional as well as the most neglected of her novels. Woolf herself thought the book was not her best work, but represented a necessary stage in her development as a writer, much like the courses Vanessa had taken at art school.
Jacob's Room (1922)
Jacob's Room is Virginia Woolf's protest against World War 1, and her belief that Jacob, like her deceased brother Thoby, was doomed by when and where he was born. For the first time in her novels she used a technique by which writers leave out more and more reality, trusting to the reader to fill in the gaps. Thus, although the atmosphere of WW 1 permeates the book, it is rarely mentioned as such, but only referred to peripherally. For example, pro-war processions pass beneath the windows of Whitehall, waving banners, and a similar procession holds up lines of carriages, carrying aristocrats to the opera. Thoby had always seemed mysterious and vague to Virginia, and perhaps Jacob's Room was an attempt on her part to make him come alive psychologically. If so, in that respect, although the book is beautifully written, it is not a success, for Jacob remains as unfathomable and nebulous as his predecessor.
Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf concerned herself with the relationship between the individual and the group, of solitude versus company, in a country that resumed its pre-war life as if millions of young men had not died. The heroine, Clarissa Dalloway, is cold and self-absorbed, completely wrapped up in the party she is to give that evening. In the book, Woolf caricatures the English ruling classes and they way they dress up for their various roles. She writes, "people have any number of states of consciousness. I should like to investigate the party consciousness" (p.157). In Mrs. Dalloway, she also investigates the psychotic consciousness. The previous summer, Woolf had reexperienced a two-month bout of her old illness. Recovering, she vowed that it would never happen again. Once more using a novel as therapy, she set about exorcizing her illness through the creation of Septimus, a psychotic, suicidal man in whom moments of despair alternate with moments of extreme happiness. His experiences give us the only available clue as to how Woolf felt during her illnesses. The book also deals with homosexuality: Clarissa's fascination with Sally Seton parallels Virginia's many homosexual crushes and, later, her love affair with Vita Sackville-West. "Friendships with women interest me," she says, in a bit of an understatement (p. 152).
To the Lighthouse (1927)
To the Lighthouse, the fifth of Woolf's nine novels, is generally considered her masterpiece. It is the most autobiographical of her novels, as well as serving as the most therapeutic. Virginia was obsessed by thoughts of her parents after their deaths, and felt it necessary to write about them. Ten years after the book was finished, she felt she had done for herself through writing the book "what psychoanalysts do for their patients. I expressed some very long felt and deeply felt emotion. And in expressing it, I explained it and then laid it to rest" (p. 160) . The book brings out "the sense of life in opposition to fate - i.e. waves, lighthouse (p. 169)," the sense that despite death and loss, the natural world goes on, and that what has been lost can only be restored through art.
Virginia Woolf was in love with Vita Sackville-West and wrote her Orlando, "the most charming love letter in literature" (p. 215). Woolf intended Orlando to be a fictionalized life of Vita, including details of her life, her ancestors' lives, and Knole, her ancestral home,. But unfortunately, Vita, a confirmed "Saphist," was not satisfied with Virginia as a lover, perhaps because she was not as available as Vita would have liked. She once told Virginia that she would either have to marry her or leave her. Since the first choice was highly improbable, Vita chose the second. When she took on new lovers, Virginia wrote her that the book is "all about you and the lusts of your flesh and the lure of your mind... who go gallivanting down the lanes with Mary Campbell" (p. 192). Orlando was a work of revenge for infidelities and an attempt at disengagement. In it, Virginia could write about her sense of betrayal. She also found the book a good excuse for demanding more information and photos, in the attempt to make it look like a real biography. According to Briggs, "She had found a way of using her art not merely to exorcize past relationships, but also present ones" (p. 193).
A Room of One's Own (1929)
Brilliant as Virginia was, she was prevented from going to college like her brothers, using the libraries or chapel, walking on the grass (from which Woolf herself was actually shooed off by an Oxford Beadle) or eating in the university dining rooms. That she became as well educated as she did is a tribute to her great intelligence and desire to learn. In A Room of One's Own, Woolf uses the symbolism of doors and windows to indicate her feelings of being shut in and out, and in doing so wrote one of the founding documents of the women's movement, which became and still is the key text for many courses on women's studies. The book ends, fittingly enough, with the famous treatise on Shakespeare's sister, Judith, who could not have approached Shakespeare's genius under the deprivations faced by women, and whose second coming women must patiently await.
The Waves (1931)
Considered by some reviewers as more like a poem than a novel, surely The Waves is the most beautiful book ever written! It is the story of time passing, of the changing phases of human life, "the strange and intermittent process of growing older" (p. 256), symbolized as the rising and the setting of the sun, and reflecting the primal rhythm of the waves. As Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 60, "Like the waves make towards the pebbled shore/So do our minutes hasten to their end." (Woolf's analogy of the passing of time with the cycles of nature is reminiscent of Shakespeare's placement of Sonnet 60 to coincide with the 60 minutes of the hour.)
The book is written in individual monologues, providing a history of the growth of consciousness from "its first bright arrows of sensation" (p.259), through the six children's growing awareness of time during their passage from the first school day to the last, the focus on the loss of youth, self-awareness- "I am not one and simple, but complex and many" (p. 259), the binding of the individuals into a group, and the revelation of art, which brings the characters (and their creator) to find their own ways of resisting time and loss. The Waves is a great work of art. More than any of her other works, it establishes Virginia Woolf as a genius of monumental achievement.
The Years (1937)
Woolf was not finished with feminism after she wrote A Room of One's Own, but steadily continued to accumulate information about it for five years. One day, while taking a bath, she conceived the idea for The Years. The first draft emphasized the continuity between A Room of One's Own and the new book, which was intended to be a novel of fact, not of vision, as The Waves had been. The Years opens with her addressing a group of young women, to whom she explained that to understand the present, they had to make sense of the past. She would help them do by telling them the story of the imaginary Pargiter family, using the family as a metaphor for society itself. Woolf wrote, "...there are to be millions of ideas...in short, a summing up of all I know, feel, laugh at, despise, like, admire hate & so on" (p. 282). Woolf said there was not a fact in the book which could not be verified, thus anticipating the carefully researched fiction of our own times. The book explored "the great feminist issues - contraception, chastity, rape, patriarchy, the future, and the nature of patriotism" (p. 285). Woolf wanted "to give a picture of society as a whole, of the way the old fabric slowly gives place to the new, of a recurrence of some pattern" (p. 302). She was very successful in achieving this goal, but The Years in no way compares with the artistry Woolf exhibited in To the Lighthouse and The Waves. She would argue her feminist case even more persuasively in Three Guineas.
Three Guineas (1938)
Despite the phenomenal success of A Room of One's Own, male chauvinism seemed as dangerous to Woolf in the 30s as it ever had been, so she decided to take her arguments a few steps further in a new book. Her efforts resulted in Three Guineas, a critique of patriarchy and its effects on life within marriage, militarism and imperialism. While it took thirty years for the world to catch up with Woolf's philosophy, Three Guineas today is considered a founding document in the history of gender studies, showing, for example, how differently men see war than women do. Woolf writes, "although we look at the same things, we see them differently" (p. 323).
Three Guineas is much harder to read than Woolf's other novels, and, at least to this reviewer, not as interesting. According to Briggs, "Three Guineas is further from fiction than most of her (Woolf's) work, yet at the same time more consciously contrived. Its strenuous prose is a strength paid for with a certain loss of lightness and spontaneity" (p. 318). Woolf considered herself an apolitical person. She wrote, "Thinking is my fighting" (p.337). Yet her book Three Guineas has changed the world's definition of what is political to include gender, along with class and race.
Between the Acts (1941)
Between the Acts was Virginia Woolf's last book. At the time she was writing it, England was at its lowest ebb. Hitler was at the height of his power and England was expecting an invasion any day. On a personal level, depleted rations left Virginia and Leonard half starved, while fuel shortages kept them continually frozen. In addition, their home in London had been bombed, and many of their friends had committed suicide. "We live without a future," she wrote, "with our noses pressed to a closed door" (p. 397). Shortly after she finished her last novel, she killed herself.
In The Years the character of Eleanor, speaking for her author, finds England, "small:...smug:...petty" (p. 372). Yet when she watched an owl flit from branch to branch in the lovely summer night, and listened to her sister-in-law's soft country accent, she thought, "This is England." According to Briggs, "Eleanor's vision of peace and continuity on the threshold of disruption would provide the seed for Woolf's final novel" (p. 372). In it, she compacts English literature and history into a social comedy that accepts and embraces the ambivalence of life. The book reflects Woolf's love for and reservations about her country, and explores her vision of creativity. It ends "in a world where nothing is concluded" (p. 392). In discussing critics attempts to view Between the Acts as a summing up of Virginia Woolf's life, Elizabeth Bowen writes that it is absolutely untrue. "Between the Acts is incapable of being completed" (p. 394), any more than the story of Virginia Woolf ended with her death.
The Summing Up
Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life is a carefully, even exhaustively researched book which is supplied with 107 pages of notes. It is perhaps the best researched biography I have ever read. Although I myself am the author of a well-received book about Woolf, Who Killed Virginia Woolf? A Psychobiography (1989) and read many biographies of Woolf and all of her published work, there is much new material about her in Brigg's book. I wish Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life had been published before I wrote Who Killed Virginia Woolf?
Briggs tells us that Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life is intended mainly for "the common reader," the name of several of Woolf's books. It is written in a style that is easy to read and maintains the reader's interest through most of the book. The times when it is boring are usually because Briggs is writing about material of Woolf's that is dry. Unfortunately, despite her genius, that occurs more often than most reviewers will admit. Briggs states that her book was inspired by Woolf's deep interest in her own processes of writing, and by her feeling that other biographies concentrated too heavily on Woolf's social life, thereby underestimating the centrality that creativity had for her. Woolf remained fascinated all her life by her own thoughts and creative processes, and recorded them faithfully in her diaries and letters.
Woolf's fiction is generally concerned with her inner life and the ways she was able to recreate that life in her work. The famous German critic, Erich Auerbach, believed that Woolf's ability to depict the private life of many types of people touched on "a common life of mankind on earth" (p. 488).
Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life is a fine biography, broader, deeper, and vastly superior to most of the biographies written about her. Briggs did what she set out to do, in that she wrote an excellent study demonstrating the centrality Woolf's creativity had for her life. It is usually interesting reading, and contains a vast reservoir of knowledge about the history of England, of World War 11, of early feminism, the treatment of women in Great Britain at that time, and literature. In addition, it is a fascinating story of the life and works of perhaps our greatest woman writer, who might well have been Shakespeare's sister Judith.
If I have any criticism about Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life, it is that I would have liked more material on the psychogenic origin of many of her books as well as her personal problems, such as formed the basis of Who Killed Virginia Woolf? A Psychobiography. I came away from reading Brigg's book with no further insight into the psychogenic origin of her creativity or her madness. In a few spots of her book, it seemed to me the author really didn't understand Virginia Woolf. But then, Julia Briggs is a researcher and a professor of English literature, not a psychologist.
Book Proposals That Sell
W. Terry Whalin
Write Now Publications
A royalty division of ACW Press
5501 N. 7th Ave. #502, Phoenix, AR 85013
1932124640 $14.00 www.writenowpublications.com
Alyice Edrich, Reviewer
I haven't been impressed with books on book proposals in the past. They've all seemed to come with cookie-cutter ideas, simple forms, and little depth. But Book Proposals That Sell has impressed my socks off! Not only does Whalin share his expertise in the field of writing book proposals—he's written more than 60 himself—but he gives readers an insider's glance into the world of book publishing; which is quite valuable!
Knowing how to write a great book is only half the battle. If you don't impress the publishing houses with your proposal your book will sit on your computer or in your garage collecting dust. You'll never see a dime for your hard work and you'll probably give up writing altogether.
But thanks to Book Proposals That Sell you have the opportunity to not only learn how to write a great book proposal but to understand what publishers want, how they make their decisions, and what you can do to better your chances of getting a publishing contract. There's even a sample book proposal that sold for six figures! If you're serious about making a living as a book author or you simply want to be a one-time wonder, you need a copy of Book Proposals That Sell.
Blood Stripes: The Grunts' View of the War in Iraq
David J. Danelo
Andrew Lubin, Reviewer
There are an increasing number of books coming onto the market now about the war in Iraq that have been written by various Marine or army veterans who fought there. "Blood Stripes" is one of the better efforts on the market today.
Written by David J. Danelo, a former Marine officer, and combat veteran of Iraq, "Blood Stripes" chronicles the efforts of four Marine infantry units fighting in the western desert towns in the Sunni Triangle. He follows these four squads of grunts as they leave from the United States and spend their seven month tour fighting the fedayeen. Danelo writes with the clear and concise style of the combat veteran he is, as he brings the reader to the edge of their seat with his description of these young Marines walking a daily IED patrol, or getting themselves physically and emotionally ready to clear houses in Husaybah and Haditha.
"Blood Stripes" refer to the red stripe running from the waist to the cuffs on the dress slacks of a Marine non-commissioned officer, and these are the Marine leaders who are the subject of Danelo's book. A non-commissioned officer is typically 22- 25 years old, and whose ranks are corporal and sergeant. These NCO's are the lead characters; they are the "small unit leaders" who take their Marines into battle. Danelo tells their story powerfully; with the quiet authority of a Marine officer who has ordered such NCO's into battle, and has seen the bloody consequences of these ugly street fights.
Danelo does not dwell on the rightness or wrongness of the war. Instead he introduces the reader to the individual Marines, to their families, and to how they cope – both back home in America, as well as in Fallujah, Ramadi, and the other nasty little towns where the war is being fought – with the daily stress of heat, IED patrols, and combat. As we get to know the Marines and their girl friends and wives, Danelo gives us a glimpse of what these young men experience in combat in the narrow streets and back alleys of western Iraq.
"Blood Stripes" is Danelo's first literary effort, and it is well done indeed. This is not a feel-good book; not all the Marines return alive. But for a reader who wants to know what the Marines are experiencing in Iraq every day – be sure to read this book.
The Temple at Landfall (Previous release in UK as The World Celaeno Chose.)
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
Jane Fletcher is the consummate storyteller and plot wizard. Getting caught up in the action happens as if by magic and the fantasy elements are long forgotten. The world Fletcher creates, the characters she brings to life, and the rich detail described in eloquent prose, all serve to keep the reader enchanted, satisfied, yet wanting more. A 2005 Lammy finalist, The Temple at Landfall is surely a winner in this reader's book, and as an author, Jane Fletcher is the Goddess herself.
What could be more important than creating new life and reveling in the joy of having the gifts to perform such miracles? In the world of Celaeno, without men to procreate, women rely on the Imprinters for continuation of the species. Lynn, chosen by the Goddess to function as an Imprinter, also has healing talents and a heart of gold. At the tender age of twelve, the Sisters claimed her for the temple at Fairfield where she soon learned the ropes and proved to be their greatest asset. Before long, word of Lynn's gift spreads and she is whisked away to the temple at Landfall by Sister Smith—an ambitious political fool who longs to be the Chief Consultant at any cost. Only, instead of feeling privileged, Lynn feels like a slave destined for a celibate, hapless, and exhausting life under the rule and watchful eye of the Sisters who truly believe they are doing the Goddess's will. The leaders use religion to justify their less than pious actions where greed, backstabbing, political maneuverings, and ignorance prove the inner sanctum is less than holy. Lynn wonders if the Guards (the Sister's army) are there to protect her or to keep her from running away.
When Lynn meets the fearless, handsome, and brilliant heroine Lieutenant Kim Ramon of the 23rd Squadron of Rangers, the soldier is brusque surmising the Imprinter is asking silly questions. However, Lynn soon finds that she can't deny her lustful thoughts and profound attraction for the noble warrior. Kim knows all too well the prohibition of mingling with the holy ones, but Lynn is not your average Imprinter. She makes it hard for Kim to ignore the woman behind the title.
Fletcher's claim to fame is her compelling narrative, plot twists, intense action sequences, vivid scenery, and the reader's hope that against all odds the heroines will live happily ever after. The intelligence with which Fletcher writes about imprinting verses cloning, religion verses science, religious leaders verses heretics, and her attempt to show the sort of biased, unsupported dogma that religious fanatics pass off as rational unquestionable fact makes The Temple at Landfall not only entertaining but thought-provoking as well. Don't miss it. Once you visit Celaeno, you won't want to leave. The Temple at Landfall is a pleasure to read, hard to put down, and is the perfect addition to any library. I recommend everything this 2005 Golden Crown Literary Society winner, for The Walls of Westernfort, has penned.
On The Home Front: My Mother's Story of Everyday American Life from Prohibition through World War II
Mary Jo Clark
375 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Mary Jo Clark is a lady who liked to tell stories and her son, Jack, liked to hear them. He decided to write them down and you will enjoy hearing them too. According to Jack, "The stories all have beginnings, middles and endings. Frequently, there is a punch line. Some are funny, others sad. . . . . . they are of a world that no longer exists." (pxvi) It is a world that, in a sense, is lost but it so good to go back there in reminiscence and enjoy the innocence. The small vignettes are very entertaining and Jack's decision to omit their chronological order makes them seem like ordinary conversation. That is how we talk about our lives, in small bites without any time lines. Mary Jo is so easy to like as are the people who populate her anecdotes. She had seven children and a great love for them all. She and her husband had a good marriage. She didn't tell us that, we just understood as she talked on.
In 1941 she was working at Spiegel's. About her boss at Spiegel's she says, "He (Modie Spiegel) was the president of Spiegel's, and he used to come to the cafeteria to eat his lunch with everybody else. One day he got his sleeve in the soup bucket. He laughed. Everybody thought it was so funny – the president of the company with his sleeve in the soup bucket. That would never have happened at Sears (where Mary Jo was employed earlier). They'd be in the executive dining room." (p1)
During Prohibition, her dad decided that he could make hooch in the basement. "So he went out and bought himself a still, which was a great big ceramic crock. He bought malt and hops and whatever else goes into it. And he was very happy that he had this stuff fermenting in the basement. Then one day it all blew up. The still was in pieces all over the basement." (p44)
In 1930 Mary Jo was working at Sears. One of her coworkers was married on a Saturday and when she came back to work on Monday, "They called her into the main office and told her they were sorry, but they didn't have married women at Sears, so she would have to leave." (p58) It was a different time in corporate America. Mary Jo muses, "There were about 200 people in the collection department and when I think back, I know I never heard of their husbands. A lot of them were older. They just had all that Sears stock they held on to – profit sharing." (p58) Women liked to be independent in those days, too, but only a few could manage it.
This enjoyable read rubber-banded me back to my childhood. That good-hearted attitude Mary Jo displayed was commonplace. Neighbors knew each other and people cared about those around them. I read the book in one afternoon and so enjoyed basking in the nostalgia.
Matthew B. Ridgway: Soldier, Statesman, Scholar, Citizen
George C. Mitchell
Dan Schneider, Reviewer
Of all the great American military leaders the last century produced, from Black Jack Pershing to the World War Two icons- Dwight D, Eisenhower, Chester Nimitz, George Patton, Omar Bradley, George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, through Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf, perhaps the greatest of them all, militarily speaking, was General Matthew Bunker Ridgway, the man who took over from MacArthur after Big Mac was dismissed by President Harry S. Truman during the Korean War. It was Ridgway, Commander of the U.S. Eighth Army, who rallied the UN Forces from nearly being pushed into the sea by the North Koreans, Russians, and Chinese, and forced what has been an over half century long stalemate. Because of things as this, General Marshall, in fact, called Ridgway, 'the finest soldier I have known.' General called it 'the greatest feat of personal leadership in the history of the Army.'
Yet, the book Matthew B. Ridgway: Soldier, Statesman, Scholar, Citizen, rereleased in 2002 by Stackpole Books (231 pages, $15.95), and penned by George C. Mitchell, does little to expand on the essence of the man. His personal life is a virtual cipher, which renders his son's accidental death, years before his own death, a mere fact, with n pathos nor gravitas given to it, for we hardly know the boy, nor his relationship with his father, to care that much over the loss. At best, this book is a straightforward rendering of the four aspects of the man its subtitle claims. While this makes for a good encyclopedia entry, as a book, it makes for rough reading. Especially odd is that this rather dry rendering was written by Dr. George C. Mitchell, a well known journalist, diplomat, and educator who had the advantage of knowing his subject before his death before his July 26, 1993, death at the age of 98. Yet, he never exploits this fact to his reader's benefits, with personal anecdotes nor reminiscences of the great man in his dotage. There is no play with form nor stretching of the medium. Of course, given its subject, the book could not be bad, for even an A to B to C journey through the life of such as man as Matthew B. Ridgway is informative and enlightening. Yet, the book never makes a claim for putting its subject on a par with his contemporaries, as MacArthur nor Patton.
Consider the film version of the life of Patton, which focuses on the man, his foibles, and his military exploits in World War Two. It brilliantly evokes, through the Francis Ford Coppola screenplay, its subject by anchoring us to his subjective point of view, especially in the memorable opening scene of George C. Scott declaiming to the viewer. Or, consider the controversial technique Edmund Morris used to give insight into President Ronald Reagan, in his faux memoir Dutch, by inserting a fictive version of himself into real and made up scenes. Now, even if one abhors such men as Patton and Reagan, one cannot but admire the willingness to hagiographize in a new way that both those media did to their subjects. Instead, Mitchell gives us a rather easy vanilla portrait, much too content to let the man and his life speak for himself. Not only does this smack a bit of laziness, especially considering the paltry length of the book, and given its subject, but the writing, itself- Mitchell's and Ridgway's, is just so banal. Here is an example of what Mitchell considers Ridgway at his best, on liberty:
We should expect to pay a price, to make a sacrifice, to retain those treasures. Measured against their loss, no price would be too high to pay, no sacrifice too heavy to endure.
Not exactly Lincoln, nor even JFK, in terms of rhetoric. On the plus side, we do get a small sense of what Ridgway was- at least as a soldier, which was a patriot- in the most uncomfortable sense of the word, as well as a religious zealot, despite three marriages. His religious beliefs often led him to take on the most dangerous assignments, because he believed God would not let him be killed while carrying out his mission. He defined his ideals for leadership as the three C's: character, courage, and competence. Yet, unlike some of his more well known contemporaries, Ridgway was also more visibly human, disdaining lecturing from podia in favor of getting into the aisles to speak with soldiers at West Point. He said, 'I always disliked standing above people. I'm no better than they are- in rank, yes, in experience, yes; but not as a man.' Once, during a foggy day in Korea, the general's driver was having trouble driving, so Ridgway took over the wheel and drove his subordinate driver. One can never imagine Patton nor MacArthur doing such a thing. They would have abused the soldier as incompetent. Nor could one imagine either of them having such a total faith in subordinates, versus machinery and ordinance, and uttering such words as these, about how to achieve military victory:
There is still one absolute weapon- the employment of which dominates every consideration of National Security- the only weapon capable of operating with complete effectiveness- of dominating every inch of terrain where human beings live and fight, and of doing it under all conditions of light and darkness, heat and cold, desert and forest, mountain and plain. That weapon is man himself.
Yet, after his retirement from the military, after Korea, Ridgway spent nearly four decades speaking out on issues that concerned him- such as budget cuts he felt threatened national security, or the Vietnam War. That the book is divided into the four sections that the subtitles describe does a little to alleviate the dry recitation of facts and quotes, but not enough to recommend the book as a read, even if its subject matter is certainly worthy of the attention.
I just hope that a book like this will serve as a spur to a future military historian who feels that Matthew B. Ridgway deserves better and deeper treatment. Often it takes a third or fourth stab at a biography of a historical figure to get the true historical significance of a man. Perhaps someone like a David McCullough, if he ever decides to turn his attention to more recent times, will take a stab at Ridgway before he, too, leaves this earth. The only other book to really even deal with Ridgway in any extended manner was Clay Blair's The Forgotten War: America In Korea, 1950-1953, but that only did so in a few sections about the larger war. Ridgway, of course, won many honors, such as a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, a Distinguished Service Medal, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and a Medal of Freedom, as well as a Combat Infantryman Badge- rarely given to officers, and he was also decorated by many other nations. Would that these words held the same regard for him and the time reading this book would be a good way to be entertained while learning. As it is, even a stroll through the factual online mess that is Wikipedia can satisfy the casual fact hunter as well as this book can. It will also save your fingers the burden of turning pages, although it may not ease you into sleep as well, Such tradeoffs are what military men endure in life, and what some leave after their deaths.
Distributed by Simon and Schuster (Australia) Pty Ltd
PO Box 33, PYMBLE NSW 2073
1844832295, $AU 39.95, 160 pages
Rose Glavas, Reviewer
Having reviewed 'Meditating with Mandalas' recently I assumed that 'Natural Mandalas' would follow the same format. I was correct about my assumption but was surprised to see that it was compiled by a different author! Not that this is a bad thing, because this book is another fabulous mandala book, just like the one I had reviewed earlier. Once again the illustrations and designs of the mandalas are superb. Just browsing through them is an enjoyable (and addictive!) experience. They are also designed to appeal to Westerners, whether you have experience with mandalas and/or meditation or not.
As mentioned, this title is compiled by a different author to the first in this serious on books about mandalas. Lisa Tenzin-Dolma writes full-time about various mind-body-spirit subjects such as herbalism and meditation. She lives in Bath, Somerset with some of her previous titles being 'Swimming with Dolphins (1997), and Understanding Planetary Myths (2003). The author's background in a variety of careers (singer-songwriter, nurse, aromatherapist, counsellor, clothes and jewellery designer, whole food cook, medical assistant in a haematology laboratory, and proof-reader and editor – wow!) I think has added to her understanding of people in general. Lisa also grew up in a nomadic fashion in a variety of cultures which also adds to her understanding of what makes people tick.
'Natural Mandalas' starts off with an introduction and then another mini section introducing the natural mandalas, with the actual mandalas being set out in the following subsections: The Fertile Earth; Sky, Weather and Myth; and finally, Animal Life.
The introduction covers the meaning and use of mandalas, a sample meditation on a flower, a look at stone circles and their possible meaning, sand mandalas, tree lore and a tree meditation, meditating on the elements, half-moon meditation, flower wisdom, and finally – mandala meditation step by step.
Each of the mandalas covers four pages… for example the mandala named 'Cherry Blossom' on page 62 shows the actual illustration with the facing page giving instructions and ideas for your meditation on it. There is also a saying for it, in this case, 'In the cherry blossom's shade there is no such thing as a stranger. – Kobayashi Issa (1763 – 1827)' on the facing page. On page 64 and 65 there are further ideas and thoughts about this mandala titled 'Cherry Viewing', plus a couple of other proverbs/sayings. One of them, which I particularly like is titled 'Nature's Wisdom – Study what the pine and cherry blossom can teach. Man is not the only keeper of enlightenment. Tao Te Ching (4th or 3rd century BC).'
In summary, I would highly recommend 'Natural Mandalas' as a gift for those people who have everything. This is also a great title for those with an affinity with nature, and an interest in mind-body-spirit topics.
Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel—Why Everything You Know Is Wrong
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023-6298
John Stossel has been a journalist and anchor for ABC's 20/20 for twenty-five years, and has won nineteen Emmys. So the fact that, until I opened this book, I had never heard of him, says more about my viewing habits than about Stossel. It also explains why I borrowed this book from my local library, as I certainly would not have done if I had known up-front that he is a Neanderthal and (there's a difference?) a Republican.
Nonetheless, I found many of Stossel's rebuttals of my preconceptions compelling. Points on which I would not start advocating his position without first duplicating his research (as I have no intention of doing), but am no longer prepared to argue for the opposite conclusions, include the following:
DDT has harmful effects, such as causing birds to lay eggs with thinner shells, thereby endangering the species' survival; but it is less carcinogenic than coffee, and causes far less harmful effects than are now happening as a consequence of its suppression. Revived use of DDT could harm the environment if used excessively, but would simultaneously prevent more than two million malaria deaths every year.
Neo-Mormon polygyny is not intrinsically evil. Pseudo-Mormon tyrannies in which women are indeed little more than sex slaves are aberrations. Most polygynous communities are democratic, and the women have the same rights as in any mainstream Western religion.
"Road rage" is not an epidemic. What has increased since the term was invented is media coverage of incidents of violence that have not themselves increased.
When inflation is taken into consideration, gasoline prices have decreased in recent years. Gasoline costs far less per gallon or liter than ice cream or bottled water.
World oil supplies are not running out. The Alberta tar sands alone hold enough oil for at least the next century. And with oil prices at $50 a barrel, it is economically feasible to harvest it.
Stossel also presents evidence and arguments for many conclusions that I already knew to be correct, but which contradict the beliefs of a dangerous percentage of the American public who have been brainwashed by the irresponsible preaching of the criminally ignorant. These include:
The argument that astrology must have some truth, or it would not have millions of believers, is nonsense. Millions of people believe ridiculous things. (Two thirds of all adults have imaginary playmates in the sky, but that is not an issue Stossel mentions.)
Republicans say they are going to shrink government, but do not do so.
Farm subsidies do not guarantee an ample food supply. Food would be just as plentiful without subsidies.
Political leaders, rather than promoting the general welfare, are often busybodies who want to force their preferences on us.
American kids grow up stupid because (North) American schools are a breeding ground for stupidity. Teacher excellence is not rewarded. Mediocrity is rewarded.
The right way to treat a chiropractor who claims that he can cure your child's asthma, or do anything other than give relaxing back rubs, is to take your child and run.
Homeopathy is absurd.
Marrying your cousin does not produce stupid children. If that is your choice, go ahead, marry and procreate.
Talking to your kids about sex will not generate a desire to try it, since they are already thinking about it.
Just because police use psychics, that does not mean that psychics have special abilities. Police get suckered too. (Correction: some police have allowed self-styled psychics to interfere in an investigation, but that is not the same as "using" psychics. No psychic has ever provided any useful information.)
In responding to the common belief that "the media will check it out and give you objective truth," Stossel writes, "Many in the media are scientifically clueless, and will scare you to death" (p. 1). "Scientifically clueless" does not begin to describe the NBC executives who, after being shown by investigators from CSICOP that Allison DuBois was a humbug whose claims to have helped law-enforcement agencies to solve crimes were blatant lies, remained so convinced that she possessed powers that do not and cannot exist, since they would require information to travel backward in time, that they went ahead with a series that touted her as a genuine psychic. There is no such thing as a genuine psychic.
Food irradiation saves lives. By killing bacteria, it extends its shelf life and in fact makes it safer. It produces no significant adverse side effects.
Children who accuse caregivers of sexual abuse do lie, usually because they have been manipulated into doing so by self-styled therapists who should themselves be incarcerated to prevent them from victimizing the innocent with accusations of atrocities that simply never happened. As Stossel correctly concludes, "I don't blame the kids. I blame the prosecutors and the media" (p. 11).
The full moon has no effect whatsoever on human behavior. People remember unusual events that happened on a full moon, but not events that happened at a time of the month when they were not looking for them. "We remember the hits and forget the misses" (p. 24). (Stossel acknowledges Michael Shermer as the source of that reality.)
Points on which Stossel failed to convince me, but may conceivably be right, include:
While it is more commonly girls who are pressured by boys into copulating than vice versa, it is because the boys are equally pressured by their peers to prove their masculinity by seeking gratification wherever it is available, whether they feel a personal need or not.
Outsourcing does not take jobs from Americans. It creates American jobs.
Sweatshops do not exploit people. Sweatshops help people.
Since selling body parts saves lives, it is not immoral and should not be illegal.
Men are more dangerous drivers and have a higher percentage of accidents than women (fact), because they are in general more aggressive than women (unproven).
While some businesses rip off consumers, most do not. Competition protects consumers, and government regulations simply get in the way. Price controls, far from protecting consumers, create shortages and terrible hardships. (I don't buy it, but read his arguments.)
There are, however, allegations in Stossel's tome with which I totally disagree. For example:
Religious people are happier. (So are drunks. Religion has the same bliss-inducing effect as any other mind-deadening opiate.)
The President and Congress do not run America. The people run America. (Right, and the people ran Nazi Germany).
Vouchers make all schools better. (By allowing the devoutly superstitious to have their children indoctrinated in their sectarian mythology at public expense rather than taught to think? Oh come now.)
Global warming is indeed happening, but probably not as a result of human behavior. (Republican Party line. Coincidence?)
Stossel is a self-confessed conservative, whose publisher went so far as to call him "the scourge of the liberal media" (p. 281), for the good reason that he espouses many conclusions that are not merely politically incorrect but also, in my view, indefensible. While he does a good job of showing that many limitations on women's attempts to obtain equal pay can be attributed to their lack of interest in such high-commission occupations as selling automotive hardware, he goes beyond the evidence in asserting that, "It's just supply and demand. Women make less because they want different things" (p. 41).
He is just as wrong when he asserts that the world is not overpopulated, and that continuing overpopulation is not a threat to the survival of the human race. He argues that, if Earth's entire 6.5 billion population were relocated to Texas, its population density would still be less than that of New York City (p. 26). That the problem is indeed the near impossibility of getting the admittedly real food surplus to the people who need it does not diminish the reality that overpopulation is causing mass starvation deaths. If there are too many people to feed by available distribution procedures, then there are too many people. Q.E.D.
Price controls on drugs, far from benefiting the poor and the sick, cruelly harm the poor and the sick. (He must be kidding.) And price gouging, far from being evil, saves lives. (Ditto.)
A higher minimum wage helps some workers, but hurts more. (Spoken like a true Republican Neanderthal.)
Medical hypnosis is not a scam. It works—if you let it. (Stossel is clearly unaware that hypnotism DOES NOT EXIST, and all positive results are placebo effects. He should read They Call It Hypnosis, by Robert Baker.)
Stossel's contention that size matters because, "Women do have nerve endings deep inside the vagina" may have been justified when the nonexistent Grafenberg Spot was the currently fashionable media fad. It has since been established that the inside of a vagina is as sensitive to stimulation as a clipped toenail. All female pleasure receptors are in the clitoris, and for clitoral stimulation size does not matter.
In writing about what he calls "cheating," which he views as including the sharing of recreation that is safe and nonconsequential, and therefore victimless, with a non-habitual partner, Stossel reports that men and women violate the exclusivity taboo in almost equal numbers. That is probably accurate. My objection is to the continued brainwashing that victimless recreation injures a person who is not even present. Adultery meant the fraudulent impregnation of another man's woman at a time when every act of sperm intromission, regardless of the elapsed time, was believed to contribute to the next pregnancy. In an age of birth control and disease control, continuing to label as "cheating," or adultery, the recreation itself is absurd.
Stossel is right more often than he is wrong, and even when he is wrong his conclusions warrant serious consideration, if for no other reason than to be able to give them an informed rebuttal rather than a predetermined rejection. But I did not need to learn that he is welcome on the Republicanazi FOX network and unwelcome on liberal programs, to conclude that he will never be one of my favorite persons. By all means read him, but do so critically.
Ideas for Children's Writers
3 Newtec Place, Magdalen Road, Oxford, OX4 IRE-UK
How To Books
1845280660 9.99 Brit. pounds
These are scary times for Children's Writers. Should they rush into print with 'must have' genres, the fantasy that made JK Rowling and Harry Potter household names, or the gritty realism of Jacqueline Wilson's Tracy Beaker? The lives these characters inhabit are as similar, and as far apart, as the reading demands of today's youngsters, the most selective of their age ever. While it is tempting to trail current fashion, these kids are already pushing tomorrow's boundaries.
In her latest book, Ideas for Children's Writers, Pamela Cleaver neatly sums this up by urging authors to lead, not follow.
The best-selling writer calls up more than thirty years of writing for children as Tutor at the London School of Journalism, and at the University of East Anglia, to reveal today's 'Hots' and 'Nots'. She warns that the clamour by Children's Writers to chase bandwagons is turning into a headache for publishers, with fantasy in particular swamping their desks. . In today's fast-moving technology, with Dr Who battling time and gruesome gorgons, youngsters are already into science, horror, and Alex Ryder, Boy Spy.
According to Pamela Cleaver these genres are still thin on publishers' lists, and could be next year's best-sellers - a good reason to follow her advice and get writing! Something else kids love is humour, and Terry Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky has them laughing to the last page.
Another genre catching publishers' interest is crossover books, with plots for the eleven-plus age-group and adults. The storylines are darker and more complex than usual.
Pamela Cleaver's long and successful career in publishing gives her a unique platform from which to advise writers of all genres, something she does with humour and down to earth common sense, in her latest book Ideas for Children's Writers. There may be some readers, however, expecting from the title that ideas for stories will roll off the pages. They even find the book heavy going - dull in parts - with too many how to bullets, until they discover the author's steadfast, passionate purpose.
This is a source manual, a glorious compendium of lists, plots, themes and genres, so wide in its remit that authors of adult fiction could use it for reference. The two hundred plus pages cover the whole gamut of writing for children, from picture books for beginners- with ghosts and dragons - to the more sophisticated needs of seven-plus readers, with their fascination for space adventure. Here is a book that deserves to be on every writer's shelf, written by a best-selling author always generous with help and advice to her many readers over the years, and to her creative writing students of all ages, inspired by her teaching.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
"Anthony's Apologies: Don't read beginning to end. The madness will consume you." This photocopied scrawl inhabits the first page of Found II, a collection of found items sent in by readers. To the uninitiated, author Davy Rothbart started Found magazine from scraps of to-do lists, random notes and photographs he found. 2004 wrought the first Found book, and was later followed by Dirty Found. Which makes Found II actually Found III in the series.
The Found magazines and books play on a voyeur mindset of peeking at something you shouldn't. While some of the notes are lists about budgets, including $600 set aside for crack, others are more poignant, as a letter found attached to a floating balloon addressed to "Shadow, in heaven." And while most of the book's composition is random, like sifting through a thrift store, Found II includes a few small sections, such as one composed of Adam Sandler letters, and a more sobering one of suicide notes, including one that reads, "Mike, I have lost the will to write, act, compose, create. Have a nice day. –Mitch" A note, names and phone numbers are the only things altered in the original letters.
If the first Found was a collection of items, the second, Dirty Found was art house porn, then the third, Found II is like the ending to a horror movie trilogy, closer to the first plot line, with a twist. Among the finds, Rothbart takes an extra stalker step by contacting a few of the authors of the notes. In the case of a note by Justin Davission about Zippy the Pinhead to its creator Bill Griffith published in the first Found, Rothbart actually forwarded the lost note to its intended recipient, and published Griffith's response.
If Found is a voyeur experiment, then to contact the creators of the notes for lost dogs or forgotten love notes ruins it. One of the reasons Found works so well is that there is only a minimum editorial, kept to descriptions of where the item was found if necessary, so that the notes can literally speak for themselves. In all Found II is as a collection as delightful, funny, moving and poignant as its predecessors, just maybe skip over the ones that are responded to.
The Mystic Christ
Ethan Walker III
P.O. Box 5081, Norman, OK 73070, USA
Every once in a while I get word on a book that is truly amazing. The type of work that makes you look deeper into yourself and changes your world forever. The Mystic Christ is just that. The Mystic Christ takes the reader guides through various commonly held notions about Christ, the Biblical scriptures, and Religion in general. With many of these examples, people tend to believe in very black and white ways relayed to them only through hearsay. In other words, not only have they not read the actual Biblical passages mentioned but they have no Biblical context with which to place this idea.
It is of note that the author considers all spiritual paths as equally valuable, based upon the fact that the majority of belief systems have similar moral principles while supporting a common foundation of love. Thus, the author does not in any way delimit Christianity or the Bible. He does, however, encourage the reader to really consider what he or she believes, understand where those ideals come from, and then really truly commit to adhering to his or her path of love.
Quite impressive in and of itself. However, the thing that I appreciated most about this book was the author?s ability to direct in a clear coherent (and sometimes quite entertaining) way without preaching. All of the references (from various religious dogma) were carefully selected to illustrate each particular point. The reader was then left to determine for his or herself the validity of that specific point for him or herself. This aspect starts the reader immediately questioning and really thinking about what is truly important in this existence.
Strebor Books International LLC
P.O. Box 1370, Bowie, MD 20718
When I think of Passion Marks, I think of distinguished impressions: scratches, scars, hickies, and/or sucker bites made from intense emotions between two, mainly love. Kevin Davis wore all of those marks on a regular basis but what no one knew was they weren't made from love they were made from intense rage and from frequent outbreaks of anger.
Kevin was living a secret life at home. The man he thought he loved, James Lancaster, for saving his life after his twin brother, Keevan, died, intertwined him in a web of love, verbal, physical and sexual abuse. James is a well-known rich CEO of a software firm. James supported Kevin even though he was a college-educated man too. James insisted Kevin didn't work. He provided the best of what money could buy for him, expensive cars, jewelry, tailored clothes, especially after their passionate nights of violence. The more passion Kevin endured the bigger the gift he would receive.
Kevin's life continued to be an emotional roller coaster with James. When it was good, it was oh, so good, but when it was bad it was equally intense. Kevin's close friends began to see something was going on with him and it wasn't good. Kevin finally confided in his friends about his relationship with James. After Kevin realized he didn't deserve all the misery, the lies, the feeling of unworthiness, and the guilty feeling of Keevin's death, with the help and support of his friends, he decided it was time to leave James and reclaim his life; he had allowed that relationship to take his identity away. James had other intentions, he had made a threatening promise to Kevin he would never let him leave him...and James would do ANYTHING to keep his promise.
Passion Marks is packed with messages about Domestic Violence. People stay in abusive relationships for all different reasons: Can't handle or deal with being alone, Everything is familiar with staying and accepting the abuse, Promises of change, Apologies, Finances, Children, All the I-love-you's, Wanting to be loved and the list goes on. The author sends a very important message, which is Domestic Violence transcends race, class, and even sexual orientation. I know Domestic Violence is real and prevalent on a daily basis and if you're going through it you have to reclaim your life and do whatever it takes, ask for support, you have to learn to let people be there for you...you don't have to do it all on your own.
Passion Marks is a novel that grabs your attention from the very first page and keeps it to the very last. Lee Hayes did an incredible job on his debut novel, I have recommended this novel to everyone I know. After reading the surprising and shocking ending, I have to read the sequel, A Deeper Blue: Passion Marks II, next which wasn't actually next on my reading list but it is now.
A Dark Night Hidden
New English Library
Hodder and Stoughton, 338 Euston Road, London NWI 3Bh
0340793325, $11.99, 259 pages
At the beginning of the book rumors of King Richard the Lionheart's capture are spreading across England. On the way home from spending the holidays with relatives, Sir Josse d'Acquin visits his friend the Abbess Helewise of Hawkenlye Abbey. Richard's mother Queen Eleanor is a patron of the abbey and a close friend of Helewise. Sir Josse wants to find out from his friend if there is anything that can be done to rescue the king. Father Micah the new parish priest has been sent as a temporary replacement for the regular priest who was injured in a fall. The priest quickly takes it upon himself to mete out his own savage form of justice to those who sin against God and the Church.
While Sir Josse is visiting the abbey, the fanatical priest is murdered. The knight starts an investigation and finds that he can find no one who liked Father Micah and the list of possible suspects isn't short. Josse's investigation leads him into new friendships as he rides around the countryside in search of the man or men who killed the priest. A group of strangers from the lowlands is in the area and on the run from the law. Sir Josse feels the strangers are somehow tied to the priest's death. He and his new friend the Sheriff must sort it all out for Helewise can not be involved.
Mystery lovers and history buffs alike will enjoy this book for it gives us a peek into that particular time of upheaval in church and state. The book is very entertaining and enlightening as well. I chose it because I love a good mystery. The Author Alys Clare has written several mysteries in the Hawkenlye Series.
1920957235, $5.00 ($7.00 postpaid), 28 pages
Magdalena Ball, a New Yorker transplanted to Australia, is the founder and guiding light of the Compulsive Reader, the liveliest, most attractive, and most versatile site of its kind on the web. Her works of fiction, poetry, and articles have appeared in many anthologies and journals, and her poetry and fiction have won both local and national awards. She has studied at universities in the United States, Australia, and England. Her works include a valuable guide to reviewing, The Art of Assessment, and a soon to be published novel, Sleep before Evening.
A chapbook like Quark Soup is a slender volume of poems. In this case the twenty-eight pages contain almost that many poems with each poem filling the page. The language of the poems depends heavily on the language of modern physics. At first blanch this may appear as the antithesis of poetry, but the ingenuities of the application disprove this. The birth of a child is seen in the same manner as the creation of the universe
Photons, neutrinos, electrons and quarks
brain, spinal cord, heart
each living cell in a given moment of time and space
forms part of a greater whole
in the ice caves of your eyes.
In the poems about children there is a simplicity and directness of utterance, however filtered through a poetic sensibility, that sets them apart. 'Moon Fountains' is obviously a meditation at one remove from an actual event involving an unusually gifted and precocious child:
when his mother kissed
that peach-down cheek
closing the most mundane
that his gentle aliens
would be waiting
his future clearer
than the icy stars.
Adults present other circumstances and the poems become more ambiguous and troubled:
You pick up the paper
rustling tragic headlines against the day
sounds emerge like foghorns in your head
cynicism and mistrust
twin cyclones riding the low pressure cell
of insecurity and fear twisting you further into
the armchair of self-protection and greed
until you are paralyzed prey
for the ugly conviction
of our enemy's worst weapons.
The simplicity of the language and the directness of perception guarantee the effective-ness of these poems. They also have, as the last quotation attests, a captivating ability to pursue and nail down an essence by the tension of carefully chosen words and sounds. When Ball has had her say there is nothing more to be said. In her closing poem 'Planet X' she interrogates the frozen planet of the title:
Would you wake from the stupor
of your underworld prison
if spring arrived
breathing hot air against
your immobile lips?
At least one great part of what makes words into a poem is the craft of using words carefully. There is that craft in abundance in Quark Soup. Craft and strong perceptions and sensitivity. It is impossible that such a small sample as this chapbook provides can satisfy, and a sequel – a book, one hopes – is definitely required.
Magic Land Of Toys
The Vendome Press
1334 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021
Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (distributor)
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
0865651760 $65.00 1-800-759-0190 www.abramsbooks.com
Enhanced with more than 600 full color illustrations (including 86 double-page spreads), "Magic Land Of Toys" compiled and with commentary by anthologist, translator, essayist, novelist, editor and author Alberto Manguel is a 256-page coffee table masterpiece showcasing and celebrating Parisian The Musee des Arts Decoratifs fabulous collection of over twelve thousand toys, making it one of the finest in the world. "Magic Land Of Toys" offers fascinating samples of toys that have entertained children over many generations and includes dolls, trains, wooden figures, stuffed animals, trucks, cars, little dishes and utensils, and even video game consoles. This one hundred year retrospective is nostalgic, culturally inspiring, and an outstanding tribute to yesteryear childhoods. "Magic Land Of Toys" would especially make a popular and appropriate selection for a community library's Memorial Acquisition Fund.
Lowe's Creative Ideas For Home And Garden Makeovers
80 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025
037600925X $19.95 www.sunset.com
Drawing from the popular Lowe magazine dedicated to do-it-yourself projects for organizing and enhancing the various rooms of a home as well as the gardening and landscaping associated with the home, "Lowe's Creative Ideas For Home And Garden Makeovers" showcases fourteen kitchen remodels with 'before and after' photograph illustrations, making over family spaces from dining areas to "just for the kids" spaces. Also featured are great do-it-yourself ideas for remaking bedrooms, bathrooms, guest rooms, kids rooms, laundry rooms, crafts and hobbies rooms, utility rooms, and even remodeling garages and basements. Profusely illustrated, "user friendly", and a wonderful browsing opportunity for ideas, "Lowe's Creative Ideas For Home And Garden Makeovers" is a welcome and highly recommended addition to any personal or community library Interior Design, Gardening, and Do-It-Yourself reference collection.
The Snow Princess.
Little, Brown, and Company
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316779822 $16.99 1-800-759-0190
This fairy tale, inspired by a Russian opera, transports its readers to the icy north of Russia, where Father Frost and Mother Spring and their lovely little daughter, the Snow Princess, live. The Snow Princess, who loves her home, has the power to call up snow - from dancing flakes to terrible blizzards – and as she grows up, she learns to use her power wisely. However, when she becomes curious about the world outside, she decides to go out on her own to see it. Her parents reluctantly let her leave, but send her off with a warning ringing in her ears: "Remember this, you must never fall in love. You are safe from death so long as love for a man does not enter your heart."
Eventually, she finds herself near a village, where she becomes fascinated by a particular family (and by a young man in that family). After spending hours watching them, she accidentally meets the young man and ends up attending the Winter Festival with him. Realizing she is in danger of falling in love with him, she goes away to forget him. Loneliness and fear of death struggle within her and she finally returns to the village to see and talk to Sergei. As the days pass, she lives as a human girl named Katia and falls in love with Sergei. When her father sends a threatening dream, she must decide what to do. Then Sergei disappears in a storm, and Katia has to find him. Will she remain the Snow Princess, with a frozen heart, or will she allow her heart to thaw toward Sergei and live – and perhaps die – as Katia?
I enjoyed Sanderson's use of language in this story, but I enjoyed her wonderfully detailed illustrations even more. From the faces of the various characters to the Russian costumes to the snowy scenery, Sanderson expresses the fairy tale atmosphere of this classic Russian story with a sure touch. I especially like her use of white and various shades of blue to indicate the changing faces of snow in the story. The Snow Princess makes a lovely addition to Sanderson's other fairy tale picture books.
Jill Elzabeth Nelson.
Multnomah Publishers, Inc.
601 N. Larch St., Sisters, OR 97759
Jill Elizabeth Nelson literally dreamed the heroine of her first novel, Reluctant Burglar, and woke up with the beginning of what turned out to be an interesting art theft mystery. Art theft (a "booming criminal enterprise", according to the FBI) has tentacles in every area of the art world, and Nelson hopes that her fictional portrayal of it will make people more aware of the dangers that threaten museums, galleries, and other places that art is kept or displayed.
Reluctant Burglar opens with Desiree Jacobs (more often called Desi) stealing a painting right out from under the noses of a museum staff and then returning it to show them how much they need help from her company, HJ Securities (named after her dad, Hiram Jacobs). She can't wait to tell her dad, currently out of the country, all about her successful day. Maybe now he'll trust her to take over, so he can take it easy! Her delight is soon shattered, though, by the visit of FBI agent Tony Lucano, who tells her that her dad is dead. Stunned by the news and angered by the agent's belief that her dad was deeply involved in an art theft ring, she is determined to prove her dad's innocence.
Instead, she is dragged into her dad's secret life, which threatens not only the company's future and her dad's reputation, but also Desi's very life. Along the way, Agent Lucano, who's been sticking close to Desi to find out the truth about her dad, develops new motives for hanging around – he's falling in love with her. Now, all he needs to know is this: Is she an innocent pawn whose life is in danger, or is she a master criminal playing him for a fool?
Killing In The Name Of Identity
Charlottesville, Virginia 22901
0972887571 $29.95 www.pitchstonepublishing.com
Killing In The Name Of Identity: A Study Of Bloody Conflicts by Vamik Volkan (Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia) is a scholarly examination of the psychological and political answers to the question "Why do they hate us so?" What prompts mass murder on the basis of identity alone, from ethnic clensing to the Bataan Death March to the terrorist attacks of September 11? Written with compassion as well as logical analysis, Killing In The Name Of Identity probes the universal elements in humanity and society that can prompt such tragedies, and how to best prevent, defuse and combat large-group violence in co-existing societies. Highly recommended.
Lucifer's Dictionary Of The American Language
Burton H. Wolfe
Wild West Publishing House
PO Box 642836, San Francisco, CA 94164-2836
711 Eddy Street, Apartment 13E, San Francisco, CA 94109-7845 (Author)
1419619748 $15.00 415-921-5629 http://burtonh.wolfe.googlepages.com
Lucifer's Dictionary Of The American Language is not a standard reference dictionary. Rather it is a compilation of nasty insights into American society and culture, and how ordinary words have veiled "true" meanings that reflect devil-worthy selfishness. From arbitration ("a procedure enabling opponents to scream bloody murder at each other before going to trial and being inhibited by the decorum imposed in court") to yard ("A plot of dirt, grass, flowers, trees, shrubs, weeds and the like which Americans keep in front or back of their house for use as a spouse, child and dog dumping ground, and also for the convenience of the neighbors' cats"), each entry is delicious with irony, subtext, wit, and scorn for the self-absorbed. Enthusiastically recommended.
The Beast Bowl
PO Box 84025, Gaithersburg, MD 20883-4025
097774910X $19.95 www.beastbowl.com
The Beast Bowl is a fantastic novel written for all ages, but with the especial intent of reaching out to teenagers and raising their environmental awareness. The Beast Bowl is about a football game, but not just any game - a game so great and ancient its players are animals from around the world, who risk everything for a chance at the competition. A handful of black-and-white drawings illustrate this high adventure with underlying themes about the importance of cooperation and teamwork, as well as caution against environmental habitat destruction and species extinction.
Willis M. Buhle
George W. Bush Robin Hood For The Rich
Gene P. Abel
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1425929427 $13.99 www.authorhouse.com 1-800-839-8640
George W. Bush Robin Hood For The Rich by Gene P. Abel, Colonel, USAR Ret. (over 30 years of service as a commissioned officer, and two-time recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal) severely questions the immediate and long-term effects to America that the Bush administration is responsible for. Sharply critical, George W. Bush Robin Hood For The Rich decries the administration's narrow-minded attempts to partially privatize Social Security without providing any transition fund for the interim monies that would be lost; the administration's alienation of its foreign allies in the years after the September 11 attacks due its blind press for war in Iraq; and the administration's utter failure to balance the budget or prevent an explosion of the national deficit. At the same time, George W. Bush Robin Hood For The Rich is not universally negative; it notes the wise actions that President Bush has taken, but laments that the harmful actions may well outweigh the good in the president's legacy for the 21st century. Drawing information from more than 40 renowned sources, and including humorous blogs to convey points with a twist, George W. Bush Robin Hood For The Rich not only identifies potential current and future problems stemming from the Bush administration but also offers recommendations for alternatives to cope with their personal impact on individual lives. Highly recommended.
Coaching Intelligence Press
PO Box 9873, Marina del Ray, CA 90259
0977011747 $24.95 www.emailpower.com
Email Power: The Ultimate Guide is a how-to book for making the most of email communication written especially for CEOs, executives, salespeople, entrepreneurs, students, and anyone else in the academic or professional world. Chapters address how to recognize the communication styles of email one sends or receives, how to tighten one's writing so that one's message is immediately accessible, how to navigate the emotional terrain of email that may contain volatile emotions or attacks ("flames"), common acronyms and emoticons in email, and much more. Enthusiastically recommended, especially in the modern era of cyber-communication.
Europe For The Senses
7290 B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
1419621424 $42.99 1-866-308-6235 www.booksurge.com
Europe For The Senses: A Photographic Journal by author, traveler, and photographer Vicki Landes is a breathtaking collection of full-color photographs from around Europe. Images range from wildflowers to the Leaning Tower of Pisa juxtaposed against an aerial view of flying to Pisa, to Luxembourg's American Military Cemetery, and much more. Most photographs have a brief commentary in the form of text, printed in a handwriting-style font and reminiscing fond memories as well as recounting historical facts about the images that portray classic locations. A joy to page through, and the perfect giftbook for Europhiles.
Retirement Planning For Offshore Living
Boomers World Press
3160 Lincoln Street Apt.#2, Carlsbad, CA 92008
1934024120 $29.95 www.retiringoffshore.com 1-760-434-3441
"Retirement Planning For Offshore Living" by economist, real estate development expert, and seasoned traveler Richard Burkart is a methodical, "reader friendly" compendium of practical advice for enhancing any lifestyle by residing in a low cost tropical country like Panama where retirees on a fixed income would only spend about 25% of their expected retirement budget for pleasant lodgings, a good diet of culinary interest, and interesting things to do to pass the time. Enhanced with 60 full color photographs, this 244-page 'how to' manual addresses all the pertinent issues from Offshore Retirement, to Financing Retirement, to Longevity Planning, to Residency Requirements. Of special note are the chapters dedicated to Best Places To Live and Worst Case Scenarios. If you are in the process of planning for your retirement, or helping with retirement planning issues for a loved one, then give a care reading to what Richard Burkart advises in "Retirement Planning For Offshore Living"!
40 Hour Man
5528 NE 24th Avenue, Portland, OR 97211
0976969009 $18.00 www.manxmedia.com 1-508-288-5980
40 Hour Man is an unusual style of graphic novel narrative, telling the true story of a working stiff's 30 years struggling with the minimum wage American dream, from being a mini golf lackey to going under with the Internet boom and bust and much more. Each page features a paragraph of text and a black-and-white cartoon illustration. Although there is a small amount of adult content - 40 Hour Man is definitely for mature readers only - the primary focus is on frustrations of the working world, petty co-workers, vengeful bosses, bean-counters in suits, and other employment-related hazards. There isn't an overreaching moral to the memoir, other than that happiness in the working world is fleeting and should be enjoyed while it lasts but not depended upon to stay, but the story itself is all too sympathetic and cannot be put down. Highly recommended.
Eye Witness: Acts Of The Spirit
Robert James Luedke
Head Press Publishing
2201 Long Prairie Road, #107-770, Flower Mound, TX 75022
0975892428 $13.99 www.headpress.info 1-817-410-9490
After completing a consulting assignment with the Israeli Ministry of Antiquities in Jerusalem, archaeologist Terry Harper finds himself and his colleague a victim of bombing. Whether the target was the Jewish state in general, or Dr. Harper in particular, is not clear. As Dr. Harpers struggles for his very life in the intensive care unit of an Israeli hospital, he finds himself lapsing into unconsciousness and embarked upon a journey of historical discover and spiritual awakening to the birth of the Christian faith after the resurrection of Jesus. The language of the apostles, the jews and the romans in ancient Jerusalem is presented in a contemporary American vernacular. The story of the apostles (especially the conversion of Paul) is told with lively interest. The modern day plot of attempted assassination is equally interest with its twists, turns, and unexpected developments. "Eye Witness: Acts Of The Spirit" is a unique, entertaining, imaginative, and very highly recommended graphic novel for readers of all ages by Robert James Luedke with the help of colorists Carsten Bradley, Robert Luedke, and Tommy Castillo.
Michael J. Carson
A.D. Tarbox & Julie Olson
Moo Press/Keene Publishing
ALREADY ASLEEP begins with a young boy named John asleep in bed and progresses through individual family members, as well as pets, all slumbering after a day filled with play and work activities. Written in a charming style and soothing cadence, and illustrated with warm, endearing watercolors, this is the perfect bedtime story for young children.
Herr Schnoodle & Mcbee
P. K. Paranya
Five Star/Thomson Gale
Private Investigator Alexander McBee's heroes are TV's Magnum, Mannix and Barnaby Jones. McBee fancies himself a loner, but that comes to an end one evening when he rescues a dog from drowning. McBee takes the mutt home to clean him up and a partnership is born. Herr Schnoodle, as McBee names the dog, has a propensity to solve crimes, and within a short time, McBee's business is booming. Before he knows it, this loner is helping the down and out while trying to figure out why Apple Sally, a homeless woman suffering from amnesia, can't remember her past. But once she does, McBee's intent on saving her from the person who wants to kill her.
McBee is an engaging man who shuns germs and is afraid of commitment, and whose perception of himself changes over the course of the book. Herr Schnoodle is absolutely lovable and rounds out this cozy mystery to perfection. The partnership between the two makes this a fun read, with winning characters and a compelling storyline.
Marvin Monster's Teacher Jitters
Tabatha Jean D'Agata & Ed Newmann
Marvin Monster's upset when he learns his class has a new teacher. And what's worse, rumor has it this teacher is mean, gives lots of homework, and once turned a monster kid into a human! When the new teacher, Miss Witchafred, announces their scheduled field trip will be to explore Marshville rather than visit the Haunted Hall of Fame, a disappointed Marvin decides to do his best to get her to leave. But Marvin learns a valuable lesson as he and his classmates explore exciting areas of Marshville, from the Postal Tomb, where lizards lick stamps, to the trash field, where chomping gators recycle garbage.
"Marvin Monster's Teacher Jitters" is a delightful read integrating important social issues for young readers within an exciting story. As the monsters would say, this book is "terrifically horrific," filled with endearing characters and wonderfully captivating illustrations.
Murder at Blue Falls
High Country Publishers
1932158758 $12.00 www.highcountrypublishers.com
Jemma Chase works as a trail leader on her parents' ranch, the Blue Falls, where she is also an accomplished photographer, carpenter and fixer-upper. Jemma has returned home in an effort to find some stability in her life, but things become tumultuous when someone begins poisoning dogs in Watauga County. Jemma is called in for an interview with Detective Tucker and bristles at his subtly accusing manner. A forensics fan, Jemma sets out to try to solve the riddle herself and keep Detective Tucker at bay. But when she stumbles upon the dead body of a neighbor, Jemma finds herself involved in a much more serious investigation and at odds with Tucker once again.
An established must-read romance author, Maggie Bishop has crossed into the mystery genre with finesse. Her latest novel is packed with suspense around a tightly-woven plot which begins with the poisoning of dogs and escalates to the murder of a local man. Throughout, she deliciously teases the reader with the bristly attraction between the investigating detective and the woman who found the man's body and who just might be a suspect. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the mountains of North Carolina, with engaging characters, red herrings at every turn, and a galvanizing story line, this is a must-have, must-read. Highly recommended.
My Name Is Esther Clara
189330289X $16.95 www.dandelionbooks.net
Laurel Johnson speaks for her grandmother, Esther Clara Sanow Ford, with this - what the author refers to as creative nonfiction - first-person tale of a woman's journey through life. The reader relives history through the eyes of Esther, who experienced the hardships of World Wars I and II and the Korean War, the discord of the Vietnam War, and the worst depression this country has experienced to date. Esther's life evolved from one extreme to the other, from having to cook on a wooden stove, read by kerosene lantern and use an outhouse to one with all the luxuries electricity and running water have to offer; and from riding in horse-drawn carriages to traveling by automobile. How delightful to read about her antics as a child and terribly sad to learn of the death of a beloved child during her marriage.
Esther was a forward-thinking woman who lived during an exciting, progressive time in our nation's history. Her love and devotion to her family, especially her husband Herb, was her number one priority. It is through Esther one is reminded of the basics of life: enduring hardships with bravery and positive thoughts, loving with all one's heart, showing kindness toward others, and above all, being true to one's self.
It's a rarity when a book of this quality crosses my desk. It seemed as if Esther sat across from me, talking directly to me. I didn't want to put the book down, nor did I want it to end. Although Esther may not have had a documented impact on the history of America, she certainly made an impact on this reader and, I imagine, many others.
Marley & Me
Harper Collins Publishers
The author, John Grogan, and his wife, Jenny, newly married and worried about facing the trials and tribulations of raising children, decided owning a dog would be good practice for them. With fond memories of childhood pets leading them onward, they picked Marley, a Labrador retriever, from a large litter of pups. From day one, Marley proved to be a handful. He devoured everything in sight, tore through the house, ripped through screen doors, flung spit over the walls and guests, and worst of all, went crazy during thunderstorms. He was kicked out of obedience school and never quite learned how to properly heel. He would greet guests with enthusiasm, literally running into them and putting his paws on their shoulders.
Although Grogan claims Marley to be the world's worst dog, I'm sure this is said tongue-in-cheek. Marley proved to be Grogan's mentor; teaching plenty of lessons about love, loyalty, friendship and enjoying life to its fullest. I laughed, I cried, I didn't want it to end. As a dog owner, one of which is a black Lab, I enjoyed this book very much and am thankful our Lab isn't quite so manic as Marley. I wonder, though, what happened to Lucky?
Christy Tillery French
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312347472 $24.95 1-888-330-8477
Jason Steadman's a personable, honest guy, a one-time frat boy whose easygoing personality is his primary asset. He's a salesman with Entronics USA Visual Systems in Framingham, Massachusetts, makers of high-end plasma screens. At the book's opening Jason isn't particularly interested in advancing his career, but his wife is another story: she's from a family of fallen blue-bloods and wouldn't mind slipping back up the social ladder. Jason finds himself able to satisfy her longing for a higher salary after a fortuitous encounter with a modern-day Renaissance man, ex-Special Forces soldier turned tow truck driver Kurt Semko. Kurt turns out to be a good friend to have: he feeds Jason information that helps him in his career, and Jason in turns gets Kurt a job with Entronics. Kurt is willing to do anything to help out his new friend's career, but his loyalty, Jason soon finds, comes with a high price. And breaking off the friendship isn't an easy option: as he continually reminds Jason, Kurt isn't the kind of guy you want as your enemy.
Finder's newest thriller is a quick read, written in conversational, first-person prose. It's exciting enough to hold one's interest, but not as tightly plotted or as gripping as Finder's 2004 novel Paranoia, with which it shares some similarities: both tell the stories of relative non-achievers who manage to climb the corporate ladder unexpectedly, with outside help, who let an old friendship lie fallow in the midst of their success, and whose self confidence increases, and integrity decreases, with each advance in position. One small complaint I have is that Jason's grasp of literary/historical references seems uneven: he alludes easily to Jay Gatsby and Luther's 95 theses at different points in the story, but elsewhere doesn't seem to have heard of Lady Chatterley or Captain Queeg. A more important problem is that Finder misses the opportunity to ratchet up the tension in his book by prolonging the conflict described in chapter 50 and subsequently putting one of the characters involved in that conflict in peril. Instead the problem is easily resolved, which is a disappointment.
All that said, Killer Instinct, if not as thrilling as the two earlier novels by Finder which I've read and reviewed (Company Man, Paranoia), is still well worth the read. Pick a copy up, and get one of Finder's earlier books as well.
Another Word a Day
John Wiley & Sons
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5773
0471718459 $14.95 1-800-225-5945
Anu Garg has been sending out his A Word a Day mailings to his linguaphilic subscriber base--some half a million strong at this point--for more than a decade. Another Word a Day is the second book to spring from this enterprise. (His A Word a Day was published in 2002.) In it Garg follows the format of his subscription list. The book is divided into 52 thematic chapters: calendar-related words (bissextile), words that are apparent misspellings of other words (monestrous), words about words (hyperbole), and so on. Garg discusses five words per chapter, providing for each its pronunciation, syntax, etymology, definition, and an example, usually culled from some modern source, of the word in print. (For example, for the word cruciverbalist Garg uses a passage from Booklist discussing Parnell Hall's series of crossword mysteries.) A quote from some famous person appears at the bottom of most pages of the book--though these quotes aren't relevant to the words under discussion in the text. Each chapter also includes a number of responses from readers of Garg's mailings. These are set off in boxes, which serves to break up what would otherwise be a monotonous layout. They are also sometimes rather interesting--for example, the seventeen different explanations Garg's readers offered for the origin of the term eighty-six as a verb meaning "to throw out." And a Seattle reader draws a nice parallel between hapax legomena (words with only one recorded use) and Googlewhacking:
"A recent variant on finding singularity in a large corpus, namely the sport, pastime, and occasional obsession of Googlewhacking. You challenge the awesome indexing capabilities of Google.com to find that elusive query (two words--no quotation marks) with a single, solitary result!"
-- Mike Pope, Seattle, Washington
You'll be happy to become acquainted with some of the words and etymologies in Garg's corpus--dasypygal means "having hairy buttocks"; "helpmeet" comes from an erroneous interpretation of a Biblical passage.You'll be happy to become acquainted with some of the words and etymologies in Garg's corpus--dasypygal means "having hairy buttocks"; "helpmeet" comes from an erroneous interpretation of a Biblical passage. Some of the entries are less compelling. I most enjoyed the more conversational parts of the book, the reader responses already mentioned and the brief discussions with which Garg introduces each chapter. I would have enjoyed the book as a whole more if the entries included lengthier discussions--more on a word's history in popular culture, perhaps, memorable anecdotes attached to the words, however tangentially--but I realize that that is not the format Garg follows in his mailings.
Linguaphiles will enjoy Another Word a Day, but reading it straight through is not recommended except to the most voracious verbivore: this is more of a book you'll want to nibble on from time to time.
I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This
77 West 66th Street, NY, NY 10023-6298
1401302467 $23.95 1-800-759-0190
Bob Newhart's I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This (accent on the This; as Newhart explains in his introduction, the title comes from the punch line of a joke) is not, the author admits, a traditional memoir: "A memoir is a weighty tome. Former presidents and the Marquis de Sade write memoirs; Bob Newhart doesn't write a memoir."
Instead Newhart offers a collection of stories from his personal and professional lives, arranged thematically across 14 chapters. Newhart tells the story of his life in more-or-less chronological order: his childhood in Chicago (the setting, later, of his eponymous sitcom), his pre-comedy careers (including accounting and military service), the radio skits that culminated in his bestselling Button-Down Mind albums, movies and television. Along the way he also writes about other comedians, about golf and hecklers, family and famous friends. Some of these stories translate well to the page. I can picture very well, for example, this small scene at Don Rickles's house:
"If Don can avoid doing something, he will. We were sitting around his den one day when he turned to a comedian named Bobby Ramson. 'Bobby,' Don said, 'You're good at that. Would you open the window?'"
And this line from Tony Randall is perfect, the scene likewise perfectly easy to imagine, the necessary background being that Newhart's new father-in-law was actor Bill Quinn:
"On January 12, 1963, we made it to the altar. As we took our places, before the procession began, Tony Randall took one look at Ginnie's Dad and quipped, 'Look who they got to play the father.'"
Newhart writes a lot about his early routines--"The Driving Instructor" and "Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue," for example. He explains where the ideas for the routines came from, and he transcribes a number of them in the book. One can read the routines with Newhart's stammering delivery in mind, but I found myself wishing that the book came with a CD, that I could hear the humor rather than try to imagine it. I'm not an aficionado of audio books, as I prefer reading to listening, but in this case, because delivery is such an important part of Newhart's storytelling, you might want to spring for the unabridged CD, read by the author.
Newhart suggests in his introduction, perhaps in jest, that writing I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This was not a cathartic experience for him. This isn't surprising. The book is not a soul-searching reflection on his life, just a collection of anecdotes, some funny, some not as much, delivered conversationally. A quick read. You'll come away from the book thinking that Bob Newhart's a nice guy (but you thought that anyway, right?), with a nostalgic longing for his classic TV show and some curiosity about his early comedy albums. Which is another reason you might want to spring for the CD.
The Interpretation of Murder
175 - 5th Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
0805080988 $26.00 1-888-330-8477
Jed Rubenfeld's smart thriller The Interpretation of Murder is inspired by a historical mystery. Sigmund Freud visited the United States only once, in August and September of 1909. He received an honorary doctorate at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he also delivered a well-received series of lectures. It was an ostensibly successful visit, yet after returning to Europe Freud referred to Americans as "savages" and acted generally as if something terrible had happened on the trip. But what? Rubenfeld has written a fictional account of Freud's visit, taking the real-life riddle of Freud's animosity to the U.S. as his starting point.
Rubenfeld weaves two fictional mysteries around Freud's visit. The more engaging of the two concerns the torture and murder of a young woman found in a high-class hotel, a crime whose sadistic details are soon repeated in the bedroom of a second victim. Because of the sexual aspects of these crimes, Freud and his entourage become involved indirectly in their solution, but Freud's contribution to the story is minimal. Instead, Rubenfeld's protagonist is a wholly fictional character, Dr. Stratham Younger, an American psychoanalyst who takes on the role of amateur sleuth. Rubenfeld alternates in the telling between first-person accounts told from Younger's perspective and third-person narrative.
The second, and secondary mystery in Rubenfeld's book involves Freud more directly, as it concerns an attempt by mysterious parties to sabotage Freud's reception in the U.S. But in this story too Freud himself takes a back seat. The Interpretation of Murder, that is, does not fall into the category of mysteries with crime-solving historical protagonists, such as Stephanie Barron's series of Jane Austen mysteries.
Rubenfeld's book is clearly well-researched. I was intrigued to learn that certain particulars involving one of the victims in the story come from Freud's case files. The story is also intricately plotted, and the solution of the mystery, when it finally comes, is both unexpected and complex--rather confusingly so, in fact. With one exception Rubenfeld's characters are not emotionally compelling: Detective Jimmy Littlemore, the young policeman attempting to solve the crimes despite bureaucratic opposition, was the only truly sympathetic character. This isn't a book that will grab you by the throat, but one you'll come to appreciate instead intellectually.
I might actually have preferred it if the secondary mystery, that surrounding Freud's reception in the U.S., were removed. The story would be tighter without it, and in fact Rubenfeld's account of sadistic society murders could easily stand alone without the Freudian subplots. Freud himself is largely unnecessary to the story, though I realize that his appearance in the book may be its main selling point. As it stands The Interpretation of Murder is not perfect, but it is a smart and engaging story, and worth the read.
Course of the Waterman
Nancy Taylor Robson
River City Publishing
1719 Mulberry Street, Montgomery, AL 36106
1579660525 $23.95 1-334-265-6753
Lest you lose interest in this review before I get to the point, I'll make it now: get a copy of this book and read it. It won't take you long. You can finish the book in one evening and then, I'll bet you anything, it will stand out in your memory as one of the most impressive reading experiences you've ever had, sticking with you as only the rarest of good books or stories can do.
With that out of the way, on to the book itself. The Course of the Waterman, Nancy Taylor Robson's debut novel, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Bailey Kraft, whose family has been fishing the Elizabeth River on Maryland's Eastern Shore for generations. Like the Kraft men before him, Bailey has river water in his veins, and a peculiar talent for finding fish: the Krafts are river royalty. But every year the haul is less impressive, and supporting a family by fishing is becoming increasingly difficult. Early in the book Bailey's father Orrin announces that he wants his son to go to college, to have options that he didn't have. This change in plan is wholly unwelcome: Bailey had expected to fish full-time after finishing high school; he would have quit school to do so had he been allowed. But responding to his father's bombshell is only the first of a great many challenges Bailey must meet in the course of the story--hard work in difficult, sometimes life threatening circumstances not least among them.
Bailey is surrounded by a handful of characters who are as vividly imagined as he is: his parents and younger sister and the Warrens, Tud and his son Booty, the latter more brother to Bailey than friend. Robson, indeed, has fleshed out her characters and explored their interlocking relationships--all of which are changed during the course of this story--more fully than most authors can in twice as many pages. Robson's book explores the obligations of friendship and the bonds, stronger than rivalries and animosities, that hold together a community of people who need one another to survive--"the pull and haul of relationship, gift, and obligation."
Like her characters, Robson grew up on the Chesapeake, and she worked for years as a deckhand on a coastal tug. (She tells her story in Woman in the Wheelhouse.) She couldn't have written this book the way she did without that experience. Readers like myself who aren't familiar with the life she describes--most of us, surely--will encounter some unfamiliar vocabulary here, but context is sufficient to get the meaning across. The first paragraph immerses the reader at once in the life of a Chesapeake waterman:
"The trotline groaned over the roller as it came up out of the blue-black Elizabeth River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Braced against the boat's wooden coaming, seventeen-year-old Bailey Kraft was poised, dip net ready, scanning for the bait twisted every eight feet or so into the mile-long line. That was where the crab would be--if there were a crab. As he watched, a shadow rose from the dark water and came into focus, sharpening into olive shell and blue-green claws that clung to a frayed gray eel chunk tied to the line. When the crab broke the surface, Bailey leaned out, scooped it up, and dumped it into the bushel basket at his feet."
I can pick nits--precisely two. Robson tells her story in the third-person, primarily from the perspective of Bailey himself. On a few occasions the perspective changes to that of another character, and when it does, because it is so infrequent, I found it jarring. Second, the issue of race relations is introduced very briefly at the very end of the book. I found this jarring as well simply because, while it fits the storyline at the end, it has no bearing at all on what comes before and thus seems out of place.
These are minor complaints. The Course of the Waterman is a must read, for adults and young adults alike. It succeeds in being both a thoughtful, moving character study and a gripping adventure story.
The Love Season
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312322305 $24.95 294 pages 1-888-330-8477
The principal action of Elin Hildebrand's The Love Season takes place over the course of a single day (August 19, 2006): 63-year-old Marguerite Beale prepares an elaborate dinner for her goddaughter, Renata Knox, whom Marguerite has not seen since Renata's mother Candace was hit and killed by a car 14 years earlier. Marguerite is a professional chef, and is renowned in Nantucket circles for the quirkiness and culinary excellence of her one-time restaurant, Les Parapluies, but Renata's visit marks the first time she has cooked for anyone--indeed, that she has received anyone into her home--since Candace's death. The mystery of that event, how it came to have such an effect on Marguerite, is slowly revealed to the reader as Marguerite, emerging from her self-imposed exile in order to gather ingredients for dinner, allows herself to remember.
Hilderbrand tells her story primarily from the points of view of Marguerite and Renata. Through Marguerite's eyes we see her part-time, years-long affair with Porter, her friendship with Porter's sister Candace, and the uncomfortable threesome that formed when, inevitably, Candace allowed one of her many would-be suitors to win her. The pattern that emerges--an intense friendship between women intruded upon by a male--is to a degree repeated in the second generation: Renata sometimes feels torn between her best friend, Action, and her boyfriend Cade, recently turned her fiancé, the very proper son of Nantucket aristocracy. Renata is in Nantucket officially to meet her future in-laws, but her real purpose is to meet the mysterious godmother who's sent her cards and checks over the years, but whom she's never been allowed to meet. Interestingly, toward the end of the book Hilderbrand begins to tell her story also from the perspectives of other characters, as if the reader is granted a wider view of the events described even as Marguerite and Renata emerge from their respective, self-imposed prisons.
On the whole Hilderbrand has done a wonderful job of fleshing out her characters and their histories, even the minor ones. Only Candace fails to come to life (no pun intended) on the page: we are told that she was charming and vital, more like Grace Kelly than Grace Kelly herself, the sort of woman who attracts people to her without trying. But Candace's actions in the book don't bear this out: she comes off as a little silly, in fact, and one wonders what all the fuss was about. But as I say, the rest of Hilderbrand's characters shine. This is a very sensual book, the particular sense appealed to being taste: Hilderbrand lingers lovingly over descriptions of food--what Marguerite is preparing in the present, entrees from Les Parapluies, corn and squash and asparagus and red peppers lying crisp and fresh in out-of-the-way farmer's markets. Food is undoubtedly important to The Love Season, but for me the thick details sometimes slowed the story too much. Still, one keeps turning the pages: the mystery of Candace's death and the secrets her characters have tried to hide from themselves are compelling. This is a very good read. You're likely to live with these characters in your head for some time.
Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife
Coffee House Press
27 North Fourth Street, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Firmin, the unusually literate rat who gives Sam Savage's little gem of a book its title, was born during the Kennedy administration in the cellar of a bookstore. Pembroke Books, the beloved charge of its Friar Tuckish owner Norman, sat near an x-rated theater in the squalor of Boston's blighted Scollay Square. The circumstances of Firmin's birth, both geographic and familial, largely defined his life.
Born the 13th of 13 children to a 12-teated, alcoholic mother, Firmin was frequently compelled by virtue of his relatively diminutive size and strength to assuage his hunger by gnawing on books--a pathetic situation which, however, resulted in the singular fact and blessing of his life, his "lexical hypertrophy," heightened mental acuity coupled with an uncanny ability to read at super-human, let alone super-rodent speeds.
"I am convinced that these masticated pages furnished the nutritional foundation for--and perhaps even directly caused--what I with modesty shall call my unusual mental development."
At the same time, Firmin's early introduction to the "velvet-skinned beings" who featured in the local theater's midnight showings confused his sexuality and cemented his perverse identification with the humans whose literature he was devouring in both senses. Firmin being an anthropomorphized rat, you'll be tempted to think that Savage's novel is just another cute contribution to "rat literature"--a genre, by the way, which Firmin himself despises: "I piss down the throats of Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little. Affable, shuffling, cute, they stick in my craw like fish bones."
Don't be fooled. Firmin is caustic and cynical, his story imbued with a sense of tragedy. Early on, for example, we learn that Norman--the first human whom Firmin ever loved--has somehow failed him. In the last quarter of the book the mood grows even more somber. Savage exhibits an uncanny ability to channel the inner life of our tragic narrator: Firmin is a very believable character, a creature of elevated sensibilities mired in the ugly realities of a rat's world. Savage's writing is exquisite, particularly in the book's first half. Here, for example, he describes Firmin's first sighting of Norman's desk:
"I still did not know Norman--for some time yet he was to sit in my mind simply as the Owner of the Desk--but the clutter on the desk, the upright steel spike stacked to its tip with a ragged foliage of impaled receipts, the shiny arms of the chair, and of course the red cushion itself with its buttocks-shaped depression in the center, possessed an aura of seriousness and dignity that, considering my background, I found perfectly irresistible."
Savage's Firmin is a connoisseur of literature, having ingested more of it than you or I ever will. Firmin found books as a whole to be quite tasty: "My friend," he once told a man in a bar, "given the chasm that separates all your experiences from all of mine, I can bring you no closer to that singular savor than by saying that books, in an average sort of way, taste the way coffee smells." But it turns out, as Firmin discovered, that how good a book tastes is directly related to its literary quality: Jane Eyre is better than Emily Post is better than Stuart Little. That being so, you might want to give your copy of Firmin a nibble: it's a very tasty read.
The Berlin Conspiracy
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060787856 $24.95 1-800-242-7737
Jack Teller is a retired spook, having severed his relationship with the CIA soon after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. But two years later Jack is pulled back into service by his old handler: a Colonel in the East German Stasi is willing to hand over important information, but he insists on meeting only with Teller. Jack soon finds himself in a divided Berlin, where in a matter of days President Kennedy is due to deliver his Ich bin ein Berliner speech. In the meantime Jack has to unravel a complex plot--in which the deceptions are thick and it's nearly impossible to tell the good guys from the bad--with nothing less than the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
Tom Gabbay's debut novel is a decent read. The plot is complex, though not edge-of-your-seat gripping. It's a quick read, the chapters divided into easily digested chunks, the writing an unexceptional, straightforward prose that's suited to the genre. The story is narrated by Jack Teller some number of years after the events described. Jack was 49 in 1963, so he'd be in his early 90's if we assume that his present is 2006. But whatever the specifics, Jack describes himself as "old" at the time of narration, and his age is problematic: the narrator's voice does not belong to an old man. Teller comes across instead as someone who is in the prime of life at the time he's telling the story. My other problem with the book also involves Teller: he is not a particularly sympathetic character. Certainly Jack acts heroically in the course of the story, yet Gabbay does not manage to make him emotionally engaging, so the perils Jack faces don't affect the reader viscerally. The book starts, too, with Jack doing something reprehensible, a dramatic decision on the author's part which I think may have been a mistake: it prejudices the reader against Gabbay's protagonist from the get-go, making it even harder to care too deeply about him. The author has a winner, though, in the character of Horst Schneider, the charming young German whom Jack befriends over a night of drinking, and who, happily, pops up repeatedly in the story to spice up the dialogue.
Not a bad book, then. Good for a light, quick read. I can imagine it being turned into a decent action movie--and given the author's professional history, a move to the screen is perhaps not unlikely: Gabbay was director of comedy programming for NBC in the eighties and nineties, and he has written a number of screenplays for television and film.
The Chess Artist
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312272936 $25.95 1-888-330-8477
J.C. Hallman's The Chess Artist is structured around a trip that the author took with his friend Glenn, the chess player of the book's title, to Kalmykia, a crumbling Russian Republic on the northwest shore of the Caspian Sea. Hallman was interested in interviewing Kalmykia's despotic president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a former chess prodigy and the president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), who was using chess "as a tool to unify and mollify his people." (He had made chess instruction compulsory in schools, for example.) Woven around the story of their journey are chapters on chess history--its development and geographical migration across a thousand years, the history of its individual pieces--and Hallman's further adventures with Glenn: marathon chess sessions over the internet, formal chess competitions, blindfolded chess and speed chess, chess played in prison and in Princeton, and the various characters they ran across on their adventures--child prodigies and the denizens of Dickensian chess shops and the down-and-out chess hustlers of New York's Washington Square Park.
Part travelogue, then, and part history, Hallman's book is also an exploration of both the international subculture of competitive chess and of his traveling companion. For most of the period covered by the book, Glenn was ranked as a chess master--exceptionally good but well below the grandmasters who form the true elite of the chess world. Glenn is an enigmatic character. A germophobic 39-year-old with a genius for the game and poor grammar, he is apparently incapable of consistently making smart decisions in the real world. Divorced and perpetually broke, almost childish at times, his friendship seems to be to a great extent a burden.
"So far Glenn had managed not to drink any Russian water and had eaten little Russian food, but the effects of malnourishment and dehydration in him were still indistinguishable from laziness. I was glad to be free of him for a time."
Hallman has a tendency, actually, to write about Glenn as if he were a sort of lab animal, whose mannerisms and mode of play are alike under scrutiny.
"He shrugged and performed a gesture that was new to me, opening his palms suddenly and at the same time contorting his face to an expression of exaggerated surprise."
Annoying and strange, given to marking promising relationships with ceremonial whistling, Glenn is also a sad figure, a broken man "spiraling toward nothingness, a waste of twenty years of effort and energy." One wonders what Glenn thought of his presentation in the book. The Chess Artist is very well researched and thick with information. And it is punctuated by some truly wonderful, sometimes poetic writing:
"The train was all lullaby, the gyroscopic jostle of the tracks, the steady click of the wheels like the eighth notes of some slower melody, the stars stationary out the small window, all of it a lull of travel nostalgia, a cradle or warm womb, Glenn and I like twins incubating in that cramped space."
In Kalmykia Hallman is served "a genocide of crayfish"; in a prison cafeteria the fare is instead "hockey pucks of meat like the leftover scrapings of a botched autopsy." The high-stress atmosphere of a chess competition approaches the cannibalistic:
"A sense of anxiety was building as well, in the way of people trapped together and beginning to starve. There was a natural tendency to look about and speculate on who was expendable and of possible nutritious value." One player has the "eyebrows of a demon," while another is "a nondescript man who fit the profile of a serial killer--short, well-groomed, quiet, and very dangerous."
Hallman's writing is riddled with such evocative descriptions. This is both wonderful and, surprisingly perhaps, problematic: the problem is that Hallman tends to lavish his well-written descriptions on nearly every minor character who crosses his path, so that the reader is met with too much information:
"As would happen in each round, I found three or four boards that were interesting either for the player match-up or for what I could discern of the position. I amassed a cast of characters to follow: Anna Khan, a young, sexy, sleepy-eyed Latvian as well-known in the chess world for her play as her presence; Julen Arizmendi, a handsome young international master who somehow seemed to have acquired chess talent without the usual sacrifice of health and hygiene; GM Igor Khenkin, a man who looked to be teetering on the edge of an exhaustion-inspired insanity; Immanuel Guthi, a tall, bearded, and smelly Israeli whom Glenn and I knew from our casino--he was a regular--where he was known simply as 'Moses' for the likeness; GM Alexander Ivanov, who, like Epishin, went for little walks between his moves, holding his hands in a lotus-style pinch and closing his eyes as though to recall a fragrance; GM Alexander Galkin, a friendly-looking Russian who could have passed for a young literature professor in tweed and jeans; and Timoleon Polit, a thin, nervous, little old 1390 guy who would be on the lowest board all week, and who looked like the kind of man Jack Lemmon would play, the washed-up business stooge attempting to use chess to fulfill a criteria for having led an eventful life."
Hallman's flair is obvious. But we can be forgiven for not being able to keep any of these characters straight. After a time, the personalities in the book tend to blend together. It is tempting to say that Hallman does for chess what Stefan Fatsis does for Scrabble in his book Word Freak, exposing the weird underbelly of an intellectual pastime, the obsessives who sacrifice sleep and hygiene over their chosen game. Hallman's book, though, is a more serious and more difficult read. Presumably, the more familiar a reader is with chess, the more he will get out of the book. I myself do not play, but I was able to understand and appreciate, at least on some level, most of what the author had to say. Non-chess players should not be afraid of diving in.
Letter to a Christian Nation
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0307265773 $16.95 1-800-726-0600
In writing his thoughtful little book Letter to a Christian Nation Sam Harris's principal purpose was "to arm secularists in our society, who believe that religion should be kept out of public policy, against their opponents on the Christian Right." The book is in fact an indictment of all religion, but it is addressed in particular to Christians who believe "at a minimum, that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that only those who accept the divinity of Jesus Christ will experience salvation after death." Harris's argument, in short, is that resources are misallocated and immoral decisions are made because people are deluded by Christian dogma ("immoral" in that the decisions result in prolonged human suffering, not because they are not in accord with Christian teaching).
There are no chapters per se in the book, but Harris divides his argument into ten titled sections in which, despite the book's brevity, he addresses a great many topics. Harris argues, for example, that the Bible cannot be considered a moral guide (it can as easily be used to justify the Inquisition as it can the non-violence of Martin Luther King, Jr.); that Christian morality is often divorced from the "reality of human and animal suffering" (which "explains why you [Christians] can preach against condom use in sub-Saharan Africa while millions die from AIDS there each year"); that atheism is demonstrably "compatible with the basic aspirations of a civil society" and further "that widespread belief in God does not ensure a society's health." Harris discusses the debate between science and religion, creationism and intelligent design vs. evolution, the singular position that religious faith is accorded in society:
"While believing strongly, without evidence, is considered a mark of madness or stupidity in any other area of our lives, faith in God still holds immense prestige in our society. Religion is the one area of our discourse where it is considered noble to pretend to be certain about things no human being could possibly be certain about. It is telling that this aura of nobility extends only to those faiths that still have many subscribers. Anyone caught worshipping Poseidon, even at sea, will be thought insane."
Harris effectively invokes the Olympian gods also in making a common sense argument about religion and the misallocation of resources:
"Can you prove that Zeus does not exist? Of course not. And yet, just imagine if we lived in a society where people spent tens of billions of dollars of their personal income each year propitiating the gods of Mount Olympus, where the government spent billions more in tax dollars to support institutions devoted to these gods, where untold billions more in tax subsidies were given to pagan temples, where elected officials did their best to impede medical research out of deference to The Iliad and The Odyssey, and where every debate about public policy was subverted to the whims of ancient authors who wrote well, but who didn't know enough about the nature of reality to keep their excrement out of their food. This would be a horrific misappropriation of our material, moral, and intellectual resources. And yet that is exactly the society we are living in."
And Harris touches on the timely issue of religious violence and Muslim extremism:
"It is now a truism in foreign policy circles that real reform in the Muslim world cannot be imposed from the outside. But it is important to recognize why this is so--it is so because most Muslims are utterly deranged by their religious faith."
The rational nonbelievers among Harris's readers will frequently find themselves nodding vigorously in agreement with him. For myself, if I had highlighted the passages I most appreciated in the book my copy would be awash in vibrant yellow. He makes so many good points that I can't possibly even summarize them all here. The book is cogently argued and thoroughly convincing, timely and important. But then, Harris is preaching here to the converted. How will the book be received by its intended audience? My worry is that the hard-core Christians to whom it is addressed won't be picking a copy up, and that even if they do they will be unconvinced, religious faith being impervious to, or in a different sphere than, reason. The already converted, though, will want to read Harris' book, and buy copies for their friends, so as to become angrier about the misery that religious fanaticism--assuredly not Christian only--continues to cause in this world.
Harris hopes that one day all religious belief will be eradicated. Impossible, surely! But he likens this idea to the eradication of slavery, another long-practiced human activity whose abolishment must have seemed equally impossible just a few hundred years ago, but which is now viewed in retrospect as being patently immoral. Harris imagines a future world whose inhabitants may similarly look back with "horror and amazement" at our society's religious faith. Impossible, maybe. But one can hope.
Who Are You People?
185 Bridge Plaza North, Suite 308-A, Fort Lee, NJ 07024
Having dabbled in innumerable activities over the years--photography, Buddhism, belly dancing, golf and gardening--never settling on any one thing for very long, author Shari Caudron began to wonder, she tells us, what so many other people had that she didn't: why is it that some people are so passionate in their hobbies, sacrificing time and money and occasionally marriages in their fanaticism? Caudron logged more than 25,000 miles over three years trying to answer that question, exploring the various worlds of obsessive hobbyists, from a convention of Barbie doll collectors in Denver to pigeon racers in Brooklyn to storm chasers speeding across the Midwest in a mad hunt for tornadoes. She attended the World Boardgaming Championship in Baltimore, the Mayberry Days Festival in North Carolina, a Josh Groban concert in San Antonio. Who are You People? is the very readable, entertaining fruit of Caudron's travels.
Caudron entered into her project a cynic, and readers too are likely to shake their heads in wonderment at some of the people the author found in her travels. How can a grown woman "lose herself for hours each night dressing and redressing her dolls"? What is it about Josh Groban that can make middle-aged women act like teenagers squealing over a David Cassidy album cover? Most disturbingly, what madness would prompt a man (one of the "furries" whose unusual interest in anthropomorphized animals Caudron considers in chapter ten) to have his face rendered more cat-like through repeated surgical procedures? But Caudron emerged from the project with a greater understanding of her subjects' obsessive interests and of hobbydom generally: how people who don't fit into society's more popular niches can find community through their shared interests with other misfits; how an increase in leisure time and disposable income in the 20th century led naturally to both being spent increasingly on hobbies; how the internet has been instrumental in bringing together people with obscure interests; how people with vastly different backgrounds, bonded over some unusual hobby, can act as a support group. Caudron finds that while people may be participating less than their parents' generation did in traditional organizations--the school board and the Rotary Club, for example--subcultures formed around hobbies are thriving, a development which Caudron sees as cause for celebration:
"When born-again Christians and leather-leashed Goths come together at the same party, when middle-aged women and gum-snapping teenagers gossip online about the same celebrities, when retired auto workers and international money managers play the same board games, well, to me, that can't help but breed the kind of understanding, acceptance, and community that's always been the promise, if not reality, of America."
Caudron's conclusions may not be earth-shattering, but they are interesting enough, and Caudron herself turns out to be a likeable escort through some of America's weirder pastimes. Her book is breezy and well-written and appeals in the same way that Susan Orlean's essays and books do: both authors offer a look at lives lived differently than our own, though Orlean usually focuses on individuals while Caudron's attention is focused more broadly. Caudron portrays her travels as being part of a quest for insight into her own character, and she structures the book around this path of self-discovery. My one complaint about the book is that this conceit sometimes seems forced. Her own alleged failure of passion may indeed have planted the seed in Caudron's head, but surely she persevered in the project because she realized that the idea she'd come up with--to infiltrate the lairs of obsessive hobbyists and remark on what she found there--would make for a whomping good book.
Debra Hamel, Reviewer
Eisa Nefertari Ulen
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0743277589 $22.00 www.simonsays.com
In her debut novel, Crystelle Mourning, Eisa Nefertari Ulen tells the story of a young woman who reminisces about her high school sweetheart, Jimmie, who was tragically killed after a party attended by the young couple. Though Jimmie has been gone for five years, it does not stop Crystelle from mourning his loss or from having dreams of him and conversations with his spirit.
In this nostalgic tale, Ulen jumps back and forth through time, showing readers Crystelle's innocent past, sharing moments with her good friends Tara, Shelley, Michelle, and of course, Jimmie. In the present, readers are shown a present day Crystelle who may be pregnant by the only other man she's loved, her college boyfriend Hamp. Hamp, a bit of a workaholic, is a good and loving man. Competing with the spirit of Jimmie is another matter. A trip home to West Philly brings back memories, creates new ones, and may, once and for all, bring closure to a painful chapter in her life. Ulen, an English teacher at Hunter College in New York City, shows flashes of brilliance throughout the book, such as in the following passage:
He pulls himself out of bed. She pulls herself out of bed. They collapse in the night into arms brown and soft and hard, and working hands touch chipped nails in the dark behind the shades in the night under the blankets they make love. And the pattern is regular, and the pattern is rhythm, and they are not alone when they are together.
Though Crystelle Mourning has some brilliant and beautifully-written prose (especially the ghostly conversations between Jimmie and Crystal), the story itself was a bit unexciting and was difficult to read on a continuous basis. Finishing the book felt more like work than pleasure. The prologue, written in a rarely seen second-person narrative, reads rather awkwardly and may turn readers off before they've had a chance to read some of the more familiar third-person narrative appearing later. Even though Crystelle Mourning was not my particular cup of tea, Ulen's prose shows she has a bright future as a novelist.
10 Ways to Screw Up An Ad Campaign
57 Littlefield Street, Avon, MA 02322
When it comes to advertising, there are lots of do-it-yourselfers out there. Presidents at small companies tend to ignore the value of marketing and assign the important task to sales managers, themselves and even unqualified relatives. In Barry Cohen's new book "10 Ways to Screw Up an Ad Campaign," readers will learn why it makes sense to hire a professional.
Barry Cohen, a 26-year ad industry veteran, provides insightful information on everything from choosing the right media (radio, billboards, TV), creative and frequency when it comes to advertising. He provides information on negotiating a discount with the media, which media makes sense for which products or services and how to choose an ad agency to handle it all.
For instance, in regards to why there is so much web advertising on the radio he shares: "The reason may not be unrelated to a USA Today poll that found about two-thirds o fall Web surfers are listening to the radio while they're online. A quick way to close the loop between a media and a purchase? You bet!"
Though the book is written with a predictable slant towards hiring ad advertising agency such as the one he leads, it is not a commercial for his agency and does not take away from the helpful information he shares with his readers on the ins and outs of the advertising world. For anyone looking to gain insight into the advertising world's dos and don'ts, this book is perfect. Highly Recommended
Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer
Dean & Me
Jerry Lewis and James Kaplan
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0767920864 $26.95 1-800-726-0600
Lewis for the first time tells all about his relationship with Dean Martin who he depicts Martin as a brother figure. Jerry was the reason the comedy team broke up. Lewis is very candid and reveals lots of things such as that. I found it a bit hard to follow because Lewis jumps around over the years instead of telling a straight progression of one of the greatest partner acts to ever hit the stage and screen. At any rate it is an interesting account from one of the people who was there. I also liked that Jerry shows why and how the team broke up.
Hollywood Be Thy Name
Shirley & Jeff Lawrence
Shirley and Jeff tell many exciting and wonderful stories of movies from the perspective of extras which they were. They have long careers and talk about many great actors and movies they were a part of. Shirley also talks about "the casting couch" and the several times she turned it down. Jeff deals with agents and actors who are gay. Some are very surprising. They both talk about TV shows they have worked on as well. The book is also a resource for anyone who wants to be an extra and the authors have other extras tell their stories. "Hollywood Be Thy Name is a fun excursion into the world of movies and TV shows.
The Worst Person In The World And 202 Contenders
John Wiley & Sons Inc.
111 River Street, Hoboken NJ 07030
This is really a book about the dumbest things people say and do. Some of the people who many times are on the list are President George W. Bush, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. Then there are others who say things that are just plain stupid: Barbara Bush, Brit Hume, Debra Lafave, and The Department of Homeland Security. Olbermann also shows things that people do that are so stupid. This is a laugh out loud book that really shows how people really are
Columbia Final Voyage
233 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013
Yes, this book is about the Columbia disaster but it is much more than that. It is also the story of NASA that shows why we must continue to explore space. The author traces the disaster of Columbia and shows that NASA had a problem that they felt was very minor. Chien digs deep into the story while at the same time shows the positive things the space agency has done. He also shows the many benefits. Chien's style is easy to follow and brings to life the crews of many shuttles. The author who covers the space program for newspapers around the country, has done a great job of telling the story of one of the country's darkest days.
The Bitter Man's Guide To Dating
The Bitter Man Publications
This is the first of a series of books about dating. I like the concept that shows men the kind of women who are single. The feeling I came away with is that there are very few that you could find to be with in a long-term relationship. Christopher shows so many different ladies who have their own agendas and are unwilling to compromise. Don't get me wrong there are some good ones but they are far and few. He also writes about several women he had dates with. One made him feel like a brother when she wanted to know his thoughts about a man she met that she wanted to date. Another is a blind date set up by a friend. This is one of the most accurate titles I have read about the dating scene.
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440240778 $7.50 1-800-726-0600
I stopped reading Steel a long time ago because the pacing of her novels was slowed down with her bad writing style. I counted her use of and "and" "but" 20 to 30 times on each page. I think what interested me this time was the subject and the first few pages I read flowed much easier. I was disappointed midway into the novel when I found I had to use a pen to eliminate the overused words at least 10 times on each page. I think she still does not know the proper use of the two words. My suggestion is stop writing in a fairy tale fashion and just tell the story. I have always found her characters believable and her conflicts are always interesting.
The Science of James Bond
Lois H. Gresh and Robert Weionberg
John Wiley & Sons Inc.
111 River Street, Hoboken NJ 07030
0471661953 $14.95 www.wiley.com
Being a big Bond fan I had a lot of fun with this book that dealt with all of the Bond films and how scientific they are. The authors take readers on a jaunt to show different things in the films that have come true, things that could happen in the near future and aspects that could never happen. They talk about the many gadgets from Q branch that have saved Bond many times. They also discuss the plots of the movies and show many unknown aspects of the long running series. This is book any Bond fan should read.
Sex Secrets of an American Geisha
Py Kim Conant
Hunter House Publishers
P.O. Box 2914, Alameda, CA 94501
0897934903 $13.95 1-800-266-5592 www.hunterhouse.com
Conant tells women how to catch, marry and keep a man. Her approach is to utilize many of the things Geishas of Japan do for their clients. She also offers generous doses of sex that in some peoples minds is very graphic. She warns that her book is not politically correct. I think it is so much better because it is not. Conant talks frankly and honestly to women and from time to time tells things that she has done that she found worked. I also liked that she is not putting the approach and the sex under the microscope as many of these self help books by medical professionals often do. Conant is a writer who has written one of the best books on the subject of relationships and good sex.
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
084395731X $6.99 www.dorchesterpub.com
Death seems to follow Julian Ross around. She is a suspect in the murder of her second husband when police learn that her first husband died in much the same manner. The writing is tense nail biting suspense with a very good storyline. This is a page-turner that would make a fabulous movie.
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
1401302629 $24.95 www.HypoerionBooks.com
I used to like Hatcher very much until I read this revelation of her life. I was very surprised to hear her say that she had mediocre success with the series "Lois and Clark" Where has she been? The show ran for 4 seasons, while her photos were the most downloaded pictures on the Internet. She also was the spokesperson for Radio Shack and was in a James Bond film. All of that was before "Desperate Housewives." Sometimes stars should say no to doing books like this because, something they say or do will alter the public's view of them. Marry Tyler Moore did the same thing but much worse with her book where she made many stupid and uncalled for statements I don't watch either one of them after reading their books.
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 1022-5299
0060766328 $7.99 www.avonbooks.com
Philpin has written an easy to follow account of one of the worst murder cases in the country. What makes it worse is that police were so desperate to bring someone to justice they rushed to judgment and almost charged the wrong person. It was due only to one officer's work that the right person was finally brought to justice. The author also shows how several families' lives were harmed by this case. "Shattered Justice" is for any reader who wants a good true crime book
Vanishing Point A Sharon McCone Mystery
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0892968052 $24.99 1-800-759-0190
In a book that explores the many facets and permutations of marriage, Sharon McCone and Hy Ripinsky, her long-time lover, have finally tied the knot. Although Sharon expresses herself as now having everything she's ever wanted, she finds herself unprepared for some of the changes her marriage threatens to bring, not all of them welcome. Theoretically, the marriage was not expected to change anything, but she is advised by a close friend to "wait and see."
Sharon's first case after the wedding forces a confrontation with some of the more unpleasant results of a marriage gone bad. When she is hired by Jennifer Aldin to look into Jennifer's mother's disappearance over two decades earlier, what on the surface appeared to be an instance of a woman content with her life- a good mother, successful businesswoman, very involved in her community - is discovered to be anything but what it appears to be. She has to consider the fact that the woman – loving wife, mother, and friend – had abandoned everyone she'd supposedly loved. And then, in a manner eerily reminiscent of her mother 22 years previously, Jen disappears, the similarities between the two woman: "both talented, professional, reliable, a good friend, and by all appearances as having an excellent marriage," as well as the
suddenness and completeness of their disappearances without a trace, lead Sharon to question whether the two events are not tied together. Vanishing Point marks a welcome return of Sharon McCone and her extended family, friends and colleagues. It is a gripping tale which examines the constraints that can be imposed by marriage. A favorite series of this reader and Ms. Muller's many fans, it will undoubtedly soon appear on the bestseller lists, and deservedly so. Recommended.
The Dead Hour
Little, Brown & Co.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316735949 $24.99 1-800-759-0190
Paddy Meehan, 21 years old and on night shift [called the "calls car" shift, and encompassing the Dead Hour, 3 AM], at the Scottish Daily News in Glasgow, makes one of her usual nightly calls, following the police radio in the car and going to the address to which the police have been summoned. This time it appears to be a domestic disturbance, the victim a young, elegant-looking blond woman who, though obviously bloodied, refuses any assistance and, when Paddy catches her eye, seems to slightly shake her head. The police leave, aided by the passing of money into their hands from the man who had answered the door, a scenario replayed moments later when Paddy, herself now the recipient of a 50 pound note, tries to question him. The following morning Paddy learns that the body of the blond woman, a prosecution attorney from a wealthy family, has been found, having been tortured, beaten and left to die, and she is tormented by the possible role she may have played by her quiescence. To salve her conscience and, not incidentally, hoping to make her mark as an investigative journalist at the same time, Paddy follows up on the story, which expands when another death follows, whether suicide or murder an uncertain matter. Glasgow, its rougher as well as finer areas, the helplessness of those affected by 1980's unemployment, and the protagonist's Irish Catholic background, are well drawn, as is Paddy, young, rebellious, hardworking [sole support of her parents and several siblings] and ambitious. The author having interspersed a second pov, contained within but separate from its surrounding chapters, was a bit confusing at first to this reader, as the identity of the second voice in unclear [although the reader knows her name] – it is really her relation to the rest of the story thus far that is not clear. It is not until over 50 pages into the book that her identity becomes evident. The effect of this device is to steadily build the suspense which, despite the book having begun at a moderate pace, grows till the hold-you r-breath conclusion and a shocking twist before a very satisfying conclusion. As for that cliffhanger in the last line, the resolution of that will have to await the next book in the series, which I will eagerly await. The Dead Hour is the second in the Paddy Meehan series, following Field of Blood, and Ms. Mina's earlier books, including Deception and the Garnethill trilogy.
A Stolen Season
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
031235360X $22.95 212-674-5151
Steve Hamilton's newest book in the Alex McKnight series opens on July 4th – not that one could tell that it's summer – temperatures in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have been hovering at wintry levels, with heavy fog and few if any rays of sunshine. Not that this is the first time that this has happened – after all, in 1995 they got six feet of snow in one day, and the snow in that part of the country doesn't even melt until May. But this year, summer is a season stolen from the Yuppers [as they call themselves]. Someone says 'every twenty years or so, it's like summer just forgets to come." As one of his friends puts it, 'something in the air is just plain broken.' For Alex McKnight, much more is stolen from him than just his summer.
Alex' relationship with the love of his life, Natalie, a Canadian cop, is reaching a critical point. She is now back in Toronto, working a dangerous undercover job attempting to net a big-time gun dealer, and he fears for her safety. On this particular July 4th, Alex visits his friend Tyler who lives in a house at the edge of the water, to watch the fireworks which may or may not [due to the fog] be set off to celebrate the holiday. To their shock, they witness a boat come roaring by only to crash into the pilings of an old railroad bridge, virtually destroying it. Tyler, Alex and his old friend and ex-P.I. partner, Leon, rescue the three occupants of the boat, whose explanation for what they were doing on the Lake and how the accident happened doesn't compute. Other incidents involving these men turn out to be hazardous to the health of all concerned.
In one of these, more critically dangerous to Alex than the others, his reaction as described by the author didn't strike me as what one would expect from an ex-cop from Detroit [although that may just be because the last book I read was Lee Child's newest Jack Reacher book, with a much-larger-than-life protagonist]. But Alex is more 'human' [for lack of a better word], seems more vulnerable and when things go even more terribly wrong, he becomes vengeful and rages against those who he feels are responsible. And the body count starts to go higher.
The writing is very good and at times lyrical; the sense of place, as always with this author, very strong. The books moves at a measured pace till suddenly and shockingly it revs up into a higher gear and races to its conclusion. I think you'll find yourself holding your breath, as I did.
Little, Brown & Co.
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0316734950 $26.99 800-759-0190
Echo Park, the newest book by Michael Connelly, opens with a scene in 1993 at a Hollywood apartment complex when LAPD detective Harry Bosch discovers a car belonging to Marie Gesto, a young woman who had gone missing ten days earlier. The cops are never able to solve the case, and Marie's body is never found. Fast forward to 2006. Harry, now a member of the Open-Unsolved Unit, has been haunted by the case ever since, periodically reviewing the evidence, keeping in touch with the young woman's parents and determined to find out what happened to her, although he has become convinced she is no longer alive. One day he is told that a man about to go on trial for two brutal killings has said he committed several other murders over the years, including that of Marie Gesto, and Harry is called in to reopen the case and take the man's confession. In so doing, he is shown evidence that he and his former partner ignored a lead in the original investigation that could have led to finding the killer, thereby preventing all his subsequent crimes; Harry is devastated. All of Bosch's well-known personal demons are unleashed. As he says: "…taking it straight to the heart is the way of the true detective. The only way." Of course, taking it straight to the heart is what makes Harry so vulnerable, and such a wonderful protagonist. The present investigation is complicated by the fact that the prosecutor handling the case is a man now vying for the DA's job in an upcoming election. Never one to "go along" and bow to political pressure, Bosch must now walk a tightrope, which means investigating on his own when necessary, no matter where it leads. As are the earlier books in the series, and indeed all of Michael Connelly's books, the book is well-written and –plotted, and thoroughly engrossing. Minor quibble: The ending was a bit of a letdown for me; I'm not sure why. That notwithstanding, plan to read this book when you have no pressing engagements, because it's nearly impossible to put down once you've started reading.
William Kent Krueger
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0743278402 $24.00 212-698-7000
Copper River is the body of water into which plunged the body of a 14-year-old girl, later washed ashore and discovered, an apparent suicide. "Copper River" is nominally her story, horrifying, harrowing and all too "ripped-from-the-headlines" real . [By a weird coincidence the book was released the same week that a story broke in the news about an 18-year-old girl who'd just escaped after having been kidnapped and held captive for several years, immediately following which her kidnapper killed himself.] The book presents, to quote from the flyleaf, "…the grim reality of children lost and abandoned, who become easy prey for the perverted appetites of human predators." Strong stuff. Cork O'Connor, the protagonist of this wonderful series by William Kent Krueger, finds himself endangered from the outset of the book, having been wounded when shot by contract killers out to murder him. He takes refuge with his cousin, Jewell DuBois. When Jewell's young son, Renoir ("Ren"), discovers the father of his best friend, Charlene ("Charlie") Miller, beaten to death, and Charlie nowhere to be found, Cork becomes caught up in the investigation of the man's murder, as well as the death of the young girl which apparently took place that same night, all the while trying to evade those seeking his death. One small quibble: There were a couple of "Had I only known then" moments that were unsettling – the suspense level was already high, so I felt it superfluous. But that is a minor thing in a terrific book. The author's love of and appreciation for the "natural world" is evident from the first page. To cite one example: "The sky was a flawless blue, the air dead still, the late morning only just now crawling out from under the chill of the night before. The hardwoods were in full autumn glory and the Huron Mountains were like a stormy sea caught fire." The lyrical prose and wonderful descriptions make the Upper Peninsula of Michigan come alive. The signature Native American backdrop is, as always, fascinating. The suspense is well-sustained throughout, and this powerful novel is as riveting as are all the previous books in this series, and is recommended.
All Mortal Flesh
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
0312312644 $22.95 212-674-5151
All Mortal Flesh, the newest in the Clare Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyne series, finds Clare, the parish priest in the small Adirondack, upstate NY town of Millers Kill, and Russ, the local police chief and married man she loves, having just wrenchingly ended their relationship. The following day, an even more devastating event occurs: Russ is told that his wife, from whom he had recently separated when he told her of his love for Clare, has been brutally murdered. Loving Clare, yet still loving his wife, matters are only compounded when both Clare and Russ are considered prime suspects, not only by the police but by the local gossip-loving town residents.
With her usual adroit skill, Ms. Spencer-Fleming has written another wonderful tale of these very human protagonists in this, their sixth appearance. The sense of place is vivid, and the wintry weather graphically evoked. There is a slam-bang ending with a final unexpected and stunning turn as this suspense-filled tale concludes. An excellent and fast-paced read, and it is recommended.
Fear of the Dark
Little, Brown and Co.
1271 Sixth Avenue, NY,NY 10020
0316734586 $25.99 800-759-0190
Walter Mosley seamlessly recreates, in his customary fashion, the Watts/South Central area of LA circa 1956. This is the third book by Mr. Mosley to feature Paris Minton and his 'associate' and best friend, Fearless Jones, the latter described as 'tall and thin, jet of color, unafraid of death or love, threat or imprisonment.' When Paris' cousin, Ulysses S. Grant IV, called Useless by one and all, 'a petty thief, a liar, a malingerer, and just plain bad luck,' shows up at the door of Paris' bookstore one day, Paris knows he's in trouble. When Paris turns down his cousin's plea for help and sends him away, it's only a matter of time before Paris' aunt, Three Hearts, Useless' mother, comes looking for her son, and Paris has to try to find him. In so doing, he finds more than he bargained for: blackmail, cheating business partners, jealous boyfriends, and murder. One incident in particular, brought about by Paris' sexual propensities and appetites, gives him good reason for the phobia of the title, among other fears that plague him.
As in this author's prior books, Fear of the Dark is fast-moving and well-plotted. The racism that was such a taken-for-granted part of the era is clearly depicted, e.g., "You know we always on the edge, brother. You don't have to do sumpin' wrong for the cops to get ya and the judge to throw you ovah. All you got to do is be walkin' down the street at the wrong minute. Shoot, Paris. You always got to be ready to run." As Paris says at one point, "I sat there thinking how the life I was living would be better in the remembering than it was while it was going on." Recommended.
The Black Dahlia
1271 Sixth Avenue, NY, NY 10020;
0446698873 13.99 1-800-759-0190
It has been nigh onto impossible lately to avoid reading about The Black Dahlia, the much-publicized [and widely panned] film version of the book by the same name written in 1987. The book, very well received at that time, has now been reissued shortly in advance of the film's release [with a new Afterword by the author]. For some reason I had never read the book, but am very happy the reissue brought it to my attention and that I have been able to correct that oversight.
The actual event about which the book revolves is the still-unsolved, very brutal murder in LA in 1947 of Elizabeth Short, a beautiful young woman, 22 years old, given to wearing all black and thus dubbed The Black Dahlia by the tabloids. As is widely known and as is the subject of the Afterword, eleven years after Elizabeth Short's death the author's mother was also murdered in LA (which killing likewise was never solved), obviously the seminal event of his life, and the book is dedicated to her.
The book takes guise of a memoir written by a fictional LA cop in on the case from the day the body was discovered, who describes himself as 'the only one who does know the entire story.' The body is discovered on page 69 of the book, the preceding pages allowing the reader to get to know the persona of the protagonist who at some point becomes the author's alter ego. The racist and otherwise politically incorrect language is jarring albeit almost undoubtedly the norm for the time and it is all the more authentic for that. The author does not need this reviewer to praise the wonderful writing: James Ellroy may not have been the first to write LA noir, and some may have done it equally well, but nobody's done it better.
Intrigue Press, an imprint of Big Earth Publishing
3005 Center Green Dr., Ste. 220, Boulder, CO 80301
1890768731 $24.00 303-443-9766
"Nothing interrupts a nice chat like the arrival of a gorilla" – the opening line of Monkey Man and an indication of the slightly whacky and offbeat [in a good way, mind you] novel to follow. The circumstances of the "chat" in question? A meeting in a café between Bubba Mabry, of Bubba Mabry Investigations, with a potential client seeking to hire him with regard to suspected malfeasance leading to the death of an inordinately large number of animals of the zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he is employed. (The suspected plot kinda gives "endangered species" a whole new meaning.) But the meeting is interrupted when the aforementioned man in the gorilla suit pulls a gun and shoots the whistleblower dead.
Having decided he has no further obligation in the matter, Bubba is forced to change his mind when the dead man's fiancee hires Bubba to investigate, reasoning that if they find out what secret's being covered up, they'll find out who the killer is. Despite his reluctance, Bubba agrees, and that resolve is only bolstered when, shortly thereafter, someone else who had just been speaking to Bubba is killed - Bubba, feeling guilty, becomes determined to find the perp, if only for his own peace of mind, all coercion and threats if he pursues that course notwithstanding.
Bubba, who is self-described as suffering from "genetic gullibility," nonetheless asks enough questions of enough people to flush out the culprit[s]. Along the way he gives the reader a fast and enjoyable read. Monkey Man is the latest in the Bubba Mabry series, one I'm glad to have been introduced to. Steve Brewer is also the author of the Drew Gavin series, in addition to the recent standalone Whipsaw, much enjoyed by this reviewer
Stephen Brown, Ph.D.
The Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134
Absolutely beautifully done with brilliant colors and well-composed pictures this is a great joy to just look through for all bird lovers or fans of the Arctic Refuge area. But it does not stop there. The writers share their experiences in an excellent educational yet highly readable treatise on their particular subject. Together they introduce the fascinating world of Arctic birds to the reader in a way that is both informative and fun. So, how to you finish off such an excellent book? They added a CD in the back with various bird calls, songs, and peeps. Arctic Wings: Birds of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is highly recommended and a real joy to have around even just for the pleasure of picking it up once in a while and enjoying the pictures.
Backpacker: Tent and Car Camper's Handbook
Buck Tilton, M.S., Kristin Hostetter
The Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134
As an avid camper who enjoys any excuse to get out into the wilderness from the mountains of the Rockies to the Boundary Waters canoe area to the wilds of the Everglades. So, a book on camping needs to come up to a certain level of quality before I can recommend it. Recognizing that wilderness camping is not for everyone the authors of this book not only discuss the needs and techniques of primitive camping but cover the whole gamut up to the more modern camping with landscaped sites, running water and hot showers. They do an excellent job of providing detailed information on tents, sleeping gear, pads, clothing, cooking, and other camp gear. This is a great collection of a lot of the things that experience teaches after the fact but now you can have it to help plan beforehand. It's like having a very experienced guide to walk you through everything you need to know and do in order to have a great camping experience. Where do you go, what questions do you ask, what you should expect at National forests, state parks, or private campgrounds. There is a great section on setting up camp from pitching the tent, setting up your bedding, setting up your cooking area, hygiene issues, and dealing with animal visitors. There are even sections on camping with kids, various easy camp recipes, basic first aid, and suggested activities.
The book concludes with several excellent appendixes including one that covers the ultimate standard in primitive camping – leave no trace philosophy. Additional appendixes include a list of the top 100 campgrounds around the U.S., activities to deal with boredom and children, and a camping checklist. Backpacker: Tent and Car Camper's Handbook is an excellent resource and a highly recommended read.
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
Beginning Gimp: From Novice to Professional
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
Finally, there is a book on GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) that I can recommend without reservations. Personally, I love using the GIMP program for image manipulation and find that it has always been able to do everything I have ever needed. However, most of that knowledge has been gained through a long process of trial and error. Beginning GIMP is a treat to read through and explore the different techniques and effects that are possible with the program. Written at a level for the complete novice it is easy to understand and the author does an excellent job of walking the reader through complex subjects by explaining them well and then demonstrating how to do it. Some of the areas discussed include working with digital photos, drawing, using filters, creating special effects, and advanced composition techniques. If you want complete flexibility to create and/or modify your digital photos or drawings and get the results you want then GIMP will give you that flexibility and power. Beginning Gimp: From Novice to Professional is highly recommended and the first book I would recommend for the user new to GIMP.
Build Your Own Web Server Using Linux and Apache
Stuart Langridge, Tony Steidler-Dennison
SitePoint Pty. Ltd.
424 Smith Street Collingwood, VIC Australia 3066
The focus in this book is on one of the most common implementations of Linux; as a complete Internet solution with a Linux server, Apache web server, MySQL database, and PHP language. This combination is commonly called a LAMP installation. The authors lead the reader through how to pick an appropriate Linux distribution for your needs, install and configure the Apache web server, use MySQL to store data and use PHP to build Web applications.
The authors assume little or no knowledge of Linux and so include a basic introduction to Linux including common daily tasks and administration. Once your Linux server is up and running they also cover how to use various utilities to administer it remotely. Other chapters include information on server security, GNOME, file system, and permissions. This is not a bad introduction to Linux and Apache but it does almost nothing with MySQL and PHP. This is a basic text on how to get a LAMP server up and running. It is not a text on how to program with PHP or how to create and administer a MySQL database. For this information you will need to consult other texts. However, since a LAMP server is one of the most common uses of Linux and there are specific techniques to get the Linux server, Apache, MySQL and PHP all installed and working together seamlessly this book is very valuable for this specific task. Build Your Own Web Server Using Linux and Apache is recommended to anyone who wants to get a LAMP server up and running with a minimum of frustration.
Charts of World Religions
H. Wayne House
5300 Patterson SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
The Zondervan Charts series is an excellent resource for anyone trying to understand complex subjects and this book is no exception. By using basic charts to visually lay out comparisons it allows the reader to examine various world religions side by side. The author then provides more detailed charts by grouping the religions in historical and geographical contexts. In this section the main classification categories include Ancient Mediterranean Religions, Western Religions, Eastern Religions and Indigenous Religions.
If you want a quick reference to the basic differences side-by-side you can't do better than this book. Note that it does not go into various denominations within a group such as Christianity. For example, in the Christianity group it still retains large groupings such as Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Liberal Protestantism, Fundamentalist Protestantism, and Pentecostal-Charismatic Protestantism. In addition to the timelines and significant historical events for each religion, the holy scriptures for each religion are also listed. Charts of World Religions is a great overview to the basics of each of the religions addressed and a recommended read.
The Chinese Century
Wharton School Publishing
Pearson Education, Inc.
One Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
China is a quickly rising economy on the world stage and many liken it to another Japan on the horizon. However, there are as many differences as there are similarities between the rise of the Chinese economy and the rise of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong. These differences are critical if you are going to understand the impact this will have on the American and world economy. What is the legacy of China's history and how is that impacting their current economy? How is China dealing with (or not dealing with) the problem of piracy and bootlegging of legitimate products on the world market and how will that affect their position on the world market stage? The author deftly covers opportunities and challenges in the China market and in United States Chinese market. The Chinese Century is highly recommended for anyone who wishes to understand the Chinese market and the implications of that market for the United States.
Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML
Elixabeth Freeman, Eric Freeman
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
This is a true learner's guide to building standards-based Web pages. It includes a lot of information on common HTML and CSS traps and pitfalls as well as why common conceptions about style are often wrong. To help the reader actually learn the material in a fun and friendly manner it includes a lot of puzzles and exercises and other material that make it a joy to learn. This is truly a guide for the non-programmer that will have them quickly up to speed on how to design and build a web site. One of the virtues of this particular book is that the authors relate common problems and frustrations of users and how to avoid them in your website.
The authors take one of the most successful approaches to learning - read about it, try it, see the results, try something different, see the results, etc. Everything is done is a logical step-by-step fashion with small steps first explained and then applied and you see the results right away. An extensive introduction, it is one of the easiest and definitely the most fun way to learn HTML, CSS and XHTML from no knowledge to an intermediate level. Throughout the book the authors make great use of sidebars, photos, illustrations, notes, and other elements to keep the reader interested in the subject. Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML is highly recommended.
Quail Ridge Press
PO Box 123, Brandon, MS 39043
The first question that jumped into my mind on reading the title to this book was wondering just who Ott was and why I should care. This short book is the biography of Arthur C. Guyton. Don't know that name? Neither did I. However, the author is such a skilled writer that the book keeps the reader's interest despite reading the life story of someone they probably never heard of. Actually Arthur C. Guyton was quite a remarkable man and serves as an inspiration to all who would learn of him through this book. In some circles his is a common name as he invented the electric wheelchair, became known as the Father of Modern Cardiovascular Physiology, and fathered ten doctors. Written in short chapters and at a middle school level this would make an excellent book for school assignment or as an inspirational text. Inventing Ott is highly recommended as an interesting biographical text and a fine example of how biographical texts should be written.
Linux Annoyances for Geeks
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
Linux is a great operating system but like every other one it has some annoyances that may crop up from time to time. The purpose of this book is to help the reader to get Linux to work the way they want it to without getting annoyed in the process. As such the target audience is the Linux power user and system administrators.
Some of the areas covered include configuring GNOME applications in KDE and configuring KDE applications in GNOME, X Window configuration, working with CDs and DVDs, configuring sound, converting from Outlook, interfacing with various Instant Messaging programs, working with Microsoft Office documents, multimedia, hardware issues, startup problems, system maintenance, CUPS printing, using Samba, and various administrative tasks. One of the really great features of the book is that the author provides the details of how to make the changes in each of the most common distributions including Red Hat, SUSE, and Debian. So you know right away how to do it in the particular distribution you are working with. This is one of the things that really sets this book apart from others in this category and makes it one of the best choices possible.
Linux Annoyances for Geeks is an excellent book that details step-by-step how to work through the annoyances and get the results you want. With easy to follow the steps and the correct results every time it is a highly recommended resource.
Linux Desktop Pocket Guide
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
This is basically a small format pocket reference to five of the most common desktop distributions of Linux. The distributions covered are Fedora, Gentoo, Mandriva, SUSE, and Ubuntu. The author covers the basics of navigating the GNOME and KDE desktop environments and the applications that come with each of the distributions. Deviating from the normal layout of such texts it is organized by the type of application instead of by the Linux distribution. As a result if you want to work with the web browser you go to that section where the author discuses the web browsers Firefox and Konquerer. These are the two that are included because each of the distributions has either one or the other.
The section on how to add, remove, and update programs is particularly good as it discusses the various techniques including how to add a package that it not part of your distribution. Here the author not only discusses the various package managers included with the distribution but also how to go the long way around and work with rpms. This is not an extensive technical reference to any of the Linux distributions discussed but it is a good first resource for common questions and a good introduction to all of them. Linux Desktop Pocket Guide is recommended for the average Linux user and a must have guide for others who need to know the differences between various distribution.
Linux Multimedia Hacks
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
Most versions of Linux have minimal multimedia abilities without the installation of additional software. Of course there is a lot of Linux software out there that can be used to change your Linux installation into a powerful multimedia computer with amazing capabilities. And, since it is Linux, it can be done at minimal or no cost for the software. Author Kyle Rankin breaks up the information into chapters on Images, Audio, Video, Broadcast Media, and Web. Working through the hacks you soon discover everything from how to rip a CD, convert file types, and edit a sound file to how to build a MythTV system where you can record television, watch videos, listen to music, and play arcade games from one system. There's even a tip for automatically removing commercials from digitally recorded television shows. When you are trying to figure out how to get your Linux system to do something special in the area of multimedia this is the first book you will want to turn to for answers. Linux Multimedia Hacks is highly recommended.
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
If you think all those amazing things people design and make are done by groups of high-paid engineers in large corporations think again. This book chronicles the amazing things being designed, tested, and built by everyday people in their basements, garages and backyards all around the world. Some of the projects will leave you amazed that ordinary people could build them in their back yard and others will leave you amazed that anyone would bother to build it anywhere. Either way, it is a fascinating trip through the world of the creative mind as seen through these projects. Each project is explained in detail and includes information on the cost, time to complete and where to get more information. Among the fun and fascinating projects are a walking table, tesla coils, a tornado machine, a flamethrower, and even a personal submarine. Makers: All Kinds of People Making Amazing Things in Garages, Basements, and Backyards is highly recommended and sure to stir the creative thought processes in just about everyone.
Make It Real
Point of Grace
Howard Publishing Company, Inc.
3117 North Seventh Street, West Monroe, LA 71291-2227
Point of Grace is a popular Christian singing group with a particular attraction to teenage girls. As part of their ministry they regularly have conferences for teenage girls called Girls of Grace. This book is basically a devotional and Bible study workbook for teenage girls. In it the members of Point of Grace discuss many of the most common problems of teenage girls. These include gossip, being true to yourself, dealing with the games they play, and self-esteem issues. Make It Real delivers Christian based answers and guidance for those dealing with these most common of teenage issues. Each section ends with discussion topic questions that make the book a good guide to get young girls thinking about how to apply the information in their everyday life. Make It Real is a highly recommended book both for any teenage girl and for parents seeking to understand, or remember, the problems of being a teenager and how that has changed today.
Mind Performance Hacks
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
Mind Performance Hacks includes the usual fare of all memory books – various memory systems including the Major and Dominic Systems and variations of them. However, these authors go beyond the memory books by including many of the newer concepts in information processing such as mind mapping, dealing with cruft, ways of increasing creativity, capturing creative thoughts and using your creative self to resolve current issues. They also include some neat math tricks and techniques to quickly check the results of calculations for accuracy, estimate square roots, and other quick calculations. Unusual areas include better decision making and communications, bringing clarity to your life by working with emotional problems, and using meditation. And of course they include things to do to exercise your brain and keep it in tip-top shape. Mind Performance Hacks: Tips and Tools for Overclocking Your Brain is highly recommended and was well beyond what I had expected from the title.
Wharton School Publishing
Pearson Education, Inc.
One Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
Powerful Times is an examination of what the author presents as seven powerful dynamic tensions that will fundamentally reshape human life. What are these seven tensions? Some we are already seeing regularly in the news as the conflicts between the secular and the sacred. Others are also obvious like the tension between clarity and craziness. Still others become fascinating in the way the author develops them; like power and vulnerability, technology acceleration and pushback, intangible and physical economics, prosperity and decline, and people and planet. This is an in-depth exploration of the challenges and changes of governance and innovation. One of the more interesting ideas presented here are what the author sees as the three different scenarios for potential world orders that might evolve as a result of these tensions. This is a bold look at the forces molding our world as we know it and how they will change that world in the near future. Powerful Times is an interesting read and recommended to business and civic leaders at all levels.
Ash Books, Inc.
PO Box 670, Harrison, TN 37341
What if you received a letter from God? Is this what it takes to get people to listen? This is the story of several people who get a letter from God and how they react to the letters as well as how God reacts to their actions or lack thereof. It is a story of how God often works with people through apparently unconnected events. The beginning of the book appears to be unconnected stories of people who receive these letters and how they choose to act. While this is a good study of human nature in and of itself, you soon see how these are all related to each other and the story takes on a more cohesive tone. An enjoyable fiction novel it reminds the reader to keep their mind open to the message of God and the possibilities of how God may be speaking to us in everyday life. The Letters is a recommended read for Christians.
It's Never Done That Before
No Starch Press, Inc.
555 DeHaro Street, Suite 250, San Francisco, CA 94107
What a great book title and if you've worked with Windows XP you are sure to have heard it or thought it many times. If you are tired of the strange things that Windows XP does at the most inopportune times then this text is for you. If you are not already a power user with good technical skills at troubleshooting Windows problems but are not afraid to try things yourself then you will find this book one of the best places to start when you have problems. The author starts with the basics of troubleshooting including common problems, black screens, blue screens, error messages, startup problems, safe mode, and recovery console. From there he then looks at the all too common device driver problems, using the Microsoft knowledge base, and working with the BIOS and registry.
Of course those are just one the many different types of problems that may occur. John Ross also examines other types of problems that may be introduced from the outside including things like viruses and spyware. Each of these subjects is examined and the author details how they affect your system as well as what to do to get rid of the most common ones. Of course the all too common network problems including Internet connections as well as LAN problems are covered as well. The book ends with a section on troubleshooting and replacing hardware. This text is too basic for the power user but hits the target very well for the new or average user who is unafraid to try to fix problems their self. It's Never Done That Before is a recommended read as a good first level resource for the home user.
Penetration Tester's Open Source Toolkit
Johnny Long, Aaron Bayles, James Foster, Chris Hurley, Mike
Petruzzi Noam Rathaus, Mark Wolfgang
Syngress Publishing, Inc.
800 Hingham Street, Rockland, MA 02370
This book not only covers what tools are available for penetration testing but also details how to use them to effectively test the system. Some of the tools, such as who is and ping, will be very familiar to the Linux user and most power users of other operating systems. Other tools are less familiar but very powerful and a real insight into what can be done to gather information on a system before attempting to penetrate it. Part of what makes this book really interesting is the way the authors approach this subject. They don't walk the reader through all the details of a handful of tools but instead they take a task-oriented approach. For example they go first through enumerating and scanning a system, then testing databases, web server testing, web application testing, wireless penetration and network devices. They then end this section with information about writing open source security tools. Chapter 8 starts a section on the Open Source vulnerability scanner Nessus. It automatically finds many problems in the system by trying to penetrate it using various scripts. The results are captured and the generated reports detail the information it was able to obtain. This is a very powerful testing product and one of the most common ones you will find in the marketplace.
The authors detail how to set up a Nessus client and server, scan the system and understand the results. Although almost three hundred pages are dedicated to Nessus it is a very powerful and highly configurable program that can consume a full book by itself to use its full potential. Penetration Tester's Open Source Toolkit is highly recommended, insightful, and very interesting to read and experiment with.
Spanish – Live It and Learn It
Martha Racine Taylor
155 Cypress Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
This is a guide to Spanish schools in Mexico where you can get a complete language immersion experience. Each program is rated on a five star basis in terms of location, facilities and program. It also includes cost information, size of classes, address, contact information and plenty of other background information to help the student decide between the various choices.
In a lengthy introduction chapter the author includes the very important ancillary information you need to know before studying in Mexico. This includes common customs, habits, things to expect, what not to expect, safety, medical concerns, dealing with the local governmental offices, and just about everything you need to know to make your experience positive, safe, and educational. For those desiring a total immersion language program Spanish – Live It and Learn It is a recommended resource.
Kathleen T. Pelley
Farrar Straus Giroux
19 Union Square West,New York, NY 10003
This is a fun tale about Inventor McGregor, who seemed to be able to invent some sort of gadget to solve just about any problem. His life was filled with joy until he was recognized for his talent and given a job as an inventor. Suddenly things were just not the same and he seemed to have lost his ability to invent. Would he get it back? An interesting children's story with an important lesson about being yourself, Inventor McGregor is highly recommended.
Running Linux, Fifth Edition
Matthias Kalle Dalheimer, Matt Welsh
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
The Running Linux book is expanded and updated regularly and is designed to bring the casual and new user up to speed with using Linux as well as updated information. This is all done is a distribution-neutral context which makes it one of the better guides available. Of course that also presents problems when a particular distribution does something a little bit different from the norm. If you are a serious Linux enthusiast and have been for some time you will find the book too elementary for your needs but those new to Linux will find it a great introduction. The one real problem that I have with the book is that at times leaves out too much detail and as a result you can't really understand how to use something. An example is the entire section on MySQL and PHP. Then again, there are many excellent books available on these subjects and this is still more of an introductory guide so letting the reader know what can be done and then letting them seek out an appropriate text for the details is appropriate. Not to mention if it included all the details on all the subjects discussed then this would be a multi-volume work.
The book is laid out in a logical patter and after some preliminary background information the authors start the reader on the details of the installation process and fixing installation problems. From there they move to the desktop environment including both the KDE and GNOME environments as well as basic console based commands and concepts.
Once you have those basics covered they then introduce the most common applications including web browsers, instant messaging, email clients, games, office suites, groupware, and multimedia applications. Once you are comfortable with these they lead the reader into the field of system administration. While it is still just the basics, it does include the every day maintenance skills needed to administer a Linux system. These include an excellent introduction to the filesystems, device files, cron, controlling processes, managing users, groups, and permissions, installing, updating and compiling programs, networking, printing, file sharing, startup and shutdown, and configuring a webserver, email server, or ftp server. They then finish up this section with the basics of securing your system, backup and recovery, and running Windows programs on Linux. Freshly updated for the new or beginning user, the Running Linux, Fifth Edition is one of the best introductions to Linux for the person who really wants to learn the operating system but need a book that starts from the very beginning.
The Book of Visual Basic 2005
No Starch Press, Inc.
555 DeHaro Street, Suite 250, San Francisco, CA 94107
The focus of this book is to take a traditional Visual Basic developer who is already experienced writing Visual Basic programs and use that as a base to move them to the .NET platform. One of the problems of the traditional Visual Basic program has been that it has its own way of doing things and is built on a platform that is different from other object-oriented languages such as C++ and Java. Of course this is not the only problem but if you program in more than one language then Visual Basic's dlls would often replace and create problems for the other language and vice-versa. The vision of .NET was to create a common language runtime with common classes that can be used for all languages. The problem is that this meant a complete rewrite of Visual Basic and many of the expressions used before no longer work. This need to relearn how to do so many things has slowed the adoption of the .NET framework for Visual Basic. This book comes to the rescue by providing a convenient learning pathway that starts with the familiar for the Visual Basic 6 programmer and moves them from there to the correct use of the .Net framework to accomplish the same goal. For the Visual Basic programmer making the move to the .NET platform The Book of Visual Basic 2005 is highly recommended.
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
If you want to do more with PHP than just write web-based applications then the GTK extensions may be just what you are looking for. With PHP-GTK you can develop a desktop application that has nothing to do with a website. In this book the author walks the reader through installing PHP-GTK and then provides a complete tutorial on writing programs with it.
The PHP-GTK documentation takes a functional approach by describing each function and how it is used. This is fine as long as you can work through the functions when you need one and determine how to make it work with other functions to get the results you want. The author of this book takes a different path by using a problem resolution approach. He describes common problems or common tasks and then walks the reader through how to resolve that problem or complete the task. This is a preferred method of learning how to use a programming language since each function of a language does not exist in a vacuum but in a relationship with other functions in order to achieve the results you want. Pro PHP-GTK is a highly recommended book for those who want to know about using PHP-GTK to create stand-alone applications and already understand the basics of object-oriented programming.
Pro Ajax and Java Frameworks
Nathaniel T. Schutta, Ryan Asleson
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
As users demand a richer website experience and developers try to create sites that don't require additional client-side add-ons many are turning to the combination of Ajax and Java. Of course Ajax does not require Java as it will work with ActiveX as well but the point is that the client does not need to add anything that is not already included in any modern browser.
In this book the authors take the reader through the basic functions of using the Ajax techniques. For each technique they do a good job of explaining what they are doing, the purpose of the program, work through an example of the program, and explaining each step. However, I don't know that I would consider this book up to the typical level of other books in the Pro series by the publisher. It is a good introductory text and brings the reader up to speed with the average programmer using Ajax but not the superior level that the Pro series usually works up to. On the other hand, this is one of the better introductory to intermediate level texts. Pro Ajax and Java Frameworks is highly recommended to the programmer new to Ajax techniques and recommended to those already involved with Ajax.
Pro Nagios 2.0
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
Nagios is an open-source software tool that constantly monitors your system and provides feedback when it appears that there may be a problem. Nagios is a Linux based product that allows the administrator to track a wide variety of hosts, systems, services, and just about anything else they would want to know about. Completely configurable, the administrator sets thresholds and the system creates and alert any time this threshold is met. The beauty of this sort of system is that it allows the administrator to be notified of potential problems before they become major problems. Even the notification method is configurable as it will email a message, create and instant message, use SMS paging, text messaging, etc. Once you are notified if you want to check on the system you can enter the web interface and view the current network status, notifications, problem history, log files, etc.
As is often the case with open-source applications, the product is fantastic but the documentation not quite up to par. That is where this particular book comes in handy. The author goes through all the details of setting up a Nagios server from the beginning decisions of just where to place the server to the set up of individual objects, notifications, groups, permissions and exactly how to check services and objects. He even goes so far as to discuss how to integrate Nagios into other products such as Snort and developing and writing and plug-ins.
Written in a style that is easy to follow for the average Linux user who is comfortable with the Linux filesystem, editing configuration files, and generally working with the command line. This is not for the new user familiar only with the graphical desktop environment. But for the Linux system administrator with an intermediate level or higher skill set Pro Nagios 2.0 is an excellent resource and is highly recommended.
Point and Click OpenOffice.org!
One Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
With the price of office software suites continuing to go up one of the more common questions these days is whether there are alternatives that provide a strong word processor and spreadsheet application. OpenOffice is one of the most popular of the alternatives and has the additional advantages of including a slide show presentation program and a database application program with the suite. In addition it is able to open Word and Excel documents as well as save documents and spreadsheets in those formats.
The book includes coverage of all the basics of installing and working with OpenOffice and all of the products included in the suite. There is no real heavy stuff here but instead covers all the most common tasks and how to accomplish them. The software is a lot more feature laden and powerful than what is covered in this book but Point and Click OpenOffice.org is the perfect place to start if you want to know how to get everyday tasks done right away. Point and Click OpenOffice.org is recommended to anyone new to OpenOffice and includes a CD with version 2.0 for Windows and Linux and 20 instructional videos.
Ellen W. Cutler, DC
33 East Minor Street, Emmaus, PA 18098-0099
After finally finding relief from her own digestion problems, author Ellen W. Cutler has become a world-recognized champion of enzyme therapy. Now with over 25 years of experience she brings her knowledge to the public in Micro Miracles. She builds a strong and very interesting case for enzyme supplementation both to resolve specific problems and to enhance other vitamin and mineral supplementation. Some of the specific areas discussed in the book include using enzymes to strengthen the immune system, restore energy levels, refresh your body to become more radiant and youthful, and support the nutrients from other food and supplements, as well as making the digestive system more efficient. A fascinating read, Micro Miracles is highly recommended and especially so for those with a holistic focus for their health.
Linux Multimedia Hacks
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
Most versions of Linux have minimal multimedia abilities without the installation of additional software. Of course there is a lot of Linux software out there that can be used to change your Linux installation into a powerful multimedia computer with amazing capabilities. And, since it is Linux, it can be done at minimal or no cost for the software. Author Kyle Rankin details how to install and configure these products in this book. To keep the information organized he breaks it up into chapters on Images, Audio, Video, Broadcast Media, and Web. Working through the hacks you soon discover everything from how to rip a CD, convert file types, and edit a sound file to how to build a MythTV system where you can record television, watch videos, listen to music, and play arcade games from one system. There's even a tip for automatically removing commercials from digitally recorded television shows. When you are trying to figure out how to get your Linux system to do something special in the area of multimedia this is the first book you will want to turn to for answers. Linux Multimedia Hacks is highly recommended.
Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Quantum mechanics is one of the most tested and verified theories of modern physics. However, there are several parts of quantum mechanics that can only be described as bizarre. Of course the physicists discuss and argue the implications of the strange behavior of the quantum world but very few average people fully understand the problems. In Quantum Enigma the authors explain the history of quantum mechanics, how it was developed over the years, and why it is both the most cohesive theory of modern physics and at the same time the most controversial in its application. What makes their book exceptional is how easy it is to understand. Using simple language they are masters at taking a complex subject and explaining it in a way that anyone can understand. Quantum Enigma is highly recommended to anyone who wants to understand the basics of quantum mechanics including the various problems that come along with it.
The Book of Genesis
Professor Gary A. Rendsburg
The Teaching Company
4151 Lafayette Center Drive, Suite 100, Chantilly, VA 20151-1232
No ISBN $129.95 to $254.95 depending on format
Many of us learned the stories of Genesis with Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, and Joseph in Egypt as children. But what if there is much more to these stories and to the book of Genesis? What did the book mean to its original intended audience? Are there relationships that we miss because we don't understand the original language, social environment, and historical context in which it was written? Professor Gary A. Rendsburg thinks so and shares his wealth of knowledge about these and other features of Genesis in this excellent study.
Professor Rendsburg carefully examines the historical setting of Genesis and how that affected the writing as well as the word choice and particular phrasing used. Along with this he examines similar stories and archaeological findings from ancient civilizations and how these affected the theology of the area as well as the religion of Israel. He also provides an excellent analysis of the writing from a literary viewpoint. This analysis includes some fascinating facts about the various characters, literary devices, and common symbolical devices. These devices bring the characters and stories to life in unique ways and provide tremendous insight to the writing itself. Complete with outlines and transcripts of the lectures, The Book of Genesis is very highly recommended and will leave you with a greater appreciation for the book in many ways.
Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It
Professor Steven L. Goldman
The Teaching Company
4151 Lafayette Center Drive, Suite 100, Chantilly, VA 20151-1232
No ISBN $34.95 to $69.95 depending on format
Before this course I thought that what we know of science is one of the few things we know for certain. But that may not necessarily be the case. In this course Professor Steven L. Goldman turns the whole concept of knowledge derived from scientific methods on its head. Starting 2400 years ago with an examination of Plato's allegory between the gods and the earth giants Professor Goldman walks the student through the history of scientific knowledge and how widely accepted theories have been replaced again and again and even their replacements have been superseded.
As part of his lecture series he includes an excellent piece on logical fallacies and inductive versus deductive reasoning. Along similar lines the lecture on how theories represent reality and the purpose of predictability points out that just because something predicts a result regularly and accurately does not mean that the theory is correct. It only correctly predicts an outcome. Complex theories of how the stars moved around the earth and the earth stood still did predict accurately where the stars would be, but they were not correct no matter how accurate they were.
Since all scientific theories of reality are regularly revised there is a real question as to what constitutes reality and this lecture series illustrates this problem beautifully. With extensive notes, a glossary and biographical notes on the people discussed in the lectures the supporting outlines and lecture transcripts are great study aides. Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It is highly recommended and a great philosophical and logical examination of knowledge.
IT Security Project Management Handbook
Syngress Publishing, Inc.
800 Hingham Street, Rockland, MA 02370
In this book author Susan Snedaker covers the complete project management spectrum from the overall plan to individual project plans for various areas. The book is divided in to various sections including Defining, Organizing, Planning, Initiating, and Managing Change. She does a really good job of pointing out the importance of defining the project up front. This is a critically important step that is often overlooked. This is where you define the mission, expected outcomes, optimal solution, and constraints. If you don't know where you are going then the path there can be very convoluted and this is a common problem with IT projects of all types. Another exceptional section is the one on planning. In that section she details breaking down the overall project into tasks and sub-tasks as well as defining the scope and determining the critical path. For each chapter the highlights are presented in a checklist format at the end. IT Security Project Management Handbook is recommended to anyone who is in charge of a large scale IT project whether security or otherwise.
Go to Sleep, Gecko!
Margaret Read MacDonald
PO Box 3223, Little Rock, AK 72203
This is a retelling of a traditional Balinese folk story about a gecko who just could not get to sleep because the fireflies kept blinking their lights on and off. After complaining to the elephant the gecko thinks things will be better but each time he finds that there is a reason why each animal acts the way they do. A classic story that is true to the Balinese culture, some will find the ending to be not quite what they are used to in the American culture. It does, however, provide the opportunity for discussion of how all things in nature are interrelated. Go to Sleep, Gecko! is a recommended young children's book.
Learning PHP & MySQL
Michele E. Davis, Jon A. Phillips
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
Learning PHP & MySQL is a detailed guide to building a database-driven web site. The authors do an excellent job of starting from the beginning, assuming no prior knowledge of either PHP or MySQL. In fact the only assumptions that the authors seem to make is that you have a very basic understanding of HTML. After working through the book and the detailed examples anyone should be able to write basic programs the meet common needs as well as create and interface with a MySQL database. Some of the programming areas covered in the book include decision making, working with arrays, using functions, database design fundamentals (missing in most books), getting PHP to talk to MySQL, modifying objects and data, and security. At the end of the book the reader ends up with a complete example application.
The authors section on creating a MySQL database and working with it is excellent and truly reads easy to those not familiar with MySQL at all. This is the best introductory text for implementing PHP and MySQL that I have read. If you are already familiar with both PHP and MySQL then you will probably prefer another text but if you are new to them this is a text you should seriously consider as one of the best teaching tools and first forays into the field. Learning PHP & MySQL is very highly recommended to anyone wanting to learn the basics of using this very powerful combination to create a database-driven dynamic website.
The Art of Rough Travel
Sir Francis Galton
The Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134
An artifact of times gone by, this is an interesting read but not a source of modern knowledge for travel in the backcountry. The book is basically a collection of notes and advice from an explorer in the 1800s. Most of it outdated and not environmentally friendly it is still a good read for people interested in the history of explorer style travel of the past.
James R. Musgrave
Contemporary Instructional Concepts
6784 Caminito del Greco, San Diego, CA 92120
0977650359 $28.00 www.contempinstruc.com
Iron Maiden is an eclectic collection of historical and literary subjects strangely woven together to create a unique novel–maritime activities during the Civil War; inventor John Ericsson's battleship–the Monitor; readings from and references to Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Moby Dick and The Bounty; John Wilkes Booth's attempted assassination of Ericsson; three romances; slavery; anthropological research about the South Pacific islands, Easter Island; and Plato's Republic. Quite a feat–tying it all together!
There's adventure, romance, intrigue, deception, betrayal and power struggles throughout. John Ericsson tricks the U.S. Government into buying more of his Monitor-class ships for money to escape the war with seven others to create his own version of Plato's Republic on Easter Island. To find out whether or not John succeeded, you'll have to read the book.
I generally like to include a sample of the author's writing to give you an idea of his style and for this I have chosen an excerpt from John Ericsson's Journal, pages 255-256:
"My grand experiment is going smoothly, even though the addition of Sinclair and his wife has caused me to change some of my plans. I have had time to reflect and to read, and it has been Plato who has been my ultimate salvation. His Republic has given me the inspiration to design my plan so that it will serve us well in our new environs. Combined with my exploration into the characters of my passengers, this philosophical treatise will become the bedrock upon which we will build our community on Easter Island.
"First, off, Plato's understanding of the human soul has been of great assistance to me in my own designs for the future. He believed that each of us could be categorized according to our class and according to our interest and virtues. And, beneath our surface life, there is the motivation of the soul. . . .
"I note, with pleasure, that I can place each of my new citizens into one of these three categories. For example, Sinclair and Greene are perfect candidates for the Warrior Class. They have the spirit and courage that is demanded of these 'Guardians of the Republic,' as Plato calls them. I know that Green has been aspiring toward something he believes is knowledge, but the Transcendentalists are not true philosophers. Emerson never lived in Nature, about which he preaches so profoundly. And Greene has been truly fooled by the chimera of unity. It will not take me long to put him back into the class upon which his soul is truly based, the warrior of spirit and courage! As for Sinclair, he is the epitome of Platonic spirit. He even saw the South as men who were fighting for honor, and thus he became a compatriot for their cause. Sinclair will be easily swayed by the manipulations I will use on him.
"The Commoner Class shall, of course, be the natives on the island, as well as Mister Charles McCord, the Catholic. Even though McCord fools himself onboard ship, once he gets out into this pleasure-seeking wilderness, he will become his old self again. We will work on his temperance." Ah, and how power corrupts! So now that you know a little about the book and the author's writing style, let me tell you something about the Jim Musgrave, and I quote from the back cover:
"Following reading experiences such as Camus' The Stranger . . ., James Musgrave began his own odyssey to become a published author of 'radstream' (radical as opposed to mainstream) prose. His nonfiction title, The Digital Scribe: A Writer's Guide to Electronic Media (1996), was his attempt to teach techies how to write with their entire brains, and his three novels soon followed in an attempt to teach humans how to read with their brains damaged by American 'bestsellers.' . . . He presently teaches collegiate humans in San Diego how to think (and hopefully write) with their brains damaged by the American K-12 system. His motto: Carpe nocto!" (Latin for: Seize the night!) It's not a bad read and you just might learn something, one way or another.
801 N. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
1932581626, $18.00 www.edenplaza.com
As the back cover gives a realistic synopsis of this story, allow me to quote:
"When seventeen year old Jim Foster leaves his Ozark home during the spring of 1890, he heads west to begin a new life at a cattle station. What he doesn't realize is how ill-prepared he is for the challenges he will face during the journey.
"From the hills of Missouri to a farm in Kansas, he finds love with his childhood sweetheart along with the kindness of a family on the Plains. But a tragic turn of events test his faith in God and drives him away to the gold mines of Cripple Creek where devious characters threaten his life. As the twentieth century begins to unfold, follow Jim Foster as a twist of fate takes him to the silver mines of Idaho."
Grave Talker is the first book in the Foster saga. In the beginning, compelled to leave his family home, Jim stands up to his harsh father for the first time. In the end, he has come back home–not to stay–and will take his family on to Idaho. Grave Talker is an unusual title and refers to Jim and his mother who would go to the graves of their lost loved ones to talk with them. I don't want to spoil the story for you so I won't tell you too much more.
Linette Widen has written this story from a third-person point of view (POV) and in a saga-type style. Her characters and settings truly come to life, and she writes in a smooth, fluid manner. Her expert use of local vernacular in dialogue is a colorful facet in her style. In this book you will find family, romance, adventure, intrigue, tragedy . . . life. The novel is well-written and well-edited.
Allow me to share a small excerpt as a sample of Linette's writing, from page 319:
"A soft breeze rumpled his hair. He could smell the sweet earth. There was stillness and peace. Taking the small box with the locket, he loosened the dirt and placed it in the hole by her cross, then covered it up.
"She was with him again. She always came if he allowed it.
"'I'm going' to Idaho. Gotta start over' gain. Got four boys yeh'd find amusin'. Yeh'd have a fondess fer Lucy, too. She's jest like yeh. Gits all fired upset 'bout things.' He rested a moment, reflecting on the quiet. 'Glad yeh was able to be here for yer final restin' \pard f1place. The Millers was good people. 'N they're stayin'. Ain't gonna be no strangers mussin' with yeh, so don't worry.
"'I ain't done this in awhile so you'll have to pardon me fer soundin' like a bawbee. Quit gravetalkin' back in Dornon when I went back.'
"There was so much he wanted to say . . . yet, nothing else he could say. He was looking forward to the new life with Connor and Irene in Idaho. Mary understood-he knew she did. Touching the small prayer book in the pocket of his vest, he said, 'I love yeh, Mary. See yeh in the Big Dipper.'"
Linette Widen originally wanted to write a memoir of her ancestors, but, lacking factual material, the story became a fictional novel imbued with true legends of her contentious relatives. The sequel, The Silver Womb, is the second book in the Foster saga.
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595384366 $16.95 www.iuniverse.com
Silver Womb is the second book in the Foster family saga. The year is 1917 and the location is Wallace, Idaho–silver mines in the Bitterroot Mountains. Two families, the Fosters and the Connors came to Wallace to raise their children. Jim and Lucy Foster have four sons–Earl, George, Clyde and Mo. The heart of this tale is, and I quote from the back cover:
"Contentious eighteen-year-old Earl has just graduated from high school and begun working full time in the silver mines. With spare cash, he discovers the pleasures of whiskey and women but is obsessed with the beautiful green-eyed Bertie Connor and wants her for his wife. Before he can cross the threshold to manhood, he must learn to accept the truth about his own shortcomings while dealing with wild animals, gangs of thugs, and mysterious kidnappings."
With this second book, Linette is on a strong roll. Her first was good! Silver Womb is even better. If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend this novel. Her style and the quality of her writing is consistent, and the book is well-edited.
As I generally like to include a sample of the author's writing for you, I have chosen several paragraphs from page 35:
"Just as the blade connected with the animal, a thunderous blast filled the cavern. The boys listened fro the enraged growls of the bear but detected only silence, then a loud thud, followed by two more shots. After that the only sound in the mine was the strangled sobs of Mo. Earl and Clyde held their breath, listening for the bear, but couldn't hear anything over the sound of their own blood pounding through their ears. Then the clacking of horses' hooves echoed in the tunnel, and they collapsed against the cart, listening to the familiar sound of safety.
"'Sonofabitch,' Jim cursed as he jumped off his horse. Pointing his rifle at the spot between the bear's eyes, he fired one final shot, just to be sure. Jim stared at the huge grizzly on the ground with four bloody holes in its head. The animal would not move again. There had been tales of grizzlies being shot several times, falling to the ground, then lunging at their unsuspecting attackers when they came near to inspect.
"Stepping around the animal to the cart, Jim braced himself for what he might find. He peered over the side and looked down at his sons huddled in the cart, covered in blood. A flashing nightmare streaked before his eyes of Mary lying dead in a pool of her own blood. Then the ancient buzzing sound started."
That should be sufficient to spark your interest. You won't be disappointed!
I'm Just A Survivor- My Life, Before & After My Tour of Vietnam
Ritchie Wilson was a Marine at the age of sixteen and in Vietnam combat at the age of seventeen when he received his first Purple Heart. At that time, he weighed about 135 pounds and with gear . . . about 200 pounds. Can you imagine?
I'm Just A Survivor is a short book about some of Ritchie's experiences while in Vietnam but also includes significant aspects of his life before and after his military service. It's well-written and flows smoothly; however, it would be my recommendation that it be professionally edited and proofread.
I personally find honest, true stories more appealing than fiction because real life, when someone has the courage to share it, is far more amazing, thought-provoking and complex. Ritchie Wilson is one such honest writer, and therein lies the value in this book. Allow me to quote from pages 8 and 9:
"...At some point after the divorce, my mother met Mr. C. Smith and soon after they got married (oh joy our new dad). I was still very young, I think five years old. My sisters, JoAnn and Janet, one year older than I and Kitty one year older than the twins and Boosie one year older than Kitty.
"My mom worked days and went to school at night. Leaving us in the hands of this sexual pervert, giving him control over us. I guess he found that he had the opportunity and the time to fondle or sexually assault Kitty on many occasions. Over time, he decided to take things a little further by making me have sex with my sister, by touching my genitals until I became erect, then he would place me on top of Kitty, having her spread legs so he could insert my penis into her.
"He would move me back and forth, until, 'I said, I have to go pee.' He told me to pee inside my sister; it was ok.
"After I had ejaculated, he would put me aside, then he would get on top of her, trying to put his penis in her, or push his fingers in her, when she would tell him it hurts. Nevertheless, he would still try until he'd ejaculate by hand or on her vagina. He did this many times over the months; he would do the same with Boosie, or both with me being his starter on all occasions."
There are a lot of things that go on in real life which are hidden and not discussed, such as the above, and it takes considerable courage to bring them to the surface and put them out there for all to see. If you're like me, and admire an honest writer–even with the minor grammar errors–you won't be disappointed by this author and his story.
Arthritis - A New Look: Arthritic Indicators As Seen In The Eyes
R. J. Murphy, Ph.D.
1663 Liberty Dr, Ste 200, Bloomington, IN
1425938191 $38.99 www.authorhouse.com
"A new and exciting insight into the world of natural healing for arthritic problems using the science of iridology." To tell you about this book, I quote several paragraphs from the Introduction:
"Many of you I hope have picked up this book with open-minded inquisitiveness. 'Arthritis a new look' is exactly what this book is about, a new look at looking into the iris of the eyes and identifying the genetic markers which can pinpoint arthritic conditions, or one's predispositions to arthritis. The knowledge in this book is sourced from a science called iridology. The iris is a complex map of the body's inherited constitution, that is, your inherited strengths and inherited weaknesses. The eyes are precious in function, gemlike when magnified and this complex organ drives a visual system that makes billions of calculations every second.
"Arthritis has been termed a disease; however, with the aid of Iridology this book will show that arthritis is not a disease but a systemic disorder which affects the whole body...."
The author has organized his book into seventeen chapters in a logical, informative progression and provided photographs of patients' eyes to illustrate how Iridology reveals problems within the body. Arthritis - A New Look is well-written and provides considerable support for this approach to dealing with arthritis.
Dr. R. Murphy is a registered British nutritionist and studied at Westbrook University, USA, where he received his BSc, Msc and his PhD in Nurtition and Iridology. In closing, quoting from the back cover, "The proven knowledge in this book will help you in your quest to overcome the pain and discomfort of any arthritic complaint."
The President's Parasite and Other Stories
Contemporary Instructional Concepts Publishers
6784 Caminito del Greco, San Diego, CA
Stephen King commented in one of his books–sorry I don't remember which one–that the popularity of short story compilations has lost favor with contemporary readers, and I guess he should know. If that is indeed the case, I would ask that you make an exception and consider reading Jim Musgrave's The President's Parasite and Other Stories as this is an exceptional book–contemporary, insightful, poignantly honest–a glimpse into the down- or back-side of life.
There is so much I'd like to say and excerpts I'd like to share, but that would make this review much too long. The first book I reviewed for this author was a novel titled Iron Maiden. It is my opinion that Jim's short stories reveal his true talent and gift. From his writings you will experience an intelligent, educated, aware person–socially and politically concerned about real life and our problems in this world. It is also clear that Jim has lived a lot of life in order to tell these tales. He's a good writer with a rich imagination, and the book is well-edited. On second thought, I can't help but share a few excerpts from his writing with you.
From the Littlest Angel of San Diego, page 133:
"Daddy came back home soon after Brittany joined the angels to take care of Mother when she gets to heaven. He is helping me take care of Mother until she passes on. He isn't so bad, either, because he doesn't drink. Maybe I won't have to be the mother too long now. Daddy says we need a woman around the house to take care of the little ones. We all walk down to the place where the express comes into town. We never could afford a grave for Brittany, but Daddy always insists that he can see a little angel riding on the engine as it comes into view.
"I must admit, I can see her too, if I look closely. I can see the flowing yellow gown blowing in the wind, the knowing smile, the loving protection that we all need–even big diesel train mechanics. But, sometimes, late at night, when someone is shooting in the neighborhood, or a drunk is yelling out in the street, I can see the train rushing toward me, and I can't jump out of the way. There is no angel. There is only darkness and emptiness all around me."
From The Clock Tower of Baghdad, pages 180, 181 and 184:
"It was a brilliant plan! Dr. Hussein was going to let each leader in the world experience his invention until he or she entered the state of eternal bliss that he had experienced. No longer would they believe they were powerful or politically correct. Instead, the instant karmic reality of Level II Consciousness would send the infinite world into a state to total understanding and infinite peace!"
"As I push the button, the music stops, but I am instantly aware of a new light all around me. Sounds have become vibrations that I can feel. Colors can be smelled, and I can hear with incredible exactitude. A woman, holding the hand of a child walks toward me, down a long corridor. I wait. She comes into my cell, and it becomes a grotto. Birds are singing and a waterfall trickles down the sides of the green, cascading hills around us. We have morphed into paradise! It is Shahrzad and my son, Muhammad! And soon, as if to complete the miracle, my father, Ibrahim, comes into the light. He is no longer crippled. He walks with pride into my arms. I feel his body, and it is muscular and new, just as it was when I was a youth. And so, when I gaze into the pond before me, I can see I am young again, and the rapturous longing in my heart becomes overcome with joy!"
Jim Musgrave can say so much with so few words, and he does just that, quite beautifully. You won't be disappointed.
Real Roots of German, Greek, Latin & English
Authors OnLine Ltd
19 The Cinques, Gamlingay, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG193NU, England
0755202422, $21.95 www.authorsonline.co.uk
Rangi Ranganath wrote One People One Language which I reviewed in March 2006. In both books he addresses what he calls "The two great hoaxes of today:" 1) All human life began only in Africa and 2) Language and agriculture were developed in the Middle East. Real Roots of German, Greek, Latin & English is a mini word origin directory and adds support to his theory, as described in detail in his first book. If you are interested in Rangi's work and the evolution of language, you will find this book very interesting, and on that basis, I would recommend it.
Kaye Trout, Reviewer
Late Night Confessions
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1413788963 $12.95 (301) 695-1707
Von Soltwedel's Late Night Confessions is a book of poetry that asks questions and searches for answers. It digs down into the heart and soul of anyone who ponders the world around them (haven't we all?) and their own purpose in life. The poems presented, all rhyming, vary from sweet and tender to a more dark style. Though the rhyming seems a little forced at times, the emotions are evident. One of my favorite poems is Dead End Road: On a quiet night/In a sleepy town/Two young lovers lay their bodies down/In the back seat of a car/First time they ever went this far/Flames of passion/Through the night/As they hold each other tight/There's a whole lot that they don't know/They found love on a dead end road.
As far as the book title goes, this poem nails it in theme and imagery. It sticks out in my mind the most because I don't just see an image of two people. I see the trouble they might find. How many times have we thought we loved only to find out it was a dead end road? And maybe the bigger message here is one of purity. I could be wrong, but that's what I gathered from it and felt the words held the most depth. Von Soltwedel has also penned another poetry collection titled A Look Inside.
Don't Spank The Vamp
Mardi Gras Publishing, LLC
29100 N. Main St. #93, Daphne AL 36526
0978902475, $3.99 www.mardigraspublishing.com
Vampires, sex toys and love…oh my! When you mix a creature of the night that's been starving for true love for centuries, a sculptor who spends more time with her work than real men, and two intervening friends who want to give the artist some birthday presents she won't soon forget, it's the perfect blend of love, laughter and naughtiness.
Aidan, the sexy vampire and owner of the sex toy shop, Don't Spank The Vamp, is fascinated with the woman who visits his shop. Is Dawn the one he's been searching for? Can Dawn let her inhibitions go and take a chance? Will they both be able to overcome the problems they face? Don't Spank The Vamp sizzles with hot sex, witty dialogue and promises of love everlasting. CJ England will leave you breathless and still wanting more. This is one story you can sink your teeth into.
I Do! I Do!
Shonnie Lavender & Bruce Mulkey
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
16 Spears Avenue, #19, Asheville, NC 28801 (author)
1847280382 $24.95 www.lulu.com
The collaborative effort of co-authors Shonnie Lavender and Bruce Mulkey, "I Do! I Do!: The Marriage Vow Workbook" is a step-by-step "how to" resource for couples seeking to create their own distinctive and memorable wedding vows that will be unique and appropriate to them. This easy to follow, fill-in-the-blank, methodical workbook is the perfect planning guide to creating vows that will inspire and sustain the marriage long after the ceremony is done and committed to the yesteryear memory of the bride and groom. If you are planning a wedding for yourself or a loved one, then begin with Shonnie Lavender and Bruce Mulkey's superbly presented marriage vows workbook "I Do! I Do!.
610 North 4th Street, Suite 400, Burlington, IA 52601
No ISBN $15.00
Martini's Martinis by Peter Harmon, the "Food Guru" and owner of Martini's Grille, is a spiral-bound martini recipe collection that describes not only the ingredients of each martini but the specific nuances of the technique used to create it. An introductory section walks novice martini makers through the tools and terms of martini crafting, and the recipes are illustrated with luscious full-color photographs. Tips, tricks and techniques such as "To create a bubbling martini use a pair of tongs and place a marble sized piece of dry ice in the bottom of your glass before adding the liquid. Don't worry, the ice will stick to the glass." A must-have for martini-lovers, as it features such exotic martini creations as Orange Creamsicle, Pink Panther, Truffilini, and much more.
Cooking For A Crowd
PO Box 205, Hamer, ID 83425
No ISBN $TBA firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Sander's spiral bound and privately published cookbook, "Cooking For A Crowd" is designed to offer menus and recipes that would be appropriate for kitchen cooks having to prepare dishes and meals for family reunions, church activities, community gatherings, farm crews, and any occasion where large numbers of hungry folk will be gathered together for a communal meal. Beginning with a section of sound culinary advice called 'Tricks of the Trade', "Cooking For A Crowd" begins with an entree-based menu suggestion that lists the principle ingredients and cooking instructions for the main entree, plus the suggested side dishes and the page numbers within this cookbook that hold their individual recipes. For example, when the main dish is Dutch Oven Chicken, the menu suggestions also include Sliced Baked Potatoes (p. 52), Green Beans, and Apple Crisp (p71). If you are charged with the responsibility of preparing a meal for large numbers of diners, then "Cooking For A Crowd" is the cookbook for you!
David Wayne Silva
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, Colorado 80134
1598001639, $13.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Wayne Silva's book "Senior Moments: Making the Most of Your Golden Years" is really about getting the most out of your "Golden Years." His is a message of hope. David has a positive philosophy for getting older. He gives seniors affirmative action plans for meeting physical, mental, and the other widespread problems that are a part of the aging process. David's writing is like conversing with an old friend. It is like reading a warm, friendly letter, full of life stories, experiences and practical hints for living life to the full.
David's appreciation for nature becomes contagious through is descript. His descriptive phrases make you feel the coolness of your dog's nose against warm hand, hear the lapping of ocean tides moving on the beach, or enjoy the scent of garden flowers and vegetables. He asks the reader to, "Watch the leaves and branches moving with the wind. Observe the ferns moving on a gentle forest breeze." "If you visit the seashore…watch the endless waves, open your mind, and encounter the God who is with us…unnoticed."
The material on suffering, pain, and chronic illness are filled with important data and information. David gives steps to deal with pent up feelings of anger, resentment, anxiety, fear, feelings of guilt, and depression. The final chapters "Moving On" and "Concepts to Remember" offer the components for implementing the freedom of choice to alter and move ahead with our lives.
Emerald's Garden: Living, Loving and Saying Goodbye
MPress XPress LLC
PO Box 9531, Tulsa, OK 74157
A Tribute to Emerald
After the tragic death of her four year old niece Emerald, Marsha Johnson in an effort to face grief began to journal her journey to recovery. She developed and organized sound principals in her journals that described steps for preparation for crisis: death, divorce, and disease. Later she expanded these journals into lessons for her children to prepare them for life, physical, emotional, and financial.
Friends encouraged Marsha was to put these lessons for life into the form of a book. "Emerald's Garden" was born. Early chapters cover the reality of death, preparing for the worst, and lessons on compassion. She gives helpful pointer and insights into the do's and don't of mourning manners. The last chapters of the book deal with the grieving process, including help in being sensitive when dealing with grieving children, pain, recovery, suffering, and saying goodbye. Marsha moved on to finding fulfillment in finding God's purpose for her life and the transformation that followed through her final goodbye to Emerald.
I was challenged to examine the area of compassion through Marsha's illustrations and the personal insights Marsha shared regarding her own discovery of the burden for compassion, caring, laughter, and putting others first. Sharing her own pain and suffering, Marsha has added a dimension that makes the message of the book authentic and genuine. The author's desire in writing this book was to bring a clear message of hope to the grieving. She has successfully identified with and offered hope and comfort to the reader. Her work is clearly articulated and the subject matter well organized.
My Tour in Hell
David W. Powell
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48102
The Aftermath of Viet Nam Trauma
David Powell relates the story "My Tour in Hell" of his thirteen month assignment in Viet Nam from 1966 – 1967 and aftermath of traumatic impact this had on his life over the next twenty years. Failed marriages, and relationships, difficulty in holding jobs, and alcohol abuse became a way of life. Viet Nam memories deeply embedded deep in Powell's consciousness begged for release during the following years. The grim memory of death, blood soaked comrades, the moaning and crying of dying Viet, the smell of gun smoke, and the sound of guns firing plague David in repeated nightmares.
David describes it this way: "Bullets continued to fire overhead. All I could do was lie as flat on the ground as possible and pray that I would not get hit again. I was scared out of my mind and disgusted that for the second time in three months, I had been abandoned under fire." David was still guardedly watching his back years after his two year enlistment. He was distrustful, angry, and afraid of making friends.
Hoping to find a solution, David joined a veteran's support group. However, a year of participation with this group failed to meet his need. Another member of the group later introduced him to a Traumatic Incident Reduction (TRI) counselor. These sessions proved to be extremely successful and soon David returned to self acceptance and relief from the reoccurring night mares and the guilt he felt the trauma he experienced in Viet Nam.
Powell has powerfully articulated his story and offers hope to a his contemporaries and other battle scarred veterans. This is an excellent book for veterans, for Chaplains, Counselors, and Politicians. David W. Powell, is true hero, a Patriot, and an over comer who valiantly fought for our country and his own battle for personal peace and freedom.
Northern Lights & Shadows
P.O. Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402
1591137780 $ 17.95
Meeting the Challenges of the Last Frontier Head On
Lee Basnar's journey took him from Vermont by way of German, France, Viet Nam, and Georgia before his dream materialized. Basner became senior advisor to the 207th Infantry Group of the Alaska National Guard, near Anchorage, for the remainder of his Army career. Near the end of his army enlistment Lee began to plan his retirement. The Basnars located and purchased a site that would accommodate a cabin home. They were ready to take on the challenge of the Alaskan frontier. For the next sixteen years they lived in the Alaska bush. His experience as apprentice carpenter in his father's business provided Lee with some of the skills needed during the construction of their two story cabin home in the heart of Alaska.
Lee is a gifted natural story teller. He made me feel like a friend visiting on his cabin deck while he related his adventures. He describes animal life, nature trails, mountains, and rivers in panoramic vistas opening new horizons for the reader. "Snow sprinkled the mountains like powdered sugar on cupcakes, and each new snowfall frosted the slopes a little lower." Each chapter includes a photo which depicts something of its contents.
Life threatening experiences and narrow escapes add tension and momentum to Basner's narrative. A smoke filled cockpit in his small Taylor Craft airplane created an emergency landing. After completing repairs he had to battle river rapids for a dangerous take off at 2:30 AM. After a safe landing at home. He secured the plane during a blinding snowstorm. He had had no sleep for 24 hours, Lee, the master of understatement put it this way, "For some reason I felt a little tired."
Trapping, hunting, fishing, and photographing wildlife was an exciting part of Lee's routine. Moose, wolves, bears, and other wildlife fill the chapters of his rapid paced tale of adventure. The unpredictability of grizzly bears, a midwinter chimney fire, and other narrow escapes will keep you turning the pages of this fascinating account of the Basner's life in the bush.
As a result of and assignment In 1968 in Viet Nam, where he served as advisor to the South Vietnamese infantry division and later as an infantry company commander, Lee shares side of his life story. After surviving his tour of duty in Viet Nam, he was plagued by survivor guilt. He hoped to exchange combat nightmares from Vietnam for a new sense of freedom peace and contentment by living in the bush. Lee wrote: "Vietnam intruded less frequently as the years accumulated…the demands of bush living shoved Viet Nam aside, leaving room for healing. The nightmares, less frequent now, retreated to a hidden place, emerging rarely. Drifting and pondering gave me time to realize that I had truly survived and shouldn't feel guilty because of it".
Everyone who ever had a dream of adventure on the last frontier will want to read this book. Veterans, who experienced the ravages of war, will find healing in Basnar's story. Public and school libraries should have a copy readily available for their readers. This book is for the sportsman, the hunter, and the environmentalist.
Basnar's writing instills hope, courage. His story is written with subtle humor. The book is informational and entertaining. Basner's writing style keeps you reading to the very end and then you find yourself wanting more.
Richard R. Blake
Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality
Lee M. Silver
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060582677 $26.95 1-800-242-7737
Lee M. Silver, the author of Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality, is a professor of Molecular Biology and Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. His book discusses the politics and science of embryonic stem cell research and genetic engineering. Dr. Silver is a humanist whose goal in life is to serve mankind, not God. After describing a religious service he attended conducted by Rabbi Daniel Brenner, he says:
"Brenner knows that many of the adults in this particular congregation are well-educated, left-leaning agnostics or outright atheists. In either case, they--as I--do not believe in any kind of transcendent God who inspires from above on a daily basis." (p. 14)
The existence of God is not a matter of belief or faith. We know God exists from reason. The first one to prove the existence of God was Aristotle, but the logic of the reasoning was firmed up and made more explicit and by Thomas Aquinas. The best way to explain the proof is to begin with the metaphysical concept of God: You exist and I exist, but I am not you and you are not me. In other words, we are two different beings or finite beings. God is a being that is not like this. God is an infinite being. Another way it is sometimes put is that God is totally other.
The reason an infinite being exists is that a finite being needs a cause outside of itself. A finite being can't be the cause of its own existence because it can't exist except as finite. An infinite being, on the other hand, can be the reason for its own existence. If every being in the universe needed a cause, the universe would be absurd. Hence, there must exist at least one infinite being if there exists a finite being.
What is a matter of faith or belief is whether God has communicated Himself to mankind. Christians, Muslims, and Jews believe our freedom is before God and when we die our past will somehow be gathered up and this will be the defining moment of our lives. Faith is a positive response to revelation. I believe in the Bible because of our salvation history, which is told by the Jewish prophets Moses and Jesus and the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Another reason I believe is that when you ask people why they don't believe in the Bible, they give very bad reasons. Dr. Silver's discussion of free will is an example of the kind of answer you get from nonbelievers:
"Free will is commonly interpreted to mean the power of directing our own actions without [total] constraint by necessity or fate. The conviction that human beings are endowed with such a power is pervasive, even more so than a belief in the human soul; as a philosophical concept, free will is like an onion whose skin has been completely peeled away: at its core, it ceases to exit." (p. 59)
That human beings have free will is especially clear when you do something hard, like staying on a diet. It is so easy to break the diet that there is no doubt that we have the ability to either do it or not do it. Just as it is irrational to reject an experimental result because it does not support a preconceived theory, it is irrational to deny human beings have free will.
Pierre Duhem (1861-1916), an historian of science, gave a pointed analogy: Imagine a man who collects seashells and arranges them according to their colors. He has built a chest of drawers and has labeled each of the draws one of the colors of the rainbow. When he finds a blue seashell he puts it in the blue draw, a red seashell goes in the red drawer, and so on. One day, he finds a white seashell. He goes back to his chest of drawers and says, White seashells don't exist.
Dr. Silver discusses in his book the souls of chimerical, identical, and fraternal twins. Free will's twin is knowledge. We could not choose between alternatives if we didn't know what the alternatives were. But, what is knowledge? Consider the color of an object in your line of vision. Knowing an object is green means more than light is entering your eye and a signal is going to your brain. It means there is an awareness that the object is green. The questions what is free will and what is knowledge is equivalent to the question: What is man? Saying man is a rational animal does not shed light on the question. Nor does Dr. Silver's analysis:
"In the early twentieth century, many philosophers and psychologists who dismissed the existence of free will (on the basis of the logical argument I've just presented) came to the conclusion that consciousness, feeling, imaginings, and subjective inner self must be illusions as well...But how can we explain the self in the context of a physicalist [materialist] theory that declares free will to be an illusion? A startling solution to this dilemma was described in 1755 by the Swiss biologist Charles Bonnet: The soul is nothing more than a simple spectator of the movements of its body. It may believe itself to be the author of them, but the body alone is responsible for all the actions that constitute life. It is the body alone that solves problems, imagines, and executes all kinds of plans. This philosophical view of life and soul, now called epiphenomenalism, is supported by a massive amount of experimental evidence obtained with the tools of modern neurobiology." (p. 61)
What Dr. Silver is discussing here is the famous mind-body problem of philosophy: I have a hand and I can move my hand about as I wish. But, if an accident severs my hand, I still continue to exist. My hand is something that I have. In general, my body is something that I have. The mind-body problem is: What is the relationship between ourselves and our bodies?
Mr. Bonnet's answer is no answer at all. It is an example of throwing the baby out with the bath water. The experience is precisely that our body is something we have. Saying there is only the body and that the experience is an illusion is nonsense.
The reason Dr. Silver doesn't see the unreasonableness of epiphenomenalism is that he sees very clearly the irrationality of saying human beings possess a separate spiritual substance called a soul. The soul, according to Dr. Silver, is infused into embryos when they are formed and continues to exist after human beings die. Mr. Silver knows that this is not true and it makes him feel invulnerable. The trouble with this feeling is that educated people, a category he refers to a number of times, abandoned this concept of the soul in the Middle Ages. This idea comes from Greek philosophy and primitive religions. As a result of the experience of the body as something we have, people are inclined to believe that when they die, it is only their body that is destroyed and their soul will survive. Dr. Silver is quite mistaken to attribute this point of view to Catholic bishops:
"They [Catholic bishops at a meeting] all agreed with the official position of the Vatican that a human being was not just an organism, but a special organism with a human soul provided immediately - that is, directly and instantaneously - by God." (p. 106)
Catholics and many other Christians believe in the Nicene Creed the last line of which is: We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. The sins referred to includes original sin, also called hereditary sin or birth sin, which is passed on to infants through sexual generation from Adam and Eve. The idea infants inherit original sin from their parents, but get their souls from God is theological nonsense.
According to Thomas Aquinas, man is a composition of two incomplete beings: a material incomplete being and an immaterial incomplete being that are metaphysically combined to form one being. The way Karl Rahner, a prominent Catholic theologian, put it is that man is an indefinability that becomes conscious of its own existence. The trouble with the concept of the soul is that it implies there are two beings: man and this other thing called the soul. Medieval philosophers realized that man is a being, not many beings, and discarded what is called Greek dualism. I agree with Dr. Silver's ideas about why people believe in the Bible:
"It is easy to understand how people in primitive societies could conclude that such otherworldly ceremonial sensations were spiritually evoked. A shared feeling of spirit would instill a heightened sense of community among members of the tribe. Individuals would be more eager to cooperate, and men would show greater valor in battle. The promise of heaven for the virtuous and the threat of hell for laggards amplified the effect. As a result, more spiritually inclined tribes would gain an advantage in warfare over less spirited neighbors. With each generation, the proportion of spiritually-inclined people would tend to increase." (p.71)
I might add to this that natural selection operates within the tribe itself to make the tribe more spiritual. A tribal member who is perceived as being antisocial, or a moral idiot, might have trouble finding someone to mate with. To give a more timely illustration, a woman on a date with Sigmund Freud in 19th century Austria might think he was not a good match because he would have trouble explaining to their children why they should be good. Sigmund Freud, I should explain, was a proseletizing atheist. He is quoted in Ernest Jones's book (Sigmund Freud, 2:465) as follows:
"When I ask myself why I have always behaved honorably, ready to spare others and to be kind whenever possible, and when I did not give up being so when I observed that in that way one harms oneself and becomes an anvil because other people are brutal and untrustworthy, then it is true, I have no answer."
It is clear from his book that Dr. Silver has a happy family life and I'm sure his kids are great. I hope, however, they are not paying attention when he says things like this:
"And eventually, according to fundamental principles of physics, life in general must come to an end...So what's the point? Although I keep listening, because it's depressing not to, I have yet to hear a good answer, other than there is no point." (p. 214)
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomena
Daniel C. Dennett
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
067003472X $25.95 1-800-847-5515
In his review for The New York Times, Leon Wieseltier said the book is a sorry example of scientism, which he regards as a contemporary superstition. Mr. Wieseltier knows nonsense when he sees it. I'll be identifying and discussing the more egregious errors and omissions in Mr. Dennett's book. Discussing the meaning of word materialsim, Professor Dennett says:
"In its scientific or philosophical sense, it refers to a theory that aspires to explain all the phenomena without recourse to anything immaterial--like a Cartesian soul, or "ectoplasm"--or God. The standard negation of materialistic in the scientific sense is dualistic, which maintains that there are two entirely different kinds of substance, matter and ...whatever minds are supposedly made of." (p. 302)
Dennett is right not to think we have an immaterial substance inside our brains. Dualism is indeed irrational. However, it was abandoned by philosophers a thousand years ago and replaced with a rational view of man. Of course, many people think of man in dualistic terms. You hear it when people speak of "keeping body and soul together" or "Mother's soul is in heaven." Advocates of laws against abortion frequently argue that life begins at conception, the idea being that God infuses human beings at this point in time with an immaterial substance.
The modern metaphysical view of man is that man is a being, man is one. It is not an entirely modern concept, since Plato discussed the problem of the "one and the many." According to Thomas Aquinas, man is a metaphysical composition of two incomplete beings: a material incomplete being and a immaterial incomplete being. I understand this to mean we can comprehend man because we know everything that happens to man and everything that man does. However, we can't define man because we can't define knowledge and free will.
The philosophy that God does not exist is not materialism, it is naturalism. Materialism (sometimes called physicalism to avoid hedonistic connotations) is the view that all that exists is matter. Materialists frequently say that free will is an illusion and that the experience of the existence of oneself is some kind of epiphenomena. (In a quote below, you will see that Dennett puts free will in a list of things people belief in.) Materialists deny that man is a being in a metaphysical sense, which can be construed as denying that man exists. Presumably, this is what materialists mean when they say all that exists is matter. It is not clear from his book whether Dennett is a materialist, but he is certainly a naturalist. Concerning the proof of God's existence, he says:
"The Cosmological Argument, which in its simplest form states that since everything must have a cause the universe must have a cause--namely, God--doesn't stay simple for long. Some deny the premise, since quantum physics teaches us (doesn't it?) that not everything that happens needs to have a cause. Others prefer to accept the premise and then ask: What caused God? The reply that God is self-caused (somehow) then raises the rebuttal: If something can be self-caused, why can't the universe as a whole be the thing that is self-caused." (p. 242)
Professor Dennett got this rebuttal from David Hume who misunderstood the proof. The principle of causality is not that everything needs a cause but that every contingent being needs a cause. An example of a contingent being is ourselves. We are contingent because we are finite, that is, we are different beings from one another. Since a finite being needs a cause, there must be at least one being which is not finite. Such a being is infinite and supernatural.
The following quote comes at the beginning of a chapter "Belief in Belief":
"At the end of Chapter 1, I promised to return to Hume's question in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, the question of whether we have good reasons for believing in God, and in this chapter, I will keep that promise." (p. 200)
We know God exists, as I argue above, as a matter of reason. God's existence gives rise to the possibility of revelation which means there are two kinds of knowledge: faith and reason. In reason, we know a proposition is true because we can see the truth of it. We can see it is true that E = mc-squared, to use one of Dennett's ill-conceived examples of faith. In faith, we know something is true, not because we can see it is true, but because God is telling us.
Faith is a positive response to revelation. Jewish people living in the first century (BC and AD), responding in faith to the Bible, believed that God would deliver them from death, just as He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Dennett's phrase "believing in God" refers not only to the knowledge of God's existence, but to the belief that God will not abandon us in our hour of need. To explain what he means by "good reasons" I can quote Mr. Dennett quoting an orthodox Christian:
"According to Avery Cardinal Dulles (2004), apologetics is 'the rational defense of faith,' and in the past it was often supposed to prove rigorously that God exists, and Jesus was divine, was born of a virgin, and so forth, but it fell into disrepute. 'Apologetics fell under suspicion for promising more than it could deliver and for manipulating the evidence to support the desired conclusions. It did not always escape the vice that Paul Tillich labeled "sacred dishonesty"' [p. 19]. Recognizing this problem, many of the devout have retreated to a less aggressive avowal of their creed, but Cardinal Dulles regrets this development, and calls for a renewal and reformation of apologetics. (p. 363)"
Dennett imagines that he is giving reasons not to believe in religion. Let's look at some of his reasons. The first quote is at the end of the chapter "Belief in Belief" and the second quote is at the beginning of the chapter "Morality and Religion":
"So much for the belief in God. What about belief in belief in God? We still haven't inquired about the grounds for this belief in belief. Isn't it true? That is, isn't it true that, whether or not God exists, religious belief is at least as important as the belief in democracy, in the rule of law, in free will? The very widespread (but far from universal) opinion is that religion is the bulwark of morality and meaning."(p. 245)
"Religion plays its most important role in supporting morality, many think, by giving people an unbeatable reason to do good: the promise of an infinite reward in heaven, and (depending on tastes) the threat of an infinite punishment in hell if they don't. Without the divine carrot and stick, goes this reasoning, people would loll about aimlessly or indulge their basest desires, beak their promises, cheat on their spouses, neglect their duties, and so on. There are two well-known problems with this reasoning: (1) it doesn't seem to be true, which is good news, since (2) is such a demeaning view of human nature." (p. 279)
In the first quote, he mentions "bulwark of morality" and "meaning." But in the second quote, he leaves out "meaning." To explain why Mr. Dennett sidesteps the question of the meaning of life or the purpose of life, it may help to quote a nonbeliever who tackled the question. Susan Jacoby in her book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism on page 169 attributes to Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) the following statement:
"While I am opposed to all orthodox creeds, I have a creed myself; and my creed is this. Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so. This creed is somewhat short, but it is long enough for this life, strong enough for this world. If there is another world, when we get there we can make another creed."
The Great Agnostic (as he was called) mentions the great mystery of life: people who devote themselves to their own happiness will not be happy but people who devote themselves to the happiness of others will be happy. If he left this out, it would sound like his creed was hedonism.
It is to be expected that someone prone to, if not guilty of, scientism would avoid the question of what our purpose in life is if it is not to get to heaven because there is no experiment that sheds light on this question. However, whether religion supports morality can be determined by observing whether there is a correlation between moral conduct and religious belief. Mr. Dennett makes such a correlation to the detriment of religion by citing the high divorce rate of fundamentalist Christians.
There are worse things than divorcing your spouse. Disingenuousness can be worse and can take the form of leaving unsaid what should have been said. Mr. Dennett should have explained why he did not discuss the idea that religion gives meaning to life.
Apologetics includes reference to miraculous historical events, such as the parting of the Red Sea. The only miracle mentioned in Mr. Dennett's book is the Shroud of Turin:
"Even the Roman Catholic Church, with its unfortunate legacy of persecution of its own scientists, has recently been eager to see scientific confirmation--and accept the risk of disconfirmation--of its traditional claims about the Shroud of Turin, for example." (p. 274)
The Shroud of Turin has on it a mysterious image of a crucified man. Since no one claims to know how the image got there, the image can be called a miracle. The footnote does not give more information about the shroud and what scientists think about it, but discusses evolution. Information about the relic is on the internet.
David Roemer, Reviewer
Behind the Union Curtain
Richard E. Sall
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
In Behind the Union Curtain, Dr. Richard Sall chronicles the history of American labor organizations. He begins his depiction in the 1800s and chronicles throughout history introducing his readers to unions, yellow dog contracts, floating laborers, corporate monopolies, and company doctors. In particular, he successfully interlinks the connection between union organizations and company doctors by describing their dysfunctional "feeding" off each other. Over time, this discontent is recognized and the law enters as a salve.
His book teaches readers about how the union system emerged, functions and/or does not function, and reveals the reasons for a decline in union membership, but a need for unions. His thorough attention to historical content contributes to a well researched book. This is especially expressed in the latter half in actual case studies, yellow dog contracts, and law suits portraying the status of unions in present day.
As a physician, Dr. Sall gives the reader he/she otherwise may not have been privy to on a daily basis. His shared knowledge may surprise his audience but certainly is a must read for everyone eager to learn about history, politics, and how our labor union in America came to be in general. His elegant simplicity in style keeps the reader turning the page, without any fear of confusion or boredom.
The 6DOF Group
7739 Broadway Boulevard, #95, Tuscon, AZ 85710
In his new novel, Beyond Peleliu, Peter Baird draws his audience into World War II where Tom McQuade, an aspiring young medical student and Virginia Russell (aka "Madame Fortuno), a Christian Scientist who believes in healing powers. Together their opposite beliefs are what bring them together. Shortly after they marry and their son is born, Tom is called to what became the most vicious and unnecessary battles, the Battle of Peleliu. He served and was wounded badly. Because of his injury, his medical ambitions were scarred for the future. However, Tom returns home changed. He holds in his left clawed hand a secret unrevealed until decades later.
David becomes a San Francisco trial lawyer. Ambitious, driven. Just as his father. He carries many of the same traits. He uses alcohol, womanizing, pills, therapy, and working excessively to escape his life, his pain, just as his father had done. David had not been good husband twice, father, or man, in some respects. He had become a "modern day" version of Tom McQuade.
Before David was going to try a year long case, he grudgingly visited his father who was suffering from dementia. Tom wanted to talk to him before all his lucidity was gone. Tom finally tells the real McQuade family story that David did not know. Baird writes a story about the McQuade family, their loss, disconnect, and discovery of truth after so many years. Once readers finishes the last page, they feel as though they know the characters personally.
Are There Any Good Jobs Left?: Career Management in the Age of the Disposable Worker
R. William Holland
88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881
In our global community, many individuals experience career transition either by choice or more frequently these days by forced layoffs, downsizing, outsourcing, off shoring, and the ever increasing emergence of international economies such as India and China. What many individuals are beginning to feel for the first time is the impermanence of their employment and livelihood. In Are There Any Good Jobs Left?: Career Management in the Age of the Disposable Worker, Holland purposefully writes his book and explains "why" Americans have reached this point and how each individual can creatively succeed in each given situation.
His book is written two parts. The first is a background beginning with the 1940s and how WWII eventually impacted corporate America. He focuses on white-collar positions from receptionists to presidents of huge companies. With the global economy expanding at a rapid pace, many individuals who thought they would have job security for a lifetime, were faced with "pink slips" and faced with having to relocate. He chronicles historical precedents on race and gender. By identifying how their roles continue to change in the workplace, he also alerts readers to pressing issues unsolved in the United States regarding minorities in the workforce.
The second part is a practical guide to career and job placement. He focuses on resumes, networking, interviews, negotiating, and concludes with a case study. Holland offers suggestions and many resources about career transition. Holland's book is a contextually enriching asset for many who find themselves in need of valuable career information.
Mona Lisa Safai
A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and The Great California Earthquake of 1906
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060571993 $27.95 1-800-242-7737
Winchester is the author of critically and publicly acclaimed books such as KRAKATOA, THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN, and THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING. In his newest work, he covers the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire--somewhat. In point of fact, he writes more about the causes and consequences than of the actual events. Because the author is educated as a geologist, it should not surprise readers that he talks of faults, perhaps to a fault, mostly but not exclusively about one called the San Andreas, which San Francisco sits upon. Specifically, he discusses a geology subspecialty: plate tectonics. It's a fascinating, hot, in more ways than one, subject.
That study is of how the various continental, ocean, and world sectional tectonic plates move, bump into, scrunch under, fold up on, and generally meet and confront one another, causing them to shake, shudder, rock, and, of course, roll. Such pushing and shoving results in portions of the earth's crust moving east or west, north or south, or in any other direction possible around the globe. Of course, when these colliding earthen plates build up enough tension, earthquakes occur. Though quite interesting to learn about, many readers' eyes will, this reviewer fears, glaze over. Most folks will pick up this book to learn about the famed San Francisco disaster only to end up, unintentionally, fully prepared to pass graduate exams on plate tectonics.
Merely one chapter of the twelve, including the epilogue, really covers the quake and subsequent fire. Maybe the most intriguing revelation in this read concerns the aftermath of the tragedies. That's the chamber of commerce-type spin San Franciscans put out about what really transpired. In trying to get people to return, to rebuild, and to reinvest in the community, the explanation given for the disaster emphasised that the earthquake was an unpreventable 'act of God' while the following conflagration could have been prevented. In this way, the trembling ground was not to be feared because it was caused supernaturally and, therefore, not likely to recur. And adequate precautions could and would be taken to avoid such a fire in the future.
Apparently, the publicity spin worked. The community was rebuilt, though not to its former beauty and importance as the primary community of the West. Los Angeles took that title then and holds it to this day. Because the book was completed earlier, the author was not able to compare the recent New Orleans double whammy of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flood to the San Francisco twin tragedies. But the disasters have eerie similarities and the same goes for the arguments about rebuilding and the inherent dangers of doing so.
This well-written, thoroughly researched, highly detailed, and lucid approach to the subject warrants a reading for those with fortitude and stick-to-itiveness. If any reader is not in possession of those strengths, however, there's at least two other new books available covering more directly the quake and fire. And there's a plethora of earlier books extant for the avid reader.
"This," writes the author, "is not an environmental book by any means. It is, more simply, the story of one remarkable and tragic event that befell California a century ago, when a 300-mile long swath of earth briefly shifted, wrecking the cities that lay atop it. But, though it is not intended to be a Gaia [the theory that the world is a living organism] book, it seems right to tell the story of the events that so ruined the city of San Francisco in 1906 within the context of the Gaia idea. There is, for a start, an intesting synchronicity at work: At the moment when Thomas and Lovelock [persons promoting the Gaia theory] were putting forward their ideas (in the late 1960s, at the time at the beginning of space travel and, in part, of course, because of it), the geological sciences were also changing very profoundly, as we shall see."
Simon Winchester, educated at Oxford, splits his time between New York City and the Berkshire Mountains. Recommended for the hearty, intellectual reader.
You've Got To Read This Book! 55 People Tell the Story of the Book That Changed Their Life
Jack Canfield and Gay Hendricks with Carol Kline
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061119962 $24.95 1-800-242-7737
Here's the sagas of over four and a half dozen individuals, many quite prominent, who reveal their innermost secrets and how one book or another, some quite ordinary, changed of effected their lives for the better. Such well known people as Kenny Loggins, Catherine Oxenberg, Malachy McCourt, Lou Holtz, Mark Victor Hansen, Louise Hay, John Gray, Bernie Siegel, M.D., Wally Amos, Stephen Covey, and many others are represented in this volume. Some of the books that have had an impact on those people include A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, CHICKEN SOUP FOR A PRISONER'S SOUL, THE GREAT DIVORCE, MEIN KAMPF, THE BIBLE, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE MAGIC OF THINKING BIG, PROFILES IN COURAGE, PSYCHO-CYBERNETICS, SPACE CADETS, THE HUMAN COMEDY, DON QUIXOTE, and many others.
"We've all found," write the authors, "that life becomes richer when we're reading a great book. You go to sleep at night feeling that your time on Earth is more valuable, your experience here more worthwhile. You wake up seeing yourself, other people, and the world differently. This is real magic--and in this book you will read story after story about the effect of this magic on people's dreams, goals, careers, and relationships." Jack Canfield has previously written such books as THE SUCCESS PRINCIPLES (with Janet Switzer) and DARE TO WIN (with Mark Victor Hansen). Gay Hendricks has penned ATTRACTING GENUINE LOVE (coauthored with Kathly Hendricks, Ph.D.) and LEARNING TO LOVE YOURSELF. Recommended.
Safe Harbor, A Murder in Nantucket
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010
031235875X $24.95 212-674-5151
In October, 2004, a horrific murder took place on Nantucket. The macabre details filled newspapers all over the country, especially from Boston to New York. In a deeply researched story, this is an attempt to trace the lives of the victim and the murderer which led up to the event.
Elizabeth Lochtefeld, a 44-year-old successful and popular but lonely person, has retired to the island after selling a business she created and subletting her Greenwich Village coop. She has yearned for a permanent relationship after having spent years working too hard to devote the energy and time to developing a bond with a mate. She is vulnerable when introduced to Thomas E. Toolan III. They apparently hit it off immediately.
Toolan led a checkered life. He grew up in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, attended prestigious Catholic schools and seemed destined to lead a privileged life. However, it was not to be. He lost job after job, fell prey to Demon Rum and couldn't maintain a permanent relationship. Nevertheless, he could be charming and erudite when sober. It would seem that he fell in love readily, and attracted women easily with his glibness but always "blew it" with his excesses. He was seven years younger than Beth and proposed marriage. When she spurned him for good reason, he traveled to Nantucket, bought a knife and stabbed her many times, any six of which could have caused her death. This is a fascinating recreation of two lives destined for tragedy. The story flows easily. The writing is fluid. It is a tale well-told, albeit sad.
Philippine Fever: A Sam Haine Mystery
Capital Crime Press
P.O. Box 62904, Ft. Collins CO 80527
0977627675 $14.95 970-481-4894
This well-constructed first effort is set in the Philippines, as the title implies. Sam Haine is an agent of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Division of the Homeland Security Agency on assignment to the Asian nation to intercept a shipment of arms believe intended for a Texas militia.
He arrives in Manila to find that the suspected mastermind of the arms smuggling plot has been murdered, and teams up with the lead detective of the National Bureau of Investigation (the Filipino equivalent of the FBI) to investigate the murder. As a result, he finds himself enmeshed in the swirling cauldrons of industrial espionage, sex trade and covert CIA operations in Manila.
The novel evinces the reality of the poverty and exoticness of Manila. The author worked and lived there researching the material. And its authenticity shows in every page. The subtitle seems to indicate Fever is the start of a series. Let's hope so.
Winter's Child: A Deborah Knott Mystery
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0892968109 $24.95 212-364-1100
There are two mysteries in this novel. One is a shooting along a road in the home town in which Deborah Knott is a district judge and her husband of one month deputy sheriff Dwight Bryant in North Carolina. It seems as if an unsavory boor was shot, and the likely candidate for the culprit is a cuckolded sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg.
The other mystery occurs when Dwight receives a mysterious telephone call from his 8-year-old son who lives with his ex-wife in West Virginia, asking him to come there the next day with all his gear—handcuffs, weapon and so on. When he arrives, he discovers the child has been left alone for more than a day. Then the child disappears. As the police and Dwight search for the boy, presumably abducted by the ex-wife, she turns up murdered. Who killed her? And who has the child?
While the APB and Amber Alert progress, Deborah hurries to Virginia to help unravel this mystery. The story of both investigations proceeds in an orderly manner with considerable background on the history of the small town and its leading family. The writing is spare, the plotting meticulous. It is fast reading and completely enjoyable.
Murder on the Ballarat Train: A Phryne Fisher Mystery
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 East 1st Avenue; Ste. 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590582411 $24.95 1-800-421-3976
This is the third Phryne Fisher Mystery written in the series, and the eighth issued by this publisher. Phryne, of course, is the irresistible 1920's Australian flapper turned detective. A women's libber, long before the term was invented. She is a delightful and unusual protagonist, sort of a female Sherlock Holmes.
In this novel, she is traveling by train to Ballarat to visit cousins, when her first class carriage is overcome by chloroform gas. She quickly reacts by breaking open the window in her compartment, and then the windows in others. One of the passengers is found missing, and her body later discovered along the tracks. And Phryne is engaged to solve the murder.
At the same time, a young girl on the train can't remember her past, and Phryne takes her home, along with the murder victim's daughter. The cast of characters from the previous novels aid in solving the mysteries, which include white slavery, black magic and hypnotism. Added to Bert and Cec, the cab driving occasional helpers, and Dot, her maid, are the recovered amnesiac teen and another girl saved from the clutches of the slavers (both are adopted by Phryne).
The charm of this series is well recorded and each is a delight to read. The publisher plans to issue a ninth in the series this December, and we look forward to reading it. And, thankfully, there are many more waiting for print.
Open and Shut
1271 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10020
0446612537, $6.00, 1-212-364-1100 www.hachettebookgroupUSA.com
1271 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10020
044661386X $6.99 212-364-1100
Bury the Lead
1271 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10020
0446612863 $6.99 212-364-1100
This isn't the usual kind of review: these three books were read seriatim, catching up on the backlist, and reviews all done as one. As a newcomer to the work of this author, a discovery was made: three very enjoyable and entertaining novels that are fresh and entertaining, although each follows the same formula. It will be interesting to see whether future novels will branch out in a different direction, or whether the author will stick to what apparently is already a winning game plan. The subsequent books are "Sudden Death" and "Dead Center," and they will be the subject of future reviews, and that question will be answered at that time.
Andy Carpenter is a criminal defense attorney in northern New Jersey. His father was the respected DA (he dies of natural causes in the first book). He is backed up by the same cast of characters in each of the novels: Laurie Collins, his main investigator and lover, his best friend, a police lieutenant, a newspaper editor and his dog, Tara. The defendant in the first novel, whom Andy rescues from death row after a grueling trial, becomes his partner in a dog rescue kennel Marcus, a larger than life investigator who is hired when Laurie is charged with murder in the second novel, then joins the group. And so on, so the continuity joins the formula .
The plots are somewhat similar. Andy, who has inherited $22 million from his father (the only dishonest deed in his life) can pick and choose clients. Usually, he really doesn't pick them, but rejects applicants. In book number one, Andy's father pleads with him to defend Willie in an appeal from his death sentence. His father was the prosecutor who put him on death row seven years before. In book two, Laurie is charged with murdering a police lieutenant whom she was trying to prove "dirty." In the third, his newspaper editor friend begs him to defend his son on a murder charge.
In each case the evidence is overwhelming against Andy's clients. The prosecution cases are airtight, although Andy's cross-examination does make some points (some even amusing) but are hardly devastating. However, there is little or no defense case. Until an unexpected miracle occurs. Each plot turns on the fact that the client was framed and the evidence planted, or so Andy believes. But how to prove it? Despite this criticism, these three novels read well and quickly, and the reader certainly is not disappointed. Now, on to the author's latest efforts. More to come.
Case of Imagination
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Suite 103, Scottsdale AZ 85251
1590582195 $24.95 800-421-3976
This novel is the start of a promising series featuring Madeline Maclin, a former beauty pageant winner and now private investigator, and Jerry Fairweather, a flaky "best friend" who is oblivious to her romantic aspirations. Madeline, or as he calls her Mac, has left as an associate of a detective agency and went off on her own in an office next door. Cases are a rarity and she begins to wonder about her future. Then she discovers her former boss is sneaking into her office and listening to her answering machine, stealing leads and erasing the tape.
Meanwhile, Jerry's uncle in a nearby town has died and left him a house, albeit a rather decrepit building with a reputation as being haunted. Mac accompanies him to inspect the abode and becomes engaged in investigating a series of mishaps in a theater in which a local beauty pageant is being held. The final misfortune is the murder of the leading contestant.
The plot is embellished by tales of ghosts, which Mac also is retained to investigate, and Jerry's antics as a psychic and his desire to use the house to hold séances. By the conclusion, Mac's background in the pageant business contributes to her investigatory skills. The story moves forward briskly, with some amusing dialogue and situations surrounding Jerry's lack of ambition. It would appear that the setting is set for a sequel, one which we look forward to reading.
Girl in a Box
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0060765143 $23.95 212-207-7000
The latest in the Rei Shimura series, this novel finds her as a contract employee of the Organization for Cultural Intelligence, apparently a spy organization associated with the CIA. Her mission is to become an undercover agent, working as a sales clerk in a Japanese department store. Rei, of course, is half Japanese.
The reason for the assignment is to find out why the store's profits are very high, far out of whack with the rest of the industry. She uncovers a fraud scheme, e.g., false credit card bills, overpriced merchandise and money laundering, including involvement by yakuza, and the Japanese arm of a 100-year-old American investment bank. A couple of murders and various perils facing Rei and her boss and so-far unrequited love, Michael Hendricks, make the mission more than eventful, and the 15-per-cent employee discount enabling her to buy so much that she maxes out her credit card is a plus.
The descriptions of department store operations and the world of high fashion are informative and well-described, the character portrayals excellent, the plot intriguing. Well written, this novel is a fast end enjoyable read.
Linda L. Richards
225 Duncan Mill Rd., Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
0778323455 $6.99 416-445-5860
Coincidence? Art imitating, or triggered by, life? Here we have a case where the author's ex-husband's death apparently gave rise to the theme of this, the third in the Madeline Carter series, in which the protagonist's ex-husband also dies. She learns of his death, officially ruled a suicide, when her ex-sister-in-law [the couple had divorced ten years earlier] calls asking her to attend the funeral in Vancouver.Madeline is a former New York stock broker turned day trader, now living in Malibu. When she turns up in Vancouver she is brought to visit her ex-mother-in-law, who begs her to look into the business her former husband has built. The family thinks something is amiss, and Madeline's analytical expertise is needed.This turn of events leads to all kinds of suspicions, including the possibility that her former husband's death
was not a suicide, and financial shenanigans have been taking place at the company. Needless to say, Madeline unravels the mysteries. However, it is strange that at the conclusion she just leaves Canada, rather than report back her findings to the family. Of course, logic says it'll all come out after the various investigations by authorities take place.The only fault we found with the author's usual financial expertise was an over-simplification used to substantiate the story—the basis for a delisting from the New York Stock Exchange and what the Pink Sheets are. Nonetheless, the plot is well-drawn, and the writing up to the standard of the previous novels in the series. The descriptive material is excellent and the characters realistic.
The Case of Emily V.
Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press
201 West 89th St., NY, NY 10024
1929355300 $18.00 212-362-8563
This is the second novel read in recent weeks in which Sigmund Freud plays a major role. Of course the other book, The Interpretation of Dreams, is being backed by a half-million-dollar marketing campaign. In contrast, this novel, which first appeared in hardcover in Great Britain in 1993 and in paperback in Canada in 1994, is just now making its appearance in the United States with a modest initial print run of 5,000. The publisher is to be praised for bringing it to the U.S. and let's hope for a larger second printing—the novel deserves a wider readership. I should state that the only similarity between the two novels is that Interpretation takes place in 1909 and this one in 1903.
Divided into three books, The Case of Emily V. recounts the case of a young lady who was sexually abused by her guardian for four years from the age of 14. Book One alternates between case notes by Dr. Freud while treating Emily, and her journal. In this section we learn that she is ill because she has caused the death of her guardian while repulsing his advances, this after he chased her from Philadelphia to Vienna where she then taught at a girl's school after hiding her whereabouts from him for several years. We learn of her feelings of guilt while keeping essential facts from Freud's psychoanalysis.
Book Two introduces Sherlock Holmes, with Dr. Watson recounting his activities. It seems Emily's guardian was a British diplomat charged with a secret mission to deal with Germany's aggressive policies. Holmes' older brother has just become the head of a newly established OSS/CIA/MI5-type organization and has retained his younger sibling as a consultant to investigate whether the diplomat was assassinated by the Germans. He travels to Vienna and even meets Dr. Freud at Watson's behest, after the latter attended one of the psychiatrist's lectures in which he described the Case of Emily V.
Book Three basically is a series of entries into Emily's journal and tying all the loose ends together, including Emily's fears at discovery over the murder, her mental health and steps taken toward her recovery of sorts. A postscript by psychologist Dr. Ellen Berger attempts to help explain various issues, including the mystery.
The novel is an award-winning psychological thriller which keeps the reader's interest from the first page to the last. Well-conceived and -written, it takes the form of previously "undiscovered" manuscripts. This book was 11 weeks on the bestseller list [of the Globe and Mail] and was reprinted four times before being issued in paperback. Let's hope history repeats itself in the United States
The Mission Song
John Le Carre
Little, Brown and Co.
1271 Sixth Avenue, NY, NY 10020
0316016748 $26.99 800-759-0190
You can't tell a book by its cover, it's said. And you can't tell Le Carre by this book. It is quite unlike anything in his past work. It still contains the various elements of his craft--intrigue, suspense, deft twists—but is a far cry from the Cold War novels.
This is the story of the bastard son of a Catholic Missionary and an African woman, who grows up with an excellent ear for language. He is brought to England and trained to hone his skills in the various African dialects, and has command of English and French. He becomes the top interpreter in the service of Her Majesty's Government. One day he receives an assignment to provide translation of participants in a secret meeting.
The ostensible purpose of the meeting is to solidify agreement between three conflicting groups in the eastern Congo to form an alliance to bring about the installation of a "savior" to end the exploitation of the region's natural resources, foster "democracy" and benefit the population. Sponsor of the effort is an anonymous syndicate, proposing to sponsor the "event" in return for six months worth of exports.
In the performance of his duties as interpreter, Bruno Salvador ("Salvo") learns the result will be a war, and the death and destruction will be followed by business as usual, with graft and corruption as side deals. He steals tapes of conversations proving the subterfuge and retains his copious notebooks and returns home. There are 12 days until the kickoff of the putsch, and he attempts in various ways to head it off.
The story includes Salvo's own conflicts as a half-white/half-black, a meaningless marriage and a newfound love in an African nurse. As it moves to an unexpected conclusion, the plot takes various turns as Salvo (and his paramour) try to get the evidence in proper hands to prevent the coming conflict. It is a tale worthy of Mr. Le Carre, writing as only he can.
The Seventh Survivor
Capital Crime Press
P.O. Box 72904, Ft. Collins CO 80527
0977627683 $14.95 970-481-4894
Lori Lacefield has written a debut novel worthy of a much more experienced author. She has created a highly readable book, with an unusual plot that flows meticulously to a satisfying conclusion.
The story begins with an invitation to Palmer Reed and her best friend to join a local prestigious organization as directors. The purported function of the Diamond Foundation is to make grants to victims of crimes like wife beating and fraud to help jump-start new lives. Soon, however, it appears there is another, secret mission. When Palmer was a child, she was kidnapped by the owners of a local chemical company in an effort to force her father, a union organizer, to abandon his efforts to unionize the company. The company also is accused of pouring toxic waste into the Tennessee River, causing a high incidence of leukemia in southwest Knoxville. A local reporter is seeking to expose the company, and the CEO and the general counsel are suspected of a variety of murders to prevent exposure or union organization.
Palmer finds herself in the middle of both plots and is accused of murdering her best friend. She goes underground, disguised as a man as a killer stalks her, in an effort to bring justice about. We hope this isn't just a one-time effort and that the author is working on her second book.
The Hidden Assassins
Harcourt Trade Publishers
15 E. 26th Street, NY, NY 10010; 212-592-1000
What begins as a faceless, mutilated murder victim facing Inspector Jefe Javier Falcon in Seville, develops into a full-fledged terrorist conspiracy on multiple levels. An explosion in a mosque located in the basement of an apartment building destroys the block with multiple deaths and maiming, including four children in a nearby pre-teen school. The two events appeared to be unrelated until Falcon gains insight into the various plots, both Catholic and Muslim. The plot is so detailed and inventive that the reader is swept along as Falcon and the intelligence services piece together little bits of information from Morocco to France and Great Britain. The writing is well-honed and the characters real and vivid. This is a must read.
Murder in Jerusalem: A Michael Ohayon Mystery
10 East 53rd St., NY, NY 10022; 212-207-7000/800-242-7737
This novel is the sixth and last Michael Ohayon Mystery (the author died last year). Having not read the previous five entries, it is possible only to look at this one as a standalone, without reference to the past. The idea for this book grew out of the author's screenplays for a miniseries on Israel's Channel Two. Of course, Channel One is the official government-sponsored television station, which is the setting for this story.
From this reader's point of view, the overwhelming detail throughout about the operations of a television station is overdone, as are the characterizations of the various correspondents, directors and secretaries at Israeli Television. Repetition and overbearing descriptions merely bog down the reader. On the other hand, the insights into the politics and complex world or contemporary (and past) Israeli society are fascinating and realistic.
The tale begins with the death of a scenic designer one midnight, at the station. It appears to be an accident (or murder?), soon followed by a series of other deaths of station personnel. Enter Inspector Ohayon and his police assistants to piece the story together: the relations, fears, loves and complexities that make the station function. The investigation brings to the fore the ideals of the nation and raises the specter of past national crimes. After the slow start, the book gathers momentum and swiftly moves to a fascinating and enlightening conclusion.
1271 Sixth Avenue, NY, NY 10020
0892960027 $24.95 1-800-759-0190
Laurie Collins is now ensconced in her native Findlay, Wisconsin, as acting police chief. Andy Carpenter is still moping in Paterson, New Jersey, when he gets a phone call from Laurie. She has arrested a young man for murder—but she believes him innocent. Reluctantly, Andy rides to the rescue. In a change of pace, the murder trial never takes place, and we only see Andy's legal talents flourish in pre-trial efforts. Accused of stabbing to death two co-eds, one his ex-girlfriend, Andy's client is released when the current boyfriend appears to have hung himself leaving behind a suicide note confessing to the murders. End of story? Not quite. Return to Paterson, not quite.
Unlike the previous four novels in the series, Andy now gets to play detective to learn the truth, instead of lawyering. Plotting an writing are of the usual high standards, the quips regular and amusing, and the book is the accustomed excellent read.
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020,
0446612871 $6.99 1-800-759-0190
In this, the fourth in the Andrew Carpenter series, the author deviates from his usual basic pattern in a plot which introduces an unexpected situation. It seems Laurie Collins, Andy's investigator and love of his life, has been offered a police department captaincy in her native Findlay, Wisconsin, with the prospect of becoming chief of police in the near future. She contemplates that chance for the entire book, keeping Andy on edge throughout, not reaching a decision until the conclusion of a sensational murder trial.
A star running back for the New York Giants is arrested for the shooting murder of his friend, a wide receiver for the Jets, whose body is found in the closet of his home. He fends off arrest by firing a pistol at arriving police. He calls for Andy to represent him, and we embark on the trials and tribulations of another high-profile murder contest, with the prosecution having a slam-dunk case and Andy and his team without the foggiest idea on how to defend.
The novel moves forward, without much of the wisecracks exhibited in the earlier books, but with the same intensity and inventiveness. The conclusion of the trial, of course, is foregone, but the author gives us a twist that cannot and should not be anticipated. The quality is up to the level which the first three books give rise to, and now, for this reader—onto the fifth.
Shaye Areheart Books
We Latvians are a small nation, but oh, we are a proud people! We are a nation beaten and battered by many wars over many hundreds, even thousands of years, but our culture and life sense still thrive: the Latvian language is one of the oldest in existence today, still actively used. Perhaps that is our greatest source of pride, then: we are survivors.
When Pauls Toutonghi's new novel, Red Weather, came upon the literary scene, I was greatly pleased. I've been an avid reader in both languages – Latvian and English – since earliest childhood, but however many good books I read about the war and later experiences of Latvians immigrating to other countries and cultures, it was rare to come across a worthy tome in English. History books, yes, but far more rare, a good attention-grabbing novel that I could proudly share with non-Latvian friends.
Now, here's Pauls. With one Latvian parent, it is my understanding he has grown up in the Milwaukee area, active in the Latvian community and, having visited Latvia, is well-acquainted, one would suppose, with the culture and something of the nation's history. For these reasons, I read the novel with high expectation and excitement.
Pauls' writing abilities do not disappoint. Still quite young, he has already accrued an impressive publishing history, and has won the Pushcart Prize. His descriptions are lively, his storyline pulls us along, his sense of humor is intact.
And yet. The further I read, the more I realized, no, this was not going to be the book that I would pass on to Latvians I know, or to non-Latvians I'd like to invite a little more intimately into my multi-cultural world. The novel works as an entertaining read for non-Latvians, perhaps, but for those who do know the history and culture, well, not so much. I think my sense of humor is healthy, but I can't help feeling, for instance, that describing Latvians visiting the United States as being so dense as to put ketchup on every possible food, even bananas, craving to taste the American life, is taking the joke into the much less fun realm of ridicule. Or the Latvian mother as so eye-rollingly lacking in self-awareness as to walk Milwaukee streets wearing a Pabst hardhat with a beer can on it as if she were wearing a Parisian fashion statement. Surely not. I cringed in embarrassment. Humor is often built on slapstick and exaggeration, but would those who have no other knowledge of Latvians, perhaps never will have any other exposure than this novel, think this is what it means to be a Latvian? Bumbling fools?
Perhaps even more worthy of remark are some historic inaccuracies. Although this is a fictional work, even fiction must keep its feet firmly on factually solid ground before branching into fantasy. One such example is the allusion to Latvia's president, Karlis Ulmanis, and his attempt to escape to Finland during the Soviet invasion of World War II (see page 166). In fact, President Ulmanis held his place, broadcasting over the radio waves to the nation even as the Soviet tanks crossed the Russian border, keeping down the panic and requesting all to remain in their places, thus saving many Latvian lives. He was taken by force from his office by the occupying army, and was never seen alive again. Educated guesses are that he was deported to Siberia, where he was died in a Gulag (concentration camp), but his body has never been found.
Having finished the novel, wondering at how very different the author's experience of his Latvian roots and culture were from mine, indeed from anyone I have known with Latvian roots and having gone through the immigrant experience, I wanted to think – hey, there's always the exception to the rule. If by 1989, when this story is set, any Latvian immigrant I or my family knew had established themselves in relative financial security (the fictional Balodis family still lived in squalor), had attained some measure of their new country's education and achieved something of their own immigrant American dream, then the Balodis family was certainly a lone exception to the rule. Nor could I imagine my own father, or fathers of my friends, being so easygoing about the political lines the young man in this novel, Yuri (Juris), crossed in his lovelorn relationship with a socialist girl (my own, and dare I say any typical, Latvian father, would have gone through the roof, to put it very, very lightly).
As a reality check, I shared Red Weather with my parents, who shared it with several of their friends. Their reactions were the same. They expressed admiration for the author's skill, but also expressed a pained disappointment in the skewed image of Latvian immigrants to the U.S. The image the book leaves is of a people who are gullible, not particularly industrious, and rather dim-witted. An opportunity lost. My subjective opinion, but I'm sure shared by more than a few of my countrymen and women.
The Book Thief
Knopf Books for Young Readers
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0375831002 $16.95 1-800-726-0600
How rare the times that we read something entirely new and unique! It has been said that there are no new stories to tell, and I will not argue that. There really are only a few novel plots, although it is in our endless variations that we set ourselves apart as writers and word-artists, perhaps also as readers, in the manner and voice in which we tell the story. This is true for Markus Zusak in his creative storytelling of The Book Thief.
The story is one of the oldest ones told: the narrator is mankind's friend/nemesis, Death, ancient as Time itself, and the scenes Death (not without compassion and not without wry humor) narrates for us are those of human suffering and endurance, an eventual overcoming of conflicts and obstacles, a story of love pitted against hate, of the victory of the best in all of us over the worst in any of us. Zusak's main characters are a 9-year old girl, Liesel Meminger, her companion and young partner in crime, Rudy, and a Jewish refugee hiding in the basement of the house where she lives, herself something of a refugee in Nazi Germany during WWII. A wide range of secondary characters fill in all gaps and keep us reading with fascination, e.g. Liesel's adoptive family, especially her cruel and ascerbic foster mother, Rosa, who on occasion cracks to show a bit of humanity; the major's deeply depressed wife, who quietly allows Liesel to "steal" her books; Liesel's young comrades, and many more.
It is hard to pinpoint what it is, precisely, that makes Zusak's work so unique. But I knew it, felt it, instantly. Voice, yes. Style. A few experimental approaches in his storytelling, such as illustrations inserted in the novel with all errors present, just as Max wrote the text and drew the pictures for his young friend, Liesel. Death's narration is unique. There are many such details that all come together to form a story worth reading, worth hearing, worth understanding. It is the story of Liesel, a spunky little book thief, who does far more than steal good books. In our smallest, we often find our greatest heroes. Highly recommended.
Zinta Aistars, Reviewer
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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